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

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Commenting on the Tar Heel 10 Miler

I received any e-mail comment survey from the race I ran Saturday. I was ready to provide feedback as I was very critical about some things that I expected from a race.

I wrote it all out, including compliments. I pushed SEND and I got that dreaded 'there are errors with your submission'. I had to look for them and it ended up where I knew it would: the comment section.

The comment section was limited to 1000 characters. This is a pet peeve of mine, from a user experience perspective. There really should be no reason in this day age to limit characters, ESPECIALLY to 1000. That's just piss poor design.

But not only did it provide me an truncated EVERYTHING after 1000 characters. So if I wanted to fix it, shorten sentences, make bullet points of them, etc. there was no way to do it with the rest of my script. I had to start from scratch. So the first to go? Compliments.

This is what I ended up providing:
* Fee is unusually high.

* Race was well-marked.

* The uphill finish was demoralizing. It seemed cruel.

* No official times at the finish. I won't be in the top three and I don't care to see them. I want to see my time.

* No splits were called out at any mile marker.

* Not enough port-a-potties. The volunteer that stated 'you should've taken care of business before now' was not good. We all want the last anxious pee before a run.

* Too slow at packet pick-up during race day.

* No directions (clear cut from certain points) provided beforehand.

* No info about the race timing chip beforehand.

The race fee I paid was $45. But since Tim was running it too, we ended up forking out $90 before fees.

This is *a lot* for us. I am not rolling in dough, you know. And I just want to enjoy a challenging run. But I filled out my race calendar without paying a bit of attention to the price and I ended up with sticker shock.

If you waited until the last minute to sign up? Fifty buck-a-roos.

And add all my complaints to this fee and I don't see my return on investment, OTHER THAN MY GREAT TIME :-).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tar Heel 10 Miler Race Report

This race happened this past Saturday, April 25th. $Bill, Frank and Tim were also doing it. This would be Tim's first long run in a LOOOONNNGG time, so I was pretty excited that he took the challenge when I said that *I* was including it in my race plan for the Spring.

$Bill is still recovering from a freak injury that sidelined him from his marathon, as well as other running, so instead of doing the 10 miler, he was going for the 5K.

And Frank had a heart 'procedure' done in January so this was his first long race since his marathon from last November.

And me? I was conquering mental attitude injuries. :-)

The good news: the day was beautiful. When I let the dog out at 5:30 in the morning (race start was 7:30 in Chapel Hill, about 20 miles from our house), it felt GREAT. WARM. Shorts weather!!

The bad news: it got HOT during the run. When I finished, the first thing I did was kick off my shoes and air out my hot feet.

The good news: the course had a lot of down slants...not really down HILLS but gradual downward directions.

The bad news: there were just as many UPS...

The good news: this was the first race that I had ever noticed that ALLOWED headphones. I took advantage of it and wore mine. Keith and the Girl, my fave podcast, kept me in the zone throughout my 10 miles.

The bad news: not a lot to add here other than I could still hear stomping feet and heavy breathing. And no, it wasn't mine...well, at least the stomping feet wasn't mine.

So I was pretty OK about the race. Slightly nervous beforehand, like the night before and the morning of, but once I got there, I blanked out my mind to concentrate on what I was doing at the moment.

I skipped the long line for the port-a-potties and went for my warm-up jog. It was supposed to be 1.5 miles but I ended up barely over 3/4ths of a mile. When I was done, I was WET all over with SWEAT.

Ever since I started running longer runs, working out harder, more often, I have become a chick that sweats like a dude. I hate it. I end up looking like I ran in the rain when I haven't. And people are always inclined to tell me that...well, in ways they don't realize: "oh! did you get stuck in the rain shower?" "did you just come from the pool?"

Back to the race...

I felt pretty comfortable and by that I mean, I wasn't panicked or thinking too much about the overall race at hand...just run...just run...just run.

Frank, Bill, Tim and I all started off. I felt pretty good. My warm-up run had my blood flowing well, so I kept myself in check. When the crowd started thinning out a bit after about a half mile, Bill went on his way, as well as Tim. Bill was only doing a 5K so I wasn't about to keep up with him. And Tim, well, he's faster but there's no telling what he might do, so I stuck to my lonesome self quite happily. Frank was on his own too (and he usually is :-)).

I noticed, unbelievably, that the first mile was around 8:40 pace. Hmmm...that's a little fast. Coach B had asked that I stick to 9s the first five miles and then see what I could do for the rest. I found this to be a bit aggressive but I was going to play it by ear and see what I could do.

But the 8:40 felt OK...more like pretty good. But I knew this was just the first mile so I eased my pace.

Then the second mile passed and I'm still in the 8:40s (closer to 8:50). What is going on? This feels good! Surely, this is not right?

So I ease more, trying to keep myself close to 9s. I have a lot of miles to go here. At one point, I panicked just a little bit thinking: gosh, I have an HOUR OF RUNNING AHEAD OF ME! This was a bit daunting to think about (and yet during long training runs, the thought does not occur or does not make me panic) so I quickly concentrated on the podcast and just run...just run...just run.

The miles continue and I am still running sub-9s. WTF? This is unbelievable. It becomes my goal after about five miles: I am going to try very hard to keep sub 9s. It feels do-able; I have been doing it and if all else fails, I end up close to 9s at the end and actually reverse the original plan.

At mile 6, I decided to take a walk break and drink some Gatorade. I was thirsty and had skipped all water stops prior to this one. I figured I had earned it.

When I started back up running, AKA the RESET button, I was back in the 8:40s. Impressive!!! I was so thrilled!!

But not longer after restarting that, the energy in my legs drained. I was dog-tired. But I wasn't going to stop. I had to keep this up and make Tim, Coach B, Bill and Frank proud. I had to keep going because I would hate myself if I screwed this one again.

Then, with less than TWO MILES LEFT, I did absolutely the last thing I wanted to do that my brain was telling me NOT TO DO. I took a walk break. Well, at the time I started walking, it wasn't a break. I just started walking! And it wasn't at a hill! I walked right by a volunteer that said "you can do it" and after that, my brain fired up the engine and I started running. And I ran until I got to the finish, thank you very much!

And I finished at 1:27:49...six second from what my watch said. I broke 1:30, which is what I discreetly wanted to do...and my coach called me at 1:27s, which I thought came from cold medicine that she was taking.

Of course, due to the heat and the brunt of running 10 miles, I had minor confusion. I never stopped my watch, as I thought I had. And when I made a stop at the port-a-potty, I noticed that my time on my watch was 1:31. What? I swear I crossed at 1:27 something! What happened?

So my ego deflated...trying to figure out where I went did I lose so much time during my walk, or the last bit up the hill to the finish...Tim and Bill asked what my finish was and I said: 1:31. They both looked at me like I was an idiot and Bill says, um, it's 1:32 NOW! One of them said 'um, you never stopped your watch!'

RELIEF! YAY! I really did do that time! And even on Monday, I was in disbelief that I did that.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles

Deborah Wiles authored one of my favorite novels from last year, each little bird that sings. The Snowbergers are in this one, as well as Ruby Lavender, who is featured in another of Deborah Wiles' book, Love, Ruby Lavender.

But this one featured House Jackson, a 12 year old boy that I was introduced to by the fact that he found an old neighbor dead in his bed.

House had been reading to the bedridden man for months, after breaking his arm at the worst moment any 12 year old boy could fathom: before the biggest baseball game of the year, with him as the star pitcher.

And the story goes from there...another tender, sweet novel about a small southern town where everyone knows everyone. And the Independence Day celebration is HUGE: the annual (and only) baseball game against the Raleigh Redbugs is going to take place but Frances Shotz, aka Finesse, has other plans. Those plans include song and dance routines in a pageant, with all the members of the Aurora County All-Stars.

Although this one seemed more geared to boys than girls (like me), this still was just an amazing story with the same sweet elements that made me fall in love with each little bird that sings. I look forward to reading Love, Ruby Lavender to capture that essence again.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens 3D

This was a movie I had no interest in seeing. But I heard a review about it being soooo enjoyable, even for the adult reviewing, that it peaked my interest.

I had intended to take the girls during Spring Break but we never made the time. So today, after a hectic Saturday of running and partying, we hit the theater to take it in.

It was quite good. I fell into a little sleep zone somewhere in the beginning. Something about really cool theaters and the dark makes me sleepy. It happens more often than I care to admit. I feel like a granny.

But wearing the 3D glasses hid that from the familia, so I could snooze in peace. That lasted for about 10 minutes and then I was wide awake.

I was concerned that 3D would make me dizzy. WRONG. 3D, as Keith Malley states (after watching My Bloody Valentine in 3D), is the ONLY way to go! All movies should be in 3D!

It was amazing. I don't know how they put it all together but it was extremely impressive.

There were previews of upcoming 3D movies and some of those parts, the 3D truly makes you feel like you are there: the view from me standing there and looking around.

It's no Pixar but it was quite good. The girls enjoyed it immensely. Next month, the movie from Pixar: UP, will be coming out in 3D. I can't wait!

Bye Bye Birdie

This is what I said to the poor little, teeny-tiny new bird/chick that was smashed on the greenway as I passed over it on my fourth lap.

I had an eight mile run to do this past Saturday. I also had a lot to get done before the 3PM birthday party we were hosting for my Mi-Mi.

Since last Saturday's run was awful and I have decided it has more to do with the cursed route that I took (and not my actual physical state ;-)). So Saturday's run was going to steer clear of Shelley Lake, Lynn Road, and even Millbrook. Instead, I decided to stick with my comfort zone and ran four loops around the 2+ mile Lake Lynn loop.

It didn't start out too hot. My legs felt tired. And I was dreading the number of miles I had to pack into these loops.

I started going my usual way: counter-clockwise (CC). During that loop, I paid close attention -- or at least my legs reminded me -- to the fact that I was going UP more than down.

I like the CC route because there are a few big hills that I run DOWN. But I decided that the big hills I could take if overall, I would be running more down. So I changed to clockwise after the first loop and truthfully, it did feel better...mainly on one side of the 'clock'.

But that's when I saw the baby bird. And every time I passed it, I felt sad. But I saw something that made me happy, like the very old man who walked the greenway with bad legs: he was old enough to be *my* grandfather and had a thing on his knee, a cane and very white legs. I thought he was awesome to walk around in a very crippling condition. I saw him during my last two loops and I wish that I had said something to him.

The other thing I saw that tickled me was a baby croc shoe in the middle of the path. Well ahead was a lady pushing a baby stroller with a toddler and a baby. The toddler was pointing to the shoe (he was facing me, which the baby faced the other way) and was grunting to the mom about the shoe. I understood completely but mommy did not. As I passed her I asked if she was missing a red shoe and she turned around and was like: oh yeah!! And then I saw the baby holding her foot where the red croc used to be...very cute!!

It was around mile five that I got my second wind, although, I don't feel like I ever had my first wind. I was flying for a good mile or so and then it was back to my tired feeling.

I kept it up though and of course, worry about what I'm going to do with this coming Saturday's 10 miler.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dream Run

No, not my ideal run but an actual dream about a run...a run at a race.

I'm not sure how strange it is to reveal a dream. Sometimes, I am taken aback when someone I know tells me about a dream they had. It seems so "personal", as in, intimate.

But what the hell. Here goes my reveal of personal, "intimate" dream...which will just make me appear even more loony than I already am.

Sooo...I am running a 200m race. Yes, you heard it: a 200m race. And it goes up the stairs right before the finish.

I think I am in second place. And I am running HARD on the heels of the first place person, who happens to be a person who is in a wheelchair when she's NOT running.

Did you get that? She runs on her feet but when not running, is in a wheelchair. Hence, her name in the dream is "wheelchair girl".

I can't beat her. I'm almost there but I just can't pass her. And actually, she sort of blocks me when we are running up the stairs but I know that I have little steam anyway.

So, wheelchair girl wins. I'm still happy because I get second place. Until we both realize that someone had already won. A gentleman that is never seen in the dream until the end, well rested because he sped past all of us.

So now I am in third. I am still thrilled. I still get a prize. And the prize I got was a really small carving of something in soap. And they present it to Brennan (my coach) and she's like "This is actually for her (nodding to me). I train her."

So I never get acknowledged for winning, except by Brennan. I keep dropping my third place soap carving trophy and finally drop it into the sand, where I think I lose it and finally find it. Brennan tells me to pocket it which I do.

BTW, Brennan is ALSO in the 200m race, which also, BTW, I win 3rd place by running it in 1 minute (if you don't run track, 1 minute is quick but you don't win 200m in 1 minute).

But the gist of it is that Brennan did not run hard...obviously, if I beat her. But she wasn't throwing it either. I just somehow managed to win (3rd place). But she was not very happy with me and at some point, is even angry at me. I can't remember why but I do know that she says something about 'the wheelchair girl beat you' and wasn't please about that either.

First Mugshot Post

I don't know about you all, but I find most mugshots pretty amusing. I can't believe the expressions on some of these folks' faces. So one of my blogging goals of the year was to share the mugshots that stand out (to me).

Today I read the article about this guy driving into Crabtree Creek, off Capital Blvd. here in Raleigh. This is his mugshot:

The article states that not only was he drunk, he fell asleep at the wheel. He looks pretty wide awake now, doesn't he?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How I Managed To "Run" 11 Miles...

I had an eleven mile run on my schedule for this Saturday's long run. Tim and I were running separately, meaning, no babysitter for an AM scheduled run...just run when we want to.

Tim had gotten up early and got his run over with. I started mine a little after 10:30.

I decided to run from the house to Lake Lynn, loop it once and then hit Lynn Road all the way to North Hills Road and then run around Shelley Lake one loop, then come back the way I came.

Lake Lynn was a decent run. Familiarity can make it easy. The weather was grand and while I wasn't feeling 'in the zone', I did feel pretty decent after spending two days walking (3 1/2 hours Thursday; 5 hours Friday).

Running out of Lake Lynn took a bit out of me because it's a sharp incline up. But I did it and made it through the light at the intersection and started downhill on Lynn Road. I felt my energy come back going down the hill, so that was great because I would soon be going back up.

And this is how it would be for the next couple of miles. I could feel my energy going away. It was now getting hot. And I'm not even halfway there.

Once I hit Shelley, I was pooped. After mile five, I ran a bit, then walked a bit. I'm surprised I kept my walk breaks short (less than 1:30 mn) because my legs were shot. I toyed with the idea of running only one side of Shelley then heading back home on the Millbrook Avenue side. But I decided to be stubborn and do what I could to get closer to 11 miles.

I texted Tim that my route changed; I wanted to make sure if I was killed on the cursed Shelley Lake to Crabtree trail, that he could retrace my steps and find my body.

So off I go, into a small tunnel that is the underpass for Millbrook Road. It was really dark after coming from the sun and bikers were heading in my opposite direction.

Now, you are SUPPOSED to get OFF the bike and walk it through the tunnel. I didn't bitch (silently) about that until I twisted my right foot in a dip, as I ran, hugging the right side of the tunnel. I yelled out "Oh Shit!" because I thought I was going down, but I actually fared well without even hurting my ankle. But I then cursed the bikers because THEY MADE ME DO IT...and didn't even ask if I was OK :-(.

I find hardcore determination and run through my tired legs. I run to North Hills Drive and turn back where I got a solid two miles of running. Soon after leaving that route, I now have a long, slight up to climb from Shelley Lake to midway to Lead Mine Road. I walked that part. At one point, I thought of calling Tim and asking him to pick me up. I was just done. But stubborness kept me going and I thought about Ironman competitors and how they must feel close to something like I felt (course, after more hours and miles!) and that if they could pull it off with the amount of time they put in, I could do the same. Plus, I'm only two-plus miles from the house!

So once I reached the downhill part, I just ran. I continued to run until I got to the stoplight at Millbrook and Creedmoor. Here was the awkward moment that I pushed the pedestrian crossing button as two men were using blowers to blow around the area. I told them they could continue -- well, motioned, as they were not English-speaking fellas -- and they just stood there staring at me. And this is when I decided to add a little jayrunning to relieve that awkwardness, since they wouldn't continue working while I was standing there...I ran across the first two lanes and stood in the median...only to cause a tad more awkwardness for the driver in the turn lane, who had her window down and I am standing right in front of her.

Finally, I run across the rest of the road and make it to the other side...almost home. I continue running and thinking "how the hell am I doing this?" until finally, my watch buzzes at 11 miles and then I just STOP. At this point, I am thinking about calling Tim again and having him come get me. I am only half a mile from the house. But that's just how much pain I was in. I was exhausted. My legs were pissed off at me. I wanted to kick off my shoes and walk barefooted...I was just soooo uncomfortable.

I took the walk slow and had difficulties walking up the hills. But I made it. I made it home. And unbelievably, I ran in the high 9s whenever I DID run. I ended up putting in 11.52 miles in 2:07, which averages to 11:07 mn/miles.

A day later and I'm still stunned that I did that. And I'm most proud of myself. Sometimes it truly does come down to quantity over quality, at least mentally. Not sure if the coach appreciates that but it made me feel good. Now if only those 'make me feel good' feelings could broadcast to my tired legs...

A Day at the Zoo

Friday was zoo day for us. $Bill joined us with Y-Y, which was planned but she didn't find out until the last minute (when we actually showed up to go!).

It was a decent day for the zoo trip, although we got caught in the rain around the halfway point. That put on a damper on things (yuck! yuck!). But the animals were out for good photographic moments.

Mr. Alligator:

Playful Seals:

Willie the Polar Bear:

Colorful Flamingos:

I have always been impressed with the NC Zoo. The tickets are affordable and the natural paths around the zoo provide a great user experience.

However, the food thing is something I DID NOT like. Yes, I know: this is typical. Reel the people in, entrap them, so that all they can do is buy your overpriced food. That's how they need to make money! But everyday Joe's can't afford -- and shouldn't have -- to pay nearly $27 for a lunch. The guy in front of us had paid $26.95 for his two sandwiches, two yogurts, and two drinks. I was aghast and then he couldn't believe it either! Ours was a close second and it just KILLED me to spend that kind of money knowing I could spend around the same much for a fine meal at Hayes Barton Cafe.

So, my advice? Fuel up before getting there and sneak in some good snacks that will beat those hunger pangs and eat when you GET OUT. It's not worth it. The food is mediocre at best.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Yes Man

This is the flick with Jim Carrey, a dull man who can't say Yes to anything until he visits a seminar...

Movie was enjoyable but nothing amazing. Actually, it is just an average, B-rate, Hollywood comedy that stars a semi-big name. He's funny and there are a lot of funny scenes but to be a movie snob, it borders on lame.

However, two things I have to note about this: Jim Carrey is finally showing his age. the man is getting old and looking it. This is two movies in a row that I noticed the men were starting to look their ages (Keanu Reeves from The Day the Earth Stood Still).

Second thing: Zooey Deschanel. She is the co-star, and personally, the ONLY reason you should see this movie. She is completely and utterly beautiful and her character is the most adorable character...I loved her and I have become an instant fan. And BTW, she is the sister of Emily Deschanel, another fine actress who plays one of my favorite all-time characters, Dr. Temperance Brennan on Bones.

Spring Break Day One and Two

Wednesday was our first day of Spring Break. The girls had to go to school Monday and Tuesday as make-up days for snow earlier in the year. Quite honestly, though, if we had made plans? Screw make-up days. I heard on the news, in fact, that absentees were HIGH throughout the county this past Monday. Um, duh?

I had to start the day with a drive to Durham to get my tattoo looked at. No ink work but a reevaluation of what we needed to do. I need to go to Fayt-nam (Fayetteville) for tattoo REMOVAL of the colored pieces of the one that I am covering up. I thought I'd get it done this break, but now I'm thinking it's not going to happen. Starting a break two days later puts a dent into my free time...

So when I got back, we headed out to the dollar store -- after breakfast at BK's for the girls -- to find stuff for Easter Egg hunting. Then we hit Monkey Joe's, a big jumping factory, for them to hop around like bunnies. The place was packed! I sat mildly annoyed at all the peeps and their rugrats around me...but I had my book with me to keep me looking aloof and indifferent to them.

The evening I had to tend to volunteer work at Quail Ridge Books and then afterward, we headed to Cameron Village to try K&W cafeteria for dinner. It was closed so we hit the Village Deli instead. YUM. We made it home and stayed up to watch Yes Man...

Today, morning, was wake up when we wanna. I decided that I HAD TO FINISH Wuthering Heights because it was just dragging on way too long.

The plan for today, though, was our (third) yearly trek to Fearrington Village. I had high expectations, as did my girls. We were sadly disappointed: the toy section at McIntyres's Fine Books was no longer there. This was a HUGE section, like a wing, of the store with children's books and a great amount of toys and animals. It was lovely. Now? It is transformed to a plain, dull room with rows of chairs and a small podium. Phoeey on them.

We walked around and the grounds are still gorgeous, especially on a beautiful Spring day like today. I looked forward to hitting the Potting Shed and was struck by the fact that NOTHING was there. If you look at the pictures from last year, you'll see how beautiful this garden shop was. This is what we saw this year:

The cows, however, were still there:

Our next stop was Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. That was a lot of fun, even though, for some unknown and very odd reason, CJ has become anti-UNC. I have no idea why and I certainly don't agree with it...I think UNC-CH is a beautiful, reputable college...even though it isn't so pretty lately with all of the construction going on in the area.

We hit Top of the Hill first for lunch. The wait to sit outside was long so I asked for an inside table near a window. We ended up sitting right in front of the door to the outside tables, which meant cool wind hitting us every time it opened, which was CONSTANT. Instead of taking the reigns and just moving to a different table, I asked my daughters if they wanted to move, where they were disinterested in moving. This took the edge out of enjoying my Leaderboard Trophy Lager and my scrumptious bruschetta.

We hit many shops and spent about three and a half hours walking up and down the street, including the stop for lunch and gelato at Sugarland Bakery:

It was our first time ever having this yummy stuff. Course, I wasn't going to have ANYTHING until I saw that display. Just was the baked goodies too:

but we managed to walk away...but we will be back!

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

After reading Jane Eyre last year, a friend of mine loaned me his copy of Wuthering Heights to read.

Over a year later, I finally read the book. The Twilight series peaked my interest since Bella reads Wuthering Heights many times. I decided I needed to know what it was all about.

And now I know. There is no single character in this book with a redeeming quality. Sure, there are moments of it but overall, I did not meet a character that I could sympathize nor empathize with.

I thought Heathcliff would turn out to be a Byronic character, much like Edward Rochester was in Jane Eyre...but oh no! He would not change for the better. In fact, he grew worse and worse until he completely went mad.

The only redemption that comes to light is nearly the end of the book, when Cathy and Hareton hook up. But Cathy had been the cruelest of cruel to Hareton throughout the book and that it all 'ties up' in the end is not a relief for me.

The book is quite good, while very, very difficult to read. The language is hard to keep up with -- I thought this is how it would be reading Jane Eyre, but it was not. And when Joseph or Hareton, or any of the service type folk, were 'speaking', it was far worse to understand:

'And how isn't that nowt comed in fro' th' field, be this time? What is he about? girt idle seeght!' demanded the old man, looking round for Heathcliff.

Those words would make my eyes hurt trying to read them.

But also, the reuse of names: Hindley Earnshaw, Catherine Earnshaw, and Hareton Earnshow, Edgar Linton, Catherine Linton, Linton Heathcliff, and Nelly, AKA Ellen.

Hindley would be "Hindley" or "Master Earnshaw". Catherine was Cathy in her youth, then Catherine, or Mrs. Linton. Linton was Edgar Linton, or master (of Thrushcross), who was married to Catherine Earnshaw then had a child named Catherine (Cathy) Linton.

Catherine married Linton Heathcliff and Edgar Linton died shortly after that marriage. Later, Hareton would be called Earnshaw, or master Earnshaw.

Man-oh-man. I got headaches trying to figure out who was who.

But regardless of the difficulty of reading it, it was a good novel and I was pretty awed by the fact that this could have been written in that era. Mental and physical abuse is abundant and again, ruthless, ruthless people! Who seemed to ail for years then die.

I don't know what else to make of the book. It is awful because the people are awful and they live sad, awful lives. But amazing in the fact that someone in that time period could conceive such a story.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Um, don't bother watching this one. I don't even have anything to write about it other than it's not good...a walk on the cheesy side with the dialogue ("We will change...we can change"). Ugh.

It was a perfect role for Keanu Reeves: a stoic, monotone, robotic alien in Keanu's body. Sound familiar? Oh and Keanu is starting to actually look old. Not old like 85 years old, but he is now starting to resemble his age...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Simple Explanation

That would be the title of Episode 520 of the Fox TV show House. Yet another show I love to watch. And this past week's episode was a subtle surprise.

There was no ad hawking up this episode. There was no media citation about what was about to happen. It didn't happen right away. And we didn't get to see much. And we were left with questions. Enough awe hit us that Tim even looked up the actor to see WTF happened.

It was brilliant because it was subtle. A regular, much loved, adorable and strange character, Dr. Lawrence Kutner, was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The attempt by his two colleagues to resuscitate him were futile. They showed nothing other than his splayed legs and a pool of blood...but no body. And we can't see them resuscitate him, but we see #13 with blood across her mouth, exhausted, pained by the truth. Kutner was dead.


And that became the story for this episode. Kutner was a monotoned speaker but brilliant doctor. He had a dry sense of humor and despite the tragedy of his Indian parents being killed when he was young, he was raised by adoptive parents of wealth. He grew up to be a privileged child who became a great doctor.

And the colleagues never saw it coming. He wasn't depressed (to them). He wasn't angry. He didn't seem unhappy. He didn't seem under anymore stress than any of them. No one saw any sign of this coming.

And House couldn't deal with that either. He solves problems by seeing what no one else can see...a 'sixth' sense. So he decided to figure this out and came to the conclusion that Kutner had to have been murdered.

In the end, House realizes, based on pictures he was rifling through in Kutner's apartment, that the truth was: Kutner, a somewhat stable, happy, smart, young doctor, had indeed killed himself. No note. No nothing to explain why.

And while the passing of a regular character is "sad", the depiction, IMO, was like no other show that does the suicide storyline.

Not that I am all knowledgeable about suicides and such, but I have learned enough to know that people do commit this awful act without any obvious signs.

My only experience with this was shocking. A man I used to work for had committed suicide several years ago. A man who was always happy and upbeat whenever I met with him. And I was not a very nice person to have as an employee but he always smiled for me, hugged me and talked to me about his family. He ADORED his children.

Me and a couple of friends went to his house to see him after a very severe car crash. It actually was several months after the crash. He was severely injure; the driver of the other car was killed.

He lived in Seven Springs, NC but worked in RTP. He had a horse farm out there and it was beautiful. His family: a beautiful wife and three beautiful children, were just as happy to see us. They gave us a tour of their home and land and I was mesmerized by these kids, the youngest probably around two at the time, running through their 'yard' with no shoes.

And my friend was in a wheelchair, and he just rolled along with us - a constant smile on his face.

It was a wonderful moment.

Several years later, I was pregnant with CJ. I was on my way to my regular OB appointment when I noticed someone flashing his lights behind me. I had NO IDEA who this whacko was...and he was following me. I pulled into my OB office's parking lot; the truck did too. And then out comes my friend - excited to see me. Running over to give me a hug and asking how I've been. He couldn't believe I was pregnant (I was sort of anti-child in my naive years ;-)) and was SOOOOO happy for me. It truly made my day and I felt privileged to know someone that would like me so much.

And that, my dear friends, would be the last time I would see him. Unbelievably, about two years later, as I was getting ready for work, I heard his name and saw his picture on the local news. He was reported missing. I was stunned. It didn't sound good because his wife had reported him missing...the last time she had seen him was him heading into the woods behind their home after a fight.

I quickly e-mailed my friends who knew him to find out if they knew anything else. Evenutally, the news was passed back to me: he had killed himself.


He was always so happy! He fought through that accident!! He has three children that he loves sooooo much! Why would he do that to them?!?

These questions, of course, linger with me I'm sure they do with his well as the people who knew him.

And even though that is my one (and I hope only) statistic to work with, I related so much to the House episode. I think others will too. And that's what made Monday's show so amazing.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

FINALLY. I get to see this much-acclaimed movie.

CJ and I have wanted to see this for quite awhile. I was concerned (a little) as to why it was Rated R and wasn't sure about taking her. I mean, I WOULD, but I have to respect my husband's input and he is a bit more conservative than I am in this arena (and that's not a dis on him; really, I probably SHOULD be more conservative).

Anyway, I could not make the time to go to see it with her, nor with Tim. I even toyed with the idea of 'stealing' the movie on-line. I had seen tweets from others who had done the same thing. I knew it would be wrong. But just this once? So I could see the movie?

When I explained this to CJ: guess what? We can watch the movie for free on-line! She asked "How can you do that when it's still in the theater?" and I said that some people figured out how to get the movie onto the internet and let us watch it for free! She told me that it sounds like stealing and she didn't want to do that.

My child teaching me ethics. And I need it. So I put on my dusty halo and waited until yesterday to legally obtain the movie from new favorite rental place, Redbox.

I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. I know now why it was so highly regarded.

The story was amazing. And brutal: a look into the lives of orphaned children in India and how they live; a look at the cruelty that men do to make money; how injustice exists amongst the police force; and a look at how hard it is to be respected when you come from the 'wrong' side of town (perhaps, a glimpse of the caste system? Although not outwardly stated but seems to be the way of the world there).

Mi-Mi watched it too. She thinks Rated R means scary, so she was getting scared at some parts of the movie (the chase scenes, especially). But she grasped the way the movie was made, which IMO, is genius. CJ figured it out quickly too.

Because the contestant on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" is from the slums, officials on the game and the police cannot believe he could possibly know the answers. He is uneducated and must be cheating. So there is some torture scenes that pepper the movie; the officials are trying to get him (Jamal) to admit he is cheating. He won't and thus, the abuse begins. At some point, the main police dude stops the torture and talks to Jamal about how the heck he knows the answers to these questions...and so begins the genius-ness of how the movie plays out: the question is asked - within the context of the actual game show - and the answer comes in flashbacks to Jamal's childhood memories, and how he learned the answer.

For the most part, there is little humor in how he achieves the answers. The answers are learned through a hard, hard life. And this is where the brutality plays...a common theme in Jamal's world. And it is amazingly well told, no matter how hard it is to see.

And what makes it difficult is the realization that, while the film is fiction, how true this must be for most children in India and similar countries. When CJ and I watch The Amazing Race, there are times where contestants are sent to India. And every time they are there, there is always tears of sorrow at seeing the way these people live, especially the children.

CJ said she enjoyed it too. Mi-Mi didn't get to finish it as she volunteered to be tucked in...she was that tired. But no matter, she actually sat still throughout the movie (even after whining about how she didn't want to watch the movie), asked questions, and provided commentary enough for us to know that she was following the movie's story.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Crushes Come and Crushes Go

This post will not win me the mother of the year award. But since I've pretty much been ousted from that prize anyway, I don't really care.

But perhaps, you can keep this "our" little secret...

This week at CJ's (and Mi-Mi's) elementary school, there was a 25-cent shop going on. I didn't really pay attention to what it was for, other than knowing my girls were scrounging for quarters to partake in it all week.

When I got home Tuesday, the babysitter told me that CJ was in a mood and stated that something really embarrassing happened at school that day, but would not tell her what.

CJ is very much a brooding child. And she will not speak about anything unless she feels like it. So I usually let her be and go on with everyday life. Sometimes this works; sometimes not...Tuesday, it worked.

But instead of looking broody and morose as she normally does, she looked excited when she said she needed to tell me something. She whispers in my ear "There's a boy at school that likes me". She is grinning, but clearly, a little sheepish about it.

She continues to tell me that he even bought her a fruit roll up (from the 25 cent shop)...isn't that adorable???? Before I could finish saying "aw, isn't that nice!" she exclaimed that she gave the fruit roll up away.

I ask if she likes him...she shakes her head no furiously. I asked if that's why she gave the fruit roll up away and she said yes and I could finally see that my input was no longer wanted. She was done with the conversation.

So I talked to Tim about it later, as I was concerned about teaching CJ how to reject a boy without being rude or hurtful. I thought giving the fruit roll up away was, well, mean! I asked him "How can she indicate to a boy she's not interested but not hurt his feelings?" Naturally, Tim was like "who cares about the boy's feelings; give the fruit roll up away. He'll get the picture."

Okay, another mark for me thinking too much. :-)

Wednesday goes by without a mention of "the boy".

Thursday, however, CJ and Mi-Mi are in the car and I hear Mi-Mi say "CJ has a crush on a boy and she won't tell me his name!" Hmmmm...this is odd, I think...what are they selling at the 25-cent store? Cupid's arrows? Love potion #9? What is with all these crushes??

So I finally get it out of her and she tells me his name. I don't know it. I find out that he is not in her class (whew) and that she is in her friend's class, who apparently, is the messenger for said boy. I also learn that the boy, in fact, is the same one who gave her the fruit roll up on Tuesday.

I told her "I thought you didn't like him?" and she said, simply, "I changed my mind." OK, then.

She then shows me a heart shaped necklace and says that he gave that to her today. Whoa. That's a pretty nice necklace...and HEART-SHAPED? We went from a fruit roll up to a HEART-SHAPED necklace???

I found out that they don't actually talk to each other. It's just this whole "I-see-you-and-I-like-you-but-I-will-dare-not-speak-to-you' kind of thang.

So as I deal with more things to worry about: what does it mean to have a crush on a boy in 5th grade? Do I allow her to talk to him on the phone? Text him? What do I do now?

And then Friday comes and I notice she is not wearing her necklace. Not unusual as we are getting ready to get into a pool to look for Easter eggs. But I say "So...did you, um, talk to you-know-who today?" And she looks at me like I am so 1960s and says, Oh, I'm over him now. WHAT? What happened in one day?!

I asked "what happened?" and she said "I guess I just grew tired of him..."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Rachel Getting Married

I love Anne Hathaway. I'd say that she is one of my favorite actresses of late.

I had seen bits of her while my girls watch The Princess Diaries. And I thought she was great in The Devil Wears Prada. But it wasn't until Becoming Jane that I was hooked. She is just so wonderful in every role I have seen her in and I love, love, love the choices she has made in the movies she ends up in. She certainly stands out among the ditzy girls of her era (e.g. Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff). I just really, really like her and am impressed with her. She was SO COOL on Saturday Night Live...and the boring Oscars? I thought she stole the show.

And she certainly stole the show in this movie. She was AMAZING. I enjoyed every line and minute she was in the movie. I loved her look; I loved her character. And yet, the talk about this movie, besides Hathaway's incredible acting/role, was the premise of this crazy sister disrupting her sister's wedding.

My god. I LOVED the crazy sister and thought: no wonder she is a recovering addict! Dealing with her flaky ass family? I begged her to leave that house.

Her sister, and the person in which the title of the movie is based on, was so annoying. She welcomed her with open arms, as Kym (Hathaway) is released from rehab. They are giddy and loving. And then somewhere, the flip switched and Rachel starts nagging the sister about how she is self-absorbed and steals the thunder from her (Rachel).

The dad is just as kooky. He definitely had effeminate mannerisms. The mom, who is played by Debra Winger, was kind of "not there" in spirit nor in the actual movie. This was a let-down, as I read some accolades of Debra Winger's comeback in this movie...but really, it was bit part...and the only emotional strong impact comes at the end of the movie.

But the movie was not that great. I found it sooooo cliche, as far as trying to show how indie of a movie it was. There are A LOT OF PEOPLE attending the rehearsal, then wedding, for Rachel. The whole time, the mood of the film is to be a bit haphazard, as if someone else attending the wedding is filming this...or the view from someone's eyes...and you see the stereotypical faces of people talking, mingling, laughing, snuggling etc. It was just so contrived...trying too hard to look like you're not trying.

And it went on and on...people all over this house, playing music and they were EVERYWHERE: in the kitchen, on the porch, EVERYWHERE. And this was portrayed as 'normal' life.

The rehearsal toasts went forever. All these characters talking about their undying loyalty and friendship to Sidney (the groom-to-be) and Rachel. BTW, Rachel is this beautiful white girl marrying a big, not-quite-as-beautiful black man. And both the white folk and the black folk melded PERFECTLY. Everyone, regardless of color, had rhythm.

And the bride and bridesmaids wore saris. They had an Indian-like adorned elephant for their cake but praised God and said Lahayam all the time. What does being white, black, musical, and implied-Jewish have to do with saris? It was ridiculous!

So the movie: did not like. Kym/Hathaway LOVED. It was worth the free Redbox flick, and quick drive to HT to get it, to see Hathaway in this role.

First Mattress of the New Year

And it's April!

But I actually have seen others before this one today. I just didn't have a camera ready to get the picture.

This one was off of Hwy. 70, approaching Glenwood Avenue.

Friday, April 03, 2009

My Favorite Sports Drink

I noticed sometime last summer, maybe even spring, that I would thirst for chocolate milk after a good, hard run. Fortunately, my house is never without chocolate syrup so I usually whipped up a big glass of chocolate milk after my run. Man, this was good.

Now, I love milk and I love chocolate milk. I always drank a tall glass of either one before bed time during my growing up years. Every so often, I do it now. But on many occasions, I run down to my building's basement to grab a small carton of low-fat chocolate milk. This was my treat and pick-me-up for the day.

So I didn't think it was entirely abnormal for me to thirst for chocolate milk after a run. Just me and my love for the drink.

I started ordering first thing at the Breakfast Nazi place. It became such a habit that my BFF Sam would order it for me, if she was there before me. Now, he tells me as before I order: chocolate milk? And let me tell you, he makes a good one...

Sometime last year, I ran across an article that stated how good chocolate milk was as a sports drink. I thought how cool that was but I forgot about it until Sam told me she had heard the same thing.

I ran across this on Runner Dude's blog, which also lays claim to how great chocolate milk is as a sports drink. I guess my body knew what it wanted after a hard run: Got Milk? Chocolate Milk?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Support System

Today, during our run, my running buddy Frank said he forgot to thank his wife. For what? For supporting his running habit.

Frank spent most of last year training for a marathon. He did two of them: one in the first part of the year; the other the second part of the year. That meant up to four hours of a single run during the weekend. Frank and Jen have two young sons and Jen is back at school. Four hours is a big chunk of time to devote to 'me time' and four hour runs don't quite make you feel rejuvenated at the end.

For me, I have been running solo weekend runs for years. Tim joins me but for a good part of those years, he did not. And not one single complaint about my "me time"...instead, he supported me by coming to my races, or trying to beat me at these races, and many times, bringing our kids to show them what mom can do.

$Bill is a long-time trainer -- years *and* lots of long times during the week and the weekend. He has done training for half Ironmans, marathons, and many, many triathlons. Again, nothing but support from his wife.

We take it for granted: that our spouses can be so easy about our habit. Granted, Frank's wife is active and has done triathlons; she sometimes runs with me! Tim is very active and Bill's wife is an active dancer. So our spouses also have their own 'me times'.

But I know people who aren't so lucky. And during the run today, the conversation was centered around why the better halves can be so crappy about the other person's desire to train for marathons, or any other race, or just to run.

And I was really dissing this mindset. I found it unfair, cruel even. But Kendal put it into perspective and knocked me off my hypocritical pedestal when he said "well, some people could play golf for four hours a day..."

Um, golf? Four hours? Why would anyone do that?

And I remembered Tim had done that, in his previous life. And I remember not liking it either. I think four hours was the MINIMUM time he spent golfing...and I also remember that my own dad was the same way. And I didn't get it.

And so, I ate crow...on the inside...thinking, you know, it's all relative. To me, running, biking, swimming, exercising up to four hours is not bad. I totally get it and *I* would be supportive to anyone wanting to do that...but golf? Or any other _thing_ that I don't relate to? It's all the same, though...and I'm glad Kendal snapped me out of my sanctimonious bullshit...

My Take on Marley and Me

I never liked calling my movie reviews as 'reviews'. It's really just my take on the movie (or book) and not a recommendation for anything. I know everyone has their own take on things so I prefer to call it that from now on...

I never read the book but knew >>a little << bit about it. After watching it, I don't think I can read the book. It's one of those 'too-hard-to-read-because-it-will-hurt-my-heart' book.

The movie reminded me of the book Good Dog. Stay. That book summed up Marley & Me in 95 pages, most of them pictures.

The book, and this movie, pretty much centers around what happens during the life of a dog. It's a story about adding a puppy to your family, dealing with that puppy as it grows, and all the events -- highs and lows -- that occur during the life span of this pet.

And all along, I knew what the end would bring. But I tried not to think about it and enjoy the movie for what it was as I watched it.

Marley (the dog) reminded me so much of our dog Soc. We got her as a puppy and she was a terror. She tore up the filling of our chairs, as Marley did. She chewed everything in sight. She even busted a lawnmower wheel AS IT WAS IN MOTION. A lawnmower wheel???!!

Our other dog, Sugar, ate the drywall off our walls, just like Marley.

And it made me think how lucky we are with Brenna, who is the calmest dog we've ever had. She had her moments of chewing everything, including CJ's first iPod. But she is no Marley...and I'm thankful for that...but I am also thankful for having dogs who had those Marley qualities about them.

And then when Marley, for the first time, shows his age climbing up the steps, it reminded me of all three of my dogs who have passed on. It's easy to forget how old are dogs get and literally, it feels like one moment that your dog becomes old. Today they are running around, chasing the ball and the very next day, you notice that they can hardly get up from a lying position. We (literally, Tim and I) ignored all of this until we said "What happened? She was vibrant yesterday!"

For us, we were fortunate or unfortunate (depending on how you look at the scenario) to have our dogs *be* old for us for awhile. We were so used to the lives of senior dogs that when we got Brenna, we were like kids again, amazed at how peppy a puppy could be. How cute they could be! And just all those things that we forgot younger dogs could be.

And when John Grogan had to put Marley down? It was too much for me. I stifled those big loud gasps that come with hard crying. I couldn't stop and all I saw in that scene was every time we did that with our own dogs. I wasn't able to be there when Soc went to sleep but Marley was Soc to me the entire movie.

It is just sad. And it makes me soooo thankful and happy that I am a pet person. I think if you have no pet in your life? How lonely for you -- you are missing out.

But on the technical issues regarding the movie: neither Owen Wilson nor Jennifer Aniston ever aged in the movie. Marley grew old; the leading man & hot actress never did. After three children, I think Jennifer got more and more toned and looked less and less 40ish.

And the Eric Dane character? He plays the same dude on Grey's Anatomy. And it is sooooo old and sooooo cliche. And seriously...wouldn't you want to try to expand your acting repertoire?

So the movie, IMO, is a perfectly executed Hollywood flick: semi-big name stars, a cute dog, and a pull-your-heartstrings storyline. It certainly is nowhere near my top 100 movies ever but I got enough out of the story to remember the ones I loved.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Tattoo Time

As some of you know, I have been working on a pretty big back tattoo. I took a break last June. A long break since I haven't gone back for any sessions since June!! But it was taking a toll on me: the time to plan around work/personal time; the financial commitment and most of all, I had it with the pain.

The memory of that pain is what has prevented me from going back. I can handle it and for three hour sessions, it's tough but 'endurable'. But for nearly a year, nearly every two weeks? I was looking less and less to these sessions. I was tensing up before she even started. I tried to become robotic about it but my whole mind-body-soul was against doing this anymore.

And yet, I want to complete this beautiful piece of art. But it's an intense fight between my mind and my heart: get the work done -- see the people and enjoy the vibe -- or endure pain for weeks ahead: three hour sessions, followed by days of soreness, only to recover a few days before I start the process all over again.

But I'm going to get this done. And so, I hope to stop by the tattoo parlor this weekend, just to catch up with Kat and let her see where we left off. Then I'm back for a session next week, the first day I take for spring break with my girls.