Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Book Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

I, like so many others, have been moved by Randy Pausch's short life.

His "last lecture" at Carnegie Mellon was one of the most personal, uplifting, and inspiring talks I have ever heard in my life. It was a priviledge to be alive and in the moment to hear him speak. This, without a doubt, will be legendary and he has blessed his children with this legacy.

I 'followed' his health moments through his web page and watched more videos of his talks and interviews. For each and every one of the ones I have seen, he would say something that sent chills down my spine because they were so amazingly moving.

So when my book club suggested that we start our New Year choice with his book, I was happy.

The book is pretty much on par with his lecture@Carnegie (l@C). He provides a little more 'behind-the-scenes' about why he said what, or just more insight to his personal life.

I think he comes across more geeky and arrogant than the l@C and I don't mean that as an insult. He even proclaims the same in this book. It is just, IMO, more obvious as you read his words.

It was somber reading for me. And I think there is a vastly different take on this novel if you read it before vs. after he died.

Before, I assume, one still feels there is hope. Afterwards? Well, he has died and the hopes and goals of the remainder of his life is outlined here...and you know he is dead. And it's heartbreaking.

Because his life is his family.

Because he does not want to die.

And he cries in the shower when he thinks about how he won't be around to see his children grow up.

I will share some pages I bookmarked (the library, or next person who reads this copy, will probably not be too keen on my folded pages) that meant a lot to me to bookmark. The book, in its entirety, should be bookmarked...but here's just a glimpse of what I cared enough to fold.

In the chapter that describes his family (The Parent Lottery), he mentions some great advice from his dad:

My dad gave me advice on how to negotiate my way through life. He'd say things like: "Never make a decision until you have to." He'd also warn me that even if I was in a position of strength, whether at work or in relationships, I had to play fair. "Just because you're in the driver's seat," he'd say, "doesn't mean you have to run people over."

How can I pass those words on to the assholes and douche bags of my world and they would _actually_ understand its meaning.

In another chapter about his dad, he mentions that after his father passed away in 2006, he found that his father had been awarded the Bronze Star for his valor for saving men in his infantry company in 1945.

In the fifty years my parents were married, in the thousands of conversations my dad had with me, it had just never come up. And there I was, weeks after his death, getting another lesson from him about the meaning of sacrifice -- and about the power of humility.

In the chapter that he discusses some of the difficulties his wife Jai was dealing with, he mentions how she kept a daily journal, where she could write about the things that were bothering her. She wrote about how she was upset that Randy had not put away a dish and why it bothered her. She wrote it and somehow, it made her feel better and it didn't become an issue to deal with.

Jai tries to focus on each day, rather than the negative things down the road. "It's not helpful if we spend every day dreading tomorrow," she says.

This is advice for all of us.

A paragraph later, he mentions watching a movie with his son. The movie was Mr. Margorium's wonder emporium. His son, who at the time was not told of his father's prognosis, cried because Mr. Margorium was dying.

There was one line in the film, however, that remains with me. The apprentice (Natalie Portman) tells the toymaker (Dustin Hoffman) that he can't die; he has to live. And he responds "I already did that."

The chapter about "No Job Is Beneath You" was right on the money. He starts with
It's been widely known that there is a growing sense of entitlement among young people today.

Ha! I thought. I work with people who have that sense of entitlement and most of them are not "young people".

There is an entitlement that if one has a degree, they should be paid more. And if that degree is a Master's? More money. And if it's a Phd? More money, respect and instant awe should be received.

That's just an example of my stereotyping one area. It can happen when you feel you are entitled to a better job title, a better pay raise, a better office, a bigger house, a nice car, etc.

And there's never a look in the mirror to appreciate what you have, who you work with, what you do. And as I have posted before, my gratitude and respect go out to the blue collar folk, who make less money and work harder than me and my peers.

But I digress on my soapbox...what Randy writes:

...Too many are unhappy with the idea of starting at the bottom.

My advice has always been: "You ought to be thrilled you got a job in the mailroom. And when you get there, here's what you do: Be really great at sorting mail.

No one wants to hear someone say: "I'm not good at sorting mail because the job is beneath me." No job should be beneath us...


The "Be a Communitarian" chapter was something else that sings to my soul.

We've placed a lot of emphasis in this country on the idea of people's _rights_. That's how it should be, but it makes no sense to talk about rights without also talking about responsibilities.

...So I wanted my students to know. Everyone has to contribute to the common good. To not do so can be described in one word: _selfish_.


And the last excerpt I want to include is his expression of love for his youngest, his daughter, who at the time of this book's publishing, was only 18 months old.

I'm aware tht Chloe may have no memory of me at all. She's too young. But I want her to grow up knowing that I was the first man ever to fall in love with her.

This book is a keeper. It should be a 'bible' of inspiring anecdotes on being a good person and living life to your fullest.

Monday, January 26, 2009

To-Do's

For the New Year, I have been making to-do lists for my girls in the morning. They don't change day-to-day but I rewrite the same thing, for each of them, every school day.

And it works. They love checking things off as they finish (who wouldn't?!). And the lists are basic:
* Eat breakfast
* Make lunch
* Brush teeth
* Brush hair
* Get dressed
* Pack backpack

There may have been a couple of days where I forgot to do one, only to be reminded by Mi-Mi as I run out the door "where's my to-do list?"

Today I was talking about how I planned to make an Oatmeal Cake this weekend. This is one of me and Tim's favorite cakes. It was passed to me by a friend of the family when I was in high school and it's been several months since I made it.

Mi-Mi asked if she could help me make it.

Sure! I said.

But what if I am at school and you're at home? She questions.

I assure her that if that happens, I will wait for her to make the cake.

So later, she decided to make me a to-do list. This is what she wrote:
Mom (title with a heart next to it)
* EAT BReAKFAST
* BRUSH TeeTH
* COMB HAIR
* GeT DReSSeD
* PUTCOAT ON
* PUT Shoes ON
* BAKe CAKe
* PUTiCING ON CAKe

LOVE (drawn picture of a face with a smile and hair) YOU

She put it on the kitchen island counter. When I went in there later, next to my to-do list was a note on a sheet of paper that said:
MOMMY
DONT FORGeT
DONT DO
THe CAKe
WITHOUT
Me.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Movie Review: Tropic Thunder

I decided to watch this as part of my Oscar Nominated Movie Watching Goal.

When this first came out, I was appalled by the previews. A white guy playing a black man? Talk about being politically incorrect.

And I'm not a big fan of Robert Downey Jr. I mean, he is awesome in one of my favorite movies, Home for the Holidays. But I didn't like that he could be such a fuck-up and Hollywood give him accolades for his comeback. He was a FUCK UP. And then with open arms, Hollywood welcomes him back. Oscar nominations made me break my protest of his work.

And then there's Tom Cruise. CAN NOT STAND HIM.

And while I think Ben Stiller is hilarious, his movies tend to fall flat for me.

But Robert Downey Jr. is nominated for his supporting role in this movie and thus, it was my intention to watch it for my Oscar-goal.

It was on pay-per-view so when I started it, the first thing that came on was a commercial for Booty Sweat. It didn't click that this was a fake trailer. I thought it was a Pepsi commercial, to be honest. But I thought I heard the guy rap about pussy dripping down a girl's leg. I was so stunned that I swear I made it sound like PEPSI dripping down...until I thought, why would Pepsi drip down anyone's legs and why would Pepsi make that a commercial?

The subsequent ads made me come back to reality and figure out that this was all part of the movie..

So with that said, Tropic Thunder is extremely crass, offensive and nasty. And I enjoyed every bit of it. I was so surprised that this movie, one that I abhorred when it was released, actually made me laugh...and gag...and raise my eyebrows...and be entertained by it all.

It certainly isn't an Oscar-worthy movie. Not even close. But it ranks up there is the class of off-color, crude movies. The other one I liked that I put in that genre? 40 year old virgin. And another? Kevin Smith movies, like Clerks and Chasing Amy.

And it took me a few minutes to figure out who Robert Downey Jr. was in the movie. And yes, he is very good in it. Tom Cruise? Also good because he played so out-of-character for any role he has ever had. I still think he's a dick and I still plan to refuse to see his movies, but man, he really showed a side of him I never thought I'd see.

It made me wonder how these actors, including the others, read this script and thought "I'm going to do it!" Quite risky, IMO.

But the movie is very good if you are not easily insulted and have a taste for crude and rude, and Ben Stiller movies.

The premise will be a dead giveaway so if you plan to watch it, don't read any further. I watched it without really knowing what the movie was about since I didn't care to see it. I prefer that method.

Tropic Thunder is about a has-been action movie star doing a movie based on a book by a Vietnam Vet. Ben Stiller plays this star, Tugg Speedman.

Robert Downey Jr. plays an Aussie white actor who plays a black man in the movie. He is pretty darn good all the way down to the way he talks.

Brandon T. Jones is the real black man in the movie (the rap star who raps the Booty Sweat song) named Alpa Chino (love that!). And to offset the somewhat offensiveness of Robert D. as a black man, there is strife between his character and Robert D.

Jack Black is in it and while funny, not so much in the forefront as he usually is. And his regular Jack Black self so nothing "new".

The movie that they are making is losing money and Nick Nolte's character (the guy that wrote the book the movie is based on) and the director decide to try to get these actors out in the jungle and force them to _feel_ what being in war might really be like.

However, some things happen and they find themselves out in the middle of nowhere, with no one filming. Well, Tugg Speedman still thinks the cameras are rolling and is completely clueless that shit has hit the fan.

So it becomes a real 'war' story and it goes from there. It's a parody and it's funny. It'll be quite a shock to me if Robert D. walks away with an Oscar on this one.

But let me see the other flicks to see if I can really believe that one...

, I hate/have to say. Oscar-worthy? Not so sure about that one.

The Week In Review

This week was a crazy week in Raleigh. I got two of my three runs in, including a Saturday long run! Woo-hoo!

Tuesday would be the day that I did not get my run in. The plan was to go to the inauguration viewing at The Galaxy (support local!), with my BFF Sam. Instead, Raleigh got snow!! Up to six inches of it!!

It was a beautiful sight to see the snow coming down all morning and really, through the early afternoon.

I knew there was prediction of snow but because our local weather reports are mostly useless, I doubted that anything major would happen. Sure. I wanted something major to happen but I had little faith.

At 2 AM, I had to get up to pee and I peeked out of the bathroom window and saw trace amounts of snow. Ha! I thought. I was right. They made a big deal out of nothing.

But several hours later, CJ ran into my room and said 'Did you see the snow?' I looked outside and thought: yup, it's a snow day alright!

My work place closed. School closed. And Tim couldn't work in the snow. So we had a great gift of watching the Inauguration as a family. With snow falling in the background. It was sweet!

The girls played for a little while. But we do not have great cold weather gear for them so it was short-lived for them.

I took Brenna the dog out and actually let her off-leash to run around. The roads were pretty desolate, so I felt if I could let her go off-leash at anytime, this was the best time.

But as usual, I feel, for me. I don't see just ordinary things. While I got great pictures of our house covered in snow, as well as our streets, the first person I see as I walk out with Brenna and my camera is this dude:


We exchanged hellos but I gave him an odd look, and got close to asking him why he was lugging a suitcase down the middle of my street.

Wednesday the snow was still around. Of course, predictions were that the snow would melt but the temperature never really rose above 37 degrees. I don't know why weather people think that 37 degrees would melt 6" of snow but they did.

And it didn't and in fact, school was closed for another day. I did get my P90X workout in with Tim, so thankfully, I didn't let two days of missing workouts prevent me from missing one more (it becomes a habit...missing workouts).

Thursday I was back in the office with another busy workday. Fortunately, we got our babysitter back and she was going to pick the girls up at school. This meant I could stay longer and not feel bad about getting my run in at lunch time.

$Bill and I went out for the Umstead 5K loop...his was going to be the 10K loop. We had amazing weather too.

It was registering 38 degrees when I left the office and I was thinking: man, I am going to FREEZE! But when I got out in it, it really felt nice, as the sun was out and very little wind. I actually, and unbelievably to me, ran with only pants and a long-sleeved shirt. No beanie cap, no fleece jacket around me, no tights underneath the pants, no gloves. This is not like me. Maybe I am truly becoming a runner now...:-)

We head out and reach Umstead only to find that ice and snow still blanketed the entire fire trail, at least as far as we could see. $Bill was smart enough to say "um, we need to turn around" and we did. Not as nice of a route since we go back UP to where we just came from (which, btw, was also up...gravity laws do not apply to this area).

But I got my five miles in and he got his six and it was all good (well, except probably the last mile for $Bill, because there is a CRAZY hill he has to run up...I was not envious...).

Friday is also another busy work day that frustrates me to no end. I burn out about 3PM with exasperation and the whole "what is this all about? (like what is life all about) what am I truly trying to do? why do I even care? (if I didn't, I wouldn't be so frustrated). My friend Sam has just perfect timing, as she sauntered in my office and I let out my frustrations. She said "let's go grab a drink" and an hour later, we were at Bonefish Grill (the cheaper (and not local) of the "across the street" places to grab a drink) with a few more notes from me about why I am so aggravated. Nothing like a good friend and a great glass of cabernet to wash away those sorrows.

It was also the first time I gave a glass of wine back! How is this possible, you ponder? The special that evening was a Malbec. I don't recall the vineyard but generally, I love Malbecs. I buy them all the time. But this one was nasty. I tried a few sips, hoping that perhaps my tastebuds were not aligned. Maybe gum I chewed earlier in the day disturbed my taste so I kept trying. But dammit, I had a bad day and I wanted to celebrate my weekend, starting with my drink with Sam, and I could not concentrate on anything except how bad the wine tasted.

I made Sam try it (nothing like putting bad wine to your friend!) and she agreed. We conferred, out loud, that perhaps Michael (our bartender) would be so inclined to give me something else. Michael HEARD us (imagine that!) and then told me "i really hate that wine. it just doesn't taste good. but i can't tell customers that..." so in exchange, I had one of their cabernets, which was THE BOMB.

Saturday was long run day and I was very happy about this one. Tim was going to do his long run and my buddies $Bill and Erin would be doing theirs.

They are training for the National Marathon in DC, so they had an 18 mile run starting at 8AM. Tim had 9 and I had 8, so we were starting closer to 9:30.

The run was fine but I kept a brisker pace than I usually do for my long runs. My coach had
8 miles- Last 4 @ 10:00/mile

and since I just copied and pasted this, I find that I, again, did not memorize my workout well.

Today I thought I was doing 8 miles, last six at 10 mn pace. That seemed tough since my earlier long runs (before my half marathon) I had been 10:30 and above...mainly close to 11 mn/miles.

But I want to get faster and since my initial paces were 9:30, I wanted to stick to that.

Mile 3 and 4 sucked. They are UP. But mile 5 was awesome because this actually follows gravity and I do really get to go down! And mile 5 is my runner's high route. And it proved well enough today for me to hit a 9 mn mile on that route...

The last three miles sucked. My legs were killing me. I was breathing hard. The breathing hard is what I have been trying to avoid doing for most of my running years, hence my slower pace.

I debated walking. I don't like walking unless I bonk. And I don't bonk often (note above "slower pace"). I wanted to WALK. I know the last 2 1/2 mile route by heart and it feels too long.

But I don't walk although when I ran into Sam, who was running the other way, I tried to stop and engage her in conversation. She refused to stop running and shortly, Tim was coming up from behind me so I was back to running again.

I pass Erin, who is smiling and looks dainty in the last few of her 18 mile run. She high fives Tim (who is ahead of me) and then high fives me. I see $Bill shortly after and I plead "am i close to the finish???" and he says "1/4 mile to go". I high five him too.

And finally, I see the end and I finish. 1:19:50 (including the 10 seconds I tried to stop Sam from running) for my 8 mile run. :-) Under 10 mn/miles for the entire 8. The thing that killed my 9:30 pace was the two miles going up hill. My GPS watch doesn't work as well (in fact, it shows 8.10 miles but I'm pretty sure it was eight) so my splits were all over the place. But the end result is that I was able to do eight miles in sub 10.

Then we ($Bill, Sam, Erin, Tim and I) all met at the Breakfast Nazi(support local!) place and had a great breakfast.

Book Review: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

This book has been on my library wish list for a good long while and since I'm trying to adopt a First-In-First-Out plan for my list, I finally chose it. And another reason is that BFF Audrey has already read and posted her book review, and I have yet to read it, that this gave me more incentive to put it on my list of "now" reads.

I was surprised when I picked it up. Another tome!! 673 pages!! Oh well. It seems to be the way of the world now: big books.

As I began to read, the prelude mislead me into thinking that the author herself was writing about a real life experience from her family. This was extremely intriguing because there was a lot of innuendo of something tragic, eerie, and discovery and I couldn't wait to read her story to figure out what they learned.

Upon reading the novel, I discovered that it may not be the author's introduction, but the protagonist of the story's introduction. But once I read the first few chapters, I found that I was wrong about this being directly about the author because....the book is about Dracula!!

I had no idea, until reading those chapters, what the book would be about. Based on the title, I assumed it would be about something that might deal with historical fiction: war, kings and queens, etc.

NOTE: I have mentioned before, but I read recaps/reviews/whatever of books then add them to my Amazon and/or library wish list. I know I want to read them but then forget what they were about and use a "spin the wheel" approach and grab a book, then read it to be surprised to see what it's about. And this book is one of those reasons why I love this approach.

But it took about halfway through the book to decide that this was a cumbersome effort to read the book.

It's not bad, but it's certainly not great. It was, however, very frustrating for me.

I soon nicknamed this novel "the book that never ends". I could not make a dent in the reading. For me, the novel was much like that friend who tries to tell a short story and just goes on and on, with details that you care little to hear.

The details weren't that detail oriented, but it was just on and on and on and on. I believe so much of this book could have been cut in half and still lead me to the same story.

The premise is: Vlad the Impaler, ruler of Wallachia (now Romania) was an evil man who became Dracula, the undead who roams the world in the 20th century, still wreaking havoc.

The tale encompasses several eras. We first meet a teenage girl in Amsterdam, who discovers one of her father's books that is empty of any writing except for a picture of a dragon in the middle. She discovers letters written to her dad from a Professor Rossi -- although indirectly addressed to 'an unfortunate successor'. These letters allude to the eerie story of Dracula...

...we move on to the girl's dad, Paul, and his time as a young man and how he came upon this book. We learn that the book has also been given to Professor Rossi, his college advisor, after Paul brings the information to him.

At that particular meeting, Professor Rossi disappears under mysterious circumstances and Paul decides to search for him. His search brings him to meeting Rossi's daughter, Helen and they unite to find Professor Rossi.

So there are several eras we read about: going to Professor Rossi as a younger man who finds this book and researches it, to Paul and Helen as youthful seekers for Professor Rossi, then the narrator -- the daughter of Paul and Helen, who searches for her father (who also disappears).

The story unfolds in a series of letters: Professor Rossi (and his era), Paul (in his era) and Helen (in her era).

And boy, these letter writers go on and on and on. I cringed every time I got to one of the letters and I thought: gee, the author (Kostova) must be a true and true PhD. person, because these letters are dissertations and/or manuscript material.

The crescendos were far and few between. Mostly few. When Professor Rossi disappeared and the circumstances after that, there was a chill in my bone. That chill never came back until a moment with the narrator (who, BTW, remain unnamed) who encounters a little drama...very little.

And within the last 100 pages, I thought: finally! this is where the drama begins!! And it was ended quickly with a few sentences and suddenly, I have 100 pages of air.

I think this book will become required reading for someone's class. Whether it be high school or college. The writing is that of what you would expect in boring classics. And yes, this bored me but had enough in it to have me continue to the end. But I could not WAIT for this one to end.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Do you know how Martin Luther King Jr. Died?

This is what my five year old asked me over the weekend. With her, the question is not to be answered with a yes alone. It should be an answer that opens up the forum for her to talk about what she's learned.

So I said "yes, but I want to hear what you heard about him".

So she starts, and of course, I'll paraphrase:

There used to be fountains where people could drink water from. Black people had to drink from a fountain for only black people and white people drank from a fountain for only white people.

Also, there was a bus where African Americans could only sit in assigned seats.

And did you know there were schools for black, African Americans, to go to and white people went to other schools?

So Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to change all of that because he didn't think it was fair. But somebody didn't like that he wanted to change it so he shot him.

The End.

Wow. I loved hearing her tell me this. And it's amazing to hear it retold back, to think we actually had, in recent times, an environment like that. It's like comparing technology now to 10 years ago. Or even how cavemen existed! It's just so ass-backwards that it is incomprehensible that there was that much ignorance a few short years ago.

Yes, ignorance still lives today but so much has changed in just the past year that throws that shit under the bus.

My daughters have been exposed to women running - and winning - political positions, running for office of VP and President. And a black man who ran AND WON the presidential election.

This is their norm. And I believe Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud and privileged to see all of this happening, as I am.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Runs In Review

This week was tough.

And it's been tough for me mentally for the past few weeks.

Tim's work schedule interferes with my Saturday runs. It's not his fault and I'm not placing blame. I support his schedule. It's just a fact that it makes it difficult for me to get my run in on Saturday.

So last week's long run was run on Sunday. I ran eight miles without a big physical problem. Mentally, of course, is just getting out there -- which has been a battle for a good couple weeks.

Usually, it may be one or two runs that might be hard for me to get motivated to do. But lately, it's every run. I started the year off fired up and then it quickly became extinguished. The good thing about all of this is that I *am getting the runs in* despite the lack of motivation.

So back to Sunday's long run. Not bad but Monday came along, which is my recovery run day. Monday is all about getting my legs ready for Tuesday's hard, speed workouts.

I felt good about Monday's run because as a recovery run, it's usually an easy pace and low miles. I was scheduled for 3-4 miles, which I was gung-ho about until my coach suggested that I cut it back to 2-3 miles. No problem, I think. I was going to do three anyway.

I didn't get my run in during work hours -- which is the optimal time for me. But again, Tim has a hectic schedule this week so I had to leave earlier to pick up the girls. And Mondays are so freaking busy with meetings that I have no time to do anything except count how many steps I take between the two buildings I walk to-and-from during my work day.

So I decide to run two miles around the neighborhood, after picking the girls up. Again -- motivation IS NOT THERE. But I think, two miles is nothing.

I leave and hit the neighborhood sidewalks. I discover half a mile into it -- and as if I didn't already know this -- that my 'hood is lumpy. Although there are a couple of dramatic hills, for the most part, it's small inclines up and down. Not that noticeable unless you are running on tired legs from just the day before...and stressed...and unmotivated, which means I want this done already.

I pretty much begged for two miles and got those in. But the very next day my legs were dead. And Tuesday is my BIG workout...the one I usually look forward to...the track workout that tests my physical ability but pushes me mentally (in a very good way)... I look forward to these runs because they take care of me psychologically and have me believe in myself.

So I had it in my mind that I had 3x1 mile @ 8:40 pace. I knew it would be tough with the way my legs were feeling but I just tried not to think about it.

So before I met one of my great motivators ($Bill) for the run, I double-checked my workout and saw this:
2 miles warm-up; 4 * 1 mile @ 8:40 (400 walk/jog b/t each); 1 mile cool down


Great. I had to figure out how I was going to get THREE in and now I have FOUR!!

I grab Bill and complain and whine to him: I think I'm getting a cold. I have a headache. My legs ache. My neighborhood is lumpy. It's too cold. I want to hibernate.

I think he's used to this but I'm sure he probably gets tired of hearing it. :-) But he says nothing and that's all I need because in his mind, we are running (and my mind says the same thing).

His workout was not track but an easy five mile run. He was joining me for two of those :-). We parted ways and I headed to the track to figure out how the hell I was going to get my legs to hit 8:40 for four miles.

When I got to the track, the fast people were there (my coach's husband, who is another great motivator). There were also some 'professional' runners there. It reminded me of when Marion Jones used to come out there (I miss her and still admire her). I gave a friendly nod, smile and hello and went on my way to start my workout.

I figured I would go for three. It wasn't easy. But even though the fast people are fast, I was inspired because they are out there, running in the cold, and hurting as much as I am. It's all relative. So I did it and got my four miles in.

Bill did a drive-by during the end of his run to see what I had left. I still had another mile at that time. But I was very happy to see him and that I was still out there for him to see me!

I was relieved to get those three days done. But I missed my Wednesday workout (just did NOT WANT TO DO IT)...oh, and BTW, I started Monday's strength training, only to stop five exercises into it because I also didn't want to do it.

I did get my Thursday run in and again, I did it out of duty vs. wanting to do it. I got a 10K run in with my cohorts (Bill had seven).

Friday is swim day. Didn't do it and maybe only half-heartedly wanted to do it. But I let my stress talk me out of it.

Saturday -- yesterday -- was another day that Tim worked so I didn't get my run in. My company had a party in the evening so I was very concerned about how I would feel Sunday to do my run.

I didn't do too bad and kept the drinking to a minimum (for my usual). But I waited until close to 4PM today (Sunday) to get my run in. Do I need to repeat that I have no motivation and today was no different?

And what does 10 miles sound like to someone who doesn't want to run any?

So instead of going to Umstead and doing my ten, as I envisioned, I stuck close to home and looped a 2.25 mile lake four times.

But it was necessary: it was darkish due to the weather (cold, cloudy and rain), it was raining (where it had been sleeting earlier in the day), it was 38 degrees.

I passed only 23 distinct people around the lake. Only four of those were runners, one of which I passed twice during our loops. So the lake was virtually empty of people. But I kept going, feeling relatively safe even by myself.

And guess what? I got 10 miles in. How? I have no idea. But I'm tickled pink that I found the gumption to do it. My legs are screaming at me as I write this but, so what? I got all my runs in this week on NO MOTIVATION...but DETERMINATION. And I like that.

And I hope I can do that again!!

25 Random Things About Me

I got tagged on Facebook and it ended up being a "25 Random Things About...<-insert_friend's_name_here->".

What that means is: friend writes 25 random things about theirself and tags 25 of their friends, for them to read and hopefully, turn around and write 25 random things about themself. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about my friend and started thinking of things about me to post. I did and now, I will share the same thing on my blog.

1. I was born in Japan but I am not Japanese.

2. I married my husband when I was 19 years old, after only knowing each other for two months.

3. I did not want children. I changed my mind and had my first child at 29, 10 years into my marriage. I had a miscarriage with the second :-(. I then had Mia almost five years after Cerina.

4. I named Cerina after Serena the brunette sister to Samantha from Bewitched. Mia Star is named partly after a cousin and a cool hippie name.

5. I am very anti-religious but I pray.

6. I think black is the only color that a car can look good in.

7. I love Judge Judy.

8. My food weaknesses: mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.

9. I graduated from East Carolina University with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Math. My senior project was an ADA-like compiler.

10. I think the smartest people in the world are the most humblest, with that hint of confidence, who are willing to educate others as well as themselves.

11. I took organ lessons as a kid.

12. I have thought about going back to school to be: a lawyer, a statistician, a psychologist.

13. I want to coach middle school and/or high school runners (track-n-field) and volleyball athletes.

14. I hate diamonds. And I become extremely unimpressed when I see big diamonds on others. I still have my 1/4 carat diamond that Tim and I picked out because of sentimental reasons. And until I figure out a cool tattoo to replace the wedding ring.

15. My husband still makes me laugh after 20 years of marriage. And because he can still piss me off like no one else.

16. I am an only child.

17. I used to smoke. Marlboro.

18. I went to three high schools. Unlike the Wake County Public School System's mess, my high schools were in different areas: Florida, Guam and Arkansas.

19. Before moving to Raleigh, the one place I lived for a lengthy time was Balibago, Philippines: 1976-1982 (2nd-7th grade).

20. I was waiting for a hop (plane) back to Guam from Clark AFB when Marcos fled the Philippines. My mom and I were bumped from flights and bussed to Subic Bay for a flight from there.

21. I will not drive Tim's Ford 350. Or maybe it's, Tim won't let me drive his Ford 350. I don't want to drive it.

22. I am a logophile.

23. I read at least 10 pages of a novel every night.

24. I count my steps. Not necessarily the number of steps each time. It could be in groups of 3s, 4s, 6s, or 100s (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1...4). I also reset my odometer every time I go to work, or go back home. I think this is a problem but I don't think it's a problem that needs to be addressed.

25. I enjoy blogging (and I will be adding this list to my blog): http://blog.yourpointismoot.com.

Burn Out

I have been lagging on the blog the past week mainly because I am truly burned out by the time I get home.

The schedule has been stressed: get the kids up and ready, get me up and ready, deal with the myriad of meetings throughout my work day, get my workout in, etc. etc. etc. It was sort of a shock to the system to go from a nearly two week break free from this hurriedness. So by the time I get home, I do not want to do a thing on the computer. I simply place it out of reach (from my favorite sitting chair) and let Mi-Mi take over it.

BTW, random observation: anyone notice that kids' online games are using the same mechanics as porn? I get a ga-gillion pop-ups that makes my laptop sludge along (with all the flash animations playing) after she uses it.

I need a spark or just less stress to get me back into my groove.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Health Class

Yesterday we got a notice in CJ's school stuff that she will be having a "Human Growth and Development" class next week. This will cover the following:
* Male and Female reproductive anatomy and development
* Hygiene issues and concerns
* Menstruation
* Emotional, Social, and Cognitive changes
* How to live a healthy lifestyle

Sounds good to me!

But along with this, there is a date for parents to meet to discuss/learn more about this class and at the bottom is a section where a parent can sign and date "I DO NOT WISH MY CHILD TO PARTICIPATE IN THE HUMAN GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT UNIT.

And by golly, I bet there will be quite a few parents who will sign this. CJ is in the fifth grade. Her boobs have sprouted, just as many of her girlfriends have. And for me, I actually started my period the summer before my sixth grade year and as I recall, had several hours of movies and lessons on puberty. I knew enough about my period that I wanted it to come already.

But things are different now. We have parents who think they know all and will present their know-it-all information when they think it's the right time. Because, dammit, if you say anything about puberty...then the kids will have SEX!! Or will start thinking about it!! And we don't want them to start thinking about it, so don't say it and it won't happen.

A story somewhat related to this...I was volunteering to coach Girls on the Run (GOTR) a couple of years ago. One of the modules we covered was peer pressure and drugs. This went very well and I noted how much these girls already knew about drugs.

When CJ was in GOTR, the day she learned this particular module was great: she jumped into the car and started talking to me about what she learned about smoking, drugs, and alcohol. We had a very good chat about it and I found it enlightening that this module was able to bring a conversation about this, spurred by CJ instead of me (which usually produces no two-way conversations and a blank stare).

The second season of me coaching GOTR, we covered the same module. Again, these girls (aged 8-11 years of age) knew quite a bit about drugs. Nothing unusual. However, that evening and the next few days, there was an influx of e-mails about how upset the parents were that this was covered without their knowledge.

One mother said 'i know that you are trying to do the right thing; i understand that; i am just sad that my daughter's vocabulary now includes the word "marijuana."'

Another parent said that to please let her know if we plan to discuss sex (we weren't) because she would make sure she would NOT let her daughter attend that day.

First, parents receive the curriculum for the season of what modules will be covered.

Second, their kids ALREADY KNOW about drugs!!

Third, why the fuck wouldn't you want to talk to your children about drugs? Or sex? Or any of that stuff that presents itself to girls, VULNERABLE GIRLS, at ages 8-11?

Exasperating, to say the least. Parents like these are plain stupid and naive. IMO, we need to surround our children with supportive groups -- not just parents -- to teach them anything and everything from so many different perspectives. This, IMO, produces communication back to a parent -- if they aren't stupid and naive -- in which said parent can then proceed to speak about what they believe to be "the way"...whatever that may be.

So needless to say, CJ WILL BE going to the class. CJ has free range to ask us ANYTHING without negative recourse, as well as her school, teachers, coaches, etc. And my hope is that we, along with our community, can teach her to make the right decisions.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Track-Road-Track

This was a different workout for me: warm-up mile to the track; run 1 mile @ 8:30 pace on the track; run 20 minutes @ 9:30 pace on the road; run 1 mile @ 8:15 back on the track; 1/2 mile cool down back.

I didn't think too much about how hard this would be. I knew it would be but it was soooo much harder than I forecasted.

My legs were sore from my four mile run on the dreadmill yesterday. I skipped my long run this weekend, so that wasn't much help...which is what I figured made my legs feel more tired today.

The warm-up was fine. It was a crappy day but we ($Bill, Tim and Frank) ventured out anyway. It wasn't that cold -- I wasn't bundled up like Tim was. I really wanted to crack on him for being so overdressed.

I'm glad I didn't because the drizzle of the misty rain, my sweat and then the wind chilled me to the bones and I thought: why didn't I bundle up like Tim???

We all had different workouts: $Bill was doing a 3x2 mile run (he's training for a marathon); Tim was doing his fastest mile ever (he managed to do a 5K in 7:21 pace) and I had the above. Frank, who should be resting because he has a hole in his heart and will have a heart "procedure" done in a few weeks, joined me in my workout. That was good as I needed him to keep me going...

The 8:30 mile was hard but doable. For some reason, my left bicep/tricep ached while I ran and I could feel every bounce make the ache even more, um, achier. I did NOT LIKE THAT AT ALL.

But we did it and we decided we would run 10 minutes out on Harrison Avenue, then return for the last 10 minutes.

Going out meant downhill on Harrison, with a return of, well, going up. We went out at a part, however, that made us go UPHILL, which seriously, my legs were like Gumby and I thought "there's no way I can do this". But I knew that it would flatten out and then, AHHHHHHHHH! downhill...

And thank goodness I thought that way because we survived the hill and managed fine and the first mile was exactly at a 9:30 pace.

We didn't have to go too far down Harrison Avenue before we turned around to hed back. It really wasn't as bad as I thought: I kept my head down and just dug in and ran. Frank was right there with me which helped me keep my focus. At some point I think: I have to keep Frank running too.

Then I realized: yay! that terrible uphill we had to run will now be our finish!! And the second mile pace was 9:17.

Now it was on to the last mile, which was an 8:15 pace which pushes my limits...and already, I have pushed those today.

Tim was finishing up some 800s and I jokingly say "wanna do my 8:15 mile with me?" He must have been feeling good because he said yes!

So we begin and I feel okay. Tim is with me and Frank is not far from me either. By the third lap, Tim is a step ahead of me and now, my legs are back to feeling like gumby and I get that a small feeling of panic that I can't finish.

I actually just want to yell at Tim for running a bit faster than me and I feel like he's trying to pace me. So why would I yell at him? He's doing me a favor *and* running another mile outside of his own workout! But yet I want to get mad at someone and he seems the likely target.

But I don't and just push through. That third lap -- the second to the last lap of the day -- was my hardest. My legs were just screaming at me to stop...oh wait. I think it was my head doing that.

So the last mile ended up being an 8:10 :-).

I seemed to do okay until sometime mid-day, after sitting at my desk for a bit, I got up to put my yogurt in the fridge and I felt like I just ran a frickin' marathon (well, whatever that must feel like)...walking bowlegged down the hall.

I get a day off tomorrow - not entirely...I still have a workout, just not running. Then its six miles on Thursday...however I can fit it in since I'm in a fricking 9-5 meeting!!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Great Tweets - January 5th, 2009

Here are some funny (to me) tweets from various folks:

There's very little that makes me wish I was back at work more than spending a week at home with my family knowing there's 4 days left.

never go to a water park in the adirondacks in NY at the end of Dec.

It's a good thing we ran those two pickles through the dishwasher last night. They were filthy.

back at work!!...BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Headline: "Britney Spears’ Twitter Gets Hacked" I'll take "Headlines That Would Have Sounded Completely Filthy Before 2006" for $200, Alex.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

What Was So Great In 2008?

This is my 'world according to me' best of list for 2008. I did something similar in 2007: two posts: part 1 and part 2.

I am picking one thing for each category. It is a pet peeve of mine when people can't make one choice...as in "it's a tie between..." I think you need to "man up" and make ONE choice for your best or worst lists...

Best Restaurant: this one is hard, not because there is a "tie" but because we have restricted our eating out tremendously. This will not change in the New Year *but* I will be targeting specific places for reviewing on my blog, and because they have been on my list of "to try" for a long time.

So my best restaurant of 2008 is Dos Taquitos. This is a favorite of mine since I first tried it, which was approximately 13 years ago. The atmosphere is wonderful and I look forward to supporting this local business in 2009.

Best Book: This has been an exceptional year for me with regards to reading a lot of great novels. But by far, my favorite book of the year is The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. The characters were amazing and I lived a life of these characters throughout this 973 tome was an incredible experience. I laughed, I cried, I got angry, PISSED, and absolutely fell in love with this novel. I get chills anytime I see it on store shelves...

Best Vacation: Our European trip to London and Amsterdam. It was my first time ever visiting Europe (I covered the East, as in Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Guam, etc.) and I was in awe the whole time. I wanted to pinch myself every second.

In Amsterdam, we rented a houseboat in a non-touristy part of Amsterdam, which was an even more indescribable experience. You can read about it by finding my "amsterdam" tags.

Favorite Movie Watched: Again, this is any movie I watched in 2007, not necessarily a movie that came out in 2007.

This would be "Becoming Jane" with Anne Hathaway. I watched this on the flight to or from Europe and it moved me so much. I cried and fell in love with Anne Hathaway. I plan to watch more of her in the next few weeks (Rachel Getting Married).

Best Movie Released This Year: Notice I don't have "Favorite" as I don't think anything I actually saw at a theater this year was a favorite. I just didn't go out to movies as much but this will change for 2009.

I did see quite a few but I have to say that I enjoyed "Baby Mama" most of all. I really wasn't interested in seeing it, finding the preview to be on the crude side. But in the end, the movie was hilarious and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are just amazing women actors. I was happy to support a movie starring women and contributing it to being number one, even for a week.

Best Reunion: This was meeting up with my BFF from elementary school. I was at a conference in San Diego in March and Maria came down to see me, flying from Scramento. We only spent an afternoon together, but it was amazing. We went out to Coronado and shared a great bottle of wine. She looks exactly the same. And the amazing thing is that we had kept in touch since the she left the Philippines, when we were in 5th grade.

And with Facebook, we are able to still keep in touch!!

On the Road...

I ran across two cool, funky cars while I ran around town on New Year's Eve day.

This one was taken on Millbrook and I love how this came out. It looks like a picture taken in a different era!! I really wanted to get a clear shot of its bumper sticker, which had "Kennedy/Johnson". PRICELESS!



This old volkswagen was also taken on Millbrook, but going back home. I took it into the sunlight but you can see the christmas decor arranged on it's roof rack.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Speed Play

I ran five miles today (with a one mile walk-slow jog back home, since I'm not very good at estimated where I'll end up on my route to finish in a timely manner). The workout was five miles @ a 9:30 pace, with five one-minute speed plays. I had never done this type of workout before but on top of that, all I wanted to do today was sit on a big chair and take a nap, eat, and/or read.

But reading through my tweets, I noticed a lot of my runner friends going out for a run. I purposely added runner twitter friends to read about their running but not necessarily have any kind of "peer pressure" from them to get me running. So there is a side effect of sharing interests: they will influence my own stubborn attitude. It wasn't like "oh, cool they're running - I'm going out to run too!" It was more like "those bastards are showing off and I don't want to be left behind...I can run too, dammit!"

Hey - whatever works! I'll take it and be mad about it, but in the end, I'm happy and thankful that I have a competitive nature with them.

But when i got out there, 9:30 sure sounded too fast for what I wanted to do today.

I started off and hit traffic at a major intersection. This was great because when i began again, my legs felt better. Then at the almost one mile mark, my ipod fell out of my pocket and I had to go back for it. This wasn't looking good.

It never really _improved_ but I managed to do sub 9 minute miles (with my one minute of speed play) for four miles. The second mile was actually an 8:14. My last mile, where I was just puttering out, was 9:15, so overall, I did pretty good.

It certainly wasn't my favorite workout. I think it had more to do with the fact that I would rather veg out than run, but I was thankful, during that first mile, that I was out there doing it. I need to discipline myself and yes, not every workout will be that great run, but the fact that I did it, at the pace that I did, made me proud to do a crappy workout. :-)

2009 Race Calendar

I have decided on a few races for 2009, with room for a few more, if I so choose.

I mentioned before that I was following my BFF's plan of keeping the summer free of hard training. This does not mean I won't be running or racing during the summer, it just means I won't feel the stress of having to run the long miles during the summer to prepare for an early Fall race. Summers in Raleigh (probably like most places) are brutal and I really had a hard time this past summer.

Hey! I'm striving to push myself to be faster this year, so I think I can 'cheat' and take the summer off from hard training. I'll be training hard the rest of the time...

I had to switch things up since Tim will be doing a lot of adventure racing (AR). Since there are more running events than there are AR events, I had to negotiate my schedule to work with his. It really isn't a problem since there are A LOT of great races in the area.

So this is my initial plan for 2009, which agrees with my coach. This may change, since every time I look at races, I find a new one that looks interesting.

February 21st: Coach Bubba's 20K - already registered; third time running this one
March 14th: Run for the Oaks 5K - this, to me, is the first race that launches the running-racing season; I also made my PR here
April 25th: Tar Heel 10 Miler - this will be my first time running this one
May 9th: Capital City Classic 10K - my first time, but apparently, only the second year for this race
October 5th (estimated date): Run the River 8K - this will replace the Neuse River Bridge Run...another one I've never ran
December 5th (estimated date): Mistletoe Half Marathon - my long mileage race for the end of the year

Happy Birthday Brenna!!

Brenna the dog turned three years old today.

Mi-Mi was doting all over her and would come by and tell us "Brenna really wants to have a party"..."Brenna is sad she doesn't have any gifts"..."Brenna wants a cake"...it was very cute. But since I had just purchased a new, almost $4 collar for her, I wasn't spending anymore...okay, well, I also got her canned dog food, which throws her whole digestive and "other end" system off, so I felt like I did a lot already...

Brenna is a WONDERFUL dog and fits so perfectly in our family. She asks for very little and prefers to lay around and do nothing. She doesn't bark (but the cat is loud and meows, in different forms, all night and day), growl, or anything that sounds like anything, until she's excited (and usually the girls are responsible) or one particular dog - in a three week time period - merits a bark/growl from her, as they pass by in front of her house.

She has a little bit of obedience training that we stick to and listens to basic commands. One day we'll do more but for now, it's just "one day".

She is crate-trained, which we had never, ever did with any of our previous three dogs and let me tell you, it is WONDERFUL. She often goes into her crate on her own and just lays there, while we all are sitting around her. All we have to say, when we leave the house, is "crate" and she runs excitedly to it and lies down, and we shut it and she seems fine.

She is just sooooo easy. And from the day we got her, she has been this way.

I found Brenna from a "mug shot" from my work's bulletin board. I often look at all the "adopt this dog" ads and think "wow, I would love to adopt each and every one of these!" But at the time, we were on our last of three aging dogs. And dealing with aging dogs is physically, and most of all, emotionally damaging. Oh, let's not forget the financial burden too.

Tim was ready to be done with dogs after the last one passed. We needed a break from clean-up, forcing pills, buying special food, doing IVs, vet visits, and just watching them grow old and become debilitated from the dogs we had for the first 10 years. It's as if overnight, our dogs became suddenly OLD. It's heartbreaking and we wanted to take a break and be dog free for a bit before adopting a new one.

But in my eyes, we provided a home for three orphaned dogs. Three dogs' lives that we saved. And now we had room for two more. But I also knew it was hard work, so there was a tug-of-war in my mind and heart on whether we should consider another dog.

But I tend to be more driven by emotion so every once in awhile, I would send Tim pictures of the dogs that I looked at in these ads. He would blow me off and I would know that he was right.

Then one day, I saw this picture of Brenna:


It was from HEART pet rescue and they were looking for a foster home for Brenna. I e-mailed the picture to Tim, who replied "Damn, that's a cute dog. It's your call."

What? Is he opening the door and letting ME decide if we can have this dog? I wrote him back and he said something to that nature...it was in my court to decide.

Well, I tried to rationalize it....for about 1 minute...then quickly wrote the lady back and said "is this puppy still available?"

She called me and we talked and she said she would have Brenna with her at a pet store in Raleigh...we could come see her. She warned me that "brenna is a big dog...much bigger than she is in the picture". I didn't care. Tim wants big dogs anyway. I prefer older ones - since they are less adoptable, but these weren't selling on Tim.

So I told Tim that we could see Brenna at the pet store that evening. I mentioned it to the girls, who were excited and off we went.

When we got there, I saw her immediately. But there were other dogs, puppies, and the girls went to look at the other ones. Tim went straight to Brenna. And we left with Brenna.

She was sooo calm, and not anxious. She didn't whine at all during that initial time. She was just instantly right at home with us, even though we still had our geriatric dog, who has NEVER BEEN dog-friendly (even to our other two dogs, when they were alive)... But Brenna ADORED Soc (the older dog) and followed her around like, well, a puppy!

Soc tolerated her to a point, but as soon as we heard that notorious growl, or see her look, we would make sure to get Brenna away.

There was even a day that Brenna tore the screen off the screened porch and managed to get free, with Soc following after. We weren't at home and when we drove into the driveway, there was a surreal image seeing Soc trotting down the sidewalk to our house. It was odd but I couldn't place why it was odd until Tim said "what is Soc doing out there?" Oh yeah! She's supposed to be IN the house!

I thought we would never find Brenna. She was six months old, new to the neighborhood, and fast. She was long gone. But Tim yelled her name and she came out of nowhere, at 100 mph, excitedly rushing towards him. And she's been pretty much with us ever since...she had her chance to flee, but chose to stay. We were meant to be together.

Here's Brenna today, at three years old...and yes, the date the HEART people had on her certificate was January 1st, 2006: