Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Let me be a little kinder,
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those about me,
Let me praise a little more.
Let me be, when I am weary,
Just a little bit more cheery,
Think a little more of others,
And a little less of me.

Let me be a little braver
When temptation makes me waver
Let me strive a little harder
To be all that I should be

Let me be a little meeker
With my brother who is weaker,
Let me think more of my neighbor
And a little less of me.

Let me be when I am weary
Just a little bit more cheery,
Let me serve a little better
Those that I am strivin' for

Let me be a little meeker
With the brother who is weaker
Think a little more of others
And a little less of me.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


I already spend too much time on the Internet. But I've got major things to blog about. One is SavageMan, which was, what, 6 or 7 weeks ago now? And no race report? Even though I keep alluding so something life-changing? Honest, I'm not leading you on. It just seems so big to blog about that it's overwhelming. Here are pictures, though...

AND.... Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to stomp another state on the Appalachian Trail, starting at Harpers Ferry, WV and hiking through Maryland to the Mason-Dixon Line with a new hiking friend. Four days, 45 miles, on the AT and I haven't written a trip report!!!

Nope, bogged down here in my head with "How Going to Church Both Aggravates and Assuages My Fear of Mistakes."

Maybe it's time to move on (or back) to real life. Triathlons and backpacking, biking, running, all that stuff. Or at least the memories of them.


Again in church today, affirmation of my not making such a big-headed deal out of goofing up. The lady who led prayer asked for guidance for the day's preacher, who "says he gets nervous because it's been awhile since he's been in the pulpit." Hmm... I never thought to ask for prayer about my getting nervous becayse it's been awhile since I've sat at a piano. I should have thought of that, asking for prayer.

Anyway.... I keep getting these little lessons that I'm not the only goofer-upper around. And thank you, to the couple of readers who have assured me of the same thing. Maybe it comes from having been raised by stage-performing musician parents: When you get up there to perform, you better know what you're doing. But I'm not performing. I'm.... well, participating. Offering. Helping. Just sort of doing. I'm not the star. I'm a participant. We're all in it together. I need to remember that.

I started running again today. I've run only a couple times since SavageMan, having sort of lost interest in running altogether -- my SavageMan "run" was soooo baaaadddd. (I still haven't told the story of that run.) So today I went out for half an hour, including a few sprints of 30 seconds or so. I'm looking ahead to improving my endurance for next year's SavageMan. I want no repeat of this year's dead-woman crawl!!!

The final makeover to report on is my mother's kitchen. Why didn't I think of a "Before" picture? I guess because at first it seemed like just painting. It's become a real project. New drawer/door hardware. New paint. Gonna be pretty when I put the doors back on. Then I'll have to do the walls. I'm a newbie at this. Never opened a paint can before. Yesterday I spilled most of the gallon can on the floor. I shouted a bad word and then started scooping it back into the can with a dustpan. Today I figured out I can strain out the pet hair and dust it picked up on the floor and use the paint after all. The learning continues.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


A few posts ago I wrote about being the pianist for an upcoming wedding, and being afraid of goofing up. As a matter of fact, I did goof up. During the wedding march. Ouch.

I've been pinch-hitting on the piano at church lately, since our regular pianist has been ill. I'm out of practice and keep hitting clinkers. I look at my hands and lose my place on the page. I look at the notes and lose my place on the keyboard. I feel embarrassed. I wonder if people are thinking, "Ouch."

There's this gentleman, Mark is his name, who often preaches. He's not an ordained minister. He went to seminary for awhile but then suffered an illness, some kind of infection, that caused massive brain damage. Mark has recovered slowly and spectacularly. He drags one foot a little when he walks, and his speech is a little slow and a little slurred, but understandable. He was never able to fnish his ministerial studies, but he pores over his Bible and he prays and he preaches. He sometimes stammers and has trouble getting words out. He loses his place on the page and is silent for several moments recovering it. He reads from the Bible, tangles the words up, and says, "I need to start over," and he does.

His messages are profound. Twice today I wrote in the margin in my Bible what Mark had just said about a verse, and added "BINGO!!" (I'd like to see my descendants when they get their hands on Great-Great-Grandma's Bible and read that!)

What I'm seeing, what hit me as he was delivering what God had laid on his heart, is that.... the mistakes don't matter. Mark has trouble with words and with concentration and with connecting thoughts, but connect them he does, in the most profound and striking manner. Anyone who hears him would understand immediately that he has difficulty and doesn't let it hold him back. It's plainly evident that he's an extremely deep thinker and excellent speaker and devout Christian. No one gets impatient or thinks "Ouch!" or has any response except to what he's actually saying.

So when I hit wrong notes..... it's the same. So I have trouble keeping it coordinated. So I've never been able to learn to put music in front of me and read it right off as I do written words. Anyone listening can tell that I do play the piano, I have a feel for music, I just have trouble delivering it, and despite the mistakes I'm giving it all I've got.

And when I make mistakes in life...... same thing. I know how it should go, I just hit some wrong notes. Just like anyone else. I'm not so special that I don't make mistakes.... and not special because I do. Most goofs really don't matter that much.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


The things on my mind today are about dying.

Someone we knew, a man our age, died this week. We went to his viewing today. There were HUNDREDS of people there and it was only one of four viewing times. He was well-known and well-liked. Actually, he was one of our county commissioners, on the ballot for re-election in the upcoming mid-term a little more than a week away, had won the primary..... but he would have been well-known and well-liked even if he hadn't been commissioner. He was commissioner BECAUSE he was well-known and well-liked.

Anyway, I was seeing all those visitors, and hearing what people were saying to each other about how well they'd liked Denny. I remembered a memorial tribute I'd heard last month after a friend of my mother's died. And I'm thinking....... the people who died aren't here to see how many people come, or hear the nice things that are said about how much they were valued.

Why don't we say those things to people while they're alive? Why don't we have a party, so everyone who knows them and likes them can come?

Maybe there's somehow less risk in saying the nice things after someone has died. We don't have to risk awkwardness.... "You, know, Denny, you're a really great guy, a really good egg. It's a privilege to know you. Whenever you say you'll see to something, I know it's as good as done. You're a man to appreciate." How do you respond to something like that? How do you say it? Why is it easier to say it after the appreciated person is gone?

My mother is turning 90 in April. I'm throwing a shinding and advertising it in the paper. Also in April, my husband is turning 60, but he says he doesn't want a shindig, just our kids and grandkids.

Back to the viewing....among the hundreds of people at the funeral parlor were many that we've known for years and years, as well as many we both felt we should know but couldn't place. We knew them in some long-ago context and now we were out of that context and we've changed and they've changed and it was like maybe remembering someone from a previous life. A woman walked past. She saw me and did a double take. I did a double take. We both said, "HIIIIIII!!!!! How nice to SEE you!! It's been probably 20 years!!" We embraced. I have no idea who she was. She didn't say my name so I suspect she couldn't remember who I was either.

I have a proposal: At my funeral, and at any I'm in charge of before then, like my mother's, I want to have, beside any door where people might be coming in, a box of those name stickers that say, "Hello! I'm......" and pens so that people can write their names and slap them on. Along with a sign reminding everyone to use the stickers, and to include on them how they know the deceased and/or family. It would help everyone. "Hello! I'm Ellie Hamilton.... longtime friend, kids the same ages." "Hello! I'm Clamity Jane, Bill's cousin." You could walk right up to strangers who share your shock, sadness, and memories and call them by name and know who they are and have the ice already broken. Someone you should know, about whom you'd draw a blank, has a name tag and you know immediately, "Of course!!" No awkward moments. It would help family members greet all the visitors: My husband and grown children would have no idea who some of the people are who might come to my funeral. Cheat-sheet name stickers would help them out a lot.

I'm starting a new trend in funeral etiquette, right here, right now. Name stickers.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Next week. On the AT. Starting Tuesday. With my friend Chrissie. For probably 5 days. After we get back I'll tell you where we went.... not telling now b/c my blog is public and I'm picky about who knows where we're going, since it's not busy-busy thru-hiker season.

I'm so excited! I'm getting everything ready and having so much fun. I'm no more organized than I was when planning my thru-hike, but at least I feel I know what I'm doing. It's just a matter of putting together the right stuff.

Weather is supposed to be really good, with daytime highs ranging from 50's-70'sF, nighttime lows 40's-50's. I'm going to be test-driving the Hennessy Hammock I bought this past spring. It's tricky to stay warm in them under about 65*F, so I'll be working on that problem. If I'm cold, well, I can always just put it on the ground, or just sleep in the shelters.

Chrissie is a woman my age whom I've known for 25 or 30 years, but we just this spring discovered what good friends we are! Since the 1980's we'd cross paths once in while, with kids the same age, and we knew each other to say "hi" but that's as far as it went. Then this spring a mutual friend told me Chrissie wants to hike the AT and would like to talk to me. So I called her, and we went in May down to Damascus, VA for the annual AT Trail Days Festivel, where we tented for two days beside a beautiful river. There, and on the 5-hours-each-way drive, we talked soooo much, about everything. She's Christian and we went to church together there on Sunday before driving home. It's amazing to think we've known each other so long and could have been friends all that time. Well, we are now. And we're going hiking!

Monday, October 18, 2010


What I really need to do is re-copy all my Trail entries, put them in order, add more memories to them, and make a separate blog out of them, as well as copying the whole thing to There is so much more that didn't make it into the entries, and they're all mixed up according to whether I posted them myself when I had computer access, or my husband did when he talked to me, or my daughter Avery did when I mailed her a whole bunch of them.

It will be confusing. I actually did start a Trail Journal there, under the name MacGyver09, but then I didn't keep it up, choosing instead to put everything here in my blog. Then on the Trail I got re-named "Yard Sale," so anyone I knew along the Trail will look for me under that name, not MacGyver.

And this is really, really braindead, but as many times as I've typed "MacGyver," I can't remember at this second whether it's "Mac" or "Mc." Ever have that happen? Of course you've been unsure how to spell something, and neither way looks right, but..... you own name?????

I'm losing my mind.

I think it's "Mac."

Linking to my Appalachian Trail Journal

AGAINST THE WIND: Springer Mountain, Georgia!

Well, that didn't work. It only takes you to the first post. Gotta work on this some more. Wish I knew HTML-speak.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Well, the wedding went off fairly well. I hit some klinkers but don't know if anyone noticed or not.

I have been negligent. Seduced by the quick status updates and easy friend-tracking of Facebook. But it's hard to put the story of my life on Facebook. I need to post here.

For instance, I didn't post a report of my 2010 SavageMan Triathlon. Unlike last year's race, which I breezed through having a blast, this year I found it grueling and life-changing. Yes, actually life-changing. I need to write about that.

I am thinking about a second Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt. In 2012, to celebrate being 60. Yes, in 2012 I will be 60. Actually I'll turn 60 in December of 2011 but I'll be 60 when I do my hike.

To keep from re-hiking already-covered miles, I may very well start in Maine and go south. That way if the Trail beats me again at least I will have seen a different part of it.

I've been following the absolutely riveting story of a southbound thru-hiker, on Trail Journals. His trail name is Churchill, and he writes like..... well, like a dreamer who's a realist, or a realist who's a dreamer, or both. You can find his ongoing story at My American Dream at Trail Journals. He's like a book I can't put down. He started in Maine in July and is now going through the Shenandoah/Blue Ridge region of Virginia. I remember so well being there. Yesterday he described standing on a cliff taking in the view and daydreaming...... I'll bet I know exactly where he was standing. He daydreamed about hang-gliding, but it also involved an imaginary hiking partner in the person of John Denver, and ended sadly, with a twist. This guy is an incredible writer. He's gotta get his journal published. It's something rare.

If anyone read my blog last year while I was hiking, you know that weight loss was one of the things that put me off the Trail. Well, by New Year's, I had gained it all back, plus more. This spring and summer, I've lost over half of it, training for SavageMan AND just changing my eating habits. I don't go hungry. Sometimes I still get cravings and graze or binge. But mostly..... I eat to nourish myself. It works.

Monday, October 04, 2010


How did I get into this?

I seem to be the pianist for a wedding. It's happening tomorrow (yes, a Tuesday.) When I agreed to this a month ago, I hadn't played the piano since my mother and I made that tape of cello/piano music almost 2 years ago. But here it is. In front of a whole lot of people.

I have stage fright. Performance anxiety. I looked for tips on the Internet.

The best one is: "Offer yourself as the medium through which the composer's spirit and intention will flow."

In other words... forget about myself. It's not about me. It's about this beautiful young couple and God's grace flowing through and around them as their beautiful celebration unfolds.

I'm praying. I'm practicing. I'm visualizing. But I'm still going to take some Xanax before I go.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Re: Westernport Wall

Hah!! I went down to Westernport today and attacked The Wall  over and over.
I made it 6 out of 9 times. The other 3 times, I fell. The first attempt, while I was fresh, I made it consecutively up all 4 blocks (each block a hill.... it's one 4-block-long hill, average grade 25%,  interrupted only by the cross-streets.) You have to do all 4 w/o unclipping on race day to get a brick laid in the road.
After that, I just did the last section (31% grade), or the last 2, over and over, memorizing how to navigate the obstacle course of potholes and cracks (mostly 4-6 inches wide, several feet long, and at least an inch deep). I also developed a Plan B route up, in case there's someone in front of me on race day. I've determined that it's not so much an issue of strength as of balance and controlling the bike. There's a certain point before which I must not veer left; after that point, a slight left shift is helpful (Plan A) but not essential (Plan B.) I'll tell you what, I popped a few wheelies and wondered how I was still upright even though the bike seemed to have stopped moving forward, but 6 out of 9 isn't bad. At the top of one of the successful ones, I wondered, "Is my rear brake rubbing my wheel? Did itget knocked off center in that last fall? Feels like it was harder this time..." and then discovered I hadn't even been in my freakin' lowest granny gear!!!! Shoot, now I'll have to practice doing it like that >:-<
The tenth one.... well.... I started one last trip from the bottom of the 4 blocks and rode 3 of them, but then said, "Nahhhhhh......" and turned left instead of going up. I couldn't face it again and could tell I probably wouldn't make it. I was very, very tired.
There was a neighborhood boy about 12 on a mountain bike who tried it but didn't make it. He said sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. That particular time, I made it, and he gave me a thumbs-up and said "That's a hell of a climb." He also rode down it, which I absolutely will not try.
One injury per fall: right elbow bleeding in 2 separate places (from 2 of the falls) and right hip with a swelling, obvious broken capillaries, and a great big bruise on its way (I fell to the right each time).
I plan to go do this once a week until I know that street like the back of my hand and riding it is no big deal.

Monday, July 19, 2010

SavageMan Bike Course, Take One

Find out about SavageMan here.
Sado-Masochistic, is what it is. 
My son Jon and I took it very slow for his first riding of it and my first this year, and I declare, I think that's at least as hard as pushing a little harder because you're out there longer.
We both made the Wall. Except I cheated.... stopped after the first 3 preliminary hills to get my breath before I tackled it. Jon rode straight up all 4. 
I bonked halfway up Maynardier Ridge (the last of the nasty hills, about mile 44) and had to sit and rest a little before continuing. It's the first time ever that I haven't made it up that hill. I was surprised because I'd just gone up all the other hills ,including "Killer Miller" Hill , without any distress. I took a couple salt tablets (cheapies from the drugstore) and a breather and then walked the rest of the hill. Jon gave me a Hammer Gel. (I'd been using a concoction of peanut butter and honey.) A few miles later I still was feeling bad, hamstrings and calves were trying to tie square knots, and Jon gave me an Endurolyte. He was carrying freebies from the Gran Fondo. I was just stupid, is all, and didn't plan right. I know better.
Or else I'm just getting too old for this.
About 15 min after the gel and lyte tab, I felt better, and by the last 5 miles I felt  normal. When we got back to the cars, Jon put on running shoes and ran for 10 min, while I drank recovery drink, guarded his bike, and waited to see what I'd come back as in my next life. Guess I'll have to wait for another day to find that out, though.
I feel OK now. But I'm done w/ homebrew gels and drugstore salt tablets. Put out the money, honey, and put the hammer down.
5 hours for the 56 miles = 11.1mph. Bleah. I need 12mph to make the cutoff, which I did handily last year by 10 minutes. 
There are still 2 months left.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Just a quick review, my husband and I are living with my mother because I/we don't feel it's safe for her to live alone anymore (89 yo, has trouble getting around due to arthritis, osteoporosis, and shortness of breath.)

Found out today during a routine doctor visit that she's been having episodes of chest pain for quite some time but hasn't mentioned it because she doesn't want to be a "fussbudget."

At first I was angry; how could she not tell her daughter, an R.N. who lives with her to look after her and her health, that she gets chest pain???

But after awhile I started realizing it wasn't deliberate, it was just ignorance and an odd form of being considerate. I shouldn't be angry.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I have such a short attention span. And so much going on in my life. It's hard to remember that God is a part of it all. Hours or half a day go by when I forget all about Him.

Brother Lawrence says that will happen, when a person first sets out to form the habit of continual communion with God. And he pretty much advises, "Just press the 'reset' button. You will get the hang of it."

Of course, since The Practice of the Presence of God was written over 300 years ago, those aren't the exact words. But that's the jist.

When I first opened the book a couple weeks ago, I opened to this sentence:

"That our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works, but in doing for God's sake that which we commonly do for our own."

And right there, my life was changed.

He is in my swimming, biking, and running, as much as my son is when we arrange to train together. I forgot to ask the Lord to swim (40 minutes) and run (20 minutes) with me today. I choose to believe He was with me anyway, inviting Himself as a silent partner..... as silent as I was. My thoughts were elsewhere but He knows I would have asked Him if I had remembered. He's not bound by human-type "I wasn't invited" huffiness. He knows you meant to ask Him.

Until I get in the habit, I'm thinking I might set my watch to beep every hour I'm awake. Just to remember to check in.

You can download the book, read it, and/or print it out for free here.

Monday, July 12, 2010


....after I just finished 24 miles on the bike in the rain. I set out hoping to beat it, but got rained on anyway, just enough to keep me cool and make me a little cautious of curves, descents, and my brakes. Heard a little thunder, had one lightning flash a mile away, but didn't get struck or have to take refuge in a house (which I did once last year and made new friends.)

Anyway.... if I'd waited a few hours, I could have done it in clear weather.

But now I've had recent practice riding in the rain.

24 miles included 4 of the major hills of the SavageMan course: McAndrews Hill, Otto Lane, "Killer Miller," and Maynardier Ridge. Plus another long climb (Twin Churches Road) to get to McAndrews Hill.

I am so blessed to live practically on the bike course. Just a couple-mile ride gets me to either of 2 of the dreaded climbs. I'm getting so I don't even need to go into my lowest granny gear much of the time, which makes me very happy!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I want to get back to blogging. I have had so many unwritten pages, so many unrecorded chapters, of the story of my life fly away in the wind this summer. I can only hazily remember that I lived them.... I can't ever read about those days or truly relive them, or remember the truths I learned from them And nobody else ever will, either.

I have been so consumed with myself. That's why I haven't been able to share myself.

We just had a wonderful week in a truck-camper at a small lake in Michigan, with our son Jon, his daughters Sarah, 2, and Abbie, 7, and our 11-yo granddaughter Gracie. Gracie and I took time for an overnight trip to Chicago, by train, just the 2 of us. We had never been anywhere alone together except maybe Wal-Mart or Kroger's. It was a special treat.

So were the next couple days at the lake, our family, swimming, playing on the playground, catching minnows in buckets, and visiting or being visited by many family members we rarely get to see.

Kind of crowded in the little truck-camper and even more so riding to and from in the truck itself, but togetherness is what it's all about.

In case you're wondering..... we sold the RV in which we'd lived for the past 5 years. We live only in my mother's house now, keeping her company and making sure she's OK, and have recently gotten the truck-top camper, which sleeps 5 somewhat comfortably. It was our first trip in it. Next month we'll take our grandson.

I had much, very much care of the 3 young ones during this time. Gracie's 11 and needed companionship and alone-time more than she needed care. (Except when she tripped on an escalator in flip flops and mangled her toe; she needed care then.) So I applied myself to caring for the little girls, and making room for downtime for the hardworking men and the almost-woman girl, who loved floating on a raft without little ones tethered to her. During the week I got in one run with Jon (sprained my ankle) and one 20-min lap swim while Jon took all the girls out on a pedal boat. I worked to give each member of the family some of myself all week, and I didn't have that stressed out feeling I get when I whine about there not being enough of me to go around. Just giving myself up to the needs of the others, encouraging them to help themselves and the others when possible, thanking them for doing so, doing it for them if they didn't, speaking gently even when I wanted to raise my voice to get a response..... it went so smoothly because I took along a lifelong friend that I haven't been in close touch with for some time but who was thrilled to go along and help out and spend time with me.... Jesus. What a help he was, how pertinent his suggestions, how soothing his frequent "That's OK, I'll handle it." He's gently pointing out to me places where my words will add to the conversation, and places where it will just muddy the waters. Often I spew in words about some similar experience and start realizing that no one is listening, they've started other conversations.... they don't care what my experience was. If they do, they will ask me. If they don't, I'm off the hook, don't have to worry about how what I said came across.

Talking less doesn't mean I'm withdrawing. I pray it's the beginning of greater fellowship, now that I realize I'm here to appreciate and help them, not to yak about my own passions, roadblocks, burdens fair or unfair, whether other people's opinions are right or wrong...those things shouldn't be important to me. All that matters is saying what God nudges me to say, and he's provided me with some pithy stuff this week.

And with that I'll leave you all wondering till another day.

On this trip I learned major things:
  • It's not about me.
  • Pray without ceasing.
  • All things work together for those who love God.

I can face life again.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance." (Galatians 5:22-23)


I need to start over from Square One about every hour......

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


I'm caught in a time warp.

Now that it's thru-hiker season, I keep thinking, what could I have done to stay on the Trail? Even though, at the time, I had become convinced that I WANTED to come home and do the SavageMan triathlon, and when I did, I was very happy that I had.

It was after the triathlon was over that the sadness kicked in. Training for the tri had filled the void temporarily.

I'm training for the same tri again now (I'll have 6 months of training for it instead of 2 like last year) but it's not filling the void this time. No doubt I'd still be feeling Springer Fever now even if I'd stayed on the Trail and gotten to Katahdin. I'd want the hope-filled start and long step-after-step journey and the climactic finish again. I'd be wanting to pack my pack and do the whole 2,183 miles all over again. I'm sure I would. Even if I'd finished it.

Nothing ever takes the longing away. No one is ever the same. I hear it over and over.

The one thing to the contrary that I do hear, I may have averted: sticking with it far past desire, far past reason, coming to dread each day, loathing it, finishing out of stubbornness, and then never wanting to hike again, never wanting to see a trail again, even for a day. I've heard of that happening.

I'm glad it didn't happen to me. I got out in time.

With the result that I keep thinking about what I could have done to keep hiking, and what I can do to get back out there, and where and when and how.

Better to be left wanting more and planning and waiting for it to be possible, than to have lost the longing.

Monday, April 05, 2010


My tent is still outside from when I slept in it the other night. I've rested in it, napped in it, but not overnighted again since then. I keep thinking I will, but then I don't.

The weather map shows what looks like thunderstorms moving in after midnight. I was thinking I'd go out now before bed and take my tent down (in the dark) so it won't get wet. But what the heck, it's been wet lots of times. It's been wet for days at a time. The only thing is, I want to keep my down sleeping bag dry.

Then I realized.... if it gets wet, I'll bring it into the house and put it in the dryer.

Things have changed. I am not on the Trail anymore. Yet.

A fellow on an AT hiking email list is going to send me a hammock system to try risk-free: if I don't like it, I can send it back. I can't wait to try it. You stay drier in a hammock under a tarp then in a tent, and all you need to set it up is two trees -- you never have to worry about level ground or being in a low place or rocks or roots because you're above all that. I can't wait to test it out!

Then hoping to head back to the WV/MD state line on the Trail, maybe mid-May, and hike for a week or so, through Maryland and hopefully into PA to the half-way mark. My husband will stay with my mother for that long. I have got to get hiking to get well.... I'm down with "Springer Fever." Except today it was "Neels Gap Fever" -- a year ago today I'd made it to Neels Gap, the first significant landmark, 31 miles from Springer Mountain, that's some kind of Mecca for beginning hikers: "When I get to Neels Gap I'm going to get..." "When I get to Neels Gap I'm going to find out if there's any...." "When I get to Neels Gap I'm going to weed out a lot of junk...." Neels Gap was on everyone's mind. I felt such accomplishment when I made it.

Well, another year.... another time. In the meantime, I'll go for week-long jaunts and make slow progress up the trail. Trail Fever aka Springer Fever (also regret) is consuming me. I gotta get out there and hike a little.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


April 1st was my Appalachian Trail start date last year. I'm remembering it by sleeping out in my tent in the woods behind the house. If I'd thought of it sooner, I'd have gone on a hike nearby and camped out there. But then I'd have missed coloring Easter eggs with our 2 youngest granddaughters, which was a blast, especially since they used raw eggs :-) Anyway, great evening with them and our son, and now I'm going to sleep outside.

How things change from the way we imagined they would be. I really thought I'd finish on Mt. Katahdin in Maine about October 1st. Well, some other year. Or some other decade.

Monday, March 29, 2010


It seems to me that the new health-care reform measures don't do much of anything to investigate causative factors of the exhorbitant costs of care, or to lower those costs -- only "how to get (or enable, or force) us to pay it" has been addressed. I think they're barking up the wrong tree.

Here's my plan:


Outlaw public advertising of prescription drugs. Those TV commercials ("Ask your doctor if this drug is right for you!") and two-page magazine spreads are presented to encourage use of prescription drugs and increase sales. The commercial spots are expensive to the companies, and we pay for it in higher drug costs. Another less-obvious but expensive form of drug advertising is aimed directly at physicians in the form of visitation and gifting by pharmaceutical representatives ("drug reps.") Company employees book appointments with physicians and give them a presentation about a specific drug (information? or propaganda? Since the info is supplied by the drug's manufacturer?) AND buy lunch or dinner for the entire office staff as a magnanimous gesture. They keep track of how many prescriptions for X the doctor writes, and they'll ask him next visit, "Why are you not prescribing X more often?" They bring cakes, cookies, and donuts, and free gifts of clocks, insulated coffee mugs, and exam-table paper printed with the names of their drugs, just as a few examples. On a large scale, I can't imagine how much all this must cost. In the rural physician's office where I worked, we could count on lunch from a drug rep once or twice a week. They'd call in the morning and ask what restaurant we wanted, and the office manager or receptionist would call the restaurant with our orders, and at lunch the rep would bring it in take-out boxes. My daughter in a large city has a friend who's an office nurse and says they have lunch provided EVERY SINGLE DAY from drug reps.

All of this should stop. No more TV and public-magazine advertising (medical journals are a different situation) and drug reps should not be allowed to give doctors anything but ink pens. Drugs have to carry a hefty price tag for the manufacturers to turn a profit after all this advertising and bribing.


Outlaw class-action lawsuits, which often reimburse individuals who never suffered any ill effects of a drug or treatment and never filed suit. Outlaw prescription-specific litigation advertising: "Have you or a loved one been injured by Yaz? Levaquin? Crestor? Etc.? Etc.? Call our law firm NOW!" Success or settlement of these cases increases the price of drugs yet again.

Outlaw commercial advertising by medical-injury litigators. "Have you been injured, sickened, or killed by a medical mistake? Does your child have a birth defect? Have you started sneezing? Call our firm and GET MONEY." Physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, and other care practices, out of necessity charge the consumer more in order to cover their liability insurance. The only place litigation attorneys should be able to advertise is the newspaper and the Yellow Pages. Medical litigation is a feeding frenzy.

Consumers should, indeed, be able to bring suit for legitimate damages. But put an end to frivolous lawsuits: if the litigant loses, they pay EVERYONE'S court costs, including the attorney for the defendant, all of the court staff, lost wages of anyone testifying... every single cost incurred by anyone involved in that case.

Set a cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded, keeping it relevant to the actual cost of the injury, subsequent required care, lost wages and reduced quality of life.

These measures could go a long way in reducing the cost of health care, prescription medications, and medical insurance.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I went to this race yesterday, part of the Pennsylvania Maple Festival in Meyersdale, PA.

5-mile run; I've been doing casual runs of anything from a half hour to an hour, not pushing hard at all, just doing time. I expected to have fun and probably break an hour; or, if it was a really good day, maybe make it in 50 minutes.

My time:

Early on a man about my age started running with me, and we started talking, and he was going just a little faster than I was comfortable maintaining, but I was having fun talking with him. We talked just about the whole time. Now and then I'd say, "I have to quit talking, I can't keep up this pace and talk, too," and he'd say, "Well, your pace is just about perfect for me," and then he'd say something and I'd answer and we'd be talking again. My shoe came untied and he actually waited while I tied it because he wanted to stay with me! So I have him to thank for my unexpected performance!

I thought I might be good for an age-group second, if I was lucky. But I was FIRST in my age group (women 55-59) -- first out of two.

But here's the thing. After the awards I went to the results board and looked at the times, and THAT's when I got mindblown.

I would have won in the next three age groups under mine, also.

Women's 50-54 winner ran 45:32. Women's 45-49, 48:29. Women's 40-44, 45:38. No runners 35-39, and the 30-34 first-place woman was ahead of me, but the second-place runner in that group was not.

Besides myself, there were a total of 13 women from 40-59. Holy cow.... I'm out there running faster than that many younger women???? How did I do that? I've hardly been training! I haven't run 5 miles in over a month!

So I got a shiny piece of bling and a definite mental high. I was feeling great when I got home so I went out and biked for an hour, taking advantage of weather we shouldn't be having until May, even though there are still snow drifts dotting the now-mostly-bare fields and roadsides.

What a wonderful day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I just watched a program, "Mountain Talk," on the Documentary Channel, about the speech mannerisms and unique vocabulary of the rural residents of southern Appalachia.

It made me so homesick.

An old woman stated that when she was growing up, the nearest town was Robbinsville, but she never went there until cars came into the area.

The reason I know that "Robbinsville" has two "b's" is that I've been there. It was one of my rest-and-resupply stops on the Appalachian Trail.

Breathtaking mountain views kept appearing, with swirling mist in the valleys. The kind I saw just about every day.

I could cry for those days and those miles.

In a way, it feels as though triathlon is sort of meaningless. I mean, what's the point? Swim a prescribed distance, hop soaking wet onto a bike and pedal a prescribed distance, change your shoes and run (or walk, or crawl, or whatever) a prescribed distance. Why?

I guess.... to see if I can. Or to see if I can do it again, or do it longer, or farther, or stronger.

I guess for the same reasons I want to go back to the Trail.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


The Census Bureau wants us to hurry up. At first they wanted the local counts in by March 22, which meant we actually had to finish by March 20 to get it in. Then they wanted it by the 20th, so that gave us till the 18th. Now they want it Tuesday, which means it needed to be finished today. On Friday they asked for all hands on deck, with all employees working all day both Saturday and Sunday.

I said no.

It's not that I refuse to do work on Sunday, or believe people shouldn't. I often have. I was a nurse. Hospitals don't close on Sunday, people don't take a day off from being sick. I worked. When I have worked in stores or gyms, if I was scheduled for Sunday, I worked. It gave someone else the day off, and usually it equalled out. And it's not as if all I'll do on Sunday is go to church and then spend the rest of the day reading the Bible. I go running on Sundays, and I'll run a marathon or do a triathlon on Sunday, thanking police officers and race volunteers for their help. I'll go to the store on Sunday, thankful others are working so I can get groceries I couldn't get during the week while I was working -- in fact, I went shopping after church today.

This is something totally different, though.

American citizens are Constitutionally assured the freedom to practice religion (or not) without government interference or restriction. Sunday is traditionally a religious holiday for Christians, and this is a heavily-Christian area of Maryland. Example: classified ads in the local newspaper are replete with the statement "No Sunday sales" whether the advertiser is selling a used car, homemade quilts, clothing alterations, or pit bull puppies. I felt sick in the gut at the idea of knocking on their doors with government business, interrupting the sanctuary of their day of rest and worship as if it were just like any other day. My own religious freedom is violated if I am required to intrude on that of others. I believe it is ethically objectionable for the government to make this intrusion or require its workers to make it.

I said no. I told them why. They gave my assignment to someone else. She came and picked up my paperwork and I told her how to get to the area and off she went.

I'm not fired. My supervisor said I was not the only one not accepting a Sunday assignment. I may be working tomorrow, if everything didn't get done today. And I'm still eligible for re-hire for the next round of operations.

Thankfully, our freedom (so far, anyway) does not allow termination of employment for religious belief, or for consideration of others' religious practices.

Friday, March 12, 2010


I sent my photo of our son's snowed-in swingset to our local paper, The Republican (can you guess the political leanings of most of the people here?) and they published it as illustrative of the extreme conditions our area has experienced this winter. It's the first time I've ever had a photo published in a newspaper. The caption described "...a shot of the backyard of Jon Hamilton....Taken by his mom, Ellie, the photo has in the foreground the tiptop of his children's swing set, which is approximately seven feet tall."

Does that count as a byline?

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Did I mention that I have a temporary job canvassing homes as a Census Enumerator? They used to call it "Census Taker." I guess "Enumerator" sounds more official. I think it sounds like an Arnold Schwarzenegger role: "I AM THE ENUMERATOR!!!!!"

If the outer reaches of Garrett County, MD were not still under snow, checking off the address list would be so much easier. The area I had today.... well, some of the houses were plowed out. Some of the roads were passable. Some addresses I could reach by driving around the long way and accessing them from the other end of the road. Some I could see from the road but what I could not see was a driveway or anything resembling one.

The reason they were not plowed out was, these are mostly vacation homes in an upscale resort community. No one lives there. But they have addresses so they have to get a Census questionnaire.

Actually a few people live there. I actually contacted a person at a couple of places. Mostly I left questionnaires in plastic bags on doorknobs, after hiking up what might have been their driveway, or just through the woods, in knee-to-thigh-deep snow.

The Census Bureau had better be grateful. They can't be, though, because they won't know. The people who made the maps don't know that road signs have disappeared, as have the roads they identified. Whoever did the initial canvassing to ascertain addresses, last year, didn't do it through 2 feet of snow. Yes, that's what we still have. I used our GPS a lot. I hiked a lot.

If someone had to go out there, it should have been someone with a lot of endurance, someone strong, maybe some kind of athlete, a marathon-runner or backpacker or something, because they would have had to hike the Appalachian Trail to be ready for this. Oh, wait, that's me.

And because it was so like hiking (although on the Trail, I only had to deal with about 3 inches of snow) it was actually pretty enjoyable. Figuring out the best route through the woods to the house, post-holing through, knee-deep one step, then the next step hitting a low place and sinking to my hip; falling, grabbing branches for balance and leverage -- it was right down my alley. The funny thing was, along with my hiking boots, wool knee socks, and waterproof hiking pants, I was wearing a sleevless top and light sweater because it was 60*F, and charging through the snow like that got me all sweated up. But my boots have lost their waterproofing, and my feet got soaked. I was driving with my windows open and the heater going full-blast on the floor.

For my lunch break I drove back out to the community entrance where there was a parking lot in front of a closed office building, poured water out of my boots and wrung out my socks. Water streamed from them. Then I ran the heater full-blast from everywhere -- put my socks over the defroster to dry out a little and warm up, my boots (filled with paper napkins) on the floor and propped my cold feet up in front of the dash vents, with all the windows open because it was so hot in the car. I ate cheese and Rice Krispies Bars and drank water from a Powerade bottle. It truly felt like a Trail lunch, complete with sock-airing. When I was done for the day, I poured water out of my boots and wrung out my socks again, and then wrung them out again when I got home, because they had gotten so wet again just from being in my boots.

As on the Trail, there is no way my boots will dry overnight. They're beside a heater vent, but the weather is now unseasonably warm, and the furnace will probably not come on during the night.

Well, I have been homesick for hiking. And I get paid for this.

But it's sorta nuts.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Garrett County, MD is known for getting the most annual snowfall of any area in the state -- about 116 inches. But this is ridiculous. In the course of three storms since February 5, with no thaws in between, we're close to 250" now for the season.
We got the first storm three weeks ago on a Friday, followed by a second one on Tuesday. After the first storm, the snow was up to my hips (I'm about 5'1".) The second brought it up to my waist. Then we got just dribbling stuff, a couple or 3 inches every day or two, until our total on-the-ground measurement was 53 inches as of last weekend.

Our F250 truck after the second storm.

Digging out the car.

We dug out the truck just a couple days ago. We did not shovel INTO the truck bed; this is how it fell from the sky.
Then, this Thursday and Friday, the day after we shoveled out the truck, we got a third storm. Various sites and sources are waying it was 21 inches. It's hard to tell, since it was accompanied by high winds that blew it into amazing drifts.
I'm not sure what's actual snowfall and what's drift, but this is our son's backyard: in the background, his smokehouse; in the foreground, his daughters' swingset. It's a normal-size swingset.

Here's a zoomed-in shot of the swingset, taken from his back deck.
How do you like them apples???

Sunday, January 17, 2010


As so often happens, on a Sunday when I've been thinking, "I should go to church but I don't feel like it," and then I break down and go, it turns out that had I decided to stay home I'd have really missed something.

Today it was Chapter 9 of II Corinthians, which contains the familiar verse, "God loveth a cheerful giver."

I haven't been.

In the context of the sermon, it was mostly about material gifts, but I started thinking midstream, this isn't about my money or my hand-me-downs, it's about me.

I have not given cheerfully of myself. Not for a long time. I've given grudgingly, often with expectation of fair play. I'll do X for you if you'll do Y for me. Or, correspondingly, I won't do X for you if you don't do Y for me. As well as, since you don't do Y for me, I won't do X for you. Maybe if I stop doing X for you you'll learn you should be doing Y for me.

Doing X in expectation of Y isn't being a cheerful giver. Jesus didn't say, "I'll die for you IF you...." He just did it.

Unconditional giving. I hope I'm up to it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Snowflake Chase 5-miler 2010

Well. You didn't know I was working up to a race, did you? Neither did I. At least, not until the Pittsburgh Marathon, which is May 2.

Anyway, I decided, what the heck, there's this Snowflake Chase 5-miler, less than half-an-hour away, why not go see? Other than SavageMan, it's the first race I've run since the Austin Marathon in 2008. Based on my current lolly-gagging workout times, I thought I might pull off a sub-55 at Snowflake.

Son of a gun. My time was 47:00. I had to bust ass to get it, but it predicts a 4:36:55 marathon finish. Now, if were to lose 10 pounds, it could take 20 minutes off my marathon time, right? I think that's the formula, 2 minutes per pound of weight loss. Or maybe it's 2 seconds per minute per pound. Ten pounds, 20 seconds, would turn 10-minute miles to 9:40 miles, which again, would do it if everything else goes absolutely perfectly.

Suddenly a Boston Qualifier of 4:15 doesn't seem so impossible. Except, I worked so hard today for just 5 miles..... keeping that up for 21.2 more miles seems.... well .... impossible.

Average pace was 9:43, which is EXACTLY what I need at Pittsburgh.

I wasn't sure where I'd stack up in the age groups today. From 25-29 on, the AG winners' times being called out were 5-10 minutes longer than mine. But when the RD started with the 55-59 women, suddenly the times dropped like rocks and I placed third (out of probably three.) Nevertheless, I was only a couple minutes behind the AG winner. I have noted, since starting running a quarter-century ago, that my AG has some FAST WOMEN.

Well, on to marathon planning, and working on the 10 pounds. As I've described, I haven't been doing all that well at Weight Watchers. It only works if you work it. Imagine that.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


My mother has a treadmill which she actually walks on sometimes. At 88 she doesn't go outdoors if there's snow on the ground, so she got this treadmill a couple years ago and has spells of walking on it at 1mph for 5 or so minutes twice a day.

It's snowed here nearly every day for the last two weeks and been bone-chilling cold. I got in an 11-mile run last Wednesday when we visited our daughters in Columbus, OH. It was cold but the roads were clear.

The last 2 days, I've done an hour a day on the elliptical while I was working at the gym. Today I was off, so I just did an hour on Mom's treadmill.

It's set on a little incline, which made it hard to keep up even 12-minute miles. You can change the incline but you have to take off these little support legs and reposition them. Too much trouble, when the small incline can only make me stronger. I took walk breaks of about a minute every 5 minutes, since it was too soon after dinner, which felt like it was in my throat rather than my stomach.

Still kind of a bummer to run for an hour and see only 4.3 miles when I've got this delusion I can run a 4:15 at the Pittsburgh Marathon, May 2, and qualify for Boston. Yeah, I'm on this qualify-for-Boston jag again. It's not gonna happen unless I get my weight down around 115. And that's not gonna happen if I keep eating like I have been.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


First off, I'm just plain addicted to eating. It doesn't even have to be anything I like. My husband bought butterscotch-ripple ice cream b/c he knows I don't like butterscotch. I ate it anyway. (Butterscotch is one of maybe 5 tastes I really do not like. Others are: okra, hard-cooked egg yolks, liver, wasabi.)

I don't have to be hungry either. I can be not-hungry and still eat something I don't even like just to be eating.

My mother, whom I dearly love, used to make me eat things I didn't like so that maybe I'd "learn" to like it. Mostly, I did, with the result that I now eat anything that's not nailed down, whether I like it or not.

While I was hiking, I couldn't eat enough. I was ALWAYS hungry and trying to eat ENOUGH and still lost 20 pounds. I've read that rebound weight-gain is a common problem for long-distance hikers. I thought I could keep it from happening to me :-(

I'm watching "Biggest Loser" as I write this. Maybe I'm petty to quibble about 10 or 12 pounds. But I hate the way I look in mirrors, of which there are plenty at the gym where I work and in my mother's house. They're a constant reminder, but they don't keep me from eating myself silly.

Monday, January 04, 2010


To control your weight, or lose if that's your intention?

Low-fat? Low-cal? Low-carb? Weight Watchers? Weigh Down? Do-it-yourself?

I'm currently going to Weight Watchers but it emphasizes low-fat/low cal and I don't really believe in that. I believe more in fat-burning via limiting carbohydrates, and/or in eat-when-hungry, don't-eat-if-not-hungry, stop-when-full.

Except I can't stick with any of those for more than half a day. Actually I can't stick with WW for more than that long either.

I WANT FOOD!!!! I want lots of food, even though in a global sense I consider it vaguely obscene to have to plan and follow programs (even pay for them) to lose weight when in so many places it's impossible to get enough to eat to achieve a normal weight.

But we live where we live, including in the body we live in.

It's hard to believe that just a few months ago I was too thin.

Not anymore. I ate my way right back to the size I was when I started hiking last April 1. I would have been OK with putting back 10 pounds, but not all 20 plus a couple more. I have moments (heck, out with it, call it days, weeks) of self-hate and self-disgust because I can't reign in my desire for food.

Unlimited salad and leafy greens don't cut it. Weight Watchers calls anything that's mostly water a "Filling Food" and says eat them liberally, they'll keep you full longer. Like fruits and vegetables and lean protein and skim milk. Fat-free milk is called a "Filling Food" whereas milk with any fat content is not. Tuna packed in water is "filling," while tuna packed in oil is not.

I guess anything works if you work it. Which I mostly don't. For more than half a day.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


So at the annual turning of the year, you're supposed to make a resolution that's going to change your life. Or several resolutions.

I better take this to my other blog, "Ellie's List of Lists."

One thing I do want:

I just turned 58, three days before Christmas. I would like to enter my 60's, two years from now, in the best physical, mental, and spiritual shape I've ever been in.

Or at least the best physical shape.

I still want to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. That will probably have to wait until my mother is no longer physically with us. She thinks she can live alone, but I think differently. I didn't realize how disabled she is, until I started living with her. She can't live alone. I can't leave for more than a few days. AT is off for an indefinite period of time.

But granddaughter Abbie, who will be 7 at the end of this month, sounded very excited last night when I suggested she and I take some hikes with backpacks and stay all night in tents. I said hike for the afternoon, make camp, fix supper, sleep in tents, and hike back the next day, and she said, "No! LOTS!!" She still has trouble saying all that's in her head but I said, "What, more than one night?" And she repeated, "LOTS!! Nother night, and nother night, and nother night!!"

Well, maybe not THAT much -- how much mileage can a smallish-for-age 7-yr-old handle? -- but maybe a couple nights. Abbie would be a fun little backpacking partner.

Her dad, our son, likes it, too. Maybe he and I could do Maryland together on the AT. It should only take 4 or 5 days.

Anyway, I have to take care of myself so that in 5 or 10 years I can thru-hike. I'll be that year's Old Lady of the Mountains.

As for getting my life into some form of predictabiliby, purpose, and plan..... guess I'll go over to Ellie's List of Lists.