Hot Enough?

Moon Lake summers are awesome… right up to those few days where temperatures surpass 80 degrees. It isn’t the heat but instead the humidity that drives me crazy. Crazy enough that after years of debate, my husband finally realized that if we didn’t get central air, our marriage might not survive. (It helped that I was also 8-months pregnant and on bed rest when he finally caved).

This past weekend, we ran it 24/7. It was pretty much heaven. But, I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty about the energy I was consuming. Not enough to turn it off but more like the guilt you get when you sneak a piece of cake when nobody is looking.

I’d like to say my hubby and I are conservative environmentalists. We burn wood when we can, recycle, reuse and steer clear of gas-guzzling vehicles as much as possible. We try to support local businesses. But, I also shop at Wal-Mart and have even contemplated sneaking ketchup packets into the Duluth Grill to avoid using their homemade stuff. It is about balance folks.

That said, I really respect people who walk the talk. In June, I had the opportunity to tour Bailey’s Greenhouse outside of Bayfield. It is a wholesale greenhouse that isn’t open to the public but has gained local attention for its commitment to renewable energy. Driving up, I wasn’t surprised to see the rows of solar panels around the property. But, there definition of renewable energy is so much more than that.

Joe Bailey and Gail Chatfield

Joe Bailey and Gail Chatfield utilize a variety of renewable energies to power their home and business. And, they can truly quantify the savings they are experiencing while doing their part to help the planet. If you’re interested in the numbers, you can read the article I wrote for this month’s Business North here.

This in itself would be impressive. But what really inspired me was their commitment to giving back. They are busy sharing their knowledge and resources with others through a regional website. And, they are investing time and energy into bringing local foods and education to area schools. I only spent an hour or so interviewing and learning more about the operation so I’m no expert on what they have accomplished. But, what I do know is they are passionate about renewable energy and living proof that where there’s a will there’s a way.

Community solar is slowly making its way to Iron River. My husband I were quick to sign up for a few panels. But, after hearing their story and learning more about the potential community solar has for a community, we’ve committed to doubling down on our investment should the initiative move forward. I’m hopeful it will, not only because it is the right thing to do but because it helps me run my AC completely guilt free on those hot, sunny, summer days.

Lacing Up is Hard to Do

Today marks 12-weeks until my next half-marathon. It is also the kick-off of training for an anticipated 5K in August and a 10-miler run in September. A lot has happened since my last post. Two weeks after the half, I did my first 5k in Stillwater and absolutely loved it. I also learned during that race, I can push myself a lot harder during training. I finished in about 39 minutes. Not bad for my first race, no warm-up and no pacing or understanding of what it takes to run a 5k. The following weekend I completed a 5k obstacle fun run. No timing but a lot of laughing. For the past 4-weeks, I’ve been focused on enjoying summer, cross training (aka mowing the lawn, gardening, swimming with my 22 month old) and watching Scandal. As I watched the calendar turn to July, though, I knew this fun time was over.

This morning I woke up after sleeping soundly for 9.5 hours. Physically, I felt great. My hubby knew I needed to run this morning and was in full support. There would be no excuses or leisurely cups of coffee on the deck contemplating when I should run. Instead, it was go time. Getting dressed, I knew I was in better shape today than I have been in years. I knew just 8 weeks ago I ran a Half-Marathon in my best time ever. Just 5-weeks ago, I completed a 5k doing 13-minute miles. For me, this is impressive. But yet, I still felt that same jolt of discouragement and why bother as I grudgingly put on my shoes.
I don’t know about any other runners out there but for me, lacing up is the hardest part. Once outside jamming to my tunes and breathing in the fresh air, it physically hurts but my mental game improves. Just run to that tree, go past that mailbox, run to that stop box. Everything is so finite on the course—measurements are by steps, minutes and miles. As Nike so eloquently puts it, you just do it. But that’s only half the game.

Lacing up is much more subjective. It is about the why’s and the can I and what ifs. It is the fear of losing a toenail, injuring my knees, damaging my hips, getting attacked by a random rodent or bear. It is the realization that I’m still bigger than I’d like and those cute running outfits just aren’t a possibility right now.
Today, I won. I quickly laced up my shoes, glanced at my medals and bounded out the door. My first 30-minute training session went quickly—in part because I chose the single most humid day this summer to start training and the black flies are in full swing. But, I hit my goal, sweat and made it home before 8 am. It felt great. I pocket this for now knowing I’ll need this encouragement the next time I lace up.

I don’t know if I’ll make it this time. I don’t know what surprises are in store for me the next few months. But for now, I’m committed. The first training is I n the books. And from here, we’ll see what happens.

Race Day Recap

Always earned, never given. For Valentine’s Day, my hubby bought me this quote as a metal hanger for my medals. At the time, I was super excited about adding another medal to the mix. I was in the height of training for my fifth half-marathon but I was only averaging 3-5 mile runs, making it somewhat easy and enjoyable. By mid-April, the novelty of training had worn off and I was left looking at that rack and a month of long runs wondering what the hell I was thinking. Similar to last fall, life had thrown some curveballs and it would have been easy and totally acceptable to quit. But for whatever reason, I opted to see this one through to the finish line.

Two weeks prior to race day I did a trial run. It was clear that despite having a longer training time, I was going to come nowhere close to my goal. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed in myself. I felt I had a solid plan and was determined to clear 3-hours. But looking back, I didn’t diet or push myself early on to improve my time. And the reality is, if you change nothing about your training you can pretty much expect the same for results.
By race day evening, I just wanted the race to be over. By race day morning, my stomach hurt. Not with race day jitters but just frustration. To add to this joy, I had the pleasure of being the larger than average gal lining up with a bunch of runners. Don’t shake your head at me and say, but you are a runner. You know what I’m talking about. If you want to feel fat, head to a half-marathon and look at those in your company. But, it was during the porta potty line that I noticed something distinctly different about this race. I’m guessing it was my mindset. As I patiently waited for my turn I decided to quit dwelling in what I didn’t do and acknowledge the fact that in 15-minutes I was going to line-up and run a race. And sometime in the next 4-hours I’d finish a race. And, what I made of the time in-between was up to me. Yes, I could dwell on what I didn’t do. But, I could also say, I’m still here and why not enjoy today.

Exhausted but happy.

Exhausted but happy.

And I did. Maybe enjoy is the wrong word since I was in intense pain. But, I can honestly say I had fun. The Journey’s Half-Marathon in Eagle River was by far my favorite race. And, somewhere around mile 6 and the tune, this is my Fight Song (Thank You Courtney for sharing that song), I really started pushing myself. I pushed myself harder than I ever have pushed myself before running. By Mile 12, I was wondering if I had pushed too hard. Whether I would actually clear the finish line before collapsing. But I did. Later when I checked my time, I discovered my time was 3:13. In runner’s time, that meant I missed my goal by a lifetime. But, in my time, that was 15 minutes faster than my last race and 25-minutes faster than my first run. But more importantly, I put it all out there on the race course and discovered I have a lot more in me that I ever thought possible. The icing on the cake, seeing my son when I finished and knowing that someday he’ll understand that while his mom might not finish first, she finishes what she starts and tries her hardest. And for right now, that’s enough.

Mother’s Day Gratitude

My son turned 21-months today. Tomorrow I run my first half-marathon in a year. Sunday is Mother’s Day. This trifecta has my mind spinning with emotions – some high, some low – but all of it is topped with gratitude.

When I decided I’d run the Journey’s Half-Marathon six months ago, I didn’t realize it was on Mother’s Day weekend. For obvious reasons, this holiday is particularly difficult for me and many people I know. On the one hand, I want to celebrate the single most influential person in my life… while at the same time mourn her loss and attempt to let go of the anger of her choices. After 19-years of dealing with this turbulent, emotionally charged weekend annually (thanks Hallmark), I can say it is getting easier.

Don’t get me wrong. If I’m honest, I still haven’t 100% forgiven my mom. And, I still miss her terribly. I still tear up when I see heartfelt Mother’s Day commercials that are designed to tug at my heart and guilt me until my wallet pops open and I rectify those feelings by buying trinkets, cards and flowers. Kudos to these marketers by the way. It still works on me and I don’t even have a mother.

I think it gets easier as time goes on because I’m realizing how little control we have over some portions of our destiny. I had 18-years with my mom. She was an amazing mother who loved me unconditionally. Unlike so many of my friends, I had time to say good-bye. I knew my mom was dying, long before she took her last breath. I know without a doubt she knew how much I loved her when she finally passed.

This past week, I was shocked to hear the news about Dave Goldberg dying. I’m slowly working my way through Sheryl Sandberg’s book wondering where I fell on the continuum of career versus family. At times I applaud her efforts, while at other moments, I despise her. Now, I just feel her loss and am reminded that nobody can escape fate. Yesterday, a long-time acquaintance visited me at the hospital to talk about his efforts to pay it forward. Several months ago while competing in a ski race, he went into cardiac arrest. Call it fate. Call it God. Call it whatever you want… but a physician happened to be skiing behind him. For 25-minutes, this man conducted CPR on the trail and while he was transported via a snowmobile sled to an ambulance. Once at the ambulance, they were able to shock him back to life. Just a few months later, he’s back to bike riding and coordinating a free communitywide CPR class, forever changed but healthy, happy and alive.

I don’t know where I fall on the spectrum of grief. I know it is ugly and unpredictable. But in this moment, I can also say that I’m grateful to the woman who made me and this weekend I’ll do my best to remember all she did for me. Tomorrow, I run for me because she gave me the strength and courage to race, even if I suck. She taught me that it isn’t always about winning. That, just showing up and playing hard is enough. Even death can’t take that away from us and for that I’m extremely grateful this Mother’s Day weekend.

I love you mom. Always have and always will.

Back of the Pack

This morning, my legs clocked 11 miles on the tri-county corridor. Several things happened while I slowly made my way across a tiny portion of northwest Wisconsin.

First, my goal of finishing the race in under 3-hours in two weeks isn’t happening. Not by a long shot. I had a hunch this might be the case. It started with a lack of ambition on the diet, followed by a few too many episodes of House of Cards and of course, quality time hanging out with my son versus clocking additional miles.

I’d by lying if I didn’t say I was disappointed. But, I’m still going to lace-up and run in two weeks. Even though I won’t hit my goal time, I’ve earned a darn medal. And more importantly, this whole training thing has taught me something about myself that is amplified by when I cross that finish line.

Several years ago I started a book called Back of the Pack. I haven’t finished it, in part because the story is evolving. And, there was a brief moment where I thought my story would change. That, I would fall in love with running and start training harder and finish in the middle of the pack. I’m not sure why I thought this would happen because the truth is, I dislike running. I hate that my legs hurt and sweating is pretty disgusting. I still dread the day I might lose a toenail. And, I’m always afraid my bowels are going to let me down.

But, there’s something to be said about doing something you aren’t good at. There is something rewarding about casually saying, I’m running a half-marathon and watching the look of disbelief by the person on the receiving end of the conversation. There’s something to be said about crossing that finish line and even surprising myself, not because I finished but because I lined up knowing I’d finish last.

As someone who is a memoir junkie, I had always thought I’d find my passion early in life. That I’d find the one thing that really made me excited about life and then I’d pursue that and ultimately become great at it because that’s what the self-help books say.

For much of my life that was true. I only pursued things I was good at. If it came naturally to me, I’d call it a passion and make it the focus of my life. But, I always knew something was missing. Ten years ago, I decided to do something about that. I quit my job and started over. While I loved producing news and the highs and lows that come with managing a newsroom, I knew I didn’t want to be defined by my job.

Fast forward 10-years and I can definitely say I’ve achieved that. I no longer feel my greatest accomplishments happen while I’m on the clock. I’ve found my greatest joy in things I genuinely suck at. If you’ve seen my garden, the outtakes of my photography or my attempts at painting our house, you know what I’m talking about. Not to mention this whole mother thing—I don’t have a clue. In fact many mornings I wake up and look at Jake and genuinely wonder how I’ve managed to keep him alive for the past 20-months.

These experiences have taught me more than any book. What I’ve learned is that maybe my passion is not having a passion. Instead, it is about getting up in the morning and saying, who or what do I want to be today and then going for it. That simply living life on my terms is enough. Sometimes, more often than not, this means finishing last or completely screwing up. It is a humbling way to live life. But at the same time, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier.

In two weeks, I’m going to run the Journey’s Half-Marathon in Eagle River. I’ll line up like everyone else. And, crossing the finish line in the back will be just as sweet for me as for those who finish first. But, I’ll also visit the cement park and play in the park with Jake and hopefully enjoy some awesome bakery treats at some hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. These experiences will be equally as exciting. And for that, I’m grateful.

The Gardening Bond

The Gardening Bond

gardening The loon is back on Moon Lake. The snow is quickly receding. Soon, Hauser’s will be opening for their annual perennial barn sale. Spring is here. With that, comes the joy of planning and planting this year’s garden. I’m aiming for low maintenance this year. In part, because I hope to spend lots of time gardening with Jake. Last month, an essay I wrote about Jake and I gardening ran in Northern Gardener. I’m a huge fan of this magazine so I was pretty honored they ran my essay about like on Moon Lake. And today, I want to share it with you.

Gardening Bond

In theory, I love gardening. In actuality, at the height of muggy, mosquito-infested evenings here not too far from Lake Superior, where the weeds outnumber my harvest three-to-one, I sometimes find myself hunched over, silently cursing about putting myself through this misery.

Most years, the first glimpse of goldenrod yellow crocuses poking through the last remnants of dirty snow inspires me to plan, plant and harvest yet another year’s worth of bountiful blossoms and hardy vegetables. I am an enthusiastic gardener while the snow is melting and as the first crops green up. As the weather warms and my excitement fades ever so slightly, little treasures from the garden keep me coming back for more. There is that first, sweet crunch of a sugar snap pea. My senses awaken as the calm scent of fresh mint clashes with the intense garlic smell coming from freshly cut garlic scapes. Nearby, tiger lilies and hens and chicks multiply before my eyes, while hollyhocks and lupines shoot out luscious shades of purple that Crayola can only dream of re-creating. These are the gardening moments I live for.

Despite this beauty, as the summer lengthens, I find myself easily dismissing each of Mother Nature’s countless miracles as I swat the mosquitos and yank the weeds that aggressively choke out my carrots and overpower my asparagus. It is a constant love-hate battle.

Last year was no exception. Except that it was. I’m a new mom. In a heightened hormonal, sleep-deprived, angstridden world of motherhood, the burden of gardening weighed me down. In an attempt to manage expectations, I planned, planted and harvested substantially less. I looked away as the weeds dominated the empty spaces. As summer progressed, I found myself stealing early morning moments to do what little I could to keep the garden going. Those snippets of solitude energized me in a way I didn’t expect. It reminded me why I garden in the first place. It made me want to do more. And then the raspberries ripened. I tended to keep my son away from the garden in part because of his love for shredding, yanking and destroying anything in his path coupled with the random spots of poison ivy that seem to find their way within my garden fence annually. But, on a bright sunny day in early July, I noticed the first radiant red berries popping out of my raspberry plants. It was time to make an introduction.

I carefully carried my son inside the garden walls, checking for bees along the way because that’s what paranoid mothers concerned about allergies do. We approached the overgrown row of plants and, as I moved to lead Jake’s hand to pick that first ripened raspberry of summer, he had already grabbed it. A burst of red left him giggling as I watched yet another outfit get instantly stained beyond repair.

I tried again. This time, with my help, he guided the berry from plant to mouth. Jake’s eyes grew big as he discovered the sweet, delicate flavor of a freshly picked berry that no grocery store brand can replicate. He instantly wanted another. And another. This scene was played out time and time again throughout our summer. A season of firsts—first sugar snap pea, purple bean, crunchy cucumber, mouthwatering tomato and countless others.

With each harvest, a new memory for mother and son and a new reason to garden. By summer’s end, even the buzzing of mosquitos could not drown this newly discovered bond. For now, love wins again.

Predator Round-Up, Sea Cave Mayhem, Playing Hookie and an Unwarranted Pity Party

Newsflash: Last week I had an unwarranted pity party. It started during my 5-hour drive home from the UP after a weekend of bonding with women at a 3-day Becoming an Outdoor Woman camp (more on that experience in a different post). I left the camp recharged and excited about life. But then, I had a bout of road rage with an irrational SUV somewhere in God’s country. In the heat of the moment and cursing him out for almost running me off the road, I missed my turn. It was an important turn that resulted in my 5-hour drive being more like 6.5 hours… in a place where there is no coffee. Seriously, look at a map of coffee shops (or any shops for that matter) in the route from Big Bay, Michigan to Iron River, Wisconsin. It is dismal at best. (Although Mount Huron Bakery in Ishpeming and Marquette makes up for it… almost).

About this time, I came upon a small town where trucks lined the highway on both sides for as far as the eye could see. My heart jumped for joy believing that any winter festival that draws this many visitors, must be stocked with some fabulous food and a well-kept porta potty. Imagine my surprise when I learned at the epicenter of this UP traffic jam was dozens of dead animals hanging from a poll. It turns out this winter festival was in fact the Kenton Predator Round-Up in which sportsman harvest as many bobcat, coyote and fox over a 3 day period as possible. Despite my curiosity, I opted to not stop at Hoppy’s Bar in Kenton.

It was about this time, something in me snapped. A full-fledged pity party began. I was irritated. I missed my son. I wanted to be vacationing somewhere warm, drinking something indulgent, and sporting cute summer sandals instead of oversized fishing boots. By the time I got home, my mood had only lightened somewhat. Then I logged onto Facebook and saw friend after friend posting photos from somewhere other than here. I was instantly jealous.

This sour mood continued for a few days. And then this happened. A co-worker was connecting with me on a project and mentioned she was taking the rest of the day off to hit up the Apostle Island Mainland Sea Caves. The sun was out. Temps were above freezing. I had no pressing deadlines. So, after a few logistical phone calls, I crashed her party and checked out of work a half day early. For those of you who know me, this is unprecedented. I’m a planner. I don’t randomly use my precious vacation time for spur of the moment events. This was huge (my life is in fact this boring).

Yes, the Sea Caves were busier than they’ve ever been when I’ve been there. Yes, I was a bit appalled by the number of folks I saw talking on their cell phone or shooting selfies even though I’m totally guilty of doing at least one of these things. But, somewhere along the way my mood lightened. I discovered that my life doesn’t involve cocktails on the beach…. right now. But man I’m blessed. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say, crabby pants was squashed by the blessings in my life.
Looking back, it frustrates me that it took a day on a frozen beach to put things back into perspective. But then again, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten these great shots. And for those who missed the memo, the caves are now closed for the season. So for all those folks sipping margaritas in the blistering sun, I’ll see that margarita with a locally made mead and Mother Nature’s glory.