Fun with Renee

Today I celebrate my dear friend, Renee, on one of her milestone birthdays, I want to share some of the fun and adventures we have had over the years. We met at The Space Between, a mid-week, 20-something gathering at Southland Christian Church.  As engineers are apt to do, we gravitated to each other, or maybe we were divinely guided, either way, the fun started immediately and has never stopped.

Here is just a fraction of the fun we have had together over the last 12+ years:

We tap into our creative side at Halloween coming up with no-cost costumes we can wear together. As engineers, we still have to be thrifty! We’ve have been the Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding duo, beach volleyball players, and one year there was a biohazard theme going on at my house.

Nancy and Tonya

Nancy and Tonya

Beach volleyball players.

Beach Volleyball Players.

Biohazard!

Biohazard!

We have celebrated birthdays and weddings.

My Maid of Honor

My Maid of Honor

Mike Pelfrey's Wedding

Mike Pelfrey’s Wedding

Steph's 30th Birthday Party

Steph’s 30th Birthday Party

There have been bad recipe parties, progressive dinners, Oreo elections, free root beer float runs all around town, and weekly dinners together where the only rule is a new recipe must be tried and pizza is always the back-up plan.

Oreo Election 2012.

Oreo Election 2012.

Must be thorough and try them all.

Must be thorough and try them all.

Oreos are best when dunked.

Oreos are best when dunked.

Renee and I have met up in Huntington, West Virginia; Vasteras, Sweden; and the Noordam cruise boat in Vancouver, BC. I have visited her in Columbia, South Carolina. We have traveled to MI and NY together.

Fun in Sweden

Fun at the Skansen in Sweden.

More fun in Sweden.

More fun in Sweden with amazing views.

Look, a lemur!

Look, a lemur!

Getting my FURminator fix in Columbia, SC.

Getting my FURminator fix in Columbia, SC.

Quenching our thirst on the NY trip.

Quenching our thirst on the NY trip.

Cruising Alaska!

Cruising Alaska!

Renee invited me to Pumpkinfest one year, an annual event I always look forward to assuming Renee still invites me!

Pumpkinfest!

Pumpkinfest!

Finished products at Pumpkinfest.

Finished products at Pumpkinfest.

My only ice skating lesson came about because of Renee. I had a blast and know why she likes it! We have attempted “vaulting” at the Horse Park during a warm-up event prior to the World Equestrian Games. Attended musical events together. I have watched ice skating shows and routines. We have even made pretzels together. Truly I think we would try just about anything!

Renee and her vaulting moves.

Renee and her vaulting moves.

Jen's new vaulting moves.

Jen’s new vaulting moves.

Taking in a musical performance with one pair of binoculars, no problem.

Taking in a musical performance with one pair of binoculars, no problem.

Silliness making pretzels.

Silliness making pretzels.

Finished product and they tasted great!

Finished product and they tasted great!

We have looked after each other’s houses, collected mail, checked on pets, painted, cleaned, removed wallpaper, worked in the yard, and all sorts of other chores and duties for and with each other.  I can only imagine the people we have entertained taking all sorts of crazy items down the street from one house to the other – a vacuum comes to mind as one of the items.

Painting.

Painting.

First thing done at my current house was wall paper removal with Renee!

The first thing done at my current house was wall paper removal with Renee!

New cat to watch if only we still lived on the same street.

New cat to watch if only we still lived on the same street.

Renee – you are my best friend and I cherish the silly, the fun, and the crazy that happens when we get together. You have taught me how to snag a good deal, shared the best places to thrift shop, taught me that just about anything can be categorized and analyzed with spreadsheets, inspired me in your adult hobbies, introduced me to a cat with the biggest personality, and I discovered our comfort zone is huge when the two of us are doing it together. I look forward to where in the world we will rendezvous in the next 12 years. I also chuckle thinking about us as old ladies! I send you all my best today from Kentucky and wish hugs and smiles could fit in an envelope to sent through the mail. I love you my friend.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

 

 

Fifty Bucks

Today, on what would have been Pap’s 92nd birthday, I wanted to share a story about fifty bucks I have supposedly owed him since the day I was born.

Pap at his 90th Birthday Party

Pap at his 90th Birthday Party

I am the oldest grandchild on my father’s side and with that I feel like I have a particularly special relationship with my pap (grandfather). There are a couple reasons for this. To me, Pap made me feel special.  His kind words as we said goodbyes after a visit, his compliments when introducing me to friends and extended family members, his instructions to boyfriends/husband to take care of me, or the way I just “fit” in his arms for those awesome Pap hugs made me feel extra special in his eyes.  Now, I imagine each one of us grandchildren can say similar things about Pap.  But one thing that was just between us was me being teased by my pap, as long as I can remember, that I cost him fifty bucks when I was born and therefore I owed him those fifty bucks,

Pap and I at my high school graduation party.

Pap and I at my High School Graduation Party.

Since I can’t remember the day I was born, from what I have been told, this is how it all went down and why I have owed Pap fifty bucks:

Pap had a hunting camp in Tionesta, PA.  The camp was being built the year I was born. As a matter of fact, Pap was up at camp on Friday, September 23, 1977. He had headed up early and my parents were planning to join him after my dad got off work that Friday.

Let me pause here and say that my mom was pregnant and due in November.  Mom and Dad had just attended their first lamaze class the night before, Thursday, September 22. My mom had been feeling a bit crampy that afternoon and mentioned this to the instructor after class. The instructor was not concerned and my mom went home to a fitful night’s sleep.

The next morning she told dad she was ok and didn’t feel any worse and he went off to work. Mom planned on canning bread and butter pickles with a friend, Barb, that day. Barb was to cut up and deliver the cucumbers and mom was going to can them.  She wasn’t feeling great at this point, worse than the night before actually, when the cucumbers were delivered by Mike, Barb’s husband. So Barb ended up canning the pickles while mom watched and with the encouragement of Barb ended up going to the hospital.  It became apparent that I was not waiting until November to enter the world and mom had been experiencing labor.

To continue the story: due to the events transpiring back home in Butler, there was need to talk with Pap.  No cell phones back then kids, so Grandma called the state police and asked them to get a message to Pap.  A policeman drove up to the cabin and found that Pap was not there, so he tacked a note to the door with a message saying “call home immediately.”

Pap had been in Tionesta, probably for dinner, and when he returned to the cabin he saw the note and accurately thought something happened at home. His mind thought his wife or one of his children had been hurt, in an accident, or had an emergency. His first grandchild about to enter the world did not even cross his mind.

So Pap jumped back into the vehicle and drove quickly back to Tionesta to make a call home. In his haste, he blew through a stop sign and was seen and promptly pulled over by a policeman.  As the policeman wrote out a ticket, Pap explained that his reason for failing to stop at the stop sign was due to a note he found on the cabin door instructing him to call home immediately and he was concerned something had happened at home. At this point the policeman realized he was already familiar with this situation because he was the very same policeman who had delivered the note.

You would think Pap would be off the hook right? But the policeman had already started writing out the ticket and apologized to Pap saying he could not tear it up. So Pap got a fifty dollar ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign while driving to town to call home to find out his first grandchild was born.

50-dollars-usd-3-1239603-1599x1217

And with this, Pap thought it quite appropriate to remind me as often as he thought of it that I owed him fifty bucks for being born because that is what I cost him.

 

God’s Gift of Time

I am writing this about a year after Pap died. I have spent periods of time looking back at Pap’s last several years of life and marveling at the time I had with him. You see, ever since I graduated from college, I have lived 6.5 hours from Pap.

Growing up, Grandma and Pap literally lived over the creek and through the woods and a wee bit more from us. It was just part of life to see them often. When I graduated college and moved to Kentucky for my first job, it took more effort and planning to see my grandparents.

woods-road

After changing jobs in 2009, travels for work often took me to the Pittsburgh area starting in 2010. This gave me many opportunities to visit Pap. Between 2010 and March 2015, I traveled to western PA about two dozen times. That probably equated to at least 15 extra visits with my pap! What a blessing.

For the last couple years of Pap’s life, each time I said goodbye to him after a visit I would wonder if I would see him again. Peter and I spent Christmas 2014 in PA with my family and of course visits with Pap. He was noticeably frailer, a bit more unsteady, and had been having some health issues. I was grateful for a long trip to PA over Christmas and New Year and the family time that afforded.

Come March 2015, I found myself in PA for work. This was two weeks after buying a house in the country. I had made a plan to take Dad back to KY with me after the work trip. Dad was going to help with some work on the new house for which I was incredibly thankful.

While in PA, I recall visiting Pap and Eleanor. I remember seeing the joy my parent’s dog, Marley, brought to Pap’s face as he ran around the living room and played and was an energetic, entertaining puppy. I remember telling Pap about the new house and what all Dad and I planned to work on. I remember leaning over to kiss Pap goodbye and seeing a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face as he told me how good it was to see me, to be a good girl, and to take care of myself.

That next week as Dad and I were working on the new house, Pap went into the hospital. All week we kept in close contact with my mom and aunts in Butler, getting updates on Pap. My mom was to drive down to KY at the end of the week and we were to spend Easter together. My parents returned home Easter day and went straight to see Pap. I spoke with Dad that night as he was showing Pap pictures of the new house. I heard Pap in the background sending a greeting. Dad said he was doing well and thought he would go home in a few days. I had no thoughts to driving home to PA. That was on Sunday night.

Monday had a completely different tune. Pap had declined, he was medicated to be made comfortable. My Aunt Chris was en route from Seattle to Pittsburgh to get home to see Pap. I spoke with Dad and contemplated heading home too and Dad wisely stated “What do you want your last memory of Pap to be?” If I felt I needed to see him again get in the car and drive up. If I was content with my last memory of Pap, just stay put. At that moment I cried tears of thankfulness to God as I remembered the twinkling eyes and little smile I had so recently seen on Pap’s face just over a week before.

Pap held on until Aunt Chris made it in to see him and he passed on Tuesday afternoon. I like to think it was about the time I was having lunch with my boss and coworker and telling them of the opportunity my recent trip to PA had given me to see my pap and how thankful I was for that opportunity.

The events in the first quarter of 2015 were wonderfully orchestrated. The buying of the a house, my work trip to PA, visiting with Pap, Dad’s work trip to KY, Pap going into the hospital, Mom joining us for Easter, Mom and Dad getting back to see Pap, Aunt Chris making it in town to see Pap. So many things going on and from my perspective they seemed to fit together perfectly.

When I was in the midst of this time, I didn’t realize the extent of God’s gift. Only that I had gotten to see Pap so close to his passing.  But on further reflection, I see God’s gift started when I was hired at Donan. The work travel to western PA so often, the number of visits with Pap over the last five years of his life.

IMG_4592I know God gave me the gift of time with my pap and the opportunity for my last memory to be observing the joy Marley brought him, sharing my excitement about a new house, kissing a soft cheek goodbye, seeing twinkling eyes and a cute little smile, and hearing those familiar words of gratitude for the visit, request to take care of myself, and “be a good girl.”

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-antique-clocks-desert-sand-image29060035

Thank you God, for the gift of time.

Half Iron

The beginning of 2014, Peter and I talked about doing a half iron triathlon.  Peter searched races for the 2014 season and found one in Kentucky, only about 1.5 hrs from our house in Laurel Lake.  When the early registration date approached, I decided to go for it and sign up.  The race date was July 12, certainly not the coolest month in Kentucky, but the close proximity to Lexington and small race since it was the first year for the race won me over. Peter still had thoughts of signing up, but was working through a knee injury and held off.

So swimming at the Y became a weekly workout, I ran with Run This Town (a mentoring running program that gets kids running and working toward a 10K race) a couple times a week in the spring and biked now and again.  I did not follow a prescribed workout plan.  I mentally had an idea of how I wanted to workout and I pretty much stuck to it. Each week adding a mile to a long run or hike from the 10K race in May, biking to the Y to swim or run or yoga each week and participating in local supported bike rides (Red Bud Ride and Preservation Pedal).

Many journeys have a crisis of faith moment and mine occurred on June 29. Peter and I drove to Laurel Lake to participate in a group ride of the bike course.  The group was small and at a fitness level much higher than mine, so needless to say I worked really hard to keep up with the group for the first 7 miles or so after which the routine then became to ride at ones own pace and regroup at turning points.  The bike route was challenging with three decent-sized hills and by the end I was hurting – both mentally and physically. The plan was to run a couple miles after the bike.  Peter and I switched our bike shoes for running shoes and off we went, well kinda. My calves seized up immediately and then I had to pee real bad and I was mentally beat down from the bike ride and it was all I could do to hold myself together. We muddled through 2.5 miles and I was having some serious doubts about this tri in two weeks.  I spent the afternoon at the pool, swam 1.25 miles and relaxed with some friends. The next day I did a night run of about 11 miles.  Covering the distance in two days that I would on race day helped give me some confidence back.  Also some great advice from a friend and reminding myself that my goal was always to finish grounded me and subdued my mental doubts.

Race weekend came and I was surrounded by the best cheering section I could have ever imagined. Friday evening dinner and s’mores were enjoyed before a night’s sleep listening to whip-poor-wills sing all night. I am sad I do not have a group photo of my cheering crew, but  Peter, Pablo, Steph, Garrett, Pogo, Royden, Dorothy, Summer, Ryan, Anna and a quick stop by Mr. and Mrs. Church made me feel like a rock star during this race.  Thank you to these awesome folks for braving the sun and heat to support me.  It meant so much and was so encouraging throughout!

Steph, the champion cheerer.

Steph, the champion cheerer.

Four of five of the Kerns.

Four of five of the Kerns.

The morning of the race, I headed to the transition area to ready my items, take some before photos and get a bit nervious. As 7:30 approached, fog rolled in over the lake, to the point the buoys disappeared. But off we went at 7:32. I simply followed the swimmers in front of me praying they were going the right direction.  Once I rounded the fourth buoy and headed back in the direction of the shore, visibility was much better. Turns out the first few swimmers missed the last buoy and well, there was no changing the masses, so the swim was a skosh shorter. The temperature of the lake was perfect. Probably 80. It felt great.

Laying out transition area.

Laying out transition area.

Ready as I am going to get.

Ready as I am going to get and decked out in my Donan apparel.

The fog rolls in.

The fog rolls in.

Off we go anyway.

Off we go anyway.

The water felt so great, I was sad for the swim to end. Out of the water in 52 minutes and to the transition area. Steph and Garrett definitely recorded the transition for me! The day was sunny with no clouds. The high ended up being 95 maybe. Although those temps would wait for my run leg.   At the top of the hill out of the transition I spotted the Kern family who sent me off on the killer bike course I rode two weeks earlier. I had a slower mph pace the first 10 miles compared to a couple weeks ago. It showed me how hard I worked the first time I rode this course.  Going down the first big hill, a biker in front of me sprung a leak in his back tire. I immediately started praying protection over my bike. I really do not know what I would have done if I had mechanical issues with my bike. That same biker passed me numerous miles later with a new tire. I was glad to see him back on the road.

Getting ready to bike

Getting ready to bike.

Stock up with snacks.

Stock up with snacks.

Peter worked the bike aid station and I stopped on the way out to top off my water bottle and remove an insert from my right shoe. I wore two inserts in my bike shoes hoping to avoid pain on the outside ball of my left foot that I have experienced on bike rides that are more than 40 miles.  I found my right foot was getting tingly and since the pain was mostly on my left foot, the right insert had to go.

Tossing a shoe insert as Pablo watches.

Tossing a shoe insert as Pablo watches.

Then off for a nice out and back bike ride and it was nice. I felt good and had conversation with some other athletes and cheered on bikers that were headed back. The leader passed me when I was only at mile 17 – those pros are impressive! On the way back I came up to the aid station and saw a huge cheering crew – Peter, Pablo, Steph, Garrett, Mr. and Mrs. Chruch – it was awesome! Thanks guys. I stopped for a water bottle refill and to eat a snack.

Having a snack and getting a hug.

Having a snack and getting a hug.

I tackled the last big hill and it was not nearly as painful as the first time. With about 6 miles to go, my left foot started hurting and I started praying over and over and over again for God to cushion my foot and dull the pain. The pain never increased to the level I felt two weeks ago when I rode the course.  I made sure to stretch my calves out at the end of the bike before entering the transition area after the 4 hour ride. I didn’t want my calves seizing up again. I took my time at transition. I knew this next leg would be the toughest for me. I drank and ate, changed shoes, reloaded with snacks and stretched.  Then off for what Dorothy said was “just a little run.”

Steph accompanied me on the bike until the woods. It was hard to get in a groove and I walked some to continue to stretch out my legs. I was happy to get to the woods and into the shade.  The run was two loops and the first loop is a bit disappointing when you see the mile markers and you know the 3 mile sign is for you rather than the 7 mile sign, but I keep plugging away, jogging the downhills and level stretches and walking the uphills. An aid station was a great surprise in the woods as I was getting pretty thirsty and on exiting the woods I was greeted by Steph!

Then up a long hill where I saw Peter and Pablo at the top. Next back onto a trail and the next aid station had a port-a-john, which I took advantage of, as well as the cold rags in a bin. I am telling you those aid stations were fantastic! As I ran on the road toward the woods for the second lap, I realized how grateful I was for the trail run and the shade it brought. The second time through the woods the higher mile signs were for me! About mile 9 my body was starting to tell me I was crazy. My hips and knees started hurting, but I was almost done. I pushed through the woods telling myself I would walk up the long hill of the marina road.  I caught up to a Corbin woman at the exist of the woods and we walked up the hill together chatting about our race thus far. At the top of the hill I saw Peter, Pablo and Garrett. It was a nice pick-me-up and back into the woods. I saw Peter, Pablo, Garrett and Pogo two more times before the home stretch.

Got to run a few steps with Pablo the first time up the marina hill.

Got to run a few steps with Pablo the first time up the marina hill.

Ahhh, water at the top of the marina hill the second time.

Ahhh, water at the top of the marina hill the second time.

Getting a pep talk for the last leg.

Getting a pep talk for the last leg.

Steph accompanied me the last mile, distracted me and helped the time pass. She also got to hear my complaining about the last 0.1 miles being long and tough! Jogging down the hill to the finish line I was so grateful – grateful to finish, grateful to have so many friends with me, grateful for the encouragement both in physical presence and notes and words of encouragement in the weeks and months previous, grateful to conquer this feat both physically and mentally and very grateful to have a lake to sink into to cool off after working hard for the last 8 hours and 15 minutes.

Finished!

Finished!

Half iron completed.

Half iron completed.

I have been asked “what about an ironman?” My answer is not a “no”, not a “yes”, but rather a “not yet.” I am not ruling it out, but I want to enjoy finishing a half iron for quite some time before considering my next tri challenge. I am certain numerous other goals will be set and conquered before I seriously consider an ironman distance. Until then, I will enjoy the fact I finished a half iron on a hot, sunny day on what other seasoned triathletes say was a very tough course!

A dog’s view

Ever wonder about a dog’s view. Peter and I have and thought what better way to get a dog’s view than to put a GoPro on a dog’s neck. So we seized the opportunity on a spring hike with my parents, Pablo and Scooby in The Pinnacles near Berea. Enjoy Pablo and Scooby views as well as some fun extras from this day of hiking.

Pablo get's the GoPro first.

Pablo gets the GoPro first.

Pablo on the move on the trail.

Pablo on the move on the trail.

A downed tree looks bigger when closer to the ground.

A downed tree looks bigger when closer to the ground.

Pablo and Scooby hiking close to each other.

Pablo and Scooby hiking close to each other.

Dog's really only see our feet.

Dogs really only see our feet.

We encountered a hiker with two dogs, a mud puddle and took a rest break while Scooby wore the GoPro.

On Pablo's right flank.

On Pablo’s right flank following Mom.

Play session.

Play session.

Pablo going in for a bite.

Pablo going in for a bite.

Got him!

Got him!

Wrestling while hiking.

Wrestling while hiking.

Taking a rest.

Taking a rest.

Wow, who goes there?

Who goes there?

Meeting two new dogs.

Meeting two new dogs.

Have a good hike.

Watching new friends continue on.

Peter checking in with Scooby.

Peter checking in with Scooby.

May apple.

May apple.

Ah, wet the feet.

Ah, wet the feet.

Dirty camera lens.

Dirty the camera lens.

Pablo knows something is in this downed tree trunk.

Pablo knows something is in this downed tree trunk.

These two had a great time hiking and wrestling.

These two had a great time hiking and wrestling.

The GoPro allowed us a glimpse into a dog’s view during the hike. Quite entertaining and educational. Probably not the only time we will strap a camera onto pets in our house!