Monday, December 31, 2012

Twelve for 12 - The Buzzer

Time's up.
A mere 365 days ago, I set forth in my attempt to complete 12 tasks or projects by the end of the year.  Some of them were easily tangible - a certain number of things to do, etc.  Others were a little more ephemeral and difficult to really mark off until today.
Well, let's take a look.

  1. Run a half marathon (considering I already signed up, I felt that it was best to put this as Thing #1)
  2. Begin painting the house (interior)
  3. Continue collecting my china pattern
  4. Participate in at least one new run/race event
  5. Declutter the master bedroom (or at least start)
  6. Begin my masters
  7. Start and finish at least 2 knitting projects (although in a post to be named later, I may carry one "start" from 2011 over)
  8. Take HRH to one, new, exciting Thing each month
  9. Obtain a post-race massage (this is not indulgent; studies show they help runners recover)
  10. Read a book that is not intended for the 3-year-old crowd
  11. Donate blood 4 times
  12. Spend more high-quality less-TV time with The Husband
Looks like I'm batting .500.  This is still better than Derek Jeter this year, so there.
As far as painting the house goes, I have determined the color that will cover about 85% of my walls, and for Christmas, I racked up enough Lowe's gift cards to get the party started.
I didn't complete as many races this year.  I'm OK with that.  Sometimes, it's not about being in an event but just being out there, like I was yesterday.
No, I didn't begin my masters.  Insert yet another lame excuse.
To my credit, numbers 8 and 12 are hard to quantify.  What is a "new, exciting Thing"?  Hell, going to JC Penney could (and should) count as that, really.  And what happens if I took her to TWO Things one month and nothing the next month.  I'm not sure I tallied twelve truly exciting new Things that we did this year, but I am certain that the Things we did do were full of the excitement I intended.  And what does count as quality time with one's significant other?  Does sitting and making fun of each other count?
And I donated blood twice, although one of those occasions was the "power red," which was a double donation, so technically, I think I can count three donations.  This is something I must be better about next year.  The pool of donors is very small anyway; if I miss a donation, it will have an impact.  I encourage you to consider being a blood donor, if you are not already.

Did I spread myself too thin this year with twelve separate goals?  Perhaps.  However, things change in 365 days.  What my plans were then are different from what they are now.  I'm not going to beat myself up for not writing down each exciting Thing HRH and I did together in order to blog about it.  I am going to, instead, celebrate what I was able to do.

I did spend time with both HRH and TH doing Fun Things like two children's museums, movies, and more.
I more than doubled my running mileage, even though it wasn't directed any new races.
I knitted several items with love for my family and friends.  Knitting is something that I find therapeutic, and I am wondering if there is a relationship between the higher number of knitting project this year and the smaller number of eczema breakouts in the same time span.
I have rejoiced in the victories and high points of my friends and family, and I have grieved with them at their losses.

In 2013, I'll not be working on a "thirteen for 13."  I'm not superstitious, but I just don't want to set a trend, and I think that I can better focus my goals, objectives, plans, or purposes on the year if I don't stick with a number because it's cute.

Did you have a goal (or resolution) this year?
What was it?
Did you stick with it?

Sunday, December 30, 2012


You guys, I did it.  I ran 700 miles this year.

OK. 700.4 miles.

In 2011, my first full calendar year of running, I ran 268.7 miles.
This year, I ran 431.7 miles MORE than that.
Oh.  My.  Word.

I knew today would be the day.  I had 3.4 miles left, and I haven't hit the trails all fall.  It was time.  My route - 3.7 miles.
The route I took:
Littleleaf-Goldmine-San Tan-Moonlight

Zooey barked the whole way to the park, which is about 30 minutes from the house.  My new pet barrier only came down on her once.  Things were looking up for her, too.
The weather was perfect - overcast, cool but not cold as it has been in the morning lately.  The sun was trying to peek through the clouds.  It smelled like rain and creosote bushes.  The smell of desert rain is one of my favorite things about living in Arizona.

This was only my second trail run, and it's not always easy to navigate some areas of trail, so I did have to slow to a walk sometimes, following Zooey, since she just instinctively knew which sides of the trail to take. I didn't have any music playing and actually heard coyotes off in the distance when I started, although, thankfully, we didn't see any animals save the greyhound out for its own family hike close to end of our run.
Right before I hit mile 700, a group of hikers passed by me, going out as I was headed back in.  The last straggler said, "Have a great time!"
And I did.

Then I cried.
Yes, I cried.  To know that I'd run that far was just... 11/10.
I still can't believe that I have run the equivalent of the distance between Phoenix, Arizona and Lubbock Texas.  I mean, that's freaking far!
Kat told me that next year is my 1000-mile year.  I did the math.  That's an average of 20 miles per week.  I'm not sure I'll hit that number, but I am sure that I will beat 700.4.

A little celebratory doggie kiss

Thirsty girl needed two water bottles today.
 In the last week, I have dedicated my runs to Victoria Soto, Daniel Barden, Ana Marquez-Greene, and Dawn Hochsprung, all victims of the Newtown tragedy.  Victoria Soto had wanted to be a teacher her entire life, and she was able to safely hide some of her students before being killed.  She is a heroine.  Daniel Barden had hoped to be a firefighter, and at his funeral, countless firefighters honored this little boy by saluting the procession.  Ana Marquez-Greene's last words to her mother that morning, after multiple goodbye hugs, were about the gift she had put under the Christmas tree for her mom.  Dawn Hochsprung, Sandy Hook Elementary School's principal, was shot as she attempted to stop the gunman.  These adults and children, and the families that they leave behind, are with me, as they are for so many of us.
But today, being out on the trails, I ran for me, and I ran for (and with) everyone.  I ran for my dad.  I ran for Lily.  I ran for all 27 victims of Newtown (27 because, regardless of your stance on gun rights and gun control and gun ownership, Nancy Lanza was a victim of this horrible event).  I ran for everyone who can no longer run.  I ran for my Running Pack in the Sky girlfriends who are scattered across the country.  I ran for my own daughter.  I ran for fun.
Tomorrow isn't promised, so we must always remember to make today worth every second.  And today was a damn good day.

Friday, December 28, 2012

One Kitchen, Many Hearts - Holiday Edition

One of my favorite facets of the Christmas season is giving gifts to my friends and family.  When, on the rare occasion, I find The Perfect Gift (which is becoming more and more rare), I become so fired up that I can hardly keep the secret.  I'm certain that I developed this trait from my dad, who would fill the holiday season with so much gift giving that he would have to schedule days on the calendar for various calendar-making or chutney-cooking just to get it all in.
What I didn't realize when I was younger is that my dad filled those days to make sure that he didn't have time to miss his own dad, who passed away either very late Christmas Eve or very early Christmas Day before my parents ever met.  He used the hours that it took to prep, chop, cook, and can chutney, etc., to be sure that he didn't have a spare moment to dwell on missing his father at what is supposed to be, for many, the "most wonderful time of year."
Now that I am older, I still find a great joy in giving others gifts, but I also find myself this year with less joy than I usually have.  While I was thrilled to see my own daughter decorate the Christmas tree and then open the gifts under it with great gusto, my heart was heavy knowing how many parents were not able to see the same sights this year.  Between Lily's passing and the horrific events in Connecticut, as a parent, I grieve with the mothers and fathers who can no longer wish their own babies a merry Christmas.

So the decision that my blogging girlfriends and I made to have a Secret Santa round of our gift exchange helped bring some more joy into this holiday season.

Top (L-R): Mads, Kirsten, Megan
Bottom (L-R): Jeanne, me, Kat
I feel incredibly fortunate to have become friends with all five of these ladies, and I've been doubly fortunate to meet Kirsten and Megan in person thus far - just in the last month and a half.  I'm hoping to get to see Mads, Kat, and Jeanne in 2013.
Kat has joked that we actually are all sister-wives, and while the polygamy jokes never get old with me, there is truth behind the humor.  After all, the six of us span multiple age demographics, and we can offer advice and insight to one another in so many areas, from child-rearing to footwear.  It's like the phrase "it takes a village" was created for us sometimes.  

Jeanne took charge of this exchange, drawing the secret Santa names and emailing them out, and I'm grateful to her, although I am kind of sad that, because of this, she knew her "secret" Santa the whole time.  We'll need to work on that for next time.  Since I'm pretty sure there will be a next time.
I, for one, could hardly contain my excitement and very nearly gave away my secret multiple times.  Every day.  I basically wanted to tell everyone.  It was determined that we could open and then email or private message one another once we received the packages in case there were perishables inside.  So as soon as I could, I sent off my package in hopes that it would arrive as early as possible.  Click here to see where it arrived.

Kat was my secret Santa.  And y'all, she just gets me:

In my package:
  • Trader Joe's salted caramel sauce, which she promised will change my life (I haven't cracked it open yet - I need some good, homemade ice cream and some serious alone time)
  • Thetalicious, her sorority's cookbook
  • Minnesota wild rice (with a suggested recipe)
  • hot cocoa mixes
  • Ghirardelli sea salt dark chocolate
  • maple sugar candies
  • a beautiful brown and orange scarf (which made a perfect staging item for the photo above), which goes perfectly with my winter coat
  • a bangle bracelet (that at picture time had been appropriated by HRH)
  • not one but two types of cookies which, uh... didn't quite make it to press time
And instead of labels, which we have been wont to include, she wrote a letter.  It's a rare event that we receive "real mail" anymore, so it was like the icing on an already lovely cake to have such sweet sentiments on paper:

The goodies were one thing, but some simple words of encouragement for logging even more miles in 2013 were just IT.  I mean, better than if Oprah gave me a car IT.  These words are especially important coming from Kat, who has run multiple marathons and plans to do more.  She will be a resource when I decide that it is Time for me to train for my first one.  That she believes in me to log 1000 miles in a year - that's an average of 20 miles a week! - means more than I can really convey.
And then of course, the obligatory "move to where I live" comment:

I am intrigued at the idea of living somewhere that doesn't house scorpions, but considering how chilled to the bone I was during our stay in Michigan over Thanksgiving, I'm not sure I could hang at the 45th parallel full time.  HOWEVER, being a snowbird is more and more appealing to me the longer I live in Arizona during the summer.

Thank you so much, Kat - it was so much fun waiting for and opening that package, but more importantly, it's been a wonderful year of friendship and fun.  I can't wait to see the shenanigans that 2013 has in store for us!

Of course, like I mentioned earlier, I love the gift giving - more so than gift receiving. So you must also check out the wonderful boxes that my friends received, too - I know I can't wait!
Click here to see what Megan (Wanna Be a Country Cleaver) received.
Click here to find out who was Kirsten's (Comfortably Domestic) secret Santa.
Click here to check out what Mads (La Petite Pancake) got.
Click here to see what came in the mail for Kat (Tenaciously Yours,).
Click here for the package sent to our main schemer, Jeanne (Inside Nanabread's Head.

And now that the holidays are coming to a close, take a minute and give someone - anyone - a fun little gift.  You might not be a secret Santa, but you will be doing something positive and kind and good, something that we can always use more of!

What was the best gift that you have ever given?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

This morning, I ran with Charlotte Bacon in my heart and my spirit.
Charlotte was 6 years old, and she loved pink.  On her last day on earth, she had convinced her parents to let her wear her new pink dress and boots that her parents had gotten her for the holiday season.  I love her fashion sense and the fact that we share the same desire to wear new togs the second we get them.  My heart breaks a little more knowing that this is a kindred spirit whom I'll never have the chance to meet.
Charlotte's was the first name I saw when the list of shooting victims was released.  I'm not quite sure why her  name jumped out at me so.  I have always loved the name Charlotte, and I have often thought that if we'd had another girl, I'd have liked to name her Charlotte.
Since Charlotte also wanted to be a veterinarian, I started off our run asking her if she'd like to hold Zooey's leash with me.  I explained that Zooey loved to snuggle, and invited her, if ever she gets cold, to come visit us - Zooey will curl up into a coonie ball next to her and keep her warm; all she asks in return is for her ears to be stroked.  I also told her about Frye Guy, the kitten who had been living in our backyard (and neighbor's backyard) for a little over a month.  We had to take him to the Humane Society today, I asked Charlotte if she could watch over him to help him find a loving forever home.  If anyone can help him find a home, it's a sweet girl who loved all animals and who strove to be a vet, even at such a young age.
Then I turned my attention to her family.  I asked her make sure that she helps her parents know that she's OK, that she is resting peacefully.  I hope that, somehow, Charlotte can take her mother's hand and hold it next to her heart, even if just for a little while.
There was a point at which I could barely see through my tears.  But I was grateful for the company that Charlotte provided me this morning, and I remain thankful for the place she now holds in my heart.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Blessed are the Merciful

I had planned for this weekend to be a post about how I had decided that this month would be a month of running, just for me.
But after the devastation of last week, which began with the loss of my friend's beautiful child to cancer and ended with the horrific loss of 26 other sweet souls, I knew that I cannot run for just "myself" ever again.
In my last post, I wrote that I (and we) can do some things, even simple ones, to help Lily's memory, and it's true, too, that I (and we) can also do simple acts to honor the children and teachers who lost their lives last week as well.
I truly believe that positive energy and prayer can make a difference.  It can turn the tide against evil, but it must be constant and firm.  We must be good to one another, not merely doing some good deeds in the weeks after the tragedy is Newtown and then allowing things to go back to the way they were, flipping the bird to someone who cuts us off in traffic once again.  No, we must be good to one another each day - today and one hundred days from now.
I had already decided that I would be dedicating each of my runs in 2013 to a different person.  Not just each race.  Each run.  From the 2-miler early in the morning to the next half marathon on the horizon, each run that I complete will have someone accompanying me.
But mindful of the darkness that descended upon us last week, this couldn't wait.

This morning, I ran for (and with) Anne Marie Murphy, who was one of the teachers slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday.
Reports have stated that Anne Marie was killed while she attempted to shield her students with her body so that they would not suffer a similar fate.
She threw herself between the killer and those children without a second thought.
And now, she is walking the overcrowded streets of Heaven this night.
As a teacher, I have a duty to fill my students' heads with the knowledge they will need as they become adults and enter that "real world."  But I also have the duty to let them know that they are loved and to keep them safe while inside my classroom.
Anne Marie Murphy loved her students so much that she died for - and with - them.

During our run this morning, I told Anne Marie that I hoped that she and her students didn't suffer, that I hoped that the shin pain I felt was worse than what she felt on Friday, and that if she had been in pain, that I would gladly take some of that on for her.  I told her she was a hero; I told her that my heart was broken at this unspeakable event but at the same time so full because of her love and commitment to those children.  I told her she would remain in my heart and in my mind.  I told her thank you.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

For Unto Us a Child Is Born

Today, December 13, Lily would have been 13 years old.
She breathed her last early Monday morning, after nearly two years of emotional (and health) highs and lows, leaving this world peacefully.
There are just no words to describe how my heart hurts for Alicia, Phillip, and Jacob.  If I could do something - anything - to help ease their pain and grief away, I would.
But I can't.
I can only celebrate the amazing person who Lily was - bright, thoughtful, generous, brave, creative, witty - and pray that I can raise my child to emulate the Goodness that just radiated from Lily.

There is, of course, no "best" time to lose a child.  Regardless of the moment that a life passes to the other side, there is always the first event without her - that first year is filled with "the first without."  Christmas is no different.  But still, this week my thoughts wandered down that path.  I don't know why; it just seems like right now is somehow worse.  Worse than what... I don't know.
I guess it's just this: during this time of year, millions of people throughout the world prepare to celebrate one of the most important events in the history of humankind.  Whether we believe that Jesus was the son of God, the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), or simply a teacher of extraordinary historical influence, the story of Jesus is, too, the story of a mother's child, from the jubilation of his birth to the heartbreak of his crucifixion.  But he has become everyone's child - the baby who lay in a manger, borne of the hope of the world.
I can't help but think that Lily has, in her own way, become everyone's child, too.  Every person who has met her or even just learned of her story accidentally can't help but love her and hope, desperately, to defeat this cancer that has taken her from her mother's arms.

And so I am reminded that I can do something else for Lily.  It's something we can all do.  We can - we must - press on in this crusade against cancer.  All cancer.  Colon cancer, which took my dad.  Ovarian cancer, which took my grandmother.  Leukemia, which took Kirsten's little sister.  Lymphoma, which threatens my brother-in-law.  Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS), which took Lily.  Until cancer is no longer a feared word in a doctor's office and is no longer taking loved ones, I will do what I can to help others prevent, treat, and beat it.  I will run for a cure.  I will donate to a cause.  I will bake to fund research.

So, I honor Lily today, in at least a small way, by participating in this year's Cookie Week, a now-annual event with some of my food blogger girlfriends.  All the cookies shared this week are part of the Glad® to Give program, which donates a dollar to Cookies for Kids' Cancer for each cookie shared/swapped during this holiday season, up to $100,000 - that's up from ten cents per cookie during the same time frame last year.  In addition, OXO has pledged to match all donations from registered bake sales (through the Cookies for Kids' Cancer website) up to $100,000 as well.  These donations will help fund research and new treatments for children's cancers, both well-known, like leukemia, as well as those that desperately need more research and treatment options, like ARMS.
Last year, my friends and I exchanged nearly 4500 cookies among our various office events, holiday parties, and more.  This year, I hope that you may also be inspired to offer even a dozen cookies; if we all work together, we will see fewer parents say goodbye to their children.

My recipe is a twist on the ever-popular jam thumbprint cookies.  I've always loved squishing down the dough to make a little nesting spot for the jam, of which there is never enough for my liking.
Some thumbprint recipes are a basic sugar cookie recipe, but I'm rather partial to the peanut butter ones.  After all, peanut butter and jelly go together like... peanut butter and jelly.
But peanut butter has been done, and sometimes it's nice to have a little change.  This variation has a bit of an Asian taste to it, with sesame and plum coming together in sweet harmony.

Sesame Plum Thumbprints
(adapted from this recipe by Cooking Light magazine)
makes about 36 cookies
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted*
  • cooking spray or olive oil
  • plum jam
Whisk together flour and salt in a bowl; set aside.
Cream together butter, sugars, and tahini in mixer on medium speed until smooth  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each.  Add in vanilla.  Mix in flour mixture, a little at a time, until just combined.  Add in sesame seeds.
Lightly coat hands with cooking spray or olive oil.  Shape dough into balls of about 2 Tbsp, and place onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Press thumb (or a round 1/2 tsp) into center of each ball to make an indentation.  Cover and chill for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Uncover dough and bake cookies at 350° for 10-14 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.  Remove and cool on cookie rack.  If you want the indentations to be bigger in order to hold more jam, use the 1/2 tsp to push down a little more while cookies are still warm.
Once cookies have cooled, spoon plum jam (at least 1/2 tsp) into indentation of each cookie.

*Make sure that when you toast your seeds, you keep a close eye on them to keep them from going to nicely toasty to horribly burned.  My recommendation is to use a toaster over and to not multi-task during this process.

Thank you, Lily, for being an inspiration to more people than you could possibly know.  I promise you that I will not stop working to help find a cure for cancer.  You may have left our world, but you will remain in the hearts of many forever, and we are all the more blessed for it.

One of the fairies that Lily drew using the computer,
one of her many creative hobbies.
She was an amazing artist.