Fall dreaming

Ah, blog. I think of you often. I dream of writing posts. And then I do laundry/make lunches/tidy up/take care of the next thing on the to-do list.

I have no doubt my readers are in the same boat.

But I think, maybe, just maybe, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You see, my younger child started kindergarten. Kindergarten! And it’s full day! I’m not sure there are enough exclamation points to express my excitement!!! It’s been a decade since I’ve not had a small child in my care for the vast majority of the day. Ten years. Close to 11, actually, as child #1 turns 11 in December.

There have been short breaks: two or three hours to teach a class, and with Child #2, two hours twice a week while she was in preschool. (That’s long enough for an 8- or 9-mile run, but nothing more, and only if I ran from the parking lot and avoided more than a couple of stoplights.) Child #1 did not do preschool, of course, because she didn’t want to go if I wouldn’t be there and I didn’t want to shell out money to drag my kid to an activity that she would actively fight against. No worries there, by the way. Child #1 is a 5th grader who loves and excels at school. About a week before school started she said, “No offense Mom, but I’m really ready to go back to school.” That is pure awesomeness.

Child #2 was 5 months old when Child #1 started afternoon kindergarten. It was afternoon kindergarten, so I’d drop off one kid, drive home with the baby, stick in a load of laundry, nurse the baby and change her diaper, and turn right around to pick up the kindergartner. Half-day kindy was the right decision for her because it was enough time to get used to school and being around a bunch of other kids every day, but also short enough that she had plenty of time to enjoy the quiet of our home and recover from the sensory overload of a classroom with 24 kids.

Child #2 and I have been in a routine governed by the school day for several years now, but Child #2 has also been wanting to go to school since she was about 18 months old and tried to get in line with her first-grade sister. By age 3 she told me she wanted to go to school, not preschool but real school. (She eventually settled for preschool.) Child #2 has spent two years worth of once-a-week orchestra rehearsals in the music room, not to mention countless Tuesday afternoon extra practice sessions, a handful of early-morning choir rehearsals, some book fair set-ups, and of course, more school pick-ups than I can count. She’s been ready to be an official student for a long time. And on back-to-school night, she was jumping up and down, unable to contain her joy. She was still jumping up and down after we dropped off her supplies and were heading to her sister’s classroom, and continued to do for the next 20 minutes, telling every parent and teacher she knew that she was a KINDERGARTNER!

This evening she told me that now she wants to be a kindergarten teacher instead of a dog breeder. I told her she could be both. She had one of Paul’s conference name tag thingies filled with stickers, her teacher name tag, pencils, and a bell to catch the attention of students who were talking. Apparently her grandparents (Paul’s parents) who will be visiting this weekend will be her students. She had all sorts of questions for me, like whether most kindergarten classes have their subjects in the same order. Apparently she was planning out their day, though she later noticed that she’d accidentally left out recess.  :P

So she’s happy. And we continue to be grateful to be able to have our kids at a school that is a great fit for them. Child #2 will join the beginning strings class there in a few weeks (and like her sister, she’s already been playing violin so that will be low-pressure), both girls are planning to do Chess Club and both girls will also be in choir (where I will not only be one of two accompanists, but also agreed to take on directing the Apprentice Choir this year). I already told Child #2 that I’d volunteer in her classroom because I did that for Child #1 in kindergarten and first grade, and she’s looking forward to that too.

And I’m hoping to turn a new corner–one in which I accomplish tons of things during the day and start sleeping normal hours again. I think it can happen. I know I need to be really organized–that became clear when the kids both went to VBS this summer and I had a four-day taste of freedom. But I think it will work.

So what do women do when they have their first taste of freedom in 10 years? Clean! Sad but true.

My oven is clean for the first time in years. It’s been long enough (not 10 years, but at least 3) that I had to do several applications of baking soda to get all the grime off. (The self-cleaning option is out of the question. The one time I used it, my husband made such a fuss about the smell that it’s just not worth it.) I worked through the pile of sewing that had built up on my sewing machine, and then bought the kids some new bottoms, all of which needed the waists pulled in, and worked through that pile too. I bathed the dog and trimmed him up a bit, biked some errands, went trail running, posted stuff I don’t need to Craigslist, downloaded videos to the computer and made DVDs to save them and even sent one to my grandmother, went through the kids’ clothes, re-organized some shelves, cleaned out Child #2’s desk, walked the dog a bazillion times, etc. You know–all the stuff that you know you need to get to but haven’t had a chance yet? I’m finally catching up on it.

Oh, and the paid work too. I can do it during the day! At least half of it was getting done after the kids were in bed, so that one is huge. They are old enough that I could do a phone interview in my office and they knew not to disturb me during the call, but it was next to impossible to write anything while they were running around.

What I hope:

  • That I’ll establish a nice schedule that balances work, exercise, cleaning, errands, cooking, volunteering and child activities
  • That I’ll be able to trail run once a week (or snowshoe, depending on the conditions)
  • That I’ll start sleeping at least 6 hours every night (dare I hope for 6-1/2? Maybe?)
  • That I’ll finally catch up on much of the little stuff
  • That I’ll be able to carve out some time to at least finish and submit the two articles that have been in progress for at least three years to a journal. (No, I haven’t given up all hope on my academic career–and thanks to the Chronicle’s Vitae for helping me reshape my life in the alt-ac realm. It’s good to know that I have a lot of company on this journey.)

It will take time and I suspect it will be a bit of a process to establish a routine that is still plenty flexible (see: early release days, sick days, snow days, holidays. Also, the school board recall and upcoming election for the two other school board seats).  But I think it can finally happen.

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Puppy picture, just because. And puppy and kindergartner picture, also just because.

GreenlandpicAfter last July’s ultra relay (which I promise I will blog about one day), I decided it was time for a real ultra. Two of my fellow runners were thinking the same thing (a fourth had already done one). They picked one in mid-April, but it was on the other side of the state and a week before the 5K I was organizing for our elementary school. I declined that offer and decided instead on the Greenland 50k, which is heavily advertised in Colorado Runner. It’s a race I’d considered before. Ryan (ultra relay captain) had done the 25k and didn’t like it because it’s a 4-loop course, but I thought that particular feature made it more attractive, at least for this first-timer. Among other things, by the last two laps I wouldn’t have to wonder where we were going, because I’d know. That seemed marvelous somehow. And was.

And so I signed up.

My training wasn’t great. I’d gotten one 22-miler and other longer runs, but had managed to miss more than I’d like due to illness, sheer exhaustion, and all the chaos that goes with a puppy and two children and a spouse. For example, I missed my last 18-miler because said spouse was out of town at a friend’s funeral and my plan–to run 7-8 miles during the day and then finish the rest on the treadmill after the kids were asleep was foiled by the fact that I feel asleep with the kids and slept for 3 hours.

I did manage to run 7 that day (5 while they were at their baton class, and 2 with the puppy). And clearly I needed the sleep. And it’s an ultra and people walk and my only goal was to finish, so I shrugged it off and figured maybe there would be more walking.

My biggest worry? Getting up early enough to get down to Larkspur. I was sooooo tired all the time as I tried to pack in work and family life and errands and everything else into the not-nearly-sufficient 24 hours we get in a day (still am, though maybe not to that extent). But I got up and out of the house without problems, and it only took about an hour to get there. I found parking easily, picked up my packet and felt relieved–now all I needed to do was run.

Greenland is mostly run on the open space of the same name, in the area south of Denver and just before Monument. Pikes Peak is clearly visible in several places on the course. So are trains. There are two train tracks on the west side of the open space and they have a fair amount of train traffic.

The race starts at the north end of the open space, and we run south toward Pikes Peak, head east and up and over a saddle, and then head back north. There’s briefly a view of I-25, and then we tuck back behind the ridge. There’s another climb in there somewhere, but not nearly as hard as the one to the saddle, and finally it’s a downhill stretch back to the finish line–or in the case of the 50k runners–to the turnaround, after which we’d head back out and do it again. There was also a climb as we headed south, though I think the climb was more pronounced for the other three loops than for the first because part of the first is run on a different trail. Actually, I think it’s two smaller climbs (in comparison to the climb to the saddle), though they don’t feel small by the third and fourth loop. But it’s ok–because it’s an ultra and everybody walks.  (Sense a recurring theme?) At any rate, the link above connects to a map that shows the trails there and is exactly what we did.

The race was good. Very good. Yes, hard, painful, tiring, all those things, but good. It was a bit Zen, a bit sweatlodge. There’s definite discomfort. And yet, the only thing to do is keep moving forward because ya know, I voluntarily chose to run—and pay to run!—31 miles. Might as well keep going. But there’s something really good about that too–about just being focused on moving one foot in front of the other, or just being focused on power hiking up the hill or getting through the next mile or not stopping until you hit the finish line.

I’d do it again, no question. Maybe this fall (Bear Chase?), maybe not. It was a really good experience. When I was done, I felt…kinda empty, at peace. Definitely like all the random thoughts that sometime buzz around were all put away in their respective closets for the time being. No doubt that’s mostly endorphins, but it was also notably different from running last year’s sub-4:00 marathon at Colfax. It didn’t really hurt more than a marathon. There was a relief knowing that I could walk if I wanted to, which is something I really try to avoid at marathons. And it’s been a very long time since I haven’t cared at all what my time is in a race, so I ran comfortably. I don’t think I want to do that in shorter races, or at least not yet, so a 50k gave me the space (and excuse) to not care how long it took. I’d think, “I want to walk.” And maybe I would, which is something I don’t do otherwise because in general, I care about my time even if my time isn’t exactly something to brag about. It’s a really long way to run, but that’s also awesome because it’s a really long way. Eventually there’s no escaping being in the mile you’re in.

Good stuff, and something I really needed given where I am in my life right now.

Now for those of you wondering about practical issues:

1. If you don’t like loop courses, don’t do this one. It is four loops and the scenery is good but maybe not that good. My opinion had been that I don’t run that far south and I don’t plan to do Greenland again, so on the first loop I’d get to see all new scenery for running, on the second loop I’d see what I’d missed the first time, would find a few new things on the third loop, and by the fourth loop I wouldn’t care. That’s pretty much how that played out, except that I realized part of the area had been in a wildfire on the fourth loop–and then thought maybe I was hallucinating. A sign back at the start area confirmed that there was a patch hit by earlier wildfires. (Also, why am I not doing Greenland again? Only because there are a number of 50ks in Colorado and only so much time. I don’t think I’ll do any 50k more than once unless it’s really awesome. If they managed to stage an ultra along the Moffat Road, I’d probably run that multiple times–but there’s no danger of it because Boulder County wouldn’t approve the permit when someone tried to organize exactly that a few years ago.)

2. There were two aid stations, one at the furthest point south, just before heading up into the saddle. It was well-stocked and the volunteers were awesome. They’d fill your water bottles for you and everything. That was probably about 3.5 or so miles in. The other one was at the turnaround point. I think it was cool, though I think I only stopped there once to refill water because the bag drop was also there.

3.  Bag drops are very, very cool.  We were able to drop our bags at the start line and they took them over. I filled my pretty purple and pink backpack with anything I thought I might want: gels, Clif and Luna bars, Mediterra Savory bars, a water bottle filled with coconut water, Justin’s peanut or almond butter packets, chews, etc. It was very cool to be able to stop every 7.5 miles or so and grab whatever sounded good. It also meant that I could wear more layers during the early part of the race and then dump them into the backpack. I wore both sparkly arm sleeves (thank you Sparkle Athletic!) and a lightweight Brooks shell for most of the first loop because the wind was chilly. I peeled off the shell around mile 6 and tucked it into my waistback band (see picture, above), but kept the arm sleeves for two full laps. Stupidly, I managed to forget to leave the shell at the turnaround, so it traveled two loops with me instead. By loop 3, I was ready to just be in the tank and skirt.

4. Portapotties were my only complaint about the race. There were plenty at the start, but the only one on the course was near the turnaround. I thought there would be one at each aid station, but no–if you needed to go, you had one chance every 8ish miles. Also, there was only one at the turnaround. I waited about 3 minutes to use it after the first lap, and about half a minute after the second lap. There wasn’t a line after the third lap, which was nice. But two portapotties would have been appreciated (or alternately, one portapotty at each aid station).

5. I don’t know if this is true of all ultras, but a number of the lead runners were shockingly aggressive. Much of the route is double-track, so it’s easy enough to jump to the other track to pass people. Instead, a number of them would come up behind me pounding their feet into the around, apparently expecting me to hear them coming and move out of their way? Perhaps I was being selfish, but I figured if they had enough energy to be that much faster, they had enough energy to move to the other track, or at the very least to call out “excuse me please.” I haven’t encountered anything like this at other races. The faster runners go around slower runners, and even at trail races I’ve never seen an expectation that I could make my feet pound the ground loudly and expect people to jump out of my way. Maybe it was just this group?

6. There’s really no shade on this course. That will hurt you if it’s a hot year.

7. My friend Mark, who was the other one who’d finished the 50k in Fruita two weeks earlier told me to start eating early and not stop. It’s sound advice. I packed in two bagels with peanut butter, part of a Luna bar and some egg white breakfast sandwich thing I’d found at Target (Evol maybe?) on the way down to Greenland. I needed to keep track of when I was going to eat and sometimes needed a little more despite that, but overall found fueling to be very easy. The drop bag helped considerably in that process.

Finally, some stats.

My time: 5:59:04 (11:34 pace)

That was good enough for 5/12 F40-49, 16/46 women, and 70/156 overall.

I was pleasantly surprised to come in just under six hours. I wasn’t paying attention to time at all after the first two laps, and I’d stopped looking at my Garmin for most of the fourth lap, except to see it flash “mile 27” after I’d finished that mile because it was cool. And I’d done a fair amount of walking in both the third and fourth lap. Going in, I knew I’d walk some on the fourth, but I ended up run/walking the inclines on the third as well. On the other hand, if it was a downhill or flat stretch, I ran all of those so my walking was probably fairly limited in the grand scheme of things. On the chart below, you can see the walking–and the bathroom breaks after each loop.


Lap 1:  1:21:11 – We headed out and I was surprised at how many people quickly pulled to the front because we were all running the 50k. I had the impression that I was probably in the last third of the pack. It turned out that was not true. I kept telling myself to run my own race and run slower than I thought I should because I’d need that energy later.

Lap 2: 1:25:49 – This lap wasn’t really that much slower, but I did spend 3 minutes waiting for the portapotty. If you exclude that, I was only a minute or two slower than the first lap. This time we didn’t have to run on the old wagon road, which was nice because that road was full of puddles and mud from a thunderstorm the night before.

Lap 3: 1:30:15 – I started to feel tired much more quickly than I anticipated, though this was in part because the loop heads uphill pretty quickly. After reminding myself I wasn’t running for time, I power-hiked some of the hills and figured I’d let it be what it was. Funny story: as I came into the 3.5 mile aid station, the guy told me that I was the second woman. I laughed and said no, that wouldn’t possibly be, as I was only on my third lap. It was pretty funny though.

Lap 4: 1:39:09 – This lap was better than lap 3 in many ways. Knowing it was my last lap helped. The cloud cover from the approaching thunderstorms made things more comfortable. The approaching thunderstorms gave me more inspiration to keep running when I might otherwise walk. At some point I stopped to stretch (maybe at a couple of points even). The course had thinned enough that people ahead and behind me were really far away, so it was like a nice little trail run with the wilderness to myself. By the time I could see the finish line I was willing myself to not walk, but it was also interesting to realize how much a mind-over-matter issue that was. After all, I’d been tired for most of the loop and had kept going, so the fact that I felt like I was completely drained was completely about seeing the finish line and not at all about what I was physically capable of doing.

Good, good stuff.

What’s up next? On Sunday I’ll run the last leg of the Colfax Marathon relay. I won’t be fast but hopefully I’ll manage a reasonable pace. The Bolder Boulder is on Memorial Day, where I hoped to have a faster pace. Then there’s the Winter Park Half Marathon on the last Saturday in June. I have this idea that I’m going to hit a lot of hills (maybe run Lookout Mountain?) before it, but we’ll see what actually happens. I’m mostly doing it because I’m really glad they have a half marathon in Grand County.

Then there’s three sprint triathlons between late July and late September. Tragically, the pool at the gym is closed for the next month, so I’m hoping to spend more time on the bike instead and maybe fit in a swim a week at the local rec center until the gym pool is open again. We’ll see what I figure out, because I think it’s going to be a pita to swim at the rec center.

I think I’d like to run something of distance in the fall. Maybe even a fall marathon, provided I approach it like an ultra. Time will tell.

I haven’t done a good race report in a while, so perhaps it’s time. And now, I give you the Three Creeks Half Marathon RR:

So I ended up running this race because I’d signed up for Racing Underground’s Winter Series and had to miss two of the three races. The first one (Superior Stocking Run) ended up being the same morning as the children’s Christmas pageant at church. I’d hoped to go run like a crazy person and then jump in the car and drive straight to church so I wouldn’t miss it, but it decided to snow that day so I gave up.

That same week, I learned that my girls were scheduled for a baton competition the day of the Ralston Creek Half Marathon, which meant I couldn’t possibly run it. I emailed the race organizers and asked whether it would be possible to apply that fee toward another Racing Underground event, and they were kind enough to transfer me to this half marathon instead.  (THANK YOU Racing Underground! You have no idea how much that meant–it had been such an awful week and this was one really nice thing in it.)

So, I headed to Cherry Creek State Park this morning. I wasn’t planning to race (not really, or at least not as a goal race) but hoped for a decent time because I’ve been training for a 50k and that’s a distance that makes a half-marathon feel relatively short and comfortable in comparison. It was chilly at the start (about 34 degrees) and the portapotty line was huge. I made it to the start line 30 seconds before the race started (whew!). The course itself just winds around the park. I’ve never run over there so it was kind of fun to be out on the trails. It’s also located really close to the place where I work, so on the off-chance that I ever manage to not have to hurry home for child care (maybe a morning AI meeting when the kids are in school next fall?) then I’d enjoy the opportunity run or bike there. Anyhow, out we went. I tried not to look at my (new) Garmin very often because I didn’t really have a goal.

(Why a new Garmin? Because my old one went missing last Tuesday. I’m still finding this maddening. Where could it have gone? What I know is that I wore it on a 22-miler that day, synced it with Garmin connect, and decided I was curious enough about heart rate that I’d keep the HR strap on and see if I could get a resting HR while working in my office later. I remember having it balanced on the arm of the chair, and I think I eventually moved it to my desk or something because curious poodles were being curious about it. And then?  Who knows. Maybe I took it upstairs to the bedroom because I did al little more work there after Julia woke up with a nightmare? I don’t know. Being me, which is to say a hater of all lost things (that woman in the parable who cleans her house like crazy after losing a coin, and who rejoices when she finds it? Yeah, totally me.) So I spent hours (literally) looking for it. I pulled everything out from under my bed and vacuumed, cleaned out several drawers, looked under all the furniture…you get the picture. And, nada. I use my Garmin all the time, especially for the speed workouts where I can just program them in and not worry about looking at the watch, so I finally ordered another 910XT. I figured I can still sell the old (or new) one on Ebay or Craigslist should the old one show up.)

Anyhow, I started to get in the groove about five miles in and started picking off people. I “raced” a bit with another woman with an orange Slacker Half Marathon shirt tied to her waist. The first time, around mile 8, I left her behind. The second time she caught up to me at a water stop where I was behind some of the slower runners who had started early. We probably raced neck and neck for about a mile and then she pulled ahead and stayed there. I was passing people pretty much the whole way in and felt like I was having a good day, but I think she was having a better one. Three miles later, we were done.

I finished in 1:57:16, which was good enough for 10/58 in the F40-44 age group, 72/396 females, and 191/626 overall. I was mostly shooting to come in sub-2:00, so I was reasonably happy with my time.

Afterward, I signed up for one of the free chiro adjustment things that one finds at a lot of races because I’ve been needing to make an appointment with mine and figured anything might help at this point. The doctor who looked at me noted my lower back was really tight (something I already knew). He suggested more planks and bridges, and told me to get in to see my chiropractor, pronto. He also thought I needed physical therapy because it was so tight, and thought my core is really week. I agree that my core could be better and have been trying to do core/ab stuff at least once a week. That said, I mostly think my hips are off and that–plus a lot of stress at home–contributed to the tightness. If I was really injured, I don’t think I would have pulled off a 1:57:16 half as easily as I did today.  And to test it, I did an extended-arm plank (like you’re going to do a push-up, as opposed to the kind resting on your elbows) and held it for 2 minutes, no problem. The other thing I think is contributing to the tightness is that the strength isn’t evenly distributed. I went swimming for the first time in a while and was working on my kicking–which stinks–and suspect I have, as Dimity McDowell of Another Mother Runner puts it, “runner’s butt.” Apparently there’s some part of the glutes that runners don’t use or don’t use well. Given how hard I find it to kick from the hips rather than my knees, I’d imagine that’s true of me.

Action plan: see the chiropractor, do more stretching, use the stick, maybe pull out that yoga for runners book and do some poses, and oh yeah, more planks and bridges. A massage or a way to decrease the stress would probably help too. We’ll se how feasible either of those are.

By the way, I did get to the Yeti Chase, the second race in my ill-fated winter series. That’s a fun one at Bear Creek Lake Park, and it was actually warm and beautiful out there.  Results (because you know you want to know): 52:47, good for 9/34 in my age group, 48/259 women, and 129/437 overall. (Yes, there is a yeti. Actually, there were at least two. They lead the race and then run off the course. It was funny to watch one sprint up the hill and hide behind some bushes, prompting the MC to say “runners, don’t follow the yeti” when the 5K runners took off. I’d post a picture with the yeti but unfortunately, had that horrible experience of looking at the picture and thinking “I look like that?!?” So, no.

Next up: Race the Principal 5K at the end of this month. I only need to run fast enough to beat our principal.  :P (I don’t know how fast he’s running. He may very well beat me.)  The next weekend is my first ultra: the Greenland 50K. Running friend Ryan thinks it’s a little boring for a 50k because it’s four loops. My opinion was that the first and second loops would allow me to really enjoy seeing what’s along the course and then seeing what I missed. I think loop 3 will be a lot like that too. And loop 4? I’ll probably be too tired to care much.  It’s one I’ve wanted to do for a while, so now I can. Ryan and our partner in crime, Mark, are running the Desert RATS 50K. I wanted to join them, but it was the week before the Race the Principal and I though I might be a little busy. Maybe another year.

Also, I realized i should provide backstory on the running friends: I met both at church. Mark I’ve known for years, as we both sing in choir and he also plays handbells. They joined only a year or two after we did, and we’ve been there a while. Ryan is younger but we’ve known them for a while too. Last spring, Ryan suggested we run the Epic Rocky Mountain Relay together and we were all in, along with our youth director. Ryan recruited another two friends and we had a fabulous time. That’s part of what set off the desire to do a 50K, which is why I think the three of us are doing one within two weeks of each other. But it’s also meant I can go running with them sometimes. Mark’s faster than either of us. He’s the guy consistently in the A or AA waves of the Bolder Boulder (again, literally). Wicked fast! Ryan’s faster but probably by only a minute or so. For long runs, we start off together and wait for each other (ok, wait for me) at stoplights or gates or whatnot and it works out. I think we’re all hoping to do some trail running this summer. I like the idea of having company because wildlife scares me, so I’m hopeful it will work out.


I’m back! At least for now. I didn’t really leave so much as got too busy to have time. And really, I’m too busy now but that’s ok.

My short summary of 2014:

– ran a sub-4 hour marathon in May at the Colfax Marathon in Denver (3:57:22). Finally! It was made even better when a mother of a child in my child’s class crossed the finish line a half-minute later, making it also her first sub-4 marathon. We’d been talking about it for months, so that was a great way to celebrate.

– found regular employment! It’s not in academia, though it’s connected. The company does professional development for higher education (webcasts, conferences, white papers) and is really focused on addressing some of the major issues that higher ed faces today, like tuition affordability, the needs of first-generation and other at-risk students, and much, much more. I’ve been working mainly in the academic affairs side which makes sense given that I was faculty for 12 years. That work started in July as research for the conference directors, and I suppose I’ve been promoted since then because now I’m writing articles and working for the publication director. It’s interesting work and I enjoy it. Plus, it’s only 15 hours a week and I work from home so there’s a ton of flexibility. Other pluses: my 4-year-old gets to stay home with me, I can continue volunteering without interruptions, and I get a paycheck in the summer, which hasn’t happened in ten years while working as an adjunct. That said, it’s been a challenge to fit in 15 hours at home every week with a child still at home. She goes to preschool for two hours twice a week, but I made a management decision that those two hours are Mama’s Running Time and I only work if my run is finished. It’s best for everyone’s sanity.

– The best experience of 2014 may have been the Rocky Mountain Epic Relay. My friend Mark caught me in the hall at church last spring and said, “You’d run 190 miles, right?” to which I immediately responded, “Yeah, definitely. It’s a relay, right?” I was completely serious. I’ve wanted to do a relay for a while, but didn’t have enough friends to make it work. We were an ultra team of six, running from Canon City to Crested Butte in south central Colorado. The mountain pass over the Continental Divide in the middle of the night was a crazy experience (thankfully I was on the down side of that one, though I did get to run 8 miles uphill into Buena Vista earlier in the evening), and I loved nearly every minute of it (the exception: the 7 miles before and during sunrise, when I’m usually asleep. I really, really wanted to be asleep). If there’s one thing I’ve wanted to blog about, it’s the 34 miles I ran during my six legs. Hopefully this year. It’s an experience I treasure.

And now it’s 2015 and we have a puppy! His name is Midnight, he’s a miniature poodle. He’ll be silver when fully grown, but silvers have black fur as puppies.


My kids have been talking about a dog for years, but I’ve wanted to wait until my younger child was 5 give or take. (She’ll be 5 in March.) That’s mostly because I yell a lot with toddlers and dogs, as I found out anytime I took care of a family member’s dog. I love dogs and come from a dog family, but it was one more person ignoring everything I said. We started looking into what breed or breeds of dog fit our qualifications (turned out none fit my first set–apparently the perfect dog doesn’t exist!), and a miniature poodle is a good fit for our hiking, running, canoeing, mountain-loving lifestyle (combined with my desire for a pet that doesn’t leave hair everywhere, is easily trainable and actually listens to commands and is good with kids). My family had gotten a cockapoo (poodle/cocker spaniel mix) when I was in high school, and the more we read, the more it was clear that many of his best traits were poodle traits. But Rusty had also likely come from a puppy mill and had some back issues, which from what I’ve read, were likely genetic. It meant he couldn’t run, and eventually, had to be carried over rocks and all when hiking, and that’s definitely something I wanted to avoid.  So, we contacted some reputable breeders in the area and some months later, had a deposit on a puppy. (Note: I still feel somewhat guilty about not doing a poodle rescue, but most aren’t interested in families with 4-year-olds.)  We drove out to Nebraska for a visit in January. The girls had never been through the eastern part of Colorado or to Nebraska, so we figured that would be an experience. I’d say fun experience, but there’s really nothing between Denver and Nebraska. It’s pretty–and I also really like Nebraska, but on the other hand, it’s three hours of a lot of empty. I’m glad the girls had the experience though, and they traveled really well considering we were only in Nebraska for a couple of hours.

Meeting the puppy went well. He ran right to us, while his sisters hung back (apparently put off by the girls’ rather high-pitched excitement–not loud but maybe squeaky). The woman who breeds the puppies had boys of about the same age, but their voices weren’t nearly as high. At any rate, it felt like he was choosing us even if the outcome was pre-decided. We left a shirt the girls had been sleeping with in his crate so he’d smell them and it could absorb the smells of home when he came to live with us. That shirt was one of his most valued possessions once he got here, and he’d drag it out of his crate to put in the dog bed by the sofa. But then he apparently decided to play in his water bowl one day. It was soaked and I think it lost its scent because he no longer drags it around the house.

One more funny puppy story: he likes socks and will run off with any left on the floor (ditto for slippers and shoes). At night I’ve been putting them on my dresser, but last night one must have fallen off. My 10-year-old takes him out in the morning because she’s up before the rest of us. After he went out, he ran in my room, nabbed the sock, ran back out and put it in his toy basket, and then pulled out the old sock we’d given him and put it on the floor in my room. I woke up long enough to hear her say something about socks, picked up the one on the ground, noticed it was his sock, put it back down and went back to sleep. When my older daughter told me this story later, I was laughing. I’d been had by a 12-week-old puppy!

He has also claimed a small flashlight. He likes to hold it by the keychain end and let it dangle when walking around the yard in the dark. Last night he carried it in to show me, and then put it in his toy basket too. My husband attempted to take it back, but reclaimed it and put it right back in the basket.

If nothing else, I’m pretty sure the toy basket will be the first place to search for missing items.

Time Marches on

Did you see the pun…’cause it’s March? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Despite an optimistic beginning to the year, I remain mostly without a steady paycheck. I’m picking up little bits of work here and there, so that’s something. It’s at least left time to finish up some crafts.

Near the end of January, I finally started sewing a backing to the Christmas afghan. I don’t know if there’s an orthodox way to do this, but I hemmed the fabric backing and then handstitched it.

There was enough leftover fabric for a pillow.

I’m pleased with how they came out. Needless to say, both have since been packed away for Christmas 2014.

I started that afghan when R was a baby, or possibly before she was born. Either way, I’m glad to have it done.

Then there was the dining room chair project. It goes something like this: when we bought our house we didn’t have children and light colors seemed like a lovely idea. Our dining room set came with six chairs upholstered in an off-white, cream kind of color. Not too long after purchasing them, I realized they’d get dirty pretty quick and got some plastic to put over the tops. I unscrewed the seat pads, wrapped the elastic and they stayed like that for a number of years, until squirmy kids and age proved their undoing.

The chairs with torn plastic were dirty pretty much instantaneously, and eventually my youngest refused to sit on them unless we took off the plastic–and then she refused to sit on it because it looked dirty. We solved this by putting a towel on top, but it also meant I needed to do something about the chairs ASAP. (Disclaimer: I was the child who wouldn’t sit on seats that were ripped or particularly dirty, so I completely understand where my youngest is coming from. Her chair was driving me a bit batty too.)

I’d hoped to just purchase new seat pads that could be attached to the base, but the solution turned out to be even easier, thanks to a little google searching. It turned out that all I needed to do was cut enough fabric to wrap around the seat pad and then staple it. The foam is fine so I didn’t even need to remove the old fabric! Fabulous.

A trip to Jo-Ann Fabrics produced some passable upholstery fabric on clearance, and even in colors that won’t show stains so easily. I purchased a few yards of that, a staple gun and some light-duty staples, cut the squares, stapled it on, and voila!

The best part is that I can redo them in a few years if we get tired of this fabric. In the meantime, I’m celebrating six newly-upholstered chairs that cost a mere $40.

There there was my youngest, who told me she wanted Mickey Mouse pants. That’s easier said than done. Looking through Etsy gave me the idea that we could do an iron-patch or something similar. J decided on both: a Mickey Mouse patch on one leg, and iron-on crystals in the shape of mouse ears on the other (mouse ears shaped by me). The patch needed to be sewn on, but didn’t take too long.
DSCN1311 DSCN1320

The oldest also wanted a patch, so we found Minnie Mouse and thankfully that was an iron-patch. She also wants the mouse ears but I haven’t found crystals in the colors she wants yet.

Last but not least: we have a stepstool that we originally bought for R in our bathroom. Its most useful purpose is storage of random bath toys (mostly rubber ducks) and children’s books, but like many things, it got a bit beat up over the year and there was some water damage on the steps that gave the paint a blistered look. This bothered my youngest (see note about chairs) and she’d been asking me to refinish it.

So we had our book group over and our children ever so nicely went downstairs and watched a movie and played and otherwise left the adults alone to have our discussion, which was wonderful. Afterward we told them how much we appreciated their great behavior and offered to do or get them something special. J’s request for something special was that I redo her stepstool.

We picked out some sparkly blue paint at Home Depot the next day, along with some sandpaper. I don’t know how to refinish wood either, but then again, this is more like fiberboard so I figured I’d wing it. First, I sanded off the rough spots as best as I could, and then covered it all with white primer. In the picture, the red ones are what the boards used to look like.

Then I started multiple coats of the sparkly blue paint.

Here’s the finished project.

She’s happy with it, thankfully.

My blue cable sweater is still a work in progress, though both the front and back are done. I’m working on a sleeve now, and that’s probably half done.

Upcoming projects: more socks for J.

I’d made her these lovely socks with yarn she’d picked out (the variegated yarn, below) but hadn’t bothered to note that the yarn didn’t have any nylon in it. (Translation: socks made with the yarn will get holes in them, quickly.) Rather than knit a new heel in the blown-out socks, I’m going to use the same yarn for the leg and foot, but the solid-colored yarn (with nylon!) for the heel and toe.

So those are my happy things.

The rest of life is a jumble of job-hunting, school board stuff, odd jobs (paid and unpaid) and marathon training. It was going well, though last Thursday I contracted some sort of nasty viral thing and a week later I’m still not 100 percent back to normal. Thankfully the girls both had a milder version, though it really made J’s asthma flare. R’s too, though not to the same extent. It happened during a week when Paul was out of town for his grandmother’s funeral and then out of town on business, so I’m grateful that the day it hit was the only full day he was home that week.

There’s stuff I’m not happy about too (namely, a job and the school board drama) but I remain hopeful that both will work out more or less ok. Though I will say that one aspect of the school board politics that surprises me is how people are taking really hard stands against some issues in ways I don’t think they would if they were happy with the school board. Charter school loans are perhaps the best example. Our district has loaned money to charter schools in the past. Whether it’s a good idea is debatable, but I’ve watched the board grill a charter about why they don’t have the finances in order and approve the loan anyhow. Now, with the new majority giving the impression that they are strongly pro-charter, I wonder whether that’s made it easier for people to argue against the loans and for our two minority members to vote against these loans. They are decided on a case-by-case basis, and while I mostly support the decision to extent the loan to the charter school in question tonight, I very much question the decision to conditionally approve a charter school whose funding was not set and the earlier decision to approve a $400k loan to another for which the demand is simply not there.

There are other issues too. Mostly, I wish people on both sides would play nice.

So far, so good.  We’re not even halfway through January and I already have two exciting bits of news.

1.  My article about Toshiro Mayuzumi has been published!  If you have access through an academic library, the journal is Asian Music, Vol. 45, no. 1 (2014), pages 98-131.


Also, I’ve long been curious as to how my rather lengthy manuscript translated into journal pages.  I’m pleased to see that it is, in fact, about as lengthy as I guessed.

2.  Last weekend, I ran the Resolve 5K/10K Double in Denver’s City Park.  I signed up because I thought it would be a good way to check off 9 miles in a supported environment (i.e., with restrooms and water readily available).  As it turned out, the weather was miserable:  21 degrees and snowing at the start of the 5K.  There was a brief break between the races, and the start of the 10K wasn’t much better.  By the time we were halfway through the 10K, the museum was barely visible through the snow and the windchill was 17 degrees.  Good times!

But here’s the exciting part: they announced the age group winners for the 5K and then the 10K, and then they announced the fastest male and female winners for Double.  Guess who the fastest female was to run the Double?  Yes, me!


My first thought was, “Wait, really?”  My second thought was “Was I the only female foolish enough to run both today?”  As it turns out, one other female tackled both races that day too.  At any rate, I walked away with a case of Kind bars, Red Star sunglasses, a gift card to Sports Authority and a case of Noosa yogurt!

Showing up is half the battle, sometimes.

Race stats for the two individual races:

5K – 25:11 (8:07 pace – but course was short)
F30-39 4/27
Female 10/79
Overall 23/126
10K – 58:45 (9:28 pace)
F30-39 3/13
Female 6/39
Overall 27/71

Combined time for the Double: 1:23:56

I’d like to think it’s a good omen.

In crafting news, I finished these socks:


My December mittens were finished just before we headed to New York to visit my in-laws, but somehow I haven’t managed to take a picture of them yet. They have the Northern Lights on them, which is fun.

Meanwhile, the blue cable sweater is still in progress, J wants a new pair of socks, and I’m still trying to get a backing on the Christmas afghan. I finally measured/ironed/cut/hemmed the backing, only to discover the minute I cut it that I’d forgotten the measurement I wrote was the finished measurement (not including hem). Doh. It’s only an inch shorter than I wanted so I’ll make it work. It means, however, that I need to pin the entire thing before I hand sew it. But, there’s enough leftover fabric to make a pillow so I will do that.

There’s not much in the way of 2014 plans yet, other than to find more steady employment and run the Colfax Marathon and Bolder Boulder in May. I’ll bump into a new age group after this (yay!) so we’ll see what comes of that.

Happy 2014 and may it bring you many, many great things!

There is more good.

So a couple of weeks ago, a seemingly innoculus tweet blew up, so to speak.  Someone I follow had retweeted the following:

What do I tell my kids? If you can’t go to the police (Jonathan Ferrell) & can’t go to someone’s house (Renisha McBride) what do they do?

I responded:

People are generally good. If we aren’t willing to believe that there’s more good than evil, why bother living?

Before going further, it’s worth remember that these are tweets.  The 140 character limit doesn’t lend itself to nuance.  Also, social media does lend itself to statements that are easily (and often) misread and misunderstood.  I think (and hope) that the medium as the message also is largely responsible for the firestorm that followed.

When I read the tweet, I thought about the question.  And I thought about my kids.  And I thought, yeah, there’s a lot of bad stuff but are we really going to tell our kids that they can’t ask for help from anyone?  Really?  How could we possibly do that to them?

And do we really believe the world is that bad, that we don’t think we can rely on strangers to help us?  Do we really believe these two cases are the norm and not the exception?  I’m not trying to oversimplify because there are serious problems surrounding race in this country.  People of color are more likely to be victims of violent crimes, of hate crimes, more likely to be suspected or attacked or yes, shot and killed because it was dark out and their skin was not light.  We need to address these problems and find solutions, without a doubt.  But to go so far as to suggest we tell our children the police are more likely to shoot them than help them, or that asking a random person for help is more likely to result in a gunshot wound than not?  To tell them, essentially, that no one will help them and that a sizeable number of people would rather kill them than lend a hand?

I do not take this lightly.  See, 13 months ago, I had to tell my 7-year-old that Jessica Ridgeway, the 10-year-old girl who’d gone missing, the one for whom she and her classmates in schools all over the area had worn purple that day, was dead.  It’d had never crossed her mind that someone could kill a little kid.

Only a few months earlier, we’d had to explain what happened at an Aurora movie theater because my husband works on the campus where the shooter had been a student and for reasons that take too long to explain, she was with him a few days later, where police were guarding doors and searching bags before letting faculty and students into campus buildings.

Not long after Ridgeway’s murder, I had to explain that yes, a man had gone into a school and gunned down classrooms full of children.

She does not know about Columbine. She does not know that they practice lockdown drills every year because that was our district.  She does not know about all the other bad stuff.  My three-year-old does not know either, yet.  There are far too many tragedies like this, but I can’t quite bring myself to tell myself that these kinds of incidents are happening with increasing frequency.  I choose to focus on the fact that they are rare.  Does this mean I don’t think shootings–school or otherwise–are a big deal?  Of course not!  It means that I don’t think we can or should leave our kids terrified and thinking there is no where to turn.

So when someone asks what we tell our kids, my response is not that we tell them all is lost, that no one can be trusted, that danger lurks around every corner.  We can be honest:  there are many dangers, there are many people who can’t be trusted, and there are days it feels like all is lost.

But if we want to be more honest, we know that there is more good than bad.  We know that more people will help someone in need than shoot them, regardless of skin color on either side.  We know there are too many bad police officers who brutalize, kill or take advantage of people, but we know they are vastly outnumbered by police officers who help and protect and serve everyone–yes, everyone.  During the massive flooding this fall, police officers were working to evacuate various trailer parkss in the direct path of the rising floodwaters.  Many of these parks have large numbers of undocumented workers.  They didn’t answer the door.  Officers returned repeatedly until someone answered, knowing that these families would otherwise be swept away.

For every 17-year-old who has every indication of starting his serial-killer career, there are thousands of 17-year-olds who do good.  For every person who has ever shot someone simply because they were scared by a darker skin color, there are thousands of others who have lent a helping hand.  Can we honestly turn away from that?  Or can we tell them that there are serious problems, that our children of color face huge obstacles and don’t have the assurances of help that white kids do, but that most people will help nevertheless and we’re working to make it so that those statistics continue to improve?

Obviously, I can’t get out of my own (white) head, but I was a bit surprised to learn that suggesting that we should give our kids hope is white priviledge.  Nor does hope suggest that I’m trying to wave off these issues.  Two people is too many.  I never suggested it wasn’t, any more than I’d suggest that one dead 10-year-old is no big deal because hey, my kids are ok.  I approached the topic as a parent.  If I’d given it more thought, I might have realized that the combination of social media + people who don’t know each other + limitations of 140 characters = tweets to ignore.  Instead, I thought about what I would and have told my own kids about Aurora, Ridgeway, Newtown.

This brings me back to Jessica Ridgeway.  Sigg had pleaded guilty, against the advice of his lawyers, last month.  The sentencing was today.  Among the things that stood out from today’s news:

“There’s no better word to describe what I’ve done than evil,” Sigg testified on Tuesday [during the sentencing].

and this:

The FBI said they have never seen an offense committed like this by a juvenile.

This case garnered a huge amount of attention.  In the twitter firestorm, I pointed out that one person had murdered her but hundreds of people had showed up to help while hundreds of law enforcement officers worked round the clock to solve the case as an example of more good vs. evil. Some dared to suggest that the case only received so much attention because she was white.  Usually, that would be true.  But this case–no.  See again: the FBI doesn’t know of any cases where a 17-year-old male kidnapped, assaulted, murdered and dismembered a girl.  The dismemberment puts it over the edge, in a big, big way.  It’s unusual even among serial killers.  Shrugging off the case and suggesting nothing would have been done if Ridgeway was another color does a huge disservice to her, to her family, to my community.

(It’s tempting, I get that.  If I hadn’t been forced to live through it, if a playgroup friend of ours didn’t live two doors away, if I hadn’t searched open space in my own neighborhood located just south of hers, if I hadn’t watched other groups search trails and parks where I regularly run with my children, I’d be tempted to shelve it with all those other true crime stories involving Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahlmer.  Distancing ourselves is often the easiest way to stay sane.  It’s not a luxury we who lived nearby had.)

This speech by the Arvada Police Chief, given the day dedicating the memorial where she was found sums it up: even for the police, this case was so unusual, so hard to wrap one’s mind around.

Seventy-five law enforcement agencies were involved.  This was not because she was white.  It was because everything pointed to the fact that this was the work of someone who would be a serial killer.  It was because the police in our community, along with all the other agencies brought in, wanted to prevent the murder of another child and they were concerned about all the children of all colors.

I don’t stay that there’s more good than bad in the world lightly.  If you’ve read this blog during the past year, you know that I’ve struggled to keep that in the forefront of my own mind as well.  It’s hard to remember when mourning, when angry–and there is so much to mourn and be angry about.  But there is good too.  It’s not as evenly distributed as it should be and we have so very much work to do–but it’s only worth doing so long as we believe it’s out there at all.

These are the sentiments I was unable to express on Twitter.  Perhaps it doesn’t matter, but I’ll take the chance that it does.


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