A few days ago, I took a walk downtown; something I haven’t done in a while. It felt good to get out and walk a different path for a change. Although I was out there trying to burn calories, I took time to look around and snap a few photos of things that interested me.
One of the images was of the bell tower in Baker Park. While I’ve seen it hundreds of times, I’ve never noticed the beautiful little path leading up to it. While walking that path I came across a patch of hostas in bloom with soft purple flowers, and instantly a vivid memory of my childhood came rushing in.
The suburban home I grew up in had a small yard that my mom and dad kept neat and tidy. In the backyard, along our garage, was a row of lush hostas that I’m guessing had been there for many years. When I was little, those plump, purple buds … just before they bloomed … were like bubble wrap to me. Yup, you read that right. I just couldn’t help myself from taking the delicate petals between my fingers and squeezing them. The popping sound they made delighted me. Of course, I imagine it didn’t delight my mom.
I can’t actually recall her scolding me for popping the hostas, which makes me wonder if she ever noticed. (Who am I kidding? Of course, she did.) It’s more likely that she did yell at me and I just don’t remember. What I do know is that I would have completely deserved the telling-off!
While I would never even consider defiling a beautiful hosta today, this memory made me think about how I’ve shielded myself this last year; building a soft, delicate bubble around my memories just waiting to be popped. Or, perhaps, just waiting to bloom? Either way, I think it’s time to pop this “hosta.” Who knows, maybe I’ll be delighted at what I find?
Several weeks ago, a friend and I met over cocktails and discussed ideas to help us get out of our writing rut. We made a pinky promise that we would both document our summer … at least one blog post a month. I have to be honest … I didn’t think I would keep my promise, but here it is. My first summer post, which—I must warn you—isn’t a fun, summery read. But it’s real, and that’s where I’ll begin.
My last post was more than a year ago—March 8, 2021—a few weeks before my mother went in for heart surgery. Since then, it’s been a year (actually 14 months) of lots of changes, starting with the unexpected loss of my mom in April 2021, followed by Bella’s cancer diagnosis in June, seeing Connor off to college 1,400 miles away in July, the loss of Cora on October 30, the loss of Bella exactly two months later on December 30, and my 50th birthday this March (this one stung—I felt my mom’s absence more than I expected that day). Sprinkle in a few seriously big parenting growing pains (oh, and a pandemic), and it’s been a tough one.
I keep thinking it will get better and that my feelings of loss, anxiety, and deep sadness will pass. Unfortunately, they’re not and I know it’s time to speak with someone. That’s hard for me to admit. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in therapy 100%, it’s just I like to think I’m strong enough to get through things on my own.
I do need to add here that my family and friends have been wonderful. They’ve listened, offered support, and cared … for that, I’m so very thankful. But this is unlike anything I’ve felt before and it’s time to admit to myself that a qualified professional is what’s needed. I’m putting this out there for you all to read not so you feel sorry for me, but maybe as a lifeline for someone else who might be feeling the same way. Mental health is hard. Really hard. And it’s something that we don’t talk enough about.
So, first things first, I will find someone to help me through this rough season of my life. I want to fully appreciate all the little things again. They’re there … I know they are, and I’m working on finding my way back to them and to myself.
Happy March! Hard to believe we’re already a week in and just two weeks from the start of spring. While I’ve enjoyed the snow this winter, I’m absolutely ready for spring! ( ⏎ Did you notice I turned off the snowfall on my homepage? I’m summoning warmer weather!) And to help me enjoy these days leading up to spring, I’ve decided to create a Phenology Wheel.
The definition of phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life. A Phenology Wheel is a circular journal or calendar that encourages a routine of Earth observation where you live. I’ve seen seasonal, monthly, and daily wheels—some super detailed and others just a quick sketch with notes. I opted for a daily wheel as I continue my promise to be more observant each and every day.
My artwork is a bit rudimentary and my handwriting/notes a little messy, but it’s been a fun way to be both artistic and mindful. I’ll be curious to see how my drawings change throughout the month. I’m hoping I get a little better! Here are a few of the images I tried to capture:
I’ll post my progress in another week or so. In the meantime, I hope my little project will spark your creativity. Let me know if you decide to create a Phenology Wheel and we can compare!
This week didn’t find me on the trails but in the air and on the road. Like many (thanks to COVID), it’s been a year since I’ve done this. But as I mentioned in my very first post, Connor is a senior and needs to decide where he’ll be heading this August (which is coming much sooner than I want it to!). My husband and I agree that there’s just no way we can send him off without physically visiting the campus and surrounding areas first. So, Connor and I bit the bullet, masked up, and made our way to his number one choice—Oklahoma University in Norman, Oklahoma. Connor chose to apply to OU for the School of Meteorology, which is based out of the National Weather Center Building housed on the OU campus.
The National Weather Center Building is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Oklahoma. Completed in 2006, the center is fairly new and one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world. This state-of-the-art building provides space for education, training, operations, and research and is home to more than 550 students, faculty members, research scientists, operational meteorologists and climatologists, engineers, and technicians. It’s also where Connor would spend most of his time.
While we couldn’t help but be impressed with the weather building (and the Radar Innovations Lab, which was right next door), the older buildings on campus were absolutely amazing. At the center of it all was the Bizzell Memorial Library, which was built in 1929 with seven floors and more than five million books. The Great Reading Room was like something out of Harry Potter! Intricately carved bookcases holding dissertations of OU graduates line the walls, and anyone who enters must have their books out, phones off, and keep completely quiet.
Several floors of the library have decks that hold modern works as well as British and American Literature from the 15th century to the present. Fun fact…
As we toured the campus we saw London-style phone booths scattered around. Turns out these six (WORKING!) phone booths were brought there by former President David Boren as a reminder of his time at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. I have to say, the booths coupled with the Gothic-style architecture made me feel like I was in England. They also have an English-style pub on campus.
The bells of OU are also pretty special. You can hear them here.
While the campus was pretty special, so were the surrounding areas. Our Airbnb was an adorable (very clean) bungalow located just 1.5 miles from the campus. This photo is from the Airbnb listing and was taken in the spring or summer, but it was just as cute this time of year.
We had nice weather and a rental car, so we decided to venture to Oklahoma City (just 30 minutes from the campus) and took a walk on the canal that winds through downtown area of OKC called Bricktown. Once a warehouse neighborhood, it has been restored into an entertainment district.
Our last stop was Lake Thunderbird State Park, just 20 minutes from campus. It was really large with two marinas, camping areas, equestrian trails, and a bunch of other hiking, running, and mountain biking trails.
I’ll admit that traveling during this time of COVID had me on edge. But seeing campuses is a necessity before sending my firstborn off to school for 4 years (especially when it’s not right around the corner). And while he still has two other schools to visit (SUNY Albany and Western Connecticut State University) and might end up choosing one of them, it was really cool to see this campus and learn more about a state we’ve never been to.
My miles with Bella have been a little low and slow these past two weeks. Over the last few months, I’ve been working toward a virtual 25k, which I ran last weekend. So the week leading up to those 15.6 miles was a low-mileage week, as was this week. And I have to say, I felt tired this week. I’ve been steadily adding miles (more than 160 miles of running and walking for the month of January) and I think it finally caught up to me. Bella was also a little off this week with some tummy trouble, so it was a good time to slow down a bit.
Today called for a 6-mile run but I opted for less. Bella and I joined a friend for a short hike on a new-to-me trail in Montgomery County—a portion of the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail. Part of what we hiked is also part of the Montgomery County trail system that encompasses those 100 miles of trails I spoke of in my last post (and that we plan to tick off throughout 2021!).
We did a short out-and-back hike, but it was very pretty as it meandered along the Great Seneca Creek with lots of pretty photo opportunities.
Despite the number of cars near the trailhead, the side we hiked on was very quiet. The opposite side of the creek seemed to have more mountain bikes. From time to time we could hear them hootin’ and hollerin’.
I will admit that early on in the day I beat myself up for not getting my 6-mile run done. After all, it was on the calendar! But in the end, this easy, pretty hike was just what I needed. And it was a great opportunity to find a new trail (not too far from home) that I can return to for a run.
And following the theme of easy … I ended the day with a cocktail from my favorite—McClintock Distilling.
Last week I talked about my 2021 word—wonder. I also mentioned that I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. And while that is true, I do still have goals. That’s not the same thing, right? Anyway, the 2021 goal that I set for myself was to run/hike/walk at least one new place each week. After several weeks of holiday downtime, in which I found myself discovering loads of new trails, that goal seemed like no big deal. I even managed a new location during the first full week of the year (Blockhouse Point, also discussed in last week’s post). But Week 2 of 2021 proved a little more challenging when it came to my schedule and I got off track. Or did I?
I’ve been super fortunate to have a few clients in my new business venture, MellaceWrites. So this last week found me running closer to home with less time to travel to trails. And for the record, I’m absolutely not complaining! I’m so grateful to have the work and be off to a wonderful start. So, instead of beating myself up for not meeting my goal, I found new ways of looking at things on my normal #mileswithbella. Like this funky mushroom growing on the side of this tree…
Or this branch that I never noticed before on these pine trees that I’ve photographed so many times…
Or seeing the sunset from a new angle as I moved off the path to let another walker pass safely by…
My long run this weekend was also going to be on a familiar trail at Black Hills Park. That was until my friend and I arrived to find the trails closed for a managed deer hunt.
My immediate reaction was one of disappointment. I really need to psych myself up for my long runs, so this was a real buzzkill. There is another park within a 20-minute drive, which was my first thought, but my friend didn’t miss a beat and suggested we try a new-to-me trail that was just across the road—the Hoyles Mill Trail.
I had been looking forward to the original trail that skirts a beautiful lake offering views like this right from the start…
But our new plan didn’t disappoint when we were immediately greeted with this sunrise view…
From there, we ran along single-track trails, country roads, and more open fields. It was a fantastic variety of views and terrain and lots of water crossings, which I love.
The really cool thing about this adventure was that it took us through three different parks: Black Hills Regional Park, Hoyles Mill Conservation Park, and Schaeffer Farms, which is part of Seneca Creek State Park.
And what’s even more exciting, is that these parks all link together as part of a much bigger Montgomery County trail system—one that encompasses 100 miles of trails, many of which I haven’t done (yet!).
So, while I was ready to accept that I had missed this week’s goal, I will admit that I’m really happy I didn’t. And I learned that a trail-closed sign isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it led us to an unexpected adventure, and some new trails added to my “wonder list.” There’s a life lesson in there, isn’t there?
I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions. I can never keep them, so why bother making them. I’ve also never chosen a guiding word before—a word that is to be my constant reminder to help guide me in my decision making and help keep me moving forward in a positive light. But this year is different. This year I felt a very real need to choose a word that I could live by for the next 12 months. And, in doing so, I found a word that I want to live the rest of my life by. My word is wonder.
I found my word with a little help from a good running friend. We were out on the trails the other day and started chatting about what word or phrase we wanted to adopt for 2021. I told her that I was thinking of explore or discover. Then she said, “I think your word is wonder. When I think of you, I see someone who is always finding the wonderment in things. I think that should be your word.” As soon as she said it I knew she was right.
The definition of wonder is “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”
In my last post, I talked about how I’ve made a conscious decision to seek out the beauty that surrounds me. In doing that, I’ve discovered so many things that stop me in my tracks and make me think about just how wonderful our world is. I’m talking simple stuff here—coming around the bend in the trail to see the sun peeking through the trees …
Or seeing beautiful flowers dancing on the side of the road during a run …
Or seeing a mound of moss that somehow reminds me of the little garden gnomes from the Disney movie “Frozen” (I can’t explain it, but it makes me smile).
While there is so much that needs our attention in today’s world … so many heavy things … it is my hope that my word will guide me to view the world with a sense of wonder each and every day. And I vow to take that sense of wonder into everything I do—every word I write, every person I interact with, every bend in the trail. I hope you can find the wonder in your days, too.
Here are some pictures from my word discovery run the other day and another new-to-me trail: Blockhouse Point Conservation Park in Darnestown, Maryland. Enjoy!
Happy New Year and welcome to Miles with Bella! You may already know my 6-year-old black lab, Bella, the inspiration behind this storytelling adventure, but she has two four-legged siblings who I’d like to introduce.
First, we have the beautiful guardian and matriarch of the pack, Cora, a 13-year-old Hound-Rhodesian-Ridgeback cross (at least that’s what we think she is). We adopted Cora from a shelter in North Carolina where she had come in as a stray. She was about 4 months old and quickly grew into a 90-pound beauty with quite the personality.
Next is lap-warmer extraordinaire Pip, a 6-year-old Shih Tzu-Maltese cross (again, our best guess). I found Pip when he was about 4 months old. He was wandering around an apartment complex and came running up to me—a matted ball of fluff with the biggest eyes. I worked with the local vet clinics and animal shelters to see if he had run away, but after two weeks there were no takers. So, he became a Mellace. These dogs are the furry loves of my life and well-loved members of the Mellace family.
My human loves will make appearances in my adventures, so I should introduce them, too. Vince is my soulmate and husband of 21 years. Loving, patient, and, thankfully, a dog lover! Connor, our 18-year-old son, is in his senior year of high school and awaiting word from colleges to see where he’ll be heading next year to pursue a degree in meteorology. Sophia, our 15-year-old daughter, is a sophomore in high school, a horseback rider (taking after her mom), and hoping to pursue a degree and future career in marine biology in a couple of years. These amazing humans are my cheerleaders when it comes to all the adventures in my dog-filled life.
So, what prompted Miles with Bella? Bella came to us in May 2019. While I have never turned an animal away, let’s just say I was reluctant to take another dog into our home at the time. Cora was getting older and has always been a challenge with other dogs. For years I tried to get her over her leash aggression, but we never quite got comfortable with walks and socialization. She LOVES her humans unconditionally, but she’s very particular with other dogs. After years of having just Cora and Pip, I was afraid another female dog (young and brave) might really upset the apple cart—but we decided to give it a go. With the help of our dog trainer (the BEST on the planet), we introduced Bella to the pack, and here we are.
Bella’s entrance gave me the opportunity to have a dog I could walk and run with. Something I haven’t had in years! (Pip is great for shorter walks, but not quite up for my woodland adventures.) Bella, meanwhile, hadn’t been walked very much by her previous owners and was thrilled with the prospect of accompanying me. We started with morning walks and then I introduced running. She was a star. Today, she accompanies me on most of my miles, but I will (reluctantly and much to her dismay) leave her home when I head out for more than 6 miles.
Before Bella, I would run 3-4 times a week. On the days I didn’t run, I didn’t walk either. Bella changed that. When we aren’t running, we’re walking. She has been the impetus behind me getting more time on my feet and, therefore, way more time to recognize the beauty all around me. And while I’ve always been good at taking pictures when I’m out running (I’m the self-proclaimed trail paparazzi), I’ve become more thoughtful about chronicling my outings.
The pictures help me appreciate the fact that I have my health and can be outside enjoying my surroundings. I’m grateful for my two legs that help carry me forward (slowly, but forward!) down the trail, through the park, or through my neighborhood.
My miles with Bella have taught me to slow down and appreciate what I have and what surrounds me. We’ve seen beautiful sunrises, stunning sunsets, amazing vistas, and met some wonderful people along the way. My goal is to continue these miles and pictures and continue sharing for those who wish to see them and read about our adventures. Maybe there will be some tidbits of wisdom, maybe not! But I can promise you some beautiful scenery and unique ways of looking at things.
Tag along on my adventures with Bella, a 6-year-old black lab. I’ll share photos and words of wisdom (at least I like to think of it that way!) from our time on the trails, walks around town, and travels (when we can safely do so again). I hope you’ll join me!