Sunday, August 24, 2008

Good Luck DH and JM: Accenture Chicago Triathlon!

DH and his brother JM are at the starting line right now for the largest triathlon in the world: the Accenture Chicago Triathlon! I wish I could have been there to see them, but I wasn't able to go since I have to get my dogs down to Texas. DH nearly canceled, but he and his brother had been planning this since February and they've worked so hard to be ready for it -- I'm glad he decided to go after all, even though I couldn't go too.

The distances in this race are twice as long as the ones in the triathlon they did a couple of weeks ago here on Whidbey Island (although without the hills). And the field is HUGE -- 9,000 participants. In fact, the field is so large, DH and his brother aren't even in the same wave of starts. JM has already finished his swim (time 29:47) and DH doesn't start for another 5 minutes.

Although I couldn't be there in person, I'm still having fun tracking their progress because they set me up to get text messages when they complete each leg of the race and I'll get to watch them cross the finish line because it's being broadcast live on the web.

I will probably be back with more on this later... because I'm required to congratulate them (and brag)...

JM had a decent transition (3:19) and DH has begun his swim -- Oh I have my fingers crossed that he's able to swim straight! He's fast, but that's his worst problem; he doesn't like to take his head out of the water to look where he's going because he's used to the lanes in the pool, but this swim is in Lake Michigan...

Woohoo! DH finished his swim in 32:38! He's the Man! (I was worried -- this swim was twice as long as the one in the Whidbey triathlon)... NOW he's ready for the part of the race he's great at. Go Mike!!!!

DH only had an OK transition (3:45), so JM has a real lead on him now. They began the bike race with JM at 33:06 and DH at 36:23. So, JM has a solid head start. It'll be interesting to see if DH can catch up to him. The rivalry between brothers is an amazing thing to watch -- it's all in good fun, though, and they're both good sports. JH was the best man at our wedding and they're great friends as well as brothers.

JM is looking great on this one! His total bike time was 1:12:29 and his transition to the run was 3:25, so he's started his run at 1:49. DH is in the wave after JM's, so it'll be awhile before I'll know how he's doing on his borrowed bike. I hope he's able to hang in there.

DH was phenomenal on the bike! His total bike time was 56.18 and his transition was only 2:28, so he completely made up the lead JM had and started his run at 1:35:09 (JM started at 1:49:00).

JM just finished the race -- his complete time was 2:40:49. Congrats bro-in-law! Now we just have to see how DH does.

All that hill training really paid off. DH finished the race in 2:19:06. Wow!

Whoops! Alas, DH had a flat tire just before the end of the the bike race and he had to walk it in, so his results aren't valid. He was still able to complete the run, and his time for that was 43:57. But he didn't get an complete time for the race after all. Oh well, he still did a great job anyway.

Congrats to both JM and DH!

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I seem to spend a lot of time defending myself against charges of being a pessimist. That's because, in America, we worship, along with extroverts, optimists.

For example, the other day, I was talking to the real estate agent we're working with in San Antonio. I said I wanted flood insurance for our house there. She said we didn't need it because our house wasn't in the 100-year flood plain. I said I wanted it anyway.

"Why?" she asked, "the lender doesn't require it."

"No," I said, "but if we ever get water damage, our regular homeowners' insurance won't cover it."

"But that house has never flooded," she said. "Even though we had a 100-year flood several years ago. YOU'RE A REAL PESSIMIST AREN'T YOU?"

I smiled and didn't say anything -- because she is nice -- but I wanted to tell her that in my opinion there is a difference between being a pessimist and being a moron!

And there is a BIG difference between believing something is GOING to happen and acknowledging the possibility that it MIGHT happen. According to, San Antonio is one of the most flash flood prone areas in North America. I do not BELIEVE my new house is going to flood, but just in case it does, I would like to be insured against financial ruin. Because the house is NOT in a flood plain, the cost will be minimal. To me, that's not being a pessimist, that's simply a smart strategy to protect my investment in my house.

I'm not sure if it's because I grew up in a rural area or what, but I generally tend to plan for taking care of things in a variety of adverse circumstances. That doesn't mean I believe they're going to happen, but just in case they do, I want to be able to deal with them. For example, when I get on a plane, I actually look at the safety card in the seat pocket. And yes; I count the number of rows between me and the exit instead of zoning out. I don't do these things because I'm a pessimist; if I thought my plane was going to crash, I'd never get on it. In fact, in one way, I'm a true optimist, because I believe that even if my plane were to crash, I would survive because I know how to get out!

One interesting thing I've noticed is that to be classed as an optimist, you have to pretend that bad stuff is never going to happen. I think that's great and I wish I could do it. The problem for me is that my dad, the person I loved most in the world, died when I was 21. That pretty much destroyed any chance of me pretending bad stuff couldn't happen and set me on my path to becoming the anti-Pollyanna. The other interesting thing is that I find survival quite satisfying. I have no trouble whatsoever accepting that bad stuff will happen occasionally because I believe I will surmount it.

I generally feel quite positive about the future, in spite of the random bad stuff that will be coming down the pike, because I know that I will have done my best to plan for it. Personal responsibility is the key here rather than pinning my hopes on random good fortune, although good stuff will come too. But that's the thing -- in order to feel the satisfaction, you actually have to THINK about the possibility of a situation in advance, even if it isn't pleasant, and you have to consider the options, and then you have to make a decision and mentally file it away somewhere. It's like counting the seats between you and the exit -- if you wait until the plane is going down, it's too late.

I learned an important lesson about all this during the Hurricane Rita evacuation. You have to help yourself; you can't wait for people in authority to help you or tell when to do it. If we had listened to the police who were guarding that route, we would have run out of gas and our dogs would have died of heatstroke, and maybe we ourselves would have died. It was only when we decided to help ourselves, unlike most of the others who were evacuating, that we were able to get clear of the road.

It isn't easy to break free of the herd, but that's what it takes to protect yourself sometimes. I thought of that when the real estate agent told me that I wasn't required to get flood insurance -- the herd isn't required to have it, even though they live in the flash flood capital of North America. But since it isn't prohibitively expensive, I WILL HAVE IT and if it rains, SO WHAT. If my plane goes down, the herd is welcome to try to count the rows between their seat and the exit, but I will already know, and if it is possible, I WILL MAKE IT OFF THE PLANE.

You can call me Pollyanna.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Small Amazing World

I'm back in Washington now, trying to figure out how to transport three animals to Texas (easier said than done). Since DH's new job is also with a new company, he doesn't really have the freedom to take a lot of time off to come back and forth to help me with this move. That presents a problem because two of our animals are flat-faced dogs that cannot fly in the hold of a plane, which means I could only take one at a time if I were to fly. The result appears to be a long-distance road trip in my mustang with the two doggies, and then a plane flight for kitty later when we come back to move the furniture. According to Google maps, I am looking at a drive of 2,326 miles. Pip isn't a problem; he loves the car, but Prissy acts like the Tasmanian devil when she even gets near the car. In other words, it's sure to be a nightmare, and that's a pretty long drive!

When I look at the map, the world -- heck, even the US -- seems like a huge, scary place, but I had an interesting experience on Saturday that reassures me that it's manageable. What happened? DH met a guy, DS, in the coffee room at his new job. They got to talking and it turned out that DS and his wife are from Arkansas. DH told him I was too and mentioned the little town in which I was born. Wonder of wonders, it turns out that not only had DS heard of the town where I was born, he and his wife were from the same town. The odds of that are almost astronomical!

DH and DS were so amazed by the coincidence that they made arrangements for us all to go out to dinner on Saturday night, so we did. DS and his wife JS were absolutely lovely. We were able to talk about the place where the three of us are from, and it took all of two minutes for DS and I to realise that his grandfather was my great-grandmother's little brother!!! Not only that but his great-grandmother was my -great-great-grandmother's sister!

Holy cow -- we are cousins in two different ways!!!

San Antonio is nearly 600 miles away from where we were born. Maybe the world isn't so big after all...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Instant Karma

I'm in San Antonio this week, looking for a new place to live. Several people have told me they think the moving we've done sounds exciting. Whenever I hear anything like that, I get a sense of cognitive dissonance – whatever excitement I may have felt about our moves when I was younger has drained away entirely. All I feel now is dismay and exhaustion and the vague sense that I am carrying some pretty bad karma. I sometimes feel as if I am the ultimate homebody, destined to never have a true home.

Because of that, I seek to recreate *home* wherever I live. It doesn't always look the same on the outside – in fact, it rarely does – but on the inside, it's unmistakable. Of course, that makes finding the right place a real challenge. When I discuss real estate with others, they tell me about their own house criteria: size, number of bedrooms and baths, price per square foot, neighborhood, school district, etc. I pay attention to those things too, but the additional, and most important, criterion for me is that I have to be able to envision the place as home.

That's also the reason why I don't like to rent a house instead of buying (if I can manage it, and so far, I've been lucky enough to do so) – *home* doesn't have neutral colors. Landlords don't like random (bright) paint jobs, and they don't like pets. They also don't like it when you tear out the carpet, but home doesn't have carpet, All of which presents a problem with living in a house I don't own.

A lot of people buy houses as an investment, although I suspect most of those people are pretty unhappy right now, but my primary goal is to have a nice place to live that I can paint in the colors I like, and where no one will bother me about having pets. We always lose money when we move, but each time, it's been for DH's job and it has ultimately seemed inevitable.

So here I am again with the need to find a new doctor, a new dentist, a new vet for the dogs. We'll search out new restaurants, and where the library is located, and which is the best grocery store. Before we can do that, though, we have to find a place to live.

Looking at a bunch of houses in quick succession feels strange, particularly when the houses aren't vacant. In some ways it's like trying on shoes – will this fit? But in other ways, it almost feels as if you're trying on someone else's life – if I live here, who will I be? Someone who lives in THIS house is a gourmet cook (professional range). The lady of THIS house has a perfect manicure (everything absolutely coordinated). The man who lives here is a hunter (deer heads on the wall and built in gun racks). The family who lives here has a lot of children (swings and sandboxes).

After a while, it all begins to run together until I wish I could fall back on school districts and prices per square foot, but I can't because I'm destined to search for my ever elusive home. I wish I could believe in instant karma – that if I bought the absolutely coordinated house, I would suddenly be able to have a perfect manicure. Or I could get the one with the sandbox and suddenly have a lot of kids. Life doesn't work that way, however, so no matter how much I'd like to change it, my karma remains what it is, and no amount of trying on the lives of others is going to alter it. A new town and a new home is not like a new pair of shoes. It isn't smooth and uncreased and unbroken – when you move, you take your baggage with you. You're an old pair of shoes, whether you want to believe it or not.

I was reflecting on this yesterday when I walked into a nice suburban-looking house inside the city limits. On the outside, it was significantly different from the houses I've chosen in the past. It isn't an old farmhouse, nor a former rectory, nor an historic bungalow. In fact, it's not even old, unless you consider a house built in 1989 to be old. It's an unprepossessing house – nothing romantic about it -- the only truly noteworthy thing it has is a beautiful pool. But as soon as I walked in the front door, I recognised it: home.

I told the agent to cancel the rest of our appointments so we could go back to her office to draw up an offer. DH hadn't even seen it yet, but I knew he would love it (he did). Another offer for that house came in right after we made ours (both offers for full asking price). If there is the slightest glitch in the buying process, the seller will be able to simply accept the other offer, so we have no idea whether we'll get the house or not.

I hope we do; I want to go home!

If we don't, well, maybe that would be instant karma.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Swansong Triathlon

DH is in San Antonio now, midway through the first week at his new job. This is not an easy week for us since everything in our lives is completely up in the air.

Before he left on Sunday, though, my hubby had a nice ending to our brief time here in Washington. His brother, JM, came out from Chicago and they both participated in the Whidbey Island Triathlon.

We had dinner the night before the race with our neighbor, MR, who was participating in a team with her nephew (he was going to do the swim and she was planning to do the ride and the run) and her husband. A couple of racer-doctors from Bellingham, who were staying with them because they couldn't find a hotel on the island were also at dinner. We had a great time.

On the morning of the race (Saturday), it was typical weather here -- cloudy and not that warm (under 60 F. in fact) and the swim was the first thing on the agenda. They had to swim 800 meters in a lake, then ride their bikes for 19.5 miles, and then, finally, finish up with a 3.8 mile run.

DH and his brother took their bikes in JM's rental car and I took my own car. I also took Pip to keep me company since I figured I'd be spending a lot of time waiting around between the different parts of the race. I had no trouble finding a parking space along the road, but DH and JM couldn't find one after they unloaded the bikes and they almost missed the race altogether.

About 3 minutes before the start of the race, I was nervously standing at the entrance to the park looking for them, and then I saw them running furiously down the road toward me. They were both carrying their wetsuits and JM was barefooted!

When they got close enough to hear me, I started yelling at them to hurry, but I needn't have; they were half-way to being in a panic already. DH flung off all his clothes except his bike shorts and pulled on the wetsuit and then he took off towards the water. I chased him and made him stop for a quick photo! JM ignored me so there isn't one of him.

JM beat DH in the swim, and there is a photo of him coming out of the water.

DH didn't do as well in the swim as he did in the rest of the race, but I love that lime green cap he has on his head. You can't see it well in the photo, but I also love the fact that's he's grinning like a nut as he's coming out of the water. I asked him why later and he said he wasn't sure, but that it might have been because he was happy that he didn't drown.

Unlike nearly everyone else in the race, DH has an ancient rusted bike that he bought used 10 years ago. JM had brought his slick new bike with him from Chicago. JM told me that he was feeling sorry for DH because of having to ride such a heavy old bike, particularly since JM got such a good head start on him in the swim, until DH cruised right by him and left him in the dust! DH ROCKED that bike ride!

I saw them both finish, but I didn't get any photos because Pip was the star of the sidelines at that point and I was busy defending him from an idiot child who caused Pip to part with a thick section of his tail.

Then there was the run and DH rocked that too. After several years of injuries, it was amazing to see him do so well. In fact, DH came in 28th overall in the run, out of a field of nearly 300! That's not by age; that's over the entire field.

In spite of his bad swim, DH did much better than his goal of finishing in 2:15. His actual time was 1:55:36! JM did pretty well too, in spite of being bigger and younger [g] -- his time was 2:02:55.

Except for losing part of his tail, Pip did the best of all. He got to ride in the car; he got to ride in his carrier (he adores that thing so much he sleeps on top of it); and he got all the little girls at the race to pet him.