late summer

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Miss L and I were up north for several days last week visiting my awesome parents and had a lovely time on the beach. My folks are wonderful and we love spending time with them and the extra benefit is we can fish and enjoy Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear while we’re there, too. We spent lots of time outside in the sun getting brown and bug-bit, we ate ice cream and had dinner at Dinghy’s in Frankfort, we visited Fishtown (where I was supposed to run a fundraising 5k in July, but due to the timing of a scheduled trip to Cedar Point with my brother’s family, I had to scratch. I feel sad that I didn’t get that t-shirt. But next year).
The water levels are very high and we watched a small boy drop his fishing line in the channel and pull out fat fish as the tourist crowds milled past. And we had breakfast at the local eatery in the village where friends of my folks were providing live music – they’re a married duo with a guitar and a flute and they did music for beautiful and popular children’s book called “Paddle to the Sea”. I will confess to getting a little misty at some of their songs invoking Paddle’s journey via the Great Lakes and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean.
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I read three books – my Charles Manson beach read, which ended up feeling a little scattered and not satisfying, “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin which I read quickly but also did not enjoy, and a book by the daughter of the BTK serial killer which only stood out to me because of all the times she mentioned Arby’s and Taco Bell. I’d be a serial killer, too, if that’s all I ate. (I’m a grump with my summer reading, I guess, but just wait til I post my thoughts on the book I’m reading NOW – “My Lovely Wife” by Samantha Downing, which may be the most grump-inducing of all).

It all went too fast, as it always does. Still, I managed to do some productive things done besides reading – I had a work conference call AND I pounded out 8 miles on the Betsie Valley trail to fulfill my “long run” obligations. It felt better than the 8 miles Brandon and I did last weekend at Kensington, which was an excruciating miserable slog.
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And yes, for anyone keeping track, I’m still running. I mean, I’m not running *well*, but I’m doggedly logging the miles. I’ve gained weight, I am very slow and lazy, and I don’t feel good about my times. I’m running for the finish line, not the finish time, which makes me embarrassed to tell people that I run, because if the person I tell is another runner, they inevitably ask about my paces, and I have to tell them that my average pace (which used to be between 9 / 9:30 per training mile and under 9 for race miles) is now a solid sub-12 minute mile (barely) for training runs and between 10 & 11 for race miles. And I know what other runners think, because I used to think the exact same thing, which is are you really running if you’re running 11 and 12’s? I hate to say that because it sounds so condescending and snotty now but runners care about their times and now because I’m a slow runner, there are no more gleeful post-run or pre-run selfies to smear all over social media because I know I can be modestly proud of my finish time.
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As previously mentioned, Brandon and I are running the Crim 10-mile in Flint next week and are going up for a romantic (haha) evening in a hotel the night before so we don’t have to get up at 4 AM to drive there and pick up our packets. (I booked our room on Expedia and received an email confirmation “CONGRATULATIONS YOU’RE GOING TO FLINT” which, if you’ve ever been to Flint, is hard to view as anything other than cutting sarcasm on Expedia’s part.)

I’m a little concerned as my last run had to be cut short because of shin pain. I’m very leery of any kind of shin pain because of the terrible shin splints I had several years ago, which resulted in a stress fracture that cut short my fast running days, which will likely never return. Brandon and I are planning another long run this weekend so I’m going to lay off until then, wear my compression sleeve, and hopefully see improvement. I made it through a half marathon training cycle in February and March without shin issues so that’s something I’m clinging to.
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Anyway, that’s the update from late summer here in suburban Elysia, where the days are fading in some ways and brightening in others, and the roads smell like sun-baked fields and a few tired, dusty leaves are beginning an early drift to earth. This time of year will always invoke a pleasant melancholy that is pure nostalgia for my childhood days when I knew summer was growing old and back-to-school clothes and pencils were right around the corner.

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growth and comfort seldom ride the same horse

Here is something I originally wrote in August of 2017:

“My summer friend knows a lot about day lilies and script-writing and Russian criminal tattoos. All of his belongings can fit in the back of his pickup truck and he has no fear about leaving this place to go to a new place. I wish he would stay, but I also can’t imagine him here in the wintertime, living a stone’s throw from the lights of a racetrack, our favorite ice cream stand shuttered in the snow.”

Brandon has gone from a summer friend to a full-season friend and we’ve been living together for a year in November. He’s just as good in the wintertime as he is in the summertime and he’s happily added to my knowledge of World War II, the Tour de France, the Bible, and Morrissey’s catalogue. He’s as voracious a reader as anyone I’ve ever met, loves finding strange old movies on Prime (see “Kiss Me Monster”), and every weekend we carve out time so I can chase him around local metropark trails on our long runs.  He’s beginning to thaw Miss L, too, and last night, I went upstairs with my “summer beach read” – “Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties” (maybe I should just get a nice light paperback for our trip up north next week) and heard them downstairs together for a solid two hours eating ice cream and watching old Kung Fu movies.

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Anyway, there are a lot of updates, including the fact that I got my hair cut, that we’re revamping, repainting, and reorganizing the second floor of my house to give L a better room, updated and designed to accommodate her more grown-up sensibilities, as well as a study for Brandon. I’m a little over halfway done knitting my first sweater, we’re doing the Crim in August and the Savannah Rock & Roll Half Marathon in November, but all of those will have to wait for different posts. I really sat down to write today, after my typically long hiatus, about Facebook.

I know it seems like a very modern way to complain about social media – by turning to another form of social media – but I’ve been blogging far longer than I’ve been MySpaceing (God, remember THAT) or Facebooking. And honestly, I am beginning to turn back towards the blog as a preferable way to express oneself online. I took a “digital detox” from FB for a few weeks and I don’t know if I want to go back. I have grown increasingly ambivalent about posting there, except for political rants and adoptable cat shares, and increasingly weary of scrolling to see passive-aggressive vagueposting about discontent with some friend or relative or other situation that one can’t be bothered to confront head-on, rundowns of what one did during one’s workout or what one ate (note: only PROFESSIONAL FOOD PHOTOGRAPHERS should post photos of FOOD – unless you have a talent and an eye for it, your picture is going to look like something that belongs in the dog’s bowl, no matter how yummy and lovely it was in real life). I am irritated when people post sad bleats about how lonely or bored they are, sometimes with an accompanying blurry photo of a tureen of Flip Flop or some other bottom-shelf wine. It seems odd, though, to think about deleting my profile altogether. It seems hard to imagine existing in today’s world without a social media profile, and the thought of deleting it makes me feel vaguely Ted Kaczynski-ish. As though my acquaintances will think I’ve gone to live as a hermit, off the digital grid, growing body hair and avoiding human contact (and really, only the last part is right – see above about recently getting my hair cut).

So I’m not too sure what this means but felt compelled to muse. It’s Sunday morning here and I’m sitting with my laptop and coffee on the front porch, watching bunnies in the hedgerow across the street and bees in the hydrangeas. Until next time, be well friends. xo

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in which there’s a big dance and a horse race.

April showers bring May flowers, as we all know, but as I sit here on Sunday morning typing this, the sleet rattling on the roof is really a bit much.

Nonetheless, we’ve had a fun weekend that I’m sad to see come to an end, especially as it segues into a short (with Good Friday) but very intense week (with large governance meetings at Widget Central, the organization & execution of which are some of my primary annual goals).

On Friday evening, B & I volunteered at Miss L’s school dance. It’s her last dance at this school before leveling up and it was bittersweet to see all of her friends in their dresses and clip-on ties. Miss L met up with a special friend at the dance and he gave her her first wrist corsage which was met with pink cheeks and shy excitement and was much remarked upon by all and sundry. I always love being a part of these moments for her and that’s why I try to volunteer my time at the school when I can (which is not very much compared to how much I’d like to). After, we all went out for ice cream at our beloved local Silver Dairy ice cream stand (staffed by high school kids and home to a somewhat worse for wear plaster mascot cow named Moolinda) to debrief and celebrate.

Last night, we were special guests at the Northville Downs harness racing track in nearby Northville. B’s childhood friends are affiliated with the organization and we spent a fun evening eating dinner and learning how to bet on the 10 races we watched. We got to tour behind the scenes, meet the management, look at all the cameras and equipment, and even peek in the vault to see more more money than any of us will see in our lifetime. Miss L showed a special talent for picking winners (helped by the trackmaster selections) and I staked her and helped her place a few modest bets which she parlayed into a small profit. The highlight of the evening came when we were escorted down to the track and got to ride in the starter vehicle at the beginning of race 6!

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The gentlemen working the starter vehicle (there are two; one who steers, facing forward, and one who controls the speed and communicates with the racing sulky drivers on the track to get them lined up and ready to start) were super kind to us and answered all of Miss L’s questions, and taught us a lot about harness racing. The winner of race 6 was a horse named Liberal which I had joked to B & his friends that I should bet on, considering my strong political views; I didn’t but I should have. I would have made some cash!

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Today will mostly be about hanging out with these faces [insert obligatory cat picture below], watching it rain, and maybe doing some prep work for my meetings this week. I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend and are looking forward to a quick, sunny lead-in to the Easter holiday coming up. xo

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melting snowdrifts

I was more than ready for a break when Miss L & I headed up north last week. I have a great flexibility with my job that allows me to work from home when I need it, but it’s still work. First quarter was a long slog without any real time off to speak of, trips to Japan and Mexico, a book fair, a half marathon, Girl Scout cookie sales, and the usual juggling of house, Miss L’s activities, work, etc. So a few days without any responsibility was just what I needed to refill my well a bit.

The weather was sunny one day, rainy the next, and we planned our activities accordingly. We went shopping in Traverse City and Glen Arbor; we got coffees and went to Interlochen and had dinner at Dinghy’s in Frankfort. Miss L learned to knit (!) – I finished a book – Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny, the latest Gamache mystery – and my mom’s Tokyo Sunrise socks in the Jaywalker pattern (unfortunately they rushed off the needles and I didn’t get a picture and they may be too big but knit happens).

I got one nice 4-miler in along the Betsie River bike path, and went out with Miss L another day to do a Couch to 5k workout with her, at her request.

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Later that day, my mom & Miss L & I went out to the Pierce Stocking scenic overlook in the Sleeping Bear. The roads and the scenic overlooks are still closed for winter, but you can park by the guard shack and hike, if you don’t mind lingering snow pack, remains of winter storm damage, and the uncanny echoing emptiness of the big woods all around you. It goes without saying that we didn’t mind, and the feel of the warm spring sunshine on our faces while we picked our way over melting drifts was wonderful. It’s what makes living in Michigan so amazing – spring takes so long, but it always comes, inexorably, with dripping drifts and small snowmelt rivers running downhill and a warm breeze in the pines, speaking.

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We came home downstate to nearly 70 degree temperatures, but a promise of snowfall later in the week. I always miss my parents and being up north, but it’s also time to be home, pay bills, sleep in my own bed, do the laundry, and get back to work. I hope you all had a lovely break, if you took one, and feel ready to go back to your regular life. xoxo

apparatus room + spring break

Last weekend, B & I had an official date night. We drove downtown and hit Warby Parker for some spectacle shopping (we both found pairs that we like) and then got a drink at the Buhl Bar. Buhl Bar is NOT a dive bar – it is a small, intimate corner bar that apparently was private for awhile and has only been open to the public for a few years.

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It was a blustery evening, but we shared an umbrella and walked down to the Apparatus Room for our reservation. Apparatus Room is on the ground floor of the Detroit Foundation Hotel, which used to be the Detroit Fire Department headquarters and still retains emblems of its past. Big red doors swing open in airy arched doorways; there is a chic post-industrial feel, brick and even fire poles, and art by local artists. There’s also a podcast loft, which we heard about from Karen and Georgia during their My Favorite Murder visit to the Fox Theater a few weeks ago.

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The chef has a 2 Michelin star rating and the food was wonderful. I had the miso eggplant and two glasses of buttery, beautiful pinot noir; B had scallops and we split the Brussels sprouts. It was a delicious evening and we can’t wait to go back. We capped off our date night at home under blankets watching the Motley Crue tell-all on Netflix, which we also thoroughly enjoyed in an entirely different way than our classy Detroit evening.

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In other news, it’s Spring Break week for Miss L so I am trying to wrap some things up at work and then take off up north for a few days with my folks. It’s not exactly the warm tropical destination that most people seek out for their Spring Break, but we never considered doing anything else. Miss L loves her grandparents, it’s the height of relaxation, and having a few days to sleep, knit, read, and maybe do some running, hiking, and shopping is perfect. And I do love a cold winter beach.

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the “killing commendatore” socks matched the cover of the book i was reading

So far this year, I finished one pair of socks, and they went so fast that I immediately cast on for another pair for my mom, thinking that I could get them done in a few weeks and then start the sweater that I’m planning. (My first sweater!)  The second pair, however, have taken forever, and then I ran out of yarn (!!! – the problem with using stash yarn that looks like enough but is just a bit short). So I went to my fave yarn store for a similar colorway and decided to just do the toes in the new colorway (which meant I had to rip back the toe in the sock I’d finished already).
Hopefully I can wrap these up this week and cast on for my new project – yes, the sweater. MTC and happy Spring Breaking.

 

ann arbor half-marathon recap

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On Sunday, I ran my fifth half  at the Ann Arbor Marathon. I have mixed emotions about this run and didn’t really tell anyone I ran it, except my family & a few trusted friends. I knew I was a long way from my sub-2 hour PR days, but the race was harder and hillier than I’d expected, and so I have to put this in the “to learn from” column.

Clock Time:   2:29
Chip Time / Garmin time: 2:27 (11.11)

I ran this half in 2012, in one of the first years of its existence (it was also my first half, coincidentally) and the event has undergone a few changes. It used to be in June; I assume they changed it so as not to compete with the larger Dexter-Ann Arbor marathon. And the original half route took us around Briarwood Mall, of all places. (I vividly remember watching the cars pull in for tire rotations at the Sears store and thinking, this is the best they can do?) The altered route is much improved, although undeniably more challenging; start and finish near Michigan Stadium, the first stretch up Hill Street onto campus, past the Law Quad and out to the Hill; then past the cemetery, and out the rolling elevations of Geddes Road to Gallup Park. We cut back through Gallup around the medical campus, and then through the Arb, where Mile 12 is a long slog uphill on a dirt trail. The start and finish location was my biggest complaint. It was a narrow street near a lumber yard, which made me feel as though we were packed into a narrow box canyon like mustangs waiting to be shot from a helicopter. There were so many people that lines for bag drop and porta-potties were indistinguishable and there were many minor beefs over people perceived to be cutting in line. This could have been resolved with more space and a more thoughtful layout. But otherwise, the course was interesting, well-marked, lots of volunteers; the shirt and the medal were cool and I would definitely do this event again.

I haven’t run any real distance or been competitive in running for a few years now, and my training runs have been slow and steady. I’ve gained weight, I’ve had injuries, and so my goal for this race, first and foremost, was to finish. I wanted to show myself that I can run a half again, and get through a training cycle without quitting or getting injured. I mostly did that, despite a groin strain that proved problematic. My second goal, though, was to finish in around 2:15, which proved very elusive. Although I train on hills, this route was beyond my capability. The initial steep hill tired me out immediately and the long rolling grind of Geddes wore me down; by the time we hit Gallup Park, I knew I was in trouble. Maybe if I’d had a long downhill to regain some momentum, I could have rallied a little, but miles 6-9 were brutal mental slogs of self-recrimination, physical discomfort in my hips and knees, and wondering if I would make it. The only thing that kept me moving during those miles was thinking that B and Miss L were waiting for me at the finish line, and how little I wanted to disappoint them. But at that point, I knew I was in trouble, and all I could do was hang on.

The Arb was an exercise in misery but at least I wasn’t alone in it. Everyone in the loose pack I was pacing with had to stop at some point up that hill and walk it. And the spirit of the running community was strong then; many people telling each other to keep going, “you’re doing great”. The course ended in a nice downhill, where I finally achieved a respectable 9.17 pace, and was reunited with my people.

Despite the poor time on the clock, I was proud of myself for finishing and showing myself that 13.1 is possible again.
I also have mixed emotions about even feeling embarrassed about my time. There are always runners that are faster than me and slower than me, and feeling ashamed at what I consider to be a slow time really does an injustice not just to my own accomplishment, but to all runners who are lapping everyone on the couch.

When I say I’m embarrassed at my time, it’s not because I think that an 11 minute mile is somehow less honorable than an 8 minute mile – it stems from the fact that I know I can personally do better, I’ve done better, and I want to learn and train so I can do better again. I don’t have any other events planned until the Crim in August, which I’ll run with B for fun, not for time, but I want to build my base mileage and do more long runs regularly. I also need to cross-train more, to strengthen what I consider to be my weak hip flexors, and generally build stamina. I know I won’t be back to sub-2 in the near future, if ever again, but I know I can do a better 13.1 and I’m looking forward to getting there.

day late and a dollar short (hello 2019)

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josie aka ‘pot roast’ has settled into our home beautifully

Hello, my name is Sara and I used to blog here. My blog friends will understand that I am less than disciplined and regular about my posting and it’s always hard to sit down and write the first few sentences after one of my absences. Yet somehow I always do and here I am again.

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it’s been a mild winter so far…

I’m tempted to write up a 2018 Year In Review post but it’s a day late and a dollar short on that one, as we’re now well and truly into 2019. Suffice it to say, my 2018 was one of my best years yet. I didn’t knit that sweater, but I did read 52 books as planned and ran more miles than I’d forecast (most of them dramatically slower than I’d have liked, but oh well). I took on new challenges, projects and teammates at work, and although I didn’t travel during 2018, next week I’ll be on a plane to Japan. Miss L continues to grow as an intelligent, funny, lovely, caring young lady who is my absolute favorite person in the world. As always, one of my proudest accomplishments is the way that her father and I have continued to work together with respect and consideration to raise her.

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there’s been a lot of hygge knitting. check me out on ravelry (sixtenpine)

B.’s job has brought him home to Michigan and fingers crossed, he will spend at least half of 2019 here, living with me. Our life together is a happy one. Sometimes I think of life as a road and if the rough patches of my prior troubles, bad relationships and poor decisions had to happen to travel to a place where I can him in my life, they were all worth it.

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hosted b’s family for his birthday dinner on christmas day – last year’s cake was elvis, this year he wanted morrissey!

I’m hoping it won’t be so long until I chat here again, but in the meantime, I hope you are all well and happy, and that your 2019 proves to be better than your 2018.

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let the new year in like a snow squall across the lake