Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Learning Curve

So, its been one month since my last post, and I feel pretty badly about it. Its not that I didn't want to blog or update my three followers on what's up, but I just haven't been able to (wait for it...wait....) find the time (...and there it is!).

One thing I've always strived to do is keep this blog positive, and to make any messages I put out upbeat. Sure, I'll bet that if I looked through the archives I'd find crabby rants, but people, believe me: everything comes from a place of love. That is not sunshine that just got blown up your ass; its truth.

Anyway, so I've been doing some serious searching lately for myself, looking at self-help books, checking my state of mind out through various avenues, blah blah blah quest for new knowledge blah blah blah meaning of life blah blah blah. Is it my age? Is it some sign from the cosmos that comes with parenting? I dunno. I have just felt so unfulfilled lately, and am trying to analyze every last corner, nook, and cranny in my life. And I have learned some Very Important Things. Bear with me if you've heard these before, and if they are new to you, please, take them to heart and know (yet again) that this comes from a place of love (okay, okay, maybe with a bit of sarcasm, too).

Very Important Things

1. According to the picture accompanying this post, you should make lemonade when life hands you lemons. I will only modify this to say that if you have vodka on hand, add this to the lemonade (that's the sarcasm one).

2. "The Serenity Prayer" that my grandmother had on her dining room wall and that countless people have memorized is a good one. Although I'm not 100% sure about Christianity, I'm okay with referencing The Big Guy here: God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

3. People come in to your life for a reason or a season; embrace the inevitability of change.

4. MYOB. Honestly, just do it. Make your business your priority, and leave everyone else's stuff alone. Its not just a Very Important Thing, its good manners. If it happened to or is about Tammy or Donna, and Tammy or Donna wants you to know about it, Tammy or Donna will tell you.

5. And speaking of manners, put yours in your pocket every time you leave home so they are always with you. Good manners can carry you a long way from home.

6. From my mother: Wear your smile, too. It's your best accessory.

7. You can only kill the Neighborly Neigh-Sayers and Negative Nellies with kindness for so long before you just have to open up that six-pack of whoop ass and let loose. Just don't make it your go-to move.

8. I don't care what your IQ is, where you went to grad school, or that you have a doctorate in the study of quantum physics: you need to learn to do your own cooking, cleaning, and laundry. The mastering of those so-called menial tasks says more to me about a person than any framed sheepskin on the wall.

9. If its important to you, its important. Don't let anyone tell you its not. Like your bed made with hospital corners? Toilet paper rolls off the top only? Pets are okay only if they aren't yours? Project Runway is more important than Meet The Press ? Whatever it is, own it, embrace it, celebrate it.

10. I can't think of another right now, I just like lists to have 10 items.

Have a great week, everyone.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

For Megs- My Autobiography, Condensed

Above photo: Me, circa August 1988, about 18 months before the end of my time living in Kewanee, IL.

I got an email from Megs the other day asking for my recollections of childhood in Kewanee, IL. While I have many memories from childhood, I think mine was always a race to get to the next thing. Let me explain.

We moved to Kewanee after my 2nd Grade year. My youngest sibling at the time was Katie, and my mom would soon be pregnant with my sister, Abbie. My childhood up until this point was spent in the LaSalle-Peru area of Illinois; my childhood was marked by new babies and new houses; my childhood was constantly in motion. I think knowing this helps explain my comfort with being occupied at all times, and my awkwardness with "down time."

My running reflects this upbringing in that I'm always training, always in motion, struggling to enjoy the moment of the "now" because I've already moved on to the Next Thing on the List. My career/current job also falls in line with this (Dinner for 250+ people, activities and prizes? OK!). Enough analyzation, let's get to the memory portion!

For Megs

1. What was life like when you moved to Kewanee (not because of the move, just life in general, at that stage in life)? Well, I had just finished 2nd Grade at St. Patrick's Catholic Grade School. The prettiest dress I owned was my First Communion dress, which I later wore for a family portrait when we moved to Kewanee. My best friends were Elizabeth Janz, Jenny Bichl, and maybe Missy Marchesi, but I also remember Kim Gergovich (which I think is a cool name), Joey Reardon (because we were the first kids in line to First Communion- both short!), and Eric Duchaine. I remember living down the street from the new kindergarten teacher, Miss Kasperski, and she still lived at home with her parents and siblings. I remember Saturday mornings marked by watching cartoons on television, eating donuts from The Baker's Dozen bakery (right next to D'Angelo's Salon, across from the Westclox factory), or sometimes we would have the frozen glazed donuts (which tasted exactly like fresh Krispy Kreme donuts, I swear). I was pretty happy, I think.

2. What were your reactions to the house, the town? Had you ever been to Kewanee or heard of it? I remember driving to Kewanee for the first time with my mom and visiting the house before we moved in. We met the old woman who was selling the home, and got a tour. It was very much an "old lady" home at the time, with lots of knick knacks and strange smells. I remember having to dress up for the trip, and I don't remember any other kids with us, except for maybe Katie, who was the baby at the time. The house, I thought, was too big, cavernous. I had never heard of Kewanee before we moved there, but plenty of people knew LaSalle-Peru. And I was only 8, so my traveling was limited to wherever my parents took me. I remember moving day, and arriving at the house to absolutely every aunt and uncle we had- plus all four grandparents- moving things around, carrying boxes, making a huge pot of chili in the kitchen (which at the time had this awesome red wallpaper and a red telephone with rotary dial), running through the halls under people's feet, getting lost and having to back-track (The upstairs was an apartment when we moved in, and the hallway was blocked. There was a wall just past what was my high school bedroom, right next to mom & dad's room, and so that far end of the hallway- from the hall closet to the bathroom- was inaccessible from the front stairway). Total chaos from Day One.

3. Was the transition difficult? Did you share your feelings with parents/siblings? For me, no on all counts. If I had to guess, I'd say that Eric and Lisa would have had more reason to be pissed than I would have, especially Eric, who came to Visitation School in 8th Grade. Adolescent awkwardness! Lisa and me, I think, assimilated pretty easily. I think having so many younger sibling diverted my attention from missing anything. Plus, by this point, I was used to the constant motion of my life, and had learned to not attach feeling to anything/anyone, since experience had shown that there was a good chance that things could change in short order.

4. What feelings did you keep from parents? Many times growing up- and especially as the number of siblings increased- I would secretly wish to be an only child, or to have not so many siblings. Remember that episode of "The Brady Bunch" where Jan wished she was an only child? I related to that, the feeling that there was too much going on around me to feel like an individual, the feeling that I would always/only be identified as part of a group. I also hated the fact that I had to wear glasses, and I remember several times coming home from school, sobbing, and throwing my glasses against my bedroom wall because I was convinced that I was going blind.

5. How do you see living in Kewanee, growing up in Kewanee, as a part of your life? What did living in Kewanee then mean to your life now? I see my time in Kewanee as another transitional phase: another stop on the journey, and never thought of it as permanent home. I only lived there for (maybe) 10 years before leaving. I have lived longer in Escanaba than anywhere else in my life, and even now I don't consider this permanent. A part of me thinks that finding comfort in a location, whether that be a state, town, or dwelling, is a sign of complacency, which in turn would breed contempt. I think a person needs to travel in order to become who they were always meant to be. Travel=education=evolution. I'm still testing that theory out, though.

Living in Kewanee for those years only reaffirmed my earlier life, and my life today. That is, it was a base, it was a place to be at that moment, on your way to the next place. It was, for me, never meant to be a permanent place. The constant motion I remember from early childhood has followed me to this day. I love to travel, to explore, to learn new things. Kewanee's options were exhausted early on for me- it was never a place I ever wanted to return to. "Life" was always somewhere else, and it was always the exact opposite of where I was.

And that, dear readers, is your glimpse into my world.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My First Love: Fashion

Yes, friends, its true. Fashion has always been my first love. I remember clothing from my childhood, remember favorite outfits, favorite dresses, favorite hand-me-downs. That's me, age 4, and the caption on the back of the photo reads "Birthday dress from Daddy" in my mother's unmistakable script. My earliest memory of fashion is probably when my family lived in Brownsville, TX. I remember sitting on a chair in our living room, looking at these beautiful stamps I found. They were Christmas Seals with very ornate pictures of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in rich blues, deep reds, and gold. I decided that they would look best...on my legs. Rip, lick, attach, repeat. Improvised textured tights at age 3!

Other highlights from my childhood include thinking about how genius Garanimals were and thinking that the "L" and "R" on my tennies were for "Lisa" and "Rachel," not left and right. I liked dressing in the same clothes as my sister, like we were twins. See?

Even at such a young age, I could appreciate the classical nuances of a nautical-themed outfit. I remember one dress in particular that I absolutely hated. I was in first or second grade, and my mother asked me to try on a dress. I balked, scrunched up my face and refused. It was ugly, I said. Just try it on, begged my mother. I relented, and hated it even more. My mother gushed at how "smart" I looked. This dress was a drop-waisted number with long sleeves, bib collar, and the skirt was pleated. It was done up in a brown, pea green, and burnt orange paisley. Yes, this was ca. 1978. I took the thing off as fast as I could, and probably cried when my mother told me I'd be wearing it for my school pictures. What?! Not. Happy. At. All. When I look at that picture now, I see the beginnings of a very good actress.

Why all this talk about fashion, dear readers? Well, last night's Project Runway episode left so much to be desired. Boring boring boring! Nothing exciting or new. Plus, I'm still a bit pissy that Icky Nicolas won last week's challenge. I'd like him to go away now, please.

So I've been catching up on the Spring runway shows in Milan via the New York Times and Cathy Horyn, and must say that I am in love with Bottega Veneta's collection. And that led me to a blog I've heard of and visited in the past, but never really followed. Well, that's all changed now! Please get your daily fashion fix at The Sartorialist. Its worth the time, promise.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Monday, September 28, 2009

B & B Club, Revisited

"B & B" Club? Well, back in the day, My Favorite Redhead, Becks and I had a book club. There were good books, good friends (more than just Red and Becks), and good drinks. Hence the moniker "Booze & Books." Please note the order of the wording: booze first. Anyhoo, things happened, gals moved around, lives got busy, and B & B was pushed to the back burner.

Until now. About six weeks ago, Red decided that we should resurrect the Club. Me and Becks were in agreement, and more fabulous women were invited to read the first book of the newly reincarnated "B & B" Club: The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich .

Red went to the local bookstore and when she told the clerk that she needed the book for her book club, the clerk told her about the discount offered to local book clubs who register at the store. Sweet! Which brings me back to the naming of the club. "Booze & Books" does not sound like the type of club for dentists' wives, youth program directors, community corrections directors, catch my drift? And so it was shortened- abbreviated- to "B & B." And then when we found out that Becks is expecting (!!!), well, our minds just shot off hundreds of new word combinations that the two Bs could stand for. Bottles & Babies, Boobs & Boo-tay, Bruschetta & Bon Bons...I could go on.

And so it is that the re-formed B & B Club will have its first meeting in just three short weeks. I've already finished the book (amazing!), and am now in the menu-planning stages, since the meeting will be here at my house. Gourmet pizzas okay with everyone? Good.

Other news? Well, I ran the Quad Cities Marathon yesterday, and for the first race in a loooonnnnggg tiiiimmmmeee I developed nasty blisters. One on my back ankle about the size of a half dollar, and one on the inside ball of each foot. Ouch. So, the time I was aiming for (about 4:45) was seriously thwarted, and I finished instead in about 5:21. Greatly discouraged, yes; taking a break, yes; planning my next marathon already, yes.

New favorite quotes:
"Fall seven times and stand up eight." - Japanese Proverb

"It's hard to beat a person who never gives up." - Babe Ruth

Have a great week.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Farewell, Summer

So, the first week of school happened while I was in Denver for a work-related conference. No biggie, right? Well, except for Daughter #1 getting side-swiped in the car on her way to school (and whomever hit her decided to leave the scene...), all was well.  I'm surprised at how quickly and effortlessly my family fell back into their school year routines- Fall already! It seems like just last week that I was still tapping my foot and checking my watch, wondering why Summer hadn't shown up yet.  And so, in the wake of Summer's end, I present to you another installment of my "From The Editor" article, originally published in my running club's newsletter, circa September-October 2008, and re-worked for this venue.  Enjoy!

The other night, I put a quilt on my bed. Why does this matter? Well, because it was August when I wrote this, it was August that other night when I put the quilt on my bed, and as we all know, August is the month of Summer that is hot, sticky, sweltering, and most definitely un-quilt-ish.  So why the quilt? And why the following story?

Some of you get it already, and some of you have clicked away from this page.  Here it is:  Summer is over.

My heart broke as I wrote those words.  I love Summer unapologetically; I cast all affection to the season, caring not how the other seasons feel.  Spring may tease with its sporadic 70-degree days, and Fall may try to trick us into thinking there's sunshine, what with its flame-hued leaves and such.  Winter doesn't even try anymore- the cool blue and grey tones of the days are only fleetingly interrupted with glaring sunshine, momentarily making us Northern-dwelling folks forgo toques and gloves for a day.  But it is Summer days- the entire length of them- that I enjoy.

This Summer (as in the Summers of the past two years) I thought for sure that I would be able to languish at the beach with a blanket and a good book.  Work had other ideas for me.  My (Never-Ending) kitchen renovation and new patio had other ideas for me.  My family had other ideas for me.

Work renovation shopping laundry sleep patio work family vacuuming driving bargain hunting kids marathon stop to eat something anything renovation concrete splatter those bunnies are still here?

And that was just the first week of June.  I've never been very good at allowing myself to relax and slow down, even when I know I'll crash hard.  I had every intention of carving out a few hours for myself for unscheduled, unstructured alone time.  Well, we all know that saying about the path and how it is paved...

So I settled into a routine at work, Mr. Fix settled into a routine with the renovation and new patio, and Daughters #1 and #2 kept up their Summer tradition of eating breakfast at noon.  It wasn't until the summer program I run at work was complete that I realized I hadn't used any vacation days.  Not.  Even.  One.

At this point, I know I need to get away and relax, focus on nothing but whatever I like.  I know that my reward for (finally) indulging in some "Me Time" will be a sense of renewal and eagerness that has somehow slipped away with the days of June, July and August.  Is this what most people know as "revitalization of the spirit?" Today I am ready to face the start of another school year, another Fall marathon, and another Winter of cold cold cold cold cold!

And, maybe more importantly, I'm ready to accept that my "blanket and good book" meant for the beach are going to be my "quilt and good book" in my bed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pencils? Notebooks? Lunch Money?

Check, check, and check. Today marks the first day of school for the Fix Family. YAY! While Mr. Fix and Daughters #1 & #2 make their way into their (not really) new daily routines, I am spending the day in airports. Yep, off to Denver for a conference.

Do you remember your very first day of school? I remember a few details: St. Patrick's Catholic School in LaSalle, IL; the kindergarten classroom was on the lower level of the building, with easy access to the playground; I remember asking my mom why some of the other kids were crying; the rest is a blur. I've always loved school. What's not to love about learning something new? Sure, you have to learn to take the good (art class, reading) with the bad (U.S. History, math concepts like "negative infinity"), but ultimately you learn something new every day.

I went from St. Pat's to Visitation School in Kewanee, IL, where not only was the location and scenery new, but so was the fact that we had to wear uniforms. And they were ugly, too. Royal blue, black and white plaid jumpers (or skirts, once you reached junior high). White, light blue, or even pale yellow blouses were allowed, and eventually we were allowed polo shirts instead. No pants for girls, except in Winter, and even then they had to be under our skirts. So ugly, such a horrible exercise in removing the individuality of youth. Did I hate wearing a uniform? YES. Would I ever consider sending my child to a school with uniforms? NEVER. Can I see the logic and convenience of uniforms? Kind of- I get the "convenient" part, and I get the whole "part of a group" thing. I just don't buy into it. If the message of the group is strong enough, it should survive and thrive while in cute clothes, no?

But I digress from the whole "first day" thing. No butterflies. A sense of excitement, maybe, but it has to do with the return to a routine, the sense of familiarity, a homecoming of sorts. I'm one of those people who advocate for year-round schooling. As a person in the education field, sometimes I find myself the outcast with that line of thinking. "How can you want to give up your Summers off?" Well, I don't have Summers off, and since research shows that kids do better with shorter breaks (say, three weeks) throughout the calendar year in terms of academic achievement, I don't see why our school system insists on keeping the status quo. Unions? Perhaps. But I know plenty of parents who would pitch a fit, too.

And speaking of pitching a fit, can you believe the baloney over President Obama's speech to the nation's school children? Really? You're going to keep your kids home from school because the President is addressing them? Maybe its time for you to go back to school and learn some manners.

So there. Have a great week!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Is That What I Think It Is?

I can say with 100% certainty that I never expected to see a camel- two, even!- walking down my town's Main Street here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Normally, the parades around here have a few horses and maybe some dogs on fire trucks and stuff, but this parade had a mini-menagerie:  horses, dogs, camels, and alpacas.  Not to mention the non-animal attractions of your typical small town parade:  giant tractors, Shriners on go-carts, muscle cars squealing out their tires, the high school marching band (where Daughter #1 made her debut as drum major), and pre-adolescent gymnasts tumbling in the street.  The parade was to commemorate the "last" U.P. State Fair (the State has cut all funding for the fair as a budgetary measure).  There were even bagpipers (my favorite).

It was nice to see this display, especially since I will not be going to the Hog Capital of the World for Labor Day this year.  An ill-timed mandatory conference will be keeping me busy in Denver, keeping me from my annual pilgrimage to Illinois.  *grumble grumble grumble*

Other than my summer program being complete, rushing to get annual grant reports finished, and having no time for just sitting in the sun, I am training for another marathon , and getting ready to send Mr. Fix, Daughters #1 and #2 back to school. Yay! I'm so ready to get them back on a regular schedule, you know? They don't do so well with unstructured days.

I did have time to run up to Marquette for an afternoon, and stopped and treated myself to some beautiful flowers from Garden Bouquet & Design .  See?

A giant Dinner Plate dahlia and some Love Lies Bleeding were matched up with some of my own garden's standard dahlias and cannas (sp?).  So lovely, and a nice bit of decor for a mid-week Ladies' Night Birthday BBQ with My Favorite Redhead, My Favorite Local Celebrity, and My Favorite Shiksa (who not only celebrated a birthday, but a close to her single life, too!).  

Have a great week, and enjoy these last bits of Summer.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Winding Down

Things this summer are certainly doing just that.  My last post was all about how rushed things were for me this summer, and how I was conflicted a bit on which path I preferred to take:  experiences or savoring.  Well, in the photo above, I'm savoring that last bit of carefree fun before the stress of a wedding.  My Favorite Redhead got married to The Mouth Doctor yesterday on Mackinac Island, and it was the loveliest affair.  The guests were some of the best dressed people I've ever seen.  

In choosing the "savor" option yesterday, I did miss out on the circus at work (the "experiences" option).  Oh, yes.  When I say "circus," I mean an actual circus!  The theme for my summer program this year was "Under The Big Top," and so I had the fantastic student ambassadors from Illinois State University's Gamma Phi Circus come to the Great North Woods for a four-day camp with the kids.  The final performance was yesterday afternoon.

I was busy sipping gimlets on the portico of The Inn at Stonecliffe , savoring the start of many years of happiness for two friends.  There was a part of me, however, that missed the excitement of the experience happening at work.  It was just a little part.

What else? Well, last week was the wedding of my younger sister back in Illinois, followed two days later by the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 1/2 Marathon , where my big sister at some point passed me by, and finished almost two minutes ahead of me!  Way to go!  Its also where, after the run, I met my new boyfriend, record-setting marathoner  Ryan Hall .  See?

 I also stalked the winner of the race,  Kara Goucher, at the CVS the night before the run.  She was buying Sweet & Salty Chex Mix, and I was fumbling with my new Blackberry, trying to get a photo.  I felt like a really big dork, especially since no one else there knew who she was.  

So now I'm certain the summer is winding down, and just when I'm at the point where my schedule is opening up to enjoy it.  Ah, irony, thy name is Perfect Timing.  Have a great weekend.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Rush of Summer Days...

...interrupted by the quietness of a wind farm in the Middle of Nowhere, Illinois.  This was the scene I encountered driving to and from a family gathering last weekend.  This is only about 10 miles from my parent's home, yet I never knew it existed.  There's also a Mennonite Church.  Who knew?  

So the point of this photo is that it was a welcome respite from the very rushed summer I've been having.  School ended, summer started, and the next thing you know, the 4th of July is over, my 20th Class Reunion is over, and I've got two weddings and a half marathon to get through in the next two weeks, not to mention a circus camp, staff evaluations, and a student incentive trip to plan and get through.  I'm thinking I need a personal assistant.

So many times I'm guilty of trying to cram so much into my days and weeks that I fail to enjoy stillness and solitude.  I remember having a conversation with My Favorite Redhead about this on one of our walks:  should you try to get as much done as possible in this life, since you only have one life? Or should you take your time and savor a select few things?  I've always been the "get as much in as possible" person, loving all of the adventure and new experiences.  It's catching up with me this summer, though.  I'm starting to recognize the importance of savoring every once in a while.

So today I will be savoring fresh laundry and a stocked pantry (Thank you, washing machine, dryer, and grocery store!), and perhaps get recharged for the next hectic weeks.  Perhaps.  Have a great week.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Short Musing on Animals

Those of you who know me, even just a little bit, know that I am not an animal lover.  At all.  I don't eat them, don't feel warm and fuzzy when they brush up against my leg, don't revel in their majesty.  Animals in their natural setting don't appeal to me, nor do the ones kept in cages (or barns, kennels, or homes). They annoy me, unless they are like this fella above:  ceramic.  This particular Maneki Neko  was in Restaurant Murata in Portland, OR; yummy sushi, cold sake, and good friends were there, too, but I digress.

What I do love are birds.  Really.  They gross me out and fascinate me at the same time.  I ponder the idea of flight, and wonder just how fabulous it would be to fly yourself anywhere.  I embrace the philosophy of having roots and wings in your life, and in instilling that way of thinking in your children.  Take this:  mother birds do not simply give nourishment to their babies; they chew it up and feed it to them.  Human mothers do the same thing, in a way:  the nourishment they provide their young are the life lessons they've experienced first hand- hard work, disappointment, loss, love- chewed up and spit out as often as intuition dictates. It is a fitting metaphor, this of human mother as bird mother, when you analyze it further.

I've written before about the robin's nest under the eaves of our garage.  Last Spring I even posted pics of the eggs in the nest.  This year, The Robins have returned to our garage (although robins return to their summer range in April, it cannot be said with certainty that this is the same robin from last year), and are on their second clutch.  Mr. Fix has seen the mother bringing food to the nest, and has even seen the babies.  One he got to see up close.  Let me explain...

We have a rabbit (not one of the "pets" Mr. Fix and Daughter #2 insist on keeping) who is terrorizing the garden this year.  I'd like to channel my inner Mr. McGregor and send Peter Rabbit on his way to the big vegetable garden in the sky, but Mr. Fix decided to live trap the bugger so he can be "relocated," like he's a middle-manager in computer software sales and not a wild animal.  So, the live trap is set, and the next morning Mr. Fix checked the trap, and lo and behold, he has caught himself...a baby robin.

This is the little bugger after being set free.  You can see (sorta) the downy feathers still clinging to its head.  I was sitting on the veranda reading a book (The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner), when I heard a chirp cheer chirp sound.  I looked down, and there this little bird was, looking up at me, head cocked to one side, as if waiting for me to answer the question:  Are you my Mother?  No, I am not your Mother; I am a Snort. *sigh*

It sat there, looking at me like that, for what seemed like a very long time.  Longer than any other type of wild animal has ever paused before me.  Squirrels spaz out.  Stray cats scurry and hide.  Chipmunks and porcupines and small voles and such remain hidden when I run on trails.  Deer pretend to be surprised to see me (hence the "deer caught in the headlights" phrase), there in my car, speeding down the highway as they try to cross the road.  Stupid deer.

But birds have always lingered, calling out with their songs, waiting for a response.  Cautious.  Deliberate.  Bright.  And then they're gone from their perch like that.  Keep your babbling brook and crunch of feet on pine needles; the soft flap of morning wings or the strong thrust of a bird on the hunt are sounds of nature I like.  

Other musings? I've signed on for another marathon , but first need to tackle an exciting half marathon .  I'm also tackling my *gulp* 20th high school reunion.  Obviously, I've got some interesting weeks ahead of me.  I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Travel Makes You Smarter

I'm convinced its true, you know. Not only do you get the experience of visiting a (maybe) new locale, but you get the getting there experience, too. Is there anything better, really, than people watching in the airport?

Last week, my Adventure in Getting Smarter involved a trip to Duluth, MN for Grandma's Marathon . Lake Superior decided to take a mini vacation that weekend, too, so there were no welcoming breezes along the scenic 2-lane, black-topped highway from Two Harbors to downtown Duluth. My (second in two months) attempt at a marathon PR was yet again thwarted (last month, the hills of Cincinnati kept me slow). I need help, is what I learned. And so I've been researching marathon programs, picking the brains of faster friends, and generally becoming obsessed with running.

This week, my Adventure in Getting Smarter involves a little bit of work, a little bit of fun, and even some running. I'm attending a conference in Portland, OR on using the data we gather from testing the kids I work with. Exciting, I know, but Portland is pretty cool. I've been here about eight hours, and not only have I already found a Trader Joe's at which to spend my per diem allowance, but I've also found a local running shop with a Tuesday night running group- "open to everyone, no matter the pace!"

So maybe I'll post again on what, exactly, I learned from this conference. Or maybe I'll post a lot of swear words, crabby from brain drain and data and aggregated results, etc. etc. etc.
Also, Pandora (Internet radio station) is a sanity saver. Check it out, and have a great week.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Ol' College Try

That, dear readers, is Mr. Fix on the left, and our dear old friend, Freddy, on the right.  I believe they're in their dorm room at the Herman Crown Center downtown Chicago.  Or someone's room.  Dateline 1990.  We recently reconnected with the crew via the magic of the Internet, and its been so good to catch up on everyone's lives.  Of course, catching up has brought back memories of the shenanigans we pulled, the parties we rocked (anyone remember the one at the loft above Trent Reznor's place? And how we kept seeing that white owl?), and the people who have now walked on.  *sigh*

Which brings me to the reason for this post:  college.  Daughter #1 is officially a senior in high school now.  She is also the class president (Among her official duties? Speaking at the commencement ceremony next Spring.) and the drum major for marching band (the music program at her school is top-notch).  All of this means that we now need to look seriously at college options.  My luxurious three-day weekends this summer? Interrupted by the need to visit colleges and give them the thorough once-over.

When I was a high school senior, I had already made up my mind about college.  I visited maybe three colleges, and made up my mind the minute I set foot in Chicago that "THIS is where I belong!"  I loved everything about the city and the campus, and really kinda failed to investigate the more mundane tuition and housing.  Well, my mistakes will be her gain.  Not that I regret my decision- not at all.  Its just that perhaps my parents were less than enthusiastic about my choice (and honestly, there were still going to be six younger mouths to feed once I left for college), and probably were concerned about their lack of ability to help out in any way, shape or form.  What did they know about art school? Nada. It made me develop a thick skin, and a very independent outlook on things. Which I also don't regret.

Right now her choices are pretty general, but I can see her beginning to narrow her focus.  Visiting campuses I'm sure will help things along.  I'm wishing and hoping that the process for her will be as serendipitous as it was for me.  No Chicago = no Mr. Fix or Freddy (or Throb, Thor, Dan, Christian, John, Sandy, Roz & Jen...).  Again, *sigh*

Other than those musings, I'm still in fighting shape and ready to give yet another marathon the Ol' College Try.  This time around its Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN.  Weather forecast? Sunny, humid, and 80 degrees.  The high temps lately where I live? 57 degrees.  You can guess how this is gonna go: either I'll acclimate immediately and run great, or I'll buckle and swear the entire run.  I'll keep you posted.

Have a great week, and if you're able, find an old friend and reconnect.  You'll feel good, I swear.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Welcome, Spring!

Say hello to our newest family member, christened Eugene by Daughter #2.  Mr. Fix built him out of scraps in the classroom/shop and brought him home just in time for the long holiday weekend.  Close up? Sure:

I think he needs a propeller on top of his hat, and perhaps even a bowl filled with birdseed on his tray.  Mr. Fix isn't keen on that, as he thinks the birdseed would spray all over the actual garden and sprout unwanted plants.  I think we'll add the propeller, at least.

May is almost over, and somehow I got talked into running another marathon- Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN.  I've run it once before, and I remember it was hot and humid, and I had to endure a tour of an ore boat in Duluth's harbor with my family.  I hate boats.  

Yesterday, however, brought another sure sign of Spring in these parts:  my Run & Brunch event.  Me and my running pals ran a local 5K/10K race (PR day for me- 26:21! Woo hoo!), then headed over to my home for a delicious (if I do say so myself) spread that included Mom's Famous Italian Beef, Jet Potatoes, and a Sausage & Apple Frittata.  It was really a lovely way to kick off a holiday weekend. I have the coolest friends.

And so, in the spirit of generosity, I will post the recipe for Mom's Famous Italian Beef.  Enjoy!

Mom's Famous Italian Beef

You need a crock pot that can hold a rolled beef roast, about 4-5 pounds.  I used a roast plus some boneless "country style" beef ribs.  Put the meat in the crock pot.  Add to this:  1-1/2 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. basil, about 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, some fresh ground black pepper (maybe 1 tsp. or so), 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 package Italian Dressing Mix (the dry stuff), 1 package onion soup mix (again, the dry stuff), 1/4 c. vinegar, and 3/4 c. water.  I also added a package of fresh sliced mushrooms, just to be different.  Put the crock pot on "high" and leave it alone for 6 hours.  Turn it to "low" and leave it alone for another 2 hours.  Take the roast out of the crock pot and shred it up with a fork.  This will be supremely easy to do, as the meat will literally fall apart as you try to take it out of the pot.  Put the shredded meat back in the crock pot with the juicy goodness and serve warm on rolls (I used mini kaiser rolls) with an assortment of condiments, like dijon mustard, horseradish, and good ol' ketchup.

Yes, you only add one cup of liquid total.  Trust me, it works.  Have a great weekend!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Another Medal for the Collection

Now, that's what I call room service!  That's the stash of food stuffs we had in our hotel room last weekend in Cincinnati.  Ah, yes, the Flying Pig Marathon 2009 edition is now history.  It was incredibly challenging and not at all for beginners.  I was slowed by about one minute per mile, finishing in 4:52 (11:10/mile).  I trained for 10 min./mile.  Did you know about all the hills in southern Ohio? Me, neither.  

When stuff like this happens- when I'm prepared for things to go one way, and they end up going another- I try to focus on the positive.  Its difficult sometimes, especially when so much work has been invested.  So my goal is always to remember that you cannot change the past; you cannot change what has already happened.  All you can do is learn something from it, and move on.  Evolve.  

Mantra:  Any day I can run 26.2 miles is a Good Day.

Mantra:  This is what we do.

Mantra:  It can't be changed; move on.

I guess these mantras are my own little prayers, in a way.  Meditations, affirmations, whatever.  They make me regain my focus and answer the questions:  What do I want? How will I get it? Who else is involved? They work for me.  

This past week has been one of not running (weird), but running assessments of elementary students at work.  May is such a jam-packed month in the education world, and seeing how I'm in that world (and my husband, too), May is one of my least favorite months.  I really cannot wait until its over.  Three weeks until school is done ( but my daughters are in until the second week of June), and then about a one-week reprieve until my summer programming begins.  Ah, summer! Maybe we'll see warm temperatures soon?  I can only hope.

One last mantra:  The miracle isn't that I finished; the miracle is that I had the courage to start. (John "The Penguin" Bingham)

Have a great week!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wait a Second...

...are those different flavors of Razzles? The delicious treat that is first a candy, then a gum? Yes, it is.  From the top:  a cute card from Katie, Original Razzles, Tropical Razzles, and Sour Razzles.

For those of you not in the know, I am a Connoisseur of all things Candy.  I'm not talking chocolate here (ick, no!); I'm talking sugary, childish goodness.  Blow Pops.  Lick-A-Stick.  Bottle Caps.  Chewy Runts.  Skittles (side note:  I have tried every flavor of Skittle out there, from spearmint & peppermint, to smoothie, to the "Carnival" variety).  The quintessential "kid in the candy store?"  Its me.

I've always loved candy, and I have a mouth full of expensive dental work to prove it.  I had the opportunity to meet up with an old friend this week while I was in Chicago, and our conversation turned to the horrible things we eat and then shrug off because of our exercise habits (he, too, is a marathoner/triathlete).  We should really stop eating things just because their ingestion can be justified by what others deem "unnecessarily extreme" exercise routines.  Or should we?  

99% of the time, I am a wonderfully healthy eater.  No meat, no poultry.  Whole grains.  Tons of fresh fruit & veggies.  Low dairy intake.  Occasional alcohol, occasional soda.  And then someone will throw me a wrench, like...Christmas Eve, when I'm obligated to make Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.  Who in their right mind would NOT eat this? "I'll get up and run tomorrow...maybe 5 miles..." and down the hatch it goes.

Is this a type of eating disorder? Dunno.  But I do know that if I didn't know my body needed food to function properly, I wouldn't eat half as much as I do.  I've never been a big eater, and really, I can't be bothered so much to stop and nourish myself.  I'm one of those people who is just waiting for the day when all of our daily nutrients can be ingested in pill form, or better yet, in a stick of gum, Willy Wonka-style:  roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy...and blueberry cobbler! Just call me Violet Beauregard!

Other news? T-11 days and counting until race day in Cincinnati.  Just got back from a great conference in Chicago with my Summer staff, and totally enjoyed the city.  I miss Chicago so much, especially when the weather is so fantastic (74 degrees when we left on Friday!).  Plus, I got to reconnect with some high school friends- such fun!  20 year reunion coming up in July (!!!), so I'll definitely have more to write about.  In the mean time, have a great week!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Renovation Update: The Kitchen Years

Yes, a renovation update, but first a distraction:  how many pieces of chocolate do you think are in this container? This was the "Guess How Many?" prize for my work's Easter (f$31**#) Potluck- an event I both love and loathe.  Guess the amount correctly and you get the bucket o' candy (not really YOU, but someone at the Potluck).  

Below you will see the rough version of my new island as you look out the back door.  That is a prep sink on the near end (no faucet yet), and my collection of cookie cutters on the far end (they still haven't found a home in the new cabinets...).  Under the sink on the right side will be an access door for the plumbing.  On the left side of the island will be two pull-out door/drawers for garbage/recycling and compost (or bins for things like potatoes and rice, which we buy in bulk).  The counter top will again be the fantastic concrete we have on the other bank of cabinets.

In this next pic you can see almost the entire kitchen from the view point of the front room of the house.  The last of the old cabinets were demolished this weekend by Mr. Fix and myself, and then Mr. Fix took them and released the toxicity of cheap old cabinets into the ozone with a burn pile.  OSB and other pressed "wood" products burn fast and hot, I'm told.

Its going to be the one year anniversary of our kitchen renovation soon; it seems waaaayyy longer than that! Our last bits to get done are: 1) faucet and counter top for the island; 2) install light fixture above the island; 3) crown molding on tall bank of cabinets; 4) tile back splash.  

It is this last item we're waffling on a bit.  Our original thought was "white ceramic subway tiles."  Then I fell IN LOVE with some white glass subway tiles.  Swanky, right? And just plain beautiful.  Now, we're wondering if our first choice was better? More economical, for sure, but what about longevity? Will the glass make our kitchen look dated in 10 years?

And then there's the whole other saga of the bar stool I absolutely fell in love with from DWR .  Oh, the industrial beauties would be so super perfect for our space! Take a look for yourself here .  Yes, in the yellow. No, I can't afford them.  No, not even if they're on sale.  *sigh*

Other news?  Less than three weeks out from my Spring marathon .  I'm so ready for this one.  My training has been solid and I feel strong.  This week, though, I'll be in Chicago- Yay, Chicago!- for a conference on summer learning.  I know, the excitement never ends.  But this is a conference I've attended in the past, and it is fabulous and useful and not at all a chore to attend.  Plus, the Cubs are in town, so if I can't be found at one of my afternoon sessions, and return the next morning at breakfast whistling "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," well...

Have a great week! (PS- the correct number was 527.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bringing Spring Indoors

March 22nd- this is about two days after Mr. Fix brought the forsythia branches inside.

March 26th- yellow and green starting to open up.

March 31st- lovely yellow blooms to stare at while I sip my coffee.  

Close up of the blooms.  I figured I should bring that sunshine to myself, since it is evading this part of the country and really putting a damper on my overall mood.  I haven't even been wanting to run or go outside or anything.  This week is Spring Break for my husband and kids.  I still have to work, and let me tell you, the crappy weather is helping make going in to work tolerable.  

What else? Well, Mr. Fix just went to the lumber yard to pick up supplies for the island portion of the Never-Ending Kitchen Renovation.  Only 5 weeks until the marathon, and I'm dragging my feet on booking a flight.  So far the best price is $300 round trip, and I'm thinking that come payday, I'll have to cave and purchase before they're gone.  But seriously, how many people are really itching to go to Cincinnati? And will I ever be able to say/write/think about "Cincinnati" without singing the theme song to "WKRP in Cincinnati?"  Probably not.

Baby, you and me were never meant to be.  Just maybe think of me once in awhile.  I meant W-K-R-P in Cincin-aaaa-tiii.....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cold No More

The photo above shows my windbreaker turned inside-out after my last long run before getting sick.  It is shiny and the wetness is my sweat, which froze & turned into ice & stayed trapped inside the jacket until I peeled it off.  Then it began to melt and drip all over the floor.  Kinda gross, I know, but it was only like 10 degrees outside that day and I was layered up beyond belief.  

Today was a different story.  I ran in capris with only a long sleeved technical tee and a vest.  It was sunny and warmer than it has been (about 39 degrees today), and I was able to use the entire running/biking path through the park now that the snow mountains are melting away.  It was lovely and energizing and all of the good things about running.  Plus, my run was fast today:  I was supposed to run at race pace (about 10 minutes/mile), but ended up running way faster than that- 9:15 min./mile.  Like I posted on facebook , "My training is paying dividends!"

Adding to my sense of accomplishment today? Daughter #1 asked when we could take the growing pile of stuff in the upstairs hallway to Goodwill.  I said I'd help her load it in the car & she could take it today.  Her willingness to help (and her shared affliction of Clean Disease) spurred me to further purge my closet, my husband's clothing, and my accessories collection.  Is there anything so satisfying as getting rid of clutter? I think not.

So, now that my computer is updated, my run is complete, my mother-in-law provided leftovers galore for dinner, and the last load of laundry is in the washing machine, it is time to enjoy the last few hours of the weekend.  Here's to a great week!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


A bit of a rant, so bear with me.

I'm frustrated once again (and always, it seems) with the behavior of men. Not men in general, but the men in my life, both intimately and peripherally. I am confused as to why they behave in a way that makes them seem like their personal growth stunted at age 15 or 16. Why the perpetual adolesence? Is it something done in response to something women do? Their parents? Their siblings, cousins, friends?

I want to believe that men are capable of rising above fart jokes and petty arguments in favor of intelligent conversation and responsible actions. I want to believe that when I say to them, "I need you to do X, Y, and Z" that they will actually do X, Y, and Z. I want to relate to someone- not a female friend- who knows me well enough to anticipate my wants and needs and act on those rather than looking past those in favor of...more fart jokes.

During my bartending years, a regular of mine told me that men don't grow up until they hit age 45 (and he knew what he was talking about, I'm pretty sure). Look, I'm 37, and I think waiting another 8 years is a ridiculous thing to ask of me.

So, thank you dear friends for bearing with me. A good rant is, as my Martha says, "a Good Thing." The weekend is only two days away...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Smile, already!

Above image found here .

See? Even the birds have a reason to smile! Its the weekend, and around these parts the weather is going to be a huge improvement over the past week: sunny and mid-40's.

It'll be the perfect weather for me to pick up my running again after the past week of Feeling Crappy (see previous post). I've got other big plans, too: Turbo Tax is calling, the pile of stuff for Goodwill is blocking bathroom access upstairs, the one unfinished baby sweater arm is waving at me like a broken doll, and the only thing my laundry needs is a spark of lightning to bring it to life a la Frankenstein. So, running and other stuff on the docket, I guess!

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Title and photo kinda says it all, huh? Well, here's the scoop: Last week I was trying to shake the symptoms of what I thought were allergies (back story: Mr. Fix brought home another bunny- a lion mane bunny- and it has long hair and needs to stay indoors until the coldest of the cold weather has gone. More on this another time.). I had it all: stuffy nose, itchy eyes, scratchy throat...all of these things I get when I'm around cats. We both figured, "Oh, it must be the bunny." So I suck it up and cope like I always do, buying Sudafed at the pharmacy along with a box of those super-addictive Vicks-and-lotion Puffs (which I call "Crack for the Congested"). I even stayed home from work on Friday (okay, that was planned already, but I'm glad I did because I felt like crap).

I had a lovely although much too short lunch with My Favorite Redhead and My Favorite Local Celebrity, and when Mr. Fix came home from school he laid this on me:

"Uh, you might want to get that throat thing checked out. There's a ton of kids out at school with strep."

Aw, man! Really? So I hightail it to the FastCare Clinic, and sure as sunshine, I'm positive for strep and given a 10-day supply of penicillin. Up until this point, I've felt a bit tired, but nothing awful. Friday night and I'm looking forward to chillin' on the couch with the latest episode of What Not To Wear (yes Katie, they ARE my friends!), and its like a ton of bricks just smacked me from all sides and underneath. I even texted My Favorite Redhead as through she were Daughter #1. OUT OF IT!

To shorten it up, it is now Thursday, and I'm just starting to feel better. My throat is good, my congestion is less and less each day (although I do have a new addiction to my humidifier), and my energy level is almost to the point where I'm contemplating a run tomorrow morning (that's right- I haven't run since last week!).

Point of this rambling? Take care of yourself. Do not (after you've been diagnosed with strep and been in and out of consciousness for two days) decide to rid your home of germs by scrubbing rooms from top to bottom with bleach products; this will just make you more tired. You may, however, get pissy with your mate for not picking up some slack while you try to recuperate.

Hope the end of the week finds you healthy and happy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I've always enjoyed the quirky, sublime humor in The Far Side comics. The above is a scanned image of a postcard I received waaaaayyy back in 1988 from a dear friend who went away to college and left me to navigate my senior year of high school alone. *snif*

But now- thanks to TECHNOLOGY!- we have re-connected via facebook . I'm finding myself oddly drawn to be "friends" with people I knew peripherally in high school. I guess the explorer/social anthropologist in me has too much pull for me to just click "ignore" on those friend requests. It is interesting to see how your high school mates have aged (it has been, for me, 20 years!), and I like to claim that by "friending" these folks on facebook, you're really just participating in a highly evolved form of people-watching.

Anyhoo, other than not having started the new book I bought (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski), and being totally blindsided by how emotional I was with the book I read to my students (Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls)- and I mean bawling like a big ol' baby- I've been steadily going through the motions of marathon training and daily life.

I did, however, complete Phase 2 of the running t-shirt quilt I started with my mother-in-law, my husband's Auntie Vikki, The Devil, and Vicky the Bail Bond Lady. Have you seen these things? Well, you take all the t-shirts from races you've run in, cut them up so you just have the logo from the front (or back, or sleeves, etc.), and you use those for the blocks of a quilt. I've seen lots, but Auntie Vikki made one for my father-in-law that is absolutely gorgeous, and the rest of us- having runner's envy- had to have one, too. So last night we took the cut up shirts and backed them with the fusible interfacing that will help stabilize the knit fabric. Next up is adding the individual block borders and sashing. Yes, I will post pics as things progress beyond a pile of what other people would consider rags.

I took the day off from work today and am contemplating on running 4 miles at the YMCA, or 9 miles outside. I'm due to have a lunch/wine tasting/gossip session with My Favorite Redhead, so we'll see how the rest of the morning unravels. Hope the weekend finds you happy.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Keeping It In Perspective

For your reading pleasure, the latest installment of my "From the Editor" column for my running club's newsletter:

In the time-honored tradition of the women’s magazine questionnaire, a quiz of sorts:

Q: What is your motivation for running and/or training this year?
a) To lose those pesky 10 pounds you got for Christmas.

b) To FINALLY hit that race time you’ve been after for 10+ years.
c) To raise awareness for a charity or cause.

d) No one thing- you just love the feel of the wind on your face.

e) To keep your sanity for one more year.

Q: When training for a specific race or goal, you:

a) Do all of your workouts on a treadmill at the gym.

b) Strap on the latest in GPS and heart rate monitor technology.

c) Turn into a loner no one sees except on a training run.

d) Try a little too hard to recruit friends to train/run with you.

e) Keep telling yourself that all of this running keeps you sane.

Q: When discussing your training schedule with others:

a) They look at you like you’re bat-*!#$ crazy and roll their eyes.

b) You spend more time explaining running terms (fartleks, tempo runs, etc.).

c) They ask their doctor friends if what you’re doing is “normal” or “healthy.”

d) They desperately try to change the subject.

e) You justify your running with the phrase: “It keeps me sane!”

Q: You choose your races- marathons, half-marathons, trail runs, 5Ks- based on:

a) Proximity to where you live- no more than an hour from home.

b) Whether or not the course is known for being a fast “PR” course.

c) The size of the racing field- the bigger the better! Its a party!

d) Whether or not costumes are allowed & what the t-shirt looks like.

e) Logistics: Will training for and running this race make me insane?

Q: While reading through these questions:

a) You are proud of yourself and the goals you’ve set for this year.

b) You are really thinking of your next training run & if you have enough Gu.

c) You set the newsletter down because its messing with your mental energy.

d) You’re still thinking about costumes your running group can wear. Super heroes, anyone?
e) You look at your answers and think: People must think I’m insane!

What I really hope you’ve done is laugh at yourself and all of the running community. We tend to get a little caught up in how important we think we are, how special we think our sport is, how noble we think our causes are, and how our lives need to fit around our running rather than how our running can find a comfortable spot in our lives. Spring, more so than New Year’s Day, is the perfect time to reevaluate your life and make changes- new beginnings, you know? And for the record, I answered all of the questions “E!”

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

72 Days and Counting

Okay, so I've written before about my new Clean Living routine, right? Well a major part of this is training kinda hard for my next marathon. The training schedule I'm following is more intense than what I've done in the past, and this is the first race I've followed a plan for in the past year or so. Sure, I've printed out plans from Runner's World , but I've been pretty lax about following them, usually just picking and choosing workouts to fit around my schedule rather than be my schedule.

My fellow running sisters think I'm crazy, my husband thinks I'm going to kill myself this way, and my fellow running friends think my schedule is nothing out of the ordinary. I guess that just goes to show you that there's different levels of crazy that are acceptable. How crazy? Well, here's a sample week from my program- this week's schedule to be exact:

Monday- 3 mile recovery run
Tuesday- 8 mile run
Wednesday- 4 mile run
Thursday- 40 minute tempo run
Friday- rest day
Saturday- 8 mile run @ race pace
Sunday- 17 mile run

Weekly total = approximately 45 miles. The mileage just goes up from there, folks.

I need new shoes...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ohmmmm... today started with the 5:28 am phone call letting us know that school was cancelled (freezing rain + rural country roads= scary school bus ride). Daughters #1 and #2 both slept in, as did I (until about 7:45 or so). Mr. Fix had the coffee brewed and was already tuned in to The History Channel when I came downstairs. The morning was pretty uneventful- laundry, paying bills, swearing at the dog- and then Daughter #1 came downstairs and made pink banana pancakes for everyone. Dee-lish!

I managed to get in an 8 mile training run outside, too. The sun was out, the temp was around 42, I wore capris, and I had a new playlist on my iPod. The run, however, was a bit...sloppy. The snow has been melting, right? Well, some of it is still blocking the sewer grates, and there are VERY LARGE puddles at every corner. So my socks and shoes got soaked & I'm trying to dry out my shoes before I need them again tomorrow night.

I've been exercising 5-6 days per week lately; its all part of my Clean Living routine, along with breakfast every day, no processed foods, and as few Lofthouse Cookies as possible (that one's hard). I've also been trying to incorporate more volunteer work into my days. I started with mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters and am working with a really special kid named Peter. Last week we made Play-doh with Kool-Aid. This past weekend I volunteered at the high school's Solo & Ensemble Band competition. Boy, can those band geeks work themselves up into a nervous frenzy! Its all part of a county-wide initiative my department at work is part of called 100 Hours of Hope . Check it out and share your thoughts and ideas. We've also got a blog set up! Go HERE.

So now comes the explanation regarding the title of this post. A dear friend of ours, Buddha Bob, has been battling lymphoma, and thankfully is now in remission. Check out how he's been giving back not only to his community, but to other cancer survivors, too, by reading THIS.

Have a great week!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Renovation Update: The Countertop Edition

Okay, so now that my house is covered in a very fine, charcoal-colored dust, I will take refuge in my office and post pics from last weekend. Above is the construction of the countertop mold. It was built on a moveable frame so when it is ready to be installed, it can be rolled right up to the cabinets and slid on top. Below is the frame with the metal mesh and rebar in place. These will add strength to the finished product.

Below is Mr. Fix and his brother, the Other Mr. Fix, troweling the concrete into the mold.

And lastly, we see the mold filled to the top, all smooth, and beginning to cure.

So now we start the waiting game. A nine-foot length of concrete takes a while to cure, I'm told, and when it is finally installed (and the front room of the house is hosed down and all sparkly again), I will post more pics.

In the meantime, I'm off to run at the YMCA, even though its 41 degrees outside. I'd rather not run in the rain. One more cup of coffee...have a great weekend.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Photo by John Handwerk.
For David:

I'm not the kind of man
Who tends to socialize
I tend to lean on
Old familiar ways
And I ain't no fool for love songs
That whisper in my ears
Still crazy after all these years
- Paul Simon

Happy Anniversary, Honey.