take my hand and run.

My shin splints are gradually getting better, although I am still feeling the tenderness during the first mile of my runs, and babying them a bit. Definitely an improvement over a few weeks ago. I’ve gotten serious about my training and am back on the track towards my 20-mile a week goal, but being patient and increasing only a mile or a mile and a half a week (last week I logged 12.9). I will likely try to do three or four shorter runs during the week and a day of cross-training (think squats, one-legged squats, lunges, core training, the elliptical) mixed with a long run on the weekend. There are a dearth of half-marathons in the deep winter months in Michigan, but I will be shooting for a March half at the Ann Arbor marathon and if all goes well, maybe a full marathon next fall at the Sleeping Bear. In the meantime, my next event is our traditional A2 Turkey Trot. My Crossfit friends are doing the Iron Turkey (a 5k and a 10k back to back) but based on my conservative approach to my training and shins, I’m sticking with the 10k, which will still be a challenge, I’m sure.

I love this Turkey Trot, by the way. There’s always a steel drum band at the first turn, and whenever I hear them singing ‘Turkeys Do the Conga” it makes me laugh.

I’m trying to build my tolerance for a lot of treadmill running, since the winter is predicted to be as bad as last year, and that means a lot of snow, ice, and subzero temps. I’m a cold weather runner by nature, but there was no way there could be safe, healthy outside running for a majority of last winter. The snowfall was record breaking and paths, roads, and sidewalks were generally drifted, barely cleared, or ice-covered. This is in marked contrast to a couple of years ago, when we ran outside all winter long, thanks to mild temps and limited snow.

It’s discouraging how much my running speed and endurance have decreased, thanks to that long snowy winter and an injury-prone summer. I went out for my first over-4 mile run a couple of weekends ago, and found a great new place to run (Island Lake in Brighton, MI). I don’t usually look at my watch during long runs, except to note miles if I need to turn around at a certain spot, and instead try to find a comfortable, easy pace that I can keep up without walking. It was a spectacular bright fall morning, cold and golden, and for three quarters of the run I had that great feeling of my body as an engine, disconnected from my mind and my thoughts. This to me is the ideal running state, when my body does what I’ve trained it to do without fuss and my mind is free to wander – I’m not focused on muscles or breath or discomfort or distance. I paced myself slowly and consistently, but when I got back to the trailhead I was optimistic that I’d turned in a pretty good time. I checked my watch and gah!!!!! Yes, I’d made it without walking, feeling very comfortable and easy, but I’d run on average a whole minute slower per mile than last year’s training pace (so about two minutes per mile slower than my target race pace). GAH.

I know I’ll get it back if I keep applying myself consistently, training smart and with dedication, but that’s why running will break your heart, right there. :)

In the meantime, we are off to Disney. Pray for me, o fellow Introverts.

greenfield village halloween walk

10.2014 jack o'lantern

My dad’s loathing of crowds is notorious in our family. One of my favorite grievances from childhood, which I dwell on with regular morbid enjoyment to punish him, is the memory of taking a boat ferry to Mackinac Island on a lovely summer day…only to be confronted with an island full of tourists. My dad struggled gamely for a few minutes, we bought ice cream cones, I was enjoying a butter pecan in a waffle cone, and then bam. The huge influx of humanity evaporated his patience and just like that, I was being told to THROW AWAY THE WAFFLE CONE so we could get back on the ferry to the mainland.

As I get older, my attitude toward crowds is very similar. I still can’t imagine throwing away a perfectly good ice cream cone to escape them, but I find that large crowds really detract from my enjoyment of anything, and unfortunately, we experienced that this past weekend.

We are taking Miss L to Disney over Halloween weekend as a surprise, and although I know she’ll love it, I was starting to feel a little sad that she wouldn’t get the traditional Midwest trick or treating experience – the cold air, the fallen leaves, a sky full of stars, the crushing bummer of having to wear a coat over your costume. So I bought tix to the Halloween Walk at Greenfield Village.

10.2014 greenfield village

Greenfield Village is pretty awesome, but in my mind I always confuse it with Crossroads Village, which we frequented as children, and which is a little more rough-hewn, so to speak, than Greenfield Village. I was imagining more dusty tracks and rough edges and maybe a chill coming over the fields, a more genuine experience.

Pros:

  • The Halloween walk is a mile of hand-carved jack o’lanterns winding through a really amazing historic village.
  • They had a great old film reel of ghostly cartoons, all in black and white.
  • Parking wasn’t much of a problem.
  • The staff was decked out in amazing costumes.

Cons:

  • The crowds.
  • There were exceptionally long lines for the 10 treat stations and the treats were sub-par. If I’d known we were standing in line for a Twizzler, or a mini-Snickers bar, or a Halloween-themed postcard, of all things, I’d have bought a bag of treats ahead of time and doled them out to Miss L myself.
  • The crowds.
  • The crowds.
  • The crowds.

It was PROHIBITIVELY crowded and by the end of it (a winding mile walk is a lot for little six year old legs) we’d lost her mask and been dangerously close to being trampled several times. There was a vague promise on the website of the ‘Headless Horseman galloping out of the fields’ but this was just shtick as he merely stood near a fence and bantered with the crowds.

10.2014 headless horseman

Miss L was polite about the experience, but non-committal about wanting to do it again, and by the end of the night, we were both very happy to take our donuts home and get under a blanket on the couch. She was tuckered out from the crowds and the walking; I was a little bummed out about the crowds and the overall slick, unenthusiastic nature of the proceedings. I love autumn and I love Halloween, and I feel like people are so desperate for an authentic, historic, mystical, autumnal experience that they will stand in long lines for mass produced entertainment, crowded hayrides and pumpkin patches entirely devoid of sincerity, to achieve it. Go walk in the woods, for Pete’s sake, or visit a real farm, or just spend an afternoon raking.

The whole crowd experience, and Miss L’s lack of enthusiasm about it, and my own perilously squeezed patience with the masses, has made me more than a little apprehensive about Disney this coming weekend…We shall see.

10.2014 pumpkin tree

moments

10.2014 spot

1. Lunch with a Loved One. Miss L’s new school has been such a better fit for us and we couldn’t be happier with her teacher, her pre-care and after-care, and the overall environment. It’s a Leader in Me Lighthouse School that operates on the Covey principles, and the kids and staff take it seriously. (I overheard Miss L playing with her stuffed ponies recently, and she was rewarding one of them for ‘being a leader of himself’.) This week was Book Fair and Lunch with a Loved One, and Miss L got over her fear of mascot ‘Spot’.

10.2014 sarge in the sink

2. My last big presentation was Wednesday and the room was full of people. In a bit of a departure, I decided that I wasn’t going to rehearse or practice my already familiar slides. If my biggest flaw is nerves, I reasoned, I had to just say ‘I don’t give a fuck what any of these people think of me’ and stand up and do it. Now, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone else, and it probably will never work again, but this time, it DID. I wasn’t nervous at all, no tremors in my voice, no quavers. I’m the first one to realize when I stink, but this time I was pleased with myself.

10.2014 eclipse

3.  GB & I were discussing the mechanics of safely watching the partial eclipse and he reminded me that there is a welder’s helmet in the garage. One of the benefits of having a house still full of my ex-husband’s stuff (I know, it’s weird, I think he’s working on it) is having access to items like that. I watched for a little while but ultimately realized how slowly the whole process went and even with the welder’s helmet it was still pretty painful to look at. Still, I do like the interaction that my ex-husband and I have at times. We laughed about the welder’s helmet and it’s nice to make each other laugh. Even though it didn’t work out between us, it reminds me of why we were friends in the first place, long before marriage and Miss L.

10.2014 monahans

4. I didn’t get to run much this week, and I feel a little anxious about that, but sometimes you have to choose companionship over fitness, so instead of using my free lunch hour on Friday to exercise, I went out to lunch. My running buddy M and our colleague MC Granola and I don’t eat out together very much, but we have a few Ann Arbor places that we love, and are very compatible in our food choices and conversation and music. We listen to the rap channel on satellite radio and hit Casey’s, or Chela’s, or, as on Friday, Monahan’s Seafood (see above – M graciously photographed me with the lobster). Monahan’s is a seafood counter in the Kerrytown market, there are daily specials or the standard salmon burgers or crispy fish sandwiches. Everything is fresh, beautiful, amazing, you order over the counter and there’s only limited seating, so we take our food out into the adjoining courtyard. On Friday the weather was mild and autumnal, almost chilly but not quite; the sparrows fluttered around us for crumbs and the gardens were turning orange and brown, fading hydrangeas and ivy on the mossy brick walls. The Kerrytown Chime sent clear round notes floating across the Historic District, and when we were done, we wandered over to Zingerman’s for coffee. We lingered on the corner then, talking idly with our coffees, and letting Ann Arbor bustle around us, bell notes and leaves falling around us in the mild breeze, unwilling to say goodbye; and then we drifted apart, calling goodbyes, the moment broken and dissipating, time always moving.

if you’d like to reach me, leave me alone. – sheryl crow

10.2014 pumpkin

Faithful readers of my blog (hi mom) will know that I like to pretend I am a homesteader even though I live in the suburbs. It makes my yardwork seem more interesting.

This morning Miss L & I woke up and I made her some pancakes. I got all crafty and added a dash of cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice and she thought they were fine until I TOLD her I had added these things, and then her enthusiasm markedly decreased. (You should have seen her reaction to the green tomato sauce the other night…”WHAT’S THAT?!”)

The weather here in Michigan is blustery and autumnal and we spent the morning homesteading.

We cut back the rest of the tomatoes and the peony bushes, and the front yard hostas which had gone yellow and wet-papery. I took cuttings of my coleus (yes I know how that sounds) and decided to try overwintering my Boston ferns, which are now trimmed back and living in the garage until spring. We drained the hose and hung it up in the garage; I trimmed bushes and we filled birdfeeders and stacked some firewood and I pondered what to do with the compost bin and the woodpile. The woodpile needs to be relocated closer to the back door, but I was having a crisis of confidence. Last night, whilst Miss L and I ate Oreos and watched a Harry Potter marathon, I tried to build a fire and failed. I thought, what’s the point of bringing the woodpile closer to the house if I can’t build a fire? Then Miss L went happily off to her dad’s house and I had tea and toast with honey creme and I tried again with the fire. This time, it worked splendidly and I’m pleased to say that it is still going in the woodstove. Emmett is crashed out in front of it looking blissful and I am proud.

I still think about packing it in – telling the Legal Dept that I am leaving to be a homesteader, selling my house in the ‘burbs, taking whatever equity i have plus my small savings, and buying a tiny fixer-upper on a lot of land up north near my folks. I would learn how to keep bees and have a half-acre garden and maybe some chickens…it’s a nice little dream. I have always had reclusive tendencies and I think now that I am divorced, I’m just ready to be out in the open with the fact that I like being alone better than I like being with most other people, and if left to my own devices, I could seriously disconnect from society in a way that I would probably regret later. Part of me feels anxious about this, and I have moments of, ‘I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life! I’d better start Internet dating! I can feel my skin losing elasticity with every passing moment!!’ I’m in that murky grey area where the thought of being a single old lady whose shopping cart is full of wine and cat food is terrifying, yet the prospect of dating anyone – going out on dates – is completely unappealing.

So, Miss L needs her great school and I need my job and friends, and I need to be forced outside of myself on a regular basis, and I just need to keep reminding myself that everything happens for a reason. I don’t have to figure it all out now and anyway, hey, I can build a fire while I’m waiting

throwback thursday

throwback thursday to 2009's orchard trip.

throwback thursday to 2009’s orchard trip.

I like my job just fine, and am extremely grateful to have it, but after passing the midpoint of what I am considering to be the Bataan Death March of presentations (which started in June with the two big ones, followed by the disastrous executive committee presentation of a few weeks ago) I am ready to go be a crazy hermit in the woods with chickens. I might starve, but at least I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone…

The one yesterday went better than the executive committee shit show, but still not well. I had to speak to an auditorium full of people, wearing a mic, and I was shaking so hard that I couldn’t use the laser pointer. I don’t really know what to do at this point except resign myself to the fact that I can prepare (I practiced so much for this presentation that I dreamed about it) and know everything by heart, have meticulously prepared slides and narrative, and still stand there as terrified as I have ever been in my life. There’s nothing for it. If they keep asking, I have to keep doing it, it’s part of my job, but it takes me a long time to gear up and a long time to ramp down, I leave the presentations drenched in cold sweat, dehydrated, and with a sick headache that lasts for the rest of the day. I have another one next week that may be as big as the one yesterday, and I just have to get through it, as much as I would prefer not to. The worst part is knowing that my problem is all in my head and that if I could just get a grip on myself, I would do a great job. But I just can’t and when it’s done, I go be by myself for awhile and laugh a little, shakily, and try to console myself by thinking there is something character building about continuing to try to do my best. It’s disheartening, you know, to put so much effort into something, doggedly, and continue to knock your own self back down. I feel like Charlie Brown on the pitcher’s mound.

So today, still in an emotional recovery mode, I had the chance to take a teleconference meeting from home and I did it. In the old days, I never took opportunities like this – I was always afraid it would reflect poorly on me and jeopardize my employment. Now, if I get a chance to do something from home and have a leisurely breakfast with my daughter, and walk her to school on a mild, damp autumn morning, I do it, for better or worse. It doesn’t feel stressful anymore – it feels like a treat, and even if it means I am more mediocre employee, it makes me a happier human being and mother.

I brought in a sack full of green tomatoes, and am thinking about trying a green tomato pasta sauce for dinner tonight. The world outside the windows is full of wet leaves pasted to sidewalks and turning lawns yellow. The trees are almost at peak here in Michigan and from now until Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite time of year.

sentence per picture

10.2014 table

My dad made me the most beautiful farmhouse table and my mom painted it the most perfect shade of driftwood grey; now we just have to figure out a way to get it out of his workshop and into my house!

10.2014 emmett

Emmett, feeling sweet and artsy and pensive for a change.

10.2014 family mission

Leader in Me workshop at Miss L’s school to write our family mission statement and get acquainted with the Covey ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective Schools’ program.

10.2014 sunset

Sometimes even sitting in traffic can have its upside.

10.2014 orchard collage

Our annual orchard trip, picking the perfect pumpkins and spending time with our family.

Happy Sunday! xo

sleeping bear

10.2014 lower platte

Two years ago, in the summertime, I ran my first half-marathon, the Ann Arbor half. It was a long, painful slog and although I love Ann Arbor, the course was less than thrilling. Miles 8 & 9 took us around Briarwood Mall. I had to look at an empty parking lot and an oil change place during what are, for me, the worst miles of the race.

That same year, I saw an advert for the inaugural Sleeping Bear Half Marathon and with almost no time to train for it, I decided to run. It had a couple things going for it – it took place in my favorite part of the world, less than a half-hour away from where my folks live, and it was in October, my favorite month. And it was small. I knew right from jump (and still know) that the big races, the Chicagos and Detroits, are not for me.

The Sleeping Bear has quickly become my favorite race, for many reasons. I did it again the following fall and the unpredictability of the weather (the first year it was sleeting and I finished the race with ice caked on my shoulders, the second year it was mild and warm but utterly pouring, I was wet to the skin in five minutes flat and it never let up) and the beauty of the course hooked me. Moreover, it’s come to symbolize a lot of things for me. I’ve run it during incredibly difficult emotional times in my life, and even though I’ve only done it twice, I can remember the emotional resonance of different points in the course both years. For me, it symbolizes my ability to accomplish things I thought I couldn’t, to combat terror and bleakness with small goals and dedication and optimism and commitment. It symbolizes me taking care of myself and believing in myself and expecting a lot out of myself and doing it alone – I don’t typically run races with anyone else. Every mile helped me stay positive and strong, both years.

10.2014 empire

This year, plagued as I’ve been with shin splints and inconsistent training and strained back muscles and lack of willpower, I wasn’t ready. But I couldn’t give up another year of affiliation, so I volunteered instead, and had almost as much fun. The weather was cold and damp, we huddled in Johnson Park in Empire with a stiff gale blowing in from Lake MIchigan. In the early morning darkness, in a field that deer had occupied moments before, the organizers set up the tents and timing equipment. They were all jovial and focused, passionate about their event, stalking around in tall Hunter boots and all-weather gear. I warmed to my jobs, helped out with packet pickup and registration, I sold their t-shirts and hoodies, I pinned on bibs. And I was course marshal 10, stationed at the half-marathon turnaround, with a view of Glen Lake on one side and the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb on the other side, with Sleeping Bear Park Ranger Patrick.

10.2014 park ranger patrick

I tried to cheer on every runner, and the vibe was awesome. Park Ranger Patrick kept us safe from traffic, and the Glen Lake Fire Department parked their truck on the wide shoulder of the road with their American flag blowing in the cold wind. The runners, tired and spent as they were, yelled back at us, thanking us for coming out and volunteering. I had a huge smile frozen to my face and one runner came up to me afterwards and summed it up perfectly. “This was the most joyful race I’ve ever been a part of,” he said, and I had to agree. And it was made more joyful for me by taking the time to give back. As jealous as I was, and as left-out as I felt at not being one of the nervous runners lining up, the ability to help those folks accomplish their goals was such a happy, positive feeling.

I hope next year that I’ll be running that course again, and if I can apply this mental and emotional commitment and enthusiasm to my training, it may just be the full 26.2 miles.