A Day Off

I have a day off today, and then another one on Monday.

It is glorious.

It almost didn’t happen.  Typically at the end of August, the department has to finalize a ton of monitoring reports for a big client.  I wrote two that had already been wrapped up and sent off before the deadline.  I was helping a project manager complete two more.  I thought that maybe I could get them reviewed and leave for a day off without guilt, since he’d incorporate the comments as the primary report writer.

Then I found out he was taking today off, too.

But it all worked out.  The reviewer is actually very familiar with the site and my project manager didn’t think I’d need to hang around while she makes her edits, since he felt comfortable with her making the final call on any questions.

So – day off for me.

The reporting was still on my brain, apparently. I had dreams about data and I remember talking to Boyfriend in my sleep about how he should expect data soon.  “What are you talking about?” he said.  “Groundwater concentration data!” I replied.  That’s when my rational brain took over and realized that Boyfriend is a chemist, not an environmental engineer, and does not care about groundwater contaminant concentrations.

Damn it, brain.

So far it’s been a fairly productive morning.  Granted, my bar is set very low.  I’ve been relaxing on the couch for an hour and a half, BUT I revised all my timesheets and made a vet appointment for Puppy later today.  And I’m about to head out on my run.

The pup, by the way, has been super snuggly.  There is construction going on at the floor above Boyfriend’s apartment since that unit had caught fire earlier this year (now, that was a crazy day).  Apollo has not been happy about the construction work and has been very barkative.  The workers have not been helping – they have just been throwing large bags of trash off the second floor instead of walking it downstairs.  The first time I heard the noise, I was convinced that a hit and run had just happened outside. 

On tap for the day – run, lunch, shopping, stop procrastinating on my D&D character and actually make it (it’ll be my first time playing…I feel like I’m going to unlock a nerd achievement when I do), and vet appointment.

I just need to get off this couch and away from this incredibly snuggly dog first.

 

 

The Joys of Country Driving

As I get older, I’ve realized that styles of driving will depend on your locale.  For instance, East Coast drivers are insane and will drive 100 mph like they’re cruising on a Sunday drive.  Drivers in the city I currently live in are generally good, but they’re aggressive and will tailgate without any shame.  And drivers in my hometown seem to disregard basic traffic laws altogether.  Like, it’s totally okay to make a right turn even if you’re in the left lane, and there are other cars in the right lane.

This past month I became acquainted with a whole different type of driving – country driving. Now, not all of it is necessarily bad driving.  It’s just a different kind of driving than I’m used to.  For the past five weeks, my travels have taken me past sleepy Texas towns and lots of farmland.  In my travels, I have noticed the following:

1.  Farmers do not give a FUCK.

So you’re cruising along, going the speed limit (75 mph) when someone pulls out in front of you.  He’s going 50 mph.  And guess what?  Even though there’s a nice sizeable shoulder next to him, he’s probably not going to move over.  So unless you want to pass (which is not always an option), you’re stuck.

In my very scientific survey of the country drivers that enjoyed driving at least 20 mph below the speed limit, all were wearing cowboy hats.  COINCIDENCE?  Of course, but just GO WITH IT OKAY?

2.  Getting stuck behind big-ass farming equipment that takes up half a lane is a thing.

Yeah, so you’ll be cruising down the road, going 75, and then have to slow down to 20 because someone is driving a humongous tractor down the road.  To be fair, the guys I have encountered were always nice and moved over on the shoulder as far as they could.

3.  I’m extremely judgmental of secession stickers, huge pickup trucks, and deer stickers.

I’d like to think that I’m this open-minded individual, and usually I am.  But when I see secession stickers, then there’s just this instant, severe judgment and I DON’T EVEN CARE that I’m doing it.

Also, if you drive a massive pick-up truck with tires as tall as I am, then I automatically assume that you have a micropenis. I’m sorry. But I do.

And unfortunately, my judgment extends to people with those deer hunting stickers on the back of their trucks.  If you are driving like a civil human being, then I’m good.  No judgment extended.  But if you’re tailgating and weaving in and out of lanes, cutting people off as you do?  IT’S ON.

I know it’s wrong of me to do this, but I will correlate your bad driving to the stickers or the big-ass tires you have on your truck.

At least I admit I have a problem, okay?

There was one guy on Tuesday driving badly.  He was tailgating me, even though there was someone in front of me and I couldn’t go any faster than I already was.  He stared at me as he drove by me, then proceeded to tailgate other cars aggressively and cut in front of others like a douche.  He had two deer stickers on the back of his truck, one on either side.  You know, in case you couldn’t tell that he liked hunting from the first sticker.

I’m not saying that everyone who has a hunting sticker automatically drives like a douche, or that the two are even remotely related.  I’m just saying if I see you driving like that and then I see either a secession or deer sticker, then you’re making it so much easier for me to stereotype, even though it’s TOTALLY WRONG OF ME TO DO AND I KNOW IT, SO STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT.

My field work ended this past Tuesday, and while I can say that I’ve enjoyed getting a little more acquainted with country driving, I’m not exactly going to miss it.

Half Marathon Training – Week 1

Last night I had a hard time sleeping.  There were things on my mind that kept me awake, but also – HALF MARATHON TRAINING.

So, I’ve decided to run a half.  It was a tough decision, actually.  I’ve already done a half and a marathon – why not just train for another marathon?  Last week, I went to bed convinced I was going to train for a marathon.  Luckily, I had come to my senses when I woke up.  My body was like, “WAIT A SECOND JENNY, let’s recap.”

-I had not been running with my groups for over a year
-I have not been consistently running anything over 3 or 4 miles for over a year
-I had been extremely burned out from running for over a year

Not really an ideal conditions for marathon training.

But I figured training for a half would be better for me.  It would quench my craving to return to running and social running groups.  And since the training program is six months long, it will also help me get back into long-distance running without putting too much stress on the body.

It was a decision I grappled with even up until this morning, but I’m confident that it was the best decision. I mean, a half is still 13.1 miles.  I can’t let the accomplishment of running a half marathon get skewed.

This morning I excitedly drove to the meeting area, just like I used to for marathon training. After announcements from an overly perky coach, we split up into our groups.  I’m in the yellow group, 9:30 – 9:45 min/mile pace.  It’s the same pace group I was in for marathon training, and I’m really happy in it.

I had brought my iPod with me for our inaugural two-mile run, but I didn’t even need it this morning.  I was chatting with one of my teammates and our coach.  The weather was pretty comfortable, in the high 70s, though a little humid.  One of my teammates moved from Wisconsin.  She freaked out when I told her I’m 29.  “You look 22!” she said.

We finished our run at a comfortable 19:50; since we were training to run the same pace as we would a longer run, we were told not to exhaust ourselves by running a faster pace.

Afterwards we stretched, and chatted more.

It feels so good to be back and running on the trails again!  It makes me so happy to be running again and training for something. Now I need to get busy and buy supplies for the months ahead, like Gu and sport beans.  I need to find my trusty Spibelt.  And I need to load my iPod with some good tunes to keep me going.  My first half was completed at a very comfortable, slow pace.  I really want to improve my PR and get as close to the 2 hour mark as possible.

I can’t wait.

The Running Ninja

Yesterday I decided that it was time to return to my old running group.  I had been wanting to return for at least a month or longer, but kept putting it off.  I hadn’t been running with this group in two years.  Two years ago, I started training with another Wednesday running group and trained with them for about six months.  Then I hit my terrible running burnout that just faded in the middle of this year.  I haven’t been running with a  group since March 2012.

The burnout I experienced has definitely been the worst I’ve hit in the 15-20 years I’ve been a runner.  I knew I would get the urge to run again, but I didn’t know when it would happen.  Not running really affected me in every aspect of my life – physical, emotional, mental.  Running is so much more than a physical workout.  It sustains me and I’m the happiest and most content when I’m running regularly.  When I don’t run, my emotional and mental well-being is just not in sync.

I was hit with the urge to run again this summer – hard.  I felt so nostalgic for my old training groups, for the long runs, for the ache of sore muscles and endorphins after completing a run.  Also, I missed my friends.

My running friends have been trying to get me back out, and I’d always joke around that one day I would just be a ninja and show up without telling anyone.  I had been chatting with my running friend Richard on Facebook yesterday, asking him how he finds so much spare change (I’ve found maybe $2 this year at the most; he averages that much in a week.)  “You need to run again,” he said.  I didn’t tell him I was planning on showing up that evening to the group.

When I got in the parking lot, I nervously turned off my car, took a deep breath, then got out of my car.  It was finally time to be a ninja.  And what did I find, in the parking lot? A penny, heads up.  I picked it up as a talisman.  I walked towards the group and my old friends had smiles on their faces.  “I found a penny!” I told Richard; he couldn’t believe it.

The group partnered up and ran 0.3 mile intervals.  My partner and I ran 8 of them total (we originally were going to do just seven but were peer-pressured into running eight).  I felt so happy to be running again.  The weather was cool for August, the lake was beautiful, and the song that had been my staple during my marathon training in 2011 played on my iPod:

Down crooked stairs and sideways glances
comes the king of second chances…

I’m so happy I finally decided to keep my promise of being a ninja and returned to my group.  And I was told that my form is still good, and that I haven’t lost it, which made me really happy to hear.  I need a good form if I’m going to train for a half marathon.

Stop With the Slacktivism

It would be nice to get on Facebook and not see pictures of abused or dead animals.  I’m not posting this to cause any drama or call anyone out specifically, because a lot of people do it.  Their hearts are in the right place.  And I respect that. I really do.  And I understand that sharing these pictures is meant to raise awareness about these issues and to start a dialogue.

But if you think about it, sharing these pictures is just slacktivism.  What good does posting these pictures actually do?  Does sharing these pictures actually help the plight of abused or shelter dogs? I can understand sharing items about dogs who need good homes.  But pictures of dead or abused animals?  Consider your general audience on Facebook – aren’t most of them animal lovers?  If not, then send those pictures to them individually.  The rest of us don’t need to see it.

And I suppose I could just “scroll down” but it’s kind of hard to ignore when the pictures take up half of your browser.

 

A Tiresome Tuesday

Tuesdays for the month of August have been pretty exhausting.  On these days, I conduct field work three hours away from where I live.  It’s fairly run of the mill – I have to collect water quality parameters while work is being done on site.  I have to be on site by 10:30.  I wake up at 5:45 that morning so that Puppy can have a chance to stretch his legs, eat, play, and wreak whatever havoc he wants before I leave.  We usually spend that hour together watching Breaking Bad (I’m on Season 4, so no spoilers or else I will hate you forever).

At 6:45, I put him in a nice big cage with a blanket, toy, and water, and leave for the site.  After my arrival, I collect my parameters (usually, there are at least one or two wells that do not want to cooperate, which can be very frustrating).  After four or five hours of work, I drive the three hours back home, play with Puppy, and then take him to training class.

For the past 4 weeks, weather on site has been sunny, hot, and humid; it’s your standard Texas August heat.  But today there was rain.  It was not heavy rain, but just steady enough to be a nuisance.  As long as it’s not lightning, field work must continue.  This morning, I nervously parked my truck next to my wells and began calibrating my equipment, keeping a sharp eye to the ground.  It started getting soft and muddy. I’ve already gotten my truck stuck before at this site during a rain event, so today I moved the truck to higher, more solid ground.  I’m glad I did, since I could feel the ground getting softer beneath the tires as I drove.  Of course, I wasn’t smart enough to empty my equipment out of my truck before moving it, so I carried it all back to the wells.  A contractor on site was kind enough to lend me a large umbrella and a trash bag – the trash bag would keep my equipment safe from the rain, while the umbrella would keep me dry.  I had rain gear on but was still soaked.  My jeans clung to my legs and my socks and shoes never dried throughout the day, even as it stopped raining.

I was chilly at first but started to warm as I kept dry under the umbrella.  I collected my parameters and actually left the site in record time, even as I had to carry all my equipment back.  The drive back was a bit tiresome.  Driving on country roads can be easy since they aren’t as populated, but they can be challenging at times.  Sometimes people will drive 30 mph below the speed limit, or drive huge farming equipment down the highway.  Today a semi tried passing the truck in front of me up, but as another car approached in the oncoming lane, he cut me off and got in front of me.  He was carrying flammable cargo, which was reassuring.

When I got home, I did not take Puppy to training class. I instead sat on the couch, tossed toys for him, and watched more Breaking Bad while working on a cross-stitch project for my cousin.

I am tired.  My left ankle is sore for an unknown reason.  I can already feel chigger bites on that same ankle.  The dog was hyper and bit my nose while we were playing.    I would just like to sleep for the next ten hours.

But I feel accomplished that my day’s salary, and the relaxation I’m experiencing now, was well-earned.

Sometimes I Still Act Like a Child

This past weekend was great.  Boyfriend and I headed to our hometown for my friend’s wedding, and for my godsister’s birthday party. My friend and I had been best friends in high school, but drifted apart shortly after we graduated.  We reconnected last year and I was so happy to be invited to her wedding.   She was a beautiful bride.  She married a great guy, and the wedding was so lovely.

Being at home for these happy events made me alternately happy and nostalgic for the past. But even if being at home this weekend evoked memories of my younger days, I was reminded that I sometimes do not act my age.

When I was fifteen, my family and I attended a Catholic wedding.  I had not grown up as a Catholic and was not familiar with the traditions of a Catholic wedding.  At one point in the ceremony, the priest began singing a capella.  And I cracked UP.  Something about the priest singing spontaneously made me hysterical. I tried very hard not to laugh but failed miserably.  I was mortified; my dad was a teacher and this church was full of teachers from his district.  But despite my mortification, I could not stop myself from laughing.

I had just finished telling Boyfriend this story when my friend’s wedding started.  She looked so beautiful and serene, walking down the aisle with her father. They were walking to a sweet song about a father walking his daughter down the aisle to her new husband (I think it is called “Sweet Walk” by Edwin McCain).  I traditionally don’t do very well with sappy father/daughter songs.  At my aunt’s wedding, she and my grandfather had danced to “Butterfly Kisses.” I was sixteen but could not keep it together. I started bawling, and as my father hugged me, I whispered fiercely, “I HATE THIS SONG.”

So perhaps that’s why I was trying to find any reason not to cry as my friend was walking down the aisle with her dad.  My own father was right behind me, and I was trying not to think just how emotional that moment my friend was experiencing must be.

So, when the song skipped, I was horrified to find myself stifling a giggle.  No one else was laughing – not Boyfriend, not my parents, not even the middle-school aged child in the pew behind me.  I was the only one.

They continued their walk and as I watched my friend, I remembered when we were fourteen-year-old girls, passing notes to each other, writing the names of our crushes in code.

The song skipped again.

I bit my lip really hard to keep from giggling again. I’m not sure I succeeded very well.

If I could please psychoanalyze myself without an ounce of psychiatric training, I’d say I was trying to find anything to keep me from bursting into tears at how beautiful it all was.

Finally, as the pastor announced the brand-new couple as husband and wife, I found my eyes welling with tears and happiness.

Next time, I’ll just start crying when the bride walks down the aisle, so that I don’t embarrass myself or my family again with my inappropriate laughter.