Aug 312013

Blood and sweat. No tears.

“If you aren’t crashing every once in awhile, you aren’t pushing hard enough.”

… is terrible advice. But crashing does happen, in any sport where you’re propelling yourself faster than a walk.


One of these things is not like the other.

I went out today for a joyride with a couple buddies, and that law of averages caught up with me at last. We went out to MoMBA for a nice morning ride, my second in as many days. It was a nice change, just riding for the sake of riding, since there isn’t a race coming up soon to train for. We went out and did a small loop before circling back to the parking lot to check if any more of our friends had showed up, and then dove back into the woods.

I was feeling good physically, and confident mentally. All the recent seat time has put as much polish on my mountain biking skills as they’ve ever had, and I was looking forward to totally wearing myself out on the trails this morning. I took the lead as we rolled back into the woods, angling left at the fork to head down the switchbacks into Creekside.

I was rolling easy, enjoying the relaxed pace of a non-race, non-training ride. I splashed through the first creek crossing… and found myself abruptly on the ground on the other side! My front tire had completely lost traction on the wet rocks on the far side of the creekbed, and as I started to pedal out, the front end folded like a stack of cards and dropped me unceremoniously on the rocks.

Four out of five crashes for me are no big deal, but it took me a minute to recover from this one. I crashed so suddenly that I was still clipped into the bike, and it took a second to twist myself free and get up, yelling pained expletives the whole time. I had come down on my right hip and forearm, and my hip was already telling me how big the resulting bruise was going to be. My thumb hurt too, and I was bleeding a bit from my forearm, but I figured I was good to at least finish the lap before I went home to clean and ice everything.

We gathered ourselves up (one of my buddies had crashed lightly as well, for a different reason), and pedaled on ahead. I was still in the lead of our little formation, but was riding tight and slow, working to get my mojo back after the crash. It always takes a bit to get back into the flow of things after a crash, and sure enough I was riding like a total newbie for the next couple miles.


Seems a bit excessive…

This was made more difficult by the increasing discomfort from my right thumb. I had wrenched or jammed it somehow on the way down, and it was proving more and more difficult to squeeze the brake lever or push through a downshift. I started to wonder if I had momentarily dislocated it. By the end of Creekside, it was fairly useless, and I had the other guys go ahead of me while I took my glove off and rinsed the blood off my arm.

We started down Upper Stealth from there, and I knew in 100 yards that it wasn’t worth it any more. My thumb was starting to swell up and get more painful already, and I just couldn’t ride well with it like that. If it had been a race I would have just pressed on, but there was no point in it for a “fun” ride, so I called my goodbyes to the guys ahead of me, turned back up toward the trailhead and went home.

After a shower and some ice, things weren’t getting better, so I headed in for an x-ray to make sure there wasn’t any substantial damage. The ER doc diagnosed me with a sprain, gave me a brace and offered some Vitamin I, which I declined.

I hate crashing. There just isn’t anything good about it, and I hate coming away from a crash with injuries even more. Still, as crashes go, this is about the best way to have it. My injuries are relatively minor, and I don’t have a mountain bike race coming up to worry about. For that matter, given all of the riding, training and racing I’ve been doing this year, I’m shocked this is the first crash I’ve had that warranted medial attention. So I’ll take this little setback cheerfully, knowing how much worse, and more poorly timed, it could’ve been. In games of skill and chance such as mountain biking, I’ll take this kind of bad luck every time.

Aug 302013


I got to spend the day with my niece, today. We didn’t do much of consequence, just hung out, watched some TV, played some video games. We walked her dog around the block and rode bikes down to the local sushi place for lunch, just relaxing on a beautiful summer day and enjoying each others’ company.


She’s at an age now where she’s fun to have around as a friend, not just a kid. I’m not sure when that happened, or if there was ever a distinct line, but it did. She’s smart, and capable, and loves to tell and hear jokes. She’s eager to share her (admittedly brief) life experiences with you, in the sort of intricate detail that only a young mind can capture. She’s remarkably mature for her age, which isn’t a surprise, but still is so very good at being a kid that it makes you feel younger, just being around her. She’s in a beautiful place in life, after the limitations of early childhood but before the tumult of her teens, and she seems to get that more than most kids, and embrace it.

I’ve had to do more than a little travelling for work since she was born, and so missed out on spending as much time with her as I wanted for a few years. But the result has been that I appreciate afternoons like this more than maybe I would have otherwise, and I think she does too. Perhaps more than the bike races and track meets, I’ll always treasure these simple, happy pictures of my niece, and her puppy, chilling together on the couch.

Aug 292013


This is a sweatband I picked up to use under my bike helmets. I sweat pretty heavily, and through the summer months, I’ve had problems with sweat running into my eyes or onto my glasses. This little guy is a huge departure from the elastic-and-terry-cloth sweatbands I grew up seeing joggers wear. It’s made of elastic, wicking fabric, is nearly seamless, and sports an embedded silicone band that directs sweat away from your brow. It’s pretty effective.

It’s also too small. Much to my chagrin, after riding with it on for a half hour or so, I get a headache from it squeezing my head just a touch too hard. This is something of a theme in my life, when it comes to headwear, since my noggin is just a little larger than average. And for other clothing, since my arms and legs are a little longer than average. So nothing ever quite fits me the way it was meant to, and in this case, it renders an otherwise well-designed product mostly useless. I’ll see if I can stretch it out enough over time, but I don’t have high hopes.

Aug 282013
My niece and I, getting warmed up pre-race.

My niece and I, getting warmed up pre-race.

Tonight was the final round of the MVMBA Fast Laps series, but for my niece Hannah, it was a first. She’s had a lot of firsts this season, from running track, to racing in a triathlon, and now racing her mountain bike. As much progress as I’ve made this year, she’s made heaps more, and is only going to get loads better for the next several years. Watching her take on new challenges is a bit like watching a nuclear explosion from a distance.

I’ve taken her mountain biking a couple times before, and she’s done well each time. On the Sunday afternoon after the six hour, my buddy Tom and I took Hannah and his daughter Grace, along with my neighbor kid Gage to John Bryan for a little practice for them, and some recovery for us. Both the girls had decided they wanted to race on Wednesday, so we figured at least one lap of the race course will be a good idea before they tried it “for real.”

Come Wednesday, the girls were ready, and so was I. This was my last shot to turn in a really good time, and judging from the times from the previous two weeks, I was in with a shout at the podium, if I cranked out a real scorcher.

The trails could not have been more perfect. The weather had finally stayed dry enough, long enough that all the mud patches were gone. Better still, Mark and the trail crew had put in some serious repair work on a badly rutted section of Frankenlight just before the six hour, and the hundreds of laps turned in at that race had worn the fresh dirt in nicely.

I was all-in for this race. It was to be a 100% effort or a crash, and nothing in between. I double checked the bike stem to stern, lowered my tire pressures as low as I dared (26/28 psi) for extra grip, and warmed up lightly but thoroughly. At the last moment, a storm cloud rolled over the park, threatening to scuttle the whole affair and dimming the already sketchy light under the canopy in the woods. I switched to clear lenses on my glasses to account for the light, and scolded the storm to go elsewhere. It listened, and we stayed dry.

Despite having just raced the six hour on Saturday, I was surprisingly loose and fresh. My hamstrings were a little tight from yoga, but nothing too awful. I rolled up to the line feeling confident, and hit the opening sprint with easy speed, enjoying the sensation of racing without a pack again.

Did I mention that the trails were in awesome shape? This was JB the way it was meant to be ridden; fast, flowy and with almost endless grip. I carved through Abracadabra with glee, carrying so much more corner speed than I was used to that it was almost dangerous. I hit one jump substantially faster than normal, and nearly locked up both brakes trying to make the right turn that comes just after. The trails were fast.

The rest of the lap was a blur. I hammered what needed to be hammered, flowed what needed to be flowed, and carried speed in parts of the trail that normally slow me down a lot. I came up behind my friend Julie and another female rider just as we reached the tight section of Great Scott that I call The Thicket, but instead of slowly picking my way through, we bombed through it like I never knew you could. As the trail opened up into Frankenlight after that, I passed the girls and dropped the hammer again, looking down at one point to see 24 mph on the speedo!

After the day-long sufferfest on Saturday, it felt like this lap was over so, so quickly. I busted out the last couple climbs out of the saddle, stomping on the pedals with everything I had, burning legs and gasping lungs be damned. After the last few jumps, I punched out of the woods and across the line, satisfied even before I caught my breath that I had put in my fastest lap ever. I was right, as I had crossed the line in 45:00.6, nearly two minutes faster than the week before, and a full four minutes faster than the same course last year! It wasn’t quite enough for the podium though, as I was a mere 32 seconds slower than third place, and only 2:20 off the sport class winner. Even better than my improvement on my own time was that I had pulled back 1:46 from the class winner both last week and tonight, which is a surer sign of progress.

Before I could even begin to be bummed at missing my own podium though, I saw that our girls had made theirs! Hannah and Grace raced and giggled their way to a 1-2 finish, crossing the line together, but a minute apart on the clock. They both had a blast, and neither can wait to do it again. Now that’s what I call a successful race!

The winners!

The winners!

Aug 272013

Laugh away, fellas…

My wife can talk me into just about anything. As proof, I submit the above. I went with her to a yoga class the other night, because I had a rare evening with nothing on the training schedule, and it seemed like it’d be fun to try. And she wanted me to go.

Honestly, it was fun to try. It’s well documented that I’m about as flexible as a 2×4, so putting myself through the stretches and gyrations of a yoga session is probably a good thing to do, from time to time. Just don’t think you’ll catch me in yoga pants. Ever.

Aug 262013

Healthy, local, delicious!

Keeping up the locavore theme, I whipped this up tonight. It’s shepherd’s pie, made with Innisfree beef, beans from Grubb Shop, and other produce from various local growers. It cooked up really nicely, but I think it was a little under-seasoned. Lesson learned for next time!

Aug 252013

I had such high hopes for this one…

Part of the learning curve for all this endurance racing this year has been to figure out the nutrition aspect. Essentially, if you’re going out for a race any longer than 2 hours, you’d better plan to replace some of those nutrients you lost during the race. Electrolytes become important even before that.

Earlier this year I was using HEED, a Hammer Nutrition product designed to give you a handful of calories and an adequate dose of electrolytes. It was effective, and proved its worth to me at Calvin’s Challenge. It kept me from cramping or bonking in a few events and several training rides, but I always had a problem with it not dissolving all the way. You’d get 3/4 of the way through a bottle, and then it was like drinking sandy water. Not so good when you’re also sucking wind.

Right around the Tour de France this year, a bunch of ads and endorsements popped up for this stuff, OSMO. A lot of riders on the Tour claimed to be using it, it’s organically flavored, and not horridly expensive on Amazon, so I figured I’d give it a try.

I can say that it does do the job, in terms of preventing muscle cramps, and it tastes pretty good. But that’s where the good part ends, for me, as it has the same dissolving issues that HEED had. Also, drinking it produces a really strange reflux reaction from my gut, and I very nearly puked it up on a training ride once. That’s especially strange for me, because despite how hard I train and how long I’ve been doing it, I think I’ve puked maybe once, in all that time.

I have had some success with filling my bottles the night before, to give it extra time to dissolve, but that’s not a particularly useful strategy, for me. If I go out for a long training ride, I might be refilling the same two bottles three or four times, and then I’m right back with sand in my mouth.

So I’m still in search of a good hydration mix. After picking up and reading Feed Zone Portables, I think I’ll check out Skratch next, along with trying to switch to real food for my rides and races, instead of gels and chews. More on that another day.

Aug 242013
The madness that is a LeMans-style start.

The madness that is a LeMans-style start.

I think that if a race prep went completely smoothly, I wouldn’t know what to think. The night before the John Bryan 6 Hour, I had a near disaster. Those of you who know me well know that I have… a problem with sunglasses. I keep losing them, and leaving them, and having to buy more. I’ve probably bought 20 pair of sunglasses in the last three years. It’s a little obscene. Well, after Fast Laps last week, I set my brand new pair of Tifosi frames on the back of somebody’s car as I was trying to catch my breath, and never picked them up. I thought I had put them back in their case, but when I was getting everything together on Friday night, they weren’t there. I just about lost my mind trying to find them, tearing apart the house, the truck, the garage.

Fortunately, some kind soul had picked them up after the race and turned them in to the race directors, who had them waiting for me on Saturday morning. Crisis averted!

Race prep in the early morning.

Race prep in the early morning.

My new friend Erik and I rolled into JB early, and took our time setting up our pit. We ended up with a 4-top of EZ-ups, sharing the space with Tom, Jason, Kent, Kelly, Aaron and Katie (Carney, not my wife). After I got my glasses back, I felt like the rest of the day was a victory, no matter how the race went! We all went quietly about our business, getting dressed, checking tire pressures, snugging bolts, munching pre-race snacks and warming up gently. Erik and I were the only ones in our combined pit who were going to ride the whole race solo, but our approaches were different. Erik is a very experienced cyclist with a 12 hour race already under his belt, and so appeared totally relaxed. Whereas I am a relative newbie, just dipping my toes in the water of endurance racing for the first time this season, and so was fussing and fretting about all sorts of details.

All at once, it was time to get lined up, and nearly 100 riders rolled over to the start area, laid their bikes at the line and walked the 50 yards back to the start. The JB 6-Hour features a LeMans-style start, which serves both to add a bit of drama and spread the riders out before they hit the singletrack. During the pre-race announcements, I thought I heard Dan, one of the race directors, say that whatever lap you had finished when the time was up was the most laps you would get. That surprised me, because it was a departure from last year, when you could start a lap right up until the last second, and it would count. This will become important later.

The start itself went well enough, although I probably let a few too many people past me. Knowing that I had a long day on the bike ahead of me, I didn’t exactly sprint to my bike, and wasn’t interested in setting any records on the mile-long drag race to the entrance of Abracadabra. But once we were on Abra, I was all over the back of a whole line of riders, and nobody was letting anybody past for the first mile or so. There was finally a little shuffling in the last half mile, and I picked up a few places from guys who were apparently a little uncomfortable with riding near trees.

Picking my way through Powerline

Picking my way through Powerline

Once we finished Abra we hooked left, back onto Arboretum. There were a couple Double Track Heroes, guys I had already passed who had serious trouble with the tight singletrack sections, but wanted to show how good they were at sprinting once we were out on the jeep road. I rolled my eyes as they came steaming past, knowing I’d just have to pass them again on Powerline, where the trees are, in places, even tighter than Abra. Another line of riders stacked up, and it took me nearly all the way through Powerline to get through seven or eight riders and get some clear trail ahead of me, a task made more complicated when two of them inexplicably crashed on a muddy, but straight section of trail.

After all that sorted out, the first lap was good old fashioned MTB fun. I was riding loose, jumping everything and just having fun. I wasn’t in a sprint race for once, so while I was riding with purpose, I wasn’t beating myself to death on every hill and out of every corner. Despite the frustration, being stuck in traffic actually allowed me to relax more than I have in a bike race before, and it was pretty fun. I felt light, and so did the bike, and we sailed off the jumps with uncharacteristic ease. It’s amazing how relaxing can change your riding.

My cycle computer decided that it’d be a great day to act up, for some reason. I noticed it was only reading intermittently, and would sit at zero for nearly a minute at a time. I was aggravated at first, but decided it didn’t really matter that much anyway. Strava was running on my phone, and the laps were a measured distance anyway, so I could get the numbers I wanted later.

I finished the first lap (including the start chute) in a modest but respectable 1:04:11. Mentally, it felt like it was over very quickly, but I didn’t want to get too excited too early, so I swigged from my electrolyte bottle, slurped down a Stinger gel, and got my mind set for my second lap, where I expected to ride more my own pace.

Get up!

Get up!

Lap two was down to business. I dialed in a pace I felt was realistic, working to maintain momentum up the rises but not killing myself on the flats and declines. I spent a couple miles stuck behind a few teenaged riders who couldn’t or wouldn’t make room for me to pass, which was frustrating, but I was trying to remain strategically patient.

Outside of those few kids, the course was largely without the traffic I had to deal with on the first lap. I was able to concentrate on the trail, taking mental notes for future laps. I concentrated on flow, on not charging when I didn’t need to, and pedaling efficiently. Mostly, I concentrated on concentrating, which is the hardest task in any endurance race, particularly one in which you spend so much time by yourself. It’s very easy to get distracted, to let your mind wander or just stop thinking about what you’re doing. On the road, that generally leads to you getting lazy, letting your pace and cadence drop. In the woods, that can lead to you pinging your head off a tree, and that would make an already long day substantially longer.

I cleared lap two in 1:02:02, which was pretty satisfying, since I had set 1:08 as my mental target. Both of my opening two laps had been well under that, and while I didn’t anticipate maintaining quite that pace for the whole race, it put me in the right part of the curve.

Toward the end of lap two, my lower back started aching, a rare occurrence on a bicycle, for me. I had stopped in to the chiropractor the day before, thinking a quick adjustment would be just the ticket for me to stay comfortable on the bike all day. In retrospect, I should’ve gone at least two days before the race, to let everything heal up more completely before subjecting it to that kind of abuse.

By the end of the lap, I was suffering far more than I should have been so early in the race, so when I pitted (as planned), I took a few extra seconds to take some ibuprofen. I swapped out my bottle, munched on a little food and headed back out, trying to remain optimistic that the next two laps would be as relatively easy as my first two.

On lap three, my lower back started to feel better, but my upper back was a touch worse. I was starting to wonder what I was doing out there, beating myself up, running solo, while almost all of my friends were running on a team. Seeing my friends in our pit had had an unexpectedly depressive effect on my psyche, like a parched man watching someone else drink a glass of water. It was entirely too early to be getting that down on myself, but the pain in my back had taken the glow of perfection off the day. When that happens in an endurance race, it’s all too easy to lose your mojo entirely.

Churning through, mid-race.

Churning through, mid-race.

I fought back, reminding myself that I was in the middle of completing one of the goals I had set for myself for the year, and that whatever happened, I would finish. While it’s always my goal to do as well as I am able, the first time I take on a new race of any kind, the biggest goal is to finish. That’s how I approached my first half marathon last year, and the Death March this year taught me just how important that goal can be.

So I went about my business as well as I could, letting off the throttle a little bit, and trying to relax my back whenever I was able. But when I got to the long, gentle climb on Frankenlight, I didn’t have any power to keep my speed up. My legs weren’t hurting yet, but neither did they have the juice to push too hard. The climb, which is really more like a false flat, sapped my pace hard, and I limped along pathetically for a half mile before I could get some speed back.

Lap three was over in 1:15:01, including several minutes for my first pit stop. I was still more or less on pace, but the jump in time was worrying. I hoped that I could at least maintain for the next lap.

By my fourth lap, I was in a regular dialog with The Blerch. My back and neck were starting to get painfully stiff and sore, and I was using every trick I knew to mentally pull myself back to the pits, where I could have a break and a short rest. I wanted so badly to sit down and relax, to take off my sweaty kit and get in a cool shower, or just to eat some real food instead of gels and electrolyte water. I wanted to go chill with my friends, who were apparently having much more fun than I was, riding on relay teams and relaxing while their teammates were out riding. All thoughts of the glory of a personal victory were gone now, and all there was in my head was the battle between the desire to quit, and the desire to survive to the finish.

I’ve been to this place in my mind before, of course. Through the several endurance events I’ve done this year, I’ve become familiar with it, but not friendly. In retrospect, it is a part of each long race I remember most clearly and yet not at all, because I am fully involved in the fight in my head, even while my bike is winding its way through the woods. It is a place of raw emotion that, while created by physical sensation, drowns it out almost entirely.

Suffering, but rolling smooth nonetheless.

Suffering, but rolling smooth nonetheless.

The only way out of that hole is distraction, and so I went to my old standby, mental math. Trying to calculate how far I’d gone, and how far I had to go, and what my average speed was, and what it needed to be, and how many minutes per mile, and all of that. Doing so got my mind off of my suffering and reassured me that I was going plenty fast enough, so long as I just kept going. Besides, since I wouldn’t get credit for a sixth lap, as I had planned on doing for the weeks leading up to the race, I only had one more lap to do after this, and then I’d be done.

Lap 4 was over in 1:08:55, surprisingly on target, despite all my struggling.

Katie (my wife, not Carney) was there when I got back to the pit, and helped me get reloaded and refueled. Just seeing her was enough to lift my spirits and restore my focus and optimism. I realized that I was still ahead of Erik, and made up my mind that, while I knew he was catching me, I was going to stay ahead of him to the finish. He rolled into our pit only a few minutes behind me, so I got rested and ready as fast as I could, and then jumped on my bike and headed out for the last time, ready to leave it all out there on a final, frantic lap.

I rode hard, as hard as my body would let me. In several places, the trail reverses on itself, and I could see Erik’s yellow jersey through the trees, gaining on me. I put in everything I had, tried to roll through corners as fast as possible, picking efficient lines to keep my pace up. The bike was working perfectly, as it had all day, and I tried to repay it by riding well. By the end of the lap I was thoroughly used up, and I crossed the line too exhausted to sprint, and rolled back to my pit. I had managed to stay ahead of Erik by a mere 44 seconds, finishing my fifth and final lap in 1:15:54, including my second pit stop.

But as I came to a stop, people started asking me if I was going out for a sixth lap! What sixth lap? The clock was already at 5:46! It turns out that I (and a few other riders) had misunderstood the pre-race announcements, and the rule was whatever lap you started before the clock ran out would be your last lap. I was in shock. I had just completely drained whatever reserves I had left, trying to stay ahead of Erik and put in a good last lap, and now they were saying I could do one more, and hit my goal?

I looked at Katie, mouth hanging open in disbelief at my error. Erik rolled back into the pit and called me to go with him, but I just couldn’t. I was exhausted, in pain, out of juice, and just didn’t want to go any more. At the risk of feeling like I was quitting, I made the hard decision to hang it up for the day with 5 laps done and time left on the clock. I hated that decision. The next ten minutes were an eternity, while I sat in the pits and sipped water, watching the clock run out to finalize my decision. A few of my friends urged me to rest a little and go out with 5 minutes left, just to get that last lap, but I just didn’t want it. I felt like I had used myself up on my fifth lap, and to go out and struggle through one more was more than I could contemplate.

In the final count, I finished tenth of twenty in the solo men’s class, completing five laps in a total clock time of 5:46:04 and covering some 62.7 miles. Going out for another lap would have netted me another two positions, but I still would’ve been miles from the podium. In terms of goals, I did manage to tick two out of three boxes for the day, both in finishing the 6 hour race solo, and completing a metric century (100 km) on my mountain bike. That’s a big deal for me, since one of my goals next year is to do a 100 mile mountain bike race, and 100 kms is a big stepping stone for that. So with mixed emotions, I’ll call my performance a win, with the caveat that I have unfinished business with this race next year.

Aug 232013
It's what's for dinner!

It’s what’s for dinner!

This is a jalapeno cheese roll. It is roughly the size of your head. I bought two of them from a farmer’s market up the road, because they guy said they were two for one. It is possibly the most un-paleo thing I have ever bought, this side of funnel cake. And it is absolutely delicious. I shared one with Katie, and then I ate the other one myself for dinner the next day, because I could. And I felt like a million bucks. Hooray, wheat!

Aug 222013
JB Fast Laps 05, 2013, 8-21-13

Flying! Well, for me, anyway.

Fast Laps #5 was last night at John Bryan, and I’m happy to say that I acquitted myself of last week’s shoddy performance. There were still quite a few wet corners on the course, reinforcing JB’s reputation as a perpetual swamp. I was going to go out and ride Powerline as a warmup, but my buddy Kent talked me into just running through Abracadabra instead, to get a more accurate feel for the course conditions. I’m glad he did, because what I found out was that while some corners were fully muddy but had grip, some of the corners with smaller puddles were pretty greasy, and could catch you out if you went in too hard.

With that in mind, I used my warm up to practice squaring off the corners and firing out, which proved to be a successful (if more tiring) strategy. Remembering the lessons of the previous week, I paid close attention to my prep, thought about what I was going to do, and arrived at the starting line ready to go. I went out hard, knowing that momentum is the key to going fast through the opening stretch of double track, although I still don’t have quite enough juice to sprint the whole thing.

The race was happily uneventful, at least for me. I pushed where I thought I could push and held back in the corners that looked slick, and it paid off. About half of the other racers crashed at least once. Kent managed to crash three times before calling it quits, tossing his bike back into his car and leaving. But I managed to keep the rubber side down for the whole race, using the knowledge gained from my warm up and previous weeks’ training and racing to anticipate which corners could be railed and which required more finesse.

It all paid off when I crossed the line, finishing with a time of 46:54, a full two minutes faster than last week. As important, I pulled back significant time from the riders ahead of me, which means I’m clawing my way toward the podium!

Aug 212013



Twenty years ago today, our family was stopped in its tracks and turned in an entirely different direction by the arrival of this beautiful baby girl. We had a happy family of five, with well-established roles and patterns, and had reached that sort of family maturity that comes when the youngest is old enough and the oldest is young enough. A fourth kid certainly wasn’t in anyone’s plans (least of all Mom’s!), as I was already almost 10 when we found out Mom was pregnant.

Still, I suppose we were as prepared as any family could be. My older brother and sister had been volunteering with disabled people during the summers, and Mom had been learning sign language to be an interpreter for the deaf at our church, all experience that would become very useful after Rebekah was born with Down Syndrome.

Prepared or not, we never could’ve imagined the life we would lead as a family in the years that followed. Two decades of struggle, heartache, worry and stress have been far exceeded by the triumphant and charmed life that is Rebekah. She’s made us more patient, affectionate and compassionate people, and introduced a whole host of amazing people into our lives that we otherwise would have never met. It may seem strange to call the introduction of a disabled child into a family a blessing, but that is exactly what she has been to us and everyone who’s met her, for every day of her twenty years.

Happy birthday, kiddo. I love you.

Aug 202013
This was at least twice as delicious as it looks.

This was at least twice as delicious as it looks.

Katie and I made the decision at the beginning of this year that, since we didn’t believe in the practices of the modern American agricultural system, we were going to do everything in our power to stop participating in it. The experience to date has been really rewarding, as we’ve gotten to know a lot of local growers and producers, and have made trips to local farmers markets part of our weekly routine. We’re not 100% local, and may never be, but it’s nice when a whole meal comes together from stuff grown or produced right here. This is a pizza we made with dough from DLM, raw milk cheddar from a local dairy, tomatoes from our own small garden, green peppers from a farmers market up the road and sausage from KJB. And it was amazing! Better still, because of the quality of the ingredients, even after stuffing our faces with it, we felt great.