Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

All of us with Neena at a Stop Hunger Now function volunteering in hairnets! Although Evil Genius looks more like a ConeNet

EG had an Indian Princess meeting tour a firehouse. What a blast!

She was quite timid the whole time

Inside a fire truck

She even got to drive!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Almost there!

Halfway through the month of December already, and I only have 35 miles left to go until I hit my 1200 mile goal this year! Excited doesn't really begin to cover it. This is only the 2nd year that I've topped 1000, and while not every mile has been memorable, there sure have been a lot of them.  Makes me feel like

I've also added a bit on the sidebar for 2015 races, since I'm starting to line them up already. And there seems to be a theme brewing. Kicking off the new year Jan 3 with the Harbison 50k in Columbia SC should be a blast.  Then it's time to knock Maryland off of the 50 state list with the Frozen Heart 50k. I have no idea what I'm going to encounter there, maybe snow on the trails?  Who knows. I'm also planning on hitting the full 50 mile limit from the pacer pool at the Umstead 100 this year.   It's going to be a blast! Bring on some trail time.

I was actually planning on doing more road marathons in the spring, but these trail ultras kept popping up as the cheaper and more interesting option. On the trails, you don't set any time goals. Just go out there and have fun, slower is better. unless you freeze your heart off. See you on the trails!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hot Yoga!

I had a unique opportunity last Friday night to jump into a hot yoga class, so I jumped in. My buddy Keith was able to join me too so that was fun. He doesn't normally practice yoga, but really hung in there.  Friday night we had tickets to a holiday thing, but Kelley's mom is staying with us for a few day while the kids wrapped up school for the year, so I gave up my ticket to the holiday thing for her to go. She had a wonderful time, and I really loved the hot yoga class!

We got into the 6:45 pm class at Indigo Hot Yoga in Raleigh. I think Jen was the instructor, the room was heated to 105* and the class was supposed to be an intense 60 minutes. I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

This chick was intense! sadistic, almost evil, and amazingly strong and flexible. Once my body heated up with the room temp, everything got loose and I was able to flex into binds and positions that I can't usually get into. it was so rad. I actually these poses like they look in these totally stolen from google image pics:

and I've never been able to hit those in a colder room. By the time the hour was up we were in savasanah, and I had been pushed way outside of my comfort zone. I was totally drenched in sweat, and my emotions were totally on my sleeve. Finally laying there on the mat I had been pushed so hard in such an unusual way, I gave it all up and got the most amazing release. it was exactly 2 weeks since Gene had passed away (2 fridays ago at 7:30 pm) and I just felt everything process then. I felt like an idiot crying with a lavender soaked washcloth over my eyes in a hot yoga room, but I did it. Every emotion I've been trying to deal with suddenly processed and released.

It was an amazing workout, and the mental clarity I gained is immeasurable. Now all I need is a yogitoes towel and a 10 class pass. It's totally understandable how people get hooked on the heat, I may be one of them now.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Other stuff happened in November too

By the numbers, it went like:

Swim: 20,750 yards, 8 swims
Bike: zero
Run: 74.1 miles, 1 race
Strength: 5 times
Yoga: 17 times

74 miles of running isn't the 100 miles I was looking for, but I did take 3rd place male at the 1 race I did this month. And the other numbers are all pretty good, all things considered. I only need another 98.85 miles of running this month to get my 1200 mile goal on the year!

My longest runs for the month were each 10 miles, 3 of them including one down at Kelley's mom's house. We ended up staying the entire week for Thanksgiving, then Saturday was her mom's birthday. I did some yoga as well while I was down there.

Even getting down there had it's own set of challenges.  After Gene's heart attack thursday night, Kelley went down there Friday morning after the kids had  an awards program at school. Ella got the "responsibility" award, and Evil Genius got "perseverance" fort their classes. When I drove to swim practice at noon, there was a car accident on the highway that left some debris, that of course blew out one of my tires. So saturday before we could leave I had to go drop $500 on new tires. Luckily the Firestone place was next to a mall, so this kind of adorable happened

We also ate at the food court and played on a playground inside for several hours. Eventually, we did make our way down to the lake.

My view for the week

Skeptical selfie with the people's eyebrow

Thanksgiving ended up being a wonderful day with a lot of family time, including this little bit that has all of the cutes you can imagine. We started at Aunt Kathy's little house with all of Neena's sisters and our cousins. It was quite healing for us all to have that much family time again.  And Kathy has a new housepet, a lap goat. Her name is Elsa, she's a week old. the mommy goat had an udder infection so Elsa ended up in the house being bottle fed. She had a brother who didn't make it. So what could be cuter than my little girls holding a 1 week old baby goat?

That face!

Ella is a natural
 Turn down for what? Elsa was really acting skittish around all of those people until Ella picked her up. Then she calmed right down. Her way with animals is pretty scary to me, as a non-lover of animals. I want to have as few as we can get away with, she wants them all inside my house. ugh.

My car started acting all nasty on the drive over to Kathy's, about 30 minutes away. Wouldn't go over 45 mph, trouble shifting gears, etc. After a huge meal I had to drive that old rust bucket for about 90 minutes up to my parents house in Greenville. I got there right after all of the leftovers were put away from their huge turkey meal. I got to spend plenty of time with everyone, and that is the most important part about any holiday for us.

Friday morning I had to get my car fixed, parts and labor came up to a grand - ouch! But it did give me a chance to visit with my grandmother. She turned 90 on Tuesday, and this was a special visit since her health is declining rapidly. When my car was done I headed back to Raleigh.

There's a Taco Mac in Cary now! Ah, that really makes me miss Atlanta. I used to go sometimes when I worked down there. This one was so good! I snapped a vain selfie when I was in there hoping someone else would meet me at the bar. nobody did.

Wouldn't you drink with this guy?

After the graveside service (I know I'm skipping around in time here) we all went back to the house where Gene grew up for some fun time together. Gene's nephew lives there now, and he has restored a 1955 Ford tractor that was really cool. It's still a farm, but they don't have cattle anymore. Lots of fields and a swimming hole, it's a really cool place.

And finally the last thing I have to mention about November is actually a Christmas thing that took place the thursday night before thanksgiving! We like going to this holiday festival every year at Cameron Village, an local shopping center near Kelley's Dad's house.  We get our picture taken with Santa Claus early, with no line, and for free, and do other fun stuff too. Santa pics are on the other camera still.

Balloon animals!

Giant Balls!



Even a magic show!
And of course, Ella found somebody walking around with a couple of Great Dane's on leashes. They looked like small horses, and now that's all she wants for Christmas.  Looks like there will be tears since we are absolutely not getting one! I mean, come on. a great dane?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Remembering Gene

The reason my posting has been so sporadic over the last few months (and non-existent in the last few weeks) is that my family has been dealing with an eminent loss. Kelley's step-father Gene Saunders has been fighting kidney cancer for a few years, and about 5 weeks ago the doctors at Duke had to tell him that the medication wasn't working to shrink the tumors anymore and they would have to stop treatments. Last Thursday 11/20 he had a heart attack and went into the hospital, and Friday 11/21 he passed away. Gene was married to Kelley's mom for 30 years. Since he was getting treatments at Duke, they came up to our house at least once a month for a few nights and we all enjoyed getting to spend that much time with them. Gene leaves behind one daughter Aimee from his first marriage with two adult grandchildren, and Kelley and her sister are stepdaughters with our three grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by all.

The funeral was on Sunday 11/23 in Newberry SC. Christopher, Aimee's oldest kid, spoke very eloquently about his grandfather. Also Preacher Campbell delivered a grand southern eulogy and sang a couple of old hymns. On Monday 11/24 Gene was buried at the family plot in Troy, NC near his parents and a couple of his brothers. I got to speak and sing there, and Kelley gave one of the most passionate and genuine speeches I've ever heard. She is terrified of public speaking, so that made it even more amazing.  The best way I can think of to mark Gene's passing here is to retell what I can remember of my speech at his gravesite with some pictures of him.

Eating s'mores with a young Evil Genius

Stories about Gene:

I first met Gene when I was still 20 years old, and I'm only a few months away from hitting 40 now. He guided me from being a dumb college kid into a man, then into a parent, always with helpful advice and a steady hand. We treated each other over the years as both a parent/child and as friends, and our time together is something that I will always cherish.

In 1998 I had just graduated college, and Kelley and I were moving from Boone down the mountain to Greensboro. My dad came up to Greensboro to help us unload the uhaul and I told him: "ok, you're going to meet Gene for the first time. This guy has already had 3 heart attacks and it's kind of a hot day today, so I don't think he's going to work us too hard. If we just do what he says we should get out of it without too much damage." Then, everybody met, and we unloaded and unpacked. By the end of the day, Dad and I were both drenched with sweat, our knuckles were dragging the ground, and we were ready to pass out. Finally, Gene said "ok, I guess we can stop now", so Dad said to me "I thought you said he wasn't going to work us too hard because he's already had 3 heart attacks?" and I told him that what we got *actually was* Gene going easy on us.

Most of us will never know what a hard days work looked like to Gene, and that's a blessing. He had an ability to work hard, and lead by example in a way that meant you were going to learn what he was doing while he was doing it, kind of a leadership/teaching hybrid. Pretty amazing skill.

Gene was raised on a cattle farm in Troy NC and then went to NC State. He played football in high school, and was pretty good at it, but most people knew that. However, most people didn't know that he walked onto the NC State football team! Then he walked back off after only two practices because "them boys was huge and I didn't want any part of it" as he told me once. Gene never did back down from a challenge, but he knew when it was in his best interest to back down.

Immediately after graduation, Gene went to work for NC State in the weed control department. His degree was related to farming, and work was all in pesticides and herbicides. We almost didn't get to have Round-Up sold in NC because Gene's group couldn't pass the testing for it. Finally someone did find the product and they were able to pass it on to the Extension Service for testing.

Making pottery with EG
Gene told me one time that the fastest he ever had to fire anyone on the job was only 20 minutes in. Can you imagine? Showing up bright and early for a first day at your new job at 7 am, and then by 7:20 you're already headed back to the unemployment line. Gene just said that he couldn't get any work out of the guy and had no time to waste on it. Crazy!

Gene's comfort zone was always working with his hands. Anything from gardening to making stained glass  or pottery, to playing guitar he could do anything with his hands. Sewing, crochet, woodworking, electrical, plumbing, you name it he could do it. Gene retired when he was only 50, he took off every October for the last 4 years that he worked and went down to Prosperity SC to work on building his house. Once the house was finished, he still had 2 years of vacation time saved up so he cashed in and moved down there. The house he built is an incredible log cabin right on Lake Murray.

I love spending time in other people's comfort zones. Gene and I worked on projects together all the time. Just a few months ago he was in Raleigh for a cancer treatment, and then we were laying hardwood flooring (remember what I said about a hard days work? he never slowed down) that afternoon. Eventually after doing so many projects together you just know what the other person is expecting. We had to step outside to cut the floorboards on his saw, and when we had glued down enough to block access to the door that got interesting. I just spread the next part of the glue, then darted around the house, out the back door, and around to where the saw was. By the time I got there, a board was sitting in an open window waiting for me to cut it. No instruction needed, I made the cuts and handed him the boards he needed back through the window. When I saw he needed more glue down, I came back around the back door and got back on the glue. I doubt that I'll ever have that kind of unspoken communication with anyone else. We just knew the patterns and what the other person needed.

When you got into Gene's comfort zone you learned the simplest way to solve any problem. You learned that any problem can be solved by breaking it down into small, simple solutions.

Gene carving a turkey for Thanksgiving
Words cannot express how much I'm going to miss him or how much I loved him. Gene and I were as close as any other father/son pair out there. I'm grateful for the time we got to spend together and the lessons I learned from him.

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trumpet shall sound, and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Gene was a big fan of traditional country and bluegrass music, so this hymn was an appropriate choice. After Kelley talked we all sang a few choruses of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" to close the ceremony.  After the ceremony we all went back to the old farmhouse where Gene was raised. His brother's son lives there now with his wife. In true southern style, there was a ton of food there including a chicken (and a veggie) pot pie where moonshine was the secret ingredient.  It was amazing.

Kelley, Aimee, Meri, and Neena on the farm

Thank you for all of your kind words and prayers as our family goes through such a difficult time. We all stayed with Neena at the lake house for the rest of the week. Thursday was Thanksgiving at the home of one of Neena's sisters, then Saturday was Neena's birthday. Those have to be a separate post. Now that we're all back in Raleigh and I've been able to collect my thoughts I can realize how much of an impact he had on our lives

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

The youngest brooding teenager ever

Road trip!

Somebody got sick on the ride back home
 We went to visit Kelley's mom & stepdad over the weekend at the lake and had a blast. These car shots were the only pics that I got, however. Solid road trip.

Then for dinner one night earlier this week, we made waffle falafel's! They were actually really good.

It's a falafel waffle

Friday, November 14, 2014

Jumping for Pictures

While we were in Greenville visiting my parents last weekend, someone had told Mom about a place called Sky Zone. It ended up being a real highlight of the weekend for pictures! This place was amazing. It has zones set up for different trampoline fun. The ones they were not interested in included dunking a basketball after jumping or playing dodgeball on a trampoline floor. They did however completely flip out over the foam pit and the trampoline floor!

The floor and walls are all trampolines

the action shot!

Evil Genius getting in on the action too

Daddy get this jump!

This may be my favorite. Running? that hair?  come on.

running to the wall

and running back

sad EG

Bounce and jump into the ball pit!

Ella got pretty good going into the foam pit!

EG got the hang of it too

it was a giant foam pit

We all had a great time in the Sky Zone and the kids have been talking about it all week. Afterwards they were so worn out they were actually well behaved.

The entire weekend was a blast. We had a lot of fun with my parents, I got to visit with my best friend from high school for a bit, and we got to hang with Morgan and Martha saturday night.