Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago 2019 – Race Recap

Disclaimer – I am an ambassador for Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series and I did receive a complimentary entry to this event. However, the opinions in this blog post are all my own. Post may contain affiliate links.

On Friday, July 19th I left my in-laws house in [Fort Wayne area] Indiana and headed just a few more hours West to Chicago, Illinois for a weekend of fun! My plan was to attend the annual wear blue: run to remember Gala on Friday night, pick up my race packet for Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon, spend time with my Skirt Sister Elizabeth by running a half marathon and then head back to Indiana.

Friday –Due to event timing and where my friend Elizabeth lives I ended up going straight into Chicago on Friday and to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Expo. Elizabeth was nervous for me about me driving in the city but I reassured her I have driven through many big cities with terrible drivers and I would be ok. The expo was very easy to get to as it was held at McCormick Place. After I parked I looked for other runners to figure out exactly where I was supposed to go; it’s an old expo trick of mine, follow where the runners are coming from, they tend to be easy to spot with their packet bags full of swag.

Since I arrived fairly early to the expo it wasn’t crowded at all and I was able to meet and talk with the famous Katherine Switzer. I have seen her plenty of times at other races but the line to meet her is generally very long so this was a fabulous opportunity to talk with her; she is truly an inspiration and a trailblazer for women in running.

After the expo I headed toward where the wear blue: run to remember Gala was to be held and found a parking spot for the rest of the evening. Since I was going to be spending the weekend at my friends house in Rockford I didn’t have a hotel room in the city or a place to change for the gala but luckily a fellow wear blue president came through for me and let me change in her hotel room; thanks Candice, you’re a lifesaver! The wear blue gala was absolutely amazing and held at the Union League Club of Chicago.

Since I wasn’t staying in the city I unfortunately was not able to stay for the entire gala but I was incredibly pleased to hear that wear blue raised a significant amount of money that evening in support of our Gold Star Programs. Elizabeth and her husband Steve met me after the gala and drove my van out of the city since they had taken the train in. I am glad that they were there because it was very dark and a bit of a haul to their house in Rockford.

Saturday – This day truly deserves a post all of its own because it was a full day of playing tourist in Rockford, Illinois. I’ll leave you with my favorite picture of the day though –

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yes I went to THAT ball field, HOME OF THE ROCKFORD PEACHES!

Sunday – RACE DAY! When my alarm went of at a redamndiculously early hour I thought to myself; WWWWWHHHHHYYYYYYYY DO I CONTINUE TO DO THIS TO MYSELF?! I was very thankful that I wasn’t alone in my misery; having friends who do these crazy things with you truly helps. We left in plenty of time to get to the race however due to a terrible thunderstorm and an accident we made it to the start line with only 15 minutes to spare! BUT WE MADE IT! We spotted another Skirt Sister along the way to our corral. Many other Skirt Sisters were at the weekends events and we saw some of them along the course but there were many that we didn’t get a chance to meet up with; that can be the downside to such large events, many people are in attendance but it’s tough to meet up with everyone.

The heat and humidity over the weekend had hit record highs! It was so bad that on Saturday they ended up cancelling the 5K. Since we had driven through a terrible storm on the way to the race I will admit that I had a bit of pre-race anxiety in regards to the weather; lightning even struck during the national anthem!

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Luckily though the storms direction stayed away. It did rain a bit on and off during the race but the severe storms stayed north of the course. The storms were a blessing in disguise in a way because it brought the temperatures way down from what they had been the previous days. The humidity stayed though and since the race was in a city the tall buildings trapped that heavy air. I am glad that I force myself to run in all sorts of weather and that I live down south so I’m acclimated but it still can be dangerous. The race did well at putting measures into place of adding cooling stations however some of the water points did not have cold water; one station in particular had gatorade so hot that after taking a sip I almost threw up! I am glad that I chose to wear my hydration vest so I quickly remedied the issue and took sips of my own water. When doing large events like this and when the weather is going to be hot or humid I HIGHLY suggest carrying your own fuel; a hydration vest, belt, handheld water bottle, whatever it may be, practice carrying your own because you simply never know how things will be the day of an event and this will help you stay safe!

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Chicago – you’re an interesting city. Certain things are expected when running in any big city but I did NOT like running over the drawbridges. I had heard that for the Chicago Marathon special mats are rolled out to cover the open grates and I would suggest that Rock ‘n’ Roll implements something similar in the future. I ended up jumping on the side walk on those bridges because I was not comfortable running on them. Chicago as a city needs to invest in their infrastructure; I have ran through many major cities and so far Chicago takes the cake for worst roads! Full of pot holes or poorly filled pot holes. There was one section of the course where we ran through a tunnel; it was incredibly dark in the tunnel and the road so bad that we walked through it because the last thing I wanted was to sprain my ankle or trip and wall or something on a poorly lit messed up road. Other than poor road conditions I was pleased with the course; it took you through many scenic parts of the city and you did get some respite from the humidity when you were near Lake Michigan.

My favorite part of the course was the wear blue mile. I had submitted Jeff’s name for the event; I’ve written about him in the past, he is the fallen Marine I run for and how I got started in this whole adult distance running thing in the first place. Jeff was truly with me that day. Out of all the posters on the mile, his stood out; granted it was because there was a puddle there but still, out of ALL the posters when I turned the corner to the blue mile JEFF STOOD OUT! I sprinted to him and kneeled down, said a Hail Mary and continued on through the mile, touching posters of other fallen that I know or have come to know the Gold Star family. I hugged founder, Lisa Hallett; it is always an honor to see her at these events. Going through the wear blue mile gets me every single time; it is such a powerful living memorial. Thank you to everyone who volunteered to put it on.

I am glad that I ran this event with my Skirt Sister, Elizabeth. Most of our friendship is virtual so to actually spend so much time physically together was amazing! That’s another thing I recommend doing; run these events with friends sometime. Travel to meet up with people and spend a few hours together on a long run enjoying a city and catching up with each other. Live by the #runmiga way that if you give your word to run with someone you will run with someone and stay with them – no skirt left behind is the motto. Plus it’s fun to match outfits.

After the race I got my medal engraved and then we went to see some more sites; the famous Buckingham Fountain was just across from the finishers festival. “The Bean” was just a few blocks away as well. Both sites are great spots for finisher pics.

On the way back to their house Steve swung by Wrigley Field for me since my hubs is a HUGE Chicago Cubs fan! Next summer I hope to actually go to a game.

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The weekend was great; a much needed mama break for me. I am incredibly thankful to Elizabeth for her hospitality. Until next time Chicago, rock on!

If you’re interested in running any of the other Rock ‘n’ Roll races you can use the following discount codes:

for races that are a full or half marathon: 19RNSQUAD16 ($16 off)
for the races that are the shorter distance: 2019RNS6 ($6 off)
My next event is Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach – the beginning of the epic Beach to Peach series challenge. I will be participating in ALL of the events that weekend as well as the VIP experience. I hope to see you there. Be sure to follow me on Instagram for the latest!

#31DaysofSkirt – a look back at July 2019

During the month of July Skirt Sports Ambassadors participate in a fun challenge called #31DaysofSkirt.  It’s a fun social media challenge where every day has a theme and you post based on that days theme.  Here’s what this years calendar looked like:

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This year I decided to use Instastories as my main mode to post and created a Highlight for the challenge; you can check out my July in review here.  For some reason I forgot to save just one day – Day 20, 50th Anniversary of the Lunar landing.  Since I forgot to post I’ll share a serendipitous moment with y’all now that on that day my hubs, Troy received his latest care package from me which contained a package of the latest limited edition Oreo, the Marshmallow Moon Oreo Cookie!  Screen Shot 2019-08-01 at 8.28.39 PM.png

My favorite day for this years challenge was Day 12 – sunrise/sunset.  We were staying with my in-laws in Indiana and I woke up early and went for a run.  I took a slight detour that morning, off the path, and went through the wheat field in front of their house.  I am so glad I did this because that day they started harvesting the field!  It was super cool for us to watch the process of how a wheat field is harvested while we were there visiting.  20190712_074218

Pictures simply don’t capture the full beauty of this moment but it’s one I will cherish.

My least favorite day was Day 24 – mismatch.  I cannot handle this day!  It sends me into sensory overload!  As a Skirt Sports Ambassador Captain one of my “jobs” is to post the daily thread in our group so that everyone can easily share on the page and the page isn’t overwhelmed with posts.  I usually enjoy going through multiple times a day and looking at what everyone posted but I will admit on this day I purposely turned off the notifications for the thread and stupid Facebook would STILL make it show up in my newsfeed.  Sorry not sorry y’all but mismatch is just one day I can’t get behind.

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My favorite things about this challenge is that it’s fun, free and open to all women!  Just like the Skirt Sports Women Who Move Challenges – which I HIGHLY recommend checking out and joining!

Interested in Skirt Sports products for yourself?  Check them out and use code: SSA303LIZ for a discount!

Side note – special shout out of thanks to Skirt Sister Amy – head on over and check out her blog!  After I posted on my blog, sharing my frustrations about I haven’t been writing, she shared with me that she’s been struggling too.  We are going to hold each other accountable with our writing goals.  This post was the first of that new accountability.  I’m thankful for her and that she checked in on me today because I had an extremely difficult day yesterday and never got around to writing and even though it’s later in the day on this flip the calendar page day of August 1st, Amy’s encouragement stuck with me today and I got this post done.  It’s important to have those friends in your life that will help hold you accountable in various ways.  I’m extremely thankful for the Skirt Sports Ambassador Sisterhood for giving me many of my accountability buddies.

Did you participate in the #31DaysofSkirt Challenge?  What was your favorite, least favorite, etc…share with me 🙂

Random Ramblings of Rambling Mom

Nearly 7/12 months of this year are over now; that’s just more than half of the year.  Sure I’m not really one for new years resolutions anymore because let’s be real they simply aren’t realist 99.9% of the time!  For that .1% well – bully for you.

I had wanted to do things this year though.  I had wanted to keep a solid reading schedule and complete at least 36 books this year [I’ll be 36 in October] I’ve completed 12 just 1/3 of my goal.  Everyday I tell myself that I’ll put down my phone and read more and some days are better than others but alas I’m still behind.  I will admit that I am very addicted to my phone right now.  It is my line to the outside world, to the escape of my dark thoughts.  It is my line to Troy.  I wait every single day and hope for his little Facebook messenger bubble to pop up.  I worry about him like crazy and although this year has flown-by it has also been the longest.  It has been a grueling deployment for us.  For him I know it has been a lot of work and full of things I will probably never know about.  For me I hit burn out looooong ago; I probably burnt out during our Korea separation last year honestly.  I don’t know where my energy comes from most days.  I don’t know how I continue on most days.  I just do because I have to.  I’m thankful that the end of this “year” is nearly over.  If you’re on goodreads – maybe toss me a line – get on me about reading or something – help me hit that goal.

I had wanted to write more regularly – and I have done a smidgen better there but not in the ways that I had imagined.  In my head I have completed these writing assignments but when I review my blog they’re not on the page.  They’re still in my head or somewhere in the writing universe really because in my mind I’ve typed out a bunch of blog posts.  In my mind I’ve told you about every single race that I’ve ran this year – well if you follow me on Instagram you’ve gotten the highlight reel.  In my mind I’ve divulged the feelings I felt this year that went with all of those races, the stuff that photos never reveal.  Yet if you look at my blog none of that exists.  How is it that I write of these things in my mind but never get them to the www?!

I got a laptop recently because my excuse was that I couldn’t really write since I was tied to a desktop – sure sure I could blog using the wordpress app but that’s not always the most user friendly, especially when it comes to adding photos.  I got a lap top and still in my mind I wrote all of these amazing stories that would make my high school journalism teacher proud and my college profs proud buuuuuut…it never happened.  I can type nearly 70 words per minute with 98% accuracy – did you know there are tests for those sorts of things?!  I didn’t until I got to writing about this and was wondering if maybe my typing skills diminished and that was the reason why I wasn’t writing like I thought I was in my mind.   Yet obviously that isn’t the answer however yes my typing skills have diminished back in the day when I used to practice good ole Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing on an old school huge honking computer my average wpm was around 90ish.  I love writing.  I love writing so much I obviously write in my head all of the time.  It sometimes makes it into a journal entry or even a random piece of paper.  Sometimes my words get put into social media posts or texts or whatever.  Typing this blog post is my renewal to myself to get back to writing like I had initially intended to – to sharing those training thoughts and race recaps like I should.

I know my blogging is random and rambling, hello title Rambling Mom exists for a reason – anyways, I wanted to share with you that I’ve also experienced failure this year.  I haven’t shared much of my failure to my larger audience because it has stung so badly.  I have applied to big kid jobs this year and been outright rejected.  I have applied to journalism positions that I know I could do and do well but because I’m a non-traditional person I wasn’t really looked at and I could almost hear the laughter in their rejection responses.  In my running life I have applied to numerous ambassador programs and been rejected even by organizations that I’ve represented in the past.  Those sting so bad sometimes because it cues up my doubts in myself.  I’m not the fastest, I’m not the best, I don’t play politics and kiss ass to people who apparently need their asses kissed.  I have five kids, I have a kid on the spectrum, I don’t work in a traditional sense, the list goes on and on and on.  Even this morning as I was preparing for my run I doubted myself and my abilities.  Even as I nailed my goal I still doubted myself and my ability that I JUST PROVED!  WHY?!  Why?!  Why…because I’m human – perfectly imperfect.

I guess this post is serving as my [slightly more than] mid-year renewal/reminder/whatever you want to call it – accountability to myself to get back on track or keep on track or whatever it may be.  To get it together and hit those goals.  I can’t go back in time and recap every single race from this year because honestly too much time has passed since then but I can do better going forward.  I can get those thoughts out of my mind and properly onto this blog sooner; possibly even to another platform too, we shall see.  I will hit that 36 books goal, my list of books to borrow is long enough for sure and I am a fairly fast reader.

I guess this post is also a suggestion to you – if there’s something that you want to do, to strive for, GO – DO IT!  Get to it!  The year isn’t over, technically every day is the beginning of a new year.  Set those goals, or adjust the ones you have, whatever it may be, you’ve got this!  We’ve got this!

Thanks for hanging in with me and my ramblings –

LIZ 🙂

My Mom – The OG STRONG FRICKIN WOMAN

For the last several years during the month of July Skirt Sports Ambassadors participate in #31DaysofSkirt – a fun activity where each day has a different theme and you make a social media post to go along with that days theme.  Today’s theme is “STRONG FRICKIN WOMEN!”

strongwomenI could have posted any number of pictures of me with my skirt sisters, they’re all pretty amazing women and for sure are strong frickin women in their own ways but I kept thinking about a question I’m often asked, “how do you do it?” Many times my reply or thought is “I don’t know.  I just do.” but truly it’s because I know and was raised by an original strong frickin woman, before it was even a “thing” – my mom.

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My mom is hands down the strongest frickin woman I know!  When I was very young (about 3 years old) my mother was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer, an Adenoid Cycstic Carcinoma.  She had to fight with doctors to get someone to properly listen to her and believe that she KNEW her body and that something was “off.”  My childhood is full of memories of her being medevaced out of Germany (when we lived in Augsburg) and from upstate New York (legit upstate, we were stationed at Fort Drum and lived in Watertown) to the original Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the DC area.  I used to know my way around that hospital as a kid, could find the cafeteria like a pro!  Yet I don’t think I ever truly realized just how “sick” my mom was until I was an adult.  When she was home with us she was fully alive and thriving.  When we lived in Germany she would take us on vacations along the coast of the mediterranean in Italy.  She would still host my birthday parties at roller skating rinks even though she was sick as a dog.  I NEVER knew it!  She ALWAYS powered through, gave me every single bit of her so that I could have a happy childhood full of amazing memories!  As I got older she still made sure she did everything in her power to make sure I had all that I needed and had every opportunity to do things.  I have traveled all over Europe as a child and young adult because of my mom.  I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that my parents are divorced and that’s between them but as a child of divorce I can tell you that my life was not easy at that time; I was a freshman in high school when my parents split and moved from upstate New York to the Boston area, a drastically different world in many ways.  I never knew how much she went to bat for me in those early days.  People didn’t want to let me play sports as a freshman because of this move, yet she found a way to make it all happen.  We couldn’t afford much during those years but my mom always found a way to help make it happen, yes I had to work for much of it but she always made sure I had the opportunity to attend mission trips, world youth day, participate in whatever sport I wanted, even if a team for that sport didn’t even exist yet [girls lacrosse for example].  She made sure I visited whatever Colleges I wanted to apply to and encouraged me to apply to one I didn’t even want to go to [which ended up being the one I went to].  She made sure I had flute lessons still even when I no longer participated in band because it was at the same time as choir just so I could still play.  She made sure I had voice lessons after school to help me qualify for district choral and even qualify to participate in the US European Youth Ensembles.

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As a kid she dragged us all over Boston, walking the entire Freedom Trail multiple times.  Though I hated it at the time it helped me to not be nervous of big cities and helped me learn to easily navigate new places. She took us to Cape Cod and went camping and hiking with me in terrible weather even when she didn’t want to.  She has supported me but hasn’t always liked me.  She for sure hasn’t always liked my taste in guys and made it known when she didn’t like me but through it all she has always wanted me to be happy.

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My mom and I fight like crazy but we always love each other deeply.  I never realized how much she went through when I was a kid and now looking back as an adult I am thankful for all the lessons she taught me along the way.  She has persevered through so much; pregnancy loss, cancer, divorce, stroke, heart attacks, etc.  She is why I have such a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother Mary and since she has been there I truly believe in the healing powers of the waters of Lourdes in France.  During the first semester of my Sophomore year in college I had a severe mental breakdown and I honestly probably should have been kicked out of school or at least taken a leave of absence but she went to bat for me and made sure I got everything I needed to stay on track, stay in sports and graduate on time.  When I was hospitalized my mom was the one who was there.  She took care of Sophia while I recovered and also made sure my church wedding still went off without a hitch. 

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She has never given up on me.  She may not always agree with me; trust me, she tells me this often, yet she always supports me.  I have called her more times than I can remember, broken down, crying (bawling really) and she pulls me out of my darkness every time.  She knows the deepest, darkest sides of me and loves me through it all.  She has helped to tell me when I need to get help, when I need to take it easy or when I need to push myself a bit more.  She’s my how I manage to do what I do.  She’s the OG STRONG FRICKIN WOMAN and my model to keep going, keep striving, keep thriving, to live even though you’re told you’re dying.  All of this is just the teeny tiny tip of my complex relationship with my mom but today on strong frickin women day I want everyone to know how much I love and appreciate my mom and all that she has done for me over the years.  I would not be who I am today without her.  Thanks mom, I love YOU to the moon and back.  Silhouette Studio®- Untitled-1

 

Donut Trail – Butler County, Ohio

A long while back numerous people tagged me in a Food Network Facebook post about a Donut Trail.  They knew my love of donuts and thought this was right up my alley.  Well, I did some research and found where the trail was located and realized that it was something that I could make a reality.  You see, the Donut Trail is located in Ohio and my in-laws live in the next state over in Indiana.  PLUS the Donut Trail is located in Butler County, which just so happens to be pretty much on our route TO Indiana from where we currently live in North Carolina.  Since we would be going to Indiana this summer for a visit I decided to plan our route there to include the Donut Trail.

To plan this adventure I visited: https://www.gettothebc.com/donut-trail  and printed off the Donut Trail map.  There is no set trail order to follow when completing this challenge.  You will plan based on where you live/where you’re coming from.  For our traveling purposes I decided that it would be best for us to stay somewhere near shop’s 1 & 6.  So I booked a hotel in Middletown, Ohio, just a couple miles away from these stops.  I planned the rest of our route to basically make a big loop around the county.  Then, using google maps, I plotted all the stops.

We set off from North Carolina to our hotel.  It was a loooong day of driving but we accomplished the task.  When we got to the hotel I looked up the hours for each shop so that we could plan when we would start our day the next morning.  Originally I had planned for us to do all the shops in one day but then I noticed that one of the places was open late so I decided we would get that stop out of the way that evening and enjoy some dessert.

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Holtman’s Donuts was our first stop.  We picked up our official passport from this location.  [note: You can pick up your passport from one of the locations or from the Bulter County Visitors Bureau.  Also, super important prize note about the passports that I didn’t realize until we had completed the entire trail – you must have a passport for each person participating.  So if you want a shirt and your kids want a shirt be sure to get enough passports to cover you all or you will not be able to get them a shirt – that was my mom fail for this trip but luckily my kids didn’t care too much about getting the shirt.]

At Holtman’s Donuts we spent $5.30 and got 3 donuts to share: Vegan Oreo, Maple Bacon Blueberry Cake, and Chocolate Fudge Cake.  This was the only location on the trail that had a vegan donut option.

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I’m sharing how much we spent at each shop but know prices may vary, especially if you get speciality donuts like we did at some stops.  We spent the most money at this first stop since it doubled as our dessert for the evening and we got more than one donut.  On average for the rest of the trip we really didn’t spend more than $2 with the exception of a speciality donut at our last location.  Set an eating goal for yourself with this adventure.  I did the trail with my five kiddos and we only got one donut at all of the other locations and we were FULL even having split the goods; so full that at the last stop we completely saved that donut and split it as dessert when we got to my in-laws that evening.

After our first stop we went back to our hotel for the evening and got to bed because it would be a very early morning to set out on the donut trail since some locations open very early and many of them close early.  Be sure to double check shop times before you set out on your adventure.  Also, I do not recommend tackling this trail on a Sunday or a Monday as many of the shops are closed on those days.  We arrived to the trail on a Wednesday and completed it on a Thursday.

Thursday morning’s alarm came early and we set out of our hotel around 6am.  The kids were not very happy campers about having to get up and out so early but we had a trail to conquer and a final destination 3ish hours away in Indiana to also get to.

Our first stop of the day and second on the trial was Milton’s Donuts we spent $1.65 and got an Apple Fritter.

Stop 3 – at Central Pastry Shop we spent $1.75 and got a Fried Danish.  This stop has a beautiful Donut Trail mural inside the shop.  Down the street there were a couple other murals on buildings outside.  I absolutely love finding street art/wall art like this.

 

Stop 4 – at Martin’s Donuts we spent $1.80 and got a Cream Filled.  This twisty donut was super yummy even though it was a little tough to share.

Stop 5 – at Stan the Donut Man we spent 95¢ and got a Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cake donut.

Stop 6 – at Jupiter Coffee & Donuts we spent $1.25 and got a Red Storm Roll.  This was a yummy raspberry filled donut.  This shop was also super cute with their coffee bean art.  If I still drank coffee [that’s a story for another day] I would’ve totally gotten a coffee at this spot as well; it smelled so good.  So if you drink coffee and do the donut trail, grab a coffee here and let me know how it was.

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*At this point we had originally planned to stop at The Donut Shop however, this place is now permanently closed.  You’ll notice the curiousness of it all when trying to plan your route because hours are still listed when you google it but when you try to go to a website it brings up an error.  We confirmed that this stop was indeed closed by talking with other shops along the trail.  So we wrote CLOSED in that slot on our passport.

Stop 7 – at The Donut Spot we spent 90¢ and got a Chocolate Sprinkles donut.

Stop 8 – at Mimi’s Donuts & Bakery we spent $1 and got a Blueberry Lemon donut (honestly one of my favorite donuts on the trail – this one just screamed summer to me).

Stop 9 – at Kelly’s Bakery we spent $2 and got what they call a Tiger Tail – we used to call these Twisty donuts when we lived in Texas.

Stop 10 – at Ross Bakery [we went to location a, there are 2 location options for this shop] we spent $2.75 [the most we spent on a single donut but it was a speciality donut] and got a Sugar Square and ended up saving it for dessert that night.

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We didn’t go up to shop 8 on the map, Oxford Doughnut Shoppe since it is an optional stop as of right now and we still had a solid 3+ hour drive left to get to our final destination in Indiana.  We do plan on completing this route again next year and I think we will add it in or maybe on our drive back home to North Carolina we will make a stop, haven’t decided just yet.  It makes me wonder though how many people don’t go out to the optional shop.  So if you’ve done the Butler County Donut Trail please comment and let me know if you did make the optional stop or not.

With our passport officially filled we headed over to the Butler County Visitors Bureau to collect our prize.  Well, my prize since again, I didn’t realize until we got to the visitors bureau that we needed one passport per person to get a shirt.  Again, luckily, my kids didn’t care, all the treats that morning were enough for them.

It took us around 3 hours total to complete the donut trail that day, even if we hadn’t gone to the one shop the night before it probably wouldn’t have added a significant amount of time onto our travels since it was very close to one of the other stops.  That’s the thing about this trail, there were a couple of times where we were barely done with our donut and had already arrived at the next stop!

Once you’ve completed the Donut Trail the fun doesn’t end there, now you’ve unlocked lots of fun discounts to various places throughout Butler County.  Check them out here.  

We do plan on completing the trail again next summer on our journey up to Indiana since the location is a decent break up of the entire trip.  As of right now I would like to also add in the Donut Trail GeoTour, which is 14 geocaches along the way and you get a GeoTour coin at the end.

Have you completed the Butler County Donut Trail or the Donut Trail GeoTour?  If so, share your adventure, did you have a favorite donut or shop?

 

The Final Three

Nearly a year ago we began our North Carolina State Parks Passport Adventure.  At first my goal was to visit all of the state parks while we are stationed at Fort Bragg.  We quickly began ticking off visits last summer and going on random adventures.  Then I started planning long weekends and school breaks around State Park visits.  Next thing I knew we had only three parks left to visit.  I was itching to complete the challenge in a calendar year but I honestly didn’t think we’d be able to pull it off.  It took multiple attempts to visit these final three parks.  We didn’t go in the winter time because after our last trip to the Blue Ridge mountains in the winter time it was clear that my van was a bit too old to handle the twisty slick roads of rural North Carolina.  I was going to wait and let the big goal go but I couldn’t.  So I set out a plan and booked hotels [no camping because honestly I was scared of bears] and then I had to cancel the reservations [actually Troy did all that leg work from abroad for me since he has the IHG rewards log in] because the weather was not looking so grand.  Most of the time I don’t mind the rain or a forecast of potential thunderstorms but again knowing my old van and the terrain it would have to enter I didn’t think it was a wise choice to attempt this trip in any sort of weather.  So I held off about a week and watched the forecasts like a mad woman.  We were running out of time in our calendar year but magically a couple of days of clear sunny skies shined through in that time frame and I went for it!  We would tackle our final 3 North Carolina State Parks in two days.

Our first stop was Gorges State Park #39 in our passport adventure:

cm190625-124717027  Gorges State Park is the furthest park from our house; nearly 300 miles away.  It took us over 5 hours to arrive at our destination with all our stops along the way.  This area of North Carolina is well known for its waterfalls.  After getting our passport stamped at the visitor center the park ranger suggested we attempt the Rainbow Falls Trail, their most hiked trail in the park.  We drove down to the other parking lot near the trailhead and had a picnic lunch of PB&J sandwiches [sunflower seed butter for me].  While we were eating I started to get nervous about the hike.  The trail map said “strenuous” but like the ranger had said it is their most hiked trail so there were lots of people coming off the trail; so every person who had just finished their hike I would talk to and get a feel of how strenuous the trail really was.  Every single person said “it was worth it” after a longer talk with another gentleman on the trail with his kids and some extra encouragement I decided ok we will go for it he reminded me of my own hat: wander often, wonder always.

The route was difficult, we had to cross a couple of streams, stepping carefully on rocks.  We had to go up and down tons of stairs and some spots that weren’t stairs.  Side stepping along the way, truly a strenuous route.  Yet all along the way there were other hikers offering words of encouragement and telling us how it was worth it and letting the kids know that they were doing a good job.  The closer we got to rainbow falls the more we could hear the rushing rapids.  We could even see some of them along the trail side.  After the final staircase we arrived at a bridge and got our first glimpse of the falls.  I saw that just a little more up ahead was an observation deck so we continued to hike on and chose that spot as our turn around point.  There are two other waterfalls on this trail but since it was just me and all the kids and we had already gone a strenuous mile and a half and had that distance to go back I made the call that we would turn around after rainbow falls.  Here’s my absolute favorite picture from the weekend, the kids staring in awe at the falls.

20190625_142642Pictures do not do rainbow falls justice at all!  It was spectacular!

20190625_173614Rainbow Falls truly lived up to all the hiker hype that “it was worth it.”

We enjoyed a little snack of an apple and then headed back to our van.  It was a strenuous hike for sure, we covered 3.5 miles with over 800 feet of elevation gain in about two hours.  When we made it back to the van the kiddos were ready for more snacks and to make our way to the hotel.  It was about an hour and a half to our hotel on the east side of Asheville.  Nothing fancy, we stayed at the Quality Inn, my goal for a hotel is to make sure there’s a continental breakfast; waffles or cinnamon buns make the kiddos happy.  I would have loved to camp in this area but again, bears, and just me, not doing it.  Even though I was absolutely exhausted I slept, or I really should say, didn’t sleep because Tedy was anxious in the hotel room.  He honestly tends to not do so great at hotels, oh the “joys of autism” so I got maybe 3 hours of broken sleep.

Day 2 we woke up and the kids enjoyed a full breakfast at the hotel before we took off on the Blue Ridge Parkway toward our next stop, Mount Mitchell State Park.  Note, GET GAS BEFORE YOU GET ON THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY – it is a scenic rural road and even though there are spots to get off and go into towns to get gas it’s better to gas up first and just not chance anything.  Also, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a very twisty road so if you’re one to get car sick, take something or this route may not be for you.  It took a bit over an hour to get our first stop of the day.

Mount Mitchel State Park #40 in our passport adventure:

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Honestly, the drive up to Mount Mitchell made me super nervous; I’ve mentioned my old van already right?!  We got our stamp at the visitors center and then drove the rest of the way to the summit parking lot.  I am incredibly thankful that I waited it out for a better weather day – it was bit cooler up at the summit of course since Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River.  It was breathtaking to be up in the clouds and to see clear into Tennessee and various other mountains.  Again, pictures simply do not do the breathtaking beauty of the mountains justice and it is where I find peace within my soul even though I was nervous about my van making it back down.

We didn’t do as much hiking at Mount Mitchell as I had wanted to but this is a park I know we will return to when Troy is back home.  Simply making it up to the summit and taking in all of the gorgeous views was enough for us that morning.  The history of Mount Mitchell is incredibly rich; it is also one of our nations very first state parks!

The drive down was nerve wracking for me; oh hello old van comments again, can you tell my van breaks and all of that make me a bit nervous.  We did make it safely down from the highest peak east of the Mississippi and continued north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to our final destination.

Again, the drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway is STUNNING!  It is a route that I would love to journey again some day and maybe even just stop along the parkway to camp and hike.  If you haven’t visited this National Park treasure I HIGHLY recommend doing so.

After another hour and a halfish long drive we arrived to our final destination, the final stamp in our North Carolina State Parks Passport Adventure!

Grandfather Mountain State Park #41

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It took us a bit to find the right spot to go hiking at this park because the office isn’t located in the park.  There’s also a Grandfather Mountain attraction but that costs money, way more money than I was honestly ready to spend on my kiddos for a little hike.  We ended up finding a trail that wasn’t too far from the interm office and hiked about 1.6 miles on another strenuous trail.  Even though the trail was longer I wasn’t comfortable going further because all of the bear signs made me nervous and we didn’t have any bear spray on us.

Even though I was nervous about bears because we didn’t see a bunch of people on the trail as we had the other two parks and there were some spots where you could tell there had been recent bear activity, it was a wonderful hike.  My kids are truly in their element when they are out hiking.  Even Audie does amazingly well for a kid who isn’t even 3 years old yet.  Tedy too, I have learned can actually read, he is good at pointing out which way to go on signs when I ask him to show us which trail we are following.  I am incredibly proud of my kiddos for all of the hiking they have done over the last year.

41 state parks – we did it!  With about a week to spare we accomplished our adventure goal!  The vast majority of the parks we went to it was just me and the kiddos too.  It was a pretty big thing for us to set out and do and I hope these posts have encouraged other families to get out there and explore!  Just because we have hit our goal doesn’t mean we are done.  We plan on making sure Troy visits all of the North Carolina State Parks as well.  We want to make sure we hike all of our local to us trails.  We want to go and have the kids earn Junior Ranger Badges and learn more and more about all of the different parks.  Our adventures are far from over, they’ve really only just begun!

20190626_211850Outfits – Day 1: Skirt Sports going places limited edition t-shirt and sanitas pants.  Day 2 – Coffee & Roadtrips & Trailheads & Friends & Adventure limited edition long sleeve shirt with high five skirt.  Trucker Hat by BOCO gear.  I am proud to be an ambassador for Skirt Sports, BOCO gear and Honey Stinger.  I do not receive monetary compensation for sharing these products with you, it’s just what I like to use.  You can use code: SSA303LIZ at Skirt Sports for a discount* [*some restrictions may apply].  For more adventures be sure to follow me on Instagram @RamblingMom

To the mother’s who didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day…

Disclaimer this blog post was emotionally heavy for me and could be a trigger if you’ve suffered a loss like mine but I feel like it’s a story that’s been haunting me because I haven’t shared much of it with others. I haven’t done my part well enough to break the stigma against pregnancy loss. Also please, do not comment on how I handled the situation at the time. I was in pain and didn’t understand what was happening to my body and why it was happening, no one prepared me for that night and I cannot rewind time and change my actions so please don’t make me feel any more guilty of them than I already do.

To the mother’s who didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day yesterday, know that I love you and support your motherhood journey. How did a mom get skipped over you ask? Well, her child is in heaven. She is a mother but her baby didn’t make it outside the womb. She is still very much a mother and I know [because I’m also a mother to an angel baby] that she has a deep love and remembrance for that child. A connection so strong that no one else can comprehend. She may not speak of that child but she thinks of him or her probably every single day. She holds back tears as people ask “When are you having kids? When are you having another kid?” For me it’s, “you have 5 kids how blessed you are or your hands must be full…”

My Ceci often wants to tell people there are 6 kids, she loves her sister in heaven. I say sister because Ceci is my rainbow baby and was the one to say “the baby before me was a girl named Jules.” When Ceci was born I felt a peace within me that I had never felt before. She had a huge birthmark on the back of her head and I used to think that my loved ones who went before me gave Ceci a kiss and that mark appeared as a sign to me saying “It’s ok Liz, this storm is over.” Spare me any of your other beliefs or scientific evidence against my theory please because sometimes even the scientific can’t exist without the mystic.

On this past Mother’s Day weekend as I write this and reflect on my life as a mother I think back on my regrets in life. Sophia asks me how I can live without regret and I tell her I only have two regrets in life really. One is that I wish I hired a better photographer for my wedding and that I had more pictures from that day but that’s a slightly silly regret and I know now that moving forward I’ll make sure all of my kids have amazing photographers when they get married or enter whatever vocation they choose in life. My second regret is one that haunts me on a regular basis. It was the night Baby Jules didn’t survive.

Jules was supposed to be born in early November of 2011. Instead, she arrived in mid-May. I had entered my second trimester with spotting. I had been told oh it’s ok that can be “normal” during pregnancy. The spotting got worse as the days went on. I was sent to ultrasound and told everything was ok but that her due date was off. The spotting continued and got heavier so I went into the ER. I was told there was nothing they could do. That everything would have to naturally take its course but that it appeared as if I was having a miscarriage [that’s not the term they used, I can’t use the terminology they used because it haunts me still]. I went home and the spotting continued. Then one night as I was on the toilet I felt like I had to poop. Except, I didn’t. My body expelled my baby into the toilet. I could see her teeny tiny little version of a body in the toilet and I cried and didn’t know what to do with her or myself. There was blood all over and after a while I was able to compose myself, clean myself up and flush. I went back into the ER and told them what had happened. There was nothing they could do. They left me completely alone, I waited at the ER for hours as my body continued to rid itself of any remains of that pregnancy. I had never felt so completely alone in my life. That was 8 years ago and I relive that night all too regularly. My biggest regret in life is not burying my child.

When I was pregnant with Audie I had severe antepartum depression. I was blessed to have an amazing counselor. During a hypnotherapy session one day she helped me to cope with my biggest regret in life. It’s one of my calls to the ocean now. When I go to the ocean I sense that my child is out there. Again, if you have any disagreement with me in this keep it to yourself please. Having that therapy session helped me to be able to live with what I had done. I know losing Jules wasn’t my fault and that I wouldn’t have my rainbow baby Ceci if that hadn’t happened but God I miss her and long for her daily. I know she watches over her mama.

I try so hard to not live with regret because it is something that brings me down too much. I can’t rewind time but I can move forward with the knowledge I have gained from the regrettable experience. For this one the knowledge is in support to others. To other mothers, I love you and support you and know that your motherhood pain is unique to you. Just please know you’re not alone. The knowledge is in sharing this story and helping to end the stigma surrounding not just pregnancy loss but also mental health. May is mental health awareness month. I am ever thankful for my therapist who after years of living in darkness with this regret helped to bring it into light for me. Again, know that you’re not alone and know that seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of in any circumstance and that it doesn’t matter how much time has gone by since your loss, seek assistance when needed to help you through those dark days. At the end of a storm, there is always a rainbow and I hope you find your rainbow. A storm may come again and again but always there will be light at the end. To the mother’s who didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day – I see you, I love you. ((Hugs))