Archive | November, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

30 Nov

Last Saturday, I got a call from Operation Christmas Child wondering if I’d be interested in volunteering at their Denver processing center.

Heck yes!

I had actually called back in October to sign our care group up for volunteering but for the second year in a row, I thought about it too late and all of the volunteer spots were already taken. (For some reason, I’m just not thinking about Christmas in August when volunteer signup starts!) But I put our group on the waiting list, hoping that something would open up.

And it did. We’re heading down there tonight from 7 – 10 pm. This will be the third time Travis and I have volunteered with Operation Christmas Child and every year, it is so enjoyable and rewarding. So I’m very exciting for this opportunity.

A little about Operation Christmas Child:

It’s a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse – their mission statement reads: “Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.”

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. They expect to collect 700,000 shoeboxes this year with the help of 7,000 volunteers to distribute to children all over the world. The map below shows all of the countries they have delivered shoeboxes to.

What goes in each shoebox?

The guidelines for the shoeboxes are pretty general. There are things that aren’t allowed – anything related to war or snakes, anything that will melt like chocolate or chapstick, and anything that is dangerous. But otherwise, the giver gets to choose what to give. Common gifts are hygiene items (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, nail polish); small toys (marbles, stuffed animals, dolls, playing cards); books and Bibles; and markers, crayons and pencils. Givers are also encouraged to write a personal note to the child and even include a picture of themselves.

For many of the children receiving these shoeboxes, this is the only Christmas present they have ever received.

What do we do in the processing center?

When we arrive, we sign in and go through a short orientation that lasts 10-15 minutes. Then, our group is assigned to a station where there are 4-5 different jobs.

The first job is to open the shoebox, take out the $7 donation that covers the expenses of shipping the box, and make sure that the appropriate gender and age is marked on the shoebox label.

The second job is to respectfully go through the contents of the box to make sure that it contains none of the restricted items above.

The third job is to fill or refill the box with toys at the station, so that each shoebox is full of goodies for the child who receives it.

The fourth job is to tape the shoebox closed.

The fifth job is to pack the boxes as well as possible into bigger cardboard boxes, and seal those once they’re full.

In the past, I’ve done one of the first 3 jobs. Travis is usually a taper or packer.

We didn’t donate a shoebox this year, because our church has teamed up with Denver Social Services to give gifts to underprivileged kids in our local community. But we have in the past, and I think this organization is absolutely wonderful. If you’re looking for a place to give a gift or serve next Christmas, check out Operation Christmas Child.

Are you volunteering anywhere in honor of Christmas?

Don’t Be a Scrooge

29 Nov


It is officially the Christmas season. And with Black Friday under our belts, it is also gift buying time. This year, I’m trying something new – not being a Scrooge.

For some reason, even though I usually like buying gifts, feeling expected to do so makes me not want to. I love giving spontaneous gifts when the other person doesn’t expect it, or I find something that I just know someone will love. But having a list of what someone wants or knowing that I can’t show up without a present just takes all the fun out of gift giving for me.

I was lamenting this to Travis the other day. “I hate having to rack my brain and go to 3 different stores to fit a present to buy for someone.”

Travis suggested that we just don’t do Christmas presents this year. We’d just tell our families that we decided not to buy presents this year.

But that just seemed so… selfish and Scrooge-like. Sorry, I didn’t buy you a present because you expected me to and it was too much work? Hmmmm…

Then it occurred to me that I was looking at the whole gift giving thing all wrong. Since I truly do enjoy blessing others with gifts that I know they will enjoy, what if I viewed Christmas as a time to do that for all of my loved ones? Instead of feeling forced to buy them a gift, I could look at this season as an opportunity to bless them with our abundance and to show them love by taking the time to think about and look for that gift that they truly will delight in.

In short, I need to make gift giving about their happiness, not mine. 

I’m not huge on Christmas gifts myself. I mean, sure, I enjoy getting presents. But I wouldn’t be devastated if I didn’t get any. I’d be content if we decided to instead buy a cow or a pig for a needy family in Africa. (And I have suggested that, so we’ll see what my family says.) But I’m not sure everyone would go for that and instead of being bitter like Scrooge and either refusing to give them gifts or giving them purely out of obligation, I can choose to show my love for my family and friends in the way that they feel loved.*

So this Christmas season, I’m going to go shopping while remembering that good gifts are fun to receive and bring happiness to my loved ones.

Do you enjoy buying presents for others?


(*Not saying that all my family and friends need gifts to feel loved, but it is the most common form of affection shown during Christmas.)

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

28 Nov

Our Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful – we did a little bit of everything:

  • Relaxed and cuddled with the pooches
  • Ate lots of yummy food
  • Finished every meal off with pie and ice cream or cool whip
  • Watched football and movies
  • Went shopping on Black Friday (I went with friends at 4:30 and then again around 11 – the crowds were worse in the afternoon!)
  • Walked the dogs in the warm, yet crisp fall air
  • My mom and I sewed a valance, tablecloth and curtain tiebacks for my kitchen
The pattern is from Hancock Fabrics and called ‘Apple a Day.’ I love it! It’s kitchen-y without being what I call “country bumpkin.”


  • Went out to eat for sushi and fish tacos
  • Drank wine and coffee
  • Played Rummikub and Chinese Checkers (Travis won, of course.)
  • Drove up into the mountains and saw about 50 elk all in one spot!
I didn’t notice the stick in front of my dad’s face until I uploaded the pictures this morning. Bummer!
As you can see, they were right in the middle of town! We saw them after our hike, crossing the highway through Evergreen. Crazy elk!


  • Caught up on family news
  • Cuddled with the pooches
  • Travis and I completed a crossword!
  • Went to church
  • I got in all of my planned workouts somehow:

Monday: 5.97 mile run (1:07:13, 11:15 pace) – ran first 2 miles outside with the dogs and the last 4 at the Rec on the track

Tuesday: 1.7 mile walk with dogs

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 4.1 mile run (46:05, 11:14 pace)

Friday: 1.88 mile walk with dogs

Saturday: 35 min weight training, 20 min elliptical intervals – I was very sore the next day from the weights. I think it was because I hadn’t used the weight machines in a while and I did 30 pushups on my feet!

Sunday: 3.04 mile run (34:11, 11:14 pace), 1.3 mile easy hike

I love balancing relaxation with productivity!

We all remarked how it seemed like my parents would be out here for a while but the days flew by and all of a sudden, it was time for them to leave. This is perhaps the thing I am most thankful for during the holiday season: how awesome and amazing our families are. You don’t get to choose your family, much less your spouse’s family, and both Travis and I have been blessed to have wonderful, kind, thoughtful, well-adjusted, non-crazy families who we truly enjoy spending time with. We are always sad to see them leave, or be leaving ourselves. This is one gift that I am very aware is rare. Good friends that understand you are rare. Absolutely loving your family is even rarer.

My parents are amazing people – so generous, thoughtful, tender-hearted. So dedicated to their family. So interested in their children’s lives. So welcoming of sons- and daughters-in-law. I feel so incredibly blessed to have such awesome parents and want my future kids to get to know them. Thanks Mom and Dad – for coming out here to visit and for being such great parents.

Happy Thanksgiving!

23 Nov

I will be enjoying quality time with my family tomorrow and not logging on the computer so just wanted to wish all my lovely readers a Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s a Turkey Maze for you to do tomorrow before falling into a food coma:

Enjoy your day with family, friends, food and football!

Rest, finally.

22 Nov

Well friends, I finally got my restful weekend. Even though elk hunting back in October was supposed to be the end of the busyness, it wasn’t really. We still had a bunch of crap great stuff to keep us busy on the weekends, like butchering and vacuum-sealing animals, running errands, and fun stuff like dinner with friends and volunteering.

So when I had a whole Saturday with nothing planned and a Sunday with only church and dinner with friends (that ended up being postponed because one of them got sick), I saw my chance. A weekend of rest. 

I had to act fast. I made sure to ask Travis what he had planned, just in case he was staging Antelope Butchering Part 22 and expecting my willing participation. (Yes, we Will it ever end?!?!)

Once I was relieved to know that my vacuum-sealing skillz would not be needed, I then decided to figure out the bare minimum of things I had to accomplish on the weekend, in order to maximum the amount of time my butt could be glued to the couch.

I figured I needed to clean our house, go grocery shopping and get my two workouts in (5 mile run one day, 60 min cross-training + strength another). I probably would have just ditched the house cleaning, except I thought we were having dinner guests Sunday night, and my parents are coming into town today! I also only buy enough produce to last us a week and I can’t not have apples and bananas to eat for snacks, so grocery shopping is also necessary.

I decided to grocery shop on Saturday (because everyone and their Grandma goes to the grocery store on Sunday) and clean on Sunday (because dog hair mysteriously appears 30 seconds after I clean anything so it’s best to leave as little time as possible between when you clean and when guests arrive).

Anyway, my plan worked perfectly. Friday after work, I did a quick 3 mile tempo run and then promptly did nothing else for the rest of the evening besides drink wine and watch TV.

Saturday, I didn’t get to sleep in (because Katy got up at 6:45 and groaned at me to feed her) but I didn’t expect to (because Katy does that every morning) and actually read for a couple hours. I was able to finish The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg before it was due at the library. I really enjoyed it. But around 8:30, I fell asleep on the couch and at 9:30, I went back to bed. 🙂 Travis and I finally got up at 10:30.

Then I had breakfast, read some more, called my mom and friend Amy who’s living in California right now, tided up the office, typed up my notes from another library book (Having a Mary Spirit by Joanna Weaver – also good), went on a run with Travis and the pooches, and then Travis and I went out to eat at Pho Fusion, where I tried Pho for the first time. It was good but meh in my book. I’m not that much of a soup person and I don’t really like cabbage or celery so it’s probably just my weird quirks.

After dinner, Travis and I went to the grocery store and bought food for the week and Thanksgiving. It’s so much more fun going to the store when Travis comes with! We bought some gummy bears (for me) and ice cream (for him) to enjoy while watching Yogi Bear. I love, love, love animated movies so whenever I have the chance to rent a movie without Travis’ input, that’s what I usually choose. It was a cute movie – not my favorite, but I laughed a lot.

Sunday, we went to church, ate lunch and then I laid on the couch watching football for a little while. When Travis got up to go do stuff, I decided I should probably get started on laundry  and cleaning. Around 5, I went swimming and did yoga. After that, I finished cleaning, finished almost all of the laundry, and went to bed around 10.

Overall, it was a very nice weekend. I don’t think I could handle an entire weekend of doing absolutely nothing – I like having a balance between rest and productivity.

I am really looking forward to the holiday weekend – great food, great time with my parents, and lots of relaxing!

Training Recap: 11/14 – 11/20

21 Nov

Monday: 3.6 mile hill run (42:54; 11:40/mile) + 20 min strength training

I ran a mile to warm up, ran about a mile up and down hills (holy crap they kicked my butt!), then ran easily for the last 1.6 miles back home.

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Rest

I was supposed to do 30 min cross training and strength but I decided to have a couple glasses of wine and catch up on House episodes instead. It is not ideal to have my 2 rest days back to back, so in the future, I will try my darnedest to not let this happen.

Thursday: 7.33 mile bike ride (30:00) + 20 min strength training

Friday: 2.88 mile tempo run (31:15; 10:51/mile)

I warmed up for .5 mile, then ran the next mile at a 10:00 pace! I haven’t seen that kind of speed since the Denver RnR Half. I did another mile at around a 10:30 pace, then ran easy for .5 mile.

Saturday: 5.23 mile run at easy pace (57:53; 11:04/pace)

This run gives me hope that I can get a half marathon PR while training for this marathon (my current PR is 2:30:46 – an 11:30 pace). We shall see…

Sunday: 1,500 yd swim (43:36) + 45 minutes easy yoga


Something strange has been happening lately – I am actually enjoying strength training. {Insert scary sci-fi music here.} It gives me hope that I might someday like to try Crossfit.

I have found some great 20 minute strength workouts on nhershoes blog. Here is my favorite right now:

2 sets of 12 reps of each

  • Alternating Lunges – with 5lb weights
  • Squats – with 5lb weights
  • Hip lifts on stability ball
  • Bent over row – with 5lb weights
  • Triceps kick backs – with 5 lb weights
  • Lateral raises – with 5lb weights
  • Overhead press – with 5lb weights
  • Pushups
  • Toe touches
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Plank – 60 sec

It’s not the most challenging weight workout ever but I like it because I’m usually not sore the next day (and since my focus right now is on running, I would prefer to not be sore). I do think that I will try to increase my weights next time but I just don’t have anything heavier than 5 lb weights at home, so I’ll have to go to the rec.

I will say though that I can do 12 push ups consecutively on my feet!

I can do all the 2 sets of 12 on my feet, but I need to take a break during the second set. And a 60 second plank still kills me. My shoulders and upper back were a little sore Tuesday morning last week after doing this workout. They’re also sore this morning after swimming and doing yoga yesterday. I don’t know if that is good or bad…

In addition to strength training, I am also enjoying doing a different thing for each of my weekly runs – intervals, repeats, tempo, easy, hills. Soon, I’d like to start running stairs again, probably at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The stairs there are a doozy. I could also do a trail run while I’m at it.

I’d also like to start doing some plyometrics, like box jumps. I just read last night in Competitor magazine that plyometric movements have been shown to improve running performance because they strength the legs to act as stronger springs. I believe it.

I just can’t get over how different this is from how I previously trained for races. My mantra then was “Just Run.” The only thing that changed from run to run was the distance and perhaps the trail.

Otherwise, they were all just slogged out at the same old pace. Which is why I like training for triathlons – you do something different every day. And now that’s how I feel about running! Even though I don’t necessarily look forward to my speed work, tempo runs or strength training, I feel accomplished having done them and I do think my running performance is improving as a result.

Do you like mixing up your runs? What is your favorite weight/strength routine?

Being Me.

18 Nov

Over the past week, I’ve had some frequent thoughts pop into my head:

“I’m not a fast enough runner.”

“My blog isn’t as cool as that person’s.”

“My sense of style is boring.”

“I’m not doing enough with my life.”

“I’m completely awkward in situations like this.”

“Nobody likes me.”

These thoughts aren’t new.

But the way I’m responding to them is.

Instead of agreeing with those thoughts and wishing I was a different way as a result, I’ve countered them.

“God created me specifically to be me.

I am the only person who can be me.

And I am holy and loved by God.”

Instead of worrying about how other people perceive me, or how much they like me, or how the world measures what I’m worth, I’m living in the daily truth that God has validated me. I am already loved. I am already approved. He loves and delights in me. And now in Christ, I am free to be the person God created me to be.

I am free to be a slow runner with an excellent attitude.

I am free to be awkward and bad at small talk in social situations.

I am free to be introspective and analytic, instead of a happy-go-lucky, always cheerful person.

I want to go through this life, not enduring or accepting the person God created me to be, but embracing it. Loving it. Appreciating it. Marveling at it. Delighting in it. Refining it. Purifying it.

I am finally beginning to believe the truth of Psalm 139:

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

I may not be everything I would have chosen, had I been given the choice. But I wasn’t given the choice. God decided who I would be, according to His good and perfect will. And His works are wonderful.

“This God – his way is perfect.” Psalm 18:30

In Christ, I am exactly who God wants me to be. I am chosen and beloved. I praise Him that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And I want to live in thankfulness of His gift of life.

How are you thanking God for who you are today?