Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Books: A Year in Review

I can't believe that in just a matter of hours, 2008 will be done. I'll save my reflections on the year for another time. For now, let's talk about books.

I read the. Forty-five to be exact. That's a little less than a book a week. And those 45 books? They had a lot of pages. When all was said and done, I read 15,397 pages worth of words during 2008. That's a lot. And it beats the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year, to read 40 books and 15,000 pages. In comparison, last year I read 44 books and 16,505 pages.

The longest book I read this year was Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer, which checked in a 756 pages. The shortest one? Dawn by Elie Wiesel which came in at 85 pages.

So what'd I read? Take a look. And if you get to the end of the list, you might even find a recommendation or two.

1. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
2. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
3. Secret Society Girl: An Ivy League Novel by Diana Peterfreund
4. Under the Rose: Any Ivy League Novel by Diana Peterfreund
5. The Cider House Rules by John Irving
6. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
7. Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope by Jenna Bush
8. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
9. Don't Bet Against Me! by Deanna Favre
10. Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
11. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Triathlon Training by Colin Barr & Steve Katai
12. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
13. Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson
14. Night by Elie Wiesel
15. Dawn by Elie Wiesel
16. What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rouge Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire
17. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
18. Atonement by Ian McEwan
19. Not Quite a Mom
by Kirsten Sawyer
20. Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers
21. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
22. Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI: 1933-34 by 24. Bryan Burrough
23. The Appeal by John Grisham
24. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
25. Lost by Gregory Maguire
26. Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles by Anthony Swofford
27. A Champion's Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis by Pete Sampras and Peter Bodo
28. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
29. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
30. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
31. Rites of Spring (Break): An Ivy League Novel by Dianna Peterfreund
32. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
33. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
34. The Other Boleyn Girl
by Philippa Gregory
35. The Host by Stephenie Meyer
36. Pinkerton's Secret by Eric Lerner
37. A Lion Among Men: Vol. 3 in the Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire
38. Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities by Alexandra Robbins
39. For One More Day by Mitch Albom
40. Queen of Babble In the Big City by Meg Cabot
41. Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot
42. Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
43. Marley and Me by John Grogan
44. Slightly Suburban by Wendy Markham
45. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

So what did I think? I really liked Public Enemies. Yes, yes. I know I read it because Johnny Depp was in the City on the Water for a week filming the movie. But it was good. All about bank robbers and other criminals. And remember, I write about crooks for a living. It was right up my alley. The Stephenie Meyer books were good too. But I'd recommend the Twilight series before The Host, which wasn't quite as good. And you can't go wrong with anything by Gregory Maguire - A Lion Among Men was good reading, as was What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rouge Tooth Fairy.

Was there anything I'd stay away from? Looking back over the list, the only one that really jumps out at me and makes me shudder when I think back to reading it is Love in the Time of Cholera. I guess I'd recommend staying away from it. But that's just my opinion.

So what's on tap for 2009? I guess you'll have to wait until that whole resolutions post arrives.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reading recap No. 12

Even with getting ready for the holidays, I found time to sit down and read. Maybe it was all the snow we got this month. After all, there is no better time to curl up in the recliner, wrapped in a blanket and devour a book.

Let's take a look at the numbers. I read four books in December for a total of 960 pages. That brings the yearly total to 45 books and 15,397 pages. Not bad. So what'd I read while the snowflakes were falling? Take a look:

Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
Marley and Me by John Grogan
Slightly Suburban by Wendy Markham
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

In a first, I actually reread a book I've recently read. Even though I read it back in February 2006, I picked up Marley and Me and read it a second time. I couldn't resist. I loved it the first time, bawled my eyes out at the end and loved it just as much the second time I read it. But this time? I managed not to cry. Although I admit, my eyes did well up a bit. Now I'm toying with going to see the movie. But I hesitate, because you know the movie is never as good as the book.

Check back sometime tomorrow to see a full list of what I read this year as well as a look at the numbers and if I met the goals I set for myself.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A holiday recap: Bullet point style

I swear I was just getting ready for Christmas yesterday. And now? I look at my calendar and apparently it's done. Been done for a couple of days already. Huh. Seems like I missed it. Or maybe that's because for the entire holiday season I never sat down.

Since it all seemed to go by in a whirlwind, I give you a holiday recap. In bullet point style.

  • Christmas Eve: Worked until noon. Swung by my apartment, loaded up the clothes and presents and then went dashing through the snow (literally) on my way north to my parents' house.
  • First stop of the Christmas Eve whirlwind: My brother's house for Christmas with The Rugrats. Batman, The Grinch, and a bunch of whales went over well. Next it was out to my Mom's side of the family highlight? The Hellion's reaction to me opening my gifts. He's two, so he was really into the present thing this year. Going from person to person as we opened our gifts. Me? I got two small gift boxes from my Godmother. When I opened the first one, there was cash. But the Hellion? He didn't see that. He looked disappointed. For me. Then wanted me to move on to the next, slightly larger box. When I opened it, he failed to see the ornament inside. Instead he thought it was empty. He gave me the "Man, you got ripped off" look, glanced down at an envelop sitting next to my feet and walked away with a disgusted look on his face. Guess he doesn't quite get the whole gift card concept yet and that it truly is a good gift. Still. Priceless.
  • Finished the night by opening gifts with my parents.
  • Christmas morning was the traditional trek back to my brother's house where we're on toy opening duty. It's our job to navigate the boxes, twist ties, screws and other assorted plastic that hold kids' toys securely in boxes. In return: We get fed.
  • More trips to various family members' houses during the day and evening.
  • Day after Christmas. Forget about fighting the crowds at the malls. Nope. Stayed home for a bit and then it was on to tree hopping with my Dad's side of the family. Five houses, lots of crackers, a few cookies and lots of laughter. Throw in some Wii bowling, tennis and golf and a good time was had by all.
  • Hung out with the district attorney and a bunch of sheriff's deputies on Saturday night at a going away party for a captain. It was held out in a barn in the middle of nowhere. But apparently someone gave the big hippopotamus directions. Because the hippo? He must have been on his way to the party when someone shot him and sent him to the taxidermist. Because there he was, above the bar, coming out of the wall.
  • Oh yeah, that party the hippo crashed? It was sandwiched by more family. And let's not even talk about the Badgers, who were utterly disappointing during the day.
  • At least the Packers didn't get embarrassed Sunday, handing Detroit it's 16th loss of the season. How embarrassing would that have been if the Lions had won?
  • And today? On my final day of vacation before I head back to the world of work? I did absolutely nothing. Well, I did go to the grocery store since my cupboards were bare. But other than that, it was pure laziness.
In all, a good holiday season.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Let the holiday madness continue

Christmas is in two days people. Two days. And me? I'm still not ready.

I braved the post office during my lunch break. Because I needed stamps. When I got into the Christmas card writing mode a week ago, first I ran out of cards. I bought more. But didn't regain the will to sit down, scrawl my name in the card and address the envelop. Last night I did. But I didn't have stamps. So today I had to get some so I can send the rest of my holiday greetings on their way.

And quitting time? That came a bit early today at work. While I wanted to go to the YMCA, I didn't. Because me? I still had shopping to finish. And let me say, the city I live in? While I love it that it's on the water. The shopping? Not so great. But an hour and a half later I was finished. The last two presents I needed to pick up were in my possession.

So now I'm home. The shopping is done. The presents are gathered in a heap on my living room floor. Wrapping paper, bows, tape and gift tags are nearby. The only problem might be finding some boxes. But I may just improvise. Because those presents? They will be wrapped tonight. If it kills me.

I have no excuses. The Packer game kicks off in a matter of minutes. And I don't plan on leaving my spot on the floor until the presents are wrapped and the final seconds have ticked off the game clock.

Because I don't want to spend Dec. 23 in a rush. I just want to enjoy the day before the holiday festivities kick off. And maybe even be able to sneak in a run.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I think Santa got the wrong stocking

It's amazing how an hour-long holiday work gathering can ruin your day.

I spent my lunch hour doing a Secret Santa type gift exchange among co-workers. I get a lump of coal. Seriously. And deep down, I feel that it was not given with the funny ha ha kind of intentions. More like mean spirited intentions. For reasons I really don't want to get into. But I put on an act. Smiled. Acted like it was no big deal. Said "Thank You" with a smile on my face. Got a grunt in return.

Went back to work. Threw the gift bag on the floor. Out of sight, tried to put it out my mind. Kept myself busy all afternoon. Didn't think about the coal sitting on the floor by my desk.

Went to the YMCA after work. Kind of wanted to run, but my calf has been bothering me. So I hopped on the bike and road 16.25 miles. Listened to some tunes, watched Tyler Hansbrough set a new North Carolina career scoring record, tried to clear my head and the image of the coal.

Finished at the YMCA, went to throw my gym bag in the backseat of my car. There was the coal. Got somewhat upset again. Thought about the coal. Called Mom and told her about the coal. Got more upset.

And me being upset? That makes the Monster in my head upset. And he has no reason to be upset, especially since the doctor called me today and told my my brain was "completely stable."

So the day goes from good to bad. All because of a co-worker and a piece of coal.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Need a dime? My Dad had a bunch.

My Dad doesn't spend his change. He doesn't carry it around in his pocket. And he doesn't give it out to the folks sitting on the corner rattling an empty coffee can looking for money.

No. My Dad saves his change.

Fills up coffee cans. Old liquor bottles. Any other kind of canister. And he keeps filling them up. Once they're filled. He moved the now full bottle into storage, usually in the basement or on the top shelf in the pantry, and moves on to an empty container. Not only does he save it, he separates it. Quarters go in one kind of container, I think he's using a coffee can at the moment, while dimes go in another, the favorite here is empty Galliano bottles.

It wouldn't be a big deal if he saved up his coins and every year takes them to the bank and exchanges them for dollar bills. Everyone does it. I do it. No. He doesn't do that. I think my Dad's been saving his change for the past five years or so. I don't even know how many containers he had. But it had to be a lot.

Because the other day? Dad combined all of those containers and weighed his dimes.

45 pounds. That's a lot of dimes. And a lot of money. Because the lady at the bank? She handed him $900 for his dimes. And then he promptly went and bought himself a computer.

And started saving some more dimes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cookie Monster probably wouldn't be a good job candidate

It's been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. The only thing that's changed? The sheer size of the operation.

The annual cutout Christmas cookie extravaganza.

My mom, brother and I used to go over to my aunt's house each Christmas to make cookies. Just the four of us in a cozy kitchen with Christmas music filtering through the house. Granted, my brother and I? We weren't much help. Sure, we'd cut a few cookies out using a cookie cutter, but the cookie making business kind of lost our attention after a few minutes and we'd be off, causing trouble with my aunt's dog or something.

Eventually my brother stopped going. Then I went away to school and stopped coming. But the cookies were still made.

I returned to the cookie making operation a few years ago. But by this point it had grown in size. Another aunt was thrown into the mix. And the recipe we used to double when I was a kid? Suddenly we were tripling it. And if that wasn't enough, one year we even quadrupled it. That, my friends, is a lot of cookies. We had so much cookie dough, we needed a second bowl just to mix it all up!

This year we were back to tripling the batch. We ended up with 30 dozen cookies plus a few "test" cookies along the way. For the mathematically challenged (I'll admit, I used a calculated here), that's 360 cookies if you don't count the test cookies. And we were done in about two hours.

Don't believe me? Here's the photographic evidence.

The ingredients. See that can of Crisco hiding underneath the partial bag of flour. That's a 48 ounce can. Keep the size of it in mind. It'll be important in a moment.

The recipe. We know it so well, it's just written in shorthand. We don't bother measuring the shortening anymore. A few years ago we realized six cups is the ENTIRE can of Crisco. Now we just dump the whole thing into the bowl.

For the record, this year we used about 22 cups of flour. That was the entire partial bag of flour that was sitting on top of the Crisco can and about half of the 10-pound bag of flour we had on hand. That's a lot of flour.

And when you're talking that much flour, you don't bother with mixing spoons. You just use your hands. Don't worry. All hands were washed prior to the cookie making extravaganza getting underway.

For some reason, my mom and aunts think it's important for me to learn how to roll out dough, something about me taking over the entire cookie operation when they can't do it themselves anymore. Yeah. I tried in the past and failed miserably. This year? I lasted exactly two attempts at rolling the dough before I got sent back to my speciality of manning the cookie cutters. Apparently I'll a slow dough roller.

Did I mention we made 30 dozen cookies?

Once the cookies are finished, the dishes done and the kitchen cleaned up the cookie making extravaganza is nearly done. But you can't make 30 dozen cookies without celebrating with a treat. In this case, an alcoholic ice cream beverage. Needless to say, this is a fairly new step in the cookie extravaganza that was not around back in the early days when I was a kid.

Once the drinks are finished, we all head out the door with our bucket full of freshly baked cookies. Then it's back home for the finishing touches - frosting and sprinkles. And mine? I store - and eat - them right from the freezer. Yum.

Friday, December 12, 2008

This year I'll be ready for the man in the red suit

It's hard to believe Christmas is less than two weeks away. And I've still got a ton of stuff to do.

The Christmas tree is decorated and the colored lights are strung around the railing on my patio. I've got snowmen strategically placed around my apartment, Rudolph and Santa Claus are hanging out underneath the tree and the Grinch? He's guarding the hallway to my bedroom.

I actually started my Christmas shopping on Thursday. I didn't get much, but one Rugrat is finished and another is halfway complete. As for the rest of my family? I'm planning a major Christmas shopping trip tomorrow and hope to finish it up.

Tonight I was in the Christmas card writing groove. Signing the name, stuffing the card in the envelop, licking the envelop and then giving up and using tape to secure the flap since the envelop glue had no stickiness to it, but all of the nasty glue taste. Then I ran into a wall. I still had the urge to address the envelops. Too bad I ran out of envelops, cards and stamps.

Yes, I still have a bunch of stuff to do, but compared to last year? When I spent most of the month curled in a fetal position due to a throbbing head? I'm so far ahead of schedule it might as well be September. The Monster in my head resulted in me addressing my Christmas cards on December 22 and doing all of my Christmas shopping and wrapping on December 23. I didn't even do my own decorating since Mom did that for me during one particularly painful run in with the Monster.

Of course, all of this could be wrong since I did spend a majority of the month in a painkiller induced haze and truthfully don't remember much of the month of December.

Blame it on the Monster.

But I'm enjoying this Christmas season much more than last year. And since I don't really remember much from a year ago, I think I'm actually enjoying it a little more.

Now, time to attempt to get the nasty envelop glue taste out of my mouth.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Since when do they name snowstorms?

Mother Nature sure has a feisty side to her this winter.

First there was almost 5 inches of snow before Thanksgiving. And then a couple of rounds of an inch or two or three since then. And the early burst of bone-chilling cold that we had last week.

So why does it surprise me that the season's first major snowstorm is rolling in. And we're expected to get up to 14 inches of the white stuff? Who am I kidding. Did I momentarily forget that I live in Wisconsin and it's winter?

But the snowstorm, I don't know if it has a name or not, it arrived this afternoon and is expected to stick around until tomorrow night. And during its stay it's supposed to dump up to 14 inches of snow. And after it's done snowing it gets to blow the stuff around. Fun.

I admit, I don't shovel. My landlord does that, well, when he feels like it. And at least the roads will eventually get plowed, because the city I live in? They don't really like to plow. And considering they don't give reporters snow days, I'll be driving through the foot of snow on my way to work. But I think I can get away with a pair of jeans at work tomorrow, because my boss told me to "dress for the weather," and I think jeans qualify. Besides, my snow boats? They'd just look silly with a pair of black dress pants.

So bring on the snow. I'm ready.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Something to work for

I filled out the form and hit the payment button. And just like that I'm registered.

I've signed up for the High Cliff Triathlon, the sprint version, on June 20.

After finishing the Danskin triathlon last year, I knew I wanted to do that one again in 2009. But the High Cliff Triathlon is about a month before the Danskin. And I've been toying with doing it all fall. The last day of early registration, and saving yourself about $15 in registration fees, was Friday so I knew I should make a decision.

I signed up and I'm excited for the race.

For starters, it'll be my second tri and although it's a sprint like the Danskin, the distances are a bit different. A quarter-mile swim, a 22-mile bike and the 5K run. Not too much difference, but a different set of challenges that also have a few perks.

It's close to home. The course is at High Cliff State Park, which is on the northeast side of Lake Winnebago. And I won't even have to worry about finding a place to stay since Mom and Dad live just 5 miles from the park, which means I'm familiar with the area.

And it just so happens it's the "official" triathlon of the 2009 Badger State Games. Not sure exactly what that means, but it sounds catchy. And I'll get a chance to see some amazing athletes since there's a half-iron distance as well and I've heard a bunch of people who are training for Ironman Wisconsin participate in the event.

I'll admit, there are a few things that freak me out a little bit. For starters, it's only my second triathlon and it will be the first of 2009. It's still kind of new to me. And the swim? Did I mention it's in Lake Winnebago? I'm only hoping the water isn't that fluorescent green color it can sometimes turn. And let's not even talk about the hill at the beginning of the bike.

Bring on the challenges. I'm ready.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I decided the ice cube look really wasn't for me

The mercury was barely hitting the 20 degree mark. And the wind? It was howling from the north at 20 miles per hour. Low temperatures. Lots of wind. That makes for a nasty windchill. Welcome to a Wisconsin winter.

And that's why I opted not to run in the 5K tonight. Because I really didn't want to turn into one giant ice cube that may never thaw.

So I stayed at home, wrapped in a blanket with my feet keeping toasty warm in my slippers. And now it's time to settle my blanket-wrapped self into my recliner with a steaming hot mug of hot chocolate and listen to the radio.

Because tonight? The Badgers play Marquette. And even if I had cable, I wouldn't be able to watch it, because apparently ESPN doesn't think this rivalry is worthy enough. But they're greedy enough to keep the rights, just to stash it away on ESPNU. Seriously folks. Who even gets ESPNU? No one that I knew.

It's the radio for me.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Do I want to be an ice cube?

So I'm supposed to run in a 5K Saturday night.

Yes. Night. In the dark. And cold.

It's a 5K I wanted to do last year, but since I was curled up in the fetal position I couldn't. So I was planning on doing it this year. It runs through neighborhoods and part of it runs through the park that's on the lake. Add to it the big holiday light displays that are set up throughout the park and it could be a cool run.

So what's the problem?

Mother Nature.

It's supposed to be a bit frigid this weekend. We're talking a high in the mid-20s during the day. With snow. And once it gets dark? The skies clear up and the mercury in the thermometer plummets. Into the single digits. And don't forget the gusty winds from the north.

That's cold. Down right frigid. At least for the first weekend in December.


So do I run it and run the risk of turning into an ice cube right by the polar bear light display?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reviewing the challenge

So remember last month I decided to join a fellow blogger and try a 33-day challenge?

Remember I was aiming to complete some kind of workout, whether it was running or biking or taking a walk, every day until the end of November?

Well, November's done. And so is the challenge.

I have to admit, I didn't get a workout in every single day. But 21 of 33 days I did something active. I mostly biked and ran, but I did fit in a walk or two. Sadly, I didn't dive into the pool and swim, but I'm going to make myself get back in the pool soon. Maybe sometime in December, cause I haven't swam since July (eek!) and I kind of miss it.

During the last 33 days I

... ran 21.75 miles.
... biked 81.2 miles.
... took a few walks, but didn't record any distances.
... lifted a few weights.
... ran a Santa Scamper and a Turkey Trot. I didn't see Santa or a turkey, but I did see an awful lot of reindeer.

And I don't know if it's because of the challenge, or because the nasty medicine has finally decided to leave my body, or a combination of both, but the number on my scale? It got smaller this month! Three pounds smaller! I know it's not a lot, but remember I'm looking at an extra 30 pounds the nasty medicine and the Monster left behind when they decided they'd overstayed their welcome.

Overall, I think the challenge was a success. I think I'm going to try to keep it up, maybe not aiming to hit the gym everyday. But 4 or 5 days a week sounds do-able to me, especially since the holidays have arrived.

November reading review

So I obviously had a bunch of time off during the month of November. At least looking at my monthly reading review, that's what you might think. And I did have a few extra days off, but I also tended to read books that were fairly quick to get through.

I read six books in November for a total of 1,750 pages. That brings the yearly totals to 41 books and 14,437 pages. I obviously have met my goal of 40 books for the year, now it's just time to see what I can finish in December and what the final numbers are for pages read and how many books I finished.

So what'd I read in November? Have a look:

Pinkerton's Secret by Eric Lerner
A Lion Among Men: Vol. 3 in the Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire
Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities by Alexandra Robbins
For One More Day by Mitch Albom
Queen of Babble In the Big City by Meg Cabot
Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot

Like I said, the last three on the list were some easy, fluffy reading which were very easy to get through and really didn't require much thought. In fact I think I finished all of them within the last week, which is also when I had the most time off of work.

I think A Lion Among Men was my favorite this month. It's the same author that wrote Wicked and this time the story revolves around the life of the Cowardly Lion when he was skipping down the Yellow Brick Road with Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and Toto. Good stuff.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkeys were even trotting

Word was there was a giant turkey wandering around the runners and walkers who were preparing for the Turkey Trot.

Either he was a super fast turkey heading out on a 5-mile journey before being served up for Thanksgiving dinner or he was nestled in the back of the pack with those who were pushing strollers and walking their dogs.

Because I didn't see him. Although I did see a few running reindeer. Must be gettin' in shape for next month's marathon of a sleigh ride.

I hung out in the middle of the pack for the 2-miler folks. Just running, albeit at a very slow pace. But I ran every step of that 2 miles. Keeping my eye on a mom and her daughter who were just in front of me. I didn't let them get too far ahead. The 2-mile event wasn't timed, but based on the clock at the finish line and doing some mental math, subtracting a estimate of how much time lapsed between the 5 mile start and my 2 mile start, I'd guess I finished the trot in about 23 minutes or so. Not the best, but not awful. I'll take it, especially since my legs felt like ice cubes for about half of the run and I think I momentarily lost feeling in my toes before the starting horn went off. That might have been due to the fact that it was a balmy 19 degrees or so when the run started!

Now the trot is done. Time to eat some turkey and watch some football!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Thanksgiving reflections center around that dang Monster

It's that time of year where we reflect and think about all of the things in our lives that we're thankful for.

I've spent some time thinking about what the last year has presented me with. Granted, the year didn't get off to a very good start last year, with the Monster invading my head right after Thanksgiving and leaving me curled up in a fetal position for a good chunk of December. And while there is a part of me that is terrified the Monster will appear on the one year anniversary of our meeting, I can't let myself dwell on it, because the Monster? He actually did teach me a few things and made me realize a few others.

What the Monster taught me:

That I'm thankful for the family and friends that I have. While curled in that fetal position, I received an amazing outpouring of love and support from those who I'm thankful to call my friends and family. And once the Monster was tamed? They didn't leave my side. They were still there, still supporting me in both my nearly yearlong recovery and in all of the other endeavors that I set out to do.

That I am a strong person and I can overcome the obstacles that life presents me with. And I'm thankful for that. If I didn't have the drive and determination to fight the Monster and put him in his place, I don't think I would have been able to pull through the whole ordeal. But I did. And I think I've showed the Monster who's boss. And it's not him. I'll continue to rely on that determination and drive as I finish off fighting the Monster and the nasty side effects he's left me with. And I will return to the person I was before he showed up.

Those are the two big things the Monster taught me. And they're lessons that I can apply to all areas of my life. If there's one thing that I like about the Monster, it's that he taught me those two things. Because those things - my family and friends and the drive and determination that I have inside me - are things that may have always been present in my life. But I may not have realized it. Or realized how important they were. And it took the Monster to make me see it. So thank you, Monster.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Santa Scamper: A recap

I scampered. But I didn't find Santa.

Tonight was the one-mile Santa Scamper, the "fun run" held before Appleton's Christmas parade. You run down the parade route which is lined with people who are waiting for the parade to start and for Santa to appear.

I went into the Santa Scamper just wanting to have a good time. I knew where my mom was sitting with The Rugrats and was planning on moving off to the side of the road to get a high five or two or three. I didn't wear a watch and wasn't really concerned about time. I just wanted to run and enjoy it.

Of course, there were a few mishaps.

First there was the TV van that was parked less than a half a block from the starting line. And of course it was the side of the street I was running on. So I had to weave to avoid running smack dab into the van, the camera man and the reporter. Seriously. The camera man I could understand him being in the road. The reporter? Get on the sidewalk.

Then there were the folks who would run really fast to get around you and all of a sudden just stop and walk. Ummm, you couldn't have walked behind me? To the mom with the two little girls who were all decked out in red snowflake sweatshirts and Santa hats with blinking lights, yes, I'm talking to you.

And since it was a Santa Scamper right before the Christmas parade (we don't mess around with holiday parades) there were a ton of kids. Which is fine. Except I almost ran a few over. Especially the little boy who came to a screeching halt right in front of me. As we were running downhill. Not good. Luckily I swerved, avoided him, and kept running.

Even though there were a few obstacles to avoid, it was a good time. I didn't wear a watch and didn't care about the time, but the clock at the finish line said I finished around 11 minutes and 30 seconds. Not too bad if you consider the crazy start and swerving to avoid all the people who randomly stopped in front of me.

Besides, the rock hard Dilly Bar I got at the end made the run worth it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Don't mess with Jack

Umm, I think I need to be super productive today. Clean my bathroom. Clean my kitchen. Vacuum. Oh yeah, laundry. And I need to do it soon, because tonight?

Jack Bauer returns.

After a really, really long time.

And once the opening credits of "24: Redemption" begin to roll, I'm not moving from my comfy recliner. It will be good. And the 2-hour movie will tide me over until January, when my weekly dose of Jack Bauer goodness returns.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Maybe I do want to become a vampire

Remember when I got on a vampire kick last fall?

Well yesterday the vampires came to the big screen. That's right folks. Twilight opened in theaters and last night, my friend from the 'burg Amanda and I went to go see it. We weren't the only ones, since I think every single middle school kid in the city was packed into the theater with us. In fact, I think there maybe was a handful of people in the theater that were older than me.

But it was soo worth it.

I loved the books when I read them. And even though I'm some times hesitant to watch a movie that's based on the book, I was looking forward to this one coming out. I mean seriously, look at this, can you blame me?

And based on the reactions of all the middle school kids waiting in line with us? They were ready to see Edward and Bella too. OK, maybe they were looking forward to seeing Edward. I'm thinking that was the case considering when he made his first appearance on screen? There was a round of applause.

Applause? Five minutes into a movie? Whatever.

Their signs of appreciation didn't stop there. Because that scene, the one where Edward leans in and kisses Bella? Oh my God. Really well done. And accompanied by catcalls, whistles and giggles from the middle schoolers.

Sigh. Kind of ruined the moment.

But the movie. Overall. Really good. There were a few parts that seemed a bit awkward or forced to me, but not many. Watching it made me want to go back and re-read Twilight. Because it has been a while and the book is that good. And now I want to see if they're going to make movies of the other three books in the series.

But Twilight?

Go see it. Now.

And I'd definitly go see it again. Hopefully without the catcalls and giggles from a mostly middle school aged audience though

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I can only imagine what it would feel like if a vampire were involved

I donated blood today. And even though I was doing it, I was still planning on making a trip to the YMCA after work, but just spending a little time on the bike. Nothing too strenuous.

I wasn't worried about the needles or the whole donation process because it's gone very smoothly every time I've done it so far. It usually takes between 5 and 7 minutes for me to fill that bag up with blood and aside from a slightly sore arm after, no problems.

Today? Not so much.

Since I spent all of the morning in a courtroom for work, I didn't get to drink a ton of water like I normally do. But I downed as much as I could in the hour and a half I had.

I went in, filled out the form, got my finger pricked and passed with flying colors. The Blood Lady scrubbed my arm and inserted the needle and the blood started flowing into the bag.

At first it went OK. The blood was moving. The bag was filling up. Then all of a sudden it seems like it just stopped. The Blood Lady kept coming by, shaking the bag. And it didn't seem like it was getting any fuller.

Five minutes passed. Then seven. Then 10. Finally 13 minutes after she stuck the needle in my arm she said the bag was full and she just needed those four little vials they take.

That's when the problems started.

The first vial filled, although it was a bit slow. Then the second vial was inserted.
And it stayed empty. There was no blood.

"Looks like we drained you dry," the Blood Lady said in an effort to lighten the mood.

I wasn't amused.

The other Blood Lady came over to help. She held on to the cords and the vials while Blood Lady No. 1 started to unstrap the tubing from my arm.

"This isn't good," I thought.

Then she started jiggling the needle around. The needle that was still embedded in my vein. Ouch. I have to give her props. She was pretty gentle so it wasn't sharp pains or anything. But still. It hurt. And I started to feel a wee bit light headed.
Then the blood started to flow again.

And all of a sudden the remaining two vials were full and the needle was out of my arm.
I still felt funny though. Slightly light headed. A bit dizzy. Content to sit in the canteen area of the Bloodmobile and chomp on my cherry chip cookie and drink my orange juice.

I know donating blood can't go super smoothly every time and there will be times, like today, when it's a bit more difficult. And like I said, I know I didn't get to drink enough fluids today. So I'll still go back in February when we have the next blood drive at work, because I'm only two donations away from a gallon!

It was just a bit scary today. That's never happened to me before. The whole light headed feeling. And my arm? It's pretty sore and I'm sure I'll have a whooper of a bruise. So I thought it was in my best interest to head home and crash on my couch, watching "Grey's Anatomy" and reading a book.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Not quite what I'd call a normal day

It was a kind of mixed up day for me today.

Normally when I go to work it's light outside. Today? My alarm started buzzing at 4:45 a.m. Yes. 4:45 a.m. That wasn't a typo, the incredibly early wake up call was because I had to be into the office at 6 a.m. instead of my usual 8:30 a.m. So it was dark.

But at least it was still light outside when I got to leave at 3 p.m. Normally it's pitch black when I unchain myself from my desk at 5:30 p.m.

And heading over to the YMCA and logging 3.2 miles on the treadmill to nowhere followed by a 20 minute bike ride and STILL finishing before I normally would get out of work for the day? Beautiful.

It's only 6:30 p.m. and I've got nothing left to do tonight other than iron a shirt for work, watch some TV, read a little bit and maybe balance my checkbook. And chances are the checkbook's going to sit untouched.

Let's talk about clothing for a minute

So let's take a moment and talk about clothes for a bit.

My feet? They're happy right now. While I really do like the pair of black boots I normally wear to work, I bought a new pair of shoes this weekend. Work appropriate shoes. A pair of black Mary Jane-like shoes that have just a bit of a heel. And they are SO COMFY! I wish I owned five pairs of black dress socks, because then I could wear them every day.

Because honestly, which pair looks more comfortable to you?

Time for a weather update. It's cold outside. I know, it's mid-November. It shouldn't surprise me that the mercury in the thermometer is struggling to get above 35 degrees.

But when it gets cold in my office and I start to lose feeling in my hands? Then I get a bit worried. And so do my co-workers. Because they look over and see me wearing these and even though they're pretty sure they know the answer they ask me, "Um, you aren't expecting to type with those on, are you?"

And since it's cold outside and I've got the Santa Scamper and Turkey Trot coming up, I need to make sure I have appropriate clothing so I don't become an icicle. This past weekend I went to the Nike Outlet here in the City on the Water and bought myself some running pants and a long sleeve shirt. Add a few more layers, some kind of gloves and some head gear and I should be set.

And while I'm sitting in the office, I do have my scarf on but I've still got feeling in my hands. My mittens are sitting on my desk though, ready in case I need them.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Turkeys. Santas. Who needs a calendar?

I think somebody's got their holidays a bit mixed up next week.

I'm running in a Santa Scamper on Tuesday. It's just a one-mile "fun run" type event before the annual Christmas parade in Appleton.

Then on Thursday, just two days later, I'm running in a Turkey Trot. Appropriately named since it does fall on Thanksgiving Day.

But the last time I checked, Thanksgiving came before Christmas. So shouldn't I be trotting after turkeys first and THEN scampering after Santa? Don't blame me if I get my holidays confused after this. Blame the race organizers.

I dunno. What I do know is that I've already got the Santa Scamper hat, which might be useful since I have a feeling it might be a bit chilly next week. And after I get done trotting, I'll have a new long sleeved T-shift in my possession. AND a pumpkin pie, which I'll promptly take with me to my cousin's house for Thanksgiving. Because I don't like pumpkin. If it was a chocolate pie, now that would be a different story.

Happy second birthday

I can't believe it's been two years since I started this blog.

A lot has happened. Adjusting to a new city, slicing open my neck. A half marathon. Monsters in my head. A coach. A triathlon. And let's not forget about all the time I spend talking about books and the Badgers. It's been a busy few years.

Happy birthday to my blog and here's hoping the next year is just as eventful!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The axe stays

Photo from

I won't lie.

When I saw the halftime score of the Border Battle between the Badgers and Minnesota was 21-7 in favor of those dang Golden Gophers, I was worried. Wisconsin has gone from being mentioned in the same sentence with the words "national contender" to an 0-4 start in the Big Ten, losing close games against Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State - all games they should have won. And let's not even talk about the blows outs against Iowa and Penn State.

So I was worried today at halftime.

But that must have been one hell of a halftime speech that Bret Bielema gave the boys in the locker room. Because the Badgers came back out fired up, erased a 14-point deficit, beat Minnesota and kept Paul Bunyan's Axe in Madison.

In process they've even become bowl eligible. It was a good day.

That being said, I cannot tell you how excited I am that basketball season tips off Sunday when the Badgers host Long Beach State. Let's just say I'll be flipping between the Badger game and the Packer game tomorrow. It'll be a good day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A simple thanks

Today, on Veterans Day, I honor my grandfather. And Michael Wendling. And two college friends.

My grandfather served in World War II. I don't know the story behind his service. All I know is that he served overseas, was injured and awarded a Purple Heart. He was a man of few words and didn't speak about his military service and he passed away before I was old enough to realize what he did for our country.

I didn't know Michael Wendling, but I attended his funeral at a hilltop cemetery on a warm October day in 2005. Wendling was killed while serving in Iraq with the Wisconsin National Guard when a roadside bomb exploded near the Humvee he was driving. The images from that simple, yet powerful, graveside military service are still etched in my mind. And every time I hear a bagpiper play "Amazing Grace," I am reminded of Michael and that day.

My friend Beth spent a year with her National Guard unit deployed to Kuwait and Tim is awaiting a deployment. I can't put into words what their service to our country, both what they've done and that they had to guts to do it, mean to me.

To all the other veterans, thank you.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I wish I had a hockey stick. I would have taken the penalty.

Gotta love hockey.

A cranky old man hit me last night.

I went down to Madison with my friend Amanda last night for our annual hockey outing. I'm a Wisconsin grad and she went to school at Michigan Tech, so whenever the Huskies come to town, we head down to the Kohl Center for a night of checking, fighting, goal scoring and other hockey goodness.

Friday night the Badgers beat Michigan Tech 3-2 and were up 1-0 when the second period started. Then the Badgers got in the goal-scoring groove and jumped out to 2-0 lead by the end of the second period. Just 3 minutes into the third period, Bucky scores again and the students start with the "high school goalie" chants, which quickly turned into "pee wee goalie" chants.

I admit, I'm a bit obsessed with Zambonis.

It was a good night. Five power play goals, a 34-save shutout by sophomore goalie Scott Gudmandson and the Badgers walked away with a 6-0 win and a weekend sweep of the Huskies.

Sounds like a good night. Right? Well it was. Until you factor in the cranky old man.

With 3 minutes left in the game, the student section starts up the "stand up old people" chant. And me? I'd rather stand as I watch a good college basketball, football or hockey game. But because I now fall in the "old people" category and my seats are no longer in the student section, I have to sit. Unless it's halftime during a football game or a goal is scored during a hockey game. Then I'm allowed to stand and cheer.

So last night, I followed the "old people" rules. I sat during the action and jumped out of my seat when the Badgers scored a goal, rejoicing with my fellow fans, calling the Michigan Tech goalie a sieve.

I should have sent Bucky after the cranky old man.

And with the 3 minutes to go, the students started calling for the old people to stand up. Because remember, Bucky was up by 6 goals. All that stood between them and a victory was 3 minutes of going through the motions on the ice.

We were supposed to be happy. Excited.

So we stood. The entire crowd at the Kohl Center, with the exception of Amanda and her son (because remember they were Tech fans) and the handful of Tech fans behind the bench, stood and cheered.

And the cranky old man sitting behind me. He stayed glued to his seat. Sitting. And grumbling. And yelling at me to sit down. I ignored him at first. Seriously. Everyone else in the arena was standing. He kept grumbling. And yelling at me to sit down.

Maybe he thought I was hard of hearing or something. Because all of a sudden?

He hit me.

Not just a polite tap on the elbow. A full fledged smack on the shoulder.

I turned around and glared at him.


"Sit down."

"Why? Everyone else is standing. We're winning. Be happy."

"You don't even have people standing in front of you. Sit down," he growled at me.

With a glare, I sat. And felt stupid. Because everyone else remained standing. Except me and the cranky old man. And then I fumed. Seriously, if he didn't want people standing in front of him, he had a few options. Either fork over more cash and get the swanky box seats, save some money and buy seats in the nose bleed section or better yet, stay home and watch the game on television.

So when there was 1 minute left on the clock, I stood. And he grumbled. And yelled at me again. But I stood my ground and continued to stand. And cheer on the Badgers to victory and celebrated with the rest of the Badger faithful.

And the cranky old man? He kept grumbling and got out of his seat with 10 seconds remaining and left the arena before the final horn even sounded.

Hitting another Badger fan, not staying for the end of the game, disobeying the students plea to "stand up old people" and not even bothering to stay and celebrate the victory with the time-honored tradition of "Varsity."

Some Badger fan he is.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Saturday afternoon update

Yes, yes. It was Indiana. But still, Wisconsin finally beat another Big Ten opponent. I'll take the 55-20 victory over Indiana.

The tire situation? It's fixed. I took my car up to the tire guy this morning. Granted it normally takes me 30 minutes to get to the tire man. Today, because I couldn't take the highway and had to go completely out of my way here in The City on the Water because of the holiday parade (yes, Santa made an appearance here today. Nov. 8), it took me an hour and ten minutes. Crazy.

But my little Ford Focus is now sporting a shiny new tire.

And you know what that means?

It's time to hit the road. Because I'm heading down to Madison for some fun times at a Badger Hockey game. Details to follow tomorrow.

Drop the puck!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A tire update

A tire update. And not a good one.

I took my car to an auto shop today, crossing my fingers they would be able to patch up the hole. I dropped my car off and went to lunch with a co-worker.

Eight boneless wings drenched in Sweet BBQ sauce later, I get a cal from the car place. They had news about my tire.

Not good news.

Apparently there was a cut in the side wall. I dunno. I don't understand cars. I know to put gas in, get an oil change every 3,000 miles and rotate the tires every 6,000 miles. Side walls? Those I don't understand.

But I do know the meaning of the word unrepairable.

And that's what the car man told me about my tire. It was unrepairable. But he could sell me a new one for $96.

Uh, no thanks. Just put my spare tire back on and I'm calling my real tire guy. The one I bought the tires I have on my car a year ago. The tires which are now three good ones and one unrepairable one.

I called my tire guy. Told him what happened. He sounded confused. Apparently it's kind of hard to get a cut in your tire's side wall. But the tire guy? He's going to sell me a new tire. For $60. A deal. Thank you tire guy.

So I'm still riding around with my ghetto looking spare tire on my car until Saturday morning. Then I get my new one. And hopefully this will put an end to my tire problems. Because I think I've dealt with enough of them lately.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

There's more than voting on Election Day

On to more important Election Day stuff.

I was a bit confused. It was sunny. And in the mid-70s. And it's November. And correct me if I'm wrong, but the last time I checked, I still lived in Wisconsin. The weather? Crazy. But I'll take it.

Originally I was planning on hitting the YMCA in the early afternoon and logging some miles on the treadmill. But it was way too nice outside to be couped up indoors, running to nowhere. So instead I pulled out my bike. Remember, it's November and the nice biking days are numbered. I hopped on and was only planning on a short ride, somewhere around 6 miles or so. But once I started riding, it was so nice that I didn't want to stop.

So I kept going. Fourteen miles later I pulled back into my driveway and parked my bike, but only because I had an hour to shower, get ready and make it work. The next hour was rushed, but it was so worth it.

That rush kind of prepared me for what was going to come during the rest of the night. Election nights at a newspaper are hectic. You've got a bunch of stuff to do in a limited amount of time. And results never seem to be available by the time deadline rolls around.

Last night I didn't have problems with deadlines or election results.

I had problems with my car.

In the form of a flat tire. Again.

I was standing in the parking lot, talking to one of our photographers about where we were heading to. I was on my way out to Democratic headquarters to do the color piece about the mood at the party, focusing on the presidential election. As we were talking, my eyes wandered over to my car, which was sitting in the same parking spot I left it in two hours before when I got back from a polling location run.

"Does that look like a flat tire to you Joe?"

The photographer just laughs.

The rear passenger side tire on my car? Flat as a pancake. Making my car undriveable. Not a good things when you've got places to go.

Thankfully the photographer offered to take the flat tire off and replace it with my spare. Good thing since I kind of needed my car, not only to get to my assignment, but more importantly to get home at the end of the night.

He used some tools and a jack (which I didn't even know was buried in my trunk) and took the flat tire off and replaced it with that funny looking donut-like spare tire. Twenty minutes and I was set to go.

Now I just need to get the tire patched. Because honestly, I'm not buying another tire. The ones on my car now? They're only a year old. I'm not forking over all that money to replace a perfectly fine tire, even if it has suffered a minor puncture and gone flat as a pancake on election night.

The election, my thoughts

Election Day. It's come, it's gone. I'm not going to go super in-depth, but here are my thoughts.

Yes, I voted. I was voter No. 198 in my ward at 11:30 a.m. There were no lines. I walked in, gave them my name, got my ballot and went to my voting booth. I filled in the circles, fed it to the machine, got my sticker and walked out. Time it took to vote? At most two minutes.

And while I did fill in the circle next to Barack Obama's name, I'm not over the moon happy that he won like so many other people. Yes, there are some things about the man that I like. But there are also things about the man and his ideas that I don't really like. Given other choices, he may not have gotten my vote. But given the candidates I had to choose from, I kind of saw Barack Obama as the lesser of two evils.

Stop throwing stuff at me and hurling insults my way.

Given that he's been chosen by the voters to lead our country for the next four years, I'll give the man a chance. Maybe he'll surprise me.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Remember to vote. And feed the reporters.

You can't have a newsroom full of reporters on Election Night and expect them to survive the night without food. And treats definitely qualify.

So tonight I baked. OK. I admit, the cupcakes? They came from a box. But they're still good. And by this time tomorrow night, they'll look delicious to any reporter in my building. That is, if there are any left. Cupcakes that is. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if a reporter or two went missing as well.

Because on Election Night, you must have food. Preferably treats. And of course pizza.

For those of you who aren't spending Election Day in a newsroom, remember to go out and vote. Because if you don't? You can't complain.

October's reading recap

The reading list for October isn't very long. But that doesn't mean I was slacking.

No. I just happened to choose books that were kind of long. Lots of pages. Lots. Of. Pages. I'm talking about 1,284 pages. An average of 642 pages per books, because I only finished two books.

But that brings the total to 35 books for the year and 12,687 pages. Not too bad. Only a couple more books until I hit my goal of 40 for the year. And pages? I don't think I ever actually set a page goal.

So what did I read in October? Take a look:

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The Other Boleyn Girl was OK. It dragged for a bit, especially in the beginning, but the last 200 or so pages were good. Me? I never realized Anne Boleyn had a sister. And while The Host was good, it was no Twilight series. If I had to choose, I'd rather read about vampires than aliens. But it was a good read.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Don't let your pumpkins drink and drive

Hope everyone has a Happy Halloween.

Just don't let your pumpkins enjoy too many adult beverages. Or it could get a little messy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sorry, this mailbox doesn't accept junk mail

Six pieces of mail were waiting for me when I went to the mailbox today.
  • A package containing I bra I had ordered from Victoria's Secret last week.
  • A random piece of junk mail.
  • An extra large postcard supporting a candidate for State Senate.
  • And four, count 'em, four of those extra large postcards sent to me from the folks at the Republican National Committee telling me how evil the Democratic presidential candidate is.
Yup. That's pretty much been what's been in my mailbox every day for the last two weeks or so. Minus the bra of course.

I'm ready for the election to be over.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

First day completed

Day 1 of the challenge was successfully completed.

I headed over to the YMCA after work and spent some time on the treadmill to nowhere. I logged 2.8 miles in 30 minutes. I'm slowly getting back into the running. It's actually gotten easier in just the last week. I still run at a slower pace than I used to, but I last longer without having to take a break. I think at this point I may have to aim for that 5K I've been toying with the week after the 2-mile Turkey Trot. After the run I headed over to the bike and spent 20 minutes pedaling before I had to head home for the night.

Now, tomorrow might be a stretching it a bit. See, I'm bowling with some girls from work at night. And it's basically right after work. So I might have to count the bowling as my exercise for the day. It's kind of like strength training. Picking up a heavy ball. Throwing the heavy ball. Repeat two times per frame. Ten frames per game. Two games. Yeah. That sounds like a "workout" to me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A challenge

I'm joining Teacherwoman.

Starting tomorrow, for the next 33 days there will be some kind of workout. Running, biking, walking. Maybe I'll even pull out the Billy Blanks Tae Bo tapes I have. Or, gasp! Maybe I'll even get in the pool, a place I haven't been since July.

And besides, maybe the scale and I will get along a little better after 33 days and it's the end of November.

I can do it.

Anyone care to join me?

I try to avoid the ironing board

One thing I really really dislike about the weather getting colder?

Switching over to winter clothes.

Let's not even talk about the fact that three-quarters of my winter wardrobe doesn't fit at the moment due to the nasty meds I had to take to get rid of the monster. I'm confident they'll fit again.

What's worse? Having to iron.

Sounds silly. But my shirts never end up wrinkle free. I swear I put more wrinkles in than I take out. Ugh.

Which is why I try my hardest to buy clothes that don't require ironing.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Badgers were a good excuse to watch some TV

It was very fall-like today. Temperatures in the mid-50s, sunny and just a slight breeze. And since I was working a funky split shift today, with a large chunk of time off in the afternoon, I was toying with taking my bike out and sneaking in what could very well be my last ride of the year.

You know, because we have a forecast that features the mercury barely hitting 40, winds around 30 miles an hour and a chance of snow for the next few days. Not really ideal biking conditions.

So I went to work this morning and did what I had to do. I was sitting at my desk, writing my story and keeping my eye on Wisconsin's homecoming game against Illinois.

Then I was done. Ready to leave for the afternoon and I glanced at the football score.

Wisconsin 10, Illinois 10 at halftime.

Hmm. Not the blowouts that Wisconsin has been suffering the last two games. And from the glimpses I had seen, it was actually a pretty good game. And of course, since I'm cheap, I don't get ESPN2 at home. And I really didn't want to listen to it on the radio. Just wasn't in the radio mood today.

So I stopped and thought for a moment and it dawned on me.


Remember? With its swanky new treadmills with TVs right in your face? It was a Saturday afternoon, there was bound to be a treadmill or two available for me to hop on and sneak in a run while watching the Badgers.

So I headed over and hopped on the treadmill to nowhere. Almost three miles and 30 minutes later, the game was heading into the fourth quarter (ironically, just as House of Pain's "Jump Around" came up on my iPod's play list) and the game was tied at 17.

It was time to bike then. Over the next half hour I logged 7 miles and watched the Badgers take a 27-17 lead with just under 3 minutes remaining. I could have walked away, satisfied that the Badgers would come away with their first Big Ten win of the season.

But 3 minutes is a lot of time. And Illinois had the ball. And I didn't want to take any chances of missing some big comeback by the Illini while I was downstairs in the locker room changing.

So I hopped back on the treadmill and walked while the game finished.

The Badgers won. And I got in a good workout. And that makes a happy Badgergirl.

Then it was back to work for me. But at least I could pass my time by keeping my eyes on the Badger hockey game against Minnesota tonight. Unfortunately, it's not going as well as this afternoon's football game.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mark it on your calendars

Mark it on your calendars.

Two days. In a row. As in, Tuesday then Wednesday.

I haven't done that since May. That's a long time. And that's why I'm marking it on the calendar. It's a momentous day. Why?

I ran. Two days in a row. Granted it was just a two-mile run yesterday and today. But still, this is the girl who has run maybe three times in the past two months. It's a big day for me people.

So I did it. And I'm hoping to add day number three tomorrow. Because not only have I found some motivation, I also have something to run towards.

I've decided to run in a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. I have my choice between a 5-mile run/walk and a 2-mile walk. And since I've just recently discovered this will to run again, I'm going to opt for the 2-mile walk. But I'm going to run. And if they race people get mad at me, oh well. An added bonus? Besides getting up early on Thanksgiving morning and running before sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal? Participants apparently get a free pie along with the shirt. Sign me up.

Once I get done Turkey Trotting, there just might be a 5K on the horizon. But I haven't decided yet.

For now though, it's a Turkey Trot and I'm aiming for day number three.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Five days of nothing

Take a couple of days of vacation, add in a weekend and toss in an extra day off to account for an upcoming Saturday shift this weekend and what did I have? Five days to do whatever I wanted. And what did I do?

Well, nothing too, too exciting. But it was an enjoyable five days to myself.

Thursday there was sleeping late, lounging around my apartment and then dinner with a friend at O'Charley's. I thought about hitting the YMCA, but decided against it.

Friday I did some errands during the day and then hung out with a bunch of 6- and 7-year-olds at a Halloween party at The Rugrats' house. All of the kids had a good time, even The Hellion (my youngest nephew), who demanded that all the "scary men" be taken down. He's only 2, I guess he doesn't quite get the whole scary Halloween concept yet.

I listened to the Badgers suck it up on Saturday. Seriously. What happened to this team? I can't remember the last time they started 0-4 in the Big Ten. At this point, even that "gimmie" game against Cal Poly on Nov. 22 doesn't look like so much of a "gimmie." More like a "must win" in order to get to a bowl game. Maybe things will turn around this weekend when Illinois comes to Camp Randall. A Badger can hope, can't she?

After the Badgers disappointed me, Mom and I went to the apple orchard, had a delicious caramel apple, looked at the crafts and then got some yummy treats. The two chocolate muffins? They're mine. Mom opted for the pumpkin and blueberry variety. And the mini-apple pie? We shared it.

Sunday was spent with the family, celebrating my youngest cousin's first birthday and then watching the Packers beat up on the Colts. Again, Aaron Rodgers looked good, bum shoulder and all. And Brett Favre? You're not doing yourself any favors pulling this kind of stuff.

And today? My final day of a super-extended vacation? I didn't do much. Did some errands. Paid some bills and putzed around. I thought about heading over to the YMCA, but decided not to. After all, it's vacation. The YMCA will be there when I head back to work.

Tomorrow. Ugh.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I tried something new today

That, my friends, was hard.

I was planning on hitting the YMCA after work and heading upstairs to spend a little bit of quality time with those sweet treadmills again today. But when I walked in the locker room, I nearly ran into a couple of co-workers.

"We're going spinning. Come with us!"

Umm, I was planning on running to nowhere. Although I admit, the idea of spinning has always appealed to me. I've just been too scared to try it. Especially alone.

But here were three girls I knew, granted not all that well, and they were inviting me to come along with them. Suddenly it didn't seem so intimidating.

"Sure, give me 2.2 minutes to change."

So I threw on my gym clothes and headed down the hall to me them. We set up our bikes and started spinning. And I'm not going to lie. Parts of it? Tough. No, actually that's not a good word. Brutal. That's better. Seriously. Standing up, with a ton of resistance, going up the mountain? So hard. My legs felt like they were going to die. I had sweat dripping off my forehead. And not just a drop or two. I'm talking a steady stream. Very gross. But also kind of cool. Because it made me realize how hard I was working.

And then the hour was up. I felt good about what I'd accomplished, yet I was ready for it to be over. I'm not sure how much more my legs could take.

Walking back to the locker room, the girls asked me if I'd want to join them again. I said yes. I'm thinking if I could add one spinning session a week to my workouts it would be kind of cool. And it'll payoff at some point down the road.

I just hope my legs don't hurt too bad tomorrow morning. Because those four flights of stairs I have to walk up to get to my desk? Those could be painful.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A treadmill to nowhere, with a distraction!

I kept my promise. I made it to the YMCA after work today.

Since I got out of work so much earlier than normal, it was kind of weird. There were like three people there. I had my pick of which treadmill I wanted. At first I was just going to choose a random treadmill, but then I was confused. The row of treadmills? Half were missing. Replaced by more ellipticals and stair masters. I was confused. I didn't want to climb stairs to nowhere. I'd rather run to nowhere. But then I glanced around the rest of the cardio room. There were the missing treadmills, in the next row.

Complete with TVs.

Yes, hop on a treadmill in the middle row and you could tune into whatever channel you felt like watching. And the TV wasn't hung on the wall, where I can hardly read the closed captioning and only have 5 channels to choose from. No. This TV was there. Right in front of your face. Inches away. So close you could actually read the scrolling sports scores that ESPN runs across the bottom.

Obviously I chose a treadmill in the middle row. I hopped on, tuned the TV to ESPN, plugged myself into my iPod and I was off. Very slowly. But I was running. I spent 30 minutes on that fancy new treadmill and I logged a run of 2 miles and sprinkled in a half mile of walking. All the while I was listening to my tunes and watching NFL highlights. After I was done, I headed over to one of two bikes at the YMCA that were also rigged up with the TV. Same thing. Some tunes, some NFL highlights and even a bit of the 4 o'clock news to help me pass the 7 miles I biked in a half hour.

So. I made it to the YMCA and I ran. And I biked. And I didn't die. I actually feel pretty good at the moment. Let's hope tomorrow is a repeat of today.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I'm hoping to become friends with the scale again

I admit. I have a love-hate relationship with the scale that sits in my bathroom. Most days we get along OK, but lately? Not so much.

Let me back up a bit.

It was four years ago. I stepped on the scale in the morning, still half asleep. But those three numbers that flashed before me woke me up quickly. There in a scary, blood-red color was my weight. Not too surprising since I was on a scale. What was different was that those three numbers were the highest I'd ever weighed in my life.

The highest.

Scary. Depressing. Motivating.

I made a decision that morning to change the numbers that were flashing before my eyes. I started watching what I ate, using Weight Watchers to count my points. I gave up regular soda, switching to Diet Coke. I tossed the snacks and cookies from my kitchen cupboards.

And I started hitting the YMCA on a very regular basis. I admit, when I first started going, running a half mile was tough. But I set the treadmill on a low speed and started putting one foot in front of the other. Gradually I worked up to running a full mile. Then a mile and a half. Then two. Eventually I was up to running three miles following it up with some time on the bike and then hitting the weights.

And all the sweat paid off. A little more than a year later I stepped back on the scale and I liked the number that was flashing before me. A number that was 50 pounds less. I felt good about myself.

I maintained that weight for almost three years.

But things took a turn for the worse when I got sick last winter. For starters, there was the Monster in my head. But the cure for the Monster? A nasty medicine. One of those that proudly list weight gain as a side effect. And even though I spent my spring and summer running, biking and swimming as I trained for a triathlon, I wasn't able to fight the weight gain. The number on the scale? It went up.

By 30 pounds.

And those scary, depressing feelings that flooded me that morning four years ago have returned. There's nothing left to show of all of the hard work I put in trying to lose the weight the first time.

I took my last dose of the nasty medicine on Friday - 10 months and two weeks after taking the first dose. I gave myself the weekend off, but starting tomorrow? I'm in Operation Lose Weight mode again.

I'll be watching what I eat, counting my points and hitting the gym again. To kick start my efforts, I've joined in with some other bloggers in a weight lose challenge, hopefully it'll give me the added motivation to get my butt back in gear and start shedding the pounds - because starting is sometimes the hardest part.

I'm not aiming to look like a supermodel. I just want to get back to the point where the number on the scale gets back to what it was in December, a weight I was comfortable at. I'm hoping I can get back to that number by late spring, maybe April. I figure 30 pounds in 5 and a half months sounds doable, doesn't it?

I know it will be hard. And honestly, sometimes I worry that I won't be able to do it. But I'm going to try. Because I don't like the way I look at the moment. And I don't like it that I have a closet full of cute clothes that I'm unable to wear right now. And I don't like it that it's so much harder to run right now, carrying around an extra 30 pounds.

So tomorrow I start. A healthy lunch and a packed gym bag will be ready for me when I walk out the door at 5:50 tomorrow morning. Since I'm only working until 3 p.m., I have no excuses. I will go to the YMCA if it kills me. A little treadmill time followed by some time on the bike. And I might even venture over into the weight area.

Wish me luck.