Working For Family

I have always been of the opinion that working for or with family is a recipe for disaster. Family can be great, but the line that needs to be drawn between employee and relative is an uncomfortable necessity that gets shoved under the rug.

How do you ask for compensation from someone who raised you?

How do you professionally discipline your offspring for being late?

How do you drawn the line between what is appropriate to talk about at home versus work?

Well, I know what doesn’t work, and I know what has been working for my mom and I so far. This past summer when I moved back to Ithaca, I wanted to help my mom out more often with her business. Female entrepreneurs face huge barriers and I believe supporting them can only help women as a whole. Also, she’s my mom and I was her biggest advocate when she started.

I had some reservations when we began, because I know what it looks like when family businesses do not work. I worked at a diner owned by a big Greek family and all they did was yell at each other. I’ve also seen how complicated relationships have gotten in our family farm. If roles are undefined and “I’ll help you out” is kept vague, confusion, mistrust and resentment begin to surface.

Here is what my mom and I have done:

I work on the days she does not.

On days we work together, I work half days.

It’s her business, so I do what she wants unless she asks my opinion.

My compensation is my monthly cell phone bill.

We do not discuss our past problems.

Those are the explicitly stated things. I also have some other practices I personally use which helps me manage anxiety and worthiness.

Her frustrations are about her, not me.

Do not offer advice.

Redirect negative conversations.

Constantly praise how things look (this is fashion).

Ask her opinion even if I don’t want it and say I’ll consider it.

Always say “I’ll try” and “I’ll do my best”.

This is not a perfect system but it has taught me how to handle this shift in family roles. The hardest part is not taking on her frustrations or her problems. Yes, she’s my mother and I love her and I will always listen. I think she likes having me come the most because I will talk and listen to her. However, if she is having a bad week or something like that, I constantly remind myself that these are not my burdens. I will pray for her to get through them, but I will not allow myself to worry about them longer than the time I am with her.

In my time at IIN, I learned how to listen to others, offer constructive comments, and not allow myself to attach my self worth to the outcome. I can only do the best I can and work hard, I cannot tie my soul to every job I do. That ends up crushing me. While working for family, I remember and believe that I will always be loved and cared for regardless if I worked for my mom, finished a task or not.

Have you worked for your family? How did you manage the shift in relationships?

When I Decided Not To Identify As a Vegan

When I think about my four years as a vegan, on the whole, it was amazing. I met some great people, expanded my cooking abilities and tried tons of different foods I probably would not have thought of eating before.

I also felt like I was making an ethical choice that was good for the animals, the planet and my body. I still believe that is true.

Becoming a vegan oddly helped me eliminate the food rules I still had from darker times in my past. When I went vegan I decided that if it was vegan, I would eat it. It did not matter what it was, if it was vegan, it was fair game. Coming from a past where I went through a period of food extremism, this was tame. This was liberating.

Just make the ethical choice, you cannot go wrong.

But, as I’ve written about before, although this started as a choice to liberate my mind, help animals and the planet, started to actually backfire on me. Part of this was my fault, actually, all of it is if you think that the body you are given is your fault.

What I did wrong:

I did not take a B-12 supplement for the first three years as a vegan. During that time, I spent a year of it essentially eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches as I thought I didn’t have the time or the want to really to cook. Sure, I could have ordered food, but I am also frugal so I don’t do that.

Part of my history with extreme food rules, meant that I was tired of thinking about food in the nutrient sense. I say that loosely, because I am a certified holistic health coach, so I get that nutrients and food is important, but largely for myself, I don’t think about it very often. I know what is healthy, I know what tastes good, I try to eat food that is more on the tasting good side than the healthy side. I never have been a calorie counter and still never will, however if I am honest, sometimes I don’t get enough in. I try, but I don’t focus on it and not having sufficient overall calories means you probably aren’t getting all the nutrients you need.

I was intentionally blind to these things for four years.

When I started working with Inside Tracker, part of that was a big step in opening the door to look at my food specifically and making it more nutrient sound. They had options and recommendations for vegans, which I followed, got healthy, and started running well again.

Too soon, I got complacent. I started neglecting all the things my diet needed, not in a restriction sense, but in an “I don’t want to think about this and just eat whatever” again. It was fine for a while, but then the niggles, the fatigue, the digestive issues began to come up again. Time to try again, and keep on the path this time.

Green Lakes was a turning point. It wasn’t my training, it wasn’t my resolve, I simply could not walk. Now whether that was due to nutrient deficiency or the knocking I took at Escarpment, I will never know, but coming home in the car with my dad, again explaining why I don’t eat eggs to him, I had to pause.

Why don’t I eat eggs? Why am I doing this?

Part of being vegan for my was the community aspect. Four years ago I had very strained relations with my family, isolated myself from things essentially because I just didn’t trust people. Hearing the Rich Roll podcast every week gave me community. I heard his interview with Gene Bauer, researched it and transitioned to vegan. As soon as I did, I found this amazing (mostly online) community of accepting people who all aligned with my morals. Do the least harm you can, start with what you eat. Everything is ok as long as it’s vegan.

It’s very black and white thinking and it seems very safe. Oddly, I think that people, including myself, like things to be set in stone. No gray areas. Even if it’s constricting (which some people claim veganism is) it also provides a safe place, a barrier between you and those who are different. I could identify with other vegans. I finally had a community.

Of course, the environment and animal welfare is and continues to be important to me. It always will, but there is a gray area in there that I must acknowledge.

The Gray Area

My gray area started when I worked on my family relationships. I started to have a real-life community of people who love and accept me. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s something I am not willing to give up. They have not pressured me at all to not be vegan. They just ask questions.

I started to feel like crap, and was tired of it. I started to question the choice I made to cut out some foods that can really be beneficial to health (for some people). Eggs can be a fine food when the quality is high and you respect where they came from.

Spending more time with other people allowed for so many opportunities to connect, often over food. It was very liberating, when I made the choice to stop reading labels and allow some eggs and dairy into my diet, to just eat. My friends and family no longer have to ask if something is ok. I don’t have to ask the barista or whomever if something is vegan, which they often don’t know, and then I’m just like, “ok, coffee please.”

Call it lazy, call it whatever you want, but the relationships I have now, and how I want to represent myself and be with people is worth some dairy in things and no label reading.

If you think that is lazy, here is another ringer: if it’s free, I’ll eat it. I hate seeing so much food waste. So even if the sandwich has meat in it, I’ll pick out the meat (usually, sometimes I don’t because that’s another gray area) and thank the universe for this gift. I’ve tried so many delicious things from my work that I would never have gotten to try if I drew the hard vegan line. I commend people who do, but part of my journey has meant I need to be more flexible.


When I decided to not be vegan anymore, it was kind of traumatic. I felt as if I was losing my identity. These feelings signified to me that this was the right decision. I have not broken any laws (but to be honest, animal agriculture should be against the law) with the free-range eggs I’ve eaten a few times or the dairy that is in desserts that would be thrown away. I simply am being more flexible. I am living in the gray area. I did not do this because I missed cheese (still don’t really like it as much as everyone else) or meat (just no). I have made the decision to be more flexible in my life. I have decided that there is no label that can define me perfectly, because I am myself, one of a kind.

If that makes people disappointed, uncomfortable or angry, that is part of being the the gray area and being flexible. I refuse to please people while I know I am hurting myself.

I did not give up being vegan to please my family or friends, I gave it up because it was not serving me anymore.

Green Lakes Endurance Runs: DNF

I suppose some day I will get used to not finishing a race. I do not say that lightly, but it happens often in ultraraces. What many people do not understand is that the beautiful things shown on the internet are often a compilation of many fails, many loses, many DNFs.

Coming from the road, where people do not DNF as often (because you really don’t have to walk that far from the finish) it is very hard to get used to. During half marathons, there isn’t really enough time for too many things to go wrong that would prevent one from finishing.

In ultra races, that is simply something that happens often, actually it is expected. I recently heard about a 100 mile race down in New Mexico that had a 5 person expected finishing rate. Not 5%, 5 people.

Not finishing an ultra often times is not a test of will or wimping out, it is an injury or the physical inability to run. If you cannot run or move forward, it is wise to stop.

That long introduction is basically my way of saying I DNFed my race today. I participated in the GLER 50K and stopped after 3 loops of the 7.7 mile course. To sum it up, I am happy that I stopped (after everyone convinced me to stop) but feel guilty for feeling happy about that.

Shouldn’t I feel more remorseful? Granted, it took a lot of condoling to get me to pull the plug. I was ready to limp for as long as I could on the last loop. After trying to do so just to get across the timing chip, my father told me I should stop. The RD, when I came over to say I was dropping said “Yup, I pulled you 20 minutes ago. It isn’t worth it today for you.”

So there’s that. I DNFed and honestly, it sucks, but I feel less ashamed about it because I know it was right.

Ok, back to the course and the race.

The 7.7 mile loop is run 4 times around Green Lake State Park outside of Syracuse. The weather at the start was perfect. 48 degrees and clear skies. The race began at 7AM and Laurel Leone (a very fast road racer) and I led together for the first 1.5 loops. It was well marked and we were told to “keep the lake on the right.” Which I took very literally and actually missed a turn early, but straightened myself out pretty fast.

On the descend at about mile 5, I felt something in my gluteal and back muscle twinge. It wasn’t a pop or anything, and I was running 7 minute miles feeling great, so I figured it would work itself out like things do sometimes in ultras.

Long story short, it didn’t. It kept getting worse, so much so I almost dropped after loop 2. However, I thought it was my negative thinking about it, and decided to press on. Going up hill was fine, it was the going down where each step brought tears to my eyes. I had no idea what I did, but it was becoming evidently clear that not only should I slow down, I needed to stop.

I struggled to the last aid station on loop 3 and saw a familiar face, John Donaldson, who told me I looked kind of bad. Well, yes, I was crying and debating with myself whether to stop after loop 3, stop now or try to walk to last loop.

I hobbled the last three miles to the finish and saw my dad, who was immediately concerned. I was in tears because I wanted to keep going. I asked him if he would be willing to walk the last loop. He said he would, but shouldn’t I sit down or something? I was afraid if I sat down I wouldn’t get back up.

Someone gave me some kind of IcyHot to put on the pain, but I think in my mind, I knew if I couldn’t even walk up the hill to the aid station, I was done.

I tried so hard. But it was not my race to get injured on. I was basically pulled from the race. It hurts, I feel down, but it was a great long training run. I did not fall. I ran the downhills until I couldn’t.

I may have DNFed but I am far from finished.

Thank you to Red Newt Racing, Strong Hearts Vegan Power, On Running, Barney Butter and Rabbit for all your support.

Thank you Wekdeb, for getting me here and for our future adventures.

I do not Escape the Voices in my Head

I’ve read on many other runner’s, especially ultrarunner’s blogs, that running is an escape for them. It quiets their anxious mind, it silences the thoughts, problems fade away.

I used to think this was my story as well. After I started running a few years ago till now, my life has gotten so much better. I respect myself and my family, I am strong physically and emotionally and I do not tear myself down as much. I believed running was eliminating the bad feelings, the mistrust, the self-hatred.

I believed running stopped the running thoughts. Running quieted the voice inside my head telling me I wasn’t good enough. Running allowed me to get away from those things.

My real story is different. Running has not stopped the voices. Running has not helped me hide from them.

Running allows me to face the voices, acknowledge them, and then allow them to pass. Running helps me “sit” with or hold space for those voices. It challenges me to be uncomfortable in my body and my mind. It holds me accountable to what I know to be true.

Running keeps the voices there until I’ve faced them enough times and convinced myself of their lies. Then it allows them to fade away, occasionally reappearing in moments of vulnerability or exhaustion, only to be fought again. Largely however, they are dealt with, proven false and invisible to me.

What I’ve realized is that the voices never go away, but my response to them has changed. I do not run away from the voices because some of them are true.

I was dishonest last week.

I didn’t run this correctly and I knew it.

I didn’t complete some job to the fullest potential, it was simply “good enough”.

These thoughts are true. The voices are right. Yet, they do not define my person. They prove that I am human, that sometimes my choices are not the best, but I am still doing my best in the grand scheme of life.

When you think about it, I could never “run away” from these voices, because they are me. Running has helped me accept these voices, realize I might have made a bad decision, but that I can move on from it.

The voices do not tell me who I am. Running allows me to see hear those voices, see my flaws and move on.

It is never an escape, it is a path toward freedom, voices included.

Unapologetically Myself

The other night I was telling my roommate about working for my mom and how much I enjoy the time we’ve been spending together. She stood open mouthed, because she knows how difficult our relationship had been. I met Lesley through running and those types of conversations would come up.

Most times I would brush them off by saying, “Yeah, I don’t really talk to them much…” but eventually she got the story out of me. She agreed that it probably wasn’t the best idea to regularly see my family members, as it was toxic for me.

Recently, as I’ve mentioned, the relationships within my family, at least for me, have improved considerably. I now work for my mom and go to their house on a consistent basis. It is a cliche, but if you had told me this would happen a few years ago, I would have gotten mad and said NEVER. I would not have laughed, I would have gotten angry. It was that bad.

My roommate asked me what had changed. After giving her the surface level reasons:

“They are starting to understand me”

“I’m not angry anymore”

I thought about it on a more deeper level.

I decided to be unapologetically myself. I stopped seeing my hobbies and lifestyle as something I had to put a disclaimer on or defend. Those things simply are me and they come with the package. Making that mental shift for me released any pressure I had felt when being around my family. I used to think I had to have a reason I went on a run or a reason I was eating vegan cheese.

Of course, I had those, but I stopped needed to say them at every instance. I just did it. It became my normal. I accepted it as normal, finally, and now my family does too.

In years past, if my dad for example asked why I did a race or something, I would go into some long answer trying to explain every detail. Now, I simply say that it’s fun and I enjoy it.

When asked about why I eat the vegan chicken salad instead of regular, I just say I want to or I like it.

I wondered why I felt I had to explain every choice I made. The emotional, physical or spiritual significance when a simple “I like it.” is sufficient.

Sometimes I do expound upon my running adventures and, because it’s normal for me, it has become normal for my parents as well. Just yesterday, I sent my mom a picture of my finish line photo from Escarpment and she texted back:

“U don’t look too beat up yet.”

This was the picture as I held back tears and contemplated existence. She gets it, even if she would not want to do it.

We talk about food, weight (yes, even those issues) and basically most things. I feel so fortunate to have made it to this point with her and my dad. All I needed to do was normalize myself, feel confident in my choices, and things would start to fall into place. It’s not perfect, but really, imperfection makes life more interesting.