26 December 2009

Christmas 2009

We started planning Christmas before Thanksgiving. We tried to think of gifts throughout the year and we tried to write them down. Turns out it's difficult for adults to go months without getting something they want. Still, we had a good list and promised to get everything ordered / shipped / delivered in time. We put up our own little tree and our one string of lights. We posted our cards on the wall and made a birthday pile for Joel - whose birthday is December 24th. This year, our Christmas was planned early and thoroughly. And the snags were deep and complicated.

I had to work late on Christmas Eve. I am not going into details, but my schedule was changed at the last possible minute. The circumstances were out of my control and the fallout was severe. I worked two hours later than planned on Christmas Eve, which is when we have dinner & presents. It was not because of any emergency or unforeseeable happening. Human error rained in our Christmas parade and I was angry. Jesse was furious. The situation changed the mood but we did our best to recover.

Jesse made macaroni & cheese with white cheddar and broccoli. He also cooked a turkey breast. Joel made knishes and I made pie & brownies. We also had extra lefse left from Thanksgiving. It was more than enough for three people and I thought we had done well not going overboard. But we actually had, we just didn't know it. I am not complaining.

We opened presents right after dinner. It's nice that Joel (who is not a Gentile) has his birthday at the same time. I think it would have been odd for us to be opening presents while he just sat there. In terms of presents, we had a great haul. I liked every single thing I was given. Some exchanges need(ed) to be made. Jesse got me rain boots that seemed too wobbly. He questioned their "structural integrity." My mom & Vicki sent glasses and some were broken. My dad & Deva sent us a 12 cup coffee maker. While we do have 12 coffee mugs, we can't fit 12 people in our apartment.

We also had to facilitate our own exchanges. Both of Jess's parents received the wrong gifts. They were ordered from different companies and our receipts are correct. But the items were wrong. Let me reach deep into my vernacular to say it sucks to think you have Christmas in the bag only to find the bag does not contain what you ordered. Jesse's dad recommended we go outside and actually shop for gifts in order to make sure people get what we want them to have. He may be on to something.

24 December 2009

Pie Making: 101

Bottom line: everything I did associated with the making of my pies was wrong.

I went to the baking aisle and did not see Pillsbury crust. So I bought Betty Crocker's crust. She's reputable in the baking world right? Her crust was not already made. I had to add water and roll it out. I set the (4) potatoes boiling and I got to rolling. It did not go well. Everything was sticky. So I added more flour. And while wondering how I got flour on my foot (and shoulder) I dropped the whole bag. First mess of The Great Pie Bake involved an ingredient I shouldn't have even needed.

I rolled and cut my dough. I buttered my dishes. I hit a wall. I did not know if I was supposed to bake the crust first. I mean I was supposed to be using ready-made crust. Was that stuff already cooked? Why didn't Betty Crocker explain that on the box. I decided to bake the crusts -- for just a few minutes -- because I would have hated for them to have been underdone.

Lesson: crusts cook quickly.

In less than 8 minutes, the crusts had browned. I knew that was bad. Aunt Shelia had already told me what the crust should look like at the finish and I already had it -- at the start. So I set those aside.

The potatoes were fork tender and (since I was told the skin had to come off in cold water) I ran cold water on them until the skin peeled away. It worked just like I had expected it too and I was pleased.

I then added a stick of butter and started mashing. I added (3) eggs, (2.5 cups) sugar, (.5 cup) milk and (half a large bottle) vanilla extract, and I kept mashing. One does not want lumpy pies.

The filling turned to soup. One second I'm attacking a piece of potato that won't break. The next, I have sweet potato stew.

I didn't panic, I added flour.

And more flour.

And more flour.

The taste changed. I got nervous. I added more vanilla and was done with it. I poured my concoction into my crusts and covered the edges with foil. Joel said that would keep them from baking any longer and burning.

I called Aunt Shelia, feeling accomplished. That did not last.

In Summary, and with expletives removed:
  • Pillsbury crust is frozen. It would not have been in the baking aisle. I really should have asked someone.
  • Pillsbury crust comes in a metal container, not a glass container like mine. So my baking time was off.
  • No one told me to butter the pan. I could have burned the crust.
  • My filling was soupy because I boiled the potatoes too long.
  • The potato skins were not supposed to peel away as cold water ran on them. They were supposed to peel away after sitting in cold water.
  • It was important to add four eggs, as eggs hold pie together. Skipping that fourth egg doomed me to soup just as much as the boiling did.
My aunt had also never heard of this foil over the crust business and was highly skeptical. I reminded her I do go to her for help and that she said nothing about frozen crust. Why would I know crusts come frozen? I told her I needed first grade instruction. She recommended kindergarten. Aunt Shelia even said "Betty Crocker crust. Who uses Betty Crocker's crust?" I told her Betty is reputable. She scoffed and told me to pray. And then she said I had obviously put love in the pies and that they would be just fine.

She was right. The pies were fine. I would even dare say they were good. I ate them both. I took some to work. Joel had some too. Jesse took a bite and said "it's sweet." He's special.

I'll make pies again next year and in the interim I hope to get out east to see my grandma make them in person. I'll take measurements and that'll be that. No more of that "stick and a little bit" business.

23 December 2009

Intro to Pie Making

23 December 2009
While thinking of my grandmother one night, I got a strong craving for one of her sweet potato pies. It was stronger than a craving - more like a hankering - and it could not be denied. It must be noted I have no experience making pies. When I was a kid, they just appeared. And since I've been an adult, I've lived too far from my pie-making relatives. It's been years since I've had one of my grandmother's pies. But I have vivid memories of the taste. That was the largest problem in my decision to make pies. Knowing how you want something to taste means you know when it's wrong. It doesn't have to mean you know how to make it right. So I went right the source and called my grandma for her recipe. She was of little help.

First of all, my grandma doesn't just make one pie. She specifically said "oh Danie I don't know how to make just one pie.". I brought myself up to two and even then I could tell my grandma had to reach. I'm one of nine grandchildren you know. And we're all used to getting our own pies. So for two pies, my grandma told me to use sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, milk, eggs and vanilla.

That's a great grocery list but a terrible recipe. I asked for more detail.

Grandma said to use 3 - 4 medium potatoes and 2 - 3 eggs. I was to use a half bottle of vanilla extract, a "stick and a little bit" of butter, and "a half teacup of milk." I told my grandma I feared for the future of these pies. She told me to pray.

I then went out among the ranks. My grandma is the best sweet potato pie maker. Surely her offspring know the tricks. I asked my mom for specifics, but she's not exactly a baker. There was a lot of "um, I think it's..." during our conversation. My mother basically said mix it all up, and when it tastes like you want it to taste, put it in the oven.

My dad asked why I didn't want his recipe. I told him it was because I didn't want his pies, I wanted grandma's pies. Sheesh.

I then called my Aunt Marion. She couldn't remember if she even put eggs in her pies.

Aunt Shelia had some numbers - but they were the highest I'd heard. She said 4 eggs and 2.5 cups of sugar. That seemed like a lot. But she also was the only one who told me which crust to get (Pillsbury) and what temperature was good for baking (325) and to add flour if the mix got too soupy. Also, the pie loses sweetness as it's baked, so Aunt Shelia told me to make the filling a little sweeter than I want the pie. She had lots of helpful information. And armed with that, I got my ingredients together and started baking.

I now see why pie making is reserved for special occasions.

21 December 2009

AND I Appeared in A Magazine

Just as I was arriving back in San Francisco, Lucy called to tell me she had received my magazine. I of course had no way of getting it that night, but I was sure to tell the world it was available. I appeared in the January 2010 issue of Fitness Magazine. I'm on page 55, next to Carrie Underwood and across from Bob Harper from The Biggest Loser. I know! It's awesome. I owe it all to Twitter.

I follow Fitness Magazine. I happened to see a tweet from the staff back in September asking people to explain how they had reached their weight loss goals. I replied. A few days later, someone asked me for my e-mail address and an editor contacted me. She asked me a few questions about how I lost the weight and if tips from the magazine had helped me. The honest answer was no, and I told her as much. Still, she told me my story was selected to appear as a blurb in the January issue. I got really excited, but not too excited. I mean I work in media. I know things can change up until the last second. While I had e-mail confirmation, it meant nothing until someone had a printed copy in their little hands. And that someone was Lucy.

It's cool seeing a (great) picture of myself in a magazine. I know lots of people lose weight. But it's so much more difficult than it sounds. Appearing in this magazine was my grand prize. I mean there's no reward for not eating too much. There's no pat on the back when you don't eat something you shouldn't. Even when you dodge unhealthy mistakes, you still have to add healthy choices in order to get results. Losing weight takes a lot of work and there are very few rewards. So this made being not-as-huge, a huge deal for me.

I find it's also inspiring my parents. I've challenged them both to lose 50lbs this year. They can do it. They need to do it. I'm offering a ridiculous (yet so far undetermined) prize. They both have young children. So they need their energy. This magazine is a tangible reminder to them that it's possible. And it's a reminder to me that I have to stay strong to help them.

All that, from a tweet.

20 December 2009

My Friend, Tab The Planner

I have a friend named Tabitha. Tabitha is an event planner. I don't mean that in a "defining Tab by her job" way. Yes, it's her job, but if she were a lawyer, she'd still be an event planner. It's the way she thinks, the way she approaches everything. I mean I plan. I pay attention to detail. I am efficient. And I am in awe of Tab.

She's married to Mike & even though I met them at Ithaca College in New York, they live in Southern California. We saw them fairly regularly when we lived in Vegas. But somehow moving to the same state brought literally us further apart. We attended their wedding in May, but that was just for a couple of days and we really on saw them for just for a few moments. So when Tab invited us to their place for a Christmas party, I decided I would go. Jesse would have gone if not for his having to work Sundays.

The drive from San Francisco to Burbank really isn't that bad once you get past Sacramento. Yes, traveling North to get to Southern California is counter intuitive. But it worked and was fairly easy. There were moments when I questioned my decision. I mean it was the week before Christmas and just a few weeks after the Thanksgiving road trip. I didn't need to be leaving home. I didn't want to be leaving home. However I really did want to see my friends. Some time after I got through traffic (yet before I hit the part of the state that smells like manure), I decided to make friends and family a 2010 priority. I want to see the people who have made me who I am and helped me get where I've gotten. I've made a lot of great friends in my travels. Now that I'm in a place where I want to stay, I'm not worried about being ready to move. So why not travel for leisure. With that decision made, I arrived in Burbank excited to just lounge.

Tab had set up a room for me, complete with welcome note and bedside magazine. I crashed their gift exchange (attended by other IC alum) and ate lots of treats (just to keep myself awake). Once the crowd dispersed, a regular person might have cleaned up and gone to bed. Tab did clean - then started prepping for the next day. She appeared with platters (each adorned with a post-it) and placed them around the apartment. She set the table, had Mike hang a few decorations and checked her extensive list.

She was up before 8AM the next day -- crushing, mixing and baking for the 7PM party. Mike was allowed to sleep in (until 9) and was sent out with his own list of errands and groceries. As a guest, I got to watch. As a friend, I wanted to help. But I had no idea what she was making. Tab's recipes ventured far deeper than my entertaining repertoire.

I watched as she rolled, cut and arranged and after each plate I kept waiting for her to be done. But she wasn't. I swear she made one item for every scheduled guest - and maybe two for me. My personal favorite was the cream cheese / pesto / tomato Christmas tree. We took a break to get lunch but she was back in the kitchen soon after, making sure the turkey pigs were in their crescent roll blankets and that the peanut butter balls were atop their brownie cookies. And then I had a visitor.

Her name is Kerry. She and I used to work together in Fargo. I've been friends with her since before I started "hanging out" with Jesse. I don't remember if she left Fargo before or after we did but life brought her to Pasadena, making her & the Tabs practically neighbors. Kerry stopped by for a visit and she too was quickly impressed with Tab's creations. Kerry & I did a quick rundown of the latest in our lives and (since she was about to go visit her sister for Christmas) she was off again. It was decidedly too quick a stop but it was better than what we had accomplished in the last five or six years.

Eventually Tab did finish cooking. Candles were lit, drinks were poured, guests arrived, the food was eaten - partially. There really was just too much. I did my best to eat everything in sight. But I am only one woman. I had a fantastic time indulging myself and just being around friends. The drive home the next day was uneventful. I remembered drive time is perfect for both calling friends and singing loudly. As much as I hadn't looked forward to making the trek, I'm really glad I did. It brought me to my first and most significant resolution of 2010. And that's exciting.

19 December 2009

LV Marathon 2009

No. It has not taken me two weeks to run the half marathon. Something ought to be said about running a race after one holiday and while planning for another. I mean there are only so many hours in a day.

The event was great. Everything was organized. There were several vendors at the expo. The necessary information was presented clearly and easily. My race was just okay. I was one of those people who drove to the venue, instead of getting a ride. I arrived later than I wanted and almost missed meeting my running mate, Cassie. She just happened to be in Vegas on business that weekend. And decided at the last minute to run with me. Cassie already runs, so for her it was a question of if she wanted to exercise that day or not. Bless her little running heart.

Like I said, I was late. And Cassie does not run with her phone. And there were 27,000+ people registered. Still - at one intersection in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, we found each other. I thought that was a fortuitous sign of things to come. We then bobbed, weaved and scurried to our corral. That was the mistake that set the tone.

I signed up to be in Corral 22, based on my projected finished time. I'm slow but not so slow that I should be at the end of the marathon line. Unfortunately, that's where we were. Corrals 23+ were empty. Sure some people filed in behind us, but we were not where we should have been. Actually, we were. The people around us weren't and they screwed us from the start. The race started at 6:15 and we didn't cross the start until 6:58. One can lose a lot of steam in 43 minutes. Even worse, the start wasn't much of a start. A lot of those corral jumpers were walkers, So us runners trying to get going had to do a lot of weaving. I'm not a fan of weaving. It wastes energy and part of me is always worried about twisting something during a zig or a zag.

And of course the nerves started talking to me. I questioned my training. I questioned my hydration. I questioned my decision to run a race so close to Nike. I questioned my legs. I basically waited until the start to think about any and every regret I could have at the finish. Folks, that's just not smart.

Cassie and I saw the street sweeper a little more than a mile behind us. Disheartening? Indeed. We plugged along though, finding Kate & David at 3 miles and taking a potty break before Cassie pulled ahead at mile 4-ish.

The race was otherwise uneventful . The course for the half marathon was flat, and ended about where it started. I got to see CityCenter and other new businesses that have popped up on The Strip. I didn't think Vegas in December could be colder than San Francisco in October, but one lives and one learns. My hands were numb were the first few miles. Fortunately there were gloves all over the ground for my convenience. I made it a point to walk for almost a mile, to make sure my injured leg was going to make it without any serious problems. Kate & David were there again at mile 11, and Kate ran with me, even when I needed to walk.

I finished strong, but not as fast as I wanted. My leg did bother me, but it wasn't nearly as bad as it was after Nike. Aside from being lonely at the finish line (not a familiar face to be found), the race was a success. I proved t myself I could do it again and I set a new goal: to become faster. I also decided to take four weeks off from running to focus on leg strength and IT band healing. i plan to run the Oakland half in March. And I want to be faster and leaner than ever.

05 December 2009

Time to Rock n Roll

If I hadn't already spent too much money, I would have bought this shirt.

I'm in Vegas for the inaugural Rock n Roll Marathon & 1/2. It's bed time and I'm clearly not as asleep as I should be.

There are a lot of differences this time around. I'm confident in my ability to finish, but only to a point. I'm not at all worried about my heart or lungs. But I'm worried about my legs. One has an IT band injury. I am planning a full non-running recovery beginning tomorrow afternoon. The other leg is a little sore from my work out yesterday. It's not a big deal, but it is there. As of right now, my second to worst fear is not being able to finish. My absolute worst fear is not being able to finish, being too stubborn, ignoring my body, and doing real damage. It's worth noting how my fears have changed in just six weeks. I suppose that's progress.

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry

30 November 2009

Boomtown or Bust

We've just left Reno. This is the view from the Boomtown Casino. I like that it's so close to the mountains. It's a pretty nice place actually. We were in Reno just to get gas, and to drive down the strip. We'll likely stop for some food & coffee before we get home.

We still like each other and I've thought of plenty of other road trips for us to take. So this is far from being the end.

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry

I Heart Montana

Jesse's on his second driving rotation and we're still just in Montana. We took a different way back - staying on the main interstates and not going through the mountains. It's still mountainous terrain, but there are more cell towers along I-90.

So far I can tell you the car is less comfortable on the way back. Jesse & Joel have both caught colds, and are therefore having trouble sleeping. (We just crossed into Idaho!) they've both been tossing & turning. I think they were both muttering too. I drank a large coffee at the start of my first shift (5 hours ago) and not only can I not sleep, I need a restroom in the worst way. Our gas mileage seems to be worse on the way back too, as if we're constantly heading against the wind.

Otherwise, I love(d) Montana. I loved the snow on the mountains. I loved being high enough to see the "big sky." I told Jesse we could homestead there. He didn't say no. Of course it helps that it's a full moon and everything already grand looks even better. It's a clear night and I am again reminded of how rare it is for me to see the stars.

I love road trips.

- desperately seeking a potty.

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry

29 November 2009

Postcard From Williston

We're heading back to California. We've loaded up little Henry with our fatter butts, better food, and some extra stuff from a storage shed. We left promptly at 1PM Central / 11AM Pacific. We timed out the route to get to a main highway (and away from deer) by dark. We're still driving in four hour shifts. Since I ended the first trip, Jesse started the second. That means I get to ride (and snack) for 8 hours before having to do anything. Smooth.

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry

28 November 2009

The Epitome of "Holiday"

I'm on vacation! I'm having a great time doing as little as possible. This is me during a cutthroat afternoon of bingo at the Knights of Columbus. My only success was winning $10 in pull tabs. We let that ride and came out with nothing. Joel on the other hand won $49 in bingo. It almost makes up for a hold 'em tournament incident last night.

I spent today doing what I've been doing since I left San Francisco: eating. Today (just today) I (only I) had lemon cake (2 pieces), french toast, pancakes, toast, more lemon cake, popcorn, an ice cream bar and lumpia. The lumpia was just an appetizer for the steak / salmon / macaroni & cheese dinner. I can't count the cocktails, but they're plentiful. If I didn't eat again until 2010, my body might not notice.

More that food though, I've been able to relax. That matters a lot. It's rare and it was much needed after the 3 months I've had at work. I'm really happy right now. And I just wanted to share that.

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry

25 November 2009

We've Arrived!

After 28.5 hours in the car, we've made it. Jesse's dad handed out shots as we walked in "just to get you get in the door." I've already had 2, and Lucy handed me a glass of Polka Dot wine, which I love.

So we're here. We're safe. We still love each other. We dealt with fog, deer, and dissent in the last leg. It's nothing worth discussing now. I'm on vacation.

Happy Thanksgiving!

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry

Miles City, MT

One of my favorite things about living in the Midwest was Taco Johns. I'm not sure how I came to love it, but I do. When we lived in Vegas, I could only have it when cousin Mikey came to visit and we had an insider on the air force base. I hadn't had a potato ole since Thanksgiving 2007, until today. Joel spotted Taco Johns from wherever it was that we got gas. Both the drive through and the interior were packed. It's good stuff.

I've also been stuffing my face all day with treats we brought with us. Good thing I'm running another half marathon last week. I'd be disappointed if I couldn't say I was carbo-loading.

Also, it should be noted I was right: this leg offers nothing for the scenery-lover. I'm not tired, but I may try for another nap. We have seven hours left and maybe an hour's worth of scenery.

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry

Montana Brings Slippery Slopes

Jesse & Joel slept for my driving shift. Despite not getting caffeine, I wasn't tired - since the driving shift was at the same time I get up for work. I was pleased with the timing. I was pleased with my 8 hours of sleep. I was pleased that we were starting the second 12 hour rotation. I faded the music to my position and we hit the road.

Sometime along the way, the GPS guided me off the interstate and onto a state road. The state road in question runs parallel to the interstate but is (apparently) more treacherous with it's elevation / ice / seclusion. None of the above registered in my brain as I happily turned off the main road. I wasn't even concerned when I noticed the snow on the trees, or the small piles on the side of the road. It didn't alarm me that there were no street lights, no exits, no other cars. I didn't even care that there was a little snow & ice on the road. I really was enjoying the forest for the trees. It was beautiful. We were really high, and as the fog rolled in, it looked as if I could have touched it. The sun was starting to come up and things were more blue, less black. I could see more snow and I could feel it was getting colder as we went. Jesse moved and I took his semi-consciousness to show him the beauty around us.


He was angry that we weren't on the interstate. Once he explained about the treachery - and reminded me I don't have chains for my tires - I fully understood why. But I told him there was nothing to be done about it, and to relax. He sat & he sulked. And then he said "are you sure the GPS told you to turn?"


I told him I was not lying, that I didn't just decide to turn onto a road I didn't know for fun. He told me not to get offended. It seemed pretty offensive to me. Either he was suggesting I lied about what the GPS said, or that I was too stupid to follow instructions. Offensive? Indeed.

I stayed quiet. I got myself all worked up, and then just about calmed down. But then Joel woke up. And Jesse said "Danie says the GPS told her to turn off the highway."

Calm shattered.

I use the word "says" just about every day at work. It removes responsibility. It implies "I don't take this as fact, but it's what I've been told."

I reminded Jesse that he was responsible for programming the route into the GPS. I told him it insulted my intelligence to ask if I was sure I heard what the GPS told me. I mean really. What would I have been thinking to turn onto a road I don't know? And then I promised myself I wouldn't talk to him for the rest of the trip.

He sincerely insisted he was not insulting my intelligence. He assured me he didn't think I was lying. I forgave him. And I was happy again.

Although he did say the GPS could have rerouted us after *I turned it off during a pit stop.

We made it back onto the interstate at Bozeman. My drive was certainly the most scenic. Now that the mountains are behind us, it's flat and not nearly as exciting. I'll be having a par fait and napping.

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry

Pocatello II

I started driving as we left Pocatello, so there are things I couldn't update.

First of all, it's in Idaho, not Nevada. I'm not sure why a 24 - hour Wal Mart is necessary, since there were at least 10 times as many workers as there were customers. The restroom was nice. I brushed my teeth, put in my contacts and felt comfortable otherwise freshening. I asked the woman who greeted us as we came in if they had Starbucks Double Shots. And that's when it got to be time to get out of Pocatello.

She didn't know what I was saying. They sold Starbucks energy drinks. They even had Frappuccinos. So (in my mind) I was not out of line in asking for another product. I sent "Kevi" into a frenzy. I described it as a small coffee drink made my Starbucks and caffeinated.

"Well we don't have samples." "That's fine."
"Well go down to grocery and it's aisle 4. You'll see coffee, and coffee mugs, and pickles."

I knew she wasn't describing what I needed, but she was trying. She was scratching her head and maybe even felt really helpful. So I went. I saw coffee. I saw mugs. I saw pickles. No Double Shots. It was time to go. She saw me leaving empty handed and I think she was a little sad. But I thanked her for trying to help me. I want no hostility left for me in Idaho.

And there was something worth photographing - the golden arches from the McDonald's next door were down. They were propped up against a pole. But we had dawdled too long. And it was really cold.

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry


We're about to switch drivers in Pocatello, and then we're getting on the 15. I'm not sure, but I think we're still in Nevada. I've seen snow, which I find pleasing. My feet are cold and my tailbone hurts. But I've been asleep or off duty for 8 hours. So I really can't complain.

There is absolutely nothing worth a picture. There is a Wal Mart though. And I hope it has both an available restroom and a coffee machine.

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry

24 November 2009

Elko Is Cold.

Howdy. We switched drivers in Elko. We used the restroom at the Red Lion Casino. It was my kind of rest stop. I prefer casino restrooms. I mean when was the last time you went in a gas station that was as nice as a casino?

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry

Yeah. We're Doing This.

We're driving to North Dakota for Thanksgiving. We've already left. In fact, we're currently somewhere in Nevada. The Internet told me it would be a 31 hour trip. Knowing that, Jesse, Joel & I still decided to go. Yes, it sounds a little (or a lot) crazy. We understand that. But honestly, at no point in our planning did we consider *not doing it. We do know how to do things properly you know.

The oil has been changed. The car has been checked by a professional (who found 2 screws in one of my tires). Snacks have been purchased, sorted and bagged. Parents have been notified. Tracking systems have been activated. Jesse's mom even sent us a GPS (w/ durable case). We are what I would call "outfitted." We are what most would call prepared. More than that, we are excited. We like adventure and if that's insane, then I'm glad we're insane together.

We're five hours into the trip and the most exciting site we've seen was at a truck stop in Sparks. There was a wall of guns. I'm told John Wayne's spurs were there too, but I didn't see them. After that, there was a moment of panic when I dropped a contact lens. It was recovered. All is well.

~ Courtesy of my VZW Pinkberry

21 November 2009

Pinata Party

Friday, 20 November 2009

We're not exactly art aficionados. I don't have time for the abstract. I want my trees to look like trees and my landscapes to be colorful. Still, we found ourselves heading to a gallery for a showing. There were several reasons we couldn't not go.
  • It was really close to our place.
  • We were pretty sure there would be a featured (free) alcohol.
  • The showing was of a pinata living room, destined to be smashed.
And maybe I would have still chosen to stay home and sleep, had Joel & I not come across some of the prep work while doing laundry. We saw the couch - a whole pinata love seat - being brought into the gallery. It looked really cool, and imagining the treats that could fill a love seat was great motivation. So off we went Friday to a small art gallery made tiny by a paper mache living room. Not wanting to miss the smashing, we got there just a few minutes after the showing started. Let's call that "mistake #1."

The smashing (according to the artist) was not to start until the gallery was at capacity. And while it was crowded, it was not at capacity. We had drinks. We ate snacks. We listened to the chatter. We watched the hipsters mingle. We did not participate, as we are not fans of the hispters. We all have our reasons.

For me, it's the pretending to be poor. No one who actually is poor wants the world to know. It's only "cool" to wear tattered, dirty clothes when you have a Macbook in your backpack, an iPhone in your back pocket, and a fancy camera hanging underneath your scraggly beard. Poverty is not an accessory. You have every right to trim your hair with a razor but don't take a real problem like poverty and use it to make friends. If you live in a city as expensive as San Francisco, you don't need to look like you sleep under a bridge. We all know you don't. I mean how would you charge your smartphone?

So Jesse, Joel & I huddled close. We dared not speak, because we had little positive to say. Unfortunately, staying quiet meant we heard all of the conversations around us. It was painful. "But those glasses are such an integral part of your style." We were ready to witness some smashing and get out.

We had managed to get right up against the paper mache living room carpet. We had a really good view, but no drinks. Did we (Jesse) risk our spot to stand in line for a drink? Would drinks be enough consolation for our suffering, or justification for missing the moment? Worst case scenario, he was in line with his back to the show and missed the climax. We deemed it not a risk worth taking. That can be "mistake #2."

We stood, grumbling quietly and being smashed from all sides. And then - finally - capacity. But it was too much. There were to many people. We were right up against the edge of the display. We were going to get hit. We had to move back. That's right. We waited until the gallery was full so we could push people back out the doors. And then it was time. The artist thanked us for coming, then started destroying her creation. First reaction: disappointment.

She smashed and smashed and I didn't see any candy. Not a peanut butter cup or a Tootsie Roll. She wielded her bat and all I saw were Styrofoam peanuts. I was frozen with despondency. She moved from piece to piece and just before the crowd mutterings became grumblings, candies appeared. They appeared first as little spots of color, then as heavy "plops" that sounded like hail. There was less than I had hoped, but more than I had feared. The artist gave the bat to some guy. And then things got weird.

There's a reason kids hit pinatas and grown men don't. It was awkward. It was uncomfortable. It was a gross and sad display of machismo. They were just beating things because they thought the beating was cool. It was like they were all peacocks and that the bat was the tool through which they could display their colors. Here you can see at least one responsible adult shielding a kid the thoughtless swinging:

And it continued. Dude after dude showed that paper mache who was boss. Meanwhile, over in my corner, a few of us brave and greedy soul started picking up the candy. Realizing there wasn't going to be enough for everyone, the greediest among us had to act fast. And then it was just messy and weird. We stood outside -- where we had front row seats to a girl-vs-girl attack. Something about a (smaller) girl who contacted a (larger) girl's man via Myspace. The larger girl started with a ponytail yank / twist that got the smaller girl literally into the gutter. There were some unnecessary kicks to the head and I think more hair pulling. The smaller girl never even tried to defend herself. She was dominated by at least 30 pounds anyway. The boyfriend at the heart of the drama was embarrassed - not enough to break it up, but enough to stay away from the brouhaha and yell at his girlfriend from up against a wall.

They left and so did we. I don't think I have the stomach for art.

27 October 2009

A "W" for #TeamDanie (vi)

That space between miles ten and eleven were my favorite. I had hills behind me and Jesse & Joel next to me. It was like having my own paparazzi. Once they found me, they stayed close.

They ran ahead of me, to capture me in the moment.

They ran behind me, to see what I saw.

They ran next to me, for the action shots.

Eventually, Joel was sidelined by a side cramp. I happened to be sidelined myself by a pain near the knee. It's the same pain I had after the last two times I ran 11 miles. Only this time I still had two miles to go. It was a very serious concern for me as I went into the last leg. I was reminded of my improper stretch nine miles before. I stopped in an attempt to make good. But the damage had been done. Yes, I am aware that my stretching violates the terms of that sign.

I left Jesse & Joel to take pictures of the ocean and make their way to the finish line. I found another woman and a coach from my training group. We ran together for a while and even though it was flat, I had a tougher time keeping up I was in pain. I started looking for aspirin at the water stops. I tried to think of ways to use one leg less than the other. You might say I was grasping at straws. But I was still smiling. I even laughed out loud at a sign reading "you've got stamina. Call me." Hilarious.

Bottom line: I had to go slower. I could not maintain my pace for more than a minute. Knowing there were just 20 minutes left made it more difficult. It seemed like I should have been able to power through the pain. But I had been trained well enough to know that "powering through" can lead to permanent pain. I had to run the rest of the race with my brain, which I fortunately had been preserving.

I was less than a mile from the finish when I knew I was going to finish. I mean I really knew I was going to finish. Again my proud self conveyed that to my tired self and again I started crying. It was incredible. It was empowering. It was almost over. I spotted Jesse & Joel along the wall to the finish line. That orange hat really was a good idea.

And then - 2:47:05 after I started - I finished the race.

I stomped (using the good leg) on the finishing mat. And then I was forced to stop. There are two things that happen at the finish. There are photographers taking pictures. And there are firefighters giving out little blue Tiffany & Co. boxes. The gaggle in front of me stopped (and clogged) the finish line to make sure the photographers saw them. It makes perfect sense now, but at the time I was quite confused. Crossing the finish line brought me back fr0m my special mental place. I was suddenly back, surrounded by strangers, and aching. My muscles did not like the running (which had slowed to a jog) followed by the sudden stop. I re-joined humanity feeling (and sounding) like Frankenstein.

While we runners worked to get our brains functioning at a social level, Nike decided to throw all kinds of things at us. I mean we were all stiff, bumping into each other, and grunting in apology. I knew about the necklace, so I took that. Then someone ran up and put a check mark on my belly. And then there were bananas - which the nutritionist told me to eat right away. After that, there was water and chocolate milk. There were Luna bars. Someone (fortunately) handed me a bag. Someone else coated me in foil. There was granola and yogurt. I got a t-shirt (and another belly check mark) and I finally remembered I had to (a) check out with Team in Training and (b) find the rest of #TeamDanie. Of course my phone was frozen and I couldn't find the right tent. I stood and I ate. Eventually I found the boys - conveniently standing next to the TNT tent. I checked out, got a sandwich, some chips, and a pear.

Look for me just before the "l" in "life," drinking water.

I'm centered, right before the different colored potties. I think that's where I got the foil.
Still lost. Wrapped. Eating.
Still eating, yet reaching for more food.

I could not stop eating. See me over there? Everything I got, I ate. I didn't even look at the necklace.I just looked for more food. Eventually my social skills returned and it was time to go. I hobbled toward a bus stop and stopped at the red cross station for some ice.

They had me sign a piece of paper and give my bib number. They had me sit and they tried to diagnose my injury. I told them it's happened before. They asked if it was an existing injury. I told them it only comes up when I run more than 11 miles. They suggested it was my IT band. I told them I had stretched and that the band didn't hurt. They were talking really slower and I did everything I could to convey I was in a hurry. Eventually I asked them if I could go. They said I could, but that they want runners to rest. I told them I was going to go sit on a bus, then sit at home. I assured them I would rest. And then I hobbled away.

The icing intervention.

The assembly.

I used the foil to bind the ice to my leg. And then I was distracted by a pretzel stand. I love hot pretzels. I especially loved that hot pretzel.

We got on a bus and headed back to the east side of town. We ended up walking (slowly) back home from Union Square. By that time, I had started to cramp. And I was cold. And I was thirsty, but afraid of having to rush to a bathroom. Jesse wrapped me like a baked potato and I was too tired to protest. I make a cute side dish anyway.

The wrapping of the Danie.

Back at home, I iced like a good athlete. I kept eating. I updated Twitter and Facebook and forgot to text my parents. I stretched and walked as little as possible. I took a shower and stretched some more. I put on my necklace. I became a marathoner.