Saturday, May 24, 2014


As of this Thursday, I "graduated" from the Couch to 5K program. I did not get a robe or a funny hat. There was no party. I celebrated by taking a bath because running that long makes you sweaty.

I also did not get to make a commencement speech, because there was no ceremony. That would have been awesome, though. I mean, I have some material for a speech about overcoming adversity and also running. I have some good stuff for that sort of speech.

Instead, I have compiled a list of stuff about running I have discovered. Because reasons.

  1. It does not get easier. The app progressed, but I was always just as destroyed at the end. I was sweaty, I felt as though I was going to die, and did I actually die? I can't tell. I'm pretty sure I did, at least for a minute there.
  2. It gets easier. (See what I did there?) Today I ran with Dad, because he cannot bear to have me out there running without joining in, no matter how painful it is for him. For the record, he ran in a pair of sandals, jeans, and a t-shirt. I did not follow any app, but watched Dad as we ran took walking breaks when I thought he needed it. The resulting walk/run ratio was similar to the beginning of Couch to 5K, only without a lady talking from my iPhone. It was not even slightly strenuous to me. So yeah, maybe it does get better. You just don't notice it until you go on a run with your almost-60-year-old father.
  3. It makes you tired. This is an understatement. I have never been so tired in my life, except maybe for when I was a kid and Dad took us to the mountains and we climbed up and up and up thinking we were on a circular trail, only to discover, many hours later, that the trail was not a circle at all and that we had to turn around and walk the whole way back. On the way down, there were poisonous snakes. 
  4. It works more than just your legs. Running uses your whole body, and, as a result, you will feel it everywhere the next morning when you try to get out of bed.
  5. Cotton is the enemy. When you sweat, cotton clothes stick to you. This is unpleasant.
  6. Shorts are the enemy. Heh. If you are like me, and your inner thighs touch and rub together when you walk, slowly wearing out every pair of jeans you own in an indelicate area, you probably should wear running tights, capris, or spandex instead of those adorable Nike shorts that come in all the pretty colors. Give up on your dignity and buy the skin-tight pants.
  7. It is possible to run in glasses. I always thought that would be a problem, and it is a bit annoying when you get very sweaty. However, for the most part, you can run in glasses without any difficulty. If it really is awful for you, guess what? There is a special company that makes very sporty looking prescription sunglasses for runners and other athletes. I'm not springing for them, but there you go.
  8. You will want to convert everyone you know to the glory of Couch to 5K, because it seems so miraculous that you, who never once passed a presidential physical fitness exam, could ever have done it. And if you could manage it, so can everyone else!
  9. It does things to your body's rhythms. Meaning you can schedule bathroom stops. That's all I'm going to say.
  10. You start to LIKE running. This is maybe not true while you're actually in the process of running, but after, when you realize how far you ran, how good it feels to have successfully run anywhere at all, you feel like maybe you don't suck. It's a good feeling.
Bonus: I still am not Portuguese. In case you were wondering.

All that being said, I still feel like other runners are judging me and finding me lacking every time I see one on the trail or walk into the running store. I keep telling myself that they're probably as focused on keeping their hearts from exploding as I am while running, but still. That feeling probably won't ever go away.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Story About a Wasp

My app now has me running over 20 minutes without stopping.

I cannot run 20 minutes without stopping. I keep trying. I can make it 11 minutes. Sometimes I can make it 13 minutes. But I cannot run 20 minutes. Or 25, like I was supposed to run today.

It ended up working out just fine, because this morning I took Darcy with me, and she was not at all interested in running. She wanted to sit on the ground and watch me run, resulting in my running away from her. Then I had to stop and coax her to join me. And I'd run again, and we would repeat the process. Darcy is not used to going out and running at 8:00 AM. She is used to walking around with Mum and being able to sniff everything. It is a leisure walk. More of a stroll than anything.

Poor Darcy. It was even misting, meaning she was getting wet, and she hates being wet.

By the time I was halfway done, I was exhausted, but Darcy was so happy to be going home that she finally decided to run without any begging or pleading. She used her Shetland Sheepdog herding skills to get me home. It was probably good that she did, as I was dying by then.

It's a good thing that I'm about two weeks ahead of where I SHOULD be. That makes it okay that I'm not running 20 straight minutes. But I can't help but worry that I WON'T do any better, and that on race day I'll be gasping my way along, then stopping to walk for the second half. It would be just like the president's physical fitness tests we used to have to take in gym class, only with me all grown up and with more asthma. There will be just as many people staring at me, so I'll get that added humiliation and possible flashbacks.

The last time I ran a mile with people watching, I had been stretching in gym and had no idea I would soon be subject to such torment. I felt a slight tickle on my arm and, thinking it was a strand of my own hair, I brushed it away. Except it was not a hair, it was a wasp.

The wasp, believing I was about to murder it, stung me as my hand approached. When I touched the wasp half a second later (discovering as I did so that the stabby thing was a giant angry wasp), it became lodged in my arm like an insectoid hypodermic needle.

Did I mention it was in the crook of my elbow, right where they always draw blood at the doctor's office? It was there.

One of my fellow students had to remove the wasp for me, as it was stuck and its attempts to walk away or fly were resulting in nothing. Meanwhile, it was still mid-sting, with more and more wasp venom entering what could only have been my veins, since all my blood vessels are right at the surface and easily accessible to wasps and medical staff alike.

The wasp, once freed, flew away. It was probably out of venom by then. It did not come back, meaning it was probably as traumatized as I was after the whole experience.

My arm began to blow up like a balloon.

As I wondered if this counted as an excuse to go to the nurse's office, our teacher led us out of the gym for...the track. Yes, we were running a mile that day. For the stupid fitness test they made us do every year. Spoiler alert: None of us were ever fit.

I asked the teacher if I could go to the nurse's office. He said no. So as I walked out of the building toward the track, I noticed a room I'd never seen before. It was unmarked, and it contained a washing machine, a dryer, and a big ice machine like they have at hotels. This was the best thing I'd ever seen up to that point.

I ducked into the room, grabbed a paper towel from the holder above the ice chest, wrapped a handful of ice up in the paper towling, and went back to join my class.

holding the ice to my arm, I stepped into the hallway again, only to be turned on by the teacher at once. "WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN THE BOY'S VARSITY LOCKER ROOM?!" He bellowed.

"That's the boy's locker room?" I asked. "I was getting ice!"

"Oh." He replied, mollified. "Come on then."

And then I ran a mile while I felt progressively sicker. My forearm was the size of my thigh by the time I was finished. I ran the whole mile clutching the rapidly-melting ice to the spot where I'd been stung.

When I finished (I think at 12-14 minutes), I walked over to where the class was waiting for me and the other two asthmatic runners. I may not have known I had asthma then, but my pace matched the other asthmatics. Tell me that's not a clue.

The teacher wrote down my time and then noticed my arm, which, I reiterate, was THE SIZE OF MY THIGH.

"What is wrong with your arm?" My teacher asked.

"A wasp got stuck in it. It was in there for two minutes or so. And now I have a balloon arm. It feels like fire and my heartbeat."

I was sent to the nurse's office at once. Only, the nurse had already left for the day, as she was only in the school until noon or so. She had also left the elementary school and gone home. She was really, really gone. The secretary, who was also my drama coach, was freaked. But the buses were also leaving, so I was given more ice and strict instructions to make a baking soda poultice of some kind to pack over the sting-mark.

And then I went home. That was the last official mile-time I have on record.

Who had this great idea to sign up for a 5K anyway? Was it me? I don't think I would have done anything that foolish.

Moral support would be greatly appreciated. Either that or chocolate. Or maybe mozzarella sticks. Also wasp repellent, if you have any.

Monday, May 12, 2014


Jennifer and I went for our run after I finished at the library for the day. This run quite nearly killed me. I was dying, and I had run that distance before. I had run for MORE TIME than the app was asking me to run, and I had done all of it much happier than I did today.

I felt as though I was being murdered.

Jennifer could have left me in the dust, despite the fact that she only runs with me and this is our third run. It is my 18th. Jennifer claims this toughness was brought to her by 5 Hour Energy Drink, but I think it's because she is just plain better at doing all of the things than I am.

What did it was the heat and humidity. I am notorious in my family for being unable to handle drastic changes in temperature. And Indiana has gone from being in the low 60s to the high 80s in less than a week. It's shocking we haven't had terrifying weather. All we had was a thunderstorm and flash flooding. That's nothing. We can handle that. That's like a light breeze is for other places.

Also, someone almost destroyed my car by speeding down a hill on a one-lane road as I went under the one-lane bridge. I was DEEPLY ANGRY. Nobody messes with Francis Focus. He is a happy car and doesn't need his nose bashed in.

I arrived home and cleaned up, ate applesauce for dinner, and haven't moved since. Well, I did play with Darcy. But who could say no to this face?

Heat, Humidity, and Couch to 5K

Right now it is 80 degrees.

At 5:00, it will be 82 degrees.

Right now the humidity is at 68%.

At 5:00, it will drop to a low low 59%.

Jennifer and I are running at 5:00. At 5:00 it will be 82 degrees and the humidity will be 59%. I'm repeating that so that it will really sink in and you'll understand just how horrible that's going to be.

If you don't hear from us, it's because the heat and humidity killed us. We dropped dead in the park. Sorry.

Meanwhile, as I was looking for the heat and humidity e-card because I need illustrations to make my life funnier, I found this, which made me think of You-Are-Portuguese Guy, because I was running by with earbuds and he still thought telling me I have Portuguese eyebrows was a good idea.

And this will be Jennifer and I after our run this afternoon. I mean, we won't become a cardboard sign, but we will agree with the content of the sign. You understand.

And then I saw this and started laughing so hard, library patrons began staring at me, because while I have yet to see anyone attractive during a run (usually I see squirrels), I can pretty much guarantee if I do, I will run away as quickly as possible. I mean, if I run away in the grocery store when I am walking through the produce section with a cart, why would my behavior change if I am already running?

Now, maybe by "pick up the pace" they mean run faster to impress the attractive person, but I am too awkward to think of it that way. In my world, the bottom of the picture just says "Flee."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

In Which I Excel at Avoidance

Today I went for a run at Murder Trail, and I saw a familiar truck at the trailhead.

The truck belongs to Mr. You-Are-Portuguese, and I spent the remainder of the run watching for people on the trail that looked 1. Male and 2. 60-ish. Younger males, females, families, bicyclists, runners, and other people who did not match Mr. You-Are-Portuguese's build were ignored and passed on the trail as per usual.

I did actually see him, but I was prepared. I turned around and ran in the opposite direction, then went back and forth between the trailhead and Mum and Darcy. No one has time to put up with that guy, especially not when the humidity is as high as it was today and when tiny gnats are hovering in clouds at eye-level everywhere.

I ate a gnat. It was not on purpose.

Photographic evidence of Mr. You-Are-Portuguese's truck, so you guys don't think I'm making this up. I wish I were making this up:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fancy New Trail Running Shoes

At some point last week, as I was bending and flexing my Nike Free Runs and listening to the chunks of gravel falling out of the little square treads, I knew I had a choice to make. It was a choice between inconvenience and expense, and if you know me at all, you know I chose to spend the money.

See, the gravel road by my house is so blasted convenient. When I'm not running with Jennifer, I can run on Meth Alley and no one drives by, ever. It is quiet. Sometimes there are deer. It's nice there. Aside from the meth, but that happened late at night last summer, and now the police drive through that area so often, I think Meth Alley is going to get its name changed to "Formerly Meth Alley." The only problem with (Formerly) Meth Alley is the gravel. My shoes are minimalist. That means less cushioning between me and the road, less chunks of rubber and foam keeping me from feeling what I'm running on, less chances for me to trip over giant objects because my brain accounts for my feet, not my feet AND shoes. But the gravel sticks in the awesome tread on my shoes, meaning I am essentially running ON rocks. The rocks become a part of my shoe and I carry those rocks with me until I get home, which is when I spend a good amount of time removing all the gravel and using it to replenish the driveway.

I could choose not to ever run on Meth Alley again, despite the convenience, the pretty scenery, and the lack of scary trucks careening past me at 65mph. OR, I could choose to buy trail running shoes.

I have tried driving out to Murder Trail. It sucks. The drive is 30 minutes both ways, and if I run for 30 minutes, that's an hour and a half out of my day that I could be spending doing something else, like sleeping. Plus, that's gas I could use to, I don't know, visit someplace cool someday.

All this led to the running store and my new fancy shoes. They are made just for trail running, and nothing can get caught in the treads. I know. I did a second run today, after the morning one, just to test them out on Meth Alley, and not a stone got stuck in my shoes and I never slipped on the gravel once.

This is a vast improvement.

Please ignore my ghostly pale skin.
Plus, they are red, which makes me feel faster. Don't they make you think, "The girl wearing these is super-speedy?" Well you're wrong. I'm the slowest runner around. But I try.

The lady at Three Rivers Running Company was incredibly nice. I walked in and sounded way more knowledgeable than I really am. I told her I wanted trail running shoes that were lightweight and airy. She pulled out four pairs for me to try on, with varying degrees of stability. I'm supposed to wear a stabilizing shoe, but I find that type of shoe leads me to fall on my face, so we found one with the lowest amount of correction, enough to help me out but not enough to make me trip.

These are by Montrail and are named "Bajada." I should look that word up but I probably never will. Bonus points for the person who does. They are slightly narrow, which is perfect for my feet, and when I saw the color I thought, "This is so weird that it's COOL." They come in other colors for the less awesome people who choose not to wear shoes that blind other runners.

My skin actually glows in direct sunlight,
like in Twilight only with less bloodsucking.
They really are great to run in, and I'm looking forward to my next opportunity to run in them, which won't be tomorrow because I'm working and then going straight to Indy for a play. But Sunday, hopefully, I will get to go play run.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

In Which Laura Runs 5K, Somehow

Well, my toe must be feeling better, because today I accidentally ran 5K.

I went for a run on Murder Trail, and as I ran along, I thought, "Gee, this running section seems like it's taking FOR-EV-ER. Maybe I missed the command to walk? Nah."

I had not skipped walking. No. Instead, I had failed to read the instructions for Day Two of Week Five, which state, and I'm paraphrasing, "Five minute warm-up. Run eight minutes. Walk five minutes. Run eight minutes. Five minute cool-down."

Heh. So I ran eight minutes. And I didn't look at my phone, so when it told me during the walking section that I was halfway done, I laughed at it because the app was crazy to think that only one running and half a walking section was halfway. Halfway was supposed to be mid-second running section, because I thought the day's instructions were, "Five minute warm-up. Run five minutes. Walk three minutes. Run five minutes. Walk three minutes. Run five minutes. Five minute cool-down." But I was wrong.

So I started running the second eight-minute block, still thinking I was supposed to run five minutes, until I passed the two mile marker and kept going. This made me think something was wrong, because I really shouldn't have passed the two mile marker if I wasn't yet halfway done. So I paused the app and checked.

Only then did I realize that I'd run eight minutes with little to no misery. Way to go, me! Only then did I realize that I was two miles from my car and...essentially done running. Great.

So I finished the running block, walked five minutes, then did another running block of eight minutes. Judging from my GPS app, that took me up to OVER three miles of running! This means that, if I can cut out the walking in the middle, I will have no problem running the 5K in June. My body CAN run 5K in one day. I can do it. This is awesome.

In other news, a giant log fell from the sky and took out a section of fence on the trail. I checked, but there were no bodies underneath the log, meaning it did not kill anyone, unless the victims were already removed. This means that nature is not the murderer on Murder Trail. 

(For the record, I will never run on Murder Trail if I see a Camaro parked at the trailhead. Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear says Camaros are only driven by murderers, and he knows about cars, so he must be right.)

Tomorrow I head to the running store, and the running store people will help me find the perfect trail running shoes, so I can go back to running down Meth Alley by my house. Sometimes the drive to Murder Trail sucks. Also the drive home, when I am sweaty and gross, sucks.

Today when I ran, the temperature rose to over 80 degrees. I have never been so sweaty in my life. I am just thankful that nobody was around to see me, because I bet I looked like Mickey Rourke, only without the steroid abuse. (Although Mickey Rourke sweats while he is sitting down and relaxed. At least I had the excuse of running three miles in 80 degree heat.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What Life Is Like Toe-day

Yes, I did make a terrible joke in the title. No, I am not sorry.

Last night, as my toe throbbed, I went on Facebook and accosted my friend Erica, who is a nurse (or is about to be, not sure when she graduates). I asked her if toes fall off on their own, or if they just hurt like this in order to convince their owners to break out the hedge clippers and do the job ourselves.

Erica was slightly grossed out by the hedge clipper remark.

However, she told me she thought I had dislocated my toe. She said it probably would feel better in a few days, and that I should ice it in the meantime. She told me removing the toe would not be necessary. It should stay where it belongs. It belongs on my foot, apparently.

I decided to trust her, so I went to sleep.

This morning, it felt SO MUCH BETTER. It was like magic. Instead of having agony that was, like a 9 on the pain scale (speaking as someone who has had their abdomen scissored open and organs pulled out and mailed to the Mayo Clinic, and therefore knows the pain scale well). Today, it is like a 2. In fact, it is only a 2 when I am actively walking around. It is a 0 when I am not walking around.

It turns out, toes are forgiving appendages.

I am still not running today, because if my toe gets angry about the running, I could end up miserable again. I hate misery, so no running.

I also am going to the running store on Friday, where I am getting trail running shoes, because I am not running on sidewalks nearly as much as I am running on the gravel road by my house (Meth Alley), and gravel requires different shoes. Trail running shoes, in fact. Trail running shoes are fancy, because they're designed to make it so you don't feel like you're running barefoot on gravel. My current shoes make me feel like I'm running barefoot on gravel. (It is possible that this contributed to the toe agony.)

I would not buy new shoes, because I am cheap, except my friend Pam made a face when I told her about my road running shoes and how I was using them on gravel, and she gave me a grave warning. The face was something like terror, and the warning involved a story about her foot and the hideous agony that led her to have to buy Vibrams, better known as the toe-shoes, in order to escape horrible pain.
These are Vibrams. They are designed to repel friends and loved ones.

I do not want to have to be in horrible pain. I also do not want to have Vibrams. I am really glad they worked for Pam, but she is normal. I am a freaky weird person, and if I put on Vibrams, I would look even MORE freakish, and I would be driven from society. Possibly with pitchforks.

I also do not want to damage myself, though, so because I Googled lots of toe health things trying to figure out what's wrong with me, I now I have toe-spacers. These are gel insert things that you put between your big toes and second toes in order to encourage the big toes to become straight so that you don't develop bunions or have to have a doctor break both toes for clinical purposes and reset them so they will be straight. I am wearing them now. They feel like flip flops, only the gel is way more comfortable than the average flip flop. You put them between your toes, then put on your socks and shoes to hold them in place.

They are odd. But hopefully they will make my toes look less terrifying, and, more importantly, they will make it so no one has to take a sledgehammer to my feet for clinical purposes. That sounds clinically painful.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The One About Laura's Weird Feet (and How Easy It Is to Break Them)

It is possible that I shattered my own bone yesterday. If I did not destroy the bones of my left big toe, I did some other damage to it, because I have never woken up mid-scream before.

See, yesterday I was putting on my shoes to take Darcy out, and as I did so, my left big toe felt odd. It usually feels nothing, because due to my freakishness, my big toes actually lean toward my index-toes. This means when I line my feet up, instead of having my big toes parallel to each other, they instead point away from each other. If you were to trace a line alongside each big toe and then close the top, you would end up with a nice triangle.

These are not my feet, but this is what it looks like. That picture is from this blog post that talks about the horrors of high heels with narrow toe boxes. That was not what caused my toes to be weird. I always wore classic 90's clunky boots with huge toe boxes, so how my toes ended up snuggling together is anyone's guess. They have been this way since I was a kid.

Toes are so gross. Once I went into a Borders with a close-up picture of a bunch of people's feet lined up hanging on the wall in the cafe. I am convinced that it was why the Borders chain failed. Who wants to eat a scone when they're looking at gross feet? No one, that's who.

My big toes have two main problems (1) there is a space along the top of my big toes that is essentially numb and (2) sometimes my big toe joints crack or pop, which I always assume is their way of going back where they belong. They do this on their own. All my joints crack and pop, so it isn't really abnormal for me. Still, I'd rather none of my joints ever pop. That's just a personal preference.

As I put on my shoes yesterday, my left big toe popped. It made an audible snapping noise, the kind of noise a twig makes when you crack it.

The noise was not immediately followed by pain, so I continued with my day, went to sleep, and woke up to my alarm this morning.

When the alarm went off, I rolled over as I always do to turn the thing off, still half asleep. What really woke me up was the howl of protest from my left big toe. My alarm and my scream woke me up the rest of the way. Fortunately, the scream was muffled by pillows.

It does not seem to be a bone problem. I still can bend and move the toe normally. It is not bruised and does not appear swollen. But oh, my. The last time I was in this sort of pain, I had been scissored open by a doctor and chunks of me were removed and thrown away. I don't know what tendon or muscle snapped or popped free, but it had to have been something important, because putting on socks brought tears to my eyes.

I drove to work holding my left foot up off the floor so that nothing touched it, because no one deserves that much pain. I considered taping up my toe, in the hope that it would help, but the only tape we have at home is latex surgical tape, which would kill me. So instead I sit here, waiting for my toe to just finish falling off the rest of the way so I could move on with my life.

Oh it hurts. Please send English toffee and lots of ibuprofen. Maybe send ice, too.

Monday, May 5, 2014

I Am Not Portuguese

It was bound to happen. We all knew it. I mean, I've been making inappropriate murder jokes for the last three weeks, because I knew something was bound to happen to me when I was running alone. I mean, really. I attract all the freaks and weirdos. They can see me coming from miles away, and I draw them to me with my ability to politely listen and feign interest in their stories even as I internally panic and look for the nearest door, policeman, machete, or getaway vehicle.

Yes, I met someone running yesterday.

He was mid-sixties, normal-looking (as most freaks and weirdos are), and he seemed (again, as most freaks and weirdos do), friendly and non-threatening. And really, in the scheme of things, he was nonthreatening. He was weird and racist, but not in a scalp-you-and-leave-you-for-dead way, just in a grew-up-ignorant-and-uneducated-in-the-rural-Midwest sort of way.

I was following the app when the man waved, smiled, and said "have you seen any mushrooms around yet?"

(This is a normal greeting where I am from. It is mushroom hunting season. People of all walks of life use every spare second traipsing through the outdoors looking around the bases of trees for morel mushrooms, which are then consumed or sold at an excessively high price. I found one mushroom, once. It tasted like a mushroom. The sort you can buy at the grocery. Mushroom-hunting isn't my sort of springtime hobby.)

"No," I said. "Are they up yet?"

(This is the normal response.)

"Well, they're really tiny now. We'll get them in the next couple weeks, once it gets a bit warmer."

This was when I thought the conversation was over. But no.

"Do you mind my asking, what's your father's name?"

(I get this a lot, too. Everyone knows my dad. So I told him, because everyone already knows Dad.)

"That's what I thought," he said. "You have the kind of face I'm looking for."

My brain automatically filled in, "as a mask to cover my own face in the Satanic spring rights I plan to perform after ritualistically murdering you and using your blood to season the mushrooms I am currently collecting." He didn't say it, but he didn't have to.

"It's your eyebrows," he continued. "I've been doing lots of research, trying to look up all my family's background. After a while, you can tell a person's ancestry by looking at them. You're from Portugal. I can tell by your eyebrows. You have Portuguese eyebrows."

This is wildly inaccurate.

"You have a Portuguese last name, too."

Except no.

My last name is so German that German people read it and pronounce it the German way automatically, because it is still spelled the way that it's spelled in Germany. German people tell me I'm pronouncing my own name wrong so often that I've begun to tell them, "That's not what the officials told us on Ellis Island," even though none of my family ever went through Ellis Island.

I corrected him, to no avail. He went on to explain to me how my last name was derived from an actual Portuguese word for "boot" whereas the German word for that was totally different. I tried to explain that we weren't named after shoes, and that my last name means "purse-maker" and is hard-core medieval, but he was already on to explaining his own ethnic and racial background.

"I was Amish," he said. "I'm not anymore, but I used to be. I grew up only speaking Pennsylvania-Dutch, and when I started first grade, I couldn't speak a word of English!"

Amish people don't usually murder people and make clothes out of their victim's skin, do they?

"My mother was 5/8 Cherokee," he said. "The Portuguese were the first people over here. They came before anybody else. They were here before the Cherokee were here. Back then, the Cherokee were Aztec, because "Cherokee" means "Aztec." The Portuguese were here, and then the Cherokee came through, and then they married and had kids, and then the Europeans and Columbus came."

I don't even know where to start with all of that.

"My one daughter looks Cherokee. She has the v-shaped jaw. My other daughter looks Portuguese."

I wanted to ask if his wife had any guy friends who looked Cherokee and/or Portuguese, which would explain why his daughters looked so dissimilar. But I thought that might be rude.

"Yeah, I can trace my ancestry back to 260 B.C."

At this point I really began to wonder where Mum and The Brother were. They were behind me with Darcy. See? Crazies even find you when you are smart and you run with people. They hunt you down and tell you they can trace their family line back to the Mesozoic era, when their ancestor was a bit of algae clinging to the toenail of a dinosaur after it trekked through a pond on its way to die however dinosaurs really died.

"You know Jacob and Esau?" He asked. "One was real pale and fair. The other was all dark and hairy. He was the first Indian."

The last time I heard that argument I was in an African American literature class, and we were discussing the Jim Crow laws, the one-drop rule, and the religious propaganda people produced to tell people why it was okay to not treat others equally based on their skin color. Plus, the whole idea of walking up to someone and insisting you know their race or ethnicity or nationality isn't just racist, it's also beyond rude. You need to know a great deal about anthropology before you can look at someone's bone structure and tell with certainty what their background is. Five minutes on a website isn't going to cut it.

Finally, I broke away and finished my run. I passed my mother and brother, then had to wait for them to catch up at the end of the trail. Guess who beat them to the trailhead?

If you guessed the You-Are-Portuguese Guy, you were right.

He continued on his bizarre tirade almost exactly where he'd left off. And he proceeded to tell me that any name with a "ton" at the end, was not Anglo-Saxon, but actually Portuguese. That meant that instead of being English, both the German--I mean Portuguese--and the English side of my family were actually Portuguese, making me double Portuguese because eyebrows.

I told him he was wrong, and that "-ton" was pure Saxon.

"Everybody conquered everybody in those days," he said. "You're Portuguese. I speak Dutch. I know about the Portuguese language."

(Except Portuguese is a Romance language, and therefore Latin. Dutch is not Latin-based. So he would know nothing about Portuguese at all, unless he had studied it or Latin.)

Now, Portugal has a rich and beautiful history. I am way pro-Portugal. But seriously, I am not Portuguese, and I was getting pretty offended that he kept telling me I was, especially because I know all about where this sort of "science" he was using comes from.

Ever heard of anthropometry? The Nazis loved it. Here you go.

Fortunately, Mum and Paul arrived before I decided it was a good idea to punch the man in the face or tell him just how racist he is. But they arrived just before I lost it completely. If I had been in possession of a match, I would have lit myself on fire just to escape the conversation. It would have burned off my "Portuguese" eyebrows, perhaps shutting him up for good.

Why do these freaks and weirdos seek me out? Do I have a "come talk to me about racist/offensive stuff" face?

Clearly bringing a buddy running with me is only effective if they keep up with me, because having Mum and The Brother along did nothing to discourage Racist You-Are-Portuguese guy. Maybe pepper spray would have, but he wasn't being threatening in any way.

I am buying pepper spray this weekend anyway. I will brandish it to discourage conversation in case I ever see this man again.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Keeping Laura Sane

I try not to talk a ton about having an anxiety disorder. It sucks, but I live with it. This week I was talking to my aunt, and she mentioned this thing that happens when she is peacefully sleeping, in which her body wakes her up--fully--and leaves her unable to sleep ever again (that night...presumably she can sleep again at some other point in time).

That reminded me of me, because that happens to me often, except instead of just feeling fully awake, I feel as though I am about to die on my own or be brutally murdered, and I lie awake in the dark in sheer terror until I either manage to calm myself down or just get up and do laundry.

For a while this happened so often that I finished all the laundry and moved on to working out a solution. It took some creative thinking, but now I did it. I now have a method of dealing with the panicked wake-up thing, so I told my aunt. Basically, I play this song in my head:

If you listen to this song, you will notice that it's very easy to pick out the meter. So easy, in fact, that you might find yourself tapping your toe involuntarily when the song is playing. Try it. Musical people don't have to. You already know what I'm talking about.

Here's the trick: play the song in your head. Only instead of playing it as quickly as Julie Andrews sings it, speed up or slow down the tempo to match your heartbeat*, or match it to the sound of a ticking clock in your room. Focus on that, and only on that, and you can fall asleep again. It has never failed me. This trick beat jet-lag in Europe. If it can do that, it can do anything.

I also have other panic-attack reducing tricks. Most of my panic attacks are related to not living up to someone's expectations of me, or a feeling of lack of control. This is sort of handy, because there were a few things I could do right away to reduce the amount of sobbing and shaking I had to put up with everyday.

I know this weekend is going to be anxiety-inducing, so I thought I would share my tips with you, in case they might help you the way they've helped me.

Basically these are what my once-upon-a-time therapist called "healthy boundaries," a.k.a., rules to set to keep you from shaking in the corner, certain death is around the corner**.

The five simple rules are as follows:
  1. I never agree to do anything unless I am certain I can do it. No knee-jerk agreements to commitments that I will freak out about at the last minute when I realize that I'm terrible at public speaking, at math, at caring for infants, you get the idea.
  2. I tell people NO. This is related to #1. All my life, I have been a people-pleaser. I still have a hard time refusing to do something when someone asks, so I have started telling people I'll "check my schedule" or "think about it and get back with you" when someone asks me to commit to doing something. Then I can calmly decide whether the thing is something I can really do, and then I will be able to plan out my refusal so that it isn't just "NO STOP CALLING ME I WON'T YOU CAN'T MAKE ME." 
  3. I won't agree to any last minute project or major responsibility. Say someone calls and says, "I need a poster for the front of this room, and it has to be done tomorrow..." Nope. I know I can't deal with not putting a lot of time into a craft project. I will worry, obsess, stop sleeping, skip meals, cry, and have several panic attacks to get a simple poster finished by the time limit. I also won't run an event if asked last-minute. Nope. Not happening.
  4. I offer alternatives. If someone needs help and I want to help but don't feel as if I can do what they're asking, I will offer to do only part of the task.
  5. I don't pick up all the slack. In school, if I was in a group project and the group wasn't working, I did all the work myself. If four of us were writing the paper, I wrote the entire paper when other students didn't turn in their portion of the work on time. I have stopped doing this. It took me ages to realize that the work other people fail to do only reflects on them, and not on me.

None of these are easy to do if you're a perfectionist over-achieving people-pleaser, but I promise, with practice, they are something you can accomplish.

I only know one person who has a problem with me saying no, not jumping in at the last minute to fix everything, and not doing their job for them. The hard part is knowing that that's their problem, not mine. It's tough not to back down, but every time I stick to my five rules, I feel better about life, the universe, and everything.

Plus it means I can keep going without being a puddle of misery and endless sorrow, so that's awesome.

If you're ever in charge of anything, and you want to keep your subordinates happy, remember this little axiom for me (I promise more people will love you if you do): "You can't delegate if you procrastinate." It's a good rule.

More people should follow this rule.

* If you are having a panic attack, you will probably be able to hear your heartbeat just fine. If your heart rate and blood pressure are normal, find your pulse on your neck or wrist.

** Sometimes healthy boundaries mean you keep destructive people at arm's length. Sometimes they mean you don't sign up for a certain committee because Person X is on that committee and they trigger anxiety.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Running, a List of Things

  • Today I ran for five straight minutes, TWICE, and I didn't even die.
  • I also ran for three minutes, twice, and didn't die from that, either.
  • Running kills you less than I was formerly led to believe.
  • I am still panicking about the 5K I signed up for.
  • I considered counting how many weeks of training I can fit in before said 5K, but I became frightened and didn't do it.
  • I don't want you to count, either.
  • I am already planning to do this.
  • You should come run it with me.
  • Saturday I run with Jennifer again, and she has until then to decide whether she wants to do the three minute-five minute-three minute-five minute running plan or the one we did on Monday. 
  • Let's all stare at Jen until she decides.