23 June 2009

The Fire Next Door

I came back from Vegas on a Tuesday. Lucy came to visit two days later. She and Jesse picked me up from the gym and (after I showered) we walked her through Chinatown. We showed her all the cheap produce and brought her into the meat markets. Lucy said it smelled like dog's breath and vowed to never buy any meat there. Jesse showed her the live frogs ready to be purchased for dinner and she was as disgusted as we expected. Jesse's that kind of older brother, the "here look at this" kind who loves to watch his sister gag. It's entertaining.

We didn't do anything Thursday night, but around 2 Friday morning, I thought I heard "fire, fire" from outside. I first thought it was a dream. I am not about firefighter flashbacks. I went back to sleep but heard sirens about twenty minutes later.

Two minutes after that, I heard yelling outside. I figured it was then interesting enough to get me out of bed.

Lucy was already up, walking toward the door. She had heard someone shouting "we have to break the door" and thought it was coming from the hallway.

To help you visually, between my building, and the next building, is a gate. It's about 7 feet high. It's unmarked. It's unlocked. It leads to another apartment building that's built to the side of and slightly behind mine. That's the building in question. The pictures are from one of our living room windows.

We saw firefighters. They were right under the window. They were working hard, breaking glass, chopping down the door, yelling to get more line. Two of them carried cats out of the building. One of them spotted me taking pictures. Whatever.

Lucy & I saw a guy on the floor above the fire. He was fat and shirtless. He opened his window to peep the commotion and we started waving at him, and yelling for him to get out of the building. The firemen put on their masks and went back inside. It was intense. Light smoke was coming out of the windows of one apartment and I felt like they could not get to it. By now people were staring out of every window in the neighborhood. We have a very quiet street.

Eventually I got ready for work. I walked downstairs. I opened the door. There was a man. He was a fireman. Judging by his face, I'd say he could easily be a fireman in Las Vegas. I said "good morning." He smiled & nodded. I giggled.

His cohorts were blocking my sidewalk. They were trying to get the ladder back onto the truck. There were 5 or 6 of them holding it up. It was too large (and maybe too heavy) to just lift. They looked ridiculous. I reached for my camera three different times. But I didn't want them to drop the ladder on me.

No one was hurt. The fire didn't spread. Cats and elderly people were saved. Firefighters first thing in the morning. A fine start to the day.

Reminder: I'm running in the Nike Women's Marathon as a fundraiser to fight Leukemia & Lymphoma. Please support me by donating here

Thank you!

22 June 2009

Marathon Training | Week 3

This is technically the beginning of week four, but I missed the first week for Kateapalooza, so for me (and for you) this is week three. And it was an important week, because it made it more personal for me.

Saturday 20 June 2009

We ran in Sausalito, which meant showing up across the bridge an hour earlier. Still, there were about 100 people there. There were 3 running options: 3, 4, or 5 miles. I opted to do 4, because I did 3 twice last week. I don't always think I'll add a mile per week, but I felt ambitious.

The path was mostly beautiful, although there were parts that went through some industrial storage areas. Our path was marked with flour sprayed from a water bottle. I wish I had a camera along. It really was a genius idea.

I'm always nervous when I first start a run. I'm afraid I'm going to be the first to have to walk, or that I'll hit some kind of wall, and just not be able to continue. My fear isn't based on any real event or in any sense of embarrassment. I'm just nervous for at least the first half mile. This Saturday was no different, and I stayed at the back of the pack. I'm not fast, and I don't like to be in the way, so I start myself in the back and eventually (as I get into a rhythm, and as others start walking) I end up in the middle. I do my best not to walk at all, so I can say "I ran four miles," without asterisks or footnotes.

There was an Honoree Brunch after the Saturday run. Each group brought part of the meal and the end result was a feast. I could have gotten my camera then, but dove into the blueberries instead. I ate myself into a fruit coma and was presented with even more motivation.

I heard from a single mother diagnosed with lymphoma in 2004. She went into remission, but was re diagnosed in 2006. She was hospitalized at Stanford, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society reimbursed her family for the costs of traveling to see her.

My team won a trivia game. My prize was a nalgene bottle.

Another woman was 9 months pregnant when she was diagnosed. She was treated with a drug that only targeted her bad cells. She thanked us for training and raising money, saying her family's life would be a lot different if not for the work of the LLS.

Another woman was just diagnosed a year ago. She's been in remission for eight months, and she's on my team. She's training to run / walk the half in October. She thanked us for just being there, and helping her get active again.

Another honoree didn't know he was sick until it was really close to being too late. He trained for his third marathon and had what he called a really poor showing. When it was over, he and some friends went to Spain and then to England. He said one day he woke up with a second chin. He went to what he described as the worst hospital in the world and they told him it was the measles. He couldn't swallow even water, but they sent him home. He developed a third chin, and they said the same thing, but took some blood as a precaution.

The following day a doctor called and told him to report to the 5th floor of the worst hospital in the world. On the 5th floor he saw a pediatrics ward, a geriatrics ward, and an oncology ward. He said that's what told him he had cancer. And he fell to his knees and cried. Within a month he was back in the United States, treated, and training for his next marathon. He says the key was the type of chemo used. I don't remember the name, but it didn't cause hair loss, didn't
cause nausea, and was created through research funded in part by the LLS.

There was nothing overly dramatic in any of the story telling. It was more that these people were there, and for every one of them there's someone who isn't. The leukemia survival rate is 49%. In the 40's, it was 0.

Someone told me that someone told her that Team in Training is a scam, that the money doesn't all go to cancer research. I can see where some who don't listen can get confused. The money I raise (from you) does not all go to funding a cure. Some of it goes toward finding new drugs, or new forms of chemotherapy, or even to getting someone's
family to visit them. It goes to people, and to help people. And it's working - for all but 51% of the people diagnosed with leukemia.

Please donate.

21 June 2009

Kateapalooza (v) | Responsibility

As much as we tried to avoid it, responsibility crept into our weekend.

We were lazy again, although I did exercise. Kate & I went to the grocery store for dinner and a movie - then waited for golf to be over to watch the movie (Madagascar 2) with Ross. We had grilled fish (steak for Kate) for dinner. Boring? Yes! We went all day without anything noteworthy. And and then we went to get another movie.

Kate had been hearing a noise outside her window. We suspected she had something caught in her tire. We did not expect gashes.

The first picture from the tire discovery.

We were already out when we found it. So we crawled (figuratively) back to the house and showed Ross. He (in his calm Ross way) said "well that's certainly something that needs to be addressed immediately." Of course he was right, but there was nothing to be done at that moment. We watched Defiance with Daniel Craig. It was good, but long and violent.

It was mostly business Monday. Kate and Ross had errands to run. I had to exercise and pack. And that tire wasn't going to fix itself.

It looked worse in the daylight.

-Discount Tire man.

The explanation for the tire was heat. The Vegas heat does ruin windshield wipers, car batteries, and vinyl finishing. So I guess tires should not come as a surprise. Kate had to replace 3 of them. We talked about it. The Discount Tire man showed us the damage and the warning signs on the other tires. The three damaged tires (one was replaced recently) are 4 years old. We thought the replacement recommendation was plausible, and not in reaction to two women wearing skirts driving in a car with two gashes in one tire. Kate & I walked to Starbucks to wait.

And then I had an errand to run. I visited my old job to see the familiar faces. I didn't get to spend any real time with anyone, but it was good just to be there again. Even though I do the same job, I'm in a different position. I'm still the new kid, where I had been a leader. I'm still learning the Bay Area, where I had known the Las Vegas Valley. I guess I felt more empowered in Vegas. It was good for me to be reminded of that. And in honor of the old days, Kate and I went to happy hour, where things were just not right.

First of all, my favorite waitress was not there. When I lived there, she knew me. She remembered what I ordered and she was always able to handle my friends and I, no matter how many of us there were. I don't know if she was off, or if she's gone altogether. I mean she was from Kentucky, and she didn't move to Vegas to be a waitress. So there really may have come a point when she decided to make a change. I'm sure if Stacy had been there, she would have warned us of the changes to the Maggiano's menu.

The prices were higher, but there were also more options. Kate & I ordered two pieces of fried cheese and one order of garlic bread. It's probably the exact same thing we ordered at our last happy hour but everything (including the forks) have been super-sized in the last few months. What used to be one triangle of fried cheese (topped with cheese) is now a thicker, longer, rectangle - full of more cheese than any person should consume at once. There were also more slices of garlic bread. It wasn't pleasant. We both felt disgusting. Also, my lemon drop martini had lower grade lemon juice and the pomegranate martini was simple "eh." It seems my favorite happy hour is gone.

We were too stuffed to eat dinner, even though I had been looking forward to more burgers. We were incapacitated by cheese. We watched Paul Blart: Mall Cop and called it a night. And on Tuesday it was back to reality.

Reminder: I'm running in the Nike Women's Marathon as a fundraiser to fight Leukemia & Lymphoma. Please support me by donating here

Thank you!

15 June 2009

Kateapalooza (iv) | Free Men & Firemen

On Saturday Kate & I reached our goal of absolute laziness. We're busy people. We're always on some adventure or doing some project. We typically don't waste a lot of time. I'm not sure why, (and I'm worse than she is) we just don't spend a lot of time relaxing. But last Saturday, we took a stand to sit down. I didn't even exercise. It was after 3AM when we went to bed. When my eyes opened at 6:15, I gave my body a firm "no," and went back to sleep. Later we made pancakes & sausage, and I assume we watched golf. Ross watches golf like I watch cartoons. Who am I to judge?

Kate suggested we organize the garage. I love organizing. Plus, Ross had recently installed overhead storage bars, so it was a new project altogether. I thought about it, but remembered I was taking a stand. So we went to visit Melissa. She has a Wii. Despite all the Wii fanciness, we played Super Mario Bros., and had the best time ever.

I used to play all the time with my brother and cousins when I was little. I don't think I've seen the princess since. But Mario Bros. is like a flu vaccine -- once I grabbed the controller, (and my brain recognized something familiar) my body took over. I remembered more than I thought I would. I remembered where to jump to find the free men. I remembered how to run & slide. I remembered the tunnels that had coins. I remembered the Warp Zones I preferred to skip. I remembered I'm terribly slow inside the castles. It was completely autoimmune. And just so you know, we're not stuck in the past. We also played The Price is Right. We got to pick our players. The only black option was a woman with crazy hair who clapped like a seal. Really? I should write a letter.

Kate setting up the game.

While Kate & I played, Melissa was getting beautiful(er). Sometimes she really is too pretty. But this was the day of the firefighter auction, so she had good reason. The woman sharing the stage with eligible firefighters has to be able to hold her own. Melissa was ready for the challenge.

Three hours later, (no, I don't know what Kate was doing) we left for the auction. As Kate and I share a brain, I can tell you what we were both expecting. We expected a stage full of firemen being presented to a room full of cougars. We expected mostly decent looking men, with a few stellar exceptions. We expected older, wealthy women deserving of our censure. We were prepared to appreciate the men and mock the desperate women trying to buy and seduce them. We did not expect other firefighters to be there, wearing their uniforms and mingling with the crowd. And we certainly did not expect our reaction to seeing the aforementioned firefighters up close. Yes. We giggled like school girls and purred like kittens.

I can't tell you much about the women, just that there was a sea of them. The two most important of course being the emcees, Dayna & Melissa. Kate & I only decided to go to the auction because they were hosting. We stood near them waiting for the auction to start (it's important to let people hit the bar before asking them for money) and we were there as firefighter after firefighter introduced himself and talked about blah and blah. Kate & I enjoy this part about our on-camera friends. People (in this case well sculpted fire fighting bachelors) are drawn to them. And Kate and I are just there. We don't have to be funny or witty, because no one cares about us. We can just observe. It's nice.

Dayna & Melissa left. The auction started and I found my cougar-esqe instincts. The men who were "eh" on paper were "woah" in the flesh. I didn't get their names or hobbies -- and I'm okay with that. I will say each did his best to keep the crowd excited. They all came out to a song and did a dance. Sometimes that dance involved the removal / ripping of clothing. I think I actually felt the surge of estrogen rushing up to the stage.

(Trouble. Also, that woman behind him kept yanking at his suspenders.)

Jim's badge.
(Kate's hands. I only mention it because she's petite.)

The $3,000 man.
(We touched. We did not bid.)

Jim again.
(Did I mention he had a nestea / vodka flask in his pocket?)

(Don't worry. I felt safe at all times)

Afterward, Kate & I went to Ghostbar. We didn't last long. It was too cold to sit outside and too expensive to sit inside. And let's face it. Nothing was going to top what we had already seen. Some of the firefighters had started putting on their regular clothes. And you know what? They weren't as attractive.

I talked to some of my friends. We plan to go back next year and do it right. Maybe even place a bid or two. I mean, since it's for charity and all.

Reminder: I'm running in the Nike Women's Marathon as a fundraiser to fight Leukemia & Lymphoma. Please support me by donating here

Thank you!

12 June 2009

Kateapalooza (iii) | Socializing

I would have preferred nothing more than several drinks at the Mandalay Bay Beach after the great swimsuit debacle of 2009. Instead I wore my old (loose) top, my (extremely loose) bottoms, and (non-matching) shorts to Melissa's pool, where we had water. We had planned on margaritas, but there was what I would call a measuring malfunction and we found we did not have enough mix.

Pool time was relaxing, albeit extremely windy. Ross & I sat in the hot tub, mustering the chutzpah to get into the pool. Kate & Melissa stayed on chairs and we discussed the Fire & Rain Firefighter Auction. Melissa was to be an emcee. She had met with the firefighters and was telling us about them. I was not impressed by their pictures or their bios. When a guy says his ideal date is to cook and talk, I find myself asking "really? You just want to chat?" I admit I'm a skeptic.

Melissa went to meet a visiting cousin. Kate & I went home to make dinner, which was a lot more intense than we thought. The plan was baked potatoes, broccoli, and grilled chicken. The outcome was also baked potatoes, broccoli, and grilled chicken -- just an hour later than we had planned. Kate refused to believe it takes an hour to bake a potato properly. Ross underestimated how long chicken (with bone) takes on the grill. I felt responsible, because I believe I suggested both the potatoes and the chicken. It was after 8 when we finished eating. We had invited people to an event at 9. The scramble was officially "on."

We were fashionably late, and after two seat changes seated along a long (giggle) wall at Kona Grill. I think the waitstaff hated us. The fact that there was an 18% gratuity added to all of our tabs further convinced me.

"I haven't shaved in three days. I look like a man." - jhu

I love my friends. I love that they make time to come see me when I visit. I love that they get along, so that I can leave them amongst themselves while I mingle. I don't like being the center of attention, more like the reason for the season. I had a fantastic time and I hope all my friends did too. Of course I cannot divulge what was discussed, or what gossip was gleaned. But I will say it was insightful. And I can't wait to do it again.

Kate & I then went home and ate a lot of cake. Delicious.

Reminder: I'm running in the Nike Women's Marathon as a fundraiser to fight Leukemia & Lymphoma. Please support me by donating here Thank you!

11 June 2009

Kateapalooza (ii) | Shopping

I was full of ambition Friday. I woke up just after 6AM, which has sadly become "sleeping in" for me. I took Jewel (Kate's dog) for a walk and did some stretching. Once Jewel's run slowed to a gait, I brought her back and went running on my own. I tried to be health conscious while I was vacationing. I've learned a lot about how my body in the last year (specifically how it reacts to salt) and I wanted to avoid as many adverse affects as possible. When I (as a recovery hypertensive) eat salt, I get lethargic. The higher my blood pressure, the more I sleep. Water and exercise (sweat) are my best combatants, and I was determined to have both while I was in Vegas. I won't say I failed, but I didn't accomplish all that I wanted either.

I'm used to running on a treadmill, which means I'm used to sweating profusely. I taste a sweat sample as I go, just to gauge what I've been eating. There was no sweat Friday morning. It was windy, and I was in a steady breeze. I got a good cardio workout, followed by a good leg & ab workout back at the house. But very little sweat. I gave myself an "A" for effort.

Our agenda for the day was to spend time poolside. We had pools at the ready, and I just needed a bathing suit. I haven't bought one since before the cruise, nearly 2 years and 30 pounds ago. Kate and I were going buying, which is not the same as shopping. I'm not a shopper. I don't like it. The parking, the crowds, the size picking, the reevaluating -- it all makes me crazy. I'm not one of those people who walk into stores to "browse." I'm there to buy something. If I see it, I buy it and I leave. I don't check other stores or look for other deals. This is one of the largest differences between Kate (the brainmate) and I. She loves that craziness. We were the perfect buying pair.

Sometime during the day, Jesse sent me a picture of myself from September 2006. He wrote "sorry, but this is a perfect before picture." And he was right. It was from Gordon Biersch and featured me, and entire pizza, a sugar-laden coffee, and my phone. Kate said "see? you should feel good going to buy a bathing suit.

We stopped at Old Navy, where I admit I had high hopes. We perused the selection, and found the 80's are making a comeback. Also we learned we do not like the 80's. We then journeyed to the Meadows Mall. And that's when Kate hit her stride. She picked a bunch of swimsuit possibilities for me, and sent me into a dressing room, where I hit the proverbial swimsuit wall. I'm smaller, but still apparently larger than average up top. Typical swimsuits with the separate covers for each boob are a joke. Trust me. I showed Kate and we had a laugh. I was spilling everywhere. There was no support, and there was no sale.

Next stop was Torrid. It's a plus sized store, where I've gotten bathing suits for years. Torrid understands support. Unfortunately, it's also very fashion forward, meaning the 80's had come back there too. I made it very clear to Kate I would not wear a brown / pink / blue / green suit - especially not one in cheetah print. Really? No. We stopped in Lane Bryant, another plus-sized understander of support. There are 0 swimsuits there, just catalogs for shoppers to order online. If I wanted to order a bathing suit online, I would have done that at home. I don't need a store for that. Thanks.

Final stop, Dillards. It had a large selection there and once again Kate filled my arms with suits and sent me into the dressing room. I tried on at least 10. By then, we had changed our strategy. We knew I needed tube-style suits, preferably with straps. Still, it did not go well. We agreed on two suits, and were both leaning toward the same one. Then I saw it was $98. The swimsuits we first saw were closer to $35. It was all over. I couldn't bring myself to spend $98 on two pieces I'll rarely wear. It was a solid waste of a morning. I was annoyed, and felt fully justified in my disdain of shopping. Why would anyone choose to do that to themselves? It's beyond me.

Reminder: I'm running in the Nike Women's Marathon as a fundraiser to fight Leukemia & Lymphoma. Please support me by donating here

Thank you!

10 June 2009

Kateapalooza (i) | Arrival

I went to Vegas last week to celebrate Kate, in an event dubbed "Kateapalooza." If Kate were my Siamese twin, we'd be joined at the brain. We think the same way about most things. We're also strongly opinionated, passionate, and honestly less than pleasant people. Kate & I have also led similar lives over the years and even while we're in different cities, the similarities keep coming.

We both worked Thursday. Then I got to the airport, and flew to Vegas for an arrival just as Kate got out of work. The timing was perfect. Syncing lives is awesome. Kate & I got burgers for grilling, a Melissa for smiling, and mixtures for drinking. The party had started.

We didn't do much that first night. The burgers were delicious, the corn was perfectly grilled, and (for whatever reason) the generic tater tots were the best any of us had tasted in a long time. Ross (Kate's husband) told me my neck appeared long and slender - by calling me a "blaraffe." Get it? A black giraffe. Yeah. Ross.

We planned an active Friday, with poolside drinking, buying (not shopping), and a rendezvous with some friends. We had hoped to be poolside Thursday night as well, but Melissa makes a strong martini. It was an early night.

Reminder: I'm running in the Nike Women's Marathon as a fundraiser to fight Leukemia & Lymphoma. Please support me by donating here. Thank you!

09 June 2009

Ready? Set. Sit.

I'm supposed to be out training with my coaches. I'm supposed to be learning about running shoes. I'm supposed to be running either a certain distance, or a certain time. I'm not. I'm outside the San Francisco Food Bank waiting for Jesse. He's volunteering. I'm just stewing.

Our plan was for me to drop him off at the food bank, and head across town for my training. Yes, we took out the car for this. He had to be there at 6, and I had to be elsewhere at 6:15. I dropped him off at 5:45. I was back out front an hour later.

My directions landed me in heavy traffic. As I stopped and rolled, I realized I wouldn't make it on time and I weighed my options. I had no idea which surface streets to use, but I knew they had to at least be moving. I took the next exit and reset my course with 20 minutes until class. I figured if I could get halfway there in that time, I wouldn't be *so late. But one wrong turn led to another. One missed street sign diverted me even further away from where I wanted to be. My Bluetooth was dead. And even if it had juice, I had no one to call. I don't have numbers for my mentor or any of my coaches. One running buddy (Mariana) was at volleyball practice. The other (Trisha) was home sleeping for her overnight shift. Once I realized I was closer to Jesse than I was to practice (and saw that it was 6:30), I gave up. It's quite disappointing.

I was really looking forward to this run. It was to be my first with the team. I also stressed myself today as I took myself out of vacation mode and could have used the exercise. I had a weekend to remember how we used to live. How comfortable we were, and how it was before every penny mattered. It was nice. We want it back. Our goal seemed tangible over (my) weekend and (by comparison) even further away when I got home. I needed to shake it off and running was my answer. But like I said. I'm just sitting. Harrumph.

I'm sure I'll be back on track tomorrow. I mean it's a whole new day and all. I'd love to wake up to some good news though, a donation perhaps, from you. http://tr.im/n6F7

~ Danie D.
Courtesy of my Verizon PinkBerry

06 June 2009

Let's Not Forget

I'm in Vegas this weekend, celebrating Kate's birthday. I'm having a fantastic time doing much of nothing. I'll report the highlights of the weekend when I get back to my computer, but I wanted to share this picture with you.

It's me in September of 2006, at another birthday celebration. The pizza in front of just me tells you I'm at Gordon Biersch. The salad next to the pizza tells you I did not share. It's safe to assume that coffee is loaded with cream and sugar, and once it was done6 it's safe to say I went drinking.

But also note I'm happy. I was never that fat girl who hated herself, who was teased, or who was lonely. Even though I had to buy that shirt that day just to have something to wear that night. My friends and family never made me feel out ugly or giant - even though I have a tendency to befriend petite brunettes. No one pushed me to lose weight. It was a decision I made on my own a month later, after seeing the pictures from that night.

A month later, I met Ckyla. She was my trainer at 24 Hour Fitness and she honestly changed my life. She taught me what I needed to know to live better. And 82 pounds later, I'm glad. I mean I was glad then I suppose. So I guess now you could say I'm happy.
~ Danie D.
Courtesy of my Verizon PinkBerry

02 June 2009

Commitment Complete

I've paid my marathon registration. As far as I'm concerned, that $100 obligates me to run 13.1 miles. I've met with my team, and with a smaller group of runners in my neighborhood. I've met my mentor, my coaching team, and my team manager. I've signed in to the team web page, and personalized my own. I'm doing this. I'm really ready (mentally) for the running. But there is the other part.

My team, mentors, coaches, and support group is being provided by Team in Training. The organization is investing in me and in return I have agreed to ask you to invest in cancer research. I need your help, in the form of encouraging words and donations. I believe in the cause. Seventy-five percent of everything you donate will go toward fighting blood diseases like leukemia and lymphoma. The other 25% funds my training, pre-race, and race day activities. It's a thorough program and I'd like to think I'd pay for it even I wanted to run a half-marathon without a cause. But there's no way to be sure at this point. As I said, I'm obligated.

I need your donations. I don't think I have to convince you that cancer is terrible, or that every little bit helps. I've done (some) math, and if I get $7 from everyone I know*, I'll meet my goal. You can donate via my personal page. It's simple. The page doesn't make you create a username / password, and gives you an upfront way to avoid spam.

*If you read this blog, consider yourself "known."

I also think Jesse is changing his tune. He hasn't retracted his earlier statements, but he did send me an article about walking while I'm running. I guess that's what one would call a start.

So for the next five months, you'll see this:

Reminder: I'm running in the Nike Women's Marathon as a fundraiser to fight Leukemia & Lymphoma. Please support me by donating here.

I figure it allows you to donate at your earliest convenience. I thank you. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society thanks you. People living with blood diseases thank you. Even Jesse will thank you - once he gets over being wrong about this entire venture.