What Worked For Me in 2020

What a crazy wild ride this year has been! That is likely one thing we can all agree on…

While many folks are hating on 2020 and several are “over it” and still others are ready to just move on to 2021, I hold no grudge against 2020. Honestly, it’s just another year and we have just had different challenges and experiences than years past. How you view any given year matters and I choose to still make the most of it despite things looking somewhat different. Call me a forever optimist! 🙂

A bookish blog I follow, Modern Mrs Darcy, posted recently “What Worked for me in 2020” and I loved the idea so I’m stealing it and making my own list. Perhaps it will remind you that this past year wasn’t a total waste; that in fact, if you choose to look more closely, you probably learned a whole lot about yourself. ;o)

  1. Getting outside! Although it was safer to do things solo and/or socially distance, my mood is always vastly improved if I get outside. My mantra became “outdoors is not closed” even if some folks think that is overused. Seriously, I’m used to being active, doing things with friends, and getting OUT. It is very easy to think due to Covid that you can’t DO anything or leave the house, which was largely not true. Early on I realized this and started hiking (and biking when the weather got warmer) out in the woods – a lot with my husband (he would fish while I hiked) or by myself. One of our best decisions was to get an annual pass to Whiterock Conservancy and go there every weekend that we could. When all my prior athletic goals for the year got cancelled (i.e. Powerlifting meet in April, Gravel bike ride in June), I created a new goal to hike 20 Iowa trails in 2020 and I’ve had a blast exploring the trails in many state parks, county parks, state preserves, etc.
  2. Embracing Solo Biking. I love riding my bike but previously had always ridden with at least one biking buddy (which I didn’t realize until this year). There’s always a little bit of fear that I’ll have a bike breakdown or fall when off by myself, but I learned to feel the fear and do it anyway. 99% of the time it’s just fine and if I get a flat or whatever, I can phone a friend if hubby isn’t available. It was actually liberating and nice to have the freedom to just hop on the bike whenever it fit my schedule without worrying over meeting a friend at a specific time. I’ve stuck to bike trails this year, but hoping to venture to gravel biking alone next year.
  3. Buying a bike to leave on the trainer. Best. Decision. Ever. I have a CompuTrainer/SmartTrainer that I use with Zwift for biking in the winter indoors, but in the past it has always been a balancing act of when to put my bike on the trainer as I only had one bike really that fit on there. I had mentioned to my hubby that it would be nice to be able to just leave a bike on the trainer all the time so that if the weather was crummy or I just was in a time crunch, I could still hop on and ride for 30-60 minutes. He spotted a great used bike deal at Kyle’s and we were on it! I have loved having this flexibility, especially because I’m not going to the gym anymore to workout and I decided halfway through the year to set a goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020.
  4. Putting gym membership on hold. With Covid hitting hard in March, my gym had to close for a month. Although they re-opened, at first I didn’t feel comfortable going back and I was put on furlough so was being cautious about spending money. Summer is always a time where I bike way more and the gym becomes less frequent/important to me, although I typically continue lifting 4-5 days a week. Toward the end of summer, I was debating…my membership if I want to lift (powerlifting) is $100/month or if I revert back to kettlebell classes (which I also love) is $50/month. However, I knew I still had this big biking goal which would mean biking 5-6 days/week whether that was outside or inside on the trainer. And I have literally a whole collection of kettlebells here at home that I had been building over the past several years. So I started investigating home kettlebell programming. I found one I love through Hannah Hutson that is the same technique/philosophy as my gym classes for $29/month. For now, this program + ROMWOD (range of motion workout of the day) + biking is working for me so I’m going with the flow. I have no doubt that once Covid settles down and/or I start getting restless, I’ll be back at Brickhouse Fitness!
  5. Finding Libby!! This is going down as my best Covid find for sure. I love reading and with so many indoor biking miles, and more time working at home on scrapbook/stamping projects, I found myself listening to audio books more. How did I not know about Libby?!?! LOL…its a free app through your local library where you can check out audio books (or eBooks) to listen to. It’s been awesome!
  6. Reading what feels good. I have always loved reading and have had a goal to read 50+ books for the past several years. I had fallen short, but it still landed with me reading way more books than in the past. Well, this was the year for reading!! With all this extra time on my hands because we weren’t really “doing anything” I have had plenty of time to read. The hardest thing has been figuring out what I’m in the mood for. Covid freaked me out at different points throughout the year and I found it hard to really focus on any reading that was too complex or involved. So I went with what sounded appealing. This ended up with me reading a lot more romance/ROMCOM type books but I’m totally here for it. I also still got in some great historical fiction in between the lighter books.
  7. Getting Creative. I’ve always loved my stamping/scrapbooking getaway weekends to focus on making various cards and projects, especially some gifts for friends. This year, I was able to still do a few small scrapbook retreat weekends with close friends, but several of those weekends were cancelled. While I was sad, it pushed me to get creative on my own at home. And we set up several virtual crafting events which turned out to be totally fun…we could be online and chat while we each worked on our own individual projects. Many of my ideas have been inspired by Taylored Expressions, our local stamping store.
  8. Virtual Bookish Events. I have been a fan of Modern Mrs Darcy for a couple years not and subscribe to her online book club. With 2020 in-person events getting cancelled, it opened up a lot of virtual events with authors, with the MMD Book Club, including a Stay-At-Home Book Retreat that was just delightful for my nerdy bookish heart. The author interviews I was able to participate in were amazing as I never would have gotten to meet and hear from so many authors if this year would have been “normal.” Some of these were through MMD Book Club, but also many other venues – the Des Moines Public Library had several and I found out about quite a few through Instagram. I have an Instagram account exclusively for bookish things so it is all in one place; you can follow me at @whatcarolynreads.
  9. Making coffee at home. Mid-March I shifted to working from home (and we are still WFH until at least July 2021) so that meant no more stopping at Starbucks on the way to work. This was actually a really good thing for my pocketbook…and my mocha addiction. Ha! I decided to start trying several different coffees from local folks and it has been super fun. My current favorites are from Capital City Coffee right here in Altoona and Pammel Park Coffee Company in Winterset.
  10. Weekly/daily FaceTime/text/chat dates. I would say I’m an extrovert most of the time, although I do also enjoy my quiet time alone. I worried at first how I would fare with all this Covid lockdown/social distancing stuff. To my amazement, it actually hasn’t been too bad and I’ve found that overall I’m enjoying a quieter life – especially having zero plans on the weekends so we have the freedom and flexibility to just do whatever feels good in the moment (me and hubby). I think why this whole “alone” thing has worked though is because of a few things. First, I’m not really alone, I have my husband, who sometimes drives me crazy, but mostly makes me laugh. Second, I have my small tribe – you know, the friends that you text/chat/FaceTime with on a regular basis to get you through. I know I would have been lost many times during my low points without my weekly FaceTime date with my friend Jess for example. Or my daily/weekly texts with Lacey, my friend in TX, or Jenn, my friend from church or several other close friends that made up my small circle. I also had weekly Zoom calls with my women’s bible study group which was also a lifesaver and a safe space to talk about how we were feeling and turn to our faith and each other.

There are probably other things that have worked well this year that I’m temporarily forgetting – but these are the highlights. I hope that you can relate to a few of these and/or that they help you to reflect on the unique things that have worked well for you and your wellness this past year!

The Road to Recovery

Preparing Myself Physically…And Mentally…

Prior to surgery, of course, I heard lots of stories.  People came out of nowhere to tell me their own experiences with rotator cuff surgery – some good, some bad, and thankfully some who sincerely wanted to share some of the challenges in an effort to make my journey less painful if possible. And, of course, everyone has an opinion. Some people agreed with my decision to have surgery, some did not, some encouraged me to get 2nd opinions, etc.

Ultimately, I made the choice that I felt was right for me, and figured others would fall in line and rally around me in support or perhaps they were never truly my friends to begin with. Adulting is hard; we don’t need people around us or in our lives that make it harder than it already is. Sad but true…as with all major decisions in life…most people will circle around you offering help, sending love, and unconditional support. Yet there are always at least one or two that fall to the side and you don’t hear from at all or who continue to question your choices.  I had consciously thought about this and knew that in order to make it through this long recovery – the naysayers were not going to get any of my time or energy.

I already mentioned in Part I that I tried experimenting with doing a variety of things left-handed before surgery.  Things like washing my hair, putting on a t-shirt by threading my “bad” arm through first, etc.  I’m glad I messed with it a little because it ended up paying off. It also provided some humorous moments watching YouTube videos (never did manage to crack an egg left-handed…without the shell falling in…).

I only mention these things to give a frame of reference for how I was preparing. Surgery is always scary, there are no guarantees, and I wanted to be intentional about my approach to both surgery (“this is what I need to do to continue being healthy and active”) and to recovery (“I will do what I can, go to PT, do my exercises, spend time with encouraging friends, not be too proud to ask for help, cry when I need a good cry, be kind to myself, allow myself time to binge watch my favorite shows and read many books”).

Side note: I do have to mention, as luck would have it, the night before surgery, we found out that the outdoor faucet in our garage had been leaking inside the house and we had water puddles in about 1/3 of our basement.  Brian and I moved what we could up and into the garage, but the reality is that we needed to just get a huge dumpster and clean house.  Unfortunate timing for sure because poor hubby was going to be on his own as I would be totally out of comission to assist.  Thankfully his twin brother was able to come and help get the big stuff out that weekend.

Surgery Day…

Surgery on May 3rd went very well and remarkably fast!  Surgery was scheduled for 7am and I was home and relaxing in the lazy boy chair by 10:30am.  The most notable part of surgery was getting a nerve block in advance. I was rather nervous about not being able to feel my arm, but it was all good; I could “sort of” feel it (slight tingling in fingers). Getting the nerve block was nerve wracking…LOL…  They do an ultrasound so they can see exactly where the nerve is to put in the shot, which by the way, is like where your neck attached to your shoulders.  Have I mentioned I don’t like needles??!?!  Ugh…thankfully I had to turn the other way anyway for him to give me the shot.  Yuck!

Recovery mode…the first 6 weeks…


I knew the first week would be a bit of a blur and the first 6 weeks in general would be the most challenging. I had to get used to not using my right arm and the big sling/pillow thing as well as not being able to drive. I didn’t mind it so much at first; I could get used to being chauffered around.  🙂  Recovery looked like this:

Week 1: focus was on resting, staying ahead of the pain to be cautious at first, then start doing “normal” things and getting off the pain medication (I don’t like how it makes me feel so wanted to try and wean myself off and just take ibuprofen within the first 1-2 weeks). This week’s left-handed accomplishments: successfully brushing my teeth (harder than you think!!), reheating my own food & eating with a fork instead of a spoon, making a pot of coffee all by myself!  This week I took off work to focus on recovery and getting used to the new normal. And my friends rock…lots of cards, gifts, texts, etc.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Week 2: Time to work from home! Thankfully hubby had arranged to work from home also on the days I had physical therapy (PT) so he could take me. Brian is very tech savvy so I was pretty excited he found me a small mouse that I could hold in my right hand (with my arm still in the sling) and figured out that Windows has dictation. So like talk to text, I could talk to email.  This was a life saver especially during the first few weeks as my right hand still didn’t really want to work properly (partially due to the bicep repair in addition to the shoulder). I was able to totally get off the pain meds, made my own breakfast, and started PT that Friday, May 17th.


Week 3: Most exciting thing this week…I can get dressed all by myself (I’m sure you can guess the trickest part as a female…).  Woohoo!! I can now use my right hand to help do some things around the house or driving my computer/mouse, as long as there’s no lifting or pulling or pushing involved (arm still in sling). In PT this week my therapist, Todd, was able to stretch my arm above my head (passive movement). Yay!!! I was also able to get out of the house more…including getting a pedicure.  Yay for pretty toes in the summer.

Week 4: This week I’m able to use my right hand to mouse & type on my computer!!! (Still in sling..no worries…but this is huge…), my PT measured my range of motion & I’m right on track (thank goodness), I did laundry (Brian carried it down) left-handed & loaded/unloaded the dishwasher (fun times!)…and best of all, I got to visit my lifting buddies at the gym! That was a huge motivator and helped lift my spirits as the weeks in the sling are getting long now; I’m starting to feel better and want to be doing something useful.

Week 5: This week I got to move on to some new exercises in PT which felt really good even though it was really tough.  I now have a love/hate relationship with my trekking pole because I’m using it to do assisted range of motion PT…like using a PVC pipe in lifting only not nearly as graceful.  Ha!  I did a bench press with the pole and didn’t die (although there might have been a few tears…).  I actually shaved in the shower this week with some minimal contortionist moves & I can *almost* lift my right hand to my mouth (praise the day I no longer need to eat left-handed). LOL…


Week 6: This is the week I’ve been waiting for…and in my mind, when the real work begins.  I had my 6-week follow up visit at the ortho doc…they said I’m looking good and I’m cleared to ditch the sling and drive again! Although with a warning that I might want to wear the sling in crowds/out so folks don’t mess with my arm/shoulder…which I took seriously as that weekend I had a wedding to attend. Throughout the first six weeks part of my goal to keep me motivated and moving forward was the fact that right around my 7 week mark is when my grand baby was due.

Recovery mode…weeks 7 – 12…

Week 7: For the first time I had a moment in PT and I cried…it hurt, I was sore and emotional and just frustrated because it felt sometimes like things will never be normal again.  At the time, I was embarrassed (my therapist is a guy after all…poor Todd) but couldn’t stop the tears from falling… Now that I’m further along I’m amazed I didn’t cry more than this one time in PT.  Ha! Don’t get me wrong…I cried plenty at home, just not in public.  The most exciting news this week was that Baby Fish arrived…Katie & Jake had our first grand baby. Jaxson Lee Fish was born right on his due date on June 20th at 3:59pm coming in at 8 lbs 5.7 oz and 21 inches long.  He was perfect and adorable and I was so excited to be able to hold him (still with the left arm).  🙂


Week 8: OMG…I didn’t realize just how much I missed the gym until I went to visit my lifting buddies this week!!! It was great to see them plus I did my PT exercises & even a leg machine. I’m coming back baby!!

Week 9: As of July 1st I was actually able to get into and out of a sports bra – wahoo!  LOL… I got to start using a resistance band and some light weights (1 lb, 2 lb, 5 lbs) to do exercises while laying down – yahoo!  Man, that was hard…LOL…  The most challenging new move though was making a star on the wall with my right arm (multiple planes of motion). Who knew?!?!?

Week 10: This was the first time I was totally on my own because Brian was working in Cedar Rapids all week. It was exhausting, mostly because this is the week I was determined to get used to sleeping in my bed again.  The first 6 weeks while in the sling, I knew that I would sleep in our lazy boy chair (plus everyone had recommended it because it’s just hard to get comfortable). I had tried week 7 to sleep in bed – right after getting out of the sling – and it was an epic fail.  I tossed and turned for 4 hours and decided good sleep was more important than being in bed, plus I didn’t want to keep Brian up all night because I couldn’t sleep.  😦  Now with Brian gone it was the perfect time to stick it out and figure out a way to get comfortable (I’ll sleep eventually right?!) – and so began the sleeping with like 4-5 pillows to try and get comfy on my back or left side.  Of course, I used to always sleep on my right side which was the surgery shoulder.  Ugh!!

I also wanted to figure it out because I was meeting my sister in Galena for the weekend once Brian was back.  I was super excited for the getaway as I’d been a pretty big homebody for the past 10 weeks.  LOL… I slept okay (not great the first night, better the second) while out of town and we had a fabulous weekend in one of my favorite places.


Week 11: At PT, tried a bunch of new stuff – Cross band system with multiple shoulder exercises – felt very much like a shoulder workout.  Measured this week also (12-week follow up appointment next week with the ortho doc) and significant progress!  Yippee!!

Week 12: Had my 12-week follow up with ortho surgeon today…overall things are looking good! Got the okay to work on strength training… So I consulted with my PT, Todd (he’s been amazing!!!) and had him look over my lifting workouts to help me know what I can do and how to modify things I’m not ready for.  Woohoo!!

Also somewhat as a celebration of progress…I went scrapbooking this weekend (end of July) with several girlfriends. We rented a house in Woodward and had a blast.  I had committed to going as they all promised they would help carry in my stuff or do whatever needed to assist me.  It was a fun weekend and I was able to make a bunch of cards and smaller projects with only minimal discomfort in my shoulder. Yay!



Recovery mode…months 3 – 6….

3 Months Post-Surgery (August): In August I started back to lifting workouts…slowly and with light weights. I feel very lucky to have a coach (Able) that understands and didn’t push me too much when I said that I needed to stay at a lighter weight. He teases me mercilessly, but that’s okay because I return the favor. Ha!

This month was also my photography trip to Grand Marais, MN. I’m super thankful for my friend Sarah being willing to help me out (and listen to me whine) when needed. This was my first jaunt back into photography and you don’t realize how much you raise your arm up and down lifting your camera and composing pictures.  My balance also seemed to be off during this time too – which I can only think was due to not working out for so long and have just got over a cold. I got some great pictures and Sarah and I had a blast. We had added on a few extra days and that was cool to go out shooting just the two of us.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4 Months Post-Surgery (September): I kicked off September going on vacation with hubby and another couple, Susan and Mike, to one of our favorite vacation places in MN.  When we had originally booked the trip to the Cuyuna MTB Trails I didn’t know I’d be having surgery and not advised to be biking yet.  Ha!  Thankfully our friends like biking, hiking, fishing, etc. We went over Labor Day weekend and it was an absolute blast.  As luck would have it, there was a chance that we might be able to see the Northern Lights the Saturday we got there, so we headed out with a local friend, Liz, at 9pm to a place outside of town. While it wasn’t a huge display, we were able to see them briefly around 10pm…so cool!! The other cool thing was hiking the trails. I hiked a couple trails I hadn’t been comfortable biking previously and thought, oh I could totally ride these except maybe this one section.  🙂

September was a busy month in general. Hubby was gone for a week so I was on dog duty once again (it only seemed fair since he took them out for 6 weeks while I was in a sling…). Our nephew got married and I had another weekend of scrapbooking fun toward the end of the month.

5 Months Post-Surgery (October): In September and October I was trying to do a lot of walking and hiking since it was still not advised to bike outside (the worry was if I fell off my bike/crashed).  Plus I knew that my sister, Valerie, and I would be doing some hiking while in North Carolina.  We had a sister trip planned for Oct 14 – 23rd that we both were really looking forward to; it was to celebrate our milestone birthdays (me turning 50 and her turning 45).  I was anxious to have surgery right away so I was all healed up and relatively “normal” by the time our vacation rolled around.

Our trip was fantastic!!  We had rented an adorable house in the woods in Swannanoa, just east of Asheville, NC. We did a little of everything: hiking trails in the area, toured Biltmore Estates including complimentary wine tasting, visited several of the local craft breweries (Valerie’s goal was at least one per day), drove on part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and spent time with my friend Lisa who lived just 4 hours away (she came to visit Sat-Sun). We typically ran around during the late morning and afternoon and had lazy mornings making breakfast and reading, while hanging out at night enjoying the hot tub!!  It was awesome! Interestingly…my shoulder was actually more sore off and on during the trip then when I was home working out.  Probably because we were doing so many different things (like playing pinball for 2 hours at the Pinball Museum) and I had been trying to sleep on my right side a little each night.  That ended up not working so well…LOL…


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

6 Months Post-Surgery (November): Today as I write this I’m still working on building strength especially in my right shoulder/bicep, and overall fitness as well.  Looking back now…I can see just how far I’ve come. I feel like my shoulder is fully functional from an everyday movement perspective – although odd things will still make me sore and catch me off guard.  Like this past week when hubby was nursing a strained wrist and I needed to cut up a raw slab of pork. That was rather difficult on my shoulder/arm…but I had also just done an intense upper body workout that morning.  Ha! I try not to get overly alarmed as there are good days and bad days and most days feel pretty “normal”.

When I went for my final appointment with my orthopedic surgery around 5 months (Sept 23rd); he was very happy and impressed with my range of motion and strength and said I was at the place most folks are at the 6-month mark. That made my day!  So I’m released from seeing him and am now on the journey back to the fitness level I had pre-surgery.

They say that it typically takes a year to be back 100% so I figure I’ll just keep plugging along and doing what I do.  Every once in a while, I still consult my PT via text to ensure I’m not messing anything up, but overall I’m happy with where I’m at. I can’t wait to be lifting the big weights again.  My goal is to be back to my pre-surgery weights by the one year mark – which will be just in time for my next lifting competition with my lifting buddies on April 25th, 2020!!!






Embracing the Unexpected: Shoulder Surgery Adventures

It seems appropriate to finally write a post about my shoulder surgery now that I’ve hit a major milestone = 6-months post surgery.


I haven’t written here for a long time…partially because I’ve gone through some tough times and partially because I didn’t want to write about my experience until I was on the other side of things…

The trouble started last December; my shoulder didn’t feel right when I was bench pressing during my lifting workouts.  I went to a recommended sports therapy guy that several lifting buddies recommended. I liked him, PT seems to be helping, but he wasn’t covered by my insurance. Then my troubles got worse mid-winter, with my bicep tendon hurting a LOT and my shoulder still not feeling 100%.

I decided to change my approach and start with my primary care doctor. I followed her regimen for a week, still had issues, so got referred to an orthopedic surgeon.

By now, this was the third health care professional I had seen and all three of them did not think I had a tear in my rotator cuff – based on my range of motion, strength, movement patterns, and my limited amount of pain or discomfort. However, as my ortho pointed out – there’s only one way to know for sure – get an MRI.

You all know the gist of what happened.  LOL… All three medical professionals were incorrect and no one was more surprised than me…although my orthopedic surgeon came close.  Ha!  I remember getting the call back from him after the MRI while I was at a scrapbook weekend with my girlfriends.  Pretty sure I actually said, “Well shit! That’s not what I expected.” He laughed and then admitted this was not what he had anticipated either. Basically I had a torn rotator cuff tendon that was “retracted from the bone” or in my words, no longer attached, and several tears in my bicep tendon. Ummm…

What!??!?!  How could this be?!?!  I’m still lifting and functional and have limited pain and full range of motion?!?!  Yes, well, it can happen as it turns out. We discussed options; however, the reality was that a tendon that is retracted from the bone (or not attached) cannot magically just fix itself with physical therapy.  Surgery was the best option for optimal results. My orthopedic surgeon said really it made the most sense – he said I was young (bless his heart) and that I should be back to 100% if I had the surgery. The only catch…it’s a long recovery.  The short story is that he felt it would be a year until I was back to where I started with regard to my lifting (both freqency, intensity and weight wise).  The “smaller” details included outpatient surgery, 6 weeks in a sling with minimal use and no driving, and 12 weeks total to heal enough to start building strength again. Then the months following to build the muscle back and get back to “normal.”

The sad news is that it was my right shoulder and I am right-handed.  So right away I knew this was going to take a good deal of patience, humor and support to get through. Take just a moment to think about all the things you do throughout a given day with your dominant hand and arm or with two hands…pause here….really…

  • Taking a shower
  • Opening doors
  • Getting food, dishes, things out of cabinets, the refrigerator, etc.
  • Opening bottled water or any other bottle/jar with a lid
  • Going to the bathroom (yep…wiping your tushie…LOL…)
  • Typing on the computer
  • Taking the dogs out on a leash
  • Eating anything

Okay, so NOW you are starting to grasp an understanding of what was going through my head.  I’m like…dude…this is going to suck…and Brian is going to be so sick of me…  Ha!

I’m not going to lie…there was crying…  😦

However, I also knew that the sooner I had surgery, the sooner I could begin healing and get back to being functional enough.  I have a lot of big plans this year because after all – it’s my 50th year – so I had celebrations and vacations and fun stuff happening!! In a way, the timing was actually as good as it gets for the plans I had already made.  I scheduled surgery for the beginning of May, with 12 weeks out putting me at the beginning of August – hopefully “functional enough” to go to the photography class I had scheduled in Minnesota mid-August with my friend Sarah. By the way…I had underestimated just how much up and down you do lifting the camera/tripod when taking photos.  Ha!  But we made it work.

Prior to surgery I practiced doing some things one-handed/one-arm to see if I could figure it out.  I also knew that I wanted to try and remain positive and find the humor in trying to do things with a bum arm. Thankfully I have a supportive husband and a small gaggle of amazing friends that literally saved my sanity during the first 6 weeks especially.

In my next post I’m going to actually talk about what recovery looked like – including the ups and downs. Partially I want to document it for my own memory, but I also hope that if someone I know ends up in the same predicament, that in some small way it might help.

Stay tuned for The Road to Recovery…





It’s Been a Long Hard Winter

I was doing good really this winter…despite all the snow, ice, frigid temperatures, I was holding my own as far as feeling overall optimistic.  Until I wasn’t…

Have you ever felt that way? Life is moving along, you feel that you are handling things well even when others struggle and then wham…it hits you like a bucket of rocks… I. AM. OVER. IT.

For me that time came somewhat suddenly with our last round of snow storms in early March.  Things had been happening and I suppose all the little things just kept piling up until one day I was just ready to be done with it all.  This winter had been rough in a number of ways that suddenly seemed overwhelming:

  • In late December as I was doing my regular bench press workout, my right shoulder started aching – bad enough that I stopped benching and went to see a sports medicine doc right away. This was cause for concern as I just registered for my 2nd lifting meet (competition is 4/27).
  • Late January my mom (76 yrs old) fell on the ice and broke her leg; it was her femur (thigh bone) so a big one. This was especially disheartening to me as we had just gotten Mom back into a normal routine after she had experienced several complications post knee-replacement surgery one year before.
  • Late February our oldest dog Lucy (10 yrs old) had started chewing on a cyst on her tail. It’s been there a while but was fine as long as she leaves it alone/it doesn’t get infected. But for some reason she started messing with it…so off to the vet again (we’ve had a lot of dog health issues lately…) for medicine and the dreaded cone of shame. This time the vet said the time had come that once it healed up, if Lucy continues to mess with it, we should have surgery to remove it. Due to where the sore is though, she would need to remove the tip/end of Lucy’s tail as there’s no way to just remove the cyst and get it all out.  That pretty much made me cry…although the vet reassured me that this incision would actually be smaller than the one she made when Lucy last had a spot on her tail.
  • Early March, amid the multiple snow storms, I helped push Brian’s car out of the snow and ice. In the moment it was fine, but the next day my shoulder was killing me again.  I had been making great progress and increasing my weight again on bench press…so this caught me off guard and I just felt totally deflated.  The doc I had been seeing is not in my network so insurance didn’t cover it…and I was out of flex dollars, so I needed to switch gears and go to my primary care doc and go through the normal routes of seeing what she said, resting for a week, then going to an orthopedic doctor if still having issues.  I knew this would take time and that was depressing. The whole ordeal made me horribly sad. All this transpired right before driving to visit my mom for her birthday (still in skilled care) and I cried half the way there (in the Quad Cities).
  • Mid-March one week before our vacation I got a pretty bad cold…which just wiped out my energy and motivation.  My head hurt, I lost my voice and I was exhausted.

This was about time that I broke down. In many ways, I realize that my life overall is good…we have a great life and these are not permanent or life threatening issues.  However, sometimes all the “stuff” of life just seems too big and overwhelming.  I had hit my limit… Adulting is hard and I was sick of it!

Thankfully, I have a great husband who listens to me rant and rave….and good friends who are supportive and listen and empathize with life’s trials and tribulations. I also had to practice giving myself a lot of grace.  We are so good at beating ourselves up when we are feeling blue or going through “stuff” instead of realizing that this is life and it’s okay to be sad as long as you don’t get stuck there, as long as you keep moving forward despite the setbacks.

What really kept me going though was knowing that my husband and I were going on vacation to Sedona, AZ for a week and a half at the end of March.  The timing of this vacation could not have been more perfect.  That was somewhat just pure luck. We had made plans for this trip the prior year in our annual “where should we vacation next year” conversations.  We typically try to take at least one “big” trip a year together, meaning at least a one week vacation.  I had been wanting to visit Sedona for a while; pictures of the area looked gorgeous. My sister had been there and said late March or early April was a great time to go weather wise and before all the summer vacationers invaded. Brian was excited to mountain bike there and I was excited to hike. We had plans for my friend and her sons to meet us there for part of the time, plus my college friend lives in Phoenix so I was hoping to see her as well. Brian and I also vacation well together; we both like a blend of being active and a healthy dose of good food and relaxing.

It ended up being just what I needed.

Are all my woes suddenly gone?  No, of course not.  My Mom is still healing in skilled care and it is looking like she will be there a couple more months.  We came home from vacation to sick dog that had made a minor disaster on our living room carpet. My shoulder is still hurting and it is impacting my lifting, but I did get in to the orthopedic doctor this week and have had x-rays and an MRI; just waiting on the results to plot our plan of attack.

But the good news is that the time away allowed me to recover, regroup, relax and explore without worrying about work/dogs/family/life.  It was good for the soul and helped me to live to make it through another day and the tough times.  It could not have been more perfect timing if I had tried…  🙂






50 Fun Things on the Way to 50 Years Old

Last time I wrote about some of my angst over my upcoming 50th birthday.  You guys rock!  I got several fun ideas from that post. Stay tuned for more to come over 2019 on what I’m up to throughout my 50th year!!

One thing that I had already started this year was to track 50 fun things that I’ve been doing, learning, experiencing, or appreciating throughout 2018 on my way to my 50th birthday.  I wanted to make sure I wrote it down and at the end of the year could remember and smile as I looked back over the fun things that I did.  They were not always big things…in fact, often they were small things…or precious moments spent with friends…  I tagged my list with the subtitle “Living Life and Loving It!”…

Here’s the list I tracked over the year…although I’m sure there were many more moments as well:

1 Trying & loving Powerlifting 1-Jan
2 Ride along with my friend Jennifer to take her daughter, Bekah, her stuff after winter break…so much fun chatting for hours and going out to lunch with Bekah 7-Jan
3 Splurged and bought leather book purse with a bookish theme


4 Scrapbook weekend in Newton

5 Bought a new car, Subaru Crostrek


6 Tried my first #24in48 or 24in48 readathon 27-Jan
7 Went with Brian to Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone at the Des Moines Symphony (where they play along live with the movie) 2-Feb
8 Season tickets to the Des Moines Symphony with my friend Sarah


9 Participate in a Bench Press Clinic (in preparation for #18) 10-Feb
10 Valentine’s Day Beer & Dessert Pairing at Reclaimed Rails with Brian

11 Participate in a Deadlift Clinic (in preparation for #18) 17-Mar
12 Volunteer photographer at the Animal Rescue League’s Goat Yoga


13 Between the Wines Book Club sponsored by Plot Twist Book Store and held at WineStyles in Ankeny – tried this for the first time in April with my friend Alie

14 Hung out at the Gents Race while Brian took pictures…such a fun day with friends! 7-Apr
15 Spring in the Smokies Photo Workshop with Sarah, Dave & Mark


16 Ready Player One with Brian at Flix Brewhouse; this was neat as we had both read the book first 20-Apr
17 First lifting competition = Women’s Barbell Classic


18 Lifting, Biking & Learn to Curl with Katie

19 First camping with Brian & family – Red Rock

20 Shooting my first (non-family) wedding celebration – Jen & Adam Carolan


21 Went MTB on my fattie at Whiterock Conservancy with Lee 28-May
22 Shooting pics at the last Dam to Dam 2018 for Jolesch 2-Jun
23 Hiking at Ledges & Winestyles — fun spontaneous day with my friend Kerrie 3-Jun
24 Shooting Senior Pics (Connor, Stephen, Lexi, Jake) 10-Jun
25 Beer & Ice Cream Pairing w/Brian


26 Clean & Jerk Clinic at CF8035 9-Jun
27 MTB at Cuyuna by myself when Brian & I were there in June


28 Painting with a Twist with Dawn & Alie


29 Galena by myself for #24in48 weekend

30 Cheese 101 class with Stephanie 30-Jul
31 Kayaking Fundamentals with Brian at Lake Ahquabi


32 Bingo at the ARL with Susan 21-Aug
33 Surprise engagement photo session (Renee & Dennis)

34 Fall Bags League with Brian (Amy, John, Cathy, Jamie, Mary, Mark, Pam) 29-Aug
35 Harvest at Summerset Winery with Sarah 1-Sep
36 Cuyuna MTB Trails for a week with friends (Brian, Mary, Mark, Cathy, Jamie, Amy, John, Pam, Phil) 8-Sep
37 Women’s MTB Clinic in Cuyuna with the Mary, Cathy, Amy, Pam 9-Sep
38 Bought new carbon fat bike! (Blue Thunder)


39 Scrapbook weekend in Newton (cards only!) 21-Sep
40 Photo shoots for Volunteer Iowa (Everybody Wins! Iowa) 25-Sep
41 Took pictures of Natalie’s horse farm – a first for me!

42 Rather spontaneous additional vacation trip to Cuyuna with Brian 12-Oct
43 Sprinkles & Sips Cupcake Decorating with Sarah


44 Mistress Brewing Opening with Lee 19-Oct
45 Found out I’m going to be a grandma!!!!


46 Prayer & Praise Night at Hope Ankeny (production team) 2-Nov
47 Lightroom Class with Bryan Hansel in St. Paul, MN 10-Nov
48 String Art Class with Sarah (camera designs!) 18-Nov
49 Crafts & Cocktails (make ornaments) with Sarah 9-Dec
50 Ultrasound with Katie and Jake!!! 15-Dec

These are just 50 things…it’s by no means a comprehensive list or representative of all the great memories I’ve made with friends and family over this year.  It’s just a sampling of the many amazing things I get to do in this journey called life!  🙂 #soblessed #imtheluckyone #familyfriendslove #50to50


Turning the Big Five Zero…

This year on December 30th, I will be 50 years old…and honestly it’s been bothering me and probably taking up more head space than is warranted…


I’m not sure why (for me) but 50 seems like a big number. It’s a milestone for sure and I have a few fun celebrations plans. I know that I really WANT to embrace it and have been contemplating just how I might go about doing that.  And I need your help…

Here’s the thing…it’s sort of scary to me. 50 is a big number. I don’t feel 50 years old. How did this happen already?! I have so many more things I want to do and experience.  So I really would like to make it a fun journey and a birthday year to remember but I seem to be lacking fabulous ideas. Maybe it’s more that there are too many ideas floating around my head.  LOL…

My sister and I both have milestone birthdays in the next year, so one thing I’m doing for sure is taking a vacation with her to celebrate. We both love fall and doing something involving outdoors, a vacation house, and hiking…so we’ve landed on North Carolina near Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway in October 2019.  We’ll be past the Smoky Mountains, but near plenty of forests, parks, etc. (excited to explore Pisgah National Forest).  We are excited to explore Asheville and tour the Biltmore Estate.

What I’m more looking for is a way to “build the excitement” around my birthday day and year.  I thought about doing some type of “50 to 50” type countdown…perhaps 50 days to 50, where I do something each day.  But what should that something be?

I’m also hoping to read 50 books in my 50th birthday year – that’s sort of a “given” goal.  LOL… And probably do a 50th birthday workout with my lifting pals.  🙂

What ideas do you have?  I want to hear about them!  Comment on this blog, on my Facebook post, or send me a message!  🙂



When You’re in a Funk…

It seems lately that I’ve been in somewhat of a funk…with my lifting, with work, and just in general dealing with life….

We all have those seasons, don’t we? Those times when things feel off. We try our hardest to be positive, we hang on for dear life knowing that better times will be ahead, we know that it is just a phase and yet everything seems difficult.


Life is hard. Adulting sometimes really sucks. Situations occur that are out of your control. People react badly and don’t realize that you have good intentions. People hurt your feelings and your heart. Crazy silly obstacles pop up. Everyday minutia starts to drag you down.

So what do you do?

In life, this is bound to happen; things are not always sunshine and roses.  LOL…  I feel blessed and thankful that I’ve been through this enough times now to know that I’ll come out the other side eventually and things will be just fine once again. I have great faith that things will get better. I’m not one to typically stay sad long, so when this does happen it tends to throw me off balance. I’m a positive, active person and most of the time things don’t get me down. But when I am down and out, there are a few things that always help me work my way through it:

  • My workouts: I have to admit that this time my lifting is part of my funk.  Ha! It’s been a combination of things. I hurt my lat/shoulder muscle due to overuse taking a kayaking class and doing a million breathing back squats (which I loved!)…and it’s just taking a while for my angry muscle to work itself out.  And yes, I’ve been taking care of it by adjusting my workouts when needed, chiropractic care and massages – some things just take time to get back to 100%. We have also been doing a 4-week hypertrophy cycle, which for whatever reason, is not my favorite. AND…my coach just informed me we will be doing it for another 4-week cycle.  Boo…dislike…  LOL… The one thing that definitely remains true is I love the days we deadlift and I love the people I lift with. So there is that. I’ve also been sad because I’ve missed several workouts over the past 2 weeks just due to life getting in the way…and that’s rare for me.  I did get a bit of “redemption” last week when I hit a new PR on my front squats…!!!  😉


  • Time with caring friends:  And not just spending time with caring friends, but also seeking out time with friends who understand the particular situations you might be going through.  This is where I feel extremely blessed.  I have a whole variety of friends who can help with a huge spectrum of dilemmas – biking friends, photography friends, friends with aging parents, friends with grown kids, friends who have faced similar work challenges, friends who have hit the wall in workouts, etc.  Having a close circle of friends that you can trust, call upon for advice, and who will reassure you when times are tough is so critical.  Sometimes you start feeling a little bit crazy like you might be losing your mind. Chatting with a good friend can help ground you again in reality and the person you know you truly are. They understand your heart and reassure you that you make good choices and truly are good at this adulting thing.

  • Get away (if possible): After a particularly rough and emotional week both personally and at work, it ended up being amazingly good timing that my hubby and I had planned a weekend away to Crosby, MN to relax and ride the Cuyuna MTB Trails.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Good self care: Things like sleep, being kind to yourself, maybe splurging on something little like your favorite coffee…little things become life preservers, keeping you afloat.  Sleep becomes critical to me; I’m a person that needs a good 7-8 hours of sleep a night anyway. When life gets rough or I’m extremely stressed, that becomes more like 9 hours. Quiet time or down time becomes even more important during these times.  I have to force myself to get off social media and just read a book or take a walk outside without headphones.


  • Jornaling/Prayer: Sometimes the best therapy is to just get it all out by writing it down.  This often helps me clear my mind. I also pray more when I’m stuck…and this often looks like quiet time at church or walking outside with Kona.

  • Who You Spend Time With: This somewhat goes hand-in-hand with spending time with caring friends, but really takes it one step further. When you are hurting or down in the dumps, it really matters WHO you spend time with. Are the people surrounding you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution? Can they listen, empathize, reassure, and be present for you in your time of need…whatever that need might be at the moment? My best advice to those going through tough times is to intentionally seek out friends that you know will be in your corner and give you the type of support you need at the time.  These are the times to surround yourself with those who truly love you – despite any shortcomings. During tough times, I always want to talk about my troubles with my husband, Brian first – it doesn’t seem real and I can’t work through whatever is bothering me until I tell him all about it.


  • Opt Outside: #optoutside is a huge “movement” right now, but for me, this has always been a tried and true remedy for what ails me.  Fresh crisp fall air and getting outside where I can breathe always helps – even if it’s just for those moments.  I try to find things to do that involve being outdoors doing the things I love – whether its taking photos, watching friends racing bikes (hello, Spooky Cross!), or taking my dog, Kona, for a walk. Fresh air for me is always refreshing to the soul and also helps me sleep better.


Life is messy. Life is hard. Find your people…


My Adventures in Powerlifting

My friends know that I’m pretty much a fitness fanatic.  I love working out and trying new things with my workouts.  Over time though I have found a few favorites that I continue to come back to…kickboxing, kettlebells, and barbells.

I first experienced barbell work when I did some different boot camps and CrossFit workouts with my friend and trainer, Amy Boyd.  Many years ago she had started her own business teaching fitness classes…and now she’s a CrossFit coach as well.  I had the opportunity to work with her and learn proper form on lifts like back squat, clean & jerk, snatch, deadlifts, etc.

I would say that I got serious about lifting a couple years ago when my gym, Brickhouse Fitness, started offering a Weightlifting class.  At the time, I was doing their other classes including kettlebells, kickboxing, and circuit work.  I saw folks doing the weightlifting class and enjoying it; the team had obviously bonded quickly over the barbell.  I knew I wanted to give it a try, but timing was tricky as the class was only offered Mon/Wed in the evenings and Saturday morning.  I decided to make the leap into the class in August 2016.  In November, they opened up a 5am class on Mon/Wed/Fri that worked better with my schedule.

Although I loved the class, 5am isn’t my favorite time to workout (even though I used to ALWAYS do 5am classes); I had gotten used to the 6am class option.  I also had a knee injury in March of 2017 that had me out of commission for quite a while as far as being able to do weightlifting.  I could do other classes that were more flexible as far as modifications and summer was coming – which meant I would want to spend more time biking in the evenings and on the weekends.

A turning point came for me when Brickhouse Fitness moved into a brand new facility in January 2018.  With the new facility, there were more lifting platforms, a bigger weightlifting room, and more class times and programming opportunities.  As moving time got closer, the coaches, Able and Rachel, started talking about plans and I started getting excited.  They were going to offer Powerlifting programming that sounded more my style and speed; it would focus on squats, deadlifts (my favorite!) and bench press with accessory work to compliment those lifts. I like Olympic lifting (clean & jerks, snatches) but they were hard on this ole body – lots of quick snappy movements.  Powerlifting would be the world of strength.  This sounded very intriguing to me. The kicker that sealed the deal for me is when they announced there would be a 6am class time – plus other times if I needed to be flexible due to work commitments or scheduled travel time.

I totally signed up on the spot January 1st!!!  🙂



Honestly, I have absolutely LOVED it from the very beginning; it just clicks somehow for me. We have Powerlifting programming Monday through Thursday, Friday is open gym time for making up a missed workout or just working on whatever you would like. Since I had done the Olympic lifting track previously, I also have the option of lifting on Saturdays at 8am for team challenges.

Some typical workouts:

In February I heard about a Women’s lifting competition to be held at 22nd Street Barbell. I don’t even remember how I found out about it…probably from Facebook.  It was called the Women’s Barbell Classic and would be a women only competition in deadlift and bench press only (most typical sanctioned Powerlifting events also include back squat).  They were offering a bench press clinic Saturday, February 10th and I signed up.  I thought I’d check out the clinic and see what I thought before making any commitments.  LOL…

The clinic was so helpful!  The gals that taught it, Abbie Mork and Annie Brees, were awesome and explained all of the commands, various details about the lift and all about how the competition would work.  I had butterflies in the pit of my stomach…and I knew, I needed to do it!

I talked with my coach, Able, about his thoughts and how it could work into our programming.  He’s awesome and built our schedule out to work on those 2 lifts more closely over the upcoming two months.  It was official – I registered for my first Powerlifting competition. The Women’s Barbell Classic would be on April 28th. *gulp* Talk about doing things that scare you (see my last blog post!)…

They offered a deadlift clinic on March 17th and I went to that too; I wanted to learn what to expect at competition and get practice with others that would be competing.  One of the things that I appreciated most about the event and how it was run was that it really was focused on being fun and introducing more women to the sport of powerlifting and competing.

The next couple of months were focused on consistent training.  I did not miss a single day…or if I did, I made it up.  I wanted to really walk into the competition feeling strong.  The interesting thing about powerlifting competitions is that although you are competing against others in the same weight category and age category, you also are competing with yourself.  I was hoping to walk out with at least one new PR (personal record).

The day of the competition arrived; Able came with me for moral support (thank goodness because suddenly I couldn’t do simple math).  Several of my teammates  and my hubby came to cheer me on – which was amazing!


How the whole thing is organized is rather interesting and efficient.  We had around 90 women competing and had 2 lifting platforms. That means they had to rotate through 45 women on each platform as efficiently as possible.  Each of us would get 3 attempts at each lift – so 3 times to bench press and 3 times to deadlift.  The idea is to lift the maximum weight you can, yet you typically want to work up to that weight (to build confidence, to prep your body, etc.). I had tracked my lifting numbers and had a plan created with my coach.  We could change it as we went, but we had to tell them in advance what our opening attempt would be for both bench and deadlift.  I landed on 90 lbs for my bench opening weight and 215 for my opening deadlift.

Bench press was the first lift.  To get 45 women through each platform, we were put into 3 groups called flights (about 15 women per flight).  I was in the last flight on Platform B.  While the flight before me lifted, we would warm up in the warm up area on one side of the room.  The plan for my bench press weight was: 1st lift = 90 lbs, 2nd lift = 95 lbs, 3rd lift = 100 lbs (which would be a new PR for me if I hit it).  You take turns lifting within your flight, but do all 3 lifts at once (rotate to the back of the line…each flight had around 15 ladies).

I hit 90 lbs no problem.  95 lbs went well although was feeling heavy.  When I went to hit 100 lbs, the bar path went a little crooked (not straight above my shoulders) so I missed it…dang!  I was sad only because I was sure I could hit it if I got another chance…but that’s not how competition works.  LOL…  On to deadlifts!


We had a bit of a break while they moved the bench equipment and set up the deadlifting platforms.  Again, I was in the last flight on Platform B.  My opening deadlift was 215 lbs; it felt good.  My 2nd lift was 225 lbs…which felt good too…better than I thought. My 3rd lift was supposed to be 230 or 235 depending how I felt.  I had just told the judges 235 would be my next attempt when Able was yelling at me and saying go 240.  I’m like what…no…really?  LOL…I must have made 225 look too easy. So I changed my 3rd attempt to 240 lbs.  And I got it!!!!  Wahoo!!!  This was a new PR and totally unexpected.  You can tell by my face in the pictures it was heavy…Ha!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was an amazing day!  I’m so glad that I decided to compete even though a part of me was totally scared.  I feel proud of how I did…making 5 of the 6 lifts attempted.

I can’t even explain how great it was to have my coach, Able, there with me as well as several of my lifting partners…it truly meant the world to me!  The Aspire lifting group has become like family.  We lift and train together typically 5 days/week and it creates a strong bond.  They say that who you spend your time with is important…it shapes your destiny and the type of person you become.  I’m so glad that lifting brought this group together because each of my teammates do amazing things and I feel honored to lift beside them every day.

I’m not sure where this will lead or if I will do another competition, but for now, I am loving lifting. That makes it easy to go every day, even when I know the workout will suck or when I’m rather nervous about what Rachel and Able have programmed for us.  Isn’t that really what life’s all about???  Do more of what you love. Find your tribe, love them hard.






Do What Scares You

Fate seems to be telling me to write this post; the timing is just right.

In the past few weeks, I have actually done several things that scare the heck out of me.  Most were things I agreed to do with ample prep time…although one was a spontaneous decision the day before.  In each situation though, I found myself saying at one point or another “what the heck was I thinking”…for agreeing to do this, or for thinking I was capable of this, or thinking that this would be fun…

The happy news is that in every single situation, the fact that I DID IT turned out to be a good thing…sometimes even a great thing.  It became a good lesson in learning to feel fear and doubt and continue to move forward and try new things.

To you some of these situations might seem like a no-brainer; like, seriously, why wouldn’t you try that?!  For me, each situation brought up a variety of fears or anxiety that might cause me to pause for one reason or another.  Let’s dive in to my recent situations and see if hearing about them might help you in some small way…

#1: Tent Camping at Lake Red Rock

I love the outdoors and being active doing many things outside – biking, hiking, walking the dog, boot camp workouts – just to name a few.  There are some outdoor things that cause me grief…for example, mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes LOVE me, I mean like, no one else will be getting bitten but I’ll be getting eaten alive. I get huge welts from mosquito bites – the kind that you scratch and take at least a week to go away.

Because of this and a general dislike for being hot while sleeping, I’m not a big fan of tent camping, especially in the summer time.  I also will say that I had a horrible tent camping experience with my ex-husband that left me a little doubtful that it could ever truly be fun.  What can I say…I have baggage…

So you can imagine my lack of excitement when my husband (Brian) asked if I wanted to go camping at Lake Red Rock in May…on our anniversary weekend.  Yep…not exactly my idea of a fun way to spend my anniversary…LOL…  To give him credit, we had talked with camping friends prevously and bought nice equipment from REI back when I had agreed that camping and biking in the fall could be fun.  And he wanted to go this particular weekend because his twin brother and family were also camping and celebrating my niece’s birthday. We really had no other plans, so I agreed.

The closer we got to the weekend, the more I was dreading it…and the more excited he was getting. He was  buying all kinds of additional camp equipment, planning the menu, gathering his fishing gear, etc. while I was still pouting a little in my corner thinking…shouldn’t we wait until we try this a time or two before investing in all this camping “stuff”?!?!  Meanwhile I’m making a list of things I can bring to feel more comfortable – an extra pillow, books to read, my bike, my hiking shoes – so I would have something fun to do alone if I was bored or they were off fishing all day (I have zero desire to learn how to fish).

In the end, all my worry and nervousness was not necessary – we had a great time with family, I got some quiet time to read and walk in the morning, I was actually able to sleep (somewhat comfortably) on my sleeping pad in the tent, and we had plenty of bug spray to keep most of the mosquitoes at bay.  I still think I’ll like camping in the fall better, but we had amazing food and a great time.


#2 Mountain Biking at Whiterock Conservancy

Over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, I had several photography commitments on Friday & Saturday, but planned on biking on the paved trails Sunday & Monday.  As the weekend progressed, plans shifted and I received a surprise text message from Lee, a biking friend, asking if I’d be interested in going mountain biking together at Whiterock Conservancy on Monday.

For those not familiar, Whiterock is in Coon Rapids, IA (about an hour-ish away from me here in Des Moines) and has gravel, single track mountain bike trails, and double track trails.  It’s hilly and rough…definitely challenging terrain.  I had been there once before during Fall back when I had my 29er, but I hadn’t been back since I got my fat bike.

My first thought was holy hell…it’s early in the season, my friend Lee is a very skilled MTB rider, and I’m pretty much a newbie.  I’ve mountain biked several times, I just would say I’m still a beginner. However, I also know that I have two trips coming up to Cuyuna Lakes MTB Trails – one toward the end of June and one for a week early September – and I could use some practice.  I literally didn’t let myself think about it and said sure!

Oh. My. Gosh.  WTF?!?!  What did I just do!??!  Lee assured me that this was just for fun and she was going to be resting often and going slow (recovering from an injury). I told myself that even though I haven’t biked a ton, I lift heavy weights daily and my legs are in good condition for biking/climbing hills. But I was scared and nervous…at the same time I was telling myself “you can do this”…

Let’s just say that the ride could best be summed up as…humbling… Ha! It was very hot and humid that day and I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I walked up more hills (and more in general) than I would have preferred. However, rather than beat myself up or feel guilty about potentially slowing down my friend, I decided to list the things that felt good about the day:

  • I did it – even though I was pretty much scared shitless
  • After the first unexpected bridge that caught us both off-guard, I rode across two more bridges straight down the middle (this is HUGE for me…bridges freak me out! Carolyn talking to herself…look where you WANT to go….look to the other side…)
  • Some of the trees were pretty tight and I went between the trees without running into them or feeling unsteady (again, this is HUGE…I tend to feel like I won’t fit between the trees, especially on a fat bike with wider handlebars… I’ve been known to slow down and run right into the tree…LOL…)
  • Even though I was sweating and exhausted and had to walk my bike out, I had a LOT of fun going and spending time with Lee and meeting other biking friends
  • I DIDN’T DIE!!!!!


#3 Dam to Dam 2018: Paid Photo Gig

Last year I had the opportunity to accept a paid photography job shooting photos at Dam to Dam.  It went relatively well, but I ended up highly annoyed with the used 70-200mm Tamron lens that I had purchased and used for the shoot.  At that point, I decided to take family photos and save up the $$ needed for the “good lens”…the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 luxury lens that was a dream.


I thought I did “okay” last year, but I try not to make any assumptions about getting the job again.  As it turned out 2018 was going to be the last Dam to Dam race and I was asked to shoot for Jolesch Enterprises again as one of the photographers on the course.  Woohoo!

As the weekend approached, the weather forecast was looking truly awful. 2017 had been hot, but this year thunderstorms were predicted. Although you may not be an avid photographer, you can imagine the challenges of shooting in the rain. If you get lucky and its just a nice gentle downpour with zero wind, then it’s not a bad deal. But thunderstorms – this could be a nightmare and a huge pain in the ass. You have to cover your equipment well, you probably prefer to also be covered so you aren’t a soggy hot mess, the wind can make taking pictures difficult as you need to continually wipe your lens off…  Bleh.

As I’m loading up and getting parked downtown (yes, the race was still on and yes, no rain delay announced yet)…this was the outlook:

And this captures how I felt about it:


Ha, ha, ha… Oh boy…

Another photographer was in the same location and as we waited in our cars to hear if the race had started on time, we were both thinking…I don’t want to get out of the car…the first runners won’t be here for at least 50 minutes…  LOL…

Again…hitting the moment of “what was I thinking” and “why did I agree to do this”…and even “this is so not worth the money if it’s pouring rain the whole time”…  Ah, that little inner voice is a slippery little devil…

As it turned out, shortly after getting the word that the race started at 7:30am (1/2 hour delay), the rain stopped.  We got out and headed over to our shooting location, took some practice shots and waited for the chaos to commence.


It’s a lot of work – the first few runners are spaced out and you can relax in between – but once the leaders get by and the main group starts coming through, we shot for about 2-1/2 hours non-stop. Aim, focus, shoot, repeat…for what seems like forever… After it was all said and done, I calculated that I took over 5300 photos during that time.  Wowza!


In the end…each of the above experiences were a good lesson for me. It’s easy for even a fairly confident person to let the doubts creep in and that inner voice in your head get the best of you. If I would have listened to that voice, I would not have had these experiences…or the fun, adventure, and friendships shared along the journey.

Everyone has a different tolerance for fear and ambiguity.  I’m not saying that you should definitely do everything you are afraid of.  For example, I have a fear of heights and I’m not going to jump out of a perfectly good airplane just to “prove” I can skydive and not die.  Sorry, not sorry!!  I’m just not going to do it.  I’m perfectly happy living my entire life and not experiencing jumping out of an airplane.

However, there are both small and big opportunities that arise during this thing called life…some that may cause us a decent amount of trepidation, but that are worth it in the end. It’s a personal choice.  What I encourage you to do is entertain the idea of doing the things that scare you before automatically turning down the opportunity.  We often learn and grow in those moments of fear.  Only you can decide…is it worth the risk? Is it worth the rewards?

Typically I know when to work through the fear…it’s when I know I don’t want to look back and say “I wish I would have done that”…





The Magic of Taking a Trip Alone

One of my favorite things to do is plot out our vacations and weekend plans for the upcoming year.  As I was sitting here thinking about the fun stuff we have in store for 2018, I was also reflecting on 2017 and some of the places/things I did that were most enjoyable. Right at the top of the list was a long weekend trip to Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trails with my husband and several good friends.  We are planning on spending a whole week there this year!

But also at the top of the list was something that I hadn’t done for a really long time…taking a trip alone.  Toward the end of 2017…I knew that life was going to get a little crazy (although I had no idea just how much life and responsibilities would shift), so I did something that felt like a bold move.  I made reservations to go to Galena, IL alone.

I got to thinking…I had not really had a weekend TOTALLY alone in years…like probably not since I met my husband, Brian (who is fabulous, by the way!).  Sure, I’ve had weekends away with girlfriends either vacationing or scrapbooking, but not time to just be alone, by myself, away from it all to relax and regroup. Everyone probably has differing ideas and opinions on this: I know several girlfriends that do this at least once a year and others that would never dream of going somewhere alone for a whole host of reasons (guilt, kids, spouse, expense, etc.). For me, it seemed like the right time to do it.

Two things pushed me toward this particular trip: (1) I would already be in the Quad Cities and helping care for my mom post-knee replacement surgery (late Nov/early Dec).  (2) I’ve always wanted to go to Galena, IL during December because they have one night during the holiday season that they have an event called Living Windows and Night of the Luminaria. Last year (2017) this fell on Dec. 9th, right after I was scheduled to be at my mom’s.  The Living Window display is where local shops on Main Street can have a live window display. Each display has a number and visitors can vote for their favorite display (they have even had a live wedding some years, although not in 2017). Starting at dusk, they also have thousands of luminaria set up all throughout Main Street, the downtown area, and over the river in Grant’s Park.  The photographer in me, and the kid in me who loves Christmas, has always wanted to go check it out so this was perfect timing. So I booked a room at the B&B we had gotten married at, Cloran Mansion, which is like a second home.

Pictures of my room at Cloran Mansion:

By the time I arrived for the weekend on December 8th, I was rather desperate for the time away to gather my thoughts and have some quiet time. My mom’s knee replacement surgery mid-November went okay, but the short story is that she had some fairly major complications. She was in the hospital for a week, skilled care for several weeks and now needed to move to assisted living as she just wasn’t healthy enough to live at home alone yet. I was stressed over making the right decisions, traveling back and forth to help with Mom care, and Christmas was coming quickly…it was a recipe for a meltdown.  LOL…so I made my “escape”…

Friday night I knew I wanted to pick up some wine – both to have a bottle to drink in my room while relaxing, but also a few bottles to take home. I headed down to Main Street with no real plans other than picking up wine and finding something to eat. I ended up doing a wine tasting (met some fun ladies there for the weekend compliments of their boss!), walked around shopping at some of the stores, and landed at Galena Brewing Company for dinner.

Saturday morning I slept in and enjoyed meeting other guests at breakfast; the food is always amazing and typically so big that I just snack in the afternoon and have an early dinner. I took time to relax and read for several hours before heading downtown for to do a little shopping.

I had some time to kill before the Living Windows started at 4pm, so I decided to eat a late lunch/early dinner at Fried Green Tomatoes.  For me, eating out alone feels awkward, especially at a nice restaurant. This time I made a conscious decision to enjoy a lovely meal by myself and I had my cell phone to read or browse the web if needed; it was not bad at all!

Off to view the Living Windows!  They were amazing and fun; it was also a treat to watch other people, especially the kids reactions to the windows.  They encourage folks to interact with those in the windows which is fun.  I am so glad to be able to experience it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I ran back to my car as the sun went down to grab my camera & tripod. All the luminaria were set out and volunteers were finishing lighting them. It was truly beautiful. These are just a few of my cell phone shots…they don’t really do it justice. I was also amazed to learn that it’s all volunteer driven as far as lighting of the luminaria.

That night I went back to my room and felt like a kid again; it’s so refreshing to just participate in an event and feel the joy of the experience. I stayed up late reading, snacking on homemade cookies from the Mansion, drinking some wine, and enjoyed a soak in the Jacuzzi tub. I had plenty of quiet time to do whatever I felt like doing in the moment and time to process everything on my mind and just be still.

For some it might seem impossible to do something like this.  For me, it doesn’t necessarily need to be somewhere expensive or even away from home.  I have a friend who does an annual “staycation” where she does similar things but stays home versus going away.  I did a mini-staycation last year when my husband was out of town for 2 days, although for me, it was hard to relax at home as I was tempted to do everything else (laundry, cleaning, etc.).

What I know for sure is that for me, it was a fabulous experience and one I hope to start doing every year for at least a couple days.  I was better able to deal with the curve balls life was throwing me at the time and I went home a much happier girl!

For 2018 I’m considering combining an alone trip to coincide with the next 24in48 weekend which falls in July!  What could be more fabulous than combining two of my favorite things…reading and getting away from it all?!?!


Links to referenced places/websites: