Thursday, November 12, 2015

GOATZ 50k, The Race

You've waited patiently for my GOATZ 50k race day report and it's finally here. 

Unbelievably, I made it through the taper time with relatively little craziness although there was definitely a touch of moodiness. I was feeling good and ready to go and not too nervous. Or so I thought. After Luke's final soccer game, I started packing and bam! It hit me- the nervous poops. I'm not going to go into it all (Audrey's comment after reading last year's report "I didn't know you pooped so much.") but I will say this year was not nearly as dramatic as last year. Bill and I loaded up and left, leaving the kids at home. While I was glad they were there to see me last year, it was kind of hard. I had to work hard at not thinking about them or worrying about them. And after I finished, while they gave me time to cool down and such, they were done and ready to get home and I really needed more time. So I made the decision that Bill would be the only one going with me. (Thanks, Julia.) 
We made it to packet pick-up and I happened to meet an Instagram friend in person. Then we grabbed supper and met up with Amanda and Micah before checking into our hotel. My supper of choice is a chicken burrito bowl with guacamole, in case you're wondering. I explained to Bill how I wanted him to crew for me and made it simple for him to do so. I got a good night's sleep and woke ready to run. Breakfast was a banana and almond butter (I'm in love with almond butter!). I had brought more but knew I could only get down that and called it good. 

Brr! The morning was cold. Fog rolled off the lake and the grass was crunchy with frost. I kept my winter coat and sweatpants on until the last minutes. I met some familiar faces in the crowd and that's such a nice feeling of not being quite the stranger anymore. Then with a shout, the race started.
Here were my race goals: 1. Finish (not always a given) 2. Finish faster than last year. 3. Come as closet 6 hours as I could.
Other race goals: Be relaxed yet mindful. Run a smart race. Not get screamy at Bill. 

The start of a good day
Even though the start was definitely chilly, I knew it would warm up. Because I didn't want to take time to take off my vest to remove layers, I wore what I planned on for the weather later in the day- a tank top and shorts along with arm sleeves. Arm sleeves are kind of weird but work well. They slide up over your arms kind of like socks with a thumb loop at the end. I've worn the same pair for a couple of years and I think I need a new pair since mine don't stay up over my wee arms. I truly didn't feel cold once I got running except for my feet, which I didn't notice were numb until about a quarter mile in. After 5 or so miles I was able to feel my fingers and toes again. At the start I placed myself around the front of the middle. With a different start than last year, the course quickly narrowed to a wide trail before turning to single track. A lot of people passed me, which I didn't mind other than overhearing the occasional comment from someone saying they should have started further ahead. I agreed but didn't say anything. I wanted to be relaxed and run the pace I had planned and so far I had been able to do so. Since I knew the course, I knew when I should walk the hills and how long they would last, etc. It was tremendously helpful. I struck up a conversation with another runner and helped her get a feel for the course. I headed into the aid station about halfway through the ten mile loop to cheers by my friends from the Capital Striders Turkeys running it. I grabbed a bit to eat and kept on going. The next five miles found me striking up conversations with other runners or getting high fives from spectators and volunteers. I finished the first lap just under 2 hours, which had me delighted but concerned about holding the pace for the next two laps. Bill crewed me, filling up my bottles with my Tailwind mix, handing me more GU gels and untangling my earbuds. I grabbed bananas, quesadilla wedges (so good) and those peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chip energy balls and headed out for the next lap. 

Hey there
It was the start of the second lap and I was feeling good. The weather was so great and I had been hydrating and fueling well. My conversation partner and I swapped back and forth but this didn't bother me. I felt like I was in a bubble, able to go in and out as needed but always within myself. One of my goals this lap was to go to the bathroom. Ha! The line before the race was too long and I didn't feel like I really needed to go then but it's really no fun running feeling full. The other was to remember at the Turkey aid station to ask for ice. I was getting warm and thought it would feel really good. I was surprised that I had to purposely remember to ask for what I wanted when coming into the aid stations. It was so easy to get distracted and forget. I asked Amber if there was any ice and she said there was and then we took our friendship a little deeper by her filling the back and front of my bra with ice. I left feeling cooler and had grand intentions of keeping the pace going. But within a mile my right knee was tight and I was down to a power hiking/walking. It wasn't what I wanted and I was frustrated. I had gotten through my entire training season without any knee pain. I was frustrated and expressed it to Bill via text. He was perfect in replying with keep at it and walk it out as it seemed to work itself out over time. I was fighting to keep it all in perspective but I kept moving. At about 17 miles, I was lapped by Kaci Lickteig, 2nd place women's finisher of this year's Western States 100 and cheered for her. I kept up my walk/run, remembering to stop at the gross porta-potty. My conversation partner and I met up again and we finished the second lap together. As Bill filled my bottles again and I snagged more food, she asked me if I was going to continue. We were both hurting but I told her I wasn't quitting. She was a little incredulous and I know now that she didn't continue. 

Only Forest, the dog, wasn't a fan of the cowbell
It was hard heading out for the last loop. I knew each loop was ten miles but to be honest I never thought of it in terms of miles done or miles to go. I broke each loop down into sections- get to the dam, get to the aid station, get to the bridge, past the last parking lot.  But the beginning of my third loop was a dark time for me. I didn't know how my knee would fare for another 10 miles and I just didn't want to be out there. Food was hard to get down mostly because psyched myself out of eating it. I was in a funk and it was all mental. I passed another runner and heard her ask a friend to slow up as she was about to have a meltdown. "Gosh, I'm glad I'm not her." I kept going and pulled out my phone to take a video (because that's a logical thing to do at a time like that). It was then that I saw the texts and messages popping up from family and friends. I didn't read them really but knew their sentiment and heart felt wishes and I burst into tears. I guess some runners swear up a streak and others just have straight out fit so I guess mine is having just a good sob. I turned to look back at the trail and a woman was coming up behind me. She was very concerned for me and put her hand on my shoulder asking if I was okay. I assured her I was and she continued on. (No offense, but I'm guessing she was close to ten years older than me and ran beautifully.) I've cried hard on runs before and knew I could either cry or I could run/walk so I set my resolve to be strong and finish to my best ability. I didn't know how the next nine miles would go but I was going to get after them. I ran when I could and walked when I had to. But I had learned my lesson from last year- this was not a pity walk. This was not an injured walk. I dropped my head down and got moving. At this point I pondered how I would pray about the situation. What I wanted to pray was "Lord, please make it go away." but what I prayed was "Please help me to endure this well." Walking, I passed a few people and at one point another runner observed my walk was faster than his run. I hobbled into the aid station for the last time and Gary forced me to smile. Amber sprayed my knees with BioFreeze. I left with them still cheering for me. How amazing to have people believe in you all the way through! 

What a day!
I had hoped to run these last five miles as a celebration. Instead I fought for each power step of a walk and each shuffle of a run. I entered the last section of trail and attempted to run it in to the finish. I came across the finish line to cheers by a group of volunteers and spectators and raised my arms in victory. I always have visions of doing something wild like clicking my heels across the finish line but when I get there all I really want to do is cross it and then stop moving. I scanned the edges of the crowd for Bill and finally saw him and saw that Amanda came for my finish. A volunteer handed me my medal and I stuck that thing around my neck because it was mine and I earned it! I was so happy, so tired, so everything. Another volunteer immediately came over and gave me a huge hug. It was such a good hug I can still feel it! I came out of that hug restored and ready to celebrate! 

Which I did. I huddled around with Bill and Amanda and looked at my watch. Not only did I finish, I beat my time by over an hour and I finished within the 6 hour range I had hoped for!!  6:40 is my time.

Me and the Pixie Ninja Runner
While talking, I noticed Kaci was still there. I really wanted to meet her but funny thing, I never really took a step to start going to her; my brain was a little fried. Thankfully, Amanda ran over to her and Kaci graciously said hello. (I had started walking by then.) We chatted a bit, me congratulating her on her win today and her Western States placing and her congratulating me over and over about my efforts today. I had brought a Sharpie to have her sign my shoes I was wearing (Twitter joke) but didn't have it on me so we took a picture instead, which is better anyway. She said she had noticed my shoes while out running but didn't want to say anything because that would be weird. We laughed because I wouldn't have thought it weird at all and because I do that kind of stuff all the time. She was really a delight to meet. 
Amanda took in my race details as I hobbled around. After she left, Bill and I headed out to the other aid station to say hello to everyone there. It was good to talk with them and encourage the very last runners as they gutted out the last miles. 

I raced smart, going a lot by feel and confidence and being relaxed. It was my best race in this regard. I did the best I could about my knees, given the knowledge and experience I have at this point. Bill points out that I managed an entire training cycle and halfway through the race before the issues came up so that shows progress. He's right. I will continue to pursue this as it is my main issue. I also am thankful that this happens to be my issue and not other things. I'll continue to learn about nutrition and hydration. I experienced some light-headedness and upset stomach towards the very end. I must remember I've been at this a very short amount of time. 

We make a good team
I must mention that I did not get screamy at Bill, meaning I didn't expect him to solve my problems and then get mad when he didn't know the answers. I'm learning to be strong and independent about my endeavors while still needing and wanting support around me. Bill did a great job! 

I am very thankful to be able to run and chase after dreams. I'm thankful that I have such great support and encouragement. I'm truly humbled by all the well wishes and congratulations. 

The goat is jealous of my medal. Run your own race, buddy.

Here are the other two posts about this training/racing season.

The all important video. Ha!
(Which might not work after all.)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

GOATZ 50k, Inspirations

Just as some of you might be, I have been inspired by people through words and videos and personal accounts during my training. I tuck them away in my journal or other places to pull out and remember. Before I share my race day, I thought you might like to peek into my mind a bit.

Since the film, Wonderland, was release by the Ginger Runner, Ethan Newberry, I have watched it close to a dozen times. I have no connection to Ethan or Gary Robbins, the runner, but it doesn't matter. I saw a man have a dream and when it came to attempting his dream he was confident even though he really didn't know how the day would go. The photography and story continue to inspire me. (warning- a little profanity)
"You have to go through massive lows when you're running for this long. But don't freak out. Believe that things will come full circle and you''ll get back on that horse again."  Gary Robbins
 If I haven't mentioned it before, I do love the Ginger Runner's stuff. I have all of his music and my family knows the sound of his voice from his live YouTube shows that I can never watch live. My recent favorite episode though is his re-cap of his first 100 mile race at Cascade Crest. I listened to his euphoric re-telling, his friends' perspectives, and honed in on how his wife, who also paced and crewed for him, handled the day. I've watched it twice and I'll probably watch it again. 

I spent a day with Amanda at a Women Run Nebraska retreat. Along with a heaping helping of yoga and other assorted topics, we heard from Shannon Suing, an Olympic marathon trials qualifier. She's a wife and mom along with being a business owner and hardworking athlete. She shared how she makes it all fit in one day which was super helpful as I struggle to find balance in my non-Olympic running.
"Don't let the excuses be bigger than the goal." Shannon Suing 
 There were many days where the going was tough. That's the way training should be. It should prepare not only your body for the goal but the mind as well. I remember dripping with sweat, miles from home and knowing the only way to get back to the car was to get myself there. I stood cooling off in Renee's doorway and proclaimed that today's run wasn't about today but about the end. Another day, I didn't want to do another loop at my beloved forest preserve. I wanted to call it a day. The run was going terrible. Instead of quitting, I did another loop with a double back over certain sections not because I necessarily needed to but my mind needed to practice finishing what it started.
"When you are suffering you make a commitment for the time when you are on the other side." from a movie a part of the Trails In Motion Film Tour 

Even with all of these thoughts, the one thing that stuck with me the most happened in a post-race blues moment from my spring marathon. As I sat at the counter with breakfast rubble scattered across it, I stared at the pile of dishes next to the sink. The pile of dishes were not significant other than that was what my gaze fell upon and also to say that the Lord knew where my heart was struggling. I'd say these kind of blues can mess with you in many ways and one is identity. Yes, I inwardly walk taller and stronger now because of what I've accomplished. But, on the other hand, no one wears their medal (more than a day anyway) and makes such boasts about themselves and still there's dishes to do. There are just real wobbly moments as one works through it all. 
"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
This word set me solidly again. It put my training into perspective. It quelled the voices when comparison crept up and attempted to bring me under. It moved me forward during the dark time of my race. 

The weekend before my race was the IMT Des Moines Marathon. After Luke's soccer game, he and I headed down to the race expo to hear from ultra runner Zac Marion. As Luke and I sat listening to him, I looked around the Expo to see what else was there. Just off to the left was a booth and the name hanging from the curtain said Kathrine Switzer. I spent the rest of time of Zac's talk stealing glances to the booth to figure out what going on. I thought Surely it wasn't her and even if so I probably missed her. No, there are people milling about. Gasp! It is her and I can go meet her!! Oh hurry up people asking Zac questions about your quads hurting when you run. Everyone's does at one point or another. It's called running. I mean, Yay you for starting to run. As soon as Zac was finished (and he did a great job) I attempted to make a beeline for Kathrine's booth but Luke had been doing his own looking about and had spied something he wanted to do. I managed to talk him into mine first and we went over to the booth.
You may not know who Kathrine Switzer is. I sort of kind of knew of her name but not much more. However there is much more behind that name. She was the first female to officially run and complete the Boston Marathon in 1967. The all-male Boston Marathon. Up until that point no woman had done so and distance running of any kind was looked down upon. Her historic run wasn't a fluke. In her book, Marathon Woman, she's shows it was purposeful not only for herself but for all women.
When I finally got to meet her, she first gathered us all in like a mother with her children and implored us to tell others to get out and run, get out and move. We knew the kind of empowerment we feel when we go out for a run no matter how big or small, fast or slow it is and women need to be encouraged to be fearless to do the same. Then I met her personally. I shared with her that I listened to her on the Another Mother Runner podcast and truly didn't know that I needed to know her until then. And that I was going to run a 50k trail race the next weekend and be thankful that I could because of her. (She was impressed that I would go that distance and wished me luck.) And that I was so happy to meet her that my eyes were damp. (Fine. I was crying but not bawling crying, just super happy, excited crying.) Then she hugged me, fist-bumped Luke, took a picture with me and hugged me again. Star-struck I was indeed for the rest of the day. Now I have met some slightly famous people before- one highly regarded pianist and winner of a very famous piano competition. I shared a dinner table with him and besides having very little to contribute, I felt as if all my life I had only been playing a battery operated kid's toy in comparison to him when in fact we both played the same 88 keys. There was no ease of conversation, no anything and so we stabbed away at our chicken breasts in awkwardness. This was not the case with Kathrine. She listened to my story. She listened to the woman behind me so nervous for her first big race and hugged her and encouraged her but she isn't a pushover or a softy. She has a serious streak of fierceness in her and knows just the way to communicate being fearless to those around her. 
I would carry fearless to the race the next weekend. 

I can't even think of a brilliant caption, I'm still so in awe that I met her!

Iowan and Olympic marathon trials qualifier hopeful, Susie Dukes and Zac Marion, champion ultra-runner. Both are Altra Footwear sponsored athletes. 


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

GOATZ 50k, Year 2, The Training

Hey there! 
I just completed my second 50k trail race. It was the same race as last year's, the GOATZ 50k. You may recall from last year that I blogged about each long run and then the race. And now, surprise, an entire training season, well, actually two seasons have come and gone! Sometimes life happens that way. Read as you please. 

I knew within a couple days of finishing last year that I would want to run the 50k distance again. As a reminder, that's 31 miles. Previously, I hadn't raced anything longer than 17 miles and the jump to 31 was significant but still I knew I liked the challenge. There was something very scary and very compelling at the same time about it all. After much reflection and a muddy trail marathon in the spring (nope, haven't told you about that one), I decided that I needed to re-visit the GOATZ race. I wanted to see if I could be stronger and faster and I needed the same race to do it at.

The season of training went well. I saw the earth turn green and warm. Summer training is my favorite. I think in part because the wardrobe is so easy. I don't have to decide how to layer as I do in the spring or late fall. It's a tank and shorts every day. The humidity is it's own creature. During some runs this summer, I felt as if I've hardly run a day of my life. But because I've run through nearly all of the coldest days of the past two winters, I would take sweat stinging my eyes, clothes drenched, salt caked skin any day. I stuck to my training plan and strength routines as best I could. I could tell the hill repeats were working as I cranked out a personal best during the 4th of July 5k race my mom and I did. It only served as fuel for the fire. I was getting stronger. I was getting smarter. And I might just be getting faster even though I hadn't been working on speed primarily. 

Two hour long runs turned over into longer and longer runs. I took my legs and my racing mindset over to Dubuque and ran the Mines of Spain half marathon. My goal was to do better than last year. I kept my heart rate low and my pace patient. It helped tremendously that I knew the course so I knew where the difficult sections were. At one point I passed a guy walking and I implored him to run now because very soon he would be down to a crawl up a short but steep climb. Later he told me I was correct. I raced smartly and had a faster time than the year before. This is a great park and a really great race.

The 13.1 miles of the half marathon spilled into 15 miles and then 18 and then 20 miles. Each time the mileage jumped up, it caught me a little bit. I wanted to run it and I wasn't scared but I didn't want to run it alone. The other five days of the week when it was just me and my heart rate monitor and watch I was fine. But on long run days, the aloneness caught up to me. I marvel looking back at it now. I did do plenty of solo runs but even those were with someone in someway. Julia would be out in the heat and humidity and we would text each other about how the weather was killing us or how sweat had just shot out from my forehead and blinded me for a quarter of a mile. I would park at my friend's house for miles of hills and then chat with her afterwards in her cool air conditioning. By the time Anne and I would meet up, we'd already be sweaty but it didn't matter. We needed each other to talk through what life was throwing our way or to be each other's cheerleaders and confidants. I dragged her and Kristy out of their warm beds in the wee hours to run in the dark. The dark is not scary when you can only hear the banter of friends. When I danced a little too closely with lightening (a strike about 50 yards away), Angie flew to my rescue. When I needed to beat back the demons, Amanda helped navigate me around the very same lake I would run in a few weeks. We later moaned and laid about, eating far too much guacamole while Margot "helped" me foam roll. My mom congratulated me via Map My Run where she and I could see each other's progress. Dawn met me for a morning of barefoot drills at the track. I don't know if she liked the drills or ended up thinking I was nuts after experiencing it for herself but it doesn't matter, she was with me. I would say I ran with the high school cross country team but rather I got out of the way as they moved past like a herd of gazelles- so young, so swift, so free. I met up with Turkey friends and made new GOATZ friends as we conquered the hills of the Hitchcock Nature Preserve. I was not alone.

I'll insert a bit about other goals I had for this training cycle. After some experimenting this Spring, I worked on finding a balance for food. I needed food as fuel and as enjoyment and I needed it to be functional for the whole family. I didn't become strict about it. I didn't freak out. I didn't count calories or other things and I didn't step on the scale once. I have lots to say about this but I won't and these were my main guidelines. Because every major race I have done in the past two years with distances greater than 13 miles has found me down to a walk because of knee pain, I worked diligently on foot strength, honing my running form and strengthening my core. When I was done with my run, I wasn't done for the day. I used many exercises from Eric Orton's book, The Cool Impossible. All of these things were small adjustments, little tweaks instead of giant swings which tends to be my norm. I didn't need to reinvent running or eating or anything else. What I needed to be was more mindful and it worked.

In comparison to last year's 50k training, my body endured the training better. My friend, Jessica, said it most likely would as my body would get stronger over time. My family is happy to report that for the most part, Mom did okay. She wasn't napping nearly as much as last year and more cookies were made although she did go to bed early and one time fell asleep despite the camper being packed full with six boys. In the toughest of weeks when the training was highest, I was able to recognize it and give myself more of a break (only one meltdown). Thankfully, most of my long run weeks alternated with very busy family schedules for the most part. It did help that I kept a training journal. It's not perfectly filled out and still has good portions of blank spaces but the act of writing down my training, what I need to work on, what I ate, what the weather was, race outcomes, or whatever helped. I could see the big picture. When a run was just terrible, I could look back and see that it was okay to not have a perfect day every day. I could write down inspirational quotes or Scripture to help keep my perspective in check. I will continue to journal because it has been so helpful. 

By the end of October, I felt I was strong and ready to tackle 31 miles. 

Me and hill repeats. Breathing over smiling.

I can't help but stop and take pictures of my trail. I have about 50 of them. Here's one.

Oh the potential each day holds.

When the second run of the day hurts, it helps to take in the view.

Wet, grassy feet are difficult to stuff into toe socks. I should know that by now.

Celebrating the annual Kaelman and my mom's first 5k! 

How now, er, black cow? 

This humidity probably represents some sort of life lesson. To me it mostly means humidity. 

I don't know about you but when I watch the Trails in Motion film tour with my husband, I like my taxidermied friends to be there too. 

The Turkeys representing at Mines of Spain

Race day concentration

You never know what you'll see on a run.

The littlest trail runner and his dog.

Why, yes, Mindy, we'll gladly meet you at 5 am for 6 miles in the dark. And a selfie? No problem. 

This is what 5 am looks like.

This is the Coke can I saw a couple miles before the lightening encounter. Ha!

Miles of smiles when you have a matching running friend. 

I can't even tell you how happy I feel to be strong enough to run with this group. 

See? I'm happy. I'm running. 

Nebraska, we will meet again very soon. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kingdom Cares, Part 2

Back in the early years of this blog I introduced you to our friends, the Sullivan's, and the beginning of their ministry in Ghana, Africa. They were beginning to raise money for a beginning project. Over the years, God has taken the willingness of Jake and Janel and grown it into so much more. 

In the last two years, it has been impressed on Jake that singular donations are great but what is needed is sustained giving. He gathered people in the Kingdom Hoops gym one morning that January and laid out the history of Kingdom Cares International and the vision for what was next. He asked us to join in giving $100 a month to this, naming it the 1200 Club. Bill and I joined and read updates throughout the year. 

A year later, we gathered again in the gym. I was full of questions but my main two were: What about women's education and other such root needs? And what about the local people, the local businesses, using local people and not always bringing in Americans to do the job that they can? (I'm sorry that these are not more elaborate or eloquent questions. I hope you get the idea.)
Right off, Jake made a laundry list of concerns that could have been straight from my brain and said those are all good things and they are not neglecting them but for him, when he goes to Ghana (and now Chad), he sees God moving him to a place where he is compelled to share the Gospel. The Gospel brings eternal change. The Gospel brings hope and peace in spite of dire circumstances. Again, needs are not ignored by any means but in meeting those needs, it is for the Gospel. This is very close to what I once heard David Platt share. (I can't even begin to direct you to where I heard that. It was a live broadcasting of some conference several years back. All I know was that I was eager to hear him speak but instead only caught this small bit while giving Luke a bath. #momlife) Back to Kingdom Cares, when I heard this, I nearly stood up and applauded. 

As for my second question, Jake shared example after example of working with the people there and the successes and failures. It was an up-close look of what is working and what needs assistance. We aren't superheroes there to swoop in and save the day. Instead we are givers, listeners, discerners and come-along-siders. 

Out on a run this week, I was lead to pray once again for Jake and the now Acts 2 Collective. Specifically I was lead to pray for wisdom for him and for those in leadership. I communicated this to him and also expressing my continuing concern that the ministry there continue to come alongside the people and that God would raise up people from within. He responded with affirmation that yes, indeed God is raising up some "unreal leaders in Africa!" 

Now I will confess something to you: In the past couple of years, I have become more outright skeptical rather than critically informed about ministries. (Again, I apologize if I'm making up words and hope you'll understand despite my vocabulary.) As I have learned more and more about what helps and what doesn't for poverty, and while it has been very good and highlights the need for better ways, the opposite has also taken root in my heart. Jake didn't point this out from my text and possibly didn't even perceive it, but the Lord revealed it to me. And here is what I was challenged to do: To pray in faith that God is directing specifically Jake and Acts 2 Collective where He wants them to be. God wants my prayers but He can certainly act without my skepticism or approval. 

I confess this to you because that's just my nasty heart. Nor will I use this as a means to sell you that this is an approved organization worthy of your dollar. 

Kingdom Cares has made a change and is now Acts 2 Collective. God is raising up leaders. God is seeing the broken. God is moving. Janel has written quite a bit recently about it all and I encourage you to read more on her blog along with the Acts 2 Collective website. I will post links below. 

Acts 2 Collective
Team Sullivan 

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Garden, 2015

I think it's year three of my gardening adventures. I remember once upon a time having big gardening dreams. Bill bought me a subscription to Fine Gardening. I have a huge book filled with all manners of gardening knowledge. My gardening ambition was boundless.

And then I had my first real garden. 

That sounds much more dramatic than what it actually is. If the idea is to get some soil, plants some seeds or seedlings, maintain some sort of regular watering and watch it grow and produce, then that's what I did. That is, me and the Lord and a few children.

Even though I start prepping my garden beds and planting later than I should, I have no end of joy loosening up the soil, smoothing it out, and tucking tiny, precious seeds of hope in the blank, black canvas. 
See? It's a bit much.

My gardening plan involves index cards and roughly sketched garden layouts for rotating crops and what shouldn't be planted next to what. Strawberries are taking up a good end of this bed which I proceeded to fill in with basil, cilantro, tomatoes with radishes planted in between and jalapeños.

I squished a lot in this bed. Parsnips, green beans, peas, spinach, lettuce, two kinds of carrots and cucumbers. You might know that some of these are early season plants while others are planted a little later but because I started so late everything went in at once. There is no succession planting, early crop/late crop plants here. My motto is "Plant late, shove everything in."

This is about a month later looking at the same bed but from the opposite direction. Some things are actually growing although I've managed to drown them in too many grass clippings. I can tell you for certain is that waiting for parsnips to germinate is dumb and I cleared that space up and re-planted it with more green beans. I'm learning that in my small space, you've got to earn your right to stay and they didn't. And while we're at it, here's a list of vegetables no longer welcome in my garden: zucchini (I'll just ask a neighbor for some), onions (once the leaves bend over they're done growing and that's just not sturdy enough for me), potatoes (oh, I do love a homegrown potato all mashed up but they take up a lot of space for so little). I've benched broccoli for the moment and I'm afraid to say it because I love homegrown peas but they might be benchwarmers for a year or two.
The other bed looking the other way has some very sickly looking jalapeño plants, now that I look at them. It might explain why they produced so poorly. The tomatoes are coming in the best yet. And the strawberries in the back are ok. They have one more year or I'm reclaiming their space. You can tell how thick the grass clippings are. Lesson learned there. 

That's an old iron headboard next to the garden (and another one leaning against the fence that I've yet to place somewhere). The cucumbers did well this year and climbed up the bed. I feel it one of my gardening victories.

 Oh gosh, cilantro! I'm so proud of you for growing this year but you came on strong before the tomatoes were ready and that's just not right. I don't know what to think because it seems this is the story of all my friends' cilantro as well. I'm letting the strawberries creep in on your space.

That's the end of my garden pictures. I know it's an abrupt ending but that's kind of how it went with my garden. All on. All off. Now my garden looks sad. A few tomatoes hang from weakened stems, hoping someone will find their green-ness appealing. There were some red ones left to be picked but someone has a smart dog who knows when her invisible fence collar is off and helped herself to all the ripe ones. Yes, I know it was you, Lucy, because you get super guilty looking when I come around and also you left red poop all over the yard. But to redeem her, she's taken a fancy not only to tomatoes but to green beans. 

We were able to pick enough for us to eat fresh for meals without being overwhelmed. I did make a few refrigerator pickles with some of the cucumbers with this recipe. It was my best year for tomatoes and I canned over 20 pints of salsa with them. I planted six jalapeño plants and I barely got any from them whereas my friends had two plants and were almost overrun with peppers. I can't imagine my life if mine produced like theirs did. I hardly watered this year because of the abundant rains the Lord provided which in turn gave me a lush garden. (All I need now is a collection of Russian nesting dolls.) (Please, someone tell me you get this.)

I don't even know what is going on with this picture with the black border.
This was our last big harvest. Audrey is holding all the carrots but Ben pulled them. 
As though it isn't obvious enough, no one is going to be asking me for gardening advice. But for once, I'm okay with just letting my garden do its thing and not try to coax it into perfection. Which is what my friend Deanna told me the first year. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

They're Back to School, 2015

Whether I get to the summer's stories and pictures is yet to be seen. What should be noted is that we all survived. Yay, us!

It always goes like this: June is sort of detoxing from school and busy schedules and then we do different schedules and swim lessons, etc. July evens out even more. There is a lot of sleeping in and any sort of schedule I had hopes of implementing this summer have been shelved. August is sort of like July except I do a little more shopping for school supplies and underwear and the like. The problem with August is that we can't really handle this kind of laid-back schedule much longer. We need a change. I don't necessarily want to school to start but we can't keep this going the way it is. So, school it is.

The 2015-16 school year has started with no changes in buildings which is very nice. The kids weren't nervous and already feel comfortable. Well, Audrey was a little nervous.

Luke is in 4th grade this year. He seems to have a great teacher. But Ben will be quick to quip that all teachers are nice the first day of school and the second day are ready to buckle down. 

Speaking of Ben, he's in 7th grade. The class schedule changes a bit more for him than it did in 6th grade, going more class to class. He's taking Home Ec (it's not called that anymore though) and thought it was dumb until he learned he'll get to eat the food they make. I guess we'll see how much is edible from 7th grade boys. Of course, they'll eat just about anything. Ew!

Oh, you may recognize this sweet girl as Audrey and I'm here to break the news that she is a senior this year. That's right, a senior. She was nervous and excited to start her senior year. (I stared at this picture most of the day.)

And here they all are. They're going to have a great year!  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


This may be the weirdest post to come back to blogging with. I'm not sorry for that. 
I've also read that the first X number of words is what captures most peoples attention to propel them to read the rest of your post. I don't care. 
It might turn out that I'm not actually coming back to blogging but rather had a temporary burst of blogging energy. Fine. 

This is my little place in cyber-history and I think I'll do with it as I please. I like writing on here. I like sharing about my life. But I want you to know my life is not all roses and sunshine or unicorns and rainbows or whatever happy pictures come to your mind. And I want you to know I don't share everything. (Well, sometimes I share about pre-race nerves and what that does to me and it might be TMI for you but it's real and let's be honest, everyone does.) Please don't get into your noggin' that our life is perfect. It's not. I share the happier things because 1) they are easier to write about and the harder things are harder to write about and 2) the hard things are usually struggles that need time to work out before words can be applied to them (or at least for me anyway). Finally, who takes a picture of themselves having a meltdown? No one that I know of. The closest I get to that is a selfie of me taking a nap. (Let's discuss naps later.)

So anyway, I know you're curious about my running and did I ever get back on the motorcycle and what has happened to the children. I'll probably share about more food that you want to know because it makes me happy even though the only two things people ever ask me about is my monster cookies and scones. 

I'll admit, this feels pretty ambitious of me. I'm quick to realize school has been in session only four days and my think time (sans kids) has grown significantly and so my brain is in happy overload. (It's an introvert thing.)

But I have had a few key conversations with people to help me put some pieces in the right order about blogging and life and so on. I am super grateful for them because they are answers to prayers.

Golly, it sounds like an acknowledgment page of a book. With a lot of expectations. Nope. What I really should say is "I overthink a lot of things but I have patient, gracious friends who help me sort my life out." The end.