Turn of the Year

In the last few days of 2014 I have heard all kinds of remarks about the impending turn of the year.

It was a shitty year, thank God it’s over.
It was a great year, I can’t wait to see what is in store for 2015!
Have you found a sparkly NYE top yet?

In reflecting on where I am on the last day of 2014 I feel humbled.

The lens of my perspective of this bigger picture and where I fall within it was most recently focused a little over a month ago when Levi and I were driving to my family’s Thanksgiving at the end of November. It was late, there was a still darkness outside, and our vehicle careened through the cold hills of north central Ohio. Forests of tall trees and knotted brambles cupped both sides of the road, holding within them everything they have witnessed from their rooted spots for the last 50, 75, 100+ years.

I wondered how many people have driven on, walked by, and traveled down this road? What were they experiencing in their lives when they did?

As Levi and I were making this drive I felt this immense sense of gratitude to be less than 10 minutes from spending a couple of days with my family… but I could also not tear my mind away from the people who would not be able to do the same.

It hit me the same way a makeshift memorial on the side of a highway does. You see the crosses, the wreaths, perhaps a bouquet of flowers or an old sweatshirt. Sometimes you catch a glimpse of a name or a date… and it just derails you. Whatever you were thinking about a split second earlier, whatever song was on the radio, suddenly escapes your mind.

“I am here, and they are not,” is the sole thought that now occupies it.

Upon seeing a date on one of these markers my thoughts launch to that month and year and I try to remember,
“how old was I on that date? What was I doing in my life at that time? What have I done since then?”. And then worse, I think, “what will that person never be able to do again?”

Many people know families who are living with the everyday tragedy of losing a loved one. “Why them?” I have to ask. “Why did they have to lose someone?” And there are also those families who still have all members intact, those lucky ones who all live a long life and pass away from natural causes of old age.”How did they do it?” I beg for an answer, wanting my family to all live well into old age too.

Finally my mind leaps, “why me? “Why do I get to be here with my entire family?”

And I am humbled.

Each new year seems to go by more quickly than the ones that came before. As I have been thinking back on 2014 I am thankful to just be here and have my family here too. I am appreciative to live another day full of opportunities. I am grateful to talk with and hug the ones I love.

In 2015 I want to slow time down a bit. I know I can’t physically suspend seconds, but I want to consciously enjoy time and register what I am doing. I want to keep what is truly important in perspective. I want to give thanks each day for being here with the ones I love.

P.S. A few 2014 snaps with some of those I am thankful for:

kayaking with Dad
kayaking with Dad
watching a low country sunset with mom
low country sunset with mom
celebrating with Grandma and Kristin
celebrating with Grandma and Kristin
New York City with Clint
New York City with Clint
Grand Cayman dinner with Levi
Oceanside dinner with Levi
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A Wager on the Future

Do not be discouraged.

An offering of hope.

There is a purpose and a point and the arrival will happen. You will get there. It is what to do with all of this time in between that hangs us up. The unknowing. Our impatience. The frustrations that occur when we place our happiness and fate in the hands of others.

 

Maybe I was wrong.

Fading conviction.

A journey can be started by taking physical action towards a goal or by acknowledging a whisper in our mind. But too often journeys are halted. Derailed. Abandoned altogether. A mark of our fear of commitment realized in delay and avoidance.

 

What if I devote all of my time, what if I make all of these sacrifices, and my efforts amount to a royal, terrible, awful, foul, flop?

A doubt in ourselves.

We are so charmed by the normalcy and ease that a comfortable job, a five-year-plan, and the approval of others offers, that we can be quick to abandon our passions. Quick to give into fear. Quick to avoid. We seek validation in a shiny title, a robust year-end bonus, and pats on the back. But are we satisfied? Are we fulfilled?

Or are we hiding?

Living a lesser version of ourselves?

We fail to realize that sometimes when we take the most comfortable route, we also take the most crippling route. Placing ourselves in a box. Conforming to expectations. Silencing our true ambitions.

 

“Once you have money and are established, then you will have the means and flexibility to do what you really want.”

An unfeeling declaration.

How often have we heard this? Been tempted by it? It’s true; things could be easier with more resources. But will we ever feel satisfied? Will we ever feel established and secure enough to chase what we want? Or, once we do feel we have built a solid foundation to pursue other dreams, will our window have closed? Will our sun have set?

 

Failure is a mark of progress.

A grain of truth.

Failure is too often seen as a detriment. A weakness. An end. Why not a teacher? Why not gained knowledge? Why not a new beginning? We are resilient. If we fail, we know to take another route on the next attempt. Pursue another angle. Failure means that we are trying. Failure means we are brave.

Stay the course.

A firm suggestion.

Look at what you admire. Look at what you value. Don’t look to others. What do you want?

Like the seasons, our hearts change. Our goals change. Our desires change. It is written in the natural progression of life. We are a series of reinventions of ourselves made possible only through living, failing, learning, and trying again. What are our lives if we are not willing to pursue our goals and act on our desires as we move through the progressions? How dynamic could be if we did?

 

Do not be discouraged.

            A wager on the future.

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Signs

We look for signs.

Actually, we do more than look for them. We ask for them. We plead for them.  We try to force them into existence.

We want them to help answer all of our whys, why-nots, and what-should-I-dos.

“Just give me a sign.”

“I need a sign.”

“If only I had a sign.”

“Maybe THIS is a sign!”

Do people really believe in them? Some. Are they coincidences? Possibly. Are we reading too much into a situation? Maybe.

The hard-nosed dismiss signs quickly – firmly planted in the belief that people make their own way in this world and no external incident should sway an internal choice.

But perhaps that is where the controversy lies when it comes to signs. Does a sign have to be an instruction?

Lately, this snow has been a sign to me.

In the shadow of a fifth move in three years, my first semester of grad school wrapping up, remote work winding down, and in the midst of interviews, I have been trying to determine not only the next step I should make, but also the right step to make.

Last week I made a decision and took a step in a new direction. When I walked by the patio doors and pulled the blinds open, I saw snow falling.

And I audibly gasped.

You know, that gasp that still comes when you look out the window and see the first flakes of the season falling when you weren’t planning on snow, or expecting snow, or waiting for it to arrive?

And I think that is a trick of signs. They are not something to be planned for, something to expect, or something to wait on. They are not a compass to guide our lives by. We can’t sit on the couch and wait for a prophet to ring our doorbell and hand us a detailed agenda of what to do next with a tin of cookies.

We may not know what the next step is or what the right step is, but the key is to keep stepping in the general direction we think we should be going. If a wrong step is made it will be discovered in time and can be learned from.

So while we may look for signs, they are not something to rest our thoughts or actions on. We are the ones who have to make decisions and take initiative.

I believe signs are a reminder, an invisible embrace, a whisper that things will work out. And I believe they usually come when we least expect them.

Today as this snow falls heavy, so heavy the tree branches are reaching for the ground, I see a gentle reminder to keep stepping in this direction I’m going.

 

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A New Page

You’ve noticed by now that things are different here.

And when I say things, I mean the title, look, and feel of this site.

After completing four half marathons, working in a professional bakery, and running a home bakery business, I feel like I have lived all of the subjects that were at the core of ‘The Marathon Baker’. I know them well and they are no longer the primary focus of my life. There will still be lots of writing about baking and running because they are important to me, but as time passes the list of what is most important to me shifts.

Moving, graduate school, writing, career-searching, family, friends – these are the things that have been at the center of my life the past five months.

In February I wrote about “These Paths”. To summarize the passage, the only reason I felt comfortable standing up and sharing a message with a congregation on a cold, Sunday morning, was my realization that we are all on different paths, all traveling towards different destinations, and all encountering different sights and obstacles along the way… and the only thing I had been asked to do on that Sunday morning was share the view I had from where I currently stood in my life.

Ojalá (Oh-ha-LAH) is a Spanish word. It is a form of the subjunctive. There is no English equivalent but it translates to mean: let’s hope so; I hope so; God willing; let’s hope (that); I hope (that);. I see it as a small prayer but also recognition of certainty in uncertainty. We all make plans and hope for things, and although we may not know the outcome or what’s ahead, we know there is a greater purpose, and we trust in that.

That’s what I intend for this site to represent. It will still be filled with running, recipes, awful stories of locking ourselves out of a new apartment, and accidentally shaving my husband’s head bald, but it will also hold reflections, plans, hopes, and stories of change.

As I write this I am watching the first snowfall of our first winter back in Ohio. These flurries mark a new season. New adventures to be had. A new page waiting to be written.

Will I be able to capture it?

Ojalá.

First snowfall of the season
First snowfall of the season

October

Gunner and I took a long walk this morning. It was cool, 50 degrees and clear. The sky was blue and the trees that still have leaves remaining are bright with color. As we walked by the community park and playground behind our neighborhood, past the elementary school with kids bouncing within the chain link fences, and into the next neighborhood with mature trees and large yards, I had time to think.

October went by so quickly. When I look back at all we did I can understand why.

Octoberfest

Levi and I went to Octoberfest at the Dayton Art Institute and had a blast. The beer selection was awesome, there were three large tents with artists, and the food was divine.

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Prost! We’ll be back for more next year!

Oldest trees in Ohio

We took a drive down to Sugarcreek Metro Park SE of Dayton for a little hike. The trails are dog friendly and it has the oldest trees in the state!

one of the three sisters - oldest trees in Ohio
One of the “three sisters”, the oldest trees in Ohio

Chili Cheese Dog Tailgate

We had friends in from out-of-town to watch the OSU / Maryland game and cheer on the Bucks with a chili cheese dog party!

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all settled in and ready for a party!
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Gotta love Nora Fleming serve ware.
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Pumpkin Spice cupcakes

South Carolina

My parents called me on a Monday morning and asked if I wanted to go to Hilton Head with them the next day. They were driving down and planned to drive back on Saturday. The half marathon I had been preparing for was on Sunday and I wasn’t sure about driving all day Saturday then getting up and running 13.1 miles the following morning… but decided I could run a half marathon anytime and packed my bag!

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kayaking the backwaters with the dolphins
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sunrise on the beach

Half Marathon

I didn’t PR but I was pleased with my run for traveling prior to race day!

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Thankful that this guy has been at every race!

Print

I wrote an essay on Ohio State’s Homecoming and sent it to The Columbus Dispatch for consideration for publication. I was fortunate enough to have it picked up!

Columbus Dispatch First Person Forum
Columbus Dispatch First Person Forum. Photo credit to the best friend!

Homecoming football game

Skull Session
Skull Session
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friends tailgating
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Touchdown Buckeyes!

New York City

Levi and I took a long weekend trip to NYC to visit my brother and his girlfriend!

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On the roof of their awesome apartment!
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dear friends reunited!
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On the Brooklyn Bridge. Notice the outfit change? Levi was nice enough to give me his shirt!
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Brooklyn Bridge
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The Met

There was a lot going on in October and I didn’t update this page once last month. I think a lot of my drive for writing on this little site in the past has been an effort to keep family up-to-date on the happenings of our lives when we lived in Missouri / Illinois / South Dakota. Now that we live closer and see family more often, I am not as compelled to detail our weekly happenings here.

The absence on this page could also be explained by a lot of my writing time now being devoted to grad school projects and articles (I accepted a staff position with LGHL last month).

However, it looks like the entire month of November will be spent in one state, so time will tell what will become of this site.

Man in the Black SUV

After spending a day in Columbus with my mom and grandma I decided to head back to Dayton around 4:30 so I could get in front of rush hour traffic. I made it all of nine miles when I came to a creep. And then a halt.

I turned on the radio and heard there was an accident about four miles ahead. I was around two miles from the closest exit and there was another mile or so to the location of the accident and the next exit.  I called Levi to see if he could look up an alternate route where I could miss the traffic and hop back on the highway. He said I could potentially get off at the first exit but it was also backed up from everyone trying to avert the jam. “You’ll probably be best to stay on 70 and get around it. It looks like it’s clear after the accident,” he said. I sighed, said I wished I had stayed with my mom and grandma to eat dinner and then flipped the radio back on. I listened as the traffic reporter said that the left lanes of 70 were blocked and only the right lane was passable.

I was currently in the middle lane so I needed to get over two more to be in the right. I knew I could stay in my lane for a while longer so as I crept forward I watched the other drivers around me. I watched as drivers threw their arms in the air, honked at one another, and slouched against their doors, resting their pouting chins in cupped hands. I saw some fly down the berm of the road, kicking up dust, rocks, and grass into a shower of debris as they traveled past. I even watched as some cars tailed the ambulance coming through so they could get further ahead in the traffic. I turned on my blinker and cranked my head around to look at the drivers in the right lane, seeing if anyone would let me over. I watched as car after car crept past me, none offering the courtesy of space to merge.

Finally, a man in a black SUV stopped and waved me over. I was so thankful. I pulled into the right lane and threw my hand around in the air, waving my gratitude so fiercely I was sure I could have been a back-up in a Beyoncé music video. I looked in the rearview and saw him continuing to let others over. Just about every other car that drove by, he let in.

I thought about this man and how different he looked from everyone else having tantrums in their vehicles. He looked relaxed when he let me over. He smiled. He had his windows down, his sunglasses on, and music playing.

My normal 1 hour and 10 minute door-to-door drive turned into 2 hours and 15 minutes but I am glad I encountered the man in the black SUV. How often do we try to push ahead, get angry, or act irrationally in situations that we can do nothing about? How much energy do we waste? How many knots in our neck and tension headaches do we create when there is nothing that we can do to change the circumstances? Man in the black SUV had it right. We all have places to be and things to do but we are so quick to forget that we do not always get to determine the timing in which they happen. Instead of pitching a fit, being miserable, and trying to control something you cannot, put on your sunglasses, turn on some music, and smile. You’ll get where you are going when you’re supposed to.

P.S.

This ice cream.
This ice cream.
This weather.
This weather.
This cupcake.
This cupcake.
Happy Fall
Happy Fall

Cue AC/DC… I’m Back

I love what I am doing in grad school. I love the time I have to write and run. But I have still felt like something is “missing”. I hate to admit that Levi has had to suffer through some whining because the contracted work I am doing remotely, pales in comparison to the front-lines work I did at the hospital in South Dakota. I have searched for corporate marketing positions in Dayton but nothing yet has seemed to be a good match with balancing grad school. I was starting to get discouraged by the lack of results turning up on Indeed.com, lack of responses to applications, and lack of pay some companies are willing to offer. I found myself applying to jobs in Cincinnati that would require over an hour commute in each direction. How exactly I thought that would allow for a balance, I am not quite sure.

I finally realized that Dayton is a new story and it is not going to look like the past five (Columbus, St. Louis, Brentwood, Springfield, Aberdeen) we have lived. I am in a new place with different people and different circumstances, why would life now, look similar to what it has already been? Trying to fit myself into the context of my life in South Dakota is not what I should be expending my energy on. Looking at what is in front of me and figuring out what I want to be doing in this stage of my life is.

I know I am supposed to be writing. I know I am supposed to be going to graduate school. I am thankful to have time to run and more time with Levi. And I also think I should be baking.

I jumped into some research with the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Taxation, made some phone calls, and everything is ready to go.

So with that, The Marathon Baker comes to Ohio! If you know of anyone in the Dayton area looking for made-from-scratch cupcakes and cakes have them check out the Gallery and Special Orders pages and send them my way!

2 tier wedding cake
2 tier wedding cake
wedding cake with cupcakes
wedding cake with cupcakes
Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and a coral buttercream rose
Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and a coral buttercream rose
Reese's Peanut Butter cupcakes
Reese’s Peanut Butter cupcakes
special order ready for delivery
special order ready for delivery