Friday, April 26, 2019

There's a Lot of Honey in This World. Baby, This Honey's For Me.

I haven't written on here this week, but I have a good excuse. Our internet has been down at our house since Monday. In Iowa City there aren't a lot of internet provider options, so we've been using Mediacom and they SSSUUUPPPPERRR SSSSUUUCCCKKK. We're still working with them to get it fixed. They're supposed to come again on Saturday to see if they can finally fix it.

So, today I'll just write a quick post to show you the signs of spring around my house.

Here is a bouquet of the earliest Spring flowers at my house. The tulips are just starting to bloom and we probably still have a couple of weeks for the lilacs.

My neighbor across the alley brought me a jar of honey for "putting up" with his bees. I wish all of my neighbors had bees for me to "put up with".

One last photo of my brave (ahem) fat, orange, cat. He hid on the shelves of our spare bedroom closet while the internet guys were here last time. So much for having a guard cat.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend, and that your internet is working and your cats are brave.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Oh, Gonna Try With a Little Help From My Friends

I actually have some race reports today. Woo hoo! My first "race" of the year was the Red Shamrock Trail race two weekends ago. The reason I put the word race in quotes, is because I'm in no shape to actually race, but I love running in the woods and contributing to an awesome cause. So, it was a lot of fun.

I started out too fast, which means, I really died after the first mile or so. I got in with a good group of people who ran a similar pace and the woman leading, made sure we didn't get lost at one point where a lot of other people took a wrong turn.

I finished the race and was so tired, that I immediately plopped down on the ground. I suppose that's a sign that I was going hard enough for me at the time.

John did a great job and actually raced, instead of just running. He did so well, that he won his age group prize and was 10th overall. What a stud.

 This past Saturday, John ran the Hawkeye 25K. It's a mostly trail run, with about five miles on a paved road. His goal was to finish in in under two hours, but he was sick for a few weeks during a time that he should have been training hard, and he went out a little too fast to get that time. His biggest impediment was that at one point, he was looking back because he heard someone coming behind him and must have tripped over a root. He fell hard and broke an upper rib and had some skin scrapes and hurt his foot. There isn't much he can do about the broken rib, except try not to sneeze or cough and to listen to his body. If he tries to do something and it hurts too badly, he just has to stop. He says it's healing pretty quickly, so we'll see if he can race this next Saturday.

I was John's support person, so I was there to make sure that John had everything he needed, and I didn't get to take as many photos of him as I wanted. Luckily for us, our friend Burne was there to help his girlfriend and he got the above shot of John crossing the spillway. Thanks, Burne!

This past Sunday, Stinky and I ran the River Run 5K together. I think the first time I did this race was back in the 80's. I'm sure I had an incredible time back then, but who remembers?

This year, it was cold and windy. I wore my old track nylon warm-up jacket from 1980 or 1981. It's amazing how well it's held-up. The zipper is the only thing that doesn't work anymore.

Originally, I wasn't sure if we were going to run it. It was supposed to snow in the morning and Stinky's grandfather in-law was in bad health. So, all week I figured we probably wouldn't run. Since I was having huge migraine and dizziness issues all last week, I was A-okay with that. I asked Stinky on Saturday if we were running or not. She said we were a go.

So, I woke up early, and braced myself. I was worried I might not be able to run very far without stopping, but I got lucky. We started out slowly and into the cold wind. After about a mile, we were both feeling a little stronger and heating up.

Stinky's goal was to to finish in 36 minutes. We were close. We finished in 36.07. Seven seconds off. Not bad at all.

John was so great and supportive. He held all of our crap while we ran, took photos, cheered us on and had water ready for us when we finished. Stinky's husband worked until 3 in the morning, so he couldn't be there for the race. Instead, he gave her money to take us out for breakfast at Micky's afterward. We're pretty damn lucky with these supportive partners in our lives.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Duck Out For Some Hot Weather. Birds of Prey and I'm Shaking Off My Feather

My oldest daughter has a bit of a bird phobia. I guess it's called Ornithophobia. In the above photo, we are at the Washington DC zoo a couple of years ago. We went into this indoor part where there were some gorgeous pink birds allowed to roam freely. Coadster was horrified. You can see her in the above photo leaning against the pole, warily watching the bird that I wanted to get as close to as possible.

I think if that bird flew off anywhere near her, she would have run for the door.

Flash forward to this March. Coadster went to Colorado to visit a few friends. One of them lived right outside of Estes Park. They went hiking and heard there was a bird that would land on people. Her friend was so excited to see if she could get one to land on her. Coadster was trying to be a good sport and joined her by putting her arm out too, hoping the bird would know she didn't want it anywhere near her, and stay away.

It turns out that the bird came right up to her. Look at the face she's making. I'm sure she's just starting to hyperventilate right then.

Meanwhile, her friend is so sad and disappointed that the bird didn't choose her.

I'm assuming birds are like cats, in that they always know when people don't like them and they go right up to them, just to mess with them.

This will probably be the only time we get to see Coadster touching a bird. I have a feeling she's still worried about coming down with bird flu a month later.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Death or Glory Becomes just Another Story.

Hey! It's April already. It seems like it's been such a long road since January, but we are just starting to delve into the depths of Spring. With all of that delving, comes my traveling through books post, March edition. Last month I read ten books. I took a lot of interesting trips.

1.  The first trip I took was kind of icky. It was written by Alissa Nutting and was called, "Tampa". Not surprisingly, it took place in Tampa. It was about a junior high teacher who had affairs with her students. it was loosely based on an actual case that took place a few years ago. While it was warm to travel to Florida at the beginning of March, I came back from that book with a bad feeling in my gut. Which, I'm sure was the point.

2. I went for a WAY different trip. I went to Afghanistan from the 70's, through the beginning of this century with Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns". It was a heartbreaking work in so many ways, but it ended on a hopeful note.

3. Alexis Smith's "Marrow Island" was great escapism. It took place in a fictional Seattle area after a huge earthquake took place, ruining the island the main character lived on because its oil refinery that was compromised in the quake. It goes back and forth in time to the current time period where the main character's best childhood friend from the island contacts her, telling her that there is an environmental kind of cult of people living on the island and trying to clean it up with the help of fungus. There is all kinds of intrigue and studying the effects of pollution and climate change on our planet and I was really engrossed in this book. In other words, it was a good trip, man.

4.) The fourth book adventure I went on in March was "All That Man Is" by David Szalay. Although it took me to cool places in Europe, I wasn't all that impressed with what it showed me. Apparently, all that man is are just rich, white guys in Europe who are mostly selfish, self-absorbed, assh*les. It made me feel lucky that the men I surround myself with are much different than all that other men are, according to this book.

5.) "La Rose" by Louise Erdrich was my fifth vacation. As you've probably noticed, I love Louise Erdrich and read everything I can by her. This was an amazing book and won some literary awards. It took me to North Dakota on and around an Indian Reservation at the turn of this century. Another great thing about it, was that her pop culture references were all on point. You know how much it bothers me and takes me out of novels and movies when they aren't.

6.) "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin was recommended to me years ago by Stinky, who read it for school. It took me back to Afghanistan after Greg Mortenson failed to climb Mount Everest and got lost on his way down and wandered into an Afghani village where he had an epiphany to work to build schools, especially to educate girls. It's supposed to be non-fiction, and the premise is really great, but after the book was published and wildly successful, another book came out by a man who donated to the cause, where we found out that Greg Mortenson lied about a lot of what went on and that he took money that was supposed to be used to build schools and used it for himself and to promote his book. Mortenson claims that some of the fallacies were because the book was too long and they were trying to shorten it, so they had to play with sequence. But that doesn't explain why he out and out lied about seeing Mother Theresa when she died and a bunch of other things. I did some digging on all of this, because I'm a nerd and I wanted to understand. Mortenson claims he was innocent,but if he really was, why didn't he sue for slander and why did he get taken to court and lose? So, basically, what I came away from all of this is, Mortenson had a great idea and plan, he tended to be a megalomaniac and got caught up with the idea that he was some kind of untouchable savior and screwed up a lot of the great things he created. Yes, he did a lot of great work initially,but why do people always have to be so damn disappointing?

7.) My seventh book trip took me to Los Angeles, a road trip across the country, and eventually to China in 2008. "The Wangs vs. the World" by Jade Chang, was a pretty fun ride. It did annoy me initially. The people were all so awful, spoiled, shallow and unlikeable, but they grew and became better by the end.

8.) "The Spectator Bird" by Wallace Stegner was a quiet, contemplative novel written and taking place in 1976. It got me to Palo Alto, California and moved me to Denmark in the mid-fifties. It was about an aging literary agent who sees himself as a spectator in his own life. His wife asks him to read aloud from his journal from the trip they took to Denmark after their only son died in a surfing accident. I loved this novel, and savored the journey.

By the time I got to the last two books I read in March, it was warm enough that I could actually read/eat my lunch outside a couple of times. Yea!

9.) I forgot to bring my book to work one day, and since I didn't know what to do without one, I went to Prairie Lights to buy another. It turned out to be "Goodbye, Vitamin" by Rachel Khong. It was a shorter novel, and I know some people didn't like the way it read, but I was very entertained by it. It took place in a suburb of Los Angeles. The main character, Ruth has just been left by her fiance for another woman, and Ruth's mother asks her to move back home and help take care of her father, who has dementia. Ruth's dad was an alcoholic who cheated on her mother several times. Although this description doesn't sound like it, it was actually a sweet story of a woman trying to figure out adulthood, while dealing with her dad's dementia.

10.) The last book trip I went on in March was "An American Marriage" by Tayari Jones. It took me to Atlanta, NYC and Louisiana. I really liked the book at first, but after the incident occurred, I had issues with what my old fiction writing teacher in San Francisco used to call things "falling through the hole in the plot". They never once mentioned DNA evidence. The guy could have gotten off if they'd compared DNA. The rape happened the same night the the husband was accused of rape. Why didn't they even talk about the fact that they could or couldn't use DNA evidence? Also, at least every place I've heard of, most people don't do their whole sentences because prisons are so full. They didn't talk about his ability to get out early because of that either. They were just two things that took me out of the story. Also, the last part was hard to believe. The woman kept talking about love, but then flip flopping all the time. I get the guilt she felt, but you'd think she'd have felt that guilt while he was in prison and gone to visit him. Anywaaaaayyyy, this book clearly had me interested enough to look at lots of angles, and I do like things that make me think.

This turned into a very long post. Sorry about that. Here's hoping that the books you read this month engage you enough to look for the holes in the plot, piss you off, make you laugh, cry, and research the back stories.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

I Ran Around and Talked to the Animals. Tellin' 'Em Stories of Savage Cannibals.

Well, it's Tuesday again, but it's Spring so everything seems that much better in general. Also, I might just be okay with being at work to get a rest after this weekend.

I went into the weekend with a little cold. So far it hasn't gotten too bad, just bad enough that I'll think I'm okay, but then doing even little things tucker me out.

On Saturday I wasn't strong enough to work-out, so I tried to get stuff done instead. I ran several errands, including going to Earl May for garden stuff. I did make one impulse purchase of a couple of bicycle windmills. I really love them, so I hope no one steals them out of my garden.

Getting all of that practical stuff done on Saturday meant that I could play on Sunday. I wasn't sure I'd be strong enough for our intended adventure, but I did okay.

Our intended adventure consisted of riding our bikes on gravel to our friends farm outside of Riverside Iowa for their Spring open house.

It was pretty chilly to start out on our ride, but we warmed up on those big gravel road hills. For most of the ride, the gravel was fine - not too thick and not too muddy. That was until we hit the B Road. It was straight mud. Since we couldn't pedal in it, we headed over to the corn field and walked our bikes. We could see our friends' farm over the hill, so we didn't have to walk our bikes all that far.

Check out the fork of my bike, just above the wheel. It was covered in a nice little adobe mix of mud, leaves and dried corn stalks.

Our friend's sister owns the farm, but our friend is an artist and her sister lets her house her horses there and art up the place.

I tried to help this armless mannequin see how it would feel if it did have arms and hands.

The best thing about this farm, is that they had three new baby goats that we got to feed with a bottle and hold and hug.

Wait. The best, best thing about this farm is that they try to take as many rescue animals as they can. Last Spring there was an animal hoarder in Solon that had a ton of chickens and geese and other birds, and they were able to take some of those and give them a better home. This Saturday there were a bunch of potbellied pigs they brought to Iowa from Texas, so the farm was able to house two of them. They named them Ava and Arnold Ziffel. Ava is even housebroken. How cool is that?

Those pigs are so damn sweet. I got to pet them and feed them Cheetos.

We took an album cover photo next to the barn. I'm the only one there who didn't know how to look cool. Sigh.

Before we left, one of the peacocks decided to show his stuff and fly above us. I had never seen a peacock fly before. I told my friend Seaghan that I felt like I was living in a Flannery O'Connor story with so many of them hanging out around us.

We were originally just going to hang out at the farm for a half hour or so, but there was so much to do and so many adorable animals to play with, that we didn't leave until closer to three o'clock. I said one last good-bye to Mary's good dog, Suki and we made our way home.

Since we were at the farm later than we thought we'd be, everyone else had to go home to get stuff done. Luckily for John and myself, we did all of our chores on Saturday, so we were able to head to Big Grove for an early dinner and a beer before we went home.

If you would ask me what I might consider a perfect day, I would tell you it would include bike riding with friends, playing with adorable animals, not having to cook dinner and hanging out with my best friend, John. So, basically, it would have been last Sunday.