Tuesday, December 6, 2011


As I was walking through the airport the other day, I spotted an older couple- maybe mid-to-late-70's- holding hands and talking about the different sights the airport had to offer; I was immediately struck with one thought:

I want that.

I want someone who will hold my hand in the airport when I'm wrinkly. Because they want to hold my hand. Because maybe I need them to hold my hand. As I watched this couple interact, it occurred to me that one of two things could be at play: 1) this couple wanted to hold each other's hands as a sign of affection, or 2) this couple was holding on to each other for balance.
And then this thought struck me: "balance" in more ways than one. Physical balance, yes, like "I'll help you balance so you don't fall and break a hip." But also (and maybe more importantly) balance as in yin to yang, salt to pepper, butter to bread. Balance, Jerry Maguire-style: "You complete me."

So often our struggles are about how we will get from Point A (here and now) to Point B (where we'd like to be, like to have, like to accomplish), and we don't stop to factor in balance. Ignoring the need for balance in our lives can have awful consequences, though. We can lose touch with our friends, children, partners, ourselves. We can forge ahead with our A-to-B plans, and even meet those goals, but at what price? Are we able to maintain balance? Who is holding our hand?

It was my birthday when I wrote this post in my hotel room, and although I'd like to pretend otherwise, I had just realized/recognized the importance of having balance. It's more than finding time to help kids with homework, or having dinner with girlfriends, or going out on a date with someone you like, or squeezing in a workout before bed. It's about all of these, and none of these. It takes a village, right?

It has taken me all forty (!!!) of my years to get this far, and I'd like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who has helped me find some semblance of balance.

Who is holding your hand? Go say "Thank you. I love you." Hold on, friends.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Annoyed, Defensive, and Relieved

In the past two weeks or so, I've been one bit annoyed, one bit defensive, and two bits relieved. Let me explain.

So, it's been almost a month since my last post, and you would think that I'd be swatting back men like flies from honey, what with those fairly easy rules for the guys to follow and my super hotness (Ha!). You would be wrong.

I personally don't think that I'm being all that particular with those "rules." My mother, on the other hand, is probably rolling her eyes upward and saying a little prayer for any future dates I may have; I'm told I've always been picky. And I can see where you might think I'm being overly choosy. Wait...no, I can't. I don't think I'm asking that much at all.

You see, I think that I have earned the right to be discerning, that I shouldn't have to "settle" or re-think and re-configure what it is, exactly, that I want from a relationship. I think that I have earned the right to be happy, using my own definition of "happy" and outlining my own parameters for a relationship. Which makes waiting for dates that much more annoying.

What's gotten me on my high horse? Talking to other people in my position, in similar geographic regions, with similar backgrounds. And this article certainly gave me tons to think about. I mean, you would think that with this "husband shortage" in the United States that I'd be willing to budge on some of those rules, that I'd be willing to look in unconventional places for dates (The grocery store! The Secretary of State's office!), and that I'd be willing to date a decent guy who just so happens to be down on his luck and living with his parents "until things turn around."

Again, you would be wrong. (There's the defensiveness I was talking about.)

One of the things that Kate Bolick writes about in the above mentioned article is the immaturity of men in my age bracket, that they are too willing to make do with less, that they can't be bothered to take the initiative, and they don't really see the value in trying so hard. At least that's what I got out of it. That, and how women are paving new roads for the way they'd like to live (like in that all-female apartment complex in Amsterdam), both with and without conventional relationships with men.

I, for one, like men. And I would like to find someone to share my time with. And I'm not about to "settle for Mr. Good Enough", even though I'm pretty sure I've suggested doing just that to at least one friend (and yes, she still talks to me).

Further, I think I need to clarify what it is, exactly, I'm looking for in a relationship: shared goals for the future; shared values; shared sense of optimism, but with a healthy dose of skepticism. Adventure. Romance. Companionship. FUN. Family. Friends. Food. Curiosity. Laughter. Sunshine. Rainbows. Unicorns.

Okay, I'm kidding about that last one. But Potential Prince Charming will spend hours with me dreaming up fantastical stories about those unicorns and making plans about what we'll do when I win the lottery. And if I could spend all of my free time with My Best New Boyfriend and our stories about unicorns and lottery winnings, well then I don't think I'd ever want to do anything else except maybe do all that with a thin crust cheese pizza and some cheap beer.

And since doing all that doesn't pay the bills around here, I'm two bits relieved that I still have a real job. But a girl can only entertain her fantasies for so long before she gets more annoyed or more defensive; and lest you think I'm one of those women who can smile and fake it...

...you'd be wrong one more time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Rules

And so it begins: my foray back into the dating world. It has been twenty-plus years since I've been on a date, and as a courtesy to 1) all the guys lining up to ask me out on dates *that was a joke*, and 2) my friends (hopefully) trying to set me up on dates, I've come up with a list of rules. Without further ado, and after Level One, in no particular order:

The Rules: Level One
Thanks to my friend, Bridgette, for this part of the list.

Any guy hoping to take me out on a date should:
1. have a mouth full of teeth.
2. have a full-time job.
3. not live with his parents.
4. have a sense of humor (but I'm not kidding about those first three rules).

Made it this far? Let's move on to Level Two.

Any guy meeting the Level One requirements can proceed with date plans if:
1. he is still considerably taller than I am even when I am wearing my highest heels.
2. he is at least as smart as I am; I don't want to date someone I have to explain a lot to.
3. he is social without being a party animal or bar fly.
4. he is a non-smoker.
5. he enjoys participating in physical activities that are not sex.
6. he thinks learning is a lifetime activity, not limited to "school years."
7. he is a smart dresser, and has an overall awesome sense of style.
8. he will indulge my inner fashionista with approving looks and compliments.
9. he recognizes that my pickiness extends beyond food and date choices.
10. he understands that no one can out-Martha Stewart me, except for Martha Stewart.

Still with me? You've reached Level Three, Potential Prince Charming.

My Best New Boyfriend will:
1. not buy me chocolate; he will be well-versed in my candy likes and dislikes. The list is long, friends. SO long.
2. understand that sometimes I can swear like a dirty, dirty sailor. Not usually done in public, though.
3. never interrupt a viewing of Project Runway, nor will he argue that Clinton and Stacey from What Not To Wear aren't my friends. Because, oh yes, they ARE my friends.
4. be kind and considerate and not afraid of a little PDA from time to time.
5. give awesome gifts. (Side note: one year for Christmas I received a box that contained a roll of toilet paper, a can of Lysol spray, and a bottle of raspberry-flavored vodka. The piece of paper inside the box said: "Thanks for putting up with my shit. The vodka is to help you forget." I am NOT making that up. Also, I hate raspberry-flavored vodka.)
6. give awesome back/shoulder/leg rubs without complaint, and with the right amount of pressure.
7. be well-versed in popular culture, will enjoy it, and will play bar trivia with me if that's what I would like to do.
8. will love music. Bonus points for being able to play a musical instrument. (However, if you are a "professional musician," you didn't even make it past Level One- why are you still hanging around? Unless you are my skanky boyfriend, Tommy Lee, in which case...)
9. understand that my friends are very much a part of whom I call "family," and that I love my family no matter how crazy they seem.
10. know that a room-temperature Coca-Cola Classic, Lay's Original potato chips, and pink-frosted Loft House cookies are the best & quickest way to my heart.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go set up the velvet ropes for the masses. ;o)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Here We Go Again...

The past few nights I've had super clear dreams; the one last night had me waking up at 4 am, sweating up a storm (!!!).  Anyway, check 'em out:

Thursday night's dream starts with me walking down a street/city block.  It kinda looks like the downtown where I live now, but the sky is white, like a backdrop, and the whole place has the vibe of a movie set - or a cartoon storyboard- rather than an actual street.  I'm walking with someone (don't see who), when one of those Schwinn Sting Ray bikes zooms up to us out of nowhere and skids to a stop on the sidewalk, blocking our way.

The person riding the bike is none other than my high school friend, Teenie.  Her hair is kinky and wild, her eyes are wild, she is grinning wild and breathing hard.  She is wearing acid washed jeans, a hot pink long sleeved mock turtleneck top with a red boat-necked blouse over it; the red blouse has white paint splattered on it, like she was actually painting in it (not as a fashion statement), and the whole thing is cinched with a narrow white belt; her shoes are classic white Keds.  I look her up and down, and start chastising her:  "Oh, no.  This is all wrong. You can't go to work like this! You can't let your students see you like this!"  Teenie looks at me, still breathing hard, and shrugs "Why not?"  Me:  "You look tacky."  She shrugs again and starts riding her bike along side me & my still unknown companion. We end up at an outdoor wedding reception where my sister Megs shows up out of nowhere and asks me,"How do you like my dress?" I look at her, horrified, because it is a hot pink dress I wore as a bridesmaid back in the early 1990's:  puffy, shirred short sleeves; sweetheart neckline; fitted bodice with a "v" seam in front where it meets the full (but not puffy) skirt; the hem of the skirt is tea length in front, and full length in back.  Of course, there were Dyables shoes to match.  I look at my companion, and say "What the...???"  I never do see who my companion is.

Saturday night's dream followed a lovely evening at an Oktoberfest party.  The night was crisp, and quintessentially Autumnal.  I was home and in bed by midnight, but alas, my sweet slumber was interrupted by...another sex dream.

This is getting old. :o/

This one was pretty graphic, with actual nudity and everything. I do mean Everything. So, yes, I'm one of the naked people gettin' all jiggy with it, and I can see my partner from the start this time. The. Entire. Time. You guessed it: it's Shall Remain Nameless.
Whhooooaaaaaa, mama! I woke up physically sweating, saying out loud to myself, in the dark of my bedroom, at 4am, "That. Was. Intense." Phases of the moon? Phase of my life? A passing phase? Too much beer? I mean, I almost thought that it was a hot flash, but I'm still a bit young for those, and like I said:  IN-tensly realistic.

Guess what I'm going to do now? Yep: 1) check out what the color hot pink means in dreams, and 2) continue working on writing those sex scenes, since the dreams don't seem to be going away anytime soon.

Happy Fall, y'all.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Truth #5

This year has absolutely flown by; it's already October tomorrow! WTF?

More than that, though, October marks the month where one year ago I decided to change my life.  And although divorce is something that is sad and awkward and tense and prone to make people avoid you and prone to make you experience jags of frustrated tears, I remain a resident of Hopeful, Unincorporated.

Truth #5:  I wish I had the balls to leave earlier than I did.

I know that I cannot change the past.  I know that I cannot please everyone.  I know that some people may think I am disparaging my wasband and our marriage.  Please know that I am not trying to do any of those things, honestly. 

This past year has taught me that making the decision to move forward without being married was a Good Decision.  Believe me, I played Devil's Advocate with myself and looked at every which way that leaving would be a detriment to my life.  There were just more checks in the "pro" column.

And now that I've had some distance from that decision, from the days of living in a friend's spare bedroom, from the days of listening to NPR every evening in the one armchair I bought at Goodwill in my rental dollhouse because I didn't have the extra cash to hook up the cable, from eating the same four meals overandoverandoverandover because they were cheap and the ingredients were available in bulk, from sneaking over to my old house during the day when no one was home to pilfer more of the items from the marriage that I thought I didn't need to share any longer...

...I can say that I wish I had done it sooner.  Maybe even years ago.

And now that I reside full-time in Hopeful, Unincorporated, I can look back at the dark days from last winter and this spring, and look at what many would call hardships and smile to myself because I know that I am a capable and intelligent woman, and that my strength comes from my gut, and what I know to be true right there. And so I leave you with this, one of my favorite Jewish proverbs:

"I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Truth #4

I used to think that good deeds would always be acknowledged, that somehow the Universe was tallying the good things we humans do, and that one day our goodness would be rewarded somehow. Like with the lottery machine spitting out winning numbers, or starting that new business at exactly the right time, or with finding a $20 bill in those jeans you put on for the first time since April. This isn't about religion, either, because I know some of you may say: "But darling, God is watching you, and you will reap your rewards in Heaven."  And those of you who know me, know that I am rolling my eyes at the thought of hearing those words.

It's not about that kind of stuff; it's about always doing the right thing, always being the bigger person, always being good, and then not seeing anything positive for your efforts.

Truth #4: I am very tired of being the Bigger Person.

I am the person who will always look at the Bright Side when something unfortunate has occurred; I have the wisdom to know that I can't change it, so I need to learn something from it and move on.

I am the person who will never speak badly about my wasband in front of my children, because they are his children, too, and what kind of example would I be setting?

I am the person who will always shake hands and say "It's nice to meet you," even if the person is someone I "know" from word-of-mouth or reputation.  And yes, even if the reputation is not a good one. I'm a firm believer in not judging a book by its cover.

I am the person who will stay at work to finish a project or cover for someone who wasn't able to make it in, even though I just know my efforts will go unrecognized, and that the absentee isn't really sick.

I am the person who will go to the wedding/baby shower/funeral despite the fact that I don't really feel like celebrating or remembering with a bunch of people I don't really know that well.

I am the person who will attend my children's school events, even if they never acknowledge my presence and walk ten feet in front of me to get to the car before someone sees them with *gasp* their mother.

I hold doors open for people.  I smile at people walking their dogs. I make goo goo eyes and talk funny to babies. I make small talk with people I know from my previous life as a waitress & bartender, and ask about their pets and children and lives, even if they were bad tippers.

And most days, I am okay with this.  I recognize that how we treat others is indicative of how we feel about ourselves.  But for one day, I would like one of the following to happen: either I would like to be recognized in some way (and it need not even be monumental, like winning the lottery or anything, just...anything), or I would like to have a Free Pass at telling others how loutish their behavior is. 

I would like to take children who are in public and acting unruly by their ears and drag them to a corner and tell them in a very stern voice that means ALL BUSINESS that they need to knock it off, already.  I would like all bad drivers to stay home.  I would like to scrutinize out loud every fashion faux pas I see.  I would also like to stand at the checkout counter at the grocery store and refuse to let people purchase certain items; snarling teenager with you? No Mountain Dew or ramen noodles.  Does your MediAlert bracelet say you have diabetes? No soda for you either.  Are you obese? Only raw vegetables for you today.  And no, you can't have soda either.  Not even diet.

You catch my drift? I feel like the past month or so I've been biting my tongue so hard and so often that it takes an extreme amount of effort for me to not spew what I'm really thinking at people, lest they get covered in the blood that has been pooling behind my teeth. It's not lost on me, either, Dear Reader that Yom Kippur is coming in just a few weeks. 

You may be wondering why,all of a sudden, I feel this way. I won't say (because I am certain that no good will come of me telling you), but I will point you to this post for a clue.  In the meantime, re-read the Swedish proverb above, and remember to be thankful for the blessing that is this day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Truth #3

I was trolling around my friends' Facebook pages the other day, and *ping!* Up pops a little blue window that says "So-and -so posted on your wall." Oh, really? "So-and-so" is actually my cyber-pal, The Duck (side note: I use aliases for my friends, just in case...).

Oh, Duck- this is why I asked you what I asked you the other day.

Anyway, The Duck had asked about my opinion of candy corn. DUH. It is one of the four major food groups. And I answered her that one of my favorite fall treats is candy corn mixed with cocktail peanuts (Planter's Cocktail Peanuts only, definitely NEVER dry roasted): "It is like a fluffernutter without the bread," is what I replied. I also told her that I didn't allow myself said treat until the calendar read October 1st.

Truth #3: For being such a proponent of live-in-the-moment-ism and new-adventures-ism, I cling very tightly to certain self-made rituals, which cannot and will not be ignored or altered. It is probably an amateur form of OCD, but when you grow up in the Catholic church (and then find out you have some Jewish lineage, too), your life revolves around ritual whether you like it or not.

For your enjoyment (or, for your information, so you know when to avoid my craziness. Or better yet, so you can indulge your need for observing craziness in motion), I've put together a calendar of rituals I follow throughout the year. This list is by no means complete.

JANUARY 1st: Resolution Run. Usually a local 5K, and in years past, still a bit drunk. Coffee and any residual hangover accompanies me while I mark birthdays, anniversaries, etc. in RED INK on my new wall calendar. I usually think back to my childhood at this time, too, when New Year's Day meant a trip to my grandparents' houses for birthday celebrations for my paternal grandfather (January 2nd) and my maternal grandfather (January 17). I really think it was an excuse for another family get-together, and for my male relatives to watch lots of football games and drink beer. JANUARY 16th: Celebrate Daughter #1's birthday. Birthday celebrations include choice of food at dinnertime, and choice of dessert (cake, pie, cheesecake, etc.).

FEBRUARY28th: Celebrate Daughter #2's birthday. See description of birthday celebration above.

MARCH 17th: St. Patrick's Day. Wear something green; drink hot tea and eat buttered toast with grape jam (NEVER jelly) in honor of my maternal grandmother's birthday.

SPRING BREAK: May begin to purchase and consume Cadbury's Creme Eggs. There is no rule for consuming said eggs purchased by someone else; however, said eggs (regardless of purchasing personnel) must be stored in the freezer, and eaten in the frozen state: crunchy chocolate + solid creme filling = miraculous.

APRIL: Opening Day for MLB- adjust work schedule to facilitate viewing of Chicago Cubs' opener; manufacture feelings of hopefulness that "This is gonna be our year!" with beer and popcorn, at least until 7th inning stretch.

MAY: Usually the weekend after Mother's Day- host "Run & Brunch" event for friends. I didn't host the past two years due to Daughter #1's high school graduation, and then my work schedule. I think its going to make a re-appearance in 2012, though. See, I send out super cute invites to all of my runner friends (male & female), inviting them to participate in a local 5K, then come over for brunch afterwards. The first year it was just women, and we just ran one of my regular routes, not a race. The second year we did a local race. It was so nice to feel the camaraderie runners share and to show off my Martha Stewart-like hostess skills. Like I said, its comin' back in 2012. Memorial Day Weekend- Celebrate birthdays galore (my mother, two red-headed brothers-in-law, and now Bunny Boy); bring outdoor furniture out of winter storage, and sit outside on said furniture as long as the sun is shining (please note: snow may still be present).

JUNE: There isn't anything special about June for me, except that ever since I moved to the Upper Peninsula, I've spent the majority of June wondering when Summer will make an appearance.

JULY 4th: Run in Firecracker 5 Mile race. This was my first ever competitive race. Ever. I was training for my very first marathon, and my father-in-law said that I should get some experience doing races, being with lots of other runners. Also, there was the promise of a parade after the race. (Note to my Hog Capitol peeps: It's no Hog Days parade.) I have run it every year since then, and look forward to it, as for me it marks the start of summer. Independence Day is also my favorite holiday. Cookout or potluck party with friends; fire works viewed from the lake shore. Since living in the U.P., cookouts on July 4th have been day-long affairs for me. It used to be my in-law's home, and now it has been time split between my friend Fast Jessica's house (for food and perhaps a beergarita) and My Favorite Redhead's house (for a fire, beer, s'mores, and fireworks). JULY 20th: Eat Polish food in honor of my paternal grandmother. I have been known to consume the dreadful, frozen, store-bought version of pierogi; I do not recommend them unless it is a true Polack emergency. That, of course, means that you've run out of vodka, and if that's the case? Shame on you.

AUGUST: Nothing really special about August, either, unless Labor Day weekend falls at the end of the month. In which case...

SEPTEMBER: Labor Day Weekend, aka Hog Days. This marks the end of summer, for sure. It also marks one of the only times I make it to my parents' house during the year. I haven't been to Hog Days in the past two years (including this year) due to scheduling conflicts with work and other family obligations. I miss it so, so much. This is how it goes: usually the high school football team has its home opener on Friday night. Saturday morning there's the Hog Stampede (4 mile road race), followed at 2 pm by the absolutely fabulous Hog Days Parade which includes some of my favorite things: the Highland Bagpipers, The Marching Grey Ghosts of IVCC (community college), the Youth Rhythm Corps out of the Quad Cities, and my brother the fireman passing the fireman's boot along the parade route for donations to charity. Saturday night is Drinking Night. The bars downtown are in an L-shape on the block; if you go out the back door of one bar, and jog to the left, you'll be in the next bar. The alleyway is blocked off by the police, and you're allowed to wander around outside in this massive beer garden/street party atmosphere. Sunday is when you are convinced you are a volleyball champion, and you will WIN your match in the mud volleyball tournament that day. Some years you are correct. Monday is the Fly In Breakfast at the regional airport, served up by the municipal fire department (the one that takes care of the rural areas rather than calls within the city limits). And then just like *that* your summer is over.

OCTOBER 1st: May begin to mix and consume the afore-mentioned candy corn/cocktail peanut snack mix. Doesn't everybody eat this and love it? No?

NOVEMBER: The Night Before Thanksgiving. Two years ago, I spent Thanksgiving Eve with My Favorite Redhead and her husband, one of my Red-Headed-Brothers-in-Law. I taught him how to mix a proper vodka gimlet, and we and everyone else present drank mightily while singing Billy Joel songs pounded out on the piano & organ in the living room. It was a perfect pre-holiday night, the likes of which I will long for yearly in hopes of recreating it again. Thanksgiving Day- Run the Gladstone Turkey Trot 5K. Except for that year we made gimlets at Red's house. Oops.

DECEMBER 6th: Begin day with phone call from mother where she tells me again about how she remembers this day ("We were out cutting down a Christmas tree, and I told your dad to hurry, because it was time to go to the hospital. And it was so cold! And you were in such a hurry to get here!"). May purchase live Christmas tree and begin household Christmas decoration; may begin annual viewings of "Elf." See? It is part of my birthright to be mandated to wait until my birthday before getting a tree. And I love the movie "Elf." It makes me smile and laugh and feel all warm inside every time I watch it. And what girl doesn't want to feel like that on her birthday?

So call me crazy, say I'm OCD, say I'm silly to follow these self-made rituals, to keep on making these observances year after year. Go ahead, it's fine. Really. I don't care. They are my collected experiences turned into memory, and recognized and venerated in such a way that brings me comfort and happiness,no matter what else life throws at me.

See, Duck? You're not alone when you say that the worse it gets out there, the better you perform, and the more you enjoy what you have in the moment.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Truth #2

I hate the fact that I wear corrective lenses. Always have.

I remember when my eyes started to change. I was in fourth grade and absolutely loved my teacher, Miss Pillen. I loved her yellow-blond hair, her attitude of fun, her handwriting (what with its curlicues and such). I loved that she used a fine-point ball point pen so much that I bought one for myself with my allowance at the Osco downtown. Seriously, it was kinda stalker-ish how much I loved her.

So, we were in class one afternoon, and Miss Pillen was going over something with the entire class, Math maybe? I was sitting at a table in the middle of the room, and raised my hand at one point because I couldn't make out the stuff on the screen: things were out of focus. So Miss Pillen fiddles with the overhead projector, I look up and work through the next problem, but still can't see anything. Again, I ask for things to be put into focus. By now, the other kids in my class are shooting me looks; What is wrong with you? Its perfectly in focus! Miss Pillen fiddles with the knobs again, saying to me "Now? How about now?" I shook my head, no, its still blurry. And then Miss Pillen says in a very exasperated and completely annoyed voice:

"Maybe you should get your eyes checked!"

She had never raised her voice to me or spoken harshly to me; I was really a good kid, a good student. I started crying, and I thought I was doing a good job at hiding it (it was dark in the classroom, after all), but she came over to me and told me to go wash my face.

I cried just now at the memory, it is so ingrained on my conscience.

How thrilled do you think my parents were to have to take me to the eye doctor? Yeah, with six or seven kids at this time, one of the kids was bound to need glasses, right? (Although none of us needed braces...) And since we're talkin' circa-1982, my choice of frames was, um, limited. Do I even need to tell you that my hair was always home-permed in the skinniest rollers? And that our Catholic school uniforms were less-than-fashionable? I was a sight to behold.

I remember a couple of years later coming home from the eye doctor needing a stronger prescription. Another year, another new, stronger prescription: I was convinced I was going blind. I would come home from school many days and go upstairs to my bedroom, throw my glasses at the wall, and just sob. Big, heavy, mournful sobs that only a self-conscious pre-teen girl can understand, and that a mother can only listen to outside the bedroom door. Inconsolable.

And so, my 12th birthday stands out as one of the best ever if only for the fact that I was finally allowed to get contact lenses. I dream of laser eye surgery now, even though I'm pretty sure my eyes are past the prime state for that. *sigh*

On a happier note, Miss Pillen got married the summer after I had her for a teacher, and became Mrs. Wentworth. She named her first daughter Rachel.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Month of Truths

So as an experiment of sorts, I've decided to dedicate the majority of my blog posts this month to telling truths about myself. How do these "truths" differ from secrets? Well, if you know me at all you know these things already: no secret, just part of who I am.

And I figure that if I'd like a relationship with a guy (who isn't just part of a dream), I'd best be up front about myself. What better way to do this than to put it out on the good ol' World Wide Web?!

Shall we begin?

Truth #1 (and let me just state that these truths are not in any certain order, like, this "Truth #1" isn't at the top of my list, the most important thing about me, its just #1 because its the first thing that came into my head when I though about this month-long experiment): I hate surprises.

Yep. Good or bad, I don't like them. I mean, if I won the lottery- yespleaseandthankyouverymuch!- I'd be happy with all the money, but I'd be pissed I didn't know about it ahead of time. Think about it: if the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes Patrol came to my door, I'd sing-song "Just a min-ute!" to make sure I didn't look too unkempt (read: white trashy). A dab of blusher, eyelashes curled, nothing in my teeth, hair smoothed down...and PHOTO READY!

Its all about being prepared, being in the know, being in charge. I have control issues, I know. And if you know me, this is not news; my childhood has something to do with this, I'm sure. (As in, I was much more independent than other kids out of necessity.) Let me give you another example:

If I came home to a surprise party for me, I would kick everyone out of my house and not talk to them for a REALLY long time.

And you'd say to me if you were here right now: But that's mean! Your friends just wanted to surprise you as a means of showing you how much they love you! They wanted to celebrate you WITH you!

No. A thousand times, no. My friends know that any party celebrating "me" would need to be planned in some way by "me," lest I show up and throw a hissy fit over the placement of the flower arrangements or the music selection. Oh, yes. Truth be told, I would.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I am officially on vacation. I have been with my current employer for five years now, and have never taken a vacation. A long weekend for a race, sure, but never a true vacation.

And not that this is a true vacation, either. I mean, who in their right mind uses vacation time to go on two-hour training runs with a friend, go to their sister's wedding, and then host a raucous gathering at their home if they don't have to? Me.

The two-hour training run is with my friend, Fast Jessica; she is training for a full IronMan
, and being the good friend I am, I told her I'd keep her company on this run. Did I mention that it'll be the longest run I've done since my Spring marathon? Oy.

This wedding I'm going to is a milestone of sorts: my baby sister (she, my 26-year-old "baby" sister) is the last of the nine siblings to get hitched, and the last of six girls. My dad is going to toast heavily and often this weekend. This is also a different experience for me, too, as it is the first sister wedding I'm not a bridesmaid for. Say it with me, ladies: PHEW!

Anyhoo, after the wedding, I'll need to get things together for the latest installment of B & B. B & B, if you remember, is my book club. I am the hostess this month, and we will be discussing Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes , dining al fresco on some delicious grilled salmon with soba noodles, asparagus and spinach with an Asian dressing, and drinking some sort of Summer-y alcoholic concoction in mass quantities. I am beyond excited to be entertaining my friends in my new place, even though we'll be outside (so small is the new pad).

What's that? Have I read the book yet? You, Dear Reader, obviously don't understand protocol when it comes to book club; we, the Ladies of B & B, are all fine, upstanding, and (in some cases) founding members of Procrastination Nation. And as one of the founders- nay, The Queen- I shall listen to the book on CD as I drive the eight hours to my parents' home in Illinois, gazing out at the sights so familiar to me...

... like the Mars Cheese Castle, the brown IDOT sign for the Bong Recreation Area (*giggle*), signs for Alpine Valley Amphitheater, past the wind farms that dot the fields along I-39 and I-80, all the way to Exit 33, past the Sale Barn Road, past Northeast Park, down Main Street, past the ghosts of the businesses of my youth, all the way to my parents' driveway. My dad will be sitting on the front porch swing with a beer or glass of wine waiting for us. My mom will still be at work. My siblings will come and go, rush here and there, all weekend long.

And then, when the wedding excitement and the nostalgia have subsided, when I have driven the hundreds of miles back to my little dollhouse, when the book has been discussed and the food and drinks have been picked over and over and over...my real vacation will begin.

I know that I will not be able to keep myself from waking up before 6 am, such is the rhythm of my clock these days. But I know this: I will have some wonderfully busy days to reflect upon during the following two totally unscheduled weeks.

Cue the Go Go's...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Let It Go

This week I was in Washington, DC for a work conference.  I usually love traveling, and don't mind traveling alone- its like an adventure for me, navigating around a city, trying to blend in like a local, even going to the grocery store.  I love the newness of those first visits.

To add another layer of thrill to this trip, I was meeting up with a friend from my younger days; Brooke and I hadn't seen each other for close to 15 years.  Fifteen years!!! I was beyond thrilled when I found out we'd be able to hook up not one, not two, but all three free evenings I had on my schedule.  So the packing was in earnest Sunday night, and the alarm was set so I'd make it to our small, regional airport for the 7:45 am connecting flight to Detroit, then on to DC.

I'm out the door to the airport (literally, a three minute drive) by 6:30 am; this flight is usually full of old folks and business folks, both leaving town for destinations far and away.  The ticket agent was helping another woman with something, so I proceeded to the self check-in kiosk when the other ticket agent says, "Don't do the self check-in.  The flight's been cancelled for this morning."  Oh, frr rrllll?!  Slightly annoyed, I'm re-routed to leave from Appleton, WI; a taxi arrives a few minutes later to drive me there, $50 travel voucher and $6 meal voucher in hand.  Let it go.  You were able to get a new flight. I text Brooke and let her know of my later-than-expected arrival time.

Flights are smooth, baggage claim is fine, and the hotel is a three minute drive (again, literally) from the airport.  For those of you familiar with the DC area, my hotel was in Crystal City; my conference, on the other hand, was in a new area (planned community, really) called National Harbor.  My morning commute from hotel to conference? Well, I had choices:  1) a $60-70 taxi ride each way; or 2) yellow line from Crystal City to L'Enfant Plaza, transfer to green line to Branch station (end of the green line), transfer to NH1 bus to be within one block of the conference site.  Because my per diem didn't allow for taxi service, I ended up with a 70-90 minute commute each morning & afternoon. Let it go, Rachel; you could have to try and drive in this hellish traffic.  

So my days slogged by at the conference, and my nights were hours and hours of good conversations, good food and drink, and overall good company (and, for the record, I'm good at bar room trivia). Fast forward to this morning.  My flight is scheduled to leave DC at 9:42 am for a connection in Detroit, then on to my regional airport.  Can you even guess what happened?  Yep.  Flight to Detroit is fine; flight from Detroit home is cancelled.  After a flurry of text messages to Daughter #1, I am re-booked on a flight back to Appleton, leaving in...20 minutes! Now, if you've ever been in the Detroit airport, you are familiar with the terminal set up:  terminal A is for flights from larger hubs, while terminals B & C (parallel to terminal A) are for regional flights.  The two sets of terminals are connected by a tunnel whose walls are a glass art installation that changes colors.  There's even music to go along with the show; see photos here and here, and a video here

I hate the light tunnel.

So I run in flip flops from terminal A to terminal C, making my new flight just barely.  I have a minute to check my message where I find out that its NOT Daughter #1 coming to pick me up, but my was-band.  WTF?! As if I didn't already have a headache.  As if that's the face I wanted to see and share my stories with while driving for two-and-a-half hours. As if I didn't already just  want to get the fuck home, already. I felt so mad and frustrated and helpless and discouraged and...so...trampled.  Cue the iPod, over-sized sunglasses, and tears.  Let it go, Rachel.  It'll be over soon enough.

The drive home is awkward and mostly silent, save for small talk about our daughters and mutual friends, his mother, my parents.  And then I hear this song on the CD playing, and I remind myself once again of my good fortunes, of the people I have in my life who care enough about me to stop in the middle of their day to pick me up at the airport 150 miles away.  Let it go. This too shall pass. Gam zeh ya'avor.  Enjoy the music and fun, and remember that it really is best to stop and reevaluate things before getting all worked up into a kerfuffle. 


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Heat Wave

Note:  I've never seen the movie advertised in the image above, I just like the image.
Holy crap has it been hot around here!  And while I don't mind the heat per se, I do mind the accompanying humidity and lack of breezes, and that makes me crabby.  The heat has also had a negative effect on my training/running schedule:  I'm at work for 7:30 am (with a 25 minute drive), and I am NOT a morning person (mornings = Crabby Rachel).  Morning workout? Not gonna happen.  Evening workout? Well, that's when I'll run, but I get home from work around 6 or 6:30 pm, chit chat with Daughter #2, read through the mail, etc. etc. and then before I know it, it's 9 pm.  

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with running at 9 pm! If you've had dinner already (which I usually haven't during the week) and have a relatively short (< 7 miles) run on tap.  And now that I'm ready to pick up my training for my fall marathon (which I still  haven't registered for), well, you can see my dilemma.

I can do one of these things:  
1) Get up at 5 am each morning for a cool, quiet run and save weights for the afternoons at work with the teenagers;
2) Get home from work earlier than 6 pm so I can eat a little something before running/weights;
3) Do my weight training at work before I drive home, then run immediately when I get home.

I do not want to run out by work as there are too many hills and not enough trees.  Its really only for the next two or three weeks, until my summer programming is completed.  And I *think* the heat wave is blessedly on its way out.  Which means upping the training, which means making a plan, which means making a commitment.  

UGH! Throw into this mix a week in Washington, DC for work, followed by a family wedding, and that puts me into September already.  See? Its hard being me.  

Now, those new running shoes aren't going to wear themselves out, are they? Week 7 of the Hanson's Plan?:  bring it on, minus the heat.  And minus the crabs.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Was it the Full Moon, or...?

...something else? My dreams the past few nights have been particularly clear, and for the most part, mundane:  grocery shopping, replaying a scene at work, stuff like that.  But then there was a dream Friday night that was a bit more...um...hot.

Yeah, I'm talkin' *bow chicka wah wah* hot.  Lawd have mercy.

Without getting too graphic, I'll just say that there was a bed with white sheets, a glimpse of my boob, and some rustling of those sheets, if you catch my drift.  I can tell its me (it is my dream, after all).  But the guy is obscured from my view (and so is my face, even though- like I said- I know its me) until things are, uh, finished, and we collaspse with my head on his shoulder/chest nook and his arm around me. 

It's Shall-Remain-Nameless. Again!

Shall-Remain-Nameless has been mentioned here and here on this blog before, and has always been involved in the rama-lama-ding-dong portions of my dreams. I'm not complaining, trust me:  I could do so  much worse than Shall-Remain-Nameless.  And he is not even what's bothering me about this dream.  Its this: am I having these dreams because I'm not getting any? Or because of the full moon? Or for some other reason entirely? Or a combination of those factors? This will keep me guessing and analyzing things for awhile, for sure. 

In the meantime, I'm going to work on writing better sex scenes. :o/

Friday, July 15, 2011

Food & Memory

The photo says "Summer" without me adding any additional words.  This afternoon, I began reading a new book, based on food and memory.  I love days like today where I have no real plans, and am able to sit outside in my Zero-Gravity Lounger, and often times read an entire book.  This one I picked up from the library this afternoon, immediately connected with the author (the specifics of why I connect, is a different post altogether), and was reminded of the power of memory.

I usually get up and stretch, take a bathroom break, and maybe get a snack every hour or so.  And just now- yes, I am on a break from reading RIGHT NOW- I looked into the fridge, saw that watermelon and that lime, and was taken back to the early summer of 1990. 

I was living in San Diego, working as a live-in nanny for a family with two young kids, and had met a guy at a concert I had attended by myself.  I was nineteen, and did things like that. I can't remember the name of the stadium, but the Swap Meet was held in the parking lot every weekend, and Tower Records was kitty-corner from it as well.  I think I had seen The Smithereens that night.  I met a very sexy, very charming guy named Enrique (I am not making that up), who had long, glossy black hair, a very cute smile, and an accent.  Being the teenaged bimbo I was, we totally made out and groped each other, then exchanged phone numbers before going our separate ways that night.

Fast forward a month or so, and we are a couple, and we are at his cousin's house in Anaheim one weekend for a family barbeque/pool party.  The beer and rum and vodka and grilled food and sun are all plentiful.  The afternoon lingers on, and- a bit drunk- I am walking barefoot around the pool, and step on a glass shard from a broken beer bottle.  Enrique's brother, Cesar, sits me down and says "Alguien me traiga una lima."  He takes the lime wedge, and squeezes the juice directly on the cut.  "Para detener el sangrado."  The rest of the wedges were used to dress the slices of watermelon on the nearby food table. 

And then, people began taking the watermelon-with-lime-juice slices.  But before they ate them, they sprinkled them with salt.  I had never seen this before, and I guess it showed on my face because Enrique said to me "Try it.  Its the perfect mix of sweet and sour and salty." 

And so I did.  And he was right.

This memory hit me like a ton of bricks, but in a good way.  Its going to make me wistful for the girl I was 20 years ago (if only for a few more hours) as I read my book in the light of the setting Summer sun, in the driveway of my rented dollhouse here in Michigan, where I'm hoping my daily life-and-food combinations become memories anew.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

To Do Lists

Don't you wish your To Do List looked like Patrick Starfish's? I sure do.

I really am a big proponent of To Do Lists, and I certainly feel super-accomplished when I cross items off of the lists I create; I've even kicked my feet up on top of my desk at work when a list has been totally crossed off, crumpled up, and tossed in my Circular File. And I really do create lists for just about everything.  They keep me- someone who often has more on her plate than anyone really has a right to- focused.

I honestly don't know how I (or any other List Maker) functioned without Post-Its, though.

I have my everyday lists (grocery/household items lists), and then I have my Work List (a 3" x 3" neon Post-It in the lower right-hand corner of my desk calendar), and then I have my Special Interest Lists.  And so, to give you Dear Readers, a glimpse into my life, here are some sample lists:

Sample Grocery/Household List:
cream cheese
sour cream
coffee creamer
veggie crumbles
corn tortillas
salad greens
Arnold Palmer Arizona Tea
vacuum sealer bags
fresh fruit

Sample Work List:
database entry
roster review & data input for fall testing
call Milwaukee Zoo re: field trip
call re: 5K tshirts
email M. re: equipment
create maps for activity tents
classroom observations
confirm canoes for field trip on Monday
print out travel info for DC trip
staff meeting agenda

Pretty tame, right?  Well, look at these, then:

Books to Borrow/Read:
Bright Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich
Room by Emma Donoghue
Private Life by Jane Smiley
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
One Day by David Nicholls
This Is Not The Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson
Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich
The Gates by John Connolly
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry
War Dances by Sherman Alexie
Designated Fat Girl by Jennifer Joyner
The Curse of the Good Girl by Rachel Simmons
How Lincoln Learned to Read by Daniel Wolff
One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman
The Compass of Pleasure by David J. Linden
Rescue by Anita Shreve
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

Music to Download:
"Shadow People"- Dr. Dog
"I Didn't See It Coming"- Belle & Sebastian
"New Low"- Middle Class Rut
"See The World"- Gomez
"Beg, Steal or Borrow"- Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs
"Kentucky Pill"- Johnny Flynn
"Save Yourself"- Sharon Van Etten
"You'll Be Bright"- Cloud Cult
"Spanish Pipedream"- The Avett Brothers (Yes, I know its a John Prine song.  I love John Prine, and have had the pleasure of seeing him live, even.  Soooo worth it. But I like this version.)
"Louder Than Ever" by Cold War Kids
"Cameras" by Matt and Kim
"The High Road"- Broken Bells
"Unsingable Name"- Mike Doughty
"Yelling Away"- Zap Mama
"Release the Stars"- Rufus Wainwright
"Big Time Sensuality"- Bjork
"Missed the Boat"- Modest Mouse

And then this:

Sample Life Goal List (and when I say "sample," I mean "this is my real list"):
Complete M. Ed. coursework, maintain 4.0 GPA (so far, so good).
Run a sub-4 hour marathon (only 19 minutes to get rid of).
Buy a house (on hold for at least...one year?...).
Take at least one fabulous vacation each year (this year, that consists of three weeks off in August doing nothing, plus a long weekend in Arizona this November for this, as a spectator).
Go all over Europe, especially Spain and Italy, but not necessarily the U.K. or Germany.
Never live with animals ever again.
Always remain fit and healthy so that I can continue to enjoy this life as laid out above.
Practice generosity and outward happiness.  Every. Day.

You can tell lots of things about the things people keep track of, the lists they keep.  I know what I think these lists say about me, but what do they say to you about me? I'd love to see the lists you keep, too.  Feel free to share, friends.

Friday, July 1, 2011

SOS: What No Woman Wants to Hear

That's right:  its time to get serious about training again.  I've got some races picked out, and am ready to really focus on my performances.  I bought this book hoping that the author would tell me something like..."You're perfect the way you are! You just need to be doing 50-60 miles per week, that's all."  Instead, what I got was "Lose 10 pounds."

Oh, frr rrlllll?!

So frustrating.  I mean, I know that. But who really wants to hear it? And I've been trying to lose those proverbial "last ten pounds" since they found me.  My diet, by the way, is stellar, with the exception of a very robust sugar addiction.  Which, according to the author, I should try to feed with fruits and dark chocolate. *GAAAAAGGGGG*  to the dark chocolate (for  a primer on my strange food preferences, please go here and here ). 

So, now that my summer programming is under way at work, my grad class is over for the term, and I have a bit of a regular routine I can follow, I'll need to start incorporating certain things into my life if I want to be in "peak performance" for my upcoming races.  Like, breakfast everyday (duh). And more carbs (so, my preference for PB & J sandwiches can be indulged).  And more lean protein (note to self:  make friends with local fishermen).  And less sugar (DOH!). 

I guess I should also start running regularly again if I want to creep closer to that 4-hour marathon finish I want so badly.  And start doing some weight training again.  And start getting 8-9 hours of sleep each night.  And probably should start figuring out a way to save the starving children of the world, cure cancer, and end partisan politics.  What am I, Wonder Woman?  There's no way that last item is achievable.

I always have such good intentions when starting a training program, and am usually pretty good at holding myself to my commitments, exercise-wise.  But like I mentioned in my last post , I've been struggling.  There's no impetus.  Yes, I have races in mind, but have I registered for them yet? Nope.  Part of my resistance might be my propensity toward always looking forward to the next thing, and not focusing on the day-to-day, the here-and-now.  If I could afford it, I'd hire a personal trainer and a nutritionist.  And a personal chef.  And, of course, I'd be so fabulously wealthy that I wouldn't have to go to work each day, so my workouts could be my job.

Fantasy Me:  Brock, what does our workout entail today?
Brock, Fantasy Trainer: Fuel first, ma'am! Your chef has a great breakfast here for you. And your assistant should schedule you a post-workout massage. We're going to do some mile reapeats with plyo drills in between.
Fantasy Me: *sigh* I just don't know when I'll have time for that massage, what with that interview with the Nobel Prize committee and all.
Just Jack, Fantasy Personal Assistant:  And there's the fitting for your gown for the Met Gala, plus lunch with Anna Wintour, that crazy bitch!
Fantasy Me:  Oh, now, she's just so misunderstood, Jack, you know that.
Just Jack: *eye roll* 
Brock: I know its hard being you, ma'am, but we need to focus now.
See? Fantasy life is so much easier to navigate than real life.

But back to the exercising: the title of this post is the truth.  No woman wants to hear she needs to lose weight, even if at first glance she doesn't seem overweight (and yes, I know that I am more slender than many Americans).  So I am asking for tips and advice from my fellow runners: 
What has worked for you when you've wanted to lose weight?
Can it be as simple as "Eat and exercise more"? Because yes, I've had people suggest that I'm not taking in enough calories for the amount of exercise I'm doing.  I've even started making recovery drinks with chia, and added it to my oatmeal or yogurt.  And honestly, I'm not looking forward to the midfulness that eating properly requires.  But if you want to lose the weight and run faster, Rachel...

SOS, friends...

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Yep.  Mine got up and left.  WTF?! I was on such a high after my last marathon, and now...nothin'.  Makes me crabby.


I could blame it lots of things, I suppose:  work, grad school, stress, only having 24 hours each day.  But really, I think I might be...you know...the "l" word?...lazy.

AAARRRRRGGHHHH! I can't even bring myself to pull my running gear out of the dresser, much less put it on and go running.  I haven't even participated in the Fit Club we have at work for the teenagers (in my defense, school just ended, and there is a two-week lag in programs ending & starting up again).  Tony Horton has not looked at me through the television screen and whispered conspiratorially that he wants to see me "jump like a cat." Mee-ooowww!

Okay, so I did run once since the race- a local 5K on Memorial Day-and my time was decent (25:25 or 8:10/mile).  But that was two weeks after the race, and I haven't done anything since then.  I have had no drive, no desire, no impetus, no anything.  I have a giant case of "blah is me." 

So I guess I'm asking for some guidance.  I know when my next local race is- Firecracker 5 Mile Run, July 2nd- but beyond that, the rest are scheduled so far into the future that I really don't feel any pressing need to get out there and work it, you know? And I know that I should be out there laying down some base miles before my training plans kick in, and that I should be watching my diet (and maybe even re-evaluating my diet?), and that I should care more

But I just don't.

Could it be that my break from running post-marathon has been too long? Maybe I should have gotten right back into the swing of things? I don't know.  I'm thinking that perhaps I need to find some sort of other goal, unrelated to running/fitness, that I should work towards in hopes that the boost to other parts of my psyche will work wonders for my running life.  That is my hope.

But for now, only having access to 24 hours each day, I can't fathom taking an hour or two for myself when there's a research paper to be written, daughters to spend time with, bills to get paid, jobs to go to...I could go on. 

We have had a terrible, cold spring here, and then last week? About three or four days of HEAT, the likes of which hardly ever come around (it was heavenly!).  And now its back to cold, rainy, overcast, yuck.  Those three or four days got me thinking about Vitamin D- you know, the "sunshine vitamin?" I felt soooo much better on those days, and am considering adding more Vitamin D to my gummy multivitamin each day.  Thoughts???

Whatever I come up with- a different goal, different vitamins, different eating habits- I know it needs to be, well, different.  Like I said earlier:  AAARRRRRGGGGHHHH. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Me, The Hansons, The Hansens, and a New Racing Approach

Over the past few years, I have moved my marathon running life from the "train to finish the race upright" to "set a goal time and hit it." You see, I never really intended to ever run a single marathon, much less the two-dozen plus I've finished. I will always and forever blame my running life, with a smile and fondness, on my departed father-in-law.

But this post? This post is about my last race:  the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon .  It all started with the registration form, and a chat with my friend, Fast Jessica.

FJ:  So, which training plan are you using this time? The same one as for Chicago?
Me: Um, no.  I liked that last plan, but I'm thinking about the Hanson's plan that was just in Runner's World.
FJ:  Wait, doesn't that one have like, NO rest days or something crazy like that?
Me:  Yep.  Something like that.

So, the Hanson's plan I followed (almost) religiously, can be found as a part of this article .  The biggest selling point for me was that my longest run was only 16 miles.
I know, right?!

FJ:  So, with this plan, your longest long runs are only 16 miles?
Me: Yep.
FJ:  I don't know, Rach.  I think I'd just feel better if you came out and ran an 18- or 20-miler with me.
Me:  Nah, I'll be fine.

So, like I said, I didn't follow the plan exactly, but I was sure to hit the key strength/speed workouts, and those mid-week long runs, many at MP or faster.  I should say now that I'm no speed demon, I've never qualified for/run Boston, and my PR to date for the marathon has been my 4:25:xx finish in Green Bay last year, after gaining a new PR in Tucson the December before (side note:  NOT a fan of Pam Reed, and anytime there is too much wind or a bad finish area, its her fault.  Just go with it.).  So for me, chipping away at time at a steady pace is key, and for this race, I'd be happy with a new PR by even one minute. Remember, I've only recently started caring about my finish times. Aaaannnnnd onward.

Fast forward to about three weeks pre-race.  Fast Jessica and I are out for a run that was supposed to be easy for both of us.  It was windy (Pam Reed's fault again), and we had to hit 7 miles before we'd have the wind at our backs rather than our faces.  Now, as I've mentioned before, when FJ and I run together, we talk.  And when we talk, we (okay, maybe just me) go faster than prescribed.  We hit 7, and ease up on the pace, finishing up our 10 miles feeling great.  Our average pace was about 8:40/mile.  Remember:  this is me, in a headwind for 7 miles, on a scheduled "easy" day.

FJ:  Bro, you're totally gonna hit that PR in Green Bay.
Me:  You think?
FJ:  Um, yeah.  We just ran that 10 waaayyy faster than last time.  You're gonna nail it.
Me: Huh.

Its at this point in time that I realize I don't have a hotel booked yet.  Oops.  This is also the point in time where I begin to doubt myself, my training (Maybe I should have taken FJ up on that 18-miler offer...), and generally feel like crap.  This time, my car also broke down, adding another layer of crappiness.  So, I'm out to lunch with a friend of mine- Mrs. Hansen-  on Good Friday,and we're talking about the upcoming race.  She and her hubby are both running the half, and I ask where they're staying.  Half laughing, I ask if we can have a slumber party that weekend.  She blinks, blinks again, and says "Well, I don't see why not.  I'll ask Mr. Hansen and let you know."  Frrr rllll?  Text a few hours later: "Mr. Hansen says the slumber party is a go."  Sweet!

Spirits boosted, I finish the training, and drive to Green Bay Saturday morning, tailgating the Hansens, and praying that the other Hansons have got my back with this training, even if I only make it through 16 miles.

Pre-race dinner is a ton of sushi at Nakashima Japan.  The Hansens and I order about nine of everything, and have so much fun.  I've never felt so relaxed the eve before a race, never before forgot about what it was I was going to wake up and do the next morning, never before toasted tomorrow with such gusto and joy.  Anyways, check it out:

I don't think I need to say that we had leftovers for post-race celebrating.  Early to bed, and early to rise.  Race day will be here before you know it...

Morning.  One cup of coffee with about 7 or 8 of those creamer cups, a banana, and a packet of instant oatmeal mixed with yogurt.  Big ol' Gatorade brought along for the ride to Lambeau Field .  A few pre-race photos on the iPhone, gear check, iPod set to go, in the crowded starting corrals, speeches by people I don't know, the Star Spangled Banner, pump up music blaring, a little House of Pain , and the gun goes off.

I situate myself with the 4:15 pace group, and decide to stick with one of the three pacers no matter what.  I feel great, I'm not checking my watch, and the pace feels incredibly easy.  This is good.  The Hansons know what they're doing.  So far, so good.

It stays this way for awhile.  I start chatting up the male pacer (can't remember his name), and only around mile 12 do I notice that the rest of the pace group is nowhere to be found.  Pacer Dude says: "Well, we'll just have some extra time to bank for when we hit the river.  The wind is gonna be nasty."  Now, I knew that the day was going to be windy.  I watch The Weather Channel, I know these things that you should do before a race.  25-30 mph wind with gusts of 50 mph+, is what the forecast said.  And up until this point, the wind was gusty, for sure, but nothing worse than I'd had on training runs along Little Bay de Noc.  And then I realized what he was talking about.  From mile 14-22-ish, we'd be running along the Fox River.  With a head wind the entire way.  Again, I blame Pam Reed, and just put my chin down and run.  What can I do at this point, anyway?

My splits at this time are pretty steady: 9:18 through mile 5, 9:25 at mile 10, 9:20 at the half, 9:26 at mile 15.  And then it gets windy.  Relentlessly windy.  And please, let me remind you that wind is indeed, Mother Nature's most annoying element.

I tried really really really hard to not be negative.  Mantras played over and over in my head to a soundtrack of carefully chosen songs:  You can do this.  One foot in front of the other.  Be strong.  Catch  (fill in with description of random runner ahead of me).
I'll admit to some swearing.  I'll be the first to admit to dropping a few (dozen) f-bombs, plus a few exasperated "Really?!"-s thrown in for good measure.  Pace at mile 20 is 9:39, and I am tired.

By the time I hit mile 23, I am mentally broken.  My legs feel fine, and so I try to focus on that aspect during the remaining miles rather than how exhausted I am from talking myself though almost 8 miles of strong winds.  (side note:  the Tucson Marathon was exactly  the same:  a head wind from miles 14-24, with no let up. Stupid Pam Reed.)

I see Fast Jessica wrapped in mylar right around the Jimmy Buffet water stop, right before you get back to Lambeau Field.  She is smiling and cheering me on, and I wave and give the "thumbs up" sign.  I get to Lambeau, enter the tunnel and am just about to hit the inside track when I pause for just a minute.  A guy behind me says:  "You can't stop now.  I've been chasing you for the last four miles.  You're almost done."  Now, for a newly single gal to hear that a guy has been chasing her? For four miles? Nice.  Just the boost I needed to pick up the pace, run the track, exit the tunnel, and see the Hansens hoisting beers up high, screaming my name.  I cross the finish line in 4:20:xx.

FJ meets me at the exit, and we high five and hug.

FJ:  How do you feel? You looked great coming in, really strong.
Me:  My legs feel great.  I'm mentally beat, though.  That wind was nasty.
FJ:  It's all Pam Reed's fault.
Me:  Of course.
FJ:  So you're happy with your time?
Me:  Yeah, I'll take it.
FJ:  Good.  Because there's talk that the course was long.
Me:  Huh.

I meet up with my slumber party Hansens, we toast the other Hansons for a good race plan, and head back to the hotel.  We amble to the pool area, and settle in to the hot tub fully clothed. I know!!! Its gross, but really, I never shower after training runs, either, and only one lady was in the hot tub, and she too, was fully clothed.  So there.

The next day, its announced that the course was indeed long, and that finish times would be adjusted.  My new PR? 4:19:24.  I'll take it.

As I've thought back to that weekend, I've decided that a few things are for sure.  1) The Hansons training plan feels good for me.  There's a good balance of structure and leeway.  And only 16 mile long runs. 2) Good friends like the Hansens can help you relax and remember why you run in the first place- because its fun. 3) A good training partner is worth their weight in gold.  No matter that Fast Jessica is faster than I am, the concern and interest she took in my race was appreciated. 4)  I can totally beat that time.  If I can only get Pam Reed the heck away from me...

Happy running, friends.  Let's hope your next finish line photo is as joyful as mine.