hello, it’s been awhile

Hello friends. If I haven’t been here in awhile, it’s because I’ve had a really nice summer. I grew wildflowers instead of vegetables, except for a couple of tomato plants that seem listless in their containers. I’ve added more birdfeeders which the deer love, regularly emptying them at night – Sarge and I caught them once, in the first light of dawn, capering and kicking with ghostly grace through my backyard. I got back to running, although I am much slower than I ever have been, and don’t really care much being competitive.

It’s been a summer in which I made a new friend and said ‘yes’ to almost every invitation. I went to a baseball game and watched fireworks on the rooftop of the Detroit Athletic Club. My friend and I enjoyed drinks and small plates in trendy metro Detroit spots. We listened to live music in town squares and had a picnic on the lovely grounds of Cranbrook and watched classic cars on Woodward Ave.

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07.2017_double rainbow

I spent time with Miss L and my brother and his family, riding rollercoasters at Cedar Point and our traditional trip to the Hudsonville carnival just this past weekend. L and I also went to Mackinaw Island with her Girl Scout troop and she got to spend a few days with my parents up north, beach time and freighters and lighthouses. My brother and father and grandfather and I fished for trout and salmon on Lake Michigan, just in sight of the Point Betsie light.

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06.2017_freighter

06.2017_cedar point

Unfortunately summer draws to a close and there are already hints of scarlet in my front-yard maples. My summer friend has a new job and will be moving on in a few weeks and neither of us are certain what will happen next.

Labor Day approaches and I need firewood, I have knitting projects lined up and a long Netflix queue. Miss L has piles of school supplies and a new backpack for her fourth-grade year and every time I look at her she seems taller, with feet and hands the same size as mine, almost.

I hope that you and yours have had an equally wonderful summer and are growing ready for the hibernation time.  xoxo

 

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Betsie Bay Frozen 5k & warm snap skiing

Over the long President’s Day weekend, Jax & I loaded the kids (Miss L and his 2 teenagers – well, one is almost a teenager) into Finn (my Subaru Outback) and went north. There were running shoes in our bags and skis in the luggage box on the roof and we made good use of them over the weekend. On Saturday morning, Jax & I and his son B ran the Betsie Bay Frozen 5k. This is a great little event that supports nonprofits in the Frankfort / Elberta area, aka my happy place. A February event in the Betsie Bay area is typically snowy and arctic, but this year’s weird winter made it a perfect springlike run, with temps in the mid to upper ’40’s.

The event starts about halfway up the steep hill to the Elberta bluff, which overlooks Lake Michigan. It’s a perfect pre-race photo opp, with the lake, the Frankfort lighthouse and dunes in the background. Because parking is limited up on the bluff overlook, runners pick up their packets at the Frankfort American Legion hall and are bussed over to the start. It’s such a fun way to meet other runners and I hadn’t ridden on a school bus in years.

The first 100 meters or so is a sharp downhill, which is the perfect start for a race as far as I’m concerned (although I don’t know how they manage it during a normal winter – I could envision a pileup of runners at the icy, snowy bottom!) I’m a slow start runner so anything that forces me to go out at goal pace warms me up faster and usually improves my overall time. Next, you run through small Elberta, past the Cabbage Shed restaurant (the owners were outside with signs advising us that after the race, we’d more than earned a pint or two of Guinness) and out onto M-22, where you cross over the mouth of the Betsie River and wind down onto Main Street in Frankfort. The course is fairly flat after the initial downhill, and the locals come out to cheer you on, and the bus drivers that dropped you off are passing you on the road, honking and yelling their support. I surprised myself with a 27.18 finish, not a PR but a strong performance for me in a mid-winter event when my training has been spotty (I still got schooled by a lady in her 60’s and another lady pushing a stroller!! This event is stacked). Jax & B harbored secret hopes of placing, but had to content themselves with placing in their age groups only, as the event was chock full of Traverse City Track Club runners who blew everyone’s doors off. This was actually disappointing as there were tons of raffle items and little prizes for the top places. More so than any event I frequent, the local merchants and businesses donated a lot of cool swag and I was a bit deflated to walk away with nothing but my swag bag (not even my shirt – it was too big so I gave it to B).

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Miss L watching me come through the homestretch. She ran me in from here. ❤

 

On Sunday, we enjoyed skiing at nearby Crystal Mountain in 50-degree temps. Rather, Jax & his kids skiied while Miss L took her first-ever lesson and I sat on a hay bale in the sunshine, knitting and feeling happy to watch her joy. I’d paid for a 2-hour group session, but the warm temps had apparently diminished the attendance levels, so Miss L had a ski instructor all to herself. Midway through the lesson, they took a snack break for hot chocolate and L stripped off her jacket and finished the lesson in her shirtsleeves. She was a quick study and as I sat there watching her, I thought that few things in life are as pleasing as watching your child learn something new, have adventures, and accomplish things.

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The face of a happy mom.

After her lesson, Jax and his daughter took L on some of the easy hills so she could get good use out of her new skills. I knitted away and after an hour or so, Jax came down the hill, followed by a little pink streak who swooshed by me and came to an expert stop a few feet away.

 


Yup, Miss L is a natural on skiis, and reminded me of Little My in “Moominland Midwinter”, learning to skate on table knives and toboggan on a silver tray, wrapped in a tea cosy.

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a few of my favorites

I am finally up north in my natural habitat and so glad that the holidays have officially begun for me.

2016-12_trail-selfie

The last push to the holidays were difficult but I feel pleased with the way everything unfolded. There were work matters that, even if they didn’t totally resolve, were suspended satisfactorily. The class holiday party for Miss L that I stressed about ended up being fun and relaxed and we had several parents show up to help and donate treats. The kids limboed the morning away and they seemed to enjoy the craft I picked out for them so all went well.

There were lighthearted, nice moments with Miss L’s father & stepmom at an old-fashioned holiday singalong at her school. Miss L wore a very fancy red holiday dress with a sash and her stepmom did a beautiful job curling her hair and we got lots of compliments about how grown-up she looked.

There were good times with Jax and his family before they go their own way for their family holidays – we will reunite on New Year’s Eve. We ate at a Chinese restaurant that reminded me of the one that Ralphie’s family from “Christmas Story” visited after the Bumpas Hounds ate their turkey. We read our Chinese horoscopes off the menus and after some spirited family debate, finally had to compromise that we are ALL perhaps a bit selfish and eccentric.

Izzy loved her Christmas gift from me & Miss L.

2016-12_izzy

I painted my nails on Saturday night and here it is Thursday and they still look decent. Thank you Essie Gel – my new go-to fave. The bottle says it will last 14 days but that is patently ridiculous – nail polish never lasts for 14 days on my nails. Lasting for 5+ days is a huge feat and makes me a believer.

So these things are, right  now, some of my favorites.

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a funny thing happened on the way to the half marathon

10-2016_empire-bluff

…I decided I just didn’t want to do it.

It wasn’t that simple, of course. I had a problematic training cycle and during my last long run, the shin splint pain that ultimately led to last year’s stress fracture was back in full force. Everything hurt. My times were slow and my recovery was worse.

During the week before the run, I went back and forth. Some mornings I woke up thinking, ‘yeah, I’ll power through it.’ Other mornings I felt simply exasperated and swore that I wouldn’t run at all. Miss L and I drove up north on Thursday night and spent a damp and drizzly Friday with my parents, hiking in the Sleeping Bear and book shopping in Traverse City. At some point, I realized that I just didn’t have the half in me, and it was as much mental as physical, and I decided to run the 5k.

When I first started running in 2010, the love of it hit me like a ton of bricks and I dropped many things that I’d previously loved because nothing felt as important as that love. I left off knitting and blogging, notably. For a few years I was highly motivated and bettered my times in every race. Then the injuries started mounting, and the motivation began to wane. At this point in my life, I still love running, but I love other things, too, and I want to be able to do them as much or more.

My folks and Miss L were my cheering section and I was happy that my run would only take a half-hour or so and that they could wait for me. Miss L played on the playground at the Empire beach and my dad was the first person I saw when I came into the homestretch. An hour later, I was showered and caffeinated and warm, and I’d set out for another hike.

I have long wanted to accomplish the Trail Trekkers Challenge, a program in which you hike all the Sleeping Bear trails in 1 year (over 100 miles). After the 5k, I had donned my orange cap to warn off trigger happy hunters and was out on the Windy Moraine trail. Coincidentally, this trail ran along 109 for a stretch, across the road from the Heritage Trail, where the marathon and half-marathon were still going on. As I hiked happily, rain dripping from the spicy smelling trees, I heard stragglers in the race across the road yelling at each other and every now and then I glimpsed a sweating, staggering participant. The forest was very green and wet, without much fall color yet, and I was extremely happy with my choice.

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labor day

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Although I generally hold a low opinion of humanity en masse, at times I can’t deny our basic sameness. It amazes me sometimes that the things that make me happy make so many other people happy, too; different backgrounds, values, personalities, cultures, and yet, this long weekend, we fought for elbow room in the same places to do the same things. We were drawn to blue sky and shimmering expanses of water. We were drawn to sunsets and the sight of the milky way over a cooling sand dune. We were drawn to shallow brown rivers warm under a bright sun.

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9-2016_betsie-lighthouse

There’s some aspect of our humanity that is drawn to these things, that feeds off these sights and feelings and sounds, we’re similarly nourished by them even though we might not know why or even that we are; we just know we want to be close to them.
After this weekend, Up North will start to return to its off season. The crowds will dissipate and the hours of sunlight will decrease. The woods and the water will become cold and the seasonal businesses, the farm stands and ice cream parlors, will shutter for the long, drifted winter. I sat on the beach off Peterson Road and thought that it was almost unbelievable that in just a few short weeks, the hot sun will be gone. No more bright towels and dogs in the waves, toddlers with sand pails and adults drowsing under umbrellas – just a stretch of grey, icy shore under a slate grey sky, scoured by wind and snow. There’s something deeply satisfying about that cycle.

merry merry

12.2015 christmas tree

somewhat blurry pic of the ginormous real tree at cherry republic, glen arbor

Miss L and I spent a few days Up North and are just back downstate for Christmas. In contrast to the last two winters in Michigan, it’s been mild and warm, without snow. This has contributed excessively to allergies, sneezing and sinusitis, and although I wouldn’t wish for another deep freeze winter, I would prefer a hard cold day of snow to a nonstop muddy downpour.

The upside to the lack of snow was that I could trail run a bit. I feel like I’m starting to get my running mojo back, breathing easier, moving more nimbly, letting my mind roam around while my body does what it is trained to do.

When I came downstairs in the morning, ready to go, wearing my white and grey brand name running jacket, though, my parents dug their heels in.

Even in the Sleeping Bear, they said, there are hunters in the woods, and wearing white is the worst thing you can do. You look just like a deer flicking its tail, they said.

Here, they said, and handed me a bright orange cap. I reluctantly donned it.

Not good enough, they said, and my father disappeared to dig around in his closet.

HERE, he said triumphantly, and presented me with a choice of either a hunter’s vest with bright orange accents or a yellow anorak, both of which belonged to him.

YOU ARE KIDDING ME, I said.

No we are not, they said, so I donned the enormous yellow XL anorak that flapped like a sail around me. Miss L thought this was hugely funny yet horrifying, so I had to hide my own horror and reinforce that safety comes first. It’s not a fashion show, I said, it’s about being safe and making good decisions. I donned the orange cap with as much dignity as I could muster and avoided looking in the mirror on my way out the door.

I had an amazing trail run despite the flapping anorak and hit the last mile, feeling relieved that no one had seen me in my strange garb. My muscles were loose, nothing pained me, and my breath came evenly. I watched where I set my feet, leaves and twisted tree roots, wood soil turning to sand and back again, there on the edge of the lake. I’d heard gunshots in the woods, too, so my parents’ admonition seemed less far-fetched. Then, suddenly, I heard a friendly voice behind me calling out that she was passing me on the left, and a woman darted around me. Did you hear those gunshots?… she called as she flew by, up a slight rise littered with dead leaves, her breath showing in billows. She was slim and athletic, wearing running pants and a stylish lavender running jacket. Yes, I called back. That’s why I’m wearing this…I shook my father’s jacket.

I saw you, she called back, and laughed a bit, and took off again , leaving me in her wake.

She was stretching out in the parking lot of the Old Indian trail when I finished, and we chatted companionably for a few minutes. She was an Ironman, which made me feel less bad about being schooled by her on the trail. She was also really friendly and avoided looking at my strange outfit, which made me like her more. We agreed it was a great morning run – mild, clear, and the views of Lake Michigan from the trail end were pretty amazing.

12.2015 old indian trail

12.2015 lake michigan view

Plus, I didn’t get shot by a half-drunk hunter, so that’s a bonus too. Thanks Mom & Dad. It’s nice to see love in action, displayed in small acts of concern and caution, even if the expression of it is in an XL yellow anorak.

 

It’s always tough to leave the place I like the best to come back downstate, but I think it’s important for our family to have Christmas in our house (or at Miss L’s dad’s house) when she’s young, and it’s also important to me that she gets to see both of her parents on Christmas. Maybe that will change as she gets older. In fact, I’m sure it will, as our relationships change, as we all move on and grow, but for now, it works and everyone is happy with the arrangement. Her dad will come over tomorrow morning for breakfast and coffee and to open presents, and the fact that we can do that is a gift in and of itself. I am as always aware of how truly blessed I am on this Christmas Eve, and I hope all of you are as well. Merry merry.

 

village

The big holiday push is (almost) over – mostly over because I am not a New Year’s Eve person and usually spend it in bed with wine and my Kindle.

Christmas week was busy but gratifying. I felt the extra responsibility to make sure that Miss L’s Christmas was fulfilling and joyful and that she didn’t feel any sadness or anxiety. I made sure she spent time with everyone she loves, including her dad. It meant a lot of driving and running around for not just me, but my extended family, too, and it brought to mind the old saying about taking a village to raise a child. Everyone in Miss L’s life helped to make her Christmas wonderful, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without that village, especially my parents. They made sure there were lots of gifts under the tree so that Santa could be the hero that he should be in every six-year-old’s eyes. Their generosity and unselfishness where we are concerned – well, it’s true love.

Anyway, the holidays were, for me, what they are supposed to be – displays of love, affection, and connection, the reaffirmation of good relationships.

In the midst of everything, I tried to take some time to give myself a few little presents, too, in the form of moments collected. I spent some time in my favorite place on earth, worshipping the way I do.

a cold hike in the sleeping bear dunes to lake michigan

a cold hike in the sleeping bear dunes to lake michigan

12.2014 lake michigan

wearing miss l's russian hat for a trail selfie

wearing miss l’s russian hat for a trail selfie

a morning trail run in the sleeping bear

a morning trail run in the sleeping bear

12.2014 el dorado

post-run, i got to relax in a small northern michigan cafe with a ginger lemon scone and a double shot skim latte while two little lovely elves finished christmas shopping.

post-run, i got to relax in a small northern michigan cafe with a ginger lemon scone and a double shot skim latte while two little lovely elves finished christmas shopping.