Thursday, May 29, 2008

What *was* that?!

What an interesting commute on my bicycle today! About 5 miles into my ride, while going down a slight grade, something lying by the side of the road caught my eye. From the quick glance that I had, it appeared to be a reptile of some sort. For the record – I had not yet had any coffee! It took me a couple of hundred feet to ponder the situation and I decided it was worth going back to check it out. It was in a swampy area, at the northern end of a small lake, so while riding back to the site I convinced myself that it was possible that it was some sort of reptile. (Remember = no coffee!) As I approached, I could see that it was brownish-green, scaly with a long tail and short, crooked legs. It looked like a crocodile. But this was a 40-degree morning in upstate NY. We don’t have crocs up here. Or so I thought. The more I stood there looking at it, the more I thought it was a crocodile. But it wasn't moving. Brain says to self, 'of course he's not moving, it's too cold for him'. Self argues back, 'this is New York, we don't have crocs up here!' After about 10 seconds, I realized it *was* a crocodile. A rubber toy crocodile! For a brief second, I thought I was so stupid, then I immediately thought of Morning Dove and realized I had to pick him up and bring him with me. So he was tucked into my pocket and given a nice warm ride into work. This afternoon, he rode home tucked into my pocket so that I could get a photograph of him. He'll go back to work with me next week so he can offer encouragement to me throughout the days. I think he's awfully cute and I'll have fun keeping him at work with me. Any thoughts on names are appreciated because I'm pretty lame when it comes to naming things. The connection that blows my mind with this is that Morning Dove posted that she found a prayer CD on Thursday while on her walk with her dog, thought of me, picked it up and brought it home. We each thought of each other when we found our treasures and that has me convinced that the hand of God must have had something to do with this. Here's a photo of my new friend.....

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Credit Card “Challenge”

I am a big fan of Michelle Singletary’s commentary in the Business/Money Management section in the Sunday paper. She was raised on a shoestring budget by her grandmother and has a very sensible approach to money management. I, too, have always been very frugal with my money and really only spend what I really perceive as necessary. Sometimes I’ll splurge, but not often! Since I have been fortunate enough to have avoided running up credit card debt, I do use a “cash-back” card for everyday purchases and pay the balance off each month. Here’s my surprise, though….according to Michelle, consumers who use a credit card (even if they pay the balance off each month) spend more than people who pay cash for purchases. Of course, as I was reading that, my mind was screaming that I didn’t fall into that category. But, she had the figures from a study to back it up. To further prove her point, she issued a challenge for people like me. Simply stop using your card for one month and then compare with previous months to see if you’ve spent less. Now, I don’t know exactly how detailed I’ll keep my records, especially since many expenses are lumped together rather than spread out evenly through the year, but I’m going to try this for the month of June. I’ll keep you posted! The link to this particular column can be found here. I think you may have to register with the Washington Post in order to view the article, though.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Some interesting things for me this Memorial Day. As some of you may be aware, some of the major search engines (Yahoo, Google, Dogpile, and Ask) change the appearance of their websites for major holidays. I always look forward to seeing what designs the various sites choose to use. This morning when I checked, Yahoo, Ask and Dogpile all had special tributes to commemorate Memorial Day, but Google did not. I'd love to know if anybody else noticed this absence.

However, while taking my afternoon walk with my dog, I noticed the above poppy from the American Legion laying on the side of the road. I do usually try to purchase a poppy, but I had not been in any stores the past few days where I ran into anyone selling them. It made me happy to have found this one! I took the photo for Morning Dove, because she's having to go without photos on her blog.

I had spent the past couple of days visiting my parents - taking walks in the woods, playing with my 5-year old niece, having dinner with extended family, and helping my parents with light chores. It is always like a mini-vacation to spend time at their house. We stay busy, but I come home so relaxed, just from the peace of mind from having spent some time with them. They have recently had solar panels installed on the southern exposure of their house. It is so cool to see their electric meter running backwards on a sunny day!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How I spent a day standing on a street corner….

in rainy, 50 degree F weather! After rushing home and preparing a quick dinner on Saturday night, I hit the sack so I could be well-rested for my big day in downtown Syracuse. The Syracuse Race Weekend continued on Sunday with a criterium. I left the house around 8:00 for a planned 8:30 arrival on-site. I checked in with the marshal coordinator and received an orange vest and flag. I also received a two-way walkie-talkie which would be used for communication, since many of the marshals were about a mile away from the start/finish line. I had brought the pop-up canopy with me, as the weather was supposed to be rainy. While walking to my corner, the sun actually started to peek out and it seemed like it was promising to be a very nice day. I was having an inner debate about whether to put up the canopy or not. Upon arriving at my designated corner, there was nobody around to help me with the canopy anyway, so I figured my decision was made. Shortly, however, a spectator arrived with a camera and she looked like she was going to hang out for a while. I asked if she would mind helping me set up the canopy and she agreed. I made sure to tell her that she would be welcome to use it if it started raining later in the day. Well, somehow we got our signals crossed and she wasn’t raising her corner pole at the same rate that I was raising mine. I heard a “snap” and next thing I knew, an edge support was broken. About this time, one of the racers from our club was arriving and he helped me get the canopy set up the rest of the way. I will have to check out the company web site and see if I can get a replacement pole. Being that it was only the second time I’ve used, it, I’m rather disappointed. Lesson learned…I should have waited for help from someone I knew. Oh well.

Since it was almost time for the first race to start, I turned my attention to my marshaling duties. Primarily, this meant being aware of pedestrians who may try to cross the street while the racers were approaching. This might seem to be a no-brainer, but when the riders are approaching speeds of 30-35 mph, the general public underestimates how much time they have to get across the street. Luckily (?) the threat of rain and the cool temperatures kept many people from attending the event.

Included in the day’s events is a kids’ race, which is quite well-attended. Participants included kids from a local program – B.I.K.E. Syracuse. In a nutshell, it’s a program which uses bicycling as a way of introducing disadvantaged kids to positive role models. Volunteers with the program spend Saturdays going on a bike ride with the kids and spending valuable time with them. These kids provided me with my most memorable event of the day. Before the kids’ race started, there was a group of older, un-chaperoned BIKE Syracuse kids who were approaching my intersection. I knew the riders would be approaching soon, so I asked the kids to please wait where they were until the riders passed. The kids immediately stopped and waited (even though they could have made it across, I felt it was in everybody’s best interest to have them wait). They didn’t question my decision, didn’t act rude or put out and we even talked a little about the race and how much they were looking forward to participating. What a refreshing breath of fresh air!! Gave me hope for the future, it did!! As a result, I have decided to name BIKE Syracuse as my “charity of choice” for the B-Fit B-Day challenge. Who knows, if I get really adventuresome, I may even do some Saturday rides with them.

Pictures taken by the local newspaper (The Post Standard) can be found here. Look in the middle column under sports photos, then 14th Annual Race Weekend.
Pictures taken by a fellow corner marshal can be found here. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I've taken another leap, folks! This one's going to be a real challenge. There's a grassroots group of individuals who are taking their chronological age and turning it into an athletic challenge. Take your age and in any order:
1) Swim the number of miles in the first number
2) Run the number of miles in the second number
3) Bike the number of miles in the combined number

So a 45-year-old athlete would: 1) Swim 4 miles 2) Run 5 miles 3) Bike 45 miles

Since “0” Birthdays like 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and so on are important milestones the "0" in your birthday represents a 10. This means that on those “0” Birthdays you get to celebrate this big milestone by running ten miles.

This should give me adequate incentive to actually put some thought into my training, rather than just stringing along whatever I feel like doing on a particular day. Hopefully this will improve my consistency and thus my overall performance. Since this is a "0" year for me, I will be trying for a 4 mile swim, 40 mile bike and 10 mile run.

You can navigate to the B-FitB-Day home page by the banner on the left, or by the title of this post. My personal page within the B-Fit site is here. There are three different time frames to accomplish the birthday mileage:
Bronze: Do all three (swim/bike/run) during the week of your birthday
Silver: Do all three (swim/bike/run) in the three days before, after, or on your birthday
Gold: Do all three (swim/bike/run) in 24-hours to celebrate your birthday!

I plan on taking my birthday off of work and will attempt to go for the "gold" challenge all within the 24 hours on my birthday. Come to think of it, maybe I should take the day *after* my birthday off, too!! The site has some great training plans and tips for getting started with exercising -- I could spend way too much time there!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Syracuse Race Weekend

Our cycling club organizes a stage race every year in May. It consists of a road race on Saturday morning, a time trial Saturday afternoon/evening, and a criterium all day Sunday. Usually, I participate in the fun of racing, but this year I decided to help the club by volunteering. I started Saturday morning at the registration desk. Thankfully, with the advent of online registration, this job has gotten much easier. Participants who choose to pre-register enter their appropriate category and payment online and then we just have to check that they are currently licensed by USA Cycling and hand them their bib number.
After registration closed, I rode (via car) with a friend to the northernmost part of the course which features a long climb. This is the established area for team support personnel to hand off extra water bottles and food to the riders. It's also a good spot for photo opportunities because the riders are going slower up the hill. After we saw most of the riders pass through the feed zone (some categories did two loops of the 33-mile course), we rode back to the starting area. There was about a two-hour delay before the first riders in the time trial were to go off, so we killed time mingling amongst the riders and chatting. Then the rain came. Thankfully, my parents had gotten us a 10'x10' pop-up canopy, which we set up directly behind our cars. It was great to be able to hang out comfortably out of the rain! I would have loved to get a photo of that, too, but it was raining too hard! Being that I had no official duties for the time trial, I was able to go to the start line and get some shots there. I watched a few of the riders in my boyfriend's category, then left the site and booked for home.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Do dogs get headaches?

I believe so, and here’s why. Ever since our dog was a puppy, one of us would take her for a walk nearly every night. Most days she is enthusiastic and seemingly very happy on our walk around the village. Occasionally however, she makes it clear via her body language that she doesn’t want to be out and about. Granted, she is a black, long-haired dog, so I can understand if it’s a hot day and she’s in the sun. But sometimes, it’s on a day which seems to be the perfect temperature for her. She’ll walk about a block at a really slow pace with a really depressed body position (tail down and not wagging, ears and head lowered). Sometimes she’ll actually turn around so she’s facing home and sit down as if to say she’s not going any further. I have thought that perhaps she gets sore muscles, like we would if we ran without conditioning ourselves first, but her activity levels are very consistent (long, slow walks – nothing very strenuous). I have to believe a headache would be the most likely explanation. Physiologically speaking, I can’t see why dogs wouldn’t get headaches. Sure wish they could talk sometimes!!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A journey of 1,000 miles begins with…

…one step.
My first step is to admit that I have an unhealthy relationship with food. To those of you who know me, you will probably be very surprised about this. I’m not carrying a lot of extra weight. Sure, I’d like to lose a few nagging pounds, but I don’t think most people would view me as overweight. See, I’m a closet eater who then proceeds to exercise compulsively. I never perceived this as a particular problem until, while perusing the library shelves one afternoon recently, I stumbled upon a book about healthy eating habits (or rather, unhealthy eating habits). Entitled Runaway Eating: The 8-Point Plan to Conquer Adult Food and Weight Obsessions, by Cynthia Bulik and Nadine Taylor, it focused my awareness that I really did have a problem. Here's a review. I have found two tips to be particularly helpful for me. First, if I have a “craving”, I do something entirely different to get my mind off of eating that desired food item (lucky you, that’s when I usually do some writing). Second, you can’t eat what you don’t bring home from the store. Whatever your weakness is, if you can resist it in the store, you won’t have to resist it at home. Yes, I’m still working on that one, as there are occasional bags of M&M’s that end up making their way home with me (hey - I said I’m working on it). I highly recommend this book for helping to establish healthier eating patterns.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Derby Sadness

Words cannot begin to describe the grief I felt when I saw the filly, Eight Belles, lying on the track after having broken both front ankles during her run for second place at Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Somehow, seeing a Triple Crown winner no longer seems to have any importance for me. I’m not of the opinion that horse racing should be banned, but I’m not sure I have the stomach to watch it anymore. Oh sure, I know that one less person watching the sportscast will have no effect whatsoever on the big business of horse racing. But it might make me feel a bit better. After all, the horse racing business is just that, a business. Without racing, the horses would never be bred to the extent that they are. So I understand that. But maybe, just maybe, they’re being pushed too far, too fast, too early in their young lives.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Mountain Goat

I did it! After much hemming and hawing, I decided to go for the 10-mile race. I figured I could always walk if I needed to and still finish under the time limit. I’m very happy to say that I didn’t have to walk at all and I finished in about 1 hour and 44 minutes. I loved it! This particular event has been run in Syracuse for 30 years and the community really comes out to support the runners. There were spectators all throughout the course cheering on all competitors. There were musicians along the way, even a high school marching band playing as we went by. Even amongst the competitors, there was a spirit of camaraderie and support which was very inspirational. What a day! I’ll be back for next year’s event!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Derby Day!

When I was a kid, I was certifiably horse-crazy. I ate, drank and breathed horses, though I never had one of my own. I think I read nearly every story that was written about horses. I was nine years old when Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby in 1978, but that was before I was really into watching the race. The first Derby I can clearly remember was in 1980 which was won by a filly, Genuine Risk. Since I would dearly love to see a Triple Crown winner race, I continue to tune in to every running of the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont, even though I am no longer horse crazy.

Friday, May 2, 2008

I’m in love…

(with my parents’ Prius!) My Mom & Dad purchased a Prius a few weeks ago and used it when they came to visit us last week. I thought I was doing well by squeezing an average of 33 mpg out of my Honda Accord by driving conservatively. They’re getting about 52-53 mpg with their hybrid. They were gracious enough to let me drive the car while we went sightseeing for a couple of days and was I ever impressed! We fit three people (one of whom is over 6’ tall), two dogs (both over 50 lbs), and our gear into the car comfortably. It is fun to drive and handles very well. If anybody’s considering a hybrid vehicle I strongly recommend you take one for a test drive and seriously check them out. Hopefully I won’t be replacing my car very soon, but when that time rolls around, I will definitely think long and hard about a Prius.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Welcome, Mom!

Well, I mentioned that I wanted to put up some details about what we did while my Mom & Dad were in town. I don’t have anything ready yet, but I wrote to my Mom this morning and told her about my blog (I haven’t told too many people about this blog yet because I wanted to be certain it was something I was going to stick with). I explained that I wanted to write about our sightseeing and asked her to send a couple of photos as long as she wouldn’t mind if I posted them here. They’re terribly busy, though, so it may be several days before she checks in and then a few more before she gets the photos sent. That’s okay because I need time to write up the dialog!