Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bird Battles

I used to like birds.  We even owned a few as pets.  There was Heber our cockatiel who learned to imitate the beeping sound of the microwave buttons, and a parakeet named Howard, who never learned anything useful.  Both came with the assumption that a bird in the house would add the perfect touch to domesticity.  And both, along with their cages, were eventually unloaded on gullible, yet highly appreciated people who had similar delusions about a bird in the house.  Ever since, I have been in one battle after another with various members of the fine-feathered species.

First came the woodpeckers.  They had some weird attraction to a particular corner of our house, in close proximity to the bedrooms, and an ungodly hour of the early morning.  After their little jack-hammer-like beaks finally broke through the metal grates of our attic vents, they'd signal the starlings that it was now their turn.

Starlings would then alert their extended family and friends and all would gleefully move into our attic and erect a community of nests, complete with sidewalks, terraces, and indoor plumbing.

At our next house, we became prey to robins.  These birds have no concept of glass in windows, other than if they slam into it enough times, eventually either: 1. It might open, or 2. They will find True Love with their reflection.  The result is a window (usually of one of our hard-to-reach upper floors) covered in bird spit.  Plus they love to build nests on anything horizontal, leaving their poop dripping down our posts, siding, and large portions of our patio.   Not to mention on my freshly-washed car.

Without going into further tales of woe involving my picked-over blueberry bushes, I'll get to the point.  A couple of years ago in the spring (apparently "nesting season"), I noticed that a certain type of black bird seemed to take a lot of interest in my running.  It, and a few of its friends, would dart from tree to tree, following me as I plodded along our neighborhood street.

"Well, that's kind of fun,"  I mused.  Running with birds.  Like Mary Poppins .... or Cinderella and her merry band of critters.  But I failed to notice Alfred Hitchcock, who must have been lurking in the bushes.  Nor did I notice that the background music to this scenario (had this been one of his movies) had turned low and threatening.  The birds started getting aggressive.  They swooped low between the trees.  They swooped towards me.  They swooped AT me.  One actually hit the top of my head and at that point, I was flailing in self-defense.  Fleeing to the other side of the street, I could still see the shadow from over my shoulder, of one of the little kamikazes in full pursuit.

The next year they were back, and each day as I'd cautiously step outside for a run, I would scan the trees.  Seeing that the coast was clear, I'd start off and within minutes, one by one, the black demons would begin to flutter into the trees to set up their radar screens and machine guns.  Pretty soon they were swooping and again, I was their target.

This year, even though I've come to accept Bird Battles simply as part of Spring, a season I love, I'm ready for them.  I'm armed.  I have a camera.  I may even "pack some heat" in the form of a tennis racket.  I will gather solid evidence that I am not losing my mind and the birds REALLY DO HATE ME.  Next, I plan to get an ariel photo proving that they have, with their poop, pelted my roof in the pattern of a large bullseye.

Stay tuned.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Post Easter thoughts

It's Monday morning, the day after Easter.  We basically didn't celebrate Easter this year, so it seems.  No eggs, no candy, no parties, no new clothes as we've done in many years past when the kids were small.  We just went to church as usual.  I did make goat cheese pizza, a yummy favorite of those currently living at the home front.  And I prepared my lesson for next week's Sunday School class.  Pretty humdrum.

Then I read a few entries in Facebook from people who celebrated the holiday by veering off from their normal Sunday routine and attending church ... and that got me to thinking.  Celebrating a holiday by attending church.  Maybe once or twice a year?  Interesting concept.  Any church attendance is better than nothing I suppose.  But if one's chosen church worships Jesus Christ and follows the Bible then IMHO, once or twice a year is not going to cut it.  For that is not what He taught.

So although my Easter celebrations have become a bit lack luster, I did go to church.  As I do every week.  And I attempted to honor the Sabbath, as I do every week.  So in a sense I, and those in my household, celebrate Easter every Sunday.  For to truly celebrate Easter and acknowledge the wondrous fact that HE actually LIVES, is to simply do what He asked us to do.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Me Today VS Me Tomorrow

(This blog has taken on a life of its own.  I never know when Inspiration-For-a-New-Post will come and when it does, I just follow, picking up the wrappers, dishes, and socks left along the way.)
My oldest friends ..... that sounds bad .... they aren't old, I've just known them a long time.  Anyway, my longest friends ... that doesn't sound right either, but you get the point .... know me well enough to take many of my declarations with a HUGE grain of salt.  For example:

I don't want a dog because I KNOW that at this stage of my life, owning a dog would be a BAD IDEA.  But because my declarations have been known to melt into gooey, spineless blobs and because I easily get swept up whenever I see a cute little brown dachshund, my friends have all been recruited to NOT LET me get one.   (You've got to admit though, "wiener" dogs are ADORABLE!)

Also:  "I think I'm done with cruises."  That one always gets eyes rolling.

More gooey, blob-like declarations:

The day after my first Hood to Coast relay: "I don't think I'll do the HTC next year." (Less than a week later, I decided to be a team captain!)

The next year:  "I'm DEFINITELY NOT going to be the team captain again."  (I am the team captain again.)

After heading up our local church's first annual "Run Run Ye Saints", a 5K & 10K run/walk in 2010, I said I didn't want to be in charge next year but would gladly advise whomever does it.  (Not only am I in charge again, I ASKED for it!)

Now I'm training for this darn marathon.  "Please!" I plead to Future Self.  "Please let this be the only one!  Don't get carried away and sign up for another!  Remember the months of training!  Remember the pain!  Remember your age!"  But I (the Me of today) feel totally helpless pitted against the Me of tomorrow, or the Me of next week, or of next year.

So I guess I'm calling for help.  I'm rallying the troops again to help me to stand firm against the Future Me with this marathon issue just as with the dog issue.  Because alone, Today's Me, is completely out-matched.

(Post note:  After reading this, Husband said "No Way.  If you decide to do another one, I'm totally with you."       Oh c--p!)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Make it DARK, Dah-ling.

Chocolate.  It has nothing to do with running; however, chocolate doesn't have to.  It stands on its own merits.  But it must be dark.  In my younger, less-enlightened years, I THOUGHT milk chocolate was good ... and it still is as long as it's wrapped around a peanut M&M or a See's rum nougat truffle.  (Side note:  I heard after the fact, that See's temporarily offered this near-perfect choice of truffle in dark and THEY DIDN'T CALL ME!)

Anyway, I've now matured and have honed my usually-non-discriminatory taste buds to accept only this:
I used to buy 85%.  Then they came out with 90%.  I tried it and at first thought it was too not-sweet, but after finishing the bar, there was no going back.  So none of that overly sweet, cream-filled stuff for me.  I'm strictly hard core.  And since my family doesn't follow suit with this, there's no need to hide it.  They won't touch it.  They don't even like it!  (Strange people.)

Plus ... as another small step towards a perfect world, there is the happy benefit of healthiness!  According to this and many other sources, dark chocolate has antioxidants and can be helpful for lowering blood pressure.  The catch is:  small quantities.  So I TRY to make a bar last at least 4 days.  (BIG emphasis on try.)

They say that a daily moderate amount of red wine can give similar benefits; however, due to personal and religious standards, I don't drink alcohol.  So for me, my little square of dark chocolate is MY glass of wine.  Not a bad alternative, IMHO.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The BEST thing EVER!

For the handful of you out there who don't need to lose a few pounds, you may ignore this post and go have a donut.  For the REST of you, pay attention!  This is GOOD.
About a month ago I noticed my friend and former-walking-buddy had gotten smaller!  (Horizontally, not vertically.)  Whenever I see this phenomenon, I want details and I want them NOW.  What did she DO?  It turns out she had been part of a 10 Week Fitness Challenge group, set up by her daughter.  And it worked.  Big time.  So I snatched up the info, passed it on to my daughter, who caught hold of it and started her own group, of which I am a proud participant.  We are now in our 2nd week and I haven't experienced this kind of motivation since I first joined Weight Watchers back in 2008.  And if you've ever dieted, you've discovered that MOTIVATION is EVERYTHING.  
Let's pause here for a moment and discuss motivation.  Do you recall times when you've had the will power to exist on grass clippings and felt like you could do it FOR LIFE!?  Then other times when you can't stick to a diet for 5 minutes before you're rummaging for the Oreos.  It's motivation.  Sometimes you have it and sometimes you just ... don't.  
So what is a 10 Week Fitness Challenge?  Loosely explained, you (as the group leader in case you don't have a daughter on whom to sluff this off) invite, via emails or facebook or (gasp) in person, a group of friends to do it with you.  Prepare for a larger-than-expected-group because your friends also have friends.  Everyone submits $10, or whatever amount the group leader decides, to said group leader who beelines to the mall.  Kidding!  He/she dutifully sets the money aside.  Then a blog is set up with your team name, motto, or whatever cute, witty title you can conjure up and everyone in the group is signed on so that they can all post in the blog.  They all add a picture and an intro post about themselves (including trash talk - "Go ahead and write your checks out to ME!") in the blog sidebar where they can display their ever-increasing point total.  Then a point system is set up and permanently affixed to the top of the blog for reference.  Here's a sample and is what our group (cleverly titled by Daughter as "A Little Less Talk") is using:  
1 point each day for: 
     drinking 48 (or more) ounces of water
     eating 4 servings of veggies
     eating 3 servings of fruit
     each 1/2 hour of exercise
     7 - 9 hours of sleep the previous night
     sticking with your own chosen diet plan
     no eating out
     no soda
     no desserts
     keeping a daily food journal
Plus 3 points each Monday for adding a new post in the blog just to check in about your week, your progress, ups and downs, etc.
Each participant keeps track of their own point count and updates it daily or weekly.  ADD TO THAT, occasional Pop Challenges, meaning each participant is assigned a week and on any day during that week they can put up a post awarding 2 extra points to all who've successfully followed (choose one of the 10 items in the list of "rules", ie. no soda) the previous day.  For added fun we have a facebook group where we can encourage, commiserate, or just share thoughts with each other -- or IOW, so that "A Little Less Talk" can talk a little more.
Finally, at the end of the 10 weeks, you earn one point for each percentage point of weight you have lost and the person with the most points earned WINS THE MONEY and gets to go shopping for new(!) smaller(!) clothes(!) ..... or just pay his/her electric bill.
As for me, I have proudly lost 3.5% of my weight so far and yes, I am using the Weight Watchers program as my chosen diet plan.  
This is really a win-win thing for me as it MOTIVATES me to keep up with my running (earning points!) and to lose a few extra pounds so that I don't have to haul them along during the marathon.
So THANK YOU to Former-Walking-Buddy's-Daughter for passing on this GREAT IDEA!  And THANK YOU to Favorite-Daughter for getting our group started.  
(I don't know who deserves credit for the original idea, but he/she should get a medal for BRILLIANCE.)

(Update:  for another, and better version, see this post.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Proud and honored recipient of the .....

! ! ! !

Well, okay, it was passed on by my daughter whose DELIGHTFUL blog received this coveted prize from her cousin's blog.   And no, I can't say n.e.p.o.t.i.s.m. so don't even go there.

So I'm adding to this fun little parade of back-patting by bequeathing it to my friend Ellen's blog because she has inspired me for years with her dedicated bicycling abilities and now for bravely entering MY world of running.  Go El-len!  Go El-len!  Go El-len!!

And (I'm not done yet!) to my friend Sue's blog because she can write about ANYTHING and be witty, edgy and fun.  Plus, I'm STILL proud of her for running that entire 10K a couple of weeks ago.

There's one catch:  They both have to READ MY BLOG to get their awards.  (A minor price to pay.)

Need a dose of inspiration?

Watch this.  


Then tell me you're too old or that a 10K run is too far.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Zimri, a wolf in sheep's ... blossoms.

Friends, meet Zimri Drive, The Beast.  Don't let the pretty blossoms fool you.  It's a mile-long bully.  
If you click on this pic below, you'll see a tiny white mailbox on the right, which you THINK sits at the top ......
 But THIS is taken at that mailbox.  More hill to come.
 (This shot below is for Etta, who IMHO, now owes me a comment.)    ;-)
At this point, Zimri condescendingly drops down, then tosses in a nasty little hill at the end.  At the top it offers a weak apology with a bouquet of daffodils ...
 ... as you can barely see over my shoulder.  But I'm not feeling the love.
At LEAST it could have offered me a bench.  And a cold drink.  But no, like all bullies, it just saunters off with a smirk.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wow, You clean up well!

I belong to a delightful and somewhat new facebook group with the telling title of Runners Anonymous.  We've gotten together for a few runs with more to come, and last night our Fearless Leader Kevin, hosted a non-running meet-and-greet get-together at his lovely home which, unfortunately, is MUCH too far from here.  Immediately, upon arrival, we all noticed something interesting about each other.  We looked GOOD!

I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't typically fuss with grooming when I go running.  Sunglasses and a hat usually cover the scary stuff.  Besides we all head directly home to our individual showers afterwards.  Added to this "glamor" are lots of sweat and lively aromas (not me!).   So when you ONLY see a person in that state of non-fashion, you forget that they may have actual lives outside of running.  And that the women actually may wear makeup or jewelry, and that they have another hairstyle besides a ponytail.

Who knew?  So I'm putting this photo:
out into cyber-world to document that I DON'T ALWAYS LOOK LIKE ....


 ..... or ..... (Caution!) ... this.
(You've gotta cut me a little slack with this one.  It was my 3rd run on the 2nd day in the amazing, but grungy, world of the Hood to Coast relay.)

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Believe it or not, this was inspired by an Oprah show.  Yes, I do watch it occasionally.  Once, when we were going to be in Chicago for a few days, I tried to get in her show.  But she wouldn't return my calls.  She wouldn't even pick up the phone.  In fact I couldn't even get it to RING.  Oh well.

Anyway, she did a show on the topic of happiness.  They featured a town in California, San Luis Obispo, population 44,000, that somehow is considered the happiest town in the U.S.  The people were not affluent and the town was not particularly large.  So what was the reason?  The town had made some changes such as closing the main street to cars to make it pedestrian-friendly.  They put in bike paths/lanes and even offered valet bike-parking.  They widened their sidewalks and encouraged outside seating at the cafes.  All in all, they provided an environment that encouraged the citizens to get outside and interact with their neighbors.

According to studies, happiness IS influenced by salary, but only to a point well below a level that would be considered wealthy.  In fact it would not qualify as upper middle-class.  Beyond that, they said you will find more happiness joining a club, than by increasing your income.   So what is it about a club, wide sidewalks, and bicycles?   People.  Interaction.  Mingling.  Socializing.  Belonging.  What this says to me is that anything that establishes friendship, bonding, common interests with which to connect with others, can raise your level of happiness.

Members of my church are also considered to be generally happy, cheerful people.  In addition to the beliefs that we embrace that give us hope and purpose, we do a LOT of socializing.  We worship in a uniform style worldwide, so that we naturally have much in common with other members wherever we find them.  On our recent cruise to the Caribbean, we sought out the local LDS congregation on the island of Antigua, where we docked on a Sunday.  There we found instant friends.  There we immediately felt welcome, loved, and at home.  We talked the same "language" and shared the same outlook on life.  As a member of this church, we are part of something huge and this would definitely count as that "club" so to speak, that can impact our happiness.

Bringing this around to the designated topic of this blog, I have discovered that running has expanded my social circles and has created bonds with others who share my love for this sport.  Participating in a group event, particularly on a team, instills a powerful sense of belonging.  A feeling that I matter to others.  The added happiness that running has brought into my already happy life goes beyond the sense of accomplishment and achieving goals, as important as those things are.  It causes interaction with some awesome people!  It has widened my sidewalks.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Twenty My-Oh-Miles!

Today FRP and I did 20 miles.  Not all running but still, it's the farthest I've gone without a bicycle, car, or other type of vehicle between me and the pavement.     
Our time, including three refueling, potty, and Suzie-hugging breaks, .....
was 4 hours and 22 minutes.  FRP stuck with me even though she was feeling strong.  I savored her company.  I was dealing with leg cramps and paying dearly for not following my chosen trainer's advice of regular walking breaks in the early miles.

We decided that we WILL keep running together after the marathon is done because we are making significant headway on solving the world's problems.   But mostly because she IS my FRP.

Afterward I enjoyed a friendly greeting from my bathroom scales which will soon be sabotaged because Favorite 2nd Son is taking BFF/Husband and me out for some well-deserved calories in the form of Thai food.

The best part of our run on this lovely first day of April:  Emerald City is almost within sight!