Monday, November 26, 2007

Good kitty

Our most active cat, Ari, just jumped on my laptop keyboard and created the following meeting in my Outlook calendar: KKKiiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllllll. Scheduled from 9-9:30 this morning.

Um, should I be afraid of him?

Technically the full text was:
n bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb nnnnnnnnnnnnn?KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllllll

Perhaps he's only partially mastered the English language, and he's trying to tell me something larger...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

early morning run

Things that made yesterday morning’s run memorable:

  • Watching someone take advantage of the early morning light to take pictures of Spy Pond and its inhabitants
  • Seeing Spy Pond in the early morning light
  • Passing a young boy who was nearly invisible beneath his bundles of clothing, happily pedaling his training-wheeled bicycle a few feet behind his mom
  • Feeling like I was wearing the perfect balance of clothing – not too hot, not too cold (this is an ongoing quest)
  • Running to mellower music than usual. It was just that kind of morning.
  • Hitting a groove, finding a stride, and knowing that I was speeding up without any extra perceived effort.
  • Being out and about just as the sun is coming up, making up for the fact that it sets so early these days.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Paso a paso

I received a notice in the mail that one of my student loans is about to be paid off. $3000 down, $80,000 to go!

While a daunting payback road lay ahead, this smaller sum is actually quite significant. The loan was made during graduate school, shortly after my father passed away. I had worked my way through undergrad and grad, but when my father died (sort of unexpectedly, sort of not - a story for another day) I decided I needed to make some changes to allow for more trips to see my mom, mentally recover from the loss, etc. Plus, I was enrolled in a dual degree program, and this was the year I was slated to shuttle from one campus to another. That left even less time for the non-academic pursuits.

So, a couple weeks after his passing, I went to the Dean of my school to see if there was some help they could provide. I wasn't sure what I needed, but it seemed like this what what you did in such circumstances. I also knew that when my best childhood friend's parents were both very ill, her school stepped in and did everything they could to support her and make sure that she was able to stay in school. After explaining my circumstance, the Dean thought for a few moments, and then indicated the school could offer "Emergency Assistance" - a short term grant aimed at things like paying your heating bill if you come up short.

Um, not exactly what I was hoping for.

I responded that I would likely need more assistance than that, given my expected decrease in income and increase in expenses, but that was the end of the offer. Additional pleas got me the offer of a $3,000 loan, which I have been slowly paying down the past seven years. That year, I also ended up taking out loans above and beyond the federally allowed $18,500 to cover my lack of income, which I will continue to pay for the next 30 years or so.

We're our largest and best investment, right?

I switched the monthly payment over to an autopayment so I wouldn't cringe every time I wrote the check (and because, let's face it, who wants to write a check if you don't have to?), but even the school name appearing next to the deduction in my online banking account bugged me.

Now that loan is about to disappear, leaving me with an extra $50 each month, and perhaps a little less bitterness towards the whole situation. Perhaps.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Working from home

Today is the first day I'm exercising the option to work from home. Traffic on Fridays is stinky all around, thanks to MA residents heading either to NH or the Cape for the weekend. I can't blame them, as they are nice destinations. Heck, I look forward to being one of them.

I have a pretty sweet setup going on right now. Laptop, coffee, water, a napping cat on either side (I set out some fleece cat traps which are pretty much impossible to resist amongst the feline set), laundry being washed in the basement... And without the drive, it's like having three extra hours in the day. Nice.

Happily, the most active of our three cats, Ari, is one of the current nappers. He has an internal alarm clock that goes off at 4:45 am every day, at which time he starts to play with any noisy plastic bag he can find. And meow. This little bodied cat can meow like none other. P and I have learned to largely ignore it, but it does have the potential to leak into your dreams.

Three cats is a lot of cats. It feels like a tipping point of sorts, where suddenly there are lots of personalities, allegiances, triangulations of kinship, etc. in their world. At the risk of sounding like a crazy cat lady I'll stop there for now, but I may start logging some of their exploits here and there. It's a show, for sure.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Gym foul

Today I checked out the gym at my office building. Two treadmills, two stationary bikes, an elliptical, some weight machines and dumbells squeezed into a corner, and a huge space to stretch/host a pilates class. It's small, but it's something, and it will help me continue to keep up with physical activity even with my newly increased commuting time.

Treadmills aren't my favorite, and I much prefer being outside. Still, it is a nice backup, and when the weather turns super cold here in New England, I'm happy that I can still go for a run to clear my head. I've been running outside since I started the new gig, and last night decided I just didn't want to get up that extra 15 minutes early (read: 4:45am) to hit the road, beat much - but not all,, shockingly - of the traffic, and get on the minuteman to enjoy the morning air.

So this morning I found myself on a treadmill, with a short run as a goal so I would also have time for a little strengthening (something I don't do often enough). The treadmill faces a mirror, forcing me to either watch myself run or stare at the ceiling. I studied my gait for a little bit, and decided I liked my new-ish running shorts from REI. And I stared at the ceiling a lot.

As I was finishing up, I realized I forgot to grab my towel in the car and bring it with me. Not wanting to head out into the cold parking lot when I was all sweaty, I committed a total gym foul - I used someone else's towel. I know P is probably cringing at this... Heck, I needed a towel, this one had been there for a few days, it was clean, there was no one else in the locker room... It was all too easy. I tried to leave it pretty dry in case the owner came around, and luckily I escaped with no one the wiser. Except, well, you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Manchester Half

On Sunday I ran a half marathon in my hometown. Never did I think I would say that while I am living in Manchester, a town where I have run for four years and often go for miles without seeing any other runners. But there I was on Sunday, lined up on Elm Street with about 1600 others, getting ready to kick off the first annual Manchester Marathon/Half Marathon.

And you know what? It was great.

I had pretty low expectations, I admit, largely tainted by my overall feelings around living in Manchester. But in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. So as much as I can highlight the negative aspects of this place, I also need to give props where they are due.

The weather was just perfect. The rain and wind from the day before had cleared out, and it was around 50 degrees, sunny, and dry at the start. The field was not overwhelmingly big, but not small... Even without any official type of organization (no corrals, no people telling you where to go, not exactly knowing in which direction you'd be taking off) we all found our way to the start line and placed ourselves accordingly in the pack. Everyone played nice; no grumbling.

The course itself was tough, with enough hills to leave this girl with stiff calves the next day. Some were steep, and some just long. There was one particular street that was killer - it went uphill for around a mile, and then turned left to get even steeper for another few hundred yards. Friends standing at the top to cheer people reported afterwards that "everyone just looked broken." That was around the 10k mark, meaning we still had a ways to go. Still, people stayed positive.

I talked to more people on this course than I have in any race (generally I'm not really a stranger talker). Just little chats as you realize you have been alongside the same person for a mile or so. They'd organically end, and we'd go our own ways. It was nice.

Traffic wasn't entirely closed off along the course, but the police and volunteers did a good job of fending off cars from intersections so runners did not have to pause and wait. The reaction of drivers who were held back ranged from annoyed (even going to far as to honk at us) to cheering us on (even going so far as to honk at us). It was easy to ignore the less than happy drivers - for this one day, these few hours, they could sit tight. I think this is the one thing that will need to be addressed in next years race, which is already being discussed as having an expanded field.

Also of note on the course is that the half and full marathon routes were the same for the first part. At 13 miles, I split left while the full marathon peeps split right and headed off to the west side of town. So some of the people I spoke with en route were actually going for the full 26. With this size of a field, it was easy to mix the two, and the transition seemed to go quite smoothly.

As it was a small race, the finishers area at the end wasn't terribly packed. I stayed for a massage (which seemed to last for 20 minutes or so), tasted some soup at the "soup off" (I voted for the broccoli and cheese soup from CJs) and then walked two miles to my home. Which, incidentally, was around mile 11 of the course.

I spoke to a few others afterwards who were as excited as I was that there was an event to pull people together in Manchester. It simply doesn't happen often enough.

I'll end this roundup with a short story on life in this town. I was getting my hair cut the day before, and talking with the woman who cuts my hair about the Manchester race. Several of her clients were running in it. As we are chatting about the route, and other races in the area, she nonchalantly slipped in, "I hear there's another race happening in New York tomorrow."