Farm Life

2014 hasn’t started in the most stellar manner. I spent the morning up to my ears in numbers. I have a real love hate relationship with them. While I find a lot of satisfaction from sorting out a complex problem in Quickbooks, I also find them seriously anxiety provoking. It is like looking at a train wreck at times, while others the footing looks secure for a short time. There are still messes from 09 when everything just tanked for my family. there is no way around them. Just as I started to get everything cleaned up new disasters hit us. Today our most important and most used piece of equipment on the farm broke. It has been having problems for a while and thousands of dollars later a different problem demolished it. So, after a lovely but brisk run I returned to the farm to that news. It has really sent me reeling. Not because it broke. It is the reality that we are truly hanging by our finger nails here. There is ZERO margin for this kind of thing. I am faced with the reality that a $12,000 piece of equipment needs replacing. Seriously??? I cannot even fathom that this is just acceptable. Who the fuck builds stuff like that? 9 years is just okay for life expectancy? I am pissed off, but most of all I don’t really know what we are going to do without it. I can’t magically make 12K appear. Just this morning I spent hours staring down piles of bills trying to figure out who can get paid what and when. The stress of that alone is enough then add in this. I can’t catch a fucking break. I just want to come up for air. To have a moment of feeling okay about this place and my life. I don’t feel okay about it. I am worried sick about the dog and count each passing day waiting for it to be the end for him. I am looking at this place and wondering what am I doing and is this all worth it? I am looking at a herd of horses that need feeding, and vet visits, and eventually a hole in the ground. This is my reality, our reality. Instead of loving what I do I have grown hard and cynical. I have grown bitter and nasty under the constant looming pressure and the impending disaster that is always there waiting. Today’s events just reinforces that type of thinking. NOT what I needed. So what is the best course of action? I just don’t fucking know at this point. Why have a farm and animals when you cannot afford these unforeseen expenses, either medical or mechanical? I don’t think it is all that responsible to run a farm like this but I have no choice. Back to that knife edge of stress. I chose this, right??

2013 Review

(unedited) Well I am really kind of amazed at how far I have come and what I accomplished in 2013. When the email showed up from MapmyRun I had a chance to really sit back and take stock in it.

This was my 2013 Summary

206 workouts

1,121.8 miles

177.8 hours

86,495 kcal burned

wow, that is really remarkable considering I never thought of myself as a runner. Never contemplated doing it seriously. What started as a few runs a week in the gym has gained momentum and truly taken on a life of its own. Back when my buddy asked me to do Tough Mudder I remember thinking to myself – there is no way I am running 11+ miles and climbing over obstacles. hmmm. I promptly went out and ran 8 miles in the freezing cold rain and wind. It was miserable but I DID it. so it started slowly. After TM I decided I needed a new goal and that was the 13.1 Celebrate Life Half Marathon in early March. I was consistent and ran religiously. It became my routine. The race was a good test for me and I enjoyed it. I continued to run. Often I would run to settle my head or my nerves. I made it my go to skill when things started to slide, or if I just needed some time away from the farm. It was a true love – hate at times. I had runs when I felt I could take flight and go forever. I had runs when I felt someone had poured concrete in my sneakers. Others were some combination of the two. I learned hard lessons about pushing too much. I walked out on the edge of what my body could do and what it could handle. At times I stepped over that boundary and paid the price. I learned about bruised metatarsals and how they made life miserable. Akin to a stone bruise our horse’s occasionally get. Most of all I learned that our Achilles tendon is truly a weak spot. I learned never to put a hill workout up against a speed workout. Novice mistake I paid for handsomely. Still not 100% and have yet to return to the trails because of that sore tendon. I put to work all my skills I learned with the horses. I used all the same techniques to get it feeling better. Thankfully the last month or so I feel like I am finally returning to where I was pre injury. There was a silver lining to that injury. I took up cross training on a bike. I had not ridden a bike since college, and that was a motorcycle 😉 It was comical. Bikes have come a hell of a long way since I had a mountain bike in high school. I chose a CX bike since up here is a bit of a mix with lots of rail trails, and rough roads. In the back of my head I was thinking maybe a Tri in 2014 so I went with a bike I could set up to race if I wanted. That being said I needed to adjust to a fast bike and SRam shifters. It was pretty priceless. I remember going about a mile up the road and back. I survived and went from there. Didn’t take me too long to fall headlong into the world of bikes and bike fit. With some assistance the bike was tweaked and I felt like it was just an extension of my body. I was hooked. It became about how fast I could go. How hard I could push. I realized right quick that running fit is not bike fit. Not even close. A hill could bring me to my knees right quick. I adapted. My body changed. My quads grew and my strength increased rapidly. If only the gains you saw running were as quick as the ones when biking. Those hills that killed me before became fun and the rides grew. From that 1 mile ride day 1 to the last 25 mile ride before it got too cold. It was a great change from all the running. I became fitter. My running improved. Hills became my friend and my tendon was feeling better. I conquered some fears. Even my partner thinks it is completely insane to clip into pedals and take off into traffic. I assured her I would be fine. In the short few months of riding I did come face to face with the reality that drivers really do not “see” bikes. I had a few close calls and have taken a defensive strategy when dealing with idiots in cars whether I am running or biking. I have had trucks intentionally move over to hit puddles to soak me. I’ve had elderly people practically run me over before they realize I am there and have had drivers pull out in front of me while LOOKING directly at me. Unreal. Friends laugh at my neon attire though I do feel a bit better in high visibility gear. I do feel safer when running since the bike isn’t yet 100% within my comfort zone. I have come so far though. To think I’d be biking and running??? If you told me that a few years ago I would have not believed them.
I can’t forget to mention my TM buddy and her goal of running a half. She reached her goal and ran a great 13.1 this fall. I joined her and ran a solid race knocking almost 6 minutes of my first 13.1 and raced it just 6 days after a quick local 8K. It was one of the first times I really felt like I could get somewhere if I just applied myself and worked harder. I read and absorbed all I could and tried to apply it to my running. As Thanksgiving approached my goal was a fast 5K. Unfortunately my plans ended up usurped by work and it got shelved. I really struggled off of that and sort of found myself aimlessly running. It was way too cold to bike, even with shoe covers and winter tights. I hung up the bike shoes once the weather turned too cold. I returned to the running and as my mood shifted I started increasing the mileage. December saw the highest mileage I had done to date and I did it most of the month. I felt it was the one thing I could hold onto as everything else got dark. I forced myself out the door. The worse my mood the more I pushed. I never had a plan when I left the house. I usually threw a gel in my pocket and sometimes took a water but often ran with nothing. I would decide as I went. my routes varied and I tried new roads. I found myself enjoying the solitude and the space to think. I really found my salvation in the miles, all of them. Good and bad. When I look back at the summary I am amazed at what I accomplished. What stands out is that I have made a habit, a new one. Running has become as much a part of my life as that first cup of coffee, or checking the horses each night. On the days I don’t run I feel restless. I fight the urge to run on rest days. I work hard to not push myself too hard as I know that doesn’t end up anywhere good. I know I walk a very fine line before this becomes compulsive and unhealthy. I do know there are days when I am not doing this for healthy reasons. I know there are days when I don’t heed my body and its needs. There are consequences and I know that as this becomes more a part of my life that I need to watch that. It may be good for my head but I need to make sure it does not have a cost to my body. This past month it was a very delicate balance and I knew I was going too far. Sadly my head was such a wreck I had to keep going. I couldn’t stand still without feeling like I was sinking in quicksand. As I look forward into 2014 and try to figure out new goals I know I need to keep that in mind. If I break down my body my head will end up worse. I have to run that fine line and keep everything in balance somehow. I don’t yet know what my goals will be. The easy target of choice would be a marathon though I don’t really think the distance will suit me. I struggle with anything beyond 18 miles. My body just doesn’t like it. That may just be the lack of base building, or it may truly be what my body works best at. I tend to like the shorter faster runs. I don’t think a Tri is out of the running since it looks like a lot of fun (well short of a bunch of people jumping into open water and taking off swimming). It would take quite a bit of cross training and I do not yet know if I can get the swimming in to make it viable, but hey I can dream right?

Well 2013 you have been quite the year. As a friend said “geez you must be due for a rotation and oil change”. Yep. Indeed. 2014 looks to be an open road with 1,000+ more miles to run/ bike and maybe swim. I am so glad I made room in my life for this “me” time. Better yet, that I have committed to it and made it a way of life. It has been nothing but good for me. (well if you don’t ask the assorted sore body parts). My goal is to keep right on going and to get faster and stronger. I see a 6:30 mile there in my future. Just have to work harder and run more.

Life Extended?

225306_614244038601117_1993295577_nHaven’t much felt like writing these past few days. It has been a difficult transition bringing our dog home. I am happy to have him back on the couch and scoping out the counters for food. It is however bitter sweet. I cannot look at him without seeing that imaginary clock ticking away. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do. I cannot shake it. I thought I could deal with this. But as he gets back to his old self and is feeling better I find it harder somehow. This is how it will be now. He is healing well from surgery and will soon be 100% normal. Until he isn’t. Just as it happened the morning after Christmas. It will come quickly and it will be devastating. This is not a cancer that is a long lingering painful death. He will not slowly waste away before our eyes. No, he’ll be happy and bouncing and fine until he isn’t. Somehow it makes it harder to stomach. I am out of sorts trying to find my footing in this new reality. I have never lived under a time limit. Sure, there has been cancer in my family. It claimed lives. I never was the one looking it in the face everyday. I saw its endpoint. This is new for me, as it is for my partner. I didn’t hold out hope for the histopath coming back benign. I dont’ think like that. I was already well ahead in my mind. I was calculating the months, days. The median survival time. I was well out ahead of this. I never paused. Never once thought it might be benign. It might be nothing. No. I just do not work like that. I never have. It is perhaps my fundamental flaw. I give up. I give in. It doesn’t matter if it is about the dog, or about my fate. I cut my losses and look the other way. It is frighteningly evident these days. I spoke with the vet and discussed chemo. Though I had already decided I would not elect to do that. Surprisingly my partner agreed. This happened quickly, without much discussion. As the days have passed and the dust has settled, so to speak, my partner has started research. I told her not to. I didn’t want her to come face to face with the horrific statistics as I had days before. I didn’t want it to tear her apart. I had read about every treatment that exists. I slogged through pages and pages of studies. Endless forum posts from desperate dog owners. All of it. There is one thing that makes me furious. I mean out of my gourd pissed. When I sense a company, or product preys on people’s fear and hope. There are many out there. One came up in my first day of research. It is a product that uses medicinal mushrooms. These have been used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) for centuries. That is without doubt. The problem lies with a company that then implies their product will extend the life span of a hemangiosarcoma dog. U penn did a study that supports this. Here’s the rub. The study was miniscule. I’m talking 15 dogs. There was no control group. There is so much wrong with this study it makes my head spin. Needless to say there has been no further study to support their findings. When they talk about lengthening survival time it is from around 80 days to 199 days. If it can be trusted. But that isn’t even what got me going. The cost of this stuff is upwards of $500 a month. Anywhere else you look this stuff is available through Chinese herbalists for a tenth of the price. It is enough to make me nuts. There are so many people out there desperate enough to buy this. I will not be one of them and I will fight my partner on this. I think I made myself clear on that. I have let her have her space to wander the internet. I have listened while she rattled off all the people she has emailed- vets, specialists, herbalists, etc. All I can see is days clicking by. We are at a week. 7 days. Seven less days he has here with us. I think it matters so little when you are talking about such a short period of time. Even if we bought him 30, 60 even 90 days. It doesn’t matter it is still too little time. I don’t want to spend the day shoving pills, herbs and mushrooms in him just to give him that short increase. I’d rather let it go. Whatever happens happens. In that time he will be spoiled beyond measure and loved without pause. He will get that prime spot on the couch, or recliner much to his siblings dismay. He’ll get his favorite fuzzy blanket and he will get a treat every time he comes snuffling. That is what I want his time left to be about, not about being a guinea pig. Even if it is less time when all is said and done that is okay with me. I don’t know what else to say. I cannot get this across to my partner. I have not even tried. I fear it’ll make me come across as an ass. As heartless and cold. But I’m not. It comes from my heart. It comes from a different view on life and death. It comes from my acceptance. But maybe I am too quick to accept death. Too fast to say goodbye. I just don’t know what to say. Should I feel guilty? sad? Should I judge myself? Is it a flaw? a shortcoming? I do not have the answer. I know that I have always felt this way but this is placing me in a tough spot with my partner. I just don’t know what to say. I am left unsettled and sad contemplating it.

Welcome 2014

(unedited)
I was sitting and thinking about the new year that is stretching before me, 365 days long. It seems an eternity. We all know it ends up a blink of an eye as time rapidly moves forward, stopping for none of us. As the clock ticked down and the crystal ensconced ball dropped I felt a strong sense of dread. There was no happiness and celebration. I only sensed this new year would be filled with more challenges and heartache. It may have been colored by the worry for our dog as I watched him struggle. Though I think it really has more to do with the concern and fear over my father’s deteriorating state. I want nothing more than to return to where we were a few years back. I know that isn’t a good spot. I struggled mightily beneath his shadow. It was not, in fact, a good place for me. I was pinned by his control and my growth as an adult remained stunted. I was unable to handle life as it threw each curve ball at me. I fell apart rather than stood firm. I allowed him to control me and my environment. It was an awful place. As he has grown weaker I have grown stronger. I no longer wither in response to challenge. I can face what comes to me and assess it. I am often overwhelmed, as we all are, but I rarely feel the old companion that tells me to quit. I look for ways to problem solve and climb out from behind the heavy push of anxiety and worry. It is difficult and untried. It is a work in progress and very much a skill I have to hone. I understand that. It won’t be perfect overnight. I have a lifetime to make up for. I have all those years of being sheltered in that bizarre way my father promoted. He tried his best. I know that. He was unsure and clumsy in his efforts. More often than not he left me dangling in the worst of situations and expected I work it out. It was indeed a trial by fire for my young self. I know he was doing his best. Unfortunately for me I did not have the ability or skill to cope with these trials. I fell apart. I collapsed beneath the sudden appearance and weight of the challenge. Each time it gave him the opportunity to play the hero. He would, in his desperate state, try and buy me happiness. He would do anything for me to try and make it better. When I was young the arrival of material things held back the tide of worry and fear. It dissipated the hate and fury. As I got older it was not as easy. He still tried. A farm. A truck. Money. But my mind could not be bought anymore. The onslaught of moods and darkness remained steadfast in his shadow. The more I struggled the more strained our relationship became. Silence replaced our once easy banter. No longer was I his “cupcake”. I had become a complicated suffering adult and he had no skill to communicate with me. I had no desire to communicate with him. I had become angry and rageful in his shadow. The control that had once been my security blanket had become a psychological straight jacket. I was restrained and it angered me. My mind wanted nothing more than to grow and flourish but could not beneath his thumb. As the years passed the anger shifted to a steady state of resentment. I did not understand my inability to talk to him. We were awkward and silent in each others presence. He was in Florida, and rarely came north. Looking back I wish I had been able to distance myself from that crippling feeling of anger. I did not realize how precious that time was. Each one of those visits were finite yet I was too blinded by my emotions to recognize that. I know now. I understand my anger. It is hard to remain so controlled and not react. As the years passed and our connection dissipated in the space and lack of contacted I began to understand this anger. I began to let it go. In its place I began to long for connection. There is no connection to be had. Strange how I want most what I cannot have. Yes, the grass is truly greener. I think often of our adventures and the life he gave me. Where anger once raged there is an emptiness. A hole clear through my middle. It brings tears to my eyes to think about that hollow. I realize how huge a role he played in my life. How much of him I have within me. Those moments when impatience flares white hot, or when a quick word of wit falls from my lips. Those are his gifts along with so many others. I long for the opportunity to thank him for them. To clamor through the silence and settle once again in that place when words were easy and life was my oyster. He held it there for me from the time I found my first steps. It was always possibility, never discouragement. How many of us have that? I realize now how blessed I was. That was his greatest gift. He was, if nothing else, an optimist. A dreamer. There was nothing he would not heartily try. There was nothing outside the realm of possibility. Sure one might say he tilted at many a windmill, but that is who he was. I did not get that part of him though I sure wish I had. He lived his life without the ability to back down, or quit. Wasn’t in him. I love that. To live life 100% on your terms. Sure he burned bridges, and caused so much pain, but he did it in pursuit of something greater. I do not know what drove him. I may never know. But it truly is stunning to stand back and look over it. I do not want him to suffer trapped in a mind losing its faculties. I cannot think of a worse place for such a purpose driven man. I guess we don’t know where exactly the mind goes as dementia or Alzheimer’s wraps its grip around it. I can only hope he does not really know. I can pray he is not there somewhere trapped as if beneath ice, unable to escape. It sickens me just to think about it. My greatest regret is missing that window when I had the opportunity to reconnect and I walked away. I allowed my anger to drive a wedge between us. Instead of reaching out I walked away. I do not know how I can forgive myself for that choice. I know I’ll have to find a way.
As 2014 dawns in its infancy I can only look forward and dread the coming year. I cannot welcome it with open arms for I know there will be trials and hardship. I have grown. I know I have come so very far. I also know this new self is young and unchallenged. The mortar unset. I do not know if my new self can weather this challenge. I guess I need to have a little faith in myself and allow a little bit of my father’s optimism to come though. I doubt I’ll ever seek out windmills, but I know somewhere in me there is that piece of him. Maybe 2014 is the year I uncover it. Maybe it is time to find the best pieces of him in me. Even if they are just castaway seeds left in the whirlwind of this life. It may be just one. We can carefully tend to that seed and grow a new part of me long left untended in this rough journey called life. That is my wish for this year. I do not want to lose him though I know I am powerless to stop this never ending progression toward death. There is no way to stop the steady march. Those lost pieces of him will be all that remain and I do have the ability, with help, to nurture them. He will not be entirely lost. I will not let him be.

Best of 2013

some of my favorite finds of 2013.

a look at pure emotion without any defenses. Truly remarkable. Whether it is joy, or sadness or whatever else this child is feeling. Can’t help but be deeply moved by this.

On the other end of the spectrum, just to scare the crap out of people. I think I might have to change my pants after an encounter in an elevator like this one. It is in Brazil. Think the liability issues here in the US might put a damper on repeating it here.

In the world of sports. Auburn’s win in the final seconds of the Iron Bowl…what??? The best college football play I have ever seen, maybe the best of all time.

Music.
My favorites this year, obviously dependent on mood.

TV Shows/ Movies

Well, not sure how to pick since there were some great ones this year. In particular order.

The Americans- Great cold war era. Spies. Need I say more.
House Of Cards- Interesting and twisted display of power and what it does to people.
Breaking Bad- Absolutely loved it from start to finish.
American Horror Story: Coven. Just as twisted and dark as the previous seasons. Love Jessica Lang.
Orange is the New Black: Piper- Couldn’t decide if I loved her or hated her, but Alex sure had my attention.
The Following- brutally violent, to the point I often wonder how many people they’d kill each episode. but still a good show.

Haven’t really watched many movies this year.

Prisoners, a strange and disturbing psychological thriller with an excellent cast.
Life of Pi. Exquisite visually and moving. Some of the most incredible CGI I’ve ever seen.

Well that is my quick wrap up of my favs in 2013. I know, not a deep moving post about life and love. Just not in the right head space for that type of post tonight. I just am not up to it. Maybe tomorrow. Goodbye 2013. We start anew. Clean slate and a brand new year. Here’s to 2014. I guess I should be happy I’m here to see another year. Happy I have seemingly stumbled out of this most recent depression. I am. Thankful to see a new year. Wishing you all a Happy & Healthy 2014.