Sunday, March 25, 2007

Advertising at its Best

My youngest daughter, who is three, asked me this morning where her American Idol blanket was. I didn't even know we owned one and I was trying to figure out what the heck it was. I told her I didn't know.

I heard her little feet pitter-patter down the stairs and the same question was posed to her dad. I knew he was trying to figure out what the heck that was too.

While she was downstairs questioning her dad, I realized what she had been asking about. For the past week or so, she has been folding and unfolding a small towel. She takes it to bed and folds it nicely over her pillow. She takes it into the family room and folds it nicely over her legs.

The towel was given to us at some charity event. I believe it was from one of the Race for the Cure races. On it is the logo for Ford Motor Company.

She has often said "Look mommy! American Idol!" when we've been at a stop light and have had a Ford something-or-another in front of us.

It baffles me that the advertising has been so closely tied to this show that my own three year old could figure it out (in some way). Kudos to the folks who came up with that collaboration.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

So, what are you going to do with the stumps?

We just had all of our trees in our front yard chopped down a couple of weeks ago. We had one big tree in the back yard chopped too, for a total of nine trees.

The front yard consisted of several Oak and Sweet Gum trees. They were all positioned in a circle, sans one, as in an ode to Stonehenge, or some odd Indian burial ground. Tim is planning to build a front porch and these trees just didn't make it into our landscape plans. Plus, in the Fall, we were constantly being pelted by acorns or those darn sweet gum balls. You could hear them popping off any car parked in our driveway.

So we finally got them chopped down. I was able to see them chop down the big Oak in the back yard. Some dude had climbed way to the top of it and would chop a bit off, while other dudes at the bottom would pull it down. This went on for several choppings and each time a part came off, the tree -- and the dude -- would sway. No amount of money would pay me to do that job...so I think.

But knowing that ALL the trees in the front yard were going down, I just knew that we would have neighbors complain. For the most part, no one likes to see nature wiped out. These trees were here before we moved in, so in a way, the neighborhood may have felt an ownership to them. So I prepared Tim for the onslaught of neighbors, questioning our decision to remove these ancient trees. Tim, as usual, was prepared to fight. I mentioned it to my horticulturist friend (who created my landscape designs) and she simply said "Do they pay for your mortgage?"

Instead, the common question asked by two neighbors and two relatives: "What are you going to do with the stumps?"

What?

"What are you going to do with the stumps?"

Really? You care about the stumps and not the fact that eight ageless trees have been annihilated?

Okay, I didn't really say that, but I was thinking it.

It's probably just as annoying, if not more, than the idea of folks questioning our decision to chop the trees down. It is definitely the one question I hadn't anticipated.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Happy Birthday Dori

This happened last Thursday, before I started this blog, but it was such a hoot that I have to write it down.

Last Thursday, I picked up my little girl (Mi-Mi) at preschool and headed over to The Athlete's Foot in Cameron Village to pick up my Run for the Oaks packet. As soon as I got there, I saw Salman and Niki and chatted with them for a bit. We headed into the store and quickly got the packets for me and "Tim".

So as I am putting my daughter back into her car seat, I noticed a lady who appeared to be waiting for me to get Mia in the car. I assumed it was her car that was parked right next to mine, so I told her that she was welcomed to go to her car and I would squeeze into my van to put my daughter in the seat.

As she came around to her car door, she said something to my daughter about Dory and Nemo from Finding Nemo. I guessed that she noticed a Nemo movie in the mess of my car and decided to make small talk with us. She then told us that her name was Dory and I coaxed Mi-Mi to act surprise as I was, anything to just make nice with the chatty stranger.

So I continue to appease her and tell her that Dory is one of my favorite characters (she is, so it wasn't a lie) and I turn back to continue my business of getting Mi-Mi in her seat and heading home. But no, she sort of shrills 'Look - I have her in my back window!' and she points to the back of her red VW bug and sure enough, I see a stuffed animal Dory.

I give her a courtesy giggle and tell her how cool that is, but I'm beginning to think I'm going to have to ask her to dinner...

Again, I turn back to Mi-Mi as I see the real Dory get into her car. But I did hear mumbling and I'm not sure what she's saying, but I think she's saying something like 'goodbye'.

So I get Mi-Mi plugged into the car seat and I turn to close the door when I see Dory back in front of me and she's holding a cake. She asks Mi-Mi "Do you want the Dory?" and explains that Saturday is her birthday and this is her birthday cake. Well, I see two characters on her cake - Dory and Nemo. She prods Mi-Mi to take the Dory and I relent and say OK.

She struggles to open this BRAND NEW untouched birthday cake and orders me to help her open the plastic lid. I abide and take the Dory off the cake which leaves a small dent behind. Mi-Mi hurriedly grabs it and proceeds to lick the icing off of it. She hasn't actually said anything this entire time...just a few smiles and a look of 'who the heck is this woman?'

I tell "Dori" (I note the spelling, since it's spelled out on the cake) thank you, how very sweet of her and hope she has a nice birthday. It doesn't end. She now asks Mi-Mi if she would like the Nemo one too. I immediately tell her 'No, No, we appreciate the Dory, but we cannot take the Nemo'. Did I mention there are only two characters on the cake and the writing "Happy Birthday Dori"...so removing Nemo leaves a pretty bland birthday cake appearance.

She insists and I awkwardly accept and now take the Nemo character off the cake. This leaves a pretty big hole - Nemo takes a big dollop of icing with it, so one can see all the way down to the cake. So I look at Mi-Mi and tell her we can give this to Cerina, she loves Nemo and she'll love the icing.

I turn to look at Dori and she's looking at me with that lightbulb-went-off-in-her-head look. She shoves the cake into me and tells me - Do you want the cake? I definitely said NO WAY AM I TAKING YOUR BIRTHDAY CAKE. She's like "Why not? Come on - you're just the person I needed to see today! Please take this cake home with you." I insisted no and then asked her why she would give her birthday cake away. She said that she had just lost 25 lbs and friends were still giving her stuff like this...her birthday gift was running the race on Saturday.

Well, I took the cake. I don't know why - peer pressure...well, Dori-pressure...and I suddenly was holding the cake. I put the cake in the car, then turned to Dori and gave her a hug and told her that good things should come her way for being so nice. I really meant it and even though it was the oddest occurrence (but not unusual for me, it seems), it did make me feel good to encounter someone like Dori.

On the drive home, I was still just awed that this had happened. Mi-Mi would ask several times to take a look at the birthday cake. When we got it home, I explained the whole thing to Tim and CJ, who thought it was the kookiest thing.

Later that evening, we lit a candle and sang Happy Birthday to Dori before we cut the cake. CJ blew the candle out and made a wish for her. Shortly after the cake was consumed and enjoyed, I said to Tim "What if she poisoned the cake?!"

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Five Stars

Love my iPod and iTunes. Thought I'd share what my latest Five Star ratings are. I'm pretty frugal with stars and once the new shines off, I re-rate them...

Some of these songs are old but recently discovered:

Stay Together for the Kids - Blink 182
The Guide - Borne
Hang Me Up to Dry - Cold War Kids
Hospital Beds - Cold War Kids
Snow (Hey Oh) - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Le Disko - Shiny Toy Guns
Animal I Have Become - Three Days Grace
Gravity - John Mayer
Like a Star - Corinne Bailey Rae
Since I've Been Loving You - Corinne Bailey Rae

Pace Me

Yesterday was the annual Run for the Oaks 5K. I run this race nearly every year. Actually, many people do. Even though there are a few races prior to this one, Run for the Oaks seems to be the 'season opener' for Spring races...and sort of the first sign of Spring in Raleigh.

After 70-80ยบ weather the past week, race day came with a chill. It was better weather than the day before, which rained the entire time. But, I was ready and excited and anxious. Today, at this race, I was going to push hard and break my 25:48 5K PR.

I knew I was back in great running shape. I started running in December, after a three month hiatus to some mysterious virus. I had opened the year with a 20K: Coach Bubba's 20K in February. I made my goal there - under two hours - so I thought about making another goal for this race.

My goal was 25:30 - I just picked a more 'aggressive' time, rather than my usual 'one second below' my PR time. For Run for the Oaks, my best time was 26:09, so I was really digging into my heals to make my PR on this course. I made my PR at Second Empire, a few years ago when I was in the best running shape I've ever been. But that race has a pretty fast course *and* it hurt like hell to run it. So I was imagining the pain I would feel trying to shave 18 seconds off a time that had already intimidated me.

I half thought of having someone pace me. My regular running buddy, $Bill, would not be running this race since he had his first marathon to run the following day (today). A couple of my best girlfriends wouldn't be available either. Instead, one of them 'gave' me her husband, who was just getting back into running after a year hiatus due to back problems. Anyway, it would be a good match: the husband, who we'll call "Mark", is pretty fast but since he has just been resuming his running recently, my aggressive 8:10 mn/mile pace would be a modest one for him.

We started off well. I actually felt strong and arrogant for the first half mile. Then my legs turned into lead, the burn and the tiredness sets in -- after half a mile, mind you -- but I know from experience that this always happens. It's my system telling me "I'm just warming up. Don't worry, you'll feel great soon". But even though I know this, I still worry...

Mark has us pace a young fellow in a St. Patrick's day green shirt. So I keep my focus on him, heeding Mark's 'slow down' hand signals. Mile one: 7:47 mn/mile pace. I hear Mark tell us we need to slow down, but I am SO relieved. One, I get to slow down because it hurt and two, I ran a fricking 7:47 mn/mile pace!

I run adjacent to Mark and repeatedly read his 'slow down' hand signals. I've always ran next to folks, so it was my modus operandi, but I recall Mark saying to me, earlier in the mile, that being behind him was the best place for me. It only took me another mile to figure out what all that meant.

I know this race course pretty well. The second-to-third mile is a long upward slope. It's usually the time that I feel like I will never make it. People around me are either walking, or breathing really loud which always distracts me. But this day, I was in the ultimate runner's high. I ran right behind Mark, tailgating him this entire way. I felt nothing but enjoyment. I wasn't breathing hard (technically), my pace felt slower than I would have thought. I mean, it felt like I wasn't even running in a race! I saw people pass me, but I wasn't phased. I heard people yelling and breathing hard and I wasn't phased. Heck, I didn't even have to count!

I put all my trust into Mark that I was actually running faster than a 10 mn/mile. When we turned to the final descent -- a downward finish -- I knew this part was also difficult, because even though it was downhill, there is a lot of legwork before the finish comes into sight.

As we approached the three mile mark, Mark started speeding up. I thought, uh-oh, we were running too slow and now he's trying to make up the time. At this point, my runner's high was gone and I was in full-throttle mode. But, oh the pain. It was hard and the finish looked too far away to continue at this pace. And Mark was getting faster, so I ran faster...but I knew that I couldn't run this fast and that I was going to die right before the finish. I see Mark pumping his arms and I hear him, COME ON, YOU GOT IT...or something like that.

I didn't think I had it and I was wondering when the damn finish line would get here. Then I heard Salman yelling at me to run hard. That was the extra incentive I needed to cross the finish. I had no idea what my time was and at this point, I still don't know since the results haven't been posted. But since my husband, we'll call him "Tim", was right behind me and he said he came in at something:45, we are guesstimating that I made my 25:30 goal. :-)