Home Renovations Continue: Things are finally coming together

After being stuck in the basement for a short duration, we kicked up the home renovations up a notch. The floors turned out great.

 

Next I began to finish the extra bedroom where I had taken down the chair rail.  The vision was to turn it into a bit of a library. So fresh paint, new light fixtures, and fancy new bookshelves went in.

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All outlets were replaced

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New and pretty!

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New bookshelves from our local historical society who was giving them away for free!

Next the living room was tackled.

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Supervising the progress

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Starting to cut in

Next to do was getting the trim up. We also decided to replace light fixtures. Oh, so much progress yet so much more to go.

 

 

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HIYOH & the First Month of Dental School

Back in May of this year I started planning my first real hiking trip: a three day trek on the Appalachian Trail (which then became a three day hike on the North Country Trail). In my quest for knowledge of all things hiking and backpacking related I joined a couple of Facebook groups for women who hike; they were a little intense but quite helpful and interesting. One of the phrases I heard quite often in these groups was “hike your own hike”. It was repeated as a kind of hiking mantra or motto.  But it seems a little obvious right? Everyone is one their own journey and moves at their own pace and all that. Yeah yeah. Blah blah whatever.

Months later, in August, as I was running a trail half marathon with little to no training that phrase popped back into my head: hike your own hike.

It occurred to me that the same holds true for running: you are running your race and no one else’s (even when you’re running with or right next to them). That aspect of personal improvement and competition with yourself is something I’ve always loved about running. And at that moment I was on track to run the worst (time-wise) half marathon I’ve done to date but I actually felt proud of myself, like I was doing okay. I was running my own race and I was killing it (compared to myself and my expectations for myself). My sister died in early June, barely two months prior; it put my summer off to a bad start. After that I had a couple weeks of bare minimum levels of functioning. Then my work schedule got crazy (partially to accommodate some of the time off I needed to be with my family); I was working a few nights in a row and then having a few days to function as a normal person. Up and down, back and forth, awake for 24 hours straight then trying to sleep during the day but also trying to not waste the time I could/should be spending with my kids. The thing about working nights is that messes with your body beyond the exhaustion part of it, going back and forth between being awake all night and trying to function during the day multiplies those negative effects.

SO there I was on the morning of August 4th (which, fun fact, happens to be my former wedding anniversary) running slowly through some random woods in Michigan as the day got hotter and more humid by the minute feeling not too bad about myself and my race. I definitely wasn’t winning any awards on this one but, considering the circumstances and the challenges I’d faced, that was okay. I was running MY race; my unique life experiences had brought me to that place and were a part of the accomplishments of the day. No one else was dealing with exactly the same things I was so maybe even if they were faster it wasn’t a big deal; we were playing with different decks. (Then again maybe it was an even bigger feat. Who knows what personal struggles brought them to that moment of their lives.)

Fast forward another few months (okay, two) and here I am, not running or hiking much but I’m finally starting to grasp the full meaning of “hiking my own hike”.

I started dental school this fall. The average age of my class is 24. There are a handful of people who are turning 21 this year. Most of the others are 22 or 23. I am not; I’m a non-traditional student. A really non-traditional student. I’m 38, a single/divorced mom with five kids, the oldest of them just a couple years younger than some of my classmates.

We have very different lives, my classmates and I. There are a few who are 30 or close to it and a couple who are married. Pretty sure I’m the only one with kids. I’m one hundred percent sure that I’m the only one in my class with five kids. But right now (and for the next three and a half years), these are my peers. These are the only other people in my life who really understand the demands and expectations I’m dealing with.

Dental school is Crazy; the course load is insane! (22 credits this semester) And it’s literally a complete reversal of what my schedule has been for the past seven years. I’m awake by 5:30 every morning (some days closer to 4) and out the door by 6:15 (okay, 6:30 the weeks my kids are home). I spend two and a half to three hours a day commuting to school. Two days a week we have roughly five hours of heavy science lectures (and a couple others) in the same classroom. It’s hard.

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Balancing dental school and family life…it’s messy sometimes.

But I expected that. It’s dental school, it’s supposed to be hard. (If it was easy everyone would do it.) The one thing I didn’t anticipate is how isolated and lonely I feel some days. Dental school, like nursing school or any other set program, is one of the few times in your adult life you are surrounded by people going through the exact same thing as you. Typically that produces some deep-seated friendships and a strong sense of camaraderie among classmates. And I do feel some air of community with my classmates but often I’m set apart by the differences between their day-to-day and mine. It’s been taking a minute to get used to.

Much like the race, different circumstances and life experiences brought everyone to this place. While we are (according to the school) all high achieving and highly qualified individuals we did not go through the same process to get there. We are not all dealing with the same challenges and struggles as we adapt to dental school either; some of us have trained more than others. While I’ve been struggling to find my place socially, I’m finding that my crazy life experiences have prepared me for dental school in ways I could not have imagined. I’m used to juggling a wide variety of demands and having very little free time. I know how to prioritize things when everything id SO important but you just don’t have time to do it all. And functioning optimally on little sleep has been my way if life for a while. Heck, I’m less tired than I’ve been in years because now the five hours of sleep I’m getting is actually at night. (Sleeping at night is AMAZING, y’all!)

Yeah sure, it’s been ten years since I took anatomy and I don’t remember the enzymes of the TCA cycle or glycolysis but my other life skills are coming in pretty handy.

We’ve all got different tools, strengths, and skills and we’re all out there using them to get where we need to be. I guess that’s what hiking your own hike is about.

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All these things that I have made…

In case you haven’t noticed my life is busy. B.U.S.Y!

It’s not uncommon for people to tell me I’m the busiest person that know. Well, I’ve got five kids ( four of whom are teenagers) and I’m one parent. I’ve got to do all the kid-rearing and house managing plus make whatever money is going to pay the bills. Aaand I like to do things. What’s the point of life if all you’re doing is working, paying bills, and sleeping? (Though I do like some sleep now and again.)

This fall my busyness has kicked it up a notch. Actually, my life has pretty much been flipped upside down. But in a good way.

I started dental school in August. No, not to be a hygienist, to be a dentist. If I survive this, I’m going to be a D.D.S.

While I’m definitely (probably) going to tell you a little about dental school and what it’s like to be an older/ non-traditional student in a class with an average age of 24, first I want to show off some of the little projects I finished before school started.

There were the crochet ponchos…

The idea for this poncho (which became these ponchos) hatched a couple years ago when one of my sisters sent me a picture of a young girl in a square, grey poncho with a thick cowl neck. It s adorable! My sister wanted one for her daughter.

This past Christmas when I was frantically buying yarn for some last minute gifts I saw those round skeins with the “self-striping” colors. Each color made a ring around the circle. They were so visually appealing! I grabbed one but didn’t have a project for it. Sometime in the early spring these two things came together.

And the striped poncho was born.

Then I made another one. (Plus a matching doll poncho since this particular niece is into her American Girl doll right now.)

All the ponchos were made the same way: crochet a giant square with a hole in the middle, go round and round that hole a bunch of times, do some variation of a ribbed stitch up and down the edge. Finish off with three buttons on each side. (I very loosely followed the “Amelia poncho” pattern.)

Okay this one didn’t quite turn out square. That’s okay, I improvised and put the buttons on the front so the bigger back edge could wrap around.

It works.

Another niece/nephew related project that took forever (but I still managed to get done before school got too crazy) is a small t-shirt quilt for a new baby nephew.

Not gonna lie, this came together with a lot of haphazard Google searching and some creative stretching. Thankfully t-shirt material is forgiving.

My brother is a huge Michigan State fan and a huge Dolphins fan. In fact, some of the Dolphins fabrics may have been from shirts he wore as a kid.

Basically I started with the large emblem on the Dolphins side and just built around it. The State side was a little more challenging because I was trying to get the shapes close to matching the other side. I knew I was going to stitch the layers together instead of quilting them and I didn’t want to end up awkwardly stitching through any logos or anything. (It’s a little awkward but not terribly so.)

Because each square had a light interfacing attached (a must when making a t-shirt quilt) the blanket was plenty thick enough without any batting or anything. Because I am lazy/chronically short on time I finished the edges with a pre-made silky blanket binding. It’s reminiscent of the blankets my siblings and I had as kids.

Despite it’s technically not great aspects the blanket turned out to be a fun and unique baby gift. My brother loves it! (And I’m just going to assume my nephew does too.)

And that’s about it…

three little ponchos and a t-shirt baby blanket were completed before dental school craziness set in.

Oh, and a whole bunch of random granny squares.

The stash of squares has more than doubled since this photo.

Respect the 13.1

A funny thing happened recently. Okay, maybe not haha funny. Or maybe not really funny at all, maybe more of an anomaly. I had not been running as much as I like to in the warmer summer months and then I signed up to run a trail half marathon. Rather my guy & I signed up to run a half marathon. We had tossed this idea around for a while but didn’t commit until maybe six weeks before the race.

Having done five halves over the past three or four years this wasn’t a super intimidating thing for me. Still, I’d prefer to be physically and mentally ready for a challenge of that magnitude. I said as much a few times leading up to race weekend but my schedule was just crazy. Three weeks before the race I was up to around 20 miles a week but then the next two weeks got extra crazy; I was only able to get four runs in…over two weeks. I know tapering before a big race is part of a lot of training plans but that only works when you actually have a training plan.

My guy was preparing for the half even less than I was. In the past he’s been able to go out and do some pretty tough races without batting an eye even though he doesn’t run regularly. A lot of the time he has more energy and speed than I do even when I am running often. It’s super annoying!!!

We’ve done lots of basic 5ks, some 10ks, a couple “doublers” or 15ks including a brutal trail 15. Earlier this year we had a back to back races with an easy 5k on Saturday and a not so easy 5 mile trail race early Sunday. He still killed the 5 mile trail run; I struggled a bit. (Like I said, it’s super annoying.)

A half marathon is different though; 13.1 miles feels like a lot more than even a 15k. I mean, it is. More than just 4 miles, 13.1 is a different level of mental challenge and stamina. It requires at least a little preparation!

But life is…life and preparation did not happen. The exact opposite of preparation happened. (Negative preparation? Reverse preparation? De-preparation? Idk. One of those.)

The day before the early August trail half marathon my guy had a golf tournament for work. No big deal. Except that he was out in the sun all day, drank more than is smart the day before a long race in the hot sun, and probably didn’t eat very well either. See, negative preparation!

Saturday morning come 6 A.M we were trying to get out the door for the race and he was not feeling so hot. Using all my previous experience and half marathon knowledge I told him to eat a decent breakfast and hydrate like hell on the way to the race. Oh, and to let me set the pace. He’d never make it if he set off at his usual race pace. (Heck, I wouldn’t make it either.)

Of course we were later than we wanted to be getting to the course. We started towards the back of the crowd and the first couple miles guy trapped in a group. The narrow trail made passing a challenge. Maybe that was a good thing though, it gave us time to find a nice, steady running groove. By the fourth mile the crowd had thinned out a bit and we were able to settle in at a slower but okay pace.

The course wound around the outside of the state park including some short road segments. There weren’t many hills other than a good sized one somewhere around mile four but the trail surface itself required some attention while running. There were a lot of pits and uneven areas which kept the pace a little slower.

In a trail race if it’s not the hills slowing you down it’s the terrain.

Somewhere between miles 7 and 9 the lack of preparation started to show. Well, for my guy they did. He was really starting to slow down. I was being a good girlfriend and mostly staying with him, trying to encourage him along. In a half marathon the last three or four miles are the toughest. Besides, I didn’t really have any goals for this race. Because I was running this half marathon without really training the goal was to have fun and finish.

My efforts to make this half marathon thing a more pleasant thing for my boyfriend dropped off sharply right around the ten mile marker. I was stuck behind a cluster of runners we had been back and forth with for two miles because I had slowed down to stay with my guy. (First time ever that I was feeling better and faster during a race than he was.) I turned my head to see something behind me and BAM! My foot hit something and I went down, skidding on the dirt trail.

I jumped up, super mad, and assessed the situation. Blood running down my right leg, dirt everywhere but mostly okay. My boyfriend and another runner were asking if I was alright. I responded briefly, yanked a dangling piece of skin off my scraped and bloody knee and took off. No more of this slowing down and waiting around thing, it was time to finish this race!

While I wouldn’t call my last three miles fast, they were definitely quicker than the previous few. I finished the race alone and went straight to the first aid tent to get the dirt dug out of my wound.

By the time that was done my guy was crossing the finish line. I had had plans to find him in that last terrible mile but the timing just wasn’t right.

One of the first things he said to me is “That was brutal!” And then maybe I’m not doing that again any time soon.

I think we both learned something that day: You’ve got to respect the 13.1!

Banned to the Basement: Home Renovations, part whatever

Progress is being made. Right now someone is sanding and refinishing my hardwood floors. Floors someone hid under carpet and peel & stick vinyl. In the past week we managed to peel up that vinyl and mostly remove the adhesive, paint a room, and move our entire living room.

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Peeling with a heat gun and a scraper

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All the vinyl is up just adhesive left

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The end product. We cleaned as best we could with mineral spirits

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Just beginning and a little freaked out I chose such a dark color

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1st coat and it was blotchy with the former chair rail clearly visible. eek!

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End product. Everything covered up and evened out. Whew!

We’re cruising along but, right now, I’m stuck. Stuck in the partially finished basement with my boyfriend and three cats. And those cats did not go easy.

I spent the morning, before my first cup of coffee, chasing one cat around the house after he got loose when I tried to close him in the basement. He is freaked out very easily and upon figuring out we were trying to sequester him he jumped a baby gate and plowed through what I thought was a closed door. It was a process but he is safely hiding under a couch in the basement. Finally.

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While one is hiding the other 2 cats want to be where the action is 

My living room floor is being worked on which means I can’t get anywhere in my house. Not the full bathroom (yes, thankfully, we have a half bath in the basement), or the bedroom, or my office. This is why everyone is stuck in the basement. I can get into the kitchen but because there is not a door to the basement the area is being blocked by two the of cheapest baby gates I could find. Cheap baby gate means pain in the ass to use! So I’m not going through them unless expressly necessary. But, it’s not terrible. We have a tv and couch down here. Plus a twin air mattress. And more reading material than I could possibly finish. It would almost be like a vacation if the sound of sanding wasn’t so distracting. After all there’s not much I can do down here.

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Tomorrow I go back to work and hopefully the floor project will wrap up. By Thursday evening I’m hoping to actually be able to walk on it and get to the shower & bedroom. By Friday I should be able to put furniture back where it belongs and start organizing my house again…at least a little. I still have a living room to paint!

 

 

Spackling dust, the new dry shampoo

The home renovations continue. Those lazy bastards (aka the former home owners) have struck again. I was prepping our extra room for painting. Patching where I removed the chair rail, sanding, and re-patching.

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That’s not blurry, it’s dust floating in the air. What a mess!!

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My post sanding look. Old chemistry goggles are good for something!

Finally I was ready for one last wall and ceiling wash. I noticed as I was washing the ceiling that there were TWO colors up there. Very similar colors so I never noticed before but with my nose pressed up there to wash, it was clear, the lazy bastards didn’t bother to cut in when they painted. They just rolled to about 6 inches from the wall and stopped. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore but it still makes me roll my eyes.

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We also are removing carpet in our living room. The hardwood floors will be sanded and refinished next week. Who covers hardwood with shitty carpet in the first place?! However, as we removed, we found another surprise.

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We hadn’t swept yet. So much dirt under carpet!

Someone had stuck peel and stick vinyl flooring over the hardwood to create an “entry way.” It’s awful. Today’s project is going to be trying to peel it all up. That’ll be a good time, I’m sure.

At least we have supervisors who keep their opinion to themselves.

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Keeping an eye on the progress

The Great Birthday Backpacking Adventure: Day 3

I know it’s been a hot minute since I (finally) posted about days 1 & 2 of my early June backpacking trip along the coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; time gets away from me and the summer days are packed with both fun and obligatory happenings. Hopefully you haven’t been holding your breath in anticipation of a conclusion after reading about Day 1 and Day 2. (If you’ve been a regular here you definitely know better. We’re very slow but steady eventual bloggers.)

The second night of the trip we camped in an area called Mosquito River. As I said, that was not a misnomer. The camping spot was basically a mini campground with designated spots and a very rustic outhouse (which was still better than having to dig a hole in the ground). It was right on the Mosquito River in a lush, brilliantly green forest.

Day three’s hike started here with some more mini bluffs and a steep uphill climb. Both Adventure Guy and myself were well rested and ready to go after another breakfast of oatmeal and insta coffee. With only ten or eleven miles left to Munising Falls we knew we’d be done hiking by the end of the day. That put a little extra pep in our steps. Not that we weren’t enjoying this adventure but I, for one, was looking forward to hot showers and cold beer. The fierce hoard of mosquitoes that began swarming as soon as we hit the trail added to our motivation to move quickly.

After a few minutes of hiking and probably half a can of bug spray we stopped so I could put on one of the head nets we picked up on our way up North. The guy didn’t want his…or any bug spray at first (he did cave on the bug spray after a few more minutes of fighting the swarms). Mosquito Valley spanned the first four or so miles of the day. Apparently there’s also a Mosquito Falls but we decided not to take the detour to see it. The bugs along with the lure of showering and hot food played heavily in that decision. (Maybe we’ll get back up there sometime soon for some more hiking. The area really is amazing.)

We stopped as infrequently as possible on this patch of trail. Finally, after close to an hour and a half, we emerged from the trail into a parking lot with freshly cleaned porta-jons. I never thought I’d be so happy to see one of those things but they were so clean and the bugs couldn’t get in. There was a great little boat launch here (not a small launch, rather a launch for small boats like kayaks or canoes). On the other side of the parking lot the woods began thinning a bit and soon the shore of Lake Superior was in view again. Miner’s Beach was a short mile from there and finally we were out of the high intensity bug zone. What a relief that was!

When we got to the information center and “overlook” at Sand Point a few miles later a thick fog was rolling in. Like literally rolling in. We watched the view across the bay disappear.

It went from this…

…to this…

…and then this in maybe five minutes. Maybe.

And as you can see by the angle of the trees in those pictures the wind was picking up too; rain was about to happen. Despite our hunger, the shelters, & running water available we decided to just grab a quick snack and keep moving. There was some debate over whether or not to break out rain gear; jackets, but not rain pants (actually I was already wearing mine) were donned and we picked up the trail again as it headed back into the woods.

The ground was pretty wet throughout this last section of the trail (between Sand Point & Munising Falls). Some of the very muddy areas had boardwalk but much of it had a variety of branches, rocks, & tree debris to hop and step across if you wanted to avoid the thick black mud. And believe me, you wanted to avoid that mud! I did a so-so job of it and was damp and muddy from almost my knees down.

Along with mud and seemingly younger forest in this section there were these awesome fern sprawls. They looked like something straight out of Jurassic Park…

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Can’t you just imagine a T-Rex photo shopped into the background?

The last three miles of the day (and the trip) seemed to take forever, partially because cautiously picking a path over the muddy spots slowed us down. Sometime in this stretch it started to rain. It wasn’t too cold but we definitely ended up thoroughly drenched. Adventure Guy and I agreed that if this wasn’t our last day of backpacking the rain would really suck! As it was we were kind of enjoying it; it added to the sense of adventure as we trudged through the very wet woods.

Another cool feature of this leg of the journey was the waterfalls. There were so many of them! And a lot of them were very tall. While there are a couple falls noted on the map, most of these were not marked or named. They were just out there along the trail.

Sometimes the trail went right along the edge of the falls. It was crazy and somewhat intimidating for someone who doesn’t exactly love heights (such as myself).

That tree on the right is growing straight up out of the ravine.

It’s hard to tell but the line of yellow moss is the cliff edge. All that other stuff was waaay down there!

At the very end of the trail there was a detour. That was quite the disappointment because we were having a debate over where the North Country trail came out at the Munising Falls visitor center. I thought we might hike right behind the falls where we saw the frozen falls back in February but the guy thought we might pop out right by the visitors center. I guess we’ll have to go back to see someday because we were directed out of the woods and onto a small stretch of road that put us in the visitors center parking lot.

And finally we were done!

I was hoping to get to the visitors center in time to stamp our National Parks passports… We just missed it. By maybe two minutes, probably less. There was still a park ranger inside but the doors were locked. This was our second near miss with the stamps at the Munising Falls visitor center.

I was pretty mad about not getting stamps and also very wet and tired. We threw all the soaked gear in the back of the car and turned up the heat. Sitting down on a cushioned seat felt amazingly luxurious.

We did it!!!

On day three we hiked from Mosquito River to Munising Falls, roughly 11 miles, for a total of 42 miles on the North Country Scenic trail (from Grand Marais to Munising) plus all the side run-offs for scenic overlooks and campsites… 45 miles of backpacking in three days.