Tag Archives: humor

Running Fast

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I run more than I used to. And much faster.

 

For the longest time, I had a set running scheme. Twenty jumping jacks, hop on the treadmill, start at 6.4 speed, increase the speed one tenth every half mile for two miles, slow back down to 6.4 for the third mile, speed up a decimal every quarter mile until I hit mile 3, then speed up to 7.0 until I got to 3.11 miles, or a 5k. Stop. Stretch.

 

I’ve always been sluggish. I’ve never been quick on my feet. My legs are disproportionately short and squat compared to my longer, leaner torso. I’m not built for speed. I was proud of my nine-to-ten minute miles, since 7th grade me could barely puff out a mile in 14 minutes and always had to stop and walk.

 

Then I had a conversation with one of our church teens. He’s a he, considerably taller than me, with long skinny legs and long flailing arms. He attends the school I attended when I was a teenager, and one of the features of their physical education program (as is the case with every phys. ed. program) is a regularly scheduled timed (and graded) mile run. We were comparing mile times; I rather proudly told him I could run a mile in about nine minutes.

 

He looked at me in wonder. “Nine minutes?” he said, almost pityingly. “That’s like, a D.”

 

Even though I know this boy well enough to know that he would never intend to hurt, I broke a little inside. I had worked hard for several years to get that fast. I was only able to make it to the three-mile mark in the last four years (my first time was when I was 20). I have managed very well for a person who is not genetically predisposed to athleticism. I’ve rarely even experienced “runner’s high”—running doesn’t feel good until I’m finished running. The act of running isn’t very fun, but it’s the most straightforward thing I’ve figured out to do that helps me stay healthy. As someone with no coordination, questionable depth perception, and a visceral aversion to group activities, sports are a significantly less enjoyable fitness option. Yoga, though and fun and challenging alternative, doesn’t get my heart rate up. I love feeling my heart thud confidently through the miles; I love the feeling of my springy knees; I love coming to the end of a few miles knowing I earned the warmth radiating from and through my muscles. So I run. Not fast. Just determinedly, and consistently: at least five times a week at varying distances.

 

I wasn’t about to take anyone’s pity for not being able to run fast. The following Monday, I started a mile at my usual finishing pace (7.0, or about an 8.75-minute mile) and sped up a bit every minute. I surprised myself with my first 8.25-minute mile.

 

Of course, I couldn’t let myself stop there. I had to get faster, and I had to be faster over longer distances. I kept my established pattern for 5ks, but kept increasing my starting speed. I would do 2-mile interval runs, alternating a minute of sprinting with a minute of running at an easier pace until I reached 2 miles, always finishing at my maximum speed. I would run a mile at a time, going as fast as my legs and lungs could carry me. I supplemented with weighted leg exercises, like squat jumps and calf raises and walking lunges and many, many more. I would choose my pre-run meals carefully, making sure that I would be full but not too full and sufficiently carbed up for my fastest and easiest pace.

 

Soon I could run 2 miles in 16 minutes, which quickly shrank to 2 miles in 15:23. My 5k time went down from 28 minutes to 25 and change. Occasionally I can go for 4 miles without killing myself (although my feet have taken a beating).

 

This week, I ran a 5k in my shortest time ever: 23 minutes and 58 seconds, or about 7 minutes and 45 seconds per mile. Today I ran 4 miles at an easier pace of about 8.5 minutes per mile, finishing in 32 minutes and 43 seconds.

 

All of this information is, I understand, more or less meaningless statistics on a runner who will probably never run in any race longer than a 5k. I realize that there are hundreds if not thousands of people out there who can run much faster than me and who probably think a 7:45 mile is embarrassingly slow. I understand that, so laugh all you like.

 

But I am proud of myself. I am fast, sort of. And I am getting faster.

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Brace Yourselves

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Autumn is coming.

Autumn is coming and I am prepared.

All of my sweaters are condensed into one drawer. A pair of second-hand leather oxford shoes arrived in the mail today. My flannel shirts are hung in my closet with care. I’m knitting a long, warm scarf.

I bought one of those crazy Peruvian patchwork jackets for a fraction of its original cost because the zipper doesn’t zip. I’ve wanted one for years, but didn’t want to shell out the $40 to own one. This one is forest green and orange and pink and covered in vine-like embroidery and looks like fall itself and was only $8. It’s hanging by my door, begging to be worn on long walks and shuffles through heaps of crackling leaves. Who cares if it won’t zip? I never zip my jackets anyway, not unless it’s really cold.

My colorful clogs have been sitting in a bin by the door, waiting. Just waiting.

I’m born again every fall. I write more. I think more. I breathe more. I take more walks. I drink more coffee. I’m freer, wilder. I wear my hair down after months of doing everything in my power to keep it off of my neck. I can see everything more clearly.

Autumn gives me hope.

The air cleans itself up. The sky gets bluer. It’s harder to think about all the awful things going on in the world when it’s autumn.

Autumn has always been about fresh starts and new beginnings. Every school year starts in fall. Every new term starts with a new stack of books and new pens and pencils and notebooks. All those blank pages, so crisp and full of potential. All those heavy books, too thick to devour in one bite, that must be taken in piece by piece until they’re a part of you.

Autumn means new adventures. Although I’ve never done much traveling in Autumn (and I probably never will), my mind travels with a little help from a lot of books, and that is usually enough.

I love Autumn.

Which is why this unrelenting heat is unbearable on almost a spiritual level. It was 95 degrees outside today. Ninety-five. My soul is ready for bonfires and marshmallows and pumpkin spice lattes, and it’s 95 DEGREES OUTSIDE.

But I’m hopeful. It’s supposed to rain next week. Rain means a cold front. Rain means a change in pressure. Rain brings change. Rain brings the autumn.

And I’m ready.

Clean

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Few things trigger my anxiety more than having a cluttered home.

My mother will laugh as she reads this, because I do not hold the title of “tidiest person in the Rambler household.” In fact, I’m pretty sure I was never even the runner up. My definition of orderly doesn’t always align with most people’s. As a general rule, though, I prefer to see straight lines and empty spaces and recognizable stacks and clean surfaces and no trash littered around. I do like having more things to look at—those sleek, modern spaces with no more decoration than a vase on a table are, in my mind, impersonal and cold—and since I own so many things there tends to be quite a bit to look at and to keep in line.

I can tolerate clutter to a point. I generally know where things are. I may not be able to easily access them at all times, and when I’m in the middle of a project or a semester I prioritize art over tidiness, but I always try to keep things clean.

My orderliness comes in waves. Over time, clutter and dust and grit build up in my space: bits of paper, stacks of books, discarded clothes. I’ll ignore or put off the rearranging of these possessions until I see clutter everywhere and seeing the clutter makes it difficult for me to breathe. Empty spaces are driven to extinction by little piles, little assemblies of things I’m sure I’m not responsible for and weren’t always there yet somehow are now.

I’ve lost control of my space. It will get to a point where I don’t know where things are. Until I can get it under control again, to a state where everything has a place and sits there, ready for use, I cannot enter my home without feeling extreme stress.

So I’ll snap and clean everything.

On my own, when I had a room in my parents’ house instead of a whole apartment, I could keep a state of order and cleanliness for a solid two months, maybe more, before noticing the need for a straightening up.

Add another person—particularly a person whose standard of orderliness is (perhaps, maybe) even less conventional than your own—and that length of time dwindles rapidly to the course of one week, maybe, before everything is in disarray again.

It is one thing entirely to convince oneself that items like pencils (or pens, shoes, clothing, whatever) need to be returned to the same location after use for greater ease of finding that item again when needed in the future. It is another thing entirely to convince the person you live with that the practice of returning things to a designated location is a good idea.

One person trying to keep a good habit is hard. Two trying to do it together is harder.

That aside, even with the best intentions towards tidiness and minimalism can be thwarted by the arrival of new items into a small space. And, over time, once enough items accumulate, even my perpetually somewhat untidy (and hoard-y) self decides it’s time to get rid of some stuff.

All that to say I’ve spend that last two weekends getting rid of stuff.

I got rid of clothes. I got rid of yarn. I got rid of kitchen stuff I haven’t used in a year. I tossed old papers. I cleaned out drawers. I cleaned out the closet. I cleaned off the dresser. I got things out from under the kitchen table. I reorganized the cabinets in the kitchen. I sanitized counters. I scrubbed and shined and vacuumed. I took bags of stuff out the door never to be seen again.

I can see so much more of my floor. The nightstands are free of superfluous nonsense. You can open the closet door all the way inward. My dresser drawers open and close without a fuss. You could perform surgery on my countertops, they’re so sterile.

Most importantly, our shared space is now much more serene, much easier on the eyes, and we know where everything is and can access it easily.

I hope it lasts the week.

Sick Day

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Last week, I wished I could get sick.

I’m one of those people who really likes being alone. By “alone,” I don’t mean going to busy places by myself, shopping by myself, driving by myself (although all of those activities can be very therapeutic). No, I like to be by myself, in a quiet room, doing quiet activities. All alone.

I don’t get to do that. Being alone might happen for a few hours on Saturday. Might. I spend most of my waking hours around other people. While I’m sure that’s probably very good for me, I don’t get much time to recharge.

But, I reasoned, if I get sick, then I’ll have an excuse to stay home, not leave my apartment, not talk to people, and do whatever creative stuff I want. Aside from being sick, I thought, I’d have a mini vacation.

One week later, I am sick. Not deathly ill. I was sicker back in January when a cold erupted into a mongrel flu-sinus-infection hybrid that floored me for weeks and also somehow gave me insomnia. No, this time I have a fever and a headache and decreased appetite. Piece of cake.

I mean, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. But other than that, I’m great.

I got a whole day to knit and write and read. I’ve taken two bubble baths in the last 24 hours. I’ve dived into a stack of Poets & Writers I’ve been meaning to catch up on for months. I wrote in my journal. I cranked out six inches of a double-knit scarf.

Funny how something as seemingly inconvenient as a sick day can turn out to be such a blessing in disguise.

Of course, my first day of classes is tomorrow, and I don’t want to miss it. So there’s that.

If only I could have gotten sick a week ago.

Not that I’m complaining of course.

Food

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I’d be so skinny if it weren’t for all the food.

I’m an active person. I work out five days a week, six during the school year and I need to unwind a bit on Saturdays.  Running and weightlifting and stretching. Intervals. Bodyweight stuff. Yoga. I’m like a cat in a puddle of sunshine in terms of activity for all the hours of the day spent not in a gym, but for that one hour I am in the gym, I’m a machine. I’m on fire. I’ve shaved about five minutes off of my average 5k time in the last three months. I run about 10 miles a week. I can hammer curl 15 pounds and do 20 full-body pushups in a row without collapsing. I am a firm believer in a daily minute-long plank. I limp after leg day.

Yet, in spite of my herculean efforts in the gym, I’m encased in a lingering layer of comfortable fluff. Mostly in the sitting region. And, as I age, more around my waistley region. There’s a roll or two (or three) present when I sit down. I’ve got my fair share of cellulite and stretchmarks. There’s nothing remotely fitness modelish about me, and there never will be.

For the most part, I enjoy being stronger and faster than I’ve ever been so much that I don’t notice the persistent fluffiness, and even if I do, I don’t let it annoy me. After all, my diet is more conducive to weight maintenance than loss.

I eat healthy, too. I make everything myself. I eat mostly veggies and fruit with some meat and grains. I drink water, coffee, and fruit juice in moderation.

Mostly.

People keep giving me dessert.

Okay, there keeps being dessert available and I keep eating it.

Because dessert is delicious.

Because whoever came up with the phrase “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” clearly has never had my mother’s homemade chocolate cake. Or my peach pie, for that matter. Or, well, food.

But all things should be consumed in moderation.  Including dessert. Especially dessert.

I keep telling myself I’m going to go off dessert for a while. No sweets but dark chocolate (because it’s good for me). I feel much better, have more energy, and run faster when I cut back on the sweets.

The trouble with this plan is that all seasons are eating seasons. Let me explain. All seasons have some sort of treat that I absolutely must have (or absolutely will encounter and be unable to resist) at least once while that season lasts.

Spring: chocolate cake (for my birthday), cake at all the graduation parties and weddings, Easter candy.

Summer: peach pie, peach ice cream, ice cream in general.

Fall: pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes, Dunkin Donuts’ pumpkin cake doughnuts, pumpkin everything, if there’s pumpkin in it I want it, also apple pie. And Halloween candy.

Winter: baked chocolate pudding, Christmas cookies and other miscellaneous goodies.

My fitness life is a cycle of nibbling away at treats I love every season and not being given adequate time to detox before another season of deliciousness strikes me in the core (and the thighs and the tush and, well, you get the picture).

To make matter worse, I work an office job. There is always baked stuff. Our department has a doughnut fund. I have a hard time saying no to doughnuts.

Life is too short not to enjoy the sweet things. Even if it’s not very dietarily responsible.

So as long as there are seasons, there will be sweets, and as long as there are sweets, I’m going to be fluffy.

Oh, well. Pass the cookies. I’ll run an extra mile.

Sweat

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It’s summer. This should come as no surprise to anyone. After all, it’s July, and while that may mean chilly temperatures for our friends in New Zealand, here in Southeastern America it means heat.

Heavy, sticky, disgusting heat.

Heat that seeps through the drywall. Heat that no car AC can hope to defeat. Heat that filters in through unshuttered windows and hovers above leather seats and steering wheels.

The South is humid. Unlike the West, where the air may be hot but remains breathable, the perpetual 50% humidity of the South turns air of any temperature into barely inhalable soup. Puddles from occasional rainstorms stay for days, and sweat has nowhere to go.

Summer in the South means you never. Stop. Sweating.

Okay, maybe normal people do. I don’t.

Something happened to me when I started my 20s. Something awful. I used to be one of the few teenagers that never, ever got a pimple, glistened vaguely during workouts, and smelled like a flower garden 88% of the time. But my 20s hit and boom, acne and buckets and buckets of inexplicable sweat.

I suspect I have some rare breed of adrenal issue that I might just have inherited from my father. We both have issues with heat. My father and I both start feeling uncomforatbly warm at around 70 degrees (that’s 21 degrees for my friends in New Zealand). We start dripping sweat at 75. Eighty and we’re swimming in our own natural coolant. Ninety and we’re drooling over travel brochures on northern Russia.

I seem to have an added complication to my sweat issue. I sweat when in situations where I have to socialize with strangers or even acquaintences. I sweat at parties. I sweat when I get in front of people to speak, sing, or otherwise perform. I sweat if I sit still too long. I sweat when I stand too long. I sweat if I have to wait in line anywhere, especially government offices. If you see me in any social context where I am thinking of the next thing I have to say, you’ll probably see me with my hands tucked under my arms, not because I am nervous or emtionally gaurded but because I’m trying to gauge just how large the sweatstains under my arms are growing and at what rate and what on earth can I do to hide them.

And that’s just in the fall and winter. In the summer the nightmare gets about 1000x worse.

My poor long-suffering spouse spends his July evenings in flannel pajamas burrowed into a pile of quilts while I sprawl out in shorts and a tank top next to our window AC unit which is allegedly blasting 60 degree air while my sweat glands remain unconvinced. (That’s 15 degrees for our friends in New Zealand.)

And yes, I know what you’re thinking. “Just buy some antiperspirent deoderant. Problem solved.” Yes, sure, but only if they manage to put it in a spray bottle and in large enough quantities to coat my whole body in it every day from May to November.

Or, as an alternative, I could just relocate to a different climate for the summer months. Somewhere like New Zealand.

 

 

 

Milestones

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I’ve been blogging for almost four years, and I didn’t even start a countdown.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about who I was four years ago. I’m not overfond of that version of myself, but one can’t deny one’s own history.

The me from five years ago…how that was a girl. Six years ago and my, my, you wouldn’t know me. I had so much fire.

Four years ago, I had no idea who I was anymore. I had my walls torn down and my foundation cracked and I was so confused. I had to start all over from the beginning.

That’s when I met me from three years ago. That’s a me I never want to forget. That’s a year I never, ever want to forget.

And the thing is, I won’t, I can’t. Because it’s all here, on the blog. Every day. There’s a snapshot here for every late night, every early morning, every road trip, every escapade. I even saw me fall in love on this blog.

This blog saw me graduate. This blog saw me start my first full-time jobs. This blog saw me married.

Me from six years ago wouldn’t recognize me now. I had so much fire then. Now I have coals.

But goodness knows coals burn hotter.

Gifts

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We are unusually blessed as a couple. We have families that love us individually and together, distant relatives we gladly call our friends, a perfect wedding, a warm and happy home, employment…the list goes on. God has been good, for sure, because we certainly don’t deserve to have all that we do.

We were even blessed (abundantly) with wedding gifts. People gave us everything we asked for, everything we needed and didn’t know we did, and some extra nice things that we’dnever dream we’d own.

These weeks beging the process of thanking all of these lovely people.

However, some gifts seem to have mysteriously appeared. They had no card or name attached, and one had a card but no name. Process of elimination won’t let me figure out who they are–the list is too long, and there are too many variables.

So will the giver of the bag with the cookie sheets, bundt pan, wooden spoons, cake pans, and the 9×13 insulated baking pan, the bag with the navy blue towels, and the bag with the pizza stone please stand up?

Thank you so much, whoever you are.

It Was Like This

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There was a lot I was going to get done this afternoon after church.

I was going to write thank you notes to all the lovely people whogave us wedding gifts. I have a long list of people to thank, and the more I can get done the quicker I can, the better things will be.

I was also going to try an read a little. I love reading, and I never have time to sit down and read something that isn’t an email. I have a really long list of books I’ve read a few chapters from and had to set aside because of school. School is coming again, and even though I’ll only be taking one class, I know life will find ways of being busy and I won’t get to read anymore. Unless it’s for class.

I also wanted to write in my journal, which I haven’t touched since the night before the wedding. There’s a lot that needs recording (such as how the wedding went) but I haven’t had a moment to sit down and record all of those important memories.

But you see, it rained. It was Sunday afternoon, and it rained. A gentle, grey, cool rain that fell lullingly on the roof, on the grass, on the road outside my parent’s house where we were spending the afternoon.

I was forced to nap. I promised myself I would only sleep for thirty minutes, but I was in the coolest and greyest corner of the house, and my stomach was pleasently full, and there was the rain steadily drumming…

I had no choice but to sleep for two hours.

I’m sorry.

Long

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I had forgotten how long the first week after a vacation can be.

I had forgotten how quickly it feels as if last week was a year ago, or a dream.

Yet I was away long enough that my legs and lungs forgot how to run, and retraining myself back to a 5K, though it took less time than I thought it would, seemed very, very long. Retraining myself for yoga after weeks of not doing so much as a downward facing dog, was embarrassingly challenging.

My legs and arms ache a little from the effort.

My head wasn’t used to thinking about my job. I had to reteach myself the jargon and relearn where we keep everything in the file system. And that’s probably why my head hurts as much as it does.

It’s Friday. And that’s a beautiful thing.

But it took its sweet time getting here.

Organized Chaos

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Our apartment is hilariously tiny.

Imagine one slightly oversized hotel room. Now put a wall with one door down the middle. Slap a kitchenette on the back wall of one half and a closet and a closet-sized bathroom back to back on the back wall of the other half.

This glorious little box is our home.

Figuring out where to put things is a bit of a riddle. Thankfully, the closet is large for a closet, so our default answer for “where do we put this” is “the closet…somewhere.” Our large-ish closet is now not only our clothes closet, but also our linen closet, our utilities closet, our laundry closet, and remote storage for things that won’t fit in the kitchen.

Because space is so tight, it’s taken a while for things to filter into their proper places. There’s quite a bit under the bed (in boxes, of course, not haphazardly thrown), and there are still stacks of random items on the floor (which are constantly tripped over). What we want hung on the walls is sitting by the baseboards, waiting for us to have time to hang them, and a lot of our decor is plopped unstrategically around the apartment, waiting for the day when all the essentials will find a home so the aesthetics can settle into place.

I finally carved a path to my desk today. I arranged items on the desk into neat little piles for later sorting. If the desk can look clean, then there’s hope.

And I am quite content.

Drowsy

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It’s not that I’m still in vacation mode, because I’m not. Two weeks away was enough relaxation (sort of) and I’m not really all that tired (okay, that was a lie. I’m tired.)

My boss warned me that this would happen. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, he kept telling me how it took him and his wife months to recover from the whole matrimonial experience. They went to bed at eight every night because they couldn’t stay awake any longer. He told me that no matter how long I was away, I would still come back tired.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. I slept 8-12 hours every night of our trip. I’m still getting close to seven hours every night, yet I’m ready for a nap by 9:00 AM.

Maybe it’s because I’m at work all day, followed by unpacking and organizing the apartment at night, as well as spending the evenings sorting out banking things and other tedious adult matters. And then I sleep, get up, and do it all over again.

I’m glad to be back, but I still wish there was more sleep involved.

Perks of Having a Husband (At Least, Perks of Having MY Husband)

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  1. He’s good at surprises.
  2. He enjoys cooking. And the resulting meals are delicious.
  3. He has more experience doing laundry than I do.
  4. Free hugs.
  5. He’s handy with computers. And numbers. And I’m not.
  6. He comes with a Netflix account and a Spotify account.
  7. He carefully selects the music he’ll have playing when I get home.
  8. He’s good at installing or dismantling things, like taking down shower doors and replacing them with a shower curtain.
  9. He also enjoys sleeping with the AC going full blast and a fan on.
  10. He helps me write blog posts.

Different

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I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I feel any different, now that I’m married. This question has come to me from both people who are married or people who have never been married. It seems that there’s a universal assumption that being married “feels different” from being unmarried, as if something about matrimony changes people at a cellular level.

I have an increasing number of married friends. Every week, more of my friends end up married, and all of them have weighed in on this feeling (sometimes because I asked). Suddenly, I’m married, which is something I never thought would happen. Yet it has.

Yet, aside from surprise and delight, I feel no different from the Risabella Rambler of three weeks ago. I feel exactly the same.

Exactly the same, but more so. Not an ounce less than what I was before, yet somehow the essential pieces of myself have become amplified. I am more myself than I have ever been before. I do not feel shackled; I feel absolutely free.

No, I do not feel different. AB and I talked about this, and he doesn’t feel any different either. We both feel very much ourselves. More comfortable, more us, than we have ever been. We are finally where we belong, so what we feel is contentment and peace and wholeness.

Yet I felt content and peaceful and whole before marriage as well. Just not to this degree.

Nothing has changed. Everything has changed.

It’s quite a paradox.