“Going off the Grid” Follow Up

To my avid readers:

Many of you made it known that you were anxiously awaiting a follow-up post to Going off the Grid Attempt #2. Well, here she be.

I’m not sure what you’re expecting. I suppose by the sound of my previous post about a 5-day adventure to to the Boundary Waters, you’d think I would have come back a new woman. Let me start by saying I was sore for several days and was definitely relieved to return. I don’t have rave reviews, nor do I have nightmare stories, but there were definite good and bad parts of the haul.

The trip was kind of bipolar, to say the least, there really wasn’t much middle ground. Let me take that back. There was a LOT of middle ground. All of which we had to paddle and portage, which was definitely the one of the worst parts of

Camper #1 – Roger Mesteth

the trip. But before I break down the good and bad, let me first explain the dynamics of the campers.

Camper #1: Roger Mesteth, my sister’s father-in-law. Avid camper. Knows everything about camping. Ultra prepared. Brought clothespins and steaks.

Camper #2 – Robert Stoneburner

Camper #2: Robert Stoneburner, my dad. Hated camping as a kid. Had never previously gone camping voluntarily. Packed his stuff in four separate bags and brought a straw hat large enough to provide shade for the entire campsite.

Camper #3 – Lynn Mesteth

Camper #3: Lynn Mesteth, my sister. Wanted nothing to do with camping. Ever. Only went to please her husband. Packed her favorite shoes.

Camper #4: Robert Mesteth, my brother-in-law. Leader of the pack. So excited about camping that he couldn’t sleep for days prior to the trip or concentrate on anything other than camping.

Camper #4 – Robert Mesteth

Camper #5: Laura Stoneburner, me. History of bad camp outings. Hates bugs more than she is able to articulate. Made certain the group had enough toilet paper and fruit and vegetables.

Camper #5 – Laura Stoneburner

Anyway, I’ll start with the bad.

1.)   I confirmed that still don’t enjoy camping and the puzzle is yet to be solved for how anyone can find it “fun.”

This was NOT a vacation. It was a lot of work. It was frustrating. It was tiring. The general concept: portage and canoe all your stuff (that you regret packing) to a dirty site where the bugs flow like beer at a college party. Unpack, boil drinking water, eat food stirred with a stick found on the ground that you and a hundred other people peed on. Then paddle more, then hike more, then pack and unpack. Throughout all this, apply and re-apply sunscreen and bug spray until the film on your skin is so substantial that it makes jumping into a cold lake sound like a treat. Pray no bears or skunks discover you as you curl up for sleep on a lumpy ground. Then, wake up and do it all again the next day.

It’s truly exhausting. It wasn’t my typical vacation, which usually includes more showers, wine and shopping and fewer basic survival skills.

2.)   My fear of bugs was really a trouble. I’ve never felt so paranoid in my life.

“Is there something on my back?”

“No.”

“Okay. How about now?”

I even ripped off my pants in front of Camper #1 because there was a bug biting my leg. I stood in my skivvies in front of my fellow campers and stared at my pants on the ground to discover it was ”just” a horse fly.

3.)  Returning to “real life” was a rough transition. I got so used to peeing wherever, whenever, that it was tough to resist dropping my pants and taking a leak in the middle of town when we returned to civilization.

And for the good?

1.) We had great weather the entire time. In fact, the night after our departure, emergency calls were made for several campers who were injured due to falling trees during a bad storm, so I wasn’t so pre-occupied with scratching my mosquito bites that I failed to appreciate what we were blessed with.

2.)   Family time. As I grow older, time together seems more and more sparse and I’ve learned to appreciate it to a whole new level. Sharing camping stories and working together to set up and tear down camp was the perfect time to throw jabs at each other (literally and figuratively), talk about the latest happenings in life and visit about future plans. All without being interrupted by a phone call, email, text message, Facebook invite…

3.)   Fishing. As explained in the previous article, I hadn’t fished for at least a decade – maybe two. On this trip, fishing served three purposes, which in itself was a hit, as I love multitasking. First, fishing meant dinner not from a box. Second, fishing meant time away from bugs. A HUGE bonus. And third, it was top-shelf entertainment for the trip. I did discover fishing is a passion of mine. It only “hid” from my life since I was 10.  In fact, I’ve had a tough time getting my mind off of fishing. I even dream about it.  I am happy to have rediscovered the hobby. So is Fleet Farm.

4.) I crossed item #16, “learn to fillet a fish” off the bucket list. Sadly not with a fish I caught. Rather, I was robbed a handful of times by near

Learn to Fillet A Fish – CHECK!

catches, but my line snapped and now I need to replenish my brother-in-law’s tackle box. Along with this “first,” I learned how to chop wood, which I watched my dad and brothers do growing up but never tried out of fear of splitting my entire leg in half. I also tried Ramen for the first time, which was surprisingly very good.

5.)   Returning home and having a new appreciation for everything – even the basics like chairs, a table and cold water. I love my bed more than ever and have newfound respect for Fargo’s water treatment facility, plumbing and the bug free zone I call my home. It’s all truly wonderful.

So. Would I go again? No, probably not. Am I glad I went? Yes, I am. So where does that leave me? Floating somewhere in the middle, fishing rod in one hand, beer in the other, enjoying life for the day. Then returning home to a shower and my bed at night. Compromise. It’s all about compromise.

Here’s to another adventure!

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

Off the Grid Attempt #2

I’m going to the Boundary Waters.

Yes, me. The girl who sat in the woods and cried with her friend during church wilderness camp because it “wasn’t fun,” “felt like abuse” and all we wanted was to get home. Susie and I sat on a trail together, scratching our mosquito bites and soaking up our tears with toilet paper. We agreed that camping “felt like the military”… because as eighth graders, we understood what that was like. We simply hadn’t known what we were in for.

But it’s been a few years. I’ve learned a couple of things. I’ve grown stronger, and my entire life has changed since our little meltdown in the deep woods.

And so, I’m going off the grid again, but this time it’s not out of boredom, stupidity or parental pressure.  It’s not because I have to, or because I’m dating some insane outdoorsman. Rather, this was something I elected to do because I feel like I need it.

Need it?

Yes, pretty desperately. Trust me, I’d prefer a trip out to Maine where I could eat fresh seafood every day and stay in decent, comfortable hotels. You know… ones with flushing toilets, WIFI and pillows and blankets that you don’t have to carry for miles.

But I got to thinking, I spend upwards of eight hours per day in front of a computer – probably closer to 10 with work, photo editing, ‘Wit writing, feeding my Facebook addiction, checking email, and staring at the hourly forecast to see how it will dictate the hours I’m not on my electronic devices. I try to limit it (there’s a reason I don’t have a Smartphone), but the times I’m not on my computer, my iPad and phone are nearby, so I can follow up on messages from friends, who are usually upset that I didn’t answer and/or took too long to respond.

This disconnect with nature spreads to other areas of my life, too. Before I run, I shove ear buds in my ears. Every night, I fall asleep to the soothing sound of traffic. During my morning drive to work, I waste an annoying amount of time sitting at the two stoplights I am forced to go through – just enough to get on my nerves.

I’ve also begun to take for granted living 100 yards away from a grocery store, flipping a switch to light up a room, having ice in my water. I’ve also grown increasingly fond of my bed, running water and fresh laundry and towels. And I’ve fallen in love with the privacy four walls and a sturdy, locked door provide.

But I’ve taken these things so far for granted and gotten so used to everything being automatic, that it has begun to put a bit of a damper on my life. My iPad has replaced stepping out to examine the night sky. I swim in a pool instead of a lake, and run on a treadmill instead of exploring new outdoor trails. I commonly eat dinner in front of my computer. I’ve become a bit captive of my amenities. I’ve been living it up within my little comfort zone and, quite honestly, I’m annoyed with myself.

It has gotten out of hand. It’s way too much. I need to disconnect and get away.

So, despite my previous bad experience, I’m packing one very small bag, leaving my electronics, eyeliner and comforting “stuff” at home, and roughing it.

I try to do things that scare me every chance I get, but this trip makes me nervous to say the least.

For starters, it will put my comfort zone out of sight for five days, with no option to turn around and back out.

I’ll also need to completely trust my brother-in-law’s compass and map-reading skills to get us out and back safely and on time. Though, I admit, any guy who made his way into my sister’s heart probably has infallible navigation.

There’s the usual fear of creatures with more than four legs, running out of toilet paper, getting swallowed by a bear, falling into a poison ivy bush, getting rained on for five consecutive days and getting separated from the group and having to fend for myself. But all in all, I recognize the incredible amount of opportunity in this vacation.

For the first time in 10 years, I’ll cast a line in hopes to catch my dinner. Then, if I can find it in me to cut up Nemo and eat him, I’ll happily cross Bucket List Item #16 off my list (learn to fillet a fish). The best part about it? I’ll be learning first hand from my Dad. I even have a chance at crossing off Bucket List Item #17—sleep in a tree fort or igloo — if I can convince my brother-in-law to build me one (a tree fort, in this case, not the igloo).

I’m excited to fall asleep and wake up to the sound of a crackling campfire. To spend entire days under the sun watching birds and catching fish, then watching the moon wane a little more each night. I’m looking forward to pan frying fresh fish over a fire, curling up in a sleeping bag, swimming in a lake, having good ole fashioned conversation 100% free of the distraction of phones, and who knows – maybe facing my fear of spiders at last.

Though the last one is highly doubtful, maybe I should be concerned with how I’ll get back into the grind and “up to speed” when I get back home.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

Lesson Learned. (Thanks Dad).

If I were on top of things, this blog would have been posted on (or before) Father’s Day. But, I am my father’s daughter and dad has never been on time for anything his entire life. Not church. Not graduations. Not flights. Not my high school prom. It’s just how he is.

So… in honor of Father’s Day I wanted to write about how my dad has shaped my life, even if I’m a little late.

There are a million things I have to thank Dad for, and trust me, I’ve tried. But my rave reviews generally either get brushed off or are followed up with a list of things he feels he could have, would have, should have done better.

Despite what he thinks, Dad taught me some of the most important life lessons that I still apply to my adult life. Here are just a few.

“Life Ain’t a Bowl of Cherries”
This was possibly the toughest lesson Dad tried to instill. I wanted to whine. Complain. I wanted things to be different. Better. Heck, even reversed. Things weren’t fair and I wanted them to be. You know… typical teenage concerns. He’d remind me that “Life ain’t a bowl of cherries,” which annoyed me further but ultimately got me to shut up about my first-world problems. I still chuckle when things don’t line up quite perfectly and imagine him reminding me…. “Life ain’t a bowl of cherries…”

Quitting is not an Option
There were a few things I wanted to give up on back in the day. I had played softball for a number of years and just really didn’t love it. Some days the ladies’ requests at the café I worked at were enough to make me want to throw a dried-out doughnut in my boss’ face and stomp outta there. And I came to the conclusion my junior year that choir wasn’t going to make me a rock star. But Dad encouraged me to stick with it, “do your best,” and see what came of it. I applied this to other areas of my life and now have a hard time coming up with more than about three things I’ve ever quit in my life. Off the top of my head I can think of one – golf, which I don’t feel deserves an explanation. After all, I stuck with softball. You can’t do both. I was proof.

Don’t bother keeping up with the Jones’
Dad taught me a lot about financial responsibility. Not through endless lectures or PowerPoint presentations. Rather, by his own lifestyle. A successful attorney, Dad could afford a lot of things. He could afford to buy an Escalade, but he drove an older Jeep instead. He could afford a brand new ski boat, but he settled for a 1979 Grady-White that worked… most of the time. He could afford to buy his kids the camera they begged endlessly for, but instead encouraged us to “save up you shekels” so we could buy it ourselves some day.

We were blessed, not spoiled. We had everything we needed, but weren’t handed everything we wanted. I will forever be grateful for him teaching me that conformity wasn’t the best route, that saving money was important, and that having the “latest and greatest” was almost always meaningless.

Look Before You Leap
Oh, the times I heard this one.  Dad would plead with me to fully understand something before I dove in. To think before I acted, make sure the rewards outweighed the risks and move ahead cautiously if there were any risks involved. And for the most part, I listened. And the times I didn’t…. I tried my best to keep it a secret from Dad. Which oddly never worked.

Don’t dress, act like or be a bimbo.
Seriously. Not an option. Embarrassingly enough, I tried. At about 10 years old, I recall trying to say the words “cross country” in an adult conversation. Not complicated, but I couldn’t get it out right.

“Crosh Crunchy.”

“Crotch Country.”

I began to giggle, thinking, of course, that it was hilarious.

It was the first and only time I was ever sent to my room. Dad felt I was messing up on purpose and was frustrated that I was being a goofball and making a spectacle of my stupidity.

Other times, when Dad would catch me wearing something slightly skimpy, a modest 2-piece swim suit for example, he’d ask one simple question that had me beelining it for my bedroom to find something a bit more… bulky.

“Nice swimsuit. Where’s the rest of it?”

Like I said, not an option.

Good Enough Usually Isn’t
I absolutely dreaded asking Dad for help. Whether it was practicing my saxophone or doing math problems, he was my absolute last resort, mainly because a 30-minute task would stretch out to 3 hours, making sure I had it down pat, that it was perfect and that I understood fully.

It was terrible. I would get to bed entirely too late and then when he sent me off to school the next day, he’d yell after me “work hard!”

Some nerve.

“I will Dad. I will.”

And, because of him, I did… and still do.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

A Woman’s Best Friend

Commitment is hard. Like really hard. So when my brother and his dog moved out a few years ago, I was faced with a difficult decision.

Buy my own dog or live peacefully ever after?

I already knew dogs were a complete and total pain in the butt from my years of living with my bro and his pup. I even had all the joys of dog ownership – a running partner and a scare tactic when the Arm & Hammer reps came to the door – without any of the responsibilities – vet appointments, buying food. I only had to endure damage to my home – broken deck spindles, stained carpet, ruined couches, a yard caked with yellow grass marks… you get the idea.

But for as much as I complained about it, I found myself missing puppy companionship once my bro and his dog high-tailed it out of here. The home felt empty without paws dragging mud in, without slobber on my lap and without a dog curled up under the clothes in my closet.

To fill the void, I took a few trips to the humane society and fell in love with a new best friend. He was just a little pup. He was missing a canine, had a googly eye and, when he was really excited, he’d pee when he walked.

I had to have him.

Unfortunately, he was adopted before I had a chance to nab him, but he miraculously returned four months later (behavioral issues were with the owner, not the dog). It was meant to be. A match made in heaven. He was mine.

I grew up with family dogs, but this is the first time I’ve experienced having my very own pet that I got to name without arm wrestling siblings.  I named him Hines, after the greatest receiver of all time, Hines Ward.

Now don’t be fooled. Hines has a lot of great talents. He can chew bones like a champ, he’s super protective and he can spend a crazy amount of time in a deep slumber. But he can’t catch. He can’t even snag a full tortilla when it’s tossed directly at him.

Anyway, we recently celebrated our one year anniversary and not a day has gone by where I don’t find little blonde hairs poking out of my shirt. My patio door is caked with a film that resembles stained glass in a way. The back seat of my car is full of dog hair, and little rivers of drool stream down the rear windows from when he sticks his head out the windows. And the nose prints on my full-length mirror make me chuckle. It’s a sure sign he’s intimidated by his own reflection.

“Whatchoo lookin’ at?”

“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.”

Hines

He hates baths, which of course I think is hilarious. And, as you might gather, he really hates the car wash. Any time we go through a drive-thru, its drool galore, even if we’re at the bank or getting coffee. Turns out that Pavlov guy was pretty spot on.

He follows me everywhere. He lies on my yoga mat when I curse Jillian and her fat-blasting techniques. The few times he’s allowed in my bed, it’s like he was designed to be tucked next to me. He stares at me while I’m on my computer. Eating. Getting dressed. Going to the bathroom. Showering. Cooking. Brushing my teeth. Clipping coupons. Putting my coat on. He is always there. And honestly, when he’s not, it’s really weird.

He gives me sad eyes when I leave for work. And the funny thing is, I actually feel guilty leaving. The poor guy has to lay on his cushy bed all day in peace and quiet and take a nap. He even helps himself to my couch, even though it’s forbidden. (I swear he has learned to avoid it at times I may return home). And he only gets about a third of his body weight in treats each month. He’s 90 pounds.

Anyone who has a dog understands. I have absolutely fallen in love, and the paw print on my heart so deep, it’s hard to imagine my life without him.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

 

A Bittersweet Divorce

My parents are getting a divorce.

There. I said it.

It’s out in the open. The world knows our family is crumbling. And really, it’s okay. It’s probably for the better. Why polar opposites would ever join in holy matrimony is a total mystery anyway – or how they raised four very normal children for that matter. Maybe “normal” is a stretch but we’re decent. We’re like other people, until you realize most of the world is a little psychotic. So yes, we’ll just go with “normal” for now.

I’m in my late 20s so you’d think this wouldn’t be a big deal. And honestly, it’s not. And honestly, I’m lying. The process has barely begun and I’m learning a lot about myself, how much I value things I didn’t realize held a sacred place in my heart, and how deep tradition runs in my veins. I suppose it does with everyone – only I’ve been too ignorant to realize it. I’ve more so taken every single thing in my life for granted, believed I deserved it and had full faith it would all continue on forever and nothing would ever change.

I even had a perception that everyone had what I had – a really great, tightly knit, near-perfect family – and shared my same feelings toward it. I mean, its family. It doesn’t get any better. But oddly, when I start opening up to people, everyone had a story of their own: a crazy uncle, a brother in jail, severe problems with bipolar disorder, alcoholism, divorce, schizophrenia – and I wasn’t even hanging out at a psych ward. These are coworkers, friends, and extended family. By the sounds of it, my family’s situation is not rare. We’re not even the exception. We’re the rule, and there are millions right alongside us, looking us in the eye, shrugging their shoulders and saying “it’ll all be okay.”

And it will, because it has to. But it doesn’t stop me from staring at the train wreck and the path it bulldozes in its derailment as I numbly stand in the wake and nauseously stare at its effects in shock. In pain. In absolute confusion.

What now?

Great question.

I think through this all, the toughest thing is breaking traditions. Until this year, I had done the same thing every holiday for the last 28 years.  We always always always have a family celebration, where we do family things, talk about family stuff, drink family drinks, spend family time together and exchange laughter… with family. The whole family.

Well, turns out that got torn apart pretty hard this year, and I’m dumbfounded every time someone asks me what my plan is.

“So what are your plans for Thanksgiving?”

[Blank Stare] “Um, not sure,” I say like a bonehead.

Plan? Let’s put it this way, even if I had two stoves, my plans would still all be on the back burners. When you start having to “plan” events that have been automatic your entire life, it’s perplexing. It’s something I’ve never experienced and I feel like a pre-schooler trying to give directions to her own home.

And again, a few weeks later.

“What are you doing for Christmas?”

Shit, I don’t know. Is often my first thought, though I feel like it wouldn’t be very festive to vocalize. So I don’t. Instead, I fumble through and change the subject, which I hear I’ve gotten pretty good at.

I guess this is that plot-altering chapter in my life, the point where I spend the rest of the book trying to figure out a way for it all to make sense. And I’m sure one day it will. I suppose – as with anything – the change, the adjustment period, is probably the most difficult. And I’ve learned that change can be a good thing.

Realistically, this isn’t a tragic novel. It’s a non-fiction lesson. Maybe the true tragedy would have been watching Mom and Dad continue on with a loveless marriage that was draining the life out of each of them. And, in all honesty, I’m looking forward to hearing about their future ventures separately. My parents. Dating. Now that will be interesting.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

I Shoulda Been A Grandma

I sent my mother off to WE Fest last night. I instructed her to be careful, warning that people die there every year. I also requested she not take drinks from strangers — an act that’s right up her alley.

They peeled off, headed for the country fest and I smiled. Me, advising my mother, to be careful. Similar to Toby Keith song, “I should have been a cowboy,” I’m feeling like I should have been a grandma.

What other 20-something gets a hoot out of knitting, loves baking pies with homemade crust, and has formed a club to play cards the same night each week?

No, I’m not feeling old. I’m nowhere near retirement, I don’t attend SilverSneakers and I haven’t been looking into what an AARP membership can do for me. I haven’t resorted to dentures, and while my knees still hurt from the marathon I ran in May, my hips still seem to be holding up okay.

But it occurred to me the other week, when sending a few songs to a wise-crack co-worker of mine, that I think I was born in the wrong decade. Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” – is it not a classic? And, because she’s going to see her family in September, the Happenings’ “I’ll See You in September.”

Hey, it seemed pertinent.

She had never heard it.

“You listen to older music than my parents,” she remarked. There it was again – one more person pointing to the fact that I’m a matured woman in a young person’s body.

I wasn’t offended. This was not the first time I had been called a grandma. When I turned down an evening of “clubbing it up” to go bowling, I was called a grandma. When I showed up to a potluck with the best molasses cookies anyone has ever tasted, I was called a grandma.

I don’t deny that performing a single download on my Mac is a struggle, or that I have very little interest in getting a smart phone. In fact, I’ve debated going back in time to a landline and would probably have a rotary phone, just for the hell of it. Quiz me on anything pop culture – I promise I won’t know a single answer. The funny thing is, it upsets the people around me much more than it upsets me.

And now, as I seriously consider purchasing a Buick Regal, people are laughing directly to my face and have been calling me “Grandma Stoneburner”. The odd thing is, I think it fits me well. Deal with it, you little rascals!

Bye bye, so long, farewell….

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

10 years. Seemingly gone at the drop of a hat.

My 10 year reunion is this year. 10 years. It feels like 5 minutes. Clear as day are memories of times when my biggest concerns were simple: how big of a cookie could I get mom to buy me at the Paynesville bakery, how much time would my brother and I have to snorkel at the lake, and how many more weeks did I have to drag my clubs to kids summer golf?

Now, my focus is set on paying off my mortgage, accelerating my career, saving for retirement and preventing wrinkles.  When did all this happen?

They say life is like a roll of toilet paper – the closer to the end you get, the faster it goes. From my experience, it’s true. I know, I know – people constantly proclaim that “time flies”. But really, when did it become late July? Did my younger brother really just turn 26 years old? And when did they start letting teenage-looking kids into local drinking establishments?

I digress. While I have the time, here is a reflection of some of the high points over the last 10 years…. In no particular order. Or maybe they are in order.  Whatever – here goes.

1.)    Traveled abroad to the Bahamas, Italy and Greece. It’s scary, nerve wracking and exhausting, but the memories are irreplaceable!

2.)    Ran a full marathon without dying.

3.)    Purchased a home, started a garden and adopted my very own dog.

4.)    Made it to Heinz Field for a game with my Pops. (Go Steelers!) Also traveled with him to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

5.)    Left a very decent job for a more challenging position with IRONCLAD Marketing. (ow.ly/n86jx )

6.)    Became an auntie of three and witnessed my brother in a parenting role.

7.)    Learned not only to love my freckles, muscular legs and “different” personality, but to embrace all three.

8.)    Climbed the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park without dying.

9.)     Saw some great performers in concert including Eric Clapton, Cheryl Crow, Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Maroon 5, Sugar Ray, Matchbox 20, Foo Fighters, Martin Sexton, Billy Joel & Elton John, Miranda Lambert and The Newsboys.

10.)  Was included in a Scheels commercial. (http://goo.gl/nu5fc)

11.) Biked 100 miles in one day for the MS Bike Ride. Then rode 75 miles the next day without dying.

Here’s to attempting to one-up myself in the next 10 years. Hopefully without dying.

I’ll close with a little excerpt on time: At every instant of every day, you are making a choice of how you spend your time. You have a very limited amount of time, making it extremely valuable. You can’t do everything you consider doing, or everything others demand of you. You establish your real priorities in life by your choices of how you allocate your time. Whenever you spend time on mindless activities, or meeting someone else’s demands (that don’t further your own life purpose), you have chosen your priorities — but have you chosen well? You have enough time for anything in the world, so long as it ranks high enough among your priorities. How effectively will you be spending your time today?

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

Define “runner”

How do you define a runner?

Is it their gear? Their 10K time? Is it judged by the furthest distance run, or the number of races completed? Or, can only the ones who flirt with being addicted be considered a true runner? You know – those who love it, have a compiled list of personal records and talk about running 24/7? What about the folks who grudgingly do it because they “should”?

I’ve always “run.” I used to race my brothers down to the mailbox during the summers, because it was the only thing we had to do all day. I used to “run” away from home when my parents ticked me off as a kid. Then I’d “run” home when it got dark out. In more recent times, I’ve become very good at “running” away from making decisions and discussing politics.

In all seriousness, I bought a personal trainer in the form of a German Shepherd/ Rottweiler mix and decided to train for my first marathon. But even though the Fargo Marathon is less than a week away, I still don’t feel like a runner. As I rub my sore knees, pick at my blisters and evaluate my black toes from running over 380 miles in the last 16 weeks, it has been really hard to determine whether I’m getting stronger or just falling apart. And honestly, even though I have my eyes set on 26.2, the ultimate event for a runner, I feel like calling myself a runner is a bit of a scam.

I guess I view “runners” as smooth operating, well-lubricated machines with a fast pace and a stride to my three. I feel more like a rusty old tanker set at sea for no particular reason.

Case in point: My loving boyfriend witnessed a heart wrenching sob-fest following my first 20-mile run. I had hoped to finish 20 miles in 3 hours that day – a pace that would have been just short of a miracle for me. I pushed through the door to my home and pulled myself – with my arms – to the top of the stairs. Utterly exhausted and altogether disappointed with my performance, I collapsed, covered my face and started crying.

It wasn’t exactly a “shining moment.”

And there stood the guy who has helped motivate and encourage me in my trek. Dumbfounded, he listened as I shook my head tried to convince him I couldn’t do it.

It was a rough week. But looking back, that feeling of doubt was reoccurring. Week after week, starting at 14 miles, I’d complete the run, and honestly, whole-heartedly believe that if I had to run another mile I would not have been able. But the next week, I would.

Now almost all that doubt is behind me. Let me say, I never thought I could look at a route for a marathon and say, “eh, I can do that,” when in previous years just looking at it made me dizzy. Now, as I nervously wait for race day, I’m so excited it’s intoxicating.

I have a few thoughts on training for my first marathon, which I, God willing, will finish on May 18. Hopefully readers will either find them funny, inspirational or completely nuts.

1.) People have asked whether I’ll do more than one, to which, in the initial weeks of training, my response was “no way, doing it once, crossing it off the bucket list and that’ll be it.”

Truth be told, a lot of people have really good reasons for running a marathon. Like therapy, or a true love of the sport. Maybe weight loss or getting over some hump in their lives. I had no reason other than to prove to myself I could do it. But after I got going, it was a free pass to eat whatever I wanted. Then I realized that provided I finish, I will have one-up’d both of my brothers. In other words, I’ll be making history.

People say marathons are addicting, and I can definitely see why. Continually pushing yourself to the limit is an awesome feeling. That being said, I plan to cross “run a marathon” off my bucket list, add it to my repertoire and try to limit my bragging. Time will tell if I run another.

2.) I’ve tallied the miles I will have run by the time the marathon is completed. When/if I cross the finish line, I’ll have run 414.2 miles.  This means I’m currently 92% done with the whole fiasco and, interestingly enough, the actual marathon is a whopping 6.3% of the process. That’s kind of incredible, isn’t it? Also, I did this same calculation in week 10 and was not happy with the numbers at all, felt 95% hopeless and 100% wanted to quit.

3.) As you could imagine, Saturday mornings after the marathon will feel like Sunday afternoons after a Super Bowl. Elite runners wouldn’t understand, but the time put forth to this is incredible. In the 3rd hour of one of my runs, I imagined spending this much time on triathlon training. Or even to something like piano lessons, sewing, or photography. This much dedication to one thing would do a lot for anyone.

 4.) It’s really hard not to sound like you’re bragging. And, whether or not you try, talking about running is extremely hard to keep to a minimum. I’ll admit, when I’ve been out and about the hours following a long run, I want to tell complete strangers what I did that day. I’ve been tempted to share details of a long run with a server at a restaurant, a barista, a gas station attendant, even innocent bystanders on the sidewalk.

“Hey blue shirt guy! I RAN 18 MILES TODAY!!!! What have YOU done??”

Would that have been totally inappropriate?

This journey has been amazing. People aren’t wrong when they say a running a marathon is a fine line between a mental game and an athletic achievement. I’ll never forget the routes I’ve taken, the cold mornings I somehow got the strength to run the route, the things I’ve seen along the way and the way I amazed myself every week. I would encourage anyone to start running for whatever reason they can find.

Best of luck to runners this Saturday – whether or not you feel like one.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

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A More Colorful Kind of Love

It’s Valentine’s Day again and I’m still wondering whether we’ll ever do away with this silly holiday.

As I’ve ranted about in previous blogs, this day forces men to show their love in the form of a $100 flower arrangement (which in many cases still isn’t “enough”).  Couples desperately make reservations and fight crowds to eat an expensive meal at fancy restaurant.  And many-a-single ladies cry themselves to sleep because “nobody loves them”.

How romantic.

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? I challenge you to switch it up a bit and show a little love a different way this year. Shovel just a little too far to your neighbor’s side. Pick up an extra cup of coffee for a co-worker. Pay for the random stranger behind you in the drive-thru (not that you’d go through a drive-thru on such a sacred holiday). Or, avoid fighting crowds and put that cash towards something a bit more meaningful. If you haven’t heard about Giving Hearts Day, I urge you to look into that.

That’s the kind of love we could use more of.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

Exercise Your Heart

Sundays must be designated as kid day at Family Wellness. They’re everywhere. Little boys and girls run around inside the facility – finding anything to make it their playground. They bounce on Bosu balls, mimic parents and other adults in their exercises, and get creative with stretchy bands.

I’ve only come to notice this in the last two weeks. Given my slight fear of young children, I took a few minutes to admire from afar during my workout tonight.

As I was stretching, I watched a pro-like child take on his chubby friend in a game of one-on-one basketball.  Neither of them could have been a day over seven years old, but their “ballin” skills were much more in tune than mine. That’s not saying much, but wow. One of the boys was clearly more skilled in the sport, but completely unwilling to go easy on his friend. Seriously – no mercy there. The kid looked like he was destined to be a pro athlete.  I laughed out loud several times watching their mismatched game. It was seriously great.

Another gal trotted around in some of the trendiest little boots I’ve ever seen. She was everywhere – bouncing on the balls, playing with her brother and literally sledding on the sliding pads. When she saw me, she got her hopes up. “Are you going to use this!?” she asked, hoping for a sledding partner. Maybe I should have taken her up on it. Instead I smiled and said, “nope, that’s all yours for now.”  Then she intently watched me do box jumps and pulled up a box of her size to join in the workout. So cute.

Next I noticed a young boy on the track, sprinting a half a loop ahead of his dad and then finding a spot to sit and wait for his dad to catch up. Then he’d repeat it. His “All Star” jersey said it all. His skinny little legs pretty much blurred when he ran.

By this point, I probably sound enough like a creeper. I don’t generally go to the gym to stare at kids. But it might be true that I took a little extra time to observe the kids this time around. I couldn’t help but watch them in their youth learning, playing, growing and laughing. I found myself thinking of my adorable niece and handsome nephew as I watched these kids enjoy an average Sunday with their family. They really are amazing.

Unfortunately, my thoughts wandered to the fear that has overcome parents, teachers and families all over the country since last Friday’s occurrence at Sandy Hook or, sadly, the void settling in for some of the more unfortunate families. How can such a blessing be gone so quickly without reason? And how does a person, a parent, a sibling ever begin to overcome such a shocking tragedy?

I can’t imagine the heartache this group of parents is dealing with as they face their first Christmas without a crucial member of their family. It’s absolutely unfair, heart wrenching and completely asinine.

But I suppose it serves as a reminder that our next moment, next day, next week is never guaranteed. What better reason to give a few extra hugs, say “I love you” one time too many (if that’s possible), say a few extra prayers, and, in the words of Ghandi, be the change you wish to see in the world.

Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.