Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in review

And here we are at the end of 2017. In reading through last year's end of year post, it struck me that this time last year, my mother-in-law was still nominally living in her own home. We helped her get moved into a lovely apartment at an assisted living place, but unfortunately her health nose-dived. She's now fully moved into the nursing home side of that same facility. I was shocked at how quickly she lost strength and mobility.

At any rate, here are my answers to the usual end of year blog questions I’ve been doing for a few years now.

What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before? I’ve gotten way into running this year. My younger son and daughter-in-law have been avid runners for years, and both have encouraged me in my own running. This year, I ran in two races and placed second in my age group for both of them. The second race had a lot more participants so I’m really proud of that finish and of setting personal records in both the mile and the 5k.

Did anyone close to you give birth? Not this year.

Did anyone close to you die? I’ve got friends who are struggling with real health issues, and of course my MIL has had a lot of health challenges but no deaths.

Did you suffer illness or injury? Yes, I was diagnosed with melanoma is August.

What countries did you visit? Sadly, and again this year, none. Our travel has been family focused—we were able to go to Yuma with Jordan in May to see Ben, Jen and the kids after Ben returned from his deployment. We also travelled back to PA to attend a family wedding in October, which was a lot of fun. In November, we flew to Nashville to celebrate our older son’s engagement and meet our wonderful future daughter-in-law. And I’m so thankful that Ben and Jen graciously hosted us all at Thanksgiving.

What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017? I would love for both of us to be gainfully employed. And I’d like a completely clear scan in February when I see my dermatologist again.

What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? September 17. I managed to pull off a surprise birthday party for my mother—got her and my dad to travel here, got my sister in Colorado to travel here also, arranged for my brother and his wife to come to the party, and set up a Skype call with my sister in England. We had a blast, and I think my mother really enjoyed herself.
What was your biggest achievement of the year? At work, four of us managers got shuffled around—think of it as a corporate version of musical chairs only no one lost a chair. So my achievement is that I am in the new job . . . wasn’t what I wanted in the least, but hey, I remain gainfully employed.

What was the best thing you bought? This is really lame, but we both just got new tires and I’m ridiculously thrilled with them.

Where did most of your money go? We’re still on lock down; we’ve chosen to pay cash for Kent’s MBA (he will be done in March and graduate in May—so proud for him and also so excited we’re almost done with tuition), and we’ve bought plane tickets.

What did you get really excited about? I am so happy that Jordan has met an amazing woman and that she said yes when he proposed! They get married in March, and we can hardly wait.

What book(s) did you love this year? N. K. Jemisin’s third book in her Broken Earth series was released and wow, I loved it. I’m currently reading Nick Harkaway’s Gnomone, very kindly given to me by my friend Jeanne. It’s really good, and I’m savoring the reading of it.

What song will always remind you of 2017? Can’t go wrong with Justin Timberlake, at least not to me.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

And whew

I got this email yesterday (click the image if you can't read the text). The Hangover Half has been postponed until January 7 because of our extreme, life-threatening cold temperatures. So relieved.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Well crud

I grabbed this screen shot from Weather Underground around 10 this morning. As you can see, we've got extreme cold forecast for the weekend, and that's on top of the bitter cold we have right now (temp was 2F when I drove to work this morning). And don't forget the snow. It's only two inches but super slick.

I just checked the weather again and now the forecast calls for snow on Sunday (bad news for the trail for the half marathon) and the low Sunday night is -6. That's a minus sign.

Not liking my chances for running this half, I'll be honest. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Harder than it looks

When I was 32 and still a professional musician, I developed tendonitis in my right thumb from playing. I went to physical therapy, and my PT said you need to stop playing to let this heal up, otherwise it’s going to get a lot worse and you might not recover. I said well I’m in the middle of a lot of rehearsals and a bunch of concerts, I will see you in May (it was February).

And those concerts were the last I ever played.

My thumb did indeed get a lot worse. The tendonitis spread to the back of my hand, to my elbow and up to my shoulder. I couldn’t even sign my name on a check for about five months—I lost the grippy motion you need to hold a pen or pencil. I went to PT religiously, did all the rehab exercises, tried to play again and nope. Flat could not do it.

I still have issues with my right hand. My handwriting is so bad I can’t always read it. I’ve had to learn to use a mouse with my left hand so that I can give my right hand a break. It’s been 25 years and this is my normal now.

Patron saint for runners--
thanks Mom!
So I’m taking this piriformis issue seriously. I got a recommendation for a PT place that works with athletes and went for a screening last night. Holy cow that hurt. She did a piriformis release on both sides and that was incredibly painful. But it helped. She also gave me a couple of exercises and dynamic stretches to do. They hurt, but I can tell it’s not the “OMG stop you are damaging yourself” pain. I go back next week for a full evaluation.

In the meantime, I’ll hold off running until next Tuesday. That gives me a full week of no running. I’m still planning on running my half marathon, I know logically I have all the fitness and conditioning I need. But mentally it’s hard. I’ve also had to acknowledge I won’t meet the 200k distance challenge for December (I use Strava, which is sort of like FaceBook for runners and cyclists and you can sign up for all sorts of challenges every month). That’s hard too, because I hate not meeting those kinds of challenges.

But the reality is if I don’t stop and heal up, then I run the risk of a more serious injury. I’d like to think I learned something from that career ending injury 25 years ago

Sunday, December 17, 2017

In which I am learning about the mental side of running

A week ago, I ran in the local Jingle Bell 5k race and did pretty well. I set a new personal record for the mile (7:29) and a new personal record for the 5K (25:48)—I came in 91st overall, and second in my age group.

But because I’m not very experienced at racing, I also strained my left hamstring a bit. It’s been a bad enough strain that I cut back my running this week because otherwise I’m concerned I won’t be able to run in the half marathon on New Year’s Day.

And that’s the mental part. I know logically that I’m fit, I could run a half today (well assuming my hamstring cooperates) but mentally my brain says otherwise.

It’s been a real challenge not to get clenched over skipping days in my training plan. This week, I skipped Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and today. I’m going to try a short easy run tomorrow morning, but I’m deliberately taking a loop that will let me cut the run short if I’m still hurting.

Update on Monday: Well I ran a nice slow mile, and still had a fair amount of discomfort. I'll wait until Thursday to try again. 

On a happier note, here are some photos from the 5k last weekend.

Before the race--yes, we are in a cave.

I'm the female blur in the light blue shirt.

Yay, I did it!

Finisher's medal and age group medal

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

November has been a packed month for me, professionally and personally. After my trip to Corpus Christi for work, I headed to Orlando (also for work). Alas, the view from my hotel room looked onto a boring roof, and we were nowhere near the ocean. It was so humid and foggy that I couldn’t see through my running glasses and every attempt to wipe off the lenses when I ran only resulted in more blurry smears.

I got back from Orlando on Thursday, and Kent and I headed to Nashville the next day. My older son is engaged to a wonderful woman, and her folks threw an engagement party that Saturday. If we’re friends on Facebook, then you’ve seen this photo already—I love it. I also realized that compared to everyone else, I’m kind of short!

This past Saturday, we flew to San Diego, picked up Jordan and Amanda and drove to Yuma to be with Ben, Jen and the kids for Thanksgiving. It’s definitely different running in the desert. I run before the dawn breaks, so I’ve enjoyed seeing the stars here in the desert and then watching the sun come up as I finish my runs.

Now I’m sitting here on Thanksgiving Day, so grateful to be with my husband, sons, daughter-in-law, future daughter-in-law and grandkids. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October running recap (so I don’t forget)

Finisher's medal
  • Ran my first race in nine years
  • Got new running shoes—this is my first time wearing Saucony shoes (I got Kinvaras). They are ridiculously big but that’s what it took to not smash my toenails because I have long toes. But they are big everywhere else—heel to the ball of my foot, side to side and top to bottom. So I’ve got inserts in them to take up space, and I am wearing my thickest Baluga running socks just to take up some of that room. I’d love to find running shoes for narrow shallow feet with a long toe box but the current fashion is wider shoes with super wide toe boxes, and those just hurt my feet.
  • Ran my first ever 10 mile run. I was pretty pumped up about that.
  • Ended my mile a day streak on October 25 (I started on August 11). I ended it because (a) the streak was becoming the master of me, and (b) my son is right and I do need a rest day. 
  • Ran 114+ miles in October and had my most miles ever in one week (37.8).
  • I decided to run a half marathon. I would have loved to run it this month but I’m out of town for every local half in my area. So I am aiming for the Hangover Half on January 1. The only reason I would not run it is if it’s below 20F (I have some lung issues) or if we have a lot of snow and ice on the ground. I’m not interested in slipping and breaking any bones. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Where did the week go?

I was in Corpus Christi TX last week for work. I left Sunday and got home about 9:30 last night. I don’t know about you, but when I end up working on the weekend like that (and I do count traveling for work as work), I get all sorts of confused on what day it is. I mean, I know what day it is, but I always have to deliberately remember. I guess that’s partly because I lose the rhythms and habits of my normal daily life.

I found a Thai restaurant about a block and a half away from my hotel, so Monday night I got take out green curry. It was fantastic, very spicy (which I like) and came with the rice, vegetables and pineapple you see in this photo. I had a fridge in my hotel room, and where I was working had microwaves, so I had half for dinner and the rest for lunch Tuesday.

It was so good, I went back Tuesday night and got the red curry. Well, it was even better! So I did the same half/half split. I briefly thought about trying the yellow curry Wednesday night but honestly, that red curry was amazing. So I got it again.

I ran on the seawall four of the five mornings I was there—even in the dark, it was lovely. I ran up toward the bridge and then back down to Cole Park. I could sort of see the USS Lexington in the dark but never had enough free time to tour it. 

Not all the damage from Hurricane Harvey has been repaired. In the photo from my hotel room, you can see that the hotel next to mine still has room damage. And I don't know what the building is in the next photo, but it looks like the damage was severe.

View from my room.

I don't know what this building is but you can see the damage.
Sunrise from my hotel.

The USS Lexington model in the airport.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

It gets in your head

Since getting that original melanoma diagnosis, I’d wondered if I would be freaking out over any new blemish or spot on my skin. See, the problem is I don’t actually know what that melanoma looked like. It was on my back, basically between my shoulder blades and centered on my spine. That’s not a spot I see every day. Plus, my dermatologist warned me that the normal A B C D E signs of melanoma wouldn’t really apply to me because of my moles, and I guess because of how the one spot looked. So I’m not at all sure of what should be flagged and what shouldn’t.

When I put on make-up in the mornings, I use a small magnifying mirror. I wear reading glasses but of course you can’t actually wear reading glasses and put on eye make-up, or if you can I haven’t figured out how that works. Two weeks ago, I noticed a small dark spot at the lash line on my right eye lid. Hmm, I thought, maybe I didn’t remove my eye make-up thoroughly enough . . . I decided to scrub harder the next morning, and check again. The spot was still there. So I thought OK, this is a little alarming—I’ll scrub harder one more morning and check again. Still there.

I called my dermatologist that morning, and they squeezed me in that day. Fortunately, the spot is benign, but until I got that news I’d been wondering how on earth it would be removed and then reconstructed if it had been melanoma? After all, the eye lid isn’t very big—seems like a wide local incision would remove the whole thing. That was not a pleasant thought.

As I told my mother yesterday in our weekly phone calls, the thing about a cancer diagnosis is that it leaves this invisible “what’s next” cloud over anything. She herself has cancer, and as she told me years ago when diagnosed, having one kind doesn’t preclude developing another kind. So there’s that bit of fun to contemplate. Plus, at least for me, this has disrupted the way I’ve always thought I’d end up going. There’s a pretty strong history of blood cancers in women on my mother’s side of the family. I figured I’d end up with one of those, and I guess I still might. But for now I have this melanoma to pay attention to, and to watch for. Only I don’t know what it looks like on me.

I go back in February for my next screening. I’m going to ask for any examples of what he removed from me. And if he needs to do any scrape biopsies, I'llask to see what it looks like before he removes it. That’s all I know to do.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

WW1 Museum & Memorial 8K Double

Originally I was supposed to be flying to Utah for work today. That trip got canceled, which meant I could run in this race. Unfortunately, because I made the decision so late, my normal runs were probably not ideal in terms of coming into this double race all fresh and ready.

But that’s OK. I haven’t run any race in 9 years and sort of feel like those two don’t count because I’d never run any races before and didn’t have any clue on how to prep. This time, though, I asked my younger son’s advice. Ben’s one of those people who dives deep into whatever topic catches his interest, and he’s been an avid runner for a while now. He comments on my runs on Strava and always has an encouraging word to say.

We talked this last week and I asked him how he’d run a race like this:

  • 9 AM: 5k race starts
  • 10:15 AM: 3k race starts

While I regularly run hills, the hills around the Liberty Memorial are no joke: they are steep and long, or super steep and short. So I knew this course would be a challenge. (Fun note: my Garmin marked enough rapid elevation changes and decided I'd climbed 49 flights of stairs . . . during this race!)

He suggested running a negative split on the 5K—in other words, go out faster than normal so that when I hit the hills, the bleed off of speed would be offset by the faster start time. And that’s what I did. I could also tell that the hill running I do every day paid off because I passed a lot of people on those uphill portions.

For the 3K, Ben suggested going all out, which is also what I did. Too bad the first mile of that 3k had an elevation gain of 58 feet. Ouch!

It was fairly chilly this morning and raining lightly, and also pretty windy. I wore the long tights and long sleeve hot weather shirt for bug mitigation (no more oak mite bites please!) and of course to keep the sun off me. Then the sun broke through during the intermission, so I swapped to a short sleeve shirt. I was pretty happy with the gear, but I should have brought a different pair of sunglasses since those slid down my nose all the time.

For this race, I’d set three average pace per mile goals: 8:45, 8:55 and 9:05. I didn’t meet that goal at all in the 5K (pace was 9:12), but did well in the 3K with a pace of 8:48. I’m a little surprised at the 3K pace, since I tend to have my best speeds on longer runs. Then again, I was taking Ben’s advice and I wasn’t leaving anything on the table.

Pics or it didn't happen:

5k start

5k finish--I tried to motivate that guy behind me
but he was flat out of gas
3k start but after that freaking long hill at the beginning
3k finish

All in all, I had a blast and I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can do. Also, check out the WW1 Museum and Memorial's site. If you are ever in Kansas City, consider going to this museum. It's truly amazing.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Oak mites, ugh—what are they good for?

(With apologies to Edwin Star) Absolutely nothin’ sing it again.

If you haven’t heard of oak mites, you probably don’t live in the Kansas City area. We had a terrible outbreak of them last year only somehow I never got bitten. That’s not the case this year. Oh my word, those bites are wretched.

You can read about the nasties here and here and here. Unfortunately, they can’t be killed, bug spray has no effect, you can’t see them (they are too small), and can't feel the bite until hours later. At least that was the case for me.. The only defense is to stay covered up and shower as soon as you get inside.
The cellulitis ended up
covering most of my inner arm

In my case, the bites aren’t itchy, oh no. They burn and hurt like crazy and I’ve developed cellulitis around each and every bite. That’s why I ended up going to the convenience clinic at my PCP’s practice, and I’ve been on antibiotics since last Sunday. I’ve also been wearing long tights and long sleeve running shirts on my morning runs. Fortunately, it’s been a little cooler but whew. I’ll be glad when we get a good hard freeze and kill those suckers. Until next year.

Edited to add a photo of my bug and sun mitigation running clothes. These are Cool-Tech, and are supposed to keep me cooler.

Also, a bonus music video:

Friday, September 22, 2017

I'm with the big dog

Years ago, Kent had a dog named Max. Max was part basset hound, part cocker spaniel, sized more like the Cocker Spaniel, but with the barrel chest of the basset hound. He was super sweet but not the brightest dog around. We knew he was getting old, so we got a second dog, Molly, thinking that we’d have two dogs for a while. Molly was mostly German shepherd and pretty big, about 75 pounds.

About a week after we’d gotten her, we took both dogs on a walk. Oh you should have seen Max—he practically strutted with his tail way up in the air, so pleased to be out with Molly. If he could have talked, we were sure he’d have been bragging to everyone: “Look at me, I’m walking with the big dog! Isn’t this the coolest?”

Anyway, last weekend when my sis was in town, she ran with me. Now you have to know this about Amy: she’s always been a hero of mine in the way she’s stayed active, climbed crazy high mountains, gone ice climbing, run marathons. She’s just amazing. I don’t know anyone else who could go run a marathon at the last second when a friend asked her to.

So there we were out running last Saturday and all I can think is “I’m with the big dog! Look at me getting to run with her, isn’t this the coolest??” I was so proud and so happy to be out there running with her.

Before we ran

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Please get checked

TLDR: I had two places on my back biopsied in August during my annual screening with my dermatologist. One was diagnosed as melanoma. I don’t fit the typical profile, which goes to show even if you don’t either, you should get a skin cancer check every year. Also, while I am generally very private about my health, if my story motivates even one person to start getting checked, then it’s worth feeling a little uncomfortable about sharing this outside my immediate family.

Ever had a sunburn?


Or do you have moles?

Then you should get an annual skin cancer screening by a dermatologist.

I’ve been getting screened every year since we moved back from Boston. Well actually, I got screened for the first time at 34 when one of my absolute favorite college professors, one who had a huge positive impact on me, died from melanoma. Because of his illness, I read up on melanoma and learned that your risk goes up for every sunburn you’ve had (it’s cumulative and there are no backsies on that kind of skin damage); you also have a higher risk if you have blue eyes, fair skin, fair hair and burn easily. I don’t fit that last bit at all, so I’ll be honest and tell you I truly never thought I would end up with melanoma. I figured it would be my red-headed husband who only burns, not me. Clearly I was wrong.

When I had my first ever scan at 34, everything looked fine. To be honest, I put the screenings on a back burner and didn’t bother again until 2013 when we moved back to Kansas. Since then, I’ve had something biopsied every single year:
  • 2013—a mole on my hip (no issues)
  • 2014—a spot near my collar bone (no issues)
  • 2015—a spot on my left arm (no issues)
  • 2016—a spot on the same arm but higher up (no issues)
On August 9 this year, my dermatologist biopsied two moles on my back. One scrape was about the size of a dime, and the other was more like a quarter. Both were above my bra line and in toward my spine. On August 17, my doctor called and let me know that the bigger biopsy came back as melanoma, stage 0 in situ. I was scheduled for outpatient surgery on August 24.

I’m lucky. Because I get these screens every year, my dermatologist is confident the change occurred in the last 12 months. And because we caught it early, he did what’s called a wide local excision and took a football shaped section of skin, then stitched me up. The incision is nearly three inches long, mostly parallel to my spine and sort of on my spine. I think this incision is going to end up as less of a scar than the original scrape biopsy was. If you're curious, the reason the excision is football shaped is so that when the edges are pulled together, the incision lies flat rather than puckering.

Last Friday, I got the pathology report; the margins of the removed tissue came back clear. This is good news and means my doctor got everything plus a bit to spare. You want clean margins because this particular cancer can be truly nasty when it grows down below the skin level. That’s when it often turns into the fast spreading killer kind of cancer, and that’s what happened to my professor.

Going forward, I will have screenings every six months for the next five years. If I don’t develop any more melanoma, then I will go back to annual screenings. But I’m realistic—since my body has done this once, I’ve got an increased risk (8 to 15 times according to this site and also my dermatologist) that it will happen again. As he pointed out, now we know my body will grow melanoma. Catching them really early will be the key to me continuing to survive this nasty cancer.

Please get checked. If I weren’t getting checked, then my diagnosis wouldn’t be nearly so positive.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Two more flowering things

And I don't know what these are either. They're both in the front yard.

And whatever the flowering bush/vine is that I posted last time? We saw it everywhere as we drove to Tulsa and back this weekend. I mean, that stuff was on the tops of trees, covering fences, bushes, you name it and that stuff was growing and flowering over it. I guess it's pretty invasive, whatever it is. It's still pretty, though.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Isn't this pretty?

I have no idea what it is, but I love the flowers on it this time of year.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


Do you remember Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom? I used to watch that show when I was a kid, and loved it. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling like I could make my own wild kingdom show.

Leawood as nature preserve?
I live in an inner suburb—inside the I-435 loop, with medium-size yards and fairly busy streets. But you wouldn’t know that by all the wild life I see on my runs. You’d think I was running in the exurbs or in a natural preserve or something.

I wrote about encountering several raccoons on a run, and I’ve mentioned the crazy numbers of bunnies, squirrels and birds I see. I thought I'd also written about seeing a coyote a couple of times last year (pretty sure it was the same animal, and not a second, different one), but it looks like I only mentioned it on Facebook. That was pretty cool, to be honest.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve run past a gigantic owl on the ground in someone’s yard—it immediately took off and I could not believe how big the wing span was. I hear another owl at a different point on my daily runs, and after having seen the one that took off, I sure hope I never encounter the hooting one up close and personal.

Then there’s the opossum I saw early one Sunday morning shambling from someone’s yard and across the street (I silently urged it to hurry up). That same week, I came pretty close to yet another raccoon that immediately turned tail and ran into the nearest storm drain.

And one morning, as I left the house I saw what I thought was a small leaf twirling in the breeze. Only there was no breeze and it wasn’t a leaf. It was a mouse turning counter clockwise circles as though it could not stop. I have no idea what that was about, and I was pretty glad it was gone when I finished my run.

This morning, I turned on our porch light and stepped out the front door only to encounter an opossum on the front port about three feet from me. I stopped, it stopped, blinked, turned around and hurried off the porch and into our front yard, then started climbing the pine tree at the end of our front porch.

I like critters, I just wish some of these wouldn't get quite so close.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


When we lost power July 22, of course we also had no AC. We’ve got curtains and/or blinds on the bedroom windows, but by design have never put any in the living room. Our fireplace is flanked by floor to ceiling windows that look out into our (no thanks to us) gorgeous back yard. We love that view and also like the views from the patio door, and the other two more typical windows in that room.

Except we get full sun on the east window and a lot of sun through our west-facing patio door. For those 53 hours, that solar heat was awful. About midday on the first day, I tacked up some beach towels and fabric to block the sun. My make-shift solution worked, even if it was ugly as all get out.

Two weeks ago, we picked up some curtains at IKEA (do we ever shop anywhere else for home goods? No, no we don’t), but only for the patio door and the east window. We’d thought we could leave the other, normal window uncovered but honestly it looked like we forgot something.

Last weekend, we went back and got another pair of curtains, and two matching pillows for the couch. Those pillows hadn’t been there the previous week—and I’m not sure if you can see in this photo, but the flowers and stuff are also embroidered. I think that’s why Wally adores the pillow.

Today, I decided that our kitchen window, the one over our sink, also looked bare. But as with our flanking windows, I didn’t want to obscure the view into the backyard. So I made a simple valance, and now everything looks planned, cohesive and complete.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

I’m not doing that again

I prefer a very firm feather pillow—I’m a side sleeper so I want my neck in a straight line. I don’t care for foam or those weird memory foam pillow, I’m Team Feather all the way.

Unfortunately, I appear to be in the minority in terms of how firm I like my pillow. I’ve found exactly one pillow that was firm enough from the start; I bought it in Boston in 2008 and could not believe how perfect it was. Over the years, of course, it compressed and got flatter, so I sewed a seam about four inches in from the end so that the feathers got mooshed together more. Finally, though, I admitted defeat and gave the pillow to Kent (who likes firmer pillows but not as firm as I do).

I’ve looked ever since, tried a few that didn't work and ended up as pillows in the guest room. I finally ended up with IKEA’s version of a firm down pillow. It wasn’t firm enough, so I started with the sewn seam trick, and it did OK.

But I’ve always wondered if I could take feathers from one pillow and overstuff another one to get the pillow I really want.

Today, I gave it a try.

If you've ever worked with feathers, I'm sure you are already shaking your head and saying "oh no." I haven't worked with down or feathers before, and I’m confident I probably never will again. That down went everywhere! I’d started the pillow stuffing process in the house but pretty quickly moved to the garage because feathers and down were flying everywhere!

I got it done (I didn't want to have made that giant mess for nothing), and I've got a firmer pillow, although I haven’t tried sleeping with it yet. I sure hope this worked, although I’m not sure what I’ll do next time.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I cannot believe it's August

Which means it's also time for surprise lilies. I love them.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

What a week

Last Saturday was freaking hot here in Kansas. Kent and I decided to get all our normal weekend chores done that day anyway—he mowed the yard, I weeded, we did a Costco run and a Home Depot run, and a couple of other errands I don’t remember now. It was so incredibly hot—how hot was it? We hit 98F, with a heat index of 115. I'm so glad we did all that Saturday because we sure couldn't have done it Sunday.

Heat like that fuels massive thunderstorms here and last Saturday’s storm was epic. We lost power at 10 PM, and got over 2 inches of rain. In a most annoying twist, the street to the north of us never lost power, nor did neighbors two doors up and on the other side of the street. But we were in the dark with over 100K people.

We hustled and moved our brand new giant container of feta cheese (thanks Costco), and the unopened yogurt into the freezer and left that shut for the next 53 hours. Fortunately, our trash pick-up is on Mondays always (even if Christmas is on Monday, our trash gets picked up) so Monday, we tossed food we knew would spoil that morning.

External battery, love it!
We were hot, and so were the cats but mostly we were bored. I had some books on my Kindle, and we had our phones but we didn’t feel like we could leave the house. We needed to be there when the power came back on, and we couldn’t leave the cats. I was so very glad Ben and Jen had given me an external battery—mine has a ton of capacity and we used it to charge our phones multiple times. That helped so much.

At the same time, KCP&L (our electric company) had tweeted that they were giving out dry ice to people without power. Kent decided he’d go, so he loaded our cooler into the trunk of his car, came back for something, went back out to leave and then came back in to tell me his car battery was completely dead. And his jumper cables were in his trunk, which requires electricity to open. And of course the cooler was in the trunk.

OK, we have two cars so he took mine. But all the dry ice had been handed out in 15 minutes, so he couldn’t get any. But he did pick up a set of jumper cables powered by a rechargeable battery, which he decided he would use once we had power again.

Our power came on at 3 AM Tuesday morning—hallelujah! I got cleaned up and headed to work, and Kent charged up that battery for the jumper cables.

This is where the week ended up being almost comical. He said the jumper cables worked like a charm and he drove around for a bit to get the battery charged back up. He got back home and realized that no, the car battery wouldn’t hold a charge. Then he decided he would charge the battery again, take the car over to the Volvo dealership and catch the shuttle back home (remember, I was downtown at work).

The back of the bill--ouch
The next message I got from him said his car was possessed and random lights were coming on—but the car wasn’t turned on. The next message said he’d tried to move the car and the power steering died and he was calling a tow truck. Turns out his Volvo (and any Volvo with a satellite radio installed) drains the battery because even if you aren’t a subscriber, that satellite radio scans and looks for a signal, which just kills the battery. In fact, there’s a class action suit over it. This is the second battery we’ve gotten for his car in the last 26 months.

Oh but wait, there’s more. Thursday, our internet went down. Kent called our provider, who wanted to ship a router. But that wasn’t the issue, so Kent pushed hard for a service call which was supposed to be today. Yesterday, the router we didn’t need arrived, and to no one’s surprise the service call had been cancelled. The issue still isn’t the router, and now we have a technician scheduled to be here Monday.

That was my week. How was yours?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Raccoons and rain

This morning’s run was a little eventful.

First, the raccoons.

Did you read the story about the woman in Maine who was out running one afternoon and was attacked by a rabid raccoon? No, I’m not making this up. I read that story when it first broke, shuddered and promptly forgot about it.

Now remember, I run very early in the morning. It's dark at 5 AM in Kansas, so the only light comes from the streetlights (which aren't always on).

This morning on my own run, I spotted some animals in an intersection ahead of me. I slowed down a bit because I wasn’t sure what they were—I’ve seen squirrels, bunnies, cats and even a coyote or two but none of those matched was I was seeing. Then I realized they were three raccoons. It looked like a full-grown adult and two slightly smaller ones (maybe the off spring?). Well, I remembered that story about the rabid raccoon and thought maybe if I hollered a little bit, they would move off. So I did (not too loudly, though, remember it was around 5 AM).

To my utter shock and immediate adrenaline-dumping fear, they all three turned and ran toward me. Holy crap, that was unnerving. I started backing up, not entirely sure what to do and a little surprised at how fast they were. One couldn’t quite keep up and darted off the road to a tree and scrambled up it, and—whew—the other two ran down into a storm drain. What was odd is that they were by a different storm drain when I startled them, and they had to run up the street (toward me) to get to that specific storm drain. You better believe I hoofed it out of that intersection ASAP.

I was about halfway through my run when the skies just opened up with a torrential downpour. All I could think was the only way out was through, and I’d spend less time out in the rain if I just kept running. About a half mile later, the rain dwindled and stopped. I was so glad . . .until I realized I could hear rain moving toward me from the west. When I say I could hear it, I mean I could hear the sound of another torrential storm pounding the ground.

Well. I was completely soaked when I got home. Kent had very kindly put a towel by the front door, and I needed it.

I never realized running could be so exciting.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

It's a challenge

To change sheets in my house. Eddie cannot resist the sound of sheets being put on a bed. He ignores the sounds of making a bed in the mornings, so there must be a difference in the noise. I can't tell with my human ears, but he can.

It's similar to the way all three cats ignore non-tuna cans being opened. Open a can of pumpkin, or artichoke hearts? They snooze. Open a can of tuna and all of a sudden, you're surrounded by cats crying piteously for a bit of that yummy tuna.

Anyway, here are some action shots from this morning's sheet changing adventure.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

If a tree falls in a forest

Yesterday, I ran my longest distance yet—just over six miles. Except shortly after mile 4, my Garmin’s battery died.

If you’d been running with me, you’d have heard me grumble for the next quarter mile or so about the crappy design (you have to press several buttons to see the battery indicator, and you get no notice that the battery’s low until it’s very nearly dead). At that point, I didn’t know if any of that run would show up or if the whole thing was gone. As it turned out, I lost the last two miles in terms of tracking the run.

Sweaty me post run
But I was really bummed. I’m working on increasing my leg endurance—my lungs felt great the whole way through, and while my legs got tired, they didn’t feel over stressed. I thought I’d done pretty well on the run, but without having all the data, I didn’t know for sure. And I’ll be honest, it bugged me all day that my steps for the day were a full two miles short.

This morning, I ran the same route again (I am stubborn like that). My lungs still felt great, my legs were pretty tired by the end and honestly, I should have peed right before I left the house. That was a little uncomfortable. Best of all, my Garmin didn’t die so it tracked the entire run.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

I can't feature that

Since I’m running more frequently each week, and since I prefer running shorts with the underwear built in them, I’ve been looking for a couple more pairs of running shorts (currently I own two pairs, and let’s face it, butt sweat is gross).

While I like the higher end sports clothing, I loathe the prices especially when I equally like the running clothing at Old Navy and Target (which cost a fraction of the name brand stuff). Only I can’t find any shorts that (a) also have the underwear in them, (b) don’t have faux compression leggings underneath (no thank you, it’s HOT outside), and (c) aren’t micro-mini short.

The same thing is true of my sports bras. I own just two right now, and unless I’m willing to do laundry every other day, I need some more.

So Kent and I looked around yesterday—Target (no luck), Dick’s (truly no luck, and super expensive to boot), REI (bought two bras at full price) and a place called Scheel’s, which I had never heard of but is sort of like Dicks’ only with a working Ferris wheel in the middle, and a food court. Isn’t that odd? I found a pair of Nike running shorts there, that were on sale. I didn’t try them on, though, that place was pretty weird.

Once I got home, I had serious buyer’s remorse and started looking online. Sure enough, I found those bras for half the price of REI, and a pair of running shorts that were easily $15 cheaper than the ones I got on “sale” at Scheef’s.

As my mother-in-law would say, I couldn’t feature paying that much money. So today, I returned all three items and ordered them online. They should get here Tuesday, and I spent $60 less.

And because it's relaxing, here's a random (bonus) photo of Eddie and Wally.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Running as contact sport

I ran this morning (in new shoes no less), and right at the end of my run as I ran up the two steps to my front porch, I tripped. I was pressing the button on my Garmin so it would stop tracking my run, and I guess my attention drifted. I've run up those two steps for over four years and have never once tripped like that.

I smacked my left forearm so hard on the edge of one of the support columns that my arm bone just rang and vibrated for a couple of hours. That sounds very dramatic but I don’t know any other way to describe what it felt like. I’ve got a knot on my arm bone, and I’m sure I’ll get some bruising there, too.

But the part that bugs me the most is that I was so rattled that I pressed the wrong button to save my run. We have a wellness program at work that offers cash incentives when you sync your fitness device with their program. One of the nice features of this new Garmin is that I don't have to enter my workouts manually . . . except of course, today's run didn't get saved so I had to enter the information manually. Boo.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A couple of things I’ve learned from using the Garmin

And I will say up front that they are of interest to me, and possibly no one else. 

I’m a faster runner than I thought I was. Kent, Ben and Jen all thought otherwise, but I didn’t. Truly, I thought that the Garmin would show that I was slower than I’d been saying I was. Nope—I’m faster. On this morning’s run, I deliberately ran at a slower pace (helps build endurance according to Ben, and I’m positive he’s right) and I still ran faster than I thought I would.

My resting heart rate is crazy good at 54 BPM. I already knew I had great blood pressure, and apparently I have a good pulse rate too. I've always associated that kind of pulse rate with athletes (see also "I'm a runner," I said).

The red spike in the heart rate was this morning's run, near
the top of the long hill which is (of course) near the end of the run.
One final brag: this morning I ran over 5 miles. The last time I ran that far, I was 18 and in basic training. I can tell you this—I ran faster this morning than I did 39 years ago.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A day in the life of us

It's hot, so we took our sippy cups (as Ben calls them) while we did our errands.

I found a swimsuit top (all I needed) on massive markdown. The sign above Kent's head amused me so I grabbed this photo.

And we tried on various running shoes (Kent got a pair of Sauconys, and I tried on but did not buy this pair of Hokas).

Now we're home, and staying inside. We've got an excessive heat warning, and boy is it hot outside.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A new fitness device

About four years ago, I got a Jawbone Up (wrote about it here). Pretty quickly I realized that I didn’t like the interface or the looks so I returned it and got the Fitbit Flex I’d originally planned to buy. I wore my Fitbit faithfully, and manually entered my runs and workouts online. Last summer, it quit holding a charge so I got a new one. I (briefly) considered getting one with more bells and whistles but went with what I knew and was already comfortable using.

But over the last year or so, I’ve gotten frustrated with the Flex. It’s not designed to provide anything more than a relative scale of activity—you get your steps, you get some sense of whether the steps were light, moderate, or intense, and you get a very rough guide on the amount of time you spent doing your steps at that level of effort.

When I say rough guide, I do mean rough. For example, in Yuma I ran the same route twice; the first time Fitbit thought I ran 3 miles, and the second time, Fitbit thought I ran 2.65 miles. That’s a pretty big difference. It's the same with the amount of time; the Flex tracks in 15 second slices (I think?), so if you stop a run at the beginning of a slice, you'll look like you took more time. And you have to do the math to get your average pace per mile (assuming your mileage is tracked halfway accurately), and you still have to enter the info yourself.

So I’d been thinking about other fitness device options. While we were in Yuma, Jen showed me her Garmin Vivosmart HR+ device, and I was intrigued. Turns out Ben had done a lot of research to find a device that would do what Jen wanted it to do, and it turns out that what Jen wanted was pretty much what I was looking for. AND it turns out that I was able to buy a refurbished one for about $80 less than new. Although honestly, this device sure seems new to me—I’m pretty sure whoever bought it didn’t use it more than once and then returned it.

The verdict? I love it. I love that the device is fully synced to my phone, that my runs get uploaded automatically, and that I can enter something manually if I need to. I love that I know what kind of elevation gains I had on my runs in Provo (49 feet if you’re curious, there was an overpass I ran up and over every day), and what the starting elevation was too (4498 ft). I love that I can see my total average pace per mile, where I was slower and where I was faster. I love knowing my heart rate, resting and while working out, and I love that I can set the device to alert me if I'm not in my target heart rate zone, or I can set it up for running sprints.

All in all, I’m very happy I made the switch. Now I need to figure out what to do with my Flex.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

“I’m a runner,” I said

I’ve mentioned before that I have always struggled with calling myself a runner. Silly, I know. I run, therefore I am a runner—right? And yet I shied away from saying those words.

But I am a runner. I run regularly and faithfully, in hot and cold weather. There have been times I’ve packed more fitness clothing than regular clothing when I’m traveling. I look up good running routes when I’m out of town. In other words, I do everything a runner does.

This week I was emailing with a work colleague—we’ll both be in Provo next week, and she mentioned wanting to try a trail she’d heard about. I wrote back and said “I’m a runner, do you think that would be a good running trail?”*

That's a runner right there
And then I sort of blinked. I don't know what made the difference, why this time I used those words but finally, finally I said it (almost without thinking).

*It isn’t, actually, that trail is straight up a mountain. While I’m pretty fearless, I live at 900 feet and Provo is about 4500 feet and that altitude will be enough of a challenge for me.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A couple more random photos from our trip

Sometimes when you're helping a grandchild sew, things get to a more complicated stage and you just have to finish the job yourself.

Here's a photo from last night's taco truck dinner (no people in the photo, just a sense of what it was like there).

Finally, our granddaughter finished the second Harry Potter book today. I love seeing her so engrossed in reading like this.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sewing with a grandchild

We sent our middle grandchild a sewing project for his seventh birthday in April (you might recall I gave our oldest grandchild sewing lessons for her 7th birthday). Here's a sweet picture of Kent helping our grandson sew his new ninja costume:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Next time, pick a standard size

Remember the dabbling I did with paint and fabric? When I penciled in the grid I used to keep everything somewhat lined up, I used 6 x 6 inch squares—10 altogether, two to a row with five rows.

Only 6 x 6 inches is not at all a standard size for frames. Nor is 12 x 12. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist but holy moly a non-standard frame can get pricey in a hurry.

I managed to find a 12 x 12 frame at Michael’s and with a 40% off coupon, the price was somewhat reasonable. Here’s what the final/final product looks like.

Next time I paint fabric to frame—if there is a next time—I’m going to measure and use a standard frame size for the painting.