I love watching the Olympics. Honestly, I felt pretty indifferent at first but it’s definitely the most exciting thing on television as we don’t have cable.

For the past couple nights I’ve been watching gymnastics and swimming. When I was little, I loved watching gymnastics. The girls look so graceful, even when they’re under such physical and emotional pressure.

I’m older now, and I’m simply in awe of all the events. Of course, since I’m more athletic now, I’m much more aware of what physically has to happen with these athletes in training and in their diets. I love watching all these ordinary people, who started off stumbling and bumbling as much as the next person, being rewarded for all of their hard work, dedication, and perseverance. You don’t get to the Olympics by giving 99%, or 100%. You get there by giving 150%.

These athletes are so fit, so dedicated to their sport. It’s inspiring to me as I’m getting back to a fitness routine that incorporates more core workouts and strength training.

I’m into my second week, and it’s been going pretty well. I’ve decided to not worry about weight.. as I build muscle my weight may not go down a whole lot. It’s not like I still have 30+ of fat to lose; I’m only ten pounds above my ideal weight. I really want to focus on how I feel, what I can do, and how my clothes fit…. and some muscle definition wouldn’t be bad either!

I’ve been doing 3 days per week each of Blogilates videos and cardio. It’s working out well, because even just 20 minutes of videos and I’m feeling it now and two days later! It involves no weights or equipment, just a lot of Pilates moves and modifications and using one’s own body weight. Cardio is going well, too, and I’ll do 30 minutes on the elliptical and 30 on the treadmill. I’ve found lately that having a time goal works well for me.

I have a goal in mind for each workout, whether it’s to not skip out on any reps, to maintain a certain heart rate, or to run a mile in 8:20 or less. I’ve been getting so much more out of my workouts, and feeling the burn! That’s the best part, because it’s proof that I’m getting it done.

As far as fuel is concerned, I’ve felt a degree of success these last couple days. I’m actually feeling satisfied by healthy foods, instead of feeling like I just have to have something else. I have a major sweet tooth, so the trick for me is to make a healthier version of what I love (I made this chocolate chip cookie dough dip tonight). For dinner I had a tortilla pizza and a huge bowl of fruit. I got to eat all of it and not feel guilty!

The only person I’m comparing myself to is myself. I can see in the mirror the fit and toned person I can be; it’s just a matter of doing the work. Last week I got my sweat on five days in a row without even thinking about it! Before I knew it it was time for a rest day.

This routine is compatible with the hot weather. I can do the YouTube videos at home, and the cardio ones in the gym. Maybe when it gets cooler I’ll start training outside again….

Rain turtles

Ahhh. “Monsoon” season (yes, the quotation marks are necessary) is great in El Paso. It means highs around 95 with a decent chance of rain or at least clouds every day. Believe me, there IS a difference between 95 and 100.

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Swamp coolers aren’t as efficient when it’s humid, which is why 95 is better than 100. Believe me. We’ve had some rumbles of thunder now and then, but today we actually got caught in the rain (!!!!!!) during our evening walk with Missy. It was awesome. It may or may not have something to do with the rain turtles we drew in our front yard… his idea, not mine.

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ERMAHGERD. RERN TERTERLS!

The only problem with the rain is when you actually have to drive on the road with other people driving on the road… it’s like they live in a place with less than 10 inches of rain per year or something… and there are no gutters or storm drains.

I love the panoramic views of the clouds over the mountains, especially from “work”. The kids go back to school next week, and so I only have one more full day with them. Here recently I’ve been herding pigs and actually, one of them stepped on my foot! Ouch! I REALLY need some boots now!

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I can’t wait for fall. Even here in the desert it’s still my favorite season. Last year I remember pretending it was all rainy and cool outside and made myself hot tea at 2pm when it was actually probably 98* with cloudless skies. Oh well.

My super busy summer is about to come to an end here soon and I couldn’t be happier. I am almost done with these classes and have to say I haven’t learned hardly anything about teaching ESL. I’m so glad I’m not committed to a graduate program in linguistics… ugh. How does the study of grammar help in the real world? Like really help people?

Aaron leaves again soon for another month away, this time practically in Death Valley. Poor guy. I’ll be back to cuddling with Missy at night, even though she’s a bed hog. We’re both bed hogs so that must make us incompatible in a way, right? But she’s cute and warm and will probably rip your head off if you break in, so…. ya know.

Watch it. She’s on alert.

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 She might even give you the “I’m the undead pretending like I’m dead but I’m really not” look.

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 Just….. be on the lookout, is all I’m sayin’. And my dear friends and family in the Midwest: go draw some rain turtles.

The honeymoon is over

So…. we’ve been here for over a year. I’m pretty sure I’ve rehashed that fact on my blog and Facebook about a million times. It’s been a crazy year. I’m one who gets bored easily; why else do you think I need to have multiple WIPs? (works in progress [knitting/crochet]). I’m always searching for a new experience, and now that we’re good and settled in El Paso, I wonder what else is out there.

On our list for duty stations were Fort Lewis (WA), Fort Carson (CO) and Fort Huachuca (AZ, where Aaron went for job training). Obviously we didn’t get any of those. Not going to lie; I cried when I first heard that he got orders here.

However, we had the attitude that we would enjoy anywhere we’re placed and make the most of it, especially since we’d been apart for two years.

The truth is, I like it here. The summer heat doesn’t feel so hot this summer, not only because we are more used to it, but because our swamp cooler works this time around! It’s nice having things settled in our house instead of an empty house except a sewing machine and a cooler.

I take for granted that we’ve settled into relationships with some great people. I forget how stressful it is not knowing who your “go-to” people are… how awkward first-time meetings can be… if the person will turn out to be a good friend or just an acquaintance. And how about those new running routes? And even just figuring out the right gate to go into on post or which highway to take?

Generally I enjoy the things to do around El Paso. It just takes 20+ minutes to get places. We’ve thought about checking out places to live on the west side, because church is over there and we like that area of town better. But, our house is great for the price, we’re close to post (and I go there for the FREE gym, Starbucks dates, etc) and we’re close enough to all parts of town.

It’s safe to say my “honeymoon” with El Paso is over. Life is slowing down a little bit compared to the last year, and that’s totally fine! It’s good to enjoy life day-to-day. Aaron’s really getting into a groove at work.  It’s good to keep building relationships with our friends and church family here. I love the family I work for. It will be painful to move, and who knows how long we’ll be here.

We just shouldn’t force anything. We’ve been placed in El Paso/Ft Bliss for a reason. There’s so much more to explore! I have family only 12 hours away in California. Colorado is only 8 hours away. We’re going to Albuquerque for Columbus Day weekend for the Balloon Fiesta. I’d like to get over to San Antonio sometime. I want to stay in a B&B in Cloudcroft or Ruidoso… maybe we can even SKI?! (For the record, I am IN LOVE with New Mexico.)

And the best part about El Paso? Dunkin Donuts on Dyer is up and running again! 😉 It burned down late last summer and it’s FINALLY back in business. Woohoo!

I found this today

We’re all still working through this… this is the hardest thing I have ever been through. My grieving process has been touch and go since being back in Texas. It was comforting having family around and the time to sit and think.

I’ve been nannying and working on a couple orders for people… and doing some reading, knitting, all that stuff. Every time I sit down to knit or crochet I think about Grandpa; it’s just inevitable. I hope that never goes away, painful though it can be sometimes. One night earlier this week I had dream after dream about Grandpa, all good ones.

Grieving is good. It’s necessary. It’s healthy. Sometimes it just hits me like a ton of bricks, especially when I realize that when we go home for Christmas, he won’t be there.

I know he wouldn’t want us all to be so sad, but the lack of his earthly presence is devastating. Like my mom has said, he was such a constant in our lives, the patriarch of our family (and definitely takes the cake for the orneriest Little!). My dad, in his fifties, is now the eldest Little man.

I feel like I’ve been handed a torch, a responsibility to pass on certain values and traditions, even to people who aren’t family. Last week I started teaching H how to crochet; she’s been begging me since the beginning of the summer. Luckily in Grandpa’s stash I found some big acrylic (plastic) crochet hooks for her to use. I gave them to her and told her to take care of them. She can now crochet the chain stitch all day long! She’s even started to teach her brother.

I’m blessed that I know my roots and where our family came from. Though we’re descended from humble farmers who moved from England to New York to Champaign County, Illinois, we’re proud and we work hard. (It also explains why when I go to Champaign it just feels like “home”.)

I think that maybe I knew, deep down in my soul. Two Sundays before he passed away, Pastor Lee called for anyone who needed prayer to come to the front. I knew that Aunt Jane had just passed and that Grandpa was having health issues, but I didn’t respond until Pastor called anyone who had prayer needs to step into the aisle so that people around you could pray. I gave up my stubbornness and stepped out and just started praying in my prayer language, of course not knowing exactly what I was saying (Romans 8:26). A friend came up behind me and started praying with me and I just broke down. I didn’t know why I was so upset, but now I think that I knew.

Last Sunday was hard… I hadn’t been to church in a couple weeks because of my trip and I knew that facing my grief and weakness meant that I had to surrender. Sigh. I’m not so great at that. I tend to get emotional anyway during praise and worship because music moves me, and last Sunday was no exception. I was thinking about how Grandpa was worshipping right along with me. And that led me to a memory.

One time he and Grammie had come to visit Faith (our church back home) during the late service. I was on the worship team that week, and our church had a different style than their more traditional services. Anyway, we went to church together and then out to lunch afterwards and I asked them what they thought. Grandpa complimented the pastor and his sincerity in giving the message and then he said, “Well, I don’t understand why you all have to stand up and sing for half an hour straight before the sermon.” It made me laugh since in their church, they do music and preaching intermittently throughout the service, and alternate sitting and standing.

God is so good, giving us hearts and minds that are capable of storing away memories for a pick-me-up later.

My heart hurts.. and I’m homesick. But I know this too shall pass.

Tour of Central Illinois, and the end of the Run Streak

I’m back in Texas after a 10-day stay in Illinois. The last time I posted was the day before the visitation. I’ve rehashed the details of the following two days so many times in my mind that I honestly don’t want to talk about it here. There are some things better left unsaid.

I still can’t believe Grandpa’s gone. I get this question a lot, “Was he sick?” I know people are just trying to make conversation or show concern, but he was actually supposed to come home a couple days later. He was only 84. That’s young in our family. The man had been through bypass surgery among other things.

I stayed with Grammie for a couple days. I expected him to walk in the door after going to get mail, or walk up the basement stairs after getting some needlework that he needed to show me. His place at the table was vacant, and no one was fidgeting with a napkin or piece of paper. We still sat out on the patio after supper and visited, but it just wasn’t the same. So many things, even in my house in Texas, are a constant reminder.

I was able to go see my Nana (my great-grandmother will be 96 this month!) and my Mimi (other grandmother), and my in-laws took me out for dinner on Thursday night, and then we headed to Farmington to visit with Aaron’s grandparents.

I had a good time with Amelia last Friday. She took me on a “scavenger hunt” as a late birthday present…. we went to the tea room in Mackinaw, to Hollands in Washington to get candy by the pound, painted pottery in Eureka, went geocaching (for the first time!) by the lake there, ate at Lou’s Drive In in Peoria, and then to Les Miserables in East Peoria. I have never seen such an amazing show by a community cast! It was fantastic. Leave it to besties for planning a perfect day!

Saturday I got to see my nieces and nephew, and then went to my aunt’s house for the afternoon. She made my favorite, tuna and noodles, for lunch, and we drank tea out on the patio and then watched some Judge Judy. Sunday I spent mostly at home except for Tim and Leah taking me to the so-classy establishment of Steak n Shake. It just sounded good. Frisco melt, cheese fries, and a milkshake.

I managed to run every day that I was home. I used it as an opportunity to reflect and get some alone time. There were two days I didn’t run in the Run Streak: one day when Amelia was here, and yesterday. It’s hard to tell whether the run streak aided in my 5K PR or not, since I haven’t run a 5K in over a year.

This morning for the Up and Running 4th of July 5K, it was perfect weather… cooler, cloudy and with some humidity. It was a hilly course, being on the other side of town, and my official time was 27:33 (Garmin time 27:08). That’s a 23-second PR from last year, where the course had a gradual incline for the first mile and then it was downhill into the finish line. I am content with my time this year; I ran at 4,000 feet, up and down hills, and I had a 10-day trip sandwiched in there.

Stats for the Runner’s World Run Streak:

TOTAL DAYS RUN: 36 out of 38

TOTAL MILES: 83

LONGEST RUN: 7

What’s next?

October 14 :: Transmountain Challenge (13.1 miles up and over the mountain)

March 17 :: Bataan Memorial Death March 26.2 (Still haven’t decided if I’m going to try to run this or walk and carry a 35+ lb pack. Either way I’m doing it in honor of Grandpa.)