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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Am I Losing It?

I have mentioned that I have had a couple of weird episodes where my right hand goes numb and then I have trouble articulating for the next 24 hours. I also had another episode where I felt like my legs weren't mine and then all the other weird things that happened with the hand numbness.

I did mention this before, haven't I?

So the past week, three things have me wondering if I am losing my mind: due to above mentioned ailment, senility, early warning signs of Alzheimer's, or just plain being a dingbat.

Number 1 dingbat incident: I was making another cup of coffee for myself. I opened the cupboard to grab a coffee mug and noticed the cream was in there. I had placed the cream in the cupboard vs. the refrigerator.

Number 2 dingbat incident: My Turkey Trot race...thinking I had only (nearly) four miles to run vs. five.

Number 3 dingbat incident: My run today. After $Bill and I split up for our different distances, I turned back to finish my miles and got my iTouch out...ready for some Keith and the Girl. No sound. I kept pushing the button up and wondered what the fuck was wrong with it now. About a week ago, it was stuck on headphones even without the headphones. I took the headphone plug out, stuck it back in. Still no sound. Until I realized, I hadn't put the headphones ON MY FRICKING HEAD.

Those News Stories That Haunt You

I read about this accident yesterday, thinking about how awful it did it happen?

This part of the beltline is not far from my house, so I was curious. But when I read the article, I realized where the fatality came from:

Police: Man fell to death from Beltline after crash ::

And it brought back the memory of another similar fatality. It's one of those news items that generally gets overlooked by the majority...but for me, it hit me hard and whenever I pass that section, I think about the young man who, in 2005, fell to his death at the same section trying to be a good samaritan. And when I think about him and the way he died, it makes my soul fill up with pain -- you know, the way sad news makes the pit of your stomach ache?

In trying to assess this median as I pass it, I realize how misleading this thing can be, especially at night.

View I-440 closed due to wreck in a larger map

First: there are plants/trees/bushes that go down most of the median of the beltline. So for the most part, it can be assumed that this median is completely filled in all the way down. But at night, where both of these fatalities took place -- the latter being 7PM but I noticed it was quite dark at that time -- in all probability, there's no way to see that the darkness below leads to a 70 foot drop vs. a concrete bottom.

You can see this when you zoom in on the map above. You can even place yourself in front of the thing and see that, for the most part, it doesn't look like there is a gap between the two sections of the beltline. One side, the West side, has a fenced overhang over the gap, but the other side does not. I have no idea why someone would jump that fenced barrier but no matter, it doesn't "appear" to be a gap in the road.

It's sad because it is so senseless. Over a stupid design in the road. A random freak accident because, statistically, how many people will actually try to jump over this median? But we now have three (two deaths) on record and I hope that this will be MORE THAN ENOUGH to fix the damn thing and cover it up completely.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What A Gay Life!

I loved this bit that aired on The John Stewart Show last week (November 19th, to be exact). It's about William Phillips, a 10 year old boy who is refusing to stand up and say the pledge allegiance because there is no liberty and justice for all, specifically, gay people.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gaywatch - Peter Vadala & William Phillips
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What is great about this, is not just little Will standing up for something he believes in, but his *dad* sitting there, next to him, during his interview, supporting, smiling, being proud, of William and what he has done.

And quite honestly IMO, the dad doesn't look like a stereotypical "gay supporter". Nor does being from Arkansas fit the bill.

But that kid is so fricking smart. And I have to give a big THANK YOU to his family, who obviously helped him think like a man should think. Note: women too, but in this case, William is a male.

How do you teach a KID to stand up for what he believes in? Without fear of repercussions, which did happen by the very fact that his "peers" (not worthy of the name) called him a "gay-tard".

Sure. You can support it in the house, but it doesn't mean that you actually SAY anything to outside people!

Let me tell you: I still know people who refuse to say anything about their true colors for fear of reaction. And these are "adults". Whatever.

This news item lets me talk about why I love the show Glee so much.

It's cheesy, with it's cheesy vocals. But it's delightful and quirky. The cast of characters are interesting. Kurt Hummel is one of the characters who is a flamingly gay teenaged boy.

And while that's not so unusual, but what what makes his character, and the show, stand out the most is his dad (played by Mike O'Malley).

The dad is a stereotypical 'man's man': a mechanic, where's a hat, very gruff. But when Kurt comes out to his dad, his dad states that he's always known that since he was a little kid.

And thus, the surprise of the show after so many episodes, a not-so-typical-looking-acting-dad, who supports his son being gay. And doesn't try to change him. Nor does he hide it. In fact, in one episode, he goes to the principal, standing up for Kurt and his desire to sing a song that is typically sung by a woman.

KUDOS TO GLEE for bringing the dad character to the screen. I LOVE that they have done this and I'm so glad that the family enjoys watching this show together.

The other show that also embraces homosexuality *and* within a committed relationship is Modern Family.

Besides being one of the funniest TV sitcoms I have seen in a very looooongggg time, we have a gay couple, who have adopted a baby girl from China, who are accepted by their manly dad -- played by the king of the most homophobic, biased, sitcom dad of all-time, Al Bundy (AKA Ed O'Neill).

And yet another show that the family enjoys together. It's great to see these shows embrace a positive attitude about acceptance, with regard to homosexuality. And it's great to know that this isn't always just a fantasy for TV or movies...that there are real people like William Phillips and his family who feel the same way.

Inside-Out Sports Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 8K Race Report

First of all, I know what an 8K is.

I have done one before.

It is approximately 4.97 miles.

I KNOW that.

So make no mistake: I knew I was running 4.97 miles today.

I even told my husband this before the race.

However, while running the race, my brain fried and wandered into LA-LA land. So instead of KNOWING I was running 4.97 miles, I decided that I was running 3.97 miles.

Yes. I confused myself and expected to be close to done after my three mile alert went off. I thought I was running just past a 5K.

So when I heard my four mile alert go off on my watch, I was wondering why I didn't hear people cheering, see the finish, nothing.

And then it hit me. I KNOW IT'S CLOSER TO 5 MILES!!! SHIT!!!

And it hit me like a wall. I was deflated. I have one more mile to go? Really? What the hell was I thinking? What happened to my brain?

I don't know what happened but the end result is it happened. And I was shocked to the core. And I was sad and frustrated that I had one more mile to go. I lost it mentally. I wanted to tuck my tail in between my legs and go home.

But I bucked up and went forward. I really wanted to see Karen or Frank, friends I started at the line with, to find motivation to keep going.

And before my big mistake, I had an OK race. I was doing a pretty OK pace. Not what I wanted to do but I was managing. At the three mile split, I was in the zone. I felt great. My legs felt great. But at that time, I thought I only had less than a mile to go.

I saw Coach B & her hubby right at the turn to the finish, which I thought would never come soon enough. That last mile seemed to go on forever. Where is the fricking end???

I smiled at my coach sheepishly as they cheered me on. She's awesome.

And I heard Tim and saw Mi-Mi holding a sign she made for me cheering me on. It was all worth it when I saw them. I was still frustrated with my race but not as bad as I thought when I found out I another mile to go.

When I tried to explain what happened, there was confusion as most thought I thought that an 8K was 3.97 miles. THAT WAS NOT THE CASE. I know/knew how long I was running today. I just fucked it all up in my head once I started running.

Nonetheless, I still PR'd the race for that length. I hadn't run an 8K since 2004 and improved by 2:12.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

I've read every book by this author. Both of them. :)

And they were amazing.

A new favorite author.

I added her fan page and her as a friend on Facebook. Let the stalking begin. JUST KIDDING.

This book was just as magical as The Sugar Queen. Claire is a 34 year old caterer, who has lived an old life. Her sister Sydney, on the other hand, decided to follow in their mother's footsteps and lead the wild life, living temporarily where ever she pleased.

But Sydney has Bay, her young daughter, and an abusive boyfriend. She flees back to where she was escaping all her life (like her mom): Bascom, NC.

Sydney and Claire then find a way to leave their baggage behind, deal with their mother, and all the strangeness that define them, such as the Apple tree in the backyard that throws apples at you.

It is such an amazing story, much like The Sugar Queen was: very quirky, taking town lore to the nth degree, like 'The Hopkins' are born old. That's why they have to marry older women.' And literally, the Hopkins men are much older than they are in the way they work, act and think.

Then there's the Clark women, who are known for their, um, sexual prowess and always married well.

And the Waverly's, Sydney & Claire, the strange ones with the magical garden...

My favorite character is Evanelle, who is an elderly cousin of Claire & Sydney's who has to give things to people. She doesn't know why, but the town has accepted this quirkiness because it always becomes useful. Evanelle will give someone something: a lighter, a ball of yarn, a mango splitter, etc. that eventually, will make sense to the giftee.

Then *the* apple tree, who has a life of its own. It throws apples at 'you'. If you eat one, though, the most amazing thing that will happen in your life will be revealed...and this doesn't always mean it's a good thing.

But it can throw apples far. It can roll apples to you. And it's branches can reach out to you.

A fascinating book that just brings a spirit to me, much like Jane Eyre did. Once I read it, I was spellbound and so was my world.

I look forward to Allen's new book which does not come out until March of next year!!! I need to find a widget to countdown this debut.

Thank you, Sarah Addison Allen, for these amazing stories.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I hated to do it but after several Viagra spam posts, I had to put word verification in for commenting.

I'm not much into censorship. And I don't like registering in order to comment. And if you want to be anonymous, that's OK with me!

But I also don't want irrelevant-repetitive-spam comments on my blog. I could care less if it's advertising. Just say "Hey! I can't believe I know someone else who has kite-o-phobia. Do you have erectile dysfunctions? If so, try Viagra."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Where'd That Bubble Go?

I mentioned that I had an EEG a few weeks ago, to see if I am seizure-proned. I'm not, at least according the EEG results.

I had another similar "episode" on October 23rd. It was in the middle of a meeting. And I panicked for a split second, worried about whether I should say something to the two other people in the meeting, or call 911, or what! Then I semi-calmed down, finished the meeting hoping that it was going away and that I wasn't about to drop dead. And then? I texted Tim, emailed myself the episode details to relay to the dr. later and went to meet friends for lunch.

The next day, I went for a run. At the end of the run, on my cool down back to the hacienda, I had another one, but worse. I "lost" the feeling in my legs even though I was running. Again, thought I was going to collapse in the middle of the road. I walked the rest of the way home and told Tim 'i'm having one right now!'. It's a weird experience. An out of body kind of thing. The rest of the day and the day after, I have problems finding words to finish my sentences. This happened with the first episode.

So when I had my follow-up with the neuro and told him this, he sort of shrugged and said "I don't know".

I am sort of used to this response. I had a similar response, but not put so bluntly, several years ago during my "mysterious illness".

So in order to keep ruling out very serious illness and disorders, he ordered another test: an echocardiogram and bubble study.

The bubble study is simply injecting a saline solution into the bloodstream and seeing how it flows through the heart. Of course, that's the layman's description but essentially, they can see if I have a problem with my heart that may be causing the disruptions to my brain.

Everything I read about this study is how 'safe' this study is. I wasn't worried anyway. I have had lots of things poked and prodded in/out of me (no snickering please) that I just have this 'go with the flow' attitude. It includes assuming that nothing will be found. Which is strange because technically, I shouldn't want anything found with these tests.

I told Tim not to bother joining me - it was a 30 mn procedure, supposedly.

The initial echo went relatively well. There was a student and I was asked if it would be OK for her to observe and do some work. Of course! I love listening, and being a part of, to their learning experience.

I watched a little bit and then started getting sleepy. It's dark in that room...

When it was time for the bubble study, a nurse becomes part of the team. She inserts an IV which will allow her to "submit" bubbles into my vein.

The IV goes into the right arm. It's feeling a little painful but sometimes they do, sometimes they don't for me.

Then the echo tech says "we're ready".

And then I feel something really strange go into my arm, thinking it's the bubble going into my vein. But this hurts. And really bad. In fact, it's getting worse and I feel like I am going to pass out. I look at the screen, still curious to see what bubbles look like in my heart and the echo tech is like "did you do it?"

I then realize: the bubble did not go into my vein. I tell them that my arm is really hurting bad. A note that, I am not bragging or boasting, but I do have a very high tolerance for pain. This pain was one of the top five worst pains I've ever had.

I thought: hmm...this is great. A simple procedure. Safe for 99.9% of people. And I will die. And I told Tim not to come.

The pain lasted a good 15 minutes or so. My arm, around the bicep, was just feeling awful. They assured me that my body would just absorb it. And I accepted that.

But I think the incident shook everyone up in the room. And because I am such a cool cat, I tried to make light of the whole thing to ease their discomfort.

The nurse tried the left arm next, for the next IV. I was chit-chatting, talking about how I'm used to needles...about my tattoo on my back. But the nurse wasn't talking or responding so I asked "Is my vein giving you trouble". She nodded yes.

I told her to do my hand. I have veiny hands. I typically try to show Melisa my hands because she gets nauseous at the sight of veins.

The nurse commented that the hand is usually very painful for an IV...I reminded her of my tattoo. And typically, I have found that the hand IV goes more smoothly (for me) than anywhere else.

So she did the hand: #3 needle of the day. And the echo study continued and I saw bubbles flow through my heart.
When all was said and done, I had three women anxiously awaiting for a peek at my tattoo. Why get a tattoo if you can't show it off?? So there I am, lifting things, covering things, etc. to show off my artwork. And then the door opens and another worker looks in with the "WTF is going on in here look?" She must have been somebody as the three others quickly gathered their things to get out of the room.

Now it's the standard 5-7 business days of waiting to hear the results.

BTW, the dr. mentioned that this particular test has a lot of false negatives. Great!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


So after our Friday outing at Six Forks Cinema for New Moon, and dinner at MoJoe's, we returned home to a big jump on the door.

Um. That's not supposed to happen. Nothing should be jumping on the door from the inside because the cat can't make that big of a sound and Brenna the dog should be in the crate.

But she wasn't.

And as soon as we came in, we saw the turmoil that occurred in our absence.

The worst? A two-tier, chocolate frosted chocolate cake, which was almost fully uncut sans a small piece, GONE. The lid was in one location; the base somewhere else. And other trash strewn throughout the room.

First of all: chocolate is toxic to dogs.

Second of all: We lost an entire chocolate cake!! *We* didn't get to EAT the CAKE.

At the time, toxicity for the dog was not important after seeing the mess.

But after much thinking, we have concluded to the following:

1. It is our fault that we did not make sure the dog was crated. We assumed so, or forgot, because we were so excited about seeing New Moon.

2. The dog will live.

3. None of this ever, ever happened until the cat came into the picture.

There has been at least two other occasions in which food was taken DOWN from cabinetry and remnants of packaging scattered throughout the house.

Before Sunkist (the cat), Brenna (the dog) did not do this. Sure, she may have gotten into food that was within reach, but she is not a jumper or grabber.

The cat, however, has always knocked things down, crawled into cabinets and opened up cereal (Captain Crunch seems to be a favorite) and taken a snack or two to it. He does this when WE ARE HOME...vs. when we are gone.

But I think that when we are gone and we accidentally forget to put Brenna away, he gets more malicious.

Hey dog! Want some cake? I hear it's toxic, er, I mean, REALLY GOOD FOR YOU. Have some...I'll help knock it down for you. [Swat cakes to the floor.]

When the girls and I left the house yesterday for errands, the dog AND THE CAT were crated. The girls commented that Sunkist had a look of "What the heck are you doing? I am BENEATH being crated!!!"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Frank's Marathon Report

Today is a day to quote my BFF's blogs, I guess.

I can't stop laughing about my BFF Frank's blog report on his Richmond Marathon race report. I'm sorry Frank. But I have to copy your dream into my own post. This is just too funny.

Friday night before the race, I tried to go to bed a little early to get a good night sleep. I woke up at midnight after my first dream. I dreamed that the marathon was in a house. Each lap around the house was a mile. I started strong and finished my 26 laps. When I looked up at the microwave, which was the mile marker, I had run 3.1 miles. A 5K! I felt so defeated, I quit and didn't finish. You can obviously tell that no matter how positive I was trying to be, subconsciously, I was not feeling too good.

Of course, Frank was able to finish the actual marathon without major issues with the microwave. But I just can't stop thinking about this dream and how fricking HILARIOUS it is...I have to share. Thanks Frank!

Being Human

I love reading my BFF Audrey's blog. Especially the religious issues.

She is a unique person in my book: daughter of a minister who became an atheist. She keeps herself in tuned, however, to the religious fronts and I get a lot of good reads from her interests.

About a month ago (I just read it today), she posted about a Christian psychologist who, himself, posted an article about Christians NOT being decent to their fellow man, yet express their devotion to god. So essentially, it fits the stereotype that I have regarding religious folks: they are hypocritical MFers who have the nerve to feel that they have the sanctity to be better than anyone else.

And the funny thing? I am NOT an atheist. Nor am I agnostic. I am the only one in my house that actually says a prayer every night...and have since I was a young girl.

But I also have such animosity for religious groups that I side on the side of anti-religion.

So when I read her blog post about Experimental Theology, I got excited. YES! I thought to myself. But even more so, was the article she cited. We enjoyed different parts of it. You must read hers to understand her point of view, based on the article. But for me, this is what I LOVED LOVED LOVED. It spoke to me. And the whole irony is that it came from a man that I wouldn't typically have faith in...a Christian.

"Christianity" has essentially become a mechanism for allowing millions of people to replace being a decent human being with something else, an endorsed "spiritual" substitute. For example, rather than being a decent human being the following is a list of some commonly acceptable substitutes:

Going to church
Spiritual disciplines (e.g., fasting)
Bible study
Voting Republican
Going on spiritual retreats
Reading religious books
Arguing with evolutionists
Sending your child to a Christian school or providing education at home
Using religious language
Avoiding R-rated movies
Not reading Harry Potter.

The point is that one can fill a life full of spiritual activities without ever, actually, trying to become a more decent human being. Much of this activity can actually distract one from becoming a more decent human being. In fact, some of these activities make you worse, interpersonally speaking. Many churches are jerk factories.

I abhor any organized anything that separates themselves from others. Or that think they can pray for others and think they are responsible for their well-being. Prayer should be done out of a relationship you have with your higher power and not for a pat on the back as to how good of a person you are for doing it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Race Dilemma

My 2009 race plan was to end the year with a half marathon. I have run a few long races this year: Coach Bubba's 20K, Tar Heel 10 Miler, and Anna's Angels 10 Miler. But it doesn't seem complete until I get that half in.

Originally I was set to go with the Mistletoe Half in Winston-Salem. A couple of friends of mine have run it and it fits the criteria of being a smaller race. I'm not a "big race crowd" runner. I like supporting the local ones. One of the best organized ones, IMO, was Run the Quay 5K in little ole Fuquay-Varina!.

I picked that race as a weekend getaway for the family and I...a quick trip with a nice run for me to do.

It wasn't until two weeks ago, as I looked at the family calendar in the kitchen, that it dawned on me the dilemma: CJ has a school dance that Friday before the race.

This may not seem to be a big deal for most folks but it was for me.

I wasn't going to make CJ miss her second school dance. That just wasn't going to happen.

And I didn't want to waste money on a hotel room for just me. As much as solitude appeared to be a wondrous thing, I really wanted to share the half experience with my family. Selfish, as they have to sit and wait for me for almost 2 hours.

Sidenote: Mi-Mi has been whining about my races lately as she says "Not again! You take so long to finish!!!"

So another choice was to drive the morning of the race, by myself most likely, and run it then. Ack! Too much stress: get up early, fuel well, figure out where to be, blah blah blah.

And lastly, skip the half all together. "Waste" all the miles I've been doing leading up to my half marathon race.

Since I ruminate such things, I was really in a stressful pickle.

Then, I looked back through my "2009 races to consider" spreadsheet and found a half marathon in Randleman, NC: Run to Victory. It was a week later *and* a start time of 10AM. So if I wanted to drive solo (1 1/2 hours away) to the race, it would be less stressful...more do-able.

So, dilemma solved! No more stress, other than running 13.1 miles. Tim has already said that he wants the family to go, so *I* am now happy...and that's what's important.

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer

So I didn't finish this one. In fact, I didn't even make the first 100 pages! I just couldn't continue. And I am disappointed in this author, as his book Into Thin Air is on my wish list for reading and I am no longer interested based on this book.

What I liked about this book?

The parallels drawn with Pat Tillman being born and growing up, and the conflict that was happening in the Middle East. It is a great way to learn the history of what was going on because quite honestly, I don't know it.

He chronicles the war Afghanistan had with the Soviet Union and the whole mess the US government made then, which we are paying for now. He also introduces Osama bin Laden and how he managed to become the powerhouse he came to be.

And this, I enjoyed.

The part I didn't enjoy was his writing style. It is as if he had a thesauraus near by to put every rare word he could on paper. I was so turned off by this. I found it arrogant.

The other part I didn't like will sound bad but hear me out. Krakauer's description of Pat Tillman as a person is just so over the top. It's too much. He is a saint and has done no wrong...and when he did do wrong, Krakauer speaks for Tillman by explaining how remorseful he was and that it was not typical of him.

Don't get me wrong: I don't want to take anything away from Pat Tillman *but* Krakauer, IMO, adds such a dimension of absurd idealism that it takes away from Tillman's life story and legacy. It's just an insult. And it makes me sick.

My next course of action, to learn about Pat Tillman, is to read the book his mother wrote Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman by Mary Tillman. If I want the history lesson, I'll got to wikipedia, as someone on Amazon suggested in their 1 star rating of this book.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A New Me

Well, not really. But there is a change in me that is significant to those who run with me.

I can now wear shorts in 50 degree weather.

The last few runs, I have overdressed in 50-degree weather and have gotten soooo hot that it makes my hard runs even more hard...and uncomfortable.

So I made my own rule that shorts in 50s.

My running buddies will be shocked (or, as $Bill, *is* shocked). After all these years, I have been a proponent of keeping very warm in running pants, long sleeve shirts, and fleece jackets...even in the 50s.

ALAS, NO MORE!!! I am a new woman now. Well, at least a new runner.

First Timers

Just thought I'd note a few "first times" for me this past week. They aren't significant in life, but they are things that were notable enough to stand out for me.

As I've mentioned before, I love love love wallyball. I play pretty well, especially with my partner in crime, Carlos. Truthfully, I think I play pretty well because he is such an amazing strategist...and somehow, I know how to be his assistant in his strategizing.

But all these years, I never serve overhand. I do to practice and see if I _can_. And it helps, IMO, when I hit. But I have a pretty kick-ass underhand serve, so I stick to that.

But last Wednesday, I decided, no matter what the score was, I would serve entirely overhand. Inspired by CJ's school's girls volleyball team, I did it. And I think I served two sloppy but despite the losing -- and feeling pretty cocky that if I just served underhand, we could win -- I kept going with the overhand.

But the next game I went with the underhands. :)

The next first was running the American Tobacco Trail this past Saturday. $Bill suggested we give the trail a try for our 13 miler. Well, technically, I had 12 and *he* had 13 but, as we said, 'what's one mile when you're running 12?'

I met him at one of the trailheads in Apex and off we went. Well, off meaning trudging along at a 10:30ish pace. In all actuality, I wasn't feeling that great at the start of the run. It wasn't that cold but my chest felt heavy and I wondered how the hell I was going to get 13 miles under my belt feeling like that. The heavy chest feeling is not a feeling I've had before, so it was unusual.

We pulled it through and at 6.6 miles, we had been doing pretty darn good. We had enough to talk about, which is always nice when you have about two hours to run. About nine miles, I think we were both feeling the pain of the long run. When we had two miles left, $Bill said something silly like running these in 8s and for some reason, we sped up. One was to finish this faster...two was, as we decided to say "for Brennan and Frank" who were running the Richmond Marathon that day...and three, BECAUSE WE COULD! So we ran the last two miles in 17 minutes, or something close to that.

I think it's cool that there are things still left for me to get excited about, in my growing old age. :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Did You Know...

For those who read blogs, did you know that bloggers actually LOVE comments? We love seeing comments on our posts. It helps us know that we have readers. And what they think about what we just wrote. It gives us a feeling of "someone is really reading my blog" and a boost to our ego.

OK. So maybe I am speaking for myself, but I am sure there are fellow bloggers who would agree.

And if you are afraid to post a comment, don't be. Once you do one comment, you will find it isn't a scary thing to do.

The hard part of welcoming comments is when you disagree with me. But you know what? That's OK. We can debate or you can just accept the fact that I am right. :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

There is nothing more amazing to have in life than that one good book that you can't stop thinking about, looking forward to when you are able to enter "that world" whenever possible.

That is what Jane Eyre was for me...The Pillars of the Earth...heck, even Twilight. That is also what The Sugar Queen did to me.

What was even better was I was blindsided: I had no idea how great this book was to be. I was even skeptical and thought about just tossing it back to the library and picking another time to read it. I thought the book cover was boring. A shallow reason not to read a book, but hey, I judge books by their covers!

But I am so glad I stuck it through because this is, by far, one of my favorite novels of the year. Sarah Addison Allen is also an NC native, so even more props for a novel so well written and unique in a very quirky way. Allen is a new favorite for me and I look forward to reading her other novel Garden Spells.

The Sugar Queen divides its chapters by candy: SweetTarts, Rock Candy, Sno Caps, etc. Josey Cirrini is 27 years old and loves candy. She stashes it within her secret place in her closet. But one day, she gets home to find Della Lee hiding out in her closet. The strangeness of the story begins as she _allows_ Della Lee, a known town flunkie, to stay in her closet temporarily.

Josey lives at home with her mother. A mother who is so demanding and has reared Josey to be the mother's keeper. There are the girls who are so pretty who leave home...and there are girls like Josey, who stay home with their mothers.

But Della Lee pushes Josey into a new direction and the transformation is amazingly entertaining. Allen is just ingenious with these characters...I loved them all...except for Margaret, Josey's mom.

It's such a lovely, lovely story that has so much fun in it, affection, quirkiness, and it surprised me with such delight, love, and sadness. I finished the last ~80 pages last night because I could not put it down. And as I smiled at one chapter, I turned the page (229, to be exact) and cried because what I read was so beautiful. I couldn't stop crying for a good five minutes after wards after thinking about it:

After Josey has her first kiss with the man of her dreams, she describes to Della Lee:
"It was the best first kiss in the history of first kisses. It was as sweet as sugar. And it was warm, as warm as pie. The whole world opened up and I fell inside. I didn't know where I was, but I didn't care. I didn't care because the only person who mattered was there with me."

There was a long silence. Josey had almost dozed off again when Della Lee said, "I think heaven will be like a first kiss."

Just beautiful and sweet...the Sugar Queen is one bewitching and beautiful novel that I will definitely read again.

Thank you for people like Sarah Addison Allen, to dream up something as wondrous as this.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Free to Breathe 5K Race Report

Talk about "Wham! Bam! Thank you Ma'am!"

I left the house about 8:55 AM for the race, which started at 9:30. Ran. Got my girls from Tim (he headed off to work after seeing me finish). Made it back home at 10:30.

Coach B called me the day before and gave an accurate account of the race course: first mile up; second mile down; third rolling.

I was supposed to be around 8:45 the first mile; take advantage of the second mile downhill and see what I can do the third mile. I did all of that except I was more conservative on the first mile. In hindsight, I wish I had run it just a little faster.

My mile splits were off about 9-10 seconds than what was called out. I never seem to get my watch started close to their time which always confuses me. I started when the whistle blew, vs. when I crossed the finish, and I'm still 10 seconds behind the their gun time. And today it bugs me since, again, I'm so close to the fringes of time: 25:56 finish by my watch (for a 3.17 mile course by my watch).

Although I wasn't too concerned about how I would do, I did want to run a good, competitive race. I started, as usual, in a mad dash to get there. I had a short panic attack when I couldn't find parking, only to realize one lot over was quite empty. It wasn't a big turnout (sadly, since it is for Lung Cancer).

I got my bib and my chip and I was looking for the start. I found Mary Carson-Flood and congratulated her on her NYC marathon. I was surprised to see her out here running but it is a 5K, so I figured it wouldn't be a problem for her...just get her legs kicking again.

We separated into our mile per minute groups. They actually had signs out there for 6, 7, and 8 mn miles! I planted myself around the 8, then moved back a bit to put myself around 8:30.

I met another runner, new to the area, who was out just to get a run in. We talked a bit and then the gun went off.

The first mile was just as Coach B stated. It didn't feel too bad but I don't know why I was going slower than I felt I was going. At the first mile split, the time called out was 9 minutes vs. the 8:55 I had on my watch (which went off before the actual split was called out).

I didn't dwell on it too much but I didn't like hearing that time. The next mile was indeed downhill and that was awesome. I passed a ton of people here and even though I was speeding by folks, I wasn't amazingly blazing down this mile. My average pace was 7:44. I was happy with that one.

Mile 2 split was mumbled out, something like "mmmmmFORTY-FIVE". What? What "45"? I looked at my watch and saw 16, so I must have been at 16:45. I tried to do the math in my head and figured it was still far off from 8 mn miles, which I would have rather been closer to.

One mile left to go and I tried to think: it's just a 1600. I tried to imagine where I would be on the track. I could see the runners coming back from a turn-around spot and it made me think: geez, I wish I was in that spot. The run continued down and I thought, what goes down must go up? I didn't want to slow down and I didn't until probably around the 1/2 mile to go sign -- that's an 800! I can do an 800. I slowed down to just under 8 minute miles at 7:59. I really wanted to keep it to that point and managed to do so with a 7:59 mile 3.

And then the last .1, which was actually .17 by my watch, was the longest part. How do I end 3 miles with a 24:34 pace but finish with 25:56? That is one long .1 mile.

So my gun time will be over 26 minutes. I am shallow enough to admit I would have liked it to be under 26. I'd like to think I can run 25s now in these 5Ks.

Next race is Thanksgiving morning. An 8K Turkey Trot. Not sure what I plan for that one yet...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Was It Really That Bad?

I have been taking my oldest to her middle school girls' volleyball games this entire VB season. Today was the last game.

And every time I have gone, I have had sympathy pains, dare I say, FLASHBACKS even?, of life in middle-to-high school for me.

Every clumsy, scrawny, goofy looking girl I see, reminds me of me.

Every blonde, blue-eyed, iPhone carrying bimbo I look at (I'm not bitter) reminds me of those that were worshiped. Seems very little has changed since I was in middle school.

And I think about where my girl will fit in...would she care where she fit in? I hope not but the sad truth is, at some point, it will.

If only I could give her the confidence I have now, and how little shit I give about fitting in. I can't. And I know that she'll have to learn on her own.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Certain Slant of Light by Cynthia Thayer

This was a really great book with a somber tone.

Peter is a man who has lost so much. His family, years before, lost in a home fire...that he missed due to a bagpipe competition (yes, it sounds funny but it works in the book). We learn late in the novel why he lives with so much guilt -- an assumption that the reader has until it's finally revealed.

Peter lives alone, with his beloved companion, Dog. Life is just OK. He gets by. Taking care of himself "old school": grows his own veggies, rears his own meat, burns his own fuel, and is fine by that.

An ice storm hits and with it, comes Elaine. A devout Jenova's Witness, eight months pregnant, who wanders away from her husband, the elders, her life, to give herself some time. That time ends up being with Peter, who grows to fall in love with the young mother.

The details of their lives together can get to be too much...mainly, the details of killing a chicken, shearing lamb, or walking over dead sheep bodies. That gets to be a little much but it only leads to more about how these people live.

Thayer does an amazing job of having the reader attach to the characters. It is not a happy book. When Dog passes away, I cried.

Thayer has an amazing writing style and I look forward to reading more novels from her.

If I Have To Run One More Time...

You know that old saying, "if I see one more , I'm going to scream/kill/punch/insert-appropriate-verb!" That's how I felt running Tuesday...if I have to run one more time!!!

And it was a track workout, so there was a lot of running.

I started off feeling pretty good. I was confident in getting these 800s @ 3:45-3:50 pace on target. I ran 4 miles yesterday and felt great. My 1.5 mile warm-up today felt really good too.

But I started slow on the first 800 and had to pick up my pace in the last 400 to barely get a 3:52 time. This puttered me out. And the rest of the 800s (4 total) felt just as hard. I was just struggling to make my times and barely at that. My legs would just feel tickly (and not in a good way) the first 200 of the run. I kept trying to say "this is how tired legs feel when you push them! Get used to it!" but I really didn't like that feeling and would rather not get used to it. No worries there. I didn't get used to it as every time I ran an interval I felt it and thought the same thing.

After 4x800s, I 4x400s. One would think I would look forward to those, but those were faster than the 800s! I just tried not to focus too much on what I had to do and just do them. As predicted, the 400s were difficult. In fact, after the first 400, which I did in 1:46 (goal 1:45), I felt like I was going to puke. I truly felt sick and thought: "aha! This is what that feels like." Then my next thought was "Shit, I have three more to do!"

I wasn't dressed right for the weather. I had my running pants on, thinking that it would be chilly for me. Instead, I was burning up and feeling heat in my feet.

But I pulled through and got the workouts in. I didn't make my goal times, although I was within a 10 second range at my worst. It was a hard workout. I look forward to seeing this payoff at Saturday's 5K race.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Marathon of Documentaries

I have watched some amazing documentaries lately. Tim started it by starting La Corona then switching it off because it was too depressing for him. This started the taste for me and I decided to watch the short film documentaries available on HBO.

La Corona
This documentary is set in a women's prison in Bogota, Columbia. A beauty pageant is held within this awful prison (the directors felt like they were making the prison look to, um, nicer than it'll scare you straight). The focus is basically on the women who are representing their cell blocks. They have been imprisoned for being part of the guerrillas, armed robbery, murder. They are all young and beautiful; most have a child or two. And in this hell of a home, there is one particular time in their sentence that they can focus on something else besides their time in prison.

The story is amazing in learning about these women, what they are going through, and what they see in the future. It's eye-opening to see the struggles of living in Bogota, a poor country for the 'regular' folk, hence, many sentences for armed-robbery. There is a great empathy for these young ladies but there is also a little of the "Intervention" idea: will they really not turn back to a life of crime upon release?

Autopsy: Postmortem with Dr. Michael Baden
Autopsy has been a regular documentary series on HBO for years. I love these. Some of the cases that are covered are cases that shown on the CSI, Law & Order type shows. This particular film showcases some very famous cases:
The Assassination of JFK - Dr. Baden was part of a 1978 review by a House Select Committee on the Warren Report regarding JFK's death. Not only do we see a few autopsy photos of JFK (wow, they were allowed to do that?), we learn of the shoddy work that was done to the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Baden states that this shoddy work has led to the continued conspiracy theories regarding the assassination to this day.

OJ Simpson
This one was of great interest to me. Let's just say that "we" all have seen and heard the evidence and yet I tend to disagree with the vast majority of people about the verdict. Dr. Baden covers a lot of what I remember from the trial that leads me to believe what I still believe today.

Sid and Nancy
I've heard of these two names. I'm not a Sex Pistols fan, unless any of their songs were remade and I liked the remade version (but didn't know it). I know there is a movie with the same title (never saw it)...but that's all I knew. What I did find out is, Sid Vicious is a drugged out looney tune who found another drugged out looney tune and they lived happily ever after. NOT.

The Romanovs
This was another cool case that reminded me of something Bones would do as a forensic pathologist. As most know, the remains of the Nicholas the II, Emperor of Russia, and his family were unknown. Remains were found in 1998 and with Dr. Baden's help, were identified as the Romanovs and their aides, minus son Alexei and daughter Anastasia (who inspired the disney movie). Although the documentary ends with the last two remains not being found, they were found in 2007 and identified in 2009.

Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak
This is from Spike Jonze, who also directed Sendak's famed children's book Where the Wild Things Are. I have not read the book, nor watched the movie, nor knew anything about Sendak. A great, great documentary that is funny and heartbreaking. Sendak is now 80 years old and complains about not being ready to go yet, but also implies a wish to never have been born. There is pain in his life and he tells it all, without trying to open the book on his entire life. Amazing amazing story.

I loved all three of these. I watched a bit on Thank You, Mr. President, Helen Thomas at the White House but I didn't concentrate too much on it. Worth another watch as she brags that she said that dubya was one of the worst presidents ever (and she's seen a lot of them). And asks "where is the liberal press?" A new heroine :).

I Am Monitor

A couple of weeks ago, right before my Run for Healthier Babies race, I noticed there were still a need for volunteers for my city's annual marathon. I ran this race, the half marathon, last year and I thought "why not?" I wanted to be a course monitor so I sent my request in to help out.

I got a prompt reply to monitor a side street from 6:45-7:55AM. There was a moment of hesitation: that sure is early! But I decided that it was what I wanted to do...should be fun.

I received a couple of emails with great instructions and helpful hints from the volunteer coordinator. I attended the orientation with the Lieutenant who oversees the traffic/course the entire race. It was *so* informative and made me appreciate our mayor, the city council, race coordinators (even outside of this particular race), and the Raleigh PD, especially this Lieutenant. She talked with pride about this race and the people who coordinate it...and especially, the people who run it.

She said she asks her police officers to encourage the runners, when they can. She asked for us to do the same. She mentioned several times how this day is a big day for the runners, after all the time they trained. She wanted us to think about if we were running this as our first race, how to make this experience great for the runners.

Wow. It wasn't just a tactical "do this, stop the cars, do that". It was a great speech for encouraging a great user experience for the runners (and for us too). I was so impressed with her.

And I was impressed by the hint of how much coordination takes place to make this race, and over 46 other road races within the city of Raleigh, go smoothly. She mentioned that we are not a big city race yet; we are still growing. So the city can't shut down these roads for the course for the entire six hour limit. Instead, they find the last runner running a ~14 minute pace, hand everyone else a course map, and start re-opening the roads once that last runner being paced by the last car finishes their part of the course.

For instance, I highly doubted that I would be leaving at 7:55 AM. But the Lt. drove by me, released me from duty, I got in the car and clock said "7:55". Wow. That, to me, is amazing, as in MAGIC! How'd they do that?

I wanted to stick around to encourage more folks but ended my reign of encouragement and monitoring to head back home to my familia.

But I loved being out there. I want to do this again. All those people thanking me for coming out there and I think: why are they thanking me? I am being selfish! Watching them go and cheering them on!!

I arrived at my spot right on time. I felt very lonely as the roads were not closed yet. I truly thought the race started at 7:30 so when I heard the sirens and saw the blue lights coming, I was thrown for a loop. I jumped out and caught the lead runners. About half a dozen or more grouped together. They didn't _look_ fast. And what I mean is that they looked at ease at their pace. No different than what I look like during my long runs :).

I was so excited to see them. I've never witnessed lead runners at a random place in the race (in my case, about mile 3.5). It gave me goosebumps, I was so excited to see them.

And more came, some in packs of six or so, some solo. All the lead runners were focused and, to me, oblivious to their surroundings.

I was hesitant to clap at first, because I was still thinking that perhaps these folks were still just warming up for their race (yes, you can roll your eyes at my stupidity). But eventually, I figured it out...especially after hearing people cheer the racers on about 1/4 mile before my spot.

Once I started clapping for them, I never stopped. I clapped for nearly the entire hour and five minutes I stood there. I took breaks only when there was a break in runners.

I wanted to see more of my friends but truthfully, as much as I tried to eye every single runner, there were just too many to keep an eye for. I saw Derek Fenton in the lead packs. I gave him props. Then Cid Cardoso, Jr.

After that, I saw Ryan Norris who called out to me and I thought he was looking really great. Of course, it's mile 3... And then after that I didn't see anyone until Patti Mitchell, who I almost didn't recognize!! I was so proud of her - she's been training hard and long for this race.

I made sure to tell batches of runners how good their training is coming in now. One runner said "I knew there was something I forgot to do"...:) I yelled out how proud I am of them. Or how they are all winners, since others are lying in bed right now.

I only had to stop one car. It was a college-aged kid who seemed sleepy (or drunk, but I like to think positively) and figured out how to get to where he needed to go.

I had studied my area so I knew how to get people out of there. I knew there was one church nearby and I knew exactly how to get people to it. But some walkers came upon me, parking near my section. Their church was on the other side of Wilmington -- which is where the runners were running. By the time they showed up, the runners from the upper-middle-of-the-pack were running, so there was no way in hell (oops!) they were crossing anytime soon.

I told them to go around the Edenton way, since they kept pointing to that area as being where their church is, but for some reason, they went the other way. It wasn't long before they walked back to me, their kids looking at their mom with uncertainty apparently because she was now mad.

The Lt. mentioned that the people who get the angriest, ironically, are the people trying to get to church.

Anyway, I enjoyed encouraging the runners immensely. Every single one of them made me feel good, whether they smiled at me, thanked me, said I looked great (yes, I had a group of guys tell me that...:) great for the narcissist in me -- as Tim said), or silently went their own way without acknowledgment. I knew how they felt, their excitement, their nerves, their unsureness, their counting down the miles & counting how many remain.

As I left my post, I also saw a biggest loser contestant running. He/She wasn't doing the marathon, as they ran straight where they should have turn...and I assume they knew this as it was obvious where the runners were going. I will keep them anonymous, since the contest isn't over yet...