Friday, June 13, 2014

Esprit De She Naperville Triathlon Recap

A good tri day. A bad hair day. Didn't find my pony until post race.
Last weekend I completed my fourth triathlon. It was my first foot race since graduating PT. (The swim and the biking were just a long warm up for the run.) Today I ran 6 miles, my longest post injury run. Two big wins in a week.

 Early early morning selfie with the portas
I forget that getting ready for a triathlon is like packing for a trip. Swim stuff, bike stuff, running stuff, and post race stuff. I bought a wetsuit this year, and it was my security blanket. Not only does it keep me warm, it gives me a little buoyancy, and it acts as a protective layer from lake/beach goop. Sweet. All your stuff has to be set up in the transition area before the race actually starts. At some triathlons you can get your gear together the night before. For Naperville, we set up before the race. This year the tri was sold out, and the racks were much more crowded than last year. There was a woman who had come early, had a flat, gotten her flat fixed and had about 10 minutes to lay out her gear and rack her bike. It was her first tri. She was frantic. The racks were so packed she was having trouble finding space. I swished my stuff over and racked her bike. She gave me a hug and a blessing. That's a nice way to start a race.


All the stuff

Transition closes and the race starts. The elites start first. (The winner finished in 1:04:59. A-mazing) The cancer survivors go next and then waves by age. The older I get the sooner I start. This year the swim felt much more crowded. I don't like kicking people or being kicked. There was also the emotional struggle in the swim. Can I make it? Do I really know how to swim? Don't panic. I love that when going out and back in the Naperville beach there is the opportunity to walk before going back into the water. It allowed me to emotionally regroup. I felt confident for the last leg. (17:01 min swim)

Okay, I know I'm not supposed to set time goals for a comeback event for which I'm terribly under-trained, but I did. My goal was to finish the whole race in under two hours. My time overall time was 2:00:44. I will tell you where that 44 seconds went. During Transition 1 from swim to bike, I changed out of my wetsuit and into my Nuu Muu dress, and I went to the bathroom. While in the porta I totally Ross Gellered. My wet tri pants were stuck. Good gracious. I spent almost 4 minutes longer in T1 than I did last year. Ridiculous. Even I couldn't help but laugh. (T1-9:19 min)

My max distance on my bike this year has been about 5 miles. I have done 5 mi bike x 3 mi run x 5 mi bike bricks, but I was pretty nervous about the bike section. There are two laps for the Naperville tri, and when I started the bike section I reminded myself that it was a great opportunity to warm up my hip, leg and foot. I also noticed as the miles progressed that I was behind "Elly." I decided to pace Elly for the bike section. As I got tired or the wind picked up, I kept my eye on where she was and pushed a bit harder. As we came around the second lap, I passed Elly. I turned to her and told her that she couldn't slow down because she was my pacer. She said she knew I was close behind her because she kept hearing people say "Cute dress!" At that point, Elly and I rode side-by-side for the rest of the bike section. We talked about our kids of similar ages, our husbands, the swim, and our love of trails. I am so thankful for Elly. So thankful. She made the time go quickly, and the bike go swiftly. (58:37 min bike - 13.61 mi/hour)

Transition 2 went much better. (4:48 min) My feet didn't feel like bricks. I think having toe clips on my bike really helped. My legs were warmed up for my run, and I ran. I ran happy. The course was  mostly shady (PTL) and went quickly. I am stunned and pleasantly pleased finding out my pace. I don't wear a watch on race day. I will take a 9 in front of my pace any day, even a 9:59. (31:01 min - 9:59 pace)


All done! Now to walk it to the car...
Here's what I love about the Esprit De She Naperville Triathlon. It's an all women's event, and women of all shapes, sizes, ages and phases participate. I often play the compare game with other women. When I was picking up my packet and listening to the course description I looked around. I saw such a spectrum of women. And overall, during the race women were encouraging other women. Yes, the competitors were annoyed with lollygags getting in their way, but there was a tremendous feeling of encouragement. I love that. Love that. Esprit De She has fabulous swag and throws a great party (for packet pick up and post race). The flower station where you pick and pot a plant is wonderful. I sampled and strolled. I enjoyed myself. I tri-ed, and I'll tri again.

The sweet swag - ornate, living and usable.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon Recap

I got my patch.  (And my 18.5 mile sticker.) I earned my very own patch. And Maria earned her patch. We conquered the Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon together.

My first canoe patch!
I grew up in a canoeing family. My dad has many, many of these patches. That is one of the reasons this patch means so much to me. We canoed Boundary Waters on the US side. We canoed Quetico on the Canadian side. We canoed on vacations in Wisconsin. Here are just a few of the memories that I have about canoeing as a youth:

  • Watching my brother and his friend canoe into a waterfall thinking they would be shot out just like on the cartoons. Oops. Foiled by physics again.
  • Having a competition to see whose intestinal system could be stopped up the longest on a trip and losing by a day to my brother's friend. 
  • Being mocked by my nephew about how I couldn't portage/canoe because I was a girl until he lifted my pack. Boom.
  • Being in the canoe when my other brother stood up to show off to his now wife and have the canoe tip over.
  • Wearing rockin' flannel button downs, Converse All Stars and out of control naturally occurring BHS (big hair syndrome). There are pictures. Awwe yeeaaah.
I paint a lovely picture. My memories are fond and humorous. That is why when Maria asked if anybody wanted to do the Canoe Marathon with her I thought, "Why not?" Neither of us had been in a canoe for 20 years or something, so why not do 18.5 miles in one shot. My parents were not doing it this year so I asked to borrow the canoe. Thankfully, we tried the canoe out for about an hour the day before the race so we were definitely ready. 
Our faithful steed
There was talk about postponing the race because it had rained so much during the week. The river was very high, and the current was strong.(These actually helped us) We had to sign a waiver that asked if we were prepared to handle such situations appropriately, like swimming to shore, bailing on the canoe and helping others in need. Sure, why not?

Canoe dropped off. When we came back, every spot was taken.
We were supposed to arrive early enough to put our canoe at the start, drive down to the finish, park at a lot, take two shuttle buses back to the start and be ready an hour before our time to go. We did all of them except we arrived at the start at our time to go. And we didn't know what to do exactly because we hadn't done it before. When we left our canoe to park, there were 20 crafts in the starting area and when we started the race there almost double. After accidentally cutting in front of some kayaks, we were waved through the start (because we were late) and off we went.

Pre-race selfie
It was a beautiful day. The current helped us move along as we had some zig and zag. I would find myself only paddling on one side because I got distracted. We didn't have a particular rhythm. Go forward. Our goal was to enjoy our time, to eat chocolate to stave the h-anger (peanut butter m&ms to the rescue) and to finish.

And to take Chewbacca on a ride.

At the start of the race we worried about the warnings. About a half a mile in a man in a single kayak tried to pass us on the left in a narrow portion and hit a branch that was reaching out into the water. He got stuck and was grunting/gasping for help. We tried to back pedal a bit to see how he was doing and, thankfully, another canoe was able to keep him afloat until help could rescue him. It was a grim image to the start of our race. 

I had a grand time. The day became warmer than we expected and both of us went to short sleeves with no sunscreen. I have a great tan line at my wrists because I wore my yoga gloves for most of the race. That's the handiest they have ever been. There was wind but since the river was windy we would have stretches where we would have to work hard and stretches we would could take it easy. The wind only caught us off guard once where we were pushed hard to the bank. It was a bit surprising, but we got a hold of ourselves and continued on.
Beautiful. Just beautiful.
We got passed a lot. People are serious out there. There was a canoeing couple in which the husband would grunt when it was time to switch sides. There was a couple rowing to a four count. The kayaks flew by. One set of guys told us to look out for another canoe and tell them they would have dresses waiting for them at the end. Long and flowy. A Boy Scout leader had bet his scout. We were able to pass on the message.
 
One of the things that really struck us while canoeing as runners and riders was the lack of communication in passing. As a runner or a biker, "On your left' is a common phrase. Boaters would just fly up past you without warning. Maria and I both had opportunities to smack another boat if we had not noticed as they came close unannounced. That became a little unnerving. Communication, please.

So in the end it took us just over 4 hours to paddle our way down. That's decent. Both of us had to go to the bathroom sometime along the way and we held it because trying to get out at a flooded bank and get back in seemed like a lost fight. Plenty of people did stop. When we got to the end I was pretty zonked, and we had to get the car and load the canoe. Loading the canoe again was brutal. We were both sun burned. Unloading the canoe at my parent's house was also brutal. Would I do the race again? Yes, but the conditions would be hard to beat: great company (Thanks Maria!), swift current, beautiful day and lots of peanut butter m&ms.

We did it! Post-race selfie!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Holding my breath

I want to tell you that we are booking our tickets to China and picking up our son, but I can't.

I want to tell you all I know about him and how excited we are to meet him, but I can't.

I want to tell you how our lives are all abuzz about preparing for him and my wacky nesting habits, but I can't.

I just can't.

Because I'm holding my breath. Waiting. Wondering. Hoping. Praying. Distracting myself. Guarding my heart. Still holding my breath. Feeling helpless. And I'm getting a little blue.

See, we're in limbo. A few months ago we would have called it the 'Waiting Time' between matching us with a child and getting all the travel paperwork together, the last stages of paper pregnancy. However, the Chinese government changed their policy the week after we made our match tightening the timeline of when we have to get our US paperwork together. Our matched child happens to be a few months younger than our home study age range. This is not uncommon, and our home study simply needs to be updated to include his age. Sounds simple.

However, I live in a state that does its paperwork very very slowly. In the paper race between the Chinese government and the US government, my state cuts Achilles tendons. Due to delayed US paperwork, a family has lost their referral, their match. Our agency said this is a first. I do not know if this family was from our state. At first we simply guarded our hearts because neither paperwork had come through so there was nothing to worry about. Or at least nothing to really worry about.

This week however, the Chinese government won this leg of the paper race. And still we wait on our state. We know that it is truly out of our hands. We have done our part until we need to do our part again. We have to wait for others to do their part.

We sincerely wish we could say that it will all work out, but we can't.

We will hold our breath, rub a nose for good luck, and hopefully have some news soon.

For luck.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Women, Education, STEM and a Masculine Mind

"Let it not be said, whenever there is energy or creative genius, 'She had a masculine mind.'" - Margaret Fuller

A few months ago I had an older student ask, "Why aren't there very many women in math?" It was a good question. I've been pondering it, and I think in light of the kidnapped Nigerian girls, I'd try to answer it to my limited ability. I don't really have a complete answer as I am one woman with a limited exposure in math and science, but I have thoughts. Buckle up.

First, I'd like to open up the question to "Why aren't there very many women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)?" In college my biology classes were full of women. (The soft science) In chemistry the numbers got lower (The semi-hard science or the semi-soft science) and in physics (The hard science), even fewer. I took engineering physics at one of the top engineering school in the nation. I remember being one of two women in a lab class. The other woman was all, "Girl Power! Let's best these guys!" And I was definitely, "I just want to pass." The numbers of women in my math courses also decreased as the courses became more complex . What's up, Ladies? Where are you?

As for my personal experience, I grew up in a science house. My dad and mom were scientists. I remember dinner conversations that were scientific and completely beyond my understanding. Boy, these peas taste great. Having a science family helped create an encouraging math-sci environment for me. My parents, particularly my dad, believed in equality of the sexes. That helps even more. My dad says with regularity that he grew up in one of the most egalitarian societies in the world. No, it's not here. The only person who told me that I couldn't do something was me. I'm awesome at thwarting my own efforts. Thank you very much. My family, my micro-community, easily negated social messages that said science is for boys or that math is hard. Oh Barbie, even you can learn.*

Educating women is fairly historically new, and it's definitely not global. #bringbackourgirls. Unfortunately, when women have gone against the social grain historically there has not been a celebration or a warm reception. The seas do not part. There is often hostility. It is like cutting a new path through tall grass with a machete. Tiring. Sweaty. A horrible stink. Putting forth great effort often looks like a hot mess. You have to be ready for a pretty crappy time. I am not a trailblazer, nor did I sign up for it, but I find in just moving forward in math and science that the path is not well worn by women. I am so thankful for those who I can look ahead and see, like professors and scientists. What about the women who are themselves pioneers and can not see other women ahead of them? Women around the world being the first to get an education in your family. You are amazing. Take my strength. Don't lose heart.

So I am quoting Margaret Fuller all over the post today. I was introduced to Margaret Fuller in a U.S. literature class in college. She said some pretty profound things in the 1840s. Almost two hundred years later, her quotes resonate. She was an American Transcendentalist who basically said that, of course, every person wants to be an enlightened man; no enlightened man wants to be a women. Why? Because the social position of women has been wife, mother, cook and housekeeper. There was little room for books, philosophy, science and mathematics which involve extended time as well as thought and often a good housekeeper. She was a voice outside of the men's philoshophy club that said, "Hey, I can't find the door." It looks great for the people inside thinking about greater society but what about the greater society that isn't allowed in.

"In order that she may be able to give her hand with dignity, she must be able to stand alone" - Fuller

So back to the question, "Why aren't there are more women in math and science?" There is definitely not one answer. And the factors work together even though they don't plan to. There are collective forces. To name a few...

  • Straight up sexism. Just a girl. I'm just a girl in the world.
  • Social pressures. Women are marketed for their parts not for their brains. Seriously, marketing parts.
  • Gender education. Girls play with dolls. Boys build things. 
  • It's challenging. Some sciences are physically challenging as well as mentally challenging. Math is so mental. Letters and numbers, come on.
  • Discouragement. Possible and probable failure. Struggling for success is tiring.
  • Loneliness. 
  • Feeling or looking 'different.' Nerd. Geek. A masculine mind.
  • Role models overshadowed by fad models. I love you Mayim Bailik and Danica McKellar.
  • People, influential people, telling them the can't or shouldn't. People say dumb things. I am everyday people, btw.
  • Thinking how teachers or influential people think about them. Women emote and are empathic. People say dumb things or look us in a way that we take to heart even if they are not true. And it collects in our minds and beings.
  • And of course, the tyranny of the urgent. Somebody has to cook, clean, and help fulfill all the other lower properties of Maslow's hierarchy.

There are barriers both real and imaginary. The barriers are internal and external. Thankfully, times, they are a changin'. Let me be clear, not every girl should grow up to be a scientist or a mathematician, but they should have the opportunity to do so if they wish. If they have the talent, we should encourage them and applaud their development. And it shouldn't be so hard for them to find the door. So, Ladies, young and old, if you want to pursue math and science, getting all STEM like, I'll try to clear a path for you.

"We would have every arbitrary barrier thrown down. We would have every path laid open to women as freely as to men. If you ask me what offices they may fill, I reply ---any. I do not care what case you put; let them be sea captains." - Fuller

Smart girlios...stay clever.

*Do you want to encourage some science and math in your home but don't know where to start? Try GoldieBlox or Snap Circuits. Buy a microscope or a telescope. Investigate.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Earth Day 5k ~ The Comeback Race*

*Not for me

I needed a comeback race, and since I've been running about a 5k distance without too much irritation a 5k would be great. The weather has been getting better. It's tolerable to be outside, and people have actually been mowing lawns, like my neighbor's whose lawn service comes at 7 am. Awesome.

The Lindenhurst Park District had a free Earth Day 5k on Saturday morning, and many of my running buddies were going. I thought I could run it and then be back in time for soccer games. A great plan. On the morning of the race two of my girlios woke up early, and as I was getting ready they asked what I was doing within 15 minutes of me walking out the door.

Me: "I'm going to run a 5k."

Thing 2: "Can I run?"

Thing 3: "Me, too."

Okay, here's the thing about wanting the family to be active. When they want to be active, you have to let them. Like offering them vegetables, you offer and offer, and when they take the bait, you reel them in. Letting them in my races is a sacrifice.

Me: "You have 15 minutes to get ready, and you still have to show up on the soccer field later"

Thing 2 and Thing 3: "Okay!"

Thing 1 wakes up during the getting ready time. When asked if she wants to go she emphatically says she's tired and hates 5ks.

25 minutes later we are all ready to go.

When we arrive, we find we are all under-dressed. It looks warm, but it is windy. The girlios cling and whine. I rub goosebumps away and cuddle them. I suppress my whining because I am cold too. I love meeting and greeting my running pals that I haven't seen in so long.

The race starts, and it is not long before the whining begins. I was hoping to run the first mile. We didn't make it that far before fatigue set in on little legs. Cramps and tight tummies. These girlios have run races before, but this is early in the season. We have had a rough winter inside, and they are not in the condition that they normally are in Spring. Mentally, they remain in end of the Summer, but physically they are in the dead of Winter.

Thing 2 wanted to cry. I could tell. She chose to whimper and didn't break down into full sobs. Huge self control for her. She held it in looking rather dismal. I walked at a brisk (for me) steady pace reminding them to keep pace. I had calculated the time to get to soccer with my slow race pace not girlio walk pace. We had some time limits. Thing 3 bounced along because she's my Tigger.

It was hard to be supportive. It was a gorgeous day on the trail and dragging the girlios was not fun. We have done some excellent hikes in the same area, but we were not limited by time. We play. We look at stuff. We dawdle. This day we had to get to the end in a timely manner. I tried so hard to play it cool.

As we approached the end Thing 2 who had been looking pale and pained, took off running. We ran to catch up, and then Thing 3 pouted out. A.R.G. The tired talk transferred from girlio to girlio. Thing 2 ran all the way to the finish. When asked later why she started running she said, "Because I wanted to be done." She's such a runner. When I suggested to Thing 3 that we run to the end, she took off sprinting. We crossed the finish line in 51 minutes. Just enough time to go home, get changed and head out to soccer games.

This is not a clear representation of her race face. 
It wasn't my comeback run. It was a comeback run for my girlios after a long winter. I'll have mine soon, but today was their day. To their credit, they played hard at soccer. They showed up, and both girls scored goals. From the looks on their faces, they are going to sleep well tonight. That's my reward.

Finishing Strong! Stick a fork in us; we're done.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

T'was the Night Before Easter Cookies and Devotional

Long ago in my MOPS group we got a newsletter that had a recipe for resurrection cookies in it. I tried the recipe and kept it. I loved the idea, but there were a few things I didn't like about the cookie. Like the nuts. And that there was no chocolate. Nice idea, blah cookie.

I can't be the only person with candy canes left.
In our house we try to emphasize Easter as much as Christmas. Birth, death and resurrection of the same Jesus. We do have an in-house egg hunt and give a bigger gift in our yearly recycled Easter baskets. Easter, much like Christmas, has been ridiculously commercialized. Ridiculous. It's easy to be sucked in. I've already put away a fun sized bag of Reese's Eggs. This recipe/devotional is a good reminder of what Easter is about, and if you forgot to start the Resurrection Eggs on the right day you can still cram it in the night before or even during the week.

My adaptation has a Christmas twist. It's good to read the "Legend of the Candy Cane" too while they are eating them on Easter Sunday. The recipe begins Saturday night.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of mints - or leftover candy canes
1/2 chocolate bar
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
zipper baggie (freezer)
wooden spoon/meat tenderizer/hammer
masking tape
Bible

Directions and Devotion

1.Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Place the mints and the chocolate bar in the zipper baggie. Let children break them apart using spoon or tenderizer into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested he was beaten by Roman Soldiers and read John 19: 1-3.
In bag pre-meat tenderizer
Delish chocolate and peppermint
3. Let you children smell the vinegar. Put a teaspoon of vinegar into a large mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar to drink and read John 19: 28-30.

4. Add the egg whites to the vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life and read John 10: 10-11.

5. Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand and let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus's followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.


Salty sweet hands
6. So for the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add the sugar to the bowl and explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him, and then read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.



7. Beat with mixer on high speed for 12-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3: 1-3. This is a good time to have them get read for bed, clean up or read the Legend of the Candy Cane. The egg whites have to be stiff.

Whip it.

Whip it good.
8. Fold in the chocolate and mint pieces.


9. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheets. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus's body was laid and read Matthew 27: 57-60.


10. Put cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus's tomb was sealed and read Matthew 27: 65-66.



11. Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb were sealed and read John 16: 20, 22. Send the kids off to bed and eat the other half of the chocolate bar as you prepare for the rest of the possible chaos on Easter Sunday.

12. On Easter morning, open the oven door and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies should be hollow. He has risen! On the first Easter morning, Jesus's followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matthew 28: 1-9.

A Christmas Easter cookie







Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring Roll, Sweet Chariot

I can't help it. As soon as I say "Spring Roll," I want to sing..

Spring roll,
Sweet chariot
Coming forth to carry me home...

Tasty bundles. Easy to make and made to order. As a gluten free gal these days, I've been looking for more meals everybody in the house can and will eat. Making multiple meals is a hassle.

I ate way more than this. This is just the pretty picture.
I bought circular and square spring rolls wraps. After looking at a few recipes, I decided to use some of the vegetables I had in the house. We didn't have Thai basil or lime. We'll try those another day.

Our ingredients:
 -strips of carrots
 -strips of cucumber
 -strips of orange pepper
 -romaine lettuce strips
 -an egg omelet cut into strips
 -rings of green onion
 -leaves of cilantro
 -brown rice vermicelli soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes and drained. A tablespoon of hoisin sauce added and cut up to fit easily into the rolls
 -cut up cooked chicken (We added this tonight)

It took some prep, but it was worth it.
Really, add whatever you want and will eat. I made the sauce in a pan whisking on a low heat until smooth.

The Sauce:
 -a tablespoon of peanut butter
 -two tablespoons of hoisin sauce
 -a tablespoon of soy sauce
 -water to thin

Easy for little hands
With clean hands the kids can make them to order. Soak the wraps in warm water for 5 seconds or so. We had to replace the water every once in a while because it got cold. Place wrap on a plate and working quickly add your filling. The wrap will get soft on the plate. Fold, wrap and roll. Eat, dip and enjoy. Repeat until everything is gone or everybody is full.

Soaking, eating and enjoying