Monthly Archives: January 2014

Birthday Weekend Starts

Embarrassed!

Embarrassed!

Jake turns 22 on Monday! He started his big birthday festivities by driving home from UTSA yesterday (he’s off on Fridays). Little brother will be here from SHSU later today (he does have a couple classes) to gather with Jake’s besties Chase (our “third son”), Josh, and Tanner for a fun weekend.

Last night we ate dinner at Willie’s, which is one of his favorite restaurants (plus we had a coupon for a free entrée for the birthday boy). It’s possible that someone let it slip whose birthday it was . . . and that meant that the wait staff sang and gave him ice cream. And it’s very likely that someone was not pleased at all of the attention.

There definitely was a balding third person who was glad he wasn’t to blame!

One-Word Wednesday

This mediterranean house gecko is a freeloader on our clothes hamper.

This Mediterranean house gecko on our clothes hamper is a freeloader.

Gecko!

I named him Petey. Hope he either starts paying rent or leaves!

I named him Petey. Hope he either starts paying rent or leaves!

Indoor Butterfly Fun

A lot of soon-to-be flyers

A lot of soon-to-be flyers

Yesterday the Mister and I participated in one of our time-worn traditions: Using a Groupon within days of expiration. After the, oh, 50th time or so, you’d think we’d do a better job of lessening our stress by planning ahead.

But that would not be us!

Delicate-looking rice paper butterflies were common here.

Delicate-looking rice paper butterflies are common here.

Fortunately, it was a beautiful 70-degree day, which made it easy to go for an adventure. Yes, we sprung loose of my 10-mile comfort-radius shackles and headed for the Big City, aka Houston. Destination? The Houston Museum of Natural Science.

A tiger longwing drinks up.

A tiger longwing drinks up.

We hadn’t visited the museum since that 2009 Bar Mitzvah party. Our Groupon allowed us access to the butterfly center and the exhibits. Of course, I was mostly interested in capturing good photos of the frequent flyers with my Nikon 105mm macro lens.

The underside of the blue morpho is stunning.

The blue morpho’s underside is stunning; wish it had cooperated and opened its wings.

The moment we walked into the sauna-like area, I was wishing I had opted for my Nikon 70-200mm lens, however. The butterflies flitted and fluttered all over the place. They were so beautiful! But they also stopped to rest so far away most of the time.

This tawny owl was hiding in the dark.

This tawny owl was hiding in the dark.

Despite having plentiful light from the large windows and roof, I did use my flash occasionally to try to bring out all the details. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to bother my subjects.

Gorgeous!

Wonder what kind this one is.

It was wonderful watching the butterflies move around us as if we weren’t important at all. And I guess we weren’t.

Charro, a green iguana (mature males are orange), expresses an opinion.

Charro, a green iguana (mature males are orange), expresses an opinion.

Right, Charro?

Chilly Appreciation

Liar!

Liar!

See what my iPhone 5S’ weather app showed this morning?

Reality

Reality

Compare that to what it really looked like outside. Although it did rain last night and early this morning, I didn’t see any snowflakes at our house. Plus it had stopped even drizzling by the time I took the weather app screenshot.

When it’s cold and windy, as it is right now (30 degrees but feels like 17 degrees), I always think we might as well have some snow to remind us that it truly is winter. It makes for such a great photo op!

Yikes!

No thanks!

But then I’m reminded that I experienced enough snow and frigid temperatures during my 30 years in the Chicago area to last a lifetime.

Right now I’m appreciative of our “milder” Houston winter, with or without snow!

One-Word Wednesday

A grumpy squirrel on our roof refused to back down.

A grumpy squirrel on our roof refused to back down.

Stare!

A Love Letter to My Sons

And so it starts . . . after 13 minutes of waiting.

The 2014 Chevron Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon start is just ahead . . . after 13 minutes of waiting in the C corral.

Dear Jake and C.J.:

During your entire lives, you’ve had one constant: Your mom usually sets a running goal during the summer and tries to achieve it on a day in January. When you were younger, it was the Houston Marathon. I doubt that you remember me passing by as you watched with your dad, but I always drew strength from it.

In 2003 when the half marathon was added, I gave in to the responsibilities of parenting and being available for your activities and concentrated on that event. It was so much easier to train for 13.1 miles, plus it didn’t take as long to recover from. It was the perfect long distance.

Sunbeams light the way, as the marathon and half marathon split at mile eight.

Sunbeams light the way, as the marathon and half marathon split at mile eight.

During the ensuing 12 years, you saw me finish one or two times, which was very special to me. But you don’t have to be on the course, because you’re always with me in my heart no matter what.

Runners are a selfish lot. We pound the pavement for our own goals and satisfaction. It’s just the nature of the beast . . . even when we raise money for charity. Crossing the finish line is a great feeling, but it’s just for us. The medal is put around our neck. We wear the finisher’s shirt. It’s really our own accomplishment.

It’s finally the end!

It’s finally the end!

Yet I do share these triumphs with you, my precious sons. I want you to understand that if you set a goal and work hard to achieve it that you can make it happen! No matter what your age is.

While both of you were sleeping in your respective college towns yesterday, your mom was finishing her ninth Aramco Houston Marathon, her fifth straight (13th overall half marathon). The weather was perfect (48-55 degrees), and the new course was amazing, with great volunteers and spectator support (my favorite sign was “Run Like It’s the Start of the Hunger Games!”).

Despite turning 60 last August, I ran my fastest time ever for the event by a couple minutes, 2:40:03 (for 13.2 miles on my Garmin watch). Having long runs of 9-12 miles in my legs (perfect preparation) and a solid plan to run four minutes/walk one minute made the race almost fun. Almost!

I thought about the two of you during the final very loooooong mile in downtown Houston. I’m so proud of what both of you have achieved so far, and I look forward to your future accomplishments. I hope that both of you have taken away positive lessons from my running. You know that even though I’m slow, I tend to finish what I set out to do.

More bling for my office doorknob

More bling for my office doorknob

And I hope you’re proud of Mom, too! Love you forever, like you for always!!

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Dream . . . or nightmare?

Dream . . . or nightmare?

The self-doubting, as usual, started a couple days ago. The self-loathing will wait until, oh, maybe mile six.

Yes, friends, it’s time for my annual loooooong morning of self-induced torture, also known as the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.

“Race” day (in quotes because I wobble more than run) is Sunday morning, starting and ending at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Today I travel there with my friend Janet B. to pick up my packet at the marathon expo. I’ve attended almost every expo since 1986 (after moving to Houston), and it’s fun to be in such an energetic atmosphere. Plus it’s nice to share my nervousness with others who speak my language.

Thanks to a great half-marathon sponsor (they missed out on the first couple years).

Thanks to a great half-marathon sponsor (they missed out on the first couple years).

I’ll be trying for my ninth Houston half-marathon finish, which also will be my fifth straight. You would think that running this event would be old hat by now, but it’s not. Every year presents some new wrinkle (and not just on my face).

This time it’s a biggie!

New and improved?

New and improved?

For the first time since the half marathon debuted in 2003, the course has radically changed. The city told the marathon committee not to count on having the evil, devil-designed Elysian Viaduct available (it’s scheduled to be demolished, thank goodness), so the race has to start in another direction. The end result? The first nine miles are different and, thankfully, flatter.

It’ll be nice having a change of pace (which might cause me to have a faster pace), not that I really remember the course from year to year, because I so often have my head down as I try to avoid the potholes. I do have a plan to try to help me deal mentally with the unrelenting concrete:

The first six miles are for me. Just as I finish beating myself up for having too many pounds and not enough miles in my legs, I’ll turn my thoughts to my friend Janet Ely, who recently passed away after an amazing, long-term battle with breast cancer. I’ll count on her help from mile seven through eight.

After that, I’ll be thinking about my buddy Steve Terese, who unexpectedly died last fall from cancer. Steve was a Houston Marathon veteran and triathlete, a wonderful runner and a caring friend. I’m hoping he’ll carry me through miles 9 and 10.

Before I take back the mental reins for the final 1.1 miles, which I always dedicate to my beloved father, who passed away from leukemia in 1991, I’ll be reflecting on a similar battle that my former brother-in-law, Howie, has just begun. He’s been diagnosed with a different form of leukemia and will start chemo soon. I pray that his outcome will be different and that he’ll live to watch his grandchildren grow up.

A Chamber of Commerce day

A Chamber of Commerce day

Here’s hoping that Janet, Steve, and Howie can help get me to the finish line. The weather has decided to cooperate (Mother Nature owed us big after last year’s miserable conditions), thankfully. Now it’s up to me to do the rest.

Good luck to all the marathoners and half marathoners on Sunday!