loose ends

The house has been empty and quiet this week with Miss L spending time with her dad & his fam, so I’ve been a bit at loose ends. Weeks like this can be tough for me as it’s easy to fall into a morass of missing her / hoping I’m a good mum / feeling guilty for having alone time / feeling guilty about spending time with Jax & his kids without her / hoping she’s having a good time with people she really loves and who really love her but also hoping with a small selfish part of me that she misses ME too = a lot of conflicting feelings that I’m sure single mums will relate to. Suffice it to say, although I really couldn’t be luckier / happier / more blessed about our blended family situation – in which all adults are incredibly mature and genuinely kind and loving – I still have a LOT of personal issues of my own to work through. No surprise, as I know I am still a work in progress, but I am committed to trying to put my own feelings to one side to do the best I can for Miss L in every stage of her life. Roots and wings, as my own mom told me, roots and wings.

So, as I mentioned, I spent some time at Jax’s house, made dinner for his crew and got some major loving from Izzy.

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I did some running and have some more to do this weekend. I’m at the point in my training where I am seeing and feeling results – both good and bad. My times and endurance are better, but my legs feel crummy – “sprung”, as I call it. My calves, ankles, and shins are full of tight, red-hot wires that pull and twitch. Everything south of my knees aches. 8 miles tomorrow.

I finished “Wolf Lake”, a gloomy wintery mystery by John Verdon, and just started “Ink and Bone” by Lisa Unger. I have so many books going that I don’t know where I am at any given moment. “Ink and Bone” is my actual physical library book – for bedtime and “serious” reading. I’m listing to “Her Fearful Symmetry” on an audio disc borrowed from our paralegal, and “The Likeness” by Tana French on Audible while I run. In between – for cross training on the elliptical or sitting around unexpectedly waiting for someone – I have “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton on my old Kindle.

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At work, there is a kerfuffle over whether the town hall doors (where we keep the office supplies, refrigerators, microwaves, trash, etc) should remain open or closed. I actually heard a heated meeting about this in a conference room on the other side of my office wall. “We’ve been doing it this way for FOURTEEN YEARS!!!” “It’s a black and white issue to me.” “WHAT IF SOMEONE IS CARRYING HOT SOUP AND CAN’T OPEN THE DOOR?!”

I’m starting to get heirloom tomatoes and I’m watching “I Am Not Your Guru” about Tony Robbins. Tomorrow I get to pick up Miss L and we head directly to my brother’s house for our annual trip to the carnival. I love the creepy small town carnival. I always think I might see a ghost.

race recap: run for the hills

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No PR face

On Saturday morning, one of my gal pals and I did the local Run for the Hills 10k. This is a local race that benefits Special Olympics, and it’s sort of a summer tradition for me. I think this is the fourth year I’ve run either the 5k or the 10k. It’s not an especially scenic race route, unless you like looking at residential streets of varying degrees of socio-economic status, but it’s fun and usually a good indicator of how my summer running is going. Particularly as this is the third year I’ve trained for the October Sleeping Bear half-marathon and this 10k falls at a good place in that training schedule.

That being said, this is usually my most challenging event of the year. ‘Run for the Hills’ is not a misnomer – this is a very hilly route and at this time of year I can usually count on bright sunshine and hot, humid conditions. I woke up Saturday with a headache and a bit of an upset tummy due to – umm, let’s just say hormones and I might have considered scratching or dropping back to the 5k if my pal hadn’t been so excited to run. She has been determinedly training for it all summer, after an extended period off running, and I’d had to pep talk her a few times. I didn’t want to let her down. So at 8:30 we were lined up at the start, ready to roll.

My first mile went well – in training runs, I am a big baby about that first mile and usually consider it an extended warmup. At about the 1.3 mark, where the 10k and the 5k split off, I started feeling nauseous and overheated. I struggled with nausea for the rest of the race, and had to walk several times. I tried to wait until I hit a mile marker, then give myself a quick breather to recover. My goal was to keep every mile sub-10 with walking breaks included. However, I rallied slightly at mile 4 and was able to push through til the finish without a stop and with a much better pace. End result – 58:55 / 9:30 average. This is better than last year’s 59:17 but nowhere near my PR for this event, which I logged in 2013 with a 54 and change (2013 is the same year I PR’d my half-marathon, too).

I was really proud of my friend, who finished with a bright pink face that matched her shirt and an enormous smile – she’d come in slightly better than her target and was pleased with the race and her result. I can’t say I’m as pleased with my own self. I could have pushed myself harder and left more on the course. I probably could have shaved a minute off, if I’d been determined. But c’est la vie, the race is in the books and I look forward to the next.

During my historic half-marathon training cycles, my next event would be the Kensington Challenge, which used to be a 15k. Perfect next-step distance for my October half. However, in a perplexing change, the Kensington Challenge no longer has the 15k event – they’ve changed it to a half-marathon! This is disappointing. There are so many cool late-summer / fall half and full marathons that I’m not sure why they reasoned that this was the right strategy. Anyway, this means no more (planned) official events until my half.

On Sunday morning, at Jax’s house, we all watched the end of the Olympic men’s marathon, which was incredible. I was so disappointed for Meb, but so inspired by his undeterred enthusiasm and joy when they interviewed him at the end. And I don’t know how anyone could fail to be inspired by Kipchoge’s strong, focused performance. As for Galen Rupp – hmmmm. Pretty darn impressive that he medaled in only his second-ever marathon (!!) – but perhaps his reputation precedes him, for me?

in which nature encroaches


Sometimes I have to remind myself that I live in the city. Metro Detroit is stuffed full of people and  cars and noise and even though I have a green yard and big pine trees and a nice view of an imposing verdant hedgerow across the street, sometimes I just have to remind myself.

Particularly when I lovingly nurture sunflower seeds into little baby plants, protecting them from the changing weather conditions of winter into spring, guarding them with mesh wire until they have grown into mature plants, and then, when I am finally expecting large sunshiny heads, the damn deer eat the tops off. ALL THE TOPS. I live in a TOWN. Where do the deer SLEEP in town?? Or do they bus in from neighboring country sides?

Particularly when I am standing at my kitchen sink in the evening, doing dishes and watching my birdbath garden (now mostly weed-choked) and I see a rustling in the bushes and a bit of white tail. I peer closer, thinking it is a neighborhood cat come to press its butt against my den window and wreak havoc with my two overly sensitive, Prozacked cats. And then out walks a GINORMOUS SKUNK.

Particularly when I notice a terrible stink in the garage, and attribute it to the trash. I was at Jax’s house on trash day last week, so it didn’t get taken out. And I get up on trash day this week and put on my jammies and my pink slippers, and stagger downstairs to pull the trash out to the curb. And when I yank on the overflowing can and see behind it A DEAD CHIPMUNK. The same chipmunk, perhaps, that in less-dead days would hide in my garage and sit on the edge of my recycling bin and mock me. I don’t know how he met his demise but he’d been dead for awhile and was hosting a variety of Hakuna Matata. I stood there in my jammies with my hair corkscrewed from sleep and wondered if I could leave him there til he was just a little flatter. Of course you can’t, I reasoned, you and your CHILD use this garage, this DEAD CHIPMUNK is mere feet away from her little pink bicycle. So I picked up a shovel and gritted my teeth and scraped it off the floor, displacing all aforementioned Hakuna Matata, and carried his dangling sad corpse down to the bin at the curb. Then I felt embarrassed that the trash man would see a dead thing in my bin (which led me to wonder, in my sleep-fuzzed state, what is the worst thing the trash man has seen in a bin?) and went back to rearrange a bag of kitty litter over the top to make it less obvious.

We named the skunk Roscoe. 

pamela dean

I don’t remember when exactly I started reading Pamela Dean. I think I picked up one of her books – ‘The Secret Country’, judging by how well-worn my copy is – from the fantasy aisle in an East Lansing bookstore when I was a teenager. (It was maybe Schuler’s, or B. Dalton in the Meridian Mall; I remember my youthful bookstores like old friends.) Anyway, however I came to her, from her first book I was hooked and had to backtrack to read everything of hers that I could get my paws on. She has a lyrical, whimsical, dense writing style that is crammed with literary references. Reading her books makes me feel smarter and dumber all at once – what a world of literature I have yet to be exposed to. Her characters are vivid and enigmatic, her plots thorny and difficult to untangle, and packed with symbolism and significance. They’re the type of plots that keep you guessing and thinking for days, weeks, and hold up particularly well to rereading as I always pick up something that I missed previously.

I particularly loved ‘Tam Lin’ (easily makes it into my top 5 all-time favorite books) and ‘Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary’ and I’ve been waiting for more additions to her Liavek stories. Yet the years have stretched with no more publications from Ms Dean and I’ve had to content myself with annual re-readings of my old favorites.

Recently, though, via Twitter (link to my profile in sidebar –>) I discovered that Ms Dean has run into a stretch of ill luck, both from the standpoint of her relationship with traditional publishing houses as well as her health. To that end, at the urging of fans and friends, she has launched a Patreon account. Patreon is crowdfunding for artists, musicians, writers, etc. If you’re a Creator, you can have Patrons pledge financial support for your work. I was so excited to be updated on what Ms Dean is doing professionally and honestly thrilled to pledge a small amount to support her goals, in the hopes of being able to enjoy more of her writing.

I always wanted to be a writer. I always wanted to be a shiftless creative type, yet thanks to vigilant parents who advised me towards useful education and gainful employment full-time, and creativity part-time, as well as a temperament that is not well suited to chaos and uncertainty, I am a full-time Widget Central employee who blogs sometimes and finds other outlets for my dream-weaving. This is probably better for me all around. And if I can’t actually be a writer, then I think it’s pretty cool that I can be a patron of the arts and be able to support a writer I love and enjoy in a somewhat more personal and meaningful way.

frank turner’s library show

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I first heard of Frank Turner a few years ago via FM 107.1, a small Ann Arbor radio station. They were playing a couple of his singles from his album Tape Deck Heart and for the time in my life I was going through, the songs perfectly matched my moods.

I loved ‘The Way I Tend to Be‘ with it’s cutting lyric “love is about all the changes you make, and not just three small words“.

And I loved ‘Recovery‘ : “broken people can get better if they really want to…or at least that’s what I have to tell myself if I am hoping to survive“.

So recently I was browsing my community library website to reserve a book and funnily enough, I saw a blurb about Frank Turner and his new book and an event notice – he was coming to the main branch of our library to do a small acoustic show and a book signing. For free! Now, I love music but don’t tend to go to live shows because one, they’re expensive, and two, I don’t love crowds, and three, the crowd thing and the large venues tend to ruin my absorption and enjoyment of the music. It just doesn’t feel personal. Yes, it can be awesome to share the energy and joy with an enormous group of people, but just not enough for me to brave the other aspects to go to a show. But a small, acoustic, free event at a library? That appealed instantly to my geeky heart and made Frank Turner all the more appealing to me. He was in town to do a show at Freedom Hill and made time a few hours before the show to come to a library? Okay, love this guy.

In person, he is quite lanky and yet without the sharp Mephistopheles angle of his promo pic. Wearing a shirt that said ‘Sad Songs Make Me Feel Better’, he ambled onstage with his guitar and a big grin and proceeded to charm the room for over an hour with breezy, self-effacing commentary and song after song. He didn’t play my two faves, but I didn’t really expect him to. He seemed the sort of musician who wants to play things that he really likes and some new songs, too, and not just retread the glossy singles that are the only ones that a casual fan (okay, me) might know. It was a great afternoon and I was introduced to some new songs to love, and a new lyric that seems more appropriate for the time of my life now: “the journey’s brought joys that outweigh the pain“.

Let’s hear it for more musician / library combos!!

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introvert hangover

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emmett’s immediate reaction to seeing a travel bag packed and waiting to go out to Finn the Subaru – passive resistance.

There are only about three weeks left of summer and I’m relieved. I’ve enjoyed it – been places, done things, spent time with nice people – but it’s also been exhausting. I feel like I am always packing a bag or unpacking a bag. Jax tells me “you’re always tired” which annoys me and makes me protest, “that’s not true!” even as I know that it most definitely IS true – I just thought I did a better job hiding it. Getting into fresh cool sheets knowing I can get 9 or 10 hours of sleep is one of my favorite things. But this summer tiredness is different. It feels like I’m struggling just to keep up with myself.
I feel like I’m never home. I know I’ve had plenty of nights in pajamas on my couch with Emmett and Netflix. But they’re difficult to remember, and it also seems like I’ve had a lot of nights in some other place. It seemed to start with Japan, then a beach house bed or a hotel room in Frankenmuth hearing children hopped-up on Bavarian style buttered noodles and live accordion in the halls. Or Jax’s house with Izzy the Dog snoring under the covers at my feet.
The summer road construction has been even more hellish than usual, with major thoroughfares closed down to give construction workers time to do repairs before the Michigan Permafrost sets in again. I’ve spent hours in traffic with books on CD (our paralegal gave me a bag of borrowed audio books; it’s fun to listen to things that aren’t really my normal taste. David Baldacci and Jonathon Kellerman. Now I can be a Washington DC spy and an LA detective during my commutes) and Audible, the flat glare of the sun in my eyes, dreaming of my cool quiet dim house.
My hair hasn’t been properly cut except for a spontaneous trim at Great Clips three months ago and it feels dry and crunchy with sun and the straightener.
Although I’m excited about my promotion, I’m in one of my biorhythmic down cycles at work and struggling to maintain energy and motivation.
I’ve burned my vacation days and my bank account is wheezing from a new car, various trips here and there, and Miss L’s activities and school clothes and birthday (upcoming).
When I wake up in the morning, I can barely be bothered to put my contacts in and try to look decent.

I feel guilty for even SEEMING to complain about having great adventures, and going places, creating memories, spending time with amazing people who treat my daughter and I like longlost family. I honestly do feel so humbled and gratified that I have stumbled across such a number of kindred spirits, and I wish I didn’t feel like a fizzling battery sometimes. I read an article, however, that sort of justified my feelings and made me feel a little consoled about my weirdness – it appears I am suffering from an “Introvert Hangover”.

So go figure!

I am finally home for a bit now and looking forward to self care and closing ranks – getting organized, recharging, and taking care of my neglected home and yard (I have heirloom tomatoes!!) Now I can think about is how lovely it will be to open the windows to birdsong (once SE Michigan’s crippling heat wave dissipates) and then go back to bed for a few hours. I’m not sure why I think that’s going to happen in the fall, but everything good happens in the fall, so I am holding that image in my head, of sweater weather and fall colors and naps and good things to eat and the knowledge that the weather is deepening and darkening and pushing me towards a season of hibernation.Which, apparently, I need!

Be well dear readers and friends. xo

goals

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old shoes / new shoes; changing of the guard.

I keep promising myself that at any moment, I will begin training in earnest for my fourth half-marathon, and yet things keep coming up. I was chagrined to realize that my last one was in 2013! I missed two years in a row due to injuries and scheduling. Faithful readers will remember that my favorite event is the Sleeping Bear Half which takes place in Empire, MI in October. This race is amazing for so many reasons, but my favorite part is how the unpredictability of the weather meshes with the beauty of the course to make it feel like a real ‘up north’ experience. It’s hilly, the weather is a factor, but something wild in you rises to the challenge and it’s such a great setting, with the autumn leaves, the dunes, and the rolling golden fields and forests along M-22. The first year, we ran in sleet and snow, and my jacket and eyelashes were coated with ice when I crossed the finish line. The second year, I PR’d in mild temperatures and a constant warm downpour. What will this year bring? I don’t know but I officially signed up today, giving myself 8 weeks to train.

Things have changed in my life since I trained for my last half. Back then, we were a two-parent family, so my long runs were easy enough to schedule on weekend mornings. Now, my ex & I share custody of our Miss L, and although we work with each other in an amicable and informal sharing arrangement, week by week, I actually don’t always have a weekend morning to run. This cycle, I will have to fit in my long runs even when it’s not ideal, even when I don’t feel like it, even during times of the day that I don’t like to run. I’ve adapted to lunchtime workouts that I can do during my workdays, using the treadmill in Widget Central’s small gym, or running outside around north Ann Arbor. But it will certainly call for early morning runs and evening runs after work – like this week, when I had to do my 6 on a very hot night. Fueling was an issue. I chugged water all day, and had a big lunch, but I’m usually ravenous when I get home from work, no matter what, so I had to content myself with a peanut butter bagel while I waited for the day to wane and the scorching heat to fade a bit. I set out too late, and it was pitch black by the time I finished.

My old Ghost 7’s were pretty much past their prime, so I bought a new pair of Ghost 9’s and will commence to start putting miles on them immediately. I know that October will be here before I know it. I hope that when I’m lined up at the start in the pre-dawn light, waiting anxiously, I will think about all the miles and all the sacrifices I had to make to get there, and feel ready for the challenge!