Nov 3, 2017


We like to think of ourselves as healthy people. When I get my blood pressure read, the nurse often says "wow, are you a runner?". Devon exercises constantly to improve his climbing, but doesn't count his 16 mile round trip bike commute in his exercise regime ("that's just biking", he says.) I'm not saying we're super-athletes, but the reason I present us this way is for context given our imperfect fertility. We are young (enough), take care of ourselves sometimes to a fault, and, I think like everyone, believed we could probably have a kid just as soon as we started trying.

Well, we started trying four years ago. I remember I was convinced I was pregnant right away. I just "had a feeling". I was wrong that time, but still, I figured it would happen soon. I quit drinking beer (obviously) but also coffee immediately. Over the next year we bought: better life insurance, a high end baby carrier, two or three books on pregnancy, a few articles of clothing that I could grow into, a tiny tiny pair of climbing shoes (who could resist?), and a few other odds and ends we figured we'd soon have use for. Then, slowly, we realized things wouldn't be that simple. At first we thought we would just wait another couple months until I was established in my new graduate program at Madison. Then we thought..... what is going on?

Meanwhile, I took a two-minded approach; be open to parenthood but not so focused on it that you are engulfed in constant disappointment. Instead embrace the freedom of being young, childless, and healthy. I ran and ran. I lived in Colorado for a summer, then China. We climbed. We brought a puppy into our lives and poured our hearts into him (love you Major!). I enjoyed being around my nieces.  Devon become even more devoted to working out and playing guitar.

As it turns out there was scientific explanation for why we hadn't conceived quickly, and we became more familiar than we wanted to with the fertility clinic. You know things aren't going well when both partners have an ultrasound. We learned that our chances of conceiving naturally were low and even the common interventions wouldn't necessarily help us. We spend hundreds of dollars on ambiguous medical tests, and were told that there was a procedure that would increase our chances of conception by 20%. After thinking about this for a while, it really didn't settle well with us. There are many children looking for homes, either through foster or adoption care. If we saw ourselves as parents, there are many ways we could fulfill that dream without wasting our emotional energy and financial resources on what seemed like a selfish goal with no guarantee of success. Of course, each couple is different and I wouldn't fault anyone for pursuing their dreams, but to us, adoption was an obvious, and happy choice.

Yet adoption seemed like a lot of work. We asked around a bit but ultimately decided that it would make most sense to pursue foster care or adoption once I graduated and we were settled in a more permanent location. We looked forward to that time in a year or so.

This story has a surprise ending. This summer we found out that we are having a baby around April 1st! No joke! We were surprised and happy in an over-the-top sort of way. Devon even said "it's a real blessing" - the sort of thing I have never heard him say in our ten years together. Despite being sick and fatigued constantly, I didn't completely believe it because I had worked so hard to abandon the idea of myself being pregnant. I figured that was for other people. I had moved on. My body would never be asked to do that. But then I saw the unmistakable image on the ultrasound. Yes, unlike my last ultrasound, this time there IS definitely something in there that even an untrained eye can identify as a fetus.

I think there was a reason for us to be on this journey. Maybe we weren't really ready when we started four years ago. Since then we were forced to talk about uncomfortable subjects. We grew closer together and really thought about what it would mean to us to be parents. We entertained the thought that we don't need to be parents, but always came back to feeling like we do.

I want to say something about imperfect fertility. About 15% of couples have less than perfect fertility,  including otherwise perfectly healthy people. Most people don't know that statistic, because it's not a fun subject to talk about.  I wish only the easiest path for everyone who wants to be a parent, but for those whose path is longer, due to infertility, because you are a same-sex couple, or for other reasons, you are not alone and I know you will find your way through. 

Aug 1, 2017

Visiting our Someday Home in the U.P.

We recently spent 10 days working our way through the north woods. Instead of the never-ending majestic wonders you can find exploring out west, the north woods offers small, tucked away secrets. We've only found a handful and expect there is a lifetime to go. That's why we need to move there. Lake Superior calls our names.
The first day, Devon messed up the canoe reservations for the Boise-Brule river, so we floated independently from Justin & Sarah. They floated twice the distance and three to four times the difficulty that we did. I think I enjoyed our version - float, swim, sunbathe, repeat. Major is 90% terrified of water and 10% excited about it.

We met our old friend Jordan for a cruise on Superior out to the Apostle Islands sea caves. We launched our inflatable boats (the Scandinavian Rose and new member of our family, Tequila Rose) from the big boat to explore caves. So amazing. Took a classic dirt road drive to his dad's bachelor castle-cabin in the woods. 

Next we left WI for the UP. Our campsite on Superior was incredible, and so were the appetites of the black flies there. But worth it. We launched our boats back into Superior for an evening paddle. I began my daily swims in the Lake. Some say it's cold, but I say I'm not clean unless I'm Superior clean.

My birthday fell mid-trip and I forced a multi-sport day: paddle the inlet of Copper Harbor, mountain bike, run, swim, eat at Jam Pot bakery (is that a sport?). Finally we ended the day by meeting my family at Fitzgerald's restaurant on the Lake for an amazing meal and company. But, wait - one more thing! - we creek-stomped up to an old dam site and Devon and Sarah risked their lives by jumping into a black hole of possible death (they lived).

 By Thursday it was time to pick up another sport. We head down to Silver Mountain and climbed with the mosquitoes. Again, worth it despite the bug bites. Since multi-sport days were the theme of this trip, next we drove 10 miles down a side road to find some rapids Devon was curious about. It hardly took a glance for Devon, Sarah, and Justin to decide the rapids needed to be paddled. Major and I huddled on the shore and barked at them. I'll just say there was one successful paddler and two people that got thoroughly washed by the Ontonagon River (photo credit: Sarah)

In a welcome break from tenting, we went to our friend Jake's cabin to meet them for the weekend.  Another day of climbing, and three pontoon boat rides later, we finally called the trip done. Tired, happy, and ready to go home.

Jun 21, 2017

Dear Marathon: Why????

Last weekend I finished Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN. That finishes a year of marathon training that I need to put behind me. But first, I need to process this. It all started in November when I ran the Milwaukee Running Festival marathon. I hadn't run a regular road marathon since 2010 or so, but I thought it was time to try to improve my performance at this iconic distance so to prove myself as a runner.  I became obsessed with a time goal and even wrote it on the mirror in my room. But when the day came, it just wasn't enough. Even with the support of my 'pacer' sister Suzie, I feel short of my goals.

I think Suzie is rapping to me in this picture (above).

Suzie is next trying to tell me that I am a good runner when things are starting to look bad after 18 miles or so (above). I finished but missed my goal by over 10 minutes.

Next up, Grandma's marathon with my friend and training partner Shana in June 2017. We both had the same goal in mind and trained together.

Enthusiasm and energy were not lacking (morning of race, above). We had a great time traveling together to the race.

But, again, when the time came, what I had just wasn't enough for the conditions. And it is REALLY hard to make yourself care enough to push through on a flat, boring, never ending road when you don't feel good.  I specially edited the above photo in black and white to show how I felt at 25 miles. I was taking as many sponges as possible to cool down and my breathing was getting more labored. Keeping pace seemed impossible so I focused on jogging to the finish. I made it there but was a disappointing 17 minutes behind goal. It makes you question your abilities and second guess all the time and emotional dedication you put in.  

Dear Marathon: We have known each other over ten years now. I love you because you forced my running to become more efficient. I love you because you make millions of people see how strong they can be and what they are capable of. You change a 10 mile run from something described as 'impossible' to 'easy'.  But I hate you because you are tempting and, for me, often disappointing. But even though I never got the outcome I wanted, I know that I learned a lot along the way. And time spent training with friends is never wasted. So, Dear Marathon, I will be back, but I will not be fooled by you again. You are not the only run worth doing. You do not measure me. Next time I come, I will come to befriend you instead of to fight you. We will be friends, just wait and see. Until then, look for me on the trails somewhere, kicking up dirt and not checking my split times. Your truly, Ana.

First world problems.

Feb 20, 2017

Instructions for successful cabin-ing

Find: cabin at the limit of weekend driving distance (4-6 hrs), friends who own it (awkward if you show up without owners) and a winter sport (or two).

Dec 24, 2016

FKT Military Ridge

As I write this I realize that as much as I love running it is one of the most boring sports to blog about, much less create a stunning adventure video, etc. But here we go. Yesterday I prepared for Christmas gluttony by running Military Ridge from Camp Randall to Barneveld reversing course from my run with Justin of Fall 2015. My friend Shana assisted me on the pavement portion to the edge of town in the dawn hours. Above, leaving the Capitol view.

 At the edge of town I bid farewell to the pavement. The snow section from Fitchburg to Verona was really rough and I was expecting to have to bail at Verona at the first open coffee shop or bar. Though there had been a lot of snow bikes and skis out, there was not single line of good footing so every step was a struggle. At Verona I thought about life a bit and figured I would continue on, hoping that as I got into the snowmobile zones there would be packed down snow. I was very lucky that the 11 mile section from Verona to Mt Horeb was indeed well packed down and the snow was gone in the center of the sled tracks in many sections. So I was back in business!
The weather was good and it was fun to see the sections that I'm used to biking in the summer, now in full snow.

Who knew that snowmobiles can go 55 mph AT NIGHT? Does this sign imply no daytime speed limit? At Mt Horeb I considered quitting again but had no good excuse. And by then I could break the run into two five mile sections, and worst case scenario I end at Hooterville (my favorite rural bar).  The Mt Horeb-Blue Mounds section was really rough because of wind exposure and crappy footing. But once I made it to Blue Mounds I figured it would be lame to quit four miles from the self-imposed "finish line" in Barneveld. 
Above: the overlook (beer stop on a typical bike ride) in the snow. Below: trail conditions. 
In a very uneventful finish, I took a proof of completion photo at the Barneveld trail stop and ran down the street to my in-laws house which was warm and contained a lot of cookies and beer. The 50k run took 5 hours and 41 minutes and I hereby proclaim it a Fastest Known Time! Sometime when there is less snow I will try to improve on it.

Nov 29, 2016

Boy's Climbing

Apparently, there was a boy's climbing weekend in Jackson Falls, Illinois. I don't have many details, as I was not there because I am not a boy. And what little has leaked about the events isn't very telling... I think whatever happens in Jackson Falls stays in Jackson Falls. All I can tell you is what I found in these photos Devon took.

Oct 20, 2016

Where is Abu Dhabi?

If you asked me two years ago where Abu Dhabi was, I might have guessed it was in the United Arab Emirates but I am certain I could not have placed it on a map. Oh how the last year has increased my knowledge of maps! I spent a week in Abu Dhabi for an awesome solar conference. Notwithstanding the embarrassing fact that we all traveled from very far places, contributing significantly to our annual air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, it was a really worthwhile renewable energy conference.

Aug 24, 2016

Adventures in China

Here are various 'best of' photos that I don't want to forget from my time in China. 

Jul 27, 2016

Lucky American

I really enjoyed my trip to China and met some great people. But coming home I am very appreciative of my good luck to be born here. Where I don't have to open a website several times a day to see if the air is clean enough for me to go for a run or if I should stay inside.  Below: Picture taken in poor air quality.

Signs of China

No China trip is complete without documentation of interesting signage. Here are my interpretations.
No trumpets!

Jul 6, 2016

China: Things I Like

Eventually my optimism returned and I started making a list of things I DID like (even prefer) in China.

China: adaptation phase & food

The study abroad handbook we give our students describes moving from initial excitement, to confusion, to adaptation. For me adaptation phase revolved around food access.

Jun 29, 2016

China apartment

I moved into my apartment on campus a few days after we arrived. It was a big improvement - more space, nice green view, separation from students, etc. 

Welcome to China?

I want to be a good world traveler. I think of myself as a fairly open minded person. But I did not feel very happy to be in China for the first few weeks here. So I'm just writing with that honest emotion though I am not proud of it.

May 22, 2016

Crag Dog and other Miscellaneous

This spring we've been pushing it to the limits with our crag dog. First time out: pretty annoying as he whined while we climbed. Second time: Major began seeing the benefits of all of the attention he could get from other climbers and hikers. Third time was a charm: we tired him out really good ahead of time and he mostly napped cutely at our feet while we climbed.

Apr 24, 2016

DANGER: Ladies weekend

Inspired (for me at least) be adventures with Katie, Marilla, and Cheryl last summer, four ladies back here in WI arranged a ladies weekend. Though any outdoor activity would have fit the bill, we decided on climbing at Barn Bluff near Red Wind, MN.

Jan 25, 2016

Hiking: not so lame after all?

About six years ago Devon and I attempted to backpack a portion of the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota, failed, and officially proclaimed we hated hiking. I've held onto that belief since then, with small confirmations through lame day hikes I was forced to attempted in the interim since our proclamation. However last week I took two other hiking-haters with me and we went for the Grand Canyon. It just seemed like something one should do. 

Jan 24, 2016

A Wedding

Sometimes I don't know what's with weddings anymore. The forces of tradition work against the wishes and personalities of the couple and in many cases the couple ends of losing. Well I am happy to report that Mitch and Marilla did a pretty darn good job of keeping society of it. This wedding was originally proposed as a climbing wedding, and the forces only did so well as to get them a bit dressed up and out hiking instead of climbing. There was no catering, no dancing, no parties, in fact no friends were invited to the ceremony at all. Parents, siblings, and grandparents attended. It was a perfect event in Sedona.

Jan 23, 2016

Time travel

In January I (Ana) traveled the slowest way possible to Arizona - via rail. Slowest but quite possibly the most relaxing and scenic way also. I like to think of it as time travel because you see the world in a different way and it feels like it can't possibly be 2016. In Chicago the ride begins at 3PM through the industrial rail yards. Not much to see. Here are some pictures of what rolled by my window in the next 30 hours.

Dec 22, 2015

There are going to be some Major changes around here.

On October 17, we became dog people. Actually - correction - Devon was always a dog person. But I became a dog person on October 17th. If I begin to smell less than ideal and constantly have a coat of canine hair on my clothes, please call me out on it.
This little guy came into our house at 12 pounds and now several hundred dollars (who know about the dog gear?!?) and 2 months later he has just about doubled in weight.
Above: OK we never saw him when this tiny, he was fostered until 8 weeks. 
Above: Major portrait.
Above: Little Major.
Above: Major's first snow.
Above: Major takes obedience training and then pulls the certificate off the fridge for a snack.
Above: Major ready for first squirrel hunting trip (in dog voice: "You better not leave with out me Devon!!!")
Above: Major doing some serious squirrel hunting.

Above: Major in hunting vest, lest he is accidentally taken for a deer.
Major loves food, people, kids, dogs, and any living creature that might pay attention to him. Sometimes Major gets the hiccups. When he's not biting at my pant legs, tearing my gore tex rain jacket, or being annoying, we love this little puppy. The other fun fact about Major is that we didn't know he was part pit bull until it became obvious in his face and ears. I guess the rescue doesn't want to advertise that!