Summer Photo Contest Winner!

This summer I took some photos of my friend Meredith and her family...and they submitted one of the shots to a summer photo contest in the Grand Rapids Press. Out of over 1,000 entries, it won! Pretty cool!

Click here to see the photo and read the article.


The Cottage

For the past three summers, my parents have rented a cottage for a week in Holland, MI, right on the Lake Michigan shore (this happened during the week after the 4th of July...I'm trying to catch up on the blogging!) It's a big enough place to sleep our entire family--siblings, spouses, and cousins. That would be our family, my brother Tom and his family (wife Stacia, Taryn and Seth), Jenny and soon-to-be husband Mark, my brother Adam's children Kahalah and Wasson, and of course my mom and dad. There is a big open room with two impossibly long oak picnic tables where everyone can gather for meals, a movie room with a huge screen in the basement, a loft sleeping area with bunk beds for the kids, a hammock overlooking the lake, and a beautiful staircase that descends right to the sand of Lake Michigan.

It's an incredible gift that my parents give us every year---the lazy days on the beach, the shared meals at night, nights playing fast scrabble and Boggle with the adults, watching the cousins play for hours in the sand and water, taking bike rides, going on a dune buggy ride, the fellas playing endless games of bocce, long walks down the beach, picking blueberries, s'mores by the campfire, riding the sea kayaks, and just having tons and tons of time to talk to each other.

I remember the first year that we did this, I was a big skeptical that a whole week with family in one house was going to be fun. I remember telling myself that by the end of the week, I might really be tired of everyone! But that first year took me by surprise...it was a perfect balance of togetherness and separateness. Sure, we were together a lot. But if you wanted to steal away for a solo walk, or better yet...leave the kid with someone and talk a walk with your spouse!...it easily happened. People would do their own thing, then come together for dinner or a swim. It is also great to be at a neutral location. No one is "entertaining" and so the tasks of keeping a house running for a week---the meals, clean-up, shopping, laundry, sweeping, etc--get easily shared (at least I hope my parents feel that way!) Everyone feels equal responsibility.

I also love being with family for a week and having ample opportunity to take photos...at a gorgeous location. Each year we have gathered for a big family photo, then attempted to take individual family photos, depending on the mood of the children! What a joy to watch Rowan with her cousins, chasing them around, looking up to them; she awakes each morning wanting to know exactly where each cousin is and what they are doing!

I know that the weeks at the cottage will be an enduring childhood memory for Rowan (and future children!), and for that I am especially grateful. There are certain events in my childhood that stick out above others, and I often think back on these events. What could be a better memory for life than a week in the sun, with sand always in your suit, surrounded by people who love you the best in the world?

A highlight of the cottage for us this year was an unexpected visit from our good friends from Jonesboro, the Wilkies. Jason has family in MI and they just happened to be driving near Holland while we were there...so they stopped by for the afternoon and dinner. Jason and Julie (and their children: Duncan, Quinton, Lillian...and that's cousin Noah along, too!) were a big part of what made Jonesboro feel like home to us. For the last few years that we lived in AR, we faithfully carried out this tradition: each Monday was Cebulski/Wilkie night. So one Monday, Julie and I would go out...the next Monday, Jason and Joe would go out. Then every once in awhile we'd get a sitter and go out all 4 of us. But the Mondays that were just the guys or just the girls were awesome--it wasn't just meeting for coffee, although sometimes it included that. It was a whole evening...sometimes we'd take a walk, do a little shopping, and just talk talk talk for hours. Julie also has a special place in our family because she delivered Rowan, and took amazing care of both me and Rowan during a fairly traumatic labor and delivery! It was fun to catch up with them and see how the kids had grown in so many months.
To see LOTS more pictures from the cottage (thanks to Joe for all the editing) click here.

Oh, and a quick current update: we moved out of our big house of athletes yesterday (Friday) and are at Tye and Amy's this weekend...then into the RV temporarily until the next thing. Lots of big plans and decisions are being made this last week...so we will have something to report soon!


Pregnancy at 21 weeks

We arrived back in CA late last night...and had our mid-pregnancy ultrasound already this morning. I missed a pre-natal appointment while we were in MI, so I wanted to get in right away!

Everything looked fine in the ultrasound. We decided to not find out the gender...yet. We had them seal it in an envelope in case we change our minds....but for now, it's still a mystery. The ultrasound experience in CA was much different than in Arkansas with Rowan. A lot more legal stuff surrounding it here...they did a whole series of pictures before even allowing us to see anything, just in case something was woefully wrong. And the ultrasound tech couldn't tell us ANYTHING here...I have to wait for a full report from my doctor next week. She did say that our baby looked fine, though, and through our untrained eyes...it looked perfect!

We saw the heart beating and all 4 of it's chambers, saw the hands, legs, and ten toes and ten fingers....the baby has been really active and I've been feeling it move more and more every day, so it was awesome to SEE it moving around, too. The baby is already over 10 inches long and weighs about a pound. What a miracle!

I included a few photos of my growing belly here...the one at the top is when I was 16 weeks pregnant, the one right above is from 19 weeks. I love this part of pregnancy...well enough into the second trimester that I feel great, have a good appetite, am sleeping fine, and the belly isn't big enough to cause any discomfort yet. I absolutely love being able to feel this child roll and tumble around inside of me...I just can't get enough of it, or get over how amazing it is to be carrying new life. I love seeing my belly getting rounder and bigger every day...I just want to touch it all the time. I am definitely one of those women who loves being pregnant...and I am thankful for that.


Wedding Photo Preview

Jenny's wedding was beautiful and we had a great day....but are a little relieved that it is over, too!I just wanted to post this link to the photographer's blog...she already posted 20 or so images of the wedding day. The photos are AMAZING and really capture how gorgeous Jenny and Mark were and how joyful the day was. I'll eventually have to post a video of Jen and Mark's first dance....it was totally choreographed, funky, funny, and no one knew it was going to happen. Total fun.

Click here to check out the photos from the photographer. Since it is a blog, you might have to scroll down to see the right photos...but today they are right at the top.

My sister-in-law Stacia and I did all the flowers for the wedding...including Jenny's bouquet, the corsages, boutonnieres, and flower girl's crowns...and NO, we have never done flowers before! So check those out in the photos...we think they looked lovely :)

Joe and I didn't get to take a lot of photos at the wedding...we were a bit busy with everything else! But we will eventually post a few that we have from the week.

We're getting on a plane in a few hours to head back to CA, then more blog updates will follow...


Wedding Week

My sister, Jenny, is getting married on Saturday. Joe, Rowan, and I are all at my parents' house trying to help where we can and get things done for the wedding. We forgot how much work it is to get married! A simple concept...but the details can get overwhelming! I included below the invitations that we put together for the wedding. Jen and Mark couldn't decide which one to use, so they just sent out both--one to half the guests, the other to the other half. Joe and I took these photos last summer out at Lake Michigan after they got engaged--beautiful subjects, easy photos!
We're flying back to CA on Monday. We're hoping that in the next few weeks we'll have a better idea of what our next months will look like---namely where we will live and what we will do for work. We'll keep you posted! For now, we're going to enjoy family and this wedding celebration!


Crater Lake with Curtis and Amanda

This is Joe again. I'm just a bloggin' fool. We are just finally getting our blog life caught up with our real life. I guess that is a good thing. Means we are still having adventures.

Curtis Diller is my Bud. A Bud with a capital B. What does that mean? Well, he and his wife Amanda are in one of the most difficult years of their life, with tremendous challenges and demands upon their lives. In the midst of this, Curtis (and Amanda) saw no other option but to make it to Eugene to be a part of supporting me as I finished up my career. Afterward, we had a few days to burn before heading back to CA, so we headed up to Crater Lake Oregon. Curtis and Amanda camped out in the forest while Laura Rowan and I took refuge in a little motor inn.

We made our way around the lake by veggie truck for a few hours taking in the scenery. Stopped at a few outlooks and Curtis and I made fools of ourselves doing silly jumping photos while tourists whispered amongst one another as to which asylum we might have escaped from. Our wives took it all in stride, as many years of marriage has worn away their aversion and ability to be embarrassed (although I did hear them discussing who had the better life insurance policy on their husband).

It soon became obvious that we would have to blaze our own trail. After a bit of searching we identified a peak at the rim of the lake that seemed like a nice place for lunch. Only four feet of snowpack and a few thousand feet of elevation stood in our way. Convincing Rowan was easy. She’s such a cool girl and sees life so clearly. Laura and Amanda were a bit harder sell. Amanda recently had knee surgery and Laura was worried that she might need hospitalization if the trip was not successful. Nevertheless, we made it to the top and did in fact enjoy a nice lunch with a fantastic view. Now the trip back down to the truck was a different story. The image is seared into my memory (thankfully the funny side of my brain). Picture Amanda barreling down the 40 deg slope on her backside with a crescendo of "whao...WHao...WHAO's!!" emanating dopplar effect style as she flies by all of us. Curtis was at least 50 ft away when Amanda began hurtling toward the grove of pine trees. In a heroic display of matrimonial love and death wish tendencies, Curtis began to sprint down the slope after her. My original thought was that I would now lose two good friends in the next 20 seconds...but instead Curtis caught up with her, spun 180 deg in front while digging his heels in and somehow brought both of them to a stop. We all then joined Rowan (who the entire time thought it was hilarious) in uncontrollable laughter. What fun.

That evening we had a wonderful dinner together at the Lodge right on the lake. Good conversation and fellowship. Curtis and Amanda are deep thinkers with good questions. Followed that up witha campfire back at the woods and S'Mores for everyone. What a great way to end a couple of days with good friends and beautiful scenery. As always...more pics here! Oh, and the photographer of the pic above is Rowan. She loves taking pics and has to use all her strength to get our big SLR up to her eye, but she focuses, frames, and shoots away. She ends each shot by looking at the LCD and saying "That's just beautiful!"

Beijing Games

How fun to watch the games in Beijing. Sure there's lots of politics and propaganda involved. But in the end, it's just a riot to sit down for a couple of hours and catch some mashed together swimming, biking, rowing, volleyball, and fencing beteen the world's best. It is sport...and in the end, it is like a garden salad...just really hard to mess it up.

We were talking over dinner last night, and Laura and I figured that we have between 15-20 athletes competing in the games that we consider friends. So watching the commercials is funny as we will be like, "Oh, there's Bryan...or look at Jake long jumping...or that's a funny shot of Amy." What I can tell all of you as you watch these games is that each and every one of the peolpe we know has given up much, and worked harder than some could even imagine to be there in Beijing. They deserve an unbiased, non-politacal, just for the joy of it viewing of their performances.

Here is a thought that I have used as a balm when considering the games in Beijing. This was brought up to me by a Decathlon buddy while I was still in Eugene, and I have used it to "give myself a little credit" over the past several weeks.

Many consider track and field at the Olympics to be a collection of the best athletes in the world. While many of the best are there, not all of them are. You see, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) only allows three athletes (that qualify) from each country to attend. In the decathlon, the standard for qualifying is 7700pts. If you are from Tunisia, and you score 7700pts in the year leading up to the Games, you are allowed to come and compete in Beijing. In the US, we have close to 30 athletes who will meet this standard. This is why we have the Olympic Trials. There is really no other country in the world that has (or needs) a true Olympic trials. So here is the interesting thing that my friend told me. The IOC allows up to 40 athletes to fill the field at the Games in Beijing. If you were to just go down the list of performances from the past year, and take the top performers regardless of country, I would be writing you from China right now. My score from this season places me in the top 30 in the world. I take this as great encouragement from this season. My only regret is that maybe I should have gotten British or Polish citizenship last year:)

OK, that's all...resume your enjoyment of the games. Blog coming soon about our time at Crater Lake with Curtis and Amanda.



I'm No Brett Favre

Hello all. I am back from the Thorpe Cup after a horrendous day of travel. My flight was supposed to go through O'Hare, but weather in Chicago caused massive delays. Ended up switching airlines and coming back to GR through Cincinnati. I left the hotel in Kansas at 5:00am and arrived in Grand Rapids at 9:00pm. Flew home in 14 hours, could have driven it in 10.

The decathlon at the Thorpe Cup was absolutely brutal. I had honestly felt pretty good and was excited for the opportunity. If it wasn't for plasticine. You see, I can now verify firsthand that a 200lb human body can float effortlessly for up to 5 inches on the stuff. I can also verify that the same 200lb man will be stopped instantaneously by mondo once the plasticine has no more real estate. I am describing my second attempt in the long jump. I landed on my head in the pit, and apparently did some damage to my foot (would have preferred damage to the head). It appears that they hired a second grader to mold the stuff to the board as it was at least half an inch thick. Tendon or ligament I don't know, but it is somewhat in the arch area. I was elated to clear a bar in the high jump, and actually managed a complete the 400m despite the better judgment of our team physician who wanted me to get an MRI. I told him three things: 1) an MRI is expensive 2) I couldn't possibly make it back in time for the 400 and 3) I did not see the team of wild horses he would need to keep me off the track. Oh, and did I mention...it was 107 deg. Day two was excruciatingly painful, and with temps in the 110's it felt as though they had transported us to the surface of the sun (meet location pictured above). I was able to hobble through what I could, but the pole vault was just impossible. In the end, however, the US team was able to defeat the Germans by a large margin and put up the second highest team decathlon score in history. SO awesome to be a part of that.

Here are some other good things that came out of the meet. I was able to go out with some of the neatest guys I have competed with in 10 years. At our first team meeting before the start of the decathlon I was selected to be the team captain. What a humbling honor (and reason to finish the meet no matter what). If I wasn't able to go out on top, at least I was able to go out well liked and respected.

Secondly, there are elements of finishing with a dec like this that is good. Good in a way that a personality like mine maybe needed...to be reminded that it is time to move on and that moving on is the right decision. It is entirely possible that I could have had a great meet had I not sustained the injury...and that would have been nice too. But maybe I would have had a bug in my ear to try and "get a little better". Not the case with me now. That was one of the most internally as well as externally painful meets ever. The foot every step and the sun and heat every minute. I am done! I am content. I am moving on. This is in many ways an answer to prayer for me.

Thanks again to everyone who supported us this year in all we tried to accomplish. What a wonderful journey. As C.S. Lewis has written, in order to know the greatest joys, you must be willing to leave yourself open to some of the greatest sorrows. We have known both over the years, and I would have it no other way. If there are things in life that you have always dreamed of pursuing, why not give it a try. There is no guarantee that the result will be what you expect, but the journey and the answer are often worth more than the prize you thought you were seeking.


Bummer Decathlon

If anyone checked the scores from the decathlon this weekend, you could probably tell that something was amiss. Indeed, this weekend did not turn out as Joe had hoped. He ended up tearing a tendon in the arch of his right foot during his second attempt at the long jump (which is the 2nd event on the first day). He was in a lot of pain, but really wanted to finish the meet...so he did, except for a no-height in the pole vault. It was also hotter than anything...nearing 110 both days. Not a fun meet....really hot and in tons of pain.

I'll let Joe give you more details and his thoughts on officially being done with his decathlon career...but I know that people were wondering how it went this weekend. We are eagerly awaiting Joe's arrival in Grand Rapids...he was supposed to get in mid-afternoon, but Chicago is bogged down because of thunderstorms, and right now we're hopeful that he'll arrive tonight at 9:00. He left 3 weeks ago today, so we are MORE than ready to see him. It's really been too long to be apart!

More to come


Live Results Today and Tomorrow

Joe is in Manhattan, Kansas, competing in the last decathlon of his career! It's called the Thorpe Cup, and it's a meet that they put on every year between USA and Germany. Each county sends 7 decathletes and 7 heptathletes, and at the end they total up the top 5 scores from each country to determine a winner. It is usually very competitive and close...and is a fun meet because while you still get an individual score and can go after PRs (personal records), you're also competing for an overall team score, so there is a lot of fun camaraderie.

Joe is feeling good and is excited to compete. They don't start today until 2:00 PM Central, and tomorrow at 1:00. Live results will be posted throughout the day if you click here.