Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 - Reflections

I need to preface this with an important acknowledgment: Happiness -- and unhappiness -- are relative terms.  For all the bumps and bruises I've encountered along the way this year, none of them even come close to what several friends and dear ones have endured.

That said, 2011 kind of stunk.  Well no, not kind of.  It full-on stunk.  Which, I have to admit, is a bit disappointing, because 2010 was no cakewalk, as last year's end-of-the-year post 2010 - In the Rear View Mirror reveals. 

So, though I only semi-seriously predicted late last December that 2020 was really going to be my year, I did secretly hope that 2011 would, at minimum, be an improvement.  Here, some "highlights" to consider:

First, though technically part of 2010, New Year's Eve included a tornado -- though thankfully the damage was minimal.  Kleenex - Tornado Proof!

Next, there was the roll-over car accident on 1/11/11 -- again, thankfully, the damage was minimal -- to Riley and me, anyway.  The Highlander might beg to differ.  Over Easy

Early March brought another mishap -- this one included a late night (and rather costly) trip to the ER.  Chin Up

Then there were my various misadventures in home ownership: Busting Out Channel Locks at 10 PM and They Shoot Lawnmowers Don't They?  I haven't yet blogged about my Water Heater Woes, but suffice it to say three repair visits, two repairs, one flooded family room and one burnt wrist later, I still don't have a properly functioning water heater. 

This summer and fall brought a good deal of sadness, as several friends lost loved ones.  Tears of October  More recently, I was heartbroken as two families I know/know of, and for whom I'd been steadfastly praying, lost their infant daughters within days of each other.  Perspective

There is more...a lot more.  But it needn't be further detailed.  I think it's safe to say 2011 has had more than its share of bleh.  So, what does one do with that?  Well, unfortunately, my first instinct is typically to whine about it and wallow in it.  And, oh, have I done that.  I have once again become one with Eeyore.  And, frankly, I'm flat out sick of myself.  

So.  Enough.  It ends here.  As has become my (highly non-original) blogging tradition, it is time to become resolute.  Beginning with a revisit/review of 2011's resolutions: 

1)  Drink more water.  Year End Grade: B+.  Though I didn't do this as consistently as I should, I most certainly increased my water intake. (And, by default, decreased my other not-so-good beverage intake.  Well, maybe a little, anyway.) 

2)  Write more.  Year End Grade: A-.  I definitely did this.  Though I can't lay claim to consistent quality, I definitely upped my quantity.  

3)  Keep your feet on the ground. Year End Grade: C+.  I do okay with this for awhile. And then they get swept out from under me again.  And back on my ass I land.  I tried to enlist the Honey Badger's help with this, but he just don't care.

4)  Love the people who love you and love them well. Year End Grade: B.  I'd have given myself an A- at least if not for the last month or two.  In my Poor Me self-absorption, I have fallen down on the job. Terribly.  

5)  Focus on what you have instead of what you don't. Year End Grade: D. Yeah.  There's no way to sugar coat it.  I make a pretense of it.  I talk a good game.  But when push comes to shove, far too often I end up ruminating on all the things I don't have instead of truly being grateful for the many blessings in my life.  

And that's the thing...there are so many of those. Largely, they come in human form.  My angel of a daughter. My family. My amazing friends -- both old and new. But there are also my four-legged furballs (two of whom are sleeping soundly on either side of me at the moment).  There's my cozy little ragged, run-down house.  And my job -- I'm so very grateful to be gainfully employed.  

The truth of the matter is, for all the times I stub my toe on my Murphy's Law life, it really is a wonderful one... "You see George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?"  (Sorry - it's my favorite movie for a reason.)  Well, of course it would be, and I'd never just throw it away, or wish I'd never been born.  (Okay, there are a couple Mulligans I'd so very much love to take.  But unless and until I find a Flux Capacitor in my stocking, that won't be happening.)  

No, life, even at its thorniest, is a gift.  And I realize it is incumbent upon me to make the best of it.  So, in 2012, I resolve to keep the five resolutions listed above, and improve upon them in the following ways:

  • Drinking more water goes hand-in-hand with healthier habits.  Yeah, I'd like to lose 5-7 pounds, yada, yada.  But I've found that what really keeps me on the right path is having a goal that requires me to remain dedicated to training.  I will be running the Go! St. Louis! Half Marathon in April, and the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon in October.  I will also compete in at least two sprint triathlons this year.
  • Writing more for the sheer enjoyment (and catharsis) of writing is all well and good -- and to that end, I'm going to reinstitute my smile series.  Not necessarily daily.  But a minimum of three per week. More importantly, I aim to take my political blogging more seriously.  It's an election year, after all.  Minimum of one substantive, political blog per week.  
  • Keeping my feet on the ground is obviously a challenge for me.  I will therefore be implementing a 30 Day/Dragon Slayer Rule.  That will make practically no sense to anyone, save one or two of my closest friends.  That's okay.
  • Loving the people who love me and loving them well -- I'm far better at this when I'm not awash in self-pity, which I will combat by...
  • Focusing on what I have instead of what I don't.  Since this is the concept with which I struggle the most, I think it's probably time to call in the Big Gun.  What I see when I reflect on the above is a flagging spirit.  And though I don't believe the answer to that lies in church alone, I know that when I was regularly attending, I was on steadier ground, spiritually speaking.  Though God and I have heart-to-hearts on a quite regular basis, I find that attending church helps nourish my spirit in a way that our little chats don't quite accomplish. So, church.  At least twice a month.  Shoot - they have five different services.  I think I can squeeze one into my schedule.  And the podcasts for my long runs.  
Aside from the above, a couple odds and ends I'd like to incorporate into my "Being a Better Susie" program:  Decluttering my life.  (Which is to say, primarily, my house.)  Starting my work day out at 8:00 a.m. And starting a new hobby/passion, which I've already decided will probably be: photography...

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Frequently, I remark that I am having a Monday. Murphy's Law, while ever-present in my life, is most readily apparent on Mondays.  I don't believe I am alone in this. I think many of us find our reluctance to transition from weekend into work week manifested in minor mishaps and annoyances.  Of course, they don't always confine themselves to Monday, as this past Friday can attest: 

The day got off to a rocky start with me not leaving enough time for me or Riley to get ready in stress-free fashion.  I realized only a few minutes before it was time to wake her, that she'd left out candy for Clyde (our Elf on the Shelf), and he'd need to retrieve it and relocate.  As I tiptoed into her room to pluck the M&M's out of Clyde's "bed", I was certain I heard her stirring and that the jig was up. I threw caution to the wind, snatched them up and bolted out of her room, stubbing my toe on the way past her bed, but managing to hold the yelp of pain inside.  

I stashed the candy and hopped quickly into the shower, only to discover that the replacement of the gas control valve by Water Heater Repairman apparently did nothing to improve my hot water supply.  Ah well, didn't have time for more than a five minute shower anyway.  Once out, I got Riley up and moving, albeit slowly.  So slowly that it became painfully apparent she wouldn't have time to change her earrings to the red and green posts she'd selected to wear with her Christmas dress to the holiday show at school.  We were nearing Full Meltdown Mode with that, so I grabbed them and hustled her out the door, all the while calmly assuring her we'd get them swapped out in the car.  This, we managed, but not without much sighing, whining and the threat of tears (on her part, not mine).  

Upon our arrival at school, it was clear that even now, four months into the school year, parents dropping their wee ones off in the Carpool Lane still haven't quite figured out that, no, it is not appropriate to park adjacent to the yellow curb, as that then blocks all cars behind you and prevents the rest of us from dropping our wee ones off in timely fashion.  As I ushered Riley out of the car with about 45 seconds to spare before the bell rang, it occurred to me that I would likely not have enough time back at home to finish getting ready and accomplish the things I needed to accomplish before turning around and heading back to school to watch the holiday show.  

Sure enough, I didn't.  So I resolved to go to the show, then circle back again and finish up at the house before heading to the office. While I made it in time for the show, parking was scarce, as it always is for big events like this. I snagged a spot on a side street, noting as I hurried in that there was a Manchester cop placing parking tickets on cars parked on the main street.  Hmm.....this didn't look good. But I didn't have time to worry about it.  Once in the gym, I crammed myself into a seat between all the other parents and family members and did my best to enjoy the show. In truth, it was a cute show, and while the white gloves Riley's class wore to highlight their song did not, in fact, glow in the dark as intended, they still sounded good. My video of the performance is pure audio, but that's okay. 

After the show finished, I made my way to Riley's classroom to give her a hug and take a quick pic of her in her holiday finest.  Then back out to the car where I discovered that the cop had not confined himself to the main drag, but had, in fact, issued tickets to almost all of the cars parked on the street.  And these weren't just your run-of-the-mill tickets.  No, these were $35 tickets for  "parking within 15 feet of a mailbox."  Mind you, this is not a posted proscription, and if people were actually to abide by this rule in this neighborhood, there would be no street parking allowed (not even for special events at the school), as the yards are not terribly wide.  Fuming over that, I stopped to mention it to some other parents I knew and was reminded by the father that my left front tire was low.  So low that he recommended I not drive far on it.  

No problem.  Gas station right down the road.  Slight problem - the air hose requires $1 in quarters.  I had $.50 and no cash on me.  Back to the house I went to finish getting ready and gather up the items I needed with me, including $1 worth of quarters.  Back to the gas station to air up the tire.  Only something wasn't working right. I used up my $1 and it still hadn't inflated adequately.  While I'm no grease monkey, I assure you I've successfully aired a tire before.  But, I was willing to concede maybe I'd not done it properly, so perhaps another try was warranted.  I had gotten cash from the ATM by this point, so I dashed into the station and asked the clerk for change.  Back out to the air hose for another try -- no dice.  Something was clearly wrong with my tire.  And I had places to be.

Down the road I drove, to the nearest tire place.  I explained my dilemma and the fellow said they'd take a look and get me patched up.  It'd only be an hour.  I resisted the urge to let out a strangled scream and headed over to the lounge to take deep breaths.  An hour and fifteen minutes later, they had me repaired and I was on my way to the office, where I had a narrow window of time in which to finish up a pleading we needed to file that day.  I raced through it, realizing as I went that this was a bit more complicated than I had originally anticipated.  Thankfully, as I came perilously close to losing it, the partner with whom I was working on it agreed to take over and finish it up, while I completed the requisite Affidavits.  Which needed to be printed out on bond paper. On the printer which never correctly selects bond paper so needs to be tricked into doing so.  Which didn't work right the first time.  And then, when it finally did, I had difficulty tracking down the person I needed to have notarize it.  

I could go on...while there were definite bright spots to my Friday, and the days since, the deluge of mishaps and upsets (have I mentioned the mouse nest I found in my Christmas tree as I attempted to put it up?) have taken their toll, and left me feeling more than a little discouraged. 

But here's the thing...the bumps and bruises I've encountered in the past few days are nothing.  They will heal and they will pass and there will be cause to smile, maybe even before I expect it.  I say this with confidence because, even as I sit here, a little mopey and blue, I am all too well aware that there are people who would give anything to have a day like I just described, rather than be facing the types of days they are currently facing.   

I refer, in particular, to two families I know of whose infant daughters are currently fighting for their lives. Friends on Facebook or Twitter may have seen me mention Baby Ella and Baby Anna Joy.  Ella is a friend's 8 month old daughter.  She needs a heart transplant.  And she is having a tough time, fighting off infection and trying to stay healthy so that she's ready when a heart becomes available.  I know Ella is a fighter. I see it in her sweet little face every time I check my friend's Facebook page to see how she's doing.  But this is a difficult struggle. And I know, from reading the status updates, how hard this is on her Mama.  And, yet, I can't fathom it.

Nor can I fathom what Matt and Alissa Peppley are enduring as they watch their newborn daughter, Anna Joy, fight for her life.  I've been posting links to their blog, detailing Anna's story, and will include it here, as well:  Like Ella, Anna is a fighter.  And she's a miracle.  But she's also desperately in need of a miracle.  

I pray daily for them both, and my heart breaks for their parents and the thought of just how very hard it must be to see your little one, your beloved child, struggling so hard just to live.  I had the slightest -- thankfully, just the slightest -- hint of what that would be like when Riley was born. She was five-and-a-half weeks early, and though the doctors thought, at 5.2 lbs., she was big enough to be okay, she decided to be a little difficult and act like a true preemie, complete with jaundice and difficulty with feeding, and the need to be placed on a ventilator for awhile. Her first few weeks were spent hooked up to tubes and machines and monitors, and though I believed, most of the time, that she would eventually be okay, there were moments when I was filled with doubt and fear.  In particular, I recall a morning when the hospital called as I was getting ready to go in for my morning visit to let me know that her lung had collapsed and they thought they might need to transfer her to Children's Hospital.  I can't really put into words what that felt like.  It was a combination of terror and of certainty that I would give everything I had and all of me if it just meant that she would be okay. 

Fortunately, she was.  And our worries were largely laid to rest after those first weeks.  Since then, she's been a healthy, happy, amazingly wonderful little girl, and I am regularly reminded of just how blessed I am to have her in my life.  She is a gift. She is precious, and never to be taken for granted.  

Just like life.  Even on those days where it seems that nothing is going right.  So, I write this to remind me, and maybe those who read it, of that very simple, but ever-so-important truth. Helps to keep things in perspective. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Don't Stop Believin'

My daughter's at that age where she's caught between childhood and adolescence.  Every day, I see portents of the Tween and Teendom looming ahead.  And yet, there are still those sweet moments when she's just my little girl.  I wasn't certain what that meant this year in terms of Santa, especially since she remarked the other evening as we were watching "Elf" that she was going to save the cards from Santa and compare his handwriting this year to next.

So when she mentioned "Clyde," her "Elf on the Shelf" from last year - wondering if he'd make an appearance again this year, I was somewhat surprised, but happily so.  Evidently, she's game to play along for a little while longer.  As she patiently wrote out a note to him, which she then carefully placed in her little suitcase, converted into a "bed" for him, complete with blanket and Tootsie Roll treat, I racked my brain to remember where I'd hidden the darn thing.  When he didn't come Tuesday or Wednesday night, she again questioned whether I thought he'd return this year.  I pointed out that it wasn't even December yet, and she agreed, "Yeah - he doesn't usually show up until December." (Apparently, having put in one previous appearance established a pattern for him.)

Last night, of course, was December 1st, and my last night with her before she returned to her Dad's for a week.  So it was my only opportunity.  Having learned a hard Tooth Fairy lesson a couple years ago -- namely that my child, who normally sleeps like the dead, will nevertheless awake at the slightest movement I make into her room to play fairy/elf -- I decided to get a jump on things.  While she finished her homework in the family room, I, under the pretense of putting clothes away in her room, surreptitiously found the note and loosened the Tootsie Roll from its taped confinement, and uncapped the pen she'd left nearby for Clyde to check "yes" or "no" as to whether or not he was here.  (There is something so sweet about 9 year old logic.)  All this was done to increase the odds that I could make it in and out of her room quickly, without her awaking to catch me elving around.  

I weighed the merits of going in last night or this morning and decided that, since I usually have to forcibly pry her out of bed in the morning, that was the better option.  So, after I awoke and let the dog out early this a.m., I quietly approached her room and eased the door open.  Creeeeaakkkk.  Dang it!  Need to bust out the WD-40!  I held my breath, and heard no reaction from her.  I softly crept into her room, holding my breath, tip-toed over to the suitcase/bed and grabbed up the pen. I heard a soft shifting behind me and froze for a few seconds.  Nothing further. I leaned down to mark the check box "Yes," but realized I couldn't see jack squat in the dark.  So I guessed at its approximate location, tossed the pen down and then quickly snagged the Tootsie Roll and hurried out of the room, all the while praying I wouldn't hear the dreaded, "Mom?" before I could retrieve Clyde and find a good  perch for him.

Once back in my room, I stashed the Tootsie Roll in a drawer, grabbed Clyde and headed out to the family room.  The tree and other decorations aren't yet up, so I finally just placed him atop the birdhouse she made which sits on her craft table.  Then back to her room to wake her.  It did take several calls and nudges from me to rouse her, so I'm fairly certain she was oblivious to my earlier exploits.  I walked back out to the kitchen to fix her breakfast and then heard her exclaim, "Mom!  Clyde came - he's here!!"

Turning back and heading down the hallway, I played my best dumb: "Clyde? Who-what?!"  "Clyde - my elf! He's here!"  "Ohhhhh....." I said as though I were finally catching on. "Well...where is he?"  She looked around and spied him on his birdhouse.  "Oh yay! I'm glad he came back!" I said.  And meant it.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Diary of a Slacker - Life as a Marathon

I've been doing nothing but short runs in recent months, so the appalling lack of content on my iPod has been a moot point.  If I'm only going out for a mile or two, I don't really need the earphones in and tunes or an audio book or podcast chattering at me.  Of course, every time it would occur to me to grab it, I'd discover the iPod was out of juice.  Then, too, it happens to be linked with the iTunes library on my desktop.  Which has been inoperable for the past 3 months on account of my monitor dying.  I did eventually replace it. I just haven't bothered to hook the new one up yet.  Yes, my life is a sad testament to the power of procrastination.  

Anyway, in anticipation of eventually stretching out to longer runs, I've been wanting to download some podcasts for my listening enjoyment while I endure the torture.  And rather than be bothered with the whole hooking-up-of-the-monitor and charging-of-the-iPod thing, I finally opted to download them to my iPhone. I run with it much of the time anyway so I can use my RunKeeper app.  Which tracks all manner of exercise activity, including running, biking and swimming.  But, strangely, not napping.  

I've several politically-oriented podcasts to which I regularly listen, so I subscribed to those.  And then I also, with a bit of searching, managed to locate and subscribe to podcasts from my church. Which I love to go to, but somehow rarely seem to do.  The two things you never talk about at the dinner table?  I'm all about 'em both.  They're music to my ears and inspiration to my sorry feet.  

So, iPhone suitably stocked, I resolved to get in a good work out tonight.  I've struggled to stick to my running schedule (not surprisingly.)  Socializing, sleep-deprivation, and cruddy weather have conspired to knock me off it.  But tonight, I knew I'd have a golden opportunity: Riley has acting class from 5:30 to 7:00, right by the "Y". That would give me well over an hour to get a good run in and maybe.....a swim!   I honestly cannot tell you the last time I swam (for training purposes, as opposed to fun).  It was sometime early last summer (i.e., 2010) I think.  I wasn't even sure I could locate a usable pair of goggles -- ultimately, I settled for the scratched up pair Riley used all this past summer.  

After depositing her at her class, I hustled over to the "Y," and snagged a treadmill for my run.  I figured I could manage a solid two miles.  And I had podcasts!  I opted for some religion tonight, and so pressed play to this past week's sermon:     Though I've not made it all the way through it, yet, you can imagine my surprise when, about 15 minutes in, the pastor, referencing a passage from Hebrews, began speaking of "the race that is marked out for us."  What lies before us - is not a 40 yard dash, it's a marathon.  And it's easy to lose focus and be hindered by the every day worries that litter our path.  

Fitting that.  In so very many ways.  They don't happen all that often, but I love the grace of those moments. They do serve me well -- as both guidance and inspiration.  Though I'd have gladly stepped off the treadmill at 1.25, I kept my focus and pushed on to the full 2.  And, though, I approached my swim with some apprehension, not sure if I could manage even 4 laps, it seemed to me that 24 would be a nice, solid reintroduction to what is, in truth, my favorite part of training.  Though it is challenging and tiring, there is something so peaceful and even rejuvenating about propelling your body steadily and rhythmically through the water.  You're alone with your thoughts and uniquely able to focus.  

And so, while I initially gave some thought to stopping at 18 laps, I stretched it out to the full 24.  Just a little over a third of a mile, completed in roughly 18 minutes.  No speed record there, but it was a good solid swim and I was pretty pleased with it.  

And no, unlike some of my far more dedicated friends, I'll not be running a marathon anytime in the near future.  But then again, I'm running one every day. We all are.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Diary of a Slacker - 11/15

4:50 a.m. No - my alarm didn't go off.  My brain just decided to make an unscheduled detour out of Dream Land. As I rolled over and stared blearily at the clock, I grumbled to myself. Only 35 minutes until the alarm was set to go off. I'd be lucky if I fell back asleep....but I did.  For what seemed like 10 seconds.  Then came the incessant bleating.  My hand clumsily slapped the snooze button.  And I thought to myself that I could actually wait and run this evening.  I tend to run better in the afternoon/evening anyway.  And another 40 minutes of sleep would be heavenly...

No.  "No excuses." That's what I keep telling myself.  And if I don't stick with it, I'm going to be a lost cause.  Slackerdom is far too easy and appealing.  So, up I got, and threw on my running pants and a long-sleeved tee.  Checked the weather -- showed 48 degrees.  Okay. Livable.  Yawn, stretch, groan.  Let's do this!

There was a fair amount of cloud cover and, at first, I thought my GPS might do a number on me again, but eventually, the little green ball lit up, assuring me that somewhere out there, Big Brother was, indeed, watching.  I set out at what felt like a somewhat faster pace than I've been employing of late.  Felt good until I made it about half way up the hill on Baxter, and suddenly felt like walking might be nice.  No, I thought.  Keep chugging along.  So, I did.  

I'm going to be damn glad when a measly 1.2 miles doesn't feel like 12.  Sheesh.  But I ran it all, and clocked a semi-decent 10:27 min/mile pace.  At least I'm moving in the right direction.  Going to have to sneak an extra run in either tomorrow morning or Friday (probably the latter), as Saturday or Sunday runs seem highly unlikely.  I aim to be having fun with friends in Indy this weekend.  Woot!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Diary of a Slacker - 11/13

So, I'm going to take a moment and pat myself on the back for completing four runs in six days.  That's probably the most frequency-wise I've done in well over a year. Distance/endurance-wise? Yeah - I still have a long way to go. 

Thursday morning, I woke up with the alarm, ready to go...until I saw that the temperature outside was in the mid-30's.  That was almost enough to persuade me that I should just blow it off and try to enjoy an extra 30 minutes of sleep.  Then, knowing that the "Y" does open at 5:00 a.m., I decided to heed my "no excuses" mantra, and get on with it. So, off I went to the "Y," arriving shortly before 6:00 a.m. I have to admit, I was somewhat surprised at just how crowded it was at that ungodly hour.  Fitness freaks abound! I hopped on the treadmill and churned out 1.25 in just over 13 minutes.  Not bad. Mission accomplished.

Saturday morning was a bit more of a chore.  Knew my brother would be here at 7:45 a.m. to pick us up for the trek down to Columbia for the Mizzou game. Which meant I had to be up and out the door by 6:00 ish.  That's a tough sell on a Saturday.  And it was chilly - lower 40's.  What was worse, neither my lungs nor my legs were cooperative.  Even though I ran my standard 1.2 around the neighborhood, I had to stop and walk a couple times.  Frustrating, knowing that, at times, I've been able to run 5 or 6 straight without walking.  Not so much at present.  Still, it was something.

Today was a total change of pace (no pun intended).  We were pushing 80 this afternoon temperature-wise.  (Wish it had been like that at the game yesterday!!) After dropping off Riley at a birthday party, I donned some shorts and a t-shirt and headed out for what was intended to be a 2 mile run.  (My "long" run of the week.)  I wasn't exactly certain of the route I wanted to take, so I just improvised as I went along.  And it turned into a 2.5 mile run. Although, in fairness, about .5 of it (on the uphills) was walking.  Still, I finished it in under 30 minutes.  And didn't feel awful afterward, save for the fact that my calves were burning and sorely disappointed that the hot tub is apparently on the fritz.

I know my chances to run outside are going to become few and far between here soon.  So I'm glad I was able to this weekend.  One thing I definitely need to do is get some podcasts downloaded onto my Nano -- those long runs are going to be rough, especially if I'm relegated to the treadmill.  Thankfully, I have several awesome sources from which to choose -- a little church, a little politics -- may not make for great dinner table talk, but to keep me company while I pound out the miles?  Music to my ears. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Diary of a Slacker - 11/8

Oh, hello.  Yes, yes it has been two weeks since I posted an entry.  I didn't choose the title of this series lightly. But I don't take this renewed effort to get back into half-marathon form lightly either. It's just that the running gods saw fit to flatten me with a weird flu-ish chest coldy thing just as I was getting back into the running groove.  

Today was the first day I felt capable of forcing the lungs and legs back into their involuntary servitude.  Thankfully, the weather was mild.  Though it was quite dark still at 5:50, and the skies spat at me a bit, it was a relatively pleasant morning for a run.  I did my standard wimpish 1.2 miles, though at an arguably more respectable pace this time - roughly a 10:25 minute mile.  

The short term goal is to churn out similar runs on Thursday and Saturday and then a 2+ miler on Sunday.  The long term goal is to be running 4 comfortably for my Sunday "long runs" by year's end. This is doable.  If I can stay semi-healthy, anyway!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Diary of a Slacker - 10/25

So, as indicated in my previous entry, I've resolved to get back to this running thing.  Sunday morning, it was only a mile, and I figured I'd churn another couple of those out this week, and then bump it up to two.  Originally, the plan was to run yesterday evening.  But I was actually sore from Sunday!?! (In my defense, I did hike about three miles around South City carting a lawn chair in my efforts to cheer on the real runners, but still!) And yesterday's lunch, though quite yummy, left my stomach feeling a little on the not-so-good side.  And, most importantly, I really wanted (needed!) to get a pedicure after work....

And the excuses are so very devious and determined to knock me off my game!  So I decided to push back: I'd set my alarm for 5:30 this morning and get up and run then - ha!  That'd show 'em!  Or something.  As I finally collapsed into bed after midnight, I had a fleeting thought that maybe an extra half hour of sleep was more desirable than a pre-dawn run, but I resisted the temptation to knock the alarm time back to 6:00.  And wow did 5:30 come early!  

Fortunately, I woke up in non-groggy mode, and was able to drag myself out of bed and into my running attire, finally making it out the door at 5:52.  Not bad, but, seeing as I had to meet Jim & Riley in The Valley, at 6:30, it didn't leave me a lot of time.  There'd be no taking it slow this morning! Thankfully, it was in the 50's so the run temp was quite bearable.  My shoes each took a turn coming untied, but, honestly, since it was during the uphill stretch, I didn't mind the momentary breathers to re-tie and stave off the looming face plants on the concrete in the dark.  

I knew the GPS on my Runkeeper app wasn't working right when I took off, but I didn't have time to fool with it.  Sure enough, as I completed my run, I was amused to see that the program had tacked on roughly .3 miles to my route, which knocked my pace down to a 9:06 min/mile pace.  Heh.  Yeah - I don't think I'm there quite yet.  Then the stupid thing didn't post to Facebook or Twitter, so I decided to post it manually. Only, instead of putting in 13 minutes as my completion time, I accidentally put in 13 hours.  Which apparently translates into 1132 calories burned, despite the snail-like pace.  So - if you're ever looking for a way to burn a bunch of calories, and have half a day or so to spare, now you know!

Despite the technical difficulties, I was actually feeling quite good about this morning's run.  Then I made the mistake of stepping on the scale, and subsequently doubled-down by accidentally pulling out a pair of my Size 2 pants from my uber-skinny days and attempting to don them as I got ready for work.  Yeah, I'm about 12-15 pounds past those.   I don't know if I'll ever be able to reclaim them as appropriate attire, but I'm going to take a shot at it.  And in the meantime, try and figure out a way to trick gravity into redistributing weight upwards.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Diary of a Slacker - The Return

Those who have been Facebook friends with me for awhile may recall my Diary of a Slacker Notes.  I've not kept up with those - true to form, I've been slacking. Not only have I not kept up with recording my run-training progress, I've not kept up with my running. At least not very well. But that's about to change.

It isn't just the fact that most of my pants have gotten a bit too snug for comfort that has inspired me to snap out of this lazy streak and seriously get back to the running.   Today was the Rock 'n Roll Marathon & Half Marathon - a race for which I'd signed up with every intention of completing. It's already been a year and a half since I ran one - far too long.

But I cut the timing of training-in-earnest awfully close as it was. And then I let some sickness and a little sadness take me out of the game all together. It got to the point where I knew if I tried to push it, I'd probably end up hurting myself.  So the excuses won the day and I bailed.

It was the right decision, but as I was picking up my packet with my friend Tina at the Expo yesterday, I felt more than a twinge of regret that I wouldn't be running today. Even more so as I stood along the course today and watched all the runners go by. I was happy to cheer them on, but sad not to be running along side them.

One of my favorite things about today was listening to my friends, The Hulapoppers, play at the Mile 12/Mile 25 marker and seeing the look of sheer joy that would overtake some of the runners' faces as familiar tunes tickled their ears.  In some, you'd see a little hop-skip in their stride.  The music combined with the realization that they truly were in the home stretch.  I remember what that feels like - when it sinks in that you really do only have a mile left to go, and what's a mile when you've just run 12 (or 25)?!  There's nothing quite like it.  And I aim to get there again.

As a show of solidarity to my friends who actually were running today, I'd resolved to go for a short run myself this morning before heading down to the race.  It had been over a month since I'd run, and it seemed the least I could do. But when I woke up this morning, it was chilly, and I was already running a little late, and I knew I'd have to walk quite a way once I got down there, and....  The excuses tried to get the better of me again.    

But I didn't let them.  It wasn't much, but I churned out a mile - at a whopping 11:20 minute pace.  Yeah.  That's gonna need to improve.  Substantially.  And it will.  Because it's embarrassing to acknowledge my slugginess when I know I'm capable of far better.  So I'll be inflicting the return of my Slacker's Diary on any of you charitable enough to follow along.  It'll help keep me focused. Which is a good sort of thing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Tears of October

I need to preface this entry with an apology -- it's a little dark and rather intensely personal. And it's probably the opposite of what many of us need at the moment. I've written so infrequently of late that I feel guilty sharing this. But when the words want out, they want out....

I know many people love Fall: the cool, crisp air, the leaves as they change, the smoky smell of them burning, or of marshmallows roasting over fire pits, football and tailgating, playoff baseball...

I love those things, too.  But this time of year always brings with it the bittersweet taste of tears for me.  It was 29 years ago, and the Cardinals were playing Milwaukee (then an American League team) in the World Series.  They won Game 7 on Wednesday, October 20, 1982 - I remember the evening well. I was home with my Dad, typing a paper on Euclid for my Geometry class and watching the game.  (Mom was out of town for work -- ironically, in Milwaukee.)  We were elated with the win.  Later that night, though, would come a terrible loss. I wrote a poem about it some months later for my English class. If you'll indulge me, I think I'll let the 14 year old me tell the story:

Death of a Dream

Death is cruel and unrelenting;
Its hand reaches all ends of the earth.
It lurks around every corner,
Present from the time of our birth.

Its victims are not those who it claims,
For the pain ends for them once they die.
It stays, though, forever with those of us
Who find it so hard to say goodbye.

I, too, have known this awful pain.
I've felt it three times this past year.
First Grandpa, then Rich, then my cat.
Rich's story I'll tell with a tear:

He was my dear sister's boyfriend.
I know he meant everything to her.
And though I met him just a few times,
He was right for her, I was sure.

He was warm, and cute, and funny.
Her love for him was strong and true.
And I saw her happiness mount
As their love for each other grew.

The Cardinals won the World Series
On that horrible night that he died.
When I found out about it the next day,
I just ran to my friend's house and cried.

I remember finding out on a Thursday.
We'd had a sock-hop at school after a game.
I got home and knew something was wrong
When I heard my Mom call my name.

She'd been out of town on business,
And was, I thought, in Milwaukee that day.
When I saw her my heart leapt in fear
As I noted her state of dismay.

I asked what was wrong and she told me.
Her voice cracked and a tear shone in her eye.
And all I could do for a long time
Was ask, "Why, oh why, did he die?"

His death had shattered a dream,
A dream that could never be mended.
It was killed along with him in that car
When his precious life was ended.

And so, death claimed my dear sister's boyfriend,
And with him a part of her, too.
Yes death is cruel and unrelenting.
This fact I now know to be true.

That experience was, without question, a watershed for me. I've often wondered why it affected me as profoundly as it did. I suspect it was the fact that the loss came so suddenly and without warning. That's a harsh lesson to learn at that age -- maybe at any age.  And knowing -- feeling -- the pain it caused my sister. It was a soul crushing thing, and, in truth, it affected my whole family -- my grandmother, my parents, my siblings.  After, we were simply...different.  Wounded, saddened, but closer and stronger in some ways -- like a tree that has survived a damaging blow and found a way to grow over and around it.

Though it did heal over time, that wound that has never been forgotten, and each year, as Summer says goodbye and October approaches, I feel a certain sense of foreboding.  Is that simply superstition? I'm not sure.  Logical or no, October since then has always been about love and loss to me.  It was in October, a couple years later, that I met a boy to whom I would forever lose my heart, and about whom, there would always be a sense of missed opportunities and might-have-beens.  It was in October, several years after that, that I began dating my (now ex) husband.  (And for all the good that came of that -- most notably, the amazingly wonderful Riley -- there later came the undeniable loss of divorce.)  It was in October that we lost his dear sister when she was far too young to leave us.  It was in October, a year ago, that I encountered yet another loss -- one which, in retrospect, ought not to have seemed quite so devastating, but given its suddenness and circumstances, nevertheless knocked me utterly flat.

So, here we are once again in October. The Cardinals are in the World Series, and there is much for which to be thankful -- even joyful. But it is, indeed, bittersweet.  I have several friends who've recently lost loved ones, and others with loved ones who are gravely ill. And there's a chill in the air that I can't quite chase away. For all the beauty this time of year can hold, to me, October will always be a reminder of love and lives lost.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Would You Slay a Dragon?

So there's this phenomenon my single lady friends and I have been noticing with increasing frequency of late.  And I'm trying to figure it out.  Girl meets boy and they hit it off.  Not just in the "This is pleasant" sense.  But in the, "Wow!" sense. There's a connection -- a spark.  Something that, at a minimum, warrants a second encounter.  Her number is requested and entered into his handy smartphone.  She might even get a text or two.  And then...nothing. 

No follow-through.  No nothing.  And she thinks to herself, "Was it something I said? Something I did? Did I have spinach in my teeth? Am I too fat? Too old? Too...."  Oh, she also wonders what might be wrong with him -- maybe he has a girlfriend, or he lost his phone, or he was abducted by aliens....  But mostly, she questions how she managed to read the signs all wrong. 

She knows about "The Rules."  She's seen "He's Just Not That into You."  She gets the way it works.  She knows not to give chase -- to let him be the pursuer.  And pursue he did.  Momentarily.  He told her how amazing she looked.  Maybe took her for a spin on the dance floor.  Talked of what a great time they'd have when they next went out.  Made sure to get her number.  And vanished into thin air.

As a friend and I discussed this phenomenon the other day, we speculated as to the root cause -- surely it can't just be a game.  Maybe it's romantic ADD?  An inability to stay focused.  Maybe it's just ambivalence.  Maybe it's fear of taking a chance. 

Whatever it is, my friend has resolved not to dole out her digits again without first extracting a promise that he be willing to text her a brief explanation if he opts not to follow through.  You may think that somewhat extreme.  I think it holds some merit. 

In fact, I've decided to up the ante if I'm ever again faced with the proposition:  Good Sir, you may not have my number unless you're willing to slay a dragon for me.  For if you are not, then why even bother? Don't prolong the charade. Don't clutter up your address book with me.  Just tip your hat and bid me farewell. :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

One Sunny Day in September

With the ten year anniversary of 9/11 looming, I'd originally planned simply to re-post this entry from last year (which was, itself, a re-post of something I wrote on the seven year anniversary): 

I remember so much about that day:
I was getting ready for work and had the radio on, a little before 8:00 a.m., CST. The DJ's mentioned something about a plane hitting the World Trade Tower and they were watching it on the Today Show. So I turned on the TV, and was watching the video of the first tower. And as I watched, live, I saw the second plane come in, low and slow, and thought, "Oh my God!" And it hit. And I dropped the brush out of my hand and fell on my knees with my mouth open. After about a minute of just staring at the TV with my hand over my mouth, I got up and went to the phone to call my then-husband. He was out of town for work, in Dallas, working at the airport there. He was still asleep, and I woke him up and told him to turn the TV on. Then realized -- his brother was a pilot for AA, and started getting really worried. He didn't think his brother was flying that day, but I told him I'd try to get ahold of him to be sure. I finished getting ready and left the house, got in the car and turned the radio on. I called my then-BIL and was able to get ahold of him. He was home, safe. So that was a relief. On the radio, they were saying that all flights were being grounded, and one or two were unaccounted for. My route took me past the STL airport, and as I drove east toward and past it, I could see the planes all lined up, heading west, coming in one right after the other. And all I could think was, "Get down, birds. Get down." I know that seems weird, but that was what was in my head.

I pulled into my parking garage around the time the Pentagon was hit. I got out of my car and walked toward my office, looking up at the bright blue September sky, which suddenly seemed empty. And, even though it was warm out, I got the chills. The TV was on in the office, of course. And we all just stood around it, watching. We'd try to go to our desks and do some work, but it was futile. My MIL called me in a panic, because she knew my office was located next to the Arch. I told her I was fine, but we'd gotten word they'd be shutting our building down, and we'd be heading back home. Watched in disbelief as the first tower came down. Then the second. Then left and started the drive back home, still in a state of shock.

Just so happens, I was 7 or 8 weeks pregnant at the time. Got home, and there was a message on the machine from my doctor's office, asking me to call them. I did, and they told me there was a problem with my hormone levels, and I was at risk for miscarrying, so I needed to go pick up a prescription. The realization that my husband was likely to be stuck in Dallas for an indefinite period at that point, and I was pretty much on my own, hit and made me feel very much alone. I got in the car and headed to the pharmacy, and remember thinking to myself how odd it was that it, and the grocery stores, and most businesses were still open and carrying on like it was a regular day. I know the people working there weren't FEELING that way -- it just struck me as odd that, even in the face of this evil, awful thing that was unfolding, we were still plodding ahead with our day. I picked up the prescription and read the warnings, which included all sorts of potential awful things that could happen to the baby, including some mutations. THAT freaked me out. So I called the doctor's office and they reassured me it was okay to take the medicine. So I did. And I sat down on the couch and watched the endless coverage, and wondered what kind of a world my child -- assuming he or she would be okay -- would be born into. And I cried.

I was thousands of miles away from the destruction of that day, but I -- just as everyone else -- was profoundly affected by it. And it's easy, almost 7 years later, to forget just how much, to forget all that was lost that day. We can quibble from now until the end of time over what actions since then were appropriate. And I'm sure we will. It is, perhaps, the largest political football of our lives. But we should never, ever, ever forget that day.

But as I walked to lunch today, and looked up at a bright blue September sky not unlike the one I searched for planes -- and later, for answers -- on that sunny day ten years ago, I realized that I have more to say about it than just what I remember.

The other day, Riley surprised me with the following exchange: "Five more days," she mused as we got into the car and headed to the pool. "Five more days 'til what?" I asked. "September 11th," came the reply. (Note: She was off by a day, but I can forgive her that -- my days and dates are all mixed up this week, too.) Surprised that she was bringing it up, I responded, "That's right. Can't believe it's been ten years." After a moment, she said, "I just missed it." I wasn't quite sure what to say to that. Finally, I said, "Well, yes -- you were just an itty-bitty baby in Mommy's belly at that point. know...I'm not so sure it's a bad thing to have missed, Baby. That was a very sad day for us all."

Later that evening, I was still reflecting on the conversation and turned on the Smithsonian's retrospective on 9/11. I thought maybe watching some of it with her might be a good way to help her understand a little better. It wasn't long, though, before the tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. I guess it isn't hard to understand why, but it did suprise me a little -- the power of those emotions as I started reliving them. Riley came over to me and hugged me and patted my back, and I decided to hit "Record" and save it for another time. I'm not sure she's ready for it. Or, really, I'm not sure I'm ready for her to be ready for it. I look into her pretty little eyes and like the fact that they don't look like she's seen too much of the world already.

It's made me reflect on my own perspective -- today versus ten years ago. Much has changed in my life since then and it's hard to say how much of a role the events of that day and its aftermath played in that. I know that it caused me to look at things quite differently -- philosophically, spiritually, politically. I'm glad for that in a lot of ways, sad for it in others.

There's a lot of focus on the remembrance this year -- as there should be. But, honestly, it's hard to look back. To see the photos and the video, hear the audio. To remember the terror and overwhelming sadness of that day. It cuts down deep in a way nothing else I've experienced has. Like a psychic wound. Not just for me, but, I suspect, for most who remember that day.  I think I'm glad that, for now, Riley doesn't really understand that -- and that a sunny day in September, to her, is just that.    

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Happy Place

I grew up relatively happy.  Though I encountered your typical emotional bumps and bruises in my childhood, I had a strong, stable support system in place and never doubted that I was loved.  Also, I was given a default setting of happy/content.  Not something I can even remotely claim credit for.  I just got dealt decent cards. 

It wasn't until relatively recently that I truly came to understand that -- what a blessing it's been, and the sad rarity of it.  It's only once you've encountered the complete opposite that you are fully able to see and appreciate the happy.  Since then, I find myself searching out that sense of happy in others.  When I see friends who have that glow about them, or read joyful posts on Twitter or Facebook, I can't help but smile back. It's a good thing when others are in their happy place. And I want to encourage it and share in it, rather than be envious of it.

Which ties into one of my resolutions for this year: Focus on what you have instead of what you don't.  I surely do struggle with that.  But when I'm successful, the rightness of it is undeniable.  I was reminded of this several weekends ago during a trip to Lake of the Ozarks with friends.  Chris and Cari long ago semi-adopted Riley and I, and were gracious enough to invite us down to the Lake with them.  I know it sounds strange, but I've actually never been to the Lake before.  Not for fun, anyway.  I did attend a conference there years ago, but I don't think that really counts, as the entire event occurred within the confines of Tan-Tar-A, and there was no actual lake involvement. 

It was a beautiful weekend -- rained a bit on Friday evening, but other than that, sunny and warm, rather than ungodly hot.  And the Lake was quite surprisingly uncrowded.  I'd heard horror stories of the main channel being virtually impassible for smaller craft at times.  We encountered none of that.

We stayed in Friday night -- between the rain and the fact that the boat's bilge pump had apparently been left on and had run down the battery, that seemed the best option.  So, pizza it was.  The kids played and had their fun, as did the grown ups.  Chris, Cari and I enjoyed an evening out on the deck, drinking beer, chatting away, admiring the almost full moon.

Chris eventually waved the white flag and left the chatting to Cari and I, though not without a later grumpy admonishment or two to pipe down.  ("Get off my lawn!")  We girls hit the wall simultaneously, long about 2:45 and finally turned in.

The next morning, Chris set off to get the boat up and running and the rest of us had breakfast at the condo, then headed up to the pool to pass the time.  Later in the afternoon, we set out on the boat and enjoyed a tour of the Lake.  'Twas a gorgeous afternoon!

The kids got out on the donuts and had fun being bounced and jostled around.  Anyone who knows Riley and what a cautious child she's always been will appreciate my delight at her willingness to get right out there and give it a go!

Later, she just kicked back and enjoyed livin' the glam life:

That evening, we had dinner at The Pit Stop.  The food was good, and the view amazing:

After a nice evening ride back to the condo, we settled in for the night.  Cari and I stayed up and watched one of my all-time favorite movies: "Overboard."  Fitting, given our location.  Such a silly little movie, but still so sweet! ("Katerina!" "Arturo!")

Sunday morning, we got up and out on the water early, so we could enjoy breakfast at Paradise. Riley resumed glamour-mode, and the girls made a friend:

After we stuffed ourselves on good breakfasty food, we set back out for some fun on the water.  Another round of tubing -- this time with the two-seater.  I was a little apprehensive, but did get out for a ride with Riley.  She was actually my shield there -- I've little doubt had she not been riding alongside me, Chris would have shown me no mercy.  As it was, we hit one mega bump at the end that I was sure had cracked a tooth! But it was fun -- in that crazy, oh-my-gosh-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into sort of way.

Later, we dropped anchor and did some intense relaxing on the various rafts and such, complete with floatie beer cooler.  The kids had fun jumping off the boat onto the tube and doing battle with the kamikaze horseflies, while the grown ups drifted lazily.  At one point, Cari spoke of being in her "happy place," and I thought, "Yep -- this is one of those."  Sun, water, family, friends, fun -- all the day-to-day stresses momentarily forgotten.  It just doesn't get any better than that.  Well, not much, anyway.

Once we'd roasted sufficiently, we headed back to the condo to freshen up for dinner.  On the way, Riley had her Titanic moment:

Then we were off to Back Water Jack's, where we met up with more friends.  And some colorful ducks:

The boat ride home was at sunset.  And I, ever the wannabe photog, did my best to capture it and do it some justice:

As I took those last shots, this thought ran through my fat and happy brain:

Appreciate the moments of bliss life affords you - they help restore your soul.

Indeed, they do.  And I have been very fortunate of late to find myself, with the love and companionship of my family and friends, so often in a happy place.  Thank you.