Category Archives: family

Update and an Epic Challenge

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No, I’m not Photoshopped in. That’s actually your very own scaredy-cat blogger on the South Kaibab Trail May 20 at the Grand Canyon! (Photo by Andrea Mankin)

Remember me? It’s been almost three years since I’ve blogged here at old Random Snippets & Apertures. That’s a loooong time for neither a snippet nor photo to be read or seen.

But good news, my friends! I’m back . . . albeit just for a few blog posts. Let’s catch up a bit!

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Our expanding family! From left: Belle, Jake, your favorite old broad, C.J., and the Mister.

First, Jake, who is 25 and still works for our business, is getting married in late July! He met Belle, who has moved here from Oslo, Norway, in an online discussion forum about six years ago. Once she came to visit a couple years ago, they knew they were soulmates. The Mister and I adore her, too! We’re thrilled that Jake found love and happiness.

Second, C.J., who is 22, just graduated magna cum laude from Sam Houston State University with his marketing degree. He’s going to be staying in Huntsville to do a paid internship, but we will get to spend time with him for a couple months. Cue the happy dance music!

Which brings us to the photo at the top of the blog. The short take: On May 20, I hiked 21 miles from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim at 7,260 feet to the North Rim at 8,250 feet in 15 hours and 29 minutes (which includes about a half hour in breaks). About seven miles down the steep, rutted, treacherous South Kaibab Trail, about seven miles across, and about seven miles up the steep North Kaibab Trail. 2,500 feet down. 5,500 feet up.

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I’m on the literal steps of the South Kaibab Trail. Jealous of my keen fashion sense? I’ll write about my apparel and gear choices in a future blog post. (Photo by Andrea Mankin)

Sometimes I still have trouble believing that I actually hiked across the Grand Freaking Canyon at age 63!

So what led to all of this?

Join me in a short trip back through time. In the late 1980s or early 1990s, I met Arlen Isham, a legendary, fellow Houston-area marathoner. He told me that he led Rim to Rim trips across the Grand Canyon. I remember thinking how cool that would be . . . and immediately tucking that thought away, as I contemplated my fear of heights and falling to my death in a canyon. Then I got busy with family and life, and I didn’t think about R2R (as it’s called) until last fall.

In September of 2015, my wonderful Aunt Goldie (my mom’s twin sister) was dying of end-stage leukemia. We chatted on the phone, and she said, “Don’t put off doing anything you really want to do. You never know what might happen.” I told her that I had always wanted to see and photograph the Grand Canyon.

“Go do it, kiddo!” she said.

At her funeral in October, I thought about those words. I made up my mind: I finally would see the Big Ditch! But how? And when?

The answer to those two questions would finally be revealed in early November last year when Arlen posted on Facebook that he was looking for people to fill his May 2017 Grand Canyon trip. I quickly e-mailed him about it and had my deposit winging its way towards him in nothing flat.

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This 64-step monster along Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park is known (by me) as “the wicked step-mother.” It follows after four staircases I dubbed the “evil step-sisters” and a killer hill. We went up and down these (and more staircases) too many times, but they ended up being perfect training for crossing the Grand Canyon (darn it!).

Because I was coming off the mid-January Aramco Houston Half Marathon (my 13th!), I was in good cardio condition. However, Arlen quickly warned me that even marathoners can have trouble crossing the Grand Canyon, which is an inverted mountain with the hardest part at the end. He gave our group a rigorous 11-week training program that included lots of stairs and hills at Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston.

After I finished the easiest workout (the first one), my calves were killing me! I live in a one-story house and pretty much can avoid stairs everywhere I go. Suddenly I was going up and down 14 staircases multiple times, and it hurt! As in “I want my mommy” pain. Fortunately, Dr. Google had the relief plan: Calf compression sleeves, which I actually owned but rarely used. I wore them for every stair workout after that (as well as in the Canyon), and I never suffered from calf pain again.

The longest, toughest workout we endured was a triple loop of Buffalo Bayou Park a few weeks before our Canyon trip. We suffered through eight sets of the killer hill and four/four/three sets of the 14 staircases on each loop, ending up with 20 miles (in about seven hours) and almost 3,000 feet of elevation. All while carrying and drinking three liters of water in my CamelBak Sundowner, plus another liter of Gatorade and another liter of water in a bottle plus a bunch of snacks. Once we completed the triple loop, Arlen deemed us ready to tackle the Rim 2 Rim.

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Quite a sight: An elk and the south rim of the Grand Canyon!

My goal was to finish at least one Rim 2 Rim (South to North Rim), but I was hoping to also tack on the return journey after a day of rest. Considering that just seeing the Grand Canyon was my bucket-list item, I figured anything else I achieved would be great. Or is that Grand?

Next time on Random Snippets & Apertures: Deep breaths and baby steps as I hike across the Grand Canyon!

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Finale Friday

I’ve been hiding behind a Nikon dSLR for years.

I’ve been hiding behind a Nikon dSLR for years.

Today marks the end of an (admittedly short) era: This is the final post of Random Snippets & Apertures, my fourth child.

After five and a half years, almost 1,400 blog posts (this is number 1,373, to be exact) and one name change (originally I called it “Get ’er Done,” not that I ever did), it’s time to move on to other writing and creative projects. I’ll miss posting in my tiny segment of the blogosphere, but it really is for the best.

Jake in 2009

Jake showed off his beautiful blue eyes in 2009.

I started Random Snippets & Apertures as a way of chronicling my family’s adventures. I wanted it to be a legacy for my sons. My first post was on January 5, 2009. At the beginning, Jake, my older son, turned 17, and was a high school junior.

Jake rocks a giveaway Houston Astros José Altuve jersey last Sunday.

He rocked a giveaway Houston Astros José Altuve jersey last Sunday.

Now he’s graduated from UTSA and is sharing an apartment in Houston with his best friend forever and our “third son,” Chase. He’s gone from student to working man.

C.J. in 2009 unhappy that I’m taking his photo.

C.J. in 2009 was unhappy that I snapped his photo.

Meanwhile, C.J., was a mere 13 and a half and in eighth grade way back when.

C.J. at Jake’s UTSA graduation. Some things never change!

The bearded one was annoyed at Jake’s UTSA graduation. Some things never change!

As I blogged earlier this week, he just celebrated his 19th birthday. He finished up his freshman year at Sam Houston State with all A’s and a B. What a great transition for him!

As you can see, with both boys out of the house for much if not all of the year, my blog’s purpose is over. It’s as much fun to look back as it is to look ahead, especially for this sentimental mom who adores her sons to the moon and back.

So now it’s on to the next chapter . . . whatever that will be. Thanks for coming along for the ride, dear readers! Hope you enjoy your summer!!

P.S. The blog will remain here on WordPress; I just won’t be adding any new content to it (probably!).

One-Word Wednesday

I’m back shooting disc golf now that my thumb joint feels better. Here C.J. tees off.

I’m back shooting disc golf now that my thumb joint feels better. Here C.J. tees off during yesterday’s Southwest Handicap Mini at Community Park.

Return!

The Mister putts.

The Mister putts.

Eric tests the wind direction.

Eric tests the wind direction.

My baby boy sails in a par putt.

My baby boy sails in a par putt.

Making Good On a Promise

C.J. is ready to blow out the candle on his mini pizookie at BJ's.

C.J. is ready to blow out the candle on his mini pizookie during lunch at BJ’s.

Every so often, my ever-lovin’ though sometimes ornery younger son will look at me and say, “Remember my birthday last year? I still can’t believe we didn’t go to Dave and Buster’s.” Then cue the fake sigh.

As I cue my own real sigh, I must admit that I do feel bad about last year, even though C.J. and the rest of the Core 4 seemed to have a great time at Tilt Studio. Which is why I had promised him an eventual trip to D&B. Yesterday I fulfilled it.

The guys walk towards their world of fun.

The guys walk towards their world of fun.

Yep, my newly minted 19-year-old got to spend his birthday with his big brother and Ricky, Jared, and RJ at Dave and Buster’s in Houston. The Mister and I went along to act as chauffeur and ATM. Plus we always enjoy watching the guys have a great time. Which they did!

Sharpshooter!

Sharpshooter!

Most of their $20 Power Cards were wasted spent on a couple of basketball games that they played numerous times. All five of them love to hoop it up.

Lotsa tix

It’s a handful.

One of the best parts for them, besides trash talking each other, was racking up tickets. Once all the money was gone, it was time to see how much they had earned.

As a veteran mom, I knew that most of the prizes were going to be lame and cost lots of tickets. D&B, after all, is just Chuck E. Cheese’s with better food and games and without the rat. But the guys still enjoyed checking out the store and picking out their rewards (except for Jared, who is saving up his winnings).

Jared, Ricky, C.J., RJ, and Jake pose with Bumblebee.

Jared, Ricky, C.J., RJ, and Jake pose with Bumblebee.

As we were walking out of D&B, C.J. said, “You know, last year’s place was okay. But Dave and Buster’s was a lot more fun!”

Glad you had a birthday that’s as wonderful as you are, my sweet son!

Giving Thanks to Our War Heroes

The flag panel partially obstructs the Remembrance Tower.

The flag panel partially obstructs the Remembrance Tower.

Ever since last September when I saw that an unusual-looking building had been finished in our nearby Memorial Park, I’ve wanted to check it out.

Yesterday being part of Memorial Day weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to drive over with the Mister and finally view the Sugar Land Veterans Memorial.

The Mister is dwarfed by the Remembrance Tower.

The Mister is dwarfed by the Remembrance Tower.

There’s a much-bigger, better-known Memorial Park in Houston, but that doesn’t make our smaller version any less meaningful. Especially now that there’s a true memorial along the mile-long, crushed-granite path that surrounds a manmade lake.

The Army insignia

The Army symbol

The memorial is guarded by a concrete flag panel, which serves as a gateway to the 50-foot, pentagonal tower. Each wall features a branch of the military, with its insignia in the nearby sidewalk.

While the outside of the tower looks impressive, it’s what’s inside that truly matters. The entrance is on the lakeside, away from the potential hustle and bustle of the walking path. I was equally jarred by the imposing quiet and the names etched into four of the five panels (none from the U.S. Coast Guard), those from our small community who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.

#7832-(marine-names)U.S. Marine Corps

#2397-(army-names)U.S. Army

#2399-(navy-names)U.S. Navy

#2400-(air-force-names)U.S. Air Force

I silently prayed for these brave men and their families, as I hoped that our Veterans Memorial never fills up with names.

Every time I pass by the stark flag and building, I’ll always remember that freedom is not free.

The Mister Hits a Homer

Jake holds his new prized possession.

Jake holds his new prized possession.

During spring break the Mister asked Jake a supposedly innocuous question: If you could have an autograph from any major league baseball player, who would it be?

Our older son, who boasts an encyclopedic amount of useless baseball information in his gray matter, didn’t hesitate one bit.

“Billy Martin,” he said. He’s always liked the fiery former player and manager.

After the boys returned to their respective college campuses, the Mister asked me what we were going to give Jake for his upcoming UTSA graduation. Naturally, I thought being debt-free should be enough. However, the doting dad had other ideas.

And that’s why the day after we returned from watching our pride and joy walk across the Alamodome stage, Jake opened one unique present from us.

So cool!

So cool!

Yep, it was a baseball autographed by the one and only Billy Martin, scored by the Mister on eBay.

Jake was thrilled! “Most people wouldn’t understand how meaningful this is to me,” he said, as he inspected the signature. “It will always be special to me.”

You’re special to us, sweet boy!

One-Word Wednesday

The Mister, Jake, Josh, real mom Cindy, girlfriend Claire, and real dad Charles surround Chase after he graduated from Rice University last Saturday.

The Mister, Jake, Josh, real mom Cindy, girlfriend Claire, and real dad Charles surround our “third son,” Chase, after he graduated from Rice University last Saturday.

Proud!

The bros: Jake, Chase, and Josh

The leaning bros: Jake, Chase, and Josh