Rushing Runs

My last couple of runs have been fine. Did 15 minutes straight yesterday in the KSO's, and felt good today. Calves were a bit tight, but this is probably due to not stretching afterward. Warmed up on the eliptical and did all my PT exercises today, though, to get the kinks out.

As I was hurrying to pick up Speedy for a doctor's appointment (and *not* stretching), I wondered: Do runners always cheat ourselves on workout time because the sport seems to attract driven over-achievers? You know, people who schedule 25 hours into each 24-hour day, expecting to run (literally or figuratively) through some of those tasks and make it all fit. Jesse had the same experience on Sunday, when he squeezed in his long training run between driving to the farm, picking up veggies, and taking care of Speedy while I went to back-to-back meetings at the Havurah. I think we both regularly catch ourselves wanting to run faster than our training plan requires, simply because of the other pressures outside of this one bit of "me" time in our days.


Getting Back to It

After taking a lot of 2009 off due to a variety of injuries, I'm gradually getting back to running, thanks in no small part to Greg & Andy at McGovern Physical Therapy. (Thanks, guys!)

My new training partners: a pair of Vibram Five Fingers KSO's.

I figured that since I am basically reteaching my body to run, I may as well ease myself into minimalist running. I won't rehash the arguments for barefoot (or "minimalist" if you life in an urban neighborhood as littered with glass and debris as mine) running. But since you have to start slowly when acclimating your feet to the VFF's, what better time than when you're already restricted to 5-10 minutes of running at a time!

Apparently, there's little consensus as to which approach works best, so I'm going with Dr. George Sheehan's "We're all an experiment of one." I know other folks are interested in this experiment, too, so I'll try to documnet along the way. (Aside: when I bought the VFF's at Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Charlotte, they mentioned that they've sole 3,000 pairs of the lizard-toes/gorilla feet this season, which is a lot for a quirky shoe!)

I did a 10 minute run in the middle of a 2.5 mile expedition today. I'll report later on how my calves feel. The shoes were totally comfortable at 32 degrees, and not freezing when I had to step through ice or snow. No one tried to engage me in conversation, which was a first -- the first time I wore the VFF's, a woman with glitter on her face came over and told me how everyone was wearing them when she went to Burning Man. No surprises there.


Homeless Families

Tonight I went to a local hotel to help some families who are living there fill out paperwork for a voucher lottery. Jesse was out there a couple of weeks ago with work, and asked if I could go this time to translate for the Spanish-speaking families. Since folks in need are no longer a big demographic in my day to day work, I'm just gonna take a moment to process...

First, I'm reminded once again that Jesse is really strong, and that he has a heck of a lot of hope. For all the cynical code-names he gives his clients, he is able to keep genuinely caring about them and fighting for them without shutting down or burning out. The last time that I worked full-time with an "at-risk" population, I kept going by becoming a little hardened, pretending that people getting locked up or cut was all in a day's work. I was glad to find tonight that my heart has regained its capacity to be broken again and again by individual stories.

Second, it's totally different doing this work as a parent. Most of these folks are eligible for shelter in the first place because they have kids. And those kids are just like Yoni. They were bouncing all over the place in a pre-bed hype, little ones chatting with me, older ones helping me translate the paperwork for their parents. The little ones mostly still know they are loved, tresured, still feel secure even though their moms don't know where they'll be living next week. I gave a 2 year-old a pen and clipboard to draw on, and his 3 year-old sister immediately tried to take it from him. I gave her one, too. She smiled, thanked me, and gave her first drawing to her brother. I wished there were a supply of homes for them as limitless as my bounty of office supplies. As it was, a lot of parents' jaws dropped at the prospect of 8,000 vouchers being released in 2 years.

Jesse did an alternative "martyrology" at the Havurah on Rosh Hashannah, focusing on contemporary homeless martyrs rather than ancient sages killed by Romans. It is generating some momentum, and I'm hopeful that we can do something more focused as a community to address homelessness.


I've Moved!

My personal blog is now at http://speedyima.livejournal.com.

Also, please check out my work blog, A Yard & A Half Landscaping.

I'll be leaving old content here until work stops for the winter, and then transfer it over. (You'd think with a week of ice on the ground, we'd be done, but no...)


Jones Farm

One of the things I most enjoy about my work is the chance to speak with people about things that really matter to them. Whenever you speak to someone about their landscape, the place where they live, you get into what's most important to them -- solitude, play, gathering, health, productivity.

Today, while looking for a nearby place to dispose of soil and sod for an installation we're doing in Chelmsford, I happened on Jones Farm, and had one of those conversations. (I should first say that I got there via another of those conversations, where I asked the cashier at Agway where one could dump soil. He pointed me to Jones Farm, with an aside about the other places one could have gone once, before X nursery chain and Y box store took over.)

The whole conversation with Phil Jones, the proprietor of Jones Farm, was facilitated by the 22-month old's paradise: an indoor sandbox stocked with "dig-dig, [cement] mix[er], dump t[r]uck, and bobcat." This is set up in the Cafe area, along with a coloring area, blackboard, and, for the moms, a fair-trade espresso machine, which I'm told they may have to close down for political reasons. Two laid-back, toddler-wary dogs wandered in and out while we talked.

Jones Farm has been doing organic farmstand production since before it was cool, and has recently added landscaping service. Phil says he got NOFA-accredited because he was "tired of getting lied to at trade shows" by sales people who were unconcerned about the healthfulness or sustainability of their products. Now, he runs both formal classes and Sunday drop-in sessions to educate locals about organic landcare, and gladly shares tips and ideas with his customers.

A college-age woman who came in seeking "cheap grass that will grow through anything" left with compost, endophytic grass seed tailored to her site, and instructions for use of pre-emergent weed control in the spring. She also got an earful of warnings about 4-step chemical treatments and the hazards of pesticides.

Me, I saved a bundle on disposal fees, and got a great mid-day working mom break.


Back to the Blog...and Moving

We finally have a firm "go live" date for the new version of ayardandahalf.com, so I have to put my money where my mouth is and return to blogging. Wait -- don't click anything until November 1. The current site has some great content, but the design has been dubbed "so 1995".

I hope that the new site will be a resource for both new and exisiting customers, for everything from, "It's been 29 days since we had any rain. Water anything you want to keep!" to the latest news on carbon recapture credits for organic agriculture. (For those keeping score at home, as of Sept. 11, 2007, the greater Boston area is in "moderate drought", as classified by the U.S. Drought Monitor.)

Other ideas:
  • Pics of our works in progress;
  • "Project Journals" with contributions from customers and esteemed colleagues;
  • Tips for organic lawn maintenance, pruning, hardscape care, and composting;
  • Design/project ideas for outdoor living;
  • Exchange of ideas about related topics like food security, sustainable agriculture, immigration law.
What else would YOU like to see on your landscaper's site?


One Year Ago Today...

I was, at this very hour, speed-walking around the labor & delivery floor of Mass General Hospital, trailed by my partner, our totally ineffectual doula, an IV stand, and my fabulous friend the Cap'n. (Cap'n made an exception for me -- usually, when she visits hospitals, it is to play the harp for the dying. Luckily, her services were not needed that night.) I was getting very control-freaky: "Let's get this baby born! My water broke at 3. We're on the clock, here, people!" So, when we passed the nursing station, we walked fast. When we got to the empty back hall, we sprinted. Did I mention I was wearing those grippy synthetic hospital socks, having soaked my slippers in amniotic fluid within the first hour? In retrospect, it's pretty funny, but at the time, I was trying quite seriously to avoid an induction.

Note to expectant moms: practice saying (and believing), "I'm not in control," 50 times a day. When you're in labor, it will keep you from getting in your own way. Once you have the baby, you will already have mastered the mantra for your new reality.
More labor flashbacks later, but first: Speedy started drinking breastmilk from a cup yesterday, and seems to have no objection to the lack of a bottle. Tonight, he had whole milk for the first time. His eyes got really wide (fat content??), and he drank with gusto. I'm totally psyched that I only have a few more days of pumping for my own comfort as my supply tapers, and then I can hang up the horns!


My baby ate my homework

Ok, he didn't really. Yet. But as I sat cutting out dozens of little chiclet-sized squares of double-sided mounting tape with which to adhere all the tiny pieces of my first model for class, even I was tempted to sample. Mmm...chewy...

Speedy turns 1 on Friday, and, right on target, he's cruising, babbling, and shoving fistfulls of everything into his mouth (including, sadly, this morning's Cheerios unearthed from somewhere on the diaper table). 1 is this magical age when babies apparently become invincible. Thursday: rear-facing carseat; no cow's milk, honey, citrus, or nuts; no duplo blocks or walk-behind bubble-mower. Friday: front facing, enough caesin to grow a baby cow, and his first lesson on excavation with the Bobcat.

I was reading the 12-15 mos section of Brazelton's Touchstones today, and could kinda identify with his description of the push-pull of toddlerhood. As an adult, I'm still bouncing from wanting to "do it myself" -- forging out to take more classes, biting of bigger designs than I can chew -- to getting scared and frustrated by all of the newness. Luckily, perhaps, I don't have the option to just let someone else take care of it all and remain dependent.

Had a great talk with my visiting mom about this (dynamic of adults wanting to be taken care of) at our final meeting. She was commenting on how even with grown children, it can be a challenge not to "do for" them. Likewise, it's a challenge not to ask someone else to do for us, or to find another way to pretend we're not responsible for our own destinies.

We joke about how much babies at the breast look like drug addicts -- their little eyes rolling back in their heads with pleasure, and then, "Oh, oh, I need another hit!" But one of the saddest moments I've had in the last year was seeing a businessman on his lunchbreak upending a sizable bottle of alcohol into his Dunkin' cup. Speedy was only maybe a month old, and I had the simultaneous thougts: (1) Please don't let my baby grow up to be an addict, and (2) How sad! This man just wants to be nurtured, to feel safe from the chaos of the world, to be accepted, loved, and cared for unconditionally, to slip into that same oblivion that Speedy has when he's nursing. Seems all of life is a series of weanings. Probably not what the Buddha had in mind when describing samsara...


Baby Socks: Tools of the Devil

Enough said.

My wonderful ex taught me a few life-simplifying tricks, like how to pack for a two-week trip using a small backpack. On his shelves, he had two stacks of t-shirts: white & black; 2 stacks of socks: white & black; 1 stack of undies: white (and a random pair of smiley-face boxers). I think he's branched out on the undies, but that's not the point...

The point is, he's going to have a hard time with parenthood, because of the baby socks! You can't buy packs of black & white baby socks. 6-pack of socks = 6 different pastel colors, each embroidered with a different cute animal or sports emblem (boys)/flower (girls). After 1 cycle of laundry, you will have 5 mismatched socks, 1 actual pair (1/2 of which has a poop stan on it), and a week's worth of fun finding errant socks in the carseat, exersaucer, laptop case, etc.

If you are a perfectionist, you will never leave the house, because, having proudly dressed the baby in the clean pair of matching socks, you will find another clean sock somewhere and realize: duckies! The duckies with yellow cuffs match the duckie onesie he has on, even though the light blue puppies looked ok when you got him dressed. And so on.

For this, I went to Harvard.


Sleeping Like a Baby

Tonight the Swadfather & I did the parental happy-dance all around the house. Speedy put himself to sleep!

He's getting teeth 3 & 4 (top front teeth) simultaneously, it seems, so we were all up half the night last night. Then today we had a whirlwind day of running, errand-running, and sukkah deconstruction (er...), so his only naps were in transit.

Even when your Ima is relatively slow, 5K isn't much of a nap, so Speedy was pretty punchy this evening. He was doing his "drunk baby" routine, where he wats to nurse on the nose or bicep of whoever is holding him, climb over the side of the rocking chair to look at the nightlight, nurse upsidedown while doing downward-facing dog on my belly, etc. I was in no mood for it, so I laid him down in the crib, kissed him goodnight, and told him Abba would be in to rock him shortly. When Jesse was about to go in, we heard the blessed noise of our baby buzz-saw, snoring away.

Aside: The (only) nice thing about having a baby who snores is that you don't have to sneak the bedroom door open to make sure he's still breathing!


Endurance 50

I'm starting to feel like life is maybe under control -- the dishes are clean, I'm able to read a few pages a night, Speedy sleeps for longer than 2 hours at a time and feeds himself solid food... Soon the ground will freeze, plants will die, and my work will slow down for a couple months. Maybe I'll be able to post more now.

The Swadfather is running some portion of the Boston Marathon course with Dean Karnazes tomorrow as part of his Endurance 50 series. Speedy & I will be setting up shop on the back of the Black Sheep (my truck, so called because it's the only one in the fleet that's not white) to hand out fruit slices & water along the route. I'm excited, but I don't know whether to hope that the Swadfather finishes or sags, as he hasn't been training. I think both of us take endurance events with a grain of salt now that we're working parents. I mean, Dean's totally inspiring and crazy, but he also has a high-power job, endorsements, and a nanny for his kids.
Last weekend, Swad & I both ran totally unprepared, and did OK. Saturday, we ran the Somerville Homeless Coalition 5K -- Swad with a time of 27 min unladen, and me in 32:29 with a sleeping Speedy in BOB. While 10:27 miles are no PR, it was substantially faster and easier than the 13-minute miles I did last year. Of course, I was 8 months pregnant at the time, and my lungs were squished somewhere up around my ears... It was cool to come full-circle and run the same race with Speedy outside instead of inside. And I passed the same lady I passed last year, only this time I had the baby-jogger, and she was unladen!

Monday, I did the 30th annual Tufts 10K, an all women's race which I've done almost every year since I've lived in the Boston area. Finished in 1:03:27, which felt pretty good, given that my goal had just been to run the whole thing.

Running an all-women's race can be really powerful. About 8,000 women run, and many are first-timers, so the start can be a bit chaotic. You have to seed yourself optimistically, because a lot of the folks are up with 7-minute milers and plan to walk and talk the whole way. I wasted a lot of energy 2 years ago trying to break through the pack for the first mile. Anyway, when we were lined up and waiting around, the announcer was calling for various groups of women to raise their hands: sisters, aunts, mothers, etc. Lately when I've been close to hitting the wall on a run, I think about labor and delivery, and how much pain and effort my body can handle. So, when I my calves started cramping and planter fasciae were screaming in mile 4, I looked around me, remembered that approximately 1/3 of the crowd had raised their hands as mothers, and got all teary at the raw power that was surrounding me. I was on adrenaline for the last mile, and sprinted in to "Meet Virginia" on the iPod as we rounded the Common.


Top 10 List

My visiting mom sometimes gently teases me about being a stressed-out super-mom. She's right, at least about the stressed out & mom parts. Anyhow, by way of atonement for my 4-month disappeance from the blogosphere, I offer my top 10 "You know you're doing too much when..." list.

10. "I really want coffee, but it will just keep Speedy up, which kinda defeats the purpose..."

9. My sling allows me to take multi-tasking to a whole new level: I can feed Speedy, feed myself, pee, and send a text message all at the same time!

8.I'm afraid someone is going to call the police some day because, 'A woman with a shaved head, carring a suspicious black bag just got into an unmarked black truck...Oh my G-d, now she's plugging into the truck and attaching wires to her chest!'

7. While Bob, my mechanic, was changing the oil in my truck, I fired up the laptop so that I could show him baby pictures.

6. At a time-management seminar, my boss asked why I took off so quicky at the break. "Because, we have 20 minutes, which is exactly how long I need to pump." (I also returned voicemails, had a snack, and scandalized a few folks in the women's lounge...)

5. Our office manager can accurately guess what Speedy will be having for lunch based on the color of his shirt. Green shirt? Peas! Saves on clean-up.

4. One of Speedy's first uses of the sign for "light" was to crawl over to a colleague's computer during an early-morning trip to the office and inform me that he was checking out the green "light" on the back.

3. "Running home from work wasn't so bad. The baby jogger & kid were ok -- I'll skip the 24 oz of breastmilk and day's worth of wet cloth diapers next time, though."

2. I routinely have to get a co-worker to hold Speedy while I move the plants out of his carseat wher I have buckled them in.

1. "Wow, if I buy batteries for my pump, I can express milk while walking!" (Note: I have never pumped while driving, nor am I planning to.)



I haven't posted since going back to work full-time. No big surprise -- it's the time of year when all landscapers' spouses threaten divorce, because we're only home to sleep and maybe eat. (Only if we're nursing, it's to eat, and maybe sleep. And sweetie, could you bring me a big glass of water, please?)

I still have plantar fasciitis. And, like a dummy, I'm still running. Not too much mileage, but at minimum a few miles every weekend.

But all of that is about to change, as we have welcomed the newest member of our running blog-family, B.O.B. No, not my dad. Our beautiful yellow hi-tech running stroller.

My initial reaction after taking it for a spin to Alewife & the turtle pond on Sunday: it really is as light as they say. Corners like a semi, but that's not a big deal for distance running. My shoulders didn't hurt the next day, even though the handlebar is a little high. And the shocks are great -- Speedy's head didn't bang around at all. He played with Ducky (caribeenered to BOB) and took a nap on the way home.



Gah! Diapers!

Yesterday, I went into work for a full day. Speedy came with me for 4 hours -- we, plus the stroller, carseat, diaper bag, and breast-pump, got to ride the commuter rail -- then the Antarctic explorer picked him up and they hung out for the afternoon. I missed him a lot, but it felt great to use my brain for several consecutive hours.

Today went a lot less smoothly...

9:49 wake up from nap w/ Speedy; race to dress both of us for work; tuck tape measure & trowel in diaper bag.

10:00 Zipcar reservation starts. Toyota Matrix waits patiently in Davis Sq. while we barrel along with the stroller. Tick, tick!

10:14 Arrive at the car; do carseat; curse traffic.

10:23 Gah! Diapers! Turn car around and return home to put out the diapers. (We're going to visit the grandparents, and a week of festering diapers is not acceptable, no matter how late we're running!)

10:31 Set out from house again, looking forward to getting a work truck because (a) I can leave the carseat base in it, and (b) it doesn't have an hourly rate and steep penalty for late return.
11:44 Return Zipcar to its parking space after a successful estimate; feel like a Visa commercial:

Car-share - $6.25/hr.
Decaf placebo to fool body into consciousness after only 4 hours of sleep - $1.80
Getting back in time to nurse in the car in peace - Priceless.