The Living Without Series

This is a series of posts that I wrote back in 2006 on living with less stuff. Check them out: liv011Living #2liv031liv04

Coal Creek Farm on Facebook

The Chicken Doctor


The Architect


Do you still blog?

People keep asking me if I still blog.  Obviously, they are people who don’t actually read my blog, because then they would know that I took a big break from all things that blog.

So, let’s get to know each other again, shall we?

Let’s start with Clay.  He’s two years past cancer and that’s a good place to be.  There are a couple permanent things that have changed him, like he lost some hearing, and he can’t play really rough sports where he might get clocked in the jaw too hard, but for the most part you would never know he was ever sick and for that I am forever thankful.  We no longer think about cancer everyday, but it did leave us more clingy and aware of our time together.  Clay just moved his office out of the house and into a building in town.  It’s been a much harder adjustment for him than me.  I can now vacuum and yell when I want and not have to worry about him being on a conference call. He has to get up earlier and put on business clothes and then drive to an office instead of rolling out of bed ten minutes before a meeting.  He also calls his office “650 square feet of loneliness”, which makes him the cutest and most pathetic man on the planet.  I’ll try to post pictures of his new digs, it looks like an old private investigator’s office.  If you are ever in town you should drop by and say hello to him. He has an open door policy.

And now for the kids, Ellen, let’s see, not much is new with her except for the fact that she’s GETTING MARRIED!  How?  What?  When?  NO!  Yes.  Yes, she is engaged to get married this summer.  I know what you’re thinking, I am not old enough for Ellen to get married, and you are correct.  I am too young.  I haven’t even finished college. I am just too young.  But, she’s getting married despite my age and we are very happy about it.  The man she’s marrying is a wonderful addition to our family.  I’ll write more about him later.  We have been slowly working on all the wedding plans.  The budget is small, but the plans are big, so it is an exercise in creativeness.  I’ve only freaked out a few times.

Seth moved into an apartment last winter.  He’s been working and knocking out a couple of classes. He shows up a lot more than I thought he would, mostly to hang out with his little brothers, do his laundry, and eat my food.  I always know he’s home because the house shakes when he starts wrestling with Levi.  He is 6’6″ tall and I think he weighs around 7,000 tons.  I have to stand on a chair to wipe the finger prints off the door jams that he ‘rests’ against. He interned at our church this summer for the youth and is a small group leader for the 8th grade boys which includes his brother.  Their relationship is very sweet.  It’s fun to see how proud Seth gets of his little brothers and how much they enjoy having him come over.  I have loved watching him become his own man. Did I mention that Seth is Ellen’s best man, best man of honor, best bridesman? Yeah, he is.  How sweet is that? He’s still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, but he has some ideas.  It will be fun to watch him get immersed into a profession once he finds his path.

I’ve decided that Isaac is from another planet.  He has such an elderly outlook on everything.  He is now 6’3″ tall and weighs around 170.  His legs are about 6 feet of his height, he’s basically a giraffe with blonde hair. We put Ike in a small public school last year.  He is my kid that can find the silver lining in any situation, so being new in school was not an issue.  The first day of school he raised his hand to run for student council even though he didn’t know what it was.  He wasn’t elected, but I thought it was amazing that he decided he should volunteer for that.  We had a good laugh about it when he told me that he was pretty sure only two people voted for him, one being himself.  Here are a few snippets that have come out of his old man mouth over the past two years.

“Mom, I’ve decided that kids shouldn’t have cellphones.  I don’t want to get one until I’m older.”

“I need a break from school where there is not a holiday.  You know there is just so much planning and preparation to be done and I just want to rest.”

“I don’t really like getting gifts.  The best part is when we go do stuff together.”

“Do I have to go to the dance?  You guys might do something better.”

“The city is nice, but I prefer the scenery in the country.”

Yeah, I am constantly needing to be resuscitated because of the shock.  He is a lot like his father, but even Clay didn’t have the type of logical reasoning that Ike has at his age.  It is weird, I talk to him about what is going on in the world and he asks good questions.  He’s humble and able to laugh at himself.  He gets embarrassed, but recovers quickly.  He is the kid that doesn’t like to put off what can be done now.  He has already written a little speech for the wedding and read it to Clay and I through tears and sobs.  He loves his siblings.  When I asked him if anyone at school annoys him, he says,”Oh, there are some things that kids do that are annoying, but they aren’t annoying.”  WHAT?!  What kid says that?  What kid can look past the irritating parts and see that every person has something good in them?  What junior high kid makes their mom feel like she needs to be a better person?!!  Okay, I know I’m boasting about him so I should also say that he can be annoying when he needs something and he loves to irritate me when I tell him to do something by asking WAY TOO MANY QUESTIONS.

Levi is at home with me.  I’ve homeschooled him since first grade and have been using a virtual public school for the last three years.  Last year, I took him to a speech and hearing specialist at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City to have him tested for a formal diagnosis to give to the school so he could have accommodations during state testing.  My two youngest are dyslexic, Levi is severely dyslexic and has moderate dysgraphia and a minor language deficit.  Basically, what that means for him is that reading and writing are like learning a foreign language every single day.  I use a curriculum designed for children with dyslexia.  It is intense and exhausting.  He has made huge strides and can read and write, but not to the level that he would be able to read his text books independently.  I am hoping that we get to the point that he is able to work 50% independently by the end of this year.  I honestly don’t know if that will or can happen.  Some days are very frustrating for both of us.  He is such a smart little boy (and there’s nothing really little about him, he’s a gigantic kid for his age), he can build amazing stuff and loves doing anything that has a process like cooking, working on the cars or fixing things around the house.  He LOVES anything creative like painting, drawing, coloring, ceramics and crafts.  If every day was a science experiment and art class day his world would be perfect.  His eyes see things that others don’t see and because he learns by listening and watching his comprehension is amazing.  But, if he needs to read or write something or tell a story orally then everyone needs to get comfortable, because we are in for a long, halting mess that his brain will try to spit out.  Levi is so tender-hearted and sweet, he is also very stubborn and strong-willed like his mother which I believe will serve him well when he is older.  We are in a bit of a hole when it comes to getting professional help for him as are most dyslexic children.  If they aren’t dually diagnosed with another disorder such as ADD/ADHD that can require medications then insurance doesn’t recognize the need to cover any services.  I do wish I had some back up support though.  I don’t always feel adequate to do this job and yet, so far there hasn’t been anyone or any school to offer the support that he needs.  I know I’m not the only parent with a child in this situation, but it seems so strange to me that with all the research that has been done on learning disorders that we have to search so hard for assistance.  I feel like I’m on a deserted dyslexic island.  I am thankful that I had homeschooling experience with my older children and that I’m able to stay home to help him, there is my silver lining.

I guess that tells you what I’ve been doing.  I spend my days trying to teach Levi and not throttle him.  I’m helping Ellen plan the wedding.  The garden is asleep for the winter.  We currently have two dogs and maybe one cat, I haven’t seen her for a few days, she’s probably out on a hunt or in my neighbors barn.  Not having any farm animals over the winter will be a blessing this year.  I’ve started rehabbing parts of the house, like the downstairs bathroom.  It’s funny, how far behind we got on projects when Clay got sick and by funny I mean sad and by sad I mean we just don’t care because so many other things are more important.  I had to stop running last winter to get over a frozen shoulder.  Raise your hand if you know what that is.  If you know what it is, then you’re laughing, BECAUSE YOU CAN’T RAISE YOUR ARM.  It was all kinds of awful.  I’m not in pain anymore and I have probably 85% mobility back, but my gosh it was such a nightmare. I started running again in August, but I’ve been hit and miss and I’m not training for anything so it’s hard for me to really commit to mileage.  I’ll have to sign up for a race so I can get motivated again.  I’m still eating a plant strong diet.  It’s been two and half years.  I cook so differently now and my family eats all sorts of strange things that they now think are normal.  I do cook meat on occasion for everyone, but it is rare…the occasion, not the meat.  Hahahahaha!

Gosh, I didn’t expect to be so long-winded.  This feels a little like a letter to an old friend.  I hope any of you that still drop by here are doing well.  I miss this community of people.  I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers that I started out reading when I got into blogging have retired.  I think as our seasons in life change our focus changes as well.  I’ve entered that season where I no longer have tiny people at home that do cute things every day.  I have adults and a semi-adult and an adult sized teen and an adult sized tween.   Those adult sized kids and Clay are the reason I do all the things I do and sometimes I don’t have anything left to give.  They have wanted me to get back to blogging and I just didn’t have it in me, but maybe I’ll start this habit again, no promises.

Much Love from Coal Creek Farm,


The Marathon

I ran the Chicago marathon.  I never thought I would actually run that far, but I did.  I’m going to give you all a very abbreviated version of the experience.

My family came with me to cheer me through it.  I think that was the best part. We took this selfie the day before the race.  I love those humans. We had a lot of fun in Chicago.

IMG_0681The night before the race I took some sharpie markers and wrote names on my arm to help me get through the tough miles.

IMG_0721Carmen is the reason I was running the race.  She put my name in the lottery, so if the race went poorly I would remember who to blame.  But, I also wanted to cheer for her.  I signed up to track her during the race. It was fun to see the messages come through on my phone telling me where she was in the race.

IMG_0727I had my family sign their names so I could remember that I had people who could scoop me up off the pavement and take me home.

IMG_0722This is a list of the amazing running people in my life.  All of them have inspired me through their training and races.  I love talking to them about running and hearing what they are doing.  They are the reason I kept training.
IMG_0730Carmen and I managed to find each other before the race.  We gave each other a hug and then went off to our corrals.  She runs a lot faster than I do, so we don’t run together and that’s why we are still friends.  If I had to run with her I’m pretty sure at mile 24 I would have looked at her and said, “THIS IS YOUR FAULT!”IMG_0009_2This is my favorite photo from the race.  I was at mile 19.  My family managed to see me a few times during the race, it was very encouraging.  Ike gave me a sweet hug and Ellen took that photo.  IMG_0030_2My goal was to finish and be able to walk around Chicago with my family.  I finished and I was able to walk, it wasn’t pretty. My knee hated me for a few days, but yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

A Year of Change

I’m about to show you a pictures that I have only shared with my daughter, best friend, and husband because I know they will love me no matter how I look, smell, feel or act.  I also wanted to make sure I was serious about the changes I made in my habits and it wasn’t just a passing interest and coping mechanism that would dissipate once our lives started to settle back down and I was content with my pant size.

Last year I read a lot about nutrition.  I listened to an absurd amount of lectures and I watched all the food documentaries, all of them.  I kept going back to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and his studies on heart disease.  That led me to his son Rip Esselstyn who has a little less strict eating plan than his dad.  Rip also had a 4 week plan that I decided I could follow called The Engine 2 Challenge.  The challenge leads a person to eating a plant-based diet.  I won’t go into why I decided this would work best for me because I know everyone has their own thoughts and feelings on proteins, dairy, and oils and it can lead to strong opinions being voiced about how a person eats.  I knew this would be a good change in the way I was eating and I was ready for a change.

The other change I made was training for a half-marathon.  Clay, Ellen and I signed up to run a race in the fall and that meant I had to start training through the summer.  I had never run more than 3 miles and I was incredibly slow.  I also had a lot of mental hurdles to overcome in my running.  I had an evil twin sitting in my ear whispering things like, “You’re tired, stop running, you need a drink, you’re dying! You can’t do this! Walk, walk all the time. You’re in pain, everything hurts!”  and on and on and on.  I used earphones to drown out her negative talk and I listened to an absurd amount of pop music.   I also packed anything I thought I would need that would cause me to stop like tissues, chapstick, gum, water, sweat bands and hair ties.  I was basically running with a purse because I’m a mom and old woman.IMG_1352

This was sometime in late June 2013.  I had finally forked out the money for good running shoes because my feet were hurting so much from running in an old pair of volleyball shoes.  I went to my local running store and they helped me get a pair that fit right and met all the needs of a very needy person.  I loved those shoes because they were so bright and colorful and I needed a lot of bright things in my life at that moment. I was also very chubbalicious and could only fit into one pair of jeans that I owned.

I used a run/walk training plan which means I would run a certain time or distance and then walk for a certain time or distance.  It was a 13 week plan that built up to 10 miles before the race.  IMG_1730

This was in September 2013.  As you can see my body was appreciating the changes I had made. I had turned into a complete plant-based eater by this time and I was eating all the time. My energy increased, I was sleeping well and I was calm through a storm called Chemotherapy.  Running and eating were the only things in my life I could physically control and that was very helpful in a helpless situation.  I didn’t start this journey knowing my husband had cancer, so I’m most thankful for God showing me what I needed to do to cope with what was about to be a very long summer.

I was running four times a week.  I didn’t do any cross-training or other sports.  The only thing I had time to do was follow the training plan which had me doing shorter distances three times during the week and a long run on the weekend.  I also had to get a second pair of shoes because I ran through the first pair.  I still use them, they are great shoes and totally worth the money, although it’s really painful to spend that much money on a pair of shoes.  Running is the most expensive free sport I’ve ever participated in, ha!



I know it’s silly to get excited about shoes, but they were carrying my very tired body over more miles than I’d ever thought was possible for my body to run and to me they were magical foot fairies that helped my legs keep moving.  They also hated my evil twin and kicked her out of my head many times.  I love my running shoes.





This was late in the half-marathon training when Ellen and I decided to run the river trails or dance the trails, whatever would get us through it and sometimes we had to really get goofy to keep from quitting. I think this may have been in late September or early October.  I remember telling Ellen that my calves were sore all the time. You can see my belt that carried all my stuff.  It also carried all of Ellen’s stuff, because even though she’s an adult she still considers me her pack mule. IMG_1831

Clay decided he was going to run the race with us no matter how long it took him.  He made this design for our t-shirts.IMG_1830 IMG_1828 IMG_1836

The longest training run he had completed was 4 miles and that was before his treatment.  I thought for sure he would have to quit.IMG_1843

Ellen and I decided we would stay with Clay through the race which meant we weren’t going to run for time and that was okay with us.  This photo was at the four mile marker and he was still going strong.  We walked through all the aid stations and after mile 8 he needed to stop and walk more.  IMG_1847

The race was more of a vacation through Kansas City than an actual race, but it was a lot of fun.  This photo was taken in front of the Nelson Atkins Art Museum.IMG_1851

This was mile 10 where I was still running, but Clay’s knee and ankle were throwing a fit.  So, we walked most of the last three miles.


This was our post-race victory picture.  Four months of training and treatment done!  After the race I felt invigorated, but I also felt like I hadn’t run a half-marathon.  I knew I wanted to do another one for time, but I decided to take some time off.  I ran a few times in November and once in December.  I was contemplating if I was going to train for a spring race and on December 31st, I decided I wouldn’t run one spring half-marathon, I would run THREE!!

On January 1, 2014 I started a new training plan.  I ran outside when I could, but most of my training was inside on a treadmill.  I used Hal Higdon’s training plan.  It was much more intense than my previous training.  I added cross-training and weights to my routine.  I also did speed training to help break up the monotony of the treadmill.  It paid off, I got stronger physically and mentally.  I no longer had a training partner since Ellen started classes and didn’t have time to run with me and Clay was still recovering.  This time I was on my own.  I learned a lot over the winter.  I shed more weight and I shed stuff.  I could run without headphones, I could run up a hill, I could run in the wind, rain and cold.  My evil twin finally fell out of my ear and I left her in a ditch with all my other insecurities and excuses.IMG_2979

I signed up to run the Heartland 39.3.  It’s three half-marathons in five weeks.  Rock The Parkway was the first race.  I ran a safe race with a pacer because I wasn’t sure how fast I should run.  I was nervous because I had started my period the day before which in my case means I’m bleeding to death and really shouldn’t leave the house.  I had to stop at mile 9 and use the restroom and then I spent 3 miles catching up with my pacer, passing her, and finishing a couple of minutes ahead of her.  I really wish I would have run this race faster.

The second race was Garmin, it sucked.  It poured rain, I injured my Iliotibial Band on mile three and ran in pain for 10 miles.  At mile 6 I was considering dropping out, but an elderly woman kept passing me and I decided if she was running I was running.  We ended up running the last 5 miles together and becoming acquainted. She was running for 90 second and walking for 30 seconds and that’s the only reason I finished. When we crossed the finish line I gave her a hug and thanked her for getting me there.


Running with the Cows was the third and final race.  My tights are covering the KT tape on my leg.  This wasn’t the greatest race for me, my hip was hurting and I hit a wall at mile 8.  I finished, but I was done.  My times for the three races were consistent 2:28, 2:29, and 2:32 which means I can run a half-marathon injured in two and a half hours.  IMG_3260Clay drove me to all the races and cheered for me, it got him excited to start training again.  I still don’t feel like I’ve had my best race.  You know what that means?  I have to run another one!  Except this time I’m training for a full marathon.  Chicago is my destination, October 12, 2014.  I’m still eating a plant-based diet, yes I’ve cheated some, I don’t mind being a little flexible. I’ll keep running until I feel like I’ve had enough.  I think I’m just getting started, so it might be a while until I’m done.  I’m almost to the point that I can call myself a runner.