Friday, December 27, 2013

Parties for hosting, marshpillows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow...

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

To start things off, Mr. Awesome and I went with my mom and her Mr. Wonderful to see the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's production of David Sedaris's The Santaland Diaries. So funny, but my favorite part was the terrific set. It was a huge gift-wrapped present that unfolded to reveal a little miniature Santaland. Good job, set designers and builders!

Shopping done and most presents wrapped, we had Christmas #1 with Mr. Awesome's family on Christmas Eve. We gave and received excellent gifts, and had a terrific time laughing and celebrating with everyone. When we got home, we watched A Muppet Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine as Scrooge. As a Muppet fan, I'm a bit ashamed to admit I'd not seen it before, but I was also grateful to have gotten to experience it for the first time as an adult. It's right up there now in the list of my favorite holiday movies.

Christmas day (aka Christmas #2) was spent with my mom, bonus dad, and bonus sister, along with Mr. Awesome's parents. Mom made a turkey and we brought sides and everyone enjoyed a terrific meal and even more terrific company. We then exchanged presents and everyone got everything on their lists and then some.

Christmas #3 is this Saturday with my dad, sister and bonus mom, along with lots of other various family and friends.

Oh, and everything is on sale at the GAP.

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I finally read a book this year.

My appeal was approved - I'm officially a college graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English!

YAY!

So now I'm thinking I haven't been reading enough lately. In fact, I haven't read a single book this year. But -- I recently got a Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet that came with the Kindle app installed, so I joined the ranks of the 21st century literary set and finally figured out how to check out electronic books from the library.

Oh. My. God.

This is the greatest thing since bookstores with comfy chairs. I have a whole library at my fingertips, all the time!

I looked through my Goodreads Want to Read list for ideas and decided that the first book I'd read on my device is Alice Walker's The Color Purple.

Again, I say: Oh. My. God.

I can not believe it's taken me this long to read that book. I've seen the movie many times, and think it's very good. But the book is really a masterpiece. It is structured as letters, first from Celie to God, and later as letters between Nettie and Celie. This structure gives more intimacy to the story, like a window into the lives of these characters. While the first part of the book is represented well in the movie, the latter half of the book is really not represented at all - and it's this latter half that really shines. The first half, and what we see in the movie, is all about hurt, and struggle, with a little love thrown in. But in the books, the characters grow more, love more, share more, and forgive more. Nearly all of the characters find redemption and peace.

Towards the end of the book, Celie says of Shug's potential homecoming: "If she come, I be happy. If she don't I be content. And then I figure this the lesson I was suppose to learn." It's a powerful scene, with Celie on the porch, sewing next to the man who she hated, but who has found his own type of redemption in overcoming his loneliness. This is what's missing in the movie - real, true, heartfelt forgiveness and growth.

Not to say the movie isn't excellent. It's just much more different than I realized.

Next on my download list - Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin.

I vow to read more in the next year!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Weekend warrior!

What a great weekend.

On Friday, I participated in the UMKC Commencement ceremony. Before the ceremony, I took a pre-graduation selfie (I hate this word, but it's in the dictionary now, so I am trying to accept it) and noted the following on my phone before handing it off to Mr. Awesome for safekeeping:
"I'm sitting here in Pierson Auditorium waiting to line up for graduation. There are so many young people. I'm feeling old. But the conversations I am overhearing are filled with uncertainty about the future, and I'm already solidly into mine.

I feel weird, and a bit out of place. I earned this, but it's still weird. That's the only word I can think of right now to describe any of it.

The hat is weird. The tassel keeps twisting. I should have curled my hair."
The ceremony was thankfully short due to the threat of ice and snow. Afterwards, I found my mom and Mr. Awesome in the sea of people.

Friday night we ate homemade beef stew - it was okay. Does anyone have a good beef stew recipe? You know - the kind with gravy-like broth and lots of savory flavor? I've not found one I like yet. After dinner, we headed to Alamo Drafthouse for their Movie Interruption presentation of Lethal Weapon. Neither Mr. Awesome nor I had ever seen that movie (I know!) and having comedians make fun of it MST3K-style was a great way to experience it for the first time.

On Saturday we did a bit of Christmas shopping before preparing to run in our first-ever evening 5K, the North Kansas City 1st annual Christmas Light Run. This was probably my favorite run so far, because there were so many people dressed up with bells and lights and Santa hats. It was great! The course was great, too - nice and flat on streets with lots of decorated houses.

The only downside was that it was really, really cold - about 25 degrees. We both dressed in lots of layers, but it was still a bit rough starting out. Once we were running, though, we warmed up nicely. Because of the cold, I didn't expect to have a very good run - my goal was to finish in under 38 minutes, if possible.

Mr. Awesome had another personal-record-setting run - he's on a role, people! Here are his stats:

  • Finish time: 24:00

  • Age group place: 4th of 23

  • Overall place: 57th out of 588
I told you he rocked it!

As for me, I tried to keep a good pace, and pushed myself hard at the end, managing to fly past four or five runners just before the finish line.

My mom surprised us at the finish line - I was so glad to see her!

It was so cool to have her and Mr. Awesome cheering me on at the end, and for once, Mr. Awesome had someone there to cheer for him!

I ended up doing better than I thought I would:

  • Finish time: 36:59

  • Age group place: 40th out of 60

  • Overall place: 425th out of 588
It wasn't my best run, but it was my second best run. I'm satisfied with it :)

Afterwards, Mr. Awesome and I had dinner at P.F. Chang's, then went to the Cheesecake Factory for dessert - we ran so we earned every bite of that Key Lime Cheesecake! Thanks to reservations at one and a hidden bar table at the other, we didn't have to wait at either restaurant at all. It was incredible, because the wait at each was well over an hour and a half.

Sunday found us doing a little more shopping and finishing putting Christmas decorations around the house. Our tree is so pretty - I need to remember to take some pictures.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The long and winding road.

I work at a university, but I don't have a college degree. Not yet, anyway.

I have been a college student for all of my adult life. When I first enrolled at UMKC in 1995, I did so as a vocal music performance major. I lasted two semesters before my lack of piano skills and realization that I had no idea what I would do as a career with such a degree made me switch focus to computer science.

When I got a full-time job on campus, I took classes as I could, on weekends or during my lunch hours. Some I took online, before online classes were en vogue. With the help of Mr. Awesome, I racked up several semesters worth of computer science classes before I hit another stumbling block - I'm not good at math. Just thinking about that sort of problem-solving makes me hyperventilate. So with most of the computer classes under my belt, but just barely having passed Algebra I and needing four more advanced math classes to fulfill the degree requirement, I changed majors for a third time.

This time, I went not with a career-focused degree - I already had a good full-time job that was leading to a career - but instead picked a program of study that matched my interests - English Literature. Semester after semester, year after year, I chipped away at the degree requirements one by one. As an employee, I receive tuition assistance, but only for 6 credit hours per semester, so I never took more than that at a time.

I took classes I loved, and learned so much about books and authors I appreciate and admire. I had some inspiring instructors in the English program, and worked on interesting and challenging projects. I even got a grant to visit Washington, D.C. to present my work related to Charles Dickens and Hard Times.

As the list of requirements dwindled down, I finally could see the end of the road and over the last two years have been solidly focused on getting this thing done.

Then I hit a couple more road blocks.

First, the Arts and Sciences program requires three years of the same foreign language. If I'd taken three years of one language in high school, I would only need two. But stupid me - I took one year of German and two years of French. Quel stupide du moi. So I needed three years of college French to graduate.

I took the first semester as an evening class in 2006 at Maple Woods Community College. By time I really got my stuff together and enrolled in second year French, five years had passed and I barely remembered anything. But I pressed on, and with the help of an understanding teacher, I took second-year French during the evenings in Fall 2012. My very last class, then, for a degree, was third-year French. Unfortunately, it wasn't offered during a time that I could take it in Spring 2013, and while I could have tried to test out of the class (took the final as a pass/fail) I was not confident enough in my skills to put it all on the line like that. So this semester, Fall 2013, I was lucky enough to enroll in a section that met three days a week over my lunch break.

I took my final exam today. I am confident that I passed, and can finally say that J'adore le langue français, mais il est très difficile pour moi. Je voudrais continuer à apprendre, cependant. D'ailleurs...

Now the second road block.

To fulfill a lab-science course, I took geology at Maple Woods in 2008. I couldn't find a course at UMKC that met during my required times, and this one met after work close to my house. I transferred the credit to UMKC and went on my merry way. Then I learned about something called the UMKC Residency Requirement, which states that a student's last 30 consecutive credit hours must come from UMKC. Since transferring the lab-sciences course, my last 29 consecutive credits have been from UMKC. I am one consecutive credit hour short of fulfilling that requirement. Mind you - I am not short of UMKC credit hours at all - far from it. I probably have enough accumulated UMKC credits to graduate twice. But my last 30 consecutive did not come from UMKC. Just my last 29.

Good gravy.

So I have written a heartfelt appeal to the committee that reviews such matters, and have been assured that they will take the matter under advisement in the next four to six weeks.

Good gravy again.

Commencement - that is, the whole thing where graduates walk in robes and hats and all that - is this Friday. Therefore, while I have all the required courses out of the way, while I have taken all the necessary exams, while I have completed the capstone course for my major signifying that I am indeed a scholar of English Literature, I am not sure if I will legitimately graduate for four to six weeks.

But you know what? I don't care.

Because I'm going to walk in the commencement ceremony anyway.

I bought the cap and gown and tassel today (which, by the way, was yet another road block, as they were all out of my size and I had to go short on the robe - no heels for me). And on Friday afternoon, instead of going to lunch, or class, or to get coffee, I am going to put on that regalia and walk in my graduation.

It's been almost 20 years. A lot has happened since I first started college...

Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. The DVD was invented. Michael Jordan played baseball, then had a repeat of the 3-peat, then retired.

The iPod, iPhone, Furby, hybrid car, and Viagra were all invented.

Google and YouTube and Facebook and Twitter all exploded all over our lives.

The World Trade Center towers were there, then they weren't, and they were replaced with a new normal.

They cloned animals. The human genome was sequenced.

Teletubbies happened.

We had pets come and go. We had cars come and go. We bought a house. We got married. We traveled. We gained and lost weight. We pursued interests, then pursued different interests, then pursued different interests.

Lots of life and love and laughter happened in the last nearly-20 years.

And on Friday, I am graduating.

It's never too late, people. It's never, ever too late.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanks and full!

Sometimes you need a few days off after taking a few days off, amiright?

Wednesday evening was the first night of our Thanksgiving holiday. To begin the festivities, we ate some sushi, drank some eggnog and watched one of my all-time favorite holiday movies, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I will probably watch it again in the next few weeks. I laugh harder every time I see it.

Mr. Awesome and I began a new Thanksgiving tradition this year - a Thanksgiving Day 5K - which meant we had to get up bright and early on Thursday morning. There are many 5Ks to choose from on Thanksgiving Day in our city, and the one we picked was the Pilgrim Run 5K through historic Hyde Park. The race benefits the youth and children's serving component of Pilgrim Center, which provides activities for children and youth in the midtown Kansas City area. After grabbing some coffee at Starbucks (a huge thanks to them for being open on Thanksgiving Day!) we made our way to the race site.

There were about 1,100 participants in the run. The weather was great - sunny, if not a little chilly. We dressed in layers and stayed comfortable.

Mr. Awesome had another excellent run - he finished in 24:55, shaving 30 seconds off his previous best time! He placed 109th out of 724 timed runners.

I finished 525th out of 724 runners, with a time of 37:19. While this is not my best time, it's my second-best time. I'm really happy with it, considering that there was a serious hill in this run.


All in all, it was a great route and lots of fun. We can't wait to see how we improve our times next year!

After the run, we were ready for some Thanksgiving dinner. This year was a repeat of last year - dinner out with our parents at Houlihan's. They serve a great dinner with salad, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie. The best part - they do the dishes!

Thursday night we watched another Thanksgiving classic, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

Friday we did a little bit of shopping, but not too much. So. Many. People. Friday night, we had dinner at Pot Pie where we shared the best mussels in town. On the way home, a deer decided we were in its way and ran into the front corner of our car. It did just enough damage to be noticeable, but both the car and the deer were still running in the end. We have to get it to a body shop this week, but the damage isn't too bad. Just inconvenient. We ended the night with The Breakfast Club, which Mr. Awesome had never seen.

Saturday morning, we got up early and went for a run at Macken Park. It's a great 1-mile track, and we each did really well and rewarded ourselves with breakfast at The Big Biscuit. Saturday night, we used a Thai Place gift certificate for Pad Thai. Meh. I'm not a big fan of Pad Thai. I think I should have ordered it spicier, because all I tasted was fish sauce and ketchup. Bleh. Saturday night we decided we needed more John Candy in our lives and watched Uncle Buck.

Sunday was tree-trimming day. I got most of it done and did some random errands. We cooked dinner at home and finished the evening with what turned out to be yet another film in our unintentional John Hughes weekend marathon, The Great Outdoors.

Our next run is scheduled for the middle of December, but we'll do lots of training before then. In the mean time, this is my favorite time of year and I'm really looking forward to Christmas lights, holiday music, colorful wrapping paper and all the rest.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's up, JayDoc?

Another weekend, another 5K. What can I say? We're in love.

This time, it was the JayDoc 5K in support of the JayDoc Free Clinic. JayDoc is a student-run dental care clinic that provides non-emergency urgent and preventative care to uninsured and under-insured people in Kansas City. A great cause, right?! Since the cause benefited a student-run clinic, most of the participants were students who were almost all younger than us. We weren't too intimidated, though: these races, at this point, aren't about competing against other people. They are about competing with ourselves to do better than we did last time.

The race began at the Kauffman Memorial Garden and headed west along Brush Creek, turned around on the west end of the Plaza, headed back towards the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center, and finished at the starting location. It was a fun course - I'd never been on the portion of the Brush Creek trail west of Kaufffman, and the Discovery Center is where I walk almost every day during work. The weather was perfect - about 50 degrees and sunny - if not a bit windy.

Besides the great cause, fun route and good weather, Mr. Awesome and I ran our best races to date!

Mr. Awesome finished 40th out of 76 participants, with a time of 25:25 - that's 1:25 better than his previous best time! He told me that he didn't think he was going to finish in as good a time as he did, because the running was a bit hard at first. But he was able to keep a good pace and it paid off in the end.

I finished 69th out of 76 participants, with a time of 36:40 - that's 1:16 better than my previous best time! I focused on a couple of things. First, I really tried to stay positive and have fun. I smiled at people, said (breathlessly) hello to people as I encountered them, and kept a good attitude. I must say that improved the experience tremendously. Second, I tried to keep a good pace. When I knew I was slowing down, but was comfortable, I tried to speed up again. I kept constant assessment of my breathing and speed, adjusting to the needs of each. The end result was that I tried to push myself just a little more, and it shaved time off my PR.

YAY US!

No pictures from this one. Maybe next time...

... which will be the Thanksgiving Day Pilgrim Run in Hyde Park. Can't wait!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hangin' around this town on the corner.

This past Sunday Mr. Awesome and I participated in the Cliff Hanger 5K in the Northeast neighborhood of Kansas City, along historic Cliff Drive.

But before that...

Friday night we headed to Alamo Drafthouse (best theater in the universe) to see Ender's Game. It was really good. So were the pickle fries and chocolate chip cookies. :)

Saturday we went to Garry Gribble's Running Sports to pick up our race packets for Sunday's Cliff Hanger run. What a great store. I took the opportunity to talk to a running shoe expert about a problem I've been having: after about 2.5 miles of running, my left foot goes numb, like it's asleep. I read it could be caused by my shoes being too tight, as after a bit of running one's feet can swell. My current shoes are Brooks PureConnect2 - they have a high arch, which I love, but are also pretty narrow, which could be causing the numbness. The expert talked to me about my options, and had me try on several pairs of shoes with each other - kind of a "better one, better two" scenario, but with left and right feet. I have to sleep on it before making a decision, though.

After picking up our packets, we hit some stores in Overland Park - Penzey's, the yarn shop - before heading to RA Sushi for happy hour, Ben and Jerry's for dessert, and REI for some wishful imagining.

Sunday morning, we got up bright and early for the run. Dressing in layers was essential, as it was pretty chilly outside. There was an 8K race before the 5K, so lots of people were already around.

We started the race at about 9:20am. The course took us along Cliff Drive, which is closed to cars on weekends. It was an out-and-back course, meaning that you run halfway out, turn around and run back the way you came.

There were a few hundred participants in this race, and Frank lead most of them!

But I held my own.

The course was way hillier than it looked. The first half was downhill halfway, then uphill to the turnaround... so the second half was downhill halfway and uphill to the finish. I really tried to push myself, but it was hard!

Truth time: I got a little crabby on the course. I snapped a sarcastic, "good for you!" at a woman who ran past me with a friendly, "pulling ahead!" I'm not proud of that. Running is hard, but it's also supposed to be fun. I'm going to work on my attitude as well as my time in future races.

I digress.

Frank ran an excellent race. He finished in his best time ever - 26:40! This is over 1:30 faster than his last race! Here are his other stats:
  • 54th out of 316 finishers

  • 37th out of 126 male runners
And... he finished 3rd in his age group, so he gets a prize! We didn't stay for the awards ceremony, so we're going to pick it up at Garry Gribbles this weekend (I think it's a shirt). I'll also probably get my shoes - yay!

As for me, I maintained a steady pace, in spite of the hills.

A race walker passed me at about the halfway point, and remained ahead for the remainder of the race. She crossed the finish line a few seconds before me, prompting the announcer to say, as I crossed the finish line, "that race walker walks faster than some of these runners, folks." That sort of pissed me off. But looking back, it really is pretty cool that a race walker in her late 60s/early 70s can out-walk runners.

My goal for upcoming races: beat the race walkers.

In the end, I finished in 37:54 - one second slower than my last run. Damn those hills!

My other stats:
  • 196th out of 316 finishers

  • 101 out of 190 female runners
Not bad, really. I would have liked to improved my time, but the fact that I did as well as my last race with added hills is pretty good.

We've got two more runs on the books - the Pilgrim Run on Thanksgiving Day, through Hyde Park, and the Christmas Light 5K in North Kansas City on December 14th.

Exciting!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A new perspective.

This past Saturday, Mr. Awesome and I participated in the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon 5K. What a great experience!

When we arrived in the Crown Center area to park at 6:45am, we were surprised at how many people were already around. Hundreds and hundreds of cars were looking for parking. Luckily for us, the UMKC Hospital Hill campus is a short walk away, so we parked in a nearly vacant lot and walked a couple of blocks to the race area.

When we got to Crown Center, there were so many people. It was hard to tell where the starting line was, and people for the marathon, half-marathon and 5K were all milling around near the buildings to stay warm - upper 30s with no coat is cold!

Eventually, the marathoners and half-marathoners cleared out, as their races started 20 minutes before the 5K. As we made our way to the starting line, we realized that we were a good 2 blocks from it - and there was a sea of people between us and it. So. Many. People.

We prepared our running clothes for the cold weather - I had on running pants, two long-sleeved shirts, and a balaclava. Mr. Awesome had shorts, two shirts, and gloves. Both of us decided we needed more clothes next time - he needs some earmuffs and I need some gloves - but we weren't too bad off. The balaclava saved me - I pulled it up over my mouth and nose like some sort of running outlaw ninja and breathed warm air for the entirety of the race.

It was a little short, though, and didn't cover my neck, so I have since bought a Buff and it works much better.

Anyway.

The race started and there were so many people that it took us about a minute to get to the starting line. Lots of people in matching shirts for various causes, young people, older people, people with strollers, with artificial limbs (! talk about inspiring!), even a dude (?) dressed as Gumby. Hurray for timing chips on shoes - our personal times don't start until we cross the starting mat, no matter how long after the "start" of the race we manage to get across. Mr. Awesome passed me pretty quickly, and I settled into a good pace. I passed lots of people - walkers mostly, but some slower runners, too (I know, right?! I'm not the slowest runner anymore!).

As I passed the first mile marker, my calves were a little tired, but not too bad. Heading up Oak Street was a bit of a challenge, though - it's all uphill! I was lucky enough to be running next to a young woman and her mother. The young woman kept encouraging her mom to do all she could - "Don't look back - it's just a little hill - you got this!" She was encouraging me, too, although she probably didn't know it. About halfway up the hill, I looked ahead and saw Gumby making his way around the corner on 11th Street. You've got to have confidence that you'll finish in a good time to dress up like a cartoon character for a race. Good on him.

I made it to the top of the hill and rounded the corner to 11th Street where the course started going downhill. I passed a couple more people, and some more people passed me. As I ran down Grand towards the finish line, I tried to take in the sights - The Sprint Center on my left, the Power and Light District on my right - running down the middle of streets I've driven countless times was really exciting and gave me a different perspective on the city. And I kept passing people. There were people who would walk a bit and run a bit, and I set mini-goals to pass them when I could. When I reached the finish line, I had no idea what my time was, because the race clock that I saw started when the first 5K runner crossed the mat.

Mr. Awesome met me at the finish. While we originally planned on sticking around to see some of the marathon runners finish the race, we were hungry and instead headed back to the car and drove to The Farmhouse for a really great breakfast.

We shared everything, and all of it was delicious.

During breakfast, we checked the Waddell & Reed Marathon web site for our times.

Drumroll please...

We both shaved a minute off of our best 5K time!

Out of 1,232 timed finishers:

Mr. Awesome finished 251st with a time of 28:18!

I finished 845th with a time of 37:53!

We rocked!!

The next morning, I read about a guy in the paper that ran the marathon while knitting a record-setting 12-foot-long scarf.

Challenge accepted!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Going strong!

Hey - guess what? I ran again this weekend! Mr. Awesome sat out this week because he had some bursitis in his hip and needed a week off. But he still got up bright and early with me last Sunday so that I could participate in the Bill Cross 5K for BackSnack.

BackSnack is a great program: "In the Northland, more than 3,900 children are at risk of going hungry over the weekends. Northland Childhood Hunger Initiative Fund & Harvesters have partnered to provide BackSnack, a backpack filled with nutritious, child-friendly food for these children to take home at the end of the week."

By the way - I really like participating in these 5K events because it's fun to combine exercise, personal accomplishment and great causes.

Before I go into details about the race, we did some other great stuff this weekend, like...

We bought season passes to Worlds of Fun for next year, and as part of the deal, we got to go to the park once this year. So on Friday, we went with our friends The Andersons, who are WoF veterans, after having season passes this year. The park puts on The Haunt in October, and we had a great time. It wasn't as scary as when Mr. Awesome and I went last year, but this year, the thrills came from rides. Last year, we stayed off of them. This year, we rode the Mamba and Patriot roller coasters and the Detonator, all for the first time. I was terrified, but loved them all the same. The Patriot was our last ride and it made all of us dizzy, so we headed home after that.

Saturday found us sleeping in, running errands, and eating dinner at Stroud's. Carb load, y'all.

The race was held at Zona Rosa on Sunday morning. After getting some coffee, we headed to the race site and got prepared. I was number 300!

The race started at 8am. The other runners and I headed off. The race ran through the shopping district, and while I was chilly at first, I warmed up quickly. My asthma was a little touchy at first, but I practiced breathing through my nose and that really helped.

To keep my mind busy, I sang Monty Python's The Galaxy Song over and over:
Whenever life gets you down, Mrs.Brown
And things seem hard or tough
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft
And you feel that you've had quite enough

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour
That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour
Of the galaxy we call the 'milky way'

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars
It's a hundred thousand light years side to side
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick
But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide

We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point
We go 'round every two hundred million years
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, the speed of light, you know
Twelve million miles a minute and that's the fastest speed there is

So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth

Fun facts - here's an analysis of this song, as it relates to the actual facts, and here's a new version of the song based on biology that Eric Idle wrote for the recent BBC series, The Wonder of Life.

During the race, one particular lady was ahead of me most of the time. She ran for the first part, but eventually started walking. I run pretty slow, so it takes me a bit to catch up with some of the faster walkers. As I would get close to her, she would run just long enough to keep me from catching up for a bit, then start walking again. As we neared the end of the race, I got closer and closer to her as her bursts of running became shorter and slower. There was no way I was going to let this woman finish before I did - I ran the whole race, dagnabit! Rounding the last turns, I kicked it into gear and sped past her, then sped up even more when I saw the finish line - and my finishing time.

So how did I do?

Three weeks ago, I finished my first 5K in 42.03 minutes.

Two weeks ago, I finished my second 5K in 41.44 minutes.

This week, I finished my third 5K in... wait for it... 38.52 minutes!!

Behind me is the walk/run woman I crushed in the final stretch of the race. Let's just ignore that she is ten years older than me, okay?

After the run, Mr. Awesome and I ate breakfast at The Big Biscuit. It was really good! Afterwards, we ran some errands and headed home to clean and rearrange our garage.

It was a full and productive weekend.

This coming weekend is the Waddell and Reed Kansas City Marathon. As part of that, there is also a half-marathon and 5K race, and Mr. Awesome and I are participating in the 5K. It's going to be really, really crowded, and we are so excited! I hope to improve, or maintain my time, but that depends on the temperature, the terrain and the crowds. Whatever the outcome, I think we are going to have a blast!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Still running...

Mr. Awesome and I ran again this weekend, but this time, because I had other plans during the day on Sunday, we ran in two different races.

On Saturday, I ran in the second-annual Heart and Sole 5K to support mental health services provided by Tri-County Mental Health. The run was held at Happy Rock Park, which is "my trail" - the one Mr. Awesome and I walk on at least three times a week. I really love this trail, and was so excited to participate in a run for a good cause on my favorite trail. About 60 people participated, and it was not a timed event. However, Mr. Awesome timed me and I finished in 41:44 - about 15 seconds less than last week!

It was still cold, and my lungs fought back most of the way. I don't have any muscle pain like I did last week (yay!) but I still have some breathing issues (boo!). I'm working through them - breathing through my nose, breathing through a buff or my shirt, drinking warm liquids before and after running, using my inhaler more, etc. I'm hoping as I run more these issues lessen. We'll see...

On Sunday, Mr. Awesome ran in the 17th-annual Gladstone Scarecrow Run 5K to benefit the Northland Christmas Store. The course ran through Gladstone, Missouri neighborhoods and the morning was chilly. Mr. Awesome finished 35th out of 104 participants, with a time of 29:19. This was a few seconds more than last week, but he was running with a sore hip this week.

Heading to the finish line, Mr. Awesome was neck and neck with a young girl who was running just as hard as he was. They finished at exactly the same time.

I watched him finish, then we went our separate ways - I picked up my sister and headed north to visit my dad, and he went home to do lots of things that needed to be done around the house. When I got home several hours later, there was a big pot of chili ready to be eaten for dinner. It was delicious.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Wheeze easy.

On Sunday, I participated in my first-ever 5k run, the first annual UMKC Regalia Run. This was the first time I'd run any distance on a hilly surface, and let me tell you - the hills on campus are a total bitch. The course was an out-and-back, meaning that we ran to a halfway point, then ran the course in reverse to get back to where we started.

I had one goal - to run the entire course - and I met it. I ran slow, but I ran the entire 3.2 miles and finished in 42.03 minutes, and finished 149th out of 199 participants.

Mr. Awesome ran the course in 29.04 minutes, and finished 60th overall. He's a natural born runner.

Afterwards, we ate a hearty post-run breakfast at Eggtc. Biscuits and gravy, pancakes, breakfast tacos, coffee, orange juice. Yum.

The run was as hard as I expected it to be. My legs and shoulders still ache two days later. But worse than that is that running in the cool of morning in the outdoors really aggravated my asthma. I've had to use my inhaler more in the last two days than I have in months. Lots of coughing, wheezing, and general chest tightness that I haven't really experienced since... well, high school gym class.

But the run... the finishing... the sense of personal accomplishment... that is worth the wheezing.

I've been reading up on how to run with asthma, and found some great advice at Life's a Wheeze. There's also some great training information at http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/index.html. Jeff Galloway's method is a run-walk hybrid, and apparently works great for asthmatics. We'll see - I'm planning on giving it a closer look this week...

...because I think I might be addicted to this whole running thing. I'm already thinking of entering another 5k this weekend...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Who knows where or when...

I've been away... doing things... living life.

Spent a glorious week in Colorado. Vail is exceptionally beautiful.

Ate some terrific meals in Kansas City and out of Kansas City.

Planted heirloom tomatoes in containers on my deck. They didn't do so well - suffered from blossom drop - until some fertilizer kicked in. As of last week, I have about a dozen little green tomatoes trying their hardest to grow into plump, juicy Brandywine, Black Krim and Nebraska Wedding tomatoes. Which I will then make into caprese salad.

I love caprese salad.

School has started again. I'm taking my last class. C'est Francais. Merde.

Going to a movie tonight.

Dinner tomorrow.

Who knows what else.

Until next time...

Monday, June 3, 2013

A whole new world.

During the second week of April, Mr. Awesome had an opportunity to attend a conference in Orlando, Florida, and I got to tag along. The weather was perfect, and we made the most of our time with lots of fun, food and relaxation.

Day 1:
Day 2:
  • Mr. Awesome attended conference sessions, and I got a pedicure and spent most of the day by the pool, reading A Game of Thrones.
  • Dinner at Downtown Disney's Bongo's Cuban Cafe. The food was surprisingly good. Beautiful night to walk around.
Day 3:
  • Lunch in France at Chefs de France, followed by dessert at Les Halles. At lunch, the "chef" - Remy from Ratatouille - toured the dining room on a cheese tray. It was great!

  • Dinner at a ho-hum restaurant in Italy, Via Napoli.

  • At some point during the day, my phone decided to stop functioning properly. Sadness.
Day 4:
  • Had to get the phone replaced - new iPhone 5.

  • The Magic Kingdom! What an incredible and memorable day. They made the day feel so special - three parades, lots of characters, good food - everything was amazing. We walked in right as a parade was passing by - just in time to see Mickey!
  • Mastering the FastPass system was easy - we didn't wait in line more than 15 minutes for any attraction.

  • Favorite attractions: Space Mountain (we surprised ourselves by going on it in the first place. It's terrifying, but fun), Haunted Mansion, Swiss Family Treehouse, Hall of Presidents.

  • Lunch at the newest restaurant, Be Our Guest. The restaurant is designed to be like Beast's castle in Beauty and the Beast, and it was so cool! The food was good, and very reasonable.

  • Dinner was the best hot dogs we've ever had, at The Launching Pad in Tomorrowland.

  • The Electric Light Parade was my very favorite experience - when I was a kid, I had a picture book of the parade, with a record that played the theme song as I flipped through. The parade this time had the same music, and some of the same floats from my book. It was incredible
Day 5:
  • Headed to Cocoa Beach before catching our return flight home.
The trip was a memorable adventure. Orlando is a great place, and we'd go back again should the opportunity present itself in the future. As for Disney World, I went when I was eleven (with my family), at sixteen (with a showchoir camp) and now in my thirties. I can honestly say that I had the most fun on this visit. So, so much fun.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

This and that and the other.

What's been going on with me lately? Well, we've had some snow. Lots and lots of snow. So I've been supplementing my cardio workout with shoveling.

In the gym, I've been transitioning from machine weights to free weights. You know, dumbbells and those big barbell things that beefy guys use.

It's been awesome, really. I've always been clumsy and prone to toppling arse over elbows for no apparent reason, so working with these weights is great, because it helps me with balance, coordination, and of course, strength.

No, I will not get all huge from lifting weights. Remember this picture?


See how these are the same weight, but much different sizes? Muscle is lean and smooth. Yes, it's possible with certain training to build the bulk of muscle you see in bodybuilders, but for the most part, building muscle tones and tightens your body. Plus, it takes more calories to feed muscle than it does to feed fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories (food... delicious food...) you can eat, and the more fat you burn. It's win-win-win, just like when Michael Scott asked Oscar to wear this poster as a shirt so Oscar didn't have to look at it, but Angela could see it all the time:



Win-win-win. Full of win.

Outside the gym, we plowed through the new Netflix series, House of Cards. Starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, directed in part by David Fincher, this series is an excellent political drama, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

What else... been moving well, eating well, living well, and loving well. What more can you ask out of life? All is good and how it should be.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Toxic avenger.

As I described in my previous post, I've been on Dr. Oz’s 3-Day Detox Cleanse since Monday. All in all, it's gone very well.

Today is my last day, and I am happy to report that I've gotten a lot out of this experience.

On all three days I've had headaches, and I believe these are caused by lack of caffeine. I've been drinking green tea in the morning, which helps for a bit, but I'm also accustomed to an afternoon latte and when noon rolls around, the headache starts. It's not too bad, though... more of an annoyance than anything.

I've also had a little less energy than usual, which is also attributable to no caffeine. Last night on the elliptical, I was struggling. I still went 5.3 miles in 60 minutes, but it was really tough.

So I'm left with the question for tomorrow - to drink coffee or not to drink coffee? I think I will drink a cup in the morning, and instead of a Starbucks latte, I'll opt for tea. Less calories and fat in tea, anyway. I think I'll try to save the lattes for weekends.

Now for the good stuff -

I've mostly felt really good. My head seems clear, I've been in a great mood (in spite of mild headaches and slightly less energy), and my body as a whole feels terrific. All I've ingested for the last three days has been fruits, vegetables, almonds and coconut oil, and my body seems very happy with these inputs.

I've also thought less - and more - about food than I normally do, which is also a good thing for me. At work, when I get bored, I reach for a snack of some sort - granola bar, cheese, grapes - and eat at my desk. I often wonder in the morning what I'm going to have for a snack in the afternoon, if my lunch will be filling enough, what I'm going to make for dinner, if we'll want dessert. These three days, all of that has disappeared. I know exactly what I'm going to eat and when, and that's that. It's been freeing, in a way. As much as I love cooking and food in general, it kind of consumes my brain and these three days have shown me that there's more to life than just food.

I'm actually a little nervous about going back to "real food" tomorrow, because I've done so well within these confines. When all options are on the table, I tend to lose my focus and lots of little slip-ups equal big setbacks in the long run.

So there's another question - what will I do with this knowledge when tomorrow comes? What can I learn from this experience to apply to my everyday food habits?

My big takeaway is that I need to plan better. Make sure I know what I'm having for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner in advance and stick to it. Make sure those options are healthy, wholesome, and nutritious. Got that sweet tooth after dinner? The smoothie detox taught me that I don't need anything extra once I'm satiated. Want a grande latte at lunch? Skip it in favor of tea and save those calories for something else.

As with everything, this is easier to say than do. But for three days I planned and ate exactly what I set out to eat, so why can't I do that for three more days, and three after that, and so on? I've even put at Post-It on my monitor to remind me of past success in moments of bored weakness.

This, by the way, in no means implies I'm giving up my restaurant love. Au contraire, mon ami. We're going to Michael Smith this weekend to indulge in a 6-course meal - preceded by a light breakfast and at least an hour at the gym, and followed up by a light breakfast, more gym and a light dinner the following day.

See? I've started planning ahead already ;)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Detoxing.

To help kick-start healthy living in 2013, I decided to do Dr. Oz's 3-Day Detox Cleanse. I'm not a fad dieter by any means, and tend to eat well most of the time. However, I know I overdid it a little during the holidays, and thought that this would be a good way to get back on track.

The detox consists of four smoothies - one for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any of the three repeated as an afternoon snack. It also calls for green tea with stevia and lemon before breakfast, and supplements of a multivitamin, a probiotic and Omega-3. The detox also includes an Epsom salt and lavender bath each of the three nights, but I'm opting out in favor of my regular after-gym shower.

While Dr. Oz claims that the ingredients for this detox cost $16 a day ($48 for all three days) this number is based on the ingredient cost per smoothie, not the actual cost of purchasing these ingredients. Shopping last night, I spent about $75, but will have coconut oil, almond milk and almond butter to spare. I cut some costs by purchasing frozen raspberries, blueberries, pineapple and mango. I also already had the flaxseed on hand, so that's not included in the $75 cost.
Dr. Oz 3-Day Detox Morning Smoothie

1 c. water
1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
1 c. raspberries
1 banana
1/4 c. spinach
1 Tbsp. almond butter
2 tsp. lemon juice

Since I've frozen spinach in 1-cup packs, I used a cup of spinach in this smoothie. Other than that, I've left the recipe the same. It tastes delicious - not too sweet, but sweet still. I especially like the almond butter. It adds a deep, nutty flavor that moves through the sweetness in a pleasant way.
Dr. Oz 3-Day Detox Lunch Smoothie

4 celery stalks
1 cucumber, peeled
1 c. kale
1/2 green apple
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 c. almond milk
1 c. pineapple

Based on reading about other's unpleasant experiences with this smoothie, as well as personal preference, I changed a couple of things. First, I used spinach instead of kale. Kale is really, really vegetable-y and fibrous, and I know from past experience that I'm not a fan of kale in smoothies. I had read that this particular smoothie suffered from a lack of sweetness, so I added one stevia packet. These modifications, along with thorough blending in a Vitamix, made this smoothie not only more palatable than others have described, but also quite good. The coconut oil adds richness and a heaviness that I really like.
Dr. Oz 3-Day Detox Dinner Smoothie

1/2 c. mango
1 c. blueberries
1 ½ c.  coconut water
1 c. kale
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 avocado
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed

Again,  I changed a couple of things, like using spinach instead of kale. I forgot to buy coconut water when I went shopping for ingredients, so I substituted almond milk. I also cut the cayenne pepper back to 1/8 teaspoon. This smoothie was really delicious - just a hint of heat. I think I'll use cayenne in more smoothies.

Since I'm drinking so much water - and liquid food - I have to pee way more frequently than normal. Side effect - having to pee forces me to get up and away from my desk, and take a short walk around my building. Yay - more pedometer steps!

I've felt really good today, if a little tired, but I have to attribute that to lack of caffeine. No problem working out, though - spent 60 minutes on the elliptical in a very crowded gym.

Here's to another good day tomorrow!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Happiness is a warm (Smoking) Gun.

My Christmas toy this year was the PolyScience Smoking Gun, a small, portable device used to add smoked flavor to foods and liquids.

The concept of the Smoking Gun is really simple - it's essentially a pipe with a fan on one end and a hose on the other. Where tobacco would go, wood chips go instead, and, once lit, the fan propels the resulting smoke through the hose directed towards or into your target.

Two kinds of wood chips are included in the box - hickory, which imparts the heaviest smoke flavor, and apple wood, which has a milder, sweeter quality. I also received a box of additional wood chips, including more hickory and apple wood, as well as mesquite and cherry wood.

Mr. Awesome requested that our first smoked experiment involve cheese, so we got a chunk of sharp white cheddar from Costco and set out to see what the Smoking Gun could do.

First, we cut some chunks of cheese and put them into a zip-top bag. Mr. Awesome put some apple wood in the Gun, and we inserted the hose into an unzipped corner of the bag with the cheese.

Then we lit the wood chips and flipped on the Gun. Just as promised, lots of smoke poured from the hose into the bag. Some smoke ended up in our kitchen, too, but not enough to be alarming. Enough, though, that a campfire aroma hung in the air for the rest of the evening.

We let the Gun generate smoke for about 30 seconds, then turned it off and quickly sealed the bag with smoke trapped inside.

We left the smoke in the bag with the cheese until we could wait no longer - about 30 minutes. We then cut our slices into bite-sized pieces and tucked in.

The first bite was definitely smoky. Both of us were a little nervous that it turned out differently than we hoped, but then, as the flavor settled in, we both decided that we needed another bite. And another. And another. This cheese was absolutely delicious.

In more pedestrian matters...

  • We watched a movie called Bachelorette the other night. A great cast made up of Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden and Rebel Wilson couldn't overcome the bad casting of Kirsten Dunst in the lead role. It was watchable, and even amusing in some parts, but overall, really forgettable.

  • Spent an hour on the treadmill last night, but not much running. Lots of walking at a steep incline. My legs are so sore today! Tonight, I'm going back to the elliptical, and will alternate treadmill and elliptical every other day to spare my poor muscles.

  • Started working on core muscles the last few nights. Hard, hard stuff, but rewarding. It's a well-earned hurt.

  • I'm working on a new cowl in the most luscious red orange merino wool. It's taking forever to finish - I want to wear it right now! If I could only teach Grizz to knit so he could work on my projects when I'm not around...
Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

... and... run!

First gym day of the new year. After using the elliptical exclusively for months, decided to hop on the treadmill and was able to run/walk 2.2 miles in 30 minutes. Then switched to the elliptical for another 30 minutes. Running on the treadmill is so much harder than using the elliptical, but it's also more rewarding.

Hopefully, tomorrow I'll spend a full hour on the treadmill. We'll see...

Weekend breakfast, Starbucks, some grapes, Tasty Thai with Mr. Awesome's parents - cucumber salad and chicken noodle soup. Smoked some cheese to take to work as a snack for the rest of the week.

Back to work tomorrow for two days then another weekend. I'm already looking forward to sleeping in on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Day.

I am grateful for so much... health, prosperity, love, happiness, joy, friendship.

The start of a new year reminds me to consider gratitude more frequently, to contemplate more fully the goodness that happens around me every day.

Last night we saw our first movie at Alamo Drafthouse - Les Miserables. The entire experience was exceptional, from ordering and picking up tickets, to the theaters, the food, the drinks, the film - all exceptional.  A marvelous way to usher in the new year.

This morning it was eggs and oatmeal, Starbucks, then some shopping at Zona Rosa.  We both got shirts.  Can never have enough shirts, can you?

The afternoon was spent making dinner - braised short rib ragu, served over gnocchi. Paired with a spinach, pineapple and strawberry smoothie and Project Runway All-Stars. Divine.

No gym today, at it was closed for the holiday. Really looking forward to sweating tomorrow.

Now, it's an iPad, a Snuggie, a cheesy movie (1995's Hackers) and a warm cat.

Life is good. So much to be grateful for.

Some resolutions...

Be still.
Be active.
Be honest.
Be grateful.
Be extraordinary.