Thursday, September 29, 2011

Running is Perfect

"A true runner is a very fortunate person.  He has found something in him that is just perfect."
-George Sheehan

Could that gaze be any more intent? He must be seeing baby sheep that he can herd.
(Photo from The New Sixty.)

Could those ears be any floppier?  Thank goodness they add to his super adorableness!
(Photo from Kevin & Amanda's blog)

What's better than one puppy running? Three getting ready to attack you in furry goodness!
(Photo from English Teacher Geek)

What's better than three puppies?  A basket-full of the spottiest Dalmatian pups! Have I mentioned that I'm a HUGE "101 Dalmatians" fan?
(Photo from dogvideofun)

And then there's this guy. Yeah, he's a good runner, but I love it when he cuddles with me.  Sure, go ahead, buddy...melt my heart...see if I care!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Clean Up Your Own Backyard

Although this is a classic Elvis song, I don't think that the problem I'm going to write about is really what Elvis meant by "clean up your own backyard."

Here's what happened this morning...

I bought a new pair of Vibrams this weekend.  Man, are they cute...purple and gray...they make my feet feel very girly.  I took them out for a spin this morning and inevitably, because they are a new pair of shoes, there was a little bit of rubbing and chafing.  I got about 10 minutes out with the pup and I decided that to go any further was going to do severe damage (and I had just come off a good week of rest).  I could have turned around right there, but wanted to go a little bit longer, so I decided to take off my Vibrams.  I am a "barefoot" runner, after all.  So, here I am, running barefoot and as I'm jumping over rocks and such, I noticed something.

There was a TON of dog poop stains on the sidewalk.  And, not only stains, but also places where a dog went, but the owner couldn't get all of the poop off the sidewalk.  Residue poop...that's the worst.


Did these owners train their dogs that they could squat wherever they wanted to?  Austin is a total grass pooper - he won't go unless he's on the green stuff.  Especially today, as I was staring down at the ground even more so, I noticed that this poop residue wasn't just here and there, it was EVERYWHERE.

At the same time, when did people lose the common decency to pick up after your dog?  When did it become ok to watch your dog poop & silently stroll away, leaving me to step in that mess later?  To me, people have become lazy and inconsiderate.  Elvis was right in saying that we need to clean up our own backyards.  Take the five seconds, FIVE SECONDS, to pick up after your dog.  We're all here to walk on the sidewalks and enjoy spending time outside.  But when I have to stare at the ugliness that is a pile of poop, my mood sours and I get upset with humanity.  Do the simple things.  Clean up. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Holding His Hand

There are just some things that cut straight to your heart.  You see engagement pictures on Facebook, all gorgeously fuzzy with love and happiness and warmth, and you yearn for what the two people have, that comforting feeling of comfortableness with each other.  You hear a song that proclaims true love and while driving home, all you can think of is the magic that abounds in your heart when someone is holding your hand.  Strange how a touch three feet from it can rock your core so forcefully.

Do I see more engagement pictures and have a stronger visceral reaction to them when I'm single?  Or when I'm dating someone?  Does that wedding video make me tear up because I wish that will happen to me sometime...someday...or because I can actually see myself in that same position?

I used to write in my journal that it was definitely the former - "I want the knowledge that you can reach over to that person, hold their hand and know that everything will be ok."  I waxed and waned poetic nonsense and felt sorry for myself - timing was never on my side and I had come to the conclusion that relationships were always doomed to fail because one of us was always going to be leaving, moving, graduating, etc.  I can't start to tell you how many pages in my journal are devoted to questioning the guys in my life and the relationships that I might never have.

Slowly, though, my journal entries have changed to the latter - "We were truly in a little love bubble and it felt like my heart was complete."  (We were sitting in a Starbucks and immediately, my mind picked this song to be part of my life's soundtrack).

It's crazy how suddenly, your hand feels better in the hand of someone else than it does hanging listlessly, alone, by your side, something it had been doing for your whole life.  Your heart jumps in irregular beats when that person laughs over the phone - is it possible that Zuzu Bailey from "It's A Wonderful Life" was wrong when saying "every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings" and it's really when someone you love laughs? Angels would be getting wings right and left in my case...that boy laughs all the time.

Separately, the heart and the mind are incredible organs.  The heart (hopefully) learns that sitting down with the someone at lunch who might otherwise eat a PB&J by herself is good for both involved.  It understands that exercise makes the muscle stronger and the "heart" lighter and happier.  The brain recognizes symbols and speech and pairs them together to make "Where the Red Fern Grows" and "Come Away With Me".

But together, they can gang up on a person.  They can make you believe that wonderful, fuzzy feelings and dreams are easily accessible when you hold that someone's hand.  That truly and indescribably, everything and anything is possible when you hear that laugh.  And abruptly, the look that all engagement pictures have is how your life looks through your eyes...the love, warmth and happiness are now radiating off of you and not off of the picture that you yearn for.  You now have what you have always yearned for.  I now have what I have always yearned for.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bring On the Peas

I decided something today.

I have to take care of my body.  That is why I am taking this week off from running and icing my foot as much as possible.  No running.  Hmmmm....

Ok, let's take a step back.  I'm feeling a little twinge on the top of my left foot, which I have felt before.  But this time, it's hurting a little bit more so I don't want to take any risks - I don't want this to become a full-blown stress fracture. 

Also, I should disclose that I'm not one to NOT take care of myself and my body.  When I start feeling a cold coming on, I chug as much Emergen-C and hot tea as I can.  Preventative measures always work better than trying to tackle these types of situations as they happen.  I've been trying to ice and stretch as much as I can to keep my body limber and happy.

This time seems different to me, though.  This time, I'm ok with not running for a week because I know that it is better in the long run for me (get it ... long run ... heh ... heh).  This time, I'm not frustrated with being "injured."  Somewhere along the line, I've come to the realization that running is hard on anyone's body.  It is inevitable that things are going to hurt and time off is usually the best healer.  Time and frozen peas, which are my lifesavers.

Now that I've come to peace with injuries as part of the joy of running, I feel really good about this decision.  Although I have to ignore the pull to get out in the morning, I am trying to relish the warm moments in bed that I have instead.  I'm going to do some elliptical cross-training and weight lifting, but will focus on getting my body feeling better and healthy.   

I know I've made this post all about just one week off from running.  And in the grand scheme of things, it's not a super big deal.  But for me, I want to commemorate this week because it is the first time that I've acknowledged that injuries exist and that I need to be ok with that.  And I am.  So, later, when I start complaining about how injuries are horrible and how I can't stay positive when I can't do the one thing I want to do, remind me to take a look at this post.  Hopefully I'll keep my cool and go grab a bag of frozen peas.

Monday, September 19, 2011

If Heaven Wasn't so Far Away

As I was driving home the other day, I heard this song on the radio and it made me think of my grandpa.

My grandpa, Jose Vigil, was never able to see any of his granddaughters graduate from high school, much less college.  He won't get to watch any of us get married or have babies.  He was barely a tangible presence in my younger cousin's life, as he died when she was still young; she has a few memories of him, but not too many.  My sister and I were lucky enough to have a solid childhood of experiences with him.
  • Going to the shed to get the air compressor to pump up the old, worn-out-to-the-point-where-the-leather-was-smooth basketball.
  • Drinking from the outside water spigot.
  • Going tubing down the small stream on their property.  We'd enter the property, hop into the bed of the truck (the only place we could ride in the bed), and drive up to the stream.  There, we'd cruise down the stream for a bit, but usually it was too cold to stay in too long.  Once it was lunchtime, my grandma would feed us Vienna Sausages & potted meat on saltine crackers.  We'd drink it down with the barrel juice drinks (you know the kind).  Those were sweet, sweet times when life was wrapped up in that one afternoon.  Nothing could get better than that.
  • Riding horses.
  • Playing in the hay loft (which was usually cut short by my sneezes and runny noses...dang allergies).
  • Watching baseball on TV with the sound off (the announcers never said anything worth anything).
  • Making carne seca (beef jerky)...a little bit of salt, a little bit of pepper.
Remembering these times with Grumpy makes me smile and warms my insides.  Here's a little prayer up to you, Grampito:

We all miss you so much down here.  The family is not the same without you and while we somehow figured out how to on in your absence, there is definitely a big void.  I was lucky enough to grow up with you in my life.  I worry that Nieves' memories of you are brief & fuzzy - I wish she could have known & loved you like Pilar, Sierra & I did.

Gramita is doing ok.  Things are getting harder for her - maintaining the house and land, taking care of the animals, worrying about all of us ... please help her to stay strong and not give up.  Because without her ... I don't know what this family would do.

I think that you would be proud of the people your granddaughters have grown up to be.  Pilar is so bright and talented and with focus, could do so many things.  Sierra is a very smart girl who finds interest in new, surprising things.  She has huge potential now as she graduates from high school - I hope that she sees her potential as we do.  And then there's Nieves, who is probably the most caring, sensitive, loving child I know.  She is the definition of sweetness and I can't wait to see who she grows up to be.

Grumpy, I hope you are proud of me.  I've stumbled sometimes and I have tried my hardest to be a good person.  Please continue to watch over me and guide me to do what is right.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


That is all.

Ok, and this.  

For all you Ram fans out there who don't have the privilege of living in the great state of Colorado, and you still want to watch the big game, check out the CSU Alumni Association's list of Hometown Huddles.  These are groups of Ram fans in various locations around the country who get together to show their colors (green and gold, of course).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Few Good Reads

Spent my lunch break reading...and reading...and reading some more. There's almost nothing like getting lost in a good story.  But because of that, I didn't have the time to write a proper blog post.  So, instead, let me give you a brief look at what was taking up my time.

Remember His Name - Sports Illustrated
"Even as a boy Pat Tillman felt a destiny, a need to do the right thing whatever it cost him. When the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11, he thought about what he had to do and then walked away from the NFL and became an Army Ranger...."

We all know Pat Tillman's story - football player leaves big bucks to help Uncle Sam win the war against terror, but dies on the battlefield.  The truth eventually comes out that he's killed by friendly fire.  The detail and powerful narrative of Tillman's story is incredibly well-done here.  Reading this, especially after the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and recently being semi-connected to Army Rangers, helped me to understand more about how the Army covered up Tillman's death.  It is mind boggling to think that a government branch, one that is in charge of the well-being of so many people, would continue to keep secrets, even after its poster boy died.  

Frank's Story - Runner's World
Frank Shorter is the father of the modern running boom. An enduringly popular speaker, he spins a captivating narrative about winning the 1972 Olympic Marathon. The story he hasn't told is the dark truth about his own father.

Wow. This was an eye-opening story about the physical and mental abuse that Frank Shorter endured at the hands of his own father, a beloved small-town doctor.  The memories that Frank has of being beaten were, at times, hard to read.  "Often Frank could smell liquor on his breath, which was both good news and bad. The bad news was that alcohol would juice his father's fury. The good news was that, if he were sufficiently enraged, he might grow befuddled and use the strap end of his belt instead of the buckle end."  This is the first time that Frank has ever spoken publicly, and at length, of his abusive father.  There's also a video interview of Frank within this story. I found it intriguing when Shorter said that he had learned to compartmentalize the pain while being beaten, and that translated to him being able to push a little harder while running in big races.

I believe that long-form journalism on the Internet, where it can be as long as the author wants, has become really, really well done in recent years.  Some of the places I find these types of stories are below:

Grantland - Any Bill Simmons fans out there?  This is his off-shoot site where he has some great writers contribute on sports and pop culture topics.

Runner's World - They do fantastic features/bios on runners.  While I read a lot of their smaller, more instructive pieces, I really enjoy the longer stuff they have to offer.

Longreads - They compile the best long-form journalism pieces on the web. Super great place to start for good reads.  Bonus: they tell you how long it should take you to read the piece, which helps when you only have an hour lunch break. :)

New York Magazine - Mainly read this for Will Leitch's sports articles (like his latest one about attitudes towards gay athletes, which was superb)

If you have other good sites for long-form journalism pieces, please, let me know!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fight On You Stalwart Ram Team

It's college football season, peeps!

And, this upcoming weekend is the Rocky Mountain Showdown, which pits in-state rivals against each other.  My beloved Colorado State University Rams take on the University of Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday.  This is a long-standing rivalry between the two schools and gives the winning team bragging rights within the state.  CU won last year (boo) and CSU won two years ago (yay!).  So, to get everyone pumped for the big game, here's our fight song.

Man, that's a great fight song!

I remember going to my first CSU football game as a freshman.  They were giving out free t-shirts to the first 500 or so students, so of course, we had to be there early.  Because we were newbies, we showed up WAY too early and ended up hanging out in the empty stadium while everyone else tailgated. Wow, we were nerds.  But hey, we got our free shirts!

Another staple of CSU football games is the singing of Fum's Song.  Thuman "Fum" McGraw played was a great football player for CSU and became one of its athletic directors after an illustrious football career for the Detroit Lions.  His song goes like this:

"I'll sing you a song of college days, and tell you where to go.
Aggies, where your knowledge is, and Boulder to spend your dough.
C.C. for your sissy boys, and Utah for your times, 

D.U. for your ministers, and drunkards School of Mines.
Don't send my boy to Wyoming U. a dying mother said. 

Don't send him to old Brigham Young, I'd rather see him dead.
But send him to our Aggies, it's better than Cornell.
Before I'd see him in Boulder, I'd see my son in hell!"

It should be noted that when CSU was first founded back in 1870, it was known as the Agricultural College of Colorado (hence the Aggies reference).  The name of the university has since been changed to Colorado State University, but in reference to it's agricultural heritage, we've been known to say, "Go Aggies!"  The school has also started a big push to remembering the history of CSU and every year, for the Ag Day football game, people wear the old school colors: pumpkin orange and alfalfa gold.

And then, how could anyone forget the famed CSU trombone suicide routine?!  The crowd goes absolutely CRAZY when the band busts this out in the middle of their marching routine.

Being part of something bigger and feeling like you are a part of a great community is awesome.  CSU taught me this and this week is big for us.  The Rams are going into the Showdown 2-0 and the Buffs...well, they're 0-2!!  I don't want to jinx anything, so all I'll say is, "Here we go Rams, here we go!"

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Inhumanity of Humanity

I was a freshman in high school ... still a newbie and figuring out my place in the pecking order that high schools inevitably become ... I had been hanging out in the commons area that morning and I'm not even quite sure how we heard about the attacks; a TV somewhere must have been turned on to the news, a teacher's feeble attempt to try to force something, anything, into our closed-off brains that only pay attention to cute boys, food and gossip ...

When the news broke, no one really knew what to do ... I distinctly remember one of my closest friends laughing and asking what the big deal was ... like planes fly into skyscrapers on a daily basis ... I yelled at her ... I couldn't help it ... my aunt worked in that building ... she was a secretary for one of the companies there ... and we had no clue if she had to work that day ... so I yelled ... "of course it's serious - people are dying!"  It's horrible to say, but that comment from that friend changed how I viewed her for the rest of my time in that small town ... she had been insensitive at the one moment when chaos was not of the controlled kind and all anyone wanted was for someone to reach over, hold their hand and gently whisper in their ear, "everything is going to be ok."

The rest of the day is a blur ... I'm sure we went to class and attempted to learn new things, but really, how can anyone focus on the quadratic equation when your brain is confused at the inhumanity of humanity?  Where had the goodness gone?  What causes one human being to turn on another?  Could I continue to believe in others? 

My aunt was fine ... she didn't work at the company when the towers fell ... the dark, heavy feeling that was sitting in the pit of each member of my family's stomach was slowly released when we heard that.  But many other families weren't as lucky as we were, and I wondered if it was ok to celebrate our news in a time that was clearly not cause for celebration.

It was odd ... initially, right after the attacks, we were all affected by it ... America had been attacked.  But slowly, 9/11 became just a day ... that's what happens when you live all the way across the country, when your office view doesn't change and you don't smell dust and death, don't taste the hatred at others ... we in Arizona were only smelling fall and tasting the new football season ... we were removed, far removed from what had happened ... TV stations didn't show highlights anymore and although suddenly we were in war, it didn't touch us ... I still went to cross-country practice and my mom still wouldn't let me date the senior football star.

Sure, I think now, we fly flags a little more proudly and we say Amurrica with a grunting sound, trying to prove that we know what it means to be a strong, free and powerful country.  But unless you were in New York that day, or unless you lost someone, or unless you went to fight when we cried war, I don't think 9/11 has the same poignancy.  I truly believe this.  For me, 9/11 is a day that reminds me that everyone is vulnerable.

I don't want to end with any cliches ... "we've banded together and are stronger because of it" ... because I don't believe in that at all ... 9/11 divided ... us vs. them ... good vs. bad ... U.S. vs. the world ... everyone's taking care of themselves ... isn't it time to reach over to someone you care for, hold their hand and gently whisper in their ear, "everything is going to be ok"?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How Young Is Too Young?

We've all seen them - the oh-so-cute baby Nike shoes for kiddos.  Since I have motherly hormones racing through my body, I always coo at how adorable and small they are.  But then I start thinking, "Why put your kid in Nikes if they can't even walk?"

Which leads me to my next question - when should kids start wearing Nikes?  When should they start running?  I saw two sets of running mother/daughter duos this weekend.  It was hard to peg the age of the girls, but I'd say they were somewhere between six and 10.  And I couldn't help but wondering when the appropriate age is for kids to start actually going out with their parents and running.  When are they too young?  Is it detrimental to their development?  Is it dangerous?  If you start them too young, will they get turned off of the sport? 

A few weeks back, I was reading the trail issue of Runner's World (for the life of me, I can't find the article online that I am now going to reference).  In it was an article about a trail race that, because of the handicap system in place (head starts are granted to groups based on age, gender and past victories), an eight-year-old girl and a 68-year-old woman were fighting over the win.  As I read that, I thought...wait, she's eight years old?  The story went on to detail how she went out and trained on the course with her dad, doing hill repeats and figuring out where to surge and where to walk (the scary downhills).  I couldn't help but wonder what kind of crazy, deranged parent would make his daughter do hill repeats?!

Now, I must explain that I started running early.  There is one picture that always makes the rounds of me and my sister in a kid's race - I was probably six or seven.  But at that point, our "training" runs were chasing each other around the backyard and through the house.  We were not doing anything hard-core, that's for sure.  And really, after that, running fell off the radar.  School started, we had dance and other extracurricular activities to take up our time.  I finally got back into it in middle school, when most kids are reintroduced into the sport.  My sister was over it by then.

"It is important to remember that both walking and running are natural (authentic) activities for kids and adults..." writes Jenny Hadfield on the Ask Coach Jenny section of Runner's World.  She says that when kids are young (under five or six), make sure that running is fun and enjoyable.  Do backyard relays or take the kid out in the jogger and then ask them if they want to run the last block home with you.  Not until after six or so should you introduce you child to actual running - going out for the sole purpose of running.  This would also be a good time to try out a fun run with them (get them acquainted with how races work).

"Believe it or not, kids are better at monitoring their fatigue than adults are.  They tend to run fast, but not for too long.  And they rarely run too fast, too long, or push too hard if left on their own," Hadfield continues.  This is a really interesting point that I originally hadn't thought of.  If a kid gets tired, they're going to stop  no matter what.  They don't feel any pressure to continue.  If your child is still interested in running as he or she gets older, Hadfield suggests to start looking for running programs for them (like the Girls on the Run program, which combines practicing for a 5k with self-esteem lessons).

I guess the bottom line is...keep running fun.  If they like it, encourage it but don't be over the top about it (don't want to scare them away from the sport).  Don't be the crazy football dad who pushes his son to be the very best QB1 he can be.  You don't want your child to end up burned out on running.  You want them to see how much you enjoy running and maybe, just maybe, they'll end up coming over to the "dark side."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Helping Paw

Just a quick post ... had to show the world this cutie.

He's trying to help me roll out on the foam roller.  Clearly.

A minute before, he was jumping on me, over me and snuggling under me.  Anytime I'm down on the floor, Austin thinks it's time to play.  Sometimes it is, but this time I just wanted to roll out those sore calves!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Don't Hate on Disney

So I'm mandating (that's right, mandating) that today is Tuesday tunes because I didn't post yesterday.

Growing up, we listened to a lot of Disney soundtracks because we were obsessed with Disney movies.  And when I say a lot, I mean we had every main Disney song memorized.  This was a favorite:


How come dates in real life can't be like this?

Since me and my sister are two girls (clearly), we always fought over who got to sing the Jasmine part.  Same thing happened when we would sing songs from my sister's favorite movie, Grease.  I guess we learned  how to trade off...or maybe she bullied me into singing one part or the other.

And then of course, there was this one:

My sister's favorite Disney was Beauty and the Beast.  And how could all little girls not want to be Belle?  She was brunette, gorgeous and loved books.   

Although I remember the lyrics of the songs, what I remember most about these songs is spending time with my little sister.  We'd sit on the old red blanket and pretend we were soaring over Agrabah.  She'd collect Beauty and the Beast toys, while I'd try and get all of the 101 Dalmatians.  We'd march and pretend to fight when "I'll Make a Man Out of You" (from Mulan) came on.  We'd watch the movies over and over again...those are some lines I might be able to recite.  We lived, eat, breathed Disney movies. They were our childhood.

Many people say that Disney movies give children an unrealistic view of the world.  Sure, every girl ended up with the guy, even if she tried her darndest not to fall in love.  And yes, loose strings were tied up and happy endings were a must.  But really, a movie is a movie.  And unless that is all you are exposed to as a child, I do not believe that any harm will come out of watching them.  It is a parent's duty to show you other things and to tell you that not everyone looks like you but that's what real life is about. 

Disney movies are just that...movies.  Enjoy them and sing along with them.  I know I certainly will belt them out any chance I can get.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Being Left in the Dust

In high school, your friends are everything.  Sneaking out of class isn't fun if you do it by yourself.  Having sleepovers aren't the same if you're just sleeping over with your sister at your own house.  Passing periods are boring if you go straight from you locker to class.  Friends are your lifeblood and you swear up and down (and on every yearbook) that you will always be friends.  How could you ever make new friends and leave these ones behind?  The new friends won't know your history...they won't know you.

Of course, we all know that life happens.  You head to different colleges and while you try your darndest to stay in touch, there are just too many new things to experience at school that your daily calls get cut down to once a week.  Sure, you might see each other at home when you go back for Christmas.  But in spending time together during the holidays, you realize that somehow, even though you promised, something has changed.  It could be you.  It could be her.  In fact, it's probably a combination of both, even though you might think that you are still the same down-to-earth person you were when you left.  Don't kid yourself.  You are nothing like you were when you graduated from high school.

It's interesting how your friends become acquaintances and then how those acquaintances become people who your mom gives you updates on periodically because she sees her mom at the grocery store and politely asks what's new with the family.  Suddenly, you have no idea who that girl is that you were BFFs with.  She's married or still searching for love, but doing so without telling you every tidbit of her life, every secret that she can't tell anyone else.

The sad part?  You still want a remnant of what you used to have.  You seriously try your hardest to maintain a relationship - at the very basic level, a phone call every few months would suffice.  But suddenly, all you remember of her voice is what you hear on her voice mail message when you inevitably get it for the fifth time.  And suddenly, the sixth time doesn't come as easily, and you hesitate when you hear her voice...maybe this time, you won't say hello.

I don't know whether you were the one kicking up the dust or the one choking on it's gritty taste.  But maybe, just maybe, you remember that friend who helped you get dressed for prom or hugged you when you got a bad test score.  And maybe, just maybe, you'll want to pick up your smartphone during lunch and give her a buzz.  Or send her a text.  Or just let her know you're thinking of her.  And you remember what you used to have.  Because that's all she's looking for...some recognition that what you used to have wasn't just in her imagination.