Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Winter Break Fun

We had a fun break over Christmas.  I didn't have to teach any classes and the boys were out of school for several weeks.  Here are a few things we did.

Cort asked for a cotton candy machine for Christmas, which my parents got him.  The blue raspberry turned his lips and tongue blue.

We went to the Martinsville science museum one day.  Pierce's preschool teacher, who has kept in touch with us over the years, came along.  We had an excellent time.  Below is Reid threading whale bones.  The highlight of the trip was when Mrs. Mack and I were chatting in the gift shop and heard Pierce behind us saying, "I'm feeling romantic!".  We both stopped and looked at each other in surprise, and then turned around to look at Pierce (who is a very concrete thinker and definitely doesn't go around talking about his emotions).  Turns out he had a mood ring on and was reading the color chart to see what his mood was.  Mrs. Mack and I laughed and laughed over that.

One day we went roller skating.  The boys had so much fun that we have decided to go roller skating a lot more often.  It really clicked for Reid and Cort this time, and they found themselves skating more confidently by the end. 
I have another winter break post coming up soon.  Readers, did you do anything fun over the holidays?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Running Recap 2016

The past year wasn't my best running year, but it wasn't my worst either.  I developed Morton's neuroma on my right foot last January, and battled it all year.  I had a couple of cortisone shots, which helped, but didn't cure.  I've been using metatarsal pads in my shoes and had active release therapy (ART) done on it a few times.  Surgery isn't an option in my opinion, as it is not always successful and can cause problems worse than the neuroma.  Some days are better than others.  But it did affect my mileage this year.  In all, I ran 1419 miles.

I ran three races, and those were fun.  I especially enjoyed the 24 hour race I did in November, even though I didn't run the full 24 hours.  Here's a picture from our first snow dusting this winter.  You can see the little chalkboard on the left where I keep track of my miles when I'm doing long runs at home.  You can also see Francie checking me out.  She's doing well.  And to the right is my garden area.

Hoping my foot will improve over the next few months.  Taking time off doesn't seem to help much, so I'm just trying to learn to manage it run by run. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

203 Books of 2016

I read more books than usual this past year.  203!  My eye muscles are tired.  It's hard to pick a favorite when you read so many, but I've made a collage of a few that really stood out.  In no particular order:
1. Running Girl by Simon Mason.  I won an advanced reader of this Young Adult mystery on Goodreads.  It was engaging and amusing.  Enough so that I'm hoping the author writes a sequel.  Please note that if you are buying this for a young adult in your life, it does have drug use.

2.  Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan.  This is a hilarious and authentic memoir of a woman who works in a high paced office for a senator in DC.  She ends up moving home to help out her dad's small town medical practice when her mother has a heart attack. 

3.  The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford.  Historical fiction exploring the legend of mermaids (and incorporating a real medical condition as explanation).  Intriguing writing that made it hard to put down, even in the slower parts.

4.  The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White.  A story about a distant dad who has to take over the needs of his highly functioning but autistic son when his wife is hospitalized long term for a heart condition.  Bittersweet and at times quite funny, this was an excellent read.

5.  The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman.  I'm not certain who gave me this book.  It had been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years.  I picked it up and was immediately drawn in to family secrets and dynamics, and a lost painting.  I recommended it to several people, who all loved it too.

6.  Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.  I have read every book Picoult has written.  I love her ability to take ethical dilemmas and make you see every side of them.  But this book?  She outdid herself with this book!  Some have been calling it "To Kill a Mockingbird for the 21st Century" and I'd have to say that's an excellent phrase to sum it up. 

7. The Magician King by Lev Grossman.  This is the second book in a trilogy and I read them all, after finding the first on a list of books for adult fans of Harry Potter.  This book was my favorite of the three, but you should read the first one first.

8.  Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer.  This is another book that had been on my shelves for years.  If I'd known how good it was, I would have read it sooner.  Each chapter has a different angle on neuroscience combined with insights from classic literature and art.  I know, it seems an unlikely combination, but it is so well done and fascinating.

9.  The Disaster Diaries by Sam Sheridan - the author has been worrying about the apocalypse for years, and finally decides to do something about it.  So he takes each aspect of survival preparation and seeks out an expert in that field for training (how to live off the land, how to defend oneself, etc.).  A unique perspective with a lot of useful information.

And two last books that I loved (but read after I made the collage):

A Man Called Ove was recommended by a friend, and I think it was my favorite book I read all year.  And my mom recommended The Mad Woman Upstairs, which was also excellent reading.  Well, that does it!  Readers, do you have a favorite book you read last year?

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry and Bright

Here's hoping everyone enjoyed a warm, merry and bright holiday!

And wishing you all a Happy New Year!  May 2017 bring you all much happiness. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hiking on Black Friday

I don't like crowds.  I just feel like I have better things to do with my time than stand in lines with angry people.  So I try not to go to any major chain stores in the period between Black Friday and New Years (because the week after Christmas is still chaotic with people doing returns and blowing holiday gift cards).  You especially won't find me in Sam's Club or Walmart! 

This year on Black Friday I took the boys hiking with my friend, Trina.  Paul was doing a bike ride that day.  We hiked the Star Trail up to the top of Mill Mountain in Roanoke.

It was a beautiful day for a hike and warmed up quickly.  The boys enjoyed using the rain jacket/wind breakers my aunt and uncle got them for their birthdays. 

Cort and Pierce check out the view.  After the overlook, we spent some time at the playground until it became crowded.  Then we hiked back down.

I can't think of any other way I'd rather spend Black Friday. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

When the Cat Brought the Bat In

I've blogged before about the cats killing bats and leaving them on the doorstep.  But recently I let Bobby in the house and Paul said, "He's got something!"

Bobby dropped it on the rug and sure enough, it was a bat.  I had to put Bobby outside while Paul grabbed the first thing he could find - a kid rake.  He put it over the bat so that it couldn't fly off in the house.  Luckily, it seemed stunned.

So Paul turned the rake over and I tried to gently nudge the stunned bat onto the rake.  Which is when the bat spread it's wings, made a hissing sound, and bared it's fangs at me!  Whoa!  This bat was very angry.

Meanwhile, Bobby was outside clawing the door and trying to get back in the house to his bat.  He was angry too!

So the rake went back over the bat and I blocked the sides with my shoes in case the bat tried to escape while Paul ran to the basement for supplies.  He came back with a small Tupperware container, some huge welding gloves, and cardboard.

Thankfully, we were able to place the container over the bat, put cardboard underneath, and relocate the bat to the outdoors where it belonged.  Then I disinfected the rug with Clorox wipes.

People talk about living the quiet country life.  But some days?  Some days there is never a dull moment.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Crooked Road 24 Hour Ultramarathon Race Report

The past couple of months I blogged some about the training I was doing for an upcoming 24 hour race.  The goal was to cover as much distance as you could over 24 hours.  The morning started off as a chilly one, but had warmed up by 9 am.  The race course was a loop of about 1.18 in distance.  This was great because it meant you passed by an aid table for food and drinks, plus a bathroom, every single mile.  And I was able to park quite close to the crushed gravel track so when I needed to get supplies from my car (I removed and added layers throughout the day) it was convenient and didn't eat up much time.

My friend, Gloria, came down from Northern Virginia to do this race.  She had a goal of at least 50 miles (which she met!).  I didn't have any set goal.  I just wanted to push myself and hopefully run further than ever before.

Here's a picture of Gloria, Pam Rickard, and I taken in the first hour of the race (photo credit: Matt Ross).

As the day (and miles) wore on I started having a lot of calf cramping, which was unusual for me.  I think this was a fueling issue.  In a marathon I would've eaten Gus every 3 miles.  But I was craving salty snacks and they had the table of food so I was eating stuff like a handful of pretzels here or a handful of olives there.  In retrospect, this was not substantial calories.  I really enjoyed some salted baked potatoes in the afternoon. 

Two of my running friends, Trina and Steve, came out in the late afternoon to offer company and motivation.  I was just walking at this point due to the calf cramping.  Although I was bummed I couldn't run any longer, I was feeling good mentally and was having fun.  I was so thankful to have friends willing to come brave frigid weather just to cheer me along. 

I saw a guy who had what looked like stickers on his calves and I talked to him for a bit about it (he had calf cramping too).  He recommended Salonpas (which is what the stickers were) so Paul picked some up for me at CVS.  I think they may have helped a bit.  I also took arnica, which is a homeopathic remedy for sore muscles. 
I took breaks for stretching and rolling out sore muscles a few times, plus changing layers.  It became extremely cold and windy as the day went on.  The wind gusts were so huge they blew whirlwinds of crushed gravel and dust at the runners (the next day, my eyes felt gritty and were swollen as a result).  They had warm pizza for the runners around 6 and it really hit the spot (and after dark, they also had some soups).   

My furthest run prior to this was 34 miles.  I ended up covering 46 miles total.  Much of it was walking.  I loved when it got dark and there were glow lights all around the track and you could see the bobbing headlamps of all the runners.  Plus, the stars were amazing.  It was a magical feeling, despite the cold and wind.  I wished I could have kept going, but a muscle back behind my right knee started hurting at a level that suggested injury, and my knee was starting to give with my steps as a result.  In addition, I had long ago lost the battle to some significant chaffing issues.  So I decided to head home, which luckily isn't far from this race.  Once I got in the car, I realized I was starving, and had to stop at Bojangles for a chicken biscuit.

I loved this race!  The camaraderie among the runners and the race volunteers is amazing.  I met so many interesting people and learned a lot from my own performance.  I think I'll give this another shot next year, and try to at least hit the 50 mile mark.  I've run a lot of races over the years, but this one really had that extra something special.