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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Trek Across Maine 2014

The Trek Across Maine this year coincided with a flurry of cramped schedules, end of school bustle and to do list longer than my leg.  Well, my legs aren't very long so a to do list longer than Sandi's leg.

A number of varying logistical issues had us stressing the major time commitment of the Trek this year.  It is nearly a four day event since we would need to be on the bus to Sunday River (the start) on Thursday at 2 and not returning home until later Sunday afternoon.  We made an executive decision to skip the first day and meet our team on day 2.  

It turns out this was a stroke of brilliance since day 1 was fraught with rain and cold.  Seventy miles of peddling and contenting with such factors made the decision very easy.  

Our modified Trek then had us leaving from our house Saturday morning and riding our bikes to Colby College (where day 2 ends).  Colby College has tent city where teams can gather and hang out on the lawn all afternoon.  Since we had an injured team member who was traveling by car to tent city with food and such, we threw our backpacks in her truck and rode our bikes the 55 miles (which, ironically, is the same distance as day 2 of the Trek).

Maya had us take Squeaky the dolphin on our adventure.

One of the fun parts about the Trek is the social component and the amazing amount of support, from traffic assistance to huge spreads of food at any of the 3 rest stops each day.   Being that we were riding on our own we had none of that and had to pack all our stuff.  The first 30 miles were literally nothing but hills, owning to one of the hardest rides I've ever done (excluding riding up Cadillac Mountain).  We also saw a snapping turtle and I got chased by 2 pit bulls while I was riding uphill.  I carry Mace for this sort of thing but I had left it at home (of course) and had to out peddle a pair of canines determined to eat my calves for lunch.   There are no pictures of that.

But you get the idea...

When we got to Colby, we came in a different way from the Trek route and found our way to our teammates dorm where they had all of our check-in materials.  Then we made our way toward the finish area to stow our bikes but the only way to get there was to join the Trek route.  All these spectators were yelling, "You did it! You made it!" and all I could do was laugh.  I felt a little like a poser but had to tell myself, well we did ride here and soon we were in the finish line chute accepting congratulations.

At the finish line we found a lemon.
Then it was time to get into dry clothes and hang out with our team for a few hours. (We had the BEST tent city pit crew this year and our tent didn't just not suck- it rocked!  Thanks Jaimee and Ann and Luke!!)  Better late then never. 

Team photo in our new jerseys:

Our team ended up as 18 people and we raised almost $13,000!  Nothing better than a good cause that is also this much fun.

Speaking of fun, I really needed some time away and some hearty fun.  And time on my bike always restores my soul.  There is always plenty of fun to be had with this guy around:

Getting ready to head to Belfast on the last day.

The ride to Belfast (day 3 for everyone else, day 2 for us) is beautiful and the most challenging of the 3 days.  And it was not even close to as hilly as what we did the day before.  It is just beautiful, pastoral and lush as you traverse the rolling terrain.

Favorite parts of day 3:

-Seeing 2 iPhones charging unattended in the hallway of the dining hall during breakfast.  This is the kind of trust and safety that exists among the Trekkers.

-Having a chicken run across the road right in front of us leading me to go over and over possible versions on the why did the chicken cross the road during the Trek Across Maine? theme.

-Seeing all the people, especially the kids, that come to the end of their driveways with signs and cowbells and cups of coffee to cheer on the 2,000 plus riders.

-Watching our friend Patrick, who has a prosthetic leg from a sky diving accident and was doing his first Trek, muscle his way up a huge hill.

-The cheerful "good mornings!" and joyful contentment of the riders throughout the miles.  When someone asks me, "How are you?"  and I say, "Great!  There is no where else I'd rather be!" and they grin and agree.  It is just such a happy event.

A mile before the finish line we met up with some of our similarly paced teammates at a designated area and hung out before riding in as a group.  It is actually one of my favorite parts when you are all done riding and people haven't all scattered yet.  The sun was shining and we just sat around chatting and stretching and talking about the highlights of our ride.

And then we rounded up and the 8 of us rode to the finish line where they forgot to announce us as a team and I caught sight of my mother who had come to watch us finish and had no idea it was us as we rode by.  The thrill of coming into Belfast and the throngs of cheering people never gets old.

As soon as the put the medal around my neck I couldn't wait to give it to one of the girls.  As soon as we saw them we each handed them a medal and they were overjoyed.  Now they have a green one each from last year and red one from this year.
It was 110 miles instead of 180 but it didn't matter at all to us.  All that mattered is that we raised the money and we got to have fun doing the Trek.  And we are already signed up for next year.   There is plenty of room on our team.  Anyone?  Anyone?  You, too, can eat free lobster rolls on Belfast harbor next Father's Day...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bar Harbor: gifts bestowed

Sometimes I forget how lucky we are to live so close to the amazing place that is Mount Desert Island, home of Bar Harbor (and other wonderful towns) and Acadia National Park.   We try to enjoy it as much as we can before the rest of the world clogs the roads, Inns and eateries (like when I rode my bike up Cadillac Mountain last spring while the Loop Road was closed). This weekend we visited the island on a most spectacular and sparkly summer-feeling day to enjoy this gem of land surrounded by a most brilliant blue sea.  

We decided our kids were ready to hike.  To actually hike.  This has been disproven many times in the past but felt perhaps the time was now.  (Wait, is that the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results?) After all, just a couple of weeks ago they hiked through the bug-infested forest and lived to tell (and complain) even if Maya hiked 50% of it on my back.  We would have cold water, graham crackers, granola bars and lots of cheer.    Don't granola bars and cheer soothe any ill?

Our children would be like their mothers from whence they'd come:  they would be beguiled with hiking.  

Oh and for at least a quarter of a mile they were.  Oh the magic of the woods!  And no bugs!  Oh look at this animal burrow!  And that cool stump!  Are those woodpecker holes?  Amazing.  I want to lead the way!  I can follow the blue dots!  Look at us, we are hikers!

We had arrived in a blissful motherhood haven, at the intersection of what we love and what our kids love/tolerate.

And then the damn path had the nerve to go UPHILL.   

Now, for any who have hiked in Acadia National Park you will agree that even the biggest "mountain" is more like a large hill and most of the trails meander up to a peak.  They beckon a hiker forward gently, rather than asking one to scale the side of a cliff (although I do think there is one trail that sort of does that but we were not on it).  This hike was up a little, over a little, up a little, over a little, with lots of fun rocks and roots to scurry over.   It was 1.5 miles long which was rather ambitious but not in any way what I would categorize as strenuous.

But alas, our children got hot.  No recollection of the frigid winter (or chilly spring for that matter) would allow them celebration of the sun on their arms.  They got tired.  They wanted to go to the beach.  The graham crackers were too dry.  As we started to go uphill, things started to go downhill.


I don't want to be too specific about the truly depressing 20 minute period that had one child wailing in the forest, threatening to go off on her own and intentionally get lost, in a manner that no one in those woods needed or wanted.  I won't tell you about the massive disappointment of a well-laid plan gone south and the true fear of what the teenage years will look like in a house of all girls.   I won't tell you about the poisonous negativity one of our children couldn't help but spread over the rest of us, popping our balloons of happy contentment with smug satisfaction.

We divided and conquered, there was a brief (unintentional) moment of being on the wrong trail while separated and then we came back together, apologies were made, the negativity had been bled from the system like a pump being primed, and we tried to move on.  This time down the mountain.

I think we made it .40 miles.

It is hard to know, I tell you.  Hard to know indeed.

There was some hearty tree hugging happening on the way down and appreciation bestowed on the woods even though they held such dreaded uphill climbs that would make mothers want to take their children up them. 
Then we found our way to a random, hidden beach complete with mud flats, warm rocks to bask on and heart shaped rocks!  Simply put, there was more joy there.

In all my years living in close proximity to MDI, I had never taken the time to walk through the Asticou Garden.  Given the day and the time of year for the blooming azaleas, we made a point to stop and walk through and I am so glad we did.

Our little woodland nymph.

All in all, it turns out Mount Desert Island is not just a place of beauty, nor is it just a place mothers bring their children to inflict pain.   It is a place that reminds us of all that is exquisite and lovely about living in Maine and surviving its winters, where a breathtaking seascape is around every next bend and to behold the wonder of how much an ice cream can cost and how much it can cheer a child to have her drink served with a plastic mermaid atop the straw?

For us this weekend it was also a place to remember that, tears and imperfections are a part of the whole, that spending your life intricately woven with three other people means sometimes failing one another, intentional and unintentional hurt that sometimes leads to crying in a peaceful forest or whining at a restaurant because, even though your meal was served on a FRISBEE (for goodness sake) it wasn't the color you wanted.  And when the dust has settled and the tears have dried you are left with the sweet redemption of love and forgiveness.

That and the Bar Harbor Brewing Company which we now love.  May I recommend their Real Ale?


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

spring flings

Life has been a tad bit nuts here lately.  Here is some blogger catch up. 

Nothing says spring more than short sleeves and feeding a fleet of ducks in the harbor with Grandma.


Okay, so maybe daffodils are a little more representative of spring, but did I mention BABY ducks?  I mean, c'mon...
 Maya is a very enthusiastic duck feeder.  And she wearing cowgirl boots.
 Also, apparently nothing says disobedience of a town ordinance like harbor duck feeding.  We saw this sign once the bread bags were empty.  No arrests though for tampering with water fowl.
 We love days poking around Camden with Grandma.

Spring in Maine is also marked by degrees of bravery to enter the woods.  Had we had a thorough understanding of the bug situation in pines, we certainly never would have attempted it.  It was literally a swarm the entire time.  Our arms were exhausted from swatting and even the "big guns"  (the bug spray with Deet)  didn't help much.  We probably should have turned back when I couldn't even get a picture in the parking lot without arms going in every direction to ward off no-see-ums but I am not really accustomed to the "turn back now" mentality.  So we went. 

I kept saying to the girls, "Just keep going!  We will rest at the top and have lunch.  There will be a breeze up there and no bugs!"  What a liar I was.  It was worse on the top of the mountain and they literally couldn't have a picnic.  We basically hiked down as fast as we could so they could eat in the bug-free car.  Good character builder.  Except for me who was trying to be the mature adult and not cry with Maya on my back and bugs trying to get in my nose, mouth and ears.  

 We were never so happy to return to our bugless yard.    When kids play in packs at our house (which I delight in saying is quite often)  things very quickly turn to mud.  I get it.  There is so much to love about mud.  Except scrapping it off your entry floor.

 Ella's softball season has been short and rainy with lots of cancellations and we kind of dropped the parent ball and getting pictures this year.  But I did manage one of our softball girl.  It was really fun to see how improved she was from this last year, stronger, more focused and with more grit.  She swings hard and like she means it this year.
We have had the joy of playing with baby Ava while her mom helps in the dugout with the team.  Maya, who often feels like the tag-along kid sister with Ella's friends, needed Ava to adore her the way she does.  Maya will sit with her for extended periods of time making her giggle and feeding her those dissolving baby puffs (which Maya often pilfers on the side because she thinks they are so tasty).

One softball game, I was sitting chatting with a mom during the game and when it was over, her daughter came over and grabbed a snack out of her mom's snack bag.   Maya watched as the girl opened up a bag of beef jerky and began to heartily eat it.  Maya leaned over to me, very concerned and asked, "Is that girl eating dog food?"  I nearly died.

And two last unrelated and cool things:

After nearly 10 weeks of no wine on my elimination diet, Sandi poured me a glass from this bottle that turned out to be one of the best wines I've ever had.  Now, I can't fully attest to truth of this statement- it could just be that phenomenon that happens where absence greatly heightens the return of something- but this was like one of the top 5 best glasses of wine I've had.

(Side story, I experienced this phenomenon previously when I was 17 and was diagnosed with Type I diabetes.  I had been so very sick and was on a liquid diet for days as we waited for my blood sugar to come down.  When I could finally eat I choose a cheeseburger off the hospital menu and when it came it was literally the best burger, best food, I had ever eaten in my life.  I kept offering bites of it to people who were visiting me and they kept looking at me with ever increasing doubt as I devoured it.  Several days later as I was getting ready to be discharged, it came back on the menu and I ordered it and awaited it with anticipation.  It tasted awful.)

 And lastly, look whose in this month's Woman's Day magazine?  Our dear friend Matt works for Darling's, which is a very community focused car dealership and they do lots of cool stuff around Maine.    They have the Darling's ice cream truck that raises money for different charities and it is such a cool and fun thing to be a part of.  Two years ago Darling's donated a day of ice cream truck donations ice cream truck donations to one of Sandi's anesthesia classmates who was undergoing breast cancer treatment during school.  I think it is so cool that a national magazine did an article on this really awesome company and all the work they are doing to make the world a better place.  Ella, Maya, Kaylee and Kendall came to help out on the truck and this picture made it into the article.

And one last catch up: although I haven't taken any garden pics this year, my garden is just as much a splendor to me as last year and I am continually amazed at what the frozen Earth can produce.  

 Okay, phew.  You are mostly up to speed now.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

an explosion of spring

Inevitably, reluctantly, spring finally came.  Stunning blossoms and vibrant green grass that brags of its sunlight diet has replaced the worn, brown landscape of early spring in Maine.  It has been a slow start, then a rainy start when a glance ahead at the week at Intellicast would show a rain icon as far as the eye could see leading me to wonder if we lived in the Northwest instead of the Northeast.

But alas, all is forgiven when a morning run means lilacs on the dawn breeze, when the the woods thicken with the most spectacular gradients of green that seem to be only available at this time of year and when I can walk out to my garden with a kitchen knife and cut chives or mint when I'm making supper.

I can almost forget ground hard like stone and being cold.  Almost.   After all, I was still wearing my winter coat (my DOWN winter coat) to baseball practice last week to keep warm.  

Spring came so late that it had a lot of catching up to do!  Suddenly everything in my gardens has exploded on an accelerated schedule and I have felt behind the bus.  I have been mowing and weeding, transplanting and mulching like a mad woman and loving every minute.  Add to that baseball for Maya, softball for Ella, work, and the endless end-of-year activities at school (field trips, field days, parties, performances, etc.) and I don't even have enough room on our family white board to keep track of it all. I have moved to a sheet of stock paper listing out each day of the week with its corresponding obligations.

I've also been riding my bike as much as I can to get ready for the Trek Across Maine which is NEXT WEEK already!!  Sandi and I get to leave town together for 3 days of riding together (along with our awesome Gold's Gym Trek team).   We did a 50 mile ride this weekend and, because it is so infrequent that we get to bike together, I was reminded all over again how much fun we have on our bikes.  I am really looking forward to getting away.

It is not too late to donate!!  No amount of money is too small and it all goes to the American Lung Association.  They hope to raise $2 million and most of it stays here in Maine.   If you want to sponsor me, please donate here.  Thank you so much!

In other news, I am starting to reintroduce food from my very restrictive, anti-inflammatory elimination diet.   I had some very encouraging lab results recently and it made me feel like all my work is paying off.  That being said, true success cannot be measured until I can come off this medication.  For now we have reduced my dose and watch how I tolerate that.  Fingers crossed.

Reintroduction of food is more scary than it seems it would be.  You pick and item and eat it for 3 days and watch how you feel, noting any and all ill effects and signs of inflammation.   I am a little nervous that I won't notice anything but that I will be creating inflammation at an unseen level, thus undoing these 2 1/2 months of hard work.

So far I have had lobster and wine (yes, that is apparently what it comes down to) and tolerated it fine.  My next items are bread, peanut butter and oatmeal because I don't see how I can do the Trek and eat away from home without these staples.

I hope you are all enjoying spring, eating outside, and wearing shorts!
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