Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bouncing Back

Empty Acorns


Leggings plus Boots

Week of October 21, 2012:

Thursday: Off (off drinking wine again!)

Friday: Off (busy cooking a pasta dinner at Chez Moi)

Saturday: Bike ride to work and the grocery store

Total minutes run this week: 23.  [Insert sad face here!]

Week of October 28, 2012:

Sunday: “Long” run (40 minutes easy pace)

Well.  I totally did NOT meet my running goals last week, and here I must accept that I was beaten by biology.  Illness on top of grief meant that my body did not want to run.  Horrible coughing fits that interrupted my sleep made me say, “Enough is enough!  I have to get past this cough and get some good sleep before running becomes an option again.”

I took a few more days off from running and exercise in general, though I was still walking around and getting some pedometer points.  (I don’t actually own a pedometer but would love to see my daily step counts!)  Today I felt well enough and rested enough to tackle a run, and so off I went.  I was pretty intimidated about running after being away from it for too long.  (I think in three weeks, I ran just three times.)  To ease my fear, I told myself that I would run at an easy pace and I would listen to my body.  If my breathing felt too labored or if the run was a real struggle, then I would walk and/or cut my run short.  I set no time goal.  I just…ran.

And it felt great!  I was able to run at my easy pace for a total of 40 minutes, which surprised and delighted me.  There were a few stops in there for street-crossings, but otherwise, I kept an even pace.  It was so nice to be out there in the sunshine and the cool autumn air—I felt like a new person, finally able to enjoy my beloved running again.  I’m feeling much better about the prospect of running this week and hope to get at least one morning run done.  I miss that feeling of starting off the day on a positive note…not that oatmeal, coffee, and a hot shower aren’t positive notes too.  But when you get into a routine of morning runs, that sense of accomplishment makes the rest of the day easier.  Plus it makes my evenings feel more relaxed if I’m not trying to squeeze dinner and a run into that time.

“It’s hard to convey how important running is to me.”

On-line curation at its finest folks: here’s a favorite quote of mine about running.  It’s from the lovely S. of Simply Bike.

“It’s hard to convey how important running is to me.  I came to running late in life and it has filled a void that I didn’t know was there. It sounds dramatic, I know.  Running has had that effect on me.  It makes me want to make grand statements and set impossible goals and it provides me with the meditative time in the day to think those goals through and to allow myself to dream big.  It also makes me push my body beyond what I think possible and that may be just what I love about it most.

It constantly forces me to grow.”

Indeed.  Is there anything running can’t do?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Good Luck, Theresa!

Sisters and Aunties Together

My sweet little sister, Theresa, is running her first 5K tomorrow morning.  I could not be more excited for her!  (That’s Theresa, on the left up there, and me on the right.  Our older brother Charlie was behind the lens that day, a gorgeous September afternoon back in 2010.)

Theresa is a Certified Public Accountant and works loads of hours, wrangling numbers and corralling clients.  She started running a while ago, as a way to find fitness and burn off some stress.  Theresa travels quite frequently for work, too, which can make running a real challenge.  So she started on the treadmill, logging a few miles several times a week.  Treadmills are nice that way: most hotels have a little gym, and no matter what things look like outside, you can get your run on if you’ve got access to a treadmill.

Knowing how much Theresa was loving her treadmill runs, I asked her if she’d thought about taking her running outside.  As you all probably know, I love being outside and consider it a daily requirement.  Theresa and I talked about the challenges of running outside: traffic and mapping a route were her top concerns.  Without any input from me, she went for it and started running outside.  Michigan has pretty good outdoor running weather in three out of the four seasons—it helps if you are adventurous, of course, and the scenery outside makes it worth your effort to get outside.  I miss Michigan’s beauty quite a bit now that I live in Texas.  Running outside in Michigan is a real treat for me.

Anyway, Theresa conquered her fears of outdoor running.  She lives in a lovely neighborhood and has mapped out different running routes.  She uses a Nike app to track her pace and mileage.  Social butterfly that she is, she shares her work-outs on Facebook.  This is how I know she’s sticking with the running: I can spy on her via Facebook!  Muahahaha!  (That’s my evil science laugh, in case you couldn’t tell.)

Tomorrow she’ll be running the Wicked Halloween Run 5K in Plymouth, her first race EVER.  How fun is that?  I wish I could be there to cheer for her in person, or to run it with her, but since I’m down here and she’s up there, I’ll have to settle for this:

Good luck, Theresa!  Have a great run! 

I can’t wait to hear her race report.  If we’re lucky, she might even contribute a little something to this blog.  We’ll see.  A blogger can hope, right?

Happy running, everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Gearing Up for Cold-Weather Cycling


Actually, a prelude first.  I started writing this post over a month ago when we were experiencing a cool snap.  I felt totally inspired to start thinking about the joys of cold weather, but then the heat returned and it felt weird to even think about cooler weather.  (I think cool weather is easily spooked away from Texas—it’s very skittish that way.)  But today, we have been blessed with another cold snap, and this one is predicted to last through the weekend.  I’m seizing the day and finishing this post! 

* * *

I’ve been cleaning out my wardrobe lately, saying good-bye to clothing that I never wear, that doesn’t flatter me, that doesn’t fit with the grown-up style I’m trying to cultivate.  Having been in school for most of my life, including most of my adult life, it’s exciting and a little scary to bid farewell to my student wardrobe.  As a student, I had little time or money to spend obsessing over my clothing.  Now, as a postdoc, I don’t have much time, but I do have a little more money.  And I have a different set of circumstances now: I live in a hot place, I bike to get around town, and I’m trying to cultivate a look that says, “I’m not very old, but I am a professional.  I am not a student!”

One trend that I’ve been resisting is the skinny jean.  The two reasons behind my resistance: 1) I haven’t felt the need to buy any jeans, period and 2) skinny jeans/pants tend to bunch around the knees, which drives me slightly bonkers.  And yet, skinnies can create such a nice silhouette that my resistance has been faltering…

Another point in favor of skinnies: tight pants are fantastic for biking.  They don’t get caught in your bike chain, and I always feel sleek and fast when I bike in dressy tights or running tights.  From the Feels Like Flying archives, here are two photos of decent winter biking outfits:

Dressed for Winter Cycling

Terrible Awesome Saturday Outfit

(Wow, my hair is so long in that first photo!  Also, if you are wondering why I’m not wearing a hat up there, January in Texas can easily be 40+ degrees F.  A person can overheat quite easily, especially in the evenings when the heat of the day is still in the air.)

What I’ve realized from thinking about these two cycling outfits is that I’d love the best of both worlds: tight pants that are dressy enough for work or hanging out.  When you wear dressy tights, you have to worry about your skirt riding up (which it inevitably does—see above).  When you wear running tights, you’re wearing obvious work-out gear.  What I want is surreptitious work-out gear, stylish stuff that I can easily wear for riding.

These leggings, cleverly disguised as real pants, are my top choices for a wardrobe update.  Both pairs are from  The first is a denim legging (jeggings!) and the second is a corduroy legging.


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I always feel a bit uncomfortable about the blatant materialism in style posts.  I’m trying to tell myself that materialism itself is not the evil that my overly critical brain tells me it is.  After all, we have to wear something, and if I am diligent about using what I buy and being fiscally responsible, isn’t that something to be celebrated?  Does anyone else struggle with their love for pretty things because they feel shallow for caring?  I feel like I can’t win: I’ll be judged for my appearance, and I’ll be judged for caring about my appearance.  And you know who the first judge is?  ME!

Anyway, I’m excited about getting some tight pants and/or leggings for biking around town and for wearing with boots.  In addition to these cute pants from, I also saw some jeggings at Charming Charlie’s that I might pick up this weekend.  They are about half the price of the hue pieces here, and they’re made of a soft fabric, not denim, but the color is a denim blue.  And they have back pockets!  I love pockets.

I’m curious: do you buy and/or wear clothing with biking in mind?  How do you feel about skinny pants?

(PS  Happy Friday!)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Double Whammy?

Week of October 21, 2012:

Monday: Bike ride to buy my new French press! (I’m still so in love.)

Tuesday: Short run (23 minutes total, with some walking thrown in there)

Wednesday: Off (though I did get off the bus early to sneak in three more blocks of walking…)

I had an epiphany this morning: I have contracted two overlapping colds.

I credit my sister-in-law for this wisdom.  Her kids are both sick, and she mentioned that there were at least three colds present at my brother’s memorial service.  You can imagine how easily germs are transmitted at a service where there is lots of hugging and crying and close contact between you and two dozen other people.  I think I took the College Station Plague with me to Michigan, and then, while in the Mitten, picked up a bonus cold to take back to Texas with me.  Not my idea of a great souvenir, but it explains why I’ve been sick for over two weeks and I can’t seem to shake this hacking cough of mine.

The cough is driving me crazy!  It’s tearing up my throat and interrupting my sleep.  I snuck in a mini-nap on the couch this morning; I was just desperate for a few more minutes of sleep, and my couch has magical, sleep-enhancing properties.  Everyone loves sleeping on that couch.  Fortunately, my energy levels are pretty good—I feel more-or-less the same as I do on any given Thursday.  But I’m afraid that if I can’t shake this cough, I’m going to lose a lung with all the hacking.

In theory, tonight I am supposed to meet up with friends for wine and dinner at the Benjamin Knox Wine Depot/Art Gallery.  I might play it by ear and see how I feel tonight.  If sleep sounds better than wine, then to bed I shall go.

I hope you are healthier than I am on this fine October Thursday!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Three Out of Four, Check!

Newly hemmed red skirt…

New Red Skirt

New French press (ooh la la!)…

The Original French PressCoffee Brewing

…and an unpictured letter now en route to my six-year-old niece.

I have fun news: it’s only Wednesday and I’ve accomplished three out of my four goals for this week!  Easy carrots, people.  What better way to feel great about yourself than to focus on fun, small goals, like hemming an adorable skirt or buying a French press?  You might argue that a more ambitious person would be focusing on career or running goals, but I’d say that life has made it awfully difficult for me to go after my larger goals, between my stupid cold and campus-wide bomb threats.  I am ALWAYS working toward my larger goals, to the extent that work and fitness are near-daily pursuits for me.  This week, it was great to set goals that fell outside of those realms.

I did go for a run last night, a short one.  23 minutes total running, with a few walk breaks for street-crossing and catching my breath.  Truthfully, this run was one of those mixed experiences, where my legs felt great but my lungs did not.  My legs could have run for miles and miles, but my lungs struggled to keep up with my pace.  I knew the first run back, after this unexpected break, would be hard, so I’m glad it’s over.  I’m still hopeful that I can get two quality 30-minute runs into my week—maybe on Friday and Saturday?  I’m still coughing a lot and somewhat clogged with congestion, and I’m feeling unsure about how to transition back into a normal running routine.  Any suggestions are welcome, dear readers!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This is just to say…

…that in theory, tonight I am going to run for the first time in almost two weeks.  The last dregs of my cold are still lingering, but I am hoping my lungs will come along for the ride.  I had to run to catch the bus last week and was completely winded by the effort, so I am intimidated by the idea of running tonight.  The good news is that my energy level is high today—very helpful for wading through the scientific literature right now—and I feel happy about returning to my beloved running.  I just hope it’s not so difficult that I can’t make it through that first mile…the first mile is always the hardest.

Wish me luck!  Happy Tuesday to you!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


A Full Desk

Week of October 21, 2012:

Sunday: Bike ride to work and for groceries

I am declaring this week a fresh start.

Wow, I feel better just typing that!  This weekend I had a very good combination of work, rest, and play.  I had time for bike-riding, for grocery-shopping, and for a little Big Love.  This afternoon I had friends over for afternoon tea (or coffee!) and good snacks, then a few of us went out for an early Thai dinner.  I caught up on my finances and purchased my plane tickets for December.  I worked in the lab a bit, and I just finished prepping for my meeting tomorrow, so I’m feeling more or less ready to start the new week on the right foot.

My desk right now is almost as full as what you see above, and I’ve got a load of laundry going in the machine right now.  When you’re confronted with multiple challenges at one time, it can feel like the return to normalcy is a mountain that you’re trying to claw your way up.  That’s what last week felt like to me.  The relief I’m feeling tonight is palpable, like my grief and desperation are giving way to some peace.

In the interest of keeping up the momentum, here are my modest goals for the week:

1)  Two 30-minute runs.  I haven’t run in almost two weeks because of illness and lack of time.  This week, it’s back running.  If I’m feeling good, I’ll sneak in a third run.

2)  Buy a new coffee pot or maker.  My coffee pot died today.  I’m tempted to buy a French press!  Any thoughts on this very important issue?

3)  Hem the lining on that red skirt you see in the photo up there!  The skirt is a donation from my sister, and I love it.  The problem, she pointed out to me, is that the lining now hangs down below the hem of the skirt (possibly from some shrinkage in the dryer?  I’m not sure).  But I’m thinking maybe I’ll try hemming the lining tonight while watching Big Love on DVD.

4)  Write a letter to my niece Lydia.  She asked me to write to her as soon as I got back to Texas, and well, that didn’t happen, just like a lot of things didn’t happen.  But both her parents told me how much she loves getting real mail, and I am very happy to oblige.  I try to keep up with my role as the fun auntie.

I hope your week is off to a great start, dear reader!  Happy Sunday to you. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Redemption May Be Found on Two Wheels

Autumn SunshineHarvest MoonFountain at Detroit Metro

Why, hello there!

I have returned to Texas, but my goodness, it’s been chaos around here.  Let’s do a rundown of what has happened over the past month:

* I broke my computer screen and was without my laptop for three weeks.  (But I got it back today!  Hurray!)

* My brother passed away two weeks ago.  My family and I have been in various states of shock, grief, sadness, and despair over his sudden death.  This event carries such deep emotional weight that I feel silly putting it in list form here, but I don’t know how else to explain why I’ve been feeling out of sorts this week.

* I contracted the College Station Plague, which is a nasty head cold that has been making the rounds in my lab and elsewhere.  I think I had the CSP before leaving for Michigan last week, and it came down on me like a hammer on my first full day up there.  And I’m still not fully recovered!  This morning I was shooting snot rockets out of my nose because it was the only way to clear some of the congestion.  (My apologies for that lovely mental image.)

* Finally, there was yesterday.  I was hoping for a very normal, very boring day at work.  And by “boring,” I mean nothing out of the ordinary.  Just a good day of flies, experiments, and data analysis.  Instead, we had a campus-wide bomb threat and I spent most of the afternoon sitting in a pub near campus, sipping a pumpkin-spiced cider.  It wasn’t altogether unpleasant, but seriously, a campus-wide bomb threat?  That was NOT what I needed after taking a week off of work so that I could grieve with my family.  Not to mention the idea of a bomb threat is pretty damn stressful by itself, you know?

The combined effect of all these events is that I was starting to feel like I was losing my mind.  Because of the family stuff in Michigan, I had very little time for exercise or to be alone.  The CSP made mornings hard because I was so congested, and I was having trouble sleeping because my mind felt so heavy.  When I returned to Texas, I was still fighting the CSP, to the point where I got home from work on Wednesday night and went straight to bed.  No dinner, no bike ride, no run, nothing.  I slept for 12 hours, and it was awesome, minus the politicians who kept popping into my feverish dreams.  (Joe Biden, what are you doing here?!)

I don’t think of myself as someone who crumbles under stress, but this month has been too much.  Last night, I was so frustrated with LIFE that I burst into tears at home.  I didn’t know what else to do or how to find relief.  I was still whimpering as I gathered myself up for a bike ride, and off I went.  I took only my keys—no wallet!—and rode my favorite long route, up and down the hills.  I pedaled toward the park and decided to keep going to do some browsing at Pier One and Charming Charlie’s.  Mostly I just wanted to be alone, to reclaim my independence.

When I got home, I had a little talk with myself.  I said, “Let’s focus on what we can control tonight.  We can make dinner.  We can do laundry and put away clean clothes.  We can go to bed at a good hour.”  All of those things may sound terribly mundane—and they are!—but they were soothing domestic tasks.  Easy things I could do after not having the time or energy to be a homebody.  I went to bed a much happier person last night.

Today has been a good day, so much better than yesterday.  My friend Sam took me to Fedex this morning, and we were able to pick up my repaired computer.  (Hurray!)  I went to work and got a few things done.  I bought groceries.  I got to ride my bike to work and the grocery store, and it felt awesome to be exercising again.  And now, I’m sitting on my couch, eating a freshly baked pumpkin chocolate chip muffin and drinking decaf coffee, feeling more like my old self.  Of course the sadness about my brother lingers, and part of me wishes I were still in Michigan.  But the thing is, after a tragedy, we have to return to our “normal” lives at some point.  The grieving doesn’t end.  I still cry every day.  I miss my family and feel guilty that I live far away.  But I’ve made a commitment that places me in Texas, and slowly, one task at a time, I am returning to that life.

Thank goodness for bike rides.  On the bike, I feel free and confident, like I’ve entered some sort of moving sanctuary.  I don’t know what happens to us after we die, but I imagine that my brother is now part of the sun and the wind, that he can ride alongside me.  I imagine that maybe we can both find redemption on two wheels, underneath this big Texas sky.  

* About the photos.  Top: a sunset through the trees in my neighborhood.  Middle: the harvest moon.  Bottom: the water fountain at Detroit Metro Airport.  I love that fountain.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hello from Michigan

Hello again, dear readers.

I made it up to Michigan on Tuesday night, after a day of impromptu traveling.  The question people keep asking is, "How are you doing?"  And the answer to that is I'm here, with my family, and we're taking it one day at a time.  I'm glad to be with my family--it really does feel better to be here with them, talking, crying, and remembering my brother.  We're in a state of shock and sadness; everything since Sunday night feels like some weird dream.  I find myself going through the motions, yet I feel as though I am watching myself perform, like a ghost hovering over the action.

The sudden loss of my brother has dwarfed any other challenges that the year has given me.  I think about my break-up with Matt, and I feel grateful that it was just a break-up.  Matt is still here, with me in the land of the living.  He was, in fact, one of the first people I called because few people understand how complex and difficult the relationship with my brother Scott was.  I think about the uncertainty that my work life has posed, and it seems like business as usual.  To lose a loved one, suddenly, tragically, heart-breakingly, makes everyday life seem like such a gift.  Now, I'm not saying that a person isn't entitled to feel sad about a break-up or anxious about a job, but death is so final.  There are no do-overs.  There is no chance now to tell Scott that I loved him, that I understood how hard life was for him, that I knew he worked at loving us and letting us love him.  Some of us come into this life and we have a relatively easy time of it, with healthy minds and bodies.  But some of us face extraordinary challenges that stand in the way of our well-being, and Scott was one of those people.  To love Scott was to know his pain and try to love him anyway.

The line that keeps running through my head this week is, "Love is work."  It is work to keep a family going, to build bridges over regrets and mistakes.  It is work to love someone who has broken your heart.  I face each day now, absolutely certain that if we can love each other and be kind to one another, then the day has been a good one.  Intimacy is a dance: sometimes we dance together, sometimes we dance alone, and sometimes we're just one link in a giant circle of love, swaying together and remembering the one who is now missing.  I hope--I believe--that Scott knew he was a cherished link in our family, no matter how much darkness he felt in his mind.  I think we may have been the sunshine that kept him going for so long, and I hope that wherever he is now, he is at peace.  We miss him every day.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Here in the Land of the Living

Hi, everyone.

I've been summoned north by a family tragedy.  My brother passed away unexpectedly yesterday, so I've been making arrangements to be away from work and my life here in Texas.  It is surreal, to say the least, dealing with the mundane details of work and travel in the midst of so much grief.

In the last 24 hours, there has been a tremendous outpouring of love, support, and kindness toward me and my family.  It's almost too much.  I am absolutely humbled, moved to tears by all the compassion.  I certainly feel less alone, even as I am still a thousand miles away from my family.

I'm not sure when I'll be back, but until then, be well and happy running.  If you happen to think of me, send a little love my way and I'm sure I'll feel it.  It's going to be chilly in Michigan this week, so your good thoughts and cheer will surely warm my heart.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday Worries

Week of September 30, 2012:
Monday: DIY yoga before bed
Tuesday: Morning run (25 minutes)  + Evening bike ride for groceries
Wednesday: Off (Celebrating with a dinner party and the first presidential debate!)

I'm worried today, and what does a writer do when she's worrying?  She writes on her blog, of course!  Here's the scoop: I have now received the box into which I will pack my broken laptop to ship it to Dell, where the Dell wizards will examine every nook and cranny (minus the battery) to see what needs to be repaired, replaced, cleaned, and prayed over.  I know that the screen needs to be replaced.  Additionally, the laptop has been overheating, so it's likely the fan and vents need to be cleaned.  I'm happy to let Dell take care of those things and in fact, I prefer that they do it, not me.  I am not a computer technician, and doing home repairs on my computer is not my idea of a good time.  For the cost of these repairs (about $400--eek!), Dell had better know what it's doing.

The thing I'm worried about is that Dell makes no promises about not destroying data on the hard drive.  I don't think there's anything wrong with my hard drive; before I broke the screen, everything seemed to be running pretty smoothly.  Like most people, I don't back up my hard drive with any regularity.  Unfortunately, Dell doesn't mince any words when it tells you to back everything up before sending your computer to them.  If anything is lost from your hard drive, it's your own damn fault for not backing up your stuff!  Too bad when you break your laptop screen, it's a little late to back anything up. The last time I backed up my data was in December 2011, when I had to reinstall the operating system on my computer.  So if Dell deletes my hard drive, I will lose ten months' worth of material: all my work stuff, my blog posts and drafts, my photographs, everything.  I am more than a little nervous about this, though the Dell technician with whom I spoke assured me that the hard drive is probably fine if the computer can be turned on (it can--I just can't see anything because of the screen), and if nothing is wrong with the hard drive, then no data will be lost.

Tomorrow I'll send my baby off to Dell for its repairs, and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that there are no unexpected problems.  If you feel like sending some good luck our way, it would be most appreciated.  Ten months' worth of work and play is a lot to lose in one fell swoop, so I'm just going to hope for the best.  What other choice do I have at this point?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Finding Gratitude

Monday Musings

Without my computer this week, I am forced to remember what life was like before I had a fancy laptop and internet access at home.  It's what life as a grad student was like for me.  I'm remembering that hey, it wasn't so bad!  Once the computer crisis was under control, I accepted the consequences of my klutziness and got on with the business of my weekend.  Without the distraction of the internet and my beloved podcasts, here's what I did this weekend to fill the time.

* I slept.  A lot.  It felt really good.

* I read.  A lot.  I'm reading two books on masculinity right now.  My feeling is that as a woman who falls in love with men, it would be good if I had some idea of what the male experience feels like.  I'm not implying that all men everywhere are the same, but I do think there are currents of similarity that run through the lives of men.  I like men a lot, and now I'd like to understand them better.

* I made an elaborate dinner on Saturday night--red peppers stuffed with a soyrizo filling, roasted potatoes, and chocolate chip cookies.  I cooked while listening to some old CDs, including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Tom Petty is always a good choice.  Always.

* I vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom, took out the trash, washed some clothing, folded laundry, and turned chaos into order.  Booyah.

* I felt grateful that a friend of mine who is coming over to watch the debates with me on Wednesday night said she would bring her computer so we can still watch them at my place.  She's also bringing brownie mix and ice cream--yum!  I think I'm going to make spinach enchiladas and a salad for our main course.

* I felt grateful that my klutziness didn't result in any bodily harm to me.  Not having my computer this week is an inconvenience, but it's pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.  And since it was only my computer that was damaged, I was in perfect shape for my run on Sunday morning and for running around today like I usually do at work.

Now, don't get me wrong: I am very much looking forward to the return of my laptop.  But until then, I think I'll try to enjoy my quiet evenings, my kitchen, and the reminder to be grateful for what I do have.