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So we made it! More info soon, but just so you know, we’re here safe and sound, and the stack of packed boxes is shrinking while the stack of flattened boxes grows. We’ll be all unpacked soon!

Sorry for my obvious break from updating. David and I are up to our necks in boxes, packaging tape and sharpie markers. We’re hitting the road bright and early Thursday morning and will be making the drive down to our new place in one shot (after stopping for a good southern meal at my grandparents’ house along the way).

We cannot wait to be at our new place! We’ll miss Pittsburgh and the friendships we’ve formed here, but we’re anxious to see what God has in store ahead. Our internet in GA should be up and running by Monday of next week, so look for an update then.

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers.

A very brief post to say that David found us an apartment today in Savannah, GA! He’ll be bringing home the keys when he gets in tonight. Thank you for all of your prayers!

Only five more days until our move. Wow.

Who else is psyched that David Cook won American Idol? Oh yeah. I’m so happy he beat little David Archie boy. Don’t get me wrong, Archuleta had a great voice, but he wasn’t the best performer, and I can’t see his music getting played anywhere except on Delilah’s shows. His performance with One Republic tonight, though, was spot on. Loved it!

Anyhow, what did you think about the finale? For once, the winner’s song wasn’t horrid. Yeah, it was still a little syrupy sweet, but I enjoyed it. Woo!

Will you be checking out “So You Think You Can Dance” tomorrow night? Not I. It’s the Grey’s Anatomy season finale. Hooray for television–occasionally.

Yesterday at 11:46am, David and I crossed the finish line of the Cleveland Marathon.

A lot took place before that statement could be made, though. We trained for 18-weeks, starting with small three and four-mile runs with “long” five to six-mile runs on the weekend, and building up to our one and only 20 miler.

Then race weekend came. We drove up to Cleveland on Saturday morning, arriving at the Expo by 10:30am. Being a pretty large race (10,000 runners total in the three events), the Expo was impressive. Around 50 vendors put on quite the display giving out free samples of granola, protein bars, yogurt, peanut butter, jelly, energy drinks, runner’s gel, protein-packed donuts etc. Needless to say, we stocked up. There was even a health station where you could get your blood pressure taken, a body fat analysis, and have your glucose and cholesterol levels tested. Too fun!

After wandering around for a bit, we picked up our racing bibs, t-shirts and goody bags. It made me think of Megan’s post about race t-shirts. The marathon shirts were black and dry-fit, while the halfers got a red cotton one. Not sure about the 10K racers–did they even get shirts? Poor people. Oddly enough, the prize for winning the 10K ($1,500) was larger than the marathon ($1,000). Hm.

One of the pace team leaders (the race provided pace runners that you could stick with during the race based on the time you wanted to finish in. For example, there was a 4:15 pace group that, if we stayed with them, would finish in four hours, 15 minutes) was giving bus tours of the course for free, and we immediately jumped on board. It was a beautiful day in Cleveland, and the course was equally gorgeous. Part was through a park, part on bike path, and part right along Lake Erie. We were going to be running by the Browns’ stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What could be better, right?

Shortly after the tour ended, we headed back to the hotel to get off of our feet before David’s parents arrived. We sorted through our goody bags determining what we would keep (i.e. sample sizes of icy/hot, sun screen, lotion, hairbands) and what we’d throw away (umpteen brochures for other races, coupons for random brands of granola bars, Kotex pads–ha!).

David’s parents arrived, and we headed back to the Expo where we met up with Mike, (our trainer from the gym who also ran in the marathon). Mike was aiming for a Boston Marathon qualifying time (had to beat three hours and 15 minutes to do so), but we were not. Maybe one day!

The race sponsored (after we paid for it) a pasta dinner, and boy was it tasty! I ate more pasta that night than I have…ever. I figured I’d need the energy. After Mike, David and I sat down, the other tables started filling up, but not ours. We thought we had the lonely table until a group of four joined us–all from Pittsburgh. We all laughed together at the “hills” in Cleveland (compared to Pittsburgh) and talked about North Park, etc etc. It was a lot of fun.

David and I went to bed at 9:00pm Saturday night since we knew we’d have to get up at 4:30am to get ready, pack up, eat, meet up with our pace groups, and walk to the start by 6:30am. A relevant side note: when we left the pasta dinner (held at a different hotel), we heard some really loud music and saw lots of high schoolers in exquisite attire: prom night.

So, back to the story, we went to sleep. Around 1:30am, I woke up to the sound of people running up and down the halls screaming obscenities. Yes, you guessed it. Prom kids. I looked out of our room’s peep hole and saw a group of guys and girls–all with beverage bottles (you know the type) in their hands–sort of stomping around and arguing. David was able to sleep through it, so I went back to bed in hopes I could do the same. Then 2:00am rolled around. More yelling and heavy steps. David woke up and called the front desk; the concierge assured us that he’d send security up. Shortly after, it got quiet.

Then at 3:30am, back to it. By that point, David and I just prayed for deep sleep and ignored it until our alarm at 4:30am.

Despite not the best night of sleep, we woke up excited and energized about the race. We got dressed and headed downstairs. Remember the beautiful day before? The morning of the race was anything but. It was in the 40’s and raining–not drizzling, raining. We donned garbage bags for warmth and to keep dry, then headed out to the start. We saw some friends along the way (a coworker of David’s, the Berry Anns, Nathan’s sister, Melinda) which got us pumped up. The start was sort of depressing since we stood there in the pouring rain waiting for 7:00am to roll around.

Then the horn sounded and we were off to “Cleveland Rocks” playing in the background. The marathoners and halfers all started at the same time, and with nearly 5,800 total in both groups, the first few miles were pretty crowded. The course was more flat than hilly, but it did have a few climbs. The first of which was in between miles two and three (climbing up the hill by the Browns’ stadium).

David and I were trying to keep a decent pace, and the first 12 miles or so flew by. For those of you who are not runners, that may be hard to believe–after all, that’s about two hours of running. Trust me, though, once you get in the zone and have tons of spectators cheering you on and are in a group of 100s of other people doing what you’re doing, it passes quickly.

Around mile three, the rain stopped, and we discarded our trash bags. The overcast skies gave way to sun around miles 10 and 11, and the gorgeous weather was back!

Then at mile 12, the halfers took a left-hand turn to go to their finish line while the marathoners kept going straight. Things started to get tough for us a few miles later.

Without the large group of people around us, the run started to get a little lonely, but we kept right along trucking. There were 18 water/powerade stations along the way and two Hammer Gel (GU, essentially), and not being used to hydrating that often, David and I over-hydrated a bit causing me to have to stop at a porta-john. Ugh! Granted, it was like a 60 second stop, but enough for me and David to both be aware of the lactic acid building up in our legs. I’ve heard of people running marathons and (sorry for the details in advance) using the bathroom “on the run” without missing a stride, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I’m not that hard core.

Anyhow, we got right back to running and were still at a pretty good pace by mile 18. Then we turned onto the bike path along Lake Erie and the wind said “hello.” Not just any wind, might I add, but a nice gusty headwind for over five miles–you know, the kind you could probably lean pretty far into without falling. Intense! We walked/ran those five miles, but kept pushing.

By that point, it was really just a race to finish. We no longer care about how long it took, but just that we finished strong! From mile 23 until the end, the streets were covered with people cheering, and that pumps just about anybody up. We made the turn right before mile 26, and just had a half-mile straightaway left. We could see the finish line. All of the burning in our legs faded at that point, and we finished holding hands. It was intense.

As soon as we crossed the finish line, I was completely overcome with emotion, and David and I hugged for a while. We received huge medals for completing the race and immediately wore them around our necks with pride. We then joined up with David’s parents and Mike for pictures and lots and lots of juice, bananas, water, pretzels, etc. So good! Oh, and let me just add, the shower after the race was the best I think I’ve ever had!

A few huge pluses:
1. We had tons of people praying for us; thank you so, so much! God was definitely keeping us going!
2. A lot of our friends and family were tracking our progress via text message/email, and knowing that pushed us forward.
3. We saw David’s parents cheering us on at the start, mile 11, mile 23, mile 25 and at the end. It was such an encouragement for us and made the race that much more enjoyable. Thanks Mertens!

All in all, it was an incredible experience. Was it hard? Uh huh. Did it hurt? Yeah. Are we sore? Oh yes. Are we tired? Absolutely. Would we do it again? Without a doubt. When? December 6…Kiawah Island.

Four days from right now, David and I will be around an hour into our marathon, so hopefully close to mileĀ  seven. It’s kind of intense to think that 18 weeks of training have come down to this Sunday, no pressure or anything.

Please say a prayer for us–that we’d make smart speed choices, have crazy endurance and finish strong, without too much pain if possible!

The header above is from our half-marathon race last October. It’s like “Where’s Waldo?” Can you find us in the crowd? This was at the very beginning of the run. That race was a really tough one for several reasons: my knee had only been out of physical therapy for about a week and was in no shape for a half-marathon, it got up to the 80s outside, and we were running a ridiculously hilly route around North Park. That said, though, we finished the race.

In Cleveland, the temperature should be a bit more mild, the course is flat, and my knee is in much better shape. It might be a rainy race, but that’s ok. We’re ready for whatever is thrown our way–besides, rain would certainly keep us cooled off!

I’ll be sure to post all about the race when we get back because I doubt my hands will be hurting; typing should be simple.

*If you would like text messages or emails as David and I cross the 6.2 mile mark, 13.1 mile mark, 18.6 mile mark and the finish, post a comment to that effect, and I’ll give you instructions on how to do that. Really cool free feature offered by this race.

Sarah just tagged me for this meme. I normally don’t do these sorts of posts, but this one was quick and somewhat informative. Enjoy!

5 things under $5 that I couldn’t live without
1. Orbit teeth whitening gum–any flavor will do, so long as my teeth are white and my breath is fresh
2. Yellow legal pads and post-it notes–they’re perfect for my to-do lists
3. Filtered water–without it, I’d be a pimply, dehydrated mess
4. Stamps–so maybe I can only buy 11 of them for $5, but how else would I send cards and letters?
5. Intense mouthwash–I’m really particular about my breath (see Orbit gum above)

5 favorite movies
1. The Shawshank Redemption–watched this on my 17th birthday; my first R-rated movie ever!
2. A Beautiful Mind–I love movies that make me think and teach me something. This was great.
3. Matrix trilogy–rented the first one on my 17th birthday too; my second R-rated movie ever. I’m a rebel.
4. Bourne trilogy–saw Bourne Identity on my first date with David
5. Lord of the Rings trilogy–I cried when Gandalf “died” and one of my guy friends laughed.

5 baby names I love
1. Caleb
2. Abigail
3. Anne/Anna
4-5. TBD…honestly, David and I haven’t given it a ton of thought, but will once the time comes.

5 songs I could listen to over and over again (note “*” links at bottom of post)
1. I will lift my eyes by Bebo Norman–used as the background for our wedding clips. Thanks, Brady!
2. Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol–anything of theirs, and really anything that appears on Grey’s Anatomy*
3. Apologize by One Republic–first heard this on “So You Think You Can Dance”…love it
4. The Moment I said it by Imogen Heap–really, anything of hers is great. Thanks Garden State for introducing her to me by way of her old group, Frou Frou!*
5. All things by the Dave Matthews Band–several of my favorites are Stay or Leave, Crush, The Maker, #41, Warehouse, etc

5 people who have influenced me in a positive way
1. Christ–he’s a life-changer, for sure
2. David–he challenges me to better myself, and for that, I’m truly thankful
3. My mom and dad–they’re amazing and truly love unconditionally
4. My brother, Greg–he knows how to call it like it is and keep me smiling
5. Sarah Allen–my maid of honor, my closest friend from childhood, the sister I never had

5 things that are always in my purse
1. Cell phone
2. Wallet
3. Pen(s) and paper
4. Gum
5. Camera

5 moments that have changed my life forever
1. Becoming a Christian
2. Marrying David
3. Walking on to the women’s rowing team at Clemson
4. Being completely broken down and subsequently built back up by God during my graduate school career
5. Moving away from Greenville, SC

5 obsessions I have now
1. My husband–he’s pretty much amazing, so I love all the time I get with him
2. Running–and it’s culminating in a marathon on Sunday; I cannot wait!
3. Google Apps–especially the calendar and reader.
4. Reading–currently finishing up “Cold Mountain,” then it’s on to “On the Road”
5. Exploring/Traveling–I hope David and I take as many weekend/day trips in GA as we did in PA. Too fun!

5 places I would like to go
1. The Amazon–how amazing would that be?
2. Back to Vermont–our honeymoon in Stowe was excellent, and David and I would love to visit again
3. Alaska–the thought of the sun staying up all but 4-5 hours in the day during the summer sounds great
4. St. Lucia, St. Kitts, any Caribbean location, really–because everyone else has
5. Europe–especially the UK, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, back to France…all over

5 kitchen tools I cannot live without
1. Scissors–how can you do anything in the kitchen without scissors?
2. Spoon–quite possibly my favorite utensil. It scoops what it should, then picks up the fork’s slack.
3. All my Pampered Chef gadgets–we had a Pampered Chef wedding shower and got spoiled. Everything is incredible!
4. Spatula–a wonderful multi-purpose tool
5. Measuring cups, mixing bowls, mixing spoons–how else would I bake properly?

5 people whose top 5’s I would like to see
1. Jen
2. Kacie
3. Blythe
4. Emily
5. Greg

___
*Of course if you want to see the particular scene it was shown in, Grey’s fans, here you go!
*This song was debuted–at least for me–on So you Think you can Dance, here.

No, don’t worry. I’m not pregnant!

Quite a few of our friends as of late have been announcing their great news, so I didn’t want to throw anyone for a loop.

Now that that’s out of the way, once upon a time, David and I talked about having kids a couple of years after we got married. Seemed like enough time for us to get settled and spend time together before embarking on the journey of parenthood. Then God sent me a babysitting job for a then-three month old baby boy in August 2007. He’s a wonderful child, and at nearly a year old, has been a lot of fun to watch once a week.

That was not a realistic mothering situation, though. I watched that adorable baby boy once a week for 10 hours and got paid for it. How awesome would it be to get paid with a check to be a mom? Not the case, but…

According to a survey of 18,000 moms by salary.com, stay-at-home-moms would make an average of $116,805 per year based on hours spent in the 10 main job functions of mommyhood! And what, according to them, are those job functions? Well, in order of number of hours spent:

Housekeeper
Day care center teacher
Cook
Laundry machine operator
Computer operator
Psychologist
Facilities manager
Van driver
Chief executive officer
Janitor

Whoa. So there’s a lot more to being a mom than just feeding and clothing a baby, isn’t there? Motherhood is all about sacrifice. It’s about putting your child’s needs and wants far above yours. It’s about molding and shaping a brand new life.

I was fortunate enough to have a mom that performed every aspect of her “family manager” job with grace and ease, and she was always striving to be better at it. She absolutely deserved seven times that $116,000 salary!

I know my drive to work harder and always better myself comes from her. Let’s revisit those job functions again as they pertain to my awesome mom (including a few of my own):

Housekeeper/Janitor – I definitely got my organizing and cleaning skills from my momma. Even when me and my brother were little, she worked her hardest to keep the house in tip top shape.
Day care center teacher – My love for reading started with my mom and dad. No matter how many times I wanted them to read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, they kept it super exciting.
Cook – I’m still working to master this field without having any kids around. She did it with two wild ones! She made sure that we always had a great meals through the day and a family dinner at night with everyone at the table. I plan to continue that tradition when David and I are parents.
Laundry machine operator – Somehow my laundry hamper never overflowed. My mom always kidded that any money left in dirty pants pockets was hers to keep–her payment for doing laundry. It taught me quickly how to be sure to double check pockets before throwing clothes in the wash. Ultimately, I wanted to do my own laundry, and one of the first times I tried, I used far too much Tide and had to be taken to the hospital for some Benadryl. Who drove? Mom. And she encouraged me to keep trying with the laundry until I got it just right.
Computer operator – My mom doesn’t give herself enough credit in this realm, but she’s a tech-savvy momma. She was fortunate and didn’t have to worry much about computers until we had one when I was in middle school. Never daunted by a challenge, she took the computer head on and learned her way through the software of Microsoft Office (2007!) and the Internet. Now, we video conference like it’s no big deal. Go mom!
Psychologist – Mom has an advantage with this; she majored in psychology. I think her minor was in reverse psychology, but she has yet to admit it. She can really sense how I’m feeling and what it is that I need, and can “reverse psychology” me into doing what’s best for me, whether I want to or not. Love you, mom!
Facilities manager – This is sort of similar to housekeeping, but mom got to coordinate all the repair men visits to fix the plumming or steam clean the carpet or finish construction on the addition to the back of our house. She kept our house in great working order.
Van driver – Of course, I swear that I’ll never drive a van, but we’ll see. My mom got to drive a Dodge minivan with an extended roof–had to make room for the TV in the back for me and my brother. Oh yeah, we were advanced for our time! Thankfully, by the time I learned to drive, that van was history. Just a year or two ago, my mom said “goodbye!” to her van driving days and is now a suave SUV gal. Did anyone else have assigned days in the front seat of the car? My brother and I got every other day. Woo!
Chief executive officer – This is synonymous for my mom’s personal title, “Family manager.” As organized as she is, she made managing our family of five (until our cat died…) look easy!
Emotional support network – My first vivid memory of my mom supporting me through a tough time was when I was diagnosed with scoliosis at 13 years old. We hugged and cried together on my bed and vowed to get through whatever was going to happen together. Then there is the vivid memory of my complete breakdown early on into college (see my previous posts on sleep and my lack thereof and all the side effects)…I called my mom at a complete loss as to what I should do, and she left immediately, drove to Clemson, and took me out to dinner to get me away from everything. She’s just that awesome.
Wedding planner – Those of you married women in the crowd, could you have planned your wedding with your mom? I know I couldn’t have. David proposed in August, and we were married in February; that’s a pretty quick turnaround. My mom was there, though, 100% of the way and made the planning so much fun. I think we solidified our “best friends” status during those six months.
U-Haul driver – When I moved up to Pittsburgh in February ’07, I got to drive the Acura MDX while mom drove the U-Haul (with no rear-view mirror). Not fair for her in the least…add on top of that the horrible weather (snowing, sleeting, cars sliding on the road) and the 10-hour drive. She is my hero.

There is so much more, but I think you’re getting the picture. I have a fantastic mother for whom I am extremely thankful. I missed getting to see her yesterday, but she was definitely present on my mind.

Happy mother’s day, mom! Thanks for all that you did and all that you do. I know that when it’s my time to be a mom, I will be emulating you. I hope to be as good to my kids as you were to me. I love you so, so much.

That was me Tuesday. Tack on a few more to bring me up to date. I love birthdays!

Last year for my birthday, David cooked a fantastic meal–complete with a menu and fancy napkins–at our apartment. It was like Chateau de la Mertens or something. Delicious! We finished up last year’s dinner with a slice of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. Mmm!

The only thing similar to that this year was the dessert. I hadn’t had cheesecake since summer 2007, it was high time!

I woke up on Tuesday morning to David singing “Happy Birthday,” and he made some great blueberry muffins from scratch for breakfast. He gave me a birthday card at breakfast with a gift card for a “stone pedicure” inside. I was thrilled! He headed off to work, and my morning was rather uneventful–aside from the wonderful emails, calls, and Facebook messages I received from friends and family.

At noon, I started the longest and most amazing pedicure I’ve ever had. I’ll spare you the details, but it was two hours of incredible!

I came back to the apartment to find a gorgeous flower arrangement on our kitchen table with a note from David. I thought, “Aww! He stopped by during his lunch break to drop off flowers. I love him!” I didn’t see his car in the parking lot or his keys on the key rack, so I had no reason to suspect otherwise.

I picked up the bouquet and walked into the office and saw my handsome husband standing there grinning. He’s wonderful, let me tell you. Despite his crazy busy schedule at work, he blocked off the second half of his day on Tuesday as “vacation” and spent it with me.

We walked five miles in North Park, relaxed, talked, and just enjoyed each others company. We felt like kids playing hooky or something.

Around 5:00pm, we changed for dinner and headed to Benihana Japanese Steakhouse. I told Hoy, the hibachi chef, that it was my birthday, but that I didn’t need all the cheering, etc. He smiled and agreed to keep it down. When he started cooking, though, he kept giving me more and more food, “birthday gift, for you!” I was plenty stuffed by the time we left. Thanks, Hoy!

We headed from there to the Cheesecake Factory, of course. Random note…did you know that their carrot cake actually has the highest calorie content of any dessert on the menu!? I was shocked.

Chris, our server, was a Cheesecake Factory vet having worked there for several years, so we had a lot of fun chatting with him. He found out that it was my birthday, and he said, “Happy 21st!” I had a puzzled looked on my face, I’m sure, but before I could say anything, he said, “I’m 21 too, but with eight years experience.” Aka, he’s 29. I followed suit with, “Ah! Well I’m also 21, but with only three years experience.” We ordered wine and our cheesecake and thought nothing more about it.

There were at least three other birthdays going on in the restaurant because we kept hearing singing and seeing cheesecakes with candles in them breezing by us. Little did I know, I was in store for such a treat.

Chris approached our table and said, “We’ll charge you for the cheesecake, but the embarrassment is free!” Out came a huge plate with my chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake (oh yeah, I don’t scrimp on special occasions!), a burning candle, and “Happy Birthday to You” written in chocolate sauce on the plate. Mmm! They sang, of course, and I dug in. It took both of us 10-15 minutes to finish our slices, but they were delicious.

After finishing, David chuckled and said, “I planned ahead, just in case.” He pulled out a birthday candle and matches. Looks like I would have been in for an embarrassment either way. Too fun!

All in all, my birthday was amazing! Here’s to a great 24th year of life!

Yes, that’s a photo of Niagara falls taken from our trip. Unfortunately, it’s about half of a panoramic photo that I hoped would fit, but alas, did not. I’ll try to change that photo more often (didn’t realize I could until today) to reflect what’s going on with me. Enjoy!