May 10, 2017

Every Win Counts

If you follow my blog, you know I have been struggling with a few health issues related to my autoimmune disease and chronic migraines. These health struggles have, among other things, really set me back physically especially in regards to my athletic performance. I identify myself as a runner. I enjoy running and I used to be pretty fast. Lately, I haven't been able to even hold a slow jog for longer than 5 minutes at a time due to my health issues. Although I know this is the reason, it still is disheartening to watch my times continue to climb and my distances to continually drop. Honestly, it's been talking quite the toll on my self confidence.

But today, this very morning, I finally did something athletically that made my confidence soar and restored some faith in myself that I had lost. I did 40 full pushups on my toes in my lifting class' 30 second pushup test!

I used to be in the Air Force and I trained and practiced really hard to be able to achieve the max pushup score on the Physical Fitness Test, which at that time was 42 pushups. So I would do 100 pushups every day. I still do pushups regularly, but I haven't maintained the 100 daily pushup routine. With this pushup achievement today, I realized that, although my performance has declined in other fitness areas, I still can kill it with pushups! And that makes me feel so much better about myself!

So here's to celebrating the little wins, no matter what they may be!

May 9, 2017

Race Report: Tulip Festival 5K

It's time for my first race report of the year! Usually, I have already run a number of races this late into the year. But, this year I have been struggling with a bad relapse of my autoimmune disease and with a new condition of chronic migraines (which is TERRIBLE!). To make a long story short, I really can't run right now due to severe pain and heart issues. I mean, I can still run. I just can't hold a run for longer than 5 minutes at a time and that run pace is more like a slow jog, around 12:30-13 minutes per mile. Still, I consider it running since the effort is about the same as my healthy 9 minutes per mile pace. My health is why my first race of the year occurred at the end of April instead of in January. But hey, I'm still going and trying and persevering because I love running and I love running races! And this race was a beautiful start to my 2017 racing season: the Thanksgiving Point Tulip Festival 5K.

My husband and I signed up to run the 5K, and my daughter wanted to run as well, but she wanted to do the kids' mile. At first, I was trying to think of someone who could watch her during our race, which was difficult since it was so early in the morning and 45 minutes from our home. Then, she asked if she could just ride on her scooter during our race. After a few successful scooter-run trials where I ran while she scootered beside me, I figured why not. And that's what we did race day morning.
Keeping warm in the car before the race starts.
It was pretty chilly and kinda windy when the starting gun sounded, so we were somewhat bundled up. It was a slow run for us due to my health, but my amazing husband stayed beside me the entire race, as did my daughter. She was a great sport, making sure to stay to the side of the course so that she would be close to us and not run into other runners. We saw plenty of beautiful flowers, since it was the tulip festival, but the 5K does not go into Ashton Gardens (where the full festival is), like the half marathon does. We still got to run under vine covered awnings and see the landscaped flowers in bloom however.
We stuck together the entire 5K, and June rocked it on her scooter. But every time there was a picture opportunity, we got photo-bombed by the people in front of us moving right in front of June!
My race outfit is all Skirt Sports: redemption capri in enchanted, #REALwomenmove long sleeve, beanie, and even gloves. I was plenty warm, without getting too hot. And I felt pretty cute, even though I don't take the best race photos.
We had such a fun time running this race as a family.
Though a slow 5K for me--one of my slowest--I pushed as hard as I could safely push, and I finished without having further illness complications. We finished in about 48 minutes, and I feel like I raced smartly in my condition. I'm so thankful that I still have health enough to even just complete a 5K race. I love the atmosphere of running events. I love pushing myself on the course. I love the spectators and volunteers and the race day festivities. And I am so thankful I was healthy enough to do this race.
June's race started about 30 minutes after we finished the 5K, so we loaded up her scooter in the car and packed away her winter coat. Scootering 3.1 miles was a great warm-up for her! My husband was able to run the Kids Mile with her, and she ran the whole time! They got to run by all the baby animals at the farm, which June loved. She calls baby animals "cuties" and told me that she wouldn't let the cuties distract her from running. She finished in 10:54, and 8th in her age group. We're so proud of her! We told her to try her hardest and to make sure she finished, and she did just that.

They're coming up on the finish line, still going strong!

Killing it on her race! She ran the whole time and did a great job. She looks like she's flying here.
Post-race we enjoyed the music, the chocolate milk, the bananas, and the medals. It was a great experience for our whole family. Part of our race swag included free entries to the Tulip Festival gardens, and we added an additional two miles walking out to Ashton Gardens and around the whole tulip festival.
We wore our medals (and later our race shirts) proudly the rest of the day.
And we ended our post-race celebrations with a treat from Bahama Bucks.

Apr 25, 2017

Family Adventures in Moab

Although I have been quiet on the posting front for a few weeks, I have been busy! Between preparing for my upcoming classes (which I’m doing by reading through my old Chemistry textbook), working with the youth in my church, spending time with my family, battling my autoimmune disease, and just living life in general, I have finally made time to write a blog post! I feel pretty proud of myself right now. Actually, I want to write a picture travelogue about the fun we’ve had as a family exploring the great outdoors of Utah, specifically in Moab. Southern Utah is an outdoor-lover’s paradise! As the weather has gotten less snowy and warmed up, we have ventured out more and more to explore the arches, bridges, and canyons of Moab.

Moab falls at just the perfect place along our route to visit family for a nice rest stop. How could we resist a quick hike up to Double Arch to stretch our legs when we were already driving by Arches National Park? Answer, we couldn't. There was still snow on the ground, and the trails were muddy and slick.
The nice thing about this trip was that there was no one else seemingly here! We just about had the park to ourselves. We were the only people at Balanced Rock!
Over St Patrick's Day weekend (which explains all our green), we joined my husband on a geology field trip out to Moab. This time, our first stop was to Dead Horse Point State Park. We ended up on an accidental 3-mile hike along the canyon rim out to the actual Dead Horse Point, and the views were incredible! The canyon is gorgeous, with the Colorado River winding through it.
The view was amazing! Alex wore his "This is what a super hot geologist looks like" shirt, and I wore my "This girl is taken by a super hot geologist" shirt, so we could match. I needed green for St Patrick's day, since my daughter is a decent pincher, so I wore my Skirt Sports redemption capri in Emerald City print. #pinchproof
We set up camp at Lone Mesa campground, just outside of both Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park. Seen here is our tent pitched in front of the lone mesa.
The next morning, after an amazing campfire breakfast of creme brulee french toast (my husband is an awesome cook!), we set out for Arches National Park.
We did the difficult hike up to Delicate Arch, and it was well worth the effort! This is the must-do hike of Utah, I feel, since Delicate Arch is featured everywhere from the Utah quarters to the license plates. Which means it was also pretty crowded (as you can see), but still a great experience to see in person.
On the way to Delicate Arch, just before you get there, there is another arch. This one is more like a window through the wall of rock you hike alongside. We climbed up to this window-like arch, and were surprised to discover this view of Delicate Arch. If you ever do the hike, look for this arch. I highly recommend stopping here to enjoy the peace and quiet, and the beauty of the park.
 I want to take a second to brag on my 6-year old. She did the entire hike to Delicate Arch, no problem and no whining! This was the hardest part of the hike, a crazy steep incline on a huge sandstone rock, and she scaled it like a champ. She earned her Junior Ranger badge for sure!

Later in March, we had another road trip to embark on, and yet again, Moab was a great stopping point to stretch our legs. This time, we journeyed more south down the highway to this arch that's right off the road, Wilson Arch. There was a storm--a snow storm--moving in, but we decided to hike up to the arch anyway. My dad was with us, and he braved the hike as well..

  The hike is steep, but it is really short. And as usual with these arches, the views are worth it. Lucky for us, the sandstone is pretty grippy. From the arch, we could see almost clear into Monticello!

And it was super windy!
Grandpa found an easier way to hike down, and we were back on the road within 30 minutes.
Beginning of April, we went on a date to Moab to explore a trail we hadn't yet done, Devil's Garden. It was unseasonably cold and windy, but we decided to brave at least the established part of the trail to see some more famous arches.

The hike was a lot of fun as we walked over the sandstone stairs to get better vantage points of Landscape Arch.

The beautiful expanse of landscape arch! We had a number of great views of this arch as we hiked along the trail.
We continued along Devil's Garden Trail and started on the primitive portion of the trail when the wind picked up by A LOT and started blowing sand into our eyes continuously. It was starting to get dark anyway and we didn't bring flashlights, so we decided to turn around and check out a couple of the arches at the beginning of the trail that we missed.

 Pine Tree Arch was easily accessible along a sandy path. We were able to walk right up to it, under it, through it, around it. We're not quite sure why it's called Pine Tree Arch, but there were some trees right underneath it. I really love this type of arch--the arches you can actually explore up close.

The last arch we saw this trip was Tunnel Arch. You can even see a smaller arch just to left of Tunnel Arch, it just doesn't show up as clearly since it opens to sandstone from this angle. This was the last (or also the first) arch on the Devil's Garden Trail. Next time we do this hike, I hope to be able to do the full 7-mile loop, even through all the sand and cliff sides.
Late in April we took a weekend trip out to Capitol Reef National Park to go camping, hiking, and exploring. We decided to do the Hickman Bridge Hike, and my daughter decided she wanted to run part of the trail. She sure gave me a run for my money! This area has a similar looking geology to Moab. Capitol Reef is named such because the rock formation along the Waterpocket Fold, looked like a sea reef to the sailors who traveled through the area.

 The hike out to Hickman Bridge was covered in sandstone and littered with big black basalt boulders about, which had been thrown into the area from a nearby volcano a while ago. We even found other natural bridges in the wash along the trail, which were just the right height for a 6-year old.

There were two of these little bridges right next to each other.
We all took turns climbing under them and exploring the rock formations. Alex is a sedimentary geologist, and was explaining the geology to us.
I think she's going through a climbing phase. There were quite a few little cave-like formations in the sandstone along the trail and she climbed into every one of them. I had to be proactive in checking these out before she did so to be sure there were no rattlesnakes or other creatures hiding within them. That may be the Texan in me, but I wanted to be sure.
She called this one her nap-cave.
Hickman Bridge! We learned from a park ranger that the only difference between a natural bridge and an arch is that a natural bridge has water running underneath it--like a bridge we normally think of. It makes perfect sense.
We took a short break to eat snacks after we walked under the bridge. This also gave my daughter a chance to answer some of her Junior Ranger questions so that she could earn the badge for this park. The Junior Ranger program is a lot of fun for kids. It gives them things to look for as they explore the park, teaches them proper park etiquette, and they get to learn about the park they are visiting. They even have a chance to earn a badge after they finish the program, and it's free of charge.
After crossing under the bridge and continuing on our way around the loop, we found this incredible canyon view. We just had to take a minute to fully appreciate the beauty of the area. With all the rain we received this year, it was spectacularly green and covered in vegetation.
Moab is our favorite place to visit in Utah, and while we're here we want to take full advantage of how close we are to visit as often as we can. We have seen a lot, but there is still so much more to see and explore that it is almost overwhelming! We still need to visit Canyonlands NP, Grand-Escalante Staircase NM, Hovenweep NM, Natural Bridges NM, and so much more within the parks we've already visited. That's the beauty of these natural areas--there's always so much to see and so much more to learn. It's a good thing we like camping and hiking so much!

Feb 19, 2017

Celebrating my Mother's Memory


Today marks six years since my mother unexpectedly passed away. I’ve written a number of posts about grief and grieving, and I still find all of it true, even six years from that day. I still miss her just as much. Her absence still hurts just as acutely. I still think about her every day. And I still wish with all my heart that she was still with me today. With that being said, one thing that has changed is that I have been learning to live without her. 

There are still times when I reach for my phone to call her before remembering that that is no longer possible, and there are still times when I visit home and I expect her to just be in the other room. But, these times are becoming fewer and further between. I am learning, and I have been learning, to live my life differently without her.
I love my mother, with all my heart, forever. And I look forward to the day when we can be reunited again—the greatest blessing of the saving ordinances of the gospel. But for now, I want to carry on her legacy and ensure that my family and my children will know at least a piece of my mother. So with this post, I want to focus on one way I have been doing this very thing and that is in regards to celebrating holidays.

Aside from my mother’s great love for the gospel and for others, one of the things that I remember most about her was her love for the holidays. I’m not just talking about Christmas, but every holiday—even the more “minor” ones. Each holiday was an event in our household, from Halloween to Valentine’s Day to Independence Day all the way to Saint Patrick’s Day. My mother would hang decorations for each holiday at least a month in advance and do her best to play said holiday’s music and movie selections to get us—her kids—excited for the celebration awaiting us.

Family picture by the Christmas tree.
She taught me traditions for each holiday, and they are traditions I am determined to keep, along with some of the new ones we're making as a family now. For New Year’s Eve we always stay up until midnight, eating a feast of Hillshire Farms summer sausages, cheese, and crackers. For Valentine’s Day we always wear red or pink, and hand out or mail Valentine’s. For Saint Patrick’s Day, we get all decked out in green and eat Irish food! This was how I discovered my love for shepherd’s pie. Easter, of course, was celebrated with a visit from the Easter Bunny, who always hid our Easter baskets along with plastic eggs full of candy. My mom would also read us the story of Christ’s resurrection, the reason we celebrate Easter. For our birthdays, we would get to pick dinner that night, and we would get to have a birthday party with friends each year. I remember when I was eight, I wanted an Apollo 13 themed birthday, since I was so very into astronomy and that movie is awesome. And, my mom found a way to do just that and make it fun for everyone who came out. Independence Day we would either watch fireworks or shoot off our own while enjoying some good backyard barbecue. And then Halloween! Halloween is a big deal for our family with the whole house made up to be haunted, scary movies playing all the time, big Halloween parties, corn mazes, haunted houses, and we always dress up. Thanksgiving brings time with family, and lots of food, turkey, and pumpkin. We would always watch the Thanksgiving Day parade, and we would make paper hand turkeys. Christmastime was full of the wonderful holiday music playing clear until the new year, with a new Christmas movie and story every day, with re-tellings of Luke 2 and the story of Christ’s birth, and with so many more traditions! With each upcoming holiday, I tell my family the stories of Grandma Taylor and how she would make these days extra special. I tell my daughter how excited we would get for the holidays, and how they would break up the monotony of the regular days of the year. There was always something to look forward to, and even now as an adult, I remember how celebrating each holiday also taught me how to hope for good things to come. This was one way, one big way, that my mother showed her love for me.

My whole family decked out for our annual Halloween party. Mom was the Queen of Hearts.
I know that some people don’t like celebrating holidays, or even hearing about how others celebrate the “minor” holidays. But I don’t make a big deal about these days for anyone other than my family (and for the people I really love). This is how I am honoring my mother’s memory and this is how her memory will live on in the minds and hearts of my children who never really got the chance to know their amazing Grandma Taylor. These are the days I feel closest to my Mom, and I will continue to cherish the memories I have of her as I create new memories in her honor with each upcoming holiday.