Quick and Easy


It’s official, I’ve registered for the Vikingman half triathlon.

The swim is 1.2 miles (1.9km). The bike is 56 miles (90km). The run is 13.1 miles (21.1km). This is double the distance of the Spudman Tri I finished last weekend. I’ve wanted to do an Ironman for awhile. One of the things that has held me back is that I am not willing to stop running ultra’s to compete in triathlons. Last fall, two of my friends agreed to give it a try with me so I wrote up a plan and chose Tahoe Ironman 2015 as our goal race.

Is it possible to train for both an Ironman and 100 mile Ultra events? Guess we will find out.

Now, I’ve got to get faster on my bike.

We all want things to be quick and easy. That’s probably a little off, we want things immediately. Instant gratification is something I see in children, teens, and adults. It applies to all types of desires too. Money, fame, fitness, material possessions, education, you name it people want it and they want it right freaking now.

I fell prey to the desire for instant gratification this week, and I even searched the web for that quick and easy way. It took hours, all right days, for me to come to terms with reality, and accept my fate. I will have to put in the sweat and hours to get faster on my bike. I can’t just buy a new bike (although that would probably help a bit), and I can’t just do a few weeks of strength training, and voila I’m turbo the racing snail on my bike. I have to ride, ride, and ride. I’m going to have to ride hard and fast. I have to push myself with cycling just like I do with my running, if I want to get faster.

I found this realization rather entertaining because I know the truth of it completely I tell all the runners that I coach, if you want to get faster you have to run faster. I tell my children, others, and myself that nothing comes easy. You have to work for any goal worth achieving. Sky, my thirteen-year-old son, believes that he should be able to do everything instantly. Why does he believe this? Because he can understand the mechanics of how things work in his head. Unfortunately, what we can imagine in our minds does not translate immediately into the real world.

How great would it be if the Matrix movie idea of acquiring new knowledge and skills were true? Being able to just plug into a super virtual world/computer and have the mental and physical ability to do all that we can imagine would be phenomenal. I’m not so sure I would want all the outlets in the back of my head and spine though.

However, the value of many things is found not in achieving the goal, but the journey in reaching it. Reaching a goal requires strategies, time, dedication, ambition, and sacrifice. All of us have struggled and fallen flat on our faces, but we get up, and we are better people for it. We learn the value of both material and immaterial objects by having to work toward them.

Very inspiring Blogger Award


The Very Inspiring Blogger Award is here, thanks to Vik Tory Arch.

The rules are:

The nominee shall display the Very Inspiring Blogger Award logo on her/his blog, and link to the blog they got nominated from. The nominee shall nominate fifteen (15) bloggers she/he admires, by linking to their blogs and informing them about it.

Write three things that inspired you the most this week.

My nominees:


  1. http://bfattofit.wordpress.com
  2. http://disparatethreads.wordpress.com
  3. http://erikconover.com
  4. http://buttoni.wordpress.com
  5. http://pauljennynyc.wordpress.com
  6. http://changingchastain.wordpress.com
  7. http://boringbroadruns.wordpress.com
  8. http://april4june6.wordpress.com
  9. http://cristianmihai.net
  10. http://morganbradham.wordpress.com
  11. http://5kidswdisabilities.com/
  12. http://betternotbroken.com
  13. http://keithgarrettpoetry.com
  14. http://beatingtrauma.com
  15. http://formatbookinword.com/

Three things that inspired me most

  1. My children
  2. People struggling to achieve their greatness
  3. nature

And so it begins…


Left to right: Me, Mike, Katie, J$, Mike 2.0, Katie 2.0

Spudman Triathlon

Total time: 2:43:14

Swim 0.93 miles (1.5k) 21 minutes

T1 5 minutes

Bike 24.8 miles (40k) 1:18

T2 4 minutes

Run 6.2 miles (10k) 45 minutes

Spudman was an excellent first triathlon. A few of my friends were also participating, and I had friends thee supporting me.

We arrived in Burley, Idaho around 5pm and Swiss Miss and Gadget Gnome setup our tent on the golf course next to the river while I went and got body markings and checked in. J$ and I took our bikes and cycling gear to Transition One. We picked a spot where we could get in and out pretty easy.


Next was dinner with Gadget Gnome and Swiss Miss.  We went to a local soup sandwich and salad shop because I couldn’t eat the prerace dinner on my low-carb diet. After dinner, J$ and I took our running gear to Transition two and set it up. Gadget Gnome suggested we line it up with something outside of the transition area so we could find it. We lined it up with the Ice Chest.

Gadget Gnome told us about spotting while swimming and following the current. He is a river guide and knows a little about reading rivers. We sat in awe of Gadget Gnome and his great white beard.

040 Snake River

We all snuggled into our sleeping bags as the sun ducked behind the mountains. At four in the morning, the high school volunteers arrived. They did not use their inside voices. I suppose since they couldn’t see the rows of tents and sleeping athletes they just didn’t exist. As the sun came up, they quieted down.

Swiss Miss and I snuck out of the tent trying not to wake up her son and the Gadget Gnome.  Coffee is a necessary item in my prerace checklist and Swiss Miss had scoped out locations the night before.  I slammed my coffee fix mixed with chocolate isopure whey protein, pulled on my rubber duck suit, and prepared for battle.

EZ was in wave two at 7:10 am. We went down to the water to see her start. She was psyched. Once the gun went off, wave three filed into the corral. I was in wave three. I got into the water right off shore and waited for them to give the one-minute warning. At one minute till start, I swam out to where the current was. I didn’t want to get in too early because the current would push me across the starting line, or I would waste a lot of energy fighting the current to stay behind the start line.

The gun went off, and I glided through the water. I love the feeling of swimming, it’s the closest thing to flying you can get (jumping out of a plane is falling not flying!) I bumped into a couple of other swimmers, but it wasn’t a big deal. As I climbed out on the beach, I unzipped the rubber duck suit and made my way over to my bike.  I sucked down a Mama Chia pouch for some calories while I dried my feet, put shoes on, and buckled my helmet.

I had been warned that there are thorns in the gravel beside the road. I didn’t want to start with a flat tire. Sopping wet, I carried my bike out to the road and clipped into my peddles. Freaking Freezing! I was able to maintain about 20 mph on the bike. The bike is  my weakness in a Tri. I just don’t love the bike. I knew going into this that I had not spent enough time on the bike to get a good time, but I would be all right. I kept my cadence about 90-100 rotations per minute and resisted the urge to gear up to get more power, but a slower cadence, which would have sapped my legs for the run.

Tons and tons of athletes passed me on the bike. I was frustrated and humbled by their speed. It has also encouraged me to spend more time on the bike. Of course, the whole time I am thinking, oh it’s because my bike isn’t as awesome as theirs is. No, it is because I don’t ride as much as they do end of story.

I rolled into transition two and couldn’t find my stuff on the rack. I wandered for about a minute and then remembered the Ice Chest! Thanks Gadget Gnome, saved my scrawny butt yet again.  Pulled on my shoes and hat and out I went for the run.

Run, come on legs, we know how to do this. We do this all the time. Gadget Gnome had warned me that it takes a while for the legs to change from the rotation of the bike to the movements of running.  It took about a half mile for my legs to remember how much they love to run. I kept telling them, “This is your game, get in there and act like you can play!”  They responded and I was able to maintain a 7-7: 30 minutes per mile pace for the run.

044 I’m done!

Would I do it again? Hmmmm. Absolutely!

The appropriate question after I finish a race is how many more have you registered for? My typical pattern is to get home from a race, unpack, shower, stuff my face full of ice cream and pie (Race day= cheat on low-carb diet day), and register for another race.

So what is next? My heart is set on The Vikingman Half Ironman. Go big or go home, right? Who’s in?

Silver Lining

sunriseDo you see what’s around you? I mean really see it. Actually turn your head and look at things that are in the space that you occupy on a daily basis. Do you make an effort to enjoy the uniqueness of the world as you pass through it at any particular moment, knowing it will never be just the same again?

The vibration of my phone on the kitchen table pulled my attention away from the orange and white kitty wrapping herself around my leg.

“Here,” is all it said. Spongebunny had driven thirty miles from his house to mine to run speed work at six in the morning with me. He is fascinated and inspired by my ability to run the distance and speed that I do.

“I’m not that fast Robert,” I have always told him.

“Yeah, but you’re faster than me,” he said with a grin.

Three weeks ago, I wrote a training program for Spongebunny to help him prepare for our Epic Relay on August 8 and 9, 2014. The training program focuses on the two things I need from him for our team to be clear the cut off times set in the race.  Spongebunny needed to increase his speed on down hills and flats and improve his ability to climb.

I threw a weekly heat run into his training for good measure, but my primary concerns were climbing and speed. He drove to my house because he wanted to run speed work with me that morning.

I stepped out my front door, and my stomach sank. I had just locked myself out of the house. Shaking my head at my own stupidity, nothing I can do about it right now.  I bounced down the three crumbling steps of my porch to greet Spongebunny.

We trotted down the center of the road from my house.

“We’ll run easy to the high school which is about 0.8 miles from here,” I said.


“Once we get to the track we will run five 800s. I can tell you how fast the first one is, but after that my garmin averages out the pace between the slow 400s and the fast 800s, so it’s not real accurate.”


Once we reach the track, I set my water bottle down on the side. I scurried over to the start line and I put the hammer down. Spongebunny kept up during the first loop arund the track.

“6:00 min per mile pace,” I called out as we began the second loop.


Spongebunny kept up for the second loop. As soon as we crossed that start line, I dropped into a recovery pace of probably ten-minute miles. Spongebunny was gagging and choking a little.

“I’m not going to throw up,” he said.

“Just keep moving don’t stop and don’t put your hands on your knees dropping your head down. If you stop, your blood pressure will plummet and it will make you more nauseous or you could pass out.”

When we reached the starting line again, we took off for our second 800. Near the end of the second loop Spongebunny started to drop off.

“You’re doing great,” I said slowing my pace way down. “Do you have allergies?”

“No, why?” he asked.

“Because people with allergies come down with cold symptoms after hard workouts if they are not use to it. It’s called exercise induced rhinitis.”


“Yep. I get it if I’m not consistent in doing my speed work.”

We crossed that start line and again I increased our pace. Spongebunny slowed a quarter of the way into the second loop.

Once he caught his breath, he asked, “How does this help us?”

I laughed. “It teaches your body to run faster. When you push the limit of what it can do, the limit changes and you can push harder. It also prepares you mentally because you will be able to remember how this feels and know how hard you can push yourself.”

Fourth 800. Spongebunny slows three quarters of the way through the first loop.

“I’m glad it is your rest week,” he said with a laugh as we round the corner on the recovery loop.

“You’re welcome to come up next week when I do eight of these.”

He stared at me, cogs turning inside his head. “Okay.”

“Last one,” I said. Spongebunny slowed a little before the first bend. My legs burned on the second loop, like an old familiar friend. I walked back and forth waiting for him to finish. He crossed the line and shuffled over to me.

“Did you see the sunrise?” I asked. Pink, yellow, and orange light stretched into the soft blue of the dawn filling the canyon and space between the deep green trees with warmth and life.

Spongebunny stared at me for a second and then shook his head. I smiled and began the trek back to my house.

“Always finding the silver lining,” he said.

Flash Fiction Friday: Boxed Princess


Sally Montgomery sat cross-legged on the floor of the attic, like a five-year-old on the first day of kindergarten gazing up with barely contained anticipation and excitement at her teacher who might as well unfurrow her white feathered wings because she knows they’re tucked away beneath the autumn dress. Sally wasn’t five any longer, but she knew that feeling. She had just turned six.

Long undisturbed dust bunnies huddled between cardboard boxes and in corners hoping to escape discovery. A porcelain doll lay in Sally’s lap. Golden brown glass eyes stared up at her framed in long honey silk hair. Rosy cheeks, a small nose, and perfect coral lips were strangers to her, but familiar too. It had her eyes, but the hair was like her mothers. Sally’s was raven like her daddy.

She laid the doll to the side, pushed back the flaps of the opened box before her, and peered inside. Her forearm brushed the fuzzy edge of the box as she withdrew a pair of pink ballet slippers. The toes were a bit worn and faded. A pink ribbon two shades brighter than the slipper coiled around her fingers as she rubbed the soft fabric between her thumb and forefinger. Sally sat back on her pockets. Pulling off her sneakers, she slid her foot inside one of the slippers. She wrapped the ribbon around her calf, like she had seen in pictures of ballerinas. It fit perfectly. Sally rotated her foot to get the full view of it. A little piece of a beautiful dream.

Reaching into the box again, she pulled a blue gown free. It unfolded like waves of the ocean. Realizing she was holding it by the skirt, she quickly turned it over. It glistened in the sunlight from the solitary window far above her head. She suppressed a small giggle and glanced toward the trap door. Her mother didn’t know she was up here. She wasn’t supposed to be in the attic alone.

Sally pulled off her cut-off jeans and t-shirt and flung them on the floor in a heap. She pulled the gown on over her head. The hem tickled the top of her foot. She spun in a circle billowing the skirt. She spread her arms out wide feeling the currents of air flow around her. This movement threatened to transport her far away to a palace surrounded by emerald rolling hills.

Before she fell into the land of the fairy, Sally reached into the box once again. She retracted it quickly upon receiving a sharp poke. She got to her knees and looked into the box. A silver tiara lay before her. A smile sprung to her lips. The sparkle of the gems reflected the joy in her eyes. She unbound her raven hair from the bun her mother had put in this morning releasing the coconut of her shampoo. She placed the tiara on her long wavy hair.

Sally laughed as she pulled the last object out of the box, a set of white feathered wings. She put her arms through the loops and the wings rested against her back like a backpack. She skipped around the room again and again.

The fairy world could no longer be held back, Sally was whisked away to the white spired palace and rolling hills. White wisps floated in the sky stretching until they disappeared into the blue. Towering trees with grey green bark and star shaped lemon-lime leaves fluttering in the wind stood just to her right.

An apricot mare shook its walnut mane and tail below the canopy of leaves and bony branches. Sally wondered whose horse it could be, but then she knew. It was hers. Everything in this world was hers, the violet flowers and baby’s breath. Even each sprig of grass and sparkling crystal was her own. She was after all, the fairy queen.

She swung her leg over the mare’s bare back. Gripping the mane in her fingers, Sally rode into the forest. Her eyes darted across all the wondrous sights. The ground was covered with rotting branches and leaves. A soft blanket of moss covered the trunks of trees. The sun’s rays twinkled across the ground like stars in the night sky. Soon Sally was deep into the forest and wasn’t sure she could find her way out, but that was the child speaking inside her not the queen. The queen always knew the way.

The mare came to a stop before a turquoise pool dotted with Lilly pads. Above the pool, the canopy opened up allowing the yellow warmth of the sun to reach the surface of the water. Sally dropped to the ground from the back of the mare. She breathed in the fresh moist air.

A ripple moved across the mirrored surface as if a drop of water had fallen. Sally couldn’t pull her eyes away.  Something lay beneath the surface. She could see purple and crimson light dancing along the bottom. She took a step into the warm water. She glanced around. The horse nudged her with its velvet nose.

Sally took another step and then another. Her gown rose with the water. She pressed it down. The lights below began to swirl around her feet. The water was to her belly button. She pushed her hands through the water feeling it glide smooth over her fingers. Her movements were slowing. She was getting tired.

Sally slipped below the water. She sank lower. The water pressed in on her chest. She couldn’t breathe. She watched the bubbles rise. Little ones at first and then they became larger until they were gone.

“Sally?” her mother called from beneath the attic trap door. “Sally you better not be up there.”

She peeked over trying to catch Sally in some mischief, but she wasn’t there. Only two dolls lay next to an open box. She picked up the one in a blue gown and glanced around the room. Where was Sally?

Thank You Gadget Gnome


Graditude:A feeling of thankfulness and appreciation.

Gratitude is in short supply these days. People go through life with a sense of entitlement to all of their basic needs and much more. They walk through life believing that others should step aside for them and provide them with all they desire. I see this in nearly every aspect of my life.

Without my friends and family, I would fall flat on my face more often than not. Even with their help, I struggle at times. I know I don’t tell them enough how much I appreciate their assistance, their ear, and their advice.

We fail to realize how interdependent we all are, especially in this technologically advanced world. In the United States, there are few truly independent self-sufficient people. We depend upon one another for our food, shelter, safety, entertainment, and health.

I have a small garden, but it would not feed my family. I own my home, but I can’t do everything to maintain it nor did I build it. I rely on the police and military to maintain the safety of my neighborhood and country. Movies and books are my primary sources of entertainment. I can be aware of what I eat, and my exercise habits, but if I feel like crap I go to a doctor to make it better.

In this ever increasingly interdependent world, I want to say thank you to all of those who provide those little things that go unnoticed by so many on a daily basis, including by me.

My friend, Gadget Gnome, knows a lot about many different things because he has worn many hats during his lifetime. He embodies all of the typical gnome characteristics: always smiling, welcoming, willing to lend a helping hand, always has the right tools or knows where to get them, and watches out for your best interest.

Treat your Gnomes well so they don’t rebel.

strike gnome

During my inaugural triathlon adventure, he has been a fountain of information. He introduced me to total immersion swimming, watched me swim, and provided advice for my technique. He has given me advice on my cycling and helped maintain my bike.  He put together this list of things/gear to consider for a Triathlon for himself, but shared it with me and said I could share it with all of you.

swim gnome running gnome bike gnome


Pump for bike tires.

Bike tools.

Cash for parking.



Registration receipt.

Pre-race food, nutrition, drink.

Identification or Driver’s License



Bike shoes (may be running shoes?)

Bike socks.

Bike gloves.

Rear-view mirror.

Sun glasses or riding glasses. Glasses in a case. Have rear view mirror already on glasses.

Aero water bottle.

1 water bottle.

Several packets of electrolyte replacement.

Several GU packets.

Water to remove mud/sand from feet if needed.

Small towel to dry feet if needed.




ID belt. With number already on it, several GU packets in pocket.

Running shoes.

Running socks (may be socks from bike ride).

Running hat or visor or hair control band.

1 water bottle.

Several packets of electrolyte replacement.

Several GU packets.


Put these in the transition bag.

Safety pins to put number on belt (they do not always have them).

Sharpie (to put number on if line to long).

Sun lotion.

Bug juice.


Jacket/clothing per weather.

A few bandages.

Spare car key in bag.

Wallet and/or phone (in bag or friend).

Spare swim goggles.

Spare swim cap.

Spare socks.

Some cash.

Paper and pen.

Some bike tools.

Possibly a small brush to clean transition area.

Towel(s) to put on ground to protect helmet and possibly sit on

Flashlight to setup in the dark.

5 gallon jug to sit on and carry stuff

Water bottle to spray water on feet, or bucket to wash in.



Believe the impossible is possible.

I never thought I would say this, but I am glad that this week is a rest week. I am dropping my miles by 25% to let my body recover and rebuild. I normally loath rest weeks and try to fit in as much as possible regardless of what is written on my training schedule (not recommended).

This last week, however, has left me exhausted. I was once again the on call attorney for my day job and now hold the record for the most cases to come in over a one-week period. I’m always worried I will miss an emergency call in the middle of the night, so I never sleep well during my on call week. While at the office, I usually get some down time to just wrap my head around what is going on, but not this past week. I was constantly working on some new problem from the moment I walked until after I left for home.

Sky(13) was camping with his grandparents, which would make you think that life was easier since I was short one child, but it didn’t. I tried to get more things done since I didn’t have to worry about leaving him home. Jazz(17) works weekends and spends a lot of time away from home with friends and sports. I track him by text and phone calls.

After work Friday, I went to the store to buy everything to make breakfast pizza (recipe below it’s awesome) for my relay team meeting on Saturday. Once home, I made dinner and the breakfast pizza.

Three bags laid across the floor in the living room, while I gathered all my trigear. Bike helmet, shoes, gloves, and glasses went in one. Running shoes, garmin, hat, race belt, and road ID went in another. Wetsuit, swim cap, and goggles were tossed into the third.

Tossing all the bags into the front of my car, I popped the trunk and pulled the latch allowing the back seat to lie down. My bike slid in without any problems. I went to bed around 11:00 pm. Jazz came home from work at 11:30 pm sending both dogs into a barking whirlwind from under the blanket.

“Mom, can I go to Belle’s (named changed to protect the innocent), it’s her birthday and we are going to have cake and ice cream with a few people,” Jazz asked. Belle is his girlfriend.

“Sure Jazz, but don’t be too late,” I mumble from the dark.

12:10 am Jazz came home, whirlwind of barking dogs began again. Who really needs more than three hours of sleep anyway.

Saturday morning I rolled out of bed at 330 am to get a 25 mile run in. I was out the door by 4:00 am. Finished my run at 8:00 am, I chugged some whey protein and coffee down, showered and pulled on my triathlon suit.

I was supposed to be to Swiss Miss’s by 830 am, but I didn’t make it until 910. We went for a three mile run with Foreman Grill around the park. We had to be back by ten for the relay team meeting.

second runLeft to right: Swiss Miss, Foreman Grill, and me.

Breakfast pizza, an omelet roll, watermelon, muffins, and raspberry pastries were set on the table. Plates were passed around and a silence came over what was a very chatty group only moments before. After shoving food in my face, I went over the rules for our next relay and answered questions.

From there Swiss Miss and I drove up to East Canyon reservoir, so I could try out my wetsuit. The beach was crowded with kayaks, paddleboards, and people. I realized that there was nowhere for me to be able to practice the transition from swim to bike and bike to run.

I pulled on my rubber duck suit and the shiny new bright yellow swim cap Swiss Miss bought for me. She wanted to be able to see me in the water oh and the boats needed to see me too. Having never done many open water swims, I had not realized that a bright colored swim cap was important. Duh!

rubber duck

I swam back and forth in the swim area of the reservoir for about an hour dodging children, paddleboards, kayaks, and a bunch of teens on a ginormous blow up island with slides. Two hundred other swimmers will be getting in the water with me at Spudman Tri, so the obstacle course of boats and people was great practice.

After the swim, we met up with some other friends and went downtown to try to ride the Slide the City 1000 foot slide set up in the middle of the street. Slide the city 2  Image at KSL.com

Unfortunately, you had to have tickets and an appointment to be able to slide. Not knowing we needed them, we were unable to slide. We will have tickets for next year.

Swiss Miss wanted to do some shopping so we walked through the mall and then went to the sidewalk sale to have unicorns drawn on our arms. UnicornsThat’s me smack dab in the middle. Why Unicorns? Because you have to believe the impossible is possible. This was the second unicorn of the weekend for Swiss Miss and me.

I finally got home around 7:00 pm made dinner and crashed.

At 4:30 am I got up and ran 15 miles, loaded the dogs into the car and drove 4 hours to pick up Sky from my parents. I had lunch with my parents and realized how much I needed a break in the quiet of the mountains listening to the wind blow through the aspen trees, the river rumble over the rocks, and the smell of the pine trees.

Sky and I finally got home at 6:00 pm, I made dinner, and enjoyed my youngest son’s company, which I had missed for the past five days.

Breakfast Pizza

1 lb pork breakfast sausage

large tomato chopped

2 scallions chopped

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

3 eggs whipped

1 cup smoked gouda cheese

Directions: Turn Oven on to 350 degrees. Press breakfast sausage into bottom of 8×8 baking pan. Dump whipped eggs on top. Sprinkle with tomatoes, mushrooms, and scallions. Top with cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Flash Fiction Friday: Tree Wizard


The sun pierced the old man’s pale blue eyes despite the brim of his grey hat. The frayed hem of his grey robes rustled last year’s crumbling underbrush, as his quick steps pressed into the carpet of damp decaying brown leaves.

Yellow beaked blackbirds swooped low and chortled at his invasion of their woods so near their nest of chicks. Towering oaks and maple trees crowded against the single-track trail zig zagging lazily up the sunbaked side of Mount Klymene.

Abbernak giggled at the silly little feather heads and kept his pace steady toward his ramshackle home. For home was where he was bound, even if it was only for a moment. The rest among familiar smells and sounds would do his body and mind good.

Stopping at the edge of a small clearing, Abbernak listened. A redtail hawk screeched and dove after a cottontail among the purple and white wild flowers. The emerald green leaves rustled in the breeze. Abbernak scanned the world that stood before him and stepped into the clearing.

His tree was cuddled against the bend of a sparkling creek. The melody of water over the smooth stones reminded Abbernak of quieter times long past. He turned and again scanned the clearing, never can be too careful these days.

A glint of light lashed out of the ancient gnarled trees causing him to freeze. Standing stalk still he listened, the morning birdsong continued to drift among the branches, and the far off rustling of creatures scavenging the underbrush reached for his ears. Shaking his head, he placed a wrinkled hand on the equally wrinkled bark of the tree.  Closing his eyes, he whispered the familiar magic words, and stepped into his home.

A wooden staircase wound its way into the earth. With each confident step of Abbernak’s feet the luminescent moss clinging to the walls of the corridor brightened. At the bottom of the stairs stood a walnut door.It swung open without a sound. He stood there a moment and breathed in the sage, rosemary, and cedar.

A simple straw mattress lay to one side of the room along with four trunks, which contained mostly leather bound books filled with yellowed pages of elemental spells and creature conjuring.

From one of his many pockets, Abbernak pulled a set of small black iron keys. He fit one into a trunk. Neglected hinges gave a sigh of relief as he rested the lid against the wall. He was sure that the book he needed was in this trunk. One after another, the books rose from the trunk and rested on the floor in a neat stack. There it is, he thought. The deep crimson book with a charcoal eight pointed chaos star imbedded on the cover stared back at him.

I never thought I would need you, he thought. At least I had hoped I would never have to turn your pages in more than a casual interest. Times had changed indeed, if a son of neutrality was willing to sink his mind into pandemonium for a mere chance of a better life.  Perhaps he was mad, as all the other wizards of his order believed. Madness had a certain strength about it, for within madness was creation and destruction dancing hand in hand.

Abbernak sat upon the dirt floor, picking his teeth with a bit of stick contemplating the runes on the delicate pages. The runes skittered across the page until he placed his bony finger in the center and spoke an ancient word. He spent many hours hovered over the book. Page after page of spells swirled in his mind like a whirlwind. Thoughts careening into one another and weaving intricate nonsensical patterns that threatened to strip his grip on reality all together.

A crack like that of lightening striking a tree reverberated within his skull. Abbernak sunk to his knees, yanking at his matted brown hair, and choking on his own saliva. Then there was silence so deafening, Abbernak thought his ears were stuffed with wax.

A darkness descended upon the forest like a fog as thick as amber tree sap. Abbernak had not noticed until now that he was holding his breath. He let it out and began to climb the stairs to the surface.

The moon shone upon the world in a solitary beam of white light in the small clearing. He felt her presence before he saw her watching him from the shadows. The deep-set feline eyes of the necromancer sent ice dripping down Abbernak’s spine.

“All your brothers have fallen before me, begging for their souls,” she purred.

“You’ve tipped the scales too far, Nightlark,” Abbernak said, a hint of sadness creeping into his baritone voice.

“You and your balance. You are no different than the rest of the grey robes.”

“Balance can only be maintained so long as there is equal effort on both sides.”

“Then you have already failed, because the Shadow realm has made a snack out of the Light.” She stepped into the clearing. Purple robes gently waving in the fog surrounding her. Her golden eyes began burrowing into his heart. He gagged and fought for air. At last, she withdrew laughing.

“What is left for you now that your precious balance has been devoured?” she asked as she sent black mass of nebulous smoke gliding in his direction. He moved toward the heart of the clearing. His body was relaxed and his mind quiet.

“New growth,” he said.

His eyes flashed sapphire and green flames crackled in his hands. The flame arched and morphed into red lightening, and then contracted like a coiled snake. All the air in the clearing pulled into center. The fabric of time was wrenched open and chaos spread its great webbed wings.

Nightlark’s voice escaped her and her golden eyes locked on Abbernak. Thunder rumbled across the deep grey sky as the tree wizard released Chaos into the world.

Open Water Swim

polarbear1130 Image by robaquatics.com

Crap, I’m going to be late, I think to myself. Tapping my fingers and listening to my audiobook doesn’t make the traffic go any faster. Orange barrels dot the side of Interstate 15 as they do every summer. I just don’t understand how this road needs construction every freaking year. I’ve been making this 25 mile drive to and from work every day for seven years and every year there is road construction.

“I might be a little late,” I text Jeff.  I drop all my stuff onto my kitchen counter. The dogs dance between my feet as I try to remember everything I need to take for my first open water swim.

I open the door and they propel their bodies on their three-inch legs around the corner of the house along their well-worn trail in the grass, streaks of black and apricot fur and flapping ears.

Trisuit, check.

Goggles, check.

Swim cap, check.

Flip-flops, check.

Clothes to change into after the swim, check.

I think that’s it. One third of a cup of dog food is trickled into each little bowl. The screen door rattles as Ignacious jumps on it. “Hey mom let us in.” Annabelle yips and then sets her tail wagging causing a rippling effect all through her miniature body.

I hate to leave them right after I get home. It breaks my heart. They’ve been waiting for me all day.

“I’m sorry guys. I have to get this swim in before the race,” I said looking from Ignacious’s emerald green eyes to Annabelle’s golden brown ones.

Jeff, Mike, and I drive up to Pine View Reservoir, Jeff voicing his concerns about the swim, and me silently contemplating mine. We park at the dock. Putting on the wetsuit was not as bad as I had made my think it would be. I’ve totally got this, I think to myself. The swim of the triathlon has me nervous and has been a major obstacle to me registering for any tri. I feel crowded in a lane with one other person. At the tri, I’ll have to get in with two hundred other people around me, kicking and circling arms.

With flip-flops thwacking my heels, I walk down to the edge of the water. I feel like a whale in my borrowed wetsuit. It is a size too big for me, which means that water will be getting inside. Mike points to a white buoy out past an island.

“I think if we swim out there and back it should be about a mile,” he says. It looks really far away.

“That one way out there?” Jeff asks. He’s as nervous as I am. Breathing deep, I slip my foot into the luke warm water my toes seeking the rocks I know are going to be on the bottom of the lake. Soft sand wraps around them instead. I take a few steps feeling with my feet. I find the rocks, and then I find the edge where the earth drops away.

I glance back at Jeff who is getting in with as much trepidation as I am. I grin at him, crouch, and reach out with my right arm gliding along the surface of the water.

Art told me I would float with a wetsuit, but wholly crap I’m like a rubber ducky!

I stretch my left arm out and put my face into the water. One, two, three breathe. One, two, three breathe. I catch my arms dropping too early and try to hold it up, but my body is rolling to each side more than usual. My arm drops to try to balance me out.

Slow and steady, get your body under control, I tell myself. I relax and fly through the gentle waves. Rolling to my back I check to where Jeff and Mike are, I’m not waiting. Rolling back over, I stroke toward the bouncing buoy.

Every so often, I pull my head up out of the sienna colored water and lock onto the buoy. Once I reach it, I turn around and roll onto my back. Clumps of white cotton lie scattered in the sky as it does on my living room floor after the dogs have gotten a new stuffed toy.

The shore rises to meet me much sooner than I wanted. I stand up and water runs down my legs. Jeff and Mike are starting back toward shore from the buoy. Waiting for them to come back in is not my idea of fun, so I get back into the water and swim out to them.

Once we are all three on shore, we go up to the truck for some watermelon and water.

“We ought to swim out to the point on the island and back just to practice a little more,” Mike suggests.

The sun is setting behind the mountains when we reach the small island, as it dips below the peaks we slip back into the darkening water and race back to the mainland.

The swim was a huge boost to my confidence. My own wetsuit arrived today, and I’m going to try it out on Saturday. The gentle rolling waves is calling to me…



The lenses through which we see the world are colored by our prior experiences in life. We are able to choose how we see situations and how we respond to them.

Choosing one’s perspective is one of the most powerful and effective parenting skills I have ever learned.

My arms were full of books, my lunchbox, and writing materials. I struggled to get the backdoor open. The dogs darted out the door between my feet. I pushed my way in and dumped my stuff on the dining room table.

“Hi bud, I’m home,” I called into the house.

“Are you ready to go Sky?” I asked my thirteen-year-old son. He stared at me blankly from the walnut brown loveseat.

“You have a doctor’s appointment in fifteen minutes,” I said. “Get your shoes and socks on, please. We need to leave.” I tossed him his shoes. He stood up and then stopped.

“I’m not going unless you take me to Game Stop,” he said. (Game stop is a video game store).

“You don’t have money for Game Stop.”

“Grandma gave you my twenty dollars yesterday.”

“Sorry, you owed me that from a month ago when you used money without asking.”

“You can’t just take my money.”

“I’m not just taking it. We talked about this when you earned it from grandma, and you agreed to give it to me because you took my money without asking. Get your shoes on we need to leave.”

“I’m not going.” He folded his arms across his chest and plopped into the couch.

“You will have to pay the cancelation fee.”

“I’ll only go if you take me to game stop.”

“I’m not taking you to game stop and I am leaving.” I walked out the door. I called for the dogs to come into the house.

The dogs ran into the house when Skyler opened the door to get in the car.

“I’m not answering any questions, and it better not take very long,” Sky said slamming the car door and buckling his seatbelt.

“Okay, but it will take longer if you don’t cooperate.”

In the lobby of the office, he sat curled into a ball on a chair in the corner lips pursed and eyebrows knitted together. He wrapped his arms around his knees glowering at everyone who walked passed.

“Hello, Skyler,” Dr. Davis said. Skyler stalks past to the office.

“Sky we need your height and weight come back in this other room, please,” I said and beckon him with my hand.

“No.” He sits in a chair in the hallway, folds his arms, and crosses his legs. He smiles.

“Has he grown? He seems a lot taller,” Dr. Davis said from in a small room with a scale.

“Yes, he has grown a lot actually,” I said.

“He looks thinner too,” Dr. Davis said. “I’m not sure how this measures height.”

“I can do it,” Skyler says popping out of the chair.

“129 lbs. 5 feet and 4 inches. Wow, you’ve grown two inches,” I said. “One more inch and you will be as tall as me.”

“Then I can pat you on the top of the head,” he said.

“Yes,” I said wrapping my arm around his shoulders.

He answered all of Dr. Davis’ questions, and we were able to leave within fifteen minutes. He didn’t ask about Game Stop the rest of the night. He was happy and compliant.

Skyler frequently demands that other’s met his needs in this manner.

Some parents and most people looking in from the outside of our family would see Skyler’s behavior as disrespectful and manipulative, and it certainly is that but it is also much more. It is a hurt child trying to get what he wants in an immature and hurtful way. I can choose to see him as a disrespectful manipulative child, or I can choose to see him as a child who is hurting and lacking in skills.

I can choose to respond to Skyler’s words, tone, or to the emotions underlying both of these. If I want to change my son’s behavior in the long run, I have to respond to his emotional need first and then address the words he uses and finally his tone.

What did Skyler need? He needed love and attention. He had been home by himself (13 years old) while I was at work, and he needed to know I cared about him. For Skyler, gifts make him feel loved. So, that was what he demanded to fill the void created by being alone.

If I had yelled at Skyler and demanded that he treat me with respect, he would have lashed out at me, and he would have felt rejected and unloved. He would not be willing to listen to me about how to ask for things in a more appropriate way.

By addressing his emotional state first, I free up his mental resources so he will able to hear and respond to what I say about the words he uses. The tone will have to be addressed at another date and time. Baby steps.