March 31, 2015

A walk on the pier

Yesterday was really gorgeous outside! It was the first day that actually felt sort of spring-like. I was hoping to run 4.5 miles as scheduled, but my calves have been so sore lately. I have no idea why! It almost feels like I'm a beginner runner again or something. So, I decided just to shift my whole week over a day, and call yesterday a rest day.

Even on my rest days, though, Joey needs exercise, so I decided to take him on a walk at the State Park. I didn't want to walk far, so I chose to do a path that is about two miles around. The sun was shining, and it put a little pep in my step, so when I approached the path that went down the pier, I decided to take that little detour.

This was a part of the park that I'd never explored before. I remember being at the beach with my family (including my grandma, who was in a wheelchair, so it was probably 1998-ish? She died from Alzheimers in 1999). I remember my family deciding to take a walk on the pier, and pushing my grandma in the wheelchair; but at the time, I was overweight and it was a hot day, and those two things just aren't much fun when it comes to exercise, even if it was just a stroll. I decided not to go, and I stayed at the beach.

For all these years, I had these negative feelings associated with that pier! It sounds so stupid, but I just never had the desire to explore it, because it reminded me of that hot day when I was too lazy to walk it. (From the path that I usually run, you can't really see the pier; you can only see a couple hundred feet before it curves, so the whole pier was a mystery to me.)

Anyway, I was feeling so good while I was walking Joey, that I didn't even hesitate to turn onto the path to go on the pier. And it didn't take much to see how much I'd been missing all these years! It was a fantastic walk. I took a bunch of pictures, of course, which don't do it justice...

I've seen Lake Erie ten thousand times, but it just looked exceptionally pretty from that angle. The walk to the end of the pier was about a half-mile.

It was so nice that I'm definitely going to start including it in my runs at the park when I can. In total, we ended up doing 3.25 miles, so it was longer than anticipated, but I'm so glad we tried the pier walk!

This morning, my calves were still sore, but I decided to just run and hope that running would help them to feel better. I took Joey to the State Park again (I like running there with him, because there isn't any traffic to worry about). I had 4.5 miles on the schedule, so I did my typical 5-mile route and just threw in a little shortcut.

The first quarter mile or so was rough because of my sore calves, but once I got warmed up the soreness went away. When my watch beeped at a mile, I was surprised to see our pace was sub-10:00. Usually, when I run with Joey, the pace is pretty consistent between 10:00 and 10:30. When I saw that, I felt determined to keep it up for the remainder of the run.

It was kind of funny, because there were a few times where I could feel myself starting to slow down, and then Joey would see a bird or squirrel ahead, and basically throw me into a sprint for a few seconds, haha. It wasn't an easy run, but it wasn't super hard, either. I'm actually really happy with my pace, considering my seven-week hiatus from running this year! (That last half mile was kind of killer, though.)

I've been thinking about my focus for Indy. A PR is totally off the table, as that would require an 8:30-ish pace, and I'm not delusional. My next thought was a course PR. When I ran this race in 2011, I finished in 2:10:40; so, I could aim for a time better than that, which would be a 9:58 pace. OR, and this is something I've always wanted to do during this particular race, I could run very easy, and take pictures along the course.

Whenever I've done this race, I haven't had a camera (that was before my iPhone), and there were so many cool shirts and bands and spectators that I wanted to snap pictures of along the course. I could probably still do that and maintain a sub-10:00 pace, but it wouldn't be easy. So, I'm not sure which would mean more to me--pushing myself for the course PR, or taking the pictures along the course. (Now that I type that out, I am leaning toward the pictures...). Or, who knows? Maybe a 9:50 pace will feel easy by then, and I can do both! ;) (Although, it's less than five weeks away now. I'm so excited!!)

March 30, 2015

Motivational Monday #103

Happy Motivational Monday, Friends! Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I haven't really been in much of a writing mood, and when I've tried to write a post, it seems kind of forced. Sometimes I go through phases of having a crazy amount of things to write about, and then other times (like now) I feel like I just don't have anything at all to say.

I had a good weekend hanging out with Jerry. His work schedule is changing up again (he works a swing shift, and it changes frequently). I feel kind of bad for him right now, because he's been training for the Indy half-marathon in May, and he's having an issue with his knee. I think that it's patellar tendinitis, which isn't super serious, but it requires rest to get better. Since this is his first injury, he's immediately panicking about not being able to do the half-marathon.

He ran eight miles last weekend, and had to skip his nine miler this week, which he was bummed about. But I think that he'll be good to go in another week or two, if he takes it easy. It's the perfect time to do pool running! ;) This has made him understand my mentality when I first got injured, and why I felt like I was going nuts. Anyway, I just really hope that he's back to normal soon, because he's really excited about running his first half-marathon in five weeks!

We finally had some nice spring weather today--it actually got up in the high-50's. Joey and I explored a new path at the State Park, which was really cool! I'll write about that tomorrow.

Anyway, I think the thing I am most proud of this week is completing my nine mile run yesterday. I really, really didn't want to do it--it was cold outside, and I was tired, and I had a whole host of other excuses--but I forced myself to get it done. Thomas ran 12 miles the night before, and when I told him I was dreading my 9-miler, he said that he'd wanted to sit on his ass, but that it felt good to be done. When he said that, I thought about how good it would feel to just get this long run out of the way, and how proud I'd be to have done it.

So I did! I ran 9 miles, (7 solo, and 2 with Joey), and I felt amazing when I was done. The run wasn't bad at all, and I wouldn't have to feel guilty all week if I'd skipped it. So, I am proud of getting it done :)

Here are a few inspirational stories for Motivational Monday... enjoy!

Jessica just reached the 50-pounds lost mark, and for the first time in 10 years, was able to wear size 12! She started her 75-pound weight loss journey in January of 2014, and initially joined a gym--but she eventually found happiness in cardio kickboxing and walking/hiking outside. She also follows the DASH diet and uses the LoseIt app to count calories. She quit smoking in June, which slowed her weight loss, but she hasn't let that stop her! She said she "blog everything", which helps her to stay on track, even when times get tough. (Jessica's blog)

Carmen ran her first half-marathon this weekend! She completed the Public Women's Half Marathon in Savannah, Georgia, and she really enjoyed the "women only" race. She said everyone was so encouraging, and a lot of women said it was their first race, also. She finished in 3:12, which was shy of her goal, but she said she learned a lot about nutrition and fueling to use for next time--where she will smash that goal!

Judy just completed a 5K race in Windsor, Ontario--the Running Factory's Spring Thaw! She is just starting to run, so she said she did more walking than running, but it was a great morning. Her daughter snapped this photo of her looking strong as she was headed toward the finish line!

You can check out more stories on the Motivational Monday Facebook post!

March 28, 2015

3th Street

Last night was supposed to be Joey's obedience class, and I had every intention of starting a new five-week session yesterday. But the kids were going to be staying the night at my parents' house, and Jerry was planning to meet me at Joey's class after he got off working a 12-hour shift, and the class was just sounding less and less appealing. We really wanted to just hang out and have a date night at home.

So we called Joey's trainer to ask if it would be okay for us to start his new session in two weeks (next week is Easter weekend), and he said absolutely, that was just fine. So, when Jerry got home from work, we put on our embarrassing "onesie" pajamas and made vodka tonics. We had a few drinks while we caught up on the show "Girls" (we both like that show!), and it was a fun and relaxing evening.

My calf was still bugging me a little this morning, so I decided to wait until tomorrow to run. I'm supposed to do nine, but it would be fine if I end up cutting it short and calling it a step-back week, too. When I started this schedule, I built in an extra week just for circumstances like this--if I have to miss a long run for whatever reason. So I'll see how I feel tomorrow. I'd like to do at least five, but if I'm feeling good, then I'll do nine.

The kids and I took Joey for a walk this morning, and it was SO COLD. The temp has been in the teens, with the wind chill in the single digits! I would love for it to at least get up to around 50. While we were walking, I saw a sign that I found much funnier than it probably was:

I sent the pic to Jerry, and asked, "Where do you suppose 3th St. is?" and he responded, "I don't know, between 2rd and 4rd?" Hahaha.

Today, I did some more cleaning, and I laughed out loud when I saw the foam roller I'd gotten at the Runner's World Half. Phoebe apparently hates foam rolling as much as I do:

I know that it's Phoebe's bite mark, because she's the only cat that's always chewing on things (I can't leave important papers on the coffee table or my dresser, for example, because she chews them). This is obviously the perfect bite impression of a cat, so my money is on Phoebs! (I still prefer my homemade foam roller to this one, anyway).

Eli was invited to a birthday party at the movie theater tonight to see the movie Home, so Noah and I dropped him off and then had a little date of our own. I told him I'd take him out to dinner, and let him choose where we went. He chose Kentucky Fried Chicken. I hadn't been there in probably 10 years, at least (other than picking up some take-out for Mark).

I ended up getting a three-piece chicken tender meal, which came with mashed potatoes and gravy, a biscuit, a cookie, and a soft drink. I didn't eat the cookie, and I was actually surprised that the rest of the meal (with a diet soda and without the cookie) was only 18 PointsPlus. I say "only", because I would have thought it would be way more than that. But regardless, I was still over my PointsPlus today, because I didn't run.

I do like that I started counting my points by the day, rather than the week, though, for situations like this. I am over my points, so instead of saying, "Well, I already blew it this week, might as well just get back on track Wednesday when my week starts over!" I can just start tomorrow with a fresh number of PointsPlus.

Jerry's off work tomorrow, and the temp is supposed to get up to the low 40's (woo hoo! haha), so I think we'll probably take Joey for a walk in the Metropark or something. I always look forward to his days off, even when we don't have big plans. I'm super tired, so I just may go to bed super early tonight!

March 27, 2015

The S.S. Mark P.

I didn't do my long run today. I was supposed to run nine miles, but my calf has been feeling sore for a few days, and I think I need the extra rest. I don't think it's injured, but it doesn't feel great. I've been doing all my shorter runs with Joey, and I think running with him may have twisted my leg or something.

For most of the run, he is fantastic--staying right at my side with a loose leash--but once in a while, if he spots a squirrel or another dog or something, he might dart in front of me or pull to the side. He does it so quickly that I don't have time to brace myself, so I wouldn't be surprised if my leg was twisted and caused the calf issue. Regardless, I don't think it's an ongoing problem, but it was pretty sore today, so I'm going to wait to do my long run until tomorrow or Sunday.

I had to go file our taxes yesterday, which was so disappointing. I was expecting to get about $2,000 returned, but instead, we ended up having to pay! I had forgotten that last year, Jerry changed his exemptions so that we wouldn't get a large return (and his paychecks would be a little bigger), but it turns out that he went a little too far in the wrong direction. He changed it back now, but we still wound up having to pay quite a bit on the state taxes. Bummer!

Today, I spent the entire morning deep cleaning the house. I am stunned at the amount of hair that a single dog can shed! For the past week or so, I've been finding dog hair everywhere--and that's despite sweeping the kitchen floor daily, vacuuming, and brushing Joey.

We had four cats for over three years, and I don't think we collected as much hair in the entire three years as I've collected in the past couple of weeks from Joey. Right now, though, his coat feels so much thinner than it did a couple of weeks ago (thanks to the Furminator), so I hope that he's done with the crazy shedding for a while!

When my dad retired a few years ago, he took up painting as a hobby. Nothing super serious--he was watching Bob Ross on TV, and started to use that to teach himself to paint. He put it away for a while last year, but recently started to pick it up again.

Before Mark was sick, he'd pulled a couple of huge pictures out of someone's garbage, and showed his "neat find" to my dad. After Mark died, my dad remembered those pictures, and he went back to the group home to take a picture of them to try and paint them (the pictures were too large for him to just bring home, so he snapped photos and used them to try to paint the scene on a canvas).

My dad's name is Leslie, but when Mark said it, because his speech was impaired, it always sounded like "Reggie". So Reggie basically became my dad's nickname whenever Mark was around--we always referred to "Les" or "Leslie" as "Reggie". (We had to explain several times who Reggie was when we were at the hospital and nursing home, haha).

Anyway, one of the pictures that Mark had taken from the trash was of two small fishing boats on the water. Mark and my dad fished together often, so my dad added his own little touch to the painting: he named the boats the "S.S. Mark P." and "Reggie"... I thought that was so cool! Yesterday, he called and told me that someone offered him $100,000 for it (totally kidding of course), but he wanted to offer it to me first. ;)

He made a frame from an old piece of furniture (he's going to stain it--right now it's the raw wood color). I love it! I'm sure Mark would have loved it, too.

March 25, 2015

A year without Mark

March 25th of last year started like any other day. I spent the day with Jerry, and later that evening, I called Mark's nephew to let him know that we'd be coming over the next day to visit Mark. His nephew had his neighbor call me back to tell me that Mark wasn't doing well, and that the hospice nurse said it was only a matter of hours before he'd pass away.

I was stunned. I had just seen him the day before, when I went with my parents to his nephew's house to visit him; and while the situation at his nephew's house was FAR from ideal, Mark seemed to be doing okay physically, all things considered. He seemed unhappy to be there, with people who were basically strangers to him, but there was nothing we could do about that (I didn't write about all this at the time, because I didn't want to risk having Mark's nephew forbid us from seeing him at all). I didn't know that when we left that day, it would be the last time we ever saw Mark. But since I had said my good-byes several days before, I felt I said everything I needed to.

On March 26th, just after midnight, Mark passed away. And honestly, I felt so relieved for him.

I know many of you know Mark's story, and you followed along as I wrote about the progression of his lung cancer. But I don't have his whole story in one place, to make it easy to read for someone who wasn't able to follow along, so here goes:

Mark was a friend of my family for about 35 years (since before I was born!). Back then, my dad owned an auto repair shop a few blocks from our house, and he used to see Mark walking around, usually smoking a cigarette and collecting bottles to cash in for the deposit. Mark was intellectually disabled, and because of this, lived in a group home about a mile away with other men who had intellectual disabilities.

Because of his intellectual disability, Mark was pretty difficult to understand when he was speaking; but the more you got to know him, the more you could understand him. (Kind of like with kids--moms can understand anything their toddler is trying to say, but a stranger just hears a bunch of syllables). If it wasn't for his speech, you might not know that he was disabled.

My dad offered him a job at the auto shop, doing odd jobs like sweeping the floors, allowing Mark to earn some pocket money. My dad and Mark became buddies, and my dad started taking him fishing once in a while.

Mark and my dad at my dad's surprise 60th birthday party

I'm not sure when the tradition started, but we also started celebrating Mark's birthday with him, because he didn't have any family (or so we thought). He told us his birthday was on Halloween, so we would have cake and ice cream before handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters.

Even when we moved about 20 minutes away in 1997, my dad continued to pick up Mark several times each year to go fishing; and always, on his birthday. I always looked forward to Mark's birthday. Mark was the most grateful person I've ever met, and he never expected anything for his birthday, which made it even more fun to give him gifts or just wish him a happy day. When he opened a gift, no matter what it was, he loved it. When we asked him what kind of cake he'd like, or something like that, he'd just say, "Oh, any old cake!"

Anyway, I always looked forward to Halloween. Our tradition was that my dad would pick up Mark, and then we'd have dinner and cake at my parents' house. And after Mark opened his presents, we'd sit in the driveway, where my dad would make a campfire to stay warm while we handed out candy to the trick-or-treaters. For the past 5-6 years, I really found myself looking forward to it more and more; I think that was because I grew fonder of Mark each time I saw him. He was refreshing to talk to, because he never had a single complaint about anything.

His birthday in October 2013 was just like any other. Then in November, my dad told me that Mark had been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. As cliche as it sounds, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I was just in total disbelief. Mark was a smoker, and had been since he was a kid--but it was the only thing he really had that was his. As much as I dislike cigarettes, I never judged Mark for that--smoking was all he'd known for his whole life. So I shouldn't have been as shocked as I was when I heard the news of his cancer, but I had the hardest time really believing it.

I had a cold at the time, so I couldn't go to the hospital to see him until I was healthy. Meanwhile, I reached out on my blog to ask people to send cards to Mark--which I knew he'd LOVE. Mark didn't have family or friends outside of his group home, really, so I wanted him to feel surrounded by well-wishes. And holy cow, did you all respond! He received hundreds of cards.

When I went to visit him in the hospital for the first time, I brought the first batch of cards to read to him (Mark couldn't read). He was thrilled to see me, of course. My dad and I were there for several hours, and I read him all of the cards before hanging them up around his room.

My dad spoke with the doctor, who basically said that Mark didn't have long to live--the cancer was in his brain, his spine, his liver, everywhere. My dad immediately wanted to bring Mark to live at his house in hospice care, to avoid chemo and radiation and all that. It was then that we learned Mark had a nephew, who we knew nothing about. His nephew showed up to the hospital, and because he was immediate family, got to make all of the medical decisions for Mark. He didn't like the idea of Mark going to my parents' house, because they "weren't family", and instead, opted for chemo and radiation in the hospital.

Mark hated hospitals, and was aching to go home to his group home, but the home couldn't take him in because of the required medical care that he would need. The hospital couldn't keep him any longer, so his nephew signed him over to a nursing home. Mark would spend the next three months in the nursing home, and my dad and I tried to take turns visiting every other day, so that he would have a visitor every day. His nephew never went, so it was just my family, which is why the cards you all sent meant so much! Mark would tell the nurses, "I got so many people that care about me! Look at all these people that care about me!" and point to all his cards.

This nurse was amazing. There was no room left on the other wall, so she
spent a long time stapling his cards to his curtain!

For the five months between Mark's diagnosis and his death, I got to know him better than I had for the prior 30 years. We had some really great moments (funny and sad). Mark loved junk food, just like me, and I made it a point to bring him something each time I went to visit--a "fancy" Starbucks coffee (he was used to instant coffee, so anything better than that was fancy!), a strawberry McDonald's milkshake (his very favorite), hushpuppies from Long John Silvers, popcorn chicken from KFC, Mary Jane candies, and a ton of other things he requested.

Mark didn't have many possessions, and certainly had no money, so these were all little luxuries to him. I looked forward to visiting each time I went because I was excited to bring him something new. Every time I visited, it was like a little vacation from the stress at home, because Mark was so happy all the time, and a true joy to be around.

Mark's number one goal was to get out of that nursing home and go back home. My dad and I talked to the physical therapists to see if there was any way we could get him to be functional enough to go back to the group home. They talked with the owner of the group home, who said that Mark had to be able to walk on his own. So Mark made that his mission--every time I visited, he'd tell me about physical therapy and that he's going to be walking soon so he could walk out of there and go home.

In the cards he received, Mark had gotten some money--a few dollars here and there, and it really started to add up. I socked it away in an envelope for him to use as he wanted, and when he had a couple hundred dollars saved up, I asked what he wanted to do with it. He thought about it for a little bit, and said that he wanted to have a party for the guys at his group home, complete with pizza and cake. (This is the story that I would later tell at his funeral... because it showed just what kind of person Mark was. Always thinking of making others happy!)

We made Mark's wish a reality in mid-February. He had enough money for the pizza and cake, and with enough left over, a goodie bag for each of the guys in the home. A lot of the men that live there have been forgotten about by their families, and they were all so grateful for everything--just like Mark. Mark had a fantastic party, and was able to walk into the home using a walker, which made him very proud. I hadn't seen him smile that big since before he was in the hospital!

After Mark's last chemo treatment, his therapists said he could go home if it was okay with the owner of the group home. Ordinarily, she said she wouldn't have let him come home, because it was a huge liability; but she'd known Mark for so long that she agreed. Again, Mark got his wish to get out of the nursing home, and he was thrilled to be back at the group home.

Almost as soon as he got home, however, he started to deteriorate very quickly. We begged his nephew to let us take him to my parents' house under hospice care, but his nephew said that when it came to that, he'd bring Mark to his house. Mark was bedridden, and was no longer able to stay at the group home. My mom and I went to the home to spend the day with him, and that day was really what I think of as my last visit with Mark. I had some time alone with him, and got to say everything I wanted to. I brought him a milkshake, but he couldn't drink it, which was sad. He slept most of the day.

Here, I'm trying to explain to Mark in front of the hospice nurse what
"hospice" meant, so that he could sign himself into hospice instead of
going back to the hospital at that point. She determined he wasn't of sound
mind to make the decision :( So we had to beg his nephew to do it.
My last photo of Mark. He was waving good-bye.

Mark's nephew signed him into hospice care and took him home; and just a few days later, on March 26, Mark passed away. Once again, I asked a favor from everybody reading my blog: to do a random act of kindness in Mark's honor. I loved reading about those! A few people took ice cream or other desserts to their local nursing homes for the residents, which I think is fantastic (and I know Mark would have loved that idea).

So, here we are, one year later. There hasn't been a single day that has gone by where I haven't thought of Mark in some way. No one close to me had ever died before, so this was very new to me, and I didn't handle it well. I ate my feelings away, and gained 20 pounds. I have regrets that I didn't really get to know Mark years and years ago, but I am also grateful that I was able to spend so much time with him when he likely needed someone the most. It feels like it all just happened recently, and it's so hard to believe it's been a year already!

Thanks so much to all of you who are still reading and who sent your love to Mark in some way--you made a big difference in his last few months! And so now, I ask again... since tomorrow is the anniversary of Mark's death, please try and do something ("any old thing!" as Mark would say) nice for someone else. A random act of kindness. And if you'd like, come share it here in the comments!

(To read all of the posts about Mark, in reverse chronological order, you can click here. The first post regarding his diagnosis can be found here.)

March 24, 2015

Facts About Me (from 2007!)

I didn't really have much to write about today, and for some reason I was reading through my old blog from 2007. I came across a post called "10 Things You May Not Know About Me" from 8 years ago. A few of the things haven't changed, but a couple of them made me laugh because they have most certainly changed!


1. I met my husband when I was 17 and he was 18. He was my first real boyfriend, and I was his first real girlfriend. I knew after about a month that I'd marry him one day. That was 8 years ago. We've been married for 3 1/2 years now.

2. I had two rare things happen during my pregnancies. With Noah, I developed a condition called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP). It's a liver condition that basically makes your blood itch--it's HORRIBLE, and you constantly itch all over (everywhere that your blood flows). I became suicidal at the end of my pregnancy because it was so bad, and the doctor induced labor 2 weeks early. With Eli, I dislocated my pubic bone (basically stretched out the ligaments that hold the pubic bones together). It was horribly painful. After the birth, it was even worse. I couldn't walk for a while, and then I had to use a walker. 

3. I've never had a cavity, stitches, or a broken bone. Or been hospitalized for something other than giving birth.

4. My "dream job" is a forensic pathologist. That's what I've wanted to be since 7th grade. I'll never do it, though, because the schooling is WAY too long.

5. I refuse to fly. My brother is a pilot for Northwest Airlines, which comes with lots of perks--but I won't take advantage of it. I'm not afraid of crashing or anything, and I can't name exactly what bothers me so much. My brother took me in a flight simulator, and I even had a panic attack in THAT. I've tried Xanax, Valium, drinking alcohol--nothing helps. (I've flown lots of times, but the last time was in 2003 and I'll never do it again).

6. I'm obsessed with nutrition. That was my major when I quit college. I wanted to be a dietician. Maybe someday I'll finish when my kids are in school. I'm constantly reading about nutrition and diet--I can't get enough!

7. I'm addicted to ice--literally. I chew it all day long, probably the equivalent of 2 liters of water. I chew it faster than my ice machine makes it. When I don't have ice, I get really anxious and that's all I can think about. I have lots of "back-up" ice cube trays for those days that I'm waiting on the machine.

8. I'm extremely shy. I'm horrible at meeting new people because of my shyness. I get very intimidated, especially around thin people. I always feel like everyone is thinking about how fat I am. Numerous people have told me that this kind of thinking is just dumb, but I can't help it. That's what I think. I keep hoping that after I lose this weight, I'll be a little more extroverted.

9. I have a pen pal in North Carolina that I've been writing to since 2nd grade. Our teachers assigned us a pen pal, and we just kept writing. Five years later, we met in-person, and we visited a few more times since then. She even came to my wedding.

10. I get really jealous of women who nurse their babies. When I had my kids, my milk never came in (I even took drugs to stimulate lactation). All over the place, you hear all the reasons to breast feed, and some women really look down on you if you use formula. I just want to scream that "I didn't have a CHOICE!" I know there are much worse things in life (there are women that can't have babies, for goodness sakes, so I should be grateful). I AM grateful, but I still get jealous of women who breast feed, because I was never able to.

Haha! It was fun to read this. Here are some post-scripts:

1. Jerry and I have now been together for 16 years, and married for almost 12 years. These pics were both taken at a Tigers game--the first in 1999 and the most recent in 2014. How we've changed! ;)

I must say, I like the new Jerry-face better than the old
2. I still get anxiety when my body has an itch. I worry it'll never go away, and it'll itch like when I was pregnant with Noah!

3. Haha! I jinxed myself with this. Since then, I've gotten my first (and second and third) cavity; and I fell and broke my jaw, requiring a week-long hospital stay, two surgeries, and, of course, stitches. 

4. I still think this would be my dream job. If I wouldn't have to go school forever, I'd do it. 

5. I didn't fly from 2003 until 2010; in 2010, I'd lost over 100 pounds and had a moment of bravery. I was visiting my brother in Minnesota (we'd driven there), and his roommate offered to take me up on The Breezy (see pic below). I forced myself to do it, just so I'd have a cool Facebook photo, haha! A couple of weeks later, I flew back to Minnesota for a spur-of-the-moment Ragnar Relay position on my brother's team. This blog has given me lots of other opportunities to fly (I just got home from Portland a week ago!), so I've done my best to "get over it". I still need wine to get on the plane, though.

Fun fact about Steve (my brother's roommate in photo): His mom was a
flight attendant on the flight that D.B. Cooper hijacked in 1971!

6. Not as obsessed with nutrition anymore. When I was always trying to lose the weight, I read everything I could get my hands on. But since reaching goal, I'm not as interested.

7. Currently, I am not hooked on the ice. But once in a while, I'll go through a period of about a year or two that I am completely addicted. I'm always afraid of ruining my teeth by chomping on the ice, but I can't help it.

8. Still terribly shy. Even at my thinnest, I was shy and had a hard time meeting new people ;)

9. My pen pal and I have known each other for nearly 26 years now! I wish that teachers still did "pen pals", where kids would write a letter and drop it in the snail mail. I loved getting mail from her! And sometimes we sent packages, which was the best.

Me and Elaina, when I was visiting her in 10th? grade. Yes, I was very cool
in those glasses ;)
10. I still feel like my kids missed out by being formula fed, but it doesn't bother me much anymore. I did what I could!

March 23, 2015

Motivational Monday #102

Happy Motivational Monday, Friends! I hope that spring is off to a good start for everyone. It's been 25 degrees here the last couple of days, so it really doesn't feel like spring, which is a bummer. I can't believe I've been home from Portland for nearly a week already!

I have a few Motivational Monday stories to kick off your week...

Corryn ran her first half-marathon! She completed the Rock 'n' Roll D.C. half, which was rainy, windy, and cold (as you can see in the picture). Her finish time wasn't what she'd hoped, but she is very proud for finishing despite that bad weather!

Yesterday, Renee (on right in photo) walked/jogged her first 5K race! She and her best friend completed Max's O'Hartford 5K in Connecticut. Her goal was to finish the race in under and hour, and she smoked that goal, finishing in 51:57! She said doing a 5K was so much fun, and totally worth it for the cool medal ;)

The last nine months were very rough for Sam, due to spiraling deep into addiction. On February 4, she ended up in the detox unit of a psychiatric hospital to overcome her addiction. Since then, she's been working hard to turn things around, and at 47 days sober, she walked the Mercer Island half marathon, finishing in 2:50:06! While it wasn't a PR for her, it showed her that she can do it and is on her way back to her old self.

Maegan did a St. Patrick's Day 5K race on Saturday and crossed the finish line with a shiny new PR! She was hoping to walk/run it under 45 minutes (she's building her way up to being able to run an entire 5K), and she ended up crossing the finish line in 44:31. She and her husband are planning to do another 5K in the summer, and hope to run the entire distance by then. Maegan and her husband have also lost quite a bit of weight over the past year! (Maegan's blog)

Congrats ladies! I hope everyone has a fantastic week :)

March 22, 2015


At Joey's last obedience class, I asked his trainer about continuing training. I've really enjoyed going (gives me something to do on a Friday night! haha), and we've all learned quite a bit. He suggested doing another round of the classes (five weeks) to perfect all of the obedience commands in a distracting environment. Joey knows all the basic commands PERFECTLY when we're at home; and then in class, it's so much harder, because he's constantly distracted (which is the point).

I'd like to talk with his trainer about teaching Joey to come (without fail) when he's off leash. I don't plan to take him off leash when I run with him or anything, but we have the perfect place across the street from our house for him to run and play. I've written about it several times, but it's basically an access road that's only open in case of a major emergency, and it runs through a marsh.

Ohmygoodness... this photo! I'm totally turning into a dog-person.
I need to get another cat or something, STAT! ;)
Yesterday, I took Joey for a walk back there, and forgot to bring his long lead (I only had his 6-ft leash). There's never anyone back there, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice off-leash. I let him loose, and he had a blast! He stayed within about 150 feet of me in each direction. At first, he came when I whistled, but he'd run to me and then blow right past me, running the other direction.

He never went too far, and when I stepped behind a tree, I could see him look around like he was worried I was gone, and then he came to me. So I think he'll be able to figure out a recall with training--I just need help knowing how to train him for that.

Today, the kids and I took him out there again, and he did a lot less running and more exploring. His nose was on the ground constantly, and even when I offered treats to come to me, he wasn't interested. Still, he stayed in close proximity, and when we started walking down the path, he followed.

The kids and I were cracking up at Joey while he leaped through the phragmites. Eli has a bit of a cold, so his laugh sounds terrible on this video, but you can see Joey having a good old time.

Tomorrow is Motivational Monday, so if you have a photo to submit, please do! It's been a couple of weeks since the last MM, so I'm looking forward to reading your stories :)

March 21, 2015

How much effort is it worth?

A few people asked me about how I changed my PointsPlus tracker to reflect only a daily PP target, rather than weekly. This isn't an actual option, so I had to create it myself. Here are the settings I used:

When you sign into your account, and then go to your food tracker, you click on "Settings" in the top right corner. I changed the objective to "Maintain weight" rather than "lose weight" (even though that's not my real objective, it will allow you to change the Daily PP Target at bottom). Technique is "Tracking". Swapping activity should be "Daily", so it won't hold onto your activity points all week. I set the Weekly PP Allowance to 0 (zero). And because I changed that to zero, I simply added 7 PP to my Daily PP Target, making it 33 (usually, it's 26 when my objective is to lose weight; so if your daily PP target is now 30, then you would just add 7, and your new one would be 37).

By doing the settings this way, every single day starts out the same: 33 Daily PP, 0 Weekly, and 0 Activity. If you exercise, you can earn more. You're still getting the same number of Points either way, but this way every day is the same; you don't have to track anything for the week. Hope that makes sense! I have no idea how well this will work, but I'm going to give it a try for a while.

On yesterday's post, I got a very interesting comment that I thought made a lot of sense, and wanted to share:

I can definitely see how this could be what's keeping me from putting in the extra effort to get back to goal. I'm certainly "okay" with how I look right now--when I saw my pics from Portland, I never thought, "Eww, I need to delete that!" or anything. I certainly think I looked better when I was at goal, but I don't think I look bad now. I desire to get back to goal, because I was faster at running, and my clothes fit well, and I just looked better; but maybe, subconsciously, I am not putting in the extra effort toward being strict with counting because I'm okay with how I am now.

When I was 253 pounds, or even 200 pounds, I hated how I looked, I felt terrible, and I was unhealthy. Now, I feel healthy; I look okay in a size 8; and I feel like a "normal" person. So, the desire to lose weight when I was 253 pounds was MUCH greater than it is now, which is probably why it was easier for me to stay consistent. At 253, the reward in my future (for making the effort to lose weight) was monumental; whereas now, the reward is just a slightly smaller clothing size and a little less pudge.

So basically, it's not that I don't care if I lose this weight to get back to goal; it's just that I don't care as much as I did when I had over 100 pounds to lose.

Thank you to whoever left that comment! I'm not sure if it'll help me moving forward, but it certainly gives me a lot to think about and makes me feel less frustrated about staying on track. I guess I just have to determine what I want more--to be "okay" with how I am now, putting in little effort? Or to be very happy by being at goal, and putting in a heck of a lot of effort? I'll have to give it some serious thought. Interesting!

Ohmygoodness, I started a new puzzle today, and at the same time, started binge-watching Marriage at First Sight on A&E. It's a show about three couples who agreed to get legally married into an arranged relationship with someone that they'd never met and knew absolutely nothing about. They didn't even know each others names until the wedding! When I heard of the show, I thought it was sort of insulting to marriage ("Well, if it doesn't work out, we'll just get divorced! No harm done!"), which is why I didn't watch it.

Today, though, I got completely hooked on one of the couples (Jamie and Doug) and just couldn't stop watching their story unfold. Doug is the kind of guy who totally grows on you over time, and that's exactly how Jerry is. Jerry is super goofy and silly and a sappy romantic, but I completely fell for him. Even though I was only 17 when we started dating, I knew I was going to marry him. (Looking back, we were way too young to get married, and there was so much more we had to learn about life; but we were committed to our marriage, and now, nearly 12 years later, I can't even imagine NOT being with him.) Anyway, this show is so addicting! Other than an hour of walking Joey, I've been pretty glued to my puzzle and the TV all day ;)

March 20, 2015

Daily versus weekly tracking

When I started counting PointsPlus again on Wednesday, I decided to switch from the usual weekly tally to a daily tally. Normally on Weight Watchers, you keep track of your daily PointsPlus and you get a weekly allowance (49 PP) to use any time during the week that you'd like. This works out really well if you have an event coming up, so you can hoard those PP for the event; but I've discovered it to be a problem for me, most of the time.

Since I've been having such a hard time staying consistent with counting PointsPlus, I decided to change it up a little. My week usually goes like this--great counting Wednesday through Friday, and then usually go WAY over on Saturday and Sunday, and then Monday, I think, "Well, Wednesday will start my week over, so there is no point in counting Points now..." (If you've done WW, I'm sure you may be able to relate to that thinking?). This has caused my weight to stay within a 3-5 pound range for about a year now, rather than losing weight.

Basically, if I have a bad day (or meal) and blow my Points for the week, I find it really hard to get back on track until Wednesday. So, to remedy that problem, I changed up the way I distribute my Points. I set the tracker to give me 33 daily PP (my usual 26 + 7 weekly); and I set the activity Points to where they must be used the day I earn them. So if I earn, say, 10 activity PP today, then I would have a total of 43 PP to spend... today. Tomorrow, it would go back to 33 + the number of points I earn for activity.

By doing it this way, each day works in and of itself--a fresh start. (It's very similar to counting calories.) I think this will help me to stay more consistent; and even if I have a bad day, I won't be waiting a few days to start my week over. The only downside is that if I have an event where I want to spend a lot of Points (50+), then I won't be able to "save up" for it. Those events are very rare, though, so I don't see it causing a problem.

For the past year, I've been trying to get back to a very consistent regimen, like I did the entire 16 months I was losing weight. I never went over my points then, because I learned to plan things out and work all my food cravings into my diet. But for some reason, I've been having the hardest time getting back to that. So, my main focus right now is just staying consistent with my tracking--always tracking, even if I go over. And I'm hoping that by doing daily tracking (versus weekly), it will help me to have more consistent days each week.

Anyway, today was my long run. It's so hard to believe that I'm up to eight miles already! After taking over seven weeks off for my stress fracture, I felt like I'd never be able to run longer distances again. And today, here I was, procrastinating all morning, just like old times ;)

Finally, I talked myself into going by promising myself that I could do it like a "light jog"--very easy pace. Last week, I did my long run with Jerry before I left for Portland. We thought it would be a good way to spend some quality time together before I left, and we took the pace very easy. Between the chatting and the icy path at the State Park, our pace was 11:22/mile. I didn't even look at our pace until we were done, though.

So today, even though I was running solo, I decided to just run it comfortably without any goal at all. I had planned on doing an out-and-back, but once I got about halfway down my street, I realized I didn't have my phone with me. I didn't want to go back in to get it, because Joey would think I was back home for good (I always feel bad about leaving him, and he gets so excited when I get home). I didn't feel comfortable going that far without my phone, so I just stuck to the neighborhoods around my house.

My pace wasn't very consistent, but I wasn't focused on it at all anyway. It was a little faster than the "light jog" that I'd imagined, but it was comfortable. I was kind of surprised at how fast the first half of the run went. I decided to stop by my house and pick up Joey for the last two miles. He was thrilled when I came in and grabbed his leash and harness. He was really good at heeling today, staying right by my side for a good portion of the run. Then when we hit mile eight (for me, not him!) we walked for another quarter mile so that he could stop and sniff and pee on things.

He slept all afternoon (actually, he's sleeping next to me as I type this):

Tonight is his last obedience training class. I'm kind of bummed! I've really enjoyed the class, and Joey has done awesome with it. He listens to Jerry and me, and even the kids, really well. He still needs a lot of practice (mainly in distracting environments), but the class definitely helped us to know how to train him. I'd like to continue with more advanced training, but I'm not sure where to go from here, so I'm going to talk to his trainer tonight.

Happy first day of Spring!

March 19, 2015

Running with Joey

I've spent the past couple of days getting back to the norm. I was excited that Jerry didn't have to work, so we could spend some time together. We didn't do anything super interesting, but it was good to spend time with him after being gone for five days.

While I was gone, the snow melted! I was really happy that it's gone, and I hope it's gone for the season. The mud for the next few weeks won't be fun, but I'm glad that the roads are clear. Now that the roads aren't full of ice, I can run outside. Yesterday, it was pretty nice outside (mid-30's), so I decided to try taking Joey for a run with me. I've been reading everything I can about running with dogs, but I was still nervous to give it a try.

I had four miles on the schedule, but was prepared to shorten it if needed (if Joey got too tired or it just wasn't working out well). Labs are apparently one of the best breeds for running, so I hoped he would handle it okay. I took him to the State Park, so that we wouldn't have to deal with car traffic, and I put his no-pull harness on him.

We started running the bike path, and at first, he seemed a little confused. He looked back at me a few times, and was crisscrossing in front of me, but after a quarter mile or so, he did awesome. He didn't stay right at my side, but we can work on that later. Instead, he stayed ahead of me--but not too far--and the leash had a fair amount of slack.

He really seemed to love running! It was much easier to keep him from pulling on the leash than when we walk, and he didn't get distracted nearly as easily as when we walk. I stopped each mile to let him sniff around for a minute and go pee. I had been thinking we'd have to cut the run short and do the 5K loop, but he was doing so well that we went for the full four miles.

We saw another black lab on the trail, who was off leash, and I was really impressed with the fact that she heeled when Joey and I ran past. She looked like she wanted to run, but she stayed put next to her owner. The only time Joey really got excited and out of the "running zone" was when we saw a couple of squirrels and when we passed a man who was walking the trail. It took a second to get him back in the zone, but it wasn't too difficult at all. I was really impressed with how well he did on his first run!

Not exactly consistent splits, but maybe we'll get there ;)

Speaking of Joey, we noticed that he's been shedding like crazy for the past couple of weeks. I don't know if dogs have a "winter coat" that sheds when the weather turns, but it was getting a bit crazy. I bought a "Furminator" to try on him, and I was stunned at how much fur came off. I brushed him for a good 20 minutes, and his fur seemed so much thinner when I was done.

Phoebe was totally fascinated every time I "ejected" some of the hair from the comb, which is why she's sitting next to it. It doesn't even look like that much fur in the photo--it was a huge pile! I had tried the Furminator on Paolo a couple of times, but it didn't work very well (he was so old that his skin was very thin, making it difficult). It was so much easier to use on Joey, and I couldn't believe how well it worked.

Last night, my brothers and sister-in-law, Becky, came over. Brian and Becky were in town just for the night to look at some properties for sale, so they came over to visit; and Nathan was off work, so he came over, too. It was a fun impromptu get-together!

During the night, Eli came in and woke up Jerry and me to say that he wasn't feeling good. He was coughing quite a bit all night, so I kept him home from school today. I'm surprised he's sick again! He just got over being sick last month. It seems almost inevitable that I get sick whenever Eli does, too... I really hope not!

Anyway, as I mentioned yesterday, I didn't gain any weight in Portland! It's not unusual for me to go away and gain 5-10 pounds, so I was really happy to see that I hadn't gained anything. I was just careful not to eat too much, and I didn't do any snacking (I ate a small breakfast, and then lunch and dinner were restaurants). I really liked not snacking (I felt better that way), so I am going to try and continue with that at home. I'll just eat larger meals so I don't get hungry in between. I am going to be counting Points, though. I went to bed yesterday feeling empty, but not starving. My goal right now is to just consistently count my Points for a few weeks in a row--if I can do that, then I know I can do it long term. It's the first few weeks that's the hard part!

March 18, 2015

My Portland Trip! (this is long...)

Wow, I don't even know where to begin. Portland was AMAZING. This was, by far, my most favorite city I've ever visited. I was so very sad to leave yesterday! I wish I'd planned a longer trip... but I am already planning to go back next year (and hit up Seattle while I'm out there), so I will definitely plan to stay longer.

This trip was some very much needed de-stressing time for me. I didn't want to have anything to stress over or worry about while I was there. I didn't want to *have to* do anything--I didn't blog, I didn't run, I didn't count Points--and it was wonderful. (Spoiler: I also didn't gain any weight while I was there, which I'm thrilled about. I ate intuitively, and it worked out perfectly.)

I didn't want to have to think about anything or make decisions on this trip--so Thomas had everything planned out, and I didn't know anything that we were doing until we got there. That way, everything was a surprise, which made it that much more fun.

Here is the general rundown of my trip :)

Jerry drove me to the airport and dropped me off. When I was in line to check my bag, I realized that I didn't have my driver's license--total panic. I called Jerry and told him to go get my passport, and bring it to the airport ASAP. Long story short, after about 40 minutes, I asked an employee if anyone had turned in my license, and someone HAD. I was so relieved. It must have fallen out of my bag when I was digging out my confirmation number.

I flew from Detroit to Minneapolis, and then from Minneapolis to Portland. From the airport in Portland, Thomas had given me very good directions (knowing that I'm TERRIBLE at finding my way around) to take the MAX (a train) to his office building. He was waiting outside when I got there, and I actually had no trouble finding it! It had been nearly a year since I saw Thomas, who has become one of my closest friends, so it was a fun reunion (complete with a Jerry face! I can't wait until Jerry and Thomas get to meet next month in Indy, because several people have said they look alike).

He showed me his office, and then we headed out to get some food and beer at Shanghai Tunnel, where we ordered noodle bowls. (The whole time in Portland, I just ordered exactly what Thomas did, because I wanted to try his favorite stuff--and again, no decision-making. I'm not picky, and it seems we have the same sort of tastes for food, so it worked out great. I tried lots of new things, and there wasn't anything I didn't like!)

Thomas's friend, Laurel, was going to meet us there, and I was actually really nervous to meet her. She was a reader of my blog before Thomas was, but I'd never met her in person and I don't know her very well. I always get nervous about meeting new people, but she ended up being super nice and easy to chat with! So the three of us went to Voodoo Doughnut afterward, where I told the guy working there to just give me his personal favorite doughnut.

When we left there, we went to another bar to chat for a little bit before Laurel had to leave. Thomas and I chatted until about 1:00 AM (which is 4:00 Eastern time for me!), but I was so wound up and excited to be there that I wasn't really all that tired.

Early Saturday morning, I had plans to meet up with some blog readers! I had gotten emails from a few people who were interested in meeting up, so I chose Starbucks at 7:00 on Saturday. I wasn't sure who would show up (if anyone), and I was really nervous to go, but I was looking forward to it as well. Laurel picked me up from Thomas's at 6:40, and we went to Starbucks.

Three more readers ended up meeting us there, and even though I was really nervous, everyone was SO nice and I felt comfortable almost instantly. We chatted for about an hour and a half, and then took a group photo before leaving.

Katie, Emma, me, Mary, and Laurel
Thomas and I had plans to pick up Brandon in the late morning. Brandon is Thomas's "little brother" from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and Thomas sees him every weekend. I'd heard a lot about him, so I was really looking forward to meeting him. I've sent him Legos as a gift in the mail before, and he really liked them, so I told him that on Saturday, we could go to the Lego store and I'd let him pick some out.

So, we went to the mall, where I bought Brandon some Legos and a video game, and then we ate at the food court. Brandon said his very favorite food is Panda Express Orange Chicken, so I told him that he could order for me--I'd get whatever he chose. He chose Orange Chicken and chow mein. I had never actually eaten at Panda Express before, and it was really good! Brandon chose well ;)

After lunch, we went to play laser tag. I was really nervous about it, because I'd never played before and wasn't sure what to expect. Long story short, I wasn't crazy about laser tag. I felt incredibly awkward and unsure of myself, so after that first game, I sat out while Thomas and Brandon played a few more. Brandon LOVES laser tag, and he and Thomas were quite competitive ;)

After laser tag, we went to dinner at Killer Burger. I tried Thomas's favorite, the Peanut Butter Pickle Bacon Burger. I never, in a thousand years, would have tried it if Thomas hadn't raved about it; but I'm always excited to try new things, so that's what I ordered. It was a burger patty with peanut butter sauce, bacon, mayo, onions, and pickles. I wish I'd have taken a picture! It was SOOO amazing. I couldn't stop talking about it for a full 48 hours after that.

After dinner, we all met up with a couple of Thomas's friends, Lucian and Timeea (and Timeea's service-dog-in-training, Bengee) for bowling at SuperPlay. Timeea has a spinal cord injury, and she's been training Bengee as a service dog to help her get around (she described it as using him as a "cane"). It was interesting to watch Bengee try bowling! ;)

I was throwing gutter ball after gutter ball at first, and Brandon was very excited that he was going to beat me. And then after about the fourth or fifth frame, I started doing much better. Toward the end of the game, I actually threw three strikes in a row! That was my first-ever turkey.

We bowled two games, and then let Brandon play some video games before we had to take him back to his foster home. It was such a fun day! I adore Brandon, and I'm hoping that maybe next year Thomas can bring him to Michigan and we can go to Cedar Point.

We made it an early night, since the Shamrock race was in the morning. It had been raining all day, and it wasn't looking like good weather for the race, either.

Sunday was race day. We had to get up fairly early and head out to the start of the race. It was pouring rain, which was a bummer for spectating. I left Thomas at the starting line; he'd given me very easy, very specific instructions to get to where I wanted to spectate at mile 2.75-ish. I just had to walk straight ahead until I got to Taylor Street, and then turn right and I'd hit the spot. Being horrible with directions, I ended up getting lost! I walked about a mile too far past Taylor, and by that time, it was too late to get there before Thomas ran by.

I texted his friend, Libbie, who we were planning to meet up with (and I'm bummed that I realized I never got a picture with Libbie--she was so nice!), and she eventually found me (I had walked back to the finish line). We stood at the finish line, making noise for the runners as they came through:

There weren't very many spectators, probably due to the rain. Thomas finished right when he predicted he would, and shortly after that, the rain stopped. I was completely soaked, and so was he, so we went back to his place to dry off before meeting Libbie for lunch and post-race celebration. Thomas had been insistent that I wear green, so I made sure to really play up the green for the day:

Thomas knows that I like boneless wings, so we went to a place called Fire On The Mountain Buffalo Wings. We were starving, so we got a bunch of wings and fried pickles to share. The wings were good, and I wanted to keep eating beyond being full, but I also knew we'd be having some beer throughout the afternoon, so I didn't want to be stuffed.

When we left there, we went to a bar called Yard House that had a crazy-huge beer list. I tasted two that Thomas thought I may like (I'm not a big beer person, but there are some that I do like), and settled on a blueberry one. And by "settled", I mean I totally committed to it:

Why, yes, it was windy outside... why do you ask?
That's called a "half yard" size, and my eyes nearly bugged out of my head when I saw it! I was glad I saved room from lunch ;)

After hanging out there for a while, we headed to the MAX. I started to notice that so many people were wearing green; and about 80% of them (including Thomas) were wearing a similar-looking green scarf. After questioning Thomas and Libbie for a minute, I learned we were going to a Timbers game! Thomas made me think all the green was for St. Patrick's Day, but it was for the Timber's game--very clever.

I'm not a sports fan, but soccer is one sport that interests me, and I'd never been to a professional soccer game before. Thomas and Libbie explained that we were going to be sitting in the Timbers' "Army" section--which apparently meant some really hardcore fans. The atmosphere on the MAX, and when we got to the stadium, was almost electric--you could feel the buzz of people's excitement (or maybe that was the half-yard of beer I drank, haha!).

The game was indescribable. The fans were SO much fun to watch! They do these cheers and chants throughout the entire game, and it was awesome to be a part of it. My only regret is not taking pictures there!

After the game, we said good-bye to Libbie, and then we had a pretty mellow night. We had a couple more drinks while we watched the rough cut of the From Fat to Finish Line documentary, and then some old episodes of Roseanne (love that show!).

On Monday, we did another first for me: a hike! I'd actually never been hiking before, but it's something I've been very interested in doing. We went to Eagle Creek, with a packed lunch for midway through the hike. I didn't know how far we'd be going, but I guessed probably six miles or so.

Hahaha, nearly halfway through, Thomas told me it was actually about 14 miles round-trip! But it was SO GORGEOUS and so much fun. I took some photos, but they don't do it justice at all. The scenery was breathtaking.

Despite how it looks, I was not chillaxing on this rock;
I had just fallen hard on my ass and nearly slid into the
waterfall! I misjudged how slippery it was.

I love all the different shades of green!

Here is a video of a stream we had to cross. Crossing was much harder than it looks! Although, Thomas didn't do a great job crossing here--luckily, I was videoing him ;)

It took us nearly 5 1/2 hours to walk 13.9 miles. I felt surprisingly really good afterward! My feet were achey, but other than that, I felt okay. (That never would have happened six years ago! I never would have even agreed to go for a hike then.)

It was dinnertime, so we quickly went back to Thomas's to change our socks and shoes, which were wet. Then we went to dinner at McMenamins. Dinner was a chicken caesar wrap (SO good), cajun tater tots, and a raspberry beer called Ruby. I can't even describe how wonderful these tots were!

I was starving, and ate a ton of them, but considering I walked 14 miles, I didn't feel the slightest bit guilty. I was pretty full after dinner, because the food was so good that it was hard to stop eating.

We went back to Thomas's, and had another drink (okay, a couple... but hey, it was vacation!), and chatted. Then the craziest thing happened. We were watching a few comedian clips on YouTube, and one of the recommended videos that popped up was called "Portland Oregon: Things to do and see". It was really cheesy, but a couple of minutes in, the host woman interviewed a woman in line for Voodoo Doughnut. I nearly screamed, because IT WAS PAIGE! Paige is our "Sole Mate"--a member of our Ragnar team--so she's a mutual friend of ours, but she lives in Idaho! How crazy is that? I showed the screen shot to Paige, and she had never seen that video before--it was pretty funny.

Thomas took me to the airport early Tuesday morning, which was a bummer. I wanted to stay longer! I flew from Portland to Minneapolis, and then from Minneapolis to Detroit. As I was getting off the plane in Detroit (after a LONG travel day), I saw Becky, my brother Brian's wife! I was shocked. Neither of us knew we were on the same flight.

So, now I'm home again. I had a fantastic time in Portland, and I can't wait to go there again someday. I met some really amazing people, had so much fun, and now I'm feeling recharged for getting back to "real life" ;)

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