Set a goal. Cross it off. Set another.

When I was 15, I quit my first love—gymnastics. It was a decision that taught me so much about myself. I loved it, still do, but it was tearing me up mentally and giving myself the permission to quit meant giving myself permission to experience whatever life had in store and not put a big red FAILURE stamp on that chapter in my life.

I went on to run cross country and track. Something I didn’t know how to do. Something I had always hated. I was the 15-minute mile shrimp in elementary school. The girl who would’ve gotten the Presidential Fitness Award, or at least the National Fitness Award, if she didn’t get a big X in the mile every year. I could stretch and push up and sit up and pull up and all the things but running? No, not running.

And honestly, running felt like salt in the wound because I couldn’t play any other sports. I wasn’t any good at anything else. I had no hand eye coordination. I think it took me a month or two to see running as something to be admired. Something to push towards.

My dad spent hours with me at the local YMCA, in the months before school let out for the summer, training my breathing patterns and posture and arm movements, pushing me to round one lap of the indoor track without stopping to heave. He would stand at the corner of the track, pressed against the wall with a running watch, timing me, quietly propelling me to just keep going, one more step, that’s it.

Then we transitioned to running outside. My neighborhood had rolling hills and I remember thinking, “This is hard. This is nothing like the indoor track. You expect me to run 3 miles by August?” It was May and everything hurt. My calves. My quads. My lungs. I was a muscular 110 pounds and yet, I felt so heavy. Sluggish.

I started doing summer runs with the coach and some other girls and I remember the first time I ran 3 miles. It was mid-July, mid-morning, and I was coming around the corner down Walnut Street in Royersford, thumping down the uneven concrete sidewalk, trying to admire the houses I passed by. I had just stopped to walk a block when my coach came doubling back for me and pushed me to keep going, almost there. When I got to Lewis Road, the 7-11 on my left, I felt home free.

Running was never the plan. But those 3 last years of high school brought me so much joy, and so much appreciation for the limits of the human body. Set a goal. Cross it off. Set another.

A few people in my life are struggling with where to go next. They’re at crossroads, hoping they can just continue forward but realizing they can’t. And I want them to know that there is beauty in forcing yourself to set aside what you planned and follow the best path you see now, to push yourself into something you didn’t know you could love.

Lately, running has given me anxiety. Am I going to fast? What’s my heartbeat? Am I going to be okay? Can my body handle this?

When I was just 15, had never run more than a few hundred feet at a time, that was the last thing on my mind. I was just frustrated and tired and hot and out of breath. Our bodies are powerful. But so are our minds. They see us through. They know what we sometimes cannot know until we given in and trust. Let’s not forget that.

A locker, a keeper, a carrier.

Some days I catch myself thinking of her, eighteen and at her high school graduation rehearsal, learning in a sea of classmates that her father has died. Suddenly and unexpectedly.

She must have felt like her life was just beginning. And then, not anymore.

It must have felt like nothing mattered. Like her life was ending too.

Some days I think of myself learning similar news. At 8 or 13 or 22.

How grief sneaks up on you and even though the wave has already crashed, the news already broken, it can take days for the rumble of the wake to shake your legs and pull you down.

I think about those three days of disbelief in 2003. How on Day 4, the floodgates opened. How I couldn’t close them back up. How hard it was to push push push that door closed, the water streaming in.

Those are crossroads moments. Some of us catch them and some of us point as they drive past. Some of us lock them up tight and some throw them to the wind.

I was always a locker. A keeper. A carrier.

And though it might feel heavy at times, mostly I like it. Mostly it reminds me why I do what I do. Why I am who I am.

At sixteen I was messaging this guy back and forth on AIM, and I remember him saying, “you’re a very emotional person.” I don’t remember what prompted it or if anything did at all, but it’s stuck with me.

When bad news comes and the clouds roll in, it might seem harder. But then it’s the reason we feel so much for the people and things we lose.

All those moments that add up to a life well worth it. Because they mattered to someone like me. Or you. Or him or her or them.

6 Money-Saving/Rebate Apps I Love

I don’t know about you, but I’m at that age in my life where I want my money to stretch to meet all my goals and needs. And every so often, I’ll talk to someone and realize it’s not just me. It seems like it’s everyone around me. And maybe it’s just because it’s December, but it seems like it’s more apparent right now than it has been before.

We want to save for a fun vacation or weekend getaway, save for retirement, save for the big life purchases, save for wedding expenses or babies. We need to pay off student loans and car loans and mortgages. We need to pay rent. We want to treat ourselves once in awhile. And maybe even test out the investment world.

I’m constantly leaning on apps and websites to help me, and sometimes I’ll be in conversation with someone and mention one of these below. So I thought I’d do a quick roundup of some apps and sites that I absolutely love that help me automate saving, or get a little back for the purchases I’m already making, or get me points toward future purchases. This is definitely not an ad, but a few of them have good referral codes so you get a bonus for signing up that way, so I’ll include those below. Some of them will also give me something if you sign up.

Get Upside – Before you shop for gas or groceries or takeout, you can go to this app, open it up, and see if you can claim an offer for cash back from a local gas station or grocery store or restaurant. Mostly I’ve used it for gas. You can cash out and have it go to your Paypal account. I’ve gotten as much as $0.20/gallon off the price just by using this. You also get “upside credit” which can be used for $3 off a car wash, for example, or a percent off an in-store purchase like food at the attached convenience store. Use code “KALEIGH227” for an extra 20 cents per gallon cash back on your first gas purchase.

Ibotta – This might be my absolute favorite. You get rebates for items you buy (mostly groceries and health/beauty products and alcohol). James LOVES it for beer because you get like $3 or $5 back on a case of beer. If you drink wine or liquor, the rebates are really good for those too. Like GetUpside, you have to search by the store you’re going to and then select a rebate based on what you’re planning to buy. Use code “jejvgqh” for an instant $10 bonus. You can cash out to Paypal once you hit $20. They’re doing a lot of deals where you get a 10% back on shopping via your phone too. Like 5% cash back on Target purchases, for example.

Qapital – Hannah Brencher Sheats raved about this to her Instagram followers back in the summer so I checked it out and I’m hooked – full credit to Hannah. You basically create basic rules that trigger the app to pull small amounts of money from your checking account into a separate goal account – so I used it to try and slowly save for Christmas, for example. You could do this for vacations, to save a little more towards your mortgage or student or car loan, etc. For example, I set it to round all my purchases from my credit cards to the nearest $2 and to also send $5 if I walk more than 2 miles per day. You can have as many goals and as many rules as you want. You can also set certain rules for certain goal accounts. I love the idea of using it for extra mortgage payments or other loans. Use this link for $5 when you create your first goal.

Checkout 51 – Same concept as Ibotta. Just another place to look for rebates before you go shopping.

Shopkick – This one’s hard for me to remember to do, but if you open the app before entering a store, you get “kicks” for that store if they have a “kicks” deal that day. Target’s usually got a 30 kicks deal. You can also get points for purchases at various stores and for scanning items (not even buying them). It’s an easy way to get points toward gift cards without even making a purchase. I have enough for a $10 gift card for Target and I didn’t even make a purchase to get there. Use “SHOP621802” to get 250 kicks for your first walk-in to an eligible store (as long as it’s within 7 days of you downloading the app). You have to have Location Services on your iPhone when you’re using this app.

MyPoints – This one’s not an app (it’s a website) but I love it. Casey, my college roommate, introduced me to it in 2008 and I’ve been using it ever since. You get emails with bonus points for clicking through or for making a purchase (XX points per dollar). Just go to their site and log in and then search for the retailer and click through to it to buy and get points per dollar. You can also do surveys to earn points. Then you redeem points for gift cards. I’ve earned a bunch of $10 Target cards over the years just by doing surveys or clicking on the email links. They also offer coupon codes and grocery coupons.

“He would have loved you.”

We lost my grandpa suddenly, five years ago today. My husband James never met him.

“He would have loved you.”

I tell him that sometimes. When we’re watching baseball, when he’s curled up quietly reading a book, when he starts singing made-up songs, when he peels open a banana, when he falls asleep in the armchair watching something he really loves.

I tell him that because it’s easier than saying, “I wish he had had the chance. I wish he had known you. I wish he had just one shared moment with you in my mom’s dimmed kitchen after dinner, hands wrapped around mugs on the table, quietly conversing about the world.”

My husband, he doesn’t know what he missed. How can you love someone you never met? If he’d come into my life a year earlier, he would’ve maybe had the chance. Maybe.

And so I look at it with a grateful heart. Less than 9 months after my grandpa died, this blonde-haired blue-eyed Italian-Irish boy parked outside the Cheesecake Factory and walked me inside. He reminded me about the love of baseball, the agony of 9 innings, of hard years and sticking with your team. He taught me that quiet can mean thoughtful. That words can be measured.

My grandfather lived three blocks from my aunt’s house. He showed up every day. In his actions and on their doorstep. He taught me what it means to give yourself to your family. And then, something changed, and he didn’t anymore. But we don’t remember him that way. We remember how he was for most of his life, how he loved his grandkids, the simple man he was.

I remember that cold first day of December, sitting on my knees with the kids, looking up at that video playing. Photo after photo. Song after song. When you’re the first grandkid, you see yourself over and over in those eulogy videos.

I cried the loudest in that room packed with people I hadn’t seen in years. In those photos, I could see all the time I’d had with him, all the things we’d done together, and how in the end it never felt like enough. You’re never ready for it to be over.

And so my husband shows me that sometimes God knows you’re hurting and He hands you a little piece of someone else. You catch yourself looking at your husband and remembering with sweetness what you once had, aching at the same time because you know they would’ve shared something special together.

You remember that quiet small actions matter. Love matters. Family matters. Showing up matters. On your doorstep or in your phone logs. However you can. However they need.