Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Kind Of Like Covering Your Eyes But Still Peeking Through Your Fingers

I'm currently immersed in my novel-writing and it is wonderful, yes: fascinating, exciting, affirming. It is also sometimes overwhelming and occasionally scary. Scary because I feel so much about what I'm doing - lots of different emotions to deal with - can I hold them all and keep working? Keep going about the rest of my life?

I now have more compassion for previous times in my life when I stopped working on various projects. I had not yet developed the stamina I have now, the mental/spiritual fortitude to keep going or to stand firm in the face of fear or the tumult of other emotions. And the certainty, learned from experience, that no, I will not actually fall apart, though it might feel that way sometimes. I also didn't have the repertoire of little tricks I now have to just keep going regardless...

While there are frustrations in never feeling I have the time I want, in some ways it is also a... blessing? My moments of creative exertion are hard fought for, carefully guarded, and occasionally thwarted, but they are also short. I barely have time to get itchy and fearful before my timer goes off and I need to take care of the next thing. I tell myself these short intervals are training for someday managing longer ones. (I pray someday there will be longer ones.) Of course these short bits also mean I have to be ready to jump on them when they arrive. Go!

One of my nicknames at home is "one-track Annie". This refers to my ability to never forget what I was going on about in the face of interruptions. I can file away a phrase, an idea, a feeling I need to explore and then come back to it when I need to or when the opportunity presents itself. What can be an irritating conversational habit that I need to guard against (hence the nickname - it wasn't a compliment) is proving essential in moving my story forward. (It's also very handy when parenting small children - they have honed this skill in me to a razor's edge.)

I'll tell you, this writing stuff, it's a trip, for sure.

Composedly (ha!),

Friday, December 16, 2016

Learning Spanish

I've started learning Spanish again, using online lessons from Duolingo, supplemented by word-of-the-day emails and grammar essays from SpanishDict, and general attempts to read and understand things around me.

I've wanted to learn Spanish for a long time, mostly out of a sense of "this is something I should do" as the U.S. becomes more bilingual - especially after moving to our neighborhood, it just seems the neighborly thing to do, at least if we really want to be part of it. But now that I've started studying it more consistently, and am seeking out material that I can "read"*, I am falling in love with it on its own.

Previous attempts to learn on my own didn't last, but the online classes make a huge difference. I'm forced to write and to listen, and there are all the little behavioral tricks that feel kind of stupid but really do work - collecting points, maintaining daily streaks, moving up levels. Their algorithms note when I've made mistakes and give those words to me again. And because it's just me and a computer I don't mind making mistakes so I just plunge onward. I'd be a bit bored if this were it but that's why I'm supplementing with my own reading and music.

I had a moment the other day that confirmed how I've been doing this. I've been reading books (fiction) by immigrants or the children of immigrants**, stuff written in English but with Spanish words and phrases as well. Nothing you can't get from context or that's essential or that isn't explained in some way, so it's not necessary to understand it. But still, it would be nice to. And there was a sentence in Spanish that I just... understood. There was no cognitive shift of, oh, this is in Spanish so now I'm translating. No, I just read it. And then I realized what had happened and that was so cool.

My goals have now changed around my learning, now I really want to be able to read literature in Spanish, rather than just have grocery store conversation.

And for those of you wondering how am I managing to fit yet another thing in to my day - 1) I study on my lunch break or on the train, and 2) you may have noticed that I'm not on Facebook much anymore.

¡Hasta la vista!

* I've found bilingual editions of various poets, most awesomely a volume of 20th-century Latin American poetry which gives a really broad range of voices and themes. Children's books are good too, particularly those I already know in English. And I went ahead and got myself a bilingual Bible. Seeking out stuff I would want to read anyway.

** For example: Sandra Cisneros, Junot Díaz, Cristina Henríquez, Esmeralda Santiago. I'm open to suggestions!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

In The Interest Of Full Transparency

Well, gosh, after those admiring comments on my last post, I have to come clean and say that I have NOT managed to soldier on in the face of work needs and plunging temperatures, neither last week not this.

Whenever I post goals or set expectations for myself here, it's always coming from my most aspirational self. What I'm able to do when life doesn't get in the way. (Travel, illness - mine or the kids, work, weather.) Honestly, I usually only manage what I'm hoping for about two weeks of the month.

And this month is no exception. Last week and this one are two of my busiest in my work year, so I've been trading some of my running time in the mornings for writing instead, and just running enough to keep me on an even keel. And then I'll be traveling at the end of the month...

I won't say that the cold and dark and snow/ice doesn't make it an easier decision...

7 degrees was just a wee bit too much this morning,

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

November Training

I started off the month with higher weekly mileage and a couple of 12 mile runs but then ended up re-evaluating my goals (more writing, less running). The stomach bug proved a useful "reset", making it easier for me to drop back on both the length of my runs and my overall mileage.

(And the combination of cold and dark helps with that as well - I can get myself out when it's cold and I can get myself out when it's dark, but it's awfully hard to face both that early in the morning.)

Looking over my training journal I am happy to see that I have managed to be consistent in rebuilding my strength/speed training over the last two months, managing 1-2 sessions each week. I'm going to need to get faster if I'm going to keep up with my 8-year-old, at least for another year or two (and only over longer distances).

I'll start training more seriously for the Soldier Field 10M at the end of February, I know from past experience I can only stay focused on training for at most three months. I was about to write that serious marathon training will start in June, but who am I kidding? With all the many changes in my schedule that come with summer and then the start of school, I'll be pleased if I can keep my mileage up and get enough long runs in to feel confident that day. An October marathon just hits at the wrong time for me to be able to seriously train for it. And that's okay. This is to raise money for Chicago Lights and for the fun of doing the Chicago Marathon again, not to try to prove anything to myself. At least that's what I'm going to keep telling myself. If I repeat it often enough maybe I'll manage to train that way too.

Training sensibly (or trying to),

So, a "normal" week for me right now is 24-28 miles, with one long run of 8-10 miles and one workout comprised of hill repeats, a tempo section, or speed intervals. This week is a busy one at work so I cut back to 4 runs, but a couple of those are a bit longer than usual to keep my overall mileage within that range.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Dawning Of A New Era

On Thanksgiving, we ran a 5K turkey Trot, and by we, I mean ALL of us. It was the boys' first 5K, and they did great. I was so proud of them both.

We started all together and then D and I took off while The Dude stayed with G. I let D lead the pace though I pulled us back just a bit - he's very fast but doesn't yet have the experience of running longer distances at speed. (He's covered this distance before but only on slow runs with the Dude.) But even though I could tell he was working hard he stayed at it, only taking a few short walk breaks now and then. As we came up to the finish line I gave him permission to go ahead (along with a couple of notes on race finish etiquette) and he took off!

I'd been a bit worried about G as he'd never done anywhere near this distance before, not running, so we looked for them once we turned at the halfway mark. We saw them, G was sprinting ahead and then walking and The Dude was trying to keep up with him on the sprints... G is getting to be quite fast as well. They were both beaming.

And here they are crossing the finish line as well.
It was a beautiful day for it, cold but bright, and a great first family race. I'm hoping we have a new tradition.

And then there's the Ravenswood Run in the spring!

Proud mama,