When Mom died.

It was a cold, freezing rainy Monday night in January- the 15th day of 2018, to be exact.

I came home from a City Council meeting and, as a pregnant lady, I was exhausted and achy.

Laying down on the couch with Brian was exactly how I wanted to relax! We were under a big down blanket and were watching Netflix. It was after 10 o’clock, and we were usually in bed with our phones turned off by then, but we were still up on this particular night.

My phone was sitting on the coffee table, and it rang, catching us by surprise. It was my mom’s husband, Bill, saying, “Your mom fell, and you should come visit. The ambulance took her to the hospital.”

I asked for more information but he reiterated she had fallen and we should go to the hospital to see her. It was so icy outside that I assumed she’d fallen when walking across the driveway to my grandparents’ home, and maybe she hurt her elbow or shoulder or knee? We packed up our things and got in my Subaru, then headed up to Wausau. I-39 was very slippery, so we took our time, and we were worried but still pretty calm. In hindsight, that was a huge gift. If I had known how serious things were, the drive would have been a nightmare.

When we arrived at Saint Claire’s, we were the first ones there. That was a big surprise for me, since my family lives so much closer than we do, and the icy roads made the drive 45 minutes long. Someone ushered us back into a small room, The Quiet Room, telling another staff person that Patient Number Two’s family had arrived. Looking around the room, I immediately knew something was wrong, and I instinctively put my hand on my baby bump. The doctor came in and asked us what had happened to my mom. The doctor looked very concerned, so I was alarmed, because I didn’t really know what had happened. I passed along the information that she had fallen but that was all I knew. Different people stopped in the room, and they asked me two or three times, “So, what happened tonight?”

The air became so heavy in that little room and I knew something was terribly wrong. “Brian, call my aunts. All of them. Call someone.”

I asked to see my mom, and they said they needed to see if it was OK for me to see her. My heart sank. Why would they need to check? Check on what?

“She is in extremely critical condition.”

I don’t remember much that happened after that. At some point my grandparents and Bill arrived. I was so upset, but my grandpa didn’t know what was going on because he cannot hear. He saw me holding my baby bump, and asked loudly, “Is the little kicker moving?” He smiled at me… and I nodded yes, even though that was a lie… I hadn’t been able to feel Teddy move yet. Extremely critical condition.

At some point, the rest of my family (my aunts and uncles) started arriving. I have no idea how much time elapsed, but I was shocked that they were already there. I don’t know when the doctors came and brought me back, but I remember holding Brian’s hand and just knowing the worst was coming. When we entered the ER room (maybe room number three on the left?), she was laying on a stretcher with a large compression machine on top of her chest.

I was so scared.

She looked awful.

The machines were large and loud. Lots of air inflating sounds and beeping. The CPR machine looked violent, and her small 5’2″ frame jerked with each compression.

Looking at her face, I knew she was gone. I immediately grabbed her hand and put it on my bump. I desperately wanted her to feel Teddy in there. In hindsight, I don’t know why I did that. Of course, I am devastated that my mom is not here for my pregnancy, labor, for Teddy’s life. I don’t know why I wanted her to feel my bump, but that was what I did.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Everyone came to visit in that room, and everyone cried. It felt like I was having an out of body experience, and I couldn’t believe where I was or what was happening.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Since both of my grandparents are hard of hearing, they often speak very loudly because they cannot hear themselves. I could hear my grandma loudly talking in the hallway, “I’m worried about the baby. What if she loses the baby?” I know she meant well, and that worry was probably already on the minds of everyone, including me. One of the nurses (or doctors, maybe?) realized I was pregnant and brought me some water and a chair. She said that I really needed to focus on hydration. I’d cried a lot already. I took a few shaky sips out of that small crinkly plastic water bottle.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Eventually, the ER doctors asked my mom’s husband what we should do with my mom. She would never recover. Machines were the only thing keeping her alive, and we all knew it. Bill said that the decision was up to me, which was overwhelming at the time, but a very kind gesture. I made the decision to turn the machines off, and she died very soon afterwards. I held her delicate little hand until she started getting cool.

Things got very strange.

Apparently after someone dies in the ER, the hospital immediately asks you what funeral home you want to use. I was completely shocked, and I had no idea. Funeral. Home. Funeral home. Funeral home?

I don’t know any funeral homes.

It has been a long time since I lived up there. My grandma has a local funeral home director in her rosary group, so she suggested that we use that facility. I agreed, without even realizing what a serious (and expensive!) decision we had made. The doctor said we could stay as long as we wanted to, but eventually you have said everything you can say and you feel like you should leave…

But where would we go?

What would we do?

What would happen to Mom?

Would I see her again?

We were escorted out to the lobby and we stood there, completely lost. I was wide awake, even though it was 3 o’clock in the morning. We called the nurse line for my OB/GYN, and asked them what I could do to help myself calm down and sleep. They recommended Benadryl, so Brian and I drove to the store.

Walmart was the only store that was open, and being a Target girl myself, I can’t tell you the last time I was in a Walmart store. We walked around aimlessly for a while, and I was lost in a very weird place in my mind. I have a lot of memories with my mom, and some of them were in a Walmart. I cried remembering shopping there with Mom. This phenomenon happened over and over for months. I’d do something that I once did with Mom, or go somewhere that I once went with her, or use something that she once used, and I’d go into a tailspin of tears.

I couldn’t believe that my mom was gone- it felt like the last couple hours were a terrible dream or something.

I remember texting my best friend Amy at 4 AM that night, as we drove past Log Cabin on the way home, to tell her that my mom had died. I did not expect a response, although she was awake with Baby Lyra. In hindsight, that’s a ridiculous thing to text someone in the middle of the night. Thanks for reassuring me, Amy.

On the way home, I got a call from the Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin, wanting to know if we would donate my mother’s corneas. It was probably during the 4:00 hour. She was an organ donor, and they wanted to know if they could send someone for her eyes. Everything was so overwhelming, but this seemed like something that we needed to do, so we agreed. I had to answer a lot of questions and didn’t know all the answers. I tried not to get overwhelmed but in that moment, I couldn’t remember when she had elbow surgery and I didn’t know what mediations she was on.

So much had happened in such a short period of time, but this organ donation was a small bright spot.

When we got home to Stevens Point, I just laid in bed and cried myself to sleep.

Somehow, our close friends and family found out what had happened, and the preparations for Mom’s funeral were put into place. The next day, I sat on the couch in our little home, binge watching Will & Grace. As I grieved, I found comfort in rewatching old sitcoms.

My friend, Amanda, had lost her own mother to cancer while Amanda was pregnant. She drove up from Madison and was sitting next to me on that couch. She was such a blessing, as she helped prepare me for the difficult decisions to come. I’ll write more about that process (and share all the questions that I wish I could have asked my mom) in another blog post in the future. I don’t know that people in their 30s are prepared for this kind of thing, and there is a lot that I would have done differently if I knew then what I know now.

Eventually, I had to go back to the ER to pick up my mom’s personal items. She had some cash and change in the pocket of her black jeans, and I had to go get it from the security office in person. Horrifying.

I cried so much during this time that I developed severe pain in my eye, from my tear ducts being so irritated and swollen and the natural oils being too diluted by the excess tears. I didn’t know that was even possible. I’m thankful that we have a good eye doctor to take care of my vision.

The OB/GYN staff under Dr. Stoffel was incredible. Not only did the on call doctor call me the night Mom died to talk to me about Benadryl and hydration, they let me come in the following day to hear Teddy’s heartbeat. I came in twice that week, and every week after that until he was viable. They took such good care of me, knowing everything we’d gone through to get pregnant and how worried I was that something had happened to him because of my grieving.

I cannot think Brian enough for taking care of everything during this time. He took care of me, the house, the dog, calling and talking to everyone, arranging for meetings, and making sure that everything else was taken care of. At some point, I shifted into work mode, and was able to help take care of logistics of the funeral, despite my insane grief.

Brian stayed home from work as long as he could, then he returned after a couple weeks. He would come home from work to a sobbing, pregnant wife who hadn’t moved all day. I can’t imagine how hard that was. I love you, honey. ❤️

This post is for me as much as it is for you. I want to remember these strange and sad moments and the process of grieving, so I’m documenting it here.

I also want to remind everyone to cherish those that they love. Life is so short. It feels insincere and cliché so say it like this, but I really mean it. People can be taken from us at any time, and we may not be able to say goodbye. Tell the ones you love how you feel as often as possible. You never know when it will have been your last chance. ❤️

For example: my whole family got together the day before my mom died to celebrate my beloved Grampie’s birthday. I skipped the party because my in-laws were celebrating Christmas, and I didn’t want to be difficult, considering how hard it is to get everyone together. I’ll never forgive myself for missing that birthday party. I could have had one more day together with my mom. 😭

I know she knew I loved her, but I wish I could say it to her face a million times more.

I love you, Mom. We miss you. ❤️

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As 2019 comes to a close…

…I’m overwhelmed with self reflection.

At first, I thought to myself, “Oh my God, I barely survived this year. I just scraped by.”

I saw a meme on Facebook that said something along the lines of, “now is the time of year when everyone recaps their amazing year. If all you did was survive, that’s worth celebrating, too.” I totally agree, and I felt that someone had written that post just for me: the broken, uncomfortable, sad, and anxious woman that I have become over the past couple years.

That thought was interrupted by a video montage of posts from 2019, reminding me that we did a lot of traveling, too- Colorado, then Florida, then Colorado again, then California, then Colorado AGAIN, twice!

Traveling with Teddy is fun but crazy, especially when I’m traveling by myself.

Maybe I did more than just survive?

We made it through Teddy’s FPIES diagnosis, found him some specialists, and carefully discovered what food he could eat.

I resigned from my city council position and haven’t regretted it.

I sang the National Anthem at the D3 NCAA Hockey Championship and our family cheered the Pointers on to victory.

At this time last year, I was the heaviest I’ve ever been, and my grief felt awfully heavy, too. I lost 40 pounds this year, and through therapy and EMDR, I have more good days than bad. I’m so thankful that I’ve been making a return to running. I ran several 5K and 5 mile races, and even a half marathon- my first real postpartum distance race!

I was able to relaunch my business, heidi oberstadt media, and took on new clients and some fun new projects.

We took roses to the tenants in NaNa’s (Norma’s) building to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I threw a beautiful first birthday party for Teddy and spent the day celebrating him. I’m so thankful that he’s here and that he’s mine.

Teddy started daycare, which was a big change for all of us, and I went back to work at the University of Wisconsin: Stevens Point, where my students called me “Professor Oberstadt” for the first time. It’s still kind of weird.

We moved into our new home, our Bukolt Estate, which is the first two story home I’ve lived in, and is just perfect for Teddy and Abbie to run around.

The interior is almost finished and I often can’t believe that this beautiful home is mine. Brian has done an incredible job.

In general, I feel like I’m just now starting to pick up the pieces. After my mom died, and worsening after Teddy’s arrival, I felt so overwhelmed by even the simplest tasks. Emails and text messages went unanswered for weeks. I forgot EVERYTHING, and I stayed in this limbo, struggling to get out, for a long time. In many ways, I am just now cleaning up the mental, physical, and emotional disaster that I was living in. It feels really good to start getting caught up on everything, and I’m so thankful that my friends/family/clients are so incredibly understanding and supportive of me on this journey.

I still have really bad days, but they are coming less and less frequently. I still cry Teddy to sleep sometimes as I rock him in my mom’s rocking chair.

I have so many hopes for 2020- if I can just keep going, and keep improving, then I’ll be in a really good place at the end of the year once again.

There is so much to be proud of and so much to be thankful for. I’m looking forward to sharing more of it with you. ❤️

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A tiny glimpse of my former self…

“Hello, old friend!” I went to yoga last week for the first time since I was five months pregnant with Teddy, and it felt like seeing an old friend!

One of the things that is a big challenge for me right now is the feeling that I’m so weak. It’s hard for me when I run because I’m working so hard and going so slowly. My effort doesn’t match my output. Yoga is different- when I’m practicing yoga, I feel like I’m challenging myself right where I am, and my yoga practice is meeting me right there. There is no expectation that I’m going to be at the same level that I used to be. I’m thankful for yoga and I’m going to keep going.

Weight loss is weird like that, too. I miss my body. I get down on myself a lot because I miss the way I used to look. I miss my clothes. I miss not having achy joints and being able to do more without getting tired. I miss walking into the gym and feeling like I belong there, rather than an outsider. Teddy was worth it, and I don’t regret this journey at all, but I miss my former self.

I didn’t realize quite how judgmental I used to be of other overweight people. I used to think that everyone was just like me, and just needed to prioritize themselves to lose the weight. If they just realized that they deserved better, and could spend the time and energy in meal planning and working out, they’d be able to lose weight, too!

It wasn’t until my experience with Zoloft and weight gain that I realized there are lots of reasons people gain weight or are unable to easily lose it.

Right after Teddy was born, I lost 25 pounds. That’s probably the 25 pounds I was supposed to gain with pregnancy. It’s too bad that I gained 50. Anyway, I was so proud that I lost that weight and felt like I was well on my way to losing the rest of the pregnancy weight and the 30 pounds of fertility hormone weight. That was until my postpartum depression set in and I needed help managing my emotions. Unfortunately, every time I had a dose change of Zoloft, I gained ten pounds. After four of those, we decided I should go off that drug.

Where does that leave me now? I’ve lost 21 pounds since February. I’m basically a quarter of the way back to my ideal weight.

When you have such a large weight loss goal like I do (almost 100 pounds!), it’s hard to enjoy my progress. I feel really good about it for a while, but then I see a picture of myself and I’m vaulted back into reality. It’s hard not to let my weight be my defining characteristic when it affects every part of my day. Brian and I had a conversation last night where I realized he didn’t know the calorie count on his two dinner options. I wonder what my life would be like if I wasn’t mentally calculating the calorie content of everything I’ve eaten for the past 25 years.

So what can I do now?

I’m currently working on giving myself credit for the work I’ve done and trying to stay motivated for the future work to come- and not let myself get discouraged.

It’s so easy to be discouraged in the world of parenthood- I see moms of one year olds who look fantastic- both the baby and the mom!Their kids are sleeping through the night, and the moms are back at work full time, and they are thinner than they were before they got pregnant. There is so much space to feel inadequate. I’m fighting that feeling all the time, and trying not to let my postpartum depression take over. I can barely get teddy fed (and hosed down and scrub the high chair) three times a day, nurse him, keep the dishes done and stay on top of the laundry. I really miss having a dishwasher. I’m constantly cleaning the floors and trying to meal prep and play with Teddy to keep him engaged. On my lucky days, I get my laptop open during nap time and try to frantically get as much work done as possible. I feel guilty for not keeping up with my friends and returning text messages and emails. When people are mad at me for not being good at keeping in touch, I cry and berate myself for not being good enough. I feel like there isn’t enough time in the day, and I end every day feeling like a failure, regardless of what I’ve accomplished.

I know this is a season of life, and my journey is different than others. I may feel better if my mom was here to help. If I wasn’t grieving her. If I was able to prepare for having a newborn while pregnant instead of being lost simultaneously in grieving and in finishing my master’s degree. If I hadn’t had to sell my home when Teddy was a month old and frantically pack and temporarily move to my mom’s house while we remodel the new house. If my sweet husband was cloned so he could simultaneously work on that new house and be home to help me. If I wasn’t missing my mom while living in her house and if I had my own space to relax. If I had my own appliances and a dishwasher to help me sanitize all the bottles and breast pump parts. If I had a parent who could watch Teddy during the day so I could get work done and make some money to take some of the financial pressure off. If I didn’t have a huge student loan payment and see people on Facebook reminding me that I’m an idiot for having loans and going to college and that I deserve all the financial stress I feel now because I should have known that I’d be paying for my undergraduate degrees until I’m 50. If we weren’t trying to pay for two houses at one time so we had more flexible finances. If I was better at asking for help.

There are a lot of reasons that things could be different and this journey could have been easier- but this is my difficult road to follow and I’m doing my best.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to try to be proud of the work I’ve done and give myself grace as I try to be the best mom and housewife and friend and businesswoman that I can be. I’m failing all the time, but I keep trying.

2019 pounds lost: 21

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PPPR. Postpartum Personal Record.

Given the postpartum part, it could be a PPPPPR, but I’m doing okay (thank you, pelvic floor therapy!). I could call it a PP-no-PP-PR. 😂 That’s a win on so many levels. Mamas out there know what’s up.

I’ve run several races since Teddy was born, at various stages of my health, and I have decided that I need to stop competing with my former self, for now.

Every time I head out for a run, I’ve been criticizing myself.

For the short distance.

For the slow pace.

For how long it took me to get out the door.

For how poorly my running clothes fit around my new body.

I get out there and as my feet hit the pavement, I criticize myself for not buying new running shoes meant for heavy people and for running until I want to stop, only to look at my Garmin and see it’s been less than a mile. I criticize myself for not prioritizing myself and needing Brian to force me out the door.

It took my most recent race, the Sturgeon Shuffle, for me to realize how flawed that line of thinking has been. I worked really hard during that 10K. I had a legitimate concern that I would be last. I’m a long way from where I was when I placed third in my age group at this race just a few years ago.

I won a handmade cup for placing third, and I ran this race six days after finishing a marathon. It’s like I was a completely different person.

This year, I took some walking breaks. I thought about my form and prayed that I’m not doing any long-term damage by running while so heavy. I focused on my arms when my legs got tired. I kissed my baby when Brian brought him to see me on the course. Maybe Teddy drove himself?

I got so excited when I saw Teddy on the course- he squealed and smiled when he saw me and I just wanted to snuggle him. It gave me a little more motivation to keep going.

I still thanked all the volunteers on the route- some things never change. 🙂

When I turned the final corner and saw the finish line, I saw my little bear with his cute hat waiting for me!

Teddy watched me finish!

I was so proud when I finished the race this year, even though most of the other runners were long gone. The 5K runners had collected their bananas and cookies and were in their cars on the way home.

The finish line clock read 1:16:29, and the only people waiting at the finish line were waiting for me- Teddy, Brian, and my mother-in-law, Jean. The crowds were gone. It actually felt weird to have music pumping at the finish but be the only one there.

I walked around to catch my breath, saw the classic puke on the pavement just past the finish line, and thought, “At least I’m doing better than that guy!”

I wasn’t the last one to finish. There were a couple people behind me. I feel guilty for being thankful that I wasn’t last- someone needs to be last, and why is it such a big deal? Am I really that low in self-confidence? The jury is still out on this one.

I walked over to the recovery table and picked up some water, a banana, and a cookie. I tried to take a bite of the cookie but it didn’t sit well. It’s been a long time since I ran so hard/fast/long that I was nauseous. I coughed a lot as I warmed up. As I found out later that weekend, I had bronchitis and the start of pneumonia. Maybe that’s why I felt like I was working so hard. Or maybe it’s because I’m 240 pounds. Maybe it’s both. Either way, I was thankful to have finished- and so was Teddy. 🙂

I know many mamas who go on to lead amazing running lives. I see them- in the park, on social media, even when they pass me in a race pushing a double stroller while simultaneously feeding their toddlers fruit snacks. I have faith that I will get my body back, I have faith that I will get my running life back, and I have faith that I will get my spirit back.

I’m excited to raise Teddy in an active home. I want to be the family that runs 5K races on Thanksgiving and packs running shoes on vacation. I can’t wait until Teddy is old enough to cheer me on in a race with a sign drawn in crayon that says, “Go, Mama!” I want to be the healthiest mom I can be for Teddy so he doesn’t have to go through the shock of sudden loss I feel for my own mother.

In the meantime, I’ll be celebrating the small victories, and you’ll note my new acronym on my races page. PPPR, baby.

Huge thanks to my cheering squad!

As always, thanks for reading!

2019 pounds lost: 19

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On my last day of public service…

I am celebrating. I am celebrating my final day as an alderwoman- my last day representing the citizens of Stevens Point in District 4.

For those who are interested in reading my final statement, it is below. It’s long, but it includes a lot, and I mean every word of it.

On my 30th birthday, I did an interview with a local media outlet- an urgent phone interview so she could meet a deadline. I was celebrating with my family, but I skipped my own birthday cake and did the interview in the car on the way home. I was excited to be part of a series about women in government. One question sticks out in my mind, to this day. “What do we need in local government?” 

My answer? “Kindness,” and I stick to that answer today. I’m sure many people will still consider me naïve, or too soft for elected public service. They may say that I just don’t understand the inner workings of politics or the secret world of what REALLY happens in local government. Many will say that by being elected, I knowingly signed up for people treating me cruelly, and as a result, I have no right to complain or bring it to light.

Unfortunately, my sacrifice of birthday cake was in vain, as the article never ran. I hope it’s not too late for me to try and spread that message of kindness in government.

Lately, at all levels of government, there is an overwhelming amount of hatred, and loads of criticism that doesn’t serve a purpose. Many local officials, including my colleagues, are serving in their positions out of a passionate desire to make our community better. Some are focusing on keeping the awesome parts of Stevens Point awesome, and some are working towards improving upon our weaknesses. Some are even focusing on just making sure that our city workers receive paychecks and we are able to continue offering services to the community. This gets harder every year, in light of less and less funding assistance from the state. My colleagues and I are different people, but we have much in common. We are the type of people who pool our own money to buy candy to hand out to kids in our community parades- those Skittles you ate at the holiday parade were definitely not paid for with taxpayer money. Political communication scholars frequently refer to the term “civility,” and I think that asking for kindness and civility in government is a simple request. However, my hope for tonight lies less in the academic world of civility and more in the basic tenet of kindness. I believe some of our problems locally are due to a lack of kindness and a lack of perspective. I’d like to leave you all with a small dose of both- I’ll try and clear up a few things about my experience in our local government and share a little of my perspective in the spirit of transparency, and I hope that it will pave a space for kindness in the future.

I’ll start with an introduction. 

Hi, I’m Heidi. Do you remember me? We met years ago, before I was a councilwoman. Believe it or not, I’m still your neighbor- the one with the small and crazy dog, the one who loves kayaking and spending time on the water. Our proximity to the river is a big reason we chose to live in District Four.

My kindness, positivity, and authenticity are not a fluke- I’m really like this! My personality is certainly at odds with what most people expect for an elected official, and it was definitely a challenge in many ways.

My start in public service could certainly be called a baptism by fire. In my first meeting, the infamous Reid Rocheleau pointed his finger at me and told me that I was cold hearted. I was shocked, and I cried the entire way home in the car. I know, I know… I’m too soft for politics. Reid didn’t know me at all, and I appreciated his perspective on issues, yet he felt so strongly about my character that he wanted it said, publicly and on the record. I was definitely not prepared for that. I’d seen city meetings before my appointment, and I didn’t remember that kind of relationship between alders and constituents. I wondered- did I just miss it? Were there more attacks coming? Should I somehow prepare myself?

My first feedback in the anonymous suggestion box at city hall was that I show too much cleavage and it’s not dignified for an alder of our city. Of course, a photo in the paper had just run where the photographer was standing right above me as I sat at a table, signing my official paperwork. I probably would have shown cleavage in a turtleneck. I also can’t believe that I just said “cleavage” in a city meeting, and not referring to roads during the spring thaw, but that’s what a swan song is for, right? 🙂 After I received that message about my choice of attire, I wondered what the heck I’d gotten myself into. Is there a dress code? More importantly, does what I wear affect my ability to do this job? I hoped that my ideas for the city and my passion for learning would be helpful as I struggled to learn fast enough to do my job, and I wondered what other unwritten rules I’d unknowingly break.

Believe it or not, I’m still your neighbor- the one who moved here for my undergraduate studies at UWSP, and just fell in love- both with my husband, and with our city. It seemed like the perfect place to raise a family and put down new roots.

I want to clear up a big misconception among angry people on the internet: no one is here for the money or the glory.

Money? There is no big money in this job, there are no big lobbying groups that pay us, and there aren’t any kickbacks. To be honest, my take home pay from this job is $395.39 per month. It ends up being less than minimum wage with all the time I spend in meetings, researching, going to conferences, and talking with constituents. If I didn’t have my husband or kind friends to help me watch my son during meetings, when possible, I would lose money keeping this job with the cost of day care. Doesn’t that say something about our dedication to our city? I am aware that these positions fall under public service for a reason, but if we really want to encourage more people to get involved and increase the diversity of our representation, we should consider a raise in the salary of our public servants. Having young children shouldn’t be a barrier to serving our city. Someone needs to represent all the parents, too! I was too afraid of the perception to bring this up while still actively serving, but I hope that one of my colleagues can bring this forward in the near future. 

Are we in it for the glory? I’m trying to remember the last time that someone I didn’t personally know said a single positive thing about our work here. I don’t believe that it’s because we’re not doing good work. Maybe it’s because the public doesn’t know what is going on. I didn’t send out a press release when I reunited a sweet elderly woman with her lost cat, when I helped a new family get connected with a translator to get their children registered for school, or when I threw on my muck boots and helped my constituents clean out their flooded basement during that terrible flood a couple summers ago. We do good work in our communities, even if most people never see it. We’re totally fine with being out of the spotlight during our day-to-day work- I actually prefer it. Sometimes the work we’re doing in government takes longer than we wish it did. I couldn’t prevent that flood for my constituents, so I helped with the cleanup. In the meantime, we kept working on a solution, and this year, their road will be reconstructed. It will help with stormwater management and help many people in the long run. I didn’t tell anyone about it, and I don’t know if the public connects the dots between that problem and that solution- I just wasn’t concerned with tooting my own horn when that’s a part of my job and there’s more work to be done!

So why do people authoritatively claim that we’re terrible? Maybe it’s because they assume the worst about us, so even when we do great things, they believe there is an ulterior motive. WHY do they think awful things about us? I’m going to venture a guess- bear with me. Sometimes the frustration of feeling like your voice doesn’t matter manifests itself in anger or cruelty. I understand the feeling- I’ve driven all the way down to Madison to meet with my senator several times, yet his votes rarely reflect my concerns or opinions… even when I bring data to back up my position. I don’t take it personally, even though I’m frustrated. I know he hears me… he just believes, for whatever reason, that the right thing to do is something different than what I think it is. 

There is a big difference between my senator and I in our elected roles, though- local city council positions aren’t partisan. Many of our issues just aren’t liberal or conservative. What kind of lawn mower should we invest in for the parks department? How should we prioritize our capital spending? What should the holiday trash collection schedule look like for next year, and does everyone have the garbage and recycling cans they need? Do the police and fire departments have the gear they need? How about staffing? Do the treasurer and clerk have the people they need to serve our city the best we can? I couldn’t tell you what the partisan stances are on most of the decisions we make, because there aren’t any.

This is going to be controversial; I know it. I’ve done plenty of research on political accountability, both before and during my time with our city. I won’t go into details of models of representation, because we’d be here all night and honestly, I’m sure most people just don’t care. 🙂 I can sum up the important parts as they relate to us in this room, though.

I don’t believe that the role of an elected official is simply to regurgitate the thoughts of their constituents. If it was, then we wouldn’t need to have elections- a robot could do our job. We wouldn’t need to run our campaigns on a platform of goals for the city, because they wouldn’t matter. I DO believe it’s important to listen, actually listen, and ask many questions to understand the situation, but it’s also the job of an elected official to gather additional information, talk to staff and experts in the problem, and propose different options- along with assist in providing the logistics of the solutions. I often asked my neighbors, when they brought up an issue, what they thought a few possible solutions could be. They often knew the situation better that I did at first, and I really valued their ideas. It’s rarely black and white, and it’s our job to look for creative solutions and find an outcome that will best suit our community as a whole. It’s not an easy job, but the simple act of doing it doesn’t mean that we deserve such negativity.

One of my favorite “not my job” tasks is encouraging everyone from the public who comes to speak at our meetings. I do my best to give them nonverbal feedback to reassure them and help make them feel more comfortable. I teach public speaking at UWSP- I know how hard it is for most people to come forward and speak in front of us, and the staff, and on television and the radio. If you’ve been to a meeting and spoken with us, you probably remember me- I was the one smiling and nodding while listening to you. Many things about approaching us here can be intimidating, and I wanted to give our citizens a little bit of kindness when they were feeling anxiety. I’m not sure that a robot could do that.

Believe it or not, I’m still your neighbor- the one who grinds her teeth at night, sings in the shower, and loves hanging out on her back porch in the warmer months.

Most of you know that my mother died unexpectedly last year, when I was four months pregnant. I was so surprised with the response from my neighbors and constituents. The week following her death, one neighbor came by and used their snowblower to clear our driveway. Another dropped off a heartfelt card and a bouquet of flowers. From a few blocks over, someone arrived with a loaf of homemade bread and fresh butter. Yet another called me a fucking bitch and asked why I wasn’t at work representing her, even though she knew the situation… and she wasn’t the only one. 

I don’t even know what to say about that. I’ll never forget the way those neighbors made me feel during the absolute worst time in my life. I will never forget it. It changed the way that I looked at our community- why would people feel that it is okay to treat me this way? I would never do that to someone. Is it because I am elected- so I deserve to be treated this way? Is it because I disagreed with them on an issue? I’ve thought about this over and over again and realized that despite the well-intentioned warnings of friends in elected positions, I never got that hardened heart that would allow me to have these terrible comments roll right off. I always assumed that staying kind, vulnerable, and truly caring about my neighbors would be an asset to me. Was I wrong? I want to pretend to be tougher than I am, and act like it doesn’t bother me, but having people treat me this way forever changed the way that I look at our neighborhood. Was that the goal?

I completely understand questioning your elected officials and holding us accountable for our decisions- it’s a key component of our government. However, I’m here to tell you that if you continue being cruel to your local elected officials, you will end up with cruel people in return. 

Believe it or not, I’m still your neighbor- the one who loves riding her bike along the Green Circle by the river, and I really enjoy meeting new people. We’ve been pouring money into our new home as we convert it from a duplex back into a big single family home, and yes- we have all the correct permits. 🙂

I know that I will catch a lot of flak for my statement tonight. I know some people will be livid. How dare I talk about my experience this way? I deserve everything that happened, especially the bad things, because I’m a politician, right? I’m sure some members in the media will write terrible things about me, and some people in our city will be so angry that I ventured to say these things. Will there be a call for the council to be replaced by robots? Who knows!

I’m honestly looking forward to a break from the constant criticism and questioning of my motives. I never took any funding from anyone for my campaigns. I don’t have an agenda other than keeping what’s great and fixing what’s not. I do wish that there was better communication between the city and our citizens, but that is probably due to my background and a little insight from “the inside” of city hall. I think many local governments could use some help from a communication professional… we’re certainly not the only one. Perhaps we can work on adding that to our budget in future years.

Believe it or not, I’m still your neighbor- the one with the hard-working mustachioed husband and the sick baby, the one who loves to bake and share her treats with everyone.

I am proud of my honesty in deciding to resign to take care of my son and being very transparent about what is going on. I thought it would be better to explain what was happening in my life, admit that I am actually NOT superwoman, and allow someone else to devote their time and energy to serving our community while I devote my time and energy to helping my son grow up healthy and strong. Of course, while most people were supportive, there are others who question my timing, the REAL reason I’m leaving, and whatnot. There was even a constituent at a meeting who was angry with me so she responded by making scary faces at my son and made him cry. Really? Come on. 

I hope this statement doesn’t sound like I’m just here to complain, rather- I truly feel that it is the time to ask for kindness and empathy among our community.

Please treat my replacement with kindness. Please treat my colleagues with kindness. And above all, please treat each other with kindness. We all want the same things- a happy, healthy, thriving, safe community that serves people of all ages, and we’re all in this together.

Dear council members and staff- I thank you with all my heart for all the opportunities I’ve had to work with you. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished together, and I look forward to seeing what you all do next! I appreciate your patience as I learned the complexities of issues that people outside of city hall may not even consider. Thank you so much for helping me celebrate our alderbaby and being as helpful as possible with Teddy once he arrived. Please continue to help the new council members, as we all know the learning curve is steep, and we were all new once. 🙂

Dear citizens of Stevens Point- thank you for allowing me to serve you for the past four years. While it had many challenges, I don’t regret it for a second. Perhaps once my son is a little older, I’ll be able to afford to come back for another term or two. I still care about you and I will still fight for you, but it just won’t be on the public record anymore. Believe it or not, I’m still your neighbor… so I’ll see you around. 🙂

And with that, I’m done. Time for some wine and an evening of thanking my lucky stars for my family! 🙂

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FPIES, sigh.

After months of struggling with low weight gain and severe reflux, we got a diagnosis for Teddy.

As some of you know, we’ve worked hard to get Teddy back on the weight chart. He was born around 50%, then dropped down to 5%, then 2%. We were able to keep him at 2% with a constant battle… his reflux meant that he needed to eat frequently and often spit up a LOT. The more his reflux caused a loss of milk, the more formula I tried to supplement with. I constantly worried about my milk supply and when he would spit up ounces of my milk, I cried. We tried a bunch of different formulas to see if any of them made a difference in his reflux. They didn’t. When I had to be apart from Teddy, and he got formula, much of it came back up. All over me. All over him. All over the couch. And the floor. And his dad. And the carseat. And the bed. And the rock and play. And the blankets. I bought a special breastmilk removal soap and put it in every load of laundry to try and salvage some of our clothes. I wanted to pump milk to give him, but I didn’t make enough extra to pump and save it for later. If I pumped, then I wouldn’t have enough milk for his next nursing session. I felt so inadequate.

Having a doctor tell us that there is, indeed, something wrong, made me feel so relieved. As if it wasn’t entirely my fault, and some of my guilt started to lift. I felt like such a bad mom, even though I basically dropped everything and spent my entire day trying to make him gain weight.

What is his diagnosis?

FPIES. Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome.

I was so relieved to have a diagnosis and a name for the group of symptoms because I thought it would mean some answers for us and a clear path forward. Instead, FPIES raises more questions. It also basically forces us to make some serious decisions about Teddy and his virtual life.

How much of his life do we have the right to share? When I told people that Teddy had severe reflux and that we couldn’t be separated for long, they thought I was being difficult. I didn’t know if we should tell everyone about his FPIES. People saw me taking him everywhere and wondered why I couldn’t just get back to work without him or something like that.

I know that it’s healthy for moms to leave their babes with someone else and take a break. The thing is, I often have more stress when we’re apart because I’m worried about how his reflux is doing and how his tummy feels. When he’s upset and not feeling well, it’s like he’s a colicky baby, and that’s so much to ask of a friend or babysitter.

“Why can’t you just give him formula?” Well, I can, but it makes his reflux much worse. It often almost veered into vomiting territory.

“Why can’t you just pump and give him a bottle with pumped breastmilk?” Well, I don’t make more milk than he needs. In fact, when his reflux is flaring and he spits up so much milk, I barely make enough for him.

“Why don’t you try (insert lactation supplement here) to increase your supply?” I have. I am. Herbal supplements, power pumping, meditation and deep breathing. I’m trying to relax but I’m watching my skinny baby and feeling like a failure.

FPIES babies aren’t like normal babies. The challenges are different, and finding solutions can be really difficult.

It’s a rare disease, and many doctors don’t know what it is. Teddy’s pediatric immunologist/allergist gave us a letter to give to the ER doctor, describing FPIES. Kids with FPIES reactions often vomit until they go into shock, so he wanted us to have the letter ready for our inevitable trip to the ER. That whole idea is so scary- that we’d get to the ER and the doctor wouldn’t have any idea what FPIES is.

What should I tell people? Do I have a right to tell the world about his FPIES? How can I make people understand our challenges without telling them about it? Obviously, we’ve decided to share his diagnosis with the world. I hope that maybe another struggling mom or dad will find this post and discover that they’re not alone. I also hope that it explains why Teddy and I go almost everywhere together and why being separated is a little more difficult for us than it is for other parents and babies.

So what IS it? FPIES is a type of food allergy that affects his GI tract. The allergy is to the proteins in different foods, and instead of a typical food allergy reaction with a rash or having trouble breathing, the reaction is a slightly delayed (2-4 hours after exposure) intense vomiting episode.

One of the scariest things about FPIES is that kids can have foods several times (so parents think the food is safe) then they develop an allergy to it. This is what happened to Teddy. He had oatmeal several times and was totally fine. In fact, he loves it!

Then all of a sudden, he got really sick a couple hours after eating. He threw up for 20 hours. He was so scared, because it was the first time he’d thrown up. We were so scared, too. We were trying to give him little bits of pedialyte to keep him hydrated but he started to go into shock. Our poor little baby was pale and lethargic. We took him to the doctor, and they thought he had a stomach bug. It didn’t occur to us that it was the oatmeal- he’d had it before with no problems.

(Teddy on our home baby scale)

The next time we gave him oatmeal, it was the same reaction. We were a little more prepared but still scared. We talked to his doctor, and they said he must have some kind of oat allergy. I was so afraid to feed him anything, but we know he needed to start eating food. He was also so thin. That day of vomiting caused his weight to drop right off the bottom of the weight chart- after we’d worked so hard to get him up to 2%!

We decided to try rice cereal, since it’s supposed to be so easy to digest. I made him one teaspoon of rice cereal, and it was extra watered down.

Two hours after eating, he had a reaction. Luckily, he only threw up for about five hours with rice- I think due to the very small amount that he’d ingested.

We knew something was wrong- TWO foods with this awful reaction? His pediatrician referred us to a pediatric GI specialist, who diagnosed him immediately. She gave us a prescription for an elemental formula, which is dairy- and soy-free, amino acid based, and hypoallergenic. We started supplementing with this formula at night to try and encourage some weight gain. The formula is $50 a can, so it’s very expensive, and I’m incredibly thankful that I’m able to nurse him. That formula makes it possible for us to be apart for a little longer at a time, and for that I’m so thankful.

(Teddy with his GI specialist)

We think that his FPIES triggers include dairy and soy, as well- so his reflux and low weight gain was probably a symptom of him reacting to the dairy and soy in the regular formula that we were giving him. The thinner he got, the more formula I tried to give him on top of breastfeeding. It turns out that we may have been making things worse.

For now, Teddy Bear is doing great. He’s up to 8% on the weight chart! His reflux is almost gone. The tricky thing with FPIES is that there is no test for the allergy- babies need to eat a variety of foods to discover their triggers. The symptoms range from constipation to diarrhea, from vomiting to diaper rash. I am constantly tracking what he eats, when he eats it, and watching for any kind of reaction. There are different theories about how to prevent kids from developing allergies to foods that were previously considered “safe,” but most parents believe that continued exposure is the key. That was easy to do when there were only three foods that he could eat- but now that he’s up to 11, it’s getting harder! I’m trying not to go more than a couple days between exposures to his safe foods, so we’re making lots of purée mixes and he gets a lot of variety.

It feels a little like a weight off my shoulders to write about FPIES. Honestly, I was so burned out from the constant criticism in my city council position that hearing people question my decision to resign really pushed me over the edge. I told the public that I was resigning to take care of my sick baby, but that apparently wasn’t a good enough reason. People demanded more information- and insinuated that there was a different reason for me leaving.

Well, here you go, John Q. Public- our family is struggling with FPIES. Teddy needs a little more of my time than I expected, so I’m choosing to focus on him and helping him grow up healthy and strong.

He is doing much better, though we are struggling with other digestive problems as we start to identify more problem foods for him. I’m happy that we have an idea of where to go from here, and there are FPIES support groups that have been helpful.

We have an appointment with a pediatric nutritionist this month to help us come up with some “finger foods” for Teddy to start feeding himself, since most of the easily dissolvable baby foods contain rice.

Now that he’s feeling better most of the time, his personality is really showing. He’s a very happy, easygoing boy. His smile lights up a room.

Part of me feels guilty for talking about how difficult this has been because I know there are so many people out there who desperately want to have a babe of their own. After all of our struggles with infertility, you’d think that I’d be able to take this challenge in stride and be thankful that I have our miracle. I also feel guilty since I get to stay with Teddy most of the time. I don’t know how FPIES parents that have to work full time can do it. They are true super-parents.

So there you have it. Teddy and I are pretty much inseparable for now, and I’m learning how to rearrange my life and my work around him. I’ve been taking on clients that understand the situation and are patient with me. I’m so thankful for that.

As always, thanks for reading, friends.

2019 weight lost: 19 pounds

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A solid start

My new journey is off to a pretty solid start. I joined the Community Weight Race, which is a competition in our community to lose weight and get healthier. I was part of a team with new mamas, so we have a lot of the same struggles. I’m so lucky to have connected with these women, because they were so supportive and encouraging, even when I was beating myself up.

The first month was awful. January is so hard- it was hard to get outside, and we didn’t know what was going on with Teddy yet, so he was still tiny and throwing up, and it was the one year anniversary of my mom’s death. I ate an entire apple pie that day. Sometimes I think that it’s great that I’ve chosen to self-medicate with food, rather than hard drugs, but it doesn’t always feel great. I gained a few pounds that month.

Thank God for those teammates- they encouraged me and let me know that I was doing a great job despite these awful circumstances. I was able to restart in February, and tried my hardest to get to the gym and make good food choices.

As most of you know, I already lost 100 pounds once. I spent 4 years in my late teens and early twenties kicking my own ass and getting to a healthy place. After I lost all that weight, I got into running, and the rest is history (or easily findable on this blog😜).

I am used to restricting my food and working out hard. I can’t do that now, at least not in the same way. I’m still finding the balance of eating the right foods in the right calories to lose weight, but enough that my body still keeps making milk for Teddy. It’s also tricky as I’m mostly avoiding cow milk dairy, soy, oats, and rice- I had to cut them out of my diet completely as an experiment to see how it affected Teddy. It eliminated some of my healthy food go-tos- like Greek yogurt and oatmeal.

Finding balance is the same challenge with working out, with the additional difficulty that everything hurts! I got a second gym membership up in Weston so I can get to the gym a little easier on the days we’re staying at my mom’s house, which is now mine. It was too hard for me to get Teddy all packed up and drive down to Point to get to my regular gym, Adventure 212. I love that gym, and it has a great daycare, so it’s an awesome choice when we’re at home. The gym up here is nice, but has no daycare- so I often end up going at 9 or 10 o’clock after Teddy is settled into bed. I know that’s dedication, and I’m proud. I still run, but not as far and not nearly as fast. I give myself grace when I start comparing my previous running performance by picturing my former self running with a 50 lb weight in each hand. That probably would have slowed me down, and I’m proud that I’m still getting out there.

I miss the days when I could knock out five easy miles in 45 minutes with no problem, but I’ll get back to it.

There is some encouraging news- we did our final weigh in for the community weight race yesterday, and I lost 14 pounds since we started in the second week of January. It’s a total of 16 pounds since I reset myself after the apple pie incident. It wasn’t even a good apple pie. What was I thinking?!

Losing weight the first time was difficult, so I’m nervous because I know how much of a challenge it will be- and this time, I’m a mom, and own two homes, and have a lot of other things on my plate. I’m thankful that I have been through this process before, so I know what to expect and I have practice with self control.

I’m proud of a great first quarter and I’ll be keeping on keeping on!

As always, thanks for reading and following my adventures.

2019 weight lost: 16 pounds

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And just like that, I’m a new person.

A lot has happened.

We successfully got pregnant via IUI. Thank you, UW!

We traveled.

We bought a big new house and started our renovation.

My beloved mama died suddenly, and I was tasked with handling her estate.

We traveled some more.

I was re-elected to the city council.

I decided to meet with a psychologist and a psychiatrist and made some big changes for my mental health.

I defended my thesis and graduated with my Master’s Degree in communication.

Our sweet little Teddy was born, and I was very sick for months. Then he was sick, and it took months for us to get a diagnosis. I was in a very dark place, both physically and emotionally, and I struggled to make it out.

This blog has always been a place where I shared the challenges and joys in my life, but I was unable to write through most of these things. I’m looking forward to getting back to it and telling some of these stories.

I am going to start by going back to my roots and sharing the adventure that is getting back to running. Through the course of the years of hormonal fertility treatments, pregnancy, and medication for postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, I’m running races now almost 100 pounds heavier than when I ran my first marathon.

I have faith that as I train for my upcoming races and find a new balance between my family, my business, and my health, really wonderful things will happen.

Thanks for sticking with me through my writing hiatus, and I’m excited that you’re here for the new updates.

A new woman has emerged- a mama, a grieving daughter, and one tough cookie. I can’t promise this process will be glamorous, but you know that I’ll be real with you, as always. 😘

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Just breathe.

“Some men fish all their lives without knowing it is not really the fish they are after.”

-Henry David Thoreau

I still can’t believe that the Flyathlon exists. It feels like something that would come out of an awesome drunken dream…

As I was leaving the Upper Crossing Guard Station (our Flyathlon headquarters) this morning, I felt a total mix of emotions. It’s hard to explain it, but I’m going to try.I just spent 4 hours on the road, talking it over with Jason Isbell. As I was composing this post in my mind, two big hot tears rolled down my cheeks, then a whole flood more. Why? The Flyathlon is awesome. It brings together like-minded people, who want to make a difference in the world. I can let my guard down, and not worry that my concern about native trout water and the science behind our predictions will be dismissed by folks who don’t believe in data. There is quite a variety of attendees- from serious athletes to weekend warriors, seasoned anglers to excited rookies, and beer brewers to whiskey connoisseurs. These are people who spend their lives caring for our water and land working for government agencies and nonprofits, either for a paycheck, simply in the time they have left after punching a clock somewhere else, or both. I wish the Flyathlon was several days long, so I could have enough time to soak in the knowledge and stories and conversations with everyone in attendance, but that’s what keeps me coming back each year. These amazing people raised over $27,000 for Running Rivers from this race. ❤

In fact, I’m writing this post from the gorgeous back porch of a friend that I made last year at the race- we crossed paths at the turnaround point and drank whiskey together up there!

This is Kelly and I last year……and this year! Thank you for your continued hospitality, Kelly. You’ve always got my back (or a sandwich or a cold water or a Manhattan, whatever it is I may need). 🙂

I really didn’t want to leave, but I am also terribly homesick. I don’t know how to reconcile the two! I believe that traveling is very important, especially for elected officials. The world is so much bigger than we think it is, and frequent reminders of that are necessary. Mr. Mustache and I have also discovered that absence really does make the heart grow fonder. In any event, I felt like a double tapered fly line- weighted down on both ends. I have a big weight at home in Wisconsin, and it seems that every time I visit Colorado, the weight here gets bigger, too.

As I woke up this morning, in a bright orange tent (thanks, Kouba family!), I was suddenly aware of how achy I was. Everything from my curls to my brookie tattoo was moaning to me. I felt like a raisin; my eyes were dry, my lips were chapped, and my hair was crunchy.

Waking up “outside” feels so special, and I slowly stretched my legs and crawled out of the tent, gingerly easing my way around all my scrapes and bruises. I stood up, wiggled my sore toes into my Chacos, and reached toward the sky. There was this moment when something inside me told me, just breathe.

So I did. I closed my eyes, and smelled the air. It was still, and felt almost sweet, as I tried to breathe deeply up there at 8,000 feet. I heard two sounds: the soft clicking of tent poles collapsing as the early risers started packing up, and the gentle padding of puppy paws on that damp public land. The ratio of people to pups at this race was pretty impressive. I don’t know if anyone counted, but I’d guess it was close to 5:1.

There is a general feeling in the air there that I have never felt before. It sounds cliche, but I really do believe that these Flyathletes are my kindred spirits. No one there thinks I’m crazy for my devoted passion to a slimy creature and the habitat it requires. We share some kind of bond that came on instantly and put my soul at ease. I feel lucky to be able to run a race like this, and lucky to be able to fish this water, and lucky to hang with these folks.

I’ll start at the beginning. I ended up leaving home Wednesday morning at 1:30 am to make it to Milwaukee for my 5:30 flight. Since we arrived home on Sunday from our trip to Vegas, I only had a couple days to try and catch up on work and alderwomaning. Yeah, I’m making up my own verbs now. As a result of having two crazy busy days, Mr. Mustache was up late with me helping me pack, and we didn’t zip up my suitcases until after 11:00.

Enter Fitbit data: the numbers don’t lie.

I’ll be the first one to tell you that Heidi, with not enough sleep, is a crazy woman… and 1.5 hours is definitely not enough. I’m amazed that I made it to the Milwaukee airport with my wits about me. Luckily, those first flights of the day usually mean that airport security is a breeze, and it was. I was from parking lot to gate in under 45 minutes, and I had to check some luggage.

My flight was short, and freezing, so I was pretty tired when we landed in Denver. I snagged my rental car (thanks for the upgrade, Enterprise!), and headed to the adorable city of Golden. I took a cramped but helpful power nap in the backseat of my car, then sleepily sauntered into a Starbucks to caffeinate my tired body and power through some work. A few hours later, and upon the recommendation of the lovely and friendly baristas, I found myself at D’Deli. Go there. It was amazing.

Check out this salad! I think they had 41 sandwich options, and any of them can come on a salad, if you prefer.
A couple hours of work later, and I headed into Denver to meet Mamzie! ❤I love our reunions! Every time I see her, it feels like no time has passed. That’s a perk of being friends with someone for 25 years, I guess! 🙂 We enjoyed beer from the new brewery in her subdivision, and found some fantastic sushi. It was a rowdy night- we ended up in bed by 10. I needed it- I slept for 12 hours! 😉

I was super excited to have an extra day in Denver this year, as it gave me a chance to sneak in a run. Yeah, the elevation was “only” 5,500′ here, so it’s no race elevation of 8,000′, but it’s closer than my 1,000′ at home. Two miles in, and I totally missed a driveway curb (did you know that’s a thing?) and wiped out. I skinned my knee, bruised my leg, and completely shattered my iPhone screen.
I’ll spare you a photo of my road rash, and instead I’ll show you a picture of the driveway curb. 
 I spent the rest of Thursday getting an oil change in my rental car, as it wouldn’t be a Flyathlon trip without some kind of travel difficulty. I went to Walgreens and got the materials to bandage myself up, and I went to the Apple Store to get my phone screen replaced. The most eventful part of the day was when I realized that I needed to meet Mamzie at Roo Bar for the Packer game, but I wasn’t going to have my phone while it was being repaired. This meant I had to actually write down driving directions to get there. I even went to MapQuest, old school style. Luckily, I made it there, and had some faith restored in my ability to drive like we did in the 90s before GPS technology took over our lives.

The Packers won the preseason game, I found some Wisconsin beer to take up to the mountains, and I grabbed several gallons of water to take along. The well up there is unpredictable, so bringing our own water is recommended. My last memory before drifting off to sleep was hearing Mamzie giggle to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. 🙂

The next day was a blur- I packed up all my gear, drove into the city for coffee (Ink!) and lunch with Mamzie, then headed up into the mountains.
You know how it’s weird when you get into a rental car then try to parallel park? I had a bugger of a time the first night I had the car, so I wanted to prove to Mamzie that I could park it. Look at this great parking job! 😉
The drive is incredible- mountains around every corner!My rental car got amazing mileage- I can’t believe this is the fuel economy, even as I climbed the mountains. You’ll see why I chose to take it in for an oil change instead of swapping it out.I made it up to the Upper Crossing Guard station during daylight this year, and I saw some familiar faces from last year’s race. It was awesome to see my friends again!

We drank some whiskey and caught up, and I got acquainted with my adorable tentmates, the Kouba girls. ❤

It was a pretty early night, because I was tired and I knew that the race morning would come awfully early. The mosquitoes were also brutal. I found it exciting that the mosquitoes who bit me could have just bitten a moose… but I was happy to crawl into a mosquito-free tent.

Enter: Race Day

My friends woke me up to get ready for the race, and I wasn’t ready. I was plenty warm this year, but I like to sprawl in my sleep, so being cocooned in a sleeping bag was different. I also don’t usually sleep on an inflatable pillow. I inchwormed my way out of the tent and into my race clothes. My amazing friend, Brian from Iowa from Colorado made some coffee for me, so I poured it into my Yeti tumbler and hoped it would keep warm. After all these years, the thing that bothers me the most about not having a thyroid is having to wait an hour after taking my medication to drink any coffee. The first hour of my day, every day, is free from coffee. Oh, the horror!

I bandaged up my scrapes and pulled on my compression socks. I love these trail shoes!The ride from the campground to the race start was a fun 20 minute trek with two Flyathlete humans and one Flyathlete pup.I hadn’t left myself a lot of time, so I basically got my race bib (with my name and fish ruler on it), filled up my hydration pack, and prepped my fishing gear, then got ready to run.  I love the sign that is at the start- it’s made out of beer caps!Everyone was lining up and stretching out, and we gathered together for Andrew’s race announcements.

In keeping with tradition, the race starts with Andrew shooting a cheap beer with a BB gun, and as the foam flies, we head out.

Obstacle number one: the river.

I pretended to be Baby from Dirty Dancing and wiggled my way across the log. Too bad Patrick Swayze wasn’t there to cheer me on… ❤Last year, I stopped to fish shortly after that log crossing, somewhere around mile one. Since I caught a fish on my second cast last year, I tried to find the place that I fished with such success. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it. At least I took comfort in knowing that I tied up some gorgeous rainbow warriors before I left, and that was the fly that worked for me last year. I found confidence in knowing I had a fly box of money flies waiting for me.heidi-1I found a spot on the river that looked similar to last year, and strung up my rod. No luck at location number one.

I broke down my rod, and ran to the next fishy looking spot. I strung up my rod, lost a rainbow warrior, and got frustrated. No luck at location number two.

I broke down my rod, and ran to the next fishy looking spot. I got snagged by some thorns as I made my way down to the river. The area between my socks and shorts looked like I’d gotten into a fight with a feral cat, and the sweat stung in those cuts. I strung up my rod, lost a second rainbow warrior, and got frustrated. No luck at location number three.

I didn’t break down my rod, I just ran a short distance to the next fishy spot, and gave it a go. No luck. I was starting to get straight up mad. I walked to the next spot. More scrapes from some kind of devil bush, and I couldn’t even get my fly in the water. Tons of branches and bushes and all sorts of green and brown evil that overhung the water. I think that between the running and my bad attitude, I seriously started to resemble the red faced emoji.


I broke down my rod, and tied everything down to my hydration pack. I took a big drink of body temperature water. I didn’t even take pictures of the trail on the way up, since I was so mad. Luckily, I thought of Ben, the fish whisperer, and I knew he was waiting for desperate anglers near the finish. I just knew he could put me on a fish.

I hunkered down through the “unpleasant switchbacks” and before I knew it, I found myself at the turnaround point. I looked behind me, and saw this beautiful view……and in front of me?The check in tent with supplies!

Available amenities include:

  • curly furry sleepy puppy snuggles
  • encouraging words
  • fishing tips
  • whiskey and tequila

I went straight for the bourbon. Thanks, Laws, for being a favorite race sponsor of mine!I decided to head on past the turnaround point into the cutthroat water and see if I could find something fishy, but I ran for over a half mile and all of the areas with easy access were filled with a sweaty, happy Flyathlete. I decided to relax, turn around, head down the mountain, and try not to fall on my way to find Ben.Everything looked so fishy. Open sections of river and beaver ponds just shouted at me to stop and fish, but I couldn’t bring myself to fail again. I kept running, and put more stake in Ben. Honestly, the more I hoped he’d put me on a fish, the less pressure I put on myself.Switchbacks like the one above were prevalent. I ran down the trail on the left of the picture, then curved around and headed down on the right, and there were lots of rocks. A new running mantra emerged: Don’t Fall.Are there fish in there? You betcha. Could I get them out? Absolutely not.Dead animals left their bones behind. I love the little purple flowers. Yeah, my fishing skills may be dead, but I have little purple flowers of optimism in my heart. Ha.Before I knew it, I found Tim and Ben, two guys who were happy to try and get me on a fish. Tim helped for a while, then Ben took over. I missed a couple strikes, hooked a teeny tiny 3″ trout that flipped over my shoulder and off my barbless hook before hurdling back to the stream (sorry, buddy!), and finally hooked into this guy.I’ve never been so happy to get a fish in the net. Honestly. I owe many thanks to Ben for helping me. I am not the type of angler who typically puts pressure on myself. If I head out fishing and don’t catch anything, it’s not the end of the world! I love the experience of being there, and the riparian vegetation, and the wildlife, and the fresh air. The actual catching of fish is not the important part. I was so relieved to have caught this fish that I almost cried. ❤Thanks again, Ben. I owe you one.

It’s a challenge for me to go out West, with all my passion for native trout, and discover that Westerners don’t love brook trout as much as I do. They’re not native there. They’re taking over streams and pushing out cutthroat.

Fear not, friends. I have the solution!
Dear Western states- send all your brookies home with me to Wisconsin where we will cherish them. I’ll build them habitat, and catch all the mean brown trout, and celebrate their pink polka dots. It’s only fitting that I caught a brookie during the race, since they’re my favorite fish. ❤️

It took me so long to finish the race that my carpooling buddies were ready to head out, and so was I! I haven’t plugged in my Garmin yet, so I don’t know my time for sure. I think I was out there running and fishing for about 4 hours. At the finish line, I showed the judges my fish picture, enjoyed a cold can of hoppy goodness from Elevation, then we went back to camp. I was pumped to rinse all the dirt off my scrapes and take off my wet socks and shoes. I did a number on them…I got myself cleaned up, chugged a ton of water with some ibuprofen, and took a power nap. When I woke up, I was feeling fine! 🙂

We had so many good beers and liquors to try that I spent quite a few hours doing just that. I didn’t take nearly enough pictures of the evening, I was mostly occupied with chilling and chatting with all of my new friends!The cooler pattern matches the trailer, aptly named Trout Force One. I wanted to document my shirt from Tight Lines that we wear in opposition to the Back Forty Mine. I’ll rep for you guys in Colorado anytime!I didn’t take many pictures of the take down morning- I was so preoccupied with how lucky I feel that I was just living in the moment. That doesn’t happen often as a photographer, and I cherish it.

I started this post with reflections from the drive home, and I’ll leave you with this image from the drive. I can feel the weight of this experience changing me as I type. 🙂

Thank you, Andrew Todd, and the entire Flyathlon family, for making this experience possible. I will happily raise money for Running Rivers every year.

As always, thank you for reading, friends! I love taking you along with me virtually on my adventures. Thank you for sharing in my passion for native trout! ❤


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WTF, elected Republicans from Wisconsin?

I have so many thoughts, emotions, and physical symptoms that defy description after yesterday’s passage of SB 76 through the assembly. I cannot figure out another way to process them, so I’m writing about it. Many of you are not involved in politics (I understand why), you don’t think this will personally affect you (I understand the detachment), or you just don’t have the time to worry and work on these types of issues (I probably don’t, either). However, I feel like I owe it to my community to explain what happened in real, understandable language, and share why I’m so out-of-sorts.


Spoiler alert: I’m understandably dissatisfied with the contents of the bill, I’m experienced in this issue, and the way that the Republican leadership changed the process of bill approval to cut out the involvement of citizens leaves me feeling worthless.

A little background:

I’ve been involved with groundwater issues for about five years. I was drafted into Trout Unlimited because of my artistic ability, but I was quickly educated on trout streams and their connection with groundwater. It was only a short hop, skip, and jump away to discover the unique groundwater challenges that we have here, living in the Central Sands of Wisconsin.

(Disclaimer: This is obviously my opinion, and I’m not representing any of the organizations that I’ve worked with on this issue)

The Central Sands area encompasses portions of Portage, Marathon, Wood, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, and Adams counties- including the Stevens Point area.

This area is defined by a sand and gravel aquifer that was left when glaciers melted at the end of the last ice age. This unique feature leads to regionalized groundwater challenges.

One of my largest concerns is the impact of pumping water through high capacity wells and the large number of wells that have been installed in this area. Over pumping of groundwater can lead to the draw down of surface water bodies- like lakes, rivers, and streams- among other environmental concerns. In this case, streams can run dry and lakes can lose depth or dry up completely.

DNR fish-38 (1).JPG

Dry stream beds and shallow lakes cause challenges for the aquatic ecosystem and recreation, among others. Shallower water becomes warmer and stresses wild fish populations. Water can become too shallow to navigate in a kayak or fishing boat, limiting public access.

DNR fish-36.JPG

These types of issues spurred my initial involvement with politics, and groundwater is by far the area where I am the most politically active and involved. My election to the city council here was spurred by my interest that was initially started in groundwater management and protection through political means. It is fair and accurate to say that my interest and political involvement with groundwater has changed the course of my life.

With that being said, the process that SB 76 went through to be passed is criminal.

(I deleted the word criminal, and tried to find a different word to use… but I honestly can’t think of one. Shameful? Delete. Wrong? Delete. Dishonest? Obviously.)

Here is where you can find information and the full text of the bill: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/proposals/reg/sen/bill/sb76 

…but if you want me to give you a shorter recap, here it is. This bill deals with permitting for high capacity wells. A high capacity well is one (or a system) that is capable of pumping 70 or more gallons per minute. If you live in farming country, you often see these types of wells at the center point of the large irrigation systems in farm fields. The giant sprinklers rotate around the well.

Key points? This bill provides:

  • No additional permit review is required for the owner of a high capacity well to repair or maintain a high capacity well, to construct a new replacement high capacity well within a 75 foot radius, to reconstruct a high capacity well at its same location and depth, -or- to transfer an existing high capacity well permit with the land upon which it is located.
  • Direction for the creation of a new study area in the Central Sands, hoping for more information in the future.

What does that mean? SB 76 grants permits in perpetuity, forever. No other permits are like this- we need to renew our driver’s licenses, and work permits… it just makes sense to have a periodic review. They don’t give you your drivers’ license on your sixteenth birthday for perpetuity. They ask you to renew your license and require you to take a follow up vision test.

What will happen in ten or twenty years, when we have more hydrologic information and science that supports a different groundwater management plan? We won’t have an option to ask water users to change their current water use- at least not one that is efficient. We’ll have to go through this whole bill creation process again.

My friend, Henry, has a great analogy that he used while testifying against a version of this bill last year. I can’t remember his exact quote, but it essentially draws a connection between locking ourselves into permits granted with our current scientific knowledge-  and opting to have surgery with the medical techniques used a couple decades ago. Why would you choose to make important current decisions with old science? That is the predicament we will be forced into in the future, with SB 76.

Since I’ve been teaching public speaking, I have well-rounded arguments at the forefront of my mind. In general, I usually try to understand all the counter-arguments, and fully wrap my head around an issue before I make a decision on it. In fact, it is part of what makes me agonize over my job as an alderwoman- I don’t just vote on the premise of something. I research and learn and ask lots of questions. In the sense of fairness, I asked a lot of questions about the other side. Here’s what I understand, so far.

I understand that farmers want certainty that if their well fails, they will be able to repair or replace it. It has been implied that farmers are tied up in this regulatory process, and that they have lost crops in times of drought- if their well(s) failed, they couldn’t replace their well without DNR approval, and they couldn’t wait for the process to provide the needed irrigation. However, the testimony at the March 15th hearing for this bill showed that agriculture and industry are able to get their well permits approved in a timely manner when they need to repair, replace, or transfer their well.

No one is trying to take away their wells.

We want to make sure that there will be enough water for everyone to use, now and in the future.

What happens when there is the inevitable problem with groundwater caused by a high capacity well (or 20)? Individual landowners can’t always afford to go to court, and if the problem is urgent… well, we all know that both government and law don’t move quickly. My heart breaks for all of the future people that will be impacted by this bill. One of the frustrating aspects of this bill, as I stated in my last testimony at the Capitol, is that it seems that some legislators are treating this as a future problem, instead of a current one. There are already problems with groundwater that are manifesting in surface water, so why would we pass a bill that does anything but try and solve the issue?

I feel like I own high capacity wells. As an alderwoman, our city manages wells to provide drinking water for our residents. Agriculture has the highest number of high capacity wells, but it isn’t the only use– we also have wells in Wisconsin for industrial and municipal use. With this being said, I understand the delicate balance of knowing when to pump and how much we can pump without adversely affecting our neighbors. Technology has really improved the amount of information available to us about when to pump and how much to use, and it makes efficient operation of wells, while quite sophisticated, definitely possible. If our municipal pump is on the outskirts of the city, and borders rural areas with residential wells, we need to make sure that we don’t adversely impact the other wells. We also protect our own wells, with wellhead protection areas. I’m not sticking my fingers in my ears and humming when I talk with pro-high capacity well folks. In fact, I think they’re important and necessary for the type of agriculture that is being enacted on here (whether or not large farms are the answer to our food problems is a different issue). However, we need a larger management plan, and we need to be able to change the limits on permits if when we discover the extent of their detrimental impact to the watershed.

Of course, I’ve met with my legislators. Many times. Via email. At the Capitol. On the phone. Over lunch or coffee. If you’ve followed me on social media, you’ve seen my selfies with these legislators all over the place.

16730355_10101196532657611_2381861095147979576_nIn fact, I’ve taken my current representative and our previous senator out to our local Tomorrow River, loaned them a spare pair of my waders, and hopped into the cold, clear trout stream. I explained exactly why this water means so much to me and why we work so tirelessly to protect it. We have a new senator now, and even though we disagree ideologically on almost everything, I think we have a good working relationship. His small amendment to the bill (the only amendment that passed) was introduced on the senate floor, and is almost like a super tiny step in the right direction- it expanded the area of future study. However, it’s not expanded to a large enough area- if we are all trying to really understand the craziness of our groundwater here. It is important to note that there is no identified funding for this study within this bill, so it could very well happen that the study isn’t funded and nothing happens. It doesn’t even feel like a real attempt at helping us- it feels like a multi-year stall tactic… and this, coming from your resident curly, science-loving friend, who tries to see the best in every situation. If the bill authors wanted to really help, they would include a fully funded, region-wide study.

All of this aside, my concern about the content of the bill, is completely overshadowed by the process that the legislature took to pass it.

The senate had their committee meeting on labor and regulatory reform on March 15th. Why did they choose to use the labor and regulatory reform committee, instead of the natural resources committee? Your guess is as good as mine. That’s the committee that I’ve spoken to in previous iterations of this bill. It was a long meeting with a nine hour public hearing- people from all over the state came to express their concern on both sides of the issue. It is obvious that groundwater is of high interest to many citizens.

I was looking forward to hearing the senators discuss and debate this topic, but the committee instead chose to cast their votes via paper ballot. No discussion. No amendments. I was disheartened.

It passed the Senate committee, and went to the full Senate. I watched the Senate floor on Wisconsin Eye and heard legislators discuss all the points of this bill. It was clear that many people had contacted their senators and expressed concern or support for the bill. Several senators referred to the long public hearing, and were amazed at the amount of public involvement in this legislative process. Of course, it passed the full Senate, along party lines.

The next step would typically include going to the assembly committee on agriculture. They should be the one to hold a hearing, and discuss this bill publicly. The assembly should be voting on SB 76’s partner bill, AB 105, but Assembly Speaker Vos decided to skip the last step in the committee process and have the full assembly vote on SB 76. Disheartened doesn’t even begin to explain how this makes me feel. Why wouldn’t the Assembly want to have an executive committee discussion about this bill when the public has clearly demonstrated their interest in the contents of the legislation? Whether you agree with the bill or not, I truly believe that we deserved a chance to talk to the assembly committee face-to-face and our elected representatives deserved a chance to discuss the merits and create amendments, if necessary.

I don’t get paid to do this work. I didn’t go to school to study political science or policy. I just care about it. I’ve done research. I’ve talked to people who know more than I do, and I try to keep up.

Just like I work for my constituents in the city, these legislators work for me. To have the Republican leadership slap citizens in the face like this flies in the face of everything I believe as an active, fairness-striving, people-loving woman. It’s wrong, it feels personal, and no one seems to know about it. Now you do, and my stress-induced stomachache is easing a little. Thank you so much for sticking with me through this short novel.

You can see how it was literally impossible for me to work on my grad school research, even though the final research papers are due next week. I was over the moon excited on Monday about receiving the results of my first study indicating attitude change using visual communication about this very subject (groundwater use in the Central Sands). It’s hard for me to feel like this work matters anymore. Why bother trying to change attitudes and educate the public when our elected officials don’t listen to our concerns? Please tell me this line of research and all my work in grad school isn’t for naught.


So what is the message here? What are Senate and Assembly Republicans trying to tell me?

I hear it, loud and clear.

I don’t matter. My friends don’t matter. Our scientists don’t matter.

The landowners with real concerns? They don’t matter. Their financial problems as their property values have gone down? Not the problem of their elected officials.

All the time that I spent learning, studying, and researching groundwater? Unimportant. It’s better to run your mouth about something you don’t know about than to waste time learning and try to make an informed argument. You don’t want to hear from me, anyway.

Every day that I took time off work and drove down to Madison to meet with legislators? It doesn’t matter. Those lost wages? Unimportant.

The meetings with other concerned citizens? A waste of time. Our sign on letters of concern with hundreds of land owners? Probably went straight to your recycle bin.

All of the phone calls and emails that I made? Not even noted. Not even a blip on your radar. Your staff is kind, but they probably didn’t even pass on the message. That’s easier for me to swallow than to think that you Literally. Don’t. Care.

And you know what? I’m PISSED about it.

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