Thursday, July 21, 2016

Twenty Minutes Straight

The woes of the world have been getting me down this week, and I skipped Sunday's run and then Tuesday's too.  And after such a beautiful run last time too!  Sigh.  I forced myself into my pink shoes and out the door this morning, determined not to let myself slip-and-slide deeper into Ye Olde Depression, figuring I'd run the first five minutes of Week 5's podcast then do a walking break, repeat-til-done.  At five minutes, though, I felt good enough to go for eight, and at eight, I knew I could run ten--and was amazed at what an experience I'd had to push myself to have at all was turning into--and soon enough, my Garmin-watch read "[Time-Run:  14 minutes and however-many seconds]," and I decided I was way too close to twenty-minutes-straight at that point to stop.  ("Now, I figured since I'd run this far," explained Forrest Gump, "maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. . . .")  :)  Maybe everything on my mind just distracted me enough mentally to make it easier to do physically, but I completed the twenty minutes and felt okay at the end of it.  Last month at this time, I hadn't even (re-)started running yet!  It's fascinating to me what the body adapts to and learns.  Onward and upward, then.  Twenty minutes straight! Now we're getting somewhere. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Day Off

After working about thirty hours of overtime this week:  Finally, a day off.  And with The-World-at-Large seemingly spinning out of control, I feel a bit guilty saying that it has been such a sweet day here.  A big bowl of cinnamon-topped berries this morning.  A nap that didn't leave me feeling groggy.  A small birthday package mailed to my almost-twelve-year-old nephew.  Emails to and from cousins.  A grilled cheese-and-zucchini sandwich for lunch.  A taco salad for supper.  Iced tea with lemon all day.  And ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, best of all, a run tonight that was the first in my life I think I've ever loved.  It was 9 pm when I left the apartment for it, making it the latest I've ever run, and it was like a beautiful dream the entire half-hour.  The sky was setting as I did my warm-up walk, the moon misty behind coral-pink and deep lavender-gray clouds.  Fireflies appeared and disappeared in front of me as if lighting my path the entire run.  One even landed on my shirt.  A cat peeked out at me from a yard's side-gate and didn't make a move toward the street as I always fear cats will even though I'd impulsively cooed, "Oh, pretty!  Hello, Sweet Face" as I passed him.  I ran faster than on all my previous runs since re-starting the running last month.  The trees were soon silhouetted black against a now-all-lavender sky.  A family was playing tag under the lights on a school's lacrosse field.  And I ran so easily tonight, it made up for the harder moments from this past month.  I'm now halfway through the nine-week program, and it is so exciting to feel my own progress.  By the end of next week, I should be running twenty minutes without stopping.  Twenty minutes!  I treated myself to a bouquet of pink roses this evening to celebrate.    And soon will be in bed with a book.  Bliss.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sweet Vickie

This past weekend marked five years since a most-precious reunion.  In July 2011, Vickie of the Red Hair and Sweet Smile traveled from New York to attend my younger brother's wedding, and her visit marked the first time we had seen each other since I was a baby. 
I'd heard about sweet Vickie all my life because she is Mom's best friend from high school, and she and Aunt Laurie have long been dear friends, as well.  Vickie's husband Mark was best friends with my uncle Warren, Aunt Laurie's husband, and my aunt and uncle would eventually name their son after him.  These are bonds that began in the 1960s for them all, and I grew up hearing stories of their friendships.  Mom and Vickie used to ice skate behind Vickie's parents' house, and "Ohhhh, of course, Vickie had this gorgeous ice skating outfit," Mom would remember, laughing.  "She was just darling, a little snow bunny!  And there I was, probably in one of my dad's old sweatshirts. . . !"  Mom always loved Vickie's name too.  "Victoria!  Victoria!!  And I was just 'Chris.'  She always seemed so glamorous!"    I would look through Mom's old pictures and yearbooks and think they were all glamorous, these classic beauties with their sweet smiles and 1960s hairdos. 
"If we can't at least live near each other, we'll keep in touch by writing," Vickie had signed Mom's high school yearbook, knowing my parents were soon getting married.  And it was a promise they kept.  Mom and Vickie have been exchanging letters and cards since 1970.  One winter while I was in college, Mom mentioned to me that Vickie's mom had died, and I asked her for Vickie's address.  My friend Sommer had died the year before, and I had a newly-formed, and already permanent, soft spot for people feeling the particular hell of fresh grief.  I mailed a letter to Vickie, a card back from her soon appeared in my dorm's mailbox, and so began our own correspondence.  Until 2011, though, we all hadn't seen each other since I was a newborn, and Aunt Laurie and Vickie hadn't seen each other since sometime in the 1980s.  Summer 2011, then, what a sweet moment to see, finally, these three high school friends together. 
And I finally got to meet this kind and funny person I'd been keeping in touch with since 1996!  We all spent a wonderful afternoon together the day after the wedding too, visiting some more back at my parents' house.  So much laughter between everyone, and as Vickie, Mom, and Aunt Laurie all noted, it was as if no time had passed.  They just picked up where they'd left off in-person all those years ago♥ 
A few months later, I framed my favorite photo from that weekend's visit and sent it to Vickie with a card.  Could Mom have possibly guessed as she passed her newborn daughter into her best friend's eager arms in 1977 that they, too, would become friends?  But life is sweet, and such things do happen.  And that is the Vickie story, one of promises kept and of love expanded.  
To friendship! 

Friday, July 8, 2016

~Sit. Feast on your life.~ Derek Walcott

At 39, Val realized she didn't have to save the treat of edible flowers just for others. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

June Ends and July Begins

Disgustingly hot and humid days have set in, and I grouse about them before and after each run and walk, but they've been so beautiful too.  A neighbor's Hollyhocks are blooming, all in shades of pink and white, and I dodge the bumblebees zipping around them as I return to the apartment every day.  One blissful 72° afternoon found me in the kitchen baking pumpkin-dark chocolate chip-chia seed muffins after catching a few minutes of nutritionist Joy Bauer's program on PBS that reminded me to eat more pumpkin, but other than the muffins and Saturday's made-late-at-night pie, it's been a no-bake summer so far.  

It's becoming a no-sit-still summer too, between the walks and the runs.  I'm plodding on with my return to the "Couch to 5K" learn-to-run plan and began Week 3 (of 9) this afternoon:  I can now comfortably run three minutes straight.  :)  By the end of next week, I'll have completed Week 4, which means. . .five minutes straight, and Week 5 ends with a 2-mile (or twenty-minute) run.  Progress, then!  I stopped mid-Week 5 in 2010, so the most I learned to run without stopping was eight minutes.  Even during the five-or-so 5k races and two half marathons I finished years ago, I couldn't run longer than eight minutes without stopping to walk before running again, so my being determined to do this thing properly this time, and to take my time with it, and to honor the learning process and the races and myself in this way has been a huge shift in perspective.  I like that it's hard.  I like that there's an ongoing learning involved in this.  I like that it makes me appreciate my body and good health all the more.  I like that it doesn't really come naturally to me but that there's something about it that has brought me back to it time after time since high school.  (Mom remembers that I would sometimes join her on her runs on our hometown's walkway the summer after I graduated from high school.  I don't remember this at all, but fresh from losing Sommer that spring, that doesn't surprise me.  I have no memory whatsoever of the Oklahoma City bombings that happened seven weeks after her death either, save for the fireman-holding-baby photo that was a Newsweek cover.)  Running has always appealed to me so much, but I've never stuck with it.  The day I completed that first eight-minute run of Week 5 in 2010, I sent my parents a letter that mentioned it.  "Eight minutes straight!  I'm finally a runner!"  But then I didn't finish the last four weeks of the program.  Who knows.  It is one of the "Val, Val, Val" things that bothers me most, my slacking-off and not pushing myself with this, and I'm determined to become disciplined--or maybe, now, to remain disciplined--about this.  The challenge is good for me in so many ways, and dragging myself out into the humidity every other day for these runs is making this summer both so hard and so rich.  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Stars and Stripes

I baked a couple days early since I work Sunday and Monday.  

Saturday, June 25, 2016


This dear card--with its printed message inside of "Life's a journey.  'Glad we're in it together!"--will soon be sent to Aunt Laurie.  While I was finishing my last post, Mom called to tell me that my aunt was in the hospital with sepsis that had spread throughout her body, and even late that night when Mom called back to update me, Aunt Laurie's blood pressure was still only 80 over 40.  Terror.  I spent Thursday and most of yesterday dreading Mom's next phone call, choking up as I mailed another card to my sweet aunt from the post office yesterday afternoon, praying for more years and decades more with my faithful pen pal of an aunt.  

When I talked with Mom again last night, she said Aunt Laurie was doing much better--and the tears I'd barely held in since Thursday afternoon started pouring out of me at this--and was talking now, her blood pressure was up to 117 over something, and Mom said a Sunday hospital-discharge is even a possibility if Aunt Laurie continues to improve this weekend.  By then, I could barely speak, I was crying so hard, but Mom sent me over the edge by mentioning that Uncle Warren had reported that when Aunt Laurie was at her sickest the other night, she said she could see angels standing around her hospital bed.   I don't know how close we just came to losing her, but I can imagine--all too vividly now--and it's been a few days that have felt like a hundred.  

Before she got sick, Aunt Laurie had been planning to visit in July, and I pray we can all make it happen still, although I'll likely be blubbering all over her as we hug hello.  Goodness, this life.   

Thursday, June 23, 2016

On First Runs and Feta Hearts

It was 2010 or maybe early 2011 the last time I found myself following the "Couch to 5k" learn-to-run-3-miles-in-9-weeks training plan.  Heeeeeeeere we are again, having just come in from a rain-soaked Day 1.  All my walking has not made my running any easier, and the many pounds I've gained since the last time running felt even remotely easy--
--made me wonder if I was actually dragging bags of flour along with me with every step today.  Bah!  BAH! to weight issues!  BAH! to how hard this is!  BAH! to this monkey--or bag of flour--on my back!  BAH!  But no one is making me do this, and I have big goals, and God knows I am too stubborn to give up, so indeed, here we are again.  The last time I used this training plan--and this is maybe the fourth time I've done it now (so ridiculous, but credit-to-self for persistence [Positive self-talk!])--I finished the second day of Week 5 and then stopped.  I don't even remember why, but I stopped that close to the end.  This time, with bigger goals in mind, I am beyond determined to finish this.  Bag-o-sand, be gone!  Day 2 will be Saturday, and I will finish Week 1 of 9 early Monday morning.  Val, Val, Val.  

This feta cheese heart crumble greeted me in my vegetable pasta lunch at work yesterday, and I will take it as encouragement for the journey. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Lily of the Valley

Another favorite.  Lily of the Valley blooms in pink and white--and Mom tells me I was once tickled to have discovered the pink variety, although I don't remember that at all and find the white so charming--throughout my garden.  There is enough shade from the Maple tree just a few feet away to keep these beauties happy, although roses and other supposed sun-lovers have thrived in the spot too.  The Lily of the Valley would likely take over--as much as such a tiny plant could, anyway--if Mom let it, but she tends to transplant some from my garden to hers every year, so that hasn't happened yet.  What dear little flowers!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Three Near-Captures This June

I missed this year's opportunity to see some of my beloved roses in-bloom by about two days:  This is how Louise Odier looked as I was leaving my parents' home--where what remains of my dear old garden is, in a corner of their yard protected on one side by a wall of Dad's shed and on another by a wall of the deck--two weeks ago.  Below is a shot of her in-bloom two Junes ago--
--and every time I look at it, I wonder why I didn't take at least a dozen more photos of it during this little photo-shoot.  This one just makes me so happy, and it is so purely beautiful, that sometimes I look for other peoples' pictures of this rose just to satisfy that need to see something pretty.  Look at some of these photos!  ♫  Ooh, Heaven is a place on earth. . . .  ♪  I could weep at the beauty.  
I missed my white Iceberg rose too and confess to having been tempted to peel down its [sepals, it seems, if I have learned the new word correctly] in order to see more of the precious petals before leaving.  Last June's visit was timed to see at least one Iceberg open--
 --and it did my soul good.  Roses always do my soul good.  :)  And now I am remembering--and sounding like--Mary Ellen Walton proclaiming in The Homecoming, "I always feel better after I hug a cow."  :)  But. . .truly.  ♥  I know you know. 
Last night's Strawberry Moon was another I-was-kind-of-there-but-kind-of-missed-it this June.  I saw the (full) moon, and as you can see in this stunning capture from the bathroom window, NASA won't be clamoring to study my photo of it anytime soon.  :)

Sunday, June 19, 2016


We have been passing Bill Bryson books back and forth the past six months, Dad and I.  It began with A Walk in the Woods:  Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, and then I gave him The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid for Christmas.  We continued with Neither Here Nor There:  Travels in Europe, and Dad just finished armchair-traveling via Bryson's memoir of a trek through Australia, In a Sunburned Country, one of his Father's Day presents from me this year.  A Short History of Nearly Everything is on a shelf here too, waiting for my next trip home.  We have both loved the Appalachian Trail book the best--neither of us wanted it to end--and agree that hiking it would be amazing if one could stay safe while doing so.  (I keep it as a "someday" goal, along with hiking the Camino de Santiago.)  Today Dad is alternately reading Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling:  More Notes from a Small Island, baseball game-watching, and barbecuing with my mom, brothers, and my brothers' wives and kids.  I myself hope to manage to get home both next month and in August for the next two meetings of the Dad-and-Daughter Book Club.