Archive for October, 2009

Clearly I’m not a “natural runner”.  Whatever that is.  (I suspect one begins by being born in Kenya.) 

However, I was raised to appreciate the benefits of  exercise, so when I started college, I fished around for something to keep off the freshman fifteen.  For a couple of years I toyed with aerobics classes, free weights,  gym equipment and even a few fitness videos (they were still videos then) before I tried running. 

Well, why not?  All an able-bodied person needs is athletic shoes, comfortable clothes and a place to run, right?  It’s cheap and accessible. My kind of activity.


This is not me. My form is, shall we say, slightly different. But that's a topic for another time.

Also, I was influenced by the runners I saw every day on the way to school and work.  Sparsely clothed and seemingly oblivious to everything around them, they ran through the steaming heat of summer and the biting winter temperatures.  Runners struck me as strong, independent and focused.  I wanted to be all of those things. 

Besides, I couldn’t do it and that bugged me.  Sure, I could run across the parking lot to catch my shopping cart before it crashed into a jet-black Hummer.  But I couldn’t run, steadily, for any respectable distance.  It didn’t feel good. And the so-called runner’s high apparently kicks in sometime after one city block because it continued to elude me.

Help came one wintery day in the form of a fitness magazine, one of those publications that feature women on the cover who are not only thinner than you are but have much cuter workout clothes too.  Somewhere past the product endorsements and Five Exercises to a Fitter Fanny, I discovered an article about training to run a 5k.   This article outlined a plan that would allow any person, at any level of fitness to gradually increase their running stamina until they could run 3.1 miles without stopping.  Brilliant!  It seemed much more reasonable than heading out the door to run a few miles once a year when the weather was nice and one just felt like a runner.

I was ready to start.  But an undertaking like this required  running clothes.  Not “athletic wear” from the local discount store but the real thing.  (Maybe not those silly looking shorty shorts with the built-in underwear, but something from a store where only runners shop.)

So the next time I inflict a running-related post upon you, my gentle readers, I’ll take you with me into a running store.  And just so you don’t suffer too much anxiety between now and then:  I didn’t set off an imposter alarm when I walked through the door;  I found the items I needed; they were even kind of cute.

Wishing I still fit into those running clothes,


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CookbooksJust give me a good cookbook.

I like food.  I like thinking about food. I like to think about what I have eaten, what I am planning to eat, what I would like to eat and even what other people are eating.

Ah, let’s hear it for sensory memory.  Recalling a favorite ingredient or succulent dish is not a cold mental exercise.  It evokes the memory of fragrance, texture and taste.  Even better: memories that marry good food and important relationships.

The best book on my kitchen shelf captures this combination between its checkered cover.  Beverages like the simple Hot Chocolate that my children beg for as soon as the outside temperature dips below 90.  Dinner favorites, like the homemade pizza crust upon which countless Family Pizza Nights have been built. 

I began this  collection when my husband and I were dating.  It was nearing Christmas.  I was a poor college student and  wanted to give him a unique  gift that cost approximately nothing.  We occasionally enjoyed home-cooked meals together in his apartment so I decided to record the recipes for some of our favorites and  include a brief note about something memorable associated with each dish. 

One of the first entries was for the Chicken Provencal that my not-yet-husband made for me one night.  I took a study break so that we could enjoy dinner together and I could watch one of his favorite movies for the first time.  The romantic memory associated with this lovely dish?

“…We watched Spartacus while we ate.  I won’t soon forget biting into a moist, tender piece of Chicken Provencal while Laurence Olivier’s character speared the Ethiopian.”

 Yummy!  We have yet to have that dish again.  But it was a fun night and the memory is captured forever.  (Which is more than I can say about one child’s first birthday party.) And if we  ever go twenty-four months without watching Spartacus, I might try making Chicken Provencal myself.

There’s no  snobbery in this cookbook, by the way.  Among the homemade goodies are recipes for favorite treats, like a store-bought fried pie:


1 all-night convenient store


About 12:00 a.m., when you’re in the middle of an all-night study session, sneak down to the aforementioned store and buy a couple of fried pies.  Optional garnish:  one quart of chocolate milk.


Please, don’t worry.  I have no plans to turn this into a recipe blog.

Whether it’s homemade chocolate mousse served in delicate dessert cups with orange-scented whipping cream, or a roll of refrigerated cookie dough and a couple of spoons, this cookbook is all about the foods we love and the unique (or mundane) occasions and private jokes that make the memory of eating them special.

Eat joyfully!

(And please tell me what you’re having so that I can savor it too.)


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You may have already read what I expect when I have a baby.  Our third child was actually the first to foil these expectations.   She was born with a birth defect. There was  a squiggle of skin where her right ear should be and no opening to an ear canal. 

Well. That definitely wasn’t in the plan. 

The truth is, it was never a big deal to begin with.  Surprising?  Sure.  Unexpected?  Definitely.  Like the title says, this happens to other people, not us.  With no warning, we were given residency in a land which before we’d only visited, free to  leave whenever we liked. It caught us off-guard.

And yeah, we experienced some anxiety during that first week or two while we waited for answers. But when she was born, she was ours, an exquisite pink-and-white, perfect baby girl.  No malformed ear or any other problem could change that.

Besides, we have known children who have serious problems.  There are babies born so early and so tiny that they spend most of their early years catching up and keeping their parents in a perpetual state of anxiety; children, who in terms of their physical and mental capacity, will be six months old for the rest of their lives; children who see the inside of the ER more times in one month than any of my kids see their pediatrician in one year.   

Within a few days of her birth we had names:  microtia and aural atresia.  We would learn a great deal about these  conditions over the next two weeks.  Until then we had a lot of questions.  Could she hear in the ear that looked normal or would she be deaf?  Would our family have to learn sign language?  Was this an indicator of more serious problems?  What about all the inside parts of her body that we couldn’t see? Were they okay?

 Right away our newborn seemed determined to prove that her insides were in fine working order.  She nursed with enthusiasm.  We changed many diapers containing a healthy variety of the sort of stuff one finds in a newborn diaper. 

And just imagine our delight when, approximately twelve hours after she was born, I dropped a fork onto my tray, creating a clamor in our silent hospital room.  Our baby jerked her body, terrified at the sound, and began wailing.  Hurrah!  I frightened our newborn with a loud sound!  I immediately called my husband to share the good news. 

Two weeks later, advanced screening confirmed that her normal ear was in fine working order and the inner ear on the right side was perfectly sound.  We learned that opening the ear canal and reconstructing the outer ear would require a couple of  outpatient surgeries when she was older.  That was it.  No biggie, right?

Right!  A slight physical deformity?  We can handle that.  Better, we can thank God for her robust health, for her very existence which daily blesses our lives.  And we can capitalize on our own small experience  in the land of others so that our memories of that early anxiety and  the times we’ve intercepted puzzled looks or awkward questions about our daughter’s appearance adds to our compassion for those who suffer much greater things.


Frequently revising  my expectations,


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Besides, I’ve never been able to do them.  (I can pull off a mean pair of shadow scissors, but that’s about it. )




But this is serious fun!  Put yourself between the setting sun and a flat vertical surface and ta-da




 The kids love it! 




This is my one and only pregnancy profile shot.  Who knew a six o’clock shadow could be so slenderizing?



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That’s what I used to think when, once a year, I laced up my shoes and hit the streets because I had decided that running was just the thing I needed in my fitness regime.  This usually occurred in the two-week balmy transition  between dreary winter and brutal summer.  (Also known as “spring” in Texas.) A sort of fitness-spring-fever hybrid, I suppose. 




And a fever is probably the only explanation for my sudden desire to run.

Here’s what would happen:

  1. With care, I dress for the endeavor, eager to feel the cool-edged spring warmth.  I imagine myself striding through our neighborhood  like the model in a fitness magazine I had picked up the night before.
  2.  I warm up and step outside.    I’m ready for this.  I can feel that I’m a  runner.
  3. I begin, giddy  with thoughts of how far  and how well I will run.
  4.  My shoes slap against the unforgiving pavement. The impact jars my body to the top of my skull. 
  5. Can this really be healthy for me?  Isn’t something about this supposed to feel good?
  6.  I am wheezing, gasping,  emitting sounds that no one under the age of ninety-nine should produce.
  7.  Legs trembling,  I bend over and brace myself against whatever solid  object is closest to me. My face is hot. My skin seems to throb.  But I did it! I ran around the entire block.
  8.  I stumble home and into the shower, wondering what sadomasochistic goofball coined the term “runner’s high”. 
  9. I’m grateful not to be in the hospital.

Apparently, twelve months was the length of time it took  my body to believe that the previous years were aberrations, that this year, I really was a runner,  because I repeated this nonsense every year for several years.

So how did I get to the point of  enjoying running so much that I dream about the day when I can do it again?  I’ll save that for another post.  But I promise, I made it there without self-torture, hypnosis, or a lung transplant.

Eager to run again,


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I’ve lived all my life in the Lone Star state.  But this Thanksgiving, for the first time in 34 years, I will set my table outside of Texas.



We’re trading the humid flatlands of North Central Texas for the  hills and mountains of the Southeast.



This ain't Tejas, Toto.


 Amid the flurry of marketing our home and packing, and then taking a break to twiddle my thumbs in the hospital , I haven’t given a lot of thought to what I might miss.  I know I’ll miss family and friends.   Surely, leaving people behind is the hardest part.


But what about Texas?  Will I miss the accents, the Tex-Mex cuisine, the “here, you’re in God’s country!” mentality? 



Perhaps I'll long for sunsets that glow across the entire horizon with no pesky mountains to obstruct my view?


What do you think ?  Are you a Texas transplant, or have you lived outside of Texas and then moved back?  What did you miss?



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