Saturday, November 28, 2009

When Something Clicks

It’s that time of year: time for the annual Thanksgiving family melee. Each year around this time approximately 30 adults, 4 small dogs, 2 grandmas from opposing forces and 1 small child all gather to give thanks to all that is good in the world: food, family, and booze.

And the year that the Czech’s joined us, it was a lot of booze, like something straight out of the Von Trapp family does Vegas (very drunk) with Czechoslovakian subtitles.

Thanksgiving Eve, Chris and I spent 50 minutes in the pool. We called it an off season special: floating with foam noodles. When I realized that Chris was sitting on two foam noodles and clutching two more I realized we had been in the 90-degree therapy pool for a wee bit too long. How about 50 minutes of floating? That counts as a workout, right? And believe me, we worked out. In fact, we can turn anything into a race. Sculling across the pool while seated on foam noodle. How fast can you pull the other person across the pool by legs only. Somewhere between these anaerobic efforts we managed to talk a little Thanksgiving. To get ready for the day ahead.

Prepare to arrive at 4 pm and eat dinner by 7pm.

You call it starvation, they call it strategy. It is family tradition that you literally starve the guest so they eat so much food there are no leftovers. Except, except I may add, the pie. Because who in their right mind wants to eat pie at 9 pm? No one. So that leaves about 3 pies mostly in tact for leftovers.

And it is holiday fact that you can eat pie for breakfast. Or in the case of my husband you can consume an 18-inch pumpkin pie within 3 days by eating a slice for all 3 meals.

Next we went through who was responsible for what food-wise. Cranberries? Chris. Sweet potatoes? Megan. Deviled eggs? Meredith (I don’t eat them but I hear her eggs are to die for – read into that what you’d like). Stuffing? Tom. Turkey? Tom but we are keeping a close eye on him. Stuffed mushrooms? Janet. Canned cranberries? Denise. Macaroni salad?

Wait…..macaroni salad?

Yes, my grandma made a big bowl of macaroni salad.


Turns out that the Chinese grandma got her American holidays a little mixed up. And thus we have something from the picnic food category rather than something from the bountiful feast category. Macaroni salad, a staple of Fourth of July, is making a guest appearance at Thanksgiving this year.

And I will pull my seat up to the front row when someone tells her she got her holidays wrong.

Boss is getting a head start this year. Earlier Chris went over to move some furniture around and brought Boss along. When it was time to leave, Boss chose to stay. He’s been tapering for this event all day. Didn’t get up more than twice. He could sense the big day was coming and probably also heard rumors from the other dogs that the seasonal menu for Thanksgiving includes turkey, kibble, pumpkin and broccoli.

And if he sticks around until Friday my guess is that it will also contain macaroni salad.

Chris tells me he is responsible for corn pudding. He actually makes a mean corn pudding. I don’t usually eat corn (what is it? It’s not a vegetable, it’s not a dessert so what is it and why should I eat it?) and the word pudding frightens me but this corn pudding is actually quite good. I was looking forward to eating it until I got home and read the ingredients on the Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix box. And noticed that not one but TWO of the ingredients contained the word: LARD.

Exactly what is hydrogenated lard….?

But Thanksgiving isn't just all about food and lard. It's about running. And, drinking. And if you're crazy enough, combining the two. I’ve been getting some calls, emails and other threats about Turkey Trots. It was bad enough that I got called out to the Beer Mile and had to pull a DNS for a reason not specified at this time. When The Bus called to tell me that he was ready to race me 3.1 miles on Thanksgiving I told him he wins by default. I’m not turkey trotting. The other day someone asked if I was doing the Wild Turkey Trot – that’s drink a beer, run a mile, repeat 4x. No, not this year.

This time of year – Thanksgiving, Turkey Trots – reminds me of my beginning in the sport. I might not be turkey trotting this year but 11 years ago I did and that’s where it all started.

I was living in Naperville with my parents. I was 23 years old. In town there was a local Turkey Trot. Back then it was a small race with only 326 finishers. Today it has grown to over 6,000 participants. For whatever reason, I decided I want to race. I do not remember what sparked the interest – perhaps it was burning calories because back then that was the only reason why I worked out – perhaps a spark set a fire for competing that hadn’t burned for years.

The night before, as in around 7 pm, to prepare myself I ran 7 miles around the indoor track at the gym. I remember my mom was walking laps and I was running. If I can run 7 miles, I can run a 5K, right? It was the world’s most ignorant training plan. But it was something, and gave me the illusion of preparation which at times is all an athlete needs to do well.

I remember signing up on race morning, pinning the number to my shirt and waiting until the mayor fired a gun to signify the start of the race. I have no idea how it felt or what I was thinking. I just remember I crossed the line….

And at that moment, something clicked.

That click resonated in my mind for a few months. Until March of the next year to be exact. When I read about a local women’s triathlon also in my home town. It sounded like a good idea. And if I can do a 5K, what’s a little 750 meter swim and 22K bike before it? I was bold, like most young 20-somethings, thinking I could do anything I put my mind too without regret, without thinking what would others think or how would I do or….without overthinking it. I just did.

From there I did a lot of things. I have a giant scrapbook of race numbers, results and pictures signifying over 10 years in a sport that I have done – to some extent – over done. Since that first 5K, I have taken over 3 minutes off that first 5K time. It only took me 7 years to do that. Patience pays off. Progress takes time. I have no better proof when I say that to my athletes than myself.

For Thanksgiving this year, aside from the many things in life that we are grateful for – health, family, opportunity….I am grateful for that click. Whatever set it off, whatever made me sign up for that 5K it opened a door to what I now call my life. A husband, a business, thousands of miles of memories across the world doing the things I love with people I love too. When I reflect back on the 11 years that have since passed, I realize that those 3.1 miles were perhaps a few of the most important miles I’ve covered in my life.

I am grateful for that!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Get Me Out Of Here

On Tuesday, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I made the mistake of going to the grocery store.

Not just any grocery store but the Trader Joe’s. There are 3 within 5 miles of my house. Welcome to the suburbs of Chicago. If you can’t find it within 5 miles of your house it might as well be in Wisconsin. I quickly rolled through my choices:

Naperville – a vehement no flashes through my head, images of far too many young 30something moms with 3983209428092348492 kids and at least one set of fertilitydruginduced multiples, trendy sporty casual wear and the slightest idea of how to control their 2398492837492847 children around the banana display.

Scratch that off my list.

Glen Ellyn – *head shakes* Not only do you have all Naperville (above) but you also have the old people. I have nothing against old people. One day I will be an old people. But I just think that free samples and old people in a store with aisles the width of a jail cell are not a good combination.

Especially around the holidays.

Downers Grove – we may have a winner here. Not a town known for old people or moms with multiples. I threw my co-pilot (Boss) into the car and off we went.

The parking lot was madness. I survived the first turn in – barely – after a Crown Victoria slowly peels away. Closer to the store there are cars coming, going and two simultaneously pulling out from opposite directions, neither seeing the other until they are inches apart when they finally notice and start honking.

Meanwhile, Boss is barking at an older woman wheeling a cart across the parking lot.

I guess we’re all a little on edge today.

Enter the store. Enter madness. Enter the 10th circle of hell, the one that Dante left out, nestled somewhere between Avarice and Sloth is….the grocery store around Thanksgiving.

I don't like the grocery store on an ordinary day and I really don't like it on before holiday days. But I had put this trip off for 4 days. I reached the point of desperation 3 days ago when I started using frozen fruit in my oatmeal, when I settled on a lunch of couscous and beans (ew), when I considered eating a Power Bar as a snack. Desperate moments involving food can drive you to things like this.

But unless I wanted to make a meal entirely out of condiments (I believe it is Elisa’s husband who considers it a talent to create a meal entirely out of condiments something a la adding hot water to the ketchup to make a delectable feast of tomato soup with a side of capers), unless I wanted to stoop to that level of kitchen insanity I had to go to the grocery store.

I seem to have a sixth sense for choosing the cart with the gimpy wheel every.single.time. Entering the store the front left wheel is facing the wrong way. How can a cart continue to wheel forward with one of the wheels PERPENDICULAR to the others? That is my cart. It is like the short cart.

But wait, I forget that this is the demon store that actually does have short carts for the children. Be warned, shoppers, you may wish to throw on a pair of shin guards if you go shopping at Trader Joe’s in the next two days. And if you go tomorrow night, you should probably also wear a cup just to be careful.

Women included.

Ever enter a store and immediately spot someone that you know is trouble? There they are: a mother and her daughter in her 20s. Didn’t matter where I went in the store, they were right there. Like RIGHT in my way so I had to wheel the damn cart around them or almost into them or kept walking into them. There’s an entire store full of food and they have to be following me? I assembled possibly the most pedestrian cart full of groceries – EVER – and they have cart envy for ME? Go pick on the lunchbox over there piling his car with chocolate covered sticky things. You won’t go hungry after 5 days following his lead. There’s a good chance you’ll starve yourself after settling for condiments if you follow me.

Remember what I said about old people? Wrong. Everywhere. Then I realize what is going on here. It is lunch time. Whomever said there is no such thing as a free lunch has never been to Trader Joe’s around lunch.

And add insult to injury they are also giving out free samples of wine. A crowd has joined around the table and completely barred any carts for passing beyond the wine toward the cheese and meat. This seems dangerous to me. There is nothing worse than shopping on an empty stomach let alone shopping while three sheets to the wind. Especially before Thanksgiving?

What did you get at the grocery store, honey? Oh, so we’re having a Thanksgiving of chips and dip this year?

A woman is complaining at the vegetable cooler. Something about not wanting to come back to get something that she obviously needs right now. Zip it, sister. It’s the suburbs. There’s another grocery store in this shopping mall.

Oh and for crying out loud why the f*&#$&!!! are you two still following me!

It’s check out time. I wheel my cart up to the register and the clerk is so freakin’ happy to see me. I bet a few minutes ago he was hanging out the back door, smoking a cigarette and threatening to throw Trader Giotto’s red sauce at the next person who stood there while he bagged 300 dollars worth of groceries. I still don’t understand why people stand there and don’t help them bag.

Wait….THIS JUST IN. Cat just sent me a picture of a sandwich board standing on a curb that reads “COMPLIMENTARY VALET PARKING”. For Whole Foods.

I believe we have identified what you will find in the 11th circle of hell. Valet parking at the grocery store.

I am being checked out. My groceries, silly! The clerk begins to scan my spinach, bread, bananas when he comes to the Greek Yogurt.

Do you need a spoon for this or is it going to survive the car ride home?

Seriously? This is a question, not a statement. Are there people out there that crave Greek Yogurt so much they cannot wait to get into the car, rip the lid off and literally drink it down – ALL 16 OUNCES OF IT – in all of its creamy thickness? Are these the same people using the grocery store valet? WHO tears into Greek Yogurt on the way home? Chocolate-covered English toffee – yes. Peanut butter cups – yes. Greek yogurt….I’ll pass.

I let him down with a conclusive, no, I will not need a spoon to for the yogurt. All 3 containers of it. And for the record I would have torn into a box of chocolate-covered toffee but you were all out.

I guess if you are really hungry you can just dig into the bananas.

You mean the green bananas? No, no I won't be digging into those either. For crying out loud, dude, do you really tear into Greek Yogurt and eat green bananas? You been Trader Joe-washed if so. There are better things out there! Like chocolate! And ripe fruit!

So you’re really stocking up here.

Call me chowbox why don't you. I swear. It’s like a black hole for logic in here today. This is not stocking up. This is about 5 days worth of groceries. Or 100 dollars. And just because I am walking out of here with something more than a bunch of flowers, a bottle of wine and wasabi corn chips like the rest of these people (who goes to the grocery store for three things? Who has that kind of time?), just because of that does not mean I am stocking up.

I’m just grocery shopping.

I’ve crossed the line from casual shopper to passive aggressive. I’m hungry, I’m tired of THOSE TWO following me and I’m a little miffed that you were out of toffee today. Get me out of here. The store was buzzing with people, there is an excessive cinnamon smell in the air and there’s a party going on back there by meat and cheese and I wasn't invited.

As I walked out with my stocked up cart (it was three bags?!?!), people were pouring in the doors. I considered going over to the grocery store (ugh) for the pumpkin I forgot but then got my common sense back and said it can wait until…Sunday.

And if I get hungry between now and then, it’s back to condiments. Actually I think our refrigerator this morning had some milk, tahini, goat cheese and a leftover chicken breast (date of origin unknown).

Add a little ketchup and it sounds like a perfect meal in a pinch if you ask me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Poetry In Lotion

The other day I bought $68 lotion.

Yes, indeed it was just a few days ago I talked about how I am not into girlie things. Which is true. I’m really not. However, when it comes to lotion:


I have a lotion problem. Such a problem that I’ve blogged about it before. Search the archives. Since then I have developed an even bigger problem. I’ve stepped it up. From Bath & Body Works to Aveda. That’s like saying my first bike was a Huffy and now I ride a Cervelo. There is no comparison. True they are both bikes but….all it takes is one ride, one pump of the lotion to smear across your hands and you know…

That you will never ride a Huffy again.

(growing up I had a pink Huffy with a banana seat)

It was Monday night when I suggested a trip to the mall. If you would like to further search the archives you will also find a blog about the mall, specifically why Chris and I created the Law of the Mall which reads:

Under no circumstances will the husband accompany the wife to the shopping mall because when man and woman arrive at confusion at the shopping mall it may or may not result in a man and woman arguing, perhaps slightly louder than library voice, in the shopping mall about mixed messages and unmet expectations derived from differences in opinion regarding what it means to go shopping (where husband assumes that shopping is general and wife knows that shopping is specific to…herself).

Disobeying the Law of the Mall, Chris agreed to join me at the mall. Of course, we were not going shopping. We were going shopping for…me. And, specifically shopping for $68 lotion.

Hear me out. Did you ever have the one thing that you keep putting off because it’s too fancy, too expensive, too frivolous, too overpriced but something keeps making you feel like you absolutely need this product to have a good life and if you wait one day longer you will keep putting off the life you could have if only you had the __________________(fill in the blank).

For me, it is $68 lotion. From Aveda. In my defense, I did not know it was $68 lotion. I just know it was the lotion that came in the smoky green bottle and smells like an earthy clean mixture of good stuff and pine trees. Reading that it sounds absolutely horrible. But trust me, it smells good. Really good.

And I don’t know why but I really want this lotion. Like for the past 10 years. I first used it up in Minneapolis at one of Chris’ friend’s houses. I assume it was his wife’s lotion. But you never know? The entire bathroom was filled with all sorts of fancy lotions and make up bottles. Is it just me or is there something inviting and enviable about being in another girl’s bathroom and finding it filled with fancy little bottles of good smelliness. It makes me want things, new things and makes me think I don’t have enough things.

And if you let me in your bathroom, be warned: I will touch it, use it, spray it. Also if I don’t like you maybe do questionable things with your toothbrush.

(remind me to tell you the story some time about when Chris accidentally used the “cleaning the bathroom” toothbrush)

Anyhow, in her empire of girlie bottles and lotions this girl had many products from Aveda. I need those things, I thought to myself, they smell so good. Later, I discovered a nearby Aveda store. And then I discovered that everything inside the store carries a price tag over 30 dollars. Is it worth it? They sure make a positive sell, like my face and the entire planet will wither and die if I don’t use it.

Since then I have wanted that lotion. But not the price tag. Sigh. Beauty, perfection and saving the planet can wait. Until lately. What am I waiting for? If I want it why am I depriving myself? Why do women do this? Chris has things, all sorts of frivolous things. Have you seen our basement? We could outfit and entire cycling team with wheels and bikes. And I’m squabbling over lotion?


I didn’t first intend on buying the lotion. I actually fell for the bait with a mailed to me coupon. A sample of Rosemary Mint lotion (which I later found out was Rosemary Mint shower gel, not exactly what I was hoping for when I smeared it all over my hands). I was just going in for my sample. But as I looked around the store I couldn’t resist. There is was the fancy I don’t-need-you-but-really-want-you lotion.

I tried the tester, smelled it and made up my mind. Buy it. No. You want that. No, you don’t need that. If not know then when? You’ve waited this long. How many times are you going to come back here and use the god only knows who else’s hands have been under it tester, hmmph? I don’t know but…

I grabbed a bottle. The big one. For economical reasons. It was $34 for 5 ounces or $68 for 16 ounces.

What would you do?

Before I could change my mind – and good for Aveda for making their store the size of a tin can so you have the least room possible from shelves to register to change your mind and leave the plastic box of sheet cake in the bread aisle because you just decided you didn’t need it after all – I started walking over to the register.

Meanwhile, I noticed Chris sitting in the do my make up now chair. He looked, totally bored. As most men do when shopping. And that sealed the deal. I was buying the lotion and getting him out of here.

It was a mercy mission.

Walking out of the store, Chris asked what I bought.

Lotion. I fell right into that trap.

What kind of lotion?

Lotion that cost a lot of money. Sometimes my mouth is like a freakin’ bear trap.

Now I can only imagine what the man thinks here. Lotion that costs a lot of money. Hmm, he thinks. A bottle of Suave costs about $1.99 so the woman spent 5 bucks on lotion, big deal.

How much money?


I could smell the dumbfoundedness in the air. An earthy mix of burning money and man sweat.

You bought 68 dollar lotion.

(Guilty as charged) - not said but thought.

What the hell does it do for $68?

It smells good.

What does it smell like?

I don’t know…good stuff. Really, it's hard for me to pinpoint what the good stuff is, it's just all smoky green bottle good.

The rest of the week, I had to know it was coming to me. Threats, barbs and jokes about the lotion sitting on display on my bathroom counter (best invention ever: separate bathrooms for husband and wife). Know that not every lotion is displayed but you buy a bottle of $68 lotion and it could probably double as a mantlepiece.

Every day Chris walked by it threatening to touch it, to use it, just one pump. Until finally on Saturday the teasing reached a crescendo of ridiculousness when I asked him what he was going to do for the rest of the night after dinner:

I’ve got a date with a porno mag and a $68 bottle of lotion.


It didn’t stop there. He showed me his dry cracking hands that signals the onset of Midwestern winter.

Maybe I can use some of your lotion to fix it.


And then I lost it.

NO! You do NOT use my lotion for your hands. You use your cheap Suave lotion or you go buy yourself some shea butter but DO NOT TOUCH MY $68 LOTION! It is the kind of lotion that you put on when you are done getting ready or before you leave the house or you want your face to smell good. It is NOT working lotion!

All joking stopped. For now. Further mention of my lotion stopped. For now. Any guilt associated with spending $68 on lotion has gone. For now. But I can sense one thing. While it all has stopped now, that bottle of lotion is not safe if left alone in the house with my husband.

So I’m hiding it away. Right next to the $24 hair product. And the toothbrush I use for bathroom cleaning.

(enter sinister laugh)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Relax Yourself

It was twice last Wednesday, from two different people that I heard these words:

You need to relax.

Followed up by….

You might want to try yoga.

Followed up by the name of a yoga studio specializing in fixing people like me through detox cleanses, meditation, acupuncture, book groups, fasts.

If you want to paint the picture of my personal hell, it would include all of the things mentioned above.

And decaf.

Yet once again the prescription was relax. How many times a day, a week am I told to relax. I’ve lost count. My athletes would say that even I had kept count there’s a good chance I would have added incorrectly anyways. But according to my sketchy at best calculations, I’ve been told to relax for years.

And I still haven’t mastered it.

What is it about some of us that relaxation completely eludes us? It’s like my blood type runs jittery and restless. Searching and at times discontent. Sure sometimes I need to slow down but in order to relax do I need to come to a dead stop? Can’t I multitask my way to relaxation? Or at least chew gum and relax at the same time?

Looking into relaxation, you find that it is often synonymous with slowing down. With stretching. Even sleeping. Napping? And everything I’ve read lately about stress and relaxation seems to include: yoga.

Allow me to describe my last foray into yoga. It was about 2 weeks ago when I attended yoga at my gym. It’s the Sunday afternoon class set during the perfect time of day. At this time of year, out the large windows you can watch the transition from day to night as you bend and twist yourself into a series of allegedly “relaxing” poses. The instructor talked about quieting the mind, to eliminate the monkey chatter that sets into our brains throughout daily life. Despite her convincing plea to focus on breath, focus on intent, my mind was chattering like a hyperactive monkey swinging from tree to tree throwing bananas at its friends.

A day later I woke up sore to the touch. The typically 75-minute yoga class had turned, somehow, into a 105 minute exercise in needling my arms through my legs and standing on one foot. It took four entire days for the soreness to go away. The entire experience was anything but relaxing. It was physically painful and left me feeling like less of a person because clearly I cannot relax. Plus my mind is a chattering primate.


Yoga seems to be the solution to everything. Stressed, sick, infertile? Try yoga. It’s like a dreamy escape made palpable with earthy tones, beautiful clothing and a secret language. I want to talk that language. I want to get in touch with my prana. I also like clothes made by the company Prana. I want to like yoga, I really do. But what if that doesn’t do it for me. What then? Where do people like me go? How in the hell are we supposed to relax?

When I find myself in need of practical advice, I turn to Facebook. Hear me out. I have over 600 friends and strangers with years of life experience. Someone is bound to know something I don’t. And so I asked: how do you relax?

The comments rolled in quickly, 30, 40, 50, over 60 comments on how to relax. Stepping back from the comments, I realized that our relaxation tends to fall into predictable patterns:

Warm Fuzzies. These are things like sit around in pajamas, read a good back, drink a hot cup of tea. Ah the warm fuzzies. Reminds me of high school when they were trying to teach us about drug prevention. Each student was given ball of yarn loosely tied together. You were supposed to pull off a piece, hand it to your friend and tell them something nice. I like your white Keds (side note: doesn’t it scare you when you see an adult wearing Keds?). The idea was to give them a warm fuzzy rather than drugs. Problem is that drugs may or may not be more exciting than a piece of yarn especially when set to the soundtrack of Pink Floyd’s Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. The bigger problem is nothing warm and fuzzy appeals to me. I sit around in my pajamas all day long working from home. I don’t like tea and fiction scares me. It’s like reading someone’s conversation with their imaginary friends. Of which I had two when I was growing up: Lassie and Manny, they went with me everywhere. Perhaps I should relax by writing their memoirs. Speaking of friends, what about connecting with old friends? That sent me straight into a fit of ha ha ha. Let’s leave high school in the grave where it belongs, shall we? Four years of awkwardly out of place gawky weirdness? The thought of going back stresses me out. Warm fuzzy stuff just doesn’t relax me. It’s too passive and when I get too warm I get night sweats.

Fluff. Fluff is just that. Massage, hair cut, manicure, pedicure. Not only does the salon scare me but it stresses me out. It’s exorbitantly priced and I still end up going home, washing my hair and fixing it every time. Let me tell you about the last time I had a manicure. It was the day before my wedding. I told the nail technician that I was getting my nails done for a wedding. She asked me whose wedding. I said “mine”. She looked at me, eyes wide, mouth dropped and said WITH THESE NAILS? Yes, I know. To think that someone would marry me with these nails. And therein lies the problem. The problem with prettiness. Relaxing by way of salon, to me, is defeating yourself to the idea embedded into our culture that the woman’s main job is to be pretty. And if you’re not worried about being pretty or working at it, you are less of a woman. You’re not doing your job. So spend hundreds of dollars on make up, product (it’s shampoo, for crying out loud, why do you insist on calling it PRODUCT), and accessories. THIS is relaxing? Every trip to the salon is a larger than life reminder of my inadequateness and sloppiness reflected back at me by way of the oversized mirrors and stark lighting that I am convinced highlights only your bad features. Reminders like this are anything but relaxing.

Things Men Do To Relax. This is an entirely separate category. Ask a man how he relaxes and he will quickly generate a dozen things. Video games, beer, watching sports, building things and my personal favorite comment – whittling. My father in the law is the master of relaxation. He always has a project. To me starting a project begs for completion. To him, there is no stress. The outcome is not the goal, it’s the process, the problem solving of how to get the garden railway tracks to fit together in the backyard. To my husband, it’s getting lost in the levels of a complex video game and not emerging from the basement until it’s won. True a man has stresses and expectations, but they are the product of what he does – not who he is. It’s hard to relax as a woman; be pretty, dress nice, put on make up, don’t be a bitch, make babies. What if I’m not pretty, I’m most comfortable in Lycra, I’m sometimes a bitch and I can’t make babies? How do you relax when you are all of that? In my next life I either want to come back as my dog or a man.

Working out. This one is a bit tricky. You see, working out is my business. All day long I talk about, read about and think about working out for my athletes. Sometimes when I finally go to work out, I find it hard to separate it from being “work”. Working out is good when it’s good. But what about when you’re injured, sick or resting? Then you can’t use working out to relax. Working out used to be my outlet when I worked outside of the home. It was my escape from the daily bullshit of management, meetings, deadlines. But now that my work is working out – to some extent – it’s hard to use it as an escape. Especially when you want to have goals with working out – the very nature of relaxation is to let go of goals. So I’m trying to expand my horizons of things I do for relaxation.

Warm fuzzies, fluff, manly things, yoga, working out…true these things are relaxing to most people but…not to me. And I know I’m not alone. But I also know that I need to relax. For many reasons. The signs are everywhere. I opened up a fortune cookie last week and know what it said?

Take time out for yourself

I get it. I GET IT! Loud and clear. Relax. NOW. Imperative. WARNINGWARNINGWARNING all systems at risk for massive shutdown unless you unwind and relax.

I need to relax about relaxing.

Like most complicated problems, I sat down, stared into space, talked to my dog, and hit the internet. : How To Relax

This should be titled how to crack yourself up in one page or less. An abundance of sites popped up with suggestions in what I am starting to call canned relaxation. Take deep breaths! (then what?) Go shopping! (if I shopped ‘til I was relaxed, I be broke!) Do something for yourself (…like what!?!) And, my favorite….TRY YOGA!

The internet let me down.

So I turned to a friend. She, like me, is wound tight, a little too introspective and sometimes trapped in thought. We connect well because we’re alike and sometimes all you need for a connection is finding that someone else shares your weaknesses. Or what you think are your weaknesses. Do you ever feel like there is this illusion in the world that you need to find things like tea, pajamas, yoga, phone calls relaxing and if you don’t, you’re the square peg? Like the rest of the world exists in a state of loosy goosy footy pajamas and you’re the psycho running laps around them on a broken leash while they dunk their green tea bags? The fact of the matter is that each person is wired differently. And because I don’t like the passively sit, stare and mediate myself into relaxation doesn’t mean that I’m broken or wrong. It just means I march to a different beat. And I’ve realized in life that at times that beat is psychotically staccato but ultimately it has a rhythm. That rhythm is me.

But I agree that the rhythm needs to slow down at times. So I talk to the friend and suggest we both go on a mission to relax. Spend a month actively trying to relax ourselves and see what the outcome is. Maybe we haven’t given yoga enough of a chance. Maybe we need to join a book club. Maybe watch more Oprah. Drink wine on a Wednesday night (which I’ve tried, found relaxing for a few hours until you wake up on Thursday thinking to yourself dear god what have I done to myself). I don’t know what it will take to relax but I’m willing to find out.

Together, the friend and I threw out some ideas. From the purely ridiculous to those that actually might work. Everything from body rolling to laughter yoga.

And if you don’t know what laughter yoga is, I suggest you Google it, watch the You Tube and proceed to laugh your ass off – and the best part? You’re laughing for no reason at all.

Perhaps in our journey we will find what relaxation means. Perhaps we will become more satisfied with ourselves. Perhaps we will learn something new. Or perhaps we will become even more stressed. In any event, it’s worth a try. So here’s what I need: I want your ideas on how to relax. Anything and everything. If you think I need to sit on a carpet square in my closet for 10 minutes a day writing in a gratitude journal while licking a copy of Oprah’s magazine, I will give it a whirl. Is there a book I need to read? A yoga I need to try? A tea I should drink? Help me out here. Because I’m like a ball of dark roast fury when it comes to unwinding. Sometimes I just don’t know how.

But I'm convinced that all hope is not lost. If I find myself still pent up I can always turn to whittling. Or help Mr. Tom build his garden railway tracks.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In All Honesty

Saturday morning was race morning.

I woke up serious, determined, tapered and ready to go. I put my game face on. As well as a pair of comfortable walking shoes. This was not just any race. A world championship. Put me in coach, I’ve done the training, I envisioned the outcome over a dozen times. There’s no one that can do this better than me. I’ve done it before and been at this level.

I am a world champion spectathlete.

It’s a lot easier than it sounds. I’ve spent the past year watching more races than I’ve done. And when I look back on it now I realize it’s what I needed to do. Indeed I have seen the race from a different point of view and when I look back at the past two years I realize the only thing I have gained is perspective. Which is perhaps more valuable and rewarding than any medal or title. Perspective makes us value what we have, it makes us appreciate where we have been, and where we might go.

Perspective from the spectators point of view. You wake up just as early, you drop off your athletes. Then you drive 100 circles around the street to find parking. You go on a mission to find coffee. Start with the important things. You accept that you'll maybe (or maybe not) find food later. Then you walk over to the swim start. You stand waiting for the faces of everyone you know. This is perhaps the most exhausting part of spectating. You spend hours studying, searching faces looking for body shapes, uniforms, gaits, eyes of the athletes you know. It’s tiring. And finally when you do recognize someone, you wave and shout like a maniac.

Then I stood by a pier watching the pro waves go off. The women were off and then the men. It was quite entertaining – as is most of this race – only because it seems to have become a display of how ridiculous can things get and how far can race organizers turn their head to ignore it. Before their head completely falls off. I guess no one – not the officials, not the kayakers, the paddle boarders, the hundreds of spectators, the announcer, nor the over 60 men in the pro field noticed that while they started 90 seconds before the race AT the start buoy they kept inching their way forward, more, more, more until by the start cannon they were a good 100 yards IN FRONT of the start buoy doing what looked sorta like swimming already.

The crowd just laughed.

After all, it’s Clearwater. Does anyone take this race seriously? I mean no disrespect to those who competed or strive to qualify. It’s a world championship. That’s honorable. But it just seems that everything about this race doesn’t add up. The officiating seems a bit loose. The competition seems to have arrived with the intent that to get ahead in this race, you need to draft. Yes, you can race this race clean. Many athletes do. But to get on the podium? Maybe you need to race a little dirty. Maybe not. I’m not discounting any of the performances out there. There are some phenomenal athletes there, true. But like I said, something about this race doesn’t add up.

Another case of bad math.

After the pros started, I walked back to the transition area to watch athletes come in from the swim. I waited until I saw all of my athletes and then headed up to the causeway to situate myself for the run. The excitement started building as I saw the lead vehicles bringing the pro men across the bridge. They whirred by me in a giant pack of about 30 cyclists zipping upwards of 30 mph. But who can blame them. With the one lane and the traffic cones being carefully placed inside that lane they hardly had room to ride let alone pass.

I stood around mile 2 of the run cheering my athletes and friends on like crazy. I said a lot of things. Things that I would say to myself when I was racing. Things you need to hear. Things to keep you focused. So many thoughts and feelings go through your body and head. Pain, fear, discomfort, nerves. I could see the discomfort in their eyes, sometimes their gait. But I could also see the hunger, the passion. It’s the raw emotion of racing that fires me up to get out there again.

When they all passed me for the last time, I walked back to the finish line. Finally I started finding athletes. Congratulations, hugs, how did it go. Things went well! Kara ran her way to top 10 in her age group . Erich had an all around solid effort with top 10 in his age group. Rebecca set a new PR even with getting a flat tire by the tracks. It was a proud day. And Chris? At some point that will be a separate blog about my thoughts on racing pro. It’s safe to say he learned nothing that I didn’t already know or tell him. It’s different out there. Especially when you race that course alone.

By 2 pm I had been on the go for nearly 10 hours. I had consumed a bagel and a cup of coffee. I was trashed. Not to discount what the athletes do out there but us spectators are out there just as long without a steady stream of fuel and fluids. Plus I made the rookie mistake of forgetting sunscreen and dropping my salt tabs. But I was in the final stretch. You can do this, I said to myself. One last mile, one last person to find: Jennifer. I walked by the food line, weary, eyes tired from searching for faces when someone stopped me.

Hey, thanks for cheering out there today, said a woman who I remember from the course. She was wearing a top that said Practical Coaching.

I told her it was my pleasure, it’s what I do, I smile, I’m a professional spectathlete.

She looked at me like she recognized something and asked: Are you ELF?

Yes. Yes, I am. I am E.L.F. Although by marriage it’s E.L.W. But what is an ELW? She told me that she reads my blog. I thanked her for reading and then ironically ran into Kelzie-from-Kona, the one who shouted to me along Alii Drive I read your blog! We talked for a bit before I walked back to the group. All the way, of course, thinking….

We drove back to the hotel. Jennifer and Chris demanded pancakes. I just wanted to be by myself. I was done being cheerleader for the day. I went back to the room and looked at my running shoes by my suitcase. I was in no shape to run. I had been on my feet all day, probably walked over 5 miles shouting, cheering, low on fluids, and most definitely low on fuel. But I needed to run. This was my time.

As I ran along the streets of Clearwater I realized I was done being a cheerleader. I am done standing on the side. I’ve spent a year watching the sport. I am tired of watching. I am tired of being recognized as a spectathlete. I am tired of having conversations with athletes that I used to have in my head with myself. I am tired of putting myself off. In the past week I have had this feeling that the show must go on. I need to get back to what I like to do and get good at it again. I am not a good pro and don’t want to be. But I want to be a good athlete.

On December 31st I get to expire as a pro. I am ready for that. No, it wasn’t a mistake to turn pro. A mistake is something you regret. Instead it was a lesson. Yes, this lesson cost me the last two years but sometimes the best lessons are the most costly. In exchange for an elite license I learned a lot. I’m not sure all pros can say that. I see a lot of pros making the same mistakes over and over again in their races. At some point you have to be honest with yourself. You’re either not physically strong enough or you don’t have the head for it. If you been an athlete for xx years and you’re still dropping your nutrition/salt tabs/whatever on the course and still not going back for it you have to sit down with yourself and ask what the fuck.

When will you get it?

I got “it” in the past few months. I don’t belong. I am ok with that. Recently, I was asked what is the hardest thing about being a coach. Honestly, it’s resetting unrealistic expectations. It’s letting people down in that way. It’s convincing them that there is no magic on race day. If you don’t do it in training, you cannot arrive at ________. But this honesty is also the most important thing you can do as a coach (and as an athlete). Help athletes set realistic expectations, guide them to get there and feel like hard work was worth their time. Because if you set a realistic expectation you will likely achieve it. You will have success. Success then builds more success. It’s like climbing a staircase. You cannot jump from ground level to the top step. It’s progressive.

Unless you have a killer vertical.

Along those same lines, back in August, I asked someone to honesty look at me, my training, my paces, my power graphs, my results and give it to me straight. They came back at me with the best thing I have ever been told:

You should have never turned pro.

It was a huge relief to hear that. And I told them thank you; thank you for not wasting my time and thank you for being honest with me about that. Because the one thing we will all run out of eventually is time. You CAN go back and pick up dropped bottles but you CANNOT go back to pick up time. For someone to tell you honestly how to not waste your time with unrealistic expectations, well, honesty is worth its psychological price.

Which brings me back to Clearwater. Or the 70.3 World Championship. Until they move the location or change the format, I would not waste the time. You only have so much life energy, so much money, and so many miles you can race. Spend them wisely. There are better races out there. Maybe experience it once but be prepared for some dishonesty out there. If you cannot reconcile with that, then go out and race a different race. I’m not accusing, I’m just saying. And along with that just standing by and laughing with the other spectators as the pro men’s field moves farther and farther from the start line before the race starts….

And so this closes my 2009 season as an athlete turned spectathlete. I learned a lot from this side. But now I look forward to 2010, to racing and coaching. The show must go on. It is time. And in all honestly, it’s time for me to be an athlete again.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pre Race

6:40 am, the elevator door opens and guess who is there.

Miss Daisy.

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Not before my coffee!

We headed down to the swim start. The gulf was angry and not accepting triathletes. Actually it was swallowing them whole. I’ve seen much choppier water but still that didn’t mean I felt obligated to get in the water and swim. So I didn’t. Instead I went to Coffee with Crowie.

Not a joke. No really it was Coffee with Crowie. Mike and Kara scored these tickets to go to the Newton-sponsored event. So really it was a caffeinated Newton commercial. But that’s ok. I’ll never pass up free coffee and plus…it’s Crowie. He’s easy on the eyes. Caffeinated or not.

He talked. And he was interesting to listen to. One of the guys from Newton moderated the event and asked Crowie the questions so we were able to avoid hearing the dreaded "so what is your nutrition plan?". I could care less what he eats! I want to know what goes through his head at mile 18. I want to know how he copes with injury. I want to know what’s next, really after you’ve been world champion what is the next level for him and how does he stay driven to get there.

So what else did he say? I found it interesting how he talked about his development. He’s been a pro for 15 years. Think about that. It took him 13 years to get to the top of his game or 70.3 World Champion. Reaching your full potential takes time – and sometimes too few athletes understand or have the patience to wait. Early on he realized he had natural talent for the sport, but knew that natural talent would only get him half way. The other half is hard work. Lots of it.

He talked about his strength training (functional, sport-specific, one-legged, hip strength). He talked about his family – his source of his inspiration. He talked about Newton shoes (I’m still not sold but would be happy to test them if a free pair should arrive at my doorstep) and he talked about vegetables (his favorite: green M&Ms).

Next up I went swimming with Kara, Mike, Mary and Kara’s sister. They’re staying at a posh condo near the harbor and convinced me it was safe to swim there. Mike let me test out an Orca wetsuit which I was grateful for after I got into water – chilly! The wetsuit slipped on better than anything I’ve ever tried. And, it was so comfortable – no chafing! We swam for about 10 minutes. Cold water and murky – sounds like the perfect place for a Bull Shark.

After lunch time we met up with John Hirsch ( I just love this guy, his spirit for the sport and his energy. He’s from New York City. Enough said. He’s also the organizer of the Spain camp. So we talked Spain. I stood there and got so fired up for this trip. Cycling, yoga, running, swimming, even a chef. February can’t come soon enough.

Erich arrived soon after that. Erich is one of my athlete’s from California – fast kid, contagious passion for the sport and a gusto you can only get away with when you’re 23. I took him over to the secret swimming hole, got to experience the pre-race day speedo swim (again, you can only get away with that look when you’re 23) and then we waited for Chris to come back from the pro meeting.

Ah, the pro meeting. I told Chris to wear the Chihuahua Race t-shirt to the meeting to psyche out the competition (if Potts blows up tomorrow, you know it worked). He said he sat next to Matt Reed. When I asked if he touched him (appropriately, of course) he said no but some girl sat on me.


In big news, the swim location has been changed. I assume it’s because of the risk of riptides in the gulf. It’s pretty turbulent. The harbor side is much calmer and should make for some fast swims. The age groupers go off in time trial start which I think might actually help spread the field out and make the race…..(gasp)…more fair. Or not. The pros have an in water, mass start with the females going off at 6:45 am and the males going off at 6:53 am. In any case, it should be an exciting race to watch. If I were to make bets (and even if I don’t make a bet feel free to send me money anyways), I’ll put my money on the Bennetts.

Dinner was around 5:30 pm. Surprisingly Miss Daisy did not beg for dinner at 4 pm. I realized I didnt have to force feed myself pasta so instead I ate salad and M&Ms. I call that sugar-loading for tomorrow's spectathlon. Tomorrow will be a long day. It could be worse though. I could be spectating Ironman.

The boys are busy doing pre-race preparations. Chris forgot his watch (typical) and Erich is wearing his swim cap (bizarre but also typical). I'm wondering if Dunkin' Donuts will be open tomorrow morning at 5:30 am. And Miss Daisy is upstairs reading her book about loose women.

Or so she said.

Good luck to all those racing tomorrow! And remember this: it's easy to get complacent in this race. It's November (late), this course is monotonous and historically there has been a lot of drafting. It's easy to get frustrated by those factors and let them influence your race. Keep yourself in check and race yourself to the finish line. Avoid letting the actions of others get in the way of how you react in your race. And do as Crowie said: you worked hard to get here and you qualified. You clearly had a formula that worked. Don't change a thing. Get out there on race day and do what you know how to do - stick with what worked because it obviously worked well.

Good luck!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On The Road Again

Guess where I am.

Let me give you a few clues: oranges, gators and Crown Victorias.

Need another hint?

….I have no idea what else they are known for here. So let me just let the Chihuahua out of the bag. We are in Clearwater. We’re here for the 70.3 World Championship. Three of my athletes are racing and so is Chris. Who is my husband. In case you’re new around here.

I’m sitting in our room at the Residence Inn watching Miss Daisy sit on the edge of the couch watching television. Except that her way of watching television is narrating everything that is happening. In fact Chris just asked her about something that was happening on the television show and she said:

I don’t know because I was talking too much.

We arrived late this morning, got checked in and ran into about a dozen people by registration. It’s good to reconnect with familiar faces and to meet new ones. Waiting for Chris someone walked up to me and said:

I recognize you from the internet.

Oh god. This could go so many ways. Good thing it was just from my blog and not ….(fill in the blank for me).

Chris walked out of registration looking a little disturbed.

The scale said that I was 16 percent body fat.

Oh for crying out loud. Everyone knows that when you get weighed at any Ironman event the scale automatically adds 5 pounds. And everyone around you looks 5 pounds thinner than everywhere else so you can’t help but feel like a whale. Regardless, Chris couldn’t let it go. Every person we met from there on out he asked if they thought the scale was accurate.

Here he is, in all of his “fatness”.

After check in we went to a tasty little café, the Wildflower Café, set apart from the noise of the strip malls with fresh salads and delicious bread. We were the only ones who sat outside – it was 65 degrees which is winter around here – but once I went inside I realized that to sit inside you needed to be a minimum age of 75.

They were carding.

After lunch, I suggested a walk. We headed over to a park with a path around a lake. There was a beautiful contrast of cypress and palm trees. Lily pads in the water and tall reeds.

The wildlife is a little different around here. The first thing I spotted was a dinosaur. Now science was never my strongest subject so I had to confirm with Chris that most dinosaurs are not purple.

How would we know, he said.

True, we did not exist with the dinosaurs. Maybe they were purple?

Besides, Barney is purple.

Then it is fact. Dinosaurs were purple. Here I am riding Barney.

We walked a little further and found a hidden path. There were signs warning us of the hazards.

In case you were thinking of sharing your martini with the wildlife. Someone should probably have a talk with the sign department at the local parks and recreation. Or maybe they’re just stating the obvious around here. If I live to be 75, I’m going to live on booze too.

The path ran along a stream. It looked like the perfect place for a gator. Sure enough, the signs were pointing out just that thing: we were in gator country. And like the martini glass, I’m not sure what to think about this:

On my list of things to do before I die, molesting a gator is right up there with scaling a wall with my tongue or spoon feeding M&Ms to Miss Daisy.

We found these crazy dudes along the shore. We didn’t know what they were but I liked their beaks. We later learned that this bird is an Ibis. After walking but the beaky birds, slowly I made my way around the shore looking for a gator.

Whatcha looking for, a man asked?


He chuckled, went back to his cigarette then started talking to Chris. Meanwhile, I went back to gator hunting. Laugh at me all you want but I know they’re around here.

A short while later, I look out into the water. Right between a thickness of lily pads, there it was:

A gator (can you see it?).

The spiny scales stuck out behind a long head and bulging eyes. He sat there in stillness. I watched.

We finished up the walk by walking around the lake again. I notice that the path is more than just an ordinary path. It’s a Vita Course. Here I am participating in the Vita Course. Notice that Chris did not participate because he was tapering. And one wouldn’t want to pull a muscle doing…

Side twists.

Here’s another taste of what you can do on the Vita Course. I have no idea who the person in the lower right corner represents or why they have their own picture but clearly they alone are capable of doing what a family of 3 can do.

After all of this excitement we checked into our hotel and who walks out of the door but Miss Daisy in all of her pink glory. After we go to our room, within 30 minutes she was already calling and within 60 minutes she was demanding food. This is nothing new. Flashbacks to Miss Daisy having a food meltdown on Florida, in South Carolina, in Portland.

We ate dinner together and then Chris and Daisy had a heart to heart on the couch. I’m not sure what they were talking about but I was pretty sure if I left the room I’d come back and find them spooning.

Here you'll notice that Chris has about half the hair he started the day with. He learned a valuable lesson today: a #2 at Sports Clips is not the same as a #2 at Supercuts. The women are saying that's what you get for going to Supercuts. Nearly shaved his head. Which I think was really just a final attempt to lose a few pounds before race day.
While Daisy and Chris were chatting, Rebecca, one of my athletes, texted me asking if I needed anything at the grocery store. Why indeed we did. We need M&Ms for Daisy to quiet her down because if I hear “I need something sweet” one more time I will kick her out. Rebecca graciously delivered a one pound bag of M&Ms. I tossed the bag into Daisy's lap at which she first called me an “evil witch”, then admitted she could not leave bag in her room and finally demanded M&Ms. Not the whole bag, she asked for….12.

You could tell she put some thought to this.

She left for bed and I ate about 120 M&Ms, spent some time with Rebecca then watched Iron Chef.

Tomorrow I’m meeting up with some other athletes for swims, coffee and other fun things you can take less seriously when you’re not racing. Someone asked me if I missed racing this year. No, not here. No way. I’m happy to be Sherpa to Chris. Plus I’m just pleased to have helped some athletes to get here and excited to watch them race!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Fertile Kitchen

Tonight’s dinner table conversation actually started a few days ago:

My mom invited you over for fertility chicken, Chris said.


Fertility chicken.

Part of me didn’t want to know, remembering a few years ago when mother in law’s experiment with spaghetti sauce went wrong. Very wrong. The other part of me has learned in the baby-making game to play along, pretend like you want it – all of it – you want to eat it, hear about it and entertain the thought of it because, I have learned, resistance will get you nowhere. For example, if your mother shares with you the details of her friend’s daughter’s ovaries, cysts, uterus, menstrual cycles or lack thereof – you could pretend not to hear this but it would be very difficult considering the fact that she shares this information every time she sees you.

Which makes me wonder what the heck she is sharing about me.

"We’re not even sure she has a uterus."

Back to the fertility chicken. I had to admit, I was curious about this delicacy but not so curious that I wanted to be the first to try it. Conveniently enter the sister-in-law who is also trying to make the baby. And could also use a serving of fertility chicken.

Monday night, Chris and I sat down for dinner. Which implies that I actually made dinner. I had an idea – at 9 am – that I should make dinner tonight. I don’t know what came over me but for some reason chicken chili sounded good. I started pulling up some recipes when I started to get confused by too many tablespoons of this, pinches of that so I said screw it. I’m just going to wing it instead. How hard could it be to make chili? I threw a bunch of stuff from the category of things you-might-find-in-chili into the crockpot. But not just any crockpot. Yes, folks, this is the crockpot that I won for placing 1st overall amateur at Steelhead over two years ago.

Crockpot: finally out of the box.

400 watts, 8 different cook settings and a timer. If only it could make coffee, it would be my dream machine. I pulled the behemoth of an appliance on to the kitchen counter and commenced chili making. Turned it on and about 8 hours later I had some good eating there. Not too shabby of a prize for 4 hours and 40 minutes of hard racing.

Chris arrived home and almost shat himself upon finding dinner made so we actually had a dinner conversation that consisted of more than just “what do you want to eat”, “I don’t know what do you want to eat”, “I don’t know, why does food have to be so hard”, “I don’t know” and this conversation usually ends in the same place with Chris saying:

This is where human kibble would come in handy.

No kibble tonight, we were eating chili.

My sister brought the fertility chicken for lunch today.

Inside I laugh. And I feel really sorry for her. It must be much easier to eat something like fertility chicken when surrounded by other infertile people. I should have been there for her and accepted a heaping serving. Then it hits me: I wonder if they made her eat double. Like there was so much left over she had to eat her serving and mine. Even worse, I wonder if there are hazards to eating too much fertility chicken. Superovulation? Growing a third breast? Twins?

How did she like it, I ask Chris. I have to know.

Chris pauses, looks up over his bowl of chili and says to me, grimacing:

It didn’t smell very good.

There’s a surprise.

What was in it?

Chris tells me he doesn’t really know but rumor has it that his grandmother went to the store the other day and came back with some tree bark, dried mushrooms and some stuff.

What kind of stuff?

He gets a little frazzled with all the questions: I don’t know, stuff that you put into fertility chicken.

His frazzledness doesn't stop me. I press on for more information. It's not every day that someone makes fertility chicken. So I need to know: how was it made?

He then explains the process: She steeped it all in a pot for about 8 hours and then added some….something like…soy sauce.

Wait a minute: Chris, do you really think the fertility chicken called for soy sauce?

He looks at me, quizzically.

Don’t you think that your grandmother just put in the soy sauce because she’s Chinese?

He looks at me with you’re-probably-right-eyes.

My mom wants you to come over and eat some of it.

And as much as I appreciated the gesture, I couldn’t lie. It’s going to take something much more than a chicken cutlet to cure me. If only it were that easy. I peed on seven OPK sticks this week and do you know I found? Yet again, nothing. NO – THING. Which means that all these years of cycles, all lies. LIES LIES LIES. Nothing is really happening. It’s like my uterus is an accessory. Like a purse. You put stuff into it but otherwise it serves no purpose. I’ve got me a Louis Vitton here.

The conversation turns, as it should when you discuss things like this over dinner, to basketball. Tomorrow night Chris is going to a basketball game. I give him a quick primer in what is basketball – tall men, orange ball, bounce up and down, run back and forth along court.

Got it.

And, Chris? Ball goes into the hoop.


Chicken chili is consumed. Then Chris washes the pots and pans. Coincidentally, e
very time I get up to wash the pots and pans Chris says, no, let me do it and then I have to regretfully turn over a mess of pots and pans to him.


Turns out that I’m not very good at washing pots and pans. You should know that I’m also not very good at putting laundry away, taking out the garbage, taking Boss out after 9 pm on really cold nights, cleaning showers or changing light bulbs.


As Chris washed, I sat at the table thinking about fertility chicken. What makes a chicken breast…fertile? It’s existential questions like this that make me turn to the internet. I wondered if this fertility chicken was something everyone knew about so I did a quick search in Google. It turned up a fertility food blog with – you guessed it – a recipe for fertility chicken. The ingredients? Chicken, mushrooms and bell peppers.

Oh crap. Do you know what this means?

Grandma clearly mixed up bark with bell peppers. This is like using soy sauce in spaghetti sauce. Trust me, the results could be disastrous. If my sister in law starts growing a penis, I’d question the bark.

And this is how I found myself in The Fertile Kitchen. Better than any ordinary kitchen, this kitchen was a cozy online nook of pots, pans and estrogen. Endometriosis. Fibroids. Polyps. And other things that just make you want to run right out and cook up a batch of: Spicy Garbanzo Beans. True, they make you fertile.

And gassy.

Just sayin’.

After a few minutes of reading the site, imagine my disappointment when everything said to improve fertility involves giving up one of my favorite things; no coffee, no sugar, no dairy, no wine. In fact, they said that one glass of wine a week can decrease your chances of conception by 40 percent! In that case, just in this last week alone I’m already 120 percent in the hole.

It is news like this that makes me want another glass of wine.

DAMMIT! There goes another 40 percent.

Instead the site suggested I eat a giant helping of common sense: lots of whole foods, no white foods, avoid pollution and avoid stress. Eat the fertility foods. And lots of healthy fats. Cognitively restructure what I think about my own fertility. And add to it acupuncture, meditation, visualization and yoga. And then in the spare 3 minutes I have each day, have sex.

Ironically, the math works out just about right.

When I reached the paragraph about shielding myself from negative thoughts, I stopped reading. This can’t be that hard. It’s like making chili, do I really need a recipe? Screw it, I thought, I’m just going to wing it.

Chris, if you had to write the recipe for fertility chicken, what would you put in it?

He looked at me while washing the 10 foot cover that goes over the 10 x 10 x 10 crock pot capable of not only slowcooking for 9 hours but giving my dog a warm bath. Seriously, it’s just that big. Meanwhile, Chris takes the question seriously, as he does with most facetious questions I pose to him. And after a pause long enough to give the question adequate thought, he says:

A large animal’s cock and balls.


At the minimum.

As he continued to scrub the crock pot cover, he rambled on about the other ingredients which included adding the bark of something.


Every recipe for love involves a piece of bark, he said. I had no idea if this was indeed fact but he said it with such authority that if he told me it also required a dash of soy sauce I’d believe him too.

Bark...something about it making you strong as wood.

I laughed. Because what else can you do after having a conversation with your husband about fertility chicken. Or being invited by over by your mother in law to eat that chicken. Or hearing about everyone else's uterus. You can only laugh. Because the last I checked, fertile or not - laughter is – and always has been – the best medicine.

So, straight from my fertile kitchen here, if you are trying to make the baby, laugh. Laugh at yourself and with yourself. And if I wake up tomorrow pregnant, you know what I’m thinking..

I just found a new recipe to send to The Fertile Kitchen: Fertility Chili.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Puppy Love

For all of the Boss fans (and if you are not a Boss fan, change the channel), Boss is back at home. He successfully transitioned from his temporary leave of absence (sabbatical if you will) while I sorted out allergy triggers. The doctor, once again, confirmed that I am not allergic to my dog. I knew this all along. No one has an allergy to utterlyadorablecuteness.

No one.

Boss quickly settled back into life at home. He wasn’t too pleased about the daily menu options but such is life when you are a dog. For the past 6 weeks he had grown accustomed to twice daily feasts of chicken, carrots, broccoli and kibble. And not just any chicken, carrots, broccoli – we’re talking the good stuff, organic. It’s true. One night we were sitting in Whole Foods and noticed the mother in law walking out of the store. When Chris asked what she was doing, she said: buying organic chicken for the dogs.

Naturally. Of course.

Around here, it’s just kibble. The best kibble we could find but kibble nonetheless. An occasional spinach leaf that I “accidentally” drop on the floor at a predictable time each day (lunch). Maybe a rawhide bone. We don’t do treats and we don’t value food. We figured if we raised Boss without placing a high value on food he wouldn’t value food. There is nothing worse than a dog that demands people food – jumping all over the dinner table, attacking loaves of bread on the counter. I know this because my parents had such dog. Cookie, the Dalmatian, who once at an entire wheel of Baked Brie.

Entire wheel of cheese: gone.

About a day after Boss got home, I took him to the vet for some vaccinations. Every time I go to the vet there is receptionist so surly at the desk that I want to shove my dog in the face to cheer her up. Just smother her in cuteness until she can’t resist but smile while taking my money. No. Instead it’s the same cold greeting every time:

What is the dog’s name?

Boss. His name is Boss. Seriously how many Boss Waterstraat’s can there be in county.

Boss and I take a seat in the examining room. I can sense his fear as he not only jumps on to the bench to be with me, but crawls behind me.

Exhibit B: Boss, "scared"

It’s always a different vet. This one spends about 5 minutes gazing at Boss, then sticking his hand out to see if Boss with bite or not then finally when I was ready to tell him to touch the damn dog already, he’s a vet, isn’t there some kind of Dr. Doolittle class that they attend so they know how to talk to the animals, he starts to check Boss out when he looks up at me.

He’s a little overweight.

Did he…? Did he really….? Did he just call my dog fat?

That’s like calling my chihuahua a barking cat.

My dog weighs 10.2 lbs. Yes, I know a few months he weighed one pound less but come on…one pound? I did the quick math and realized that would be like me gaining 10 pounds in a few months. That’s some hefty poundage. Ok, Boss might need a diet plan.

But it’s not our fault. Enter the in-laws, Boss’ Shangri-La of chicken, kibble, carrots, broccoli. About a week ago I was visiting Boss when I noticed that they were giving him treats for coming inside. After making potty. There’s more: cheesy treats for sitting, table scraps after begging loudly enough and….and….lately they had been giving Boss the leftovers from Chewie’s dinner.

And that is how my once 9 pound Chihuahua weighed in at 10.2 pounds.

The vet says a little overindulgence added up quick. Yes, yes it did. And before you give me and my dog an eating disorder will you please stop perseverating about the weight. So he moved on to the shots.

Within about 30 minutes Boss was vomiting and turning red. I left him at the vet for some observation. And a few hours later picked him up. Brought him back home and he broke out in hives and threw up again. He was bright red. A trip to the emergency vet, a shot of steroids.

This was Boss’ $255 day.

The next day Boss laid listless on the couch. He wouldn’t eat. So I made him a sweet potato. And spoon fed it to him. I heard from Chris’ grandma that Boss likes sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin are on the seasonal menu over there. Organic of course. After that he went back on the couch. And refused to go out to take a poo. Something’s not right. This dog loves to take a crap.

Back to the vet and he says there is nothing wrong with Boss, just give it time. It will take a few days. The next day Boss was the same. Bright red, listless and confined himself to the couch. He was swollen and looked like a Sharpei. He stayed like this for two days until I went back to the vet.

I stood at the desk.

What is the dog’s name?

His name is Boss. Boss Waterstraat. Dear god woman would it kill you to remember his name? Are there any other Chihuahuas turned Sharpeis that have been in here THREE times in the past four days?

The vet confirms that Boss had an “inappropriate reaction” to the vaccine. Thank you for your medical opinion. That’s all you’ve got for me: inappropriate? Then they determined it was time for the big guns. I’m pretty sure they were getting ready to inject Boss with crystal meth (she said it would make him edgy and pee a lot) but it was just a powerful steroid. I ask her if my dog will ever return to normal and she said:


Even – tu – al – ly
Adverb, circa 1860: “at an unspecified later time”

Well then in that case, I might pay my bill. Even-tu-al-ly.

Within a day Boss returned to his more normal self. I breathed a sigh of relief because I was fearing the vet had nearly killed my dog. I know it was the vaccine but things like this are much easier to accept when you can displace blame to someone else. I just wanted my zippy little dog back.

It’s been a few days since then and Boss has slowly been regaining his form. But then I noticed that he was still very itchy and rolling himself on the area rugs. It took me about one day of watching him itch and watching little black bugs crawl across my laptop screen before I realized what was going on here.



Know what this means? I live in squalor.

Exhibit C: "squalor"

I look around our house. It’s pretty clean. I’m pretty clean. There are days I don’t change out of pajamas and sometimes I have bed head but otherwise, I’m down with hygiene. And so is my house.

Sure enough I look in Boss’ ear and there is a little flea. Everything is washed. I demanded that Chris take Boss into the shower with him and a bottle of Dawn dish soap (it really works). The sight of those two in the shower stall should have been caught on video. I also demanded that Chris sing to him. That video should also have audio.

Poor little Boss! Throw him a bone. First the vaccine, then the fleas. He needs normalcy. So I took him to the dog park. He was leary at first. Marked a bunch of tufts of grass, sniffed things cautiously. Took a poo. Then started to run. That’s my Boss. Running in only the way Boss does, like his back legs can’t keep up with the front legs and his tail wagging high in the air. Everything was going well, really well, until Boss was bumrushed by two crazy pugs. There are these people out there that have multiple dogs, entire packs if you will, and they show up at the dog park. One woman has a maltese, three beagles and a Corgi.

That is not a household, that is a petting zoo.

The pugs slowly stalk Boss. Boss catches on and all of a sudden there is hell breaking out in a series of yelps, yipes and barks as these pugs are rolling Boss around like he’s a little ball. I see Boss pinned under the female pug who not only needs to release my hound but really needs to be told she’s overweight. And that is me putting it politely.

This happens one more time just as dramatically as the first time. Finally, Boss sits violated by the exit gate. The dog park is no longer his spirit cave. I want to rescue him but I stand firm. We will not leave this park. The pugs will go first. The Chihuahua and I stand our ground.

A few of the regulars arrived. Johnny and Ponchy the poodles, Ellie the Chihuahua and Louise the spotted dog. Louise’s owner approaches Boss as he cowers, distrusting.

I’ve never seen him like this.

I know. Poor little pooch has had a rough week. He was overvaccinated, forced back to kibble after weeks of gourmet food and he just got pugged. Twice.

Louise got beagled a few weeks ago.

The pugs leave and Boss finds his way back to himself. In no time he is circling Ellie and trying to engage her in play. He is becoming Boss again.

We went on a shopping spree at Petsmart the other day. This is what childless people do when they have dogs. They smother their pooch in gifts. Because I am still convinced that nothing that comes out of my vagina (uterus, Elizabeth, what you really mean is uterus – is what my mom told me the other day) nothing will ever be as cute as my dog.

(that’s his new plush bed with matching blanket)

I love my little dog!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Ridin' Dirty

Saturday morning it struck me.

It was time to pull out the mountain bike.

First, to locate it. Deep in the bowels of my in-laws basement we went to resurrect my mountain bike from the dead. There it hung upon a hook in the corner by the furnace. We pulled it down from its upside down grave and assessed the damage:

Flat front tire, cables worn and dear god did are those toe cages? You've gone soft on me. I believe you were lasted used for commuting in the city by my sister in law. It’s time to return you to your roots. Forget pavement, I’m talking trails.

From husband I demanded:

Shorter stem, mountain bike pedals, tighten the cables, get rid of that seat and go through the gears. Get it ready, I’m riding it in a few hours.

My bike waits in the foyer. It is ready to ride. I am almost giddy with the anticipation of feeling the cold air on a ride. The day was overcast and brisk, 43 degrees with a biting northwest wind. Pull out the tights, the gloves and head over to forest preserve for some rugged horse trails, grassy paths, crushed gravel and if you’re lucky a hidden piece of single track that slices through the woods.

Chris tells me to ride the bike around the parking lot of the preserve to be sure the bike fits and it works. I hop on, ride about two feet, it pedals, it whirs, yeah yeah yeah it’s fine. Put away your goniometer I’m going for a ride. I can see the envy in his eyes. Chris loves mountain biking. Actually he loves the fall for all of its unstructured and do as you wish glory. But not this year. Poor guy is training for Clearwater.

Would someone please put these Clearwater people out of their misery already? Could you imagine hitting watts right now or sending yourself off on a pool interval? Misery. Especially when you are surrounded by seasonal cues shouting at you to eat a cider doughnut, drink some hot cocoa, have a piece of pumpkin pie. Torture, I tell you. Set them free already. The fall is for trail running, mountain biking, eating 20 fun size candy bars because how can something that comes in a fun size count as any calories..?

It’s been too long, oh mountain bike. Years ago in an effort to teach me how to ride like a real cyclist and not a triathlete Chris threw me into all things cycling. You will do criteriums, you will do cyclocross, you will ride in the small ring at 100 rpms on your road bike and like it or not you will learn to mountain bike.

I did it all – or I at least tried. But when it came to mountain biking I shed more than a few tears. I believe my indoctrination into mountain bike racing was up north at Kettle Moraine. Kettle Moraine is a series of trails in Wisconsin worthy of bringing the mountain bike and dropping down into the granny gear. Glaciers came, glaciers went, retreating back while carving out the kettles and the moraines in this area. Add to that the outwash left gravely and deposited throughout the trails and you’ve got one crazy little mountain biking scene.

I remember the race – it was 20 miles or 2 blue loops. I thought to myself long could this take? That’s less than an hour on a road bike. Overconfidence in a situation like this is a protective mechanism. It’s really just ignorance enveloped by the fog of the unknown. That which you do not know you cannot worry about. Actually you cannot cry about. Until you are about 3 miles into the trail.

I had no idea what I was in for and still to this day have no idea how I made it through. Rocks, logs, roots, steep inclines, even steeper declines and what the hell was with the mile of sand!?! I might have walked half of it. After making it through once I had to go around…again? It took me over 2 hours. But I didn’t come in last place.

Somewhere behind me was probably another young girl talked into this madness by her boyfriend.

But I liked it. I felt alive. The cold air rushes into you and soon you are sweaty climbing over hills and jumping logs. Not only that but you learn to handle your bike like a mofo. You descend a blind curve into sand and you figure out where you put your weight and how to turn. You don’t need a set of cones to keep you from crossing the center line. If you cross the line of the path you will end up in a ravine or running yourself straight into a hickory thus jamming a branch into your derailleur.

This may or may not have happened to me.

Today in this preserve there is a small section of single track and I want to ride it 100 times. At first I am scared of falling but then I remember the rules of mountain biking: the faster you go over the obstacles the less likely you are to slide out, get stuck or crash. Bomb the descents. Spin like a motor. And if you do happen to crash you get scars.

And like Chris told me a hundred times, chicks dig scars.

I remember how to jump logs and then I start jumping for no reason at all. I’m on dirt, woodchips and finally a horse trail. Deep ruts have filled with thick mud that is now flying into my mouth. I’m grinding away like I’m stuck in cold chocolate pudding when I get a giant splash of water on both feet. Another splash to my rear. I’m sweaty and soaking wet.

Hot damn I missed this!

Next up I decide to ride up the big hill that climbs up to 980 feet above sea level. Around here that is a big hill. I climb to the halfway point when I remember that I have a granny gear. Might as well take advantage of it. I shift down and realize that I have now dropped my chain. It was safe to say that my granny gear disabled itself while hanging upside down in the basement.

You know that point where you find yourself spinning around at 120 rpms, standing straight up on a hill going nowhere when you realize oh shit I dropped my chain which means that I’m really spinning in air and I am going to fall over and crash any minute now…CLIP OUT! CLIP OUT! CLIP OUT!

Clipped back in, I get up the hill, spin around at the top. From here you can see clear out to the Chicago skyline over 30 miles away. It’s quite a spectacular view especially in the fall. Soon enough I head back down the hill and enjoy the fast ride down. It strikes me that I probably should engage the brakes.

But that’s what mountain biking does to you. You find yourself maneuvering around obstacles, through mud, riding over bumps and holes that would literally swallow you whole on a road bike. You don’t know how you’re doing it but you want to go faster. You realize you’re flying around the path with wicked confidence, you’re fearless, you’re hungry for the next challenge because to ride your mountain bike on a flat path or safe pavement is…a waste of time. Possibly a sin. Not worthy of having three rings on your bike.

I’m riding the perimeter of the hill now. The wind is taking a bite of me and my wet feet are getting cold. But then it hits me: I feel alive. I do believe this was the ride that woke me from the workout dead. And it’s been a long time there. Been comatose from too much triathlon. Lately I feel like I’ve done all this stuff and it’s great but really what is the point. Is it fitness? Is it personal achievement? Is it weight management? I have no answer but I remember now that there are other things out there. I don’t need to just swim, bike and run. There are dozens of other ways I can move my body and stay fit. Hiking. Strength training. I need me a kayak because I want to do some rowing. I don’t care if I fall into the river. I’ll call it a brick workout; paddle/swim. I even found myself longing for a little stair climbing. Just to mix it up. Keep it interesting.

Somewhere out there I lost an hour. Or that’s what I think it was. There’s something about mountain biking that is distracting – in a good way. You lose track of time, effort or pain. It becomes all about spinning the pedals to get up, over and around obstacles. You might be riding 4 mph or 20 mph. It doesn’t really matter. That’s not the point, just ride.

Exhausted from riding into the wind, rolling over chunky rocks and eating mud. Not only that but the gears kept ghost shifting. That one gear I wanted? Every time I went to it the bike would automatically shift between the one above it and the one below it. I thought this was a manual model?

I rolled back up to the car. A few minutes later Chris returned from his poor-thing-had-to-do-intervals-run.

So how did the bike ride?

Like a dream really. Nevermind that the one gear I wanted was the one gear it wouldn’t go into. Nevermind that I have no granny gear. Nevermind that the suspension is so squishy right now that I feel like my ears will pop when I come back down over a bump. It rode, honestly, like a dream because I was mountain biking.

Before I started the ride I'm pretty sure I was thinking about something. My head was full of a boatload of thoughts and worries. Somewhere they flew out along the trail at 100 rpms. I still don't remember what I was thinking about. But I know what I’m thinking right now: when is the next time to ride. And when can I start riding at night. It’s time to bring back the Nightie Night ride. Let me know if you want to join me for this ride. You need a mountain bike, a headlamp and you might want to pack a balaclava. I don’t know how far we’ll ride but I do know that when we get tired or too cold we’ll head home.

And to add an element of danger and mystery to this ride, deer management season has just begun. If you hear buckshot that means we pedal like hell.

Consider it an “interval”.