Monday, December 12, 2011
Or at least one of my shoes does!
Yesterday's 5k was a local Jingle Bell Run and all participants received a pair of jingle bells to tie to their shoe. And this blue etched metal thing, not sure exactly what it is but I can hang it on the tree as an ornament.
Almost 1000 people running along with bells jingling at every step¡Kpretty cool sounding. And I PR'd, finishing in 27:15, which is just about what I'd hoped for. I'm thinking of doing another 5k this coming Sunday to see if I can get under 27 minutes. I should have done it yesterday but at the 2 mile mark I was at about 17:22, which was ahead of what I expected, and I think I mentally relaxed and slowed way down, figuring I had plenty of time.
In other news it was a busy weekend. This is probably the worst time of year for a shopaholic, when stereotypical American culture EXPECTS over the top shopping; nay, almost demands it. Very, very dangerous times.
Each year at work we obtain a list from a local organization that works with the developmentally and/or economically disadvantaged and sign up to be Christmas presents. Most are kids / teens, but usually there are some adults too. What we give is, in most of the cases, the only Christmas present the individual will receive. So how can you decline to participate when you have the means to do so? Or only give the child's first wish (we are given 2 in order of priority), especially when it is for a coat or pair of pajamas? It is very sad when a child's first wish (and sometimes second as well) is for basic necessities and not for something to enjoy (or, more likely, a parent's wish for their child; necessary, but sad).
So I sign up for 2 kids each year and Saturday I went shopping for them. I love to shop (*raises hand, recovering shopaholic here!*) and especially since I am not buying anything for my own kids this year (they have requested $$ instead) I was overdue for my fix. I did pretty good, only going over my unofficial "try to stay in this range budget" by $25 and got everything on the wish lists, necessities AND fun stuff. And I only used cash AFTER paying bills, so no extra debt to worry about or unpaid bills going into collections. Yes, I could have used the money to pay off some more debt but some things are more important. I am talking about the kids here, not my shopping fix ;-)
And then I went shopping for myself, because once I start spending it is hard to stop and there were some things that I needed to get. But again, I did pretty well. I went into a store where I had a "get $10 off a $10 or more purchase" coupon intending to buy some socks or something for just over the $10 so they would be basically free...and walked out with just the socks. Huge improvement for me, I NEVER go into a store for just one thing and walk out with only that one thing.
But then I succumbed to the lure of Bed, Bath & Beyond, buying a drawer knife rack to replace the block sitting on the counter and a new K-Cup storage thing that has 4 stacked slide out trays so it can fit in the cupboard to replace the counter-top carousel. I have limited counter space so this freed up an entire corner for me. I also found a tissue box cover & q-tip container that I repurposed to hold the empty k-cups and paper wrappers from the sugar packets, which further reduced the amount of space taken up by the basket I used before. Plus they are more esthetically pleasing than a white plastic basket and Subway bag. I had intended to get the knife block only but...well, these things happen.
Sunday - before the race - I cleaned my carpets, cleaned the kitchen and cleaned out the garage (mostly) so I can park inside for the winter. I Freecycled about a dozen items yesterday and have another dozen listed today, in addition to the things I put out at the curb as "Free" before the garbage guys arrive. All but 2 items were gone before I left for work today and I'll bet the other 2 were taken as soon as it was light enough for people to see they were there. I could have listed these things on eBay or Craig's List but for what I could earn vs. my time to manage it isn't worth the time & aggravation. Now I just need to contact Purple Heart to come pick up the old minivan and other donations, and drop off the old blankets, towels & sheets to the animal rescue (along with a big bag of dried catnip from my plants) and I'll have made a good start on decluttering.
Monday, December 05, 2011
Haha, you thought I was done! No such luck.
My son plays fife in the 1st Michigan Fife & Drum Corps, which focuses on Revolutionary War era costume & music. They march in parades and play in a number of events each year. The biggest event is Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village (an extremely large historical village with homes/shops/exhibits/etc. of life in the US from the 17th century to early 20th century, started/supported by Henry Ford / Ford Motor company). Each year the Corps. stands around one of the fires and plays period & Christmas music for the people who come to the event; they do this for 14 nights total (taking turns, not everyone plays every night). Given that my son does not yet drive I get to spend the evning there as well. This year he is committed to 4 nights, and possibly a 5th. So that's where I was Saturday night, sitting in the admin building catching up on e-mails and playing mah jong for 4 hours. Parents don't get to go into the village unless they've also bought a ticket for that night and, quite frankly, if you go once there's not much point in going again as very little ever changes. I'm hoping his dad agrees to take 2 of the remaining nights. Other members have also offered to drive him but we tried that last year and it didn't work out very well.
On Friday night my son wanted to go to the Holiday Nights as a spectator, with his girlfriend. And my daughter also wanted to go again so I bought the tickets and away we went. I had a Groupon so beforehand we had dinner at a place called Black Market - a bar/grill type place with a standard menu of appetizers, sandwiches, pizza and burgers. Their claim to fame is that the burgers are made from exotic meats (all farm raised, no illegal poaching or trafficking despite the name). On the menu Friday was bison, ostrich, alpaca, kangaroo, yak, alligator...and african lion.
They were out of everything except bison, yak and alligator so my son & his girlfriend had alligator and I had the yak. Yak is (un)surprisingly pretty similar to bison, it was good. I was taken aback though by the african lion. I have to think about why since none of the other meats made me stop and think and somehow ordering lion for dinner just seems...wrong? You can argue that all meat eating is wrong, starting from the living conditions of the animals right up to killing a feeling creature for food...I don't necessarily disagree although I am not a vegetarion; I respect the choices of those who are and expect the same consideration. Although I'm going to have to really think about why lion bothers me and yak does not.
My karate dojo found a new location so the increase was reduced a little bit. At the end of the day I'm paying $10 more per month total; the space is supposed to be larger. So that worked out in the end...at least for now.
Sunday I am running the Jingle Bell Run locally, a 5k. They give us bells to wear and the race happens regardless of the weather. Some previous races were run in heavy snow conditions. So far the forecast is partly sunny with a high of 36F.
I need to sit down soon and figure out races for next year. Not necessarily to register yet but at least get some on the radar. I was not able to find one in the London area for the period I am there so don't think I will be able to run any races in London or Paris. Kind of bummed about that but I suspect I will live LOL. I did find one about an hour north of London but the logistics of getting there in the morning are more than I want to deal with (if you have ever seen me drive you would understand why I don't wish to rent a car in a country where they drive on the opposite side of the road) so I will probably pass on it.
Sunday, December 04, 2011
Oh wow, I am behind. Time flies when you're fighting hibernation.
On 11/18 we had our company "soup kitchen", where volunteers bring in crock pots of soup and the employee activity committee provides the crackers and dessert for a communal lunch. We usually get quite a variety of soups with almost no duplication. This year I made vegetable beef soup; except for the beef and the barley every single ingredient, including the seasonings, came from my garden. That was immensely gratifying...and pretty tasty too.
On Thanksgiving Day I ran the 10k Turkey Trot in Detroit, before the big parade. That was my first official 10k; there were 20,000 people in the races (there was also a 1 mile and a 5k). Nearly 8000 people ran the 10k. That was also the biggest race I have been in and it was pretty cool running with a lot of people. In every other race I've done I've run alone for stretches of the course; in this one I was surrounded by a lot of people every step of the way. I met my goal of 60 minutes, finishing in 60:05. And I did it without any idea of my progress during the race. I never saw a single mile marker (complaint #2) and so never had any idea of my pace. Complaint #1 is that people did not respect the starting corrals so you had walkers starting with the faster runners and getting in the way, people with baby joggers not going in the back of the corral as required, and even a group of people carrying a float that took up a lane or more right at the starting line, which slowed everyone. It was still a great experience though and I plan to do it again next year.
Although I am disappointed that I was not in a single posted picture. I was in costume, having found a pair of leopard print spandex pants to match my skort in the costume shop after Halloween and a full face cat mask.
Last Sunday I had to have an emergency plumber visit for a large water leak in the basement. I was having visions of having to pull out the bathtub and two floors to get it fixed; the plumber walked downstairs, never even looked at where the water was dripping and - I am not exaggerating - in 1 second said "it's your ice maker". Sure enough, the water line to the refrigerator had a hole in it; he replaced the hose and was gone in less than 20 minutes. Everything is now dry and no more leaks can be found.
Last week I had several go-arounds with the high school administration. They expelled my son for "making a bomb threat"...except he never made a threat. Well, they said, he didn't really violate any rules but we're not comfortable letting him back in school and we had to write it up somehow (meaning we're afraid some parent will sue us if we let him back in and if you try we will find some other way to get rid of him). So, they said, have him take his classes online through this program and you can apply to the board next year to let him come back (meaning after everyone has had the rest of the year to forget about what he didn't do). Except that the online program costs $4000 and the school district will not pay for it.
So, I said, it took you 3 weeks to figure this out? 3 weeks of telling us you are filling out the applications, yada yada yada, and then you tell me oh by the way it is all your cost, here is the web site so go take care of it all yourself? I asked to see the formal program description, which details how the program is run, who is eligible, etc. Oh, they say, we don't have anything written down, maybe we should. You think? So they don't have the program formalized but they "know" beyond a doubt that he is not eligible for the district to cover the cost. And, of course, this is the only program they will accept to transfer back into the school next year (although it isn't written down anywhere of course, they just "know"). Gee, I wish I had the ability to just "know" everything too.
Some people just shouldn't be allowed to reproduce.
Instead I have decided to home school him. I found an online high school program for him to follow and we will supplement with community college classes as an early admit student. He will end up with a home school diploma once he meets the State's subject requirements and won't be going back to the high school next year.
I picked up my new running shoes Friday. I'm a bit disappointed that my old ones did not last longer, but these are a half size bigger and fit better. I'm glad they came in early enough for me to break them in before my race on the 11th.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
In lieu of having a skeleton in my closet I have the story of The Red Fox.
Last night while doing laundry my son and I had a "discussion" about whether he gets to keep an old souvenir t-shirt. I got it for him a few years ago when we went to Big Stone Gap, VA. Their claim to fame is an outdoor theater where each summer they put on The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, which is now the official Virginia State Outdoor Drama.
The play is based on the book by John Fox, Jr. in the early 1900s and which was quite famous in its day. It was made into a silent movie in 1916 and redone in 1936 with Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray. The book is historical fiction, based on events that took place in and around Big Stone Gap, which was also the author's home. The story is about a feud between 2 families in the Appalachian Mountains.
The important part here is one of the characters, Dr. M.B. Taylor, otherwise known as the Red Fox. A minor character in the story but important nonetheless. Taylor was a faith healer and a "revenuer" in the employ of the government, hunting down moonshiners. He was ideally suited for that role as he traveled constantly throughout the Appalachians as a healer and had the opportunity to find the moonshiners and stills.
In the book, and in real life, there was an ambush of one family as they were traveling somewhere, and several members were killed including a woman and teenagers. The family that was ambushed had, the story goes, been plotting to have the Red Fox killed because he was a very effective revenuer; they offered to pay a "hit man" $300 to kill the Red Fox.
According to the story/history the Red Fox learned of this and decided to pre-empt the hit by ambushing the Mullins family as they took a load of shine into town. The Red Fox and his compatriots opened fire from behind some boulders and killed most of the party. One of the survivors said she identified all the gunmen from hearing their voices, and after a number of days the Red Fox was captured. He stood trial, was convicted and sentenced to hang.
He wore a white suit to his execution. On October 27, 1893 he was escorted to the scaffolding where he preached his own funeral, and was then hung by the neck until dead. At least according to official history.
Except it didn't really happen. The Red Fox was my great-great-grandfather (or maybe it is 3 greats, I can't remember). According to family history he was cut down from the rope before he was dead and placed in his coffin, which was taken to his home. He was then smuggled out of VA across the border into eastern Kentucky where my Dad's family is from (and many of whom were and are moonshiners, including my great-uncle who hedged his bets by running shine as the Sheriff).
There is a museum in Big Stone Gap, much of which is concerned with that period of it's history. It was pretty indescribable to go into a museum and see your ancestor's pictures and life history hanging on the wall. And then to drive half an hour to visit family who have the same pictures and more in the photo albums and to know a little piece of history has immortalized one's family tree (however infamously).
My family bias aside it is a pretty good play so if you are ever in the area (northwest VA more or less) I recommend going.
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