Thursday, July 31, 2014

Soaring. A love story.

I've talked about flying on this blog before.

I have an update for you. A great one.

To summarize- my first flight as an adult had the young child seated a row ahead turned around to see what was wrong with the crying lady behind her. The next flight (which was for a work trip) led to the lovely experience of me crying in front of coworkers I barely knew. Next after that- anxiety meds.

I did a bunch of research online and found  The free resources helped, but things really changed when I bought the book, found on Amazon HERE.

Long story short, I read the book, and have flown to Utah for work twice since. And it was amazing.

I truly thought I'd never fly without being a psycho on the plane, but this book changed all that. For example, on previous flights I'd have to drink at least two drinks to make it through take-off without crying. Now, no crying at all. I'm slightly nervous because I am anxious about take-off the most, but drinks are not necessary.

Another example- before I could never look out the window without meds and cocktails. I'd keep my eyes closed and pray my seatmate by the window would close the shade so they could sleep so I wouldn't notice the sunlight shifting across the cabin as the plane turned. My last set of two connecting flights, flying by myself, I didn't need drinks, and I looked out the window and took pictures.

Now, I still like to have wine on the flight, because, wine is available and I feel like I should enjoy myself. :) But it's not required to maintain sanity and avoid panic attacks.

One other thing that helped is the SOAR app.  I have it on my iPhone, and it has a G-Force meter. Basically, it will keep track of the G-Force you are experiencing (even in airplane mode) and confirm that even in turbulence, the plane is well within normal forces that it can safely withstand.  After learning about turbulence in the book, it doesn't really bother me anymore. Compared to my first flight, during which I gripped the armrests with white knuckles (like those would save me), I now calmly check my app, view my water (or wine) not splashing out of my cup, and realize that we are hitting some sky potholes and go about my magazine reading.

I learned at my last work trip that they plan to fly us managers out once per quarter. Previously, this would incite anticipatory anxiety about trips that were months away. Now, I'm excited about the airline miles I can rack up.

I don't really have a bucket list- except for that trip to Europe (namely France) that I've wanted to take my whole life. For the past several years, I've worried I'd never get there because I'd be too afraid of the flight. Now, that dream can become a reality, because I've overcome the fear of flying. I still don't love it, and I'd rather be on the ground, but I understand what is happening and recognize the safety. And really look forward to making that dream come true.

Thank you, Soar book. You've changed my life.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I love running....when I'm done.

My friend Jessica and I are training for our second half marathon. For our first half back in April, we mistakenly planned to train during winter months, during what became one of the worst winters ever. Tons of snow and sub-zero temps led to a real lack of training, but we finished with our walk-jog strategy just under 3 hours. Not great, but we finished. Determined to do better the next time, and fired up after our first big race, we signed up for a second. The Chicago half in September.

With our first half, based on distance and finish time, we had about a 13:21 per mile pace. Turns out, the race we signed up for has a 13 min mile minimum.... which we didn't know till we paid the entry fee and booked a place in Chicago to stay.

We have to significantly beat our time from first race to avoid being picked up by the "support busses."

I now have a fancy Garmin running watch.  It is more accurate than iPhone apps and gives us lots of info about our pace and distance and even lets me check out fancy graphs and such after a run.

And so far, our pace SUCKS. We started training late, since apparently that's our thing, and over our last three runs (the only ones we've really done to train) we have averaged between a 15-16 min pace per mile.

If you are bad at math, that means we are 2-3 minutes per mile TOO SLOW. And we have to go 13 miles!

The prospect of paying all this money to stay in Chicago, enter this race, plus having loved ones watch us run, only to not finish and get picked up by a support bus is terrifying.

While we are running recently, we find ourselves saying, "I hate running." or "what were we thinking?"

But once we are done, we feel pretty good about the distance we covered.

We have a plan to work on speed.... but we only have 5 weeks! Our only goal- finish fast enough that we don't get picked up by the bus. And when we do, that victory will feel sooo sweet.

Wanna help? We need ideas for custom shirts we plan to have made to wear during our run. Help us think of ideas! The image above is a strong contender in my opinion. Comment with some good sayings for our race shirts!

Thanks in advance...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My first half marathon.

I posted before about my decision to try running Here. After many months of casually running short distances using my couch to 5k app, I was finally able to run an entire 5k with my friend Jessica. It felt awesome. We were so proud of ourselves and inspired that we signed up for a half marathon! 

The half was on April 12. We signed up in November. We found a training plan online we intended to follow all winter. 

Then, snowpocalyspe.

Needless to say, we deviated from the plan. We just weren't dedicated enough to run in snow, ice, or -50 windchill. Nor were we able to do more than a few miles at a time on the treadmill. 
As the race approached, we squeezed in a couple longer runs- a couple 4-5 miles and one 8 mile. We are using Jeff Galloway's run/walk method, and we felt great after 8 miles, jogging two minutes and walking 1-2 minutes, alternating the whole time. 

Anyone who runs long distances knows that we didn't prepare enough. But we were determined to complete the 13.1 miles. 

On race day, we were joined by several friends. Two of them marathoners that walk/jogged with us the whole time, and two that had not even trained and planned to walk the whole thing. Which is crazy, but they are an awesome couple that basically can do anything they set their minds to, so I knew they'd be fine. 

The group, pre-race. 
The weather was perfect- a gorgeous spring day, sunny and a little cool but perfect for running. We set off, doing our intervals of 2 minute jog and 1 minute walk. 

The miles truly flew by. It was a great experience, made great by the wonderful weather and good conversation of friends. I really think it would have been a lot tougher without the group we had. 

There were a few times I needed to walk a little more, especially because the course was a little hilly and I hadn't trained on hills. But overall I was happy with our time and the amount we actually ran. 

We ran hard down the last stretch near the finish line, and once we stopped, I could feel the ache in my legs and some pain in my chest from breathing hard, but I felt proud that we finished! 

We collected our medals and post-race fuel and went back to the finish line to watch our untrained walking friends- who amazingly ended up running part of it and finishing just 15 minutes or so behind us! 

Post-race, my legs were sore. Really sore. I didn't walk as much as I should have and didn't massage my legs with the foam roller like all the websites and magazines recommend. I will do that next time for sure! It was tough to walk or stand from a sitting position for a while! 
Two weeks out, I'm having pain in my calves when I jog now, so my jogs have been short and uncomfortable but I'm hoping time will help. I should google that. 
If you are considering starting to run, check our Jeff Galloway's website for tips. I really believe anyone can do a half marathon after my experience- especially since I barely run and am fairly bad at it- and I still finished!

How about you? Planning to try running? Training for a race? 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


When I was first getting to know my husband, I was surprised by the amount of time he spent with his family. They are fairly small- his immediate family consisting of his mom, aunt, sister, and Nana. His dad and their family are around, but his connection with them is much different than with his mom's side. And as I got to know them, I understood. 

I can't say enough great things about his mother- she is wonderful and I give her full credit for how amazing Matt is as a husband. But his Nana had a special place for him. It would be impossible to count the number of stories I heard about their fun times together at her house on the river in Madison or the number of times he referred to her as a "great lady." 

Nana passed away last week in her 70's, too early. 

She'd been in the hospital for a week or so when his mom's reports on her health became concerning. Nana had spent a day or two in the hospital here and there but always recovered and went home. She came to visit for thanksgiving and we went three hours north to celebrate Christmas together, and it was fun and wonderful. 

But this time in the hospital, she wasn't getting better. Matt made the drive several times, and I went up a couple of those. In my mind, this would end up like those other times and she'd go home with diet restrictions she'd hopefully follow and life would be normal again. 

We took a Friday off work to go visit two weeks ago and she was noticeably much worse. The following weekend, it was clear we needed to be there. 

That Sunday, we arrived at the hospital with Matt's mom and aunt there, and Nana was not aware. She was clearly struggling to just breathe and it was truly the most heart-wrenching moments of my life. I closed my eyes and prayed for God to give her peace and relief. It came, and she slept. We told stories and watched her rest. Matt and I went to the pharmacy and bought a nail color she would have liked, and his mom and I painted her long, pretty nails. 

Later that evening, Matt's aunt went home and Matt and I had dinner and went to a hotel. We stayed up too late watching tv and after about two hours of sleep, got a call from his mom that we needed to be at this hospital. I took a quick shower to wake up, we dressed and rushed over. By the time we made it to the room, Nana was gone. 

In my life I'll never forget seeing Matt's mom come around the corner with utter devastation on her face. Nana, whom the whole family adored, was gone. The mom to Marta and Laurie, Nana to Matt and Bri. The lady that served me wine and shared photos of her life with me just after we'd met. The woman that endured a difficult childhood after abuse, chlildrens homes, foster parents, divorce, loss- she's no longer able to tell her stories or be a mom and Nana. 

I barely knew her in comparison to the children and grandchildren she had, but I feel her loss so deeply. 

That early morning, at 3 a.m., we sat writing the first draft of her obituary using a form  the hospital provided. Under the "achievements" section, Matt wrote "nana of the year for 29 years." And it was the most beautiful line I've ever seen in an obituary. 

We went to her house to find clothes for her to wear the next day. To see her home just as she'd left it, expecting to return, was sad on a level I can't explain. As we looked through her papers to find important documents, we looked at photos of her life, and read letters from the foster mother who loved and raised her, and I felt deep regret about the questions I never asked and stories I'd never hear. 

Matt's family amazes me in their strength. His sister flew home from college, and pinned photos to a cork board to celebrate her life for the service. Matt prepared a playlist of music she'd loved, and his mom and aunt gathered artwork she had created and displayed it at the funeral home. They remembered her in the most positive, beautiful way. 

After a little time has passed, I'm left with a few thoughts. 
1. I want to live the sort of life that inspires someone to write mom/wife/friend/nana of the year 29 years running 
2. I want to have a plan for my arrangements, clothes, music so my grieving family doesn't have to worry about it
3. I want to spend time with my friends and family to hear their stories and know them better before it's too late. 

I've not lost anyone close to me since my own Nannie died when I was young, and I haven't experienced this sort of loss as an adult. And it has been profound. 

Thank you, Nana, for helping create the wonderful man I married, for giving him a fabulous mother, and and for the bittersweet reminder that life is a precious, brief gift. 

To Joyce.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The longest winter.

This winter has been the longest of my life. Never before have I longed for 30+ temperatures quite the same as I have this year. I can now see a small patch of grass visible through the snow on the side of my house where the last two days of sun has shined/shown down the most, the part where winds have prevented a larger pile of snow that limits the melting effects. And this patch of grass makes me infinitely hopeful. 

This winter has been so long I've begun to feel like summer is a fable, a tall tale, that I've heard about in books and Disney movies but doesn't exist in real life. 

Each time the future is referenced I frame it in the context of whether or not flip flops can be worn then. 

I've seriously considered the consequences of abandoning my house and mortgage and packing the car, driving to the southernmost point of the US. 

Yesterday it was 35 degrees in the evening when the kids and I left the house, and none of us wore coats, in appreciation of the warm temperatures. 

My first winter as a runner, and my first training for a half marathon, has been met with record low temps and record snowfall, rendering outdoor running impossible. 

I'm certain that I'm suffering from seasonal affective disorder, but I've been too cold and had too much snow in my driveway to allow me to visit a doctor for diagnosis. 

This is day 90ish of my captivity. I'm beginning to break. If spring doesn't arrive soon, I'm fearful for the safety of my family. 

Praying for rescue. Please, snow, melt. And soon.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

This is a long post about lady topics, namely contraception, so read at your own risk.

I don't often talk about lady topics here. I mean, I do talk about feelings, which most men would classify as lady topics, and I guess I have also talked about wedding planning and Sex and the City... so maybe I do. But here, I mean LADY topics. As in, contraception. The closest I've come is when I discussed bra fitting, which is really a public service announcement, and also, no men read this, so who cares.

(bra fitting post found HERE.)

So, anyhow, here's a lady topic. I recently had to have my IUD replaced.  I have the Mirena. It's a small T-shaped device placed in your uterus to prevent pregnancy. Since I have two teenagers, preventing pregnancy is a topic ever present in my mind. It's hard, having teenagers. And also, having babies and toddlers and preschoolers and all those other stages.

The path to having this procedure done has been filled with sadness and fear. Let me explain why.

It started at one of my routine visits to the OB/GYN after the first IUD was placed. The strings that they use to remove it had been 'retracted' inside my uterus by my apparently objectionable body, which makes removal more difficult. At that visit, the healthcare professional made one of those faces that is like, "ehhhhh.... well...." with a grimace, when I asked what would be required to remove it. She then told me just to wait to worry until I came to that  point, still a few years down the road, since they last for 5 years.

Then, I switched to a new doctor. I only had a year left, so I knew the next time I saw her, it would be time to replace. She explained the process-- she told me she'd prescribe me pain killers and either valium or Xanax, two things I've never taken and scare me, but apparently help with anxiety, before my appointment. This clearly made me more scared, since the original one required no medications.

So, the year I'd dreaded arrived. I went to my annual appointment, and my doctor was gone delivering babies, so I saw a nurse practitioner. She delivered worse news.

She confirmed that the procedure would be more difficult. She also told me something else, that made me wonder if I'd accidentally stepped in a time machine and traveled to 1947.

My new doctor's office was at St. Vincent's hospital, which is a Catholic institution.  I'm not Catholic, but I'm a Christian, and I'm fairly familiar with their practices. I know that some Catholics don't practice contraception, but I thought that was reserved for the more devout people, not the general population. Apparently, that's something they hold so dear that the ENTIRE HOSPITAL  is not allowed to actually implement real contraception on their grounds in any way. They can prescribe you pills because you actually use them off the hospital property. But things that are permanent, to prevent pregnancy, like tubal ligation (tying your tubes) or IUDs are not allowed.

Not allowed! I'm a married woman with two nearly-grown children, practicing family planning, and was made to feel like a terrible sinner. I was told that my doctor would do the procedure, but she would see me to do this (Xanax-requiring procedure) offsite at a Chiropractor's office down the street.

So, now it feels like I'm getting an illegal, immoral, secret procedure done. In probably (maybe...) an unsafe setting. It's 2014, you guys. We were considering a female president recently.

I asked around, and friends recommended other doctors, but time was running out, so I decided to just go with the creepy Chiropractor option and get this thing taken care of and then I could switch.

I made my appointment. I made my husband take the day off work to drive me, since I expected to be drugged up on anxiety meds and to be in immense pain. The day approached, and I received a letter including three prescriptions.

The day of, I pulled out the prescriptions to get them filled- since I thought they were just for pain afterward and anxiety just before. But I noticed that I didn't recognize the medications on the forms. I did a quick google search, and found out NONE were for anxiety, but one was for pain and another was something they apparently prescribe as a part of abortion meds. Now, I needed the anxiety meds more than ever. Turns out, the 'abortion' one also is really for dilating your cervix, something needed to retrieve the old IUD. AND I was supposed to start it the day before.

After a call to the doctor, they tell me to take it now, even though I didn't have the full dosage.

At this point, I am worried that my cervix is going to cause me more pain since I didn't have the proper medication dosage, scared of the Chiropractor's office and what would happen if there were complications and I wasn't in a real medical environment, and having second thoughts about NOT asking why I didn't get anxiety meds.

Somewhat comforting was the fact that it was actually a urology office in close proximity to the hospital. Not comforting was the fact that my doctor was running an hour behind and I had more time to build anxiety.

While waiting, I decided to use the bathroom, which turned out to be a mistake, because they needed a urine sample for a pregnancy test before the procedure, requiring me to chug large amounts of water and add worry that I wouldn't be able to pee.

Finally, I am displayed up on the table, stirrups and all, blood pressure through the roof due to my lack of anxiety meds (which I was CURSING myself for not asking about)  and prepared for the worst. After all, the first placement I had was quite painful, and this was supposed to be much worse.

The doctor tells me she is going to use a local anesthetic, which she says most doctors don't do, but she feels is not very nice. Now, I'm anxious about a needle in my lady parts. Panic attack begins.

SURPRISE! I don't feel the needle! Then, the procedure was about the same amount of painful as a routine pap.

I walked out, a little dizzy from the anesthetic, but otherwise feeling just fine. As usual, a lot of buildup and anxiety in my mind over what turns out to be basically nothing. Matt and I went to the Cheesecake Factory for a dinner to celebrate my female reproductive rights and the confirmation of our "no babies" reproductive plan.

Because, if I had this much anxiety over this procedure, could you IMAGINE me now anticipating labor???

God knew I wouldn't be able to handle that in my 30's which is why he gave me my children before my anxieties grew to this level.

This post is dedicated to my friend Allison. Just because of my desire to tell her this story, but with the lack of time to do so.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gallery Wall

So, hey internets. What's up?

Oh, just trolling Pinterest, as usual? Same here.

Speaking of which, I totally did a Pinterest project recently! I have this crazy big wall above my couch.  It's been difficult to decorate to say the least. Originally we had one big piece of framed artwork there, above the couch.  It was ok, a nice piece my husband owned before our merger of households. But it just didn't really go there, or fit nicely.  Later, I relocated it to above our bed, where it is perfectly suited.

Then, I put three pictures of the kids. But still, it just didn't fill the space. I moved those to the entry. And I hung three framed prints from our wedding. But they were small for the big wall and the vaulted ceilings that extended that expanse of space.

Finally, Pinterest told me I needed a gallery wall. And I listened.

Phase 1: Here's the picture of the "before," above the couch, huge vaulted ceiling not included really, with our wedding photos hung on existing nails.

Phase 2: Here's the part where I created the "gallery wall" effect. If you are in the market for a "how to" post, this would NOT be it. Because those "how to" posts tell you the proper distance your frames should be from the couch, give you tips on hanging your photos, and arranging them, and so on.

I did not employ those tactics. Well, except for about two: I used Pinterest inspiration photos to determine my layout. Then I laid the frames out on the floor. Then I used another Pinterest tip: put some substance, such as toothpaste, on the place on the back of the frame where your nail goes, and press it up against the wall to determine where to put the nail. That, I did.

Otherwise, I just eyeballed it. I measured my layout on the floor to see how far across and how tall it was, and marked that on the wall. Then I hung the center frame. The rest, eyeballs and toothpaste.

In the meantime, I took some great frames I found at Goodwill and "refinished" them for this project. Because I wanted all black frames and all white mats. 

My favorite: this super 90's edition of wall art sold at some Home Interiors party, of which I painted the frame black and both mats (the forest green and the 90's 'country home' mauve) white.

Phase 3: My (semi) finished product. Two frames are still awaiting prints, and this is totally not measured, because ain't nobody got time for that.

Pics are blurry, because, as with most home projects, I did not put forth full effort and took photos with my iphone, once. 
Spacing actually turned out great, because for some frames I made up to three holes in the wall before it was straight. I keep the touch up paint in the garage, and the "hole patching putty" section of Home Depot in business. 
Now, the wall looks artsy and intentionally decorated, which I enjoy. And the wall is big enough that I could extend this project if I want. Great Success! ;) 

For REAL instructions on creating your own Gallery Wall, see