Stephanie Pletka

Inspiring Moms To Live Their Greatest Life

Swim, Bike, Run: Finding Myself Again

SWIM, BIKE, RUN! I hadn’t raced in a triathlon since I was in my mid-20’s. That was 20 years ago. My SWIM BIKE RUN had become, COOK, CLEAN and Wipe little butts. A few things have changed over the years: my weight, my fitness level and like most, I’ve had kids, lots of them.

My attention, for years, has been placed on them. This year, I decided to reverse the trend and focus on me, while maintaining all the “plate juggling” that comes with raising a family.

I didn’t want to sign up for this event. I gave all the excuses in the world. But ultimately, my husband “double dog dared me” and if you’re Southern, well . . . You don’t take that lightly.

The first step, join a gym. Check! My ultimate goal was to complete 14 laps, down and back. That didn’t seem difficult until I began swimming. 4 laps into it, I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.

My heart felt like it was about to burst and my body didn’t seem to be gliding through the water, as it once did. I saw a lifeguard in the corner of my eye, standing over me, waving her arms. Alarmed, I stopped to see what was going on. Was someone hurt? Was I in the wrong lane?

She said: Are you ok? You seem to have difficulty swimming. If you need assistance, there are floaties in the closet.

What? I said: Are You talking to me? What could I have possibility looked like to have had a lifeguard rush down from her Stand to offer me FLOATIES- how embarrassing. I never took my goggles off until I hit the locker room, to keep from being identified on my next trip, if there was EVER a NEXT trip.

The morning of the race, everyone had State of the Art equipment, fast, light-weight bikes: Cannondale, GIANTS. You’re judged by the type of bike you ride. It sort of separates the “Men from the Boys.” My husband had one of those bikes. You can pick it up with your pinky – Sleek, fast. Not me, I had a mountain bike: fat tires, takes 2 people to lift it. In an effort to ease the humiliation, my young sons were trying to find examples of other racers with mountain bikes. “Look Mom, see there’s another mountain bike.” Uh, yes son, he’s 13. Ok, just forget it.

Reflecting on my 20’s, it was a different experience back then. No kids, no schedules; freedom was at my fingertips. We could eat Nachos with a glass of wine, after a long work week and not gain an ounce. Nowadays, it’s baked chicken and steamed broccoli just to maintain. I remember my “Swim Cap” color; It was yellow, a megaphone to the world that I was STILL young.

This time, when the Race Official wrote my age with a permanent marker, on the back of my leg, it said: 41.

I wanted to explain, that I actually felt younger than this. Can you write that underneath 41?

I was no longer a yellow cap, but a purple one; I was now 2 swim cap colors behind, with a chasm of 50 pink-headed caps, separating me from my beloved Youth.

To makes matters worse, we were Almost the last group to enter the water. The only people behind us were the blue caps. These were the ones to FEAR!

They were the 12-18 YEAR OLDS! As if I had a ton of self-esteem, being placed virtually last in a line, behind 1000 racers, now we’ve got the “quick as lightning” group behind us; teens with endless energy, who will pass you on the swim, upping the probability that you may, in fact, be the last person to make it to the finish line. My goal: to see as few “blue caps” as possible. My Prayer: Please http://bible.comGod, let me finish before the banner was taken down!

As if training for the SWIM, BIKE, RUN wasn’t enough, there were the Transitions. They added 2-3 minutes, (ok 6, because I couldn’t find my bike), then another 3 to put on my shoes, switch from helmet to cap, put on lip gloss. Hey, you feel good, if you look good!

In the scheme of life, it’s important to note: you’re really only competing against yourself, not the yellow caps, screaming “YOUTH.” You’ll never be younger than you are today. Oprah said: Remind yourself – this VERY moment is the ONLY one you know you have FOR SURE.

Embrace the power, the wisdom, the knowledge and influence you’ve gained in the years you’ve lived.

Wave your Purple Swim Cap proudly. Like the markings on your leg, all things mature, and with development comes freedom and adventure! While the main event is SWIM, BIKE, RUN, learning to successfully navigate Life’s Transitions is a major part of the process. There are many ups and downs, changes we don’t expect. Just like coal to a Diamond, the adversities and pressures of life – allow us the experiences to grow and walk through the Door of Greatness.

Life is What You Make It! Cheers to Purple Power, Lip Gloss and 40-plus ladies signing up for their next Race.

Here’s to Living the Best Version of You!

Strength Developed From Motherhood

Written for 

Before kids, I slept in as late as I wanted, Remember those days, girls?  No kids, extra money and after putting in a 50 hour work week, weekends were made for adventure and exploration.

Running to the grocery store was a breeze. It was just Me, Myself and I. Grab wine, grill the steaks and voila, dinner was served.

Fast forward 6 years and leaving home for the weekend is like renegotiating the Geneva Convention. It’s nearly impossible. I found myself with 4 kids under 7 and life had become a car seat toting, stroller loading, baby crying, minivan driving, two baby carrying, kind of life. Is that a booger and what is that smell?

I had no idea the strength I would need to haul, install, comfort and carry all these children. Something my personal trainer never prepared me for. Driving to Target was like moving. Strollers, binkies, blankies, diapers, food, bottles, snacks. Forgetaboutit. The list is enough to make a grown man cry.

I had no idea I could carry a toddler in one arm and a 17 lb baby in a car seat on the other while saying NO to a child begging for candy that’s been placed at eye level on aisle 9. Curse those marketing folks.

I wasn’t prepared for the physical aspect of raising children.

The arms that comfort a fearful child, alleviate the boo-boos and console the hurt.

I should have these arms insured by Lloyd’s of London. If Heidi Klum can insure her legs, why not my arms?

The arms that hold, hug, console, pick up, throw in the air, carry on their shoulders, flip upside down and tickle. These are the arms that lacked the strength before kids, yet found a way to push through and grow stronger as the needs of life created the ‘iron sharpens iron’ mentality.

We feel tired and worn, like our favorite blanket we held as a child. A piece of fabric that brought comfort, delight, calmed fears, provided security when we felt all the feels. As moms, we’re the saving grace to our kids; though at times we don’t feel enough.

Oh, girlfriend, you’re enough.

You’re more than enough.

If a stranger tried to provide the same comfort to your child at a Big Box store, can you imagine the squeals and screaming, the running and bucking in the cart. Because guess what, you are the magic, the one with the pixie dust. You are the one and only.

When you feel like quitting, remember, you are the only one they’ll allow to console, love and comfort, so take heart. Your world won’t be their world forever. You have the strength of motherhood. It may be 2 weeks or 6 months from now.

Their little worlds will expand. Before you know it, their crawl becomes a run, and you won’t be their complete world, only a piece of the larger puzzle.

Embrace the moments that create your strength. For one day, you’ll sleep in those crisp, high-thread-count sheets and hear the peaceful sounds of nothingness. Then the doorbell will ring and just as your family has doubled in size, so will your heart and your strength, once again.

Here’s to living the Best Version of You.


Keep the Change

Do you ever feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?  In my case, it came in the form of a purse.  I bought this cute, sassy little bag and before I knew it, I had stashed inside, a pair of socks, a kid’s iPad, extra snacks, 3 home repair receipts and a Big Bag of Change.

The very thing that was holding me down, weighing on my shoulders and hurting my back was a bag of change; $13 in quarters to be exact.

As I cleaned out my purse, it hit me, of all the junk I’m throwing out, receipts, a mismatched shoe, the one thing I truly needed to keep – was the BAG OF CHANGE.  Not the endless quarters, dimes and nickels, but a BAG OF CHANGE.

What an Epiphany.

We find ourselves in the Rut of Life, walking down the aisles of the SAME grocery store, looking for the same food, cooking the same meals, paying the same bills, folding the same laundry, when what we’re looking for is CHANGE.

I had replaced my own thoughts, needs, and dreams for those in my household under 4 ft. 2, allowing their emergencies to become my own.

I’m hungry.

I need school supplies tonight, for tomorrow.

My days were filled with:

Don’t holler, quit fighting, drink your milk, stop touching that, put it down, stay out of the road – and before I knew it, I lost myself.  I had become one of those items in my purse, weighing Me Down!


I wanted to be the “Leading Lady” of my own life, not the Best Friend next door.  So I began to give the kids more responsibilities.  They could help with meals and laundry. They began to appreciate how much work it took to complete a task. I began to hear:  Thanks, mom, and I appreciate what you do for us.  It was a win win!

I began to put myself on the “To Do” list, take tennis lessons, set aside time to exercise – in PEACE.  I read an interesting book, listened to an inspiring podcast, placing me back on Top!

Selfish you might say: If they see a haggard mom who’s chasing her tail, am I an example of what the kids want their future selves to be.  I think not.  I would be running for the hills.

Take Responsibility for Yourself.  Show your children that life is what you make it. Shake things up.  Try new recipes, visit a new grocery store, change your style, volunteer.  Life is full of Color, Adventure, and Opportunity.  You just have to clean out your “Purse of Life” and remember to Keep the Change.  Here’s to Living Your the Best Version of You.

Family Adventure Podcast: Why We Travel & Lessons Learned

We were interviewed by Erik Hemingway of the Family Adventure Podcast.

Want to know WHY we travel, How we PAY for it, LESSONS LEARNED from the road?

How to get UNSTUCK from the Hamster Wheel of Life and Raise Selfless Kids in an Entitled World?

Warning: Escaping Your Comfort Zone May Lead to A Life of Adventure

We visited the Wisconsin Dell’s Waterpark this summer and frankly, I was good with dropping the kids off and going antique shopping. But no, they were begging me to go. Please, mom, go on the rides with us.

In my head, I found myself kickin’ and screamin’-  tired of doing things out of my comfort zone. I had the case of the Don’t Want To’s. 

I’m already driving a 36 ft motorhome cross country with 4 kids, in an RV that I learned to drive from a YouTube video. Everyone says: You should do Facebook live.  But what if I stutter in the middle of a message or I have a booger? No more change for me. I’m done.

But then I caved and bought a ticket to the water park; upon arrival, I realized there was no Lazy Log ride. Wha? They took me straight to death con 5. You step into this elongated phone booth tube, and they lock you in; you’re sure you made a terrible mistake, as you stand on a trap door that could release at any time.

With your fate in the hands of a 17-year-old ready to press the button of death, you ask: How did I get here? Do my kids really love me? I began to question my sanity.

All the while the sounds of a heartbeat on a loud speaker, beat harder and louder. I couldn’t tell which was mine or it! Y’all, my anxiety was off the charts. I was praying to Jesus, Joseph, and Mary.

And then the countdown:

Three . . . Oh dear God, I’m sorry for everything!

Two . . . My life flashed before my eyes!

One . . . And nothing. Whew! Hey, when’s this thing gonn-A . . . Boom!

They OPENED the trap door and I flew 90 mph down a rabbit hole, in total darkness.

There was no air, just water whippin’ my face too hard to open my eyes. I couldn’t breathe for 13 seconds. I thought this was my last day. Who would do the laundry? Had I given loved ones my Facebook password?

But afterward, the look on my kid’s faces was priceless. I earned immediate hero status. I was cooler than cool for that moment in time.

Facing change and walking outside our comfort zone is hard. But taking those risks and making it to the other side, where few have gone, is worth the letting go.

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