Note:

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

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Love Volleyball!

Yesterday I received a call from CJ's new VB coach about the paperwork coming my way. She mentioned that there was a supplemental tryout for girls who couldn't make the initial days and that she would love CJ to come out and represent the team, practice with them, and also, it provides an opportunity to get to know the coaches.

It was a last minute decision but all of us, as tired as we were (and we are all pretty exhausted this week), we headed out for more volleyball.

After fighting quitting time traffic, we made it with two minutes to spare and CJ was back out on the VB floor, ready to play. It was really nice to be there without the stress of "will she make the team?"

MiMi was very resistant about going. She had complained about her legs hurting (each leg, a different area) only to do flips, roll around, and jump up-and-down in between the times she complained. I told her to bring a blanket and pillow and she could take a nap. This was a ruse on my part.

When we got there, we sat at the bleachers and MiMi immediately asked "where are you going to set up my bed so I can take a nap?" I set up a really comfy place on the bleachers...she was lying there reading a book as though it were her own bed...

There were a good four different groups of girls out there: CJ's age group; a 14 year old group; some high school girls? and some even older looking girls (college?). The high school girls? (or maybe they were college) were freaking insane. I was so caught up in watching them practice. There were only four on each side and they played AMAZINGLY. I gasped at every ball they got to, the blocks they did, everything. I was just mesmerized by the quality of their game. The coaching was amazing - he had them constantly moving. It's a wonderful sight to see a coach not only working someone hard, but motivating them at the same time.

I looked over at CJ's much younger group and thought: that's what they are going to be doing in a few years. But even though they are young, they had the same determination that the older girls had. They are like young fawns learning how to walk on those stickly legs but they are going to get there.

And at the end? I saw CJ hit a beautiful angled ball across the net. WTF? Was that just my girl? I saw some of the other girls high five her and when she came back for a drink of water, I said "nice hit" and got a shy grin of appreciation from her.

Later, she would tell me it was out but I told her it didn't matter. She looked picture perfect: her legs were behind her as she jumped high enough that I could see the top of her head over the net. I asked her "did that feel good?" and she nodded with that cheshire grin of hers.

MiMi got over the nap time as Tim and I took her to a very remote area of the gym and bumped the ball to her. I see that she will be my next volleyball star as she did excellent for 7. CJ and her gal pals had played with her previously so she apparently has had good teachers. MiMi ended the evening with "I didn't want to go but I am so glad I did because I got to play volleyball".

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff

This was the book club choice for October, fitting for the Halloween season.

Alexandra Sokoloff is a local author who wrote one spooky story, The Harrowing.

The Unseen is set in the triangle, basing the storyline on Dr. J.B. Rhine, who coined the term "ESP", who headed a parapsychology department for Duke University; it is no longer affiliated with Duke.

Two psychologists, Laurel and Brendan, from Duke go through the old Rhine lab files, housed in the basement of Duke University. They eventually learn about poltergeist field tests done at a home called "Folger".

Brendan convinces Laurel that they should recreate this mysterious research, in which the original participants died or ended up mentally unstable. Laurel agrees, while being very skeptical of Brendan's intentions.

Two Duke students, the cocky, rich kid Tyler and his equally elitist cohort Katrina, join the psychologists in the Folger house; the goal to live in it for three weeks and record any paranormal activity that occurs.

And indeed it occurs. After a slow, mounting storyline to get to the excitement of the 'things that go bump in the night', the fun begins. Sokoloff makes us wonder, through the eyes of Dr. Laurel, whether any of the initial activity is faked. Is Dr. Brendan behind it? Or is it Tyler? Or is it, in fact, all three of them trying to run a test against Laurel (who happens to have her own abilities).

While I enjoyed Alexandra's writing style - she absolutely writes so vividly that I enter her world with detailed walkthroughs of the house, the university, the trees, everything - I did not get very spooked by the story. I don't know what happened.

The Harrowing scared the crap out of me; The Price had its moments too. But even with genuine paranormal activity (in the novel), I just didn't get spooked. There were some promising parts: seeing the dark figure in the garden, the pastor's visit - that was pretty creepy. But there were also unanswered questions: who was the person that pretty much raped Laurel in the middle of the night? Why did Tyler call Dr. Laurel "sugar", when the nickname was created by him for someone he wanted to seduce...but then ends up calling Katrina that name throughout?

Is there more to Uncle Morgan and the Folger Experiment? He was there in Laurel's visions. If he knew how things were going to end up, why didn't he just say so instead of "Pay attention?"

It seemed to end abruptly; would there be a follow-up? I hope so. I enjoyed the book as a good novel vs. a scary one.

A New Game

A few weeks ago, out of annoyance and frustration, I created a new game within the car, which led to the demise of the classic game "Punch Buggy, No Punch Back".

I hate that game. Inevitably, the punches end up being harder than they should...and that's on me. Imagine if you are 12 or 7 and that boney arm gets jabbed.

But on top of the punch is the sheer excitement, or panic, of trying to be the first one to get that punch in upon first sight of a VW bug. It is frenzied and chaotic and it was like that when I called an end to this game.

Our trip to Wilmington a few weeks ago ended that game, when MiMi and CJ tried their disorganized way of getting to the other first and then? CJ punched MiMi in the mouth. Lots of tears, a stunned apology, and a lot of yelling from MOI about how dumb the game was in the first place.

About 10 minutes later, in my irritable mood, said, no, DEMANDED that the game cease and now, we can only cluck when we see a VW bug. I don't know where that came from and soon after, we all broke out in laughter; me in tears. "Cluck"? For a bug?

But weeks later, it has continued. And it still cracks the hell out of me when I hear someone do it.

And I have since made the game even more fun: a nickel for every cluck at a bug. MiMi has set aside a cluck jar for just that reason.

I haven't ruled out the fact that, in some twisted way, these girls will still manage to turn it into a chaotic mess of a game. But for now, CLUCK CLUCK.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Would Like to Thank the Academy...

That is how I felt after CJ made it on to a volleyball team. I was on cloud 9. I told her that I thought I was happier than she was, and she was pretty darn happy.

I was so thrilled for CJ because she had worked so hard to earn a spot.

After not making the middle school volleyball team, I looked into club volleyball and mentioned it to her. She was determined to do this, as vengeance against the middle school VB coach.

As I mentioned, CJ loved NC Elite; yesterday was the second and last day of tryouts. This time, there were only the 13 year old age bracket trying out, so there far less girls at tryout...but still a lot: 29. I counted so I could figure out if CJ had a chance to get on a team. Two teams of 10 players each still left nine girls out...although some would be 'trying out' for VolleyU.

I knew her BFF had already had an offer. Her BFF, "R", is 5'10". You read correctly, R is 12 years old and 5'10". Her mom is just as tall and CJ and I look like midgets standing next to them. I get neck pains talking to them.

I prepared CJ for this...it was possible that R would get on but she would not. And I gave her a scenario to decide upon: Elite does not offer you a spot on the team, but United does. She said 'well i guess i would just take the spot at United'. And yes, her tone was less than enthusiastic.

CJ has worked very hard the past couple of weeks. Every day she has been practicing her volleyball skills. On her own. I get home from work and she will run from the backyard to greet me, breathless, with her volleyball in hand.

Yesterday, Tim worked with her more on her serves, hits and sets. At the tryouts, she worked hard honing the techniques that the coaches explained to them/her. It was hard to watch: seeing any mistakes/failures and cringing, but going bonkers when she hit something just right. We were clapping on the sidelines. So much for trying to stay out of the picture...

As 5:30 approached yesterday afternoon, I wanted to know what was going on. Tim loved what he was seeing, in terms of the coaching, the attitude of the coaches *and* the girls trying out and he was pretty set on having CJ go here. They are impressive, to say the least. But that meant considering VolleyU and foregoing any idea of a team at United. We would let CJ decide.

Then I saw the coach for the 13 year old regional team pull a girl aside. She introduced herself, then another coach, and started talking to the girl who ended up beaming with a smile. OMG. She is making that girl an offer! I say to Tim, jabbing him in the side to show him what I was seeing.

I was so jealous. I watched the beaming girl walk back into the play of games and just thought about how excited she feels...when suddenly R's mom is slapping me on the arm. My initial reaction is: they must have pulled R aside to tell her and I look over and became dazed and confused...the coach had pulled CJ aside and was doing the same thing: introducing herself, the other coach, and talking.

I didn't want to get excited. Maybe she is telling her something else. CJ could be a great poker player as she never beamed, but looked pleased as pie that only Tim and I could see. And then she went back onto the courts.

I went to R's mom: do you know what she said??? What did she say to the first girl (since R's mom was within earshot of the conversation with the first girl)? "She made that girl an offer!" OMG. Did she make CJ an offer too????

I was so excited but I also didn't want to be disappointed. Did I mention that this is about me and not CJ??? :)

They finally broke and CJ came over and said "they made me an offer on the regional team." Just like that. No screaming, jumping up and down, nothing. Just a gentle smile of happiness.

Of course, she reminded me that I now owe her volleyball shoes because she made a team. It was something I said a year ago, as the "carrot" to get her to try out for the middle school VB team, then club VB.

This morning, she came in to say good morning (as I lay finishing up my spooky book club choice). I asked if she slept well and she said yes, but then said not really. She said Saturday night she couldn't sleep because she was so excited about going back to NC Elite tryouts. And then last night was excited because she would see R tomorrow and they would be excited about being on the team together.

During tryouts, the girls had been working hard on drills. They are all focused. There is no giggling, standing around gossiping. Every one of these girls are true, serious athletes, hungering to do the drill correctly. If they fail, they start over and try again. No tears, no stomping of feet (as I do), no moping. Just determination do try again and hope to do better. It was truly amazing and inspirational.

R and CJ were separated early on into different groups. These are not chosen groups, it's just how they became dispersed 'naturally'. There is no time for either one of them to chat and hang out during tryouts...but at one point, as R hustled back to her court to work on the next set of drills, she patted CJ on the back as she passed her by. I almost cried. It was such a tender thing for her to do...CJ was in the midst of her drill when R did it. It was like "good work/you are doing great/you're my BFF/we are working hard" all in that one pat.

I'm gonna need to bring some tissues to these games...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Night and Day

Since CJ didn't make it on the middle school volleyball team, we decided to look into club volleyball.

Club volleyball essentially is actively learning and playing volleyball outside of school. Some teams travel to compete; others compete locally. But it is a more serious commitment to the game, as it costs a lot of time and money.

I have done a lot of research on the area clubs. I have learned that, compared to other cities (mainly up and down the West coast), the triangle is fairly new to this enterprise.

The family and I went to a parent information meeting at one facility, called Triangle Volleyball, and well, it's pretty intense.

After much negotiation with another parent who's daughter is friends with CJ, we decided to focus on two locations: NC Elite Volleyball and United Volleyball.

First stop yesterday was NC Elite. Tryout times were 4-6PM. Upon entering the facility, I was blown away.

Granted, I was at Triangle a week ago and that place is dedicated to volleyball. There is no renting of school gyms, or borrowing a different facility. It is 100% dedicated to playing volleyball.

But NC Elite seemed bigger (it was) and brighter. There were a TON of girls, mainly in the 14 year age group, lined up to register. The 13 and under (CJ and her BFF) had a very small line. I hoped that this was a good thing, as I really, really want CJ on a team.

They received a number and their picture was taken, and then we scooted them onto the gym floor to start practicing. Later, we, the parents, would sit through a very similar presentation that I had already seen at Triangle. The difference being, for me, that NC Elite seemed much more relaxed, happier, more fun, than Triangle. Not blowing off Triangle; this is strictly a first gut reaction to a very limited access to either one.

Anyways...the girls finally start trying out, which was very cool. There were six? courts set up and there were at least 20-30 girls on each court. And coaches galore. Girls would hit, serve, set, whatever, and there was constant movement with coaches calling out adjustments to individual girls, and others gathering balls. It was very organized; it was very fast. There was no break; no one stood around for very long.

I liked the atmosphere a lot but the reality is: there were a lot of girls trying out and only a few spots for a team. There is another avenue, called VolleyU, where only three games are played (vs. 9 or more) and that is geared towards, IMO, all the girls who do not make a team.

We had to leave NC Elite at around 5:30 to drive to the other side of town for the next tryouts at United, which would go from 6-8PM.

United is located in NORTH, north Raleigh, by the WRAL soccer park. They are a very new club, only around for one year. They use the gym facilities at North Raleigh Christian Academy. I can be superficial enough to say: I wasn't really digging the location. That place is not just a christian academy, it's a fricking extremist christian academy. You don't go there unless you're a white Republican that believes gays and buddhists are doomed to hell, and all muslims are terrorists.

Not my thing.

And when we got there?

OMG. This is the first thing that we saw:


I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the _side_ of the van because it was covered in bumper stickers. The only one that I remember seeing is the anti-abortion one. We'll be back out there again for the second day of tryouts...if it's around, it's getting its picture taken.

The bible thumpers were leaving the "temple" as we walked past them. At first, I thought they were there for VB tryouts too but soon realized that my gut instinct -- and the reason why I stopped taking pictures -- was that they were there because it is a christian academy.

We make it to the gym and wow. COMPLETELY different than where we just were. There were only two nets set up and there were barely 20 girls ALL TOGETHER there for the 14, 13, and 12 year old tryouts.

Our girls went over to practice and again, shortly, we were ushered into a second gym (private schools = lots of fricking money) where we would hear about the philosophy, teams, travel, costs. I wasn't turned off. I tend to like smaller venues anyway.

But the girls, afterward, mentioned how boring it was. The excitement in the air was much more diffused than Elite. The coaches looked like high school girls and they were much more awkward, more encouraging...which isn't a bad thing, but for the money parents put into this, they need to be coaching.

So my knee-jerk reaction is: CJ will make it on the team at United; but we like NC Elite. She can really blossom as a player at NC Elite and I am not sure yet if that is the case at this place.

But they encourage the girls to try out for all the dates because the girls can have a bad day, and in my vision, I guess the club can too.

Stay tuned. We have this going on until Tuesday.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Little Vegetarian

My 7 year old, MiMi, has remained a vegetarian for nearly three months. It is so amazing to know how committed she is to her own philosophy.

She hasn't balked at anything: tofu, vegetarian "chicken" nuggets, veggie corn dogs, veggie sausage. We have done well at coordinating dinner: make a chicken pasta dish? One batch wtih chicken, the other without.

We have learned *a lot* about the limitations vegetarians go through, when going to restaurants, and having limited choices. It's amazing how much meat is out there in this world.

And while I am not a vegetarian, I know that it is a healthier way to eat. But because I represent my daughter, I encounter comments and questions that I assume vegetarians encounter.

The one that really throws me for a loop? The comment close to: Well, I guess that's OK, as long as she is getting her protein.

Really? You mean, I am too stupid to realize that a child of 7 needs protein? That I would suddenly do something different than anything else I do for my kids when it comes to their well being? I research the shit out of stuffy noses but because my daughter proclaims becoming vegetarian, I would do nothing but sit back and let her eat, dare I say this? All the broccoli that she wants????

Given the fact, that statistically, our children in the US are eating fast food chicken nuggets and fries, well, I find it ironic that someone would pose that question to me.

My anecdotal comparison: when I worked at a manufacturing plant (accounts receivable, as I worked my way through college), we had one of those: 'let's check your cholesterol' health events. They prick your finger, put it in some test device, then tell you what your cholesterol number is. My number *always* came out high. I don't know why, but while I am much healthier NOW than then, still, I didn't smoke, I did exercise, and I ate decently.

My co-workers would have a really low number *but* they were overweight, did not exercise, drank diet coke for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and smoked like sailors.

And they would laugh at me and feel good about themselves for having a low cholesterol number.

This is the irony of folks questioning ME about my daughter's vegetarianism. Here is my kid, by choice, eating broccoli, green beans, salad, tofu, bananas, pears, grapes, and if I have to say it -- drinking her god damn milk and eating healthier than the rest of us in the household...and these folks (stereotyping here) are feeding their kids pizza, burgers, chicken nuggets and french fries...and have the gall to assume that vegetarianism is somewhat an unhealthier choice?

I don't know how you vegetarians tolerate such ignorance.

This morning I asked MiMi 'so how are you doing with your vegetarianism? Do you ever miss meat, especially hot dogs?'

She said 'Yes, sometimes I think about how I would like to have a hot dog but then I realize I made the right choice.'

I do too. I could only hope to be as fricking smart as she is.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

DNF

That's what happened to me and Tim's last leg of the Amazing Race - Did Not Finished.

The game started where we left off the week before, which was at (what my work actually calls) the natatorium. In that previous week, Tim and I came in *14th* place. It was horrible.

In that leg, uur task was simple enough, on paper, which was to build a structure to support two tennis balls 3" off the base of the table. Our building tools? Gum drops and toothpicks. Let me tell you, that was not easy.

When we finally finished that task, the next task was: one person (Tim) slides on a slide while the other (me) had a band tied around their ankles and walked side-to-side...both of us doing it simultaneously for 3 minutes.

So in this task, there is no way to move ahead. Everyone had three minutes to do the task and then run to the finish. So, that's how we ended up in 14th place...those damn gumdrops.

So yesterday was the last leg for all but the first three teams to check in. I truly wanted to be one of those three teams, even though Tim was not as gung-ho about that as I was.

It wouldn't be the best day to feel competitive. One, because it is an extremely busy, stressful week for me. I worked until the wee evening hours at work the night before (at work, walking in the dark to my car in the far parking lot...paranoia even where I work); I had just walked away from a big test to make it *to* the amazing race; and I had a lot of shit waiting for me when I was done with the race.

Two - ditto for Tim. He had driven from Chapel Hill to do this leg, only to have to quickly leave this race (when we were done) to get both kids, at two different schools, and come BACK to get flu shots. All by 3PM. The amazing race goes from 1-2.

This was not an issue until about 30 minutes into the game.

The first clue was a map of eight locations around work in which we could find puzzle pieces. The course included Building V, Building H, and locations around the lake near The Umstead. We did very well until one clue at the lake. It was impossible to find. Most teams gave up and left, while others stayed and wasted precious minutes trying to find that puzzle piece.

To me, the clue seemed to imply that we didn't need to have all puzzle pieces. There was something like 'some locations have more of an advantage than others'. I can't quite remember. it was a long scripted clue. LOTS of reading. And despite Domino's incessant "Read the clue! read the clue! read the clue!", reading is not all that works in this game. One has to actually _process_ the words into meaning that the brain can understand and react to.

This hasn't worked well for me. So we gave up looking for that clue and we decided we would try to put the puzzle together and see if we could figure out what the clue in the puzzle said.

Amy and her partner joined forces with us to see if we could come up with a solution. The clue stated something about 'where to find what is sung by' two named birds that I can't remember. Amy thought it must be something at the wellness library, meditation garden, or the book exchange, which is back at the gym.

So we raced back to the gym, which isn't really far *but* it isn't an easy walk/run to the lake either.

When we get there, Domino is there to let us know we are wrong, we aren't done. So Tim and I turn around (after Tim gets a bit aggravated with Domino and his clue) and attempt to put our puzzle together to figure out what we are missing. At this point, Domino comes down and notices we are missing two puzzle pieces and quickly dismisses us "You don't even have all your puzzle pieces! I'm not letting anyone check in unless they have all their puzzle pieces. You need to go back through the course, read the clue, and figure this out."

Aw, fuck. I am so sick and tired of 'not getting it'. I was done. I knew three teams had already bypassed us and were in the gym doing something, so they were ahead of us and here Tim and I had to go back to the lake for our other puzzle pieces. We had already felt like we SCOURED one location and came up empty...and Tim reminded me that no, it's not just the puzzle pieces we need to get, but after that, we may have to go through the course to figure out the answer to the clue in the puzzle.

SHIT.

All the excitement drained right out of me. It was no longer fun because, as we have since learned from the previous legs, THERE IS NO ROOM FOR ERROR. Once you screw up, there is NO TIME TO MAKE UP. It's a 45 minute game. We were 30+ minutes into it and there was a good 15 minutes AT LEAST to find two puzzle pieces, figure out the answer, and do more tasks.

So, as we were walking back towards the lake, feeling defeated, I askedTim "do you just want to throw in the towel?" I felt bad asking, as Tim is more competitive in me and doesn't like to quit, but hey, it's a game that has a time limit that just wasn't going to work for us that day. After the past few weeks of disappointment and frustration, there just wasn't any life left in us to even want to come in any place...especially when only 1st, 2nd, and 3rd were the only meaningful ones.

So we did - we quit. Domino told us it was too early, we had time to make up. I still felt like I could get back into it but then the day ahead of me reared its ugly head: work, kids, flu shots.

I would later learn that, not only would it have been possible for us to make a come back, that a couple of teams were actually disqualified and lost their first and second place positions.

But I also learned that most did not finish until _after_ 2. One team had to leave because one member had a meeting to get to, so it is very likely that we would have done the same thing.

So I was very disappointed. This game has made me realize two things about myself:
1. I am very competitive. I used to not be. Many of my friends can vouch for that. But I am in it to win it.

2. I suck at puzzles. This was the most humbling experience for me as I am a puzzle master. I LOVE puzzles and pride myself, no, I fricking think HIGHLY of myself, as being the best puzzle solver in the world. OK. Maybe not in the world, but I feel like I am pretty good. I get so cocky solving cryptograms that I think the CIA and FBI missed out on having me work for them.

But in this game? I got NOTHING. I overthought the clues, or I just didn't get them. There were times that I literally felt like I saw words without comprehension. I. Just. Suck.

In the end, my BFF and her partner placed, as well as my workout buddy Ken and his partner. I was thrilled to hear this as Ken was behind Tim and I, while Patti was in 13th place the week before. The fact that they made it into the top three was pretty cool. The top contenders were OUT.

So the finale is tomorrow and I plan to be at the finish line, if I don't give in to all the shit I still have waiting for me at work.

Would I do this again?

I don't know. The first few times were so much fun, with less frustration the last few weeks. There's a lot of judgement calls from me regarding the clues, and the very fact that I don't have hours to make up for mistakes, like the real race has, is very disconcerting, given the fact that I am as competitive as I am.

But most of all, Tim said he was tired of it. He hated the puzzles because he didn't feel like he could get them. Unlike me, he has labeled himself a non-puzzle person. He was banking on this game being more physical, like the adventure races he competes in and did I mention, he is more competitive than me?

And I can't imagine doing this with anyone else but Tim. We made a great team and I felt comfortable, ecstatic, competing with him. If only I could have figured out the damn puzzles, "I coulda been a contender".

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This book came to me by my BFF Cheryl. She had started her own book club and mentioned that this was their first book so she loaned me the library book she had of it. I was torn as I have so many that I want to read *right now*: my two book club choices for this month and next, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sits by my bed, and those darn Harry Potter books.

But this one was about 270 pages so I thought it could be a quick read. And it was, as it is a book filled with letters that told the story.

I really enjoyed this as I have a newfound appreciation for fiction based on history. And in this story, the reader learns about The Occupation of the Channel Islands, particularly Guernsey, during WWII.

The story is centered around Juliet Ashton, an author/columnist based in London, who exchanges letters with several folks. It is quite amazing, how the letter writing goes "viral" and she ends up writing to so many people. But the letter writing amongst all her companions tell this great story. It is lovely, to say the least.

Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a resident of Guernsey, regarding a book he has that had had her name and address printed on the cover. He had read selected essays of Charles Lamb and was so enamored by these essays that he wrote Juliet for more information about Charles Lamb. And so begins the introduction of Juliet to the members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

We find out that the literary society came as a ruse when the (now) members were having a secret dinner, hiding from the Germans, who had control of all the food, living quarters, etc. while occupying the Channel Islands. The society then were allowed to meet and thus, they started reading books and discussing them.

The potato peel pie came to be since all they truly had to eat were potatoes:
Since there was scant butter, less flour, and no sugar to spare on Guernsey then, Will concocted a potato peel pie: mashed potatoes for filling, strained beets for sweetness, and potato peelings for crust.

Juliet eventually visits the island with a lot of fanfare, through all the correspondence she had with several members of the literary society.

It's a really sweet novel and there is a side story as to the author, Mary Ann Shaffer, who became too ill to finish her novel and her neice, Annie Barrows managed to step in and finish it for her.

The one thing that bothered me about this was how quickly the letters made it to the recipients. It isn't even that fast *today* but the letters would be dated a day apart, responding to the previous letters. I had to let that go and take a step out of reality.

Otherwise, a very good book that has now made me interested in reading more about the facts of The Occupation in the Channel Islands, and what London endured during WWII.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pick Up Your Ball from Where You Dropped It

...or something like that...

That was on the second to last clue in today's Amazing Race leg. I don't remember it. I am just paraphrasing what I heard from another team.

Our first task was to run up the hill to GX and remain quiet. I didn't figure out what the clue was; I only saw Charles "shhhh" me and walk into the side door of GX and we saw Jenna passing out big balls.

From there, we needed to bring the ball to the soccer field. At the soccer field, we had to walk around the entire field, with the ball between us. FYI: the circumference of the field is 1/3 of a mile.

Tim walked backwards while I pushed the ball into him. I kept stepping on his toes. The scary part of this task is, if we drop the ball, we have to start all over. Did I already mention it is 1/3 of a mile??? I did not want to start over...

We took teeny steps and Tim kept stepping into the grass, which would freak me out. But he was calm and just kept telling me to push the ball into him, so I did. It seemed to take forever. We only passed one team.

At the end of that task, the next task was to pick a spot on the field and putt teeny wiffle balls (the size of golf balls) into hula hoops lying on the ground. The closer the hoop was to the putt, the more balls one had to putt into it. We waited to putt two balls into the furtherst hoop, only to see an opening at the closest hoop, which required six balls to land within it. We did it and got the next clue...

...which had the title in it somewhere. We missed it entirely as all we read was Crunchy or Prickly. We picked prickly which was basically picking a clue from the holly bushes near the healthcare center. I noticed the team ahead of us carrying their ball and I thought "shit...we forgot ours!"

So after getting the next clue, which was to drop our ball back where we got it (building GX) and head to the pit stop, we ran back to the soccer field and retrieved a ball. This was frustrating enough without having Tom laugh at us for not reading the clue well. :)

We raced back to GX with our ball then made it to the pit stop. Team number seven. Sigh. Yes. It's better than 11th. But damn. It still doesn't feel _that_ great.

Two more legs to go. Next Tuesday is the race to the finale.

Triangle Run/Walk for Autism 5K Race Report

This is the third race in the Second Empire Grand Prix series, although this is my second race. I skipped Anna's Angels 10 miler thinking I would be running a half the following weekend...that didn't work out so well...

I decided after my failed out of town race that I would run this 5K, and the series, with CJ. She had expressed a bit of anxiety about running this 5K. I know she can do it but running solo for one mile vs. 3.1 for her is very different. I wasn't too sure I was comfortable with the idea of her running alone for a 5K. She's done two or three 5Ks but always with a friend.

It was the best thing I ever did.

We started, in silence (she's not a talker and worse when anxious), after hanging out with the Brittany at the start line. My goal for her for this race was: 1 - enjoy the run and 2 - run as much as possible; hopefully, the whole thing.

I told her not to feel compelled to keep up with all the folks who were racing for a position in the beginning. "We will soon pass them when they bonk and start walking". Sure enough, barely a half mile into the race, we were already passing people who were craving for air.

Then the fun began: one guy passed us and we heard him approaching...CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP! Heavy feet just hitting the ground with such force. It was as if he just couldn't control gravity and he thudded to the ground with each step. This made CJ laugh and I knew we were starting off really well.

Shortly after the clomper came another guy who was a heavy breather. He would pass us, then we would pass him, and so on. CJ said something like "so this is what is going to be like..." hearing him throughout the race. We finally passed him and was done with him for the race but we spent enough time for CJ to nickname him the "human bullhorn".

The scenery was nice. This race, I believe, has been modified from last year...I could be very wrong, but I don't recall parts of this run.

BTW, when I ran this race last year? I ran with either a soon-to-be fractured foot *or* a very fractured foot. It was not a great race for me.

So the parts that are new, or that I just don't remember, were very beautiful. I like the city so beauty to me might be different than (the figuratively) you.

There were "row" houses built - simple two story homes - that lined up both sides of Blount Street that sat very, very close to railroad tracks. I loved it. I wouldn't LIVE there but it was an unusual sight to see (for me).

We ran to the end of Blount then turned a bit to head back to the finish on Mordecai/Person Street. This was, again, a nice neighborhood to look at, the 1950s homes scattered about. I imagined myself in the neighborhood. We passed by a cute house for sale and I asked CJ "would you live there?" And she replied "If I lived alone with my dog, I would."

I asked her periodically how she was doing and she said the pace was fine. In hindsight, I may have underplayed it and had us going at a conservative pace. I was just concerned about her getting through the run without too much pain.

Right around the spot that Mordecai Drive turns into Person Street is where we encountered the funniest dude ever. He raced, SPRINTED AT MAXIMUM SPEED, past us, then proceeded with a HARD stop. We had to veer around him. And at the top of his lungs, after a few dramatic gasps for breath, he yelled AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS "I CAN'T!!!! I CAN'T!!!!"

CJ and I looked at each other like WTF? And just started laughing...

This continued for at least five times: run as fast as hell past us, hard stop, screaming I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE! I CAN'T!!

He looked like he would soon collapse and need medical attention. Or that he just raced for four hours and he was at the end, vs. being barely 20 minutes into a race.

We finally lost him since he "couldn't go on" and I told CJ - we are close to the end. Once we can see the finish, you should sprint as fast as you can. It's going to hurt but that's OK because you'll be finished. :) The emoticon represents how I felt saying it.

So we were about half a mile away? when we saw the finish line. I said "You ready to sprint?" and she was like 'no, i want to get closer.' Oh my. That is *so* me. My poor CJ...

So when I saw the 1/4 mile sign left to go, I told her, 'OK - take off when you get to that sign'. Then we had about a 20 second discussion about what sign I was referring to. But once she got to the the sign, she took off. I mean TOOK OFF. I was like WTF trying to keep up with her. She SMOKED ME. I heard Tim cheer her on and when we were finally done, I saw her face. She had used up every last bit of adrenaline she had. We had to sit and let everything settle for a minute. That is DEFINITELY not me...

Her time was 31:13 gun/31:26 chip. I am pretty sure this is a PR for her as the other 5Ks were recreational *and* a lot of walking. This time, she ran the entire race. I was extremely proud of her and hope that the next race we will break 30.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Read and Process

Thursday's Amazing Race adventure was a really good one. It would have been better if Tim and I would STOP. READ. READ AGAIN. Then PROCESS THE MEANING OF THE WORDS.

Instead, we hurriedly read the clue and assume the nature of it based on a few keywords. This was our demise, with a handful of other teams, this past Thursday.

We started near what is now called the "UARGE" tree (this is from Domino's error in one clue during leg #6). Every one had their brick from last Tuesday's race; a few others still had their cup filled with sand. It was funny how we hold on to every single piece of our props. We all have taken this race *very seriously* in a fun way. :)

Our first clue was to go through the obstacle course, in the field where Ultimate is played. It looked exactly like what they do to train agility dogs. We all did very well getting through the tunnels, even though the guys seemed to get stuck.

Next was a road block where Tim chose to run to GX with our brick, while I ran around the softball field bases while I waited for him. We had to do this bare footed (bare feet?). I would later hear about some of the guys, including Tim, who strained their legs running across the concrete in bare feet.

Once that was done, the next task was to throw a softball into a hula hoop, that was situated on the ground several feet away. Tim did this fairly quickly and then, the next clue was a doozy to comprehend. I won't remember it well but essentially the clue read something like:

Go to the tobacco house near Jim Goodnight's house.
Pace yourself. Tie your shoes.
Read only below this line
Ask the instructor for directions
Ignore everything else.

Then there was fine print that said something like: go to the overflow parking at building S.

So in front of us, I saw at least two teams run towards the tobacco house and only one other team that ran towards building S. I never read the entire clue; Tim said we needed to go to building S's overflow parking. We got there and paired up with Abbie and Allison, who read the building S clue. We ran all over the parking area, behind the building, in front of it, trying to figure out what was going on. At one point, as Tim and I were going between lots - down a hill - I slipped and FELL on my arse. No, I wasn't banged up but I had pine needles stuck in my ass. Tim was not at all sympathetic: You hurt? Come ON!

Eventually, we met up with Ken and Eric and Eric decided it would be best to go back to the clue and figure out what it was saying. The idea of running back to the softball field, and most likely, end up back at the S lot was not very appealing. But we had no idea where to find our next clue.

So we ran back to Jordan, where he held the clue out. Finally, after reading it a couple more times, I asked Jordan "Do you have directions?" To which he flipped the clue to show us the directions to the next clue, which was going to GA. Shit. Shit. Shit. Why didn't we figure that out??

So off we go to GA and our next task was a lot of fun: first, we had to get our picture taken in disco man/woman cutouts. Then we had to follow the instructions to do 70s dance steps. Amazing, I remembered all the steps from Dance Fever and we sailed through the steps fairly easy and quickly. Next clue: I have no idea. I just know it had something to do with finding a tree in the woods which had the clue to the next pit stop, which ended up being within the hedges of building I.

We got there and found out we were team #10. FUCK. Team number 10. We moved NOWHERE.

While I enjoyed the aspects of the creativeness of the race, Tim was pissed. He does not like to lose. Not that I do but WTF. We have to do better at reading and PROCESSING THE MEANING OF THE WORDS OF THE CLUE next time.

In between the time that we made it to 10th place and a quick lunch at the RFC, Domino came in to let us know that we ended up in 11th place, since he 'forgot' to write the correct number for one of the teams. Greeeaaat. We lost a place doing nothing.

We have three more legs before the finale, which ends up with only three teams.

I *really* want to be one of those three teams.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Not Ever Again

I have a superstition not to use the word "never" in a sentence. This superstition is based on past events, so I have my reasons!!

Anyway.

I vow *not to ever* sign up for a race that is out of town.

I never make them. OK. In this case, "never" works because it has actually happened. I have never made an out-of-town race.

I was supposed to run the Freedom Run Half Marathon this past Saturday. Instead, I was at the beaches of Wilmington. A great weekend, BTW, but not the intended itinerary.

What happened? I procrastinated.

Our new pups are not travel-ready. They yip-yip a lot. They still aren't 100% potty-trained. They are just seven months old, so they are still very much *puppies*.

We had them booked for a kennel starting this past Friday. In order to go into a kennel, we have to provide proof of vaccinations. This is where my fuck up begins.

I waited until Friday to look for the records only to find that I really don't have official documentation.

I had a hand-written note of the last shots the pups had from the foster mom. The rabies tags? Have no clue where they are. We have them. They are just in some container somewhere in this house.

I called our vet to find out if she could tell me what vaccinations she gave them when she came here. I thought for sure we had gotten kennel cough for them.

Nope. She only gave a basic exam. No shots. Nothing.

I called the rescue group we adopted the dogs from. I still haven't received a return call from them.

I emailed the foster mom who told me the following day that she would get that information for me.

But I needed everything FRIDAY or the trip was a bust.

Our vet did say she would be happy to come by at 3PM to give the kennel cough. This was at noon and this meant we wouldn't be leaving Raleigh for West Virginia (where the race was) until after 4, as we still had to go east to drop the pups off at the "farm". It would then be a six hour drive.

It was around 1PM, looking at my children's faces of bummness that I told Tim "well, I think we should scrub the race plans". I didn't want Tim driving six hours into the night, to get to the hotel at close to midnight and then me trying to sleep to get up for a 13.1 mile race. I just was covered in guilt already. It just wasn't fair since I screwed the whole thing up.

But Tim, thankfully, was with good sense and said "well, if we get it done in time, we can just head somewhere else...like the beach". The bummy-fied faces on my children quickly turned to excitement. They had been looking forward to the trip, as Tim and I were...for different reasons.

It wasn't easy though, and it was just as frantic as my days seem to always be.

The vet couldn't come until 3:30. When she came, she did the full exam and gave them all the shots they needed. She was there until 4:20. The kennel closes at 5 for dropping dogs off.

We scramble into the van and head off east, past Zebulon and get there at 5:10. Drop the pups off and we head to...where?

We had no real plans. We had no time to book a place. We didn't know where to even book a place. We had still one more dog and a cat in the car, plus two bobbleheads.

So we just drove to Wilmington. We had been there before with Brenna, so there was at least one hotel that would take our dog.

And in the end, it all worked out well. We found a place. We went to the beach with the bobbleheads and Brenna, and all had a blast. We got to see my friends Ed, Karyn, and $Bill, who coincidentally, rode their bikes from Raleigh to Wilmington that Saturday.

But I just suck at planning my race trips. Or making them. I have cursed myself.

I was supposed to run a half marathon last December outside of Raleigh. Instead, I was recovering from a fractured foot. A problem I waited until the last minute to check out.

I was supposed to run a half marathon in Disney years ago. I was recovering from a miscarriage.

I was supposed to run a marathon in DC. I moved into this house the day before the marathon.

I was supposed to run the New York marathon...twice. The first year I got in, I decided to do the Marine Corp Marathon (see above sentence). The second year I was in, I have no idea why I didn't do it but I paid for it TWICE only to not do it either time.

I did run the White Lake half once but only because Tim was doing it too.

However, we have made all of Tim's races: Virginia Beach, White Lake (twice), Disney.

So. That's it. Local races only. I am sick of it. It is over.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Much Better

Today was leg #8 of our Amazing Race adventure. And it was a relief after the last two mind-boggling legs.

First, we were given a copy of a gnat picture that had "bug a bus e um", which is precisely what most of us thought the last line of last Tuesday's clue stood for.

Yes. Our answers made no sense. But neither did Domino's attempt to not be "obvious" with his cluess The actual clue translates to "Look four tubes @ (shift+9) gnat a tour - e UM". IOW: Look for tubes at natatorium.

Yeah. No one figured it out. Just some were smart enough to go towards the pool to see that the next task was there.

None of that took place today, thank buddha.

The first clue (we were in a three-way tie for 12th place, those of us who gave up) was to go to the Research Drive gate for our next task, which included exercises we must do. Tim and I took off and at that time, my legs felt great.

Oh. And during this clue we had to carry a brick around. The brick was to be earned from last week's task, that the three of us never did. Tim carried the brick.

The first task required us to do 10 sit ups each, as one held each other's feet. Then it was five full military-style push-ups, then ending with 10 mountain climbers on a four count.

NO PROBLEM.

Off we are to our next clue with a cup in hand, which was to find an orange bucket around the rec center. We were thrown off by the fine print on the clue that said something about receiving a discount by helping friends.

In the end that didn't mean anything. The orange bucket was near trees between the tennis courts and the putting green. We had to fill the cup up with sand, then head to 'the little house behind W', along with our brick.

Once we got there (who knew there was a little chapel looking house behind building W?), we had to do 100 jumping jacks and count out loud. When we were done with that, we got a piece of rope and the clue to our next destination, which was to the soccer field.

At the soccer field, Domino put the string through our brick so that there were handles on either side of the brick - Tim holding one end, me holding the other, with a cup of sand on top of the brick. We had to walk to the four soccer goals to read the clues to the pit stop, without spilling the sand. If we spilled the sand, then we would have to go re-fill the cup with sand. The thought of this just had me panicked about spilling the sand...

We made it and before we could figure out where the pit stop was, a couple of teams who had finished told us where to go. 'DEER'. To the deer, the sculptures of deer nearby that we still had to continue with our sand balanced on the brick.

We made it. No penalties. No fuck ups. Ninth place.

A much, much nicer, less frustrating hour for us.

Thank you Domino.

Sweet Nothings

This morning, MiMi and I were snuggled in the warm, cozy bed, talking about different things.

She talked to me about the sad book she read last night: The Best Cat in the World.

I then told her about when I first "met" our dogs Zimba and Sugar.

She then asked me: how old were you when you had me and CJ? Which lead me to telling her about when I had both of them.

I told her: we had CJ and we are so in love with her. We felt like she was all we needed until I thought it would be nice for her to have a sister or brother. I mentioned how I thought it would be nice for CJ to have someone else to share her life with.

To which MiMi quickly replied "Well I guess that didn't work out too well."

Monday, October 04, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

It is over.

My life with Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Gale Hawthorne and Haymitch Abernathy. What a journey it was.

It was a journey I would never predict to be so loved. These series of novels? Amazing, to say the least. It will haunt my memory for a good long while. I remember the intensity of finishing The Pillars of the Earth and leaving that world.

It is somewhat silly, to many, to get so involved in a book and it's characters, their world. But I wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, it is the equivalent to a runner's high, IMO, and it would be what I want in every book I pick up to read.

Mockingjay is the last of The Hunger Games Trilogy. Suzanne Collins knows how to make a thriller and I am still flabbergasted that these three novels were so popular *and* targeted teens. The violence, the graphic nature of the story is like any rated R movie you could imagine.

And it works.

Unlike The Twilight Series -- which apparently has become "unhip" to like *but* I am still a fan of the first book...as I'd rather be unhip and true to my self than to be bothered about what is cool to like or unlike -- The Hunger Games series would appeal, again IMHO, to both girls and boys. Women and men. :)

Thankfully, Tim is unique enough in that 1. he read all of the books of The Twilight Series, 2. he loved all of them, 3. and he too would never balk at the idea of being 'uncool' for reading them.

He is now on the second book of The Hunger Series and read the first one in record time (as he did with The Twilight Series), so I know he loved it.

In the final novel, Panem is in a war. The rebels from the 12 districts vs. The Capitol and President Snow.

The "fabled" district 13 is where the heart of the rebellion against the Capitol is being waged. Peeta, unfortunately, was not rescued and was captured by The Capitol.

Katniss has become the symbol for the rebellion against The Capitol. She is the "Mockingjay" -- from the moment she entered the first Hunger Games and 'rebelled' against the games, the Capitol, she has been put on the forefront as the rebellion's 'Joan of Arc'.

The President of the rebellion, President Coin, enlists her to be the face of the rebellion, to continue to inspire the war against The Capitol, which results in a lot of photo-ops of Katniss doing various activities.

Katniss, however, wants to fight. She is a hunter. She defended herself and Peeta in two hunger games so she is a fighter, a defender. Posing for staged warfare is not her thing, but with advice from Gale and Haymitch, she does it for the cause.

But her number two most important goals are: to find Peeta and to kill President Snow, the man in charge of The Capitol.

Peeta is rescued but upon their first meeting, Peeta attempts to kill Katniss. During his time in captivity, he had been "hijacked", where he was given a brainwash of sorts where the ultimate goal was to kill Katniss. The woman he loves.

He is then isolated in an attempt to bring him back to reality but ultimately, Peeta -- one of the most amazing characters I have ever "met" -- never becomes the same person I knew from the first two novels. It is bittersweet.

The novel continues with Katniss and her squad going into The Capitol and the war eventually ends with a rebellion win. The effort to win is extremely violent. Throw a little Resident Evil-type "mutts" into the loop and you have some vicious monsters chasing down folks, along with the gunfire of war. Several main characters are lost in the struggle to get to the Capitol, with Katniss leading the way.

And the end? Wow. I mean WOW. Suzanne Collins - you are a master! I loved it. Well, I loved the part with the two Presidents. Which is the WOW part of this post. I kind of thought it could happen but still...it was still the most amazing ending to a story that I could ever hope for.

But the end end, where Katniss returns home to district 12. That was very sad. Very very sad. It was sad because Peeta is not the same Peeta I knew, and Katniss, well, grew up. The Hunger Games and the world of Panem under the Capitol was over and Katniss could now live a "normal" life.

Which is great, of course, in that fantasy world...but it's the end of *the* most amazing character I've read in *the* most amazing books ever.