Friday, April 3, 2020

Overwhelmed: COVID-19 Is Not the New Normal

Grateful for the sun while I work remotely;
though it's mighty chilly in this room lol
It has been three weeks since I started working remotely, and two weeks since I've stepped foot in a store or have seen a friend or loved one outside of the house. I'm so grateful to have Mike, and we've done our best to keep to as normal a routine as we possibly can with us both working from home. We set boundaries on work time, we take daily walks, we make meals together, and we have alone time and virtual time with friends. But despite this new routine we've settled into, I am feeling vastly overwhelmed. And I know I'm not alone.

Friends and colleagues have shared how overwhelming this "new normal" is, and one person this week said something so profound; it hit me right in the gut. It was something like:

"We're going about business as if everything is normal except for the fact that we're working remotely. But everything is NOT normal. This new normal is NOT normal. People are really sick. People are dying."

"Kindness counts;" "Spread love;"
"#bethechange"
I know people whose loved ones have fallen ill with COVID-19, some have lost lives. I have friends who are essential staff, many in the medical field. I worry about them and their families every day. It is a thankless job, and I appreciate their dedication to caring for sick people on a regular basis.

This is a serious pandemic, and I'm shocked at how many people are still carrying on as if this isn't a big deal. I'll admit, way back in January (god, that feels so long ago), I was one of them. I thought COVID-19 was all media hype. These days, it's hard to believe what's real and what's fake news. But, by this point, we should all recognize that this is serious.

I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the amount of time I'm spending on my computer, not just to perform the everyday functions of my job, but also for Zoom meetings, messaging with friends, virtual visits with my son who is isolated (safely) in another state. Then there's texting and phone calls and personal emails and social media, and I feel like my eyes are glued to a screen every waking moment of every day.

I've become that friend who flakes on people because I'm in the middle of something when someone contacts me, or I'm mentally drained and just can't handle anything other than the task-at-hand, and then I forget to message back—for days, weeks (what is time right now, seriously?). Anyone who knows me knows this is not my norm.

But we are not living in normal times, right now. So, I am being extra kind to myself. I am not beating myself up for needing to sleep in, even though that may mean not writing in the morning. I'm forgiving myself for not texting someone back in a timely manner. And yes, I am eating more chocolate. It's the comfort I need right now.

Thursday night "Cocktail Hour" with running friends
I don't mean for this post to be all gloom and doom. I have seen many wonderful things in my brief moments away from this virtual world.

I have seen sidewalk chalk messages and "bear hunts" in the neighborhood that let me know we are all in this together.

I have had meaningful "visits" with my friends on Zoom

I have had silly moments with my son on FaceTime.

I am reading Stephen Chbosky's newest book Imaginary Friend (though, it's beginning to feel like a premonition to COVID-19).

I am enjoying quiet moments on the couch with Mike drinking coffee before the world wakes up in the morning.

And I'm enjoying family dinners together every night, sharing highlights of our day, to remember that we can still communicate in real life.


Our first picture together as an official couple!
But I realized I need a bit more. I need to reset. Mike and I are taking Monday off work to celebrate our one-year anniversary. HOORAY! This seems like an opportune time to break from the virtual world to just live in the real world, despite how small "my world" is right now. So, I am signing off social media, the internet, my computer—hell, even my phone—until Tuesday. I want to take the time to celebrate the love we share with no distractions. I want to live in the here and now—even if it's just for three days—to focus on what's most important in life.



Our last picture together: working remotely!
(yes, I might be wearing pajamas)

Are you feeling overwhelmed? How are you managing during this stressful time? 

What will you do this weekend to recharge? Please post a comment below.

And please, stay safe, be well, and practice social distancing. Let's help end this pandemic!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Going Stir-Crazy? Explore the World of Color

Time for a hike? Loving this pop of hot pink!
IllumiNITE Unisex Velocity Mitten
It's week two of isolation, and I must admit I'm going a bit stir-crazy. I've worked remotely for years, and I've gotten pretty good at it. I know to set specific hours to avoid working nonstop. I know to take little breaks throughout the day to stretch, get water, have a snack. I know to break down my work station at the end of every day, and yes, even shut off my computer and store it out of sight. This gives a sense of transition from work time to down time at the end of the "work day."

But I'm not JUST working remotely. I AM remote completely—away from friends and family and people in my community. I never fully appreciated how integrated my world was. Besides driving to work, there's going to the store or bank or gas station. There's stopping by the local library to pick up a new set of books. There's going for a run with my run club. There's the impromptu coffee or drink with a friend. All of this is gone. And it takes its toll, more than we realize.

Wearing IllumiNITE Pink Love Tee
to brighten my day
I read a great article by Harvard Business Review entitled That Discomfort You're Feeling Is Grief. And it makes sense. Even though I'm getting more sleep than ever and my daily routine is solid, I have to look at the calendar every day to see what day of the week it is and what date it is. Is it really only Tuesday? How is it Friday already? Wait, is today Saturday, or Sunday? Time has become a concept, one big, blurry mess.

I'm having a harder time waking up in the morning, my brain feels foggy and groggy, and I wrestle between experiencing bounds of energy to wanting to sleep until this COVID-19 pandemic is over.

In this new normal, I'm trying to find ways to add more joy into my life. For example, I'm definitely eating a lot more chocolate! haha But that alone, isn't cutting it. But I noticed that working near a window and looking out at the world around me has given me more joy. Spring is in the air, the buds are sprouting on the trees, and slowly the world is blossoming into color: bright blue skies, greener grass, red cardinals! Each pop of color creates this surge of joy inside me.

Can you find the garter snake?
As I stated in my last post, COVID-19: Stay Remote, Not Isolated, I'm getting out in nature to explore as much as I'm able! last weekend, I came across the cutest little garter snake while on a hike. I wouldn't have seen if it didn't rustle up the leaves as it slithered away—it was completely camouflaged.

Seeing this nearly invisible snake made me remember a conversation I had with a friend a while back. She had painted her fingernails bright colors, which surprised me because she doesn't normally paint her nails, let alone paint them all different colors. When asked about it, she mentioned that she had just read the book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee. She said the book mentioned that adding color, shapes, and textures into your life bring you pops of joy. (mental note: I must buy this book!)

Thinking about this concept of color bringing joy while watching this adorable little snake trying to blend into its background made me realize: This COVID-19 pandemic is making me feel like I'm fading into the background! Every day, my work outfits have been a rotating array of black and blue hoodies and sweatpants. What else would I wear while being cooped up in my house?! But...I realized that "dressing up" to go for a hike or a run has been my happiest moments of the week. Yes, a large part of that is the fact that I'm doing something outside of the house. But the other part of that happiness is: I'm wearing bright colors!

Wearing these pops of color has become my social outlet; my pops of joy throughout the week; it's my way of being seen when we can't socialize, my way of announcing to the world: I'm here! I see you! Do you see me?

Maybe it's the stir-crazy, but the most exciting moment last week was when Mike noticed that my IllumiNITE Ambition Reflective Women's Hoodie has a ponytail pull-through! How have I never noticed this before? So what does one do when discovering this amazement?

 PHOTOSHOOT! No autographs, please! haha


 




I'm wearing Beetroot/Silver
Mike's wearing Hawaiian Blue
And, I just found out that the IllumiNITE Ambition Women's Hoodie AND the Early Riser Men's Pullover are on final sale! So get yours before it's gone! Don't worry! You can order online! And if you use discount code Sera15, you'll get 15% off the rest of your order (non-sale items).

Okay, so maybe this blog post is all over the place...this is the state of my scattered mind. But seriously, get some COLOR into your world! It will make you happy! And...it will brighten the day of anyone you may pass (remember: 6 feet apart) on the road or hiking trails! It seems there are a lot more people exploring the outdoors now that businesses are closed. Are you one of them?!

What are you doing to bring pops of joy into your life during this time of social isolation? 

Leave a comment below!




Friday, March 13, 2020

COVID-19: Stay Remote, Not Isolated

Climbing mountains
keeps me centered
The world is in complete chaos right now, and my head is spinning from the constant COVID-19 updates in my news and social media feeds. With businesses and schools closing and store shelves clearing out, I know that we will be hunkering down at home, working remotely, in the very near future. 

It's hard to predict what the next few weeks will bring. While I'm taking necessary precautions, such as washing my hands more frequently, limiting social activities, and shopping online to support local and independent businesses, I'm also sticking to my daily routines as much as possible. This includes adhering to my hiking and running schedules. 

Finding balance and peace
on mountaintops
April begins our rigorous mountain running training—ski slopes and jagged, rocky inclines galore—so I've increased my hiking activities this month to prepare my body for the increased intensity that mountain running adds. Despite the lingering cold weather, my IllumiNITE Tahoe performance jacket, cold weather hood, and Satellite running tights (pictured) have kept me warm. The sun has been shining and the skies have been blue. Spring teases the air, and it's bringing me so much joy. 

Being amidst the trees and rocks helps me feel centered to clear my head and regroup. The breathtaking views at the tops of these mountains reminds me to stay positive, even when it feels society is falling apart, and to remember that beauty exists in this world.

IllumiNITE Tahoe Performance jacket and cold weather hood
Staying warm, despite
this cold New England weather 
I truly urge you: get outside and enjoy the walking trails, forests, and mountains near you. Escape the news feeds and anxiety-ridden posts. Take the time to center yourself and be present with the here and now. If you need activewear that keeps you warm and dry, I highly recommend supporting independent retailer IllumiNITE. Use my discount code Sera15 for 15% off your entire order. And remember, stay safe! 

What are YOU doing to find balance amidst the chaos? I'd love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment below.







Friday, February 28, 2020

Train, Hike, Race, Repeat: An IllumiNITEd Agenda

IllumiNITE Savannah Shirt
January and February are always my lowest miles months. The cold, short days really zap my enthusiasm, but I figure if there is any time to rest and recover, winter is the perfect excuse to kick off my running shoes and catch up on my shows. Remember, 2020 is all about finding balance.

So far, I'm finding my groove. I've settled into my new 5:00 am writing routine before going into my day job.

I've been working out at the gym with my sister on our lunch hour, adding in strength training and speedwork on the treadmill.

Sera: IllumiNITE Dovetail Tee
and Women's Shortie

And I've officially planned out my hikes and races for the year!

Yes! As part of goals for living a balanced life, I'm incorporating more mountains back into my athletic activities. Why? Two reasons:

1) I promised my life partner that I'd hike more if he ran a marathon (his first) with me (he did! and he signed up for two more!).

2) In 2018, I ran my fastest marathon and was in the greatest shape of my life. I truly believe it's because I incorporated mountain training/races into my running routine that year.


So what's on my IllumiNITEd agenda this year? I thought you'd never ask!

THE BOSS

IlumiNITE Eclipse HeadbandVigor Singlet,
and Women's Shortie
First up is Loon Mountain Race in Lincoln, New Hampshire, in July. This race is 6.6 miles straight up a mountain—with the last kilometer on a black diamond ski slope—a 45-degree angle!

Check out the Upper Walking Boss video to see for yourself. Hang onto your couch...you'll get vertigo just watching!


It's brutal; it's dizzying; it's So. Much. Fun!

Instead of taking the gondola ride that's included in the race fee, I always run back down the mountain afterwards. And then I cool off in the river!

IlumiNITE Eclipse HeadbandVigor Singlet,
and Women's Shortie
Ahh, best mini-vacation ever! Since we're there, we'll hike up Franconia Ridge a few days before the race as well. That weekend is a 16-miler training weekend for us (for our marathon), so the hike and race will fulfill that requirement. This will be my third year doing this race, and I seriously cannot wait to run it with Mike!

Training for this race will include the Seven Sisters race route and Mt. Tom ski slopes. My quads and glutes are already burning thinking about it!

THE RIVER

I ran so fast, I burned holes in my socks! haha
What goes up, must go down! Everyone who knows me knows how much I hate hills! So to reward myself for all this climbing, I've signed back up for the New England Green River Marathon in August. The course is one way, from Vermont to Massachusetts, on a tree-canopied road alongside the cooling Green River. The elevation LOSS is an appreciated 1,450 feet.

I ran this race ONCE, and it was my fastest marathon yet! At the time, I was at the peak of my mountain racing, so I'm hoping I can beat my record now that I'm adding mountains back into my routine!

I chose this marathon again because it's the perfect FIRST marathon, and since Mike's first marathon was the ever-grueling, mostly uphill, jam-packed marathon in Greece, I thought Green River would make for a nice contrast (he's still not convinced he likes marathons, but soon he will LOVE them, haha).

Training for this will include hikes on Mount Greylock and Mount Race (gotta keep up our strength) and speedwork (intervals) on a track.

THE GHOST TRAIN

My son and I costuming it up at
Ghost Train Ultra in 2018 
We'll end the year with Ghost Train Ultra Marathon in October. This was my first ultramarathon (I did 30 miles), and it's 15-mile out and back course makes it perfect for the newbie (or seasoned) ultramarathoner. The course is relatively flat with just one hill (that goes up both ways!), but is hardly boring as it's filled with spooky, Halloweenie decorations, costumes galore, and a tunnel—yes! a tunnel!—to run through!

This year, I'd like to accomplish 45 miles, 30 on Saturday and 15 on Sunday. We'll see how my year goes before I officially commit to that! What I'm most excited for is dressing up in costume for this race! Maybe this year, we can wear capes! I'm already feeling like a superhero as I think about bounding up all these mountains and racing at the speed of IllumiNITE!


IllumiNITE Fishbone Halloween Cape
New England Green River Marathon is perfectly timed 7 weeks before this ultra! I'll just continue on with Hal Higdon's Ultramarathon schedule to stay on track, maybe doing half-distance the day after my long distance runs to get used to running long stretches back-to-back. For example: 26 miles on Saturday and then 10 miles on Sunday. And I'll have to shave off one week, so I'll just skip week 21 and go right to week 22.

I'm crossing my fingers that Mike will feel motivated to "go the distance" and join me with my ultra training. He is thinking of running 15 miles on Saturday and 15 miles on Sunday for a total of 30 miles that weekend...but I'm wondering if all the excitement and magic of race day will get him to do 30 all at once!!! No pressure (yet!)!


Sera: IllumiNITE Ambition Hoodie
Mike: IllumiNITE Early Riser

So tell me:

What races are you signed up for this year?

What's your training plan? 

I'd love to hear! Leave a comment below!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Hey Valentine: You're the Run For Me

Mike: IllumiNITE Rochester Jacket
Sera: IllumiNITE Tahoe Jacket
I knew he was The One when he agreed to travel to Greece with me to run the Athens Authentic Marathon—his very first marathon—and then followed through by actually buying his plane ticket and training for the race. I fell in love with him while we trained side by side, running long stretches together, sometimes chatting, sometimes enjoying the silence. And I knew he loved me long before he said the words because he followed the new, restrictive nutrition plan I implemented and took our training schedule seriously. He ran every scheduled training run, including a few long distance runs without me because I was traveling for work.

While marathon training, we checked in with each other's physical and mental health on a regular basis. We made sure the other was getting the proper nutrition, getting enough rest, and stretching before and after running. We learned to rely on each other on the road or on a wooded trail. We reminded each other to drink water, eat food, and take walk breaks. We helped each other get through "bad" running days, whether physically or mentally. And we celebrated running milestones.

Sera: IllumiNITE Shortie,
Featherlite Packable Jacket,
Mike: Long Sleeve Warm Up Tee
When we crossed the finish line at the Panathanaic Stadium in Athens, both of us exhausted and sweaty and smelly and famished, I felt our bond strengthen into something bigger than life. Despite being much faster than me, he didn't leave my side during the entire marathon. We spent five-plus hours together, marveling at the beauty of a country neither of us had visited before. Five-plus hours keeping each other motivated, pushing each other to run our best but also slowing down when we saw the other struggling. Trust me, even though it was his first marathon while it was my tenth, I don't know how I would have finished without him. I was nauseous for twenty of those miles and struggled through many uphill stretches. He gave me the strength I needed, and the support, to push through to the end; his patience was unwavering. Five-plus hours of physical and mental exertion and exhaustion, and I still loved him. Hell, I still liked him; I wasn't even the slightest bit annoyed by him, not one bit. That's when I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
Sera: IllumiNITE Powerstretch Pant
Mike IllumiNITE Mercury Run Tight

Reflecting on those five months of training together, I realized that the relationship we developed as
runners carried over into the everyday life of our romantic relationship. We're not afraid to try new interests. We support each other through the toughest of times, and we celebrate life successes, even the tiniest milestones. Most importantly, we respect what we each bring to the relationship.

Running with a romantic partner nourished a part of my soul I didn't realize needed nourishing. It taught me that communication is key to meeting each other's needs without comprising our own needs. That it's okay to be vulnerable, and then to actually be vulnerable. That I have a lot more to offer than I realized, and what I have to offer is desired and appreciated. That it's okay to rely on someone else—I've always been independent to a fault!—and that accepting help makes me a stronger person (It also makes life so much easier. Who knew?) It taught me that having a supportive, equal partnership is attainable—something I never thought possible.

IllumiNITE Men's Early Riser
in Hawaiian Blue
Most of all, it taught me that the love I always dreamed of really does exist, and it's worth waiting for. All the years of believing someone like me wasn't worthy of real love—believing that no one out there would ever want to be with a girl like me—believing that the type of romantic partnership I dreamed of didn't exist, was all just a lie that fear fed to me. It took me a long while to open up and be ready for love, truly ready, and then even longer to find someone who was also ready for love. In fact, it took me seven months before I even agreed to let my friend give her family friend my phone number, and another two months before he texted me an invite to coffee. Spoiler alert: he was worth the wait.


The History Channel states that “Valentinus,” the Latin word that “Valentine” was derived from, means “worthy, strong or powerful” (Who was St. Valentine?) And while I know there is much angst about the corporate intentions behind creating Valentine’s Day, I do believe that taking time to celebrate loved ones is a worthy act.

IllumiNITE Love Tee
20% off, February 14 only
15% of entire order always
with code RunBrightly15
So this Valentine’s Day weekend, I will wear my heart on the outside and watch it glow bright as I
celebrate the love I share and cherish with my life partner. I urge you all to find a special someone to go on a run with this weekend. Whether that special someone be your life partner, a new crush you've been dying to ask out, your bestest friend, or a new friend, there is just something magical that happens between people when running together. You become your most truest selves, and your heart opens to endless possibilities.

Hey Valentine, you're the run for me. Today, and always. I love you. 

Friday, January 31, 2020

Balance: This is 2020



Feeling unbalanced
How is it already the last day in January? 2020 has been a whirlwind with starting a new full-time job and part-time freelance work, revising my novel, moving my son back to college, trying to keep up with my dating and social life...the list goes on. Happy New Year ! I hope yours hasn't roared in quite as fiercely as mine.

I've been trying to define my goals for the year. I even sat down and wrote myself a letter of the things I wish to accomplish in love, career, and health this year. But I've been searching for a word to use as an overall theme. A word that I can say to remind myself to stay on track if I go astray. I've struggled all month to think of this word...as you can see above, I've been a bit busy.

Then three seemingly ordinary but actually significant events happened.

I never get postcards in the mail. Cards, yes. Letters, occasionally. But never postcards. I got two in one week from two of my illustrator friends wishing me a Happy New Year—both hand designed. The first postcard had the word "HOPE" incorporated into the art (check out @beautifullworldshop artwork on Instagram; Kerrita's designs make my heart happy!) The second postcard had an illustration of my friend, her husband, and children (check out @larissadrawsstuff on Instagram; Larissa's designs make my young self shine). Larissa addressed the postcard to the pseudonym she jokingly created for my writer persona. The words "FAMILY" and "WRITER" popped into my head.
Pondering, pondering

I mulled these words around in my head as I continued to struggle with MY word that would encompass 2020. Then yesterday, I had lunch with a colleague of mine that I hadn't seen in over five years when she left the publishing house we worked at to work at the college I started working at this month. As we updated each other on the past years of our lives, she said something like: "You're still as busy as ever. I've always envied how much you do in life." I laughed and swore I wasn't as busy as I used to be.

But as I walked through campus back to my office, the word "BUSY" bounced around my head. And then my mind quieted just before the word "BALANCE" whispered to me.

"Balance," I said out loud to absolutely no one. My word for 2020 is "BALANCE."

Diving all-in
I have always struggled with balance. When I do something, I dive all in...if I'm writing, I'm writing a novel AND a short piece of fiction on the side. If I'm running, I'm training for a marathon or an ultra marathon AND trying to strengthen my climbing ability or speed. If I'm reading a book, I read the WHOLE book in one sitting OR read multiple books at a time. If I'm watching a new show, I binge the entire Season AND have a second show I can watch on the side when I need a distraction.

Hell, I actually have trouble with my physical balance as well. You do NOT want to see me in a hot yoga class! I'm falling over with every single pose, even the seated poses.

Balance. How am I going to achieve balance in 2020? We're only 31 days in, and I'm already struggling. Deep breaths. Focus on the positive, Sera. Positives, right. I have been making small changes in my life, and although they are minor, these changes have been helping me find balance.

At a standstill brings
a different perspective
Some of these changes started last year when I lost my job. No money means saying "No" to so many things that I was involved in. No to races. No to lunches, dinners, or drinks with friends. No to driving long distances to visit people. No to everything whatsoever that cost money. Before I knew it, saying "No" became easier than ever. Having more downtime helped me rest and recover from the burnout I hadn't realized my go-go-go lifestyle had fueled.

Stopping everything for the last four months of 2019 really helped me reset in January with a clean slate. Yes, as above mentions, it's been a whirlwind of a month, but with change comes initial chaos sometimes. I'm settling into a new routine while I figure out what I want to fill my time with and how to allocate that time so I don't tilt the scales in just one direction.

I do not have all the answers about how to achieve said balance. But here are my priorities and where I want to focus my time:

  1. My Novel Revision—After being stuck for on how to fix this book for the last two years, it's all become clear! I am so happy my Muse is back.
  2. Trail Running, Mountain Climbing, and Strength Training—Being immersed in the thick of nature makes me my most happiest and truest self (yes, I know that's not grammatically correct, but in Sera World, there is "happiest" and "most happiest" haha).
  3. Clean Eating—I want to maintain eating whole foods, eating out less, and finding creative ways to make cooking fun (Whole30 blew my mind, but that's a future post).
  4. Downtime—Rest and relaxation with loved ones as well as alone-time are just as important as any other goal. I must remember that just as Rome wasn't built in a day, I do not need to finish everything at once. 
Finding balance
I've discovered that a strict routine is already helping me fit in writing time, downtime (yes, I schedule that in), and clean eating. But I still need to find a way to incorporate trail running and hiking into my weekly activities. But I'm not beating myself up about it. I'm trying to be more kind to myself (really helps with finding balance, I think), and realistically, I know that I am slightly less active during the winter. So I am taking small measures, like walking the 3/4 trek uphill to the dining hall on campus, going to the gym a couple days a week, and scheduling a hike when I can. I did sign up for Loon Mountain Race, and I can't wait to start training for it!

Balance. How did I not think of this word sooner? I've been crying about finding life balance for years. It's been in front of me all along.

Do you have any tips that help you find work-life balance? I could really use some advice! And also tell me: What's your word for 2020? Leave a comment below.

IllumiNITE Photographs by Matt Francis Photos
I'm wearing: 
Halo Unisex Knit Hat in Flo Lime
Reflective Neck Scruff in Flo Lime
Piper W Long Sleeve Reflective Tee in Flo Lime/Graphite
Comet Reflective W Running Tight in Black/Flo Lime
Use discount code Sera15 for 15% Off you entire IlumiNITE order



Friday, January 17, 2020

Unstuffed: Digesting 2019

Goodbye 2019! New Year's Eve 2019
2019 was a very full year. Full of promise. Full of recovery. Full of hard work. Full of loss and sorrow. Full of love and joy. It took me all of December to fully process all I had gone through, to fully digest the year. Reset myself for a new year—a new decade.

So I took a hiatus from the virtual social media world to live in the here and now, spend time with my most cherished people, truly reflect on the roller coaster of twelve months, and prepare myself for some major changes. Looking back, I am amazed. Despite numerous setbacks and losses, I've achieved a lot.


RUNNING

I am still in shock at the steady progression of my running. In just one year, I ran two ultramarathons and two marathons in three different countries (USA, Scotland, Greece)! Whoa! Never in a million years would past Sera have believed that she would be an international runner.

Running Seth's Fat Ass 50k in December
Congrats on your 50k, Rich!
IllumiNITE Cold Weather Hood & Tahoe Performance Jacket
 I've run close to 1,000 miles for the year. I could have hit that 1,000-mile milestone, but in December I decided to cut back. Running two marathons two weeks apart in two different countries kind of did me in. So even though I signed up for Seth's Fat Ass 50k—a race where you run 10 loops of 3.1 miles—I only ran half of it. It was bitter cold, and even though my IllumiNITE clothing plus a bathrobe kept me toasty, I was so over winter running. Plus, there were sheets of ice over a large portion of the 3-mile loop, and I just didn't didn't have it in me to teeter across it for all ten loops. At mile 6, my hip was on fire and I was ready to quit. But I never give up just because something gets tough. So I made a deal with myself. I had to run at least half the course—25k. That felt like a reasonable distance to finish out my year of running. I completed 16 miles. I'm happy with that.

Sometimes taking a step back is the right thing to do. I found out a week later, my sciatic nerve was inflamed—hence the fire in my hip. I'm proud of myself for showing up, despite the 10 degree starting temperature, for pushing myself through it, and for listening to my body. So, ALMOST 1,000 miles for the year is fine by me, especially since I got to see miles and miles of Scotland and Greece by foot. Wow, what a year for running!

WRITING

Avenue A Books, the imprint I managed, launched in the Spring with three picture books and one middle grade graphic novel. All in all, I worked on 12 projects before my colleagues and I were let go. I feel blessed to have worked with so many talented children's authors and illustrators. And I learned so much in my role as acquiring editor! I am ever so grateful to the kidlit world for teaching me everything about children's publishing along the way. I'm so proud of all the books I worked on, and I'm beyond proud that the middle grade novel I fought for—the very first project I acquired—was nominated for a Cybils Award. If you haven't read Alexis Vs. Summer Vacation by Sarah Jamila Stevenson and Veronica Agarwal, go read it now!

Love my handmade, black sheep wool
writing gloves from Tarbert, Scotland
It was the best career I ever had—so far. I'm still mourning this loss, but being unemployed gave me the freedom to find my own creativity again. As much as I loved, loved, loved working with authors and illustrators on their projects, I didn't realize how much it zapped my own creativity. I got swept up in the glamour of being on the other side of publishing—the side that makes dreams come true—that I forgot my own dreams.

I'm grateful for the four-month unemployment stint that allowed me to reconnect with my writing. I'm even grateful for the two weeks I holed myself up in my apartment, staring at the walls, racking my brain, trying not to rip out my hair, as I delved back into the fictionalization of my memoir. I may have gotten a few more grey hairs from the process, but this precious time allowed me to fully actualize my characters, plot, and timeline. It's not easy fictionalizing a life lived. It took a while for my brain to wrap itself around an altered timeline with altered people and events. But now these people and their journeys live inside me, and I couldn't be more excited to get them onto the page to share with the world.

See, I've been trying to fictionalize my memoir for two years now, but nothing I tried gave me that epiphany moment where everything clicks until now. I'm a firm believer that with loss brings opportunity, so I cherished that beautiful, temporary break from work. And although it was often tough to keep my faith that all would work out career wise, I treasured the abundance of creativity that flooded through me. I found my Muse again, and I'm so happy she's back. I've missed her so much, and we've been nonstop talking since. Thank you, Universe! Sera is back! 


ILLUMINITE

Night run with my girls!
IllumiNITE Tahoe Performance Jacket
& Cold Weather Hood
A very exciting happening in 2019 was my partnership with IllumiNITE, a Massachusetts-based, family-owned apparel company. This partnership allows me to combine two of my greatest loves: running and writing! And now I can do both in style! I've had way too much fun trying out their different designs! I feel so much safer running in the woods and on the road at night knowing that I am lit up as brightly as a neon sign. I have so much fun talking with other runners (and hikers and walkers) about IllumiNITE's apparel. And if we're being totally honest, I love being so fashionable at races without losing comfort or performance! Thank you, IllumiNITE, for believing in me, and for all your support in my running efforts! I'm so excited to see what's to come for 2020!

LOVE

We found these two hearts on the same
hiking path in Santorini
They say, whoever "They" is, that you find love when you least expect it. I've always rolled my eyes at that statement. It feels like an excuse you tell people for why love is unattainable. But I now see this phrase in a different light. I've been slowly hoping for love, working on myself—what I want, what I don't want, what my own issues around love are, and how to change negative patterns—but I never expected to actually find a healthy, loving relationship. I thought it just wasn't out there, not for me. I thought I had to accept that I would always be single—or settle for something less than.

But then I found love, or perhaps it found me, or perhaps it was just waiting until I was ready and he was ready—truly ready—for love. And I realized least expect it doesn't mean going about my business and bam! Love hits me out of the blue. Rather, I just didn't expect it to happen. I didn't even realize love had happened, not at first, until I went to visit my friend Mary in California. I told her I had met someone, and after talking for a while, she gasped. "Sera, are you in love?" I was so caught off guard by her question. We were sitting on the beach, and I stared out at the ocean waves for a few minutes pondering. "Yes," I said. "Oh my god. Yes, I am in love." I hadn't said such words in two decades. But I knew it to be true.

One of my all-time favorite books/movies is Perks of Being A Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky). The line that kills me every time: "We accept the love we think we deserve." It wasn't until I I searched deep down inside to figure out what love meant to me, what type of love I wanted, and to convince myself I was worthy of such love that I found true love. It's a love I never experienced with anyone. It's a love I've been searching for my entire life and never quite knew it because I didn't know it actually existed. Hence, I least expected it—especially now that I am in my 40s. But here love is, FINALLY. I feel so blessed. 

A New Focus

A symbol of our love
All of these changes in 2019, both good and bad, have helped me shift my perspective on what is
important to me. The career path I was on, the romantic path I was on, the go-go-go-too-busy-to-think path I was on took me away from the life I always dreamed of. It took a FULL STOP to help me reset my priorities, remember the life goals I've always wanted but somehow forgot about. I feel blessed to be starting off this new decade with a new career that enhances my creativity, a supportive life partner by my side, and a closer bond with my family. It might take some time to adjust to this new focus in life. But I'm ready for it.

Sometimes our dreams get sidetracked by shiny distractions along the way. Every now and then, the Universe tarnishes these shiny things so we can better see what's right in front of us—the path we're meant to travel. Time to take that next step back to the Sera I've somehow lost.


What did you learn in 2019? And what are you hoping to change in 2020? Please share your comments below! Happy New Year!

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