Monday, May 30, 2011

Is it Sunday? Oh. It's Monday.

I still love that I still don't have to know. Here's to glorious ignorance, at least when it comes to days of the week in summer, etcetera.

I've been having the best weekend. Saturday Kel and I decided to run around town because I was starting to get the pit-sweats about how I was going to fit everything in for the day. I love running up in Folsom, but the extra half hour of driving (plus coffee, who are we kidding) adds a lot of time. After I bailed on the group run, she asked if she could run here with me. We did our own little half marathon. We left at 5:30 AM because... well, because we could. The sun was up and we were burning daylight. I don't pop out of bed at 4:45 with jazz hands like you might think, but there's something to be said for sleeping through the first five or six miles so I do it. And I love having my run ovah before the day begins. BEAST MODE. Oh, and I beat my race time from my last half marathon by a few minutes. NBD. I know it doesn't count since it wasn't a race, but I'll take the awesometastic ego boost.

After that K and I schlepped the monkeys to the county fair (I'd never been before) to visit our students and their animals, the corn dog stand. Nothing I love more than a fair corn dog, and I have to say that the lack of scary-looking gang types that normally frequent the state fair made my corn dog-enjoying experience that much better. County fair was quaint and cute and there were lots of familiar faces. We had a great time. K kindly agreed to keep the kiddos after the fair for me so I could go to a non-kiddo graduation party, too. By the time I got back from that it was pouring. Thanks a lot, Mother Nature. Did you not get the memo about summer?

DEAR UNIVERSE. COMMENCE WITH THE HOT ALREADY. KTHXBYE. LOVE, PDAWG and the TOMATO PLANTS

Yesterday we did a little walk to coffee and I was grateful for the stretch in my legs. I'm finding I feel much better if I walk the day after a long run. After walking, it was time for Grocery Marathon 2011.

I have to admit it was a little Crazy Coupon Lady-esque. The night before I laid out all the different grocery store ads like it was Thanksgiving day. There were so many deals on meat... so of course I spent Sunday driving around like a bat outta hell trying to buy up meat for my freezer. Just in case the Apocalypse comes this week, I'm set. I can't resist $3 a pound for tri tip or under $2 a pound for ribs. I will also admit to making a trip to another store for 97 cent a pound asparagus. Oh, and the tri tip I bought? It was about 13 POUNDS. So... yeah. I had the butcher cut some of it up for me into steaks and leave some in roasts, but we are set for meat for a while. Our freezer is stuffed tighter than a Biggest Loser's skin into her Spanx at the finale.

I can't help myself with the crazy shopping. When prices drop lower than Costco I freak out a little.

In all yesterday, I hit up three grocery stores, WalMart, the pet food store, Dollar Tree and the gas station. I promptly came home and died right on my family room carpet. Oh wait... no I didn't. I had to unload and put away all that crap. Then I got in my bed before 7:00 PM for the second night in a row to rewatch Season 1 of LOST. I know, there's a lot to be jealous of when it comes to my night life.

ALL NIGHT last night I had LOST dreams. I love me some LOST, but why couldn't my LOST dreams be more of the shirtless Sawyer needs your full attention variety and less of the Smoke Monster is coming atcha, better run variety? *Sigh.*

No.
Yes.
The good news is that I woke up today feeling all Leo Dicaprio about my king-of-the-world-ness. I know that I won't have to go to any stores to run errands for a while. My fridge is back to being full of healthy stuff and I have meats in the freezer for days. I guess it doesn't take much to make me feel accomplished... and today is a bonus weekend day, so... SCORE!



Sunday, May 29, 2011

Myths About Running

Zen Habits did a great post the other day on the "myth of discipline."  I think one of the things that keeps people from starting to run is the intimidation of this idea of discipline, or of taking on an entire training plan without knowing if you can even do one day of it.  I know that in the MANY years before I started running, I wanted to run.  I never did, though, because I felt sure I couldn't keep up with something long-term.  I also had all kinds of unrealistic goals about what I should be able to do right off the bat, and those unreasonable ideas sometimes kept me from doing anything at all--which is, of course, the opposite of what I wanted.

As a runner I feel stronger today, this week, than I ever have.  I think I've gotten to a place where I can read my body and my schedule and know what will (or won't) work for me.  But there are still things I'm discovering when it comes to running.  This is going to be a lifelong process.

In the spirit of the Zen Habits article, I thought I'd share some of the myths I've discovered about running:

1.  You have to be really dedicated to be a runner.

Not really.  I'm hardly the picture of dedication to anything other than the Real Housewives franchise.  I'm all about manageable chunks of information.  If I look at more than one week of my training schedule at a time, I break out into hives.  When I think about three, four, five weeks ahead, I can't process being able to run that much mileage and I get scared (and I don't run).  I've learned that it takes time to train my brain as well as my legs.  What I've discovered is that it isn't dedication to a long-term schedule that helps me stay consistent.  Yes, I want to have a general sense of my goal (a race, a distance, whatever).  But I can only look at small chunks at a time, and then I can only run one day at a time.

More than dedication, what keeps me running is just thinking about getting out the door TODAY.  Tomorrow if I do the same thing, I will suddenly appear dedicated.  But I'm not--I'm just making one choice a day. (Similarly, I can't think about blogging 365 times a year, but I can sit down each day and spend some time at my computer.  I can blog once a day, and voila--dedication.  Running is the same.)

2.  You have to run really fast or people will laugh at you.

Okay, who are those people?  If they laugh at you for being an active human being (which puts you ahead of like 95% of the people in America already) I will come over and punch them in the face.  Nobody gives two shits how fast you run.  If all you ever did was run a snail-slow mile or two, you'd be helping your heart, lungs, muscles and brain a heck of a lot more than if you never went out.  I let this one keep me from running for a very long time.  I also let it make me feel ashamed of my times.  I used to apologize when I'd tell someone how long it took me to finish a certain distance.  Now I could care less.  I feel myself getting stronger and that's what matters.

Here's a big secret: RUNNING SLOW IS WAY EASIER.  Way easier means you will be more likely to a) step out the door and do it again, b) run a longer distance, and c) not hate running.  I love running slow.  I get to be outside and experience nature and be alone with my thoughts.  When I run fast I can't think.  My aunt (a runner) once told me that if you slow down your speed by one minute per mile, you can double your mileage.  I have no earthly idea if it's true, but it's helped me feel like it's okay to slow down when I'm having a hard time.  And I GUARANTEE that you'll be happy you finished whatever distance you did and you won't care if you were slow.

The truth is, you're never going to get slower over time.  So go out and be slow and then over time you'll get to celebrate the fact that you improved over time.  It's a wonderful tangible result.  And the haters can suck it.  Anybody who matters will know that it doesn't matter how fast you run; it's more important that you move your body.

3.  Running should feel good all the time or you're doing something wrong.

The truth is that if you start running from zero, it's going to be hard for a little while.  Probably REALLY hard for about two weeks; but if you keep going outside one day at a time for that long you will start to notice some changes.  The first thing I notice (every time I have to start up again because I quit) is that it gets easier to breathe after just a few days.  In the beginning, breathing is hard.  But your body will figure out what to do.  Next your legs will not be as sore after you're done.  Soon you will be able to run for a longer distance.  Look up Couch to 5K.  It's amazing.

Pushing yourself (within reason, not doing a "Biggest Loser" and running until you puke) actually teaches you that your body is capable of doing way more than you thought.  And learning the difference between injured pain and healthy discomfort is one of the blessings of running.  You become more in tune with your body.

Even when you've been running for a long time, you're going to have crappy runs.  That's life.  It helps you appreciate the great ones.  If you're not tied to some idea about speed, then you say okay, this is a bad one and you slow down or you walk and you move on.  The next day will be better.  A crappy run is always better than no run at all.

4.  Walking during a run is for losers.

Seriously, this one used to keep me from going outside at all.  I don't know how it's logical to think that if you have to walk for a while on a run you should basically not even try in the first place.  That makes no sense.  But for a long time even once I started running I was ashamed when I had to tell people that I had to walk sometimes.  Who the F cares?  I think this myth gets perpetuated because a lot of people who have never run longer than a mile will always ask (after a race or a long run) Did you have to walk at all? And suddenly you feel like Captain Wimpypants of the Walking Team.  But the thing is that walking helps a) give you a break when you feel weird pains so you can keep going, b) bring down your heart rate if you were running too fast, c) allow you to eat or drink and not spill all over yourself, and d) allow you to keep going.

I'm not going to lie and say that I don't feel proud of myself when I can do a whole distance without walking.  But I stopped making that my everyday goal.  I have entirely let go of the stigma of the walk.  If it happens, it happens.  I like to walk.  No big.

5.  If you skip a day of your plan, you're screwed and you should start over or just quit.

Not true.  When I first started (or when I would think about starting) to run, I obsessed over training plans.  I've learned now that a little flexibility in my plan is a good thing.  I look at my week in two chunks, and I give myself permission to move runs around in order to let life happen.  If I can also do the things I love to do, then I'm more likely to keep stepping out the door to run.  For scheduling, I know I should get 2-3 runs in during the week.  Usually I will schedule them for Mon/Tues/Thurs.  I know I hate running (or doing ANYTHING except drinking) on Fridays, so that is my preferred rest day.  I try to get as many runs done early in the week as I can, but if I miss a day I'll just rearrange.  If I miss a day and rearranging is impossible, I LET THAT ONE GO.  Missing a day or two here or there is not going to end your running career.  If I start to feel stressed about how it's going to happen, then I know it's time to release that day from my to-do list.  It just isn't worth it and I know I'll have a bad run if I'm all worked up.

On planning: I've learned to plan around my likes and dislikes.  I like to run early on the weekends so my run is out of the way.  I like to have Wednesdays and Fridays off because I am most tired on those days.  I like to walk on Sunday, so if I can run on Saturday that's going to be a perfect weekend.  It's a myth that you have to make your life fit someone else's training schedule.  Make it work for you and you'll be way more likely to get out the door each day.

6.  Running is miserable.

It seems like there are some disparate myths out there.  Running either is all fun or all bad.  I talk to a lot of people who think running just hurts everything all the time so they never try.  That's what I thought too, since the only running I ever did until I was 30 was of the PE variety.  But running can be so relaxing.  It has helped me curb a huge anxiety issue that was nagging for most of my adult life to that point.  Why?  I found things about it that I liked--those things kept me going back outside.  I LOVE nature.  I LOVE music.  I love having a good group of running friends who will chat for two hours on a Saturday morning.  I love feeling like I made a big check on my to-do list.  I love feeling like my body can learn something new even though I'm in my 30's.  The good stuff isn't going to be the same for everyone--and running isn't for everyone--but I'm sure there's something there that most people would like if they'd give it a try.  Or maybe even if they gave walking a try... walking is a great way to go too.

See?  Running is awesome.  It's not what you think.  You should try it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Jog-A-Thon

The monkeys' school had a Jog-A-Thon today. The school is trying to re-open the library for next year. Sad that kids have to fund-raise just so they'll have access to books, right?

Cuts to education aside, it was pretty dern cute. I'm so glad I can go be a school mom for the next month.

They had different sized tracks for each grade so the little kids would have the same opportunity to accrue laps as the older kids. Hanko actually ran the Jog-A-Thon twice--once with his kindergarten class in the morning and then again with his first grade class this afternoon. He did a total of 50 minutes. Ad did 30 with 3rd grade.

[drumroll please] Their totals: Henry ran 2.9 miles and Ad ran 1.85 miles (she ran that in less time than he had, though). I love watching them run. Ad ran with her friend and I could see her giving her all the same encouragement she received when she was doing Girls on the Run. It reminded me of how much she's grown this past year.


Only one thing was funny about this Jog-A-Thon, though. The school had a PA system blasting music... but it was the most schizo DJ I've ever heard. I bet it was a teacher or a parent, so I shouldn't be making fun... but the playlist included: some 90's pop song (okay), then O Fortuna (no joke), then they switched over to Born to Run (which was fitting...) but then it was some old school REM non-hit and they ended with some 80's slow jams. Ha. Whatevs. The kids didn't notice. I have to say it just made me giggle a little--not one song they'd recognize. Has nobody there heard of the Disney Channel? Or the Biebs?




McTopsy

During the school year I get up early on Saturday mornings and open the curtains in the front of the house.  I love to sit and watch the sun rise while I drink my coffee, and then I love (even more) to lounge at the corner of the couch as the sun rises higher in the sky.  In a silly way, staring out my front window, sipping coffee while I wear sweat pants and fuzzy socks makes me feel more connected to the world.

I haven't made sunrise in a while, but I'm five for five with morning coffee time this week.  The house is so still.  I wish I could stop time at this part of the day.  Cats are sleeping around me, their furry stomachs rising and falling with happy breath.  I love feeling like I have the whole day ahead of me.

Today I'm taking a rest day from running.  My body feels okay but I want to be ready for a nice long run tomorrow morning.  I don't have anywhere to be today until the kids' Jog-A-Thon at school (at 1:30), so I'm gonna take a rest day from pretty much everything else, too.  :)

Yesterday was an "early out" day for the monks, so I picked them up and we went to Tops Frozen Yogurt.  Nothing tastes like frozen yogurt on a summer afternoon.  This time Henry abstained from his typical gross creation (his favorite: peanut butter and mint yogurt with sour candy and butterscotch syrup--yuck) and he and I made our own McFlurries out of vanilla yogurt, M&Ms and peanut butter cups.  He decided his was called a McTopsy.  That kid. Weirdo.

After yogurt Henry was wondering out loud if we'd ever get to go to the "baseball park" to just play on the playground... so we drove over there and they scampered all over the rock wall.  Time to get ready for Yosemite!  I was thinking I need to take them back (the park has several rock structures) so they can get a little bit more confident before we go climb some real rocks this summer.


And seriously?  I can't get enough of all the cat-cute around here.  I really don't want to start alienating readers by posting about my animals all the time, but YOU GUYS THE FEET ON THIS ONE.



I can't help myself.  Twinkle is snuggling Cookie all the time, Cookie is treating Twinkle like she's her mom, and even Stanley is in the house (yes, Stan, our mean-ass-old-man-cat) because he developed (faked?) a big old limp last night.  He's in Cookie's old digs--the front bathroom--which I'm considering re-naming Cat Hospital Exam Room A.

Happy Friday.  Is it Friday?  I love that I don't have to know.



Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer Runnin'

It sure doesn't feel like summer at all... but I'm off school, so we'll go with "Summer Runnin'" for now.

Having the kids in school all day is making it really easy to get my runs done early.  Monday I did 4, Wednesday I did my first speed work at the track, and today I did 5 slow, easy miles.

I had 4 on my schedule for today, but I felt good and I wanted to listen to a whole track of Anna Karenina so I wouldn't have to try to find my place the next time I head out, so I did 5.  (The audio book I have is from an Audio CD, so my iPod doesn't remember my spot like it would with a regular audio book.  Every time I run I have to try to guess where I was in the middle of a track, which is so annoying.  Today I just figured I'd keep running and listen to the whole one-hour-ish thing.)

Anyhoo, I'm logging my miles on DailyMile if you'd like to link up.  I like seeing what everyone else is running all week--it totally motivates me to keep going out there.

I've had a pain-free week and my hip hasn't bothered me at all since that lame excuse for an 11-miler a few weeks ago.  I've been diligent about icing, stretching, and doing my PT.  Boring, but it helps.  My upper back and neck are sore but I think that's from almost getting into a fender-bender the other night.  I stopped my car really fast and I think I tweaked something.

Bygones.

This Saturday I think we're going to do 12 again in Folsom.  E and the monkeys and I are supposed to go out to dinner Friday night for his mom's birthday and one of the possibilities is Five Guys--which set me up for major stomach failure on my long run the last time I ran long the day after.  Sooo, I'm kinda hoping we don't go there.  If we do, I'm going to have to eat very carefully.  No way I want a replay of Stomachpocalypse '11.

Running is going well.  When I got home from the track yesterday and told E that we did 5 miles and somewhere in there were 4 800s at an 8:15 pace, he said wow.  I felt the same.  Kinda funny that five miles is no big deal anymore.  Kinda cool that I could push hard and up my speed with Kel.  Kinda amazing how fast the time passes. 12 is still a big deal, but it isn't terrifying.  I know I'll live and I know I'll feel great when I'm done.

Now if you'll 'scuse me, I'm going to go soak my legs and clean some house.  Everyone who lives here has been working hard to make messes for two days.



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Short Story

I've been nervously wondering since early March if I should post the short story I wrote for my grad school applications. It's funny that I can bare my soul here daily, but the idea of posting an entirely fictional work has given me such pause. To me, there's much more vulnerability in fiction. I feel like my skills (or lack thereof) are so much more glaring when there's no real experience that I can hide behind.

Also, I think the very nature of a fictional story lends itself to interpretation, and frankly knowing just how many people try to ascribe the elements of a story to an author's real life just makes me nervous. (PS: I'm not a biographical interpretation kind of reader, myself.) It's a weird thing to put something out there and then know that people will assume it comes from something you know. I've been scared of what people will think--on all levels.

I've decided it's time to let that go. I had fun stretching my syntax into any direction I could imagine. Fiction is a play area... I'm not bound by what has actually happened to me. When I start up my classes at UCR this fall I'm going to have to lay my work out there for interpretation. I'm going to have to know that people won't understand every word the way it was intended, and that they will make assumptions where there are none to be made. Isn't that true of any writing, really?

The other (silly) reason I haven't posted the story is that I was loath to title it. I suck at titles. But today I also decided that's pretty dumb. I titled my piece, divided it into five sections, and I'll post one part each Wednesday for the next four weeks.

I'm inspired by Heidi's foray into Owl-painting. I'm inspired (hate to admit it) by Oprah today. I'm inspired by everyone, everywhere, who tried something the first time even though they were not very good at it yet. I'm eager to learn, and the first step to getting better at something is trying it.

So there you go, Internet. My next post will be Part I of my first work of fiction (and no, we're not counting the short story that Heather B. and I wrote about icosahedrons in 6th grade... but that story was pretty rad.)

Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cat Happenings, by the CCL

Allow me to go a little Crazy Cat Lady on ya. As I said, life is getting really small over here. Like, pet-small. All the furry people at my house are kinda excited that I have nothing to do all day except feed and snuggle them--at least that's why they tell me I'm home.

Twinkle and Cookie are still getting to know each other. And by "getting to know each other" I mean that Cookie is trying to attach herself to anything remotely motherly (e.g. the towel in the bathroom, my arm, Twinkle) and Twinkle is doing her best to act like she doesn't give two craps about this new furball.

I know the truth, though.

cats1


cats2


cats3


They spend a lot of time chasing, biting, and kicking... Every once in a while Twinkle will tolerate Cookie's warm presence if she's sleepy enough. Last night I put the two of them on my bed while I watched House. This cuteness happened:



I figure Twinkle is a pretty serious cleaner when it comes to her own fur, so I let her go to town on Cookie's crazy mop. Most of the time Cookie looks like a cartoon cat who swallowed a stick of dynamite: POOF. Poor Cook was soaking wet by the time Twinkle was done with this beauty treatment. I figure either Twinkle was putting her scent on Cookie or she was trying to eat her. Either way it was pretty cute.

Not to be forgotten... Hurley Dog is sweet, but oh so dumb. I haven't really left him alone with Cookie yet because subtlety is not his forté. I'm worried he will step on her. We will have to wait until she's a bit bigger before we let her bite on his face like Twink.

Mostly this last week, he's just confused. He's been getting hissed at a lot and he's had to spend a bit more time in the yard.

Poor Hurley... Cookie will be big soon and you can freak out all over her too.

hurley




Monday, May 23, 2011

So... completely... strange...

After my run I took a shower.
Nobody burst in to ask me to find/open/fix anything.

After my shower I watched TV.
Nobody had to be told to turn down their video games.

I folded laundry.
Nobody knocked it over or threw it on the floor.

I cleaned up the front room.
Nobody arranged new toys in the big space or made messes behind me.

I put the dishes in the dishwasher and wiped up the sink.
Nobody mushed chocolate frosting into the clean grout.

I made lunch and ate it.
Nobody interrupted to ask me for a glass of milk.

My couch has been clean of clutter since 11:08.  It isn't sure what to do with itself.
I cleaned up.
It stayed clean.
I made food.
I got to eat it in peace.
I put things away.
They stayed there.

WHAT?

It's so strange being home without the kids--and it feels like I'm getting away with something.  I can't shake the guilty feeling all day, just like when I take a sick day.  I feel like somebody is going to figure out I'm getting away with this and I'll be in big big trouble.  I can't believe this is how it's going to be for another month or so until the kids are out of school.

WEIRD. This stage of parenthood is surprisingly awesome.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What's the opposite of the Paleo diet?

The Elf diet? "...mostly candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup." <---Yeah, I'm on that tonight.


Yes, those would be two bowls plus of JUNK that I brought home from Target. In a moment of greatness weakness when I took the kids to spend their piggybank savings, I might have let a few things fall into my cart. Like, about twelve things. What the what? It reminds me of my 9th grade lunch menu (A Pepsi and Milk Duds. Every. Day.)

I think it's the hungries from my run yesterday. My legs are feelin' the workout like they haven't in quite some time (which is great), and my stomach is feeling the 1400+ calorie burn from that one workout. I'm SO snacky! I ate almost double what I normally eat for both breakfast and lunch and I was grabbing food all day, still. Going to Target in that state was a bad idea. No, this isn't healthy. No, I'm not making any long-term plans with this kind of eating. Yes, I know it's a far cry from the healthy, clean eating I was doing last summer. Maybe it's a last hurrah before I have summer to bring it back together. I don't know. I'm not going to obsess over it--E will eat 90% of it anyway.

It seems like everybody and their mother is on the Paleo diet right now. Last year I tried that--for TWO days and I was so mean that E told me to stop. Now that I think about it, life without grains is just not for me, either. Especially if I'm running. And yes, I know Cheetos aren't a grain. :) I'll be happy if I can get back to Pollan-style eating: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Tomorrow, though. Tonight I am going to live it up like it's Milk-Dud-o'clock in 1993.

I'm so looking forward to my first week off! The kids are still in school for another five weeks, so I'm going to make the most of my footloose and fancy free weekdays for running, gardening, baking and being awesome. I haven't ever had this kind of free time before--both kids in a full day of school? When did this happen? I almost can't believe it.

Having big kids is awesome. They're so easy--and now they're not even going to be around for a large chunk of the day. I better figure out what to do with myself...



Ahhhh...

Just enjoying my breakfast in the morning sun with these two knuckleheads. NBD.


Yesterday was a whirlwind start to summer.

Kel picked me up at 5:20 AM for our run--we did 12 miles in the Folsom hills and they were no joke.  No.  Really.  NO JOKE.  For the first three miles or so I was dying and I really didn't believe I could make it. But eventually my heart slowed enough that I could keep going, and the place we ran was beautiful.  I really enjoyed the run, the lake, the animals.  It's just beautiful up there.  I really like having a running group, too.  (And I did 12.25 miles of hills in 2 hrs 25 min.  For me that's FANTASTIC.)  I felt great.

After our run I was RAVENOUS so I scarfed a bagel and a mocha while we all sat on the patio.  Kel dropped me off at home and it was time to stretch, foam roll, soak and then shower myself.  Sometimes I feel like the post-run routine takes longer than the run!  Of course once I did all that I was starving again so I had to stuff my face before it was time to head to Henry's baseball game.

At the game I stretched out on a blanket next to Roo's little lawn chair and baked in the sun.  E helped base coach.   Henry had a great game and even got the final out.  The game ended at 2:30 and we had until 3:30 when we had to be at his team's pizza party so E and I passed out back on our couch at home for a good 15 minutes.  By that time I was toast, having been up since 4:45 AM.  Yeeks.

The pizza party was sweet and I loved seeing all the little boys on the team get recognized for a great season.  They were adorable.  Henry had a great day.

Post-pizza party, it was time for a serious nap... only E decided that's when he needed to use his grinder (is that a thing? there was grinding, I'm not sure by which tool, and now that I type "grinder" I'm not even sure it's a thing) out in the garage the whole time.  So... basically I got about 15 more minutes of sleep.  Sigh.  But I was laying down, that's something.  Even laying down was a win.

We ended the day with a date night.  K came over to monkey-sit and E and I went to see Bridesmaids (hilarious, but can we please skip the barf and diarrhea humor, world?  I'm so not a fan of that in what was an otherwise fun move) and then to McD for fries and sundaes.  It felt like so many summer evenings in high school and college when we had no money and we'd drive around going "what do you want to do?"  "I don't know, what do you want to do?" I'm glad now we know what the other wants to do--go to McDonalds sometimes--and in this case the sweet/salty ice cream and fry combo was a heavenly way to end the evening.

In the middle of all of this, Twinkle and Cookie (pictured above) have already decided they're BFFs.  They've been chasing, biting, and snuggling each other for 2 days straight.  I'd say we hit the kitten jackpot.  Everyone is happy.

So this morning my legs are incredibly sore--not in an awkward way, but in the way that says dayum girl, you really did something yesterday.  I'm going to walk it out and see if that helps.  E cleaned the house yesterday (I know, right?) so I don't even have to worry about that.

Life is GOOD.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Just like that, another year gone.

Oh expectation, you set me up for the grumpies all the time.

Here I was thinking I'd finish school today and peace would instantaneously wash over me like water. I'd walk out of there full of swag, like I might see Han Solo in my own reflection on my way to a killer flashmob... I'd steer my car away simultaneously giving the haters a mental flip-off while smiling to myself about how my Summer Awesome Cup was about to run over.

Nope.

Instead I spent most of the afternoon thinking about how summer means I won't see much of my friends for a while and lamenting how angrysadnotamusedandfranklyscaredtodeath I am that I just don't know what the heck I'll be teaching next year. Thanks, California. And really, even if I promise my next puppy to Rumpelstiltskin and end up with a full schedule of English, many of my friends will not return to work at my school. A full schedule of the subject I've been teaching (read: training in, working toward, slaving away at) for ten years seems as mythical (or at least as intangible, right now) as spun gold. I hate not knowing, and I hate knowing I won't know for a long time even more. I suck at patience, and I'm even worse when my super Spidey-sense tells me there's change in the air. Yeck.

At least I'm home.

Yes, at least I'm home. I need to remind myself that like any other year it will take a good two weeks to reenter the atmosphere of my real life. I won't stop lesson-planning while I run, waking early in the morning to wonder what I'm teaching that day, or checking my calendar to see what events conflict with the kids' for at least that long. Life will get really small and only then will this feel completely comfortable. I'm not complaining until then, just saying it feels weird. I'll take weird at home any day over weird at work, though. There's a teeny tiny baby kitty here. Squee!

I need the time off for as I said on Facebook this morning, teaching is like giving birth. Nobody would ever sign on for another round without the blessing of time to help smooth the memory. I know I need the rest, even if I don't trust it yet.

Our house is a pit and I know once I get that cleaned I can relax in it. Our veggie drawer looks like a science experiment of wet, decomposing plants in plastic baggies. Our bathrooms are at THREAT LEVEL FRAT HOUSE. All of this contributes to my non-comfort tonight.

So that's about it, internet. I feel uneasy tonight but in the back of my mind I'm happy that there's a whole lot of free time ahead. I'm glad this year is checked off, done, finito. Kid-wise, it was great. Probably my best five classes in a long time. Bullshit-wise? Not my favorite year. I'm channelling my inner Honey Badger.

Up first for summer? A 5:20 AM pick-up by Kel to run an unknown number of miles tomorrow. I better get to bed!



Thursday, May 19, 2011

What I wore

Tonight at K's insistence I watched a short piece from CBS Sunday Morning on the Ephron sisters' Off-Broadway show, Love, Loss and What I Wore. I was inspired to blog about some of the memorable outfits in my own life. Once I started I couldn't stop!

In eleventh grade, outside the door of C-Wing, E asked me to go with him to the Winter Homecoming dance--our first date. I was wearing a worn, light grey Mickey Mouse sweatshirt from Disneyland and a pair of jeans. My frizzy hair was pulled into a ponytail and I wasn't wearing any makeup.

At my audition for Sacramento Ballet, I wore my best black v-neck Tactel leotard. Spaghetti straps and a low back highlighted shoulders and neck. Diagonal stripes sloped outward along the length of my body in an echo of the seventies. These stripes hugged my waist tight like a pair of hands. I straightened the back seams of my pale pink tights carefully so they wouldn't falsify bad alignment. The elastics of my pink canvas ballet slippers, I sewed to cross at the highest point of my arches to help them look supple.

For the interview to get into my teaching credential program, I wore a bias-cut black and magenta crepe dress with a V-neck that brushed demurely at the bottom of my knee. Its tied shoulders highlighted my tanned arms and the cut of the waist made me feel slim and confident.

My pregnancy clothes were the best-made clothes I've ever had. At my baby shower for Addie, I wore a nude camisole under a gauzy mauve maternity top with a rose colored paisley design and a denim pencil skirt with a navy blue tummy panel. I wore brown leather slip-on sandals with suede footbeds. Sadly, when E's grandmother died just a month before Addie was born, I wore a conservative taupe maternity shift dress to the funeral.

My one failed attempt at high school rebellion was the purchase of a pair of black Doc Marten-style boots to wear with jeans and sweaters. Mom said "only gang members wear black boots." Back to the store the boots went. I wore my first thong--for senior ball, under a pale pink slipdress--but I felt guilty for it all night.

The first outfit I remember loving on myself was a birthday present in the fourth grade. I have a clear memory of walking through the office at my elementary school in my coordinated sartorial resplendence. Neon geometrical designs traced the sides of both my matching black spandex tank and bike short. Pink and green neon scrunch socks (one side pink-green, the other side green-pink) brought the ensemble together. I stuffed them into my white Keds. A scrunchie topped my look like neon whipped cream. In my spandex I could take on the world. I may have been a fourth grader, but I knew what fashion was.

My first "work outfit" was a black capri pantsuit from JCPenney that had pink and green roses embroidered all over the bodice. I coupled this with sensible black "teaching" shoes, criss-crossed slides with a square, chunky heel.

Both days I gave birth I wore a pair monkey socks and a hospital gown. I remember feeling like my socks were the only thing I controlled. Hospital gowns are an impersonal thing, and the minimal assurance of modesty one gets from the strange gauze-like "underwear" they put on you after delivery is strange and awkward. Still I prefer post-partum "underwear" (yes, in quotations) to the labor-time necessity of going commando so every doctor in the place can check your progress via your hooha. I'm just not a commando girl under any circumstances. Ever.

At our engagement party I wore a pale blue sundress and tan mules. Our wedding day, I wore a size 4 (!--even though I know they underestimate bridal sizes!) white dress with a button and lace back and ballerina bodice. Oddly, my mother-in-law bought my underwear for my wedding day. The pouf of my skirt required voluminous petticoats and I wore a pair of strangling white nylons that cut into my flesh all day. At the reception, they bustled the train up behind me and I felt like Cinderella. In my wedding dress I felt beautiful but a little unlike myself.


My favorite thing I've ever worn is the long, teal sundress dotted with large rose-colored flowers that I wore when E and I renewed our vows. I bought it for less than $20 at Target. It skimmed the ground and I wore my favorite leather Reef flip flops. I wore a pair of teal Vera Wang earrings from Kohl's and my wedding ring. I felt more comfortable in my own skin and my clothing that day than any other in my life; the cut and color and feel of the dress combined with the joy I felt made the day perfect, even if it was 105 degrees. I was the most me I've ever been.


What outfit was significant in your life? Did your mom have rules too? Do you remember feeling your best in something you wore? Tell me about it.



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Soundtrack


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On being perfect (advice I wish I heard back when I graduated)

Last week at Costco K told me about Anna Quindlen's A Short Guide to a Happy Life--I'd never heard of it, nor the fact that it was culled from a commencement speech the author gave at Villanova. It's wonderful.

One of the best things about my relationship with K is that we remind each other constantly that it's real life that matters. Quindlen's book is about that very thing, REAL life. In my real life (not my work life, or the time I spend doing what I think I "should" do) I am most happy. It is true, simple joy.

Searching for the book led me to do a bit of searching for the original, and I came across another commencement speech Ms. Quindlen gave. I'd like to share it because it's the kind of speech I should have heard at 18. It's the kind of thing I wrote to myself about in this letter. I feel like so many of my high-achieving students could find familiarity in her message, too. The topic? Being perfect. The original text can be found by clicking here.


ANNA QUINDLEN'S COMMENCEMENT SPEECH
MOUNT HOLYOKE COLLEGE
MAY 23, 1999

I look at all of you today and I cannot help but see myself twenty-five years ago, at my own Barnard commencement. I sometimes seem, in my mind, to have as much in common with that girl as I do with any stranger I might pass in the doorway of a Starbucks or in the aisle of an airplane. I cannot remember what she wore or how she felt that day. But I can tell you this about her without question: she was perfect.

Let me be very clear what I mean by that. I mean that I got up every day and tried to be perfect in every possible way. If there was a test to be had, I had studied for it; if there was a paper to be written, it was done. I smiled at everyone in the dorm hallways, because it was important to be friendly, and I made fun of them behind their backs because it was important to be witty. And I worked as a residence counselor and sat on housing council. If anyone had ever stopped and asked me why I did those things--well, I'm not sure what I would have said. But I can tell you, today, that I did them to be perfect, in every possible way.

Being perfect was hard work, and the hell of it was, the rules of it changed. So that while I arrived at college in 1970 with a trunk full of perfect pleated kilts and perfect monogrammed sweaters, by Christmas vacation I had another perfect uniform: overalls, turtlenecks, Doc Martens, and the perfect New York City Barnard College affect--part hyperintellectual, part ennui. This was very hard work indeed. I had read neither Sartre nor Sappho, and the closest I ever came to being bored and above it all was falling asleep. Finally, it was harder to become perfect because I realized, at Barnard, that I was not the smartest girl in the world. Eventually being perfect day after day, year after year, became like always carrying a backpack filled with bricks on my back. And oh, how I secretly longed to lay my burden down.

So what I want to say to you today is this: if this sounds, in any way, familiar to you, if you have been trying to be perfect in one way or another, too, then make today, when for a moment there are no more grades to be gotten, classmates to be met, terrain to be scouted, positioning to be arranged--make today the day to put down the backpack. Trying to be perfect may be sort of inevitable for people like us, who are smart and ambitious and interested in the world and in its good opinion. But at one level it's too hard, and at another, it's too cheap and easy. Because it really requires you mainly to read the zeitgeist of wherever and whenever you happen to be, and to assume the masks necessary to be the best of whatever the zeitgeist dictates or requires. Those requirements shapeshift, sure, but when you're clever you can read them and do the imitation required.

But nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great ever came out of imitations. The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

This is more difficult, because there is no zeitgeist to read, no template to follow, no mask to wear. Set aside what your friends expect, what your parents demand, what your acquaintances require. Set aside the messages this culture sends, through its advertising, its entertainment, its disdain and its disapproval, about how you should behave.

Set aside the old traditional notion of female as nurturer and male as leader; set aside, too, the new traditional notions of female as superwoman and male as oppressor. Begin with that most terrifying of all things, a clean slate. Then look, every day, at the choices you are making, and when you ask yourself why you are making them, find this answer: for me, for me. Because they are who and what I am, and mean to be.

This is the hard work of your life in the world, to make it all up as you go along, to acknowledge the introvert, the clown, the artist, the reserved, the distraught, the goofball, the thinker. You will have to bend all your will not to march to the music that all of those great "theys" out there pipe on their flutes. They want you to go to professional school, to wear khakis, to pierce your navel, to bare your soul. These are the fashionable ways. The music is tinny, if you listen close enough. Look inside. That way lies dancing to the melodies spun out by your own heart. This is a symphony. All the rest are jingles.

This will always be your struggle whether you are twenty-one or fifty-one. I know this from experience. When I quit the New York Times to be a full-time mother, the voices of the world said that I was nuts. When I quit it again to be a full-time novelist, they said I was nuts again. But I am not nuts. I am happy. I am successful on my own terms. Because if your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all. Remember the words of Lily Tomlin: If you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

Look at your fingers. Hold them in front of your face. Each one is crowned by an abstract design that is completely different than those of anyone in this crowd, in this country, in this world. They are a metaphor for you. Each of you is as different as your fingerprints. Why in the world should you march to any lockstep?

The lockstep is easier, but here is why you cannot march to it. Because nothing great or even good ever came of it. When young writers write to me about following in the footsteps of those of us who string together nouns and verbs for a living, I tell them this: every story has already been told. Once you've read Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Sound and the Fury, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Wrinkle in Time, you understand that there is really no reason to ever write another novel. Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had. And that is herself, her own personality, her own voice. If she is doing Faulkner imitations, she can stay home. If she is giving readers what she thinks they want instead of what she is, she should stop typing.

But if her books reflect her character, who she really is, then she is giving them a new and wonderful gift. Giving it to herself, too.

And that is true of music and art and teaching and medicine. Someone sent me a T-shirt not long ago that read "Well-Behaved Women Don't Make History." They don't make good lawyers, either, or doctors or businesswomen. Imitations are redundant. Yourself is what is wanted.

You already know this. I just need to remind you. Think back. Think back to first or second grade, when you could still hear the sound of your own voice in your head, when you were too young, too unformed, too fantastic to understand that you were supposed to take on the protective coloration of the expectations of those around you. Think of what the writer Catherine Drinker Bowen once wrote, more than half a century ago: "Many a man who has known himself at ten forgets himself utterly between ten and thirty." Many a woman, too.

You are not alone in this. We parents have forgotten our way sometimes, too. I say this as the deeply committed, often flawed mother of three. When you were first born, each of you, our great glory was in thinking you absolutely distinct from every baby who had ever been born before. You were a miracle of singularity, and we knew it in every fiber of our being.

But we are only human, and being a parent is a very difficult job, more difficult than any other, because it requires the shaping of other people, which is an act of extraordinary hubris. Over the years we learned to want for you things that you did not want for yourself. We learned to want the lead in the play, the acceptance to our own college, the straight and narrow path that often leads absolutely nowhere. Sometimes we wanted those things because we were convinced it would make life better, or at least easier for you. Sometimes we had a hard time distinguishing between where you ended and we began.

So that another reason that you must give up on being perfect and take hold of being yourself is because sometime, in the distant future, you may want to be parents, too. If you can bring to your children the self that you truly are, as opposed to some amalgam of manners and mannerisms, expectations and fears that you have acquired as a carapace along the way, you will give them, too, a great gift. You will teach them by example not to be terrorized by the narrow and parsimonious expectations of the world, a world that often likes to color within the lines when a spray of paint, a scrawl of crayon, is what is truly wanted.

Remember yourself, from the days when you were younger and rougher and wilder, more scrawl than straight line. Remember all of yourself, the flaws and faults as well as the many strengths. Carl Jung once said, "If people can be educated to see the lowly side of their own natures, it may be hoped that they will also learn to understand and to love their fellow men better. A little less hypocrisy and a little more tolerance toward oneself can only have good results in respect for our neighbors, for we are all too prone to transfer to our fellows the injustice and violence we inflict upon our own natures."

Most commencement speeches suggest you take up something or other: the challenge of the future, a vision of the twenty-first century. Instead I'd like you to give up. Give up the backpack. Give up the nonsensical and punishing quest for perfection that dogs too many of us through too much of our lives. It is a quest that causes us to doubt and denigrate ourselves, our true selves, our quirks and foibles and great leaps into the unknown, and that is bad enough.

But this is worse: that someday, sometime, you will be somewhere, maybe on a day like today--a berm overlooking a pond in Vermont, the lip of the Grand Canyon at sunset. Maybe something bad will have happened: you will have lost someone you loved, or failed at something you wanted to succeed at very much.

And sitting there, you will fall into the center of yourself. You will look for that core to sustain you. If you have been perfect all your life, and have managed to meet all the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, chances are excellent that there will be a black hole where your core ought to be.

Don't take that chance. Begin to say no to the Greek chorus that thinks it knows the parameters of a happy life when all it knows is the homogenization of human experience. Listen to that small voice from inside you, that tells you to go another way. George Eliot wrote, "It is never too late to be what you might have been." It is never too early, either. And it will make all the difference in the world. Take it from someone who has left the backpack full of bricks far behind. Every day feels light as a feather.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cookie

This morning at school an email went out that a kitten had snuck a ride on top of the engine of a CRV--a 30 minute ride under the hood of a car on the freeway--and was discovered when the driver arrived. Miraculously, she was unharmed. Oh, and she was ten shades of cute.

As soon as I saw that she was a Calico like Twinkle, I was helpless. I had to convince E to let me bring her home. I, like, HAD TO.

He had to think about it for a while, but he ultimately gave the okay. Squee!

I put her in my (open) drawer to sleep for the last class until I could get home, then I stowed her in a Famous Amos box from K so she wouldn't freak out in the car. I surprised the kids with the ol' kitten box trick at school when I picked them up.


As Ad said, best surprise ever. We took her to the vet right after so we could get her checked out. Of course I had a moment of whuh-oh when the vet suggested we do a Feline Leukemia and Feline AIDS test to "see if we wanted to keep her." Sads. Luckily for us (and her), she came back clean. Pheeouff.

Since we got home we've been helping her get settled in and introducing her to Twinkle. Twinkle made sure to let her know who was boss, but then they both decided to lay down next to each other. Guess that wasn't too rough.

Addie decided that since the cat showed up in a cookie box, her name should be Cookie. It pretty much stuck. Marms was an abandoned kitty, and that turned out all right. I think Ad is a major fan of the kitten surprise.

I'm in kitten heaven right now. She's currently snuggling on me and Twinkle is laying next to us. Last Monday of school for this school year? Surprise cat? That's a pretty good day.

Photo on 2011-05-16 at 18.41

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Achievement

Never did I think I'd have athletic children. Never did it occur to me that I'd even have kids who would even dip a toe into the wide world of sports. I spent childhood avoiding it, fearing it. I knew that same discipline from ballet, but that's such a different and protected world. I never felt like I was "one of those girls" that could do sports. Ever.

Today Addie ran her first race, the Girls on the Run 5K. A race. At eight years old. As a runner I'm beyond excited that she would meet the challenge of three miles, because I know exactly how hard that is for a newbie. When I started running two years ago, I couldn't run a quarter of a mile. Ad was the same. Her first practice she did one lap and she asked the coach can we stop, now?

As a mom I can't believe that she has already laid down such positive groundwork for a life of healthy physical activity. I can't believe that she just did something at 8 that I didn't do until I was 30. Her earliest memories of running are going to be of things like teamwork, realization of goals, accessibility, fun and encouragement. Rather than getting hit over the head with the mile run as punishment (as I did) in high school PE, she will already have the confidence that comes from familiarity. She saw this through. She trained for several months and went from a non-runner to an eight year old who runs races. She doesn't have to be scared of running because it's a wonderful thing.

Beautiful, right?

I can't say enough good things about Girls on the Run as an organization. I'm glad I was an assistant coach so I got to see why it had such an impact on Roo. It was such a nice balance of physical health and emotional health that was encouraged. It's rare that I see programs with that kind of positive message, whether it's in school or in the things I send my children to do. It's beyond wonderful and it fed my soul to coach.



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I had more fun running this race with Ad than on any other run I've ever done. I know I'll look back on this fondly in years to come. I'm so glad we did it together. She was so cheerful and excited all the way through--right up until mile 2.5, when she hit a wall. She kept pushing, but she strained hard. I told her I believed in her, that I knew she could finish. She looked up and me and said Mom, I believe in YOU, and I know you can finish too.

At the finish she was so overcome by emotion that it took her a minute to calm down. All those people watching... at eight it's hard to feel the difference between watching to support and watching to critique.

Who am I kidding? That's hard at 32.

But Addie found a place of pride about it. As the day wore on she stood a little taller in realization of what she'd achieved.



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The day didn't end there, either. Not to be outdone, Henry had to show his stuff on the baseball field today. I'm so proud of the confidence he's gained this season, too. I've never laughed as hard as I do watching him run the bases while chatting it up with every adult coaching... and today he told me that "pitching" (i.e. standing next to the coach who pitches to the kids) is his favorite because he gets to talk to the other coach the whole time. Oh, Henry. I love you.

I love them both. Barbara Kingsolver wrote "God, why does a mortal man have children? It is senseless to love anything this much."

It really is... the best kind of senseless I can imagine.






Friday, May 13, 2011

On the home front

I'm so glad Blogger is back up and working. Mini-freakout, over.

Last night I sat in the spa as day turned to night.  There's a tree across the street that glows a bright umber by the streetlight, and I watched it sway back and forth against the black sky while I soaked my sore legs.  My vegetable plants pushed silently skyward behind me.  I know they're as impatient for summer and hot weather as I am.  My brain felt restless like the leaves in the blowing tree.  I'm unsettled now, going on a few weeks.

I wish I could pin it on one thing.  There was no pressing issue, no avoided anger, yet I felt the familiar unrest that comes with May.  I can feel it hovering above me in the air, hummingbird anxiety, waiting to land on something.  Maybe it's that I don't like the end of things.  Maybe it's that I don't like uncertainty.  Maybe it's pressure I'm putting on myself to get a certain number of things done in a summer before I leap into the great unknown that is my MFA program.  Maybe it's that I've slowly but surely tied my sense of identity to my job, my school, and those things are changing more than I anticipated.


"Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work," said Anna Quindlen.  Sounds easy, but what about when you like your coworkers?  What about when you build relationships that blur the lines of work?  What about feeling comfortable in your space?  What happens when you let your guard down and then the rug goes out from under you?  I'm trying to put this out of my head.  Still.

Home is unsettled too.  Though E and I have balanced the teeter-totter of our relationship, I never trust it.  Moments of disagreement about his car (the old one, Maude), money, the significance of holidays and birthdays... these make me uneasy.  I can tell I'm not in a place to handle conflict very well.  There have been a bunch in recent weeks.  I hold on to the memory of a feeling long after a fight is resolved, anyway; knowing that it isn't healthy doesn't seem to make it any easier.  Last week we argued one night after the kids went to bed, but Ad heard something I said.  Something rotten.  Something born out of frustration, as are all bad thoughts.  Something better kept to myself.  Poor Roo.  Nothing makes you come face-to-face with your own ugliness like seeing the reaction on your child's face.  We talked to her, but again... it's just a manifesting of this tightness that hangs in the air.  A need to fix a thing between us easily turns into a need to fix a thing in our family.  It isn't pretty, but that's being a parent, right?  And E, God bless him, he texted me the next morning to say I'm glad things are better than last night even if not fixed.  You're worth fighting for.  I love you.

Last night before the spa I cooked up a storm--my version of getting the crazies out without having to leave the house.  The heat of the kitchen normally precedes a feeling of calm, but right now the nights when I don't run just seem too long.  Rather, maybe they are too long to not go out into and live.  I feel like that can't be done until school is over.  I end up spending an inordinate amount of time pestering E and watching every reality TV show known to man.  At least I had some fancy bread and chocolate chip cookies to show for it.  At least in that way I can give love to my loved ones, since I'm not exactly captain of the Awesome Team right now.

Sometimes I think oh, I won't blog right now.  The Crazies are as overdone of a topic as I could find to write about.  But then I realize that in the spirit of capturing moments of my life, I should.  This is where I am right now, the May Crazies.  I feel like I have to hold on--it's the last mile of the race and I can't stop here even though my body wants to quit.  Once the memory of this moment fades I'll sign up for another round.   It's amazing, really.  It's also amazing to know that as soon as I'm released into the wild of stay-at-home mothering for the summer I'll be happy as a clam.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Six: check.

Another year of AP English ended today. That makes six. I'm done with seniors. Today is also the day I'm adding many of them on Facebook, so of course a few will meander over here (hi guys). I don't mind them having access to my life, but just like last year it's making me rethink every post in my blog--I'm scanning my memory to try to remember what awkwardness there is here for the devouring. I feel incredibly self-conscious. The truth is that they've seen me be plenty awkward already, so not much should be surprising. Whatever. They're real people now, not students, so it doesn't matter how flawed I am.

Last night I went out for a 6-miler. I decided that I would technically think of it as skipping my first run this week, rather than stressing about how I was going to rearrange my life and fit it all in. Of course I always have to have a neurotic episode when it comes to my running schedule and something being off. My knee was a bit tender from Saturday still, but I think it was nerves more than pain that was keeping me from heading out. Something about running after even the slightest hint of pain gives me the pit-sweats. My knee held up until mile 5.5, which isn't so bad. Sometimes I think the end of my run is just painful because I'm bored. I'm not sure I was really hurting or if I just plain had enough. Either way, I walked a bit. Still came in under 12:00/mile. Iced when I got home... stretched like a BEAST. Now that I've been out I know it won't be a problem to go again.

Ad is getting geared up for her big 5K this weekend. Me too.

I'm winding down at school and feeling a little nostalgic for the fact that this year's senior class is gone. I feel lucky when I get a good one and this was definitely one of those years. I'm glad I get to shake their hands right before they walk across the stage at graduation next week. What good people. Almost makes up for how tough it is to work in education right now.

I haven't had much else to say this week because I've mostly been anxious and mad. Funding for education in our state just doesn't look good. Life at my school next year is uncertain at best. I'm trying hard not to think about it, but there's only so much avoidance one can do. Even if my own situation was certain, so many of my friends' jobs are not and programs are all but cut to the bone. When I do get home at night I'm not really being the best PDawg I can be. There's just not much left to give. I need it to be summer now.

Six more days. Just six. I feel like I'm holding my breath under water. Six days.



Monday, May 09, 2011

I'd like a FF button, please.

Hey there.

I know I promised I wasn't going to get the I'll-be-happy-when-s this year, but I made it all the way to two weeks from the end of the semester. That's pretty good, right? And seriously I KNOW I'll be happy when I'm out of school for the summer. True story. So I'm ready for my FF button, please.


Fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff.

9 days. I can do anything for 9 days, right?

But since I like to use this space for good--you know, the kind of good that feels like hugging a pegasus while you take a magical flight over a swimming pool filled with your lottery earnings--here's a list of some happy things.

It's more for me, really. Just like my new books page (click the link at the menu bar) which I am using as a personal catalog of my finished books so I can feel superior to non-readers everywhere. Don't feel too bad, though, non-readers. I was only able to read books because I didn't clean my house for three years.

Anyhoo.

What's good on this Monday night:

-Monday night TV. Really, any night TV. I'm a fan.
-Moms. I love mine.
-Grandmas. Ditto.
-Strawberry cream cheese PIE. I might have had some yesterday, along with some homemade Meyer lemon ice cream. Jealous?
-Kids. Henry said last night that he wanted to make me "dinner in bed" since he missed breakfast. He didn't actually do it, but I didn't care. I wanted to be lazy for Mothers' Day and I got my wish.
-My seniors being done with their AP test. We're all breathing a little easier.
-NOT THINKING about all the horrible crap that's happening right now in education because there's no money for anything. NOT thinking about all of this is making my anxiety much better. See? I'm not even thinking about it right now. PEGASUS MONEY BIN MAGICAL HAPPY TIME.
-Running. Yeah baby.
-My bed. Good every night of the week, but I feel like I need to take the time out to acknowledge it again. The combination of memory foam + flannel sheets (yes, still) + quilt from MIL = cloth Xanax.
-Addie's first race is this weekend -- 5K. I'm her running buddy. Neither of us can wait.
-Husbands with haircuts. In black shirts. The husband is, not the haircut. Well, both really.
-Melted swiss cheese. Just sayin'.
-I completed my FAFSA yesterday and registered for my UCR email. I'm starting to feel like a grad student.
-I have a family, a house, a bed, a job. A refrigerator full of various cheeses.
-It's almost bedtime.

Peace out, world.



Sunday, May 08, 2011

Book review: Life of Pi


Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Warning: There be an English teacher's literary musings ahead.

As it was published in 2003, Life of Pi was hardly on anybody's radar this month. But it's been lurking around our house since about that time. We had a membership to Audible when E was working nights and we downloaded a series of audio books for him to listen to as he did data entry. I remember him telling me that I should read Life of Pi, but I hadn't had the occasion to listen to an audio book in a while. With Jane Eyre and my newfound affinity for running while reading, I decided to finally give Pi a try.

Life of Pi is about a young boy named Piscine (yes, "swimming pool" in French) whose father is a zookeeper in Pondicherry. When the zoo biz gets tough, the family decides to pack up animals and move to Canada by way of a cargo ship. The ship sinks and Pi finds himself alone on a lifeboat. With a tiger. Yes, I'm serious.

There are things I liked about this book and things I didn't like. It made me think. It's the kind of book I'd want to teach, which is (I suppose) a sign of it being a good book. My opinion of how certain things were done seems less relevant than the fact that they were done in the first place. It held my attention on long runs and made the hours pass so easily. The very idea of it being used to pass solitary time and simultaneously being about a boy on a lifeboat (trying to pass solitary time) is kind of meta, which is also fun.

Things I did not like (not that anyone was asking): a bit of animal-on-animal violence. Since it's about zoos and the (non-Disney) circle of life, this all fits. I'm just a wimp. Listening to how one animal ate another was sometimes a little hard to take. The other thing I did not like was the fact that there was a Harry-Potter-esque "room of requirement" element to it. It seemed like when Pi needed something--a conflict, a savior, a way to pass the time--something would randomly enter the story. I noticed that LOST relied heavily on the same thing and it makes sense. How else would you move a story along that's mostly about a boy and a tiger being trapped in a lifeboat? But sometimes it seemed too contrived, too easy. As hopeful storyteller myself this is interesting and I like even having the occasion to ponder it as a writing technique.

The other thing I didn't like was how the idea of allegory was handled at the end. I won't explain what happens exactly, except to say that I felt like the allegory of the story was obvious and didn't need to be explained. I felt like I understood it to be allegorical and I would have preferred that the author left it up to the reader to interpret rather than giving a step-by-step breakdown. The intent was clearly to raise questions about faith and belief but I think my personal preference (in literature and in religion, honestly) is to make up my own mind about what something means. Literary ambiguity: am a fan.

I didn't really like the island and the meerkats. But that is splitting hairs.

Things I did like (which are many): I liked that the author was able to make such a compelling story out of so little in the setting and character columns. It's hard enough for me to think about creating a story when I have the full variety of settings and characters available to me. I can't imagine limiting myself in such a way and still being able to hold a reader's attention for so long. I liked that it had elements of shipwreck and adventure story archetypes. There are so many good stories in that genre, that simply writing a story of that nature calls to mind so many others like it. There was a wealth of connotation that I brought to the story already and I feel like Martel handled it in a way that was refreshing but respectful of the genre.

I really liked Pi, the main character. He's so concerned with religion early in the story and I like looking at things through a child's unprejudiced eyes. Some of his philosophical musings reminded me of how innocently we all see things at first. I liked Richard Parker, the tiger. He was written so well that even though he was not a character who could traditionally interact through dialogue, he impacted Pi's actions and drove the story.

The section where Pi has gone blind and meets another blind castaway was my favorite part. I loved that he thought he was talking to Richard Parker. I loved that it read so much like Waiting for Godot, which is in so many ways a parallel to Pi's time on the boat. (My god, there was even a reference to a boot. It had to be an allusion to Godot. Eh, Didi?) The whole idea of the Absurd and existentialism taking the form of a conversation with a blind man/tiger was too delicious. I wish I had time to teach this novel simply so I could do some kind of side-by-side examination of the two stories.

I also enjoyed very much the allegorical nature of the animals in the story. Though (as I said) I didn't want it explained to me, I feel like the author managed to anthropomorphize each animal in a way that it represented the human trait he was trying to show. I don't know enough about animals to know how true to form these character traits were in real life, but from my pedestrian understanding it seemed to fit. The piecing together of reality and symbolism and allegorical roles was seamless and that made it enjoyable.

This was a good story. Even without all my book-club-of-one musings, I can say that it was interesting and that it kept me wondering what would happen next. I'm glad I read it and I am still thinking about it a few days later.

My recommendation: I can recommend reading it. I can also recommend running with it in your iPod. This is definitely something different.



Yesterday's 11.4


We pushed up hills and into the wind, our feet keeping time like a tight snare drum.  Cresting hills, then dipping into each trough, we talked of libraries, jobs, colleges and cookies.  Squirrels cut across our path and birds heralded the rising sun with song.  A pair of deer made breakfast of the brush to our side.  Rowers skimmed the surface of the lake with only an occasionally perceptible chant.  Nature welcomed us like the smile of the oncoming runners on the path.  It was good, and then it was done.

Kelly gave me a hard time yesterday about how I'd write about our run--so Kel, that's for you.

I wasn't sure I was going to write about this run, but I'm feeling much better today than I was last night.

We met to run around Lake Natoma at about 6:00 AM.  There was a crew event on the lake, so our normal free parking spot wasn't going to be free.  We parked across the street at Starbucks and set out.  I was nervous to run all the way around the lake.  It's an 11 mile loop and I've never done it before.  When I run at home, alone, I typically go out and back.  For some reason that gives me the feeling I can cut out early if it doesn't feel right.  With a loop, you sort of have to go around in order to finish.  It's a big commitment.

Eleven miles is still in the land of intimidating distances for me.  Looking through my blog this morning I see that I ran 13.1 twice (race 1 and race 2), I've done 12 once with Kel, and 11.8 accidentally one time on my own, but anything above 10 is kind of a big deal still in my world.  As is running with other people, which I have only been doing since last fall.  It's really helping me to stay motivated and consistent in my training now that I have people with whom I can do my long runs.  Plus it's nice to have other people to talk to about running.  I feel like I still have so many questions all the time.

As I have been doing lately, I monitored my heart rate and was able to have a much better sense of the right pace.  My stamina is really increasing and at this point I think it surpasses the strength of my legs.  I can't believe that's where I am, but it's nice.  I'm not fast, but I can keep going at the same speed for several hours.  "Slow but steady" achievement unlocked.

Yesterday's run was not comfortable and I didn't feel great like I did last weekend.  Two issues:
  • My hip/ IT injury from last fall
  • My stomach
I know exactly why my hip was bothering me--and it wasn't my hip really so much as the pain at the side of my knee where my IT band pulls.  I know from my sports medicine patient stint that my hip muscles are weak and need strengthening.  This week I stretched, but I didn't do my physical therapy resistance exercises.  Fail.  I paid for it yesterday.  It wasn't until near the end of our run when my legs were fatigued, but we hit some rolling hills and then we were running for a bit on the trail rather than the smoother path.  My tired legs weren't strong enough to handle it.  Luckily everyone I was with was happy to accomodate me--stop, stretch, walk, etc--and after a short walk break I felt much better.  But I had a sense of it being there and I didn't want to push it.

Yesterday I iced and stretched and tried to take it easy.  The outside of my knee hurt last night when we were out on our date.  I think that was also all about the platform shoes--it's all flats all the time this week.  I'll be icing more today and stretching.  And yes, LESSON LEARNED.  This week it's back to PT like it's my job.

My stomach is more of a mystery but I might just chalk it up to what happens sometimes and move on.  It didn't help me any that I took in too much water too early and I had to pee for a good part of our run.  It didn't help that my fuel belt is starting to drive me nuts and I'm SO OVER having anything around my waist when I run.  Just a bad day in my mid-section.

Though I have to say that stomach issues are the worst part of running, for me.  If my stomach is off then forget about it, and I was crampy almost all day yesterday even long after I finished.  Bleh.  I haven't had any problems in a while and I didn't eat anything unusual before or during my run.  Before I had some almond butter and jam on toast and during I had Hammer Gels and water.  Who knows.  Next week I'll try a different breakfast.  Maybe that just has to happen from time to time.  I'm honestly kind of proud of myself for finishing and for keeping very near to the same pace I had the week before when I felt fine.

Here's how I did:


Next week I'm going to step back a bit on my long run and give my legs some time to feel better.  Even when I have a run that's a struggle to finish I'm so happy I accomplished something for the day.  Sometimes it's just nice to know I don't have to run anymore for a whole weekend.  



Saturday, May 07, 2011

California Schools Need Your Help



California is in a “State of Emergency” over the drastic cuts hurting our public schools, colleges and communities.


Please visit http://castateofemergency.com/ for more information about how you can help.

Friday, May 06, 2011

One is the loneliest number.

Tuesday was a bad day.

This isn't a post about why it was bad, though.  It's a post about how and when I knew shit was going to go down.  It was a small thing, really, but portended a day of brimming anger and frustration.  I got really mad and really upset later in the day.  I'm happy that my anxiety is actually rooted in real threats now (unlike the grey days when it would come upon me from nowhere) but the familiar rot of anger and fear in my arms and chest is hard to take because it hearkens to a time when Crazies just meant I was exactly that.

I left my house later than usual but early enough to hit the Starbucks drive-through for an Americano.  Though I usually go inside so I can avoid the commuter line in the drive-through, I had to put on my makeup.  I chose the snake of cars, happy for the time I'd get with talk radio and my tube of mascara.  I ordered the Americano without event--delicious smoky espresso filled my thoughts and awoke my salivary glands.

I pulled forward and leaned into the shadow of the rear view mirror.  This served two purposes: first to shade my face from the rising sun in the east (my Civic is missing a sun visor on the driver's side), and second so I could see my face and make it up.  On went foundation like thin peach milk.  I powdered my face to set it, rubbed in a bit of Prescriptives blush I've had since my wedding (seriously, it's magical; it's the tube that won't end) and reached for my eyebrow pencil.

I searched my blog a while ago for eyebrows to see how much of my neurosis I've revealed publicly.  (Answer: not much.)  Or maybe it's not neurosis so much as my inability to accept this one very specific, very noticeable trait about my face.  Really, it's the one thing about my whole body I wish was different.  At least with all the messed up middle section I have two beautiful monkeys to show for it.  For these eyebrows, nothing.  Just a battle I've been fighting since 11th grade.

My eyebrow pencil is the one thing I can't travel without.  I'm a hopeless eyebrow pencil addict.  You see, for whatever reason of genetics and fate, I have pale pale eyebrows.  They're blonde.  They're almost clear, really.  I feel like senior citizens with white eyebrows have more pigment in them than I do.  At least those are opaque.  Mine just look like skin, like that creepy flesh-toned beard that Spencer Pratt and that kid in my 10th grade history class both had.  Add to this my natural ability to tan, my high forehead and my brown eyes and if I'm not wearing makeup I look like a skin-toned Q-tip.  Go ahead, picture it.  Add some curly, frizzy hair.  That's me.  I'm like you ground down a peach Crayola crayon until the tip was round and smooth.  Plain.  Orangey.  Unremarkable.

I learned to pencil my eyebrows when I was dancing.  Everyone pencils eyebrows on stage or they look like fleshy aliens.  But I can't manage to go around without mine in the real world.  The whole peach alien thing is just so... yuck.  I've never wanted to draw on the ghetto harsh line or to have the pencil stand out as fake.  I will change pencil shades depending on my hair color, but in general I'm tied to the dark blonde variety.  I have spent years trying different products--powders, pencils, gels--and I have a system.  But there will never be a day when I will wear makeup and not wear my eyebrows drawn on.

I hate it.  I'm so beholden to the pencil.  I haven't been able to wipe my sweaty brow since 1995.  If I swim?  Whoops, there go my eyebrows.  Why not just tattoo them on, you say?  Have you ever had someone else do your makeup and it's just off in a way you can't pin down?  Now imagine that you were stuck with the result for, oh, I don't know... ETERNITY.  Imagine if the nice eyebrow lady gave me one angry and one surprised.  Yeah.  Real cute.

So back to Starbucks.  I reached for that eyebrow pencil, that curse-disguised-as-blessing, and I saw that it was worn down to the last nub.  It was so short I knew it would barely fit in the sharpener, but I always carry one for such an emergency.  Gingerly, carefully as a mother lifting her newborn for the first time, I held it in front of my face and made short work of the task.

I turned the corner so the sun was at my right, the passenger's side.  Do you know that indirect sunlight is best for eyebrows?  You're welcome.  Like every day before that day, I shaded the arch of my brow and pushed my wrist outward with quick, short strokes.  Right side--always first--done.  Turning my head, I checked its shape.  Fine.  I leaned in for the left, put pencil to face, and...

the pencil broke off and fell in a blink down the side of my seat.  Not a snap, but the kind of break where you're left staring down into the hollow business end of an empty pencil.

Um.

The pencil nub--you can bet your sweet Jesus I considered pulling over so I could find it and apply it to my brow--was lost in the abyss beneath the dark grey captain's chair.  I gave up and laughed at my reflection.

I was in the drive-through.

I was about to pull up to a smiling barista with espresso-arm extended.

I had one perceptible eyebrow.

ONE.

I had no Kleenex.  I had no makeup remover.

I had no hope.

I had ONE EYEBROW.

For reference, here's a photo of me with my regular makeup/brows, and sans brow.  My brows look so thin and pitiful.  I promise this isn't from plucking.  I'm a clear-eyebrowed beast. They grow from my forehead to my lids.  They're just sooo light.  Weakest eyebrowsauce ever.





You can see that going to school with one brow would not do.

You can see how it might freak me out a bit.

I rubbed the brow off with the heel of my hand as best I could.  I managed to get about 90% of it off so I could get my coffee, but I kept my head straight so it wasn't visible to the barista on the driver's side.  I couldn't shake the feeling that something in the universe was amiss.

I made a quick stop at Walgreens (Hand over my eyebrow.  For serious.) for some new pencil.  I redrew the right and then the left.  Something was just not quite right.

And that is the story of how I started my own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Let's Move!

I told you before that I enjoy cheesy dance scenes in movies when everyone comes together and starts doing choreography. Just how many times did I rewind that final dance scene in Dirty Dancing?  Don't even ask...

As expected, I enjoy Beyonce's new remix of "Get me bodied" that she recorded as a part of Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign to fight childhood obesity. Beyonce, kids, a cafeteria, dancing.  Fun stuff.




And here's the first lady doing a few of the moves. Love it.




For my birthday the monkeys bought me Dance Central for Kinect/XBox. Last night we unwrapped it and took it for a test drive.  I can already tell it's going to be a favorite.  Both kids love to dance so much... I'm totally going to have to sneak some video of them getting down in front of the TV.