How Pepe Is Teaching Me A Thing Or Two About Gratitude

pepeLife on Moon Lake tends to embrace the best of rural living and access to city services. My house is heated with natural gas. I can walk to the library, grocery store, pizza place, elementary school and even a winery on a nice Wisconsin day. But, I can enjoy the tranquility of living on a lake surrounded by trees listening to the sounds of whistling loons. It is a life I love. But, it also comes with some unexpected surprises.

Since entering the chaos that comes with parenting, Steve and I have become a little looser on where our compost ends up. Up until now, this flexible composting has resulted in the occasional squirrel, deer and extra birds. But this fall, while enjoying a binge of Scandal, I noticed a pair of piercing eyes pressed against my window. It turns out Pepe had found our stash. At the time, I was safe. But, I also knew that with a 2-year old, dog, three cats and a husband, this was going to be a problem. I gently, but firmly (aka barked orders), asked my husband to euthanize or quietly relocate our newest critter on Moon Lake. My husband found humor in my angst, patted my shoulder and told me it’d be alright.

Over the course of the next month, Pepe’s visits became more aggressive in nature. In addition to interrupting my television show, compost was missing and several successful garbage attempts resulted in a rather disgusting mess in our driveway. Despite this growing aggression from Pepe, my husband still felt it necessary to let Pepe reside and thrive on Moon Lake.

Things came to a climax in mid-October. Steve let Joey out right before we went to bed. There was an altercation. Before I even knew what had happened, Steve ushered Joey into our home in attempts to prevent her from absorbing the smell from Pepe. The only problem – she had been Pepe’s target and was covered with the hideous smell only a skunk can disperse. By the time I could react, our dog had ran wild in our house, rubbing her sprayed fur on carpets, rugs, blankets and my bed. The smell was overwhelming. Even moreso, when my husband casually asked me to confirm if our dog had been sprayed since he couldn’t tell for sure, I seriously questioned the intelligence of the man I love.

Thanks to Google, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, we were able to salvage much of Joey’s fur (unless she gets wet). After doing 10-12 loads of laundry and breaking our dryer, many of the clothes and blankets were salvaged or destroyed…. With the exception of one. My favorite, plush, micro-fleece blanket that was a wedding gift. I love this blanket. But, despite washing it multiple times, utilizing countless dryer sheets and even leaving it outside to air dry for multiple weeks, every time I go to snuggle into it I catch this lingering whiff of Pepe. I imagine this may be some form of PTSD, but regardless it interrupts my precious sleep patterns.

For the past few weeks, my husband has encouraged me to remove the blanket from my bed. It could go in storage until next spring or permanently retire. But for some reason, I just keep hanging on to it.

As we enter the season of giving, I can’t help but think of the toxic things we love in life that we hold onto even when it is time to let them go. And how sometimes, we focus on them and miss all that is good in our life. Perhaps it is cliché, but last night while snuggling into bed after a weekend of prepping holiday cards, I couldn’t help but think, why? Why can’t I be more grateful for everything I do have and let go of the rest? It seems so simple on paper but seemingly impossible in my life.

A quick google search about practicing gratitude informs me that millions of people have ideas, suggestions and theories on how to be more grateful for what’s in your life. For me, I’m going to start small. If you are still reading this, there is a good chance you play a role in my life. Thank you for that. I don’t need a book or theory to tell me how blessed I am, in part because of the amazing people I’m lucky enough to call family, friends, colleagues or partners.

And, while this sounds silly, tonight when I go home I’m going to remove that lingering smell from my bed. And, as I get ready to enter the craziness that this time of year brings, I’m going to do my best to focus on what matters.

One last note, for my animal lover friends, Pepe lives. Immediately following his Saturday night encounter with Joey, he went into hiding. I’m confident he has not relocated but rather found a safe, secure resting spot somewhere on our property until next spring. My gut says this story is far from over… so for now… to be continued.

Running Towards My Dream

635818006858912368At lunch yesterday, a couple of curious friends casually hinted that I hadn’t posted about the coffee shop lately. I’ve been hesitant to doing so because I’ve found when I put things on this site, they tend to happen. Or in this case, don’t happen. That’s right. The coffee shop is on hold.

I could give an entire laundry list of reasons why—with the largest being a suitable space. There is also the whole regional workforce shortage and inability for me to find work-life balance as well. But the truth is, these roadblocks could be conquered… but only if I was 100% ready to go all in and compromise a bit on my vision for Iron River Coffee.

Over the course of the last year, I spent a lot of time exploring how to make a coffee shop work. I met with a lot of individuals smarter than I and crunched a lot of numbers. I dreamed big about having my own private coffee label and began envisioning my brand. I met with realtors, saved money and read coffee business books. I looked at auction sites and spent a lot of time researching other shops by taste testing drinks and treats and testing wi-fi. I learned a ton. And, I know that someday in my future I will own or invest in a coffee shop.

But someday isn’t today. This fall I spent some time doing the hardest part of business planning—soul searching. And the more I searched, the more I discovered that while there are many reasons I should go into business, there are many reasons I’m just not ready. Sure, some of it is fear of the unknown. Some of it is fear of failure. Some of it is risk tolerance. Some of it is timing. But, even if I push beyond those basic business fears, there was a large part of me that discovered I just don’t want the added stress of a business on my plate right now.

This is tough for me to acknowledge. The old me would have plowed ahead and said well I said I was going to open a business so I’m going to do it… even if I’m not ready and I know the timing isn’t right for me and my family. I know some of you are thinking there will never be a good time for me to do this. But, I can guarantee you there will be a better time for me to do this. And that will be at the moment when my heart says so.

So for now, I’ll continue to jot down menu ideas. Create coffee concoctions at home and set my grill on fire roasting beans from around the world. I’ll visit shops on my travels and allow myself to wonder what if. And someday, what if will become what is. And, when that time comes, I know is it’ll be built on my timeline and achieve my dream of a creative community space where folks can connect while indulging in affordable caffeine.

You might be wondering why a post all about the coffee shop involves a random pic of me running. I’m not sure other than to say, this month I completed my 6th Half-Marathon. It was my best Whistlestop time and I missed a PR by 3-minutes. I didn’t achieve my goal this year. But, I made it halfway. And I’m not done yet. The older I get, the more I’m learning life is about making tough choices. In many ways it would have been easier for me to open a coffee shop and abandon my running goal. I’m pretty confident I’d be a much better business owner than athlete… But, I plan to keep on running.

I’m working on some changes for next spring when I line up again in hopes I can break the 3-hour barrier. Because that my friends, is one dream I’m not willing to put on hold.

Last… As in Last Place. Thanks Nike.

An interesting post came up in my Twitter feed today. If it were a promoted Tweet, I would have seriously wondered exactly what in my Twitter profile exemplifies exactly how slow I run.

Fast Company shared Nike’s latest ad. In the Tweet, they call this ad a soulful tribute to last place. It immediately peaked my attention given my consistency in finishing in the bottom half of races for 5+ years. The ad itself is well done. It certainly triggered one of my favorite Half-Marathon moments, when while running in Door County, I could hear the awards ceremony going on. I still had about 5-miles to go. I remember turning to the person running next to me at the time and saying, “I guess we didn’t win this one.” At the time it seemed funny. But it is true. Running any race is difficult, both mentally and physically. But, I am 100% confident that running a race from the back of the pack is much more difficult. It is harder physically. It is harder mentally since you must maintain focus for twice that of someone in the front half. And, emotionally, it is hard to push through the self-doubt that comes with coming in last.

Nike manages to capture the glory of the back of the pack in their latest ad thoughtfully titled: Last. Watch it now:

I’m not sure if I’m inspired by the notion that I probably won’t die at my race on October 10. Granted, it is a half-marathon versus a marathon. But, I do appreciate Nike acknowledging that there are a whole lot of us in the back of the pack that buy Nike clothes too. Without us inspiring to be better and to try harder, they wouldn’t be nearly as profitable. So thanks for that.

On the training front, I completed my last long run of the season. It wasn’t a great time but I felt strong. The next two weeks will be spent doing some short runs and lots of cross-training and hiking. Fall is gearing up to be gorgeous and I don’t want to miss a moment of it. Hoping for some great race day weather to close-out a fun season of runs.


Thirteen Seconds

Before you read this, I want you to pause for thirteen seconds.

Did you do it? It really isn’t that hard, right? I mean 13 seconds is nothing. It probably took me that long to type this sentence. But this past weekend, I discovered that 13 seconds in running is comparable to 8 seconds when riding a bull. It is flipping hard!

I ran my second timed 5k in my life this weekend. I showed up to the start feeling pretty good about things. I was still a bit sore from a cardio course earlier in the week that reminded me I’m old and need to cross-train but that’s a whole different story. All in all, I thought for sure I’d shave at least a minute off my time.

stillwaterThe race was in Stillwater. Great town for a race. I knew the finish line had moved but figured the course was roughly the same. Turns out it wasn’t. But, that’s no excuse. Both courses ended lower than they started. And, both were on the road so all in all, they were equal races. Similar to the May race, there were also many parent/kid duos racing. And yes, it is equally as disheartening to watch a child blast past you. This time around, it took me about ¾ of a mile to finally pass the pint size 5-year old who was racing with dad. Luckily, he found something interesting in the dirt to distract him or I might still be chasing him today. Granted, I could probably run a lot faster 30-years ago but regardless, it is humbling.

So anyways, I hit the final stretch of this race giving it everything I had. It felt good. In fact, there was a moment in that final stretch where I felt a bit like a superhero. I really need to add chariots of fire to my playlist. I was running so fast, I didn’t even have time to think I was going to fall over. As I approached the rubber mat, I glanced at the clock and was shocked. It had to be wrong. The time was much too similar to my last race.

After getting my medal, I propped myself against the wall and contemplated how this was even possible. The only reason I could come up with was there was a huge bottleneck at the start so when I factor in my start time, I’m sure that’s off by a few minutes. And in 5k time, that’s acceptable. A few hours later I received the email… it was in fact my PR but by 13 seconds. Yep. That’s it. Thirteen seconds. As I sit here, TWO days later, there is still some muscles in my inner thighs that hurt. And for what? Thirteen seconds.

Ugh. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand why my time isn’t improving. This has been a summer filled with shortcuts on the course and quite a bit of overindulging. While I’ve completed my long runs to ensure I don’t injure myself at the half, I’ve been a little less focused on everything else that goes into running.

Running really is a sport where you get what you put into it. And to be honest, if I asked myself did I deserve to finish with a PR stronger than 13-seconds, well I didn’t. So for now, this is going to have to be good enough.

Good enough is tough getting used to. Even tougher is knowing that in 3-weeks the outcome will likely be very similar or even worse. I know I can change that. But saying it and doing it are two different things. This year’s goal of a half-marathon in less than 3-hours isn’t going to happen. But, I’m going to keep trying. And given everything going on right now, I am finding a way to be ok with that.

So that’s the latest from the back of the pack. It isn’t all rainbows in Moon Lake Runningland. Instead, a lot of ibuprofen, swearing and sweaty spandex. But, at least I’ve managed to keep all of my toenails!

Barronett Bob (AKA Corn Man)

This past month I was reminded about the power of social media and journalism 101. While perusing Facebook, I saw a post that was being shared with hundreds about one of my favorite farmers in the world — Barronett Bob. Or, just the Corn Man. The rumor was he wasn’t going to be selling this year due to heart issues. The post going round seemed legit and I was sad to think I wouldn’t get to enjoy the greatest sweet corn of all time so I shared it on my facebook page. The next day, much to my surprise, I learned the Facebook post had bad information. Barronett Bob was in fact healthy and was just days away from heading up to Ashland to sell hundreds the sweet taste of summer. I was relieved to hear he was ok and happy the information was false. But, I got to thinking and what I found interesting is the person who cracked the facebook rumor did so by something so old fashion–they picked up a phone and called him to confirm the story, only to discover it was false. It seems so simple, yet, it was a great reminder about the benefits of speaking to the source for information.

Next week, I’m excited to stock up on Bob’s treats when he rolls into Ashland with his truck of gold. I’m even hopeful for one of his watermelon. In the meantime, if you’ve ever wondering more about the man behind the corn, check out Julie Buckles and her post: The Secret of Bob’s Super Sweet Corn. Julie is a great author and I think you’ll find the story about Bob almost as good as his corn….

Iron River Coffee Anyone?

So a crazy thing happened today that I feel I need to share in hopes to help me pursue my dreams. If you know me at all, you know I’m a coffee addict. You also know that I absolutely love living on Moon Lake. But, for those close to me, you also know that Iron River’s lack of an espresso machine is a personal conundrum I struggle with daily. For the past 5-months, I’ve been doing my due diligence in trying to determine if the rest of the community feels the same. This has involved meeting with regional coffee shops, talking to businesses in-town, crunching numbers, meeting with a distributor, attending a food show, reviewing real-estate in-town and doing some serious soul searching.

All of this had led me to today. As part of this process, I put my ideas on paper and competed in the area’s business idea contest. Today, I got up in front of a room of 50-60 folks from state agencies, local banks, and community members. There were business owners and agency reps from economic development. And, there were other dreamers who believed their idea was worth sharing.

I had 120 seconds to share my vision. I am confident the last time I was this nervous was when I presented my senior thesis at Bemidji State University in 1999. I hate public speaking. But, what was more at stake was whether this group of individuals would embrace my idea. Would they get the need for a community hot spot in Iron River that provides a premium espresso.

I was a babbling fool who was sweating buckets. Keep in mind, the room did not have air conditioning and it was 90+ degrees in Ashland. But, I got up there and put my heart and soul out to the audience. I laid it all out there. And guess what, I didn’t win. I tied for first. But, I did manage to win the audience choice award. This meant a lot to me because it showed that people understood my passion. They shared my passion. And they believed in me.

Call it fate or something crazier, I met the VP of the bank who happens to own the building I’m interested in purchasing in the bathroom. It was a great conversation. Several other conversations with commuters, economic development folks and bankers provided me insight and feedback on how to make this possible. While energized, I’m also overwhelmed. I have a great stable job and a booming freelance career. I’m the mother of a 2-year old with whom I attempt to embrace every moment possible. My husband and I are involved in the community. We’re stretched thin. And, I’m not exactly a trust fund baby. Folks talked a lot today about being fearless. But, as brave as I am, the whole thing has left me clueless. To be honest, I don’t know what comes next.

But I do know that today felt good. It would have felt equally as good if I hadn’t won. I put myself out there. I put my dreams out there. It was scary. It was intimidating. But, I came out realizing that others will support my dream. It was worth every second. Sitting here typing this note, I don’t know if I’ll be a coffee shop owner in 12-months. But, in this moment, it seems a lot more possible than yesterday. And that my friends is something.

I Dig Being Two!

IMG_1285I’m hijacking mom’s blog again in anticipation of my second birthday coming up on Saturday. Things have changed a ton since I last wrote. First, I’m communicating. My vocabulary includes a lot of body parts, food groups and demands. I’ve mastered the words mine, poo and no. And, while I still don’t get it, I have found if I add the word puh-lease to the end of everything, I pretty much get everything I want.

Mom says I’m in the height of terrible 2’s and have a bit of a temper. I’d say I’m more the vocal, independent type that knows what I want and how to get it. It’s the Sisu Fin in me so mom only has herself to thank for that.

I’m also very curious. This past week, I figured out that if I connect my step stool to my play kitchen, I can walk up the stool, use the kitchen as a step and finally gain access to the kitchen counters where there is all kinds of good stuff, including access to all of the food cupboards. Dad busted me and said he wasn’t sure if he should be angry or proud of the fact that I figured that out on my own. What can I say? I’m a natural problem solver.

I am obsessed with water and consider myself very brave. I love jumping off the dock, going for boat rides, dunking my head in the water and rolling around in circles in the tub… all of which makes my parents quite anxious. Seriously, you should see them. They are wound up so tight when I’m playing. They keep saying I’m going to drown, even though I sport a life jacket constantly. A couple weeks ago, I even went tubing at the cabin making me the youngest Probst to enter the world of water sports.

I still enjoy being read to but I’m much more into turning the pages and trying to figure out the names of things on my own. There are just so many words out there for me to learn. I’m not sure if wombat is a must know at two but I’m going with what mom and dad give me to read and soaking it all up like a sponge.

I waited a while to walk. I found crawling to be more effective. But, around Christmas that started to change. Now, I run and jump and walk all day long. I love stairs. Another thing that seemed to stress mom and dad out. Then again, everything seems to stress at least mom out. I love tackling dad. We roughhouse a ton. I frankly love it and dad is a wimp. But, it seems to get me into trouble at daycare sometimes. Turns out tackling dad and tackling infants aren’t the same thing. Go figure. In addition to running around, I love throwing balls and swinging bats. Oh and stroller and wagon rides. Pretty much anything outside where I’m moving is good. I’ve also taken up weeding. Mom taught me that. It doesn’t seem to make much sense since we never seem to be done but it passes time. And, only sometimes mom says what I’m pulling are actually plants versus weeds. Give me a break, I’m two.

I love food. I weigh in at over 32 pounds and have been called sturdy by more than one person. I like my food spicier than mom, although that doesn’t take much. Dad says I’m clearly a carnivore. But, I could live on graham crackers if given the opportunity. For the first few months of eating, I resisted cheese and refused to eat anything with cheese in or on it. It just seemed like such a cliché since I was born in Wisconsin. But, I have learned the errors of my way and now beg for cheese constantly. Joey loves when I get cheese. Especially the shredded kind since at least half of it ends up on the floor for her. She’s sort of a beggar. But I don’t mind. She’s my best bud.

I remain a full-time daycare kid. It works out pretty good. I think mom and dad feel a bit guilty so I’ve been told I’m a bit spoiled at times… But, I frankly wouldn’t want to be with my parents 24/7. They are sort of boring. All of my friends are at daycare, plus they got pet chickens and rabbits and all kinds of cool toys I don’t have at home. Did I mention the chickens? How cool is that? Rumor is I might be getting a chicken pen so I can have one (or more—we’re still negotiating that front) next summer just like mom had when she was growing up.

This past year included quite a few adventures. I went to the Children’s Museum, multiple zoos, countless festivals (mom’s obsessed), swimming in Lake Superior, cabin visits, shopping, the library, lots of restaurants, hiking, my first Big Top show and had my photo taken a ton (literally). I watched mom cross the finish line at several races. I also helped lead off the Blueberry Festival Parade since my dad is town supervisor. Dad forgot to mention it to mom so we were scrambling a bit but I ended up getting to throw bouncy balls. Plus, mom didn’t have time to get me a blueberry costume and dad wouldn’t let her die a diaper bright blue so that’s good. It was bad enough I had to be a ladybug (or as PR mom tried to spin it, Mr. Bug) for Halloween. Can’t wait to see how they will humiliate me this year.

All of that said, it was another good year on Moon Lake. It is hard to believe my age has doubled since I last wrote. I’m still not potty trained but I sleep a solid 11 hours nightly. I love my afternoon naps. The whole play hard, sleep hard seems to suit me well. This past month, my car seat flipped from backwards to forwards. I now see the world whiz by me in a whole different light. I have a hunch a lot of being two will be like this—seeing the world differently. I’m looking forward to it!

Until next time,

Jake from Moon Lake