If I Could Hold You One More Time

I would tell you I loved you.  I would kiss your sweet face.  I would tell you you’re perfect.  I would rock you and sing to you.  I would feel your soft velvety fingers and tickle your teeny little toes.  I would ask you to stay.  I would be your mommy and you would be my baby.  If I could hold you just one more time, I would tell you I love you.


I love you Laurencia.  I can’t wait to hold you again.

Happy Heavenly Birthday my sweetie girl.  Valencia ate your cake for you.

She wants you to know she loves you and misses you.  I can tell, I’m her mommy, too.  Lucky me.

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THIS year on this day, Valencia is 11 months old

One year ago today I began the month long hospital stay to monitor the babies and await the arrival of Laurencia and Valencia.  I sat there missing my kids, my husband, my home, wondering whether Valencia would live and how on earth I would kiss my sweet Laurenci goodbye.  It was a tough year.  But we were not alone.  Far from it.

Today, we were so fortunate to be able to finally get away together and spend some time as a family, away from work, so much work! (well, Matt and I will still have to work when the kids are asleep but still…), from yardwork and housework and “just a minute kids while I make this umpteenth phone call”s.  We get to spend a few days just enjoying one another and having fun. IMG_2692 We are all so beyond elated to get away.  When we were unpacking our things after the journey up here I was surprised to find that Wyatt had packed his little treasure box that I gave him in memory of his sister.  Engraved on it are the words, “I’ll always be in your heart, Laurencia”  and he keeps his scapular, medals, holy cards and a tiny little lamby figurine in it.  He was asking me to move a table over to his bed here so that he could put it on a nightstand.  He then opened the box and placed everything just so.  I told him, “Wyatt, that was really sweet of you, to bring that.”  He replied, “This way, our WHOLE family can be here.”  I really didn’t even know he had the tiny lamb or that he thinks of her so often.  He’s usually very quiet about her and I told him how special it was that he did that and how much it meant to all of us. 

I was very emotional today, thinking about all that has happened and where we were last year on this day.  Last year I couldn’t run the Team Liam 5k because I was in the hospital.  THIS year I was able to get out and run for a wonderful cause in memory of a sweet boy, and I got to sing Happy heavenly Birthday to him.  THIS year on this day, rather than wonder if she would survive, Valencia turned 11 months old.IMG_2634  THIS year I am comforted knowing Laurenci is victorious and working hard in heaven to ask Jesus to guide us in her name.  IMG_2515IMG_2651THIS year I have a peace and a joy that I had no idea, NO IDEA would ever be possible.  THIS year we are aware that every single moment is a gift and we do not take one second for granted.  THIS year on this day I have no less praise for our God and the amazing grace He provides.  In fact, THIS year, I have more. 

I love my life.  I love my God.  He is mighty.

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The BIG Announcement!!

LVlogofor blogIn memory of our sweet girl we have started a nonprofit organization, Laurencia’s Victory (www.laurenciasvictory.org).  Our first event is the L.O.V.E. 5k Run (Laurencia’s Orphans Victory Event) benefitting orphans and adoptive families.  The L.O.V.E. 5k Run is going to be held 3 days before Laurencia and Valencia’s birthday.  Everything is explained on our website.  We sincerely hope you join us in celebrating the Life of Laurencia and help us help others in her memory.  Now GO REGISTER!!!!  http://www.love5krun.zapevent.com

LOVE RUN FINALSaturday, August 23, 2014

Run or walk along the beautiful, scenic River Road

Start/Finish at St. Michael Public Works Bldg 3150 Lander Avenue NE, St. Michael, MN 55376

MN USATF certified course

Fun prizes! Little Lambs (kids) Fun Run! Butterflies Diaper Derby!

   Balloons for the kids to celebrate Laurencia and Valencia’s first birthday!

 

5k Start Time: 8:30 am RAIN OR SHINE *

5k Registration/Fees**:

Prior to midnight on August 1, 2014 (includes t-shirt): $25.00

After August 1, 2014 (t-shirt not guaranteed):               $30.00

Race Day Registration: 7:00-8:00 am

Online Registration:

www.love5krun.zapevent.com

www.laurenciasvictory.org (Links to ZapEvent from Home or LOVE 5k Run pages)

Mail-in Registration:  Click on link above

—Early Packet Pick-Up (optional) on Friday, August 22 from 5-8pm St. Michael Public Works Bldg (race Start/Finish location)—

Awards:

1st – 3rd Place Overall male and female (not eligible for age group awards)

Age Group Awards: 18 & Under, 19-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60 & over

Top 2 males & females in each age group receive award

Butterflies Diaper Derby/Little Lambs Fun Run Start Time: Upon completion of 5k participants, on lawn of Rec. Center, start in order of youngest (derby) to oldest (ages 9-11)

Diaper Derby & Fun Run Registration/Fees: $10.00 includes finisher medal (run) or prize (derby)

Prizes for top 2 boys/girls in each age group

Butterflies Diaper Derby - crawlers only!

In memory of Elizabeth Goble, an identical twin, like Laurencia, who had anencephaly

Little Lambs Fun Run: 5 & Under; 6-8; 9-11

Race hosted by Laurencia’s Victory, a MN nonprofit organization. Our event is an affiliate member of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). Through the RRCA, we are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

* In the event of extreme weather, Laurencia’s Victory reserves the right to cancel the L.O.V.E. 5k Run.

** All fees are non-refundable.

Getting busy living

We are all dying, every day we are one day closer, in fact.  But, like he says in the movie, every day we get to decide whether to get busy living or get busy dying.  I chose a long time ago to get busy living.

Last weekend, that meant this:

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I know, I’ve already innundated my FB page with way too many photos of our adventures from Saturday.  Who wants to see me when they can see Lencia’s new toofers or Mae Mae’s piggytails and antics?  Thought so.  I don’t blame you.  I thought I’d post some of ‘em here anyway because I have a little story from the day.

Matt and I decided to go along with my brother and his wife to a benefit for our church’s Catholic school.  A great cause!  The theme:  Kentucky Derby.  Since the actual Kentucky Derby was taking place the same day, my brother was headed down to Canterbury Park to watch on the big screen and partake in the festivities there as well.  The brochures for the school charity event and for Canterbury said to dress up derby style, meaning, wear a big, fancy hat.  Sold.  As soon as my SIL told me about the theme this year I was all over it.  I love hats.  I love big hats.  I love wearing big hats.  A more perfect marriage could not exist, me and a big hat.  Well, ok, me and my hubby are pretty great together too.

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But big hats!  Oh how I adore thee.  Hair messy?  No problem,  enter: big hat!  Feeling crummy about your physical fitness?  I have a solution:  big hat–nobody will be looking at the rest of you!  Like being a girly girl?  Big hat to help you out!  Want to have some whimsical fun for no reason at all?  Shop for a big hat—-with feathers!  See?  The benefits are endless.

The hat:

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Suffice it to say, I had a fun time shopping for accessories for the event.  Nellie and I joked that it was as if we were going to prom.  Coincidentally, as Matt and I passed through Monticello on the way to the events, we saw a bunch of kids taking photos for prom down by a little scenic wayside area.  We considered going down there, we thought we’d totally blend in.  Minus the gray hair and wrinkles.

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When we arrived at the Park, some other people were dressed up but we must have looked especially legit because some guys in the parking lot yelled to Pete and Billy:  “Hey, you look like you know what you’re doing, give us some tips!”  Little did they know I was maybe at this track one other time in my life, when I was 18. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t now.

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As an aside, I have pondered the following question for some time (ok, only as long as it took me to post this but still..): Why the heck did I feel it necessary to kick up my foot and/or purse my lips in every photo?  I may have been a tad overly excited at the idea of going on an all day date with my hubs.

Here is Pete schooling me on the finer points of horse races. I still have no clue what he was saying. I did learn that what I always knew to be true is still true: gambling is….a total gamble. So I don’t do it :)

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I actually have two stories, the other one involves my brother and his cohorts really, as in, really and truly thinking they won BIG only to realize they did not.  Good times.  Sorry, Pete, it was funny, epic actually.  You had to be there.  Although, these photos pretty much convey how it went down.

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(note the two bear-hugging in the background)

Back to my little story.  My greatest worry last weekend was which dress to wear with my big hat, black or white?  Oh, the agony!  Matt was surprised I got any sleep considering the sheer magnitude of the choice before me.  Ha!  Ok, so in the end, I went with the white dress.  I bought this dress for a very special occasion.  I only ever wore it one other time, on that very special day.  Laurencia’s funeral.

As we were driving along I told Matt, “You know, it’s nice, being able to wear this dress to a fun, happy occasion, to continue not just living but LIVING.”  I hope my girl was proud of me, for carrying on and not just existing and not being sad all of the time.  I hope she knows I am happy because of her and not in spite of her.  I still love life.  I still have joy.  It’s magnified, in fact, just from having had her my life.

 

 

Easter and The Great 75 Degree Snowball Fight

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Though it’s been a few weeks already, I wanted to share our Easter photos and some videos. This year on Good Friday I went to our church’s Living Stations.  It takes place at our historic church and it was beautiful and very powerful.  I took the older kids and by the end of it, we all felt more connected to Jesus and what this time of year really means.  Watching the actors take Jesus down from the cross, covered with a white garment, and his mother Mary walking behind, following her dead son, was tough.  I was trying hard not to be selfish and think about me but gosh, it was so hard.  All I could see in that moment was me walking behind baby Laurencia’s casket.  It was real.  It really happened to us and it really happened over 2000 years ago.  I went to Easter Vigil mass by myself and was waiting for that joyful Easter feeling but it never came that night. I just felt sad, about the dying part. The mass was about the Alleluia, the Resurrection part, you know, the entire reason we celebrate Easter, the basis of our faith, Jesus rising from the dead so we can have eternal life?  Yeah, that part.  Well, for whatever reason, it was only serving as a big, giant reminder that Laurencia wasn’t here, since she’s there, because of Easter.  It’s beyond wonderful, but she’s still not here.  Of course, I’m happy for her but I could not get myself to be happy at the time.  I just dang wanted her here.  After mass, in the dark of night, I went and put a little tiny Easter basket on her gravesite. When I got home I put an egg under her picture.

Then morning came, and with it shrieks and squeals of delight.  Mae was into her chocolate Easter bunny faster than you can say “thecrashisn’tgoingtobepretty”

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and the kids were showing me their trinkets and running through the house on their hunt for eggs.

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My joy began to build as I watched the kids experience their own joy.  I’m not sure when I became cognizant of not feeling crummy any longer but I snapped out of it.  Partly because I had to get everything ready for the ensuing masses.  And partly because of the fact that the sun finally came out in full force.   WHAT AN AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL DAY.  Stellar.  Even compared to normal weather, well, at least what I remember as normal weather.  In three words: IT. WAS. AWESOME.  We had blizzard conditions THREE days prior, school was even two hours late in our neck of the woods, on the Thursday before Easter.  The final count was about 10-12 inches of snow.  Here is a photo…of the THURSDAY BEFORE EASTER, just in case I didn’t make that clear:

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And then…then, the Heavens rejoiced and sun burst forth in the most glorious way.  Yep, it was as if we were celebrating the Resurrection or something!

Twenty-seven of the grandkids were here, I tried to wrangle as many as I could for this swing set photo, squirrels (Look, no more snow!  Well, almost, see below):

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Then you have the older girl cousins, so pretty

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And some little girl cousins

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Maggie gets two pics on here because I’m her fairy godmother, and this was too cute not to share

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And these two

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And then there’s this guy

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And this guy (um, cutest baby contest anyone?)

Benny

By the way, he’s doing great!  For those who don’t follow the FB page, Benny is my nephew born just a week before L and V.  He’s the little guy who was on life support and had big, big struggles.  Hard to believe now isn’t it?  Beautiful miracle boy.

Of course, we had the annual egg hunt:

We were all enjoying being outside and being together.  The daddies were using the  only remaining piles of snow left near the barn as an outdoor cooler for their “refreshments”.  Until….until someone realized, “hey, it’s a PILE OF SNOW”.  And the first snowball flew.  After that, it was all out war.  At some point I ran to the house to get my camera.  And at another point I yelled to the kids to ATTACK the daddies.  The big wimps used the barn as a fortress.  Here is the video and photo proof:

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It was a non-discriminating fight.  Even little Charlie (Nick’s Charlotte, 1 year old) was in on the action.  And if you ask Anna’s Marek (3 years old), he’d tell you he was fighting with the best of ‘em.

They polished off that last bit of snow in style.  I think it was about 75 degrees in the sun.  It felt like 85.  It was so warm many of the kids were even barefoot, save Celia who had moon boots on, which, surprisingly worked given her space alien piggytails.  So there you have it, a snowball fight…in the middle of April…in 75 degree sunshine.  Only in Minnesota….

Laura’s family wanted a photo and it took a few tries to get Butch to behave but eventually I prevailed–bwaaa ha ha Birch, I win.  And this just in, Laura has another one in her tummy–congrats guys!

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The kids also had a kickball game that lasted at least an hour or so.  When that was over, the little boys were scrambling about the yard, climbing trees, flying kites and being boys.  The girls were playing various games, running around and being pretty princesses in their Easter dresses.  The adults were either chasing kids or chatting in the sun just soaking it up.  My dad (Papa) said at least 100 times, “This was the best day, just the best day.”

It was a good day, an Alleluia kind of day.

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“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.  He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.  Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

 

The Last Shall Be First

Goldy’s Run-2014  Minneapolis, MN    Apr 12, 2014 8:00AM

ResultsKatrina Witschen

 Bib 1689 KATRINA WITSCHEN  10 Mile
Finished:  01:19:42

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So that’s that then.  As I mentioned on FB, my goal was 1 hour 20 minutes.  I also noted there how Laurencia pushed me to stay just a step ahead of the 8 min/mile pacers because I imagine she’s as feisty as my other girls and equally as sassy.  I’m not going to lie, it was emotionally and physically (the hills!) tough.  Maybe more emotionally than physically.  When I could see the hospital where she was born and died it was of course difficult to hold back the tears, so I didn’t.  But when I realized that crying wasn’t conducive to breathing, I did my best to stop.  I got to the exact place where I would go for walks when both of my girls were still in my tummy.  At that spot was one of the worst hills.  I gotta say, it was tougher running it after already running 7 miles than it was walking it while pregnant!  It was also the spot where some children, who were presumably patients at Amplatz, were there to cheer us on.  As I passed one little boy and gave him a” high five” I started to lose it.  It reminded me so much of being at the hospital, seeing the sick children in the lobby, feeling terrible grief for the parents of the kids who were battling every sort of illness and then realizing in those moments my own daughters were likewise in a battle for their lives.

During the run I closed my eyes and talked to Laurencia.  I prayed that through me she could feel what it was like to walk on this earth.  That she could experience the beauty of life here on earth even if just by listening to me.  Maybe that’s weird.  I often think of her little tootsies and the things she could have done with them.

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I wished that maybe she could somehow, through me, know the simple joys of putting one foot in front of the other or of feeling the wind in her face or the pain of struggling to go farther and harder than your body tells you it can and the reward you get when your mind wins the battle over your body.  As I passed the little boy, I had that familiar “hole in the center of my being” feeling where I absolutely cannot breathe.  It’s such an empty feeling, not having her here in my arms to hold.  I allowed myself to cry and feel it and it only made me stronger to continue.  No, I wasn’t going to gain anything by going faster or pushing myself.  It’s not as if I’m a contender in these things-ha, not even close!  I was, however, trying to honor Laurencia by LIVING, and to me, at that moment, living meant going as fast as I could for no other reason than to see IF I could.  :)

The stats above don’t mean much of anything to anybody, even me.  Hey, great, in some tiny unknown foot race I was 262nd out of 1994 people.  Uh, ok.  But I have a statistic that is amazing.  My friend Tracy has been doing tons and tons of research on how many babies like our Valencia/Laurencia and her Lauren/Elizabeth have survived to birth.  I think she has come up with 18 since 1975.  EIGHTEEN out of all live births (I think she was looking mainly in the US).  I don’t know that we’ll ever know worldwide the miniscule percentage of monoamniotic twins where one has anencephaly and both make it to birth and the healthy baby survives, since it is likely some cases are never reported in depressed areas of the world.  However, I know the number is small.  Like, really, really small.  There is a statistic I can celebrate.  Valencia is alive.  And she is thriving.  She will never replace her sister’s unique gifts, but she will always be the most amazing and special reminder of Laurencia.  My girls are two in a kajillion, or very close to that, according to Tracy’s findings.

You know, it occurs to me, each of us has a unique place in this world.  And it isn’t measured by a number and it doesn’t go according to how fast or slow or big or little we are or how many minutes or years we have lived or our abilities or inabilities.  A friend of mine has just returned home from across the world with her newly adopted children.  One of them was so near death he had maybe hours left to live.  Maybe.  And now I’ve seen videos of him giggling like crazy despite his extreme frailty and serious (previous) lack of nutrition.  God sees baby A as able, as worthy and as loved.  Another of her boys is still fighting for his chance at life with his new family.  Some of the doctors and staff don’t see this tiny little boy’s worth.  They wonder why she would spend her precious time and money to fight for a life which may not look like yours or mine.  He may never walk.  He may never talk.  He may never recognize his family.  And yet, his place is no lesser than ours.  Little baby C, in my mind, has already shown more courage and strength than 10,000 able-bodied men.  No matter what, we each have a place equally as valued and worthwhile as every other person.  Laurencia lived for 15 minutes.  To God, and to me, her lifetime was as beautiful and precious as anyone who might live one year or one hundred years.  In fact, Jesus told us, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”  In other words, we will all cross the finish line at the same time because, according to God, we are all equal–in His eyes and in His Kingdom. I pray that each of you realize the gifts you are given and know that no matter what, your own place in this world is unique and special.

This Holy Week we reflect on the gift of His sacrifice.  We also reflect on the incredible knowledge that should we choose to follow Him, because of the promise of Easter, one day we might all cross that ultimate finish line and receive the greatest reward possible:  eternal life.

The Giggliest Girl in the World (and running with Laurencia)

Happy Spring Everyone!  Been busy planting flowers and whistling with the birds who chirp outside my window.  La la la, happy sunshine and rainbows.  Oh…wait…nevermind…it hasn’t cracked 40.  There are still ugly piles of dirty snow standing as wretched reminders of the WORST WINTER EVER.  The forecast calls for a blizzard some time this week. I don’t even want to know so I don’t check the weather reports.  It’s April for the love of Pete.  It’s getting ridiculous.  Everyone is crabby about it.  We’re about to stage a revolt around these parts but are too freaking cold.  So, until we thaw out, we’ve been making the best of our indoor time.  And that mostly involves getting Valencia to giggle, then giggling back.  It’s not difficult.  Girlfriend was CREATED to giggle.  This video doesn’t even do justice to her belly laughs.  I caught her after her and Daddy had been doing it for a while.

Last weekend I had just the 3 littles since Auntie Laura took the 3 bigs on an adventure (yay for Aunties!).  So naturally, we decided to put on pretty tea party/Easter dresses and pretend it was Spring, inside. Yes, those are bloomers Valencia is wearing.  They used to be Gabby’s!  Gabby, my girl who got braces this week and registered for MIDDLE SCHOOL.  Boo hoo.  Back to my tea party girls.

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Polly had the idea of wearing tiaras and brought me this little doll tiara from her doll clothes stash.  I knew I could get it to stick in Valencia’s “hair” by putting her tiny tuft of bangs into a top piggytail and wedging the comb part of the tiara in.

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It stayed all day!  Ah ha ha!  The ladies at the YMCA got a kick out of these three.  So did I.  The outfit Valencia is wearing is supposed to be a dress (3 month size) but it fits more like a shirt now.  She’s getting SO BIG!  It was from a very good friend who lost her precious babies to miscarriage.  This sweet flowery outfit was for her girly.  She waited so long for a baby girl and never got to meet her.  Ever so graciously, after Valencia and Laurencia were born, she sent this to me with a beautiful note about how she’s finally able to part with the clothing she bought for her babes.  She wanted a little girl to wear it and Valencia did so proudly, thanks CM.

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I went for a run today and, of course, was thinking of Laurencia.  I decided that when I run it’s my time with her.  When I’m doing just about anything else there are so many distractions.  Even being at home in bed, I await Valencia’s cry to feed her, I wrestle with the lists of things I need to do the next day.  But when I run, I’m free.  I clear my head and get to make plans and “talk” to my girl.  She runs with me, I imagine.  Today when I was almost home I had the very distinct thought, “I’M SO LUCKY I HAD YOU”.  So lucky.  It was a big deal to me to think this.  It surprised me because I remember running while I was pregnant and I’d get so upset.  I did not feel lucky.  Not at all.  I wanted her to get to stay here, I wanted things to be different.  I still had so much worry and concern.  But now I realize more every day, it could have been different.  It could have been that I never even knew she existed.  So many babies are miscarried, twins, where the mother doesn’t even know there was another baby!  And so many babies don’t make it to birth.  But we were lucky.  We got to see her moving on ultrasound.  I got to feel her kick me.  I got to hold her and smell her and feel her soft velvety fingers in my hands.

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I got to know her, at least a little.  I wanted more, so much more.  But for what we had and what we have, we are lucky.

I signed up to run Goldy’s 10 mile race (http://goldysrun.com) in two weeks.  It was Laurencia’s godmother’s idea so she’s running it too!  The race benefits the hospital where L and V were born.  Amplatz was so good to my kids while I was in the hospital.  So many special little things they did for the kids to get their minds off of the fact that mommy wasn’t coming home for a few weeks.  I love that I can support them now.  I looked up the race course yesterday for the first time.  Get this, I will be running on EXACTLY the same street where I took walks every day when I was in the hospital.  L and V were with me on those walks.  How fitting that I can re-trace my steps in honor of my girl.  Her life will impact the lives of little ones at the hospital.  This makes me smile.  If you’re not busy, consider joining me!

And speaking of my Laurencia, her life and legacy…and of running…..I have a big announcement in the works.  Stay tuned.