Thursday, February 25, 2016

Gifts From Grandmother

Documenting our long runs until the Boston Marathon.  About nine weeks to go with this run.  During this run, school was cancelled due to a water main break.  Nicole had to figure out the location of all her kids while we were running.

My running partner/friend dangled this over my head.  She told me I just had to run 16 miles to "earn" this goodie. 

Eight weeks to go.  We ran at a different time and earlier in the week to beat the snow.  Good call on our parts.  We ran in 50s with sunshine; two days later the blowing snow and colder temperatures made an appearance.

We were near the end of our run and had to add on just about a mile.  We decided to enter this small neighborhood that ALWAYS has their gates open.  The gate was open when we ran into the neighborhood, but closed when we needed to exit.  So, we both had to jump the fence.

This happened 18 miles into the run, and our legs were shot and not interested in climbing.

My mom, sister, cousin, and I sorted through my Grandmother's belongings in order to sell her house.

I've mentioned before that my spry Grandmother suffered a stroke in October.  We thought her passing would be imminent, but she rebounded and kept a grip on this life.  Currently, she lives in a nursing home because the stroke whipped out many of her physical and mental capabilities.

Because of her condition, my mother decided to sell her house.  On Sunday, we weeded through her belongings.  Family grabbed sentimental keepsakes, special photos, and other items that could possibly find a new life in our homes.

The boys accompanied me for a bit.  To them, it was like walking into a free garage sale.  Every item seemed interesting.  They selected "favorites" and insisted those things were needed by our clan.  Cooper clung to a reading lamp that was the size of a small child and basically told me life would not be the same without it.  After some intense negotiations, he walked away with a device that spins (have no idea what it is) and a magnifying glass.  In his little world, it was like Christmas.

For me, the task of sifting through her belongings was both tender and sad.  I was sad that these were not her things anymore.  She was no longer in a state where she could use a mixture, cook something on the stove, or run a vacuum.

But, it was tender too. 

Grandmother's house and her belongings reflected so much of who she was to all those who loved her.  On her walls still hung chalk drawings I made for her as a child.  When I removed them from the wall, they practically fell apart in my fingers.  They weren't fine artistic masterpieces, but she was proud to display my drawings all the same.  On other walls and scattered on bookshelves and nightstands sat a collection of family photos.

But what really touched me was the amount of Bibles we found within her home.  Several of the Bibles were so worn that she used duct tape to hold the pages into the binding.  What she poured into her heart and mind flowed out in her speech and conduct.  She was planted in the Word and it was displayed in the beautiful fabric of her being.

My family received her piano.  We placed it in our living room, and several of the boys fingered the keys.  I played as a child, and I wondered if I would still recognize the keys and could belt out any notes.  A few songs came back to me.  I pounded out a few favorites.  And, then I sat back on the piano bench and thanked Grandmother for all the gifts she's still giving to us.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Arizona Half Marathon/Hiking Tour

Caleb was a gold place finisher in the solo and ensemble contest.  When you're a 13-year-old boy, this is about as much excitement as you'll show your mom.

Connor's group was a little more chipper about their gold win.

We decided to take a selfie before every run until the Boston Marathon.  All smiles before the run started.

My dear friend Claudia is turning 40 this month.  To celebrate, she asked us to travel to Arizona and hike like crazy and then run a race.  I think she found the only couple who said yes.

Hike #1 was Camelback in Phoenix.  After leaving single digit temperatures, hiking in 80 degrees was a treat.

Pancakes at the top of the mountain seemed to make sense.  I'm not sure this is a recommended hiker snack.

We made it to the top....and still smiling and hugging each other!

Camelback was just a starter hike.  The next day we traveled to the Grand Canyon.

Majestic.  Best word to describe it.  And with the snow, breathtaking.

Best part was seeing the canyon through Chris's eyes as this was his first time visiting.

Hiking in the Grand Canyon means you will encounter snow.  "Crampons" are required (spikes that attach to your shoes).

The balmy Phoenix weather was replaced with chilly temps and snow at the top of the Grand Canyon.

A little too close to the edge for my comfort.

Views never got old.

Two miles into the canyon, and the snow disappeared and the temperatures rose.

Claudia demonstrated to me (a nature novice) how to pee in the woods.

Six hours later, we made it back to the top.

The next day, we were back on our feet.  This time at Cathedral Rock in Sedona.  This was by far my favorite hike.

The hiking part was mostly climbing up a series of rocks.  Kept thinking about my boys, and how they would have loved racing around the rocks.

Claudia even showed off some fancy moves on the hike.

I honestly could have set and soaked in this view forever!  

 The last day, Claudia and Jim ran the Arizona Marathon.  I ran the Arizona Half Marathon.  I just decided to run the race for fun (no pressure with time goals).  The course was flat, but not that interesting.  It did run through a military base for a fun view.  But, the weather was beautiful for February...60s without a cloud in the sky during race time.

On the last day of our trip, our friend Jim said, "Sometimes you need a vacation after your vacation."

Sage words.

Our trip to Arizona was a vacation.  But, it wasn't the sort of trip that includes lounging poolside while sipping on a cool beverage.  It was four days jam-packed with hiking and running.  For some, this may sound like torture; for me, it was a delight.  

On Thursday, we landed in Phoenix.  After leaving what felt like the center of Antartica, it was glorious to walk out into the sunshine and warm temperatures.  Within hours of exiting the plane, we were ascending Camelback Mountain.  It felt a bit surreal to be walking around in shorts and tank when just hours earlier we had been donning gloves and winter coats.

Friday we hiked in the Grand Canyon.  For me, it was a treat to see the canyon through my husband's eyes.  It was his first glimpse at this awe-inspring site.  He was smitten, and I could help smiling over his delight.

In the canyon, Jim took us on a hike that pushed me out of my comfort zone.  Traveling on a curvy, steep hike can make one recite quiet a bit of SOS prayers.  Mentally, I vowed to not look down and just focus on each step.  But, the views kept me going. I shifted my gaze out into the canyon and couldn't help but feel grateful to be part of this beauty.

Saturday, we headed to Sedona.  The landscape reminded me of the Cars movie with chiseled rock formations jetting out of the red clay ground.  The cathedral rock hike was my highlight.  We jumped among the rocks and felt a bit like naughty kids who wandered off the trail.  My boys would have been in heaven!

On our last day, we ran the Arizona marathon and half marathon.  Our friends raced in the marathon, while I selected the half marathon.  The race advertised a great t-shirt, but an uninteresting course.  They didn't disappoint.  The course lacked pizzazz (with the exception of a short jaunt into a military base).  But, the weather was phenomenal.  For the last few months, we have been running in three layers.  To race in shorts and a tank was divine.

The only difficult part was the flight back home. Our airline experienced many delays.  Subsequently, we arrived back home at 4:30 a.m. (and I didn't experience a wink of sleep).  Waking up three hours later to watch my four boys was a bit jarring.  That's the point where I felt like I needed a vacation.

(Thanks to my parents for watching the boys while we were away. You've officially earned saint status!)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

January Update and Takeaways

Birthday run.  It may be cold if icicles dangle from your hair after a run!

 Best birthday photo we could snag:)  One son had already gone to bed.  Had to do birthday cupcakes after 9 due to sports' schedules.

Two days later...Collin's 7th Birthday!

A picture worth a thousand words:)

Collin was solemn before competing in the regional spelling bee championship.

He walked away with a first place ribbon!

Collin invited five buddies to Skyzone to celebrate his 7th birthday!

The celebrating continued with family for Collin and me.  

The hot ticket birthday gift for Collin.  Big brother has taught him well.

It's been forever since I've posted.  Funny how my time feels more crunched now that I have teens and preteens in the house than when toddlers and babies nestled in my arms.

So, what's new with the Woods....

1)  Collin won the regional spelling bee.  

My takeaway from the experience: spelling parents are much worse than sports' moms and dads.  What I thought would be a lovely experience turned into a morning where I seriously wanted to give some parents a few (sensible) words and a good lashing.

2)  Caleb got into the Butler Youth Jazz Band.

And the first concert is at the Jazz Kitchen, a jazz bar in a trendy section of town.  My takeaway: being a jazz parent is so much better than being a sports parent!  Sitting at the Jazz Kitchen will be so much better than watching an endless swim meet or freezing on the sidelines of a soccer field! 

3)  I'm officially a 40 plus year old!

Inside I feel like a teenager, but my body is bringing me back to reality.  Lately, I'm squinting when reading shampoo bottles and prescription labels.  My joints crack when I stumble out of bed.  My takeaway:  glasses are in my future (and hopefully a walker is FAR into the future).

4)  Collin is seven.

Having the baby turn seven seemed monumental.  A six year old can still be considered a preschooler.  But, seven year olds are officially school age kids.  My heart hurts even typing this fact.
My takeaway:  time flies.

5)  We are redecorating and updating our house.

The bold reds and golds have been replaced with grays and neutrals.  My friend Melinda is helping the process.  She says the new soothing colors should bring a more serene home and calmer sons.  If that's the case, I would have changed the color years ago.  Pictures to come.  My takeaway:  Crossing my fingers and hoping it works!

What's new with you?