An explosion of thoughts. I tried to keep them in, but I couldn’t.

On making generalizations:

We need to stop making generalizations, accepting stereotypes, and spreading them into the world. I am not trying to make stereotyping and generalizing a political issue. I will certainly admit our political climate has changed the ways we talk to and about one another, and that brings this issue to mind.

Making generalizations continues to create divisions when there may not be any, and it further separates and emphasizes the divides that exist. Even though a conservative said that I am mean-spirited, I don’t assume that all conservatives feel that way. Generalizing means that you take the actions from a few specific cases and apply that logic to a whole group. I read a post yesterday from a conservative woman, stating that the women involved in the marches would be terrible mothers. Despite my obvious pain in the world of infertility and my deep desire to be a mother, I wondered… what in the world would possess someone to make such a cruel, sweeping, obviously untrue statement. Maybe some of those woman would be bad mothers, but is it helpful to generalize all of them, and share it in a public setting? Sure, people liked her statement, and piled fuel on the fire. Does that mean that all those people believe the same thing? I’m hoping that instead of that woman being heartless and cruel, that she is thoughtless… and doesn’t actually mean those things.

What is the motivation there? I’m honestly curious as to why people make terrible generalizations, especially in such a public forum. Is it to gain attention?

I’m agonizingly thoughtful in the words that I choose and the way I use my public influence, because words do matter.

Social media has given us each an audience, and we need to choose our words carefully in our newfound positions of influence.

On kindness being equated with weakness:

Being kind and caring toward others doesn’t indicate anything negative about my character. Taking care of those who need help- yes, including safe spaces for those who need it- is not a strike on me. We all have safe spaces. Some people find their safe space in a book. Or a video game. Some people use a cold beer. Or a cup of tea. Or a cigarette. Or from hugs in their mother’s arms. Needing a safe space is human, and the implication that is it an insult is deeply disturbing. I know some of you are reading this and must be thinking that me being disturbed by your statements taunting and making fun of “safe spaces” means I’m a snowflake. That brings me to my next thought…

On being a snowflake, I guess:

Snowflakes are beautiful and unique. It would be such a flattering statement for you all to think that I’m beautiful and unique. I can be delicate like a snowflake but stand up for myself. I can be caring towards others and strong at the same time. Being politically correct, when it puts someone at ease or makes them more comfortable, is a kind and strong decision, not a fragile one. I ask a lot of questions when I don’t understand something. I don’t consider myself weak, either of character or body. I work hard. I’ve run marathons! I thrive without a thyroid. These things are not easy. Why do people use the word snowflake to try and tear me down for being kind and thoughtful? Of course I’m hurt when people I love say mean things.

Any implication and generalization that liberals don’t work hurts me. It really bothers me when people I love say things like that. I’m not easily offended, and I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, which is why it is so painful when my family and friends make generalizations about the work ethic of liberals.

Don’t they know me?

Do they not respect me?

Do they not mean what they say?

Do they not realize that when they make untrue generalizations in a public forum, they’re further separating us?

Literally, us. Me. And you.

I read those statements and want to keep those people at arms length, because they must think differently of me. Why wouldn’t they say those things to my face? They feel so strongly enough about it that they’re willing to say it to everyone they know online.

I don’t have time to defend myself against every attack on my work ethic because I’m too busy running two photo businesses, serving as an elected official, being a wife and puppy mom, studying for my master’s, and teaching undergraduate students- if I have spare time, I’m volunteering my ass off.

When I am upset that people I care about are spreading hatred, sometimes people around me (ahem, Mr. Mustache) try and make me feel better by saying, “Heidi, it’s not about you. They’re not talking about you.” Unfortunately, when you make public generalizations about women, or conservationists, or politicians, YOU ARE. It is about me. As soon as you make a sweeping statement about one of those groups, I’m in there. Please think about it before you hit the “share” button on some meme saying politicians are like dirty diapers.

On rehearsing:

Rehearsal isn’t a bad thing. I saw an interview with a young Trump supporter where he echoed the sentiment of several that I’ve heard and read about. I’ll paraphrase his statement, “I voted for Trump because when he gets up and speaks, he’s really saying what he’s thinking. He’s not rehearsed. No one has told him what to say.”

I want to make it very clear that I think rehearsal is incredibly important for almost every aspect of my life. Rehearsing what you want to say doesn’t mean that you’re influenced by anyone. I do most of my rehearsing alone, with a highlighter over a city council agenda or reading my grad school papers to my dog.

There is a language to public speaking, to persuasion, and to professionalism, and while I don’t believe that we all need to rehearse every single thing we say, there needs to be some practice. There needs to be an understanding of the context in which you’re speaking and the audience you’re addressing.

This feels like the difference between asking a 7th grade saxophonist in jazz band to improvise, and asking Wynton Marsalis to improvise. There is a period of learning: you learn the language, you learn the context, and you practice how to say what you intend. You have to learn the notes, the chord progressions, and figure out how to use those notes to convey feeling. Eventually, after lots of practice, you can say exactly what you mean, and be very clear in your message. If you’re not rehearsed, you can get bogged down by logistics and not be a good communicator.

I know politicians that make eloquent statements, probably rehearsed, but completely authentic. I know this because I know them. I literally know them- send Christmas cards, have conference calls, sit in meetings together, “let’s have lunch!” kind of know them. The words that they say in press conferences and that they type in press releases are just cleaned up versions of what they are thinking. Rehearsing and prepping your material is a part of political professionalism, and not always a sign of impact from outside influence.

(Disclaimer: this post has been heavily thought through, rehearsed, and edited. It is definitely still authentic, and straight from my heart.)

On hearing “Get over it”:

At the end of every meme challenging the #notmypresident movement, there is seemingly the same sentiment, Get Over It. This is troubling because I believe that it has little to do with Trump supporters thinking that others need to accept who our new president is, and is an indication of an entirely different style of political involvement.

I believe that those who say “get over it” subscribe to a style of politics with involvement once every four years. If they didn’t like President Obama, they “got over it,” and didn’t worry about it until it was time for the next election. I don’t subscribe to that style of politics- I believe in being active as often as possible at every level of government. Change is made incrementally at all levels, and it is being accomplished constantly. I don’t think I need to get over anything- what is on the other side of that statement?

“Get over it” and don’t think about politics until it’s time to vote again?

“Get over it” and don’t talk about your concerns with policy with anyone?

“Get over it” and get back to work?

Other people may say, “get over it,” but I’m going to pretend they’re saying, “get on with it.” We’ve got work to do. I hope that’s what they are actually intending to say.

On science, facts, data, and the media:

I will have to write a separate post about these issues, because I honestly don’t know how to begin writing and starting conversations about the attack on facts. I don’t know how to make a persuasive argument when facts are now considered up for debate. I do know that this issue is tied to the media, and the real and perceived bias. I consider myself a part of the media, and I have been doing tons of research in grad school about the field of visual communication within the field of political communication. I just have one thought to leave with you on this topic until I write about it again: covering an event with no perceived bias is almost impossible.

Here are a couple non-political examples:

Example one: bridesmaid looks at wedding photos and says, “You made me look fat. I’m not that fat.” Yes, different angles could change the way she looks, but in reality, photos often capture a pretty accurate picture of what is actually happening.

Example two: commercial client sees his headshots and says, “Whoa, I look like I’ve lost a lot of hair in these photos! Is it the angle, or the light?” I didn’t try to make him look worse, in fact, I tried to make him look better!

Even if I captured that bridesmaid or that businessman in a 100% accurate photo, they could feel that I was not doing them justice, or portraying them in a bad light. I could edit the photos to make them thinner and with fuller hair, but then I’m showing bias in the opposite way- which I often do. 🙂

In our political climate, imagine if candidate one had a huge booger sticking out of their nose in a debate. If the newspaper wrote that the candidate had a booger, it would appear that they were biased against candidate one. If the newspaper didn’t say anything about the booger, it would appear that they favored candidate one. This is a tricky situation, and not as easy to solve as it would appear. Accurately reporting on events will always favor one person over the other because real life isn’t exactly equal and fair all of the time. Sometimes one person has a bad hair day. Sometimes one person just got a speeding ticket and they’re coming in to the event already angry. Someones one person has a Freudian slip and says something wrong and embarrassing. Covering these types of things accurately will portray someone in a more negative light, and it’s not biased, it’s accurate. More to come later.

While there are many things that I could say about my concern with the new Trump administration (especially regarding WOTUS), this is not intended to be a purely partisan post.

I want it to be an honest call to action for my readers to think about how they choose to use their influence.

I want it to be an honest call to action for people to be kind.

Hitting that publish button feels a lot like I’m walking into a fist fight with my hands tied behind my back, but I feel a social obligation to share my thoughts and concerns with you. I’m waiting for all the unkind things that will be said about me “whining” and that I’ve been “brainwashed” and all the rest of it. I know it’s coming. I’m trying to be prepared.

Please be kind to one another. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.

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Hope for my friends

Does this election cycle leave you feeling disillusioned? Unhappy? Angry? Helpless?

I’m here to give you hope.

Non-partisan, straight-from-my-heart hope.

Please take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders. This isn’t one of those stressful articles about the current state of politics that is trying to change your mind about the candidates.

In fact, here’s a selfie with Thomas Jefferson. A favorite quote of his? “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

Let’s start by telling you why I’m involved in politics: I want to make a difference. Please don’t think the politicians you see in the media represent all of us. In addition, please know the media doesn’t represent politicians as the actual people that they are, for better or for worse. 🙂

I’m here to remind you that politicians are real people, and the majority of us are your neighbors. We live around the block from you, or go to your church, or our kids swing next to yours at the park. I kind of want to make a shirt that says, “Politicians are people, too.” For some reason, people feel empowered to say terrible things to and about their elected officials. I beg of you, please stop that.

If you wouldn’t say it about me, don’t say it about our presidential candidates. They’re people, too. 🙂 Death threats are uncalled for. Insults are unnecessary. Yes, we’re all frustrated, but we’re also working together as a society. Humanity, people.

Most of the people reading my blog know who I am- we’ve met. I sat next to you in band, or we were in Girl Scouts together, or I shot your wedding, or you met me through Mr. Mustache. Regardless of how we initially met, or how long it’s been, I’m still the curly, bubbly Heidi that you all know and love. Yes, I was elected to represent my community- probably since I care so passionately and I want to help- but I’m still the same girl who tap danced at the school talent show and competed with the math team. Maybe I’ve been hardened a little bit, but mostly I’m getting used to handing criticism, deserved and undeserved. I’m undergoing personal growth. 🙂 Adulthood is a wonderful thing!

It would be easy to stay at home next Tuesday. It is easy to turn off the television, to unfriend Facebook friends who drive you crazy with their political statements. It is easy to put the election in the far back corner of your mind, and focus on everything else…

…except, in the words of Truman, “Decisions are made by those who show up.”

I want to make decisions. I don’t want to pretend that I don’t have an opinion, or worse, I don’t want to stay home because I’m frustrated, and let others make my decisions for me.

I have two suggestions:

  1. Please vote. Vote in every election that you can! It’s such an honor for me to be involved in the political process, and I cherish living in a country where my input is valued. All of our input is valued. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that your individual vote doesn’t count. The ocean wouldn’t exist without each water droplet, and our current country wouldn’t exist without each of us. Please don’t confuse my optimism with naïveté- I truly believe that each person is an important member of society with a role to play and a job to do.
  2. Get involved with local politics. In my job as an alderwoman (councilwoman), I have the privilege of helping make decisions that really affect my community. I make sure that kids have safe routes to walk to school. I help ensure that police officers have the vehicles they need. I learn about Emerald Ash Borer from our city forester and approve the spending to help prevent major damage to a huge asset: our city trees. I make sure that we take care of the elderly in our community. I help find funding to fix our bumpy roads and mow the lawns in our parks. I learn about our city budget and try to help find creative ways to keep all our services running while still taking care of our city employees. I help reunite lost cats and sweet old ladies (yes, this happened!). I’m literally able to make a real difference in my neighborhood!

You can do this, too. It’s not difficult, it’s not a huge time commitment- our local cities are clamoring for your input! Many municipalities have committees with citizens that fill their spots. You could call your local alder and find out if they need help with anything. You can even just write an email and share what you love about your community and what concerns you.

I’ve heard people say that there are more important things than politics, like their family or their job. I urge you to see the connections between all of the above. Since political influence extends over all of our lives, I want to make sure it has a positive impact. I want to make the best neighborhood possible for my future children. I want to have a safe, happy, healthy home.

Please don’t write off politics as a whole because you feel disenfranchised with the happenings on the national stage. There are lots of local politicians who are here to listen, and want to help.

Our big election will be over in less than a week, and regardless of what happens, our cities and villages will keep on chugging along. We’ll still be here, working hard to serve you!

Please know that you can make a difference. Your input is valued. I care!

With love,

Heidi

P.S. There are a few houses for sale in my neighborhood, in case you want to move somewhere I can represent you. 🙂

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I like the challenge.

Life is full of so many challenges, and I love it.

Life is short.

I feel so lucky to be here, and I love this struggle that we’re all facing together. Here are a few of my current favorite challenges…

The challenge to keep my cool when people lie to my face, especially in politics.

  • I’m not involved in politics for my own gain. I’m not in it for the “glory,” and I’m certainly not in it for the money. My salary is public record, and much of what I do is volunteer work. There are lots of late nights and early mornings. In reality, I’m in politics to help make a difference. To be actively involved in my neighborhood- to preserve the unique qualities of my community while changing us for the better.

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The challenge to continually come up with fresh, creative ideas in the face of mirror images.

  • Seeking inspiration from other creatives and from reflection in solitude is not easy. It requires a healthy dose of honesty and open-mindedness… and a realization that, yes, sometimes the truth hurts. Accepting it and using it to improve my craft is where the growth happens.

The challenge to remain youthful but make mature decisions.

  • I feel an intense societal pressure to appear youthful but not act that way.

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The challenge to continually market myself when sometimes I just want to be real with people.

  • Yes, sometimes I take iPhone photos of my lattes. No, I usually don’t post them on social media because they don’t fit my “brand.” I used to try to take one of my cameras everywhere, so I could satisfy my urge to capture everything and still have the quality that I feel I need to post images. Having a transparent, integrated life sometimes makes me feel like a fraud, because my brand is ME, and while I have no problem posting selfies or unflattering photos of myself, I intentionally end up not sharing some of the more, well… not “picture-perfect” things that I’ve documented, as if it will somehow negatively effect my business. I need to remember that my clients know when I’m working and when I’m having fun, and taking non-professional photos when I’m not working isn’t an indication of what I can do when I am.

Here’s a phone photo of a beautiful flaming cocktail from my local distillery. The upside is that I’ll be doing photo work for them in the coming months, so I’ll have some professional photos, too. 🙂

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The challenge to ignore the “haters” and remember that their problems are with themselves, and are not about me. I thought K-12 school was bad, but I had no idea about the adult business world.

  • My personality is one that thrives off competition- it pushes me to be better and work harder. Some people don’t have that same instinct, and competition brings out the worst in them.

The challenge to remain positive and focused on the long game, when current situations make me feel defeated and hopeless.

  • Especially in politics: when I’m fighting the good fight, and I know I’m going to lose, it’s difficult to stay optimistic and keep fighting. There are always going to be more fights to take on, and they’re often among the same people. It’s hard for me to lose with grace when my instinct is to go down swearing and swinging, leaving destruction in my wake. I usually end up defaulting to acting with grace in the hearing/meeting/consult, then crying out of anger in the car on the way home. Brian has received a brunt of my frustration after interactions like that. Thanks for the support, honey!

The challenge to keep growing and learning, stretching through the painful growth spurts, knowing there is a new version of myself waiting on the other side… and the simultaneous challenge of accepting and loving myself as I am, and at every step along the process.

  • Balancing the desire to become better and acceptance for my current self is something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve always wanted to be stronger, smarter, and thinner, and it’s proving a good challenge to accept myself on every step of this journey.

The challenge to consistently motivate myself independently- as a business owner, as a distance runner, as a grad student. This skill is elusive but incredibly important.

  • I’m reaching that wise age now (31, as of last week) where I realize that striving for self-motivation is worthy, but it’s also important to recognize when I need to ask for help. Sometimes I don’t want to read another scholarly article. Sometimes, I don’t want to go for a run. Sometimes, I don’t want to put myself out there in case people reject me or shut me down. It’s times like those that I’m thankful for my incredible support system who will bring me coffee and a cozy blanket with my homework, or give me the perfect pep talk, or get a manicure together, or put on their own running shoes and go with me.

The challenge to put aside my own worries and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.

  • First world problems. I have plenty of them. Today, I was fighting with myself about how miserable it is that my lipstick gets on my braces. I can’t believe that was worth complaining about. Braces and lipstick are both non-essentials. I’m lucky, I know it, and don’t want to waste my time complaining when I can spend my time using my gifts to help others who need it.

The challenge to stay focused on this current moment, to appreciate what I have. Where I am. Who I’m with.

  • To put down my phone. It’s so hard. I feel like the world will fall apart, that my business will collapse, that there will be unrest in District Four, and it will be my fault. In reality, focusing on my current situation helps me to be better in all of my roles.

The challenge of properly deciding when to open my mouth and when to close it and smile.

  • I like to talk. I’m still getting used to the whole “on the record” thing. I want to be like my friend, Mary, who thinks things through so thoughtfully before she speaks- and as a result, she says incredibly insightful things.

The challenge to stop fighting sleep- to know when to stop writing, stop editing, stop consuming… to turn off my devices and go to bed.

  • Sometimes I feel like a little kid- I just don’t want to go to bed. I don’t know why I do this; I’m exhausted. I also love Jimmy Kimmel- that’s part of the problem. He’s so funny! Thursday nights are my favorite- they run his feature, This Week in Unnecessary Censorship. Hilarious.

The challenge to be social and friendly in a group setting, even when I’m just exhausted and I’d rather be secluded.

  • Conferences and meetings are especially tough- I feel like my personality always has to be “on.” I need time to recharge, and I don’t have enough of it. Multiple days of forced extroversion can be exhausting, but I know that pushing myself outside of my comfort zone is where growth happens, and I’ve had many wonderful experiences when I’m tired but hung with a group, regardless. I really do love meeting new people.

The challenge to push myself creatively, to try new subjects, new medium, new locations.

  • I’m going to try painting next. What’s the worst thing that can happen? The last time I tried shooting a new subject in a new style (food and beverages), I was blown out of the water. I couldn’t wait for my food photography and food styling classes, and I had a renewed excitement about shooting. All the colors and textures and movement just drew me right in, and I found myself shooting events and portraits with a new excitement, as well.

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And, lastly, the challenge to summon the bravery required to continually remain transparent. Honest. To blog with you all about my hopes and my dreams. To share my failures and my successes. To shout my joys and whisper my hardships.

  • Thank you for coming along on this journey. I appreciate you all!

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I can’t believe this race exists a.k.a. Rocky Mountain Flyathlon recap

I can’t believe this race exists.FullSizeRender (2)I can’t believe this place exists.

I’m talking about the Flyathlon. It’s the brain child of this incredible person, Andrew Todd.IMG_1514I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first heard about it: a race with the motto, “Run. Fish. Beer.”

Sing here: These are a few of my favorite things…

In typical Heidi style, as soon as I heard about the race last year, I wanted to sign up. Unfortunately, it was full, so I signed up for this year’s race.

It’s held just outside of Saguache, CO, which is basically in the middle of nowhere in the mountains. FYI, Saguache is pronounced like suh-watch. No wonder people had a hard time understanding where I said I was going… I said Saguache like it rhymed with Chattahoochie (which also holds some awesome fish, in case you ever get down to Georgia…).

I had a VERY exciting and eventful trip out here, so I’ll start at the beginning…

Thursday morning: 6:00 am. I roll my curly, sleepy self out of bed. It’s difficult.

7:00 am. I’ve showered, dressed, and loaded everything into the car. I head out for MKE, the Milwaukee airport.

10:00 am. I’ve parked, and headed into the terminal.

10:10 am. My luggage is overweight. It must be the twelve beers from Central Waters and O’so. I became that annoying person in front of you at the airport, transferring gear from one bag to another. I also already have a ton of stuff, since this is a long trip. I have six days in Colorado and five days in Nevada. Temperatures ranging from 40 degrees to 105. And since I’m a photographer, I always have my camera gear. And my laptop. And I needed to bring all my trail running stuff, fly fishing stuff, and some camping stuff. I was a hot mess. I eventually got everything settled, and headed through security, and to my gate.

10:30 am. I discover that my flight has been delayed. I’m not really mad- I planned plenty of time for the flight, picking up my rental car, and swinging by REI and Whole Foods for a few race necessities before attempting the four hour drive into the mountains. I sit in MKE, catching up on work, and was able to actually sit down and eat a salad. 🙂

2:00 pm. We board the flight. I was about halfway through the boarding order, and as I was struggling to wheel my camera bag, laptop bag, and carrying my rod tube onto the plane, I heard, “Heidi! Sit here!” I looked up to discover my friend, Rich. How fabulous. I snuggled up next to him, told him all about the race, and also explained some serious anxiety I had about a big upcoming project. It’s not finalized yet, so I can’t talk about it, but I’ll let you know as soon as I can.

IMG_1428I knew Rich was coming out to CO, I just didn’t know we were on the same flight! I’m staying with my friend, Meredith, and she had mentioned that they were going to see Brandi Carlile at Red Rocks on Sunday. They invited me, and I was excited to see them and to check out that venue. I’d heard such great things!

This is Meredith. I’ve known her since we were six. Disclaimer: she’s amazing.IMG_1526Anyway, we landed safely in Denver, and my luggage arrived as well.IMG_1429I told Rich that I could give him a ride into town, since I was getting a rental car. I typically rent from Enterprise or Hertz, but there was a big business travelers’ conference in town, and they had a shortage of cars. I ended up having to rent from Budget. We took the shuttle to the Budget rental counter.

5:00 pm. We walk in the big sliding glass doors, and see this:IMG_1430I immediately told Rich that if he wanted to take the train downtown or grab an Uber, that I would totally understand. He did. 🙂 I wheeled all that luggage through the indoor switchbacks, and talked to the woman next to me in line to pass the time. She is a guitar instructor, and was out in CO to teach some masterclasses. Too cool. I’m glad we started talking, since we were there in line for an HOUR. I started to worry when doing the math… adding four plus hours to the current time equaled setting up my tent in the dark.

6:00 pm. When I finally made it to the counter, and the woman there looked up my reservation, she gave me bad news. I had messed up my online reservation, and I was actually supposed to pick up my car at a different Budget location, in Englewood. I asked if it was possible to modify my reservation, and she agreed. Yay! Unfortunately, there was going to be a $400 upcharge. I didn’t have $400, so I just stood there for a minute, stunned. I asked her what to do, because I was hoping she could help me out somehow. She said it was not their fault, so I was on my own. I asked for the address of the Englewood location, and called for an Uber. A few minutes later, the Uber driver called me- he couldn’t seem to find me. I had to ask a shuttle bus driver for directions for the driver, and eventually he found me, but it took longer than it should have, and I was trying to lug all that luggage around. I seriously put the LUG in luggage. My driver was a little scary- I just got a weird vibe from him. He was very jumpy and kept putting his left hand down on the side of his seat and making a rapid clicking noise. I didn’t know what was going on down there, and it was just freaking me out. To make matters worse, we were in serious Denver rush hour traffic, so it took us 45 minutes to get to the correct rental place. I was stuck with one heck of an Uber bill. We drove into a very industrial district- there wasn’t anything friendly-looking around. Apparently, I was supposed to pick up my car from a Budget truck rental facility- they must also have a few cars. I unloaded my luggage from the Uber, and turned to walk up to the door… only to realize it was dark inside. I pulled on the door, and it was locked. They closed at 6:00. I turned around as my Uber driver drove away. I looked at my phone and realized it was almost dead, but tried to call Budget customer service, anyway. They closed at 5:00.

::cue emotional breakdown::

I sat on the sidewalk and cried. I didn’t know what to do!

I called my trusty Denver friend, Meredith. She was in California for work, but was so sweet. She said, “Hang on, I’m going to text some people and figure something out for you.”

Amazing. Her friend, Kyle, text me an address to get to, and I called for another Uber. The next driver was amazing. He pulled up in a nice car, and when he got out, I found a kind middle-aged man wearing a tie and sweet frames. He loaded all my luggage. He even opened the door for me! I’m sure I wasn’t what he was expecting- he pulled up to the car rental place and found a tear-streaked, travel weary, curly Wisconsin woman with four pieces of luggage and a rod tube.

He dropped me off at the location Kyle gave me, and I asked for his phone number so I could call him directly the next time I needed a ride. I started wondering how I was going to get back to the rental place, and how I would get everything situated.

To make a long story short, I spent the night in a very nice hotel in Denver, and Kyle made sure I was comfortable. Thanks, friend! I’m so thankful.

This is us- look at Kyle’s cutie patootie face.IMG_1579I unpacked some of my luggage, and discovered that all 12 bottles of Wisconsin beer had survived the trip! We were asked to bring some of our favorite beer to share, so I had to make space among my clothes and gear for the important things.IMG_1436I took a bubble bath, made some tea, and slept pretty well.

Friday morning: 8:00 am. My alarm went off. I called Budget to tell them about my ordeal. I kept thinking that I was really lucky- something awful could have happened to me out there in that industrial district. I couldn’t easily walk anywhere to figure out what to do or charge my phone, especially not with all that luggage. Why did the woman at the airport tell me to go somewhere in the middle of nowhere when they were closed?! As it turns out, Budget didn’t care. I asked them if they could at least let the Englewood location know that I’d be over to pick up my car that morning, instead of the previous day, and the customer service representative’s response was, “Well, technically… your reservation is only valid for 15 hours from the time of pick up. Since you had planned to arrive in Denver at 1:30 yesterday, your reservation has already expired.” I asked to change it, and there was going to be (you guessed it!) a $400 upcharge. I couldn’t believe it. I hung up.

I stared at my phone, like I expected someone to call and explain this situation to me. Instead, I called Hertz at the airport, asked if they had any cars (they did!), and made a new reservation. Then I called my favorite Uber driver and asked if he could pick me up and take me to the airport. He said he could, but couldn’t get there until 2:00. I didn’t push my luck with a different driver- so I hung out at the hotel and got a little more work done.

I did some research on Red Rocks, and discovered that Brandi Carlile was actually playing with OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW!!!!! I lost my mind in that hotel room, jumping up and down and screaming. I love them. That helped me be in better spirits!

I hoped that traffic wouldn’t be too bad, and I’d still get to the mountains in time to meet everyone and get myself settled. My driver arrived, and he offered to take me on my errands in town and then to the airport. The traffic was crazy- I guess Denver’s Friday rush hour is even worse than Thursday. He was so kind- he didn’t want me to pay him. He felt so bad for me during this ordeal! I bought him coffee and lunch. 🙂

4:30 pm. I arrived at Hertz at the airport. Check-in went smoothly, until my credit card was declined. I had a zero dollar balance on it, so I couldn’t imagine what the problem was… until I realized that Budget must have run it every time I tried to change my reservation, so there was some kind of hold on it. I couldn’t let that stop me- so I used my debit card. A bad idea, I know… but it’s okay.

5:00 pm. I picked up my little white Jetta and hit the road.

The drive to Saguache was incredible. Around every bend, there was a new mountain. A new view. I cried a bunch on the way there. I was just so thankful to be finally on my way, and everything was so beautiful. It was storming, so I saw beautiful lightning strikes in the distance, and a few wicked rainbows.IMG_1445My ears popped as I drove up and down the mountains and into the valleys, while my cell phone popped in and out of having service.

I hit a traffic jam… I was literally stuck behind a house. I didn’t even care.

IMG_1441I knew I was racing the sun, and the closer I got to the race, the clearer it became that I would be arriving after dark.flyathlon-1There is serious value in written directions, and having the capability to follow them. I will be the first to admit that I am a GPS addict. Yes, I have a well-worn gazetteer marked with all my favorite fishing spots and little notes, but when I’m traveling, my eyes are glued to my phone’s map. Once I got within a couple hours of the race, I had no service, so no GPS. There was also no address attached to the lodge where race headquarters are located. I was driving in the dark, counting the miles on my odometer, and praying that I didn’t get lost. I didn’t. I pulled up in the pitch black, followed a gravel road, and wondered what the view would be like in the morning. Everyone had already set up their tents, and some people were sleeping in preparation for the next morning: the race.

It’s so hard to meet people in the dark. I parked, and was welcomed by a few really kind people, including my new BFF, Brian from Iowa.IMG_1492I’ll be referring to him from here on out as Iowa. We’d met virtually a couple months ago, because he’s planning a Flyathlon in the driftless region. I’m stoked. Registration is currently open, so if you’re interested in running a Flyathlon of your own this fall, check it out! I’m planning on being there. 🙂

I set up my tent (Andrew, the amazing race director, brought one for me) and unpacked the few things I’d need. I checked in for the race, got my bib and a bag with a ton of swag, and chugged some water. I was so thirsty. It was really cold, so I didn’t stay up late. I curled up in my tent and finally ate my dinner, in my tent, around 10 pm. I was exhausted after the stressful couple of days, but I didn’t sleep well. It’s my own fault- I was so cold. It got down to 40 that night, and I wasn’t prepared for that.

Saturday, race day. 6:30 am. My alarm went off. I had created a little mummy bag out of my blankets, sleeping bag liner, and clothes, and slowly emerged like a butterfly out of a very cozy cocoon. I took my thyroid meds, and cursed the fact that I didn’t have a plan for securing a hot cup of coffee. Need a visual? Here’s home sweet home.flyathlon-2It was the perfect place to camp. I saw this sign, and made sure the tent was zipped tightly.IMG_1496…And this is literally the view from my tent. Mountains were the perfect view for my morning yoga.flyathlon-3I had to sit in my car with the heat on to warm up, and I wasn’t really ready for the race. I was mentally making a checklist of required items to take with me- my gear was all rearranged for the flights, so it wasn’t all in one place. Normally, I have a detailed list of the things I need, and I lay everything out ahead of time. The crazy night prior to the race eliminated my routine. I forced myself to get out of the car and get ready, and I was in a hurry. I packed as much in my Osprey pack as I could, and grabbed the rest, including sandals for after the race (brilliant!). Noosa was one of the race sponsors, so I had some kick-ass yogurt for breakfast, with some granola that I’d scooped up at Whole Foods in Denver.IMG_1448The volunteers left early to drive to the trailhead and hike up to their posts, so I didn’t know anyone around the headquarters. I made my way around, introducing myself to people, and eventually found some nice people who let me ride with them.

Look at these friendly faces.IMG_1480I was the fifth wheel in a very sweet truck of flyathletes.IMG_1449We rode through farmland on gravel roads and over cattle guards, until we finally found ourselves with everyone else.

We took pictures of the race map with our phones in case we got lost out there.IMG_1450I rearranged my gear and realized that I’d forgotten my forceps and nippers in my luggage. 😦 Luckily, Iowa’d driven himself there, and he was more than willing to loan me his gear. Crisis averted. I checked in, and they gave me my measuring bib, which they won’t give us ahead of time to prevent cheating or pre-fishing.IMG_15679:00 am. I looked around at all the mountains surrounding me, and checked out the badasses who were lining up at the start.IMG_1452IMG_1453The trail head was adorned with this kickass sign, our logo made of beer caps.IMG_1475Andrew gave a few directions and reminders, then started the race by shooting a Busch Light with a BB gun.IMG_1456When the cheap beer started spraying, we took off.

The race had two courses- a short course of seven miles, and the long course of twelve miles. I’d been training for the long course. The short course runners went to the left, and the long course runners headed right, and straight up a hill. I stood at the bottom, looking up that hill, and had second thoughts. I ran anyway. By the time I could see the first switchback, I was already panting like a dog on a hot day, and started to worry. I stopped. Should I stop? Keep going? Could I keep going? Will something bad happen to me if I just charge ahead at this altitude? I turned around, and headed back to the start. Andrew was there, and I ran up and asked if I could switch to the short course. He said, “Of course.”

So… I took off on the short course, in very last place.  I spent the first couple miles of beautiful trail paralleled by stream, and beat myself up about changing courses.IMG_1566I knew at that moment that it was the right decision, but I was upset about it. Luckily, Andrew’s dad (a doctor!) was there to check on the flyathletes, and I stopped to chat with the volunteers. We had to cross the river, but there were a few felled logs. I pretended to be Baby in Dirty Dancing, and danced my way across.

I passed a couple people who had stopped to try and catch their fish, and I tried to focus on the trail. The brush scraped up my legs as I ran by, and the sweat stung a little bit. I tripped a couple times, but didn’t fall.IMG_14589:40 am. I came around a corner and found a spot that looked super fishy to me, so I veered off the trail and made my way over to the stream.

9:44 am. I strung up my rod, and opened my fly box.  I was planning on using a hopper-dropper combo, and after I tied on the big bug, I saw ONE rainbow warrior left from the last time I came out to Colorado. I’d seen my friend, Jon, in the airport, and he gave me a couple of his killer flies to use. I delicately tied it on, and hoped it would bring me luck. The stream was narrow, maybe four feet wide, and rather shallow, with some rocks creating riffles and some little plunge pools. My first cast went straight into a tree on the other side of the stream. Luckily, I just popped the flies right out, and…

9:50 am. …my second cast hooked me right into a beautiful little brookie.

Secretly, I was hoping I’d catch a brookie. I feel, about brook trout, the way that Western people feel about cutthroat trout. I get it.

I snapped my mandatory photo of my fish to prove I’d caught one.flyathlon-100Oh, wait- that’s my back-up photo, in case I couldn’t hook into one. 😉 Here’s my real fishie.IMG_1459I wanted to keep fishing, but also knew I’d have a rough time with the “unpleasant switchbacks” nearing the turnaround. I reluctantly packed up my gear, but my spirit was buoyed, so I skipped right along, breathing heavily the whole way.

A mile later, I ran into a snake on the path. I didn’t panic. I didn’t scream. I patiently waited for her to cross the trail, and then I ran really fast past her. I passed a few more people. I was almost to the switchbacks when I started to come across people on their way back. Those guys and gals looked awesome: happy and hardworking. I asked them how much further it was until the turnaround, and they said, “Look for the yellow tent.”IMG_1565Can you see the little yellow tent up there? I couldn’t get there fast enough. I ran past this guy, fishing his little heart out.IMG_1462I tried to run up the switchbacks, but they were so steep that my run was basically a power hike. I loved it the whole way. Challenges, baby.

And just like that, I was at the top.IMG_1464The view is gorgeous. The air was thin, so breathing was tough, but I was so happy. I almost didn’t want to go back down!

Kelly was running up right behind me, so we stayed up at the top and chatted for a bit.IMG_1465Luckily for me, these three were up there. What a welcoming committee! Look closely at the lower left corner of the photo- they’d brought provisions!IMG_1564Stranahans for me, and a little Redemption rye for Kelly. One good pull, and I headed back down the mountain.IMG_1524It was amazing. I tried really hard not to fall, because going downhill is much faster…

In fact, I had the most amazing trip ever. I tripped on a rock, and I fell for about fifteen feet. It wasn’t graceful. Eventually, I caught myself- I didn’t actually end up hitting the ground! I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I thought I should take a picture to show you guys what the rocky sections looked like.IMG_1472I didn’t have anyone take a picture of me on the way back, but the panic button on my car keys really captured my posture as I was running/falling on the way back down the mountain. FullSizeRender (1)I took one last selfie on the course, then crossed back over the river, and brought it in.IMG_1470
Here’s the finish line! IMG_1479The final point total placed me 15th out of 34, and I’m VERY proud of that.

I’m also proud that we raised over $20,000 to help organizations that take care of native fish.

Next year, I’m definitely going to do better, on both fronts!

IMG_1473One of my favorite parts about trail running is the line of dirt from where my socks end, and I knew I’d gotten lots of dirt in between my toes, so I was very excited to take off my shoes…IMG_1474…and grab a beer.IMG_1477We stuck around until the race was over, cheering each other in and drinking beer. So much good beer. As I shoveled chips and salsa into my mouth, I was so thankful for all these new friends. And the salt.

The drive back (to headquarters from the race) was just as beautiful as the way out.IMG_1487IMG_1486IMG_14851:15 pm. Once we got back, everyone started celebrating! I celebrated in my own way- I took a power nap, and woke up ready to have some fun!

This is where we were all hanging out. I loved seeing it during the daylight, since I’d arrived at night.flyathlon-6We had a kick ass BBQ dinner with mega salads from Mad Greens (another race sponsor), and I was so hungry! I spent hours talking to and meeting people from all over the country. We came from very different places but shared so many common interests.

These guys had the car next to me- they’re a father son duo. The father lives up here in the mountains, and the son works for a big marijuana facility. Their general existence was a reminder that I’m “not in Kansas anymore.” They were generous with coffee, beer, and bloody marys. I sure picked the right guys to park next to!IMG_1494IMG_1491IMG_1489A little Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. #midwestisbest

pc: Ben, the fish whispererFullSizeRender (3)We hung out into the wee hours of the night, laughing and sampling good beer from across the country. I was definitely ready to fall into bed that night. Tired muscles, full heart. I slept like a rock.

8:00 am. The next morning, I woke up cozy and feeling a little like a raisin. I stayed to help clean up, and got to know the Colorado people a little better.

I should have titled this post: A Little Jetta in the Big Mountains.IMG_1497What a view. I sat on the back of my car and drank my coffee, looking out at this.IMG_1495I didn’t take nearly as many pictures (with my camera) as usual, but I snagged a few of some of the coolest little things I saw, like this.flyathlon-10Now these people- these are some amazing people. The clean-up crew, the kick ass volunteers. The organizers. The planners. The cheering squad. The beer pouring, late-night steak grilling, welcoming team of the century. I love these people.flyathlon-9Best logo ever, on a very full trailer.flyathlon-8I had been waffling on buying a rod vault for the new Subaru, but my need has since been cemented in my mind after seeing Andrew’s. And one on every other truck at the race.flyathlon-7Many hands made clean up swift work, and we were packed and heading out in no time.

I loved the cloud of dust following us as we left that guard station behind.IMG_1499I had no service for the weekend, and part of the drive, but I filled my time with some of my favorite tunes.IMG_1500When I came back into service, my phone exploded, as expected. I couldn’t wait to text Brian all sorts of pictures and updates from the race! He hadn’t heard from me since I’d lost reception on the way up the mountain Friday night.The rough part was receiving the many messages and emails from Chase, asking me to confirm possible fraudulent activity on one of my bank accounts. Someone was using my card number all over the place, and spent over a thousand dollars. Luckily for me, Chase is awesome, and they refunded all my money… but they temporarily froze the account and deactivated my card. I hate traveling without easily accessible money. This trip has just been full of challenges adventure!

First stop? Elevation Brewing, to return the kegs and thank them profusely for being a race sponsor.IMG_1506And buying beer to give Meredith. 🙂

IMG_1505And getting a little life advice.IMG_1504We went for brunch in Salida, at an awesome brunch place- Rivers Edge.IMG_1508Yeah, baby, lobster omelette. As we walked there, we passed some awesome bike racks. I love traveling and getting ideas to bring home to my own municipality! I think all local elected officials should visit other places and gather experiences.IMG_1515The restaurant is right along the Arkansas River, so Andrew jumped in. 🙂IMG_1509Before I knew it, I was hugging my new friends goodbye, and hitting the road. I’m so thankful that I found my tribe- there are a whole bunch of people who care about wild and native trout as much as I do, who have a passion for conservation, and a love for fly fishing. They love to play hard, trail run, and they appreciate good beer. I found my people.

This race was perfect- it was well-organized and well-staffed. Everyone was so accommodating, and I can’t wait to come back and run it again next year.

Mega thanks to Andrew for putting this thing together, and props to Iowa for spreading it our way to the Driftless.

 

I followed Iowa all the way back into Denver, and went straight to Meredith’s condo. A quick shower, a quicker dinner, and a gaggle of us piled into a car to head to the concert.IMG_15597:00 pm. I was so excited, I couldn’t handle myself. I skipped up the path to the amphitheater. Literally.

I don’t even really have words to describe the experience at Red Rocks. I cried. I laughed a lot. Brandi rocked so hard. OCMS had so much energy. We sat in the 16th row and had incredible seats. I turned around, and saw Iowa, sitting in the row right behind us, just a few seats over. We drank some more Colorado beer. I danced my ass off, and sang my heart out, and swayed arm in arm with strangers and friends alike.

Here are some photos. I can’t properly explain what an amazing night this was.IMG_1539

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IMG_1555IMG_1553IMG_1552IMG_1551IMG_1550And last, but not least, here’s Meredith and I. Every time I come to visit Colorado, it’s hard to leave. Thank you for your hospitality, girl! I love you.IMG_1542The mountains are amazing. I’m going to leave you with a few lyrics from my favorite OCMS song, as they’re just resonating with me right now.flyathlon-4

Ain’t it enough to live by the ways of the world,

To be part of the picture, whatever it’s worth?

Throw your arms around each other and love one another,

For it’s only one life that we’ve got.

And ain’t it enough?

As always, thanks for reading, friends. I’ll have more about the rest of this trip later! I had too many adventures to cram in one post.

 

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So… this is what infertility feels like.

Brace yourself, kids, as I’m about to tell you what my secret life has been like since 2014.

I want to have an Oberstadt baby.

I desperately want to have a curly, dimpled, brown-eyed, wildly talented Oberstadt baby.

Brian and I started talking about it seriously in 2014, when my endocrinologist gave me the thumbs up to go ahead and try. We always knew that we wanted kids, but things are complicated without a thyroid. I usually take two different thyroid hormones, and one of them is not the best to take during pregnancy.

It’s a shock to my body to stop taking one and only rely on the remaining hormone, plus it takes a while for my hormones to level off, and of course, I feel like shit when I’m not taking both. We decided to wait until after the crazy holidays, and I would stop taking the second hormone on the day after Christmas. We celebrated that Christmas with a sweet little secret, thinking it would be our last Christmas “alone,” and I imagined what our Christmas card photo would look like the following year: when I had a baby bump.

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It took two months for my hormone levels to become “safe” to try and conceive, so we gave it a go in February. Of course, I wasn’t feeling the best, but I didn’t tell many people. I am always paranoid that if I tell people when I’m not feeling well, my business will suffer. I’ve written about that first year, 2015, and the crazy thyroid-related problems that I had, but we tried solidly to make our little Oberstadt baby for all of 2015.

It has been a nightmare of a rollercoaster.

Every month, I’d track my ovulation with these little strips, and pray like crazy, and every month, I’d wait anxiously to see if I was pregnant. The “Two Week Wait,” as well known in infertility circles, is the two weeks of hell between when you ovulate and when you find out you’re pregnant… or not. Every little twinge in my tummy or weight gain or bloating or change in my body caused me to wonder… is something happening inside me? Will this finally be the month? Every month, I’ve come up empty. Only one little stripe on the pregnancy test. I would stare at those little strips and think maybe I saw a faint little line, or maybe it was all in my mind. Was it there, or was I imagining it? I started buying ovulation kits and pregnancy tests in bulk, and I spent my free time reading forums filled with posts from other women clinging to hope that they may be able to get pregnant.

Mother’s Day came and went, and I was a little sad.

Father’s Day came and went, and I was a little more sad.

I didn’t register for a fall marathon. I thought, “If I’m pregnant, I won’t want to be running such a tough distance. I better not register.”

I thought I was pregnant in August. I probably was. Without giving you all a serious case of TMI, I’ll just say that my breasts were huge, my sense of smell was incredibly perceptive, and I cried non-stop. All I know for sure is that when my period came that month, it was horrendous.

My current fertility specialist thinks that I miscarried very early, and that it might have been caused by the large amounts of uterine polyps that I’d been growing. Needless to say, my uterus wasn’t exactly welcoming to a fertilized egg… but I didn’t know that at the time.

Our birthdays came and went, and I drank a lot of wine. I thought for sure that I’d be pregnant by now, but I kept hoping. I was sure that this would be our last September without a baby. I turned 30, and that’s a pretty serious thing for a woman trying to get pregnant. 30… the year when everything gets difficult.

I regretted not signing up for a marathon. I watched all my friends do races and sat here, with an empty womb, thirty pounds heavier than I’d been when I started the year.

I talked to my endocrinologist, and went back on both thyroid medications. We decided to just stop one of them when we discovered that I was pregnant, since I was feeling so miserable.

I had testing done at the UW in November, where they found the polyps. The test itself was terribly painful and I laid there, awake, with hot tears streaming down my cheeks and dripping into my ears. They showed me all the many growths, and explained that they really shouldn’t be there. They scheduled me for polypectomy surgery in December, and it went well. I asked my surgeon to place a “Welcome!” mat in there- I don’t know if he did. I tried to be brave and joke around with stuff like that, and I was hopeful that this would make things finally work for us. I was pretty lucky that our insurance covered the surgery, but I had to fight to get them to do it. I was pre-approved, then they said they wouldn’t cover it, and then I asked them a lot of questions and wondered why I even bothered going through the whole pre-approval process, just to discover that it didn’t matter…? Eventually, they paid for it, and I was relieved.

In December, Brian sponsored a Compassion child for me, through Compassion International. We send a little money each month to help our little 5 year old friend, Fernando, have access to school in Mexico, learn that God loves him, and be healthy. We send him letters and pictures, and he sends us drawings and notes through a translator. Every time I receive a drawing from him, I cry. I wish I had my own little kiddo.

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We took our Christmas card photo: no baby bump.

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In January, we discussed treatment options. Apparently, the polyps could have contributed to our difficulty getting/staying pregnant, but they’re not sure. At the UW, they skip all oral fertility meds unless they’re paired with in vitro fertilisation (IVF). It was a very expensive option for us- almost $1,000 a month. We didn’t have an extra $1,000 laying around. 😦 I also worried about the logistics of the treatment- Brian and I would have to make the two hour trek to the UW every month at least once, and I’d have to go down again a second time each month. So much driving, and so much stress.

I asked around up here for a local OB/GYN who specializes in fertility to see if I could try something different. I did a bunch of research and decided that I wanted to see if I could find someone who would work with me on just oral medications, without IVF. I did, and I started hormone therapy in March.

Hormones are not something to be messed with. Basically, this medication made my body think that I wasn’t producing enough estrogen, in an effort to get my body to create even more, and hyperstimulate my ovaries. Simultaneously, I had all the symptoms of menopause- the night sweats were the worst. I’d wake up in the night and have to change my clothes, so I was always a little sleep deprived. I wondered if this was some kind of preparation for the pregnancy hormones and broken up sleep that I’d be lucky to have when I made my own little bundle. I had terrible mood swings (buy Brian a beer the next time you see him, he deserves it!). I’m so thankful that a friend of mine has a wife who took the same medication, so he warned me that the side effects are often the same as the symptoms of pregnancy, so at least I knew in part of my brain that everything I was feeling was from the medication, and I shouldn’t get my hopes up.

The first month, I started on a very low dose. I didn’t get pregnant. They didn’t tell me that the medication changes everything about your cycle, so I was five days late, and swore I was pregnant. I had to go see my doctor and have him feel up my ovaries to make sure they were okay.

The second month, they increased my dose. I didn’t get pregnant. I had to go see my doctor and have him feel up my ovaries to make sure they were okay.

The third month, they doubled my dose over the first month. I didn’t get pregnant. I had to go see my doctor and have him feel up my ovaries to make sure they were okay.

The fourth month, they increased my dose again. The side effects were awful. I alternated crying and screaming then switched back to crying. I felt broken. I felt like less of a woman. I wondered what I did in the past to make this happen. I snapped at Brian, and felt bad about doing it. I wondered if he’d be better off with another woman who could give him a child. I was convinced that I was too fat to get pregnant. Any time that I was having fun, I wondered if I was having too much fun and wasn’t taking our fertility attempts seriously enough. I tore myself to shreds in my heart and in my mind. The pressure of treatment and the effect it was having on me took all the romance out of the conception process, and made the whole thing feel like a calculated routine, instead of something special.

I was elected for my second go-around as an alderwoman. Constituents would tell me, “Oh, you must not have kids…” They wanted me to know that not many people on city council have little kids, and that’s for a reason. They told me I wouldn’t have time to be in local politics when I had kids, then they’d look at me like I had some crystal ball and I was supposed to tell them that I was only planning on finishing this second term, or that I was already pregnant and I’d be resigning in a few months. I never knew what to say to that. My childlessness has nothing to do with with my ability to help run the city, and if I’m lucky enough to have children, I’ll still be just as capable- maybe even more so.

People make well-meaning comments to us all the time. People ask me when I’m going to settle down and have kids… as if my general enthusiasm for life is what’s keeping me from getting pregnant. They tell me that I won’t be able to keep up all my work and my hobbies once I have kids. I wish I could tell them all that I’d give it all up to have the chance to make my own Oberstadt baby. One person told me that I was selfish to spend my life as a career woman and not have children. That one has stuck with me in my heart, like a little parasite. They ask if we’ve considered adoption, which I have thought about a little, but it mostly makes me feel like I’m giving up on trying for our own. On Father’s Day, a family member with three kids asked Brian when he was going to join their club. I sat next to Brian and held back tears. We wanted to join their club quite a while ago, buddy. I’ve had people tell me that I travel too much to be pregnant, and that I’m not home enough to be impregnated. My grampie told me to stop running because my uterus would fall out (something that people in his generation used to actually think!).

I started telling people close to me that I was in fertility treatment a couple months ago, because I was worried that I’d have a crazy emotional breakdown in front of them and they wouldn’t know what was going on. As a result, less people are telling me that my clock is ticking, because they know that I am oh-so aware. My close friends and family know what’s going on, and they’re really sweet about it. As I keep struggling through this, month after month, people are trying to be supportive- but I often feel alone. I wonder if I have friends out there who feel the same way I do. I wanted them to know that they’re not the only ones- I want to help support them. Life is just too short to be sad, or timid, or angry, or resentful.

Thus, I’m baring my soul to all of you.

And now, I’m telling you all that I’m taking a break from treatment. I’ll re-enter it in a few months, once my body has gotten back to normal for a while. I’m choosing to go back to spreading joy and making beautiful things. I want to be positive again, I want to have hope for the future. I’m working on relaxing more and learning new techniques for stress management. I signed up for a race. I lost a little weight. I’m playing outside, paddleboarding and fishing, hanging out with Mr. Mustache, and enjoying my life, even though it’s different than what I’d imagined.

I think it’s going to happen for me, I really do. I have faith that something beautiful will come out of all of this. I don’t want you all to tiptoe around me or around the subject- I’ve come to terms with this situation, and I’m just trying to enjoy the life that I’ve been given, whatever it entails.

I was waiting and waiting to write this blog post- I thought the ending of it would result in some adorable pregnancy announcement where I could announce to the world that it was all worth it. I wanted to have a good way to tell everyone about what is going on, and have a positive ending. I worry that by telling our story as it stands now, people will be afraid to share their joys of pregnancy and babies and kids with me, because they don’t want to hurt my feelings. I don’t want that- I want people to share their excitement! Someday, I’ll be sharing my good news, and I’ll want everyone to be over the moon excited for us, too.

Brian has been absolutely amazing throughout this whole process. If you see him around, please give him a good handshake- I wouldn’t be able to get through this without him.

So… this is what infertility feels like. I hope that the next time I write about this journey, I’m closing out the post with a baby bump picture.

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An ode to two lane country highways

I’ve had many country drives for both work and pleasure, and something about it makes me feel at home, despite never growing up in the actual “country.” I know that “country” is relative- I definitely took a country highway to get to elementary school, so it wasn’t far away.

On many of these drives over the past year, I’ve been compiling some of the things that make these unique roadways stick out in my mind… so without further ado:

An Ode to Two Lane Country Highways.

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I head due north, on a winding road like ribbon candy, passing hand painted business signs and small town bars.

The road narrows for bridges and train tracks, since those features were here long before wide roads and even wider trucks.

Anglers are parked at every stream crossing, tucked away between rows of corn and farm machinery. If I’m not seeing the corn, I’m blown away by fields of sunflowers or the overwhelmingly understated smell of freshly cut hay blowing through my crazy curls through the open window.

Every once and a while, I’ll make a sharp turn around a farmer’s field to hit a patch with tons of bugs making their last signature statement in a blaze of green and yellow on my windshield.

Clouds of dust are kicked up by trucks cruising down the cross streets, and the wildlife is uninterested…cows, horses, pigs, sheep, goats, whitetails.

Majestic old churches stand strong against the flat land and strong winds, and each one has its own seemingly personalized cemetery.

I don’t have to look hard to see deer stands nestled among huge, beautiful trees.

Four-wheelers and snowmobiles line up, parked, at what can only be described as true convenience stores, carrying everything from hardware and tools to movie rentals to ice cream.

Cruise control is variable- you can lock in at 64 mph then be shocked at a 90 degree turn out of nowhere.

Bald. Eagles.

Repurposed school buses are parked outside of big farmhouses, always leaving me to wonder what they’re using them for!

Little motels and inns house weary travelers next to family restaurants advertising their Friday fish fry. Don’t miss it. Seriously.

Roadkill is a regular occurrence- it always pings my heart a little as it reminds me to respect nature- they were here first. I need a few more years of fly tying under my belt before I’ll stop and cut fur or pluck feathers from roadkill, but I’m sure it’s in my future somewhere.

Unincorporated towns are based at intersections and there is a distinct individuality between municipalities.

Fresh produce is for sale on the side of the road, and my attention was drawn to it due to the custom mailbox- perhaps a spotted cow, or a largemouth bass.

Barns and silos, honey and maple syrup, dairies and cheese stores. If the dairy is open- pick up some squeaky cheese curds. You won’t regret it. They won’t even make it home- you’ll eat them in the car.

Large boulders marring farmer’s fields have been painted over time and again by inspired high school graffiti artists wishing “Happy Birthday, Rocky!” or “Class of 1999.”

When I finally intersect with the interstate, I’m not relieved of a faster speed to get home. I’m jolted back into the reality of my busy life, and I’ve often pulled an illegal U-turn to head back for another few miles on that country road.

 

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Real women don’t…

This phrase drives me crazy.

“Real women don’t…”

It’s the limiting nature of it- and the implication that we need to define “real.”

This has been on my mind since I was in a meeting with a couple other women fly anglers earlier today, and we were talking about how different we can be. Women are wildly different and fascinating creatures. 🙂 We can’t be limited by statements like that!

We currently live in a world of memes, where everyone can go to a website, toss text on top of a photo, and you can share it with the world.

“Real women don’t work.”

“Real women don’t stay at home.”

“Real women don’t use formula.”

I’m thinking specifically of a time when I heard someone say, “Real women don’t fish in a bikini.”

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Trust me- there’s a bikini bottom under there (I was fishing with my friend, Chris, who took the photo, so I wasn’t naked!). I don’t know about you, but I’m not a virtual woman. I exist.

Technically, they didn’t say it- they typed it, and I didn’t hear it- I read it. It was online, in a forum for women anglers. Written by another woman angler.

Being online didn’t make it any easier for me to “hear,” but I’m sure it made it easier for them to “say.”

I’ve had a couple gigs where I’ve been paid to talk about/work with/give presentations on being a woman in fly fishing. I embrace my girly-girl nature, because I don’t feel any need to hide it. I am who I am! 🙂

I wonder if the woman who typed that statement realized that there are plenty of women who are anglers who are wearing bikinis. I caught a fish. I wore a bikini. What’s the big deal? Why the need to tear me (and others) down? Is that even the intent of the statement? I have a hunch that it was meant to empower the women who fish but DON’T wear a bikini while they’re out there. In that case, we need to find a new way to bond as a group.

The more I think about it, and the more I look at this draft before I click ‘publish,’ the more I’m convinced that we have all had an experience like this, with a different word.

Real _______ don’t_______.

One example was from the start line of a marathon. I can’t remember which one it was for sure- probably my fourth or fifth (I’ve done nine, as of now). I had my headphones on, but my music wasn’t playing- I was waiting to hear the national anthem play. I typically run in tank tops, Mizunos, my Garmin, and a running skirt. Here’s an example of one of my skirts, taken by one of Brian’s BFFs, Lem.

(And yes, Brian was very excited to be finishing this race!)

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There were two women standing behind me, and we were all nervously shuffling and keeping warm, as it was a chilly, early race morning. I heard them comment to one another on my pink skirt… “Real runners don’t wear skirts.”

Were they kidding me? How many marathons would I need to run before I became a “real” runner?

The worst part about me overhearing their honest judgement of me was the doubt that I felt. They didn’t know I could hear them, so they told me exactly what they thought about my outfit. I don’t look like your typical distance runner, and I let their opinion of my outfit change the way I felt about myself in that race. It took me five miles to shake off that negativity!

These examples of women judging other women are just a couple, among many.

Women: please stop tearing each other down! We need to build our community. I’d love to see us lifting each other up.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned in my time as an entrepreneur and adventurer, it’s that you can’t let negative and judgmental statements get you down. Figure out what it is that you want, make a good plan, dedicate yourself, then… you do you!

As always, thanks for reading, friends. 🙂

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