Running Monologue

All we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.

-Charles Kingsley



Curled up in bed, lights out, kids hogging all the covers, watching Jurassic Park-- it's family movie night.  This was Isaac's pick for our evening together, and it's perfect.  It's been pretty quiet here on the blog while we have been on the go, go, go.  A movie night is just what we needed most.

Isaac sound asleep in his tent this morning.  Cub Scouts are hard-core. 

Since my last post, I have gone with fifty-one10th graders to Charleston, SC; Harper Lee began soccer; Isaac made it to Regionals in the Pinewood Derby; we finished our 8th season of G-Force and graduated eight sixth graders, most of whom have been with us since the very beginning when they were third graders; we raced the Habitat Hammer 5K; Rob traveled to Florida; Harper Lee and I saw the American Girl Fashion Show with friends; and Isaac and Rob went to Raven Knob for a Cub Scout camp-out.  In between, we've had school and work and music lessons and the day to day business of laundry and dirty dishes.  Plus, lots of papers to grade.  Whew.

It's been wild. 

And speaking of wild-- this is what Isaac's feet looked like when he got home today. 
Nothing a little soap and elbow grease can't take care of. 
The bathtub afterward required a little more effort.

One of the highlights of the 10th grade trip to Charleston (besides our awesome students and faculty) was the behind the scenes tour we got at the sea turtle hospital and rehab center at the Aquarium.  I could totally see Isaac working in a place like this someday. 
It was wonderful!

Our carriage tour horse in Charleston.

And as we whirled through activity after activity, spring finally came.  Hallelujah!

Rob has tilled the garden, and the kids and I plan to begin planting later this week. (Someone told me today that one more freeze is expected for Wednesday night, so I'm a little bit glad I was too busy to plant this week as I had originally planned.)  The trees are full of blooms and the bees are buzzing.  I even saw a snake yesterday and pulled the first tick of the season from Freckle's back.  Snakes and ticks are probably not the best part of warm weather, but I'm so happy to say good-bye to winter, a little part of me is happy to see even them.

Sometimes things collide in ways I can't really control, and for a couple of weeks, we lived the harried, haggard life I generally try to avoid at all costs.  It was a little more running around than I like, but it was all good stuff, and since it only lasted a couple of weeks, it made the insanity bearable.  It also made me appreciate my time at home even more than I already did, which is saying a lot.  One of the things I like about going away is the opportunity to come back.

And when we weren't driving from place to place, I tried to keep things at home simple. Light and easy-- that's my motto.  Our meals have been particularly so.  Warm weather always  affects my eating habits, but we've consciously taken a lighter approach to family meal time recently.  I grew up with a full meal served each night, and that's been a hard habit to break, but over time, we have begun to make lunch our biggest meal of the day while keeping supper light and simple.  This has been good for us in multiple ways.  For one thing, we are eating lighter and making better choices.  I used to eat a really light lunch, but by 3:00, I was starving, head-achy and cranky, which led to less than healthy snack choices.  For another thing, it makes life so much easier in the evening.  

Now we eat a solid breakfast and lunch, skip the afternoon snack completely, and eat a smaller dinner.  The kids particularly enjoy fresh fruits and veggies, homemade bread, and cheese or hummus.  They call it "having a smorgasbord".  It's fast, easy, and good for us-- why didn't I do this earlier?

And another awesome thing about having older kids?  They can help with mealtimes so much more than they did before.  We have always enjoyed cooking together, and their culinary skills are paying off now that I need more help around the house after work.  

One of their favorite television shows is Chopped, so the other night, they begged me to judge their creations in a homestyle Chopped competition.  I took several fresh ingredients from the the fridge, added a few things from the pantry that I thought might make palatable combinations, poured myself a glass of wine, and set the timer.  "Chefs," I said, "you have 30 minutes on the clock.  Good luck."  Then I sat down to read.  Glorious.

Thirty minutes later, I had placed before me, not one, but two lovely dinners.  It's amazing what one can create with cucumber slices and leftover cheesy bread.  Seriously, both meals were very good.  Harper Lee made a killer salad with a creamy poppy seed dressing, and Isaac constructed an unusual but surprisingly delicious turkey and cheese sandwich.  It was awesome.  We ate, and they (sort of) cleaned the kitchen.  Not a bad deal at all.

Happy Spring, everyone!  It's good to be home.

capturing the imagination

Years ago, Rob bought me a camera and a book called The Joy of Photography.  I wanted to take pictures.  So I started reading the book.  

And then I put it down.  I put down the camera too.

The book, while great for some people, focused on lenses and filters and accessories.  It explained the principles of the darkroom and processing.  It was, in other words, a "how to manual."  I just wanted to flip through and look at all the pretty pictures.

Rob loves to know how things work.  The hows and whys.  He says he can picture how a mechanism is put together in a three-dimensional picture in his mind.

I cannot.  And I don't care.

I don't really, deep down, want to know how the camera works.  Or why the sky is blue.  Or how the image is transferred from my eye to my brain.  I just want to marvel at the fact that it is and it does.  I like the magic and the mystery.

Colored glass balls at Fish Art on Tybee Island.  
I like the way the light shines through the deep colors.

Beautiful garden art

Yep-- box springs and wine bottles.  How cool is that?

 Already daydreaming about my garden and the little treasures I might hide there.

Don't get me wrong-- the world needs people like Rob, people who know how and why things work.  What would we do without them?  It's just that I recognize the fact that I'm not one of them.  I like the beauty of not knowing everything.  I enjoy childlike faith and imagining all sorts of reasons the sky might be blue.  I don't have to know for sure.

Maybe that's why I'm so drawn to art.  Art gives us room to explore all sorts of possibilities AND impossibilities.  To imagine.  To create.  To experience magic.

Because of the blog (and digital cameras), I have started taking pictures again.  I like that I don't have to fool with dark rooms and processing film though I'm sure there are folks who adore doing just that.  The digital camera lets me goof around as much as I want, take a ton of bad pictures, keep what I want, trash the rest, and it affords me the luxury of playing with photography in a way that I wouldn't have several years ago.

It allows me to record my life here.  Now.  With these precious people.

My co-creators on this journey

It allows me to experience the magic again and again 
and to marvel at the loving gifts from God we receive each and every day.

artists and seashells and ghosts-- oh my!

Lemon custard ice cream on a waffle cone while sitting along the Savannah River.  Street musicians and ladies weaving baskets.  Balloon animals and preparations for the coming St. Patrick's Day celebration.  Shrimp and crab cakes and cold beer on a patio as the sun sets and the sound of a lone saxophone carries upward into the darkening sky.  Savannah, Georgia.

Walking through downtown-- used book stores and art galleries.  And slightly obscene t-shirts that make me choose my words carefully as I explain a little without explaining a lot. Makes me glad we didn't come down for the actual St. Patrick's Day Parade.
This is all before our Ghosts and Gravestones Trolley Tour through downtown.  Once the sun actually set, we boarded the trolley for the ghost stories of one of America's most haunted cities.  The highlight of the trip was a stop at a warehouse built over the site of a triple ax murder.  The story, which was pretty darned gruesome, did not deter Isaac or Harper Lee in the least, and they were the first off the bus to get inside.  The coolest part was that we got actual ghost hunting equipment, ala Ghost Hunters (which I somewhat shamefully admit is one of my favorite shows).  We were given temperature gauges as well as EMF (electromagnetic field) detectors.

The tour guide explained that if our EMF detectors, which had green lights, turned to red, then we may be in contact with a spirit.  He also said that if there was a dramatic drop in temperature on the gauge, that was another sign.  He cautioned that a drop of one to two degrees meant nothing, but that ten or more may mean that we needed to get our cameras out and try to capture something on film.

Now... if you don't believe in this stuff (like Rob), you can skip this part.  But if you are like me and LOVE ghost stories and DO, in fact, believe in all this hokey nonsense, you might like this.  As we moved to one spot in the very dark warehouse, the hair on both my head and my arms stood straight up.  I felt a very strange prickly sensation all over that was not like cold but something else.  At that moment, my EMF turned red.  And then Isaac, a few feet away, shouted, "My temperature just dropped eleven degrees!"  I thought about walking away and getting closer to other members of our group, but I took out the camera instead.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get anything on film, but it was cool nonetheless.  Did we come face to face with a spirit?  I don't know.  But man, it was fun... and very creepy.  

Both kids enjoyed it , but Isaac was surprisingly animated, talkative and inquisitive with the guide, questioning him about the equipment and answering all his questions to the group. He even volunteered to tell his own ghost story to a trolley full of strangers.  Hilarious.  

The Gold Dome of Savannah City Hall behind us.

Late morning on Tybee Island-- one of our favorite spots.  We came to Tybee a few years ago, when the kids were still pretty little.  Both times, we rented an inexpensive cottage within walking or biking distance from the beach.  This year's trip was much warmer.  Glad I didn't go with my first instinct, which was to leave the bathing suit at home.  It's mid-March, and we left home with snow on the ground, so I did not have high hopes regarding sunbathing.  

But when we got there, the temps were in the mid-70's and we had perfect beach weather.  I felt like I'd been let out of prison.  I think my skin has literally been starving for sunlight.  My feet needed to be set free from the confines of wool socks and heavy boots.  My pale, pasty legs needed some light.  And I soaked up every ounce I possibly could.

And I ran.  Hard.  And far.  And it was awesome.  This winter has sucked in terms of running for me, so being able to put on a pair of shorts and a singlet and be soaked with sweat by the end of a run felt amazing.  I love to sweat.  I love heat.  I love the sun.  Please, Lord, have mercy and send spring as soon as possible.  Now that I've had this taste of freedom, I don't know if I can take the 35 degree temps with 25 mph winds that we came back to yesterday.  I want the sun to bake out all the impurities and winter blahs and leave them behind on the green grass or sandy beach or whatever trail I happen to be on.  Sweet freedom!

This is what it looks like once you've run the winter blahs out-- beautiful, soul-cleansing exhaustion.  It comes with sand rashes and jellyfish stings, but it's all good because it feels like summer after a very long, hard winter.  That's the Tybee Lighthouse in the distance.  Our cottage was across from the old fort and next door to the former enlisted men's mess hall.  

Very cool.

And who wouldn't love a restaurant where you get to eat beneath oak trees decked out in Christmas lights and are visited by dozens of well-fed cats meandering under tables and between people's feet?  Plus, they had good food.  Isaac pretty much ate his weight in seafood this week.  That kid really needs to get a job at the coast someday.  

Like the sign says-- the Big Kahuna.  He spent one afternoon perfecting his stand-up paddle board skills.  I see a new toy in our future.  I'd like to learn how to do it as well.  

Just not in March.  

In the Atlantic.

My best girl.  

Isaac met a white umbrella cockatoo named Gilbert at the Bird Rescue.  They jived immediately, and the bird pretty much ignored Harper Lee and I but was completely smitten with Isaac.  I think the feeling was mutual.

While Rob was paddle boarding, we hit all the wonderfully weird art shops on the island. This place is called Fish Art, and we stayed there for well over an hour.  The lady behind the counter was quite gracious and went out of her way to help both kids as they shopped and browsed and picked up nearly everything in the store.

Fish Art on Tybee Island

It was a great Spring Break-- emphasis on both the "Spring" and the "Break".  Both were sorely needed.

*My next post will feature other photographs from Fish Art (I got some pretty cool photos, plus it's always nice to find art inspiration) as well as book reviews and recommendations for runners, philanthropists, armchair travelers, and mid-life warriors.  The beach is an excellent place to catch up on a lot of good reading.

Be hopeful, people.  I hear the frogs peeping outside my window right now.  
Spring is on its way.

let's journal!


A friend recently asked me about my journaling practice and how often I do it.  I immediately wondered, “Which one?”  I have several journal practices.  I have hand-written journals—stacks and stacks of them stashed in various places--, and I also keep a monthly “Writing Practice” open in a Word document on my laptop.  And I have an art journal, which is a wire-bound sketch book I picked up at Michaels.   The first two are primarily words—essays, poetry, random lists, and regular old journal entries.  I also sprinkle in generous amounts of ideas as they come to me, quotes and bits of conversation I find inspiring as well as questions that pop into my head and that I don’t necessarily have an answer for.  The art journal is a collection of images and words, both from magazines and my own creation, and range from finished art pieces to hurriedly slapped-down words I’ve ripped from a copy of Yoga Journal and fastened with a piece of Scotch tape.  In other words, it’s a hodge-podge mess of ideas and things I like.  Simple.

This same friend said that she had tried to start a journal several times but became frustrated with it when she didn’t stick to a regular schedule or when it didn’t seem “good enough.”  She said she really wanted to have a regular journal practice but that she didn’t know how.

Much like running, there is no secret.  You just do it. 

Here are some thoughts to ponder if you, like my friend, are interested in a starting a journal (written or art… or BOTH) and don’t know where or how to begin.

  1. Begin.  Buy a journal or composition book or sketch book.  These are cheap and easy to come by at any Wal-Mart or art supply store.  Heck, you don’t even have to buy one.  Snitch one from your kid’s stash of school supplies.  You can pay them back later.  The point is that you don’t have to have specially designed or expensive material to begin.  Take what you have and make it work.  There are awesome tutorials online that even show you how to create your own if you are feeling really inspired.  But if you’re starting out, I recommend the path of least resistance.

2. Let go of perfect.   If you feel like your journal entry has to sound or look a certain way, you have probably already killed it.  Lighten up.  Pinterest is full of inspirational ideas for art journals, but if you look at those and expect yours to look even remotely the same, you are doomed.  Forget it.  Move on.  And THEN, tear out some photos you like from a magazine you’ve been meaning to recycle.  Don’t think about it too much.  Just rip and tear and collect the things that catch your eye.  You can do the same things with words.  They don’t have to “mean” anything.  You might just like the font.  Rip it out and set it aside.  Next, tape of glue them down in your journal.  Play around with how you want to lay them out on the page and then stick them in.  Take a pen and write around, under, or even over top of what you’ve glued down.  Make some doodles in the margins.  Scribble with your favorite crayon—try “cerulean blue” just because it’s called “cerulean blue”.  
There you go.  Your first journal entry. 


3. Don’t think you have to stick to a schedule.  For me, writing is a daily practice.  I write almost daily, though there are those days when life happens, and I don’t get around to it, but most days,  I write either in my hand-written journal or on my laptop.  I write in both several times a week.  The art journal does not happen as regularly.  Sometimes, I’ll work in it for several days in a row.   Or I might not touch it for two weeks.  This is not a cause for alarm or guilt or the idea that you are incapable of keeping a journal.  For most people, journaling is a hobby, a pastime, a form of self-care and reflection and creative expression.  It is therefore not recommended that you turn it into a chore.  This should be fun.  You may choose to journal daily.  Or only a few times a month.  You may choose to have dedicated journal times or let it just happen.  Either way is OK.  Find what works for you.  However, with that said, if journaling is something that you feel calling you, don’t be a martyr and put it off.  Don’t pull the old “when I have more time” excuse, because let’s face it, friend, you won’t ever have more time, so decide.  Make a choice.  Take 15 minutes to work on something that you want to.  Nobody will die and the world will not stop turning if you close the door and work on your journal for 15 minutes while the casserole is in the oven.  Seriously. 


4.  Have a spot that doesn’t require constant clean-up.  One common deterrent is the idea that you have to pull everything out and then put everything back, which leads to the whole “it’s more trouble than it’s worth” excuse.  If it’s a written journal, then all you need is a space on your bedside table or in a desk drawer.  A drawer or basket or box may be all you need for an art journal as well.  Once you expand your journal and/or the supplies you need or want, you may require a little more than that.  If so, that’s cool.  Find a corner of the dining room table or a section of counter top or a spot in the garage or attic or laundry room where you can leave your stuff mid-project and come back to at your leisure.  Again, nobody will die if crayons or a set of acrylic paints is left on the table. 

5. Look at journal ideas for inspiration, not comparison.  If seeing what other people have to offer makes you want to pull your supplies out and get to work immediately, then by all means, use the resources at the bottom of the page and the countless others you’ll come across in the blogosphere.  If, however, seeing these other journals makes you doubt your ability, ideas or general self-worth, walk away.  Close the computer.  Unsubscribe from newsletters in your inbox.  Ban Pinterest from your life.  Make YOUR stuff—with crayons and Scotch tape and your kids nearly used up glue stick—and have FUN.  What anyone else is doing doesn’t matter.  If it does, then you’re sort of missing the point.

Over the years, journaling, in all its forms, has been a source of comfort, insight, prayer, daydreaming, creative expression, and play.  I will never make a living from my journals.  I will never publish my journals—the thought actually sends shivers down my spine (as if people didn’t think I was crazy already!).  I never have to worry about anyone other than myself seeing my journals.  That’s what makes journaling so much fun—it’s just for me.  And, if on the off chance I decide to share an entry or two, then that decision is entirely up to me.  There’s no pressure.  And you shouldn’t feel any either.  Just begin it.  And let the ideas flow.

Looking for some inspiration?

I highly recommend Shannon Kinney Duh's e-courses for art journaling.  She is great for beginners and beyond, but I think she has a flair for encouraging and inspiring beginners.

Journal 52 provides weekly inspiration and prompts.

snow day shout-outs

The major winter weather event they called for actually happened.  We had nearly 16” at our house and have been pretty well snowed in for four days.  There have been a couple of trips out with the four wheel drive, and everything is beginning to melt today, but it’s been a nice little winter hole-up for a few days.

Our favorite snow day activities over the past four days:

Baking bread

Building igloos




Watching movies

Making valentines

Science experiments

Finishing up the Pinewood Derby car

Cross-country skiing...

...and making silly mountain biking videos in the snow

"If we put the stick in the middle, we can make a sort of teepee..."

Freckles likes to chase the sled.

face plant

The igloo building lost its appeal after a while, and eventually, a sheet was stretched across the top for a makeshift roof.  Multiple techniques were tried and then abandoned.  Finally, they settled on using some rocks from the stacked wall around my now invisible flower garden to hold the sheet in place.  The igloo was finally ready for occupancy.

And then Isaac wanted to sleep in it.

He actually talked Harper Lee into trying it out, and Rob and I, assuming they would last no more than half an hour said, “Sure, go ahead.  Dress warmly, blow up the sleeping pads and get your winter bags out.”  And they did.  This was at 8:30.

An hour passed.  And then another.  Rob put his boots on and trekked outside with a flashlight in hand.  He came back in.

“Well?” I asked.

“They’re sound asleep.”

We waited a while longer.  We questioned our parenting skills.  We decided that we were either the most awesome parents in the world or the absolute worst.  Rob looked at the weather forecast.  100% chance of precipitation beginning by 2:00 a.m.  If it begins to rain, we reasoned, they’ll come inside.

We went to bed.  But neither of us really slept.  I read for a long time, and even when I dozed off, I awoke with a start and leaned up to look out the window.  No signs of anyone abandoning ship. It was going to be a long night.

Finally, a little after midnight, Isaac had to pee.  He woke Harper Lee, who dutifully brought him inside, and while they both fully intended to go back out, we used the opportunity to share the weather forecast with them and to encourage them to gather their things.

Back inside the warm house, the sleeping bags and pads were hung on dining room chairs, and both snuggled in and went straight to sleep.

This morning, we all slept in, and then Rob made his “famous” waffles for our adventure seekers.  For now, we are awesome parents. 

Meanwhile, amidst the adventure and intensive outdoor living, I finished what has become one of my very favorite books ever.  (I know I say this a lot, but this time, I really mean it.)  This is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time.  And it’s one of those books that every kid (and every adult) should read.  I’m adding it to my recommended reading list for my students and have passed it on to Harper Lee.

It is Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and it is-- a wonder, I mean.  A beautiful little story with endearing characters and a heartfelt message.  I’m even thinking of adopting Mr. Browne’s precepts as part of my curriculum.  *You’ll understand once you read the book.

Check it out ASAP

And then let me know what you think.

I am in love with children’s novels.  They are among some of my favorite of all literature.  What are some of your favorites?  Leave a message here or on our FB page at Running Monologue.

There’s nothing like a sub-zero bag, an igloo and a really good book for a relaxing, fun weekend!

vegetable, miracle... not too many animals

I wanted to embrace the miracles of winter.  I really did.  I had it all planned out.  I was going to savor every wintry moment-- the early sunset, the snow and ice, even the wind.  (Well, I might be lying about the wind.  I don't think I ever really planned to savor that, but you get what I mean.)  I was going to burrow down and get comfortable with winter. 

And I did.  For a while.  I've enjoyed my quilts and fireplace.  My fleece pants and wooly socks are nearly worn through.  I've eaten bowls of oatmeal and cinnamon.  I've had so much herbal tea and hot chocolate, I may pop.  I've enjoyed the lazy snow days and the opportunity to read and watch movies. 

And now I'm done.

This is what I want now.  This is what I'm dreaming of.

*This is my mother's garden.

*And this is mine.  Oh, for a tomato warmed by the sun.  Holy cow, I have missed it.

*I've even begun daydreaming about what I'm planting this spring.  I've made lists in my journal and stood outside looking mournfully at the leaf covered and dead looking patch of ground that only a few months ago looked like this.

I am ready to till the ground and put in tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, onions, lettuce, and an assortment of herbs.  I'm ready to go to the backyard instead of the grocery store for my food.  I'm ready to let my skin breathe, to feel dirt between my toes, to call the freckles back out across the bridge of my nose.  (Yes, I know-- sunscreen.)

And they're calling for more snow on Tuesday.  *sigh*  OK.  I'm cool with that.  But it sure is nice to dream.

And while I'm dreaming of what vegetables to plant in two months, I'm also strategically planning which vegetables I need to buy this winter.

Harper Lee has fully embraced the vegetarian lifestyle though she has said she may eat the occasional fish.  This does not bother me in the least except for the fact that she is a really bad vegetarian.

She has been extremely tired lately, and I know that some of it has to do with changing and growing, which is quite natural, but I think it also has to do with the fact that she's one of those "I'm going to be a vegetarian.  Mac-n-cheese is vegetarian, right?" kind of people.  We've told her that we will fully support her decision to go veg as long as she's a good vegetarian and not a processed, pre-packaged food junkie. 

Going vegetarian is really not that much of a stretch for us.  I don't cook a ton of meat anyway (though Isaac loves a good steak and crispy bacon).  And a few years ago, when my kids were still "awesome eaters," it wouldn't have been a big deal, but with age, she has grown pickier.  *Now, it should be noted that when I call my kids picky, it probably doesn't mean the same thing as it does for others.  My kids have never been "only brown and yellow food groups, please" kids, but it's getting harder, particularly in terms of greens, to get the really good stuff from the plate to their mouths.

So I'm getting a little more creative in my cooking.  I grew up eating what we had from the garden, almost exclusively.  I ate plenty of things right off the vine or the stalk.  I never had to have a ton of seasoning or prep, and I certainly didn't eat things with ingredients I couldn't pronounce.  So I'm having to branch out in my culinary skills.

My general rule of thumb is that if my great-grandmother would not know recognize it, I probably should avoid it.  Like Cheese-Whiz.  What the crap is that stuff anyway?

Right now, she is loving grapefruit, but I'm still on the search for a miracle when it comes to green things.  She likes broccoli, but one can only eat so much broccoli and sweet peas.  Green beans, as long as their cooked within an inch of their life, are also acceptable.  What I'm mostly looking for are better sources of iron and protein and the super foods.  Any suggestions from my vegetarian and healthy-food eating friends???

Let me know if you have some great recipes that are kid-tested and approved.  In the meantime, I'm making some mean veggie frittatas and dreaming of eating fresh from the garden very soon.

icy trails and bike trainers


As the Super Bowl began tonight, Rob was finishing his Tour of Sufferlandia, nine LONG days of intense workouts on the bike trainer.  For those of you who contributed to the Davis Phinney Foundation and supported Rob’s efforts to raise money for Parkinson’s research, we thank you so much.  With your help, he exceeded his donation goal.  We appreciate your generosity and friendship. 

As for Rob, he is more than a little happy to be done with the trainer for a while.  “I just want to go outside,” he said.  I don’t have the heart to tell him that rain is in the forecast for most of the week.

Maybe I can talk him into going for a run with me.  

Yesterday, I headed over to Stokes County for a 10-mile trail race called Up the Creek, and it was.  There were about eight creek crossings, most of which were covered in thick sheets of ice.  Nothing like a gang of trail runners trying to cross thick ice without breaking through, sliding or generally injuring themselves or, worse, someone else. 

The temps were actually pretty good yesterday.  It was chilly when we pulled up to the parking area, but the sun was out, and by the 10:00 start, things were starting to thaw.

The Dan River—notice the small ice floes.

But even with warming temperatures, the trails along the creeks and in the shade, were still covered with snow and ice.  The rock steps leading up to the waterfalls were particularly icy, and while my friend Jason probably leapt across them like the ninja trail monkey that he is, I was pretty pokey making my way up the mountain.  I kept thinking, “Coming back down will be even worse,” and I was right. 

By the time, I finally got to the top of Hanging Rock, the sun was bright and warm, but then we had to go back down, and in my "old" age, I must be getting both slower and more cautious because it took me 11 minutes longer to get back down than it did to get up.   It will not go down as one of my best race performances, but man, it was beautiful, and I had a great time.

Here are some lessons I re-learned yesterday:

  1. One should train for these kinds of things.  In a past life, I was both pretty fast and could run over 40 miles at a pop.  Now… well, now, it’s a different story.  I’m slow and can’t run very far.  Or I haven’t run very far.  Whatever.  The point is yesterday’s race was only the second longest run I’ve done in… oh,… a year.  I guess one way to look at this is that when you’ve run a load of miles over 17 years, you learn how to tough it out even when you shouldn’t.  I ran 10 miles because I know how to, not because I was prepared to.
  2. They make trail shoes for a reason.  I asked Derek, the race director, if there might be a “You’re a dumbass for wearing road shoes today” award because I thought I might make an excellent candidate.  He said, “Yes!  And you win.”  My only prize for the day. 
  3. I love trail running!  Even when I am completely unprepared and have made very poor footwear choices, there’s nowhere I would rather be on a Saturday morning than running up a mountain, the sun coming through the trees and warming my face.  What a blessing.

I also left feeling (besides embarrassed by my novice mistakes and lack of preparation) a little more excited about running again.  I placed 8th in the women's race (I'm not telling how many women were actually running, but there were more than eight), so that was OK... considering.  Running has been really hard for me lately.  My hamstrings are tight, my schedule is full, and it’s winter—none of these things have helped kindle my fire.

I know better than to write grand plans here-- perhaps I should because then I'd feel obligated-- but truth told, I don't know what I want to do in terms of my training and racing.  Some days, and weeks, are easier than others.  All I know for sure, right now, is that I really like running in the woods-- hard when I feel like it and easy when I just need to get fresh air and move my legs.  I'm also really enjoying my much more regular yoga practice.  Right now, my goals don't stretch much beyond upping my mileage, gaining greater strength, flexibility and balance, and enjoying time on the trails.  And finding my next trail race.

Oh, and buying a new pair of shoes.

sufferin' for a good cause

I generally only ride my bike when I'm injured or the weather is uncooperative or it's late at night and dark outside.  I've even grown to enjoy some aspects of the bike trainer at times.  But I'm still a runner at heart.  Give me a pair of worn, muddy shoes and a long mountain trail anytime.

Of course, Rob would say he also loves a long mountain trail because he generally does not limit his bike riding to an immobile bike set up in front of TVLand re-runs of Andy Griffith like I do.  He rides the roads and trails and does it for miles and miles and miles. 

But for nine days, he's chained himself to the bike in our bedroom and is riding like a madman for the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's

The first night was pretty rough, a baseline workout that set the bar.  The next night was two hours of intense intervals.  Each day is different with set workouts that have names like It Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time, A Very Dark Place  and Hell Hath No Fury.  Friday's workout promises 2 hours and 35 minutes of good times.  It's called the Tour of Sufferlandia

My contribution has been to fill water bottles and deliver them to him as he's riding.  It's crazy hard, both physically and mentally, and while I don't have any desire to put my butt on a bike trainer for over two hours, I totally get it. 

Rob's grandfather had Parkinson's Disease, so the cause is one that means a lot to him.  He's also always been the kind of guy who likes to do good things and to help others.  It's one of the reasons I married him.  So while I'm refilling water bottles, I'm also asking all of you to go by the website and check out the good things the Davis Phinney Foundation is doing. 
You can also go directly to Rob's Tour of Sufferlandia Donation Page and make a contribution.  I'd really like to see him reach his goal, and we have three days left. 

People doing good things for others-- that's what it's all about, folks.

You can make your donation here.  And thank you.

*I'll keep you posted on results.

snow day!

Soft, white snow
covers the trail.
until children and dog tear through fresh powder,
dancing among flakes of magic,
floating, like puffs of hot breath in cold air.

Inside, we pull off wet boots and soaked socks and mittens,
our cheeks, deep pink.
our hands aching with cold.
With hot chocolate cupped between our red, chafed hands
and wrapped in woolen blankets,
we settle under
stacks of books, bowls of popcorn
and watch movies while puddles grow
larger on the mudroom floor.

Early dismissal yesterday.  I was on my way home from Asheville.  Harper Lee's teacher kept both my kids until I could get there.  She gave them each a snack and a safe place to stay.  Life in a small town.  What a blessing.

The woods were filling up quickly, particularly our newly cut trail.  This is our "winter teepee" that they built two years ago.  It's still a good one.  There is no better playground than the woods.

Then, the fun began-- snow angels, catching snow on our tongues, a long walk.  I would say that we also had snowball fights, but the snow is so powdery, it doesn't stick well, so it was more like a snow mist fight, which I like better anyway.  Hate to admit it, but I have always despised snowball fights.  Even when I was little.  I don't like getting hit with things.  And, believe me, I'm always the one getting hit.  It sucks.  So I generally beg off that particular activity, which seems to frustrate everyone.  Hey, man, we like what we like, and that's OK.  I'll build snowmen all day long, but snowballs are not for me.  I'm exercising my right to NOT be slammed up side the head with a packed ball of ice and then have it melt into my ear.  (Water in my ears is a whole other story-- let's just say, I'm not a fan of that either.)

As night fell, the snow got deeper than this and school was cancelled for another full day.  Before I'd even opened my eyes this morning, I heard the clomp of boots across the mudroom floor and the slam of the back door.  They have played, off and on between cups of hot chocolate, all day.

And lest you leave this post under the false impression that I lead one of those perfectly "bloggy" lives  with a perfect house and perfect kids making perfect crafts and reading only the best in children's literature as we placidly sip our warm cocoa, let me assure you that in between rosy cheeks and warm fireplaces, there have been lost things in the snow (both plastic robot pieces and a fairly expensive GoPro camera piece that belongs to Daddy) and the tears to go with them; an exploded cup of hot chocolate in the microwave that was removed in panic and dumped down onto three stove eyes, the cabinets, the oven doors, and a large portion of the kitchen floor; bickering about whose mittens belong to whom (to the point that I considered flinging myself in front of the next snow plow); and, I kid you not, a pair of scissors stabbed-- yes, stabbed-- into the fleshy part of my palm.  This, fortunately, was not the result of incessant whining and my inability to take it anymore, but was, instead, the result of a container of Elmer's glue that just. would. not. cooperate.

So... I said all that to say that despite happy pictures of smiling children in the snow, we all have those "the cat just puked on my sweater" kind of days.  Just so you know.

Happy snow day, everybody!

trail blazing

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
Phillipians 4:4

I was already late to work and scrambling to get out the door when I noticed this. 
I stopped.  I smiled.  I took my keys and went back inside for the camera. 
The photo does not capture even a fraction of the reality and breath-taking beauty of the sunrise, but I snapped it anyway.  A memory to hold onto.  To tuck away.  But not nearly as vibrant as the real thing. And isn't that the way of it?

Yesterday, we spent our holiday digging and building trails around the house.  It's short, not quite half a mile, but it will make for a nice place to do repeats, walk with the dog, and ride our bikes.  Even in the dark hours of winter.

As I was raking out the piece of trail Rob had just dug out, I uncovered a very groggy and barely moving toad.  He was hibernating.  In light of my last post, I had to smile.  I cupped him in my hand and looked at his tiny, fragile body, his paper thin white belly.  He reminded me of a newborn, sort of squishy-faced and trying to shut out the disturbance by barely moving his still sleepy limbs.  I dug a new hole, away from the trail, and buried him beneath the soil and leaves and wished him a peaceful rest.  He's got a little time left to sleep.

Harper Lee and Isaac worked hard packing the new trail down, with feet and bikes and a very enthusiastic Freckles.  If poor Freckles, like most of our animals, wasn't a head case and didn't have so many "issues," he'd make a heck of a trail dog.  He may enjoy this trail more than any of us.

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.”
Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

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