Late bloomers (flowers and people)

Right after Christmas, my camellia looked ready to bust out in gorgeous blooms too numerous to count. One perfect bloom had even opened up. But then came the coldest weather we’ve had in years. The buds stayed tightly shut and browned a little at the tips.


I thought the camellia buds would stay like this until I plucked them off.

Slight warming and then bitter cold repeated again and again until I had given up hope that any of the buds would open. But then, this past weekend, we had a glorious stretch of spring weather, and my camellia bush embraced the change:


Just one of the open camellia flowers

The one above, tucked toward the house and away from the harshest of the winds, managed to avoid browning much at all. Even the ones with browner tips, though, make me happy as I see them open one after another. I think they’re all beautiful, brown bits and all.


A little brown around the edges, but beautiful nonetheless

I can relate well to these late bloomers in my garden. I’ve always thought of myself as a late bloomer. My teenage years felt like torture while I waited to catch up with my friends. I’ve had a few career starts and stops and redirections while trying to discover what path I was supposed to be on. My marriage came later than most of my friends, though not as late as some (I had a great aunt who married for the first time just before she turned 60!).

I was even a late bloomer when it came to running, an integral part of my life now that I hope to continue for the rest of my life.

I’ve been quiet on the running front on my blog lately, mostly because of a nagging injury which is healing after I finally admitted I needed to try something different. A great physical therapist, discipline when it comes to the stretches and exercise she gives me, and a new way of running seem to be the right recipe. I am improving, and I am getting faster in the process (bonus!).

I often wonder how my running life might have gone differently if I had started when I was younger and thinner and free of injury. By the time I started running in my early thirties, I had already sprained a toe (for which I blame Riverdance and my barefoot attempts to follow along in my carpeted living room), and I had struggled with weight gain.

But what if I had used the injury and extra weight to keep me from trying to run at all? What if I had let myself believe I was too old to pick up a new activity? I might never have started running, and then, I might never have discovered the beautiful things in me that running has helped me see. The discipline. The courage. The stubborn streak (oh, wait, I think I knew about that one before running.). The mental toughness. The physical strength.

I might never have understood the community – and the camaraderie – of runners. I might never have visited some of the beautiful places I’ve encountered on my runs. I might never have shared my love of running and the ways it has made my life immeasurably better with the girls I coach. I would not have been the me I am now.

So to those of you who feel like late bloomers, who feel like that tightly closed bud on the camellia bush that may or may not open, I say to you: Let yourself bloom. Don’t ever let anyone convince you it’s too late to bloom, or that you’re too damaged or imperfect. When you bloom, you’ll see: you will be beautiful.

As a little gift to you today, to encourage you to bloom, here’s a little something I made to share with you:


Are you a late bloomer in some area(s) of your life? Are you afraid of what might happen if you bloom imperfectly? Did this post inspire you to try something new? I’d love to hear from you in the space below.

Running thoughts

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” – Revelation 13:9 (NIV)


I ran a 10K this past weekend on a beautiful day that promised of early Fall. The race is well-organized every year, which means that, among other things, traffic control is well-done and volunteers are out at all turns where runners need directions about which way to go.

The course contains a lollipop section: an out-and-back part (you run the same road going and coming back, which makes the lollipop stick) with a loop at one end. From overhead, the course looks like a lollipop, hence the name.

The “circle” part of the lollipop for this particular race started near the 4-mile mark, where there was also a water stop. There were volunteers handing out water, and another volunteer whose sole job it was to point runners in the correct direction. Runners turned left to start the circle of the lollipop by running down a lovely hill. To leave the circle part, runners came down a gentle hill and turned left again, putting them back on the “stick” part of the course.

I was running back toward the end of the lollipop’s circle, ready to turn left onto the “stick” part of the course. And that’s when all the yelling started.

A runner approaching the water stop for the first time took a cup of water and then turned right instead of left. This put her running against the stream of runners coming back through the turn and meant she was off-course and heading into a needless uphill grind.

The volunteer was yelling to her to turn around. The runners coming toward her yelled to her to turn around. There was yelling and pointing and dodging as she continued heading the wrong way. Finally, she got the most puzzled look on her face when she looked directly into my eyes. I pointed the other direction and yelled again, “That way!”

She wasn’t dazed. She wasn’t delirious. She wasn’t near collapse. No. She was wearing earbuds.

“I know it’s fun, but you have to be able to hear!” That’s what the volunteer called out to her as she ran back by him. Who knows whether she heard or heeded his words.

Until the past few years, races’ insurance could be in jeopardy if competitors wore earbuds or headphones, and some race directors went so far as to say they would disqualify runners caught wearing them. But this rule has relaxed recently, and more and more runners wear earbuds during races.

The increased use of earbuds during races is a detriment to our sport, and I wish races would go back to encouraging runners to race without them.

Missing a race’s camaraderie
One of the reasons I love racing is the camaraderie that comes from pounding out mile after mile with other runners. I don’t like to chat while I run, but I do enjoy an occasional pleasantry with another runner, maybe a bit of encouragement after a tough hill or a “You can do it” when my energy flags. With more runners wearing earbuds, the sense of communal effort and support is beginning to dissipate, and I miss it.

Another reason I wish we could go earbud-free at races is for the spectators. I don’t need a group of cheerleaders on my daily runs, but at races, especially long ones or particularly hard ones, it’s nice to have folks cheering on the side of the road and ringing cowbells or whatever other noisemakers are in vogue. (I vote for a cowbell over a vuvuzela any day. Just my two cents’ worth.)

This past spring, my husband pointed out how much less fun it is to cheer for runner after runner who can’t hear the cheers because of earbuds. In the last few races I’ve watched, I’ve noticed this growing phenomenon, too. It discourages me as a spectator. I mean, I could have slept in and could be enjoying coffee and a good book on the porch swing. But I’m trying to support the runners out there. It’s a whole lot more fun when runners come by and acknowledge spectators’ presence with a smile, a wave or a even a call for “More cowbell!”

Many runners who like to wear earbuds and belt out tunes as they run should also know that just because they were born to run doesn’t mean they can (or should try to) sing it like the Boss. Though sometimes being near someone belting out an off-key song does spur me to run faster to get away sooner.

The safety in our hearing
Our sense of hearing is one of the best ways we runners can protect ourselves out on the roads, too, and it’s the safety issue that makes me also long for earbud-free races.

The truth is we are more vulnerable as runners than we like to admit, and being able to hear what’s coming up near us (car, bicycle, angry dog) is one of our best protections. Three years ago, a runner wearing an iPod died after a plane making an emergency landing hit him. I wonder if he could have lived if he had been running without the iPod.

Car back!
It’s common to hear “Car back!” or “Car up!” among runners and cyclists out together on the roadside. It’s a way of helping protect each other.

As I mentioned, the race this past weekend always has great traffic control, but it’s not perfect, and there are cars that end up driving alongside runners at certain points, especially some of the more residential sections of the race. Earlier in the race Saturday, I watched as a runner ahead of me did a 360-degree spin to avoid getting hit by a driver determined not to wait for runners to pass by before pulling into her driveway. What if the runner had been wearing earbuds and not heard the car or the runners near her yelling “Car back!”?

It all makes me think of the verse in Revelation (yes, I know this is wildly out of context). But I say to those of you who run, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Hear the cars coming. Hear the volunteers directing you. Hear the spectators cheering for you. Hear the beautiful rhythm of all those feet heading together for the same finish.

This sign sat near the start of the course Saturday. I think another good one might be: “You can run with an iPod tomorrow, when no one is cheering.” But please, leave at least one earbud out.


You can run slow tomorrow when no one is watching … I know, Mom, it should say “slowly.”

I add this second sign just for fun and conversation. A little encouragement goes a long way, and most runners I know appreciate fun signs along the course. I admit that this one puzzled me a bit, though:


My first thought when I saw this one: Makes it seem longer in a good way? Or in a bad way?

So I have a few questions for you runners out there. Does running make life seem longer to you? In a good way, I hope? Do you run with earbuds when you’re racing?

For you nonrunners out there, are there times and places where you get so caught up in your own electronic world that you miss the cheerleaders’ encouragement or the cars whizzing by? Are you willing to unplug to hear what you might be missing?

True love and running, part 2

Two weeks ago, I promised a post about an inspiring couple who ran the same 100-mile race as my husband. Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Bill and Sally Squier. Theirs is a story of endurance – in love and in running. Theirs is also a story of inspiration and encouragement.

I’m not completely sure, but if I had to guess, I would bet that I first met Bill and Sally out in the woods at the headquarters aid station for this 100-mile race, an aid station that bears her name: Sally’s Asylum. My husband volunteered at the aid station before he and I ever met, and he has also paced runners, including Sally, as they ran toward their 100-mile finish.

Once we were married, I wanted to come out and meet all these crazy runners and fill water bottles and hand out food, too. I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun he was having in the dark middle of the night in the woods. We would joke and laugh with Sally and watch for Bill, who was usually running the race.

The first thing you notice about Sally is her smile. It’s warm and genuine and infectious, and I think that’s just one of the reasons so many people want to be around her. She’ll probably give you a hug, and if you’re at the aid station, she’ll put you to work. But then she’ll start asking you about your own running.

Sally is probably the one I have to thank (blame?) the most for my husband deciding to run the 100 miler. If I ever run even a 50 miler – which, Sally, I tell you in all seriousness I have no desire to do – I’ll be able to thank (blame?) her for putting the idea in my head in the first place.

Bill usually has a smile on his face, too, but if you watch closely, you’ll see him light up even more when he sees his beautiful bride Sally. This year, they became the oldest married couple to finish the 100 miler, at 70 years old. They’re likely the longest married to run the race, too. Continue reading

The sower and the sun (for this rainy day)

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but where I live, it’s cold, rainy, dreary and gray. Ugh! When the weather is overcast for several days in a row during the summer, it’s not so bad, because there are bright flowers blooming, and their color keeps everything from taking on an ashen quality.

I’ve found myself grumbling a bit, though, about our latest string of rainy, winter days, with no promise of the sun in sight. And yet, even in my winter garden, there’s a reminder of things beautiful and bright and cheerful, alive because of the sunlight. A profusion of camellia blooms:



This small camellia bush is one of three that my husband and I have planted in our garden, and it’s always the first one to bloom each winter. Its numerous, large blooms are this winter’s reward for me finally figuring out what kind of fertilizer camellias like (I used Holly-tone on them this past fall).

The perfect camellia bloom?

The perfect camellia bloom?

I don’t know why this bush blooms first, or why it has so many more buds and blooms on it than the other two. I suspect one of the others doesn’t get enough sunlight, and my husband doesn’t think it gets enough water either.

But the third camellia is almost equally situated with this one in the garden, gets the same amount of Holly-tone, light and water, and though a bit taller, doesn’t have nearly the quantity of buds on it as this one that’s blooming now.

As I puzzle over what makes one camellia flourish and another just stay alive, I’m reminded of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9) who sowed seeds all over the place: by the roadside, on the rocky places, among the thorns, and on the good soil.  Continue reading