Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanks-fulness

Ben started Thanksgiving running. He didn't tire out until almost 10 p.m. Some of us didn't last that long.

Our Thanksgiving began with an informal 5K one of Lori's co-workers who is also a personal trainer was hosting. Two laps around Liberty Park, actually 3 miles instead of 5K. She said go, and Ben took off. Having not run since March (before my busted disk got bad), I was expecting to walk most of this. But someone had to keep up with the bouncy 7-year-old and make sure the bouncy dog got her exercise too. Lori and Michael hung back and I tried keeping up as best I could. We went through 1.5 miles in 17 minutes, and that was after we stopped for a minute so the youthful mammals could get a drink of water. The second lap was slower -- Ben was getting tired and walked more, and he had to stop to pee once -- but we came in at 38 minutes.

The rest of the day was a time to relax. OK, Lori cooked, but she never got overwrought about it. We had invites from friends for Thanksgiving, but this year, after several busy weeks, we decided to stay at home, just the four of us. We watched football and played board games. I napped. The dog slept all day after getting more exercise than she had in a while (she loved her 3-mile run, but it exhausted her). We ate Lori's delicious Thanksgiving meal. I found two Christmas presents online at Black Friday prices, eliminating any temptation (trust me, there was none) to go to Walmart tonight to get them.

This Thanksgiving was great. I am thankful. Tomorrow, I'm sure my legs are going to be sore ...

Monday, November 18, 2013

The sound and the fury

I grew up in a generally good neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago. Not much crime, a big park nearby, close to shopping districts and, perhaps most importantly, we weren't in the suburbs. Granted, my neighborhood was almost surrounded by suburbs, but it was still the city and still had a bit of a Chicago vibe to it.

My old neighborhood did have on drawback, however: noise. At night, I could hear airplanes flying over (our house was smack dab between two runway paths, one two blocks south, the other three north), cars from the Kennedy Expressway (if not the busy street a half-block away), the L train in the middle of the expressway, and the Metra and freight trains on the Northwest Line a couple hours away. All this noise didn't really keep me awake or was a distraction -- it was almost ambient. I would sleep with my window open during the summer and hear the night.

Planes don't fly over our Salt Lake City house. Sometimes if it's quiet enough, I can hear freight trains honking from about 4 miles away. But tonight, while throwing a tennis ball to Popcorn on this crisp November evening, I noticed something I guess I'm so used to -- both growing up and living here -- that I don't often catch: I could here cars and trucks whizzing by on Interstate 80, a little less than a mile from our house. The sound wasn't individual vehicles, but rather, a steady drone of engines.

I don't know why I noticed this tonight and not other nights. I didn't put headphones on when I with the dog, and perhaps the 40-degree air helped amplify the sound (airplanes flying over in Chicago are much louder when it's below freezing). Yet there it was -- the sound of transportation, the sound of the night, the sound of the city.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Speedskating Saturday

We are in a about a five-week stretch on which we have no sports on Saturdays. Soccer ended two weeks ago, and Michael's Saturday basketball games don't start for another month. So what did we do today? Attended a sporting event, of course.

A World Cup speedskating event is taking place at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns -- the same oval the speedskating events were held on during the 2002 Games. Admission was dirt cheap, and the boys were interested, especially after trying ice skating for the first time last Saturday. We arrived a little late but still got to see three whole events, including the men's 1,000 meters that American Shani Davis won. The atmosphere was relaxed yet still fun; fans cheered for all the athletes, there was entertainment between events while the Zambonis repaved the ice, and the action on the oval was easy to follow and understand.

Utah is hosting more winter sports events in the next couple months, including the U.S. Olympic speedskating trials, bobsled/luge/skeleton races and the Olympic ski jumping trials. We discussed maybe trying to see the ski jumping trials -- the sport was one Lori and I saw during the 2002 Olympics. My little fear, especially with the Winter Olympics coming up and us being so close to facilities and programs, is that one of the boys sees something and wants to try it, even just casually. I have this image in my mind of Michael wanting to skeleton, which is head-first luge. I know, it probably wouldn't happen, but I'm happy that we live in a place that the boys can watch the Winter Olympics and we can see some of the same sports live.

As we left the Oval, the air was cold and the skies cloudy. I could see snow on the mountains, probably about 7,000 feet up. The original structure designating the Oval as an Olympic venue still stands. I couldn't help but feel like it was 2002 again and Lori and I were at an Olympic event. The Games may never get back to Utah, but at least for one afternoon, the boys got to share a little bit of our memory of that winter.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Building a list

I had a free and clear Thursday today, and I took some of the time to straighten out the garage.

About once a year, maybe 18 months, I need to rearrange the garage. Bikes, scooters, sports equipment, holiday decorations -- all these things take over the floor space of the garage (we don't keep the car in there) over time. This time, it was bad enough that getting to the Christmas lights would be like a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." So after a little more lazing than I would have liked, I started pulling much of the clutter out and reorganizing it. The shovels and rock salt are now outside, ready for winter, and the Christmas decorations are now accessible (I'm not putting anything up until December).

As I was reorganizing, I started seeing and thinking about all the projects, big and small, I want to get done. The electronic dartboard I got for $20 at Sam's Club long ago that I want to hang up in the patio. The bushes that could use some pruning. The zipper on the baseball bag that has been broken for a year. The basement closets that haven't been touched in years. Things that we say we'll get to and never quite do.

So, I'm coming up with a list: "Looking for Something to Do?" On it, I'm placing the tasks I keep putting off. The big ones might take some time. Even the little ones might take some time. But at least when I'm wondering what I should do with a free afternoon, I can look to the list for some ideas.

The first task for the checklist is creating the checklist. Hopefully, I don't put that off until next year ...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The little gridiron

Tonight was Michael's last flag football game of the season. His team, after playing decent defense all season, somehow fell asleep tonight and lost. Still, it was a real low-key league to begin with, and the goal was of course have fun.

I think Michael had fun playing flag football, but I'm not totally sure. The players were almost all from his school but a year older, and they seemed to pass to each other a lot. These boys play at school during recesses, but Michael never tries to join in. I don't think he's intimidated, but he is a little shy, plus most of his good school friends aren't much into sports. Given the choice, he hangs out with his peeps, which is fine -- he gets enough sports outside of school. -- but I think he would have felt more comfortable if he got to know his teammates outside of practice and games. Indeed, his best friend on the team was a third-grader -- the only non-fifth grader on the team -- who was in his 1/2 class a couple years ago.

That said, Michael was enthusiastic to play and said he would play again. We'll never let him play tackle football, so this is a good outlet to get him some gridiron. I hoped it would get him understanding the game a little more as well. He made a few good plays on defense during the season, but there were times he looked, well, bored. Maybe unfocused? For example, the team would be ready to start the play, and instead of getting at least a little bit set, he'd be playing with his flags (I'd yell out for him to be ready). That's why basketball and soccer are better sports for him -- he has no time to let his mind wander.

Basketball did start this week for him, and he's way excited to be playing again. After a fall of three sports, we're back to one. OK, he's in two leagues, but you get the idea ...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Slow motion Thursday

I didn't drink even one beer for my birthday Wednesday. Yet somehow, Thursday felt like I had a birthday hangover.

No, I didn't have a headache (and can I just say, I so do not miss hangovers) today, but rather, just felt slow all day. I went to the dentist in the morning, dropped off a prescription and Costco and grabbed a quick sandwich at Jimmy John's, and then came home, ready to be productive. But aside from some freelance work, I was mostly a blog for a few hours this afternoon.

The boys came home from school, I drove them to the JCC for Ben's swim practice and to let Michael shoot around (he's so excited for basketball season), we picked up pizzas from Papa Murphy's, came home and ate dinner, and played Kaijudo (a collectible card game Ben has discovered) with the boys and watched football. And then ... a few more hours of blob, watching TV and otherwise not being productive again. I decided against taking the dog for a long walk and instead just took her around the block. Finally, after 11, I settled in with my laptop to work some more. This blog post will conclude the night, as is the cup of tea I'm drinking.

These blah days sometimes drive me up the wall. Sometimes I think I need them, and sometimes I wonder why I'm so tired. I'm hoping Friday will be more productive. In the meantime, the load of laundry I did manage to start this afternoon is still sitting in the washing machine. It can wait until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

43*

I settled on 43 as my favorite number way back in high school. I had like a girl who lived in Chicago's north suburbs, and being an obsessed, dorky teenager, I'd look at a map to chart the course to her town. The route involved Harlem Avenue and Waukegan Road -- Illinois Highway 43. Somehow, the number stuck long after I gave up on any chance with the girl. Six years ago when I started this blog, I named it "The 43" to reflect the favorite number.

Today, I turned 43 years old. The age finally caught up with the number after 20-something years. My birthday was good. The boys woke me up early; I ate chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, met Lori at Tonyburger for lunch, co-oped in Michael's class today, made quesadillas for dinner, substitute coached Michael's flag football game in the evening, and took the dog on a walk. The day was kind of gray, which I'm used to for a Nov. 6 birthday.

I've been still on a break with the blog over the last month. The break hasn't been out of not being inspired, but more just being in neutral. The funny thing is: I haven't minded the neutral so much. Maybe I needed it these past two months, which have been good but so, so busy.

On this, my 43rd birthday, I'm going to try switching gears with The 43. If there was a time frame to make this the best year of writing, why not the year I'm the age of my favorite number? Day 1 of 43 is in the books. I'm not in a hurry to get to Day 365.