My Fourth Half-Marathon–To Mars And Back

After months of training indoors to avoid the ice, snow, and extreme, polar temperatures, the day for my first half-marathon of the year dawned clear and sunny. The race starts and ends at a nearby park and runs right by my house. The full marathon started off at 7:15 a.m. and I put on some sweats and brought my coffee out to the sidewalk to watch the runners. The rangers came first on their mountain bikes chatting easily and laughing as they led the way.

Next came a lone runner, then two more, then a crowd of runners. Each one looked like a runner, long and lean. They didn’t even seem to be trying too hard. I compared that to the diversity of runners in even the half-marathon. Clearly there is a stepping-up in commitment and lifestyle between the marathoners and the rest of us.

My race started an hour and a half after the marathon, with the 5k and 10k in between. I left the house ten minutes before the race and walked down to the start. I was astonished to see the first marathoner, only slightly out of breath, in the sidelines. I later looked up his time and he’d run the marathon in 1:33. I couldn’t even wrap my head around that.

I found my place in the crowd just as the race started. At the one-mile mark, a young woman remarked, in astonishment, that it couldn’t be right, we couldn’t be at only the first mile. I suspect she finished the race ahead of me, but I’ll also bet I recovered faster. I really can do this distance, just not as fast as I’d like and not without training.

I had planned to distance train, lose weight, strength train, and improve my time significantly. I did do the distance training, but the rest didn’t happen. As a matter of fact, I’ve put on some weight, had little time for strength training, and my time was not my worst, but close to it. I had a lot of time to think during the race and mostly I thought that I needed to step back from half-marathons so that I could do the other things, then build back up again.

Martian Medal 2014Later a friend and fellow runner asked me what my time was. She sighed, “so you didn’t get a better time”. No, I hadn’t. She understood my frustration exactly. I told her my plan for cutting back until I could build strength and lose weight. I had gone back into Spark People after a long hiatus and entered my stats: weight and measurements. I told her that I’d gained weight…then I said the upside was I was down an inch in waist and hips. Simultaneously it dawned on us both that I’d gained muscle and lost fat. So, all was not for naught!

All in all, it was a race I wanted to run and I ran it. I finished it and got my lovely, sparkly medal to remind me of my accomplishment. I learned lessons, as I usually do, and I have started to formulate my next game plan.

Find the Joy in the Journey…detours are ok too!

Movie Mania

imageThere is something about movies that is magical to me. I struggle sometimes to unearth early memories, and so it is with movies. My earliest movie memories are going to the local drive-in with my family and another which had four children. They had a woodie station wagon and we had a VW Bug. The adults would sit in the VW and we seven kids would sprawl-out in the station wagon in our PJ’s. In my memory, it was always a double feature and I was most definitely nodding off half-way through the second feature.

Most movies I watch once or twice, but some I’ve watched many times over. I started to wonder what it was about these movies that drew me to re-watching them. Of course, I’ve watched many children’s movies with my kids, and as each child was old enough for a movie I’d watch it all over again. Lately, I watch my younger daughter’s favorites with her over and over again. We’ve probably watched The Hunger Games half a dozen times. We’re only on round two of Catching Fire

I re-watch some movies because they are seasonal and a way to recapture past holidays or share a tradition with my children. It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas, Ground Hog Day on February 2nd, Jesus Christ Superstar at Easter. But what about the movies that I choose to watch over and over again with no special purpose in mind?

It’s been years since I’ve watched Romancing the Stone (1984), but I’ve seen it many times. It stars a young Kathleen Turner as a shy, reclusive, romance-novel writer. She is drawn out of her comfort zone to rescue her sister from kidnappers in Columbia. This movie touched on many things for me. Since I learned to read as a child, I always dreamed of being a successful novelist, so the main character drew me in. I love action/adventure movies and this one fits that genre. It’s also a romance, a plus.

The next movie I got hooked on was a classic film-noir, Gaslight (1944) starring the beautiful Ingrid Bergman. Her character moves into her murdered aunt’s home with her new husband. He systematically starts to convince her that she’s insane and we follow her slow, sad decent into seeming madness before the mystery is resolved and her sanity is affirmed. Even knowing the ending of the movie, I love to watch it again just to see it all unfold. The phrase “gaslighting” has come to mean altering someone’s perception of reality. It is a very abusive behavior and having been on the receiving end, the movie has taken on even more significance to me.

On to more light-hearted fair, a have probably seen the The Princess Bride (1987) more times than any other movie and each time I watch it I enjoy it more than the last. The crew is heavily populated with talented comics with Robin Wright as the straightwoman playing Princess Buttercup. It is a swashbuckling, comedic, love story and easily the most quotable film ever made. I suppose it was made as a children’s movie, but it is a movie with so many layers of humor that it is enjoyable at any age. 

Another love of mine is science fiction. Contact (1997) was an instant hit for me. It stars Jody Foster, a favorite actress of mine, as a scientist set on discovering proof of extra-terrestrial life. Even though she has a PhD and is incredibly intelligent, she doesn’t get much respect from the scientific community. This is also the first movie I saw starring Matthew McConaughey. He plays a sexy preacher. The non-religious scientist and the preacher develop a great appreciation for an all-encompassing, common view of awe and wonder, science and God. This movie just hit the sweet spot for  me and I watch it about once a year.

I have other favorites, too, like Bend It Like Beckham  (2002) and Akeelah And The Bee (2007) both of which involve breaking from tradition and stereotype. There is difficulty and there is triumph. These are feel-good, young-adult films made before the current wave of dystopian films. I don’t know why I am so drawn to the young adult genre…maybe because it allows me to imagine a different experience growing up without actually having to be a teenager again.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the joy in discovering a new, must-watch movie!

No Country For Old Vines

My friends and I enjoy going to wine tasting events every month or so. We’d been going to a local restaurant, but they kept increasing the price and reducing the appetizers as well as the number of wine selections to taste. We’d been looking for an alternative when we heard about the Michigan Wine Showcase. Wineries from all over the state would be present and the food would be provided by a top restaurant. We met downtown Detroit at The Rattlesnake Club after work on Monday. So many wineries packed the building lobby that we had to pick and choose what to taste.

Garnering a small, stand-up cocktail table, we plotted our moves. Careful never to leave the table without at least two defenders, we took turns dishing up delicious appetizers and purusing the information about the many wineries and tasting the most promising wines. I’ve never been to such a large wine-tasting event. we ventured off in pairs or solo to try the wines and listen to the vintners wax poetic about their boutique wineries. I learned that although the wine industry in Michigan is well established, prior to the early 1970’s it was primarily dedicated to sweet wines and fruit wines. Wines were traditionally made from native varietals, such as Concord grapes, or from fruits such as apples or cherries. The introduction of European varietals in the early 1970′s is therefore relatively new.

Michigan is better known for its whites than its reds. As a mostly a red wine drinker, I decided to search out the good ones and wandered around the tables to find the likeliest candidates. I tasted several and found some that I liked and some, not so much. I accidentally tried a white wine which I actually enjoyed. I was tricked by the name, Ship of Fools, but it was a good trick as it turns out. I later discovered through the Wine Compass Blog, that this is a unique wine. If nothing else, I’ve found myself a nice white wine for summer weather (if it ever arrives here!).

Of even more interest to me than the wines, having run twelve miles the day before, were the appetizers. I made quite a meal out of the variety of cheeses, salads, olives, nuts, charcuterie, and gourmet macaroni and cheese. Eventually, we were all back at the table and just soaked up the atmosphere. The event was quite diverse in every measure, including expertise about wine. We overheard some quite-serious oenophiles discussing the wines in terms we didn’t quite catch. There were also lots of young people there, dressed up and enjoying the evening without a worry to the proper wine terminology.

My friends and I started gathering up literature and dreaming about a girls’ wine-country trip. Michigan has two wine countries, both along the eastern shores of Lake Michigan. We are leaning towards the southwest part of the state, which is close enough that we could make a day trip but is so full of places to visit that it’s worth a weekend. As we left in a drizzling rain I was glad to have enjoyed a happy evening with friends. I found myself thinking back to my post, My Happiness Challenge, and realized I’d hit on a number of happiness boosters, including smiling, time with friends, and even vacation planning.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the Joy of a night out with friends!

The Twelfth Mile

Less than a week until the half-marathon and I’m fine tuning my preparation. I got new shoes and wore them first on some short runs to break them in. So far so good. They feel light-weight and the backs are a bit stiff. I’m reviewing some of my tips and tricks from earlier blog posts to make sure I don’t forget anything useful.

First thing I do is have a breakfast that will help me on my run. I drink a cup of black coffee and eat a toasted whole-wheat muffin with high-quality, chunky peanut butter. That’s it…caffeine, high-quality carbs, and protein. I’ve upped my water intake in the last few days in preparation for the run.

Next is the gear…weather appropriate is crucial. The hard part during spring is that the temperature can vary so much during the course of a long run. Choosing the right layers can be tricky. I have to have tights, either long or knee-length, so that my legs don’t get chafed. I have to wear calf sleeves if the run is over 8 miles. These are things I’ve learned through experience.

Hydration during a race is easy…there are always aid stations with volunteers handing out cups of water. During a training run, however, I have to tote my own water. So far I’ve avoided it and don’t really need it in cool weather if I’m running fewer than 8 miles. Last week at the end of my eleven mile run, I was worn out and I knew it was partially due to dehydration.

So for my twelve mile run, I donned a hydration belt that my sister gave me for my birthday. I had tried running with one before, and the bottle of water kept getting in my way, the sloshing noise drove me crazy, and I didn’t drink much of the water. The new belt was better suited to me. It has four small water bottles so the weight is distributed better and the sloshing noise is softer.image

So, having eaten my breakfast and donned my appropriate attire and gear, I took off for my last long training run before the race. I started MapMyRun and got going. I swear that I ran the exact same route and distance as the prior week, but the app indicated eleven miles last week and twelve miles this week. My time was almost identical, which made it look as if I’d gained a full minute per mile in speed. Frankly, I don’t care; I just want to do well in the actual race.

I had a good run and felt better at the end of it than in my last long run.  I had used up some of my water on the run, but walking home to cool-down I drank all the rest of it and was glad to have it. The only thing that went wrong was that my heel got scraped up by the back of my shoe. A trip to the store for crew-style running socks should fix that problem.

Find the Joy in the Journey…I’m ready for my next half-marathon!

Turning The Tide Of Childhood–The Apron Strings are Loosed

I think of my younger daughter as exceptionally healthy, but maybe she just doesn’t fuss about being sick. She has certainly had her share of colds where she went along her way, just used a lot of tissues. She gave me the biggest scare of any of my children when she had a febrile seizure when she was 13 months old and on vacation.

We were in Florida in July and we went to a wildlife park. Near the end of our visit, we got tickets to go on a boat and see monkeys, lemurs, and gibbons up close on little islands. The animals won’t go in the water, so they are not actually caged, just moated, as the case may be. As we waited for the boat, my daughter ran around energetically, keeping herself busy in the 92 degree heat. Once on the boat, about twenty feet from the dock, she had a seizure.

The captain returned immediately to the dock, but was so shaken that he refused to take the boat back out and it was the last tour of the day. I took no notice as I was running towards the front of the park. We got there before the ambulance and I spoke on the phone with the dispatcher who instructed me in ensuring my baby was still breathing, etc.

It was a long ambulance ride and a rough couple of days ensuring that she was ok. There were no pediatric ER doctors there, which ultimately resulted in more tests than she actually needed. In the end, she was fine once she was re-hydrated and had some medicine for her fever. Back home our pediatrician was nonchalant, telling us the virus was very common and easily diagnosed. The only long-term advice was to give her rotating/overlapping doses of Motrin and Tylenol whenever she had a fever until she was 8 years old to prevent another seizure.

Later illnesses all seemed to follow the same pattern (and fortunately she never had another febrile seizure). When she would get a virus that made her vomit, she couldn’t take even a sip of water or a tiny ice chip without retching. The first time this happened, I took her to the pediatrician and she got an anti-emetic shot. That did it. She was out like a light bulb for 36 hours and then awoke “cured”.  This happened a few times, but not since she was about 8 years old.

So, when I heard her coughing in the middle of the night, I thought it was her newly-diagnosed asthma (one which we hope is an isolated response to a virus during a polar vortex during basketball season). In the morning, I went to get her up and asked if she was feeling ok. She didn’t respond to me, so I spoke louder and told her it was time to get up. Her response was an indignant, “I can’t go to school today, I’ve been throwing up and the rule is I can’t go back to school for 24 hours!”

Almost 13 years after having that febrile seizure, when I woke every hour to check on her and gave her medication every three hours, she is now letting me sleep when she is sick. I feel it is a new milestone…she still needs her mom, but she’s getting quite independent too.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the silver-lining on the way to the empty nest!

Still Downsizing My Kitchen

I started de-cluttering my kitchen in a very incremental way. I wrote about the start in Downsizing My Kitchen. Now with the canned goods and other miscellaneous stuff hauled out of my cupboards and sorted, it’s time to clean out the baking cupboard. As I got out all the containers of flours and sugars and other baking ingredients, it dawned on me that I used to bake a lot. I especially enjoyed making bread. Punching and kneading dough is so therapeutic!

I found an empty container for bread flour and one for rye. I used to make a great Swedish Limpa bread which took three risings and was similar to a pumpernickel but with some orange rind for a more nuanced flavor. I told my daughter about this uncommon and uncommonly good bread, but I got no further than mentioning it’s relationship to pumpernickel. I was halfway down the path to talking myself into making some…but it’s not worth the time if I have no one to share it with. I washed out the containers and stacked them on my counter.

While I was at it, I emptied out the cereal containers and disposed of the stale cereal. It dawned on me that my son must have been the real cereal eater and I just kept buying it after he’d moved out, not realizing it was just piling up. I washed out the containers and stacked them on the counter as well. I realized that I also have a big drawer which I used to stock with chips for the kids to grab for their lunches or a snack. The drawer was half-full of out-of-date, single-serving bags. Into the trash they went.image

Pretty soon, I had a mountain of Tupperware and some very neat, clean shelves…many of them now empty. Perusing my cluttered counter tops, I started to make a plan. I put away what remained of my pantry and baking cupboard. I now have three, completely empty cupboards and a large empty drawer. I still have to go through the cupboards where I have yet more plastic storage containers, but even so, I have plenty of storage space now for all of my single-use machines. I don’t have a high-end panini maker, or any high-priced gadgets, but I have acquired plenty of other things over the years. I have a Belgian waffler, a small food processor, a blender with a broken carafe, a Magic Bullet, and various other small appliances. Now I have a place to put them.

My kitchen started out cluttered. In the process of cleaning out the cupboards, I’ve made a big mess. That’s ok, because I also got rid of a lot of stuff and found storage space for things I want in my kitchen, some of which are currently on the counters and some of which are stored in the basement.

It’s hard to believe how much time it is taking me to clean out one room. A room which has a single purpose and whose contents are relatively easy to put into categories of keep or dispose. I’m still focused on this one room and when I conquer  it, I will let myself move on.

Find the Joy in the Journey…even the slow, slogging parts!



A Tale Of Two Home Openers

A few years ago, my sister and her son came for a spring break visit. They came to frigid Michigan from hot and sunny Florida. In retrospect, I should have gone to visit them instead. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun on their vacation and my staycation. The highlight was to attend a professional baseball game. Unfortunately, the only Tigers home game during their stay was the home opener and I couldn’t get tickets.

I tried to get tickets, sitting in front of my computer for two hours clicking through the buying process over and over again only to be bumped out. Clearly the system was not robust enough to handle selling all the tickets for all the games for all the teams all at once. Once I gave up on Tigers tickets, I took a shot at buying opening day tickets to the Mud Hens. I was worried about not being able to get tickets, so I opted to buy a package available prior to the regular tickets going on sale. The tickets included a buffet lunch for not a lot more.

On game day, it was bitterly cold and windy. We went through the buffet line and sat down at a picnic table straight back from second base. Due to the shape of the stadium, the wind whistled most fiercely through the picnic area. Once we finished our lunch we tried to find our seats only to discover that the picnic benches were our seats. Although I’d brought several stadium blankets with me, very soon my sister and her son slipped away and bought sweatshirts and stocking caps. In the end, it was so cold that we left before the end of the game.

This week, I had my first opportunity to attend a Tigers home opener and what a contrast. I worked through the morning and then left around 11 a.m. intending to meet up with my colleagues at 11:30. I soon learned that I had waited too long. The entire area around the stadium for about a one mile radius was packed with cars and people. Music was blaring and clearly many people had been partying all morning.

All the parking lots and garages were full, but I finally found a lot which allowed me to park in an unmarked spot because my car was small enough to fit. I felt relieved to only hand over $20 since I’d been quoted $40 elsewhere and I only had $28 on me.

I walked to the stadium, trying to memorize where I’d left my car. Pressing through the crowd, I struggled to find my group, but with a lot of text messaging we ultimately found each other. We then got in line for the stadium. Calling it a line is misleading, as it was really just an enormous crowd all pressing towards the doors. It was the first game with walk-through metal detectors and things were going very slowly. Eventually we made it in and found our seats.

The next few hours were pure heaven, especially given the extremely cold and snowy winter we were still trying to escape. The sun was out, the temperature was in the high fifties, I drank my first shandy, and we reveled in the warmth of the almost-imageforgotten sun. The game was exciting with a tie going into the bottom of the ninth. The winning run emptied the bench and got all of the fans up and out of our seats to cheer. The only thing that could have made it better would have been to share the day with my sister and nephew.

Find the Joy in the Journey…revel in every glorious day that you find!

It’s All About The (Athletic) Shoes

I wrote a few months ago about mail ordering skate shoes for my daughter as a Christmas present in It’s All About The Shoes. Well, it’s still all about the shoes. I trip over her size 10 and a half shoes every time I come in or out of the back door…the shoes seem to multiply. Alas, she needs still more shoes. Softball season is upon us and last year’s shoes are way too small.

When I picked her up from practice on Saturday, I learned that outdoor playing would start this week and it was time to get the softball cleats. Off to the sporting goods store we went. We found two kinds of women’s cleats and the salesman indicated that she was free to choose from the plethora of men’s cleats too, given her shoe size. We chose one of the relatively inexpensive women’s pairs. Mission accomplished, or so I thought.

My daughter asked me if the store sold Jordan’s. She’s perfectly capable of asking for herself, but she insisted I ask the salesman. No, they didn’t sell Jordan’s, but he pointed us to a shoe store across the street. My daughter will be playing on an American Youth Basketball Tour team this summer and her old basketball shoes are too small and also worn out. I still wasn’t sold on the idea of a very expensive pair of shoes, but she wanted them for her birthday, so I went along with it. Perhaps they really are superior to the less expensive brands which would make the purchase more palatable.

We walked into the store which was half basketball shoes and half clothing. It was all for men and I wondered how many of the men who bought the shoes played on anything resembling a basketball team. It seemed more like the shoes were just for show. The saleswoman asked my daughter what her shoe size was and we told her 9 and a half, since the shoes were in men’s sizing. She paused and asked my daughter what her women’s shoe size was and upon hearing 10 and a half, she tilted her head and asked, “for you?”. My daughter ducked her head and said yes.

At last we were on our way home, my daughter with two more pairs of shoes and my wallet a little lighter. I was soon to discover that another pair is needed. I put off my long run until Sunday because the weather was more promising, actually into the high forties. The day warmed slowly, but finally around 3 p.m. I got out into the pure sunshine to run eleven miles. I had only gotten in one run in the past week, and it was a short one. I’d sped up the treadmill to a 10-minute mile and I was pleased that I could get through three miles faster than I’ve run since I was a teenager, but it did leave me pretty sore.image

By the seventh mile, I was regretting that I’d slacked off in my training for the week. By the ninth I was reminding myself with every step that I’d run ten just the week before. When I hit eleven, I stopped and texted one word to my daughter…thirsty. That did not get the point across, so I clarified. I was rewarded with a tall glass of ice water when I stepped inside.

As I pondered my difficulties, my average speed was around twelve and a half minutes per mile, it dawned on me that I just may need new shoes.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the joy in buying new shoes!

Downsizing My Kitchen

Not too many years ago, my house was bustling with the activities of six people. I bought food in large quantities, often shopping at the warehouse store and snapping up cases of everything from canned chicken to individual packs of diced peaches. When I made pizza, I made three of them. When I cooked chili or stew, I whipped up a double batch. When I had over-ripened bananas, I’d make several loaves of banana bread. I have a standalone freezer and kept it full. The cupboards were never bare.

Now there are just two of us at home and I’ve finally started adjusting my buying habits after having to dump one too many gallons of milk down the drain and tossed one too many black bananas in the trash. The refrigerator, due to my slowly cleaning it out over the last few weeks, is pretty bare, but my cupboards were still full. I decided to clean out the kitchen completely before moving on to another room. With this method, I could slowly, methodically, de-clutter my whole house. It was a simple idea which has grown in proportion.

First, I took all the food out of the cupboards and sorted it. I ended up with a shockingly large group of items that were past their expiration dates. My frugal mind couldn’t really wrap itself around the waste. I set it aside and wondered if maybe I could use some of it, anyway. Honey…everyone knows that honey never goes bad. Then again, what passes for honey these days just might. There were diced peaches, canned tomatoes, sauces, beans, evaporated milk, enchilada sauce, and other odds and ends.

Fortunately, I found a lot more unexpired items than expired. I looked at the eclectic mix of canned fish, various types of beans, tomato paste, grilling sauce, soup, etc. and decided to use it up rather than put it away. My first attempt was to make chili to use up some of the beans and maybe some of the expired tomatoes.expired

I pulled out my crockpot and started opening cans. I opened one of the cans of tomatoes and paused. It had a darker swirl in the center which looked a bit green. Down the drain it went…and off to the store I went to buy more canned tomatoes…but only as much as called for in the recipe. No more stockpiling until I have things under control and sized for a household of two.

I always loved those magazine articles about how to have a well-stocked pantry. A pantry stocked so that you could whip up a gourmet appetizer for unexpected guests or manage a homey family meal when you hadn’t gotten to the grocery store recently. The problem, as I realize while gazing at an enormous jar of Greek olives, is that no one drops in unexpectedly and even if they do, I forget I have the olives. Now they’ve expired.

So, I’ll get rid of the expired food and we’ll slowly work our way through the still-good food. I still have much work to do in the kitchen, too many pots and pans, too many gadgets, and the world’s largest supply of reusable water bottles, some of them missing important parts. Here’s to de-cluttering the kitchen and moving on to the family room.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and a love of canned beans would be nice too!

Singing in The D–Not Quite My Second Singles Mixer

A friend recently approached me about my comfort level working with a matchmaker. Hmm…never thought about that. My friend claimed that her friend, the matchmaker, was a delightful woman who “knew everybody” in town. Well, I was a bit skeptical, but then she told me that her friend was holding her first-ever singles mixer. She asked me if I was interested in going. It was to be a singing event. I couldn’t quite fathom how singing in a group would lead to interesting conversations, but I said I was in. After all, I want to be open to new experiences.

I recruited a friend to go with me and we drove into the city to Corktown to a dive bar with an open stage on a Wednesday night. We drove over the potholes in the parking lot and found a spot. Walking along the front of the building I found the door with the address of the bar, but it wasn’t otherwise marked. I pulled it open anyway and stepped in to be greeted by someone collecting $10 for the event and putting wristbands on wrists.

We wandered past the bar to the back room where we were greeted by the vibrant matchmaker who introduced herself and had us fill out name tags. We spent a moment talking about our mutual friend…each described the other as the most wonderful person…definitely an upper.

My girlfriend and I looked around and saw two open barstools by the stage. We put down our coats and I turned to one of the only men in the room and asked him if this were his first time coming. He explained that the matchmaker was his brother’s mother-in-law. I looked around and saw his (married) brother and two other men. Women streamed into the room…no more men arrived.

During the next hour and a half, we sang many motown songs with the help of a DJ. The man related to the matchmaker was clearly there under duress and one of the other single men slipped out early on, leaving only one man game enough to sing with a roomful of women, some of whom danced.

Near the end, my friend whispered that she’d buy me a glass of wine at our favorite wine bar on the way home if we left right after the last song. So it was that I smiled, charmingly, at the only man left standing as I exited stage left.

We enjoyed the evening, but as a singles mixer, it was a total fail. Just imagine…the people attracted to such an event are predominantly female…and to my observation, the average age was into the sixties. I was the youngest woman there by many years, although the lone male appeared to be in his early forties.

And so it was that I spent a pleasant evening with a very dear friend…and met no one at all. The next question is whether or not I will fill out the matchmaker’s questionaire and put myself in her hands for introductions. Why not?

Find the Joy in the Journey…and Journey with an open heart!