Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dana's Birthday Mystery Tour

For the grand conclusion to Dana's annual month-long birthday extravangza, we spent the weekend outside the small town of Murphy's at the spectacular, blow-your-mind-one-of-a-kind Querencia Bed and Breakfast. I first learned about Querencia through a recent article in Sunset Magazine when they devoted a section to autumn in Gold Country, one of the nearby wine regions Dana and I had yet to explore, and while you all know that Phatgirl is no Winegirl, this seemed a perfect getaway for my little Master Sommelier. The website for Querencia was included in the article and all it took was a five second glance at the photo of a jacuzzi tub with a breath-taking view of Blue Mountain to get me to call in for reservations. I believe that's called an "easy sell."

As a side note, I told Dana over two months ago that I had a weekend planned for her birthday but under no circumstances was I going to tell her anything about it. It was going to be a surprise and nothing she could say would get me to reveal the details. My proclamation was met with total cynicism followed up with a side helping of mocking, teasing, and taunting. For some reason of which I know not, Dana seems to be of the opinion that I lack the emotional fortitude to keep a secret, and the numerous examples she offers up of when I've cracked under the least bit of pressure, notwithstanding, I meant it this time! For days, and I'm talking more than one or two here people, I held strong despite her coy little Dana-ways to coax it out of me. I gave nothing. No clues. No hints. Nada. That is, not until the evening of my uncompleted attempted at the Portland Marathon, when desperate to exchange my present suffering for a future joy, I spilled every last bean in the proverbial pot. I'm just going to say this once. She may mock me all she wants but there's no way I'm telling her what I'm getting her for Christmas. Not a chance. No way. Nope. Even though it's really really awesome and she's going to love it so much and it's something that . . . nevermind.

Anyway, suffice it to say that our stay in Murphys or Querencia was one of the most delightful weekend getaways for two girls who are perfectly content to stay at home 365-24-7. The hospitality and graciousness of Mike and Mary Jo, the innkeepers really made us feel like we were at home and the view from the tub....even better than the photo!

And for the curious among you, the word Querencia has several different meanings; one of them alluding to an unspecified location in a bull ring where the bull will instinctively be drawn to, imagining it to be a safe place where nothing can harm it as long as it remains there. Querencia is a place in life where one feels most safe and serene, whether that place be in a particular location or in the arms of a particular someone. It's about coming home.

お祝い Marathoners!

Once again, thank you to BabelFish for allowing this English-speaking only Phatgirl to offer congratulations in Japanese to Jeanne, Beth, and all the rest of you incredible, amazing, feet to the streets Marine Corps Marathon finishers! How sweet it must be!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Kabbalah and Soup

The older I get the more I appreciate the simple pleasure of a good bowl of soup, and when it's shared with a generous helping of good people on the side it's even better. Last night Dana and I had a few peeps from our church over for a soup dinner before heading out to the local independent bookstore to hear an author's reading. Before the book reading, I present the soup recipe which I lifted from Williams-Sonoma SOUP cookbook and altered enough that I feel comfortable calling it my own, unless of course, a legal representative from Simon and Schuster, publisher's of Williams-Sonoma SOUP cookbook calls and then I'll disavow all knowledge of the recipe, this blog and beans in general.

Anita's Too Many Beans for One Pot Soup

1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained
3 (15 oz) cans white beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can cannelloni beans, drained
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and yes, go ahead and finely chop away
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
8 cups (64 oz) low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 pound cooked ham, cubed (optional for you vegetarian-types)
1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, and more of that fine chopping
3 gloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf

In a soup pot over medium high heat combine olive oil and chopped onions, occasionally stirring until onion has softened slightly. Three minutes should do. Add the carrots and celery to the pot and keep things cooking for three more minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients except for the ham (or bacon or turkey or tofu) and the drained cannelloni beans. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 1 hour to soften the beans and combine the flavors. Remove from heat. Search out that bay leaf and get it outta there!

Remove half the soup from the pot, puree it in a blender and add it back into the pot. Add the can of cannelloni beans and the ham. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Serve immediately or transfer to a crockpot for a few hours until dinner.

When serving the soup here are a couple little added treats that can kick it up over the top. Add the zest of one lemon into a container of sour cream and stir. Drop a big dollop of it right onto the top of the soup. And if that's not enough and you're pulling out all stops to impress, add the zest of one lemon and 2 minced garlic gloves to a handful of finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley. This little mixture is called Gremolata in Italian. Toss a sprinkling of it over each serving. As a side note, lemon compliments the earthly flavor of the beans. "Oh Beanie, you're such a hearty and nutritious little fella." "Why thank you for noticing my little citric acid chum!"

Recipe feeds eight normal people or five Phatgirls.

Okay, here's a little bonus I'm going to share just because I like you. The next day heat up your now thick as chili soup leftovers and serve over a shredded bed of lettuce that has a light drizzle of low-fat ranch dressing. Trust me people, this is so good you'll slap your momma. Just be sure it's your momma, not mine.

So after filling up on copyright enfringement soup, rosemary potato bread, and cookies, we headed down the road to hear Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, not to be confused with Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" even though Rabbi Kushner, Lawrence not Harold, said he'd more than happily sign any books by the other Rabbi Kushner as well as his own. Rabbi Kushner, Lawrence not Harold, was reading from his first novel, Kabbalah: A Love Story. He told a few wonderfully engaging stories from his life, read some short selections and concluded with time for Q&A. I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation and when he autographed my copy of his book I couldn't help but notice his incredibly elaborate and unique signature. I made a comment about it and Rabbi Kushner, Lawrence not Harold, looked at me, smiled and said, "One day you'll need to sign your name many times as well so you should come up with a really fun signature you enjoy writing. Start practicing."

And so, if you would like an autographed copy of my plagerized soup recipe, please send a five dollar bill and a photocopy of the recipe along with your request in a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
Phatgirl, #38530128445
California Correctional Institute for Crockpot Criminals
California, USA

Back in the Game

My half-hearted commitment to being a grown-up, a highly over-rate aspiration in my opinion, has kept me away from the blogosphere to attend to the affairs of my employment. I hate it when work interferes with my internet life. Such an annoyance!

I engaged in a tadbit of walking on Monday with not so grand results. Only two miles at a window-browsing pace had my left ankle and leg rebelling. Not to be vanquished by select members of my anatomy, I headed to 24 Hour Fitness yesterday for 30 minutes on the Eliptical, 1000 mm on the rowing machine, and a whopping 1 mile on the threadmill. It was a minimal workout at best but it was something and the something felt darn good! Before I headed out the gym door I mistakenly walked into the managers office and before I knew it I had signed up for 28 sessions with a personal trainer. To protect the anonymity of my soon to wonder if she's in the right profession physical trainer I will simply identify her from this point forward as D_wn. Choose your vowel wisely and the mystery shall be opened onto you.

So, let's review.
Anita-Personal Trainer
Anita-Personal Trainer
Oil -Water
Open Flame-Explosives
Contrasting oddities of life.

Tomorrow morning is my first session with Dawn D_wn when we get into that whole weigh, measure, fold, mutilate, and spindle brewahah. Golly, I'm as excited as a preschooler the night before Disneyland . . . or is it a teenager the night before four impacted wisdom teeth are ripped out of their mouth without benefit of anesthetic? Six of one, half dozen of another. Either way, if you're the caring soul I've come to believe that you are, pray for D_wn as she confronts the task of gathering weight and measurement stats on Phatgirl. She goes where few people have gone before.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Inspired by Cheese

There is nothing more splendid than the lowly cheese sandwich like the one I just had for lunch. Nothing more than 2 slices of sharp cheddar cheese cushioned between fresh sprouted bread with a schmear of Best Foods to adhere it snuggly to the bread. Grilled cheese sandwiches are a culinary marvel on to themselves; all buttery in its melted goo-ness, but ode to the simple wonder of a plain, unadored cheese sandwich.

Inspired by milk solids aged to tangy perfection and the earthy crunch of sprouted wheatberries, I now offer 50 Phatgirl Facts.

  1. I'm passionate about everything and lack an opinion on nothing.
  2. I consider roasted brussel sprouts the vegetable of the gods.
  3. I once laughed so hard while I was eating gummy bears that one of the little gelatinous cubs came out my nose. I was able to replicate this feat one other time. On purpose. Don't ask.
  4. I slept in a sleeping bag for an entire year in high school because it was easier than making my bed. Dana refuses to consider it as optional bedding.
  5. I'm like my dad in that I'm affectionate, generous, and stubborn. I'm like my mom in that I'm thoughtful, independent, and stubborn. A double-whammy I prefer to reframe as tenacious and determined.
  6. Were I in charge of the world, individuals who are dismissive of children and disrespectful to the elderly would be spanked.
  7. I don't recycle consistently and I'm embarrassed by that admission.
  8. I whine. Often.
  9. I can sing every word of Carole King's Tapestry album by memory. I haven't heard it in years but it's embedded in every cell of my brain.
  10. The changing colors of autumn are so glorious that watching fire-red leaves fall to the ground like splashes of paint makes me cry.
  11. I look ridiculous in hats of any kind and yet I own a full-body Tigger costume and wear it any time an opportunity presents itself.
  12. You'd have to sedate me with heavy narcotics to make me listen to opera music.
  13. Babies love me. I love babies. It's a good thing.
  14. I use to have a trained pony named Buttermilk who would teeter-totter with me, but no amount of cajoling would get him to try swinging on the monkey bars.
  15. I eat my breakfast every morning with a minature butter knife. Breakfast consists of a bowl of yogurt with raspberries. You figure it out.
  16. I miss my dad every day since he's been gone.
  17. I'm given to certifiable bouts of obsessive-compulsive behavior.
  18. When I was a little girl I wanted to grow up and be a nun even though I wasn't Catholic because I wanted to be married to God and wear a robe with big pockets.
  19. I've been meaning to close my AOL account for four years. Maybe tomorrow.
  20. My favorite outfit is a comfy white sweatshirt with loose-fit jeans and sneakers. Bra optional.
  21. I love my cats so much my heart could nearly explode when they curl up beside me.
  22. I went to three music concerts during my high school years; John Denver, David Gates from Bread, and Captain and Tenille. During the same time period I destroyed my sister's Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers and Janis Joplin's Pearl albums because I thought they were evil.
  23. My biggest fear is that something would happen to Dana.
  24. I don't need a whole circle of friends, just two or three close and trusted ones.
  25. On the Myers-Briggs Personality Test I score INFJ (introverted, intuitive, feelings, judging) with feelings distinctively expressed and the rest moderately so.
  26. My clothes closet is stuffed with Life is Good teeshirts because I love them and because it is. Good, I mean.
  27. I smile everytime the phone rings and it's Dana telling me she's on her way home.
  28. As a child when it was a starry night I thought the stars were holes in heaven's floor. It's still nice to imagine that's true sometimes as an adult.
  29. My older siblings would tease me that I was adopted and could be given back anytime. There have been times in my life when that being true would have helped to explain things.
  30. I've been to Israel six times and know just enough conversational Hebrew to ask where the number four bus is and to tell my mom I'll answer the phone.
  31. I love cardboard boxes, paper bags with handles and the Container Store.
  32. I have a tattoo on my left shoulder of a butterfly taking flight from a heart, symbolizing the transforming power of God's love in my life.
  33. I'm a high maintenance wife but a low maintenance friend.
  34. I make lists for everything. It's all about the details.
  35. The teacher comment on my third grade report card read "Anita needs to work on not being so bossy." I'm still working on it Miss Jensen.
  36. I'm a great baker and a sensational cook but to this day have never been able to successfully make my mom's raspberry jello mold which has led me to believe she's continually altering the recipe just to mess with my head.
  37. I drive too fast and follow too close.
  38. The glass is usually half-full. It's the fingerprint smudges around the rim that trouble me.
  39. My favorite time of the day can happen at any moment.
  40. I try hard to do my best and give my all to whatever I do. It can be exhausting sometimes.
  41. I'm always surprised and delighted by the ways in which God shows up in life.
  42. For the past few years every time I drive away from my parent's home I honk three times to say "I love you."
  43. My favorite color is Dana-blue.
  44. I go to therapy weekly as a gift to everyone in my life.
  45. I wish people would be more kind to each other. In general.
  46. My current shoe collection consists of four pairs of Ascis running shoes, one pair of Brooks running shoes, six pairs of multi-colored Crocs, and one pair of Birkenstock sandals.
  47. I'm a procrastinator and a multi-tasker. The two are not unrelated.
  48. If I could spend five minutes with three people no longer living they would be the prophet Jeremiah, Queen Esther, and my dad.
  49. I value authenticity, integrity, and justice in people and institutions.
  50. If I could only eat one food for a year, it would be the humble and divine cheese sandwich.

Monday, October 16, 2006

45 Reasons

Tomorrow is Dana's 45th birthday. Five years ago I purchased ad space in the local paper to wish her a happy 40th birthday and to declare my love. What ultimately appeared in the paper had enough typos to render it indecipherable. Now I have a blog. Free and with the potential for no typos given sufficient proof-reading on my part.

And so with her presents already wrapped and hidden away and a half dozen plus birthday cards signed and sealed (no one card says it all), I now offer 45 things I love about Dana. If you gag at over-the-top sentimental but heartfelt mush I would suggest you high-tail-it out of here because this will no doubt send you into some type of emotional seizure.

  1. I love her sense of humor and that most days she seems to get mine.
  2. I love her Dana-blue eyes especially when they're looking at me.
  3. I love her passion for learning new things.
  4. I love that no matter how many times I tell her the same story she always listens like she's never heard any of it before.
  5. I love her quiet, deep love for God and that she's never lost faith.
  6. I love her courage to return to graduate school to pursue her passion.
  7. I love the softness of her skin.
  8. I love how she tells me she's proud of me for stepping up to the starting line and comforts me when the finish line proves out of reach.
  9. I love her kiss that sends me out into my day and welcomes me home at night.
  10. I love her genuineness. Dana is always Dana.
  11. I love her spirit.
  12. I love her stability and consistency.
  13. I love her integrity. Her word is gold.
  14. I love how she takes care of me when I'm sick or hurt.
  15. I love how she never says "I told you so " even though she rightfully could on a regular basis.
  16. I love that she said "yes" when I asked her to marry me. I'll always be indebted.
  17. I love it when she pretends she's Speed Racer.
  18. I love watching her putz and futz around the house in the morning.
  19. I love the sound of her voice on the other end of the phone.
  20. I love coming home to her or when she comes home to me.
  21. I love her patience, her compassion, and her tenderness.
  22. I love that she nearly always asks if I want anything when she goes into the kitchen.
  23. I love, absolutely love her feet.
  24. I love her delight in pumpkin season.
  25. I love her tenacity.
  26. I love how she interacts with other people.
  27. I love when she prays out loud.
  28. I love the warmth of her hands.
  29. I love that most of the time she lets me be in charge of the TV remote.
  30. I love that she brings out the best in me and puts up with the worst in me.
  31. I love her name.
  32. I love when she folds down my side of the bed.
  33. I love how she says "thank you" for ordinary things I do.
  34. I love her silly ways and that she's not too old to play.
  35. I love that she's always, without exception, in my corner.
  36. I love her vulnerability and her strength.
  37. I love her commitment to her own spiritual and emotional growth.
  38. I love her work ethic.
  39. I love her little thoughtful ways that put something special in every day.
  40. I love the respect and admiration she naturally elicits from other people.
  41. I love her insightfulness, wisdom and intelligence.
  42. I love the questions she asks and how she thinks.
  43. I love her beauty, visible with the eye and with the heart.
  44. I love her faithfulness and devotion to our relationship.
  45. I love Dana for being Dana which is the most amazingly wonderful person to be.

Happy birthday kiddo.

Post Birthday Wrap-Up

It was a grand and glorious success, so reports the birthday girl. We both took an unpaid day off from work to celebrate though Dana remains mystified as to why no national holiday has yet to be instituted. It is a head-scratcher, isn't it?

Brain Clutter

When I went to Costco for the first time I saw a man standing in a check-out line behind one of the big industrial-sized orange flat carts. On the bed of the cart rested four all-weather, all-terrain truck tires and a jumbo case of tampons. I think they were unscented.

This memory is more than a dozen years old and it still makes me smile. Life just cracks me up sometimes.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Follow the Leaders

We had no sooner boarded the bus that would be taking 50 of us on a tour of the next day's marathon route than we began a conversation with two gray-haired women one row up and on the other side of the narrow aisle. This was going to be their first marathon and to say they were excited would be like saying Grey's Anatomy is just a TV show. File that under the category of "Understatement."

As the bus rolled along the volunteer seated behind Dave the bus driver, would call out each mile and point out sights of the city along the marathon route intermixed with details for the coming race that seemed to anticipate every question a bus filled with marathon eve athletes might ask. Deep questions. Thought provoking questions. "How many aid stations did you say will have portapotties? Are there Snickers or just gummy bears? I ordered a large finisher's shirt but I've gained 10 pounds from excessive carbo-loading so can I change to an ex-large?" Throughout the course tour the two women, let's call them Madge and Lenore for no other reason than I'm partial to those names for I-am-woman-hear-me-roar-gray-haired women, would ask repeatedly to no one in particular, "Is this where we'll turn during the marathon? Will there be signs here telling us which way to go? Will it be clearly marked?" The volunteer would chime in, assuring them that yes, we were following the actual marathon route and yes, in addition to posted mile markers there would be aid stations and volunteers covering the entire course so they didn't need to worry about finding their way. After a few more minutes and a few more nervous queries, the volunteer looking back toward Madge and Lenore, smiled and said "You know, there's going to be more than 9000 people on the course tomorrow so if you just follow the people in front of you you won't have any trouble finding your way."

Before the bang of the starting gun you already know where the marathon course leads because you've spent time acquainting yourself with the route map. You know where the finish line is and you know it will take a mere 26.2 miles to get there. You don't have to worry that in the middle of the race you'll be faced with a unexpected detour. No one's going to move the finish line and then make you go search for it.

Not so in life. Life presents us with a mélange of intersections, junctions, and forks in the road. Your birthing cry is the starting gun but where your life leads and how you'll get to the finish line is mystery, despite your best plans, or perhaps inspite of them. The distance isn't measured, the course isn't set, the destination is yet to be determined. Imagine registering for a marathon that provided no Race Day Info. You'd never do it. Yet here we are in life, running the most earth-shattering fantastical race of all and at times feeling incredibly clueless as to how to live out our time to the finish line.

The journey of life I'm traveling is all new to me. Though I've been on the course for a long while, the past miles aren't a guarantee of what lies ahead, because no sooner do I think I have the course figured out than I hit another unexpected turn, an unwanted hill, or an abrupt curb that sends me sprawled across the pavement. What offers me hope, what gives me some sense of comfort is recognizing that every inch of the road I travel is already littered with the discarded water cups of others who have gone before me.

"...if you just follow the people in front of you you won't have any trouble finding your way."

So here's what I do on my best days. I keep my eyes straight ahead, looking toward those who have already traveled the course and run well the race of life. Dorothy Day. Oscar Romero. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Mother Theresa. My grandparents and my dad. I'm never going to attain their level of goodness and grace anymore than I'm going to sprout wings and make Jeff Galloway tremble in fear but that doesn't mean I won't do my best to follow them; to look closely at how they ran their race and learn from them and be inspired by them. If I do, I won't get lost. And maybe, just maybe, I'll reach the finish line having done my best because I paid attention to their best and allowed it to teach me.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Autumn is More than a Season

I returned home a week ago today from the Portland Marathon. I didn't finish the race so there wasn't any technical fabric, micro-vent knit, pill-resistant finisher's shirt or flashy medal to unpack from my suitcase. Just dirty socks and a wrinkled race bib which to the best of my knowledge is also pill-resistant.

While my suitcase is already emptied and back in its usual space in the cluttered abyss of our two car garage that's a tight fit for our little Subaru Outback, I'm still unpacking what I brought home from the marathon in terms of life lessons. Here's one of them.

There was a three mile loop early on in the course. As my sister and I reached mid-point into mile 2 the first wave of frontrunners approached us from the opposite direction somewhere between mile 5 and 6. We were, to say the least, overwhelmed, amazed, antonished and in general awe of these elite runners rocketing past us. All around us walkers were breaking into cheers and applause and a woman next to my sister said "I can't imagine ever doing that!" Without barely a pause my sister countered, "There are people in bed right now who are saying the same thing about us."

Mike Heidt.
Autumn Jones.

Mike Heidt runs more than 100 miles a week. He recently graduated from Washington State with a degree in biology where he was a member of the track team for three years. He ran his first half-marathon a little over a month ago. The Portland Marathon was his debut marathon and he crossed the finish line in 1st place with a time of 2:21:54, the fourth fastest time for men 20-24 in the race's 35 year history. An Olympic qualifying time. I know all this about Mike Heidt because The Oregonian ran a long article on him the day after the marathon, complete with a photo suitable for framing.

Autumn Jones crossed the finish line in 7705th place in 10:41:22. She was the last person to finish. That's all I know about her because The Oregonian didn't do a write up on her. Their mistake.

One crossed the finish line first. One crossed the finish line last. One ran. One walked. There's a big difference in the racing world between 2:21:54 and 10:41:22 but in my corner of world their achievements are equal because both gave it their all and did their best.

No one will ever convince me that the joy of Autumn Jones at the finish line was any less than that of Mike Heidt. Who knows. Perhaps it was more. Maybe she overcame more to finish the race. Maybe she faced more obstacles getting to the starting line in the first place. I don't know. I only know that whether in a marathon or in life, the thing that most matters is that we bring who we are to it and give our best. We step up to the starting line and we try.

And even if we fall short in what we hope to achieve in our lives, isn't it still better than laying in bed with a head full of dreams and a heart full of desires while we mutter from under the covers "I could never do that!"?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Marathon Mistakes

I registered. Bib number 130. Portland Marathon 2007.

I was naive when I said I'd never train for another marathon.

When I said it, I hadn't yet known the xhilarating thrill of standing at the starting line with 10,000 other athletes, and yes, I said other athletes. I am an athlete, and if you doubt, I offer this as Exhibit A.

Told you so.

Neither had I watched in amazement as a field of elite runners zoomed past me in a course loop and had the incredible awareness that we were in the same race. Had I already felt the emotional rush of escorting a friend as he crushed every challenge life threw at him to cross the finish line with courage and grace I would have never said never again. Yes, I was naive.

For the next few weeks, I've been forbidden from walking by dictate of my physical therapist so until the prohbition is lifted I'm going to haul my phatgirl self to 24 Hour Fitness and do some cross-training in the pool and on the machines. I'm also going to take the lessons I've learned and apply them liberally to my next round of marathon training. Lessons learned from my mistakes. As always.

Mistake One: I overtrained.

I started into a marathon training program after less than a month of making the leap from couch to street, and nearly every mile I walked I pushed and pushed hard. My LSD walks were done at the same pace as my tempo walks. Case in point, in planning to walk a marathon pace of 15:30-16:00 mpm I should have technically averaged 16:30-17:00 on my LSD walks. Instead, my paces were 16 miles (14:43), 18 miles (14:21), 20 miles (14:41), and 19 miles (14:48), and the training sessions between 3 and 10 miles averaged between 13:12 - 14:31 mpm. The reason wasn't because I underestimated my speed but because I was always going anaerobic.

In "Marathoning for Mortals,"John Bingham gives clues to what it looks like to be in the anaerobic zone. "Your sentences get short. You can hear yourself breath. You work up a sweat. You get red in the face. You're worn out at the end of the workout. You suck air." I sucked air. I sucked air all the time. I could never understand why it was that people would turn around and look at me when I was still ten feet behind them. I couldn't figure out how they always knew I was approaching until I walked one day without my Ipod. I was sucking air like a guppy that had ventured out of its fishbowl. [Side note: Since I was seldom in the slow fat-burning aerobic zone that could have also played a part in the lack of weight loss, though time will tell on that one.]

Lesson: I will prepare to begin training for a marathon now that I have a base of activity and am in relatively fit condition, and I will strap on my Garmin heart monitor and walk tempos at tempo and heed the SLOW in LSD.

Mistake Two: I didn't listen to my body.

My ankle began whispering discontent when I walked my 14 mile LSD. My shoelaces were too tight. It casually mentioned discomfort at 16 miles and at 18 miles it throbbed in misery. I just need to walk it out. When it came time for my first 20 miler the ache in my ankle got a case of serious ugly (nod to Laura from Project Runway) and toward the end of my second 20 miler it screamed bloody murder. Anyone's feet would feel like this after 20 miles! I didn't listen all those times just like I did my best to ignore it's continual nagging in the two weeks prior to the marathon, but on the day of the marathon it would be ignored no longer and slapped me upside the head and made me whimper like a puppy.

Lesson: I will listen to my body. When it says "ouch" I will pay attention. I will slow down and warm up rather than hurry to work it out. At the end of a session I will consistently rather than sporadically take time to do my stretches.

Mistake Three: I didn't choose a training program that was a right match.

There was nothing wrong with the training program I followed for someone who had actually moved before beginning it, but considering my state of full-throttle sedentary non-motion, it wasn't the plan for me. I shouldn't have done two 20 milers and I shouldn't have done the last one two weeks before the marathon. Too much, too close together, too soon before the marathon.

Lesson: I will follow the half-marathon and marathon training programs designed for walkers in Bingham's book that include only one 20-miler three weeks before the marathon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Klarissa and Amy

The shortest distance between Point A and Point B is a straight line but I'm not in any hurry so there's going to be a few side roads and detours before I get to where I'm going. If you have a problem with that, I believe there are approximately three skillion other blogs and chances most of them are significantly lighter in verbage. Stick around or go. You hold the power.

For more than 15 years I was a children's pastor (Christian Education Director) in a large congregation in Oregon. Every Sunday morning the classrooms vibrated and reverberated from the alternative environmentally-friendly energy source that occurs when 500 preschool and kindergarten children inhabit one space. All of the children called me "Teacher Anita" and most days as my memory allowed I called them Adam, Maddy, David, Joshua, Stephanie, Emily, Stacy, Attila, Jacob, Caleb, Susanna, Brittany. When my memory failed it was Honey, Sweetie, Punkinhead, Buddyboy, and Doll.

They loved me and I loved every one of them. I couldn't help but love them. Adorable, sweet, charming punkinheads and muppet babies, one and all. Tender and silly memories. I have a million of them.

  • The kindergarten boy who noticed I never wore shoes on Sunday morning and pressed a dime and a nickel into the palm of my hand one morning because he wanted me to be able to have some shoes to wear.
  • The little boy who having just been promoted from the four year old class in the basement to the kindergarten class on the third floor, exclaimed in delighted surprise as I greeted him by the door "Oh! I didn't know there was a Teacher Anita up here too!"
  • The two year olds who called one of our male teachers "Jesus" because he had gentle eyes and a beard.
  • Jeremy who gave me the note I have to this day "Teacher Anita, I like having you with me my whole life. Love, Jeremy."
  • The time in an attempt to teach the children how we are all different but loved equally by God, I asked them to name the differences between a short fair-skinned red-haired girl and a tall African-American boy that stood in the front of the class. A little boy, raised in a family that apparently valued honest disclosure with their children, replied "The boy has a penis. The girl doesn't have a penis. She has a vagina. Girls have vaginas. Boys have penises." The lesson concluded and we moved into snack time.
  • The Easter when I told the story of the empty tomb to a Easter-Morning-Standing-Room-Only crowd of five year olds and upon saying "And the tomb was empty, Jesus was alive" heard the soft sound of one little set of hands clapping for joy from the back of the room.

My kids. I was part of their life and they were part of mine. I told them what I knew about God and they taught me how to love God by letting me love them. They're part of my life still.

Three years ago I received an email that began, "Anita, I don't know if you remember me..." I did. It was Klarissa. One of my kids. I remembered her because I never forgot her. And for these past three years every time I've gone up to Portland to spend time with my Mom, Klarissa and I meet at Peets for coffee and long conversations about our lives and our faith questions, about our memories of the past and our hopes for the future. Those times have been so special to me; to reconnect with my past, to see a little girl I adored grow into a young woman I admire. The last time we met for coffee was only weeks before Klarissa headed off to Nashville with her husband to begin her graduate studies. Did I mention she's brilliant?

Last night there was another email from Klarissa. Attached was this photo.

Klarissa is on the right and Amy, another one of my kids (I'm so possessive and proud) is on the left. Klarissa had returned to Portland for the weekend for a family event and she and Amy had decided to surprise me at the Portland Marathon, so they made a sign, drove to a distance 12.4 miles into the race and waited for me on the side of the road. According to my Garmin, I pulled out of the marathon at 12.28 miles. If I had gone less than two more blocks I would have reached 12.4 miles where the girls were waiting for me. As it was I never saw them.

I've been misty-eyed since Klarissa's email arrived, not because I'm disappointed I quit before I saw them, but blown out with gratitude that they would even think of doing such a thing for me. As children, Klarissa and Amy, like all the others, taught me so much while spoiling me with love. As my peers nothing has changed.

Thank you Amy.
Thank you Klarissa.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Photographic Evidence

I might not have been in the marathon long, but I was there! This is around the 5K marker. How do I know? I'm still smiling.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Before I Say Anything Else

Thank you. I mean that genuinely.

I had originally considered removing the comment feature on my last entry because I didn't want anyone to try and say something to make me feel better. That's because I didn't want to feel better. I wanted to be inconsolable, to wallow in my misery, to throw a full blown pity party with crepe streamers and mylar balloons. I deserved it dog-gone-it! If I couldn't have my moment at the finish line then I was not about to be cheated from my moment of high-octane defeatism.

But you, and you know who you are, ruined it for me. You went ahead and took time out of your day to not only read my depressing diatribe but to post a comment that was understanding of my disappointment and sympathetic to my need to wallow, whine and wig out.

I didn't think words could help, but they did. And I owe you. Thank you.

And Dana thanks you too. More than you will ever know.

Now, on to Plan B. . .

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Did Not Finish. I believe that's the technical term that's used by those who race. QUIT would be mine. This is not going to be a pretty entry so unless you're of the ilk who slow to gawk at car wrecks, turn away now. Now. I'm serious.

The start of the marathon was unbelieveable. Thousands and thousands of people giddy with excitement and nervousness. You had to wiggle like a snake to get through them. It took my sister and I five minutes to find each other by cell phone even though we were only standing five feet away from each other. Literally. Insanely wild but awesome.

The starting gun and two minutes later walkers in the back third of the herd where we were positioned began to move and we officially crossed the starting line 4 minutes after the gun. There were crowds of spectators and live entertainment every other block: marching bands, jazz and blues bands, a woman harpist in an empty gas station parking lot playing something much too serene for mile 3, Christian rock, ear-exploding hard rock, and a Chinese dragon or two past the main entrance to ChinaTown. There were an unbelieveable number of volunteers who were top notch, nearly 4500 in number. Very impressive and appreciated. If you've never done the Portland Marathon before you have to. Have to.

My sister and I started out strong but stayed to the 15-16 minute mile range in keeping with my strategy, that would be my failed strategy. I warned you.

Almost immediately I felt my ankle. By mile 2 it had begun to stiffen. By mile 3 it was uncomfortable. At mile 5 the ankle was swollen against my shoe laces and the bottom of my foot was cold and numb. At mile 7 I was developing a gait in some starry-eyed hope that doing so would relieve the pain. By mile 9 I was hoping it wouldn't get any worse and that I could just grin and bear it like a brave soldier. At mile 10 it was worse and I told the evil voice inside my head urging me to give up to shut up, pack up and go away. At mile 11 I realized I could never make the finish but I was absolutely not going to pull off until the half-marathon distance. At that point I sent my sister on ahead (Barb ultimately finished with an amazing time of 6:12, which I consider suitable for framing and fireworks!) and 200 yards later even 13.1 became out of reach. I pulled off the course at 12.28 miles. I have walked 12 miles and beyond ten times in training. My Evil Twins were silent and cooperative. My back was loose and comfy. Every little ache and pain that has pestered me over my nine months of training were in total compliance except for my stupid-pain-in-the-butt-break-my-heart-and-pierce-it-through-with-stilettos left ankle. The right ankle cooperated.

I rode back to the hotel, tossed off the shorts with all my hard fought for pockets, snapped the timing chip off my shoe so that I could return it in shame to the staging area, took a shower, cried, kicked myself, cried some more, watched the first half of "Snakes on A Plane" which is the only thing more painful to see than phatgirl quitting a marathon, and then went down to the finishing line to watch my sister finish and to cheer on strangers.

Finishing shirts. There is no more gut-wrenching sight to someone who DNF. So I cried some more, tried in earnest to say "Congratulations" and mean it to a few sweaty euphoric marathoners walking around wrapped in space blankets, and then cried some more while muttering self-defacing comments to myself seasoned with words Dana has forbad me from saying and that I assume extends to writing as well. Once again I remind you that you hold the option in your hand to turn away from this accident of self-pity run amok.

After a hearty dose of caffeine, the cure to all evil in the world, Dana and I went down past the finishing line to cheer on the last waves of walkers beyond the 7 hour mark. It was a pleasure to do so. God love them each and everyone. Just try standing for 7 hours let alone moving forward for seven hours. Yes, it completely boggles my mind that you who run actually run those distances or large portions of it. I am in full-blown awe of you. But the pay off is while walkers are still at miles 15-18 you're on your way back to the car with a medal around your neck and ice cold water in your hands. 7 hours. 8 hours. 9 hours. Even 10 hours. Walking warriors every one. At the 7th hour while the finishing line stayed open, the cross roads had to be opened up again for traffic and even though those still walking had been diverted onto the sidewalks, they kept coming and we kept cheering. There was one mentally-challenged young woman who was grinning from ear to ear with every step, her arms held high in the air and when I said "You are amazing. You've done the most incredible thing so be proud of yourself" she responded by stopping in mid-step and saying with the most tender and joyous voice "Oh thank you so much" that I melted three feet into the pavement.
Her tenacity and joy would have ripped your heart out and made you cry. If not, then you aren't human and you have jet oil for blood.

The greatest moment for me, one that would have only been second to finishing myself, was waiting for and then watching BayCityWalker finish the marathon! If you've ever read Steve's blog you'll know why I still tear up a few hours later just thinking about his victory. Two weeks ago he was in ICU and today he walked 26.2 miles (plus an extra mile this morning from his hotel to the starting line!) and He. Crossed. The. Finish. Line. Steve, BayCity Walker is a bon afide one of a kind marathon man. As you can tell, I've been in awe of Steve since I met him last Spring as I continue to be to this day. Scrappy. Tenacious. Determination. Self-Will. Courageous. All in abundance. I am insanely over the top proud of him.

Dana doesn't think I should be blogging so soon with my disappointment so fresh. She's been saying all the right things. Give it some time Honey. I'm so sorry. I'm so proud of you. It's a big deal to even stand at the starting line. You tried. You went further than you probably should have on that ankle. I love her to pieces. I know she means it all and I adore her for saying it; for trying so hard to make me stop hurting. I just don't believe any of it right now. I couldn't be less proud of myself. I feel like a soldier who ran from the battle lines, like a gawky teenage boy who gets his pants pulled down in front of the girls, like a woman walking through a four star restaurant with the back of her dress stuck in the top band of her pantyhose. I could go on. Believe me Kids, this is only the surface of the abyss of my pouting.

I've wanted nothing else for the past nine months but completing this marathon. Nothing. Perhaps my world is too small and I shouldn't have pinned so much emotion and effort on one thing. It's just that this hasn't been the greatest year. I had another lifelong goal around my lifes calling. I had it for a few brief years and then I had it taken from me overnight. That's when I turned to walking and walking gave me another goal to focus my energy and heart on. This marathon was to be my redemption. My overcomers dance.

This is not a good day for me. And for that much, for anyone who is within the sound of my whiny voice and the sight of my pitiful face. That would be Dana. Send good thoughts her way. I'm just being honest here. Right now I can't turn this into comedic entertainment and please be very very clear about this, I'm not blogging for sympathy or kind encouragement, and if a swift kick to the rear is what you think I need, I assure you that a "Snap out of it and pull yourself together" would in every likelihood have me searching out your home address on the internet.

Sigh. So this is the other side of victory. Actually, I take that back. This is the extremely horrendously dark side of victory. Others would handle it better, with grace and calm acceptance. They would say things like "I'm disappointed but I did my best and there's always next year." And when they said it, they'd actually mean it. Unfortunately, right now I'm a little further down the food chain. It's been said by more than one, that I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Sometimes that's really a good and admirable thing, but sometimes, like now, it's just a bad fashion statement. So seriously, if you've read all this, I apologize. I'm sorry for the self-pity. Were you not to complete a marathon I would never say or think so harshly of you. I'd tell you, "You set a goal and you went for it. You didn't just wish for something like so many other people do, but you made the incredible effort to reach for it. You learned from this effort and you'll be stronger the next time. Your dedication is inspiring. Congratulations!" That's what I'd say and I'd mean it with every cell of my being.

Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to say that to myself. I better because really, self-pity is exhausting and rather unattractive. For today though, I'm just a '68 Pinto and a '72 Chevy Nova on a collision course. Keep your eyes on the road and your foot on the gas. I tell you this for your sake and because I care.

Now excuse me for leaving but I have the second half of "Snakes on A Plane" to salve my damaged soul.