Genevieve turns 4

Howdy, friends.

Today my beautiful Genevieve Ann turns 4.

Four!

The best thing about age 4? We’re all done with age 3, baby. Though I confess to misting up a bit today thinking about how 4 is definitely a kid, while 3 can still be kind of a toddler … sort of an in-between age. So she’s 4. That’s a big girl.

Four years ago today, I went to see my doctor, after having been on bed rest for a week, and a month before Viv was due, and she took a peek and said, OK, go home and get your bag. It’s show time. The baby who was due on Thanksgiving was born before Halloween. It was a very fast labor and an even faster delivery (woo hoo!). And there she was.

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Look at that squishy sweet face. 5 pounds of perfect baby. (Except for how she cried nonstop for like a year. Let’s just gloss over that in our memories.)

This week we’ve talked a lot about being born.

“Mom, was I in your tummy?”

“Yep.”

“What did I do in there?”

“You ate all my food! Piggy! All of it! I had to keep eating more, and you just kept eating it!”

She thinks this is super hilarious. She tells me she can remember it. Now she wants to know how she got out of my tummy … but I keep deflecting that. “You just did. Who wants some candy corn?”

She’s pretty much the best little girl ever. Hilarious, imaginative — so imaginative — and just wonderful.

Happy birthday, sweet girl.

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Birthday7

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Journalists, a lost 50K and what I’m reading…

Howdy, friends.

There are tons of tributes out there to Ben Bradlee right now. Here‘s a link to a few of them.

I read his book “A Good Life” more than a decade ago and loved it, along with “Personal History” by Katharine Graham. Both of them made me desperately want to be a kick ass journalist. And reading tributes to Bradlee today made me think even more about my chosen career, and how I can personally just be better at it. Better as a leader, as a journalist, how I can care more. And how I can take it and show it.

We’ll see if that lasts beyond the morning, when the grind of the day threatens to take over. I hope it does.

And if you haven’t read those two books, you really should. Here’s the Amazon summary of “A Good Life”:

This is the witty, candid story of a daring young man who made his own way to the heights of American journalism and public life, of the great adventure that took him at only twenty years old straight from Harvard to almost four years in the shooting war in the South Pacific, and back, from a maverick New Hampshire weekly to an apprenticeship for Newsweek in postwar Paris, then to the Washington Bureau chief’s desk, and finally to the apex of his career at The Washington Post. Bradlee took the helm of The Washington Post in 1965. He and his reporters transformed it into one of the most influential and respected news publications in the world, reinvented modern investigative journalism, and redefined the way news is reported, published, and read. Under his direction, the paper won eighteen Pulitzer prizes. His leadership and investigative drive following the break-in at the Democratic National Committee led to the downfall of a president, and kept every president afterward on his toes. Bradlee, backed every step of the way by the Graham family, challenged the federal government over the right to publish the Pentagon Papers – and won. His ingenuity, and the spirited reporting of Sally Quinn, now his wife, led to the creation of the Style Section, a revolutionary newspaper feature in its time, now copied by just about every paper in the country.

And some about Katharine Graham, too, because she was pretty awesome:

In lieu of an unrevealing Famous-People-I-Have-Known autobiography, the owner of the Washington Post has chosen to be remarkably candid about the insecurities prompted by remote parents and a difficult marriage to the charismatic, manic-depressive Phil Graham, who ran the newspaper her father acquired. Katharine’s account of her years as subservient daughter and wife is so painful that by the time she finally asserts herself at the Post following Phil’s suicide in 1963 (more than halfway through the book), readers will want to cheer. After that, Watergate is practically an anticlimax.

Maybe I’ll go re-read those.

But right now, I’m reading this:

feathers

Here is a review from Newsweek on “The Thing with Feathers,” by Noah Strycker. (It, of course, also is “hope” according to Emily Dickinson — something good to think about for me right now.)

So far I’ve learned a lot about starlings and some video game thing called Boids and that penguins are afraid of walruses. And once again I wonder: WHY wasn’t I more in love with science in school? It’s so good.

Beyond that, feeling a little sorry for myself (where’s my thing with feathers???) that I won’t be running the G.O.A.T.Z. 50K this weekend. At this time last year, I was so looking forward to it. To further torture myself, I re-read my race report this week. I forgot how fun it was. Now I’m even more miserable.

Just kidding. Just over 6 weeks out from surgery, I ran 4 miles this morning at a truly pathetic pace. But it felt a lot better than it did when I tried for the first time last week, and that gives me hope (hi, feathers!). The best thing is it’s not like my uterus can fall out again, right?

It’s the little things.

Happy running. Especially to all the ultramarathoners this weekend.

 

 

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When we moved to suburbia

Howdy, friends. This is a sneak peek at my column for this Sunday. I apologize for the weird paragraph issues. No matter how many times I copy and paste it into here, it keeps deleting the breaks. I’ll try to fix it later:

We moved into a new house this summer – trading in our central Sioux Falls home for one that feels firmly rooted in suburbia, complete with a huge kitchen and a giant back yard.
It’s kind of awesome. Sure, I miss things about living near downtown – like walking to parades and being able to zip home from work if I need to. But I don’t miss having no counter or closet space. And I’m pretty sure once the snow starts, I’m going to be even more thrilled with our attached garage – the first one I’ve had in my life. Oh, the luxury.
Those creature comforts make the sting of a bigger mortgage a bit softer, but they weren’t the main reasons we moved (OK, maybe closet space was one of my own personal reasons, but don’t tell my husband).
Really I wanted a back yard. And kids next door. I wanted Jack, 6, and Viv, 3, to have lots of little friends to play with outside. Our old yard had a very odd configuration that meant we spent most of our outside time playing in our long driveway. That was great for learning to ride a bike, and we were a block from McKennan Park, so we could get a lot of our running around done there.
But it also meant I had to be outside with them all the time. I couldn’t see them from the kitchen window, and they still are a little too young to be on their own out there.
At our new house (swoon), we have a giant yard. It’s all grass. Glorious, green grass (I don’t think my husband misses the insane amount of landscaping we had at our old house). My in-laws bought us a swingset for a housewarming gift, and Philip and his brother Tom put it up outside the kitchen window.
It’s been a fun transition to get to know our new neighborhood, and to realize that instead of meeting everyone from sitting on our front porch (which we no longer have), we make friends with the people behind us, when we’re all out on our decks. So far, everyone has been pretty friendly – and welcoming to Jack and Viv and their hundreds of questions.
But one of the best parts has been watching Viv make friends with our neighbor, Gia. They’re a few months apart in age, and already they are frenemies. I met my best friend, Laurie, when I was 5 and she was 4, and our parents moved in next door to each other. We weren’t neighbors for long, but built a lifelong bond. Now, 35 years later, I still talk to her every day.
So I look at Gia, and I think, is this Viv’s best friend? I hope so. It’s wonderful to have someone who gets jokes that go back decades.
And, of course, remembers insults and injuries. Laurie likes to remind me about the time I threw her Barbie kitchen across the garage in a fit of rage and broke it. I swear it comes up at least every few weeks. In an email it could be, “Sorry you’re having a bad day. Maybe you should go throw a Barbie kitchen to make yourself feel better.”
As I watch Viv and Gia play, I keep wondering what their Barbie kitchen moment will be. They’ve already had a few doozies in the past few months. There’s a lot of “I’m going home!” Followed by slammed screen doors, stomping and then crying.
I try not to intervene too much. I don’t remember my parents helping Laurie and I work it out (it was 1980, they were too busy smoking cigarettes and ignoring us). Viv and Gia need to figure out how to be a friend. And almost every time, one or the other comes walking back apologizing and ready to play again.
It’s pretty fun to watch. And even more fun to listen to them make up stories and games. Right now they love pretending to camp in our living room, which involves hauling an inordinate amount of toys from the perfectly good playroom to the perfectly clean living room and dumping them all over. Lots of baby dolls, blankets, and random toy strollers. Sometimes Jack gets in on the action and helps them drag out the sleeping bags.
They also play some random games in the backyard with Gia and her brother, and the two kids on the other side of us. I love listening to their little voices as they make things up, argue, work it out and invent something else. This summer they were barefoot and dirty and sweaty and loud and awesome.
The best part is, I can see and hear them from inside. They work their own arguments out. And so far only once has that turned out poorly. I heard Viv crying that her balloon (from a birthday party) was stuck in the playset. I kept listening, thinking, well, if I can hear them talking, they haven’t hung themselves on the string yet. I heard the door open and close, and then the crying turned real.
You know the difference between whiny crying and full-on sobbing.
I ran outside, and there was Viv, staring forlornly at the sky as huge, huge tears rolled down her cheeks. Her balloon was just floating away, higher and higher and higher.
Jack stood there, too, with a pair of scissors.
“I tried to help her, mom! I just wanted to help!” he said before I could even ask what happened.
“It’s higher and higher! I can’t get it! I tried to reach it and I can’t!” Viv sobbed.
I sat in the grass, pulled her into my lap and the three of us talked about helium. It was a good lesson on having good intentions. On science. On imagination, when I told them the balloon probably floated up to a cloud where our dog Harley lives now, and he was holding onto it. With his paw, I guess.
They bought it.
We looked into the sky, as the balloon got smaller and smaller, and I thought about how I loved the feel of our new grass under my legs. How proud I was of Jack for trying to solve his sister’s problem. And of how life is just made of these little tiny moments, and every day their childhood floats farther and farther from me.
It was sweet and heartbreaking and fleeting.
I don’t remember what happened next, but someone probably kicked someone else, or they begged for a snack or wanted to watch TV or some other reality-check about how annoying parenting is, overall.
But for a minute, it felt like my own childhood – green grass, open sky and all the time in the world.

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First run after surgery

Howdy friends.

Today I decided to try running again. I can’t lie — it was pretty crappy. I feel like I have zero core strength and like I’ve never exercised before in my life.

But I did it. Pathetically. Slowly.

And then I entered 5 miles into my log — first entry since early September. And that felt pretty great. At this time last year I was getting ready for an ultra marathon.

This year? Just hoping to enjoy a bit of the fall running and walking before winter.

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It’s not the first time I’ve had to start from scratch. So I know it will be just fine.

Happy running.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Remember me?

Howdy, friends.

Long time, no post.

I had kind of a crazy spring that turned into a busy summer and then a weird fall.

And every time I thought about posting, I felt like too much time had passed and nobody would care. But I miss the blog, so here I am.

This spring we sold our house (in a bidding war, which was super fun).

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and bought a new, bigger house with a giant back yard — which the kids love:

Backyard

That meant a ridiculous amount of time living out of boxes and wondering where our shoes were.

In the middle of all of it, we drove from South Dakota to Colorado for my nephew’s wedding:

Aw! We actually do wear dress clothes sometimes!

Aw! We actually do wear dress clothes sometimes!

After the move, we settled into a new life with a kindergartner and all that being a slave to the school calendar entails. So far, so good.

All the while, I continued to train and hoped to run the G.O.A.T.Z. 50K again this fall. But life got in the way, and instead of celebrating the end of summer with long runs on gravel roads and dirt trails, I spent it recovering from lady surgery.

Just over five weeks out, and I’m still recovering with seemingly some new setback every week. But while it’s one step forward and two steps back, I know things are progressing and I’ll be able to run again soon. And push a full grocery cart. And pick Viv up (I promised I would on her birthday, though I confess to having picked her up a few times already — rushing her puking self to the bathroom, carrying her sleeping self back to her own bed and once because she was sad).

The good news is I read 10 books while I was on my disability leave.

I’ve still written columns for my day job while I’ve been away from blogging, so I’ll try to post a few of those coming up.

And because I know you want to see them, here are some very cute trick-or-treaters:

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Happy reading and running and candy-eating.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Currently reading: “The Panopticon” by Jenni Fagan

Howdy, friends.

This is what I’m reading now:

panopticon

Here and here are reviews from the New York Times.

And here is one from NPR.

And here is what Booklist had to say:

Anais Hendricks, the tough, fiery 15-year-old at the center of Fagan’s first novel, has grown up in the foster care system in England. Abandoned by her mother, who gave birth to her in a mental institution, Anais has been bounced around ever since the murder of Theresa, a compassionate prostitute and the only mother figure Anais has ever known. Anais is brought to the Panopticon, a halfway house for truant teens, after she’s accused of brutally beating a police officer and leaving her in a coma. Anais, who was hopped up on drugs at the time, can’t remember whether she’s guilty or not. The police are gunning for her, determined to send Anais to juvenile detention until she’s 18. At the Panopticon, Anais is convinced she’s being watched as part of a sinister experiment, the purpose of which, she believes, is to try to bring her down and all but eradicate her from society. Told in Anais’ raw voice, Fagan’s novel peers into the world inhabited by forgotten children, and, in Anais, gives us a heartbreakingly intelligent and sensitive heroine wrapped in an impossibly impenetrable exterior. Readers won’t be able to tear themselves away from this transcendent debut. –Kristine Huntley

 

And a thank you to the reader to alerted me to this and the blogger who heeded my lawyer’s advice and took down her post where she plagiarized my site. You should be ashamed of yourself and embarrassed.

Happy reading. And original writing.

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Currently reading: “Black Moon” by Kenneth Calhoun

Howdy, friends.

I always tell myself, “No more post-Apocalyptic fiction!” But then, there I am, reading it again.

I’m about 75 pages into “Black Moon” right now. So far, I dig it.

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Before this, I read “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt. And it was amazing.

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NPR review here for “Wolves” and “Moon.”

So that’s where I am right now. I’m making excellent progress on my book a week goal for the year, despite “Goldfinch” being so long.

Happy reading.

 

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Currently reading: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

Howdy, friends.

Last night I powered through the rest of “Three Graves Full,” and didn’t love it. I confess to skimming it — it just didn’t grab me, but I can’t completely quit reading a book. I feel too guilty and like to give authors a chance. I’ve read a lot of books that took me halfway through to be utterly consumed, and then been grateful I stuck with it. This book wasn’t one of them, but that’s OK.

Next up is “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt.

Tartt

I’ve loved Donna Tartt since her first book, “The Secret History,” which I read while working briefly in a bookstore on a winter break from college. One of the employees recommended it to me, and I was absolutely, utterly hooked immediately. It helped that I had just taken some Classics classes and felt pretty pleased with myself.

My sister also read it and loved it.

So it was sad to have to wait several years for her second book, “The Little Friend.” It was also amazing, and there is a scene in a watertower that is so vivid it still sticks with me. I love that.

(Here is a review of her first book, and here is one of her second.)

I’ve been forcing myself to finish my stack of library books before I read her latest, “The Goldfinch.” I even bought it — which is very rare for me. But she’s an author I like to see on my bookshelf. And by that I mean the wall of books in our basement. Swoon.

Here’s what Booklist says about “The Goldfinch”:

Cataclysmic loss and rupture with criminal intent visited upon the young have been Tartt’s epic subjects as she creates one captivating and capacious novel a decade, from The Secret History (1992) to The Little Friend (2002) to this feverish saga. In the wake of his nefarious father’s abandonment, Theo, a smart, 13-year-old Manhattanite, is extremely close to his vivacious mother—until an act of terrorism catapults him into a dizzying world bereft of gravity, certainty, or love. Tartt writes from Theo’s point of view with fierce exactitude and magnetic emotion as, stricken with grief and post-traumatic stress syndrome, he seeks sanctuary with a troubled Park Avenue family and, in Greenwich Village, with a kind and gifted restorer of antique furniture. Fate then delivers Theo to utterly alien Las Vegas, where he meets young outlaw Boris. As Theo becomes a complexly damaged adult, Tartt, in a boa constrictor-like plot, pulls him deeply into the shadow lands of art, lashed to seventeenth-century Dutch artist Carel Fabritius and his exquisite if sinister painting, The Goldfinch. Drenched in sensory detail, infused with Theo’s churning thoughts and feelings, sparked by nimble dialogue, and propelled by escalating cosmic angst and thriller action, Tartt’s trenchant, defiant, engrossing, and rocketing novel conducts a grand inquiry into the mystery and sorrow of survival, beauty and obsession, and the promise of art. –Donna Seaman

And here is a story and a review from the New York Times, and an interview with her.

If you haven’t read her books, you should. You should go out right now and get “The Secret History.” I promise.

Happy reading.

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Currently reading: “Three Graves Full” by Jamie Mason

Howdy, friends.

This is what I’m reading now:

graves

I picked it up because I liked the cover. I’m so shallow.

But I am not loving it. I’m just over halfway through, and the story is OK so far — but the writing is a little forced in places. There are some parts where it just stinks of trying too hard. SO many paragraphs end with little alliterative phrases that make me want to scream: “… stumbled back into the house on widow-weighted feet,” and “… yawned a halt to the pavement’s progress.”

I don’t know why it’s making me so nuts. But it is.

Here is a review from Booklist:

First-novelist Mason hooks the reader with her first sentence, “There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.” Mild-mannered widower Jason Getty is responsible for burying one body, but he’s shocked when two others are discovered in his yard and found to be the work of the home’s previous owner, Boyd Montgomery, who came upon his wife, Katielynn, in bed with Reid Reynolds three years earlier, just weeks before Reynolds was to marry his childhood sweetheart, Leah Tamblin. Getty, on tenterhooks, is massively relieved when police wrap up the latter two murders, until persistent detective Tim Bayard finds blood traces in Getty’s house that point to a third crime. As Getty prepares a cover-up, Tamblin comes looking for answers and resolution, and what seemed a closed murder case opens up again. Ratcheting up suspense is one thing, and Mason manages it masterfully, particularly as it concerns Getty’s fate. But portraying characters so well and so thoroughly, examining and explaining their motives even for murder, requires a level of skill that is rare, marking this as an astonishingly accomplished debut and Mason as a writer to watch very closely. –Michele Leber

So maybe I’ll keep going. I rarely quit a book, anyway. Here‘s another review. And here is the author’s web site.

Happy reading.

Posted in Books | 3 Comments

Winter run

Howdy, friends.

Last week, a few of us were emailing back and forth, trying to figure out the last miserable part of the weekend, so we could go for a long run and not be beaten down by the weather.

Of course, this winter, that moment doesn’t exist.

So the best we could hope for was a tailwind and a little daylight. And in the hopes of regaining some joy in our lives, a little gravel and country scenery.

To that end, we decided to waste a ridiculous amount of time dropping one car off, driving another one 12 miles north to Baltic, and then running south, with a tailwind the whole way.

It was so, so worth it.

We saw three or four cars the entire way and ran in a gentle snow and bitter cold. But with a tailwind, it didn’t feel cold at all. Until the last half mile, where we turned into the wind to get to the car. It was honestly kind of miserable. I was so cold in the wind that my teeth started to hurt and I realized my face was so frozen I was drooling on myself.

Running is so sexy.

This is what we looked like. I had to crop half my face out because it was more of a grimace than a smile, since I was frozen:

Me, Christine and Chris, winter idiots

Me, Christine and Chris, winter idiots

We ran just under 12 miles, which was just fine. I have finally learned to put my hair in two braids instead of a ponytail — my balaclava basically turns it into one giant knot on long runs.

After this, and the next hour of getting cars and getting home, I took the world’s longest and hottest shower. For the first time, my feet really hurt, and when I looked at them, there were huge weird white spots on the bottom of them. I think it was from sitting in wet socks for so long. It went away shortly after and was fine, but it was weird. I usually get Raynaud‘s in my hands, but I never have in my feet.

I wimped out on Sunday and didn’t run — instead we took the kids to see “Frozen,” and then Viv and I took a 2-hour nap together. It was worth it.

Happy running.

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