Follow the Strong

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This picture, taken at the Portland Highland Games when I was about to unleash a world record taken by LV Camera Girl (Victoria Wechter) is my most favorite throwing picture of any of my throws.

About 6 years ago, I had a conversation with the wonderful man who helped revamp our tosabarbell logo. After writing a post on why strength matters for EVERYONE, he commented that he didn’t understand why he needed to be strong. If he could carry a bag of lawn seed out of his car, why did he have to be stronger than that. My reply was something along the lines of life doesn’t always allow you to plan on how strong you need to be.

And here we are. Life is demanding that we be strong. Strongest actually. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, another story. A few years ago my former (brief) community of Wichita Falls had horrible flooding. They basically went from record drought to mass wildfires, and then to devastating flooding. A friend from the gym, Gant Grimes, had shared a picture of himself pulling a trailer through the waters while he was helping others in his neighborhood. In fact, during the crisis as he was moving the family piano around to try to protect it from the rising waters his wife asked what people do who don’t have someone strong in their life.

They die. Obviously.

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Another Portland Games picture from 2 years ago. We just really look good in Portland.

Okay, maybe they don’t die. But what we’re realizing right now, is that they actually do.

ONE more story, I promise this is the last one before I start lecturing. Today Matt and I ran to the grocery store to do our standard week of shopping. That means that everything in our cart was the same thing that is in our cart every Monday EXCEPT for 2 additional emergency pizza’s and one bag of Easter M&M’s. We like to have a pizza or two for emergencies in the house (usually drinking related;) and we ramped up in case we have the kids over. Other than that. Status quo. We still haven’t bought toilet paper because WE DON’T FUCKING NEED TOILET PAPER. Yet. We’re still good for a couple weeks since we bought the Costco case back in January. Good on us.

Anyways. We were tooling around the store and people have increased the amount of crazy that we’ve been seeing the last couple of weeks. First off, when I asked the deli workers if they’ll be making more chicken breast soon (they make grilled chicken breast that I buy about 6 pounds a week. It’s already cooked and all I have to do is weigh it and eat it. Lazy, yes but I don’t care) and the worker replied with, “I have no idea.” Ok, well since she didn’t know and I didn’t know, I thought it okay to ask her to perhaps ask someone who WILL know if they’ll be making more chicken breast with Italian seasoning. This prompted a terse conversation towards the back of their kitchen with another worker when they both started to scream (yes, scream), “WE HAVE NO IDEA WHEN WE’LL GET MORE CHICKEN! THERE’S A SHORTAGE! WE HAVE NO IDEA WHEN WE’LL GET RESTOCKED.”

Okay, while I appreciate their passion for letting me know so aggressively that I may be on my own for cooking up the chicken, I walked closer to them and calmly raised my hands about mid-height and said very quietly, “Calm down.” They started yelling again and I just said two more times, “Calm down.” We don’t need to panic the entire store that we may be in the great chicken shortage of all time (we’re not by the way) by screaming that there’s a shortage and now is the time to panic!!!

Fucking calm down. As we made our way through the store, there was an older gentlemen we ran into a couple of times who was clearly already health impaired but spirits were high and I tried to throw him a smile each time we passed him. At one point, I was hot stepping it for those M&M’s and another man almost hit me with his arm while he was screaming at this kids to stay 6′ away from people. My health impaired friend saw this happen and watched as I side stepped from the impending hand towards my face moving with significant momentum and said, “Whoa! Careful there!” to the arm guy. He then looked at me and said, “I like you. You’re awesome and smiley.” (Ya, that’s not something I hear often so it made an impact.) Heh.

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Army Strong. In WWII, many church goers risked death by attending church each week. Now, our churches are closed. But our abortion clinics are open. Just one way the response of this virus is completely anti-American and complete bullshit.

I’ve watched this last week as gyms have shut down and I watched how quickly people I know got their home gyms up and running or at least are posting workouts they can do without equipment. See, that’s how strong people deal with this shit. The ability to stay strong is one of their first priorities. Why? Because we know that the opposite of strong is weak and weakness opens you up to dangers you had no idea were coming.

Mass shutdowns. A virus with seemingly devastating affects. Constitutional rights and civil liberties being trampled “for our own good.” Patience to deal with a potential chicken catastrophe. Ya know, shit that happens when our lives aren’t perfectly perfect.

I was joking with the cashier that the M&M’s were our only hoarding buy. Everything else was normal. She played along and said she doesn’t blame us and do I want a bodyguard to get out of the store with my candy safe and sound. I said, pointing to Matt, “Nahhhhh, I’ve got him.” Nuff said.

Some time ago, a man at Matt’s work who doesn’t lift with weights asked Matt why he thinks he should stay strong even though he isn’t competing at Strongman anymore.

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Strongman pictures where Matt is average sized. Vilnius, Lithuania. He killed it!

Matt’s reply to these types of questions have never wavered, “I will stay as strong as possible in the event life throws shit my way I’m not prepared for. What will YOU do?” Again, nailed it! He’s also told people that if he and that person were to get a serious illness, Matt’s strength will enable him to fight it harder and faster. HEY! All you men who are in your 30’s who think it’s cool to weigh what you weighed in high school? Ya, you weren’t a grown man in high school. You are now and you’re too little to fight this thing and be worth a shit. (Of course unless you were a fat fuck in high school. Same thing applies.)

On that note. So far, and even with today’s completely incomplete and confusing statement by our Governor saying we are now a ‘stay at home’ state but with the current list of everyone who CAN stay open there is really zero difference in how things have gone the last week but because he came out with new words he’s caused new panic; one way we have been encouraged to help out our now depressed economy is to buy take out from local restaurants. So yes, we have done that. IN FACT, we have eaten out more in the last 10 days than a regular month for us. Basically, if we eat out we’re not at home or we’re celebrating something. Geebuz people! Y’all can’t eat take out every day or you’re not going to be able to fight this thing! Stop with the fucking takeout. If a business dies it’s very sad but it’s not worth your health!

Anyways. Back to strong.

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Personally, I give no shits about cellulite. It’s like the shape of my toes, something I have zero control over. I do give many shits over the fact that my fucking left foot should be down and pushing against the ground. That’s super annoying.

Each and every strong friend we have checked in with is doing the exact same thing. They ARE social distancing as possible. They ARE continuing to eat (mostly) as if health and strength is a priority. They continue to train (as they can.) We are so very fortunate to have a full gym set up. In fact, I did enough kettlebell swings the other day that you could actually call it, hang on to your hats, cardio. Our friends, like us, refuse to live with fear but rather a rational respect for this virus.

But at the heart of each day, strength matters.

And this is my point of today, follow the strong. They are working to retain and even improve strength; do that too. There are things you can do RIGHT NOW to be stronger (no, running isn’t on the list.) There are heavy things in your house, lift them. There are chairs, start sitting and standing up as many times as possible. When you can’t, catch your breath and do another set. You can eat more protein than 30 grams a day, even chicken (but you may need to cook it yourself. Good luck.) Seek out your strong friends and ask them how to fight this shit, and then listen!

Follow the strong. Will it guarantee your safety? Nope. Nothing does. That’s the rub. Strong people may succumb to death, seriously. They might die. Of what, we don’t know. There is a high chance that a strong person will die at some point in time. But today? So far so good. I’ve just snatched higher than I have since last March and heavy pulls felt good. Yeah 53 year old me.

There are many unhealthy and weak people in our lives that we love. I’m sad for them. I am concerned for them. At the same time, it’s on them to stay weak. They have resources on how not to be weak, it’s up to them to decide that they need more strength than to carry some lawn seed from their cars to their lawns.

Srsly.

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No, you don’t need to be strong enough to throw a 19 foot telephone pole thingy and turn it a perfect 12:00. But if you were, you’ve got a fighting chance!

“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”

Abraham Lincoln

 

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2 in 2

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The reality of success is that the hard work is unseen unless you’re fortunate enough to execute the plan of achieving the goal. The reality of MY success is that my husband is constantly encouraging me to achieve my dreams. None of this happens without him or HIS hard work.

It is a true fact that, at times, I bite off more than I can chew. There are times where plans seem like a very good idea and executing those plans are a nightmare that turns into exhaustive chaos. However, I tend to hang on to the idea that this is a good plan and let’s go for it and are then too stubborn to let it go. Pretty much me in a nutshell.

This is one of those times.

Last year when schedules came out for Masters Worlds in Weightlifting that were to be held in August and Masters Worlds for Highland Games that were being held in November (unusually late but advantageous for me) I had the great idea to qualify for both and go hard for two World titles in one year. I mean, it wouldn’t be easy but I’m a pretty good thrower and I can work to be a pretty good weightlifter and hey, let’s go for it!

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Sara and I competed at our very first Highlander together down in Texas in 2011. She is the absolute best and I’m so happy to see her and her husband every time we are reunited. This also proves I was in the group picture briefly before I’d had it and stepped out.

And then National’s happened at the end of March and I realized that in order for me to even have a chance at a Weightlifting world title, I had to drop a weight class. For me, that meant going from 104kg down to 87kg. I started on April 1st and zig zagged my way down for a while and got some amazing help from my friend and teammate, Kathy Cromwell at the Athlete’s House who got me to the magical number of 86.4 for approximately the 7 minutes needed for a good weight in before I jumped right back up to 90. Yup, that fast.

Now if I were someone who wasn’t involved in my actual cutting of the weight, I would read the above paragraph with a perception that this person (me) lost a whole bunch  of weight and good for her and wow she was successful doing it and isn’t that nice.

Reality is different. Much much different. The weight cut was one of the biggest roller coaster rides of my life (I’d say THE biggest but then three days ago happened and that takes the number one spot.) There were successful days and the other 90% of the time was me clawing my way down that fucking scale. I would have four, five, even six days stalled out. I would drop five pounds in a week and suddenly go back up 4 pounds and stay there for another week. It sucked. Absolutely sucked. Doesn’t that sound like a fun summer for Matt?

Oh by the way, I had to keep training as hard as I could for a World’s title ASSUMING I could make weight. Also, I had chosen to forego any kind of throwing until after Montreal. I couldn’t add that into the mix. I was already mentally fried and trying to figure out hammers would throw me right over the edge and I was teetering on that ledge on a good day.

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Post meet we walked; we drank, and we went to a Burlesque review that was about as fun as I could fit into one day (minus the too many sweet drinks at Burlesque, I shoulda skipped that part;)

While my original “good plan” involved working towards two World Championships, I added a huge weight cut to the equation and that’s where “good plans” go to “hang on through this shitshow.” Again, doesn’t that sound like so much fun for Matt?

I was fortunate enough that part I of the plan was executed. I did it. I made weight with my friend and coach by my side, and I won with my friend’s and coaches and husband by my side. I had sat in an excruciatingly hot sauna with Sheryl Cohen for hours upon hours to make weight which hugely affected my ability to lift anything over 70% and I was slightly mortified at the low total I put up but at the end of the day, I did what I had to do for the win and that needs to be enough. (Not gonna lie though, it still stings.)

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Ya, there’s some guy’s big melon in my Worlds picture. Don’t care. I care where I’m standing. That’s what I care most about.

I had a whole four days after returning from Montreal to switch gears to being a Highland Games athlete before jumping on a plane and celebrating my son’s Basic Training graduation down in South Carolina. I arrived completely exhausted and while tearing around SC and Virginia didn’t really help that, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Watching your children achieve their dreams and celebrate those moments is such a gift and I’m so thankful I was able to participate in them.

Once I got home from getting Oz settled at AIT, I had three weeks to practice throwing. My plan was to do drills to get acquainted with the mechanics and not drive myself into the ground with overtraining while still recovering from Montreal and everything it took for that success. Again, I believe this to be a really good plan! Mother nature had other ideas. It rained constantly in September and by the time we left for a weekend in Vegas at the end of the month, I had only been able to get out to the field a few times. I still wasn’t panicked…yet. The drills I was able to do felt pretty solid and though I hadn’t measured anything, I felt like I was on the right track.

Then Vegas happened. Our first 24 hours were fantastic. Amazing food and bevvies and plenty of sun for me while Matt went off to work at this trade show. I decided to run to Whole Foods to get some good food for the day along with some snacks, waters that didn’t cost $10 a bottle, and of course some wine. I made myself a salad and Matt a box of good food with many of the same ingredients without the lettuce of the salad.

By the afternoon I wasn’t feeling awesome and by midnight all hell had broken loose. Food poisoning. This is the 3rd time I’ve had food poisoning and it was the worst. In hindsight, I should have gone into Urgent care and gotten help. But I didn’t want to bother Matt with any of it because he was so busy at this trade show so I spent the nights puking and shitting and by the time I was finally able to trust that I would be okay on the plane, I was exhausted and even more sick.

It took over three weeks to finally feel like I could even hold a 21# weight much less throw it. That brought me to mid October. I had two and a half weeks to try to get my shit together to execute Part II of the plan and believe me, I was worried. Very; Worried. My distances were shit. I wasn’t getting my heavy weight past 32 feet (keep in mind, last year I threw it over 50 feet.) My hammers were low enough that I knew I was vulnerable to not only not win them, but not even take 2nd (while they did improve, I DID take 3rd in the Heavy Hammer last weekend;)

I was vulnerable in a way I hadn’t been in throwing for quite a few years. That’s not to say I had always won but I knew my strong events were strong and now I did not have that confidence. I also knew that the other competitors had seriously stepped up THEIR games and this one was going to be a fight. I was right.

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My weights have always been a strong event in the Highland Games but I couldn’t find my footing on them this year. I’m thankful to Olivia Tyler who diagnosed what I was doing wrong through texts and was able to get me slightly on track but they still weren’t as strong as I’d like. Story of my life (a really good beer actually.)

 

 Day one was stones, weights, and caber. My plan was to take one of the stones; both weights, and second on Caber (returning World Champion Edie Lindburg is the queen of caber. I consider her unbeatable not to say I wouldn’t try but she is flawless in her turning of sticks and I was correct.) I had to fight hard for those second place finishes and though my weights were a challenge, I got it done. Day one went according to plan but I was tight. It was harder than I’d imagined and I had imagined it’d be tough. I felt incredibly fortunate to be in first place by a point.

Day 2 were hammers and heights and I had hoped to take 1st in all but knew I could absorb a 2nd place in Sheaf if I needed to and executed hammers and WOB. Now, my hammers actually weren’t horrible. They just weren’t as good as I needed and it was a good thing I didn’t know until the very end of the day that I had taken 3rd in heavy hammer (I would have considered an overall win lost at that point so it’s hard to say if I’d have been as determined as I was to finish strong.)

Finish strong. Honestly, I have been in hard fought battles and failed to finish strong in the past and that annoys me. So while three of us were duking it out on 15′ on WOB and the other two women missed their 3rd attempt before my last chance, I looked myself in the mirror (not really but you get the picture) and said, YOU WILL FUCKING MAKE THIS HEIGHT. YOU WILL NOT FAIL. YOU NEED THIS AND YOU WILL GET IT. And I did; barely, but I did. The judge asked what height I wanted to go to next and I’m all, “nope, I’m done.” Thanks but no thanks. I did what I needed to do. I overcame my lack of self confidence and I was ready to move to sheaf.

Now, this was our last event and I believed points were such that I would have won with a solid second place. I was right but not for the reasons I thought but again, thankfully I didn’t know that until we were done throwing Sheaf. I unpacked my brand new fork from Michael Black that I had picked up in Las Vegas and away we went.

On a good day, my sheaf is unreliable. Sometimes I hit it, sometimes I don’t. Today, I had to hit it. I came in at the opening of 12′. Yup. 12′; 15′, and then 18′ were successful but at 21′ there were still four of us in. Uh oh. I needed 2nd or better and Edie is the sheaf whisperer so I was doubtful I could beat her. Our German friend went out at 22′ but overall bronze medal winner, Bonnie Hicks, was still in. Crap (no offense Bonnie;) That meant I had to hit 23′. And I did. There were enough attempts on my part that the bag literally sat on the bar and decided to go over. I joked that I was going to buy that bar a drink at the end of the day but I wasn’t joking. I had the sheaf gods on my side and made 23 which is where Bonnie went out. I had a moment of “holy shit, I just did this thing.” Briefly because when Bonnie told me she had taken 2nd in heavy hammer and I realized I had taken 3rd, I believed Edie and I were tied and she would have taken the overall win on countbacks going to Caber where Edie had won. Game over.

I went from elated to devastated. We finished watching Edie kick ass on Sheaf and I tried to put on a happy face knowing that not getting 3 inches more on heavy hammer cost me my 2nd World Championship of the year. Fok.

Because of the large number of throwers, the results took hours to be calculated. Hours. At one point, I almost left. I was hot; tired; dejected and had just had the most disgusting thing I’ve ever experienced happen to me back at our tent (a man I didn’t know was drinking with my hubs and friends at the tent. I had changed out of my kilt already and wanted to get out of my stinky Games shirt and didn’t think anything of changing right there to another shirt. I mean, we’re all athletes and I had a sports bra on when he says, in front of all these men whom I love and respect, “Could you do that again only this time in slow motion?” I was fucking flabbergasted. Literally I could have attacked him physically. I said, “I don’t know, ask my fucking husband” and stomped away where I had a few choice words for Matt not kicking his ass on the spot. When we came back, Matt told him to apologize and he did but I was on fire. Bad timing to be a misogynistic asshole to Juli Peterson dude, bad timing. I laid into him pretty good but I just wanted to punch his face. What the actual fuck? I had just let my goal slip through my hands and this asshole cocks off to me in front of my friends? By the way, it’d be best for this man never to cross my path again. I shook his hands for the sake of trying to have fun but I will not forget this moment. Bad news for him.)

Anyways, Rachel Smith saved me from leaving and I’m so glad she did. Even if I wouldn’t have won, I’m glad I was there. Thank you Rachel and Tim Timm, waiting with the two of you was the perfect stress reliever and I adore you both pretty hard.

The moment came where they started announcing our group. I grabbed Matt’s hand, hard, and started walking towards the crowd. Before announcing 2nd place, they said there was only 1.5 points separating the top two spots and they announced Edie’s name. I lost it. Completely. I buried myself into my husband’s arms and couldn’t stop crying.

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Our group killed. Absolutely killed. I am so proud of us all.

By the time they announced my name as the World Champion I was pretty much hugging anyone who stepped in my path and when I got to Ruth Welding and Sue Hallen, I couldn’t stop crying. Lucky them, HA! The A.D. of the Games asked if this was my first Championship after giving HIM a hug and I said, “no, but this one means the most.” (I was off on my numbers overall before they were read. I still needed that 2nd place sheaf finish to win but I was mixed up on hammer results. Not a big deal but I didn’t want to leave that out there.)

And it does. It really does. Edie and Bonnie were right there to give more hugs and yes, they got crying Jules. Petra asked why I was crying and I was crying too hard to answer. Heeeheee. I guess I had some tension there.

That’s it. We did it. Me and Matt. We did it. Weight cut and two World Championships in two different strength sports against the best of the best. I told Matt last month that if this thing works, he’s in charge of setting up the celebration. I don’t know what it is yet but he’s in charge. Because this needs to be celebrated and I’m usually moving on to the next thing (weightlifting next weekend) without celebrating achievements. Not this time. This time gets some attention.

But not for at least 10 days because I fly to Seattle on Tuesday to have to make weight again and make a qualifying total of 106kg for 2020 Weightlifting worlds at the Howard Cohen American Championships. Perspective is nice. I was not impressed with my 120kg total in Montreal and all I want next week is my qualifying total of 106. I’m beat to shit. Snatching is painful with a crappy shoulder. My knee stops working if I hit a jerk wrong and I’ll have to work for that 106.

THEN, I’ll be ready to celebrate.

I need to thank so many people and I’m afraid to name them because I don’t want to miss anyone. My husband is the greatest. The absolute greatest. My children for their support. Olivia Tyler for her unselfishness in helping me. My fellow competitors and the 55-59 class ladies. Kevin Rogers, the AD in Tucson along with all of the volunteers and judges. Sue and Ruth for their unending love and support. My weightlifting family of the Cohen’s; Kathy; Lauren and Mel. Scott and Sally. Auntie and Uncle for sharing their day before we headed to Tucson.

Thank you all.

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My Auntie and Uncle are the best. I’m so thankful for their love and Uncle’s smoking of brisket skills;)

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.

Colin Powell

And a little bit of luck. jp

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Goonies; Goldfish; Goodbye’s

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Knowing Oz was walking out of that smoke on family day at Ft. Jackson was an absolute thrill. No tears, just immense pride.

The last couple of weeks have been busy enough that a client congratulated me on my Weightlifting Masters World Championship win and I had to think back to how long ago that was. 22 days, it was 22 days ago. Practically a lifetime.

So much has happened in those 22 days that I am finally able to move like I train or something; function throughout my days as if I actually sleep, and my stress level has gone from highest possible to undetectable. 22 days. More on Montreal another day, today of all days belongs to my soldier.

The U.S. Army mom education protocol is trial by fire. Your loved one ships off to Basic Training (BCT) and suddenly it’s as if they’ve been swallowed into a black hole. Especially if your loved one isn’t a writer, which mine isn’t. I was fortunate enough to find some mommy pages on the Facebook and quickly became acclimated to army life.

Each day I would open my computer in hopes of a picture of my trainee; a mention of him on a group page, or an actual letter from him. Most days I was disappointed. There is an outfit that takes pictures and while Oz was in a few of them, he hid from the camera the rest of the time. While Mom’s in various pages mentioned their loved one’s battle buddies, Oz was never on the list. And while other mother’s bemoaned the fact that they’ve only received 10 letters in 3 weeks from their trainees, I held onto my one letter sent his very first week and reread it. Basically, we were in radio darkness.

The call I received from Oz while still up in Duluth in July confirmed that he loved army life; didn’t think it was very hard, but still had to pass that PT test. And that was it. We literally went all the way to the Monday evening before we were flying out to South Carolina for graduation before his call came in saying, yes-he passed his PT test (actually did weeks before. Thanks for telling us Oz;) and can’t wait to see us on Wednesday.

My first reaction? Phew. My 2nd first reaction? FUCKYA!!!!! He did it. We knew he would but getting that confirmation call was the absolute best. I knew the next few days were going to be long and busy and I focused on how to take in and enjoy each moment. Oh boy, did I enjoy each moment!

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Me and my soldier

As the weeks passed while Oz was in BCT and I was trying to cut weight and train for my meet, I would focus on Wednesdays. See, Wednesdays were the best days. Family day for that week’s graduating soldiers at Ft. Jackson and the ceremony where they would walk out of the woods and smoke into view. Every celebration of hard work and success got me to the next week and the next. Just as I visualized making weight and winning in Montreal, I visualized Oz walking out of that smoke. Every week. Every Wednesday. One more week down to our goals.

 

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This was a moment. A very very good moment.

One of the traditions of family day after the soldiers march out of the smoke is to have a family member “tap” them out. What this means is that they stay in formation until they’ve been tapped. (It is common for soldiers to not have family be in attendance and this was a tough reality. However, those who do not have family get to still tool around the Post with their battle buddies and we passed many during the day that were having fun together. Others literally will spend the day in barracks on their phones and enjoying some quiet, personal space. I took comfort in this.) At dinner the evening before, Oz’s dad; sister, and girlfriend and I talked about the tapping out. We decided that Oz would want Rachael (his gf) to be the one to tap him out and I agreed to that AS LONG AS she waited long enough so we could get video and pictures of it. I’m not gonna lie, it was a moment. I teased her that no one better question her size (she’s tiny) because she nearly knocked over 3 soldiers on her way to Oz. Atta girl.

Because there are literally thousands of people roaming the Post, I decided that we were going to pack a picnic and just chill out for a while. Thanks to not only one of the worlds strongest women but also one of the worlds best friend’s, Danielle Curry, we were able to do that. See, the week planned was awesome but also involved hella lots of planning, coordinating, and hoping. One of the things coordinated was connecting with Danielle who lives in Columbia and let us borrow coolers and cooler bags for our picnic. It was absoluting awesome. After the family day ceremony, we hung out in the parking lot for probably a couple of hours and snacked while we listened to story after story from Oz about his last 10 weeks. The coolers were key and getting to spend time with Danielle was such a treat I can’t even put in words how thankful I am for it.

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Our first experience with Oz getting a weekend pass involved a quick trip to Walmart because he was dismissed literally with only the clothes on his back. It was pretty funny.

Time flew, especially the sleeping part, and we left South Carolina for Virginia on Thursday after the graduation ceremony. I was extremely thankful for this extra time with Oscar and the girls had planned their flights around the hope that after checking into his Advanced Training Post on Friday, he would received a pass and we could spend even MORE time with him. I was also extremely thankful for arriving safely as tired as I was during the nearly six hour drive. I’m not gonna lie, there were a couple of times I hit those rumble strips on the freeway and a catastrophic accident on the opposite lanes of the road were terrifying enough to start barking at the kids to help mommy stay awake.

Our hopes that Oz would received a weekend pass paid off and we were able to chill and enjoy each other at the hotel for the weekend. It was even beyond our expectations because he didn’t have to check back in each night. I let Oz lead the way as to how much or how little he wanted to to do before the girls flew out Saturday afternoon and just chilling all weekend was the priority. It went by so slow yet so fast that I take that to mean that, yes, I took in each moment and yes, time between goodbye’s fly by.

Suddenly it was Sunday morning and we had to get packed up (I had to get packed up basically since Oz wasn’t taking anything back to Post for him and I was changing hotels to get closer to the airport) and say OUR goodbye. At one point, I came out of my bedroom to this:

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You can serve your country and enjoy watching the Goonies while eating Goldfish. At the end of the day, some soldiers are still our little boys;)

I had read from some family members that saying goodbye at AIT was far worse than sending them to BCT. This didn’t happen for me. There were twinges of sadness, that is true, but I got to see where he was living and where he was going to school and felt far more connected to his space than I was at BCT and that helped me a lot. It also helps that he has his phone now and we can snapchat often and sometimes I even get snaps like this:

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The entire week was a gift. An amazing gift. I’m so thankful to my husband for his help in setting it up. We missed him throughout the week but truth be told, all of the people and the heat would have made him crazy. I’m so thankful to our friends who are family who have supported Oz throughout his life. I still have T-shirts for y’all, I just remembered that. I’ll send them off tomorrow. I’m thankful to my ex and my girls (at one point during the graduation ceremony Rachael said, “MOM!” and we laughed. I said that’s fine, you’re one of my girls) for helping make this week so very special for Oscar.

Most of all, I’m thankful for my soldier. On this day, I’m thankful for he and every person who has shown love and commitment to their country. There are so many and often times uniforms aren’t worn but on this day, those who love our country and their fellow countrymen are thanked. Oscar’s journey is just beginning, as is ours as an Army family. I’m thankful it’s off to a very good start and I’m so very, very proud of my boy.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to ensure the survival and the success of liberty.

John F. Kennedy

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Ode to Up North

Even though I started this little life journey of mine on Maui and Texas, in my bones, I’m an Up North girl. I don’t mind the heat of summer knowing that it’s fleeting. I don’t even mind the heat of a vacation if I have water and bevvies nearby. However on a day to day basis, I belong up north. Milwaukee is south. I understand others believe it’s north but it’s not UP NORTH. See, that is actually a very important distinction.

It hasn’t always been the case. When the Peterson’s took me home in Austin, TX and shortly after moved me up to Carlton, Minnesota I balked. Literally. My dad had just started at a new church and had to take time off because I wouldn’t let my mother near me (I’m sure that was fun for her;) So dad would come and give her a small break from my screaming whenever she came near me. I would be reminded of this throughout our time together and have been struck curious by my reactions through the years. When I was 20 my dad and I were having lunch at Byerlys (their beer cheese soup with popcorn on top was magical) and he brought it up because my mother and I were on another “rough patch” and it was my fault because I rejected her when I was first adopted. I sat in that booth and thought to myself, “Is a free bowl of beer cheese soup with popcorn worth this bullshit?” Yes. Yes it was. So I was the good girl and took it. Accepted responsibility for behavior I didn’t remember or could account for. Sorry (that was my sarcastic voice I hope ya know.)

Carlton wasn’t all bad. I was hell on wheels with my tricycle. My best friend Krissy Davis and I would go play on the railroad tracks a couple of blocks from her house. Mind you, I was 6 when we moved away so little 4 and 5 year olds tearin’ it up on the tracks was normal enough that we never got in trouble. We would Vacation Bible School at Jay Cooke state park; snowmobile out our back door, and have a book mobile that came to the house in lieu of a library. OH! We also had a milkman. No shit.

We were within a short drive to Grand Rapids where our cabin was and it was nothing for us to be up there all summer and have dad drive up after church Sunday and return Tuesday morning (Monday’s were always days off for Pastor John.) I have been incredibly fortunate to travel to some amazing places with my amazing husband and hope to do more in the future; however; Up North Minnesota is my happy place. So when we heard Michael Cohen was doing a lifting seminar at Crossfit Duluth this summer I looked at the hubs and said, yup, let’s go. Luckily he was game and it went on the calendar.

Now, our summer has been very low key due to my cutting a weight class for Masters World Championships looming ahead. No dinners out, that’s a big change for us. No summer parties at the house where scrumptious smoked meats and flowing bevvies are served. No GOING to fun summer parties where scrumptious smoked meats and flowing bevvies are being served. Home with maybe an ounce of bourbon and early bed to see what the scale is saying the next day. But we had Duluth to look forward to and it didn’t disappoint.

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This was our view outside our hotel window. It was absolutely gorgeous! We also got to see the steam engine go back and forth and listen to the horn of the Great Lakes ships going in and out of the canal and the train whistle. It was perfect.

First off, I will be the first to admit that memories are often unreliable. For example, I remember driving to Jay Cooke and it seemed like a big drive. Nope, it is literally on the edge of town. Like, we didn’t even really leave town to get there. The entrance was MAYBE a mile from the church doors but I don’t think it was that far. The same goes with a drive to a nearby town called Cloquet. I hated those drives. There was a scandinavian store called Bergquist that has a huge Dala horse outside that I loved. However, I could never go in the store in case I broke something (I’m kinda wondering if I actually did break something once so this was maybe warranted) so I had to sit in the hot car after an hour long drive to this stupid town that smells really bad (from a paper mill. No fault of their own but still, on some days it stunk super bad.) Turns out the drive was about 8 minutes. Could be I was a bit dramatic.

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The ginormous Dala horse is still there. The store is much smaller than I remember it (thatswhatshesaid.)

I’ve told Matt the story of when I was riding tricycle at our church in Carlton (it had a super cool handicap ramp that I could go up and down while my mom did some work inside) and I decided I needed to go pick up my brother from school. So I left and took off for South Terrace Elementary which was on the other side of the railroad tracks and about two miles outside town. Mind you, this was the only way out of Carlton on the south side so semi-trucks and other fast traffic was the norm. Didn’t bother me a bit, I was outta there. When we were driving around I told Matt that I’m curious how far I actually got before a church member caught me and took my back into town and called my parents to come get me at the local barber shop. I figured this was another distance amnesia thing and actually not very far. Nope. It was far enough that a 4 year old on a tricycle this far outside of town these days would have been front page news and received a one on one relationship with child services. Not gonna lie, I remain pretty impressed with myself on that one.

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How the hubs felt about hiking;)

After tooling around Carlton, we headed to Jay Cooke to do some hiking. Yes, for those who know Matt, hiking. Jay Cooke has a swing bridge that terrified me when I was younger but is kind of fun now. The river is low, that helped a bit. If you fall off it you’ll just hit the rocks and probably be maimed or die but you won’t be swept away by the rushing current. So there’s that. I understand my love of climbing all over rocks now as Jay Cooke is the perfect rock climbing park. We hiked a few trails but would stop and sit on the rocks. A common theme is that I would get close to the edge of the rocks and Matt would hang back. I’ve mentioned a few times on social media how proud I am of Matt deciding to take this weight cut thing on also. It means the world to me that my still super strong strongman can also move easier and is feeling better in general without 35 pounds of strongman bulk to his frame. We went to 3 state parks this trip. That’s 3 more than we’ve ever been to in our 9 years together. Pretty soon we’ll start traveling with a bike rack. (But probably not.)

I packed food since my diet is still very strict but the bigg guy winged it. What this meant was we always needed to be within striking distance of food. EZPZ. After hiking at Jay Cooke, Matt wanted ice cream and the little frozen treats at the ranger station wasn’t cutting it. Off to Cloquet we went (the whole whoppin’ 10 minute drive) and entered Gordy’s Hi-Hat. Now, here’s something interesting. When I think of Cloquet, I think of the ginormous Dala horse; the 1 hour drive that was actually 10 minutes, and the smell of the paper mill. I don’t remember Gordy’s. And this is where I tip my Mom hat to Lynda Lou. At some point, she decided Gordy’s wasn’t going to be an every day stop for ice cream and the best french fries you’ve ever had. This also explains why we would take a slightly longer (I mean, like 4 minutes, not 50) route into town, it bypassed Gordy’s. Matt got his burger and fries and ice cream and I got a tiny taste of the best french fries on the planet.

The next day belonged to lifting. Seeing Michael again sans half a finger he lost earlier in the week was a gift. Honestly, if I had his coaching on a regular basis I’d be such a better lifter. He’s also a great man who is entertaining as hell in general so just being around him is good for the soul. The crew at Crossfit Duluth were as wonderful and supportive of each other as anything I’ve seen and we even hung out with them afterwards to eat and watch some of the airshow that was nearby with planes zooming right over their building (we left before the Blue Angels went on but the other planes were very cool!) Training time confirmed the fact that I just need to be strong and cue-able and he’ll get me to where we need to be in a couple of weeks at the meet.

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Having Michael Cohen barking cues at you for hours on end will make you a better lifter. True story. Also, I was a spy for Sheryl to make sure he behaved with that newly surgical’d finger. He didn’t touch a barbell so I think for him that was behaving.

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Blueberry with ice cream. Yup.

The next day, we headed north. Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Light House. But first, a very special stop at Betty’s Pies. Now this stop IS embedded into my brain and in fact, the last time I was there was with my mom. So I fit a piece of blueberry pie and ice cream into my calorie count for the day and didn’t even feel a little bit bad about it. While I rarely condone emotional eating, I do embrace enjoying a memory through food. That’s what Betty’s Pies is for me. No matter how many “rough patches” my mom and I went through over the years, we had pie and conversation at Betty’s up north. We had a wonderful day filled with more hiking; more me close to the edge of the rocks with Matt hanging back, and more silliness but most of all, we had pie. I’m not even a huge fan of pie. I’d far rather have cake or donuts but blueberry pie and ice cream is forever pictured with contentment between me and my mom. I cherish that.

See, my mom was an Up North girl. She grew up in Grand Rapids and instilled in me such a love for Up North that to this day, being there or even thinking of it makes my heart full. We didn’t fight Up North. In fact, we found so many commonalities Up North that it was almost as if we got along on a daily basis. I loved what she loved Up North. Not because I was trying to fit into her ideal, but because these things truly touched my heart and embedded itself into it. Up North belonged to Lynda Lou and Jules and no one could touch that.

I received a text in March after weigh-in’s at Nationals that my mother had a massive stroke and wasn’t expected to survive. I hadn’t spoken to she or my father in over 10 years. I knew this day would come. My staying away from the Minnesota Peterson’s has proven time and time again to be the right choice for me. This was no different. I made sure my kids were okay and then handed the phone to Matt and said I’ll need to deal with this in a couple of hours. The next day, I received a vile and vicious note from my sister that again, confirmed what I had believed. That these people are not for me. Her games didn’t stop, she even excluded us from my mother’s original Obituary. Matt wanted me to tell her to fuck herself but I had always said that when this day comes and WHEN she would lash out at me (shitty people are very predictable) that I would answer in kindness and honor to my parents and myself. And I did. Oh believe me, her words cut deep. She was completely successful in briefly decimating my emotions. But a good cry and a bourbon filled night with my sisters in strength (and hubs) in Salt Lake filled holes in my heart that an angry Joy could never touch. Ever. (By the way, my sisters in strength are the shit. They are everything my sister, Joy, could never be. They are strong in themselves so don’t have to lash out at others. They lift not only weights, but your spirits when needed. They are diverse and fascinating and I adore them. I’m two weeks out from seeing them again and cannot wait! After that I get to spend time with my throwing sisters in strength. Aren’t I lucky to have so many amazing sisters?)

I learned those weekends, in Salt Lake City and Duluth, that there are parts of my relationship with my mother that can never be touched. That are lovely and warm and fun and even silly (Lynda was rarely silly. I told my Auntie Karen the day after my mom’s stroke that she brought out the silly in my mom. Auntie Karen does that, brings out the best in all of us.) Those are our Up North times. Up North brought out similarities and stifled the differences or the hurt that had built up between us over the years. That’s what Up North does.

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Really though, my hot hunky hubs is the cutest!

Every step Matt and I took during our Duluth weekend was a step my mother and I had taken together and I’m just realizing now that this was my introduction of her to him. I had told Matt that when I got there I might cry. Not from sadness but because it is my happy place. Well, I didn’t. I tried when I was driving away from the lift bridge one last time but I just couldn’t. I was filled with such gratitude that we had this weekend together that I just couldn’t muster up any sadness.

And one last thing about our Up North weekend, I left with an understanding that Jay Cooke; the lift bridge; even Betty’s Pies (hopefully) will still be standing long after I’m gone and they will be a part of someone else’s love for Up North. How awesome is that!

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I have what I have and I am happy. I’ve lost what I’ve lost and I am still happy.

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