Why the blog?

I write as the Spirit moves me. I have prayed about what I'm supposed to do with my life a lot. A lot. Writing. Writing is what I believe God is leading me to do. Whether or not He wants me to write for anyone to read is His business. Much of my writing has been therapy for me so maybe I'm the only one who is supposed to read it. So, why the Blog? As a sounding board, a note pad, a place to keep my ideas and thoughts. A place to share and promote my books, and photography. Written prayers, a place to vent. Possibly, even a place for the unknown reader to learn about the love of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

5 for 50

This is the year that I celebrate my 50th birthday.  I'm so excited!  In honor of this great occasion I plan on hanging up my running shoes, packing away my Camelpak, and take it easy for the rest of my life.  I'm going to get a pedicure, scrape away all of those nasty callouses and paint my toenails red.  I'm going to get a manicure and grow out my nails so I'll look like a lady.  I'm going to throw away my running clothes and buy silks and satins.  Then, I'm going to put my feet up, sit on my new porch swing and relax.  I mean, after all, I've worked hard for the first 50 years of my life.  According to my grandmother, who is in her late 90's, I've got about 50 more to go. So, it is time for me to take a break, take it easy, relax, and.......




HEY, WHO HIJACKED MY COMPUTER!!?????

Yeah, right.  I'm not going to do any of that.  

This year alone I have hiked on several islands, snorkeled, kayaked, went on a zip line course for the first time, and raced my 5th marathon.  You really think I'm going to slow down? 

My new motto is - "If you can, do, because there will soon be a day when you can't and wished you had."

Thanks be to God, I still can, so I will keep doing as long as He gives me the ability.  

Last week, for example.  I wanted to do something to celebrate my 50th birthday. (It's not until July, but hey, why not start early?)  I found a trail race.  I've always enjoyed running trails so I found an off-road marathon, signed up, then promptly got a season pass to Wekiva Springs State Park.  There are more than 20 miles of trails there and with a season pass you can also get an after-hours pass with a code to let you in at any time of the day.  I'm a dawn runner.  Perfect.

Twice a week I drove to the park for training.  Met lots of nice, and not so nice animals.

I prayed a lot during those runs.  "Please God, don't let me trip and break something."  "God, keep the bears away."  "Thank you God for the beauty of the deer, the squirrels, and the weather."  "Dear Lord, keep this cute little raccoon away and don't let him bite anyone." "Thank you, Jesus, for strong ankles.  That root came out of nowhere."  

I invented a handy little device.  It's called 'rubber bands on CamelPak for iPhone'.  It put my phone front and center so that 1) I don't need to use headphones, 2) I can easily make emergency calls, and most importantly 3) I can play my music loud enough to let oncoming mammals, i.e. bears, know that I'm coming while allowing me to hear my surroundings.  

Never saw a bear.  Thank you Jesus. (saw one on the road once but that's a different story)

Race day came and I felt prepared.  I slept well, ate well, packed plenty of #Runergy, intestines did what they needed to when I needed them to.  My only hesitation was the fact that the race was very small.  Four race lengths - 4 miles, 10 miles, marathon, and 50k with a total of less than 250 people.  There were less than 30 in my race.  Well, two hesitations.  Would I get lost?  Would the trails be marked well enough?  

At the start line, the race director gave us a brief, told us which colored tape to follow. (Mine was pink).  He also told us that part of the trail had just recently been burned and there may be some smoke.  That didn't bother me too much because the 50k runners started ahead of us and they were on the same course at that point.  If there was a problem, they would alert the rest of us.  At least I hoped they would.

Go! was called and I was off.  There was no electronic timing or chip timing.  All by hand, so I started near the front.  The first three people shot off, the next two close behind, and I fell in behind a tall young man.  Seventh in line.  The course was mostly single track.  We stayed in this order for the first 6 or so miles.  

Then it happened.  Hills.  First hill, not so bad.  A little difficult to grip, being sand and pine needles.  I stayed behind the guy.  Second hill, I slowed down.  By the fifth, I was walking.  I lost count of the hills.  To say the least, I did not expect so many, if any.  At least not tall hills.  In central Florida. I trained on hills, on wet grass up hills, but not for 26 miles.  Uphill.  I had to jump over a fallen tree, twice.  Came to an 8-foot drop, a gulley, and had to stop and figure out where to go.  Down, back up, continue on and up another hill.  

Around mile 13 (I think) I came to the burned out section.  There were hot spots with smoke and ash and burned out trail. I pulled my shirt over my mouth and nose to breathe. Someone drew with a stick arrows to point the way.  Thank you!!  A tree branch with the trail tape had fallen over and I had to jump over that.   A large tree, that was still smoldering, had fallen across the trail.  I sideswiped that and barely missed getting burned.  If the air temperature had been 5 degrees warmer I think the forest might have erupted in flame.  A woman passed me who wasn't wearing knee socks (I was). The back of her legs were black with ash and dirt and mud.  

Once the guy in front of me was out of sight, I pretty much ran alone.  That didn't bother me because I was too busy making sure I was on the right path, dodging roots, and praying.   Oh yes, I prayed.  "Thank you God for giving me this ability."  "God, I run today for those who can't."  I named a person for each step.  I take this step for Loretta.  This one for Corelai.  This one is for Angie.  Mrs. Matthews. TJ. Grandma.  James.  Ken.  Darryl.  The list went on and on.  I pretty much convinced myself/decided right there and then that as long as I was capable of running, I was going to continue to do so.  I am going to be the oldest person in the race one day.  I am.  Just ask my husband. 

At 4 hours and 38 minutes and 31 seconds the battery in my GPS gave out with less than 3 miles to go.  I texted my husband and let him know where I was.  Using Siri voice activation, I thought I said, "On the last loop."  The text went through as, "Just our luck to."  Ha Ha.  That's okay.  The point was to let him know I was still alive.  

I made it to the finish line in 5 hours and 13 minutes.  Not fast at all for a marathon.  But - and here's the BUT - IT WAS THE HARDEST RACE I HAVE EVER DONE AND I FINISHED!!!   Not only did I finish, I was still breathing, not crawling, not bloody (except for one blister), not broken, and pretty happy.  I even had enough energy to jump up and slap the FINISH LINE banner.  

After drinking a full bottle of cold water I said to my husband, "You know, that was fun.  I think I want to do a race ON my birthday."  It is is 4 months.  


Running the trails

Hello deer

Raccoon on my trail

Follow the pink ribbons!
Nice feet! Only one blister.

Ready to run!

My reward, a shirt and a medal.  5 for 50.
Results.  10th overall.



P.S.  I have signed up for my "birthday race".  It is in Utah on 7/24/2015.  
  

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's strawberry picking time!

Up the road from me is a U-Pick-Em Strawberry farm, Oak Haven.  For those of you who don't know - and I didn't until recently - that means you go and pick your own berries straight from the plant. It's fun for the family, or me all by myself, and you know they are delicious because you pick the ripe ones, the big red delicious ones.  Then, if you can restrain yourself, you go and pay for them before eating.

Here are a few pictures and a recipe.

Just picked.

I filled the carton!

Still on the vine, for a second longer.

Time to go and make something yummy.

About to make dairy-free strawberry ice-cream.

2 cups chopped berries.

2 frozen bananas

add 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup honey, 1 TBS coconut oil, and 1 TBS vanilla extract.

Pour puree into mold.

Melt 1/2 TBS coconut oil, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips

Melt in microwave on very low heat or use double boiler.

Pour chocolate onto partially frozen mixture.

Add a second layer/second batch. 

Add raw almonds to left over chocolate.

Cool for a garnish.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Oak-Haven-Farms-Winery/170470146484213

RECIPE:

1/4 cup regular canned coconut milk
2 cups of fresh strawberries, washed and cut into halves or quarters (measure after cutting up)
2 frozen bananas
1/4 cup raw, local honey
1 TBS coconut oil
1 TBS vanilla extract

ADD CHOCOLATE IF YOU WISH:
1/2 cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips
1/2 TBS coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
       - slowly melt in the microwave or with a double boiler.  Let cool, but not so much that it hardens, then drizzle into strawberry puree.



Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunshine over the Atlantic - St. Maarten

Alas, all good things must come to an end.  I have had so much fun, not only on my cruise, but in putting together the videos and the blogs.  I had only done one slide-show video before this and I've learned a lot.  They are far, far from professional quality, but they are getting better, at least I think so.  I'm thinking I may go back into my archives and make videos of past trips, just for practice and for a kind of 'living scrapbook'.  

So, where are we?  St. Maarten, one island, two countries.  Read all about the history of the island here.  

Initially, my husband and I had not planned an excursion.  The island was small, we already had three excursions, it's another island, maybe we'll just hang out like we did in Grand Turk.  Well, my adventurous side wanted a little more...adventure.  But, just a little.  At the last minute we opted for a 'Scenic Coastal Hike'.  A coastal hike was just the thing.  Not too hard, not too slow, and lots of scenery for this photographer. 

We met our tour group at 8:00 am in one of the ship's lounges then were led through the port's tourist area to a bus.  On board the bus we drove past the little tourist shopping mecca, up and around the outlying hills to the eastern coast.  To my surprise, we turned a corner and stopped on the side of the road.  There were a few homes and a dirt road.  Curious, we all hopped out of the bus and were met by our guide.  The hike was along a single-track path up the hill in front of us.  At the top of the hill was an abandoned home, owned by the Benny Goodman family.  Past this home is where our hike began.  See the video below.  My words cannot do the scenery justice.  There are not enough adjectives to adequately describe the beauty of the oceans and the islands in the Caribbean.  I only wish I had brought my "good camera".  

My only complaint with this excursion was the speed of the guide.  I felt he was walking too fast.  I started out in front so my pictures could be human-free as much as possible.  I stopped every few minutes to take a picture, look back in the hope that I wasn't holding up the rest of the group and they'd be several yards to ten yards behind. They weren't in a hurry either.  On the return trip (it was a point to point or there and back hike) I stayed in back so I could drag as slow as I wanted then run to catch up.  This turned out to be a blessing because at one stop a lady offered to switch places and be last because she was tiring.  My husband explained my wandering and suggested she stay in front.  Good thing because not ten minutes later she was stung by a bee.  Not that it was good she was stung, just good I wasn't because I'm allergic!   I did have creams and a bandage for her and she was fine.  

When we returned to the starting point the guide gave us water then led us down another path next to a home down to an uninhabited bay, the Guana Bay Beach.  Due to tides and rip currents no one swims here.  We rested, took lots of photos then headed back towards the port.  Our guide gave us great advice for the shopping area.  I'm not a huge shopper, but several in our group were.  He said don't buy from the first person or first store.  Don't pay the asking price.  Negotiate.  Most stores have the exact same items.  I applaud guides who are actually helpful and not pushy.  We were unable to tip him because we had left all of our cash on the ship.  (Not a good thing to do!).  

For some reason, I had gotten it in my head way back in Grand Turk that I wanted something "Sea Turtle".  Something unique.  In one of the jewelry stores that we had wandered into I asked if there were any 'local artists" or stores that carried "local art".  The sales woman directed us to a store called "Shipwreck". It turned out to be a run-of-the-mill t-shirt and souvenir shop, however, there was one case that carried (relatively) one-of-a-kind artisan pieces.  I found my sea turtle.  I'm not going to show you the picture because a) I didn't take a photo b) I'd like to keep it as one of a kind as possible. Go to St. Marteen and get your own sea turtle.  Really, go. Take a hike, see the cliffs and beaches. See the butterflies and go snorkeling. Go on an Eco Tour with Tri Sport. You'll be glad you did! 


See the video here:  http://youtu.be/Q3FMBYTd2sI



Friday, March 6, 2015

Sunshine over the Atlantic - San Juan, Puerto Rico

I hope you are enjoying my online chronicling of my recent trip.  I'm doing this for several reasons - 1)  It's a sort of diary for myself.  A scrapbook, if you will, of my adventures with my husband.  I want to be able to look back and remember, see the pictures, and perhaps show my grandkids some day.  2)  It may be a helpful review of the places I've visited for someone who is planning a similar trip, a kind of TripAdvisor but on my own blog.  If this is your first visit to my blog, welcome!  This post is #4 of five planned.  I hope you will read them all (and see the videos) then leave a comment.

We are now at port of call #3, San Juan Puerto Rico.  This stop, we decided to be a little daring.  Me, really.  You see, I'm an adventurer, but a control freak adventurer.  I have panic attacks in crowds, get sick on airplanes, am terrified of roller coasters and pretty much every ride in theme parks.  Basically, I like to stay on the ground or in water.  

Naturally, I sign us up to go zip lining in a foreign country.  Naturally.  It's an obvious choice. 

We dock at 8 am.  Our excursion starts at 9 am so we wander around the shopping area next to the port for a half hour or so.  The quaint shopping district is geared towards tourists with shop after shop selling basically the same thing plus a lot of jewelry stores.  The streets are narrow and made of cobblestone. Very pretty and reminded me of pictures I've seen of Italy. One day I'll take my own... but I digress, the excitement awaits!

Back at the dock we meet our tour handler.  Our young newlywed dinner mates are there, a handful of teenagers, and an elderly couple in their 70's.  How difficult can this zip line thing be?  The minimum age is 5!  I'd look like a silly scary cat if I chickened out now! (My nerves were already on heightened alert!  This is not anywhere near the realm of my comfort zone.)

We board the bus and drive to Hacienda Campo Rico.  There we are greeted by a young staff of trained, well-trained, zip line guides.  They put us into harnesses and helmets then give a safety demonstration on a low line near the ground.  I must have looked nervous.  The guide, Ricardo, looked me straight in my sunglass-veiled eyes and said, "Are you a control freak, Colleen?"  Without missing a beat, I said, "Yes, I am!"  "Takes one to know one,"  he replied.  This was all to demonstrate that if we paid attention and did what we were told, we would be perfectly safe.  Hah!  I wasn't convinced.  My knees were shaking and even the antics of the pig and goat who were running around looking for attention couldn't take my eyes off the wires strung from little poles hundreds of feet in the air.  

Still unsure if I could go through with it, I get in the back of the line when our guide leads the group up the really, really tall pole that looks like it was taken off an old sail boat with its several round holding areas.  They look like nests on pirate ships.  The older couple is near the front and our dining companions, the newlyweds, are in front of us.  I watch all of them carefully.

Once I get up to the very top, my knees are shaking, my heart is racing, and I'm telling myself over and over again, "I want to do this.  I signed up to do this.  The old people did it and so can I.  I want to.  Really, I do.  I'll regret it if I chicken out."  Then I start praying.  "Lord, don't let me chicken out."

Our nice guide, bless him, talks to everyone individually as he hooks them up the the wires.  "Hi, How're ya doing?  What do you do for a living?  Oh, that's interesting.  Having a good trip?", etc.  I think his calm demeanor and his unwavering speed and attention to detail getting people hooked up and on their way was the only thing that kept me from climbing back down that pole.  (You'll see and hear our conversation on my video below).  

I have my camera around my neck and already on video.  My initial thought is to let it video whatever and hold on tight with two hands.  Dear Ricardo had other plans for me.  "Hold on with your left, and hold the camera with your right," or something like that.  "Your'e a strong woman, you can do this."  What does he know?  I'm about to pee myself.  I do as I'm told and he gave me a gentle yet strong shove.  I screamed like a little girl (by the way, the little girls on this trek didn't scream).  About two seconds later I'm thinking, hey this is pretty cool. When I reach the end, the automatic brake jerks me a bit and my heart is racing.  The guide at the other end says something encouraging, don't remember, I'm shaking.  We are immediately whisked to zip line #2 which is tandem.  Me in front, my husband in back.  I feel a whole lot better knowing he's got his legs wrapped around me.  

I survive #2 and feel pretty good.  We hike over and through the woods on a rope bridge which was cool and then we are off to #3.  I am now officially having fun! I video each and every line - there were seven of them - and by the time it's all over I want to do it again.  

This topped the kayak trip, but just barely.  Me facing my fear is what pushed it to the front.  However, and I cannot stress this enough, this does NOT mean I'll be on a roller coaster anytime soon.  NO. Absolutely not. No desire to do so.  I will be zip lining again. There are lots of places in Florida.  

Back to the excursion.  After a brief rest and a snack provided by the tour company we returned to San Juan.  There were still several hours left before we had to board the ship so we stopped at a burger joint that claimed to be the "Best in San Juan".  Maybe there aren't many?  It was good, though.  Then we were off on a self-guided adventure to see Castillo San Cristobal, a fort built over 150 years ago to protect the city from land attack.  I recommend a full day to see the entire fort system.  We were only able to spend an hour to take as many pictures as I could.  

My only complaint about this port of call was time.  Nine hours in San Juan is not enough.  There is so much to see and do.  It was like coming to Orlando and only spending a few hours.  You can't do Disney properly in a few hours. I told my husband that on a future vacation I wanted to return and stay at least a week.  To go zip lining again! 

PS, our guide wanted me to tell you he is single.  See video.  

Watch the YouTube video here.  There is no sound on the slide show due to the length.  Enjoy.  


Colleen Wait Edits

Colleen Wait Edits

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This YouTube channel was created to add video to my blog.  Read it here:  www.colleenwaitwrites.blogspot.com.  I write about my life, my books, my family, my cats and kids, and of course travel.