Saturday, December 26, 2009

TV is depressing tonight

There's nothing on.

I can watch "Revolutionary Road" (which I've never seen and know is depressing) or "He's Just Not That Into You" (which I've never seen AND have recorded AND suspect is depressing).

I don't want to watch either, but I can't turn "He's Just Not That Into You" off. But I am SO mad at it.

I mad at Ginnifer Goodwin's character, who tries too hard with guys. I'm mad at those guys because if you say you're going to call, call already. I'm mad at Scarlett Johannsen's character, because she's a homewrecker. (If you know someone is married, they are off limits.)

I'm mad at Ben Affleck's character because he's one of those guys who "does not believe in marriage." Nobody doesn't believe in marriage. It's an excuse for an Out.

But mostly, I'm enormously P.O.'s at Bradley Cooper's character, who has a crush on ScarJo's character even though he's married. And he knows he's attracted to her, knows that he shouldn't pursue any kind of contact with her because it would be detrimental to her marriage, but sees her anyway. Privately. Naked.

I'm only halfway through, but I hate this movie. And I really want to turn it off (except I'm rooting for the Mac guy and Ginnifer Goodwin's character). But it's making me appreciate my husband like crazy.

He called when he said he would. He couldn't wait to introduce me to his family. He brought up the idea of marriage first ... enthusiastically. He tells me how much he loves me on a daily basis.

And we have the same exact idea about infidelity. It's not flirting, or kissing, or talking or sex.

It's anything you wouldn't tell your spouse about.

And the fact that my husband gave me a look like, "Duh, of course that's cheating. What else could it be?" makes me intensely grateful for exchanging vows with a good, good man.

(But I'm still going to watch the movie. I'm just going to pause it every once in awhile so that I can go kiss the guy watching Discovery Channel in the bedroom who has never once made me anxious over his interest.)
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Free Dog



When we adopted Koa, Matt and I were both prepared for years of smooth sailing in the dog ownership department.

I'd only ever had outside dogs that my dad was in charge of. Sure, I had to feed and water them; and I picked up my fair share of poop, but if they ever went to the vet or the groomers, only Dad knows for sure.

Matt had one dog growing up. From the glowing way my dear husband still talks about this long-since-passed Lab, it seems Beau was a combination of Lassie, Benji and Rin Tin Tin.



Koa is adorable, and a very well behaved dog. He doesn't bark, bite or bolt ... the three B's that would surely land him a one-way ticket back to the animal shelter.

But in the four months we've had him, he's had two long-term bouts of intestinal distress (a very messy situation, if you catch my drift), two ear infections (at the same time), one stomach bug and (most recently) a rather smelly encounter with a skunk.

Let me tell you, he's lucky that him's just the cutest-wootest, most precious doggy-oggums that Mommy has ever ever seed! Yes he is! Yes he is!

Otherwise, he'd be in the free dog box for sure.
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Knitting like a sailor

I don't do a lot of gifts.

Over the years, I've had to limit my gift-giving severely, lest it get out of control.

But one gift-giving tradition I insist on (and the hubs doesn't argue with) is knitted blankets for the babies in my life.

I may not be able to knit for everyone (it seems like every few years there is an explosion of babies, and my two hands can only knit so much), but I make it a point to at least get the family members.

So my nephew, Parker, has one of my creations. And his currently-cooking brother or sister will get one, too.

His/hers is an afghan, my first. It's called "Building Blocks," and the idea is that you knit a bunch of small squares, "sew" them together and then knit a border. It's very, very cute.

And very, very life-lessony. I'll tell you why.

There are several geometric figures in the knitted squares. I've done a triangle, a hexagon, and now a circle.

The triangle squares took concentration. They said, "Hey. Focus on your work. The time to play is later."

The hexagonal squares were easy. They said, "Don't forget to enjoy yourself while completing a task. There is nothing wrong with getting in a little gossip or watching 'One Tree Hill' while you're busy getting things done."

The circle squares are a different story altogether. They say, "Nothing less than a red-wire-or-blue-wire level of concentration is required here. Any slight deviation in your attention will result in a knit where a purl should be, or vice-versa. This is a life-or-death situation."

The circle squares (or the 2/3 I've knitted of the first one) have turned me into a sailor. I've used a rainbow of curse words, hurled my work across the room (and sheepishly picked it back up) and turned my back on it for hours.

(I hope none of this is somehow transferable to the baby, through maybe some sort of "Heroes" type gift. He (or she) shouldn't hear that kind of language for many, many years yet.)

I've always imagined myself as a gossipy sort of knitter. In my mind's eye, I fit right in during Civil War America, comfortably knitting and purling away while Scarlett and Melanie discuss the latest exploits of Belle Watling.

But as it turns out, I might fit in more on a whaling ship where men often knit to repair nets and whatnot ... and colorful language was the rule, rather than the exception.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

OK, OK ... I give!

I give up. I'm scheduling Christmas Cookie Extravaganza.

Here's just a smattering of the reasons why:

"If you need to, you can send any extras my way so you aren't tempted," wrote my college roommate on Facebook. "I will take one for the team. I am that kind of friend."

"I've already made two batches this month," a former co-worker practically bragged.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

But the big winner was this post, from the hubs:

"Remember when we spent all that money on that big-ass Kitchen Aid life-saving device?," he wrote, menacingly. "Do you remember what you said as we put it in the cart? Because if you forgot, I'll remind you while my Christmas cookies cool."

That's right. I promised the Kitchen Aid mixer, my wedding gift to myself, would pay for itself in spades during CCE.

I think I promised that I'd be able to make even more cookies than usual with it.

Me and my big mouth.

And soon, me and my big fat tummy, because this year's line up is getting good!

Sugar cookie cutouts
Pecan pie cookies
Whoopie pies
Cranberry White Chocolate cookies
Italian anise shortbread
Walnut ball cookies
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Cookie Extravaganza

I do it every year.

I swear never to do it again every year.

Repeat Sentence No. 1.

When I was little, my grandmother made Christmas cookies. She had a three-tiered tray on which she served them, and I always marveled at all the different kinds. Italian anise shortbread, sugar, chocolate chip, fudge ... and then I moved away, and the multi-cookie noshing stopped.

Three years ago, I realized something.

I can bake.

Moreover, I am a good baker.

So I pored over cookbooks and cookie blogs, looking for recipes to try out. I think my first year looked like this:

Sugar cookies
Cranberry-white-chocolate cookies
Pecan pie cookies
Italian anise cookies

Last year, I decided to kick it up a notch. I went for:
Cranberry white-chocolate cookies
Pecan pie cookies
Italian anise cookies
Chocolate chip cookies
Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

It takes two days to bake all of them, because I use them for Christmas gift for coworkers for both me and the hubs. That entails multiple batches, strategic bagging and storing, and a LOT of paper bags and tissue paper.

I wash untold number of dishes during this extravaganza, and I always regret that at no point in the previous year did I break down and buy the chef's kitchen mat that I always covet ... during Christmas Cookie Extravaganza.

But now Christmas is near. It's about the time of year that I start planning the CCE.

"No," I told myself last week. "Absolutely not. It is exhausting, and nobody needs those cookies this year."

After all, my work has organized its first Secret Santa exchange.

But yesterday, a thought pinged my cookie-shaped brain.

"Mmmm, I could go for a iced sugar cookie right about now."

And today, another one came through.

"We will be Home Alone on Christmas. Wouldn't it be great to have platters of all kinds of Christmas cookies?"

That reminded me that a co-worker gave me this suggestion, if I were to be her Secret Santa: "Don't buy me anything. Just make me more of those Red Velvet Whoopie Pies. That's all I want for Christmas."

I know that the pings are going to come more frequently, and the voices will get louder.

Already I'm mulling over my Dream Team of cookies this year: Cranberry white-chocolate, pecan pie, iced sugar and Italian anise. I know the hubs wolfed down a whole tray of the too-sweet-for-even-me whoopie pies last year.

And it would be very grinch-like not to bring some into the office, right?

These cookies freeze, right?

I'm gaining 10 pounds this month, right?
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

My dog is in love with my husband

It's not a secret in my house, but it's true.

My dog is in love with my husband.

He enjoys my stepson, and he loves me ... he's just not in love with me. He saves that hysterical, over-the-top passion for the hubs, and him alone.

Because Koa is a German Shepherd Dog, he manages to look dignified all the time. Every morning when he hears the hubs' alarm go off, I can hear the jingle-jangle of tags as the dog stretches and rises to greet the object of his affection with a lick.

He'll follow Matt around until he leaves for the gym, at which point it's become Koa's duty to curl up in the armchair closest to the garage door and wait for Lord and Master to come home.

All morning, Matt has a shadow. If he's having breakfast in the kitchen, Koa is lying down, head-on-paws, looking up at him. If he's in the shower, Koa is lying in the hallway, head-on-paws, waiting for him. If he's in the bathroom, Koa doesn't even bother to lay down. It's a dangerous room, with all that swirling water and washing, so Koa just stands at attention, nose pressed to the door, until Matt exits.

When I get up, I walk to the shower unaccompanied. I don't get my morning hello until I'm dressed and in the living room. If I sit on the couch, Koa will trot over and allow me to pet him for a few minutes. I imagine my greeting is something like this:

"Hey, person! Good morning. I hope you slept well. Now if you'll excuse me, HE is walking down the hall and I must follow. But it's lovely to see you."

After Matt leaves for the day, Koa gives a giant sigh and returns to his chair by the door.

"He's gone. Again. Guess I'll just curl up and wait for him."

He doesn't follow me to the kitchen, as I eat my breakfast; or to the bathroom, when I'm putting my makeup on even though I use the very dangerous loud air blowing machine on my fur.

If I make noise reentering the living room, he'll turn his head to look at me.

"Oh. It's you. Hello. I thought it might have been him. Do you know when he's coming back?"

He accepts a quick caress from me when I leave, but then goes back to resting his chin on the arm of the chair.

When I come home about 15 minutes before Matt, I can only assume he hasn't left the chair all day, as I catch him stretching getting out of it. I get a friendly greeting.

"Hey, person! I missed you today! Can we go outside and play? Oh, he's not with you? That's OK, we can play until he gets home, can't we? Aren't you ready to go outside? Aren't you? Aren't you?"

Usually, though, I have to make a quick turn in the house to make sure the dishwasher is unloaded, dishes are put away and the kitchen is clean enough for dinner prep. Koa just lays outside, head on paws, watching me and making sure I can see the whites of his eyes.

"Don't you love me? Why won't you play with me?"

When I'm finished with my chores, I go out and throw the ball around. He runs and fetches, chases and leaps away, and general merriment is had by all. But when the door to the garage opens again, it's a whole different proposition as he drops whatever he's doing to bolt toward his One and Only.

"YOU'RE HOME! I've been waiting for you ALL DAY! I missed you! Did you miss me?! I bet you did! Oh, I love you I love you I love you!!! Come on! Let's go play!! Comeoncomeoncomeoncomeon!!! YOU'RE HOOOOOMMMMEEE!"

And the shadowing continues. If Koa gets stuck outside while Matt is inside, he paces the sliding glass door, following him with his eyes.

If Matt goes outside and Koa is inside, just one small whine will escape his control before he makes the rounds of every door and window in the joint to make sure nothing bad has happened while the trash gets taken out.

Matt walks him after we all eat, and in the meantime I get dinner cleaned up and climb into bed. Every night, without fail, my dignified dog comes straight to me after the walk.

"Hello, person," he seems to say, offering me his neck for a scratch. "I just wanted to make sure you got settled in OK. HE is inside, and I know he's fine. Do you need anything? OK, then. Have a good night's sleep. I'll see you in the morning. Don't worry about HIM, by the way. I've got that covered."
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Whatever happened to class?

I love novels set before the industrial era.

I love to read about Victorians, pioneers, Canadians and vampires.

You wouldn't think those groups have much in common, but oh, they do.

They've all got class.

They don't curse or talk back; they wear long hems and high necklines; they believe in playing outside instead of watching television; and the only vice they have is (maybe) playing cards or dueling for honor. (Sure, vampires are usually murdering fiends, but not the ones I like to read about. Not the protagonists.)

Not. Like. Now.

Maybe I've spent too much time with Anne of Green Gables, the Forsytes, Jo's Boys, the Dashwoods and the Cullens'. (Now that I read that list, maybe I need to spend more time reading fiction for adults.) But I find an era that values modesty, decency and manners refreshing.

So when I'm in my car and I see Monster Truck Guy flip Cadillac Grandma the bird, I want to stop him and shout, in my best shocked tone: "Edward Ferras would NEVER do that!" Usually, that's followed by, "Don't you have a mother?" but that's a different blog entry.

When teenage girls pass me on the street with skirts up to here and necklines down to there, I want to ask them to save something for later, because if you give it all up now you'll have nothing to hold back; and remind them of how Anne made a daisy chain necklace so she'd feel less naked when her gown dipped below her collarbone.

I even find myself wincing at the overly grotesque lyrics of some rap songs, and flipping to the Michael Buble/Marc Broussard playlist on my iPod. After all, I can just feel Jo (March) Baher's disappointed eyes on me when I lend my mind to bitches, pimps and hos. That's valuable brain space, after all.

Does that make me old? Old fashioned? Hopelessly out of date?

Maybe.

But I think it also makes me a pretty nice gal. One who would look good in an era where hats are in style and shock her knitting group by saying, "Oh, darn!"

(That's not to say that I don't shock my husband by littering the floor with F-bombs when I'm feeling saucy. But once again, another story for another blog.)
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Thankful for ... Thanksgiving

As my sister-in-law so delicately pointed out last week, I "suck at being thankful."

Yes, my faithful followers (all two of them) noticed that I didn't exactly meet my goal of posting once a day for 30 days.

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

In my defense, though, I am thankful for a life that is too full to allow me to spend time blogging on the daily.

While I did not have a camera to record this with, I had a fantastic Thanksgiving.

Here's why:
  • For the first time in what seems like forever, I was not getting together with the in-laws for a wedding, shower, party or quick-turnaround-trip. We actually had three days to spend in each others' company, and had a fantastic time!
  • My nephew let me hold him, without crying, for the first time since he was a newborn and sleeping the whole time. He is one cute kid.
  • My sister-in-law and I made a bonding experience of going to Whole Foods to buy a loaf of French bread. We ate 7 different kinds of cheese, and tried three flavors of crackers. All in an attempt to escape the chaos of my home!
  • After about a month of stressing, my Thanksgiving preparation paid off. Everything was prepped and waiting in the fridge the morning of, leaving me ample time to hold said nephew and chit-chat with the girls.
  • My table was awesome. Every dish came out perfectly, or so imperfect it was perfect (mashed potatoes should be lumpy on Thanksgiving!). The rented table held every dish--and guest--delightfully. When I held up my glass of champagne, I was proud.
  • Everything on my table was made from scratch: Stuffing, cranberries, pies. No mixes for me this year! Incidentally, I won't ever buy canned cranberries again. It's too easy to make your own.

So, this being the last day of November, it's time to quit being so darn thankful already!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanful for ... the PMS post

Today, I am thankful for warm blankets.

Cozy socks.

Sue Sylvester from Glee last week.

Chocolate covered raisins.

Wine.

Malted milk balls.

PINK sweatpants.

Oversized t-shirts.

Bubble bath.

The episode of The Office where Pam has her first art exhibit.

Naps.

Cuddly dogs.

Empty couches.

Rainy days off work.

The end of "The Time Traveler's Wife."

Chores that have already been done.

Kleenex.

Twilight (the book, not the time of day).

Marshmallows.

Cheese.

A new issue of InStyle.

Moping for no reason at all.

Crying for no reason at all.

PMS is only enjoyable when everything else in life is going right and wallowing in discomfort, cravings and moodiness is an indulgence instead of an inconvenience.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Thankful for ... organization.

I need Monday this week. I need it to recover from my weekend, during which I went mad and turned my house over, top to bottom.

It started with me needed to get all the junk out of the guest room so my beloved mother-in-law can have a place to rest her head during Thanksgiving week. I'd planned on just taking my junk out and shifting it to my bedroom, clearing a path and a place for a bed.

But just looking at the room where all the things we don't really need go to be forgotten, I was overwhelmed. So it took it all out of the room and started with a blank slate. That's what they say you need to do on Clean House and DIY network, anyway. (The stuff I dismantled and re-mantled included my two bookcases and the hundreds of novels housed therein.)

Four hours later, it was done. I got rid of a desk, an exercise ball, five shoeboxes, four paper bags full of goodies and two Rubbermade containers that stopped opening without protest sometime in 2005. Now it looks like a real room, one that I wouldn't mind moving into. If I wouldn't miss the hubs so much.

On Saturday, we took a family trip to Costco to pick up necessary items above and beyond our usual Saturday (under $100, thankyouverymuch) trip. Matt got a much-needed ladder, we picked up Christmas lights and enough peanut oil to deep-fry our entire Thanksgiving dinner. After that, I stopped at Bed Bath & Beyond to buy out their kitchen organization section, then did the week's grocery shopping at Safeway (London broil was half off!).

No sooner did I think I was home for the day than the hubs convinced me to head to Target to pick up a fire pit. Finally ... it was 4 p.m. and I was ready to get started on the big kitchen remodel! Everything out of the cupboards, useless packets of Shake and Bake thrown away when husband was outside ("Honey, if I knew we had it, I'd use it!" Yeah, right.) and everything back in with new shelves, steps, dividers and Lazy Susans.

But it was only 8 p.m.! So I surveyed my bedroom, host now to all the keeper junk from the guest room. Only one place left to scour: my closet. Out went everything, and out stayed everything while I grabbed my 8 hours.

Bright and early Sunday morning, I declared war on the items in my wardrobe I can never bring myself to get rid of (bye-bye, semi-flattering-sweater-I-only-wear-once-a-year and Doc-Marten-sandals-circa-1998!), forced myself to sort through the tiny items that are too good to throw away but not good enough to use or keep, and put everything back with room to spare!

By then, however, the dog had gotten a bath, so there was the bathroom to clean. And in cleaning the bathroom, I noticed the sad state of the cleaning closet. Which led me to investigate the linen closet. And on Sunday afternoon, the hubs and I despaired at the state of our home. All this organization had left the house disheveled, with piles of trash and recycling everywhere. To the dump! By dinnertime, we'd gone through and cleaned up after ourselves, and sank into bed exhausted (the hubs didn't even make it under the covers before he was snoring away).

But today, with a clean, organized and purged home awaiting, I feel proud and accomplished.

And not a little tired and sore!
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Thankful for ... the marathon post

I'm thankful. I really, really am.

I'm just lousy with follow-through when it comes to the blog! So here's a list of mini-entries to cover the past seven days:

Thankful for ... my husband.

It's sappy. I'm almost kicking myself for going this route, but it's also true. Why, you ask? Let's skip all the mushy stuff and skip straight to the kicker: He makes me a better person.

Without him in my life, I'd still be living the carefree life in Auburn. I'd still be spending beyond my means, I'd still be messing around with strange men and too much booze and the party lifestyle.

I'd never have had a chance to grow up, to become a step-mother, to take a chance and move across the state or to take care of a house. I'd never see myself grow and accept the challenges of a savings account, a monthly budget or another individual.

I'd be 30, I'd be me, but my life would be so very empty. I wouldn't have a quarter of the love and happiness in my life right now.

Thankful for ... my family.

Another go-to! But hear me out: I am a supremely confident woman. Some might say too confident, but to them I say who needs you?

I was blessed to be raised by four parents who taught me valuable lessons:
  • My stepmom taught me that I am an amazing person ... and that there must be something wrong with anyone who doesn't like me.
  • My dad taught me to do the right thing always. There's no excuse for doing anything different.
  • My mom showed me how to present myself to the word, and gave me the tools I need to navigate relationships and business.
  • My stepdad taught me about punk rock, accountability and not living my life for other people.
Pretty vital lessons, all!

Thankful for ... my stepson.

Yep, this is the kid that I never knew I always wanted. He's the closest to motherhood I plan on getting (at this point, anyway) and I'm so grateful to have him! He's funny, sweet, whip-smart and sly (in a good way). He's generally agreeable, sensitive, generous and grateful.

I like to think we have a special bond, and I'm always so excited to see him. It's amazing to have watched him grow from a stumbling toddler to a maturing third-grader. I can't wait for what comes next!

Thankful for ... Hawaii.

In the way that it provided me with the most incredible week of my life. About a week ago, I was walking Koa and randomly struck by an intense homesickness for the condo we stayed in for our honeymoon. It was nothing fancy ... a small timeshare in Kihei on Maui with a foam couch, traditional Hawaiian furnishing, pastel beach scenes on the wall and windows that never quite closed covered with blinds that never quite closed. In the afternoon, the wind would tear through and there was always a strange smell.

But what I wouldn't give to be heading back to that exact condo right now ... or anytime in the future! Even though we had to drive an hour to get where we wanted to go, even though the couch let out a whoof of air every time you sat down ... it was perfect. And I miss it!

I've been on a lot of vacations in my life, but none so perfect as that one!

Thankful for ... girlfriends.

Man, do I ever miss my girlfriends. My closest BFF lives six hours away ... but honestly, if one of them lived right next door it would never be enough.

I challenge you to find something more satisfying than a few hours of conversation with your best girlfriend. You could be in a coffeshop, a living room, a hotel room, wherever. No activity on earth gives me the warm fuzzies like talking to my friends.

Thankful for ... calendars.

Calendars are my favorite thing in the world. I have one on my desk at work, one on my computer, one at home, one on my phone ... and if I could, I'd carry a day planner, too.

There's something enormously comforting about seeing the next year boxed off neatly in black and white.

Thankful for ... Caphalon.

OK, not Caphalon specifically, although there isn't much I don't love about baking cakes and cookies that don't stick! But my kitchen gear is near and dear to me. I love knowing that, if I'm ever bored, I can head to the kitchen and whip up a batch of something wonderful.

For instance, a couple weeks ago I bought four adorable mini-muffin pans from a yard sale, and am feeling compelled to make some mini-pumpkin-muffins and mini-red-velvet-cakes. In fact, my compulsion is so strong that it includes buying a piping bag so that my cupcakes come out as neatly as possible. And so I can make adorable dollops of cream cheese frosting on top.

And last time I was at Costco I saw a flat of condensed milk that I feel should be in my pantry for holiday cookie time ...
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thankful for ... Law & Order

That's right, I'm thankful for a television show. But listen to my reasoning ...

There is some terrible stuff going on in the world today. Every time I turn on the news, it's frustrating and terrifying and disheartening. It's hard for me to believe that people who can, say, stand by and watch a 15-year-old girl get raped exist in the world.

What's worse is that sometimes our justice system seems bound and gagged by its own rules. The bad guys don't always get punished; and the good guys often lose.

But not on Law & Order. I watch the SVU brand (oh, that Det. Stabler!), and yesterday I caught a marathon, including a couple of my favorite episodes. "Slaves" (the girl in the box one) and the one where Det. Munch cries.

The wonderful thing about settling down for a formula drama like L&O:SVU is that all the frustrations I feel watching the evening news are soothed. The bad guys ALWAYS get caught. The good guys ALWAYS triumph. Everything (except for the episode where the college student had the affair with her art instructor) is black-and-white. The actors even take time to patiently explain the background of the episode's issue each week.

It may not be real, but it sure does help me survive the evening news sometimes!

Thanks, Dick Wolf!
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My Skinny Pants Don't Fit

Again!

Here is what happened.

I lost weight for the wedding. Then ate like a pig on the honeymoon. Then started marathon training to lose weight. Then ate whatever I wanted because, hey, marathon training is depleting! Then I ran the marathon ... but didn't stop eating whatever I wanted!

So it's time to check the closet floor and under the bed for the old willpower, and go back to those pre-training healthy eating days. I think I've even narrowed down my problem.

It's snacks.

See, I eat the same breakfast daily: Three egg whites on a whole-wheat pita with a glass of fat-free milk (and some Parmesan cheese for flavor). I even gave up coffee to ditch the added calories.

I don't mind reigning it in for lunch. While the cafeteria at work offers delicious pastas and potatoes, I can make my own low fat soups and bring hummus and veggies and be just as happy. Mostly.

Dinner is a lost cause. I like to enjoy food with the Hubs, and we like our red meat, cream sauces and the like. But that's just one meal a day; and with a good workout it shouldn't matter much.

The snacks, though, get me. We have ready access to muffins, cookies, pie, donuts, cake and candy here at the office. Which is a remarkable coincidence, seeing as my favorite snacks are muffins, cookies, pie, donuts, cake and candy.

So I'm thinking: What happens if I just swear off work snacks until, say, Thanksgiving? Fresh fruit and trail mix from home are far better options, anyway. I wonder if that will make a difference?

I'll let you know!
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Monday, November 9, 2009

Thankful for ... weekends

OK, lame-o, I know. Who doesn't love weekends?

It's just that this past weekend was one I particularly needed. Last week piled one thing after another atop my shoulders until I was near collapse. Friday came at just the right moment.

This weekend happened to be the right kind of weekend to have after such a week. My stepson was over for a visit; my husband and I had (for once) kept on top of all the chores so no massive efforts were required; and there were no obligations to attend to.

The kid and I had arts-and-crafts hour while Dad was at work. We made chocolate chip cookies (he made, I supervised), and we played with the dog. When Dad came home, I left to do the week's grocery shopping while those two yahoos rented "GI Joe" and a Sonic the Hedgehog Wii game.

Dinner was delicious teriyaki chicken quarters and Cesar salad, and then I was free to retire while the boys watched the action-adventure. It was awesome, I was told, because, "There was soo much blood!"

On Sunday, we spent a lazy morning eating cinnamon rolls and reading the newspaper as a family (the youngest member of the family opted for the Target toy catalog) before the Hubs started up the lawnmower, the kid fired up the Wii and I tuned in to the past two weeks on "Modern Family."

Altogether a semi-productive, semi-laid back, quality-time-with-the-whole-family sort of weekend. We didn't go to Disneyland or cure cancer, but we basked in each others company in a wonderful way.

Thank you, weekends like that! You prepare me for the week ahead.
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Thankful for ... forgiveness

I am a Capricorn. So is my husband. Our astrological symbol is the goat, and it couldn't be more appropriate.

We are loyal, we are independent ... we are stubborn.

Sigh. It makes Dr. Phil and good communication a necessity, not a luxury, in our house. We are slow to anger, quick to be defensive, right-fighters and slow to forgive.

I know what you're thinking. What on earth made him propose? Why did she say yes? What makes them think this marriage will work?

In a word: forgiveness.

I'd like to think it doesn't happen often, but a couple weeks ago I flat-out lost my temper. I was stewing over a small inconvenience, and found myself seething, spitting and shouting mad. I got the last word in what became a heated argument, Matt left the room and I immediately deflated.

"Dammit," I sighed, smacking myself on the forehead after realizing that I was very far from Being Right. Then I went after him to whole-heartedly apologize for the whole incident. I had no excuse, I explained, but that I'd lost my temper. I understood how awful it was to bear the brunt of it, and I was really very sorry.

Minutes later, we were laughing about a strange incident from his day.

"I'm glad there's forgiveness in my marriage," I thought to myself that night, grateful for a partner who could accept my (myriad) flaws and move past them.

Last night, the tables were turned. I was angry at something my husband did, and felt myself falling toward that place of stubborn unyielding. And then ... I forgave.

It's been a long, terrible week. But while I could be sitting here angry at my spouse, I just feel love. It's a relief, really, with the frustration that abounds everywhere else around me.

I'm so thankful, still, that there's forgiveness in my marriage. And I'm not ashamed to say that it's my husband who teaches me how to do it.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Just this mile"

Here's the part where you all realize how self-centered I really am.

Over the past few month, I took the opportunity to train for the Nike Women's Half Marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. We met twice a week for workouts: A muscle-crushing two-hour track event on Thursday nights, and eight to 12 mile runs on Saturday mornings.

Plus, I had to raise not a small amount of money in donations for LLS.

Sure, the organization is doing a great thing. Sure, blood cancers are horrific and finding a cure is top-priority. Sure, I was honored to help and inspired to give.

But mostly, I just wanted to get in good enough shape to run a (half) marathon. And I did. I surprised myself with my finish time, and the support of my team and coaches meant the world to me.

I didn't realize how much I appreciate all the training they gave me until I hopped on the treadmill this morning. Since I've reclaimed my Thursday nights and Saturday mornings (despite an open-arm policy for returning to train with the team for the rest of the season), I've been trying to log four miles before work every other day.

Before Team in Training, I'd fire up the treadmill with good intentions, but hop off about halfway through my workout. "That's enough," I'd think. Or, "Eff this" (more often). Or, "Ooh, my shin is starting to hurt. Better stop before I injure myself" (ha ha).

Now, two mantras keep me pushing away until I complete my mileage:

"I did Team in Training. I don't quit halfway though." Then I picture a mentor, or team captain, or teammate and how I'd feel to see the look on their face if I walked off the course before finishing my run. Despite my exhaustion on some (most) of the training runs and track workouts, I had unlimited and unquestioned support from teammates, coaches and mentors--but absolutely no tolerance for quitting. Even when I was close to tears and stumbling over my own feet (or sometimes cursing through muscle aches), I had a kind but iron force pushing me on.

If you do Team in Training, you don't quit. Period.

"Just this mile." That's what got me through my marathon. It was not exactly a mantra from Team in Training, more like something I took from the mentors who slowed their pace to help me through difficult sections of longer runs. "Just run to the tree, then we'll walk," they'd coax. Or, "Walk the uphill, but run the downhill." During Nike, when 13.1 miles were giving me the evil eye, I chose to focus on one mile at a time.

"OK," I told myself time and time again. "You just entered mile five. Just get to mile six. Just this mile. That's it." Lo and behold, I made it to mile 13, saw the finish line and swept across.

Now during my short-and-sweet daily runs, I can recognize that mile 1 might be difficult as I warm up; mile 2 is where my energy is at; mile 3 is "More than halfway there!"; and mile 4 is where I ratchet up the speed every quarter mile to get to the finish line all the faster.

So thank you, Team in Training, for taking me further than I ever expected to go, and teaching me how not to quit.

Thanks Coach Ed and Coach Jay. Thanks, Captains Ana and Brandy. Thanks Mentors Angela, Eileen, Heather and Jax. Thanks, Martha. Thanks Falcons Alanna, Daniel, Kate and Ronda. Thanks Makos Abra, Allison, Angela, Dirk, Laura, Peyton, Stacy and Wendy. Thanks Cheetahs (wahoo!) Amy, Camille, Cathy, Connie, Joanne and Shanell. Thanks honorees Greg and Dr. Suess.

I am more grateful than I can say for the lessons you've all taught me. Go Team!
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When the going gets tough ...

It's easy to be thankful for the blessings in your life when skies are blue and seas are calm.

During those times, you can look around and be overwhelmed by the things you have to be grateful for, from the sun on your back to the extra chocolate chip in your brownie.

But when things aren't so sunny--say, when you just had a fight with your spouse, or when you've spent your last dime with a lot more to pay, or when the Very Important work project fell through--it's harder to play Pollyana and remember to give thanks.

At least, for me it is. My husband is consistently (but kindly) pointing out that as the glass goes, mine tends to be half-empty. I'm that little girl with the little curl. When things are good, they are very, very good. But when something goes bad, everything is horrid. On good days, I defend myself by claiming practicality, which is sort of like saying, "Yes, the glass is half empty--but that means there's room for more."

Then there are days when I know I'm a flat-out pessimist. Just call me Emily the Strange.

So today, when all I wanted to do in the world was to escape my house, I'm thankful for having a job to go to. A really good job. A really good job to go to with great benefits and a solid salary. A really good job with great benefits and a solid salary where the hard work I put in during college and my early career is recognized and appreciated.

These days, if that's not something to be grateful for, I don't know what is.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thankfulness

I'm hoping SugarMamaBakingCo won't mind, but I'm stealing an idea.

After a year that would have turned most of us bitter and angry, Candace has come through. Maybe not at the other end, but with enough perspective to see--or imagine--a light at the end of the tunnel.

She's even spending her November giving thanks. Because we all get lost in our own lives, I think it's a good idea for everyone. So as she's blogging daily about what she has in life to be thankful for, I will too.

I think you should, as well.

With so much to choose from at the beginning of the month, I'll choose to be thankful for inspirations like Candace (who really won't mind me copy-catting her idea now!). Friends, writers, bloggers and others who turn our expectations upside-down; who inspire us to do better, be better or try better; who find the wheat among the chaff, the needles in the haystack and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

This week (aside from Candace) I was inspired by the writer/director/actor Kevin Smith. I went to his Q&A session in San Francisco with my husband just for laughs--he's a hilarious storyteller. I laughed until I cried, until I couldn't breathe, until I thought I was going to pee.

Then he told a serious story. He talked about what happened when Judd Apatow came on the scene and started successfully making movies quite similar to the ones that Kevin Smith is known for.

He talked about asserting his talent in an "I'll-Show-You" movie we all know as "Zach and Miri Make a Porno." He talked about how it felt when the movie didn't meet all those high expectations out there, and how that low point led to an epiphany: That when you're approaching 40 and have had a successful career for 15 years, it's hard to tell sincere stories about 20somethings struggling to pay bills and find themselves.

He told the audience--comprised of hundreds of his biggest fans--that he's not going to do that anymore. That he won't be making those kinds of movies anymore. That he's taking a break from writing his fantastic films until he can find his (new) voice.

Then he made us laugh again. But more so than the belly laughs, I applaud him for standing up and being real. In a world where Jon Gosselin and political scheming dominate, I appreciated someone telling us he tried, he failed, but he's going to keep on trying because that's what he loves to do.

So thanks, Kevin Smith. Thanks, Candace. Thanks, Mr. Ottini. Thanks, Duggar family. Thanks, Michelle Obama. Thanks, Jorge Munoz. Thanks, Coach Ed.

I appreciate the inspiration.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloweenie

I love candy.

I enjoy dressing in different clothes.

I think little kids are adorable.

All these things are true, and yet ... Halloween is not my holiday.

I personally do not enjoy wearing a costume. I am tired of trick-or-treaters after the third doorbell ring. I get annoyed at teenagers who trick-or-treat (seriously, get a job and buy your own candy).

But, since people at my work are remarkably into the holiday (with some amazing costumes to boot), I give it a little effort.

When I say little, I mean little. Three years ago, I bought a pair of velvet devil horns. They attach to the head with velcro, so they look kinda cool with big hair.

Three years ago, I just slapped them on. Two years ago, I wore warm boots, a turtleneck and a down vest with the horns and called myself, "When Hell Freezes Over."

This year, I remembered it was "Halloween" at the last minute and stuck the horns on with my typical casual Friday gear. As I trudged up the stairs to work, it dawned on me.

I'm "The Devil You Know." (Get it ... I look just like me, only with these stupid horns.)

As long as I can find a devil-related phrase next year, I'm good to go!
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why I'll Never Abuse Drugs

A couple weeks ago, I had a minor procedure at my doctor's office. Nothing to write home about, almost a typical one ... except I was prescribed both Vicodin and Lorazepam for both pre- and post-procedure.

I have a pretty high pain tolerance, so I just popped one of each. Then, after reading Web reviews of this particular procedure, I cracked another Vicodin in half and swallowed it, just in case.

Thirty minutes later, as I was whimpering on the exam table, I regretted not finishing off both bottles. My husband drove me home, and sympathetically gave me space as I curled into a ball on his side of the bed (my side was much too far away). By the time I got around to considering clawing my own eyes out to relieve some of the cramping, that dear man came around again.

In one hand, he held a glass of ice-cold water. In the other, two more Vicodin and three more Lorazepam. Wary, I asked him if this was going to do me in, Anna Nicole-style.

"It won't," he said, kindly hiding his laughter. "I promise."

Before I swallowed, I asked him to come in and check on me every 10 minutes. When he dutifully came back the first time, I'd already unwound from the tightly clenched ball of pain I had been.

The second visit, I followed him out to the living room and made ready to eat dinner. He put on "Two and a Half Men," and I started to eat, but something was wrong with the TV.

Every few seconds it would cut out. When it came back on, the story was moved forward.

In an unrelated development, my head suddenly got wobbly.

Next thing I knew, Matt was taking my plate from me and leading me into the bedroom.

"But it's early," I complained. "I'm not tirzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I afford my rock 'n' roll lifestyle. Prescription medications put me to sleep almost immediately.

Don't believe me? Lucky for you, I had a follow-up exam yesterday. Remembering how Beelzebub himself raked his claws through my insides last time, I popped a Vicodin and two Lorazepam in preparation.

Heading to the appointment 20 minutes later, I was feeling good. "I wonder if I can get my regular doctor to prescribe more Lorazepam?" I thought. "It sure beats a glass of wine for relaxation."

In the doctor's office, there were minor fumblings for my pen and my signature was a little sloppy, but not much. However, when I sat down to read a magazine, I couldn't figure out why I was getting carsick. When I was led to the exam room, I closed my eyes for just a second before the doctor came in and I roused myself from my mini-nap.

Hells, yeah. I'm hardcore.

I left for home (one block away) right after, and fell asleep with my work clothes on--right down to my high-heeled shoes--while Matt went outside to grab something for Koa.

It was my night to straighten up, and I did so. Then I fell asleep again when Matt was making dinner. At bedtime, instead of reading for an hour or so and stuffing earplugs in my ear so I wouldn't be disturbed by Matt's TV watching, I snuggled up next to my hubby ... and woke up eight hours later.

That was my trip down the rabbit hole, folks. I think I'll stick with chocolate and pie as my main vices. I just can't handle recommended doses of prescription medication.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Back to balance

So, if you've been following the blog, you may have the impression that all I've been doing for the past three months is running, running, running.

You're right.

While I'm not going to give up the running thing (I've got my eye on some 10K runs in the future), it's time to restore balance to my life.

It's time to take a Saturday and knit the baby blanket I've got about six months left to work on.

It's time to get back in the kitchen and start baking again. Thanks, SugarMamaBakingCo., for responding to my call for a fall-themed recipe.

It's time to stop eating everything I want, anytime; and remember the balance of a healthful diet.

I can't wait for this weekend, when I can put my plan into action.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

After the finish line

I did it. I still can't believe it, but I did it.

I ran the Nike Women's Half Marathon. Not only that, but I finished in 3:08, with an average pace of about 14:30.
To put that in perspective, the longest distance I'd run previously was 12 miles (1.1 mile less than a half-marathon), and I did that in about 3:30 ... that's a 17:30 pace.




This is me finding my name among tens of thousands of other names on the wall at NikeTown.




See? It's there.


At the starting line, looking (and feeling) all perky. It's the last time I'd feel that way for two days.


These signs were "in the middle" of the course. (For me, the course had a definite beginning, a definite finish, and everything else was "in the middle.") They were very inspiring ... as you can see, they were posted on a hill.



This was my favorite sign. I traded another runner photo-for-photo of it.

And by the time I hit this sign, it was perfect. "That Necklace is MINE" was the only phrase that kept repeating in the rhythm my feet made on the pavement.

When people ask me if I had fun, it takes me awhile to formulate my answer.

Was it fun? Not exactly.

What I say is that it was an all-out battle between me and the race course. And I kicked that course's ass. So was it fun? No. Was I victorious? Abso-frickin'-lutely.

Was it worth it? Yes.

Am I doing another one? We'll see.

Do I walk with a distinct swagger now? Oh yeah.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Uncle Walt

Last week, I knew it was time for a vacation.

I hadn't updated my blog in over a month, I was less than enthusiastic about work, and even being home, with the tedium of chores and routine, was more exhausting than exhilerating.

This is not my usual frame of mind. It was time to go away and come back refreshed.

A vacation in New York City with my matron of honor, Bethany, was just what the doctor ordered. Just three days long, but we managed to pack in shopping, museums, wine tasting, a Broadway show and lots of girl time.

I left Saturday night, got home Wednesday night and am already preparing to leave again tomorrow morning. On Sunday, I'll be running the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco.

Yesterday, as I fought jet lag in the shower, I had a stray thought of my high school English teacher, Mrs. Timmons. She introduced us to "Uncle Walt": Walt Whitman. I couldn't get enough--that point in class was like my own personal "Dead Poets Society." I read as much poetry as I could get my hands on, wrote some terribly angst-ridden poems of my own, and memoried just one: "Oh me! Oh life!"

Oh me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless traines of the faithless, of cities fill’d with thefoolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolishthan I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest meintertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring–
What good amid these,O me, O life?
Answer.
That you are here–that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

For me, that's what it's all about. In my most optimistic moments, in my most angst-ridden, I am an attention whore for life.

That the powerful play goes on, and I may contribute a verse.

Thanks, Uncle Walt. I'll try to remember that.
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Friday, September 18, 2009

Change will do you good

As I type this, a new member of the family is watching "Everybody Loves Raymond" with me.

Koa, a three-year-old German Shepherd, joined us last night. We adopted him from the local animal shelter in what seemed like a predestined move. He became available just a week after we'd saved up enough to put up a fence in the back yard, pay adoption fees and buy a whole mess of doggie gear.

I fell in love when I first saw him: He's a beautiful specimen of the breed. But more than that, I was amazed at his calm nature. Despite the dozens of barking, kennel-crazed dogs going mad all around him (and an escaped Pomeranian yipping at his heels), Koa just sniffed around. He is apparently impervious to provocation of the animal variety.

The only time he's barked is when Matt--against my wishes, mind you--tried to get him to jump up on the bed. Koa refused, and barked to rebuke his master for bad behavior. GOOD DOG!

He doesn't bark, he doesn't bite, and he doesn't chew. He doesn't even enjoy his chew toys in the house. He circles the rooms we're in, then finds a cool spot on the tile and lays down, sighing.

Walking him was a breeze. After awhile, I stopped holding the leash ... he just walked calmly beside me.

At bedtime, we discovered his herding instinct. First it was just me in bed, and Koa searched the house for Matt. When Matt got into bed, Koa immediately settled himself on the floor next to me ... until I got up to get some water. He followed me into the kitchen. Then Matt got up to use the bathroom. I swear, Koa heaved a massive sigh, rolled his eyes, got out of his doggie bed and waited by the bathroom door to nudge Matt back into bed.

Despite his excellent behavior, I was a nervous wreck last night. I have an extremely low tolerance for change, you see, and a dog is a pretty big one.

He's doing a great job at assuaging my fears, though. Today, home with me, he apparently sensed that I was the "laid-back dog lady," and adjusted his behavior accordingly. He spent the day sleeping and relaxing, sprawled out on the floor.

When Matt got home, however, he was ready to play. I guess he gets that Matt is the roughhouser in the family.

Pictures to be posted later. In the meantime, I'm going to go back to enjoying this honeymoon period with my new pup!
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bembomade

Last weekend, life handed me lemons.

Literally. We were watching the neighbor's garden, and his lemon tree started producing. We picked the ripe ones and put them in a basket on the counter. I flipped through several recipe books trying to decide what to do with them ... and they remained on the counter.

As my dear husband worked his tail off in the backyard on Sunday, I was struck by inspiration.

Lemonade! Or, as my stepson called it at age 4, "bembomade."

Matt was deftly pruning trees, cutting back plants, raking leaves and mowing the grass, so I heated 2.5 cups of water and 1.5 cups of sugar on the stove and squeezed 1.25 cups of juice from a handful of lemons and one lime (they were not particularly juicy lemons). When the sugar dissolved, I took the mixture off the stove, let it cool and poured in the juice through a strainer, then put the whole shebang in the fridge until my hubby came into the house.

All that was missing was my Donna Reed skirt and pearls as I poured the fresh-squeezed lemonade into an cup filled to the brim with ice.

"Wow," he said, his face contorting. "That's ... that's sure homemade, babe."

He drank the whole glass, but hasn't taken another one. I, on the other hand, love it. The tang makes my cheeks tingle, while the sugar-water covers up the tart nicely.

I love bembomade!
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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bad words

I'm considering something radical.

I'm thinking about not referring to myself as a liberal anymore. Or to my husband as a conservative. In the most broad strokes, painted with an enormous brush, that's what we are--sort of a James Carville/Mary Maitlin situation, but without the civility surrounding politics.

I started thinking after one of our very rare political arguments last night that we have become so attached to those ambiguous labels that they have come to define the A to Z of the person they describe.

I'm pretty sure it doesn't work like that. I think what started out as guiding words have become something even the political parties don't represent anymore.

I'm also fairly certain that the terms "Democrat" and "Republican" have changes so many times over the years that they are useless anymore.

So I'm going to start thinking of myself as a collection of beliefs. They may not all be well thought out beliefs, and I may be more passionate about some than about others, but that's OK. Unless I run for office, I am fine as a work-in-progress.

Here are some of my beliefs:
  1. Discrimination based on gender, race or sexual orientation is wrong. We need to stop justifying bad behavior and creating equality.
  2. We should spend more money on educating the next generation of leaders; and less money killing other countries' next generation of leaders.
  3. Nobody should go without health care.
  4. People should be more self-sufficient, not expecting the government to come in and save them every time they get in trouble.
  5. I should make decisions about myself and my family; not the government.
  6. Family values are a good thing. Dicipline, respect, modesty and faith aren't bad words. Love is not ALL you need!

There are more, but six is enough to start with. Maybe I fall in line more with one ideology than the other, and that's fine. But if the other side has something great to say, I should be able to agree with that, too.

Maybe if open-mindedness were a political asset, we could get more things done in this country.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Classic images from TNT

Because I have no shame, I thought I'd post some of my runnin' pics!

The reason I look so horrified ... is because I'm tired! This is our first practice, and we'd just finished our timed mile. Literally could not fathom running one more foot!



Lunges. In our first Thursday practice, we started the beginning of what will soon be hundreds of lunges. My, how I hate lunges. The next day, I could hardly move.



But ... those lunges must have done some good, because here I am speedin' down the track! Well, I'm probably not speeding, but I am running. And there is a smile on my face. This was at the tail end of a "jet drill," a progression of speed from near-walking to all-out sprinting over 100 yards.

And here is why I'd been doing all that work! The end of my first team run--a four-miler down by the beach.

(There aren't any pictures of me at my next six-mile run ... the first time I actually ran {well, jogged} five miles in a row. There was no living with me that day.)

More lunges! This time I have my dorky blue headband, though, and took it like a man!

Me and the pace-partner I stalk, Joanne. We're good running partners, as you can see by the fact that I'm jogging AND smiling AND attempting to give a thumbs-up to the camerawoman! By now, we're doing four miles on the track at Thursday night training, and the next run is a whopping eight-miler!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Team in Training Update 4

Money raised: $1,860 (just $640 to go!)
Training days: 5
Miles logged: 6

This update will be packed, as I've had two track sessions and a Saturday run since I saw you last!

The big news, though, is that I've managed to kick away my crutch: walking. Yep, I may be awfully slow, but I'm running now. All the way!

It started at last Saturday's six-mile run (intimidating to say the least, as I'd only ever gone four before). I set my brand-new watch to time intervals so I could spent two minutes running and one minute walking. As we start each run in packs based on our pace, I had company. I'd jog ahead of some teammates and run on my own for two minutes, then walk and hear them slowly catch up.

When I made it two miles in, at a water-stop, Coach Jay had a suggestion for me as I tried some electrolyte beverage and beef jerky. Slow down and run with a teammate, Joanne, who would almost catch up to me during my walking minute.

Mentally, I rolled my eyes. Joanne runs the whole time. I can't run! Whatever, Jay. I'll try and you'll see. I'm just not there yet.

So I fell in step beside the two of them. We talked about our progress so far, and the miraculous healing power of ice for my painful shins. And before I knew it, and entire mile had flown by. Not only had I run the whole way, but I talked the whole way too!

What's going on?

I stuck with Joanne like glue that day, and together we finished the course, running the remaining three miles. We talked about our lives, our families, and everything under the sun. The miles just slipped away. One second, we were back at the water-stop. The next, we hit the public restrooms a half-mile from our finish point. Then I was in my car, heading back home.

The rest of the day, I reminded everyone of my accomplishment (mostly just trying to believe it myself). I ran five miles today!

This from the girl who got winded after 3/4 mile on the treadmill just a month ago.

So at last night's track, I tried to repeat the feat. And did! I just ... ran. Not as fast as most of the others, but faster than walking. And every loop I made around the track surprised me. Next one, I'll have to walk, I'd think ... and run around again.

But even I have my limits. When Coach Ed let us know that we'd be dividing into groups based on our paces and doing some running after that, I made it into the "Cheetahs." Ha ha. We were gearing up to do a 1200 (three laps around the track), an 800 (two laps) and a 400 (guess). As distance went down, intensity was supposed to go up.

I felt confident in my 1200.

I felt tired in my 800.

In my 400, I felt like my lungs were going to bounce out of my chest. I had to stop and walk. At the end, Coach Ed let us in on a surprise: Another 400! This time, Mentor Jackie ran with me. As I gasped for air, she talked and laughed ... then had the audacity to challenge me to run a little faster in the home stretch. Just the last bit of track.

That. Was. Enough.

"I don't have any more!" I burst out, petulantly. And what did she do? Ran ahead of me!

There was nothing for me to do but catch up. She coaxed that little bit extra out ... it was awesome. Track was done. I could go home to my couch and ice my aching shins, eat the pizza that my hubby had waiting for me, and enjoy a nice hot bath and glass of wine before bed.
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Sisters

At home, I am the talker. I am the storyteller. My husband is generally happy to let me run my mouth and test my vocabulary anytime ... so long as I'm not interrupting one of his Discovery Channel shows.

Consequently, I refine my anecdotes and add to my blog.

However, there is one exception to that rule: When my sister (from Seattle) comes to visit. Somehow, when we're together, I fall back into listening mode. Maybe it's because she talks. A lot.

In fact, as a little girl, she talked so much and was so eager to get the next sentence out that she developed a stutter.

I fought this as a child. There are home videos that show me putting on Christmas plays and Thanksgiving concerts ... determinedly singing my heart out as my pest of a toddling sister lisped and stuttered her way into the camera frame. These same videos show me very professionally not breaking eye contact with the camera as I shove her offstage.

Now, though, I love that she's a talker. We gab through the evening, and when I'm done gabbing, she takes over for the both of us. I love that there's no filter between her and I; that she feels comfortable enough around me to talk about anything (and everything).

I joked with her this past weekend that if she's forced to watch a television show she's not familiar with, she talks through it. And if you watch one of her favorite shows with her, she'll talk you through that one, too.

We spent the weekend watching old "Gilmore Girls" DVDs, appropriately enough. We claim to be Lorelai (me) and Rory (her), but mostly we identify with the chatty women onscreen.

The downside to all this yakkity-yakking is that I don't get a chance to test my vocabulary, tell my stories and refine my anecdotes. So the blogging shifts to the wayside as I open my ears and try to take in everything my sister is telling me.

Now, with her visit over and just my husband to fill the enormous silence, I'm drifting back to my old ways. Nice to see you all again!
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Team in Training Update 3

Money Raised: Somewhere around $1,200
Days of training: 3
Miles logged: 4

Today, three things happened: I ran four miles. Outside. Without my iPod.

Well, four: I survived.

OK, five: And wanted more.

Today was the third Team in Training workout this season, and that's what we did. We ran. Some went four miles, most went six. For me, it wasn't the first time I completed a four-mile run; I was doing those at the gym in July to prepare for TNT.

It was, however, the first time I've run outside, with other people and, as aforementioned, without my iPod.

My iPod is my running crutch. It motivates me (try avoiding a burst of speed when Destiny's Child is shrieking, "I'm a SURVIVOR, I'm gonna MAKE IT" in your ears); distracts me (it's hard to pay attention to splintering shins and aching lungs when you're flipping through Maroon 5 and P!NK to get to Long Beach Dub All Stars); and times me (confession: When I say "run," I mean "jog/walk intervals"). Without it, I had to rely on ... myself.

It was exhilarating to jog past my own expectations, and set a new bar for myself. It was frustrating to have to stop and walk as often and for as long as I did. It was wild to run to a cheering finish line. It was surprising to have stopped and wished I'd have pushed myself to run more than I walked.

It was unnerving to start looking forward to next Saturday's run within minutes of finishing this one.

The best part was the pride I wore like a badge all day today.

"What's up, fellow drivers. I just ran four miles. I'll run further next week."

"That's right, Safeway check-out lady. I ran four miles this morning. I'm doin' it again next week."

"Costco Sample Guy, you can't tempt me with your mayonnaise salad today. I'm in training. Four miles today."

And to you, much-beloved readers. Today, you are not as cool as me. Today, I ran four miles.

But I still love you.
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Monday, August 3, 2009

Wanda's Pretty on the Inside

I have a tree full of ripe apples in my backyard.

I also have a $2,000 fundraising deficit to fill.

Putting those two ideas together, I invited a friend over on Sunday to help me make some apple pies and apple butter for a Team in Training bake sale fundraiser. She had the apple butter recipe, and I was to crank out as many pies as I can.

As we were working (she, peeling, coring and slicing; me, rolling out crust after crust), we chatted and shared stories. She asked me how Team in Training was going, and I told her.

Then there was a heavy pause.

"You know my mom has myeloma, right?" she asked quietly.

Myeloma is a blood cancer included in the far-too-many blood cancers that The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fights through patient support and research. Therefore, it's one of the blights I'm raising money (and running) to help.

I asked her mom's name. "Wanda," she told me.

"Then we'll call these 'Wanda Pies'," I decided.

But my crusts were not behaving well, and required a lot of patchwork fixes. The top crusts looked battered, and the edges ... I'd rather not claim them. "Rustic" was the word my friend used. I called them ugly, and noted that they wouldn't be winning any beauty contests.

"We'll call them 'Wanda's Pretty on the Inside Pies'," I joked. And the name stuck.

The name works on another level. As my friend's mother's cancer progresses, getting around is becoming a little bit more difficult. She's become self-conscious about needing more help to get around. While her appearance hasn't changed and her daughters still find her beautiful, her perception has.

I imagine that, like my pies, Wanda is also pretty on the inside. So the name sticks.

If you'd like to support people like Wanda without buying a pie, please visit http://pages.teamintraining.org/sj/nikesf09/smillergl9. No amount is too small to help.
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Team in Training Update 2

Money Raised: $460
Days of Training: 1
Lesson learned: Don't run in old shoes! Just don't do it! Everything they say is right!

We had our first Team in Training group workout on Saturday morning. I didn't think I was nervous about it until I carefully laid my clothes out the night before. And double-checked my shoes. And loaded my iPod with a whole slate of new songs.

And went to bed with butterflies. "What if no one likes me?" I whined to Matt, snuggling up pitifully at bedtime.

"They probably won't," he teased, deadpan, not taking his eyes off the television.

But everyone was very friendly, and very supportive through the workout! We ran some laps, did some stretching, a few exercises for this and that, then a timed mile (mine: 12:34) and a run/walk clinic.

Three hours later, after a mini-buffet and a chance to meet our honorees (individuals on our team with a blood cancer), I left with a spring in my step, ready to greet the day.

Somewhere between the track and my front door, that spring turned into dead weight. I crawled to the shower, crept to the couch and--much later--limped my way through the grocery store. After lunch, I waved my white flag, set up the hammock and crashed until dinner.

Which I ravenously devoured.

So maybe I was tired. Maybe I was sore. Maybe I still don't like to pick things up after I drop them on the floor.

But I'm still ready for the next training! Go team!
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Husband

Now that I am married, my life is a partnership, right? We collectively pool our strengths to cover our individual weaknesses, correct?

So ... if I still only check my rosemary plant weekly, but Matt joyfully spends his free time tending to the Little Garden That Could, does that mean I can once again give up on the whole "green thumb" idea?

This guy has taken to having a yard to care for like a duck to water. He can't get enough of it! And it makes him happy to see things grow. Do two of us really need to take responsibility for all the plants in our life?

And while I'm on the subject, let me brag on my husband a little bit more:

A few weeks ago, we decided to switch duties: I was to take over the household budget. I was intimidated. Matt hates it so; and I've never been able to accurately balance a checkbook. But with the spreadsheet he's worked up, it's been fun! I think it speaks to the organizer in me (some would say "control freak." But some can just shut up!). And yes, everything balances.

So while I was concentrating on the budget on Saturday, Matt was flitting about the house. He'd mentioned something about doing laundry, but I had a bit of a tangle in the ATM-fee category to deal with. By the time I looked up, a couple hours later, something was different ...

The house was clean. And swept. And vacuumed.

Even the front bathroom was spotless.

He'd done all the chores while I was doing the budget. I couldn't believe it. Without much to do, I sat back down to address some envelopes for Team in Training fundraising while he sped off to Home Depot (a just reward).

When he came back, I was once again deep in busywork. Once I was done, though, I looked out in the backyard to see him putting the finishing touches on ... a hammock! We've had one for years, and only recently had a backyard to put it in. I'd begun asking him about where it would go, but never really planned on having it up.

But there it was! On a perfect, sunny, 75-degree summer day, even! As soon as the last rope was secured, I scrambled to get two old throw pillows and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." I threw myself into the hammock and only got up to pour a bowl of cherries for a snack.

As I rocked, read, and spit cherry pits in the lawn I could hear Matt inside, finally resting and playing "MarioKart: Wii."

It was a good day. With my favorite husband.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Team in Training Update 1

Money Raised: $330 (13 percent of goal)
Days of training: 0
Miles run in one session: 3.5

Sunday morning, I decided to issue myself a challenge. Do six miles on the treadmill, however long it takes. See if it can be done.

Six miles, you see, is what the Team in Training running coach said we'd be doing Aug. 1, during our first session at the track.

By slowing down my running speed, and doing 2:1 intervals (two minutes of running and one minute of walking--although you'd call it more jogging/walking for me!), I made it 45 minutes and just over 3.5 miles before calling it a day.

No, I didn't make it to six miles. But I got past 2.5, which was the most I could do last week before nearly collapsing on the treadmill. I pushed past the 20-minute mark, which is generally my cue to move on to something more interesting, like breakfast and "16 and Pregnant."

So while I didn't make my goal, and am still miles away from feeling prepared for my first session with the team, I couldn't have been prouder of myself on Sunday.

As a bonus, the treadmill said I burned my way through 500 calories. So maybe this will help me with a couple other goals as well!
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Yes, We Have No Bananas

Because I used every last one of them!

Ever since I moved out on my own and baked my first loaf of banana bread, I hate to see bananas go to waste. Those uneaten, browning pieces of fruit stab me with guilt every time I pass them and choose NOT to bake a loaf of something or other.

Already this summer I've had to toss out at least eight bananas. Yesterday, when I saw four sitting in the fruit basket on the counter, I pushed up my sleeves and muttered, "Not today!"

First, I dragged over the July issue of Cooking Light magazine, and threw together a batch of their Banana-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. I'll take them to work, I reasoned, knowing that Matt doesn't like his food messed with.

Ingredients
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
5.6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray
*I added a large handful of coconut flakes to the batter, too. Yum!

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add egg; beat well.
3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to banana mixture in bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
4. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until golden. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.
Lo and behold, they smelled so good while baking that Matt grabbed one as soon as they were out of the oven. He raved about how delicious they were! Long story short, I've only got about a dozen left, and I'm pretty sure they're all spoken for.
With three bananas left, I had no option but to bake some bread. So I visited Sugar Mama Baking Co. for a recipe, and she didn't let me down! Click here for her banana bread recipe, and be sure to have it handy the next time you have leftover bananas.
It took me less than 10 minutes to get from assembling the ingredients to putting the pan into the oven. I was finished before I even realized what was happening--not bad for someone who'd already spent a couple hours baking cookies. At Sugar Mama's suggestion, I pulled the loaf out about 10 minute before it was finished and covered it was dabs of butter for an extra-crispy crust.
The added bonus of that move was that the crack in the top of the loaf was saturated with butter, giving the bread an extra-moist stripe down the middle. The bad part was that I used salted butter, which added an unexpected flavor that still couldn't diminish the delicious taste of the bread!
Matt accepted the slice I gave him--much more interested in the cookies--tasted it, and immediately cut himself four more. And ate half of mine that I left on my plate, conquered by crock-pot chili at dinnertime. About every second bite, he raved over how good the bread was.
I have one lonely banana left. Let's see what happens tonight.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I love Logan!

Is it possible to love a kid you've never met?

A friend of mine from college has a little boy named Logan, and a blog. Her posts about Logan's adventures make me laugh out loud, and I always pass them on.

So, dear readers, check this out!

Adventures of Logan: What CAN You Do On a Bus (That Won't Give You Cancer)?
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Team in Training

This weekend, I did something totally out of character.

I signed up to run a half-marathon. But in case that's not enough of a personal challenge to take on, I'll be running it with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training, and fundraising $2,500 to boot.

Basically, I'm committed to doing two things I don't enjoy: Running, and asking people for money.

The strange thing is, I'm excited about it. I have this feeling that I can run 13.1 miles, but currently my mind and body get in the way. I also think that $2,500 spread around 50 or so people, a handful of fundraisers and a couple corporations isn't such a terrible thing.

This morning, I decided to get a jump start on the coaching and training that begins Aug. 1. I hopped on the treadmill and started doing 2:1 intervals. After 20 minutes and less than 2.5 miles, I hit the emergency stop button and flopped over, panting.

This is not going to be easy.

But I keep thinking of how nobody expects me to do this. When I texted some family members and close friends about my decision, there was a heavy note of surprise along with the support and encouragement. A good friend suggested that hell may be freezing over.

I told my husband over the phone, and while I know he believes that I can do anything, I'm sure my announcement raised an eyebrow or two.

So I think about changing people's perceptions of me; and of changing my own perception too. I think about how I'll feel during training when I can run for 20, 40, 60 minutes without collapsing. How it will be to run by friends and family cheering on my accomplishment.

And I think about what might run through my mind when I cross the first finish line of my life.

To show your support, please visit my Team in Training Web site at http://pages.teamintraining.org/sj/nikesf09/smillergl9.
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Matt's Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a confession to make.
"Matt's Chocolate Chip Cookies" aren't exactly unique. Like Phoebe, the recipe was handed down to me by my Swedish aunt, Nestle Tollhouse.

Yep, they're just the plain-Jane chocolate chippers from the back of the yellow bag.

Truly, my husband and I are not a match made in heaven. Ask me for pancakes, and you'll get a delicious batch with cinnamon swirls, vanilla flavoring and berries baked right in. When I make cookies, I melt the butter before mixing with the flour, use unusual ingredients and make them as giant, soft and chewy as they can get.

When Matt wants pancakes, however, he prefers the no-frills version. When he wants cookies, he'll beg me to color inside the lines ... just use the Tollhouse recipe and nobody gets hurt. And while I'm always disappointed at how flat and uninspiring the Tollhouse cookies invariably turn out, he will rave for hours about them. A batch doesn't last long at the Miller house!

For those of you who aren't familiar with them, here's the recipe.

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
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Pineapple-Upside-Down goodness

Pineapple-Upside-Down-Cake is the mother of all diet busters.

It's sinfully delicious, deceptively easy and unbelievably inexpensive to make.

I added the ingredients to my grocery shopping list on Saturday, and left them out on the counter: five things. I had to buy flaked coconut, two types of canned pineapple (crushed and ring), maraschino cherries and a yellow cake mix.

It took all of about 15 minutes to put the cake together (using the recipe for the layer cake here). After 45 minutes in the oven and some cooling time, it was done.

As it was my first layer cake, I had to figure out a way to even out the bottom of the layers (which, in this case, were at the top of the pan). Not too easy with an 8" pan! Eventually, I made a slice with a small kitchen knife and used dental floss to shave off the peaks ... which Matt gobbled up immediately.

Then it was just a matter of not breaking the cakes in half while I layered them. The first layer--with crushed pineapple only--went down on the platter, no problem. The second, however, was when I realized that now I not only have to not break the cake, but get it centered, too! But it worked fine, and I cut around the cake to make sure everything was symmetrical (plus, then I had scraps of gooey goodness to enjoy!).

After his first bite, Matt pointed to the cake with his fork.

"Is is eye ext ufmfay ake," he said rapturously, through a mouthful of cake.

I said no problem. Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake can certainly be my dear hubby's next birthday cake.

I left him working from home today with two slices left in the fridge. Any bets on how many are left when I come home today?
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