Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Five Things I've Learned While Training for a 5K

5. Running takes a lot of time. Especially if you are slow.

This is something I know something -- actually a great deal -- about. I am VERY slow.

How slow?

So slow that there is, as of yet, no font size sufficiently small to allow me to type for publication just exactly how long it takes me to run a given distance.

So slow that when walkers pass me -- and they DO pass me -- I know they are thinking "why does she bother?"

So slow that "race" may be a bit of a misnomer for the 3.1 miles I'm going to run on June 28 with a whole bunch of other people.

This tremendous amount of time that it takes me to run is time that I have not been blogging (or washing, or drying, or folding ...) At least you know I've been busy.

4. Running makes you hungry.

This would seem somewhat counterproductive. After all, when my great whites and I decided to start rolling out of bed an hour early four days a week, it was not so that they could get bigger. That, however, seems to be what is happening. By 10:30 each morning, I am starving. I eat lunch before noon and then want another lunch before dinner. Cookies are not safe in my presence. And in addition to mommy blogs and The Huffington Post and blogs about how to run faster, now I have to read food blogs to figure out what I'm going to eat tomorrow.

As I said, running takes a lot of time.

3. Like most things, new clothes make it better.

The coach of my Couch to 5K program insists it's better to run in fancy synthetic tops, shorts, and socks that don't absorb sweat like the wicked and evil cotton t-shirt. I wanted not to believe this, but he was right.

The more expensive clothes keep you cooler. When you're cooler, you feel better as you run. When you feel better, you run faster. I don't, but you would. In the meantime, though, I know I look cute.

And there's another benefit. Don't ask me how I know this, but if your thighs rub together in the middle of the summer, they start to sweat and stick together. This leads (I am told) to chafing. It's also hard to get a good long stride when your thighs are glued together. This means there is at least one situation in life when Bike Shorts Are Our Friend.

2. Women runners sweat as much as men.

I've have smelled scents emanating from me after a run that I honestly didn't know female bodies could generate.

1. It is possible to have fun while you're miserable.

I do not enjoy the beginning of my runs. I don't care much for the middle, either, and by the time I get near the end, I'm counting the seconds until I'm done. And yet when it's over, and I've covered a distance I've never run before -- like yesterday, when I RAN 3.1 MILES FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 48 1/2 YEARS -- I feel absolutely amazing.

Cue the theme from Rocky.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Now What Did I Do With That Image?

Last night I posted here about the alarming state of my house, which was all the more alarming because my mother was on her way to Chez Bird for a visit.

As I noted, I didn't actually post pictures of my own home -- wisely, I thought, since the pictures I had found on Google all seemed to have come from other people's blogs, which taught me that the "personal" photos you post on your own little corner of the blogiverse don't stay personal for very long. But the pictures I found were both highly evocative of my own house and very entertaining.

So imagine my surprise when I visited myself today only to see that the kitchen picture I'd found had disappeared and been replaced by that annoying little blue-and-white question mark.

Last night when I signed off, that photo was there. Today, it is gone. Except for the fact that it was a really FABULOUS messy kitchen picture, that's all I and my limited computer skills can tell you.

I tried to get it back, but when I tried to repost the image, it seems to have vanished. All that's left is the little thumbnail on the Google Image search results page.

So if you want to see just how bad my kitchen was (and unfortunately still is -- my mother loves me for qualities other than my housekeeping), you will just have to do a Google Image search of "messy kitchen." My personal favorite was the very first one, but I promise that many of them will be worth your while. Do it before the post-dinner cleanup, and you will probably even decide to save the dishes for another day.

Believe me -- you will not be alone.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Don't Need a Thousand Words, But a Thousand Maids Might Be Nice

In less than 17 hours, my mother will be in town to spend a few days with us.

This is great news. My mom and I get along great. Her grandchildren look forward to her visits. My husband doesn't even know any mother-in-law jokes.

There's just one problem.

Here is what our* kitchen looks like:

(This is not actually my kitchen, nor are any of these photos actually my house.

These images are from other people's blogs, courtesy of Google. They make me realize that posting photos of one's own domestic sloth is perhaps unwise. Certain children members of my family will kill me if they someday see a group gathered around pointing at a laptop and it turns out to be our house. But trust me, people -- ours is really this bad.)

Our living room looks (almost) like this:

(The only difference? We don't have a pile of bones like this person has stacked neatly in the lower left corner. Other than that, spittin' image.)

Our guest bath? Except for the black countertop, just like this.

The room where Mom's supposed to sleep? Other than the guitar, remarkably like this:

And me? Well, right now I look EXACTLY like this:

Monday, June 9, 2008

Gone Too Soon

So tonight I'm in the kitchen, starting dinner while I'm watching the NBC Nightly News. Ben is headed to a movie night at a friend's house, but Billy -- once he finishes chauffeuring Ben and returns a video -- is planning to be home for the evening. Between his job and his internship and a moderate social life, that virtually never happens anymore. It's almost as if he doesn't live here at all.

I explain to the two of them how to get to Ben's friend's house, and they head out the door. I focus on the news.

Every year around this time, network news programs fill space with a compilation of some of the year's more inspiring/provoking/entertaining moments from college graduations. Like every year, tonight's NBC montage shows speakers in funny hats and graduates doing funny little dances and kids with their names painted on the tops of their mortarboards and the ubiquitous pretty girl blowing bubbles.

But this year, there's something different.

I'm sobbing. SOBBING. Gut-heaving, nose-stopping, shoulder-shivering bawling.

Because I realize why I've felt so odd these last few days.

Two weeks ago, Billy finished his junior year of high school. A week ago, he turned 18. The child who made me a mother is now old enough to choose a president, to sign a binding contract, to fight a war.

And in just over a year, he'll be gone.

Not just out-three-nights-in-a-row gone.


My heart is breaking.

No ... that's not right. My heart is cracking, like an egg forced to let something hatch before the egg, at least, feels ready.

It hurts more than I ever imagined.

After a few minutes, the phone rings. It's the kids. They hadn't been paying attention had each thought the other was focusing on my directions, Ben says, and realize they aren't quite sure how to get to Ben's friend's house. This pisses me off brings me back to my senses, and my kitchen, and the dinner I need to fix. I wipe my face as I tell them yet again how to get where they are going.

But as I prepare to get on with my evening, I'm left wondering: Where am I going?

The only place I want to go right now is backwards, to the days of diapers and naptimes and Disney-festooned plates of bite-sized foods. Tonight, I'd give anything to start all over again.

Where did 18 years go?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Me and My Friend John

I am not an athlete.

I fall down a lot.

My hands and eyes do not speak to each other, much less coordinate.

My life has been shaped by a free-floating fear of balls of all shapes and sizes. Today I might be a wealthy partner at an important law firm were it not for the fact that early in my career there I burst into tears when a senior partner insisted I play on the firm softball team. Trust me -- that's what's known in the legal world as a career-limiting gesture.

Yet strangely, it turns out that John Smoltz and I have something in common -- at least enough that if we ever find ourselves next to each other at a cocktail party, we will have something to talk about besides the weather.

Who is John Smoltz, you ask? What does he do? Here is a picture to help you out.

As you can see, Mr. Smoltz throws balls. (Just typing those words scares me.) Apparently, he has done this very, very well for a long, long time.

His shoulder is not happy about this. It's so unhappy, in fact, that Mr. Smoltz announced last week that tomorrow he will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder to figure out just why it is so pissed that it is making noises about ending his career.

Which brings me to our connection.

Some of you may recall that a couple of posts back I said I'd be having surgery on my own shoulder on June 5. That didn't happen, because on June 2, I finally saw the highly touted Rock Star surgeon, and decided he was The One. This was in no small part because Rock Star and the more senior physicians in his practice have become the orthopods of choice to people who tear up their knees, elbows, and shoulders the old-fashioned way -- by using them to earn millions of dollars as professional athletes.

Like John Smoltz.

Mr. Smoltz and I do not actually have the same surgeon, but we will sit in the same waiting room (although when i think about it, he probably doesn't have to wait long) and stand in front of the same X-ray machine and perhaps even lie upon the same examining table.

This is as close as I will ever come to athletic greatness.

Meanwhile, I am thinking of proposing to Rock Star that his practice get some new photographs for their examining rooms. Like the other orthopedic surgeons I've visited, Rock Star's rooms are decorated with photos of famous athletes. While I waited for Rock Star (who looks so young that I swear his Mom has to drive him to work each morning), I counted at least seven pitchers in mid-hurl (I was so afraid I was cowering on the floor). I have no doubt that once Mr. Smoltz's shoulder is healed, he will autograph an 11 x 14 of himself, which Rock Star's mom will have framed and which he and his colleagues will hang with pride in their lobby.

Frankly, this concerns me. "Do you ever operate on Regular People, or only professional athletes?" I asked Rock Star.

"Actually, the athletes are a minority," he said. "Most of the people I operate on are like you."

Well, if that's the case, Rock Star and Company need some new photos. I have some suggestions.

Since I tore up my shoulder by being clumsy, what about this:

(Work with me, people. Google assures me this is a photo of a person who's fallen forward. Since I tend to do this a lot, perhaps next time I could have myself photographed in mid-fall, autograph it, and present it to Rock Star as a token of my appreciation.)

Since I can't get my jacket on without help, how about this:

Ironing is not as enjoyable as it used to be, so he might also try this:

And it's nearly impossible to blow-dry your hair with a bum shoulder, so how about this?

(The fact that this woman is smiling proves that she does not have shoulder issues.)

And since my shoulder makes it completely impossible to show affection to anyone on my left, I'd also suggest this one:

I'll be thinking of Mr. Smoltz tomorrow. From what I hear, the week he's got in front of him will not be pleasant. Hell ... the summer he's got in front of him won't be much fun, either.

Which is why I've postponed my surgery until after we go to the beach in July. After all, here's another thing you can't do with a bum shoulder:

And every summer needs a little fun.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Maybe I Should Not Post More Often

Haiku Friday

Life in disarray,
Blog abandoned for nine days.
Subscriptions? Up one.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

May 2008 -- The Month of Living Crappily

Hi! Remember me? I used to blog here.

Then some stuff happened, and some other stuff happened, and some of it I could talk about because it happened to me, but other parts of it I couldn't talk about because they happened to someone else, and in the World According to Betsy Bird, you only have free rein to blog about it if it's your stuff. If it's someone else's, maybe not.

No one's dying, and no one's getting divorced. No one's been arrested, and no one's run away from home (although I've considered it). All I can say is that the words "New Post" at the top of my Blogger screen tonight might as well have been "Welcome Home." I've missed this space.

So if you'll indulge me, I'd like to write about what I can, a sort of "Since I've Been Gone" for the blogiverse.

1. I kept running ... for awhile.

As some of you may recall, not long ago me and my great whites began a Couch to 5K running program, with a goal of running an actual, real-live, finish-line race the end of June. Last week, a miracle occurred. I actually ran 3/4 of a mile, walked a half-mile, then ran another 3/4 of a mile. Celestial sounds poured forth from the heavens. Birds sang along. Rainbows appeared.

And then I got bronchitis.

Not to be a wimp, I decided to keep running anyway. This was a bad idea. By last Friday night, as the Memorial Day weekend began to suggest itself, I was really sick.

But I didn't take my bed. Are you kidding? I'm the mom. Instead ...

2. I packed Billy off for a trip to the beach with some friends.

How nice, you're thinking. Well, yeah.

Except for finding out 48 hours before he left that he and his friends would be staying in a place by themselves. "Don't worry," the host mother told me. "We'll be just down the beach."

Oh, and there was also the part about how, since they were renting a place FOR THE TEENAGE KIDS, MANY OF WHOM HAD JUST TWO DAYS BEFORE GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL, TO STAY WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION, we would need to contribute $150.

Billy's one of these kids who's never given us a reason not to trust him. Sometimes those are the hardest kind. In the lengthy time we had to weigh all our options and thoughtfully consider the pros and cons of letting him go on this trip, which of course had been planned for weeks -- in other words, 30 minutes -- we decided he'd earned the right to go.

Let the worrying begin.

Before we knew it, the phone rang. It was Billy, who'd insisted it was a really, really great idea to take his new, 140,000-mile Volvo, seeing as how he needed to come back earlier than the other kids they day after Memorial Day.

"Mom," he began. "We stopped at KFC, and when we got back in the car, the check engine light came on, and now it's driving sluggish, so we went to an auto parts place, because we thought they'd know how to fix it, but they don't, and now I need to know what to do."


"Call Daddy," I said. There's a time and a place to take a feminist stand but this wasn't it.

Daddy concluded that Billy and his friends should join the other cars and leave his car. Which meant that we got to spend the first day of the Memorial Day weekend driving to a little town, which didn't have much more than a KFC and an auto parts store, to figure out why the check engine light was on.

Which it wasn't.

Meanwhile, I coughed. I coughed so much that

3. I spent Memorial Day at a Doc-in-the-Box.

Previously in this forum I have taken a stand against Z-pak abuse. Like a child raised in an alcoholic home who grows up to abstain, I was raised by people who toss back antibiotics like some folks eat M & Ms.

But there's a time and a place for everything. After a weekend of fever and coughing up stuff the same shade as this year's most fashionable paint colors (one of these days thousands of Americans will wake up and realize they painted their living room walls the color of infection), I would have robbed a pharmacy for some antibiotics.

But we don't have a gun. So instead, I went to a so-called "urgent" treatment center.

Apparently "urgent" means different things to different people. To me, it meant get there and back before the Law & Order Memorial Day Marathon ended. To the 137-year-old doctor on duty that day, it meant treat me before the end of the month.

In theory I think doctors should wait for the results of a blood test before doling out antibiotics. In practice, when the blood is drawn by a nurse who apparently hasn't seen a vein since Christmas, and when it takes two hours to get the results back, during which the nurse and the doctor and some other folks sit around and eat pizza while I wait alone in an examining room where the paper won't stay on the table, I think we should see if the Mafia would be interested in pursuing a new line of business.

Eventually, and with considerable help from me ("Well let's see, what could we try?" "I've done well on Zithromax in the past." "Say ... now there's an idea."), the doctor "treated" me and went back to his pizza.

Did I mention he never listened to my chest? Isn't that Bronchitis 101? Maybe that's why I'm still sick.

But I have to get well, because

4. I scheduled my shoulder surgery for next Thursday, June 5.

I still haven't 100% committed to a surgeon. As you may recall, I had issues with the first surgeon. So last week I went to see Shoulder Guy.

I liked Shoulder Guy. Yes, he had on cowboy boots, which seemed a little "I'm so cool that I wear cowboy boots in a seven-story medical office building 10 miles from the closest horse," but he was nice, and he explained lots of things, and best of all was he said that actually what needs fixing is not my rotator cuff but my cartilage. This may not sound important, but apparently cartilage heals a lot faster, which means my shoulder won't hurt as much or as long, and my summer won't suck nearly as much as it was sounding like it might a couple of weeks ago. Besides, Shoulder Guy has had his own shoulder cartilage fixed. He didn't do it himself, of course, and I didn't feel comfortable asking who did. But it certainly didn't sour him on the procedure. "I LOVE doing these," Shoulder Guy said.

Of course, I love doing crosswords. That doesn't mean I'm any good at them.

Stay tuned ...