Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Privyet! Signing off for now...

Hey folks! If you've received a non-authorized code on Privyet, our apologies. We've restricted access to the blog, going forward, as it seems the sensible thing to do. If you'd still like to follow the blog, drop us an e-mail to lfemmemonkita@gmail.com and we'll sign you up. We've appreciated the many readers who have followed the blog before, during, and after our adoption and we thank you for your kindness and support.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Race Report: Nike Women's Marathon

I left Seattle during a torrential rainstorm on Saturday morning only to emerge from the Powell Street BART Station to gloriously blue skies and temperatures in the high 60s. It wasn't a bad way to start off the weekend, and I was glad I listened to my instincts and packed summer running gear for the race.

The entire city buzzed with marathon fever, with Union Square serving as ground zero. Huge tents covered the center of the Square for race participants to pick up their packets; and beyond the Square, Niketown was lined with people searching for their name on the outer west wall of the store. I found mine and proudly snapped a picture. I don't what it is that makes people proud to see their names displayed, but I do admit it was exciting. I felt as though I was an important part of a whole, albeit a 1/20,000th part!

Niketown was too hot and too crowded to enjoy shopping for official marathon apparel, so I decided it walk to my hotel to unload my backpack and check-in for the night. Afterward, I had hours to shop--ALONE! I can't tell you how excited I was just to roam around from store to store without fulfilling the needs of someone else.

Everything pretty much went off without a hitch for me on Sunday morning. My alarm went off at 5:30 and I had a really great night's sleep. I caffeinated and walked back down to Union Square and found my pace "street", which was Powell (each pace group literally had their own street on which to start!). I fell in line in-between the St. Francis Hotel and the west side of Union Square and waited for the countdown.

I crossed the starting line 7 minutes after gun time--not bad for having to coordinate starting times for 20,000 people. At least I didn't have to wait around for 30 minutes like I did during the Rock 'n Roll Marathon!

I started off slowly--perhaps too slow. I guess I was concerned about the hills between miles 6-9, which were inside the Presidio. I didn't want to run out of steam mid-race like I did during the Mercer Island Marathon, where, by mile 9, I was toast after all of the hills. I think in hindsight, though, I could have pushed a little harder because really, I only lost ten seconds total during the race from where I was at the start, pace-wise, and I did have some extra energy toward the tail-end of it. Unfortunately, it was too late to try and make up some of that extra time.

But speaking of hills, they were everything people warned me about...and then some. The first hill, at Mile 6, was heading up into the Presidio, and the only thing that took my mind off of it's daunting pitch was seeing one woman go behind the park sign to drop trou' and do her business. Sad thing was, she wasn't anywhere near the sign when she pulled her pants down, so a thousand of us got to see a full moon rise in the east. I guess...when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Unfortunately, too, after enduring a three-mile stretch of long hills with steep pitches, the Golden Gate Bridge was shrouded in too much fog for viewing. So the only redemption was the longish downhill, which didn't last long enough, in my opinion. As we headed into one of my favorite SF neighborhoods adjacent to the park, the slopes offered little reprieve. It wasn't until we approached the Great Highway, as we viewed the Sutro Bathouses and Seal Rock were we able to get any real traction...and that was at Mile 10.

If I had any complaints about the race it was in dealing with the walkers on the course. Now, don't get me wrong--I'm all for doing a walk/run if that's your thing. And, seriously, I'm not that fast of a runner, so I'm not saying this to be an elitist snob. But I had several near-misses with other racers who, without any warning, and right in the middle of the road, would STOP first, then walk. If you're gonna do a walk/run, you should at least have the common courtesy to stay off to the side. My near collisions resulted in giving a few people flat tires (stepping on the backs of their shoes) and I'm sure those people were equally annoyed with me. But, STAY TO THE SIDE! DON'T STOP RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. YOU'RE NOT THE ONLY ONE ON THE COURSE!

My other complaint is similar but much, much worse. As I ran down the Great Highway, after passing Seal Rock and before heading into the park for the final stretch, there were throngs of spectators lining the sides of the road. It felt great hearing the cheers, knowing that the finish line wasn't far away. But as we rounded a bend to enter the park, five spectators stepped off the sidewalk and proceeded to WALK OVER AND STOP right in the middle of the course! I'm not kidding--they STOPPED and looked like frickin' deer caught in the headlights. What the fuck were these people thinking? I mean, I wasn't the only one who had to stop short to keep from completely plowing into these people. There were dozens of runners AROUND me! I shouted, "ARE YOU SERIOUS? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?" And yeah, I had THAT much time to stop and say those words. That's how bad it was.

You know, when I paced for the Seattle Rock 'n Roll Marathon, and we approached the downtown surface streets, there were also hundreds of spectators lining the street. The main differences between the ones in Seattle and the ones in San Francisco were the police officers and the barricades that kept idiots off the course. I don't remember seeing any police OR barricades in that area, which happened to be have the most spectators (which makes sense since the finish line was so close). When you have so many people running in a race, the most important thing to think about, in my opinion, is everyone's safety. It just ISN'T safe for asshole spectators to walk across the race course.

Some more highlights of the race? Oh yes, I've failed to mention the finisher's medal: a sterling silver necklace from Tiffany featuring an engraved runner and the race's slogan, "Run Like a Girl". These were presented to each finisher by some fine-looking firefighters in tuxedos. The necklace--my necklace--made running this crazy, hilly, stupid-spectator race totally worthwhile.

Some honorable mentions of the race include the Ghiradelli Chocolate given to runners at Mile 11 (not so much for my benefit since I eat Snicker's mini bars while I race, but, you know...awesome chocolate!) And I loved the Finisher's Village for several reasons: first, I was handed bagels, chocolate milk, bananas, Kashi with yogurt AND a Safeway shopping tote specially made with the "Run Like a Girl" theme as we were herded through. And, the most awesomest thing I'd ever seen at a marathon: a changing room! Yes, folks, I'm easy to please, but I can't tell you how awful it is to change out of sopping wet, stinky running apparel while standing in a Porta Potty. Having a changing room made things so much easier that I wish I had brought a towel or a box of baby wipes just so I could wipe off before putting on my clean, dry Finisher's shirt.

I left San Francisco later that day, happy for the excellent weather and proudly wearing my Tiffany necklace. Though it wasn't my best race performance-wise, it was definitely one of my best racing experiences.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Slowly getting back to the swing of things

It's been three weeks today since mom died. I will admit, it does get a little easier each day--especially with the enormous amount of daily noise that comes from two kids. I think having to be "on" all the time has created a natural diversion to feeling sad all the time. When I'm alone, I think more about her death though even then, I'm deeply sad but not in some sort of deep state of paralysis.

After she passed away, I debated on whether or not I should run in the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco (which takes place this Sunday). I felt like it was too frivolous of a thing to do given the circumstances. But, over time I recognized the importance of living my life and all the great things about it and every one and every thing that makes me happy. Running is definitely high on the list of "things" that make me happy, and so I decided to go to the race. Besides, since this was a lottery draw, the chances of my being able to get in again next year are kinda slim. I've been planning on going to this race since March and I'm really looking forward to it. The views will be stunning and if that isn't enough to entice anyone to want to run the race, the sterling silver Tiffany necklace presented to each participant at the finish line should.

Running is such an instrumental part of my life. When I run alone, it helps me to hear my own thoughts, to think clearly, and sort through stuff in my head. Two days after mom died, I went on a 10-mile run by myself just so I could cry.

Running has also introduced me to a lot of people. I belong to a running group of about 100 people, and of those, 4-6 people (depending on who is training for what race) run together every Saturday. I love listening to everyone's stories and to share a few of my own. We've become quite the training team in every sense of the word in that we cheer each other on, push each other a little harder, and comfort one another in a time of need. When mom died, they all chipped in and bought my family a complete, enormous dinner from Whole Foods. That was, by far, the best thing anyone could ever do for me since the last thing I wanted to do was cook.

So rather than feel guilty for doing something indulgent for myself, I plan to enjoy my time in San Francisco. It'll be nice to get away for a couple of days and fun to run in a race where, at Mile 11, they hand out Ghiradelli chocolate.

Besides, that's what mom would have encouraged me to do.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Thinking Out Loud

Part of my long, drawn-out silence here is due to my mother's sudden passing. She died on September 25, unexpectedly, of a hemorrhage in her lower GI tract. It was an awful way for her to die and, judging by the way she left the world, she wasn't expecting it either. She had been reading in bed around midnight, munching on some butter cookies, when, I imagine, she felt the urge to use the bathroom, and she got up to use it and never left.

I know that much at least because when I went into her apartment a day later, her bedside reading lamp was still burning, her covers were carefully folded back--just enough for her to calmly swing her legs out of bed, and not disrupt the tin of butter cookies lying next to the book, which was placed face-down in order to save her place (she was reading Breaking Dawn, the final installment of the Twilight series).

My mother agreed to babysit for me on Friday afternoon since Pa and I had an appointment later in the day to see a photographer and review pictures he had taken of the family. When I called her an hour before I was scheduled to pick her up, the line was busy. I thought nothing of it until I tried 30 minutes later. I picked Audri up from preschool and we drove over to my mom's apartment. The first wave of panic hit me when I used the buzzer and she didn't respond. After waiting for a few minutes, the mail man let us inide the building. My second wave of panic--which was more like a tsunami--was when I knocked at her door and she didn't answer. I knew she was in there. I knew she was dead. I was too afraid to go inside. Besides, I had Audri in tow.

I called Pa at his office and he told me to pick him up. We drove to our house where he dropped us off. About 20 minutes later, he called to tell me what I had already known. What was worse, though, was the scene he described. She bled everwhere.

For the first few days, I was in too much shock to actually realize my mother was dead. Even after I left my mother's apartment the next day--having grabbed anything that was valuable to our family--and seeing the wake of her trauma, I was more upset by the way in which she died then the fact she was gone. The permanence of it all hadn't yet registered.

By Wednesday of last week, we were able to say our final goodbyes to her in a funeral home before she was cremated. I didn't want her embalmed because it seemed like such a wasteful thing to do; and so the funeral director placed her on a gurney and put a very pretty quilt over her body so that we only saw her head. At first, I was prepared to see something very gruesome and so I didn't want the children to see her until I did first. But everything was fine. In fact, she seemed more at peace than I had ever seen. Every single worry line and crevice on her face was gone.

Seeing her was the turning point between mourning over the horrible way in which she died and coming to grips with the fact that she was gone. The pit in my stomach grew wider, though I was still in tactical mode. By Friday, we had cleared out her apartment completely and donated everything to Goodwill.

Now that I've shifted out of tactical mode, I'm left with my emotions. I've found that if I try and shut out my thoughts during the day, they haunt me at night in my sleep. They wake me until I'm fully conscious.

And so, this is part of my grieving process -- writing about it helps me as I try and make sense of it all. It may take awhile.

My mother was a good person with a heart of gold, but she wasn't always the best mother. Too often, she had let her own thoughts eat away at her as she struggled to cope with the losses in her life. She also made some poor choices in life, which profoundly affected me and my siblings. She never sought help or spoke to anyone about her demons, and she thought she could take care of things herself, even up to the very end, as evidenced by the towel she used to try and clean up the blood she was losing.

But I loved her all the same because...well...because she was Mom and because I don't blame her for her shortcomings. She did the best she could and that was all anyone could ask for.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Race Report: Seattle's Inaugural Rock 'n Roll Marathon

I wasn't sure what to expect for this race. I mean, it seemed like the folks who put on these Rock 'n Roll marathons nationwide would be a lot more organized and well-prepared than the previous Seafair marathons. But I couldn't imagine how tough it'd be to close down several major thoroughfares--not only downtown, but the Viaduct that runs north and south, along the waterfront--on a Saturday, no less. Not to mention, this marathon had sold out in April and there were roughly 25,000 registrants.

So, I guess, in reality, my expectations were pretty low. But I was pleasantly surprised by how well, on the whole, the race was organized. I saw that even at the Health and Fitness Expo the day prior, as I was working our Pace Team booth. On race day, it was clear that the organizers delivered a unique, entertaining race that seemed to run like a well-oiled machine.

Since the race started in an office park in Tukwila, a mini "village" was set up where the racers congregated in the early morning hours. No one was allowed to park in the immediate area, and complementary shuttle buses (school buses, actually!) took people 15 miles from the finish area to the start. I got on one of those buses at 5:00 a.m. when the crowds were just starting to thicken. By 6:00 a.m., the marathon village was packed with people--nibbling on free fruit or bagels, sipping water or Cytomax, or waiting in line for that one last chance to use a Porta Potty.

I thought the bag drop idea was the best yet: the organizers hired 20 UPS trucks and organized them alphabetically for folks to drop their gear. I've never been one to schlep a lot of stuff to a race, but this time I actually packed another shirt and my UGG boots, along with a bottle of Gatorade, and a Balance Bar.

Since it was so early, it was still pretty cold outside. My team uniform was a tank top and shorts. I wore a pullover to the village but since the pacers had to meet at the starting line at 6:15, I had to check it with the rest of my gear early...so I was pretty chilled.

By 6:40, everyone had to be inside their assigned corrals--another new concept for me. Upon registration, each participant was required to jot down a projected finish time, which is then used to group people together according to that time. There were 35 or so corrals, starting with the elite and ending with those finishing over five hours. Since I was a pacer for the two hour, twenty-two minute (2:22) half marathon finishers, my corral was #21. Since I came into the corral with my 2:22 sign, many folks around me introduced themselves and asked me how I'd take us to the finish on time without burning everyone out. I told them I'd start off conservatively since I had run the course before, and knew what to expect elevation-wise. So for me, running negative splits was the way to go. Many people asked me if I had to carry the wooden sign throughout the race to which I replied "yes". Honestly, it wasn't that big of a deal. I'd carried far worse. The Seattle Marathon, for instance, had signs made out of PVC tubing which was a lot thicker around than the little wooden sign I held yesterday. Besides, I had trained holding a water bottle so I was used to holding something for long periods of time.

A lot of my corral mates were newbies, and it was a lot of fun to see their enthusiasm and excitement. It also reinforced the fact that I had to start out slow to conserve energy and that, no matter what, these folks needed to finish by 2:22.

The elite athletes began at gun time and then each corral was released two minutes apart. This meant my corral started 34 minutes AFTER gun time. I was pretty cold, even though the sun was up and the skies were cloudless. I think a lot of my teeth chattering, too, was pre-race jitters (which, no matter how many of these I've done, I still get) and the awesome responsibility of finishing ON TIME. Since we were all being clocked by chip time, our own "clock" didn't begin until after we crossed the starting mat--and that's where I started my Garmin.

The cool thing about the Rock 'n Roll Marathon was that there were local bands playing along the route. There were bands at every mile for the first few miles and then it thinned out as we made our approach to the Express Lanes of I90. But for the most part, the bands and the neighbors along the way provided a party-like atmosphere.

I started out 30 seconds per mile slower than my targeted pace time (a 2:22 finish means 10:50 minutes per mile). I knew I'd be able to close the gap once we finished climbing the hills around the Mt. Baker neighborhood and headed down to Seward Park and Lake Washington. At each passing mile, I'd close the gap by one second. This worked out perfectly because there were a few hills that proved pretty challenging for everyone and I didn't want too many people getting burned out so early on--a common mistake everyone makes, myself included. Besides, this was a super comfortable pace and it felt good and it gave me enough energy to look at our surroundings.

There were a lot of people who stayed with me throughout the race and when I saw someone speeding up, I'd yell: "Pacer back! 2:22 Finishers, be conservative. There are more hills ahead. Just because you feel good now doesn't mean it's gonna last!" A lot of people laughed--many slowed down and thanked me for giving them the advice. These were the people who, once they got all the hills out of the way, made their goal time (some even finished slightly earlier!)

Once we made it down to Seward Park, I let everyone know that we'd have about 4 miles of flat terrain. I cautioned that we can speed up, but only slightly since we had hills climbing up to the I90 Express Lanes ahead. This was where I closed my gap by 20 seconds--keeping my average pace around 11:01. It was there, along Lake Washington, that we spotted a majestic Eagle perched atop a tree branch next to the water. He was only about 50 feet up from us, so we could see how big he was. He looked as if he was enjoying the view of the race from up there. Just beyond the perched Eagle, several others soared around us. It was truly a beautiful sight.

We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather, either. The sky remained cloudless and the temperatures climbed slowly so I never once felt too hot or too cold. It was great, too, because I only slowed for water a few times.

Once we began our ascent to the I90 Express Lanes, at around mile 9, I stopped dropping to my hill climb pace. It's not to say I took off like a bandit up the hills, but I kept a close eye out to maintain my speed. If I dropped down too far, I'd have to make up for it between miles 9-13 and I didn't want to take that risk for fear that fatigue would set in. The group kept up with me--indicating how beneficial it was to start off slow. These hill climbs were short but pretty steep, and the last one wound around to the entrance of the freeway's tunnel.

As we made our way to the tunnel, people cheered loudly--their echoes bouncing off the walls. Everyone knew this was the last leg of the race and that understanding gave everyone extra energy to keep going strong. I felt great too until I glanced at my watch and realized that since I was in the tunnel, I'd lost my GPS reception. I panicked. How far was the tunnel? How long would it be without knowing my pace? Would this completely screw up my average pace? Would my watch adjust itself once I got outside of the tunnel? I think I sped up a little too much in panic. All I wanted to do was get out of the tunnel.

Four minutes later, we emerged. My watch began working again and much to my great joy, it adjusted itself--adding the four minutes and half mile I'd lost while inside. I was pretty stoked.

It was fun to see the runners around me open up their energy reserves and head downtown, even with the last steep hill climb before making out descent toward Qwest Field. I started getting pretty tired. I think I burned too much energy with my panic attack inside of the tunnel! By Mile 11, I just wanted it to end. I was still a little scared I'd bring us in either too early or too late.

The last part of the course was frustrating. Even though we rounded 4th Avenue south, which, if we had made a left turn onto Jackson, we would have run right into Qwest Field, we forged ahead. At the 12 Mile marker, we made a left and then...rather than making another left and doubling back toward Qwest Field, we were led to the Viaduct on ramp. I let out an "ARGH!" I loathe running on the Viaduct--and even though I only had 1.1 miles to go, I knew it'd be a long 1.1 mile. We wound around the viaduct and exited at 1st Avenue. Running PAST Qwest Field again and FINALLY making a left onto Royal Brougham. We made another left again, passing the WaMu Theater and the Expo center when we hit the 13 Mile marker saw the finish line ahead. I opened it up once I saw my watch was at 2:21. I was going to nail 2:22 if it killed me.

I crossed the mat and shut off my watch at 2:22 (official time was 2:22:04!) A woman came up to me and thanked me for keeping her motivated. She said her goal was 2:25 so she was delighted with the extra three minutes.

After I cooled down, I grabbed my stuff from the UPS truck and changed out of my sweaty, drenched top. I felt so much better. I sipped some Cytomax and ate an orange and some Fritos. I ran into a friend of mine--a fellow pacer who did half of the whole marathon and missed her handoff somehow (someone waiting for her to come and step in as a pacer for the second half). She was pretty bummed. This happened to me last year, too, so I knew the feeling.

All things considered, I had a great time. It's always nice to hear positive feedback from people and I'm glad my conservative strategy worked! It was nice to be in a comfortable pace, so I'm not too sore today. I look forward to pacing again in November for the Seattle Marathon!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Keeping the Pace

Tomorrow is the Inaugural Seattle Rock 'n Roll Marathon -- a race in which 25,000 participants will fill the streets of Tukwila and Seattle, running either 13.1 or 26.2 miles.

I'll be a pacer for the half marathon, which essentially means that I'll be carrying a sign and running at a steady pace and finishing at a set time. For those who have a goal to finish at that same time, they'll see me and follow me to the finish.

There are two dozen pacers for the race--one for each projected finish time for the half and the full marathon. We're there to keep people motivated and to stay on pace so that they can achieve their goal.

It's great fun to pace--I've been doing it for a year now, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people achieve their goals. It's also lots of fun because it takes the pressure off of me to compete. I'm not a hugely competitive person, but I love being around people and the thrill of the crowd during races.

Don't get me wrong--I still love running in races and still do that a few times a year. The last half marathon I did was the Mercer Island Half and this year, I was chosen in the lottery to run the Nike Women's Marathon in October. I'll be running the half there, too. The big payoff for that race is the sterling silver necklace from Tiffany that each finisher receives! But after running 10 or so half marathons, I've found that pacing keeps me motivated as a runner. It helps me to remember what it was like starting out and it recaptures the joy and thrill. Many of the people who'll be running with me will likely be newbies to running, and most of those--about 70 percent--will be women.

It's also quite a challenge to stay on pace at all times, since my inclination is to always start out too fast! The key as a pacer is to expend equal amounts of energy throughout the race.

I'll be manning our "pacer booth" later today at the Health and Fitness Expo at Qwest Field. Later on, I'll be on hand at our pacer clinic, to answer questions and meet up with people who might run with me tomorrow. And then, tomorrow morning, I'll be getting out of bed at 4:00 a.m. to make it to the 5:00 a.m. shuttle that'll bring me to the Starter Village in Tukwila for our 7:00 a.m. gun time.

For those of you running tomorrow, good luck and have a great time! For those of you NOT running tomorrow, do yourselves a favor and don't try and drive anywhere. This tiny race is sure to snarl traffic everywhere.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Random ramblings: making sense of the viral spread of Neda's video

When NPR posted a link to the infamous "Neda" video on You Tube, my stomach twisted. I saw the still of Neda's fixed gaze and a halo of blood pooling around her, and I couldn't believe they would actually provide a post of the video. Initially, I was outraged by the audacity of such a wonderful, CREDIBLE news organization to stoop so low as to link to one of the most horrifying videos imaginable. Yet, as I read the piece, and found no direct link to one of the thousands of videos in cyberspace, I was relieved. In my opinion, death--even violent death--is so personal that I almost feel like I'm violating a code of ethics by watching it. It's as if this world has gotten so out of touch with preserving the last shred of human dignity in favor of our voyeuristic tendencies.

Yet, I understand why the person taking the footage did so. The people on the streets of Tehran are fighting for their rights and because this was such a violent murder, and journalists can barely capture the essence of what is really happening, the person using his video feature on his cell phone felt compelled to show the rest of the world the reality in his country--the reality of what he and all of the citizens in Iran endure. But once that video becomes popular domain in cyberspace, the original intention becomes clouded, the footage has gone from public outcry to public morbidity. I guarantee CNN didn't run the footage to educate the world. They ran it, and continue to run it, because it's a ratings boost.

Don't get me wrong: Neda's story needed to be told--there's no question in my mind about that. But I think showing a still image of her last moments would have been powerful enough for the media outlets to use, rather than using the video footage as B-roll on a daily basis. Think about past photographic images that captured horrifying events. Today, those images of the Kent State shooting, the liberation of the concentration camps, and the execution of a Vietcong prisoner still provide intense, valuable lessons.

I don't fault the witnesses who captured the moment, either. I fault the people here, half a world away, looking on as if the video was something out of Candid Camera. Americans love car crashes, and our "reality shows" give the rest of the world some sort of indication as to how banal and insignificant life can be. Just look at the things we watch here: flipping over tables on Desperate Housewives of New Jersey; divorce on Jon & Kate Plus 8. I feel like we're too reckless and irresponsible to watch what is really going on in the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, I don't see any solution to this problem. I don't believe in censorship, but I just wish there were some sort of way people could contribute or turn morbid curiosities into something more useful. Can anything good come from watching Neda's dying moments? Can we reach out to help in exchange for watching the video? That, I guess, would imply capitalizing on her death.

I'm not a praying person, but the people in Iran are in my thoughts. I'm saddened by Neda's tragic, untimely death and I hope that my wish for something good coming out of this situation is not in vain.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Search Me

I always find it fascinating to see how readers come to find my blog. And thanks to my handy, dandy site meter, not only can I see not where people come from, but what they searched for before clicking on to my site.

There are days when a number of people search for Sporticus and come here. Then, there are those who search for LOL Cats and come here. And lately, many have searched for a picture of Violet Beauregard and so they've landed here, which is kinda funny because there's an extra step to actually see her picture. I can't determine whether or not the searchers stay and read or just bail after finding whatever it was they were looking for, but I'm amazed by the amount of people searching for the same, random thing. I'd be less impressed if I had blogged about, say, lyrics, which, according to Google Insights, seems to be one of the most popular searches within the last 30 days.

And while I'm on the subject of popular searches, here's a little bit of trivia, in case you're interested in seeing who's looking for what:

In the "books" category, Dan Brown's name has been a popular search term, particularly in Ohio, followed by Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York. Dan Brown? Ugh!

The most popular search term in the "Beauty and Personal Care" category is hair. Even more interesting are the rising subcategories: hairstyles for prom; prom hairstyles 2009; and Taya Parker (oh, my, I just Googled her, since I'd never heard of her before. Shows you how behind I am!)

Interestingly enough, the number one search term within the "Computer and Electronics" category ISN'T i-Phone or i-whatever...it's Windows. However, among the rising searches within this category are about the "cornficker virus".

So there you go, fellow netizens. If you've come here searching for Dan Brown, Prom Hairsyles for 2009, Windows and the Cornficker Virus, or Taya Parker, you've come to the wrong place.

Thanks for surfin' by!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Ears Are Always the First to Go

Though Easter was a few weeks ago, our dining room table is still cluttered with Easter baskets, boxes of stale Peeps, and plastic eggs.

We're not big on religion. In fact, we celebrate more for the candy than anything else. It also gives us an excuse to dress up in our best pastels.

I never really questioned the correlation between Easter and rabbits. I just took for granted they always lived hand in hand, until I came across some information about the ritual's origins. Turns out, we have the Germans to thank for importing the Easter Bunny into American folklore. He first appeared on the scene during the 16th century, when it was written than if little boys and girls made nests out of their caps and bonnets, the Easter Bunny would fill them with colored eggs.

The word, Easter, comes from the term Ostara, which is the name of the Spring equinox, and it's been documented, too, by the Venerable Bede that Easter comes from Eostre--the Germanic goddess of Spring.

This little lesson reminds me of one of the funniest essays I'd ever read by David Sedaris in his book Me Talk Pretty One Day. The essay is written about taking a French language class in Paris with students from various parts of the world. When it's time to explain Easter, each student, save for the Moroccan, who'd never heard of the holiday, jumps in to provide details. What makes this essay so pee-in-your-pants funny is the way in which Sedaris translates their awful attempt at French into English:

The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the teacher's latest question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, "Excuse me, but what's an Easter?"

It would seem that despite having grown up in a Muslim country, she would have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. "I mean it," she said. "I have no idea what you people are talking about."

The teacher called on the rest of us to explain.

The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. "It is," said one, "a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus...oh shit." She faltered and her fellow country-man came to her aid.

"He call his self Jesus and then he be die one day on two...morsels of...lumber."

The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.

"He die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father."

"He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples."

"He nice, the Jesus."

"He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today."

Part of the problem had to do with vocabulary. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such a complicated refexive phrases as "to give of yourself your only begotten son." Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.

"Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb," the Italian nanny explained. "One too may eat of the chocolate."

The essay goes on further about explaining who brings said chocolate. But when a dispute between the American version of a rabbit delivering the candy versus the French version of a bell flying in from Rome, it raises the question of why would the French have a bell? And further, why would it fly in from Rome when it would be so much easier to use a bell from Paris?

Curiosity got the better of me and so I looked up the origin of the Bell Theory. Turns out, the bell has a little more Christianity tied to it than our American counterpart. According to legend, all bells cease to ring on the Thursday before Good Friday, to mark the death of Christ. On Easter Sunday, the bells ring again to mark his resurrection. Apparently one of the bells goes to visit the Pope in Rome, who gives him (him?) a bunch of colored eggs to take back with him. So the bell returns to France and scatters the eggs everywhere for people to find.

Personally, I'm siding with Sedaris who argues that the Easter Bunny is, at least, a character, where a bell "has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet."

Without the Easter Bunny, there'd be no chocolate rabbits; and without chocolate rabbits, there'd be no rabbit ears; and everyone knows, that's the best part.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Breaking up is hard to do

I've been going to the same hairdresser now for 12 years and while I only see her (I shall call her "Dee") every eight weeks for 2.5 hours at a time, I consider Dee to be one of my dearest friends. Those 2.5 hours are spent kvetching about dogs, kids, people, men...you name it.

We've been through a lot of changes together, too. From marriages to divorces to trying to get pregnant to adopting children, I'd say our relationship has run the gamut of every life event imaginable, except for maybe death. Unless you count the death of pets--then, yeah, it's pretty much everything.

Aside from our friendship, Dee does a wonderful job with my hair. I've gone through the short and sassy phase to the long and straight--and everything in between, and no matter how many different ways she does my hair, I've never had a problem with how it looked and have always gotten out of her chair feeling like a million bucks.

Since I live in Seattle, my natural blond has become a thing of the past--but only Dee knows my true color. Ten years ago, I attempted to bleach it on my own, royally screwing up my hair. Dee was there to give me shit and then she fixed it. She still gives me shit to this day--and I don't mind because she's masterful with color and I am not. With Renoir-esque strokes, she brightens my clouded-over locks, and blends the ever-present, encroaching gray hair I've seemed to sprout.

Dee has had her share of personal ups and downs, particularly in the relationship department. But a little less than a year ago, all of that changed and she found her true life partner. The good news is that he makes her happy. The bad news is that he lives in Utah, and so Dee has announced that she will soon be leaving Seattle, and me.

I try not to take it personally, but this is clearly one of the worst break-ups I've ever experienced. I know there are many hairdressers here in Seattle, but I'll never find another Dee.

Sniff, sniff...excuse me while I go cry in my Bumble and Bumble.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

It Ain't Easy Being Green

On March 30, the City of Seattle added a mandatory food waste program to their weekly trash collection service. This means that all food scraps cannot be placed into a garbage can. Instead, food items must be thrown into a yard waste can, where it commingles with grass clippings and leaves. Before, our trash collectors picked up yard waste every other week, but with the new program, yard/food waste is collected weekly.

I think Seattle has always had one of the best recycling programs in the nation, and as far as I know, it's one of the most aggressive. Coupled with the new food waste program, our recycling no longer needs to be separated out between glass and paper and plastic. So long as everything is rinsed out, all recyclables can be placed into the same bin.

The launch of the new food waste program, however, has been a little difficult to adopt in our household. It's not that we're complaining about placing our food scraps into a compost bin, it's just one of those things that requires a little more thought beyond remembering not to throw egg shells and tea bags in our kitchen trashcan.

Last weekend, Pa bought a small compost bin that fits on top of our kitchen counter. To keep down the smell, the stainless steel bin has a charcoal filter on the lid, and there are small holes to help dry out the food scraps and keep them from generating a lot of icky-smelling bacteria. The only thing I have to remember is empty out the refrigerator once a week of those leftovers that never made it to repeat meals. I figure since they stay in airtight containers, it's better to dump them straight in the yard waste bin the night before our trash pick up.

So far, we've been really good at tossing our scraps into the compost bin; and surprisingly, the bin only needs to be taken outside and dumped into our yard waste can about once or twice a week. But yesterday, as I brought Lady La home from her first day of Pre-preschool, I noticed this underlying smell in our kitchen. It smelled like something was not full-blown rotting, just sorta, kinda rotting. I checked the handy-dandy compost bin, but as far as I could tell, it didn't seem to be the source. Then I checked around the pantry to see if I had any mushy onions or bananas--but again, nothing.

Then I stepped outside onto the back porch and noticed that the smell was coming from the yard waste can 10-15 feet away. Now, keep in mind, it's only springtime. With exception of a few 70 degree days, the average temperature here is still under 60. If the yard waste can is generating that much of a smell now, I can only imagine what our block will smell like come August! I'm thinking something close to Elizabeth, New Jersey on the smell register.
Thankfully, I bought some violets and impatiens from the store that I wanted to plant into a pot on the porch that was filled with lots of dead stuff, so I was able to dump a lot of that out into the yard waste can which seemed to absorb some of the odor.

So, you see, our new citywide trash collection service is now forcing me to grow a green thumb, and do more gardening, weeding, and mowing so the green stuff can hang with the food stuff and neutralize the smell. Personally, I think the new program is really an evil plot to keep our postage-stamp sized properties looking neat and trim, and free from dandelions.

I wonder when we'll have to separate out the dog poop and disposable diapers?

Thursday, April 02, 2009


I'm not much of a fan of TV these days. I mean, there are some shows I absolutely must watch, like Lost, Mad Men, Greys Anatomy (don't laugh), Dexter, The Tudors, 30 Rock, and Weeds; but everything else, I can live without, except, maybe Jon Stewart. I love watching The Daily Show but if I let it accumulate on my DVR, I just delete it because it's old news. But I digress. I'm quite happy with my Netflix subscription, and trusty DVR. Besides, if I make it through one show in the evening, after a day of parenting, I'm lucky. So my choices are limited by what little free time I have without being unconscious.

We curb our kids' TV time, too. It's easy for Lady La because she barely watches TV at all, except for a couple of Baby Einstein videos. Mr. Na, though, has become a TV junkie, and in order for him to watch any TV at all, he has to earn credits by doing his chores, homework, piano, and reading. We've banned him from watching Sponge Bob because his last two consecutive report cards said that he talked too much in class, and he won't be getting Sponge Bob back until that's rectified.

We have Direct TV, which is kind of silly, given our minimal viewing habits, but Pa watches soccer and I like having Noggin and Sprout for the kids, so we've been happy with it. We've also had a DVR over the last ten years or so, which I think has helped us cut down our viewing time tremendously. We rarely surf channels to find something entertaining.

Yesterday, I was at the gym (yes, I caved), and there was a bank of three television screens in front of me as I ran on the treadmill. I was listening to music on my phone, but I couldn't help but look up to scan the screens every so often. One TV was tuned to CNN, the other to our local ABC affiliate, and the third was on "E!"

Since CNN was on right in front of me, I gazed up at that TV more than the others, and I was immediately struck by how much CNN, nowadays, is tooled for those with severe attention deficit disorders. There was nothing earth-shattering happening in the world, and yet every piece was "BREAKING NEWS". I'm talking about tidbits like what Michelle Obama wore during the spouses' dinner next door to the G20 Summit dinner in London; or the protesters in the streets of London, smashing windows and carrying signs that read "EAT THE BANKERS!" The next news piece I saw was about a man's "DREAMS REALIZED, THEN SHATTERED!" Evidentally, UC San Diego erroneously sent a batch of acceptance letters. And while I think that's a huge bummer, I didn't realize that, too, was BREAKING NEWS. It hardly seemed on par with previous "BREAKING NEWS" pieces like, say, the day Reagan was shot or three airplanes were high-jacked, two of which slammed into the World Trade Center towers. Yet there it was, splashed across the bottom of the screen.

The middle TV was the one airing our local ABC affiliate. Prior to our Seattle newscast (BREAKING NEWS: SNOW ON APRIL 1! NO BIG SURPRISE GIVEN THAT IT SNOWED ON APRIL 18 AND 19 LAST YEAR AND IT WAS 79 DEGREES THE WEEK BEFORE), there was some sort of show which looked like it featured a panel of doctors discussing various ailments and treatments. Other than the BREAKING NEWScast, it rarely caught my attention.

Over on the far right TV, "E!" was on. Now, I'm not gonna lie to you and tell you I don't follow celebrity gossip. I subscribe to Defamer, Pajiba, E! Online on Bloglines and I get my daily dose of media celebri-snacking. But the one trend I've noticed in television, is the use of multiple personalities (i.e. "experts") who comment on shows like "TOP 100 CELEBRITY OOPS!" or "100 BEST EVER ANYTHING ENTERTAINING OR WHATEVER" One such show was on "E!" and after seeing photos of Gwyneth Paltrow and one of her kids, followed by a picture of a green apple, followed by some...person nodding her head, gesticulating with her hands and smirking, I surmised this particular segment was about "100 OF THE WORST BABY NAMES CHOSEN BY CELEBRITIES". I couldn't help but wonder who in the world was on there, as an "expert," weighing in her...expertise. I'd never seen her before, and I was certain the snark came from the fact that Gweyneth has the natural beauty this heavily made-up person lacks. Since when did nobodies become "experts"? Moreover, who the hell watches this stuff?

In any event, it reminded me of how much I loathe TV--or, at least 99.999% percent of it. Oddly enough, though, when our trusty TiVo died last month, and we had to wait several weeks before Direct TV provided us with a new DVR, we had this crazy notion that maybe we should do away with TV altogether. But, who are we kidding? Pa and I were both raised on television and, despite the crap, it's just something we can't live without. Kinda like our land line--there's just something eerie about not having one. I can't stand it, rarely ever answer it, but won't get rid of it because it's been a staple in my household since before I was born.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tall Tales From A Wanna-Be Mousekateer

When I was seven, I tried convincing my neighborhood friends that I had been invited onto the Mickey Mouse Club to dance and play piano. I borrowed an ugly pair of white, patent-leather shoes from my sister and I gave them a show in our foyer. Then, I led them to our piano where I played Fur Elise.

My friends, much to their credit, were not convinced. Even as I tried to "prove" my lie by showing them the Mickey Mouse ears I got from Walt Disney World, they refused to believe I was ever on television, let alone on the Mickey Mouse Club.

This lie was wrong on so many levels. First off, this was a few years before the "new" Mickey Mouse Club, starring Lisa Whechel (otherwise known as "Blair" from The Facts of Life), so the only Mickey Mouse Club shows that were on the air were the black and white re-runs from the 50s, with Annette and Cubby. Second, I did nothing more than scuff my mother's foyer floor as I bumbled my way through a self-choreographed dance routine. But I could play Fur Elise as well as any seven year-old with no formal training could.

I have some theories as to why I concocted such a lie. I actually DID learn how to play Fur Elise, by ear, from watching one of those talented Mousekateers play it on the Mickey Mouse Club. But I think the main reason for my lie was that there were a lot of kids in my class who got to be on a local show called Wonderama, and I was green with envy.

Wonderama was a three hour-long variety show that aired on Sundays. Part game show, part exercise show, part American Bandstand-esque, it was a show made especially for kids, hosted by a guy named Bob McAllister who assured us with his closing song that kids were people too. Every Monday at school, it was obvious which kid got to be on Wonderama the day before, from their personalized, shellacked Lenders Bagelette necklaces. And even if they didn't bring in their goodie bags, we knew they had been rewarded with Fruit Stripe gum, RC Cola, Twinkies, an Oral B toothbrush and an issue of Dynamite Magazine. I figured, in my little seven year-old brain, that if I had told my friends I was on Wonderama, I'd have to pony up my Lenders Bagelette necklace. But since I had Mickey Mouse ears and saw that guest Mousekateers didn't receive any lovely parting gifts, I was safe in telling my fib.

I think seven year-olds are the world's worst liars!

I leave you now with a clip from Wonderama. C'mon, take a look, and tell me you're not convinced YOU'D have wanted to be on that show!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Falling Down, Getting Back Up

I was pretty eager to get out of bed this morning and go for a run. I hadn't run since the Mercer Island half marathon on Sunday, and I was ready to jump back into the saddle. I'm hoping to be able to pace the inaugural Seattle Rock 'n Roll Marathon, but that's entirely up to this guy. Since it's a new race and he's dealing with a new organizer and their pacing structure is vastly different from the other local marathons we pace, there are fewer slots available. In any event, I'd like to train for it, even if I'm not chosen to pace. I may just run the damn thing if I don't pace.

I am pretty stoked since I found out this week I got into the Nike Womens' Half Marathon in San Francisco this October. I haven't received official notice yet but they charged my credit card the $110, so, um, I'm assuming that means I'm in. If not, they certainly have a lot of explaining to do.

Anyway, so getting back to my run this morning: the sun was out (miracle!) and I put on my new Asics Gel Nimbus 10 (they were free and THAT is why I pace!), leashed up the pooch, and set out toward Green Lake.

When I made it to the paved part of the lake, I kicked it up a notch and began my tempo run. Scout dutifully followed suit, and we were going a good click when I passed a man walking his dog. The dog was on the man's left, but as soon as he spotted Scout, he lunged out past the man and right in front of Scout's path. This caused Scout to jump right in front of me and I tripped. For a split second I thought, "I can recover. I won't fall." But alas, my reflexes failed me and I went down, HARD on my knee. I think god I was wearing tights because I would have ripped the shit out of my leg. I sat on the ground for a moment, gathering my wits and listen to the man bumble an apology ("He lunged forward, I didn't even see it!") I figured I was ok since I didn't rip my tights (damn those are good tights!), and I walked it out for a little bit, eventually breaking into a stride. I could tell I hit the same spot I injured two years ago, but I wasn't about to inspect the damage. Besides, I couldn't unless I pulled down my tights and...well, I'm not into public exposure, ya know?

It wasn't too bad, actually. I mean, I have a skinned knee, but luckily, it's not too deep. I'll live to run another day. And my kids will be grateful.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Little Boxes Made of Ticky-Tacky

Growing up, I lived on a cul-de-sac located in what my parents referred to as "the development". It was about as vanilla as it sounds, with 50 colonial-style, split-level homes built in 1970, each sitting on a half acre of land. Despite its mundane, tract housing features, growing up in the "development" did have some advantages. The biggest one was that there was only one way in and out of the grid, keeping traffic down to a minimum; and each house had at least two kids who were all roughly the same age, give or take 5 years. This made for having a lot of built-in friends and places to ride bicycles safely, or hold an impromptu game of kickball. It was a quiet place to live, save for the obese Sicilian lady who lived across the street and would throw open her bedroom window to fight with her husband down below or call her son Anthony in for dinner.

Of course, living alongside 49 other neighbors occasionally had its disadvantages, too. Aside from the fat lady, neighborhood gossip was abound. We knew when so and so's husband committed suicide or when such and such's wife had an affair. Given that it was the swinging 70s, my parents heard of miscellaneous "key" parties, where the men were invited to drop their keys in a fish bowl so at the end of the party, the women would randomly grab a set of keys and take the owner home.

As a family, we weren't without our share of gossipy activity, too, since my older sister had a penchant for inviting boys over for beer and pot parties by day; and by night, someone would almost always catch her climbing out of her window. But I had a solid group of friends so long as, upon their parents' insistence, they stayed outside of my house or I went over to theirs. Staying outside was easy to do, too, since we had lots of room to roam even beyond the grid. Behind my house was an extra five acres of woods that butted up to a reservoir. The woods were a magical place where pine trees created canopies for clubhouses and forts, and hills made for perfect sledding in the winter.

My neighborhood friends and I didn't always get along, and sometimes, someone would inevitably stomp off in a fit, swearing, "I'll never be your friend again!" It was especially hard at times because I lived in-between a large, Italian family whose children were cousins. Oftentimes, I would get insanely jealous when the two girls would go off and play without inviting me along, or I'd hear them in the swimming pool next door when I was outside playing in the sweltering heat. But we had many great memories, too, and played endlessly from the time we got up in the mornings to the time my friend's mom turned on the lawn light signaling her time to come inside.

Today I live over 3,000 miles away from the "development" in a funky Seattle neighborhood. The houses here are 100 years old, and while they have similar bungalow qualities, each one is unique and built to last. I love my neighborhood as it's easy to walk up to rows of shops and coffee houses, but it's far from kid-friendly. My street is noisy with traffic and the occasional crazy person walking up or down, muttering profanity. While we don't have a large lot with an ample place to play outside, we do live close to a playground where the kids can swing and slide and the dog can chase his ball. But the one thing I miss the most is that my children have no "neighborhood" friends. Even though Mr. Na's school is close by, there aren't many children living within a few houses in any direction. Oddly enough, we tend to "live" at the playground nearly every day during the summer months, but I rarely ever see Mr. Na play with the same kid twice. In my opinion, scheduling playdates, takes away the spontaneity I had as a kid, living in kid-grid-ville. If Mr. Na is bored, I don't have the luxury of sending him outside to see who's around to play with. And even if I pack everyone up and walk to the park, there's no guarantee that anyone else his age will be there.

Given the option, though, there's no place I'd rather live. Mr. Na and Lady La live in an area rich in cultural diversity, unlike any other place I've lived. And though they can't step outside and take a stroll through the woods, our city provides panoramic views of mountains, lakes, and the Sound--all within reach by car.

It'll be interesting, someday, to hear their take on growing up in this house, in Seattle. Will they gripe about their "old house" with it's postage-sized lot and surrounding hills that make it almost painful to ride a bike? Or will they recognize that their childhood home has one aspect any newly-built tract home lacks: a soul.