Something to keep in mind during marathon training

53 Rules of Running.

My favorite is 22: "No matter how slow you run it is still faster than someone sitting on a couch."


Furlough, day one

My accomplishments:

- Basic breakfast for myself: eggs over easy, toast, vegetarian sausage.
- Tried this recipe for lunch, subbing quinoa for orzo to up the protein. (I dunno - there was way too much sage flavor and not enough pumpkin for my taste. This might be because my puree had been in the freezer for quite a while, though.)
- Cleaned out miscellaneous storage box.
- Three loads of laundry.
- Little visit with the parents.
- Read The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

A slow start, but it's something.

Next furlough day: Feb. 27. After that, they start a-comin' fast and furious.



You've probably heard that my company is requiring its employees to take five days of unpaid leave by the end of March. They're calling it furlough.

Financially, I'm lucky: 18 months ago, I went on a strict budget to eliminate my credit-card debt, and since then, I've managed to save enough that I can handle losing a week's pay.

So I've decided to turn this unexpected time off into a Good Thing by vowing to accomplish something (preferably several things) on each day. I've spent too many weekends and extra vacation days in front of the computer, not noticing that my day off is being spent in much the same way my work day would. So on these particular days off, I will improve my life in some small but measurable way.

Day-off achievements might include:
- Taking a trip
- Going somewhere new locally
- Reading one of the many books that are piled up on my side table
- Thoroughly cleaning a room in my apartment
- Going on a nice long run
- Cooking something new and amazing
- Etc.

My first furlough day is Friday. I'll keep you posted.


I've been memed!

(Whoops, I accidentally published this before it was done. Apologies if you were confused by a 16-item list - here's the full version.)

5chw4r7z tagged me in a meme! If it didn't look like such a big job to come up with 25 fun facts about myself, I'd be honored!

So, here we go.

1. I've lived in the Midwest my entire life. (Born in Illinois, lived in Ohio since age 5, didn't even leave for college.)

2. This means that sometimes, Mr. W has to inform me of regional quirks that I assumed were universal, such as being obsessed with Crock-Pots. (I don't actually know if the linked blogger is from the Midwest - it's just a great site if you like Crock-Pots.)

3. That particular revelation came from an excited conversation I had with a grocery store clerk about a booklet of Crock-Pot recipes I was buying. She thought it was even cooler than I did; I thought her interest was only natural. Mr. W was like, "People are not like this in the South."

4. Here's why I call him "Mr. W," by the way.

5. You know how parents will laugh with their friends about the ridiculously precocious things their children say? My parents still do that with me. I'll say something I think sounds totally normal, and suddenly my mom will be going, "BWA HA HA HA, I'll have to remember that one!"

6. My favorite food is cheese.

7. My favorite cheese is brie.

8. My favorite brie is "holy crap how can Trader Joe's sell brie for $2.50?"

9. When I was in fifth grade, I loved the Baby-Sitters Club books so much that I had a "BSC week" where I dressed as each of the characters. (I wrote about it here last year, actually.)

10. In my living room hangs a beautiful gig poster that was signed by two guys who dress up as Harry Potter and play songs about life at Hogwarts. I don't have tons of art to choose from or anything, but it's probably my favorite piece. Here it is:

11. There is a single-serving box of Frosted Mini-Wheats sitting on the top shelf of the bookcase in my bedroom. I have no idea how long it's been there or how it got there in the first place.

12. You know how when it's humid, a lot of people's hair goes frizzy? Mine just gets straighter.

13. I hated that about myself in the '80s, when my big mall bangs would always fall flat no matter how stiff I sprayed them. I wished I had interesting curly hair like my friends. Now I adore my straight, sleek hair.

14. It drives me nuts when people describe Gossip Girl as a "guilty pleasure." I'm pretty sure those people aren't paying attention to the show.

15. I can do eggs scrambled, over easy, hard-boiled and poached, but I still have trouble with omelettes. (I always end up microwaving them at the end to make sure all the egg is cooked.)

16. The only time I've ever been to the emergency room was a few years ago. Some of us were tossing a football around in the office, and a pass went low and wide. I reached for it anyway, and it smacked against my hand, dislocating my pinky.

17. By the way? I am a total baby about injuries.

18. I've never seen Pulp Fiction.

19. I've seen every Batman movie (including the one starring Adam West) except the first Tim Burton one.

20. One of my favorite things to eat is a dish that almost everyone else I've made it for hates. Take a can of diced tomatoes and drain; chop up some black olives and mushrooms and add those; add minced garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil and salt; serve over spaghetti with lots of shredded Parmesan. I eat it like once a week. My sister likes it if you eliminate the olives and mushrooms; everyone else thinks it's gross.

21. I see my relatives on my mom's side of the family about once every 2-3 months - even the ones who live in Houston.

22. I haven't seen most of my relatives on my dad's side of the family in several years. This includes a cousin who lives in Cincinnati. It's not that I don't like them - I just haven't seen them.

23. If I don't concentrate on the act of locking my car doors when I park somewhere, I'll forget I've done it and have to run back and check 30 seconds later. This is a trait I inherited from my mom, who always had us turn around a block from home on family vacations so she could make sure she turned the iron off.

24. I used to think I couldn't live without cable - like, to the point where I was kind of rude to a roommate who wanted to do without.

25. I don't have cable. Haven't for three years. It's totally fine! (Now I'm kind of a no-cable snob, actually.)

Woo-hoo, I've done it! Let's see ... I will tag AE, Mike, Ronson, Eileen, and Barry. Sorry, you guys.


The accidental athlete

(Written mostly because that mag I work for needed a Last Word column. Perhaps you'd like to contribute one for next week?)

I was never a runner.

In eighth grade I tried track and field and wound up doing discus and shot put, partly at the urging of my gym teacher ("You've got the body for shot put, Kelly") and partly because those events required the least amount of running during practice. Once during the season, I had to run a mile. I think it took me half an hour.

So perhaps it's understandable that I began my adulthood with a hatred of running over all other forms of exercise. "Running - ugh!" I'd say. "Give me swimming, step aerobics, the elliptical - anything but running!"

And then one day nearly four years ago, my dad called me up and asked me to go for a run. His plan: We'd run a minute, then walk a minute. Repeat 10 times twice a week; watch the pounds drop off. "You can run for a minute, right?" he said.

My dad's side of the family is plagued by heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol - pretty much any health problem you can have that's linked to poor fitness. "Sure," I said. "I guess I can run for a minute."

That first gray, chilly day, though, I nearly couldn't. Not by about the eighth time my dad's watch beeped, signaling that it was time to run again. By the end of our 20-minute workout, I was nearly sick.

But we kept it up, and eventually running a minute was easy. So we tried running a minute and a half, then two minutes, then three - and then, a year after that first miserable day, we ran our first 5K.

At this point, I still didn't really like running - but, I learned, I liked 5Ks. Each one felt like I was beginning the day with a major achievement; plus, I liked getting a T-shirt and a bag full of coupons and samples.

For a year and a half, we continued running, adding 5Ks in here and there. And then, around Christmas 2007 a friend asked me if I wanted to run the Flying Pig Half Marathon, and I was kind of terrified of failure. But I said yes, and I began to train.

And somewhere along the way, I discovered I liked running. I liked taking time (up to two hours, by the end of training) for myself to do something good for my body. I liked getting out of my car and pounding the pavement in my neighborhood. I liked being out on the trail with just my iPod shuffle and my own thoughts. And I loved joining tens of thousands of other runners on that morning in May. (Here's my three-part recap.)

The half marathon was one of the best things I've ever done. I loved it so much that last week, I signed up to do it all over again. Maybe I'll even get my dad to join me this time.

I'm still not fast. I still huff and puff and marvel at fitter athletes who zip past me without so much as a wheeze.

But I am a runner.


My dad's pretty excited about the Steelers game.


Wonderful Life, part ten: "And a Happy New Year to you - in jail!"

George Bailey prayed to be allowed to live again, and it started snowing and his mouth started bleeding and Zuzu's petals came back and scary (or awesome, depending on how you see it) Pottersville receded into the mists, never to be heard from again! What does George think of all this?

"YAY!" he screams, seeing the sign welcoming him back to Bedford Falls. (Who actually shouts "YAY!"? Not says, not squeals, but actually, full-throatedly shouts it? Try screaming that word at the top of your lungs sometime. You will be stared at.)

It's close to midnight on Christmas Eve, and Potter is still in his office, alone. George, on his joyous spree down Bedford Falls' main drag, wishes him Merry Christmas, and Potter crabs that George can have a happy holiday in the clink. And that's the last we see of Potter outside that SNL sketch - a sad old man working alone on a holiday and taking bitter pleasure in being the cause of another man's misfortune. An unrepentant Scrooge. Good riddance to him.

Off George runs home, where some stern-looking men are waiting for him. "I'll bet that's a warrant for my arrest," he enthuses. "Isn't it wonderful? I'm going to jail!" (And, in fact, he probably is, even in light of what happens next.) George is happy to see his kids and all, but who he REALLY wants to see is Mary. Which is fitting, because while he was wrestling with life, the universe and everything, Mary was out saving his sorry butt.

She's back now, and you know what happens - the entire town pours in, and just as George once gave away nearly every dollar he had to give Bedford Falls some measure of freedom, they empty their wallets so he's not taken away from them. Everyone tells him how they dug even deeper for him: Martini broke into his own jukebox; Gower called in all his charge accounts. Violet Bick comes in and returns the money the B&L had lent her earlier that day: like George, she's going to sacrifice for the town, because George is the town now.

And then comes a telegram from Sam Wainwright, who is in Europe and whom George failed to reach in his earlier desperation. Luckily, Gower was slightly more persistent: "Mr. Gower cables you need cash STOP My office instructed to advance you up to twenty-five thousand dollars STOP Hee-Haw and Merry Christmas Sam Wainwright."

There's pandemonium in the Bailey house: Mr. Bank Examiner even tosses a few bills onto the pile, and the sheriff tears up the arrest warrant for some reason. The entrance of Harry Bailey, football star and war hero, is almost unnoticed. And tonight, he's OK with that. "To my big brother George - the richest man in town!"

(Aw, jeez, here are those pesky tears again!)

Also, Clarence leaves George a note: he got his wings! Now he can watch home movies of George Bailey whenever he wants! Do you think he can also watch alternate-reality versions - not just It's a Miserable Pottersville, but, like, It's a Wonderful Steampunk Life or It's a Wonderful Life (Even Though the Confederate Army Won the Civil War)? Man, being an angel sounds awesome.

And before Mary can ask who the heck this "very dear friend" of George's is whom she's never heard of even though he only knows people within a 10-mile radius of their house, Zuzu says something cute and the movie ends.

And so has this little series! Thanks for indulging me for the duration. (Thanks also to Mike and AE for their regular comments and helpful links - the script was especially invaluable, Mike.) Happy Epiphany, everyone!


Wonderful Life, part nine: "Better keep an eye on this guy. He's bats!"

George Bailey and Clarence Oddbody have just been thrown out of Nick's Place (formerly Martini's). George is like, seriously, buddy, what the heck is going on here? And Clarence just repeats the same thing he's said about a hundred times tonight: "You've been given a great gift, George - a chance to see what the world would be like without you."

All of George's identifying papers and characteristics have disappeared - his driver's license, his deaf ear, his life insurance policy, his sore lip from that sock to the mouth earlier, his daughter's flower petals. At this rate, I'm kinda surprised his clothes didn't disappear as well, because he wasn't around to buy them, after all. He's pretty sure only the sweet embrace of his hot wife will cure this madness (which, good plan, I guess), so he runs off to get a cab home. Clarence glances up at the sky and says, "How am I doing, Joseph? ... Thanks! ... No, I didn't have a drink!"

... Oh. So it's that kind of heaven.

George reaches Bedford Falls' main drag, which has become the Pottersville Strip. Blah, blah, casinos, bars, strip clubs. We're focusing on the former B&L, which has become a "dance hall" that's being raided by the Pottersville 5-0 while a big crowd gawks. Among the girls struggling with the cops: Violet Bick. George is like, wait a second - I know that girl! And the crowd goes, "Yeah, I bet you do, wink wink, nudge nudge, 'he said with a knowing expression.' "

George can't help Violet, so he just hails Ernie's cab for a ride home. Ernie is freaked out by George's seeming knowledge of his life (minus the part where he doesn't own a house and his wife left him) and request to go to an address that doesn't exist, so he waves his arm for Bert to follow him in his cruiser.

(Side note: what would it have been like to go driving around in the '40s and see all the big modern cars tooling around with Model T's? It'd be like if by 2020, all new cars were made along the lines of a Smart car, and they all went zipping about with our 1990s Camrys alongside.)

So they all arrive at George's former house, which is of course even more dilapidated than it was on his wedding night because it's had 10 more years of exposure to the elements. It's kind of amazing it wasn't just pulled down to build another bordello, really. Clarence is there, saying AGAIN, what did you expect? You've never been born, dummy!

Bert the cop comes in and is actually nice to George for a bit: "Look, now, why don't you be a good kid and we'll take you to a doctor?" But George struggles, and Clarence jumps in and bites Bert (!) so George can get away, and then Joseph intervenes and Clarence vanishes into thin air. (The lesson: biting policemen is all right once you're dead.)

George has run off to his mother's boarding house (I think she ran a boarding house in Bedford Falls, but I'm not sure), where he learns that she's kind of a jerk and Uncle Billy has been in an insane asylum ever since the B&L went under. (Remember, in Pottersville they've got no time for forgetful, bumbling "characters.")

There's just enough time for a trip to the cemetery to confirm that Harry Bailey, dashing football star and war hero, died at the age of 9 ("Every man on that transport died - Harry wasn't there to save them because you weren't there to save Harry."), and then it's off to see Mary. Whose fate, Clarence seems to think from the way he hesitates to tell George about it, is far worse than that of Harry and of the soldiers he wasn't there to save.

Yes, drowning in freezing water and burning in jet fuel is nothing compared to being a spinster librarian. Who wears glasses. (But then again, when Clarence was alive, women were only counted as full people for census-taking purposes, and that's if they weren't slaves.)

George runs up to Mary and grabs her, and of course she is freaked out, because who knows what can happen to women who walk alone at night in Pottersville. But you can say this about the town: If a shrieking woman runs into a bar pursued by a crazed man who insists she's his wife, the townspeople do not turn a blind eye. No, they hold that man back.

(Time for my big aside: I think the respective fates of Mary and Violet show that Pottersville is a place where women don't have many options. Violet didn't have George Bailey to give her a loan so she could try to make a go of it as a successful single woman; instead, the town flirt became one of many town prostitutes. Mary saw what happened to Violet and to so many women in Pottersville, so she buttoned herself up, closed herself off to all pleasure, and probably stopped drinking bathtub gin.

That's why the movie portrays being a single librarian as worse than being a sexy housewife - because Librarian Mary is a prude, probably because she's afraid of what would happen to her if she weren't. She was clearly not headed for the bar once the library shut down - in fact, I'll bet she keeps it open until like midnight on Christmas Eve as an excuse to not meet her sad former classmates for drinks, because she knows Violet will be in the clink by 11:30 most nights. Clearly, making out with Jimmy Stewart on a regular basis is better than constantly fearing street danger and having no friends, even if you do have to deal with listening to constant piano practice.)

OK, back to the movie! George tries to run off and find Clarence again, but first he has to dodge a few bullets from Bert, who has apparently decided that he is John McClane and this fleeing, unarmed craze-o is Hans Gruber and therefore must be taken out with extreme prejudice - never mind that the streets are crowded with (basically) innocent bystanders. But George gets away and runs back to the bridge, where he prays to live again.

(Last aside about Pottersville: isn't it funny how you never see Potter himself there? It's just like him to bring in all these businesses that make money hand over fist based on physical pleasures like drinking and dancing, but eschew such pleasures himself. I can almost see him now, laughing at the rabble whose lack of discipline makes him richer every night.)

Up next: the big finish!

(on to Part 10)


Wonderful Life, part eight: "Out you two pixies go, out the door or through the window!"

(Sorry about the long delay in posting - holidays, you know. I should have started this series back in September when Target started stocking its Christmas stuff.)

It's so weird how the mind works, isn't it? One minute George Bailey's thinking about jumping into the freezing river to drown himself; the next he's jumping in to save someone else from drowning.

(You can say this about Clarence Oddbody: he might have the IQ of a rabbit, but he understands how George Bailey ticks. Of course he'd put off ending his miserable existence if it meant saving somebody else. Suicide is selfish, which is the opposite of George; it's a testament to the grind of decades spent doing just what he hates most that he even got around to contemplating it on this, the most desperate day of his life.)

So George fishes Clarence out of the drink, and they find shelter in ... I always think it's a lighthouse, but I'm pretty sure it's actually the bridge's tollhouse. Now begins the Wacky Hijinks of Clarence going around telling anyone who'll listen (which is basically nobody) that he's a 200-year-old angel who fell from Heaven, and it's no wonder he hasn't got his wings yet, because he comes off so dotty that George "The Martyr from Bedford" Bailey is clearly considering tossing him back in the river just so he'll shut up.

Anyway, George wishes he'd never been born, Clarence goes, "Done," and the snow stops, because 40 years ago baby George Bailey suddenly didn't sneeze, and the effects are still being felt.

Here comes the part of the movie that everyone knows: Pottersville. Certain people out there seem to believe that it "rocks," but I think Pottersville is a little like Las Vegas - sure, it looks like fun to visit, but you don't really think about the people who have to live there. We'll get to that, but first I want to point out how sad I am that we never really get to see much of Clarence's wacky colonial threads beyond his Ebenezer Scrooge underwear; it looks like he might have snagged some contemporary threads at the tollhouse.

George and Clarence's first stop in the new George-less world: that tree where he crashed his car. Huh, that's so weird - the car seems to have been towed, and the gash in the tree is healed, and the guy who owns the tree seems to think he lives in "Pottersville." Oh, well - nothing a drink at Martini's won't fix.

Martini is nowhere to be found at the bar, which is rowdier than we remember, but barkeep Nick (surlier than we remember) sets up George with a drink and then turns to Clarence. Clarence asks for any variety of ridiculous beverages and gets none of them, and Nick is starting to get a funny feeling about this pair, and then Clarence talks about being an angel and that is just IT for Nick. I'm pretty sure he thinks they're gay, actually - this is also right after George asks Clarence if he has A) anywhere to sleep, and B) any money. (For years, I thought he tossed them out because he heard George call Clarence "angel," but that's actually from something else.)

Just then, old man Gower walks in, a drunken beggar. George is like, dude hasn't looked this bad since that day he almost killed that boy, and Nick is like, whaddya mean, almost? "That rumhead spent 20 years in jail for poisoning a kid. If you know him, you must be a jailbird yourself!" And with that, Nick tosses the jailbird and his flaming-rum-punch-ordering angel friend out.

So now we know what Pottersville is like if you're poor, an immmigrant (something about the way the movie emphasizes Martini's Italian-ness makes me think it's a big factor in his not getting the loan for the bar), gay or a nonconformist in general ("We don't need any characters around to give the joint atmosphere!").

Up next: what Potterville is like for women.

(on to Part 9)