Happy Birthday Meals and Miles!
This month marks TEN YEARS since I started writing this little blog. (Which isn’t very little – it’s actually over 60GB!) While I know I’ve been taking a bit of blogging sabbatical this year, this blog is still my baby and will forever be my baby – I can’t quit you, Blue! I’ve made countless mistakes since writing my first blog post, learned a ton, had some crazy adventures, made incredible friends, and hopefully maybe even made a difference in some peoples lives in the process. It’s been a hell of ride and I want to thank everyone who’s been a part of it along the way!
In honor of my blogiversary I’ve compiled a list of my Top 10 Meals and Miles posts. These posts represent a mix of pivotal moments in my writing, as well as my life. It was fun to take a walk down memory lane with these. It’s crazy how much life can change in ten years and I wouldn’t change a minute of it.
I went through a pretty tough breakup right before I started my blog in September 2008. For the first few months I was very single and not even dating. Then, that December, I wrote my New Year’s Eve post and made a resolution about wanting to go on actual dates in 2009. Well, sometimes it’s crazy how life works out. While this wasn’t Derek’s official blog debut (technically we had reconnected back in November at an FSU homecoming game) this is when he became a regular figure. I love this blog post because that night is full of so many wonderful memories. It was our first “unofficial” date in this new adventure and we had no idea it was leading us to a whole new life together. So young. So free. So ready for love. This was the night we became us in a way.
Of course, blogging and dating is complicated. Over the next few months I was publicly writing about our adventures together all the while simply calling Derek my “friend.” I received so many messages from people trying to figure out our relationship that it almost became a running joke even with one site referring to Derek as the “Easter Bunny.” The truth is I wasn’t sharing anything because WE didn’t even know what to call ourselves. We were taking it slow and turns out moving at our own pace worked just fine.
A couple of fun facts from that night that may not have made it on the blog: 1. We met this older couple that night who kept telling us we were going to get married (we kept telling them we were JUST friends), well turns out they had a looking glass we missed because here we are 5.5 yrs as husband and wife. 2. I got really, really drunk and ended up puking in a trash can at City Walk. Derek drove me home and was ever the gentleman sleeping on the couch that night. 3. My parents unexpectedly showed up at my apartment the next morning at 9am. Derek was still there and I was really hungover. It was super awkward and something we don’t laugh about nearly enough. 4. My contact picture in Derek’s phone is from this night. It makes me smile every time I see it.
The first Healthy Living Summit was both a complete mess and probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of. The whole conference started as an email. Tina sent an email to a group of us asking if we were attending BlogHer that year. The consensus was that it was too expensive, so why not create our own? So we did. Our goal was to bring all of our blogging friends together in a cool city and maybe learn a thing or two in the process. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing. I hadn’t even been blogging for a year at the time, but somehow I was grouped up with this amazing, incredible group of women who were pretty much blogging superstars at the time (and still are!).
We planned everything via emails. Set-up registration through PayPal (where we crashed the system and sold out almost immediately). Somehow got some brands to sponsor us. And basically created a weekend we thought sounded fun. Everything was done on a teeny-tiny budget, but we somehow made it work. There ended up being 5 HLSs in total. I took over the majority of the HLS planning in 2011 and then completely handed over the reigns when I re-entered the corporate world in 2013. I learned SO MUCH planning HLS over the years and am so thankful for the experiences it gave me. On another note, behind the scenes everyone tried to make the original 6 of us into this crazy, competitive group who secretly hated each other, but the truth is we became really great friends in the process and it bonded us for years to come. We still all talk semi-regularly and they’re the first ones I usually run to for big life events. Hell, the group (which has grown in the last few years) sent me a Starbucks gift card when I started at IM in 2013 and they were the only ones I told about my first pregnancy in 2014 (literally sending faint pictures of the first test before even my husband knew) and they were also there when I lost the pregnancy and sent the biggest bouquet of flowers. These girls are beautiful on both the inside and out and I’m so thankful HLS brought us together.
I was at Disney with my sister when I first heard the Marie Claire article was out. We knew it was coming, but it wasn’t until I started receiving weird messages from people defending me over this article that I knew it had been published. Someone had emailed a PDF to the group and my sister and I read it on the bus back to our cars. At the time, I was furious. This person had taken everything my friends and I did way out of context and turned us into these crazy, starving people who promoted eating disorders. Anyone who knew us, knew this was false. Anyone who read our blogs, knew this wasn’t our message at all. I waited and let everything sink in before writing my rebuttal the next morning. I decided to go with the truth and published all of the emails and answers I provided the reporter. I defended my friends and myself.
The support that came afterwards was one of the most incredible events I’ve ever experienced. People rallied behind us and led an attack on Marie Claire. Other outlets picked up the backlash and I watched as my blog traffic soared over the next few days. My response to the article remains one of the highest trafficked posts on my blog. Years later, the hurt and anger over what was written remains, but I guess all press is good press? The truth is, my traffic remained high after the article was written. Turns out the article escalated the popularity of my blog and people who found it through that craziness kept coming back – maybe they stayed when they realized I wasn’t that crazy?
A few months after the article came out I left my corporate job and pursued blogging/ freelance full time. At the time, I was making more money from ad revenue on my blog than at my full time corporate job – thanks, Marie Claire. I re-read the article every once in a while and it’s honestly more ridiculous now than it was then. I even sent it to a few co-workers recently and they cracked up reading it. Even they could see how blown up everything was. Of course, with the world of influencers we have now… what they wrote about us seems so low scale.
I had just moved to Orlando when I started my blog. I was young, single, and living on my own in a one bedroom apartment in a new city that I quickly fell in love with. Before moving to Orlando I was in a weird place and needed a fresh start somewhere, anywhere, and that’s exactly what I got. I made amazing new friends, went on some pretty cool adventures, and ate at some delicious restaurants. Orlando almost became a secondary character on my blog and living there became part of my identity and what a lot of people associated me with. Then I fell in love with this guy who lived across the state. After 2 years of doing the long-distance thing, we reached a point where one of us had to take a leap. My blog had exploded at the time and I had this opportunity to take it full time, granting me the flexibility to make a big move. So I did. Leaving Orlando was one of the hardest things I had to do. I loved that city so much. It’s essentially where I grew up and discovered who the real me was. I cried leaving there, but I also knew I needed to take this next leap.
Yes, I became the cliché of a girl who moved for a boy, but I’ve never once – ever – regretted that decision. Turns out Tampa was pretty awesome, too. It took me a while to figure this city out, but once I did – oh, man – I fell deeply in love with this city, too. The people, the culture, the life I’ve built here is all pretty amazing. I owe so much to this beautiful city of mine. This is where Derek and I made our home. This is where we welcomed our daughter into the world. Turns out moving to Tampa was one of the smartest moves I ever made.
I signed up for this race in secret. I had been served ads for it for a while and finally decided “why not?” and submitted my registration. I thought it was going to be this silly race I would do and everyone could have a big laugh about it later. It ended up being so much more. While most people believe racing in the buff would be intimidating, it’s actually really inspirational and freeing. Something about having all these people in all shapes and sizes, completely naked, put us all on an even playing field. Everyone was so matter-of-fact and confident with no clothes, it was hard not to be the same. I’ve honestly never felt more confident in my body than at this race. A few friends have run this race since I have, but I declined the invites to join them. I stand by my original theory that I’d only do this race again if I knew no one else. There’s something about being naked around a few hundred strangers that doesn’t bother me as much as being naked with anyone I know in real life. With that being said, I would still run this race again, and am honestly not sure why I haven’t.
The naked race comes up randomly from time to time. It came up when I was in Seattle the other month when someone mentioned it as a crazy thing I did once. Then the conversation moved on to the post where I reviewed a vibrator for Trojan. Ha. You can definitely say I never held anything back on my blog. I loved pushing the boundaries, and kind of miss my willingness to do so. Once forums developed with the sole purpose of attacking everything I wrote about, I became a lot more sheltered in my writing and a lot less daring with putting myself out there. It simply wasn’t worth crushing my soul for. But if you know me in real life, you know that nothing much has changed with my openness or crazy antics. I will always be the girl who ran the naked 5k and I’m proud of that.
I know I’m a little bias, but our wedding day was pretty awesome. It wasn’t fancy by any means, nor was it perfect, but it was exactly what we wanted and so perfectly us. From the minute Derek proposed, I couldn’t wait to start planning our big day. I dove head first into the world of wedding planning and wedding blogs and got pretty into it. It’s funny how at the time every little detail feels so important, and we’re all so deep into the unreality of wedding blogs that we forget it’s really not. I was lucky to essentially turn wedding planning into my fulltime job. In the year leading up to our big day, I obsessively blogged about every detail and was able to dedicate a lot of time to DIY elements I wouldn’t have otherwise. I loved it. My blog became very wedding focused – and I know not everyone was a fan – but that was a big part of my life at the time and my blog was always about my life.
My wedding posts still receive a little bit of traffic and the post featuring my wedding script remains the most popular. Even if I just wrote it all for me, it’s still fun to have something to show Annalynn one day. I thought I would remain on the wedding blog scene after developing a bit of a passion for planning, but as soon as the big day was over – and that stage of my life was over – my interests moved on. It was a ton of fun going through it, but if you’re not going through it – or thinking one day you will – it’s not as interesting and I totally get that now. Back to the actual wedding day…I would change nothing. Okay, maybe the typos on the table numbers, but honestly who cares. It’s a funny joke we can tell and laugh about. Oh, maybe I would have just given up on assigned seats – not worth the drama there. And I would have stocked the bar with better beer. The good stuff went way too fast. My favorite parts remain sealing our vows with a pinky promise, the beautiful red velvet cake my uncle made, the dancing, seeing my friends’ reaction when the bottle of Jack Daniel’s got passed around, and getting to call Derek my husband for the first time.
Probably one of the craziest things I’ve ever done was registering for IMFL. I blame my brother. It was his crazy idea to drive up to Panama City the year before to volunteer and register. I totally took his lead here. I mean, if he could do it – why couldn’t Kelly & I do it, too? So we registered without a freaking clue what we were getting ourselves into. I look back at that year of IM training and I still have no idea how we did it. That was the same year I got married, re-entered the corporate world with a job that required a lot of traveling (coincidentally for IM), and my husband decided to take a sabbatical from his job. It was stressful, but somehow (again, I have no idea how) I fit in hrs & hrs of training. What’s crazy is, despite spending 10+ hrs training on the weekends and committing to two-a-days during the week, I would still consider my training “light”.
Race day went better than I could have ever imagined. The conditions were spot-on and I could feel the support from across the world pushing me beyond any of my expected time goals. I finished 2 hrs before I was expected to, which still blows my mind. Of course, because the race day went so well I have zero desire to do another one. It was too perfect, why ruin that beautiful memory?! This race was pretty much the peak of my racing career. It was my last bucket list item before we started trying to have a baby and after that racing and training just fell to the bottom of the priority list. I yearn for the motivation and desire that got me to that finish line each morning while I struggle to fit 3 mi in before work. Will I ever be that committed person again? I’m not sure. Maybe. One day.
An update on the #IronSiblings… Ben went on to race another 70.3 a year later, but briefly retired from the sport to focus on work and starting his family. He recently registered for his first race (a ½ marathon) since the 70.3. Kelly had Owen almost exactly 10 months after finishing. She’s been kicking butt lately, running regularly with her boys and the double jogging stroller.
While this post was one of the most painful ones I’ve written, it’s also the one I’m most proud of. We kept the pregnancy so guarded in the beginning, not even telling our families the news. I had this strange desire to not want to celebrate it, maybe because I knew deep inside something wasn’t right and that it would all be temporary. Then there was the blood, the ultrasound, the unbearable silence where there should have been a heartbeat, the tears, and the pain that ate me up afterwards. As soon as we left the doctor’s office, I had to let someone – everyone – know what happened. I wanted to take this burden away from myself and know that I wasn’t alone. So I wrote. With a tear stained keyboard, I let it all out because I didn’t want to forget a moment of it. I didn’t want to forget that this life existed or how hurt I was. I wrote for myself, but I realize now it was so much more than that. I wanted to give this experience a voice because even though I felt so alone in that moment, I hoped that one day someone else going through the same loss wouldn’t feel alone. They would know it’s not their fault, that 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime and it’s okay to be sad about it. It’s okay to mourn the loss.
To this day, I still mourn the loss. Heck, my eyes are even starting to tear up as I write this. It’s a pain that unfortunately does not go away. After I shared my story, my inbox was flooded with women who had similar experiences. Friends I never knew had suffered, were sharing their own stories of joy and loss. I still receive private messages from women who remember reading my post and have since experienced a loss. My heart aches for them. It’s a club no one wants to be a part of, but knowing you’re not alone is so powerful. I was in a haze the next few months, obsessed with getting pregnant and wanting so desperately to move on. 2014 was a hard year and I wouldn’t wish any of it on anyone.
2 /// Oct 7, 2015 /// Annalynn’s Birth Story ///
I knew from the beginning that I was going to have a csection. With the shape of my uterus there was a high likelihood Annalynn would be breech due to the constraint of space and inability to turn. It’s also why I had so many ultrasounds. Constraint space could lead to constraint growth. Luckily her growth was right on track, but she stayed sideways the entire time. When we scheduled the csection I realized there wasn’t a lot of information out there on what to expect. I had read a few birthstories with emergency csections, but even those missed a lot of info when it came to the process. Scheduled csections were these taboo things that not a lot of women shared about due to the negative stigma society had placed around them. Trust me, it was not part of my original plan but it was what I ended up with. So I shared all the details I could. I wanted to be as transparent and informative as I could. I was thankful to have an incredible doctor who practiced gentle csections. Annalynn was placed on my chest almost immediately and never left my side during our stay. Recovery was relatively easy, but I think that’s the difference between a scheduled and an emergency csection – I never had the opportunity to labor so there wasn’t that additional stress on my body. I do yearn for the opportunity to experience labor one day, even if I still ultimately end up with another csection.
Of course, the birth of my daughter was a pivotal moment for the blog. My priorities changed, my passions shifted, and all that mattered was being a mom to this beautiful little girl. It’s a weird balance I’m still trying to figure out. I’m still me, but I’m also mom. I wrote a lot about recovery, body image, and breastfeeding in the beginning. Maybe a little too much about breastfeeding, but it really did take over my life – it was hard not to write about it when every little thing I did involved it somehow. I have no regrets with what I wrote because a lot of those posts are the ones I still receive the most feedback on. It’s not easy, nothing about parenting is easy. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
Writing about training and racing has always been a central focus of my blog. It was a huge part of my life for so long and a major passion of mine. I was determined to be one of those moms who immediately jumped back into running and working out after having a baby. I swear everyone I followed were miraculously faster after giving birth, like it was this new mom super power or something. That wasn’t me. While I still loved to run and really enjoyed taking my jogging stroller out, I just didn’t have that desire or motivation to push myself like I once had. I was slow and felt out of shape. I thought having a goal might change that, so when Annalynn was 6 months old I registered for a marathon. It was still 8 months away, I had plenty of time to train and get my motivation back, right? Ha.
While this race will always be the one I’m most proud of for sticking with, it definitely came with a lot of lessons. Like races and finish lines do not motivate me as much as they once did. That pinning a whole race on this picture perfect finish line moment will only crush your soul when it doesn’t happen. That maybe the key to my sanity is realizing it’s okay not to bounce back and you don’t have to run 8 min/mi. Sometimes it’s okay just to run to run. A lot of perspective came from that race and I’m thankful for it. I don’t know if I’ll ever run a marathon again (maybe?), but I am glad I ran this one, because if I hadn’t, there would still be this clinging cloud of what ifs. I really do miss training, racing, and beating goals, but I can also miss something and be totally okay with taking a break from it.