Saturday, December 30, 2006

Goals and Resolutions

Just a friendly reminder to those wanting to do the GA ING full or half marathon prices go up on January 1st. So get a jump on your New Year resolution and save a few bucks.

In regards to goals and resolutions, my advice is to set the bar low. You are more likely to have success if you don't aim too high. You should also incorporate a goal or resolution that you will be okay with failing to meet. Some degree of failure in life is expected so it just makes sense to me to go ahead and incorporate the failures into your yearly goal planning. That is not called being pessimistic just realistic. Realism keeps your optimism from being too lofty.

Last year my goal was to be faster and my resolution to be a more positive person overall. I was successful in my quest for speed but I am still struggling with last year's resolution. Admittedly, it has been a bit difficult to remain positive with how much shit the end part of this year has thrown at me. But in my adopted optimistic fashion I am going to say bring on the New Year and here is to being lucky in 07.

With all that in mind here are my goals and resolutions for the New Year.

1.) Again, be positive--since I don't think I was totally successful on that last year.
2.) Enjoy the moments and not worry so much about the upkeep
3.) Stop making fun of Pat's hair--psst this the one that I am okay with not keeping.

1.) Run 2 marathons in a year.
2.) Run a 3:30 marathon
3.) Get my 10k under 42 minutes
4.) 1:35 for the half marathon

What are your goals and resolutions for the New Year?

I hope everyone has a great and safe New Year.

P.S. The pictures and posts from the Pink Pig, Santa, the Loser party and Christmas are coming. My main computer crashed and being recovered/repaired so it might be a while before I get those posts up. I am not certain what pictures were downloaded there and what are still on my camera.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

You better watch out, You better not pout

Every year I torture my kids to pose for Christmas pictures.
I know lots of people do this as I get lots of Christmas cards from my friends with their kids posed in Christmas outfits in front of the tree.
Rarely is the photo an artistic masterpiece (--well except for my cousin Ray's and that is because she hires a professional to do it).
More often than not the photo is blurry or the kids are looking off in different directions or there is red eye or something is off.
But I know when I get the card what I am seeing is a labor of love as I know all too well the ardors involved with the Christmas photo.
And I admire those who just say no to the whole thing.
I, however, cannot.

In the past I have set up the Nikkon 35mm on the tripod and taken photos at a slow shutter speed. I love how the slow shutter speed portraits turn out--all ethereal, glowy and warm. The only problem is that the subject must hold perfectly still otherwise the photo is blurry. Holding still is not something my kids ever do.
I usually go through at least 2-3 rolls until I can get one picture that I can use. The chances of getting a decent picture exponentially decreases with the number of children you have. And you would think that as the kids get older it might be easier but this has yet to be the case. And I should tell you that not only is this a mentally draining experience that involves having a glass of wine within reach at all times it is often a physically destructive one too. I use to have a nativity scene that sat under the tree but between Carmella's toddler years and Beau's-- well just all of Beau's years-- there are no whole figures left. All the animals are missing limbs, ears, or tails. The Angel; a wing and a halo. The Wise men; gifts and heads. Joseph was completely obliterated and Mary and the Shepard might be okay but are both missing. I think only the baby Jesus was spared. And that is only because Carmella protected him. This is not mention the ornaments that get broken and thrown at each other or the hair pulling and shoving off of the step stool. It is a really fun way to spend an afternoon.
Crazily enough though, in the past, I have even volunteered to take pictures of my friend's kids for their Christmas card. My thinking was that an extra adult hand might be helpful but apparently the chaos of more kids trumps that so it is even more disastrous.
And while last year I did the tripod set-up and tortured the kids and myself with the Christmas photo shoot I ended up using a photo I took from my digital because out of 3 rolls of film I got nothing. So this year I eschewed the tripod and the Nikkon and saved myself the emotional distress of the experience and took the easy way out. Not to mention less expensive. I just used my trusty digital. I have found digital is the only way to photograph small children.
I tried to compensate for poor quality photos by using costumes and a kitsch idea.
I have to say that this was the most agreeable my kids have ever been for any Christmas photo shoot. They loved dressing up and took direction very well. So either they are so use to having their photo taken and me trying to pose them that finally they are catching on or costumes are the way to go from here on out.

And I should add that they of course loved being devils far more than being angels. But isn't that how it always seems to go?
I had a boyfriend who once told me that it is always easier to get forgiveness than permission. So in that respect it is just more fun to be bad-- especially when you are so cute the consequences are negligible.
My kids wholly embrace this notion.
And my accepting this philosophy is probably the very reason why the clerk who helped me out to my car with my groceries at Publix yesterday told me that I had the wildest kids he had ever seen.
And maybe if I didn't think they were so darn cute and funny I might be better at disciplining them.
Or maybe if I wasn't so exhausted from their craziness I might be better at punishing them.
Or maybe if I wasn't just so beaten down.
Well anyway, it is probably one those reasons.
I am too tired to figure out which one.At least when they are bad they are still very good. I just love them bunches, well, most of the time . . .

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Glamour Cookies

Baker I am not.
I can cook and bake but I do not like to bake.
Cooking is better for me because I can make my own stuff up and don't have to follow a recipe exactly. With baking you need to follow the rules. I don't find that challenging, creative or fun--just annoying.

However, for teacher gifts I will break out my cookie sheets and bake. I do want my kids to have the type of mommy who will take time to make cookies from scratch with them and do all that homespun kitchen Christmas goodness even though I would rather waste my time designing my Christmas cards or planning a holiday party.

A few years a ago I hit on the following recipe in my Glamour magazine (I told you I was low brow) and have used it ever since. They are good. And festive looking. They do not, however, photograph well. I promise they taste better than they look.

My good friend Carrie called asking for the recipe and I have already given it to Tara so I figured I might as well share the yumminess with all who like to bake:

Glamour Cookies (or Cranberry and White Chocolate Christmas Cookies)

1c all-purpose flour
½ cup super fine sugar
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup rolled oats
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 stick plus 1 tbsp soft butter
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup roughly chopped pecans
¾ cup white-chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine flour, baking powder and oats in a bowl.
In another bowl, beat together butter and sugars with an electric mixer until creamy.
Add egg and vanilla.
Beat in dry ingredients.
Fold in cranberries, pecans and chips.
Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil.
Flatten each ball with a fork.
Bake for 15 minutes or until pale gold.
Let cool on a rack.
Drizzle cookies with melted white-chocolate.
Makes 3 dozen.

Nat's tips: Cookies tend to take less than 15 minutes--usually between 11-13 minutes. They seem to keep baking on the foil but you can't move them off the foil for a few minutes so better to pull them out a tad undone.
I used cherry crasions.
I buy extra white chocolate chips for the melting and drizzling.
I usually double the recipe.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Gift

"Christmas Gift!" is how my Aunt Boo answers her phone on Christmas morning. I may have that wrong. She may say "Santa Claus!" or " Christmas Tree!" or something similarly festive but it never fails to crack my sister and I up. She has a deep southern belle accent so it is really only funny when she says it. Just reading it I know is not doing it justice. I should probably add that she isn't "Boo" as in "peek-a-boo" but is "Baewe." A guess that is a double diphthong or something. You get the idea.

Weeeell anyway, this Christmas morning, I will be answering our phone with "Christmas Puppy!" because that is what Santa is bringing the kids!!!

Here is the one Ryan and I went and picked out last night. She is a full bred Siberian Husky. And she will also be known as my new running partner next year. I am so excited to have a dog again that will pull my tired ass up hills again. I like being the sled.

But everyone shhh!!!! It is a Santa surprise.

Last week we had to put our dog Thor down. Thor was a golden chow mix and was 15 years old. He has not been well for a long time. So this wasn't a shock. I was also not Thor's biggest fan. He was 100% Ryan's dog.

So when I told Carmella that Thor was gone she surprised me with her tears. I was shocked because it wasn't as if she really had ever played with Thor or ever shown any interest in him--when I said he hadn't been well for a long time I wasn't exaggerating. He really hasn't done anything but lay around for the last 5 years.
After a few minutes of crying she wiped her tears away and asked if we could get a puppy. Beau jumped on the puppy bandwagon and ever since the Puppy for Christmas campaign has been going strong at our house. They have paraded out every stuffed animal dog they could find.

Ryan relented; and I insisted on a Husky. Ryan was far from keen on the idea of Husky-- having met my parents' Husky Bob. They are hyper dogs who love to run, run away and be chased. If there was ever a dog completely antithetical to Thor a Husky would be it. A Husky is very much a dog like me or Beau. It is also the only breed of dog I have ever liked so it is the only type of type I was willing to get. If we are going to have a dog we are going to get the type of dog I like. And here I will admit that I am not known as a dog lover. I am also not a hater but again, definitely not a lover either. Huskies, though, I adore. They're funny. Frustrating and naughty; but funny.

So am sure I will have lots to complain about in the coming months since a Husky is like a perennial 2 yr old. What can I say, I guess I am glutton for punishment.

And speaking of my masochist side I ran a 17 miler earlier this week. I was bit on the slow side because I chatted on the cell for several miles--it does get lonely out there--but is was fine. The weather has just been amazing. I mean, sunny and 60 degrees. Pretty perfect. I guess no snow this Christmas.

I finished the run at The Big Peach Running Co and I officially registered for the GA ING Marathon. I encourage those that are planning on it to go ahead and register. The price for the half and the full will go up after December 31st. Give yourself an early Christmas present that will keep on giving.

Okay, I want to hear the puppy name suggestions.

Getting Our Christmas On

I am slowly getting it together over here.
Shopping--nearly done.
Christmas cards more than half addressed--will be mailed on Monday. I promise.

However, not a single gift is wrapped.
No baking done-- what so ever-- but I might make some cookies tomorrow. I'll post the recipe if I do. They are really good: white chocolate, oatmeal, pecans and dried crasain cookies.

But nevertheless we got our Christmas on. The lights and outside decorations went up last weekend and we decorated our tree. Christmas has thrown up all over our house.
And the kids are loving it.

Our neighbor had put his lights up the weekend before. He had just put some on his house. But then we put up our lights and I noticed on Wednesday that he had added a giant snowman and some lights on the trees in front of his house.
Does this mean we are suppose to put more lights up? Get another obnoxious inflatable?

I think we are still winning because we have lights in the back too. Neighbor doesn't so that must mean we are excelling at the whoever-has-the-highest-electric-bill-in-January-wins contest.
You see, our house is decorated in the Christmas mullet fashion:

We are all Christmas in the front.

And party in the back.

Classy, I know.

Carmella has her pink tree up:

Beau keeps asking for his Blue tree. He doesn't have a blue tree. Santa brought Carmella her Pink tree the year she was almost 3. So I guess that means Santa better be bringing Beau a Blue tree.
Does anyone know where I can buy a Blue tree?

Beau had a Christmas program and sang "Mary Had a Baby Boy". In his performance they mime wrapping a baby in swaddling clothes. Beau pretty much swaddled for the whole song. That is when he wasn't pointing out to his friends his Mommy and their Mommy.
And then he did a performance at home of Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. However, around here we change around who has the red nose--sometimes it is Carmella the red nosed kindergartner, or Mommy the red nosed runner or maybe Beau the red nosed preschooler. Both kids get mad when they are the red nosed one of the song so most of the time I am the red nosed one. This tells me that while kids like the idea of Rudolf they still know he is a freak. I see how it is. They all say they love Rudolf and he'll go down in history and is the hero of Christmas and all that but really no one wants to be him. No one wants a red nose. It is totally freaky. Even to the 3 and 5 year olds who should probably think a red nose that lights up like a light bulb is pretty cool. But no. It is still freakish.
Makes for cute school projects though.
Finally, the kids helped out a lot in the decorating the tree this year. The tree has never looked so bad.
It is a mess.
But that is okay. I did have to move some ornaments around because we definitely don't agree in how a tree should be decorated nor do they have any understanding about the complicated science of ornament placement. It quickly came apparent to me that lumping ornaments together on the lowest branches in a straight line is the height of Christmas "decatating" among the playground set.
Hope everyone else that does the jingle jig is getting their Christmas on too.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I took the night train to Epiphany and missed the stop

I feel like there are two of me lately.
There is the me who is out there doing the usual things; running, being wife and mom. She is out there doing wife and mom stuff: volunteering, kissing boo boos, work for husband, hanging with friends, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, shuttling kids around and doing errands.

But there is this other me that is wondering where all the time I use to have went. I feel like everything is taking me so much longer to accomplish and I am just not getting stuff done at the speed and efficiency I use to. I am thinking that the me who gets shit done is distracted by this new me that zones out on thinking about time, wondering where her missing hours went.
She is a wasteful thinker; she is a putzer.
I hate putzing.

I couldn't sleep last night.
I sometimes have this problem. It is nothing new. Eventually I get so tired-- because I can't take naps-- that I will inevitably get a good night's sleep by default just from being so damn tired. Then I fall back into my regular getting eight hours of shut eye and will be blissfully well-rested for months at a time. But the not sleeping--when it is happening-- really sucks.
I will lie awake for hours worrying and thinking about random things. I will try to think up things that do not cause me panic but inevitably all thoughts will fall to anxious things. And I will worry and my heart will race and sleep will edge further off into the distance. I will get up, give up and come downstairs and jump from hyperlinks to hyperlinks--a stream of consciousness for the technological age, I guess. James Joyce would have a field day.

So that is what I did last night-- along with designing and ordering my Christmas cards from Shutterfly. But even with that being crossed off my list I couldn't fall back asleep.

I tried though:

I lie there in the quiet; listening to the house sounds and passing cars and watching shadows change on the wall.
My thoughts inevitably fall to Evan.
I think about how awful it was when he was in the hospital and my mind relives those sad days and I have to see everyone crying and experience it all again in my head.
This makes me realize how fragile life is.
How precious Carmella and Beau are and I am overwhelmed that it is up to me to keep them safe.
I am reminded of those races we use to have in elementary school.
I make the metaphorical leap that the egg race was to prepare me for raising children.
I am carrying two spoons, balancing an egg in each one. My arms are outstretched to keep my balance. I want to hold the eggs--the spoons-- close to my body, cradle them but this is impossible with two eggs and two spoons.
I manage what I can.
I find that I can run with outstretched arms balancing eggs on spoons.
But I see that I am not only in the egg race but the three-legged race and the potato sack race.
It is ridiculous but I find that I am also trying to pin the tail on the donkey and all the while I am blindfolded.
I race out of the school yard and I am remembering James Dickey's poem The Eye-Beaters.
It is about blind children who beat at their eyes.
Dickey thinks it is because they are seeing cave images in their heads.
While I was in graduate school I spent a good bit of time in the Emory library in the special papers room looking at the Dickey papers. I found some notes on The Eye-Beaters and I wrote a paper about Jungian archetypes , cave art and The Eye-beaters based on my research and my own ideas. It was a pretty good paper and I got a good mark for it and was even invited to present it a literary panel.
I declined.
I don't really like James Dickey.
I think he is a great artist, writer, poet, whatever but I also think he was a failure at being a human being. I never knew that an artist could do great art but be terrible at empathy, kindness, humanity. That still seems so antithetical to me. So sad and just wrong. He didn't get it.
But at times it seemed he did.
So, yeah, it was neat to delve into another writer's notes and see how they work but even then I thought: this isn't important.
I knew then that neither James Dickey-- nor I studying James Dickey-- was going to change or impact the world in any important way.
And that brought me back to thinking about Evan.
And really, here is what I think about a lot:
At Evan's funeral the minister, Davis Chappel, said something along these lines: Three years is not long enough.
But it is enough to change the world.
Jesus, was in Galilee for less than 3 years preaching his ministry and he did change the world.
The world was changed by one man
and what he said
and what he did.
In less than three years.

So, yeah, maybe three years is enough.

And I have been thinking about that ever since.
The complexity of it boggles me:
How can three years be enough?
It riddles me like it does for Beau that Parker eats turkey.
Beau tells me everyday that Parker eats turkey.
He is amazed, baffled by it.
In awe of it.
That Parker eats turkey is some sort of fantastic, brilliant mystery for him.
Me too; because Beau tells me so often that Parker eats turkey that I am wondering if it is a code.
I have begun to think that if I can crack it I will solve not only why my little boy doesn't speak well but maybe even how three years is enough and how to change the world.
I know, that is a huge, ridiculous leap.
But still I circle around the thought daily-- not Parker and his turkey--but about Evan and how much he has changed my world and how I want to do more to honor that, respect that.
Show that.
It is maddening and I just can't quite get to the answer, the how, the Tao.
It needles me.
I know there is something I am missing, not doing, not seeing.
And I wonder, endlessly, what. I. Can. Do.
No. No, I'm not looking to save the world or really even change it but maybe be a little Ghetto fabulous and change my little corner, you know make it better, brighter, nicer. Find a way to reconcile the senseless loss and that three is enough.
This idea though--it is big-- and the feeling that I am getting is that not only am I missing the point but worse, that I might be being wasteful of this here gift.
And that is what is keeping me up at night.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Still here, still running . ..

Nothing like training for a marathon and then finding yourself on the other side of that marathon much fitter, much faster. December though, is always my downfall.

I was never a runner until I was 27. I was one of those: I'll-run-when-chased-and-only-then-if-it-is-really-necessary kind of people. Not to mention I was a social smoker too. Running quickly put an end to that. Still a social drinker though. Everyone needs a vice, you know. Just keeping it real, you know.

The reason I started running was mostly for my vanity. I was recently engaged. I wanted to look fit and pretty at my wedding. Unlike most of my friends, who when they got engaged they were able to hire personal trainers to achieve the same goal, I was a poor graduate student. I couldn't afford a gym membership and with a full course load and 2 jobs running was the only thing flexible enough for my schedule. I ran because it was a last resort.

I have to admit that I really envy those runners who've been at it since high school. I guess if I have a regret it might be that I didn't start running earlier. I know that it is totally gay but I really do regret never going out for track or cross country in high school. My gymnastic coach had even encouraged me to do so but no way-- I hated running. I wanted to do flips and splits. I thought running was so dumb. I comfort myself now by thinking I probably would have suffered an injury or burn out if I'd started any younger.

Oh well, it is what it is.

Six months after I started running I ran my first race, which was the Atlanta half marathon at Thanksgiving. Every year the half has always been my goal to work towards until last year and this past year when I stepped up to a full marathon. Then every year in December I always take time off--or rather, not "off" but cut back. I usually start running in earnest in the spring when it is warmer and I have found my jeans are getting tight. Usually around the time I finish off the last of the Samoas.

This year though I have set my goal for the GA ING marathon in March and I am loath to let all this good training go to waste. My plan was to take December and try to focus on speed and run about 30 miles per week. I wasn't planning on tackling any run longer than 10 miles until January.

But I am finding that I need my long runs. I miss them. I'll run 5 or 6 miles and think; that's it? Last week I ran 12 and it was very nice, leisurely even. I didn't wear my watch but just ran and thought and ran. It was comforting. Yesterday I tried a new route and it proved quite punishing with many the hills. I did wear my watch and the course surprised me by being just over 16 miles. What surprised me most though was that it was 16 miles at an 8:45 pace and it was pretty easy. Not easy in that it was effortless but I felt light, relaxed. (Sore as heck after though-- my ass is hurting! Damn hills.) I didn't even bring any water with me and only had 2 shock blocks. I stopped around 6 miles and grabbed a little water at the fountain at a gas station. Normally on long runs I always carry my fuel belt and drink a lot.

I didn't feel done when I was done, but I had to be done. I could have kept going but I had other, more pressing things to do. I have to be honest here and say I really am feeling a little wayward and pretty overwhelmed these days.
Is it the holidays?
Post marathon blues?
Or just the devastating sadness at the loss of Evan?
I don't know.
All of the above?
This is just a hard time of year anyway. It can be really joyous but I just don't feel a part of that-- at all this year. I want to and I am trying but I'm not feeling it. At all.

And I don't know.
Part of me feels like it is a bad idea to start another training cycle not even a month after a marathon but I think that is what I have done and maybe what I need to do right now. I really don't know what to do. I worry that I am setting myself up for a lot of frustration since I know I won't be able to set and/or meet weekly goals with all that December seems to demand. And not meeting my goals will bring me even further down. I do aim low for a reason. I like to succeed and setting the bar low is definitely one way to do that. However you can get your ego boost, I say.

So what is a girl to do?

Currently, I am thinking I am going to shoot for 40 miles a week and try to do one long run a week of 2 or more hours. That might be doable. It never has been in the past for this time of year but I am a more efficient runner so maybe I can do it now.

Okay, so I need to hear how everyone else's training/races have gone/ are going. And post your race plans for the spring too. I don't care if I know you or not. I want to hear it.

--Bruce, best wishes at LV marathon this weekend. I read somewhere that the weather is not in your favor. I hope that changes. You've been a great cheerleader for me so I'll definitely be thinking of you and hoping you have a great race. BQ is yours for the getting.
--Steph, are you ready for Disney? You've been a bit quiet. I know your knee has been frustrating but I think you will be fine. What about Joe--how is his training going? If he did 1:40 a month ago in a half I am sure he can expect 3:35 at Disney.
--Anne, Camille--any future race plans?
--Charlie, have you done your marathon yet? What do you need to BQ?
--Jason, what are your plans? Will you do the GA ING? I think you should. But then I want everyone I know to do the half or the full.
--Lala, Pop, Bubbles, Vinton, Pookie, Danielle and anyone else I have forgotten are you ready to start your training program for the half?
--Poppy, can I count on you to join me for the full?
--Meme, can't let baby sister be fitter than you. . .
--Tracy? the half, the full?
--What about you Paul and hey, Wes, you too. How about you boys put your bikes down and come get a real workout.
--Hunter? I know you run too. . .
Who else is up for the challenge?

Let's hear it.