‘The gratitude reaches further’

For Catie Schmitt, gratitude reaches out in all directions. To the memories she’s creating with her husband Mark and their son Finnegan. To the lessons and love from her mother Kathy and father Bert, who passed away in 2014. To her career as a registered nurse, working in cardiac medicine and surgery. To the intersection of running and story.

Catie shares more …

What does gratitude mean to you? And how has your definition or understanding of it changed over time?

This flower started and will always have a base rooted in my dad. He was my #1 fan in everything I did and my biggest supporter. He lived with health issue after health issue (kidney transplant and quadruple heart bypass four months apart) and yet remained positive and kind and had the biggest heart. He saw the good in everything, even when his situation was not. He taught me how to appreciate life as it came and to embrace every quality moment with gratitude and optimism. When I started wearing the gratitude flower  in races, the first person I wanted to tell about my race was my dad. He was so proud in everything I did. 

As time has gone on, this flower continues to reflect the gratitude I carry with me that my dad helped instill in me. Now in my life the gratitude reaches further. I have so much to be grateful for — my family, friends, my job, house, etc.! And especially now becoming a mother, I am learning a whole new level of appreciation and love. I can only hope to set an example for my son like my dad did for me. 

What does living a life of gratitude look like to you? How does it show up in your day-to-day life?

For me it means never taking my day for granted and striving to be the best version of myself that I can — for my family, for my friends, for my patients at work and for myself. It manifests itself in the way I strive to be a loving and kind wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend and co-worker and toward anyone I encounter day to day. It shows up in how I’ve learned to appreciate my body and what it did to create a small human and the resilience it has pre- and post-partum when it comes to running and staying healthy. For me, gratitude is a core value that I do my best to take with me everywhere I go. 

Is there a certain line of the Pink flower that resonates most with you?

“To honor a hero, to be a hero. Because this is so much bigger than me.” 

My dad was and is my hero. He showed me how to love and appreciate your life and those in it because he knew his single life had a bigger purpose than just for him. For me, I feel the same. My life has a much bigger purpose than I’ll probably ever know, and the magnitude of that fact can be overwhelming, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to have the same impact on others. If I can do it even a fraction as well as my dad did, then I’ll be confident I can make a positive impact on others. 

My mom has also been a hero — how she handled being the primary worker and caregiver plus helping raise me and my sister. Her hard work and resilience were incredible.

How does the “to be a hero” line resonate given the work that you do?

For the longest time, if you told someone you were a nurse, you almost always got a reaction that gave way to admiration and gratitude. Amid the pandemic, some of that attitude changed because to some we became almost untrustworthy. I don’t want to make this political in any way, but the pandemic was very hard for a lot of nurses, and at times I questioned myself why I was still working day in and out. But after a while things turned the corner, and once again I find myself with patients and their families who do appreciate the work nurses do and it’s given me a little hope back that what I do actually does make a positive impact in people’s lives.

What meaning does gratitude hold for you now that you’ve become a mother?

I’m only nine months in, but being a mom is the best thing to happen to me. I now understand what a mother’s love feels like and what it is, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. To have this opportunity is truly an honor and a privilege that I am so thankful for! It’s definitely not all rainbows and sunshine, and the reality of motherhood can be terrifying, really hard and sometimes defeating. But just one happy precious moment makes all the hard stuff melt away. Being Finn’s mom is so beyond just me and I can only hope that I raise him to become a person who understands the gravity of gratitude for this life and all we are blessed to have. 

How do gratitude and running intersect for you?

I am incredibly grateful that my body has allowed me through the years to run. It’s something I find an absolute necessity for my physical and mental health. In the last five years or so I also got into pace racing with OnPace and have found it so rewarding being a pace runner and helping other runners meet their goals. The joy and gratitude that I experience from other runners is so rewarding and fun! The running community is incredible like that! 

It was also very important to me to stay healthy and continue running thorough pregnancy. I was fortunate to have nine months of feeling good and being able to run. So good I ran three half marathons and a 15K with little Finn in my belly (the final two being 32 and 33 weeks pregnant!). This isn’t me trying to brag, but being humbled at how incredible the female body is and what it can do. 

What has running taught you?

That just as in life, each runner is unique and has their own story. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are or how many races you have or haven’t done; what’s important is the fact that you’ve done the work, shown up and do the best you can. Appreciating your own strengths and using those to uplift others is an amazing feeling and experience I wish everyone could know! 

What inspires you?

People that live their lives whole heartedly and without fear about others’ thoughts. Also those who show extreme perseverance and resilience but also know when it’s okay to show and be vulnerable because we’re all human and that’s okay, it’s a part of life. 

Also, other moms inspire me. Each mother doing her best in whatever facet that looks like. We all love our children endlessly and showing up every day is such a hard thing to do. Moms are the unsung heroes of life! 

Do you live by any phrases or mantras?

“Laugh often, love fiercely.”

Humor and laughter have been a big part of my family getting through everything we did with all of my dad’s health issues. And love fiercely because the cliché phrase “life is short” is a little overused but ever so true, and those you care about should never doubt your love for them, not even for a second. 

Do you have any suggestions for how others can access or approach gratitude?

Gratitude can come in all shapes, sizes and views! It can be as simple as waking up and being grateful for a beautiful sunny day. And it can be as complex as gratitude for life and whatever story it is that got you to where you are now — and even if some is that story comes from heartache or pain, the gratitude comes from appreciating you got through that and how strong you are for doing so. My suggestion is to take gratitude in whatever form it presents to you and soak it in. And appreciate what it can do for you both in the short- and long-term.

What are you looking forward to in the months ahead?

I’m ready for warm weather and sweaty runs! Also, being able to get back out with my son in the running stroller. Hoping he grows up to love running like his mom.

Also my favorite race and weekend of the year is the Door County half marathon the first weekend of May. Door County, Wisconsin, is a special place to me, and even though the hills are awful, I love that race! 

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