Thursday, October 29, 2015

My first marathon

I am sure you have all heard about it by now. I officially ran my first marathon on Oct. 18, 2015. This was a goal I had for a really long time, dating all the way back to when I was at the peak of my running career in college. My goal was to run my first marathon by the time I was 30. Well, as fate would have it I ran my first 26.2 miles just 10 days after turning 29. Mission accomplished, you could say.
Angie and I at the start

Except this mission would not have started or been accomplished without the help of one very special woman: Angie Keiser.
You see, I let my goal escape me. Life buried me, put my running on interuptus one too many times. Until I met Angie. She was running to beat breast cancer and to inspire others with her journey. She inspired me to sign up to run with her.
I joked that we were going to be the two most poorly trained people in the race...and I do not think I was far off. We had both run no more than 6 miles at once in training. Both of our training schedules were disrupted. Hers by her cancer treatments, mine by work.
In a way that probably worked for us. We were equally horribly trained but on the same page enough that we were able to stick together for the entire race.
I was stupidly optimistic going in, doubtful less than halfway in, and relieved when we finally finished.
Halfway done! Super smiley!
For those of you who have known me for a while, you might remember that I experienced pain from hip flexor flare-ups during my college running career. Yeah...that came back...around mile 9. Suffice it to say that miles 9 through 18 were just absolutely terrible...every step was painful, every step caused pulling of that muscle.
During the first 5 miles of the race I remember thinking “this is not bad, just keep going.” By mile 15, I was thinking, “you go girl, this is the farthest you have ever run!” But the pain was also with me, and I remember thinking there was NO WAY I was going to last another 11.2 miles.
But Angie was next to me. I knew she was hurting too, and gosh darn it I had signed up to be her cheerleader! Cheerleaders do not quit, they are in it for the long haul! Sure, most cheerleaders just have to run up and down the field and do some flips and cheering, they never run 26.2 miles in their effort to applaud and inspire...but I always have been a bit of a dreamer and over-achiever. I like to set the bar high.
Only 6.2 miles to go!
So I continued on. Around mile 18 my muscle either loosened up a bit or went numb. I would guess the latter. Either way, the end result was the pain had lessened to the point that I thought I might actually be able to last another 8.2 miles.
Around mile 20 I saw my parents. I so needed that, I needed to know they were there to cheer me on. My mom had a sign that said, “That tutu makes your butt look great!” Oh, did I not mention I ran the whole way in a purple tutu? Well, I am a cheerleader...
Perhaps my favorite sign though was the one that said, “Run fast! Dad just farted!” I think I am going to have that one framed.
There were a lot of doubts on that course. I honest to Zeus never thought I was going to make it, but like I told my Dad when he asked what was going to keep me going, “My stubbornness. I have quite a bit of it.”
“You are just like your mother,” he told me after I finished. “When you decide you are going to do something, you find a way.”
I knew this tutu looked great!
The truth is, none of this would have been possible without Angie. I never would have signed up. I probably would never have made it to the half without her. I definitely would have dropped out around mile 15, when the pain was at its peak and every step was agony. She is the one who kept me going. The truth is, this story, this journey has been about her from the very beginning. She may not have known it, but I think she pushed me just as much, if not more, than I pushed her.

There was one time I got in front of her, miles 23.5 to mile 25. The pain was starting to come back. I literally had to keep jogging. I wanted to walk, but jogging hurt the least. I felt terrible pulling in front of her, but I also knew she had friends in Kat Pass and Janae Vogel who were with her. Oh Janae, what spirit! She cheered for us from the sidelines and then ran with us from the 20 mile mark to the end.
I felt bad about leaving Angie behind, but she told me at the end that seeing me going actually did push her.
“You were going just like we were at the start,” she said. Janae and Kat urged her to keep going, to catch up to me. I remember looking back one time and I did not see Angie. Maybe a half mile later I looked back again and there they were.
At the 25 mile mark I dropped back to wait. We started this journey together and gosh darn it, we were going to finish together.
Angie and I finish the Mankato Marathon together!
I will admit, I got very happy and energized in that last 1.2 miles. We were there, we were done, we had come 25 miles and the end was in sight!
The most beautiful vision I ever saw was when we turned that last corner and the black and white checkered FINISH line loomed in front of us. Four blocks, three, two, one...I grabbed Angie’s hand and we crossed together.
This journey, this vision, this goal had finally come to an end.

Bold and beautiful!
But it is not the end.
Angie and I plan to return next year, with some actual training under our belt, and kill our time. It took us 6 hours, 27 minutes to finish. Next year we want to hit 5 hours, 30 minutes.
I have an even bigger goal, one that is probably two years away. With a realistic goal of 2017, I want to share My Bold Story about bullying. I would love to turn the marathon into a fundraiser for bullying awareness. During the next two years I am planning to purchase a weighted vest. I want to train and do runs, first 5Ks and 10Ks, then a half-marathon, while wearing a weighted vest with 20 pounds.
My ultimate goal is to run the Mankato Marathon. The first half of the race I intend to run in normal running clothes. When I cross the 13.1 mile mark, I would like to put on the weighted vest.
That is how bullying works. When it first starts you are strong, you can keep your head high. But as it goes on and continues, it begins to weigh on you, and the pressure pushes down on you. It is hard to relieve that weight. I hope that in two years time I can be a voice for those living in silence and fear.
United we stand, untied we fall...

Thursday, October 8, 2015

My birthday wish: A year of service

Happy 29th birthday to me! I don’t think I really minded leaving my teens behind. If I can be honest, there are some good memories, but also a lot of really painful ones, which many of you now know about.

My 20s, on the other hand, have been pretty amazing. It is hard to believe they are almost at an end. It feels like just yesterday I was graduating college and preparing to start working for the Sun Prairie Star. And yet, more than 5 years have flashed. I am no longer a bright-eyed 23 year old, but a somewhat mature, if goofy 29-year-old.

I was 20 the first time I traveled overseas. What an amazing and educational trip to Greece and Istanbul! In the past nine years I have made it to Greece, Istanbul and Tanzania. Only four more continents to go! I have rappelled down a 13-story building, competed in my first Tough Mudder, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, assisted with disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy, was able to spend a week at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Leonard Wood with our men and women in uniform, discovered the wonders of running road races and obstacle course races in tutus (as well as the inherent danger of snagging it on barbed wire), adopted two wonderful, furry friends, and even did 3/4 of a mile of burpees. It has been a whirlwind adventure, and I look forward to many more!

Praying over the meals...
As some of you know, I recently left the wonderful state of Wisconsin to take a job as the editor of the Jordan Independent. Another huge blessing! I had to leave family and friends behind, but one of the hardest things has been leaving my martial arts family behind. It gets a little lonely, but I am foraging on and making new friends.

I do find myself becoming more and more pessimistic and cynical, and I think a large part is being away from loved ones and away from the service work I was involved with in Wisconsin.

So, it is time to find new work! Which gets me to the point of this post, just 360 words in. I am going to celebrate my 29th year by doing at least 29 good deeds a month. It might be a kind word, compassionate hug, doing a race for my I Run 4 Michael buddy, Nicholas, donating to a charity, volunteering with a charity, or something I have not thought of. But that is my goal. aAnd my goal is already off to a good start. Today I decided to return to Feed My Starving Children in Chanhassen. After a brief introduction, it was off to pack food for children in Haiti.

During my shift, we packed 90 boxes. Each box contains 36 bags of food, and each bag has enough or 6 meals. So for those of you doing the math, that is 19,440 meals, enough to feed 53 CHILDREN FOR A YEAR.

In addition to helping package meals for children in need, I also decided to purchase a box of food. One box, 216 meals, for $50. The saying is true, when you help others, you help yourself. I am planning to make volunteering at Feed My Starving Children a monthly event, perhaps more. It is a great cause and you really can make a huge impact in just a couple of hours.

Until next time...

Food for 180 meals

Friday, July 3, 2015

When faith and higher thinking collide

The Holy Bible: Guidelines or rulebook?
Society is at war with religion. Many conservative Christians feel like the American culture is trying to demonize or criminalize Christians. But why is this?

As someone who experienced years of physical abuse at a Lutheran school, I know how hard the barbs that hide behind the guise of Christian love can sting. I was a Catholic in a Lutheran school, therefore I was not as “good” a Christian as the Lutherans. I deserved abuse and ridicule for my beliefs.

I can see the irony of a society, that for a long time condemned others who do not fall in line with their beliefs, is now being persecuted for those beliefs.

Yesterday I was talking with a woman who is strict Catholic and very against gay marriage. I know I am not going to convince her otherwise, but still I had a conversation with her. I did not rise up or get angry when she made accusations, but rather tried to put an intellectual debate forward.

This conversation eventually addressed the “slippery slope” that legalizing gay marriage would lead to: i.e. marrying animals and young children. I quickly addressed the very simple point that adults can give consent, animals and children cannot, and how I greatly doubted that any state or the Supreme Court would allow marriage between a human and animal or human and child. To which she quickly claimed that there was nothing to prevent child brides in our nation.

Well, I knew that was not right and tried to correct this individual, but she staunchly denied me. A quick Google search confirmed what I believed: an individual must be at least 18 to consent to marry. One state allows marriage as young as 15 with a parent’s consent, most require 16 with parent’s consent. (I might have to return with some handouts.) Therefore there will be no child brides because a 10 year old cannot give consent to marry, nor can a parent grant consent for a child that young.

The conversation shifted to how it will be a slippery slope with businesses being forced to serve gay people even if it goes against their religion. I stated that I personally did not think businesses should be able to discriminate against customers, that it was no different than telling a black man to frequent the black bathroom or sit in the back of the bus.

“Yes it is,” she claimed. “That is race, not sexual orientation.”
It appears this person does not view denying someone service based on their sexual orientation as discrimination; discrimination is solely a race thing.

I had nothing more to say on that topic. After all, how can you have an intelligent conversation and merging of the minds when one person does not even acknowledge that denying someone equal treatment based on some facet of their existence - be it race, gender, social orientation, etc. - is in fact discrimination?

We also discussed certain Biblical practices - such as the polygamy that was rampant in the Bible, or the fact that if a husband died before the wife had children to carry on his name, she was supposed to marry and procreate with the husband’s brother. (See Deuteronomy 25:5) This person denied reading about that, along with certain Biblical stories - such as Jacob, husband of Leah/Rachel and the father of Joseph. As a matter of fact, she could not remember the whole Joseph story (Jacob/Joseph story is Genesis 29 to the end). As she said, “you and I must have read different Bibles.” She said if she had taught those concepts during Bible study their church probably would have gone under.

That tells me that people do indeed cherry pick the Bible, remembering the passages that suit their own beliefs and narratives and denying the ugly parts.

Deuteronomy 25:11-12

Ironically, if you look at Deuteronomy 27:15-26, it lists a bunch of commandments from the Lord. There is nothing in there about man lying with man or woman lying with woman, but it does prohibit the following: sleeping with your father’s wife; sexual relations with an animal; sleeping with your sister; and sleeping with your mother-in-law. (Basically, no incest or bestiality, but if God was against gays why was it not included?) Failure to adhere to the commandments will result in a curse and numerous bad things, including “You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her.” (Deuteronomy 28:30 - seriously, it punishes the man by punishing the woman, because women are property and not individuals. This is the standard you want to live by??)

There are certain Biblical practices that are no longer common today, and for that I am thankful. Deuteronomy 25:11-12 brings us this gem: “If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut of her hand. Show her no pity.” (I seriously think Deuteronomy needs to just be removed due to utter insanity.)

Which brings me back to my initial point. As the lady accused me of being atheist, which I am not, I could not help musing why so many people have trouble with organized religion today.

Mainstream religion demands total belief, there is no room for skepticism. The Bible is law, and anything deviating from that law is wrong. (No word of if kicking your husband’s assailant in the privates will result in the removal of your leg.) There is no room for societal advancement/adjustment, no room for personal morals or a sense of right and wrong. You must totally devote yourself to following everything the Bible says, whether you agree with it or not.

Through the ages, there have always been people who challenged the beliefs of the land. There are some on the fringe, but most people believe the Earth is round, for example.

Even Artemis knows you need to be patient and flexible.

People like me, who use intelligent discourse and believe that everyone should be treated fairly and not discriminated against, often fall in conflict with the tomes of organized religion. And without room for acceptance, without wiggle room, you get stuck. Roads travel in multiple directions, and offer passing lanes; clothing comes in different colors; there are multiple learning strategies in education. Very little of what we do in life has a strict rigidity to it. Things that do not have a little give or flexibility to them eventually break.

So it is that society has reached the breaking point with many organized religions. The strict conservative Christians are feeling that breaking point, and are upset. A more flexibility society that embraces acceptance is stepping forward.

Is this check or checkmate? Only time will tell.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Woof! Woof! Bark! Yip! (The Puppy Run 10K, as told by Artemis)

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!

Mom just called leash is on...outdoor time! I could just howl with happiness. She has that strange frilly thing on, it must be race time! Puppy run? But she is no puppy, I'm the puppy. But she is doing the oddest thing right now. She is lapping from the showerhead like a puppy. Perhaps this is some strange ritual where masters act like dogs...

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. The door is opening! My human is so slow! I want to race down the stairs, but she is not her usual chipper self! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! We are running. Well, what she calls running. I call it fast walking.

How I love to smell the grass. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Hmm...the dog next door peed here. I see he had Fromm's for breakfast. I should leave him a message for his next visit. Master is jogging alongside me. She smells funny, like sweat, blood and fear. I see a bunch of new dots on her arms and legs. It must be those pesky flying bugs. That must be the fear...she hates those things. So do I. They sometimes land on me and I snap at them. I must try again to approach the cat about a plan of attack. He is good at surprise attacks. He sometimes jumps out at me, and mom does not do anything. I look at her, and she looks back at me. She does not understand...there is no defeating that stealth mode pest.

What? What is that? I see...more dogs! OH BOY, OH BOY, OH BOY! will not let us stop. Wuff! She has not respect for me. Just run, run, run...squirrel! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! master normally goes all the way up the hill under this big structure...she calls it a ….bark...bardge...bridge. A bridge.

Now we have turned around. OH BOY! It's that dog! She let's us stop for about a minute this time. He has a ball. I LOVE BALLS! We are running again...drat. We stop again at a house. There are small humans. They are spraying water at us. I hate water. I hate getting wet, but for some reason my master loves it. She can be so weird.

Run run run, right past that building with the human I hate. He is big and I don't like the look of him (the military statue near the American Legion post), I tried barking at him one time but he was not fazed by my intimidating war cry.
The author, Artemis, and his master, Rachel.

Ooh, a rock. I want to pee...but master pulls at my leash. Run, she says, we are almost there. Almost where? We finally arrive back home. She is acting weird. I bet if I nudged her, she would fall over.


Sophie's master came outside. I love playing with Sophie. We run and run and run. Sometimes she tries to herd me...then I wrestle with her. Sophie's master is doing something funny with my mom's voice box, at least she talks into it a lot. And it makes funny beeping noises. Master is being silly and standing on one foot.

She is trying to get me to look at the voice box. I do not like looking at it...oh all right. Just for a few seconds. Silly master.

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, dinner! Yummy!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Edgerton boys battle tooth and nail

By Rachel Wittrock

It was a game for the history books, the type of game that can create a legend or just wishful thinking. With three-and-a-half seconds on the clock, there was time for one more play, one more pass, one more shot.

Edgerton's Brennan Deegan put the ball in play, a pass to Dan Zeimet, located at the corner. Zeimet took the shot, the buzzer sounded...and the ball missed the hoop. The final score: 56-54 Whitewater.

While the Edgerton boys' basketball team may have come up short in the final seconds of the game, their performance in the last two minutes of last Thursday night's game had the Edgerton crowd on the edge of excitement.

With less than a minute left, Edgerton hoopster James Fox sunk a shot from the three-point zone, bringing Edgerton to within just 1 point of Whitewater and causing the fans to erupt in raucous applause.

Edgerton defenders block Whitewater's #22
The next 40 seconds crept by agonizingly slowly. An Edgerton foul allowed Whitewater's Brodie Runer two free-throws, with seconds to spare. Runer sunk his first shot, and with less than 10 seconds on the clock, Edgerton gained possession of the ball when Runer's second shot missed its mark.

Although Edgerton ultimately fell short, their strong performance in the fourth quarter made it a much closer match than anyone watching the first three quarters might have anticipated.

Whitewater outscored Edgerton 15-4 in the first quarter of the game. Whitewater's Josh Nast proved he was a major threat when shooting outside the circle. Nast scored 12 of the first quarter points when he sunk four 3-point shots. Teammate Bryce Parrish contributed the final 3-pointer.

Edgerton rallied in the second quarter and outscored Whitewater 17-13, making the score 28-21 at the half. The teams played evenly during the third quarter, with Whitewater widening their lead by just one more point.

Heading into the fourth quarter, Edgerton trailed 44-36. Edgerton player Jackson Erickson played a major part in the fourth quarter comeback. Erickson scored 10 of his 15 total point in the fourth quarter, including two 3-point shots. Jake Zeimet and Deegan also contributed four points each during the last quarter of the game.

Although Edgerton limited Nast to five points, and outscored Whitewater 18-12 in the fourth quarter, the initial lead proved too hard to overcome. However, the Edgerton boys also proved they know how to work together as a team. In addition to Fox's 15 points, Deegan contributed 13 points, Braden Youngman scored 11 and Jake Zeimet added 8 points. In addition, Dan Zeimet sunk a 3-pointer and Michael Tate added four points to the board, all during the second quarter.

The Edgerton Boys Varsity Basketball Team will play Jefferson on Friday at 7:15 p.m. at home.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Epilepsy warriors don Hawaiian dress for Lily’s Luau

This article was published in the Jan. 21, 2015 edition of the Edgerton Reporter.

By Rachel Wittrock
Reporter staff

Did you know that 3 million Americans, and 65 million people worldwide, are living with epilepsy? In the United States, one out of every 26 people is living with epilepsy. Although it affects more people than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease combined, it receives fewer federal dollars per patient, according to

Lily’s Fund for Epilepsy Research is working to change that. On Saturday, Jan. 24, beginning at 6:30 p.m., the non-profit will host its annual fundraiser, Lily’s Luau, at Union South, Varsity Hall, located at 1308 W. Dayton St. in Madison.

Grass skirts, coconut bras, leis, flip flops and Hawaiian shirts are all the rage at Lily’s Luau. Attendees can enjoy tropical drinks, coconut shrimp, delectable desserts and other Hawaiian themed treats. This year’s event will include mobile bidding on a variety of donated items; a 20/20 raffle, with a grand prize of a one-carat diamond or $4,000 in custom jewelry from William Fuhrmann Custom Jewelers, and an update on upcoming Lily’s Fund activities.

Attendees will also be able to use their mobile phones to bid on a large variety of auction items, which include: a Disney vacation with a one-week stay in a Kissimmee condo, plus four passes to Disney World during the week of March 29-April 5, 2015; an electric Vibe bike, donated by Crazy Lenny’s E-Bike; Door County weekends; restaurant gift cards; summer pool parties at Seminole and West Side pools; original artwork; handmade furniture; electronics, including an Xbox and 32-inch TV; and food items, such as cases of wine, a cheese collection and half a lamb.

Every auction item has been donated by individuals, organizations or businesses, which allows every dollar raised to support epilepsy research.

Why should someone come to the event? Lily’s Fund founder Anne Giroux turned to her friend Tess O’Brien, whose daughter Meg has epilepsy, for the answer.

“Lily’s Luau has to be the only place you could go where you’re proud to put on a purple lei and announce that you have epilepsy. It is seriously empowering for my kid!” O’Brien said.
To register for this year’s event, go to and click on the Register Now button at the top of the page.  

                                                              Lily’s Fund origins

Lily’s Fund for Epilepsy Research was established in 2007 by husband and wife Anne and David Giroux in honor of their daughter, Lily. 

“When she was first diagnosed, we felt lost. When life settled and we found our new normal, we wanted to honor her and all the people who live with epilepsy by starting a fund to support epilepsy research at the UW,” Anne Giroux said in a Jan. 8 email to The Edgerton Reporter. “While Lily is the inspiration, Lily’s Fund now has grown tremendously into a huge grassroots movement with hundreds of volunteers working to bring epilepsy out of the shadows and into the spotlight.”

To date, Lily’s Fund has raised approximately $700,000 to support epilepsy research at the UW.

                                             Partnering for an epilepsy-free future

Lily’s Luau is more than just a fundraiser for epilepsy research at the UW. It also brings together those affected with epilepsy and their families with the UW’s top researchers, including Avtar Roopra and UW Health neurologist Rama Maganti.

Within four years, Lily’s Fund grew to the point that the first ever Lily’s Fund Fellowship was created.

Dr. Elizabeth Hutchinson served as the first Lily’s Fund Fellow from 2011-2012. She researched finding markers in the brain that can predict epilepsy.

In 2013, Lily’s Fund announced Brandon Wright had been hired as the 2013-14 Lily’s Fund Fellow. That same year, Lily’s Fund announced a new funding initiative, Grace Grants. According to, “Grace Grants should foster innovative research that, if successful, will enrich our understanding of epilepsy, advance new epilepsy treatments, identify new diagnostic tools or otherwise improve quality of life for those who live with epilepsy. A priority will be given to new projects that spark new thinking and open new avenues of inquiry into the mechanisms of epilepsy.”

It was at last year’s luau that Dr. Giulio Tononi was announced as the first recipient of a Grace Grant, worth $100,000. His research, which began in June of 2014, will test if high-density electro encephalograph (HD-EEG) technology can be used to identify the focal point of seizures in the brain, as well as calculate the seizure’s pathway.

According to, “Locating the point of origin is critical for patients preparing for brain surgery. A traditional EEG does not show enough detail, so an intracranial EEG is used. The electrodes are placed directly on the brain, which increases the risk of infection and other complications.”

The announcement of a new fundraising venue, the Neuron Project, was also announced at last year’s luau. Lily’s Fund teamed up with the Boldt Company and artist Piper Vollmer to create a stunning display, which was installed at the Wisconsin Institutes of Medical Research last March.

The contemporary art installation honors the one in 26 people who are living with epilepsy, while also funding critical research. The project was underwritten by The Boldt Company, allowing every cent of the neuron sponsorships to be used for epilepsy research. To date, $112,000 has been raised for epilepsy research through the Neuron Project.

During this year’s fundraiser, Lily’s Fund will announce its 2015-16 Fellow, as well as announcing a new $100,000 research grant, according to Anne Giroux.

“It is a fun and joyful event in the pursuit of a cure for epilepsy. In the middle of a Wisconsin winter, here’s a midwinter luau with hundreds of friends, where grass skirts and winter boots go together. The event is casual, relaxed and the coconut shrimp is out of this world,” Anne Giroux said.