16 November 2013

Forty & Fear & Favorites & Festivities & Fun & Fabulousness

Two months have passed since I started celebrating, and I still am celebrating. The event causing so much hoop-da-loo was my birthday. Not just any birthday, this year I rolled over into a new decade. I am now officially part of the Forty and Fabulous club.

To be honest the idea scared me. Forty seems old. I can remember when my mom turned forty. How could I be turning this age and still be figuring out life, confused about career direction, filled with questions, wondering what my place is in this crazy world? Yet, there was no denying the year I was born, and no fancy math formula can change the number of years I have been spinning around on this planet. To kick off my month+plus long birthday celebration I decided to do something that scared me more than turning 40 - go ziplining! I talked my mom into going with me to a new course that opened up this last spring at Skamania Lodge. Considering my life-long (yes, all forty years) fear of heights, my parents were highly suspicious that I wouldn't go through with the outing. With steely determination and a stomach filled with a gazillion butterflies, Labor Day morning mom and I joined several others to fly through the trees. And we had an incredibly fun time! I loved it! Yes, I was scared silly, but then I started having so much fun I didn't notice.

The gals at work took me out to lunch on the Thursday before my day. What better way to start a long birthday weekend than with a boozy milkshake at The Original? It was great time - and delicious!

I had the great pleasure of sharing my birthday weekend with the fabulous wedding festivities of Sharon and Manny. The event brought my brother and sister-in-law to town so the whole family was part of the fun. Sharon is an expert event planner, and her wedding was over the top wonderful. Welcome (officially) to the family Manny! (I'll confess, I love photo booths!)

The last birthday party I had was for my 21st; my mom attempted to throw me a surprise party, that wasn't much of a surprise. Since then my birthday has slipped by mostly unnoticed. Actually, my birthday has passed with minor recognition since early childhood. This year though, I didn't want to let the date be just another day, I was not content to be the wallflower once again. With some friendly prodding, Kate encouraged me to throw myself a party. I am so thankful she did! On Saturday a small group of friends gathered at Helser's cafe on Alberta for brunch - my favorite meal, and then we got creative in a glass-fusing class, each making a fall leaf plate. It was such a delightful day. We had a serendipitous moment at the cafe when a regular patron, over-hearing that we were celebrating a birthday, paid the bill for the whole table. He instructed our waitress not to tell us until after he had gone. Sir, whoever you are, thank you for the wonderful blessing!

The weekend was a trifecta of celebrations - my birthday, Sharon & Manny's wedding, and Amy + Chris' 1st anniversary. Sunday mom put her party planning skills to work again, wisely dropping the 'surprise' part this time, and had an open house for Amy + Chris' anniversary since they and many of their friends were in town for the wedding, and for my birthday. It was a weird mash-up of people from so many parts of my life, but an enjoyable afternoon chatting, eating (my one request was for my favorite cupcake - the PMS from Kyra's), and of course laughing. I even got a photo with me and all my 'brothers' (love these goofy guys). That night, one of my favorite TV shows, Foyle's War, had a new episode on PBS, a perfect ending to the weekend.

On Monday, my actual birthday, there was no way I was going to be working. I haven't worked on my actual birthday for four years now, this was not the year to break that trend. Instead, a friend and I headed to my favorite place - Cannon Beach. The first stop was at my favorite coffee shop, Sleepy Monk, where we waited out the last spitty cloud to pass allowing the glorious blue sky and warm sun to make their unexpected appearance. We walked the beach, I played in the waves (and got very wet), ate at the Lumberyard, and had a most enjoyable day.

The celebrations started winding down after that, but a few more outings with friends have peppered the last month. This summer when I thought about my birthday, it brought on anxious trepidation. Now that it has passed, a smile creases my face at the good memories and fun times indulging in so many of my favorite things. All the celebrating has reminded me, my life is rich with wonderful, amazing, loving, beautiful people. And isn't that what life is really about - relationships? Age is just a number, an accumulation of years, but the people that pass those years with you, that is what really matters. Forty years in, and judging by the love that was lavished on me this birthday, life is hunky-dory good.

18 July 2013

My Top Paleo Resources

I am by no means well-versed in "paleo-ese" but I'm learning.
It has been suggested that I list some of my top sources for learning this new language and lifestyle, so here it goes...

For the BIG picture and all the ins & outs...
Robb Wolf @ http://robbwolf.com - The Paleo Solution
Loren Cordain @ http://thepaleodiet.com - The Paleo Diet (Revised)
Both of these guys tend to go in-depth with the science, which I geek out about. If you want a more user-friendly introduction to paleo, check out these resources:
Dallas & Melissa Hartwig @ http://whole9life.com - It Starts With Food
Jason Seib @ http://everydaypaleo.com - The Paleo Coach

If you only buy one book - get "The Paleo Coach" by Jason Seib. It has more than enough information to get started, and if you want to dig into more science later, there is time for that. But get the basics, and most importantly, get the mindset right from the start, by reading Jason's book. He rocks. To be honest, I do train at his gym, but I made that decision because I read his book first; I wanted to train with awesomeness.

He offers nutrition seminars about once a month at the gym which are free and open to the public, the next one is Sunday, July 21st at 10am. I am going, if you'd like to join me.

There is paleo, and then there is auto-immune paleo protocol (AIP) which I try to follow, sorta. If you have any sort of auto-immune issue - Crohn's, Rheumatoid, Hashimoto's, lupus, Celiac, rosecea, lichen planus, eczema,  etc. - chances are you'd see great improvement with just the paleo diet, but if you want to take it a step further to really get your immune system back inline, which I do (or I say I do, but actions speak louder, hmm...), here are some of the better resources I have found, although the ones mentioned above all have a section on auto-immunity as well.

Diane Sanfillippo @ Balanced Bites - Practical Paleo
Sarah Ballantyne @ The Paleo Mom - The Paleo Approach
Both of these gals have podcasts with a partner in crime which can be educational and entertaining (and very girl centric - sorry dudes!).
Mickey Trescott a@ http://autoimmune-paleo.com/ has a great cookbook just for AIP.
A couple other AIP blogs...

Just like there are different 'twists' on paleo, and what it is or is not, and what is "allowable" - the same is true for AIP, although for the most part all of the above resources agree on the major components. Consider this fair warning that there is no one set, agreed upon, official, protocol.

If you are wanting to have me over for dinner, and wondering "What the 'blank-ity-blank-blank' can I cook for you?" there are lots of resources for recipes online. Some are easier to adapt to AIP,  but if you're cooking for me, and it's at least paleo - I won't even care. (Just remember my extremely bad reaction to mushrooms, bananas, and eggs and we're golden.)
http://civilizedcavemancooking.com/ A good looking single dude who cooks paleo - curse the age gap...

For more info, resources, and recipes...
If you are friends with me on Facebook - I have an interest list called "Paleo Highlights" which is a feed of all the paleo related people/companies that I follow. On Twitter, I have a tweet list from paleo-files. And my obsession, Pinterest, has a "Pay-lee-O" board.

And some other not-quite-paleo resources that are great places of information...

26 June 2013

Emerald City Weekend

Seattle may not be home to the Wizard of Oz, but it is the "Emerald City."

While looking out over the city from the 73rd floor of the Columbia Building, both mom and I remarked about how green it was, how many trees softened the lines of the city.

But Seattle has some real gems and this last weekend I was able to enjoy several of them. The backdrop for the weekend was the Rock n' Roll half marathon, which was the perfect opportunity to be a mother-daughter weekend.

We were treated to a coffee date with the adorable Micah. A guy I'm just getting to know, but has been one of my brother's good friends for years. He is quickly becoming another "lil' bro" which makes me happy.

I had a food revelation at Cuoco with  their vegan carrot soup. Seriously. I want to go back to Seattle right now for more of that soup.

Saturday morning I woke to clear blue skies and a bright shining sun, not a shred of clouds left from the night before; perfect race weather! Since I was in corral 41 (and that wasn't even the last corral!) the estimated start time for me was 8:26 am, so I didn't even plan to be up at the start line until 8 am - an hour after the first corral started the race. As I was leaving the hotel, a gentleman looked at me and with a tone of pity asked, "Oh, could you not finish the race?" Panic set in - was I too late?? I quickly responded, "I have an 8 am start time." And then took off as fast as I could in the general direction of where I thought the start line was at the Seattle Center. As I topped the hill of Denny Way, approaching 5th Avenue, there were a stream of runners in front of me, mostly with bib numbers in the 35-38 corral, but low enough that I panicked even more - the waves were going faster than anticipated. I finally found my way to the start line and walked a little ways down and just jumped in a corral. I was warmed up from running to the start. With a few minutes to wait until starting I tried to stretch a little, but in no time I was off and running.

My goal for this race was simply to finish; I haven't been training like I should be for an event of this length. As long as I finished, I could pick up my "heavy medal" - the "Pacific Peaks" medal only available to those who completed the Portland and Seattle Rock n' Roll events. I do like my bling. :) But the only requirement was finishing, there was no need to go all out. But I am me, once on the course that hyper-competitive side comes out. I was keeping a great pace, my splits were looking good for setting a record (or at least matching my best time) - that is until mile 9ish. My second toe on my right foot started cramping and curling under, pulling on my Achilles so that I couldn't run.  It was the strangest sensation. I had to slow up, my pace slipped, ambition had to surrender to wisdom. Regardless, watching my average pace time grow on my watch with each mile split was disheartening. Although slowing down allowed "Dr. Dribble" to catch up with me. Have you heard of him? He is trying to set a record of some sort for doing the most marathons while dribbling two basketballs (or the fastest, or something). I kid you not, look him up. He didn't even stop dribbling at the water station, but had a gal pour water down his gullet all the while dribbling. And I thought I was crazy.
I ended up finishing right about my average time. I still got the Seattle finishers medal, just like the first person across the line; I still got the Pacific Peaks medal. (But dagnabit!! I was doing better!) Aren't they pretty?

Post race I indulged in not one but TWO venti iced coffees from Starbucks. Have I told y'all lately how much I love coffee and miss it horribly? Because I love coffee, in case you were wondering. And it was as delicious as I was anticipating for 13.1 miles. I may just possibly be back on the coffee wagon. We sat outside and ate our lunches from Whole Foods, basking in the glorious weather, and making new friends with Travis and his dog Daisy. With a touch of sunburn, we finally went up to the room which had an enormous soaking tub, perfect for muscles already sore and tightening up.

With an hour to kill before dinner plans, we headed downtown to the Columbia Building which has an observation center on the 73rd floor. Even though clouds and haze obscured the peaks of the Olympic range, the views were really great; it was a fun new adventure.

For dinner we met up with Julie and Rob for a fabulous evening of drinks, chips n' salsa, and conversation. Rob is one of those "lil' brothers" whom I have known since he and my brother became friends their freshman year of high school. He has grown up a lot over the years, but he still calls my mom every Mother's Day which makes him truly a gem in my book. Even though he and Julie have been together for years, and married last year, I haven't had a chance to get to know her, but Saturday evening was a great opportunity and I just adore her. I'm so thankful they made time to visit with us.

Sunday morning we were up and out of the hotel early to get across town to meet another gem of a friend at Starbucks. (More coffee!!! :} ) We blitzed through the highlights of the last year or so getting caught up on each others lives in the one hour before church started. Michelle and I decided to do a walk together sometime soon; I'm looking forward to having her delightful company for the miles - if you know of a good event coming up, let me know.

Church filled my heart with joy, because this church is the blessing of God on precious friends who started it last fall. Darren and Kelly have been through some rough times, and periods of uncertainty where it wasn't clear what God was doing. But He was preparing them and making the way for Imprint Church, where they are thriving and it is obvious God is blessing this work. I just love that family!

With one more Starbucks stop, we started the trek back south. A short detour in Tacoma to the Museum of Glass gave me my Chihuly fix that I missed in Seattle. We didn't go inside, except the gift shop, (and to use the facilities, after all that coffee, you'd need to go too!), but there is enough to see in public spaces to satisfy my art loving side for the time being. Although, I am planning to go back to Seattle this summer to see the Chihuly exhibit at the Seattle Center; who wants to join me?

It was a wonderful weekend, filled with wonderful people who I truly love. But the best of them all is my momma. We stopped in Lake Oswego for dinner at Burgerville and I sat there delaying the end of our quick trip, not wanting to drop her off. I'm so thankful to have such a great friend in her. Watch out San Fran - we are hitting you next - with my Momar as well!! I'm so excited I can hardly wait for October! Now that trip will be epic!

14 June 2013

Periodic Status Update

Over a month has passed since the grand auto-immune paleo experiment began, which means it is time for a self-reported check-in.

General paleo compliance -- 94%
Auto-immune paleo compliance -- 83%
(my very scientific & accurate guesstimation)

It is not perfect, but I'm okay with that. The goal is to have a straight 30 days of 100% compliance to the auto-immune protocol at some point soon; it will require more lead time to work up to that. There are a few hurdles to cross that just keep tripping me up. They are named: nuts, paprika, caffeine, and a tiny hurdle the size of Andre the Giant of cocoa powder.

And then there were a few instances that were not paleo, and therefore, obviously not AIP either. Absentee-brain moments. My sweet, thoughtful mother had bought me some groceries after my trip to Washington, D.C. One item was an organic heat & eat beef roast from Trader Joe's. She had made the comment, "It is organic, so I think you can have it." Awww... you think it's hard for me trying to figure out what is on the yes/no list, my poor mother is having a heckuva time! It seemed logical, but it wasn't until I was tossing the packaging into the recycle bin that I noticed soy was listed in the ingredients for the sauce. Dang it! I ate it anyhow. That blasted soy is insidious and is in e v e r y t h i n g. It is really hard to avoid. It is even in tea! TEA!?!?

Giving up coffee has been one of the hardest aspects. Harder than chocolate!! I started drinking more tea (lots more), which I love equally as well, but it just doesn't have that same texture and "kick" that coffee does. I counted down the days to day 31, when I would try reintroducing coffee. Attempting to stack the odds in my favor, I even made cold-brew coffee the day before hoping the lower acidity would help. Just the smell  of it in the house was euphoric. Giddy with excitement in the morning I made my first cup of coffee, and it tasted odd (had I lost my taste for it?). After finishing off the first cup, a fresh cup was made, and drunk. And then, my body told me NO MORE COFFEE!! Oh, coffee... how I love you. Why, WHY won't you love me back???

Even though nuts have sporadically been eaten, I have stayed away from them enough that when I do have them, I notice it - and not in a good way. Once I get more into a groove, and get this whole AIP thing more ingrained, I will eliminate the nuts completely until I can get my gut healed. First, I need to find a substitute for that glove compartment "emergency snack."

Has it been easy? Oh, heavens to Betsy, NO! But does it seem worth it? Yes. One of the hardest aspects was my cocky assumption that I would transition with ease. My logic was that I was mostly paleo already, becoming a little more restrictive wouldn't be so bad, cutting out my occasional indulgences wouldn't have much impact. I read a couple 'what to expect in the first 30 days' kind of blog posts and sort of blew them off with, "So little is changing, I'll probably just skim right over these phases." Reality is the opposite, not only have I gone through the 'slump' stage and the 'I crave everything - even things I wouldn't have normally eaten' stage, but they have lasted at least twice as long as the norm. There is a lot more balancing, tweaking, and experimenting to do until I figure out what my body needs. (And with my luck, right when I figure it out, it will change.)

I was hoping the results would be nearly instantaneous, miraculous even. Although I knew that was far from likely, I'm still a little disappointed it didn't happen. Yet, my main flare spot - my right middle knuckle has calmed down some. When I make a fist, there are four distinct knuckles again instead of one normal and one massive blob. It is going to take time, patience, and persistence in following the course. Other issues are starting to improve as well; my sinus allergies are improving, my energy level is more even, my (ahem!) digestive issues, etc.

Onward, ho!! 

08 May 2013

Lab Rat, Table for One!

It was probably around ten years ago now when I sat in the exam room, meeting with my Rheumatologist, discussing options and the effectiveness of the latest drug I was trying, and I asked 'Are there any recommendations for nutritional therapy?' Brusquely she answered, 'Diet doesn't have any impact on the disease.' I tried to explain that I had noticed a correlation between my symptoms and certain foods, which was quickly dismissed. Not long after this incidence the same doctor told me that I needed to go on to a level 3 drug - a biologic modifier - since I had exhausted all of the options in class 1 and 2 with no significant improvement. Considering I had been on a variety of drugs and experienced minimal, if any, benefit, but most of the side-effects, including the really odd and rare ones, I was not eager to start a new medication (Humira being the one pushed) that a frequent side-effect was leukemia.
So doc, you want to put me on a drug that may help alleviate the symptoms of the rheumatoid arthritis, but I also will have a good chance of developing cancer. Yeah, that sounds like a great plan.
I don't think so.      

I never went back to that doctor. Instead, I started seeing a naturopathic doctor. It has been helpful, but it hasn't solved the problem. While experimenting with different supplements over the past 8 or so years, I have also learned a great deal. One thing I have become convinced of: I can 'cure' myself of the rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease, through nutrition. God made our bodies incredibly intricate, and with an innate ability to heal - if we give it the proper building blocks. Yet, knowing this and implementing it is a different story; it can be very confusing to know exactly what is the proper nutrition for healing. There is a lot of information out there on the interwebs, a lot of conflicting information.  I'm sort of a weirdo in that I really enjoy researching nutrition and health issues. The list of blogs that I regularly read, the books highlighted and lining my shelves, the food based documentaries watched, the podcasts I listen to while commuting should be worthy of a degree in nutrition. Seriously. But all the information can lead to info-paralysis, a state I know all too well.

Two years ago I was stuck in a vicious cycle. The RA raised my systemic inflammation, which told my body to store fat, which raised my inflammation, which aggravated the RA, which raised my systemic inflammation, and around and around it went. Around the time I realized that something had to be done about the excess fat I was carrying if I ever hoped to get the RA under control, several friends were losing weight. Polling each of them about how they were doing it, I got the same answer: Take Shape for Life. So I jumped on the bandwagon. And it worked, for about six months and 50 pounds. Then I went to Honduras for a week, and then Czech Republic for two weeks. It was a huge struggle to get back on track that I couldn't quite master for more than a month at a time, and even during those month sprints the scale wouldn't budge like it had before. Part of this is because I started training hard and exercising too much for the program. Another part was that all of the program's foods contained at least one or multiple ingredients that I knew I reacted to badly. I have my theories about why it didn't bother me at first, but then started being a problem, but I won't bore you that much. And the stress component fought me too.

While thinking of New Year's Resolutions this past January, I asked myself the question - 'If I were at a healthy weight and didn't need to eat weird packaged powdered food-like substances, how would I want to eat for my best health?' From my research, it was pretty easy to describe what seemed to be the best way of eating, but I wanted to drop more weight before starting to eat that way. Making wholesale changes at once is overwhelming, and often not lasting, so I made a plan to adopt one change a month towards my ideal while sticking to the Take Shape program to lose the weight. Good plan, right? And it has been (except the weight loss part-that wasn't happening).

Three weeks ago I was working on my Bible study while eating breakfast before work and my knuckle was so painful and swollen that I could hardly hold a pen to write my answers. That was my breaking point. No more lying to myself, my RA was not under control, the flare-ups were too frequent, a new hot spot had developed in the last six months. In addition, auto-immune begets auto-immune, and the last time I had my thyroid checked the results had some suspicious numbers pointing to the beginnings of Hashimoto's disease, and this last winter I started having symptoms of Reynaud's disease. This is not okay.

It is time to make some changes. Time to make my health - and regaining great health - a priority. Top priority. What does that mean? No more incremental changes. I'm jumping in cannon ball style into the paleo lifestyle pool. But not just any ordinary variation of it, I'm going to follow the auto-immune paleo protocol. And let me tell you, it is going to be TOUGH. My month-by-month resolutions were leading me to a paleo lifestyle already and by March I had almost given up all sugar (my vice is Endangered Species Black Panther 88% dark chocolate bar), ditched all dairy - even cheese which I doubted I could do, and every grain & legume - including soy. And I was feeling much better. Then I went on vacation last week and after the race tossed all my good eating habits out the window - and suffered.  The auto-immune variety of paleo cuts out all nightshade plants and their derivatives: tomatoes, tomato paste, eggplant, peppers, paprika, chili powder, etc. Pretty much all of the main-stays of my cooking. Brutal. Oh, did I mention that it suggests (mandates) avoiding coffee? Shoot me now. Is this going to be the magic bullet? I don't know. This is all experimentation. But if the anecdotal results others have shared can be even partially true for me, it is worth it. Feeling good is better than coffee, right? RIGHT??!!??

I can do it.
I know I can.
Because I am Streger Strong!
We don't quit, we persevere!

But prayers are very much appreciated.
No coffee. {whimper} 

12 April 2013

2012 Stregerlady Annual Report

Hello. How are you?
It has been awhile. A L O N G while.
I needed to take a break from writing. Life took a bit of a turn last spring, and I just couldn't write.
But lately, there has been an urge, a longing, desire to string words together to make sentences and then into stories to share with whomever stumbles over here.

For some reason, I set up this hurdle that I needed to post a 'year in review' of 2012 before anything else. Over a full quarter of the way into 2013 and the "2012 Stregerlady Annual Report" is going live, which means maybe - just maybe - new posts might start appearing here again. (It also means that I need to update you on the first part of 2013 as well.) So with no further ado, here are the highlights from last year.

2012 Stregerlady Annual Report
January – New year & new peepers gave me a new outlook. Lasik surgery took my vision from 20/1500+ to 20/40 – truly amazing! A medical marvel. I participated in the global virtual Nike women’s half-marathon. 13.1 miles on the treadmill at the gym was tedious, but the finisher’s bling was well worth it!

February – My friend Lisa and I, we’re a couple of heartbreakers when we did the Heartbreaker race for Valentine’s Day. The Justice conference was held in Portland where I represented The Micah Project, and a special Honduran came up for the event to help me staff the booth. One of the best days of the year was taking Marvin up to Mt. Hood to play in the snow, making his long-time dream of making a snow angel come true.
March – Life started getting… interesting... in spring. I began to fall down Alice’s rabbit hole; up is down, down is up. My spiritual director says growth is the great “un-ing” and lots of “un-ing” started happening, leaving me feel like I was (am) being tumbled in a series of waves. Mom and I went to see Wicked, which became my 2nd favorite musical ever. The month also included a quick trip to Denver, Colorado to be part of a Bridal Shower for my (then) soon to be sister-in-law, Amy. (That's her below, on my left.)

Photo: March 22
Psst... Elphaba, don't listen to Glinda. I know it's not easy being green, but i got your back girl! 
Wicked was super amazing fantastic hilarious and stunning! WOW!! Loooooooved it!!! 
(wanna know a little secret? This was my teen age dream - to be in a traveling Broadway musical. Oh, to have an ounce of the talent the two main actresses have...)     Photo: Colorado Shower Weekend. Linda & Jenn flew out for!
April – With a desire to be more graceful and add a few legitimate moves to my "dancing," I started an adult ballet class! I attended three whole classes before I landed from a jump weird and totally tweaked my Achilles  which took ages to heal - and had to quit. At work, my huge team of three went for a team building lunch to Andina, a restaurant in the Pearl District, and quite possibly the best meal I've ever eaten in my life! Seriously. Good. Food.

May – At the beginning of the year I set a goal for myself to walk/jog a half marathon in under 3 hours. Four and a half months into the year and I met my goal with the Rock n’ Roll Portland - my best half marathon time to date. I just about puked and passed out in the finisher's corral, but I did it!
Yes, I'm cheap and didn't pay for my photo.
And, yes, it was raining - I don't sweat that much.
Streger family photo at Rob & Julie's wedding.

June – Over the years a few of my brother's friends have become pseudo-siblings. I call them ‘little brothers’ (as opposed to "baby brother" which is reserved for my brother-brother. Got it?) One of my 'little brothers,' Rob, married the lovely Julie "super long name" in June. Thankfully, she took Rob's last name so now I can pronounce her full name. (Just don't ask me what her maiden name is!)

July – A good month for a little stay-cation which I desperately needed. Work had been crazy busy and I needed to get away, even if it meant still answering email every day of my vacation. I visited my cousin in Bend for a few days. I also re-learned how to kayak, which was a blast.

If I found the rabbit hole in March, by July I had fallen down, drunk the potion, and entered a confusing world. I decided to not pursue joining the staff of the Micah Project in Honduras after being fully focused on that path for the past two years. A decision that is scary and sad in turn, and completely unsettling. It feels as though the rug was pulled out from underneath me, but I trust that God is in control and am certain He was not opening the doors for that opportunity at this time.

August – With the summer heat, my running heated up as well and I ran the “Every Girl” 5k and recorded a personal best. I decided to conquer my fear of white water rafting and used a Groupon for a trip down the Deschutes River and ended up going on the exact same stretch that had caused the fear 20+ years earlier (completely coincidental)! Not only did I survive, I had fun! It must have been a water adventure kind of summer, because I also tried stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). It had looked like so much fun and I love being on the water. I recruited a friend to do an intro class with me, much less intimidating that way. While not easy, it was a lot of fun and Julie and I enjoyed ourselves.

Photo: Oh, yeah! Just a couple hot chicks who are totally SUPing it!   Photo: August 23
Dinner date with my hijo tonight! Loco chico - showing me his "better" side.

Probably the biggest event of the year...
The snow loving Honduran came back to Portland - TO LIVE!! That's right, the Micah Project decided to send Marvin to Portland to attend school. He is living with a host family in Lake Oswego, going through the English intensive program at Portland Community College, and loving life in the Pacific Northwest. Most Wednesday nights he comes over to "mama jenn's" for family dinner.
September – Best.Wedding.EVER!!! My beloved baby brother got MARRIED!! (MARRIED!!! Chris?!?! A husband!?!? WEIRD!!) Until a couple years ago, I was doubtful that he would ever get married, but then... then he started dating Amy. And on the 15th they were married in Colorado on a perfect day. I now have a sister!!!!


I came home and did my first mud run – the 5k Kiss Me Dirty women only event. After eyeing various obstacle runs and wanting to try my mettle, but lacking the confidence in my ability to survive one, I took the risk to attempt one when I came across a deal to volunteer at registration in exchange for the entry fee; I just went for it and triumphed. Although watching Lisa literally wallow in the mud, which was completely unexpected, may have been the best part of the race. The next weekend was the 5k Color Run which of course required a tutu. In between the fun runs I celebrated 3 years post-surgery on my back and am loving the ability to walk and run and generally be active. (Bet you couldn't have guessed that one, huh?!)
October – Portland half marathon done with a cranky left Achilles (still! that darn ballet class) and a sprained right ankle and a sour stomach. I really am that competitive with myself - or persistent, determined, focused - or maybe out of my mind.

November – After debating colors for months and months, the dining nook finally took on a new shade of blue. It's lovely and I'm much calmer now that I'm not seeing red. To my delight, I gained a new roommate while she finishes support raising.
December –One last race for the year, the Jingle Bell 5k, which I always do as it supports the Arthritis Foundation. My time improved, even holding my red nose the whole time; I didn't think about how hard it would be to breathe with it on. Christmas festivities have a new perspective when experienced with someone seeing it for the first time. I always love all the twinkle lights and decorations in December. Amy and Chris came the day after Christmas for a few days, which meant we got to celebrate Christmas all week long!
MJ and I check out the big tree at Pioneer Courthouse Square
   A very good year overall.

2013 Prospectus - the events I'm anticipating this year
January – in the books. How did that happen?? 3 Blazer games – 2 with mom, 1 with MJ. A huge department reorganization at work meant I switched teams and joined the Test Publishing team and am now part of a team of 5 others; I'm no longer a lone wolf - I have co-workers to cross-train and share the workload with, a very good thing for my sanity. But sadly, it also means that Jon and I are no longer on the same team; the dynamic duo has been split-up. I'm still in mourning.
February – start training. Despite the enormous improvement in my eyesight thanks to LASIK last January,  I am once again with glasses. Originally meant for just night driving, my spectacles are handy driving at any time of day. And in theaters. At work. At church. At concerts. The big difference in comparison to the last 30ish years, I can get by without my glasses now and be okay, just a little hazy - not blind.

March – kick the training into gear and give it a test with the Hop Hop 5k. I got to wear bunny ears! (I was also kinda sick, my judgement may have been impaired.)

April – National capital, here I come!! I'm meeting up with my friend Courtney from Texas to do the Nike Women's Marathon (half) in Washington, D.C. I'm not ready, but there will be a blue Tiffany box at the finish line with a specially designed finishers charm. Nothing is keeping me from that blue box!
Sadly, my roommate has moved out as of today. I knew from the get-go it was a short-term stop-gap solution, but I'm bummed to see Maureen leave; she has been so wonderful to have around.
May – Rock n’ Roll Portland for the 2nd year.
June – Rock n’ Roll Seattle – going for the Pacific Peaks medal.
July – Flat Half because I’m crazy enough to think I can do one half marathon a month.
August – Cascade relay race. Okay, not quite a half-marathon, but close.
September – possible trip to NYC to visit Amy + Chris for US Open. Sharon (a 'little sister') and Manny are tying the knot. I enter the fabulous forties! (meltdown and denial to ensue shortly.) No race planned... yet.
October – Rock n’ Roll San Jose – because they give you a super cool “Triple Crown” medal if you do three RnR events in one calendar year. I won a "Pass the Lottery" ticket to the NWM San Francisco so I'm planning on going back down for that race as well. It's better than Wonka's Golden ticket, better than a "Pass Jail" card in Monopoly - how could I not take advantage of it?
November – I'm hoping to make it down to the Micah Project in Honduras for graduation. It will have been two years since I was there last; far, far too long. While I'm no longer pursuing being on staff, I still plan to support and participate in the ministry.
December – My favorite time of the year! I'll be doing the Jingle Bell run for Arthritis again, with my Rudolph nose and antlers - come do it with me!

Wow! You reached the end. You deserve a special treat - a virtual pat on the back from me.
Thank you for stopping by, and hopefully there will be more reason (and more interesting reasons) to stop by in the near future. Tell me, what are you looking forward to in 2013?

Cheers! Niff