Monday, June 25, 2012

Fireman's pole in 95 degree weather? No problem for the girl in cropped, mud-filled spandex pants.

On Saturday, I traveled to Lebanon, Kentucky to participate in the Warrior Dash, a national running series that combines cross country racing and extreme obstacles (and fuzzy warrior helmets, a lot of mud, beer, and general foolishness). Inspired by Susie Staley and Lance King who completed the Tennessee version last year, I headed northward (without Allen Duvall or the Morgan boys by my side; that's right, poke at them the next time you see them), laced up my rattiest tennis shoes, stood in the shuttle line for an hour and a half, and rode seven miles in a school bus to the actual course (next to a guy in a fake mustache, plastic ear piece, and black t-shirt puff painted to say "Secret Service Agent...Spring Break 2012").

Here's a promotional video for the racing series. Although each course is a little different, this will give you an idea as to what the race requires... You can see the 2012 Lebanon, Kentucky course obstacles here.

"Run" down (See what I did there? Hilarious.)
*I love my warrior helmet and light-weight grey t-shirt with warrior helmet on it.

*Hey, girl in the shuttle line who is about 22 and acting part motherly to the 21 years old standing beside you, part "I'm so cool with my fancy phone, big sunglasses, and tank top I've put my company logo on," stop talking.
*I really like obstacle courses. Most fun challenges: fireman's pole and the wall rope climbs; Toughest: traversing the plank incline and running uneven and hilly terrain in mud-filled shoes that have little tread.

*I will never be able to do any race "just for fun." I may have smiled a time or two, but I took the whole thing far more seriously than I probably should have.

*Firemen stood on top of their trucks and sprayed us with hoses at the end. Fitting.

*This is the kind of event that would be fun with a group of people. Make it an all-day adventure. However, if you like a challenge and are a bit of a loner like me anyway, don't be afraid to do it by yourself. I had an absolute blast.

*Thanks, Turner Farm, for requiring me to throw hay bales from time to time. It was good practice.

*Thank you, nice older gentleman, who let 12 disgusting random strangers pile in the bed of your truck and go seven miles back to the parking area, thus avoiding a 2-hour wait for the shuttle bus.

*Lest you think this is primarily just drinking and shenanigans, it's important to note that each race is also a fundraiser for St. Jude's Hospital.  

*I will definitely do this again.  I ended up finishing 25 out of 877 women in my division and 74 out of 2364 overall.  I'm shooting for top 10 next time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

If only there were a virtural fist bump...

Although a friend to hyperbole, what follows contains none.  No really, I'm serious.

Jeanne Oliver's course, Creatively Made, was honestly one of the most inspiring things I've done in a long, long time.  This online art journey, which I had the opportunity to take part in this past winter, gave me access to amazing teachers, new skill sets, and a virtual community of everyday folks around the country who, just like me, have an interest in crafting, but not necessarily the tools, knowledge, or motivation to complete projects. Jeanne, the incredibly talented, yet humbly endearing, designer I've mentioned in past posts, is one of the many photographers, vintage collectors, folk artists, and crafters featured in the course videos (which can be opened and reopened at any point) that explain the artists' respective career and personal paths as well as step-by-step project "how-to"s.

Trust me, though, these are not videos that will intimidate you, make you feel foolish, or frustrate you with a level of roll-your-eyes-"I'd-never-be-able-to-do-that" expertise.  No. You'll want to have a cup of coffee with these artists.  You'll feel supported. You'll ultimately have no qualms about sharing pictures of your own work.  You'll join the Facebook group page and smile at and comment on the photos your classmates share.   You'll spend an hour of so some evenings watching videos, working on projects like art journals and leather cuffs (that ultimately come out so much better than you ever dream they will) instead of watching T.V. or piddling with something of little consequence. You'll be excited about the neat project waiting on your kitchen table when you get home from work. You'll simply feel inspired.

So, in essence, the course seeks to "reawaken" skills and talents that we all have the tendency to push to the back burner.  The course necessitates the type of introspection that is healthy, but typically ignored.  The course reminds you that you're not just a mom, or a daughter, or a spouse.  The course gives credence to the creativity we too often allow to lay dormant. 

And, the course is now available to all of you.

Jeanne and friends have decided to offer Creatively Made one more time, starting June 18.  Check out this video that provides an overview much clearer than my description above.

(Sorry, having trouble getting this to embed).
We did a modified version of one of the Creatively Made projects at the library.  It inspired this. 

I really do think you'll love this experience. If you're interested, you can Register here
Big thanks to fellow FOLK writer, Michael Wurm, for tagging this on his Pinterest board.  I love pistachios. I love cake.  I love really vibrantly-hued foods.  This recipe is a winner.

Pistacio Cake (via
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant pistachio pudding mix
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
7 drops green food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan. In a large bowl mix together cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in eggs, water, oil, almond extract and green food coloring. Blend ingredients, then beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Pour into prepared 10 inch tube pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"It's fun to do something dumb."

Those who know me well know that my recent Cormac McCarthy escapade was truly an anomaly.  I typically steer clear of fiction.  The outlandish makes me roll my eyes. "Inescapable hooks" often leave me making mental to-do and grocery lists.  Biting wit embedded in a reluctant love story absolutely has to be present if I am to make it past page 30.  I simply get bored with fiction.   (This is not where I insert a "but" and then proceed to talk about how the Fifty Shades of Grey series has changed my life. Don't worry...I haven't suddenly developed some wacko moral compass; I do plan to check it out).

Thus,  I've stuck to nonfiction for the past couple of months.  Here are some interesting selections from a few of my favorites. ...
From Natalie Goldberg's, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (a wonderful essay collection that anyone with an interest in writing will find useful)

"there is a fine line between precision and self-indulgence....Irving Howe wrote in his introduction to Jewish American Stories that the best art almost becomes sentimental but doesn't."

I love this line.  I appreciate art, whether written word or visual aesthetics, that seems to avoid the "Boy, I'm gonna make you feel something" trap.  86 adjectives are not necessary; catharsis does have limits; vacant hokeyness disguised as assumed eloquence makes me gag.  
From the Verlyn Klinkenborg article in the May 2012 Smithsonian Magazine

Thoughts and questions I plan to address in an upcoming post...
"When did 'home' become embedded in human consciousness? Is our sense of home instinctive?

"Not that you can't feel 'at home' in other places.  But there's a big psychological difference between feeling at home and being home."

"home is a place so profoundly familiar you don't even have to notice it.  It's everywhere else that takes noticing."

"one of the most basic meaning of home - a place we can never see with a stranger's eyes for more than a moment."
In this same issue, there was also a feature on the 10 Best Small Towns in America (in regard to culture). 

Here's a list of my own and the criteria I would use to determine...

Criteria: local shops, friendly, but not over-the-top "well, shucks, is this not the prettiest little place yall've ever been?!" people, pleasing aesthetics (landscaping, freshly-painted downtown buildings), artsy feel, unique food options, an element of laid-back, mixed with efficiency, inviting homes with front porches and mowed lawns

Kentucky - Bardstown, Danville (below), Frankfort
Elsewhere - Bennington, Vermont (below); Sparta, Tennessee; Cumberland, Maryland
What would your cities be?
I have enjoyed Lisa Scottoline's essay collection, Why My Third Husband Will be a Dog, so much that I just may break down and try one of her works of fiction (for which she is much more well known).  In this non-fiction selection she masters the "verging on sentimental" element praised above.

Most of the essays start something like this...
Dream Job
"It's fun to do something dumb.  Not something really dumb like my second marriage. That was really really dumb.

I mean, it's fun to perform a mindless task.  I realized this today, when I clipped my pony. Yes, even though I'm a grown-up, I have a pony named Buddy.  I bought him from a little girl who thought he was too old, too small, and too slow."
A woman after my own heart.
And the book I've been excited about for months finally arrives...
That's right, I did put on my favorite shirt and sit in my favorite chair.