Thursday, September 30, 2010

Things on Thursday: Health Kits

Church World Service collects health kits to be delivered around the world during emergencies. Each kit contains simple things inside a ziploc bag: a bar of soap, wash cloth, hand towel, tooth brush, nail clippers, some band-aids, a comb.

Can you imagine, as you sit comfortably at your computer, not having soap? I have a very hard time wrapping my head around that idea. That's why when this project came up at church, I volunteered to help.

It's such a small amount of time and money to provide essential supplies for a stranger in a time of desperate need. There's really no point in waiting until we can do something big to help others. That time may never come. But we can all do small things with great love. Mother Theresa said so.

What small thing are you planning to do with great love in the coming months? Where do you give a little to make a big difference? Please share your charitable organizations in the comments so the rest of us can discover more small ways to help others, too!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gratitude Journal #59

Today, I am grateful for autumn coolness, autumn rain, and autumn colors.

Today, I am grateful for having seen the Harry Potter 7 preview yesterday. Nick leaned over to George and told him he should take me to see it on my birthday. What an excellent idea, son!

Today, I am grateful for Mucinex and throat drops. Still.

Today, I am grateful for blogging buddies.

Today, I am grateful that my camera was at hand to capture this shot of my cat Miss Daisy. George hadn't seen her back-of-the-sofa acrobatics, so now I have evidence that she really isn't a dog at all. She looks busted, doesn't she?

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Words, Words, Words for a Random, Rather Roller-Coasterish Week

"Did you ever walk into a room and forget why you walked in? I think that's how dogs spend their lives." Sue Murphy

Daisy has been barking at the dog in the oven, the dog in the dishwasher, and the dog in the fireplace. The breeder was wrong; Daisy Doodle is not sensible.

"When an illness knocks you on your ass, you should stay and relax for a while before trying to get back up." Terri Guillemets

Many thanks to all who prescribed Mucinex for my cold. I'm buying it in bulk, and it's helping.

"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

"O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
St. Francis of Assisi

On Wednesday, a funeral was held to celebrate the life of Lois K., a woman who accepted God's grace and lived this prayer in her life. If you get a chance today, please lift her family and all those grieving the loss of loved ones to cancer in prayer.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Things on Thursday: Sleeping Puppy

When she is asleep, she snores quietly, a soft wiffle of puppy breath.

When she is asleep, she looks angelic and innocent and pure.

When she is asleep, her paws look huge. And in need of a trim.

When she is asleep, she curls up in adorable positions like this, with her ear flopped over one eye and her paw acting as her pillow. Or she splays out on her back, limp as overcooked pasta.

When she is asleep, just looking at her relaxes me.

When she is asleep, she isn't pooping on my carpet.

Thank you, Lord, for that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Gratitude Journal #58

Today, I am grateful for NyQuil and Kleenex.

What are you grateful for today?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Few Things Overheard

George: So, what is the most you would let me spend on a bike?

Me: I have no comment.

George [laughing]: You don't want to divulge that information?

Me: No. Why do you ask?

Come look at this bike. [I join him at his computer.] It's a Felt B2 with the electronic shifting.

Me [seeing the $6,499 price tag which, for some reason, he failed to point out]: That's more than I am willing to spend.

George: Really? But it's got electronic shifting!


See. It's all my fault that the economy isn't recovering faster. I won't let George spend $6,499 on a bicycle. I'm so mean.

In other news...

The following comments were overheard at A Day out with Thomas the Tank Engine [pictured above], which Jack must go to every year or the earth will stop circling the sun and life as we know it will end in cataclysmic disappointment. Unfortunately, the train ride features Thomas songs played over and over.

Nick: Am I being punished for something?

George: I wonder if I died on my bike ride and am in hell. We should make all the Gitmo prisoners have multiple days out with Thomas. They'll talk for sure. But it's probably against the Geneva Convention. Cruel and unusual punishment.

Me: Will those screaming toddlers please shut up. Can't they see I have a cold?

Jack [singing happily, loudly, and off-key]: Thomas the Tank Engine, rolling along....

Words, Words, Words from Wilferd Peterson

Let your light shine.
Be a source of strength and courage.
Share your wisdom.
Radiate love.

--Wilferd Peterson

Friday, September 17, 2010

Growing Daisy

About six weeks ago, she tucked into a corner under my desk for a snooze...

Last night, only her back half fit the same spot at nap time...

That little armful we brought home in July weighs almost 28 pounds and is now quite hard to pick up.

Yesterday she had us in stitches. First, we took her for a walk in a blustery evening. As leaves whipped past us, she frantically zigged and zagged to catch them. She's really quite fast! She acted like God had given her the most amazingly fun game to play. Leaves EVERYWHERE, moving fast and activating her uncontrollable chase instinct.

Then, last night, I put her on our bed for a bit, and for the first time, she noticed George's build-a-bear perched on the headboard. (Yes, everyone in the family got build-a-bears about four years ago just for fun...George's is named Joe Bear.) Anyway, when Daisy saw Joe Bear, wearing his sunglasses, she started barking at him. I pulled Joe down to Daisy's level, and she took off for the end of the bed, still barking. She quickly got over the shock and sniffed him and chewed a bit on his ear. When George joined us and held out Joe for Daisy again, she wiggled her growing body between George and Joe, and batted at Joe with her nose, as if to say, "Go away, freaky bear. He's MY human!"

All the laughter makes up for the wreck she's making of our wall-to-wall carpeting. Seriously. Could YOU stay mad at this face?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Things on Thursday: The Beginning

Remember that wonderful feeling of excitement at the beginning of a school year or semester in college when you had a stack of brand new books? Remember the anticipation of knowing you would learn so very much through the fresh, crisp pages?

I'm there.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book List

At the end of the twentieth century, a number of book lists came out with titles like 100 Best Novels of the Twentieth Century and such. These lists are all highly subjective and entertaining to peruse. You can feel all self-satisfied if you've read some of listed books (or at least more of the books than your significant other has read!), you can quibble with choices and rankings, and you can use the lists for suggested reading.

Or, if you're a masochist, you can use the snootier book lists to feel really bad about yourself for not even recognizing four-fifths of the titles on them. I don't really recommend that, though.

Most of the lists that came out in 2000 focused only on the twentieth century, and we've already established in this essay that the twentieth century didn't produce my favorite works of literature. My favorites are mostly really really old and were written when the word eek meant also, not yikes, a spider!

Eek, I am geek.

Anyway, I came across the following list on FaceBook and liked it a lot...and not just because I've read so many of the books on it, though I confess that is part of the reason. Mainly, this list appeals to me because it has lots of different sorts of novels from earlier times and also children's novels. It's not a snooty list at all. It includes The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, for heaven's sake. I also really like the fact that James Joyce isn't number one or number two on it. His novel Ulysses is number 78.

For the record, I have read Ulysses and thoroughly enjoyed it. It truly is a great novel, perhaps the best ever written. It is, however, an acquired taste, a bit like red wine. If you're used to drinking light, crisp, chilled pinot grigio and someone hands you a glass of room-temperature cabernet, your taste buds will balk at the complexity and big, fruity chewiness of the wine. That describes a first encounter with Ulysses, too. The complexity and mental chewiness of it are revolutionary, and you need to have acclimated your brain to that sort of thing before drinking its full glass with pleasure.

This book list, supposedly from the BBC (but you know could be from anywhere), includes lots of different literature for those with varied taste. Check out number one and number two on this list. It's not often Tolkien and Austen end up side by side, now, is it?

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

How many of these have you read? Which one is your favorite? Which ones might you like to read? Please do share!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gratitude Journal #57

Today, I am grateful to my husband for insisting he run the Ironman race, despite an interrupted training schedule. It was a wonderful few days alone with him.

Today, I am grateful to the staff at the medical tent who served George and so many other athletes so well.

Today, I am grateful for a safe trip home, for my mother who took excellent care of my boys and my furry girl so I didn't have to worry a bit about being away, and for the dinner she had waiting for us.

Today, I am grateful for boys who can't stop hugging me and saying, "Mommy, I'm soooo glad you're home!"

Today, I am grateful for a wagging tail and velvety puppy belly. Daisy grew while we were gone. I'll post pictures later.

Today, I'm grateful for these two conversations yesterday. First, while George and I were listening to music in the car:

Me: "Alligator lizards in the air"? What sort of drugs do you have to take to come up with a line like that? What does it mean?

I don't know. Maybe the alligator lizards are looking for "mystic crystal revelations."

And this conversation, which took place at 10:00 last night, two hours after Jack went to bed....

Me: Jack, honey, you need to go to sleep.

Jack: Mommy, I've been thinking. [dramatic pause]

Me: What have you been thinking about?

Jack: [perky, optimistic tone] How about we go to McDonald's for dinner ever day?

Me: No.

Jack: [undeterred] Every morning for breakfast?

Me: No.

Jack: [still hopeful] Sometimes?

Me: Sometimes.

Jack: Oh, thank you, Mommy!

What are YOU grateful for today?

For your viewing pleasure: Let the Sun Shine and Ventura Highway

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Race Day Update #5: After Dinner

After his first, rather disoriented call from the medical tent, George called me back about 45 minutes later sounding much improved. I went to the medical tent to help him carry his stuff back to the hotel, then went to the transition area to pick up his bike. The crowds were huge, especially since I had to pass the exit for the finish line, and there were people celebrating and people not celebrating. This is the bittersweet part of Ironman. When you finish, you feel bad for the non-finishers. When you don't finish, well, you just want to go home.

George had a good day until a few miles into the marathon. The swim worked out perfectly for him: he only got kicked hard once in the jaw. The first 56 miles of the bike were "fun" and the rest solid. No worries. He started the marathon with a few 9:40 miles and felt like it would all work out.

Then, not so much. By mile 15, he knew things were bad. Really bad. He was dizzy and disoriented, so he sat down. When he would stand up, his vision would gray at the edges. When he approached the medical staff, one of them said, "You realize if we touch you, it's a DQ?" His fingers and toes were tingling and he said, "Yeah." He knew when to stop.

The medical staff at an Ironman are top notch. These people take outstanding care of the athletes. Students are assigned to see that no athlete is left alone, ever. The nurses, doctors, and medical technologists are attentive, knowledgeable, and friendly. I was amazed at how quickly George was back on his feet, and he sang the medical staff's praises over a burger at the Cooper Tavern.

I'm proud of George for going so far. I'm even prouder of him for realizing he needed to stop before he hurt himself. And now, we are both going to bed. It's been a long day full of accomplishment, and we have a long drive tomorrow.

Race Day Update #4: The Call

My cell phone rang a few minutes ago. I saw George's name on the caller ID and knew it could only mean one thing. He was calling from the medical tent, where he was taken for severe dehydration during mile 15 of the marathon. He said he just couldn't drink enough. The wonderful medical staff is pumping fluids into him and getting him warmed up, and he will be fine in a little while.

Many thanks to all who have virtually cheered him on and said prayers for a safe race. He will be fine, but I imagine that he will want to return to Madison one day and get revenge on the course for this.

Race Day Update #3: Bike to Run

Reader Jayne asked why the athletes pee in their wetsuits. I have no idea. Clearly they celebrate the fact with giant banners. Last year, our friend Keith, a former Navy Seal, peed in his wetsuit while standing next to George before starting their practice swim on the Friday before the race. They even briefly discussed their experience of the obligatory pee. I personally think it's gross and can't imagine doing it, but then there are good reasons why I'm not in a wetsuit in the first place, and I'd never tell a Navy Seal what he should or should not do because heaven knows how many ways he could kill me with his bare hands if he took the notion.

Jayne, I promise to ask George if there's any reason for it and get back to you.

My uncle Darius has now quit reading my blog forever. He hates the word pee.

Well, back to the race. George started his marathon looking good but vowing he's not going to kill himself on the run. What a relief. He spotted me yelling at him on a long straight-away and immediately slowed down so I could take pictures and he could talk to me.

I like that he wore his old Air Force cycling team jersey for this year's race. He rode with the AF team for RAGBRAI, a week-long, 600+ mile ride across Iowa, years ago. It makes me proud to see him wearing the flag on his sleeve the day after 9/11 observances. One day, I need to write about 9/11. But not yet. It's still too fresh.

He took off running again. I yelled, "I love you, George!" He yelled back, "I love you, too, Honey-Bunny."

And I grinned like a teenager.

How many 45-year-old men would publicly refer to their wives as Honey-Bunny? I'm a lucky woman.

And there he goes.

George finished his 112-mile bike ride in 6:09, which is just six minutes slower than last year. Add that to the longer transition times and he's about 12 minutes off last year's pace. Given how interrupted his training was this summer, I think he's doing GREAT! His first bike split put him at a similar pace to last year as well. If he can maintain that, he should be finishing a little before 8:00 central tonight.

Now, allow me to introduce Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman. He started announcing this morning at 6:30, and he won't stop until midnight tonight. The man is a rock star in triathlon. Mike is the one who makes all the pain, all the suffering, all the sweat and cramps and blisters worth it. He's the one who makes each person's finish official by shouting joyfully to the world that "You are an Ironman!"

Check out the streaming video HERE, and you'll hear Mike's voice calling out each Ironman finisher's name and home town. How I pray he gets the chance to butcher our name again this year when he says, for the fourth time, "George Raihala, you are an Ironman!"

Then, it will all be worth it.

Race Day Update #2: Random Observations

*Something weird happened and the Ironman Athlete Tracker dumped the bike split times. Arrg! No idea when to be there to see George after he starts the marathon. Shoot.

*Compression socks seem not to be as common as they were last year. This trend is one of the sillier-looking things I've seen, especially when we saw a triathlete with his jeans rolled up to his knees so everyone could see his compression socks. Nothing says, "I'm a dork" like compression socks...especially when they are worn three days before the race.

*IronFans make an art of t-shirts to support their family and friends who do this race. My favorite shirt so far said, "I see crazy people." Another, on a man, said, "140.6 miles...until I get my wife back." My t-shirt is the standard one sold this year. Please pardon the wrinkles. I hung it up before wearing it!

IronFans--also known as IronMates or Iron Sherpas--cheer the lunatics, watch for them, retrieve their bikes after the race, and bring them food for recovery. I wish the shirt showed someone carrying a bike pump...that's completely integral to the experience of IronMates.

*Beautiful weather here! High today is supposed to be around 78. Hope it's a bit cooler than that, but still, it's better than last year's 87!

If you have any questions about Ironman training or races, please let me know. I'll do my best to answer them, and George can always correct me if I'm wrong later.

Race Day Update #1: 2.4-Mile Swim

Don't let this picture, taken at 5:30 this morning before the swim start, fool you. George was very nervous this morning. His tummy was in knots and he wasn't sounding very positive or optimistic. I tried some motivational talk, and he told me to shut up. Well, not those words, but that message. I seriously hope he perked up when he hit the refreshing, 68-degree water, or today will be not just merely painful, but very painful.

And please note the red bike pump in this picture. I carried that around for a while this morning, just like a whole bunch of other Iron Mates, Iron Sherpas, and Support Crew for the lunatics racers.

As we walked out to the swim start, we overheard a very upset athlete yelling at someone on the phone, asking where his support crew was. I hope he got in the water on time.

George may have felt somewhat better when I snapped this around 6:40 AM just before he headed into the water, but it was hard to tell. He wasn't saying much. He KNOWS what he's gotten himself into. This is Ironman attempt number SIX, for heaven's sake.

This year's start had me identifying with this guy...George and I saw him perched atop a building near the Capitol yesterday. The crowd was worse than last year, and I had to climb a wall to see over the heads of the four-person-deep mass near the lake wall.

And in case you were wondering, this banner hanging off the helix said, "Wave if you're peeing in your wetsuit!"

The professional triathletes start at 6:50, and the rest of the racers start at 7:00. This year, over 2,600 started, and 1,200 were Ironman Virgins. That's a lot of inexperience in the water. It's easy to panic in the press of bodies, but there are divers under water and lots of kayaks, small boats, and sailboards to rescue anyone needing help.

That mass start resembles salmon spawning. George said he was going to be close to shore, out of the main press of bodies, but it looked like lots of other folks had the same idea. I took this picture from my perch, over the heads of the people at the wall. The closest racers looked really close! It'll be interesting to hear how the swim went for George this evening.

His swim time was a bit better than he expected. He came out of the water at 1:19, and then had a 13+ minute transition time. He's going to hate that long transition, but he looked really good as he ran toward his bike. I was perched on the walkway right above him, and he heard me and waved. So glad about that. Last year, I screamed and he never heard me. Oh, George's call sign in the military was Spot, so I generally yell out Spot. In case you're wondering why I labelled him Spot in this picture....

He headed out looking strong, and now it's a waiting game.

If you want to follow his progress today, you can do so HERE. His bib number is 1639, or you can search by his name. George Raihala. Not Spot.

Later today, I'll post a link to streaming video of the finish. If you've never watched an Ironman finish before, it's an incredibly moving experience. Mike Reilly, the official voice of Ironman, calls everyone's name, tells where they are from, and then yells, "You are an Ironman!" Oh, I get goosebumps typing that!

Be back later!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11

We remember.

We remember bravery.

We remember sacrifice.

We remember.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday in Madison

We had a good night's sleep and awoke to bright blue skies and a crisp autumn wind in Madison this morning. The usual plan on Friday is to start with a mocha and coffee cake at Starbuck's. The Capitol looked so lovely with its blue backdrop.

Then, we head down to the water where George and a bunch of other Ironman participants do an easy swim. George snapped this picture of me on my rock, where I sat and talked to people and read while he went off on his swim.

I definitely have the better deal here.

Today, the breeze made the water a bit choppy. Here, George concentrates on peeing in his wetsuit before he begins...something of a disgusting tradition with IMers. I'll bet the guy behind him is doing the same thing.

Here he is getting out of the water after his swim. He claimed it was very refreshing. It just looked cold to me.

Here's a shot of our hotel. We're on the third floor corner, which will no doubt mean a lot of noise on race night. But if that's the price you pay for having a view of Starbuck's, I'm willing to pay it.

Have I mentioned that Starbuck's opens at 4:00 am on race day? Well, it does. Thank the coffee gods!

Don't you think Starbuck's should be paying me for all this advertising? Seriously.

Monona Terrace is race central. Everything happens around it or in it. The roof has wonderful views of the swim course on one side and the Capitol on the other. On race day, this place is packed and unless you get there early and stake a claim on a bit of rail, you'll only see the back of people's heads. Ask me how I know that.

Here's the helix that racers must run up after swimming 2.4 miles in order to reach the transition area to jump on their bikes and ride 112 miles. It's just diabolical of the race planners to arrange things this way. It's also impossible to get a spot on the helix to cheer your Ironman on. If you're behind the race barricade that spirals up it on race morning, it'll feel like you're in a mosh pit.

But then, I've never been in a mosh pit, so I'm really just guessing about that.

The finish line hasn't been set up yet, but it'll be between the Capitol and Monona Terrace, beyond where you see the big Ford sign and across from the building in the forefront on the left. The medical tent will be off the picture to the right. I hope we don't have to visit it this year, but at least you know it's comfortingly close to the finish.

One of my favorite things about Ironman is how friendly everyone is. Just about everyone is looking to chat with, well, just about anyone. On an elevator ride in our hotel today, a French pro bike racer who has raced in the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, and the Vuelta d'Espana commented on George's yellow LiveStrong wristband. Then he told us the story of how he put Lance Armstrong on the spot at the Tour de France by asking if he would ever finish Ironman Hawaii. Apparently, Lance was taken aback and babbled a bit. Sounded like he didn't commit.

But really, it wouldn't surprise me in the least for Lance to get around to doing an Ironman at Kona. Anyone who would do the Tour de France at his age is crazy enough for Ironman, too.

And speaking of nice people, here's a picture of Nicole, whose blog I Think...Therefore I Blog is one of my favorites. She drove into Madison to have coffee with me at Starbuck's. She's such a smart, fun person on her blog and in person, and I hope she doesn't think I'm a total dork in person. Really, I worry about these things because I'm soooo much more interesting on the internet than in real life. And doesn't she have awesome hair? That's natural curl. I asked. Because I'm jealous. Or is it envious? Whatever. I want natural curl like Nicole's.

So on the whole as well as in every particular, Friday has been a completely wonderful day. As I finish up this post, George is surfing for a restaurant for tonight. I'm wanting Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine, and he seems to be aiming for Indian/Nepalese. He just mentioned Asian fusion, too. Oops, that is vegetarian. Right out for Mr. Carnivore. But if the rest of our day is any indication, the meal tonight is bound to satisfy.

And if not, well, it will hardly matter. I ate enough yummy calories last night at the Irish pub to cover me for DAYS. After all, I won't be the one burning 8,000 calories on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We're in Madison!

We arrived in Madison a few hours ago and checked into our ideally-situated hotel. The room is awesome...a corner room with a curved wall of windows on the third floor. I'd need a wide-angle lens to show you.

We have a view of the Capitol building and, more importantly, Starbuck's. Well, you could see Starbuck's if it weren't for that tree, but trust me, it's there. I've already had a mocha.

George registered, a process that's much easier on Thursday than Friday, when everyone who couldn't come today tries to register. He sailed through, signed the waivers, got weighed, picked up his race chip, transition bags, and such.

Below is a picture of half the parking lot that will be the home of about $5 million dollars worth of bicycles on Saturday.

The scope and scale of this race astounds me every year. Almost 3,000 racers are signed up this year. We'll see how many start Sunday morning.

I bought a Support Crew T-shirt to wear on race day. George refuses to buy any Ironman gear until after the race. He's very superstitious about the race and doesn't want to jinx his chance of finishing by being all optimistic.

He does, however, have an unnatural lust for this bike. I just asked him to tell me again the name of the bike, and he replied with something that sounded vaguely Latin with overtones of Japanese and involving the phrase electronic shifting, I think. If you really want to know, I'll ask him to type it in the comments. Whatever it is, he wants it.

He told me that he would not mind in the least if I bought it for him on race day.

I love him so much. He really knows how to make me laugh.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gratitude Journal #56

Today, as we take a rest from labor, I am grateful that George has a job. So many who want jobs don't have them. I pray they soon find work.

Today, I am grateful for yesterday at the park, a day of perfect temperatures, blue sky, and peace...

of laughing at Daisy chase leaves in a perfect fall breeze...

and of boys climbing trees.

This boy is wide-open and WYSIWYG. He's happy to be.

This boy is complex. Deep. Thoughtful.

And afflicted by a tummy ache because his daddy spun him a little too long on the tire swing.

Today, I am grateful for skirt steak and a husband who can whip up perfect guacamole without a recipe.

What are YOU grateful for today?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Words, Words, Words from Douglas Adams

"There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened." Douglas Adams

Bizarre and inexplicable. Why am I completely relating to that phrase tonight?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Out of the Closet

In spring and fall every year, I enact a ritual older than Twiggy: the Seasonal Wardrobe Shift. In spring, I put all my warm, fleecy clothes into storage bins emptied of all my short, cottony cool clothes, which take their place in my drawers and closet.

Ah, the thrill of clothes! The joy of thinking about what pieces you need to refresh your wardrobe for a new season! The adventure of shopping!

Bah, humbug.

I used to love clothes and spent many hours thinking about them, perusing fashion magazines to see all the clothes that I couldn’t afford, and shopping for knock-off designer items that both fit and looked great on me.

Then I had kids. Kids killed the fashion buzz for me. First, breastfeeding left me wanting to wear oversized comfortable clothes, a preference that has stuck with me for the last six-and-a-half years since I cut Jack off from the boob. Second, stay-at-home life doesn’t motivate great clothing choices because whole weeks go by when the only adults you see are your spouse and the checkout folks at the grocery, who are generally wearing highly unattractive aprons themselves and hardly inspire you to break out a dress, heels, and panty hose. Third, clothes shopping—shopping of any kind, actually—with infants and toddlers and preschoolers and elementary-age kids is painful to the nth degree and must be avoided at all costs.

Lately, however, I’ve been reading Susan Wagner's Friday Playdate blog. Susan writes about fashion for several online magazines. She’s a real mom who likes to look great and likes to help other real moms look great, too. She doesn’t promote $500 skirts; she writes whole articles about finding great stuff at Old Navy.

She’s my kind of person.

Susan has written about how purging your closet of everything except what you can and will wear actually leads to greater wardrobe choices and more fun mixing and matching. Having less, according to Susan, gives you more choices. I decided to trust her advice and last week carried out the Great Closet Purge.

First, I took everything—absolutely every piece of clothing, belt, shoe, slip, sock, and nightgown—out of my closet and drawers and piled them on my bed. Then I politely asked them a few questions.

And yes, I do talk to my clothes. Don't you?

Question #1 Have I worn you in the last two years? If not, but you are wearable, you go into the donation bag. If a hobo would be ashamed to be seen wearing you, you’re going into the trash.

About 70 percent of my wardrobe disappeared with this question. So many of these pieces were clothes I wore before Nick was conceived almost 12 years ago. I will never again have a 21-inch waist. Heavens, I even had belts from that time in my life…eight of them. Why, oh why, have I clung to these clothes for so long?

Question #2 Do you fit me right now? If you don’t fit now but a 10-15 pound weight loss would let me wear you, then you go into a storage bin.

My goal this winter is to shed the weight I have gained in the last year. I’m exercising again, which is a step in the right direction, and fall is usually a very busy time that keeps me from munching between meals. Because this is a realistic goal, I have no problems holding onto these items…just not in my closet or drawers where they clutter things up and distract me from what I can wear right now.

Question #3 If you fit me right now, can I be seen in public wearing you? If yes, let me hang you in my closet or put you in my drawer. If no, you’re going in the trash.

I expected to have three articles of clothing left to wear but was surprised at how much I have for fall and winter that is wearable and in decent shape. Mainly, I could use a few new pairs of shoes and a couple of tops, but I don't even need those urgently.

In the spring, however, if I haven’t lost weight, I’m going to have to go shopping or go nekkid. That’s because the few—very few—summer clothes that survived the purge are just barely this side of acceptable, and then, only if you are a hobo. By the time cooler weather gets here, they will have to be tossed.

I do, however, have quite a few crop pants and shorts in the lose-weight-and-wear-these storage bin. No shirts, though. Not one. So shopping is definitely in my future.

Susan also reminded me that I can have clothes altered, and as I carried out the Great Wardrobe Purge, I found a nice cream blazer from the ‘80s that fits really well (it was too big back then), but the huge shoulder pads make it look dated. It’s fully lined, so it’ll take a professional to snip those suckers out. A fleece skirt needs to be hemmed, too. They are good pieces, and a tailor can take care of both for less money than it would cost to replace them.

For now, however, the Great Closet Purge of 2010 has served me well. I’ve actually worn dresses twice in the past week because there is now so little in my closet that it is easy to see that I do, indeed, have several dresses for hot weather.

It’s sort of embarrassing that it took me 43 years to figure this closet thing out. But I feel so liberated from worry about clothes. No anxiety, no stress. This must be the honeymoon period. I expect the golden glow of self-satisfaction will evaporate the first time I go to the shoe store in search of all-purpose, comfortable black winter shoes.

In the meantime, I’ll take whatever satisfaction I can from this and thank Susan Wagner for it. Thanks, Susan, for inspiring me to get out of the closet.

What lessons have you learned about clothes? How do you keep from being stressed over wardrobe choices? Is your closet overflowing with stuff you can’t wear? Care to share the content of your closet?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What's in a Name?

Daisy has finally learned her name. This is something of a miracle because we are a family of pet names (no pun intended) used so persistently that our autistic son has finally given up saying things like, “My name isn’t Wombat. It’s Jack.” He now simply accepts that we call him wombat, sweetie, baby, sugar-lump, whatever.

Since joining our family, Daisy has been called many things, most of which aren’t Daisy:

Honey Doodle
The Nibbler
No No Bad Dog
Sweetie Woogums
The Gremlin
Sweetie Pie
The Pooper
Crazy Dog

Then there are a number of variations on Daisy:

Daisy Doodle
Daisy Maisy
Daisy May
Daisy Dog
Crazy Daisy

And of course, she’s our Furry Golden Sunshine.

Like I said, it’s a miracle she learned her name in just six weeks.

You can’t walk past Daisy without stooping to pet her. It. Is. Not. Possible. She’s cute beyond description, and when she looks at you with those big brown eyes, you just HAVE to veer off course, stoop, and pet her. She gives new meaning to the phrase animal magnetism. Walking her around the neighborhood involves a lot of stopping so strangers can lavish love on this pup. No one is immune to her charms.

Which is a good thing, because she’s ruining my bathroom rugs and if she weren’t so gosh darn cute.... Those of you who have had pups or children know exactly what I'm sayin'.

I don’t care what her breeder said, Daisy is NOT entirely sensible. She is mostly sensible during the day, but at night she runs wild like a crazy dog and channels her inner Hoover. She growls and barks and attacks blankets. She runs around on our bed so fast she’s a blur.

All day, every day, she eats EVERYTHING she can find. In addition to rugs, she eats grape vines, grass, leaves, rocks, rabbit poo, socks, underpants, etc. It is rather disconcerting, if perfectly normal, that everything she finds goes into her mouth. She is learning the command Drop! But usually, I have to pry whatever she’s found out of her mouth.

She delights in getting the end of the toilet paper roll and running across the house with a stream of TP flowing behind.

No No Bad Dog!

Daisy greets everyone every morning with a furiously wagging tail and lots of kisses. She can’t stand for us all to be upstairs, above the baby gate, when she is downstairs, below it. She will bark non-stop until one of her peeps comes to be with her. When we go for walks, she can’t stand for one of us to get too far from her; she herds us all together.

When Daisy barks at a strange dog in the distance, the fur on the top of her head and all along her spine stands on end, and she looks like nothing so much as an angry gremlin. Remember that movie? As soon as the strange dog comes within two feet of her, however, she gets submissive, sniffs butts, makes friends, and then tries to jump on her new friend’s head.

She’s a nibbler. Sometimes she nibbles our hands, because she loves us, and sometimes she nibbles her tail, because it is there. Today, she was chasing her tail, spinning round and round even after she caught the thing. Then, she sat down and stared at it intently. You know the look a baby gets when she notices her hands for the first time? That’s how Daisy was looking at her tail. “Huh? What’s this? Is it mine? Oh, how amazing!” Then she started chewing her back right paw contemplatively.

Her belly. Oh my gosh. Her belly is like velvet, so soft and warm and rubbable. Microsoft is telling me that rubbable isn’t a word. But in a universe containing puppy bellies—girl puppy bellies—it most certainly is a word.

Contemplate warm and velvety puppy bellies and try not to smile.

You’re welcome.