December 2007


As a rule, I’m not too big on New Year’s resolutions. For me, they’re much less effective than weekly or monthly goals. If I write down a few goals for one week, it’s not very likely that I won’t accomplish them, because the time commitment is one my brain can process without my circuits catching fire. If I ever do a long term goal, I have to break it down into many smaller, short term goals, or I will fizzle out in the first few days.

This year, though, I have come up with a few goals that seem appropriate for me for this year. Some of them are in the form of a contest, whether with other people, or just myself. I am of a competitive spirit, so this will be my motivation when doing something just for the sake of being a better person makes me want to sleep in.

1. I will run a marathon in 2008. I think the Air Force does one in September. I’m pretty sure there’s one in Columbus in October, and there are millions of other marathons to chose from. I’ve got one person who has agreed to train with me, and possibly another. I’m going to see Spirit of the Marathon to kick off my training. My goal is to finish it in 4 hours or less, but I won’t be sad if it takes me longer. It will be my first marathon.

2. I will see how many consecutive days I can go without purchasing or consuming any candy or processed sweets. This leaves the option of starting again and bettering my previous PR. I made the resolution to not eat any sweets in 2005, and I made it 5 whole days. With my new goal, I can do better than 5 days, and even if I break down and eat a box of Mike & Ikes, I can always start again the next day and do better. If I manage even to make my sugar consumption just a little more rare, I will count myself a success.

3. I will make my bed every day, even if it’s the last thing I do before getting in it at night. I dream of the day when I will be able to pay someone else to clean my house, but that day is not today.

4. I will not acquire any new hobbies or languages in 2008. I will not buy any new yarn, language books, or, dare I say it, cookbooks. But I will work on the hobbies I already have. I will practice the organ, finish my Greek, use the cookbooks I have to plan great weekly menus and actually cook as much as I can, finish the baby blankets for my cousins and the chenille washcloths that were supposed to get mailed with the soap, get my compost started, plant my garden, sew up the shirts I started, and the curtains, and the lambie suit for Kiki, and the list goes on.

Now I feel a little lightheaded. I need to go back and rework that last one so it’s in weekly, bite-sized pieces.

I hope you all are loving your running. I know how hard it is to get started, and to keep going for those first few weeks. It feels crappy for a while, but I promise you that if you keep it up and run at least 4 times a week, in a few weeks (or maybe a couple of months… don’t give up!) you will love it. You will start to rely on your running as a source of peace, a time to collect your thoughts and prepare yourself to face the day. I need running for the physical benefits, but even more for the emotional and psychological ones. I’m so much nicer after I’ve been running.

The tip for this week is at Marathon Mommy. I know it’s hard to motivate yourself to go running, and it can get boring, especially if you’re on the treadmill, so see if you can find a buddy to run with once a week. The nice thing about runners is that they’re usually thrilled to have someone ask to run with them. They’ll change their pace to match yours, run whatever distance you want to run, and stop to walk with you if you need it. I love running with someone else, for all the reasons listed in the post.

It may be easiest to set up a running date on the weekend, when you have a little extra time for a longer run, and for the inevitable gabbing that usually follows. I used to run a few times a week with a friend around the corner in Provo, and we would always end up standing in front of her house talking for a while after running. It was great to have an adult to talk to, and like Suzie Petunia says, it’s a great way to bond in a non-confrontational posture.

I’d love to hear about any social running you do. If you find someone to run with, tell me about it and I will be jealous. I’m going to try to get my cousin, Liz, to run with me when she comes this week, but otherwise, of my two friends here in the void, one doesn’t run, and the other is going to Florida for Christmas. But on a happy note, the one who doesn’t run has invited us for Christmas dinner!

For more on running, see:
Beginning Running
Step #2: Make a goal and write it down
Step #3: Go Run
Step #4: Mix it up

So does nobody remember that skit from Sesame Street where the mother sends her son to the market and makes him memorize the list? A loaf of bread, a quart of milk, and a stick of butter. He repeats it all the way there, mixing up all the items, over and over again. I don’t know why I remember that.

I woke up this morning a little cold, but ready to try to get something done today. I don’t clean very often, and it shows, so I had decided to make today the day. I would get the living room tidied, get the mountains of (clean) clothes out of all the bedrooms, scrub the bathroom sink (for the first time since we’ve lived here, I know, ew), and do some laundry.

I hate having a messy house, but it seems so futile to pick something up, only to turn your back for 5 seconds and have something else appear where it was. Or even to have the same item reposition itself from whence you took it. I hate explaining to my kids how to hang up their towel, or their coat, or the dishcloth, and having them forget before I’m finished speaking. I hate cooking and not having anywhere to put the dirty dishes, or not having anywhere to chop, because of the dirty dishes. I hate following the tornado trying to repair the damage in it’s wake, only to look behind me and see another tornado following me.

My poor kids have suffered my wrath this morning. I think I might be more stressed on the days that I try to clean than on the days I just let the piles pile. There comes a point where my blood starts to boil. It’s usually around the time when I’m making lunch and instructing the kids to get dressed, because they never get dressed after all the millions of times I ask them to all morning. Inevitably, there are no socks in the drawer. Because someone has worn four pairs of socks per day, and discarded them in various corners of the house, and someone else just can’t be bothered to look in the drawer where we pretend the clean socks live. And a third someone’s socks are just the right size to plug up those pesky holes in the heating vent grates.

Because I’m too lazy to clean up after breakfast, that youngest someone is adept at finding whatever vessel is teetering on the edge of the dining table, ready to empty it’s inevitably liquid contents onto the floor and/or very small someone’s person. Inevitably soymilk.

Because we don’t have any shelves, but we do have too much stuff, the piano is covered with junk again. Piano music, a digital camera, library books, movies, several knitting projects, a big box with a few tiny homemade Christmas tree ornaments, lotion, magazines, a tiny violin, some framed photos wrapped in bubble-wrap, and a hunting horn.

I think I’ve grown up with an inflated notion of the importance of my own talents, and finding ways to use them. House cleaning is not one of my talents, so it feels like such a colossal waste of time, when I should be getting a PhD in music, translating at the UN, finding a vaccination for AIDS, painting masterpieces, writing novels, hosting my own show on the Food Network, working as a forensic anthropologist at the Jeffersonian, designing low-income housing with no environmental footprint, and knitting washcloths.

In the meantime, does anyone know of a support group for people who love their kids, but HATE being a stay-at-home mom?

I got invited to a bunko group last night by some women that mysteriously think of me as a friend. I’m not saying that I’m a bad friend or anything, it’s just that I’ve only lived in this area for 2 months, and I hardly know anyone, plus, it is always so hard for me to make friends, since I’m so shy. Also, I’m a braggart and a snob, more especially while I’m being shy, so people mostly think I’m a pest.

Yet, a few women from church have really been treating me like I belong here, like there’s nothing strange about being BFFs with someone you hardly know. Mind you, I’m not complaining. You all know that I have maybe a tiny bit of chemical imbalance, with the predisposition for leaning toward the low end of the spectrum. So it always surprises me when people are nice to me.

(Interjection, this was just overheard behind me:
Derek:”What?!? Where’s all our money? We had ten gold! What did you spend it on?”
Calvin:grinning and shrugging,”We had eleven. I don’t know. Wrapping paper.”)

When I got home from the party at 2:45 am ( I know! You should be so shocked! It’s almost like I’m a normal adult), Derek and I were discussing Saturday’s forecast, which was for snow. Everybody had been saying they didn’t want to go to the church Christmas party if the roads were bad. Derek said that on the radio, the weather guy had predicted a 100% chance of snow. We snickered about how stupid it was to say that unless you had snow falling on your head.

This morning, right around the time I was gearing up for my 30 minute run, the roads were dry and the sky was dark. Suddenly it started snowing, and suddenly the whole world was white. I gave up the idea of running, even though I’ve already skipped two days in a row for rain and laziness, respectively. Then, an hour and 2 inches of snow later, I remembered that if I was going to the Christmas party, I had signed up to bring 4 dozen rolls. And bugger it if I didn’t have any milk to use in the Fine Cooking best dinner rolls ever recipe.

I was not about to brave the roads in a motorized vehicle. This isn’t Utah, and people here are even worse than Utahans at driving in snow. And they have less practice. So I suited up in two pairs of running pants, two long sleeved shirts and a T-shirt, a rain jacket, a headband, both hoods pulled over my head, and fleece mittens. I went outside, and after 60 seconds of running, I was so hot, and I couldn’t see a thing because the snow made me squint, so I went right back into the house to take off two of the shirts and add my old racquetball goggles for seeing in the blizzard. I decided that if I was going to run, I’d make up for missing yesterday, so I planned 45 minutes. I would run for 35 and end up at the market, then run the last 10 home with the milk. I didn’t have to take any money because this market lets you pay with a finger scan. I love that.

While I was there, I was subtly reminded that it is Saturday, and the American shopper will not be thwarted by rain, sleet, or snow. There were droves of people there, and all the store samples. And as Emily Pig always says, “Yummers!” It is always important to sample new things. This market has samples of things like, but not limited to: Southwest quinoa salad from the deli, crab dip, cranberry blue cheese, roasted brie, spiral cut real ham, chips and homemade salsa, etc., etc., etc. They also have the best caraway rye bread that I’ve ever had, surpassing even my own. It has kosher salt on the crust.

So I got the milk, grabbed a loaf of salt rye, and walked passed the butter that was on sale, so I got a block. I figured that was enough to try to carry while running. Incidentally, I don’t recommend this shopping method. My poor arms couldn’t take it.

When I got home, I was telling Derek we could have avocado sandwiches with swiss cheese for lunch because I’d picked up the rye. Then, I realized that, with minor quantitative adjustments, I had been to the market for a quart of butter, a loaf of milk, and a stick of bread. A quart of bread, a stick of milk, and a loaf of butter. A quart of milk, a loaf of bread, and a stick of butter.

If you’re new here, you can read Step #1, Step #2, and Step #3.

Now that you’ve been running a few times, you know a little more about your body and what you can do. You know that you can make yourself do more than you thought you could a month ago, and you know that you like how it makes you feel. You can visualize yourself running and loving it. Now it’s time to have some fun.

I love running, but it can get pretty boring. In the mornings, I run starting at my house, and since I’m only running 15 minutes at a time this week, I can only go for 7 minutes before I have to turn around and head home. I don’t have more time, so I can’t get in the car and drive somewhere interesting. I save that for Saturdays, when I run a longer run. All week, I run my puny little runs thinking how fun it will be on Saturday, when I can go to a nearby park or forest. Sometimes I just run into the neighborhood just west of us, where there are “houses” that belong to families you would have to marry into to ever be able to live there, and the family you married into would have to be the Darcy family, because you would never be able to afford a house like that on the income of a mere mortal. I affectionately call that neighborhood “Darcyville.” There are black swans at one of the homes. I mean, they are at the lake.

Anyway, the weekday runs are the practice time. They’re sort of like those times tables you did in the third grade, the full page 1×1= 1×2= 1×3= etc., etc. You need to practice before you can do the really fun stuff. And you think of the fun stuff to keep you motivated to do the mundane stuff, or the painful stuff, or the butt-freezing stuff. I once asked my dad (an ultra-runner who does 50-milers in the summer) how he gets himself to run in the bitter cold of central Utah in the winter. He said, “I just think of all the fun things I’m going to be able to do in the summer.”

So this week, plan a fun run on the weekend that you can look forward to. If you live near the mountains, and they are not covered in snow, consider finding a trail to run on. Trail running is so very much better than road running, and you can run twice as far as you think you are able, because the ground is easier on your legs, the scenery is so pretty, and you can forget that you are running. I used to run on the Provo River Trail, which starts at Vivian Park and goes all the way to Utah Lake. I think it’s about 15 miles, so you can get a lot of variation by starting at a different point every week. It’s paved, so it’s not quite as nice as a dirt trail, but it’s still pretty. Here in Ohio, I’ve found a couple of trails that are fun.

You can also make different goals for your weekday runs. You may like to alternate hard days with easy days. For example, if your hard days are Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and you run for 10 minutes total on those days (maybe you run it in one shot, or maybe you alternate running at a moderate pace with walking), then on Tuesday and Friday, you could run an easy 5 minutes, really slowly, or even have a good long walk for your easy day. Sometimes it helps if you have some days when you can just run without thinking, and you know it’s not going to be hard, but you still need to do something.

So where are you going to run this week?

Next, Running Bonus Tip

You got some great new shoes, you made a goal and wrote it down, now it’s time to go running. You should be so excited! You will go running, and it will suck. You will hate every second of it, even if it’s only 30 seconds. You will feel like you’re wearing a lead sumo suit, and your feet will be so mad at you. Hopefully, your lungs will wake up and cry a little. You will question your sanity.

Then, you will stop, catch your breath, and yell into the sky. Yay! You ran for 30 seconds! Or 2 minutes! Yay, yay, yay! You will love yourself a little more for accomplishing a goal. You will be proud that you kept going for the full 30 seconds. You will suddenly feel elated and powerful. Then you will giggle a little that you’re so excited about running for half a minute. Then you will realize that your half a minute is in the past, and another half a minute of running is in your future. You are a runner.

You will want to try again. If you really think you can, go ahead, but don’t don’t don’t go crazy on the first day. Even if you are fit enough to walk 4 miles, running is something different. I believe that if you have a bad reaction in the hours or days following your first run, you won’t ever want to do it again. You might end up thinking that it would be bad for your knees because your knees were overused that first time. Or you might end up with really sore hamstrings, which is actually way more likely than sore knees. You need to be careful, and you need to respect your body, or it won’t want to do what you tell it to. But if you really start small and progress gradually, your body will be so happy.

Step #3: Go Run

Get your comfy running clothes on, and make sure you’re warm enough. (Karee, you know I’m not talking to you. In fact, I’m questioning our decision not to move to Arizona.) Make sure you have gloves and a hat, or at least something over your ears. When I was in my early 20’s, I ran with a folded up bandanna over my ears, like a sweat band. Kinda ghetto, but it worked. Lace up your shoes, go outside, and start walking. You should walk and get the blood flowing for 5-10 minutes as a warm up before you start your run. When you’re ready, get your stop watch, or pick a landmark to run to.

Please don’t try to do a full-out run. That’s for people in races. And mostly only the people who intend to win. I advocate a low shuffle at the beginning, where the main focus is forward motion, not speed. You might not get going any faster than your brisk walk, but that’s OK. It’s all about the motion, the adjustments your body needs to make, and the mental transition. Forget anything you’ve ever heard about how to run. Just let your body do what you did when you were 5. Run for your goal duration.

Slow down and walk some more, and be so happy that you ran! Think about how much you will love running, even though it was hard at first. When you’re done, do some mild stretching. Focus on your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Stretching helps your muscles recover, so don’t skip it.

Write in your running log that you accomplished your goal. Do some stealth bragging during the day. “The sun was coming up right in the middle of my run this morning. It was glorious!” ” I stubbed my toe while I was running today.” “I’m sorry I missed your call, I must have been running.” “I’d love to meet you for lunch. I go running at 11:30, so I’ll bet there at 12:15.” Also, notice how much more cheerful you are after your run.

Next, Step #4: Mix it up
Running Bonus Tip