Sunday, September 13, 2015

Joyful bubbles

Lily enjoys observing and discovering the wonders of the world. Most recently she has been enthralled with the properties of bubbles. Pure joy covers her face as she gazes, anticipates, predicts, and hypothesizes. Doing bubbles with her probably could turn into an extended activity if we let it.

Her awe begins with how they disappear upon touching her, and continues with her seemingly magical powers of touch which dissolve them as well.

Yet, when the bubbles land in the grass, they delicately settle there for a seemingly untimely period, then decide to pop at moments notice. With urgency, Lily pokes them saying, "pop." So many bubbles, so little time.

Upon confirmation of  these magical popping powers, Lily goes to work with fingers posed. No bubble, big or small, is a match for her.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

I pose this question: how easy is it to become wrapped up in life?

The ordinary.

The mundane.

The routine.

The everyday.

The struggles.

Truth time: for me, this can happen rather easily. I often must--very consciously--force myself to step back and see the great value in the routine, ordinary, everyday life.

Working in Human Resources there are those moments when spontaneous conversation necessarily leads more into talk of what it means to be human and alive, rather than discussions about work. Today was just one of those times when I needed to have a general (and valuable) conversation about re-focusing priorities, putting one foot in front of the other, and taking each day as it comes. This general topic at the end of my work day was a reminder for both myself and another person as we shared different sides of our current perspectives and place in life.

I hurried out to my car to drive across Omaha and pick up Lily from daycare, continuing my ordinary, everyday, life-routine. But now, I was thinking about this person and the value of Carpe Diem and seizing the day, regardless of whatever life throws our way.

My regular and ordinary evening continued as Lily and I arrived at home. We let the dogs, Charlie and Lady, outside. I started cooking while firing up iTunes on the laptop. Lily and I discussed what we wanted to listen to and I randomized my favorite Dave Matthews Band songs. I must say that Lily also is forging a great appreciation for DMB. This makes me proud.

We were snacking on pear slices to stave off our hunger before dinner. Lily in her happy, carefree style, was dancing and swaying to the changing beats of the various DMB songs, munching on pears, and sipping water.

The third song was Tripping Billies by Dave Matthews Band.

"Eat, drink and be merry" is one of the common refrains in the song, giving me pause.

How true.

Carpe Diem: eat, drink, be merry.

Let the rest be.

I gazed at my dancing, happy daughter. She had much to teach me in that moment as she shoved a pear in her mouth, shoulders shimmying, a smile creeping across her face.

Often when Lily and I listen to Dave, I say "inappropriate" when the racy lyrics happen, which, let's face it, are often. Trippping Billies is no exception. Dave Matthews shed some light on the lyrics of this song on VHI back in the late 90's, saying it was about he and a group of friends on the beach after dropping LSD and "tripping". Apparently he also made a reference to "Puff the Magic Dragon," when talking about the song, which obviously--in true Dave Matthews style--is a slang reference to drug use and smoking marijuana. While never having ever "tripped billies" in my life, I still am a DMB fan despite many songs and lyrics focused on drug use.

Clearly inappropriate!

However, Lily and I danced away, eating (pears), drinking (water), and being merry because--as the rest of the song goes--"we will die."

Beyond Dave being on the beach tripping, the broader point of the song is to seize the day, enjoy the company of those around you, because it is just too easy to become wrapped up in the ordinary, mundane, routine, everyday struggles of life.

Cheers to life. And shamelessly rocking it out to Dave Matthews with a 15 month old.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Do It Yourself Deck and Fence Refinishing Project

Buying a house leads to endless years where you sweat your personal touches in order to make it home. When we bought our house the owners did an average job of keeping it in good condition. There were obvious areas of waning attention, one of them being the back deck and the privacy fence that wrapped around half of the yard.

The wooden fence was never treated, or if it had been when it was built, it was never touched or maintained after that. The deck had been stained at one point in time but was pealing, weathering, and showing signs of serious neglect. My neighbor's wooden privacy fence dividing our yards is well-cared for and standing strong and sturdy. I've always wanted to match my fence and deck with his fence in order to give our backyard a classy and seamless look.

My neighbor and I had a discussion about his fence and he shared with me the brand and color of stain: Cabot. He stated he did a great deal of research in picking a stain and Cabot is where he landed. He shared it has kept the wood preserved and protected from the elements--he would never use any other product.

Disclaimer: Cabot products will be some of the most expensive you will buy. Regular price, this stain will start at $30 plus per gallon depending on what you choose. The one I purchased was $40 some dollars per gallon but I stocked up on it at Menards when they had a rebate sale per gallon which helped. You pay for what you get, so if you truly are interested in long-term preservation, aesthetic, and life-span of your fence/deck, spending more for a better product is a no-brainer. 

Here are the steps of my successful re-finishing project.

I used a palm sander and belt sander to remove the remaining stain on the deck. I've discovered that this can be tedious but if you skimp on this initial preparation process you are wasting time, energy, and money refinishing because there will not be a clean, solid surface for the new stain to soak into the boards and bond.

After sanding, it is critical to remove any sawdust particles or other remnants. I first swept the entire deck and then used my Shop Vac to vacuum up the remainder. You can never be too sure.

Because the deck had a substandard stain put on it, even after sanding, the wood underneath was dirty and there were spots of mold and mildew growing on it. The next step was to pressure wash the deck. For this I purchased 30 Second Outdoor Cleaner. I mixed this in my sprayer and sprayed it on the deck. Then I used a pressure washer to remove the layers of whatever was on the wood. Honestly, this worked better than I thought. The pressure washer quickly removed thick layers of sludge. Another disclaimer here: wear clothes you don't intend to use again or clothes you don't care much for because the back splash will leave them covered. I threw away two t-shirts after this process. It's also wise to wear goggles to protect your eyes.

For the fence, I skipped the sanding part. Initially, I was concerned about not sanding the fence but the Outdoor Cleaner worked great in removing the outer layers and leaving a prepared surface for staining.

The directions on the Outdoor cleaner suggest waiting 24 to 48 hours before applying any stain or paint. This is a good rule to follow, even if you just pressure wash. You want to ensure the wood is clearly dried out and free of any moisture so that when you apply the stain the boards soak up a decent amount of the stain and you get even and clear adherance.

Finally, the last step is applying the actual stain. You can use a sprayer or sponge, but after some research and starting with a sprayer, I quickly abandoned that method and went to the tried and true brush method. The sprayer would have dramatically cut down the work time but it just looked thick and I was using a lot of stain for the coverage area. Cabot actually recommends a brush even though they say you can use a sprayer. The brush more evenly spread the stain and allowed the product to soak into the wood.

Final disclaimer: this was a time-intensive process. The multiple steps involved to do this correctly meant that the project lasted months because I didn't have a week of consistent work time. Rather, I just worked on each step each weekend when I was off of work. 

The time and effort on this restoration was definitely worth it. The result is beautiful and has really classed-up our back yard.

And I'm certain it also extended the life of the fence and deck. The first rain on the newly re-finished surface impressed me when I went out to inspect how it held up. The water was beading and being repelled from the surface.

Now I just need to maintain this wood over time instead of leaving it to its own defense like the previous owners.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Happy National Dog Day

Tonight at dinner, Michelle graciously informed me that today is National Dog Day. With a brief browse on social media, this day was confirmed. Charlie has been a loyal buddy every since we brought him home as a puppy. Lady's adoption from Little White Dog Rescue has been a great addition into our world. I have little to say in this blog post, aside from the fact that Charlie and Lady are part of our family. So in honor of them, Happy National Dog Day.

Charlie and Lady have become cuddle buddies,
especially when they get to join their humans in the human bed.
When mom comes home from work, Lily, Charlie, and Lady all run to the gate to greet her.
There is no greater feeling than being welcomed home after a long day at work.

Charlie quickly taught Lady how his affinity for blankets
is preferable to just relaxing on the couch.

Charlie is Lily's shadow. They both love gazing out the front door
to survey the neighborhood. In this photo, Lily was telling Charlie
all about the sticks she collected while driving her car.

Just because . . . another sleeping picture proves how much these two must do the same thing.

Lily recently discovered she is big enough to peer out the windows.
Charlie has always loved these low windows in our house.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Plants so great people want to steal them

I'm one of those people that enjoy growing plants. I'm not great at it, but I do take pleasure in being able to keep green things alive and growing. Plus, getting in the dirt is oftentimes therapeutic and relaxing for me as long as the plants are thriving and not dying. I don't have many potted plants for the stressful dying reasons. I feel that potted plants are sometimes more work than they are worth. Additionally there is one thing about potted plants that just annoys the heck out of me: all that draining water.

Let me explain.

For those of you who deal with potted plants, you probably understand what I'm talking about. When you water them, you have to have a good way for the water to drain from the soil otherwise the water sits in the pot, the roots rot because they are too wet, and the plant dies. This is where the stressful part comes in for me. If the holes at the bottom of pot are too small, water doesn't drain well and the plant suffers. So I make bigger hols in the pot so water can drain. But if the holes are too big, the water rushes out usually with nutrients and soil. Then you are watering all the time because the plants dry out too fast and it's annoying because water is running everywhere.

After struggling with this dilemma and almost giving up on potted plants all-together, I had an idea and put it into action. I'm quite pleased with my success.
  1. Find a pot with a generous-sized hole in the bottom (or make one). You want excess water to be able to find its way out of the pot if it makes it to the very bottom.
  2. Buy window screen at your local hardware store. This will be the filter that you place in the bottom of the pot. This will help keep the soil in the pot while allowing any excess water to slowly seep through. Cut a small section of window screen and place the bottom of the pot on it. Trace around the bottom of the pot.
  3. Cut out the size of screen that was just traced. It doesn't have to be a perfect cut because you will want it to come up the edges of the planter a bit.
  4. Then place the cut screen in the bottom of the pot.
  5. Next, fill in one to two inches of rock on top of the screen. I like medium-sized rock (about the size of dimes and pennies) because this allows water to make its way to the bottom of the pot and stay there without overly-saturating the soil.
  6. Obviously, the last step is to fill the pot with soil and the plants of your choice.
I have discovered that this technique works fabulously for both indoor and outdoor potted plants. By doing this, I have been able to cut down on the number of times I need to water because the water doesn't just flow right through the pot and out the bottom. Since the water is slowed down, first through the rocks and secondly through the screen, the soil has adequate time to saturate and the roots of the plants have time to soak up water without becoming overly wet leading to rot. Finally, I have solved my frustrating problem of excessive water and soil escaping out the bottom.

My Shamrock plants do very well out on the porch in the summer and indoors during the winter. They look so great now, that one day when I was at work someone walked up onto our front porch and took one of them. Apparently this is a thing from time to time in our neighborhood, as other people have lost their cherished potted plants to the plant-snatcher.

All my amazing work has led to someone just helping themselves to my things. I know it is only a plant in a pot but when someone takes something of yours or damages it, it feels like a great invasion of privacy. I know that one of my Shamrock plants is probably thriving with someone else now. I hope they enjoy my ingenuity and hard work. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Lady socialization update

It's been about six weeks since the adoption of Lady into our family. We have learned a lot about her in the short time she has been with us. Adopting any animal can be a trying time but Lady has adjusted nicely and is taking her time to make incremental, yet positive progress.

She still absolutely adores her canine brother, Charlie. She follows him everywhere and mimics what he does, mirroring both his good and bad habits. Especially when they are outside together, she follows him everywhere.

When Charlie gets overly happy by running and jumping around the house because we are getting him food, Lady now does the same. She wags her tail fiercely, runs to her food dish, and looks at us longingly with her dark-brown eyes. Previously we had to sit next to her and coax her to eat food. Now, she independently scarfs down the food.

While Charlie goes nuts to meet other people, Lady is extremely cautious and cowers when we head her direction. She isn't as frightened as when we first got her but still takes her time. The hilarious part about her is you know that deep down she wants our love and affection because even though she sinks to the floor in our presence, her tail wags back and forth giving away her true feelings. There have been break-through moments where she comes over to me and gives puppy kisses by licking my hand and arm. Or she carefully takes precarious steps towards me and then sits nicely, looking at me, signaling that she wants picked up to snuggle on the couch. And snuggling is her all-time favorite, even if the humans in her life are the ones to initiate it. Charlie and Lady have become good snuggle buddies too.

Once we were able to get Lady to go for walks on a leash, we experienced accelerated progress in her behavior. She loves going for walks and this evening she went over to the box where we keep the dog items and pulled the leash out of it. Tonight, for the first time, while we were on our short walk, she pooped right along with Charlie. This truly is a big deal as she has become accustomed to pooping inside the house because we're working on her signaling when she has to go.

The dog socialization will be a lengthy progress. I look forward to the results and learning Lady's real personality that is buried underneath.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Charlie and I are outnumbered: The adoption of Lady into our family

Since Charlie's human sister, Lily, entered the world, Charlie has felt a little less loved. It's not that we actually love him any less, however there have been times when Charlie may not have received the full attention he has become accustomed to because we were first taking care of Lily. The reality of having our first child radically shifted who we are and what we do. There has been much casual discussion (sometimes more serious than other times) about finding a canine friend for Charlie. Lily likes Charlie and he loves her, but we thought Charlie would appreciate having a permanent canine brother or sister.

We ultimately decided to take the steps to adopt a foster dog and submitted an application to Little White Dog Rescue, a non-profit organization in Omaha that rescues small dogs. Once our application was approved we frequently scouted the website and ultimately landed upon a four-year-old tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Samantha Jones. Last week we met her and she was a little timid, but sweet, and got along great with Charlie and Lily. Lily thought Samantha Jones was amazing; Charlie pretty much ignored her.

The first meeting went so well the foster mom left our house without the dog. Hours after our first meeting, we changed Samantha Jones' name to Lady. She immediately began exploring her new (to steal a tagline from Little White Dog Rescue) "furever home". Initially, Lady was very cautious around us. She cowered if we were anywhere near her and she liked to plant herself in places she appeared to deem safe: corners, along a wall, or in Charlie's bed. She enjoyed being held but froze when you moved toward her to pick her up. When left alone with Charlie in the back yard her demeanor changed completely. She followed Charlie everywhere and ran around happily. We quickly realized it would take some time for Lady to get used to us and feel comfortable around us.

Already, that is slowly happening. Lady still appears quite nervous but Charlie is her leader and she pretty much goes wherever he does. Immediately she wanted to cuddle with Charlie but he wasn't having it. Even though we bought extra dog beds for her both upstairs and downstairs, she claimed Charlie's. He nicely allowed her to use his beds and he sleeps in the new beds without complaint.

Lily loves her new dog sister, Lady. Charlie is starting to love Lady too. Charlie freely jumps up on the couch to snuggle with us while Lady hasn't quite figured out how to get up on the couch herself. She just waits near the foot of the couch and happily wags her tail until we pick her up to join us. The first time, there wasn't much room for her so she found her spot by laying on top of Charlie. He just allowed her to do whatever she wanted. He enjoyed having the extra cuddle-buddy.

The next day, I first picked Lady up before sitting on the couch, giving her dibs on the spot next to me. Charlie returned the favor by laying partially on top of her.

Charlie and Lady have quickly figured out it is much more comfortable snuggling when their human dad is out of the way.

Human friendships develop and transpire on various levels. Oftentimes instant connections are made between people and something just clicks making them inseparable. Other times friendship can be a more rocky terrain with trials and tribulations, full of tenuous situations or circumstances that somehow bond people together. Regardless of the journey friendships take, humans are social beings looking for connection. I see Charlie and Lady on their own unique friendship path. Dogs, too, are social beings.

I'm certain that Charlie and Lady will become great friends. It's only been a week and more time will help solidify how they change and grow along with our family.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mayhem of a bookworm

Long before I knew I was going to become a dad, I wanted to be a dad. When fatherhood was a certainty, I obsessed over on all the things a dad should do. I was concerned about locating a great daycare. I thought about car safety and car seats. I randomly wondered about the best way to respond when your baby cried. I could continue. . .

One that was an extreme concern to me was language development and reading. As a former English teacher, and a reader, writer, and lover of language, I probably dwelled on this topic more than most parents--and I still do.

Months before Lily's birth, I started her online wishlist of books I thought were a must for her childhood bedroom library. I imagined her and I snuggling up to books, reading, laughing, discussing, and appreciating the written word. My dream for her is that she will grow to appreciate the power of words, and a love for storytelling and its connection to the human spirit.

How would I foster this love for reading and books in my daughter?

That exact question is posed in How To Raise A Bookworm, by Leanne Italie, which my wife, Michelle, shared with me almost a year ago. The piece speaks to much of what I know about the extreme importance of reading to children, even as infants:
  • Parent's should read to kids every day.
  • The sound of a parents voice reading to a child turns on switches in their brain during the first two years of life.
  • Reading with a child is an important interactive experience that more parents should be told to do when they leave the hospital with their baby.
After reading How to Raise A Bookworm, my hope for our daughter to have a love for reading was reaffirmed. I want her to have a rich appreciation for learning language and to grow a strong vocabulary. I want her to question and be engaged in the world around her. I want her to see how stories teach us empathy and help build a foundation for strong emotional intelligence.

Reading requires an ability like no other--one that can be applied (and is important for) other life activities--requiring a stillness of body and mind, intense focus, being able to calm oneself in order to become immersed in ideas and a depth of thought.

So... it is fair to say, I am completely obsessed about reading with Lily. I read with her often.

Today when we arrived at home from work/daycare, Lily was being quite fussy. I couldn't figure out what she wanted, and I tried a variety of solutions I thought might pacify a demanding one-year-old girl. Then it dawned on me. She was pointing to the books on the bottom shelf of the bookshelf near the floor in the corner. And she wanted to get to them. She wiggled her 19-pound body into the cramped area and one by one pulled books off the shelf, opened them, spoke some sort of baby-gibberish while flipping through pages, and then reached for another. Mayhem was left behind.

Then, when we were making dinner, Lily was slowly pulling items out of her bag. I thought she was simply doing what she always does: removing items from something and then returning them. This is a regular, favorite activity.

However, she was actually digging for her books.

I'm well on my way to raising a little bookworm.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The mom club is better than the dad club

I distinctly remember an event that will forever be ingrained in my mind. There are those moments in life that, as they are happening, when I experience them, I'm ever-aware of the significance they hold. This doesn't happen often, these rare, impacting moments. The one that I'm thinking of took place almost a year ago, a week after we brought Lily home from the hospital. I was in the back yard and so was our next door neighbor. He has an aura about him that I just can't place. He is a welcoming man--a father and grandfather. He is the type of guy who came over to greet us when we were considering moving into the neighborhood and house which became our current home.

Now, every time I talk with him through the backyard fence I'm reminded of the 90's hit TV show Home Improvement. Our talks are sometimes reminiscent of those between the characters Tim "the toolman" Taylor and his neighbor, Wilson (minus the weird grunting noises). My neighbor is like Wilson: cool, experienced, collected, and wise. I oftentimes feel like Tim: flying through life untethered, making mistakes every which way.

My neighbor and I were both in the back yard, separated by the red-stained wooden privacy fence. He wanted to know details of Lily's birth. I still hadn't fully comprehended what had just happened to our lives. We were new parents. I was relaying the birthing events to him and talk turned to our wives. I mentioned that I was in awe of the entire experience, saying that Michelle couldn't have been more strong throughout the process. My neighbor's eyes filled with tears, and he gave a faint smile, saying, "She will continue to impress you."

On Mother's Day, I can't get this moment out of my mind. It was the look in his eyes and the fact the he was willing to share the emotion welling up in them. My neighbor couldn't have been more correct: I've grown more fond of my wife, Michelle, now that she is a mother. Her one year of motherhood has shown her resilience, dedication, and unwavering devotion.

She reads countless books about baby development and parenting, incorporating how she wants to parent, all without becoming completely obsessed about one "right" way.

She worries.

She is always planning and preparing everything for Lily--at home and at daycare--while she expertly balances the life of a career woman.

She rolls with the punches when things don't pan out as planned.

She is a career woman.

She laughs.

She never complains through the trials and sacrifices of breastfeeding.

She is often tired.

Have I mentioned she is a career woman?

She is grounded.

She is the best mom.

She continues to impress me.

Fatherhood seems to be an exclusive club among other men. When guys who are dads find out that they are both dads the conversations linger on our kids. In those moments you learn a great deal about the other man. This happens to me all the time: among close friends, colleagues at work, guys at the barbershop where I get my hair cut, and even strangers I randomly meet. The cool thing about this exclusive dad club is that we also talk about our partners--the moms. While we know the dad club is cool, we also recognize the mom club is soooo much cooler. My daughter, Lily, knows this too. She is perfectly fine and happy when her and I are alone together, however the moment Michelle enters the room I become chopped liver and she definitely prefers mom. Oddly, though, Lily says "dad" when prompted to say "mom." Lily smiles and laughs every time she does it. I think she might be enjoying this little trick, almost as if she is planing some sort of surprise, building the anticipation for when she decides to spring the word "mom" on Michelle for the first time.


In honor of the most amazing mother, Lily and I did some shopping and secret scheming for Michelle. Check out our secret-planning selfies:

We've been anticipating spending this Mother's Day celebrating such an amazing person. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Random Racing Ruminations: Week 3 and 2, Hopeful tapering

There are one and a half weeks until the Lincoln Half Marathon.

I would not have anticipated where I am with my training.

My last blog post about training for the Lincoln Half Marathon was over a month ago on March 17th. At that time there were seven weeks until the race. My overall training plan was working relatively well and I was getting back in the habit of running, pushing through the ever-present challenges.

Then, out of nowhere, the biggest blisters I've ever experienced formed on both of my feet. I was determined to power through the pain until I put on my work shoes one morning and the pain was excruciating. I tried continuing to run with the blisters but that just exacerbated the problem. As if that wasn't enough to sideline me, I came down with the second sinus infection of the season paired with an ear infection. And the running stopped.

Rest got my feet and immune system well again. I was ready to hit the sidewalks when my job became a primary priority, so the tapering weeks leading up to the race are essentially me wanting to run but only fitting in an outing occasionally.
Saturday 4/18
(6 miles)
Temperature 62
Mile 1 = 8:29
Mile 2 = 9:23
Mile 3 = 8:53
Mile 4 = 8:52
Mile 5 = 9:46
Mile 6 = 8:36

Last Saturday, there was a one-hundred percent change of rain all day until the evening. We had plans that night, therefor I purposefully began my run early in the cloudy morning. Nearly a mile into the run, slow drops from the sky concerned me. My hopeful request to the universe and a quick shout out to hold the rain until after my run must have worked because soon after reaching the safety of our covered porch at home is when the lightening and thunder released their mighty powers on the neighborhood. The sights of Omaha filled me with pride pushing me along the six miles I ran before the rain. It was a beautiful spring run before the refreshing spring rain.

Thursday 4/23
(4 miles)
Temperature 67
Mile 1 = 8:57
Mile 2 = 8:31
Mile 3 = 8:47
Mile 4 = 8:29

I passed my nightly ritual of putting Lily to bed on to Michelle so I could sneak in a run tonight. There was nothing notable about the mere four miles on the trail in Omaha, aside from the simple fact that it felt good and energizing to be out running again. My only ruminations tonight were on my thwarted training plan and my intentions to still run this race in a week and a half. And then there was the hope for a mildly successful finish. I don't need a spectacular personal record. I hope for health and good feelings the next ten days before May 3rd.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sibling love

Charlie is absolutely, quite totally, obsessed with his human sister, Lily.

In the morning he will sit outside her bedroom door and wait for us to open it when she wakes. Once in the room, he jumps up to her crib, carefully pressing his cold nose between the bars so that he can get a glimpse of her.

He gets away with much more at mealtime now, pacing below Lily's chair waiting for food to drop his way. He often licks her slimy hands clean.

Lily loves her puppy brother in return. In the mornings when Charlie comes into her room, she looks for him as she hears the tap tap tap of his paws and nails hitting the wood floor. Once she is able to spot him through the bars of her crib, she waves and tries to say his name. It basically comes out as gibberish sounds: aaahhhieeee.

Lily constantly watches Charlie pace below her at mealtime. She antagonizes him by leaning over and drooping one hand down to his level so that he can lick her dirty hands. Once in a while, though, she will also dangle a piece of food in the process despite us telling her and Charlie, "No, no!"

Charlie and Lily love each other. Yet, like all siblings, they regularly irritate one another. This love-irritation can coincide at the same moment. Lily scoots along to wherever Charlie leads her. She tries to grab his hair and pull his tail. When she reaches out to him, he proceeds to incessantly kiss her, licking all over her little face. Her only recourse is to hold up her hands in protest, but he is much too wise for that deflection to stop him. He will finally get the point to stop when Lily lets out her high-pitched-throaty-grunt. Yet when he stops licking, she smiles, and goes after him for more.

It's sibling love at it's finest.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Random Racing Ruminations: Week 7, The unexpected around the curve

Before I left work today I went for a four-mile run around the lake. The trail is a moderately challenging one, with multiple inclines and declines. And many twists and turns.

This run had me dwelling on the unexpected around the curve.

The Mallard Duck sitting brightly, standing out from the brown background.

The kite soaring high above the trees, appearing detached from a person on the ground holding the line.

The rustling in the underbrush, making me jump, unable to see what animal caused it.

The other runners, appearing to be moving much faster than me.

But this blog post and my running thoughts were most focused on the unexpected parts of my day. There is much about my work that I can't plan or predict. Obviously I prepare each day and week for what I will prioritize and accomplish. Often, though, my work is dictated by the next person to walk into my office, call my phone, or send me an e-mail. I walk in each day predicting my plan A, B, and C. I learned this early on when I was a high school teacher. Good teachers have a plan for each period they will teach. Great teachers have at least one back up plan just in case something doesn't pan out as anticipated (and that is a regularity with teenagers). Excellent teachers not only have their backup plan, but they are also able to anticipate and read others, being finely attuned to what is happening, and harness the momentum of others incorporating it into the overall good of the plan. Or maybe they just abandon all plans and wing it.

Every corner approaching on the horizon today was a test, pulling me away from my plan. I did my best to hold my composure, anticipate what was ahead, and be as productive in the process. I may have failed miserably, losing my composure.

A solid run around the lake today was exactly what I needed. The blisters on my feet, bigger than ever, are indicative of unpredictable challenges, seemingly metaphors for what I really want to say.

(4 miles)
Temperature 53
Mile 1 = 8:14
Mile 2 = 8:12
Mile 3 = 8:29
Mile 4 = 8:16

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Random Racing Rumination: Week 7, Sacrifice can lead to great feelings

I'm not trying to be a hero. I don't care much about my pace when running or my final time when completing a race. I'm training for the Lincoln Half-Marathon because it is a personal challenge--a mental and physical one. I just want to finish the face and feel good at the end of it. I want to run this race the healthy way.

These were the ruminations in my mind as I was running today. I was thinking about how far I have come. My average pace was 8:38 per mile. When I started running again, my average pace was closer to ten minutes per mile. It's amazing that my pace changed in a short amount of time.

But it was far from easy.

It took steady determination and dedication. It took an early focus on short two to three mile runs. It took a concerted training plan, well-thought-out, researched, and put in my calendar forcing me to stick to a schedule.

It took overcoming my body adjusting to what I was asking it to do: achilles and other foot pain, stretching and strengthening muscles, controlling breathing, dealing with blistering feet, and getting healthy after being sick.

There were (and still are) many reasons to stop. Give up.

This takes sacrifice. Giving up time. Prioritizing. An example was today: I packing my running gear with a plan of running during lunch at work. But then meetings got scheduled. I got interrupted. I pushed my lunch run back to an early afternoon run. Then I convinced myself not to do it. I procrastinated and decided to run when I got home, before I ate dinner. Then there was an accident on the Interstate driving home and I got home late. I was demoralized that my plan was once again changed. And I almost talked myself out of running. But I forced myself to go.

I pushed myself to fight through picking up my pace. I did well until mile four when I had a half mile hill that made me loose control of breathing. I wanted to walk. I thought about walking often. I kept pushing. And after the hill, I was exhilarated, and my breathing fell in line, and I returned to my record pace again.

I'm not trying to be a hero. This is for me. It's a little selfish. I think many runners would agree that running is a selfish act for them also. It's the drive to succeed. It's the determination to overcome sacrifice.

The more I ruminated about sacrifice while running today, the more clarity I had: the sacrifices, no matter how large or small, are a part of our lives. We decide daily where we will and will not sacrifice.

So here's where these thoughts on decisions and sacrifices end tonight. Michelle now has to commute further to work. We have more shared sacrifice on dropping off and picking up Lily from daycare. We both negotiate our careers and parenting, trying to be good at both. We would love for one of us to not have to work so we could stay home with our daughter. But we're not that fortunate. Could we sacrifice more to make that happen? Absolutely. However we've found the most caring, nurturing person to watch our daughter when we are at work. Lily loves this person and we've never felt any angst, guilt, or regret for taking her there. Is it still hard? Yes, oftentimes. But just like running, you push through it. You have a goal. You stick to your plan. You persist. You negotiate and make life work with what you have. Because when you pull up to the house to pick up Lily from daycare, and you see her looking out the window waiting for you, that is one great feeling.

(5 miles)
Temperature 52
Mile 1 = 8:20
Mile 2 = 8:43
Mile 3 = 8:27
Mile 4 = 9:05
Mile 5 = 8:23

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Random Racing Ruminations, Week 8: Going for distance

(4 miles)
Temperature 61
Mile 1 = 9:01
Mile 2 = 8:33
Mile 3 = 8:54
Mile 4 = 8:53

Thursday night I stepped out in the dark of night again. I was tired and had zero energy for running but I forced myself to do it anyway. I'm glad I did because the run felt great and my pace was decent compared to the over nine-minute miles that have been typical. I needed to feel good on this run because the week was a rough one, un-fulfilling with many moments of frustration.

(9 miles)
Temperature 68
Mile 1 = 9:15
Mile 2 = 9:18
Mile 3 = 9:12
Mile 4 = 9:02
Mile 5 = 8:48
Mile 6 = 8:32
Mile 7 = 9:04
Mile 8 = 8:52
Mile 9 = 9:01

Saturday was the longest run since I started running again. Nine miles initially seemed a bit daunting when thinking about it, however, it was quite manageable. I decided to scope out a section of the Omaha Riverfront trail. I parked near Omaha Eppley Airfield, knowing that this section of the trail was not glamorous. I quickly discovered that the view was, in fact, much to be desired. The portion of the trail I was on wound through mostly industrial areas. The sights were dismal and the pungent smells pushed me along. I had a view of the Missouri River for a great deal of the run, but for those of you who have seen the Missouri before you know that it is not a pretty river.

After mile six, the trail slightly redeemed itself. As I approached a light pole looming over a street, I saw a red-tailed Hawk perched up on it. My plan was to stop and take a picture of the stunning beast, but it immediately spread it's graceful wings and took flight before I could get within distance. I watched it just glide across the extremely dry, brown ground caused by winter. I was also able to watch multiple airplanes lift off the the runway of the airport and quickly ascend into the sky.

I did manage to take a couple of pictures to document this running feat, the first one was standing under Interstate 680. The second picture was at the beginning of mile 9, on the way back to my car, when I was able to see the downtown Omaha skyline far in the distance, reminding me how far I had come. And at that precise moment my phone died, erasing the record of my run on my phone. I'm almost certain the run was longer than nine miles, because when I turned around to head back I was already at five miles.

When I returned home and took my shoes off I discovered blisters forming on both of my feet, markers solidifying how far I'd come.

(2 miles)

Temperature 75
Mile 1 = 7:56
Mile 2 = 8:23

Sunday I went for a quick tempo run. I'm sure this was a poor choice with the blisters on my feet but I've become even more determined to push through the challenges. It makes me feel better.

The best days this week were the days I ran. And the two best days were the weekend, spending time with Michelle and Lily just doing ordinary things. I look forward to the weekends (and running) now more than ever.

Lily turned ten-months old and I devoted my tempo run to her.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Random Racing Ruminations, Week 8: Nocturnal

(5 miles)
Temperature 62
Mile 1 = 8:45
Mile 2 = 8:49
Mile 3 = 8:41
Mile 4 = 9:02
Mile 5 = 9:00

Here is the daily battle taking hold of my thoughts and actions: where do I compromise and where do I give in?

This has been the theme for this entire re-dedication to running in my life. I want to make time to train the right way. But I'm competing not just for race day, but also for a fulfilling life. The challenge has been compounded by my need to take care of the people and organization where I work. There is much to do; I've been overly dedicated with my time and the projects I've undertaken. I'm not complaining because my focus at my job is my conscious, deliberate choice. It's my career development and reputation. The faith I have is that the investments I'm putting in now will pay me back in other rewarding endeavors.

Then the guilt sets in. Life is too short to miss moments with my daughter, Lily, growing up. I don't ever want to look back at where I am today and regret my lack of commitment to her and my wife.

And then I will run.

I logged a five mile nocturnal run after staying late at work, eating dinner, and putting Lily to bed. I was one of two (yes, someone else was out in the shadows) crazy souls dedicated through the darkness. My mind was focused on not giving up. Powering through. Keeping up and improving my pace. Centering on the positive. Blocking the negative. Offering up the battle for others. I can honestly say I feel better with each run. My times and distances seem to indicate progress.

Tonight's racing ruminations will lack cohesion since I'm writing this post at 11:37 p.m. It's past my bedtime. Then the battle will begin anew, another day.