Now that I’m in the house by myself again, it just seems way too quiet around here… I was thinking a kid might be a possible solution?

 

Fehona

This is Fehona.  And she’s currently looking for a home.

Ever since I had to put my dog Joe down — now, already a year and a half ago — there’s been an empty spot in my house and heart.  As every dog owner knows, a dog is equal parts love and frustration and fun and hard work and middle of the night potty breaks, but even though it isn’t all dog bones and slobbery kisses, there’s just nothing like it.

For those that know me, I’ve been having this argument with myself for months (see – another reason to get a dog – at least I wouldn’t have to hold conversations with myself) … it goes something like this:

Me:  I want a dog
Myself: You’re not home enough.
Me:  I know.  But I still want one.
Myself:  Would that even be fair to the poor dog?
Me:  But I want one.
Myself: At the pound at least there would be people around. You work a lot.
Me:  But I really want one.
I:  Ice cream would be good right now… (ice cream is always on one of my minds…)
Myself: But still, are you ready to always have to come home after work?
Me: But… I really REALLY want one.

And so it goes.

It’s not logical, not rational, not practical for me to have a dog.  From the time I leave to the time I get home from work, 11-12 hours have passed. But the desire to have another dog in the house has never been about things making sense.  I know it’d be hard — it’s such a damn inconvenience to always have to take a dog into account when making plans and I’d have to hire a dog-walker — but the idea of having someone waiting for me when I get home just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.  And then – my one argument that actually MIGHT make sense — I would be rescuing a dog from the pound.  It’s not as though I’m buying a puppy from a breeder that might otherwise get a home where there’s someone around all the time.  I want the hard-to-place dog that’s been stuck at the humane society, just waiting for someone like me to show up and take them home.  I mean, even if it’s just me at home — and gone a good chunk of the day — wouldn’t that be a better life?

I just finished re-reading Marley & Me (the movie trailers reminded me how much I love this book).  It’s a hilarious look at a misbehaving, but loving, loyal dog.  It’s the classic case of the dog that’s almost more trouble than he’s worth… almost.  I laughed out loud at a lot of it — especially remembering some Joe’s antics — and knew that I just had to have that in my life again.  And then I cried.  Especially at the end.  And knew that I wasn’t sure if I was ready to become that attached to a dog again.

But this passage from Marley & Me really stuck with me:  “A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside.  A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull.  Give him your heart and he will give you his.  It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not.” 

So far I’ve managed to stop myself from going to see the dogs — I know that the decision to go there is the same as making the decision to get a dog.  I wouldn’t be able to leave there without one in tow.  My rational brain knows that even if I WERE to do this, now is not the time — not with the holidays coming up — but my heart just might win this battle.  We shall see.

 

It’s started:  my seasonal “I’m ready to de-packrat the house!” mood.  

Seems like every fall I get the urge to clean closets and unload “stuff”.  Usually though, this is a quickly passing mood. Maybe I would get as far as pulling one or two things out, but normally I’m able to kind of wait it out. There are actually three things in life you can count on:  death, taxes, and that the urge for me to clean or organize will pass.

This time, though, I’m taking action.  The target?  My books.  Since I moved into my house, almost all of my books have been sitting in boxes down the basement, waiting for me to purchase a suitably large bookshelf to accomodate them all.  I came from a house that had a room of built-in bookshelves, and in the new house, I had nowhere to put them since I opted to get rid of the $15 bookshelves that I purchased sometime around my college years. 

So after a few weeks of determined searching, I finally found the bookshelf that I was looking for:  a tall, 5-shelf monster of a unit which would fit nicely next to my fireplace.  I enlisted the help of a friend to get it home from the store (it didn’t even fit in the back of my truck!  I had to be all redneck-ish and have it hanging out the rear window for the short drive home), and after setting it up I was ready:  ready to go haul my books up from the basement, ready to go through them (for some would certainly have to be trimmed from the ranks) and then ready to proudly display the ones that successfully navigated the selection process.

I didn’t know this, but it’s obvious to me now that books share a certain trait with bunny rabbits — they multiple when left alone. I went into the basement and instead of just the 5 or 6 boxes that I thought were there, I found 14 boxes.  Yes, fourteen boxes.  FOURTEEN BOXES, PEOPLE!!  How does that happen? Doesn’t that seem just a little bit ridiculous?  It was then that I realized that I had a much more herculian task ahead of me than I had anticipated, and when I admitted what would need to be done I almost shed tears. See, instead of just trimming out some of the books that I never really liked anyway, I knew that I’d have to be merciless and get my collection down to just a few boxes.  Down from FOURTEEN BOXES (yes, I’m still a little astounded by that number…).  *sniff*  

Once all the books had been carried upstairs and dumped into my family room, I realized exactly how many books FOURTEEN BOXES can hold.  The scientific answer:  a helluva lot.  To the nth degree.  So, with a sigh, I started sorting.  Like the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter series of books, I’d try and look into each book, pouring through my memory to tell me whether this book was a keeper or not and what pile it should land in. Maybe re-read the first couple of pages, the last few also, if the first few didn’t spark remembrance.  And this was taking forever. And I had FOURTEEN BOXES to go through.

So, my sorting criteria became streamlined:
     #1.  Do I remember reading the book?  No?  Donate pile.
     #2.  If I remember reading it, did I enjoy it?  No?  Donate pile.
     #3.  If I remembered it, and I enjoyed it, would I enjoy reading it again?  No?  Donate pile.

This made it an easy sorting process — because of my very short retention for books, most didn’t get past point #1 before heading into the out-of-the-house pile.   That doesn’t mean I was happy to get rid of the books, just that I couldn’t think of any good reason why I should hold on to them.

Now my family room looks like a library book sale is going on, except without the old ladies and large amounts of cash flowing in.  I’ve got books upon books strewn across the floor, waiting to be either picked up and given a home by one of my friends or be packed up in a box to be taken to the library for donation. Either way, they’ll be out of my house.  And then – maybe the next time in the next house when I go to the basement to drag out my boxes of books… maybe then there will only be THIRTEEN BOXES.

 

Switching gears… I’m going headlong into marathon training for the next few months.  Before this, I was intent on the half marathon up in Wisconsin (by the way, Half Marathon?  November?  Wisconsin??... what was I thinking???  oh yea… beer and lasagna afterwards… heh….).  After that – some recovery time.

I meandered my way through the week after the half marathon doing a whole lot of nothing.  Enjoying some time off from the swim/bike/run, getting a rebellious thrill out of actively ignoring training set down by my coach (though she gave me permission to do so … as a side note, does having permission make me less rebellious?  Because I felt like a rebel when I made the decision to skip some of the training….), basically trying to enjoy my time off the way a normal person might. 

And then, I looked at my training for this week.  And I was scared.  Really, really scared.  The honeymoon, as it were, was over.  Done.  Finished.

I think up until this week, my coach has been taking it easy on me.  We’ve only been working together since early this spring, and I had thought she was all nice and stuff.  I couldn’t have been more wrong about that. 

First up – the track workout.  As I read through the intervals and paces for the intervals, I think my mouth was literally hanging open, trying to decide if this was some sort of over-the-top coach humor.  I decided it wasn’t.  So I’m all, “well, I like the track, I’ll just suck it up, and put it all out there, see what happens…”.

And then – the weekend long run with some tempo thrown in.  Is she mad?!  (my coach, that is)  That many miles?  All at the same time?  And at those paces?  Eeek.  I’ll be sure to wear my RoadID so they’ll be able to identify me when the run renders me curled up in the fetal position in a ditch mumbling the words “just let me run in zone 1… I love zone 1… “.

And now – through the magic of technology and time – fast forward to AFTER the workouts:

I nailed it.  Aced it.  Hit my paces.  Hurt like hell, but no matter – I love me a good track workout.

And I was surprised!  When I finally started breaking down the track workout into what pace I’d have to hit for each 400m, I started to get my first glimmer of “hmmm… maybe I can do this… maybe Coach really isn’t on crack…”

So, after days of whining and dread and intimidation, I come out the other side feeling like I could fly.  Feeling like I DID fly.  And damn, that feels good.

And the long run?  While not the unabashed success as the other workout, it’s training in the bank.  Executed the workout exactly as written, and it wasn’t pretty, but it’s done – getting me ready for longer and even less pretty runs on the horizon.  

The ice bath afterwards reminded me that good results require hard work and enduring some PAIN along the way.  Of course, without the pain, everyone would do it, right?  I mean, who said a marathon would be easy?? (what?  No one said that?  Hmmm… why did I decide to do this again..?)

 

I’ve heard the stories:  people join Facebook and then it’s as if they’re lives are sucked into this online vortex where bedtimes and jobs don’t exist.  And I laughed a little at these people… I mean, *I* wouldn’t never succumb.  *I* know where to draw the line.

I had joined Facebook quite awhile ago, at the urging of a friend (why else?).  Created my account, posted a picture or two, filled out my profile.  Even got a few friend requests.  But – I didn’t see the draw.  Couldn’t figure out how people could become addicted to the site.  I mean, sure – I could spend time playing Scrabble and such, but the rest?  Just not all that enticing to me.

So, I quickly became a Facebook member in bad standing.  I ignored friend requests, I never logged in, I deigned myself above all that foolishness.  See, I knew that it was all silly.  Just a time-waster.  (You can see where this is headed, can’t you?)

Yes… I’ve been sucked in.  And my head is still reeling a bit at how quickly it actually happened.  I logged on — again, at the urging of a friend — and realized I had a few friend requests.  Decided that the easiest way to clear them out without ignoring them (which seemed so mean!) was to just confirm them and move on.  And then – more friend requests.  Grade school friends!  High school friends!  College friends!  Triathlon friends! Everyone from people I know and love to people who I don’t even really remember… and there’s something intoxicating about ALL THESE PEOPLE who want to be MY friend!  It’s like high school except this time around, I’m popular.

Don’t walk towards the white light!!  Turn back!!

But … I didn’t turn back.  And now I can say:  “Hi, my name is Laura and I’m a Facebookaholic.”

So here I am…  All sorts of people that want to be my friend!  Is it even polite to not want to be their friend back? I mean, it’s not like I even know who some of these people are!  Will they be hurt?  Offended?  Find out where I live and leave bunny rabbits in boiling water on my stove?? Really, what’s the protocol?  Instead of just “Confirm” and “Ignore” buttons, I’d really love to have an “I want you to think I confirmed, but in reality I ignored you” button.  Perhaps I should put forth that suggestion to the powers that be.  The ability to ignore without actually rejecting.  We’ll call it the “Nice” button.

The other side of that is this:  how do I go about asking people for friendship?  I have to admit – I feel like such a stalker!  And then – what if they choose to ignore me?  Ouch.  You mean I went through all this trouble to harrass you and now you don’t even want to be my friend?  Double ouch.  See, even I’d appreciate being allowed to live in an alternate reality where everyone wanted to be my friend in return (heck, I spend a lot of time in that place anyway…).  The “Nice” button would rule!

So, with all the friend requests and status updates and emails shooting back and forth, I found myself on Facebook all the time.  I’d crawl into work and first thing — log in and see what everyone else is doing (duh… sleeping! it’s only 5:45am…).  And then throughout the day, I’d try to close the website — I should be working!  Being productive!  And then I’d think… well, I’ll just do a quick check.  And then I’m hitting refresh every 1.3 minutes to see if there’s anything new to see.  (by the way, all you other Facebook users, would you please update your status more often?!  I’m bored!)

Admittedly, Facebook still completely overwhelms me.  I log on and will find myself determinedly clicking on anything that has a link to see where it goes and what it does.  So many people, so many gadgets, so many things to do and buttons to click.  Too much!  What should I do first?  Stalk new friends?  Play a game? Navigate my way through the confusion that’s Send Good Karma or Send a Drink or Throw a Snowball? Read other people’s info?  Respond to emails?  See – that’s what I mean.  Too many choices!  OVERLOAD! OVERLOAD!!

Okay… breathe…

                …breathe…

                    …breathe…………………….

Perhaps I’ll just log off for a bit, take a break and collect my thoughts…   oh, wait – another friend request? Maybe I should do that now.  Wait – status update!!  Hey – flair!  I need more FLAIR!!

Uh, oh.

…. and so it goes….

… with my new triathlon-training-not-taking-up-my-entire-life existence… **

 

Take more pictures.  I used to be big into photography… and then when I broke my arm 5.5 years ago, I spent a year not even being able to hold a camera and so fell out of the habit.  I was never all that good, but I was getting better and am looking forward to trying my hand at it again.  I’ve got the gear, now I just have to get out there and start shooting.

Get my house in order.  As much as I hate the cleaning and the organizing, amazingly, I’ve come around to admitting that I like the end result. I’ve been inspired by a number of people I know that have moved recently: I’m determined to go through every box that’s still unpacked from when I moved 2.5 years ago.  Surely if I haven’t needed it yet, I won’t need it in the future.  Surely.

Get my house in order, part II.  I have a list of home repairs/improvements about a mile long.  And I’ve had this list since I moved into the house in May 2006.  I’ve knocked a few off the list — lighting over the kitchen island is next — but the list is still woefully long.  All these things will make me much happier in my house — it’ll make it more mine, if that makes sense.  And plus, then I get to brag about my bodacious (that’s a word you haven’t heard in awhile, isn’t it??) home improvement skills.

Go hiking!  Currently, this is one of the places where I’m thinking of going…

Purcell Mountain Lodge - A Luxury Mountain Lodge in the Canadian Rockies

Pretty amazing, eh?

Learn to ski.  Anyone up for this?  It’s something I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do, but this is one of those things that I’d rather not tackle on my own for the first time.  Anyone?  Anyone? Bueller?  Bueller??  Oh, and you have to be the type of person who wouldn’t freak out if, say, someone, you know, hypothetically, broke a limb.

Explore places locally.  I used to love to do this… just pick a spot within a few hours drive, and just go there and hike and explore and take pictures.  And eat.  Can’t forget to eat.  Ice cream, if at all possible.

Take a class.  And no, I have no idea what the answer is to the obvious question … “what class?”.  Maybe cooking.  Perhaps photography.  Fencing?  Just something new.

Of course, first I have to make my way through the January marathon, which will require focus, a bit of work and a little less of the fun stuff that I have planned.  One last racing HURRAH! before I settle back into nothing but fun and sun.  Or something like that.

** this list not necessarily inclusive! And I reserve the right to change my mind at any time.  For no good reason at all.  Just because I can.  So there.  Deal with it.

If we don’t change the direction we are headed, we will end up where we are going.   
–Chinese proverb

I’ve decided to change my destination; once my January marathon is in the books, I’m giving up triathlons and racing for awhile.  Be more social.  Try new things.  Rediscover some old things I had let go of.  Follow the road not taken… or at least not taken for a long time now.

When I started thinking about planning out my racing season for 2009, the overwhelming feeling was “…eh”. Not excited, not motivated … I didn’t even really want to think about next year.

And then I started thinking about taking a vacation that didn’t include running, biking or swimming… and THAT got me motivated.  What – you mean I could NOT have to train for something?  I could NOT have to plan my weekends around long rides or long runs? 

Wow.

That’d be different!

So, in my head I’m tentatively laying a roadmap for next year:  hiking trip in the spring/early summer.  Vegas in June.  Maybe a cycling from hostel to hostel kind of trip in the fall or even head to the mountains.  Pick up another softball league (might as well play while my body will still let me!).  Find another sport to take up (perhaps racquetball? or maybe something new!) and devote energy to it.

In the meantime, I’ll still keep running. The act of running is good for my soul — it’s one of the ways that I manage to stay on this side of sane.  And I think I’d like to spend the year helping other people with their running — pacing, training, whatever someone might need.  I know that kind of help is something I’ve always wanted and would appreciate to no end, and once the marathon is done since I won’t be training for anything specific, I can give that help to someone else.  Helping someone else cross a finish line is as much fun as anything else in racing!

I’m also hoping to forge a zen-like bond with my bike.  Now, one of the reasons that I’m taking a break from triathlons is that I’ve come to dread the long hours of training by myself — let’s face it, I’m not always the most scintillating of company! — so, perhaps this idea seems counter-intuitive…. but, it would be on my own terms.  I could ride with others when the opportunity arises without worrying about what type of workout I’m supposed to be executing.  I can join a bike club and ride with others, hopefully others who also like the socializing more than actual biking.  🙂  And hopefully, in the midst of laughter and conversations, without even realizing it, I’ll become all BFF-like with my bike.

And I’m really excited about getting back to one of my favorite hobbies — hiking and backpacking.  I love the mountains, and often think that I would love to move out to Colorado or Montana or Idaho or anyplace where the skyline isn’t quite as flat as it is here.  But, I don’t even need mountains.  Up until recently when my training schedule started dictating my weekends, I used to make it out to Starved Rock at least twice a year and I’d also try and pick out somewhere else fairly local to drive to and spend the day exploring…. which is something I haven’t done in years now.  And I’ve really been missing the whole nature thing, like a part of me was going unfulfilled.

So, that’s the plan.   At the moment it seems like the most “right” decision I’ve made in a long time.  One of those things that once I made the committment to the decision, I could feel the relief.  No more hard training (unless I want to!), no more race-day pressue, no more having to dread long swim sessions or lonely 4 hour bike rides.  I suspect that once the season gets underway, there will be a part of me that misses it — at heart, I know I’m a competitor, and I enjoy getting out there and mixing things up a bit — but I think the break will be theraputic and motivating and energizing.

And plus, I was running out of triathon topics to cover here anyway… 😉