Being Thankful for Life’s Challenges

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I went up to New Hampshire for Thanksgiving this year. There’s nothing quite like New England in the fall with the leaves turning and the crisp autumn air. I was really looking forward to running a turkey trot 5k that I had signed up for with my family, because it was going to be the first time I did a race with my sister Kathryn and my aunts, and I thought it would be a great way to start the holiday. The race was for charity and I was excited to start our turkey day off on the right foot so we could enjoy the delicious food waiting for us later in the day.

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A beautiful New England fall day, perfect for a run

But as we know, life doesn’t always go as planned. My poor aunt came down with pneumonia and was in the emergency room for half the night before Thanksgiving. Half of the people in the house were sick and the rest of us overslept. My future brother-in-law apparently tried to wake me up for the run but I had been catching up on sleep after a crazy week at work and slept through both my alarm and his wake up attempt. The turkey trot was over before it began.

I was bummed when I woke up and realized I slept through it. For a brief moment, the old broken record of self deprecation and remorse snuck up on me: If only I had been a little more committed or diligent I would have gotten my butt out of bed and made my way to the race. If only I was better at scheduling my life. Or more responsible. Or less lazy. Poor Courtney can’t get her sh*t together, again. In between feeling sorry for myself and being angry with myself, Kathryn asked, “why don’t you just run your own 5k?”

I perked up. What a great idea! She was right- what was stopping me? Only myself…and that was unacceptable. I remembered, I’m not that person anymore who lets things get the best of me. I realized that those thoughts weren’t authentic to the person I’ve become. I broke the negative thought pattern and focused on the positive. Life throws you curveballs, but you’ve got to adapt. And facing challenges gives you tremendous opportunities to grow.

So Kathryn dusted off her rarely-used-but-highly-creative-in-a-six-year-old-kind-of-way artistic skills and made me a race bib out of a brown paper lunch bag. She used my registration number for the real 5k and decorated it with colored markers. She pinned it to my shirt, I laced up my sneakers and off I went to run the first annual A Firework in Progress Turkey Trot 5k.

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My one-of-a-kind lunch bag race bib!

I started my Nike running app so I would know when I reached the “finish line.” I had a great start out of the driveway, feeling invigorated by my personal little road race. I ran through the neighborhood, passing people out walking their dogs and couples enjoying pre-turkey strolls. I turned a few heads as my brown paper lunch bag race bib flapped around in the wind. I’m sure I looked a little loony, but I didn’t care. I was doing it. I was running a turkey trot 5k on Thanksgiving. Who cares if I was the only one? I was starting a tradition. I was looking a challenge in the face and conquering it.

I finished my 5k with my best-ever race time and felt like a million bucks when I finished. I had taken lemons and turned them into lemonade. I had forged my own path where there wasn’t one. And the added bonus? I came in first place!

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I came in first! It’s easy to win a race when you’re the only one running it. A good lesson learned: the only person you really have to compete with is yourself.

My family greeted me with cheers as I returned and they vowed to run it with me next year. Now we have our own special turkey day tradition. It was a Thanksgiving for the record books, and thanks to my family, this little firework had many reasons to be thankful.

Some of my favorite Thanksgiving memories from the day:

Bentley met me at my office and helped me tie up a few loose ends at work before setting off on our road trip! Such a good assistant.
Bentley met me at my office and helped me tie up a few loose ends at work before setting off on our road trip! Such a good assistant.
Classy cooks drink wine out of fancy glasses while working! Cooking up my mom's gravy recipe and sauteing brussel sprouts with Kathryn.
Classy cooks drink wine out of fancy glasses while working! Cooking up my mom’s gravy recipe and sauteing brussel sprouts with Kathryn.
Tricia, Derek, and Penny came all the way from Saskatoon, Canada for our Thanksgiving celebration
Tricia, Derek, and Penny came all the way from Saskatoon, Canada for our Thanksgiving celebration

Cooking up at storm with my aunt at her house for the holiday

Our gracious host, my aunt Nini, and Kathryn
Our gracious host, my aunt Nini, and Kathryn
Teaching Penny how to take a selfie. She's fascinated. We must shepherd the young generations so they know what's up!! :)
Teaching Penny how to take a selfie. She’s fascinated. We must shepherd the young generations so they know what’s up!! :)
Penny takes her first selfie! #adorable
Penny takes her first selfie! #adorable
Long lost twins Bentley and Murphy
Long lost twins Bentley and Murphy
My dad's stuffing is my favorite thing on Thanksgiving. I didn't get to spend it with him this year but I got to make the stuffing so it felt a little bit like being together. Totally not A Firework in Progress approved!! But gave me inspiration to test out healthier versions.
My dad’s stuffing is my favorite thing on Thanksgiving. I didn’t get to spend it with him this year but I got to make the stuffing so it felt a little bit like being together. Totally not A Firework in Progress approved!! But gave me inspiration to test out healthier versions.
It was a big day for brown paper bags. Our turkey was cooked in one and it came out AMAZING!
It was a big day for brown paper bags. Our turkey was cooked in one and it came out AMAZING!
Kathryn always sets the table in honor of my Grandmother who always set the most beautiful table settings. Gaki would be so proud!
Kathryn always sets the table in honor of my Grandmother who always set the most beautiful table settings. Gaki would be so proud!
Sitting down to dinner. I'm always ready for a pic!
Sitting down to dinner. I’m always ready for a pic!
Our very international holday...my aunt hosted her exchange student Yun from South Korea, her nanny Liz from New Zealand, and her former nanny Tricia with her husband Derek and baby Penny! It was so fun to share our Thanksgiving traditions with them.
Our very international holday…my aunt hosted her exchange student Yun from South Korea, her nanny Liz from New Zealand, and her former nanny Tricia with her husband Derek and baby Penny! It was so fun to share our Thanksgiving traditions with them.
My cousins with their former nanny and her family
My cousins with their former nanny and her family
Had so much fun with sweet Penny! Didn't want to give her back!
Had so much fun with sweet Penny! Didn’t want to give her back!
My sister and soon-to-be brother in law
It was so nice to spend the holiday with my sister and soon-to-be brother in law!
Bentley and Murphy helping to clean up after dinner. Such hard workers!
Bentley and Murphy helping to clean up after dinner. Such hard workers!

When was the last time you turned a challenge into a triumph? What lessons did you learn?

Courtney Wienslaw

My blog chronicles my 90-pound weight loss transformation and encourages people to live a healthy, happy, fit, and balanced lifestyle.

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