Saturday, January 31, 2009

January's reading recap

So this is normally when I would give you a rundown of what I read this month. You know, books. Pages. What was good. What books weren't worth the time.

The recap for the month of January is short. Here it is...


Yup. Nothing. I didn't finish a single book in January. It's not because I didn't try though. I spent all month reading. It's just the book I chose to read? It's super thick. And the print? It's tiny. So it takes forever to read even 10 pages.

I know you're probably thinking, what the heck are you reading?

After looking at it sitting on my shelf, unread, for the past two years, I decided to dive into "Gone With the Wind" to start the new year. At 1,024 pages, I knew it would be a tough task to finish the entire thing before the end of January. And I was right. I'm only on page 737 and at this point, I still haven't gotten to the famous line Rhett Butler utters, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." I've been waiting and waiting for it to come up. And last night those hopes were somewhat dashed when a friend of mine told me it wasn't even in the book, that it was just added to the movie.


Here's hoping I finish Scarlett O'Hara's story soon. Because it's taken me a long time already. And I really want to find out if Rhett does indeed utter that phrase or if it was just an add in for the movie. And I can't have a February recap that mimics this one because two months in a row with no finished books? Not allowed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Begging for forgiveness

Dear treadmill,

Don't hate me. I'm not avoiding you. I've just been busy. I know, I know. That's not really an excuse. Nothing has happened in the last week that's caused me to become more busy than usual. I'm still working one job. Sure, I had a dentist appointment. But that's no excuse.

The problem is my schedule. It's out of whack. Remember how I normally come and visit you at night? Around 5:30 or so after I get done with a long day at the office? And our time together is a way to help me unwind. Well I can't make those evening meetings this week since I'm working this funky night schedule. One where I get into the office around 1 p.m. and don't leave until it's pitch black and cold outside 10 hours later.

Sure I could come in the morning, but when I stare at the ceiling until the wee hours of the morning, it's hard to force myself to get up super early. By the time I roll out of bed I have just enough time to get ready for work and it's time to do it all over again.

This crazy work week schedule is almost over. One more day. And since tomorrow is an even more messed up schedule, I'm going to try to sneak in a visit.

But don't hate me if I don't show up. Because once Friday arrives I hope to get back into the normal routine. And I hope you won't hate me. Because I'd really like it if we could still be friends.

The Badger who's gone AWOL

P.S. And treadmill? It's not just you. The bike and the pool are feeling just as neglected. And the weights? They think it was a one week fling.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Good times, good celebrations

The birthday shenanigans were fun. Lots of laughs, friends and drinks were enjoyed. A little bit of shuffleboard too.

And that birthday treat pictured above, which was courtesy of the waitstaff at The Brooklyn Grill? It was enough to feed all six of us at the table. And we STILL had leftovers! But even though it was shared with friends, I think I'll need to spend some extra time in the gym this week.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Another year bites the dust

The phone rang this morning as I was standing in the bathroom, fingers covered in make-up. I looked at the number, which carried a 608 area code, and didn't recognize it. In fact, the only people I could think of with that number are the students at the University of Wisconsin who call me about twice a year, asking for money.

So I didn't answer.

I finished getting ready and then listened to the voicemail the mystery caller left.

"Happy birthday to you. Bye!"

Oh yes. My uncle. Calling to wish me a happy birthday since today? Today I turned another year older and inched another year closer to a new decade.

I haven't done much today. Thought about heading over to the YMCA, but decided I'd rather lounge in my recliner and listen to the Badgers (who sadly are on ESPN today and not the still-clear-as-day Big Ten Network) and lay low before meeting up later with friends for some food, drinks, good times and other celebratory shenanigans.

Because you only celebrate your 29th birthday once.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Shhh....don't tell the cable company

I think my cable company is making a mistake. But I'm not complaining.

I get the cheap cable. One step up from rabbit ears. And channels 2 through 13 come in crisp and clear on my television set. I don't watch a lot of TV anyway and this option saves me a bundle. Although I admit, I do miss ESPN, FSN and the Big Ten Network. But I've come to accept the fact that I don't get them.

This weekend I made a discovery. The Big Ten Network? It comes in clear as day on my TV. I was flipping through the channels. Like I expected, 2 through 13 came in nice and clear. And nothing was on. For some reason I kept flipping. Yup, ESPN was just snow. Then it skipped up into the 30s and HGTV came in with snow, just like TLC, FSN and the Spanish channel. Skipped again into the 60s and it was still snowy, but it wasn't an all out snowstorm. More like flurries. Kept flipping. Channel 73 comes on.

Clear. As. Day.

It was one of those home shopping networks, so it wasn't anything to get too excited about. But it got me thinking. If this crazy home shopping network comes in this good, what about the Big Ten Network, which is channel 72? I punched in the number.


There was a picture. A clear picture. And basketball was on. Purdue and Iowa. And it was glorious.

I'm not sure how long I've been able to get this channel to come in. And I'm not sure how long it will still come in on my TV. Hopefully my cable company doesn't realize that I'm getting it. Because it's basketball season, and I'm loving the chance to watch my Badgers.

So tonight I had a date with my TV to watch the Badgers take on Iowa. But I had time to squeeze in a 3-mile run first. And the run? Almost as glorious as discovering I had access to the Big Ten Network.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A day we'll remember

History was made today. And while the speech President Obama gave after taking the oath of office was impressive, I have to admit, it didn't give me chills.

Instead a quartet of musicians did. Itzhak Perlman and Y0-Yo Ma can give me chills on a normal day. Add in a clarinetist and pianist on this historic day playing an amazing rendition of a simple Quaker hymn and you've got me. Chills people. Chills.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

YMCA Indoor Triathlon Race Report

There's a new piece of hardware hanging in my apartment.

Today was the indoor triathlon at the YMCA that I signed up for on a whim a couple of weeks ago. The triathlon I was going to use to gauge my fitness level and use as a motivating tool to get my butt back in the pool. The one I was going into with very low expectations.

Those expectations didn't include coming home with a medal. But I did.

The set up was simple. An 8-minute swim, a 10-minute transition followed by a 22-minute bike. After another 5-minute transition there was 15-minute run to finish the day. There were seven other people in my wave - a set of parents with their two daughters and these three hardcore folks. And the hardcore folks? They scared me. Intimidated me. And they had their own paparazzi following them, snapping pictures throughout the day.

Since there were 8 of us and only 4 lanes in the pool, we had to share lanes. The whistle blew and everyone took off. I didn't go out fast. Just swam like I normally do. And after the fist length of the pool, I was bringing up the rear. But I didn't care. This was my second time in the pool since July. Low expectations, remember? I kept swimming, alternating between a freestyle and the backstroke. And I kept swimming, eventually passing the father, who I was sharing a lane with. When the 8 minutes were up, I had finished 13 lengths of the pool and some change. About 325 yards.

Then it was into the locker room for a quick change into my shorts, T-shirt and running shoes. Initially I was just going to throw my stuff on over my swimming suit, but at the last minute I opted for a full change. Looking back, I think I should have gone with the original plan. I made it to the bike on time though. A minute or two early actually.

The bike was set up on spin bikes. This is where the three hardcore folks started to really scare me, since I had to stare at them the entire 22-minutes we biked since they were directly across from me. And boy, did they bike. Their legs? It was almost like they were a blur going around in circles. Every so often they'd give each other updates as to how far they'd gone - I was usually 2 miles behind them. I pushed myself on the bike though. Covering 8.9 miles in the 22 minutes

Then it was on to the run - the part of the day I was most scared about given my recent struggles running and considering the fact my legs hadn't done a bike to run brick since, oh July. I didn't have much of a plan, just to go out and hopefully run the entire 15 minutes. I started out in the back of the pack, and was quickly passed by the three hardcore folks, who were just flying, after a lap. Oh well I thought. I kept running. And they kept passing me. But I was feeling good. My legs didn't feel dead and the run actually seemed to be coming easy. All of a sudden the whistle blew and the triathlon was done. I don't have an exact mileage on the run, but my calculations (which could be off considering no one seemed to know exactly how many laps equaled a mile) tell me about 1.5 miles. They told us a mile equaled 16 to 18 laps and I finished 26.25.

I was happy with how I did, but wasn't expecting to even place in my age group, considering two of the three hardcore folks looked like they were my age (so did the third one, but thankfully, he was a guy).

So imagine my surprise at the awards ceremony when they announce that I had taken second in my division - women ages 22 to 29. Other than a 4-team tennis invitational in high school where my doubles partner and I won our flight, I've never won an award for how well I've done in an athletic event. I've always been the girl who does these things just to finish or accomplish a personal goal, never to end up on the podium.

My first triathlon of 2009 is in the books and it looks like it might be a good year. The YMCA is having another indoor triathlon in March and I think I'm going to sign myself up, see if I can do any better.

Oh and the hardcore folks? They really were hardcore. They walked away with the overall award for the top female and male in terms of distance covered. Yeah, I think I had a right to be slightly intimidated.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bosses need to alert me before putting these headlines up

For a moment this afternoon, I felt like I was back on Sept. 11. When I saw a United jet crash into the World Trade Center, my thoughts went immediately to, "Where's my brother," since he was a pilot for that airline.

Same thing happened today. I was at work posting an update on our Web site. I went to refresh the page and a headline caught my eye, "US Airways plane crashes into Hudson River."

From that moment on I started going through the motions. My brother? He's a pilot. With US Airways. And he flies primarily on the East Coast.

This could be bad, I though. As I uttered that initial, "Uh oh," I was reaching for my cell phone. Calling my mom.

"Where's (the brother) today?"

He had left earlier today to drive down to Milwaukee to catch a flight out East to go to work. She didn't think he was out there yet and was pretty sure the plane that was now floating in the Hudson River was not the same kind of jet he flies. Mom said she'd call me back when she knew more.

About 10 minutes later she calls back. She had talked to my brother. He was fine, sitting in an airport waiting for a flight. He actually hadn't heard about the crash - apparently when a plane crash occurs, all televisions in airports are turned off.

So I'm glad to know my brother's OK. And glad to hear the pilot of that US Airways flight had the skills he did. Because that landing? It's pretty amazing he was able to realize something was wrong. To be able to land an aircraft of that size IN A RIVER and all 150 passengers make it out of the plane safely. The man deserves major kudos. Because today's incident? Could have been much worse.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I escaped for a bit. Too bad I had to come back.

It wasn't a very good day.

For starters, my alarm clock? It started buzzing at 4:45 a.m. That's about two hours before my alarm usually goes off, but I was filling in for a co-worker so I had to be at my desk a lot earlier than normal.

And the temperature? It was -2 degrees when I got into the office. And snowing. Funny. I always thought below zero was too cold to snow. Hmm. But the temps? They managed to get a few degrees warmer, but then the wind kicked in. And tonight? The temps will plummet and the wind will howl and it's going to be absolutely frigid when I get up and leave for work at 5:50 a.m. tomorrow.

Then there was the announcement from the bosses at work. All employees are being forced to take 5 days off before the end of March. I know, you're probably say, extra vacation. Score! But here's the kicker. Unpaid. They call it a furlough, which is apparently something they do to control costs without having to lay more people off - which they just did at the beginning of December. Regardless, not too happy with the announcement.

I know it could be worse - heck I spent the afternoon with a bunch of prison inmates - but still. The day? Not one of my favorites. All I wanted to do was get out of the office and clear my head. And luckily, since I was at the office before the sun was even up, I got to leave when it was still light out.

And I high-tailed it over to the YMCA. I was desperate to snag a treadmill, step on and just put one foot in front of the other. I recaptured that feeling I like about running tonight. The ability to just start running and not have anything to think about. It gives me a chance to clear my mind, just zone out for a while. Sure there are times when I like to use this time to figure stuff out. But tonight? I didn't want to think. I was wanted to run aimlessly.

When my 3 miles were done, I didn't want to leave. Because that would have given me the opportunity to think. And I still didn't want to do that. So I put in some time on the bike and even ventured over into the land of the weights - an area I haven't visited in a long time.

Two hours after I first got there, I left the YMCA and returned to reality. Yup, it was still frigid outside. Yup, still being forced to take that week of unpaid time off. Yup, not a very good day. But at least I was able to escape for a little while.

Monday, January 12, 2009

It was a whole new locker room adventure

I experienced a whole new locker room tonight. And I didn't like it.

Apparently they're replacing the flooring in the locker room I usually use at the YMCA, so I had two options. Use the "family locker room" where mom's can take their little kids or the "women's fitness center." Since I really didn't want to deal with little kids running around as I was changing, I headed down the hall by the rest of the women.

It's an odd locker room. All sorts of separate rooms. One of those places where if you're not comfortable with your body, you could do your entire workout and never leave the confines of the locker room. And the area where the lockers are? Tiny. The lockers are short. There's this crazy, sloping bench in the middle of the aisle. And the aisle itself? Not very wide.

Since there weren't many people in the locker room when I got to the gym, I didn't have to many problems. I changed. I headed upstairs, snagged a treadmill and logged 3 miles.

Afterwards? It was a problem.

I went back down to change and gather my stuff right around the same time a swim aerobics class was finishing up. So there were a ton of the people in the locker room. First it was me and two other girls my age fighting for room in the skinny aisle made skinner by that crazy bench. Then thrown in two older women who smelled like chlorine? It was tight. I just wanted to grab my gym bag, my clothes, my coat, hat and mittens and run. Run away and find a corner where I could change in peace.

Instead I picked up my bag and moved farther down the aisle to where no one else was. And waited. And waited some more, glancing at the clock, counting down the precious minutes I had to get my butt home and in my recliner before night two with Jack Bauer.

Eventually the first two girls left and the other two women headed towards the showers. Me? I grabbed my bag, dumped it on the curvy bench and threw on my clothes and coat as fast as I could.

I miss my old locker room. When can I go back?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Don't mess with Jack

Jack's back. So good. And Tony? Apparently he's not dead.

Can't wait for part two tomorrow!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Resolutions are made to be broken

Is it the end of January yet? You know the time of year when everybody who made resolutions begin to give up on them?

Not that I want to give up on my resolutions. I just want a few others to. Mainly some of those folks who made the resolution to lose weight, get fit, go to the gym, etc. And more specifically those who are making the trek to the gym in the evening, after work.

Because there should not have been THAT many people at the YMCA when I strolled in at 6:30 p.m. tonight. Seriously. I walked in, expecting to have my pick of treadmills with the fancy TVs attached to them.

Instead? Every single treadmill was taken! All full. There was one lonely treadmill left, one those crazy ones that you can do the super steep inclines on. The ones I normally stay away from. Because this runner? She likes flat. Not hilly.

But since it was the only one open and I wanted to go in, get my run in and get out of there, I took it. And didn't really like it. No TV on the treadmill. No TV in sight of the treadmill. Just a window to look out, which wasn't much since, oh yeah, it was dark out.

But I got my 3 miles in.

And now, since I'm an evil person apparently, I'm crossing my fingers some of those resolutions people made start getting broken.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mr. Treadmill - Long time no see.

I've been avoiding lacing up my running shoes, putting one foot in front of the other and going for a run for almost a month now. Avoiding it like the plague. Finding every excuse to avoid the treadmill and log some miles.

Blame it on December I guess.

But tonight I decided to stop avoiding the treadmill and just do it. (I didn't intentionally mean to sound like a Nike commercial. Really.)

So tonight after work I headed over to the YMCA, laced up my shoes and stepped on the treadmill. And with my iPod playing some tunes and the Duke vs. Davidson basketball game on the TV in front of me, I ran. The basketball game kept me entertained. Made the 2.5 miles I covered go just a tiny bit faster.

But still. It was hard. I need to build the endurance back up. The fist mile always seems to go OK. But after that I start feeling it in my legs. And it starts to feel like if I don't stop for a 20 second breather, my legs are just going to die. Not fun.

So I'll tackle the treadmill again tomorrow. And I'll start being more consistent with getting in my runs. And hopefully over time it will start to get easier. Because this runner? She knows it's all about the baby steps right now.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I was attacked. And now I smell like chlorine.

One more day. That's what I had left to be productive before heading back into work Tuesday for my first five-day work week since before Thanksgiving.

I ran some errands in the morning. Ventured over to the outlet mall to pick up a new pair of jeans. I own one pair and yesterday I discovered they had gotten a hole in them. Not a hole in the knee or some other hole-appropriate area. No. A hole in a not-so-appropriate spot. So they needed to be replaced.

When I got back to my apartment I was sitting in my living room, watching Days of Our Lives and munching on a sandwich for lunch. And the Christmas tree was staring at me. One of those looks like, "Ha, ha ha. I'm still standing." Remember, I toyed with taking down the Christmas tree yesterday, but decided to head over to the YMCA instead.

But today? The tree didn't scare me. After I finished my sandwich, I dug out the boxes for the ornaments and the tree and got to work on tackling that fake piece of pine. The branches, they were a bit scratchy. But the ornaments? They were vicious. One angel even attacked me. She looked so calm and sweet, playing her violin. But I went to take her off the tree branch and BAM! She bite me! I looked down and my finger was bleeding. OK, maybe it wasn't bleeding that much. But still, have you ever heard of an angel drawing blood?

I kept on tackling the tree though. And eventually all of the ornaments were wrapped and put away and the tree was shoved back in its box. The outside Christmas lights were taken down and Christmas has left my apartment.

Feeling good about conquering the tree, I looked at the clock. It was still early. And remember, I was on this tree-tackling high and was in one of those moods where I feel like I could do anything I wanted to.

So I packed my gym bag, dug out my swimming suit, swim cap and goggles and headed over to the YMCA. Today, I would make friends with the pool again. The pool that I haven't visited since July. I admit, the pool? It looked a bit intimidating. But lucky for me, there weren't many people there. Just me, some women doing water walking and an older guy swimming laps.

I got ready, jumped in and took off swimming. It all seemed to come back naturally. Like I never abandoned the pool in the first place. Going in, I wasn't sure how far I was going to swim. Initially I decided on doing 800 yards since it's been a while. But the first 100 felt good. I rested a bit, avoiding eye contact with the quasi-creepy older guy, and set off for my second 100. Repeat. All of sudden I was at 800 yards and I still felt good. So I kept going. Grabbed a kick board around 1,000 yards and used that for a bit before a short cool down.

In all, I did 1,200 yards in about 30 minutes. Not bad. It felt good being back in the pool I had forgotten how much I like it. Yes, at times it was hard tonight, but I was expecting that since I hadn't touched water in over 5 months.

Overall, I'd say it's been a pretty productive day. Seriously. I tackled a Christmas tree and survived an attack by a vicious ornament and now I smell like chlorine. Not a bad day off.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The guilt got to me

The plan was to get up early today, start in on some cleaning and head over to the Y for a spin class early this afternoon.

That didn't happen. Mostly due to the not rolling out of bed until late morning. Which I guess is OK. So I got up late. I still could have made to the spin class, but I decided not to go. I putzed around for a bit, thought about taking down my Christmas tree and ultimately ended up reading in my recliner for a bit.

Then I started to feel guilty.

I looked at the clock.

3:15 p.m. There was still time to get to the YMCA and sneak in some kind of workout before closed at 5.

So that's what I did. I changed into some gym clothes, braved the ice covered roads and went to the YMCA. I ended up doing 50 minutes - 14 miles - on the bike, thinking it was kind of like the spin class I skipped earlier.

Now it's time to settle in, do my laundry and go back to reading my book. After I make a plan of attack for tomorrow. Which may include a run and dipping my toes in the pool for the first time in forever.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A triathlon of the indoor variety

I haven't put a toe in the swimming pool since I finished the Danskin Triathlon back in July.

I'm not sure why. I guess the pool and I were taking a break. But the break ended up being an extended break. One of the five-month variety. I've kept up with the bike. And while I haven't run as much as I would like, I have been known to log a few miles on the treadmill every so often.

In other words, I've been slacking a bit.

That didn't stop me from signing up for an indoor triathlon at the YMCA. You're probably saying, you've got time to get ready. Yeah. Not really. It's in 15 days. Two weeks people. Not a lot of time to train. Or build my swim endurance back up.

But I'm still doing it. Mainly to gauge where I'm at. And to force me to get my behind back in the pool. And to get me back in the gym-going habit. Because I need something to work towards. Yes, the High Cliff Triathlon is out there. But that's in June. Months away.

So I'll do the indoor tri in two weeks. See how it goes. And then I'll sign up for the next one the YMCA's having in March. And when I finish the one in March, I'll be able to see what kind of progress I've actually made once I get back into a routine. The routine that I lost sometime back in July.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Resolutions. Resolutions.

I hope everyone had a good New Year's. I spent mine celebrating with a good friend and a bunch of other folks in a bar downtown here in the City on the Water.

I'm ready to put 2008 behind me and move on. Because 2009? It's got to be better than last year. Don't get me wrong. 2008 wasn't an awful year, it was one of those in-between years. The whole Monster in my head? Although he technically appeared at the end of 2007, he was there during a good chunk of 2008 and when I did finally get him to leave, he left some baggage behind. So 2008? Not the greatest year. But not the best either.

But 2009? It's going to be good. I hope. And since 2009 is already over 14 hours old, I guess I better make some resolutions. Goals. Things to work towards. Some Monster related. Some not.

I give you, my resolutions for 2009:
  • Be happy. Like I said 2008 wasn't my best year. I struggled. Maybe not outwardly, but inside I wasn't as happy as I normally am. Things bugged me. Monster related things. But this year? I left the Monster with the 2008 calendar when I threw it out. No more Monster. He won't get me down this year. Neither will the side effects he brought along. So this year I resolve to be happy. Happy with my job, my friends, my family and the life I'm living. The one I'm living without the Monster.
  • The pesky weight. I know. I know. Everyone says it. I'm going to lose weight. But I am. Because when I finally was able to get the Monster to leave? He managed to leave behind some baggage. About 3o pounds worth. And this year? I'll be shedding that extra weight. Because even though the Monster thinks I want it, I don't.
  • To regain my fitness. Before the Monster I was in the best shape I've ever been in my life. I had just run my first half marathon. I felt good and thought I looked good. Then the Monster came. Overstayed his welcome and took my fitness with him when he got booted out of my head. I struggled in 2008. Running became hard. A chore. It wasn't much fun. Yes, I biked more and started to swim. But in a way it was because I thought I had to just to combat the nasty side effects of the Monster. I want to change that. This year I want to start running again because I enjoy it. I want to swim and bike because I like to. And I want to cross the finish line of a half marathon again. And triathlon No. 2 is already penciled onto the calendar. In ink.
  • Books. Yes. It's a resolution I have every year. But I'm aiming for 40 books again this year. But I might mix it up a bit this year. While compiling the list of what I read during 2008 I noticed that I spent my time reading a lot of newer stuff. This year I'm going to add some classics to the list. And while it might end up making me miss my goal of 40 books, I'd be OK with that. I'm starting out with one of those lengthy ones: Gone with the Wind, all 1,024 pages of it. This could take a while.
  • Pick up a new hobby. Well maybe not new, but one that I've abandoned the past few years. I used to scrapbook. A lot. But then I moved to the City on the Water and my supplies went untouched. I want to pull out the papers and scissors and pictures again and start catching up on documenting the memories I've collected over the years.
That's it. Like I said, I know a lot of my resolutions have to due with the Monster. But he's played a big role in my life the last 14 months or so. And I'm at the point where I'm ready to be rid of him. I admit, I'm sure there will be times during the year where he makes a reappearance. And I guess he came come and visit. Briefly. There are no prolonged visits by the Monster allowed in 2009.