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My Life Unfiltered

brooksshoeA couple weeks ago I was getting ready to share an update on my diet and a pic of my new running shoes, along with a blog post about my first ever class on how to build a succulent wreath. Within an hour of opening my blue and brown Brooks running shoe box, life changed.

I won’t go into details but my dad spent the last 2+ weeks in the hospital. He is at home now and is doing ok. We’re still looking for a long-term solution but I am counting my blessings that he has an angel for a sister and that the folks at Cloquet Community Hospital have provided him amazing care through this tough time.

This alone would have shaken the toughest of dieters. The fact that I’m an emotional eater and an emotional person in general is a bad combination. A slew of other complexities including family dynamics, being in what appears to be a permanent transitional phase at work, backed up freelance, a rental property that isn’t selling and a whole slew of other stresses has left me struggling to find comfort in long walks versus bags of peanut butter M&Ms.

Last Monday, I started training for my 5th Half-Marathon. I had hoped to have lost 20-pounds when I hit the pavement in my new Brooks shoes. The reality is I’ve lost 11—seven of which I lost in the first two weeks. I had hoped to spend the last 12-weeks building my core so that when I hit the pavement I’d have a strong upper body. That never happened. If anything, my back aches from hauling my 25+ pound baby up and down hills, stairs and other obstacles within our house. Needless to say, I am nowhere near where I wanted to be when I started training. My first two runs were lackluster, uninspired and weak at best.

I laced up my shoes this morning with an intention of quitting. This, despite my husband promising he’d find time for me to get the training in I needed to cross that finish line. It was my first “long run”. At three miles, I expected that it would be impossible confirming that this, along with my so-called failed diet would have to take a back seat.

Instead, life has a different plan for me. You see it is one of those perfect summer days on Moon Lake. The kind where bugs total zero, the wind gently flows off the lake, the birds sing, the blueberries are ripe and the height of summer green engulfs and calms you in a way that no form of meditation can ever provide.

I didn’t set the world on fire during this morning’s run. But, I finished it strong and faster than I anticipated. More importantly, I enjoyed it. I finished the run with a clear head and understanding that things will get better – not just with my strength but with the other complexities in my life I cannot control.

So here we go. I have 12 weeks or so until I line up on October 11 (my 6th wedding anniversary), to run Whistlestop Half-Marathon 2014. I’m confident I’ll cross the finish line. But, the question remains whether I can beat my 3-hour goal. For runners, this is very slow—just under 15-minute miles. But for me, this is the impossible hurdle I cannot seem to surpass. I don’t know if my body in this shape can achieve that. But I do know, while there are a million things I cannot control right now I can control how hard I try when time is made for me to train.

As for the diet, I’ll continue to try. Back to the basics. Carrot sticks and greek yogurt instead of peanut M&Ms. Good-bye white bread. Hello whole what. Good-bye afternoon diet pop, hello carb control shakes. One day at a time. One step at a time. Focus. Breath. Be the best person I can be, show up and train hard, and the rest will fall into place. Or it won’t, but at least I will know I have tried. Funny how the lessons of running and the lessons of life intersect for me right now.

So that’s the latest from Moon Lake. I still plan to post an update about Simply Succulents someday. It might come in the dead of winter but that’s ok. The class was a blast and my wreath – despite this chaos – is thriving. I also just learned I get to write a feature about these amazing folks to run in Northern Gardener magazine next year. Meantime, a piece that I wrote about my favorite farmer Clare Hintz and her year-round CSA should run in the magazine this fall.

 

This month I had a multitude of articles come out including my first blog post for Midwest Living and an article about talent recruitment in northeast Minnesota for Minnesota Business Magazine. The topics are wildly different but they both focus in one a special place in my heart – Duluth.

As a new mom, I am finding it difficult to get quality information on family friendly locations in the area. I find myself asking other moms, sticking to what I know, or occasionally winging it and hoping I don’t ruin too many people’s lives. That said, Jake goes down at 6:15 so dinner dates are a distant memory in my life. If you find yourself in the same boat as me, be sure to check out my piece on 10-family friendly spots to hang in Duluth.

As for my piece in Minnesota Business Magazine about talent recruitment in northeast Minnesota, I enjoyed writing this piece because I distinctly remember a time when I was an ambitious Duluthian who for a variety of reasons needed to leave television news. I had a solid resume and great education but my connections to the business community in Duluth were weak. At the time (2004), I genuinely believed the only place to find a job was via the Duluth News Tribune. I actually did end up finding my job this way – but it was in Ashland at Northland College. This of course, sparked a whole new life for me including meeting Steve and eventually ending up on the shores on Moon Lake (which is frankly awesome). But, there will always be a part of me that dreams of returning to the Twin Ports.

In the mid-2000s, I seized an opportunity to return to Duluth for work (even though I lived in Washburn, WI at the time). Up until 2011, I worked at the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. One of my tasks at the Foundation was working on an initiative to attract and retain young adults in Duluth. It was an interesting project and an interesting time to be a part of the solution. I had the opportunity to participate in Fuse – the young professional arm of the Chamber of Commerce; participate (and be honored one year) in the 20 Under 40 awards; lead initial efforts with the Young Leaders Fund of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, and work one a portal for young adults which included being a John S. and James L. Knight Community Information Fellow via a grant from the Knight Foundation.

Today, many of these efforts have evolved and/or changed. But, it is exciting to learn that it continues to be a focus in the area. It is cool to know that recent grads or those at a turning point in their career have tools like NORTHFORCE and TwinPortsConnex to help them transition without having to leave the state.

(But if you do have to leave the area, consider northern Wisconsin. It is pretty awesome as well. And, we still have an awesome home in Herbster for sale…)

That’s it from Moon Lake today. This weekend I’m heading to Cable to make my first succulent wreath. I hope to share that experience along with some photos from my garden soon.

The backstory behind how we ended up owning a 3-bedroom home near Lake Superior in Herbster, Wisconsin is a whole different story. But, today, it is with mixed emotions that we’ve decided to sell it.

The view from the road.

The view from the road.

I still remember that crisp fall day when we walked the property for the first time. The former hobby farmer in me was fascinated by the outbuildings and aged barn. Next to it, a spacious back yard, 30 acres of woods to explore and winding ATV trails that intersect with deer paths satisfied my curious side. While an artisan well watering the field out back with water from Lake Superior’s Basin reminded me just how close we were to the greatest of great lakes, Lake Superior.

 

 

A second story deck provides the perfect spot to read, write or dream.

A second story deck provides the perfect spot to read, write or dream.

Glancing upward, I notice a second story balcony overlooking the property providing the perfect writer’s nook and I couldn’t help but wonder if this unexpected purchase was a glimpse into my future.

As we toured the home, the word character kept coming to mind. It was clear the previous owners had a vision for this renovated farmhouse. In the kitchen, new cabinets and flooring, along with new windows provided the floor plan for a modern day, functional kitchen. The gorgeously crafted tongue and groove ceilings, spacious family room and open floor plan provided plenty of room for a growing family to run around. Upstairs, the bedrooms were simple but large, with access to newly finished deck. Standing there, I could almost taste my morning coffee.

There were snippets of wonder and vision as I toured the property. An unfinished loft space that was designated for a second story hot tub seemed to be more appropriate for a second bathroom. The previous owner’s love of blue, including blue carpets and a blue first story bathroom was a bit extreme for this gal’s love of neutral. But these cosmetic differences were easy fixes in the grand scheme of things.

As we left the house, Steve and I had a moment of pause. Could we leave our life in Iron River to start a new life in Herbster? Our immediate response was absolutely. I could already envision roasting coffee from the outbuilding, planting a pear orchard and having my own 1-acre vegetable garden. I could see our kids exploring the woods, chasing deer and harvesting mushrooms without ever having to leave our property. I could see our family biking the mere couple miles to the shores of Lake Superior to enjoy a summer filled with sand and sun. It could in fact be the perfect life.

But, life is a bit more complicated than that. The realities of our jobs and the life we’ve built on Moon Lake topped our dreams of starting a new life in Herbster. We’ve sat on these dreams for a few years as we rented this property out. But, at this juncture in our life, we’ve decided to sell.

So I write this post with mixed emotions. If you or someone you know of is looking to start a new life away from the rat race, near the shores of Lake Superior in some of the most gorgeous country around, this property is worth checking out.

Here’s the nitty gritty details:

Escape the rat race in this for sale by owner 3-bedroom, one bathroom home (1,900 sq. ft) just 2 miles from Lake Superior in Herbster on a beautiful 5-acre wooded lot. Option to buy an additional 30 acres of prime hunting land adjacent to the proerty.

Highlights include Internet fiber optic wired to the home, new windows, newly remodeled kitchen, tongue and groove ceiling, second story deck off master bedroom, 4 car garage, maintained trails on backside of property, large yard, an outbuilding and an option to buy up to 30 additional acres of prime hunting land. Closing and title insurance will be professionally handled by Wisconsin Title.

Priced to sell at $104,900 or $134,900 with the additional 30 acres.

Private showings available starting in late-May. Call Steve at 218-269-6776 for additional information or to set-up a showing. At this price, this home won’t stay on the market long.

I’ve also included the PDF of our poster for you to share as well.

South Shore Property For Sale

I’m a planner. I love pouring over gardening catalogs all winter long dreaming up raised garden bed plans, flowering combos, hardy perennials and edible shrubs. While I implement many of these plans, my black thumb and sandy soil cancels out many of my efforts. This annual kill-off provides the perfect opportunity to frequent some of my favorite Greenhouses each spring.

Some of my favorites include shopping for succulents at Big Brook Greenhouse in Cable. Each year I lovingly look at the turtle shaped plants thinking someday I’ll be responsible enough to keep one alive. For now, I just keep adding to my favorite succulents of all – Hens and Chicks.

When it comes to edible shrubs, Blue Vista Farm in Bayfield is an all-time favorite. I struggle to keep blueberries alive, even though I live in perfect soil conditions and wild blueberries grow all around me. Go figure. But wandering this farm provides a glimpse of sheer summer fruit perfection. I prefer picking wild blueberries but now with Jake in-tow, some summer picking sessions here might be a must do.

Peterson Greenhouse in Iron River is perfect for my vegetables and annuals, in part because of its proximity to my house. It never fails that you plan and plan but once you plant, you need just one more plant. After several rounds of this, I either run out of time or in many cases money to answer that call. Anyone who has gardened before knows what I’m talking about.

goodie boxWhile it is too early in the season to be shopping these favorite hot spots, this past weekend marked my favorite greenhouse experience. The annual perennial sale at Hauser’s in Bayfield generally starts on May 1 each year. Perennials are awesome in the sense that even the most frugal gardener (as in me), feels each plant is a worthwhile investment because of its ability to keep coming back. Perennials are like the energizer bunny, they just keep going and going until you need to divide them and double your investment. Sure, they might not have the sassy bloom that an annual brings to the table. They tend to be a bit subtle in their summer display, but I think that’s one of the things I love about them most.

Shopping the barn sale to me is like the Barney’s Warehouse Sale in NYC. Any perennial that has a chance of growing in the north woods is dug up and thrown in endless rows on display. Holding the bare root in your hand, it is hard to conjure up what joy this can bring to one’s life. My husband often shudders as the total is rung up. But by mid-June, many of these bare root plants are thriving in my sandy soil.

In addition to the barn sale, Hauser’s has provided me 3 apple trees, 2 pear trees and a beautiful cherry bush (at an amazing price) that continue to thrive despite multiple years of drought like conditions at my sandy hotspot in Iron River.

hausersThis year was extra special because I got to bring Jake along. He certainly had no clue what was going on. To him, the bare root plant served as a new and exciting chew toy. But, the mama in me knows he has a black thumb and gardening soul like me. I cannot wait for us to pour over the plants together as we plot out his garden. Plus, daddy will have a lot harder time cringing at the price tag when someone so cute is involved.

Afterwards, we hit up one more Greenhouse that I absolutely love but given it is 40-minutes from my house, I rarely stock up on annuals. I do however take advantage of their Mother’s Day basket sale. Tetzner’s Greenhouse (which is conveniently located down the road from Tetzner’s farm and my favorite ice cream sandwich), is several hoops and houses of beautifully blended flowers looking for the perfect home. They also have an awesome $10 Mother’s Day basket sale that we take advantage of annually. This year, I got to buy 2—one for my mother-in-law and one for me. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

If time and money weren’t an object, I’d spend countless days and dollars shopping. But for now, I limit myself to these few favorites (and an occasional drop-in at others when nobody is looking). To my gardening followers, happy spring!

bethSaturday marked my 4th Half-Marathon. It was my first race post baby. Training revolved around teething, sleepless nights, never-ending illnesses, pregnancy gut and this lovely thing called a Polar Vortex. One week before the race, I was driving through a fresh foot of snow. Two days before the race, I was slipping and sliding along ice and slush covered roads in yet another Winter Storm Warning. Last but not least, my interpretation from the racecourse description was that this would be a relatively flat, scenic course. Instead, I was greeted with miles of rolling hills, an open-road course complete with exhaust fumes from cars whizzing by, scenic views of residential streets and overzealous 10k runners who shared the first 5-miles of the course after starting a mere 15-minutes after the half-marathon start time.

The race itself was pretty uneventful. After a few miles, I accepted the course was going to be endless hills and that as long as I kept putting one foot in front of the other, at some point it’d have to end. My legs adjusted accordingly. Somewhere along the way I found my rhythm. My first mile took 17.5 minutes. My last 3 I was pacing 13:30 and I could have pushed myself harder. As I rounded the last corner and crossed the finish line I saw my husband snapping photos. A college friend stood near by clapping. It felt good. I glanced at the clock to discover I finished above where I expected. But nowhere near what I wanted.

It wasn’t until later that day that I finally logged onto the website to get the down and dirty. I finished in second to last place. My time was 45 seconds faster than my last race but not a PR. By all accounts, I should have been happy with my performance. I mean, a fat girl jogging 13.1 miles is nothing to look down on.

But that’s the thing. I don’t want to be the fat girl in the back anymore. I want to be the large girl in the middle back. I don’t mind finishing at a below average time as long as I’m personally improving. Truth is, for this to happen I need to start looking at my entire body and not just logging miles every week to justify the frozen pizza my husband and I used to enjoy on weekends. I know this isn’t brain surgery. But I’ve discovered that knowing this and doing it are two different things.

I have also learned that if I share something in writing, I tend to show-up and play the game to speak. Run for the Lakes was my low point at a high weight. It was inspirational to cross that finish line but frustrating to know my time would have been substantially faster if I was carrying around less padding. While training was tough this go around, I trained hard and honest. I showed up on race day ready to run. I pushed myself. But, that’s only a portion of the equation.

Because proud mamas find ways to post pics of their kid, even when it has nothing to do with what they are writing about.

Because proud mamas find ways to post pics of their kid, even when it has nothing to do with what they are writing about.

So today I share with the few folks that read this blog my latest goal. It is about focusing on my entire body. It is somewhat about the scale but more about being conscious about the choices I make that affect my weight. I’m using a light version of Body for Life. I’m finishing up week 3 and have lost 8 pounds so far and am concentrating on rebuilding muscles in my core and upper body. I plan to focus on this for the next 10-weeks, while filling in my trainings with cardio and continued short runs. In July, I’ll start training for the Whistlestop this fall and a 10K in Auust in Herbster. My dream finish time is 2:44, or 39 minutes (3 minutes per mile) faster than my last race. At the minimum, I have to break 3-hours. No excuses. Just time to make this happen.

To keep myself honest, I may bore you with monthly check-ins on my progress. Wish me luck… share any tips you might have… resources… inspiration. I’ll take any and all of it.

In the meantime, the calendar has finally turned to May. This means my favorite greenhouse in the world is open – Hauser’s! I’m taking Jake there this weekend for his first gardening adventure. I need to replace the asparagus and several perennials that didn’t survive the hot summer sun and my bed rest last summer (AKA as no water for 2-3 weeks).

Hope to share more about this adventure and life in the Northwoods moving forward. As always, thanks for reading!

Dear Mom,

Today marks a pivotal moment in our relationship. Eighteen years ago, my life changed forever when I held your hand for the very last time. At just 18, I had no idea what would come next. Up until that moment, I had been busy planning my senior prom, anticipating high school graduation, fighting with my loser boyfriend and dreaming about my first day of college—all with your help.

Suddenly it all seemed so insignificant. Nothing really mattered without you by my side. Looking back, I’m still unsure of how I navigated through life those first few months without you. Each time faced with a decision, I sought your advice only to be met with unanswered prayers. But somehow, despite making poor choices at best, I seemed to keep bouncing back. I kept stumbling around, constantly moving forward.

Along the way, I longed for your confidence. Nothing ever seemed to phase you in life mom. I’ll never forget when my best friend dropped her pants in front of you. Most mothers would have been aghast. You didn’t miss a beat. “Show me something I haven’t seen,” you laughed.

I miss those moments. For months now, I’ve been dreading this day. It marks a time when I’ve lived longer without you. As the years go by, my memories of us start to fade. I find myself thumbing through pages of high school journals and photo albums trying to fill in the blanks time has erased.  As I look at the pivotal milestones I’ve passed over, I’m finding myself more familiar without your presence. A new normal I guess.

I wish you were here today to see my new normal. On paper, it is pretty amazing. I’ve checked a lot of things off the list that we used to talk about growing up. I graduated from college. I followed our dream of becoming a published writer, mom. Sure, I haven’t penned the next great American novel but I’m writing and sharing my stories with people. Despite numerous heartbreaks and kissing some serious frogs, I found an amazing man who loves me for me. I’m a new mom and you’re a grandma. I have a job I love. Awesome friends. I still find time to hike in the woods, read books and garden. I didn’t inherit your talent for canning cucumbers but I can make a mean flat jack just like you.

If you scratch a little deeper, you’d find I face battles similar to you mom. I hate my weight. I refuse to settle. I live life on my terms, even if people look down at it. Complacency scares me. I help others, even if it means hurting myself. I am stubborn. At times downright mean. But that meanness is often a defense mechanism to survive. Like you mom, I’m a survivor.

Eighteen years ago my life changed forever as I watched you take your last breath. For an instant, I thought time would stop. But it kept moving. And with it, so did I. You gave me no choice but to move on without you by my side. For years I was angry. Disappointed you weren’t here to share my life and answer my questions. Angry that alcoholism broke our family until at some point I had to learn to forgive.

This past year has been a game changer partly because as a new mom I’ve discovered something. You may not be here physically, but I cannot deny you are a part of me. You’re stubborn spirit and endless desire to plow ahead even with the cards stacked against you, now defines me.

In a few weeks I’m supposed to lace up my shoes and run a half-marathon. It will be my fourth race. As always, I’m nowhere near ready. It’d be easy for me to quit. But I’m a stubborn Fin who refuses to give up. I keep training in hopes that I’ll be ready come race day. Even if it means I come in dead last. I owe that to you mom. This race is just one of countless examples of you pushing to be better—to try harder—to continue to show up and play the game on my terms, not because that’s what people expect but because it is what I want to do for me.

I still miss you mom. I still wish more than anything you were here by my side. I wish I could have one more day with you, one more conversation, even share just one more moment with you. I wish that every single day. But I have also found comfort in that every milestone, failure or achievement I experience it is a piece of you shining through and reminding me of where I came from and what really matters in life. And for that, I’ll always love you.

Your baby girl

The calendar says April 4 but if I look out my window, I have the joys of seeing a fresh foot of snow. As someone who is training for a half-marathon, this is extremely annoying. Muster up a conversation with anyone in the tri-county or possibly tri-state area, and the conversation will likely turn to this unseasonably miserable winter. As a life long northlander, I get winter. I get miserable weather but honestly, enough is enough. On a side note, this winter will go down in the history books for more than just the longest winter ever. Around here it’ll always be remembered as the year the Sea Caves went viral. The social media, marketing, story teller in me couldn’t help but attempt to explore why this happened in this month’s Business North.

Of course, I didn’t draw any incredible conclusion. But, it was a fun, powerful lesson and reminder about the fact that television news isn’t dead, social media matters, people love selfies of themselves in front of cool things (which will cause others to long for said selfie), and there’s nothing like a Hail Mary Polar Vortex on your side to boost tourism in the northwoods. Here’s a link to the article.

If you stumble across any other recaps about the Sea Caves or want to share a post about your experience at the caves, send them my way. I’d love to share them here. In the meantime, here were a few of my favorites. Some make this list for incredible writing. Some make this list for great photos. And some make this list for over-the-top reporting that makes it sound like the Sea Caves are either a new thing or that hiking on Lake Superior (in the winter) is something incredibly unusual. I’ll let you be the judge…

The Surreal Apostle Islands May Only Be Visitable For Another Few Weeks: Huffington Post

Almost Otherworldly: The Sea Caves of Lake Superior, On Ice: NPR

Lake Superior Freezes, Revealing Ice Caves Blocked for Five Years: Esquire

Winter Gives Access to Dramatic Ice Caves Along Lake Superior: Pioneer Press

Our Morning at the Ice Caves: The Cookery Maven

Sea Caves Shrowded In Ice Open to Explorers: NBC News (local affiliate reporter)

Lake Sueprior’s Ice Caves Offer Glimpse of Nature’s Fleeting Beauty: CBS Evening News

Rare Frozen Path on Lake Superior Opens Dazzling Ice Caves to Hikers: LA Times

Guest Shots: The Sea Caves of Cornucopia: frankjhutton.blogspot.com

Exploring the Frozen Caves of Lake Superior: The Baltimore Sun

The Beautiful Ice Caves of Northern Wisconsin: Stonehouse Photo Blog

Extreme Weather Exposes Rare Ice Caves in US: Aljazeera

 

 

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