Friday, January 31, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 31: At the end

Throughout the month of December (not), I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 31 – At the end:
What’s next for you?

I think I'm going to like 2014.  I expect the most exciting part of the year will be our big vacation.  I am insanely excited about the idea of seeing the Taj Mahal.  I don't think we'll nail down our exact plan in terms of flights and countries until April or May, but I am certain it will be an interesting and memorable adventure.  For me, the ideal plan will be to go straight to India, then go to Nepal, then spend a few days in the Maldives, then end the trip with a couple days in Dubai.  India is the only certain stop on the plan, so the rest is subject to change, but it all sounds so fascinating. 

I'm also going home more in 2014, which was something I wished I'd done more of in 2013.  Right now, the plan is to go for the Fourth of July for sure, and then likely also for Mother's Day weekend and the first weekend in October.  Plus, this year they're coming to visit me!  My folks weren't  here at all in 2013 due to a combination of them choosing to visit my brother who moved to San Fran in 2012 and my grandpa having a stroke.  We've also got a trip on the books in June already to see hubby's parents for a family wedding, and it wouldn't surprise me if we add in another trip to see them. 

I feel like I'm not running well right now, but a down cycle is a down cycle.  My goal is going to be to take it for what it is and have fun.  Even if 2014 isn't the year of the PR for me, I think I have some fun races planned.  I've done two so far this year, and I expect I'll be around my average of about 16-20 races for the year.  I'm most excited about going back to the Bataan Memorial Death March (but only doing the half and not wearing a military weight pack this year!) and my fall marathon (wherever that may be, likely Milwaukee).  And locally, I'll enjoy my standard favorites -- the St. Pat's and Thanksgiving races, and probably the mid-summer "too hot to handle" race.  The big question for me will be whether I skip San Antonio this year, as the date is being moved to December (when weekends are quite precious). 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 30: Relationships

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 30 – Relationships

Did you find a new best friend? Delve deeper into an existing relationship? Break up? Get back together?

Honestly, I have to say "not so much" to all of those questions. 

I've got two female friends with whom I usually apply the "best friend" title -- one local, one who has moved away.  And I have about 5 other women in my life who could just as easily use that title, plus of course women who were my best friends at different times in my life but whom I keep up with far too infrequently now, but love just the same.  Of course my true best friend is my husband, but he has that husband title, so I usually use the best friend title with others.

As for delving deeper into existing relationships, not in any notable way.  I mean, time and experiences always seem to solidify relationships with people that you're in frequent contact with.  But nothing notable from 2013 strikes me as delving deeper.  I feel like I try to be a good friend to my friends, and that definitely deepens relationships. 

As for breaking up and getting back together, thank God, no!  I actually feel like I worried more about that during the time we were dating obviously and the first few years of marriage.  But now things just seem more settled.  Events, arguments, problems, things that just a few years ago now could have seemed like "the end of our marriage" was next, are now just things that I know we'll get through.  (As a side note, I'm kind of glad hubby was already married and divorced once, it gave him a much better sense of perspective than I had, so he would say things like, "I know you're upset, and you want to walk away because you don't see how you can fathom a lifetime of closing the cabinet doors behind me, but we will find a way together to overcome this hurdle.")  We're coming up on our fifth anniversary this year, and it will also be nine years together, and honestly, it seems like now we could even handle some of the biggest obstacles -- a job loss, death of a family member, an unwanted pregnancy, a move, an accident or disability, a lawsuit, whatever. 

Lucky, lucky, lucky...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 29: List it

Throughout the month of December (or January, but I am determined to finish this month), I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 29 – List it

List posts are everywhere. Top 10 Ways to be Happier Today. Three Tips for More Energy. Seven Ideas to Stay Focused. Give us a list.

My Five Tips to PR at a Distance You've Raced Repeatedly

1.  Have a training plan that you follow faithfully, ideally 4-6 days of running per week.
2.  Do strength training at least twice a week.
3.  Include tempo and race pace miles in your schedule.
4.  Have a faster experienced friend who can be trusted to hold steady goal pace run the race with you.
5.  Know exactly what your plan is for the race -- getting there, warming up, fueling if necessary, mile splits, total time that you have to beat. 

It's hard to even tell you how long it has taken me to learn each of those tips.  Especially the last one.  I'd get to a race too late to warm up.  Or I would forget the exact time that was my current PR and had to be beat.  Or I wouldn't be able to figure out exactly what my per mile pace needed to be. 

And since I'm feeling wild and crazy (and need to do it anyway)...

My Five Things that Should be Accomplished on Saturday

1.  Donate things.  2014 is a new tax year.  Donate the old Christmas tree and all the clothes and shoes that have been moved to the garage for that purpose.  Photograph it all for tax records before donating.  Decide if we're donating our old Mac and if so, figure out how to wipe data off. 
2.  Complete our Global Entry applications so we will be able to use the expedited lines at customs when we come back from vacation for the next several years.
3.  Go to the mall to see a movie and shop for shampoo (Sephora and L'Occitane).
4.  Deep clean kitchen (hubby) and upstairs bathroom (me). 
5.  Make breakfast for my local bestie and exchange Christmas gifts with her after the local five mile race, which we may or may not also run with her, depending on how late the basketball game Friday night goes and how much we drink there...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Requisite weather complaint

I know, I know, it's much colder in many places, but the bottom line is that when I chose to move to Dallas (and it was a choice), I didn't sign on for this kind of weather. 

Days like this make me wonder if I made a mistake in ruling out California and Florida at the outset (in law school, the bar exam seems very scary and those states don't have reciprocity with others, so I worried if I had to move home for some reason, I'd have to take another bar exam, so I ruled those states out of my search). 

This morning I had seven miles on the schedule -- 2 easy, 3 tough, 2 easy.  But as I was going to bed last night and laying out my clothes for the morning (see how hard I'm trying to push myself?  even resorting to laying out clothes to make less chance of a morning flake-out), I checked the weather as I always do from about September until May. 

It said it would be 25 with 10 mph winds!

So I set out my clothes -- a pair of tights, thicker socks that come up over my ankle, a sports bra, a long sleeved running shirt and a running jacket. 

And then I sent a few whiny texts to one of my running buddies, asking him if he really expected me to run in this $hit.  Especially since I knew I had no plans tonight, so I could have easily done dreadmill in the morning or even after work.  But he said we'd be going fast so it wouldn't feel cold, and it would be more fun to be together. 

So I did it.  When my alarm went off at 4:40 today, I got up, piled on the clothes and headed out.  Two decisions on my way out the door were key to my happiness. 

First, I went with double gloves.  I've only done this once before.  I hate it because it feels kind of tight over my fingers, but it's so worth it not to have cold hands.  At one point today, I even considered taking off one of the pairs since my hands were so toasty.

Second, I went with my usual earband but wore it under a warm fleece hat.  When I got in my car after the run and took it off, the earband was soaked -- but my head and ears had stayed nice and warm the entire time. 

I did the warmup with my friends, and then managed two very hard miles tagged within a car length or two of my friends, but then I was pretty tuckered out.  I fell back considerably on the final tempo mile, but then we regrouped for our two mile cool down.

This is my phone showing the weather when I got home: 

And for your daily Italian vocabulary:
umidita = humidity
vento = wind
probab neve = chance of snow
temp. percepita = ??? (weather terms aren't my strength, and it's too early for wordreference, but I'd guess it means perceived temperature, or real feel or something like that)
adesso = now
alba = sunrise/dawn

So when I finished, 23 degrees with 14 mph winds. 

Crazy!  I can't believe I got out in this weather and did it.  And I really can't believe it wasn't that bad!  But I really, really hope we don't have many more days like this. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Red smoothie

I've been in the habit for a very long time of having a smoothie for breakfast most days.  Always Mon-Thurs, and sometimes the other days. 

In my smoothie, I put spinach, frozen fruit (classic medley, which is peaches, strawberries, pineapple and grapes), and soy milk.  At some point in the last year or so, I started adding Vega protein powder and chia seeds.  And at some point in the last few months, I've started doing half the liquid as carrot juice (and half soy milk).

Well, last night, we had our neighbors over for dinner.  I couldn't tell you where I read about the recipe, but someone posted about having found the best veggie burger recipe, and compared it to Houston's (which is my favorite restaurant veggie burger, though I haven't been there in years). 

So for quite some time yesterday, I was cooking.  The burgers were primarily made of beets, brown rice and black beans, along with prunes, onions, garlic and spices.  They didn't hold together too well, but they were indeed delicious.  Just a bit labor-intensive, which I didn't mind on a weekend.

After roasting the beets, you had to skin them and grate them.  Then you were supposed to put the grated beets in a strainer and press out the juice.  The recipe said to press the juice into a bowl if you wanted to use it for another purpose.

I decided to do that.  I didn't end up with much beet juice, but maybe a couple tablespoons' worth? 

Anyway, I added it to my smoothie this morning.  Absolutely no difference in the taste (I think I'd have to have more than a couple tablespoons to have an impact), but it made a huge difference in appearance!

Usually, my smoothies are kind of a grey-brown color, with a bit of a green undertone.  If I add cherries as a frozen fruit, it can be a bit more pink or red.  But today was red, red, red.  It looked like a berry smoothie and was somehow even more enjoyable because it looked so good. 

Anyway, no FMM today I guess, and so I had to post something to procrastinate on going to work.  This is going to be week 2 on the new IT system -- hopefully less painful than last week, but I have no doubt it's still going to suck...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Speaking of Tears...

Ugh.  Writing this post makes me feel sick to my stomach.  Maybe writing will help?

My husband was travelling for work last week and got home on Friday.  That night when we were getting ready for bed, he realized that he had left his shaving kit in the hotel.

First thought, no big deal, all stuff easily and inexpensively replaced, just some toiletries.

Second thought, oh no, big deal, two prescription inhalers in the bag and getting refills will be difficult since they were recently filled. 

So he called the hotel to see if they had it.  He was told to call back in the morning.  Okay, will do. 

Then came the third thought:  in a pocket of the shaving kit was a ring he'd bought on vacation in Alaska (not very expensive), a watch I gave him for Christmas a couple years ago (expensive, but between $500 and $750 as I remember, but totally replaceable), and ... a bracelet that his family in Italy gave him as a wedding gift (likely expensive and 100% irreplaceable). 

Ugh.  I feel sick. 

Well, Saturday morning, he called the hotel again.  They had it!  And they agreed to UPS it back to us overnight.  He didn't ask about the jewelry since he thought it was unlikely they'd have noticed or taken it since it was in a side pocket.

Monday comes and goes with no package outside, but I convince him it's not a big deal because I didn't think it had been shipped on Saturday.

Tuesday night, we look again, no package. 

Wednesday night, we look again, no package but a $75 charge on his card from a UPS store in North Carolina.  It has clearly shipped. 

Thursday morning, we look again, no package.

Today, UPS nearby so he asks -- he's told about a train derailment that has held up some packages.  But after a couple hours of worrying, he makes a phone call to the UPS store in North Carolina.  Yes, it had been shipped on Monday.  Yes, it had been delivered on Tuesday, left on our porch at 11:32 a.m.

Ugh.  I have lived in this house for more than a decade.  I've had tons of packages delivered, left on the doorstep, and never stolen.

Even last week Tuesday (Jan. 14), I had a box from the USPS delivered and it was too big for the mailbox so left on our doorstep.  It was something I'd ordered and didn't know when it would arrive so I didn't find it outside our front door until I walked out on Thursday morning (we usually use the garage).  So this $hitty little $10 memory card case sat outside in a box for nearly 48 hours untouched.  But his shaving kit with his wedding bracelet sat outside for less than 7 hours on a Tuesday and was stolen.

Why????  This sucks.  I feel so bad for him.  He's completely blaming himself for forgetting the bag, and then for not having the package sent to work (where someone is there to sign 24 hours a day). 

It makes me want to cry.  People suck sometimes.  Next time we're in Lamezia, we will have to go to Caputo Gioelleria and see if we can find something similar.  I tried looking online already (no website for the jewelry store, of course, it's in Lamezia which is a low-tech area of Italy, but on Amazon and on various jewelry websites).  Nada.  Ugh.  I'm sad for him. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 28: Cry it out

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 28 – Cry it out

What moment in 2013 brought tears to your eyes? Are you usually a crier? Or did tearing up take you by surprise?

I'm not usually a crier.  Christmas night brought sad tears, and I kind of knew they'd be coming that night.  I saw my grandpa for the first time since his stroke earlier this year. 

I had thought about going home right after my dad said it happened, but my dad told me not to.  And I listened.  In reality, that may have been a good decision, as I don't think being there while he was in the hospital would have been beneficial for him, me, or my dad.  But I wish I'd gone at some other point this year.  Of course I can only blame myself for that.  I didn't make time to get there to visit.  I let long runs, social plans, out of town guests, and other trips serve as excuses not to go.  Part of it was likely just not wanting to go -- not wanting to see my grandpa as he is now.  And part of it was feeling like I didn't have to go -- having my dad assure me that he thought my grandpa will be with us for some time longer. 

I'd of course heard a lot about how he was doing, but I hadn't called him since my dad said I wouldn't understand him.  So in some ways I knew what to expect.

But seeing him was hard.  Happy, yes, but mostly sad and hard.  He is in a wheelchair and has a full-time caregiver who lives with him (a nice guy from Ukraine!  I got to practice my few very rusty Russian phrases with him!).  He has a feeding tube.  He can't move the right side of his body.  He's very hard to understand when he speaks. 

All of that, I think I could deal with.  But he's also very unhappy. 

When we talked, he mentioned his frustration with not having the use of both arms, not being able to drive, etc.  He just turned 90, but as of last year at Christmas, he was entirely self-sufficient, and he was even the go-to guy for many elderly people.  My grandma died New Year's Eve 1989-1990, so he'd been on his own for more than 20 years.  And being a sweet and funny older man, there were plenty of older women happy to have him help -- he drove them to the doctors', to the store, to see their families, etc.  And now he's the one needing help.  He also mentioned that almost all his savings have been used up in these months of full-time care, how quickly it goes.  And he talked about food, and how hard it is for him not to be able to eat, and how much he misses that. 

I couldn't help tearing up when we talked and during some of the Christmas festivities, I just excused myself back to my childhood bedroom, laid down on the bed and cried for a little while.  It just breaks my heart to know that he's so unhappy.  He doesn't deserve this.  He fought in the Pacific!  He lost his wife too young!  He was a Teamster!  He's a wonderful guy!  He did so much for so many, not just our family. 

Getting old is hard.  This was just another reminder.  And it's eye-opening in some ways.  All of my other grandparents have gone very quickly -- none were in the hospital more than 2 days before they died, and all were fully self-sufficient until death/hospitalization. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Houston Marathon race recap and FMM: Quick and Easy Questions

Well, I survived.  Marathon number 19? 20? is in the books.  Drove to Houston on Saturday, drove home yesterday.  Ran a marathon in between. 

I finished about 30 minutes slower than I did Berlin less than four months ago, which I think HAS to be some kind of record, particularly since the course in Houston was great and the weather was good (when I ran San Antonio in November, that was more than 45 minutes slower than Berlin, but it was also hot, hot, hot, and I had no intention of running hard even if the weather had been perfect). But given my lackluster month of training lately, I was fine with 30 minutes slower than Berlin. My plan of walking up the hills was a total fail. There just weren't any hills in the first 20 or so miles -- there was one at mile 12, and I walked it. But other than that, I had to just keep running, waiting for another hill. 

Weather before heading to the start (I don't know where Humble is, I swear, I was downtown).  Unfortunately, I didn't capture the screenshot that showed 100% humidity, but it really didn't feel that bad: 

The race itself was great.  The course reminded me of NYC in many ways -- lots of spectators, and very flat until about mile 20, then a few rollers.  Any "rollers" after mile 20 feel like mountains, but in reality, these weren't too bad.  It was a total of 3-4 (plus the 1 at mile 12) overpasses or underpasses.  At one point, it seemed we were running on an actual part of interstate or off-ramp, but instead of being miserable and ugly like San Antonio, it was actually kind of cool.  Overall, I was very impressed with the course and if the timing was different, I could see it being a race I'd run again and again in hopes of a PR -- but the bottom line is that I did not like training in December and January.  It meant my schedule didn't line up with my buddies', and I was driven to the treadmill when I was home and surrounded by many feet of snow.  So we'll see if I ever do it again. 

I ran miles 1-12 all within a 20 second spread (all about 30 seconds slower than Berlin pace).  Then miles 13-18 were all within about a slower 30 second spread (with the fastest being 15 seconds slower than the slowest of miles 1-12).   Miles 19-26 were all even slower, but all within a 60 second spread, but again, even slower -- the fastest of miles 19-26 was still slower than the fastest from 1-18.  By then, the sun was out in full force, and that was tough for me.  I have these mental images of the sun sucking out my energy.  Weather back at the hotel after I finished: 

My critiques of the race: 
  • More porta-potties at the start.  I didn't need to go because I walked right from my hotel, but the lines were bad. 
  • Instruct mile split volunteers to do something else besides calling paces.  Calling paces is probably nice for the first 2 minutes a volunteer sees runners, but after that, it's pointless, none of us started with the gun.  So when I was at mile 2, they were yelling that I was running a 10:13 pace (or whatever), at mile 3 it was down to a 9:48 pace (or whatever).  It was so clearly wrong and seemed to confuse a lot of people who didn't realize they were calling splits from the gun.  But it was funny when I noticed my pace stopped getting faster -- somewhere around mile 16 or 18, I had aligned with the splits they were calling, and then was slowing down. 
  • Close the streets.  Several times, we were running on a road that was 2 lanes each direction, and 1 of them was open, which just seemed to be a mess.  I'm fine with one lane being coned off for race or emergency vehicles, but this was actual traffic -- not a lot, but enough to create some chaos when a car was coming within the first 8 miles when the half and full courses were merged and it was fairly crowded.
  • More corrals at the start.  We were split into 4 (A-D).  One of my favorite things about the RNR races is their many start corrals.  It means when you start, almost everyone around you is running your pace.  While a few more corrals (maybe a total of 8?) would have meant less weaving and maybe less crowded conditions, I was very impressed with how the corrals were handled -- they were enforcing them strictly and I saw several people trying to get into corral A who were turned back. 
  • Sex-specific finisher shirts.  Seriously.  It's not that hard.  I probably won't wear mine because it doesn't fit well. 

But in reality, those are pretty minor things.  The race was very well-done.  Lots of volunteers who were helpful everywhere, on the course, at the expo, in the finisher building.  One of the other good things about the race was that you were funnelled into the convention center after the race.  There was room to stretch, a place to pick up your finisher shirt (and a glass small beer stein-style mug), to get water and bananas and cookies and ice cream, then a separate place for breakfast (all I got was a biscuit because it was eggs, sausage, gravy with meat).  I stayed at a hotel downtown so it was an easy walk for me to and from the expo, to the start line, and then back to my hotel from the finish. 

Nice hotel (Four Seasons Houston):

The best sign I saw along the course was actually a shirt (worn by a guy probably in his 20s), and I could only imagine the conversations and thought processes behind it:  SHOW YOUR LAZY SON HOW IT'S DONE.  A bunch of the spectators were in multiple places (a guy hitting a bell with a stick was in three places), so I hoped I'd see that guy again so I could tell him that I liked it, but I didn't. 

There were a bunch of good signs.  One that made me laugh was "what does the fox say?  Run-run-run, run-run-run-run."  "You might be tired but my arms are exhausted from holding this sign."  "I ran once.  It was horrible."  "You are the best at exercising." -- that one actually made me chuckle for probably a full minute after I passed it.  There were also several "go random stranger, go!" signs that made me laugh, as well as several others I'm not remembering right now.  There was also one particular runner near me for much of the race who was very funny.  Everytime a spectator yelled, "looking good", he'd say "you too" and occasionally ask if they were single. 

At the expo, I waited in line to see my favorite runner ever, Meb.  I told him that I'd met him last year in Dallas, and I wished him luck.  I bought another copy of his book because my copy hadn't been signed, so now I have an autographed copy.  I was so excited when I got back to my hotel to see that he won the US half-marathon championships, with a time of 1:01 and change.  Yes, at age 38, he is still killing it!  He's so amazing and inspirational. 

Here he is, less than 24 hours away from kicking @ss:

After the race, I walked back to the hotel, relaxed a bit, showered, packed up, and then drove back to Dallas.  I was so glad they gave me a late check-out.  Little things that make life SO much easier and better.  Big statue of Sam Houston along 45 on the drive home: 

But now it's Monday, back in Dallas, and back to work.  This week is going to be weird.  Reduced staff and we roll over to a new system, which is probably going to be painful...


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!

Quick and Easy Questions
1. What time did you go to bed last night?  About 8:15.  And I slept until 6:30.  Marathons are exhausting! I was so excited that I woke up without an alarm.  To me, that meant I slept enough. 

2. What is the last thing that made you smile?  I was smiles for a lot of the day yesterday.  People calling my name during the race (sometimes it was more of a grimace I guess), but the funny signs I mentioned above, the nice comments I got on FB, reading about my friends who ran some of whom had AMAZING races, getting home and having my husband be so happy to see me. 

3. What is the last movie you watched?  Can I cheat and say the movie I want to watch?  Flowers in the Attic.  It was on Lifetime sometime in the last week and I read all those books and really want to watch it (it's waiting on our DVR for me for this weekend I hope!).  Not sure of the last movie I watched on TV or Netflix.  In the theater, it was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty over Christmas. 

4. What did you have for breakfast today? I am just now finishing my usual breakfast smoothie.  I'm also enjoying one of my last four pieces of stollen, a German Christmas bread my mom makes.  Coffee is next while I get ready for work. 

5. Would you rather mop all of your floors or do laundry?  Not sure.  I do laundry, husband does mopping (I do vaccuuming).  I think laundry is fine, but I bet mopping floors is faster. 

6. Do you drink coffee? I'm picky.  I'll drink espresso at home if my husband makes it, and I'll drink it in Italy at a bar or relatives' homes, but never coffee and never anywhere other than home in the US.  At home, we use a mocha for our espresso:

7. Will you watch the Superbowl?  Maybe, I couldn't care less about football but sometimes the commercials are fun. 

8. How often do you shop for groceries?  Never.  Well, less than twice a year.  Husband goes about once a week, sometimes twice.

9. What kind of workout will you do today? NONE!  Resting from yesterday's marathon.  Tomorrow I may go for an easy 6 miles, Wednesday I will go back to boot camp. 

10. Do you use a fitness tracker? I have a Jawbone Up.  It's kind of fun.  I use my Garmin to track all my running miles, but this is fun to see non-running steps.  I'm so sedentary when I'm not working out, sometimes it motivates me to move around more. 

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!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 27: Pee your pants funny

Throughout the month of December (or January, actually, scheduling this to post while I'm running the Houston Marathon!), I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 27 – Pee your pants funny

What was the funniest thing that happened this year? Was it funny when it happened? Or was it one of those things you laughed about later?

Oooh, at dinner at San Francisco one night, this happened:


We could not stop laughing. That was way too much skin for anyone to be showing, particularly a guy. And particularly a guy who apparently has a hairy @ss.  So disturbing...

Just remembering that night now cracks me up.  My husband and brother both had a near constant view of this guy's backside if they were engaging in conversation with the table, and they were nearly dying with laughter. 

The other thing that still cracks me up from 2013 is the expression "winky face." And oddly enough, it is based on a story I heard, nothing that involved me. Somehow my husband and a coworker ended up having to read a series of texts between two of their coworkers -- one male and one female. The guy was complaining about work, saying no one cared about something. She wrote back: I care ;)

My husband's coworker read it out loud to him and said "winky face" in a funny voice. When he recounted the story for me, I also cracked up. So yeah, winky face is something recent and very funny to me (and I'd like to record it here to remember).

So San Francisco hairy back man and winky face tie for what made me laugh the hardest in 2013 that I can remember right now.   I'm sure there were plenty of other things. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 26: Five Moments

Throughout the month of December (loosely defined), I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 26 – Five Moments

Tell us about five moments you don’t want to forget from 2013.

1.  Dinner at The French Laundry.
2.  Finishing the Berlin Marathon with a PR.  And then, with a beer in my hand, getting in a pedicab with my husband for a ride back to the hotel. 
3.  First Christmas with one sister-in-law (they've been with her parents or she's worked before).
4.  Riding in a gondola in Venice and kissing under the bridges.
5.  Winning my first beer mile.

Runners up:

1.  Running a hilly 5k in July with my accounting buddy and seeing her PR.
2.  Winning my age group in a semi-big half-marathon.
3.  Attending my 20 year high school reunion.
4.  First in my age group in a 5k, not a big deal, but significant because it was witnessed by my husband and less than 30 seconds off my PR.
5.  Many commutes on foot, some with my accounting buddy, some with other running friends.

I definitely enjoyed 2013! 

I asked my husband his five:

1.  Standing along a road in San Francisco looking at the Bay Bridge and taking pictures.
2.  Riding in the gondola in Venice.
3.  Standing on the bridge in Germany looking at the Neuchwanstein castle.
4.  Snowmobiling over Christmas.
5.  Fun lunch with his son in San Francisco. 

I laughed that all his came from the last 3 months of the year.  Apparently the first 9 months were just a wash for him.  He listed our rehearsal dinner anniversary party in April as a contender but it didn't make his final list. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 25: Covet

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 25 – Covet
What did you covet this year? Are you working towards getting that, or just admiring it from afar? Is it a tangible thing, or just an idea? Tell us about what you’ve got your sights set on.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, my top "want" is travel.  And I got what I wanted in 2013.  A trip to Mardi Gras, visits to family in Pittsburgh, 6 days in the San Francisco area, a long weekend in Kansas City.  But most of all, it was the trip to Europe.  A marathon in Berlin, Oktoberfest in Munich, a short visit to Liechtenstein, a bit of time in Switzerland, time with family in Italy, a romantic trip for just the two of us to Venice, and then a stop in Amsterdam (planned primarily so we could enjoy a direct flight home!). 

But in terms of "things"...

I posted a wish list in May 2013 here

And wow, I've now gotten the top couple things that I coveted the most -- a Vera Bradley garment bag and an awesome blender (actually got a Breville for Christmas, not the Vitamix).  For Christmas, I also got a dinner fork and a knife that go with our set of silver, so now we're up to service for 9 (well, fork and knife service).  And we've gotten rid of our old pre-lit Christmas tree so we will have to buy a new one this year!  Well, we have exactly gotten rid of it, but we will. 

As for setting my sights for 2014, the primary goal will be to pay for our trip in the fall.  We're still not 100% sure where we're going, but we are thinking it will be India, Nepal, Maldives and maybe a stop in Dubai on the way home. 

In terms of things, the next big thing on my wishlist is a bicycle, but at the same time, I don't feel a strong desire for it.  Back when I made that wishlist, I was thinking I'd get my marathon goal time in Berlin and then maybe I'd move on to triathlons or something.  But I didn't get my goal, so I'm not really thinking about any other sports.  I still have unfinished business with the marathon! 

The other thing on the wishlist is a new Christmas tree.  Ours is going to be donated (hopefully next week!) and I want a new one.  Maybe not as heavy, but primarily one that has all the lights working! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 24: Crazy

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 24 – Crazy

What one little thing drove you crazy this year? Was it unique to this past year or has it been buggin’ you for a while? How do you intend to get rid of it or resolve it in 2014?

It's funny that this is the post I planned to answer today.  The answer to the question was seemingly easy last week.  The thorn in my side most of 2013 was my assistant at work.  Technically, that thorn was there in 2011 and 2012 as well, but it felt like a sharper thorn in my side in 2013. 

I started off my career in big law, where most of the secretaries were very professional and competent -- even the ones who were sleeping with attorneys.  And my last two secretaries at the big firm were both spectacularly good at their jobs and worked plenty of overtime (for me and for other attorneys). 

Then I went to small law, where the secretaries and legal assistants were very unprofessional and farily incompetent.  But in general, I was expected to do a lot of the grunt work myself.  Sure, someone would fax letters and print envelopes, but I even did most of my own reference filing. 

Then I came to my current job where my assistant is best described as an idiot.  In an "ugly" moment, I candidly told my husband that she epitomizes my ultimate fear for the future -- she's nearly 70 and still working, she's overweight and very unhealthy, she's financially bankrupt, she's alone, she's disliked by many, and she's incredibly stupid.  Of course now I hate even admitting to saying those things, but I did. 

But bottom line is that I don't even like exchanging pleasantries with her.  I've learned the hard way that she's both lonely and an oversharer.  If I ask her in passing (or what I think is in passing) how her weekend was, it turns into a 10 minute soliloquy that frequently seems to go back to gout, her diminishing control of her bladder/bowels, her financial problems, or something I else I just want to unhear.  I'm not sure if she tells me all this because she thinks I'll understand as a woman or what, but I know she doesn't share such gruesome details with my boss (though she overshares with him too, he's heard all kinds of medical history on less disgusting topics).  I've tried walking away from the conversation and she'll follow me into my office.  I've tried putting my finger on words on my computer screen when she starts talking in my office so she can see I'm in the middle of WORKING.  I've also tried to just turn to my computer and start typing while she talks.  I've also picked up the phone and held the receiver so she can see I'm waiting to make a call.  Hints don't work.  I have to cut her off by actually saying something like, "that sounds painful, I'm sorry to hear it, but I have to wrap this case up right now." 

In preparation for the couple audits we have each year at work, I review my files and see the mistakes she's made.  And on a frequent basis, I am forced to see how far behind she is in doing her job.  And all of that makes my job harder.  Hence the "ugly" outburst shared with my husband.

But this week I found out that there is going to be a fairly substantial RIF here tomorrow (Friday).  My boss didn't share with me who would be let go, but he made it clear that it wasn't me (whew!).  But as I've voiced my frustration with her before, and knowing how others seem to feel about her, I have to think she's one on the chopping block.  And it's particularly sad because I cannot imagine anyone else being willing to hire her.  I certainly don't wish her any ill will, and I sincerely hope she lands on her feet -- but at the same time, I don't feel like there's any way I could give her a good reference. 

So the thorn in my side may well be gone by the end of January 2014, but part of me worries that whatever comes next might make me wish I had her back.  It may be a more competent but overworked assistant shared by more attorneys.  Or it may be a job outsourced to India or something.  For now, I'll just think positively that it will be a professional, competent, pleasant new assistant...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 23: The race set out for you

Throughout the month of December (running behind, I know), I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 23 – The race set out for you

Tell us about how you’ve been running along in 2013 and the race(s) you intend to run in 2014. These can be literal races or just the road of life. What did your path look like this year, and are you choosing the same for 2014?

Well, what a surprise, I'm going to take this question literally to think about my road races. 

2013 yielded a few PRs for me -- 10k, 10 mile, half-marathon and marathon.  While the year didn't feel all that impressive to me, primarily because I was more focused on my marathon goal time than a PR (and I missed that goal time), in reality, those are 3 pretty strong PRs (and one lame-o one, only my second 10 mile race ever!).  Along with those PRs, I ran about a dozen races total -- two marathons, and three halves that come to mind (there might have been a fourth?).  I really should be very excited with the way that 2013 shook out. 

The path in 2014 will be similar I think.  But it's very unlikely I'll have those kind of PRs in 2014. 
Something has happened to me in the last few weeks.  I've gained weight -- like a lot (more than 5% of my body weight).  And I've slowed down -- like a lot.  I ran two good treadmill runs right before Christmas, and then I was just out of steam.  The top of my foot hurt.  I've come down with some kind of cold or virus right now.  I'm unmotivated.  And oh yeah, I have a marathon this weekend. 

I ran a 22 mile long run and it was the slowest I've done in more than 5 years I think.  It was miserable.  And pretty much all my runs lately have been like that.  I just can't seem to find any zip.  I just plod along.  In reality, I guess I need a little break. 

So I've worked to set up a plan for 2014 that will hopefully get me back into my groove.  I'm going to do some half-marathon training until May.  Hopefully that will help with some shorter distance PRs.  I'd like to see a solid 15k time happen.  And I need a new 5 mile PR. 

Then in May, I think I'll do marathon training again -- I am pretty sure my goal race is going to be in Milwaukee in early October.  I will wait to see how training goes, but I may take another shot at my dream marathon time, which would be a PR of about 9 minutes now.  And I'd love to do that before I turn 40, which is going to happen soon!  (Not 2014, but soon!) 

I chose that race primarily because I have family in the area and the date works well on the calendar.  What I think we'll do is go to Milwaukee for the race, come home, work a few more days, then head to India and our other planned exotic destinations in the middle of the following week. 

So I'd like to see 2014 go down on the books with 2 marathons, 2 half-marathons, and about 5-10 other races, including my streak 5k and 8 mile races. 

#Reverb13, Day 22: Uphill

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 22 – Uphill

What uphill battle did you keep fighting and fighting in 2013? Are you going to keep fighting it or let it go? Why?

The first thing I thought of when I read this prompt was uphills -- literally.  I posted earlier this year about the monumental shift I made in my training.  Moving from years and years of boot camp three days per week to dropping one day of camp in favor of running hills with my buddies one day.

Living in fairly flat Dallas, I don't get a lot of opportunity to train on hills.  One of the best things about training on hills is that you can quickly see your progress. 

After months of weekly hill runs, I saw concrete improvements in my time.  I still felt like I slowed down more on uphills than many of my friends, but I also spent significant time training for the St. George marathon about five years ago, so I worked a lot on my downhill form and those lessons aren't easily unlearned, so while they pulled ahead of me on the uphills, I'd catch up on the plateau or on the down. 

But hills, like speed, are easily lost for runners if you don't keep up with them regularly. 

Berlin was a very flat marathon.  World record flat.  I think my hill training paid off in my overall strength and fitness. 

But did it help more than an extra day of cross-training would have?  Who's to say? 

So that's my question for 2014 that remains to be determined.  Will I keep fighting that Flagpole Hill loop (I mean, that Flagpole Mountain loop)?  Or will I let it go? 

I think my answer will likely be that I'll wait until marathon training starts in May and then go back to it once a week for 4 months. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 21: Encounters

Throughout the month of December (now January), I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 21 – Encounters
What thing did you keep encountering this year over and over again? Was it something you learned from, or was it just a strange coincidence?

Nothing comes to mind for this prompt.  2013 brought similar encounters to 2012, and 2011...

I suppose the smallness of my neighborhood.  We live in an area of Dallas known as uptown.  We live across the steet from restaurants and are walking distance from lots of shops.  We live in a condo complex and while we've known our next door neighbors since they moved in (and we actually consider them among our dearest friends), 2013 was the year I felt like I got to know more neighbors. 

We had gotten to be friends with another neighbor in 2012 because her cousin was my Chinese tutor, but in 2013, my tutor had moved back to China, but we continued to spend time with that neighbor.

And we added a few other condo units to our list of friends -- at an HOA meeting in May or so, I overheard where someone had moved from and asked about it.  And eventually it turned out that he works for the same company as one of my brothers.  And because the company isn't huge and there is a notable fact about my brother (used to play pro ball), his name circulates and our neighbor had heard of him.  So when my brother was here visiting in August, we all went out for drinks.  And since then, they've had us over to their place for wine and we've started seeing each other more regularly.

I guess that's kind of cool.  For the first 8 or so years I lived here, I completely kept to myself.  I thought, if something ever happened to me and they interviewed my neighbors, I'd want them all to say they didn't really know me but I seemed pretty nice and normal.  But now they could get all kinds of scoop!

Sorry this one's so lame.  I really couldn't come up with any odd encounters in 2013. 

#Reverb13, Day 20: Gratitude

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 20 – Gratitude

How did you show gratitude this year? Did you keep a gratitude journal? How do you want gratitude to play a role in your life in 2014?

I'm not a very religious person, but in some ways, I feel like I show gratitude by living my life as I do.  I show gratitude for and take advantage of my health and my schedule by training for and running marathons.  I show my gratitude for my job by doing it well and managing my money carefully.  I show my gratitude for my sometimes better than I deserve husband by complimenting him and telling him I love him (his love language is affirmation), and by trying to be a good wife and doing things he'll appreciate.  I show my gratitude for my wonderful family by staying in touch with them even though we don't live close, and spending precious time/money on visits and calls.  I show my gratitude for the job done by some professional contacts by sending an email to that person's boss explaining very clearly what the person has done, how it helped me, and (most importantly) how it benefitted the boss/company. 

I don't keep a gratitude journal and don't think I'll start, but it's an interesting idea.  Looking toward 2014, I should make more of an effort to send the "higher up rave" emails.  And while I don't do it often, those "thank you for your friendship" type notes and cards really mean a lot to at least some people, so maybe I should do that more. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

FMM: Taboo Topics

The good news as this week begins -- I feel like I'm finally starting to get back in shape.  The scale isn't reflecting that progress, but I can feel some endurance and speed coming back.  And the marathon is now in less than a week, so while this would have been ideal a month ago, better late than never.  I ran a very easy 10k on Saturday, and then did my last long run of 12 miles on Sunday -- and I actually felt good on Sunday.  I was about 90 seconds slower than the theoretical race pace (I say theoretical because I'm not even going to shoot for a PR), so 90 seconds slower is fine and that should feel very easy, but bottom line is that last weekend 2-2.5 minutes slower than theoretical race pace felt insanely hard and unsustainable.  But this will confirm that there has been some progress.  Huzzah! 

The bad news as this week begins -- it's going to be a tough week at work.  I'll have to post about that later.  And the pain on top of my foot is still present at times.  I had it looked at by a sports doctor over the weekend and he said he thinks there's no chance it's a stress fracture or some kind of tendonitis, but he thinks it might be a synovial cyst (no pictures in the link, don't worry) -- benign, but painful.  Assuming that's what it is, he said options would be to have it drained, to have it surgically removed, or to attempt to wait it out.  I'm not even going to start the procedure to figure out if that's what it is for sure until after the marathon.  I'm still hoping that taking some time off will resolve it, or that I can wear some kind of pad on top of my foot to take the pressure off and therefore eliminate the pain.  Since it's on the top of my foot, it only hurts when I have a shoe across the top of it.  Maybe I'll learn to run in heels! 


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!

Taboo Topics
1. Are you a registered voter?  Yes.

2. Do you believe in GOD?  Yes.  But I'm not really into church right now. 

3. How has your readership changed since you first began blogging?  Not sure, it has grown but I think still primarily consists of writers of blogs I like to read.  I don't pay much attention aside from seeing who commented. 

4. If you could choose between a serious relationship or $100,000, which would you choose?  Assuming the serious relationship is with my husband, I'd choose that.  But if the serious relationship were with someone else, meaning an affair, then score!, I'd take the $100,000 and not have an affair! 

5. Have you ever changed political parties?  No.  My political beliefs have stayed basically the same from when I was earning minimum wage at Arby's in high school to when I was pulling in over $300k per year in big law.  And now I'm somewhere in between in terms of economincs and my political beliefs are still basically the same.  I think my opinion on some issues (particulary China and its role in the world) has changed with time, experience and travel, but for the most part, it's same old me!  Law school definitely impacted my ability to see (and argue) both sides however.  I'm infinitely less partisan than I was in college. 

6. If you were put in a position in which you had to be in a room with someone that you can’t stand, how would you handle the situation? How big is the room, what else is in there and how long are we in there?  I'm trying hard to think of an individual who I can't stand so I can come up with a good answer, but I can't really think of anyone.  Ex-boyfriend?  I could make small talk and attempt to remember fun times.  Actually, the more I think about it, the more that's my answer for anyone.  If I can't just talk to other people in the room and avoid the person I can't stand, I would go with making small talk and attempting to find some common ground (oh, you hate hard-boiled eggs?  me too!!!  isn't that weird texture of the yellow part disgusting?). 

7. Do you ever eat in secret because you don’t want anyone to see what you consume?  Every weekday!  I eat lunch at my desk alone and usually keep working (but sometimes read blogs).  And I hate the idea of anyone in the office walking by and seeing me shoving something in my mouth, so I eat with my door shut.  But it's not about what I'm consuming that bothers me.  I pretty much feel like I don't mind eating anything in front of anyone, assuming they're eating too I guess.  Like I'd be fine with going out for lunch with my entire office and eating in front of them.  And I don't mind if I'm eating alone in front of my family, but pretty much the rest of the time, I don't like to be the only one eating, so I'd much rather eat in secret.  I also had to eat in secret over Christmas because my family is trying not to eat in front of my grandpa.  That's something about the feeding tube that has been hard for him -- he can smell the food and see it and misses eating it.  So we all try not to eat in front of him.  I had to microwave and go to the family room to eat.  Can I add to my answer that I wish my husband would eat in secret?  He loves canned tuna and the smell seriously turns my stomach sometimes.  I wish he'd secretly eat it before he comes home and brush his teeth and throw the can directly in the dumpster. 

8. Do you use curse words in your daily conversations?  Yes, when it strikes me as appropriate.  I texted with my husband this morning and it went like this:
Me:  $hit.  Did you call Hailey [my niece] yesterday?
Him:  Negative.
Me:  Double $hit.  I didn't either.  Hastag bad aunt and uncle.  Hashtag $hitty godmother.
Him:  #funny wife.
Yeah, the "sh word" is usually my curse of choice.  But obviously, particularly living in bible-ish Texas, I don't curse all the time.  I'm okay with cursing in front of my boss, husband and friends, including running buddies, where bad language seems to fly frequently.  But I don't curse in front of my mother (only rarely and always preceded by a big pause for emphasis), or kids if possible.  I once spun out in snow and landed in a ditch with my two little brothers in the car and I yelled "damn it!" and they both gasped and said, "it's okay, we won't tell."  So yeah, very much an anti-cursing household...

9. How much do you tip when you’ve had decent service at a restaurant?  I think I usually tip about 20% almost all the time. 

10. How do you respond when someone confronts you? I guess it depends on the situation.  I'm probably pretty defensive assuming it's someone I know.  If it's a stranger in a parking lot, I'd probably flee! 

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!

#Reverb13, Day 19: Personality

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 19 – Personality

Were you an extrovert or an introvert this year? Why? Is that normal for you? Or a switch from previous years?

My personality is usually somewhat of a mix, but mostly extroverted.  This is normal for me.  I don't feel like many new people are added to my life in any given year with whom I have much personal interaction, but in 2013, as I posted, I actually sought out running groups in other cities and got to know people that way.  It's easy to talk as you run and you can get to know some very interesting people and very interesting things about people that way.  One conversation that stuck out to me in Pittsburgh was talking to the guy I fell in step with about why he thinks he got divorced.  Aside from a professional therapy session, I cannot imagine any other context in my life where I'd have that conversation with someone within an hour of meeting them for the first time.  But conversations like that are easy when you run.  They can get very personal and at times, it's helped me tremendously -- I feel like my running buddies have basically made my last two big career decisions for me (deciding to take the job I currently have, and deciding not to leave this job when there was an interesting offer I was considering). 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 18: Wear

Throughout the month of December ((haha), I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 18 – Wear:
What piece of clothing did you wear again and again all throughout the year? Why? Is it all worn out? Are you going to replace it or keep wearing it?

Nothing really comes to mind for this.  I have way too much stuff in my closet in general, but at times like this (when I'm on the heavy side of my usual range), I'm happy for the variety of sizes.  But even my favorite clothes I try not to wear too often. 

If I had to pick my signature piece of clothing for 2013, it was a pair of neon pink pants that I bought at the Gap.  I wore them to work once (slightly too casual for the office on a normal day), to book club, to dinner, and a few times in Europe.  Unfortunately for me, I wore them on both Christmas card picture days in Europe -- the day we went to Neuchwanstein castle in Germany, and the day we rode on the gondola in Venice.  We had a third picture this year that we used in a few cards and it was from the Ponte Rialto in Venice and it was the same day as the gondola ride.  So I decided to choose my second favorite Neuchwanstein picture to use in our cards since you couldn't see my pants in it. 

I thought the pants were done on the day I wore them in Neuchwanstein.  That night, we had dinner in Liechtenstein.   The place where we ate had a big salad bar where we made plates before our pizzas came.  And as I was eating my salad, a very juicy piece of beet fell off my plate, missed my napkin, and hit my light pink neon pants.  Ugh.  But I used stain stick on them and it worked -- I wore them again in Venice! 

So they are not worn out and if I can lose about 10 pounds and it gets about 40 degrees warmer, I will go back to wearing them. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 17: 30 Days

Throughout the month of December (errr... January), I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 17 – 30 Days
They say it takes 30 days to make or break a habit. What did you start? What did you quit?

I'm not sure that the "30 days" rule for habits applies to something that you don't do on a daily basis, but my new 2013 habit was definitely running to work round trip about two days per week for the first 9 months of the year. 

And I quit facebook for the year.  That was actually a hard habit to break.  During TV commercials, while sitting in my car waiting for someone, before I fell asleep, etc., my instinct was to reach for my phone and check FB (I didn't post often, but I liked to "like" and comment and just read).  I still reached for my phone, but instead of FB, I played Sudoku usually, and occasionally browsed Pinterest. 

But both of those were 2013 things.  I haven't run to work yet this year (it doesn't help that it's bitter cold right now), and I have looked at FB twice in 2014 already (definitely nothing like the multiple times per day I was checking before). 

Friday, January 10, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 16: 1000 Words

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Uh yeah, I know it's January.  I'm behind...

Day 16 – 1000 Words:
There’s the old saying that a photo is worth 1,000 words. Give us a photo with that impact that sums up some significant event of your 2013, or give us 1,000 words about a pivotal moment in 2013.

My husband had surgery in June.  He basically felt like he'd been getting ongoing sinus and upper respiratory infections for a majority of the last several winters. His doctor recommended that he have balloon sinuplasty done, and that they repair a deviated septum while they were in there.  It wasn't super-serious and it was scheduled in advance.  So when a few friends offered to accompany us and stay with me while I waited, I said no, it was no big deal and totally unnecessary.  

My husband is older than I am but not "old old" (he's in his 40s), and he works out A LOT, but he has had some heart issues before and he's my world.  I mean, I know lots of people say things like that, but I really can't imagine wanting to live my life without him.

And for this surgery, there would be general anesthesia.  But I still thought no big deal. 

I went to the hospital with him.  And being the good wife that I am, I waited until he was taken into the room to change until I ate my breakfast (he was starving). 

Then they brought me back to see him one more time before the procedure and talked me through what would happen in the OR and with me (when I'd be updated, etc.).  Seeing my husband in that hospital bed, wearing a gown, looking so vulnerable, it scared me.  He wasn't even mildly nervous, but I was. 

I returned to the waiting room, got the phone call indicating the procedure was underway, and then the waiting began.  I worked for the first several hours, but then I started to get really worked up.  I should have gotten the second call saying the procedure was over, he was going to recovery, and they'd call again when I could go back to see him. 

Eventually, I texted a running buddy whose wife works in another department at the hospital.  I told him what was going on and asked if his wife was busy.  7 minutes later a woman I've met only about twice in real life (at a couple parties with running friends).  She sat with me and said she'd try to get some more information.  She went back to day surgery and returned about 15 minutes later to tell me that it was taking longer than they expected but that it was going fine.  She then proceeded to spend her entire lunch hour and breaks for the day sitting there with me as we waited another hour and change for the second phone call. 

It finally came, the surgery was over, he was fine, he'd be in recovery and they'd call when he was awake.  My running buddy's wife went back to work, and I got back to work on my laptop.  When I was finally allowed to go back and see him, my heart hurt all over again.  He was all disoriented, gown askew with shoulders exposed, bleeding through gauze taped under his nose, with betadine stains on his body, hooked up to tubes, wearing all kinds of sensors and monitors, with a puffy and swollen face.  But he was okay.  I hate to say that I cried with relief.

That day he seemed so vulnerable and it made me think about all those bad "what if"s and death and all that.  If you'd asked me the week before his surgery, how I felt about him, I would have said that I loved him and in generally still felt like we were newly married.  But after that surgery, as corny as it sounds, I feel like he's actually a piece of me.  Like a vital organ, not an extra hand or something.  It was a pivotal moment in realizing how much I've changed from the totally independent person I was 8 years ago when he was just one of a couple guys I was dating... 

In some ways, I would still deny that I'm dependent on him.  After all, I have a job that supports me well (and could support both of us).  I have a strong family that I love.  I have several really, really good girlfriends who are like sisters.  And I have a pretty big network of friends that I regularly see for running or otherwise.  But when I walked out of the hospital that day to go get the car and drive up to the door where they wheeled him out, there was no denying that my happiness is totally dependent on him.  He's just such a big part of my life.  I guess most people could say that about their spouses, but I guess his surgery is when it really hit me that he is my life, my happiness and my world. 

So during his week of recovery, I worked from home.  Even when he was feeling better, I wanted to be by his side, particularly if he was on pain meds.  I didn't want him being alone and falling down the stairs in our house or something.  And mostly, I just wanted to stay next to him in bed, cuddled close, even with my laptop there and work being done. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

#Reverb13, Day 14: Feast

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 14 – Feast:
What was the best meal you had in 2013? Was it slurped standing over the kitchen counter? Was the menu written in a language you understood? Were you alone? Or at a table filled with family and friends?

This one is easy.  There is a very clear winner for "meal of the year," and it also takes the title for "restaurant meal of my lifetime". 

We went to the French Laundry at the end of October (or beginning of November?) when we were on vacation in Northern California. 

I first heard about this restaurant in 2003 when my best friend and her husband went to Northern California for their honeymoon.  I remember her telling me about trying to get reservations and how happy they were when they got in the very week they were there because of a cancellation.  When she got back from their honeymoon, she raved about it.  Their check had been over $500 but she said it had been the best meal of their lives.  And when my husband and I got married in Italy, we had about 10-15 courses of food at our reception (typical Southern Italian style), and they said they'd now had two of those meals:  The French Laundry and our wedding reception.  While the food at our wedding was good, and while she didn't compare the two in any way other than shear number of courses, obviously the French Laundry would win out for quality (not to say I didn't love everything I ate at our wedding...). 

In short, The French Laundry restaurant is small and takes reservations 2 months prior and always fills up on the very day reservations open.  I tried calling in late August and early September to attempt to get reservations on any day we'd be there for vacation (a total of 6 days).  After hundreds of phone calls each day, I'd finally connect and they'd be full already but put me on the wait list. 

But a few weeks later I got a phone call indicating there had been a cancellation and asking if I was still interested.  Uhhh, yeah!!! 

I was glad we found out in September because it gave me time to make sure I could afford the meal.  I'm totally anti-credit-card debt, and I knew our dinner check would be over $500 (little did I know, it would actually be over $1,000 for the two of us), so I was able to spend wisely in the months before our trip (unfortunately, we were in Europe for about 3 weeks of that, and I was spending money like it grew on trees!) (but the Europe money was in the budget, so it was okay, it was just a matter of being prepared for the spending spree to continue pretty much from late September until Christmas Eve!). 

We planned to go to Napa and go wine tasting in the afternoon before dinner but we ended up scrapping that plan.  We knew we'd be pretty dressed up for dinner, and we didn't want to wear that stuff wine tasting.  We knew we'd drink a lot wine tasting, and we didn't want to be intoxicated (or buzzed) for a meal that special.  And we didn't know how we'd kill the couple hours after most vineyards closed and before The French Laundry reservations. 

So instead that day we did the sights of San Fran.  We drove across the Bay Bridge and went to a lighthouse, we went for an awesome run, we saw the sea lions at the pier, etc.  Then we drove to Yountsville for dinner. 

Without further ado, photos of our meal at The French Laundry.  We went with my brother and sister-in-law.  For the record, both of them and my husband were appalled that I was taking photos of the food.  I asked the waiter if other people did it and he said about 1/3 of their tables on any given night are taking photos of the food.  So it wasn't as tacky as they thought -- well, maybe it was, but I had lots of company in my tackiness! 

And feel special, this blog was about 80% of the reason I took the photos (my own bad memory is the other 20%).

Walking in:

Those little touches: 

Hope you can read this, it's the menu I ordered: 

And here is the menu that everyone else at our table ordered:

Not on the menu, but what we started with:

This was the "oysters and pearls", "sabayon" of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar, that everyone but me ordered: 

The horseradish and la ratte potato "vichyssoise": 

Roll 1:

What my husband and brother ordered -- musquee de provence pumpkin risotto, "castelmagno" mousse and shaved white truffles from Alba: 

Jacobsen orchard persimmon salad: 

The crispy garnet yam, one of my favorites: 

Carmelized red fuseau sunchoke "potage" (one of the only courses that I didn't love): 

Roll 2: 

Sweet butter-poached Maine lobster (I believe, not something I ate): 

And I think this is the "pave" of Atlantic fluke "confit a la minute" (again, not something I got so I'm not sure what it was): 
 I believe this is the devil's gulch ranch rabbit that everyone else got: 

Hand-rolled whole milk ricotta "gnudi" (because of my nut allergy, this was my replacement for the chestnut ravioli course): 

The white truffles from Alba, pre-shaving:

The all-day braised elysian fields farm lamb shank (not mine, obvs): 

This was my favorite part of the meal -- the hand cut tagliatelle with shaved white truffles from Alba:

 Not sure, but I think this is andante dairy "acapella", slow-roasted garden beets, young fennel, ruby beet essence, and English walnut jam (not for me): 

"Terrine de bleu d'Avergne", riesling gelee, marinated grapes, garden mache, black pepper shortbread and syrah "gastrique" (insanely, insanely good, another favorite): 

Wine, water, sister-in-law: 

 The beginning of the assortment of desserts: 

Can't remember what this was, but looking at the picture now, there is a lot of extra saliva being generated -- it was amazing, another favorite: 

The dessert truffle guy, showing us the options.  I believe there were 7 different kinds and each person got to choose as many as they wanted to sample: 

I got three kinds -- each one divine, another favorite part of the meal...: 

Coffee and doughnuts, very, very good: 

 Some Halloween spirit, special shortbread cookies, we also got some to take home: 

Apparently another coffee and doughnuts picture?: 

And oh yes, the check.  Because only 3 of the 4 of us ordered $175 supplement options, we decided not to split the check down the middle (plus it was a younger brother...), so I think our share was $1050. 
 More dessert: 

There you have it.  The priciest meal I ate in 2013.  The priciest meal I ate in my life.  The best meal I ate in 2013.  The best restaurant meal I ate in my life!  That's pretty much my The French Laundry review.  It was quite the feast.  Certainly something to experience once in a lifetime, and something we'll fondly remember. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2013 Reading

In 2012, I resolved to read 20 books.  I ended up finishing only 19, but it totaled out at about 4000 pages of nonfiction and 3300 pages of fiction. 

So in 2013, rather than counting the number of books, I decided to try to count pages.  My goal was 7500 pages and at least 50% nonfiction.

How did I do?  Well, counting as complete the two books at the end of this list that are more than half-way finished, I read a total of 6825 pages, which broke down into 3800 pages of nonfiction and 3025 pages of fiction.  It was a total of 18 books (11 nonfiction, 7 fiction). 

I'm okay with falling short of my goal.  One of the books listed below (Joseph Anton) pretty much sucked all the reading life out of me for a while.  And I met my goal for reading nonfiction, which I think was important. 

Book of the year for me was Lean In (review below). 

Here's what I read in 2013 and my thoughts:

Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom by Ron Paul.  Nonfiction, about 350 pages.  Ugh.  An alphabetical list of Ron Paul's thoughts on pretty much everything.  Abortion, bipartisanship, campaign finance reform, etc.  If you think, oh, 26 topics, that won't be so bad, let me add that there were sometimes multiple topics for a single letter.  So C was not just campaign finance reform, but also capital punishment.  I solely read this because my husband read it, thought parts of it were interesting, and wanted me to read it so we could discuss.  I have less time to read in 2013, and I likely shouldn't have had this book on the list based on that "reason to read."  Parts of it were definitely interesting, and I couldn't agree with him more, but a vast majority of it was also so contrary to my opinion (I'm actually less of a libertarian than I would have guessed).  Different viewpoints are always good I suppose.  I do feel like I'm smarter for having read it, which is one of my objectives in reading.  Not sure why but I got it in my head that it would be funny if the book ended with an entry under Z for zombies, but instead he went out on Zionism.   Bummer.  That was actually a big let-down when I somehow let myself get psyched up about zombies. 

Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King.  Fiction, 650 pages.  Not what I expected. I hadn't read any Stephen King in a long time, but I loved his books pre-college. This one, not so much. It was an odd story that started in the 60s with a group of three friends and then glimpses of their lives and overlapping connections over the rest of their lives.  Maybe I haven't read enough Stephen King, but this wasn't what I expected as typical Stephen King, and I didn't like it that much. 

The Black Box by Michael Connelly.  Fiction, about 425 pages.  I primarily read Michael Connelly books because he is by far my husband's favorite author.  I enjoy them a lot as well, and this one was no exception.  This one is about a Danish reporter killed during the LA riots in 1992, and her murder remains unsolved.  20 years later, the LAPD wants to reexamine the open homicides from the riots, including this one, and see if some of them can be closed, not including this one. 

Thunderstruck by Eric Larson. Nonfiction, about 475 pages. About a murder in England in the early 1900s committed apparently by Hawley Crippen, and the invention and development of wireless telegraphy by Guglielmo Marconi.   I'm not sure why the author's name didn't register for me on this one, but it is the same author who wrote Devil in the White City, about some murders that happened during the Chicago World's Fair in 1904.  It even mentions that on the front cover.  But you know, I missed it.  It wasn't until I was about halfway through that I thought the tone sounded familiar and made the connection.  I preferred Devil in the White City, which I had to read for book club.  This one was okay, but not spectacular. 

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris. Fiction, about 175 pages (but small ones). A few chuckles but not my favorite by him.  Generally, a bunch of very short stories about animals who exhibit human personality characteristics.  The title story is about a chipmunk dating a squirrel and how the chipmunk's family objects.  There's one about a dog who is married to another dog in the same household, but is taken by the owner for breeding and reasons that it's work, not adultery, but then finds a dog that he likes and therefore "works" extra hard.  Since most the stories seem to have some moral, I found many to be fairly depressing.  Overall, fairly unimpressive, not recommended.

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu.   Fiction, about 350 pages.  This one was particularly fun since last year I'd tried to learn some Chinese and had gotten to visit Shanghai.  It's a story about a Chinese man who is married with a young child.  He grew up in the US, but moved to China when he was 10 and forgot most of his English.  When he is injured in an explosion, he is diagnosed with bilingual Broca's aphasia, which means in his case, he has lost his ability to speak or read Chinese (though he understands it), and can only communicate (and then with difficulty both due to the aphasia and due to the fact he only knew some English) haltingly in English.  A doctor from the US is brought in to help him attempt to recover his Chinese.  The doctor character was insanely irritating and stereotypical, but the book was good despite her. 

Lean In:  Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.  Nonfiction, about 175 pages.  This book got a lot of press in 2013 and was my choice for book club.  I ended up loving it.  Sex and gender issues have always been interesting to me, particularly the pay gap, and particularly about differences between the sexes in high-earning fields.  Of course there are so many factors in the pay gap, starting early with how parents and teachers treat children of opposite sexes, and then self-selection choices throughout life, frequently driving women to choose lower earning professions in general, as well as antiquated stereotypes about sex roles in the home (raising children, doing work related to the household).  I may be unique in that many of my married female friends are the primary breadwinner in their relationships (keep in mind, a lot of my friends are other attorneys).  So when it's not a dual-attorney couple (I have plenty of them among my friends too), when they have children, their husbands stay home.  Several of my best friends with kids (including my godson's parents) have the husband doing most of the child-rearing.  While we don't have kids, I'm a big stickler for equal contributions in terms of time to running our household since we both work full-time.  Fortunately, my husband is on board with that -- I think I'd be miserable married to someone who expected me to do the bulk of the household stuff just because I'm female.  In fact, I never would have married that guy!  But the book has made me think a lot about these interesting issues.  And one of the books less central points about the importance of mentor relationships at work has really sunk in with me.  While my direct supervisor is male, since I finished this book, I've made more of an effort to ask him career direction advice, and I want to continue to do that.  The importance of having a mentor, etc. 

Joseph Anton:  A Memoir by Salman Rushdie.  Nonfiction, about 650 pages.  What a book.  Not sure even what to say about it.  If you've ever watched Friends and remember the book of grievances, I bet this book will trigger a flashback.  In many ways, Rushdie/Anton came across as egomaniacal and self-absorbed.  It's the story of his life after The Satanic Verses was published and the fatwah or death warrant was issued.  Joseph Anton was the pseudonym under which he lived in fear of his life.  Of course it's an interesting story, particularly when you think about the importance of freedom of speech, religious freedom, and the role of literature in the world.  And the first few years of living under the fatwah was interesting, but then it all got to be too much.  There was a lot of recapping all the press about him (did I mention he came acorss as very self-absorbed?), a list of all the awards he's received, reiterating everything he's ever heard praising him or his books.  He just struck me as very full of himself.  For anyone who watches The Bachelor, he was kind of a fame whore -- actually, I think there are probably fewer than 100 people in the world who both watch The Bachelor regularly and have read Joseph Anton.  Haha.  I'm unique!  Anyway, he's a big name dropper.  And he seemed very old when he was essentially just making a list of people he knew/knows who had gotten cancer.  I know several older people who occasionally do that -- just a big list of all the people with cancer.  Anyway, I did not like Joseph Anton at all.  I can't believe I stuck with it for that many pages.  BUT... I've never read The Satanic Verses (as he explains it, there truly never was any anti-Muslim intent), and I've never read Haroun and the Sea of Stories, two of Rushdie's books that Joseph Anton made me want to read. 

Bossypants by Tina Fey.  Nonfiction, about 275 pages.  I liked it more than I thought I would.  The nuances of being a woman in comedy, or any comedian attempting to get a break, aren't things I'd ever really considered.  And I don't watch 30 Rock, but I certainly enjoyed some of Fey's SNL sketches.  Best line of the book (in reference to dating within your workplace):  "Remember, when you work in what is basically a cage that you're not allowed to leave, your choices are limited to what strolls by."

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.  Fiction, about 275 pages.  A collection of short stories, all with the character of Olive Kitteridge, a woman approximately in her 60s, in the story in some way.  This was a book club selection.  It was good, but not one that I'll go back to read again. 

The Onion's Book of Known Knowledge.  Fiction, about 250 pages.  Awful.  My second "alphabetical list" book of the year and perhaps an even bigger flop.  I think a total of 4 of the entries made me laugh out loud:  401k, Socrates, Table, and Toast (hmm, 3 of the 4 were late in the book, maybe it started to grow on me?).  Because I read The Onion loyally weekly for YEARS, I expected so much more.  Seriously, there have been several stories on the Onion that I still reference about a decade after I read them (adding the fifth blade to the razor is perhaps my favorite).  And I own (and love) another Onion book, Our Dumb Century (I actually have it within arm's reach in my office).  But this one just bombed in my opinon.  Ugh.  Give me back my life.  I can't believe I bothered to finish it, but I will say it was quick. 

Easy Company Soldier by Don Malarkey.  Nonfiction, about 300 pages.  Several men involved in Easy Company have written their stories, and this was just as good as the others I've read.  While he seemed to be bragging at times, he certainly deserves to!  Currahee, Normandy, Bastogne.  I don't think it's the best of the first-hand accounts, but it's worth reading and always good to hear another person's take on the war of the (last) century. 

Running with the Kenyans:  Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth by Adharanand Finn.  Nonfiction, about 300 pages.  A strong but recreational runner (38 minute 10k if I remember correctly) decides to move with his family (wife and little kids) to Kenya to see if he can get to the bottom of why Kenya produces many of the best runners in the world.  While the common belief (at least among non-runners) of it being genetic has been discounted, it's very interesting as he considers the many other plausible explanations (and he does go through genetics as well).  Barefoot running, eating ugali, the importance of rest, training v. racing paces, the derth of other profitable options, the elevation, .  This isn't the kind of book you'd read in hopes of learning the secrets, but there were several take-aways that I found interesting and can apply to my own running.  While Finn lives in Kenya, he travels, he meets many former winners, current elites, and future winners, and he puts together a racing team to compete in a marathon.  And yes, his own times improve too.  I also enjoyed the non-running aspect regarding life in Kenya.  It's my favorite place in Africa though I haven't travelled much there, but I'd love to go back.  He doesn't include many pictures (basically one at the beginning of each chapter); I wished there were more. 

Night Film by M Priezl.  Fiction, about 600 pages.  Read almost all of this in Italy while we were on vacation because I wanted to leave it for hubby's counsin who speaks English.  Book was bizarre, but pretty good for a mindless read. 

This Land Is Their Land by Barbara Ehrenreich.  Nonfiction, about 250 pages.  Typical Ehrenreich, which meant I liked it.  About wealth inequality in America.  So good that I made my husband read it too.  While we consider ourselves to be certainly financially comfortable, we're definitely not close to the uber-rich, and I found it interesting to make myself think about what this wealth gap means for the poorest of the poor.  Not a comfortable book to read, but of course that's what means more people should read it.  But of course as a "have" there were some things in the book I'd argue weren't true, but it made me think and her point is quite valid. 

The Information:  A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick.  Nonfiction, about 550 pages.  Both interesting and dry at the same time.  It draws on lots of different subjects -- particularly (in order of emphasis based on my reading):  English, math, computer science, science, foreign language.  The book made me google things like "why is the alphabet in the order it is?" (and really, why??? why can't it be X, E, A, K, P, D...?), and "what is the least integer not nameable in fewer than nineteen syllables?" (Berry's paradox -- because "the least integer not nameable in fewer than nineteen syllables" is 111,777, but technically, the phrase describing it, "the least integer not nameable in fewer than nineteen syllables" is only 18 syllables!).  Overall, I liked it, but that's because I'm a nerd.  I'm not sure to whom I'd actually recommend this book. 

And I have two books that are presently "in progress" that I am counting toward my total as being finished (though there is a chance I'm giving up on Crazy Rich): 

Crazy Rich: Power, Scandal, and Tragedy Inside the Johnson & Johnson Dynasty by Jerry Oppenheimer.  Nonfiction, about 475 pages.  I was so excited to read this, but after a while, it got old -- it became a cross between stories being told more than once (overlapping), or it just all sounding the same.  The family has a lot of dysfunciton, tragedy and sadness in general.  Bottom line:  mo' money, mo' problems -- a good reminder for all of us I suppose.  To be honest, I'm only on about chapter 27 as I write this.  It may be the one and only book of the year I do not finish. 

Dear Life by Alice Munro.  Fiction, about 300 pages.  This was a book club selection of short stories.  Overall, pretty sad.  Not my favorite book by her.  It pinpoints moments where people's lives change, generally for the worse.