Month: July 2016

         Ode to our Old Friend, Mr. Eurovan

Our 2002 eurovan with the gang

At one time our family owned a lot of VW’s; Chris had a 1968 bug, then we got married and we had a 1989 Fox, then we had a 1999 Passat wagon for the 3 boys, 2001 we got our first Eurovan(white), and the love/hate relationship began.  2002 Silver Eurovan was our next purchase-  
2 eurovans  in our driveway.  We were known as the Eurovan family.  We loved our vans until the white one’s locks malfunctioned and our smallest kiddos got locked in the car-goodbye, not doing that nerve wracking experience again!  So our Silver one was it.  Other cars came and went… Ford, Honda, VW Passat (again); but our Eurovan was a constant reliable ride.

Tailgating, piling in for  Boy Scouts camping trips, loading up the family for races including NQN Trident(how else were we going to get Chris’ surfboard to the beach?),  commuting to school…I could go on and on.  It was the ultimate family van without it looking like all the other SUV’s on the road.  This was my van of choice. Then “hiccup”, the transmission went kaput.  Oh well, get another one-we like this car and want the boys to use it when they learn to drive.  It was expensive(more than $5000), but so worth it.

Jingle Bell 5k(they allowed dogs so Nebula came along)

We love camping!
Daniel my oldest began using it to drive my other two to school, going to work, and finally Boy Scouts trips.  But unfortunately he didn’t care of it and it poof, it stayed in our driveway until $2000 worth of repairs later-I’m starting to not like my poor van.  Then Ethan began driving and our Eurovan and once again toting brothers to school and the ultimate surfing/fishing vehicle.  Then just a week ago, we got the call…the car starts, but won’t move.  No!!!! After getting towed to VW of Gainesville, transmission-again.  The price had gone up nearly 100%!   Uh…
No.  So here we are, saying goodbye to a reliable  old friend. I will miss the room but mainly the memories  of kids and such.  I”ll miss it.  Life rolls on. 

Remember it’s about the journey and our friend has reached the end,


Our Life is Changing

SSYRA book 2016-17

You hear it all the time, when a family member has a life threatening disease it affects everyone.  I never knew it was true, until now.  

I am currently reading  Half a Chance  by Cynthia Rule, which when I started reading I thought it was about a girl who is new and is trying to fit in and make friends through photography.  The more I read, I’m noticing the next door friend’s grandmother. All the things she loved doing( wildlife patrol, hiking with her grandkids, and watching her grandkids), she can’t do anymore.  She gets tired, she gets confused, she gets stubborn.  How did I miss it?

The same way I missed my mom’s gradual change.  My mom has had a hard and difficult week with me and her caregiver, my Dad.  I let it get to me and got frustrated and emotional.  As my Dad told me, it’s the disease.  Put all your troubles with your mom in a box and put it away for the night.  That’s easier said then done.  When she doesn’t want your help, when she’s screaming you’re a bad  person, when she’s nasty and ugly with her comments; you feel…sad, angry, and helpless.  So helpless.

My boys see and hear their loving Can-Can( pet name for her), acting this way and get sad too.  It affects them.  Does she love us anymore?  Of course she does.  She even loves my Dad, who gets most of her anger.  But she’s scared.  She was asked the day of the week by her doctor, “Wednesday,” she said confidently.  How about the month?  “I don’t know,” she said looking confused.  The year?  She looks over at me waiting for me to give her the response, my lips are pressed together.  ” I don’t know, ” she replies sadly.  Yes, she’s scared and it makes me sad.  

We walk on eggshells because anything sets her off.  I don’t want my Dad, her 24 hour caregiver, to encounter her wrath.  He needs a break.  That’s why he goes grocery shopping with me, anything to get out of the house.  My mom feels safer at home.  No going shopping even though she loves to go shopping, no more going out to restaurants to eat, and no more Saturday rides to St Augustine or St. Mary’s.  And forget about taking walks in the neighborhood. She gets winded and dizzy after a 1/3 of a mile(the distance between the hospital and the parking garage).  How did I miss this?

2006 with Jesse and David

I was pregnant with Jesse when this all began, but I didn’t realize it.  No marriage is perfect, but hey she’s my mom so I stood up for her.  We all did.  My poor Dad.  New house, new grand kids, and then this…

52 years together. That’s the Mom I know and miss

The doctor who saw her says that this type of Dementia is known as vascular dementia because my mom suffers from high blood pressure and an enlarged heart, so blood  and oxygen has a hard time getting to her brain and effects her memory and cognitive thinking.  According to the UK Alheimezer’s Association, this is the second most common type and usually starts around age 60.  My mom is 77 years old.  Symptoms include apathy, anxiety, depression, and prone to falls.  Day to day tasks such as cooking and cleaning become impossible and more and more help is needed.  Mood swings can be unpredictable.  Delusional and paranoid behavior can also occur, which affects everyone.


What can I do?  I don’t know.  Decisions need to be made.  We haven’t crossed that bridge yet, but it needs to be done and soon.  I don’t like deadlines.  I don’t like to be rushed especially since it effects someone that I love.  I want more time.   I want my kids to have more time.  I want my mom back, she’s in there I know she is but I can’t find her sometimes.

I love my mom, I love my dad…I hate this disease. 

Even if she doesn’t remember, I can never forget.

Remember it’s about the journey not the destination,


Our Road to Listing our Home

We’ve lived in our current home for 17 years, now we’re thinking of selling.  Why?  Downsizing, neighborhood is changing, and it’s time for a change.  Back in 1999, we were looking for a larger home for our three boys.  We loved our home at Ashwood Lane with wood floors that we finished ourselves, our garden that Chris my husband lovingly tended, and our sunny Florida room.  It was just too small.  Our new home had a formal living and dining room, a den with a fireplace, 4 bedrooms, and a Florida room.  Perfect.  Near our Church and my sons’ schools-could it get any better?  Sold!

Our House, 2004

Since then, we’ve had a couple of changes…2 more boys to add to the family, 2 dogs, a busier professional life(I’m a teacher and Chris was/ is a teacher,principal, and AP), more extracurricular activities such as scouting, baseball, track, cross country, marathon training, TRI training, and it goes on, and of course vacations and the like.  The house is a place where we cook, sleep, and put our stuff in.  Lots of stuff.  I think educators are the worst at hoarding.  And so it goes.

Now we want to list our home…there’s a lot to be done.  For instance,  gray is the new hot color.  No beige, no burgundy.  Go figure. Yay.  I love gray!  It’s so elegant.  Carpet.  No tile?  Too dated.  Interesting.  No accent colors on shutters or garage door.  Good.

  Then there’s the clutter…we’ve inherited everything my mother in law does not want.  Ugh!  I hate our dining room set, I feel like I’m living in the Brady Bunch home.  If only I had an Alice.  The educator clutter, but we might need that next year mentality that is overrunning the middle room( Sorry Daniel).  And the book clutter…did I mention I love books?  My husband loves books.  All my kids love books.  There are books everywhere!  Not sure if my local library will love me or run the other way when they see us coming.

One of Eight bookshelves-book lover or hoarder?

I’ve actually decluttered some stuff but I know that’s just the tip of a huge iceberg.  So the rest of the summer, no rest for the weary.  I’ll keep you updated about progress.    Just another adventure.

Remember it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey,


Why group rides scare me

I like people.  I love running with my Jax Galloway BRFs…any chance I get to run with them during the week, I am more than willing.  Unless I hear the call of my bed, then …  I swim alone but I will and have shared the pool lane with strangers and have swam with the Stellar TRI group for my one and only OWS.  But I draw the line when it comes to cycling.  I will ride with Chris my husband or my son Aaron, but most of the time I am a loner.

The Lone Rider

Don’t get me wrong, I have done races such as the Donna Bike(6.2 on the beach, 13.1, and 26.2 at Creekside) , the Marty biathlon, and a couple of TRI’s.  However, I have never ridden in an official group ride and try to stay away from other cyclists.  Why?  I’m a super klutz.  I don’t clip in, I love sightseeing, and I’m not in a cycling group.

Then my Jax Galloway friends tell me about an all women cycling group that goes out and doesn’t drop you.  My motto:  leave no runner behind, someone has the same motto for the bike?!  So we meet one June morning at Open Road Bicycle on Hendricks and I decide I’m doing 30 miles with group A fasties.  The ride 18mph+, I quickly fall behind, but that’s okay I’m terrified of riding and either falling off or causing a cycle crash in classic Tour De France style.  Alone is good.  I make it to Mandarin Park, and get “looks”-oh yes I did!  So going back and the male owner of Open Road takes me under his wing and we ride back together.  I nearly wobble into him and nearly run into a car mirror because we’re talking, but luckily we make it back.  Klutz!
Then we form our own group The Cycling Goddeses and decide to ride our first bridge together-Wonderwood.  Easy pace, feeling good and then the bottom falls out-thunder, lightning, and rain!  Then the worst possible luck, one of our ladies has a flat!  Did I mention we were on the Wonderwood Bridge?  Did I mention only one of us knew  how to change a tube?  Live and learn, and we all made it back to run and ride again!

Our heroine Sheena(photo courtesty of Leah S.)

This past Sunday, I decided I was going to try another no drop all female group ride at Open Road at Jax Beach.  I was nervous but I made myself go out anyway.  It was ladies I knew and although just about everybody has bike shoes with clips(I had my newtons and Sheena had her Brooks), I felt okay.  I opted for just 15-17 miles as opposed to 38 because I wanted to continue to build up my group ride confidence.  I was the last person in the group and hung out there with my bike a couple of inches behind the person in front of me.  We called out pitfalls in the road, when we slowed down, and when there was a car back.  No pressure, no stress and only 1 flat tire-not mine.  At the flip point at Mickler’s  Landing, I tried the speedier group and was able to keep my speed between 15-16 mph.  I again keep distance, but I was still pretty close to the next rider.  At the end, I felt really good that I had ridden without any mishaps.  Baby steps, normal steps…cycle goddess in training.

Cycle Goddeses rule the road

Remember it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey 


Why we run the AJC Peachtree 10k road race

Can’t finish PRR without eating a peach

4th of July weekend has found us on the road these past four years, and not usually for vacation.  What are we doing then?   Traveling to Atlanta for the one and only Peachtree 10k.  The big question is why?   Why travel to a race?  We have local races to race such as a 5k in Jacksonville, another 5k in Keystone Heights, or even a 4 miler at Nocatee.  Why?!  Here’s why…

1.69km(that’s 1 mile).  We are Atlanta Track Members.

In 2012 I tried my luck and entered the Peachtree road race lottery.  By sheer luck, I was one of the thousands chosen.  That same year I decided to become an ATC member, so I could run this race again.  Then I also made my husband a track club member, so he could get guaranteed entry too. We’ve done this race ever since.  I wish we could do the other fun races this club organizes, but since we can’t at least we get to do the Peachtree!  And what great benefits for being a member!  I’ve received a shirt or hat every time I renew our membership, and they have an awesome after Peachtree party with gifts for their members.   Love ATC!

3.219(2 miles).  The Expo.

In 2009, our son was up in Northern Georgia for a week long Boy Scout camp.  We decided to go pick him up, and visit Atlanta since we had never been there.  It was July 3rd and we heard about a race that was going on the next day,so being a runner we decided to check out the expo.  Holy cow!  A runner’s shopping paradise.  Every year the expo builds the excitement leading up to the race.  Love the vendors and the family fun zone.  I noticed this year some of my favorites were missing(Nuu Muu, Sweaty Bands, Lift my Sole, and Running Skirts) but hopefully they’ll be back next year.

4.28(3 miles).  The 10k.

This race has been around since the early 70’s.  This is our 4th year running.  There is one streaker left who has run all 47 Peachtree races.  After all you have a great race course with downhill elevation, lots of crowd support, and the infamous Cardiac Hill, which provides inspirational support from the patients at the medical center cheering us on as well as the feeling you are going to keel over.  And somewhere along the way you find the strength to go on.  Traveling to run a 10k becomes so worth it.
6.437(4 miles).  Organization.

Nothing is left to chance.  The waves start 5 minutes apart-I was corral F(7:55) and Chris was corral R(8:40),water stations fully staffed at each mile, passing out the coveted shirt at the end, and even a recovery box(which was new this year).  Only thing that still irritates me is the post race area where runners/walkers are suppose to get one towel, one peach or bananas etc., one Powerade,etc.  People are abusing this by taking much more than they should.  My husband finished at 10 and volunteers ran out of towels-there are still people on the course, unacceptable.  Volunteers should pass freebies out and not let the honor system get abused.  Rant over.

Post race goodies

8.047(5 miles).  The Shirt.

The coveted shirt of the Peachtree 10k…when the race began, you better be a fast runner in order to get one of these prizes.  Now there are 60,000 runners and yes, each participant gets a shirt.  The excitement of the shirt now is what will it look like?!  Months before the race you may vote for your favorite design from the choices provided(5-6 designs) on the AJC website.  Then it’s the waiting game and a closely guarded secret until you cross the finish line  and receive your finisher prize.  Better than a medal in my opinion.  Always hoping it’s not a black shirt and definitely not disappointed.

Proudly wearing my shirt at CW(Colonial Williamsburg)

9.978(6.2 miles-round it up).  4th of July Smith Tradition.

Fireworks, cookout, apple pie.  Sound familiar?  Yep all American for July 4th Independence Day.  The Smiths are a little bit different, we make a 5 hour trip to run with 60,000 of our closest friends.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s a giant party and it keeps us moving and staying healthy.  The weather is unpredictable, this year was brutally hot, but that’s part of the lure.  Cool weather?  You bet.  Rain?  Yep and lightning.  You never know, but we keep coming back and hope to continue our streak in 2017.  

I hope to see you out there next year making memories too.

Remember it about the journey not just the destination,


Jacksonville and its Surrounding Parks

Mickler’s Landing Beach

I, as a mom, love free stuff.  Why?  Five kids!  And as a household of two teachers, anytime we can save a couple of dollars it’s a beautiful thing.  All this summer I’ll be introducing you to some of Jacksonville treasures, this week let’s discover Jacksonville Parks and yes, there is no entrance fee.

Ed Austin Regional Park(formerly known as The Dunes).

This well known City of Jacksonville Park is located between McCormick and Monument Rd near Cobblestone Crossing shopping center.  There are soccer fields, baseball fields, a jogging trail(approximately 1.5 miles), a skate park, a golf disc course, a PAL center, and a dog park.  Best of all some parts of the park are shaded.  Cyclists use this park too so make sure you’re on the lookout for them.    Exercise and or picnic-nice.

Off leash and loving it in Ed Austin’s Dog Park

Mickler’s Landing Beach Park.

This is technically not in Jacksonville, but Ponte Vedra Beach is a hop and a skip from Duval County so I included it.  You’ll find it on A1A South and CR 203.  There is a large parking lot leading to the boardwalk and beach-why?  A lot of people use this beach.  When we went, the parking lot was loaded.  There are two bathhouses for changing or toliet use.  There is a boardwalk leading to the beach.  Lifeguards are on duty, so that’s a plus.  Something cool about this beach is they allow horses on the beach(we saw two), that means watch out for horse pies.  The day we went we enjoyed hunting for shark’s teeth and were rewarded.  A great family outing.  Watch the tides to ensure you have beach to walk or lay on.

Booyah! Success!

These parks are two of many free City of Jacksonville Parks.  If you’re not sure where to start on your side of town, try the website then the visitors link and the Jaxparks link from there.  Have fun out there and discover these treasures within our city.

Remember it’s about the journey not just the destination,