Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fewer Races, Faster Times (Hopefully)

"The Last Banana"

When I first started blogging regularly, I planned to chronicle my efforts to get out of "the last banana club." This post is the first one I ever wrote about my goal of improving my 5K time to the point that I could finish in less than 30 minutes (and have a broader post-race snack selection than that last sad banana half).

St. George Island Sizzler
June 27, 2009

As I approach the three-year mark of that goal (without having achieved it), I find myself utterly unable to commit to any other goals for 2012 (I usually have 3 goals for each year). It is time to admit that, although I have definitely made progress, something I am doing (or not doing) has to change in order to get me there.

I finally purchased a heart rate monitor. I purchased the heart rate monitor when I entered into a coaching relationship with Coaches Jeff and Diane of PRS Fit. I have spent this first week talking back and forth with Jeff about my goals of running a 5K in less than 30:00 and completing the Boston 13.1 Marathon for Autism Speaks on September 16, 2012. One of the keys of establishing the coaching plan is an assessment. The assessment thus far has involved the heart rate monitoring and preparing to adjust my weekly workout schedule.

I did a maximum heart rate test on Tuesday (and, for the record, ran my first sub 10:00 minute mile in the process!); and lactate threshold testing on Thursday. Yesterday involved one of the first adjustments I have had to make to my workout plans. Prior to having a coach, I had planned (for yesterday) to run a 10K race here in town. Subsequent to having a coach, I ran 1.5 hours instead, keeping my heart rate in my Zone 2, with a three minute push at the end. The goal is to build an aerobic base.

Coach Jeff's rationale for forgoing the 10K is that I was making a common mistake: racing too much, training too little. As much as I missed everything I love about racing yesterday -- my friends, the excitement in the air, the challenge, the race pictures we would see afterwards (hey, maybe one of these days I will like one!), the results, and helping a good cause (in this case, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tallahassee) -- the coach is right in this case. I would have completed the race, I would have LOVED it, I would have had some good stories to tell.

But I would not have known enough or learned anything else about my body, my technique, or my mental approach to make any changes that would make a lasting difference in my 5K speed.

I also know I am probably going to have to change my fitness schedule around so that my Tuesday intervals aren't followed the next day by boot camp* with stadium stairs (because there is not enough recovery time between the two). It has taken me so long to get to a point that is a hair below dread every Tuesday night that I have asked the coach to leave intervals on the schedule in lieu of doing something different with the time I have been devoting to reaching Row 85 of Doak.

As much as I will miss my boot camp buddies, I'll pay the price for now.

Anyone want to do stadium stairs with me some other night?

Run for the Cookies
February 12, 2012

*(Here's a blog about boot camps - note Doak camps are usually on Wednesdays now.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

When I Am Alone...... (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

My Mama Kat prompt this week is:  List the top 10 things you miss about being alone. (Inspired by The Little Hen House).

When I was a child and our family visited amusement parks, I recall my parents allowing me to wander off on my own for hours at a time. I was happy as a clam. I still can't figure out why my overprotective parents let me do this (or why they didn't have me bring a friend), but I was happy. An entire park to explore, no one to haggle with over which ride to do first, lots of time to just observe.

When I am alone, I am free from being the official in between two young human beings who treat every verbal exchange as if it were a jump ball to be contested.

I miss being able to concentrate ..... on a book, a movie, on the task at hand.

I miss sleeping whenever and wherever I want.

I miss being able to decide exactly where and when I want to take pit stops on road trips.

I miss organizing things my way (even if my way doesn't look organized).

I miss living by myself in a big city, having to get from point A to point B but being able to do it at my pace, with the detours I want to take.

I miss eating for one (while reading a book). Something quick and healthy, but a meal that doesn't involve a production to make so I am not eating late and can get on with my night's plans.

I miss the fact that it's cheaper to pay for one person's admission into anything than it is to pay for two, three, or four people.

I miss having control of the remote.

I miss the fact that when I am alone, my mind can wander to what I appreciate and value most in life ......... the people who keep me from being alone.

 November 2008


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wordless Wednesday (Not Alone Edition)

<em>Leap Into Spring!</em> Photo Challenge”></a><br />
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This is week three of the "Leap Into Spring" Photo Challenge. This challenge has two choices of prompts for each week. This week, the choices are "Blossom" and "Trees." 

I have to be honest - as I prepare my post, my thoughts are very much with one of its sponsors, Kristi from Live and Love Out Loud, who underwent surgery yesterday for her breast lump.

Kristi is taking a break from her blog while she has the surgery and recovers, but we have heard reports here and there of how she is doing. It hurts. And that makes me sad. 

I wish she could just put her feet up:

In a pain-free, blossom-filled place:

Leaving behind thoughts of pathology, difficult decisions, and worry. 

Sometimes the sun is a bit obscured:
And it is the shadows that we see first:

But along this scary, frustrating, seemingly interminable journey, there's always a space for someone else to come along and sit beside you.

You are not alone.

Thank you to Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud, Alicia of Project Alicia, and Rebecca of Bumbles and Light for hosting this challenge. The challenge will run from April 6th – May 18th and is open to everyone regardless of geographic location, skill level, time commitment or camera equipment. Simply stop by each Friday and share your favorite images inspired by the weekly prompts. It is going to have freebies, prizes and photography tips galore!

(Next week's theme is Rain/Water. The linky will be up on Friday, April 27)

These pictures were taken at Maclay Gardens, Tallahassee, Florida.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Just Put Me Down! (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)


My Mama Kat prompt this week is:  I thought my child was going to _______, but instead he/she _______.

Pretty much every day of my parenting life, I think one of my children is going to do something a particular way, but instead they put their own (often completely opposite) twist on it.

This prompt, though, immediately takes me back to Tenley's infancy.

My first time out as a parent of an infant, I approached motherhood with the idea that if I just found the right thing to do when she cried or was otherwise uncomfortable, then I could give her infant self some relief.

She must have been quite young the day of this incident, because I was trying to figure out how to put the portacrib together. We were planning to spend the night at my parents' house, and I wanted to make sure I could figure out how to put the thing together without an audience.

The thing was so frustrating -- there were bars under all the cushy padding that were supposed to lock into place but if you didn't do things in the right order, they would not lock.

I. was. so. frustrated.

And the fact that my infant was inconsolable was not helping one bit. I tried walking her, feeding her, changing her, every infant-placating activity I could think of.

With the clock tick-tocking its way down to my departure time, I decided I would just have to put her down so I could figure out the portacrib, whether she was "happy" or not.

With trepidation, I put her down in her baby seat and within seconds she was sound asleep.

What she needed was to be left alone.

That was a time when I thought my baby was going to keep screaming her head off, but instead she relaxed and fell asleep. In her baby head, she was probably grateful beyond words that her Type A mother had just stopped trying so damn hard.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Running Free

“A woman who surrenders her safety pins need not surrender her dignity.” 

Okay, okay, the line from Wally Lamb's "The Hour I First Believed" is actually:

“A woman who surrenders her freedom need not surrender her dignity.”

.....but in the case of the women I ran with yesterday at the Gadsden Correctional Institution in Gretna, Florida, safety pins held a lot of symbolism for me.

I am not sure why I end up writing about safety pins so much (such as this post and this guest post on Running Toward The Prize.) I suppose someday I will own a race number belt and won't be writing about safety pins anymore.

I didn't think much of it yesterday when I pinned my number on at the inaugural Gadsden Correctional Institution 5K. I've pinned numbers on for races countless times before. Let me give you a little background to explain why I was standing inside a correctional institution in the first place.

Less than a month ago, David Yon wrote an article for our track club about a visit that he, Mary Jean Yon, and Elizabeth Stupi had made to the Gadsden Correctional Institution to speak to the members of the prison's running club. (I really encourage you to read the article.) One of the things David said in the article was that the warden (who is a runner himself) wanted "to see the 12-week training session culminate in a 5K race, with members of the community invited to participate." 

I immediately emailed David after reading the article and told him that I would be interested in participating in the 5K if it ever came together. In true Gulf Winds "get it done" fashion, it came together rapidly.

As it turns out, it takes quite a process to get 20 civilians (some of whom were men), into an all-female correctional institution. "Quite a process" includes completing a background check form, heeding instructions about what to bring (driver's license or no entry), how to dress (men must have shirts, no "sports bra only" styles for women) and how to pay our "entry fee" (donate a new or used book about running).

After we went through the initial security checkpoint, we were taken to the recreational field. This field is the only place at the facility where the women are usually allowed to run. 10.5 times around makes a mile.

The women were in uniform shorts and tshirts. I learned later that they have a choice of three styles of athletic shoes from a specific catalog. For all the time most of us spend obsessing about heel lift, motion control, arch support, and other intricacies of running shoe design, it was a sign that these women love running that they will run in the only shoes available to them, shoes that do not appear to be specifically designed for running.

You could argue that a 5K is a 5K. Distance is what it is. But I witnessed more than a group of runners traversing a typical race distance yesterday.

Things I heard along the way, either overheard or in direct conversation:

Wanna know where I was at this exact same time last year? Receiving chemo.

It was so nice to run on the pavement! (For this race only, the group was allowed to run in a different area of the facility. We ran around their usual recreational field loop once, then ran four laps of a route around the perimeter of the facility but inside the secured area, of course.) The route ran past groups of women/staff cheering us on, past the gorgeous flower beds created and cared for by inmates in the horticulture program, past the most determined-to-hydrate water station volunteers I have ever seen at a race.

The real magic (for me) happened after the race. Completing this 5K was a very big deal for these women. "I did it!" was the exclamation of many of the finishers. One woman had never run longer than 1.5 miles and had gotten added to the race roster at the last minute. She was so proud.

I had an extended conversation with a woman named Michelle who plans to be a fitness trainer when she gets out later this year. She said, "the day I get out, I am doing yoga at the beach, either at sunrise or sunset."  (There is yoga offered at the prison, along with aerobics and other wellness activities.) She couldn't wait to write her family to tell them about the run.

I talked at length with two women who had lots of basic questions. How long is a half marathon? How long is a marathon? How do you do a Disney race? What do you listen to when you run?  (They all had transistor radios and headphones; they said they hope to get mp3 players.) Do you have to belong to a running club to do a race?

I talked with a woman who is my age (47) who talked about recidivism and minimum mandatory sentences. She said she has seen women return to the institution 2 and 3 times. She talked about the 5:30 a.m. wakeup of fluorescent lights coming on overhead. She said once she returned home, she would hope her family understood when she just stood in front of the refrigerator and cried, happy to be able to eat what she wanted when she wanted to.

I learned a lot in a couple of hours about the impact of prescription drug abuse and minimum mandatory sentencing.

As usual, I was toward the last of the finishers, but I still got to hear a few ecstatic cries of "I did it!" I also heard "This was my first marathon." Who am I to correct? It may not be 26.2 physical miles but this feat was a race about more than movement of the feet.

The women shared about the programs they are involved in at the prison. There are several programs that involve animals, including greyhound rehabilitation and training dogs for Canine Companions for Independence. The inmates who work with these animals explained what a sizable privilege it is, and that they are held to extremely high standards behaviorally in order to maintain that privilege. 

When the warden presented awards (watches) to the top three inmate finishers, he gave a concise and impassioned speech to everyone who had participated, reminding them that even if they didn't win a prize, they should be proud of what they had done; he talked about expanding the running program so it was easier for women to keep up with their progress. He reminded them that they had their race numbers as keepsakes.
If I as a community member was thanked once for coming, I was thanked a hundred times. 

I would go back in a heartbeat. Such incredible conversations. Such testimony to the ability of running to empower people. 

I heard the women reminding each other to return the safety pins that had been holding their numbers on. They weren't allowed to keep them. My friend Elizabeth said she had returned hers too, so I decided that if they couldn't keep theirs, it was probably a good idea to turn mine in also. By the time I came to that decision, there was no one left to turn them in to.

I arrived home with four extra safety pins. 

Along with the safety pins, I brought home images firmly burnt into my head of women who have surrendered their civil freedom (for now) but found freedom of body, heart, and mind as they traversed 3.1 miles.

(We weren't allowed to take our cameras in (although some of the staff took pictures so I 
hope to see some of those). I took this picture right before we drove away.)

Follow up addition ...... this is a group photo that we just received (4/25/12):

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Running Half a Marathon With a Whole Heart

World Autism Awareness Day April 2, 2012

For the past three years, one of my goals has been to complete a 5K run (3.1 miles) in less than 30 minutes. I have written about that over and over.

Therefore, it may come as a surprise to you that this post is all about running 13.1 miles, and I don't have my heart set on a specific finish time.

I will be running the 2012 Allstate Life Insurance Boston 13.1 Marathon® on Sunday, September 16, 2012, as part of the Autism Speaks team. When I told my husband that I wanted to do this, he asked, "why run 13.1 miles in Boston when you could do it here in Tallahassee?" It has to be Boston, it has to be September 16, 2012, and it has to be with Autism Speaks because someone I have never met asked me to.

Perhaps these statements .... running 13.1 miles in "whatever time I can do" when my main goal is 3.1 miles in 29:59 or less; traveling to Boston to run because someone I have never met and never verbally spoken to asked me to; running as part of the Autism Speaks team when my child does not have autism .... don't make much sense.

Here are some of the reasons I said, "this has to happen" when I read Luau's blog on February 14:

1) Beyond the fact that I had seen some made for tv movies about children with autism and done a little reading, my life had not been directly touched by autism until the day my almost-one-year-old failed most of the indicators for "typical development" on an assessment given by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. No eye contact, no words, no pointing, nothing. Even though Wayne was not diagnosed with any condition on the autism spectrum, I have felt one teeny tiny scintilla of what I hear from my friends and acquaintances who have children with autism. That scintilla is wedged deep within my psyche and even though I have no right to say "I can relate," ........ I can't walk away.

2) I have worked for Florida's State Child Health Insurance Program for 17 years. Our program does not cover autism. Even though I know it's "just my job" to explain this to families whose child needs far more than the "24 therapy visits in a 60 day period when significant improvement is expected to result," that are covered, it still breaks my heart to be on the other end of the phone line when they say, "But how will he/she get the intensive, year-round therapy he/she needs?"

3) Because several times a week, I read Diary of a Mom, and am given the gift of Jess's wisdom, raw candor, and selflessness in sharing her journey (and Luau's) journey through parenting a "neurotypical" child and a child on the autism spectrum. The only way I know how to pay her back is to try to do something to help her child and other children and adults with autism.

Therefore, I signed on to the Autism Speaks Team knowing that my end of the deal is to raise $500 for Autism Speaks. The good news is I have raised $130.

More good news is that if I accumulate the most or second-to-most comments of everyone participating in this promotion that is hosted by Amanda at Parenting by Dummies, Paula Foster from Moments in Frames will donate a dollar per comment up to $250. Just for your comments!! (This lasts through May 6.)

(ps - if you just want to donate, of course that's fine too! Click here to be taken to my personal donation link.)

I am participating in a blogging promotion sponsored by Moments in Frames to help raise money for Autism Speaks. Please help us reach our goal by leaving a comment. Each comment you leave me could earn $1 (up to $250) for Autism Speaks.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday (Blue Eggs and Pinwheels Edition)

<em>Leap Into Spring!</em> Photo Challenge”></a><br />
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This is week two of the "Leap Into Spring" Photo Challenge. This challenge has two choices of prompts for each week. This week, the choices are Easter and Eggs. These are two choices that I found a lot easier when my children were younger!

I fully admit that I created this little Easter/Egg-themed image tonight, nine days after Easter.

BUT one thing we all need to keep in mind long past Easter is the fact that more than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.*

Did you see that blue pinwheel in the "Easter/Egg" picture? During the month of April, blue pinwheels represent prevention of child abuse. Patches of blue "pinwheels for prevention" are popping up all over our town (read more about Florida's efforts here).

Thanks "Easter Bunny," for bringing me a pinwheel so I can show my support of Pinwheels for Prevention.

Photo credit: Tenley Kiger

Visit the Pinwheels for Prevention Pinterest Board by clicking here.

Thank you to Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud, Alicia of Project Alicia, and Rebecca of Bumbles and Light for hosting this challenge. The challenge will run from April 6th – May 18th and is open to everyone regardless of geographic location, skill level, time commitment or camera equipment. Simply stop by each Friday and share your favorite images inspired by the weekly prompts. It is going to have freebies, prizes and photography tips galore!

(Next week's theme is Blossom/Trees. The linky will be up on Friday, April 20)

*Source: ChildHelp

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I Love This Thing! (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

My Mama Kat prompt this week is:  Share one of your favorite things (inspired by Jenbshaw).

I am not a huge Brookstone shopper. The prices are usually too elevated for my taste and there just isn't much there that I feel I can't live without. With one exception: my awesome Brookstone keychain!

My brother-in-law, Jim, got himself a Brookstone keychain years ago and loved it. Several years later, after numerous broken nails and plenty of frustration trying to transfer keys and gym/frequent shopper tags to and from my keychain, I splurged at Brookstone.

You do have to get the key onto its split ring the first time. After that, it is extremely simple to take off an individual key (as well as to put it back on). And I take keys off a lot - if I am running a trail or participating in a race and need to have just my car key with me; if I am leaving the car with a valet (well, that doesn't happen super-frequently but ....); if Wayne and I are switching cars and trading keys; if I am leaving the car at a mechanic.

I am sure I overpaid for this keychain when I bought it at Brookstone all those years ago, but it is one of those items in my life that I truly think, "Gosh this was one of the best things I ever splurged on" every single time I use it

Thank you, Brookstone, for helping me to unlock a bit of routine happiness daily.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wordless Wednesday (A Small Blue Light Edition)

<em>Leap Into Spring!</em> Photo Challenge”></a><br />
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With this post, I Leap! into the "Leap Into Spring" Photo Challenge. This challenge has two choices of prompts for each week. This week, the choices are Sunshine and Light.

Each April 2, people all over the world observe World Autism Awareness Day. Families install special blue light bulbs in their homes; businesses light up their entire buildings. I lit a single blue candle.

My light was just one among many. No one saw it except my family. But a light doesn't have to be big and dramatic to start to make a difference. A difference can start with one single candle, one conversation, one mile walked on behalf of a cause.

What cause in your life deserves a small light of support?

Thank you to Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud, Alicia of Project Alicia, and Rebecca of Bumbles and Light for hosting this challenge. The challenge will run from April 6th – May 18th and is open to everyone regardless of geographic location, skill level, time commitment or camera equipment. Simply stop by each Friday and share your favorite images inspired by the weekly prompts. It is going to have freebies, prizes and photography tips galore!

(Next week's theme is Easter/Eggs. The linky will be up on Friday, April 13 (I think!).)

One Day Without Shoes 2012

For many of us, going barefooted is a "fun option," a way to be carefree and enjoy the feel of grass underneath our feet or sand between our toes.

Shoes, on the other hand (foot?), are ways to protect our feet and enjoy expressing style and personality.

My family and I have all the shoes we need, and even some we want. Many children worldwide as not so fortunate.

One Day Without Shoes, coordinated by Toms, is "the day we spread awareness of the impact a pair of shoes can have on a child’s life by taking off our own. Why? Millions of children live without proper footwear, exposing them to injury and disease every day."

Among the problems faced by children who don't have adequate protection on their feet:

Podoconiosis: 4,000,000 people have this debilitating and disfiguring soil-based disease. (Source: Source: G. Davey / Estimate as of 2011)

Dangerous Debris: For example, 30,000 people live on one landfill in the Philippines, where many are without shoes and are exposed to broken glass, syringes and debris. (Source: Asian Development Bank)

Jiggers: For example, 1,890,000 Kenyan children are infected by jiggers, burrowing fleas that cause painful infection. (Source: Ahadi Kenyan Trust)

Hookworm:  740,000,000 people are affected by hookworm which can cause intestinal pain, weakness and cognitive impairment. (Source: World Health Organization)

Lack of Access to Education: In some countries, children are not allowed to attend school unless they have shoes.

If you are interested in spreading awareness, you can:

Tweet this: Millions of children in the world grow up without shoes. Join @TOMS this April for One Day #withoutshoes

Join the Facebook page here.

Get some tools for spreading the word here.

Me? I am going to go without shoes for as much of the day as I can.

For the times I can't, I will do my part to personalize the faces (and feet!) of children around the world who face challenges because their ability to get shoes is overshadowed by the magnitude of the other things they lack.

One Day Without Shoes is an awareness-raising day. As a for profit corporation (with a social mission to give a new pair of shoes to a child in need every time someone purchases a pair of Toms), Toms is prohibited from accepting monetary donations. They encourage people who want to make a donation to give to one of their partner organizations.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Style Me March - Hemming Things Up

When I embarked on the #stylememarch challenge on March 1, I was hesitant. I DM'd Hilary Rushford, its creator and author of the bow ties and bettys blog, proposing that I was too middle-aged and my fashion budget was too strapped for me to participate. Hilary encouraged me to join, stressing the fact that the challenge was open to all ages, and that one of the main tenets was to do the challenge primarily with items we already owned.

I dove in on March 1 with "favorite color" day:

And rounded out the month on March 31 with "plays up your best feature" day:

It took a few plays on words and coaxing some rarely worn items out of the deep recesses of my closet, but I did the challenge every day except "hair braid day." Here is the entire list:

Now that the challenge is over, I have a few observations by way of closure:

My earrings are in a conspiracy to remain separated from one another. It is almost impossible to find two matching earrings when said earrings would be perfect with an outfit. Ditto for earring backs. Yikes.

It is seriously difficult to take pictures of yourself. I don't know how teenagers do it (and they seem to do it all the time!). This process resulted in a lot of outtakes. Like this:

and this:

On the bright side, though:

Twenty Pounds Later. Oh my gosh I have lost almost 20 pounds over the past year! I knew that (because I weigh myself every day) but I have really focused on my fitness goals and haven't been fixated on the numbers so much. It really hit me when I grabbed items that I had not fit into in so long, put them on to see if they could be used for a particular day's theme, and they fit!

This white dress is an example, both of the weight loss (read above)
and the "power of the belt" (read below).
Belts! I haven't been giving belts enough credit. When your hips are disproportionately larger than your bust, some styles are horrible ideas. It's nice to accentuate a (relatively) narrow waist) but accentuate it too much and it only makes your hips look bigger. But belts make it possible to manipulate the top of an outfit in a way that balances out the bottom. That adds quite a few options I had not considered previously.

Confidence. One of the most powerful moments in therapy for me (when I was in my 20's) was a visualization where I looked at my (selfless, humble, incredible) mother as she carried herself and dressed, juxtaposed with the same wonderful person dressed confidently, carrying herself with a clear aura of "deservedness." It is so easy to feel like you are helping everyone else by "going without" but the price is heavy. Our daughters don't need mothers who constantly tamp down their own needs and sense of self in deference to everyone else in their lives.

Our daughters need mothers who (in Hilary's words) approach each day with grace and gumption. Thank you, Hilary, for reminding me to take a second look at my closet as well as my psyche.

If you want to see pictures of me ad nauseum (ha ha), here are all of my #stylememarch posts:

Week One is here.

Week Two is here.

Week Three is here.

Week Four is here.

Week Five is here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"The Lady and the Panda," A Book Review (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

You may know that I usually "choose" my Mama Kat prompt via This week, in all candor, I am going for "easiest." And although this prompt is pretty easy:  Book review time! Some people STILL read books…share one of your more recent reads and tell us what you thought! it's going to require me to (gasp!) retain the memory of something I have read recently. I listen to so many audiobooks that I fear I treat them as white noise and fail to retain details. But I'll dig deep in the memory bank and tell you about a recent audiobook that I got from Paperback Swap.

The recent read (or listen, if you don't believe audiobooks qualify as "reading) that comes to mind is "The Lady and the Panda."  This book, by Vicky Constantine Croke, chronicles the efforts of Ruth Harkness to bring the first live giant panda to the United States, back in the 1930's. The quest had originally belonged to her husband, but he died in China while searching for a panda, and she decided to make the goal her own. Ruth Harkness was not a rugged adventurer type. Picture a Hilton or Kardashian trudging off into the wild in search of an animal. Harkness did have the brilliant idea to snatch a baby panda instead of a full grown panda - so much easier to transport, you know? One of her serendipitous ideas was the purchase of a baby bottle and formula before heading into the remote, mountainous, China-Tibet border region.

Along the way, Harkness indulged in sexual liberties that were shocking for that era. She had at least one lover and morphed from her fashion designer persona to nondescript pants and shirts befitting a backwoods explorer.

Ruth Harkness and Su Lin
Source link: Living On Earth

I spent much of the time listening to this book marveling at the differences between the 1930's and now. Even in Shanghai, ripples from the developing unrest in Europe were felt. It is an understatement to say that Ruth was an easily minimized upstart, a woman in an insular society of male explorers. She showed them, returning triumphantly to America with panda Su Lin in tow. Later, she returned to China and secured a second panda, Mei-Mei. Mei-Mei's move from China to the United States didn't end as triumphantly as Su Lin's.

What stuck out at me from this book? First, Ruth Harkness's willingness to take risks. You could argue that they were risks born of ignorance, but she had a goal and she met it despite odds that were stacked heavily against her. Second, the entire philosophy of animal management (when those animals are some kind of "attraction") has dramatically evolved over the decades since Su Lin touched down on US soil. Third, I learned so much about giant pandas, including the fact that it is hard to tell baby girl pandas apart from baby boy pandas. (Su Lin was, it was discovered later, a male panda.)

Lastly, the image of the baby panda being snatched away from its mother at the age of nine weeks tugged at my consciousness the whole time. I wonder what (if anything) Su Lin felt/thought in its panda brain and heart.

The end of the book brought things full circle in a way I did not anticipate. I can't tell you  because it would detract from your experience if you choose to read the book.

In summary, "The Lady and the Panda" informed me, entertained me, and challenged me. Three things that the best books always do.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wordless Wednesday (#StyleMeMarch - Week Five)

Week Five of the "#StyleMeMarch" challenge from Hilary Rushford of the Bow Ties and Bettys Style Blog may have been abbreviated but it packed some fun challenges into four quick days!

Here's the entire month's plan:

On Wednesday, our directive was "two patterns." I combined an abstract floral with an art deco motif  pendant:

This day proved that this one skirt in my closet is probably my most versatile piece. It starred in Parisian Day in Week One and Stripes or Dots Day in Week Two. Reversible can be good.

And here's the view of the whole outfit.

My coworkers Beth and Karen got in on the "two patterns" fun too, mixing textures, stripes, and florals:

For "whites or neutrals" day, I had a run planned before work. I usually run before work on Thursdays anyway, but this time I was participating in a Daily Mile "virtual challenge," a 3.1 mile run (wherever we were geographically) in memory of fellow DailyMiler Martin A. I chose a white shirt and a white headband.

Takng pictures backwards, one-handed, in the dark, doesn't yield the best angles but here I am heading out in memory of Martin A.

When it came time to get dressed for work, I had to chuck Plan A because the white dress was at the cleaners, so I chose a tan linen cropped blouse, brown pants, and a brown jacket.  As neutral as I could get without a trip to the dry cleaner.

Friday was "color on your feet" day. I have had these shoes since my friend Mary Jane got married in 1999. They have held up so well; they may not be super-vivid colorful, but they're the best I can do! I love the tuck detail.

On that same day, I was looking ahead to my 10K run the following day. Springtime Tallahassee is one of our biggest runs here, and I decided to coordinate my toes with the race shirt. First nail decals I have purchased in a while! Oh! It's also important to note the name of the nail color: Spring Street (every color in the line had a New York name (sigh)).

Saturday, the grand finale, was "plays up my best feature" day. I have always liked having small dainty wrists. They may be small but they do a lot for me, like announce a favorite cause. (This bracelet supports the cause of Fanconi Anemia.) Read more about how the Kidz1stFund works to help kids with Fanconi Anemia by clicking on this link.

And then there are all the miles run where my wrists help me keep track of my time.

There's also the awesome watch my husband bought me for our 10th anniversary. Most valuable watch I have ever owned but it doesn't work right now so it is relegated to a drawer. But it still looks nice!

Is this the end of StyleMeMarch? Not quite. I'll be doing a wrap-up post soon to discuss a few lessons learned and to properly thank Hilary Rushford for being such a great fashion guide and enthusiastic supporter. For now, I will sign off.

After all, I need to figure out what to wear tomorrow!