Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just About Right

It's been a good week. Busy, you know - but with things you actually want to be busy doing. I watched the entire mini-series of WWII in HD on The History Channel - 10 hours over 5 nights very well-spent. And I started and finished a wonderful book, 'Sarah's Key.' If you've never learned about the roundup of Jews at the Velodrome d'Hiver in France during the summer of 1942, you should consider reading about it. I never had...but I'm awfully glad I did. I might accidentally be on a 1940's kick...but what an era to reflect upon.

It was also a really important week in terms of my half-marathon training. I was scheduled for an 8-mile run on Wednesday, my long-run day. But part of me (okay, most of me) wanted to try for a slightly longer distance, just to see how I would feel. It was a little chilly when I started out, and I thought I might have detected a little mist in the air, but no big deal, right? Well, nearly 2 hours later, the temperature still wasn't out of the 40's, and the 'mist' had turned into a steady, soaking rain shower. But I had a new record distance of 9.5 miles under my belt - and I didn't feel as bad as I thought I might at the finish. Coldplay on my iPod may or may not have had anything to do with it, but I'll take it...

My week spent in clinic and in the OR was filled with its own challenges and rewards. The ethical dilemma of a narcoleptic colleague versus the rigors of six total knee replacements...hopefully nothing a little Provigil and 2.0 vicryl can't fix. Sigh.

And of course, I got to do one of my very favorite things toward the end of the week. I'm so simple this way, I guess, but few things make me happier than a coffee-esque drink and a bookstore. Not only that, but I also had the chance to catch up with a couple of girlfriends. I suppose they're partly to blame for my newest literary adventure. I'm pretty sure I'm one of the last 6 people on the planet to delve into the Twilight series. I usually don't automatically jump onto the proverbial bandwagon, especially when I can hardly squeeze in between fans of Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers. Yikes. But so many of my friends (who have even more credibility than fans of 'Gossip Girl') have highly recommended these books. So Bella, Edward, and I come.

On Friday night, I kinda got a glimpse of what it might have been like to go on a date with Erich in high school! Sandwiches and soup first, then off to the big rivalry football game between Reynolds (the school literally in our backyard) and Mount Tabor (Erich's high school alma mater). Of course, we have a good buddy who plays for Reynolds, and they dedicated this season to their fallen teammate, Matt Gfeller (see 'Hot & Now' post). Plus, these schools really don't like each other, which makes it all the more fun to watch! A tough battle on the gridiron, complete with off-key band performances at halftime...capped off with a ginormous hot chocolate and an inspired comeback completed literally at the final whistle...and our backyard boys went down for the season. Happy for E's Spartans and his high school nostalgia, sad for our buddy and his heartbroken team. Get 'em next year, boys. But as they say, life really does go on. And for us, that started right after the game as we enjoyed a nightcap with friends at 6th & Vine. Mmmm, Shelton Riesling...

Slept in Saturday morning. Watched really exciting college football. Cheered on my William & Mary Tribe, in spite of their 3-point loss in the last 2 seconds. Suffered through a 7-mile run. Ate pierogies. Baked cookies. Weekends are where it's at.

And that brings me to today. A short run this morning, then a relaxing shower. Nothing like it...unless it's followed closely by husband-brewed Bali coffee straight from Juan Pelota's cafe'. I'm also trying out a new recipe for homemade mac 'n cheese. And if we like it, I'll bring it home for Thanksgiving next week. Being a big kid isn't so bad after all! Now I'm listening to The Avett Brothers. Autumn candles burning. Twilight book in progress. Blogging. Yeah. I'd say that's just about right.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hot & Now

In August of 2008, Matt Gfeller, a Reynolds High School football player, was fatally injured during the season's first game. The tragedy impacted our community greatly, especially our friends who knew Matt well. Many thoughtful tributes followed, and a scholarship fund in his memory was initiated soon thereafter. The idea of a 5K race to support the fund in Matt's memory was formed earlier this fall. But you know, this wasn't just any old kid, so this couldn't be just any old 5K run. Apparently, Matt loved Krispy Kreme doughnuts, so in order to be a full-fledged challenger in this race, you had to eat 6 doughnuts - at the halfway point! It doesn't take much to imagine how that could turn out...

And so today was race day in memory of #57. After 4 straight days of a cold, wind-driven rain, we awakened this morning to beautiful sunshine and temperatures near 60 degrees by 9am. The goal for the turnout had originally been set at 300 participants. But with the weather so perfect and the cause so compelling, more than 700 racers signed up, and many more had to be turned away. How cool is that? We felt lucky just to line up at the Start. The feeling of community was palpable - the entire Varsity football team was there to marshall the course in their team jerseys, and neighbors stood on their sidewalks and front porches to cheer on the runners. Even though it was an unseasonably warm morning for mid-November, it was impossible to get through the race without the chill of goosebumps.

The run for me personally was not at all comfortable. I had decided long ago that I would sign up only as a Casual runner, meaning that I could eat as few doughnuts as I wished at the halfway mark...which for me would be 0 doughnuts, no question! Still, the sudden increase in temperature made for a tough race. I really hate running in the heat; I would rather run in 26 degrees than 76 degrees every.single.time. So the (unexpected) warmth plus the (expected) hills created a challenge Matt would have been proud of. Fortunately, I had my buddy Starnes to keep me going strong, and we approached the uphill finish on a decent pace. However, you can never quite estimate the impact of having to dodge regurgitated Krispy Kremes on your path to the Finish. Admittedly, my own stomach was churning a little by the time we crossed the line, but our race came to an end in a pretty respectable time. My speedy husband, on the other hand, having (wisely) chosen to forego any doughnuts at the turnaround, decided he'd be the 3rd overall runner to cross the line, easily winning his age group. What a stud.

So needless to say, it felt like our morning was well-spent. Over the mandatory post-race Pumpkin Spice Latte, we had the good fortune of lounging around with our friends and talking about life. Inevitably, someone brought up the concept of living for the moment. After all, tackles like the one that claimed Matt's life happen in every single football game. For whatever reason, it was simply his time. And so the idea of living life in fear because of its fleeting nature seems in stark contrast to living each moment as fully as possible. To be sure, it's a little scary to think that any particular moment could be your last. I mean, one of the reasons Matt's story has been so touching is the manner in which he lost his life. But I believe the bigger reason he continues to have such an impact, even now, is because of the way he lived his life.

Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting Matt Gfeller. But anyone who knew him will tell of his compassion, his integrity, and his ambition...pretty admirable traits in anyone, especially a 15 year-old kid. So I was honored this morning to sweat, to tackle the hills, and even to eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut (after crossing the Finish line!) in memory of such a cool guy. And as is usually the case with an event like this, I feel like I received so much more than I gave. Because in exchange for my registration fee, I walked away with the satisfaction of crossing the Finish line of a tough race, a pretty sweet t-shirt, and a little more zest for life...courtesy of #57.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sunny Days

I did something yesterday that I haven't done in a long time. Too long, in fact. I sat down and watched an episode of 'Sesame Street.' Now, mind you, this wasn't just any old was the 4,187th episode, to be exact. And it marked the 40th anniversary of the show's start.

As silly as it might sound, I couldn't help but reflect on how much I have loved that show over the years. I remember when Mr. Snuffleupagus (a.k.a. Snuffie) joined the gang, LONG before the days of Elmo and Abby Cadabby. I can still picture Oscar being a grouch to everybody but his worm-buddy, Slimey. I absolutely dressed up as Big Bird for Halloween 1982. And I remember feeling really sad when Mr. Hooper died. I learned Spanish words I'd never heard before. I loved when Cookie Monster dressed up as Alistair Cookie for 'Monsterpiece Theater.' I watched Grover run near and far. I learned how Crayons were made. I thought the Yip Yip martians were crazy (Yip, yip, yip, yip, uh-huh, uh-huh). I counted with the Count. I tried to imitate the laughs of both Bert and Ernie. And getting to see 'Sesame Street Live' at Norfolk Scope was brought to me by the letters E-P-I-C.

You know, there's research out there suggesting that children who watch 'Sesame Street' fare better with their studies in school and grow up loving to read more than the average kid. Who knows if that cause-effect relationship actually exists? But I'm pretty sure of this - the show's characters taught me important lessons about life...from sharing and being liking fruits and accepting other cultures different from our own. And to be sure I learned more about the letter 'W' on Sesame Street than anywhere else. Ever.

Of course, the look of the show has changed quite a bit since I was an avid viewer. Alistair Cookie no longer smokes a pipe because, naturally, smoking is bad for you. Oscar still loves trash, but he's now a huge proponent of recycling your garbage. And Super Grover is a firm believer in exercise these days. But after 40 years, I'm so happy that 'Sesame Street' is still going strong and changing along with the times. Because I hope to share it with my own children someday. To give them the chance to learn from, laugh with, and love all of those characters as much as I did. And still do! I mean, just think about it - even in our crazy, grown-up world, there's still nothing quite like "sunny days...sweeping the clouds away..."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Balancing Act

So I've never really thought of myself as a runner. And in comparison to real runners, I still probably don't. But in preparation for the Disney World Half-Marathon coming up in January, I've adopted a training plan that is just user-friendly enough to stick with. And I'm almost having fun with it. Almost.

Yesterday's plan called for a 6-mile tempo run. This, of course, after a 7-mile run on Wednesday. Rude! Even though the temperature was barely out of the 30's at 9am, I knew College GameDay was coming on at 10am, and that's pretty strong motivation for me this time of year. And I had already mapped out a nice neighborhood route using my new favorite tool, MapMyRun, so I knew I could finish the 6.2 mile course on a downhill with just enough time to cool off before reaching the driveway. So for whatever reason, the crisp November morning suited me, and I was back home before I knew it in world-record time. In my own world, that is. But mission accomplished!

Then the training plan gets really nasty and sticks a 2-mile easy run right in the middle of my Sunday, normally a rest day. Such an insult! So after sleeping later this morning, I decided to get my run over with and then reward myself with a nice brunch with my favorite guy. Now, granted, I started off an hour later than yesterday morning, but there was a 20-degree temperature difference. So for a short, easy run, it sure felt hot and hilly. But check it off the list, right?

On to brunch. I knew my bagel sandwich would be tasty. What I didn't count on was the option to have a frappe! One cup of Mint Chip frozen coffee yumminess later, the balance was in full swing. Where's the balance in that, you might ask? Well, somehow I've managed to get in 17 miles of running this week. And while that might serve as one easy run for Kara Goucher, it's not too shabby for me! So the reward in the form of a Mint Chip frappe was, in my mind, a no-brainer.

But it made me think more about balance. Truly, it's nothing short of essential. I mean, 1 Mint Chip frappe and 17 miles of running is certainly not tipping the scales dangerously in one direction or the other. But 17 Mint Chip frappes in exchange for 1 mile of running may not be such a fair trade. And the balancing act carries over into nearly every other aspect of life. Whether it's working too many long hours (or not enough), the heart's response to a high potassium level (or low, low, low), or even compromising on holiday travel plans (yikes)'s all about balance. And if you can't achieve that sense of balance in your life, it becomes difficult to survive...much less, to thrive.

So did 1 little (okay, medium-sized) Mint Chip frappe really require that much introspection? Probably not. But for me, the lesson is clear - if you can manage the balancing act, life is pretty flippin' sweet.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Very Beginning

What drives someone to start a blog? To explore thoughts or opinions? To document a journey? To share photos? Maybe even to develop a strategy for crossing a finish line - literally or figuratively. Whatever the reasons, people start blogs every day. Maybe they last, maybe they don't. But there's some tangible piece of that person in cyberspace for as long as they choose to put it out there. And maybe in the process, the author or any one of the readers is better for it.

Maybe the question isn't so much why someone would start a blog...but more a question of why I would start a blog. Me. Sure, I think some part of me, maybe even a big part of me, would cite each of the reasons above as personal motivation for starting a blog. But more than that, I think the opportunity to start something new - without knowing exactly what it will become - is thrilling.

And so why the name 'Shots and Stitches?' I guess the most obvious theme would revolve around the field of medicine. And to be sure, that was part of the intent. But I also instantly think of espresso 'shots' - a reference that is more than appropriate, given my love of all things coffee. Lastly, I think of 'shots' as small doses - maybe of something helpful...maybe not. But I like that idea when it comes to blogging. Not every post needs to be a novel to have some sense of meaning.

And as for the 'stitches,' of course I have a continually-growing appreciation for sutures. They can often close seemingly insurmountable gaps...and how satisfying to bring tissue, needle, and suture together in a beautiful line. More relaxing than I would have ever guessed. But now that I try to run more regularly than (maybe ever) before, I also think of the dreaded running 'stitch' - something with which I've become all too familiar.

So the name is something that is representative of me in many ways. And this blog will, no doubt, also be something very typical of me. To share my thoughts or opinions...document my journeys...share my photos...maybe even describe the crossing of a finish line or two. Even if it's only for me to use as my own outlet, at the end of the day, that would be more than reason enough for me to start a blog. But if, by chance, it meant something to anyone else along the way, then so much the better for getting 'shots and stitches.'