Monday, December 29, 2014

The latkes broke my food processor and I simply cannot eat anymore Christmas ham

Mix thoroughly until blended
I'm part of a mixed up blended family. My parents were divorced, I'm my husband's second wife (which means his oldest kids have divorced parents and I'm a stepmom) and of course, my husband and I both grew up with different religious holiday traditions.

In a super simplified nutshell our winter holidays are wonderful but complicated a little stressful and of course filled with much to much food.
Do not ever let your kids set up the family photo. Seriously. We squeezed this in at my mother-in-law's house after a holiday party the night before. We were all together for my husband's birthday and of course another day of Chanukah. More latke's!

Add in ex-wives, step-kids, different traditions and you almost need a guide book to make sense of it all.  I personally think we do a pretty good job of making it work. I know everyone's holidays are a mix of crazy and hectic and I thought a look at our last few days might be mildly entertaining.
 
One giant multicultural party!

Before we got married my husband and I talked about our two religions and while our opinions have definitely shifted after we had children together the nexus point of agreement that we would teach them about both sets of traditions has stuck. So we participate in both Chanukah and Christmas.

When people find out we have a blended family sometimes they have questions. After the questions come their opinions. Most folks who have strong enough opinions to choose to share them (which is usually balanced by them having a shortage of self-control to keep their mouths shut) think we should choose one religion as a family and therefore we're doing it wrong. I've mostly learned to keep my mouth shut. Mostly.
8 days of frying
During Chanukah we eat a lot of fried food because it's all about the oil. For almost every night during the eight nights I  fry up some kind of latkes. Our favorite is the straight potato latkes but I also tried zuchini latkes to mixed reviews and apple to unanimous rejection.

standard potato latkes or as others might call them - hashbrowns.
My husband and his family love my latkes and while it's a huge amount of work I do it every year.  This year we shredded so many potatoes the lid to my food processor jiggled apart and I had to hold it down for the last few potatoes.
zucchini latkes. Meh.
I will say Chanukah is fun but I'm tired of frying after 8 nights. There was one year where Chanukah overlapped Christmas ... that nearly stressed me to the breaking point and now we have a no latke on Christmas eve policy ... things you never thought you'd need.
Apple latkes. Gross. Which is weird because all the ingredients are delicious. I may need a different recipe.
Despite the fact that we give give give I do try to tell my kids that neither holiday is about presents. I am definitely losing this battle. But I'm giving it the good fight.

Winter birthday trauma
Adding to the chaos of our season. My husband has a late December birthday. It almost always falls during Chanukah. and He suffers from what I call December Birthday Child Trauma Syndrome (DBCTS). This is when a person feels slighted by having to share their December Birthday with another winter holiday. Symptoms include whining and buying yourself all kinds of stuff so that your family can't figure out what to buy you as a present. Treatments include all of the following: make sure he gets birthday gifts. Never ever ask, "do you want a birthday gift or a Chanukah gift" Never  try to combine birthday or Chanukah gifts when dealing with a sufferer of this syndrome. Also the gifts must be wrapped in birthday paper not holiday paper.

The tree
My Jewish husband loves our Christmas tree. He makes sure that the first free day after Thanksgiving we're all at the tree lot picking out a big Christmas tree. And he does the heavy lifting to get it inside and string up all the lights. He also puts the ornaments up high. His mom, my Jewish mother-in-law has admitted she loves the tree. Probably 1/4  maybe more of our ornaments are from my mother-in-law.
We definitely do not have a designer tree. Every ornament is made or accumulated over the years. Also, random things have just been designated ornaments which I'm pretty sure they weren't to begin with. It's all good.

Having a supportive mother-in-law is important, very important for making a blended family work.

There are many funny stories about me, my husband and our Christmas tree. We've had at least two trees topple over. Once we bought a tree that was much too big and too heavy to carry. Once we bought a tree that was too tall and we had to cut it off at the top. But I am always thankful that my husband supports my Christmas tree tradition.

This year we had a hilarious half hour of reminiscing all the tree mishaps led by my step-daughter who brought her boyfriend/fiance into the mix. They've been dating about 20 minutes so it was natural to get engaged and include him in all of the holiday events. If that relationship works out well in 10 years this could be one of his funny stories to tell.

Santa Claus
I grew up with Santa. I love the tradition of Santa and the magic behind it. But my husband was apprehensive. He had heard about kids being traumatized when they realized Santa wasn't real. So before he agreed to be Santa I had to convince him that our kids wouldn't be traumatized. In fact I have my doubts about the intelligence of any child who doesn't figure this out by the age of 10 or well before. I don't think our kids have been traumatized - at least not about this. Just like the tooth fairy and other parental magic there comes a time when you realize he has to be your parents. It's okay - it's still fun. We have one kid who knows and one who suspects/knows but I tell them you have to believe to receive so we're all still playing along.
I am so thrilled that this house is not on my street. Love the lights but that has got to be super annoying.

My husband is not good at all with the secrecy of Santa Claus. At all! He slips up all the time in front of the kids - if I didn't laugh this would make me batty.  He'll say in front of the kids, "what did you put in the stockings?" And I'll reply, "honey Santa fills the stockings." When they were tiny it went over the kids heads. Now, I know they'll understand it and that's okay.  In the end though the elves are both our undoing. We simply cannot remember to move those little turkeys every night.

The decorations
We have a giant box of holiday books. Some Hannukah books, some Christmas books and believe it or not some blended family books. We read them during the season and then put them away until next year.

We have santa elves, hannukah helpers and this year we got a mensch on a bench. I know, it's hilarious, right? We also have a dancing Santa and a singing rabbi to round out the lunacy.
pre icing. Not gingerbread but chocolate sugar cookies.

We'll make sugar cookies to honor all of our traditions. We have 3 bags of cookie cutters including, dreidles, menorahs, trees, angels, santas and the ironman m-dot too.

My kids really want outdoor decorations but  so far we only have wreaths. I have no idea how to hang outdoor lights and I think the inflatable decorations are annoying. My husband did search for a giant inflatable Mr. Hanky (the Christmas Poo) which I would have thoroughly supported but we didn't find one.
New this year our Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo ornament.

If I can get an electrician to get power to my trees in front I would love to wrap them in holiday lights. However, so far no go. Instead we take a tour of holiday lights around town on Christmas Eve. 

Thank goodness it's over
It's a lot of work. It's plenty of money. It's a huge pain. But we do it. We always say we we'll scale it down next year.  Someday we'll toss the traditions aside for a year to take a trip to visit family or just see some snow. But for now we do it. It's the Amy giftapalooza season. We have more holidays and more food and gifts than we know what to do with. But we love it anyway.

I hope that your holiday traditions whatever they may be were enjoyable. Next up - New Years planning, goal setting etc. 


Monday, December 22, 2014

The reason for my divorce

First - I am not actually getting divorced.

My sister-in-law will be the first one to read this so I don't want to cause undue stress. It's bad for family relations.

But, if I was getting divorced it would be because my husband cannot follow my rule that he is not ever allowed to cook eggs in our stainless steel pans.
If you have metal pans you must have this in your cleaning arsenal. It is not organic, or kind to your manicure, or probably safe but it does clean the pans.

Part two of this rule is that if he breaks part one of this rule he has to clean it himself.

Part three of this rule is never ever ever cook eggs and cheese in a stainless steel pan because seriously it takes longer than forever to clean it. In fact, even my cleaning lady doesn't clean egg and cheese off the pans. She does most of it but then puts it back not fully clean which makes me super-de-duper cranky.

Let me be clear - it is possible to cook eggs in a stainless steel pan. But it's not really easy. You have to use plenty of oil, a very low cooking temp and a metal spatula. Even with that it's a hassle to clean. That's why we have 2 non-stick pans. I only use them for eggs because I am a little freaked out about eating the non-stick surface that does eventually wear off of all non-stick pans. My husband is a less freaked out about eating the non-stick surface but he goes with it. But if the non-stick pan is not on the top of the pan pile he grabs the next one and we have a history of this which is why I created the rules. Also his idea of a low cooking temp is 8 on the 10 point scale so ... well, there's that.
cooked egg hermetically sealed to the stainless steel pan. Such a pain. Such a colossal pain.

So imagine my surprise unloading the dishwasher to find a pan totally caked with egg. Because the only thing harder to clean than egg with cheese cooked in a stainless steel pan is that pan after it's been soaked and rebaked by the dishwasher.

Grrrr.

But whatever we've been married a while. I put the barkeepers friend on the counter next to the pan and then told him he'd have to clean it. I also gave him instructions. Insert powder and a bit of water. Let soak and apply elbow grease. Lots of elbow grease. All of the photos are taken after his attempt to clean the pan.
Soaking said egg.

Then I went for my run and returned to find the results of his "attempt" which were not very successful.

Grrr. I will wait patiently and I will let him clean the pan himself and then  I may hide the stainless steal pans from him because that will be good for our marriage.

Training news
In other news. My run streak is actually on a 6 day run. So I'm pretty happy with that.

I have a tremendous amount of wrapping to do and perhaps only 2-3 more presents to get so that's very good.

Do you ever have cleaning disputes with your spouse? How do you resolve it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The first Friday Freakout

I have decided that Fridays are the day for ridiculous rants. Hopefully for your entertainment and not annoyance.

So here's the first Friday Freakout ( me ranting about first-world problems on a Friday.

Earlier this week my car decided that all of it's tires were suddenly low on air.

Warnings everywhere. Can't listen to the radio until I accept the sternly worded warning. 

All at once - all low. 

Of course, they aren't all low. Perhaps none of them are low. It's just annoying.

I think I would prefer if it didn't exist than having it work incorrectly.

If it was broken or didn't exist I would just have to track my own tire pressure. But no. As a lowly mortal, I need an automated sensor to detect if the pressure is low. Except the sensor doesn't actually do that. 

So annoying.

Rant over :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The annual home owner helper gift shakedown

Giving gifts can be a very rewarding experience. 

In fact now that my daughter is 11 we've had a big talk about giving. This year I talked to her about how she should think about who she'd like to give gifts to rather than just getting. First I got a little pout but then she ran around and made a few gifts that she was really proud of and she asked her dad to help her buy one. She's really enjoying the experience.


The home helper gifts
But there is one part of the holiday gift giving experience can rub me the wrong way. When every person who works around the house appears asking for a holiday "gift."
 
I admit I'm a bit of a scrooge on this one. I get an envelope from my mailman and my newspaper delivery person. This annoys me because I don't think you should ask for a gift for doing your job. I have in the past given these guys gifts of either cash or gift cards or baked goods but I'm not sure I will this year. I know even as I type this I will cave on this because I'm afraid the two folks in question will torture me in the year to come if I don't.

These in particular piss me off because they happen to do a crap job. My mail box is literally on the edge of the street. The guy doesn't even have to get out of his truck since he drives onto my lawn and even still he can't be bothered to actually pick up any mail inside the box, frequently we get mail to the wrong address and often we don't get our mail. Plus he ignores my don't give me any junk mail request. No holiday tip for you ... sorry. The paper delivery guy - oh where do I start? We get a paper Friday - Sunday. At least once a month the Sunday paper will be missing the magazine section. The magazine section is home to the crossword puzzle which is the entire reason we get the paper. Once a month. We'll call the service number. They'll tell us the replacement is on the way and ... it never comes. Sorry craptastic newspaper delivery guy - no holiday tip for you.

How about my handyman who isn't handy or helpful? He's a sad case and it's our own fault that he's still around. His wife is dying and he's old and her only caregiver. He can't do much at this point without breaking stuff so his to do list is very small and should be empty but we pay him every month. It's become a marital issue at this point. My husband insists we keep him I make him deal with him. In the past when he did a lot of stuff for us we happily gave him a nice holiday bonus. This year I think if he shows up looking for a bonus he'll probably be canned. Ah who am I kidding we'll give him a tip and he'll be hanging around forever not actually doing anything except breaking stuff for us.

The shakedown
The garbage guys. I do actually tip our garbage person. She's a lady she waves to my son when she sees him. She honks the horn and she deals with our trash which is something I'm very happy not to do. She's super talented - she has to back down our street to start. But I have been subjected to the garbage shakedown. Here's how it went. A few years ago my husband was home and he said, "I tipped  the garbage guys."

I asked, "what do you mean?"

He said, "The three guys who drive our truck were out there and they asked for their tip so I gave it to them."

I grinned and said, "we have one garbage person and she's a lady. Honey, you got hustled."

Other people I'm happy to tip with either cash, gift cards or baked goods include the pool guy, the water delivery guy (those bottles are heavy and he's always got a smile), the lawn guy, the house keeper, the teachers and the endless list of coaches. These folks interestingly never ask for tips. Hmmmm maybe that's the reason I love to give them gifts. 

What other people think
If you're looking for a more traditional guide to holiday tipping here's Emily Post's advice. She's got more holiday spirit than I do. Even consumer reports who I think of as a frugal bunch apparently thinks I should be more generous.

Monday, December 15, 2014

How does a triathlete streak?

I am envious of streakers.

Go ahead let your dirty mind wander if you want but I mean athletic streakers.

What is a streaker? Somebody who does something every day for a long time.

There is a woman I found on facebook who has just about finished a year of swimming one mile every day. She posts every day 350/350 and it's a symmetry that I truly envy.

In Miami - Miami Beach to be specific we have a local streaker who runs 8 miles every day - he's called the Raven. He's a little odd and I actually don't want to be like him but it's something to be respected that he's done this for so many years.  He's going to hit 40 years of run streaking in 15 days. He has run through hurricanes and major life events.

On Slowtwitch they start today the annual 100/100 run streaking contest. I tried it last year but didn't come close to 100/100. I'm trying it again this year.

So this frustrates me greatly because I do exercise 6/7 days a week but yet I can't get any of these crazy streak things going for more than a few days.

But the reality is with 3 sports it's hard to say okay run every day. Because on the days when you swim 90 minutes ... well you're tired. It's a lame excuse. I know it even as I write it. Sheesh.

Do I just need to toughen up and commit to the streak?

Do you guys streak?

Is streaking stupid?

Does it count as a triathlete streak if we do one of the 3 every day?

I do love rest days. I do. I do. I do. In the end I think this is why my streaks fail. Or perhaps why the idea of streaking isn't really for me.

But I'm trying again for the 100/100. I don't actually intend to run 100 days in a row and this challenge acknowledges that which is why I'm trying again. I think 80 would be great. I hope actually to follow that with a swim streak that will take me into the 5k swim in April.

To start here we go I'm 1/1. I ran 3 miles today. Which also means ... I'm off the injured list. Mostly. My ankle is just a touch swollen still but I ran without pain. A little discomfort at almost 3 miles so I've got it elevated now. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The 2015 race schedule

2015 is already full of ambitious plans. Let the craziness begin. (insert evil laugh here).

  • Miami Half Marathon January 25th
  • Ragnar - February 6-7th
  • Swim Miami 5k open water April
  • Ironman 70.3 Haines City April 19
  • Lake Placid Tri camp June 26-29
  • Ironman Lake Placid July 26th
  • Ironman 70.3 Augusta 9/29
  • Ironman Florida November 7th
As of today I am on the injured list so lets see what happens. I rolled my ankle last night and it's swollen and tender although it does take my weight. I'm hoping I'm good to go in a few days. Optimism is my strongest skill in racing. 
see the goose egg on the left where my tendons should be popping out? Yup. Ouch. But no bruising and I'm walking around so here's hoping it's super duper minor.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Athlete know thy motivation

We are approaching the end of the year which is when many people around the globe will sit down and figure out their goals for the upcoming year.

I love goals. I love setting goals and meeting goals. I've spent a significant amount of my leisure time studying why goals do and do not work.  One of the things I have learned is that it is really helpful to know what motivates you when you are choosing a goal.

I love endurance challenges. The longest race I've ever done is an Ironman. Many people think that's crazy. Perhaps they are right. Sometimes people will mistakenly assume that because I love a race that long that I'm up for anything - the bigger and the badder the better.

Those people are mistaken because there is a whole category of races that hold absolutely no appeal to  me at all.  Zero - Zip - Zilch - Nada.

The races that don't appeal to me are those that go by time.
This is why I am not registering for the 12 hour Sebring bike race no matter how many times Triathlonmami asks me to do it.

My friend TriathlonMami is going to do the 12-hour Sebring Ride. The challenge is to see how far you can go in that time. It's a huge challenge. If 12 hours isn't enough for you there is also a 24 hour challenge. 

This is actually not the first time I've been invited to register for Sebring. My friend Nicole is super hot to trot about doing the 24 hour race but thankfully not this year because it's hard to say no to her and yet I really don't want to do this event.

But why not? I wondered that too. I did some thinking and I realized there were a bunch of other events that I had been invited to that I had no interest in (postal hour swim, 12 and 24 hour running relays, treadmill races,) and they all had the same thing in common. They are by time and not going to a destination.

Years ago before I was married, before I had kids, way back in the day I made a friend through work who's email was 1000mileman@somethingorother. Or maybe it was 100 mileman I forget, 100mileman certainly seems more likely. But either way I asked him about it and he told me that he had  run a race and it was 24 hours you went around a 1-mile loop as many times as you could. He invited me to this race over and over and over. And I said no over and over and over. I just couldn't think of anything less fun than running the same 1-mile loop for an entire day and night. But I do understand that many people are very motivated by this challenge.

Ta-dah! I am motivated to get to the finish line ... not the finish time.

I think actually this may be one of the reasons I must go to a masters practice versus swimming on my own. When I swim on my own I get to the other side and I say to myself ... well that's that I got here, I must be finished.

It may also be why I am more likely to run outside in cold windy drizzle than do 5 miles in my garage on the treadmill. In fact, I don't do well running by time at all. In the beginning of Iron distance training a lot of the workouts are by time only and I cheat. If it says 50 minutes I might only run 3 miles stopping to talk to people along the way. I totally shortchange the workout. I have learned that I need to change that 50 minutes to be in my head 5 miles.

One exception I can think of is that interestingly I can actually workout on the bike trainer without too much complaining. I'm not sure why that is.

So, good luck TriathlonMami! 
I know that she's going to do a great job with this challenge. She will be pushed in ways she's never been before and she'll learn more about herself as she pursues this challenge. She will probably also use her challenge to bring more goodness to the world - that's just how amazing she is. I look forward to watching her train and meet the milestones along the way. But nope I'm not joining this one.

But keep me in mind for RAAM 


Monday, December 8, 2014

Verb: to chick. I chick, you chick, we chick, they chick, you've been chicked.

chicked the verb is a casual sporty saying whereby a guy is passed by a girl in a race.

It was a few years ago in a race where I first became of the chick'ed movement.

A very strong very powerful baddass female blew by me in a black swimsuit with the words "you've been chicked" written on her posterior.

I thought it was fun, entertaining and inspiring. I aspired to be like that girl as soon as possible. Fast and confident. Although years later I must admit completing an entire triathlon even a short one in only a swim suit baffles me. I would think the elastic would dig into my tush from the bike seat.
It takes talent to get an early morning picture of the back of your own shirt. Right? It does take talent doesn't it?
And there is a company out there that makes this gear.  Totally appropriately you can find them at www.chicked.com .

Recently they were looking for bloggers to help them spread the word. I am happy to help.

They sent me a cute shirt which I wore for my run on Saturday morning. I ran 8 miles. The shirt performed very well. It was a humongeously humid morning and I was drenched in sweat instantly. The shirt worked flawlessly and several of my girl and guy running buddies enjoyed the slogan very much.

I have since washed the shirt and it held up well. So it's well made - the fit it is true and it handles well during exercise. It's a good product.  I will wear it again soon. I think it would be a lot of fun to have bike or tri apparel from Chicked.com.

I love the little muscles.
Full disclosure they sent me this shirt for free in the hope I would write about it. They have another product called the Minne-skirt. They are from Minneapolis so I love that they spelled it like the city. It's a good thing they didn't send me that to review because I'm in the tropics and I have no use for a cool weather skirt. But for the rest of the planet that is going through winter you should go check it out. Check out the whole website in fact.

FREE STUFF
And they sent me a phone cover which I don't need (because I keep my phone ensconced in a lifeproof case because I'm around kids and water all day long and I'm spaz). So, I'd love to give it away.

FYI - It seems to me that this will go on an iPhone 5 (not 6) So if you'd like this cute little phone case - dohickey do me a favor and do one or some of the following things.  Head over to their Facebook page and give them a like - they would really appreciate it. If you happen to be a tweep (a person on twitter) go ahead and follow them on twitter @yougotchicked . They would appreciate that also.

If you'd like this phone case go ahead and tweet something like I'd love to get this cute case and include both me @bcamysaysso and then @yougotchicked.

This is my first giveaway so I'm unsure of what the response could be. Hopefully more than none. I'll end this little festivity on Wednesday the 10th of December 2014 in the morning and if there's more than one tweet I'll randomly choose one winner and send out this phone case - dohickey to that selected winner. I'll reach out to the winner on twitter and I'll update the post here in the comments with the fact that a winner was selected.

One catch - I'm only shipping this dohickey in the continental US. That's it. Like I said it's my first giveaway so that's the only catch I can think of.

Friday, December 5, 2014

To health and happiness. Slainte or Salut.

I am 41 glorious years old. I'm healthy and happy about it. I hope to be here for decades to come.
Yes I grabbed this from marathon photo.com. It's me in all of my 41 year old running glory. Yes I am slouching. I'm also totally not sure what's happening with my leg there. Is that a shadow? Geez let's hope so because otherwise it's leg flab which is distressing.
This year I had my first mammogram. And the purpose of this post is to assure my girl friends and readers who come after me that the mammogram is no big deal. It doesn't hurt at all and it takes about 5 minutes. Seriously, I wouldn't even call it uncomfortable. 

So, please don't be afraid of the test.

Now as it turns out my first mammogram was a non-event mostly because it didn't really show anything. I'm dense. No really - apparently my breasts are dense. Apparently it's not uncommon for a traditional mammogram to be ... What is the word I'm looking for ... Worthless. Like I said - turns out my breast tissue is dense and so you can't see much in the images. So, I was called back to the center to get a different test.  The second time it's a sonogram.

The sonogram was also no big deal. Well other than it tickled in my armpit.

So why do I even mention this potential failure of this magical important test? Because in my opinion, it's important to not put too much faith in modern medicine, the people we call doctors who direct us in our medicine and the seemingly endless tests that we are supposed to get every year as we get older. Yes, they can be great and save lives but also they can be imperfect and even I guess flawed. For me acknowledging the failings of modern medicine is as important as acknowledging the great miracles it brings.

Age comes with wisdom but youth is the price
We have all heard the stories. We all know women who have had breast cancer to different ends. I know somebody who know after years of active testing just found that her body was suddenly riddled with cancer. Even I without my medical degree shake my head and say ... What? How? Why? Another person I know just found out they have terminal lung cancer throughout their body - this despite regular checkups was not discovered until it was throughout the body. Again it makes me wonder - what are the tests we take doing if they aren't catching this.

I first wondered this when my dad was diagnosed with heart disease. He wasn't in perfect health but sort of all of a sudden he had almost total heart blockages everywhere. First, I was of the opinion my dad wasn't being truthful that he had actually been going to the doctor but in fact before his surgery he produced reports from the exam from a doctor who had looked and checked. He had gone from clear bill of cardiac health to heart attack in about 8 months. That was stunning because before then I had thought of this decay as a slow and gradual process. Part of it probably is slow and gradual but it can also be super speedy. Sadly, a clear checkup is really only evidence of what can be shown to the doctor today. Tomorrow might be a different result.

This was a beautiful sunrise over the beach. That's the balcony of our hotel room at the Doubletree Cocoa Beach. I love watching the sun rise over the ocean. I'm pretty sure I would like to see this every morning. This is something my husband I and I have been talking about. Or rather I have been speaking at him about it.
Death, dying and the big C (for Cancer) are very hard to face. I try to think I'm very zen about the circle of life/death but in truth there hasn't been much to test me specifically on this. So I really don't know how my zen will pan out.

So it's a balance. Yes, get tested. Yes, know your body. Yes, do self exams-eat correctly, exercise. Yes, don't fear the test and yes, don't expect too much from the test, the test giver and the mighty m.d. behind it all.

Live your life today for today and as if there is perhaps no tomorrow.

FYI - the doctor already looked at my sonogram. For today my boobies are a-okay!

Up on my soapbox  
Here is a link to a story of a woman I know. Our children went to preschool at the same school at the same time but never in the same classroom. I know her but not well enough to call her friend. She was already battling her cancer then. It's a tough story to hear. She's a tough lady. Sadly she may be near the end of her fight. This story is very sad but it's important. Watch this. Take a moment to be thankful that you yourself aren't sick and don't feel guilty about that - it's okay to be thankful for our health. Then think about her story again. If you feel moved share it with people you know because that's how change or progress might happen. This could happen to any one of us. This kind of insurance battle happens every day to people. It's ridiculous. Of course, insurance companies can't dole out $10k in medicine to everybody that's ridiculous. It's ridiculous in part because it's totally flipping insane that any medicine should/could/would ever be $10k. Totally insane. I don't have a solution. Just add me to the people who are saying something here is messed up.

Woman Locked In Fight With Insurance Co. Over Cancer Treatment « CBS Miami

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Things you should buy - Amy's Gift List 2014

There are basically 2 ways to come up with a gift list. One is things you (the blogger) want. The other is things you (the blogger ... in this case me) have bought and loved.

I'm going with option 2. These are things I've bought in the last year that have worked out really well for me so you should probably try them too ... because I say so :-)

Swiftwick Socks.

Seriously these are the best. I have recommended them to all my friends and now we pretty much all have them. The have a little bit of compression which makes them even better than normal socks. I'm not sure why they are so great but they are just fabulous. I did wear through one in the toe area at first but being a good company they replaced them. And it hasn't happened again.

I bought my first pair at my local running store but they only carry the shorter ones. Plus they don't yet carry them at my local bike store. Yet. So I've ordered some online. They are expensive so look for a sale. 

Coeur Tri Shorts
I'm in the red top. That's my kit. And next to me is my friend Nicole who I converted to Couer shorts also.
These shorts are my new favorites and I just love them. There are pics of me in these shorts all over the blog. I now have two pairs. I wear them instead of bike shorts. I wore them all the way through Ironman Chattanooga and had zero issues. zero. Can't say enough good things about them. Their kits are also super cute. I'm a big fan.

Aquasphere goggles Kayenne K180.

These are a lower profile smaller goggle than the original Kayenne but they fit my face better and they work well in both the pool and open water. They are a little too expensive in my opinion but I buy them new before long races and then just wear them out. I get mine from sports authority but you can find these anywhere.

Swim Suit from Splish.com
To motivate myself to swim more I bought a funny swim suit from this place. It says all over "I will swim every day" It was worth it. The swim suit has lasted longer than any of my other speedos or uglies. I tend to be cheap with swim suits and go with things like dolfin uglies on sale but if you're looking for a fun splurge these are fun to have in your swimming drawer or bag or wherever you keep  your swim suits.

Vixen sports bra from Moving Comfort

This is my go to sports bra for triathlons and long run races. I'm not a chesty woman by any means but I cannot get by with a built in sports bra within a tri kit. Nope. not gonna happen.

So the vixen doesn't adjust - not on the shoulders or in back. It is what it is.  It has mesh on the sides and back so it dries super fast which is perfect for the swim. It is impossible to get off by yourself without looking like a crazy person wiggling out of a tight elastic chest strap. But it doesn't chaffe and I don't think about it at all during a race. I wore it in Ironman France and bought a new one before Ironman Chattanooga and I learned that my running store no longer carries them ... gasp! So I ordered it online.

So that's it. These are four things I actually use. No big secrets here. Although I'm pretty sure I've never blogged about my socks before. Socks are not usually too exciting. But there you have it. Happy shopping.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It will take all you've got - Space Coast Marathon race report

My favorite sign from the Soace Coast Marathon yesterday said -- You've got what it takes; but it will take all you've got.

File this under What?
Somehow by the skin of my teeth I set a teenie tiny personal record for the marathon yesterday. I clocked 4:27:46 which beats my Rome time by just over a minute.
 
I was undertrained for this race. My plan of hitting the miles after Ironman Chattanooga -- failed. I was following a Pete Pfitzinger plan of 8 weeks between marathons but I only did about 80% of the runs and seriously none of the speedwork. I mentally wasn't too focused on the goal. I expected about a 5 hour finish.

I did everything wrong. I spent the day before walking around the space center with my kids. I have a cold and a mystery hip pain all day the day before. I was up too late. I am 10 pounds over peak marathon weight. I wasn't nervous at all. Even my husband commented that he'd never seen me so relaxed before a race.

But at the start I went ahead and lined up with the 4:30 pacer. I figured I would lose him around mile 10 and then just see what happened. He started off a little ahead of pace but not too much and when he backed off to be on his assigned pace I pulled ahead a little bit. I kept trying to slow down but I was just in that rhythm. I even stopped 3 times to go to the bathroom - during the whole race not the first few miles :-)
The space theme is fun. All the volunteers wear suits and they do a countdown at the start. It's fun and the medal is huge.

At mile 14 I did the math and realized that I was ahead of pace. I actually was hoping to negative split. Which is something I've never actually done in a marathon before. I felt great until mile 22. At mile 20 I thought ... hmmm I've never felt this good at mile 20 before ... that's wierd. Then at mile 21 my legs were really tired and at mile 22 I was ready to stop. Pain everywhere. So there I pulled out my mantra which for this race turned out to be from that sign ... it will take all you've got and I just kept going. But I did slow down. I couldn't help it  -  that was maximum speed.

To make matters worse this is the first race I've ever taken my ipod with me. I did it because I knew it was small, I was running by myself and I thought it might help. It did. I didn't start with the music until after about 10 miles. But then it was great until I realized that I was looping through just one artist. I could not for the life of me get it to play anything else. It's a little ipod shuffle without a screen just a dial. And of course I wasn't going to stop and fiddle with it. Grrr. 

The race facts
This is a runners race. There are under 7000 people in the whole thing and they split the half and the full so you aren't running together until the end.

Packet pickup was at a local running store so I didn't even go to the expo. I was in and out in a minute (not exagerating).

They run shuttles from the host hotels to get you to and from the race. I literally walked out of my hotel and into the bus. Perfectly executed by the race director. 

This is the fastest course I've ever run
The hardest marathon course I've run is either Chattanooga or New York. This was the opposite.  It is completely flat and there are a total of two turns in the whole thing. The entire course is by the waterfront ... it's the banana river I think. It's very pretty and lots of shade.

There is water / gatorade and gu (after the half mark) every mile. There were plenty of porta potties with no line and shocker all of them had toilet paper.

The only slightly negative thing is that there is never a big crowd to cheer. I could have really used a big crowd at mile 23 but I made it on my own. I don't even want to say that this was a bad thing seriously it's a great race.
video

It's a very simple finish line. But plenty cool. You can't see the line until you're practically on top of it. Apparently my kids almost missed me finish because they were playing on a playground which is fine. The start and finish is in a park and it's very family friendly.

I did this race because I've heard for years that it's a great event. I can't agree more. I do wish I'd trained more but if I ever want to go for a marathon pr again - this might be the course.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Space Coast Marathon Goals

Sunday I'm running the Space Coast Marathon.

It will be an experiment of sorts. When I signed up I thought I'd take my fitness from Ironman Chattanooga and spend a few weeks working on speed work and go try for a new marathon personal best. 

Buuuut, it hasn't quite worked out that way. I simply just didn't have the mental drive to stick with the training. So I've done about 85 percent of the training, exactly none of the speed work, and almost none of the cross training. 

I have also really enjoyed eating and drinking whatever I wanted including plenty of wine, beer and Halloween candy. I have a little layer of puff around my middle.

So, I have adjusted my goals. I'm going to do something I've never done before which is that I'm going to go out and run this marathon just to have fun the whole way. I'm not going to worry at all about my pace. I'm going to guess that it will be about 5 hours but we'll see. 

Also, as part of the Thanksgiving festivities I came into contact with a germ. And apparently my normal germ
avoidance talents failed and it penetrated my iron-exterior and I am sniffling today. I have been uber-hydrating and popping vitamin C so we'll see.0

I've always wanted to do this race. It's known as being a great event. So far it's been great. The check in took about 90 seconds in a local running store - the Running Zone.

Wish me luck!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Chasing the finish line euphoria - my thoughts on Ironman goals

In my experience there is nothing quite like the euphoria experienced when one crosses the Ironman Finish line.

Background informal Case Studies
In the best of cases Ironman races take your intended goals and chew them up and spit them up as tears during the marathon. This year however mother nature joined the show and just made chaos out of Ironman goals across the nation.
Lake Placid Ironman - lightening in the swim.
Lake Tahoe Ironman - cancelled. The whole kit and caboodle.
Florida Ironman - swim cancelled and it became the IronBrick. Goals crushed.
Arizona Ironman - super windy beating the tar out of pro and age grouper dreams on race day.

These things got me thinking about Ironman goals. I'm a big goal person.

Who am I to say?
I'm certainly not an Ironman expert. I've done only two and I didn't win either of them. I dunno but I'm giving myself license to expound on my thoughts on Ironman goals.

Be realistic. It has to fit into your life.
There's a lot of bravado and type-a personality stuff that goes around with Ironman training. Slogans like HTFU, Sufferfest, pain cave, PR or ER. It's part of the package.
This is just here because I think it's funny.

When I was not even signed up for my first Ironman a fellow training buddy Tony was training for his first Ironman. He mentioned that he was looking forward to having a good single-malt scotch after the race. He had abstained from scotch for the duration of his six month training and was missing it. Tony is young and single. He had sworn off happy hours for the duration of his training and he was feeling lonely and anti-social. My other training buddy Randy snorted and said something like, "That's ridiculous! It [Ironman] has to fit into your life."

Two things. First, I agree with both things these guys said. I'll explain in a minute. Second, I think the key to being happy with your iron-distance performance is partly in what Randy said.


The more we sacrifice for something the more important it feels and the more pressure there is that it just be perfect. It takes 6 months of daily physical training to prepare for an Ironman. About 6 weeks of that is very time intensive and requires sacrifices by everybody in a family just because of the time involvement needed. Those are the facts, according to me.

I do abstain from lots of things including alcohol, carbonated drinks and deserts for a short period (about 4-6 weeks) before an Ironman or marathon. I want my body to be in as good of shape as I can to take on the challenge. But I don't feel deprived while I do this. If I did ... I wouldn't do it.

In fact, for the first time for this marathon coming up after Thanksgiving I am not modifying my diet before the race. It will affect my performance but I'm enjoying my life.  So, I agree with Tony's decision to drop this from his diet. But I also agree with Randy. Because it is ridiculous to give up something you enjoy, something that is a part of your life in pursuit of this hobby if it makes you unhappy. I'm not going to win this race so why should I make myself miserable training for it?

I think that in order to be able to enjoy your race you need to not resent the time investment it takes to get to race day.  It is always a good idea to remember that this is just a race and it is just a hobby we do for fun.

So let's talk about goals. 
Anybody who has ever taken a leadership or management seminar has probably been taught about setting "smart" goals. It's a pretty common technique and I think it's fairly effective. One of the things that makes a smart goal smart is that it's realistic. It's worth saying again - Realistic.

This is something to be very careful of when making your Ironman goals. So much of the day is completely out of your control that it's important to take this into account when making your goal. I think it's also a good thing to keep in mind with your training goals. It has to be realistic. It has to fit into your life.

Why do diets fail over and over? Because people try to make dramatic changes all at once. Anybody can make a drastic change for a short period but if it doesn't fit into your life it won't stick forever. The same is true of endurance training for these races. You probably can make huge financial and lifestyle changes for six months while you train for an Ironman but if it doesn't fit in your life, you might be miserable and it might not feel worth it.

Even more common is that you will be mentally exhausted by sacrificing so much during your training that you don't have the mental capacity to dig very deep during the race.

Beware racing in training
I've been running and racing a long time. I'm old. Okay not old but older. One thing I've observed is that if you can't tell the difference between racing and training you won't race well. It takes an effort both mentally and physically to perform on race day. Leave that effort to race day if you want to have the best performance on that day.

There is another danger hidden in racing during Ironman training and that is that you may err and set your time goals based on peak training performances. That is super risky because the only time most people put all three of the disciplines together at that distance is on race day. So don't stress how fast you ran your 18 miler or your best time on your 100 miler because it may not relate in the end. 

Beware the time goal
One hour in an Ironman race is both a huge amount of time and also practically no time at all. So much of an Ironman is completely out of our control. Specifically, the weather and flat tires. We can only race the race given to us on the day of the race. So if I give myself a goal of a 1:15 swim but I wake up to 15 mph winds I'm not going to make that goal. I'm just not. If I set my goal for a sub six hour bike but I get two flat tires - it's not going to happen. It's not a realistic goal given the scenario. So, in that case if I'm not prepared to adjust my goals on the fly I will most likely experience a sensation of failure.

This dog is awesome but perhaps not a goal setter. He's not worried about anything but enjoying this ride. A lot can be learned from this dog about being happy.
Many people are afraid of adjusting their goals because they feel that it might open up the mental door to allowing less of an effort during the race. That's a definite thing to be wary of. A lot of Ironman is mental and sticking to your goals in the middle of the long bike and long run is tough. There is a difference between adjusting your goal for a flat tire and giving up because you're tired during the end of the bike/run. I mentally practice how I will get through the mental fatigue in the bike and run. I have a mantra I want to use if I find my self veering off my desired effort. In Chattanooga on the run it was to ask myself do I have anything left? The answer was always yes and I would pick up my feet and run. 

But there is another option in those two scenarios which is to be proud of the accomplishment. To finish a 2.4 mile swim in rough conditions is impressive. To finish a 112 mile bike including two flat tires is impressive.

This is not to say that we shouldn't have time goals. I have conditional time goals for all of my events but I try to have the awareness that conditions have to be correct for me to meet them. Conditions of my body, conditions of my training, conditions on race day. And for me the ultimate goal is always to give each race my best effort that I can that day.

Beware the one and done pressure.
You may only want to do one Ironman. That is a perfectly acceptable goal. Ironman races sell out sometimes as much as a year in advance. Ironman races are also very expensive. So there is a lot of pressure on that one single day. It's a good idea to think about that before the event. 30% of people who register for an Ironman don't start the race. Their training fails, they are injured or they just get sick. Due to no fault of your own you could have the flu on race day.

File this under the 7 ps slogan. Prior proper preparation prevents piss poor performance. Be ready to accept it and make a plan. It would stink but what will you do?

One way to avoid this pressure is to be registered for more than one race in a year. But for Ironman sometimes that's not feasible.Another way to avoid this is to celebrate your accomplishments as they come and understand that the race is just a race and nothing more and nothing less.
Yes, propaganda but I love it.

So how do you get that euphoria over and over? You have to love it all.
My kids love winning. And they hate losing. Who doesn't? But I tell them this when it comes to sports. You have to love it all. You have to love everything about it. The practice and the competition or else it isn't worth doing. You will lose. Anybody who chooses to participate in sport will at some point not be the winner. What makes winning so special is that it is so incredibly tough to do.


For me in Ironman winning is finishing. Winning is doing my best, meeting my goal of the day whatever the day may bring. 

May your next finish line be euphoric wherever that finish line may be.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why I get a physical every year ... and so should you

I'm a middle-aged mom and every once in a while I just can't resist getting up on my box and saying, "hey you should do this!"

I'm healthy. I'm 41 years old and I'm healthy. But every year I get a physical. I just had my physical Friday.

adding to the chaos of my life this car was in the body shop for 2 weeks after it was skewered by a forklift. Not related to my physical at all but still a crazy story. all better now as you can see.
My doctor has a new team member and because I'm healthy I get the new kid but my doctor will still review all my results. She must have asked me about 15 times why I was there ... did I have any concerns. I finally asked her whether I was the only adult to get a physical and she admitted it wasn't all that common. One of the nurses was in the room when I asked this and she chuckled and said that I was a good patient who followed directions. I guess that's not the norm either.

I'll admit that one reason I do this is because I am out there racing endurance events and it's good to know my body is in good shape. But that's not the primary reason I do it.
from my daughter's birthday party. 11 year olds singing karaoke. adorable.

My father died of heart disease and for better or worse I was around during the last say 7 years while he was getting treatments and surgeries and so forth. I learned 2 major things during that time that I take with me always.

First, the decisions you make in your 20s and 30s will dramatically effect your medical options in your 60s and 70s. My father stopped smoking around 1980 his surgical options when he had a bypass surgery more than 20 years later were very limited from the damage done to his veins by smoking. While we can't do anything about the way we've already lived our life we can make better decisions from this day forward.
The final cake from the endless birthday celebrations of October and November. Dairy Queen ice cream cake.

Next, it's really good to have a relationship with your doctor and for them to know what you are like when you are healthy. That way when you get sick they have a comparison to make and a basis to recommend what treatments you can handle. Every person is different and figuring out what's going on when you're sick is a very complicated process. If there is somebody who knows your baseline that can be helpful in the process of diagnosing what's going on. 

I'm healthy and my doctor and his office know that. They know me very well. They know my hobbies and they know my family history. When I collapsed last year after making a poor decision to run a triathlon while I had the flu - I was out of town. I was in the emergency room in another city. When I came home I was able to call in and tell them what happened and they helped me recover and get back to form.

In this off season I tried zumba. With my daughter behind me in the jean shorts (which she did classify as work out clothes). It was a fundraiser to benefit the UM CARD center. Portia Lange the instructor is amazing. I still lack any kind of dance coordination but it was fun.
Like I said above. I'm 41. I actually remember when my parents both turned 40. I remember each of them got reading glasses for the first time. I have been able to avoid this by getting lasik about 8 years ago. My parents also for a 40th birthday present both started high-blood pressure medication. At 40 they were both pretty overweight and inactive. I remembered this about them this morning and I was happy that with my 41st physical exam or well checkup I do not have that.

This is the first school project that I have almost done completely for my kid. This was ridiculous. Even after I downloaded directions from google and pbs it still took me about 5 hours. And I'm not kidding it doesn't work all that well so she'll probably get a D. We're at peace with it. Hopefully there will be some extra credit we can do.
So, take care of yourself. If you don't have a doctor maybe look for one. If you haven't had a well checkup in a few years - go get one. 

Me on the bike this past weekend. I actually was dropped by my group. So all that iron fitness is gone. I have to admit that the little paunch around my belly is probably from all the cake and not just the jersey being unflattering. Yikes. Back to work soon.
In other news specific to training. I am sort of off track. Just sort of. I have a pain in my right leg that doesn't hurt while running, walking or riding my bike but sort of niggles me other times. Also family stuff has been keeping me majorly busy so I've been eating too much, drinking too much and treating myself too much. It's okay. Let's call this the off season. I'm adjusting my goals for the marathon accordingly and all will be okay.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The word of the last few weeks is "overcommitted"

I'm not even sure if overcommitted is an actual word.

But it should be.

There is one week a year that is always very busy in my house.

As a family we have gotten better at handling it but it's a madhouse no matter what.

That week is the last week of October. This year that week multiplied itself into a few weeks. 

October 26th - off to grandma and grandpas house to celebrate the birthdays with bbq and ice cream cake.

October 27th - my daughter's actual birthday - and swim Halloween party plus a cub scout meeting. I always make my kids homemade cakes for their birthday so that's what I did while they were in school.Oh and I ran to the lego store for a giant lego set which was her toy present. She's growing up but she still wants a toy for her birthday.

October 28th not her birthday but we had to take a giant cookie to gymnastics anyway.

October 29th - my birthday. I celebrated by eating lunch at school with my son and playing games and reading books with him. Plus later stone crabs and a giant chocolate cake.

October 30th - just lots of leftover cake.

October 31st - Halloween. Fun all day. Plus costumes and candy and way too much wine.

November 1st -- this runner did not get up and run her 17 miles. Nope. Didn't. I did actually get up and make coffee and then decided I was in no shape to run and went back to bed. Bad runner.

My husband took my daughter and a friend to see Cinderella the show and on the way back they were speared by a forklift while driving. I know this sounds too bizarre to be real but it's what actually happened. Nobody was hurt. Traffic on US-1 was ridiculous so he took a local frontage road that goes in front of a hardware/lumber store (shell lumber). As they went by the store a forklift ran into the car and speared the front and took out the right front tire. So that added a little extra chaos to our day. Luckily we were home when he called. We were heading out to the bookstore because we just read my son's homework worksheet which said at the top, "read a book about a hispanic american" which we hadn't done and didn't have. Oops. But instead, I took the other car to get them all and I noticed that this car seriously needed service. All the scary looking service lights were on which got my attention. My favorite part was calling to tell my daughter's friend's parents what happened ... not.

Oh and then my husband took my son to the haunted house and to get the aforementioned book on a hispanic american. My instructions were to find the shortest book possible. Which turned out to be Roberto Clemente.  My daughter and I stayed home. It was a long day for my husband. 

November 2nd -- my son and husband spent the day with the cub scouts at the football game. Seriously 9:45 - 6:30. My daughter and I finished her science project. There were only 2 sets of tears so that was a success. And then at 12 we went to her swim meet. Where she did very well, thank you for asking. Then we went to dinner and then quickly to Macy's to get pants she needs for school this week. Apparently Macy's closes at 7 which we didn't know and let me tell you they should really make an announcement because it scared the pee out of me when the lights went out while we were in the dressing room. Luckily not all of the lights but still. Very weird. We were able to get the pants but after we checked out we couldn't get back into the mall and had to walk around the outside to get to the car. So we got home at about 7:15 and the boys were already in bed. By 8 the whole house was sleeping. It was daylight savings but still we were all exhausted from the week and weekend.

At this point of the busy week we had exactly zero food in the house. So the next morning I fed the kids something and scraped together a bare minimum lunch with my one goal of going to the grocery store. But instead ... remember the car being speared by the forklift ... I spent the morning with my husband getting a rental car which took slightly less than forever. I was a little grumpy about the whole thing because after all "I" didn't get the car speared by a forklift. Then my husband's car went off to the shop where it needed to be seen because all of the scary service lights were on and it was frightening. Turns out he had basically no front brakes left ... those are good to have so I'm glad the scary lights were on. Although I don't know if my husband would have every actually had the car serviced. And then it was time to pick up the kids and there was no trip to the grocery store made. Proof that I have a very creative mind was shown when I managed to make a dinner out of the nothing in the refrigerator.

And then on November 4th I finally got to go to the grocery store. Ahhhhhh. Who knew that all it took to make me happy was ... produce.

Then we immediately had house guests and some out of town travel because my husband 's father was celebrating his 80th birthday. Which is HUGE and I'm thrilled to celebrate it with them. But those celebrations turned into a week. A fun week but still I'm ready for some downtime.

In order to spend the weekend with them I did my 20 mile run on Friday. So that's the longest solo run I've ever done. 

Our houseguest left today. In fact I just got a text he landed at his home airport. Now it's time to catch up. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Marathon Monday

I ran the Miami Halloween half marathon on Saturday with some friends which was a good time.
I'm in the tutu.

We have been suffering through a tropical depression for about a week. A tropical depression translates to rain ... constant insufferable rain and sometimes wind. Friday was a mess. What I wanted to do was nap all day but halfway through the afternoon I headed to South Beach to get my packet. Pickup took all of 30 seconds but the drive there and back was almost endless.

I also picked up a new handheld bottle for my hydration since I tossed mine in the Rome marathon and I likewise tossed my amphipod fuel belt in the marathon of Ironman Chattanooga. It's a bad habit I seem to have made tossing things that annoy me at the end of a marathon. But it feels awesome at the time. Very cathartic. This thing "insert offending item" annoys me and fliiing it's gone.

Some people always run in costume. Not me. Not ever. But this is obviously a costume theme run. Some people are better at costumes than others. I'm not very good at it but I did pick up a tutu and a bow tie for the occasion. That was enough. Some costumes were very clever and it was definitely entertaining. I was passed by a runner in a full bacon suit. That was humiliating. I thought to myself, you can't be passed by the bacon ... and yet he was much faster than me so there it was.
proof of my one and possibly only tutu run. The bow tie as you can see was almost immediately flung sideways.

We started at Parrot Jungle and finished at Nikki Beach on South Beach. The course was fine. A good chunk of it was over the wood boardwalk and at one point we had to descend a few steps which was pretty dumb but I made it through then at the end we climbed the hill in Lummus Park and that was painful but overall a good course. It was a tad shy of the ful 13.1 miles at least .1 or .2. But that was okay with me. I was happy with my new PR of 1:52:36. I'll take it. That was good enough to put me 12th in my age group. And there were well over 100 in my age group.

But the thing I'm happiest about is that my average pace was 8:47 overall. Initially I was excited because I thought that my coveted BQ pace is 8:45. However after a teeny tiny bit of research my bq pace is more like 8:35. Not quite as close. Admittedly that's over a marathon not a half marathon and I didn't quite hit that pace but it feels close ... it feels very close.

Back to my bad habit. It was a cool day 75 at the start 82 at the finish probably. I didn't look it up that's a guess. A little warm for me to run fast. I was wearing a hat and my head was really warm I was tempted to toss my hat but a cooler head prevailed. Pun intended. I thought to myself that I had to be able to hold onto all the things I started with for a half marathon otherwise I was being ridiculous.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Catching up ... the ridiculously mundane side of Ironman recovery

Piles and overstuffed drawers.
I'm a piler my husband is a stuffer. So after any big project our counters are covered with piles of things that need to be addressed and the drawers are all full of just general garbage.

Training for an Ironman takes time. Time that otherwise might be used to do stuff like sort piles and complete paperwork.


In my house - housekeeping means keeping the house up and running not cleaning. I'm not a good cleaner when it gets much past loading the dishwasher.

In order to make time for training a lot of little things don't get done. You do the most pressing things and then the others just get a bit delayed. Just like any big project in life. Some you hear about all the time when you read about Ironman training like dinners out with friends, date night with your spouse, mowing the grass is a common one and so on. But as I was going through all the things I'm catching up on I thought I'd share with you if only so that if it's also happening to you you don't feel alone.

Non-workout clothes - This one is in better shape than it was after I did IM France because I've signed up for Stitchfix. But while I do a great job of buying new workout clothes during training my other clothes are all in sad shape. Sad sad shape.


Heart of Darkness - Nope not the Conrad book. It really is dark in here. We have at least one light bulb out in every room. Not to mention all of the outdoor bulbs were completely out and also we had two fixtures that need an electricians attention. My husband actually changes the light bulbs so what I fell behind on here was actually just nagging him to do it, buying the bulbs and calling the electrician.

Underwear -- hee hee don't be offended by the intimacy here. I spend practically all my time in workout apparel while I'm training and built in undies are always there. While I did update my sports bras as needed during training I realized that it was way overdue to update all my delicates in my drawer. When I mentioned it to my daughter I discovered that so were my kids. So new undies, bras and socks all around.

Dry cleaning - While I live in workout wear my husband does not. So who knows when the last time I took the dry cleaning in. It was a huge amount of shirts. He's going to feel like he's got a new wardrobe when it all comes back tomorrow.

School paperwork - I just finished the beginning of the year school paperwork. I hate paperwork. I'll blame the Ironman training but seriously how can there be so many stupid little things to complete for school?

New glasses and cookie sheets and pans
I cook almost all that we eat in my house. We have well water and it's hard on our glassware and stuff. So we had one nonstick pan that was basically destroyed - the cookie sheets had gotten so rusted in the corners that it was ridiculous and the glassware was white and opaque with mineral deposits. These I finally just replaced.


Doctors appointments Before Ironman France I had to have a medical certificate so I got a physical. I learned that actually 3 weeks before a big race you might have irregular lab results. So I was happy to not do that again. But it's time for the whole run of appointments, eye doctor, dermatologist, ob, and regular physical. Ugh. I am generally of the opinion that the only way to stop bad news from doctors is to not visit doctors. But it should be done, right?

Donations
My kids have outgrown a ton of stuff. Toys, books, clothes you name it. Some of it has made it into bags that just need to be delivered to the goodwill. But their rooms are crammed full of crap. Going through it and sorting it for what they use now and what is ready to go is seriously behind.

Crap in the garage
I swear that the stuff in the garage mates and multiplies if you don't keep up with it. Seriously where does all this stuff come from? I filled up a giant garbage can earlier this week with just stuff I could reach while I was looking for my bike pedals. Crazy.

Houseware staples
I have a cleaning lady. She never tells me when we're out of anything except laundry detergent and garbage bags. She will just make due. She makes due by watering down all the cleaning supplies. Which means my house is basically being cleaned with water.

I learned last training cycle to stock up early with cleaning staples and kitchen staples. But I realized last week that we were out of everything. Windex, counter spray, bleach, rice, flour, salt. Those ridiculous towels that the maids in Miami use - totally worn out. Seriously, everything. I wonder what the clerk thought when I was checking out of target with my supplies. Maybe that I had just moved or something. My cleaning lady was super excited to find all the replacement stuff. I'm not sure why I can't get her to tell me when things are empty. It's a little strange.

Quick training notes
I did my first bike ride yesterday since the race. I had to find my pedals which I can conveniently stored in a ziploc on the floor in the garage. This is when I noticed the abundance of crap that had accumulated.

It was a short brisk ride. Fun and not too hard. I wasn't sure I was looking forward to being on the bike but it was great fun. My training friend Nicole did a century yesterday. This is why she's faster than me. I can't think of anything I wanted to do less than go do a century. Yuck. And I ran. Lots of running right now on the schedule.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The week my life became an episode of 60 minutes

First things first I have not ever nor do I want to ever be on 60 minutes. I'm happy with my boring anonymous life.

Middle School
My daughter is in 5th grade. We live in Miami, Florida (an area not known for it's educational excellence). Her elementary school only goes through 5th grade.
 
So, Wednesday I toured 3 middle schools.

One is our home school a public school that is open to all the kids in our district. One is a highly-ranked magnet public school. The last was an extremely expensive competitive admission private school.

The three could not be more different. That is perhaps the most obvious statement ever made. Until this week I thought I understood our options. I thought we had a good plan which was if we got the magnet great - if not our suburban home school for middle school would be okay.

At the end of the day. I had a headache. I was confused. My husband and I were a little cross with each other and my poor kid ... well who knows what she thought about the whole thing.

I didn't sleep well last night with the pressure of the situation weighing on me mightily.

Change is hard. Change when you don't fully understand the options is harder still. Change when you aren't in control of any or all of the situation is especially hard.

I'm not sure why but this feels like a super complicated and really important decision.

Also, there is no perfect solution and that's just a giant pain in my tooshie.

People say, "you have to know your kid."
Okay.

Well I do know my kid. She's 10 years old. She'll be 11 this month. She's not a fully-formed person yet. That's what I know.

Here's what else - She's very independent. She wants to post on Instagram but I won't give her an account yet. She plays Minecraft, she can do Sudoku puzzles that her father and I can't complete - she loves math and wants to be a cheerleader and she still travels with her American Girl doll. She does not like to brush her teeth and she hates Brussels sprouts.

How in the world does any of that relate to helping her choose a middle school? It doesn't so to all those people who keep saying that I say, "please shut up." Don't be offended - I said please :-)

I want her to have the least traumatic middle-school experience possible and if she didn't come out of middle-school hating learning that would be pretty great. Is that even possible? What was your middle school experience like?


So wait, what's the problem?
Lets take a look at the schools and what we saw.


The Community School
First lets look at our home school. I called to find out about tours and the phone rang 11 times. Seriously, not an exaggeration. When it answered I was transferred to the voice mail of a counselor (one of 4 I know because her message was 90 percent explaining which group she was responsible for) It was a very long message because it was in English and Spanish. We are a bilingual city - it's complicated. I left a message and I didn't hear back. Ever. I still haven't heard back.

So, I just went over in person. I parked and I walked around the campus. It's fine. Not amazing but big fields outside and outdoor gym stuff. Some portable classrooms - not a ton. Then I went inside. I saw the security table but nobody was there. I then actually ran into somebody I knew a daughter of a friend who is happy there. She is happy and her parents are happy. There are plenty of people who are happy with this school option. She took me to the office because she does an hour of her day in the office instead of taking an elective course because as she told me, they're really bad. The office on first glance seemed unstaffed. Weird. I thought.

Finally somebody came to their desk and when I asked for how I would see the school she said she didn't know, the principal wasn't in because they were teaching and the vice principals were busy dealing with a "violence issue" but I could see if one of the counselors was in if I wanted to.

She waived me back toward the back of the office to talk to a secretary. She had this entire conversation with me without even looking at me. Pretty rude actually. But we're in public school now so I know people are overworked and underpaid.

Let's take a minute and digress. While I tell you this story please understand I live in a suburb called Pinecrest. Look it up. It's not inner city at all. But we are a part of the Miami-dade school district which is the third largest in the country. It serves over 300,000 students. I have lived in at least two cities smaller than that.

At this point I was getting a bad vibe. But I took a deep breath and walked into the office to find the secretary and counselors. I walked in to the only other occupied desk and found a very busy secretary. Who was helpful but clearly very busy. On my way to the counselors office (also on my own) I found the assistant principals and part of the security team. They were talking to the child I know about the "violence issue" and this child was being given the responsibility of calling the parents and finding other kids to give written statements. Um, what? So I asked this child whose 13th birthday party is this week how often this happens in the school and she grinned and said, "oh every day."

I did meet with the guidance counselor who was nice. Harried and overwhelmed and busy but nice. Who told me that in a few weeks there is a curriculum fair where we can come and meet teachers and stuff. I should find out about it from my school.

And then I left. Not impressive. Actually not even acceptable. The words I would use are actually shocking and upsetting. In all honesty while she would probably be happy here there is not much chance that we'll send her here. Of course there are some kids who can excel in this school but I think the odds are against it.

Magnet School
At the start of this process this is our first choice. My daughter actually heard about the school from a friend. It's her choice which makes it a pretty great thing.

The school was old, but well maintained. We saw the kids change classes and they were well behaved and sweet. We saw a presentation from the lead teacher and then we got a tour from two- eighth grade students. They were normal and sweet.

If she gets in here she'll be happy.

The middle-school magnets are all random select. If you meet the basic criteria you throw your name in a hat and if you get picked - yippee. If not too bad so sad. For example the school we visited gets 1600 applicants for 150 spots. 1/10 get picked.

So the pressure of this randomness is kindof annoying.

Going Private
I'm hugely blessed that we can actually consider private school as a potential option. It's massively expensive and it comes with it's own set of problems but it's an option. We would have to make huge changes in our life but it can be done. So we went to the open house for the only true selective addmission preperatory school here. This was the only school I took my daughter to. The others were just my husband and myself.

So one other short digression. I have adult step-kids. They both were in a local private school for their entire education until college. So in one sense we've done this and we're a little jaded. We do feel that the high-school tuition was money well spent but kindergarten through eighth grade we feel was just the best of bad options. If we don't have to pay for middle school we don't want to. There are lots of reasons why private school can be the best option but being a good value isn't usually one of them if anybody is being honest in my opinion.

There were at least 1000 people there. Parents and children all hoping for the chance to pay more than a years worth of minimum wages for the privalege of attending.

The sales presentation was spectacular. Some very talented kids sang and danced and performed and extolled the joys of the school. There was a disco ball and confetti. It's a great campus. We knew lots of the kids and parents who were there. After there was a reception with punch and cookies and mini hot dogs and the kids could ask questions from teachers. My daughter loved the cookies and had fun with her friends who were there. I made her go to the math table and she did actually enjoy playing math games with the teacher.

This school is application only. She takes a test, is interviewed, we fill out an application that in all honesty is as much about us the parents as it is about her and if she is accepted she can go.

It's a great school. She would probably be happy there. But is it worth the money? Nope. How could it be? How could any school ever be worth that much money? It can't. But it might be the best option out there.

We are also considering 2 other private schools if she doesn't get into this the most competitive. The reality is that it's totally possible that she might not get in. That's life. 

Must have COFFEE
The next morning in my bleary-eyed state of sleep-deprivation as my coffee brewed. I was so desperate for the caffeine that I was standing at the brewing machine waiting for the coffee to drip into the pitcher (in case you're curious). I took a second to reflect on my own middle school experiences. My parents were divorced and lived in two separate states. My mother when I was young was of the belief that a full life included moving states or cities on close to an annual basis potentially even more often. But she lived in the mid-west where to be honest the schools were fine. There were no huge safety issues - there was no magnet program - I don't think there was a gifted program. My father lived in NYC which has got to be the biggest school district in the country. It had lots of safety issues but hidden in among the just bigness was a system that sometimes worked to get smart kids where they needed to be for the best chance. It was there that I was tested in 4th grade and determined to be a smart cookie.

So I think I attended at least 3 middle schools for a variety of time in 3 separate states. That being said I'd be shocked if combined my parents spent a total of 5 whole minutes even thinking about where I would go to school.

It just was a totally different situation. The total of their research probably included one question: what is the school for this address.

My husband and I had a brief chuckle over that. His parents were middle school teachers - they probably thought about it a lot but he went where they taught and that was that. He had no choice. If I was on site where my kid would go to school I would make that choice too. Nevertheless what they did worked he went from new york public schools to the Ivy league. Something that's always impressive. He's a smart guy.

Its a big problem
Somewhere during my sleepless night or my run the next day I made the connection that I was now neck deep in a problem that has been the basis of documentaries and news programs. It was a bit of a releif but doesn't make it any more fun.

I don't think public schools were ever amazing. I think that's a myth just because people want to believe it. They weren't great when I went through them but I think in Miami it's gotten more complicated.

By creating magnet and charter schools they have succeeded in pulling the most motivated parents/kids out of the community schools and into the magnet/charter schools which does have a good effect if you can get into one of those schools. But there is also I think a rebound effect in the community schools.  What I see is basically a brain drain of good teachers, parents and students. So then the community school (the one in your neighborhood) is not really a good option. I mean it's a good option if your other choice is no school but otherwise not really.

Here's why I think that. The standardized test scores for the 3 elementary schools that feed into our community middle school all average in the 90th percentile. But the standardized scores for the middle school fall to 60th percentile. Yikes. The only way I see that happening is to add poor students and to lose high achieving students. The magnet schools we're looking at all maintain the 90th percentile scoring. 

So what's a parent to do? Drink beer and hope for the best apparently.

I'm kidding - just kidding. Wait am I kidding?