Friday, January 26, 2018

I Am Tired, I Am Weary. I Could Sleep for a Thousand Years

Well, kids...I got sick, sick, sick...Again. It's been about three weeks with this crap. I got sick originally and took almost an entire week off of work. I was tired and achy for another week, but I thought I was getting over it. Then on Monday, it started up again, and this time it was in my lungs and I was coughing like crazy and I really thought I might have to go to the emergency room for a while there. I just knew that if I did go, I'd have to sit there for hours, when all I really wanted to do was go to sleep.

So, I made a deal with John that I would go back to sleep and if I didn't start feeling even a little better by noon, he'd come home over lunch and take me to the emergency room. He also texted my girls and asked if they could check up on me during the day.

Anyway, the sleeping and taking cold medicine every 6 hours really helped. I started feeling better (read: not deathly ill) by about 3 o'clock that afternoon. I have to say, I have never felt that bad from a cold or respiratory flu before. And because I'm perimenopausal, I got the extra added bonus of getting to play the game of  "Is It a Fever or Is It a Hot Flash" - everyone's a loser!

But now, let's go back to a gentler time, just last weekend, when I thought I was getting better...

Coadster asked me if I'd go to the Iowa City Women's March with her. Hell yes!

The weather was perfect and we went down to the Ped Mall and listened to speakers and then marched with so much support from local businesses and people driving by. It was a great way to start the day and the year and I love being able to practice my First Amendment rights with my daughter. Stinky had to work, but she did make a ton of money from post-rally traffic. We all won on Saturday.

It got warm on Sunday. Sadly, neither John or I were up for any kind of real work-out, but we both wanted to get out and enjoy the day. John suggested that we go for a Winter hike.

We went out to Lake MacBride and hiked trails until we got to the spillway.

It is so beautiful out there. It doesn't even look like Iowa. If you go to the right places, it can be a quick trip out of the normal Iowa landscapes.

We also got to hang-out on the spillway itself.

It was only too late that we were warned of hazards of this treacherous area. For the love of God! KEEP OFF THE SPILLWAY!

Luckily, I got to have that lovely weekend before the plague set-in, and then I made it through that bit of badness. Now, I'm hoping to work on my recovery this weekend. I plan on doing some resting and reading and doting on of cats.

I hope you all are keeping away from the crud and getting out and enjoying the outdoors and using your constitutional rights, and just winning in general.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Let the Jazz Band Make Some Noise, Step Up Ladies and Watch Out Boys

Okayyyy....I should probably write a blog post at some point this week. I'll write about the weekend today and try to get to the last couple of 2017 posts in the next couple of days.

Originally, John and I were going to give ourselves this lovely four day weekend where we would go find some snow and then ski for a few days. Then the girls asked if we would want to go to Madison for New Year's weekend and we decided to just have a staycation instead but we'd try to do fun things around Iowa City. Then I got that bad cold and even that went out the window...Or at least a little bit, anyway.

On Friday it got cold again. I knew I couldn't swim, but I thought it might be a good idea to go to the gym and used the jacuzzi and steam room. I was wrong. The jacuzzi was lovely and I slammed myself into those jets and it was very nice for my achy muscles. The steam room on the other hand? That was bad. I don't know if I still had a little fever or what, but I had to leave very soon after I entered and my body was trying to pass-out all over the place. How unseemly! I managed to get home and I just went to bed...Again. I guess the good thing, was that I started reading the book, "Rebecca" and it was the perfect book to be sick in bed with.

I did look longingly outside throughout the day...

On Friday night, I was feeling a little better, so we met our friends out at Film Scene to take in the movie, "I, Tonya". It was goo, but pretty violent, and Allison Janney definitely deserves an Academy Award for it.

On Saturday, I still wasn't feeling tip-top. John went mountain biking with some friends, but I couldn't go, so I went to the store and got groceries for the week instead, and not a whole hell of a lot else got done before they got done and called me to meet them for pizza at Back Pocket Brewery.

After that, John and I went to Trader Joe's where I decided I needed some flowers to cheer me up a little. They worked!

By Sunday, I was starting to feel a little better. I gave myself a little chance to wake-up slowly and started reading my next book. It was very different than "Rebecca", but just as good.

I finally got a little bit done on Sunday. We filled all of the holes in the ceiling with spackle, but we'll have to wait until this  upcoming weekend to start with the sanding and priming and such. Archie, did try to help supervise, but then he got very sleepy up there on top of the refrigerator. Poor guy.

After we did the work in the kitchen, we decided to swim some laps and then do the jacuzzi and steam room. I had WAY better success this time around, and even felt okay during the swim - my first exercise since being sick.

I took John out for sushi after our work-out. The miso soup and wasabi worked well to clean out my sinuses.

Later in the day, I went with John to Hickory Hill Park and decided to do a trail run. I figured if I wasn't actually up for running, it would be a nice hike in the woods. I needed to get outside and play and it was up in the 20's on Sunday, and that felt so warm in comparison to what it has been around these parts.

Happily, I was able to run the whole 3'ish miles in the woods!

It was so beautiful and snowy and the sun was setting and I met and made some really nice dog friends. I came across many deer. There was one pack (flock? gang?) of deer that didn't even move when they saw me going. I'm sure they figured I was going so slowly, I couldn't possible be any kind of threat to them. Sigh.

Anyway, I got to run and it was just what I needed.

For John's birthday in September, I bought us tickets to The Squirrel Nut Zippers show. John loves the band so much, he even bought their Christmas album.

The show happened on Sunday evening at 7. That's early enough for us, but it makes sense, most of the people in the audience were old people too.

Since I bought the tickets right after they came out, we had excellent seats, in the second row, right by the stage.

The Suirrel Nut Zippers are a New Orleans style jazz band. They play all kinds of different instruments, tell bawdy jokes and they're more like a Vaudeville show than just a musical concert. It's probably the best show I've seen in the last ten years.

At the end of the show, they all parade out while singing and playing music and the audience is supposed to parade out behind them. They kept playing in the lobby and we all had a little dance thing going on there in the lobby of the theater. It was so much fun.

Because the show ended around 9 o'clock and we had a holiday the next day and didn't have to get up and go to work, we met our friends at the Dublin Underground for a beer. it was really nice to see people, some of them I hadn't seen since RAGBRAI. We still made it home before 10:30.

On Monday I thought I'd try to do this FTP test thingy on the bike trainer. It's supposed to measure your power on the bike and it took an hour to do it, and I was pretty weak, so I'll probably have to do it again sometime when I feel stronger, but I was just glad I could ride my bike for an hour, even at a slower pace.

So, our four day staycation didn't quite go as planned, but I got a lot of reading and resting in and was able to get some exercising in here and there. I'm hoping we get to get going on our kitchen project and get that ceiling all done and prettied-up.

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.