Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thoughts on My Third Half Marathon

That's correct, I recently ran my third half marathon.  For someone who never wanted to run more than a mile at track practice, I kind of amazed myself!  It turns out that what I really like about running (at a lovely s-l-o-w pace) is having some alone time to just think and listen to music.  Running around our neighborhood is wonderful, because I get to run mostly past cattle ranches, big yards, gardens, oak trees and fields, among rolling hills.  I am not sure I would run in another setting.  Plus, the fog is a HUGE bonus - I've always kind of loathed running in the sun (did I mention I ran track in Arizona?!  For Pete's sake, what was wrong with me?)  
As I was training for this half marathon, I found myself looking at some articles and blogs that I haven't looked at before.  For example, the training program I used this time was called "Couch Potato to Half Marathon".  I looked up tips on how to deal with aching feet, tight Achilles tendons, and joints without constantly eating ibuprofin (my solution, and I think it might have worked - at least, I ran the whole thing pain-free - was taking Turmeric tablets. You can research for yourself...) The best (?) article was actually recommended to me by someone who will remain nameless (not a family member, but a friend who also runs).  It is from a web site for women over 45 who are training for 10Ks and beyond, and the article is called, I kid you not, "How Not To Poop Yourself While Running".  I am proud to say I did not have any such issues at any point during my training or the race.  The grossest thing I had to do was use my sleeve to wipe my nose.
The best part of the race was seeing my husband at about mile 3, cheering me on from the side of the road, and then of course at the finish line, where I was greeted by my sweet daughter Grace and her great friend Stephanie (who I love), dressed up in hilarious outfits with signs.  They made me laugh so hard I forgot to look at my time (it was 2:20 - I looked on the web site later on) and brought me my post-race drink, my favorite pink fleece (it stayed gloriously foggy and cool the whole way), and my flip flops, and gave me a ride home so I didn't have to take the sweaty shuttle (not the real name, but everyone knows that's what it is).
I am really enjoying not getting up for training runs when it is still dark out, but I really had so much fun that I have already signed up for another run - this time my absolute favorite, the 8-mile Castle To Coast run that starts at Hearst Castle and ends in Cambria and goes right along PCH.  I'm looking forward to that....and to getting a new pair of running shoes!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Home Again Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Our summer travels this year took us to Orange County (4 times), Colorado, New Mexico, and Chicago.  Here are some of my observations:
Some deserts (the Sonora, for example) are really beautiful.  The Mojave is not one of them.
We stopped for lunch in Las Vegas - met some wonderful friends (who live in Henderson, NV) - at a restaurant in a casino.  The burger was great - in fact, the sandwiches were all stacked so tall that they put a steak knife into them to keep them from falling over until they were delivered to the table.  Throughout the whole meal, I kept thinking I could smell a brush fire, and wondered where it was....turns out it was just all of the cigarette smoke.
Things seen along the I-70: Galloway or "Dutch Belted" cattle - one of my favorites, they are the black ones with the white stripe around the middle.  Upon crossing into Utah, a "Speed Limit 80 mph" sign - it brought joy to my Mario-cart-loving soul.  In Vail, at over 8000 feet, in July, snow.  Sadly, along Wolf Creek Pass, thousands of dead pine trees (victims of some kind of bark beetle, I was told), but at the same time, hundreds and hundreds of new, baby pine trees, growing up under the brown ones (surely there is some kind of lesson to be learned there, at another time, when I have a moment to think....).  Also sadly, one 2-liter bottle full of a yellow liquid, discarded along the highway (yuck!).
Needles, California might just be the worst place in the country, and that is hard for me to admit, because I have been to places like Nevada, El Paso, and New Jersey, and because I have a soft spot for Route 66 towns.  If you don't believe me, you should check out the reviews on Yelp.  Let me just say that our feet got dirty from the carpet in the hotel room.
There is a spot on the 101, just north of Los Olivos, that can make me teary almost every time I drive it.  It is Steinbeckian in its grandeur, and makes me grateful I live here every time I see it (rolling hills, stands of oaks, a great old barn, and a pond).
There truly is no place like our neighborhood - which I would like to prove with this photo of our dinner a few days ago, minus the steaks that were on the grill.  All of this food was from either our garden or our neighborhood farmer's market, including the amazing goat cheese made by my neighbor, that we devoured.
Something in the human heart is just always longing for home, I think.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

One Sure Way to Feel Great

Last month, my neighbor Monica had an idea.  This isn't uncommon - she has lots of ideas, and most of them are great, and involve some way to make the neighborhood feel more like a community.  She has organized our Garden Farms Farmers' Market, book exchanges, fundraisers, the neighborhood newsletter and directory, Christmas caroling, a parade, and that's not even half the stuff I can think of.  So, I wasn't at all surprised when she had the following idea of a way to encourage and support our neighbor Sue, who is undergoing a round of chemo for cancer: "since Sue loves rhubarb, I would love to recruit some neighbors to make a rhubarb dessert (pie, cobbler, bars, whatever) for her maybe once every week or so for May and June".  This was my week and I decided to make a cobbler (because it seemed easier than pie, and I think I have mentioned before that I am rather lazy).  First, I went down to Monica's and we picked the rhubarb - yes, picked it.  My first time - and might I mention that one of Monica's rhubarb plants is over 40 years old and is still going strong.  We sliced it off at the stalk with a knife, then removed the leaf (poisonous; you can't even feed it to goats, so you know it's bad!).  Then I brought it home and chopped it up and looked up a recipe for rhubarb cobbler (I used the one from because I like her other recipes).  Then I cooked the rhubarb until it was soft.  Then I panicked, because this variety of rhubarb is green, and I thought that a green cobbler would look really weird, so I threw in some blueberries I had, and added a couple of drops of red food coloring (I tell you, that helped so much!!).  Bonus - I had enough of the fruit to make a small second cobbler for us for dessert tonight (there it is in the picture, along with the gorgeous peonies I got on Sunday for my anniversary).

Eating this wonderful cobbler, with vanilla ice cream, was not the best part of the day, however.  The best part was when I took the cobbler down to Sue's house and she came to the door, bald, wearing a dress, and hugged me three times in about two minutes, and showed the cobbler to her whole family, and thanked me over and over.  Seriously, I would like to propose that one way to feel better, if you are sad, anxious, or upset, is to do something for someone else.  It doesn't even have to be a big thing, and it can be done anonymously, too.  But truly, doing something as simple and easy as making a dessert has made my day (or two, or week)!  And of course, I am reminded once again what a blessing it is to live here in my amazing and wonderful neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

riding the bus

Jason has had his license for about 6 weeks now, and in an effort to be cool parents, we are trying to let him drive to school whenever we can.  So....a couple of days a week, I have been hitching a ride down to Cal Poly with Jamey, and then riding the bus home later on.  It's actually pretty convenient, because the bus picks me up right in front of the student union, and then drops me off at the corner of my street, with only one or two stops in between.  And it's cheaper to ride the bus than it is to park on campus for the day (Jamey parks along the street for free and walks onto campus, but I am far too lazy to do that, so I usually pay to park in the garage.  I justify it by carrying a lot of stuff).
Not being a frequent bus rider (I rode it around SLO exactly once, about 10 years ago, when Jason and another friend were learning about their town for kindergarten), I have been learning a few things:
First, when your bus route is pretty much a winding, uphill road, it is probably not the best idea to try to get some work done on your ipad.  It can make you feel really sick.  Ugh.
Second, because the bus needs to go really slow as it heads uphill, you get a chance to look around and notice things.  For example, there is a little gated road that goes off to the right about halfway up "the grade", and it looks like there is a beautiful ranch back in there.  Or at least a cool camping spot beside a creek.
Another benefit of taking the bus is the smug feeling you get from knowing that you are saving gas and being 'green'.
And because I have been walking from the bus stop to my house, I have been passing by my neighbors' yard, and I noticed the other day that their mama goat had two tiny, adorable kids in her pen.  This is the second time she has given birth to twins.  And as I was passing by, they hopped up onto the picnic table and asked me to please take their picture (in goat language.  Which I speak, actually.  I'm like Dr Doolittle).  My neighbor makes the most fantastic feta cheese from his goats' milk, by the way.  And his goats travel around to other neighbors' yards all summer and keep their weeds down (this is a great service, since we are expecting a bad fire season this year).
So, all in all, riding the bus is turning out to be a pretty good deal.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hippie Chicks

For whatever reason, I cannot watch the ends of close football or basketball games (or races, or other sporting events).  I can listen, but it makes me really nervous to watch.  So I spent a lot of this year's NCAA March Madness listening to the broadcast, but messing around on the internet.  When I want to waste time on my computer, I often turn to Pinterest.  For those of you who don't know what Pinterest is, it's a web site where you can, on the one hand, find some great recipes, decorating ideas, and household and gardening tips....on the other hand, it's an invitation to covet other people's homes, clothes, and bodies.  
I searched the topic "chickens" and up popped a great web site ( with lots of ideas on how to keep your hens healthy and happy.  For example, I learned that putting a half a teaspoon of cider vinegar in my chickens' water can keep away parasites and mites. I was happy to try it, and I am really really happy to report that not only is it keeping my hens happy (I don't think they actually had any parasites or mites before, anyway), but in 24 hours the vinegar in the water had actually cleaned the water container and made it look brand new!! There was also a list of fresh herbs that you can place in the nesting boxes, and the effect of each one.  For example, catnip is a sedative, lemon balm is a stress reliever, and fennel is a laying stimulant - who knew?!  Well, now, I have lots of herbs in the garden and around the house, so I thought, "What the heck?" and put some rose petals (vitamin C), lavender (stress reducer and insecticide), basil (mucus membrane health, whatever that is!), and rosemary (respiratory health) in my nesting boxes.  Apparently, my hens are not into herbs, because less than an hour later they had kicked all of the herbs out of the boxes and all over the ground.  They didn't even eat any, and that's saying something, because these girls eat any old bread product, grass, coffee grounds when they can get them, and even cobwebs.  But that's okay, because they seem pretty happy and relaxed to me, and we have more eggs than we can eat (clearly I need to do some baking!).

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Unsolicited Advice to Other Baseball Fans

My brother Charles, son Jason and I had a great time up in the Bay Area at an A's game.  Since I can't afford (or...won't pay for) seats right behind home plate, I like to sit in the left field bleachers to maybe catch a home run ball (on this day, Torii Hunter hit one about ten rows behind us).  The Oakland bleachers are a fantastic place to watch a game, because the fans really get into it.  The 'flag wavers' sit there, as do the drummers, the vuvuzela blowers, and the guy with the bell.  No kidding, he brings a boat's bell and bungee cords the thing to the front of the bleachers.  He even warned everyone around, "I'm gonna be ringin' this thing a lot!"  There was a cute family in front of us with a baby appropriately decked out in A's booties and a matching hat which fell down over its eyes (but I don't think it was watching the game that much anyway).
And then....there was this guy, two rows down.  Green-Suit Guy.  I have seen these in blue (at an away high school football game) and in orange (at a home high school basketball game), but I've never been this close to one.  Obviously, it takes a certain amount of commitment and loyalty (and guts!) to don this spandex suit, which I respect.  I also greatly appreciate that he wore A's pajama bottoms over the spandex pants.  And he was really entertaining, especially when he looked up the stats of the other team's left fielder on his smart phone in order to better heckle the poor guy.  But I would like to give him just a couple of handy tips, and let this also be a lesson to any of you who might at some point wear one of these things at some other sporting event.
First, be sure to mind the weather, because although these things look really cool from afar, if it's, say, sunny and 80 degrees, just know that you are going to start to sweat - probably behind your ears and around your neck - and people around you could be totally grossed out.  Especially if they are also observant enough to notice the tiny little hairs that poke through the fabric all over your head and neck.  Consider sitting AWAY from everyone else, because this is a sight truly better enjoyed from a distance.
Second, if you are billing yourself as a 'superfan', as I would assume from your attire that you are, it's probably not the best idea to actually take a nap in your seat in the 7th inning, OR to leave in the 8th, when your team is down.  In my opinion, real fans just don't do that. I myself saw an Indians game in 2001 when the Indians were down by 12 runs and came back in the last two innings to win!  And 5 of those runs came with two out in the ninth!!  (Don't ask why I was watching an Indians game....I have no idea.  It just happens - watching random baseball games is a recurring problem for me).  Unless, of course, you are struggling with heat stroke because you sat out in the blazing sun for a few hours.  Then maybe it's okay.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Birthdays and Growing Up

In the past few weeks, we hosted grandparents (all of them!), celebrated Easter, Jason turned 16, and Grace turned 19.  Jason got to celebrate his birthday by getting his driver's license, going on a camping and fishing trip with his dad and some of his closest friends, and going to an Oakland A's game with his mom and uncle (yes, my brother flew down from Portland to go with us to the A's-Tigers game, so it was as much a gift to me as it was to Jason.  He's my hero, even though he was bad luck for the A's).  Then we were able to met Grace at a Cal Poly baseball game the next day (he was bad luck for them, too - they lost the game as well!) and take her out for breakfast on her birthday before I had to drive Uncle Charles back to the airport in San Jose.

A friend of mine asked me if I now "mourn and cry" on my kids' birthdays for the passing of time, and confessed to me that she has cried on every one of her childrens' birthdays since the oldest one turned ten.  This seems a little wacky to me.  I actually think it's quite fantastic that my kids are growing up.  They are such AMAZING people and I totally enjoy hanging out with them!  Grace is always available to text me 
fashion or decorating advice when I need it, and now that she is 'away' at college, she will have lunch or coffee out with me whenever I want.  And Jason is just hilarious and keeps me chuckling all the time (I will actually miss driving him and his friends around and listening to their conversations.)  It is so fun to have kids who grow up to be people you actually like!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring = Hope

Spring and all that comes with it gives me so much to hope for and look forward to!
Right on cue, the daffodils disappeared and the first tulips started blooming on March 21st.  This year we have purples and pinks and reds.  There are buds everywhere, and blossoms on every fruit tree.
And it's GREEN all around!
 I got to sit and enjoy the green and the quiet yesterday, because I was driving the Camry (308,000 miles and still mostly humming along) and, on this country road between Templeton and Atascadero, the engine totally quit (we are hoping that it is a timing belt; that would be pretty simply fixable), leaving me stranded in a nice shady spot, right beside an olive orchard.  While I was waiting for my knight in a shiny silver truck to come and rescue me, I got to sit here and watch birds, ground squirrels, and the trees in the breeze.  Not a bad deal!  Then, he handed me the keys to the truck, and said, "You go ahead and finish the shopping, and then pick me up at the mechanic.  I'll wait here for the tow truck."  What a great guy!!
March Madness is currently in full force, and Jamey and I are right up at the top of the pool, thanks to our alma mater making a great run into the Sweet 16.  Makes me hopeful that one of us will see victory this year.  Or, even better, that the Cats will take it all!  I even have hope that the Pittsburgh Pirates will win the World Series this year!  Of course, the season hasn't started yet, but they are having a pretty good spring, and are not yet mathematically eliminated from the postseason....
Jason turns 16 in a week or so, and is hopeful that he will soon get his driver's license, so I in turn am hopeful that he can do some of my errands for me on his way to and from school.  And Grace, a couple of weeks after that, is turning 19 (holy cow, how did that happen?) and she just pretty much gives me hope constantly, because she is just so stinking capable and generally grown-uppish.
And then there are all of the babies making appearances in the neighborhood....twin goats around the corner, baby chicks everywhere, little lambs (my personal favorites), and this miniature horse baby that was born the day before this photo was taken.  He is about the size of a medium dog;  currently a little bit smaller than Max-the-Dog.  He is a mini mini horse.  And because my neighbor loves old Hollywood, she named him Valentino, of course.

Ah, the potential of everything this time of year!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Winter Lessons

Lesson 1: Style always comes back around. Last week, the spring-like weather made me dig out my old Ray Ban wayfarers and wear them around.  The girl at the Starbucks drive-through (yes, I went there, sorry, but I had some time to kill and needed to use the internet) said, and I quote, "Your shades are totally awesome!  Where did you get them?"  I told her the absolute truth - my sunglasses were a gift from my inlaws before they were my inlaws, a Christmas present in 1988.  And I still have them (I don't really lose glasses, keys, wallet, etc.  It's kind of weird).  I also have my Von Zippers from the late 90's, purchased when the Ray Ban's went hopelessly out of style - they will surely come in handy in a couple of years.
Lesson 2: Kids grow up!  I know this, of course, but some days it just smacks you in the face again.  Grace and 5 friends secured their housing for next school year.  It's a beautiful, historic house in downtown SLO, across the street from a park that we used to go to when the kids were little (they called it "Spaceship Park" because the climbing structure looks like a rocket).  I didn't become a renter for the first time until after I was married, so it just gives me pause when I really think about it.  It's such an adult thing to happen, but then isn't that what we want anyway?  And then there's the soccer photo here, from the last home game of the season.  Where did that man come from?  The one who now keeps a razor beside his toothbrush in the bathroom, and is significantly taller than me, and drives me around town when he can?  Sheesh!  It does tug the heartstrings to think about it.
Lesson 3:  Last year, we had an extremely mild winter, and rejoiced, because soccer season was really easy and enjoyable for the fans.  This year, it was colder, and it rained more, but that was okay, because I got the world's most awesome umbrella for Christmas.  And yesterday, I saw a pink hyacinth blooming in the yard.  I love hyacinths.  They are pretty and they smell really good.  I suddenly realized we didn't get any last year when the weather was mellow - they need lots of freezing weather and rain to set and bloom.  And isn't that the way life is?  Sometimes there are really difficult seasons that we go through - the dreariness might seem too long to bear.  But beautiful things come out of them, that maybe just can't grow any other way.  And then there is a sweetness to be enjoyed for a little while.  So I am enjoying the beauty of the hyacinth in the yard, and am thankful for a cozy house to stay warm in until spring truly comes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What I Learned Last Week

Last week I learned that life can be tragic and beautiful, sad and amazing, all at the same time.  Dear friends of ours lost a baby boy, just weeks before his due date. We spent last week helping them, in very small ways, because that is all we muster, deal with unimaginable grief.   I spent the week feeling, on an endless rotating basis, very sad, helpless and frustrated (because I can't fix it), angry (because I don't understand why this would happen), and guilty (because my life goes on as usual, and theirs has seemingly stopped, at least for a while.  I was reading in Psalm 23 that "we walk through the valley of the shadow of death", but it seems my friends are stuck there, have been forced to camp there, to build a house almost, not just go through it).  Bible quotes feel so trite I don't even recite them, but at the same time Biblical Truth is what we are clinging to.  And oddly, at the same time, I saw beauty in the way their family and friends have gathered around them, in person and in prayer. 
 And even though sadness was like a blanket over the week, several good things did happen - a favorite former student dropped off a cd that he recorded and I spent much of Tuesday listening to it (it is really good - in fact, you can listen to it for free at  Each of my children texted me at different points during the week to report getting A's on two tests they had studied hard for, and we were all excited and relieved.  On Thursday night, we had a freshman girls' Bible study over for dinner, and 15 girls showed up...with homemade cupcakes!  We later hosted 25 freshmen for the Super Bowl, and enjoyed Jamey's almost-famous smoked ribs, chili, and amazing peanut-butter-chocolate-swirl cookies made by a freshman boy (I could hardly believe it!  I want to call his mom and thank her for raising him so well!)  
On Friday, I attended a small memorial service for little Charlie, along with Jamey (who spoke at it) and a few friends and members of the family.  While there was overwhelming grief, and many tears, there was also hope and grace and childlike faith, and an awful lot of love.  After the memorial, going from one emotional extreme to another, I headed to Jason's soccer game and got to watch my son, who was team captain that game, stop a couple of goals and play a great match (even though they lost; but just to watch him play was quite enough for me that day).  
Our days have gotten easier; our friends' days may get easier, after a long while, but they will be always changed.  I was reminded again and again that this earthly life is just temporary and that we hope for things to come, and we do not lose hope, ever, though things around us, that we see and feel, are sometimes exceedingly painful.  
In God's uncanny timing, my Bible verse for this morning was this one, from John 16: "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why My Kids Are Awesome, Reasons #347 and #348...

Two words for two stories:  humble and determined.  I got to experience these traits over Christmas break while Grace and Jason were at home.  Here are the stories:

1. Humble - On the first day of soccer tryouts, I went to pick Jason up and counted at least 35 boys trying out for the team (this is a lot for Atascadero).  Now, this is Jason's second year playing, and he had a great season last year, and he knows both coaches well, and they know him.  But alas, since my hobby seems to be conjuring up things to worry about in the wee hours when other, normal people are asleep, I found myself worrying about tryouts.  What if he doesn't make it?  What if he quits all sports because he is so discouraged?  What if he then hates school and starts hanging out with kids who ditch class and ends up becoming a stoner?  There's no end to the thoughts I can come up with!  So, on Thursday, on the way home, we had the following conversation:
Me - "So how are tryouts going?"
Jason - "Fine" (the universal teen boy answer for every mom question)
Me - "There were a lot of boys at tryouts the first night!"
Jason - "Yep"
Me - "When do you think you'll find out if you made the team?"
Jason - "Oh, I know I'll make it; Coach told me the first day that I'm going to be one of the captains."
I so admire that boy's humility.  If I was trying out for a team in high school and was told that, I would have plastered it all over Facebook and would have purchased a T-shirt for myself with the word "Captain" all over it.  And probably a hat to match.  And would have told everyone to call me "Captain G" from that day on.  Needless to say, I slept very well that night.  And we are enjoying another season of soccer games.  They are so much fun.  Colder this year, but still fun.

2. Determined - While Jamey and I were in El Salvador, Grace got a paper back that she had written for a psychology class.  It was a survey class and was taught by different professors, so one teacher had given the assignment, and another had graded the papers, and it seems that they had different ideas of how they wanted the students' sources to be cited.  So Grace was marked down on her paper, even though she had actually cited it correctly according to Professor #1.  This is unfortunate, but it happens.  And when she approached Professor #2 about it (that takes guts!) to explain what happened, she was told that her grade wouldn't be changed, even though the mix-up wasn't her fault (?!).  Now at this point, if this was me, I would have considered dropping out of school, or would have written perhaps a mean yet anonymous letter to the editor of the paper.  I for sure would have curled up in a ball and cried for a few days.  And I someone should have warned this professor, "Don't mess with her."  Grace's grade in the class was now an A- (yes, an A-minus.  I'm sorry, but that is to this point in her life as low as it goes.  I have been telling her for years that when she gets her first B, I will make her a cake and take her out for dinner, but it hasn't happened yet).  She could have, at this point, taken an A- (a perfectly respectable grade!), but I think she was probably still mad at the injustice of it all.  So she studied and studied and studied for the final.....and got 100%.  On the final exam.  And got a very, very well-deserved A in the class.  Take that, Professor #2.  I love that girl's determination - and that she uses her powers for good.  If she ever turns to a life of crime, we are all in trouble.

I sit at my favorite coffee place (see the photo of my chai latte?  How can you not love a place that makes lovely stuff like this?) and think of how amazing it is that out of all of the kids in history, I happened to get the best ones!!!  Crazy.