Thursday, December 24, 2009

Super Fiona Rules as Queen of the World

Eric's Little Super Heroes: this run's for the girls! | KOMO News - Breaking News, Sports, Traffic and Weather - Seattle, Washington | Eric's Little Heroes

This video came across my email this morning. (To view the video run your cursor over the link above. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to get the video to run!)

I receive a lot of videos, but never one with quite the same “flava” as this one. Humorous, bubbly, effervescent, light-filled and downright smiley…this video brought a giggle to my soul and a tickle to my heart.

It pulled up something from inside that I’m having a difficult time moving from “feeling” to “word.”

So…here’s where I’m going to just let go. YOU…TELL ME WHAT THIS VIDEO BRINGS UP FOR YOU? Either email me at molly@girlsontherun.org or better yet comment here. Let’s see how much fun we can have with this. Not sure where any of this is leading, but I'll be curious to see what words we all come up with!!!

Oh and of course…I wish for you, a season filled with joy, love and peace!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Politics and Driving To Work: Different Routes with a Common Goal


“The fish only knows that it lives in the water, after it is already on the river bank. Without our awareness of another world out there, it would never occur to us to change.”

Alright folks. It’s that time of year—time to take stock in where we’ve been, where we are and where we are going.

I am, as most of you know, a devout believer in the notion that we create our future. My mom used to always say, “You’d better be careful what you wish for…because you might just get it.”

Of course, it is a smart and fiscally sound practice, for any organization to take an inventory every one to two years…to see where it’s been, where it is and where it’s going. In the business world this is called a strategic planning retreat. Girls on the Run had its strategic planning retreat with board and staff a few weeks ago. The strategic plan will serve as the map (with coordinates) for our next 1 to 3years.

Lately I feel as if I’ve been on my own personal kind of strategic planning retreat. The world has introduced a number of people that, on first impression, seem to have very oppositional views to those I have held for the last twenty or so years. Their entry into my life carries a mysterious quality with each “hello.” Surely, I must have “invited” these opposing viewpoints into my life for a reason.

But thanks to their persistence and my willingness to enter with an open-mind, I’m discovering that in many instances we are all wishing for the same thing. The desired outcome of our world-view-strategic-plan is the same…it’s the “how to get there’s” that may be different; and even after further discussion and semantically picking apart the words we use to describe the “how to get there’s”--even those often have a similar route. The dots all connect. It’s just the WORDS WE USE that are different.

Digging deeply into how I came to believe what I do in my life, specifically in the political and spiritual realm, has revealed to me that I have, for much of my life, believed in what I’ve been taught by the people around me. I guess that’s pretty obvious. These recent introductions to people outside my typical day-to-day life have revealed to me how much I don’t know…how much I’ve been a victim (for lack of a better word) of my own up-bringing. I’m not in any way suggesting that my up-bringing was lacking. I’ve become the person I am because of it and the life experiences I’ve had since then…but the recent knock-knock-hello-in-there—from people who are far more educated and studied on the topics of spirituality and politics have humbled me, intrigued me and inspired me to learn more, know more and as Brooke, my Girls on the Run (11 year old) friend said to me last week, “Be the boss of my own brain.”

In an effort to become the “Boss of my own Brain” I decided to launch a to-do list…a cerebral kind of checklist that I would engage in the approaching year. Here’s what it looks like:

1. Meditate every morning or at least as many mornings as is possible. I’m going to take at least 20 or more minutes to empty my brain of everything. This is harder than it seems, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway!

2. Research and read five books that give an unbiased overarching portrayal of our nation’s political history and landscape. I want to understand the framework on which the various political parties position their party platforms.

3. Ask a lot of questions of the people in my life. “Explain your viewpoint to me.” “I don’t understand how you came to that conclusion. Please do tell.” Using another one of my Mom’s favorite quotes, I will “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”

4. Take a different route to work every day for the next month. This action will be a physical reminder to me that there are many different ways to any desired goal. I want to experience that on some level, even if it’s just in this small way, everyday.

5. Volunteer (I have limited time I realize) with a population that is unknown to me. I will have absolutely NO preconceived notion for this group of people. I want to base my experience with them solely on the experience. I want to draw conclusions based on what I learn from them…not from established systems, studies and research…but on what I will know…being there. (I’m not sure this is possible, but it’s worth a try.) There have been some opportunities for me to do some alcohol recovery work with women in prison. I think that would be a good place to start.

6. Journal about it all.
In closing, I’m sincerely asking you to help me. Help me figure out other physical, mental and emotional tasks I can add to my to-do list that will push out those notions that I’ve adopted “just because” or “because that’s what I’ve always known, heard, believed” and help me “be the boss of my own brain.”

What do you say? What actions do you take to keep an open-mind? What questions do you ask to fire up untouched and unused neurons in your brain? Come on. Tell me something I don’t know! Awareness awaits!!!

Email me at molly@girlsontherun.org

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Watch the Candle Burn

“A candle loses nothing, by lighting another candle.”

Anonymous

This morning…the rain falls. Lightning and thunder, an anomaly for this time of year, rage outside of my window. The wind howls.
A candle is lit beside me. I am mesmerized by it…the infinite number of shapes the flame takes within the glass.

Something quite marvelous is afoot.

I’m waking each morning with a delicious kind of anticipation…eyes wide open, wondering, seeking, yearning. I’m opening emails with a new kind of vigor. I’m peering into each moment with an expectation to find something new, revealing and different. I’m questioning, wondering and pondering the message tucked away inside each exchange, glance and thought.

I am reminded of Madeline. I rarely walk laps with the girls, but several seasons ago, my assistant coach took the helm and I walked several laps with a group of girls. At some point during the hour, Madeline and I ended up alone.
We walked together—my friend, Madeline, and me. Our hands clasped and our stride in sync. After a minute or two, I asked… “Madeline, how is it that you and I ended up together? What happened so that you and I have been given the chance to know each other? How does all of that work? What is that all about really?"

Madeline thought for several seconds—small puffs of air exiting her mouth with each step.

And then she spoke—with the assurance of someone who has absolutely NO doubt about the words to follow. “Well it’s like this,” she said. “God has an idea. But He has a problem because he somehow needs to get that idea down to earth. So what He does is...He wraps a body around the idea, and then sends it here to be born. If the idea is a really big one, He wraps two or three or lots of bodies around the idea, so that the really big idea can get here.

And that is, of course Molly, how we get our gifts and our talents. They are God’s tools to help us get the really big idea out of our bodies and onto earth before our bodies die.”

I took her hand, slowed our walk to a stroll and knew that this would be a moment I would never forget. That if there was a Divine—a Higher Power—God or something greater than all of us out there, or in there—He, She, It—was right there in the words of that small girl-child.

I consider the words of Madeline now as I sit in this peaceful space.

The candle beside me, burns, flickers and pulls me in. I watch the flame as it breaths in the oxygen around it…changing, morphing, dancing, burning away the wax to reveal new wick. I feel as if I am this candle, burning and breathing in the life around me, tasting each delicious new experience...wondering what each will bring to the sometimes frightening process of melting away what I have known and what is comfortable, to what I will know and that will challenge me. To, in this glorious process, reveal THE idea…the big, beautiful and bold idea around which this body is wrapped. To manifest--in a million pieces of light—my, your, our greatest human potential.

I watch the candle burn and delight in its radiance.

What elements of who you are, have been revealed thanks to the love, tenderness and gentle push from those around you? Who were and are those people who elevate you to your potential?

Let me know at molly@girlsontherun.org.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Clowns, Roses and Bright Green Shoes














"Our thoughts create our reality—where we put our focus is the direction we tend to go.”

Peter McWilliams

Okay folks. I’ve been on the road a lot! So I’ve decided to revisit the concept of a previous posting with a slight twist added at the end. So be sure to read all the way through so you can play “the game.”

Something fun I've done with my kids in the past is the "What do I want to see today?" game.So, here is how it works. Ask yourself the question, "What do you want to see today?" The object of the game is for each person, who chooses to play, to name something they rarely see, that they want to see some time over the course of their day. The challenge, however, is that the "thing seen" must be seen a total of three times. No more, no less.


Several months ago, my daughter Helen set a pretty high bar. "I want to see three pink cars." We had no plans to attend a Mary Kay seminar in the next 24 hours so the apparent likelihood of seeing three pink cars before my daughter's bedtime was slim to none.


Well...I'll be darned if three hours later, two of the three pink cars had been spotted. The remainder of the day, as we went about our errands, we searched high and low for the final pink car...but to no avail...the car did not reveal itself.


About 8:00 just before Helen's bedtime, I realized I had run out of my asthma medication. (I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma in my early 20's) so off Helen and I trekked to the pharmacy. The prescription was ready for us when we arrived. As I stood at the check-out counter, Helen squeals with delight. "Mom. Look! The pink car. See! THE pink car!" Helen is pointing to a small pink toy car which is precariously balanced on the magazine rack, apparently forgotten and left there by another family.


We left the car there, but OUR mission was accomplished. Three pink cars had, indeed been seen.


So…I think it’s time we played this game as a group. Consider it like a very cool scavenger hunt…a creative way to entertain yourself over the next couple of days.

I’m going to provide you guys with three sets of three items. Your goal is to find the items over the course of the next three days and then report back to me that you found them. Now, for the game to work, you have to really look…I mean REALLY look for the items. This is actually a ton of fun and proves my point, that what we wish to see, we see. If we look for good, we find it. If we look for compassion, we find it. If we look for love, we find it.

So here goes. Find three of each of the items over the course of the next three days:

Three pairs of bright green shoes
Three Clowns
Three Roses

Let me know, when (note my absolute certainty on your finding these items) you see these items and consider how you might apply this to change the world.

Where do you focus your energy? Are you focusing your sights on people, circumstances, systems and ideals that support your vision for yourself and your girls? How could focusing on gratitude, acts of compassion and people of strength create the change we wish for the girls of the world?


Let me know what you think at molly@girlsontherun.org!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Connecting the Dots


“You are the reason the sun came up today. Believe it.”

Mike Dooley

There are times when I simply cannot connect the dots.

As a kid I used to love the “connect the dot” games I’d find in the “Highlights” magazine at the doctor’s office. I would try to imagine what the final picture would be, but in most instances the outcome never completely matched what I had initially envisioned. Somewhere though, around three quarters of the way through the numbers, I could feel a delicious kind of anticipation as the image would magically emerge from the connection of all those dots.

I often feel like my life is about connecting the dots. I love to apply meaning to the physical experiences of this life, to conjure up hope, passion or love from what to others, may appear to be nothing more than a random series of events. Sure, a sunset is just a sunset. But if I breathe deeply beneath the glory of her reds, oranges and yellows, I feel joy, peace and surrender. What to some may be the end of the day is for me a time to ponder the greatness of the sky, the smallness of me and the peace that comes from feeling both powerful and humbled beneath the tapestry of approaching night’s sky. You see? Nothing really has meaning until we give it meaning.

I’m at one of those times I simply can’t connect the dots. I intentionally added two days to a work-related trip, two days for me to refuel, refresh and re-me. I love the travel, the speaking and the time with our girls and volunteers, but have learned over the years that Molly-time is critical to my emotional, mental and physical health.

So on one of my recent “re-me” times…I met two people who, without knowing, are permanently tattooed on the neurons of my brain. I can close my eyes and get a strong visual picture of them. I haven’t yet figured out how their stories will be connected. I’ve yet to connect the dots of our shared experience. And so I invite you to come along. My guess is by this essay’s end, I’ll have figured out how Amelia and Vincent are connected.

The story starts with my walking to the Starbucks in Atlantic Beach, Florida. I had just finished my morning presentation and was looking to take in the sun, the ocean air and enjoy a strong cup of the Starbucks Joe.

I ordered my coffee at an outside window, took a seat outside and proceeded to just enjoy the moment, when I see her out of the corner of my eye. A beautiful, vibrant and alive young woman rolls up in her wheelchair. Her strawberry blonde hair accentuates a youthful and open, radiant face to which I am immediately attracted. I wanted to know her story. I wanted to understand her joy. I wanted to understand her peace.

Seconds later, a homeless man begins begging two men for a few dollars. “I just wanna call my mama,” he pleads. “Could I have just a couple of dollars?” The men ignore him.

I stand up and walk to him. “Here,” I said. “Take this.” I hand him a five dollar bill.

He thanks me profusely…for several seconds he showers me with his gratitude. “Miss, I see you have a phone. Could I use it? Can I just use your phone to call my mama? I want her to know that I’m okay.”

I hesitate. I take a few deep breaths. “What’s her number? I’ll type it for you.”

He gives me her number. I type it into my phone. I hand him the phone.

“Mama!” he shouts out gleefully. He proceeds to talk with his mother. I tried my best to give him his privacy and so at this point, the only chair remaining on the Starbucks outside deck is a chair at Amelia’s table. I ask her, “May I sit here?”

She says yes. I sit. The homeless man continues to talk to his mom; tears are streaming down his face. I sit quietly with Amelia. We are both struck by the oddity of this particular moment. The homeless man then proceeds to sit at the last chair available, of course, at the table with me and Amelia.

Amelia and I are silent, as he wraps up his conversation. After saying his final farewells, he hands the phone to me and begs me to tell his “mama” that he is okay; to tell her that her son Vincent is okay.

I talk with her for about a minute. She doesn’t want to talk. She’s heard it so many times before. We hang up.

And there the three of us sit: Amelia, Vincent and me. The silence was painful at first. I wasn’t sure what to do with this opportunity. What do I say? Surely there is something I am to gain by being here. These circumstances are too odd to be random. So I turn to Vincent. “Tell me about you.”

The three of us chatted for fifteen minutes, each sharing our stories. Vincent is an alcoholic. He has seizures when he doesn’t drink. He can’t lie and shared with us that the first thing he planned to do with the five dollars I gave him, was go to the liquor store. He has two children. He is 46. He misses his mother’s love like any son. He misses his children, like any father. He is one of 9 children. His mother is in her 70’s. He hasn’t been able to get his act together and frankly wonders if it is even worth it at this point. “I just want to sleep,” he kept saying. “All I need is a hotel room and some sleep.” Vincent is drunk, homeless, tired and so sad about the path upon which he now walks.

Amelia is 25. She currently works at a rehab center for people who have disabilities or become disabled. Her job is to help secure the needed resources for people with disabilities so they can become thriving, independent community members. She ended up in her chair at age 15, after a botched scoliosis surgery. She was walking one day and the next she wasn’t. She shared with me and Vincent that she could either accept her situation and deal with it, or she could be angry about it. She chose to accept her situation and find joy in her circumstances. Of all the things she does in her work, helping her clients find joy is her first priority and a gift she was given by others that she, in turn, shares with them.

I shared with Vincent and Amelia that I was in recovery for alcoholism. That I had once been lost, confused and unsure too…but on July 7, 1993 I had a moment of clarity when I knew that I needed to get help. Three years later, after getting a lot of my own life in order, I started a program for girls to help them see how powerful, beautiful and wonderful they really are, just as they are..

Vincent walked away. He looked back over his shoulder several times. I walked back to my hotel and Amelia returned a few emails.

As I write to you, I want so desperately to connect the dots…to unequivocally state the reason Amelia, Vincent and I met. But as hard as I try, I can’t find it. There seems to be too much randomness to this experience--the inequity of joy. The ability for some to see through the pain of their story to the joy that rests on the other side and the inability of others. How unfair it seems that Amelia and I, are able to see the challenges in our lives as the root of all upward growth, the cornerstone of our personal evolution.

And Vincent, who still wanders the streets of Atlantic Beach, unknowing and unaware that the first step to beating his addiction is a drastic change in his perception; a willingness to see how powerless he really is, and to not just seek help, but let others help him.

Maybe the connection for this story is the lack of one. The inability to explain why this is, or maybe it’s too early to connect the dots. There are too few of them. The image is not yet ready to be revealed…

BAM. I’ve got it! As I write I realize that I’ve landed on the connection at this moment and right before your very eyes.

Whether I see Vincent again, in this lifetime or not, Amelia and I are two of the dots in the “connect-the dots” experience of Vincent’s life. So, too will be the others, the future “dots”, who when connected to me, Amelia and each other, over time and in the right order, will reveal the image of Vincent I see now and that that will be revealed to him when enough dots show up and are connected. I can with only a few dots see what Vincent could be, will be and is (not just in physical form yet), but it may take many more dots for HIM to see! (Just as it happened for me. Who knows? How will Vincent emerge in a new image I'm creating now for me, with my life?)

We never know the power of our influence. You could be the one final dot in the “connect-the-dot” game of someone’s transformation.

Nothing ever happens by coincidence…at least not in my reality. Your reading this could be a dot in your “connect-the-dots” life’s story. What do you think???!!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Madeline's Heaven















“I am like a falling star who has finally found her place next to another in a lovely constellation, where we all sparkle in the heavens forever.” Amy Tan

I just returned from a beautiful experience with our Girls on the Run Council in Atlanta. Saturday night, Sue Payne and her crew put on a fabulous event to thank board members and to spread the word about the program. On Sunday morning, 1100 runners, girls in our program, parents, caregivers and running buddies showed up to participate in the Girls on the Run 5k. The Atlanta Youth Soccer Association, New Balance (thank you Matt) and Goody’s Hair Accessories (thank you Jana and Jennifer) were all present to support our efforts!

At the awards presentation I stood on the stage and tried to soak it all in…to be completely and wholly present. The sea of orange Girls on the Run t-shirts, the smiling faces, the sweat and wonder at what had just been accomplished seemed to go on forever. Really…as I’ve shared before I simply can’t fully comprehend how “big” this program has grown.

But I do get some level of understanding when I really focus on how all this makes me feel. I remember when I was a kid, hanging out at the park. I used to love to walk onto one end of a see saw and gently make my way across the wooden plank toward the other end. Slowly I would proceed across the wood…smaller steps as I approached the middle. At some point (and I can actually feel it now as I write to you) I would feel a delicious kind of anticipation, wondering when the plank would move from one end being on the ground to the other end being on the ground. The tipping point was never quite known, but it was always certain to come.

As I wake up each morning and “google” Girls on the Run and cruise through the various news stories and blog entries about our program I feel as if I’m approaching the fulcrum of the see saw…the tipping point for our program is slowly approaching. The word is out. . .the girls, the coaches, the women and men attracted to Girls on the Run are each steadily walking toward the middle of that board with me. It’s easy to lose sight of "the girl" in all of that. The girl in me, in you, in each other...

I remember vividly, in the late fall of that first season in 1996, I was wrapping up with my Girls on the Run girls at Charlotte Country Day School.

The weather all day was unsure--in a constant state of changing its mind--would it be rainy, cloudy, cold, warm, thundering, or sunny? Our attempt to do the final lesson was in question right up until the 3:30 hour when I met the girls. We stood in our circle of friendship together and all said one word about our Girls on the Run experience. I've heard them all by now..."Awesome, Real, Cool, Fun, Running, Love."

As we walked to the track, I felt as if I was peering through an emotional kaleidoscope…one turn to the right and I felt joy. A small turn to the left and I felt sorrow. This was, after all, our last day together.

The girls began to run. The clouds were building, a thunderstorm was rumbling hundreds of miles away. Rolling, building, powerful. Madeline was the smallest girl in Girls on the Run. At some point during the workout portion of the lesson, Madeline came to me, her tiny hands cupped around the corners of her mouth. She whispered, "Molly, come here. I have something I have to show you. I must show you. Please."

I was busy handing out game pieces and cheering for each girl as she ran by me. "Sorry Madeline, but I really need to stand here and cheer on each girl."

"But Molly you have to see this." She continued to cup her mouth with hands on either side and whispered, "I think I see Heaven."

Well, that’s certainly interesting, I thought. If Madeline sees heaven surely I must see it too. So we each grabbed the hand of the other and ran as fast as we could to the far end of the track. "Look!" she said. "Look. I see Heaven." I turned to my right and was struck speechless by what appeared before me. Dark black clouds surrounded a brilliant white light…. like the blade of a silver knife this light pierced the sky and sent beams of itself down on the earth miles and miles away. "See," she said, completely convinced. "Heaven!"

I was reminded of the heaven I saw sixteen and a half years ago, on that run of July 7th, 1993. When only the day before I had considered my end—to run the following afternoon amidst the power of an approaching thunderstorm. To, at mile five of that six mile run, see, feel and know the brilliance of my own potential followed by the desire to seek moments of similar power as often as I could from there on out.

"Madeline," I said. "Yes. Heaven, surely." But I didn't need to look to the sky. I didn't need to look to some distant space in time. I only had to look at the two small, but brilliant rays of light--there in Madeline's eyes to know that indeed, heaven is right there, resting inside her little girl soul...that little girl body.

Heaven rests in me and you and the brilliance of our own lives. I am convinced, as convinced as Madeline was that she was witnessing a glimpse of heaven on a stormy day, that Girls on the Run is creating our own heaven, a place of safety where girls can feel a peace of such depth, simply being themselves.

What moments of peace have you experienced as you make your way toward living your greatest human potential?

Let me know at molly@girlsontherun.org.

.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Quest for Certainty













“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” Erich Fromm

I’m at a space of in-between--the unsettling space between what I know and what I can't yet articulate.

I remember once when I was in my early 20’s; I was in a space I’ve come to call “the space of not-knowing.” At the time I couldn’t articulate it as anything other than an anxiety producing state of mind. My sister Emily and I were talking about the unsettled-ness of that space and the anxiety it provoked and she likened it to being between two trapezes. One hand releases one of the ropes and the other is reaching for the one that is sure to come, but depending on where we are in the release and then catch…there is some time in that process where we are suspended mid-air…hurling through space…unsure, uncertain and praying for the other rope to hurry up and appear.

When I was younger, particularly in my 20’s this place created such discomfort, that I usually did one of two things:

1.) I numbed out by trying very hard to be anywhere but where I was. I might drink, run, work, sleep, eat or party. I would DO something to disengage from the uncertainty, not in a healthful or stress management kind of way…but in a denial or not-present kind of way.

2.) When number 1 didn’t work I would often turn to number 2 which was to make up stories to explain the anxiety. Instead of just being present with it and owning the fact that “I don’t know where I’m going, what’s happening or why I’m feeling this way” I would make up stuff…the stuff was usually focused on something outside myself, such as a person or situation.

Here is a perfect example. Several years ago I was feeling a lot of uncertainty around what my role at Girls on the Run should be. In the early days of our development I wore a lot of different hats. I was fundraiser, spokesperson, curriculum developer, coach, trainer and manager. As the program grew, it became critical to the sustainability of the organization to delegate, empower others and enrich the program with additional people who could utilize their gifts and talents to fill in the gaps which were clearly absent from MY skill set.

But, as necessary as it was to delegate these tasks, when they were removed from my to-do list, I was left with a void. This state of “empty, unknowing and uncertainty” skyrocketed my anxiety levels to an all-time high! I was restless, irritable and discontent. To alleviate some of that anxiety and the unsettled-ness of the empty space within, I immediately began to fill it in with all kinds of activity. I started training for a marathon. I started creating new initiatives and thinking up ways to engage myself with other organizations. My wheels were spinning out of control and my thoughts were as well.

I also started making up stories. There were lots of stories that involved other people, both in and out of the organization, but the underlying theme of these stories was rooted in the Girl Box messages I had received over the course of my lifetime and had come to claim as my own: “Molly, you are inadequate, incapable and not good enough” which when translated into work words showed up as “Molly, you are inadequate, incapable and not intelligent enough to serve in a leadership capacity with this organization.”

On November 6th, 2007, I was hit by a car. For six weeks I couldn’t walk and for six months I couldn’t run. As I look back over the course of those six weeks to six months I feel my body take a huge sigh of relief. As scary and as painful as that time was, I was forced to hurl through space…releasing the handle on one rope and pray, meditate and believe that the other handle would miraculously appear.

I journaled, meditated, and spoke with friends. I tended to the simple things in life like paying bills, helping my kids with their homework, curling up with my dogs and writing thank you cards. I floated in the in-between and made a very intentional and conscious decision to have faith…that somehow, somewhere if I just waited long enough and with patience, the clarity and the knowing would arrive and so would the rope. The stories to emerge would be ones filled with strength, character and power.

Two years later I can say with a certainty I couldn’t have dreamed of then that the rope did appear and it said, “Celebrate YOUR gifts and talents and allow others to do the same.” This shift in perception has catapulted Girls on the Run to a new level of not only growth and sustainability but a new level of deeper awareness…a deeper awareness that is showing up in all kinds of ways such as how we structure ourselves from a business perspective; and the creation of brand new, deeper and more relevant Girls on the Run and Girls on Track curricula.

So now…while I sit here…in a space of unknowing and as I write to you, I feel a huge sigh of relief and an almost visceral giggle begin to erupt from my being. What lies ahead for me? What rope will I catch? What will it tell me? How will it show up and from whom?

What have been your unhealthy mechanisms for dealing with the anxiety of “not-knowing” and how have those mechanisms changed over the years? Let me know at molly@girlsontherun.org.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Just Picture That!

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

I remember back in November of 1995. My son was six weeks old. My mom and I took a few days to go to the North Carolina coast. We loaded up her car with diapers, plenty of food and our need for some quality mother-daughter time.

The solitude offered by winter’s beach is just so palpable. The quiet of it... beaches raw and exposed; the wind is wild with its restless howling, flying uninterrupted in the cold space above the waves and around the dunes. Sunlight’s edges, unhindered by summer’s humidity, are crisp, cold and sharp. Rays of sun cut through winter clouds, piercing the landscape of some far-away horizon.

One afternoon I was on the porch, rocking Hank as he lay nestled in the crook of my lap. The dramatic play of ocean’s waves, wind and sea gulls were performing only yards from our front-row seat. I was reading a book that at the time was very popular. “Reviving Ophelia” was the first of many-to-come books which addressed the deep and profound impact gender-roles and stereotyping had on tweens and pre-teen girls.

About 75 pages into the book, I could read NO MORE. Majorie Pipher’s words were pulling up memories from my own past—painfully revealing wounds not yet healed, only bandaged with alcohol, relationships, people-pleasing and a host of other quick-fix solutions.

The rising warmth of winter sun was tenderly falling down upon the two of us…me and my boy. I watched him sleep and marveled at the occasional flutter of eyelid or twitch of baby-finger or foot.

Tears slowly emerged from the corners of my eyes.

Surely, there is more to life—my life—than covering up, bandaging and running from the wounds of my past. Hank, my baby-- like spring’s first sprout, sprig and blossom, rested so peacefully in my arms. He was my son, my future, the hope of all that is good, beautiful and possible in me, in him, in all of us, in the world.

I closed my eyes, leaned back to fall gently into the lap of that rocking chair, to take it all in, the peace, the wonder, the gratitude, the joy and desire for something greater not just for Hank, but for the girl in me and the girl in all of us.

When I was struck by it—the first clear vision of IT. I was running through the streets of an unknown city. I rounded a corner, when there she was—Molly—me, at age 8. I motioned to her to join me, and she did. We ran together for several steps when another girl, I didn’t know, joined us, and then another. Slowly, but surely they emerged and began to run with me, hundreds eventually. Women were now in that mix, a huge pack of us, running through the streets, when we came to a large set of steps, a hundred or more of them lay before us. We paused and then one by one and step by step we climbed to land at last at the top. All of us there--a sea of women and girls; we lifted our arms, hands held, and rejoiced together.

As simplistic as this sounds, I hold onto this vision with faith and strength anytime I’m feeling challenged by the operational side of what has become Girls on the Run International. I hold tightly to this vision when I’m not sure what path to take, both at the personal and professional level. I feel the presence of it now as I write to you and the power of my own potential, the challenge of life’s climb and the strength I gain in its ascent.

Since that amazing November afternoon, there have been only a handful of visions as clear as this, but they have all been glimpses of my potential, the potential of my children and of this organization. As large as our numbers are these days, I can’t get a real sense of our impact. My finite brain is just that…finite. But I can revisit that vision, those steps, those hands held high, the sea of faces, smiling, empowered and rejoicing.

What vision have you seen with such clarity that it defines the path your life now takes? How has your vision been challenged and how do you stay on course?

I’d really like to know. Comment here or email me at molly@girlsontherun.org.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hey...This Will Only Take a Minute!

















Alright Girls on the Run fans. I was in Cincinnati the last couple of days and had a fabulous time meeting with some of our "networkers" and contributors there as well as the fabulous folks at Proctor and Gamble with the "Secret Deodorant" Brand. (Secret is one of our Girls on the Run corporate sponsors!)

I got home last night after numerous delays...around midnight! Being a bit wired after some roller coaster flight turbulence, I tried to wind down by reading through a few emails.

That's where "Kate" comes in. Kate had just finished reading my book, "Girls Lit From Within: A Guide to Living Life Outside the Girl Box."

One chapter in that book (it's for girls ages 8 and up!) encourages the girls to make a gratitude list.

Well, Kate really wanted to share her list with me and so I'd like to share it with you! (These are her words...)

My Wonderful Family;
My Friends in the Different Cities Where I Have Lived;
My Education;
Girls on the Run;
My Sports Ability;
Cousins;
Grandmother;
My House;
My Books;
My Thoughtful Brain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So...Kate got me thinking. When I started Girls on the Run, thirteen very brave girls showed up! And now...NOW, we are in more than 150 cities across North America with over 60,000 girls currently participating! Those of you, who know me personally, know how important it is (and how invigorating it is) for me to spend time with our girls. As the founder of this organization, I must keep my finger on the pulse of the girls we serve...plus there is, at least in my opinion, no better way to stay REAL, GENUINE and AUTHENTIC, than by hanging out with kids. They teach us so much about being ourselves!

However, due to the extensive amount of travel this wonderful growing program now requires of me, I don't get the one-on-one experience with our girls as much as I'd like.

Therefore, thanks to Kate, I'm launching another blog specifically designed for girls...girls both in and out of Girls on the Run. The topics will be relevant to their lives and each post will explore a variety of "tactics," girls can use to stay "out of the Girl Box."

So...if you feel like check it out...at www.mollybarkerontherun.blogspot.com. And please, if you know any girls (whether they are in or out of Girls on the Run), let them know I'd like to "meet" them...over there on the fun, wacky and girl-side!!!

Thanks to all of you for your belief in this program and choosing to live the authentic, genuine and real lifestyle we encourage!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What Does Make-up, Make Up?
















I think it's always important to be honest. So, true to my word, I should tell you at the outset, there will be nothing of particular significance shared in this post. Basically I'm just trying to kill some time until the sun comes up so I can head out on a long, glorious Saturday morning run!

Yesterday afternoon, my daughter and I went to the mall, for no reason other than to just hold hands (can you believe my 11 year-old STILL holds hands with me?) and look at “stuff." (Yeah, like Buffy, that’s so awesome…oh my GAWD.) After the obligatory stop at Abercrombie (I can still smell the store this morning) and Delia's we stopped by a make-up and skincare store.

I am 49 (not even close to old) but am starting to show some signs of aging on my face. (Like this is a bad thing?) Years of training in the outdoors will do that to a woman's skin. I’m not concerned about it one bit…but thought, for the fun of it and because Helen and I were enjoying each others company, I would ask this wonderful teenager,who worked, in the store for her assistance. (Alright she probably wasn't a teenager, but I felt like I was old as I asked for her help. Funny, I didn't feel old before I entered the store. What's that about?)

So anyway, this very young and very confident make-up/skincare consultant is going to consult with me and teach me how to apply certain products on my face. I sit on a stool. Helen is on my left, said skincare/make up consultant is slightly to my right. "These products will eliminate some of those obvious signs of aging and sun damage.” (May I interject a quick comment here. I think my teenage friend was trying to make me feel good, but this statement somehow didn't help.) She applies something first…that has a very important medical name. I am afraid of it, but she applies it anyway. She applies the product in what I would call "military fashion." My head is pushed back several inches with each application. My daughter Helen thinks this is hilarious and begins what eventually turns into a running commentary of the entire event. "Mom...gosh...PLEASE stop making those faces!"

Layer number one, completed, my personal make-up/skincare consultant now applies something else with a brush. We have several "something elses" to go. By the end of this consult, I feel as if I have several inches of “something else” other than me, on my face.

Furthermore, she applied the something else’s so close to my eyes they are now hot red and beginning to tear up.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

“Yes,” I said stoically, trying to be sure that the make-up warrior in me didn’t reveal the fact that my eyes felt like they were going to permanently rebel against the mysterious-named-store toxic poison and close forever.

Meanwhile, Helen, my eleven year old is telling me in my left ear (loudly by the way) in a kind of sing-song voice and in no uncertain terms, "Doesn't look any different." My make-up consultant continues to apply another layer of something else and Helen is persistently telling me throughout the latter stages of my makeover, "Doesn't look any different, Mom. Doesn't look ANY different."

When the consultant is done, I feel as if my face will crack if I smile, wink or speak. I am blinded at this point by that darn third layer and weave my way dangerously toward the check-out counter. I opted not to purchase the "something elses package" and ended up purchasing some fruity lip gloss for Helen and blush for me.

On to the food court.

I washed my face three times last night before bed…and still this morning woke up to eyes that are beet red.

I think I’ll just love my face the way it is and save the money for my children's college tuition.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Role Does Food Play in Your Life?









My Sexy Insides

I run and eat my veggies
to my body I must be kind
but just as important
is how I feed my mind

Unclenched and wide open
my mind and heart must be
this is the only way which
allows for me to see

How beautiful the world is
and all that it does hold
whatever my thoughts create
is what I'll see unfold

Feel free to call me pretty
but look deeper to find what hides
what I am truly proud of -
that is my very sexy insides

Amy Penwell


Alright. This post will be short and sweet. Like my daughter or the birthday cake I ate last Friday at her birthday party. Short…sweet.

Let’s just go there. Come on. We haven’t visited a hot topic in a while.

So, here it is.

Food.

Yep, that’s right.

Food.

We all have a relationship with it…kind of like a family member. We bring her in, sit her down and spend a lot of time with her. Sometimes she is entertaining, at other times she is comforting and then there are other times when she is all business, satisfying our hunger and strengthening our bodies.

Our relationship with her is often rooted in the messages we got as young girls from our “girl boxes.” As a matter of fact, in one study, the number one fear for 81 percent of 10 year old girls was "getting fat."

That’s right. It’s not nuclear war, death or global warming. It’s getting fat.

My first peek into an awareness of how food can be so deeply entrenched in our psyche occurred when I was 26. I was training for my first triathlon. I became increasingly concerned with what food I put into my body. The caloric count, number of carbohydrates, fat grams and protein amounts I ingested were an important part of my training regimen. To be honest with you, I wasn’t a whole lot of fun to be around.

I was eating out with friends at a Mexican restaurant and per my usual and much disciplined self, ordered the salad. “Would you like that in a bowl or a tortilla shell?”

I rolled my eyes. “Dang. You mean I have to decide. Why don’t you decide for me?”

“Tortilla, of course!” the waitress responded.

I devoured that salad. I was hungry. Training for an endurance event like the Ironman requires a lot of fuel and RE-fuel after an intense series of run, bike and swim workouts.

And there I was, at meal’s end, up against the ropes…it was me versus the tortilla bowl. Our boxing gloves were on and the fight was fueling up. Who would win? I backed into the corner of my mind and tried to pretend it wasn’t there. But it just kept taking those visual jabs at me.

A left first, next a hard right and then I caved. I broke off a small piece. I ate it. It was good. So I broke off another piece. I ate that one too and I’ll be darned. It was good too! I ate that entire bowl, in teen tiny bits and pieces.

By the time I was done, there was nothing left but the oily wax paper on the plate beneath. My plate was empty, my stomach was full, and the shame was initially unbearable. Her voice was whiny, shallow and judgmental. “Molly, you were doing so well…at least until you got to that bowl. How could you? Is this in line with your training program? Is it? Molly, I’m asking you? Is it? IS IT?

And in that moment…a little light bulb went off. I realized, as simple as this sounds, that the Molly who walked into the restaurant is no different as the Molly who just finished that darn bowl. I am strong, athletic, articulate and funny. I am kind, caring and compassionate. Whether the tortilla bowl is in or out of my belly has absolutely NO effect on who I am. The food I put into my mouth doesn’t define who I am. I do!

I'll admit I'm a little embarrassed to be sharing this moment with you. I'll also admit that I'm 49 now and had plenty of time to develop a "functional" relationship with food, but it can all still be very, very complicated. Most of the time it's healthy, but sometimes when I'm stressed, tired, or anxious I may reach for those boxing gloves again and go a few rounds with myself. And if I'm really honest about it, to suggest that it can sometimes have a kind of power over me…well…makes me feel shallow, hollow and a little silly for admitting it. Talking about it is a bit like being caught right out of the shower. Somehow owning up to how we view food reveals something about our vulnerabilities, bared there for all to see.

Believe me; I’ve had my share of issues. (Who hasn't?) As many of you know, my numero uno challenge was alcohol…but food, exercise, relationships…they’ve all sat down for dinner with me on occasion, to test, challenge and, at times, shake me into confronting my own feelings of self-worth and where my real power comes from.

These days, Tortilla bowls, Reese’s peanut butter cups and my daughter’s birthday cake all have a place in the Molly Barker “food for life” pyramid. So too does moderate exercise, veggies,daily hugs, plenty of water, fresh fruit, my best try at 8 hours of sleep and love. Yep, that’s right love is on that pyramid, right there at the top!

It’s all connected to my living a healthy, honest, forgiving and full life.

What role does food play in your life and how has it changed over the years? Let me know right here or email me at molly@girlsontherun.org. If you don’t want to share, that's cool. Try journaling about it or take a minute and consider where and how food plays a role in your life.

And to see the fact cited here and other ones as it relates to our behaviors around food, check out this website:

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/uploads/file/in-the-news/NEDA-In-the-News-Fact-Sheet%282%29.pdf

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Mother's Touch













Every fall I feel my mother's presence. September marks the anniversary of her birth. She died in April of 2002, alone in the steam room at our local Y. She took to the steam room, as she did regularly, after her daily run, to relax a bit before heading to dinner with my daughter and son. She was found by a friend of mine, only minutes after her heart stopped beating.

I really miss her touch, even now. Her tender touch...the touch of her fingertips, the stroke of her hand across my face as she would gently push aside strands of stray hair from my eyes...her strong embrace and the reassurance that only a mother can give. "It's all gonna be okay, Molly. Trust me, girl. You'll be okay."

Only a few months after her death in the fall of 2002, I remember so vividly, even now, showing up to coach a group of girls in Girls on the Run. Thirteen bright and enthusiastic girls anxiously awaited their first day in our program. I walked up to them, all of us so full-up with anticipation. Seven years prior, I had started Girls on the Run. I remember walking up to the original thirteen little girls at this same location--nervous and unsure of myself but fully convinced that something powerful was about to occur. Many of the thirteen on THIS day in 2002 were younger sisters of that inaugural class. One of those was an innocent and wide-eyed Sarah. "I recognize you," I said. "I know your sister, Katy."

"How did you know she was my sister?" she asked.

"You look just like her, only you are you." Sarah smiled at me and skipped ahead to join the girls ahead of her.

Sarah was a lot like her sister, Katy. She appeared unfocused--somewhat disconnected from herself, with a strange, detached smile tucked neatly and quizzically between the corners of her mouth. Her big sister Katy, had been like that. Katy used to walk next to me--as close as she possibly could without actually getting in the way--always helpful and always with that smile--awkward, mournful and beautiful all at the same time.

It was the fall of 1996. I was coaching my first season of Girls on the Run. Katy's mother called me. "I'm going to the hospital for a few days. I just can't shake this depression that's eating me up inside. I wanted you to know because Katy feels a real connect with you. And while I'm completely useless as her mother right now, I need others who can stand in to support her."

"Of course I'll support her," I replied. "But is there anything I can do for YOU?"

I was humbled by this woman's willing vulnerability. "No," she cried. "There's nothing you can do. There's nothing anyone can do."

Hearing the desperation in her voice, the crying out...I wanted to hold this woman--this mother--stroke her hair, embrace her, lift the mother-guilt from her shoulders, and tell her that everything would be all right. "There is nothing you can do," she told me. "Nothing."

Katy continued to come to Girls on the Run--brought there by her grandmother, babysitters, and occasionally her father. Her mother was in the hospital for weeks.

Several years later, in March of 2002, I was at our Y. Seated on a couch in the ladies locker room Katy and Sarah's mom was there. "I'm working again now," she said. "I'm trying to quit smoking but having a tough go of it." She smiled that detached smile, as if she knew this was the point in the conversation when she was supposed to feel something. "I'm divorced and getting on with my life," she said. I sat down next to her, placed my hand on her shoulder, and told her how strong she was and how good it was to see her taking care of herself. Her eyes looked deeply into mine, as if begging me to make it so, to make her strong. "Tell Katy hey, would ya?" I asked her. "What grade is she in now, anyway?"

"She's in 9th grade now," she replied. "She misses you. This fall you'll meet my youngest, Sarah. She has been wanting to do Girls on the Run since her big sister did it." She smiled.

I went for my daily run, did my grocery shopping and went to work. I picked up my kids, squeezed them tight, kissed them on their cheeks and cooked dinner. Another ordinary day in March.

And now here was her youngest,Sarah, lined up side by side with her teammates. One of the Getting to Know Each Other exercises we play on our first day together is a game called the "I like Relay." The coach shouts, "If you like chocolate chip cookies, take off" and all those little girls who love chocolate-chip cookies fly around the assistant coach who is standing thirty years down the field or track. "If you think school is fun, take off." All but two ran. "If your parents are divorced, run on." Three girls took off.

Sarah was one of those. When she returned to her spot, she said. "My parents were divorced before my mom died."

I looked at this beautiful little girl. "Your mom died. I'm so sorry, Sarah." I asked the assistant coach to continue the game while I walked over to her. "Come with me a minute," The two of us walked a lap together. She talked animatedly about how school was going, what her big sister Katy was up to and what it was like now that her Mom was gone. When we finished that lap, I took her hands in mine and looked deeply into her eyes.For that moment the rest of the world ceased to exist and in this moment it was me and Sarah and the bond being formed between us.

"This past March, she suffocated, in her bed." Sarah could hold back the tears no longer and we sat there together, cross legged on the track, both of us with tears rolling down our cheeks, holding hands and being...together.

Eventually the silence came.

I flashed back to my March conversation with Sarah's mom, there on the couch at the Y, and wondered about the true circumstances of her death. I fondly caressed the memory of my own mother, often seated there on that same couch, after a long run, resting a moment or two before she slipped into the steam room. I held one of Sarah's hands in my one hand, brushed aside the strands of hair from her eyes, with my other, and told her "Honey, everything is going to be okay. Trust me girl. You're gonna be alright."

We sat quietly for several more minutes and then she said, "I guess I better get back to the group now."

And I said, "Yes, I guess you better." We walked back the last hundred yards, holding hands and missing our moms.

I miss my mother so much, her embrace, our early morning runs and her words of soft assurance, but oh how fortunate am I, to have the privilege to feel her love, embrace and comfort every time I spend time with the girls in our program.

It's all in the circle...the coming, the going and the rounding out. The soft, the tender, this moment and my mother's love. "Molly, it's all gonna be alright. Trust me girl. You're gonna be okay."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

C.S. Lewis

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed by my circle of friends. If you are reading this, I would consider you in that circle.

I feel as if Girls on the Run is at a tipping point…the word of us is far and wide these days. On airplanes, in the grocery store, in a restaurant, I catch site of our logo and my breath is simply, taken away. Several months ago I was driving to Jacksonville, Florida. Somewhere along I-95 a car with Georgia tags drove by me with a Girls on the Run bumper sticker on the back.

Of course, I sped up to see who was at the wheel. Do I know her? Where is she from? What’s her story…like I’d somehow be able to figure that out going 70 miles per hour down the highway…the wonder of it all.

It is quite surreal for me to see that logo crop up all over the place. There is this immediate connection I feel to whoever has proudly emblazoned that across his/her chest. While we don’t personally know each other, we know each other. We’ve experienced the same words, the same philosophy, touched the same authentic and real space we’ve come to know as the Girls on the Run experience.

This connection falls not only within our ranks, but outside of them as well. Enter stage left, Bev Lassiter. Bev is a Charlottean. She and I have walked around in similar spots for years, but never officially met. Two years ago she called the office.

“I’ve got an idea,” she was almost whispering. “I can’t share it with everyone just yet, but I’d like to sit down with you and see what you think.”

Of course, I was intrigued.

A couple of weeks later, Bev walks in for a visit at our office.

Bev is one of those “sistas” who can sport the pink, lily print and the matching hand bag, like my diva daughter Helen. Bev is petite, put-together and definitely (please note bold AND italics on that definitely!) a sparkplug.

“I’m President-Elect of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of NC and every President gets to pick her ‘Special Project.’ I want Girls on the Run to be mine.”
Not sure yet, what this meant exactly, I was intrigued.

“This means that over 6000 of our club members from across the state will be raising money for your North Carolina Girls on the Run councils. We hope to raise over $50,000 for you to distribute to those councils.”

After a moment (or many) of catching my breath and figuring out what to do with what this almost-stranger had shared with me, I started to cry.

“Bev, I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Well,” she said, “Let’s start by figuring out how we make it all happen.”

Here’s how their efforts surprised me at their annual GFWNC conference in Wrightsville Beach, NC:














(Nice expression mm? That’s Ellen Patterson on the left, me with the funny face, Bev with the glasses, wearing a wonderful Lilly dress underneath that huge cardboard check and Georgann Sapp, the rockstar responsible for organizing the junior members of the organization around this campaign!)

We are currently rounding out our first year with their efforts. Ellen Patterson, her go-to colleague has organized the campaign with the help of Georgann Sapp. The creation of shoe bags, pearl necklaces and quilts, along with fundraisers (“Women on the Walk” is one example), pennies from pockets and women just asking have raised over $30,000.

Twenty-something’s and eighty-something’s have come together around tables in communities from all across the state to support our girls. Hours of conversation, planning, crocheting, sewing, dreaming, being will bring our program to thousands of girls across North Carolina who might not otherwise have the experience. I gratefully acknowledge all of their hard work, but also wonder what they might be receiving in return. What conversations have transpired, while nimble fingers have needle-pointed pillows, or baked cookies? What laughter has been shared as they’ve told stories of their own youth? What tears have welled up when reminiscing old times, lost loves and the fears and joys of growing older?

The circles of our influence are never fully known. But I know that when I see our logo, I havean emotional response that is deep, heartfelt and real. I know that the power of this program is felt whether we are delivering it, funding it, cheering for it, participating in it, working for it, writing about it, reading about it or simply observing the logo.

Not only are our girls realizing their greatest potential but so too are all those to whom even just the word of our program reaches.

I received this email today.

Hi Molly,

I just couldn't contain my excitement and had to send a picture of the very FIRST group of Louisiana Girls on the Run!














I'm not sure why I've been reduced to tears all day...but in my gut, I know.

And, I suspect that this picture tells the tale. A vision of these girls has been in my mind since I first clicked on the white state of Louisiana on the GOTR website and realized that there was a chance to change it to a glorious shade of purplish pink. These girls have occupied my mind during all of my runs. And when I listen to what has been my inspiration song for years - 'Unwritten', they are the part of the song that goes..."reaching for something in the distance...so close you can almost taste it - release your inhibitions...feel the rain on your skin"

Last night, my 10 year old bundle of sweetness named Cary cried deep tears that I'm not used to seeing. She confided in me that she had been playing four-square at school with the boys. In her words, she was "queen" and she was winning. And then...it happened...one of those defining moments. She tripped and fell over a boy, Matt. And everyone laughed. And my little girl - who LOVES this game and has always had fun playing with the boys - told me she never wanted to play again. My oldest daughter and I both tried to console her but something was different in her soul.

And the only thing...THE ONLY THING...that gave me hope at that moment and silenced my heart was knowing that next week - she would be part of Girls on the Run.

I begin coaching next week - my daughter and a group of girls - and then another photo of joyful 'girl' perfection will exist. What will lie beneath the photo??? So many beautiful hearts just waiting for your lessons...

So...a heartfelt thank you. I have never in my life felt more connected to a purpose...so excited for a beginning and so sure of an outcome!

Heidi


So to Cary, Heidi, Bev and Ellen, I thank you back. To all of you for putting yourselves out there everyday for our girls and each other, I offer you my gratitude.

Who are you grateful to be working with? Tell me about her or him at molly@girlsontherun.org.

To learn more about the General Federation of Women’s Clubs through North Carolina, please visit their website at www.gfwcnc.org. If you’d like to learn more about their organization at the national level please visit www.gfwc.org.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Talk About a Revolution...



Matt Harding







Sometime you should ask my daughter Helen to imitate me. It really is one of the funniest things you'll ever see.

She pulls her hair back into a ponytail, rolls up her sleeves and begins this whole routine..."Come on girls...You can do it! Good job...GOOD JOB...Keep going. That's it, Believe in yourself. Never doubt. If you smile you can run stronger. Celebrate the day. Celebrate your body. Celebrate yourself" And then she starts jumping up and down and running in place, dancing and basically looking like a complete and total maniac.

"Helen, is that really what I look like at Girls on the Run?"

"At Girls on the Run? Mom, you look like that MOST of the time," she will respond. "Only more!"

So, I'll admit it. I'm a complete and total goofball when I get around kids. This goofball spirit that manages to lie dormant at most other times of the day just erupts and completely takes over my being..

"Hey sista. What's up? How ya been? Whas crakalackin?" I'll hold out my hand (for a return high-five slap) to just about any third grade girl, anywhere, anytime. Doesn't matter whether she's actually done Girls on the Run or whether I know her...because I want to know her. I WANT TO PLAY!

Over the years, I've learned that being playful isn't something that just happens...we have to make it happen. There is this voice from inside the "Girl Box" that tells girls that it isn't sophisticated or grown-up to play, act silly or be a goofball. You can see it happen around fifth grade. The willingness to just break out into a disco, anytime--anywhere, simply disappears and girls become inhibited and overly concerned with what other people think. They just lose that fun, silly, playful spirit.

Whose fault is that? Is it theirs? I think NOT! I think it is OURS. Heck, if adults were playful, silly and uninhibited more girls would see it, want it and never lose it!

So I ask you...no, I'm telling you...no, I'm demanding you to try this small experiment with me. Seriously...I'm NOT joking. (Even though I have a huge smile on my face, I'm NOT joking!)

I think we need to incite a "Dance Revolution!"

To prepare yourself for our global revolution, you have to watch this video. Come on now. WATCH IT! Take a look and then come back.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlfKdbWwruY

On THIS MONDAY...September 21st at 4:00 EDT I want you to break out into whatever level of dance you can muster up. If you are a Volume 10, I want to see an all out full body disco or runnin' man. If you are a Volume 1, I want to see, at least an attempted disco or booty shake. For all of you in between, let it rip. In the words of the King of Pop himself, "Show me what you can do."

If you are so inclined, ask the people around you to join you. "Come on. This is fun. Join me." I have absolutely NO doubt that the retiree standing behind the grocery check-out line would love to disco. She's probably not discoed since she was twelve years old and YOU...yes YOU...will be her liberator.

I have no doubt that the guy fixing the broken pipe under your kitchen sink has NEVER danced while on the job. I'm quite sure there is some kind of rule against that, but ask him anyway. "Come on buddy. Put down that wrench and DANCE!"

Okay, so he will think you are completely crazy. He may even talk about it for the rest of the afternoon...heck the rest of his life...but who cares?

If you can...forward this blog to anyone and everyone you know. Maybe if we are lucky it will make it to the floor of Congress, an international tennis tournament or even a celebrity-attended music awards show.

We need to add a little play to this universe. A little goofball. A little FUN!

MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR Monday, September 21st for 4:00. Go ahead. Do it! And then around 5:00 (or 4:01 depending on how it went) I expect a report, from each and every one of you that rose up to this challenge and for one minute, on September 21st, 2009 at 4:00 EDT, stepped out of whatever boxes that restrain and confine you, to dance...to remind the world that being playful and child-like (rather than childish) is a pretty amazing way to be. (I'll be snapping photos...so be prepared to see those on Monday evening!)

Seriously (or playfully), post your comment here and show your allegiance to the belief that if we all just took one minute (or a few) and danced...danced like no one was looking...there might be a lot less finger-pointing, name-calling, shouting at, hearsay and bullying and a lot more attention to the things that really matter, like laughter,compassion and the power that comes when we dance with each other.

Monday, September 14, 2009

An Open Letter to Miley Cyrus


















“The struggles I'm facing.
The chances I'm taking.
Sometimes might knock me down but
No I'm not breaking.” (Miley Cyrus Song)

September 14, 2009

Dear Miley:

My name is Molly Barker. I am the founder of Girls on the Run International and also the mother to a ten-year old girl. You’ve become such a part of our life; I thought I might make the relationship official. You know—think of you as the person you are rather than the pop star icon, Disney mogul and multi-millionaire the world typically sees. I mean, after all, I hear your voice the moment my daughter awakens. So come on in, pull up a chair and take a seat. I’m a huge fan and oddly enough, trying to get past all that fame “stuff.”

We’ve listened to you for years, but as of late your music has taken front and center in our morning ritual. Your voice, like mist on a crisp fall morning, floats from beneath my daughter’s bedroom door. She sings along. Her slippers like broom bristles drift across her dusty floor. The boy of her dreams holding her, they dance. He is special, this one--you know--the one in math class who sits three rows up and two rows over?

You are just sixteen. I can’t imagine what your life is like, everyone wanting a piece of you. The agents, the paparazzi, the media--navigating the waters between childhood and growing up are hard enough, but to have the entire world watching, the entire world judging, you must be a very brave and self-assured young woman.

I remember being sixteen, wanting to grow up so fast, the anger and frustration of it all. Sometimes it hurt so much I would scream, shout and want to run away. At sixteen, there is so much to feel; the joy of first love, the wished for first kiss and the sorrow of first loss. It was all just so MUCH, at sixteen, somewhere between wanting desperately to be grown-up and wishing for the simplicity of youth.

My daughter dances while you sing. She is poised there on the edge of adolescence and you in the middle of it. She talks about you like you are family, nonchalantly mentions the latest news of your life as if you had told her yourself. You are often the topic in carpool, her girlfriends chatter away. Their descriptions of you are positive, respectful and genuine.

As they talk, I marvel at how you have stayed the course in spite of the crazy world in which you live. How you stand tall amidst the”should and ought to” people telling you how to dress, act and be something and someone you are not. I admire how you have stayed true to yourself, your ideals and your beliefs.

But I also know that these decisions to honor, embrace and celebrate who you are don’t come about without a lot of fear, anger and self-doubt. Not because I know you…but because I was sixteen once.

And so, the mother in me wants to rise up and cry out to you. Please, PLEASE don’t cave in. For the sake of my daughter and the millions more who eat, drink and breathe you, please, PLEASE, stay true to the role model you have become. There are millions and millions of girls watching, listening and observing your every move. Your power is infinite in the influence you have on so many. Stay strong, stay real, stay Miley.

But the girl in me--the woman in me--the founder of Girls on the Run knows that you will have to realize your power in your own time and in your own language and that part of growing up to become a strong, healthy woman means learning from your mistakes, missteps and miscalculations. Often times this means taking risks, stepping out and testing the waters! I remember being sixteen and how difficult it was, in my simple, un-famous life, trying to be strong, stand up and remain alive, real and myself while exploring the unchartered waters of boys, adulthood and my future.

Just know that in those darkest moments, those most vulnerable moments, those moments when it’s hard to breathe and the next right step is difficult to see, I encourage you, as I encourage my own daughter and all the girls in Girls on the Run, to explore, evolve and question your way to adulthood; to go your way, in your own time and at your own pace and know that the strength you will find, will be your own.

Keep pushin’ on.

Molly B.

What element of YOU, did you hide as a child/teenager that has re-revealed itself in your adulthood. Let me know at molly@girlsontherun.org.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Girls on the Run Solemates


I’ve been a runner all of my life.

I started running with my Mom when I was thirteen and discovered the sanctuary it provides. My mom started running in her early 50’s…a means of running toward the new woman she had discovered mid-life.

We would set out in the early morning hours, before sunrise. I vividly remember how the sound of our footsteps created the rhythm of our morning. We were in sync, she and I, mother and daughter. No words were exchanged but we spoke in the silent space between us with our footsteps, breathing and effort. Time was suspended and for the two of us there were no expectations. We just….were.

At age 15, I ran my first 3 miles. I was the basketball team manager and during practice one rainy, dreary winter day, I set out focused and determined. I covered three miles on the dirt track at Charlotte Country Day School.

I vividly remember walking back into the gym as practice finished up. The boys noticed me…striped with dirt up the backside of my body, rivulets of water streaming from hair ends, strands of it carelessly tossed about my neck and shoulders. Dirt and grime were trapped on eyebrows, between teeth and behind my ears.

Not a single boy said a word…but their coach did.

“How far’d ya go, Molly?”

“Three miles,” I replied. He shook his head with positive disbelief.

“Amazing,” he sighed.

I felt the most beautiful I had ever felt in my whole life.

Somewhere between 13 and 30, I stopped feeling beautiful. I’m not sure why…I just did. Maybe it was a lifetime of airbrushed images on magazine covers or something I was born with…but whatever IT was I had lost it.

In 1996, I started Girls on the Run, my effort to create a safe space for girls to never lose the “it” in their lives and for women to get “it” back. Whether it is through running, friendships or community service, thousands of girls and women are now able to reclaim the authentic side of beautiful that flows after a really good run, a conversation with a good friend or through helping others.

Girls on the Run is impacting thousands and thousands of girls. Recently I received the following essay from one of our amazing 4th graders, Grace.

The Not-so-Runner Runner

Before I started Girls on the Run, I could hardly run five laps around the school’s field. I had never been a runner like some kids were. I would see kids run around the track and I would say I wish I could do that.

One day when I was at my friend’s house, she started talking about Girls on the Run. I listened eagerly.… but I hesitated to sign up because, well, maybe this just wasn’t the right time. Sometime in the third quarter of the school year, I got a letter saying that there were still more spaces left in Girls on the Run, and that I could sign up. So I did.

It turns out that Girls on the Run was fun. I saw some kids from my grade, and we got to run together, with our coaches encouraging us every step of the way.

On my first day, I ran six laps! Now, for some people that might sound like the easiest thing in the world, but for ME it wasn’t! Soon enough, I was running a mile. (Eight laps around our field is a mile.) My farthest yet has been 12 laps, which is a mile and a half. I’m so proud of myself for being able to run this far. Before Girls on the Run, never, in my wildest dreams, would I have been able to run more than a mile.

I’m kind of upset that I did not sign up earlier. I’m going to keep running and trying to go farther. My goal this year is to be able to run at least half of the Girls on the Run 5k, and walk the other half. Next year I plan to run 4K and walk one.

Girls on the Run has taught me many lessons, but the most important thing it has taught me is to have confidence in myself and to never give up.”


I am firmly convinced that running can absolutely change a person’s life. The act of running is in and of itself nothing remarkable. But what the act of running MEANS to us, is. For some of us it is all about setting goals and achieving them. For other of us, it is building and maintaining authentic friendships. For some, it is the only quiet time in the day when we can focus on ourselves, our breathing and our solitude. Many run for the physical benefits, the natural way our bodies become lean and healthy. Others, to manage the stress of a work week or the challenges of motherhood.

But for Grace, my little fourth grade friend, running means she IS good enough, strong enough, brave enough and confident enough to do anything ELSE which she sets her mind to do. The joy, these days I find in running is my knowing that Girls on the Run is affecting Grace like this and is exactly what I needed to reclaim the beautiful little fourth grader I once was and zap her into my 48 year old body!

When I started Girls on the Run, clearly, my intention was to empower young girls…and yet…I had no idea that one of those young girls was the one I had left behind back in fourth grade when I started trying to morph into what I thought our culture wanted me to be, instead of who I really was!

The women who come into contact with our program walk away with the same type of strength Grace did. And for those folks who are unable to coach at any one of our sites across North America, we've just introduced Girls on the Run SOLEMATES, a Fundraising and FUNraising running program that encourages women and men, to train for and compete in an endurance event through the friendships we develop and a united mission to help girls. (Check out our new Solemates website at www.girlsontherunsolemates.org.)

There is so much you can do to help us change the lives of girls...and in the process do so much to change your own. You will, in the words of my little friend Grace, learn many lessons, but the most important of these would be “to have confidence in myself and to never give up!”

Run on, people.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Her Beating Heart

“There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.”

Michael Nolan

Thanks to the support and dedication of many people, Girls on the Run now reaches over 50,000 girls, annually, across North America. One of those dedicated people, an attorney who has worked with us over the years, shared a story with me about his now grown-daughter, Amanda. Several years ago when she was just four, the family was seated at the dinner table when the discussion of careers came up. Karl and Pam were sharing with their daughter. “Honey, you can be anything you want to be when you grow up—a mommy, a lawyer like your daddy, an astronaut, a banker, even President of the United States! What do you think you want to be?” Amanda pondered the question. After a few seconds of considering their query, she asked, “Do they still have queens?”

And you know what I would tell her? A resounding, “YES they do!” Maybe not in the traditional sense, but every woman, every girl has within her a queen just poised to emerge.

The key is finding her in there.

Maddie was in third grade. Her hair always stuck up, shiny-blond from too much swimming-pool chlorine and sun. Her little knees were knobby, her small ribs showed through the muscle of her small frame. Maddie was tiny. Even her voice was tiny. Her socks always fell down around her ankles and her shoes were always untied. She wore glasses that were thick like soda pop bottles and she had obvious problems with coordination.

Maddie was in Girls on the Run.

Maddie, born with congenital heart issues as an infant, was a fighter. Every day, she was there at Girls on the Run: sticking-out-hair, falling-down-socks, and the spirit of someone special. But her heart had started misfiring again. She was getting weaker, losing weight, and having problems even walking through the games, so her doctors ordered her to stop and only watch. Tears welled up in her eyes, but no matter what, she was there, to support, encourage and cheer on her friends in Girls on the Run.

Three weeks before the culminating Girls on the Run 5k run/walk in which all of the girls in her hometown were participating, her doctors scheduled another surgery. The doctors opened up the body that housed that strong-girl spirit, held her beating heart in their hands, corrected the weakness there, and ever so gently placed her life back into her body.

And three weeks after her heart had been cut open, exposed and vulnerable, Maddie, with permission from her doctors, ran in that Girls on the Run 5k with hundreds of runners. She crossed that finish line in sixty-three minutes, arm in arm with all fourteen of her Girls on the Run teammates…the teammates she had never abandoned and who now wouldn’t dream of abandoning her.

She was crying.

She had done it.

They were together again.

On that day, Maddie’s spirit soared for all of her friends to see. Thousands of men and women watched that little soldier cross the finish line. The kings and queens hiding inside peered out—permission, if just for a little while to step into the sunshine, along with Maddie and her Girls on the Run friends. Each person there was given a moment to celebrate the potential that rests within --this moment wrapped in hope.

And as I write this early morning and remember Maddie, I take time to celebrate the strength of my own body…find gratitude in its power…I consider the many ways that I can nourish, embrace and care for the gift of this body and the queen who is housed within.

What action will you take today to nourish, care for and honor your strong, powerful and healthy body? Let me know at molly@girlsontherun.org or comment here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009



















Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

Every year my internal clock recognizes the first signs of autumn, long before the temperature changes. Rays of sun penetrate the air at sharper angles, are more yellow, richer and thick. The air itself is no longer opaque from the summer humidity and heat, but is clear…feels fresh and crisp on my skin and in my lungs when I breathe. Leaves, not yet their brilliant yellow, orange and red, whisper secrets of their colors to come, hints of their future. Hanging loosely on tree limbs, they wait for autumn winds to tug and pull them from the comfort of mother tree to gently fall, float and land safely on the ground below.

There is something about this time of year that conjures up a deep well of melancholy for me…not quite sorrow…not quite gratitude, but a feeling that lands somewhere between the two…a yearning of things not yet revealed, but that wait to be. The autumn season brings with it an inherent need for me to reminisce, ponder and visit the places of my life that have been points of transition, change and revelation.

My son’s birthday is in the fall: September 24th to be exact. Fourteen years ago Hank was born. A violent thunderstorm raged outside our hospital room as he and I worked together to transition him from the comfort of my body to the world outside. This week he started high school. These days when I talk with Hank it is generally on his terms. My questions are often responded to with a “I dunno“ or some other hard to understand series of words. His tone of voice hints at frustration and sometimes annoyance that I asked the question in the first place.

So I often wait for him to initiate the conversation. I let him take us to the places he wants to explore…with me serving as guide, sounding board, his friend…his mom. He is taller than me and his voice much deeper than it used to be. With the musculature of his back beginning to unveil the man beneath, I feel small and almost frail in his presence. I can remember the night of his birth holding him in my arms and nursing him to sleep. The thunder in the distance, the lightening on the horizon and the comfort of steady rain outside our window, the two of us there, getting to know each other.

And now, I see his wheels turning, the silence and solitude of a young man searching…exploring…seeking answers from within. At times I long for the ability to return to the days of before…hold in my arms and tell him all is right with the world and know that saying this is enough…know that this is all my boy needs to feel comforted, safe and secure.

But the truth is, my internal clock is signaling that the time is ripe for us to transition from the relationship we have known to something new, different, sometimes scary and often times right. Hank the leaf and me the tree. His full colors are not yet present but are slowly revealing themselves in the decisions he is making and the person he is becoming…his waiting now for the winds of his future to gently tug and pull him from the tree of youth to fall and float to the solid ground of adulthood.

Birth to life…summer to autumn…leaf to ground…boy to man. Another year passes and I am present in the melancholy…resting somewhere between sorrow and gratitude. I love you Hank.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Morning People














“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.”

E.B. White

I am SO a morning person. One day last week, while driving my children to an orthodontist appointment I had conveniently (for me anyway) scheduled at 7:45 a.m., my son commented out of the blue, half-dozing, half awake. “I just don’t know why you do that.”

Hank is a rising ninth grader. He starts high school on Tuesday. I hear this particular phrase from him a lot these days. He seems to have a need right now to NOT understand me…a kind of tribal rite of passage…a universal statement that allows him to safely move toward more autonomy and a healthy dose of self-sufficiency and curious questioning.

“I just don’t know why you get up so early. Why do you do that?”

I thought for a minute. By the time I responded, Hank had fallen back asleep, this time with his head against the passenger side window. I responded anyway. “Because, it’s the one time of the day I own.”

My Mom got sober in 1970. I was in fourth grade. Not shortly after, she started running. She would launch out of the house, the screen door slamming behind her, feet to follow on the gravel pathway just outside. One hour later she would come back, perspiring, red-faced and happy. She was literally transforming before my very eyes.

My mom was tall, svelte and quite elegant. She was captain of the basketball team and Homecoming Queen. She went to Smith College and shortly after, met my father. He drove onto campus, one fall day, in a baby blue convertible and the rest was history.

Mary still is the most authentic woman I’ve ever known. In March of 1970, she hit bottom. It took a couple of tries before sobriety “stuck” but once it did, she became a tremendous advocate for women struggling to get sober. She started working at a local Alcohol Treatment facility and sponsored dozens of women in a 12-step program. She wrote poetry, read poetry and even had a number of her poems published. She competed in many local 5k’s, winning her age group. She started running longer distances and competed in a number of 10k’s, 15k’s and even one half-marathon.

In 1974, I joined her on one of her early morning runs. I was 14. She was 52. The sun was not yet up. The screen door screeched “good morning”, our feet hit the gravel and we were soon journeying through our neighborhood. I ran one block with her--about a mile. We didn’t say a word. Our feet rhythmically hit the hard cement in unison, our breath in and out—mantra like--the crisp edge to approaching autumn filling our lungs. I had never experienced anything quite like it…the quiet, the fellowship, the power.

I started running regularly with my Mom. The one-mile block grew into two blocks and then three. Eventually we were running eight, nine and ten miles together, usually first thing in the morning. And no matter how crazy my “other life” got (high school, college, my 20’s) meeting my mom for that early morning run was a welcoming sanctuary, where mother-daughter became woman-woman…where I felt connected, loved and whole in spite of the low feelings of self-worth during the remainder of my day.

There is something quite magical about the early mornings. These days it is simple…a cup of coffee, a lit candle and time to just be with myself, by myself. The sound of night crickets crosses over to early birds, traffic, school buses and my children just waking. I have learned a lot about myself in the early morning hours…time to think, ponder, wonder and be. The weariness of the day hasn’t yet soaked in and my big ideas, hopes and dreams somehow seem to feel more honest, doable and realistic. There is a gleaming optimism that shines with each morning…not yet tarnished by carpools, homework and laundry.

I love the morning, whether I’m running, writing or just being. The solitude, quiet and expectation of the day feeds my idealism, hope and belief in my life's work, my children's futures and the future of all children. I am fueled by the certainty with which I write THIS morning that if I seek the good, then the good will come.

Do you set aside time to dream, think and hope for bigger things not yet obtained? If not, why not? If yes, when? Let me know here or at molly@girlsontherun.org.