Sunday, September 28, 2008

R.E.A.D. in America Day (or why I love books)

As posted in Livejournal... In celebration of R.E.A.D. in America Day, tell us about what you're reading. How is reading important to you? What would you recommend to others?

It's funny... I didn't know this was today and yet that is what I've been doing all day (besides some internet forays). Right now I am reading the Sookie Stackhouse books and I've just finished Dead to the World and am reading Dead as a Doornail. They're good, light reading. And I've been wondering why vamp/were novels always have the heroine going for the vamp more often than the were. Vamps always seem to come first. *shut up ya pervs*

Reading is the number one thing I love. You can take away my movies and television, music and internet. Just leave me my books. When I was little I remember trying to teach myself to read with the Little House books. I remember always getting confused with "now" and "know". I'd sit in my closet with my books and pick out words that I knew and try to make sense of the books based on those words. I was in 3rd grade when I read my first book through in one afternoon. That was Little Sioux Girl. I think I woke up early and picked it up to read since everyone else was still sleeping. After that there was no stopping me. I'd read cereal boxes if I couldn't find a book to read.

My grandma babysat my sister and I a lot and she loved to read (my mom is also a great reader and my niece reminds me much of myself at that age, always carrying around a book... this makes me very happy). Grandma had this basket of books in her living room and I'd always grab one to read while everyone else watched television. My favorite was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Girl of the Limberlost. She also had a book about Jack the Ripper that intrigued me. The photos were gruesome and sometimes gave me nightmares but I couldn't stop myself from reading bits of it when I was over at her house. I must have been in first grade at the time so it was a bizarre choice of reading material.

When I was in fifth grade I found a copy of Roots and was determined to finish it one summer. It took me until seventh grade to actually read it through. That was probably the first huge novel I'd read. And after that no novel was safe, no matter how thick. I would read any fiction I could get my hands on. Somehow many of those were Harlequin romances although for the life of me I cannot remember where I'd first got them but I had two large trash bags of them by the time I graduated high school. I read Stephen King and V.C. Andrews and many classics also but I loved the trashiness of romance novels, particularly the historical romance novels (I still do but I can't remember the last time I spent money on one)

When I was sixteen I saw David Lynch's "Dune"and was fascinated by the sandworms. I remember seeing the trailers for the movie but I couldn't talk any of my family into taking me to see it. Even my friends didn't want to see it. One weekend my folks rented it so I finally got to sit down and see what those sandworms were all about. When I discovered it was a novel by Frank Herbert I immediately went to my school library and tracked it down. I fell in love with science fiction right then and there. One of my schoolmates saw me in the sci-fi section and he recommended Robert Heinlein to me (it was either Tim or Thom Holbrook, I wish I could remember which!). The first Heinlein book I read was I Will Fear No Evil and after that I had to read everything I could find that he'd written. And no, I don't find him sexist and I don't believe my love of his books makes me a bad feminist. He is what he is/He was what he was. He didn't write women very well but then he isn't the first male writer to write poorly developed female characters.

To this day sci-fi is still my favorite genre. I love how open and adventurous it is. Anything can happen in sci-fi. Fantasy is interesting but space travel, that's where it's at. I do get upset sometimes that there aren't enough women writing sci-fi. I often wonder if there are but maybe there's a glass ceiling for female sci-fi writers. I want more writers like Sheri S. Tepper and Marge Piercy.

But right now I am off to read more Sookie Stackhouse adventures and wonder why she just doesn't jump all over Alcide.

Arnica! And ramblings about school, public speaking and art...

My doctor is great! When I was seeing the two specialists for my Raynaud's I never felt they really listened to me. But my gp listens, really listens. And she isn't quick to write scripts for meds, she'd much rather go with fixing things without meds first. So Friday she talked to me about stretching in order to loosen my back and told me to take arnica pellets and use arnica gel on my back. Yes, the pills are technically meds but they're homeopathic which seems better to me than big company pharmaceuticals. She also have me the card of a chiropractor and said she'd fax over a referral if I needed one.

Tomorrow I am going to try and run and see how my back feels. I need to test things out so I know how I feel. I have two weeks before the Chicago marathon. I need to know my back won't kill me because 26.2 miles at my pace is a long time. Hours and hours. I have enough to worry about with my GI problems. I don't need to add my back to the mix.

In other news... I am reading my way through the Sookie Stackhouse books. I love that they're just interesting and light reading. And I think HBO has done a great job so far with the "True Blood" television series.

Also, my environmental literacy class proves to be very interesting. There are only four other students in the class (4 women and one man) and I'm the only one without any degree whatsoever. I do worry about the 15 minute presentation I have to give in front of the class. Public speaking makes me ill. I am hoping to put together a slideshow with some video so I don't have to talk so much. In high school I did duet acting on the speech team with my wonderful friend Kimberlie and I'd really love to know how that happened. How on earth did I manage to do that? I wasn't good at all but I was able to talk with her in front of a classroom without throwing up. It boggles the mind. It couldn't have been my idea. *laugh*

Today I think I will paint. Hopefully my acrylics aren't all dried out. I want to sew but that means dragging a lot upstairs to the dining room and I don't want to have to clean it all up again in two weeks when my folks come out. I'll wait until after their visit. But the painting mess will be easier to clean up. I'm a horrible painter but every so often I try again. I'm much better at textiles.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The dreaded doctor's visit...

...is tomorrow.

My doctor is wonderful but I still dread going. After the whole blood clot emergency hospital visit of 2003 I've feared going in when something hurts. I was only able to go to the emergency room in 2003 because my Bosswoman talked me into it and then talked to me while I walked across the street to the hospital (our apartment at the time was across the street from the hospital). That trip got me an immediate hospital stay for 4 days and an angiogram. And I got snarked at by the nurse who was checking me in because I did not have a general practitioner. I also got on the patient list of 2 specialists, got put on blood thinners and had to get my blood tested once a month for the next three years.

So when I need to go see my doctor for a problem, I worry that something bad will happen and I'll get bad news. I don't know what news I'll get tomorrow. I don't want to have to go see a specialist for my back. It feels fairly good now but long walks and any running makes it ache and that isn't normal. I have 16 more days until the Chicago marathon and I need to be better. I haven't been able to run in almost 2 weeks and that can't be good. I was unable to do my 20 miles and that freaks me out (although I did the 18 miles so it's not like I missed a huge jump in mileage). I still have to get up and stretch regularly while I sit at my desk and work or I hurt otherwise.

This is just so frustrating. What if my doctor says I cannot run? Months of training and so many donations only to be told no? But then I don't want to totally ruin my back. I can train for another marathon when I heal but it would be worse to run and do permanent damage. So tomorrow's doctor visit scares me. I want to cry.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Delayed 20 miles and other ramblings...

Due to hurting my back in the great backyard flood of 2008 I was unable to do my 20 mile run yesterday. This annoys me. My back is getting better but standing too long and walking too much causes some achiness in the small of my back. Aleve helps but it doesn't get rid of that last spot. I found some Biofreeze and another muscle salve I had so I'm going to give that a shot today and see if it helps. And if it does then Tuesday will be my 20 mile run!

School also starts for me on Wednesday. I'm taking an environmental literacy class. What I am really wondering is whether or not I should continue school or just focus on art. I really enjoy school but I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up and Northwestern is too expensive to just take classes willy nilly. I need to get a job at NU so 80% of my tuition would be covered. That's one thing I miss about not living in Ohio, I had free tuition because of my job.

Today I am going to break out my paints and fabrics. I want to work on an art quilt I started about 3-4 years ago and didn't finish. It's really too large for my tiny machine to handle but I am thinking about chopping it down and creating something for my office. I have two empty walls and they need something badly. I should take a photo because I painted over the orange and now the room is a nice shade of green (one wall is a darker green than the other three but still bright and cheery). The boy also built me a shelving unit over the radiator so now I have functional storage above the radiator that had been limiting the room.

Plus I've been trying to get rid of all the cluttery nonsense that seems to breed like rabbits. We donated 11 bags of clothes and shoes and 4 boxes of kitchen items. I went through all my shoes and only kept the ones I currently wear. Lots of Converse that I rarely wore. I kept a silver pair and a green and pink pair and the rest were donated. I kept my pink Fluevog cowgirl boots even though they're too small for comfort. And I kept my old leather biker jacket for my niece. I wish I had remembered to give the jacket to the boy to give to my step-dad so he could give it to my niece when he saw her. Maybe she can wear the Fluevogs. They are pretty kick-ass.

I wish my back would get better! I think I'll go stretch again because I want to start running again! *arghhh*

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ouchies!

Flood 2008

Friday night we got hit by some terrible rainstorms. By Saturday morning our back yard was a foot deep in water. To get to our garage we would have to wade through all that water. The boy went out to the hardware stores trying to track down a pump so we could drain our yard but every store he went to was sold out. I saw him filling up a bucket to dump in the alley so I went out to help. Our wonderful neighbors to the east saw him also and J came out and loaned us their pump. I had the bright idea that I would continue to bucket out the water while the pump was working because there was a LOT of water. The boy and I formed a bucket brigade which lasted maybe 15 minutes before my back started to ache. It didn't seem like the water was going down at all and it just kept raining and raining hard! Since there wasn't much else to do besides watch the pump work and the rain fall, we went back into the house.

Sunday was pretty much more of the same. I think George's bladder stretched to dynamic proportions because peeing in the rain was the last thing he wanted to do. poor pup! I really wanted to go see a movie but instead I vacuumed the house and it is then that I twisted somehow and really wrenched my already sore back.

The last time I hurt my back had been a couple years back when I was exercising with a friend. I was getting off one of the machines and twisted wrong. Even bbreathing deeply caused severe pain. I was in Ohio at the time and it got so bad that I couldn't even get up off the floor without help. My step-dad had to lift me up a couple times. I almost couldn't make it up off the toilet but the thought of having my step-dad come in and help me up scared me even more. *laugh* Luckily I didn't hurt my back that badly this time (especially since my step-dad and mom are in Colorado on vacation and not here to help) but it does hurt to sit upright for too long.

Right now I have one of those activated charcoal heat packs stuck on my back. The heat seems to help (and helps me stay warm since it is chilly inside the house and my Raynaud's is aggravated by the weather). I'm trying to take it very very easy because I am scheduled for 20 miles on Saturday and I NEED to be pain-free before then. I cannot afford to miss this run. I HAVE to be able to run on Saturday.

This Friday is a big deal for my step-dad. He is getting inducted into the football hall of fame for our high school. He gets to be introduced at Friday night's football game at halftime and then there is a ceremony afterward at the high school. I am disappointed that I will miss it but between work and the time it would take driving out there and fitting in my 20 mile run I just can't be there. I am a lousy daughter! :(

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Insomnia...

Only, not quite. I woke up with a headache so I stayed up until the aspirin I took kicked in. And now I am watching some edited for television horror movie and craving a cupcake. It's 3:45am and I am seriously considering baking a cake. And I want to either paint or sew. I have an idea that would work for either medium.

Which is something I've been thinking about lately. Art. I keep changing my mind about school. I really enjoy school but I feel like it will be forever before I finish my degree and what do I really want to do when I grow up anyway. But I always want to make things. Maybe I should just get a job that will keep me in money to pay the bills and with enough left over to make art. Make art quilts. Maybe I need to focus on that instead of getting a degree in something. Or maybe get my degree in graphic design because I know that and I could work in publishing layout. I don't want to do web design forever, besides my skills aren't up to industry standard. It would be difficult to quit my current job because I love the people there and I really miss physically working in the office.

I believe today I will break out my paints and play around one one of the canvases I have in the basement. I bought a couple when we were living in the apartment 3 years ago. Painting may be a good way to work on art quilt ideas. I can "see" my ideas but I never put them down on paper. I prefer to work serendipitously. I like to lay out my fabrics and see what looks best rather than plan things out ahead and then work on the fabric. Especially since I prefer hand-dyed/batiked fabrics and not factory prints. Hand-dyed/batiked fabrics are unique and take more work to use because of the randomness of the batik (at least the ones I choose are random).

Maybe I should go to bed. Or maybe I should go dig out my paints and get things set up. Except I am a bit sleepy. And I need more aspirin.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

31 days and counting!

Last Saturday's run was a beautiful 18 miles. The weather was PERFECT! Even the death strip along the lakefront from North to the beginning of Michigan Avenue was nice. The sun was very bright but the temperature was only in the mid to upper 70's. After the run there was a picnic but I really didn't partake because eating is usually the last thing I want after so many miles. I did drink a lot of Gatoraid and water and a few pretzels but nothing else sounded good. I really wanted a chocolate milkshake but I just settled for a big glass of Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink when I got home. Honestly, chocolate milk is the PERFECT after-run drink.

Nothing horrible happened during the run. My magic pills are not so magic so I had to stop for a couple port-o-lets along the way. That is disappointing. I need to remember to call my doc and see if I can take two pills. I can manage a 1 minute run before the urge strikes and then I need to walk it off.

I also need to speed things up more. Sometimes my mental wanderings lead me offtrack. Laziness rather than "OMG I can't do it". I'll have to blog more about it once I figure it all out in my head. I know the answer is there somewhere! I do know this isn't something I'm going to quit after October 12th.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Nike+ Human Race - Chicago

When I went to pick up my packet for the Chicago Distance Classic there was a booth for the Nike+ 10k Human Race. For $35 I got a tee and got to choose a charity to donate my fee to, and I would be signed up for this amazing race.

Amazing.

Sunday was the big event. The start line was outside of Soldier Field and the race was scheduled to begin at 6:30pm. At 6:20pm I headed to my pace group area. At 6:30pm... no starting gun. At 6:40pm someone sang the national anthem and right after the race began.

Let me describe this to you... The start area was on a street that was two cars wide. The actual starting line that you had to cross in order for your chip to start the timing was 3-4 people across. They funneled 14,000 runners through this tiny start area. I did not actually cross the start line until a few minutes after 7pm. While I was in the back of the pack, there were plenty of people behind me. Loads! But anyway, after the runners crossed that narrow start line the path widened back to an area 2 cars wide.

The course headed south on a side street parallel with Lake Shore Drive for 3 miles and then swung over to land us on the bike path heading north for the last half of the race. I hit the first mile marker at 36 minutes from the time the first runner crossed the start. So that gave me about a 15'ish minute pace.

The next marker I saw was for the 2.5k point. I have no idea why the markers went from miles to kilometers and this was pretty annoying. Somewhere between the 1 mile marker and the 2.5k marker there was a water station and a live band. I have no idea who the band was because there was no sign but they sounded pretty decent. I wish I knew!

A bit past the band the course swung east towards the lake. I knew I couldn't have hit mile 3 already, it seemed to soon even though I thought I was making good time. I'd been passing a number of runners and the cop cars at the back were far back (I'd passed them near the start of the race). I followed the course people at the first turn but when I got to the other side of the cross street there were only police directing traffic. There were orange cones leading the way so the bunch I was with followed the cones which led us right into the northbound path of the race runners. This was not a good sign as where we had a "merge" area, there were MANY runners south of us.

Somehow we were detoured 2.5 miles to a shorter course.

There were NO signs or course people directing us. The group of runners I was with all looked at each other and kept asking "are we supposed to just merge?" It couldn't be right but there was so course area blocked off for us to run south. In fact the whole bike/running path was filled with runners running north. There was no way we could head south to get our miles. So we merged.

There are no words for how I felt. I was using this race to determine my pace after training setbacks. I was finally able to add more running to my training and suddenly my 10k turned into a 5k. There was no course officials around to tell me what the hell was up. And as a slow runner I stick to the right side of paths to keep out of the way of those serious runners who manage a -9 minute pace. It took almost a mile for me to get to the right side of the path and out of the way of those faster than myself.

I ran back the rest of the race being furious. I got to the finish line in about an hour from when I started and there in front of me was another poor planning decision.

After we crossed the finish line we were stuck in this mass of runners. To the far right there were volunteers handing out the awards. The finish area was corralled in so thousands of runners were fenced in and funneled through another 2-3 person-wide exit area. We were told to remove our chip timers but they had been attached to our shoes with plastic dealies which really needed to be cut off. And at most races there are people right at the finish helping cut those timers off. Not so at this race. We didn't see those people until AFTER were managed to squeak through that tiny exit in the fencing. And it should be pointed out that at this time it was dark and these chip collectors were working in the dark. And I believe they were only on one side of that exit area. I saw about 4 people working as collectors for the 14,000 runners.

As for water which is usually RIGHT at the finish line, we had to be able to make it through that tiny exit area, squeeze past the runners getting their chips removed and walk a bit of a ways just for a bottle of water. No gatoraid, just water. And Powerbar smoothie bars. There were little cups of yogurt and Bare Naked granola across from the water area but I don't believe I saw bananas or anything salty like I've seen at other races.

The whole race seemed horribly planned, as though Nike did no research on how to run a race. My race was cut short by 2'ish miles and the only reason I can come up with is that Fall Out Boy was supposed to start at a certain time so they wanted all runners to be finished on time even though the race started late. I didn't stay for the concert and was I was leaving I saw many other red-shirted runners leaving also.

The race was a great idea and the award bracelets finishers received were cool but the race itself was so poorly organized. I cannot find ANYTHING online to tell me why I was detoured from 2+ miles. I was not even close to being in the very back of the pack this time and my crossing the finish line was not acceptable to me. It wasn't a real finish and I have no information as to why things were handled the way they were.

Would I run this again if Nike organized another Human Race? I don't know for certain. The idea is exciting but after Sunday's experience, I am not pleased. I paid for a race and didn't get what I paid for. Just because Nike donated my fee makes little difference as far as my expectations are concerned. Badly done, Nike.