Around Her Table; Around Our Table

I unwrapped each plate, each bowl, serving dish, tea cup, piece of glasswear. I set each piece down, delicately and softly, across the table that now belonged to me, to my husband, to my family, to us. The process took less time than I imagined, but arrived years before I felt ready.

Out of the Box

Yesterday, my husband and I trekked home to Pennsylvania, pulling his grandpa’s trailer behind the truck. We wheeled onto The Farm as if the task of the trip was the most normal thing. “Oh hey! We’re just here to pick up my Grandma and Grandpa’s dining room suit, great-grandma Swearingen’s china set, and assorted things. You know, as you do!”

I felt gutted the whole way there, the feeling exacerbated by walking into the house that can only be described as my second home growing up. Boxes, bags, assorted things in piles, all being worked on endlessly by my aunt, my mother; a task no one knows how to prepare for, knows not how to complete. At one point, our dog ran from room to room, looking for her dog who no longer lives in the house. No one knows what to do with this sudden loss, this hole in our family. Not even the dog.

My brother, father, uncle, and husband went about the sweaty work of loading the table, the china closet, the server, the chairs as the 92-degrees-in-the-shade heat beat down on them at the back of her house. I walked from room to room with my mom. “Do you want that?” “No.” “Do you want that?” “No.” “Do you need that?” “No.” “Take some sheets. Take some towels. Take something.” And I did, because even though the picking up and fingering through and touching of these beautiful things that she curated over all the years feels something akin to stealing, the point is that if we don’t take these things in the here and now, they will be gone to us forever. These small bits of who she was, who they both were to us as a family.

I keep thinking that, a month later, the tears should stop and the realization that she’s gone, that she’s never going to call me in the morning and ask, “What are you up to today, Wren,” should be sinking in. But I’ve tried to call twice. And when mom called me from her house the other day, my heart leaped out of my chest to see “Swearingen Grandparents” on my caller ID.

Silence hung heavy during the two hour drive home.

I spent time after dinner arranging the pieces, my husband at my side, graciously refraining from commenting on my sniffles, the tears on my wet cheeks. We moved things around together, searching for balance and beauty in the midst of this unbalanced and ugly place of grief we’ve been wading through since losing her. Carefully we moved and moved again and moved one last time until, stepping back, we nodded. Pleased, we stood on either side of the table looking at what was once hers—theirs—now ours.

And Placed

This morning, after sleeping off the emotional exhaustion of yesterday, I ran, hydrated, and made myself two dippy eggs. I learned to love, to make dippy eggs in my grandparents’ tiny kitchen, ate them with toasted rye bread at the very table now sitting in my dining room. I moved around my own kitchen, pushing the bread down in the toaster, fishing the butter out of the fridge, putting extra pepper on my eggs to make up for the fact that I can’t eat salt. I placed my food on a plate, sat down at my new seat at my new-to-me-table that holds so many memories of holidays, family meals, mac and cheese and pork chops, snacks, just the three of us, and then, just the two of us, and now today, just me.

Just me.

Eggs and Toast, Alone

I ate in silence, the dog curling under the table that she keeps sniffing, likely wondering, “Why is this table here now? Why does it smell like Robbie and Grandma’s house and all of the things that belong over there.” I sat and stared at the china hutch as that’s the direction my chair now faces, eating my egg and missing my grandparents so much it felt as if my chest might cave in on itself, on me, on the weight of everything I’ve felt in the last month.

It didn’t.

I finished my eggs, my—sadly, not rye—toast. And the world continued turning.

All Done

Tomorrow my husband will come home from work. We will eat breakfast together at the table. Tomorrow evening, the boys will come home from their grandma’s house—a house they’re off making memories at as I did all those years. For years and years to come, we will gather around this table, together. They will tell me they don’t like things at this table. They will declare certain dishes their favorite. I will make them meals from the cookbook my grandma hand-wrote for me for my wedding shower. Family will gather on holidays and we’ll pass mashed potatoes and gravy and love to one another.

But today, it was just me. Just me at a table with my memories and my heart on my sleeve and my soul searching for meaning and the hurt too close to the surface. Today it was just me, some dippy eggs, and a thankful heart that I can carry my grandma’s legacy of caring for her family with food and meals and togetherness on in my own home.

I hope I will make her proud.


52 Weeks of Brotherhood: The One with the Blowing Things Up

The One with the Blowing Stuff Up

Midday on the 4th of July, we decided to abandon plans to attend fireworks. You know, the professional ones set to patriotic music that large crowds of people drive to see.

I mean, those kind of fireworks are great, but the boys spent four hours in the pool at The Farm. We didn’t imagine they would even be awake by the time we drove to a location, let alone by the time dusk rolled in, so we decided to stay home.

And blow things up ourselves.

By ourselves, I mean my dad, the boys’ beloved Papau.

I have many memories of doing the same thing with my dad. He would lay out some boards atop the hill off the back porch, light Roman Candles with a blow torch, and high step it away from little tanks and helicopters when they took off. One year, my brother wanted to help by going inside to get more things to blow up, but neglected to notice the screen door was shut. He slammed into it, breaking a hole into it with his face, and then fell backward. That was a great 4th of July.

This year, my brother helped my dad set off Roman Candles and bottle rockets and things that made small pops and bangs and crackles. My brother, wearing flip flops and manning the blow torch, pranced away from something that attempted to explode under his feet. We laughed and laughed. The boys cheered and asked for more sparklers, my brother lighting them with the infamous blow torch. We covered ourselves with a blanket and watched as my brother and dad provided us with a low-key, but high-happiness light show.

It was a the best 4th of July ever*.

*=We missed my husband, the boys’ dad. The best 4th of July would involve blowing things up with him present.


Ohio Runners: Attend RunFest This Weekend in Columbus!

Do you Run Ohio? I do. And in case you couldn’t figure that out since I live in Ohio and identify as a runner, I have a sticker on the back of my car that lets you know.

Unrelated: I need to wash my car.

Yep. I turned into one of those.

You still love me.

Anyway, if you run Ohio in any way, shape, or form, you need to make your way to RunFest in Columbus this weekend.

RunFest '14!

Hosted by The Columbus Marathon but open (and free!) to all runners, registered or not, you’ll be treated to a number of awesome things:

  • Meet the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Patient Champions
  • Free food and drinks
  • Marathon and 1/2 marathon training advice from experts
  • Music and entertainment
  • Sneak peek at this year’s race shirts and medal
  • Raffle of amazing prizes
  • Meet 2014 Boston Marathon Winner Meb Keflezighi!


I’m excited to see this year’s official shirt and medal. (Though I already sport my training shirt with regularity, because obviously.) I love last year’s medal:

My Medal at the Columbus Marathon, 2013
My Medal at the Columbus Marathon, 2013; he’ll get one of his own this year!

And I’m curious/excited to see how they’ll top/change it this year.

I’m bringing the whole family, and not just because my husband is running his first half marathon with me this year. It’s a free event, open to all ages with lots of fun things to do and see, so the boys will have a blast as well. They’ve previously enjoyed marathon expos before, and this is kind of a mini-fied version of that; plus, these two love them some Columbus. It takes place this Saturday, July 12, from 1 to 4 PM EDT at the Aladdin Shrine Center at Easton, 3850 Stelzer Road, Columbus, OH 43219. Again, it’s FREE but attendees are encouraged to RSVP via Facebook at this link:

If you’re not registered yet, I still think you should show up and check it out. Why? There’s something about a group of runners when they get together. It’s kind of inspiring, listening to them share their stories and tips and flops. It makes you believe that you can do it, that you can run a half or a full. Because, guess what? You can. So show up, get inspired, and get ready to kick off the official training season for the Columbus Marathon!

I’ll be tweeting and Instagramming from the event (@FireMom on both Twitter and Instagram), but you’ll be able to find me in line to get a photo with Meb, because MEB.


Training for the Columbus Marathon: When a Run Streak Butts Up Against Training

The Columbus (Half) Marathon is in 104 days. 3 months and 12 days. 15 weeks, meaning that I just completed my first week of training. It still feels far enough away that I don’t feel stressed about it at all, as if October is some super far off month and I have all the time in the world to train myself and my husband so that I can run a PR. Yep, no problem.

Training for the Columbus Half Marathon

When I started the Runner’s World Summer RunStreak on Memorial Day, I was actually already a day into my my streak as I ran the day before on Sunday, May 25. When the steak ended on July 4, I still had two days left in my own personal streak as the last week of the challenge ran right into my first week of training for the Columbus Half Marathon.

In short: Instead of 40 days of running at least one mile every single day, I ran 43 days in a row.



In 43 days I ran 81.99 miles, which equals out to an average of 1.90674419 miles per day. I wasn’t looking to run long during the streak, just to run every single day for those 40(+3) days. I did. And yesterday, on a five mile run with my husband, I decided that I felt more than ready to take a rest day today.

I’m glad I participated in the challenge. I feel like if I hadn’t, I would be starting out with depleted fitness and endurance. No, I didn’t run anything over four miles until yesterday during the entire streak, but I ran faster and harder than I had in quite some time. I worked on speed. I worked on footfalls. I worked on some hills. I worked on doing it even when I didn’t want to do it, which I know will serve this half marathon training well.

Days will come in the not-too-distant future in which I will say, “But I don’t wanna go for a run today,” in my most whiniest of voices. It will be too hot or too cold or too rainy or too sunny. I will be too tired or too busy or to lazy or too involved in whatever is going on in my life, including a really important work event, travel to visit family and friends, and the start of a new school year for the boys with soccer practices in the evenings to boot. I will look at my training plan and ask myself, “Does this run really matter?”

The answer will always be: Yes. Yes, this run matters. This run matters. This run matters. This run matters. THIS RUN MATTERS.


All that said, I’m kinda tired.

I’m glad I didn’t run longer distances, because the five miler with my husband yesterday felt a little like dying. Not lung-capacity wise, though the sun kept rising and the temperature kept rising with it, and I kept thinking, “Oh dear. It’s so hot and humid and if this flipping horse fly doesn’t leave me the flip alone, I may just cry or scream or die.” (I get even more dramatic when I’m hot.) But leg-wise, my gams felt heavy. And tired. And slow. And heavy. And dead. And oh my, so heavy. No one part hurt more than the other, I just felt as though my legs needed to pull off the side of the trail and take a nap while the rest of me went on a run.

But I ran. Or, we ran. My husband and I accidentally met up with a fellow firefighter coworker of his who ran with us for the first 2.5 miles. His training plan called for a 7.5 miler as he’s training for the New York City marathon. We turned back around at the 2.5 mile point and headed back to the start of the trail. When we ended, my husband officially checked off his longest distance yet. Hooray!

Running Together

The rest of the first week of training went rather well, if not slightly slow. I’m telling myself that the end of the RunStreak combined with summer temperatures affected my pace a little bit. I need to work on maintaining pace on these lower mileage runs. That’s what I’d like to focus on this week; you know, instead of starting way too fast and then crashing before its over. I could think positively in that I’m doing what the training plan calls for and running the lower mileage distances at a slower pace and saving race pace for my long run. Right? Right.

Saturday and Sunday were both run with my husband. Saturday was a perfect negative split, and Sunday showed almost negative splits. Mile two was apparently a bit slower than the first but then we dropped them down. My husband is naturally better at this than me, which probably means he’s better at pacing in general. I think we’ll be good for each other as we train together. It may be his first and my third, but it’s our first together, and I think that’s just stinkin’ awesome.


This week doesn’t bring a longer long run, but it does bring one longer short run. And I’m getting back into circuit training on Wednesday and Friday. Today though… today I rest. Today I am thankful for legs and lungs and a back that carried me through 43 days of running. Today I am thankful for water and the ability to kick back when I definitely need to kick back. I am also thankful for supportive people in my life who, upon hearing that I completed all 40 days (and then some), reply, “Well, I never doubted that you would finish.” (My dad? He’s the best.)

Here’s to the second week of training!


My First Stitch Fix, or: To Stitch Fix with Love

I resisted All Things Stitch Fix for a really long time—even though I looked at other bloggers’ awesome fixes and thought, “Ooh, that’s pretty. Ooh, I like that. Oooh, shiny.” But I just couldn’t do it.

Why? Mostly because I like having control. I didn’t want to surrender control of purchasing clothing options to someone else. Someone who didn’t know me, what I liked, what my problems spots were, what I hated, what I needed. Also, for a really long time, I was between sizes on the upper end of what I wanted to be. Weirdly, I’m now between sizes on the lower end of what I’d like to be, so maybe that’s just who I am: someone in between.

I finally broke down recently as I clicked into the site to look for available fix dates and saw one for the beginning of July. I still hadn’t found anything to wear for a Very Important Thing at the end of July, and so I decided to bite the bullet. I explained in my note that I love all things green, that I only wear dresses, and that I needed a dress for a special event. In green. Obviously.

When I showed Karen the photo of my fix when it arrived the other day, she replied, “OMG! Did they read your blog because that’s SO you.” And it was. Every piece. To do that, you fill out a lengthy survey about what styles appeal to you. You can also link to your style board on Pinterest so they can look at what catches your eye. My stylist sent me a lovely note explaining my picks, too.

My StitchFix Note

I don’t know who Stacey is, but I’m in love with her.

Let’s take a look at what landed in my mailbox yesterday.

Oh, My!

I expected to hate this dress. I looked at it on the style card and shook my head. A shirt dress? With buttons? But then I remembered that I’ve lost a lot of chest during my weight loss journey, so maybe the buttons wouldn’t gap. Maybe it would fit okay. Maybe it would be okay after all. Then I pulled it out of the box and the material was luxurious. I put the dress on and fell in love. It’s so comfortable with no gaping buttons and, oh my goodness, the material. I want to pet it all day long.

In Between Sizes

This is one dress that would have suited better in the smaller size I find myself in between right now. However, it’s not awful in the bigger size. I envision this getting a lot of wear during the transition in seasons. And winter. And spring. And lots of times, because I love it.

Green Top

The skirt in this shot was already in my wardrobe (Old Navy, 2013 if you must know), but the shirt is from Stitch Fix and I adore it. I don’t often like to tuck shirts in because I’m careful with my thrice-pregnant belly pooch. But this is really just perfect together. And the flyaway sleeves? LOVE!

And then there’s… this.


This. THIS.

I asked for a green dress to wear to an event. And Stitch Fix delivered. And my stylist was right, the belt that came with it wasn’t right, though that belt rocks my socks. Or my waist. It’s way fun and I’m going to wear it eleventy different ways. I already ordered a silver belt to match the silver tabs on the sleeve (see above), and I’m hunting down a killer pair of silver heels. I’m already considering silver jewelry. And really, I’d wear this dress all day, everyday, for the rest of my life. It’s that perfect and comfortable and perfect and omgIloveitsohard.

Also, a beautiful gold necklace came with my Fix, but I didn’t photograph it well. Suffice it to say, it’s lovely.

And so, what’s my final thought on Stitch Fix?

I’ve already scheduled my next Fix. I’ll definitely do it again if I have a big event coming up. This was the easiest shopping I’ve ever done, and that’s really hard for the control-freak, perfectionist to admit. So if you’ve been putting it off for the same reasons, I encourage you to give it a chance. You might like what you receive!

Or LOVE it!

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