Monday, December 31, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 26: Making Time

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 26: How will you make time?

How do you intend to carve out more time for the things that are the most important to you in 2013?

The big step for me was actually taken in November 2012, changing my 4 mile drive to and from work into a 4 mile run.  That takes more time of course, but it's like multi-tasking.  Commuting and a workout at the same time.

Running a marathon PR is going to be my number one goal for 2013, and 20ish miles per week of commuting, even if I run easy and slow, will help me I believe. 

I signed up today for what I hope is going to be an awesome speed running class.  It starts in late February, so I am going to run with a group of buddies training for Boston until then -- starting on Sunday! 

Carving out time for that will be easy, the time is already there.  The plan starting next week will be to wake up as usual at 5 on M/W/F and go to boot camp, then on Wednesdays, I'll go home for breakfast and then run to work.  And I'll start waking up at 4:40 on Tu/Th to go run with my friends, then come home for breakfast, then an easy solo run to work.  And on Sundays I'll run long with my buddies, but I may have to turn around early since I won't want to go higher than about 13 miles. 

There's pretty much no other demand on my time at 4:40 in the morning, so making the time will be easy.  I just need to go to bed early, and that tends to be easy for me after a week or so of being exhausted from getting up early. 

There were a couple years I tried to run after work and it just didn't work for me.  There were too many days I'd make excuses, either I had to work late and then was exhausted, or working out didn't fly based on when I'd eaten or how hungry I was, or it was too dark to feel safe going solo, or there was some social obligation I wanted to prioritize, you get the picture.  I don't consider myself a morning person, but having friends to meet makes me get up without thinking twice, and next thing I know, I'm off and running. 

(I wrote this post yesterday, reading it today before posting, I realize I should clarify that of course I'd say my relationship with my husband is most important to me in 2013, but running in the morning works well for us -- he goes to work early, so it helps that I go to bed early with him.  And not doing yoga quite as often will help too, he hates when I do yoga at night and we barely see each other as a result.)

2012 Resolution Success Evaluation

Way back in January, I spent several days stewing about my 2012 resolutions. Now that the year is over, time to check in on how I did. 

Perhaps the most interesting thing about my resolutions this year is that I attempted to prioritize them, with the most important coming first.  I tried to use a separate color to differentiate resolution from recap.

1. Complete my first (and likely last) weighted marathon. I'm aiming to run the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon on March 25 in New Mexico. DONE! Although, I'm not sure you'd know it from reading the blog. I never finished my race report. Oops. I still need to do that, primarily for anyone who may be interested in running that race in the future. Running a marathon while carrying a 40 pound backpack was not easy. The training and even the return to unweighted running were both painful and SLOW. But doing this race in particular made it all worthwhile. Getting to meet the Death March survivors and hear their stories was an experience I will never forget. And I performed better than I ever could have imagined in the marathon. Utterly incredible experience.

2. Travel to one new-to-me country. The current plan is that the country will be China and this will happen in October, but if things change, I still want to go somewhere new in 2012 -- I need to keep broadening my horizons and experiencing new cultures. DONE -- kind of! We went to China in October. Because I was in Hong Kong on vacation in 2001, and it was already part of China then, China may not really be a new-to-me country. But the resolution was intended to get me to explore someplace utterly unfamiliar and foreign (and maybe even a little scary or at least well outside my comfort zone). Our trip definitely met those objectives.  Seeing and walking on the Great Wall is something I think I will remember for my whole life.  The people, the food, the atmosphere of growth and change, all absolutely remarkable and a true highlight of the year. 

3. Stairs at work going up every Tues-Wed-Thurs that I'm in the office and it's not raining. I am on the fifth floor, and the parking garage adds one more flight. I'd love to try to do it on Mondays too, but with working from home on Fridays, sometimes I'm really loaded down with my laptop and too much other stuff on Mondays. So Mondays I'll play it by ear, but Tues-Wed-Thurs, game on. And if it's raining, then I'll take the stairs from the first floor instead of from the parking garage (I think the stairwell is outside). But this resolution doesn't go into effect until Jan. 5 (since I need to make sure I know where I'm going and my co-worker to show me isn't back in the office until Jan. 4). DONE! The resolution went into effect on Jan. 4, a day earlier than planned, and I rocked it. I even took the stairs most Mondays. I think I missed the stairs on about 15 times all year (some Mondays, occasionally another day).  Even on days that it rained, I took the elevator to 1, and then walked up the rest of the way. I've learned that many flights of stairs while wearing wedges is substantially more difficult than I would have imagined.  But when our office moved from the 5th floor (plus a parking garage flight) to the 9th floor of a new building in the mid-November, I started invoking my "Monday pass" pretty much every week and I did the elevator on a few non-Mondays too, especially when I was bringing in stuff to hang on the walls or I'd already run to the office that morning. But the resolution came to a crashing halt about Dec. 11 when I was denied permission by building management to keep using the fire stairs.  Insane, but don't get me started...  My solution was to ride the elevator up on Mondays, carrying my clothes and lunches for the week.  Then Tues, Wed, Thurs, I'd ride the elevator up to 9 to get my clothes, then stairs down to 1 to shower and change, then elevator to 2, then stairs up to 9. 

4. A 10k or shorter PR. A little more flexible than last year's resolution to get a 5k PR. I could very easily get an 8k PR, but there aren't tons of 8k races around here, and that wouldn't really be fair since my 8k time is from 2007. But most of my other PRs in that distance range (5k, 4m, 5m, 10k) will take some real work to beat. I'd also like an 8 mile and 15k PR, but that's just getting greedy. DONE!  I got a legitimate 10k PR (barely, but a PR is a PR), and an "illegitimate" 10 mile PR (it was my first 10 miler ever).  It's very misleading to say I got a legitimate 10k PR, but all it takes is one second, and my resolution was sufficiently vague to let the tiniest PR count.  Hopefully next year I can make a similar resolution and crush it! 

5. Entertaining at home. Again. At least 6 occasions feeding friends with home-cooked food. At least 3 of those occasions must include people who haven't been part of this resolution last year or the year before. I think we're going to have two parties -- one next week for some friends who live in Sweden now and are back visiting, and one in April for the anniversary of our rehearsal dinner.  DONE!  And four of the occasions were with people new to our dinner parties. I love this resolution -- I love doing it, and I love that the resolution reminds me to do it, because it could easily be something I didn't otherwise push myself to do.  We did most of this in the first half of the year, but the resolution was met and will likely repeat in 2013. 

6. Yoga. One month of heated yoga, and then yoga at home once a week minimum or 48 times in the year (not counting the month of yoga in January). I think it's relaxing and good for me. It may help me be more patient, more fit, more calm.  MOSTLY-DONE!  I did the month of heated yoga in January -- every single day, completing a 30 day challenge. And then I didn't do anything really, at home or otherwise, for a couple months. Then I tried about 18 sessions from April to July at a new studio.  Then I went back to heated yoga in late July and did another 30 day challenge (missed one day the studio was closed and ended about 2 days early due to a trip).  Then I did most days during the month of September at heated yoga.  That got me about 100 yoga classes total for the year. But really, I missed the heart of the resolution -- the resolution was balance, to do it regularly, including at home when there wasn't a convenient class.  I should work on that in 2013.

7. Emptying our magazine rack. This should be so easy, but I want to actually flip through everything that's in there before throwing it away. I'm down to two magazine subscriptions in 2012 -- Vegetarian Times (a Christmas gift from my brother and his new wife), and a Texas running one. FAIL.  I've made some progress but barely. I've cleared out a few, but I need to make a ton more progress.  The big step was moving a big stack upstairs, so at least it looks less cluttered in our living room.  And I'm not subscribing to anything other than Vegetarian Times now, so at least the collection isn't growing -- and when I'm done flipping through one of those, the issue goes over by the cookbooks, so not into the magazine rack. 

8. Finish our wedding scrapbook. We've been married since April 2009, and my memories of the day aren't getting any fresher. I'd love to make progress on some other photo albums, but the wedding scrapbook is most important to me. IN PROGRESS.  As of January 1, 2012, it was about 1/3 done.  I completed about half of what remained (so now it's 2/3 done), and I brainstormed a bit for the remainder that is still undone, but I need to spend a couple more weekends working on it. I really need to finish this one.  Seems like a good plan for January/February, after Christmas stuff is put away and life is a bit calmer. 

9. More quality time with my two female best friends. One lives in Virginia but I am planning to see her more this year, and I'd like to call more too. And one lives here in town. She had a tough year last year and we didn't get to spend as much time together, and I miss her terribly. Whether we spend the time running, going for ice cream, working on puzzles, watching bad tv, doing yoga, whatever, I just want to spend the hours together. I'll call it DONE. I'm doing better but not great on calling the one in Virginia. But we got to spend a lot more time than usual together.  First, in February, we went to Mardi Gras together, so we got to hang out for a few days.  Then, she came to Dallas with her husband (and no kids!!!) in early September for 5 days and we spent almost every minute together except while I was working.  I'm also doing better on the one who is local -- we've mostly been going to yoga and doing things with her family (like our roadtrip to the Blueberry Festival, and spending Memorial Day weekend at her parents' house). We've got more fun things planned, but glad I looked back at this resolution -- it's spurring me to make a phone call and get some more on the calendar!  I value both their friendships so much, and I need my allocation of time to reflect that. 

10. Maintaining a list of the books I read this year and reading at least 20 books. I used to read so much more, and now I just feel exhausted when I fall into bed, but I need to add it in somewhere since I enjoy it. I'm torn as to whether I should count books that are currently in-progress (I think I'm reading about 3 right now). I think I will. An incentive to finish them. DONE!  I published a list here from the first half of the year, and I will wrap up the second half of the year post soon.  I read a lot more the first half of the year, but I think I got to 20 books total -- and I should get extra credit for multiple very long non-fiction books!  I could read about 20 copies of long fluff fiction very quickly, but that doesn't seem fun or like it has any self-improvement value. 

11. Learning at least 100 Mandarin Chinese characters. One of the blogs I enjoy reading, AlmostFearless, had this statistic recently: Full fluency is 3000 characters, but with 100 characters, you're already 42% fluent. That would be lovely! If I could get to 200 characters, I'd be at 55%. Now I'm no Joseph Needham, and I know it will be tough, but I would think I could learn 100 characters in 10 months. Maybe. I hope. It will be fun to try! 1500 characters is 94% fluent, so it's really diminishing returns at some point. FAIL. I basically gave up on literacy but I worked on speaking before our trip. It was hard, but being able to say some very basic things was a lot of help. I worked with our neighbor's relative and did a little trade -- I helped her with English, she helped me with Chinese.  I'd guess that I learned about 10-20 characters, so complete fail on the resolution. 

12. Closet purge continued. Alter or donate most things that do not fit. I might try that old trick of turning all my hangers backwards to see what I actually wear, but I think I do wear most of the clothes. It's just more than I need. How many black tops does one person need for example? IN PROGRESS, if I'm generous, otherwise, FAIL.  I made very little progress.  I turned the hangers backward, but it just showed me that I do wear a lot of what I own. But it's still too much. I need to work on this one a lot.  I don't think I got anything altered, but that was because I have a certain weight I want to be at when I get things done, and I'm not sure I ever saw that weight in 2012 (if I did, it wasn't often), and even if I'm only 5 pounds heavier, I don't want things altered for that fit because I want to encourage myself to stay at the lower weight! 

All in all, particularly given that I prioritized my resolutions and I had a lot of success on the first half-dozen, I'd call it a win. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 25: Vulnerable

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 25: How will you be vulnerable? And Joyeux Noël!

Next year, how will you tend to your vulnerabilities? How will you build them a shelter from the storm? How will you put them through physical therapy? How will you find a way to make them work to your advantage?

This one is tough -- I can't think of any particular ways I want to protect some vulnerability that isn't already protected. 

When I think about goals, I mostly think about fitness, since that's where I'm focusing most of my energy.  And as to any fitness vulnerabilities, I want to do anything but shelter them.  For example, I completely suck at push-ups.  They hurt my wrists and my form is poor -- but I need to work at trying more so that I can improve.  And same with every other exercise I hate or suck at doing.  Tuck jumps, jump squats, those make me nervous for my knees, but particularly now when my mileage is lower, I need to do them and get the benefit. 

Other vulnerabilities ... I of course worry about my husband leaving me for someone hotter or less bitchy, but all I can do is try to be sweet to him and remind myself that there's no reason to worry. 

Of course I worry about someone close to me dying, and I suppose the best way to shelter that vulnerability is to be stronger in my communication, calling my family more often (this is hard, I used to alternate who I called on my short drive home from work, but now that I can't talk on the phone while I commute, I need to fit in some other time), reaching out, telling them how I feel, etc. 

Financially of course I'd worry about losing my job, we're not ready for that.  But all I can do is work hard and attempt to continue smart money management -- paying off the house, increasing savings, you know, the usual. 

2012 Year in Review

So I found this "year in review" list on a blog called, and she said she'd copied it from "Temerity Jane via Sundry".  Anyway, I thought it would be a fun way to look back on 2012.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

I won a marathon.  Not a big one, but a win.  First overall woman.
I went to mainland China.
I successfully completed two separate 30-day Bikram yoga challenges, and did one month of frequent Bikram yoga.
I spent an entire year in a job I love and survived an acquisition and an office move.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I'm doing a resolutions recap.  Overall, I'm happy with how I did -- I tried to make my resolutions in order of priority, and I did the ones that were most important to me. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not really.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully.  My grandma passed away, but she had been sick for a long time and didn't know who any of us were over the last year plus, so in many ways, I'd already made peace with it. 

5. What countries did you visit?

China!  Went to Beijing, Xian, Chongqing, Yichang and Shanghai.  Thoroughly unforgettable! 

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

A marathon PR.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Hmm... when I won the marathon in March?

June 1 because technically I started work with my new employer after we were acquired.

I'll also remember Spring of 2012 for the day I settled my biggest case to date (but the actual date April 10, won't stick with me). 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Definitely winning a marathon. 

9. What was your biggest failure?

??  Hmm, not running the Beijing marathon after I trained for it?  That wasn't really my fault; the marathon was cancelled because the National Congress of the Communist Party of China was supposed to be meeting in Beijing that same week. 

I guess I would probably go with some work things.  I wasn't as on the ball on doing reports or reviewing records as I should have been. 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing serious, thank goodness.  2012 was the year of the fall for me.  I fell a total of three times while running (which is insane, considering I'd been running for about 10 years before 2012 and I'd fallen only twice, neither time being my fault, but all 3 falls in 2012 were my fault).  I did feel like I was on track to injure my left soleus again, but I credit the yoga with healing that up.  I think I went to the doc for a cold in May, for an ear infection in July, and not much else. 

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Plane tickets to China! 

12. Where did most of your money go?

Debt reduction, increased savings, and the trip to China.

13. What did you get really excited about?

The trip to China, plus a trip to Mardi Gras, running Hood to Coast, my best friend and her husband visiting from Virginia. 

14. What song will always remind you of 2012?

"Call Me Maybe" -- I kept telling my husband I wanted him to choreograph a video that we could make to the song.

That song with the line "I work out" -- we hear it at boot camp all the time and hubby loves it and sings it all the time. 

And of course "Gangnam Style" -- that was huge in China while we were there and I taught my husband the dance, which he chose to do on the foot bridge to Shibaozhai Pagoda, and it was hilarious because all these people knew what he was doing and laughed and danced themselves.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Happier.
– thinner or fatter?  Fatter I think by about 2-4 pounds.
– richer or poorer? Richer.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Organizing, cleaning and purging around the house.  And cooking. 

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying about work while out of the office.  I would find myself thinking about it at yoga, or waking up in the middle of the night thinking about something I needed to do. 

18. How did you spend Christmas?

Home!  Meaning at my parents' house in Wisconsin.  Better than last year when hubby had flown back to Dallas to work on Christmas and I had a car accident alone.  As bad as Christmas 2011 sounds, it was actually pretty good, despite hubby's absence and the car accident.  But Christmas 2012 was much better.  Traditional Christmas Eve having dinner at home, then going for carols and church.  Christmas morning presents, brunch, then organizing and packing, a long 5 hour drive to Milwaukee (but this year hubby and I took turns making Christmas Day phone calls to friends and family), and then another family Christmas, complete with a visit from Santa that thrilled my nieces and nephew. 

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Dallas!  Hubby watched it back when the original was on (I wasn't allowed), and he hooked me into the new series.  The next season starts toward the end of January, so we'll be watching again. 

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

I posted two separate lists of what I read in 2012 (one for each half of the year).  I'd say my favorite was Seven Years in Tibet or Lost on Planet China. 

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

I'm not a big music person, so this is hard to answer.  For my birthday, hubby gave me tickets to the Andrea Boccelli concert, and that was by far my favorite music to experience in 2012. 

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

Les Mis, which we saw just a couple days ago.  I also really liked Anna Karenina.  I don't feel like we saw a lot of movies.  We also saw Bourne Identity in theaters, but that may have been it. 

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 37 this year, and I spent it doing nothing too special.  Got birthday love at work and on facebook, went out for tacos with hubby for dinner, then had a cupcake and opened presents at home.  I did a lot more celebrating the following weekend, when my bestie was in town and we ate out every single meal for about 5 days straight, including at some amazing restaurants, including one night at my usual birthday choice, a pizza place, with lots of friends and birthday presents.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Not having the Beijing marathon be cancelled out from under me five weeks before the race was supposed to happen. 

Aside from that, a new car would have made my life much more satisfying.  I feel like I had a lot of car headaches this year.  A drive belt broke, requiring I get a tow, and a headlight went out, and I scraped the bottom of my front bumper severely a few times (once trying to u-turn in a street, once pulling too far forward in a parking spot and hitting a cement stop bar).  Well, I guess the bumper scraping would have been more irritating if it had been in a new car, but having lights come on and just generally feeling like my car was getting old was not my fave part of 2012.

But in the end, I'd rather have the money in the bank and a car that runs fine 99% of the time, so I guess I made the right choice.  But a free new car would have been awesome! 

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

More of the same.  I don't buy lots of new clothes.  I got a white layered looking top that I really like, but it's sleeveless and not work appropriate (made of cotton), so I didn't even get to wear it very often.  I wore more tighter t-shirts this year than I did in the past -- probably a side effect of yoga, standing up straighter, becoming less self-conscious in general. 

26. What kept you sane?

Yoga, my running buddies, and my sweet husband. 

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

It's my choice how I spend every single minute.  And sometimes all the planning in the world won't matter, some things are just out of your hands (and in the hands of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China!). 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 24: Habits

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 24: Your most important habit?

What is the single most important habit you intend to cultivate in 2013?

In terms of my goals for 2013, I think the most important habit to cultivate will be getting comfortable with getting uncomfortable.  Once you get used to running, it's easy to settle into an easy pace -- conversational, which is nice when you run with friends, and not too strenuous, which means it doesn't hurt. 

My tendency is to pull back when things get uncomfortable.  To slow down.  To ease up.  To think about phoning it in for the rest of the run.  To consider quitting (which I don't actually do, but sometimes instead of continuing to work hard, I'll go back to an easy jog). 

I need to get over that and 2013 needs to be the year when it happens.  Specifically, in the first 6 months or so, before marathon training really starts. 

I need to show myself that I can push hard and not crack under pressure.  Running when it's hard to breathe and my heart is beating like crazy for 5 minutes won't kill me.  Nor will 10 minutes.  Nor will 30 minutes.  Nor will 3 hours and change.  It's just a matter of training myself to get used to it.  And the only way to get used to it is to just do it again and again in training. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 23: Letting Go

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 23: What will you let go of?

Name three excuses -- stories you tell yourself that are holding you back -- that you are going to let go of in 2013.

1.  That I've gotten as fast as I'm going to get based on age, heart, weight, etc.  If I were in my 50s, that may be true.  But I've spent most of the last decade getting gradually faster so there should still be plenty of room to improve, particularly in the next few years.  If I'd been a cross-country athlete in college, maybe, just maybe, this excuse would be valid.  But I wasn't.  When I was in my mid-20s, I ran, but slowly.  There's no reason I shouldn't be faster in my mid-40s than I was in my mid-20s.  And there's absolutely no reason that this next year, at age 37-38, I shouldn't be able to beat what I did at age 35 or so (most of my PRs were around that year). 

2.  That I've already made so much progress, it's not important to make more.  Maintaining is hard and is something that never ends (ideally).  Just because I'm in much better shape than I was in say 2006 does not mean that I can or should phone it in.  I need to keep working hard and there is improvement to be made.  I need to give it my all far more often than I do in terms of exercise (and to a lesser extent, diet). 

3.  That I can run off a lot of garbage put in my mouth.  If I want to be serious about having 2013 be my best running year ever, I need to be more careful about what I'm eating.  I am very good at meals, the problem is snacking -- particularly at work.  I need to make sure I have lots of fruit and other good stuff available, and I need to be prepared for some very late nights, just in case. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 22: Gifts

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 22: The most important gift?

What was the greatest gift you received in 2012? What was the greatest gift you gave?

What do you intend to give yourself in 2013?

Since these go in reverse order of difficulty for me, I'll start at with the last question and work backwards.  

The last question is easy -- I intend to give myself a marathon PR in 2013.  That hasn't happened since the Boston Marathon in 2011.  But by the time it happens in 2013, that Boston PR will be 2.5 years old.  In running years, that's like a decade!  The magic time that I want in Berlin feels like a legit, solid marathon PR -- I'd be impressed if I heard it about one of my friends, and I want it for myself.  The time is very symbolic.  I'm already quite nervous about whether I can pull it off, but I shall try.   

As for the greatest gift I gave -- also easy.  I gave my husband a trip to China!  My husband and I keep separate finances (some day I should write a blog post on that, I think it's so wonderful and the least stressful way to do it!).  We take turns being the major sponsor for overseas trips.  And we usually each fund trips to visit our own families (so I bought his plane ticket to come see my family for Christmas, he bought mine to go see his parents in Pittsburgh in January).  The way it works is that hubby usually pays for a trip that includes Italy (which we do together about every other year, sometimes a bit more often), and I pay for a non-Italy trip (on the non-Italy year).  So in 2011, he funded most of our Boston-Italy-Paris trip.  In 2012, I funded most of our China trip.  In 2013, he'll fund Germany and Italy (and Lichtenstein if I'm lucky!).  And in 2014, I will likely fund the Mumbai-Dubai extravaganza! 

The greatest gift I received in 2012 is hard, especially since it might be something I get for Christmas in just a few days.  I really loved my birthday present from hubby -- tickets to the Andrea Bocelli concert in Dallas that was at the end of November.  But I'm hoping there's a good electric can opener under the tree for me in a couple days...  Haha! 

Well, this draft got hung up since I was trying to post reverb prompts in order and now it IS after Christmas!  I got my electric can opener -- and based on hubby's reaction when I opened it, I think there might be another one under the tree at home.  Oops.  I guess when you really really want something, there's a chance many people will know it.  And it's a Hamilton-Beech one (not Cuisinart) so I have high hopes that it will last long and make every can open seemlessly.  I also got a wireless keyboard and mouse, which will be nice on work-from-home Fridays.  And a wok.  And a Vera Bradley overnight bag that I think will be awesome.  And some shampoo.  And an ornament.  And a running shirt.  And some cookbooks (including one all about cheese and one where every recipe has an alternate ending so each one involves most of the same prep steps but then yields two separate meals, one vegetarian and one not, so my hubby will like that).  And probably some other things that I didn't remember but also will enjoy. 

#Reverb12 Day 21: Dream List

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 21: What's on the dream list?

What items did you tick off your dream list in 2012? What other, unexpected, dreams came to fruition?

What are the top three items on your dream list for 2013?

The big item off my dream list in 2012 was traveling around mainland China. 

And easily the other unexpected dream that came to fruition was winning a (small) marathon.  I'm not sure that really counts since obviously I never dreamed of winning a marathon, but I think it will go down in my life history as one of my biggest accomplishments!

For 2013 -- top 3 items are:

a marathon time with which I can happily retire (it's a PR by about 11 minutes),

Oktoberfest with my husband (I've been before with my brother in 2003, think it will be even more fun with hubby and friends), and...



still thinking...


I guess I'll go with a financial goal -- meeting a threshold I've had in my mind for a while.  Actually, it wouldn't even be a dream for 2013 but for the fact that I recently made a big money mistake (putting money where I didn't mean to), and since I couldn't undo it easily, I've lived with it, but it actually brings me closer to my real threshold goal. 

Kind of vague but money, religion, politics, split times, real names, all things I don't want to write about on the blog. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 20: Lost and Found

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 20: What was lost and what was found?

What was lost in 2012? What do you intend to find in 2013?  
My mojo!  Running at a slower pace from January through April took a toll.  I then tried to get back to my normal pace, and I worked at that until September, when my plan to run the Beijing Marathon in October was pulled out from under me.  Then I lost a lot of motivation, and then we were on vacation in China, then I got back and now it's the holiday season.    I seem to have no will to push myself lately.  I try to run faster and it's hard, and I ease up.  For no good reason.  I know it's supposed to be hard, and that is how you improve, but I just seem to lack the motivation to do the work.    I intend to find my usual willpower in 2013.    Sometimes lately I've been sleeping in on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, figuring I'll just run a bit longer on my commute to work.  But that has never happened.  Not once.  In January I need to recommit (I know, I know, why wait until January?  but we're in the Great White North with no high in the forecast above 25 any time in the near future, so it will have to wait until we're back in Dallas...). 

Friday, December 21, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 19: Nourish

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 19: How did you nourish yourself?

How did you nourish your beautiful body in 2012?

What self-care practices will you take with you into 2013?

2012 was the year of everyday fitness for me. 

Besides maintaining my usual weekly routine of doing boot camp three weekday mornings and running with my friends three mornings, I managed to add in some yoga challenges.  The yoga was great for me.  In the middle of a 30 day challenge was when I felt like it was all coming together.  I would feel relaxed, destressed, thinner, bendier, more focused, more efficient, happier, etc.  If only there were more hours in the day!  I did two 30 day challenges in 2012 (January and August) and by the end of each, my husband was quite unhappy with the fact that we were barely seeing each other.  I also did a month of Bikram where I attempted to use more moderation and only go to a few classes a week, but that also didn't work as well -- you don't get the full benefit, and it was a lot of money to spend for not as much time. 

But I think the bigger difference in how I nourished my body in 2012 was the small everyday changes that I made. 

Based on a New Year's resolution, I started taking the stairs most days at work -- to my 5th floor office until mid-November, and then to my 9th floor office for the rest of the year (but for the last couple weeks, I've actually started the climb on 2 instead of 1 due to locked stairwells).  It hasn't been easy, but I'm proud of myself for sticking with it, particularly in the new and higher office.  It's just a few minutes of my day, one big climb, but I know it's good for me, and within 5 minutes of finishing, I'm back to breathing and feeling normally, so there's no reason not to do it. 

The other big development from 2012 in my everyday fitness is more recent, it also started after the mid-November move to a new office.  I've started commuting to work on foot at least a couple times per week.  I always have to drive to work on Monday mornings, because I work from home on Fridays and have to bring back my laptop, plus clothes and lunches for the week.  But for the last month or so, I decide when I'll next need my car, and run to and from work until then. 

It was funny, one night this past week we were getting ready for our annual drive (with hot chocolate) with our neighbors to look at pretty holiday lights.  I ran home from work as usual, got home around 7:30, and quickly ate dinner.  It was a gorgeous night, probably upper 60s or low 70s, freakishly warm for this time of year.  So I called our neighbors to tell them to bring coats, since we'd go see the lights in my car with the top down, in which case it might get a little chilly.  So I made the hot cocoas, carried them downstairs and got into the garage.  Surprise!  No car!  I'd driven to work and left it there for a few days, not realizing I'd want it.  Oops.  While hubby's car isn't a convertible, it seats 4 more comfortably than my car does, and it worked just fine. 

Anyway, my commute time seems pretty steady.  My fastest commute is on the way home, slightly downhill, and my personal record was this week, about 29 minutes, counting traffic lights.  My slowest commute is on the way to work, and the longest it's ever taken is about 35 minutes, counting traffic lights.  There have been a few commutes where I've struggled -- either tired from an earlier workout that day, having eaten too recently, just not in the mood, whatever.  And there have been a couple where the conditions weren't great -- in Texas, it's tough to wear the same thing for commutes that are 12 hours apart when the temperature sometimes varies by 30 or so degrees, and I've also been threatened by storms, traffic, whatever.  But overall, I love killing two birds with one stone -- commuting and working out.  And I love that I'm not driving and polluting or stressing about traffic, and that I'm becoming known (to the extent I wasn't already) as that crazy runner at work. 

I'm not entirely sure about either of these "everyday fitness" moves for 2013. 

The stairs were a New Year's resolution, so it might end on Jan. 2.  Not sure.

The running commute will likely last at least until late February, but then I'll have to see what my speed training schedule looks like until May, and then how it will fit into marathon training.  The bottom line is that I want to get back to running with my buddies regularly, and I don't want my mileage to be higher than it should be. 

We will see! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 18: Color

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 day 18: The colour of you?

What colour best represents the year you had in 2012? And why?

What colour would you like to invite into your life in 2013?

Be as literal or metaphorical, clever or crazy, or just plain off-the-wall with this as you choose! Can't wait to read your responses to this one!

Haha, I posted about eleven months ago contrasting how my Christmas 2011 was both white and blue.  This year is tough.  It's kind of a grey day as I type this, but grey isn't a great color to describe the year.  I would consider blue, simply because "lan" was the one color word I learned and remembered in Chinese.  Of course, the least useful.  We were at a little food stand in Shanghai near the museum and I was ordering a bowl of noodles and this obnoxious French guy was trying to order coffee.  He kept saying "noir" and "black" as if the more times he repeated it, the more likely the employee would be to realize that actually she did speak French or English and had just forgotten... not!  It was hilarious to us, mostly because of his accent, but also because he just seemed to be a $hithead.  But if I'd remembered the word for black, I certainly would have helped him out, just to make him go away. 

For my 2012 color, I'll go with yellow.  Mellow, even-keeled, happy, smooth, cheerful.  This year was very good, peaceful, and not dramatic.  I love it.  There were so many wonderful events, that I never felt like I was hitting a low. 

As for 2013, I'll choose red.  I want to invite power and speed into my training for my fall marathon next year.  But no drama -- work, relationship, health or otherwise. 

But if 2013 turns out to be yellow as well, I'd have no complaint.  2012 really was a very good year for me. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 17: Making a Difference

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 17: How did you make a difference?

Think of one person whose life you made a difference to in 2012.

What did you gain from this?

How will you continue to make a difference in 2013?

The answer that springs to mind for this one is the man I wrote about yesterday, Harold Bergbower.  But I'll try to branch out. 

I think many people can rely on their jobs to help answer this question (my husband makes a huge difference when he's at work, for example), and I'm sure I've made a difference there, settling a case with merit, or fighting a case that lacked merit.  But I don't want to blog about work.  When I worked on the Enron case defense I used to joke that I was "doing God's work," because realistically, as a litigator for corporate clients, it's hard to feel like you really make much of a difference.  I suppose cases matter to individual plaintiffs sometimes, but for example, I spent years working on Enron and that was securities litigation defense -- not exactly life-changing for anyone. 

Maybe my local bestie's younger sister?  Because of my excitement about the Berlin Marathon in September 2013, I asked a bunch of my friends to consider registering as well, figuring the race would be fun if there were a bunch of us running it, and thinking Oktoberfest after the race would be even more fun with a group. 

As a result, my local bestie signed up and is planning to run -- and so is her little sister, who will be making her first trip to Europe (my local bestie's first trip to Europe was in 2009 for my wedding).  That's kind of cool. 

I love encouraging people to broaden their horizons and realize there's a much bigger world out there.  I'll continue to do this in 2013 probably by inviting friends to join me and my husband on the trip we're planning for 2014 as well! 

Kind of a lame post, but aside from making a difference I presume in my immediate circle of family, friends and people I encounter through work or running, I'm not sure I make a big difference.  No worries, don't feel sorry for me.  My dream is to make it all up by joining the Peace Corps after I retire. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 16: Inspiration

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 16: Who inspired you?

Who inspired you in 2012? And why?

What gifts did they give you? And how will you carry these forward in to 2013?

His name is Harold Bergbower.  I met him on March 24, 2012, and then saw him again the following day.  I haven't seen him since, but he's been in my thoughts frequently. 

He is one of the remaining survivors of the Bataan Death March (age 92 when I met him) and he told me his story of his time during the war, including the death march and his time as a POW.  At the end, I asked if I could take a photo with him, shake his hand and say thank you.  He agreed to all my requests but said he would not shake my hand.  I had a moment of panic.  And then he said that I was a pretty young lady, and he only accepts hugs from pretty young ladies.  Had I not been so afraid of hurting him, I would have squeezed him as hard as I could.  Instead, I gently hugged him, kissed his cheek, and continued crying.

And most of all, I was surprised that he thanked me. He thanked me for caring enough to travel to hear his story, and for my promise to him that even after he is gone, I will never forget and I will tell others.

That's Harold above on the day I met him.

Another survivor who was at the race in March summed up why he goes there to tell his story, and it echoes what Harold told me:  "I try to make it here for the ones who can't make it anymore. I'm not getting any younger, and I get afraid people are going to forget. But I'm not afraid to get out and talk about it. I know I'll be remembered."

Beyond his actual war story, Harold talked a lot about what keeps you going when all appears to be lost and those around you are struggling and dying.  How to keep going when it just seems easier to give up.  He talked about sacrifice, commitment, spirit and his experience.  Even thinking about it now makes my eyes tear up. 

For example, one event he shared with me was about his time as a slave laborer in an ore factory in Japan -- he and his fellow POWs, when the guards weren't looking, would piss into the ore. It was small acts like that that kept his spirit going, having no other way to rebel, but knowing at least his urine would be in that metal. One other key fact that isn't included in the bio below is that when he was wounded on December 8, 1941 and woke up in the morgue -- his parents were notified he had been killed in action (I believe the year is wrong in the bio).  He didn't know that of course, and they didn't find out he was alive until he was liberated in September 1945 and allowed by the Red Cross to contact his parents.  He said he didn't think he would have survived his time as a POW if he had known his family thought he was dead -- he relied on his belief that they were praying for him.  After he was liberated, he had to have his stomach pumped twice because he hadn't been able to control himself when he received food.  He had suffered from malaria and dysentery while he was a POW.

He came back to the US and struggled in the same way many other Death March survivors struggled -- they in some ways felt the military was not proud of them, as it was the largest US surrender in military history, and there was also the extreme physical damage done from the years as a POW.  Fortunately, Harold did not succumb to alcohol or depression as many survivors did.  He went on to marry and have a family (three children, one of whom went into the military), but he wouldn't ever talk about his experience.  His wife often slept separately from him because his nightmares were so severe, he often lashed out in his sleep.  It wasn't until his wife passed away that he became active in a Bataan veterans group and heard about the memorial death march in which I participated.  His daughter took him to the memorial death march in New Mexico, and when he shared his story, it was the first time she'd heard it.  He has also gone on one of the reconciliation trips sponsored by the Japanese government.  For him, he said the most meaningful part was when he met the owner of the ore factory where he'd worked.  That man told Harold the company was celebrating its 100th anniversary, and as president, he wanted to learn about the good, the bad and the ugly of the company, and he apologized to Harold for having been forced to be part of the ugly.  After having received two apologies from other Japanese (one delegate who came to the US, and then one from two members of the Diet on the same trip where he met the factory president), this was the first apology that held meaning for him.  He said he is able to forgive, but he will never forget. 

Here is one short saying that summarizes how the troops felt on Bataan after they had been abandoned by the US government:

"We're the Battling Bastards of Bataan,
No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam,
No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces,
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces,
And nobody gives a damn!"

-- Frank Hewlett, 1942.

I ask that you read Harold's bio posted on the Defenders of the Phillippines page.  If you click on it, you get to see his cute picture from when he entered the service.  Anyway, here is his bio, copied from that page so you don't even have to click a link:

Harold Bergbower was born on May 11, 1920 in Newton, Illinois. He joined the Army Air Corps on May 12, 1939. He went to school at Chanute Field (Illinois) and became an air mechanic.

He arrived in the Philippines on July 20, 1940. His initial time on the Philippines was pleasant, but then on Dec. 8th, 1941 bombs were dropped on Clark Field. Harold watched the bombs fall and then was hit by one. He passed out and when he awoke he found himself in the morgue at Fort Stotsenburg. He crawled out and went back to his squadron.

He fought with the Filipino Scouts on horseback because he was never picked up by an Army truck that was supposed to pick him up Clark Field after he went up to get his paycheck. He accompanied the Scouts to Pulangi river where he reunited with with his squadron. He was on patrol duty when the surrender of Bataan took place. He then was sent to a prison camp called Malaybalay, which was in the northern part of Mindanao. He stayed there for several months and then got transferred to the Davao Penal Colony. It was in the jungle, and they farmed the area, using caribou to plow rice fields. They also planted different vegetables such as cabbage and okra. Mr. Bergbower remembers the good rice being sent to the Japanese troops and the bad wormy rice was used for the prisoners.

He was there until May or June and then took a trip on a hell ship and landed in Moiji, Japan. Mr. Bergbower does not remember his hellship voyage and only learned details of some of the events related to that time when he went back to visit the Philippines in 2002. At that time he found that his ship had been bombed and that they stopped in Leyte for repairs and that he was in Bilibid Prison and Cabanuatuan, and then back to Bilibid for another hellship It was the Noto Maru that went on to Japan.

From there Harold went to Tayoma where he worked in a steel mill where they scooped ore into an open hearth furnace.

It would be bitter cold in the winter time and he was so cold his clothes would be frozen. They would warm up when they went to work where there was heat. The walk to the steel mill was between one half to three quarters of a mile

He said that one of the ways he survived the internment was to create another world in his mind so he dreamed of being on a farm. It took his mind off the reality of his life. His reality was disease and starvation. He was down to 78 pounds when he was at Davao and was about 107 when he got liberated. He would also keep the memory of his childhood and the food he had enjoyed at home. He remembered his mother's cherry and rhubarb pies and wanted them when he got back to the states. He had to get rations of sugar as his mother didn't have any.

Harold learned of the end of the war from a Red Cross worker. After that food was dropped to the prisoners in fifty-gallon drums. He recalled it was the best food he had tasted in years and years. He was in the Tokyo Harbor when the surrender with the Japanese was signed. He said he was a hundred yards from the battleship.

After the end of the war he was put on a ship Rescue, and received food and medical treatment and new clothes. In October , 1945 he returned to the United States and went to Letterman General Hospital where he was able to see his parents. Unfortunately his mother had received a telegram in September of 1945 saying that he passed away.

Harold retired from the Air Force and worked at a golf course after his retirement. He gave a talk to Arizona State University and 300 people came to hear him talk. He returned to the Philippines in 2002 with his daughter. He was able to fill in some of the gaps of his experience. He said that at Camp O'Donnell they planted 31,000 trees at Camp O'Donnell, one for each of the men (American and Filipinos) who died at Camp O'Donnell.

He has been to the White house twice for breakfast where he met General Myers, Admiral Norman Clark, General Micheal MdGee and Colin Powell, and Donald Rumsfield. He also had his picture taken with President George W. Bush and his wife Laura.

Monday, December 17, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 15: Taste

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 15: What tingled your tastebuds?

What was the most extraordinary dish you sampled in 2012? What made it so magical?

It needn't be the most extravagant dish, just the one that knocked your socks off with its flavour, texture, aroma, freshness, colour, significance, timing… whatever. Relive the magic and help us savour it with you here.

This is easy.  We ate so much amazing food in China, pictures to follow, but on the first full day in Xi'an, we went to the Muslim quarter for dinner.  There were tons of street vendors, and since we like to live on the edge, we ate street food.  We followed all the usual rules about street food in a foreign country -- only going to busy vendors so the food would not sit out long, etc.  

My favorite food in 2012 was the Muslim quarter street food in Xi'an.  We ended up eating there about 3 times over the course of our 4 or so days in Xi'an.  But it was really one food in particular that was my favorite.  First, a couple pics to set the scene: 

I spent the first two trips to the Muslim Quarter looking for one food in particular that was listed in my guidebook but apparently hard to find.  It's called caijiamo (cai means vegetable).  Of course it was not until our final trip to the Muslim quarter, after I'd eaten a bunch of other stuff while searching, that I found it.  It was so good.  I was sad that there wasn't more room in my stomach for me to eat another. 

The way it worked was you picked your skewers of meat, veggies, startches, whatever. 

Yes, what appear to be frozen hotdogs were among the options.

The woman working the stand would fry some kind of bread that reminded me of a pita (kind of in the center of the pic below), and she would simultaneously cook up your skewers.  Then she'd put all the skewered food in this pan that was filled with red pepper and oil and she'd rub it around (the oil rub is right in front of her).

Then she'd dump it all into the pita and put it all into a baggie for you to eat like a sandwich.   

Probably one of the best things I have ever eaten. 

I almost don't like thinking about it because I know it's going to be a very long time before I make it back to China and get to eat it again. 

But honestly, I think a trip back might be in order just to eat that sandwich thing again.  Oh my....

FMM: 2012

Now…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!

Twelve in 2012

1. What was your greatest personal accomplishment in 2012?  I won a marathon.  Not a big one, not a fast one, but wow, a win.  Something so crazy I never even would have said it was a goal. 

2. What’s the best thing your did for your health?  Probably just consistency in terms of exercise.  I added in a couple months of 30-days-in-a-row of Bikram yoga, which mean during those months, I was spending an insane amount of time on fitness, between 60 minutes of boot camp or 75 minutes of running in the morning (more on weekends), then 90 minutes of yoga in the evening.  My husband was not a fan. 

3. Share one thing that caused a significant change in your life this year.  Hmm, no real significant changes.  I guess I'd say my office move in mid-November.  I am now trying to commute on foot Tues-Thurs, just under 4 miles each way.  If I stick with it, that is going to be a very significant change eventually.  Right now it still feels like just some crazy thing I'm doing, it doesn't feel like a routine.

4. List a few things that you experienced for the first time at some point over the last twelve months. 

-- I trained for a weighted marathon by doing 3 days of very long walks -- the longest one was 27 miles, all with friends who would come out and walk an hour or so with me.  I also of course trained by wearing the weight vest while running during the week, but that was not as difficult as 9 hours of walking with the backpack. 

-- I ran a weighted marathon, carrying just over 40 pounds on my back, showing respect for the Bataan Death March veterans I met and got to hear stories from first-hand.

-- I went to mainland China for a few weeks on vacation. 

5. What was the coolest place you visited?   CHINA!  Completely worth spending all our vacation money and days for the year on a single trip. 

6. If you could change one thing about the last year what would it be?  I would have used my superpowers to control the world and I would have made the Beijing Marathon go forward as originally scheduled -- either with the National Congress of the Communist Party meeting the same weekend, or with it meeting some other time, and instead deferring to the marathon.  Not really something I had control over.  Nothing I could have controlled jumps to mind. 

7. What is the best meal you ate this year?  I'm trying to finish a post about it (need to add some photos) for the #reverb series that I'm doing this month.  Let's just say it was something I searched for far and wide in China.  I promise it will get posted this week, maybe even today.  Okay -- post done.  Best thing I ate in 2012 is described here, with photos.

8. Tell us about a new friend you made. Oooh, I made a ton.  Instead of running with the same group of buddies that I've run with for years, when I trained for the weighted marathon, obviously I was running slower than usual, which meant running with people I didn't know before.  And they were awesome!  One couple that are such a great match and both so much fun to be around.  One woman who is subjected to constant conversion efforts (oh to be Muslim in Texas) and had such a great sense of humor about it.  One who was training for her first half marathon and was so interesting.  One who was dealing with an injury on and off and was at such an exciting time in her life.  It was fun. 

9. What did you hope to accomplish this year that you did not?  I posted about this recently, but I hoped that when I stopped running with the extra weight, I'd be significantly faster and stronger.  That was not true.  I was thinking I'd be ready to run with the really fast crew -- I wasn't, and I'm not.  (Yet!  haha, I can't even say that with a straight face.) 

10. Share something you learned in 2012. I learned that when I do Bikram yoga religiously, it pays off in dividends -- I feel stronger and less injury-prone when running, I feel calmer and more patient mentally, I feel leaner and more flexible, I feel more even-keeled emotionally.  Oh, and I learned some Chinese. 

11. Share an odd and unexpected thing that you experienced this year.  I have been prohibited from taking the stairs at my new office.  The stairwells are locked and are for emergency purposes only.  I've found a cheat way -- taking the elevator to the second floor, and then getting in an unlocked stairwell there and taking them up to 9, but I think it's going to be locked soon.  Can't believe the building management would be that difficult and have so little regard for someone trying to be healthy.  Runner up for odd and unexpected -- feeling like a movie star in China with so many strangers asking to take a photo with me.  I kept wondering if they were all going home and captioning the photos "caucasian woman and me". 

12. How do you think 2013 will differ from 2012?  I'm going to be fast!  I'm going to train for a PR marathon, and I'm planning to work very hard at it.  When Epiphany gets here, I'm going to lock down the diet.  When mid-February gets here, I'm going to start doing some major speed work.  When April gets here, I'm going to inch my mileage back up.  And when September gets here, we'll be in Germany and I'll hopefully run the race of my life. 

Now it’s your turn! Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What to Say?

It's weird to see so many blogs posting about the holidays, running, road trips, whatever, just like life goes on as normal.  Yesterday was just so sad.  I don't know anyone touched by the tragedy in Connecticut, but it hurts my heart.  I appreciated the blogs I read that addressed it -- maybe I should broaden my reading horizons a bit. 

I was working from home yesterday, so I saw a lot of the news coverage.  For a while, I even watched RAI, the Italian news -- it was so unusual.  They were showing a US news network (I believe it was Headline News) and doing simultaneous translation of everything that was said, and it was live.  Impressive translation!  And just interesting that they went to complete coverage of it. 

I don't know what the answer is.  So many people seem to say follow the Constitution and don't do anything to regulate guns, but at the same time, ignore the Constitution and force religion into the schools. 

I do tend to agree that if people want to kill others and have no regard for their own lives, it will be hard to stop them. 

But I'm definitely not a gun person.  I so hate the idea of shooting at anything living, it seems like one of the most awful things you can do -- killing a person or an animal.  And I believe the statistics about how guns purchased in hopes of self-defense often don't work out that way -- the gun-owner occasionally uses it rashly, but often becomes a victim himself (or herself, as I guess was the case in Connecticut). 

I just wish it wouldn't happen.  I wish everyone who needed mental health care would get it.  I have learned sadly by encountering situations in a professional setting where you see it happen that when someone victimizes a child, that child often grows up to become a victimizer.  It's a sad cycle.  I obviously have no idea if that's relevant to what happened yesterday, but it's more to the point that there is no easy solution. 

It just makes me sad.  When I lost my sister more than a decade ago, I saw what my folks went through -- parents losing a child is so hard.  I hope the families affected make it through intact with lots of support and love, but it will be a hard road for them.  I would say unimaginable, but obviously many people know parents who have lost a child, sometimes a young child through a tragedy.  It's something no one should ever have to deal with. 

As an aside, I was a little insulted by the President's comments about the shooting -- talking about how it pained all parents in the country.  Apparently if you're not a parent, it was no big deal?  Because apparently you don't know love if you don't have kids?  WTH? 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 14: Learning

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 14: The path that brought you here?

My question is: what was the most important thing you learned in 2012?

It seems like this question about the most important thing you learned is almost an exact repeat of Day 6's prompt about what new skill you learned in 2012.  I'm not really loving these prompts...  Anyway, I'll try to think about something else that was important that I learned in 2012, something that brought me to where I am today. 

I know you're supposed to learn something new every day.  Last night, I was at this annual holiday lights social run, and after a couple miles with friends, I hung back to run with someone who I didn't know but was with our group and running alone.  I asked him what he thought of some nativity figurines in a yard we were passing, and he gave a very diplomatic answer.  So I asked if he was a lawyer, he said no, then I asked if he was a politician.  He said no, he was an architect.  We talked for a while, passing houses with pretty lights.  Turns out he's from St. Thomas, moved to the US in 2000 for school, then moved to Dallas for work.  He had some trouble on the run, he was just getting back into it, so he slowed to walk leading up to an intersection and I stayed with him.  When it was clear, we started running again but slowed down a bit.  I knew the route, and knew we were almost done -- I could see where the street ahead would form a t-intersection, and from that point, it's just a couple more minutes.  And the t-intersection looming ahead was easy to see this time of year -- the house directly in front of us (on the T street) had lights along its frame.  So I said to my running companion, we just have to go to that house with the white lights in a peak.  Better than what I was thinking, which was house with the white lights in an upside down V.  And der, he was like, that's a gable.  Oh yeah, somehow I'd forgotten that it was an ARCHITECT to whom I was attempting to describe a house.  If I'd been thinking even a little, though I wouldn't say the term gable would have come to me, at least I would have made some effort to phrase it a bit better.  So gable was my new word for the day yesterday.  I'm sure he was irritated within moments because then I kept counting and pointing out gables. At least he humored me and kept laughing. 

But that's certainly not the most important thing I learned in 2012. 

I would say the words of Chinese I learned were the most important thing I learned in 2012.  While communication in China was difficult, we managed without any real disasters.  Having some very basic vocabulary, as hard as it was, was helpful.  If nothing else, it broke the ice and allowed me to ask in Chinese if the person spoke English, which I think is much more polite than just asking in English (though obviously that would accomplish the same thing!).  But there were many times that we were relying on my basic Chinese.  Getting cabs to an airport or train station, asking directions, making small talk, engaging in commerce, etc. 

The Chinese language is an interesting mix of easy and difficult.

The things that make it easy:  there are no verb tenses; there is no such thing as subject/verb agreement (the verb form is invariable); there is no gender.

The things that make it hard:  there are at least 4 possible tones for every sound, each with a different meaning; the written language bears very little resemblance to the spoken language (so you have no hope of sounding something out); there are dialects within the country and some people (mostly older) do not speak Mandarin. 

But I am proud of myself that after months of studying on my own and with a tutor, I knew enough that we were able to get by -- though I'm sure sign language, smart guesses, etc. also helped.  And of course it helped that we were trying to find people who spoke Ying-wen (English), as opposed to something like ... Italian, which is significantly less common (but didn't stop my husband from trying on a few occasions). 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 12: Intense Emotions

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 12: Your most intense emotions?

What made you dance in 2012? What made you weep?

Thankfully, I wouldn't describe 2012 as a year of intense emotions.  I'm not an overly emotional person anyway.  I would say the lowest point was having my grandmother pass away, but we weren't exceptionally close, and she had been mentally gone for a couple years, and it was seen as a blessing in many ways.  I would say the highest point was winning my first marathon this past spring (a small marathon, and I didn't even know I'd won when I crossed the finish line, but I was so excited afterward).

But generally, in terms of intense highs and lows, I think part of what prevented me from having many intense emotions either way was all the yoga I did this year.  I did two separate 30 day Bikram yoga challenges (going to class daily for a month) in January and August.  Besides those two months, I did about 20 classes of mildly heated yoga, and about 20 other Bikram classes.  Particularly with Bikram, I like the focus on your breathing and I felt like it took me many, many hours to calm my mind, but when I finally got there, many intense emotions seemed to evaporate.  It's odd, but I seemed to notice this most in my driving -- on my way to yoga, I was always in a hurry, trying to get there before the doors shut, and was easily irritated by any jack@ss on the road.  Occasionally the irritation would be reflected with my horn.  Seriously, how much greener can the light get?  How on earth do you think you can turn left directly in front of me when you're in the center lane, I'm in the left lane, and I'm going straight?  Etc.  But after class, even in a hurry to get home, exhausted and starving, I was far more inclined to let it go.  To wave in acknowledgement to someone who did something risky rather than waving in anger (with or without a finger). 

I like my life to be on an even keel, and I really don't like drama, so I'm happy that I don't look at 2012 as an emotionally intense year in any way. 

#Reverb12 Day 11: Music

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 11: What was music to your ears?

What was music to your ears in 2012, literally or metaphorically?

The two songs that will most remind me of 2012 will be Call Me Maybe and Gangnam Style.  But music to my ears?  It's been the same answer for years -- running sounds.  For me, running sounds are usually my breathing, about 5 sets of feet pounding the pavement together, and conversation with friends.  The rest of the world is pretty quiet when we run at 5:15 in the morning, but I love the sounds.  The cadence, the breaths, the laughs. 

I mentioned before that for this month, I'm not running with my buddies as I attempt to gradually get my body used to doing more miles now that I'm commuting to work on foot a few times per week. 

I miss that group run noise so much.  It's just not the same to hear my own breath and my own steps.  And it's just downright creepy when I laugh alone while running! 

I'm looking forward to getting that music back in January. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

FMM: Christmas questions

Two posts in one day -- wow!  I loved today's Friend-Making Monday topic, so thought I'd share.

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!

Christmas Questions

1. How will you celebrate the holidays this year?  We go to visit my family in Wisconsin, as we do every year.  Christmas Eve is a dinner of snacks like fondue, dips, crackers, etc., followed by cookies, then late caroling and then church.  Christmas morning is presents, breakfast, packing, a drive to Milwaukee (last year I had a car accident on this very drive, as shown here, and described here, and more generally about the entire trip, here), then another Christmas celebration with more presents and a visit from Santa in Milwaukee.  This year, we'll be in Wisconsin for an entire week -- Thursday to Thursday, but I will be working remotely Thurs, Fri, Wed and Thurs since I used all my vacation for the year in October to go to China. 

2. What’s the weather currently like where you live?   It's crazy right now.  Yesterday was our big local marathon -- I was not running it, so I went out to cheer on my friends.  I was on the curb at 8:15 a.m. waiting for them, and I stayed out there until probably 10:30.  I wore short sleeves and I wasn't even a bit cold.  Today, there was a dusting of snow and the high is only 43.  So yes, our high temperature dropped overnight by about 30 degrees.  Crazy.  Hopefully it will be back to normal soon, which is tolerable for me -- lows in the mid-40s, highs in the mid-60s.  But we actually spend Christmas with my family about 6 hours north of Chicago.  Their highs are between 20 and 30 for the next week, lows getting down to 12.  Yikes!  Very cold but I love it for one week per year. 

3. Do you decorate your home for the holidays? If so, share a picture please! Yes, but I don't have a picture available (last year was similar, and it's here, ooops, can't find a link!).  We do the tree of course, and for the last couple years, some garland with lights on our mantle, plus I have a few other accessories that are displayed. 

4. What is your favorite Christmas movie?  I think it has become Elf.  Odd for me to like something so new so much, but that movie is just hilarious.  We already watched it this season. 

5. What is your favorite Christmas songs?  Probably Silent Night and Angels We Have Heard on High. 

6. Do you have an advent calendar?  Haha, yes, but it's from last year.  But I didn't finish eating all the chocolate, so I'm working on it this year -- it's surprisingly still good. 

7. Do you prefer color lights or white lights?  The colored ones are kind of tacky, but they're what I love.  We live in a condo and don't do outdoor lights, but our tree is a multi-colored artificial beauty. 

8. What is your favorite food to eat over the holidays?  Probably stollen, a German Christmas bread that my mom makes (I posted about it with pics two years ago here on the bottom half of that post).  But I love Christmas cookies too.  My mom usually makes about 5 kinds, and I usually make about 5 as well (one recipe overlaps between us).  Her cookies are also featured in the post I linked about stollen -- man, she's a good cook! 

9. Do you display a live tree, or do you prefer fake trees? Artificial.  Since we're gone for the week of Christmas usually, artificial works well since we can put it up right after Thanksgiving, enjoy it for a few weeks, and don't have to worry about it drying out or catching on fire while we're gone. 

10. What would you need to make your holiday perfect this year?  Both of my youngest brothers and their wives being there to celebrate with us on Christmas morning.  It's questionable for both of them (and my third younger brother definitely won't be there, but we always celebrate with him Christmas night).  One is now living in Cali, and plane tickets are expensive and they haven't bought them yet and are bracing everyone in the family for the fact that they might not be there.  And my baby brother's wife had surgery shortly after Thanksgiving -- so for her, it's a double question -- will she be well enough to be there for Christmas morning, and if so, will she be so well that she can't be there because she has to be at work (she's a nurse and technically, she's working that day, but she could still be on leave from her surgery).  I'd love so much for both of them to be there. 

Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions! Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments! Happy Monday!!!!!

#Reverb12 Day 10: Risks

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 10: Your greatest risk?

What was the greatest risk you took in 2012? What was the outcome?

The answer to this prompt for me relates to work -- gambling in settlement negotiations -- and it worked out well, but I don't want to write about work. 

I guess in some ways, the biggest person risk was buying plane tickets to China based on a little countdown calendar on the Beijing Marathon's website.

It did not work out well for me at all. 

I posted about it as the drama unfolded, but for the last few years (pretty much since the 2008 Olympics), I have wanted to run the Beijing Marathon. And I've wanted to travel to mainland China for much of my life, probably since I was old enough to learn about the world and how many different and interesting places there are, and then realize that as the world becomes more global, differences disappear.

So the Beijing Marathon seemed to be the perfect way to combine an amazing marathon with a trip to an amazing country. I paid close attention to the Beijing Marathon in 2011, knowing it would be my turn in 2012 (and having had experience with some marathons filling up before I had a chance to register, knowing I needed to get a visa, plane tickets, arrange for vacation from work, etc.). In 2011, this is how it went: in the winter, there was a marathon webpage with information about the 2011 race; in June, the registration date was announced; in August, the registration moved to "late registration" status; in October, there was a marathon. So since 2012 was to be the 31st year, I assumed it would be roughly the same.

But for some reason, the date was slow in coming.  Eventually, they updated to a 2012 marathon logo.  And then much later, they put up a little countdown calendar on the website, counting down the days until race day.  Well, what was supposed to be race day.

I don't know why they'd use a countdown calendar to a date that wasn't certain. And I'm not actually sure they did that, I think the date was certain. But either way, in early September, it was announced in the press that the marathon would not be going forward as planned.

In the end, they held the marathon on a few weeks' notice on the last weekend in November.  I felt a bit vindicated in looking at the results.  I'm glad the marathon didn't do well, since I was so unhappy with the last-minute date change.  I am petty that way.  Their numbers were way down -- they had about 6200 people run the marathon, while they had planned for a maximum registration of 12,000.  Usually it filled up and they had a waiting list.  In 2012, they didn't even deserve the 6200 people they had.  Of the field in 2012, there were about 800 women total, only 69 of whom were foreign (and about a dozen of them were Americans).  When looking at these statistics, it was a little heart-breaking to see the American women's times and think about what could have been if I'd run at or near my current PR pace... oh well!  At least we had a great trip, I didn't have to worry about having sore quads and falling into a squatty-potty, I didn't have to worry about bad air during the race, and I got to run in San Antonio, though that doesn't really count.  Can't complain about the trip though! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

#Reverb12 Day 9: Books

For the month of December, I'm working on doing the daily series of Reverb prompts to help me reflect on the prior year and hope/plan for the upcoming year. If you're interested, join in; I found this to be a very useful exercise when I did it two years ago.

#reverb12 Day 9: Your favourite book?

What was the best book you read in 2012, and why? (And by "Why?" I mean: Why did you read it? And why was it your favourite? Although these answers could be one and the same...!)

At first I thought this prompt would be about my favorite book ever, but favorite book of 2012 is tougher since nothing was so good that it would make an overall list of my favorites.

I posted about what I read the first half of the year here, and I'll do a similar post for the second half, although I haven't been as good about keeping track. 

I would pick Lost on Planet China, The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid, by J. Martin Troost. 

Second place this year is probably The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

I read Lost on Planet China because I was soaking up books about China before our trip.  I loved Seven Years in Tibet (by Heinrich Harrer), and I liked The Man Who Loved China (by Simon Winchester).  But actually, I think even without the trip, it would have been an enjoyable book.  He had a million funny stories about his observations of life in China.  I like travel writing in general, and this struck me as the best kind of it. 

His anecdotes and observations were so well-chosen and hilarious, and it was even better when we saw some of it live. 

The split pants, for example.  Many Chinese toddlers wear pants that are just like normal pants, but where a crotch seam would go, instead, the fabric is open.  And there's no diaper underneath.  So yes, you see baby @ss as the kids walk.  And you see way too much when they sit down.  It's shocking.  But I at least knew what it was because of the book.  A couple photos below. 

I would like to read some of his other books, because his writing style was right up my alley. 

Anyway, here's an excerpt from the review (with my commentary below the numbered points): 

Maarten Troost's Travel Tips for China

1. Food can be classified as meat, poultry, grain, fish, fruit, vegetable and Chinese. Embrace the Chinese. If you love it, it will love you back. True, you may find yourself perplexed by what resides on your plate. You may even be appalled. The Chinese have an expression: We eat everything with four legs except the table, and anything with two legs except the person. They mean it too. And so you may find yourself in a restaurant in Guangzhou contemplating the spicy cow veins; or the yak dumplings in Lhasa, or the grilled frog in Shanghai, or the donkey hotpot in the Hexi Corridor, or the live squid on the island of Putuoshan. And you may not know, exactly, what it is you’re supposed to do. Should you pluck at this with your chopsticks? The meal may seem so very strange. True, you may be comfortable eating a cow, or a pig, or a chicken, yet when confronted with a yak or a swan or a cat, you do not reflexively think of sauces and marinades. The Chinese do however. And so you should eat whatever skips across your table. It is here where you can experience the complexity of China. And you will be rewarded. Very often, it is exceptionally good. And when it is not, it is undoubtedly interesting. And really, when traveling what more can one ask for. So go on. Eat as the locals do. However, should you find yourself confronted with a heaping platter of Cattle Penis with Garlic, you’re on your own.

I say:  this was a little easier for me as a vegetarian.  Meats are scarier.  But we did eat with the locals.  We abandoned any fear of street food, and we were the only westerners in a vast majority of places we ate. 

2. To really see China, go to the market. Any market will do. This is where China lives and breathes. It is here where you will find the sights, sounds and smells of China. And it is in a Chinese market where you will experience epic bargaining. The Chinese excel at bargaining. They live and breathe it. It is an art; it is a sport. It is, above all, nothing personal. If you do not parry back and forth, you will be regarded as a chump, a walking ATM machine, a carcass to be picked over. And so as you peruse the cabbage or consider the silk, be prepared to bargain. The objective, of course, is to obtain the Chinese price. You will, however, never actually receive the Chinese price. It is the holy grail for laowais--or foreigners--in China. Your status as a laowai is determined by how proximate your haggling gets you to the mythical Chinese price. But you will never obtain the Chinese price. Accept this. But if you’re very, very good, and you bargain long and hard, and if you are lucky and catch your interlocutor on an off day, you may, just may, receive the special price. Consider yourself fortunate.

I say:  Bargaining was hard when I approached it as a lawyer.  Thinking about half the stated price would be the going rate, which seems to be the general rule for lawsuits.  Turns out, in China, it's about 10%.  Took us a while to learn that.  But the Chinese price is probably about 1%. 

3. Travelers are often told to get off the beaten path, to take the road less traveled, to march to a different drum. You don't need to do this in China. The road well-traveled is a very fine road. The French Concession in Shanghai is splendid. The Forbidden City is a wonder of the world. So too the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an. Indeed, the Chinese say so themselves. There is much to be seen in places that are often seen. And yet... China is not merely a country. It is not a place defined by sights. It is a world upon itself, a different planet even. And to see it--to feel it--means leaving that well-traveled road. And China is an excellent place for wandering. From the monasteries of Tibet to the rainforests of Yunnan Province and onward through the deserts of Xinjiang to the frozen tundra of Heilongjiang Province, China offers a vast kaleidoscope of people and terrain unlike anywhere else on Earth. This may seem intimidating to the China traveler. Will there be picture menus in the Taklamakan Desert? (No.) Is Visa accepted in Inner Mongolia? (Not likely.) Still, one should move beyond the Great Wall. And if you can manage to cross six lanes of traffic in Beijing, you can manage the slow train to Kunming.

I say:  We hit all those highlights he mentions, but it's so true, that it was so much more than the sights.  It was an experience, a lifestyle, and in many ways, hubby and I are both surprised at how much we miss it.  Like we'll be somewhere with a long line, and we wish it was just a Chinese mob so we could swarm forward.  The subway, the crowds, the bargaining, the confusion, the food, the size. 

4. Hell is a line in China. You are so forewarned.

I say:  see above.  Insanely frustrating in ways, insanely amusing in others.  Trying to get tickets into a temple one day in Shanghai, we were in a Chinese mob of women who were all at least 60.  And they were pushy and shouting and so angry it seemed.  I was so unprepared for it, eventually I gave exact change for our two tickets to a big German guy and asked him to just buy ours when he got up there.  The funniest thing, when we left the temple an hour or so later, the ticket booth had absolutely no one waiting.  Turns out we'd arrived at the exact wrong moment I guess. 

5. Manners are important in China. How can this be, you wonder? You have, for instance, experienced a line in China. Your ribs have been pummeled. You have been trampled upon by grandmothers who are not more than four feet tall. You have learned, simply by queuing in the airport taxi line, what it is like to eat bitter, an evocative Chinese expression that conveys suffering. This does not seem upon first impression to be a country overly concerned with prim etiquette. But it is. True, hawking enormous, gelatinous loogies is perfectly acceptable in China. And a good belch is fine as well. And picking your teeth after dinner is a sign of urbane sophistication. But this does not mean that manners are not taken seriously in China. It’s just that they are different in China. And so feel free to spit and burp, but do not even think of holding your chopsticks with your left hand. You will be regarded as an ill-mannered rube. So watch your manners in China. But learn them first.

I say:  ah, the loogies.  We were completely floored by it.  Hawking them up everywhere.  When I say everywhere, you probably imagine I mean on the streets.  No, I mean everywhere, including on the floor of the Shanghai Museum (China's equivalent to the Louvre), in restaurants, and yes, even on the floor of our airplane back to Chicago.  It was insane.  But then it took me days before I found out that it was rude to point with my chopsticks, which I'd done again and again until that point.  Oh well, live and learn.