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Day 230: C25K (The K stands for “Are you kidding me?”)

After five days of driving and wine tasting, it’s time to get back into the swing of things and recommit myself to doing good for myself. So, that means eating healthier (excellent) and exercising (one of my least favorite things ever). 

To wit, I have embarked upon the notorious C25K. That’s “couch to five kilometers” program. In other words, a training regimen that promises to make my sedentary, achy, wheezy, plump self be able to run 3.1 miles in just nine weeks. 

I’m a little incredulous. 

But, you know, let’s be optimistic here. 

For this entry, rather than narrating my experience, I thought I’d answer some FAQ’s (that’s “fairly anticipated questions”) about this latest venture. 

Q: Um, haven’t you done this before?

A: First, thanks for remembering! And technically, no, I haven’t. I tried a very similar program, but it wasn’t actually the C25K program. I know, that’s splitting hairs, but hey, I make the rules here. Also, I’ve decided to erase that past failure from my record and start over. Think of it like having a marriage annulled, or “reclaiming” ones virginity. That said, everything I wrote in the intro to the Jiggly Thighs (I still have ‘em) blog four years ago still holds true, except add four years. 

Q: Sometimes you start these longer term projects and then we never hear anything else. How will we know you’re sticking with it? 

A: How about I promise to give y’all a weekly update on my progress, good or bad? 

Q: So, like, does this mean you’re going to train for a half-marathon?

A: Slow your roll there, jellybean. As I said in the introduction to this project, I will not be running anything with that M word in it. 

Q: Oh my god, I’m doing the coolest 5K next month! You should TOTALLY do it with me. 

A: One step at a time. I’m not dismissing the idea of eventually participating in some sponsored 5K-type event, but that’s certainly not the goal here. 

Q: So, what is the goal?

A: I’d like to be able to pop out for a 30 minute without feeling like I’m going to die. At present, I can’t run two consecutive minutes on the treadmill without gasping.

Q: Wait, you’re doing this on the treadmill? That’s cheating.

A: Be that as it may, and not everyone will agree with you, it’s August. 

Q: Well, I run outside, but fine. What are your interval speeds? 

A: 3 mph walk, 6 mph run

Q: A 10-minute mile? My grandmother could run that. 

A: Good for your grandmother. I’m hoping to eventually be able to go faster, but seeing as how I’m not racing anyone, ten minutes works for me. Hell, being able to run one mile, even at a snail’s pace, is better than I can do now. And on a health note, my heart rate got up to 200 today. That’s above the maximum for someone my age, so increasing speed doesn’t seem wise, for now. 

Q: Do you even like running? 

A: Um, no. I don’t. But it’s free and seems relatively efficient. 

Q: If you don’t like running, why don’t you try other forms of exercise?

A: First, see above. A lot of more fun-sounding workouts (rock climbing, dance classes, etc.) are pricey. I enjoy hiking, but as I’m not an experienced outdoorswoman, I don’t wish to do it alone. I’m not a namaste girl, so yoga isn’t my favorite (though I plan to try bikram). And sports can be fun, but the group activity thing is a little uncomfortable for me. 

Q: So, why are you doing this?

A: I know exercise is vital for my health, so I’m really trying to incorporate it into my life. And I want to lose weight. I don’t want to look at family pictures with my petite mother and my willowy sister and feel like the chubby one. I want to get rid of my spare tire belly, shrink the tree trunk thighs, maybe try to slow down the falling of the derriere. I want to attend formal functions without double Spanx and control top stockings. 

Q: That’s body shaming. You shouldn’t do that. 

A: That’s body shaming shaming, and you shouldn’t do that. Also, please stop using the word “shaming.” It’s become an obnoxious term. Besides, I’m not telling you that you’re chubby. I’m being honest and saying that I’m not happy with how I look right now and I’ve resolved to fix that. Maybe it would be helpful if I just learned how to love my body, but I don’t give anyone else permission to dictate my level of self-esteem. I also don’t anyone permission to decide that I’m just a little too fat, aesthetically speaking (a doctor can say so from a medical standpoint). I get to say that my looks are unsatisfactory. You get to adhere to the law of Thumper. And I’ll give you the same respect. 

Q: You really think you’re going to be able to do this?

A: What kind of an attitude is that? 

Q: Sorry. You can do it! Rah rah!

A: Well, let’s not go overboard here. 

 

Day 229: People in glass museums…

On this, the final day of Western NY/Finger Lakes road trip, we visited the Corning Museum of Glass. If you have the chance, I recommend a visit, particularly if you have time to participate in one of the glass blowing activities, which I did not. 

 

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The Temptation of Eve, by Robert Carlson. Painted on the bottom: “To the Woman he said I will greatly multiply – your sorrow and your conception in pain – you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for husband and he shall rule over you. Cursed is the ground for your sake in toil. You shall eat of it all the days of your lives for dust you are and to dust you shall return.”

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Works by Toots Zynsky. Multicolored glass threads are layered on fiberglass, then fused twice in a kiln, and shaped by hand using heat-resistant gloves. 

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This glass chess set by Gianni Toso represents Franciscan (Roman Catholic) and Hasidic (Jewish) figures. The artist, a Roman Jew, placed the pieces to represent an opening of dialogue between the two religions. 

 

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I took particular note of this piece by Karen LaMonte — Evening Dress With Shawl — because she also created my favorite piece in the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, Tenn. 

From Nooga.com, where two of my friends happen to work. Follow @SeanMPhipps and @catclo on Twitter

How gorgeous are these works? She makes glass look like silk. And what do you think the women inside these dresses look like? 

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Chihuly. Because it wouldn’t be a glass museum without him. This piece is called “Fern Green Tower.” I think of it as “The Tower of Medusa.” 

Day 228: Buffalo gals, won’t you come out tonight

Seven years ago, my boyfriend and I stopped at an exit near Buffalo on our way to Chicago, where we were moving. We had lunch with an old friend of mine. Today, it was back to Buffalo to see that same friend get married. His wedding has been the ultimate motivation for this whole road trip. 

And… it gave us a chance to actually see Buffalo. Because of the limited time available, we had to be selective of location. So we headed to Allentown, the artsy hipster district to meander before the wedding. The colorful rows of houses and independent shops created an eclectic environment.

We had breakfast at Five Points Bakery, a toast cafe. Let me say that again: A toast cafe. What a brilliantly simple concept. They take their homemade breads and accompany them with various toppings. I love it. I had the apple cider toast with triple creme brie. Okay, it’s not great if you’re gluten-free, but if not, fantastic idea. 

 

Day 227: Votes for women in a barrel

If anyone could figure out a way to take one of God’s great and awesome creations, and turn it into something completely irritating, it was man. 

But we’ll get to that. First, let’s focus on the good: Nature. And women. 

The tour of the unseen parts of my native state continues. After a very hearty breakfast served by our hosts, Ken and Diane of the Barrister’s Bed & Breakfast, we began the day’s activities with a visit to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, to see various birds, waterfowl and various flora (not much fauna). 

We're thinking hawks?

We’re thinking hawks?

Anyone know what these flowers are?

Anyone know what these flowers are?

A goose. I named her Lucy. Lucy Goosey.

A goose. I named her Lucy. Lucy Goosey.

Blue heron. He doesn't have a name. How about Fred?

Blue heron. He doesn’t have a name. How about Fred?

Many birds. In a tree. Not sure what kind. They were tiny and black, and had a penchant for divebombing.

Many birds. In a tree. Not sure what kind. They were tiny and black, and had a penchant for divebombing.

After that, it was back to Seneca Falls to visit the site of the first Women’s Rights Convention, lead by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. We stood in the rebuilt Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, on the site where Mrs. Stanton read the Declaration of Sentiments. The museum at the Women’s Right’s National Historic Park takes visitors through a history of women’s experiences through the mid 1990’s, with a focus on the early part of the 20th century and women like Sojourner Truth, Amelia Bloomer and Sarah Grimke

The thing that struck me going through the museum is both how far we’ve come, and yet how familiar some of the sensibilities these women one hundred years ago were fighting seem. 

In the amendments to the Declaration read by Lucretia Mott, it is stated: 

Resolved, That woman is man’s equal — was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such. 

In addition to the being the site of a vital moment of women’s history, Seneca Falls holds another distinction: It is believed to the inspiration for Bedford Falls, the town in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” 

Every year at Christmas, a three-day festival takes over the town, and is often attended by Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu. There is a space dedicated to memorabilia from the film. A group of citizens is working to expand the space and establish a permanent “It’s A Wonderful Life” museum in town. 

Bidding farewell to Seneca Falls, we took a meandering drive westward. I grew up in Manhattan and have always lived in either cities or very active towns or suburbs. It’s pretty astounding to me to see acres and acres of unoccupied land — I’m so used to everything being crammed in. 

And speaking of crammed, anyone ever been to Niagara Falls? It’s astounding to see, truly, so long as you can actually get a view through every other person there. 

Can we establish a law, or at least a policy of some sort, that if there’s a throng of people trying to see something, you go in and get your look, and then you move aside and let others see? There were people who were just leaning against the rails the whole time, not letting anyone else in. 

The other issue, of course, is that Niagara Falls, the town, is a total tourist trap. You’re looking across the way at neon signs reading “Casino” and light-up God knows what. 

But despite all that, the Falls are… awesome, in the truest sense of the word. 

I will go nowhere near them with a barrel, however. 

 

Day 226: All along the wine trails

Putting aside the fact that it turns drinking and driving into an activity, traveling the Finger Lakes wine trails is a marvelous way to spend a day.

We began at Taughannock Falls State Park, taking a short hike to the falls. I really need to spend more time in nature.  Walking/running on a treadmill or past a Starbucks just doesn’t have the same restorative quality as being among rocks and trees and creeks. 

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Following this particular commune, it was time to hit the wine trail. This region is well-known for its Rieslings, and while the sweet versions are overwhelming, the drys can be quite nice. 

I’m no sommelier so I won’t make an attempt to review the various wineries we visited, but I will say this: 

Can’t beat the view. 

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Day 225: Ithaca is gorges

Or, at least, that’s what the t-shirts say. So far, I’d say it’s pretty nice. But I’ve just arrived. The downtown commons are pretty fun. I saw Cornell a few times, 15 years ago, but never really anything else.

For the next several days, my man and I are on Western New York road trip. A friend is getting married in Buffalo on Saturday, so we’ve planned accordingly. 

Today was one of the two long drives, with a stop in Scranton for lunch. Sadly, I did not see Michael Scott walking around. 

The route from DC to Ithaca goes through an area called Endless Mountain, PA, a beautiful region with blue and green as far as the eye can see. 

 

From dearsusquehanna.blogspot.com

I love seeing new places. New towns. New cities. I love long drives on unfamiliar roads. 

Tell me about one of your favorite road trips. 

 

 

Day 224: Nancy Drew, girl detective

I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me, there is no experience quite like the one of revisiting beloved childhood books. 

After finding a collection at an antiques mall, I’m working my way through the adventures of Nancy Drew once again, after a break of about 25 years. 

Think about the books you loved as a kid. Is there any sort of theme? In recent months, I realized that most of my best-loved books feature intelligent, resourceful girls, often of limited means or facing some type of adversity (though Nancy Drew, while very resourceful, was clearly from some wealth): Little Women, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Little House on the Prairie, The Diary of Anne Frank…. you get the idea. 

Anyway, I decided to do a little bit of reading on the history of Nancy Drew and I learned a few things: 

1) The character was created by Edward Stratemeyer, who created the Hardy Boys. Based on the success of that series, he wanted to offer a similar hero (heroine) to young girls. 

2) All of the books were ghostwritten by a collection of authors. There is no Carolyn Keene. I mean, there might be, but she didn’t write the Nancy Drew novels. 

3) The character has gone through multiple permutations. While the books I know were published in the late ’50s and on, the original series launched in 1930. Early versions of the book were later revised to make them more “modern.” 

So, if anyone has an idea of where to get the original copies without breaking my bank, please let me know. 

Anyone have any favorite Nancy Drew memories? Did she make you want to be a detective?

 

 

 

Day 223: Robin Williams, with thanks for the laughter

Actor and comedy legend Robin Williams has died, reportedly by his own hand, and for those who find not just joy, but healing, in humor, it is a new day. 

Certainly, the death of an artist I’ve never met is not my personal new experience, but I still feel like it’s right to commemorate the loss of Mr. Williams here, because when someone so talented dies, the world is a little darker for his loss, and yet still a little brighter for his having been here.

Does that make sense? I know it doesn’t. But it does. You know? 

Memorials from Mr. Williams’ friends and co-workers tout him as a kindhearted soul. Mass and social media both are taking this opportunity to publish missives on depression and suicide. We are awash with deserving tributes to his memory. 

A number of articles have examined the link between comedy and tragedy, why so many marvelously funny people have lived and died so tragically. I’m far from an expert on the topic and have no business thinking I can make any valuable contribution to that conversation, so please consider this a question, not a theory: Could it be that humor can be an excellent shield? We often hear it referred to as a defense mechanism, and often in accusatory tones.  

Two generations have laughed with this man and been moved by him. His loss is mourned and his gift celebrated. And everything is just a little bit different now. 

 

Day 222: Just call me the Zombie Huntress

I almost titled this “Hit me with your best shot,” but that would have been highly, highly inappropriate. 

Today’s new experience: Shooting. At targets, at a range, not at living creatures. 

I started out really excited at the prospect of going to the gun range. I’d been told that it’s a great stress-reliever, and I was oddly giddy at the notion. 

When I got to the range, however, and saw the rack of guns, I was somewhat sobered. I think the knowledge that I was about to be handling something that can very, very easily kill someone, myself included (and in this case, particularly) was… humbling, I think the word is. 

I did not grow up around guns. I’m a city girl. You hear about people getting shot on the news or through the grapevine, they weren’t a part of my personal life. I come from a family of academics and intellects. My grandfather founded a home alarm system company. My father doesn’t hunt. The one time he thought his house was being burglarized, about 30 years ago, he was set to defend his wife and young daughters with a golf club. Also, the “burglar” ended up being me, sleepwalking in my Strawberry Shortcake nightgown. 

So, yeah, guns? Not something in which I’m well-versed. 

But like I said, I was pretty chuffed. Until the magnitude of the responsibility of actually handling a gun hit me. And then I was still excited, just feeling a little less giddy, I suppose. 

The young man at the range showed me and my significant other how to load the magazine and how to hold the gun. The lesson took about five minutes total. I’m pretty sure I’ve received more detailed instruction on how to thread a needle. Then, eye and ear protectors on, we entered the gallery. 

And HOLY FREAKIN’ HELL, gun ranges are loud. I mean, I figured it would be, but this is the kind of loud that you feel in your whole body, like when there’s a huge thunderstorm and it’s right on top of your house. 

With one gun between the two of us, we took turns shooting. Between the noise and the actual reality of handling a gun, I found myself taking some deep, slow breaths as I loaded the gun so I could center myself. 

I don’t know that I was quite prepared for the kickback, or for how aggressively the shell casing would fly backward. Despite the fact that I was aiming at the center of the target, I ended up shooting most of my bullets through the head (of the paper target man, not of any actual person, to be eminently clear). I think I need to relax more when I shoot. I found myself trying to keep my arms very stiff and still to fight against the kickback, and I don’t think that makes for the best aim.

That said, my boyfriend said I would be very useful in a zombie apocalypse. At one point, I managed to hit Paper Target Man pretty much in the dead center of his brain. 

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I am very proud of that center-of-the-head shot.

 

So, should anyone need to kill off a pack of zombies, apparently I’m your gal. 

As we were driving away (to an antiques market, because what goes better with shooting than antiquing), my guy asked me if going to the gun range had affected my position on gun control. 

The truth is, it’s not an issue to which I’ve given a whole lot of thought. I was surprised, and not in a good way, that the range only asked for ID from one of us. Being in close range of a number of strangers with guns, I suppose it made me feel like I would like there to be some requirements, I suppose, for owning a firearm.Yes, second amendment and all (you know, that pesky ol’ Constitution), but I’d feel more comfortable knowing that being of sound mind was a prerequisite for gun ownership. Also, some proper usage training would be nice. Hell, people have to take a months-long class and two tests in order to be licensed to drive a car, and that can also be a deadly weapon when used improperly. 

We’re definitely going back. I feel like this isn’t an area where I felt comfortable being ignorant. Like I said, guns have never been a part of my life and I don’t plan for them to be. I’ve never lived in a home with a gun, and I’ve never had any intention of having one in my home. But if there were to be any reason for me to ever own one or hold one, outside of a range, I would want to feel confident. If I’m going to be afraid of a gun, it’s going to be one that’s in someone else’s hand, not in my own. 

And also, it really was fun. And once I stopped wanting to jump out of my skin from the noise, yes, a definite stress reliever. 

I feel like my mother will not appreciate this photo.

I feel like my mother will not appreciate this photo.

Day 221: Fest Africa

In some ways, Silver Spring, Md. is a very white bread, boring sort of suburb. There’s an H&M, a Potbelly, a Red Lobster… I generally describe this area as being “very serviceable.” By that I meant that you can generally do or get anything you might need, but there’s not a lot here that is particularly unique or high quality. 

On the other hand, the area in which I now reside has an active and proud Ethiopian and African community, which made Silver Spring an excellent host for FestAfrica, the 12th annual festival celebrating African culture and heritage. 

The plaza in Downtown Silver Spring was surrounded by booths selling jewelry, masks and brightly colored dresses and robes. Entertainment included a storyteller, a fashion show, and a performance by the Barakaat Middle Eastern Dance Company. 

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