Pages

Thursday, December 30, 2010

First Attempt at Buckwheat Pancakes

Writing about pancakes in my post yesterday spurred me to research how I can make pancakes and eat them too. I stumbled upon The Pancake Recipe. Here I found many recipes for pancakes made of flours other than the white flour I'm used to using. After browsing for awhile, I felt armed with enough information to make a trip to the grocery store and buy what I needed.

The first store, just up the street, didn't carry any buckwheat flour. In fact, the store didn't stock any flours other than the standard all purpose and whole wheat. As I didn't have any other evening spectacular I had to be off to, I asked Hubby to ferry me to the one store I knew would have what I was looking for. I dashed through the aisles, knowing exactly where this store shelved their specialty flours. Standing in front of the many packages lined neatly side by side, I scanned the labels. On the second to bottom shelf, all the way to the right side, an empty space caught my eye. I bent down and read the tag for what was supposed to be in that space: buckwheat flour. Hubby thought this incredibly funny, so for his laughter, he earned himself another ferrying job, to the one natural foods/organic foods store in town.

I love this store and can browse the shelves for hours, looking at the variety of products available. My mission this time, though, was to find buckwheat flour. Hubby and I stood looking at the many different types of flours, and Hubby's eyes found the flour before mine did. Two choices presented themselves to me. One was an already prepared mixture, just add milk and egg. The other was just the buckwheat flour. I chose the already prepared mixture. For what reason, I really can't say. I was just so caught up in the idea of having buckwheat pancakes that I didn't take the time to read the ingredients' list carefully. It was only when I was standing in the kitchen after we got home that I saw the mixture contained, gasp, all purpose flour! How could they?

Buckwheat Pancakes with Bananas and Maple Syrup
Thankfully the package is a small one. I'm sure I'll go through it fairly quickly. Maybe having a ladies brunch and plying everyone with faux buckwheat pancakes will do the trick of getting rid of the mixture. I did go ahead and fix some for myself this morning, enjoying them very much. (Though they really weren't all that buckwheaty; my mom fixed buckwheat pancakes for my dad many, many times when I was a kid, so I know what buckwheat tastes like. These weren't even close.)

So overall, the first great, non-white flour pancake attempt flopped due to my carelessness in label reading, but this just means I get to continue my quest for the just-right buckwheat flour.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stepping Away from Yummy White Flour Products

Part of my eating lifestyle change is to move away from white flour products, such as white breads, white flour pancakes (which will be terribly difficult; I love, love, love pancakes), and anything else that contains the standard white flour as one of its main ingredient. This move has been easier than I thought it would be as I'm good with whole grains bread. So many different varieties exist, and right now, I'm enjoying a flax seed whole grains bread. I especially like it for breakfast, toasted with vegan "butter" and dipped into my hot decaf coffee. This evening, for dinner, I tried Ezekiel spaghetti noodles topped with an organic sauce full of veggies and soy crumbles. The sauce rocked, thick and tasty. The noodles, well, they didn't rock so much. They were downright gluey (which makes me think I overcooked them), and it was only because of the sauce that I was able to finish my meal. I might give them another try, but as of right now, I'm really thinking the hunt for a yummy whole grains pasta noodle is on.

One thought I had was to make my own noodles. I'm kind of thinking that a normal extension of changing my eating habits is that I will prepare my meals from fresh ingredients. So why not make my own pasta? This could lead to my own breads, my own sauces, etc. Time is definitely a factor I can't overlook, as my schedule come Monday will change significantly. I won't be home all day everyday like I have been for the past three weeks. I'll be waist deep in prepping for classes, attending meetings. and doing all things connected to my job. Around the teaching schedule I've penciled in workouts, writing hours, and family obligations. Is there any time left to prepare healthy, yummy meals? The answer will show itself next week.

This week I have enjoyed fixing my meals, something I'd gotten away from over the past year. Going with the pre-packaged products is just so much easier (especially when others in the family aren't on board with eating more healthfully). But after an egg white omelet with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and sharp cheddar cheese, a spinach salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and dried cranberries, and this evenings spaghetti with the organic sauce full of veggies and soy crumbles, I'm ready to commit to using fresh ingredients along with more nutritious products and spending time preparing my meals. Sounds like an adventure.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting the Eating Under Control

My brother-in-law invited us to join his family and my hubby's other siblings, their spouses, and children for brunch on Christmas day at a very nice hotel in Chicago. When we walked in, the kids and I ohhed and ahhed over the chandeliers, the mirrors, and the Christmas decor throughout the lobby. We'd eaten a light breakfast, so all of us were ready for brunch.

At noon, we were told we could follow one of the servers to our seats in the dining hall. On the way, we passed tables bearing turkey, salmon, ham, roast beef, shrimp, lamb and other meats. We passed tables with tiered plates of deviled eggs, crab cakes, oysters Rockefeller, and many other delicacies. A part of me filled with anticipation at being able to eat foods I don't normally get an opportunity to eat. A larger part of me filled with disgust at the amount of food available for this one meal.

While I totally appreciated my brother-in-law arranging this get together and footing the bill for the entire family, I found it incredibly difficult to truly enjoy the event. I tried to ignore the amount of food people were heaping on their plates and the amount of food that was left on plates because the person either didn't like what had been chosen or merely wanted to try something else. I tried to focus on my kids' enjoyment of the different foods available. But it was with relief that I walked out of that dining hall.

Lifestyle Option
Since that day, I've been watching my diet very closely. I did a pretty good job at the brunch, filling up on fruit and salmon along with bite-sized pieces of quiche, strawberry crepes, and crab cakes. For dessert, I enjoyed a half piece of triple chocolate cake. All in all, not bad considering. I do, however, want to get back on track. I want to make 2011 the year of mastering the diet, starting first with not calling it a diet. It's going to be a lifestyle. That lifestyle is going to be all about staying away from sugar, excessive carbs, and meat. I'm doing pretty good with the not eating meat since I started avoiding meat several months ago. I've eaten a burger here and there, when I feel like having one, but more often than not, I don't eat beef, chicken, or turkey. Today I read an article that suggested not eating anything with a face. I kind of like that idea.

2010 is ending on a fine note. I'm happy with my fitness level and the dietary changes I've made. I'm looking forward to 2011, fine-tuning my eating lifestyle further and seeing how this affects the cycling, the running, and the swimming.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Best Christmas Gift

After much consideration, if I were to give the award to something tangible, it would go to The Walking Dead Compendium, given to me by Hubby. Coming in a close second would be the Blackbush Irish Whiskey my Lovely Daughter's boyfriend gave to me. I have two other gifts I haven't tried out yet, a waterproof mp3 player and a lap counter for swimming, and I'm eager to see how both work out. Who knows--perhaps after their inaugural use, both of these just might surpass The Walking Dead Compendium as the best tangible Christmas present.

However, contemplating this further, perhaps the best Christmas gift isn't the tangible one but rather the intangible, like the one I received over the course of several days. It started Wednesday, when I met a friend at the coffeehouse, where we chatted, wrote, and drank coffee or tea for several hours. That same day, I met another friend for lunch, and we talked until late into the afternoon. Then came Christmas Eve spent at home, all day long, with my boys, just hanging out. When Lovely Daughter arrived with her boyfriend, we ate dinner. Before the last bite had been eaten, the boys carried their gift to me, insisting that I open it right there at the table. The laughter, the fun, the love my kids have for one another all added up to being, if truth be told, the best Christmas gift I could have ever received. These moments in my life I just want to grab onto and hold tight, never losing how they make me feel.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Working on Speed

I ran a sub10 minute mile this evening. I should qualify this by saying I did it by switching to the trainer and cycling for five minutes after each quarter mile. For one quarter I ran a 5.5 mph pace, then the trainer. The next quarter mile I ran at a 6 mph pace, followed by 5 minutes on the trainer. I continued this until I had one full mile at 9:44. While on the trainer, I did one-minute intervals to increase my heart rate. By the end, I'd worked up a good sweat, which is saying something since it's only 36 degrees in the garage. After not working out for all of November, and only sporadically at best during the last two weeks, this was a good workout for me.

I'm realizing I really need to do some kind of workout on a daily basis. Having that time to focus on improving an area I'm weak in helps me in every other aspect of my life. During the last two weeks when I let myself slip out of my routine, away from the working out, the writing, the reading, just the structure I had in general, I felt completely discombobulated. I think I have a pretty good idea how the Walkers on The Walking Dead feel as they wander about with no idea what's going on around them. I don't want to be so directionless again any time soon.

Even though I'm not putting in a lot of miles, I'm working on speed with a helping of cycling alongside. I've made the commitment to keep the mph at 5.5 or above, working my way up to 7 and 7.5. After only three days of this, I can tell a difference in how I'm handling it. I'm embracing the challenge rather than succumbing to the lazy me of before. Completing just these few days of this goal has shown me I can get faster if I put my mind to it. I knew this all along. I just needed to buy into it fully, not allowing the little "can't voice" to wiggle its way in.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Angels Among Us


The streetlamp illuminated the snow angel, and it made me think of the friend I had just parted ways with after spending a couple of hours talking, sharing, laughing. I can't think of any better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Clearing the Fog

I braved the cold garage and walked for an hour, getting four miles in. Just moving felt so good, and while I was walking it occurred to me that my inconsistent exercise regime for the past two weeks has significantly contributed to my lack of feeling the Christmas spirit. I got out of my daily routine which is necessary during the semester in order to stay ahead of the paper load. Part of my semester routine included working out at the same time most days. To keep my sanity through the holidays, that routine needs to be put back into place, along with the rest of my usual routine, including getting up early, before everyone else, to write. I guess I truly am in need of structure. Without it, I don't get things done which equates to not feeling the accomplishment associated with getting things done. The lack of accomplishment leads to feeling blah in general, and the vicious cycle continues.

Today, the cycle ends. I've walked. I've made two mostly-healthy meals so far. Now I'm off to do some Christmas shopping. When I return, I'm going to sit down and work on my classes for next semester. Who knows, maybe I'll even get a second workout in this evening, doing a little yoga, stretching.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Not Feeling the Christmas Spirit

For the first time in my life, I'm not looking forward to Christmas. I'm dragging my feet with the Christmas shopping, baking, and decorating. A couple of days ago, I finally brought home a tree, but I didn't decorate it. My Amazing Daughter spent the evening turning the little, Charlie Brown-esque tree into a sparkling beauty. I have baking materials cluttering up the kitchen counter, and am in the middle of making chocolate covered pretzels. I sort of just abandoned the project. And I haven't bought anything for Hubby that can be wrapped and put under the tree. I see no joy in the whole Christmas thing. In fact, I can't wait for the next few weeks to just be over with.

Okay, enough whining. Time to make good use of the daylight hours and be productive. Maybe I'll go in search of the Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lingerie Football League--Really?

In all of my reading and researching as prep for the sports lit class I'll be teaching in the spring, I happened upon the Lingerie Football League, or LFL. Initially I thought it was a joke, but after an hour of reading the website, I realized the "True Fantasy Football" league is no joke at all.

While reading and making my usual snarky comments, Hubby started perusing the same site. His reaction was much different than mine. While I see sexism and inequality, he sees scantily clad women, which brightens up his day. While I get angrier the more I see, he doesn't see what the problem is. At one point, he said, "Why are you getting so upset over this?"

Why? Really? Show me a men's team of any sport where the athletes are required to wear scanty briefs (even in swimming, most swimmers don't wear a speedo any longer). Show me a men's team of any sport where the number one requirement is to be beautiful. I'm pretty sure the number one requirement for any men's team is to be really, really, really good at the sport. So the answer to Hubby's why is there actually are many women who'd love to play football professionally, but they can't unless they strip down do their underwear and show off their boobs and booty. Please.

The idea that having women playing in their underwear will make them "marketable" is basically saying in a coded way that the commissioner is a pimp and these women are his prostitutes. Yes, male athletes are marketed--but not in their underwear. I know of athletes who have stripped and posed for photos, posters, etc., such as Lance Armstrong, but he doesn't actually have to ride the Tour in the equivalent of a spanky. And I'd be very surprised if it was his manager/handler/whatever you call the person marketing you that required him to partake in this shoot. Most likely, Armstrong was approached with the idea and it was he who said, "Sure, I'll pose nude on a bike." He was the one in control. He could have said no. The young women of the LFL have no control over how they're marketed.

In the end, what options do women have if they want to play a sport that is for all intents and purposes closed to them? Unfortunately, they have to accept the terms connected to being able to play, terms designed by men, terms that devalue women, subject them to being objects that gratify men's desires.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Snake With a Head at Each End

from The Phoenixian Book of Creatures
That's what I dreamed about two nights ago--a really, really big snake with a head at each end. I wasn't really scared of it while dreaming about it. Well, maybe just a little. But I woke up wondering what in the world a snake with a head at each end meant. I've never read about one. I've never seen one in all of the lit that I read. I had to find out what meaning lies behind this kind of snake.

In my searching I found out the snake comes from Greek mythology and is called Amphisbaena. It is an ant-eating snake borne out of the blood that dripped from Medusa's head. Okay then. Glad to know a creature from my dream is the spawn of a woman who enjoyed turning men to stone. Is this some kind of unconscious desire of my own?

Further searching unearthed that this kind of snake means being pulled into two different directions. Now that I can buy into. Personal issues have had me in a bit of a funk lately. Some of my unhappiness comes from knowing one of my dreams will most likely never come true unless I make a drastic decision. I can't do this. Doing so would hurt others that I don't want to hurt.

So the snake with the head at each end is myself trying to figure things out. I don't like the answer I've found, but being able to make sense of a part of my life helps to put things into place. I need things in their places. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's the Thought that Counts, Right?

I've thought every single day about going out to the garage and running or cycling on the trainer. And actually, I thought about it many times each day. Added up, I'd say I ran anywhere between 5 and 10 miles a day, cycled perhaps 25 miles a day. If only this truly worked.

I started out good when December began, but then came Monday. Since then, nothing. I have absolutely no motivation. After the beautiful snow over the weekend, the temps dropped to single digits, never getting over 20 during the daytime hours. The cold smacks you in the face as soon as you walk outside. Usually I'm okay with this. I love cold, snow, winter in general.

I do have some snowshoes in the closet. I've only used them once. Maybe this afternoon I'll pull them out, fasten them on, and take a spin around the neighborhood. I also have crampons somewhere around here. Maybe putting those on my shoes and walking outside is what  need. Now I've got some ideas. Now I'm getting enthusiastic about going out and getting a workout in.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Finally, Snow

The forecast called for an inch, maybe two. At this point, I think we're around 4, maybe a little more. And the landscape is absolutely beautiful. With no wind, the snow fell virtually straight down, didn't drift or blow away. It's like a giant, white, goose-down comforter covering everything.

Snow on the Pumpkin
I shoveled our walk, our neighbor's walk, and our back deck. The upper body definitely got the workout, and I'm feeling it in my lower back. Like I said yesterday, core work is a must if I'm going to improve with the running and swimming. At one point, I stopped and had to wipe sweat from my face. Even though the temperature is only 30, with no wind and all the movement, I broke a nice sweat. Later I'm going to add to the sweat factor when I run.

This morning, as I was searching for an event to do that's somewhat close to home, I ran across this. Amazing. Puts lots of things into perspective, like my whining about not being faster. I'm not faster because I don't put in the effort. End of story. And now, end of whining. What an amazing man Jon was, and after watching this clip and reading further about Jon's life, I wiped the tears from my face, went outside, and shoveled snow, giving thanks for being able to dig into the heavy white stuff, for being able to feel the falling snow against my face, for just being. I have a pretty good life. It's time to recognize this and step up to show some appreciation for it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Change of Plans

Well, the Bike the US for MS isn't going to happen. Hubby just isn't on board for it, and I can't go ahead with something that he isn't in favor of. I could be petty and snarky and say he does things I'm not on board with, but I won't. Maybe when all the kids are grown and gone, he and I both can do this ride. The upside is not having a two-month ride on the calendar means the summer is wide open for whatever I can dream up. And I like to dream big.

First dream: seeking a PR at the Sullivan Sprint Tri. This was my first sprint tri ever, where I got behind some s l o w swimmers and couldn't get around them. The plan is I'm going to start swimming in January and really work on my form and speed. Most of my problem at the tri was my own fault, not having an accurate 400 meter swim time. If I had timed myself prior to the tri, I would have been put into a faster slot, thus avoiding being roadblocked by slower swimmers.

Second dream: an event every weekend through June and July. I know of several events in the area and others not too far away, so I'm pretty sure I can load up the calendar without too much trouble. Right now, the thinking is a sprint tri or duathlon one weekend, a long ride the next, and repeat. There's also a week-long ride across Illinois, from Cairo to Chicago, that is tempting me. One of the options of this ride is 100 miles a day, a very difficult and daunting twist put to the event.

Third dream: to improve my run time so I consistently run sub 30-minute 5k's. I just need to stop being a baby and suck it up if I'm going to reach this goal. So, New Year's Resolution to start now is no whining allowed. I really don't know how I'm going to enforce this yet, but I'll figure something out. Maybe a reward, like new cycling shoes and pedals if I run sub-10 minute miles for a week. Or new cycling shorts.

Fourth dream: to get my abs in shape. This ranks right up there with the sub-30 minute 5k's for difficulty. I avoid ab work even more than I avoid running. But if I'm going to get any better, I need to work on my core. Like the smart guy at the sports lit conference told me, all motion comes from the core. A weak core makes for weak movement. A strong core makes for strong movement. And since I have my beautiful new bike that demands I ride in a much lower position than I did on my old bike, I'm going to need a really strong core to go for any length of time. Ab-Ripper X here I come.

Those are my dreams. It's time to start working to make them come true.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Agitated Anticipation

I've a new lover in my bedroom. My beautiful new bike leans against the wall on my side of the bed. Hubby even carried it up for me, set it against the wall. It's awesomeness amazes me and I just want to sit on the bed and stare at it. For awhile this afternoon, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make it to the bike shop before it closed. A couple of wayward students didn't follow the directions given to them two weeks ago and weren't ready to turn in the portfolio when they were supposed to. Rather than draw the line in the sand and say I'm sorry but you didn't follow the directions, I allowed these students to take the time to finish up what needed to be completed. So I sat there, watching the minutes tick by, growing more and more annoyed as the afternoon wore on. I've not experienced that degree of agitated anticipation in quite some time.

This weekend is looking favorable for a ride, and at this point I don't care what the temp is. As long as it's not torrential rains like it is today, I'll be out. And while I keep saying (right now) the ride will be an easy one, no need to go for speed, I'm curious to see just how this bike will handle. The thinking is the better the components that make up the whole, the less effort is needed on the rider's part to make the bike perform. I was assured the components of my beautiful, new bike are such that I will experience a noticeable difference in the effort I have to exert to achieve what I was able to on my old bike. More agitated anticipation is developing just thinking about this, and I'm pretty sure by Friday, I'm going to be climbing the walls, wanting to get out and see if this theory is true.

Until then, I'm just going to sit on my bed and admire my new bike.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Restless

Now that I'm on day five of no class, no students, no papers to read and respond to, I feel myself becoming restless. Especially after yesterday, a day of not leaving the house. At all. Not even to just open the door to stick my head outside. My one day hermit experience was bliss. But one day is about all I can do.

Work in Progress
My day of staying inside was productive, though; I finished my latest short story, the one that started out in a very different direction from where it ended up. I knew I wanted an older woman, late 60's maybe early 70's, to be the main character. I knew I wanted her to have set up a garage sale. After that, I had no clue where to go. The story started out with her daughter bringing over things that didn't belong to her, and the person the items did belong to showed up, seeing all her things for sale.  I just didn't know where to go from there. I decided to get rid of the daughter, let the story flow from the older woman, her memories of all the items she'd set out that other people were now taking away to their own homes. Once I made that change, the story started coming, but I still didn't know how to end it. I do much better if I know the ending. If I know the ending then I can create the road to get there. If I don't know, I sort of wander all over, taking side roads that lead nowhere. A couple of days ago, the ending came to me when I woke up around 3:30 in the morning. Yesterday, the story came to that ending, and I felt like I'd run an uphill 5k when I typed the final period.

Now I'll let the story sit for a couple of days then return to it to revise. This makes four completed stories for the collection I'm putting together. I have two that I'm going to revise to fit with the collection. That leaves four more to write.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dream Bike is Now My Bike

I did it. I bought the dream bike. I've looked at bikes, I've read all about different brands of bikes, and I decided to just go ahead and take the leap. So cheers to me for having worked the extra bit I did this semester to make my dream bike become reality.

The only downside is the bike won't be ready until Monday, and the weather over the weekend is supposed to be mid 40's with lots of sun. Perfect for riding. Perhaps I'll go out on my trusty hybrid these next two days, before I switch over to Dream Bike, and try to get in the 47 miles I need to hit 1000 miles since May.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Body-Mind Rest

After the one meeting I had to attend on Friday, I returned home, changed into total, uber woobie clothes and relaxed, staying that way for the larger part of the weekend. The head/chest cold that has made its way around campus and even within my own home tried to attach itself to me, and it did for about two days, but with all the rest, all the emptying my mind of all things work, the cold didn't have much to cling to. I really think that was the shortest-lived cold I've ever had in my life. Being able to just be, indulge in total body-mind rest, whooped that cold good.

A small part of me does feel guilty for not getting some writing completed, and some workouts in, but that part is so small I was able to squash it easily. This week's work is minimal since I front-loaded my semester, and while I wasn't a happy camper while plowing through all the papers, all the student work coming in during that time, I'm now ecstatic at having nothing to do but my own work this entire week. I'm hoping my body-mind rest over the weekend energized the muse, persuades her to take hold of my fingers on the keyboard and go to town.

Mind-body rest is so important, and I know I don't do near enough of it. Getting enough rest, though, is key to becoming better at just about anything one is working on, as is echoed in The Yin and Yang of Intensity and Rest. Unfortunately, our fast-paced culture gives resting a negative connotation. I know I can only change my viewpoint, and from what I've experienced after only one mind-body restful weekend, I'm a believer.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Does One Publication Me A Writer Make?

That was the question Hubby put to me yesterday. Without thinking too long, which would only have made my must-be-humble quirk kick in, I said of course that makes me a writer. Someone else determined my work was good enough to be put into a print publication that will be shared with a larger audience. In a way, it's no longer mine. The story belongs to those who read it, who, hopefully, enjoy it. To me, that's what writers do--share their world for the pleasure of others.

All I've been thinking about is how the second editor to see this piece liked it enough to want it. The first editor declined it but did say he very much enjoyed the theme of the story. And everyone who has read it has just simply liked it. Each person that I've seen read it came to the end with a smile and a satisfied nod, like the story had the just-right ingredients to make it pleasing at the beginning, through the middle, and even the end. Like that perfectly seasoned chili, not too spicy but not to bland, either.

Now I'm working on some other pieces to send off. Two have already been rejected once, but I've revised them, so we'll see what happens the second go 'round. One of these pieces I'm very attached to, almost umbilical cord attached which is not a good thing, but I kind of get the same feeling from it that I did the piece that will be published. Though the ending of this story isn't positive or even happy, I truly think it's the right ending for the story. Or do we always need happy endings?

Maybe that's a question for Women on Writing, my newest fave website (as if I need one more thing to read). It'd be interesting to hear what Brenda Hill, Moira Allen and company have to say about sad v. happy endings.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Acceptance Is So Much Sweeter Than Rejection

Finally. An acceptance letter. And while the magazine is a small one, probably one most people haven't heard of, it's still a magazine, and my short story will be published in its January/February/March 2011 issue. This will be my first short story publication credit, my second publishing credit overall. It's a start.

And good timing, too. This Thursday I'm participating in a faculty reading at my college. I had already decided to read this particular story, and now I can begin by saying the story has been accepted for publication. I've never been in this position before, being able to say something I'm sharing with the audience gathered for the reading will actually be offered to a wider audience in the not too distant future. I've been thinking for some time now that in order for me to have any credibility in the classroom, teaching writing, I need to write and publish. My thinking is now a reality. What a great feeling.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Run Then A Ride

The Jingle Bell Run went okay. I lost track of my colleagues who were a part of my group. In fact, I only saw two of the six of us before the start of the run. I ran alone for the first two miles, at which time I decided to walk for a bit. One member of the group caught up to me then and we finished the race together. I crossed the line at 33:30, which is one minute 14 seconds faster than last year's run but four minutes slower than my PR. I expected a slower time today. I just haven't run that much since August.

After the run, I took the bike out for a ride. My whole mindset while riding is so different from when I'm running, though I will say my mindset today while running was actually pretty good. I wasn't there for competition. I was there to run for a good cause, get some exercise in, and just enjoy the weather. But when I'm on the bike, I can push it and love every second of it. If the wind is blowing 20 mph, I don't mind a bit. If the course has two mile hills, bring them on. I'll go at it with everything I have. Today the wind is blowing as it has been for about a month now. Sustained 20 mph with gusts up to 30. I started the ride into the wind, averaging about 12 mph. Then I reached my turn point, which put the wind mostly at my back. I got going pretty good on this stretch, and then I turned again, putting the wind coming against my right side. I managed to keep the speed up for this stretch. When I finished, I checked my average overall speed: 16. Not bad for having the wind in my face for half of the ride.

Now I'm feeling that delicious fatigue that comes after a good workout. I can definitely tell I haven't worked out like this for awhile, and it'd probably be a good idea for me to get back into the swing of working out a bit harder if I'm going to maintain some kind of decent fitness level. I'm thinking ahead, too, to the Bike the US for MS ride. I need to find some kind of workout regimen that will help me get ready for the daily long rides. Being able to do 60+ miles a day is a must, and right now, with work and limited daylight hours making long rides nearly impossible, I don't know quite what to do to get ready. Maybe it's going to come down to just riding two hours a day on the trainer in the garage. How boring does that sound?

Today was good. I like that. A lot.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Relief

And the charity dinner is now a thing of the past. Like last year, I said right after the last person left that I am not going to do another dinner. This morning, upon stepping out of the shower, I thought next year's benefiting organization is going to be the local AIDS Task Force. For a second I entertained the idea of what we could do differently to have an even more successful event, but then I snapped out of my musings. There will not be another charity dinner. For now.

All in all, the dinner was good. Most of two soups were eaten, so we only had one soup in any quantity left over. The raffle was a huge success, and I have such gratitude for my friend who graciously donated the necklace that had all the women buying as many raffle tickets as possible to try and win it. And the cake. Baked by that same generous friend who donated the necklace. The cake was absolutely delicious. The leftover cake will be my breakfast this morning. All of this combined with great conversation, laughter, and seeing people come together to give made the evening worthwhile.

After cleaning up and falling into bed exhausted, I couldn't sleep. I finally managed a couple of hours, but I'm still too wound up. Perhaps a nice, easy run on the treadmill, watching a movie, will help me expel the last remnants of tension.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Still Not Running

And maybe that's why every little thing is irritating the living bejeezus out of me. I've just not been getting the necessary amount of exercise, be it running or biking or swimming or whatever. I haven't done a darn thing for the better part of two weeks.

On top of not working out and releasing those lovely endorphins that make me feel all is right with the world, I've felt like those around me (save my children) are always asking for something but are unwilling to give anything in return. I will qualify this right now: Hubby has been great with cleaning the house and doing all the heavy-duty stuff to get ready for our charity dinner. His help has allowed me not to have to worry about the dinner all that much. Part of me isn't into having the dinner this year, our third charity dinner, and after getting several "not going to be able to make it" responses from those I consider friends, I'm thinking more than ever I should have just not put the charity dinner on my already full plate.

But the charity dinner is for a good cause. With the State budget cuts and the slow economy, there are a lot of people hurting. The dinner is just a small way for me to give while at the same time enjoying time with family and friends. This year, those attending will bring diapers, formula, and other assorted baby/toddler goods that will be donated to one of our local agencies that helps families in need. In exchange for their donations, those attending get a bowl of soup, delicious bread, and dessert. The last two years were great fun, and my friends/family showed what kind, compassionate people they are by donating goods as well as money to the charity we've designated each year.

I keep telling myself that no matter how few people show up, the dinner will still be delicious, and the company will still be entertaining. The donations will help in a time when everyone's budget is tight. And I am thankful I can do the charity dinner, a small thing that not only brings me joy, but brings smiles to those who benefit from the kindness and generosity of my family and friends.

So maybe I'm not running, but I am thinking about it. I only hope that is enough to carry me through the 5k come Sunday.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

But I Like My Logic

The Jingle Bell Run is Sunday. I haven't run for over a week. This just might be a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, it might work out that I PR this 5k. My logic is I'll be really, really fresh for this run and will be able to go at a faster pace, or is that simply bad logic?

I haven't run because I haven't been feeling the desire to. Not that I ever did in the first place--I mostly did it to be able to get through the du's and the tri's with a decent showing. I don't run just to run like so many others do. Running doesn't turn me on like that.

And to torture myself even further because I can't seem to get enough of it, I signed up for the sprint tri in May 2011. I dislike the swim about as much as I dislike the run, so why in the world do I keep doing this to myself? The answer is I hated how I performed with the swim portion of the sprint tri I completed, and I'm determined to do better the next go round. I'm definitely in better shape now and should be able to do much better the next time I compete, and I'm kind of curious to see exactly how I do. So basically the formula is disappointment + better shape + curiosity = torture.

This Sunday, I will try to beat my time from last year's Jingle Bell run. I should be able to do it since I already have three times since. But I'm not going to say it's a done deal as I'm afraid my not-running logic is most definitely flawed thinking.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dream Bike for My Dream Ride

I test rode a bike Saturday and have been dreaming of it ever since. The bike is a real racing bike, not a wannabe like the bike I'm riding now, although I have to say my current bike has served me well. I really have no complaints about my bike, and I kind of feel guilty for even thinking of purchasing a new one. But it looks like I really am going to do the Bike the US for MS ride, and I want a bike I can cruise on. Just like I imposed my one week "seriously think about it" rule with the MS ride, I'm imposing a one week "really, JK, seriously think about this before buying a couple thousand dollars bike" rule.

The first hesitation I have is a couple thousand dollars is a lot of change to part with right now. With Hubby still out of work, is it wise to spend that much on a bike? Sure it's for a good cause, and I know I would ride it for all the events I'll do next season after returning from the MS ride, but . . ..

The second hesitation I have is, well, I guess there is no second hesitation. It's all about the money.

The shop selling the bike has a layaway plan which I'm considering. I could buy the bike now and just pay a little bit each month until March, when I could pay it off and begin training on it, getting ready for June. With my overload next semester, I could channel the extra money towards paying on the bike and pay it off pretty quickly.

In any case, dreaming about the bike is free. Perhaps during one of my daydreams the way to pay for it will present itself.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Meatless Meatloaf and Banana Bread

Venturing into vegetarianism/veganism brought out the cook in me today. I put together a vegetarian loaf that looks, smells, and tastes just like meatloaf, and now I have a banana loaf in the oven, which is mostly vegan with no eggs and no butter/margarine. I did have to use organic milk since I drank the rest of my soy milk for breakfast this morning, but all in all, the batter looked and tasted just like regular banana bread batter. My fingers are crossed that the finished product has the texture and taste of a typical banana bread.

So far, the journey into no meat, sometimes no animal products whatsoever, has been going smoothly with just a few bumps here and there. Not having been eating much meat for some time now has helped, I think. I just don't feel the desire to eat meat. I'm drawn to veggies, fruits and breads. I do love cheese. I think that's been the toughest part so far. I found some rice cheese, but the texture and flavor definitely don't compare to that of cow or goat cheese. Part of me wants to rationalize and say cheese is okay to eat, especially organic cheese from animals that are treated humanely. I do think it's okay for each of us to figure out what we're okay with when it comes to what we eat, so if one person wants to meat and only meat, so be it. If another person wants to eat only raw, go for it. I feel comfortable eating cheese, yogurt, and milk, as long as these are organic and come from humanely treated animals. Thinking it through and figuring out what I'm comfortable with has been part of the journey, and though I most likely will never completely be vegan, this is okay.

Today I went back to the organic foods store and found a few more products to keep in my pantry. Building my supplies will definitely take time, and the cost is something I'll constantly have to keep in mind. Organic, vegan foods are not cheap. When I consider the cost of eating the way I want to, I get irritated that eating healthfully can be cost prohibitive. Yes, I could by fruits and veggies at a regular grocery store, but even there I would buy organics which cost more than mass produced fruits and veggies. Since this is how I want to eat, I'm just going to have to adjust how I spend my money. Rather than buying a magazine, I can go to the library and read it, freeing up money to use for the products I want to consume. Rather than buying a new gadget for the kitchen, I can use the many gadgets I now have that sit idle in the cupboards, steering the money saved towards foods that fit the lifestyle I want to live.

The journey will definitely be ongoing, with its hills and valleys, but I look forward to it. I find walking this journey had made me much more mindful of what goes into my body. I'm much more likely now to not eat something that I used to because I'm much more aware of what makes up the food and I don't want to put into my body elements I believe are harmful. I don't know if it's too soon to really have any significant changes taking place, but I have noticed I just don't think about food all that much anymore. Is this due to reducing certain ingredients? I don't know. I do know I've been a little surprised quite a few times lately when it dawns on me that I haven't eaten anything for upwards of five or six hours. I'm okay with this. Intuitive eating is something I've very interested in and I'm wondering if this is the direction my body is going in response to the changes I've been making.

The banana bread aroma is filling the house now. Time to check on it, maybe even test it before calling it a day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hodgepodge Wednesday

I harvested all the herbs from the garden today, went to the store and bought a five-tray dehydrator, then dried thyme this evening. With the thyme in the jar, the cranberries seemed like a good next food to try, so they are now basking in the dry heat of the dehydrator. Hopefully by tomorrow morning, the berries will be ready and the sage can take its turn. Watching the foods dry is kind of fun, a science project happening right before my eyes.

Boy, am I simple or what!? Watching herbs and berries dry . . .. I need to get out more.

I did get out for a three mile run, well, out to the garage anyway. With the shorter daylight hours these days I just can't fit in rides except for on the weekends. I already miss my bike. I was trying to ride to work as much as possible, but since I don't have lights yet, I'm playing it safe. Once the lights arrive, I'm going to start riding again. We used lights on the bikes when we were in Key West, and the way the lights made the bikes stand out in the darkness was amazing. A reflective vest would probably be a good choice, too. I've read a couple of articles lately about cyclists getting hit while riding in darkness, and I don't want to end up another statistic.

I also signed up for a sprint tri. It isn't until May 1, 2011, but it's a really popular sprint tri that fills up fast. It was my first event back in April of this year, and I did horrible with the swim. I got stuck behind some slower swimmers and couldn't get around them. I actually had to walk part of the swim just to keep moving forward. Not cool. I'm determined to improve my swim and my overall finish time, so this winter is now my winter of swimming. I just have to find a pool to swim in. Looks like I'll have to break down and get a gym membership.

For now I'm going to take a deep breath, breathe in the aroma of thyme that is still filling the house. I'll worry about the swimming later.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo is Upon Us

National Novel Writing Month has begun. I'm already behind. Personally, I think there should be a national student paper reading month, and every single person over the age of 30 should have to read at least 60,000 words of student writing within that month. Ughhh. Do you know how much mushy brain would be out there if this actually did happen? The world as we know it would be no more.

One bright spot from one of today's classes: students were completing peer responses. One of the better students was responding to the paper of one of the weaker students. After reading the paper, Better Student pulled me over and said, "Please read my response. If I'm out of line tell me and I'll change it." I read the response and smiled. Better Student didn't mince words and basically told Weaker Student the paper was plagiarizing another person's work and would fail if proper citations were not given. In addition, Better Student told Weaker Student the paper was unorganized, having disregarded all of the teacher's suggestions written on the first draft. "You just did my job," I told Better Student. I love it when one student gives it to another student. Sometimes this actually works better than if I had been the one to make the comments. It'll be interesting to see what Weaker Student does with the paper now.

And now, now I am into the second batch of papers that I've been avoiding for the past few days. It's like a fresh, new wind filled my sails this afternoon; I just felt ready to tackle these papers, and I'm finding they actually are pretty good. I'm really enjoying reading them.

As for NaNoWriMo, I guess I'll have to wait to start the next great American novel until tomorrow.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wind at My Back

The ten miles out were brutal. Winds holding steady at 14 mph made the going tough, and since I haven't ridden since last Saturday's metric century, I was feeling it the first five miles or so. The legs, back, and arms settled in, so I slogged on, eyeing the grain bins I knew were the turn-around point. When I checked my stats, I wasn't surprised to see an 11.7 mph average. Turning around and heading back couldn't be done fast enough.

The ride back was pure fun. Without the roar of the wind in my ears, the wind pushing against my every pedal, I put some effort into the return trip. I'd forgotten to put my bike computer on the bike before we left, but I did have my phone and was able to use the app I'd downloaded quite awhile back. Every mile I heard the voice from my phone tell me what mile I was at and how long each mile took to cover. On the trip out, I averaged right at 5 minute miles. On the way back, the average was just past three or just below three minutes per mile. Too much fun. My average speed for the trip back was 18.7, with one mile of 23.7 and a few others 20 and 21. I knew there was a reason for going 10 miles against 14 mph winds.

The week off, with just a 20 minute ride inside at midweek, was good, but being back on the bike today was better. Riding was exactly what I needed. Now I feel like I can finish up some work for tomorrow and be ready for the week.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Bamboo Bike and Its Rider

I love reading about people doing long rides for causes they truly believe in. This blog, Bamboo Samurai, showcases Takashi's ride around the world to raise awareness about bamboo and what an important product it is in our world. Unfortunately, Takashi was hit by a car in southern Illinois yesterday. No update has been offered at this point. I can only hope that he recovers and can continue his journey.

Pursuing A Lifestyle Change

Is it wrong to use vegan mayo on a turkey sandwich? The mayo tasted like the real thing, what I've been eating for years, and I thought if most things vegan tasted this good, I just might give veganism a try. I see this lifestyle change as the next step in the journey towards the kind of life I truly want to live, but going all out vegan is a huge change. I was vegetarian about ten years ago, for about two years, then fell off the vegetarian wagon for a variety of reasons, none of which were really good reasons. I don't eat a lot of meat now, and haven't over the years, but I do enjoy a juicy burger every now and then. Giving up the burgers has been the toughest thing to do. The more I think about the kind of life I want to live, though, the more I think the burgers have to go once and for all.

To get me started on this next step of lifestyle change, I went shopping today to purchase food items that meet the vegan standards. With four other people in the house that I need to consider when creating meals, it can be expensive buying for them and for me. I figured I'm just going to have to put aside a little bit of money each week just for me if I'm going to make this work. To get me started, I bought some rice cheese, some vegan cream cheese, and some vegan margarine. Oh, and the vegan mayo. With these items, I can have cheese sandwiches, bagels with cream cheese, and toast with vegan margarine. I already have quite a bit of organic foods to add in with these items, giving me other options for this weeks' breakfasts and lunches.

The dinners are going to be more difficult. Way more difficult. With three others who want meat, I'm going to have to work out a way to meet their needs as well as mine. Beautiful Daughter doesn't eat a lot of meat, so she'll probably fall into step with me. The three guys, well, they like all things meat. I'm beginning to think my journey could get a little rocky before it gets smooth.

A couple of other products I bought today included cosmetics. For awhile now I've had a problem with wearing eyeshadow. My one eyelid develops an itchy rash that becomes inflamed. My eyelid looks horrible. For the past month I've been desperately trying to get the rash to go away. It's starting to, but it's been incredibly stubborn. I finally tried the cream my son uses for his eczema, and the rash has lessened, is beginning to fade. The relief from the itch alone is heavenly. So I bought mineral cosmetics to see how my skin reacts. I'm really hoping the expense is worth it.

My crawling into vegetarianism/veganism might last for awhile, but I figure teeny-tiny steps are better than trying to do too much at once, so I'm inclined to say using vegan mayo on a turkey sandwich is okay for now.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Found Out

Busted.

After almost two years of me blogging, Hubby found my blog. He didn't seem terribly hurt that I've not clued him in about me writing for this long without telling him. Rather, he simply asked, "What else have you been doing for almost two years that I don't know about?" Well, . . .

Nothing.

I can honestly say this is the only secret I've been keeping. Up til today, no family or friends have known about my blog, and I enjoyed the fact that I've had something that's just mine. While I didn't dish about him, much anyway, it was liberating knowing I didn't have to worry about what I wrote since people I know had no idea I was writing in the first place. Now I have to worry about it.

S**t.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We All Should Do This Every Now and Then

Dream Ride

I've found next summer's must do: a dream ride called Bike the US for MS. Completing a ride like this would be a dream come true. Hubby just laughed when I said I was going to sign up, which is what he usually does when I say I'm going to do something. I ran the idea by the kids to see what their reaction would be, and when they found out the ride is to raise awareness and money for MS, they all said, "Do it." The fact that the kids have grown up watching their grandmother, my mom, struggle with the progression of MS definitely swayed their opinion. I'm now applying the week "think about it" rule before making a final decision. So far, two days in, the ride is still very much a must do for next summer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Biting Reality of Life

The winds whooped all night and on through today. Last I saw, the winds were 25-30 mph with 40 mph gusts. All day I watched from the classroom as heavy gray clouds moved across the sky, and the trees on the quad swayed back and forth. While I was glad to be inside out of the winds, I found myself sleepy most of the afternoon. The gloomy, gray day was just perfect for curling up with a good book and napping. Now all is calm, and I'm trying to read and respond to student papers. Not going so well.

I'm finding myself in a fog these days. Work is okay, but the paper load is overwhelming. I know I'm the one to blame as I do these involved writing projects that mean quite a bit of reading and responding for me. I could cut out some of the steps I have the students go through, but the steps are crucial to the students understanding how to write a solid essay. Maybe I'm kidding myself in thinking the students actually get what it is I'm herding them towards. Since I don't see the students beyond this class, I have no real idea of what they do with the information in the next level of writing. Anecdotally I hear the students who leave my class are very prepared for the next level and tend to do really well, but without hard evidence, I don't know. Maybe I'm killing myself for nothing.

On top of work overload, there's the home overload. With Hubby being out of work now for ten months, things are getting a little tense on the homefront. I try to understand how he's feeling about not having a job, but frankly, it's tough. All I can see is how I've picked up extra hours at work to make sure a little bit of extra is coming in for the just in case scenario. I've taken on the health/dental/vision insurance which means a nice chunk taken out of my check every two weeks. I've even done a bit of side work to bring in some extra money. When I get home after eight hour days, sometimes longer, knowing I still have three or four hours of paper reading ahead of me in the evening, and see the dishes from the morning still in the sink, the floors still needing to be swept, the clothes still piled in front of the washer, I get a little angry. I don't get how someone who is home all day can't see that things need to be done, that it's just disrespectful to not have these things done for the person who is making sure the household stays afloat.

Sometimes life just bites. Right now, it's really biting me in the ass and it hurts.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Running Again

I just can't say no to running. And now that the cycling season is over, with no more rides on the calendar, running seems to be the reasonable workout solution. So this afternoon I ran, only a mile, but I ran nonetheless. Barefoot on the treadmill. It kind of felt good.

I was a little surprised with how easy the run felt after not running for so long. I have three weeks to get into some kind of shape for the annual Jingle Bell Run, and after this one mile, I'm thinking I can do it. Granted the run is a 5k, so I have two more miles to add in over the next three weeks. My tune might change once I add those two miles to the mix, but right now I'm feeling good. I don't know if it's just the first time back after not running or if all the biking has affected my legs, hips, and buns to the point that running will simply be easier now. Or could it be running barefoot?

Whichever it is, I'm liking it right now.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sweaty, Grimey, and Exhausted

For awhile now I've been working towards today's ride, a century downstate at a national park. I knew hills would definitely be a part of this ride, but I wasn't expecting the inclines we faced. The first hill was definitely an eye-opener if not a body waker-uppper. The second one made me smile as I passed several people who were riding bikes that were way more expensive than my cheapo sporting goods store end of the season clearance bike. The third one did Hubby in, and I found that from then on I had to stop at the top of each hill and wait for him as he walked his bike up. I have to hand it to him--he tried and he kept going. But at mile 40 he said, "Please just go the 62 miles and stay with me." I was torn. I'd been working towards this century for several months, and all I've been thinking about is finishing the season off with a century ride. One look at him, though, was enough to see he really needed my help to finish the metric century. I couldn't leave him to finish it on his own.

So for the last 22 miles I rode in front to break the 20+ mph winds to give him some relief. I slowed down to a 12 mph pace. I painfully watched as the turn for the century riders came and went as we pedaled on for the 62 miler, knowing this ride would be the last chance for the season to get a 100 miler under my belt. For 22 miles I rode on in misery.

Now, six hours later, I'm okay with my decision. I've showered off the sweat and grime of the ride. I've eaten a juicy hamburger and an ice cream cone. And I'm ready to call it a day, feeling that sweet exhaustion that comes from having worked out really, really hard.

The ride was beautiful. The ride was tough. The ride showed me that I can take hills the size of small mountain. Next year, I'll make the trek to this same event, and then I'll finish what I started today.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Off to Key West

My job affords me opportunities every now and then. The opportunity offered to me back in April was a trip to Key West, all expenses paid, to participate in a symposium on composition handbooks. Tomorrow I leave early in the morning, heading towards the tropical depression brought on by Hurricane Paula. I'm okay with that. It's Key West.

Though I won't have a lot of down time, I do hope to get to the fitness facility to ride a bike or run. I'm not going to worry about it, though. If I don't get the time, I don't. The world isn't going to stop going round because I can't get a workout in.

And this is how I'm trying to approach all areas of my life. For the past few weeks I've been making a conscious effort to live and let live. Whenever a mean thought enters my mind about whatever I'm dealing with at any given moment, I stop and take a deep breath, ask the negative thoughts to be still, then tell them to go away. I stop a lot each day! I face negative thoughts a lot each day! Hopefully, if I keep at it, I'll find myself not having to stop so much.

This trip to Key West is exactly what I need in my journey to positivity. While I had dreamed of sun and relaxation on the beach, it looks like the rains will be there. I could get all worked up about this, but I'm not going to. It's Key West. Key lime pie. Hemingway. Margaritaville. It'll be good.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Avoiding Confrontation

Today I was talking with one of my classes about the assignment I had just given, which entails the students having to go out into the community and find an example of visual rhetoric. An idea I offered, to give the students a starting place, is the new signs just put up around my home, signs with a bicycle and the message "Share the Road." This prompted one student to say, "The city should take down all those signs." Some other students chimed in, saying cyclists shouldn't be allowed on the streets. Another student then said, "They should have to use the sidewalk." This exchange took all of maybe 15 seconds, and to say the least, I was stunned at the vehemence with which the words were spoken. In my cycling endorphin-induced, euphoric world, everyone loves cycling, and by default, cyclers.

I didn't comment after the students' proclamations. Rather, I continued giving examples, none of which elicited the kind of response the Share the Road signs did. And now, ever since, I've been thinking about how naive I am when it comes to the motorist/cycler relationship. I'm wondering, too, if my students' responses are indicative in any way of the larger population. I certainly hope not. Perhaps their response is merely immaturity raising its goofy little head.

The real worry I have about their rancor towards cyclists is now I'm figuring I'll get fifteen papers about the signs, all asserting the signs should be removed and cyclers should be restricted to the sidewalks. I might have to make this topic off limits in order to preserve my sanity.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wiped

After a 27 miler on Friday, a 36 miler yesterday, and a 32 miler today, I'm wiped out. Yesterday I pushed it since I was alone. I wanted to see if I could maintain a 16 mph pace, and I did. It caught up with me today as we rode into a 13 mph head wind for about 12 miles. Now, as I sit here, my body is saying take a break tomorrow. I know I should, but when tomorrow comes the urge to get out and enjoy the countryside will push me to not heed the fatigue. Maybe just a real easy ride, the kind that feels completely and ridiculously slow. That will satisfy my desire to be out while not overloading the fatigue.

Part of me loves feeling this way. I feel like I actually put some effort into the rides. Since I ride with Hubby most often, I don't push it since he's not at the same fitness level as I am. I'm no elite athlete, but I can maintain a faster pace than he can for a longer distance, so when I ride with him, I slow down so we can ride together. Whenever a hill looms in front of us, I'll take it as fast as I can then circle around to meet up with him again, but more often than not, we just ride along together. He's definitely improving, though, so one day soon, I won't have to slow down. It'll actually be me trying to keep up with him. He has incredibly strong legs and once the endurance is there, he's going to kick my booty.

Today the wind made riding difficult. We modified the route to give ourselves breaks from heading directly into the wind. This made riding a bit easier, and we saw some countryside we hadn't seen before. The soy bean fields and cornfields are now harvested, so the fields stretch on for miles, barren and brown. Winter isn't too far away.

Now, rest. At least until tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sadness

These days I don't read newspapers very often. I don't watch the news on TV either. I just don't like all the sadness that's out there, and I guess my refusal to read and watch is my way of keeping my little corner of the world happy. I know I have blinders on. They're there for a reason. Like this: "Hit-and-run victim was quiet and dependable, co-workers say." While I don't actively seek out the sadness, because of the sites I do go to for information, sometimes I end up having to face that a lot of sadness is going on everywhere.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Not Lovin' Inside Biking

The first day back inside for a bike workout after being outside since April. Not lovin' it at all. The first strike is the bike I have to ride isn't mine, doesn't fit me, and the seat hurts. The second strike is the time just seems to drag. I thought watching a movie, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, would help the time pass, but I couldn't hear most of it because of the noise the tire creates as it turns. The third strike is there's no wind blowing through my hair as I race down hills at 26 mph. Absolutely no fun to be had riding inside.

But it's riding nonetheless, so I'll do it. The movie watching definitely helps, but I am going to have to figure something out with the sound. I was really looking forward to watching the sequel to 30 Days of Night as I'm a real fan of the series and have read most of the books, so it was a bit disappointing to just get bits and pieces of the dialogue. Maybe this is a case for putting in a nicer TV and surround sound. Might seem a little over the top for the garage, but if it'll keep me in the saddle for an hour and a half or so everyday, then I'll do it.

The interesting thing about Dark Days was how I didn't find it near as scary/bothersome as I did 30 Days of Night. I enjoyed the sequel, at least what I could hear of it, but it just didn't have that tension, that emotional factor working like 30 Days did, or even the book for that matter. The opening is one of the better scenes in the whole movie. If the whole movie had kept with how it began, it would have been better all the way around. Ah well, it did keep me on the bike, which was the whole reason for renting it in the first place, so I can give it three of five stars.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Characters Want Attention

Is it bad that while my students worked on their papers today I sketched out the second half of the book I'm working on? Every so often I walked around the room, checking over shoulders to make sure students were heading in the right direction, answering questions of students trying to juggle the three different aspects of this paper project, and just chatting with students about whatever was on their mind. They worked, I worked, and we all got quite a bit completed.

Having the book sketched out, actually seeing a plan in place for where I can go with the characters is exciting. I feel like the book is truly possible now. For awhile I let it sit, unsure of where to go with the the characters, the storyline. It was overwhelming to think about anything related to writing the book, so I acted like it really wasn't there. I turned my attention to other pieces, and I'm glad I did as I think creating some space between me and my 16 year old girl caught up in a military gaming plot was exactly what I needed. Coming back to it the last two days after some time off, with fresh eyes and a clearer mind has allowed me to pull fresh ideas out.

Or is it really that 16 year old girl pulling at me, insisting I let her have some more fun, perhaps even fall in love with the cute shaggy-haired boy she just met?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Energy of the Wind

The past few days have been so windy. That's fall in the midwest, I guess. Not that it mattered anyway as I wasn't able to ride a couple of days because I was away at a conference. I could have used the stationary bike in the fitness center, but I opted to spend the time with my colleagues instead. We had a great time, and I was able to get to know better some people I have worked with for several years. So today, after being off for four days, I finally rode, first against the 20 mph wind then with the wind, which was so much more fun. Going 23 mph with so little effort brings out the kid in me, makes me feel like anything is possible. That energy is still with me now, fueled by the music I bought today, a soundtrack with the likes of Beck, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Bob Dylan, and The 13th Floor Elevators. Good stuff.

To help keep me riding through October, I joined a most miles ridden in October challenge. Right now I'm in 13th place. The leader has 104 miles to my 23. Only three days in and I got my work cut out for me if I'm going to be a contender. The challenge has truly become a challenge very early on. I'm hoping this will get me prepared for the century ride just three weeks away. Yikes.

That shot of fear adrenaline just coursed through my limbs thinking about how close the century truly is. This ride will definitely be the defining moment of the year for me. While I thought the sprint tri was a significant physical test for me, and it was--don't get me wrong, I now believe riding 100 miles in less than 8 hours will be much more difficult. Especially if there is wind. And hills.

Right now, I'm not going to worry about the century. I'm going to sit back and listen to my music. I leave you with a clip about Sister Getrude Morgan, whose "New World in my View" is one of the selections on the cd. This is pretty interesting stuff.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Actually Productive This Morning

I usually sit in my office and read/respond to student work for several hours before going to class. Some days I'm really productive, making a huge dent in the stack of papers. Other days I find it terribly difficult to settle in and get things accomplished. Thankfully, this morning, I was very productive. I am totally caught up in three classes. All papers have been read, responded to, and the grades recorded. That leaves three classes to go. I'm thinking maybe this evening, after I do a little more fall cleaning of the garden, I'll pour a shot of whiskey, make myself comfortable at my desk, and try to get the other three classes caught up. I'm jazzed now that I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Hopefully the whiskey won't turn off that light.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Back to Walking/Running

With the shorter daylight hours, I'm finding I have to return to walking/running on the treadmill to get a workout in. Since I haven't run in quite some time, I figure it's best to ease back into it, so I've been walking the last two days, making sure I up the incline to really make the time on the treadmill worth it. I even surprised myself by walking for a full hour yesterday, getting in four miles at a 2% incline for part of it, and a 3%-4% incline for part of it. I'm not usually focused enough on the treadmill to have an hour of staying power, but I managed to do so by watching the first episode of the new season of "Amazing Race." Today, thankfully, I was able to get an hour of riding in.

Now that I am back to walking/running, I'm even kicking around the idea of running some 5k's. Maybe that's all I'll do--kick around the idea--since I'm such a head case when it comes to running, but who knows. Maybe I'll give it a go and try to beat my PR from the sprint tri relay. I just might have that 28 minute 5k in me. If I talk my daughter into running with me, I know her pushing me will get me that 28 I'm looking for. She's a tad bit faster than I am, so having to keep up with her would be a good thing for me to do. Well, maybe not good, but it'd sure get me closer to the time I'd like to see as I pass the finish line.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just One Ride

This week's been kinda crazy, and I was only able to ride this afternoon. Well, I guess riding to work and home counts, but since that's a short ride, I don't really consider it a ride. The commute has become such a part of what I do everyday that I just think of it as part of my work day and not part of my ride time. I guess it's become a given that I ride to work these days. That's a good feeling.

This evening I actually had a couple of hours to get in a ride. We did the ride to the lake and back, around 23 miles, and it felt so good. The wind going up blew around 15 mph, out of the northwest. My bike veered to the right a couple of times when the wind gusted. Other than that, the ride up went well. Cool and sunny--couldn't ask for better. The ride back was faster with the wind mostly at our backs. I was cruising along when I heard Hubby yell that his shoelace was caught in the chain. We stopped for him to get that taken care of. A little further on, he called to me that his chain had come off. We stopped so he could put it back on. When we about three miles out, we heard a loud pop come from his bike, and his back wheel began to wobble back and forth. A spoke had broken. This same thing happened last Sunday during our 50 miler after he rode over some horrible railroad tracks, and unbeknownst to us we kept riding, not realizing he was warping his wheel. When we got home, Hubby was putting his bike away when he saw he had a problem. He took it to the shop the next day, got it back in working order yesterday, and had the same problem happen today. This is a brand new bike, what I thought was a fairly nice one, but now I'm beginning to wonder.

I ended up hightailing it home the last three miles to get the truck and go back for Hubby. I had to ride by the local high school that was having homecoming, so I had lots of traffic to keep watch of. Pedestrians, too. I had to call out to a young girl crossing the street as she wasn't paying a bit of attention. If I hadn't yelled, we would have collided. That got my heart pounding.

Quite the eventful ride this evening. Hopefully the next one won't be so much.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gotta Love Rejection

Cuz if I let it get to me, I'd be a basketcase. As of today, three short stories rejected out of the four I've sent out. I know three is nowhere near the number of rejection slips some famous writers received before finally getting that one break, so I'm just going to buck up and keep on trying. I've been saying for a long time now that writing is what I really want to do, and I know the chances of making it are extremely slim, but writing truly is all I've ever dreamed about. It's way past time to take it from dreamland into reality land.

When I was in college and grad school, I wrote some stories that my profs loved. They all encouraged me to continue honing my craft, saying I have a gift. I sort of just waved their kind words off, thinking they said that to all the students who came through their classes. But then I submitted a story to a writers conference, and the guest writer chose my story alone to workshop with everyone attending. I felt so honored. He, too, told me I need to keep writing, that what I write is what every editor wants to see. Well, I'm really starting to wonder about that one since I now have three editors saying thanks but no thanks.

I know the writing world is fickle, that editors have their preferences and choose depending upon their own tastes. I also know I'm old school, going for the literary short story rather than the mainstream or commercial. I can't stand so much of the works out there right now. So much drivel. So much that really doesn't even make sense. I mean come on, how many vampire stories, prostitute stories, druggie stories, and my dad raped me stories does the world need? That said, I pretty sure I'm in for a long and terribly rough ride on my way to publication.

But I'm not going to give up. Sooner or later the letter will come that says yes, we'd love to publish your story. Until then, I'm just going to continue printing out the rejections and compiling them into a scrapbook. Will be good reading one day when I'm holding my first novel in my hands.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On Being a Writer

Some days I just despise my job. Today was one of those days. The students were okay, as they usually are. I'm almost caught up with the paper reading/responding, which means I'll have a short break before the next round of papers come in. So I'm not sure why I'm feeling I could very easily walk away from campus and never look back.

If I was reclining on a shrink's lounge and spilling my guts, I'd have to say teaching others how to write a decent sentence just isn't doing it for me any longer. At this stage of the game for the students, writing a sentence that makes sense shouldn't be an issue. But it is. Oh is it ever. You'd think I wouldn't be surprised any longer with the lack of skills some of the students bring into the classroom. After all, they went through 12 years of education before reaching us. Reason says the students should have a solid foundation from which to work. Not so. Not even close for many of the students I work with. Working with underprepared students becomes exhausting after awhile, and I think that's where I am. Exhausted.

While still on that shrink's lounge, I'd lament the fact that I have so little time to write my own stuff. Up until classes started in August, I was writing, writing, writing. I'm so close to having enough short stories to begin shopping around for an agent. I'm making progress, really, really slow progress, on the novel now since all the "other" stuff has interrupted, and this makes me angry. I'm on the verge of actually calling myself a writer, but the "other" stuff keeps getting in the way.

Where does all of this leave me? Sitting here venting. With a pile of unread papers at my left elbow. Papers that when I do read them will just make me shake my head in wonder at how some of the students made it through high school. My mind thinking more about the newest short story idea I have perculating and am eager to begin. A short story that excites me, makes the unease I've felt throughout the day fade.

That's why I write.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Finished 50

Thumbs way up for the ride today though I didn't complete 60 like I'd wanted to. Hubby was with me, and he agreed to do the 50 if I rode with him the entire way. I couldn't say no. This is the longest ride he's ever done by far, so as long as he was willing, I was willing to cut mine short by 10 miles. I have a 60 miler in two weeks, so I still have the opportunity not too far away.

We kept a pretty good pace on the ride out, maintaining a 15.5. That, too, is quite a bit faster than Hubby is used to doing. He is more the pedal, coast, pedal, coast kind of guy, so he had to pedal a lot more today to keep up. On the ride in, our pace slowed quite a bit due to the wind. Most of the time it came from the side, but for five miles near the end of the ride, it was head on. We slowed to around 13 mph during those miles, with Hubby tucked in behind me to get a breather from having to pedal so hard. For most of the ride I wouldn't let him tuck in to draft. I get tired of him taking the easy way out, like he is known to do when we ride during the week.

The bike envy definitely reared its ugly head today. Seemed like everyone but me had a beautiful road bike with the aerobars and all the gadgets. Riding on these bikes seems so effortless. I'm wondering if aerobars on my bike will just look silly. I so want to give them a go and see what it really feels like to be crouched down, cruising along. And my chain started making an ugly squeaking noise which got louder the longer we went. I just might milk this one, use it as a way to get a new and better road bike.

So, 50 is down in the books. Now I think it's time for a nap.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Attempting 60

Tomorrow at this time I should be able to say thumbs up or thumbs down on a sixty mile ride. Hubby is joining me again this weekend. Hopefully I'll remember my phone so if I need to call him I can. Hopefully he won't go out looking for me and we unknowingly pass each other. Hopefully I can do the full 60 miles.

Forecast says rain, wind, and cool temps. Not quite sure how I feel about this. This time tomorrow I'll know exactly how I feel about this.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dark, Heavy Clouds . . .

and breezy days mean fall is on its way. Along with it comes less daylight after arriving home from work, which means less time to ride. I know eventually there'll come a day when I won't be able to go out after work as it will be completely dark. Then it will be time to set the bike up in the garage and pedal away in front of the TV. Could be a good way to get in some movies I haven't seen but would like to.

Fall is such a beautiful season. Definitely my favorite. There's just something about the fading away that happens. It's like the earth is saying, "Okay, I'm tired. I need to take a nap." I know the feeling--almost every single day I feel that way around 2 p.m.

Each day I look forward to that one more detail that says fall is here. Today it was the leaves scattered along the bike path I take to work. The leaves float into the air as my tires wisk past, then settle back down into another haphazard pattern. In a couple of weeks the leaves will cover the path completely. Not too long after, maybe it'll be snow. Will I be brave enough to ride then?

Harvest has started, too. It won't be long before all the fields are bare, opening up the horizon for miles. Every time we ride out in the rural areas, my body yearns to be there again.
It's all I can do to turn my back and pedal once more to the city. I keep hoping that one day I'll be able to stand in my yard and watch the combines working the fields, watch the grain trucks haul the golden corn to the elevators, breathe in the open space.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Commuter Challenge

This week my workplace is participating in a commuter challenge involving giving up the car for walking, biking, taking public transportation, or carpooling. When I saw the email encouraging everyone to take part, I couldn't resist joining. This goes right along with my desire to drive less and bike more.

For three days now I've biked to work. Being on the bike is just becoming a part of who I am and I'm working now to figure out how to continue when the weather turns nasty. I did find a raincoat for those just-in-case days, like Monday. The forecast called for rain. I packed the raincoat but didn't need it. Tomorrow the rain is supposed to move in, so I'll pack the slicker again with the hopes of not needing it. Slowly, little by little, I'm getting the small details figured out. I know I'm going to miss things here and there, but I'm beginning to believe that even if I do get drenched on the way to work, it won't be a big deal. I'll dry--eventually. Since I go so early not many people will see me arriving as a drowned rat, and if I can make someone's day by me being soaked, then hey, that's okay. At least they'll have a smile on their face all day because of the wet teacher pedaling up to the bike rack.

I wanted to get a ride in today after work, but when I walked through the door I was so tired. I just wanted to curl up on the bed and sleep. So I did, but only for about twenty minutes. My daughter knocked on the door to tell me supper was ready. I'm still tired now. And being tired makes me annoyed. Being tired stems from the hours of reading and responding to student papers, which is my job, but after almost twenty years of doing this, I'm ready for a break. I need to make a change. Problem is I can't since I'm the only one working right now. We need my income.

I know things could be much worse. I know I'm fortunate to have a stable, relatively good-paying job with benefits. But I'm tired. What's the answer? Just keep on keeping on, I guess. And try to see the sunshine through the clouds.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

40 Miles of Smiles . . .

stayed plastered on my face as well as on everyone else's who was riding today. Just a great day for a ride--cool, sunny, a slight breeze, a few rolling hills. At the end, brats and beer awaited us, along with chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, pumpkin cookies, and lots of other cookies. Sitting in the beach house, watching all the other riders laughing and talking about their adventures on the routes made me so glad I decided to do more with cycling.

My next ride is a week from today, Sunday the 19th, and my goal is to complete a metric century. I think I can do 62 after feeling really good today after 40. I thought I might be more fatigued. Maybe it'll actually hit me tomorrow sometime, so I guess I should hold off on saying exactly how I'm feeling. Right now, all's good. Tomorrow may be a totally different story.

The biggest funny from today is me and Hubby passing each other like ships in the dark. Hubby did the 25 mile route. After getting back, he decided to go backwards on the 40 mile route to meet up with me so we could ride in together. Only problem was he went the wrong way initially and by the time he figured this out I had already finished and was at the beach house looking for him. He didn't see that I had put my bike in the truck, so he went on, thinking he would meet up with me. After waiting an hour, I finally called him (I forgot my cell phone and had to find someone who didn't mind me using theirs), asking him where he was. He was five miles out. Twenty minutes later he showed up, out of breath and drenched in sweat.

We're both looking forward to next Sunday. Hopefully I won't forget my cell, and hopefully Hubby will take the right route if he decides to meet up with me to finish the ride together. Even if each of us goofs up somehow, we'll be laughing and smiling all the way home, and that's the best thing about cycling.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Continued Discombobulation

My youngest is still complaining of pain on the left side of his torso, at times clutching at it and crying while screaming about the pain. The tears stream down his face, and I feel helpless. I have no idea what to do since we took him to the ER then to the pediatrician, both of whom said they had no clue what is going on. Perfect. This means I hold him tightly against me when the pain becomes so much that he can't sit, can't focus, can't keep himself from having a panic attack. This means I rub his back to try and calm him. This means I sit against piled up pillows through the night, with him backed up against me since this is the only relief he seems to get that allows him to sleep. I don't sleep. And now I'm tired.

Today he seems better. I bought several different muscle heat treatments for him to try. Once seems to be doing the trick. It along with some pain reliever every eight hours seem to be giving him enough relief that he can function. Though I have work backed up, I decided to get some sleep, try to catch up some so I can function a bit better. I think I'm gaining ground. The stack of papers on my desk, though, is daunting and I'm now avoiding it.

Tomorrow is a 40 miler I've been looking forward to for several months; well, I was until the past few days. I'm going to go ahead and ride, and it will be fun since Hubby will be with me this time, but I just keep thinking about the work I need to get to (and am avoiding even now by writing this). A part of me just keeps saying "relax--it always gets done no matter what." And it does.

Now I'm going to pick five papers off the stack and begin reading/responding. When I finish with those, I'll do five more. Then five more. Then . . ..

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Unwanted Time Off

Monday and Tuesday the winds blew so hard, up to 30 mph hard, so I didn't ride each of those days. Today the plan was to ride after class. That plan was interrupted by my youngest having to go to the doctor, a follow-up exam after last evening's visit to the ER. Both exams provided no answers to the severe chest pain and difficulty breathing, accompanied by screaming and crying complaining of said chest pain and difficulty breathing, so we learned nothing about what caused the whole scenario. Our job is to keep a calendar of symptoms for the next two weeks or so to see if a pattern develops. At this time the pain is less than it was, thank goodness.

So no ride today with all the tension, the lack of sleep last night, and the general feeling of discombobulation. I just couldn't get things on track today. I did go to each of my classes and collected the first drafts of papers, so that much of my routine stayed in place. Not much else, though, followed the calendar I had put in place for today. After the doctor appointment, I came home and crashed for almost two hours. I couldn't stay awake, and I'm not one to try and push through fatigue, sleepiness. I have to sleep.

Hopefully tomorrow will see things back on track. Maybe a short ride in the morning before going to school will help make the day go smoothly, make me feel like things are as they should be.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Long Ride Sunday

Well, not real long but long enough when the hills and the wind are factored in. I rode 31 miles early this morning. I had seriously considered going for another hour or two, but after ten miles of wind in my face, keeping my downhill speed to a mere 15 mph, I decided to call it a ride. My legs said muchas gracias, and even my shoulders said ahhhhh when I pulled into the driveway.

Had a first on this ride, too. A skunk ambled its way across the road, and by the time I skidded to a stop, it was less than ten feet away. In horror, and with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I waited for that burst of stink to cover me. Thankfully the critter just kept on going, paying no mind to me whatsoever. I let out a long breath, got back in the saddle and high-tailed it out of there. What a moment.

I haven't decided if I'm riding tomorrow. I want to, but I kind of feel like I should take a day off. I found a training program I'm thinking of following to see if I can increase my speed a little more. I usually average right around 15 mph. I'd like to see 16. This program has intervals mixed in, a definite requirement for any kind of speed improvement, so I might just give it a go. Couldn't hurt, right?

I'd love to have Sundays like this all the time as it has just been a lovely day all the way around.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Back in the Saddle

From last Sunday until Thursday, I imposed a time-off period for myself. With the kids starting school and me settling into my school schedule, I thought it might not be a bad idea to take a few days to focus on just a couple of things rather than a bunch of things. I parked the bike and put the running shoes under the bed, giving myself a small training break. I even allowed myself to eat foods I haven't touched in months, like a quarter pounder with cheese, fries, and a cola. While they tasted good, I found I no longer feel the need to eat these foods let alone want these foods. I kind of like being in the position of taking or leaving.

So yesterday I got back in the saddle and rode 11 miles. I didn't go for speed. I just went to enjoy being out. The winds have found central Illinois again after being absent for quite a while, and I battled 20 mph winds for much of the ride. Along with the hills along the new route, the ride turned out to be tough. My hubby laughed at me at one point, saying the grin on my face was too funny. He doesn't get why I love the wind and the hills. Heck, neither do I other than both are a challenge. I want to face the challenge, get better at handling them.

Today we went almost 20 miles. Still windy, but no hills to contend with other than one long slight incline. I've ridden this hill many times, and today, even with the wind coming at me from an angle, I managed to maintain 17 mph going up. The first time I tackled that hill back in March I barely managed to keep 12 mph registered on the bike computer. No way was I not going to grin over this.

My last grin came after arriving home, showering, and pulling on a pair of jeans I haven't worn since May. I don't like to step on the scale, so I really don't know if I've lost weight. I just go by the way my clothes fit. The jeans are now a bit on the baggy side, especially through the hips and thighs. I was surprised with how much different they fit, pleasantly surprised, but I'm okay with it. Sort of helps alleviate the fear of the scale I have.

Being back in the saddle feels really good. I'm glad I took the five days off; those days helped me just be, helped my mind sort through matters and make sense of them. I feel refreshed, in a better position to take on work, family, and training.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Letting Go of Summer

The clouds the last two days have been beautiful. A dark gray blankets the sky, with fluffy, lighter gray clouds piling up at times as they drift in from the west. I just sit and watch. So many days have passed with no rain, no clouds, no wind. The grass was drying up. The flowers were drooping from thirst. In just twenty-four hours, the lawn is greener and the flowers look refreshed. Now lightning is flashing across dark skies. Thunder rumbles. Feels like fall is fast approaching.

I started cleaning the garden yesterday evening. The cucumbers have pretty much finished up. We ate cucumbers until we couldn't eat anymore the last month and a half. The green peppers are still producing. They've been on the small side, but I think that's actually because they're from organic seeds, and they've not been touched by pesticides at all. This is the size they're supposed to be, I imagine. And the tomatoes are on their last legs. I'm still getting one or two every couple of days, but I'm pretty sure the ones that are green are going to stay green. Maybe I'll get a couple more over the next few weeks, which would be great. I do still have some herbs going strong, some basil and rosemary. Perhaps a basil, tomato and mozzerella sandwich is in order for tomorrow.

It's hard to let go of summer. In a small way, though, it's always good to say good-bye to the hot, humid days and nights. The crisp, breezy days and nights of fall contain their own energy that offers a chance for slowing down, resting, both of which being exactly what the soul needs this time of year.