Running, biking, hiking, writing...endings, beginnings, clarity...insomnia-induced brain emptying.
December 31, 2007
We'll miss you Gerry
Gerry was so full of life it is hard to believe he is gone. I was fortunate enough to meet him last July when I went on the Big Ride Pacific Coast. Gerry was a veteran of these fund-raising rides, and he welcomed us newbies with open arms. I very fortunate to ride with him for much of the second week and really get to know him. He had done the ride a couple years previously, and always knew where the next ice cream shop was. My wife got to meet him at the finish line in San Francisco, and latched on to him immediately.
I rode with Gerry again this year on the Big Ride Glacier trip. He helped to talk me into this ride, and I am so glad he did. It was another wonderful experience, and I got to meet more of his riding friends. Gerry did the Ride Across America a couple of times, so his circle of friends is large and spread throughout the country. I know he was an avid skier as well, so I know there are many more great friends of his I haven't met.
Gerry welcomed so many people into that special heart of his. He was full of positive energy and always had a child-like twinkle in his eyes. I am a much better man having known him and the world was a better place with him around. I am so glad you came into my life, and I will miss seeing you out on the road. I'll just plain miss you.
You can see the slide show full size here.
The Happy Totals
It was a pretty full year. I completed my second marathon, my second and third half marathons, and took another week long bicycle ride to support the Lung Association. I shaved almost 15 minutes off my half marathon PR, and 35 minutes off my marathon time.
Being an overweight 40 year old and starting running later in life, I am still in that window of time where improvement is more dramatic. Knocking time off is going to become more difficult next year, and I think it is time to start taking better care of my body (better foods, losing weight, etc).
So here are the happy totals:
Running - 660 miles
Biking - 1346 miles
Swimming - 12.8 miles
I did more biking last year (thanks to a two-week trip), but added almost 300 miles of running to my total. The thing that really shocked me was that I ran 111 days this year. It didn't feel like I was running that regularly.
I've been slacking on the biking and swimming lately - I haven't done any since September. Unfortunately running is kicking my butt right now and I'm too sore to think about adding it back in.
Looking forward to another great year in 2008!
Turning the page
I'd say the year flew by, but that really isn't true. After compiling and watching the review DVDs, pieces of the year seem so far in the past. It still is a bit of a blur.
The wife is looking forward to the new year, as 2007 was a bit rough. Work has been frustrating, and it is hard to leave that behind when it is a third of your life and it follows you home on weekends. We lost a dear family member in September, another friend is recovering from breast cancer, and unfortunately another has been recently diagnosed with leukemia. We are lucky to have so many wonderful people in our lives, and it is hard to see them suffer in any way.
2008 will bring a couple of weddings, a trip to see friends, and a tropical vacation is on the horizon. 2008 is also the year when someone new will take on the challenge of leading this great country of ours. I wish them well and hope that the coming years bring wisdom, unity and peace no matter who is at the helm. We are hoping work improves for the both of us, and wish everyone good health in the coming year.
When you climb out of the rubble of day to day distractions and have a chance to look around, this life is pretty wonderful. Thank you for being a part of my life, and for joining me on this journey.
December 30, 2007
We took a break and filled our calendars for next year. We have plenty of new adventures planned for 2008. I have two marathons on my plate already, and we are trying to get some more runners together to do a 24 hour relay race. Everyone runs 3 legs of the race while sharing a van and trying to catch some zzz's when they can.
After a figuring out 2008, we plopped ourselves back in front of the big screen and watched my version of 2007. It wasn't quite as creative, but hopefully everyone enjoyed my take on the year.
We were up pretty late, and mildly hungover this morning. However three of us laced up our shoes and went for a run. My California friends say that during a run on the morning after, at some point in the run they feel the wine bottle fall out of their body with a thunk - hangover gone. After 12 miles I was still waiting for that feeling, but it ended up being a decent run anyway.
We are all looking forward to another great year in 2008!
December 29, 2007
What I don't know, what I believe, and what I'm reading
"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." ~ Freewill by RushThis will not come as a shock to most of you (I am still guessing). I don't subscribe to any one line of thought or belief. There are certain problems for me with most any organized religion. Yet I do not lack faith or grace, and I consider myself a spiritual person. I simply don't know what ties us all together or how it all began, and nothing I have read so far rings true. I am not holding out for ultimate proof, but what I believe needs to make sense to me.
I believe that evolution is a driving force in our world and species, but don't discount something divine involved in the beginning. When I think about the world as a whole, I'm not sure it can all be explained by chance.
I think there is something that ties us all together, but I think of it more in a horizontal plane rather than looking to the sky. I believe in the human spirit more than any other.
I am always interested in knowing, but I am comfortable that there will always be the unknown. I don't know what happens when this life ends, and at this point in my life, I am OK with that.
I have a (strong) moral compass and I have often wondered where it all came from. I am sure there is some hardwired nature involved, but a good portion of it came through the nurture of my parents, relatives and friends. I was taught to think about others and the world at large mostly by the example and practice of my parents.
I honestly don't know what people think of me with regard to my lack of defined religion. I don't know if they think me damned or not. No one has tried to save me yet, so I suppose not. I clipped this out of the paper 15 years ago:
"I never told my own religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed. I am satisfied that yours must be an excellent religion to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness. For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be judged."
~ Thomas Jefferson to Mrs. Harrison Smith 1816.Religion has become a hot topic, at times so hot that people cannot discuss it. Along with politics, religion seems to be a taboo topic, at least outside party lines. Though this may go against the sentiment of Jefferson's quote, since I do not have a defined religion I feel it fair to share some of what I believe:
- I don't think things "happen for a reason". Things happen, and people try to find reason.
- Life is difficult. Once you accept this, you transcend it.
- If there is a higher power, he/she is not involved in day to day minutiae of our lives.
- I believe in doing what I feel is right because it is right. I am not waiting for my reward in heaven (or here for that matter).
- The long-term benefit almost always outweighs the short-term gain.
- The way you live your life is the best way to show what you believe.
- I believe in this world and I am not looking forward to the end of days.
- If there is a heaven, I don't believe there is just one. As most religions damn those that don't believe in their book/God, that damns us all.
December 27, 2007
It all adds up
In US and CANADA:
17 million drinks were served in personal cups in Fiscal FY06 (Oct 2005-Sept 2006), resulting in 674,000 lbs of paper saved from our landfills.
Saving some trees, less stuff headed to the dump, all while saving $.10 on your cup of joe. Nice.
Year in Review
There are two versions of the DVD - one for the running and biking group, and one for the wife and I with a couple extra chapters of our own. The personal version opened to rave reviews (well from the one person who has seen it). We watched it Christmas morning - could be a new tradition.
The running/biking group is getting together this weekend to watch the review DVDs and to plan our next year of events. We'll show up with calendars in hand, and this year's medals around our neck. It should be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to seeing how Wendy put our year together. We'll have a lot of the same pictures, but I'm sure the finished products will be quite different.
Of course some new promises (drunken or otherwise) will be made.
December 26, 2007
For those of us without an Ipod, purchasing Mp3s online can be difficult. Amazon.com has stepped into the market, and they have a pretty good selection and simple buying process. The thing I don't like about Apple (Itunes) and Microsoft (Zune) is that you need to download their organization software just to buy a file. I don't need anymore software filling up my hard drive.
Anyway, on to the song. This is a live version I found on YouTube.
It was another great Christmas this year. We spent Christmas Eve at my brother and his family's house. The wife was pretty happy to be able to open some presents before Christmas day (I can be a bit of a Grinch).
The wife and I had our own little Christmas together in the morning before heading to my parents house for the traditional gathering (and coffee cake). While we were there, it started snowing! It wasn't going to last, but it did stick around long enough to give us a brief white Christmas.
We spent the evening at my cousins with the whole extended family. They had so many decorations lit that when they turned on the coffee maker they blew the main breaker in fuse panel.
It was great catching up with everyone. Our extended family is 30+ so it can be tough to get all of us in a room at one time. Growing up we saw each other almost every month, but I think we've surpassed critical mass now. Now it is mostly around the holidays and for a week in the summer, so yesterday was a treat.
So the season is about over. We'll be in denial for a bit, leaving our tree and lights up for at least another week or so. It is about prolonging the season, not laziness. No really.
December 23, 2007
Now that's a Christmas card!
I also enjoy the letters that some send out. We don't get to see some of our friends and family as often as we wish, so it is nice to get a brief peek into what their year was like. It is actually kinda nice to look back over our own year when we write our letter. In some ways it is hard to believe that another year has gone by. Now that we are doing the year-in-review DVDs, the photos help flesh out some of the details.
Anyway(s), we received this Christmas card from some friends:
Yes, that is really our current and former presidents and not a photo-shopped Christmas card. I had forgotten all about this, so the card was a fun surprise. Our friends were back east in August with family, and they were having their son baptized. Turns out they were at the family church of the Bush's in Kennebunkport Maine. Here is another shot of the baptism - click on the photo to enlarge (Bush family in the front row):
That is going to be a tough one to top next year.
Merry Christmas Eve Eve
The wife and I set a low budget for each other this year, so that did make shopping a little more challenging. If I had any artistic talent I might have pulled out the Elmers, macaroni and gold paint.
One of my favorite Christmas memories was during another lean Christmas. My friend Mike and I had an apartment together, and we were both working for McDonald's. We were probably both making less than $4 an hour since we started at minimum wage of $3.35. Not sure how we made it, but I do remember lots of Top Ramen.
A day or so before Christmas we were both working an evening shift. When we came home there was a decorated Christmas tree in our apartment. Our girlfriends at the time had sweet-talked a guy at one of the tree lots into a free or very cheap tree. They brought it over and set it up with some ornaments borrowed from their family trees. It was a wonderful surprise and one of the best gifts I've ever received.
December 22, 2007
The story is about a couple that decides to bypass the holiday for one year. Their one child is in college and is not coming home this year. The couple decides to get away and take a cruise over the holiday. Their neighbors and community feel betrayed and angry.
Their neighborhood is one where everyone decorates their home with a Frosty theme and everyone participates. When the Kranks don't decorate, the neighbors turn on them. When the boy scouts come by to sell them a Christmas tree, the Kranks say no, but promise to donate the amount they would have spent on the tree. The boy scouts simply don't understand.
In the end, the daughter decides to come home for Christmas after all, setting off a mad scramble to get a tree, decorate, and provide a Christmas dinner. Friends and neighbors come to the rescue, providing the warm/happy ending. It is interesting the backlash the Kranks experience until Christmas is "unskipped". There is a lot of emotion wrapped up in the holiday, not all of it festive.
I've thought a bit about skipping Christmas for a year. In reality I just want to leave some of the craziness behind. I would like a holiday of just spending time with friends and family. No gifts, no time at the mall.
A much more traditional (and fun) celebration, courtesy of "The Dawg Run":
December 20, 2007
To get in the mood, I listened to "A Very Special Christmas". It has been my favorite Christmas album since it came out in 1987. As a child of the 80's, I enjoy the lineup of artists on the CD. It also brings back plenty of fond memories. The first listen each year is always on my own. My little private Christmas moment.
Another flashback hit me in the toy store. One shelf had some "classic" (read old) toys that have come back. Tinkertoys probably never disappeared entirely, but finding a new audience are Rock-em, Sock-em Robots and Gnip Gnop. I don't remember either being all that fun 30 years ago, and I wonder how they compete against the Wii these days.
Of course no one can find a Wii to buy this season, so maybe there is hope.
December 19, 2007
Do you know the password and secret handshake?
On my way out the door the other night, I fed the loyal pooch. When I got there, the dog food container was pretty much bare. I had to pick some up before returning home or the pooch would be getting toast for breakfast (not that she'd mind).
Traffic was awful around the normal pet store, so I continued down Aurora on my way to Seattle. I found a PetSmart on the way, ran in, grabbed the bag and went to the check out. "Do you have our PetPerks card?" No. Well then the food costs $4 more.
I am so tired of all these flipping "club cards". I'd prefer not to belong to any clubs (not much of a joiner). It all started in the grocery stores. Either Safeway or QFC led the charge in our area. I assume the point was to create loyalty. Their justification was that with all our purchase data that they could better understand what items they should stock. I'm not sure how all this individual purchase data is more definitive than their normal inventory and ordering information.
I suppose reward cards like Subway, Office Depot, etc. create some loyalty, but as I'm not getting any reward (other than sale prices they used to give to everyone), these club cards are really just a hassle for customers and more work for the stores. Now it's pet stores. Why not fast food places, coffee shops, gas stations, etc.
I have no idea if these cards create any loyalty. They certainly don't for me. I'm sure most people choose their grocery stores for convenience of location, price, and/or quality of brand. I actually try to go to Top Foods when it is convenient as they are one of the few without a "club card".
I just want to walk in to what ever store is handy, and trust that the price listed on the shelf is what I will pay when I get to the checkout.
P.S. Saying my name as you hand me my receipt does not give me a warm fuzzy.
December 15, 2007
Rudolph Run 2007
It was a little different this time around. The group was larger this year (10 runners/walkers), but we were missing one of our own. Our friend Alyssa had been planning to run this with us, but found out only a week and a half ago that she had breast cancer. The cancer was aggressive enough that they needed to do surgery right away, and she had a double mastectomy this past Tuesday. It sounds like by all accounts the surgery went well, that the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, and she is recovering in good spirits. Rounds of chemo will begin around the first of the year.
We wanted to honor her somehow. We all donned some pink bandannas and we pinned her picture and a pink ribbon to our chests. After the run we had a chance to speak with another woman who was running for her daughter. We got to talking about the disease and how she was looking into starting a local benefit run. She gave us a way to contact her so we will look into helping her out in the new year.
December 13, 2007
I have always thought that Starbucks has enabled the anal-retentive to feel at home. This minority has now swelled in number, and what was once "would you mind" is now "this is how it must be". I have often fantasized about opening a coffee house where people are allowed one modifier. Try for more and they get drip coffee.
This fantasy in no way compares to be becoming a judge and throwing out (and punishing) people who bring about frivolous lawsuits.
December 12, 2007
Dog is my co-pilot
Dog writing has become pretty popular lately. 10 Secrets my Dog Taught Me, The Other End of the Leash, The Hidden Life of Dogs, Marley & Me. The short stories in Co-Pilot have been enjoyable and I look forward to reading them all eventually.
We've had our wonderful dog for almost five years now. I grew up with dogs and had been waiting to have one back in my life again. Once we were out of apartments and had a yard, the wife and I adopted our pooch from the Humane Society. She was a five year old lab mix, ending up at the Humane Society as a product of a divorce (along with her mother). She had actually been adopted out once already. The first adopters only had her for 24 hours. They put her in a crate at night (she'd never been in one) and locked her in a room while they were away. She apparently ruined the carpet trying to get out. Their enormous loss for their impatience.
When we brought her home we spent the weekend getting her adjusted to her new home. One of us left for a half hour, then the other, then both. She had some anxiety issues initially, but by the end of the weekend she seemed at home.
She is very patient with kids and plays well with others. Perpetually happy, well behaved with enough small quirks to make her unique. I have a hard time imagining our lives with out her. Reading some of the stories in Dog is my Co-Pilot, and seeing this post earlier today, it is clear that dogs have a very special part in our hearts and our lives.
December 11, 2007
December 10, 2007
What is the deal with water lately?
On the plus side the lights are up outside and I finally put the faucet covers over the water spigots. Just in time for the fourth or fifth freeze.
What's in your bucket?
by Mark Nepo
I am tired of those
who swill their head
in a bucket and claim
there is no God or Good
or Beauty to be had.
I come from a tribe
of survivors who love life
more than the hardships
they've been dealt. And
we have found each other
the way rivers find the sea.
We know pain and struggle
and fear like driftwood
and glass scraping at
our bottom. But have
grown love and faith
and will like barnacles,
razored and out of sight.
We come from every sort
of rock: drunken, raped
And though everyone
navigates their darker
moments, though everyone
trembles at the wheel,
each is strong, that is real,
working naked in the stream.
So I am fed up with those
who suck at the dark side
of things, complaining
they are bored, complaining
life's a chore, complaining
there is nothing but their
chaos to applaud.
To be broken is no reason
to see all things as broken.
To fear death
is not a calling.
I have outlived a tumor
pressing on my brain, have
had my 8th rib removed, and
though I wept in the tub
at the gash in my side,
at the fact that I can
be split open so easily
like a bull pumped up
for market, I only
want life more,
long to dance
till my heart
my mind stops
till I understand
the dead tree's part
in the design.
I long like a root
deeper in the earth
so I can reach
farther to the sky.
So don't tell me
in your bucket.
To brush my teeth
after three weeks
of lying flat. And
in the water
from my mouth
as it swirls
down the sink
in rhythm with
the largest falls
I've ever seen.
And when the ribs
ache, I dream of
in life's waters
with those who
pulled me back
to this season
December 9, 2007
What's in your bucket?
The snow wasn't going to last. The snow was what was termed last week a 'novelty event'. Still, every second day I work on the fence it snows. Need a snow day, I'll build you a fence. I am in the home stretch now, just a couple boards short of finishing the last section.
After finishing up, the wife and I headed to the Depot to pick up our Christmas tree. We also stopped by Costco and picked up some new LED lights for the house (98% energy savings!). Three years ago when we moved to our new house, we waited until the last minute to get a tree. We went to Home Depot out of desperation, and there were four trees left. Didn't take us much time to pick out the tree. Now Home Depot is a tradition.
I think decorating the tree is one of the best parts of the holiday. There are some ornaments that have carried through from my childhood. Some have been created by my mother and grandmother. Still others we have picked up along the way and have some new sentimental value for us as a couple. It is an annual walk through 40 years of memories. Exquisite.
The new lights will hopefully decorate our eaves soon. We'll see, tomorrow (fortunately) is a busy day.
December 6, 2007
Water finds a way
My sense of smell is terrible, I assume because my allergies have done their damage. The wife's sniffer is normally acute but is out of commission with a lingering cold. This funk however had penetrated both our dulled senses.
The wife determined it was actually coming from the furnace vents. I checked the furnace filters hoping not to find a small creature recently expired. All clear. Down to the crawlspace. It turns out that the recent deluge of rain had seeped past the foundation and had soaked some insulation right below the furnace intake. The insulation was pretty rank. Hopefully problem solved.
Just before rolling over to read last night I looked up at the bedroom ceiling. It looked wet. Stood up and felt around, and it was not an illusion. Didn't feel like crawling around in the attic at midnight, so I didn't check it out until this morning. Turns out the spare bedroom's ceiling was also damp the next morning.
Our house has a very low sloped roof so there isn't a whole lot of room to crawl around up there. There is no way to crawl out to the edge where the ceiling was damp. I could see the underside of the roof though, and it looked dry. We are hoping that the recent heavy rain and wind simply pushed the moisture in through the soffit vents.
Fingers crossed, knocking on wood - hoping it isn't rotten.
December 5, 2007
Yeah America, Drink Up!
Today is also the 75th anniversary of the repealing of prohibition.
After 13 long years, the shinny new 21st ammendment, repealing the 18th ammendment, had enough states behind it to be ratified on December 5th, 1933. The issue of alcohol would be taken out of the hands of the federal government and left to each state's counties to decide locally.
Toast the $ with a frosty one!
December 3, 2007
4" of rain and an indoor half marathon
Seattle has a reputation as a rainy city, but we don't get the torrential downpours very often. It more like seemingly endless drizzle. This "100 year" rainfall and wind meant that running outside didn't sound too appealing. Unfortunately I was scheduled to run 13 miles this weekend.
Off to the gym. The treadmills shut off after 60 minutes, so this meant a couple of restarts and some serious machine hogging. Fortunately the gym was pretty quiet until the very end. The power flickered about 2 miles into my run, so the treadmill came to a stop. Luckily it wasn't so jarring that I went flying forward and ended up on YouTube.
The last few runs I have done outside it has been in the 30s, so running for over 2 hours inside turned me into a sweaty mess. I suppose it will be good training for my next marathon in warmer temperatures. On the way home I was diverted a few times by flooded roads, and I saw a fountain of water shooting 3 feet out of a storm drain. Fortunately our house is on higher ground and we just get a street's worth of water pooling in our driveway.
I haven't gone outside to check the fence posts yet...
December 1, 2007
Good neighbors and ugly fences
The fence was pretty rotted and was mostly being held up by our rhododendrons. My neighbor to south had replaced his back fence last year, and the new fence covered about a third of the property line for my backyard neighbor. I was out mowing my lawn before work began and started chatting with my backyard neighbors over our rotted fence. We hadn't really met previously and I had a nice chat with the two older ladies.
We started talking about the fence and she told me what they were paying to have it built. I told them I could do it for much cheaper, and that once it was built I would build one between our houses. When I saw the fence they built, I was pretty bummed as it was kinda ugly, so I kinda lost interest in replacing our fence. But then it blew down.
We talked again and agreed to split the cost. Nice and friendly. I tore the fence down yesterday. The ladies were out trying to help me at every turn (they're in their 70's by the way). I told them I was fine on my own, but they were out there trying to pitch in. I found lots of old concrete when I was digging the holes so that slowed me down.
Today was the day for concrete and posts. Then this happened:
I knew snow was forecasted, but the next couple of days called for heavy rain and I thought that would be even worse for getting the concrete to set. Plus, it only snows half the time they forecast it. Fortunately I had some help...