For the love of it

The weekend that everything shut down in Michigan my partner and I were signed up to do a Pi Day run. It was a fun, no stakes 5k on a (kind of boring) course that we’ve done a few races on. The most exciting thing about it was the the shirt and metal….and as any casual runner knows, after a couple years of doing these races neither is in short supply. And I’ve been a regular, casual runner for the past ten years now. I’ve got an abundance of shirts, medals (mostly finisher medals), race logo bearing headbands, hats, gloves and so on and so forth. But I was still quite disappointed when the Pi Day run got cancelled and I realized there would be no new race paraphernalia that weekend…or for quite a while as it turns out.

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Some of the race swag I’ve collected over the years.

In lieu of the scheduled race we were offered the option to defer our registration to another of this companies races or to switch our registration to a “virtual race”. I’ve heard of these “virtual races”, they existed even before the pandemic forced us into isolation, but  I’ve never understood the appeal. I did briefly consider switching my registration for the Pi Run to a virtual race, I really wanted a Pi Day shirt and metal! But that would mean we basically just bought a shirt and silly metal for $45. That’s $90 for the two of us…To a cheapskate like myself that’s not justifiable.

So why then am I willing to pay so much to go run a relatively easy distance on a lame course at a super non-competitive pace? (Because let’s be real, I’ve got no chances of placing at these big events.)

I’ve asked myself this many times over the years and occasionally have decided it’s not worth it but more often than not if a race catches my attention I’m willing to shell out the dough, get up somewhat early on a weekend morning, and go spend some time running with a bunch of equally silly random strangers. Sometimes the weather is quite unpleasant. Sometimes it’s very early. Sometimes we’re wearing ridiculous outfits. Why?? Because it’s fun (and we’re slightly off our rockers). There’s nothing like a crowd of enthusiastic runners waiting around in the early morning mist for the gun to go off. The energy is unique and palpable. There’s a sense of camaraderie, personal challenge, and adventure.

Personally, signing up for a variety of races throughout the year helps keep me motivated as a runner. It gives me a structured goal to push myself towards, it helps motivate me to challenge myself whether it be by running a longer distance or trying to beat a personal best time. It also brings a sense of community to running.

Doing fun and/or challenging races has kept me excited about running for the past decade. But now, that’s all on hold….So what now?

These days, like so many people, I find myself with much more time on my hands than usual and some pretty decent weather. I’ve been able to get out and run three, usually four times a week. But it’s just running with no goals in sight; no fun race, no interesting medal, fun experience or shirt to show for all my time spent running. It’s just running…for the sake of running. Of course there are the usual benefits of getting fresh air and sunshine, time spent alone to let my mind wander, all that but no additional external motivation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. I still have demands on mine and things to fill most of it but, right now during this everything shut down stay-at-home-order (I’m not even sure what to call it), I have the most unstructured time that I’ve had since I was eighteen and fresh out of high school. It’s most certainly a dramatic difference from what I’m used to. On one hand it’s unnerving; I’m not great at self-managing without some sort of structure. But on another hand, it’s quite lovely being able to choose what to do with so much of my time. And the things I’m choosing to do, mostly, are things that I am doing for no other reason than to do them. For example, I crocheted a big fat scarf. We’re heading into much warmer weather, I don’t have any person or purpose in mind for this scarf… I just made it for the fun of it. I liked the colors and thought they called for a chevron pattern. SO I crocheted a scarf. My running this past month has been just like that: it doesn’t necessarily have a purpose or plan, there’s no real reward other than the enjoyment of the time spent doing it. Right now that’s enough.

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The wide chevron scarf in progress. 

So much about this pandemic and being “quarantined”, about this forced slamming the brakes on life as we know it, really sucks. For so many people it does. I get it, I’m living that too. Seniors in both high school and college are missing out on socially important milestones and there’s no getting those back. It’s especially hard for students who are missing their final season of a sport. In the grand scheme of things that might be inconsequential but in reality it’s a heavy loss to bear. I’m not going to put a positive spin on that, not even going to try, but I do hope some of those athletes are using this time to engage in their sport, to practice their craft at whatever level they can, just for the sake of doing it.

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I need a moment

I need to take a moment to be sad. To just sit with this deep, gut wrenching sense of sorrow and loss that’s been pulling at the edge of my existence for a while now, a little blurry but definitively present. This week, though, it’s brought it into focus. Sharp, clear, unignorable focus. This week, with confirmation of the end of the school year for all the kids; this week with the news that my education and progress will be significantly delayed; this week is ominous and dark in contrast to the sudden spring we’re experiencing outside.

It brings me back to a time when my kids were babies and young toddlers; some days were rough. There was layer upon layer of defeat and frustration piled on throughout the day but there I’d be, keeping it together, until someone threw a toy and it accidentally hit my face, maybe caught the corner of my eye, and it really hurt. Just for a second, but the pain was intense and it brought to a head all the feelings I’d been pushing down and keeping under control all day. And suddenly I’d be sobbing because it’s not just that few minutes of physical pain that you’re feeling but the summation of all that you’ve been carrying up to that moment. 

I know that we’re very likely going to be okay, that in the grand scheme of things we’ll get through this, probably changed but still intact. I know that I’ve made it through much, much worse and that the way through is one day at a time. I know that I, and my family, are fortunate to have the safety and stability to bunker down and that thus far we are fortunate that the only losses we are mourning are losses of what we perceived our short term futures would be. Because many aren’t so fortunate. I know that, and that’s all good and fine. But, today, I still need this moment to sit with my sorrow because it is real and it is valid; the only way past this is through it. 

Sitting with the Uncertainty

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March 2020: the month of the 1000 piece puzzle

I don’t know what day of “quarantine”/”social distancing”/isolation we’re on here. Heck, like most people now, I don’t even know what day it is. I do know that it’s almost the end of March and that I’ve got a big presentation to give (online) tomorrow and that that presentation which is supposed to last half an hour is not put together yet.

I’ve been suffering from too much time. Even when life has maintained its normal daily structure too much time is a phenomenon students and professional procrastinators throughout the globe are familiar with. It occurs when you know you have plenty of time to finish something but instead of spreading the work nice and evenly over all that time, you tell yourself “I’ve got time.” As in, “I really should start researching…but I’ve got so much time still.” In this pandemic induced stopping of nearly all time related obligation (for most of us), the too much time phenom has kicked into overdrive. It’s on steroids and is raging.

But this blase attitude, this extreme lack of motivation to do the things I need to do in allllll the time I now have available to do them, it’s more than the usual procrastinating tendencies. There’s a vague sense of purposeless that presses down like a heavy fog. The emotional roller coaster that takes you from “but look, I’m able to run almost every day and I’ve been getting so much sleep” to crying in the bathroom because Detroit is burning and so many people are not working and how are we all going to pay our bills and eat??? Back to thoughts of how much I’m saving just by not driving 110 miles back and forth to Detroit every day and then again to worries over my parents and my brother-in-law with frequent lung infections who was left a single parent by my sister’s sudden death a year and a half ago… and so I wander around the house and stare vaguely out the window. I try to check in on friends and family but get distracted by the cesspool of social media. And the hours somehow tick by. Slowly. But nothing happens. My presentation isn’t done. The information for my upcoming (also online)  tests and quizzes sits untouched.

Lat night while staring at my computer and feeling very stressed about the work I wasn’t doing, my best friend tested me with a question about her son’s teeth. All the dentist offices are closed until who knows when so an almost third year dental student is an okayish substitute. After we went back and forth about the lesion in her teenager’s mouth we started the usual chit chat about daily life, the kids, etc. Because some things haven’t changed. “Today was very somber, everyone is getting very weary around here.” she texts. I know exactly what she means; the reality of the current situation is setting in. At first there was a sense of novelty about everyone being stuck at home. Things were changing day by day, it was novel and sharp; there was a sense of urgency to take collective action and stem the tide of this pandemic. Very rah-rah-cis-boom-bah! And you could kind of pretend that the kids were just on an extended spring break from school and that’s cool and normal enough to get through it. But now there are rumors that they won’t be back this school year. There is a heavy sadness for the graduating (maybe?) classes who are missing all the festivities and emotions of such a pivotal moment in their young lives. We’ve been at home for almost three weeks. Or maybe this coming week is the third week. We’ve been at home, our lives have been slammed into a bleak limbo, for a timeless amount of time that will go on for unknown many days or weeks more.

And that’s it; that’s life for so many of us. We sit and watch the news, wondering who to trust and what is real. We watch the numbers climb ominously: confirmed cases of the virus, number of Covid-19 deaths, hospitals that are at capacity. Here in Michigan we look at the county-by-county break down of the number of cases each day and hope that we’ll see the effects of the Social Distancing protocols Stay at Home order that’s been in place since mere days after the first couple cases were confirmed. We need all this sitting and waiting to mean something.

We need results!

But what we have is uncertainty and all we really can do is just sit with the uncertainty and try to be at peace.

All’s Well That Ends with Pie

This past weekend went from packed to zero in a disorientingly rapid fashion thanks to covid 19 and social distancing. It’s been very strange but I’m grateful that Michigan’s governor has been aggressive in preemptively closing schools, cancelling gatherings, and strongly encouraging social distancing.

The schedule clearing actually started Wednesday morning, a quarter of my class was supposed to attend an interprofessional education session at Oakland University with second year medical students but with the first two cases of Covid 19 confirmed in Michigan, one from my school’s county and the other in OU’s, that event was cancelled….fifteen minutes before it was supposed to start. Soon my youngest son’s regional spelling bee scheduled for Friday was cancelled followed closely by the Pi Day run we had signed up for and then the youngest’s last basketball game. By Thursday evening all the K-12 schools in Michigan were closed for the next three weeks and the outlook for this week had shifted dramatically. My spring break is this week anyway, now I get to enjoy a little more down time with the kids over break.

Still, though, I was at a bit of a loss over how to fill all the new found time. And somewhat disappointed about the cancelled Pi Run. I love Pi Day and have been waiting for years for it to fall on a weekend so we could do a good and proper Pi themed race. Clearly some Pi day Pies were in order…to ease the disappointment and fill the time.

You may not be aware of this but pies are one of my favorite things to bake. I enjoy the challenge of making a good, flaky golden pie crust from scratch and there are so many possible types and combinations of crusts, styles, and fillings. Pies are truly an art form, one I’ve practiced at for years…this round of pies, though, was more learning experience than art.

First there was the banana cream pie, my daughter had her wisdom teeth extracted on Wednesday afternoon and still wasn’t eating full on solid foods by Saturday. We had two slightly past ripe bananas and she likes the cheap and easy pudding mix banana cream pie. No big deal right? wrong! Enter the apocalypse: Friday night the local stores were all out of milk. Cleaned right out. We had half a gallon but with four kids in the house that does not go very far. I did have a couple cartons of coconut mix in the cupboards and a quick Google search told me I could substitute coconut milk for regular milk in pudding mix. Great! I mixed it the pudding mix and coconut milk, folded in some whipped cream, poured it over sliced bananas in a premade graham cracker crust, and put it in the fridge to set. Except it didn’t set. Apparently I should have read a little further on my search, instant pudding mix does not thicken when made with coconut milk and hours later the filling was still liquid. I poured the liquid off the sliced bananas and mixed in some more cool whip. Another while later there was still no signs of setting so into the freezer it went and we had frozen banana pie.

 

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The liquidy mess

The next pie on my list was a classic apple pie. It’s one I’ve made (relatively) often for years and it usually turns out awesome. The crust is a very simple recipe of flour, salt, water and shortening but I like to use half coconut oil and half shortening. I didn’t realize I was out of shortening until I was making the crust so I just used coconut oil this time. As I was mixing the water in and wrapping the crusts to refrigerate I noticed they were a little dry but I didn’t think much of it; a flaky crust dances the too dry line anyway.

20200314_134851.jpgWhen I took it out of the fridge a while later and started to roll I realized this one landed on the dry side of that line.

20200314_153326.jpgOoops. Luckily even a crumbly crusted pie tastes pretty darn good.

20200314_164155.jpgLastly, I decided to make a pumpkin pie. Three pies may seem excessive but with everyone home and loitering about it really is not. (In fact, there’s maybe two pieces left now and it’s only Monday.) My 19 year old son made the crust for this one, he noticed that it looked a little dry and had the foresight to add more liquid.

It came out perfectly.

Despite the foibles of these pies they made for a delicious Stay at home Pi Day celebration.20200314_210408.jpg

Second Year of Dental School

A few short months ago, back at the beginning of fall semester, a couple random classmates and I were chatting while standing in line to use a model trimmer. We were talking about the newly minted first year dental students and how fresh faced and eager they all were (as, I’m sure, we were just a year prior). Having newer dental students at the school was quite novel to us then. Somebody mentioned that one of the newbs was Vlogging dental school, another kid commented that a few people have Vlogged first year of dental school but nobody vlogs second year.

See, second year of dental school is a bit like Fight Club in that you don’t talk about the second year,not while you’re in it

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….because you just don’t have the time and energy Actually it’s like Fight Club in some other ways too: second year students (D2s) all look pretty rough and beat but there’s a comradery to being on the inside, it’s challenging but we’re revelling in the difficulty of the tasks at hand, getting through it provokes a deep sense of pride and accomplishment. But, mostly, we are all in pain (physically from stress and lack of sleep or mentally and emotionally) and questioning our collective existence while just trying to survive the hours and hours of labs and lectures; just trying to get through the competencies and skills tests, the rotations and the exams. Holy hell, the exams! We had 10 finals total, 8 in one week along with a random four hour Sim lab crammed in for good measure. By the end of finals week the D2s looked like the walking dead in scrubs.

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But we survived. We all somehow made it to the two and a half week December break and, as far I can tell, most everyone did so thoroughly enough to make it to the next semester.

So what is the point of this post? I’m not really sure…to share the misery? Not really. To give you a peek into the life of a D2 student? Definitely not! There just isn’t time; another intense semester just started and it’s going to be at least as arduous as the one I just survived. In fact, the schedule this semester was so daunting that I considered going off grid and not coming back to school….if only I wasn’t already a quarter million dollars deep in student loan debt. Most likely I just need to whine a little about this. Because it is, and has been, super rough these past few months. In the really tired moments I question what I’m doing and why I’m here. I wonder if I made a huge mistake and feel panic and dread inside. On paper I am excited and grateful to be where I am and to have this opportunity (and I really, truly am) but the magnitude of the task at hand is great. I don’t feel ready and suddenly I just don’t know if I can handle the responsibility of patients’ health and well-being resting in my hands. All those decisions being mine to make and the consequences if them being my responsibility (and liability).

Towards the end of that brutal finals week, while sitting in a small room with a few classmates who have also become friends, trying to cram enough information into my brain to do okay on the next final, I brought it up. “Maybe I’m Not supposed to be a dentist and I should just go home now.” I said in a not quite joking tone. I question and doubt myself on a daily basis right now. I feel like I’ve worked so hard and learned so much since August of 2018 but I really don’t know anything. How am I going to be ready to treat patients in four very short months? One of my friends whose dad is a dentist then said she’d been feeling the same way lately and that she unloaded to her dad about it. Apparently he reassured her that most dental students feel that way at some point in second year.

The self-doubt is real, folks, but it seems this is “normal” for the second year of dental school. Congratulations, me, I’m normal! Maybe this self-doubt and sense of impending dread that’s so pervasive is what makes us into good dentists. Perhaps the fear of being incompetent and harming people with our ineptitude is what motivates us D2s to kick it up yet another notch and push ourselves just a little harder. Could it be that this stress and struggle is the transforming fire that we have to pass through? I guess we’ll see.

Sharks and Kilts

Shortly after writing my most recent post (yes, that one that was published months ago) I started working on a sewing project. I was pretty excited about this one; it had been in the works for almost a year, realistically probably more than a year. I’m kind of bad with time. (Understatement of the year right there!) I was on a school break and my kids were about to go on a trip that this particular project needed to be on…

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It’s a shark dress for my shark-loving teenage daughter; my kids (and two of their cousins) were going on a road trip with my parents and they would be seeing the ocean for the first time.

As I said, this simple retro dress took a long time to materialize. Not because it’s complex or anything, when I actually got to the making of it it only took a couple days, but because the fabric and pattern had been sitting on my sewing table for months and months waiting to be made into something cool, fun, and totally unique. Back in late December, over Christmas break, I had thoughts of constructing this for my daughters upcoming 16th birthday. Obviously that didn’t happen but there I was in late March with a teensy bit of time for sewing and a deadline. Deadlines make things happen!

I picked up the vintage Simplicity pattern at a garage sale years ago. At the time it had no specific purpose but when I saw it in my excessive stash of patterns I knew it was perfect for this material. The clean cut style compliments the size of the material’s print, the pattern’s darts give it a lovely fitted shape, and it’s got pockets. Actually the pockets are probably my favorite part of this dress. That and the coilar that’s made from a remnant of formal dress material; I think it contrasts the simplicity of the cotton material and it matches the blue in the print so well.

My daughter loved the dress…but, much to my disappointment, she did not end up wearing it on their trip. She did get to see a couple real, live sharks in the ocean though.

This second project, a kilt as the title of the post suggests, is another school break project. Currently I am on my longest break of the year, I’ve got most of the month of May off school. While I’m enjoying dental school the pace of it is intense and I’m happy for the chance to take a break, regroup, and get my house in order (literally get my house in order…the place is a disaster). And after the last two months of driving two plus hours a day to sit in a classroom for hours then coming home and trying to cram as much studying in around the never ending parenting and household duties I was ready to make something fun. Really I was ready to make anything… I miss having time to be “crafty” and create things when I’m amidst the craziness of end-of-semester-dental school.

I made a very costume-y kilt a couple years ago when my oldest son was in the high school Shakespeare class production of Macbeth.  It was made of cheap, colorful flannel plaid and, while it was very fun, it was not what one might call quality.

After seeing the quick and dirty kilt, my brother-in-law (who has some Scottish heritage and a last name that actually has a plaid to it) asked about making him a kilt. It’s something that had come up a few times since then but any decently authentic kilt material is crazy expensive.  I had been keeping my eye out for a good price on some MacGregor plaid but had not come across any so this idea stayed in the realm of hypothetical ideas for quite a while.

Almost a year ago (11 months yesterday to be exact) my sister, this brother-in-law’s spouse, unexpectedly died. There’s not much of anything positive that can be said about that and we’re all still just trying to cope with the loss. BUT my sister was a smart, pro-active woman and she had life insurance and a will and trust all set up. (She was a lawyer and had a side business doing will and trust work for individuals.) With that and the fact that her student loan debt died with her, my brother-in-law is in a pretty financially secure situation. He decided to treat himself and finally bought the good stuff…Authentic kilt wool!

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Coincidentally I was planning on making this kilt over my spring break back in March but the shark dress took precedence and I had to set this aside until this May break.

20190507_122727.jpg20190506_133328.jpgSince I’ve only ever made the one kilt I was quite nervous to cut into the fabric, especially knowing how expensive it is. I spent a day Googling “how to make an authentic kilt”, measuring and folding the fabric. It was helpful but I knew if I was going to get this thing done I just needed to cut and go for it.

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I had measured my brother-in-law’s waist and hips and then, for good measure, wrapped the green lining material around him and cut it directly to fit. That was very helpful in the end because it reassured me that I was, in fact, doing this right and making something that would fit.

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Turns out my fretting was unnecessary and I DO know what I’m doing (a little bit). The kilt is awesome. He came and picked it up yesterday and, other than a little tightening at the waist, the fit was perfect. One of the great things about the really nice material is that it had a finished top and bottom edge so I didn’t have to hem this thing. (Yay!) I had to cut the finished top edge to make the kilt the right length but I was able to use that cut edge for the waist band and enjoy the benefit of not having to fold that under again.

The last detail of the kilt is probably my favorite part of it: the buckles. My brother-in-law asked that the kilt be as authentic as reasonably possible but I was having a hard time finding authentic buckles and straps for it. Neither of us wanted to wait for something to be shipped so I made a trip to the local fabric store and came up with this. 20190509_092738.jpg

 

A couple clasps and rings and some leather scrap.

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I cut the leather into strips and used the thing that looks like a plug (but should definitely NOT be inserted into an outlet) to punch holes in the leather. The holes functioned like stitch markers; using quilting thread I stitched it all on nice and tightly.

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I really love how the fasteners turned out. They’re my favorite part of the kilt and if/when I make another I’ll use this method again.

 

So there you have it, sharks and kilts. I’ve realized that when you have very limited opportunities to make things you should choose to make the things that you are excited about. 

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!

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.