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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Finding Our Way Back

I know it's not my day to blog, but I really feel the need to think something through by writing about it.

Two years ago, my son began having a very difficult time at the small Catholic school he was attending. In the end, I took him out of that school with only seven weeks of the school year remaining and put him in the public school. When all of this drama was playing out, one of my son's teachers who I considered a really good friend became very angry with me, offended that I didn't go to her. For the past two years now, she has made it clear she does not want to talk to me, does not want to carry on a friendship with me. Initially, I was very hurt by the loss of this friendship. I truly agonized over it. Because my youngest was still attending the Catholic school and had her as a teacher, and was also friends with her son, we had to interact occasionally. She remained very distant, very cool. I thought maybe after some time had passed, we could let bygones be bygones, but no matter what I said, she remained distant. Maybe about six or seven months ago, I finally made peace with myself over this issue. I had truly tried to mend the relationship. She made it clear she was not ready. Time to move on. I moved on.

Yesterday, I ran across her name online when I was checking the results of a 5k a friend of mine had run. Out of curiosity, I was scanning the names of the runners when all of a sudden I saw her name. Frankly, I was a bit surprised that her name showed up as I wasn't aware she even ran. Her time was awesome, way faster than I am, so I just smiled, thinking it figures. As if running across her name wasn't enough, I then dreamed about her during the night. I don't recall the whole scene or what actually happened in the dream. I knew, though, without a doubt, she and I were going to be okay.

Today we went to church. In the next aisle, a few rows up, she sat with her family. After church, I went to say hello to another friend, and during our conversation, I turned to see my old friend standing beside me. I smiled and said hello. She smiled back. The three of us chatted for several minutes, the talk turning to running, cycling, and swimming. Both of us laughed over finding out that during these past two years, we both had taken up running and cycling. Even funnier is the fact that she's now thinking triathlon and is getting into the swimming. Seems we'd not been all that far apart after all.

Hubby made a comment in the car on the way home, about how cold she's been to me for two years. I could tell from his tone that he wanted to say more, but I didn't let him. None of that matters anymore. Forgiving matters. Friendships matter. Being able to come back together matters.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trying Out a New Tri Top

Last season I didn't invest in any tri-specific clothing, thinking I should wait to see if I really wanted to continue participating in events this season before spending the money. The one piece of clothing I did buy last summer was a pair of tri shorts. While I never wore them in a tri, I did wear them in a duathlon and for my cycling events. With their thin chamois that wicks away moisture and acts as a padding while on the bike, those shorts served me well. Now, since I'm going to give the sprint tri another go, I decided to check out tri tops. I wore a simple one-piece suit last year, pulling on shorts for the cycling portion of the tri, and while this worked out okay, I really wanted to be able to wear the tri shorts this year to give my tush some added comfort during the ride. After much searching, I found the Orca Core Support Tri Singlet and ordered it. My new investment arrived yesterday, just in time for my scheduled swim.

Orca Core Support Tri Singlet
Bathing suits have never been my favorite thing to shop for. I will admit I have a very low opinion of what I look like in a suit. Be it one-piece or two, it doesn't matter; I believe I look horrible. Unlike what lots of women and men think, having a large chest isn't a gift, and being wide-bodied, with no waist or hips to speak of, makes for a difficult figure to find a suit for, so when the new top arrived, I was afraid it wasn't going to fit to my satisfaction. I pulled out the tri shorts and put them on. Then, with trepidation, I wiggled into the new tri top. To my surprise, it fit really, really well through the shoulders and chest, and was just a tiny bit loose through the waist and hips. As long as it didn't ride up during a swim, I figured the top would work great.

And it did work great. I swam my mile without having to adjust one single thing. In my one-piece suit, I was constantly adjusting the shoulder straps or pulling the leg holes down. I never could just swim. In my tri suit, I just swam, not once having to stop to pull the suit this way or that way. In my one-piece, I was always self-conscious about the ladies and how the cold water affects them, if you know what I mean, but in the tri top, the fully constructed bra and the suit fabric itself took care of that problem. My comfort level in this tri top positively affected my swim; my entire focus was on the swim rather than on what my suit was doing.

I'm definitely sold on my new Orca tri top. The piece of mind it gave me while I swam is worth every single penny I paid for it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mind Games

The countdown to the Boiler Sprint Tri had begun. With only 10 days remaining before the event, I'm beginning to get nervous. One minute I'm all jazzed up to participate in the event; the next minute that awful feeling of nausea clutches at my stomach. This is when I wonder why I put myself through the discomfort of agonizing over training, eating, and goal setting. Not to mention the money I've spent on equipment, which is kind of silly as I'll never be competitive. If I let myself think about it too long, I end up feeling epically stupid over the amount I've sunk into the bike, the clothes, and most recently, the coolest sunglasses ever! The rational side of me looks condescendingly at the stupid side of me and says, "Really? That could have paid for your middle child's braces." My childish response is, "Yeah? Well, he doesn't have braces yet, so there." This back and forth goes on for awhile, until some other life business distracts me, and I can thankfully escape my self torture.

Though I agonize over the money, the training, and everything else connected to participating in sprint tri's and cycling events, I truly do enjoy the benefits I've garnered from the regular training, the careful eating, and proving to myself I can finish what I start. In fact, ever since I began working towards my first sprint tri, ever since I began putting in the miles on the bike, I've taken that same determination into other parts of my life. My swimming last year at this time was weak. I would swim the minimum of 400 meters and call it done. Now I go for 1000 meters, determined to do a mile if no one is waiting for a lane and if time permits. During my swims now, I don't rest nearly like I did last year. The overall strength I feel a year beyond when I started is significantly greater. I think about this strength during my days at work, and knowing how much I've improved affects in a very positive way my attitude while in the classroom. I see a difference in me as a teacher, a good difference.

Another area that has changed for the better is my writing life. I give the credit for this to working out and participating in the different events. While I've always said I want to be a writer, I didn't take the steps to make being a writer a reality. Saying I want to be a writer is easy. Making it a part of my life every single day is difficult. Then one day the thought occurred to me that I make running, cycling, and swimming a part of my daily life; I demand of my family that this not be interrupted. Why couldn't I do the same with writing?  So I did. Enough talk. More action. I established a schedule for writing, informed the family that when the office door is closed and the DND sign is up, Mom is working. Leave Mom alone. Most often, they allow me my time, and because of my commitment and their cooperation, I can actually say now that I am a writer.

I think, too, that my kids have benefited from my immersing myself in training and participating in events.My middle child, the one who won't get braces now since I spent the money on a bike and extravagantly expensive sunglasses, has watched me through these past two years, and during this time I've seen a change in his attitude. He is a tall 14 year old--6 feet. He's beefy to boot. Football coaches love him. Basketball coaches love him. And now, with track season, the throwing coaches love him. He has talent, but he didn't believe in himself up until this year. This basketball season he showed determination like I've never seen. At track practice last week, he threw better than he did all last season. I can see a change, a positive change, and I have to wonder if it's because he's seen me work towards goals and meet those goals. Maybe he's thinking if an old lady like Mom can do a sprint tri and climb stairs, he most definitely can swish a basketball and throw a discus.

So, yeah, I've spent a lot of money, but the positives because of it count for something. At least that's what I'm going to keep telling myself for now.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Mused Story

Mused: BellaOnline Literary Review
No, today isn't one of my two blogging days for the week, but I wanted to share the link to Mused: BellaOnline Literary Review for those of you who would like to read the short story accepted for publication there. The story is under Fiction and is titled "The Garage Sale."

And, those of you who do read the story, please let me know what you think, good, bad, or ugly. I'm in the process of putting a short story collection together, and I need as much feedback as possible to make the collection as strong as possible.

In any case, I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Shedding Winter

Yesterday was my first cycling commute to work for the year. I've been waiting very impatiently for the weather to warm up enough to ride, and while I know I could have been riding when it was sub-30 degrees, one terribly important reason not to stood in the way: my hair. Helmet hair is one thing. Helmet hair with headband hair (gotta cover the ears when it's that cold) is a totally different matter. Sure I could pull my flowing, long locks back into a ponytail once I get to work, but I wear my hair up so often as it is that I like having it down every now and again. Actually, the real reason I like it down is you can't see the all the gray right above the ears and at the temples. Those darn gray hairs have a mind of their own, all course and curly, so when my hair is down, they get covered up.

But yesterday was warm enough not to have to wear the headband, and when I got to work, a colleague struck up a conversation about the blinking light I now have on the back of my bike. Hubby put front and back lights on both of our bikes, and for commuting purposes, I'm glad to have them. I do think the lights help motorists notice me more. My colleague was impressed, asking about the light and commenting on how bright it was. From there I went to my office and set my helmet on my spare chair. Another colleague came to my door to chat, and upon seeing my helmet, he exclaimed that he, too, is going to begin cycling to work. A third colleague overheard and asked how long my commute is. A fourth suggested we start up a bike to work campaign. Being able to bike to work, then talking cycling for twenty minutes after getting to work, made for a great start to the day.

On the ride home, I noticed how winter truly does seem to have slipped away. The trees are starting to bud, the lilac bushes have green tips showing, the daffodils are near blooming, and the grass is greening. As I rode past the college pond,  the trill of the red-winged black bird told me warmer days are on the way. Being out--outside of the stuffy buildings full of stale air, outside of a car that blocks out noticing the changes happening as one season ends and another begins--helped me wake up from what now seems like a long, cold winter.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Finding Balance Through Moderation

Spring break ended on a good note Sunday. I found myself completely caught up with work related issues. When I walked into my office yesterday after being gone for ten days, rather than having to sit down and read journal entries, papers, or the readings for the day's classes, I just sat and read one of my newest books, Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. I've already re-read the first two chapters; there's just so much I like about what she's saying that I want to think about it, remember it, lay it out next to my own work as I toil to find the just-right way of helping my characters say what they need to say. I even shared a paragraph from the book with my dev ed students.

My cold frame: light enough for me to  lift.
Today, when I had all class materials squared away within a half hour of getting to my office, giving me two hours to do "other" things before I had to go to class, I wondered why it took me so long to figure out just how much time I was wasting with the TV and Internet. I see the good that can come from both, but like with anything, moderation in consumption is definitely important for me to be happier with how my life is going. I just feel so much more productive.Not only was I able to get work matters caught up after committing to less TV and Internet, but I was also able to finish the cold frame that had been sitting unfinished in one bay of the garage for two weeks. Now, with warmer temps on the way this weekend, I'll be able to get some seeds planted and put inside my little hot house.  

I have to admit I've definitely missed blogging. And, no, not because I believe I have a huge audience that gets agitated when I don't post everyday. I've missed it because it gives me the opportunity to write. In writing, I can think things through and figure out where I went wrong, where I need to go to get things right. At least closer to being right. This morning, knowing today is one of my two allowed blogging days for the week, I couldn't help but do a happy dance. It's the little things that make my world go round.

Friday, March 11, 2011

So Far So Good

Okay, since Wednesday and my decision to cut back on the TV and the amount of time I spend online, I've realized I've wasted a lot of hours with both. In only two days, I've finished revising one of my short stories, getting it closer to the point of saying I love it enough to send out for possible publication, gotten further into a new story and am liking the direction it is going, completed my annual self-eval, completed reading and responding to the lit papers and midterms, and read three chapters in three of the four books I bought the other day. I also read the entire Bicycle Times magazine I picked up when I bought the books. (I highly recommend this magazine to all you cycling enthusiasts. The interview with Meaghan Wilbur in the current issue is absolutely wonderful.) I would have never gotten all of these things completed if I hadn't made the decision to give up the TV and Internet wandering. Seeing all of these items being checked off the list makes me feel accomplished and eager to move on to other endeavors.

Today, Hubby and I rode around the lake. It's a beautiful day, with lots of sun, mid-40's and just a bit of wind. Because I'm able to cycle faster, we decided to have some fun with today's ride. Hubby took off ahead of me, and I was to try and catch him. He had a 20 minute head start. I knew there was no way I was going to catch him, but I really wanted a good workout. This setup meant I had to push it. The out and back course is 12.1 miles with several hills, and last year my best time on my old bike for a 12 mile route was 52 minutes. That was on a cold, rainy, windy day. Today, on my new bike, with my new shoes, under sunny skies with just a bit of wind, I finished the course in 40 minutes and change. The average speed was 18 mph. I never averaged 18 mph last year for any ride. The best ride I had was one where I averaged 16 mph.

Now my mind is whirling. I'm wondering if I can get to an average of 20 mph. Maybe 21?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

For the Next 40 Days

My favorite book store in town is going out of business. Unfortunate to say the least, but I was able to walk out today with an armful of good reads that cost me next to nothing. Paul Theroux's newest A Dead Hand, Joyce Carol Oates' In Rough Country and two other books along with two magazines are now piled on my desk, just begging me to lose myself in them. I've read the first chapter in three of the books, and am now thinking I'll save Oates for bedtime. Buying these books does add to a problem I already have, though: too many books to read and not nearly enough time to read them all.

Well . . . truthfully I think there is time to read them all. I'm just not efficient with how I manage my time. Too much wandering through the labyrinth called the Internet. Too much time watching "Law and Order" on TV. Too much time tinkering with my short stories, two of which I polished up yesterday and sent off, hopefully to have accepted for publication, thus available to those two individuals who make up my admiring public. So, really, there is enough time to read every single book that I have. I simply have to cut out the dead weight caused by those things that interfere with reading.

And that's why I am now declaring my Lenten pledge to give up TV watching and Internet wandering. For the past five or six years, rather than giving up something, I worked to do something, something positive, such as volunteer time as my kids' school or work on my own spirituality. I can still do these things, and if I turn off the mindless, brain-numbing TV programs, if I limit my Internet time to twice-a-week blogging and once-a-day email check (gotta keep up with work email), a huge amount of time is going to open up. I'm horrible about going to that social networking site everyone is a member of. I'm constantly checking up on my athlete friends on another social networking site where I track my daily mileage (which I'll still do, but just long enough to input the information, which is about 1 minute worth of time). Other than that, no Internet. I'll still work on my own writing as being a writer is what I want for myself when I grow up. With the time that's going to be freed up, I should be able to finish this collection of short stories I'm making progress on by the end of the semester.

No doubt this is going to be tough to pull off, especially the TV watching since the Big Ten men's basketball tourney starts tomorrow. Already, just thinking about not watching the Purdue Boilermakers play, the tug to give in, to say it's a sports show not some LMN sappy romance, is pulling at me. But I won't justify. I won't give in. I can read the paper the next day to get the low-down on the games.

So here's to rejecting TV and most of the Internet. Salud!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Swimming with an MP3 Player

One of my Christmas presents was a DolphinTouch waterproof MP3 player by NU. I finally decided to get it put together so I could actually use it, and after today's swim, I'm hooked. Swimming while listening to music is bliss.

My Swim Buddy
The DolphinTouch is small and lightweight, and it comes with two zip-tie like bands to attach it to goggles. I was able to secure the player to my goggles without any trouble. From there, I simply inserted the waterproof earphones, being sure to screw the adapter in tightly to prevent water from getting into the MP3 player, and using the clips supplied in the package to connect the earphone wires to my goggle straps. Wa-la. Done.

I had already connected the MP3 player to my computer and charged it up, and I had already downloaded the music I wanted to listen to. At 4 GB of storage, I have plenty of room to add lots of music, providing a variety to select from. All I had left to do was set the volume. I did a dry run with the goggles before going to the pool to be sure everything was in order, so I turned the MP3 player on, selected the music that I wanted, put the goggles on, inserted the earphones, and did a few crawl moves with the arms. Everything worked as it should have.

At the pool, I eased into the water, wondering if the DolphinTouch would truly work under water. At $129.00, it'd be really disappointing for the player to fizzle. I started out, listening to Snow Patrol, and when I went under, the music played, drowning out all other noise around me. For almost an hour, during my workout of 1600 yards, the music played without cutting out. I've never enjoyed a swim workout as much as I did today's.

The DolphinTouch also came with earphones to use while walking/running or lifting weights. Extra earphone covers are part of the package, so I was able to make sure the earphones fit comfortably. Another nice feature of the MP3 player is it has an FM tuner if I'd rather listen to the radio. Finally, as if all of these features aren't enough, the DolphinTouch comes with a neoprene armband in which I can tuck the MP3 player when I want to go for a run.

I'm completely sold on the DolphinTouch MP3 player and am truly looking forward to my next swim. I do want to put some new music on it, though. Duran Duran just didn't work out as motivating swim music.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Miller Park Zoo Stampede Results

Not quite the run I had hoped for, but given the cold (34 degrees with a real feel of 25), the wind (20 mph), the snow (really should have taken sunglasses), and the hills (four, two pretty good ones), I'm happy with the 30:10 I finished with. That's a 9:44 pace, much faster than this time last year, and much better than the 5k from four months ago. I finished 9th out of 21 in my age group, and though I wanted sub-30, I'm not disappointed. Actually, I'm kind of eager to see what I can do with better conditions.

The first mile I heard the young lady call out 9:13 when I passed. I really just wanted to maintain that, and I think I did pretty good through mile 2. It was mile 3 that got me. The wind was in my face for much of that mile, and one of the tougher hills was during that mile, too. I know I slowed considerably. For not running outside for four months, I am very happy with how I handled the conditions and the course.

I'm even happier with my mindset. My legs were feeling sluggish during mile one, but I didn't dwell on it. I just kept my eyes on a target ahead and repeated my mantra over and over. Not long into mile two, I realized I was feeling pretty good, and I know I had a huge smile on my face at the thought of not being negative. Feeling positive served to energize me and I kept a solid pace through mile 2.

When I neared the finish line, I could see the clock. I thought it said 28 minutes and change. I kicked in a little more speed, hoping to finish at 29, but then, when I got closer, I realized it had been in the 29 and change. Bummer, but not bad considering.

Best of all was the big bear hug I got from Hubby when I met up with him after crossing the finish line. Seeing his grin and knowing how much he supports me in all my craziness makes the extra ten seconds for my run not matter all that much.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

First Ride

Ahhhh, to be on the bike again. What a great feeling.

As I left for work this morning, I heard the forecast calling for sunny skies and a high of 52 degrees. Without a doubt, focusing on a full day of writing program issues during a mandatory in-service day was going to be tough when the first promising day for cycling had finally come along after four months of cold, snow, and wind. I briefly considered taking a personal day but then thought it better to do so in April, maybe May, when a truly beautiful, warm spring day is a given.

Knowing my tendency to stare out the window and daydream, and already feeling the anticipation of cycling later in the day, I made sure to find a seat so my back was to the long-awaited sunshine. Only twice--okay, actually a few more times than that--did I turn to check out the blue sky, the wispy clouds. I thought about one of my rides from last summer that took me along the road in front of the college, one of my longer rides that had taken me out to the lake.

In between the discussions about grades, about textbooks, about how to best serve the students, I thought about the clipless pedals I want, about maybe buying a new helmet, about being scared of my new bike.  I'm so comfortable on my hybrid. I know how it handles. I control it. The new bike? In a way, it's like I'm taking off the training wheels, and there's fear tickling down my spine.

I managed to get through work, and all the way home I thought about getting out to enjoy the sun, the warmth. And Hubby was on the same wave-length. Within five minutes of me changing clothes we were out the door and ready to ride. When I settled onto the seat, the fears I had earlier in the day made me stiffen a bit, but as we rode leisurely through town, around the university campus, then back home, I relaxed some. It'll take some time, but I know I'll feel more in control the more I ride.

Tomorrow is supposed to be partly cloudy and about fifteen degrees colder, which is okay since it's a long day at work for me. I still have my daydreams.