23 April 2014

running with rorschach.

having never been to kansas, i assumed it would live up to its legendary flatness, but i am here to bear witness to its not so much keeping with that program. at least in these parts, it's quite hilly. this morning's run involved a rise of 300ft over one half-mile stretch, and in case you don't know what sort of incline that is, i'll tell you that in scientific terms, it's known as a "doozy".

this was our third morning here and my first to run outside. our morning class schedule lands my morning run in darkness, so i'd opted for the treadmill, but this morning i thought, what the hell, i'll go out and have a look around.

turns out, i didn't know what i'd been missing.

our hotel is pushed to the back of a large parking lot which is shared with a shabby movie theatre (which carries a surprising a first-run lineup), a small strip of retail (tanning, nails, dry cleaner, 7-11), a mexican place, a "brewhouse", and an endoscopy clinic. beyond the borders of our lot, things are mostly residential with a couple churches, an eyecare clinic, a farm with numerous horses, and an assisted living center all jumbled in for good measure. the zoning laws in kansas are a mystery to me.

at any rate, point is: as far as i could tell, wide and well-lit sidewalks extend throughout the area for several miles in many directions.

that is what i'd been missing.

with lighting like that on the sidewalks, there was no reason to have been inside. plus, for a 5AM sidewalk, it was fairly well travelled. as i was going west, i passed a runner going east. proceeding up the ginormous hill i mentioned earlier, a wizened old wizard of a runner passed me. and -- there was even a guy out walking his dog. that's not bad for a 4 mile (2 out - 2 back) jog at 5AM on a weekday morning in suburban shawnee.

according to my weather channel app, 5AM tomorrow comprises 70% chance of thunderstorms and a 15mph wind. looks like i'll be duking it out with the other treadmillers for my time on the machine.

i do regret not going outside earlier in the week.

elevation profile from the hilly part of this morning's run
masquerading as a rorschach card.

21 April 2014

you can call me queen bee.*

although it'd be wrong to narrow the differences between myself and the late great john denver to just this one thing, it's true that whereas he laid claim to a sometime-in-the-future intention to be leaving on a jet plane and furthermore professed to not knowing when he'd be back again -- i already left (yesterday) and am quite aware that i'll be going back on thursday evening.

four coworkers and i are in shawnee, kansas, to be trained as admins for an enterprise content management system recently acquired by our company. shawnee, kansas, sort of sounds like the boondocks but in reality it's just 30 mins or so out of kansas city. it's more along the lines of a surrounding burg than a completely separate city.

sunday evening around half-five, i hit the freeway for what turned out to be an uneventful jaunt to the airport. thirty mins on the freeway, another five making the obligatory missed-the-economy-parking-entrance circuit of the airport, and a final ten surveying the economy lot like a hawk making lazy circles in the sky. when i'd located the perfect parking spot to entrust with the care of my dear sweet little car, i left her and boarded a shuttle on which i was the sole passenger from economy to terminal.

click here for shuttle ride vid.

it's not much to look at because i was attempting to be stealth, so... it's basically a vid of the seat cushion. BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT! turn up the sound. that's the shuttlebus driver singing!

(you might have to download the vid and then play it. i don't have a streaming vid server #sosorry. also, that voice isn't me trying to compete with his lovely vocals - it's his dispatch radio.)

the old guy's proficiency at operating the shuttle bus like a professional entertainer -- complete with singing and with comically delivered shuttle stop announcements -- made me suspect he once hosted the train ride from grinder's switch to the el paso station. #opryland #goodtimes

traffic a the TSA checkpoint was light - about 20 or 30 of us in all, maneuvering through the various stiles and gates, removing our shoes as we went, taking out laptops for inspection. after my turn in the x-ray machine, the agents pulled me aside for a pat down... i had forgotten i had a chapstick in my pocket. the agent informed me: there's something in your right side pocket. i said, yeah - it's a chapstick. she was like, please remove it slowly. HAHA. what the hell, TSA. it's a damn chapstick. settle down.

i am a fan of getting to the airport early, and since TSA couldn't hold me for the chapstick #rolleyes, i had time to spare for a starbucks and a snack before meeting my coworkers at the gate. the passenger load was light, so when i took a window seat and a coworker took the aisle, we had the middle seat free and clear.

my favourite part of flying is take off. landing makes me a bit nervous, and the parts when we're way-away up in the air (although miraculous!) don't do much to impress. taking off reminds me of the skyride #oprylandredux with its gentle yet forceful push.

up-up-up and away!

we launch into the night sky, our steep trajectory quickly putting distance between us and the endless black velvet landscape, pocked orange by a million sodium vapor streetlamps, each thoughtfully positioned to drive back the night from its alloted portion of the teeming population which is now completely invisible to us. the plane dips heavily into a sharp left, coming about from a north-facing takeoff to head due west, heaving her awkward bulk about on the tip of a down-pointed wing... like a hippo performing ballet.

*kansas city ~> royals ~> lorde ~> queen bee

18 April 2014

and so it begins.

we've been working on a remodel since the day we met with our first contractor a couple years ago. mike, a 6'4" cajun who lacked punctuality and wasn't particularly forthcoming with specifics, made up for these shortcomings #tallshorthaha with sheer enthusiasm. he'd exude excitement like a puppy peeing all over the kitchen floor. #gross we'd met with him a few times and were ready to start placing materials orders, when mike announced that luke bryan (then, the recent winner of some sort of up-and-coming artist award) had hired mike to build luke's new house.

goodbye, first guy.

just before the door firmly struck his ass, he was kind enough to put us in touch with a builder at the company he was leaving for luke. hmm... say... wouldn't it be better to skip the contractor middle-man and get straight to the builder? #amirite we met with the builder, and there was a good feeling all around the table, an eagerness to get started on the project. we talked for an hour, maybe two, just hashing #smotheringcovering things out. he said he'd call in a few days, shook hands, and we watched him walk down the back steps. that was the last time we ever saw him.

goodbye, second guy.

i don't think it was anything sinister, but he definitely fell off the face of the earth. i mean, c'mon, how hard is it to return a phone call? after waiting a respectable amount of time, we started courting a new contractor, a guy named wayne that my old man knew from way back in the day. #theyreold

wayne is a horse guy. like, literally, a guy with horses. he had to be home before dark round 'em up or head 'em out or somesuch #yipeekaiyay and this restriction combined with his inability to be anywhere on time EVER really ate into our meetings. on top of this horsing around, he was terrible #understatement with the numbers. like, we met a few times, and he took notes, and then he presented us with a "budget" which comprised one huge lump sum. we were like, um... our sum isn't quite that lumpy and where are the line items. he was like, well, tell me some things you don't want to include and i'll subtract them. we were like, how the hell do we know what we want to subtract, when there're no line items. it went on like that for three or four meetings until i was like, no mas. he's supposed to be trying to win our business and he's pissing us off. #yikes

goodbye, third guy.

enter Gym Guy Brad. like a sorority girl at a bar, my old man shamelessly picked up Gym Guy Brad at the fitness facility and brought him home like a proud cat with a mouse. #mixedmetaphor fourth time's a charm, i guess, because Gym Guy Brad possesses the two traits i look for most in a contractor: charm and blue eyes. he's also detail-oriented, provides terrific line item budgets, is unfailingly on time, and is freaking #literally named BRAD. he shares just enough ideas to keep the momentum but, being the consummate professional, Gym Guy Brad steadfastly refuses to participate in deciding what color countertops we should choose or whether we are really best served by knocking down that wall. #coldwarref

hello, fourth guy.

the appliances we ordered are sitting in the garage, poised for installation. the cabinets should be done in a week or so. today we packed up the kitchen because a crew will arrive monday morning to demolish it, in all its #groovy harvest gold glory.

i'm eager for the new kitchen, but it's bittersweet. i grew up in this kitchen. every thing i can cook, i learned to cook on this stovetop. every muffin mix and cake mix and brownie mix i ever inexpertly mixed, met its end in this oven. but come monday #itllbealright - it's all going... even the kitchen sink. #sadface

13 April 2014

brown-eyed girl

the great lazy dome of the sky
is dripping diamonds,
and you hold out your hand
as if to catch them,
and you laugh,
and i laugh.

the desert is cold at midnight
in a way you would
never believe it could be
if you have only been in the desert
at noon.

i can see your face -
turned to the sky -
reflected in my spectacles
when you stand behind me,
and i stay very still
to look at you
without your knowing.

van morrison starts to sing
through the layer of car radio static,
"hey, where did we go -
days when the rain came?"
and you laugh again.

i see you turn your reflected face
to find mine -
your face filled with anticipation
of our shared reaction to the song.
"...with our hearts thumping."

and so i turn my face to meet yours.

12 April 2014

jimmy buffett meets occam's razor

jimmy buffett walked us through it.

although everyone claims that there's a woman to blame... it's nobody's fault... hell, it could be my fault... it's my own damn fault. at first, we want to blame someone else, and then we want it to be fate or luck, and then we begin to realise we may have played a part in it, until we finally run out of excuses and have to admit - it's my own damn fault.

don't act like you haven't been there.

after my last 20-mile run, i did several things wrong. first, i didn't stretch. like, at all. then, i played soccer the next day with little warmup and no cool down. finally, on the third day, when i was already feeling the effects of all this poor behaviour, i ran again and didn't stretch.

but above and beyond all this negligence, the most egregious action i took was on the fourth day, when i knew that something was wrong and did not have the sense to recognise what has happening.

here's the thing: my right leg is an inch shorter than my left. this means my entire portside lower body maneuvering mechanism -- hip, thigh, knee, shin, ankle, foot -- is highly susceptible to injury.

up until a few years ago, i was blithely unaware of this discrepancy, but as the therapist who helped me get back on my feet explained, it's like a house of cards. you can go for years with nary a smidgen of an issue, but then one day the house of cards falls down and boom, issues galore.

stress fracture. tendonitis. runner's knee. back pain. hip pain. foot pain.

if i want to run marathons with a skewed anatomy, then i have to pay attention to stretching, warm ups, cool downs, and core strength. so, it's bad that i was neglecting all that.

but what's worse is that when i started to have trouble, i didn't immediately say to myself - leg length discrepancy! i mean, did i seriously believe the pimento cheese had cursed me? or, to put it differently, did i seriously believe that some random act of the universe had struck me down at random? i mean... SERIOUSLY??

occam's razor, anyone?


so here i am, having lost a good couple of weeks of training because i did not recognise and address the problem immediately. the best thing would have been to have not neglected the good behaviours at all, but MY POINT HERE IS that even with neglecting that stuff, THE DAMAGE WAS STILL REPAIRABLE. i didn't have to wait all this time, moaning about always getting hurt during training.

hello? hello? anyone home? think, mcfly! think!

in conclusion: i am my own worst enemy and it's my own damn fault.

06 April 2014

i blame the pimento cheese.

it takes a really long time for me to trust my body during marathon training, to believe that i am not going to be injured, and that's odd because i generally trust so easily.


when i finally get to the point in a training cycle where i feel really strong, fit, and sure i'll weather well the remainder of my training, i will treat myself to something.

sometimes, it's new running gear. once, i bought a sweet handheld water bottle... for a half marathon i ended up walking. once, i got two new pair of trainers... and ended up with a stress fracture (more walking). once, i got a pair of shoes especially for running my dream marathon and that act of faith led directly to nearly insurmountable tendinitis and even more walking.

sometimes, the treat is food. okay, MOST of the time, it's food. i mean, i AM running dozens of miles every week, so what's one little bag of candy corn, one extra beer, one entire box of girl scout cookies going to mean in the overall calorie count?

one week ago today, i treated myself to a carton of pimento cheese at the grocery.

the next morning, i'd developed a terrible pain in my left hip, and i knew right then what was to blame: the damn pimento cheese.

there's a belief among the irish that if you get to the point in your contentment with life that you forget there's an angry god holding you like a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, well... you're setting yourself up for a whuppin'. accepting that good things can come your way, or -- heaven forfend! -- thinking that you DESERVE them, only leads to misery and loss.

this is why the irish believe so much in luck. if you're lucky, well... you can't help THAT, right? you didn't ask for it. you didn't let your guard down. it just happened! it's just luck! there can be no retribution for luck! JUST DON'T GET USED TO IT. there's no excuse for being used to luck, and if you're not careful, you'll get an almighty smack upside your prideful little head.

humility is the key. play it down. it's not me, it's luck. it's not me, it's circumstance. it's not me, anyone could do it, with just a little hard work, which bygod i've put enough of into the pot and if anyone deserves anything it's ME but no... it's not me, it's just luck.

remember, though: there is no bad luck. there is only good luck. good things happen by chance. bad circumstances are DESERVED.

i googled "irish always think something bad will happen if something good happens" and got an article on depression from healthcentral.com, followed by an OCD and then another depression from the UK national health service.

in conclusion, irish karma is why the irish drink.

i blame the pimento cheese.


(feeling better today, thanks, but no more pimento cheese!)

04 April 2014


the other day i was listening to npr, and they were talking about this concept of naming three books that define you. obvs, the temptation is to pick something profound, puff yourself up, but the truth is that most of the profound tomes i've tackled have left me wondering what all the fuss is about. just because something is difficult to read, doesn't mean it's brilliant. just means it's f'ing hard to read. #coughcoughjamesjoycecoughcough

secret garden and a tree grows in brooklyn and to kill a mockingbird and lord of the flies changed my perspective on life, but i don't think books like that define me. they influenced me, sure, but i figure the books that define me are ones i have read multiple times. they choose me and i choose them, over and over again.


andrew henry's meadow by doris burn
andrew henry is a misunderstood middle child. he just wants to build things, but no one appreciates his inventive efforts. he escapes to a nearby meadow where he builds himself a fine house, which even had a landing pad for the dragonflies. not long after, he's followed by several other kids, each with their own hobby that's not appreciated by their family. alice shows up toting cages containing her precious birds, which her father the farmer doesn't want around. george brings boats and a paddle wheel that his mother says don't belong in the bathtub. and so it goes until there are several andrew-henry-crafted houses in the meadow, each as eccentric as its own. in the end, the parents find their kids, everyone dances happily and goes home, where they presumably understand each other a bit better. (andrew henry's parents give him some space in the basement to build his inventions.)

the pillars of the earth by ken follett
i've read this one three times, and now that i've reminded myself of it, i might just have to read it again. it's a historical novel based in medieval england, with a plot centered around the building of a cathedral in kingsbridge. follett uses the fictional setting to stage the introduction of construction and architectural advances that presumably took place in the middle ages. (i mean, i didn't look it all up.) these advances are brought into the cathedral building process by jack jackson, an outsider, a bit of an odd duck, who is driven by the desire to do things right. there's a conniving bishop, an uncaring lord of the manor, adventures abroad, love that's found and lost and found again. time passes, characters age and die, and in the end, the story is resolved. #thesequelsucks

harry potter and the sorcerer's stone
ah, harry. the other two books came to mind quickly, but i pondered and pondered over the third, until it hit me that i've read the entire harry potter series 4 or maybe 5 times. the characters and plot are pretty well known here.

so. how do these books define me?

like andrew henry and jack jackson and harry potter, i'm driven to do things right, and i'm not easily lonely.

it's fun to think about inventing things, building things, and about construction advances and when they might have come into use.

i believe in the power of love.

what about you? what are your #my3books?