Tuesday, May 31, 2005

See you soon! Posted by Hello
Charting a course. Posted by Hello

Off to New Mexico!

Dan and I will be on vacation through June 10. We'll have a laptop with us and it is my goal to give regular updates of our travels at my new vacation blog, so check it out, then check back here after the 10th!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Exciting Announcement!

Okay, it's sort of exciting. It's exciting to me, at any rate.

I've created a vacation blog!

I've posted the last three years of vacations and pictures, taken from posts to my home page that I'm too lazy to ever update. Personally, I think 2003 is the best, with lots of pictures of Acadia, Monhegan, and the Hancock Shaker Village. But anyone who likes beaches and lighthouses should check out 2002, when we went to Cape Cod.

And very, very soon, I will be adding new vacation posts from my upcoming New Mexico vacation. My goal is to post to the vacation blog daily while I'm gone, so we'll see how far we get with that.

In other news, it's just been the same old, only more so now that everyone knows I'm leaving. Work was crazy this week, and I come home to a thousand things I think I should be doing. Just your ordinary pre-vacation insanity.

At least I have a long weekend to get prepared.

Recent Workouts
Saturday: 14 mile run
Friday: 45 minute core and strength training
Thursday: 45 minute core and strength training, 45 minute bike: Spinerval 7.0 The Uphill Grind
Wednesday: 45 minute core and strength training, 4 mile run at Memorial Park
Tuesday: 45 minute core and strength training, 45 minute elliptical - interval session
Monday: 45 minute core and strength training, massage day - no evening workout

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Special Delivery - First Class! Posted by Hello
It's... a bunny! Posted by Hello
Who are you? Posted by Hello
Are you my snugglebunny? Posted by Hello
A beautiful friendship. Posted by Hello

Monday, May 16, 2005

What a weekend-- I'm beat! Posted by Hello

The Rest of My Weekend

If anyone thought I was going to rest on Sunday after my long bike ride, they are sadly mistaken.

Thanks to the nice massage I got after the ride, my legs felt pretty decent on Sunday morning. I've felt a lot worse. So I went for an early run, letting my legs dictate the pace. It was a bit slower than I would've liked, but it wasn't a day for pushing myself. I did 12 miles, sticking close to home and felt pretty good until the last couple of miles. But by then I was on the way home, so it was just a matter of whispering encouraging thoughts to myself and before I knew it I was back home.

It was early still, so I made a batch of yogurt. This time when I separated out the part that I wanted to be vanilla, I was much more aggressive with the flavoring. Last week I made the mistake of forgetting that warm sweet milk is going to taste vaguely vanilla anyway, so you can't go entirely on what your taste buds are telling you. So I made it vanilla, then vanilla some more. And by late evening when I took the jars out of the warm water bath in the cooler, the vanilla tasted like vanilla yogurt should. Yummy! I also remembered this time to put a small jar of plain yogurt aside to be left unopened until I need it as starter for the next batch. No more yogurt buying for me! Now I just need my own cow or goat and I'll be in business! That is, until the apartment management finds out.

After I got my yogurt started, Dan and I went out for Indian food and to run a few errands. I picked up some prescriptions and got some really great peppermint cream that I can use on my legs post-run. The last time I got a shoulder massage, the therapist used some of this cream and it was so good I knew I had to have some. It was $21 at Origins, but it's a big tube and will last forever. How strong is it? Well, after we got home I was sitting on the bedroom floor rubbing it into my legs, marvelling at how tingly it was when Dan opened the door and gave me a funny look. "Are you okay?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah. Why?"

"I can smell that stuff all over the house, that's all."


"So you're okay?"

"Yeah. Just tingly and pepperminty. Is it bothering you?"

"No, just checking."

He shut the door. Hm. I wonder what that was all about.

I took a nap soon after, but my sheets still smell a bit minty today. I guess that means mid-week laundry.

After my nap I started a crock pot full of veggies and we went to Memorial Park. I walked the three mile loop while Dan ran it, then met me to walk the last half mile or so. It felt good to get out and just walk a bit.

Back home, I scooped my cooked veggies into individual bowls for the week and started some quinoa and lentils in the broth remaining in the crock pot. I then forgot about the quinoa until it was just slightly overdone. But it had good flavor and it was too late to start again, so I figured there were worse things than mushy quinoa.

And then it was time to iron, stretch, empty litterboxes and give the bunny her evening vegetables. Her garden continues to do pretty well, by the way. I thinned the carrots again this weekend and fed Tid the sprouts. I think she likes having a garden!

And finally, I got my plane tickets reconfigured. I'll be going straight to New Mexico instead of to Hartford first. I have a credit with the airline that I can use later this summer when we have an exact date for my grandmother's service.

I'm looking forward to getting out to New Mexico. It's been too long since I've seen the farm, and even though the reports are good, I want to see how things look for myself.

Sunday's Workout
12 mile run, bayou and Memorial areas
3 mile walk, Memorial Park

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Shiner B.A.S.H. Ride

Otherwise known as The Road to Bugville.

This was my third time to do this ride. It's an interesting concept-- riders start at the same time from Houston, Austin and San Antonio and all converge on the town of Shiner for a concert and post-ride party. I've never been too crazy about the whole post-ride scene (how can anyone care after 96 miles?) but I've always enjoyed the ride itself. In past years I've taken the bus home. For $15 you can purchase a ticket, and they line up the buses to take riders home starting around 3 or 4 pm. But this year Dan's friend Neal wanted a ride home and lent his truck to Dan for that purpose, which meant I had a ride home too.

The morning started with a bit of anxiety because Neal was scheduled up pick us up at 6 am for a 7 am ride that started 34 miles away. Neal had picked up his packet the week before, see. But I hadn't. I didn't ask any questions until the night before, and Dan didn't snap that we had a little math problem until it was too late to do anything about it. So by the time we got to the ride start, we had no time to dilly-dally. Dan got my bike ready while I ran inside, got my packet and used the restroom. Luckily the lines by this point were short in both cases, since most people were lined up with their bikes at the starting line. I guess a late arrival has its advantages.

Back at the truck, Neal took off for the start while Dan pinned my ride number on me and filled my water bottle. Just a few more last-minute items and I was ready. I had a moment's intense suspicion that I was being stupid to leave Dan in charge of my bag instead of putting it on the truck to Shiner, but I had no time to really think the matter through and so I jumped on my bike for a quick test that everything worked just as the announcer wished everyone a great ride and sent off the first wave. I gave Dan a kiss and headed up to the start, resetting my computer mileage to zero and merging with the second wave.

And after that, nothing much happened for a long time. The pace was typically slow for the first mile as we wound our way out of absurdly gigantic Katy Mills Mall and down some two-lane roads. I worked my way around a few packs of slowpokes and finally settled into a pretty good pace. The morning was foggy and windier than advertised on weather.com, but nice cycling weather for all that.

I ran into friends and former cycling buddies Phil and Harold early on. I passed Phil as I went past a rest stop. Much later, he and Harold caught up to me and started to tease me about catching up until I pointed out they had needed to draft off a pace line to do it. We rode more or less together down a rough road to the third rest stop (Eagle Lake), where I guess they stopped because I continued straight through and never saw them again.

I didn't stop until the fourth rest stop, around mile 50. By then I was out of water and hungry for a bit of solid food. I topped off my water bottle, grabbed a banana half and scooped a cookie into an indusrial-size can of peanut butter they were using for sandwiches. Not bad. I put the water bottle back on my bike and continued on my way.

After mile 60 was where things got nasty. In addition to the road, which had been rough and slow for much of the way, now we had to contend with love bugs-- those red-eyed mating flies one often sees in the spring. I've ridden buggy spring rides before, but this was far and away the worst I'd ever seen. The flies were literally swarming, so that all of us slogged on for mile after mile with their soft bodies pinging our faces, arms, legs and bodies non-stop. They got in my helmet. They got stuck on my sunglasses. They landed on my legs, arms and water bottle and took up residence. They hit my face. They hit my chest and I feared I would find them inside my jogbra at the end of the ride. (I did not, thank goodness.)

After twenty or thirty miles of this, it became maddening. I suppose if this had been a race venue with something at stake, I would've pulled out the mental resources to try to make something humorous out the situation. But instead, the rough road and my tight IT bands (which had been bothering me from the start) combined to put me in a grumpy mood with brief moments of near desperation over the constant plop of insects hitting my body. It was positively Hitchcockian. The only thing you could do was put your head down and hope for a clear patch. There were precious few of these.

My only other stop was in Halletsville. I always like this stop because it's at the old town courthouse-- one of those beautiful old buildings that always seem way too fancy for some little country place, but that one nevertheless finds all over Texas. So I like this stop for its location. But even more important, we have access to the courthouse restrooms. My ride philosophy is that if there's an opportunity to use a flush toilet in a clean restroom with all the trimmings, do it! So I parked my bike, used the restroom, washed my face and reapplied sunscreen, put an IcyHot patch on my aching lower back, filled my water bottle, stretched and ate a Clif Bar. I dawdled. It was my only indulgence that day, and I needed it if I was going to face those %#^%^#@! bugs again.

We finally got free of the bugs as we made the turn off the highway onto the back roads near the Spoetzl Brewery. In previous years the ride has ended at the brewery, but this year we were directed an additional mile to a large park. For many of us, this kind of defeated the purpose. The whole point of the ride is to go to the brewery, but the ride and post-ride party have gotten bigger in recent years and this year they figured a bigger venue was needed.

To say I was disappointed with the new venue would be an understatment. We got there on a road pitted with small holes, and there were no people cheering at the finish line, no volunteers handing out water. Instead, we had to get off our bikes and start trudging in the direction of the Rider Check-In. The showers were on the way, so I stopped and called Dan to see if he had made it in yet. He hadn't. I wasn't surprised. Somehow he had taken our instructions of the morning, where we said we'd be there by 2:00 at the latest to mean he should be there at 2:00. It was 12:30, I was sticky and buggy, and he was still an hour away with my bag. No shower for me. I knew I should've put my bag on the truck. I should've trusted my instincts on that one!

So I stopped at some sinks and washed my face, arms and legs. That helped a little, then I went up the hill, got my post-ride tickets and trudged what felt like a quarter mile toward the food. At this point there still wasn't anyone giving out water to the riders. I was starting to be pissed.

At the entrance to the concert/food area, they were doing metal checks. Metal checks? I couldn't believe it! What was this, an airport? A prison? A high school? Who ever heard of needing to be gone over with a metal detecting wand in order to get a stupid bottle of water and something to eat after a 96 mile bike ride???

Okay, whatever. I got inside and it was huge! I got me some water, which I had to use one of my tickets for (another annoyance, since all other rides give the riders their water for free), then checked out my food options, keeping an eye out for Neal all the time. I wasn't terribly impressed by the food. It was heavy on carnival fare, such as funnel cakes, turkey legs and the like. I just wanted some pasta or ice cream or something, but no such luck.

Thoroughly out of sorts, I went to the massage tent and got on the waiting list. There was a long wait, but hey, no hurry. Dan wouldn't be arriving for awhile. Then I bought me a chicken shishkabob that was way more food than I could eat, so I only ate half of it. If I'd had a means to save the rest for later, I would've. Instead I had to throw it away, which seemed wasteful. I finally got my massage, and then tried to call Dan again. His cell phone wasn't responding, and I later learned his carrier doesn't give a signal in Shiner. Great. So I gave the last of my food/beverage tickets to a good-looking guy who had been complaining that he couldn't afford both a massage and extra tickets for beer, and then I headed to the Rider Pickup area, trusting that this would be my best bet for finding Dan.

Once there, I ran into Neal who had had the same idea. He'd looked for me earlier, as I had looked for him, but the venue was just way too big for people to find each other unless they had a pre-arranged meeting place. We hung out in the shade of a tree and waited about ten minutes or so, and then saw Dan walking up the path from the parking area. We hurried down to him, and were pleasantly surprised that he had brought us our shoes. It wasn't a huge deal for me because I use mountain bike shoes on these sorts of rides, but Neal had been stumbling around on his slick racing shoes with their big clips in front. We put on our shoes while Dan apologized for his tardiness and related his misadventures (traffic tieups, misdirections, etc.). We hardly cared at that point. We racked our bikes, changed into clean t-shirts and piled in.

The drive home took two hours, including the usual I-10 slowdowns once we were back in the city limits. The first thing I did when I got home was take a shower! Finally clean, I put my gear away, cleaned my helmet and sunglasses, hung my damp clothes to dry and then settled in to eat and check my email. I was still keyed up from the ride, but everything hit me within about 30 minutes. It was nap time.

I had earned it.

Today's Workout
Shiner B.A.S.H. Ride: 96 miles, Houston to Shiner

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Creamy bunny goodness! Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Remembering Grandma

This morning I got word that my maternal grandmother had passed away. She was my last remaining grandparent and would've been 99 years old on the 29th of this month.

We are all as much relieved as anything else. She spent the last ten years in a nursing home due to Parkinson's and the effects of a few strokes, and the last few years had seen her becoming increasingly feeble-bodied and forgetful. There were times last June, which was when I saw her last, that she wasn't even sure who I was, although she had periods of remarkable lucidity as well. She didn't have Alzheimer's. Her mind was simply atrophying from age and inactivity. She was at one of the best homes in the country, but even they could only do so much for her.

It was no kind of life, at the end. I'd go visit her each year around her birthday (she lived in Connecticut which wasn't conducive to frequent visits) and I would usually find her in her room, hair coiffed, nails done, a pretty dress on, dozing in front of a TV turned to news or Animal Planet. She no longer read or participated in activities. She just dozed and waited with only marginal interest for lunch, her hair appointments and visitors.

It was distressing. At the end, she was not the woman I remembered.

The woman I called Grandma took me on my first plane trips and educated me in the art of airport navigation. She picked blueberries from the yard of her Cape Cod house and put them on our corn flakes in the morning. She took me to the beach and told me sternly that we were only there for thirty minutes, even though I was too young to know what thirty minutes meant. She walked into town each day to check her post office box (no house to house deliveries in Dennis, MA in those days). Then she would walk to the grocery store or the library. I lived for those walks to the library in Dennis-- a tiny little house with all its rooms filled with books. Grandma took me to visit her sisters on the Cape, and I especially loved visiting Pin, who had an antique shop and a rambling old colonial house with a big tree in the yard where we would all sit in the shade and look for four-leaf clovers. Every summer we found at least one.

Those were lucky times.

But all things come to an end, and the death of her siblings and my grandfather took a toll on her. She sold the house and moved into a condo. A few years later she moved to Connecticut to be near her younger son. When even the assisted living facility was unable to meet her needs, she moved into the nursing home. It was her choice. My uncle wanted to set her up with a nurse in his home, but Grandma had her notions, and thought she would be a burden and her grandsons would be a nuisance. As if those bookish boys could ever be a nuisance to anyone but a textbook publisher!

So she went into the nursing home, and we all assumed that she wouldn't last long. She lasted a decade. At her death, she was the longest term patient they had.

The inactivity eventually wore her down. She lost interest in the scheduled activities of the home. She lost interest in reading. Her last few years were spent in a sort of hazy limbo of dozing in front of the TV, waiting for something to happen. Not much ever did. She had regular visitors and phone calls, but it all melded into a sort of timeless sameness for her, making her lethargic and vague. Up until a couple of years ago, she could still come out of it, though. One sunny June day, Dan and I wheeled her outside to enjoy a bit of fresh air. I caught a butterfly for her and was startled at her agility when she caught it out of my hand to examine it more closely.

Sadly, such incidents were the exception rather than the rule. The last time we were there, Dan and I had a feeling it would be the last time. She was more vague than we had ever seen her, and wasn't recognizing even those closest to her. It was necessary to remind her often who you were.

On my very last visit, after chatting with her about my travels in Maine and thinking she understood, she had another one of her blank moments. Grasping at my hand, she asked me earnestly, "Am I your grandmother?"

"Yes, Grandma, you are. And I'll always love you."

Friday, May 06, 2005

Pondering... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mother-In-Law Madness

Where to begin?

My mother-in-law is a very sweet lady, although she unfortunately came of age in the 1950s when female helplessness was thought attractive. Perhaps that's why in spite of her fear of doctors, she has done nothing to safeguard her health as she's grown older. Over the nine years of our marriage, Dan and I have seen her admitted to the hospital several times for matters that really could've been nipped in the bud, like colds that turn into bronchitis and then pneumonia. That sort of thing.

So on Saturday evening, I woke from my post-Indian-buffet nap to find a couple of frantic voicemails on my landline from Dan's sister, saying Mom-in-law had been taken to the hospital with stroke symptoms. She had also called Dan's cell, because when I went looking for him, he was already gone and had left a note.

First update was that she had been taken to a nearby hospital, checked over and released. Dan came home. Second update was that within an hour of arriving back home, she had the symptoms again and was this time taken to Methodist Hospital, which is known for its stroke team. Dan dithered around the house for a little while, agitated and uncertain whether to join his brother and sister at Methodist or wait for word when he would be needed. But finally he took off, wrinkled shirt and all, and was gone all night.

Poor baby. He spent all night in the ER waiting for her to be admitted and given a room, and didn't get home until around 11 am Sunday, at which point he promptly crashed.

So much for our comped theater tickets for the 2:30 matinee. Of course his mother and his sleep were more important, but since he quit doing theater work in '99 we've hardly gone to any plays at all and this one starred one of his old theater buddies. It was also the only weekend for which we could get free tickets.

Oh well.

Sunday evening, with lots of tests done and no definitive diagnosis, Dan went back to the hospital to spend the night with her. She was terrified to be alone, so the three siblings were taking shifts. Lucky Dan got the all-nighter. *Sigh* So I packed the little soft-side cooler full of goodies including homemade bread pudding, and sent him on his way. And Monday night we did a repeat. She was finally released late Tuesday morning with a diagnosis of transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes) and a prescription for what turned out to be $300 worth of medicines.

Oh, did I mention that part of Mother-in-law's helplessness includes a complete inability to get herself onto things like prescription insurance programs?


So Dan ponied up the $300 and then showed the receipt to his siblings. The same siblings who had previously told him, voices dripping with sincerity and can-do spirit, that all such expenses would be split three ways. The same siblings who were now suddenly, mysteriously broke. These are also the same siblings who by virtue of their proximity (one lives with her, the other next door) promised over a year ago to get their Mom onto AARP's insurance and see what else she may qualify for. They didn't do that, either.

This puts us in quite a pickle. Obviously a loved one's life is worth the inconvenience of time and money, but we just don't have $300 a month sitting around here. If we had that kind of money left over at the end of the month, I'd be sending it to the student loan people. We could afford a mortgage on an inner-loop home with an extra $300 per month. We just don't have it and we can't wish it into existence.

And we shouldn't have to. It's their mother, too. TIAs have a very high rate of being precursors to bigger, serious strokes resulting in paralysis or death if they aren't treated properly and promptly. That includes proper medication. One has to wonder just what the sibs would do if they didn't think they could shove the whole responsibility onto my husband. Would they just let her die?


In other news, I had a weird Saturday workout. It's usually my long run day, but threatening clouds and a stiff wind made me rethink the matter and head to the gym instead. In these circumstances, I usually alternate 30 minutes elliptical/30 minutes treadmill to keep myself from going mad with boredom. After two hours of this and still no rain, I went back to my apartment, changed into some dry clothes and went for a short run on the bayou trails.

On Sunday there were no organized rides, nor had I been invited anywhere, so I had planned to do a spin session. But I was up too late waiting on Dan's calls to get up with the chickens and do my spinning before he came home. Once he was home and asleep, it was out of the question. So I saved my spin session for evening and spent the day cooking instead. I made a week's worth of brown rice and veggies, and also made my first-ever batch of yogurt.

The yogurt almost turned into a disaster. Even though I followed the instructions to the letter, the yogurt didn't set within the three hours promised by the website I used. Luckily I'd seen other websites that said it would take 5 hours, 8 hours or even 12-24. So I didn't get discouraged and toss the jars, but left them sitting in the warm water and by 8 pm it looked like it might be starting to gel. By 9:30 I had yogurt. Real yogurt made in my dinky little kitchen by yours truly! Best of all, it was creamy and much tastier than store-bought. Yay, me!

So that's my news. And exciting stuff it is.

Recent Workouts
Saturday: 1 hour elliptical, 1 hour treadmill, 3 mile run
Sunday: 90 minute bike - Spinervals 5.0 Mental Toughness
Monday: 45 minute core and strength training, 30 minute lunchtime walk, 30 minute elliptical
Tuesday: 45 minute core and strength training, 30 minute lunchtime walk, 45 minute bike - Spinervals 3.0 Suffer-O-Rama