The Firsts and the Lasts: A Mom’s Perspective

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My son is graduating from high school in a few weeks.  This isn’t my first rodeo as my oldest daughter graduated from high school five years ago and is, in fact, graduating from college next week.  However, for some reason, this high school graduation of my son is hitting me harder than the graduation of my daughter. I’m constantly on the verge of tears.  I’m not usually a “crier,” and I’m not liking it one bit.

I’ve decided that it is because no one tells you about the “lasts.”  When you become a parent, you are all consumed with the “firsts.”  The first smile (is it true happiness or just gas?).  The first time your wee one sleeps through the night (Hallelujah and praise the Lord!).  The first time they roll over, eat solid food, cut the first tooth, say their first word, take their first step, enjoy the first birthday cake, make their first friend, attend their first day of school.  The list goes on and on.

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First Day of Kindergarten

This year has been spent documenting my son’s senior year of high school.  There have been lots of lasts in this year. The last first day of school while in high school.  The last homecoming.  The last basketball game. The last prom. The last track meet.

I went into a sort of depression during mid-basketball season because my son injured his toe and missed several games. I was out of sorts and grumpy. I went to one home basketball game while he had to sit on the bench because of his injury. While I was proud of him for energetically cheering on his teammates, I couldn’t stand not watching him play and didn’t attend another game until he was able to be back on the court.  This was his LAST YEAR of playing high school basketball and I was being cheated out of watching him play his game.

But another side of me knows that this is what kids are meant to do–grow up. They are meant to venture out in the world, find their niche and passion, and hopefully (at least from this mother’s heart) marry the love of their life and make me a doting grandma in several (and I do mean SEVERAL) years down the line. While we are experiencing a lot of “lasts” presently, we still can look forward to many more “firsts.”

So as I experience a mixture of happiness, pride, sadness and melancholy during this graduation season, I know my son is doing exactly what he is meant to do and that brings me joy–tears, too, but mostly joy.  Someone will probably need to remind me of this joy when our youngest child graduates in two years. Ah, the circle of life.

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Prom 2015

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Five reasons why today is a good day to be me

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1.  It’s Friday and I’m not at work.

I am a teacher and am on spring break.  I really don’t think any further explanation is necessary, do you?

teacher spring break

2.  Spring has sprung!

I’m not a fan of winter.  Or cold.  The first snow is kind of exciting, but then I’m done.  This winter seemed to have been especially long because we had NO SNOW DAYS off from school.  Can you imagine this atrocity? The only time we received a good amount of snow was on the weekends.  What good did that do us?  None, I tell you. Of course, we could have had 10 million feet of snow like Boston.  No, thank you.

winter is over

3.  The sun is shining.

I know you may think this is a repeat of number 2, but alas, you would be mistaken.  Just because it is spring in Kansas, does NOT mean the sun would be shining.  We have our fair amount of rainy, cloudy days in spring.  Sometimes we even have SNOW. A couple of years ago we had snow in MAY.  That’s just not right.  However, today the sun is shining, birds are singing and the future looks bright.

future looks bright

4.  It’s March Madness!

Not only is it March Madness, but my two favorite teams play today–The Wichita State Shockers and the KU Jayhawks! I have been hearing some smack about their mascots–the WuShock and the Jayhawk.

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I don’t understand this hatred because frankly there are much worse mascots.  Consider Xavier’s blue blob:

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Or let’s take a gander at Delta State’s Fighting Okra:

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I don’t want to hear anymore about the ridiculousness of the WuShock and Jayhawk because your view is unfounded.

The only bad thing about this tournament is that WSU and KU are on a crash course to play each other this weekend. If they both win today, then they will play each Sunday and one team will be eliminated soon into the tournament. This match-up has been long awaited by many people in our state of Kansas. I would like to see them play each other, but not in these circumstances. The only thing I can say is let the best team win!

5.  God loves me.

Once again, this needs no further explanation.

So what makes a good day for you?

Who are you rooting for in the NCAA tournament?

Battle of the Bean 5K Recap–AKA The Death Wish Race

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At the first of the year, I was perusing our area’s race schedule and saw The Battle of the Bean 5K race to be held at the end of February. When you sign up, you join either Team Coffee or Team Cocoa.  Coffee and running all in one event? How could I resist?  My husband volunteered to run as well as a few of my friends and coworkers.

The race was scheduled for February 28.  Being that we are in Kansas, I knew the weather would be unpredictable.  We often have all four seasons in a week, so we knew it could be 60 degrees on race day or we could be in the midst of a major snowstorm.

When the race was about a week away, I started watching the weather forecast.  The forecast was beginning to show a chance of snow.  As the time grew closer, the chance of snow grew greater.  I am not ashamed to admit that I am somewhat of a fair weather runner–when the temperature drops I tend to head indoors to the YMCA track to do any running.  Add in snow and possible wind?  That is a definite NO to any outside running.

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I probably would have decided to skip the race and just sleep in that morning, but Mr. Caffeinated Ginger was successful in making running in a snowstorm sound like a fun and delightful experience.  “It will be great! We can do this!  It’s only a 30 minute or so race!  I’ll take you out to breakfast afterwards!”  He had me at the word “breakfast.”

I went to Target a couple of evenings before the race to see if I could find warm running gear to help protect me from the elements. Luckily they had all of their winter clothing on clearance, so I filled my cart with gloves, a hat, thermal tights, a fleece lined sweatshirt, and a gaiter.  What is a gaiter, you may ask?  Well, I didn’t know what it was either when I bought it–it just looked like something I would need.  I actually had to go home and Google its identity.  Truly.  I’m cool that way.  A gaiter is a tube-like piece of fabric that fits around your neck and can also be pulled up over your mouth and nose to protect you from the elements.

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Disclaimer:  This is NOT a picture of me.  I have more hair.

I know many of you are thinking, WHY would you run in a race that requires you to wear such an accessory?  Trust me–the same thought was going through my mind.

It took me probably an hour the night before the race to figure out what I was going to wear that would allow me to run while also keeping my body parts free from frostbite.  After trying on different combinations of clothing, I decided to wear a short-sleeved dri-fit shirt, followed by a fleece-lined sweatshirt with a fleece-lined running jacket on the top half of my body.  On the bottom half, I decided to wear my fleece-lined C9 running tights with a pair of sweats over the top.  Two pairs of socks would be worn on my feet. The outfit would then be complete with my neck gaitor, running beanie (complete with hole for my ponytail), and headband to cover my ears.  Mr. Caffeinated Ginger swore I was going to roast to death.  This comes from the man who was contemplating wearing shorts to the race.  Talk about crazy!

The next morning we were rudely awakened by our alarm at 6:20 a.m.  We looked outside and sure enough there was already snow on the ground.  After putting on our layers and grabbing our hot coffee, we started the 25-mile drive to the race location.

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When we got to the race location, there were very few people outside milling around–most racers were being smart by staying warm inside the coffee house which was the host for the race. We spent a little time warming up and running a little to gauge the traction on the street.

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In case we ended up frozen like Han Solo was in Star Wars Episode 5, we took one last picture together so that our children would remember us for posterity.

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Then we were off!

I learned pretty quickly that the best way to not slip and break a hip on the street was to NOT run in the tracks made by other runners, but to stick to running in fresh snow.  I really did not have any issues with slick spots.  There were a couple of places that were getting icy, but volunteers were there to warn runners as well as sprinkle sand on those areas.

I started off running the first half-mile with the gaiter over my face.

Battle of the Bean Marti on course

This is me not loving life at the moment.

However, I soon learned that I could not breathe with it over my nose and mouth.  At first I wasn’t sure if my lack of oxygen was due to the gaiter or the cold air, but as soon as I pulled the gaiter off my nose and mouth, air soon returned to my lungs and life was good. Well, maybe not good, but definitely better.

The one saving grace about this race was that the wind was not blowing.  There was a slight breeze when we turned south and west which caused the snow to pelt our eyes a bit, but it wasn’t anything unbearable.

What WAS unbearable were the worthless gloves I was wearing did nothing–I repeat NOTHING–to keep my hands warm. I soon was feeling the effects of the 7 degree temperature on my hands. They turned painful very quickly.  For the first two miles I was sure that frostbite was setting in and was constantly trying to figure out a way to get them warm to no avail. Finally during the last mile they decided to go numb (probably because the tissue was dying off) and I could concentrate on running and not my fingers.

When I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I knew that I would live to see another day.  I sprinted (well, more like waddled since I had on so many layers–think Michelin Man) to the finish line.

Battle of the Bean Marti Finish 2

I was more than five minutes slower than my usual 5K time, but I wasn’t going for a personal best–I was trying to survive to live another day.

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I could have kissed the finish line.

Mr. CF and I went inside the coffee shop where we were offered coffee or hot chocolate (coffee, duh!) as well as food. When we went to get the print out of our results, we were pleasantly surprised that Mr. CF had won second place in his age group and and I had won third place in mine.  Perseverance (and a little crazy) pays off, my friends!

Battle of the Bean with medals

As promised, Mr. CF took me out for a nice hot breakfast which included LOTS of hot coffee.

Marti Iphone pics March 2015 757We then slipped and slid all the way home very slowly as the roads were fairly treacherous and we did see several cars that had ended up in the ditch.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting in front of the fireplace watching college basketball and trying to defrost my fingers. (Note to self:  Buy better gloves.)

Is a race in the snow something I would actually pursue because it’s FUN? No. but I have to admit I feel epic and fierce for completing it.

What are the worst conditions in which you have raced?  Do you enjoy running in the snow?

Beware of the Cemetery Rodent

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It’s been said that many times truth is stranger than fiction and that was the case today when I spotted an unusual sight on my run.

My usual running route takes me through our small town’s cemetery.  The cemetery is a perfect place to run–it’s quiet, there’s little or no traffic, and it is just an all-round great place for meditation and contemplation while I try to convince my legs that they are NOT dying and can take me one. more. mile.

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Today was a perfect running day as spring has sprung here in Kansas and not a moment too soon!  It was sunny and 68 degrees with a slight breeze.  Nirvana!

As I wound my way through town and headed into the cemetery, imagine my surprise when I saw this sitting just inside the cemetery gate:

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An empty pet rodent cage.

Apparently someone in our little community decided that Sparky the __________ (insert the rodent of your choice–hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, mouse, rat) was not “pet material” and would be better off in the wild.

I admit that I am not a fan of rodents.  I am a dog and cat person.  I could also be a goat person, but Mr. Caffeinated Ginger has nixed that idea.  But rodents?  No, thank you.  However, to take your “pet” from your home and just release it into the wild?  Sounds kind of irresponsible to me.

Then I got to thinking–the only two reasons a person would just release a pet into the wild would be (1) they cannot find another person to which to rehome their pet, or (2) the pet is vicious and cannot live with humans without threat of said humans losing fingers, toes or noses.

My imagination, of course, takes off from there and I start imagining our quiet, peaceful little cemetery being haunted by something like this:

scary rodent

Now THAT is scary.

That being said, I’m not going to change my running route just because there might be a rabid, terror-inducing rodent now living in the cemetery.  I’m much too brave to do that.  However, if you hear screams of horror coming from that part of town one day, please know that it isn’t ghosts that are haunting me, but the reality of the Cemetery Rodent.

Just a Couple of Turkeys

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Our town has a couple of turkeys.  I know you’re thinking, “My town has MORE than a couple of turkeys!”  But, no really, my small town has a couple of real living and breathing turkeys that have decided to make our town their home, and our townspeople have adopted them as our unofficial mascots. Ironically, the turkeys appeared in town a short time before Thanksgiving.  Whether they thought their chances of becoming Thanksgiving dinner were less here in town since it’s illegal to fire a firearm within city limits, we may never know.  But I do know I was very surprised when I first saw them the day before Thanksgiving. In the midst of Thanksgiving preparations, I decided to go for a run so that I could create a calorie-deficit so my pie-eating could be guilt-free the next day.  As I wound my way through town on my regular running route, imagine my surprise when I came upon these two birds: turkeys while running They really weren’t too concerned that this strange human being who was breathing heavily and sweating bullets was taking photos of them.  They just nonchalantly crossed from one side of the street to the other, gobbling as they sauntered away. Of course I, knowing that tomorrow was Thanksgiving and what most people were going to dine on for their holiday dinner, wanted to yell at them, “Run for it!” Quickly I learned that these birds had been hanging around our town for several days.  Soon they were being spotted from one side of our fair city to the other. turkeys stopping traffic

Stopping traffic

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Heading to Pizza Hut for lunch

Turkeys by city building

Paying their water bill at the city building

turkeys peeking in school

Peeking in the windows of the elementary school

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Waiting on the trains just like the rest of us common folk

One night a few weeks ago, my husband was outside and quickly came inside stating that “something” was in the trees across the street from our house.  That “something” was our two resident turkeys who decided the trees were a good place to roost for the night.

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How the turkeys got up in the trees is a mystery. They returned the next evening to roost again.  I stood in my driveway for several minutes as they strutted around the bottom of the tree and flapped their wings.  However, they didn’t get up in the tree until after I went in the house and wasn’t watching them, of course.  Apparently the magic of tree roosting is an Ancient Turkey Secret.  They could show me but then they’d have to kill me. A few days before Christmas, the turkeys wandered through my yard. I think they had heard that I had already bought ham for our Christmas dinner so so they felt confident that their chances of being “invited to Christmas dinner” were pretty slim. turkeys in my ditch Our turkeys even have their own Facebook page and currently have over 300 followers.  They also have been featured on one of the local news stations. These fowls are the most popular thing to hit our town of 1600 residents since, well, perhaps ever? A couple of days after Christmas, I was headed out of town and spotted the turkeys over by the arboretum which is one of our town’s claims to fame (besides the turkeys, of course).  They were counting their blessings that both Thanksgiving and Christmas had passed and they were still in possession of all of their feathers. turkeys by arb I don’t know how long the turkeys will call our town home. If they ever come to a tragic end, I do know that will cause sadness and grief for their fans.  But in the meantime, we will continue to enjoy the antics of our fine-feathered friends.

A Trio of Firsts: Pro Basketball, Sub-30 5K, and Rick Springfield

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October was a month of firsts for me.

1.  I attended my first pro basketball game.  Basketball is one of my favorite sports–I played it when I was young (even though my kids don’t believe me) and currently enjoy watching my son play high school basketball.  Even though I’m not a big fan of watching sports on TV, you had better not interfere with me watching the KU Jayhawks or the WSU Shockers play ball if their games are televised.  You would be facing the wrath of the Caffeinated Ginger and that wouldn’t be pretty.

However, I have to admit I was extremely unimpressed with my first pro basketball game.  The Oklahoma City Thunder came to town to play the Toronto Raptors.  The Thunder was missing a few of their key players because of injuries, including Kevin Durant, so after being in the lead in the first quarter, the rest of the game definitely belonged to the Raptors.

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Besides our “home” team being blown out of the water, the basketball game was, well, boring. It lacked the atmosphere and enthusiasm that I’ve experienced at college basketball games. Not only that, but HOW much money are these basketball players paid?  To MISS their free throws? Seriously…

I’ll just stick to high school and college basketball, thank you.  The game didn’t keep our attention, so my youngest daughter and I had to take pictures such as this to keep us entertained, and no one wants anymore of these!

abby and marti2.  I ran my first sub 30-minute 5K!  Woot!  Woot!  I’ve been chasing that elusive time for a couple of months so I was so pumped to prove to myself that I could rise to the challenge.  This 5K race, which benefited a local food bank, was held in a beautiful park that is surrounded by a creek.  The course led us around the park as well as on top of an adjacent dike.  It was a gorgeous fall day–sunny, cool, with very little wind.  Perfect running conditions.  When I sprinted to the finish line and saw my time, it was cause for celebration!

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As an added bonus, the race t-shirt had a picture of a running peanut.  You know you want one.

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3.  I spoke to Rick Springfield.  No, not in my dreams–live and in person!  And he spoke back!   I have been a fan of Rick Springfield ever since I was a young teenager. I am a little bit sheepish to admit that I have seen him in concert five times and enjoyed every minute.

A friend of mine had procured two tickets to see Rick Springfield’s Stripped Down show at a casino in Oklahoma.  The casino was celebrating their 30th anniversary and brought in Rick to do a free show for their VIP members.  My friend ended up not being able to go, so knowing I was a huge Rick fan, she offered me the tickets. And who was I to hurt her feelings by saying no?

I took my best friend who also shares a love for Rick.  The show was held in the casino’s bingo hall. We got fourth row center seats—the first three rows were reserved for VIPs. (How a person gets to be a VIP VIP, I don’t know…) We were pretty much the youngest people in the crowd–by FAR. I now consider myself very lucky that I can walk without a walker or cane, can breathe without an oxygen bottle, and also still retain all of my natural teeth.  I’m also pretty sure that most of the crowd had no idea who Rick Springfield was, however they got free tickets so by golly they were going to go anyway.

The show was great–he sang and also told stories about his life and the stories behind his songs. He has a great sense of humor and seemed to enjoy entertaining the crowd.

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THIS IS THE BEST PART–After the show he came back on stage for a question/answer session. I got to directly ask him a question and he directly answered back to me and LOOKED AT ME! Rick LOOKED at me and TALKED to me! Swoon! Swoon!

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My life is now complete.

I Mustache You a Question–5K Race Recap

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Have you heard of the Mustache Dash 5K?  A good friend of mine and I participated in the Mustache Dash 5K last weekend. This race benefited Numana, which is an international hunger relief organization.

The Mustache Dash encourages participants to wear mustaches (surprise!)–real or fake–during the race.  You could buy or grow your own mustache, but the race organization also provided a package of fake ‘staches in each race packet. There was definitely an assortment of mustaches going on at the race.  I had tried to grow mine out before the race to no avail,so I had to settle for a fake one.

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Attractive, no?

I have to admit I am a fair-weather runner, especially when it comes to colder temperatures.  Unfortunately God had a sense of humor and the temperature was a wee bit chilly to say the least.

MusDash Temp

Did you notice it says FREEZE WARNING?  And it’s not just talking about plants, folks.

I bundled up in a long pair of compression tights, a long-sleeve dri-fit shirt and dri-fit jacket, gloves, and a beanie hat that I bought at Target that even had a hole for my ponytail (best $13 bucks I’ve spent lately). However, before the race I was still cold and my friend and I were seriously considering the state of our sanity.

But then the starting whistle blew and we set off with approximately 600 of our closest friends.  And you know what? Running in the cold wasn’t bad–it wasn’t bad at all! Usually I’m so uptight about my breathing that I have a hard time finding my groove, but this time my mind was so focused on getting warm that I completely forgot about my breathing and just ran. That elusive “runner’s high” wasn’t so elusive!

The course ran through the downtown streets of the city and along the river–very similar to the 5K race my husband, son and I ran on Labor Day.  Except for having to dodge a lot of goose poop, it was a beautiful run.  I even conquered the hills without a single whimper.  I am a runner, hear me roar!

I was feeling pretty good about time.  I had just PR’d at a race a couple of weeks earlier.  I didn’t know if I would PR again, but my goal was to definitely get under 30 minutes again. As I turned down the last street to run the last 150 yards or so, I saw the clock reading 29 minutes and change.  So I put on the afterburners and sprinted (well, it was sprinting from my opinion–to others, maybe not so much) across the finish line under 30 minutes.  Success!

At the finish line, they handed out the coolest medals ever!

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My friend is a beast and ended up getting first in our age group.  I received fourth place.  Out of 29 runners in the age group, I didn’t think that was too shabby.

MusDash Results

But I think the most exciting part of the day was the presence of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile!

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I mean who doesn’t like the Wienermobile? We even got to sit inside the WienermobileIt was definitely a fangirl moment.

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And get this, we got to take home our very own Wienermobile whistles!

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Life just doesn’t get much better than that.

Of course, what do all health-conscious runners do after a race?  Go celebrate with donuts and hot coffee, of course!

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