Miscarriage and Loss Remembered

Miscarriage and Loss Remembered

November 2, 2018 marks the 17th year anniversary of the morning I lost my twin boys, Enzo & Maxx, as a result of their pre-mature birth. For reasons, still unknown today, I went into labor 20 weeks into my pregnancy. That was a very dark day.  With my husband by my side, we tragically suffered 18 hours of labor knowing our boy’s lungs were not well formed enough to breathe on their own. We had already had 3 previous miscarriages 14-16 weeks into our pregnancies but this time we had flown thru the first trimester with flying colors and all signs pointed to parenthood. We sat in stillness that morning reflecting on the fact that the nursery at home was waiting in anticipation… with its’ John Lennon IMAGINE inspired theme designed with hope for our future together. Sadly, our boys would not be returning home from the hospital with us that day and our hearts were broken.

Miscarriage is defined as an unsuccessful outcome of something planned; failure, nonfulfillment, mismanagement.

Let’s be real.  Miscarriage is a word that makes people shudder.  It implies that something was “mis-managed” and leaves any woman who suffered this devastating loss, feeling shame and self-loathing. Questions and uncertainty ring in her mind about what she could or should have done differently.

In the days that followed, I was left empty, void, and forever wounded. I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong. I did what most do when faced with tragedy. I grieved. I suffered a deluge of ridiculous responses like “things happen for a reason” and “it’s God’s will” and “you can try again” all the while stifling my impulse to scream at the top of my lungs with a battle cry.  I wept when I held other people’s babies and avoided any interactions with mothers-to-be. I dug deep.  I carried on.  It was not easy.

The following June, my husband and I traveled to Moscow, Russia to adopt our beautiful miracle of a daughter, who is truly the light of our lives. In the months and years to come, I dove back into my work, focused on being the best, most attentive helicopter Mom I could be, and directed my energy to the support and healing of others so I could eventually heal myself. Becoming a family through adoption was the best choice I ever made and I don’t regret one minute of that decision. My daughter is now 17 and maturing into one rock solid human.  I am proud of her every day. But the fact remains that one child does not replace another.

I have known many beautiful warrior women over the years who lost a child before it was born and suffered in silence. I want to raise awareness that the emptiness never leaves your heart. Women don’t only lose a baby when they deliver prematurely or “miscarry” – – they often lose their self-esteem and struggle to return to intimacy with their partner/spouse. Women who suffer miscarriage or loss during birth feel isolated, alone, and afraid to talk about their experience because it carries with it so much shame.

I choose to share my story, all these years later, because women are rising up, now more than ever before, and speaking their truth. We the female need to bond together to heal the planet one woman at a time. Let’s change the conversation and more importantly the stigma that surrounds “miscarriage” and honor all the mothers who have lost their children before they had the opportunity to watch them grow.

I am deeply blessed in that I was able to take our losses and turn them into love by becoming a mother to my daughter and later creating a sacred space for women to gather and lift one another up in healing. Rise up sisters and love on another. For it is your light that will turn the tide and create a more peaceful world in honor of Mother Earth.

Jennifer Gulbrand is a self-proclaimed Warrior Goddess and creator of SheBreathes Balance & Wellness Studio in Walpole, Mass., where all women are invited to breathe in balance, be inspired, and feel supported.


SheBreathes Sisters Last Memorable Books

SheBreathes Sisters Last Memorable Books

Do you often wonder what others are reading and why? I do. I am always interested in finding out what other people read and how it connects with their life. When a new title comes across my path, I am curious “what is that book about?” Often, it opens my eyes to a topic I haven’t thought about exploring before.

I love books! So, it was fascinating to read all the Game Changers’ interviews and learn about the last memorable books they recommend and why. I created this list to share with our tribe and I hope you find a title that inspires you or discover one that will raise you up. Enjoy!

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman – I loved the ancient magic and story of sisterhood ~Sonya Highfield

The Success Principles by Jack Canfield.  It changed my life, helped me to find my purpose and changed the direction my life is heading! ~Elizabeth Phillips

How to Not Hate Your Husband After Kids. My marriage is so important and I wanted to learn strategies to be my best self for my spouse. ~Becky Bast

After the Locusts. Very encouraging book. ~Angela Callahan

The Great Alone.  This book was epic to many facets to this story.  The descriptions of the Alaskan Wilderness are so vivid, you almost feel like you are there.  Beauty, love, redemption, PTSD, patience, loyalty and the everlasting bonds of family and friends. ~Laurie Mills

The Untethered Soul. It was written in such a way as to remind me again how vast and unlimited I AM. ~Signe Nelson Ayochok

Getting Unstuck by Pema Chodron: It wasn’t about what I thought it would be about! It helped me to “learn to stay”, as she calls it. To be more present both in and out of meditation, and to let go of judgment. ~Devon Grilly

The last memorable book I read was Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? by Dr. Mark Hyman. While this may not be the inspiring book you were expecting me to call out, the entire time I was reading I kept thinking “Finally!” Dr. Hyman does an incredible job of debunking many of the lies and myths about food circulating the internet and health magazines. This book is the perfect balance of research backed facts and easy to read surprising information. I’ve had clients share some pretty crazy nutrition concepts they’ve both read and followed over the years. This book is everything I’ve ever wanted to convey to set the record straight about what you should eat or avoid for optimal health. ~Maggie Dion

Breakfast with Buddha, profoundness in simplicity. ~Beth McLacklan

There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. I like Wayne Dyer’s writing style and the easy way he explains potentially complicated subjects. This book is a great reminder that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. When we shift our perspective to a spiritual one, we are able to apply the wisdom that is coming from our higher self which speaks to us through gut feelings, hunches, and intuitive insights. ~Susan Kapatoes

The Universe Has Your Back, Gabrielle Bernstein – she speaks to me, this book is about creating your own life, we are always guided, our vibration attracts what we bring, surrender and be an instrument of love. Very inspiring! ~Heidi Wilde

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer – I loved it because it focuses on how to live life in the present without clinging to “stories” of the past or fears of the future that prevent us from enjoying our lives and fully experiencing the world authentically through our 5 senses. ~Jenny Eden Berk

A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan, MD. She has an amazing holistic insight into how medicine and prescription drugs have changed all our health, but especially women’s health.  I refer to her book daily in my practice as a way to help others take control of their emotional and physical health by making small lifestyles changes on a regular basis. ~Tina Rose

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. His candor and love for his profession and the people that came into his life were impactful. It was a bittersweet recent read as I got a glimpse into the life of a man who I hope has found peace. ~Vivien Roman-Hampton

A memoir on Coco Chanel, love her sense of style and she was her own authentic self. ~Karen Carter

Undoctored – Because I’m trying to reverse my health issues. ~Lauren Bortolami Robbins

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown! The title says it all. We need to let go and be present in acceptance of ourselves; as we are! It’s a book you can re-read over and over- and you will find something new that resonates with every reading. ~Mariana Sanford Maynard

The Woman In the Window. Strength. ~Nancy Safran

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. It is a   scary world we live in now. I wish this book can be taught in middle school so children can realize that bullying can cause lasting damage and can change a person’s life. ~Kelly Hathaway

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert was wonderful. I love that it discusses creating to create, not necessarily to make money or because you have a particular expectation. We’re all creative in our own way! Unleash that magic. ~Rachel Kaczynski

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – the main characters grew up in very trying times and in poverty, however, did not look at life that way and found joy and success despite these circumstances. ~Mary Dealy

The Separation by Tova Mirvis. It’s a memoir about how the author not only left her husband but her life of Orthodox Judaism. ~Beth Knaus

All Nicholas Sparks books are my favorites – love the escape, the drama, the passion, and that you never know what the ending will bring. ~Julia Peneda

Evolve Your Brain, Joe Dispenza. This is not an easy read as it is very scientific but due to a severe accident I experienced in October of 2017 and my continuing recovery, I was studying the brain to body connection and how I could assist my recovery in ways outside the norm. It’s all about creating new neuronal connections and with my background as a physician, I even found it hard to read. BUT, the information is invaluable. On a lighter note, I am reading John Holland’s Bridging Two Realms which is about assisting the layperson on how to see the connections with their loved ones in spirit. As I teach workshops on the subject, I love learning anything possible so I can help others. ~Dr. Cathy Ripley Greene

Entangled in Darkness, Seeking the Light. It’s about transformation/healing. ~D’Anne Olsen

The Energy Bus – a major dose of positivity!  Very inspiring, especially in a negative world. ~Therese Nicklas

Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund.  The prose in this book is so descriptive. The author describes every experience in such detail that we can truly experience what she is telling us. This book is a wonderful reminder to take note of even the tiniest details in our everyday life. ~Susan Finn

Love, Anthony. I have an autistic son, and this book displayed a deeper meaning of autism in a beautiful way. ~Kristen Cillo

The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie. Well, I love cats. And I love spirituality and am especially intrigued by Buddhism. Put them together and it’s peanut butter jelly time! ~Elvia Roe

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Ruben.  A huge light bulb went on for me once I better understood myself as an Obliger, one who would always commit to meeting the expectations of others, often sacrificing the commitment or expectations for myself.  This allowed me to pause and ask my true intentions and goals. ~Carrie Vinson

Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff. I was surprised that I absolutely loved it! It took my surprise how much I learned reading it. ~Maria Salomão-Schmidt

Attached. A true game changer when it comes to the ways in which we grow up and form attachment styles. There are 3. Highly recommend this book. ~Brooke Snyder

Telma Sullivan is a Career Development Coach and Librarian of SheBreathes Balance & Wellness Studio.


tWERK That Energy

tWERK That Energy

When we hold the idea that the movement of the energy may NOT create the outcome exactly as desired, or envisioned, it will take the pressure off needing to excel at everything you do and give you the freedom to just keep moving that energy in the direction of your dream.

This is how it works!

Knowing that you are putting something in motion that will eventually get you where you want, gives so much more space to the journey, maybe even allows you to have some fun with it. It’s not the success or failure going towards each goal, it is the fact that you don’t stop the energy flow towards it. The movement of your energy is the way to making things happen in your life. That means if you only move the energy for a little while and then stop (give up), guess what, whatever you want will not happen, the only way to have the outcome you long for, is to keep working that energy towards it.

Often, I have people tell me that they are feeling stuck and don’t know what to do. They know what they want but don’t know how to go about getting it. For example, pick something that you know for sure that you want in your life, start small and START NOW, it doesn’t have to be a huge thing, just pick something and put your effort into. Let’s say you want to shed 5 pounds, I bet you all know theoretically how to do it, I realize,  so much gets in the way of this, mainly, it is thoughts about why you can’t have it, or the reasons why once you mess up, it’s time to quit after all your failed attempts. It’s NOT that you can’t do it, it’s because of the quitting.

Quitting stops the energy dead in its tracks.

Our thoughts can be our own worst enemies. Soooo while you are figuring out how to tame those gremlins running around your head…get up, get going and start moving the energy. Let those notions that “I can’t”, be there for now, the ones that say you are not ready even though you know you want it. And start going after what you want, without letting ANY of the failures stop you. That’s all you need to do. Easy breezy, right? I know it is simple yet not easy, as you do this, you will learn great things about yourself because your mind will do its best to convince to you to stay where you are because even though you may be miserable, you know this miserable place and its safer than going into the unknown. Yeah crazy, that’s how we roll as humans.

If you really need some help to refocus….check out the September Edition of Me, Myself & I Podcast HERE, to help you clear your energy and relax. We all need a little help sometimes. (photo posted below is what atypical in person  hypnotherapy sesh looks like, TY Sweet Reverie Photography for capturing the moment xo).

Keeping it simple, so that you can start to make this dream you have become a reality.

Here’s the breakdown if you are a scroller….

1. Pick one thing you know for sure you want.

(keep it easy for now, think of this as your training wheels, you will soon enough be taking on bigger and more challenging things. Baby steps)

2. Next and final step start moving and continue to take action towards your goal.

(even if you get no’s (and fail alot) along the way, realize that the movement of energy is the main ingredient for turning your life in the desired direction you want)

When you start moving the energy, just keep moving towards the goal, repeating to yourself continually, I am moving the energy and I’m not going to stop until I achieve the goal. You WILL start living a different life. I can promise it will happen.

I’d love to hear how this works for you when using this classic energy in motion theory as you apply it to your life, reach me at lynell@lynellmasterson.com. Be forewarned friends, following these steps may produce miracles.

And if you want more, check out Nell at Night September Edition All About Energy, right HERE

3 Reasons Boundaries Are the Foundation for Happiness

3 Reasons Boundaries Are the Foundation for Happiness

This month, the Life on Fire community is reading Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. I talked about the book club and why this book means so much to me in my first ever video post – check it out!

In the book, Brené talks about the acronym BRAVING (Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-judgment, and Generosity) as the key to building trusting relationships with ourselves and others. In order to find the courage to stand alone when needed, we must develop this trust. So this month, my blog will be dedicated to looking at each of these principles in greater detail. I will explain my take on the concepts and introduce tools for using each on in our daily lives. I am strongly committed to empowering women and men to live their most authentic lives, and the BRAVING framework is a darn good place to start.


What are boundaries?

“Boundaries—You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no.” ― Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Do you remember your elementary school playground? Perhaps you played the game: Red Light, Green Light- our first encounter with setting and communicating boundaries. Personal boundaries are like our own traffic lights that say when to go, stop, or slow down. Just like the traffic lights we use to drive through intersections without crashing into other cars, our boundaries allow us to operate safely in the world. A clear and understandable system helps everyone to feel safe and secure while interacting.


At work, this can look like having clear expectations for you and your co-workers that when someone is working with the door closed to their office, they are not to be disturbed unless it’s a true emergency. It hopefully includes clear messages throughout your company about what the boundaries of harassment look and sound like, plus a clear chain of response in case of violation. It might mean letting your chatty cubicle-mate know that when you have headphones on, you’re trying to focus on a task and will talk to them later during a break.


At home, boundaries can mean having a chore schedule that clearly assigns which chores are done by whom and when. It could mean letting your partner or children know that when you’ve had a stressful day at work, you need half an hour of quiet alone time to recoup and will play with them afterwards. It could be an agreement that you won’t enter your teenager’s room without permission as long as they keep it reasonably clean. Perhaps you set limits with your friends so that they know not to ask you to go out drinking on weeknights, but that you’d be all-In for a wine and paint night on Saturday.

I think of boundaries as the manual for how to interact with each other peacefully.


3 Reasons Why Boundaries are the Foundation for A Happy Life

1. Prevent Resentment

When I was in my 20s, it seemed like every time I had a conversation with someone, I heard about another person getting married or having children. Now that I’m 40, it’s turned into who’s getting divorced next? Resentment at the core of every relationship turned sour, whether they are intimate relationships, friendships, or working relationships. Whatever the ultimate cause of a divorce or someone quitting their job is the “final straw”, but there is usually a whole heap of hay bales underneath. Having clear and consistent discussions about your needs is required to stop resentment before it starts. The little things that irk you are tiny boundary violations that over the long haul becomes death by a thousand cuts. If someone is doing something that continually bugs you because they didn’t take your objection seriously the first five times, schedule a serious chat with them. Explain that your relationship is too important to be eroded by resentment, and ask if they can really listen and respond to your needs.

2.   Eliminate Loneliness

Loneliness is a health risk.

Imagine how much more compassion and understanding we would have for each other as a whole if we knew each others’ boundaries! With new studies showing that more than half of all Americans say no one really knows them, it’s time to improve our communication. Humans are a social species, and doctors are declaring our collective loneliness a health crisis. According to Forbes, an “…analysis of 70 studies found that loneliness, isolation, and living alone all had a significant effect on a person’s risk for early death. The researchers suggested that the impact was similar to the effect that obesity has on mortality rates.” (Forbes, 2017). If our tendency is to isolate because we fear speaking up about our limits, we are actually putting ourselves at risk of early death. Just having friends and going to social events doesn’t mean you aren’t lonely. To make real connections we have to have that feeling of safety, which comes back to having clear and consistent boundaries.



“More than half of survey respondents — 54 percent — said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well.”  ― Rhitu Chatterjee, “Americans Are A Lonely Lot, And Young People Bear The Heaviest Burden”. May 1, 2018 npr.org

Healthy boundaries are a safety net for bold exploration. Photo by Martin Cehelsky on Unsplash

3.   Boldly Go

Decades of parenting research has demonstrated that when limits are clear and consistent, they feel more empowered to explore and take healthy risks that help them grow. There is freedom in knowing exactly where the lines of the sandbox are. How much more productive would your work day be if you had clear understandings of your boss’ and coworkers’ boundaries and expectations? I think we’ve all had that boss where the office had to tiptoe around, never sure about what was going to set him/her off today, right? It’s emotionally draining, and it certainly doesn’t encourage creativity or innovation. Knowing that you and your BFF have a method for clearing grievances without shame or judgement is a ticket to lifelong friendship and more open, honest sharing. It’s a wonderful paradox that knowing the limits creates the most freedom.


Tools for Creating and Maintaining Boundaries

Sitting on the ground in a beautiful nature scene is wonderful, but not required.

Use a guided meditation to visualize your energetic boundaries. Recognize that you are connected to all living things on Earth, and they are connected to you. Also know that you are your own entity, and imagine a bubble or forcefield surrounding you that allows you to safely interact with the world. Use affirmations like: “I am strong in my power. Power with others, Power to create.” Meditations in apps like Calm or Stop, Breathe, & Think that are compassion building or loving kindness meditations also help to reinforce boundaries. If boundary violations are stressing you out in the moment, use some of the tactics here in my article on mindfulness for real life.

Know Your Values

In order to communicate our boundaries, we need to have a complete understanding of what they are and why they’re important. Not in a general way, but specifically to YOU – what are your values and how might someone unknowingly violate them? For me, Authenticity is a core value, and if someone is holding back parts of themselves, I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I know that to trust others, I would much prefer brutal honesty to sugar coating or speaking in circles as an effort to be “nice” about criticism. Perhaps your strongest value is Family, so a surefire way to start building resentment at work is when HR gives you crap about taking time off to go to the school play or a wedding. Get reflective and make a list of the things you value most, and use them to identify areas where you need to set clear boundaries.

Write a script

What will you say to communicate your boundaries ahead of time, when starting relationships? What will you say when someone crosses your boundaries? Pre-planning what you will say allows you to thoughtfully respond to situations, rather than reacting or retracting. If this causes a lot of anxiety for you, I strongly recommend using something like Tim Ferriss’ “Fear Setting” tactics. Go through your values list and write out ways to communicate your values to others. Identify scenarios that are likely to push your boundaries and create responses that you’d feel good about saying. Practice them out loud with a compassionate friend, therapist, or a coach. You’ll feel much more confident in the moment!

Have a tactic to share or thoughts to add? Disagree with my analysis? Please leave a comment below!

Note: I am not an affiliate for any of the people or things that I linked to in this article. They are just resources that I really treasure and like to share with others!

Article from Devon Grilly


Finding Your Tribe

Finding Your Tribe

Long before the overscheduled work-week and the isolating days of social media, women lived in cultures where they supported one another in all aspects of life. Together they raised and protected children, foraged for food, and helped each other through life’s daily challenges. As humans and technology evolved, women became more independent and the time previously dedicated to togetherness became less important – or so it seemed. In fact, science shows that women are physically hard-wired to connect with each other. In times of stress or need, women release oxytocin, a hormone that compels one to nurture and bond. These bonds result in positive mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing and restores women to their true nature.

Further evidence on the positive effects of meaningful relationships on physical and mental health is found in a 2018 survey conducted by Ipsos/Cigna. The survey, which included more than 20,000 Americans ages 18 years and over, found that people who engage in frequent in-person interactions are not as lonely, and report better physical and mental health than those who do not spend quality time with others. These findings reinforce the social nature of humans and the importance of having a community – or “tribe.”

But in today’s disconnected and demanding world, how does one find a tribe? Here are some suggestions on where to start

1. Look for people who share common interests and values

Seek out like-minded women who share your interests and help expand your universe. Take a class, join a wellness studio, attendee local meet-up groups, or start a club that focuses on a specific interest.

2. Identify your wants and needs

Ask yourself, “What personal need do I want to fulfill?” Be truthful in your answer, and leave self-doubt and judgment at the door. Follow your heart and the universe will attract compatible individuals.

3. Surround yourself with people that lift you up

Share your time with women that have your best interest at heart. Be part of a group that celebrates one another’s successes, but also helps each other weather the storms

4. Be yourself

It’s easy to confuse what we think we like, with what we actually like. Different people have different interests, values, or goals. Be authentic and stay true to your beliefs, and your vibe will attract your tribe.

5. Trust your instincts

Finding your tribe may take some time, and that’s ok. Your heart and mind will when know you’ve made that special connection and found your soul-sisters.

When women come together in a supportive environment to laugh, explore, and share genuine experiences, we create a tribe which strengthens our community and our world. So take a moment to step back, breathe, and connect. Your tribe is waiting for you.

Jennifer Gulbrand is a self-proclaimed Warrior Goddess and creator of SheBreathes Balance & Wellness Studio in Walpole, Mass., where all women are invited to breathe in balance, be inspired, and feel supported.



50 half marathons in 50 states by the time I am 50

50 half marathons in 50 states by the time I am 50

That was the goal.  50 half-marathons in 50 states by the time she was 50.  When Sue Ledwith challenged herself to it she was 45 and she completed all 50 states by the time she was 47.  Three years earlier than she expected.  So she kept going and this weekend crossed the finish line of her 97th, she’ll have 100 half marathons in the books before she’s 50.   She never considered herself a runner, she was looking for something to do that was “hers” and she found it in running.

Sue is the youngest of four, when her Mom was pregnant her two older brothers hoped for a boy while her sister wished for a girl.  A self-proclaimed TomBoy and Jock, Sue likes to think they all got what they wanted.

The first thing I noticed when I met Sue was her tattoos.  I was stretching, getting ready to work out and so my gaze was about calf-height and I saw two calves, each adorned with its own tattoo.  On one was the name Erin in a shamrock and on the other was Emma in a heart made of puzzle pieces.  I wondered who they were and then Sue turned and I saw the Boston Marathon logo and the Boston Strong logo.  This woman has a story that needs to be told was my first thought, so I went from staring at her calves to introducing myself and asking her about her tattoos.  Two weeks later we met at Starbucks and I heard the whole story.

Sue is humble and kind and determined.  As she started out her story she was quick to begin by telling me how grateful she is that she has the support of her family and the means to do the things she has accomplished.  She started and ended our conversation by saying the words, I didn’t get there on my own.  She’s 49 and she says that if you had told her 9 years ago that she would be telling someone the story of how she was just about to achieve the goal of running 100 half-marathons, she would have told you that you were insane.

Most of us face milestone birthdays with some trepidation – as we turn 25, 30, 40, 50 – those markers give us time to reflect on what we have done and on where we are going.  For Sue, hitting the 40-year mark had her feeling like she had lost herself a bit.  “Listen, being a Mom is the most important thing I will ever do, but I was feeling like I needed something for me.”  She had always been an athlete.  She played every sport she could, most of them at a highly competitive level, making it all the way to the Junior Olympic Softball team. Turning to athletics seemed to be the way back to herself.  She joined a gym but quickly tired of the treadmill and longed to be outside.  She started out walking which quickly turned to running and although she never thought of herself as a runner she found herself signed up for a 5K.  Sue has always been goal oriented and she loved the 5K races, “you know where the finish line is.”  Soon she was running a 5K every weekend.  Again, she paused to tell me how supportive her husband was as she continued to sign up each weekend for another 5K.  “It was ME time.” And she no longer felt lost.

Sue has two girls, Emma and Erin, they are currently 14 and 13.  In 2009 when Sue was 40 and starting to run, they were 5 and 4.  Emma is on the autism spectrum and Sue has been an incredible and tireless advocate for Emma.  Running became Sue’s therapy, her time to work things out in her head.  She said running gave her the feeling that she was taking back a piece of her life.  I love being a Mom but I am also a human being and this was for me.  After a year of 5K races she ran some 10K races and while still not considering herself a runner, she loved the training and the finish lines.

Close your eyes and picture a runner.  That’s not what Sue looks like.  She’s shorter in stature that you would imagine.  She’s not chiseled out of  sinewy muscles.  And, she will tell you, she has used this to her advantage.  “Sometimes, the greatest thing would be that someone would think that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl or because I was short. And then I would go out and do it.”  She lights up and tells me the story of when she was playing in a softball tournament – she was the only woman and they underestimated her, putting her at catcher when she likely should have been at first base.  During the final game of the tournament with the top spot on the line for her team, a 200 pound man rounded third and headed for home.  His run would win the game for the other team.  She knew she had to make the catch and tag him out.  She also knew that the man barreling toward her was likely making the short-girl assumption she had faced her whole life.  He was probably thinking that she would either moved aside when he reached the plate or drop the ball if he ran into her.  She did neither.  Using all of her past softball experience she held the ball tight to her chest, squared up the runner, braced for impact and just held on to the ball at the plate.  He ran right into her and was tagged out.  A bigger win for Sue than winning the game, she says; “you can’t look at the package and determine what’s inside – just cause I am little, don’t think I can’t do it.”

She felt some of this same skepticism from people when she decided to sign up for her first half marathon two years after running her first 5K.  She signed up for The Chilly Half in November of 2011.  She trained differently, there were days that were hard but she wanted to show her kids how to set goals.  She wanted to share with them what it feels like to achieve them, especially when people are underestimating you.  One time while running a local race in Walpole Mass, she was behind a guy with flame tattoos on his calves.  She loved them and spent the rest of the race thinking about what she would put on her own tattoos.  Again, if you had told her 9 years ago that she would have even one tattoo she would have told you that you were nuts, she now has multiple.  She started by putting her girl’s names on the back of each of her calves.  She wanted people to see them while she was running.  She runs for “me” time but she also runs to show her girls what can be done when you put your heart into it.

She completed three more half-marathons over the next 6 months and then while on a girls weekend in New York she stepped out to grab a coffee and found herself in line at a Starbucks behind a gentleman wearing a NYC Marathon jacket.  They got to talking and he said encouraged her to run a marathon.  She said, “I only do 1/2s” and he chided,  “You can do it – it’s just more miles.”  By the time she got back to the hotel room she had decided to run the Boston Marathon.  Her friend replied – What. Is. In. That. Coffee?!

Like everything else she had done once she set her mind to it she wasn’t going to do it half-way.  She knew she wasn’t going to be fast but she knew she could finish.  She looked at the charities offering numbers in exchange for fundraising and decided to run for the Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center in Hopkington.  She committed to raising $3500 in exchange for the bib and approach the training with a “one and done” attitude – I am just going to do this one marathon. Just like the one half, the one tattoo.  She raised $9000 for the center which offers respite care to families who have children with disabilities.  As she puts it, she did everything she was supposed to do.  She trained.  She raised the money.  She has the memory of running along the historic route but she didn’t get to finish.  It was 2013.  She was stopped at Mass Ave and told something had happened.  Her family had watched her run by in Ashland, then in Wellesley and again at mile 20 in Newton, they were parking in Boston to watch her cross the finish line when they felt the explosion.  Sue started to walk back down the route with 5000 other people, runners and spectators, who were all walking away from what we now know was the 2013 marathon bombing.  She happened to look up at the Mass Ave bridge at just the right moment and there was her family.   They all walked back to mile 24 in silence.  The next day she woke up with the determination to run in 2014.  She was angry that someone would take away something that she had worked so hard to achieve and so deeply saddened for everyone in the city of Boston that it fueled her and she worked hard for 2014.  She remembers that MEB Keflezighi crossed the finish line before she had started out from Hopkinton since she was running for charity again but that didn’t take anything away.  The crowd along the route bouyed every step and she completed the goal she had made 2 years earlier in that Starbucks in NY.   She added the Boston Marathon and the Boston Strong logos to her calves.

One and done?  Not quite.  Once she had finished the marathon she went looking for the next challenge.  While searching for races on her computer, up popped the 50 State 1/2 Marathon challenge.  She was now 45 and she thought – I think I can do that by the time I am fifty.  Again she pauses to tell me how grateful she is that she has the family support and the means to accomplish such a feat.  She ran Connecticut in June of 2014 and then one race month for the remainder of the year – San Francisco, Baltimore, Philly.  In 2015 she was sometimes doing back to back weekends – Jackson, Missippi on Saturday and Mobile, Alabama on Sunday.  Other runners began to recognize the woman with the calf tattoos of her daughters’ names.  She loved that part of it, meeting other people but she would always come straight back home after the race.  She was known for the tattoos of her daughters and everyone also knew that she was flying back home right after the race, she wasn’t hanging around to celebrate.  She calls them drive-bys, she was there to run and come home.  In May of 2015 she had an epiphany while running.  While her daughters and husband were supportive, she didn’t want to miss out on much more, she didn’t want to be in Nashville instead of Norwood when one of her daughters really needed her so she decided to accelerate her goal. Rather that 50 states by the time she turned 50 she decided she could get it done in 2 years and finish in 2016.  She shared this plan with her girls and they a reed as long as the last state could be Hawaii.

In June of 2016 they made the family trip to Kona and she ran her 50th half marathon in her 50th state, well before she was 50.  Running through the scorching hot lava fields was tough, she didn’t put up her best time but she did think about all of the people that helped her reach her goal.  The most present thought she had while she was running in Kona was “I didn’t get there by myself, I was part of a team.”  With Adventure of a Lifetime by Coldplay in her headphones she crossed the finish line.  Not a drive-by this time, she celebrated with her family.

Each time Sue finishes a goal. She creates a new one.  It keeps her running.  Her friends suggested that she might be addicted to running.  She likes to think it is what is keeping her healthy.  She is almost at the end of her most recent goal – 100 half marathons.  This weekend Sue ran her 97th half-marathon in Newport, Rhode Island.  On May 27th of this year, Sue will complete the 100th half marathon.  And then what?  Her next goal?  A marathon in each of the Canadian provinces.  She’s got Ottawa in the books.

Sue never considered herself a runner but I spotted her license plate in the parking lot as we left Starbucks – I think she has come to accept the idea that she is not only a runner – she’s an avid runner.  She runs with one headphone in and often it’s Pink that’s playing as she goes, Sue considers it her anthem:

So look I came here to run it
Just ’cause nobody’s done it
Y’all don’t think I can run it
But look, I’ve been here, I’ve done it
Impossible? Please
Watch I do it with ease
You just gotta believe
Come on, come on with me

I am so grateful to Sue for letting me share her story.  Here’s what I got from Sue.  No one gets anywhere alone.  You never know what’s in the package so don’t underestimate anyone.  It’s good to set goals and then watch yourself crush them. When someone assumes you can’t do something you can square off against them, hold on to the ball and brace for impact. And lastly, when something gets in your way, even when you have done all you can do, wake up the next day and start again.  You just gotta believe.