Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Resolutions Review

It's that time of year, time to look back and see what we did or did not get done in 2011, and to make plans for 2012. 

Here's a link to my original resolutions, with some description of each and some explanation of why I chose it, or what it meant to me.

1. Italian at home (evenings on the second floor (where the kitchen and living room are)).

Result:  Big resolution failure. We did well through about February, but I had a job interview and then an offer, and hubby and I had lots to discuss about those big life changes.  So marital communication took priority over Italian practice.  But there's really no good excuse for why we never picked it back up.  Maybe I was just lazy.  Maybe I'm frustrated that my husband speaks so much better than I do -- and it's hard for me to be taught by him.  The good aspects of this resolution though were that all year we continued to attend an Italian conversation class (the class where we actually met), so at least I spent 1.5 hours speaking or listening to Italian most weeks.  And when hubby is watching the news at home, he frequently watches RAI, so maybe it's seeping into my consciousness a bit?  When we were in Italy, I'd say our communication level was average.  It's always tough though, no matter how much we study, because most of his family speaks dialect, which is frustrating. 

2. Follow at least one ambitious marathon training program to the best of my ability (with this eventually leading to a marathon PR in 2011, either in the spring or the fall or both).

Result:  Success!  I trained very hard last spring and ended up with a PR in Boston by a few minutes -- fast enough to requalify to run Boston next year, which was nice, though I don't plan on running it again anytime soon.  I did not train as hard for my fall marathon (San Antonio) and in some ways, it showed in my results.  But I'm torn, because I think the horrible weather would have doomed me even if I'd had the best training of my life, so maybe it's best that I didn't waste the effort?  Hard to say. 

3. Log at least 1400 miles of running.

Result:  Success!  And I'm actually over 1700 miles!  That's a big increase for me.  2009 = 1284 miles.  2010 = 1400 miles (just over).  2011 = 1700 miles and change.  Wow. 

4. Attain a new 5k PR.

Result:  Failure.  Getting the soleus injury in August kind of derailed my plans, but it's hard to lay the blame there completely.  It's very hard to train for distance and speed at the same time, and my 5k PR is already near the top of my ability I think, so this was an ambitious goal, though technically, I only want to break it by 2 seconds.  This resolution may reappear on my 2012 resolutions list, though possibly in a modified form. 

5. Entertaining at home -- similar resolution to last year's in terms of quantity, goal is to host several people we did not host last year.

Result:  Success!  We had several dinner parties, one brunch party (actually, that was just my party, hubby was working), and then several nights where we cooked for just another couple.  I think I broke bread with at least 24 different people in our home in 2011 (not counting book club) for formal meals.  That's awesome and I love it.  I may make this a resolution for the third year in a row now. 

6. Flossing five days per week.

Result:  Failure.  Just didn't happen.  I think I flossed more than usual, but I wasn't close to five days per week.  My dentist will no doubt be very disappointed in me.

7. Operation: Fit-Closet (moving toward having everything in my closet fit me and be things I wear).

Result:  Partial success.  I got about 10 skirts altered, and I picked out 10 pairs of pants and 1 dress that I'd like to have done, but instead of doing them, I gained some weight in Italy and haven't lost it yet.  And I don't want to have them altered until I do.  But my closet organization is pretty good, I did well at varying my outfits at work, and I wear most of what is in my closet.  But I need to purge as I have so much more than I need. 

8. Book Research.

Result:  Failure.  I guess I made some progress in 2011, but there the research process can be never-ending, and I've devoted less time to research given work, yoga, and all the other things that I spent time doing this year.  The big step in 2011 was probably when I changed jobs I got the research a bit more organized, rearranging emails and setting up folders, etc. 

So there you have it, my 8 published resolutions reviewed.  A mixed bag.  But I had some unpublished ones that even out the score a little -- particularly the job change and some financial ones.  So I'd say it was a 50/50 year.  No complaints here!  I think I'm ending the year marginally healthier and happier than I started it, so that's a good year in my book. 

It will probably take a few more days to come up with my 2012 list, but I'm giving it some thought.  I love resolutions, so I don't want to take them lightly.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Problem with Evening Workouts

I mentioned that I started up another month of yoga on Wednesday night.  And when I thought about it, I was thinking that I might be able to go for 3 weeks every single day.  That's a huge commitment, but when I did my last month of yoga, I had a commitment on Thursday nights (and something else Thursday mornings (running) and during the day (work)) so I had to miss one day per week.  But my Thursday night commitment won't begin this year until Jan. 19.

I was psyched to go to class last night at 6:30. 

I'd been having computer problems at work.  The IT had told me last week that he needed an hour or so to fix it, so I said, sure, Tues or Wed of this past week.  He never came to my office on Tuesday.  So I emailed Wed. and he basically said "tomorrow." 

Then yesterday he said it was going to take too long and it would be next week.  Well, I've been very frustrated not to have this particular program working on my computer, so I asked if I could start the process myself and then he could fix it in less time.

He basically said I had to remove all these programs and then reinstall them.  So at 3:30 or so yesterday, I started doing that.  I had to reboot after each program was removed.  It took a while.  At 4:20, all the programs were off and he'd said to reinstall.

He didn't say from where, and of course he'd left for the day. 


Eventually, using someone else's computer, I was told to download from  Well, after downloading 2 of the 4 replacements, I ran into problems that stopped the process in its tracks (something about needing to turn on or off windows features, but of course it didn't tell me whether they should be ON or OFF, which would be useful). 

As the hours crept by, I changed into yoga clothes in my office, knowing I needed to be out the door by about 6:10 to make it to the 6:30 class. 

At 6:00, I realized the computer wasn't going to be fixed (the IT guy kept emailing to my co-worker's email, but wouldn't pick up the phone to call me, so she had to keep bringing me his non-sensical messages).  I started to shut down my computer to go to yoga.

Installing update 1 of 6.  Do not power off or unplug computer.

And of course, I needed to do exactly that since it was Thursday and I work from home on Fridays. 

And then the IT guy called when it was on update 4 of 6.  And it at that point was already after 6:15. 

Finally the updates ended, the IT guy said he'd try to talk me through it this morning, and I shoved my computer into my bag and bolted for yoga.

Fortunately not much traffic on the highway since so many people are off this week.  I exited at 6:28, and figured I had about 4 more minutes to get there.

But there was an accident of course and the road was down from 3 lanes to 1.  I parked and ran in at 6:38 and it was too late to join the class. 

Argh!  I wanted to yell, scream and cry in frustration -- can you tell I really needed that yoga class??!!  I was so pissed.  I'd wasted hours at work doing the IT guy's job for him, and then after all that, I'd missed the thing I wanted to do most that day.

Sure, I'd done my morning run and gotten in a workout, but since I have morning workout plans, and I can't leave work for 2 hours during the day, the only option for yoga is at night.

And as with any evening workout plan, it's far more easily derailed than a morning workout.

For probably 2 marathon training seasons, I ran at night.  One season was almost all my weekday runs on a treadmill (which left me ill-prepared for the marathon), and the other season I at least ran outside, but it was in the evening.  And I usually was able to make most of the runs, but there were some where other things got in the way -- getting caught at work, getting caught in traffic, having another commitment that seemed more important, etc.

In the morning, I just don't have that many excuses.  No one else seems to want my time at 5 a.m.  And if the weather is completely atrocious, there is always the option of trying to wait until the evening (though that's rare, I use a weather-related excuse to delay or cancel a workout maybe once a year on average).

When I count on doing some class in the evening, if I miss it for whatever reason, the chance to do it that day is completely gone.  At least with running, if I'm a few minutes late, I can just run solo or something, but with a class, if I'm late, that's it.  No more chances until tomorrow. 

So my lovely yoga streak ends with a single day. 

I will go today.  I actually only have to work a half day, and I started very early (wanted to catch the IT guy before he got distracted), so I'm already almost done.  My plan is to eat a nice big early lunch, then go see War Horse with hubby and our neighbors in the afternoon, and then I'll let my neighbors bring hubby home and I'll go straight to yoga after the movie (I'll just wear my yoga clothes underneath or have them with me). 

I'll survive.  Missing one day of course is no big deal.  It just pissed me off.  Especially since I risked life and limb trying to get there on time, and I felt like it was things out of my control that prevented me from making it.

If only I could do it all before work -- go to boot camp, go for a run, go for 90 minutes of yoga -- but that would hardly leave me in any condition to work all day, plus trying to do too much so close together would likely mean poor performance across the board. 

Just venting today! 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Feeling Like I'm 90

My body is hurting right now, but I'm trying to tell myself it's in a good way.

Last week Sunday, I did my longest weighted run so far -- 3.1 miles, and then I followed it up with a couple more miles of walk/run.  My total distance was 5.7 miles.  Quite exciting.

Last week Monday, per usual, went to boot camp.  It included about 1.5 miles of (unweighted) running.  Average workout.  Felt fine afterward.

Last week Tuesday, a run day as usual.  I slept in a little because I was w/o running buddies that day.  I went 3.5 miles total (weighted), and I tried doing run/walk intervals of 4 minutes running, 1 minute walking.  I think there was one mile that was downhill so I skipped the walk interval and just ran the 9 minutes straight, but then took the next walk break. 

Then last week Tuesday, we flew home in the early evening.

And there was pretty much no exercise the entire time I was home.  I went for a walk one day with some of my family and the dog, but I think it was less than 2 miles and it wasn't a strenuous pace or anything (I walk here in Dallas with my next door neighbor all the time and she walks fast, so it's strenuous walking). 

Flew home on Monday and on the plane, knowing I'd land around 4:30, I fully intended to see if my husband would join me for a long walk -- like 5 miles or something.  But then I landed in Dallas and it was raining and I'd checked luggage and of course it took about 45 minutes to show up, then by the time we got home, it was wet and late enough that I had no interest in walking.

But Tuesday morning I tried to jump back into my routine.  2.5 weighted miles, running the whole time.  I was winded.  Felt out of shape.

Yesterday I went to boot camp in the morning and it was tough. 

It was an indoor camp.  We basically warmed up, then started a pyramid -- there were 6 exercises, 60 reps each, to do in 6 minutes (of course no one finished), then running 6 laps (not full size track laps, just mini-laps) in 3 minutes. 

The 6 exercises were weighted shoulder press, weighted jump squats (or weighted calf raises for me, I don't like jumping with weights), weighted tricep extensions, weighed split squats, weighted push-up rows, and the "super cherry pickers" (like a burpee but with no push up and with a knee tuck on the jump).

After the first set of 60 reps of each in 6 mins, followed by 6 laps, we dropped the first exercise completely (so started with jump squats), dropped the reps down to 50 and the time to 5 mins, then 5 laps in 2:30.  Then we dropped the prior first exercise (so started with triceps), dropped the reps to 40, time to 4 mins, laps to 4 in 2:00.  You get the idea. 

It was tough but not killer.  Felt good.

Then last night I jumped back into another month of yoga.  First class back in nearly a month!  The heat felt somewhat overwhelming -- I thought I might pass out on about three separate occasions.  But I felt like I managed pretty well.

This morning I did another weighted run, this time with hubby.  We ran and walked about half a mile, then ran 4 miles, then ran and walked another half mile or so. 

And now I feel like I can barely move.  Boot camp and yoga have completely caught up with me and I have the delayed onset muscle soreness that I love and hate at the same time.

Typing and working is nice since I barely have to move at all.

It's crazy how out of shape my body seems to get after just 6 days with no activity.  I can't imagine that's normal? 

Either way, it's going to be a long road back to my routine where working out 6 or so days a week usually feels fine and I'm rarely excessively sore. 

Hopefully the month of yoga will help again too! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The White/Blue Christmas

This year's trip home for the holidays was more of a mix of positive and negative than it has ever been. 

We flew up north on Tuesday night, so I was back in the W-I for nearly a week.  Lots of time with family, but also some changes -- and I'm notoriously bad with change.  Once, for no apparent reason, my family decided to shift where we all sat at the kitchen table for our meals.  I think I was in about 7th or 8th grade.  I started sitting down at the table more than half an hour before dinner and refusing to get up just so I could ensure I got "my" original seat.  I hated my "new" seat and was very angry I'd had to endure a meal sitting there.  And interestingly, I still revert to the same seat position at our family table (though it's a new house (formerly our lake house used only for vacations) and a new table -- if you look at the positioning of the table in relation to the windows, I still take my 7th grade seat. 

So the plan was to spend Tuesday night and Wednesday in Milwaukee -- hoping to visit my baby brother and his wife, definitely visiting my next youngest brother and his wife and their kids, finishing shopping, wrapping all the gifts we bought, brought or shipped, visiting my grandfather, going out for ice cream.

Thursday the plan was to leave Milwaukee shortly after lunch (sometime between 12 and 2), drive north about 4-5 hours to my folks' place (formerly the lake house), enjoy dinner cooked by my mom.

Friday we'd hang out up there, doing things like going for walks, finishing any remaining wrapping, visiting at home, playing board games, baking cookies, etc.

Saturday my husband was to fly back to Dallas, and I was to spend the day hanging out at home with my family, having dinner at home, then going to church with family Christmas Eve at 9. 

Sunday's routine is gifts at home in the morning, followed by an awesome brunch, then I leave sometime between 12 and 2 and drive to Milwaukee for another family Christmas celebration, the highlight of which is Santa's visit to the house (especially for my nieces and nephew because they're the best kids in the world so Santa comes by after his rounds when he's on his way back to the North Pole). 

Then Monday was to be a day of packing up, relaxing, more time with nieces and nephew, and then flying back to Dallas. 

Anyway, it seemed the trip this year was a big mix of positive White Christmas things and bummer Blue Christmas things.  For example:

White Christmas:  Home from Tuesday through Monday.

Blue Christmas:  I had to work remotely Wed all day, Thurs all day, and half-day on Friday.

White Christmas:  At least I have a job where I can work remotely!

Blue Christmas:  When contemplating things I wanted to do, I neglected to factor in the fact that I was working -- and I really was working.  That meant that my husband and I never went to visit my grandpa together, my husband had to wrap some family gifts, some shopping was cut short, I didn't get to work out, and I only got to go to my favorite ice cream place once (I usually go at least twice).

White Christmas:  Husband helped by wrapping all my nieces' and nephew's and brother and sister-in-law's gifts so we could take them to their house Wednesday night.

Blue Christmas:  My baby brother and his new wife didn't come home for Christmas and I didn't get to see them at all -- they went to see her family instead, and it made me incredibly sad.  I will be so very unhappy if they see her family again next year for Christmas. 

White Christmas:  The temps were milder than usual (highs into the 20s or 30s).

Blue Christmas:  It was still cold!  I'm a warm weather person. 

White Christmas:  We had a white Christmas.  Not tons of snow on the ground, but it was thoroughly covered. 
Blue Christmas:  Of course I had a car accident in the freshest snow. 

White Christmas:  Wednesday night we went to my favorite frozen custard place BEFORE we ate dinner.  That's my kind of meal!  We actually ended up getting Chipotle for dinner and taking it home because we'd been in a hurry to get to my brother's house before the kids went to bed (again, I was working all day, so we were rushed) and then we went for ice cream before they closed, and Chipotle right as they were closing.

Blue Christmas:  It was too late and we were too full after dinner on Tuesday to hit up my favorite frozen custard place. 

White Christmas:  Husband agreed to drive us up north on Thursday so I could work in the car.

Blue Christmas:  Husband listened to me when I said we should wait until we were out of the city to get gas, and then we didn't see a gas station and we ran out of gas on the side of the road.  Husband was pissed at himself for listening to me.  We called 911 (there was no exit in sight), were transferred to a wrecker service that came out with 5 gallons of gas 20 minutes and $100 later. 

White Christmas:  We had cell phones to call for help!  12 years ago, we would have been trying to flag down traffic on the very busy high speed road, or we would have been walking to an exit miles away.  And I didn't have tennis shoes with me (I keep spare pairs at all the houses I regularly visit, but that meant none in my luggage).  And better yet, our phones have maps so we were able to say exactly where we were for help to come.

Double White Christmas:  I can afford $100 emergency gas.  12 or more years ago, as a student, that would have struck me as a huge expense. 

Blue Christmas:  Risk my folks would eat without us because of the delay in getting fuel.

White Christmas:  My mom held dinner just for us, though it was very inconvenient for them because they had to get up very early for work on Friday.

Blue Christmas:  I drank a lot at dinner and had a bit of a headache on Friday. 

Double Blue Christmas:  Because we arrived so late, we had to unload the car in the dark and someone (not me!), turned on the dome light in the truck and left it on.  So dead battery on Friday morning!

White Christmas:  We had no where to go on Friday by car, we had jumper cables, and my folks saw the light on so we knew to charge it up.

Double White Christmas:  I got a lot of work done during my half-day on Friday.

Blue Christmas:  Again, too many other things planned for the day since I forgot how long work would take.

White Christmas:  I got all my wrapping done on Friday after work.

Blue Christmas:  I also had to wrap all the gifts TO my mom from my step-dad, so it took longer than expected and I didn't get to go outside for a walk with hubby while it was light out.

White Christmas:  Hubby got to walk a bit and I joined him at dusk, and though we couldn't really take any pictures, it was fun and cold time together. 

Blue Christmas:  Hubby had to work on Christmas, and he had to fly back to Dallas early on Christmas Eve because of a general lack of flights.  He left the house at 4 a.m. on Christmas Eve.

White Christmas:  My step-dad drove hubby the 2 hours to the airport and came back alone so that I could sleep in and enjoy the day with family. 

Blue Christmas:  Hubby missed out on all our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day traditions.  I know, I know, I know that someone has to work on Christmas.  People still have accidents, people still have heart attacks and croak, people still fight and try to kill each other or themselves, and someone has to be there to help them.  But why can't it be someone other than my husband when we have to travel so far for Christmas with my family?

White Christmas:  He hasn't had to work a Christmas since 2005, so we've been in Wisconsin for all the others, and next year he will hopefully get it off. 

Blue Christmas:  I cried at Christmas Eve church because I missed him so much.  I was wondering if maybe I should have gone home with him instead (though that would have meant I spent Christmas completely alone, while he worked all day).

White Christmas:  I was with my family for Christmas.  We played games, walked in the snow, cooked, ate, drank, exchanged gifts, and made merry. 

Blue Christmas:  Baby brother not home for any of this.

White Christmas:  I got lots of cool stuff.  Among other things, a new shirt for work, my favorite kind of shampoo (Philosophy), a new Vera Bradley wristlet, a road ID for my shoe while running, a subscription to Vegetarian Times, some travel things (reusable bottles, a packable backpack), a special necklace to commemorate my Boston marathon this past year, a jigsaw puzzle, cookies and baked goods from my mom, a gift card for clothes, Netflix, a new immersion blender (mine melted or somehow broke this year), a few ornaments, an awesome vegetarian slow cooker cookbook, a scarf, a lightweight running jacket, home use yoga cards, and a juice pack for my phone.

Blue Christmas:  Hard to see a downside to the gifts...  I guess because of the blender and shampoo, I had to pay to check a bag to fly home.  But no real blue Christmas aspect.

White Christmas:  Everyone seemed to like what we got them.

Blue Christmas:  Hubby didn't get to see all their reactions.

White Christmas:  I was able to film little clips and send them to him while he was working. 

Blue Christmas:  Since there's not service where my folks live, I'm worried we may have an out of control cell phone bill on its way!

White Christmas:  We had my favorite Christmas Day brunch -- creamed chipped beef on toast (well, creamed chipped vegetarian sausage for me), eggnog, fruit salad, bran muffins, and stollen, my mom's German Christmas bread.

Blue Christmas:  My stomach didn't hold as much food as I hoped.  I wished I could have just kept eating all of that!

White Christmas:  I got my stuff packed up, said goodbye, and set out for the drive to Milwaukee even a little early -- I try to leave between 12 and 2, and I left at about 1:50. 

Blue Christmas:  The car accident. 

White Christmas:  There were no other cars involved and no police involved.  Just me, some damaged trees, and the damaged vehicle. 

Blue Christmas:  The damage was severe enough the car couldn't be driven to Milwaukee that night.  A local mechanic checked it out yesterday and confirmed that the a/c unit punctured the radiator and there is a hole in the radiator and it is cracked. 

White Christmas:  I was close to home when it happened so family could come rescue me quickly and no Christmas day towing service had to be called.

Blue Christmas:  Digging and pulling me out of a snow bank was not how anyone in my family wanted to spend Christmas afternoon.

White Christmas:  I didn't get hurt.

Blue Christmas:  The car did, and it has no comprehensive insurance, and it was my fault for driving too fast on unsafe roads in a vehicle I don't know well.

White Christmas:  I was able to hitch a ride about 5 hours later than planned to Milwaukee with my middle little brother and his wife.

Blue Christmas:  I missed Christmas night traditions with my next youngest brother and his family and all of my Milwaukee family. 

White Christmas:  Since the accident was near home, rather than being stuck on some random roadside, I was able to wait at home until my brother was ready to drive after Christmas dinner.

Blue Christmas:  Since my mom hadn't expected me to be home, it was not a vegetarian-friendly meal.  Goose and sauerkraut soup with meat. 

White Christmas:  The potato dumplings, sweet-and-sour cabbage and black forest cake (German Christmas theme this year!) were all vegetarian and delicious.

Blue Christmas:  Didn't get to Milwaukee until long after Santa was gone, arrived just before midnight.

White Christmas:  My dad waited up for me and my stepmom got up and we exchanged gifts at midnight.

Blue Christmas:  Among my gifts was not a new radiator!  Haha.

White Christmas:  I got to go to my grandpa's house on Monday morning to give him his presents and spend some time with him.

Blue Christmas:  Hubby didn't get to see Grandpa at all this year, and while he's still sharp as a tack and doing well physically, he's getting older and is having some random problems (currently it's knee issues).

White Christmas:  I got to go see my nieces and nephew for a while on Monday before flying back to Dallas.

Blue Christmas:  The extra time with the kids meant I didn't get to make my planned last stop for a second (or ideally, it would have been my third) frozen custard. 

White Christmas:  Hubby left work on Monday a couple hours early to pick me up at the airport, and I'm now safely home and driving in dry snow-less conditions in my little Beemer with no front end damage!

Blue Christmas:  I have to figure out what to do with the truck in Wisconsin, how best to get it into drivable condition and back to Milwaukee and then permanently repaired. 

White Christmas:  The car can likely be repaired and I can likely afford it.

Wanted to end on a positive note there!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Radiator for Christmas?

So my Christmas Day car accident didn't seem too awful to me at first.

I was driving alone and going too fast for the conditions obviously.  I was driving pretty slowly I thought, but there was fresh snow and I went through an S curve and after the first turn, I had no control.  I tried steering but nothing was happening.  I tried tapping the brake, but nothing. 

Next thing I knew, I was headed straight for some trees.  I hit the trees on the left side of the road pretty much head-on and then the back end of the car spun around behind me and into the ditch. 

The car was still running but I turned it off and called for help.  My family came to attempt to get the car out, but I knew it wasn't looking good.

I had gotten out and walked around a little -- and I could see some green fluid on the snow.  NOT GOOD. 

My brother tried to rock the car out, going back and forth, but nothing happened, even in four-wheel drive.  So my bro stayed with me and the others went back home to get shovels. 

The nice thing is that even though the area is very rural, and it was Christmas Day, four cars came by and all asked if they could help.  My brother and I were joking that we should have asked the guy in the Prius to tow us out.  Haha.  But surprisingly, one car went by without stopping or saying anything. 

So the next step was to try to shovel it out.  We shoveled a path backward and forward, and put down carpet and mats by the back tires, which were spinning.  It turns out that the back passenger side tire was really in a hole and there was nothing it could catch on.

We tied it up to a family Dodge Ram and tried to tow it out backward ("we" is used loosely, my bro's wife and I just stood on the side of the road and watched). 

First attempt, the tow rope came untied from my truck. 

Second attempt, the tires on the Ram started spinning (it was snowy and icy), and then the tires caught and the tow rope snapped in the middle. 

At this point it wasn't looking good. 

Fortunately, there is a tub in the back of the truck with a hitch and a bunch of ropes, but they're all old.  So for the third attempt we tried a thick braided boat rope.

I had very little hope -- those ropes really don't age well.

But it worked!  The truck came out of the snow bank and we picked up all the pieces of my bumper that we could find in the snow.  But as I walked looking for pieces, there was still a decent amount of green snow.  Coolant or antifreeze leaking or spilling.  One is expensive, one is not a problem at all.  We just had to figure out which it was -- a leak or a spill. 

My brother drove the truck home, so it was drivable, and we decided to park it and leave it sit for a while to see how much green fluid ended up on the snow when it was parked.

More leaking.  If it was just overflow from being tipped so far onto its side when I wrecked, that overflow should have been gone.  So enough fluid to suggest it's a real problem. 

I won't know until later today probably, but I think I likely cracked the radiator.

If the hood hadn't buckled so much, maybe I could have driven it back to Milwaukee and just topped it off with antifreeze or coolant frequently along the drive.  But I was worried that if we pried the hood open, we wouldn't be able to securely close it.  And then it could have gone flying up somewhere along the 5 hour drive and no doubt resulted in a serious injury accident.  And there was also the risk that the leak would be too much and I wouldn't have enough fluid and I'd end up stranded somewhere along the 5 hour drive with no one around to help -- and needing an expensive Christmas night professional tow. 

While (or because) the truck is old (94), and for about the last 10 years, I put maybe 700 miles per YEAR on it (pretty much only drive it in Wisconsin, about 3 weeks per year at the absolute most), of course there was no comprehensive insurance on it -- just collision. 

So it looks like I'll be buying a new radiator!  UGH!  My folks will drive it somewhere up there to have it checked out, then hopefully I'll be able to talk some family member into driving it down to Milwaukee (where it's kept while I'm in Texas) and get the remainder of the body damage fixed there by my family.

A million "it could have been worse" scenarios, but of course it could have been better!  Ugh.  Really, really sucks.  My husband always says there's really no such thing as an accident, just bad driving.  And in this case, it was clearly my fault.  Should have been going slower.  I could just kick myself.  Argh!

Monday, December 26, 2011

What Color Christmas?

Not sure if this Christmas is best described as white or blue? A photo of each. Yikes on the blue Christmas. It could have been much worse of course, I walked away.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Some lyrics for a change.  Well, modified lyrics.

I'm sittin' in the airway station, got a ticket for my destination

On a tour of work demands, my suitcase and iphone in hand

And every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band
Homeward bound, I officially am homeward bound

Home, where my thoughts escapin', home, where my music's playin'

Home, where my mama's waitin' patiently for me

Every day's an endless stream of case files and magazines

And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories

And every stranger's face I see reminds me that I long to be

Homeward bound, I officially am homeward bound

Home, where my thoughts escapin', home, where my music's playin'

Home, where my mama is waitin' patiently for me

Tonight I'll sing my songs again, I'll play the game and not pretend

And all my words come back to me, read back by brothers in mimicry
Like happiness and harmony, I've now got someone to comfort me

Homeward bound, I officially am homeward bound

Home, where my thoughts escapin', home, where my music's playin'
Home, where my mama is waitin' patiently for me

Homeward bound, I officially am homeward bound

Home, where my thoughts escapin', home, where my music's playin'

Home, where my mama is waitin' patiently for me

Woo-hoo!  It was either that or that "Mama I'm Coming Home" by Ozzy Osbourne.  Figured Paul Simon was a bit more my style.  I'm officially homeward bound.  Hubby is bundled up.  I'm bursting at the seams with excitement! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

FMM: Have You Ever?

I'm so far behind on writing on the blog now -- I loved doing the WEVerb series, but I'm hopelessly behind!  Just feels so busy.  I spent the weekend baking, wrapping and packing.  And I still need to do some shopping after we fly home tomorrow night!  Yikes. 

People seem to get so irritated about how early stores start promoting the holidays, but in some ways, I kind of like it.  It gets me in gear.  Otherwise the weekend before Christmas sneaks up and it's like this one was!  I much prefer years that all my shopping is done way in advance. 

Anway, since it's Monday...

If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section at: so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links, too, so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic.

FMM: Have You Ever?

1. …traveled outside of your home country? If so, where?  Hmm, it's hard for me to remember the last year I didn't leave the US for a vacation.  I looooove to travel and I infinitely prefer travelling outside the US.  I've been to most of Europe from Sweden, Finland, Poland and Russia, down to Spain, Greece, Malta, Bosnia and Turkey (the big holes in Europe for me are Portugal, Ireland, Norway, and some of "Eastern" Europe).  Italy is by far our most frequent destination.  In terms of the Americas (did you know Italians learn that North and South America are a single continent?  Italians only believe there are 5 continents!), I've been to Canada, Mexico, some of the islands, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Brazil -- so lots more to see down south!  In terms of Africa, only Kenya and Tanzania so far -- lots more to see there.  In Asia, lots of the basics -- Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore (but of course the glaring hole is Mainland China (which we should be visiting in less than a year!, and India, which we should visit within the next few years).  And then I've missed Australia completely.  Someday...

2. …performed on stage in front of at least 1,000 people? If so, share some details! Nope.  Spelling bees in junior high weren't really performances and in any event, less than 1,000 people.  Graduation and bar swearing-ins don't count as performances either.  I was interviewed (using the term loosely) on MSNBC once, but that's not a stage performance. 

3. …watched an episode of Jersey Shore?  No.  Don't watch tons of TV. 

4. …baked a cake from scratch? If so, what’s your specialty? Yes.  Cheesecake is probably my best. 

5. …worked in a grocery store? No. 

6. …dated someone who was your best friend first? Not my best friend, but hubby was a very good (but strictly platonic) friend for about a year before we started dating. 

7. …made a difference in someone’s life during Christmas?  Not enough!  There's an angel tree thing here that I usually do, but the last few years I haven't worked at an office where they do it and I prefer to avoid the mall, so I haven't done it.  I should do that again though! 

8. …been on TV?  See above regarding my MSNBC appearance.  Sometime in fall 98 or spring 99.  Oh, and I've picked myself out in marathon coverage of both the San Antonio marahon in 2009 and the local marathon.  But just out of a crowd.  Not sure I even really waved at the cameras...

9. …had cosmetic surgery?  No, though I'm not opposed to it. 

10. …learned a second language? If so, what else do you speak?  I speak Italian fluently, and I minored in French in college so I'd say I understand it fairly well but struggle to speak it now.  I know little phrases in lots of languages from living in Dallas (where Spanish is useful) or from our travels (my favorite was "I'd like to speak with" in Russian, which is one of the most awesome sounding expressions ever), and I'm hoping to get to a very, very basic level of making myself understood in Chinese in the next 10 months! 

Now it’s your turn. Feel free to post your own answers and then go to her blog and link up in the comments. Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ethical Issue on a Gift

Direct plea to you for advice on the best way to make a request of someone giving me a gift.

I've mentioned that I love my new job. One of the cool things is that they have a quarterly birthday cake. I love cake. I showed up to my first one, and couldn't eat cake because the cake had nuts (and I have a nut allergy). The woman who ordered the cake said she'd get one with no nuts the next time.

I went to the second cake party this summer. Nuts again! She'd forgotten. Totally no big deal. I do not expect anyone to keep track of my allergies (or even my dietary preferences) except me, and to a lesser extent my husband, my brothers, my mother (actually, my parents in general, but especially my mom). And as my parents get older, even my mom could conceivably get a pass if she forgot now.

Really, my fatal allergy, my problem.

And yes, nuts induce a full-on anaphylactic reaction. First my breathing gets tough, then my tongue swells, and then, hopefully not until I'm already at the hospital, my throat usually swells shut. On one occasion, I wasn't at the hospital yet when my throat closed, though my last memory was hearing the sirens and thinking the ambulance would be there soon.

Well, one of my coworkers with whom I had an instant connection is this guy, let's call him Jim. He loves reading the same kind of books I do -- we had a huge discussion within a few days of meeting about economic policy when it somehow came out in conversation that I was reading Lords of Finance, which I actually I reviewed on this blog. He loves WWII, history, conspiracies, running, etc. Lots of the same things I do. Awesome and instant connection. Jim is my kind of guy.

Ntatually then, with his interest in running (he did several marathons when he was younger), when I decided it would be fun to get a company team together for the local marathon's relay that was held a few weeks ago, I knew I wanted him to be on the team.

Jim and I probably chat about once a week or so, sometimes long, rambling conversations. We don't actually work in the same area, so we have no need to talk, just a desire. He's so interesting and fun to talk to. He actually happened to meet my husband about a month ago when Jim stopped by my office late in the day one day to say hi and my husband was here hanging out after he'd finished work so we could head home together. Jim and my husband completely hit it off. My husband was actually kind of peeved when I pulled him out the door so we could go home because he was having so much fun talking to Jim.

I told Jim we'd have to double date sometime. After the marathon relay, I had my work running team (plus spouses, and a bunch of my running friends) over to my house for a post-race brunch. Oh yeah, still need to write that race report...

That brunch was the first time I met Jim's wife. She and I ended up sitting next to each other during brunch, andm no surprise here, she is probably equally awesome to him. A great couple. Hence the plan to double date. I love talking to both of them. Hubby loves talking to Jim (and hasn't met his wife but is sure to like her too).

Well, anyway, getting to the point, at the first cake party, Jim realized I wasn't partaking in the cake and asked why. I told him I had a nut allergy. I don't recall there being any further discussion with him on the subject. That was that. And that was that in about March 2011. And then in June 2011, but I don't remember if we even discussed it then (at the second party where I couldn't eat cake).

Oh, as an aside, at the third cake party, maybe in September, there was a nut-free cake that I enjoyed.

A couple months ago, Jim appeared in my office with a small cookie tin with my name on the lid. He said his wife had made carrot cake for the office (sitting in the break room), but it contained nuts, so she'd made a special nut-free one just for me.


After he left my office, I waited as long as possible to eat it -- telling myself I just had to wait until noon, and then it would be okay. My mom never really let me eat dessert in the morning growing up, so I try to stick to that rule as much as possible now.

Finally, when I deemed it to be an acceptable hour, I opened the tin and there was a mini-bundt shaped carrot cake. Topped with cream cheese frosting. Possibly my favorite frosting of all time. Topped with coconut.

Uh-oh. I don't eat coconut. I'm not entirely sure whether I'm allergic to it or not, but I've never eaten it in my life and my reaction to nuts is sufficiently severe that it's not worth trying it. I've thought about going to an allergist to be tested specifically for coconut (I know I have an allergy to peanuts AND all nuts), but it's one of those "someday" things. I don't know if coconut is even a nut really, but since nuts aren't my only allergy, there's still at least some likelihood that I could be allergic to it (I actually have a bunch of allergies, but only a handful are still of the life-threatening variety, the others have diminished to intolerances as I've aged (some mild swelling of my tongue sometimes, but not enough to worry about it)).

Well, the day he brought me that cake, I picked off every morsel of coconut and scraped off the very top layer of frosting to be sure it was safe. And then I ate the entire mini cake. And it was, indeed, one of the best cakes I've eaten in my life. He mentioned that she grates tons of carrots, uses oil instead of butter maybe, some other secrets, whatever. It was divine. I thanked him profusely but I didn't mention the coconut. I actually considered going to HR to see if I could get Jim's home address so that I could send her a thank-you note (this was before I'd even met her).

Today he came to my office bearing another personal nut-free carrot cake. With coconut, again. I will again scrape and enjoy.

My question is, is there any tactful way to somehow indicate that any future carrot cakes (no expectation there will be any, just if there should be...) would be preferred coconut-free?

It's clear that it would be no harder for her to make it coconut-free than making me my own nut-free version. In fact, it would be even easier. All she does is sprinkle toasted coconut over the frosting, so it would actually save her a step.

I'm insanely grateful for the thought and time she takes to even make me a special one. And I'm insanely grateful for the delicious cake. And I of course would never expect that she would go to such lengths to be so nice as to make a special one just for me ever again. But if she does, is there any way to tastefully ask that it be without coconut?

Definitely don't want to offend her, to seem ingrateful, or to "look a gift horse in the mouth." So I'm really uncertain as to whether to say anything. And I'm also not sure if it's too late to say anything now that I've gotten TWO (so maybe it would have been okay after the first, but not now?). What do you think?

For your enjoyment, here is a photo of the one I got today, still with a lot of coconut on it. And here is a photo of my office trashcan showing how much I've already scraped off...

And edited to add a picture of the already-mostly-consumed-before-2:00 office cake she made.

And edited to add a pic post-coconut removal.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WEVerb11: Breathe

For the month of December, I’ll be participating in #WEverb11. Each day gives a new prompt, each of which is a chance to reflect and look forward.

#14: Breathe.How did you make space + peace for yourself in 2011?

Contributed by Megan []
The easiest answer of course is yoga.  One odd change I noticed was that I liked quiet time long after yoga.  Usually I listen to audio books in my car.  I don't drive much (my commute to work is exactly 5 miles each way, and my commute to boot camp or my usual running meeting point is less than that), but even for just 10 minutes a day, I'd rather listen to a book than listen to music.  I'm not a musical person in general, but I especially hate the radio.  I don't enjoy talk radio much and the innane commentary on the music stations just makes me angry, and of course I don't like commercials, so I'm not even wild about Pandora.  For some reason, audio books seem to be my favorite listening choice while driving.

But not after yoga.  Instead, I just wanted the silence.  Listening to the woosh of the air (though I don't think I put the top down at all in November), listening to the hum of the engine, the sound of the tires, etc.  And then when I got home to eat dinner alone since hubby couldn't really wait to eat that late, instead of flipping on the tv, which is my usual habit when eating alone, I just wanted to sit quietly.  And when hubby was still awake when I got home and came downstairs to chat, I whispered and wanted him to whisper.  I was definitely attempting to cultivate that inner peace.  It's tough for me.  I feel like I'm not a calm, peaceful person.  Happy, yes, and very at peace with my life, but not calm or peaceful by a long shot.  I feel like I'm always going, thinking, doing.  Even when I'm still, I feel like my mind isn't.

Particularly since I changed jobs this year, which I feel gives me even less quiet time to read blogs, think, be still, I think in general there was less breathing, calmness, stillness, peacefulness in my life this year, apart from the one month of yoga.  But I wouldn't have it any other way, honestly.

WEVerb11: Read

For the month of December, I’ll be participating in #WEverb11. Each day gives a new prompt, each of which is a chance to reflect and look forward. 

#13: Read.  What article or book changed your outlook on an issue or life?
Contributed by Melinda []
I'm not sure this technically fits as changing my outlook on an issue or life, but I'm going to have to choose Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

I've always been interested in WWII and have read tons and tons of non-fiction books on the subject, particularly Pacific Theatre books.  But the different thing about this book was the running aspect.  That was an interesting hook and of course makes you think about the war and the resulting lost opportunities, lives lost and broken, etc. 

I don't want to say too much about it because I hate when people tell me too much about a book I haven't read, but it's the story of a runner who enlists at the start of WWII and ends up as a POW.  Some people avoid reading much nonfiction because they imagine it like a textbook (not to say I don't like textbook type books), but this isn't one.  It's like reading someone's life story, with factual background attached and bits pulled together from related life stories. 

I have been in a book club for nearly a decade.  Mostly female attorneys, with maybe a couple non-lawyers but who are lawyer spouses where we worked with the husband but liked the wife.  Anyway, we each choose the book to read for the month we host, and Unbroken was my pick this year.  They're fairly used to my choosing WWII non-fiction about half the time (books I remember picking are Escape from the Deep (yes, another book about the Tang, but much better than most!, by Kershaw, one of my faves), Ghost Soldiers (one of my fave books of all time), and The Zookeeper's Wife (war in Europe)), but I will say that this one was one of the biggest hits. 

I think reading a lot of history, particularly war books, gives a valuable perspective to thinking about modern values and struggles.  It never fails to shock me how little understanding of history a vast majority of people have.  WWII just happens to be my primary area of interest, though I think I have a long list of secondary areas! 

Unbroken.  My advice:  read it if you haven't.  Highly recommended.  After all, it's my pick of the year, and I read a lot! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unpleasant Taste of Parenthood

So I'm dragging today after a quite unpleasant night.  Unpleasant for me, horrifying, nerve-wracking, distressing, terrifying for others.

I ended up working kind of late last night.  I was actually pretty much shutting down programs on my computer around 6:45 when I called my husband to get his status.  He's usually done with work right around 6, and usually home before 6:30 and he usually calls me on his way.  But I hadn't heard from him.  He said he was in the middle of something and was going to stay at work to finish it up, another half-hour to an hour. 

My response was "perfect."  I had plenty more to do, so I decided I'd just keep on working.  Well, then I realized our company is rolling over to a new benefits system, so all that open enrollment stuff has to be done over on the new system.  I usually skip open enrollment since I don't use the health insurance here (I'm on hubby's now, but that may change next year and we may each get our own).  But I had to do a W4, all my personal info, life insurance, supplemental life, accidental death and dismemberment, and long-term and short-term disability elections. 

That meant I had to get my brother's SSN since he's the secondary beneficiary on my stuff, and just a hole bunch of other crap like that.  Navigating a new website, trying to compare what I had on the old plan, etc.

Finally around 7:35 hubby was on his way home, and I shut it down and went home.  It was close to 8 when we got home, so we both made quick separate dinners (I had leftover spanish rice and some frozen taquitos (garbage), he made a mix of tuna, tomatoes and onions).  And then we made dessert (greek yogurt with fruit, honey, granola), and pretty much went straight to bed.

My plan was to be up around 5-something to run 2 miles with my vest on, and then to meet my next-door neighbor to walk a few miles and still be home by 7 to get to work. 

Hubby's plan was to be up at 3:45, go for a solo run, and get to work around 6 to start working (!! yikes!!). 

So going upstairs to get ready for bed at 9 was already later than we'd like (plus time to brush teeth, lay out workout clothes, etc.).  I was out cold before 10, and I think he was too.

Phone call on the land line at 11:45.  That's NEVER good news.

Hubby read the caller ID and I told him who it was (friend using her work cell phone).  He answered and I could kind of hear, but she wasn't making sense really and neither was he.  It was almost like they were both asleep. 

I grabbed the phone and I realized she was crying hysterically.  I couldn't understand what she wanted, except that something was wrong with her son (my godson, who just turned 3 a couple months ago).  Finally I was able to elicit that he wasn't moving and couldn't talk, and she was at the hospital with him, and she wanted me to go to her house to stay with her daughter so that her husband could come to the hospital.

I was dressed and out the door in less than 3 minutes, and probably set a personal land speed record driving to their house, and her hubby barely said a word to me.  He basically said he'd put out blankets, their daughter was sleeping and hopefully would keep sleeping, help myself to the fridge and the remote, and he was out the door.  Clearly panicked. 

I texted for a while with my friend and found out her son had been gotten sick twice the night before and during the second episode, had some kind of seizure. His father was holding him up near the toilet, and suddenly he shook and went limp and became unresponsive and glassy-eyed, so they called 911.  And then my godson had another seizure either with her in the ambulance or at the hospital. 

As the hours ticked by, she let me know the Cat scan appeared normal, so likely no tumor in his brain.  The x-ray of his lungs showed only a mild viral infection.  They were getting ready to do a spinal tap.  They had no explanation.  My thought (though I didn't want to say it out loud to her and make her panic), was meningitis. 

So of course I thought that meant I should probably set my cell phone alarm to go off about every 15 minutes in case I fell asleep so I could get up and check on their daughter to make sure she was sleeping, breathing, and not vomitting.  As a non-parent, I was very certain I didn't want one to go down on my watch!  And I was thinking if it was meningitis, there was a chance she'd have it too. 

She was fine every time I checked on her, and my friend's husband came home around 5 when their son had finally become somewhat coherent. 

Now as the day has gone on, he seems to be okay.  Thery're doing an EEG and then releasing him today, and saying they are treating it like a febrile seizure, but since he didn't have a fever, that's not what it actually was.  She's going to have emergency meds at home in case it happens again.  She said he still has some trouble on the right side of his body, but they said he should be fine within another 24 hours.

What a major stress!  I can only imagine how scared and panicked my friend was.  I'll gladly yawn through the day today and be happy I could help in the smallest way.  But right now, I'm glad I don't have kids and don't have to worry about stuff like that.  I get my solid slight about 360 nights per year (and for the most part, those remaining 5 nights are my own fault).  My life is pretty much just the way I want it, few crises, few illnesses, mostly filled with things I want to do...  Selfish but true.  Different strokes for different folks I suppose. 

Random tired thoughts today...

Monday, December 12, 2011

WEVerb11: Thrive

For the month of December, I’ll be participating in #WEverb11. Each day gives a new prompt, each of which is a chance to reflect and look forward.

#12: Thrive.  What was your healthiest habit of 2011? What would you like to change or do differently in 2012?

Contributed by Tonya []
This one is tough for me mostly because I didn't really start or change any healthy habits in 2011.  I started most of my current "healthy habits" several years ago.  I'd say I got into running and exercise in 2003 or 2004, and then I got into cross training in 2007, and then I cleaned up my eating a lot in 2008.  Some of the people I run with are people I've run with since about 2006.  Lots of my best friends are running buddies.  Heck, one of my bridesmaids was someone I met while running and with whom I would say I still spend the majority of our time together while running. 

So I guess to answer this question, I'm going to have to say my healthiest habit of 2011 was the month of yoga.  I'd never made such a serious yoga committment before.  And while I said yoga probably wasn't a sustainable habit for me (working out for a minimum of 2.5 hours per day seemed to leave little time for anything else, including meaningful conversations with my husband or later nights at work), it was certainly a healthy habit while I did it.  I came home to eat dinner (usually alone) but after 90 minutes at 105 degrees, I wanted something light and healthy for dinner, and I certainly had no interest in alcohol.  I ate lots of quiche and salads in November. 

But my healthiest habit in general is definitely running!  Having my friends to meet ensures that I get up well before the crack of dawn, get out there and get it done, push myself when I sometimes want to quit.  And then doing all that running usually helps me worry less about eating crap and just generally feel more balanced and happier. 

In terms of change in 2012, I guess I want to run less with my running buddies!  Haha.  I know running weighted will slow me down (though I actually had two pretty solid miles yesterday), which will mean I won't be able to keep up with my friends.  But I can make new friends at my new pace, whatever that may be.  And maybe my former running buddies can just be my drinking buddies for 2012 (at least the first half, hopefully I'll be back strong after Bataan).  I'd also like to do another month of yoga.  Not sure what else I'd like to do differently next year.  I guess those two things are good enough! 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

WEVerb11: Try

For the month of December, I’ll be participating in #WEverb11. Each day gives a new prompt, each of which is a chance to reflect and look forward.

#11:  What 12 new things do you want to do/accomplish in 2012?

I am not ready to make my resolutions yet, so I'm not sure how to answer this one without doing that.  In terms of things that will be resolutions, two of them jump to mind as fitting for this:
1.  I want to run and/or walk the Bataan Memorial Death March marathon in March while carrying 35 pounds.  So far, I have run 1 mile and walked 2 in one day wearing the vest (the attempt before that was .75 miles running and 1.5 walking).  That means I have a lot of work to do in the next few months to be ready for an entire marathon in a few months.  I am aiming to get to 3 miles running straight, and then it's going to be a lot of walking.  I'd like to be up to at least 2.5 miles before I leave to go home for Christmas...
2.  I want to run the Beijing Marathon.  Easier said than done.  First, the marathon I believe will be in mid- to late-October, but of course there is no date posted yet; apprarently people in China aren't quite so concerned with planning their lives and travels 10 months in advance.  Second, since there's no date, I can't ask my brother to plan his fall wedding around it, so I have to cross my fingers that those two days don't conflict.  Third, I have to overcome all the hurdles similar to the first -- I have to get through the registration process, have a plane ticket and be on a flight that gets me to Beijing on time, figure out how to expo and get myself to a start and a finish line in not only a foreign country, but a foreign country where I haven't the slightest ability to read or understand the most basic things, and I have to make it though smog that scares my lungs. 
But after those couple things, I'm at a loss.  I know there will be at least one other running resolution.  The rest probably won't be related, but like I said, I'm just not at the point where I want to make my resolutions yet.  It's something I always start thinking about this time of year, but I'm not usually ready to write them down until after Christmas, and sometimes even a week or two after New Year's.  Oops!  But definitely not ready on Dec. 11.  So this Weverb post is a flop for me...  Sorry! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

WEVerb11: Create

For the month of December, I’ll be participating in #WEverb11. Each day gives a new prompt, each of which is a chance to reflect and look forward.
#10: Share a creative project you undertook this year (art, writing, DIY, cooking, home decoration, crafts, photography … whatever comes to mind). How do you use your creativity to express yourself? 

Contributed by Tara http://twowishes.comandeileenhttp//
Um...  I'm not exactly a creative person.  I guess the most creative project I undertook this year was adding some text and photos and mementos to our wedding scrapbook.  The friend who came to Italy and did our ceremony translation into Italian for us (we brought my parents' priest to do the service and he only speaks English, though he did do the nuptial blessing in both languages) gave us a wedding scrapbook as a gift.  And I've been very slowly working on it.  I've got the big box with a bunch of stuff sitting under one of our dining room chairs so I can pull it out whenever I want, but since I worked on it for a few weekends many months ago, I pretty much haven't gotten back to it.  Since this spring will be our third anniversary, I really need to get to it!

I guess the blog is kind of creative, but since I write about my life, it's not exactly creative like writing fiction or something.  And I definitely take tons of photos, but they aren't really artistic or creative, it's just a way for me to hope I'll always be able to remember some of the places I've been and events in my life.  So yeah, I don't think this is a good prompt for me.  I don't think lawyers in general are particularly creative types, and I'm probably less creative than the average lawyer.  Oh well! 

Friday, December 9, 2011

WEverb11: Appreciate

For the month of December, I’ll be participating in #WEverb11. Each day gives a new prompt, each of which is a chance to reflect and look forward.

#9: In which moment did you find yourself flooded with gratitude? How will you rally around gratitude in 2012?

Contributed by Megan

I don't know what to say about this one.  There's no particular moment that stands out to me -- I wonder if there really is for most people (unless it's one of those landmark moments like the minute your spouse wakes up from a coma or you get a remission announcement from your doctor or something). 

There were of course millions of moments I felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

Every time I really listen to a single friend complain about a date flop or an inability to find someone she (or he) wants to date, or to a friend who is in the process of divorce, I'm grateful for feeling secure with my husband. 

Every time I work on a miserable case at work, I think how lucky I am to have never been the victim of a sexual assault, or any other abuse really (though wow, I really got spanked hard once for fighting with my brother!). 

Every time I think or talk about our vacation plans and trips for the next year, or for past years, I think about how grateful I am to have gotten to have the experiences I did, to have the nature or nurture to be interested in seeing new places, to have the great travel buddy I found in my husband, and to have the discipline to make the choices in how we allocate time and money resources in our lives to make our travels possible. 

Every time I watch news coverage of a major natural disaster or people in extreme poverty, I'm grateful for being born in America at the time I was and to the family I was.  I can't say I never wanted for anything as a child, but I never wanted for anything I needed (Cabbage Patch kids didn't count as something I needed, and I did get one, just a year later than everyone else). 

Every time I finish I race, I'm grateful I can run.  That's a lie.  Every time I PR in a race is true, but not every race.  After a crash and burn race, I'm usually too busy beating myself up to be grateful I got to do it. 

Every time I actually look at the amount of (diminishing!) debt I have, I'm grateful for a steady income that lets me do things like make mortgage payments. 

Every time I'm around my family, I think how lucky I am that we all get along so well and that everyone is healthy and happy. My brothers have married some amazingly wonderful, fun, sweet and smart women who really make them happy and who I enjoy being around too.

I guess if I have to pick one moment, it was October 15, very close to midnight.  I was scurrying around trying to get all my brothers, their wives (and one fiancee), their kids, and my folks together to take one big family picture.  We'd taken several at the church, but the kids weren't there, and they weren't on my camera, so I wouldn't get to look back at it anytime I want.  So my family was exasperated with me I'm sure, I'm always the one who likes taking way more pictures than anyone wants (but of course they all want to see them and then thank me later).  But sure enough, we all got together right next to the bar.  A kid I used to babysit when he was little took the picture with my camera, and standing there smiling with all the people I love the most was one of those moments of overwhelming gratitude.

Not sure how to answer the second part of the question -- I'd like to do more charity work in 2012, but I'm not entirely sure that will be a resolution or something I'll commit to.  Instead I guess the best way for me to "rally around gratitude" is to keep blogging -- it's a good way to recognize the many wonderful moments that comprise my life (and the $hitty moments too, but that's all part of the game!). 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

WEVerb: Choose

For the month of December, I’ll be participating in #WEverb11. Each day gives a new prompt, each of which is a chance to reflect and look forward.
Slowly but surely, I'm getting on the WEverb bandwagon.  Still not at the point where I can use the hashtags or insert badges, but here's today's topic:
#8: Choose

What was the biggest choice you made in 2011? What caused you to choose what you chose?

Contributed by Melissa
Ah, this one is easy for me!  The biggest choice was on Valentine's Day when I got an offer for my current job and decided to accept it. 
I'd left my last job early that day (you know, Valentine's Day, trying to go home and change into something pretty for dinner).  I heard my cell ringing but couldn't get to it in time.  Pulled into a gas station (I seriously have this entire thing frozen in my mind, I can picture exactly where I stopped my car, what the sky looked like, etc.).  I listened to the voicemail from the VP with whom I'd interviewed and he asked me to call him back.  So I did.  He was there (having worked at a big firm before, I didn't get at all freaked out by the fact that this guy was still at work at almost 7:00 on Valentine's Day) and he offered me the job.  I already had a good feel for salary and benefits since we'd discussed before.  I knew right away I was going to accept, but of course I wanted to discuss with hubby.  Well, by Tuesday morning, I'd made the call to accept the new job and given my notice. 
As for what caused me to choose, well, it was complicated.  Let's just say I was NOT loving my last job.  As a lawyer, I worked first at a very big firm doing insanely interesting work, getting paid very well, and working absolutely insane hours.  I couldn't stand the hours.  It left me with no life outside of work.  Way too many all-nighters, and looking at the more senior people, those jobs where my career path was supposed to lead, it didn't look any better.  Few people really seemed happy, and absolutely none of them had a life I wanted.  So I jumped ship, following a colleague to the opposite of the big firm -- a very very small firm.  With that came boring unchallenging work, a pay cut, and better, livable hours.  And in a very small office, some major drama and some absolutely horrendous personalities.  The office manager was very young and initially I thought above all of it, and then it broke my heart one day to hear she'd said something very not nice about me behind my back.  I was done with it then.  It was just a matter of time until I could find the right fit elsewhere, I was checked out.  I couldn't stand that drama, but even without that, the work just wasn't interesting or challenging. 
When I interviewed for this job, I was insanely excited.  I'd done a couple other interviews and gotten one other job offer, but I didn't want to leave just to leave, I wanted to leave to go somewhere I really wanted to work.  The other offer just wasn't the job of my dreams.  This might be.  The list of things I don't like about my new job is short -- of course I'd love more vacation (first and foremost).  I wish there were an on-site gym or even just a shower facility -- the office is about 5 miles from my house and it would be awesome to be able to run there or run home sometimes.  Wouldn't say no if they quintupled my salary, but I can't really complain because I feel well-compensated.  There were a couple other complaints (a constantly running water fountain really irked me, and I missed having a phone timer), but those have been remedied already!  But really, the work is so interesting (though some cases are disturbing, that's part of what makes it so interesting), the work is challenging, my co-workers are awesome, the office is located fairly close to my house (and in my house on Fridays!), the pay is good, there is vacation, the support is good, the resources are good, the work is steady.  I LOVE IT! 
The best indicator that this was a good choice for me -- one of my least favorite job tasks now is something that used to be the best part of my job before -- online legal research.  It's fun and interesting to me, but now there are so many things I like doing even more!  Far and away the best choice I made in 2011. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WEverb 11 day 6: Travel

So last year one of the blogs I've read the longest, Bella's, did monthly posts in December called Reverb (I think that's a label I used on my posts, so you can see examples if you want).  It was a fun series of daily prompts.  After reading her first post or two, I jumped on the bandwagon and did the posts as well.  I got behind a couple times, but I would catch up on older posts when I had time.

Well, with a new job this year, an intense yoga month in November that made me far less prepared for the holidays than I usually am, and probably more blogs that I now enjoy reading, I've had less time to write this year. But I still read Bella's blog, so I saw that though there wasn't Reverb this year, there's something similar called WEverb. 

Today I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon, but the prompt on the website is actually yesterday's prompt (or I read a post on the topic yesterday).  But since it's one of my favorite topics, I'll go with it!

As you know, we love to travel.  Our big spring trip this year was to Boston (for the marathon), then on to Italy and Paris.  In Italy, we first went to Pizzo, then Lamezia, then we drove to Lecce (and did a day trip to Santa Maria de Leuca and to Gallipoli), then we flew to Paris to wrap up the trip. 

Very tough to say the favorite part of the trip. 

The marathon was insanely awesome (I already reviewed it).  It is possibly my favorite marathon, possibly because it took me many attempts to get fast enough to qualify.  The marathon happened to be on our second anniversary, so we had a fabulous celebration dinner.

I also loved Easter lunch in Italy with my husband's family.  The food was possibly the best meal I've ever eaten in my entire life.  And sitting around the table with hubby's aunt (who wasn't well this year), uncle, and many cousins and some cousins' kids, laughing, struggling to understand them when they spoke in dialect, and conversing to the best of my ability (helped by wine).  Ah, what a day.  I felt dangerously like I would hurl if anyone touched me or if I bumped into something the rest of the day, but so worth it! 

And I would put the day in Paris that we ate crepes, went up the Eiffel Tower, wandered along the Seine, found an adorable cozy restaurant for dinner, and then hiked the steps to Sacre Coeur as one of my favorite memories of all time.

So all 3 of those landmark events were on our trip this year -- favorite though?  I guess I'm going to say Paris.  But tough call.

Our other travel for the year was mostly for family weddings -- Detroit (a little jaunt to Canada), and Milwaukee, ah yes, my brothers picked lovely wedding cities.  Haha.  They were still both wonderful events and I loved the family time.  And there was last month's trip to San Antonio for the marathon, which was a fun visit with a friend.  But I'd put a night in Paris with hubby and no one else as my favorite part of my 2011 travels. 

And for the final part of the question (wait, why would they limit a question about next year's travels to people who didn't travel in 2011?  that doesn't make any sense!), 2012 travel plans.  I think there will of course be our 1 big annual trip, and 2 running trips and 2 family/friends trips. 

First, a friends trip -- Mardi Gras in Mobile in February with my bestie.  Hubby doesn't love going (he thinks the whole clan/society thing is creepy, elitist and racist), but I adore the time with her.  She has two little kids now (twins), so it will no doubt be calmer than years past (well, Mobile is always calm and sedate compared to New Orleans).  Still should be a fun long weekend.

Second, a running trip -- White Sands, New Mexico in March, probably solo.  Hubby probably won't join me because a couple days after this marathon, he's going to Italy without me.  But I am finally going to do the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon.  With weight.  That means I will (hopefully) be carrying 35 pounds throughout the race -- a very small amount of pain to commemorate the sacrifice of all those men in Bataan.  Fortunately, if I stop running or walking to rest for a few minutes and take off my pack, no one will behead me.  I think it will be one of my most difficult undertakings ever.  Hubby actually is far from convinced I will succeed.  But we shall see...

Then a long, hot summer in Dallas with no trips.

Third, another running trip POSSIBLY in August to run H2C in Oregon.  This is so tentative.  Just yesterday (12-6-11), I was invited to run on a Hood to Coast relay team by a former colleague.  You go from Mt Hood to the coast, 197 miles, over 2 days, running 3 legs of a relay, less than 20 miles total per runner.  I'd love to do that race someday, and given that all I'd have to pay for is airfare and hotel, it seems like this would be the perfect year to do it.  It's hard to get in because the race fills up fast, and this team is already in.  I'm leaning toward doing it, but planning to call a couple friends who've done it before in the next couple days to pick their brains. 

Fourth, a family trip -- brother's wedding in Milwaukee in September.  Love the family time, especially since given the other 2012 travels planned, I don't see a lot of time visiting with them before this wedding.

Fifth, our big annual trip.  The plan is to go to China in October.  We'd like to do Beijing (I actually want to run the marathon there, but, FRUSTRATION, though the marathon is only 10 months away, they haven't announced the date (or even whether there will be a marathon) and the website is useless, just 2011 info), then go to Xian, then to Chongqing, then to Yichang, then end up the trip in Shanghai.  I'm nervous about the trip -- logistics of the marathon, logistics of everything else, language, food, etc., but it's somewhere I've wanted to go for so long and I think it will be interesting, informative, memorable and beautiful. 

Oh, and then of course trip 6 -- home for Christmas.

I guess we'll have to squeeze in a trip to Pittsburgh during the year too to see hubby's parents.  He'll see them in March and April around the Italy trip, but maybe we can make it out there together in the summer or fall.
Travel. Where did you travel this year? What was your favorite part? If you didn’t get to travel, where do you want to go next year?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Yoga Weeks 3 and 4

So my final update from my month of yoga...  Sorry for the lack of notes toward the end. 

Friday, 11-18, class 12, aka:  The BREAKTHROUGH.  Best class yet.  Domenic was the instructor and all of a sudden, it all seemed to click.  There were several postures where I felt like I hadn't even been close and I was staying in step 1 -- and on a vast majority of them on Friday, I went to step 2! 

Saturday, 11-19, class 13.  No notes from this class so can't have been too memorable...

Sunday, 11-20, class 14.  Domenic again, nothing notable. 

Monday, 11-21, class 15, new-to-me instructor Karen.  She was very cheerful and friendly and I liked her.  I had lots of trouble "being present."  Big week at work next week and it was on my mind a lot.  I felt like the class went fairly well in terms of what I could accomplish, but whenever we were supposed to lie still, I found myself making mental lists of the first things I wanted to do the next morning when I got to work.  It was like the instructor could read my mind.  When we moved from the standing series to the floor series (about the halfway point), we lay there calmly for about 2 minutes.  She kept telling us to relax everything, to sink into the floor, to relax even our eyes and our jaws.  She said something like if you're having trouble focusing your mind, focus instead on your breathing.  And I could do that for about 2-3 breaths, then it was remembering something else to do at work.  The good news is though, I asked for some tips afterward about how to fix this AND on Tuesday morning I remembered all that I'd wanted to do and got it done!  Score! 

Tuesday, 11-22, class 16, new-to-me maybe instructor David or Daniel.  I might have had him before.  Crowded class and I walked in right before we started, so I was way at the back.  Not so balanced, and didn't feel very energetic.  I actually considered sitting out a couple postures, but I didn't.  We sang happy birthday during each set of the triangle posture to someone in the class.  That was really funny.

Wed., 11-23, class 17.  No notes, not very full.

Fri., 11-25, class 18.  No notes, again, didn't feel very flexible.

Sat., 11-26, class 19.  No notes, average class.

Sun., 11-27, class 20.  Went to the 8:00 a.m. class -- right after my last group run before the White Rock marathon next weekend.  We had a short taper run, only 9 miles, and it was very cold out.  Crazy cold for Dallas.  Like on par with the lowest temperatures we generally see in a year.  So going to hot yoga afterward sounded perfect.  We had a little post-run party so I ate one mini red velvet cupcake, and I had some fruit -- and yuck.  Not good at yoga.  The strangest thing about this class was my lack of sweat.  I know the sequence of postures well -- first a breathing exercise (two sets), then side stretches to each side, then backward bending, then forward bending, then back to each side, another backward, and another forward.  Usually on the first forward bend, I can see the sweat on my calves and on my feet.  And usually on the second, it is beginning to drip off me.  This time I basically went through the entire first half of class without sweating or feeling warm.  I wonder if I was just too cold from the run?  Either way, it freaked me out a little.  But by the time we were laying down for the floor series, I'd started sweating and that made me feel a little more normal.  I don't think I'll go straight from a weekend distance run (even if it's only 9 miles) directly to yoga again.  Not only was there the lack of sweat, it was also a little nerve-wracking trying to make sure I'd brought everything I needed for both exercise sessions, to make sure I was running the right pace to be done in time, and most of all, it was my least flexible class.  Maybe I just didn't have enough leg strength, but my balance was off and I found myself falling out of almost all the postures I tried, and there were some where I didn't really try.  Disappointing class.

Mon., 11-28, class 21.  No notes, nothing remarkable.

Wed., 11-30, class 22.  New to me instructor Julie.  Who proceeded to cough throughout class.  It was awful.  At one point, we went into the bow pose on the floor.  You lay on your stomach and reach back for your legs.  When you have your legs, the instructor tells you to hold on and kick.  Well, we grabbed our legs, there was no "kick" cue, just a coughing fit, then she said to come out.  So we had to do that posture a total of 3 times instead of the usual 2.  I think I'm lucky to have a job where I can usually go if I'm sick -- I work in my own office, so I can just shut my door and minimize the time I spend at my secretary's desk or in the halls or colleagues' offices.  My husband doesn't have a job where he do a competent job when he's sick, so when he's sick, he stays home.  I think yoga teachers should be in that latter category -- if you're sick, get someone else to teach your class instead of hacking away and making us paranoid about germs thriving in 105 degrees.  It was also the complete opposite of relaxing or calming to listen to her coughing.  And just so you know, I had another reason why I didn't like her -- it was weird, but she almost seemed cliquish.  She kept talking about how she hadn't practiced in a week and someone in the class had watched her cat or something, and asking how mutual acquaintances were, etc.  I'm sure most the instructors know some of the students very well, but no other instructor has every made it seem like such a clique, and so exclusive.  When she said she'd be teaching again tomorrow, that was almost enough for me to decide to skip what I planned to be my final class.

Thurs., Dec. 1, class 23.  Last class of the month.  I went in the morning (no group run because of the taper), and I worried I'd have the only other instructor I don't like too much -- the unsolicited advice one from a couple weeks ago.  Or that I'd have Julie from the night before.  But I didn't.  It was Dave again, and he gave me some good tips, and it was a pretty good class. 

I went ahead and paid for another month, but the good thing is that you have 30 days to activate the month, so I may wait until after I'm back here from Christmas to start the month so that I won't be out of town at all.  I'd hate to activate my month and then miss a week of it for traveling home.  But one of my good friends is starting her month in the next week or so, and it might be fun to go with her. 

In the nearly week since I've stopped, I think I might feel a little more stressed and definitely more bloated.  It was nice feeling like so much sweat poured out of me each day.  I miss it and think doing one more month will be fun.

I don't think I'll continue after that month though.  It's just too time-consuming.  I feel like when I'm doing it, that all I do is workout in the morning, work all day, yoga at night, then sleep.  I was barely seeing my husband at all, and nothing was getting done at home.  That's particularly incompatible with Christmastime, when I need to be wrapping and working on writing cards in the evenings, but it's also incompatible with having a communication-filled marriage, which is kind of necessary I think.  Yoga put us on very different schedules.  I didn't want to give up my morning routine (boot camp with hubby (but we can't really talk there) and running with my buddies).  I have to spend the day at work in order to, you know, pay the mortgage (and pay for yoga and running and the rest of life), and that pretty much leaves the 6:30 p.m. class as the only weekday option for me.  So I'd get home at 8:15ish, and hubby was already heading to bed then, since he gets up so early.  I'd still have to eat dinner and shower. 

Very time-consuming, and certainly worth it to me to do in the short-term, but not something I would like to do long-term because it's just not a high enough priority to displace something else I commit time to.

I feel like I worked a part-time job for the month of November that basically took an extra 15-20 hours every week away from being at home.  Tough!  But like I said, if I had more free time, I loved it and would keep it up.

Now my question is how much fitness and flexibility I will lose by going about a month without doing it??!!  I guess I'll see when I go back next week or, more likely, Dec. 26. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

FMM: I AM...

I'm going to have to do a long post soon about our local marathon yesterday (best described as buckets of cold rain), my relay team, and my attempt to host a post-race party (let's say "fail"). 

But today, I just want to write something and then focus on my work.  Why I don't just work, I can't say -- mabye a blog post will let me focus on something else for a while, then I can put my whole mind into work.

Enter ready-made topic!  Friend-Making Mondays. 

If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!
FMM: I am…

1. I am good at… proof-reading (though this blog is not a good example), committing to plans that I make (exercise-wise, socially, whatever, I'm very reliable). 

2. I am happy when… I feel like my life is in balance -- filling my days with interesting and somewhat-frantic work; exercising -- ideally running, lifting and yoga, sometimes all three in one day; eating food that I enjoy; spending time with family and friends.  I feel like happy is my word of the year this year -- mostly because of my job change this year.  What a difference those 50ish hours per week make! 
3. I am working on…learning to speak a bit of Chinese, and running (or jogging) while wearing weights. 
4. I am interested in…traveling primarily! 
5. I am always… aware of when and where our next big vacation will be. 
6. I am enjoying… getting ready for Christmas.  Need more time, but I still enjoy it. 
7. I am in… love with a husband who is sweeter to me than I deserve. 
8. I am reading… lots of things:  Traffic:  Why We Drive the Way We Do; Eclipse (Twilight series); and Ursula Under. 
9. I am concerned about… my March marathon plans and how I will be prepared to run my first marathon while carrying weight. 
10. I am looking forward to… it all!  From an awesome dinner this weekend, to holiday baking next weekend, to going home for Christmas, to coming back to Dallas for an exciting 2012. 
Now it’s your turn! If you answer, post a link to your responses on the blog.  Now back to work for me! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Food Coma

So my night of conflicting plans on Tuesday went as well as could be expected. My dinner with work team was a lot of fun, strengthened connections, and included tons of great food and drink. Unfortunately it lasted much longer than I'd expected. I knew a late night was in store when we hadn't even ordered entrees by 8:00. I finally left the restaurant around 10:30, so of course hubby and baby brother were long since done with dinner. I called my brother and found out hubby had gone to bed and my bro and his coworker were at the bar on our block, so I went out to meet them.

That of course meant a very late night for me (considering I usually go to bed shamefully early b/c I get up so early). So no boot camp yesterday morning!

I spent the whole day feeling fairly bloated, full and hung-over. Going to yoga last night was definitely a good plan, and I went back this morning for my final class of the month of yoga. I'll have to do a full post later.

Anyway, thought I'd share a couple pics of first, my veggie plate (au gratin potatoes, grilled jumbo asparagus, mac and cheese, and mushrooms), and then of my way too big dessert (cheesecake, planning to eat the rest of it this afternoon!).

Yum. This is why the period of time between Thanksgiving and New Year's pretty much destroys my plans to eat healthily... Oh, but it's so much fun! And the extra hours of exercise are 100% worth it, since even exercise seems to have a holiday feel -- one of the post-yoga evening events I'm looking forward to the most is an annual run with some running buddies to check out the pretty lights on the houses!