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Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

I've been feeling a bit like a Grumpy Goose this week.

It's a combination of factors -- I have a head cold, Caleb is teething and/or turning into a Gremlin, Norah is 3, PMS, Jerry leaves his pants on the floor -- and, to add insult to injury, the runs have been slow and plodding.  To say I'm irritable is like saying Lindsay Lohan has a *minor* susbstance problem.

Yesterday, I actually began typing a Word document that was just a list of gripes and pet peeves (people who throw cigarette butts out of their cars, people who spit out of their cars, people who pronounce it "EXpecially," people who rely on logical fallacy to make arguments, people who seemingly can't distinguish between "definitely" and "defiantly," people who misequate Darwinism with "survival of the fittest"...). 

My list was long.

This morning, though, I figured I needed to change my attitude a bit and make a list of things I like.  So, what is the opposite of a pet peeve?  A Pet Please!  (As in, these are things that "please" me.  C'mon, play along with my word play; it pleases me if you find me charming!)
  • Norah's giggle: It's so girlish and cute.
  • Caleb's cheeks: I often tell him that I'm gonna "eat your face!" -- which, I realize, taken out of context probably sounds disturbing.
  • Jerry's willingness to rub my feet: He's a good foot-rubber, better even than the pros -- who just end up tickling me, really.
  • Running: Even when it's not great, it's better than not-running.
  • Students who are respectful, thoughtful, and insightful.
  • Colleagues who make me laugh: English professors are quite funny.  We ESpecially excel at satire.
  • Dunkin Donuts' iced lattes: I couldn't get through the week without them, and now that our campus opened a DD a mere 100 yards from my office, I'm happier than a pig in mud.
  • NPR.  I'm nerdy like that, and I love that I can listen to many of my favorite NPR podcasts ("Fresh Air," "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," and "Science Friday" are some of my favs) from my phone.
  • Speaking of podcasts, I recently discovered the fabulous "The Partially Examined Life" which is a philosophy show that blends insight with humor.  Often hilarious and contemplative.
  • "Big Bang Theory."  I'm not gonna lie: I watch re-runs of this almost daily.  I don't know if I'd ever tire of Sheldon and Amy Farrah Fowler.
  • Yuengling: It's good beer.
  • Mumford and Sons: Those Brits do folk-rock right!
  • Winter in FL.  Seriously, you should be jealous.  It's beautiful here right now.
  • Our bedding.  I keep thinking I should replace it because our sheets are so worn, but man alive, it's SO soft, it's like snuggling into the lap of a bunny.
When I think on it, my list could go on and on, and simply making a list such as this makes me feel better, less bitey.  There are plenty of things that delight me, make me smile, laugh, and be grateful for all I have.  So, people have a strange inclination to open their car door and spit...that's, well, that's whatever that is.

 Annoyances abound, but so do joys.

What are a few of your favorite things?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday

For a long time, many in the running blogging community have been doing "What I Ate Wednesday"; well, you don't wanna know what I'm eating.  It's not inspiring; it's rarely healthy; it mostly resembles a 16 year old boy's diet. 

Instead, I figure I might begin featuring a semi-regular series of what I feed my mind, which is far more enriching than what I feed my body.  Mostly it's the kind of stuff you might expect an English professor to read, but occasionally, I like my "brain candy" too, and I indulge in those pleasurable, mindless reads.

For the past few months, I've been mired in George R.R. Martin's popular "Game of Thrones," but after the 3rd novel in that series, I needed a break.  One can only read so much of "winter."

So, I'm basically reading 3 things simultaneously.  I actually often read in this erratic way because some nights I want to read one thing, and another evening, I want to read something else.

First up: Goodwin's Lincoln biography "Team of Rivals." 

I enjoy history, and briefly thought in college about majoring in it, but then I thought, "Nah, what would I do with a history degree?  I'll major in a far more useful discipline: English!"  So, I like to indulge both my historical and political interests on occasion.  This book is fabulous for such indulgences, but does get weighed down in the minutia of good history -- meaning that the author's research and scholarly expertise are impressive, but at times, boring.  I'm a couple hundred pages in and Lincoln JUST got elected.  So, needless to say, my progress through this one is, at times, tedious.  However, I am marveling at what the title says: Lincoln was a genius.

My other reading may not appear lighter to some, but to me, it's pure enjoyment: Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

I'm teaching an Intro to Shakespeare course this term, and it's fun to re-familiarize myself with some works that I haven't read in awhile.  Like I said, for some readers, the thought of reading verse is enough to push a them to hard drug use, but I enjoy the lyricism.  (Oh yeah, that's also why I majored in English!  I remember now!)  This is a great play -- the basis for all romantic comedies stem from this play -- and I enjoy the story, but mostly, as I read this, I enjoy the language and the poetry: "O what fools these mortals be!"

Lastly, the most entertaining read on my plate is Cheryl Strayed's "Wild."

I had been reading reviews on this since last year and was eager to read it, and it turns out, it holds up to the hype.  I judge all memoirs against what I consider the gold standard -- Mary Karr's "The Liar's Club" -- and what I think a really good memoir should do: marry poetic sensibility with engrossing conflict.  This memoir is about as close to Karr as I think any memoirist can get and not actually be Karr.

Strayed's journey -- both physical and internal -- is riveting, and her prose is probably some of the best writing I've read in awhile. 

So, what are YOU reading?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kinda Sorta Working

So, back to the Garmin saga...

...Garmin's customer service had advised me to first try updating the device's software before I sent it in, just in case that was its issue.  So, I did as I was told and updated its software.

Viola!  It turned on.

This was early last week.  I took out for a 3 miler as a test "run," and it worked just fine:

I figured: "Halleluja!  It's healed."

Then I turned it off and put it on the charger.

And, it seemingly went kaput again.  So, I did a hard reset, and...back on!  You can guess at last week's cycle with the device: It seems dead; I do a hard reset; it returns from the dead.

It's been recording mileage accurately, and I used it all weekend, so the GPS signal must be good, but I still think something funky must be up with its battery.  Or, it just wants to fuck with me.

Either way, I think I must summon up my courage and call customer service again and tell them, "Hey, I tried the software update but, um, it's still glitchy."  They were super nice the last time, but I just hate having to call customer service for anything.  It's one of those "Chores I Abhore."

This is why I need a personal assistant.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

When the Bear's Away...

As mentioned, Jerry stayed in Orlando a few extra days after our visit so he could attend his conference, which meant a few days of solo-parenting back at home for me.  It was...pretty much fine.  Sure, on my watch, Caleb took a plunge into the canal behind our house, and yes, I admit, I allowed a little too much Dora-viewing, but bottom line?

They survived.

And so did my running streak.  It just meant I had two days of treadmill servitude; life could be worse.  And, as it turned out, the treadmill runs went well, a smidge-speedy even:

Jerry got home last night, just in time to get Norah wound up right before bed.

A special feature of his conference was that he got to enjoy an evening at Universal Studios, which was closed except for conference-goers -- huh, doesn't sound too much like "work" to me! -- and he got to preview Harry Potter World for the first time.  Admittedly, I was jealous to hear his report about how awesome it was.
At least he brought me these:

I wasn't brave enough to try a weird flavor, but Norah was.  She's like, "Jelly bean?  Hit me!"

So, among the gross ones she was willing to eat: dirt, soap, and salt & pepper.

I stuck with cherry.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Disney: The Kid Stuff

There's no concise way to summarize our Disney weekend, but I don't want to bore you to tears either, so I'll compromise: Lightning-round-style!

We rode some classic Magic Kingdom rides; Norah favored Dumbo and we went twice, back-to-back:

Mostly, Norah and Caleb met princesses.  For Norah, it was the most fabulous two days of her life.  Here they are with Merida (who, disappointingly, didn't have a Scottish accent, WTF?  if Tiana can have a Southern accent, why can't they hire a Merida who can do a Scottish one?); oh well, the kids didn't notice.  And, in the pic, below, Norah demonstrates a funny trait: She never seems to know what expression to make for these kinds of poses, and she especially seems confounded about what to do with her hands:

Ariel was, hands down, both kids' favorite.  She was so IN character (she told Caleb that he needed a "dinglehopper" for his hair), and while she paid Norah plenty of attention, as you can see, Caleb was captivated by her.  He only had eyes for Ariel!

She returned his charms by planting a big, red kiss on his forehead, and the dude couldn't have been happier:

One of our best family pics now involves Tiana...and Jerry's promotion of "Game of Thrones"...because nothing says "I love Disney like wearing a shirt that warns: 'Winter is Coming.'"  Interestingly, we saw another dad in the exact same shirt.  Hmmm, maybe the dads see Disney visits in a different light...

Don't be fooled by Norah's seemingly constipated expression, below, with Rapunzel; she luh-ved Rapunzel, and she was delighted that she got to be photographed with Rapunzel while she'd chosen The Wedding Rapunzel dress to wear that day.  It would've only been more perfect if she'd chosen her purple Rapunzel gown.  Oh well, mistakes were made.

Our biggest mistake, for example, was taking Norah on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  This was the exchange between Jerry and I:

Me: "I think this might be too scary."
Jerry: "Nah, it's a light-hearted boat ride where they sing 'Yo-Ho-Ho!'"
30 seconds into the dark and scary ride with skeletons and a waterfall in the dark; Jerry: "Ummm, I was wrong."

Moving along...Caleb also cast his charms on Snow White.  He got a hug, not a kiss, but she too fawned over him and told him he was "the handsomest prince" she'd ever seen!

The kids also got to meet-in-greet with the fairies.  Here's Norah with Periwinkle (don't worry, if you don't have a pre-school aged girl, you'll have NO clue who she is); again, I have no explanation for Norah's expression.

And, lastly, the classic Disney icon: Tinkerbell:

All in all, it was a fun time, but lordy, Disney was packed!  The weather was perfect for a theme park, so that was nice, but handling those crowds is taxing, and I have to confess: I don't have the stamina for all-day-Disney. 

By 1 pm, I'm out.  Thankfully, with FL resident packages, tickets average out to only be about $30/per person a day, so I don't feel bad pulling a cut and run; if I were paying more, I'd probably force us to "get our money's worth," but as is, I have no problem spending the afternoon poolside at the hotel rather than stand for an hour in line for a ride that will last 30 seconds.

Plus, I think we need more than 3 weeks between vacations!  The kids and I were all too happy to be back at home Monday night.  Jerry doesn't return until after his conference -- late tonight -- so I'm single-parenting it, but even so, it's always fantastic to go away, but even more so to go home!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Disney Running: The Streak is On!

Folks, this morning's run at Disney marked 21 consecutive days of 2013 running -- aka, I've gotta l'il ole streak happening here. 

Shhhh, don't jinx it!

While at Disney, I was lucky enough to find a really comfortable 3 mile route that was convenient and fun, and for those who ran either the marathon or the half marathon there last weekend, it'll probably look familiar since it's the last leg of pretty much any Disney race course.

We were staying at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resort, so when I ran, I headed out the back of the resort, which overlooks the marina and just started running.

Away from the resort, I ran toward Hollywood Studios, following the river (again, if you've run any Disney race, this should be recognizable, but from the opposite direction since races always go OUT of Hollywood Studios).  It's a nice little riverfront path.

I paused at Hollywood Studios -- one of Disney's parks that I haven't visited since I was a teenager.  Sure, I've raced through it, but I was 15 the last time I went on vacay and toured it.  Back then, it was called MGM Studios.

From Hollywood Studios, I did a U-y, and headed back along the river toward The Boardwalk.

Backside of The Tower of Terror -- again, never had the pleasure of falling from its scary heights.  Not sure I want to either.  Those kind of rides really aren't for me.  If I want to poop myself, I just need to have a bran muffin and large coffee and then get stuck in traffic.  I don't need to dangle above the earth and then plummet a couple hundred feet.  No thanks.

Once I came back to the marina, I circled through The Boardwalk (marathoners, am I walking you through the last 15 minutes of your race? can you feel the blisters?!).

Then, a ran over the bridge into the back of Epcot where races sneak into the park and pop out in "France," but on each run, I didn't actually enter the park, I just bid France "adieux," and then turned around and headed back to our resort.

They were fun runs, and it felt like I enjoyed the scenery more on these little jaunts more than I ever did during a race (I recall just being pissed off by the time I hit The Boardwalk back when I ran the marathon -- 6 friggin years ago!  can you believe it's been so long?).  Plus, the weather this past weekend in FL would've been perfect for the marathon -- instead, you guys got hot and humid --  but, for me, it was lows of 50s and highs in the low 70s, occasionally overcast, nice breezes.  In general, good running weather.
We had a good vacation as well, and I'll post some pics from that tomorrow.  For now, my home laptop seems to be giving me grief regarding pics, and I had to load these pics and start this post from my phone.  Don't know what's up with that, but I'll use some work time wisely this week and get other kid pics up via my office computer.  I mean, really, what else do I get paid to do besides blog and mold young minds?  The latter can take a back seat for a spell.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Long Weekend Ahead: Destination Disney

This afternoon, after my class, we're heading north to Orlando for an impromptu Disney weekend.

After we returned from MN, a few weeks ago, Jerry got work's 11th hour approval for a conference in Orlando beginning this weekend; after some brief deliberation, the kids and I decided to join him so we could all enjoy a little Disney-fied-fun.

We went to Disney last spring, but even though it feels like it wasn't that long ago, when I look back at the pics, it's amazing to think of the changes in each kid in the last 8 months:

Caleb was only 11 months old then, not walking, still very much a baby.  Norah wasn't fully potty trained yet.

Now, we've got a 3 and 1/2 year old who sometimes feels like she's going on 13, and who beckons us to come regard her poop in the potty: "Guys, come see this!  It looks like a croissant!" and Caleb is turning into a full-blown kid (WTF?  who said that was allowed?), who not only walks, he runs. 

So, the Disney experience will be a different one this time around.  Plus, Disney World (Magic Kingdom, specifically) has changed too: They expanded Fantasyland to include all kinds of new stuff, and I think the new areas with the princesses are gonna blow Norah's mind!

It's gonna be a busy weekend, but should be fun.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Park Time

Monday through Friday, I would rather wrestle a bear than put Norah to bed.

On Saturday and Sunday nights, it's smooth sailing; the rest of the week is like a daily session of water boarding -- one evening of a weeknight bed time with Norah, and terrorists the world over would sing their secrets.

The difference is all about naps. At school, Norah naps; at home, on the weekend, she doesn't. I think she is in-between out-growing the need for a daily nap, but at school, they nap.

End of story.

I tried negotiating with her teacher about having her skip it, but my request was pretty much dismissed.

So... I've resorted to a new technique: Try to wear her out each evening. After school, we've been spending about an hour each day at the park. I don't think it helps immensely, but I figure there's no harm in the extra fresh air and activity.

And, as for Caleb, it wipes him out! At least bedtime is easy with one if them.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Not of the 305. 

No, that bugger is d-e-a-d.  Yes, I tried a hard re-set; I even tried two different versions of the hard-reset.  On the charger, it seems to revive itself, but take it off the charger, and it's caput.

After researching all the interweb has to offer about the 305, my diagnosis is that its battery is probably a dud and needs to be replaced.  Garmin will do this if you mail the device to them...for a price.  I contacted customer service and am awaiting a reply from them about maybe having this replacement service waived: The device is not old, I've been a loyal Garmin customer for a long time, I have a blog read by many, many important runners and fellow Garmin consumers ready to cast aside their devices at my behest...

...We'll see what they say. 

Truth is, don't tell Garmin, but either way, it's definitely cheaper to send it in and have it re-furbished/fixed rather than buy a new one.  So, I'm willing to pay their fee if I have to; I just don't want to.

In the meantime, it occurred to me that I never tried a hard re-set on my old 110.  Long time readers may remember by brief stint with the 110: I reviewed it here.  There are things I like about the 110, but a few features I don't.  So, when it started acting finicky (it would work and then not work), I put it in a drawer and began using the 305 that I also had -- I know, I know, mine is a blessed runner's life to have spare Garmins hanging out -- and I never came back to the 110.

Yesterday, after looking at all the re-set info about the 305, it occurred to me that I could try a hard re-set on the 110 and see if I could resurrect that bugger. 

Seems I did. 

Muwah-ha-ha!  Life is in my tiny, but capable fingers!  Watch out, Dr. Frankenstein!  I could be dubbed Dr. Garminstein!

*Ahem, excuse me.* Anyhoo...it turns on.  It seems to be doing its job, but I haven't actually taken it out for a test run yet -- I'll do that this evening -- so I can't guarantee that it has truly been resurrected, but I'm hopeful.

So, that's The Plan, Stan: Send the 305 to Garmin for fixin' and use the 110 in the meantime.

Last thought on this for today: Yes, I have a smart phone; yes, I know there are apps.  But, I find that carrying my phone for running is cumbersome and there's no quick, easy way to glance at any data while running.  I like the convenience of glancing at my wrist as I run to see what I need to see.  That's just me.  We all have our differing preferences, don't we?

Sunday, January 13, 2013


So, my Garmin died 4 days ago.

Just died. For the past 6 months, I had a feeling it was on its last legs since it had to be on the charger all the time, except when in use, but it didn't give me any other death rattles. Wednesday, I used it, it was fine; Thursday, it was dead. No sign of life. No resuscitation.

Now what?

This is my 3rd Garmin, 2nd one to die in the last 3 years. Yet, I feel compelled to stick with Garmin, mainly because it's what I know.

What I want is pretty straight forward: I want an easy to read display, I want the screen to display time, distance, and pace, I want it to have quick, strong satellite reception, but I don't want to feel like I have a computer strapped to my arm, which is what both the 205 and 305 feel like.

Of the two, I prefer the 305, and of the various Garmins I've owned, I think the 305 is the best. I'm kinda tempted by the pretty and sleek Forerunner 10, but reviews aren't favorable about it, especially two major things: How it calculates and displays pace as you're running, and the fact that you can only display 2 pieces of info at a time.

I could probably, maybe, live with the first drawback, but I think the second is a deal breaker. So, I think the 10 is out if consideration.

Which basically brings me back to the bulky, and expensive, 305.

Ultimately, I'm still weighing the options, but it feels like I'm running blind without a Garmin, so I want to replace it pronto. Without a Garmin, I finish a run and wonder: Did I really run?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Thoughts About Those 2013 Running Goals

Even though I made more than one 2013 running resolution (previous post), really, they're all about the same idea: Run what I want to run.

Not what I feel like I ought to run.

Sounds logical, but it hasn't always been how I've approached my running.  In 2012, I started to get a grasp on the above concept, but in 2013, I'm really trying to embrace it.

It's easy, especially in the blogosphere, to get swept up in what others are running -- how far, how many miles, how many races, what kind of races -- and allow that to shape my own running.  I made that mistake years ago when I mistakenly thought I had to run a marathon to define myself as a runner; then I figured out that I don't like marathon training (for now...who knows what the future running- Jess will have time for or enjoy).

Two influential books, for me, last year were Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project" and, on every runner's nightstand, Christopher McDougall's "Born to Run."  The most influential idea I took away from Rubin, was her simple rule to be herself; for me, in essence: Be Jess.  She also had a memorable way of thinking about the importance of exercise: For sanity, not vanity.

So, to be "Be Jess," I put aside my comparison of myself to others and strived last year to run how I wanted to run.  One thing I discovered is that I like to run every day.  For me, having running as a part of my daily life is fulfilling and satisfying.  I can't explain why I like it, I just do.

Thus, my resolution to return to streaking in 2013.  And, my mileage goal for the year is tied to the streaking; I don't feel strongly about making or breaking 2012's miles, but I do like a challenge, so why not push myself to exceed the miles I ran in 2012?

As for the 2nd Rubin lesson, about "sanity vs. vanity," that can be interpreted in various ways -- for her, it was about weight and image versus the mental/emotional benefits of exercise -- for me, it's about putting aside ego (vanity) and running for what fulfills my sanity.  I don't need to run every race that's offered, every year; I don't have to run a PR to have a good race.  I just want to race what I like and enjoy the experience.  Races are costly and they take time and attention to train and prepare for, and ultimately, run.  So this year, I'm just gonna race what I wanna race.  For now, that means I'm looking at a race calendar with maybe 1 or 2 HMs, a couple of 10Ks, and maybe a smattering of other races, like the turkey trot 5K I run every year in Nov.

As for what I took away from McDougall's book, it helped me return to my original purpose in running: I enjoy it.  It makes me happy.  So, again, why not pursue such happiness every day?

For years, I think I ran for reasons that got away from these simple ones, and even though I felt like I was enjoying running, I was often times just looking ahead to what was next instead of enjoying what I was doing in the present.  But, since having kids, running has become truly valuable time (to myself) that I see as an investment in myself, and to do something that makes me happy and healthy must also be a good way to help ensure my family's health and happiness too.

Ultimately, I want to make 2013's running about what I want from running and the root of what running provides for me, and if there's one other guideline to follow, it's my own:

"I'm not in competition with anyone.  Not even myself."

Monday, January 07, 2013

The New Year

I know that we're 7 days into the New Year, and it's a little late to be posting about 2013 goals and resolutions, but I figure "better late than never."

2012 was a good year, in all regards.  On the running front, it was the year I began to get back to the runner I was pre-kids.  The run-down of the year included:

  • Ran 2 HMs
  • Ran 2 10Ks
  • Ran 1 5K
  • Set a new 5K PR
  • Ran 1,062 miles: Highest yearly mileage since 2008
  • Ran a 100 day streak
I had some more ambitious running goals that were never met in 2012, but I've learned to not focus too much on what I didn't accomplish, and instead, try to be happy with what I did accomplish.  And, the above is not too shabby a running year.

So, for 2013, my goals are quite straight forward:
  • Run races I enjoy
  • Run another streak
  • Break the 100 day threshold for a streak
  • Exceed 1,062 miles for the year
I have some thoughts on these goals and why I made them, but I'll save that for tomorrow. 

I haven't had much of a chance to read everyone's blogs, so I'll have to get aroudn to reading everyone else's plans for 2013, but anything ambitious? 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Christmas Vacation

I'm back!  Back in FL, back to 70 degree temps, back to reality and regular life...kinda.  I don't technically start back to classes until Monday, but Jerry had to work today, kids went back to school today, and I am doing some catch-up before I resume work as well.
So, I figured I'd do the vacation run-down.
We had a fabulous time.  We were super busy, but had a lot of fun: Got to visit with lots of friends and family, traveled pretty much the entire state of MN, and had a great Christmas.  Here are a few highlights:
Caleb's 1st haircut, done by his Auntie Angie:

Caleb and Norah's first intro to snow: Norah liked it, Caleb not so much.  He mainly objected to all of the clothing that was required.

Norah being pulled behind the 4 wheeler: She really dug riding the 4 wheeler too.

Norah, Caleb, and I in Bemidji with Paul and Babe:

Norah on Christmas Eve prepping the necessities for Santa:

Caleb, below, on Christmas Day riding his cousin's John Deere: Christmas Day was both magic and madness.  Kids were up at 5:30 am, but were in bed by 6 pm if that gives any indication of how exciting and exhausting the day was.

Jerry and Caleb at Edinborough Park in Edina: Giant indoor play area.  Awesome.

Grandma's Christmas gift for Norah: An American Girl baby.  That store is amazing; Norah almost burst into flames she found it so fascinating.

All of us at the Mall of America: We rode rides (Norah was tall enough for the log flume, and it. was. awesome!), ate lunch, shopped a little...I forgot how massive that place is.

Phew!  Like I said, fun but busy.  Travel was smooth: everyone handled the airports and planes like pros.  But, I'm glad we're home.
I also did some running while on vacay, managed to actually run 23 miles the first week we were there -- success!  Then, the 2nd week, I only ran 5 -- epic fail!  Oh well, fresh new year, fresh new start to the running, right?
Hope everyone in the blogosphere had a great holiday and happy new year.  Now, it's time to buckle down and return to reality. 
Kinda sucks, doesn't it?