Thursday, March 27, 2014

3-27-14

Winter is prevailing over Spring and now the long range forecasts from some sources are calling for a major storm next weekend.  Now, 10 days away I’m not going to get all amped up about it yet, but…seriously?  I guess it would be okay to be snowed in on my wedding anniversary (17 years!)  At least it LOOKS like Spring, even if it feels like January.  The sun is shining and things are greening up (as they freeze to death).  It makes me really want to spend some time outside.  Except it is COLD!!
If I was a runner, I’d be looking forward to a nice run in the sunshine without overheating.  Except I’m not a runner.  I think I’ve finally almost gotten to the point where I can admit that I never will be a runner.  I have a love/hate relationship with running…well, more like a tolerance/hate relationship if I’m honest.  I appreciate the efficiency of running – I can get a good workout in 30 minutes without needing a gym or a pool.  It burns a lot of calories in a short amount of time, and if I ignore the discomfort, it gives a nice workout high.   But.   After my back problems last summer/fall and the continued pain in my left hip area (it’s really the back of my leg – too high to be a hamstring, too low to be a glute and it hurts into my hip.  What else is back there?  I have no idea,) I stopped running for about 4 months.  The cold and snow made it easy to not run and to focus on the elliptical and swimming with an occasional recumbent bike ride thrown in.  But…everyone around me runs and I guess I feel a little peer pressure to keep up and run too.  It’s not like I tore my ACL or anything – there’s no actual injury to speak of, just pain from my crooked back and high arches and weird stride. 
I have this annoying desire to be like everyone else, so about 6 weeks ago I thought I’d slowly start back to running.  I increased my runs per week from 0 to 1 (impressed, aren’t you?) and gradually increased the mileage on the treadmill from 1 mile to 3+).  It didn’t feel great, but it didn’t feel awful either.  This Monday I was feeling pretty decent once I got through the first mile and a half and I just kept going – doing 3.6 miles at a okay pace (between 8:00 and 8:30 per mile – this is okay for me, but slow for real runners).  I even did some “rolling hills” on the treadmill.  And then I stopped and tried to stretch out and suddenly became 80 years old.  My hip/leg/butt hurt so bad I limped to the locker room and tried to stretch under the hot water in the shower.   It didn’t help. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Watching Alaska


I am confused.  Is it Spring or Winter?  After a gorgeous 60 degree day on Saturday, the cold air has returned (20 yesterday AM) and yesterday it snowed.  WTHeck??  I had to put on the full, weirdo-winter gear to walk the dogs this week and break out the heavy winter coat for work.  I saw a cute picture on facebook with a little bird clutching a snow covered branch asking, “Spring forward?  How frigging far did you throw it?”  or something like that.
I am struggling with an overwhelming desire to call off work, find a place that is quiet and dark, and sleep for three days.  No particular reason…or at least none that I care to get into in detail at the moment in a public forum.  I have tons of vacation and sick leave stored up, so I could take a couple of WEEKS off without even feeling it.  But, I have so much work to do, I feel like I can’t spare even a day off right now.   Huh.  Perhaps THAT is contributing to the desire to sleep for days?
This weekend we headed up to State College to 1) visit my in-laws for Christmas (yes, Christmas – we kept hoping they would come down for a visit and to see K swim and well…then it was March) and 2) watch some of Y States.  We headed out after breakfast on Sunday and about half way there I thought to ask B if he had remembered the Christmas presents (yes, Christmas presents) for his parents and niece.  Nope.  Brilliant.  We brought Stromboli with us for lunch (super greasy, yuck) and hung out watching basketball for a couple of hours before heading up to campus. We waited in line for ice cream at the Creamery behind Purdue’s softball team.  Ironically, my sister and my oldest niece were visiting Purdue at the same time, so I texted her and then queried the Purdue coaches for good places for them to go to dinner near campus.  Small world.  K got a cone of lemon sherbet and B and I shared a cone of chocolate while we headed to the natatorium for the meet.  It was, literally, standing room only, and we ended up in the balcony at the turn end of the pool – great view.  No one could hear us cheering, but we were still there routing for our team and some kids from Reading’s team.  We could see the awards podium really well and got some decent pictures.  B had inventory the next morning so we, unfortunately, had to leave before the meet was over.  
I was disappointed overall with our team’s “spirit.”  Reading’s parents all sat together in a big clump and cheered like crazy for all the team swimmers.  Ours sat…scattered and left as soon as their kids were done.  I even got a “why are you here?” from one parent.  The attitude made me uncomfortable.   Because I want to see my swimmers?  If I could have been there the whole weekend, I would have.  Heaven knows I’m not good enough to COACH at States, but I am good enough to WATCH aren’t I?
Speaking of uncomfortable, I had my first ever “review” after 3 full seasons of coaching.  It was a little bizarre.   My "supervisor" couldn't find the evaluations, and spent way more time talking about how stressed she is about personal things (I feel a great deal of compassion for her as a human being) than discussing my "performance."  She did say repeatedly that I do an excellent job at whatever it is I do, how much she appreciates my willingness to sub and step in where needed, how I get back to her quickly and keep her informed, etc.  But she kept saying how I am a "brand new coach" and with the emphasis there and on how hard I “try to learn.” When I left I felt….deflated.  There was no opportunity to have a discussion, no chance for me to say anything, and the comments section on my newly completed evaluation form was completely blank.  I felt worse about coaching when I left than I ever had, even with what amounted to copious, albeit somewhat backhanded, praise. 
K and I have enjoyed the time off swimming. and it makes me not want to go back.  She is taying in shape by swimming on her own (or with me) 3 times a week, but during the week she is home by the time I get home from work and we can relax, have dinner, do homework, and read/watch TV together instead of rushing in different directions or seeing each other in passing at the Y.  Now that "Downton Abbey" is over, we are loving "When Calls the Heart" on Hallmark but the series finale is this week, so we will need to find something else.  We also really like "Buying Alaska" and "Buying the Bayou" – two shows on one of the 850 channels we have which local real estate agents show people three different properties in Alaska or Louisiana/Alabama.  B and I would love, LOVE, to move to Alaska.  Get away from people, hunt moose and caribou, fish for salmon, live off the land.  Mostly we like to imagine the get away from people part.   My cousin lives outside of Fairbanks (Hi, N!) and we envy the life she and her family have built, although I am sure it is super hard to be cold all the time and so far from family.   I wish Alaska wasn’t so far away!  It’s not like we could pop over for a weekend and scope out the area, or go interview for jobs, or look at houses…so it will just stay a dream for us until we are old enough to retire at which point we will be too old to move to Alaska.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Confessions of a Gym Snob: Rule of Ponytails


My rule of ponytails:  Anyone who spends as much time fixing her hair BEFORE she works out, as I spend fixing my hair AFTER I work out and shower, should concentrate her efforts in happy hour, not the gym at 5am.  Or maybe I’m just a hot mess when I roll out of bed and head to the gym and should spend more time on my own appearance so I don’t offend the sensibilities of the other gym-goers at 4am? 
I am also a snob in general, I realize.  Lately I have replaced my efforts at gratitude with efforts at being snarky.  For example…why do people who sit 20 feet away from me have to CALL ME on the phone?  Can’t you just get up and come and visit me? 
Why, when there are dozens of empty seats, does the same Indian woman sit with me every day and video chat with her friends/sister/someone on her phone?
Why do people in my neighborhood put their trash out on the curb in bags or open cans so the skunks/raccoons/cats/neighborhood fox, get into it and spew the trash all over the place?
Alright, I’m done.  For now.
Back to gratitude.
Today I am thankful for my job.  There are a ton of things wrong with it, but I am glad that I have it.
I am thankful for my upgrade to Office 2013.  I didn’t like it yesterday when I got it, but today it is growing on me.Today I am thankful my parents made it safely back from FL.

I am grateful that my eldest niece is very interested in an Ivy League school that might allow us to see her swim once in a while!
I am grateful that K’s grades, after taking a precipitous turn earlier in the quarter, have rebounded to normal levels.  She even got a “progress report” for her grade in 1 class which had us worried.  I couldn’t say out loud that I don’t really care about that class – it meets once a week for 45 minutes and she doesn’t even get a number/letter grade on her report card and the teacher is…maybe not the best – so we addressed it, talked about strategy to pull the grade up, and moved forward.  Another grade on the report card was surprisingly low and we immediately talked to her teacher who assured us that it was a mistake.  Phew.  That was a relief.  She has been trying harder on the whole studying thing too, making more of an effort to have us quiz her and reviewing more than the night before.  Hopefully it will pay off.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Confessions of a Gym Snob

Yesterday I went into the Y to swim and to register K for the Spring/Summer/next year swimming.  When I got there, it was pretty crowded - a bunch of screaming kids in the rec lanes, a couple of my swimmers in a lap lane, my friend T in another, and a whole bunch of old ladies and men in the other open lap lanes.  I squeezed in between two fat old ladies who were mostly floating in place or crawling up and down the lanes.  Fine.  No problem.  I can share lanes pretty well and I am good at avoiding the walkers and minimizing the waves I make when going by them.  It didn't change my swimming except it required me to periodically break form to watch out for the one old lady to make sure I didn't run into her or she into me.  This would have been fine except the old lady in question was wearing a bikini. 

Yes, I said a bikini. 

She had to have been 75 or older and she was...

Fat. 

I was looking for a nicer way to say that, but fat pretty much sums it up. 

So, picture in your brain a 75 year old fat lady in a bikini. 

Got it? 

Good. 

Now, add in the image of her laying on her back holding onto the wall doing something like breaststroke kicks while I am swimming towards her, looking ahead instead of down so that I can avoid doing a flip turn on top of her.

Yeah.

I'll never be able to unsee that.....

And now that you have the image in your head, neither will you.

You're welcome.

Spring?


Swimming! Is! Done! Did I say that with too much excitement? Let me say it again more soberly….swimming is done. I have mixed feelings about it. I am glad for the break, for not having to run down or back down to the Y every night and eat PB& J or eat really late and then go to bed. I am glad to not have to rush to get things together for the next day and lose sleep so I can spend a few minutes with B before I pass out. But, I am a little sad that I am not seeing the kids anymore and that K is done with practice and won’t see her friends until April. A a nice handfull of kids made it to States next weekend. I am really happy for them since there were some surprises in there!
But...I am no longer needed for practice and I was not asked to coach at States so…I also feel…Useless? Unwanted? Unnecessary? Unqualified? Several things have had me questioning whether I should even bother coaching any more, but I won’t bore you (myself) with the details. But if I am unwanted, unnecessary, and unqualified to do anything other than teach basic stroke mechanics to little kids, and am just a body on deck when needed for anyone over the age of 10…why am I giving up so much of my time, energy, and sleep for it? Is it worth it? Am I doing anyone any good? I get no feedback from anyone except a few nice comments from parents. I am the type of person who needs feedback....otherwise I tend to interpret the lack of feedback as negative feedback. I got into this because K had to be there anyway, and it seemed like a way to be closer to her and a part of something she enjoys rather than just sitting on my a$$ reading while I wait for her. I really enjoy doing it, but I am, quite honestly, having a hard time separating my need to be a good mom and wife and the oft repressed need to practice some self care, with my need to feel…needed? Important? Indispensible?
K’s season ended with Districts. I was there from 7:30am (after getting lost in West Philly) until about 8:15pm and by the time I got in the car, my legs were SCREAMING. I had done a crazy workout on Saturday, something I got from a magazine which thought would be easy, and I could barely bend my legs when I woke up on Sunday. Standing on deck the entire day Sunday, with a short break for lunch, was brutal. The kids swam really well for the most part, little kids in the morning and K’s group in the afternoon. We had two little kids make it to States and 4 from K's age group made it individually, plus a boy's relay. It was a reasonably well run meet but there was one official there who seemed intent on DQ-ing as many kids as possible. It got to the point that I almost didn’t recognize him without his hand raised. Thankfully, none of our kids was subjected to his poor judgment. We did have a little excitment though when one girl missed her swim because the timers in her lane were standing in front of her and blocking the starting platform. Thankfully the referee agreed to let her swim, but made her swim alone rather than putting her with a heat of boys. She did well though and squeaked into States.
K had two best times in her 200 free and 100 free but then had a really poor swim in her best event – 50 fly. It was disappointing, but…certainly not the end of the world. It was entertaining to see the difference in size among the girls (and boys). There was one girl who was over 6 foot tall (12 years old???) and a boy who was so fast he set a national record in one event and came close in another. There were some K's size too but there were a fair number of more...substantial… girls too. One team in particular had some very meaty coaches and some fairly meaty swimmers too and made me wonder what they feed them in that area. Then there was my little squirt....
Spring has finally sprung. Maybe. A little. It's hard to say that with a straight face when it is 25 degrees and there is snow on the ground today. We had some warmer weather last week and over the weekend which got the snow to start melting. At first I was confused, wondering what the greenish brownish stuff in the backyard might be. Mold? Some sort of plague? Oh, grass. How...unusual. Both dogs are a little confused too about the disappearing snow. Pippi only has random piles of dirty, gritty snow to munch on now and Tony has to contort himself to find a pile of snow to poop on. Once the snow receded from the flower beds the bulbs made up for lost time and popped out of the earth. The crocuses bloomed almost immediately in the yard at the end of the block that is always the first harbinger of Spring and our daffodils are making haste coming up too. It is still chilly at night, but the frostiness is leaving (today notwithstanding). Finally. I am trying to use all the newly found free time to get back to a routine – getting up on time, going to the gym, relaxing with my family in the evening, folding laundry and putting it away as it is done instead of creating a small mountain in the living room. The only thing I haven’t been successful in doing is sleeping – getting only about 5-6 hours of sleep a night. last week, which is definitely not enough for me. Part of it is the mental struggle I described earlier with swimming, some of it is work related (a post for another day), and some of it may have been chocolate related - eating brownies too close to bed? I’m not sure. In any event, I ended up struggling to stay awake on the train and at work and, scarily, driving home. That “Spring forward” crap into daylight savings really screwed me up!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Things I will do when swim season is over.

1.  Clean my house.  Dog hair.  Everywhere.  The end.

2.  Take a bath in lotion.  My skin is SO DRY and I am SO LAZY about putting on lotion.

3.  Soak my feet and try to remove some of the 3 inch thick calluses on my heels. 

4.  Sleep.  All I really want in life lately is to sleep.

5.  Eat dinner with my family.  If I never see a PBJ sandwich again it will be too soon.

6.  Get out of my workout rut - maybe try a spin class or something. 

7.  Only carry 1 change of clothes with me at a time.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Skunk Season


Winter is giving way to skunk season.  Yay.  Now that the skunks are waking up from their brief slumber or whatever it was they were doing for the last couple of months, the dogs and I have the additional challenge of avoiding them.  Nothing quite as entertaining as waiting for a skunk to pop up in the middle of the sidewalk when the only escape is through a 3 foot high snow pile.
After a week of “warm” weather, and several occasions of rain, the polar vortex has returned and the cold is back.  There has been a great deal of melting, but there is still a foot or more of snow on the ground in most places.  Near the edge of the road and the sidewalk, the snow isn’t so much melting as it is receding – like a glacier.  In some spots there are actually patches of brown, squishy ground that theoretically might be grass!    And just in time for another projected 18 inches of snow coming this weekend.  Yay.
Even with the melting/receding, walking the dogs remains an adventure and a half.    After the blizzard, the snow was piled two, three, and even four feet high on both sides of the side walk.  Where it is cleared at all that is.   The last few days are the first time I have been able to wear sneakers in ages.   Otherwise, I regularly leave the house looking like a caricature of an old woman walking dogs (or like my former neighbor at our old house) – brown hat, old knee length pinkish/purplish coat I inherited from my mom a hundred years ago when she got a new one, purple gloves that are ripped in several spots so the lining sticks out, sweat pants, and low snow boots.   The boots are comfortable – perhaps the most comfortable I have ever had - but not so much for walking 4 miles at a pop.  Between the extra eight, no arch support, uneven icy/slushy surface, snow bank obstacle course, and random frozen debris – my ankles are really sore.  
Surprisingly, although I’ve turned my ankles a couple of times and gotten my leg stuck in a snow pile once, I have remained upright for most of the winter.  Anyone who knows me at all IRL, will realize what a shock this is – I admit to having trouble staying upright even in good weather.  So far this winter though,  I’ve only fallen twice – once flat on my back in the middle of the road after the plow went through and  once IN a snow bank.   Both times, Toby danced around me in excitement and tried to lick my face, trampling me while I tried to stand up again.  “Play, Mommy!  Play!” 
The dogs were a bit befuddled by the snow banks after the blizzard.  Barreling through them was HARD!  Pippi could walk on top of the snow for the most part, but Toby just crashed through when he tried and looked confused.   “Where can I poop, Mommy?”  As a rule, they don’t care what the sidewalks look like, they just go.  Squirrel?  Go!  Bunny?  Go!  Kitty? Go!  Bird?  Go!   While, mommy gets dragged bouncing behind.   One morning right after the blizzard, a bunny was hopping merrily down the sidewalk between the snow banks where we were coming down the road.  Both dogs saw it and started to chase while I tried to gain some footing to stop them before I landed on my face.  Toby drove straight ahead, but Pippi dashed to the side, up someone’s walk way to head the bunny off at the pass.   As a result, Pippi got dragged through the snow piles, acting as an anchor and slowing Toby’s progress. 
Pippi likes to eat the snow on the side of the walks.  She’ll run down stealing mouthsfull of snow, munching and crunching as she goes.  Toby thinks every gray blob of gross ice that fell off a car is a squirrel in disguise. 
I will be very happy when the snow is gone and the grass is back for real.
Swim season is winding down, at least for me.  The last 10 days have been a challenge – exhausting.  It started with a full weekend swim meet - both days - an hour and fifteen minutes away.  I was there for 12.5 hours on Saturday and 8.5 on Sunday and crawled home ready to sleep for a week.   Then practice Monday, Tuesday, a HS meet Wednesday, practice Thursday, a meet Friday night, and a meet all day Saturday.  To make it more fun, I came home Monday from practice with a head full of green goo and feeling like I was hit by a bus.  It came out of nowhere, but I assumed it was a cold, even when I was running a low grade fever all week.  I felt so awful I took off on Thursday and lay around, but still felt awful on Friday.  When my face began to hurt like I had an abscessed tooth and the green goo had not lessoned at all, I realized that it was probably a sinus infection, not a cold.  I started taking an antibiotic Saturday morning and by Sunday night, was feeling like I was on the mend.  I even managed to swim today.  I still have a lot of pressure in my head, but much less goo. 
Speaking of the swim meets, K swam really well at both.  She finally had some best times – it’s been 6 months so it was very welcome.  She dropped 7 seconds in the 500 free (2nd time she’s swum it) and 7 seconds in the 200 IM (3rd time).  She had a strong 50 fly as well.  This past weekend she had a great 50 free and matched her best times in 100 back and 50 breast.  We are still battling the foot pain and she starts PT this week.  We will see how things go at Districts next week.  She will be an alternate for States, we think, so practice will continue for her for a few more weeks.  I am down to 2 or 3 days a week though and I will get to actually eat something other than PBJ on deck for dinner.    I am not sorry to have a little break though.  For example – it gives me time to sit here and draft blog posts.