Friday, February 27, 2009

booked through May

Now that I'm through traveling for a while, it's time to get serious about this little race that Brad and I plan to run at the end of May. Tomorrow we will run 12 miles, and then we will quickly increase our distance to 14, 17, and 20 miles over the next month or so. If we have it in us, we'll eventually peak at 23 miles in early May before we begin the tapering process. Starting tomorrow and lasting through mid-May, all of our weekend runs will be at least 10 miles. Our Sundays are unavailable, so that means 11 straight Saturdays of running. Yes, I counted.

I share all of this with you not to garner sympathy (note to self: I voluntarily signed up for this race) or to solicit admiration (although encouraging words are always appreciated), but to let you know my restrictions. If I decline a social invitation on a Saturday morning, it's not at all because I have no desire to see friends. The problem is that I'm already committed. I'll be running.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

cuteness

The scene: My office. One of my sophomore students, a bespectacled, insanely smart, rather shy, and definitely awkward young lad stopped by to ask a number of questions about an upcoming assignment for his team. As he was leaving....

Student, turning back toward me as he reached my door: "Oh, by the way, happy belated birthday!"

Me (in shock): "Thank you!"

Student: "We share the same birthday!"

Me: "Really! What year were you born?"

Student: "1989."

Me: (chuckle...)

Me (suddenly panicking that he somehow discovered my blog or found me on Facebook): "Wait...how did you know that I recently celebrated a birthday?"

Student: "Oh, well, Vickie (another woman in the office) has this calendar in her office that lists birthdays and I noticed yours because it was the same day as mine. I hope you had a good one!"

*********

Moments like these are rare with college students, or at least my smarty-pants, socially awkward ones. So of course I had to blog about it to permanently record the memory. So cute.

Monday, February 23, 2009

another apostrophe advocate

My friend and faithful reader, Jennifer, sent me a link to this Washington Post article today because she said that it reminded her of me. I'm comforted to know that I'm not the only one who grows annoyed with rampant apostrophe misuse! When in doubt, check out the resources provided by the Apostrophe Protection Society.

While I love apostrophes and feel fairly confident that I use them correctly most of the time, hyphens are another story. I fear that my hyphen-obsessed readers cringe at every misused or absent, but necessary hyphen on this blog. I'm not even 100% sure that I used the hyphen correctly in the previous sentence. Does anyone have any quick and easy tips that will help me remember how to use hyphens correctly? Post a comment and I'll be glad to share your tips with everyone in a future entry.

Recently, Grammar Girl clarified the head's up, heads-up, or heads up dilemma. Every time I use this phrase in an email, I find myself googling it to check which version is correct. Here's the dirt:
Used as an interjection: Heads up, I'm on my way over!
Used as a noun: I'm calling to give you a heads-up about the situation.

What aspects of grammar do you find most confusing? What grammar mistakes drive you crazy?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

a seven year love affair

While I'm on the kick of promoting some of my favorite hobbies to others this week, I'd like to point out that my beloved book club celebrates its seventh anniversary this month. And while I didn't start the group, I have loyally participated in it from the beginning, and am the only remaining member of the original club. Dr. Blondie faithfuls know that I love to read, and giving to this group brings me pure joy. I am most thankful that the group forces me to read books that I would never choose on my own. And I appreciate every single book more, whether I liked it or not, AFTER a lively discussion with the group. In seven years, I have attended 65 of our 67 meetings, and finished all 69 selected books. Not even the busyness of a Ph.D. program could diminish my commitment to or love for this group. Reading for pleasure almost always relieves my stress. And as you grow older, you realize that it's a compliment to be called book worm.

Just for fun, here is a slightly enhanced version of the language that I used on this month's anniversary edition book club evite:

7 years = 67 meetings, 69 books, 50 fiction selections, 19 nonfiction choices, 8 classics, lots of potlucks, a few dinners out, countless bottles of wine, some phenomenal books, a few disappointing books, one KEVIN!, two remote members who occasionally visit, one repeat member, one loiterer, lots of evites, several pinggs, hundreds of tallied votes, thousands of book suggestions, myriad remarkable hostesses, numerous spirited discussions, occasional fierce debates, and ONE AWESOME GROUP OF READERS.

Monday, February 16, 2009

it's never too late to start

I strongly believe that almost anyone has the potential to successfully complete a marathon. Unless you suffer from a debilitating illness that prevents you from participating in physical activities, I believe that you can run a marathon if: a) you want to, b) you set your mind to it, and c) you commit to stick with training and not give up during the frustrating time it takes to build a solid running base. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes complete marathons. Survivors of many serious illnesses who never expected to live to see another birthday complete marathons. The 26.2 mile adventure really just serves as a mental test of endurance.

Today, Brad and I celebrate our fourth anniversary of when we officially started running. Four years ago today, we rolled out of bed at 5 a.m., determined to make running our new healthy hobby. We dreamed of being able to run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler the following year and we sought to explore and enjoy our city in new ways. At that time, we never considered running a marathon. It wasn't even on our radar.

Keep in mind that I had never run a long distance in my life. In 6th grade, my track coach forced me to run the 800 meter race once (two laps around the high school track, about half of a mile) because the girl who normally ran it was sick. After nearly throwing up from the painful side stitches, I was THRILLED to come in 3rd out of four runners. (At least I didn't come in last!) Over the years, friends have guilted me into going to the gym with them, but I consistently failed to make it a habit. And walking, while enjoyable, took too much time if I wanted to get significant exercise.

Fast forward 19 years. I met my friend Susannah in 2004 and she intrigued me with her running stories. At the time, she planned to run a half marathon later in 2005, and I always enjoyed hearing about her long weekend runs when we both met up at work on Mondays. Most importantly, she assured me that extra supportive sports bras DO exist, a deal breaker for me. So Brad and I decided to give it a shot. On February 16, 2005, I couldn't even run two city blocks without stopping because of severe side pains and shortness of breath. I spent weeks running one block and walking one block to improve my stamina. Finally, I ran two blocks, and then three, without stopping. The first time I ran one mile without a break, I celebrated like a lottery winner! Keep in mind that I was also a doctoral student at the time, so being able to see weekly tangible accomplishments really motivated me. I am amazed at how many doctoral students take up running during graduate school. The dissertation looms large, so gradually increasing your weekly running goal seems easy in comparison.

I can totally understand when people tell me that they "hate running". I expect that most people hate it until they are able to build a base of running three or four miles without walk breaks. Until your body reaches that point, you will ache from side and leg cramps. You will feel nauseous and light headed from being so out of breath. And mentally, you're defeated. Establishing that base is one of the hardest tasks for every runner. It took me nearly six months to gain the confidence and physical stamina to run five miles. Those six months felt like the longest period of my life. But let me tell you. Once I ran five miles, I never looked back. Soon after I completed my inaugural run to the Washington Monument and back, I quickly graduated to 6.5 mile runs, then 7.5, then 10, and eventually, 26.2. I expended more mental and physical energy in the six months it took me to successfully run fives miles than I have in the 3.5 years since then. Once you have a base, I firmly believe that running is a mental game. And once you establish that base, the indescribable runner's high will keep you hooked.

Admit that you hate running because you haven't conquered the difficult beginning miles yet. But refrain from telling me that you don't run because you can't. I know better. If I can do it, anyone can. I fully understand and respect the fact that not everyone wants to. But be encouraged that if you have even the slightest desire to cross that finish line and wear a finisher's medal, you can make that dream a reality. Start tomorrow. Take one block at a time. And call me when you need a pep talk.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

staring at 40

It's official: as of today I am closer to age 40 than to age 30. How is this possible and will whoever is holding down the fast forward button on my life please, please stop?

Wasn't it just yesterday that my two friends surprised me with a 30th birthday celebration, which kicked off a string of surprise parties for all of us turning 30 that year? Being a February birthday girl, I was the lucky one to turn 30 first, and probably the only one who was truly shocked by the crowd that secretly assembled to support and celebrate my 30s venture.

Despite the fact that I turned a corner this year and the 40-year mark now looms on the horizon, I had an outstanding 35th birthday. Brad and I celebrated my birthday dinner last Saturday night at Restaurant Nora, an intimate and lovely place located in a residential portion of the Dupont Circle neighborhood. I admired my personalized menu with "Happy Birthday (Dr. Blondie)!" printed at the top. The food was decent in both quality and portion size. Our table, adorned with a chic display of fresh flowers and candles, was cozy and romantic. The lights were dim enough. And we enjoyed ourselves immensely. While my heart still belongs to 1789 and Tabard Inn, I would definitely visit Nora again.

And yesterday was just great. I can't remember ever celebrating my birthday in 65-70 degree weather. Brad worked from home most of the day and we went out for a casual lunch in our neighborhood and then he made me dinner at night. Brad's normally not home on my birthday during the day when it falls on a weekday, so his presence yesterday, even though he was working part of the time, made all the difference. I received birthday greetings from lots of people too, which always makes me feel so good.

Age 40, you will knock on my door before I am ready. But do me a favor. Just because I tend to race through my days, weeks, and years doesn't mean that you have to compete with me and accelerate to get here. Please grant me the opportunity every now and then to slow down and savor moments and blessings. And if something comes up and you need to postpone your inevitable arrival, I won't hold it against you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

a gift

February birthday girls expect to celebrate in snow, ice, freezing rain, and bitter cold each year. I always tell Brad that both of our birthdays fall during the coldest four-week period of the year. Last year on my birthday, it was so cold that I could barely stand to leave the house. But because I had a gift card for a free massage burning a hole in my pocket and a day off from work to use it, I braved the cold. I remember parking right across the street from Sugar House Day Spa and it took me 10 minutes to warm up from the 30 second dash from my car to the building.

I recall very few birthdays when the temperature surpassed 50 or even got anywhere close to that. My dad claims that the day I was born was an unseasonably warm and beautiful day, especially considering the brutality of Illinois winters. And each year on my birthday when he tells me this story, he recalls the grass being even greener and the temperature a little warmer than what he claimed the year before. I suspect that what was probably a cloudy, 50-degree day in Illinois on February 11, 1974 has evolved over the years into a bright, sunny day in the 70s in his mind.

But today is an anomaly. I awoke to the sound of birds chirping. I wore a tank top and shorts on my run on the mall this morning. And I even think that I spotted a faint hint of green grass near the Capitol.

Today, I can celebrate in weather more typical for April and May birthday girls. I plan to take full advantage of this unexpected gift. It may be another 35 years before it happens again!

Monday, February 9, 2009

dreaming of spring

I can't wait...
  • ... for static electricity to leave my hair. No amount of any kind of hair product that I've tried prevents or in any way decreases the gazillion fuzzy blond hairs that stand straight up or out from my head from December through March. Any suggestions, dear readers?
  • ... to touch my car, cabinet, another person, etc. without experiencing an electric shock.
  • ... to enjoy fresh produce again that actually tastes good.
  • ... to plant flowers and set up my rooftop garden.
  • ... to sit up on our rooftop deck every evening for a few minutes.
  • ... for our very first crab-eating excursion of the season.
  • ... to see green grass again instead of the yellow/brown concoction that seems to have taken over all of DC.
  • ... to dry clean my wool coats and sweaters and put them away for six months.
  • ... for cherry blossom season.
  • ... for days filled with more hours of sunlight.
  • ... to sleep under my normal bedding with bare feet instead of burrowed under three extra blankets and clad in warm socks.
  • ... to wear sundresses, short sleeves, capri pants, sandals, and flip flops again. Although, my battered feet won't look so pretty in flip flops until I can indulge in that first post-marathon pedicure. No use spending money on a pedicure until the marathon's over.
  • ... to run in shorts and a tank top again (it won't be long for this....as soon as the early morning temperatures hit 45 degrees or higher, I'm there!).
  • ... to hear birds chirping.
  • ... to cut out of work early on that very first warm spring Friday afternoon to go enjoy a drink at Cantina Marina.
How do you dream of spring?

Friday, February 6, 2009

even celebrities are doing it

Word on the street is that Gwyneth Paltrow has assembled her very own book group, which includes some of her best literary-minded friends, such as Madonna! Who would have guessed that the material girl relishes books?

Check out the list of members and their favorite books.

I can't help but wonder what this group would be like if they ever gathered in person. Would they socialize and gossip like we do? Would they debate the plot, gush about the characters, or barely discuss the book at all?

For some reason, I imagine this celebrity book group much like my own. Minus the potluck dinners.

My favorite part of Gwyneth's post? She used my standard catch phrase at the end of it. I'm convinced that she's trying to be like me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

oldies and perhaps some goodies

I love, love, LOVE names! I think and talk about them incessantly, and considering that I know a number of pregnant women right now, I engage in the name conversation at least once per week. When a baby is born, the first question I ask is the name. Last week, surrounded by Mama Millie's older relatives and friends, I pondered the names of older people and wondered when Brad's and my names would officially become outdated. Both of our parents' names are well on their way to retirement, perhaps forever.

Brad's grandparents were named Mildred and Cecil, two names that you never hear anymore, especially for anyone under age 65. My grandparents' names, Eugene (but he went by Billy) and Elizabeth, have endured a little longer, especially the latter. But I do remember having a great-great-aunt Ophelia and a great grandfather Horatio. Besides my relatives, I have never known anyone else with either of these names.

You never hear of people naming babies Harry or Bertha or Ethel or Cletus or Agnes anymore. But could one of these potential oldies but goodies someday make a comeback and trump the Emilys and Jacobs that have dominated for the past decade?

Michael and Jennifer were the most popular baby names during my birth year. And my first name came in at #10 that year, the time of its most frequent use in history (now it doesn't even make the top 100). Thank you, Social Security Administration, for tracking and publishing this information for curious souls like me.

What older names crack you up? What names do you think have potential to make a comeback? Which ones are (and rightfully should be) dead forever?

My opinion on the comeback? My money's on Gertrude. And perhaps Bernard.

Monday, February 2, 2009

after my own heart

See, I'm not the only person who cares about this issue!

On a related note, a friend of mine recently told me that two of his (YES, you read that correctly... I have at least one male reader!) favorite posts on my blog focused on apostrophe usage. He made my day when he shared that my entries caused him to scrutinize his own writing. He now double-checks his written work to make sure that any and all apostrophes are used correctly.

Dr. Blondie... attempting to save the world, one apostrophe abuser at a time.