Blood drives and bucket lists

Photo: Rotary Global Network for Blood Donation. Not sure why the vampire capes were necessary.

Photo: Rotary Global Network for Blood Donation. Not sure why the vampire capes were necessary.

About a month ago, Jack saw a blood drive van and told me he wanted to donate – had been wanting too for a while, in fact – and now that he was seventeen he could do so without parental permission, which makes two whole things I didn’t know.

What he actually said was it was on his “bucket list.” I told him he and I had different understandings of the term, but then he told me another list item was traveling to all seven continents. So maybe he does get it and is just a weirdo.

I’m not totally surprised he’d include something altruistic on his list of things to do before he dies, but why not digging wells in Africa or something? Building a house? Letting someone poke around trying to find a vein is on a list I keep too. A list of things that make me woozy if I think about them too much. Heights are on that list. Cleaning toilets. Ebola. (more…)

The half marathon taper and how I’m probably doing it wrong

Photo by Ryan McGuire at http://www.gratisography.com/Tomorrow, I’ll be running a half marathon, which means today is the last day of that period we call the taper.

If you’re not familiar with the taper, it’s the result of a whole bunch of running science that says it’s good to reduce your miles and intensity a few days before a big event. The length of taper can be as much as three weeks for a full marathon, two weeks for a half, and so on.

I’ve been running 6 to 8 half marathons annually for the past four years or so. Having an event on the calendar keeps me on a regular schedule. Otherwise, I really might just stop all together. BUT, if I’m doing what science says I should, I’m tapering about two weeks before every half marathon, which on my schedule, gives me a solid 14 to 16 weeks every year of taking it easy.

Yay science. (more…)

Turns out you CAN go home again, but they’ll probably make you sing

http://www.manicmumbling.com Challis Rodeo Grounds

“You know, JaNean used to play Delta Dawn on the piano. She was good. You could harmonize with her.” It was more a statement than a request from JaNean’s cute, bespectacled mom.

All I heard was Delta Dawn. I did what any rational person would do and belted out a refrain.

Del-ta-a Dawn, what’s that flower you have on
could it be a faded rose from DAYS GONE BYYY?

I took a long drink. Singing is thirsty work.

“That’s right,” JaNean’s mom patted me on the shoulder. She wrote on a slip of paper and she walked away. Realizing she was turning in a karaoke request, I looked at JaNean for help.

“Those are the only words I know.”

JaNean shrugged. (more…)

Of couches and tchotchkes: pros and cons of hosting an exchange student

Exchange Student Hosting, www.manicmumbling.comAs I’ve mentioned, the term exchange student horror stories is one of the more frequent searches that brings people here. I’m still trying to figure this one out. Are you all considering hosting a student and wondering if it’s crazy? Maybe your own kid’s thinking about exchange, and you want ammunition to talk him out of it?

OR … are you creative industry types trolling for movie fodder?

Because if it’s that last one, I’ve got a great idea {call me}.

If it’s either of the former, I’ll warn you I’m biased. We’re preparing to welcome our sixth exchange student to town. Between Mike and me we’ve also been counselors to another five. Our oldest is going on exchange, and we’re actively hounding him to make good use of the tutorials we bought so he can coherently ask for directions to the bathroom once he gets to his host country later this summer.

Outside of Google searches, I’m asked every once in a while about the pros and cons of hosting exchange students. It’s hard to come up with a list. It’s kind of like quantifying the ups and downs of parenting, really. The downs of parenting are pretty straightforward. You don’t have to practice sleeping in ninety-minute spurts every night, or actively wear spit up on your shirt to know neither is especially your cup of tea. (more…)

Running tip #378: Know how to cope with event photos

fit_one race photo manicmumbling

The one, halfway decent race photo ever.

I saw a post recently in a fitness-oriented social media group: a woman running, wearing a race bib. The photo was taken from a low angle, the watermark of an official race photographer in one corner.

I expected a “yay me!” message underneath instead of the anguish this woman poured out. She’d been proud of finishing her first 5k – until she opened the results email with the event photos. She hadn’t realized her thighs were that big. She didn’t remember feeling as awful as she looked. Heck, she appeared to barely be moving.

Rookie move, that: expecting too much from race pics. They’re bound to disappoint. I don’t know the woman, but I’m familiar with the feeling.

I always eagerly open the post race results email hoping to finally find a picture to commemorate all my hard work actually making it across the finish line. A memento. Particularly one that fits my running self-image: something of a cross between Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Cheetara from Thundercats. (more…)

World’s Very Best Book Club

books-1283866_1280Colin and I like to share books, or rather, he reads a ton, then foists stuff on me and demands I read it right away so we can talk about it.

He’s kind of a book bully.

Our book discussions go something like this:

“Did you read it?”

“Yeah, it was good.”

“You liked it?”

“Yes, you?”

“Um, hmm. Cool, huh?”

At which point he either is dying for me to read the next book in whatever series it is, and biting his tongue over some major plot point he doesn’t want to ruin, or on to some other author he’s then pushing on me to finish so we can have another provocative discussion.

It’s about a scintillating as my adult book group discussions. Significantly less wine. Better material. (more…)

A last day in Seoul, and a few weird and awesome things

FullSizeRender (22)This is Anne. Anne is an English teacher who was sitting next to Mike on the train last night and asked if he would be willing to proofread an assignment from one of her students. Mike obliged and thumbed through the work on her iPad, and the two struck up a conversation. She found out we’d be leaving Seoul soon, and wanted to give him a gift. The two made arrangements to meet at the Kintex conference center today, so she could bring it to him.

She’d told Mike about her desire to be a missionary, so we wondered if we were going to get a bible or something. Later Mike and I had a conversation about what we would do if she brought us a packet to smuggle on the plane. Or, like, a baby or something really weird – with a couple of tough guys to rough Mike up and “make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”

This is where our conversations go, because we are marginally kind of awful people with weird senses of humor. And because no one in the US would go out of their way to bring a thank you present in return for editing someone’s homework, so we know better than to accept the simple fact we could be on the receiving end of a straight-up thank you. (more…)

Day … whatever … in Seoul: a little about the kindness of strangers

IMG_5586

Police officers in what Colin calls their “field-trip” grouping, watching a protest group of disabled vets across the street

Today on the way home from our conference, Mike and I stopped to watch a little drama unfold. There were several young police officers making clucking noises and beating bushes along the side of the road. A little crowd gathered with us. A mallard swooped overhead and landed in some tall grass beyond the sidewalk. One of the officers showed her a cardboard bucket, his fingers pinching the top closed. I could hear the noises from inside the bucket and hopefully the mother duck could as well.

Earlier, Colin had remarked how groups of police officers walking together in double lines on the sidewalks reminded him of first graders on field trips. I thought it was a little strange, too. Why is it that we see so many groups of what look like kids not much older than my sons, grouped together with fluorescent “police” vests, being led around as if in training, and not a lot of individual officers walking or cycling or driving around patrolling? (more…)

Seoul Day 7: Birthday Gangnam Style

IMG_6135If you’re looking for Days Five and Six to our Seoul Saga, you can stop. I didn’t do them. Our conference has started and those posts would have been about over air conditioned meeting rooms and trying to remember to exchange business cards with two hands.

Actually, the last two days were dedicated to a pre-conference. Today the bonafide conference started, and the opening ceremonies were more elaborate than I expected. Like, by a long shot. I guess when forty-some-thousand Rotarians get together in a room, it causes a stir. We heard from the UN Secretary General, and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (home country of our international president, K.R. Ravindran), and that of the Republic of Korea.IMG_6163

Today is also Jack’s birthday, and with an afternoon light on actual conference activities, we let him set the afternoon’s agenda. (more…)

Day four in Seoul: Adventure and its drawbacks

IMG_3440There have been times on trips like these when I remember the word “adventure” is actually a rather loaded term. Sometimes, it means more than a rip-roaring good time. Sometimes “adventure” means “what the hell just happened and how can we avoid it in the future?”

I’m going to tell you what just happened, but first you have to hear about the rest of our day. It was fabulous.

On Monday, when we’d visited Gyeongbokgun Palace and the Bukchon Hanok Village, we’d taken the short walk to see the Changdeokgung Palace, to find that it was closed on Mondays. Then yesterday, when we’d made it to the Seoul Tower, we’d planned to stop at the nearby Korean War Memorial, but it was a long day, and I actually forgot. So we decided we’d tick both those things off our list today. Neither is especially close to the other, so it would be a haul. (more…)