My Team 50.0

The big five-OMG is just around the corner. Friends and family began asking how I wanted to mark the beginning of the next half century almost a year before it was due, so I felt some obligation to not try to ignore this one birthday.

Just before Thanksgiving, I remembered Thing1’s birthday climb a year earlier to the top of Mount Equinox in Manchester, VT and decided that would be a fun activity (I swear I was completely sober). We thought about doing it as a fund-raiser for a charity that helps children with Ulcerative Colitis. As I investigated, though, I realized a mountain climb in April in Vermont could still involve snowshoes in some parts and would certainly exclude family members who can’t climb on a completely dry day. Finally, wanting to make health and family part of ‘my day’, I settled on running a fundraising 5K with Thing1 and Thing2 and extended family.

There was only one problem with the plan.

It means running a 5K.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, but, even though I’m roughly the shape of a cream-filled donut (and, at the time of this writing may contain almost as much chocolate), I will not be rolling across the finish line in a wheelbarrow.

Which means running that 5K.

Enter Thing1 with his concerned but not reproachful fitness training approach.

Thing1, you may recall, had his entire colon removed at the end of October and then had everything reconfigured in December. You could say it involved a couple of big operations — so big they kept us in the hospital until our bill for 2018 finished its own 500k. He should, by all rights, be still recovering.

Somehow, however, Thing1 is in better shape than the rest of his family, a fact that made him the de-facto personal trainer for Team Barlow. He takes his duties seriously, mapping out a hiking route each day (lots of hills and huffing and puffing), telling us that by the end of March it will be a running route (lots of dubious looks from his team).

The first day, I had to stop in the middle of the first hill. I had to stop in the middle of the second hill. When I stopped in the middle of the third hill, Thing2 stopped with me.

Thing1 was always just a bit ahead, often at the top swell of the hill, waiting for us. He would make a lousy drill sergeant (he’s too nice), but, as he called, “You can do it,” to me/us for the umpteenth time, I thought for umpteenth time what a great superhero he is (his super power is inspiration).

The next day I didn’t have to stop until the third hill. Thing1 was running ahead and then running back to ‘keep it challenging” (yeah,he said it going up a hill). Thing2 was running ahead and then walking slowly to give me time to catch up.

By the third day, I had started running bits and pieces of the route (I still have to stop for a second on the last hill). Today, we’ll walk/run for the fourth time.

I know the race route will be on one of the flatter roads in Vermont, flat being a relative term here, but we are keeping this route until ‘my day’ at the end of April. We may not be running the entire route by then, but my team will be finishing it together.

It’s a good way to kick off the next half-century.

Ordinary Miracles

“It’s been a sad few weeks in the valley,” my friend noted this morning. We had been softly sobbing and hugging each in the middle of her country store for several minutes. The day before, Sunday, we had all learned of the sudden death of a friend — another fixture at the country store and a beloved teacher at the kids’ school. The news came on the heels of the death of another mutual friend. Both women were what my friend and I think of as young, and we were both shocked and then, like so many we’ve talked to, deeply sad.

I found myself tearing up throughout the day, looking for a bright spot in the loss of a mother by three young children and now the extinguishing of a kind and lively soul in the community.

When I got back to the house, Thing1 announced that parts for a computer construction project he’d been working and saving for had arrived. He was waiting for Thing2 to get home so they could build it together. I told him this is how Dell and Gateway got started and realized I was smiling for real for the first time since I heard the news yesterday.

The smile was the recognition that the gruesome twosome had found a shared creative outlet, that their curiosity is taking them down a glorious rabbit hole of research and discovery.

But the smile was also the reminder that there often isn’t a bright spot in the bad events; the bright spots exist in parallel with the sadness. But when there is so much sadness in the valley (and the world), the bright spots — the ordinary miracles — are what light the way through.

Everyday Blessings

We had about 10 inches of fresh snow and ice and then snow again. last weekend. The temperature plummeted into the double digits below zero, and the Big Guy and I were working together to get the wood bins filled so that the door didn’t have to open again between Saturday and Monday morning.

I was actually enjoying a little bit of the labor. Iit’s one of those every day reminders to be grateful. Be grateful for the fact that we could to stay inside for the next 24 hours and work on tech support or illustrating books. And it was a reminder to be mindful of those who did have to work in the snow and cold or those who have no home at all.

The weather is bringing less drama this weekend, but as my big orange tabby settles himself in my arms to negotiate painting and cuddling, I’m making a point to be looking for the everyday blessings.

Simply Peaceful

It’s 1 am, and i’m trying to fill the wood stove as quietly as possible.As the official night owl in the family, my last job before bed is loading her up so that we have coals to make starting the fire in the morning easier.

Earth-sheltered on three sides, the house base temperature is around 55 degrees, and It takes several seriously subzero days to require more than a couple loads of our Kitchen Queen wood cook stove to keep us all comfortable.

This weekend is predicted to be normal temperatures for this time of year—single digits at night, teens and low 20s during the day. I know I only need to load enough fuel for a few hours. As i put the last log in, I open the vent for a few minutes to let the wood catch. The soft red glow is the antidote to electronics, medí and social media anxiety. It soothes and hypnotizes. It’s a reminder of how much the simplest tasks can bring peace to our lives — even for just a few moments.