Friday, January 12, 2018

It's Never as Good as the First Time

This is my end of 2017 post on Firsts. Like I always say...For me, the key to growing older semi-gracefully'ish and happy is to challenge myself and try new things. I have seen so many people get older and have no idea what to do with themselves. They see all of their best years behind them and give-up. I don't ever want to be like that.  So, I like to have new "firsts' every year. Most of them are wonderful, but a few of them are not. Either way, these first force me to see the world from different angles and deal with the shit as it flies toward me.

My first and best "first" this year was getting married to my very best friend in the dormer room of our house with my daughters and their partners. Both John and I had been married before, but we were both too young to make the best decisions. This time, I did it right. We've already gone through so much together the last 6.5 years and seen each other at or worst, and best. John  has been so supportive of me and has still called me out on my shit whenever I've needed it too. We kept it simple and almost a year later, I wouldn't have done it any other way.

Another first was going to a concert with both of my girls. We've all been to plenty of concerts, but never together. Stinky bought Coadster a ticket to see Hall and Oates and Tears for Fears for her birthday in Des Moines. At the time, Coadster was living was living there. They later invited me and we all got to celebrate Coadster's birthday with her. It was a blast.

Another of my favorite firsts was going an entire year cancer free after my lumpectomy in 2016. I refuse to take any day for granted and that is truly the best way to go through life for me. I also, apparently refuse to act my age.

This next first was not my favorite, but I hope to have figured it out to do better next year. This was the first time I was unable to finish the whole TOMRV ride. Normally, on Sunday we ride to Bettendorf, but this year, it was so insanely windy and hot and my feet were so swollen and painful that I had to end at Goose Lake instead. Next year, I plan on riding in flat pedals and my Keane sandals, I'm hoping having the whole pedal to move my foot around on will help my feet last the whole way next year.

This was also the first year I have ever been able to have a big, sunny, garden of my own. It was so much work, but it gave me much joy and my neighbors seemed to love it as well. Don't worry, (or maybe do?) I am writing an entire blog post about my adventures in gardening.

Another thing about firsts, is that I want to try to go somewhere for the first time every year. I may never be able to afford to go outside of the country, but there are so many places close enough that I can explore. This year, we visited my first new place on my birthday weekend. We went to Decorah and the firsts there included sleeping in a caboose and floating through a river of cows. If you haven't been there and you love to play outside, you should make the trip.

July also marked my first time inside THE WORLD'S LARGEST FRYING PAN, BITCHES! Holy shit. How have I spent 52 years without that experience? It was pretty hot outside on our bikes that day too. I guess now I can say I've gone out of the fire and into the frying pan...

Something that was not that great, but better than it could have been, was that I had a shave biopsy in August that revealed some precancerous cells. Not my favorite experience of 2017, but a very aggressive reminder to cover myself up better. You think I would have taken action before my 52nd birthday, but I have always loved the sun and it has, apparently, kissed me too hard.

In October my baby girl picked out her wedding dress for her Memorial Day nuptials this year. This year was the first time I went wedding dress shopping for my daughter.

On a more creative note, I got to teach people how to dye and paint fabric. I taught myself how when my girls were little. I saw a shop full of beautiful, dyed, cotton, dresses for little girls in Madison. Those clothes were also ridiculously expensive, so I bought some dyes and paints and made them for my daughters for almost nothing. I haven't dyed or painted clothes for years, so I invited people over to eat and play with dyes and paints. It was a good night.

This year was the first time I ever helped build a permanent cyclocross course. It was only the third one in the state of Iowa. Like many of the most amazing things I did this year, it took a hell of a lot of time and energy, but was so worth it.

The last first of 2017 that I'm going to talk about was me taking work-out classes this year. I have never been a structure person, so I'm not big on taking classes. I love to go outside and play. I don't need the pressure of having to be somewhere at a certain time to motivate me to work-out.  BUT and it's a big butt and it can not lie... John found out about a free yoga for cyclists class and it kicked my butt. Now that I'm finally done talking about but(t)s... Reading up on my lovely perimenopause, the lack of estrogen can cause really tight, sore muscles and joints and many of the articles I read recommended yoga, so I may have to keep up with some yoga class here and there.

Since my daughters seem to be more motivated by the structure of a class and Coadster had mentioned that she'd like to take a dance class, I found a free dance work-out class at Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City. Turns out, it was a lot of fun. A few weeks later, Stinky found a free work-out called the Reflective Run and put on by Lululemon. After the run we got a free yoga class. A girl, even a girl who isn't one much for structure could get used to all these free work-out classes...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Early Dawning, Sunday Morning

Well, I've been sick this week. I normally don't get sick this time of year. Usually, it happens either before I get one or after my flu shot wears off.  I do feel lucky, because I know a lot of other people who were knocked on their asses for weeks by this thing. It's been a few days, but I'm already starting to perk up a little. Whew!

Before I got this crud, we had a lovely weekend full of cross country skiing.

Thanks for some of these photos, Burne.

On Saturday morning, I started this program called Trainer Road that is supposed to get me in shape on my bike trainer this Winter. Sadly, I haven't been able to do a work-out since because of this damn cold...Next week!

I made some hippie-style tofu quesadillas for lunch and then we went out to meet our friends Chels and Burne to ski at the Lake MacBride Nature Reserve Area. There hasn't been enough snow to ski there for over three years now. There wasn't a ton there last weekend either, but enough for us to ski for a couple of hours.

We did a little bit of trail blazing to check out the Osprey nests too.

On another of our trail blazes, we found ourselves on the frozen lake. It was beautiful and wide open, and since the temps were at about 0 degrees and had been for the last few weeks, we were in no danger of falling into thin ice.

We finished skiing and headed to Big Grove Brewery in Solon for an early dinner. Some of our other friends met us there that we hadn't seen for a while and we had a really nice time.

At our dinner, we made plans to meet to ski again on Sunday morning. We knew it was going to really warm-up and there was a good chance of rain that afternoon, so we met at 10 am.

We decided on Ashton (the cross country running course for the University), because it's pretty flat and better for our beginner friends.

We hung out with some our friends we do RAGBRAI with. A couple of them needed some kind of beer nourishment. I said, more power to them, but if I drank that early in the day, I'd have an instant migraine and fall asleep in about two seconds.

John and I finally went off on our own, because we wanted to do another lap before it was too warm to ski.

We got home, and unfortunately, put our skis away (maybe for the year. Sigh), ate lunch and then went to the gym to swim laps and get a steam in. It was nice and easy and mellow.

My girls told me they were going to be at the gym around 4, after they both got off of work. Stinky won a free membership to this FXB place for ten weeks and so she was working hard on the weekend as well. While I was talking to them, the girls asked what I was making for dinner. I told them I was making enchiladas and black beans and I told Coadster I'd make her some Mexican rice too since it's her favorite. They came over and we actually had a proper Sunday dinner. When the girls were younger and in a million different activities in junior senior high school, I always made a big point to have a proper Sunday dinner because I never knew if we'd manage it during the week. It was really nice to go back to that, even if it was probably only one Sunday. As always, I take what I can get...

Monday, January 08, 2018

Now The Race is On And Here Comes Pride Up The Back Stretch.

Okay, now I'm going to talk about my "racing" year in 2017. Right now, I'm using huge quotes around the word, racing, because I still not up to snuff on training or being in shape or any of that stuff. Maybe if my weird hormone issues get sorted out, I'll be able to train and race more consistently, but until that time, I just have to do what I can and cut myself huge slabs of slack.

Since I just signed up for my first two races of 2018, it will be good to look back at 2017 and see if I can improve things this year. My race stats for 2017 looked like this:

Two running races, one triathlon, one gravel  bike race, and five cyclocross races. It's weird to think that there was a time when I was healthier and in my late 40's when I did about 50 races a year. Sigh.

The first race I did last year was a part gravel/part road race. Since there were only 3 women in it, I was going to podium either way and since both women were a million times stronger than me, I knew I was going to be third. I had a really bad start and couldn't get clipped in, but I did pass about 5 of the men B racers. So, that was something...

My second race was the River Run - a road running 5K that I did with Stinky. It quit raining right before it started. We ran at Stinky's speed and she did get mad at me at one point, because I was trying to take her mind of things by asking her a question, but I really just annoyed the hell out of her. Isn't that my job as a mom? To annoy the hell out of my daughter when I try to help her? That's what I thought. Anyway, Stinky exceeded her goal time, so she was winning, and I didn't get punched by her, so I feel like I won too.

Thanks for the photo Joanne Mckillip.

In June I did the Pigman triathlon race. I missed it the year before, so it was my first time in a couple of years. Not surprisingly, it was the slowest time I ever had in that race. Wah! First of all, I hadn't been swimming much at all. So, when I got in the water, my form was crap, but worse than that, I couldn't breathe very well. I basically just held on to the rope and inched my way to the beach. It was pretty pathetic. I figured out later that the reason I couldn't breathe was because I had gained so much weight since my stupid breast cancer diagnosis and surgery, that my wetsuit didn't fit me. My lungs were crushed by the overly aggressive and continual hug of the neoprene.

On a good note, my bike ride was almost the fastest I ever did, but I think I rode too fast, because I died during the run. You would think that would be it for the Pigman and me, but I am ever a sucker for false hope. I'm sure I magically lose all of my weight and swim a ton more and train better, so I've signed up for Pigman sprint triathlon 2018. Wish me luck...Or don't waste your breath, either way.

Photo courtesy of Erike Egge York.

I didn't race the rest of the Summer after the triathlon. I did go on some great rides and ran some and had a lovely time in general.

I finally did some cyclocross racing in the Fall. Not a lot and never very well, but I had fun and it was good to get back out there.

At first I did the Chamois Time CX race at City Park. It was fun, and I was last in my field, but I was fine with that. All of the women were a lot faster than me when I was 100% healthy, let alone when I was having all kind of issues training.

I did make the podium in one race, but that was because There were only two women in my category...Hey, at least I won some beer.

Thank you to Carolyn Spiess Marsh for the picture.
I got to do some fun, muddy races...Again, I wasn't super strong in any of them, but I was able to ride stuff that I hadn't been able to in the past, and that whole, figuring out how to ride tricky parts in a course is one of my favorite things about racing cyclocross.
Photo taken by Gary Wiedenfeld.

One of those things was learning how to ride sand better. Riding in sand is tricky because you have to get a ton of momentum up and keep pedaling furiously while you're in it and keep pulling up on your handlebars so as not to get bogged down and then have to get off your bike and run it. Take it from me, either riding or running sand takes a lot of energy, but having to do both will kill you (and by you, I mean an old lady like me).

My very last race of the year was the Turkey trot trail run we do every year on Thanksgiving. I usually try really hard to go fast and it takes away some of the fun, so this was the first year I ran it with Stinky at her speed. Holy cow! but it was a lot of fun. We took the shorter, but harder route and got to play in the mud. It was a great way to end my racing season.

This year? We'll see how it goes. At this point, I have signed up for three races. Two of them are pretty intense. I have no idea if I'll be able to train for them, but as you may have guessed, I'm a sucker for false hope.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

The Book I Read Was in Your Eyes

Since we're just starting 2018, I guess I better get on my 2017 "end of the year posts". This first one will be all about books. Yea!

This year I read 69 books, 25,882 pages in all. I didn't get in as many as I did last year, but I read some longer books, and stuff comes up and whatever.

Here are categories of my best books...Or worst, depending. This isn't a review of the best books this year in general, just the ones I read, so they are from many different years and genres.

My top five books I read this year in order from most favorite on down:

1. "The Moor's Account", by Laila Lalami. This is an amazing story of a slave who came to the US with Spanish explorers.

2. "Half of a Yellow Sun", by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A novel about the brief state of Biafra, when the Igbo's of Nigeria tried to secede after a massacre of their people. It is heartbreaking and very well written.

3."A Man Called Ove", by Fredrick Backman. It is a story about an old, Swedish, curmudgeon who gets saved by a family who annoys him with love.

4. "My Name is Lucy Barton", by Elizabeth Strout. It is a short novel about a woman who's mother comes to stay with her at the hospital when she is sick. She has been estranged from her since college and they reconnect the best that they are able.

5. "Moonglow", by Michael Chabon. It's kinda, sorta like the male version of Lucy Barton. It's about a time in Chabon's life where his grandfather is dying of cancer and full of meds and he tells his grandson about his life.

Best Classic Fiction I read in order of best to least best:

1. "Disgrace", by J. M. Coetzee.

2. "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn', by Betty Smith.

3. "For Whom the Bell Tolls", by Ernest Hemmingway.

Best Children's Classic Fiction:

"Anne of Green Gables", by L.M. Montgomery.

"The Golden Compass", by Philip Pullman.

Best Classic Science Fiction:

1. "American Gods", Neil Gaiman.

2. "The Sparrow", by Mary Doria Russell.

3. "Neuromancer", William Gibson.

4. "The Hobbitt", J. R. R. Tolkien.

Best Rereads:

1. "Beloved", by Toni Morrison.

2."Housekeeping", by Marylinne Robinson.

3. "The World According to Garp", John Irving.

Best current Science Fiction:

1. "The Deadlands", by Benjamin Percy.

Best Short fiction:

1. "Mothers and Sons", by Colm Toibin.

2. "The Moons of Jupiter", by Alice Munro.

Best Non-fiction:

1."Men We Reaped", Jesmyn Ward.

2."The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks", Rebecca Skloot.

3. "Bossypants", Tina Fey.


1. "Lonesome Dove", Larry McMurtry. I was in love with this book. I would have put it on the list for best book of the year, except I only had one other Western and I didn't want that book to be lonely.

2. "News of the World", by Paulette Jiles. This was another incredible novel.

Best Fun, Women Novels (Some Might label it chicklit, but I hate that term, and these are just well written books by women that I found very engaging):

1. "Eligible", by Curtis Sittenfeld. A current take of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice", all new and improved with reality TV shows.

2. "Commonwealth", Anne Patchett.

3. "Another Brooklyn", by Jacqueline Woodson

4. "Tomorrow Will Be Different", Maria Semple

Best Harry Potter Books that I read:

All three that I read, of course. The third, fourth and fifth.

The worst book I read all year, was "The Dog: A Novel", by Joseph O'Neil. I just couldn't get into it. It was supposed to take place in Dubai and you would think that would be interesting, but it was too boring and a lot of talk about stuff that put me to sleep.

Genres I didn't read and wished I had:

Detective/Crime and Horror stories. I already read my first detective novel for 2018, so I plan on making up for that this year.

That's what I got for 2017. Let me know your favorites. I love for people to tell me what they're reading.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

One Minute to Say Goodbye, Before We Say Hello

It was a lovely New Year's Eve for us. My girls had asked us if we could go to Madison, since their cousin was back there for the holidays, and we thought, "What the heck".

Of course, the day before we were supposed to leave, we got 6 inches of snow and the temperatures plummeted, but what're you gonna do?

On Saturday morning, the roads were a lot better, so we headed to Wisconsin. We got into to town around lunchtime and went straight to Hopcat to eat.

My brother's family showed up and we watched the Iowa State game. As you can see, Coadster was excited to celebrate ISU's first win in a bowl game since 2009. Yea!

After that we checked in at our AirBnb and then met our friends who were coming up for the weekend as well. They were at a cool pool hall and we hung out with them until it was time to meet my brother's family again at a new restaurant that a guy my brother graduated from high school with owns.

It was a great place with good beer, and since I can't drink that much alcohol, they also had really good non-alcoholic beverages.

The food was amazing. The photo above? That was beer cheese soup. Family? What family? That soup is the kind of thing that keeps me coming back to Wisconsin.

Earlier in the day, my sister-in-law told us about a rooftop bar with a great view of the capital, so I asked our friends to meet us there.

My friend Dawn ordered us to make jazz hands.

The service was great and since I let myself have a drink, I ordered a margarita and it was the best one I've had since I was in New Mexico. Woot!

The Wisconsin bowl game was on and everyone in the bar was watching it.

The next day was New Year's Eve and I was so tired. It was one of those days that I felt exhausted after every activity I did. All I wanted to do was take a nap, but I never got a nap.

We did get to go to our favorite breakfast place in Madison. My girls had never been there before, and they seemed to love it too.

Afterward, we met my brother to cross country ski. Ironically, there was less snow and warmer temperatures in Madison than in Iowa City. It got all the way up to 9 degrees in Wisconsin that day. There is a park in Madison where they make their own snow. It's not a huge loop, but I hadn't skied in 2 years, so I wasn't looking for much of a challenge.

I worked on getting my courage up to even descend the smallest of hills. The first few slight downhills, I practically walked sideways down them, but I kept trying and got better braver and faster down them. Luckily, it was cold enough that the snow was pretty slow. If it had been icy, I would have been sucking my thumb and breathing into a bag as I tumbled down those hills.

We skied for about an hour and half before my hip flexors started feeling sore. I knew better than to push it too much, or John would be pushing me in a wheel chair the next day, so I pulled off and went into the shelter with John. While my brother was finishing his ski, we watched the other skiers, ice skaters and sledders. What a great little park. It's nice to see so many people playing outside, even in the very cold temperatures.

After our ski, we went back to the AirBnB and I showered. The girls got back from shopping with their cousin a few minutes later. They showed me their finds. Coadster basically bought her whole NYE outfit on her trip. Adorable.

We picked up our friends and headed to my brother's house for a little get together. It was his mother-in-law's 84th birthday, so we had some lovely cake and, because we're old, we toasted the New Year at 8 o'clock.

I was cranky and tired,  and I just wanted to go back to our place after we left my brother's house. Both Stinky and John were also not feeling up to going out. Poor Coadster. She wanted to go and play, so she met my brother's little brother (from the Big Brother/Big System program (he's now 38)) and our friends out. I was sad I missed the fun. They went to an old style steak house/bar that Coadster said looked like something out of "Mad Men".

We woke up pretty early on New Year's Day. I think the actual temperature was like 10 or 15 below zero. We all went out for breakfast before we headed back home. It was a great weekend, but I was ready to get home and check on the cats and hope our pipes hadn't frozen while we were gone.

We got back around 2 and John and I went out to Cross Country ski. It was really cold for it. We only skied for about an hour, before we froze our faces off. All that skiing and hanging out with friends and family was a great way to end 2017 and start 2018. As always, I hope I'm able to spend much of this new year that same way.

May all y'all have a great new year too!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Back in the High Life Again

Oh, kids. It was a jolly holiday here this year. Last year we were in DC for Christmas, which was lovely, but it was nice to be home...And also less stressful.

On Saturday John and I went to see Star Wars. It was very long. There were some things I really liked about it and a few things I could have done without. Now, you can thank me for not revealing any spoilers. You're welcome.

In the evening we went to a party at our friend Burne's house. It was fun at first. I bought myself some festive, non-alcoholic things to drink. Of course, most of those drinks had high sugar contents and by the end of the evening, either from too much sugar, or a weird virus or messed-up hormones (take your pick), I felt like holy hell. I was sick to my stomach and dizzy and I had the chills. John took my temperature when we got home and he said it was low. I went straight to bed and felt okay the next morning, so who the hell knows what was going on there.

The next day was Christmas Eve and when I woke up, it was snowing. Yea! I love running in the snow. I got ready and got out in it. I ran my 3.5 mile route and was happy, happy, happy.

Nice finger in the frame, isn't it?

When I got home, I realized I didn't have much time if I wanted to get to the gym, since it was closing at noon.

John and I drove over and got to swim some laps and hit the steam room before they kicked us out. It was perfect.

On the way out the door, I noticed they were playing "Miracle on 34th Street". It was all so very holiday'ish.

We stopped at the store on the way home and saw that Shakespeare's was open. I was just going to go  home and make grilled cheese and tomato soup, but we decided to say, "screw that" and headed over for lunch. Coadster met us there and she got her favorite, mini corn dog basket. She loves it, but EW.

Coadster came home with us and I started cleaning. I took care of the living room, the kitchen and the bathroom. I also went to our storage area upstairs and pulled out Christmas stockings, lights and garland. Since we didn't put up a tree this year, I had to decorate on the fly. It turned out well and I won't have to clean up pine needles for the next six months. Fine with me.

John made oyster stew to take over to his mom's place. After he cleaned up and took off, I baked some cookies and made fettuccine Alfredo from scratch. the kids all came over and we ate and watched a Christmas movie. It was such a nice, mellow, evening.

John got home around 8 o'clock. So, we did our book exchange. I found out about that Icelandic tradition where you buy each other books and chocolate and you all get to go to bed and read and eat chocolate until you fall asleep. So, we drew names and bought our person their favorite chocolate and a good book. John picked my name and I was very happy with my haul.

I tried to stay up and read a little, but fell fast asleep in about 15 minutes.

 I woke up on Christmas day and gave Archie the perfect cat Christmas present - I placed some items on the edge of the table so he could knock them off. He seemed quite pleased.

The kids came over at around 10:30 and checked out their stockings (yes, Santa will come until they're at lease in their 50's as long as I'm still alive).

We opened our gifts. Stinky painted a picture for her fiance and it turned out pretty cool. Homemade gifts are the best gifts.

The girls got me some cat socks.

And the cat's pajamas...

We did our traditional eating sushi for lunch. I doubt we'll ever give that up.

Stinky and her fiance' went to his dad's for the afternoon, John took a nap and finished the cleaning I started the day before. Coadster and I watched another Christmas movie and colored in their new coloring books, while Archie sat on top of my book. Jerk.

 In the evening, Stinky and her fiance brought their puppy over and Heidi exerted her dominance over him, Poor Jaxson. He only wants to play. All of the damn animals are big jerks.

John helped me get everything ready for the Christmas taco bar and it was all so delicious.

At about 7, all the kids and some of our friends showed up. We ate and drank and talked and then played some Cards Against Humanity and laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

Archie got all fancy and dressed himself in garland and wore some bunny ears.

John had to work the next day, so we kicked everyone out and cleaned up our mess and I finally got to bed after midnight. I was exhausted, but it was such a nice evening, that it was way worth it.

The next day, I got up at around 8 and Coadster and I headed to the movie theater for $5 Tuesday's to watch the "Disaster Artist". It was ridiculous and bizarre and I really liked it.

I dropped Coadster off and then went home and read in front of the fake fireplace for a while. I got up and made the last of the Christmas cookies, then headed to the Can Shed to get rid of our cans and bottles. 

At 5, I picked up the girls and we went to the gym. I had bought them some passes, so we could all go together and since it was awfully cold out, I thought I'd try the elliptical machine. I've never really worked out on a machine, except a bicycle, so it was a big learning experience for me and probably a bit of an embarrassment for my daughters. Oh well. They embarrassed me plenty when they were little, so I'm fine with evening that all out. Anyway, I did the machine thingy for a little over a half an hour and it was just fine. Of course, my calves have been killing me ever since, but I guess that just means it worked.

After we worked out, we got John and all headed to Eastside Shorts for dinner and a beer. I'm pretty sure we deserved it. I went back to work the next day, but we only had to work three days before we hit the next weekend. It was such a lovely holiday and I got to hang out with my girls every day and I make a big point to try and plan no-stress activities, because in the past, the holidays have been way too stressful. As we near the end of this year, I am happy to say that I am one lucky old lady.