February 25 | Retreat

Retreat

My spirit breathes a sigh of relief when I see this word and picture. It reminds me of Colorado or New Mexico. For some reason, the mountains have always been equated with relaxation and wilderness.

Today on my run (I wasn’t planning on going, but ‘I just felt like running’) I had a slight hint of mountain-like air. It was about 50 degrees, humid, and breezy. The clouds were hanging low in layers. This type of weather was common on our day trips to Ruidoso, New Mexico. It made me want to curl up in front of a fire with a cup of tea.

While some may gawk at cloudy, rainy, breezy days, I relish in them. Having lived in the desert for several years, I came to love the days when I could run out the door without sunscreen or sunglasses, when the humidity would bring my skin and lungs back to life.

But, most days, I had to find my own retreat. I couldn’t just leave work in the middle of the day to drive up to the mountains, or take any weekend I wanted to drive even farther north to colorful Colorado. So I found retreat in the dazzling blue skies, and majestic sunrises, and even the hot dry summer days.

I think that in our walk with Christ, most days are generally not in a retreat mentality. We have work, and chores, and adulting to do. But if we are to grow closer to him in whatever ‘desert’ we’re in, we have to be open to moments throughout the day where we can have a retreat-like moment. Truthfully, we don’t even have to make it happen. But we need to make ourselves available, whatever that may look like.

Recent events

This post is a mash-up of all the random happenings around our household over the past week. It certainly feels like much longer that my husband’s been home.. we’ve settled into a routine quickly. But as our life always is, our routines change.

Weeks 3 and 4 of 50K training were not so stellar. I did less than the recommended amount of mid-week runs, and week 3 did not have a long run. I was out with a sinus/chest infection of some sort. Yesterday after debating all weekend when to do the long run, we went out for 16 and ended up with 12.7. My legs from my ankles to my hips were on fire; the pain was comparable to the end of the Illinois Marathon.

I was disappointed… from here on out the long runs get longer and after bonking at the EP Half and now this run yesterday, I just don’t think the 50K is going to happen for me. Mentally I feel pretty good, but my body screams no whenever I go longer than 10. My right knee was hurting yesterday too, which is something I haven’t felt in about a year, even with the high-mileage months I had last fall (80, 90, 100). I really don’t want to give up on it yet, but if I can’t pound out the 16, 18 and 20-milers soon it ain’t happening. The Jemez Mtn Trail Runs have a 13.1 option so I will shoot for that. I’m obviously trying to force my body and mind into something that isn’t jiving.

On Saturday after arriving to Ruidoso for our first full weekend together after 10 (!!!!!) months, we tried the long run on some trails. I got about a mile into it before I started to hate it. I love nature, I love hiking… but the whole thing was just pissing me off. I hate having to look at my feet so much, having to stop to walk around boulders, etc. It was also cold as heck and sleeting.. or something. So we hiked back to the car and put off the long run.

I thought I’d just love trail running.. but that seems that that’s not the case, at least not right now. I have a lot of fears about trail running that I need to either accept or get over before I can tackle a race like the 50K, and those fears weren’t helped after I got lost on a 9-mile trail race in November. I need to transition slowly into trail running for my body but also for my mind’s sake. Maybe I’ll shoot for 31 miles before I turn 31. 😉 That gives me three years.

It’s been a busy (and expensive!) week with my husband back. We junked his car since the engine was shot (1996 Honda with 225000+ miles), both got new phones as he needed an upgrade and I completely shattered my iPhone… soon we’ll buy another car. We had a great weekend in the mountains just relaxing and talking. Something I’ve always loved about us is that there’s never a lull in conversation, or lack of impressive vocabulary words, something this aspiring linguist can appreciate.

March will be busy with Aaron’s trip to Illinois to visit family and my trip to Portland to present at the TESOL conference. I also need to get the bulk of my thesis written. The analysis is done, so the writing won’t be too terrible.. just time-consuming. But I’m saving that for another day, not during spring break. Here soon we’ll be propelled into the never-ending summer in the desert. 🙂

Welcome to Colorful Colorado

Guys. If you haven’t been to this state, YOU MUST GO. I had been back in 2007 when my family took a vacation and we went to Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak. This time I went to Ouray, which is in southwestern Colorado, about 100 miles from the CO/NM border. One of my dearest friends who I’ve known since we were 4 moved there, so I went to visit her and her family. It was so great; it’s like no time had passed at all. Don’t you love having a friend (and friend’s family) like that?!

I set out at 7am, and got to her house a little after 4pm. Missy, our pit mix, is a champ in the car, and during the whole trip she was like a new dog, playing with the other dogs in harmony and making herself right at home.  Anyway, if you ever want to drive a road that will work on your nerves, drive the Million Dollar Highway from Silverton to Ouray. I knew there were mountain passes, but MAN. Gorgeous drive but you could not pay me enough money to get on the back of a bike.

Every morning it was cool and lovely, and I got two of my runs in there. The elevation was around 7800 feet, so a bit higher than El Paso, but I had no problems. Between my Friday run and Saturday long run, I did 15 miles in Colorado, which was definitely not enough.

One day we went to Telluride, which if you’re not familiar with it, is where all the rich peeps live. Haha. We took the gondola from Mountain View into town and had lunch and walked around. That same evening we had dinner at Ouray Brewery, which was delicious. We spent a couple evenings relaxing in the hot tub on the patio under the stars. Seriously, it was a lovely vacation…

…but there were even more nervewracking mountain passes. We went on a Jeep tour up to the summit of Red Mountain. The pass along the highway is at 11,000 feet, but we still had 2,000 feet to climb on a single track rocky off-road trail. Whew, talk about nerves!! I was definitely the scaredy cat of the tour, but coming down wasn’t bad at all. The views were magnificent from the top, with 360 degree views of 13- and 14-ers everywhere you looked.

We hiked and went out for breakfast yesterday and then I headed home. I had to stop and get new front brakes and rotors… and of course, who else did I call when I heard an awful sound but my dad? He thought it could have been something worse, so I’m thankful it didn’t set me back more than a couple hours. I made it home before midnight.

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View from summit of Red Mountain #3, 12,890 feet
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View of the open Jeep on the summit. It’s really a Dodge 😉
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Just one of the many gorgeous views during my long run on County Road 17
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Shameless selfie in Telluride
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Beautiful aspens
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View while running; what more can you ask for?!
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Missy and her new BFF Enzo
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Kai Luna, Missy, and Bandit at the creek
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The ((free!!)) gondola going into Telluride
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Jackie and me on the gondola
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Borrowed boots

A favorite sewing project

I just had to blog about this because it’s been one of my favorite sewing projects so far. My mom gave me a gift card to JoAnn Fabrics (YAY!) for Christmas and of course the day I opened it, I went shopping. With coupons in hand, I bought almost everything I needed to make a messenger bag. Since I’m planning on going back to school in 2012, I needed wanted a new bag.

I used this pattern. I probably could have found a good tutorial on Pinterest, too.

mccall's #5824

The bag is pretty big and can probably hold a laptop, books and notebooks. I will eventually make a laptop sleeve.

I had a hard time picking out fabric. Since I was using a gift card and coupons, I wasn’t too concerned about the price. Normally I’d go for fabric that’s cheaper, but I was looking for perfectly complimentary fabrics. Thank goodness for a patient husband who actually helped me out with that.

I encountered a few new things in this pattern. For one, there were about 20 pieces to cut out, no joke. And some I had to use more than once for the contrasting fabric. I forgot to buy fusible fleece, but I actually had a mix of fusible interfacing, cotton/bamboo batting, and polyester batting. The strap has the cotton/bamboo and it’s so comfy!

For another, there was piping. And not premade piping, but the kind where you buy the cord and make the piping. Whew! The most difficult part was working without a zipper foot. It was hard to get close to the piping, but I managed and it turned out great!

There were also three zippers, but I’m a pro at those so no biggie. 😉 Anything is easier than an invisible zipper in satin on a wedding dress. I used thread I had. I ran out of tan eventually, but by that time I was done with the outside and could switch to brown.

The pattern was a little tricky to follow. Sometimes patterns have mistakes, and I found a couple. The problem I have with patterns is that I’m a visual/tactile learner and sometimes I just need someone to show me how to do it. But I’ve learned to trust the order of all the steps and it turned out fine.

Now I just have to get accepted to this program and have a legit reason to use this bag. 😉 Someday in an alternate universe, it will also make a nice diaper bag. Lots of pockets for organization!

It took me only a few days; sewing is one of those things that I can do for hours and hours on end and not even recognize my need for food or water. 😉 This week I worked half days, so I had plenty of time!

peek at the contrasting fabric in inside pocket
front of bag. LOVE the fabrics!
fits nicely! and happy to see all the christmas cookies haven't had their effect... yet. o_0

Our “first” Thanksgiving

It’s past midnight in “chilly” West Texas. Wife has just completed a knitting project after seven literal straight hours of knitting… Husband is playing Skyrim in the other room. It’s been a blessed and great day, complete with a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

2008 was the first year we were married. We spent the day with either one of or both families. Don’t remember. Either way, I didn’t make but a side dish.

2009, I visited him in Arizona and we stayed at a great resort in Phoenix.

2010 he was in Korea, 6,000 miles away.

2011. This year we were away from family, but we have each other. We made a full dinner: turkey, giblet gravy, stuffing, oven-roasted sweet potatoes, corn bread casserole (those were both new creations) and pumpkin cheesecake. It was all delicious, and I was very proud of my off-the-cuff corn bread casserole made in the crockpot.

That’s dinner. Yum.

Last night I had a little breakdown. We went to the hospital to see our small group leaders.. the husband had three stints put in near his heart. We got home and I was freaking out because we didn’t know when we were going to cook the turkey. We had planned to run the 5K this morning and then stay downtown for the parade… but would we leave the oven on all day?? By the time we were talking about it, it was too late to cook it last night.

I was feeling lonely, besides… lonely to really be away from family for the first time. Lonely because sometimes our house can feel empty without children or even a dog…

I expressed this to Aaron. And then I felt like a huge jerk. He knows what it is to really spend Thanksgiving alone, thousands of miles away from family. Skyping last year was great, but still isn’t the same. At least I had his family and mine.

Even after I apologized 17,562 times, I still felt like a jerk. What a paradox, being glad we’re together but taking it for granted all at the same time.

Our solution to the emotional issues (and the whole cooking-the-turkey thing) was to stay home today.. all day.. and just be together. I didn’t put on any makeup or decent clothes; we stayed in PJ’s all day until we took some Turkey Day dinner over to our small group leaders’ house. Then we came back and changed back into PJ’s.

Happiness today really hit me when we were snuggled on the couch with fresh hot coffee and a piece of pumpkin cheesecake, just being together, safe and warm (you know, because it’s sooooo cold here in El Paso. You can tell by my parka in the above picture.)

Moral of the story is that we had a wonderful day, and after watching a late-night news special on Afghanistan, we are so thankful to be together and safe. Most likely, next year we will be again thousands of miles apart. I also realized yet again that it takes two, not necessarily four or six, to make a family. He is my family.

The rest of the weekend is up for grabs, and I could not be more excited. The only things we really have planned are decorating for Christmas (yay!) and going for our long run on Saturday morning. (More to come about Bataan… not sure we’ll be able to do it this time around. :()

Hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving… and remember and cherish what is really important.

A little getaway

This weekend we drove to Carlsbad, New Mexico, for some [tent] camping and caving. My parents gave us a bunch of camping stuff before we got married, and being on a budget, we reserved two nights at the Carlsbad KOA Kampground. I love KOAs… and have stayed at them in California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, and now New Mexico.

Here’s a snip of our route there.

It is quicker to go the southern route, on 62/180, but we were told it’s more scenic to go the other way. We brought the southern route home, which actually did not lack scenery. After I got home from work around 11:30 on Saturday, we packed up everything and we were off.

I had heard great things about Cloudcroft; namely, that the temperatures were a LOT cooler than El Paso. And they were, as it’s nearly 9,000 ft above sea level.

Green! Yay! After almost two months in the desert, this was a breathtaking sight.

We ventured on in New Mexico. After we descended from this little oasis, there was pretty much nothing. How do people live out in the literal middle of nowhere? I don’t think I could do it.

Anyway, we got to the Carlsbad KOA around four-something. The campground itself is actually halfway between Artesia and Carlsbad. We set up camp, and took to relaxing for the evening. For dinner we had hot dogs over the fire.

Sunday morning we woke up and ate a quick breakfast of Pop-Tarts and berries. We got some coffee from the campground store (makes me want a Keurig) and we headed for the caverns. It was about a 50-minute trip there, and we had to get there early to pick up our tickets for the tour.

After taking the tour on the paved trail, we ascended up through the natural entrance, which was an ascent of about 800 ft. (Some more adventurous ones, like my dear husband, wouldn’t have minded “wild caving”. Uh, crawling around in spaces that are dark and scary? Not for me.)

I love this picture of us… [aside: WHY do I spend so much time on my hair and makeup when not camping? It all looks the same to me. Anyway.. carry on.]

That’s the light of day! While we were on the tour, the ranger turned out all the lights for a few minutes. It was unnerving.

We ate a gourmet lunch in the car of chips and tuna salad sandwiches before we toured the visitors’ center. We headed back to the campground after stopping for coffee (and maybe a pancake or two) at IHOP.

It was unseasonably cool and rainy yesterday, but the rain stopped in the early afternoon. We relaxed in the hot tub when we got back to the campground and then took showers.

Foil dinners were on the menu for Sunday night. Aaron got the fire going, which wasn’t an easy task with the wind. With foil dinner, you can put whatever you want in the foil, wrap it up, and cook it in the hot coals. We took ground beef, veggies, and seasonings. Yum.

Pair that with a yummy beer (we had ShockTop Raspberry Wheat) and you have a great and easy meal. We also, of course, had our fair share of s’mores.

This morning we woke up with the sun, got some coffee, packed up our things, and came home.

Strange that El Paso is “home” now, but glad it’s our home. Provided I can get the time off from work, we’d like to check out Silver City over Columbus Day weekend. Oh Army, how I heart four-day weekends!

Hope you had a restful Labor Day weekend, friends. 🙂

Only two days??

We can’t believe it’s only been two days since we arrived in El Paso. So much has happened already! Aaron goes to work tomorrow for inprocessing. For those of you who don’t speak “Army” (sometimes I wish I didn’t!) that means that he’s getting acclimated to this post and will be learning more of what he’ll be doing while he’s here. Not to mention attending tons of briefs with a lot of useless information.. a lot of hurry up and wait.

I have driven everywhere we’ve gone. Aaron doesn’t care when I drive, normally, as long as I don’t try to kill us. Or maybe he sends us into oncoming traffic… yeah. That happened when on our way to church today. “If you swing out wide, you could make a left here and turn around.” Yeeeaaahhh. Okay. Or not.

So. We went to church this morning at Harvest Christian Center, which is an Assemblies of God church. I had been listening to the podcasts and doing research on this and other churches before we got here. We really enjoyed it and will probably be returning next week. People were very friendly and welcoming, and we met the pastor, his wife, and his daughter, who leads worship with a baby grand. The message was great… he spoke on 2 Chronicles 20 and standing strong through hard times. He also shared a very poignant story from Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala (pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle). I read the book last year and loved it.

After the service was over (it lasted about an hour and a half) we got coffee at their coffee bar and sat down for a few minutes. Silly us… we got hot coffee when it was probably over 90* out by that point!

We went on post because Aaron needed to get new rank insignia for his uniform and PC (stands for patrol cap… no more berets.. yay!. We wandered around the mall there.. looks brand new. We got lunch at Subway and ate the rest of it tonight for dinner.

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We came back to take a nap and for the life of me I could not fall asleep. I got on the computer and had a slight freakout about finding a job. I know, I know. Take it easy, Elizabeth. I’m still getting paid through August. And technically, I don’t need to work… but I want to. But I’m picky. I want a “normal” job, no retail, no food, no weekends or evenings (the only exception is Starbucks, naturally). I’ve looked a lot of places… school districts aren’t hiring for Spanish right now, or even aides, and it will cost around $500 to get certified in this state. I’ve looked at places like Sylvan… not hiring.  I have applied for a job on post, so we’ll see if that turns out.

Big sigh. I honestly don’t have an inkling right now what I should be doing, besides being a wife. I’ve been a “single” wife for two years to my “single” husband, so maybe it’s about time I focus on us and our house (but no kids!!).

I don’t know. I’ve been praying about it for awhile, and I got nothin’. Patience is not my strong suit… maybe it’s time I make it my strong suit.

I do know, however, that I need to spend more time in prayer, and more time studying the Word. I can be a judgmental person, and irritable, and rash, and impatient. I need to work on that.

I think I’ll start with that.