As Rio celebrates the closing of its Olympic Games, we reflect and celebrate the athletic accomplishments of the last two weeks. The athletes parade into the stadium wearing their medals, dancing and smiling, and we watch from home, proud of their endeavors and the way they represented their countries.
But—when is the last time we’ve celebrated ourselves similarly? We celebrate the accomplishments of Olympians, people we will never know personally, yet go about our individual lives not truly celebrating or recognizing the amazing things we’re doing—or that those close to us—on a regular basis.
While on my run this morning, I had an epiphany that four years ago—the last time I watched a Summer Games Closing Ceremony—I was unemployed, new to California, and had never run longer than three miles. Since then, I’ve started and completed a Master’s program, run 15 half marathons, toed the line of a marathon, and have a job that I love 90% of the time.
While these things may not be as amazing as becoming an Olympic champion over the course of four years, for me those things are as valuable as a gold medal. I know that I have friends who have defeated cancer, found their life partner, had a child, graduated with their PhD, ran a marathon, written a book, lost huge amounts of weight, or landed their dream job, all since London closed its games in 2012.
I guess this all boils down to the question: when was the last time you celebrated yourself? If it hasn’t been recently, take a moment from your day and recognize the amazing things you’re doing, no matter how small they seem to you in comparison. It can be as simple as knocking out an extra workout during the week, making a dish you’ve never cooked before, finishing the book that’s been on your to-read list for months or even taking the leap to ask a question you’ve been afraid to ask.
To put it into Olympic terms, we’re all competing in its marquee event: living a happy, passionate life and the only way we’re going to stand on top of the podium at the end of it is to celebrate the little things.
So ask yourself—how can you celebrate yourself today?
I come from a family of sewers. Both of my grandmothers sew, and my mother was a professional seamstress for a while, making prom dresses for girls in our area. Notice that grammatical tense: was. Today is the seventh anniversary of my mother's passing and I'm struggling really hard today.
I think part of the struggle is because this is the first year I'm not denying the fact that I'm not okay and a lot of it has to do with sewing. Last year was the first year since 2007 that I let myself sew clothing to wear everyday. Before then, the last thing I made was my senior prom dress. I think it was an emotional wound that I didn't want to open. My mom used to make us matching outfits for holidays and helped me make a 4-H project every summer. Wearing those clothes was a point of pride for me, but after her death, I really just couldn't bear it. Every time I pressed on the presser foot of a machine, I think of her giving me "Mom speeding tickets" to ensure my stitches were straight and I didn't go too fast. Picking out patterns reminded me of the hours spent in Jo-Ann picking out 4-H projects. In short, I couldn't come near a sewing machine without feeling tremendous loss.
When I started running four years ago, I soon found out that people ran half marathons in costume. Of course, I wanted to run 13.1 miles dressed as a Disney character, so I began flirting with the idea of sewing again. At first I hand-sewed things, but eventually my husband got to the point of saying that I should just get a machine since it would mean less curse-words. I bought one and then a serger, but still refused to sew full articles of clothing for everyday wear. I'd sew running costumes and wear them once, but that was it. I wanted to avoid the conversations about how I learned to sew because I didn't want to talk about it.
Then, a year and a half later, I couldn't find a dress for my brother's wedding. He was getting married in St. Louis at the end of July and I wanted to be comfortable and nothing at the stores fit the bill. So I decided to sew something for the wedding. Admittedly, I didn't know what I was doing, and I ended up making a pretty terrible SUAT Brazi dress. And the compliments came, but since it was my family, everyone already knew how I knew how to sew. The awkward questions didn't come, and the dress was amazingly comfortable given how hot the wedding was. I felt a part of me come back to life.
I've sewed a lot more in the past year and started this blog. There's no hiding from it anymore when people ask me how I learned to sew: I learned from my mom. The awkward conversation of me explaining that my mom passed away in 2009 always happens, but by not avoiding it, I'm finding that I'm finally healing. I still think about "Mom speeding tickets" and wish I could call her when I have to insert a zipper, but I've stopped running away from the memories I have sewing with my mom, even if it's just one stitch at a time.
It's been two weeks since I failed at the marathon. A lot has happened, both externally and internally. Over the weekend, I decided that I might need to do an update to my blog post about failing the Big Sur Marathon.
Be warned, though. This blog post is filled with references to musicals. You'll understand why in just a bit, I promise.
Who am I? Can I conceal myself forevermore?
Since the failed marathon attempt, I've had to do a lot of soul-searching. I've asked myself why I run and what my goals are. I flirted with running throughout college, but I was never fully invested until I moved to California and signed up to run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in 2013. Then, after I finished my first half, I became "running arrogant." I knew I could finish a half, so I stopped trying so hard. I debuted at a 3:11, and my PR is currently 2:52. For as much as I run, the difference should be a lot more than that.
This led the to the question that I've been afraid of asking myself for a couple of years: what type of runner do I want to be? At the Captain America 10K in 2015, some woman came up to me and told me if I could get my endurance up, I'd be a force to be reckoned with. I was angry when she told me that, but some time and distance made me realize that I have the potential of being a faster, stronger runner, but in order to get there, I need to wean myself of walk breaks, which leads me to point two.
With the chance I've been given, I'm gonna be driven as hell
Upon that realization, I hit the ground hard last week. I did three CrossFit three times, ran five times, went back to Spin and drastically changed my diet. It ended up about as well as you could imagine: I ended up hurting the arch of my left foot and am currently on my second day of full rest.
There's a delicate balance between anger and determination. I was angry, and to be honest, I still am. I'm angry about my failure, I'm angry that I may not get a second chance, and I'm angry that it is totally my fault. Last week, I took out that anger on my body. On Saturday, I took that body out for what was supposed to be an easy 10K along the coast. It was anything but--my body told me that what I was doing wasn't sustainable and literally stopped working. My foot started dragging, my calf started seizing again, and my shoulder hurt at the same time the tide came in. What resulted was me finishing the race barefoot while trying not to cry.
Something has changed within me. Something is not the same.
Beyond my disastrous 10K on Saturday, this past weekend was also notable for something else: my thesis was approved and I will be graduating with my Master's Degree in Humanities in a couple of weeks. (The thesis was on the cultural impact of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, thus the musical references. Bonus points if you can name the shows.) These two events coupled together over the weekend led me to another question that I didn't want to ask myself: How can someone so smart be so stupid? I think the answer to that question is pretty obvious: pride.
Will I lose my dignity?
I run for the bragging rights and the bling. Somewhere along the way, I lost my love for going miles on my own feet. I'm a big girl and when I started running, it was a point of pride for me. I was a former hammer and discus thrower was running half marathons--for fun. But then, I got my first taste of bling and braggadocio and was never the same again. In retrospect, I think the Big Sur disaster happened in large part because I was too proud to admit that I wasn't ready for a marathon, at least not Big Sur. People tried to tell me, and I bristled. I was prideful, and I think that makes me the most angry.
So here it is, my digital mea culpa: marathons are hard and I tried to run one before I was ready. If you are planning on running a marathon, let me ask you one question: why do you want to run one?
Do you want to run a marathon just so you can say you did? Are you doing it because it's the next logical step in your running progression? Let's think about that logic for a second... What would you say to someone who wants to get married just to say they did? Or because it was the next logical step? You may think the comparison crazy, but in reality, training for a marathon takes the same level of commitment. You lose a lot of sleep, your diet is weird, your lifestyle changes drastically, you lose your social life, and it costs a lot of money.
Look at you where you are. Look at where you started.
A couple of weeks ago, I cheered on the runners in the SLO Marathon and Half at the 10-mile mark. One of my rallying cries was "Do you remember when a 5K was a long time?" Other than the one cantankerous guy who yelled back at me "It still is," the runners got the point. At some point, we all were beginners. We struggled to run for more than a few minutes at a time. A 5K seemed crazy. And then a 10K seemed hard. And then a 15K. Then a 10-mile run. Then a half. Then a 20-mile run. Then a marathon. And so on. I had forgotten what it felt like to run my first 5K. I had forgotten about how scared I was and how I didn't even know what to do with my car keys, so I bought a bag at the race and ran with it. It's crazy how things change, but I really needed the perspective.
To get back to what I originally asked: What comes next?
I'm taking two months off from races. I'll run a local 5K on the Fourth of July, then take another two months off and run the Jackson Hole Half with my sister in Wyoming. For those four months, my focus will be becoming healthier, but not just in the faster and stronger sense. I want to be in this body for another 50+ years, and to do that, I need to take care of it now. I'm cutting back on carbs. I'm drinking less. I'm writing down everything I eat. I'm listening to my body when it says it's tired (which it's saying right now).
I'm stuck like a dope with a thing called hope.
Essentially, I'm spending the next four months falling back in love with running and appreciating my body. My hope is that between now and Labor Day weekend, I'll lose 10 pounds, drop a bit of time off of my pace and get back to where I should be four years into my running journey.
I'll close with a simple question: is the flame that made you start running burning or has it been snuffed out?
When I started this blog, I planned to write about running and sewing. Since then, it's largely been sewing-focused, but something happened today that drove me to write my first running-focused blog post.
Earlier today, I dropped out of the Big Sur International Marathon between mile 14 and 15. I had struggled for the previous half mile, and had two very sharp muscle spasms at mile 14 and I realized that I had a choice between soldiering on and hoping to make it to the end (or mile 21 for the major sweep) and risk permanent injury or admitting that something was wrong and taking myself out at the med stop after mile 14. I chose to take myself out.
I was perfectly comfortable with my decision while waiting for the SAG wagon and on the ride back to the finisher's village. However, when my cell phone got service back forty minutes later, I was flooded with texts and notifications of my friends and family wishing me luck on the marathon. Since Big Sur doesn't have cell service, I had been incommunicado since 5AM. As soon as the messages started coming in, I lost it. I bawled. I made a race official bawl. Just writing this blog post, I'm tearing up. It was the first moment I regretted my decision and the reality of it set in. To be honest, my biggest fear while training for my first marathon was what people would think of me if I failed, rather than the marathon itself.
So, I did what any social media-adept millenial would do: I posted on Facebook. I admitted my failure, my gratitude for the well wishes, and my apologies for disappointing my friends. I didn't expect responses, but to my astonishment, I received love and comments from nearly 50 of my friends, some of whom I had no idea knew that I was running a marathon.
I'm a Type-A perfectionist; I don't really fail at things. If I don't think I'll succeed, I never try. For me, failing the marathon was notable for a number of reasons:
My experience got me thinking: why don't we let ourselves fail more? I learned more from failing today than I would have if I had succeeded. I learned about myself, my limits, and my fears. I learned how to control a panic attack alone in the middle of nowhere. I learned that while I can be beaten, I cannot be broken.
Pardon my Brené Brown interlude, but what would happen if we all challenged ourselves to do something that we had a high chance of failing at? I truly think that we'd all be more humble, hopeful, and work harder. We'd be less scared of the unknown and we'd reach our amazing potential.
I think maybe we are afraid to fail because of social media. (This is awkward for me to admit, since I'm a social media professional.) I know it sounds obvious, but marathons are hard. Half marathons are hard. 10Ks are hard. 5Ks are hard. In our running-event heavy society, we sometimes forget that. How often do you see someone post a picture of them and their medal on social media compared to them admitting that a run didn't go well or that they failed?
Here's my challenge to you: do something that scares you. Let yourself fail. Document the process. Share it. Grow: it's the only way we'll get better and evolve. As for me, I fully intend to try Big Sur again next year, if the marathon lottery gods smile upon me. If not, I'll be doing the 21-miler and conquering Hurricane Point.
How will you fail?
Have you ever seen a pattern, fell in love with it, but question if it would ever look good on you? That was my relationship with the Sweetheart dress by Patterns for Pirates. I had seen so many beautiful versions of the dress on the Patterns for Pirates Facebook group, but I didn't know if I could pull it off. Then, Patterns for Pirates announced they were going to do a sew-a-along for the pattern and Pretty Posh Prints sold a polka dot Liverpool fabric, and I figured it was time for me to stop fighting destiny.
This was my first time sewing Liverpool, and let me just tell you, it sews like a dream. For those of you who are as clueless as I was about what Liverpool fabric is, it's a textured spandex blend. Unlike other textured fabrics, it maintains its texture when it's ironed and has a smooth back. Both are huge bonuses in my book.
The pattern itself is pretty easy, but you absolutely have to make sure that you take updated measurements. The bodice is drafted for an 8-inch side waist measurement, and my Amazonian stature has me coming in at 9.5 inches, so I had to adjust a pattern for the first time ever. It's important to make this adjustment so that the bodice hits you just right at the smallest part of your waist. If it doesn't, it may not flatter you. Making the adjustment is easy, and if you visit Patterns for Pirates' blog, you'll see step-by-step instructions on how to measure yourself, and there are tons of resources on how to alter patterns.
Like most of my projects, I suffered some casualties: I broke two double needles in the process of making this dress. (They actually broke in the span of 5 minutes. I was not happy.) Luckily, I didn't cut myself in the process of making the dress, which is a first for 2016. I have some plans to make other versions of the Sweetheart dress, including a peplum and another dress with the most beautiful knit fabric I've ever seen in my whole life. Hopefully, those will get done before I go on my Alaskan cruise. If not, I'll just wear this dress everyday.
My dress took me about four hours from start to finish. My fabric came from Pretty Posh Prints and cost $6.50/yard. I already had the correct color thread. The pattern cost me $7.50.
In total, the project cost $27. I've actually already worn the dress twice since I finished it on Saturday, including to my local Delta Gamma alumnae chapter's Founder's Day. Did I mention I'm in love with this dress?
I'm running the Peace Love Run Half Marathon on March 6 in Ventura, CA. The race is a 60s-themed out and back course along the Pacific. While most people choose the tie-dyed hippie look if they dress up for this race, I've never been a big tie-dye fan. I struggled with figuring out what I was going to wear, and then while taking down our Christmas tree, I saw my ornament commemorating the first Barbie and was struck by inspiration to do it as a costume at some point. About a month later, I realized that this particular Barbie fit the 1960s theme (while she was released in 1959, she was iconic through the early 1960s) and the beach location.
Luckily, I had the prefect fabric for making this project a reality in my stash and didn't need to purchase anything except for the Patterns for Pirates Sweetheart Dress pattern on which to base my swimsuit dress. If you're interested in how I made the costume, I blogged about my adventures in a series of blog posts that you can access here. Otherwise, let me show you how the costume turned out.
I'll report back on how the costume worked for running early next week, but until then keep on sewing and running!
Let me start off by admitting that this project did not end up like I thought it would and my hack for the "bra" top part of the sweetheart dress bodice ended up looking like "a bra for a toddler" (my friend Crystal's description.) The unfortunate thing was that I didn't realize it until I had sewn the bodice together and put it on, which meant that I couldn't just replace the pieces. I was going to have to figure out another solution and topstitch it on the bodice.
Luckily, with running costumes, no one really looks all that close at your seamwork. And if they did, then my Sofia the First dress probably received a lot of judging looks, because my first regular pattern to running costume pattern hack was a complete structural fail.
Anyway, it three episodes of Fargo and an extreme amount of patience to figure out how to coverup my tiny toddler bra cups and mimic the sweetheart neckline. I ended up using the smallest zig zag setting on my machine to faux embroider the cups on. With the bodice figured out, I sewed on the skirt.
Here's where I parted from the inspiration. In the original Barbie, the bottom of the swimsuit is a stretched out seam making the bottom come together at a diagonal. That's all good and well for a doll dress, but the practicality of such a design doesn't really translate into a the real world. After all, Barbie's swimsuit is more or less a striped sock.
I ended up taking more of the 1920s swim dress approach and did a half circle a-line skirt that matched the stripes of the bodice. Since I'm going to be wearing this for a half marathon, it's more important that the structure be good, even if it departs from the original inspiration. After sewing the skirt to the bodice, I trimmed the seams and left the edges raw, since the spandex has a clean finish.
With the dress totally done, it was time to turn my attention to my Barbie legs. Since I'm not blessed with thighs that allow me to run in just a dress, I needed to make some bottoms. I turned to Patterns for Pirates Peg Legs. (I've previously reviewed that pattern here.) I went ahead and made full-length leggings because the weather forecast for my race Sunday keeps changing. With full leggings, I'll have the best chance at staying warm and/or dry depending on what Mother Nature throws at me. I forgot to add the gusset, so my promise for a step-by-step tutorial won't happen this time.
Ready for the full costume reveal? You can find it here.
Have you ever passed over a pattern because you thought, "Oh, this will never look good on me?" If you said no, let me just say that I don't believe you. I can't even begin to tell you how many gorgeous patterns I've passed over because I was convinced that it would never look good on me. Then, three months ago, I started doing CrossFit and things started changing. (Also, I'd like to make a guess that this is one of the first times CrossFit has come up in a blog about sewing...)
By things changing, I don't mean just my body. My whole attitude about myself changed. I suddenly was saying yes to things that scared me. So, when Angela of Greenstyle put out a call for testers for her new open back pullover, I applied. Much like when I signed up for my marathon, when I got the email saying I was in as the 3XL tester, I panicked. There was no way 250-pound me could sew and wear this top. I almost backed out several times, but I made a commitment and even if it looked terrible, the worst case scenario was that I wouldn't send in photos.
So, I started cutting my fabric and sewing. I was insanely apprehensive about what would happen. Unfortunately for my anxiety, but great for sewists everywhere, this pattern is extremely quick to workup. It takes about four hours from opening the pattern file to finished garment. I pulled on my first version in our living room and my husband assured me it looked good, so I packed it in my bag to wear after CrossFit the next day.
Here's the thing: in order to put the top on, I had to strip down to just my sports bra in the middle of the gym. At work. On a Tuesday. You know, no big deal. The thought had me so anxious that I actually started crying during the WOD. (I couldn't make up this story if I tried.) But, after doing a million push presses and squats, I did it. I changed in front of everyone in the box and had another athlete take my pictures. And in true Buzzfeed fashion, you'll never guess what happened next.
People started giving my compliments and were amazed when I told them I made my shirt. One of my supervisors even said "You need a red or a blue sports bra. The white one doesn't do you justice." WHAT?!
So, I did what any rational person would do: I decided to make another version.
Even though I live on the California Coast, I don't own anything for the beach. (Body issues, remember?) So, I decided to suck it up and make a shirt for pre- and post- beach outings with some flawed fabric I got from Pretty Posh Prints. While the fabric was hellacious to work with (RIP double needle), I think the final project might be one of my favorite things I've ever sewed. It's cute, flowy, and my smile in these photos is genuine: I felt happy and comfortable.
So, here's the moral of my story: if you think something is cute, make it. You never know what your next favorite project will be.
My tops took me about four hours each. My fabric came from Pretty Posh Prints.
The slub anchor fabric was a flawed lot and cost about $2 a yard. The ponte superhero print was $6 a yard. The colorblocked red jersey came from Koshtex and cost $6.75
Because I tested the pattern, I got it for free. You can get it here for $8 while it's on sale.
Welcome back to my adventure in pattern hacking! Today, we're going to talk about mimicking my skin tone with fabric and verifying if the hack will work. If you haven't read part one yet that introduces my project, you can access it here.
For some people, running in a strapless outfit is possible, but with my build, it really wouldn't work. Therefore, I was left with the conundrum of how to emulate the nude look and make it wicking and supportive. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be tricky, because I would order some nude mesh and call it a day. However, since I gave up buying fabric for Lent, I had to search in the dark recesses of my fabric closet. Lucky for me, at one point, I purchased a fairly thick nude spandex from Jo-Ann. I don't quite know when or why I bought it, but there was just enough to make the top part of the bodice and the leggings we'll be discussing later.
Once everything was cut out, it was time for the nerve-wracking part of hacking a pattern: laying it out to verify that you did it all correctly. Because I not only decided to hack this pattern, but also do it with stripes, I was particularly nervous at this point. But as the picture below shows, I think I'm in pretty good shape.
Now that everything is cut and fit together, it's time to pin and sew, but that's an adventure for another time. My half is on Sunday, so hopefully there's enough time to finish the project!
The first step for any pattern hack is to trace your pattern. You never want to hack using the original for two reasons: first, if it's a printed pattern, you completely lose the original and second, if you cut into the original, you have no frame of reference if you mess up later.
For my project, I printed out the Sweetheart dress and traced the bodice pieces, but made a cut into the sweetheart neckline where the striped pattern changes direction.
Important note: due to respect for the original pattern maker, I will not be showing any full pictures of my pattern pieces, except for the hacks I made directly. This is to ensure that no one can recreate her original design.
Tracing and cutting the bodice went really well. It was easy to match the stripes and soon I was ready to cut the skirt. This is also when I realized the peplum skirt pattern that I had originally intended to use made it near impossible to match the stripes or do the diagonal stretch that the Barbie suit required.
This caused the first of what I'm sure will be many frustrations with this project. I ended up asking my husband for help and eventually when neither of us could figure out how to make the peplum skirt work, I gave up and started watching Downton Abbey.
About 15 minutes later, I realized that I could do an unfolded half circle skirt with a cut down the middle to match the midline seam from the bodice. I traced out the bottom of the bodice and drew an a-line skirt from the sides of the bodice to complete the pattern and cut each half separately from matched stripes. After getting the front bodice and front skirt cut out, it was time to cut out the back of the striped part of the costume, which in comparison was easy-peasy since everything could be cut on the fold.
This ended up being my stopping point for the night, so my next update will pick up on the nude part of the costume.
Oh! And before I forget, the accessories for my costume came last night: white cat eye sunglasses and gold hoop earrings. The total for these was about $15. Thanks, Amazon!
Hi there! I'm Meredith and a dork who happens to be bad at running and mediocre at sewing, but in love with both of them.