I’m so excited to (finally!) kick off the spotlight series I’ve been dreaming about for months. And I’m equally excited to introduce you all to Kara Wheeler, who is one of my favorite people I have not met – yet. As a long-time reader of this little blog here, she is near and dear to my heart, and I’ve loved getting to know her, just a little bit, over the past few years. And now that I know even more about her I’m surprised we aren’t best friends. Who cares if she lives halfway across the continent? I’m sure we could work something out! I would love to learn more from her and laugh with her and be inspired by her attitude in person. I could use more people like her in my life.
And Kara, I’d totally rock out to Dixie Chicks with you any day of the week.
Tell us who you are.
Judge me by my basic profile and you might find me a bit boring. Kara Wheeler, stay-at-home-mom to four munchkins ranging in age from nearly nine to nine months; wife to Jason, an architect currently working in Omaha, Nebraska.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find I’m more interesting. I love languages and speak Spanish, German, French, and even a bit of Vietnamese. I’ve lived in Austria, Peru, France, and Zimbabwe. Enthralled by all the courses available in college, I finally majored in Humanities, minoring in German, international development, and music along the way. In graduate school, I earned a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language. I’m a musician, a writer, a hiker, a mother…and a runner.
Can you walk us through your typical day?
Typical? Gosh, I’d sure like to know what that looks like too. Eight months ago, our lives took an insane turn, and we’re still spinning. To make a long story short, when our baby was only one month old, my husband’s company fell apart. He was sent to Manhattan to work on Hurricane Sandy relief efforts for six months while I stayed in St. George, Utah with the four kids. In the summer, the kids and I traveled between my parents’ in Nebraska and Long Island. In the fall, Jason came back to St. George long enough for us to sell our house, periodically traveling back to NY to finish up some projects. Two weeks ago we moved to Omaha, enrolling our daughters in a dual immersion elementary school uptown while my husband started a new job downtown. Oh, and did I mention that we’re living with my parents while we house hunt, a job that would be much easier if we actually knew in which state we wanted to reside?
If you can’t keep up with all the drama, neither can we. A typical day? For the moment it simply doesn’t exist. But I can’t wait until it does.
And what is your perfect day?
Hiking with my family through the canyons, oops, I mean cornfields. Umm, I guess you can see that it’s time to revise my idea of perfect. With a Nebraska winter quickly setting in, I think I’ll settle for a steaming mug of hot cocoa, a good book, and a bubble bath.
What is one of your biggest challenges as a parent (or as a person)? How do you handle it?
As a parent, I struggle with patience. Put your shoes on already and let’s go! I have important things to do. But wait, what’s more important than you, little one?
As a person, I struggle with finding meaning and fulfillment as a stay-at-home Mom. I dread being asked what I do. Even when I know the answer is “absolutely everything,” it’s hard not to feel like it’s nothing. At times I get so overwhelmed by the day to day drudgery of drop offs and dishes that I think: someday I’m gonna do something with my life. I don’t know what, but it’s gonna be big and it’s gonna be great!
I need to stop waiting for tomorrow, because guess what? I am doing something with my life. No matter the social stigma behind being “just a housewife,” my job is big. When I pause to feel joy in the moment, it is great.
So let’s play puzzles, jump in the leaves, even fingerpaint. Because guess what? Time passes fast and children grow up. Pretty soon I’ll long for the best job I ever had.
What is a life story you always tell?
Well, our last daughter was born at home with only my husband in attendance. It makes for a great story, although we certainly vary the degree of detail depending on the audience. Heck, we even tend to be obscure about whether or not we could have made it the hospital in time… You’ll have to decide.
Do you like to run alone or in groups? Why?
For me, half the appeal of running is the solitude. As mother to four, I rarely get a moment to myself. Running gives me time and space to be with my own thoughts.
What is your best running moment?
To understand me as a runner, you really have to understand my history as a non-runner. A 4’11” asthmatic, I joined track in middle school only to quit when I didn’t even finish my first race. (You can read more about it here.) So when I ran the Utah Valley Marathon in four hours, the accomplishment was much more than a great race. In that moment, I redefined myself and trampled the boundaries of impossible.
Other great running moments: the Butch Cassidy 10K twelve weeks before my baby girl was born and the Red Mountain Half twelve weeks after. This was the first pregnancy where I really focused on running consistently throughout, and it felt great.
What is your favorite mantra?
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Small and Simple.) Over the years, I’ve come to understand how it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
Do you have a power song? What is it and why does it motivate you?
Yikes, you’re asking me to divulge my deepest secrets–don’t laugh. My very favorite iPod listen is “You Can’t Hurry Love” cover by the Dixie Chicks. It brings me back to the very first moment I realized that I actually like running. I was slogging through a training run in Illinois when the song popped up. All of a sudden the endorphins kicked in and my whole world brightened. The fall leaves were more brilliant, the crunch of the forest floor more invigorating, the scent of autumn more intoxicating. I lengthened my stride and danced, pausing only for a moment to blush when I realized someone was watching. My life hasn’t been the same since.
What is your favorite book?
My favorite book is almost always the one I am currently reading, which at the moment happens to be “The Rent Collector” by Camron Wright. It’s about developing love for family, friends, and above all literature in the most unlikely of places–a municipal waste dump in Cambodia. However, if I were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one book with me (scriptures aside), I would probably choose the collected works of William Shakespeare.
What’s for dinner tonight?
Tomato Dumplings. They’re simple, healthy, and oh-so-delicious! Sorry Lizzie, no great meal ideas from me–I steal mine from you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Kara. Isn’t she great?
Please let me know if you have someone you’d like to see in the spotlight, or if you’d like to share your own story! (lizzie (at) mother runner (dot) com)