My Mother’s Legacy

I’m finally starting to get it. It wouldn’t be a Mother’s Day weekend without reflecting on life before and after mom. I used to dread this weekend, in part because it often left me trying to discover how to carry out my mother’s legacy. But, it never dawned on me that perhaps my journey was part of the answer.

Towards the end, my mom would often wait up for me at night to chat about life. Conversations would jump from the adventures of Jane Austen to high school crushes and my plans to be a journalist. She’d always say, I know you’ll make the right choice and whatever you do, just be happy.

After she was gone, I wanted to do something special for her. I wanted to capture those late night conversations in a book and share some of the magical and at times tough stories about growing up with my mother. I thought of it as a way to heal and help others, while ensuring her legacy carried on.

But, each time I tried to pen this next great American story, my words fell flat. How do you put to paper the stubborn, crazy, open-minded, smart and witty woman named Karen—or to me simply mom?

Over the course of twenty years, I’ve started and stopped over a dozen versions of this story. Sometimes via journal entries, short stories, blog posts or even anonymously submitted essays to the New York Times. But, it never seemed like enough. Until now.

This past year something in me clicked. Maybe, it is because I’m a mom now. Or, maybe as I grow older I realize that sometimes the easiest answer, can in fact be the answer. That perhaps in all of these years of trying to do more and be more and write more and share more and explore more, I am in fact living out my mother’s legacy. And, for her, that is enough.

When I look at Jake, my heart swells. I now know that he will be my toughest and greatest accomplishment. In fact, he already has exceeded anything I could ever achieve in life. And, despite all of the mistakes I’ve made in life, I think if Karen were here today, she’d be proud.

Sure, she’d shake her head at me about some of my choices and challenge me to think about what’s next. She might frown upon my inability to recreate her perfect pancakes and my less than stellar cribbage game skills. But, she’d love that I’m finding my way in this overly complex world by simplifying life. By striving to remain me. And to find happiness even in the saddest of days.

This Mother’s Day weekend I’ll run another race. I often run this race with mom on mind. I think of her watching me and wondering what possessed me to torture my body this way but being proud of my stubborn attitude and unwillingness to quit. This year will be no different – but rather than contemplate how to carry out her legacy I will remember that I am her legacy. And as long as I keep showing up and doing my best, that is enough.

I know Mother’s Day is a mixed bag for many of my friends and family. It certainly has been for me, for years. But, I wish you all peace and happiness on this day.

Missing you today and everyday Mom,

Your Baby Girl

 

Thriving Thirties Crisis Anyone?

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Another trip around the sun means I’m one step closer to the inevitable mid-life crisis that happens at 40. Or, at least that’s what I’ve been told. What baffles me, though, is nobody talks about the time between your quarter-life crisis and your mid-life crisis. That in-between time where so much happens your head spins. So this is a post about the unnamed, unknown crisis turned opportunity I’m calling the Thriving Thirties.

I was thinking this week, what a shitstorm of highs and lows, all in a decade. Ones you think you can anticipate, and in many cases long for, but society does a great job of masquerading into something else.

There is of course the biggie—my status. I went from girlfriend to fiancé to wife and now mother. Each time, I discovered my beliefs and understanding of what unconditional and unwavering love means were completely underrated. You hear about the sacrifice that comes with parenting, often when you are rolling your eyes at your parents, but experiencing it is a whole different ballgame. Talk about high highs and low lows. There really needs to be more about the tough days, because frankly I’ve never experienced something more challenging than raising a family.

My career took a backseat—something I never thought would happen. I changed jobs three times in my 30s, only to discover that while I know I want to make my mark in the world, I have no clue how to do it. Career advancement, which seemed to come so easily in my 20s, came to a screeching halt as I realized that living in a place I love, doesn’t always come with abundant economic opportunities. Guess what? I wouldn’t change a thing (other than my paycheck).

The lifelong learner in me had a near meltdown when I finally paid off my student loans and realized for the first time in 34 years I wasn’t attending or paying for continuing education. I opted to re-enroll for my 4th college degree creating a seamless transition from being a student to graduating at the same time my son enters school. And so the cycle continues.

And then there was the pursuit of happiness. Despite self-help books telling me that I could in fact wake up everyday and conquer the world and be happy, I seriously question the sanity of those so-called authors. Living the life that I want with those I want, where I want, means compromise. It means prioritizing and sacrificing and wiping boogers and changing diapers. It means long commutes, limited shopping, befriending Amazon Prime and fighting over things like uncrushed diet Mountain Dew cans scattered around the house. It means experiencing unmet dreams and acknowledging that sometimes life is bigger than your needs and wants.

Nobody warned me about the weight-gain that comes with an aging metabolism. Gone are the days of downing Dr. Pepper and munching on chips and Top the Tater while binge watching the latest season of Dawson’s Creek. Instead, I found myself hitting the pavement (literally) and crossing the finish line not once but ten times over the past six years, to barely maintain the weight gain that I’m lovingly calling my dirty thirty in honor of my attempts to do Beach Body at this size. The running highs and lows are a whole different post but if you had told me in my 20s, I’d have some of my heaviest and hardest conversations with myself wearing running shoes, I would have laughed.

My 30s did not result in endless afternoons hanging out at coffee shops chatting about the weather like the characters on Friends. Instead, it was spent scrambling to keep connections with lifelong friends on Facebook messenger and recognizing that many of those friendships would fade away, despite noble and in some cases knock down, drag down attempts to keep them. It was hard to let go at times but I find friendships now are easier—more based on common interests, shared values and day-to-day life experiences than the baggage of what you were once pegged to be.

And somewhere in all of this, I discovered that one of life’s greatest gifts arrived for me in my 30s. It frankly couldn’t have happened sooner. And, maybe I’ll change my mind after my next centennial crisis, but in this moment, I’m still a bit in awe.

I distinctly remember my quarter-life crisis. It played out like a bad after school special that left me leaving television news and moving to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. It meant abandoning bad habits, facing my demons and acknowledging that the person I was trying to be, wasn’t me. But, then my 30s hit and I discovered that instead of trying to be someone or something, I could instead, just be me.

Better yet, I could embrace it. There’s something empowering about grabbing life and saying, I’m good enough. I wake up everyday and I do my best. Frankly, that’s enough. It may mean 175% some days or surviving on others. And that’s ok, despite the self-help books saying otherwise. It isn’t that I don’t care. It isn’t that I don’t embrace life and all of its complexities and know all too well that we never know when our ticket is going to come up. Instead, it is acknowledging that some of the best things in life happen, when you just let them be.

So in a long winded way, I discovered I know less in my 30s than my 20s. But this I know. At times I’m irritable and unbearable and cranky. I’m stubborn like my mother. I’m a bit odd. I crave meaningful connections but am an introvert. I love to try new things like roasting coffee and buying obscure plants that have no chance of survival (banana plants anyone) because it is fun to try and fail. I run races with mediocre times and battle the bulge, while still finding a way to love myself even though health blogs and beauty magazines tell me I’m obese. I tell really bad jokes and most times, people can’t even tell if I’m joking. I’m inpatient. I’m independent. I’m loyal. And the best thing is, all of this could change in a heartbeat because the thing I know most, is I’m a constant work-in-progress and that’s what makes me, me.

The Economics of Time

Let’s be frank. It isn’t on my side right now. I find myself caught in-between trying to keep up with the day-to-day, while struggling to find new and exciting goals to be excited about this year. It is an odd place for me to be right now, but I’m starting to think this may become my new normal.

I was listening to a Planet Money podcast last week, in which the economics of love was the focus. It is a pretty entertaining, and frankly informative episode. In it, the conversation around love being in abundance came up and yet many of us (myself included) choose to limit our love to one partner.

The economist cited a Nobel Prize winning economist’s theory about the finite complexities of time and how it is a valuable resource for all. Later on in the discussion, the notion of being with something that’s good enough removes the time for you to experience or pursue something that could be really amazing.

This really hit home. At the time, I was border line burned out due to a number of events colliding at the same time. Each day, I’d wake up and go through my to do list and find a way to cram it all in, but I was missing the luxury of just enjoying life. I realized that while project management is great, equally as great is just saying no.

This past week I stepped down from a committee I wasn’t passionate about and passed on a great freelance gig because frankly, money isn’t and cannot be everything. I scaled back from a half-marathon to a 10K. I got excited about a bathroom remodel project, only to step back and put it on-hold. At first, I was pretty bummed out. Frankly, I felt like a borderline failure. But, then I realized that by saying no to these things, I was making room for things like planting a garden with Jake and reading a novel on my deck and even continuing the Tuesday night fitness classes. That while I may not be running a half-marathon this spring, that doesn’t mean I can’t do the Shamrock Shuffle followed by a 1k with Jake—both of which sound a lot more fun. Sure, I want a new bathroom. But, I also want my sanity.

I have an abundance of hobbies. An endless checklist of items I want to do in the here and now because frankly, we don’t know when our time is up. But, in my haste to make the most of each day, my time to do more of what I love is getting squished out.

I never thought economics would remind me of that. Nor, did I think a Planet Money Podcast would make me pause and re-evaluate the time-space continuum. But, I’m really glad it did.

Year-In-Review

And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln

As I look back on the past year, my head and heart ache a bit. It was a whirlwind year filled with incredible highs and some tough lows. But, it was also a lesson in resiliency.

I’m not one much for ringing in the New Year. This year was no exception, other than at 12:01 am I was awoken to the sounds of my son heaving. Mopping the floor and soaking my son’s puke-filled Superman footie pajamas, I couldn’t help but think what an ironic way to ring in a New Year. This trend continued for much of the night. But, come morning, my son awoke with his usual zest for life with a desire to wrestle, be pulled around our lake on a sled and eat crackers and juice while wrestling with dad. Just like that, he bounced back.

My son’s resiliency always ceases to amaze me. But, it isn’t just him. This past year, I’ve watched some friends and colleagues suffer illness and loss that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. And, they’ve done it with such grace. When asked how, they simply say, you’d do the same. But would I? I’m not so sure.

Past experience has taught me New Year’s resolutions don’t work for me. But, that doesn’t stop me from hoping the coming year will find me being more resilient when things happen. That I will find ways to bounce back versus letting them consume me. To recognize that even while mopping up puke while millions ring in the New Year with champagne, I am in fact truly blessed. After all, for years all I wanted was to be mom. And, I am. That’s just one of many blessings I need to appreciate.

A girlfriend recently got a t-shirt that reads, perfectly imperfect. I totally want it. It sums up my life and well me. This coming year, I hope to improve upon a few things beyond just being resilient. Some I’m just not quite ready to share here. But, I hope to do so with a bit of grace and understanding that I’m a work in progress and that’s frankly ok, partly because of all of the amazing people that have chosen and continue to be an integral part of my life. I couldn’t do any of this without them. Likely, if you are still reading this post, that includes you. So thank you. I wish for you in the coming year joy and excitement and should life throw you curveballs, the resilience you need to power on.

Happy New Year-

The Waiting Game

img_2561My son is potty training. I know every family’s experience is different. But, I think most parents can relate about the angst that comes the first time your son informs you he wants to wear big boy underwear. Jake decided to hit this milestone this week. That is – the wearing underwear. We’re still working on the whole going pee in the potty.

Don’t get me wrong. We spend a lot of time sitting on the potty. As in a lot. Just not a lot of time going. This sudden introduction of downtime in my daily routine has got me thinking a lot about the waiting game. So much of our life is spent waiting. We’re waiting for an appointment, or for a special event, or the weekend. We’re waiting for water to boil or our favorite show to come on television or that next great novel to be released. We wait and we wait.

Last night, I had things to do. But, Jake had other things in mind. He wanted to go potty. So I sat. And I waited. And my little one and I chatted. We talked about daycare, went over letters of the alphabet and talked about Santa. He told me about the green garbage truck he wanted for Christmas and about the snow he played with at daycare. And, after much adieu about nothing, he decided he was done trying.

As quickly as that, I was done waiting. But, I’m discovering that sometimes the best things happen while you are waiting. Soon, my little guy will be potty trained (I hope). Our somewhat forced, but uninterrupted time to chat about our day will be filled with other daily tasks. But, as I approach Thanksgiving, I can’t help but be grateful for these moments. These in-between, unexpected moments that occur while we’re waiting.

When my son finally hits this major milestone in the Probst household, we will celebrate. The waiting will finally be over. But for now, I’m just thankful I get to share these moments with him. I know others, in fact once me, that dream of this moment—wondering if they will ever even get to be a mom.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you all find a way to enjoy the in-between. The moments we often take for granted, despite knowing deep down that it is these very moments that make life living.

 

Running just as fast as I can…

Sometimes I find I enjoy writing racing recaps more than the race itself. But, these past few weeks are the exception to the rule. Eleven weeks ago, I began a journey to train for a 10k. I felt it’d be challenging enough, but much more realistic than attempting a half this fall. Surprisingly, it turns out I do in fact enjoy running when I match my skillset to a course length.

Birkie 5K (Note dad in background drinking Mountain Dew)

Perhaps it was the magical fall weather we’ve been having. Or, the shorter runs that made up this training schedule. I’m not sure which it was but regardless, I can honestly say I enjoyed this training. A couple weeks ago on a whim, I decided to throw a 5k into my running mix. My motivation—Jake. The Birkie race included a kid’s race that I thought my son would seriously enjoy. And, if I need to do a run anyway and was going to drive down to the Birkie trail for Jake, I might as well do my own 5k. Reality check – the Birkie course is solid hills. And, if you plan to run even a 5k, doing at least a couple of trail runs and perhaps even some training on hills would be wise. But, whatever. I had a blast. I finished in a decent time given the circumstances and more importantly, didn’t injure myself. I also got to immediately run another 1k with my son right after. It was one of those perfect falls days and Jake was on fire. Sure, he didn’t cross the finish line first. But like mom, he gave it everything he had and crossed the finish line with pride. He also got a sweet pair of socks out of the deal. Afterwards, we enjoyed some of my favorite pizza in the world at River’s Eatery in Cable

The race reminded me that in running, you reap what you sow. You really do get back what you put in. It also fueled me to complete my last few weeks of training honestly. By race day, I knew I was ready. On the evening of Whistlestop, my son had an opportunity to run another race.

The Loose Caboose
The Loose Caboose

The Loose Caboose included several hundred kids, free t-shirts, sheer and utter mayhem and a wooden whistle for every kid who crossed the finish line. Once again, Jake rocked the run. The proud mama in me loved every second of it.

Saturday morning, I was blessed with cloudy skies but no rain. It was a humid day but not overly hot. It was definitely a blessing compared to my spring half. Plus, I only had 6.2 miles to go this time. Don’t get me wrong, running 6.2 miles or any miles at my size does not come naturally or easy. But, in my mind, it seemed so much easier than the last Whistlestop.

I somehow missed the start of the race. I was chatting with a co-worker and frankly just lost track of time. It didn’t matter since my time didn’t start until I crossed the marker. And, with no time for nerves or stretching, I had no choice but to just push forward. Given the shorter time on the course, I removed all of my favorite love songs and country ballads from my playlist, leaving only upbeat bubble gum pop songs, the occasional rap (Baby Got Back) song and plenty of toe stomping country. Surprisingly, this type of music can in fact carry you through a race. Anyways, it was an uneventful race except for this – I ran. That’s right. To me, I always considered 15-minute miles sort of my tipping point. Slower than that, it was more of a waddle-jog. Faster averages meant I was actually running. This race, all of my miles were under 14-minutes. Granted, this was my first 10k and I had no PR to compare it to but what I do know is that while it wasn’t quite as fast as my 5k times, it was substantially better than the 15:49 per mile pace I did in one of my worse half-marathons ever this past spring.  It almost had to be.

My goal was to finish in 1:30 and I managed to do it in 1:26:02. For me, that felt pretty awesome. I learned a lot in this race, not so much about my personal willpower but rather my potential as a runner. And after all these years, I can finally say after this race I felt like an actual runner. Perhaps slow but not a jogger or waddler, just a novice runner trying to

Best medal ever!
Best medal ever!

find her way in a sea of spandex. At the finish, my son yammered on how about how “mommy ran super fast” and gave me the biggest hug ever. While I still wish both of these races had medals, that was a pretty awesome way to finish a morning run.

I’m excited to see what next season brings me. For sure, I’ve earned another new pair of Brooks. And, definitely a new pair of running sweats (especially since I decided to paint our guest room in my last pair and destroyed them) and some socks. I don’t know where I’ll run but the one thing I know today is I will run again. Not a bad way to end an otherwise uneventful year of running.

So much of the same

I realized I hadn’t checked in lately. If you have a moment, grab this month’s issue of Northern Gardener. I did a column about apples – which may not sound super exciting at first. But, if you are all into the economics behind the price of an apple or wondered why there are so many variations of apples in the store, you might enjoy it. I’ll try to post a copy of it as well sometime soon.

I meant to post on the 15th anniversary of September 11. But, I was flying to Chicago and time got away from me. So I’ll share a bit of that now. I think we all remember where we were that day when the planes struck. We all have our own story – our own memories – our own truth of that day. For me, I was working on my MA in Broadcast Journalism and had actually left the newsroom for my morning class at UWS in broadcast journalism. The topic that day happened to be breaking news. My teacher and mentor Mike Simonson was talking about the first crash that had happened right before class as an example. At the time we didn’t know the magnitude. He turned on the Today Show to demonstrate how well (or in his mind how sensational network news was becoming, given he was a public radio guy), when we watched the second plane hit live. It was a surreal moment to share in that class. We ended it and I immediately headed back to the newsroom where I spent the next few days attempting to connect what was happening to ties in the Northland while still giving viewers the weather and sports they wanted to hear. At the time, I was convinced that I’d finish my degree and climb the corporate newsroom ladder, landing in some mid-to-larger market as a newsroom executive.

It is crazy to think how that definitely did not happen. I finished my degree with my grad thesis focused around female news managers and how they find a work-life balance. The only thing that solidified was that this career path probably wasn’t right for me. I left news soon after that. Fast forward to today and life is very different but in many ways the same.

This fall I started school again. On the anniversary of 9/11, I was busy studying a different topic but with the same passion for learning as always. This time, I’m pursuing an MBA in Rural Healthcare to hopefully land in a more operational position so I can work to help my friends and neighbors access care in rural communities. It is a cause I care deeply about and want to play an active role in improving. But, it comes at a time when I’m already struggling to balance my time between an aging father, being a new mom, working full-time, a growing freelance business and enjoying time with my hubby. Add in my much needed desire for me time to stay sane and well I have a hunch the next few years will be interesting, potentially rocky and a bit chaotic. But, no matter how I slice it, definitely worth it. And at the end of the day, isn’t living a perfectly imperfect world better than not taking risks? Stay tuned for more updates as I embark on life as a Saint (AKA CSS student).

So that’s the latest from Moon Lake. The leaves are just starting to change and I look forward to sharing some shots soon. This weekend we’ll be attending yet another fall festival and hopefully harvesting apples with Jake so he can make his first batch of Apple Crisp. Should make for a yummy but messy weekend.

Happy Harvesting-