Nov 28, 2012 - life    9 Comments

The Case of the Missing Mollusks

Yesterday, one of my friends (who is a newspaper reporter) shared a post from the Ellsworth Police Department’s wall:

were you driving a Blue 4 Door Chevy Car with State, “University” plates with two wreaths in the rear seat?
Do you now have a large plastic tub with cups containing scallop guts intended for a research project at the University of Maine?
My husband put them in the wrong car by mistake. Please call: ###-####


So… this killed me. I posted on my friend’s share, and then shared it myself with the note “You wish you lived in Maine.” I said that it had all the elements of the perfect Maine story — shellfish, evergreen wreaths, the UMaine system, science, and two unattended and unlocked cars. It got shared by others, and a reporter for the area wrote it up in the BDN:” Southwest Harbor man seeking scallop guts after putting them in the wrong car.” (Which is where I learned it wasn’t two cars nearby, but just a mixup, but still.) Another friend noted that the 7 digit phone number added to the perfect Maine-ness, which, I had totally missed the first time. Not to mention putting your home phone number on the PD’s Facebook wall! Mainers. We are trusting folks.

It’s just the perfect Maine police beat story. In so many ways. And this morning, it was made even more perfect, when I woke to a facebook message from my graduate school advisor. “I was driving that car with the scallop guts in it. I’ll call when it gets to be a reasonable time.”

I thought she was kidding. She drives a Subaru — I KNOW this! but when I replied with “You are kidding, right?! Because if you aren’t, this puts this story right over the top for me as Perfect Maine Story!!” she responded: “no… not kidding…. I posted earlier on the Ellsworth Police FB…. MAN! I was puzzled! I could NOT figure out how I missed them all the times I got in and out of the car on Monday!”

Since this conversation was taking place before 7 am, the scallop guy hasn’t been reached yet. But I have the details from her side of the story:

“When I got back to campus Monday night, I left a note for [redacted] saying, “what’s with those buckets in the backseat?” She was all for calling the motor pool and having them dumped. I said wait until I contact the school I was visiting to see if someone from there put them in the car. I did call the school but no one returned my call – luckily I saw your post this morning (and [the newspaper reporter’s])…. I left the original poster a message on FB but I’ll call at 7:30.”

And there you have it. Social media solved the case of the missing mollusks. I had forgotten the key element of the perfect Maine story before — “you are one degree from the subject.” And now, there is no more awesome Maine story I could be a part of.

Edited to add a link to the followup story on the BDN: Lost scallop guts found in car of UM associate professor (the other FB friend of hers was the original reporter I mentioned!)

Edited a second time to add the blog post of the grad student whose scallop gonads were lost. I love the internet. Found: My lost ‘nads.

Edited for a third time to add the link to the Colbert Report!


Nov 19, 2012 - fitness    No Comments

Turkey Trot!

My 4th race was the Turkey Trot, in Brewer. I have heard good things about this one, but this was my first time doing it. One of my friends has been running and had never done a race before, so I conned her into encouraged her to do this one. We made plans weeks ago, and I registered, and when I saw her on Wednesday and said “are you all set for Sunday!?” she confessed she had not registered yet. After some research, we learned that that didn’t matter, so she didn’t have any excuses left — the weather was great, and her husband was going to run with her, too. Plus, I pulled out my phone and showed her all of my data that proved that she was going to TOTALLY smoke me so she shouldn’t be nervous about her place in the pack at ALL.

They picked me up (and dropped off their daughter for a playdate at our house) and we got there with plenty of time to register. We got there about 12:15 and they were registered and bibbed by 12:30 I think, and that was with coming in the wrong door and so totally missing the organizers and entry table completely. We saw several other people we knew, and the weather was PERFECT for a race. This isn’t a 5k, but a straight 3 miler, that is mostly flat with a hill in the middle. The race started and I veered left and just put in my 5k workout (intervals of 8 minutes running and 3 walking) and set my music to shuffle. (I hate that it seemed to pick way too mellow music though – I should make a playlist of the faster stuff to shuffle for things like this.) I started too fast (this is why I want a Garmin, I just don’t know how fast I am going at any given time because my phone doesn’t track well if I hold it, and I don’t LIKE holding it, so I only get pace updates for my intervals) so my shins hurt, but oh well. I did run up most of the hill, and I ran through parts of my walking sets, and just  enjoyed myself. One thing I like about races (and I liked about doing the Freaky 5k 2 years in a row) is that the first one gives me a benchmark to beat the next year. My final time was 39:27! And my friends? As I told her, she DID smoke me, by about 7 minutes! And got that First Race done and (I think) had a good experience. We didn’t stick around for the raffles, so if they drew my name and I could’ve won many hundreds of dollars, please don’t tell me so. (I HAD to get home because we had tickets to a show an hour later.)

  • This was my first out and back course, which was kind of neat. I would never, ever see the powerful runners if not for an out and back, and sure, having the winner sail by my in the other direction before I hit mile 1 is kind of crazy, but so impressive! And it was great to see all the people I knew.
  • They had students (it was a fundraiser for the high school) at mile 1 and mile 2 calling out the time, which was so cool. In the absence of a Garmin, I appreciated that. And there was some guy with a smartphone between mile 2 and the end calling times, too, just on his own.
  • I wore my Team Sparkle skirt again, and got several comments AND got recognized by another friend just because I was wearing it. I think I might make it a habit. I wore it to be the distraction for my nervous friend, and also it makes me feel less angst about running in tights. Also, it makes me faster. Pretty sure.
  • The weather was perfect. Bluebird sky, windless, cool and crisp at about 40 degrees.
Nov 16, 2012 - technology    No Comments

Educause 2012

I have way more Denver pics to share, but I wanted to post a few thoughts about Educause, the conference I attended and the whole reason I went to Denver in the first place.

I have wanted to attend ever since I started working in Higher Ed, but family and time commitments just didn’t work out. I’ve attended NERCOMP twice, and both times thought it was a great conference. The last one I went to was in March, and I came home with a list of things to work on, put into place, etc. (The biggest of those would be Canvas, actually. At the time I attended NERCOMP, the plan was to go with…. another vendor.. and all the stuff I heard about Canvas made me wish the stars had aligned that we had started our LMS search THEN and not months before, and anyway, LOOOONG story short, I’m pretty sure if not for NERCOMP, when the other option started to fall apart, it was my conversations and connections made in Providence that landed us where we are today.) So, it was a great conference, and I was really hoping that Educause would be the bigger, better, magnified version of NERCOMP…. and it wasn’t.

I’ll start with the good — it was a great venue, and had great food, and I never once waited in line for a bathroom. It was pretty well organized. I met some nice people.

But the bad… the Shirky keynote was great, but it wasn’t much of anything I hadn’t heard before. The sessions… varied. I tried to choose the ones that were focused on distance and hybrid learning, because those are big on our campus right now, but clearly, they are big on EVERY campus. The “4 questions not to ask” session was standing room only. (And I also noticed, on twitter, that other concurrent sessions seemed to be about asking those 4 questions, so there was some conflict in ideals with that.  (Also, in a standing room only session, it sure would have been nice to have had the speakers use the chairs that were provided for them, instead of trying to find them in the crowd on the floor.)  One session I hauled myself too had been cancelled, and the teaching & learning sessions were spread so far apart it took a while to find another. The most disappointing sesssion was on Thursday. “Making the Connection” was listed under teaching and learning. Now, if you click on that link, you can see all the details, and see that the presenter is the VP of software engineering for D2L. But if you were looking at the app, or the mini guide, you only get the session description, which sounded great. And honestly, it could have BEEN great — had D2L bothered to find someone, ANYONE from one of their client schools to share some real life examples. I’m sorry, but an engineering exec does not convince me, especially when he starts with “okay, this is a fake student and this is a fake university but here’s some things you might do…” Full disclosure: I bailed after about 15 minutes. If at minute 16, actual users descended from the rafters and started sharing real life experiences, well, I missed it. But I was so peeved that I had been snookered into attending a vendor presentation, with fake info, that I couldn’t stomach it anymore. I actually left that session and went to “Moving to the Cloud,” which was another vendor presentation, about Canvas by Instructure. But it was a marked contrast (and I am really trying to be even in my assessments here) because the four speakers were people who were using Canvas and were sharing their implementation stories. I could see some key Canvas folks sitting in the front row, presumably there to be able to answer questions, but it was a totally client led presentation. And the speakers shared the good, the bad, and the ugly about their experiences implementing Canvas. It wasn’t a sales pitch by an engineer who didn’t know how to talk teaching and learning.  Another session that I was excited for was “Opening the LMS door to the community.” Since we have a strong focus on experiential learning, I was really excited about this, and it was in the teaching and learning track…. but it was all about the mechanics of it, how to configure user accounts for non students, etc etc. That’s not pedagogy. That’s systems maintenance. SIGH. So, that’s how the conference felt, all the way through. Like every session I attended was a missed opportunity to attend something better.

The two best sessions: Engaging Online Learners for Success: Beyond the LMS is the only one I took notes in. (And seriously, NERCOMP was a flurry of notetaking, both times.) The information was incredibly relevant to where my university is now, and the speaker was accessible, and I’ve already shared the notes I took with others on campus. It was great. The other was Instructional Technologies. When I walked into that session, I recognized a familiar face at the speakers table, and looked at my programs and didn’t see his name, but I was certain I knew who it was, so I asked when I had a chance, and yes, it was Dr Ruben Puentedura, whose SAMR model I teach to my undergrads, and who I have seen at ACTEM and MLTI student conferences several times in years past. So, yes, I traveled and spent thousands of dollars to have the best session be an extension of ones I’ve had for free, 8 miles from my house. (Or, for $100, 60 miles from my house. You get the picture.) In that session, though, I expressed my disappointment with the whole Educause experience, and after the session, I had several people approach me — some to agree and commiserate, and others to share info on other conferences that might be a better fit for someone with my interests.

Also, attending the Canvas party was a highlight — I was driving so it wasn’t for the free drinks, but I talked to several people there about Canvas, and what was working and faculty stories, and how we are implementing and all of that, and made some good connections with other new and some experienced Canvas users.

A caveat, I was not staying on site, and maybe that would make a difference. But I’m not sure it would — even at NERCOMP, where I stay right on site, I usually retire to my room with takeout at the end of the day (I have little kids! It means I can eat! in solitude! plus hotels have HGTV and we don’t have cable, so…) so it’s not like I missed some of that face time. And on the flip side, I am so glad I had my first (and probably last) Educause in Denver where I was able to spend so much time with my sister — had I had this experience and been by myself in a hotel in Philadelphia or Anaheim, I’d probably be reaalllly bummed (while watching HGTV and eating Indian food, but still.)

I really want to check out ELI next time, and I would really like to get a cadre of people to go to the Canvas conference in June, especially on the cusp of a full implementation. I also plan to keep NERCOMP in rotation, as well. But for the price — it ate all of my PD money for the year — I don’t want to do Educause again. I think it would be a great conference for the CIO/manager types, but for the teaching & learning side, I was pretty disappointed. Maybe I just didn’t hit the right rooms, or find my tribe, or whatever, but I am glad I experienced it, and can appreciate the smaller ones even more now.

Now just some bullets:

  • Best swag: a usb car charger thing (that I gave directly to my sister who desperately needed one) and a mini power strip from FireEye were my favorite. Also some earbuds from Acquia, I had my bluetooth ones with me but realized corded might be better for the plane, so that was nice.  The Canvas flask from the party was pretty nice, too, and thank you for the candy: so many.
  • Worst swag: I attended a discussion in the learning theater about women in IT (That was great!) and then walked out and was immediately confronted with a booth that had drivers as a prize (golf club drivers, not software). Free t-shirts are men’s swag, too, I think. Stuffed animals can go either way, since we are all taking them home to our kids.
  • Best prizes: someone won a car, so that’s pretty good, but I basically only drop my card/get scanned for cash gift cards, iOs devices, or kindles.
  • I never know if I should act interested with the vendor when I’m dropping a card or just be straight up and tell them I make no purchasing decisions and I don’t care what they are selling, just want to enter the drawing/have a pen/etc. We’re generally both wasting our time with those conversations when they don’t understand what little (none) influence I have.
  • I could never be in sales. Never, ever. Oy.


Nov 3, 2012 - family    No Comments

Denver Adventure (Day 1)

Tl;dr: all of my worrying was for naught, and our trip west could not have gone more smoothly. (I have now used up all travel karma for the next 5 years, I am sure.)

Ingrid and I packed our suitcases the night before, I had printed our boarding passes and booked a cab, and after her bath, Ingrid got dressed into the clothes she would be wearing, and we laid out her shoes and coat and packed backpack so that when it was time to wake up, all she had to do was slip into those three things, and we’d be off. Before bed, she told me “just tap me on the back, mom, and I’ll wake RIGHT up!” And at the very early hour of 4 am — that’s exactly what she did. Down the stairs we went, we split a banana and waited for our taxi. I had asked for a recommendation earlier on facebook, and the company I called was one that several people said was always early, not just on time, so when 4:35 came around and no car, I called the company, and there had been some mixup in time (maybe they thought I meant PM?) but they sent a car right over. And it turns out the driver was the same one that was scheduled to pick up the pilots for our flight, so that was reassuring that we’d at least beat them. (And the driver was also very apologetic, and very nice and helpful, and I’d use them again and just make sure I specified AM.) We handed over our bags and went through security, and Ingrid was great. Traveling with a 6.5 year old is so great. She did her own shoes and coat and backpack and got herself put together, and it was so great to have such a little independent kid at my side!

  Ingrid at 4am

Waiting for our first flight!

When we got on the plane, the first thing she wanted to do was work on her math. I had to explain that we needed to wait til we’d taken off to put down the tray table, and as soon as she could do that, that’s what she did. We also played several rounds of Uno, too.

Ingrid on the plane

Ing doing next week’s math before most people are even up for the day.

Cranberry juice, cookies and Uno. Breakfast of Champions.

One of the reasons I had booked our connection through LGA vs DTW was because I wanted Ingrid to get the great views of NYC — our views this morning were different than usual, it was barely 7, and it was dark, and the power outages from Sandy were evident throughout the descent. What is usually such a sparkly, glittery view was just dark and gloomy, and it was hard to imagine what it must be like on the ground.

Dark Manhattan

Dark NYC

Before we landed, the flight attendant gave Ingrid her very own wings, and reassured me that switching terminals would be totally doable to catch our next flight. Still, I warned Ingrid that we had to hustle and that when we came back we’d have more time to check out anything cool she might be seeing. We made it down to the ground level just as the shuttle to the terminal pulled up, and our gate was at the very end of the terminal, and as we arrived, they had started boarding Zone 1, and we were Zone 2, so we basically just walked off one flight and on to the other (and that is the point at which I  finally exhaled!) More math, Uno, some music on the ipod and a nap, and we arrived in Denver.  The train arrived as we did, and  as we got to the bag claim, ours were the first to be spit out, we walked to the Enterprise shuttle ast it pulled up, and we got upgraded a level on the car rental. (Oh, and here’s something some geeks might appreciate — I was offered a Kia or a Ford Fusion, and I chose the Ford in hopes it would have Microsoft Sync, solely based on listening to Leo LaPorte shill it each week on the podcasts I listen to. It definitely connected to my iPhone but I haven’t had a chance to do anything else! If I’d been a passenger and not responsible for driving then I’d probably have been really rocking it.)

Super excited to be ON our Denver flight!

A little nap before we get there.

On the train to the main terminal at Denver

Turned on my gps and pointed us to Golden, and not long after, we were hugging Aunt Kate for the first time in 11 months! She was babysitting, so she led us to her apartment, where she had set up such a sweet welcome — a little stack of treats for each of us, with a book and snacks and such, and a veggie chili bubbling away in the crock pot. She made us a great late lunch, and headed back with her charge to the house she sits at, and Ingrid and I took it easy. I napped, Ing watched some shows on the iPad, and then we hung out in Kate’s front yard for a bit When Kate got home, we went to Whole Foods for some supplies, and on the way home Ingrid fell asleep (by this time it was after 9pm EST, who could blame her?) Tucked her into bed and got to have a glass of wine with Kate and a hot shower and a cozy bed to sleep in. A great way to start our adventure!

Our warm welcome from Kate

Just hanging out in Kate’s yard

Ingrid and her Aunt Kate!


Oct 30, 2012 - family, life    No Comments


On Friday, Ingrid and I are flying to Denver, to stay with my sister and for me to attend Educause, the big national conference for my field. The conference isn’t til 11/7, but we are going to be gone 11/2-11/10 so that we can get in some great Aunt Kate time, and see the sights. When I booked our flights, I opted for the earliest flight from Bangor with the quickest connection — if we make the connection (40 minutes in LaGuardia), we will be in Denver before 11 am MT. For the last few weeks I’ve been stressing about that connection, looking at historical gate assignments via, to see if they are in the same terminal (yes, usually, for the Friday pairing) but now that Sandy has hit, my concerns are all new.

This blog post from Jetblue is making me sweat, a little. I have some friends with friends in high places that think we’ll PROBABLY be okay for Friday, and the Delta update today seems to assure that, but still. That is a LOT of water. A LOT. And the friend of a friend connection said that the damage at LGA might actually be worse than expected so to just pay close attention to my airline’s updates. With that, I used Twitter to reach out to DeltaAssist to see if it would help (all involved) if I switched to the flight that connects through Detroit and gets in later. (Especially now that Kate has to work on Friday, that pre-11am arrival is sort of moot). But, since it’s not in the dates specified for free changes, they can’t do it. Which is kind of dumb — I’m just passing through, and I’d think there are people that NEED seats into and out of LGA more than I need to just pass through, but, ooohhhkay. I’ll just keep checking Delta’s alert page and try to get in touch if things start to look bad for Friday.

But even if we don’t get there on Friday, I had the epiphany today that the worst-case scenario is that we shift our travel dates. We aren’t rushing to meet a boat for a cruise, we won’t lose expensive nights at a resort, the worst-worst case is that we show up too late to go to a magic show Kate got us tickets for on Saturday night. I can adjust my dates because I am in a career and position where that would be fine, Ingrid’s already going to be out of school for a week anyway (and if we had to move it forward a day or two, she’d actually miss LESS school) and Kate’s life as a full time student means that we will still have tons of time with her and she’s not going to have to burn vacation days or something. My conference runs from 11/7-11/9, so I’d frontloaded our trip for the fun part, if it ends up that there is fun on either end — oh well.

I had a similar epiphany many years ago, when I was driving somewhere (I forget where) and realized that if I had a flat tire, I had the means to pay for a new tire. It wouldn’t be a devastating event. And if I had more than a flat tire, I had the good credit to pull through. That’s the thought I have today – but instead of credit, it’s about being in a career and job and place that shifting my days off won’t be a huge black mark on my record, or lost wages, or anything like that. So, I’m trying to NOT angst about the travel issues that lurk just beyond my sight (um, but I do have a saved search in twitter for LGA, so, yeah…) but think about all the fun we are going to have once we get there. I can’t wait to travel with Ingrid, who at 6.5 is so excited for so many things — the American Girl store, the science museum, seeing mountains and the zoo and most of ALL, Aunt Kate. (Ingrid is also wicked excited to have long stretches of time where we HAVE to play Uno, and where her sister won’t be sabotaging the game.)

So, whatever happens, happens, and it will be great to have this time with my daughter and my sister. Even if it’s not on the most exact schedule I’d planned months ago.

Oct 27, 2012 - fitness    No Comments

2012 Freaky 5k!

TL;DR: I made my goal, I won a prize, I had a great day.

Today was the Freaky 5k, sponsored by Hardy Girls, Healthy Women. This was my second year running it, and I was very excited to see how I would compare to last year. I’ve been running more this summer and fall, and wondered how it would translate when it came to this race, and then this week I was fighting a bug and my usual 3.25 runs were more like 2.3 because I just couldn’t get around that last mile loop. I joked to myself that I was just “tapering.”

The weather today was supposed to be (and ended up being) gorgeous, but for the race it was foggy and damp. This year, I took the whole family – I really wanted my girls to see their mom doing something like this, and the mission of HGHW is one that is kind of all about that, so it was a great race to bring them to. It also helped that our friend Tami was running it, and her husband is Dave’s best friend dating back to 8th grade, and those guys got to hang out while we ran and swap homebrew when we were done, and that definitely made it easier for everyone. (The company. Not the homebrew.) There was no chip timing this year (I think there was last year?) so I was extra nervous about meeting my goal of a sub 40 minute time. Which is a slow goal for many runners, but that’s what I like about running. It’s MY race, MY goals, and I get to set the bar wherever I want. Last year, my time was 43:22, and I really thought I could make it this year.

I set my app to do intervals of 8 minutes running and 3 minutes walking.  Last year, the race was set up differently and there was a little walk from the registration area to the start, so I was counting on that to be my warmup walk, like I do when I go running in the morning, but this time you registered right AT the start line so I didn’t get that. I went too fast, probably, to start, and it’s all downhill so my shins were hurting a bit, but I made it through that interval, and felt good. I was passing and being passed by a pair of M&Ms (lots of people in costume!) but mostly I was on my own.  I eventually left the M&Ms behind for good, and then the next person I passed was a woman who was younger, thinner, and looked more “runnerly” than I ever have. She would run and then walk and then she’d hear me clomping away behind her and turn around and I could pretty much read her thoughts “oh shit, SHE is going to pass me?” But I did, and for good, in the last mile.

Because I did the same race last year, I also knew what to expect on the course. Last year, there was this great spot just before the giant hill that you end on where several kids soccer matches were happening, and kids lined up on the sidewalk to high five runners. I was so hoping they’d be there again, because it was such a lift for me last year, and sure enough, they were. And in fact, my app told me it was time to walk, but I was NOT going to WALK through the high fivers, so I ended up running more like 10:30 or 11 minutes in order to save face with them (so I probably owe my sub-40 to them) but it was just so great. And I figured I’d make up the walking time on the hill at the end.

And I did. The hill is just so steep, and it’s where it ENDS, so I just want to be done, and I wanted to run into the finish. So I walked the first half, and near the top I saw a man standing and that was my point where I’d start to run, and as I crested the hill, Tami, who’d finished several minutes earlier, jogged down with Ingrid so that Ingrid could run with me for a little bit. When I saw the clock, though, and knew my time was in reach, I kind of left Ingrid in the dust and just pushed through. I never know where the time ENDS, so I ran through the whole roped off area just in case (and learned later that it ends right at the clock.) It took me a minute to catch my breath, and unlike last year there was no water or anything available there, but once I had cooled down for a minute we went and waited for Diana and her sister (who was running it the first time) and we cheered them in, too.

 After they were in, we headed back to the registration area in search of water (I think the logistics were better last year, all around, the tables for the end of the race were hard to find, and I think that’s why no one was there. Unless they announced it before the race, but because of the acoustics and sound system, no one could hear anything, so I don’t know…) and then it came up that official times were being posted, so Tami went up and got hers and I went to check mine, and when I gave my name, the organizer said “OH! Wait! You won an award!” Now, I knew it wasn’t for my time, or my costume, but I couldn’t imagine how my fundraising could be award-worthy, I only raised $261… but apparently I was number 1! On the FirstGiving site, there were others ahead of me, but they are all affiliated with HGHW or something, so they weren’t in the running for awards. I had no idea! So I won a gift certificate for a massage and a gift card to a brewhouse in Waterville. Um, okay! That was a total surprise. ANd if you look at my finish line photo, you can see the sparkle skirt I ran in, which is what I challenged my sponsors with – if I hit $250, I would run in a sparkly skirt. Purple won for the color.

The other thing that made this race so great, was that this was a much more challenging course than I usually run. I pulled it up on Runkeeper, though, and was confused — it actually looked easier than my neighborhood run, which I KNOW is easier. Then I realized that Runkeeper doesn’t scale the elevation graph, or even provide a number to show the scale. If you trace the line with your mouse, it will give you details, but it doesn’t show scale. Which is huge. I have spent a good 30-40 minutes finding a site that would show the elevations on the same scale, and you can see the difference below:

And here’s my neighborhood run. See how intense Runkeeper makes it look? But on the same scale as the Freaky5k, you can see just how flat it is. Which just lends credibility to that last hill of the Freaky 5k. It is steeeeeep. And long. And I made it. Also, above, if you look at the pace line on the bottom graph, you can totally see where those soccer girls pushed me to run for longer than I *ever* have before.  Thanks, girls.

So, today, I am pretty proud of this PR. And I’m glad that I could show my girls why I run, since they see me leave (on Sundays) and know I leave (on weekdays, they just aren’t up yet) and they can now get a better idea of why I do it, and what it means to run your own race.

ETA, months later: I never put in my time! I finished in 39:47. On the official race results page, they messed it up and have me as the next finisher, but I saw the clock myself and KNOW that this pic is accurate:


Oct 19, 2012 - fitness    No Comments

A bunch of things.

I’ll start with running:

My employer is sponsoring gym memberships at a local gym, so I signed up and started two weeks ago. I’m loving it! I’m doing the body pump class, and this week I took one of my three hours of personal training to get the specific tour of the gym and the trainer also set me up with a basic weight machine workout. This was huge — having someone explain every machine, show me how to set it, and then having her show me the three weight rooms (there’s a big free-weight room, an intermediate machines room and a beginner machine room) was great. I love that there’s a beginner room, and I truly wouldn’t have realized that without the trainer showing me everything. I decided to do my Thursday run at the gym, to conquer my fear of treadmills.

Running outside is intimidating, for sure, especially as an overweight beginner. But for ME, it’s much less intimidating than a treadmill. For one, outside, if I’m running, I’m doing more than a lot of other people I see out there doing! The people I see are about 1% runners and 99% people driving to work, walking their dog, milling about in their house getting ready for the day. So if they even SEE me, I am not embarrassed because I am doing more than most. If a car passes me, in that 30 seconds they see me, they see me either running or walking, never collapsing, so they don’t know or care what it is I’m doing. But a treadmill in a gym — everyone there IS working out and many are probably much fitter than me, and it’s just a different vibe. But that isn’t even my biggest issue with treadmills — mine is that I am terrified of ending up in a YouTube montage of Treadmill Fails. (I’ve seen too much AFV.) So, Thursday morning was clear and cold, and would’ve been great for an outside run, but I decided to go do it at the gym (and I had to sign up for Body Pump on Saturday anyway.)

First: I totally survived, as did all of the nearby drywall. But god, was it boring. Pros of the treadmill: climate controlled, much softer than asphalt, easy to stay at my desired pace because you just HAVE to. Cons of the treadmill: HOT and boring. So much easier to just stop running — when I go outside, if I quit halfway through, well, I can’t because if I quit halfway through, I’m still 1.5 miles from my house. On the treadmill, whenever I stop, I’m just as close to home as I was when I started. Which makes me want to stop. And I was!! And sweaty. Outside, I get warm, but the air and all doesn’t make me feel gross. So, I will continue to run outside for as long as possible, but I now know that I can use the treadmill when I need to. Ice, REALLY cold, etc.

Oh, and when I was visiting my parents, I went for an hour run (left, told my mom to come find me in an hour) and in that time I covered 4.5 miles! Which is pretty good, seeing as how I ran more in the first 3.1 and then did more walking after I did that.

But! Look at that! I did my 3.1 in 39.22. A year ago, I did that same route in 45:15. (And honestly, one of those routes is wrong, because in the other app I’d used, 3.1 ended exactly at a camp driveway, and so this time when I pulled out my phone to do a screen grab, it sent me another .3 up the road, past that driveway, before it said 3.1. So I think I went even FASTER than 39:22 but I’m slave to the screenshot.)

And lastly, a moment of “Oh my god, I am That Woman.”

The other day, I was headed to get Ingrid or something — it was at the end of the day, and at the intersection near my house there is a big power company transformer box. Green, locked, hedges around it, etc. So I get to the stop sign, and see two 9 or 10 year old boys who have dropped their bikes next to it, and and clearly trying to figure out how to open it. (They are not bright boys — the hedges flank it, they don’t provide a good place to hide.) SO, I laid on the horn. Which scared the crap out of them (better than live wattage, I figure) and when they look at me, I literally wagged my finger and mouthed “NO. NOT SAFE!” Yes, from my MINIVAN. and they sort of slunk down and grabbed their bikes and went the other way.

I am That Mom. Whoa.

Oct 14, 2012 - life    1 Comment


On November 6, Mainers have the opportunity to be on the right side of history, and vote to recognize gay marriage. We are voting yes, of course, and I hope you do, too (or if you can’t bring yourself to vote yes,  but also don’t think you should vote no — if you are still conflicted — leave it blank and abstain, and this post has a lot of good reasons why.)

6 days before this vote, Dave and I will celebrate our 9th anniversary. We got married on an unseasonably warm fall day, before the new DST happened so the sunset was at like, 4 oclock, in the gazebo at the Lucerne Inn, with 30 of our nearest and dearest there to celebrate with us. Our engagement was short — we decided to get married in September, and set our date for Halloween, so we had about 6 weeks of planning. (Note: getting married on a Friday that is also Halloween is the KEY to lots of wedding bargains. Anyway.)

We were married by a notary that I had worked with for years at Borders. Spiders featured prominently in our decorations, and our cake topper was Gonzo and Camilla. Our families and closest friends were there, but you know who wasn’t? God.

We are not Christians, we identify as agnostic, really, and just try to live a good life in this world and hey, if the Christians are right, then maybe we will CLEP out of whatever they think it is one should do to reach heaven, and if they aren’t right, well GUESS WHAT. We did good while we were here. Ashes to ashes.

So when people hold up my marriage as some holy union simply because Dave is a man and I am a woman, well, HOLD UP. We got married because there are some serious perks to that. Know what the very first thing I did, once we got married, was? Not change my name (I kept it, and we’ve passed it on to the girls, too) but schedule a DENTIST APPOINTMENT. I hadn’t had one in years because I’d been a full time college student, or retail worker, and yeah, it just wasn’t an option. Once we were married, though, I signed on to Dave’s health plan in a hot minute and started scheduling all the appointments I’d never afforded as a student. The next thing we did was save up money to buy a house (this very one I’m sitting in now!) and that happened about 6 months after our wedding. And then when we decided to have children, we just did, and there was no worry about Dave’s rights or who would make decisions in the event of some unthinkable complication with me — he was my husband! Of course it would be him.

And nine years later, here we are. Two beautiful daughters, a cozy home, a minivan, health insurance and joint checking accounts and term life insurance with each other as beneficiaries and all. And the only church we’ve been in in those nine years was for my cousin’s funeral.

So, does our marriage “threaten the institution?” Because it doesn’t have God in it AT ALL (in fact, we actively work to keep God’s nose out of our business) but we are happy and love each other and still crack each other up. I mean, doesn’t (straight) divorce threaten marriage more than gay marriage? (And honestly, one of the reasons I think that marriage should be equal is so that gays can divorce — when a friend’s 20+ year breakup happened, there were a ton more hoops for them to jump through than would have happened in a straight divorce.)

And you know what? I don’t care if God is IN your marriage! That’s awesome! Three way! Knock yourselves out! But don’t force him into mine, or hold mine up as being more legit “because God said so.” Because your God and my marriage have NOTHING to do with each other. And when I go back to our agnostic principles — folks, love one another. I really do not want to be around people who were cruel on earth, even if I get AP credit for my good deeds while I’m here.

Voting Yes on 1 will provide equality for people like, oh, say my best friend Andy, known to the girls as “Uncle Andy,” who has been my friend since we were 6 years old (Ingrid’s age! which blows my mind) or for people like Bev and Sue, whose youngest girls go to daycare with Willa, and their oldest was at Ingrid’s summer camp, and Bev ran the Freaky5k with me last year. (I’d be willing to bet she’s not doing it this year because she is working on campaigning for this issue. Just a hunch.) Or for Suzanne and Sandi, friends of friends (although Suzanne’s blog was the inspiration for me to try running in the early morning and to make this pie (and I did both the same week so they probably cancelled each other out)). Or maybe for my old friend Shawn, who is an out and proud police officer in Aroostook County. For my mentor Marilyn, for Erin & Heidi,  for my friend Pam, for my friend Josh. (And here is where I worry I left someone out, but I want it for you too.) For my own daughters — so that they may grow up in a world where equality is a given, is a right, is not something we are freaking VOTING ON. But we are. Vote Yes. Be on the right side of history.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So, I drafted this almost 2 weeks ago, and I figured I’d post it for my anniversary, but then I went to pick up Willa’s birth certificate and saw that early voting is happening in Bangor, already, and I decided I needed to post now. Also, while we are generally anti-political signs in our yard because we figure people know who they are going to vote for, and signs just piss off people you might otherwise like — we are getting a sign. This is for a basic human right, not a whole platform of issues (and honestly, we are independents so there’s no complete platform we totally agree with, in general) and Suzanne’s post about yard signs struck me. I wasn’t going to get one anyway, because we are on a tiny street that gets no traffic, and again, we probably won’t change any minds. But if it marks us as a house where people can feel “safe and protected,” as Suzanne wrote, then dammit, I’m putting up a sign.

It’s easier to use the ones that Mainers United for Marriage printed than to DIY one that says “NO BIGOTED ASSHOLES LIVE HERE.”


If you don’t quite get the title, here’s a clip.


Oct 4, 2012 - fitness, technology    No Comments

What I Run With

Last night at Ingrid’s gymnastics, I was talking to a friend about how much fun it is to support a fitness habit with gear. I’m really not a shopaholic but as a geek, I do love gadgets and data and all of that. And as a Mainer, you do have to consider the clothing as well.

So, here’s what I run with:


I just bought this shirt from Target – a Powercore running shirt that is soft inside, wicks sweat and all of that. It’s compression so it’s super tight, but it helps with the jigglies quite a bit. I’ve had a few days to use it, but this week has been warmer so I’ve been using my summer clothes (A basic wicking tee from C9 by Champion – more Target – and a pair of Avia capris I have had for years) but the below 40 degree days, this shirt has been great.

I also wear a sports bra, but I’ve had it for years and don’t even know who makes it but I think it maybe came from Kohl’s originally? It works so far, so I haven’t gotten a new one. Since I’m, ahem, fairly large chested, they are hard to come by, so I’m just happy to have one that works and sort of dreading the day I need to find another one. (Though I’ve heard good things about Moving Comfort





For cold weather legs, I was advised to get Under Armour Frosty Tights. Those things are like $50! But yay, they had some on 50% clearance in Navy Blue, even available through Amazon with free shipping, so I bought them for $25. The first time I wore the compression shirt and the compression tights I felt a little — exposed (despite being so covered only my hands and neck and head were showing) because it’s all tight. But oh well, I run in the dark and never see anyone and even if I do? OH WELL. I’m running. I was really surprised at how warm they kept me on my coldest days (so far) so I’m glad I got them.

My socks are from Target, too (sensing a theme?) and are Duo Dry ankle socks and they seem to be just fine, though I’ve heard that other brands can be better.




Shoes: I am wearing Asics GT2150 that I purchased last year from a local sporting goods store. This is when I first decided to do C25k, and they seem fine but I really would like to go to the Maine Running Company for an actual fitting. I have heard noth

ing but good things about that process, at their store, and being an overweight, duck footed runner, I could probably use some professional advice. They seem to work fine, but I read about others who just LOVE their shoes and stockpile them and won’t ever buy anything else, and I think I need more professional input before I can say that.





First and foremost, I run with my iPhone. It’s (“just”) the iPhone4, but I love that it does so many things all at once. I have apps to monitor my pace and distance and cadence and tell me when to run and when to walk and when I need to move faster, and I just looove that. And while my phone is tracking all of that data, it’s ALSO playing my favorite podcasts (I know I should probably run to music, but running is when I have clear enough headspace to actually LISTEN to my podcasts. My favorites are This American Life, MacBreak Weekly, Manic Mommies, and This Week in Tech.  I have other favorites, too like the Moth, but that would require more playlist management than I do right now because it’s a short one. The other 4 I listed are all at least an hour long, so they are good for my workouts. I’ll always take recommendations for other podcasts, though!)

The apps that I use are iSmoothRun — it tracks a ton of data AND will export to multiple places. I have mine set to post a summary of my run to Facebook, Twitter, DailyMile and RunKeeper. I can also set up custom interval workouts, so when I get frustrated with a C25K week, I can make my own. Like, this morning I did my 3/1:30 routine, but I have a list of workouts I’ve made that I can choose from. I set a custom pace (12:30 – have I mentioned I am sloooow) so that when I am in an interval, it will tell me to speed up or slow down. And after every interval, it will let me know how I did. Interesting finding — I can never find that exact pace until the END of my workout. Which is weird, because it means I’m speeding up as I go farther??) It cost a few bucks when I bought it, but I really like it.

I use Downcast for my podcasts. This is a new one for me, and might be the solution to listening to shorter podcasts on longer workouts, because it does have a playlist feature. I like it way more than the interface in itunes, or even their new podcasts app, but I only recently bought it because my old one was basically bricked with an update. (Podcaster 5) and it was time to move on…


Headphones: Kinivo bluetooth headphones. When I hit my 10% goal in Weight Watchers, I rewarded myself with some wireless headphones. I am surrounded by magical technology, and it has always, always driven me nuts that headphones are still usually a knot of wire and figuring out which is right and which is left and then having the cord flap in your face while  you run, and needing to have the headphones always be just 3 feet from the phone. Oh my god, the anxiety corded headphones have given me in the years of digital music. Anyway. I bought the Kinivo pair based on reviews and price. I am not an audiophile that is going to be super critical of sound quality, but they sound fine to me.  They are over the ear, which I prefer because I can hear the environmental noise — cars, people, etc — still. Since I also wear glasses, I was worried about how they’d compete with the limited over-the-ear real estate I have, but it’s been fine. They sync quickly, remember the phone, and have a pretty great battery life — it took 3 weeks to drain them the first time, and I’m still waiting for the second drain. My only minor complaints are that the one button can be tricky because if you go to power off and don’t press long enough, you’ll dial the last number dialed (oops!!) and there is no ear-to-ear adustability, so there is some space between the plastic band and my neck. But for $25?? Those aren’t issues.





Fitbit! I got the Fitbit for Christmas and have worn it just about every day since. It tracks steps and flights of stairs (and sleep, buuut with a toddler that doesn’t sleep through the night, that ends up just depressing me) and syncs to a website where you can share your data with friends. I wear it on my bra, both when running and just with everyday use. It’s very cool to see the trends and how I’m doing with my goal, and to know that it’s 2000 steps to go around the loop and that my morning run route is almost 7k steps. And with my employer holding a step contest right now, it is super easy to just pull up my data and enter my numbers. I have the Ultra, but the newest version — the One — adds some great features, like Bluetooth syncing. (It will work with an iPhone 4s or 5, and the newest iPad, I think.) Right now, I don’t see the numbers online until I get home because it has to sync through a base station.


And to carry my iPhone, I use a SPIBelt. Yes, it’s basically a fanny pack, but it’s SO much better than one. It doesn’t bounce, it protects my phone from the elements, but keeps it near, and it fits so snugly that with my regular shirts, I wear it underneath and you don’t even notice it’s there. I have the water resistant one, in black, but they make lots of other colors and options. I had tried an armband for my phone but to make the phone fit, I had to remove my every day case, and it was awkward on my arm, and I couldn’t get to the controls, etc. With the SPIBelt, it disappears, basically, and I need to remove my phone to  access the controls (or not, I can stretch out the belt part and see my phone if I just unzip) but I can just set up my app and my podcast and go with it.





That’s what I have now — what will I want next? I can see purchasing official running capris in the spring, and some new socks and shoes. (OH! And I met my goal for the Freaky5k so will be donning a Team Sparkle skirt later this month, color TBA) And with technology, I’ve heard cool things about heart-rate monitors and GPS watches, but I look at the Garmin website and just get overwhelmed. Or if/when I update my phone, and I can use Bluetooth 4.0, I could probably just get a HRM and sync it wirelessly WHILE wearing my headphones (my Bluetooth doesn’t allow multiple connections). ANd then I think if I could have the GPS features of the Garmin with the ease of use and syncing with the Fitbit. . . that would be awesome. It would be nice to see more easily the time and pace and all that (with my phone in the SPIBelt, I can’t see it, so I rely on the app to tell me my statistics. And I haven’t used an HRM but have heard good things. But when I look at the Garmin site and see all the options, there doesn’t seem to be a perfect one (the 405 seems best, it’s now discontinued but available on eBay — but I’ve heard mixed things.) I am such a gadget hound, and will always be looking for the one device to do it all, all the time.

Is there such a device? Or any Garmin fans out there to provide advice?

Sep 25, 2012 - fitness    No Comments

Starry Morning

This morning, I was not feeling it. Before my alarm even went off, I had a dream that I missed it and woke up too late to run and felt bad but not THAT bad, so when my alarm woke me from that dream, and I was soooo comfortable (this weekend marked the return of the Big Down Comforter for the season) it definitely took a little extra energy to swing my legs out from under and go for a run. I was slow to get into my clothes, I was slow to get my podcast chosen, but as soon as I stepped outside and got to the street, I realized that the September sky at 5:30 am was clear and speckled with stars. Orion! Right above me! No one else around! And I did my route, and was so thankful that I had gotten out to see the stars right in the middle of my city.

I also have been playing with different interval sets — I had been doing 2:15/1:30 and then was inspired by one of my friends to try another of the C25K workouts (in the past, I get stuck on week 4 and get frustrated, so I had moved to my own repeating intervals instead) but decided on Sunday to try week 4 again, and see if my strategy was helping at all… and it was!! I got through all of a Week 4 workout (3/1:30, 5/3, repeat twice) and then did the last mile without timed intervals, but running several blocks and then walking for one, and repeating til I got home. So today, I decided to try Week 5 – and because I am slow and am going for mileage, not time, I tweaked my intervals to be the Week 5 one (5/3 x 3) to add 3/1:30 x 4 at the end. And I got through that, too! So I might even go for the next week 5 workout on Thursday (8/5 x2) and follow that with more of my own custom intervals.

My goal for the Freaky5k this year is to finish under 40 minutes. I would really like to make that happen. Really.

And I am just $30 away from my goal (and fyi, Purple leads for skirt color with 18 votes, and Orange is second with 12 … just so you know) and would love to hit that goal (and then some?) very soon!