February photos

Howdy, friends.

Here are just  few treats from this month:


We stumbled across a craft at the library one day. It was making little trains out of candy, which the kids loved. And let’s face it, I love those little wafer cookies SO much. Yum.


Jack was very proud of his train. And then, of course, we got a giant stack of library books.

On this visit, Jack also learned how to go ask the librarian for some help. He wanted a DVD, but it looked too old for him (read: Mom thought it looked violent), so he took it to the children’s librarian, who helped show him it was rated for kids older than 7.

So we put it back and chose something else. That ended up being “Sid the Science Kid,” which is awesome. Where have I been? This show is great!

That then inspired some science experiments at our house — including the very complex: What happens to this cup of water if we leave it outside over night?

It freezes.

And then: What happens if we put it in the freezer?

It stays frozen.

And then: What if we run hot water over it?

It melts.

See? Science is awesome. I tried to get them to leave it on the counter and we could check it every hour and see how much it melted — I seriously had imagined graph paper and lab coats and all manner of nerdery. But they didn’t buy it.

In other weekend fun, Jack and Philip ran an errand one day, and Viv and I stayed home and cleaned together. She LOVES to clean, which is how I know she is my daughter. I gave her a little spray bottle of water, and she wiped down all my kitchen cupboards. And then she cleaned her disgusting food-encrusted booster seat.

Jack has learned to vacuum, with some help. And he makes his bed now every day.

I think I’m really loving this age.


Also: we cleaned every Saturday, top to bottom, because my mother kept a spotless home. I don’t have the same commitment to sparkle that she does, but I do get really cranky when the house is too messy. I just like it how I like it: Beds made. All counters clean. Chairs pushed in. Cupboard doors closed. Everything off the floors. Curtains open. Blinds open. Shoes all put away. Floors swept.

And that’s just what I do before I leave for work. No wonder I’m so tired all the time.

Happy running.

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Tiny little running update

Howdy, friends.

It’s still miserably cold here on the prairie. Normally winter doesn’t bother me — I love my snow boots, my running tights, my 10,000 colorful knitted winter hats, all of it.

Sledding, snowshoeing, hot chocolate.

This year seems endless, and another cold snap this week — with windchills well below zero and some high temperatures not even above zero — isn’t helping my motivation.

I know. You’ve heard it all before.

It’s weeks like this when I really understand folks who don’t exercise. It’s not easy to get up every day. To figure out what to do based on the weather, your work schedule, your kids’ schedules, your spouse’s job.

Especially  when you just want to eat Girl Scout cookies (7 boxes so far, just for me) and lay on the couch.

I was really happy last week for a tiny warming up and the ability to do mid-distance runs — 9 miles on Saturday, 11.5 on Sunday. That gave me 39 for week (why didn’t I just run 10 on Saturday like I planned?). And my normal spin class and other running.

Monday I ran 5 miles, did push-ups, taught spin class.

But yesterday … I just couldn’t motivate. I had all my gear. I had a friend at work bugging me to go with him to the gym. Instead … I walked to the library over my lunch break.

I tell myself a little walk outside is good, too, and sometimes it is. And since I’m still undecided about spring races, what’s the point in being a nut when it’s so miserable out?

The point is habit, of course. I took yesterday off. I can’t take 2 days off in a row. That’s how the long slide into laziness begins. I know this about myself. So today I have to run or lift or take a spin class or do something. Something beyond a walk. It’s always more difficult for me when I don’t have specific plans to meet a friend to run. Just making myself go is a challenge — but I try really hard to not let others down.

How are you staying motivated this winter?

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Currently reading: “Transatlantic” by Colum McCann

Howdy, friends.

Here’s what I’m reading now:


Here is the author’s web site.

And a review from the New York Times.

And here is a review of one of his other books, “Let the Great World Spin,” that is one of the best I’ve ever read.

And here is what Booklist had to say:

In 1919, British aviators Alcock and Brown made the first nonstop transatlantic flight, from Newfoundland to Ireland. McCann, in his first novel since the National Book Award–winning Let the Great World Spin (2009), imagines a letter handed to Brown by a young photographer, written by her mother, Emily, a local reporter covering the flight, to be delivered upon their landing to a family in Cork. Years earlier, while on a speaking tour in Ireland with the mission to raise money for the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass forms a bond with young Isabel, the daughter of his host family in Cork. Lily, a young servant, emboldened by Douglass’ visit, sets out for America, in the hope of a better life. About a century and a half later, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell is coaxed out of retirement to broker talks between the various factions, with the intention of getting a peace agreement by Good Friday. At the tennis club, he meets a woman in her nineties who, years earlier, had lost her grandson to the Troubles. It is Lily and her offspring’s stories—set across different times and in many different places—that ultimately tie everything together, as McCann creates complex, vivid characters (historical and otherwise) while expertly mixing fact and fancy to create this emotionally involving and eminently memorable novel.  –Ben Segedin

Before this, I mowed through “The Orphan Train” for book club this week. It was a good, fast read. Fast enough I finished it in two days (partly because I woke up to snow on Monday and couldn’t face it — so I enjoyed two hours of reading on my couch with the cup of coffee before the sun came up).

It’s been a good winter of reading for me.

What are you reading?



Posted in Books | 3 Comments

Running: Why I’m not taking a shower

If you see me in the afternoon at work, chances are my hair is in a ponytail.

And most of my makeup is gone.

It’s all because I have a secret.

A dirty little secret: When I go for a run at lunch, I often don’t take a shower when I’m done.

This topic has spawned disgust with my best friend (who would rather die than not have perfect hair at work), solidarity from my sister (who looks great in a ponytail) and, surprisingly no comment from my coworkers, who have had to sit near me for 13 funk-filled years as I return to my desk, glowing and happy from an outdoor run – with a little extra deodorant.

When people ask me how I find time to exercise regularly, I try to be honest: I cut out some things that might be really important to other people. Like sleep – a few days a week, I get up when the clock still flashes the 4 o’clock hour and head out for a run. I’m lucky to be able to grab a nap sometimes on the weekend – when the week catches up with me and I collapse and my husband tells me to go sleep for an hour.

And during the week, when sometimes the only option I have to run is at lunch, I skip the shower. I’d rather go 7 miles and look sort of horrible all afternoon than only get in 5. When it comes down to it, I’d generally rather feel good than look good – which is also why I hate high-heeled shoes. It’s not that I embrace the frump – I wear nice clothes to work (OK, sometimes that means dark jeans), earrings, all that stuff. But you’d be surprised how far a little deodorant and lip gloss can go at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Don’t get me wrong – when I teach spin classes, I sweat so much, I have to shower before I return to work. And in the summer, there’s no way around it, either. But spring, fall, dead of winter? Come on. If I run outside, and I do most of the winter, I sweat but it isn’t as … horrifying as the crust that forms mid-July.

I know this really grosses some people out. When I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, sometimes it’s true that I look slightly disheveled. But then I tell myself that if you’re in shape, you look better anyway, so it all balances out.

Everyone finds a place to cut corners in their life – I rarely get all my laundry put away, wear the same earrings all the time instead of planning them with each outfit and keep a ponytail holder around my wrist to combat the inevitable bad hair day related to parenting, running or just not having my own personal hairstylist.

I try to plan my work outfits to look OK with a little grime on the days I know I have to run at lunch. It would definitely be harder if I had to wear a business suit every day – but not impossible. I have a friend who told me when you feel intimidated before a work meeting, put on some lipstick and comb your hair. It’s the same thing after a run at lunch.

Being in shape, defining myself as a runner, makes me feel good about myself. Great, actually. And I really think when you feel good – not just about yourself, but in general from enjoying fresh air and the friendship that can come with a run at lunch — you probably look OK, too.

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Oh, the mommy wars

Howdy, friends.

Like about a hundred million other people, I saw this posted on Facebook this week.

Then I saw this today.

I like the second one WAY better. Especially this part:

Being a mom doesn’t make you into some separate class of hero fembot who never yells at her family and is the ideal worker. Whether you work or not, you are still going to be pretty much the same person you were before you had kids. You probably have less time, sure. But when I had a staff job before I had kids, I ate lunch at my desk and rarely went out for coffee, too.

First off, I hate the mommy wars. I don’t have time to spend it debating who is a better mom. And I’m not going to say we’re all doing great — because sometimes we aren’t. But we’re probably all really trying, usually, and sometimes good enough is good enough.

I ran with a girlfriend this morning who was talking about how bad she felt one day when she forgot her daughter’s shoes, and her kindergartner had to wear her snow boots all day. She feels horrible about it — ALL probably working-mom guilt — and kept beating herself up for why she forgot. And then she said, “But I remembered 25 other things that morning!”


Parenting is tough — whether you’re home all day or at a job all day.

I never wanted kids. And then I thought, well, when I do have them, I want to work and have a stay at home husband. My husband works 3 days a week, so, in some ways, I do have that. And I kind of hate it. Not enough for me to stay at home, but you know.

I was not loving the working mom life on Monday, when I was faced with the daycare call of a sick kid, and the work life reality of having zero backup at work … how long could they keep my daughter dosed with ibuprofen before I had to come get her? I felt really good about myself leaving a sick kid all day, just so I could try to make it to a meeting I have at the end of every day.

Finally, I just couldn’t take it, and was able to leave a little early (I should note: ALL this pressure was from myself — my employer was fine when I busted in and said I had to go).

We spent the evening at an urgent care, and got a diagnosis of pneumonia. Sorry I left you at daycare for 6 hours with pneumonia. I did the same thing to your brother once, so you know, you’re even and can bond about it in therapy one day.

And while I agree, NO parent wants a sick kid, I will also agree that when Viv came to lay on the couch with me Monday night — way past her bedtime but still buzzing from a nebulizer treatment — I just moved the blanket over and scooted over and held her while we watched the Olympics together for a while. And yes, I did love those extra snuggles.

Not because I’m full of guilt for working — but because it feels good to know that a cuddle sometimes just helps, you know? (Not good enough to enlist professional cuddlers, however.)

We spent about an hour at urgent care. Another hour at the pharmacy. An hour at home eating dinner an hour later than usual, and silently thanking the dog for not peeing in the house after being cooped up two extra hours. And then a bedtime that was 3 hours later than usual.

The next day I got up and went to work, just like anybody else.

It doesn’t make me a superhero. I’m so far from perfect, as a parent and as a boss and as a coworker and wife. Some days I feel like I’m barely hanging on. The other day Viv sighed loudly and said, “Why do I always have so much stuff to do?” And it made me laugh and cry at the same time.

Why indeed.

Is it sad that I have an eye doctor appointment today and am REALLY excited to sit in the waiting room and maybe read a People magazine? I might even go early. And if I’m there and see a stay-at-home mom dragging her brood to the eye doctor, which sounds like hell on earth to me (and I say this after spending an hour at the pharmacy, where when they wanted to know my last name, I almost said “Postal. P-O-S-T-A-L. Give me my freaking prescription! No, the kids do not want a sucker. It’s 6:30 p.m. and they need dinner!), I promise to smile at her and take whatever sticky random toy her kid might try to hand a stranger.

Because being a mom is freaking exhausting. Who has time to fight each other?

Happy running.

Posted in Family, Parenting | 1 Comment

Currently reading: “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham

Howdy, friends.

This is what I’m reading now:


I was at the library one day, and they had a display of Pulitzer winners. Even though I am trying to not get any more library books until I make a dent in my nightstand, I had to go look. I took out this book, which I can’t believe I haven’t read yet.

Then I started it last night, and I’m pretty sure I’ve already read it. I’ve done this before (more than once), but at least this time I didn’t buy a book I already have. I’ll keep reading and see if I really have read it … Maybe at 39 my memory is just fading? I already think I’ll need bifocals when I go to the eye doctor tomorrow (and if indeed I do, then you’ll find me drinking away my fleeting youth at the bar on Wednesday night, until I realize I can’t stay awake past 9 p.m.).

Anyway. Here is a review. I’ve never seen the movie, but maybe I’ll rent it after this. (Which reminds me of a well written column by my coworker Jill, which you can read here.)

And I just wanted to give yet another shout out to “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.” I finished it on Monday while the kids ate breakfast, and I burst into tears on the last page. I don’t remember ever doing that with a book. But the whole story just keeps twisting your heart more and more and by the end, you kind of explode.

Go get it.

And then tell me: What are you reading?

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Wake me up in April

Howdy, friends.

I’ve barely blogged about running lately. It’s hard to write about it when you are barely slogging through and hating the winter.

I still have not nailed down my race plans for the year — still thinking of Fargo, the 50K in Omaha and either the Dizzy Goat or maybe Afton. I need something fun, but it’s hard to look ahead when it’s 20 below outside and all I want to do is sit on my couch in yoga pants and eat cookies.

This winter is killing me.

My motivation, my spirit, my desire to be anything but a fat slug who watches TV and drinks wine all night. I couldn’t even get excited to go run the Frostbite 4, one of my favorite local races. We haven’t gone for a few years, and we should have. It would have been fun and a break from this endless winter.

I’m still managing about 35 miles a week, a spin class or two and some random, super pathetic lunges. But I can’t gin up any joy for a real long run when it’s so cold out — though I know my stress level would come way down if I just went and spent about 3 hours running Saturday and Sunday. The most I’ve managed is 10 on Saturdays. Lame.

Even last week, I was being a crappy mom and a crappy wife and finally put on all my warm clothes and told Philip I was leaving for an hour. About 7 miles later, I was a completely different (nicer) person. I know this about myself, so why do I need to re-learn it like once a week?

This is why treadmill running is so horrible — it’s all the work and none of the joy of actual running. When people say they hate running, they must be talking about treadmills. Because real, outdoor running is nothing but pure joy.

And I need to remember that when it’s so cold out. I have a stack of warm running clothes — balaclavas and hand warmers and giant mittens and tights. And a few friends stupid enough to go out there, too.

I’m writing this as the wind howls and I stare a pile of gear next to my desk at work. Somebody make me go.

Happy running.

Posted in Running | 4 Comments

Currently reading: “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena”

Howdy, friends.

This is what I’m reading now:


Here are reviews from NPR, New York Times and Washington Post.

It’s author Anthony Marra’s first novel. I always like reading first novels.

Here’s a quick recap of it from Booklist:

In this extraordinary first novel, Marra homes in on a people and a region that barely register with most Americans and, in heartrending prose, makes us feel their every misfortune. In rural Chechnya, during the second war, a small group of people struggle to survive in the bleakest of circumstances. A gifted surgeon works tirelessly in a crumbling hospital, hardening her heart so that she can perform her gruesome work. An eight-year-old girl who has already seen too much is being hunted by the government ever since the night her father was abducted by Russian soldiers. An incompetent doctor who longed to be an artist paints portraits of 41 neighbors who were killed by government forces and hangs them in the doorways and trees of his ruined village. And a lonely man, once brutally tortured, turns government informant to obtain the insulin needed by his diabetic father, who, in turn, refuses to speak to him. Marra collapses time, sliding between 1996 and 2004 while also detailing events in a future yet to arrive, giving his searing novel an eerie, prophetic aura. All of the characters are closely tied together in ways that Marra takes his time revealing, even as he beautifully renders the way we long to connect and the lengths we will go to endure. –Joanne Wilkinson

I’m not too far into it, but loving it already.

What are you reading?


Posted in Books | 2 Comments

On being afraid to be helpful

Here is my column from the Sunday features section:

Every day, I see kids walking to school.

Sometimes there’s a little brother or sister trailing a big kid. Sometimes it’s a few primary grade kids doing the distracted walk that kids do, meandering their way down the sidewalk. Sometimes it’s a kid racing down the block, clearly after the first bell has rung.

I see them all year long — in various stages of appropriate clothing. Kids in ski masks. Kids without mittens. Kids acting self-conscious and way too cool for coats as the leaves start to turn.

I remember sitting at the bus stop in the rain, and I remember walking to kindergarten. So when I see my neighborhood full of walking kids, it makes me feel nostalgic and happy.

But some days, I see a kid and think, man, I should give that kid a ride. Today I watched a boy running to school, obviously late. Another day I watched a boy still seven or eight blocks from the elementary school, head bowed against the wind, making his way there.

I understand why the school district closed school earlier this month when it was so cold. But it brought up a lot of discussion at work — from “What’s wrong with people? We went to school in this weather!” to talks about how kids just don’t have enough warm stuff sometimes. Too many times.

It was all fairly predictable.

But then it turned to giving kids a ride. My co-worker talked about how her son walks to his after-care program with a group of other kids. One day he told her they all got a ride. He’s 8. He couldn’t remember whose parent it was. She grilled him, but he wasn’t sure. All the kids got in the car — and they all lived to tell about it — so she didn’t worry too much, she said.

It made me think about the many times I’ve seen cold kids walking to school, and the many times I’ve wanted to stop. Sometimes when I have both of my own kids in the car, I think, well, they would see I have two kids already, and it isn’t likely I’m out collecting kids to maim, is it? But I know how it would turn out: with a kid running away from me yelling about stranger danger and a visit from the police.

Or that’s where my mind goes, anyway. And that’s just depressing. It’s almost as depressing as the thought of a child who can’t afford mittens.

I hate that we’ve all become so paranoid that those of us with kind hearts can’t even make a gesture for fear of being labeled a creep. And I have to ask myself honestly: What would I tell my own kids?

Don’t get in a stranger’s car? That’s good advice.

We shy away from “don’t talk to strangers” in our house because what if you need one? What if something horrible has happened, and you need help? Plus, most people are nice people.

It’s hard to balance common sense with what feels like more and more stories and commentaries and devices all aimed at keeping kids safe. I want to keep my kids safe, too. But sometimes I also want to just do something nice for someone, and it’s heartbreaking that I can’t.

Or feel like I can’t.

That I’m just plain too afraid to risk it — so I don’t offer the ride.

One time when I was in kindergarten, I had walked home from school (a distance I mapped as being just under a half-mile from my house) and couldn’t get our front door open. My dad worked second shift, so he would be asleep when I got home. I was supposed to walk myself home, come inside our unlocked house and wake him up after I watched “Sesame Street.” I did this every day.

But one day I couldn’t open the door. I was scared and walked down the block again until I found a neighbor outside, Mr. Amato. Sometimes he would fix my bike in the summer. I went to him and told him our door was locked. He walked me back home, opened it for me (it wasn’t locked, but I just couldn’t get it open that day) and all was well.

My son is 5 now. He’ll be in kindergarten this fall. I can see his school from our house. Would I let him walk? I don’t know. We know a lot of our neighbors. I feel like I need to walk around the block and introduce myself, and him, to every single house, so he knows people he could go to for help — and so people know who he is when they see him.

I tell myself that’s part of knowing your neighborhood. But I think it’s really more part of buying into the fear that there’s someone creepy lurking around every corner.

I don’t see myself letting him walk alone. I work at a newspaper. I’ve read too many stories. That said, my dad had a checkered past and heard a lot of stories, too. And what he taught us wasn’t to be terrified. It was to be aware and street smart and independent.

I know he would stop and ask a child if they needed a ride in the cold. Or stop and hand over his gloves or hat or scarf if he saw a cold child. I’ve seen him do that kind of thing.

So how is it the man with the record isn’t afraid to help, and me, the woman with two kids in the car, is?

I don’t have the answer — I don’t want to be a helicopter parent. But it seems like there’s less and less of an alternative that’s allowed.

Jacqueline Palfy Klemond is the local news editor.

Posted in Columns | 1 Comment

Currently Reading: “The Burgess Boys” by Elizabeth Strout

Howdy, friends.

The wind is gusting over 60 miles per hour today, and if I weren’t at work, it would be the perfect day to sit in a cozy chair with a cup of tea and a stack of library books. You know, the kind of thing I did before I had kids.

Now it would be me trying to entertain them. This link is about perfect to describe current snow days.

Moving on!

I just finished my Tracy Chevalier book last night and immediately started “The Burgess Boys” by Elizabeth Strout.


Here is a review from the NY Times. And here is one from the Washington Times.

I loved her book “Olive Kitteridge.” Like, it would be one of my top 25 books ever, I think.

So I hope I love this one as much.

Happy reading.


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