Running Monologue

Stories from the trail…

take it outside

the ghost of christmas past

the one about the van

I know I’m setting myself up for endless jokes about Grateful Dead bumper stickers and fur on the floor hippie vans, but I have always, always, always wanted a VW van.  It’s probably only going to add to the misconception that I am a wild, flower-in-my-hair liberal hippie, but I don’t care.  I am, in fact, a wild, flower-in-my-hair girl, but liberal I am not.  Neither am I a hippie.  But whatever.

The point is I’m really excited about this van.  I rarely, if EVER, want things.  I don’t have a list of things that I must have.  For the most part, I really don’t like things—you know, stuff.  Junk to clutter up my house and drawers.  Things disguised as “conveniences” that really just take up space.  Holidays stress me out to the max because I hate all the STUFF that comes with it.  I would love to have a holiday that was about the tree, a fire, good food and hanging out.  This is a concept that really tears some folks up—presents are apparently really important to some.  But for me, the ultimate gift is time.  Always has been.

Yet I have found myself coming back again and again to the VW van.  I should add here that if I were not married to Rob, I still would not have the van because I just don’t buy things.  It’s a major undertaking to purchase new underwear and socks, so a van would probably rank under “stuff that’s more trouble than it’s worth,” and that’s OK because that’s just who I am.  But since I am married to Rob—the man who loves to buy things, especially things that require fuel—I am willing to accept this one purchase.

I hope we use it as much as I have long imagined we will.  I like to travel and see things.  So do the kids.  I imagine us driving (no more than 60 mph, mind you) to different cool places across the US and stopping along riverbanks and at the foot of mountains and setting up camp beneath the stars in our groovin’ van—complete with awning and vinyl webbing lawn chair.  (I am so buying a white and blue-green striped lawn chair with vinyl webbing that conforms to my butt and will eventually wear through.  Heck, it might even come with one.)

I see sweaty, mud-caked runners coming in from a leg of a relay run or stopping in for refueling and rehydrating during a 12 or 24-hour endurance event.  I see running crazy long trails across mountains and then coming back to a bed and heater and a cold beer in the camper.  I see kids hanging out while Rob and I race, either on foot or bike.  I see random, spontaneous trips to the great outdoors.  That’s my fantasy anyway.  It will be interesting to see if that’s what we actually do.  Sometimes, obligations get in the way, but with this, I’m hoping we can say no to some of the “shoulds” and just take off on the open road.


No obligations. 

play as practice

fistfuls of summer

This month I’ve been like a little kid whose just been told he can have as much candy as he wants.  The only catch is that he has a very short amount of time to grab as much as his grubby little hands can hold.  In short, I’ve been grabbing fistfuls of summer and stuffing them in my pockets like a greedy five year old hoarding as much of the sweet stuff as I can carry.

Isaac- triathlonIsaac’s second triathlon in Sparta– he came in third in his age group and had a blast.  For a guy who really doesn’t get into organized sports, he can rock the swim, bike, run.

art club signArt Club at the Surry Early College is off and running for its second year.  An amazing group of kids and an excuse to stop and make stuff– every week!  What could be better?  So far we’ve been working on contour drawings and figure drawing with models.  I’ve been harboring a secret desire to learn more about illustration, so it’s nice to have an afternoon to work on it– and with free instruction from some pretty talented kids.

selfie in the airportSelfies (I hate that word) at the airport.

We were waiting to board for a long weekend in Orlando where we finally visited Epcot and Medieval Times.  I have to tell you that I assumed Medieval Times would be a fairly cheesy tourist trap, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how much fun we had.  In the words of Isaac, wearing his crown, a stein of Sprite in one hand and a chicken leg in the other, “This is my kind of restaurant– fighting and eating with my hands!”  Yeah.

There were jousting matches and sword fights and we got to cheer for our knight– the guy next to us was a HUGE fan of our knight, but it was all in good fun, and Harper Lee won Queen of the Tournament when our knight offered her his banner after winning his match.

outside the lego storeAnd there was the much anticipated stop at Downtown Disney for the LEGO store.

The rest of the month has been mostly school, school, and more school, which– surprisingly– has been much better than I had imagined.  I was so worried about the transition into middle school and third grade, but so far, this has been one of Isaac’s best years, and Harper Lee is enjoying the new freedom of middle school– student council, community projects and soccer.  But during the in-between– after school and on the weekends– we’ve squeezed out a few more drops of summer sweetness and savored the ever shortening days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKickin’ up his heels at Stone Mountain


One of our many swimming holes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARob strumming his guitar for us around the campfire

swimming in mitchell riverAnother favorite swimming hole in the Mitchell River

sunset at mitchell riverThe sun setting on the other side of the river

view in franklinA long weekend with good friends in Franklin, NC– the annual fall writing retreat.  This was the view from my bedroom.

Yesterday, I swept piles (seriously, PILES) of acorns from the back patio.  It’s one of the first sure signs of fall.  That and the red berries on the dogwood tree.  Turning the air conditioner off for the year.  Opening the windows.  The sound of crickets at night (they’ve been here all along, but now I can enjoy the sound with the windows open).  The cool air as we sleep.  The sun setting earlier each night.  All signs that another summer is– for real this time– coming to an end.

As I was running this evening, I could feel just the slightest change in the air around me.  And it occurred to me:  “I love running in the fall.”  Actually, I love the fall.  Period.  October has long been a favorite month.  And fall brings cross-country, race season, pumpkins, Halloween, Harper Lee’s birthday, corn mazes, open windows and fresh air, light sweaters and fallen leaves.  All the things I love.  Really, really love.

I’ve been feeling an impending sense of doom for about a month– maybe even longer because I’ve been dreading winter.  Last winter was such a dark time for me, and I guess I’ve been afraid of all that descending upon me again.  Never mind that I’m in an entirely different place now.  I’ve been, in some ways, dreading winter so much that I’ve actually felt a little panicked– a sort of “hurry up and enjoy life now because it’s all going to go to hell pretty soon.”  Yeah, I know– dark.  And maybe a little twisted.  But there it is.

The predictions for this coming winter are that it’s going to be a cold, snowy one– maybe even colder and snowier than last year–, and while those forecasts have struck fear in my heart a few times, I think I’m warming up to the idea that it doesn’t have to.  Each season of the year– each season of our lives– is different, isn’t it?  Just because winter has been hard for me in the past doesn’t mean it has to continue in that direction.  In fact, when I think back, I can remember quite a few things about winter that I have enjoyed.  A lot.

Christmas, of course, and long trail runs with a friend in the snow.  Curling up in front of the fireplace.  Hot apple cider and hot cocoa with marshmallows.  Homemade vegetable soup and freshly baked bread.  Quilts– lots and lots of quilts.  Good books.  Long Sunday afternoon naps.  Snowmen.  Sledding.  My favorite hat and gloves.  Boots!

So my goals for the next few weeks are to:

Enjoy the fall– every crisp, delicious day.

And look forward to winter– to build the anticipation.  This winter, I’m going to change my attitude and HAVE FUN.

If you dread winter like I have been, why not join me in writing down all the things you’re looking forward to about this winter?   I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love a good snow day?

I’m not even going to sweat the dreaded make-up days in June.  Just let it go, man.  And happy Fall!


Last night, I dreamt that I was late. As usual. Only this time, I had left one of my children at a library camp, which had ended half an hour earlier, and I was still an hour away and attempting to pick up the second child from… somewhere weird. But the main thing is that I was stressed and panicked and really, really angry with myself for not being where I was supposed to be.

I also dreamed that Harper Lee tried out for several academic clubs and was devastated to learn that she did not make the math team but was accepted as a member of the vegetarian meal planning team.

School starts tomorrow. Can you tell?

I’m just a little bit anxious. Thankfully, I went back to work three weeks ago, which really ticked me off at the time. I mean, my kids had nearly a month of extra summer. Now, however, I’m happy that I settled back into a routine before we started getting them settled back into theirs.

Harper Lee begins middle school this year. And Isaac is entering third grade. If you live in NC, you know what that means. It’s going to be a time of big transitions– my favorite thing in the whole world. (That sound you hear is Rob laughing hysterically.)

I’m trying really hard to go with the flow. (I realize that trying really hard is sort of the antithesis of going with the flow, but we do what we can.) And I think I’m doing pretty well—nightmares aside. It’s a new phase for us, particularly for me. I feel a little weepy that we are moving from little kid phase into–scary Psycho music in the background–MIDDLE SCHOOL. For me, middle school was sort of like… well, let’s just say it—hell. I hated every bloody moment of middle school. If I don’t make it to heaven, I’m pretty sure I will end up roaming the halls of A.C. Reynolds Middle School. If I’m really bad—like I end up being a psycho killer or something—I’ll probably be at that same school, except on a Friday night at a middle school dance.

It will be different for Harper Lee. She is an entirely different kid. And I admire her immensely. I even helped her streak her hair blue the other day. She was worried that her teachers might get a bad first impression and think she is a “rebellious street kid,” but I assured her that they would probably not think that. I like that she is comfortable being exactly who she is. I hope that she stays that way. Let’s face it—school isn’t always the place where being who you are is OK.

So it is with more than a little trepidation that I send my children off to school each year.

But I’m going with the flow here…

And it’s all good.

As our last week of summer wrapped up, Harper Lee and I volunteered on Saturday at the Continental Divide Trail Race that our friends, Jason and Alison, put on every year. We always look forward to running the finish line and handing out the awards. This year Harper Lee got to take photographs of the runners as they raced up crazy, mountain goat trails, and she helped with first aid. There was a bit of excitement this year when a nest of yellow jackets wreaked havoc at one point along the course, but everyone came out of it, in the end, just fine. Plus, Alison made quesadillas post-race, and I met some new and interesting friends.

CDTR startThat’s one thing that trail racing is sure to offer—new, and VERY interesting, friends, one of the many reasons I love it.

So, now the house is quiet. Everyone is tucked in early. The backpacks are packed. The lunchboxes are lined up and waiting on the kitchen counter. The multiple information forms are filled out and signed. The coffee is in the maker and ready to brew.

And I am finally sitting down and taking it in– this new phase that is about to begin.

What if tomorrow is the beginning of something wonderful?

 Harper- CDTR







baby isaac

My dearest little baby boy,

Words cannot express how deep is my love for you. To put it down would be impossible. It would come out all clichés. Even when I whisper to you at night as you breathe your heavy sleepy breaths, the words are not enough. Inadequate. Not quite right. Maybe there isn’t a word or a sound or even an image that can capture the feeling I have in my chest, my stomach, behind my eyes every time I think about you. Maybe the feeling isn’t meant to be caught or labeled or contained. Perhaps, instead, it is meant to fill us up and spill out in eternal waves of the inexplicable.

Perhaps, instead, I can only let it wash over us—this unnameable thing and feel its presence when we are curled up in bed, reading Hardy Boys mysteries by lamplight or when we are pulling tomatoes from a vine in the garden and our hands touch as we drop them, juicy and gold, into the bowl. Maybe it is in this moment only. And in this one. And this one.

It will just go on forever.

drooly baby


giraffe head

sand pit

isaac- mud pies



Happy Birthday 

sweet july

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA An early morning visitor

One evening last week, we came home to a visitor helping himself to our apple tree.  I had been under the misguided assumption that a fence would keep animals out of my garden, but I was obviously wrong.  Once he saw us, he hopped quite nimbly right over the fence as if it weren’t even there.  A few mornings later, I took my coffee out onto the back porch, and he was back.  Apparently, fences and Freckles are not deterrents for apple thieves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“This is the best dough I’ve ever made.”

True to our plan, we are baking and canning our own food like crazy.  Personally, I’m getting pretty sick of canning and freezing tomatoes.  Every year I swear I will NOT plant as many next summer, and every spring I plant more.  So far, I’ve made several quarts of pickles and cucumber relish, frozen bags of shredded zucchini for bread and soups, canned and frozen tomatoes for sauces and stews, and made several batches of peach pie filling.  The rest we’ve eaten fresh from the garden.

Harper Lee never tires of kitchen experiments so we’ve had good bread, homemade pretzels and lots of delicious fruity desserts.  The apron she’s wearing was a gift from Grammy.  Rob’s grandmother made it, and it’s a new favorite thing.

I also promised a list of meal ideas and resources for those of you joining us in the real food revolution, and obviously the best way to keep from doing something is to tell you I’m going to.  But better late than never…

Here are some very simple– because that’s how I roll– meal ideas for you and family.

Summer Salad

Friday Night Pizza

Veggie Frittata

These are the ones we’ve tried from Barbara Kingsolver’s website, but there are dozens of others.

Some other really simple ideas that we love:

Roasted grape tomatoes with a sprinkle of olive oil and parmesan cheese

Fresh cucumbers, green or red peppers, tomatoes and onions mixed

Frozen or fresh raspberries blended with lemonade

Any kind of fresh bread and good cheese

Hummus and raw veggies

Grilled fish– my kids LOVE salmon

Grilled kabobs of chicken, button mushrooms and fresh pineapple


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’re ready for our close-up, Mr. DeMille.

The highlight of our summer, besides much-needed family time, was the Foothills Arts Council’s production of Little Shop of Horrors.  We spent most of June and July in rehearsals, and wrapped up with three shows last weekend.  Both Harper Lee and I have been bitten by the acting bug, and this is something we will do again and again.  Even Isaac got in on the act by running the spotlight at one of the dress rehearsals.  He loves the behind the scenes work.  It just goes to show what good things can come from stepping outside your comfort zone once in a while.  Besides, we got to wear lots of eyeliner and red lipstick.  Aren’t we glam?

And then…

Isaac turned 9! 


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We, naturally, had a science party on Monday with lots of chaos.  I planned several experiments for the boys, which fairly quickly degenerated into a messy tangle of eight and nine year old boys covered in shaving cream, corn starch and food coloring.  Sometimes I feel as though our party invitation should come with a disclaimer and waiver form. 

They had a blast! 

Want to try your own?

Elephant Toothpaste

Food Coloring and Cream

Mentos and Diet Coke

Homemade Moon Sand

After everyone had been thoroughly washed down with the garden hose and were barefoot and shirtless, we released helium balloons with our names and address, so we might be able to track the distance traveled.  The word’s still out on that one. 

There were great science gifts (plus some fake dog doo, which was extremely popular) and a “lab experiment” cake that I was quite pleased with.  It was a super easy ice-cream sandwich cake if you’re ever looking for a kid-pleasing dessert idea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then, like the flash of a lightning bug in the summer darkness, July was gone.  Another beautiful memory to tuck into our growing collection.

jumping in…

the lesson for the day… and JOURNEY camp

The lesson for today is—whatever it is that you have been saying you want to do, you should go ahead and do it. Today. Because no matter how hard you think it will be, it probably won’t be as bad as you imagined, and you’ll almost always be glad you did it in the end.

I have been saying FOREVER that I really wanted to move my blog from GoDaddy to WordPress. For one thing, I hate GoDaddy’s advertising. I am clearly NOT their target audience. And for another, posting has always been a colossal pain in the butt. It took so long to load photos, and the site was often uncooperative, often for hours at a time. Posting sometimes felt like a monumental task.

I complained and griped and cursed and said, more times that I can count, “I hate this site! We have to move the blog.”

To which Rob replied, “Yeah, I know. It will be a huge project, but I’m willing if you want me to.” Rob is my tech guy. Otherwise, I probably would not be blogging. I probably wouldn’t have a computer at all. If he thought it was going to be a gargantuan task, it was probably more than I wanted to get into.

Then, two weeks ago, Rob calls, as I’m heading out the door for VBS and says, “We have a big problem.” That’s always my favorite kind of phone call.

Turns out, GoDaddy’s quickblogcast was going down. That night. A mere few hours from the phone call. And ten years of blog posts was going with it. Of course, I had saved my posts in Word documents, but I freaked out.

I went to VBS, and Rob got to work on moving ALL of my blog posts. It took just a couple of hours, and was much simpler than he had imagined. All the hours of painstaking work we had imagined turned out not to exist (thanks to WordPress), and I now have an amazingly simple site that loads photos automatically, is fairly intuitive (something really important for a non-tech person such as myself), and it looks pretty. If only we had done it sooner.

I’m looking forward to adding some features that, up until now, had been too much of a pain to put up, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the blog continues to change and unfold. Ten years. Wow.

By the way, several folks have asked me about Backyard Adventure Camp. I have decided not to offer a summer camp this year simply because summer sort of got away from me. The kids got out of school late, we had two summer camps, VBS, and a beach trip, and Harper Lee and I are participating in the community theater production of Little Shop of Horrors. Plus, I go back to work THREE weeks earlier than my kids. Like I said, it sort of got away in terms of how many things I’m actually able to do.

So we are foregoing summer camp at our house. At least for this year. Last year was a blast, so I would love to do it again at some point.

However, there is a new camp experience that local folks should be sure to check out. Journey Camp is right here in Elkin and is offering one-week (or multiple week) sessions throughout July and August. I went out to the camp earlier in the summer to look around and meet with the camp founder, Jennifer Bracey. The amount of love, energy and hard work that has gone into this camp is amazing, and she has a real passion for what she’s doing. I’m excited that I got the chance to meet with her and talk about her vision for the camp and the children.


Here’s a quick peek at what it’s all about:

With positive sensory integration in the background—but at the heart—of all that we do, the goal of our inaugural year at JOURNEY Camp is to connect with the natural rhythm of your child’s nervous system. We will provide a safe, sensory-rich, and sacred space that will not only encourage them to explore the world around, but also empower their world within.

As we journey together, we hope to instill in your child a sense of adventure, the experience of wonder, and the courage to embrace diversity in themselves and in others. Whether your child will be with us for one week or many, we are excited about growing and learning together, and we are honored that you’ve chosen to spend this time with us!

For more information, you can find Jennifer and Journey Camp on Facebook or at Soul Compass Center.  I can tell you that there are goats, a garden, a labyrinth, a pool, an art shed, a meditation room, a workshop and LOTS of room to play outside.  It is totally my kind of place.

And, as promised, I’m putting together a few “real food” ideas and recipes for you guys to try. I’ll post those in a couple of days.

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