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…  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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10-Jan
4 Scrapbook weekend in Newton

12-Jan
5 Bought a new car, Subaru Crostrek

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25-Jan
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

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

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30-Mar
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

3-Apr
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

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10-Apr
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

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28-Apr
18 Lifting, Biking & Learn to Curl with Katie

5-May
19 First camping with Brian & family – Red Rock

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

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26-May
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

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

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26-Jun
28 Painting with a Twist with Dawn & Alie

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29-Jun
29 Galena by myself for #24in48 weekend

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

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

26-Aug
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)

Bike

16-Sep
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!

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

Cupcakes

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

Grandma

21-Oct
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…

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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.

*sigh*

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…!!!  😉

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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…

Tribe

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!!!  🙂

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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:

The Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now…

This post is inspired by a blog I read,  Modern Mrs Darcy.  Each winter(ish) she will write a similar post.  In her words, this is how it came about:

“The idea comes from author Barbara Brown Taylor. In her memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about a time she was invited to speak, and her host assigned her this topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

It’s a good question. Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. But few of us pay attention to what’s giving us life. The question invites you to do just that.

Taylor says it’s too good a question not to revisit from time to time, and I agree. I borrowed Taylor’s idea last year, and began keeping a running list—a literal, physical list—of the things that are saving my life right now.”

This inspired her to write about the things – both big and little – that are saving her during difficult times or phases of life.  It made me pause…as we are going through a really tough time right now.  My mother recently had knee replacement surgery and although surgery went well, post surgery came with several complications.  As we have been working through this with my mom and helping plan a course to get her healthy again, several things have truly been saving my life right now.  This is a list of some of those things:

  • Friendships:  Being able to reach out and call or text my friends throughout this time has been life-saving. Sometimes you just need to admit you are scared or that you don’t feel you know how to handle a situation…and have your friends remind you that you are loving, kind and competent and truly able to handle anything that comes your way.  We all need this reminder sometimes; I’m thankful for good friends that are so supportive when I need it the most.
  • Family:  This goes hand-in-hand with friendships in my mind.  Having my husband to talk/text with and sharing all the decision-making with my sister and brother has been a tremendous relief.  It’s good to know I’m not in this alone.
  • My workouts:  For me being able to get in a workout – either my regular classes at Brickhouse Fitness, a kettlebell workout at home, or going for a walk – is keeping me sane. Doing something physical and active takes all my focus for the moment and I can forget about everything else temporarily.

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  • Coffee:  Yep, it’s true…getting a venti mocha latte from Starbuck’s just makes my heart happy.  🙂

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  • Books: Sitting at the hospital for hours on end has been much more enjoyable because I’m reading some good books! I love reading and the up-side of spending time in the hospital has been the ability to get in some quality quiet reading time.
  • My dogs: When I am home, life is definitely better in part because of my dogs, Kona and Lucy.  They make me laugh and demand belly rubs and snuggles and are always happy to see me.
  • Spark: This natural energy drink from Advocare is how I start every morning… Yes, even before coffee! It give me an energy boost as well as ensuring I get a bunch of vitamins and amino acids in before dealing with the stress of the day or before my workout.

These are just a few of the things that are keeping me moving and sane these days.  How about you? What’s saving your life right now?

 

Embracing the Suck…

Also known as:

  • Riding the struggle bus…  Or…
  • When you just wanna cry… Or…
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway…

I try to workout on a regular basis.  I just happen to post publicly on social media about my workouts so people think I workout all the time. However, I’m just like the rest of you…I try to workout and have a routine, but I struggle, life gets in the way sometimes, and it’s hard to stay motivated to get my butt to the gym.

People often ask, then how do you do it?! You always seem to have so much energy and you workout all the time….  Smoke and mirrors baby!  LOL…okay, so not really, but a couple of posts recently from my workout buddies made me realize what I do.

It’s a habit.

Yep, plain and simple…but yet…not so simple.  This graphic is what one of my gym buddies posted that sums it up well (by now, hopefully you know there might be swear words involved…):

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So true! If we only did the work when we felt motivated and jazzed about what we were doing, it wouldn’t last long. It is easy to stay motivated when things are going well or when you have a new and different workout for a while or when you are doing all the movements that you love. But here’s the thing…that’s not reality and that is not necessarily what your body needs.  It’s is good to switch it up off and on and keep your muscles guessing what the heck happened.  It is also good to stick with something long enough to work through proper form and to develop muscle memory. It’s also good to do the exercises you hate and that are difficult for you (not impossible or hurtful…as in might cause bodily harm…).  You likely need to develop those muscle groups that allow you to get better at the hard movements.

This morning was a great example. I didn’t sleep great last night, I’m tired from my workouts from the past two days, I get up and as I’m drinking my Spark to try and wake up I’m not feeling it.  Here is the conversation that I was having with myself:

  • I’m tired…I could take a rest day today and hit it the rest of the week
  • I should go…for fuck’s sake…I’m already awake…
  • I could enjoy the quiet time and read for an hour
  • It’s really not my favorite workout, although I do like the format (Wednesday workouts right now are the 12 Days of Christmas…do exercise #1 for 1 rep, then do #2 for 2 reps, then #1, do #3 for 3 reps, #2 for 2 and #1 for 1…all the way to 12 exercises total)
  • I always feel better when I go workout
  • Julie’s classes always seem harder (a.k.a. I don’t like them as much and I’m not as good at them…just a note, this has nothing to do with Julie…LOL…)
  • Sigh…fine then, I’ll go…I’m already up, it would be stupid not to go

Ha!  What an ordeal…shut up already…right?!?!

I’m happy to report that I did actually make it to class and of course I was glad that I went.  In some ways, it was almost more rewarding because it was a tough workout for me…with at least 50% of the exercises being things I don’t really like or that I’m not really good at (wall crawls…shit…  burpees…ugh…).  Here’s a snapshot of the workout and the kettlebells I used:

Ultimately what got me there was that it’s a habit.  It’s a habit to get up every morning and go to the gym for 6am class.  It’s a habit so it’s more reliable; I don’t have to think about it, it’s just what I do.  I get up, I get dressed, I go to the gym, I come home and get ready for work.

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Are there some days I enjoy more than others?  Sure.  I love kettlebell work like swings, figure 8’s, and other kettlebell strength movements.  I love Friday’s when we do Crazy 8’s – 8 exercises, 8 reps each, for 8 rounds.  I hate burpees.  I tend to prefer strength training over cardio, yet I know that cardio is good for me.  I love barbells and kettlebells because they make me feel like a badass.  I dislike running…  You get the drift.  😉

Having workout buddies that will hold you accountable…or at least notice and comment when you are gone is also helpful.  There are certain classes each 8-week session that I really try not to miss.  I have a partner in those classes and when I’m gone, she notices and sends me a message.  It is easier to get your butt to the gym when you know someone else is counting on you to be there and work beside them through a tough class.

Another thing that I do is keep a fitness journal with the workouts that I do, especially the weights that I use, tips for myself and how I felt that day while working out.  I started doing this regularly when I started lifting 3 times/week in our Aspire Weightlifting Club…and it has stuck.  I’m not lifting right now with the club; however, I still track workouts in my journal. It’s really beneficial to look back over my workouts and see the progress made and the weights I’m using today versus a year ago. Plus I found a super cool workout journal that has awesome daily quotes that make my day!

Workout Journal

Something our trainer Matt encouraged us to do regarding our kettlebell swing work is to pick a minimum weight – even given a workout with higher reps.  I did a kettlebell challenge last year with the 50# beast (I call my 50# kettlebell BeBe or BB for Big Bitch…LOL…).  But I had gotten away from that and honestly start losing my grip strength if I have to do more than 12-15 reps at 50# right now.  So I set my bottom limit at 40#. I won’t let myself chose less than the 40# kettlebell for any swing work that we’re doing in a workout starting this 8-week session (regular swings, not one-arm swings).  Some examples are below:

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This was “only” 6 reps, but alternating with a partner for like 3 minutes (I think…) and alternating between regular swings and swing & pull which is a little harder as the weight gets heavier.

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I decided to keep this at 40# as it was 100 reps total and an “add-on” to the workout that was prescribed; the workout on the board was just the first three exercises

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In this workout, we had to pick 3 different kettlebell weights…so started at 40# and went up from there.

I also sometimes do things that scare the shit outta me…LOL…  I’m able to do this because I have a workout routine and have made training a habit.  Last year, I was doing a lot of barbell work and my trainer, Amy Boyd, encourage me to compete in the Novice Division of  the MAT Games, a CrossFit competition sponsored by CrossFit 8035 (June 2016).

I could tell you I was confident and brave…but I would be lying.  I reviewed the standards for the Novice Division and I could actually do every single movement on the list (at least relatively well) and at the prescribed weights, so I was flat out of excuses.  And I had a workout buddy that said “let’s do it together” so then I was committed.  I was terrified I’d make a fool out of myself but as we prepared and the competition grew closer, I knew I was as ready as I could be.

I was doing this to prove to myself that I could do it. I wasn’t in it to win, in fact honestly all I wanted to do was finish and not quit before the end of each workout.  There were 4 events – 2 on Saturday, 2 on Sunday.  They were “short” and intense workouts – the kind where you can barely breath and you want to just lay down and die.  I came in last in my division out of 23 competitors and I’m totally good with that. I did it!  It’s one of my proudest accomplishments to date!

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So there you go…  I’m not extra special. I don’t have a magic wand. I don’t have amazing energy or motivation.

I’m just an average girl who knows that I love working out and that it makes me feel stronger. So I’ve built it into my life as a habit. That’s what gets me there on the days like today when I’m riding the struggle bus and don’t really feel like doing the work.

Do it anyway. Make it a habit.

 

Acknowledgements:

  • Both Matt & Julie Sillanpaa are trainers at my gym Brick House Fitness in Bondurant, Iowa. I credit Matt for teaching me pretty much everything I know about kettlebells and they both have been a huge part of my fitness journey.
  • Amy Boyd is a trainer at CrossFit 8035 and also has been a huge part of my fitness journey over time, pushing me and encouraging me to do crazy things like compete in the CrossFit MAT Games in 2016. She’s the one that first got me hooked on Olympic lifting.

I Love Many Things…

In my last post I alluded to the fact that I love many things…doing many thing, experiencing many things, you name it.  Some people say my hobbies get in the way of my hobbies…and this is not entirely false.  Ha!

I’m not sure when this dilemma started or how it quite got to the size that it is today, but the struggle is real folks…  LOL… However, I’m not willing to totally give up any one of the things I love just yet.  My “loves” ebb and flow as far as the amount of time and attention they each get, but there are some constants.  This blog post is dedicated to sharing some of my passions and why I love them….and perhaps why I can’t quite cut the cord on giving any of them up.

Fitness:  I developed a routine of working out several years ago.  It started in January 2007 with my soon-to-be hubby, Brian; we signed up to do Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping.  We both had not been working out and with our upcoming wedding in May, it seemed like a good idea to start the path toward getting fit.  We were #soreAF for the first two weeks, but once we got over the hump, life was much better.

I’ll write a separate post on all different fitness programs I have tried over the years – but suffice it to say, this was the beginning of what I’m considering a life-long journey.  I would say that I have a few favorites that I keep coming back to, depending on my current gym membership, timing, and the need for constant variety in my workouts.  I love lifting –both barbells and kettlebells; they make me feel strong and badass.  This is one reason why I love my current gym home Brickhouse Fitness.

I found a renewed love for biking about 3 years ago and that has stayed on the short list; being outside is always good for my heart and soul, and easier on my knees/hips than running.  Kickboxing is also a favorite although it tends to cycle in and out of my routine.  I remember a biking friend asking if I wanted to ride one time (during the summer of 2016…as I was preparing for a CrossFit competition) and I declined saying that I need to focus on lifting workouts for a few months.  She said, but…but…that will take away from your biking time…??!!  And I said, yep, it will.  Ha!  I was okay with that for the time because I had a goal of doing my first CrossFit competition, while they had a Novice division and before I chickened out!

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Sampling of kettlebells used in a workout at Brickhouse Fitness.

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A shot of me (dying) at the MAT Games, my first CrossFit competition, in June 2016.

 

Photography:  This is no surprise based on my prior posts…so we’ll just leave this here…along with a few more of my favorite photos…  🙂

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Reading: I have always loved reading a good book…especially mysteries.  I remember going through all the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys books as a kid (among many others).  The past two years especially I have been trying to make carving out reading time a higher priority.  I love reading and it is just a matter of making the time; I had let it slip over time and wasn’t reading nearly as much as I wanted to.  I pretty much don’t watch tv anymore because I would rather read a good book.

What has also been fun and helpful is that when one of my best friends Lacey moved away from Des Moines to Texas, we decided exchanging books was a good way to keep connected.  We both get a monthly book box subscription called Book of the Month (let me know if you’re interested, I can send you a discount code).  The first of the month is exciting as we coordinate picking our books so we both don’t get the same one (you get to choose from a selection of five).  Once we’ve read our book, we send it along in a care package via Flat Rate boxes at the USPS.  🙂 My “to be read” pile is always high, but it’s been fun reading books together and comparing notes.

I also had started a book club, the Dust Jacket Divas, when I got divorced and we have continued meeting once/month for 14 years now (ack!).  I don’t always make it to book club and sometimes I decide not to read the book as it doesn’t interest me, but the ladies in the group have become my extended family.  My friends now tease me because yep, I’m “that girl” and have a spreadsheet of all the books I’ve been reading.  Hit me up if you need a few ideas!

 

Scrapbooking/Stamping: Many moons ago I tried making hand-stamped cards and I was hooked.  Making cards and scrapbooks make me feel creative as well as it’s a great way to keep memories along with the photos I like to take. At least twice a year, I spend a whole weekend dedicated to working on various stamping and scrapbook projects.  My very favorite is making Halloween cards.  Some years I try to hand make all my Christmas cards (we’ll see how that goes this year…LOL…).  Often I will create some type of scrapbook for each of our big family vacations each year.  I love matching papers and creating a way of capturing amazing memories!

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This is a mini-scrapbook of all the books I’m reading in 2017.

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One of my Halloween cards for 2017.

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Another Halloween card for 2017.

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The cover of a 12 x 12 scrapbook I made for my sister of her trip to Australia.

Travel:  Many of my other hobbies intersect with this one.  I enjoy traveling…and we usually travel somewhere by car so we can take our bikes.  And, of course, the camera always goes along!  This year we actually did one very different type of vacation then normal = we went to an all inclusive resort in Jamaica for my step-daughter’s wedding!  It was a fantastic trip and we had a blast exploring as well as celebrating with Katie & Jake as they got married.

I also took a photography vacation to the Grand Tetons in September (see my favorite images here on SmugMug: Grand Tetons).  Each year my photo buddy, Sarah, and I try to travel together to a photography workshop to keep honing our skills.

We also took a biking vacation with friends to the Cuyuna Lakes area up near Ironton, MN; this was a blast!  We rented a house, explored the MTB trails (gorgeous!), checked out the local brewery and just had time to relax for a long weekend.

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Where we go each year shifts around, but a constant is the fact that we try to escape for at least a week or two throughout the year to places we love or new-to-us places that look interesting.  Often vacation locations tend to revolve around bike races Brian is doing, but not always.  Two favorite travel spots are the North Shore of Lake Superior in MN and Colorado Spring, CO.

Volunteering: Last but not least, I love volunteering and helping others.  Most of my volunteer work revolves around my natural talents, hobbies and interests.  I used to be a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa; I still spend time with my “Little” Shelbi as we have time.  We love our church home, Lutheran Church of Hope – Ankeny and I volunteer on the Production Team there (can you say…computer nerd?!?!) and taking photos at various church events.  I also love animals, especially dogs (cue Lucy and Kona cuteness…see below), so I volunteer as a photographer at the Animal Rescue League of Central Iowa. More recently, I’ve done some volunteer photography at bike races (see my post When Plans Changing = An Amazing Experience) and for Volunteer Iowa events.

So as you can see…I love many things!  These are just a few of my very favorites and at this time, I’m not willing to give any of them up.  That might change and/or my interests may shift…no promises.  🙂  One constant that is weaved throughout all of my loves is spending time with the people I love too – whether its traveling with my husband Brian, getting creative with my favorite scrapbook girls, or biking with my best biking buddies!  There are so many amazing things to see and do!!!