February 29, 2008

Random Thursday

I got up before my alarm (weird!). I went out for my run and decided to do the loop in the opposite direction (odd, for me). About mile 1, I realized it was supposed to be a rest day and I wasn't even supposed to be running (too late to turn back now, might as well finish it and take Friday off...).

At the levy, a chevy pulled up (the levy was dry!). A guy hopped out and started clamoring up the levy.

Cecil... he called.

Cecil..., again, he called out, looking over his shoulder.

And then, I heard it...

Baaa...Baaa, and, out of the bed of the chevy jumped a goat, which proceeded to clamor up the levy in search of its master. That's right, this guy was taking his goat for a run...

I passed them, laughing, and enjoyed the rest of my run with an incredulous grin on my face. I also made a mental note to spend the rest of the day on the look-out for oddities.

I didn't have to wait long. At lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in years, I learned that another friend that I had briefly dated and with whom I've lost touch now lives in one of the seedier towns in Southeast Asia. Instead of his former occupation as tech company executive, he now runs a bar. With Go-Go Dancers. Which, in effect, in that part of the world, means he's some sort of a pimp.

I'm very bummed I lost touch with this guy, but I think I know why he didn't return my random attempt to get back in touch a couple of years ago. I think there's quite a bit about the world he now lives in that must be complicated and interesting, and I think I'd enjoy discussing it with him, although, no doubt, I'd probably find much of it overly real and depressing.

Anyways, Thursday served to remind me that every moment of my life involves a choice, and each choice has effects, some intended, and some unintended. Every moment could at any time result in little, tiny, differences in my identity and life experience, or huge and surreal changes in my existence.

February 25, 2008

Words of Wisdom

Penelope Trunk is a regular read of mine.

I may not always agree with her perspective, but I look forward to reading every post because she's a great story teller, she's very open, and she's an optimist.

In short, she has several qualities that I admire, but do not possess.

(As an aside, am I the only one who, occasionally, when typing, sees a word and thinks, that can't be how it's spelled, so I look it up, and realize (a) I did know how to spell it, and (b) if I went with my second-guess, I'd be talking about posses? As in Andre the Giant had one? Anyway, I digress...).

Penelope's post today has played a proportionately large role in my day, in terms of waking minutes spent related to any one thing. First, I read it and thought it was insightful. Then, at some point, I sent it to my sister. Later, at lunch with H and A, I brought it up again. H asked me to send it to her so she could pass it on.

And now, here I am, blogging about it.


I don't *know* Penelope. But, because I enjoy her writing and she's very open, I know much more about her than I do about many of the people I work with, my clients, and even many of my acquaintances and less intimate friends. I speak of her written thoughts and perspectives to my closest friends and family as if she was one of them. I *introduce* them, so to speak.

In many ways, this stranger to me is playing the role of one of my friends. In fact, her blog shows up on my RSS feed just below two of my close friends' blog feeds and above another two close friends'. The times... they are a changin'.

So, anyways, the most insightful thing in her post today, for me, was this,

Be honest about what you love. If you’re not making time to do it regularly unpaid, then you probably don’t love it. Here’s the litmus test: Sex. We do it regularly, unpaid, and we love it. Run this test on other stuff you supposedly love. Do you crave it like sex? Then you probably don’t love it that much. You probably love the idea of loving it, the idea of who you are when you say you love that thing.

Amen, sister.

This ties nicely into the realization I had last weekend about relaxation. I hadn't thought of it in her terms, but when I do, I agree. I make time to do a good (although not perfect) job at work. I make time to cook and enjoy dinner with E. I make time to run and do yoga. I make time to see my family and friends. I make time to keep this blog up to date and I make time to manage the financial details of my life. But I don't make time for pure, unadulterated, zen relaxation. Because, as she so aptly points out, I don't love it. I'd rather cross more things off the list, because I *love* to make lists and cross things off of them.

This is not to say that relaxation isn't good for me. Or even, that I don't enjoy it. I don't love vitamins, I don't love sleeping when I could do more stuff, and I sure don't love difficult emotional situations that make me grow as a person. But I willingly seek them out because I know they are good for me and I like the effects, so I exercise discipline and make them happen.

The exercise of discipline is a noble pursuit. The idea that my personal brand of discipline may have to involve forced relaxation is antithetical to my idea of discipline. But, it fits with my eastern philosophy studies, and it seems very correct, in some way, that since I'm the type of person who finds the typical struggle with discipline almost simplistically easy, my personal version of discipline would look more like the opposite of discipline for most people.

Well, that's enough navel gazing for the evening, don't you think?

February 24, 2008

Saturday Manic, Sunday Depressive

Saturday morning, I woke at 6 AM to beat the incoming storm. Under the cold grey skies, I ran 6 miles on my own, and then 13.5 with E2. We missed the majority of the rain and caught up over our run and subsequent brunch.

Technically, in true Jeff Galloway fashion, I didn't run the mileage straight and I didn't run it fast. Instead, I ran it with 1 minute walk breaks every mile, plus a little walking at the end to cool down. Regardless, even with the restraint, I am now *very* sore.

I'm glad I pushed through that distance, because I need to build the mental strength that is necessary for running for a long time period. And, I only have 8 weeks and 8 more long runs before the marathon to build it.

After the run, E, E2 and I headed to brunch. Then, while E took a welding class (I was jealous!) I paid bills, ordered flowers for my grandmother's get-well from surgery, arranged upcoming travel details for a bachelorette party and wedding, and cleared the personal email queue.

When E returned, bearing a T joint (Baby, I got you a gift...), we packed for the weekend's festivities, and drove to the city.

Once settled at R's (who graciously let us crash on his floor with our aerobed), we caught up with him over a 1998 bottle of Castle Merlot that he had given us in 2002.

From there, we headed to dinner with 4 of our city friends, a drink with JayKay and Clip, followed by an end of an era party for G. G is finally moving from the house where he threw his many infamous parties over the last half-decade, so to celebrate, there was one final huge party filled with costumes, dj-spinnings, dancing, alcohol, and general debauchery.

Despite my relatively good behavior when compared against the crowd at this event, I still woke this morning to a dull head and a general slowness. It is official. I am old.

So, I accepted this reality and acknowledged that today was largely a write-off. My legs were sore, so I nixed the rescheduled short run. We opted for coffee with R & L in lieu of brunch, and then we drove home, where my biggest accomplishments during the daylight hours were (1) a mexican food lunch with E, and (2) vegging on the couch while watching a silly chick-flick (can't help it, I adore AJ and have to see all of her films. Even the tomb-raiders. I know.).

Thankfully, around 4, I managed to pull myself together for a shower and a trip to the S family house to watch the Oscars, hang out with more good friends (a complete new set), most of whom I hadn't seen in months, and, of course, while there, in an effort to avoid taxing ourselves on the slow post-party day, we glued ourselves to the couch, talked shit about the Oscars, and ate pizza with wine.

All-in-all, it was a fairly successful weekend. And now, I'm off to bed in preparation for the weekly grind.

February 20, 2008

Evolution (and our friends)

I've been very busy with work and social life lately.

Last weekend, E and I took a much needed weekend away. Although I had to work on Saturday and we both had life-chores to tend to, thanks to the 3-day weekend, we managed to handle the necessaries and get away on Saturday afternoon for two full days of relaxation, good food, biking, hiking, and re-connecting to one another.

I slept in 'til double digits in a luxurious bed on both Sunday and Monday. Both mornings I spent about half an hour waking, making myself coffee, making E tea, and slowly joining the living while meandering about in my robe. Sunday morning, after we woke, we hit the hot tub by the crashing surf. Our day was approximately that stressful for the rest of the sunlight, and then, Sunday night, after reading some Intellectual Property literature for pleasure (I know. I know.), I hit the sauna and steam room before a delicious dinner.

We returned rejuvinated, rested, and re-connected. I, for one, laughed more in 2 days than I usually do in a week. All of it with my best friend, E. Why we don't do this more often was a topic of discussion on a couple of occasions.

The final evening of our short vacation, and upon our return, I spent quite a bit of time thinking and talking with R and lucky_girl about (a) why we don't do it more often (it's expensive, and we're too busy to regularly take an entire weekend off away from friends, family, and life), and (b) why it is that our life is structured such that we had to leave our home to completely relax and reconnect.

At home, there is always something to do on the to-do list. I cannot completely relax because there is always something I should be doing. But, when we leave, I've committed to relaxing. I can't even consider doing most of the stuff on the todo list, because it's at home. Where I am not.

Plus, when we travel, there are usually fun things like good food, gorgeous scenery, and friends upon which I can focus my energies. I can be committed to enjoying life because I decided that was the goal for the day and the distance makes it hard to reconsider the goal. Plus, the things we seek in our travels tend to make me happy and I find it easier to relax when I am happy.

The odd thing is, however, I know some people can relax in their homes. In fact, I think I used to be able to do so. I'm not totally sure when it changed, or, if I'm honest with myself, whether I was ever able to relax at home like I can when I'm traveling. Regardless, one thing I know is that my ability to relax at home has decreased over time. Most people I know who are good at relaxing in their own homes have significantly less life stress than we do, and, often, significantly less career and financial details to tend to.

This weekend I found myself spending quite a bit of time thinking about how our expensive weekend away was something I once would have found ridiculously extravagant. And now, I find it refreshing, and oddly, almost necessary.

E and I have chosen our life, with its lifestyle, and the overwhelming constant barrage of details and choice, and the benefits with which it comes. Sometimes, when you don't like things about your life, it is hard to accept that you have no one to blame but yourself.

But it's true. This is the choice I'm making right now. I am choosing to live a life that I can't balance well enough to relax completely at home. I spent much of this weekend struggling with that reality. Part of me wants to have it all and find a way to force myself to relax at home. But, that's a bit of denial. I may not want it to be true, but it is. My current life means I am always slightly anxious at home. I could make different decisions and make relaxing at home more of a priority, but I'd have to give up things that are important to me right now.

So, yes, while living the lawyer lifestyle and earning the lawyer pay hasn't changed me into a more materialistic person (yet), and I don't feel compelled to buy *things,* it has increased my ability to justify spending in areas where I already thought money was well spent, such as travel, food, relaxation-related services (spa services, massages, etc.) and lodging. For a formerly ridiculously frugal person, this change is difficult. But, it's happening. And to pretend it's not would be yet another struggle.

In other news, in keeping with Lucky_girl's continuation of Arvay's animal photos, I present yet another member of our Animal Planet, who stopped by after boys' night the other night to say hello.

Flickr and I got in a fight and my photos are not currently embeddable, but you can go to this link and view our local pointy kitty.

Update: Flickr and I have resolved our differences. Click the photo for 2 more, if you need more.



February 14, 2008

Black Bean Yogurt Soup

I invented this soup out of what was lying around in our fridge and pantry last night. It was *amazing.* And, bonus, it's filling and full of vitamins. We had it with half a spaghetti squash each and neither of us could finish our squash. Enjoy!

-1/2 white onion, diced
-olive oil
-2 tsp cumin seeds, ground in mortar
-1 can black beans, drained
-1 large jalapeno
-1 bunch cilantro, stems chopped off below where the leaves stop
-3 garlic cloves (I used 5, it was too much, but still delicious)
-1/2 cup low fat greek or russian-style yogurt
-salt and black pepper

1. Sautée the onion in olive oil on medium heat 'til almost translucent. Add the cumin. Then add the beans and allow to simmer.

2. In the cuisinart, chop the jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic until it's a finely diced. Then, add the yogurt and puree.

3. Add the yogurt mixture to the soup pan and stir. Strain the beans, onions, and other solid matter from the liquid and puree in the cuisinart.

4. Return the puree to the liquid in the soup pan, stir over medium heat, add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. Serves 2 large bowls or 4 small.


February 12, 2008

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

To pay for the free time on last weekend's trip and the few social lunches I've wanted to get to early this week, I worked 'til midnight on both Sunday and Monday.

Monday, and its after-effects, in particular, was brutal. While on Sunday I was able to pull together a meal of sorts and bake it in the oven while I worked, on Monday night, I had to admit defeat upon arriving home with a boatload of work to a house with almost no food.

So, E ordered, the Finals Pizza, one of the greatest saviors to ever arrive in our relationship. Although I hadn't asked for the finals pizza opt-out since May of last year, when E says he will take care of it, and with one click of an internet button, our pre-saved order of Californian-ridiculousness saves us (yes, our local joint will deliver our favorite pre-saved concocotion of prosciutto, olives, mozzerella, garlic, onion, parmigiano, tomato, and feta pizza), I have to wonder if I'm missing some grander plan. It just fits together so beautifully. Why don't I do this more often?

And, of course, last night's leftovers were even better than Monday night's offering -- more than likely because I didn't have to worry about a thing: not ordering, not saving the leftovers, nothing.

Even better? I was home by 8 without night-time work. I was asleep by 11 PM. And this morning, I woke at 7 AM, fully rested, after the first full night of non-insomnia sleep that I'd had in at least a week.

I think this morning's run is going to be awesome.

February 10, 2008

A weekend in the hometown

I took the time to go visit my extended family in my hometown this weekend. Saturday morning, I rose early, loaded 4 bags on my back, and boarded Amtrak.

I couldn't make the kiosk print my ticket, but, frustrated with how my morning was going, I boarded anyways.

Imagine my surprise (after recent air travel) when the conductor listened to me explain my problem, called ahead to another stop, had them print my ticket, and brought it to me over an hour later -- more than an hour on the train, by trust alone! Between that, and the 3 hours of work I was able to do (woo-hoo! 15 EDA contracts reviewed from front to back!) I was ready to sing the praises of Amtrak as America's best commercial carrier.

But, before I could declare it the best travel experience ever, today happened. Apparently, I picked a bad day to head back to the bay area from Capitol City. Upon arrival at the local station, where I had a reserved ticket on a bus, I found a taxi, totally full, and a taxi driver explaining that another taxi would be there in 15 to 20 minutes, because the bus had been full since Reno, NV and now he was full, too.

Thankfully, brother drove me to the Sacramento station, and I caught my train with 3 minutes to spare (the 15 minute wait for the taxi would have meant I was on the next train, 6 hours later!). But, what do you know, when boarding the train, I had to do epic battle with thousands of high schoolers. I felt like I was 20, traveling on my euro-rail pass. Only I had chosen to take the train to work instead of save money and the kids really didn't feel like my soul-mates so much. I kind of hated them.

Nerdy High Schoolers

I recognized my former self in the crowd many times. Overly wordy. Full of ideas but a little low on experience. Loudly discussing topics that seem *very* cerebral. I have no idea what they were there for, or where they were going. But they took over my train and spoke of books, math, music, and well, frankly, I could have used a little less of that. They bumped into me regularly. They played music through their ipods headphones as if they were speaakers. I'm horrid, but I must admit, between the high school brigade and the infant screeching, I lost a little bit of the love for Amtrak.

Thankfully, the rest of my weekend was fabulous. Highlights included:

- bowling alley 6-yr-old birthday party for my niece, where I got to see mom, sister, and brother, plus I got to know some of brother's and neice's friends, and enjoyed being an aunt.

- lazy dinner at home with brother and neice, catching up, eating, and relaxing.

- amazingly perfect weather and gorgeous views of the countryside while doing a morning 15-mile run through the sierra nevada foothill towns of Loomis, Penryn, and Newcastle, culminating in an emotionally draining, but gorgeous visit to Dad's gravesite, where brother and neice came to meet me and drive me back to the shower (how awesome is that?). [On a side note: Foothills are real hills. They will slow you down. That is all.]

- A delicious stylized sushi lunch with brother and neice.

- Coming home to a Cupig valentine's day card from my aunt (yeah, that's right the Cupig meme lives on).

Overall, it was a very productive weekend, on the family side as well as the work side (I busted out two edited contracts upon arrival back home this weekend, plus diligence on the train).

This week? Well, it promises to keep me busy with running, life, and work, if nothing else...

Happy almost cupig day, y'all!

February 5, 2008

California meets Alaska at our Dinner Table

So, the last time Arvay was in town, I found myself the lucky and grateful recipient of Ole 55 pale ale with roast garlic moosetard.

Apparently, the purveyors of this fine product, based in Arvay's current hometown (which I can't wait to visit) of Fairbanks, AK, were surprised, nay, shocked, to find that the federal trademark for Moosetard was theirs, for the taking.

At the point of bestowing the gifts upon us (the lucky recipients included Arvay's mom, sister, a long-time friend (KH), JayKay, and me), Arvay explained how adorable the owners of the Moosetard mark were, and how she couldn't imagine how they missed the mentally challenged moose reference, whereas I, quietly, almost silently, but not so silently that JayKay and KH didn't hear me, laughingly pointed out, better that reference, than mooseturd!

Yeah. High Brow comedy. That's why you visit this site.

So, yes, I'm aware that the super Tuesday madness is going on as I write this. To give you a sense of how important that reality is to me, I thought I'd let you know that I'm also equally aware that my AM run of 6 miles is likely to be in 46F weather. This AM, I had to use an ice scraper, at 7:30 AM. I realize this doesn't impress Arvay. But the rest of you... I LIVE IN SILICON VALLEY!

And finally, in response to the title of this post, tonight's very healthy CA meets AK dinner was delicious. I encourage you to try it.

Steamed artichokes with brown rice and mustard dipping sauce

-1 artichoke per person, washed, stem sliced off, top trimmed.
-1/4 onion per person, chopped.
-1 garlic clove, per person, minced.
-1 Tsp. olive oil, per person (per artichoke, really).
-vegetable broth (or any other broth, if laying around)
-brown rice
-various mustards
-some butter

1. Pour 1-2 cups vegetable broth in a stew pot over medium heat (enough for 1/2 inch layer of liquid once artichokes are added). Add chopped onions. Place artichokes in the liquid, stem-side down. Add water 'til liquid reaches the 1 inch mark on the side of the pan.

2. Sprinkle one minced garlic clove over each artichoke. Drizzle each artichoke with approximately 1 Tsp. olive oil.

3. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Place 1 cup brown rice in rice cooker. Cover with 1 cup vegetable broth and 1 cup water. Cook in rice cooker 'til done.

5. When the 45 minutes are up, remove the artichokes from the liquid using tongs and place each one in a large soup bowl, top side down.

6. Arrange brown rice around the artichokes in each soup bowl.

7. In microwave, melt 1 Tsp. butter for each diner. Divide melted butter into bowls based on how many mustard sauces you are making (This recipe calls for at least 1 dijon and 1 moosetard!)

8. Mix equal parts butter and mustard (moosetard!) to make sauces. Pour over the rice along the outside of the artichokes.

9. To eat, peel each leaf and eat the fleshy part (which absorbed the olive oil and garlic goodness), or dip the fleshy part in a mustard-butter sauce and savor it, or pick up some rice, like it's a spoon and eat.

Regardless, Enjoy! Healthy and delicious!!!!!

February 2, 2008

Marathon, 11 weeks to go

April and Japan both seem so far away, but when I think of the marathon as 10 long runs away, it seems so close...

So, after last weekend's humidity lessons and after considering the running books I've read, I decided to commit to a slightly customized, but more-or-less Jeff Galloway approach for the remaining training for my 3rd marathon.

Don't get me wrong, I love Hal and he's treated me right. No injuries. A fabulous first marathon on his Novice plan (slightly modified). A 12 minute speed up for my second marathon by training somewhere between novice and his first intermediate training plan.

But, at some point, you have to ask -- which fundamental training regimen makes more sense for ME? And Jeff definitely does a few things differently. He's *religious* about walk breaks. He's big into long-long-long distance training runs (albeit slowly). And, he swears that his program pushes people to personal bests.

I think the lack of discipline I showed at Marathon #2 by going out too fast and losing 15 minutes in the last 6 miles (more than 2 minutes a mile!) was the thing that made me think that perhaps I could benefit from Jeff's approach.

So, today was long run #1 on my Jeff G. inspired plan. It was relatively short, in truth. Only 13.2 total miles including walking warm-up and cool down plus walk breaks at every mile. I ran the miles intervals at a pace between 9:13 and 8:30. I felt good. The most notable thing is that I did it all on a treadmill, in our garage, while watching Memoirs of a Geisha (stupid rain!).

And, I have to say, mile intervals with 1 minute walk breaks plus the distraction of the movie made it possible, nay, even tolerable, to do 13.2 miles on a treadmill. Given that the longest distance I've ever done on a treadmill in the past is somewhere near 8 miles and I never thought I could exceed that without dying of boredom, I consider this a victory. Plus, it was faster than I would have expected for a recovery long run after a half-marathon race weekend.

So, stay tuned. I'll let you know how my Jeff G. plan works out for me. So far, so good.