For many people, Memorial Day Weekend marks the start of summer. It's time for barbecues, the beach, and white pants (though I prefer to wear them year round). It means freedom from school, and happiness. But while you're enjoying this long weekend, please take a moment to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day. It's a day to remember our fallen soldiers -- those who have died to preserve our freedom.
If you stop to think about it, the sacrifice made by these brave men and women is truly astounding. They gave their lives to protect us: strangers, just random people who are lucky enough to live in the United States. Sadly, most will remain unknown to us; however, I have been spending a lot of time visiting Honor the Fallen, and I highly recommend that you take a bit of time to read about the heroes who have given their lives during Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn.
With gratitude to:
Army Pfc. Keith M. Williams, 19. Died 7/24/14
Air Force Senior Airman Quinn L. Johnson-Harris, 21. Died 10/2/15
Marine Master Sgt. Aaron C. Torian, 36. Died 2/15/14
Army Capt. Jennifer M. Moreno, 25. Died 10/6/13
Army Staff Sgt. Lyle D. Turnbull, 31. Died 10/18/13
Navy Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jonathan S. Gibson, 32. Died 9/22/13
Army Lt. Col. Jaimie E. Leonard, 39. Died 6/8/13
Army 1st Lt. Matthew G. Fazzari, 25. Died 6/6/12
Marine Cpl. Aaron M. Faust, 22. Died 4/15/12
Marine Cpl. Jon-Luke Bateman, 22. Died 1/15/12
Army 1st. Lt. Ashley I. White, 24. Died 10/22/11
Army 2nd Lt. Jered W. Ewy, 33. Died 7/29/11
Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew S. Bubacz, 23. Died 11/12/10
And the hundreds of thousands of other men and women who have made the greatest sacrifice throughout our history. You have built this country. You have made it great. You have kept my babies safe, and I will be forever grateful for your bravery and strength.
With Love and the Deepest Gratitude,
The month of November is a tough one for me. In 2010 we found out that my mom's cancer had returned and was inoperable. Shortly thereafter, my son Josh was diagnosed with leukemia. Last year my friend Patty's son, Luke, lost his battle with leukemia. I'll be going through my day, without a care in the world. And then I remember. And I cry.
There is one day in November where I can count on my emotions. And that is November 11. Though I am grateful to our veterans and active duty service personnel everyday, this day is just theirs. And so I say, on this Veterans Day, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thanks to you, veterans and active duty personnel, thank you for keeping my family safe, thank you for missing time with your families to defend our country. Thank you for putting others before yourselves. Thank you for the sacrifices you have made. Words cannot express how much you mean to me.
To military families, thank you for accepting that your loved one must be away for long periods of time. I am so sorry for all that your family misses out on while your family member is overseas. And to those whose families have been forever changed, I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.
Although I owe you all a debt far greater than I can pay, I am happy to offer all active duty military, veterans, and their spouses a 10% discount at happypuppiesrun.com. All you need to do is send me a copy of your military id and I will send you your very own discount code. It won't expire, and it's yours forever. You can send it to me at laura (at) happypuppiesrun (dot) com.
This Veterans Day, let's all take a moment to thank a veteran. Because without them, this world would be a vastly different place.
With love, Laura
Twenty-eight years ago, I was a freshman at Mercy High School in Middletown, CT. On the very first day of school I was lucky enough to make some wonderful friends. I had a very rough time in middle school. I was a nerd, dressed differently, really, really loved Star Wars -- things that set me far apart from the cool kids at school. At Mercy, I made good friends quickly. Good, lasting friends.
In fact, last year, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon with two of them: Kat and Jen. (Correction: I ran after them at the Marine Corps Marathon...they are both pretty darn speedy.) And this past weekend, I was blessed to get together with them again, as I watched my dear friend Kat marry the love of her life. Jen was a bridesmaid, and Kat and Stephen honored me by asking me to do the first reading.
I practiced that reading, and I had it down. The entire time we drove from Baltimore to Ocean City, I practiced that reading. I was ready. I met with the pastor before the ceremony. I knew what to do. Nothing was going to mess with this reading. And then I saw Kat beaming at her husband-to-be and Stephen lovingly watching his beautiful bride. And I started to cry. Approximately 60 seconds later, it was my turn to read.
I was a hot mess. I was so emotional that Kat had to hold the reading for me while I held the microphone. I had to stop multiple times. Yes, I cried then, and I'm crying again just thinking about it. I am lucky enough to have people in my life whom I treasure, and Kat, Stephen and Jen are three of them. Kat and Stephen's happiness this weekend overflowed my heart, and it just poured right out in the form of the tears I shed at the wedding.
This weekend, I was reminded that the very special people remain in our lives. I am blessed to have some incredibly special people in mine. To Kat and Stephen, may you live a long and beautiful life together. Jen, don't forget the Flat Laura. To Everyone, may you find and cherish your own special people.
Twenty-eight years can go by in a flash
Value September 27 2015
This morning, after a difficult 16.5 miles, my friends and I stopped at Starbucks to refuel. As I walked out, with a drink in each hand (both for me!), I happened to look down. There, in the middle of the parking lot, was a penny. It had been driven over many times, it was tarnished and pretty well beaten up. I started to walk past it, stopped, and somehow managed to pick up that penny without spilling a drop of my precious caffeine.
Found pennies are special to me, as since our mom passed away four years ago, my sister and I have found numerous coins in very odd places. We look at them as pennies from heaven, so there was no way that I could walk past this one.
I got to my car, and took this picture. And then I started to think about the penny. Even though it is old and dented, it still holds the same value, and we all know the value of a penny when a purchase rings up to $5.01!
Just like that penny, we retain our value. We are all priceless, and just like that penny is my newfound treasure, you, too are a treasure. As we age, our skin sags, we gain weight. (I don't think that drinks from Starbucks with a mound of whipped cream are helping my waistline. Still, they're worth it!) We get wrinkles, our hair grays, yet each and every one of us hold on to our worth.
Even on our worst days, we remain valuable. We are all priceless gifts. Sometimes, we just need to find a penny to remind us.
With love and penny-filled wishes,
My Dear Teammate,
Yes, we are teammates. Though I am not technically on your team, once a TNTer, always a TNTer.
You are about to embark on the most amazing journey. Your body will strengthen; your soul will vibrate with energy. You will do some incredible things.
Yes, you are training for an endurance event, but what you are doing goes so much farther than that.
Whether this is your first or your tenth race, your body will go beyond what you have ever imagined.
You will log many miles. You will laugh, you will cry, you will rejoice with your teammates.
But beyond your personal growth, your actions are touching many, many more people than you can ever know.
You are raising money that is funding groundbreaking research. You are saving lives. You are preserving families. You are amazing.
Since 1988, when Bruce Cleland gathered a group of friends to run the NYC Marathon and raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, millions of dollars have been raised. Discoveries have been made. Lives have been saved.
Many lives, including the life of a certain 12-year-old boy: my son. Josh was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010. He completed treatment last year. Josh loves football, baseball, tormenting his brothers, wooing the ladies.
Josh is healthy today because of the people who ran before. You are saving the lives of people yet to be diagnosed. You are making a difference in so many lives, and for this, my family and I will be forever grateful.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
With Love, Laura
9/11 September 11 2015
Fourteen years ago, our nation watched in horror as the events of 9/11 unfolded before our eyes. I was nine months pregnant, at our home, just 45 miles away from New York City. Our hearts broke that day, but like the phoenix, we have risen from the ashes.
When I sobbed to a friend that I didn't want to bring my child into this world, he turned to me and said that bringing my child into the world is exactly what we need, because he knew that my husband and I would raise him to be a good person.
In memory and honor of all of the good people we lost that day, and in the days since, let's all be the very best people we can be. Love one another. Respect everyone's differences. Be courageous. Stand up for yourselves and those who are weaker.
Let's truly be the United States of America, because together we will never be defeated.
If you run a lot of races, it's easy to believe that you know what to expect, especially if you've run the race before. Some days, it's just not your day, and you won't have a great race. It happens to the best of us -- weather conditions, illness or injury can seriously affect your run. But how you react to it is completely in your control.
I woke up this morning for today's half marathon with an aching head, and tired body. I hadn't partied the night before -- it was a virus, and it had taken hold. I felt miserable. I didn't want to get dressed, let alone run a half marathon, but what I did want were the medals!
I got dressed in my Run For Our Sons team jersey and my favorite Happy Puppies shorts, and headed out the door. Slowly, ever so slowly, I made it to my corral. At the start, it seemed to take a Herculean effort to propel my body forward. Mile after mile I slogged my way, running my intervals. Finally, at mile 6, I told Mary that I didn't think that I could run anymore. Mary was sick as well, and once we calculated the time cushion we had built by running, we knew that we would be fine and finish in plenty of time.
As we walked, my legs felt heavier and heavier, but we trudged on. At mile 10, Mary looked at me and asked if I was alright. At that point, I let her know how horrible I truly felt. At mile 5, I started to question whether I would be able to finish. I really wanted to just sit down on a bus and wait for someone to pick me up.
And then I thought about the shirt that I was wearing. I am a part of a team that is working to fund research that could ultimately cure Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive muscle wasting disease that is 100% fatal, and has no treatment at all, let alone a cure. These boys' muscles are wasting away, and their life expectancy with excellent care only reaches into their twenties. How could I give up when these boys are counting on me?
The back of my shirt reads "Going the distance to end Duchenne." If I sat down, I would not have gone the distance. I knew that I had to finish the entire race. And I did. I was slow, and definitely not steady, but I finished.
I promise boys, I'll never give up. I will keep running until that cure has been found.
There is an amazing power that comes from running. We can feel it, deep in our souls.
The rhythmic pounding of feet, the whoosh of heaving breathing. The sweat that drips from our brows. Power.
Running allows us to escape from our lives. We can leave all of our problems behind. Take control when we feel helpless. We become powerful.
Our pace doesn't matter. Our distance doesn't either, nor does our size. The challenge is up to us.
That feeling when we return from a long run. The soreness in our muscles. We are getting stronger with every step, and our muscles are screaming their thanks. (Okay, so the thanks is implied...they really do appreciate it, as angry as they might feel.) We are strong.
We can hit the road alone if we need time to recharge. We can run with friends if we need to socialize. We can think things through, we can talk things over. Amazing ideas come to us while we move. Running helps us to become empowered.
Something so simple can do so much. Let's embrace the power. Let's get out and run.
Life August 20 2015
The past few weeks have been a blur. Vacations, back to school shopping, and for the Pita Crew, it's football time -- not only youth, but we've just added high school. It's exhausting. But, life is an endurance event, and times like this call for lying back, relaxing, and enjoying. This isn't a sprint, and no one's getting out of here alive.
Life often doesn't go as we plan or hope. But we need to keep plodding on. We can do it. And there's always a bright spot in the gloomiest day. My day today was pretty horrible. Car broken down kind of horrible. Burn the hand on boiling water kind of ridiculous. (Yeah. Completely bone headed maneuver.)
BUT, today I spent the morning with my sweet Josh. The boy who battled cancer and won. And that's enough to brighten any horrible day.
So, while I'm sitting at the football field, watching my boys practice this evening, I'll pretend I'm lying back in the warm sand, smiling. Because as horrible as a day can be, life itself is pretty darn amazing.
And what makes a day a little bit brighter? A free shipping code, so use code LifeIsAmazing at checkout to receive free standard shipping in the US. And I truly hope that you have a very happy day!
Enough August 12 2015
There are many times during a day when I wonder if I am "enough."
Am I a good enough mother?
Am I a good enough wife?
Am I a good enough friend?
I know I'm not the only one who questions herself, and I have found the answer for all of us. The answer is yes. Yes, we are all "enough."
Did you survive the day? You've done enough.
Are your kids still in pajamas at half past three in the afternoon? Follow up question: are they relatively clean and dry? You've done enough.
Are you the best person you can possibly be? Then you've done enough. You are enough.
My children are happy and healthy, participate in all kinds of sports, and we do all kinds of volunteering. And my house is a mess. I mean, a disaster. The house is clean-ish, but I choose my enough, and I turn a blind eye to the chaos that comes with four boys and two parents who work. Our walls have holes because some future MLB pitchers were practicing in their closets. Our walls have graffiti because we have a child with an obsession with sharpies. We have pet hair on the couch, because we love to snuggle with our fur babies. Our house is full of kids all the time, some mine, others borrowed, because our door is always open, and our fridge is always full. We are all enough.
I admit: I look longingly at photos that friends share, which show their nice, neat houses. But I don't know what's beyond what I can see in that picture. Their enough might seem amazing, until you look closer and see that they are just like everyone else. So, I try not to compare myself to others.
My enough is just that. Enough. Just like yours.