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Social Distancing. Week 3.

Monday, Mar 30. Day 15

A good day on the farm. Sunny and bright, a little cool. Chicks are growing by the minute, and loving their coop. They’ve learned the ramp, and can put themselves to bed at night (as opposed to me getting the top half of body on the ground into the coop, catching them and putting them “upstairs” under the warming light, one by one).

Baby donk is adorable. A little pastoral shot with mommy:

We have a 3-mile loop on our dead-end country lane, and Eliott and I have made it a habit of walking it daily. It’s rural and I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve met another person walking while we are. Nice for social distancing, one little piece of elevation, so rural there are no lines painted anywhere. It was wonderful to get out and walk it today – it lends itself to long, uninterrupted conversations, as well as a good hour of exercise.

Tuesday, Mar 31. Day 16

Cold and rainy again, but that’s Tennessee spring. It’s convenient when it falls on a day I have to work at my desk, and the end of the month means closing out the old budget and beginning the new.

I’ve modified my plan just a little since my partner got home. I get teased by my kids for my dry-erase, color-coded life, but I’m ok with that. I know all of our minds work differently for how we manage ourselves, and this is what works for me. Back when I was a young mother, I used an old-school clipboard, with a precise schedule for the week’s activities, tasks to do, grocery list, calls to make, etc. Raising 4 children close in age made it necessary, for me, to empty my brain of all of that, so I could be fully engaged and focused on the moment.

So when I share with you the images of this method of management, you’ll understand me a little better.

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Daily. Weekly. Monthly. Seasonal. Projects for the yard. Calls to make. Things to do. As soon as it gets written, it goes into the queue of my life, and it moves up the priority until I get to it. More peasy than easy, but you get the drift.

 

Wednesday, April 1. Day 17

I’ve always celebrated April 1. I know it’s not the equinox, just a day on the calendar, but it’s always been my tradition that it’s a transition day. I think I began the habit before I was tuned in to using nature instead of the calendar, and I’ve just continued it.

My April tasks include filling and hanging the hummingbird feeders, setting out the hammock, putting the outdoor cushion and umbrellas out. It’s still too early to plant my tomatoes and flowers, but I can herald the coming of spring with some of these rituals.

Today was a little cool and still damp from yesterday’s rain, but I pushed forward. The grass is greening by the day, every tree is full of green buds, some with blossoms already, and there’s no doubt the earth is moving.

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This lilac smells as delightful as it looks

I suppose that is today’s thought. No matter what our attitude is, no matter how we approach this era in our world/nation/personal history, time will pass. This phenomena will run its course, whatever it is, and we will move on to a new phase. That’s what I mean when I put Take the Long View on my vision board. Someday this will be in the past, maybe even when you’re reading this blog. While there’s no right way to have done it, I hope I did the best I could with the circumstances.

 

Thursday, Apr 2. Day 18

Now beautiful again. I wonder how different it would have been to distance in another season. We kind of do a winter quasi-hibernation to begin with, which would seem to be a better time, but now at least we can get out and walk and get exercise, so sort of a trade-off. Tomato tomahto.

My honey is still adjusting to being home – walking around the farm, interacting with the animals, walking around the yard. We’ve begun a projects list, and like all of us, he enjoys adding to it and thinking about the sequence. He’s still tying up loose ends at work, so his head is in both worlds. He was working long, busy days before leaving DC, so the adjustment from that to this new pace has him marveling.

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My dear friend Darrel Ray lives on a bit of property, and he and I both remarked on a phone call that we’re being more methodical and slow about how we’re getting things done; we don’t want to get all of our projects complete too quickly. We both acknowledged how fortunate to be both on land that inherently ALWAYS has projects to do, and for it to be spring to get out and do them.

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New chick yard
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New mulch, beds are ready! 

 

Friday, April 3. Day 19

A beautiful spring day on the farm. Today was a day for mowing, tilling, and weeding. And a little chickie-watching.

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How do you not love all this?

Saturday, April 4. Day 20

If you’re bored with farming pics, this blog isn’t going to entertain you much. It was another really pretty day on the farm, so it was a day of mowing and tilling. However, it started off with a pretty exciting phone call.

I had ordered and paid for some tomatoes, peppers, petunias, geraniums, and jasmine from our local nursery. They’re still open for business, but we arranged a contact-free pickup, and they called to tell us our order was picked and ready. We drove the old farm truck over, called them when we got there, and they loaded our things right into the truck bed, and off we went back home.

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I was thrilled to get my plants, but it was distressing to see all the shoppers at the nursery, unmasked, ungloved, not distancing in the least. I just don’t think Tennesseans are taking this seriously at all. Between Trump’s message, and the soft stay-at-home gentle suggestion our governor made only days ago, they are not grasping the situation.

Sunday, April 5. Day 21

A beautiful sunny day to end the week.

I’ll mix up the farming pics with food pics. We’re eating low carb, as we have for years, and we’re doing daily fasting of about 20 hours a day. We have fatty coffee in the mornings, then have a big meal around 4, and another snack/small meal around 8. In nutrition circles, that’s known as OMAD (one meal a day). We keep a lot of meat in our freezer, so our grocery delivery has consisted mostly of fresh and frozen vegetables. Eliott and I both enjoy cooking, so we take turns.

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Meatloaf, cauli rice, green salad, and chaffles

We use our daily walks to talk through our plan, to ensure we understand what we’re facing, to share any news that we have read that the other might not have. We discuss our coping strategies, how to help the children, how we’re managing my parents (82 and 84, distancing together a couple of hundred miles away). It’s been a lovely week, and we recognize how incredibly fortunate we are to be isolating, in such a beautiful place, with the animals, together.

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Thanks for reading.

Social Distancing. Week 2.

Monday, March 23. Day 8

Gah. We need some sunshine. We’ve had a pretty rainy March in middle Tennessee. It hasn’t been too cold, which is nice, but that has resulted in an abundance of weed and grass growth, that no one can mow because it’s too wet! We had a couple of hours of glorious sunshine yesterday, and I was stunned at how warm it felt and how beautiful it was.

I’m committed to getting out every single day, regardless of the weather, so I caught a quick hour walk dodging the rain storms. I really didn’t want to go – like most of you, I was still in my jammies, working around the house answering emails and enjoying the sound of the soft rain. But that’s when I have to rely on my rational brain, not my emotional one, and get dressed and get out. And of course, I’m always glad I did.

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Today’s concern was with politics. I didn’t catch Trump’s press conference live, but when I read about it later, I’m just livid. Hinting that we’ll open the country back up in a week or two might be the WORST possible thing we could do. Why would the US be exempt from the pattern we’ve seen in China, South Korea, and Italy? The sooner we get this lockdown going, the sooner we get this under control, and the sooner we can return to whatever will be normal then. There are just not enough words to describe this timeline: we’re facing the most serious national health crisis we’ve ever faced, with the worst leadership we’ve ever had.

Tuesday, March 24. Day 9

It’s not the isolation or the virus that’s going to kill me – it’s the endless, relentless rain. This is normal spring weather for middle Tennessee, and I get mad at it this time every year. Grass is growing, weeds are up, can’t mow in a downpour. Need to weed the beds and till the garden, but it’s a mucky mess (reminds me of Mark Twain’s description of the Mississippi River: too thick to drink, too thin to plow).

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So today’s agenda includes all the inside stuff, plus I think I’ll start a puzzle.

 

Wednesday, Mar 25. Day 10

Went into double digits today for days sequestered. What will life be like when I go into triple? Current reports indicate that our trajectory is going straight up. Today, New York appears to be the epicenter in the US. Washington and Louisiana are very high, and it looks like Florida will be the next hardest hit. Tennessee continues life apace – no state mandates. Schools have been closed but not businesses, and from my local social media,

One of my guidelines is to restrict/limit/manage the flood of information coming in. I try to ration global, national, state, and local news (which, I’ll admit, is a skill I’ve probably needed to develop). I like politics and government, and at other times I read and watch a lot of political news. Since the virus is devouring the airwaves, and because there’s so much anxiety + anger and how we’re being governed now, I’ve cut my consumption down to about 3 hours a day: an hour in the morning and 2 hours in the evening.

Today was a good day, in spite of. Everything. I braved the outside world and took my trash and recycling to the dump. It wasn’t busy, so I didn’t have to dodge a single interaction. I could put my trash and recyclables in their bins without touching anything. I drove straight there and straight home. We have to find our victories.

Then I earned my Community Action merit badge by picking up a bag of trash on the lane where I live. Even if it was rainy and drippy.

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Then my chicken coop was delivered! My little guys are growing by the day, and I’ll be glad to get it put together for them.

Then the rain stopped. Glorious glorious sunshine. I jumped on the mower and did a quick cut of the front yard. Oh, the smell of freshly mown lawn in the spring.

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Lastly, I had a cocktail party with the leadership team of the nonprofit I work for. Look at these faces. We can get through this, with a little help from our friends.

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Thursday, Mar 26. Day 11

Sunshine all day long. What a difference my outlook has been since the rain stopped. 10 days of nonstop rain right over the top of this national crisis, the claustrophobia of being shut in, and the need to get outside was beginning to take its toll on my disposition.

Today, however, was the opposite. I was outside from just after daybreak til just after dark, and it was delicious.

Mowed everything, weeded beds, turned the compost – spring is here (or close enough to feel like it today). I also had a little fun with last year’s grapevine pruning: made a little wreath to add to the garden gate.

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Friday, Mar 27. Day 12

Now that the grass is mowed, I have picked out the space for my new coop.

Here’s how it started:

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And here’s how it ended:

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My little guys are so happy!

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It will take a couple of days of training them to use the ramp. So several times a day, I crawl in there and put them up in the brooder, then push gently urge them down the ramp.

 

Saturday, Mar 28. Day 13

And on Day 13, my honey came home.

My partner has been working in DC, and the company for whom he has been consulting has finally cut everyone loose to go home. They’ve been observing safety protocol, but nothing’s as good as sending everyone HOME.

It resets my calendar back to Day 1 for the incubation period (although not for the distancing ticker), but I’ll take it. We’ll hunker down together here on the farm for the duration. So glad to have my lovey back.

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Sunday, Mar 29. Day 14

Today’s weather was stunning. Warm and sunny, birds singing, grass growing – you’d never know there is a global pandemic. Eliott spent the day walking around the farm, getting reacquainted with all the animals, looking at my projects – my amateur fence-building skills, the coop, and a little home repair I’d done in his absence.

We had a delicious dinner al fresco – he grilled the steaks, and I baked the mac n cheese (faux, cauliflower version).

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Not a bad week. All the kids and partners seem to be managing, and my parents are complying with all the new rules down in Georgia. I am grateful beyond words to have a warm dry house on a lively little farm to endure this challenging time.

Thanks for reading.

Social distancing. Week 1.

Wow, a blog post about our national crisis! What a completely new and different thing!

Initially, this was just for me. A place to write down all the feels and emotions and fears. I’m not an intensely private person, and I recognized there might come a time when I would share it. This is all about the therapeutic effect writing has for me, but I’ve decided to share some of what I’m journaling about.

 

Tuesday, March 17. Day 1

Today I drove from Washington, DC to Murfreesboro to begin my sequestration. I headed out last week for a speaking engagement at ETSU, then traveling on for a quick visit to my honey who is working a consulting gig in DC. The situation got more serious by the day, so I cut my visit short when it became apparent that this was not going away any time soon. I can leave my farm for a few days at a time, but I couldn’t stay the duration with my sweetheart.
I stopped at my Publix coming into my town to get isolation supplies and a few groceries. I was surprised to see how busy the store was, considering how locked down DC had felt as I left. I was able to get most of what I needed for a couple of weeks of staying at home.
This means that I’m isolating alone (kind of redundant). I’ve always enjoyed solitude, but I recognize the challenge this will be.

 

Wednesday, March 18. Day 2

I’ve been here before. Not with the added layer of a severe national crisis that might affect life on this planet as we know it, but you know. When I studied for the Bar in 2015, I spent 3 months is mostly self-isolation. I was living alone, I studied 8 hours a day with breaks for food, exercise, and relaxation, but only 1/2 day per week socializing with friends in town. This feels a lot like that, but I was so singularly focused on study, I wasn’t really feeling the effects of the isolation.

I’m ready to permanently relocate to the Pacific Northwest, to be nearer to my adult children. It was my plan to put my farm on the market on April 1. Not so fast, I guess. So while I’ve been trying to prepare for the move: I’ve gotten rid of my longhorn cattle, and am still working to rehome my donkeys and goats, I’m reversing some of that.

Freethought Farm stays As Is for the time being, and I ventured out today for a dozen baby chicks. The store agreed on the phone to bring them and the feed to the car, so contact was limited. I’ve ordered a new coop online, since in my preparation I’d given away my old one to a neighbor.

Now these little peepers are keeping me entertained, reminding me of the continuity of life, and will be laying by August.

 

Thursday, March 19. Day 3

Today I drew up some guidelines. Suggestions. Parlay.

A dear friend, mentor, and psychologist recently shared a video with words of encouragement and education. I’ve added to and tweaked some of his suggestions to keep me grounded in the days to come.

It’s a work in progress, but it felt good to write it out, and gives me goals to achieve every day. I’ll repost the shot as I add more items that help me. Don’t ask me if I’m adding a color-coded checkmark to my schedule every day unless you want the answer.

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Friday, March 20. Day 4

Today I changed my strategy, and it was a tough day. I had initially planned on making a once-a-week foray into town to get groceries, and anything else I needed. I could practice good 6-ft technique, limit my exposure, all that. I have a car that is due for emissions testing/registration, a check to deposit, a package to mail.

Now I’ve decided not to do that. I can have grocery delivery. I’m going to let the cars expire (won’t be driving them anyway, and I’ll take the ticket or fine or whatever). I’ll mail the check and hold off on the package. I’m not standing in judgment of anyone who does otherwise – my own beloved partner is still working in DC, my son and son-in-love are still working on-site, and probably will continue to for the time being. But since I can accommodate those tasks without leaving the house, I am.

Right now, the next thing I’d really like to have is some vegetables for my garden. The nursery I use is open-air, and around April 15, I’d like to get some tomatoes and peppers and squash. Something that would have been routine and trivial has now become a Big Upcoming Event. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 21. Day 5

I can’t stress enough how grateful I am a) that I live on a farm and b) that it’s spring. Both of these things are helping tremendously in filling my days with productivity. The video below is a combination of both of those things:

 

Her name is Corona. ❤

 

Sunday, March 22. Day 6

This is the best day of the week. This is the day I Zoom with the Fam. I missed catching my grandson in the screen grab, b/c he had to dash out to go snowmobiling with his grandpa before dark. Notice the ChickCam in the upper right.
The kids are all isolating in their homes with their partners/roommates. We all share the same anxiety about the situation, but generally everyone is prepared to hunker down for a while. This 90 minutes has become the most important 90 minutes of my week. Grateful beyond words for technology that will sustain us through this crisis.

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My first week has been an evolving adjustment. I’m moving toward acceptance that this is going to be longer than just a couple of weeks. One of my Guidelines is to set realistic expectations, and then adjust them with new information. That’s what this timeline blog will be about.

I’ll try to post regularly on Mondays, as it helps me to anchor to a schedule and some semblance of structure. If you’re journaling too, or have a blog about your experiences with this strange new world, please share it in the comments.

Thank you for reading, and staying connected, even if just electronically. We have so much to learn.

 

The Grand Tri

Feels good to put on a number.

Today was the Mach Tenn – a sprint triathlon in Middle Tennessee. I’ve been away from triathlon racing for a while, and this one is a great way to jump back in. I’ve done this race a half-dozen times over the last 10 or 12 years, and it’s always a good time.

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When you’ve lost weight, but wetsuits are expensive. Glue a tuck.

Triathlon is always the same 3 sports: swimming, cycling, running, but there’s a great variance in the distances. Everyone knows the big guy: Iron-distance, which is 2.4 miles swimming, 112 on the bike, and a full 26.2 marathon running. Sprint distance is a little mini-version of all that.

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Today’s race was 0.6 mile in the lake, 14m on the bike, and a 4-miler to close. It was fun and fast, but what made this race special, and different from all the others was my support crew.

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Team Gammy consisted of my ever-patient and most-supportive honey, Eliott, and my no-longer-a-child-yet-not-quite-a-man grandson Aden.

They helped me practice my transitions the week leading up to the race (tri-talk for the frantic moments between events in a race when one drops wetsuit/goggles/swimcap and dons bike shoes/helmet/sunglasses and so forth, while the race timer casually clicks away the seconds).

They loaded the car with all the flotsam and jetsam necessary for triathlon.

They got up pre-dawn so we could drive to the race, check-in, lay out the gear, and talk through our strategy.

They watched for me at every turn, took pictures, shouted my checklist, and cheered me on from beginning to end.

And they celebrated with me as I crossed the finish line, marking my return to triathlon for the next couple of years.

Showing all the restraint I could muster, I didn’t register Aden when I realized he would be in town during this race. He’s an athlete, and has mastered all 3 of these sports. He’s been riding his bike on our annual cross-Iowa family bike ride for years, riding every mile (428) in 2018. We even ran a 5k together when he was 8 years old. One of the things I learned as a parent is that children have to find their own way to their interests; our job is to expose them to as many opportunities as possible.

However.

Just as my evil scheme planned, he has expressed an interest in participating in a race with me. I’ll be looking for a sprint-distance we can do together. My children have raced with me in the past (Amy and Sam), and those moments have been life-highlights. To now share the joy of racing with my grand marks a new point on the spectrum of gratitude and humility.

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Post-race relaxation and reflection

Watch for more race reports to come. I’ve enjoyed my hiatus from racing and blogging, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my return to both.

Thanks for reading.

 

Seasons

Friends: I haven’t visited this blog in a while. There have been times when I’ve gone on a writing streak for weeks and months at a time, and here now has been a 2-year lull in my muse.

Analyzing the Why is a post for another time, but you might notice it parallels quite closely our national heartbreak in November of 2016. Let’s pick up that thread on another post in the near future, shall we?

This post is about life and all of its changes.

It is with excitement and great anticipation that I announce here that we have been offered the tremendous opportunity to spend some time in the Pacific Northwest. Sometime in October, Eliott and I will be driving transamerica to the west coast, dogs and cats in tow, to overwinter in Florence, Oregon.

We will be one hour from daughter Amy in Eugene, and a day’s drive from son Ben in Spokane. Son Sam and daughter Glenda are the southwest children for the time being, but this move still puts me closer to them than I am here in Tennessee!

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Freethought Cottage is in the very capable hands of a property management company, and will be waiting for us upon our return. We plan to relocate the cattle, donkeys, goats, ducks, and chickens, but of course the pups and kittens will be with us. After we’re settled into our new place, we’ll share some pictures and blog posts about life in Oregon.

As has always been our policy at Freethought Farm, we’d like to extend an open offer for friends to visit, anytime! We would love to see familiar faces, and walk along and view the left coast with you.

 

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Deck, Sam style

Home Improvement Time!

After a winter of some inside projects, pulling up old carpet and refinishing hardwood floors, and redoing a suspended ceiling, it was time to turn attention to an outdoor living addition to Freethought Cottage!

Son Sam, with a few weeks to spare before beginning graduate school, came home and brought his construction experience with him. He is a teaching and research assistant at the University of Wyoming, and there is a reason he was selected for that position. He is a patient and knowledgeable teacher in addition to being a competent craftsman with an eye for detail. Along with constructing the porch, Sam walked me through the steps of building.

The weather, in typical Tennessee spring fashion, was different every day. In our week of construction, we had a warm sunny day, 2 cold rainy days, a cold clear day, and an overcast day.

Let’s begin with the before pictures:

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This area stayed muddy and bare, even in summer.

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Big Vaughn there, the big black lab. I heart him.

I have a killer patio on the south side of the house, which is great all summer long – it’s completed shaded by big leafy trees, from morning til sunset, and in the dog days of summer it’s wonderful for picnics, coffee, cocktails. But in the fall and spring, I’m longing for warm sun. The deck will get sun almost all day long.

The obligatory Home Depot trip:

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I would recognize this printing anywhere.
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1st cartfull…
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Some assembly required.
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Beginning of frame, end of Day 1

DAY 2

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Rainy, rainy workday
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Very soggy crew.

DAY 3

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Cold but sunny for Steps day.

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DAY 4

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Note the mud…
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Final touches
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Party time! 
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Here it is!

It’s perfect. The sun is warm and delicious at sunrise, and soft and beautiful at sunset. C’mon over for coffee in the morning, picnic in the afternoon, or wine at dusk.

Sammy, what a wonderful gift you have given me. Best kid ever.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Adventures in Hardwood

Before I blog about my latest cottage DIY, can I just restate that I am SO HAPPY IT IS CHRISTMAS 2015 and no longer CHRISTMAS 2014??

Last year at this time I was hip-deep in Bar Review, so much that I didn’t get out a single Christmas decoration, not a nutcracker, not an ornament, not a light. I had asked my sweet family for solitude for these months, and I was down to 1/2 day off per week to get away from studying. Everything festive has double the meaning this year since I missed the whole season last year.

So on to the project. When I moved in to this cottage 4 years ago, one of the first things I added were shelves in the library. I had to move a big corner wall unit to do so, and when I did, I discovered a little secret under the carpet.

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I realize it doesn’t look like much here, but I knew that someday I was going to pull up the carpet in that room to get to that floor. No better time than the busiest season of the year, amirite?!

The walls in the library are lined with shelves, which makes the room a large rectangle with a door in the middle of each of the 4 walls. I often keep a table in the middle of the room, and a chair in a couple of the corners.

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This is looking west…
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This is looking east…

That exposed corner there is where I originally found the hardwood, under both the current beige carpet, and the groovy 70’s-era green carpet under that.

First order of business was old carpet removal. This home is a home of pets, so you know both layers of carpet and the padding were….pungent.

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Blerg. Nasty carpet.
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Hoping against hope there is neither a big burn mark in the middle, or a piece of scabbed plywood.
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Intact! Isn’t it beautiful?

Carpet and pad out. Now the real work begins. Eliott and I are complete amateurs, but we’ll Youtube the crap out of home projects to figure it out. I already had a belt sander, so our 1st trip to Home Depot was for sandpaper, and lots of it, kneepads, safety glasses and mask.

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Man at work.
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Bare naked wood.

Now we have a room full of raw wood. This room is in the center of the house, with no windows of its own, so opted not to add any stain. We knew the polyurethane layers would darken the wood a bit. We think this wood is pine, and our resident wood expert coincidentally was home this week and agreed with us.

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You knew I’d get a picture of either one my kids or one of my dogs in the post. Here’s both.

Second trip to Home Depot. This time it’s for polyurethane, brushes, and more sandpaper (very fine, to use between coats).

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Third coat, each with 24-hour drying period.
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Where shelves meet floor.

Now all that’s left is trim and thresholds. Since the shelves are unfinished, we chose to use an unfinished quarter-round for the base trim. Experienced remodelers already know we’re off for trip #3 to Home Depot for a mitre-box and saw, nails, and of course the thresholds.

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x 4
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x 3. We are so happy with this, we intend to do the living room next, so there was no need to finish that threshold.

The finished look:

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I am delighted with this adventure! Next up is the living room floor (and if I can talk Eliott into it, the living room ceiling…).

Happy Holidays and thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Bib Number 596

This is tale of bib number 596.

It’s a tale of hard work, frustration, more hard work, and incredible achievement.

I know the wearer of bib number 596, and it’s a pleasure to tell this story.

About 2 years ago, son Sam said to me that he wanted to do an Ironman* with me “before I got too old”. Ouch, but yes, I’d love to. We set about searching for a race, and even though we had to defer our registration for a year due to my law school studies, we found ourselves in Sandusky, Ohio on Friday, September 11, ready to swim, ride, and run.

*”Ironman” is a trademarked word, owned by the Ironman corporation. Most of you know the history before you even check out this link. There are many organizations that stage Ironman-distance races, but the word is trademarked so organizers have tried to be creative with what to call their events: Ultra Distance, Full Distance, etc, but outside of the racing community, Ironman is what sticks and is most recognizable. This race was called Challenge Cedar Point, and the distance we raced is the Full, but I’ll use the word Ironman occasionally for clarity.

However, nature had arrived as well. Rain, high winds, cold temperatures had wreaked havoc on well-laid plans of race officials. Of the weekend’s festivities, all but the half and full iron triathlons on Sunday were cancelled. Additionally, the swim had to relocated. The race is staged at Cedar Point, a roller-coaster-based amusement park on a small spit of land which creates a bay to the south. The swim was originally scheduled for Lake Erie, but at 2pm on Saturday, this is what Lake Erie looked like:

I've done ocean swims calmer than this.
I’ve done ocean swims calmer than this.

So the swim was to take place in the small bay to the south, with high hopes that no additional weather would affect the 7am start time on Sunday.

There is not much more exciting than the check-in/swagbag/chip timer/expo area of a full iron triathlon on the day before a big race. Athletes arriving from all directions, family and support getting signs prepared, volunteers helpful and smiling, vendors selling the latest and greatest in equipment, nutrition, clothing, and training aids. Our support crew of Eliott, Amy, and Jess helped us get checked in, wristbanded, and ID’d.

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Mandatory racers’ meeting at 1pm on Saturday, with body-marking, race instructions, and any Q & A from the crowd. Race officials warned that winds were sure to be a challenge all throughout the 17-hour event.

Unsurprisingly, the night before a race is a difficult night to get a good night’s sleep: nerves, minds racing with last-minute prep, pre-dawn wakeup call, hotel bed. Race community advice is to get a good night’s sleep on the night BEFORE the night before.

4am alarm, awake and trying to hydrate, consume calories, and yes, poop. (The things you didn’t know [and would rather not] about endurance races.) Because of the high winds the day before, bike and bag check-in had to also occur before sunrise.

Special Needs is the bag (usually nutrition only) that you receive at the halfway point of the bike and the run.
Special Needs is the bag (usually nutrition only) that you receive at the halfway point of the bike and the run.

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Finally, into the wetsuits and over to the ramp.

Me and bib number 596. Note stormy sky.
Me and bib number 596. Note stormy sky.

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This race had a time-trial start, which meant 2 swimmers every 3-4 seconds. Sam and I lined up, listened to the national anthem, and then it was time.

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This is the practice swim, 20 minutes before start – that’s Sam and me in the farmer john suits in the center of the picture.

Ours was a 2-loop swim around the marina and into the bay. Inside the protected marina the swim was delightful, but the bay was choppy on the first loop, and horrible on the 2nd. As soon as all the full-distance swimmers were out, and before the half-distance swimmers were in, race officials changed the course to stay in the marina and out of the bay.

In we go!
In we go!

Sam was out in just under 2 hours, and I was out in just over 2. Those are relatively slow times in our divisions, but the swim was not our strength, and we both opted to play it safe instead of fast. This race had “wetsuit strippers”, which is not nearly as sexy as it sounds. As swimmers exit the water, 2 volunteers assist with wetsuit removal – unzip the back, pull down from upper body, gently set the racer on her rump, off comes the suit, and then those 2 volunteers pull you right back up to standing – about a 4-second operation.

Also important in this picture - look at the clothing of the spectators. It was about 58 degrees at start time.
Also important in this picture – look at the clothing of the spectators. It was about 58 degrees at start time.

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Run the half-mile in a wet swimsuit in the cold and the wind, pick up transition bag, run into changing tent, change clothes, grab a snack, apply butt butter liberally, hop on the bike, wave to support crew, and off you go.

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Here’s a chance to learn some new racing lingo. The bike route was a lollipop – head out from transition, do a loop from the tip of stem of the lollipop, then an identical second loop, then back to transition on the stem. (It’s on page 30 of this race brief if you’re really interested.) The scenery was beautiful and the terrain was nice, gentle rollers – just the kind of route you’d like on a 112-mile bike ride. Except for the winds. Here’s the official race recap from Challenge:

When the swim was moved to the marina, the start became a time trial start so athletes could never really know how they placed until later in the day.  Athletes faced consistent winds of 15 to 20 knots and gusts up to 25 knots on the bike course.  A look of relief was on the face of most competitors as they came off the bike.

Those winds proved to be my undoing in this race. I can average about 16 mph on the bike, depending upon terrain and winds. This race was USAT sanctioned (USA Triathlon), so there are time limits in place for each leg of the event. The swim had a limit of 2 hours 20 minutes, the bike had a 5:30pm course close, and the run had to be completed by 12:05am.

Our heroic support crew found a little cafe out on the route with an outside deck and planted themselves there to see us on both loops. It was at around mile 50 (mile 88 on the second go), and they were able to catch us as we pedaled by.

Still in good spirits at mile 80
Still in good spirits at mile 88

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At 4:30, I was at mile 92. I had been working the mental math in my head for miles, trying to figure if there was any way I could make up the time. The tail-end charlie support vehicle was behind me (not the first time I’ve been the race sweeper), and I stopped and chatted with them. My options, as they explained it, were: go ahead and ride in and they would escort me and allow me to finish even though the course would close at 5:30 (which means no intersection support – no volunteers or LEO stopping traffic so you could blow through without stopping), which would mean I couldn’t begin the run portion OR allow them to take me in so I could cross the chip mat in time to begin the run. I opted for a hybrid – I wanted to pedal as far as I could and still make it to the cutoff. I got to mile 98, and didn’t want to cut it any closer. I crossed the chip mat just under the deadline and headed into transition. If you’re keeping track, this makes me 1 for 3 for ironman attempts. Ask me sometime if I’m going to try another one…

In the meantime, Sam had made it in and back out to start the run around 4:00.

2.4 in the water, 112 on the bike, now a quick little marathon.
…and out he goes.
In he comes...
In he comes…

Because at this point I was a DNF (more race lingo – Did Not Finish – hateful, hateful words), I chose not to head out on the marathon, and planned to hop on when Sam came to the turnaround and do the second half of the race with him. There was some confusion about the turnaround point, however, and I missed that. Instead, I started out on the route backwards – meeting finishers as they were coming in until I reached Sam. It was dark and he was a tired boy when I found him, but he was still running.

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Bib #596 crossed the finish line somewhere around 10pm – 15 hours, 1 minute, and 16 seconds after he went into the water. The 16 seconds may have come from the PUSHUPS HE DID AT THE FINISH LINE before he crossed. Cheering, applauding, laughing, one step across the chip mat, and then Sam Jordan is an Ironman.

Well-earned hardware
Well-earned hardware

The expression “blood, sweat, and tears” is often used to describe what goes into an accomplishment like this. The triathlon version is “blisters, sweat, tears, and time”. If you happen to see ole number 596, let him know what you think of his achievement. And for the mushy part, to have participated with Sam as he reached this goal goes into my book as one of the highlights of my life. I am so proud of this kid, for a multitude of reasons that go beyond this 140.6 miles. Thank you, Sammy, from the bottom of my mother’s heart.

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As cold as it looks

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Grateful.

It has been 16 days since I learned that I passed the California Bar Exam. I have been celebrating and traveling and celebrating again since then, but I’m settled for a while (a short while) now, and I want to try to express something.

I’ve written other posts, and am still working on yet another, about the study and test experience, so I don’t want to go over all that here.

What I want to try to do with this post is to express how grateful I am for the people who surrounded and supported me while I was on this journey, and how critically important they were to the success I had on the test. I know it sounds melodramatic and cliche to say that I couldn’t have done it without them, but that is so completely and fundamentally true, I don’t care.  I’ve hesitated writing this post for fear of leaving someone out, and if I do, please forgive me. It’s not that I have forgotten your kindness, it’s just that my brain is still recovering from the test.

String o' love
String o’ love

Facebook family and friends from all over:

If one were to scroll back through my Facebook pages over the law school years, hardly a day would pass without finding some word of encouragement. Add in snail-mail, texts, email, phone calls, and I’ve been marinating in good wishes non-stop. Just before Bar review, my honey put the word out that he was compiling a test-countdown calendar, to be composed of daily words of affirmation for me to read every day for the 100 days leading up to the Bar. The response was overwhelming, and that set of 100 calendar pages will be a treasure to me for the rest of my life.

Dodge and Jamison. 2 of the best.
Dodge and Jamison. 2 of the best.

My professors:

My freaky-deaky law school has awesome professors. Who knew? They were patient and accessible and, because they are on the cutting edge of the online education experience, really concerned that we students did well. I have no frame of reference from a brick-and-mortar school, but compared to my undergraduate experience, my law school professors were much more engaged and invested. Additionally, as online professors, they must overcome those issues inherent in virtual classrooms and distance learning. I’m grateful for their teaching and their guidance and counsel.

See!? There's Gabe!
See!? There’s Gabe!

Classmates:

Sometimes you just get lucky. For my season of law school and Bar review, I found myself in a group of strong, brilliant, exceptional women. When you understand that most of us attend online law school because we have jobs, families (in that sweet spot of caring for children and parents), mortgages, and a thousand other obligations, it makes this group of women in more impressive. (Disclaimer: we had brilliant men in our class too, but somehow our little study posse ended up estrogen-heavy.) The ongoing joke is that online law school limits one’s ability to form lasting friendships and study partnerships. Nothing is further from the truth. Whether scratching our heads together in Evidence, or ranting about Remedies, or freaking out during the process of law review, this group of forever friends gave and gave and gave. Whenever one of us was down or frustrated, all the others jumped in to support and encourage. What a joy and pleasure to have gone through this with them. I am grateful for their friendships, and the privilege to call them professional colleagues now.

Me, my girl, and her girl
Me, my girl, and her girl

Rosine:

Rosine is in a category by herself, both in this post and in life. Rosine and I started out together in law school and were study buddies the first 2 years. Rosine hit a bump in the road and couldn’t continue with law school, but she hasn’t relented in her cheering and support for me. She never let a significant date – finals, new law school year, bar review countdown – pass without reaching out by phone/text/skype to tell me she believed in me. There had to have been a personal price for this, but she never let on that there was, even coming to my graduation and celebration. I am so lucky to have had her as my study partner, and even more so to have her as my friend.

Because when we agree to meet, it's always "whatever-o'clock-ISH"!
Because when we agree to meet, it’s always “whatever-o’clock-ISH”!

My Ish sisters:

Oh my girls. This is my friends’ group in Murfreesboro, the ladies that kept me on track by making me laugh and cry and laugh some more. During my bar review, these girls held me accountable for taking one half-day off per week, when all I wanted to do was stay glued to my desk and do just one more essay. Our Days-Out, whether pizza and beer, wine and cheese, or just gathering at one of our homes, were consistently the highlight of my week, and a re-charger for the next. Susan even got to come out to California for my graduation (and took most of these pictures), and was with me when I logged in for my results. They committed to our schedule in spite of jobs, kids, hubbies, and all the other competitors for their time, and I am so very very grateful to have these women in my life.

Whole lotta love at that table
Whole lotta love at that table

My kids:

I know, I know, I do this all the time. This isn’t my usual my-kids-are-so-great-and-perfect-and-I-love-them-so-big post. This is to say thank you to them for not only inspiring me with their own accomplishments and kickass lives, but also for their constant words of encouragement and support. Never once did they question their 50-year-old mother going to law school, or choosing an online program, or getting a California license while living in Tennessee! They have celebrated every victory along the way, and I am grateful to them and for them for their complete and total awesomeness.

My honey pie
My honey pie

Eliott:

In a post full of mush and gush, this will be the mushi- and gushiest. My honey, who is not known for his patience, was the kindest, most tolerant, loving, supportive partner I could have asked for. For the last 4 years I have taken books on every work trip and every vacation we have had. I was psycho about my study schedule, both during law school and bar review, and never once did he complain or push back or even roll his eyes (outwardly, anyway) when I spread out on hotel desks, or found the library, or had to attend class. He prepared endless meals and brought me snacks and rubbed my neck and shoulders. He took on all the farm tasks when he was in town to give me a break from those. He endured my meltdowns, and when I needed to talk through a legal concept, he listened AND paid attention so he could ask me questions to make sure I understood. He was everything I needed and then some.

Hard work? Yes. Study? Yes. Sacrifice? Yes. But the real key to the success I had in law school and on the bar exam was the love and support of the people I’m so fortunate to have in my life. Thank you from the bottom of my very grateful heart.

Thanks for reading.

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