Friday, December 8, 2017

It's been a minute

As they say around here. I can't believe 2017 is almost over and my last post was back in May! So, a quick catch-up post, before my annual end of the year round up. A bulleted list, I think:

  • Job: I am still enjoying my job at the Faulkner County library. It has been great to have a transition time to learn the position and all the details while the person I will be taking over for is still around. She retires next week, and I will be full-time starting in January. Not entirely looking forward to full 8 hour days all the time, but at least I like my co-workers and the actual work itself. 
  • Running: still getting up at zero dark thirty to get in training runs. Now, not only is it very dark, it is finally starting to get cold - it was 26 this morning, after being almost 60 last week. It isn't too hard to get the runs in, unless it is six or seven miles like the other day. It tends to be hard to get up early enough to get it in before I have to be home getting Malcolm ready for school. I can do it, but it is a big rush. Thankfully, I only have to do that long of runs once a week or so. 
  • Malcolm: he is in kindergarten this year at the local elementary school and seems to be enjoying it. He is learning to read and count and do addition. He's started taking tennis lessons and is getting better at hitting the ball.
  • Books: I have read some really good books this year, but I will save those for the end of the year wrap up. I do a lot more listening to audio books these days, during my drives to and from work, even though I can't listen while running as much (for safety reasons in the dark).
  • Baking: I'll be honest, I haven't done much baking at all since I started working. It is just hard to find the time these days. I still make cookies or brownies once in a while, but I haven't experimented much. 
  • Tennis: Sort of a tough year for me - haven't won a lot - due to a lot of different factors, but I am still playing regularly, and look forward to the next year.
OK, enough catch-up for now. I'll be back shortly, I promise!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Nostalgic moment

After a busy couple of months, I am (finally) starting to think about summer vacation. Malcolm has been out of school since the beginning of May, but it isn't really summer yet. Not really. Since a trip overseas isn't in the cards this year, there is really only one place I want to go, one of the rituals of my childhood that I want to share with him - backpacking on the Olympic Peninsula.

This is the place I think of as part of home, even though I usually only went there once a summer for three or four days at a time. It is my happy place that I go to in my mind when I need to be somewhere else. And it is the one thing I miss most, living way out here in Arkansas. Yes, I miss my parents and childhood home and all that, but I can keep in touch with them, I visit them regularly. The beach is much harder to get to - a ferry ride, a several hour drive (long stretches of which used to be on gravel roads), a hike through the woods. It isn't somewhere you can just drop in on a whim in the afternoon, like a city park. The journey is part of the experience, part of the shedding and then regaining of normal life that makes it so special.

So this summer, I am hopeful that I can take Malcolm there, to see the endless stretch of the ocean at the edge of the continent, to play in the cold ocean, to get sand in his hair, toes, teeth, ears. To eat simple camping food around a fire after a day of running and hiking and digging. To see the stars without the lights of the city dimming them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bunnies in the dawn twilight

Almost two months after my half marathon (yes, I realize I never gave a recap - maybe another day), I am still managing to run regularly several days a week. My plans get derailed more often these days by late nights, weather, and a child who hates sleep - without a plan and a firm goal to keep me in line it is easier to turn over and go back to sleep, or at least run a shorter route. However, now that I am truly addicted, if I don't go running every other day or so my mood suffers, and I feel off until I get in another run. So, I persist. At least I do not have to do the entire run in the dark anymore, since the sky is starting to lighten earlier. I still wear my reflective vest, blinking safety LEDs, and small flashlight, but the latter is completely unnecessary for most of the run.

And the best part of running in twilight is the bunnies. This is the time of year when they are more likely to stay out later and are more noticeable, munching on lawns and hopping alongside the trail. I miss them during the winter, when they must be hunkering down and feeling cautious about venturing out in daylight. Last summer, Malcolm and I would count bunnies and pick up recyclables as we went - it was always a good day when we had more bunnies than cans and bottles. Alas, I no longer run with Malcolm, so I only count bunnies. That is still a good reward for getting up early though. As I see them, I count in my head like a cross between the Count from Sesame Street, and Mr. McGregor from Peter Rabbit. "One leetle bunny, ha ha ha." This morning, I counted ten bunnies, and almost wished for an even dozen, but that felt greedy, since I had already seen so many.

The other lovely thing about running so early right now is the scent of spring. The honeysuckle is blooming, and so are all the privet bushes. Both are, rather unfortunately, invasive species that take over far too easily here, but even knowing that, I think they smell divine in the damp morning air, before it is dirtied by cars and heat and dust.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2017 update

This has already been a wild year, and not just in the wider world. I recently started a new job in collection development and cataloging at a public library in our area - I had been planning to start looking for work in the next few months, with the intention to go back by summer or fall, when Malcolm starts kindergarten. But this job came up in a networking group I still belong to, from my former working days, and it looked so good I couldn't pass up the chance at it. I got it, and started work the first week of February. So far, everyone in the household is adjusting well, and I am enjoying the job. It is sort of surreal to be working again, since it has been so long; on the one hand, it feels completely normal to be at a job all day again, and on the other, I can hardly believe that less than a month ago, I was a full time stay-at-home mom. Since I am not full time for now, I do still have one full day at home with Malcolm during the week, and come home early one other day a week. Also, they are pretty flexible about my schedule, which is great. It is a pretty good situation, all in all. 

The job has meant a change in my running routines, of course - no more long leisurely daytime runs on weekdays while Malcolm is at school. Now I am trying to get runs in at 5:30 am, in the dark, before Malcolm wakes up and needs to get ready for school. I have to squeeze my shower in between my MIL's and Benjamin's, since they are both getting ready for work too. The change in status is less painful than it might have been, however, because for the last month or so, I have been running less anyway, thanks to a tennis injury. During a tournament in January, I pinched a nerve in my hip or lower back, didn't rest it properly, ran 14 miles after less than a week of "down time," and then could barely walk, sit, or lie down. My foot felt odd and stiff and weak for a week or two, especially when trying to run. So much for the aggressive training plan I had been following for the Little Rock Half Marathon next month! After several weeks of low, gentle mileage, I started adding distance again and trying to speed up a bit. Now, with less than two weeks before the race, I am feeling pretty good, but I am barely following a plan anymore, and I doubt I will get the big PR I was hoping for. Oh well. At least I think I should be able to run the whole thing - for a little while, I didn't think I would. 

I actually don't mind getting up early to run in the dark, since I feel much better all day when I do. After the race, I plan to add some gym time to my routine, to strengthen some muscles in areas that have been neglected (probably leading to the injury in the first place). And it is spring tennis season, so there is tennis to look forward to. Let's just hope that the remainder of this year is a little slower and less exciting than the first two months! 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2016 in reading

Last year I set a goal of reading 70 books, which I barely managed to meet, squeaking in at 71 - once again not counting the hundreds read to Malcolm. I also set a goal to read more books by women and minorities, more foreign fiction and more poetry. How did I do? Let's break it down, shall we?

1) More books by women: This was a success. Without even trying to select books by women, 43 of my 71 books were by women - this includes fiction and non-fiction - for 60.5%. By far and away my most successful goal.

2) Minorities: Only eight of the books I read were by identifiable minorities (nine if you count someone with a physical disability). Not as successful, but not a complete failure. I am actually kind of ashamed of how few minority authors I read, because of those eight, six of them were from two authors. I haven't tallied up the children's books I've read with Malcolm, but I have been making an effort to find and include minority authors there too.

3) Foreign fiction: Apart from one Italian novel and two Finnish children's books, I read a few books by Australians and some British authors. Not very good. Not good at all. I am rather sad about this, because I have many foreign works on my to read shelf on Goodreads - I guess I need to make more of an effort to search them out at the library.

4) Poetry: Well, abject failure is one way to put it. I did read some poetry now and then, but I didn't finish any books, and apart from the poetry on Literary Mama, nothing new.

Going forward into 2017 I have the same set of goals. More women, more minorities, more foreign, more poetry. So far, I have finished three books - two fiction and one anthology of essays. Of those, the two fiction are both by women, and the essay was edited by a woman and includes some minority authors. So, yay me - off to a good start! And of the two books I am currently reading, one is by a woman and one is by an African American.

The best books I read in 2016? Absolutely no contest - The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin. She is my new favorite author, hands down. If you are into audio books, I highly recommend the Audible versions, both narrated by the excellent Robin Miles.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy 2017!

Happy New Year, and where did December go?! Well, I know where it went: into a long drawn out celebration of Christmas that saw Malcolm meeting Santa at least three times, maybe four - I lost track, a trip to Grandma and Grandpa's, decorating two Christmas trees, Malcolm's first time ice skating, and way too many cookies.

No one fell down!
The trip to Bellevue was a good one. I managed to get in all my scheduled runs, including a 12 mile one on Christmas Day. We got to go to Sequim to visit my cousin and her family, a trip which included a couple of ferry rides in bitterly cold weather (Malcolm and I still went outside, of course!). Riding the ferry always feels like home to me. It was a part of some of my happiest childhood memories during our annual trips to the Olympic Peninsula, and it just feels like somewhere I am supposed to be. I don't know if that makes any sense, but it is the only feeling that comes close.


It was only about 25 degrees in the sun, without the wind. And it was really windy.

As I have done for the past few years, I tallied up all my running, walking, and tennis playing over the past year. My walking miles have steadily decreased over the three years I have been keeping track - partly because I am now running for exercise and partly because I am no longer walking Malcolm to get him to nap. But I still managed to walk around 220 miles. And I played about 30 more hours of tennis in 2016 than in 2015, although it really felt like I didn't get to play as much as I wanted to!

The really exciting category for me this year was running. I ran my first and second half marathons (so, really, I ran a marathon, right?), and am now training for my third. On New Year's Eve in the morning, I counted up my miles for the month and realized that I was only 10 miles away from 1000 for the year. Yes, 1000 miles of running. That is more than I ran and walked in 2014, combined. And only about 80 miles less that running and walking combined last year. So, of course, I went for a 10 mile run. I was supposed to run 10 over the weekend anyway, but I had planned to go on Sunday. I cannot believe how far I have come in running. If you had told me 10 years ago, or even five years ago, that I would be signing up for multiple half marathons and running 1000 miles in a year, I would have thought you were crazy. I'm not particularly speedy, and I never will be, but I get out there and cover the distances. And I love it.

So, while there were plenty of things to hate about 2016 in the wider world, I am pretty happy with how my personal 2016 turned out. Here's to 2017 being better in all the ways that matter!