Can we just end the story right there? Because I’m exhausted.
Seriously though, in my defense, ten of those moves were as a child. Totally out of my control. I’m responsible for the others, which were nearly all a trading-up situation. Okay, maybe I’m justifying just a bit.
But this last move was different. It was the first time I downsized for the sake of lifestyle, and I really hope this is my last move (knock on wood I didn’t just jinx myself…again). I was in over my head at the townhouse. Not financially, but physically. Maintenance-wise I was drowning in to-do lists, and some of it was beyond my physical capability. But I tried. I’m not one to hire people to do things for me that I should be able to do, so I really tried!
Y’all, this one was A. Mazing! And yes, it’s the third one this year…I do believe I’m on a 5K roll!
This trip was quite last minute. In July I joined a makeup company (this is going to blow your mind, btw), so now in addition to my full-time day job, I’m also a Maskcara Beauty Artist in my free time (more on that in another post). Before my Artist kit even arrived, the opportunity arose to attend the company’s annual conference in Salt Lake City and I said “why not?” My cancer diagnosis five years ago gave me a new perspective on life and a greater appreciation for positive life experiences, so where I used to hesitate and err on the side of caution, now I’m saying yes to a whole lot more. This is making me very happy.
Since Utah had not been checked off my list yet, I figured I should work a 5K into the 47 hours I’d be there. Why wouldn’t I, right? This one was tricky because I didn’t want to miss any of the conference. Well, it just so happened that The Launch Team 5K/10K was happening Saturday morning at 6:30. That’s race start time, folks. I had to be at the designated meeting place by 5:30 a.m. to catch a bus that drove us up Emigration Canyon, and then we ran the 5K back down the canyon. The morning speaker at the conference was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Y’all, this was a test of my efficiency if I’ve ever seen one.
There’s so much to say about this race. First, the group trains teens and young adults of all athletic abilities to run a half marathon. A half marathon. You can’t see me, but I’m bowing in awe. These folks are amazing. They coach kids not only to run, but to develop a healthy lifestyle, to be accountable, and to develop a passionate and positive attitude. I’m so glad I gave these people my money and ran down a hill with them. All the feels!
Second, the scenery. Gahhhh! It was middle-of-the-night dark when I arrived, and it took a while to find where/who was handing out shirts and bibs because all we had for light were the school bus headlights parked along the street. Not to be deterred, we packed in and rode up the canyon, unloaded, and it was still dark. This actually made for some quiet, meditative pre-race time as opposed to the usual hopping around and stretching. It gave me the opportunity to get a little zen vibe going on.
And then the sun started rising. I didn’t actually see the sun until after the race because we were in a canyon; it simply became light enough to see, and the mountains of the Wasatch Range were revealed. Gorgeous.
With the run being all downhill, one would think I would have pulled a fantastic time. No M’am. I did an all-downhill 5K in 42:47 minutes, just 2 minutes faster than my flat Minnesota run in June. Hmph. Yes, I stopped to take pictures a few times, but that can account for maybe 3 minutes at most. They say these downhill runs are so people can get crazy fast times to qualify for marathons. Well, I’m not trying to qualify for anything. Obviously.
But, I made it down the canyon, and the sun was at my back as I triumphantly breathlessly crossed the finish line.
I collected my second place winnings (for my age group, and there were only three of us) which consisted of a ribbon and a couple of coupons for local eateries, and as I crossed the street to await my Uber I saw this.
I’ve been struck by ridiculous, overwhelming, natural beauty on each of my 5K trips. Salt Lake City was no exception, and it was crazy easy to navigate. The TRAX Light Rail from the airport to downtown was quick and I paid for my ride with an app. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
I didn’t see much of the city because my time there was short and I was committed to the conference and the predawn 5K. But y’all, I’m so glad I set out on this crazy journey! Some of these races I’m half walking, and some day I might be walking them entirely, but good grief it is so worth it. If you’re thinking about seeing more of our breathtaking United States, do it. I highly recommend taking it all in. Let it fill your eyes with beauty and your heart with joy. Running shoes optional.
As with pretty much every green thing under my care, I’ve been struggling with what to do about the side garden. It’s on a gradual slope, and it becomes a river every time it rains. Hmph. This strip of dirt is roughly four feet at its widest point and runs twenty-four feet long between the house and sidewalk, and it gets a couple of hours of sun daily.
Last summer I thought I had it figured out. I put down landscape fabric, planted a few hostas, covered with mulch and scattered some large rocks around to keep everything in place. I scavenged the rocks from another area of the yard and did a little switch-a-roo. It was pretty, and I was pleased. Until the first rain took all the mulch away. Right around the bend and into my front yard, actually. By the following Spring, the landscape fabric had been pushed around so much that it looked like a pile of laundry. And the hostas were sprouting beneath it, not able to find the holes I had cut in the fabric six months earlier.
What. A. Mess.
I thought on it for quite a while (read: I avoided it for a long time). The hostas were doing well where they were planted, and they seemed unaffected by the raging river of rainwater. So I knew I wanted to plant more hostas, but what ground cover to finish it off that wouldn’t wash away? The mulch was a joke, and gravel would be bullied just as easily. I thought about a rock garden with substantial rocks, but didn’t want to commit to the budget for that.
Then, like a rock garden angel whispering in my ear, my neighbor told me about a landscape supply company in town. “Supply” anything usually means less than retail pricing. Now I had an idea. As I pulled into the dirt parking lot, I got a sinking feeling that this was one of those places that only sells to contractors. No M’am! I could buy whatever I wanted. And the price was right.
The catch is that you can’t just buy 10 or 15 big rocks. The smallest amount they sell is a quarter yard. It was a grand total of $12 for a quarter yard of basketball and football-size rocks. TWELVE DOLLARS! You know I love a deal. Budgeting is in my blood! The other particular is that a quarter yard is roughly 700 pounds of rock, and it’s a “you load/you haul” kind of operation.
The guy in the front-end loader pushed a 700 pound pile of rocks to the side for me and I began loading them into the trunk of the Altima. Pretty quickly I saw that the wheel well-to-tire space was disappearing. It took four trips of loading and unloading, but I got those rocks home. It was 98 degrees with a thousand percent humidity, and by the time the last rock was out of my trunk and on the pile next to the house, I walked away from that hot heavy mess and never looked back. Well, not for about a month.
By the time I was ready to look at it again, it was August and all the garden centers were picked over in the hosta department. So I did what any respectable gardener would–I yanked a few from other areas of my yard. Ha! It’s like rearranging the living room, only outside. I love this!
I transplanted the container hostas and introduced them to the side garden hostas. Then I once again moved 700 pounds of rock as I placed every last one just so. I now have a rock garden/river of hostas along the side of my home. We’ve had some substantial rain and not a thing has moved. I think it’s actually preventing some of the erosion that had been occurring. But best of all, it’s beautiful.
If you have a piece of land that isn’t up to par for flowers or vegetables, consider a rock garden. You might even get plants to grow that would otherwise have been victim to wind, rain, or rushing water.
Y’all, I’m checking states off my list! In June I hit Virginia, and although I’m somewhat tardy in reporting this next one, in September I did a 5K in Illinois. Can I get a Kimmy Schmidt high five? This was actually my second attempt at a race in Illinois – the first one was a wash (take a peek). No, really. It rained so hard I couldn’t convince my feet to step out of the swag tent. We ran like children to the car and went out to eat instead.
But the second time was a charm. I have family in Illinois and pop in a couple of times per year, so scheduling a visit around a 5K was no big. And the bonus was that my niece and grand-niece joined me! These two were so sweet to walk with me, and what a trooper Little A was for walking the entire 3.1 miles (she’s 4). Honestly, she complained less than I did.
The walk was in a little town, a “subdivision” if we’re using the local vernacular, not too far from home base. Plainfield is in northeastern Illinois, southwest of the city. Its population is less than 50,000, with a historic downtown of boutiques, shops, and restaurants. We did the Plainfield Harvest 5K, but there are lots of other festivals and events throughout the year. It was a darling little place, and I recommend giving it a look if you’re in the area.
Typically, my 5k trips take me to places I haven’t been, but this one was all family, all the way, which was a nice change of pace. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in seeing the world that I forget how much I enjoy hanging with the fam. After the race we grabbed a couple slices (only in Chicagoland will you be provided post-race pizza rather than the usual banana and granola bar) and headed back home where we set up for my grand-nephew’s birthday party, complete with a piñata! I’m telling you, no matter how old you are, a piñata causes some excitement. These kids were little and no match for my candy-stealing skills. I’m kidding!
It’s been a few years since I’ve been able to stay a while and visit with the Illinois contingent. Most of my travel energy was devoted to getting to the middle of Wisconsin (which is no easy task) to spend time with my Mom, usually leaving me with just an overnight in Chicago. Since Mom passed away, I haven’t been back to Wisconsin. I have to admit, as much as I loathed the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles spectacle of getting to her, the empty slots on my travel calendar where Mom used to be are weighty. Still, it was nice to settle in and relax for a few days with my sister and extended family in Illinois–and the fact that it came sans guilt for enjoying family time without Mom was a pleasant surprise. A relief.
We visited the Chicago Botanic Garden, which was beautiful! If you haven’t been, get there. Seriously, go. We burned the better part of four hours and saw just a fraction of the place. It is huge! We saw the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Waterfall Garden. There are 26 other gardens/features to see, which means I need to get back to the CBG.
The best part of this trip was spending time with my people, some of whom I haven’t seen in quite a while, and doing everyday things with them. You’d be surprised the bonding that can come from a trip to WalMart for a Halloween bucket or a beer run to the corner gas station. It seems the older I get, the faster time passes. Truth be told, as much as I treasure my freedom to travel near and far, I could use a little more “every day life” in my life.
About a month ago I took a long-weekend respite in the mountains of North Carolina, and while I posted a couple of pics and a video to the Half Fast and Classy Facebook page, I just realized I still haven’t shared it to the blog. Egads!
I’ve been in high gear (well, higher than usual for me, which is probably still medium gear for most!) with the yard and haven’t found as much time to write as I would like. With that said, let’s make this mountain trip post mostly visual, shall we? Yay!
It’s good to give yourself a break and feed your soul every now and then. When I say feed your soul, that can mean something different for everyone. For me, connecting with nature does my heart and mind good. For others it might be spending time with friends or family, or volunteering, or skydiving. My point is, do what’s good for you. Treat yourself to the things that make you happy!
Grace and I buckled our seat belts and headed a few hours down the road to meet our friend, Karen, and from there the three of us drove to Blowing Rock. It was my first time there, and I can’t say enough about this quaint little mountain town, the people, the scenery, the food, the drink, the accommodations, the convenience. Get the picture? I’m a fan! Here are a few recommendations if you’re headed that way.
So there you have it – the highlights of a weekend trip to Blowing Rock, North Carolina. I highly recommend this little mountain get-away, but even more, I hope you find and do the things that bring you peace and happiness.
Even though there is no official record of it (I’ll get to that), I checked off another state on my quest to complete a 5K in every state–woot woot! It was a quick 24-hour trip shared with my dear friend, Janet. It began with a Google search of Virginia 5K races in map view, I chose one that looked to be an easy drive from home, I registered for the YMCA 2017 Lakefest 5K in Clarksville, and off we went.
While it was less than two hours away, nearly the entire drive was on back roads which had us wondering if we were being misled by Maps. It’s been known to happen, right? To make matters worse, in the midst of yapping a mile a minute, I missed a turn onto a certain back road, so we then had to take an alternate back road. All these back roads had us in a tizzy!
The only thing to do when you think you might be lost is to call a friend, so we dialed up Karen for back-up navigation who confirmed we were indeed traveling in the right direction. Karen patiently listened to our giggles and babbling, and made sure we were on the Last Train to Clarksville. Ha!
Never to plan too far in advance, I registered for the race late, and thus, searched for a hotel room late. Nothing to be had in Clarksville, so the next best was a place called the Berry Hill Resort in South Boston, VA. The pictures looked beautiful, but I’ve been duped by that ploy before, so I told Janet the place looked fine on their website, but who knows.
Well Holy COW, the place was everything and more than the pictures online. This is a breakthrough for me, since my hotel booking privileges were almost suspended within my circle of friends due to my inability to judge a book by its cover. We once stayed in a room that had mold hanging from the ceiling. No lie. Anyhoo, our stay at Berry Hill was fantastic from the minute we checked in until well after we checked out (we hung around for lunch and to explore the grounds a little). I have more to share about Berry Hill, but that’s going to take a post of its own. Stay tuned!
Back to the 5K: this little Lakefest thing is an annual event in Clarksville, VA (population 1,400) that attracts upward of 60,000 people each year. The festivities include hot air balloons (we saw the ascent while driving to the race), arts and crafts vendors, live music, food, the Gathering Of The Boats, and a fireworks show. This small town throws a big party!
Speaking of small town, the race registration email gave me an address for the race: Intersection of Hwy 58 and Hwy 15. End of directions. So I think, of course, it’s a small town. When we get to the intersection as noted, there will be the race. Oh no.
We drove to the intersection and saw nothing other than a couple of businesses and four corners. No sign, tent, registration table, not even a group of people hanging around. We pulled in line with a bunch of vehicles headed toward the festival. At the entrance, the gentleman directing traffic knew nothing of a 5K, but when I told him it was hosted by the YMCA, he sent us on our way to the Y. Sure.
Ten minutes later, we arrive at the Y along with nobody else. Just us. Luckily, the building was open and there was an employee inside who was filling in and had no details about the race, except a printed flier. A flier with the ADDRESS! Now why in the world would someone make the decision to include the address on the paper flier but not on the website? The Yooper in me says aye-aye-aye!
The kind fill-in guy sent us back to the original intersection, mostly. The registration tent was at a gas station that was just off the intersection that we couldn’t see as we drove by the first time. We pulled into the parking lot just in time to see the runners crossing the bridge. Running. As in the race had already begun.
I rushed to the registration table and notified them of the incomplete address online, grabbed my bib and swag bag, and off I went. Apparently I bypassed the timer, because I’m not listed on the results posted online. Hmph. I promise you, I finished all 3.1 miles. Palm to face.
The bigger story is that the views were gorgeous. The 5K took us over the Roanoke river and through a quaint, downtown riverside neighborhood. The course went through a smidge of the vendor tents, but that’s as far as we got into Lakefest. It was a million degrees with as much humidity, and after the 3.1 miles my only thought was to get in the air-conditioned vehicle and get to the hotel for a shower. Once back at the resort, we made the co-executive decision to stay for lunch and then head back home. It was too hot for these old broads to Lakefest.
This 5K in Every State adventure has taken me to some of the most beautiful places I would not have otherwise seen, and it has given me quality, belly-laughing time with my friends. I count myself fortunate to have put this on my bucket list, because who doesn’t love a win-win?
“When the path reveals itself, follow it” is a quote from Cheryl Strayed’s book of quotes Brave Enough. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for a good quote, but this one resonated with me. Although the words first hit me as revelatory, I realize that following paths is exactly what I’ve been doing my entire life, and it’s been a beautiful, difficult, messy, grand journey. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
If you have not read Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, you’re missing out. It is about love, loss, the choices we make, and never giving up. If you decide to give these books a look, use the links above and Amazon will send me a little something (you don’t pay more; Amazon just shares with me). But, I’m not here to sell books, now am I?
My story is about following a path.
Over the July 4th holiday weekend, I took a trip to Georgia to visit friends I had not seen in a few years. Of course my sweet Grace came along with me–my copilot, my bubby. She is my heart and gets a ride-along every time it’s logistically feasible. I didn’t have an agenda or any expectations other than to spend time with friends, relax, and enjoy some food and drink.
This photo is from a previous trip and in the previous Altima. Not much has changed other than the weather and the car.
And relax is exactly what we did, my visit perfect right there. But, someone mentioned Jekyll Island to me. I was staying on St. Simons Island and was not familiar with JI, and as the conversation went on, it was disclosed (the world already knows so I’ll share in my signature late-to-the-party fashion) that a scene from The Walking Dead was filmed at Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. Scream!
I had no choice but to go the very next day. I mean, the path revealed itself, right? So off we (me and Little Miss) went to Jekyll Island. I stopped at the visitor center to be sure paws were allowed on the beach, grabbed a map, and we tootled down the road in the Altima, nose prints and all.
Disclosure: I saw only a small portion, a sliver, of Driftwood Beach. Grace does not handle heat well and about a minute into taking photos, she was done. Flopped herself on the ground and refused to move. I gave plenty of water and even poured some on her to keep her cool, but she was full-on protesting. We returned two days later in the morning when it was not so hot, but she was no more impressed and again asserted her right to a peaceful sit-in. I had the sense to access the beach at a different point the second day, so I got to see more of the beach even though the pupper wasn’t having it.
Just from the slice I saw of Driftwood Beach, I know I’ll be back. It’s a beauty I can’t explain. Goldenisles.com attempts by saying “Driftwood beach will amaze you with the beautiful driftwood and trees that resemble a tree graveyard.” Nothing like the words “tree graveyard” to convey beauty, right? But that’s exactly what it looks like and it is beautiful!
The short of it is that erosion has caused the trees to die, topple over, and become driftwood. Driftwood Beach is a photographer’s dream, and it is a popular site for weddings in addition to everyday beachy things people do.
I am so taken with this beach that it is on my very short list of places I would visit again and again. And I need to get back there to see the rest of Jekyll Island with its Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Gatorology 101 class, eco-programs, festivals (including the Shrimp & Grits Festival), five beaches, historic sites, and beach village with shopping and dining.
But back to the path. The path revealed itself and I followed it. I followed it to reconnect with friends, to meet new people, to see Grace be a dog which very seldom happens (she had 6 or 7 doggie playmates at a party we attended), to discover a corner of the world that stole my heart.
These paths are everywhere in our lives, and for me it’s about seeing them and sometimes saying yes. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that a path is just that. If you start down a road that feels wrong, hang a left, or a right, or do a U-ey and find another. What are we but a compilation of our experiences? The paths we have traveled, whether by choice or otherwise, are what make us who we are.
Not every path is easy, nor is every path beautiful, but if you never walk them, how will you know? You might miss the beach of dead trees that is one of the most breathtaking sites to behold.
Last week’s spurt of container gardening to pretty up the approach to my yard has got me thinking back to my gardening roots. I have never been much of a flower gardener (aside from the occasional potted plant on my deck), but Mom and Dad loved their vegetable garden, and by extension, it became part of my life, too, albeit briefly.
Our first garden that I can recall was when I was 10 years old and we had just moved from Illinois to Wisconsin. We rented the downstairs of a small, two-story house in the middle of farm country and forest. My parents purchased a pub and diner in a nearby town, but had not yet closed on the house that went with the deal, so tenants we were.
Dad tilled up a small patch of earth so he and Mom could grow tomatoes, green beans, radishes, carrots, corn, and cucumbers that summer. Not to be left out, I insisted on a corner of the plot just for me.
Much like when a child promises to feed and walk the puppy but inevitably slacks, so I did with my garden. I watered it some, and pulled a weed or two, but Dad helped me a lot. He let me think the glory was all mine, though.
And Lord, did I make a fuss about having grown the largest tomato! I’m not certain who snapped this photograph, but I directed the shot to be sure the depth of field was so that the tomato looked as big as it could compared to my crouching niece. (The photography bug got me a couple of years prior.) This photo was taken with my Kodak Instamatic 104.
I have fond memories of that summer. Family visited often, which provided me with some company other than the June Bugs and bats. Seriously. My nephews, niece, and I would run through the huge cornfield that began at the edge of our yard and rolled on for acres upon acres. We ran without a care in the world, the sharp leaves slapping our arms and faces.
We went on nature hikes so I could take photos, and on one such outing we happened upon a skunk. This was revelatory as to who could keep their calm and who could not in a hairy situation (a good thing to know about the folks you’re tramping through the forest with in northern Wisconsin, i.e. bear country). Mostly, we generally horsed around like kids do.
The following summer we were in our permanent home, and I guess that sense of ownership took hold of Dad, because he dug up half the county and planted enough seed to feed an army. We added cabbage, zucchini, squash, and peas to the mix, and the corn section gained a whole lot of real estate. If Mom and Dad were home, there was a good chance they were working in the garden.
My sisters would come help and be sent home with fresh-picked veggies, but as I went from tween to teen, I found other things to occupy my time. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time in the garden with my family, but that is now in the column labeled “lessons learned.”
Still, whether they knew it or not, Mom and Dad taught me a few things during those couple of gardening years that hold true for just about any aspect of life:
Plant only what you can keep up with
Give yourself permission to say no
Sunshine, water, and fertilizer are essential
Feed your body, mind, and soul
If a crop doesn’t grow, plant something else
Plan your journey, and be willing to choose another path
Pick your bounty before it turns
Make your memories now
All these years later, I can’t plant a thing without thinking of Mom and Dad, which is one of the best gifts they have given me. When I dig into the soil from which life originates, plant with the hope and anticipation of a child at Christmas, see the beauty of a bloomed flower, or savor a plump, just-picked tomato, I smile and think of Mom and Dad.
Do you have a piece of yard that is more like cement than soil? Petrified clay, perhaps? Or maybe you rent and don’t want to dig into the land as though it were your own? Planter or container gardening might be just the thing for you!
In front of my house, there is a triangular patch of ground that lies between my fence and the parking area, and it’s divided nearly in half by a paver path to my gate. At the wide end, there is a bit of grass, a good amount of moss, and a rotting stump. At the narrow end there is a large sweetgum tree, complete with giant roots protruding from the ground rendering the soil impenetrable.
So, we have the Moss side and the Sweetgum side. These are not teams and it is not a competition folks, but I do love a label.
Today we’re dealing with the Sweetgum side, with the giant roots and hard-as-cement clay. Two very good reasons to opt for container gardening. Even so, I thought I would bury a galvanized tub-turned-planter about six inches into the ground. Ha! I worked for two and a half hours with a shovel, digging fork, and hand saw before conceding defeat. The tub is submerged about an inch into the ground.
To save myself any more aches and pains, I decided to use containers entirely on the Sweetgum side. Because of the tree and fence, this is a shaded, low-light area. I have been counseled by professionals to plant what will grow in the conditions my space provides. Of course I gravitate toward all the things that need full sun, but I’m playing it safe here and bought low-light plants!
Before we get to the planting of the plants, let’s talk about the edging of the edge. This no-dig edging is the best thing since sliced bread! I know, not such a big deal since everyone is gluten-free now, but you know what I mean. I’d been fretting about putting a border in when I knew digging would be nearly impossible. Thank GAWD I stumbled upon this at Home Depot. It really is as simple as the box indicates. I rolled out the length I needed, cut it with a hand saw, and hammered in the plastic spikes (included) to secure it in place.
Once the edging was done, I spread three bags of mulch and raked that until it covered the area evenly, and then came the fun part: decorating planting the space! I haven’t gardened in decades, and am finding it is a lot like decorating. There are as many plants to choose from as there are accent chairs, and as many garden statues as there are lamps. It’s a whole new world to style!
You know I love to keep things on a budget, so I used some of what I had (the previous owner left some containers in the shed) and I purchased some new items from At Home and Lowe’s. The plants came from my yard (existing hostas needed to be relocated) and Lowe’s.
I made sure each container had bottom drainage. The galvanized bucket did not, so I drilled holes in the bottom with a 1/2″ bit. You can get away with no drainage indoors because you control the amount of watering, but outside is another story. Here in North Carolina, it doesn’t rain. It pours. No drainage = a swamped plant.
The bonus of container gardening is that I can rearrange this space as often as I want…er, as often as my back will allow. I have the feeling that even though I should be able to plant directly in the ground on the Moss side, I’ll still want to have a couple of planters over there as well.
We all know life isn’t one glorious project after the next with beautiful mudrooms and fish-mouth selfies. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m sharing my fails with you just as proudly as I share my successes. So here’s what not to do:
As much as I love to just throw something together, it doesn’t always work out. Imagine that! A few months ago I was on a re-use kick. I felt like someone marketing a going out of business sale, but instead of shouting “everything must go!” it was “everything must be repurposed!” Let me tell you how that went.
What used to be shelves in the garden shed (before the hot water heater was relocated there) became an outdoor planter. In about 15 minutes. You can see where this is going, right?
Here’s the breakdown:
Apparently the weight of the dirt, probably more so when it was raining, was too much for the nails driven straight into the ends. I think all this needs are some brackets on the corners and I’ll be good, right? Well, that and some gorgeous plants. Plants that are hearty and can hold up to my brown thumb. At least that’s the plan. Stay tuned!