I’m a REAL Runner…

I just got home from finishing another Ragnar race. We ran from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL. If you know anything about Ragnar races, you know there are usually 12 members to a team and you take turns running the entire time. There is always a runner “in the field”, even throughout the night. There are exchange points where you swap out runners and can change clothes, use the stinky port a potties or gas up, but you are continuously moving, no stopping until you reach the finish line in Chicago. You should google it or watch some videos on You Tube. It’s a one of a kind experience and a ton of fun. I find it addicting also, I am already planning next year’s Ragnar.

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This year we decided to do an Ultra Ragnar, which means we have 6 runners instead of 12 and we are twice as crazy.

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We run twice as many times, double the amount of miles and twice the insanity. With 2 vans of 6 runners each, when you run your 6 legs and the next van takes over for their 6 legs, you get a little break (could be 6 hours) to eat some food, sleep in a field or on the lawn of a school and if you are really lucky, find a shower before your van takes over again. With an ultra, there is never a break. You are constantly running, dropping off a runner, picking up a runner or driving to the next exchange. Everything is done in the van. Eating, resting, rehydrating, changing clothes, rolling out muscles. You run and when you are picked up, you get in the van and sit so you have to roll out your muscles with a stick in the van so you don’t stiffen up. It’s a physical challenge and a mental challenge.

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Mentally, you have to push through exhaustion, nausea, soreness, and most of all, the little voice in your head telling you to quit, that you can’t do it. That you are tired and can’t run one more mile, much less 10 more miles.

So, why do this to myself? And where does the fun part come in? For me, the fun is in the challenge, the experience, the people I do it with and the feeling of crossing that finish line 30 hours later. And this…

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Upon returning home, I experience “Ragnar depression”, a condition many of us go through. When you are lucky enough to love your teammates so much you miss them, when you crave running multiple times in one day, when it’s a bummer to get your gear from a drawer instead of a duffel bag buried under 5 other duffle bags in the back of a van, you have Ragnar depression.

As I was wallowing in my Ragnar depression, the awesome people of Ragnar were busy posting videos, photos and race results. Scrolling through photos, I was thrilled to see they had captured a very emotional and special moment for me.

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This was my last run, around 30 hours after beginning. I was passing the slap bracelet to Christy who was about to run her last leg. Up to this point, I had never felt like a “real” runner. I had never felt strong or athletic. I would look at other runners and think I could never be like them, my body looked different, maybe I wasn’t as fast. But guess what? I AM a “real” runner. I am strong. I am athletic and my body performed for me. I had my fair share of “kills” (a Ragnar term meaning how many runners you pass.) I pushed through tired legs and a weak stomach, spasms in my intestines and came through the other side. I am an Ultra Ragnar runner. Christy and I shared a very special and personal moment for me and I feel blessed she was there. I finished my last run in a lot of pain from a knee injury but I finished on pace and I was so happy I was done.

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It was rainy and cold when we crossed the finish line together as a team. We received our medals and noticed the backs spelled something when put all together.

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Our medals don’t tie us together. Our bond comes from sharing a common goal, working together to achieve that goal, sharing experiences along the way and sharing a love for running that only a “real” runner could possibly understand.

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And of course, Steve….

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A DIY Butterfly Tree…

I like my street. I like the view from my couch. I like to watch people walking by. In the winter months, people walk by quickly, with heads bent against the cold. As the weather warms up, the birds start to sing and the snow starts to melt, everyone comes out of hibernation. I see more people, more dogs, more runners, and more bike riders. Even if you are a winter person, everyone looks forward to spring. The time of rebirth, renew and refreshing your decor!

If you are a resourceful person, you can make this butterfly art tree for as little as a couple of dollars. Seriously. I only had to buy 4 sheets of cardstock scrapbooking paper. I bought 2 sheets of a linen texture white and 2 sheets of a pearly ivory.

I started with these empty branches in “whooey” my owl vase.

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I always have branches in my house. In the fall, I bring in branches of bittersweet from our backyard. In the winter I will remove the berries and hang glass icicles on the branches. This spring I thought they looked empty and was craving a craft project so I looked through my “paper cupboard” in the studio and came up with this butterfly stencil, paper and my glue gun.

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If you don’t have a butterfly stencil, just freehand one!

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I cut mine out 2 sheets of paper at a time because I am impatient and don’t like to cut things out and just wanted to get it over with.

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Then I bent the wings up to give them a 3D effect, put a little hot glue on the back of the butterfly and attached to the branches. I clumped more butterflies in the center and fewer as they branched out. (HA! Get it? “Branched” out?)

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TA-DA! A butterfly tree, an art installation, a spring craft!

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You could make this as your centerpiece for your Easter table, a baby shower, bridal shower or even wedding décor! There are a plethora of branches lying on the ground, so go outside, pick some up and CREATE!

Painting a Clean Stripe…

There really is no trick to painting a clean stripe except to use good quality products. This includes your paint, your brushes and your tape. With any other color combination like Ecru on White or Wheat Yellow on Yellow there is room for error. No room for error with black and white. It is going to be obvious if the tape bleeds or you don’t have a steady hand.

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But let’s go back to the beginning. Let’s start with your blank, clean wall. This is the wall you face when entering my kitchen from the dining room.

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It’s weird, I know. You walk into a wall and have to make a sharp right into the kitchen. You can also see it from the living room and if you crane your neck to the left, from the entryway, too. But it’s an old house so with all the great character you have to take the weird, too.

Start by measuring off your stripes. I measure from the floor, as most houses don’t have crooked floors. With my old house I take a risk here but after 18 years in my house I know where all the crooked spots are.

After you measure, make little pencil marks in at least 3 places along the wall where your tape will go. This will prevent “sagging” in the middle when you put your tape up. One thing to consider when painting stripes is the distance between them. If they are too skinny it tends to look very busy and have the dizzy effect. I spaced mine out 8 inches with 8 inches between each stripe.

Put up your tape using a firm finger along the edge where the paint is going. I even rub it back and forth to really press it to the wall. When you apply your first coat, use a dry brush technique; meaning apply the paint to the roller, then roll it off on newspaper before applying to the wall.

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You can see I don’t go to the edges. I fill that in later with a small hand brush. I also use blue tape. I have tried green frog tape and I personally prefer blue tape. For me, it gets a cleaner edge. Your first coat will look very thin, but it should. Doing it thin and dry is what keeps your edges clean. Your second coat will look much better.

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I pull the tape off right away after applying second coat, except along the edges where I haven’t painted yet.

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This allows me to see any bleeding and if it’s wet, I can wipe it with a damp towel right away and not have to repaint. IF you end up with some bleeding like this…

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…wait for the paint to fully dry then you can tape off your black and touch up your white with a small hand brush or if you have a steady hand, just run white paint along the border and “erase” the bleeding. If it’s really bad, you might want to expand your black stripe by re-taping and brushing it by hand with a small brush. You may have gotten bleeding from your tape coming off the wall or your brush wasn’t dry when applying the paint. You have to be patient with stripes, it’s not a half day job. It’s really key to have a dry brush and if that means more coats for you to do, a good job is worth the wait.

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And here it is looking in from the dining room..(taken at Christmas time…)

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Better than a plain wall? It’s all in the eye of the beholder but my eyes prefer color and pattern. This technique could also be used to stripe a piece of furniture. So, do you feel ready to paint a stripe?

Valentine’s Day Bunting

In my line of work (I am a seamstress and a designer) I am in the fabric store fairly frequently and I have seen this chair webbing for years..

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Chair webbing is used in upholstery projects; it’s the stuff that’s under the seat you are sitting on to keep you from falling through to the floor. Not all chairs use it, mostly older chairs. Anyway, I always liked it and thought “What else could this be used for?” I had seen it used as Christmas décor in a friend’s house..

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But how could I make it my own? Then it clicked, BUNTING! I have made bunting for years even before it’s been a fad thing with hipsters and yuppies, I could make bunting from this chair webbing. It would be a little bit rustic, a little bit barn chic, a little bit vintage and a lot quick, easy and cool!

Start by measuring out how long you want them to be. I cut mine into 7 inch pieces.

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Then I folded over the top about an inch and ironed it. I did this not because I like to iron but because the webbing is a bit stiff and I wanted the top clean and folded over and it would sew nicer if it was ironed first.

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Then just sew a ribbon through spacing out how far apart you want them to be. Mine are spaced about 1 and half to 2 inches apart. I also use grosgrain ribbon. It has a little texture and depth to it and won’t “ripple” like a satin ribbon will when sewing on it.

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TA-DA! Quick, easy and cool, right? I made mine just long enough for my mantle, but you can go crazy and make yards of it to zig zag across your ceiling if you want.

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I’m sure I will think of more uses for this chair webbing, as I’m writing this the wheels are turning in my brain so stay tuned for more ways to use this kind of rustic, kind of chic ordinary chair webbing…

Speechless…

I am speechless. Actually, that’s not totally true or I couldn’t write this, but I am struggling with putting what I am feeling into words. A few words that pop into my head are overwhelmed, moved and grateful.

I am overwhelmed.

When I wrote about suicide and Aundray I must confess, it was mostly for me. I need creative outlets to release emotions, energy and for expression. I am an action person and need to put my feelings into action. I also did it for my sister. I can’t bear to see her suffering. It tears me apart. I needed to act on the feelings we were all having. What I didn’t expect was the continuing outreach and support of total strangers writing in, sharing their experiences, offering support and love. Offering prayers on behalf of my sister, brother in law and nephews. I never expected it and I am overwhelmed by the kindness, compassion and love of strangers.

I am moved.

I shed tears of a different kind when reading your emails and comments. I felt connected to each of you as you reached out to connect with me and with my sister. I was moved by the sensitivity and gentleness you showed. I have read about strangers reaching out in love but have never experienced it myself until now and I am moved.

I am grateful.

I am new to blogging, joining the party late, as usual (technology and I are in the “getting to know you” stage of our relationship) and I do it for myself. Like I said previously, it’s a creative outlet for me. I was so surprised by how many times Aundray’s blog was viewed and shared. It was something I didn’t expect but truly feel grateful for. Only when we are not afraid or ashamed to talk about suicide can it be prevented. You cannot know how truly devastating it is until it happens to someone you love. To those that read it and shared it, I am grateful to you.

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Hey you. Yeah, you, you’re pretty awesome you know that? Thank you.

Suicide Sucks

It was later on Sunday evening, the 7th of December 2014 when my cell phone rang. It was next to me on the couch. My battery was low and I couldn’t answer it but I saw that it was my sister Carrie. We had just talked a few hours earlier about nothing really, just our Dad and how old he was. We joked that he didn’t look his age and that we were inheriting good genes from him in exchange for bad knees and hips. When I saw her calling I remember thinking that was weird because if she forgot something, she would of sent a text. As soon as I had that thought the house phone rang. Our landline. Which no one calls except telemarketers. Without even seeing the phone I knew it was her. I told my hunny to toss me his cell so I could call her back.

“Hello?”
“Hi Care Bear, it’s Justine”
“Justine?” (Sound of sobbing)
And this is where the hairs start to raise up on the back of my neck because if you knew my sister, you knew crying signaled something REALLY wrong. She is not a crier.
“Care Bear, what’s wrong?” I almost demanded it from her and I wasn’t prepared nor could I have ever prepared for what she said next.
“Aundray died.”
Just like that. Aundray died.
“WHAT?” It was at this point I think my head started to float away from my body and the nightmare started.
“He hung himself in his closet.”
The words she was saying were as foreign to me as if she was speaking another language except I could understand her. I just couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. It didn’t make any sense. Nothing made sense. I stood up and it must have been the look on my face but my husband stopped eating mid bite, my son stopped working on his homework at the table and my daughter who had come over to watch a Christmas movie stopped putting on her shoes in the entryway. They all were staring at me.
“Where is he now?” I felt frantic; I had to go to her. I had to go to him.
“They took him away by ambulance” (Oh good, I thought, he isn’t really dead.)
“Where? What hospital?”
“I don’t know. They tried to resuscitate him but he died.” (NO. NO. NO!)
“Where are you?”
“I’m at home.” (More sobbing)
“I’m coming Care, I’m coming right now!”
I turned to my hunny that had noodles hanging out of his mouth and looked him dead in the eye and said, “We have to go to Carrie’s right now. Aundray died.” My 17 year old, 6 foot 3 inch son stood up, broke into tears and said, “But I really loved him.”

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(This is Aundray and Max in 2011. Best friend cousins.)

We met at my Dad’s house because they couldn’t stay in the house that night. There are no words you can say to someone you love about someone you love that will make anyone feel better. You can only hold each other tight and cry. You can only put your arm around them as if you can protect them from the grief and pain that comes in giant tidal waves. But you can’t. You can’t protect them. You can only hold their hand and walk side by side with them through the pain, grief, guilt, confusion and anger that come with suicide.

When I did drive home during the early hours on the following morning, I allowed my grief to surface. MY love for my nephew, MY sorrow, MY anger, MY confusion, MY deep despair and I sobbed. I couldn’t stop. I sobbed out loud in the car in front of my family. I thought I was done and I sobbed some more. I sobbed until my whole body shook and my eyes were swollen.

The days and nights that followed are a blur. I remember returning to the house for the first time the following day with my sister, brother in law and nephew and cleaning because that’s all you can do and you have to do something. I remember all my sisters flying in. I remember the wake. I remember sitting in the car alone because I was too afraid to go in; like genuine, bona fide fear. I didn’t want to see Aundray dead because then it would be real. I remember telling myself to suck it up for my sister and get my butt inside. I remember the funeral and reading the words my sister and my brother in law wanted to say about their son. The things they wanted people to hear and remember about their beautiful, mischievous 15-year-old son, my nephew. I remember feeling such profound sadness yet at the same time frustration and brief flickers of anger. These are feelings I wake up with every day still.

Suicide sucks.

There is no preparation. There is no closure. There are no goodbyes. There are no answers. Aundray was not bullied at school. He had several friends who despite being big teenage boys wept openly for their friend. Aundray was loved by almost everyone who met him. Aundray battled one enemy and that was depression. Depression took from him his ability to see how much we all love him, and suicide took his life.

 

(Please, after reading this post, please share it. Pass it on. If it can open the line of communication for only one suffering from depression, for only one contemplating suicide then Aundray’s death would not be in vain. Don’t do it for me, do it for Aundray, do it for all those suffering this silent killer.)

My Fall Mantle

Yikes! I blinked and fall is almost over. Temperatures are supposed to dip below the 30’s tonight into the 20’s. My cousin posted a picture of a dusting of snow in her area this morning and she only lives about 4 hours from me!

At the dentist this morning I was chatting with the hygienist about plans for trick or treating and GASP! I didn’t even get a post up about decorating for fall yet! Good thing I didn’t go too “halloweeny” this year so it can roll over for Thanksgiving.

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The owl vase (named “Whooey”) pretty much stays year round, I just shove different things in him. We grow bittersweet in our backyard and got quite a bit this year.

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I even sold bunches of it.

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To be honest, I wasn’t really feeling the decorating this year, but thought if I did something it would lift my spirits, so I threw this stuff up in about an hour.

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Crows and candy and bittersweet, OH MY!

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You can pick up a variety of cheap crows at a craft store, dollar store or big box store, apply some glue on the beak and sprinkle with glitter. Then your cheap crows look like more expensive decorator pieces! I like to use modge podge as my glue because it dries quicker and I like a little instant gratification when doing a little quick decorating.

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The letters I picked up while at a flea market with my cousin Shelly. My plan is the spell “Childs” (my last name) but I only have 3 of the letters. This is where patience comes in handy because I won’t buy any old letters just to have all the letters at once. I can wait until I find the letters I really like and want.

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I made the “EEK” banner a few years ago when I couldn’t find one I liked. Micheals craft store has a really cute Halloween banner this year. So if you don’t want to make one, there are cute ones out there to buy.

I will finish with a little Halloween cutie pie….

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Be safe and be warm and may your pumpkins make it through the night!

 

P.S. Interesting note about this post….I went to post it yesterday on Halloween and couldn’t find my computer cord.  Found it and then the mouse wouldn’t work. Got that working and was almost ready to post, one more picture to upload and the computer went blank and I lost all my work. TRICK or TREAT? You decide…..