Monday, February 28, 2011

Running is Cool

I've been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now.  Usually I think about it when I run. Ultimately, thinking that running is cool must be the thing that keeps me going back out there. It's kind of shallow, I know, but there it is.

See, I don't run because I love it. At least, after one year of running, I don't love it yet.  I do go through phases - like one I am enjoying now - whenI really DO like it and I'm genuinely enjoying it.  But running is hard for me. And though it's gotten a little easier, it hasn't gotten remarkably easier.  At least it's still harder to me than I'd hoped it would be at this point. My goal right now is that I'd like to run a comfortable 5 miles on a regular basis.  I've achieved the 5 miles twice and the most recent one felt amazingly good. But I did that almost 2 weeks ago and haven't done another 5 since and I've continued battling with shin splints in the meantime.

I know some people are built to run. Some people can go out and just do a few miles right out of the chute.  Not me.  Running has never, to my recollection, been something that I've done for the sheer joy of doing it.  It's always been work - even when I was a child. Dancing, I love. Yoga, I love. Gymanstics I love(d). But running was always an effort.

Maybe that's why I think running is so cool.  I think it's because it doesn't come easily to me and I admire those who do it with such grace. My knees don't like running. My feet, which are prone to plantar faciaitis (I have lousy arches) require supportive shoes. My hips aren't much of a fan either from time to time. In fact, as I said to an online friend about a week ago, just the fact that I can run at all makes me feel like a superhero.

I'm amazed - seriously amazed - that my body has allowed me to travel 5 miles in just over 11 minutes a mile. That's pretty darn slow, folks. But my feet keep moving and sometimes they keep carrying me even when I don't believe they can or they ought to.

 Running surprises me.  Often it disappoints me. I think that because I have accomplished something - some speed or distance - that I should be able to do it regularly. But running is humbling. It's two steps forward and one step back for me on a regular basis. But I keep going out and it also gives me happy surprises too. Like that last 5 miles I ran. Dang, I wish I could run like that every day.

 I can never really tell if I'm going to have a good running day or a bad running day. I keep trying to come up with the "magic formula." After a good run, I'll wonder what I did differently and try to replicate it, but every run is different for me. I find this extremely frustrating most of the time. But running continues to teach me things about being a biological being. Some days simply are better days than others; it's not all in our heads, it's also in our whole body.  For example, on days when I feel tired and think I don't feel like running but go out anyway, occasionally I'm surprised with a wonderful run, but more often I find that my body responds tiredly. My heart rate goes up faster over a shorter distance than on a good day and I feel like my body is verifying what my head was telling me, "I am tired!"

But I continue running for those days when my body really does feel like it is moving like a well-oiled machine to the music of my playlist, when my heart is keeping pace with my legs and my breathing and we're all working hard together, but it is a good working. I'm not a fast machine, but I do get the job done, nonetheless! And slowly, slowly, I am seeing distances that were once goals of mine become the regular workouts and new goals take shape. It's slower than what I want. That irks me. I feel like I should be farther along than where I am and I do get frustrated hearing of others accomplishing what has taken me so long to acquire in a fraction of the time. And because of that I sometimes think, "Maybe I'm just not built to run." But I guess I don't really believe that...

I run because it's my own thing. I've never been a competitive and I don''t like competing in front of an audience. I know that some people really do and that there is value in team sports. I respect that, but it has always been a loathesome experience for me. I have always preferred sports for the sake of fitness and health over competition.

I also run, because some days I just don't have time to walk! Acutally, that's one of the ways I started running years ago before I took it up again last year. I was taking regular fast walks, but some days I wouldn't because I couldn't fit it in. But if I ran... well, then, I could squeeze in a little more now, couldn't I?

I also like to believe that because running can be done in a lot of different places, I will be able to incorporate that into my life too. For the most part, I run different routes around my neighborhood. But I could run in other parts of my town if I take time to map out some new routes. And someday I could run while on vacation or like so many runners in Runners World magazine, take a vacation based upon a race. Just knowing that fuels me to keep going, because you never know where those potential paths may lead and I want to be prepared to do that, should the opportunity arise. Crazy, right? But whatever works to get you up and moving.

I do wonder if I will always "just" be a shorter-distance runner. At this point in my life I don't see myself with a goal of a marathon, but I have learned - and running has taught me - never say never. Plus, I want to be able to run while I can. I know there may be days in the hopefully-distant future when I will wish that I could run again, but for some reason or other I cannot. So, I'm just going to keep at it for... well, for as long as I still like it, I guess. And, well, you know, cuz running is cool.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guest Blogger Book Review: The Dark Hills Divide

Hello.  This is Eve again and today I am reviewing for you Patrick Carman's, The Dark Hills Divide.

A good book of fantasy is The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman. The Dark Hills Divide is the first of a four-part series about the Land of Elyon. The land of Elyon is in danger of being destroyed and rebuilt under an evil leader.

The main girl of the four books is Alexa. Alexa is a girl of twelve and lives in a sheltered community behind huge walls. They have three cities which are also surrounded by walls. They are all connected by roeds with the same huge walls surrounding them. No one has ever been outside or even seen outside of the walls. The walls were built because of monsters that supposedly live beyond the walls in the Land of Elyon. There is only one room in a special lodge that Alexa goes to that lets her see outside the wall. Alexa had stolen her mother's spyglass once so she could look outside the wall. She did not know that one little spyglass would change everything.

The Dark Hills Divide is a spectacular book! Both my sister and I love it. Patrick Carman leaves a cliff-hanger at the end of every chapter. This makes very exciting. I really recomend this book to younger readers around the age of eleven who like fantasy. This book is my favorite book! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Harajuku, Horses, and Other Stuff

Things have been moving at the speed of life around here, which means we've been busy.  Home repairs continue toward the move, but life does go on around the various projects underway.

A number of years ago my nephews introduced Maia to a little thing called Pokemon.  Perhaps you've heard of it? Little did we know that this would be a gateway into everything Japanese for all of our family.  Maia has always been a fanatical drawing artist and once she discovered Pokemon and Manga style, she'd found her true love! In fact she hopes to pursue this kind of art in college.  But  before we get ahead of ourselves (!), in our present lives Japanese pop culture is ever-present - for both my girls. In fact, as I write this post, my younger daughter, Eve, is on the couch with a virus  and is studying Japanese on her own with her little Japanese dictionary at her side and papers on which she is practicing Katakana.

The girls are also influenced by Harajuku style.  I didn't even really have a name for it until I heard Gwen Stefani's song, "Harajuku Lovers" just the other day.  Obviously, my girls are not the only ones loving what they see across the Pacific.

Last week Maia mentioned again that she wanted to dye her hair red. But not a natural red; she wanted bold red. Having had purple hair, magenta hair, and black hair myself at various times, I understand the desire to count your hair as an accessory.  So, off we went to the beauty supply store and picked up a demi-permanent shade to try out in case she didn't like it.  Eve picked up a magenta shade with a semi-permanent color.  It wasn't as strong and just mostly ended up showing up on her highlights from last year. Maia suggested some before and after shots:


(For the record, I love both their hair JUST the way it is and told them so... a few times, in fact.  But, I understand the urge and it's just hair...)

After! Pretty, pretty! She loves it and will be picking up some permanent color in a few weeks!

I have to say that I actually really love Harajuku style.  It actually reminds me some of the way I used to dress, but there are just even more layers! The Japanese, if you don'k know, have a "thing" for CUTE. And trendy styles for teen girls there consist more of big bows in the hair, school uniforms, and lots of ruffles.  I was watching one of the videos Maia likes today and told her that the band members looked like teen 6 year olds. American girls tend to end up in styles that say "sexy" as they get older, rather than "cute".  So the fact that my girls are into going with cute is just fine with me! :)

Last Sunday after church, Eve and I attended her first horse show.  She is learning to ride English style and students and her trainer from their club were competing.  I love that she brought along her own horse for the show...

Below is her trainer, Jillian, on her horse, Myakka.

And I thought I'd share a couple of easy dishes with you. Eating a vegan diet is so second nature to me at this point that I don't think about it at all and things are easy-peasy, just the way I like them. I'm not a foodie, because I simply don't have time and don't really like spending lots of time in the kitchen.  However, I do like good food that is good for me and that means that I probably do spend more time in the kitchen than someone who doesn't cook with whole foods.  Still, to me, these are quick and delicious dishes that you might want to try.

This morning I had oatmeal that I love, love, love. I use whole, rolled oats (not instant, though it really takes hardly any time to cook anyway). I don't like my oatmeal very runny or gummy.  In fact, I often eat it raw as a cold cereal.  But when I do cook it like I did this morning, I only add 1/4 cup more water than the oatmeal that I use.  This morning I was the only one who wanted oatmeal, so I used 3/4 c oatmeal and 1 c water.
My favorite sweetner for my oatmeal is pure, maple syrup.  I always add a pinch of salt and usually also add 2 t of vegan margarine (Earth Balance is my favorite) and almond milk.  Then there are the wonderful options that make homemade oatmeal so wonderful:

Add apple chunks, cinnamon, and raisins while the oatmeal is cooking.
Add walnuts and craisins while cooking or after it's done.
Add a T of peanut butter... If you add raisins to this, it's like pb&j oatmeal!
Chopped banana and pecans are lovely.

This morning I added chopped almonds and strawberries from our CSA farm while the oatmeal was cooking too.  SO yummy and so fast and so much better than those little, individual packages!

Since I'd gone to the farm yesterday to pick up our share, we had fresh kale on hand for my husband's and my favorite kale salad. To think that Paul used to not like kale at all. I didn't mind that, because that always meant more for me.  Seriously, I could eat a whole head of kale by myself. But alas, now he always hopes for leftovers!
Kale Salad

Toast some pine nuts or walnuts in a dry skillet over med heat until browned and aromatic.  While toasting make a marinade of tamari, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Pull leaves of kale away from stem and tear into large, bite-sized pieces (they will shrink when cooked) and then rinse.  When nuts are done toasting, add to marinade.  Add kale to skillet (still over med. heat) and add 1/4 c water. Put a tight lid on and steam for one minute. Toss and steam for one minute more. Drain and add to bowl with marinade. Toss and GOBBLE! You can eat this hot or at room temperature.  Yum, yum, yum!

And I just wanted to show you these beautiful, yellow beets from the farm.  I did nothing but steam and eat them, so there's no recipe to share, but they're just so pretty. :)  Well, that's all I've got for you today! Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 11, 2011

February Sketchbook Challenge: Opposite

This month's Sketchbook Challenge theme is "Opposite." I decided to do the metaphorical representation of the dual nature of Christ as depicted in the familiar Lion and the Lamb.  In additon to the subject matter, I limited my color palette to black and white, blue and orange.  Blue and orange are complementary colors, found opposite each other on the color wheel.

I sketche this out in my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.  It is worked in pencil, watercolor, charcoal, and watercolor pencil.  I have never limited myself to a certain color palette before, but have admired others' use of this technique.  I really liked doing it and hope to do more of it in the future!

Above is just a peek at the whole of my sketchbook.  The left-hand sketch is just one I did last week while my younger daughter was at her horseback riding lesson.  That's a sketch of "Archie Pony," the pony she rides and so named because there also is an "Archie Horse" that resides at the same stables.  I wanted to get a sketch of my daughter brushing him (which is why he has the chains on his bridle), but I ran out of time and she was off and eager to ride!

I'm happy that I have challenged myself with the Sketchbook Challenge this year.  This challenge and the book that came for me in the mail last week, Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun by Carla Sohneim, has put sketching back up there in the front of my brain.  I confess that it does not occupy the same kind of space that my knitting does, but it is still important to me and I don't want it to fall by the wayside.  I like that it exercises my mind in a different way. 

More than even each individual piece for me is the pleasure of looking over the whole sketchbook.  It is not so much for me to create something magnificent every time, but instead, just to do it, because I find that even pieces that disappointed me in the past are things that I return to look at with fondness and I'm so much gladder for having done it than having created nothing at all.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Full Plates

Oh, I hope I'm not overdoing things by joining this fun group:


Tonia, over at Study in Brown has begun this letter-writing group.  I kept reading about it on a few other blogger friends blogs and was intrigued for a couple of reasons. 1) I do love wrting and receiving letters. And 2) I often have used letter writing as a form of ministry to edify others. A favorite Bible verse of mine is this one: "Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land." - Proverbs 25:25  But we are busy here.  So very busy.  I'm not exaggerating; we are planning to move. More on that in a minute.

I'm glad I actually went over to Tonia's blog to see exactly what the parameters of the club were, because it basically involves just writing letters to whomever, whenever you like! Sweet.  I can do that.  I have let down pen pals, as much as I love them, in the past.  I didn't want to commit to something else, knowing that I could disappoint myself and others.  But no quotas.  No timelines.  Just a gentle nudge reminding me that this is something I do like to do and when I do find a free moment, I could, in addition to my knitting, sketching, journaling, reading, blogging etc (good grief! hahahahaha! - can you see my reasons for hesitating?), choose instead to pick up a pen and write a little something to someone in my life.  As I mentioned, I do write to others, but I could do a bit more... I would like to do a bit more.  The key words here are "a little something" and "a bit more", because my past tendency has been to write long, engaging letters that are many pages long.  I usually write these over a couple of days.  But as much as I love to send and recieve long, newsy letters, the knowledge of the time they take me has actually kept me from writing them more frequently.  So, perhaps I can send shorter letters more often.

I do think, however, I will need to let my self-portrait project go.  The "52 Weeks of BAM" is a fun project, but I am not finding the time or energy to take well-composed portraits. So, if I don't want a year of photos of my hands and feet (! - lol!) I'm just going to put that one on the back burner for now. And as tempted as I am to send my snail mail address to some online friends of mine, I will be holding off until some of this bigger stuff is beyond me.

That bigger stuff.  Yeah, it's been in the works for some time now, this attempt at a move of ours.  I didn't want to say anything publically until my girls had a chance to tell their good friends on their own, in their own time.  These blog posts link up to Facebook and some of my girls' friends are on there, so I was waiting.

There are many reasons for this decision and those I will, for the most part, keep to myself.  But the main reason is one I have spoken of here many times and that is one of homesickness for my family - both my own siblings and my husband's.  Yes, my mother lives here in Florida.  And yes, I will miss her terribly.  I wish she would come with us, I really do.  But our destination is a return home to Minnesota and the long winters are not appealing to her (and I can't honestly say that long winters are appealing to me, but family is and they win out over weather).  Fortunately, she has the time and the means to travel frequently.  I am hoping for many summertime visits from Grandma! 

So.  We have slowly been preparing our home for the market.  My husband has been slowly making his way through the house, painting every room and even the outside of our home.  We are closing in on seeing the end of the painting tunnel!  There are a few more repairs that will need to happen and then the staging of the home.  I am praying that God will provide just the right family to our home here and that He will be making a way for us to make our way back to our family and friends.  I am trying very hard to patient and rely on His timing. 

One of the more fun things for me has been getting rid of stuff!  I just took another large load of clothes and unused household items (extra dishes we really don't need) to Goodwill and another large load of books to donate to the library.

I was especially happy to donate to the library.  The library is one place we always visit first whenever we have moved to a new community and we even like to visit libraries when we travel. A nearby library is such a wonderful thing on so many levels, but one of my favorite uses of it is that it provides storage!  I do not have to own shelves and shelves of books.  I can rely on the fact that there is a place in town that will have nearly everything I need to read and if it doesn't have it, it can get it for me via an interlibrary loan.  Obviously, I own books, but I only keep copies of favorites and reference works that I turn to again and agian, such as craft books, cookbooks, books on my Christian faith, some favorite works of children's fiction and picture books, etc. 

Today I took about 5 full bags of books.  I wished, however, that I could have parted with more, as I love that feeling of space and liberation!  But the books I kept are those our family uses and dearly loves and so, though we don't have totally clear shelves, we did gain more space.  Reorganizing will be a project to come over the next few weeks.  This goal feels like suh a Hurculean effort, but like everything, baby steps are the key.  Baby steps and patience are helping me carry my full plates!
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