Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

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Time is fun when you’re having flies

“Time is fun when you’re having flies” is something my high school biology teacher used to say. He was a little… different. But he was also one of my favorite teachers.

I CANNOT believe how long it’s been since I posted anything on this blog. Over a year. Whew.

So much has happened. I went whitewater rafting and ziplining for the first time. Rafting was fun. Zip lines are terrifying. My niece showed Tango for the first time in 4-H and won Grand Champion in her performance classes. Old man still has it. Welcomed a new nephew (number six!) in August. His name, Everett Yates, makes me think he’ll be a poet. Finished another triathlon in October.

The biggest thing/change, however, came in December when I welcomed a new puppy into my life. She’s changed so much for me. All good. Her name is Lou.

Lou, my puppy, posing in her camouflage bandana.

This is Lou sporting her new camo bandana so the cats can’t see her.

That’s it for now. Hopefully, there will be more to come. Like a post about all the ways having a puppy is pretty much the same as having a kid.


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It will never be just one

I was talking to a friend over dinner the other night, and she was telling me how excited she is at the prospect of becoming an aunt.

“I’ll get to see the kid for an hour and then be, like, see you later!”

I’m sort of paraphrasing there, but the hour struck me.

It will never be just one.

When your niece/nephew is a baby, you’ll want to cuddle and sniff their baby heads forever. You’ll relish the times they fall asleep in your arms, even when your arms fall asleep because you’re trying not to move so you don’t wake them. You’ll stick around for hours listening to their chatter as they get a little older. You’ll spend lazy Sunday mornings building Lego castles with towers that reach above their heads and take pictures on your phone because they insist it’s important.

You’ll watch them (and sometimes gasp quietly; other times swear under your breath) as they move from training wheels to two wheels and shout “Watch this!” as they race over the wooden ramp their dad thought was a good idea at the time. You’ll run with them as they race down the street, trying to beat you to the next block. You’ll spend hours throwing the football and making sure that everyone gets equal turns. (And then patiently wait while someone inevitably has a meltdown because the other someone got one extra throw.)

You’ll spend hours trying to find the perfect birthday or Christmas present, even though you know they’re not going to spend more than five minutes with it because they have a hundred other presents. But it has to be just right because they will know it’s from you.

You’ll dance around the living room holding hands and spinning until you’re dizzy because that’s just what they want to do.

When you get your courage up (and they can take themselves to the bathroom), you’ll take them out for Sunday brunch. Just them. No parents. You’ll ask about school and listen as they tell you about the scary principal (who’s not really scary). They’ll tell you wild stories as their imaginations take root and grow. And you’ll listen intently because, by now, you’ve realized this time is going to go by too quickly.

When you really get up your courage, you’ll take them for a weekend. Alone. And it will be big and scary (for you, not the kids), but it will be oh so much fun. Even though you don’t do anything in particular.

You’ll drive two hours just to stand for three more and watch them swim in a meet even though you know it’s going to be hot and sweaty and stinky in the natatorium because it’s important that they know you’re there. That you’re present and cheering for them every step of the way.

You’ll spend an extra 30 minutes simply soaking up all the super-ultra mega hugs of doom your nephew gives because he keeps saying, “Just one more!”

It’s interesting, being an aunt. I never imagined the ways it would change my life, and I never imagined just how much I could love someone else’s children. It’s sometimes hard to articulate exactly what it means to be an aunt and what it entails, but I can be clear on one thing. It will never be just one hour.


One of these characters is programmed to frown when you tell him to smile.



Whisky Tango Foxtrot

We needed a team name when we signed up to do the HUFF 50k relay, so I suggested Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Because WTF am I doing running any kind of race, especially in the middle of winter… on the trails.

If you’re in a hurry and need to get to the point of this post, the point is… I finished. Done! The final tally was just over 11 miles for each of the relay team members (which, if you do the conversion and math, is actually more than 50k) on a course that was pretty hilly (I felt like most of it was uphill) on a day that saw a high of 27 degrees (thanks, Mother Nature, for being cold for the first/last time in December).

Huff 50k relay finisher medal.

See the flame in the back? That was one of the many heaters they had trying to keep the runners warm. This medal means I totally made one of my goals this year–earning a finisher medal.

I’ve been attempting to train for this race for about 10 weeks. Even as a newbie, I knew that it wasn’t near enough time to actually train, but I also knew at some point that I would be able to finish. It was simply a matter of how long it would take me to complete the course.

Training has been tougher than I imagined. But then, I’ve never done this before, so I don’t know what I imagined it would be like to train for a race. At the same time, it’s been very exciting. I’ve been having quite a lot of fun out on the trails. I’d never really walked/hiked the trails at my favorite park; I’d only ever ridden my bike out there. So it’s all new to me. I discovered I rather like it.

The race itself was pretty fun. The day–though super cold–was sunny and beautiful. The trails were very well marked and not too muddy (I’d read about a few years where runners struggled with the mud… and the waist-deep water). I’d heard about the aid stations on this run, and they definitely did NOT disappoint. They had water (with a light frosting of ice), Gatorade, peanut butter sandwiches, M&M’s, gummy bears, pretzels and several other things I didn’t take the time to explore. At the end, they had at least 15 different kinds of homemade soups (I think; I didn’t count) and all the goodies you could want. There were homemade cookies at the finish line that were the best I’ve ever tasted (I think; I don’t usually run 11 miles before I eat cookies).

I made it the first five miles with no problems whatsoever, and I was excited to note that I was within my goal time (which was completely arbitrarily set). About mile 6.5, I realized I was getting a bit tired. OK, a lot tired. And it came on suddenly. I walked. Then I started to run again. Then, around mile 9, I glanced behind me because I could hear someone coming up to pass, but I couldn’t tell how far away they were. As I looked back over my shoulder, I had a slight misstep that made my right knee hyper extend. It wasn’t too bad–just enough that it felt like someone jabbed a stick behind my kneecap (so kind of bad). Instant swelling. And a mental, “Oh, shit. I should never have done this in the first place.” I had to walk a lot after that. I still had a decent pace, and I finished only three minutes over my goal time.

The knee was pretty sore that night and the next day, but it was back to the new normal by day two. Surprisingly (at least to me), my left quad was what hurt the most in the aftermath. I’d had a bit of trouble with the left calf during the race because I over compensate with my left leg to make up for my right, but it was the quad that hurt for days after the race. It’s cleared up now, but it made me very aware that I have a lot of learning to do as I move forward.

By forward, I mean forward to my next trail race later this month. This time, it’s only a quarter marathon (6.55 miles), but it’s at night. No worries, though. I bought a headlamp!

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Happy holidays

I’m freshly back from a whirlwind of holiday traveling, and I’m trying to catch my breath in the short lull before the new year. I’m not complaining though. I’m blessed to have family and friends to visit during the Christmas season, and I try to enjoy as much of it as humanly possible.

My sister’s kids (the niece and one ‘phew) received a Twister game. Despite not having played it in over two decades, my inner competitor determined that I need to school the six and eight year old. I’m not sure my PT would approve the moves I made in order to secure a win, but what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

My sister gave our nine-year-old nephew (one of my older brother’s kids, if you’re following along) a catapult. I mention his age only because this particular catapult was for ages 14 and above. An important note on the box that my sister apparently overlooked. My ‘phew asked for my assistance in putting the thing together, and I happily sat down at the table to get to work. The happy lasted for about five minutes. There were SO MANY PIECES. I spent nearly two and a half hours putting that thing together; the nephew bailed after about an hour, but there was no way he could have done it himself anyway.

After I got it together, I flipped the lever, and… the thing barely flopped over. I was completely annoyed after spending all that time (also, the instructions were extremely difficult to follow because there were no words, only pictures). Then, I realized, PHYSICS. I had misplaced the fulcrum. I had to enlist the help of another adult to get a few pieces off and then re-positioned. We tested the catapult with a gum ball, and we nearly took out a window. Holy crap. There was serious fire power in that “toy.” Again, for ages 14+.

I sadly didn’t get a picture of the catapult, but I did snap a few others.

Upturned Christmas tree.

Manning knocked my tree over. Granted, it’s fairly small, but he should not have been jumping on it. This is why I can’t have nice things!

Pic of kids.

It would take a miracle for these two to look the same direction and smile for a picture. There was obviously no Christmas miracle.

Swinging at the nearby park.

Playing on the swings at the park with my niece. What else do you do when it’s a whopping 50 degrees out? Definitely no white Christmas this year. I’m not disappointed.

Picture of the moon on Christmas morning 2015.

The moon about 7:00a Christmas morning.

Cats in front of packages.

Manning (grey) and Mowgli (b&w) think they’re master wrappers. They’re not. They’re a nuisance when it comes to paper.

Cat and remote controlled dinosaur.

An epic Christmas morning battle between a cat (ironically, in this case, named Zen) and a robotic Velociraptor (the new interloper). My money was on the orange beast. (Also, I think it’s important to note that Zen isn’t mine, lest you think I’m a crazy cat lady.)

December has been a busy month. It’s a good end to a long year that had a lot of ups and downs. I’m looking forward to starting 2016 off on the right foot and seeing what the new year has in store. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, there will be a few mistakes.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” ― Neil Gaiman

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North Carolina and my ruined childhood

I set out last week to go to North Carolina to spend a few days with my brother and his wife. When I mentioned the trip to one of my friends, she excitedly asked, “Are you going to where they filmed Dawson’s Creek?” Having never seen that particular show, my reply was somewhere along the lines of, “Obviously not! That would be a boring/dumb trip.” But that’s exactly what we ended up doing.

This was the view from the Southport Ferry as we were on ur way to say hi to Pacey, Joey and Dawson.

My view from the Southport Ferry as we were on our way to say hi to Pacey, Joey and Dawson.

While we were talking about the numerous shows/movies that have been filmed in NC, my brother randomly said, “You know Andy Giffith was kind of a jerk.” Uh, excuse me. The sheriff of Mayberry was definitely not a jerk. He was one of my childhood heroes. On a related note, I also watched Matlock religiously because I had an eighty-year-old’s taste in television as a preteen. (Diagnosis Murder, anyone?)

Except then I asked Google if Andy Griffith was a jerk, and there were enough reports to back it up that now I’m unsure. I thanked my brother for ruining my childhood.

While we were in Southport, we went to a Christmas shop that is open year-round. It’s in an old house, and it’s packed to the hilt with all sorts of Christmas ornaments and other accoutrement. Literally packed in every nook and cranny. I ventured upstairs and turned a corner only to see Santa and Mrs. Claus in bed together. The whole tableau creeped me out. I think it was mostly the wooden faces frozen in smiles that didn’t quite meet their eyes.

Santa and Mrs. Claus dolls in a bed.

See? Creepy, right?

I haven’t seen my “little” brother (I use quotes because he’s younger but a good 7 inches taller than me) in over two years. That’s a travesty that I had to remedy! It was so much fun hanging out with him for a while. We’re still apparently two peas in a  pod. I’d never before met his wife’s family, but they were marveling at how similar we are in a number of different ways. For example, we both fold candy wrappers in to neat little squares and have an affinity for peanut butter cups. We both hate mushrooms. We both love James Bond. We share a sense of humor. We blush the brightest shades of red with the slightest provocation. The list goes on.

My brother asked repeatedly if I was ready to move south. As impressed as I was (there are trees everywhere!), he lost me when he told me that it gets to over 100 degrees and stays that way for weeks in the summer. Uh, no thanks. I’m a delicate flower, and I’d melt in that kind of heat. Especially since it’s a muggy heat. Ugh. I will, however, plan to visit more frequently. His in-laws have promised me a tour of numerous places they were outraged my brother didn’t show me. So much to look forward to next time!

***Edited to add… For anyone keeping tabs on my knee, it survived 22 hours in the car in a relatively short period of time. If you count the trip to the beach and back, it was really more like 27 hours in the car. That’s huge. I had so much trouble sitting in the car after the surgery that I was limited to a two-hour radius from home. It’s come a long way in the past year. I’m a bit sore today (one day after getting home), but it’s totally bearable.

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The burrowers

Burrowers. Not to be confused with The Borrowers. Never saw that movie, but I know it’s out there.

The last few weeks–ok, about 10 or 11 or 12 at this point–have been a bit difficult. In a protective measure, I’ve unconsciously drawn in to myself. I’ve spent more time alone in the last two months than I have… ever, really. I can count on one hand the times that I had someone over or I went to someone’s home. Both scenarios on one hand. And I haven’t been out in all that time.

This is unusual for me. To spend SO MUCH time with only my own thoughts to occupy my mind. There are actually a number of good things that have come from this time, but what’s on my mind tonight are what I’ve decided to call the burrowers. Though, even as I write this, I realize that’s not the nicest sounding name/description.

What I’m referring to are the people who have burrowed into my life and who refuse to leave. Even when I’m disengaged. As I slowly start to actively engage again, I can’t help but be immensely thankful for these people. The ones who reached out and leaned in. The ones who sent inquiring texts and uplifting messages. The ones who told me my self-imposed hermitude (it’s a word because I just used it) needed to stop. Those who didn’t disappear under the guise of giving me my space.

It’s these people who mean the most to me. I’m humbled by the magnitude of their caring. And eternally thankful that they choose me.

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Slogging (my version of running)

Slogging. Short for “slow jogging.” It’s what I actually do when I tell people I’m going on a run. I never go fast enough to legitimately call it a run, but I do go slightly faster than a fast walk.

As soon as I crossed the finish line at the Little Miami Triathlon, my tri partner and I started making plans to do the HUFF 50k trail run in December. Not sure why since I barely made it across that particular finish line… It’s fine. You can say it. I’m nuts.

I’m not going to defend myself. I tell myself I’m nuts every time I step out on to a trail to start a training run. But I’m not totally insane! I will be doing the relay version of the race. It’s 50k split three ways, so I only have to do roughly 10.8 miles. Since I did basically half that in the triathlon, I figured I could work my way up to be ready by mid-December.

I am not now nor have I ever been a runner. I don’t really know that I enjoy running all that much, but I do enjoy the feeling I get when I get to the end of a training slog. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Not sure what, exactly, because I have nothing tangible to say I did anything at all (MapMyRun app stats aside). The only thing motivating me at this point is the finisher medal that comes with completing the race. I made it a goal to earn a finisher’s medal this year, and this is my chance to make my goal. Yes, I could have picked something a bit easier (read shorter), but that’s not really how I roll.

The tricky part to training for an actual race is how to do it without angering the knee. I sat down and hobbled together a training plan that incorporates sage wisdom (don’t start by running 5 miles at a time 5 times a week), my PT exercises (keep doing those leg presses and deadlifts) and cross-training (just keep swimming, just keep swimming). I’ve never had a training plan for running before, and I don’t have a coach now. It’s on me to figure this out, and it’s been a little rocky so far. Lots of stretching, rolling and icing that I don’t regularly do anymore. Until now anyway.

The one problem I didn’t foresee was the pain I experience in my “good” leg. Pain right down the shin and to the outside of the ankle into the foot. Problem is, you see, I don’t have a perfectly even gait when I’m walking, much less when I’m running. I put a lot (a LOT) of pressure on that leg when I’m going up/down hills, so I’m currently working on how to even out the load and not cause any real damage to my one good leg. It’s a work in progress. But it’s forward progress! I managed to do four miles on hills in under an hour last weekend. It’s not record-breaking pace, but all I’m hoping to do is complete the race. I think I can. I will.