marathon monday: a week later

Hey friends! Thanks for checking in!

We are one week past the 2015 OKC Memorial Marathon, and all I’ve written about it was The Pretzel Story. My wonderful husband and close friends have already had to listen to so much jabbering about that whole day, but for posterity’s sake and for any readers even considering marathon training, I just want to lay down some thoughts and feelings about this year’s experience. It’s taken a week for my thoughts and feelings to settle and clarify a bit, so thank you for indulging me. xoxo

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I was kind of a mess last Sunday after what ended as a really difficult, sloppy, not awesome feeling race, at least compared to the year before. The 2015 race will go down in my personal history as “The Crying Games” or “The One When I l Learned a Lot By Doing Everything Wrong” or maybe “Shark Week 26.2.” Okay.

First, let me say that the beginning of the run was great! With just one exception, I felt strong, fast, and happy for the first 18 miles. The one exception was that I was in the middle Shark Week (sorry, errant male readers, that’s just TMI but crucial to the story) and it was necessary to take several porta potty breaks much earlier than I would have liked. Well, naturally those lines were all very long. So I lost not just time but also momentum. Womp-womp.

But I kept running and running, without music for about 12 miles, just listening to the thunderous footfall around me and eavesdropping on all the silly, energetic conversations between running groups. Admiring the firemen for running in full gear while carrying large American flags. Thinking of the reason we run. Allowing swells of pride for my home state. Everyone seemed to feel good! I played celebrity look-alike in my head, trying to catch up to my pace group after breaks. I craved the hills and took them and it felt like flight! Generally I was smiling and happy. My body felt good. I was loving the sparkling clear, warm morning with cool breezes. Such a pleasant contrast to last year’s weather. With that one uncontrollable physical exception, the early part of the race was charmed. Lovely.

Even Lake Hefner was fun this year! I circled the route there while listening to Miranda Lambert and even called my favorite guy to report how strong I felt at the point where last year I was beginning to wonder. He laughed and cheered me on. Anything felt possible.

mile 17

Unfortunately this magic did not last.

Around mile 18 Handsome made one of his wonderful appearances with a sign that both drenched me with love and triggered so many emotions. ALL the feelings. Good, bad, ugly. You name it: I was feeling it. I started crying and couldn’t stop. And by this point in the run I was so annoyed by those inconvenient porta potty breaks that I was stubbornly refusing to accept regular water or Powerade, which would have necessitated more breaks. So I was sweating, crying, and not replenishing fluids. Really smart!

Miles 18-22 were not terrible, but by now my chosen pace group was no where to be seen, and this, plus the crying, had a deteriorating effect on my attitude. Also an older gentleman in a wheelchair passed me and I just about lost my mind. No offense to him, but I’d been running so much faster lately! At the time it was really hard to wrap my dehydrated mind around that little defeat. I did some math in my head (badly) and estimated my pace was about a quarter mile per hour. I was on the verge of an emotional melt down, friends. Not kidding.

Around mile 22, right at the end of the street of my childhood home, I hugged and kissed my family (I love you guys so much!!), and laughed because my husband showed up there in his Batman costume. Ha! This all should have had a much better influence on my feelings than it did. It’s no one else’s fault that I was in such a bummer state of mind! My fault totally.

batman and the fam

Despite everyone’s loving efforts, I then started feeling really bad. I ran south on Classen to eventually collide with my book club girls. They showed up for the second year and melted my heart! Near the gold dome (locals know this area) I just collapsed in their arms. They were all festive and sweet, in celebratory moods and sipping mimosas, probably expecting me to be happy at that point just like last year, but I was a mess. When she saw me up close, Melissa’s face fell noticeably, Oh my, and they all wrapped their arms around me (Eww super sweaty, gross! Sorry!) and asked Are you okay? and Why are you crying? About all I could say in reply was I’m just so sad!! And then I started sobbing. I wasn’t sad exactly; I was dehydrated and completely empty of glycogen and feeling weak mentally because I felt bloated and slow and loser-ish.

book club race hugs

Okay, I was sad.

From there, in that state, three-point-two more miles seemed perfectly impossible. But I kept running. Sloppily, I’m quite sure. I cried a lot as I ran which is weird because usually I am grinning like an idiot when I run. Even at twenty miles I usually feel amazing. I learned this year that sometimes there is a vast difference between twenty miles and twenty six. One lady stopped to check on me. I waved her on but she kept pep-talking me over her shoulder as she sped off at the thin, toned, sparkling speed of light. I loved her and hated her all at once.

As I meandered painfully through that last big, shady neighborhood with lawn parties and sprinklers and generous encouragements, Handsome texted me the most beautiful love note. I looked at it like five times to keep going and also felt completely guilty for having a hard time running. I felt like a complete waste of a person in those last miles.

About nine years later I saw a wide vinyl banner strung across the street that said “Half Mile Aisle” and there might have been a band playing. I was excited because of this thought: Oh good, a half mile left! Just like 4 minutes to go! (Training pace lately had me pumped up beyond realistic marathon pace expectations) Umm, two appropriate responses to myself here: a) That was not my pace that day. At all.  b) Even if 4 minutes to cover a half mile was possible, at that point I was so crazy spent physically and mentally that four minutes was still a lot to give. No longer easy-breezy. No more running hard to catch up whilst playing celebrity look alike in my head. It was an eternity left to run.

About seven months after the Half Mile Aisle, I finally crossed the finish line at a pathetic jog. Not a strong, glorious, Chariots of Fire burst of energy, not even the giggling elation I felt last year. Just, finished. Quietly. And it was enough for me. I walked immediately and stretched my legs then walked some more. Someone hung a finisher’s medal around my neck and said sweet things that made me cry again. Someone else took my picture which turned out looking like I’d gained about twenty pounds. I found water and Powerade (that I still wouldn’t drink). I went for a half banana and the guy said, Hon you look like you need chocolate. WHAT!!! HOW DID HE KNOW?? I accepted the chocolate-almond protein bar and tore into it like a velociraptor.

finish line

The rest of Sunday was blissful, thanks owed completely to Handsome for all of his love and attention throughout the day and into the evening. We went immediately for steak fajitas and salty tortilla chips, at a place near the farm where my sweaty clothes, pronounced limp, and weird mood would not be noticed. Actually, by this point my mood had lightened considerably. Being with my guy again and just being finished was such a relief.

Big thanks are also owed to my wonderful friends and family for their notes, text messages, and sweet social media comments that I read later that night. (My husband had been posting race updates on Facebook in excruciating detail, complete with photos. LOL) But all over again I felt guilty for receiving so much support for such a poor showing. I felt super lame and embarrassed.

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Okay, the detailed account could go on and on. Here are some things I learned this year, which I am determined to carry over into my next marathon training, which maybe be Spring 2016 and may be sooner:

  • Dieting for weight loss is not something you should do right before a big race. It’s silly and possibly dangerous. In those middle training months I had been making so much progress with speed and endurance and also making small improvements with body fat loss that I thought, Well, if I just slash all carbs now I will be so skinny on race day! The opposite happened. I gained a little weight (our bodies are smart and know when we are trying to kill them) and had no energy. Terrible result. One pasta meal in the week leading up to 26.2 is not enough glycogen. Lesson learned.
  • Especially in those final eight miles or so, hydration and energy supplements are crucial. I won’t neglect them ever again. Even if you have to pee later, those little sips are worth it. But chances are, really, you won’t. Your body will probably use every ounce of hydration you offer it. Take the water! Take the electrolytes! Eat the sports beans every ten or fifteen minutes! No matter what you consumed yesterday, after a couple of hours you have spent it and need more.
  • Pacing is not a guessing game. I could have done so much better at this, and this coming season I will. Pinky promise.
  • Also, negative splits are good. Running hard at the beginning and then faltering at the end is positive splits, which is actually a running negative. I finally understand the value of running negative splits (saving energy for the end of the race) and plan to practice this a lot.
  • The wall is a real thing. This year I discovered The Wall, and it was about five miles thick. I’ve felt tired before in long practice runs, and last year’s marathon gave me a challenge here and there, but nothing compares to this year! For the first time I hit the wall really hard and was stunned. It’s as real as a runner’s high, and it hurt my feelings. But I’m actually glad to have experienced it. Now I know how it feels and can train against it, not take those happier runs for granted.
  • The mental game is real, too. So real. The more I concentrated on how poorly I (thought I) was doing*, the worse I did. The more I indulged in sad thoughts about loved ones lost or disconnected, the sadder I felt. It was only in those early miles when I chose to focus on the lightness in my legs or the wonderful purpose of the day that running felt glorious.

So that’s it! My 2015 recap. Stories abound, so if you’re ever bored and want to be even more bored, let me know. I am so glad to have this under my belt, even as rough and ugly as it was. I learned a LOT and that’s valuable life stuff, right? Thanks again for checking in, friends! Have such a beautiful day.

XOXOXOXO
~Marie

*Perception: My sloppy running and sloppy head math made me think I was running about a 17 minute mile.
Cue the emotional break down. I actually averaged out to about a 12 minute pace,
which is much slower than I had been training but also not quite so terrible.
I am really excited to set speed goals this coming year!

 

 

coconut pecan pralines

Pecan Pralines. Another favorite straight from the heart of the French Quarter. This little life luxury is one that always seems more extravagant than it really is. They always come together more easily than I expect, and how perfect for something that hails from The Big Easy, right? I know.

Today I made a variation of this old standby recipe as a thank you gift for our friend Dennis. He was nice enough to come check on the farm during our NOLA absence last week. Which leads me to the reason Pralines (along with some fun hot sauce) are the perfect thank you for him: Dennis always insists that what he does for us is no big deal, that it’s easy, no matter that his help gives us tremendous peace of mind. After that fashion, I like that this tasty treat is fast and easy to prepare but should (hopefully) give him tremendous pleasure. I groove this balance.

My variation today was simple and twofold: I just used much smaller pieces of the same amount of toasted pecans (instead of great big pecans halves) plus some chopped up, toasted raw coconut for fun. About three years ago I secretly made out with a big praline like this in New Orleans and just Fell. In. Love. He gave me beads, we hid behind the banana trees, everyone was happy.

Anyway. The gritty, complicated texture of a coconut pecan praline is only matched in wonderfulness by its buttery, beachy, indulgent flavor. Pecans and coconut are so crazy good together. Eating just one of these will give you a nice Southern drawl whether you like it or not.

pralines scooped w sticker

Here’s the low down:

Ingredients:

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup evaporated milk (not quite one small can)

4 T butter, chopped up

big splash of vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans

1 cup flaked raw coconut, also chopped and toasted

Such an Easy Method You Won’t Believe This:

1. In a medium saucepan, melt together the two sugars and evaporated milk. Let it all dissolve and cook into golden brown seduction and stir with a wooden spoon as it goes. Now insert a candy thermometer.

2. You’re now watching for the candy thermometer to reach about 240 degrees. Keep stirring, ok? When you see that mercury rise silently to that temp, turn off the heat and drop the diced up butter on top but do not stir anymore yet. Let it rest.

3. In about one minute, add the vanilla, pecans, and coconut. Now stir some more with that same wooden spoon. Stir your little heart out. Stir until the hot, syrupy mixture looks more like opaque candy and you need some muscle to move that spoon. You’re almost done.

pralines in pot

4. Now use an ice cream scoop (just for uniformity and ease, if you care about that) to make about a dozen big, glossy puddles of chunky praline mixture on your prepared cookie sheets. Oh I forgot to tell you to prepare a couple of cookie sheets! Sorry. Just line two with waxed paper or parchment paper. These babies will cool and harden and eventually pop right off of either of those, then you can add them to some soft old tattered linen.

praline done

See how easy? Just a few dishes to wash. Less than half an hour, plus cooling and hardening time. Very few ingredients, too. I dare say you’ll have this classic recipe memorized after one or two passes. And feel free to get creative! In New Orleans, the candy shops boast all variations of the beloved praline: Coconut (like we made today), chocolate drizzled, chewy, boozy, you name it.

Last but not least, do you like to pronounce it pray-LEEN? Or do you say PRAH-leen? I suspect your answer will tell me whether you drink coffee or hot tea. And therefore whether we can be early morning friends.

Thanks again to our friend Dennis for not letting the buffalo escape and for keeping the chickens fed and the parrot more or less sane. Thanks for making sure the llamas didn’t go on any joy rides in my Jeep and for texting me that adorable video of our animals right when I was getting really homesick. You’re the best. I hope you like your coconut pralines and hot sauce!!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!
XOXOXOXO

 

 

 

marathon monday: the pretzel story

I have in  my own head a million stories from the whole experience yesterday, but I realize most of them may only be interesting to me. What follows is a relatively short anecdote, something that happened around mile 20 maybe? And it pretty well exemplifies my marathon personality. Specifically, my level of awkwardness that I can’t even shake during a big event like this.

dorky runner

Keen on not drinking any more Powerade because it makes me feel weird in mah belly, I approached an aid station and accepted a plastic cup that from a distance seemed to be clear. I assumed it was water, my desired refreshment, and snagged the plastic cup with clumsy thank yous. A few yards away I realized it was actually filled with mini pretzels, which I also didn’t need in mah belly. Sooooo… did I just toss them? Nope. That would have been wasteful. I jogged back to the same aid station volunteer (why??) and tried to return the snack to him. He looked at me like I was off my rocker crazy and said, at least I think this is what he said, because I was listening to music by now, Shakira at that moment, “You don’t want them?” He was truly perplexed.

“No, thanks though! Thanks! I appreciate it but I thought it was water, you can have it back and give it to someone else who wants them.” I rattled the cup as if to demonstrate to the guy that water doesn’t make this sound, mmkay? And I was actually shouting those long, unnecessary sentences because, you know, Shakira. He took a very long time deciding to go ahead and accept it back from me, then there was an awkward moment of eye contact between us. Really weird vibe. I finally shouted again at the poor guy, “I didn’t touch them!” And ran off.

My god. I am embarrassed to be seen with myself.

The End.

okc marathon expo 2015

Hello, happy Saturday! It’s finally race weekend in Oklahoma City, and it seems like about half the state is all revved up and participating in one way or another. Such an incredible community feeling, and that includes visitors from all over! I love it. I am so proud to be an Okie.

Happy to be home and refreshed from a week in New Orleans, today I drove downtown to the Expo to pick up my bib, t-shirt, and more goodies (including so many free samples of food!) and thought I’d share a few snippets.

I was feeling just this side of nervous and unprepared for tomorrow until I walked in through these cheerful balloons. And then everybody started talking about the fun stuff and wishing each other well and asking what event you’re running. Just the best vibe!! I picked up my packet in about thirty seconds, snagged a shirt, and browsed the vendor booths.

EXPO balloons

expo FULL

Overall the feeling at the Expo is very upbeat and joyful, but lest we forget why we’re all gathered in the first place, there is a display of 168 race bibs, one number reserved for each of the victims of the Murrah Building Bombing. It will hush you and give you chills just walking past. We run to remember.

EXPO honor bibs

While at the Expo I took the opportunity to meet Olympic gold medalist Joe Jacobi. I listened to him speak to the crowd about the spirit of service, personal growth, and taking accountability for your life. I’ve been following his inspirational writing (it’s about sports but much more than sports) for a while and was just delighted to finally meet him in person! My mind is swimming with ideas and I’ll be sharing this great stuff with you guys soon. By the way, he’s running the full marathon tomorrow too! When an accomplished athlete wishes you well on your run, friends, it’s awesome.

EXPO meeting jacobi

EXPO medal

Oh listen, Brooks shoe company wants us to run happy okay? Run really happy. Okay. Done! I have my cute new Brooks Pure Flows all broken in, and around 6:30 tomorrow morning I will be running very happy indeed. Because tapering is making me crazy. Not running is for the birds.

EXPO brooks

I bumped into Lisa, a woman who has been SUCH a running inspiration to me these past few years! She was also my girls’ Science teacher way back when, and I have a ton of affection for her in my heart. We did not take a photo together, and now I’m sad about that. So good to see her though! She is a member of the Landrunner’s club and has accomplished every single one of the Memorial events over the years! This year she is serving as a finish line volunteer. So cool. Seeing her really gave me such a boost.

Big news, little brother Joey. I am now the proud owner of a foam roller!! Let the muscle punishment begin. And look at this cute shirt! 2015, twenty years after the bombing, marks the fifteenth Memorial Marathon.

EXPO cheap foam

I bought a million packs of sports beans in two flavors because I am out of control. Ate a free, cozy silver-dollar sized pancake because I finally started carbing up today. Tried a KIND bar but didn’t like it nearly as much as Kashi. (KIND is too low protein for that many calories, too.) Smiled at everyone and enjoyed 100% smiles back. I tried to purchase a buffalo-Oklahoma t-shirt for Handsome to thank him for all the marathon prep support he’s provided, but the vendor’s credit card machine wouldn’t work. It’s cool, though, in retrospect, because I remember the guy saying that despite living in OKC he’s not a Thunder fan. What the heck?? Sort of happy to not have given him my business. ((haha))

I had really hoped to finally meet my reader-Facebook friend Marcella and her beautiful running daughter today, but our timing was off. My fingers are crossed that we can find each other around the corrals at sunrise!! xoxo Hello ladies!

Several other community events are happening this weekend leading up to the actual race, and I hope if you’re here to run or support a runner that you join in! There’s a shoe blessing, a pasta dinner, a pancake breakfast, and more. Lots of wonderful speaker events as the Expo continues, and truly the vendors are so great. Surprisingly good prices. My plans are to rest at the farm tonight, eat a heaping bowl of pasta with chicken breast and veggie marinara, hydrate for sure, and go to bed early.

Thank you for checking in, and if you are running tomorrow RUN HAPPY! Enjoy every mile. If you are cheering for a runner tomorrow, BLESS YOUR HEART!! It almost makes me cry just thinking about my sweet people.

Over and out, see you tomorrow after the race!!

XOXOXOXO

P.S. One more time, just for good measure, tapering sucks.

 

 

 

 

just an average night of magic in the quarter

On Tuesdays I like to share stories or recipes from the Lazy W kitchen. 
But this week, let’s talk about New Orleans some more.
She certainly deserves the attention.

 

Our dinner plans last night included a long, slow walk from our downtown hotel, along Bourbon Street, past Canal and past Toulouse, the cross street where you’ll find the Saint Anne-Marie. (Next time you have about three hours to sit and listen, ask me about this place.) We strolled easily hand in hand, in zig-zag lines from the uneven brick sidewalks to the open streets and back again to the sidewalks. We dodged the craziest revelers but enjoyed the atmosphere. People watching in the French Quarter is a measurable spectator sport, and we are skilled. The weather continued with such pleasant mildness. I was comfortable in my sundress but also happy to have my denim jacket when the cool breeze kicked up or a retail shop’s open door gushed out icy air.

Our destination last night was my choice, a place we’ve now visited twice, and it’s taking hold as one of our favorites. Right there in the middle of all the action, Bayou Burger on Bourbon has incredible food with excellent service and all the views. We were happy to wait maybe fifteen minutes for a balcony table, and everyone from the host to the server and management made us feel welcomed and not the least bit rushed.

Okay, the food. Remember how I told you that this week I’m indulging in local foods selectively? Trying to enjoy the trip but not sabotage my nutrition before the marathon? Well, last night’s meal was a great example. I ordered something decently healthy but also something you just can’t get anywhere else: I had a Gator Burger, and it was amazing. This thing was a thick, succulent patty made from a mix of ground alligator and lean pork. It’s cooked but still pink, served on a small brioche bun with almost dry jalapeno cole slaw. Very little dressing, just lots and lots of flavor. I chose sweet potato fries as my side, and they were not greasy at all. Perfect. All these flavors and textures together were like magic. Sweet and salty, savory and spicy, hot and meaty, cool and crunchy, soft and chewy, crispy… My gosh. This is the kind of meal that makes all mediocre restaurant meals and afternoons of deprivation worth the wait. And it actually filled my cavernous runner’s belly, which my closest friends will tell you is no small feat!

This is website photo obviously. And for a change, the real thing looked even better. I had mine sans onions and no chips, sweet potato fries instead. You guys. So good.

This is website photo obviously. And for a change, the real thing looked even better. I had mine sans onions and no chips, sweet potato fries instead. You guys. So good.

While eating and talking and laughing and flirting, thoroughly enjoying the balcony view, perfect weather, and eerie rooftop landscape of the French Quarter, Handsome and I noticed a police-escorted black SUV on the cross street. We assumed it was Michelle Obama, as we’d heard the First Lady was in town to pay commendations to the NOLA police department. (They have been successful in eliminating homelessness here among their veterans. Wow!) Immediately behind that quick scene was a small, sudden jazz parade!! This is one of the many benefits of balcony seating: A bird’s-eye view of unplanned parades!

The parade was small in size but not in spirit. They overtook the area with joy! The group was led by a man wearing a much-sequinned black tuxedo, white and silver feathery plumes, a sparkly white derby hat, pageant sash bearing words I couldn’t read, and tap shoes. He danced out front with abandon, frothing up every spectator and sending the energy all around him up to the clouded sky. The band played smooth white instruments, and they were followed by a large group of people wearing business clothes and convention name tags. Everyone was on cloud nine, including us. The party turned a corner in front of our balcony and we took our seats again to watch them pass. We could hear their music for several blocks, not to mention the wake of celebration they left.

date night jazz parade

As we returned to our delicious meals, I felt a twinge of happy-sad. I looked up at my husband and recognized the same expression in his green eyes. As I’ve said many times, this city has a hold on us. She draws us in and toys with our emotions. She makes us feel like we belong then reminds us that we are outsiders. Embraced then rejected, over and over. So weird. Do other people have such odd connections to foreign places?

After dinner, both fully satiated, we walked back up Bourbon and stopped in at the Jazz Garden to listen to Steamboat Willie play. An older couple was dancing before a tightly packed crowd of maybe 200 people. Some standing like us, some seated at little iron tables bearing paper plates of beignets and powdered sugar. When I say this couple was dancing, I do not mean they were swaying timidly; they were lost in the moment. Twirling, spinning, trading the spotlight, dipping and circling each other. Wow! Wearing sensible shoes and tourist clothes, they moved quickly and with complex and perfect coordination, a beautifully fluid harmony between them. For much of the interlude her eyes were even closed. Watching them, I felt tears well up in my own eyes. Handsome stood behind me, holding me, and we swayed in our own way, just amazed. Eventually I felt someone watching us. The patio lights blurred. The banana trees dipped down to embrace us all as one pulsing, weeping group. When their dance was finished, they took an exaggerated bow and the intimate crowd rewarded them with such applause!

date night wille band

The very next song was “What a Wonderful World,” that Louis Armstrong classic. Willie crooned into his microphone and Handsome crooned into my ear. Chills. We held each other and soaked up every vibe. I wept for happy reasons and sad ones and suspect he did too. A few times when the song approached key lyrics, the singer invited the crowd to join in. So he sang Friends shaking hands, saying how do you do? They’re really saying… Then the crowd, in a hushed but muscular voice, I LOVE YOU!! I got the tightest squeeze around my middle from the best arms in the world. Then at the end, slowly, Willie sang, And I think to myself… and the crowd, so softly, What a Wonderful World…

We kissed and danced in our small, timid ways in the undulating banana tree shadows then left for the short walk back to our hotel. My heart finally agreed with my head that this place is meant for such moments of magic, for nights of refreshment and connection, not for living. We got that magic last night, all of the refreshment and connection, and still a good life waits for us. A very good one.

And I think to myself…
XOXOXOXO

 

 

 

marathon monday: tapering in heaven

This year I am spending Taper Week in the most magical place on earth, New Orleans. The Big Easy. Specifically, the French Quarter. What an ideal environment for resting actively, i.e., still walking a lot, maybe snagging a three-miler here and there, some hotel room yoga, but overall just slowing down and gathering up lots of good energy for next weekend. Enjoying nourishment for body and soul from all the sights, sounds, smells (okay not every smell here is divine), flavors, and just… vibes. All the incredible feelings that pulse from this unique cultural microcosm my husband and I love so much. If ever a city within a city were well suited for intense active rest, it’s the Quarter. I always go home deeply refreshed and fully inspired after a few days here.

Once again, that weird feeling that I've come home to a place I've never lived. Every dang time.

Once again, I have that weird feeling of coming home to a place I’ve never lived. Every dang time.

Green, dripping canopies everywhere. Especially breathtaking in the morning sun. Much appreciated around the hard edges of all that wrought iron. Gorgeous combination.

Green, dripping canopies everywhere. Especially breathtaking in the morning sun. Much appreciated around the hard edges of all that wrought iron, this is such a gorgeous combination.

This morning I spring loose from our hotel and walk a couple of miles in search of perfect coffee. Office workers and traveling business people are buzzing around at a much faster pace than me, briefcases and shouldered messenger bags flying behind them. Lots of runners are out on the streets too, sweating it up in the glorious Coastal South humidity. This makes me a little happy-antsy and I have to force my legs to take softer, slower strides. Wearing three-inch wedge sandals helps. As I walk through the streets and clock one landmark after another, I notice feeling less like a tourist than ever before. I am even able to give a woman directions successfully (I guess)(probably) (good luck lady). How many visits to the city earns me honorary residence? If NOLA could only know how much I love her.

Street sweepers are finishing their work as traffic increases. They spray lemon scented, sudsy water that foams up and runs in spirals around every curb, rinsing away last night’s debauchery.

NOLA suds

I can’t stop smiling as I pass so many (dozens! thousands!) of familiar shops. My heart is glowing just to recognize these little places. The same fern-collared potted evergreens. The same painted wooden signs and chalkboard menus on the same uneven sidewalks. The same changing artsy window displays behind glass next door to the same haunted hotels. So much opulence and rusticity all in the same space. Everything together in harmony and contrast, it’s all so beautiful I have to choke back tears.

This shop in particular always turns out fantastic window displays. Three cheers for fairy lights on in daylight! Three more cheers for black and white art with colorful flowers beneath.

This shop in particular always turns out fantastic window displays. Three cheers for fairy lights on in daylight! Three more cheers for black and white art with colorful flowers beneath. I love it.

Is it silly to see bohemian artists setting up shop at Jackson Square or on Royal street, displaying painted work I know well, and have to suppress the urge to rush up to them with tight hugs and lots of encouragement? They are so young. They remind me of our oldest, and I want to make sure they’ve eaten today and that their boyfriends and girlfriends are treating them right. (Then I Snap-chat that beautiful girl and say about the forty-seventh prayer of the morning for her and her little sister.)

Eventually, big goofy smile plastered to my face and tears drying in my eyes, I land at my favorite shop to sit and drink perfect coffee for an hour or more. They are so nice here. They smile at you and cheerfully offer refills. You can sit by the window and people watch and notice mule-drawn carriages pass by under the ancient shade trees. The windows here are tall and arched, not insulated, the wooden frames painted maybe a thousand times by now. Across the street from where I always sit is an ocean-themed mural boasting an impossibly blue “water” background, sea turtles, dolphins, a plain yellow jellyfish, and one huge black and white killer whale not quite in the center. I’m pretty sure this building is a school.

Today it's sunny out and the nearby French doors were wide open, but you should sit right here during a rain storm. My gosh. xoxo

Today it’s sunny out and the nearby French doors are wide open, but you should sit right here during a rain storm sometime. My gosh. xoxo

Food is of course a big part of the New Orleans experience. And despite some recent efforts to slim down, I do intend to enjoy myself this week. Selectively. Last night for dinner I ate a good sized omelette loaded up with mushrooms, tomatoes, craw-fish, and shrimp. It was delicious! So so so good. And around here you add “Crystal” hot sauce, not Tabasco. It’s the local thing to do. So we do it. Next I’m looking forward to big salads topped with more Gulf-fresh seafood. Lots of fresh produce from the French market. Maybe some gumbo or red beans and rice. And toward the end of the week, closer to the race, some kind of amazing local bread like on a muffaletta sandwich. Or pasta. Or both.

How fun that my first taste of pineapple and watermelon this year is happening in my favorite place.

How fun that my first taste of pineapple and watermelon this year is happening in my favorite place.

Being here always refreshes me. It always gives Handsome and me a boost of romance, and the time spent in this culture actually deepens our appreciation for all things good and nourishing about the farm. I am so grateful to enjoy all of this and also get myself rested up for the marathon. Less than six days friends!!

Here’s hoping your week is just as lovely, however you are spending it. I wish for you provision and comfort beyond your wildest dreams. Reflection on lots of blessings (because remember that gratitude is an attractant), hope for the things that break your heart, and strength to meet every single challenge. And watermelon. I wish for you watermelon if it’s in season and perfect coffee every morning. Thank you for stopping here!!

“In the spring of 1988, I returned to New Orleans, and as soon as I smelled the air,
I knew I was home. It was rich, almost sweet,
like the scent of jasmine and roses around our old courtyard.
I walked the streets, savoring that long lost perfume.”
~Anne Rice Interview With a Vampire
XOXOXOXO

 

 

 

friday 5 at the farm: cravings

Happy Friday! Are you landing once again at the cusp of a hard earned weekend, equal parts exhausted and exhilarated? We sure are. What a week it has been at the W and in the worlds surrounding us. Whew!

april sky

Today I have some cravings that just won’t be shaken. So I’m gonna stir them, Friday 5 style:

  1. Running: Marathon tapering is in full effect and I feel restless to the max. I am up to date on all my training miles and actually grabbed my last 8 mile run on Wednesday, anticipating nasty weather this weekend, but other local runners are still looking forward to ten miles on Saturday. So now what? I feel weird. Really super duper weird. Like, am I off schedule now? Will my energy be weird until the race in 9 days? So, because at this point in my life running is the answer to every problem, I snuck outside in the soft rain for three easy miles on hills then wrapped it up with 20 minutes on the elliptical. Feeling good. Excited. But still craving a few long, stretched out hours of running!
  2. Tex Mex food: Like, as if that’s ever not the case. But rainy weather makes this craving stronger. I could really go for a massive steak fajita salad with warm tortilla chips, pico de gallo, guacamole, lime juice on black beans, freezing cold Diet Coke, and lots of sombreros hanging on the plaster walls. Maybe some mariachi music too.
  3. The Beach: Hot, abundant sunshine, limited clothing, and new books by Aimee Bender and Dean Koontz. Plus snacks and my husband sleeping next to me or swimming in the clear, salty water, watching birds and fish. No electronics.
  4. Fun: To laugh until it hurts with my favorite people. To stay up late by the bonfire, trading stories and screaming at imagined ghosts. To give and receive countless hugs and high fives. Games. Jokes. Connection. Yes to all the fun!!
  5. My babies: To have my girls here with us. Or at least to have continued assurance that they are happy and well. I have been dreaming of them so vividly this past week, very much along the same vein as those dreams I had right before Joc came home. It’s encouraging and thrilling. I crave the real thing.

What are you craving? Tell me everything.

XOXOXOXO

how not to fight with your loving husband if you are tapering during PMS

Or, this could be titled, “how not to fight with your loving husband if you are experiencing PMS during your taper week.” However you look at it. Is a zebra back with white stripes, or white with black stripes?

Either way, for the second year in a row, I am tapering for the marathon during the exact days my body is, shall we say, waning toward its new moon? Yes, let’s say it like that. I am about to be depleted in every conceivable way (no pun intended) (not that we’re conceiving), and if I’m not careful things could get dicey on the home front. Normally during these few days I’m not a total nightmare, but I do cry easily at Geico commercials, and here is the general sum of my personality: I am highly suspect of all politeness, assuming it must be a fearful if silent comment on what a bad mood I’m in.

Seriously, if Handsome and I ever engage in marital battle, it is almost exclusively during those few days of PMS, and it is almost always because I was so fed up with him being so careful with my feelings.

side-eye-chloe-meme-generator-could-you-freaking-not-be-so-nice-712d5f

LOL. His wife is such a peach.

So, throw some bouncy legs and an anxious mind into the mix, and we have ourselves an interesting situation. Here’s my 5-step plan to keep the peace:

  1. Eat Healthfully. No last minute extreme dieting, but also no emotional binge eating to soothe my nerves. I’m gonna eat right, stay hydrated, and continue taking iron, vitamins, and if necessary, Midol. (“Do you mean the bitchy pills, Ray?”)
  2. Gentle Exercise. Since my running (the obvious stress buster) has to be slashed down to a bare minimum, I’ll spend the next ten days walking plenty, and I’ll do it outdoors for the best mood lifting results. I’ll also spend time with my favorite yoga videos.
  3. So much reading. I am up to my splintless (thank-you-baby-jesus) shins in really good books right now, and with all this spare time on my hands (what with the not running) I plan to zen out with great food for thought. One is Sydney Portier’s spiritual memoir. Another is a new release piece of fiction by Dean Koontz (haven’t read him since probably my twenties, got a sudden craving for his language). And then there’s our book club’s current selection, which is another memoir: this one is by a female photojournalist who spent most of her career in war-torn countries. Hhmm. Okay, so maybe I’ll save that last one for after the race. Book club is exactly one week following, anyway. Plenty of time later.
  4. Reality Check. I will remind myself as often as needed that this whole situation is completely voluntary and that it was me, not him, who volunteered for it. Moreover, that along the way he has been incredibly supportive of me and brags about me constantly for no reason, so I really have no right to make him pay an even higher price for my pent up adrenaline by fighting with him. No matter how many weird little moments of rub we may experience, I am resolved to not over-thinking a single word or facial expression.

    Among other sweet gestures, he makes sure my shoes are the bomb.

    Among other sweet gestures, he makes sure my shoes are the bomb.

  5. Fingers Crossed and Dark Chocolate in the Pantry Just in Case. Because you can’t be too careful.

 

I hope this is useful to at least one other woman out there who has such similar good fortune as me to taper during PMS. It is so awesome and I really hope this happens every time I run a marathon!! Can you hear me gritting my teeth as I say that?

Now share with us your own wisdom. Have you ever tapered at an already difficult time? How did you cope? Are you local and will you come rescue my sweet, wonderful husband?

The struggle.
It’s real.
XOXOXO

to translate or not to translate

Several weeks ago I was contacted by a charming woman named Melody who curates a website called Smartling. The aim of her work is to translate websites into other languages, and specifically to share classic pieces of literature with wider audiences by translating them but retaining the essence of the language of origin. She asked, based on my book reviews here:

“…if your favorite piece were translated into another language, what would be the most important aspect you would like to remain consistent between languages? How does the language of the piece bring the story to life?”

Oh man. This is a difficult question, much harder to answer in fact than I first thought it would be. Which is why it has taken me several weeks to share my thoughts.

First of all, I simply do not have one favorite book. My reading tastes are wide and various, and at any given moment my “favorite” is just whatever is open on my coffee table right then.

More importantly, though, why would we want to limit translation? I have always wished I had studied harder in high school and landed at adulthood with a few extra languages in my brain. Words are beautiful and meaningful, and verbal communication is so vital to our wellness as people. The complex nuances of well crafted sentences are just delicious to me. And I feel so strongly about most books I read that why wouldn’t I want everyone around this blue planet to have a shot at devouring them? So, translate everything! And while you’re at it, teach me all the languages.

More, more, more.

Still, yes, things are lost in translation. Great things. Most everything I read and love has an element that would suffer from a language change. How best to preserve those special elements?

What in interesting question Melody poses for her online project. So I thought and thought.

My hard wrought answer, finally, is Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. You can read my original (amateurish) book review here. Our Oklahoma book club discussed it way back in June, 2012. Doesn’t this seem like yesterday, ladies?

grapes of wrath snapshot

To my mind, this book stands out as one that deserves some special treatment.

As you probably know, the story follows an Oklahoma family through the spirit-testing landscape of the Dust Bowl and Depression of the early twentieth century. The Joad family endures one hardship after another in search of stability and on their journey west from Oklahoma. Steinbeck offers raw storytelling as well as timeless, lyrical wisdom that could apply to any slice of humanity. It’s definitely a story for the ages and for all people, even if Oklahomans hold it with special reverence.

The main reason I feel like The Grapes of Wrath would lose some of its strength if translated is that so much of the story is grown up from uniquely Oklahoman roots. The physical landscape might be described just fine in other languages, and I’d love to know for myself, but please read this…

“A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.”

If you’ve ever seen a sunset in Oklahoma then you know this exactly nails it. Beautiful.

And the vernacular! Of course, nearly a century later, this isn’t exactly what you’d hear from most of us, but it’s still so illustrative:

“Why, Tom – us people will go on livin’ when all them people is gone. Why, Tom, we’re the people that live. They ain’t gonna wipe us out. Why, we’re the people – we go on.’

‘We take a beatin’ all the time.’

‘I know.’ Ma chuckled. ‘Maybe that makes us tough. Rich fellas come up an’ they die, an’ their kids ain’t no good, an’ they die out. But, Tom, we keep a-comin’. Don’ you fret none, Tom. A different time’s comin’.”

This second passage here is echoed today in what we know as “The Oklahoma Standard,” something modern day Okies will acknowledge with tempered pride and great affection. The term was coined following the 1995 Murrah Building bombing. Our state’s former Governor Brad Henry said this: “Something called ‘the Oklahoma Standard’ became known throughout the world. It means resilience in the face of adversity. It means a strength and compassion that will not be defeated.” Perfect. How much better could the spirit that carried our great-grandparents’ families through the Depression be articulated now, a century later? And to reflect on this in April, the very month of the anniversary, is stilling.

memorial reflecting pond

I could continue justifying my hope that this book is never diluted by translation to a language that might not do it justice, but then I’d just regret that so many people who don’t read English would miss out on such a powerful story.

Also, there’s the very honest fact that I am partial to this book simply because of heritage. There’s something special about saying you were born and raised in a certain place, and for that place to be Oklahoma, the land of both rejection and opportunity, agriculture and overcoming, is central to me. It’s undeniably part of my heart.

oklahoma

What about you? What pieces of literature do you think would lose something in translation, and how would you preserve those precious elements? Where are you from? Is that part of you, that heritage?

Thanks for the fascinating question, Melody! I’m excited to see what others think.

It’s okay to callus Okies now.
Okie is a term of endearment.
XOXOXOXO

this wonderful day was for the birds

What a day it has been for the birds! From early morning till afternoon I have enjoyed one feathered pleasure after another, and something tells me the evening will bring still more.

The earliest avian beauty happened while waking up with Handsome slowly, ever so slowly, during Hot Tub Summit. The sky was dark and moody and the farm was dead quiet. Then gradually, as if some unseen person was slowly turning up the volume on the world’s most charming soundtrack, birdsong filled the foggy south yard. From tree to tree, from cloud to grass, in perfect proportion to the growing daybreak, a delicate symphony. We started our day with who knows how many species of happy, peaceful, life-grabbing melodies. Divine. This really helped us carpe the diem with love and optimism.

After Perfect Coffee and halfway through Chores Round One, I noticed Pacino’s cage (out on the front lawn) was open (it was my fault; I’d left it closed but unlocked while doing some cleaning) and he had let himself out. His wings are not clipped so he can fly, although it rarely happens. Thankfully he stayed on top of his cage, just perched there all business like calling to me.

Maaaammmaaaaa!!!

I watched carefully and in a minute or so he climbed down the side of his cage to visit Fancy Louise, our sweet, cuddly hen who was convalescing in a smaller sheltering cage nearby. He really loves her so much. Everyone does! The whole scene was so sweet I put chores on hold to sit on the sun-baked driveway and just watch.

As soon as I sat down, Pacino promptly waddled over to me and then Mia joined us and there was much bird competition happening between the two, and so of course that all needed to be captured on video. The commotion drew the attention of llamas and cats and other geese, and eventually (though the video does not show this) the buffalo.

birdday pacino

birdday mia

Later in the day I had the very magical pleasure of taking two chickens to visit my friend Mrs. Robinson’s first grade classroom! This is the second time we have done this, and in fact the first time (last Spring) one of our feathered passengers (Ethel, one of the fancy Polish hens) was just a new little chick. The other one actually wasn’t a Lazy W resident yet. Frageelay (as we call him now) was hatched from an incubator in one of the second grade classrooms at Sky Ranch Elementary in OKC, so technically today was not so much a visit for him as a homecoming.

So I loaded a roomy, hay-lined cage into the front seat of my Jeep and drove to town. What a gorgeous afternoon, by the way! Perfect for being chicken ambassadors.

birdday jeep

birdday cage

The chickens and I stopped at the school’s front desk to sign in and say hello to all the nice office people. Suddenly Frageelay started crowing. LOUDLY. Do you remember when your kids were little and they did something slightly disruptive in public but it was so cute you couldn’t help but love every second of it?? That’s how it feels when your rooster crows extra loud in a pin-drop-silent grade school. I scolded him gently and then whispered promises of so many apple cores when we got home. My good, loud, pretty boy.

birdday checking in

We visited the teacher’s lounge first and made lots of friends. A few wonderful ladies were eating lunch, but no poultry dishes. And I don’t know how we are so lucky, but Mrs. Robinson’s blouse today was just spot-on for holding Ethel. I loved it!!

birdday julie

You almost can’t tell where Ethel ends and her blouse begins. So fun! Then Frageelay made his hot displeasure known again. I accidentally got a snapshot of Mrs. Robinson’s expression. I told you, this rooster is not quiet. This afternoon at Sky Ranch Elementary, his voice drew a crowd several times.

birdday surprised

birdday serious frageelay

This is his serious face.
It basically always looks like this, but sometimes it’s just extra serious.

Then we started making the rounds through the cafeteria and hallways, attracting sweet little hands and sing-song voices the whole way. I was thrilled by how many students remembered our chicken day last year! They even remembered the white rooster having hatched there, though they named him something else. I still can’t remember his original name! That’s horrible. Only one little boy asked if he could eat the chickens. Ha!

Mrs. Robinson cuddled Ethel in her arms pretty much the entire afternoon, which put that fancy little hen into a state of pure bliss. She napped and relaxed and as far as I know never pooped on anyone. It was the most precious thing.

And just look at this sweet young teacher loving on Frageelay! She absolutely made my day. I told her how much this adopted rooster loves to be held, and she nodded appreciatively, saying that well, that makes sense, because she held him a lot when he was a baby. (xoxoxo!!) I almost cried, not kidding.

birdday teacher 1

birdday teacher 2

birdday teacher 3

Another lucky and magical detail of the day is that earlier Mrs. Robinson had hosted another classroom visitor who was presenting to the kids a book about a polka-dotted chicken. Isn’t that great? It was all complete good fortune, barely planned at all.

The students were all so gentle and sweet and fun with the chickens. They asked both silly and smart questions. I really wish I had a tape recorder to capture the flurry of affection and inquisition. They petted the mostly unfamiliar creatures. They worried over Frageelay’s claws but also overcame that worry. They really wanted to know whether the two chickens were in love, married, having babies, etcetera, and I had to arrest my normally speedy answers and let Mrs. Robinson handle the delicate life-issues stuff. You never know which kids are able to cope with the idea that we eat liquid baby chickens (eggs). I also realize that not everyone is familiar with the idea of chicken husbands (roosters) having more than one wife (Ethel is part of a set with Lucy, you may recall). Life is complicated.

birdday with julie

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mrs. Robinson and Sky Ranch Elementary!! What a fun afternoon we had. The Lazy W would be thrilled to visit your happy, loving school anytime. And of course it’s always the best thing ever to hug the neck of a woman from the past, when our young ladies were babies together. xoxo Sure seems like yesterday.

Not five minutes into our half hour drive back to the farm, these two feathery children of mine were passed out cold. They wrapped up in each other like a yin-yang symbol and slept hard while I listened to the radio and made sure Rascal Flatts never played (Frageelay can’t stand that group and I agree).

birdday crashed

And when I got home, guess who was out in the sun waiting for me? Pacino and Mia. Pacino was safely locked up, of course, but Mia was right there. Bothering the heck out of him. They both greeted me warmly. I returned Frageelay and Ethel to their love nest where Lucy was waiting impatiently. And I came inside to prepare our dinner.

Quiche. Made with fresh farm eggs, also known as liquid baby chickens.

Birds of different feathers can flock together
and sometimes they go to school.
XOXOXOXO