Tuesday, October 27, 2015

on being single

There are many wonderful things about being single, like being able to do anything at the exact moment I want, having things arranged just as I like them, leaving a weeks' worth of running socks in a pile on the floor where I take them off every night, not having to listen to complaints about my hair all over the bathroom floor, listening to whatever I want on the radio, having my bed to myself and being able to look at my own calendar and make plans immediately.  I treasure and am grateful for all of these things because I have hope for a future when I won't have them.  However, there are a lot of things that are tough/challenging about being single.

I don't get a lot of human contact Hugging is not professional, so it happens only rarely at work.  We tend to not hug at running group either... there's something about being drenched in sweat that dampens the desire for getting too close.  One of my girlfriends has two boys under two and every time I'm at her house, she apologizes when I somehow end up with both of them in my arms and lap.  In those moments, I feel so full and whole, and I carry the peace of that abundance of warm little boy love with me for days!  Humans are wired to share love, affection, respect and appreciation through contact, which explains why I go to bed every night sandwiched between two stuffed animals. 

Girls' nights don't have the same appeal.  I love a good girls' night as much as the next girl, and I especially love when I get to have them with my married girl friends because it shows just how important time with me is to them and I love and cherish that I get to share the time with them and just them.  However, I would love a good dudes' night every once in a while.  I spend all of my time at work with 142 teenage girls and an overwhelmingly female faculty.  Sometimes I just want to be around people who actually eat more than me and can lift heavy things for me! 

I sign a morality clause in my contract each year.  Among a whole host of things this means that I promise not to have premarital sex or co-habitate.  In today's world, this goes against societal expectations and norms.  A lot of people have their "third-date baggage" that they have to share with the hope that this new person in their life will understand and accept; this is mine.  Most of the time it feels like a burden that I carry, but it's there and it's a decision that I continue to make for a variety of reasons.  It's a decision that has caused a lot of heartache in my past two relationships.  It's a decision that has, ironically, made me comfortable talking about sex.  That's the funny thing about NOT having sex--you spend a LOT of time talking about why not.  As a single woman, I feel that this morality clause leaves me very vulnerable.  As a married woman, you can't break the biggest ones and even if I did something crazy and broke a different one, there'd be a second income to break the fall before I found a new job.

People are always making comments, asking questions and giving advice:
Are you married?  Do you have kids? Why aren't you married? Are you looking?  Do you go out to bars? Why don't you join some group to meet more people? Aren't there guys at parties you go to?  Why don't you try the online thing?  What about so-and-so?  My friend/relative/acquaintance met her husband online. When are you getting back on online dating?  Isn't there anyone at your Church? I'm sure you meet lots of guys at your running group. So-and-so has a really nice grandson/nephew/cousin, but he's too old/young/inactive/grumpy/non-religous/out-of-town for you.  You're such a nice girl. He's out there.  Keep putting yourself out there.  Go out more.  Talk to more people.  Don't worry about having kids, you're still young.

I have to be financially stable by myself.  I can't count on a double income.  I only have my parochial school income to live off of and right now, I have to plan on that being it for the rest of my life. 

I don't get to bring dates to weddings.  I feel very lucky to have been present to celebrate the weddings of so many of my friends, and this is NOT a dig on them.  It is simply an observation.  I know it is unintentional, but I often feel like I don't count to be worth two plates because I'm single.   

I have to do all my own chores.  There's no one to share chores with.  Prepping, cooking and cleaning up from a proper dinner takes at least 2 hours.  I also don't have anyone to push my sleeves back up when I'm elbow-deep in dough.  I also have to wait a long time between loads of laundry until I accumulate enough to warrant making a load, so that means I actually have to own more of the basics like underwear, socks and jeans.

Dresses with zippers up the back.  I'm pretty flexible, so I can normally get my dresses on and off, but occasionally I have to wear a jacket over my half-zipped dressed and beg an unsuspecting woman in the bathroom to zip me up the rest of the way and then figure out how to get out of it when I get home!

I'm the only one making decisions.  This is one of the greatest things that I envy about my married friends, I don't have a partner to bounce things off of, or to be in the same boat with when they spring a leak.  I have trust myself, or call mom and dad. 

So, if you have a single friend, cut them some slack when they stay they have to stay home to clean or if they come over ostensibly to hang out with you, but spend most of their time holding your child, or playing with your dog or talking to your husband.  Give them hugs in greeting and leaving and don't ask them how dating is going unless you're prepared to listen to a tirade and commiserate without giving any advice.  If you're married, invite them to things with your sig-fig and maybe offer to drive them every once in a while when you go out, since they don't have someone to share that duty with either.  For most of us, it isn't a choice, and while you may envy us on occasion, we need to be around you to see how our life can be so that we don't give up!  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ride Cincinnati

Today was too beautiful to stay inside and I had too much work to do to take a nap, although I was tired from my early morning trip to the gym before heading to school to meet with the students on my Key Club Board, so I hauled my commuter bike out of the basement and rode down to Deeper Roots Coffee Shop in Oakley to get an afternoon pick-me-up and work on my lesson plans.

I've been riding my road bike around different parts of the city for a few years now, but when I moved to East Walnut Hills, I bought a commuter/fitness bike to ride around town.  It is outfitted with a rack and panniers (bags that hook onto the rack) to haul stuff like groceries or my laptop and textbooks, fenders to keep my clothes clean and obnoxiously-flashy front and rear lights so that no one can miss me coming.  I often ride my bike to Hyde Park for running group, to one of the nearby coffee shops and downtown to catch some music in Washington Park or to pick up groceries at Findlay Market.  It takes me longer to do all these things, but I'm getting exercise, fresh air, sunshine and interaction with others while I'm doing it, plus I don't have to worry about finding or paying for parking!

Free parking downtown where no parking is allowed. 

Most of the places that I ride either have designated bike lanes or are 4-lane roads, so there is plenty of room for me to safely ride in traffic.  However, I'm often upset and frustrated on these rides that should bring me nothing by joy and satisfaction.  In the past few weeks, I've had several conversations with multiple friends and they've mentioned annoying things that cyclists do and I want to explain why people who ride bikes do these things so that you can be an informed, understanding and kind driver.  I know that I was very confused about what to do when I encountered a biker when I first started driving.  I'm the first to admit that many cyclists don't know or don't follow the rules and I'm the first to judge them for making the drivers of Cincinnati angry at all cyclists. 

Why cyclists do what they do:

Running Red Lights
     -Should we: NO.  Do we: YES.  Cyclists have shoes that clip into their pedals and it is quite honestly a pain in the ass to unclip and stop.  You can judge them and be mad at them at flat intersections, but show some mercy on hills... it is really hard to get started again!
     -Cyclists are not heavy enough to set off the light sensors, so they are lawfully-allowed to treat red lights as stop signs if the light doesn't change and there are no cars coming. 

Riding in the middle of the lane
Cyclists are supposed to do this. It is safest for both drivers and rider for them to ride in the middle of the lane, this is because that is where it is easiest to see them.  Plus cars are more apt to pass them by either changing lanes or crossing over the double-yellow line instead of trying to squeeze past in the lane the cyclist is traveling in. 
Cyclists are also supposed to "hold" their lane.  They should not dart in and out of the lane of traffic when there are no parked cars.  The only exception of this is when traveling on a two-lane road.  It is important for cyclists to be predictable and the best way for that to happen is if they "hold" or own their lane, just like any other car. 

Move into the lane of traffic when there is a bike lane present
    -The "Right Hook" is very dangerous to cyclists because drivers sometimes misjudge how much room they have to turn right in advance of a cyclist going straight.  This can result in a serious collision for the cyclist.  It is safer for them to move into the forward lane of traffic so drivers who wish to turn can stay behind them.  This actually happened to one of my friends and was incredibly scary.
    -There is sometimes debris in the bike lane
    -Cyclists have the legal right to ride 3 feet from parked cars.  This is so that they don't get "doored" by people getting out of the car.  Bike lanes are typically right next to parked cars, so the lane of traffic is actually three feet away from those parked cars.  

Ride on the sidewalk
No grown adult should ever do this!!   It's a nuisance!  If you're not comfortable riding in the road, take your bike to the trial or walk it on the sidewalk.  You don't want to run over a group of grandmas or a little kid on training wheels!

Not wear helmets
Just like motorcyclists, they're taking a gamble and you should judge them.  I don't go anywhere without mine because I'd never forgive myself if I got in a wreak and hit my head.

What you can do when you encounter a cyclist: 

Give them room!!!!
Cincinnati City Law and Ohio State Law mandates that drivers give cyclists three feet when passing.  This protects the driver from hitting a cyclists and having to deal with the repercussions and gives the cyclist room to maneuver around potholes and manhole covers.  The road presents a lot of obstacles when you're on very skinny tires! 
Also, if you can, change lanes when passing a cyclist in a bike lane, because why not give them and yourself more room?

Don't Honk!
We are outside and we can hear your car, unless you drive a Prius, in which case, you're probably pretty conscientious anyway and will give us the room we need.  Plus, we turn around to look behind us all the time to make sure no one is going to run us over!

Be Patient
In all honesty, the amount of time you're going to lose in getting to your destination if you get stuck behind a cyclist is negligible.  Take a minute to think about how much you loved riding your bike when you were a kid or check out our spandex-clad behinds.  We're pedaling as hard as we can and know that you're stuck behind us and we're trying to get out of your way!

Don't throw shit at them
I know no one reading this would ever do this, but it happens.

Cross the double-yellow line to pass
It is okay to cross the double-yellow line to pass a cyclist or an emergency vehicle.  Pass us just like you'd pass a cop who has pulled someone over.  This is not illegal, it is safe.

Don't pass on the right
You're not supposed to do this to cars, so don't do it to cyclists.  Bikes aren't supposed to travel in the parking lane and neither should cars.  Pass on the left, just like your momma taught you when you were 16.

Don't pass on windy downhills
Most cyclists get up to the speed limit on downhills.  If it is a curvy two-lane road, just enjoy the view and don't try to pass.  Cycling downhill on windy roads at the speed limit takes a lot of concentration and oftentimes the berm is non-existent or riddled with potholes and the safest place to be is in the middle of the lane.

If nothing else, remember to pass with three feet and tell all your friends!!!!
Thanks for reading and for seeking to understand! 
If you want more info, please see this link to Bicycling Street Smarts to learn more!! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Confessions of a Tour de France Junkie

There are few things in this world more peaceful, exhilarating and quintessentially human than a group of cyclists gliding easily along a winding road.  Even as a kid on my first 10-speed, I loved when 2 or 3 real-deal bikers would come whizzing past us with their funny shoes that made them clunk around with their toes in the air when they weren't on their bikes, their tiny pedals and those shirts with the nifty pockets in the back.  I never really understood how their shoes and pedals hooked together, or why their handlebars were so complicated when mine were so simple, but I admired them because of how fast they could go, and how effortless it seemed on those frighteningly skinny tires.  As I grew up and we traveled more, we'd encounter groups of cyclists out on the road and there was something awe-inspiring about their ability to move together as one, nearly floating over the road, in unison with their bikes and their fellow riders at or above the posted speed limit. 

I was recovering from my ACL surgery during the 2012 London Olympics, so I had ample time to watch and got really into the bike races.  For the past three summers, I have become consumed with the Tour de France for the month of July.  I languish away inside, glued to the TV, watching these men gut it out.  They are truly amazing!  So many of them crash and get back on their bike, or call for a new one and keep on going as they ride next to the team car while someone dresses their cuts and checks them out as they continue to pedal.  Sometimes they finish a stage (one day of racing) and have to withdrawal because they broke a collarbone, wrist or vertebrae, or they sit in back, nursing their wounds and bruises, hanging on until they’re back in racing condition again a few days later.  It is truly amazing what the human body and spirit is capable of when it’s all on the line. 

Although the ultimate goal is individual victory, it truly is a team sport.  So many team members sacrifice their own personal goals for their teammates who actually have a chance of winning.  There are members called “domestiques” who literally shuttle water bottles from the team car up to the other riders and drop back only to refill their jerseys and fight their way back up again.  Then, there’s the lead-out guys who give it their all on the way to the sprint line or finish line so that their best sprinter can have an easier time getting to the finish line.  The lead-out will then peel off to the side when they’re exhausted and their sprinter will just explode.  You see these lead-out guys finish in the back of the pack because they’ve used up everything they had in the lead-out.  Sometimes the other riders will give a better rider their own bike if they crash or have a “mechanical” (normally a flat tire or shifting issue) and the team car is too far away and the finish line too close to wait.  Without all those guys on the team, the best riders would be nothing.  

Its not every day you get to see the good riders do their thing though, because they’re so well-protected by their team mates.  Their team drafts for them, keeps them protected from wrecks in the peleton (the big group of riders), from the wind, and helps control the pace of the race.  It is really exciting when a stage allows for the best riders to shine, when they leave their lesser team mates behind and gut it out amongst themselves, they seem super-human—capable of unimaginable feats and it is then that you see why their team works so hard to get them across the finish line.  

The other thing that I love about watching the Tour is getting to see all the neat old cities in France and all the crazy fans along the course.  It's like taking a helicopter tour through France every morning and the commentators (with their excellent British accents) are great at giving lots of info about the various churches, castles, towns and historical sites along the route.  

In the words of my favorite cyclist of all time, Jens Voit: "Shut up, legs!"  

Friday, July 3, 2015

Proud to be an American

I am a lot of things: Catholic, female, a teacher, an historian, from Cincinnati, etc.  All of those things influence who I am and how I see and act in the world, but none of them impacts me more than the fact that I am an American. 

America is still the land of freedom and equality, of opportunity and possibility.  Our nation was built of the hopes and dreams of millions of immigrants.  It still holds that promise for so many today, which is why we have the ongoing immigration debate currently.

Our freedom and prosperity has given way to some fantastic inventions that can help humanity just as well as they can destroy it.  We have so much disposable income and disposable time that entire segments of our economy have been built around our consumption of movies, music, clothing, sporting events, etc.  We our a country where the "mom and pop" shop still exists next door to chains.  We gave birth to the big box store, to the supermarket, the shopping mall and to internet shopping.  We also have a very strong sense of local traditions and shopping local. 

We have the oldest constitution in the world.  The US Constitution was written by men who could never have seen what the future would hold, but they knew that they had to create a government that could develop along with technology, commerce, population, war, peace, and domestic strife.  They gave the states power to run themselves, to educate their citizens, to build their own roads, collect their own taxes, etc.  It's amazing that after all the changes this nation has seen, our Constitution still stands as a testament to all those who risked their lives to be free to live, write, speak and worship as they wished. 

We have spread a love of denim, various types of music, fast food, and movies worldwide.  We have also entangled ourselves in various conflicts and international debates.  We have made unilateral decisions that affected people in other countries.  We have suffered our own civil war and reunited our nation.  We've suffered a terrible terrorist attack that has changed the way people travel all over the world.  We've relocated two entire populations of people and denied them the benefits of their citizenship because we were scared of them.  We've killed nearly all the buffalo in our nation, and today devote lots of time and money to saving endangered species all around the world, including our very own symbol of freedom: the Bald Eagle. 

We are a people given to wanton waste and have one of the greatest national park systems in the world.  We have the richest poor people in the world, but their lives are not enriched like those in many other nations.  We have people like Bill Gates who has a hard time giving away the interest that he makes on his wealth.  We can go the grocery and buy the same fresh produce year-round, but we talk about carbon footprints. 

We are a country of paradoxes, but we have to own them all.  Because in that too, we are American.  All of these things are what we are, and to deny those things is to deny our American-ness and that is a real shame.  We are a country that has created it's own culture over the past 200 years, and that is really something!  This country is vast and great and full of so many different people, religions, beliefs, thoughts, hopes, and dreams.  So this weekend we will celebrate it by setting off fireworks, drinking a few beers and eating lots of hot dogs, burgers and dips, because what's more American than that?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Peace and Sustainability

When I started training for my first half marathon last year, I expected to lose weight very quickly and easily.  What I did not anticipate was the crazy amount of food that I would be eating to keep myself from being uncomfortably hungry within an hour or two of my previous meal.  When it seems that everyone around you is on a diet while you're increasing your daily calorie in-take, it is hard not to get a bit of a complex.  I felt like everyone was judging me for how much I was eating.  I was judging me on how much I was eating.  I lost 40 pounds after graduating from college and with the exception of the 10 pounds I put on after my ACL surgery, I have maintained the same size for many years now.  I really struggled last spring because I thought I wasn't doing what I was supposed to, that I wasn't a real runner, that I was getting fat.  I started weighing myself every week just to make sure I wasn't gaining weight because of how much I was eating.   I was running three days a week, lifting at the gym once or twice a week, swimming once most weeks and going for a long walk with my mom and dog every Sunday; I was happy doing those things and I had plenty of time to do all the other things I wanted.  When I was stretching or resting in between foam-rolling sets, I was on Instagram looking at running hashtags that featured "clean" dinners, ripped abs, hours at the gym, lost pounds and "cheat" meals.  I've never lived that way and don't want to live that way, but when I compared myself to those people, I started to get really down.  I started to question the three times in the past week that I'd enjoyed some Graeter's ice cream, the 1/2 bag of Hershey kisses I'd eaten in the last three days, the gravy I gleefully drenched my dinner in, the calzone I had for lunch, the tater-tots I had for dinner, the butter I make sure melts into every nook and cranny of my English Muffins, the cheese I consume like a baby drinks milk and the fact that I was using real peanut butter instead of PB2

I once took a gym-selfie, during a break in doing planks, in an attempt to understand the appeal of them.
I still don't get it.

After breaking down about feeling "fat," which was COMPLETELY crazy, I realized I needed to step back.  I needed to come to peace with my body and figure out how I really wanted to live my life.  I stopped looking at all those running hashtags on Instagram and I kept eating how I was eating.  I stopped listening when people commented how much I was eating and relished those moments when people pointed out just how much work my body was doing and that if I was hungry it was because I really did need those calories.  I had to remind myself that I was stronger, faster, and fitter than I'd ever been.  I had to decide that I don't want to spend the rest of my life eating chicken, broccoli and brown rice for lunch and dinner and egg whites or low-fat anything for breakfast.  I had to remind myself that I am healthy and whole and happy and that making and eating the kind of food that I do is part of what makes me happy.  I had to forget all the guilt that my health-nut ex-boyfriend made me feel about eating some of my favorite things (like every white condiment) on a regular basis. 

Don't be hatin' on my buffalo-bleu cheese mac just b/c you're jealous!
I don't want to be a slave to the gym or to my diet.  Would it be cool to have a 6-pack?  Yeah, but I don't want to put that kind of pressure on myself to maintain that. Sure, I could work really hard and eat "clean"and cut a lot of fat and sugar out of my life, but I don't want to.  I completely changed the way I look at food when I lost those 40 pounds years ago so that I could figure out how to eat the things I like and be a size that I'm happy with.  I'm happy being 150.  I'm happy eating butter, cheese, ice cream, cookies and full-fat plain yogurt.  I'm happy knowing that weeks I'm busy and I only have time to squeeze in two runs and some strength training at home that my body won't explode.  I'm happy knowing that I'm fit and healthy and that I get to slather my quesadilla in sour cream.  I'm happy snacking on fruit and popcorn instead of chips.  I'm happy with my training schedule.  I'm at peace with my body because it is capable of many grand things and even though I could run faster if I lost 5 or 10 pounds, I don't think I could stay there in the long haul and I would lose the peace that I have with my body.

Donuts make people happy.  Happy people are more active. Active people are more healthy.
(kinda, if you follow my logic)

I'm trying to make habits and decisions now about food and exercise that I can carry with me through the rest of my life, including if I'm blessed with a family one day.  I know that I will have a lot less time, but a big part of that peace is that I'm mentally okay with working out less and that I don't feel bad about myself when I gain a pound one week because I ate 4 dozen cookies (it's happened) or 5 pounds when I went on vacation (it was New Orleans).  I have to be at peace with the decisions that I make and they have to be sustainable when I have a family to feed or friends to go to dinner with.  I don't really believe in "cheat" meals because I think that every meal should not just nourish your body, but your soul as well.  If you're looking to talk to me about this, you'll find posted up next to the snack table at the next party, shoving my face full of buffalo chicken dip and the Doritos my host left unattended.  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In with the new, out with the Community

When I was a kid, my Dad always loved to drive up Elm on the cobblestones in front of Music Hall.  I always looked at the small urban park on my right and always wanted to go in there.  It always looked shady, cool, dark and delightful. Little did I know that park would become the focal point of a crisis of conscience I would suffer from for years later on in my life.

Music Hall, in all its beauty and glory!
Taken standing in Washington Park.

In both high school and college, I did a lot of volunteer work at the Drop Inn Center (a homeless shelter that takes anyone, in any state of sobriety or intoxication), located catty-corner from the Park.  We were told to walk and park on the opposite side of the street from the Park for safety. 

Then I stayed down there, for about 1.5 mos total and visited friends who lived down there, multiple times.  We were housed in OTR, facing the Park both before and after our Service Learning trip to Ghana, W. Africa.  We still followed the rules: don't walk or park next to the Park after dark.

What was wrong with this park, you ask??
Washington Park was originally a cemetery for the good people of Cincinnati until Spring Grove Cemetery was built in the mid-1800s and all the remains were moved there.  At that point, it became a park and eventually an elementary school and pool to serve the neighborhood were built.  Overtime, as the neighborhood changed and the Germans moved out to the suburbs, Washington park became home to many homeless Cincinnatians and a refuge for drug dealers and drunks.  The Park was full of grand old trees, winding walkways and a fabulous, old, grand bandstand. 

Jo-Momma and me at the Grand Opening of the "new" Washington Park.
You can see the Bandstand behind us.

While I had been away in Ghana, Hamilton County Sheriff's office had been busy kicking all the bad guys out of OTR.  Drugs were much less of a problem and that reduced the amount of shootings.  However, as 3CDC began to buy up more buildings, many families were displaced from their homes.  The children who used to play on the playground and swim in the pool and go to the school were now living in different neighborhoods.  The apartment building next to ours, that had grill outs every weekend and would offer you a hot dog as you walked by, was vacated, it's inhabitants sprawled.  Soon enough, there was no need for the Washington Park School because there weren't enough kids to go there.  The school and pool were razed, a parking garage was built underground and those huge, luscious trees, planted by the neighborhood's first inhabitants, were thinned out.  The people who called Washington Park their home were thrown out to find underpasses and bridges to live under.

Washington Park was completely redone and is a gorgeous place to be.  The war memorials and cannons are still there, as is the bandstand.  You can just sit there and soak up the beauty of Memorial Hall and the grandeur of Music Hall while you listen to kids play in the splash park where colors change in mesmerizing patterns as the fountains spray highly-chlorinated water to the delight of young and old alike.  The park hosts musical, craft, food, alcoholic, family, workout and movie events nearly every night of the week and also features a cute, but too-small dog park full of city pups.  It is truly a glorious place to be and I can't keep myself away.  Whenever I go there, I just feel the love that I've always had for my city bubbling up.  Washington Park is just as magical as I always imagined it was as a child.

Washington Park from an awesome window in Memorial Hall on Opening Day.

However, every time I'm down there, people are conspicuously absent.  There are absolutely no homeless people at all, in-part because of the armrests that are strategically placed in the middle of every park bench, white kids tend to out-number black kids playing on the playground and in the fountains, and some days it is difficult to find a StreetVibes (Cincinnati's Homeless newspaper) vendor to support.  When I walk the streets around the park, the inhabitants that I used to serve and tried so hard to understand are gone, replaced by transplants from suburbia.  Do I feel safer and more comfortable? Yes.  Does it make me sad that all of those people have been pushed out of the old OTR, the one I originally fell in love with, the one with all the stigma attached to it?  Yes.  The community that used to exist here has been slowly chiseled away, one vacant apartment building and park bench at a time.  Every time I cross the threshold into Washington Park I have to take pause and think of all those people whose lives were disrupted so I could have a fun night with my friends, drinking a few local beers and enjoying some bluegrass music. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

be careful what you pray for

Patience is probably the one thing for myself that I most regularly pray for.  I consider my impatience to be one of my greatest flaws in how I deal with other people and it is also in large part to blame for my regular bouts of restlessness.  As someone who values efficiency, I quickly lose patience with people and systems that aren't efficient or streamlined.  When I'm dealing with old people, little kids, and people on crutches, I've got it in spades; anyone else, you're out of luck!

Last year, in the midst of my great post-ACL and post-breakup come-back, I was struck by the most painful overuse injury I've ever had: an inflamed hip-flexor.  After a few days of hobbling around, avoiding sitting, and popping double-doses of Aleve, I found myself sobbing in the office of my friend and confidante, MK, asking what I ever did to deserve this and what God must have planned for my future that is so horrible he has to test and strengthen me in this way.  This was my come-back, my victory lap and I was reduced to tears and considering dropping out of training for my first Flying Pig 1/2 marathon.  Luckily, MK and Jo-Momma talked me back from the ledge and I went to the doctor, got a steroid pack, and was back out running a week later.

borrowed from: https://cheeseandvegemite.wordpress.com/tag/training/

That was until I suffered the same issue (in the other hip) this year during Flying Pig training, just weeks before the big race.  I got another steroid pack and made it to both the starting and finish lines.  However, it's now been three weeks since the race and I haven't run since.  I'm still dealing with some residual hip issues and a new and very unwelcome knee issue.  I spent the first two weeks feeling sorry for myself as I watched all my friends run, while I handed out routes and toted water jugs around for the running group.

Working the water stop for Queen City Running Club

I've realized that maybe this is how God is trying to teach me patience.  Healing takes time.  It takes time for our hearts and our bodies to heal, and they both need that time of rest and extra TLC to get back to full strength.  So this is triple practice: patience with my body, with myself and with those around me.  I need to send good vibes to my body so that it will heal adequately and I have to be kind to myself when I really want a large ice cream or 1/2 a bag of Doritos or 2 brownies in one sitting, even though I haven't had an adequate workout in days.  All of my will-power is being poured into the exercises, stretching and icing that I need to do for rehab, so I have none left to resist all the leftover Easter candy that I've demolished this week without a shred of guilt or remorse.  In that is true patience; I know I'm losing fitness and gaining a few pounds, but it's okay. 

God is funny like that, he always gives us what we ask for, just not always how we hope it will come!  Patience is truly a virtue. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Heavenly Hummus

The very first thing I bought with my first big-girl, real-job paycheck was a food processor for the express purpose of making hummus.  The food processor is an amazing machine that helps me make a lot of wonderful things like guacamole, pizza, pasta sauces, soups, shredded cheese, but I continue to make lots of hummus in it! 

I spent months researching various hummus recipes until I came up with a hybrid, taking a bit from here and a bit from there.  Turns out, it's pretty popular among my friends and coworkers. This recipe produces a very smooth and almost creamy hummus.

-1/3 C tahini
(it's much cheaper if you buy it from a Mediteranean store, like Dean's at Findley Market)
-3 TBSP +more to taste lemon juice
(I just use the stuff from the fridge.  At least one lemon will do the trick.)
-1-2 cloves garlic
-1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
-1-2 tsp kosher salt
-1-2 tsp fresh ground pepper  (it won't be as good if it isn't fresh-ground)
-.5-1 tsp ground cumin

1. Drain and rinse the chick peas.  I used to peel each bean individually, which took almost 10 minutes until one night I was super tired and just dumped 'em in, husks and all.  It turned out the same.
2. Stir up your tahini.  If you've never used tahini before it's a little funky to get used to.  The heavier stuff settles to the bottom.  I normally use a fork to help break up all the hard bits.  It's okay if some small chunks go in, they're break up and mix in just fine.  Don't spend more than 2-3 minutes doing this, otherwise you'll drive yourself nuts!!
3. Add the tahini and the juice of one lemon to the food processor with the garlic until it gets fluffy.  This probably takes about 30 seconds. This is where the magic happens and how the hummus gets creamy!
4. Scrape down the sides and have another go at it for 10 seconds or so. 

This is what you want it to look like with the lemon juice and tahini mixture.

5. With the food processor running, add the chick peas, a hand-full at a time. 
6. Add water a bit at a time until the chick peas start to break up and the hummus starts to form.  This should take about 1 minute. You can always add more water, but can't take it out.  I normally put in about 1/4-1/3 C each time.
7. Add the salt, pepper and cumin and mix for several minutes.

You can see that the hummus has become very smooth.
Add the olive oil at this point and call it a day!

8. Check the taste, you can add more lemon juice (I normally add 1-2 more TBSP), or any of the spices, according to your specific taste buds. Run the food processor for another minute or so.
9. Check the texture, is it too dry for your liking? Add more water. It will harden up a bit in the fridge.
10. With the food processor running, add a few glugs of EVOO and let it run for another few minutes. 


Hummus can be enjoyed right then, or refrigerated for later.  It'll stay good for a week in the fridge.  I like to serve mine with some EVOO drizzled on top with a few dashes of paprika for color.  Serve with whatever dippers you like!  I normally stick to pita chips, pretzels and carrots. 

**As you get proficient, you can add other flavors if you wish.  I prefer mine more traditional, but you can test it out with roasted red peppers, pesto, or any other ingredients that you might desire!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Race Season is Upon Us

Last year I ran 10 races and I PRed (Personal Record) in each one of them.  All of them were new distances, except the 10k, which was my only race before last year.  I ran two half marathons (13.1), a 15k (9.3), a 14k (8.6), two 10ks (6.2), a 4-miler and three 5ks (3.1).  Most of them were either free or at a reduced rate and they were all hard.  I dropped a minute off of my 5k time in three months and almost 10 minutes off of my half marathon time between May and October.  These are great feats for a girl who typically feels really slow and ends most races wheezing so heavily people stop to ask her if she's okay.

With Jo-Popa after his longest race.  He beat me, but I didn't have to walk up any of the big hills :)

Training runs are where it's at.  I love training and running and having that schedule and ticking off those miles every week.  However, races are fun and they give you a chance to test out your training, to help you keep your edge and to see how you do when adrenaline and nerves enter the picture and how you stack up against people your age and your training partners.

My favorite training buddies in Kentucky with the city behind us on one of our long runs this summer. 
Running buddies are really important on long runs and hard races.   

 At the same time, races are hard.  As Jo-Popa so lovingly reminds me every time, "It's a race, Kel.  Go fast!"  Most of the time they're uncomfortable.  They make your legs sore, your knees ache, your shoulders stiff and your lungs burn.  The ones you race the best leave you feeling so spent and yet so alive that you want to go back and do it again... after you eat your under-ripe banana and drink your water, of course.  They make you feel like you want to die; make you wish that you were at home, on the couch, in bed, anywhere but there.  They leave you gasping for air and feeling like you deserve all those snacks and calories that you don't really need to replace.

I was well-trained and well-fueled.  Felt awesome!!

There's a magic in the race, a camaraderie that you feel with the others around you.  There was my second 5k in a week when a woman told me "you can always sprint at the end," earning me a 6-second PR.  Then there was the girl I'd been leap-frogging for 2 miles at the end of the Queen Bee.  We rounded the corner to the final stretch and I told her: I'm going to kill it, and you're coming with me.  We both raced to the end, finished triumphantly, hugged, laughed and parted ways.  Races are magic, especially when they have chocolate milk and coneys at the end.

My favorite Brew Hog, hogging out on post-race coneys!!

Like anything else, there is an art to racing.
1. The most stressful thing for me is arriving at the race.  I worry about parking, being on time, using the bathroom, checking my bag.  This is mostly mental for me and I have to deal with that.  However, the bus stops right outside my apartment.  If it can get me close to where I need to go, taking the bus takes a lot of the stress out of race morning.
2. Lay everything out the night before.  I do this before my long training runs anyway, but it's especaillly important on race morning.  Pin your bib to your shirt the night before so you don't forget it and aren't scrambling around for safetey pins in the morning.
3. Most races are in the morning and it gets cold just standing around before the race.  Either suffer through, wear something lightweight you can tie around your waist until you find a family member to pass it off to, or buy something from Goodwill that you can ditch as you warm up.
4. Talk with the people around you.  Everyone is excited and nervous.  Make some new friends, have fun!
5. Pace yourself early on.  It's easy to get caught up in the excitement, but use the same discipline that got you to the starting line to reign in the adrenaline early on.  As practical as I am, this is not a problem for me, but it is for a lot of people, especially Jo-Popa!
6. Look at the course ahead of time.  Know where the hills are and where the finish is.  You don't want to start your kick too late to be of any use or too early and run out of juice. 
7. I always eat a trusty breakfast the morning of the race: banana and either oatmeal or white bread (hey, it works!).  Find what works for you and trust it.
8. For longer races, discuss where your fans will be along the course, so you know where to look for them.  It is easier for you to see them than for them to see you.
9. Bring warm and dry clothes for after.  If the race is during any weather under 75 degrees, bring extra clothes.  Don't leave your cold base layer on.  Peel it all off and put dry stuff on if you're going to be hanging around afterward!
10. HAVE FUN!!!!! Enjoy the race, show off your medal, wear your shirt with pride and take pictures.  You earned it!!!

If you don't bring enough clothes for after the race, you'll end up with a Mylar skirt to keep your tired leggies warm!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Suffering Through Lent

It's that time of year again when we try to live a little more intentionally and austerely.  My post last year talked about giving things up, but this year, although I will attempt to cut back on sweets and beer, and to be more patient, I'm going to try giving up something else that is very uncomfortable for me.

The past few months I have been with my friends and family as they have dealt with a lot of tough life experiences, that are all pretty much the worst things that could ever happen to someone: an unexpected divorce and a miscarriage, thrown in with several very sick family members, hospital stays, rehab facilities, emergency surgeries and the usual anxieties brought about by uncertainty and depression.

I've spent a lot of time crying and praying with and for my loved ones going through these hard times.  I've tried to empathize with them as best I can and have called on God to give me the grace I needed to be compassionate and to speak words of love and encouragement when they were most needed.  Oftentimes it has been through food and sharing a meal that I have felt most useful.  When the heart and soul are hurting, a good meal can go a long way.

So this leads me to my Lenten resolution this year: I'm going to offer up my physical suffering in the gym and on the road to God for the relief of those who are suffering body and soul in this world.  This is something that is very awkward and  uncomfortable for me, so it'll be a real struggle, but it is something I want to do.

I spend a lot of time working out, and a lot of it is hard and challenging and often leaves me collapsed in a heap or wishing I could.  For years, I have owned that pain because it is mine.  It is born of my weaknesses, my laziness and my desire to push myself and work hard.  No one else owns that, it is all mine.  But maybe it shouldn't be, maybe it should belong to God.

Ever since I was in high school, Jo-Momma has always told me to "offer it up to the Lord" whenever I was going through a hard time.  I never really got what that meant.  I have a hard time letting go of my pain--it brings a sense of comfort, knowing that it's there, that not everything is rainbows and butterflies.  However, I recently read the story of Our Lady of Fatima and the story of those three kids truly suffering for the conversion of sinners made me finally see.  My discomfort, my pain is only temporary.  It makes me stronger both physically and mentally.  Holding onto it and keeping it for myself doesn't do me any good.  However, if I offer it up to the Lord, if I put it out there into the world to suffer in solidarity with, and relieve the pain of those who have been displaced in Syria or CAR or who are homeless or battered in my own city, I can do something with that discomfort other than just looking forward to the end of spinning class, the top of the hill, the Star Crunch waiting at home, or getting off the foam roller.

I don't think this is some noble thing that is going to solve all the world's problems, but if I can let go of that so that God can take away some one else's real and enduring pain for a few hours, then I'm going to try.  So instead of wishing for it to end, I'll try to be glad that I'm working out in prayer and with intention in my heart.   

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cincinnati City Council Hates Cincinnati

We have exams this week at school, which means I got to leave at 2:30 today.  3pm is my coffee cut-off time, so I zipped on down the hill from school to 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab in OTR, which happens to be one of my favorite places to chill, any time of the day.  If it's too late for coffee, I can just drink wine instead!  I was overjoyed to find a spot equidistant from the coffee shop and Holtman's donuts, but my world got a little sad when I went to pay the meter: They've replaced the tops of ALL the meters with credit card readers and mine wouldn't take quarters!!!!  Serioulsy, what's wrong with quarters?!?  Part of the reason why this was so disturbing is that a significant portion of the meters in OTR have had the tops knocked off of them, which means they're free!  I actually exclaimed aloud, "This is SHIT!" and increduously ripped off my mittens, shoved my quarters back in my pocket and went digging through my purse for my wallet and plucked out a credit card before I jammed it into the slot with as much angst as I could muster with my cold hands and a piece of plastic.  It didn't give me the satisfaction of feeling like I was sticking it to the City. 

This angered me for two reasons:
1. One of the joys of meter-parking is when something is jammed in the meter and you can't get your money in, you don't have to pay.  This is condusive to a mid-afternoon ramble between the various shops and comes in handy when you decide to pop into a drinking establishment for Happy Hour!
2. I don't trust the City as far as I can throw their incompetency, and I don't know how I feel about them having my credit card information stored in some computer. 

Stepping into the warm sweetness of the donut shop calmed my nerves and I merrily made my way down to the coffee shop clutching that joy-filled bag of donuts and my clipboard full of exam essays.  I enjoyed my afternoon latte and graded a fair amount of the essays I had left from today.  Then I bundled up and headed back out into the cold.  That's when my incredulity turned into utter dismay!  Thanks to my caffeine-induced heightened awareness, I noticed that there were new red and white stickers where the standard-issue black stickers that have been on those meters since before I was born.  The ones that used to say you had to pay 8-6 Mon-Sat and that Sundays and Holidays were free.  I literally experienced sticker-shock today.  The new hours of the meters 9-9 Mon-Sat and 2-9 on Sunday.  SUNDAY!!!!  They are charging for parking on Sunday!!! They are going to pay some poor sap to check the meters for 7 hours on Sunday and for 2 extra hours every other day of the week!!!  On top of that, the price has DOUBLED in OTR.  It's still cheaper than the south side of Central, but really?  At the end of the night, you've wound up spending a beer's worth of money for the privilege of parking on the street!! Is nothing sacred anymore?!?

Free parking on Sundays is right up there with rain, death and taxes: it's something we can count on.
God only knows how much City revenue has increased with all of the new restaurants, bars and businesses that have opened in OTR in the past few years.  It wasn't even the City who made the neighborhood as safe as it is today; the County did that back in 2006 when they started cracking down on crime and pushed all the bad guys out into the surrounding neighborhoods, which set a chain-reaction in motion that has filtered all the way out into the outer suburbs of the metro area, causing a prepetual movement away from the city-center.  But that's a story for another day.  Ask me about it sometime.

So anyway, the County starts the "clean-up" of OTR, the City sold a whole bunch of buildings, tax-free for $1 and 3CDC started doing their thing.  Now OTR doesn't even look like the OTR I knew and most of the people down there don't even know what it used to be and who used to be there, but that's another story for another day.  Ask me about it sometime.  So, the city sells a bunch of liquor licenses and makes a shit-ton of money off of OTR and now they're trying to make more money on the backs of the very people who have supported this shift and transition: the customers, the people who spend their hard-earned money patronizing the businesses in OTR, many of whom work in the city and already "donate" a percentage of their paycheck to the city every two weeks.  So, what's going to happen now that parking goes until 9?  I guarantee the average wait-time at restaurants, which is already ridiculously long, will go up because people are going to have to leave their table to go feed the meter again (with their friggin' credit card), which will delay them ordering their dinner, or will give their fellow-dinners cause to enjoy one last drink while occupying a table instead of a bar stool. 

Cincinnati is a wonderful city.  I have defended it for years and have drug many returning friends down to OTR and downtown to prove to them that Cincinnati isn't the city they left after graduation in 2007, but the City continues to make Cincinnati less appealing.  There's the whole issue of them borrowing from the pension fund, and then the long, drawn out debates about the street car, and who can forget the Twitter wars between Leslie Ghiz and Laketa Cole?  This latest stunt, which was first proposed several years ago, when the city considered privatizing parking, is just one more thing for people who don't already love this city to judge it harshly for. 

So now, my strong senses of justice and loyalty is tested once again.  Do I pay to park on the damn street and give my money (and precious credit card info) to the City, or do I park in one of the garages and give my money to 3CDC, which I pretty much hate on principle (although I patronize many of its spaces on a regular basis)??  I can take the bus, but then I'd have to walk 4 blocks through a very desolate part of downtown that is situated in the no-man's-land between the downtown business district and the Gateway Corridor (does anybody even call it that anymore?? #oldschool #so2006).  This whole thing has only further solidified my desire to get a "beater" bike with enough gears to get me up Gilbert and through Eden Park so that I don't have to deal with this lamentable parking issue at all!  However, it's winter and I don't ride in the winter because I'm a wimp about the cold, so until then, I'm stuck paying a a morally-exorbitant amount of money for parking in OTR.

Thanks City Council, I hate you too! Why don't you figure out how to balance your budget and pay for things BEFORE you build them?!?