Wednesday, May 28, 2008


When I got done with the marathon on Sunday, I checked my email and had a message from Leda. She told me that winter had begun on Ometepe, and there had been much rain. This is exactly how it was when I was there last year. Soon the red, black, and yellow spiders will return.

I had asked her how Eduardo was, and in her message told me that she knew nothing of him anymore. He had gone to live with his grandmother in Altagracia.

Hearing this news definitely sent me into a state. It had never seriously occurred to me that Eduardo might not be there when I go back. I thought the worst that could happen would be that he became an insolent teenager or that he might not remember me. But it never crossed my mind that he would be gone.

Altagracia is not at the end of the world though. Its about an hour away (either by bus or bike) from where we lived in Mérida. If I just stay calm and ask around, I could probably find him there. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. But Rob said to me, if I did find him, what would I do then?

I don’t know. I guess I wouldn’t do anything. Its not like I could really bring him home with me. I just want to see him and make sure he’s okay. I’d say hi and bring him some clothes that might not even fit (how can I be sure how much he’s grown since I’ve been away?) and then go back home again. It does seem kind of empty though, doesn’t it?

I just can’t stop imagining all the horrendous scenarios that might have occurred which would explain why he no longer lives with his mother. She had two other kids—was it just too much to take care of all three of them, with no money, all by herself? Was it because of the school? Maybe the school in Altagracia is better because its a bigger city? Maybe after Joël left, there was no one to teach English, so Eduardo went to Altagracia to keep learning. Or maybe he got a job there. A lot of tourists pass through Altagracia; probably there are a lot more ways to make money. Even when you’re only 12.

This poor kid has been shuffled around his whole life. For his first 5 years he was raised by an auntie who took him to Costa Rica. I still can’t imagine how he got there, but I’m afraid it might have involved crawling on his belly through the brush and having to be very quiet. And now he’s been sent to live with his grandmother. If his mother loves him as much as she ought to, all of this must be very, very hard for her.

At any rate, I guess this explains why I haven’t heard from him since January. Everything just seems really gloomy right now. Whenever I eat something, I keep hoping he’s not hungry.

Please send your best wishes to dear little Eduardo. Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Madison Marathon

Well, I’ve finished my 7th marathon, and although it was certainly not my fastest time ever, for other reasons, it was probably the best marathon I’ve ever done.

It was an early start: 7:10am, but everything went pretty smoothly in the morning before the race. There were something like 1,500 full marathon runners and 3,500 half-marathon runners, but the starts were staggered (half marathoners began at 7:20), so it wasn’t even that congested during the first couple of miles. As with my last umpteen marathons, I wore a 3:45 pace band (listing the mile splits for a 3:45 marathon). The pace per mile for this is around 8 minutes 34 seconds. I hit mile 1 at 8:07, so it was a bit of a fast start. This can spell disaster for a marathon (the worst thing you can do is start out too fast), so I tried my best to slow it down, but could only manage to pull it back to around 8:25’s. Too much adrenaline I guess.

Rob had taken his bike and was riding around the course to cheer me on at different points. He was wearing an almost neon-yellow shirt, so it was pretty easy for me to spot him along the side of the road. The spectators at this race were really great. After the start at the capitol building, the first several miles were downtown and then through some residential areas. There were a fair amount of spectators who were really exuberant at cheering, which is probably another reason why I kept going too fast. The race numbers also had been printed with your name on it, so the whole way, people were shouting, “Go Melissa!” which was pretty neat.
Auntie M before the start

Running the early miles

There were some hills though. It was gently rolling at first, which actually felt kind of nice, but then there were a few fairly sizable ones around miles 8-10. It took a lot out of me to power up those hills. Plus, it was windy. My quads already hurt, which was a bad sign, but I had to keep telling myself not to freak out about it.

One thing that I was doing pretty well was taking in fluid and electrolytes. I grabbed Gatorade and water at every water station. Sometimes my body just refuses Gatorade during marathons—this is definitely what happened during the last one in Springfield, MO. A couple of times today I just couldn’t choke down the Gatorade, but overall I was having a much better time with it than in Springfield. I also started forcing myself to take a Mango-flavored Clif Shot at mile 7. These are slime-like electrolyte packets. Mile 7 is about as long as you dare wait to start taking this during a marathon. I don’t think I actually took any in Springfield, which is another reason why I’d suffered so much. So today, even though the thought of goo was repugnant, I started slurping it down, little by little. I actually slurped on the 100-calorie packet for about 7 miles, but at least I got it down.

Shortly after a big hill around mile 9, there was a guy on the side of the road handing out beer. I know we were in Wisconsin and all, but still, I declined. At some point around here there was also a guy handing out small bottles of water (8 oz); I’m not sure if that was part an official aid station, or if he was just a nice guy, but I did take one of those. I ended up carrying that little bottle with me for most of the rest of the race; it actually was a huge help to keep sipping on water during those stretches between aid stations.

From about mile 11-13, we ran along a tree-lined, crushed gravel path next to Lake Mendota. It was so beautiful, and the crushed gravel was much nicer to the legs than concrete or asphalt. But there were no spectators again until about mile 15 or 16. Despite the beauty, it was a bit grim and windy, and these actually ended up being the hardest miles of the marathon for me. My pace dropped off dramatically, but since I’d banked so much time early on (actually, a marathoning cardinal sin), I stayed on pace for a 3:45 until about mile 18.

I didn’t see Rob for 5 or 6 miles during this grim part (he’d wisely opted not to bike along the narrow gravel path and be in everybody’s way). When he was able to see me again, he told me that’d he’d felt bad that he couldn’t be at the halfway point (mile 13.1) to sing Living on a Prayer to me in a Scottish accent. He made up for it by singing to me then and there, even though I was well past the half. He also played The Final Countdown for me from his iPhone. Both of these things were hugely motivating.

My legs hurt and I was tired, but the amazing thing was, I didn’t feel terrible. I kept forcing myself to take little slurps of electrolyte goo and sips of water from the little bottle I refused to relinquish. And it was a good strategy. I never hit the wall. I never had to bargain with various deities to stay alive. In fact, I was laughing and talking with Rob or other runners; I had enough energy, just not enough leg power. The first 10 miles had toasted my quads.

Miles 16-21 were through a golf course and the UW-Madison Arboretum. It was mainly tree-lined: pretty and very green but not a whole lot of spectators. I caught myself scanning the trees for howler monkeys (that’s generally a bad sign), but since I didn’t see any, I guess that meant I hadn’t completely lost it. During this time, we were on a road rather than a thin dirt path, so Rob actually stayed nearby most of this time. I didn’t realize until I hit mile 20 that I had fallen off 3:45 pace. I just rolled with it though. Feeling this alive so far into a marathon made up for the disappointment. Besides, I thought, anything could happen. Since I was feeling so good, I tried my best to speed up over the last 6 miles. But there were more hills and wind that got to me, so I’m not sure if my efforts really panned out.
Realizing I'm off pace for a 3:45

It got a little tough for the last few miles, but I just thought about Eduardo and kept going. At about 25.5, the 3:50 pace group caught me. (A group of runners led by an experienced pacer who’s leading them to a certain time). “All right, Auntie M!” The pace leader shouted. He said they had been following me all day, seeing the pink “Auntie M” I had written on the back of my shirt. He said he was about 20 seconds up, so to just stay with him and I’d finish in 3:49:40 or so.

I tried, but he went on past. I hung on to the tail end of the pace group though. We finally rounded the corner and suddenly I saw the finish line up ahead and people cheering on the side. My sister and Mark and Logan were among them, but somehow I missed them in the commotion. The big clock at the finish line had already turned to 3:50, and I ran with all my might towards the end. People were cheering wildly; I saw Rob in his bright yellow shirt standing on the sideline. At last I ran across the finish line and was done. My official time was 3:50:18. For the moment, I was too happy to be finished running to be sad about being 5 minutes behind my goal.Full speed ahead to the finish. My sister said as I rounded the corner amidst the other runners, she recognized me by my shining, white teeth.

It was probably just about the best marathon I’ve done so far. Most of the course was really beautiful, and there were a lot of spectators to cheer you on. I never walked, not even one step, the whole time. I never felt terrible; there was no “wall.” Even in my fastest marathon, I had a couple of horrendous sobbing miles somewhere in the 10:40 or 11:00 range. I’m not sure mathematically how this can work out, but this time, I don’t think I had a mile slower than 9:36. I guess I just started slowing down early on, from the hills and the wind. But it was a good effort. I’m a little disappointed at myself, but really, I did the best I could and mainly I’m just happy that I didn’t end up falling apart. Its the only marathon I’ve ever run where I haven’t at some point, vowed to never run again. I’m already trying to decide which one is next.
It wouldn't be a Wisconsin marathon if there wasn't a beer at the end.

That’s enough for now. Thanks for reading.
--Auntie M.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Night Before Marathon #7

Someday I'll have to catch up on the events of last week, but for now I don't have the time. Rob and I are in Madison, WI, and I am getting ready to run marathon #7 bright and early tomorrow morning. Rob plans on live-blogging as I run, so you can check out his blog if you want to follow along and see how great or how terrible I am doing. I'll be sure to post a more detailed account of the whole thing afterwards.

I've got to go; as per usual before a marathon, we are watching American Flyers--a movie (filmed in circa 1984?) that stars a young Kevin Costner as a cyclist competing in a big bike race called Hell of the West. We watch this before every marathon. By now we can pretty much recite the whole thing. (Favorite movie quote: "How can you be sick? I mean, look at you: you've got a mustache and everything!") This time it is particularly exciting because part of the movie takes place in Madison, WI. Hopefully that will bring me for luck tomorrow.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Good news, everyone, the irises are blooming!


...more irises

...and the hope of more irises!

This weather is like heaven. There is still a bit of ice running through my veins from the long, long winter. But I am hopeful, at least, that there may come a day when I do not have cold feet anymore. (At right: loving irises since 1982!)

Yesterday I went to the farmers market for the first time this season. It was fantastic. Still not a whole lot of fruit and vegetables there, since its so early yet. In the spirit of Barbara Kingsolver, I bought some fresh asparagus. I also bought a few herbs (nothing fancy, just some basil and cilantro) and then a couple of native prairie plants (ie, weeds): wild bergamot and asters. This rounds out my garden to include: various kinds of tomatoes and eggplant (thanks to Cara and John), cucumbers, red peppers, green peppers, jalepeño peppers, kale, zucchini, chamomile (the German variety), and lavender (I don’t know whether its English or French). We’ll see how much of it survives. I’d still like to get some more herbs, but I haven’t been able to find what I’m looking for.

Today I did my last “long” run before the marathon—just 8 miles. It was nice. I love my new Mizunos. A week from now, I’ll be done with the marathon and probably planning my next one.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Melissa officinalis

On Monday, Rob forwarded me the link to the Race for the Cure results; I was 12th overall with a time of 21:59, which is definitely the fastest I’ve ever run a 5K. Seriously, I didn’t know I had it in me.

While Rob and I were gone over the weekend, our friends John and Cara made a surprise delivery of some tomato and eggplant seedlings for our garden. It was dark when we got back on Sunday night, but when I went past the window on Monday morning, I was quite delighted to see the seedlings. Having the surprise seedlings put me in the mood to do some work outdoors. I planted the seedlings, and while I was out in the yard, I noticed several patches of lemon balm (scientific name: Melissa officinalis) growing on the south side of our house. It smells really good: so light and fresh and clean. When you touch the leaves, it makes your hands smell like lemons. I brought some inside and put it in a salad. Quite tasty. I think you can also use it to make a tea. Lots of options here. Its always exciting to be able to forage in your own yard.

(Note: I also entered final grades for my class and finished up a draft of my methods chapter, so the day wasn’t all fun and games outdoors).

Today I did some more planting, and in the evening I chatted a bit with my next door neighbors about the garden. They came over and we investigated some of the things that were growing in various corners of the yard. Much to my surprise, they found a couple of onion patches along the fence between our properties. Onions in my own yard! How cool is that. I brought one inside and put it in a stir-fry I made for dinner tonight.

If the bunnies and squirrels and Japanese beetles eat all the things I planted in the garden, at least I will still have lemon balm and onions growing in the yard!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Prairie girl heads for the hills

Saturday was the Race for the Cure in Peoria, which is a really big deal there. I don’t remember when I started running the 5K, but I did it my junior year in high school (on the morning of my prom), and several years later I actually skipped my own college graduation to go home and run it. This year was the first time that Rob and I are both injury-free and in the US, and we were both going to do it. So we headed to Peoria on Friday night and got up bright and early on Saturday for the race.

I didn’t feel too well in the morning, and could only manage a couple bites of Clif Bar in the car ride over. I was a bit distressed because I didn’t have any of the “In Celebration Of” or “In Memory Of” pink papers to pin on my back. In years past, they either placed these pink sheets of paper in your registration packet, or you could pick them up on the day of the race, and you could write the names of people for whom you were running. On race morning, my mom tried to help me look for a booth with these papers, but the crowds of people were so thick that it was to no avail. I was a little upset that these pages hadn’t been more readily available. Rob’s aunt Sharon passed away not so long ago as a result of breast cancer, and my mom’s cousin as well as my own cousin are both survivors. I finally had to resolve myself to run without the names of these women on my back and to just keep thoughts of them with me.

Rob and I warmed up by running about 2 miles at an easy 9-minute pace, but even that felt tough. At least moving around in the 40 degree temperature was better than standing and shivering in the cold. Besides, I didn’t have very high expectations for this race: its more about the cause than the actual run. And don’t forget the hills. Peoria is hilly. Being a flatlander prairie girl for the past 10+ years, I am completely unaccustomed to hills, and I do not enjoy running them.

After the brief warm-up, I made my way through the throngs of people to the start line and tried not to get trampled while waiting for the race to begin. Although both men and women were running, all women were to start first and then the men’s race would start 10 minutes later. Finally the sirens blared and we were off and running. The start of a huge race like this is always mass chaos. That first bit was downhill, which I actually don’t like in a 5K. After standing around for 15-20 minutes, taking off at full speed downhill tends to make the legs feel like jelly. I actually welcomed the long uphill that soon began (all the way up University to Northmoor) and took up most of the first mile.

When I hit the mile 1 marker, my watch said 7:26, and I thought grimly, oh well, what did I expect at a hilly 5K when I am not feeling well to begin with. After the first mile, we entered a twisting, turning, residential area that was rife with constantly undulating hills. The only good thing was that this part has asphalt roads, which is infinitely kinder to the joints than concrete.

I was really grateful to the race volunteers for pointing me in the right direction at all the turns. After the first mile, I was mainly alone on the hills. I’d had passed everybody that I could, and there was a pack of people way out in front that was too far ahead for me to catch. Around 10 minutes into the race, I heard sirens again and thought that must have been the signal of the men’s start. The next time I looked at my watch (going uphill around 12:24) I thought, I hope I’m about half done now. Then I hit the mile 2 marker at 13:59 and wondered how I had gotten myself on 7-minute pace with such a slow start.

The great thing about a 5K is that its over so quickly. Powering up the hills, cruising down them, feeling like you are trying to suck in oxygen through a straw when you really need gallons of it. You just need to keep your wits about you and remind yourself that any discomfort is purely temporary. At 19 minutes into the race I thought I still had at least 5 more minutes of running before it would be done. But it was up and down a few more hills, and all of a sudden I rounded a corner and saw the National City Bank—pretty much at the finish line. “You’re almost done!” an elderly man on the side of the road cheered as I ran past. How is this possible?, I thought. But there I was, thundering towards the finish line and the clock hadn’t even reached 22 minutes. I saw my parents clapping and waving as they caught sight of me. I crossed the finish line and I finally glanced down to stop my watch at 22:05. I couldn’t believe it. Its a tie for my fastest 5K ever—a time I haven’t come close to reaching in years. All of a sudden I felt like a million bucks.

I weaved back through the crowds to Rick and Nan, where we waited for Rob. By the time the men started finishing, it was getting really congested. With only a 10-minute gap between the men and women’s races, the fast men were coming through at the same time as the majority of the women. Picture a mass of women, running around 9 or 10-minute miles, as men who are running sub 6-minute pace try to run through them. That seems to spell total disaster. Rob didn’t complain too much about it, but I really hope they change that for next year. Rob finished in a time of 18:25 despite all the chaos at the end.

We hung around for a while at the festivities, and then Rob rode home with Rick and Nan. I’m on the taper for this marathon, but I was still supposed to do 12 miles. I ran back home at a nice, easy pace, and then ran a few miles around my parents’ neighborhood; I figure it was around 10 or 11 for the day, which is good enough.

At any rate, it was really good to spend mother’s day weekend with my family and also to run my best time (or at least tie it) in a 5K. I usually say that I hate 5Ks and I always say that I hate hills, but I am somewhat reconsidering those statements.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Melissa's Super Garlic Hummus

For years I tried to make hummus and could never get it right. I finally mastered it and then I went to Nicaragua for a year and didn’t cook. After coming back, its taken me a while to get the hang of it again. A lot of people have asked me for the recipe and I hesitate not because it is a secret, but because there isn’t really a recipe; I never measure anything and its always a mystery as to whether its going to turn out alright. But I thought it was time for me to at least try to describe the hummus-making process.

Melissa’s Super Garlic Hummus
Chickpeas (aka, garbanzo beans). Though most things are better when made from scratch, I find that this my hummus is actually better when I use canned chickpeas. Still, I sometimes do buy dry beans, soak them, boil them, cool them, etc. It just requires a lot more planning ahead. If I use canned chickpeas, I opt for the Full Circle Organics brand. They are reasonably priced and low in sodium. If I’m making a big batch of hummus, I’ll use 2 cans (or around ½ bag of dried beans). For a small batch, 1 can is fine.
Tahini. Its sesame paste. I use maybe 2 tablespoons per can of chickpeas. For a big batch, I’ll use more. But keep in mind, I don’t actually measure this stuff. You may prefer more or less.
Garlic. At minimum, 4 cloves. This hummus isn’t called “Melissa’s Super Garlic Hummus” for nothing. Okay, you can use less than 4 cloves if you really want (especially if your cloves are particularly large). But keep in mind the astounding health benefits of raw garlic (a more powerful antibiotic than penicillin… it will cure what ails you!)
Green onions. I use about 2 (both white and green parts) for a small batch. 3 or 4 for a large batch.
Red onion. Maybe about ¼ of a small onion. Somewhat more for a large batch.
Lemon juice. One small lemon. For a larger batch, that will also suffice, but it will turn out better if you can use a bit more. I just have trouble keeping lemons on hand. Oh, lime juice will also work too.
Cumin, ground. I never measure this, so I have no clue how much I put in. Kind of a lot. Probably 2 or 3 teaspoons? You can start with a little and adjust to taste.
Cayenne pepper. A generous “pinch.” Okay maybe about ½ tsp. More if you can handle it.
Sea salt. It should be the kind that comes in large grains. I think Kosher salt would also work. If you are using canned chickpeas, be very careful with the salt. In fact, you might not even need it. With the low sodium organic canned chick peas, I do add salt. But regular canned chickpeas tend to be loaded with sodium, so just check the label.
Cilantro, fresh. This is optional. Actually, it used to be a key ingredient in my hummus. I would put as much as a cup of it in. But it tends to give the hummus a green tinge, which is kind of weird. If I have some on hand I will use it. Lately I’ve just put in a few sprigs and I’ve really liked how it turned out.

Place all of these ingredients into a food processor. Add some cold water. I don’t know how much. Start small… maybe a few tablespoons? Blend up all the ingredients in the food processor. If it seems too thick, add a little bit more water. Continue blending for a minute or two until everything is nice and pasty. Taste it to see if it is okay. If it seems too bland, this generally means it needs more lemon juice or salt. Or cumin.

Mmmm, hummus. It is great on raw carrots and broccoli. It is sublime on pita bread, especially if you heat up the pita just a tiny bit. This is the one food I missed while I was in Nicaragua. Especially during the summer, it is a staple at our house. It makes for a great dinner and lunch when you don’t want to heat the house up by cooking something in the oven. Its a great snack too, and its usually a hit at parties. As long as you have some well-sealing Tupperware, it is highly transportable by bike.

I’m not sure how long it keeps; I usually eat it long before it would go bad. One thing I have noticed though is that I manage to not eat it all at once and it sits in the refrigerator overnight or for a day or two, it actually gets better. Maybe there’s more mixing of the flavors or something, I don’t know.

At any rate, I suppose I’ve got lunch on the brain. Too bad I didn’t make any hummus this morning before I left the house. I did manage to run for the first time after Sunday’s 20-miler. The blister on my foot isn’t quite so bad anymore, but I have another blister on my toe—that I didn’t even notice while I was running—that is much, much worse. I managed about 2 miles today, but it wasn’t so great. I may have mentioned that the other runners in the group were going really fast; my legs are reminding me today that I ran the 20-miler more as a “race” than a training run. Seriously, my muscles should not be so fatigued. Hopefully this does not spell disaster for the marathon. It does take an insanely long amount of time to recover from an effort like that. Well, at least for me.

Anyway, I’ve to go and possibly make some hummus for lunch. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Blister in the sun

Yesterday, I went for a short run (I can’t say that it was easy, given that the winds out of the west were 30mph), and the whole time I had pain in my calf and shin. It wasn’t excruciating; just the kind of thing you don’t want lingering as you start a 20 mile run (as I was scheduled to do with the running club the next day). I took 3 ibuprofin and strapped a makeshift icepack to my leg. I recalled having had this type of pain before and tried to remember what I’d done for it. Then it came to me: new shoes.

A pair of running shoes is good for about 400-500 miles; I have no idea how many miles are on the shoes I’d been wearing (probably not that many), but suddenly and without any warning, it was time for a new pair. Rob and I headed over to Body N Sole with the gift certificate my sister gave us for Christmas that we’d never gotten around to using. Without too much hesitation, I chose the Mizuno Wave Nirvanas. I’ve run in Mizunos for a couple of marathons, and I really like the brand, so I thought it was time to go back to them. I realized it was probably not wise to buy a brand new pair of shoes for a 20-mile run, but desperate times call for desperate measures. My calf/shin still hurt at night, so I took 3 more ibuprofin and went to bed with ice strapped on my leg.

In the morning, my leg felt fine, but the temperature was hovering around 40 degrees. I dressed in layers and took off to meet up with the running club. Everything was fine for the first couple of miles. Most of the people there were only doing about 13 or 14 miles, and everybody was going kind of fast. I forced myself not to chase the lead group and stayed with a couple of people who were going more my pace. By mile 4, the temperature seemed to have raised about 20 degrees and I was boiling in my layers. I stashed my long sleeves behind a tree near the “aid station” and rolled up my Capri pants. Most of the run was out in the country—empty stretches of country roads, with cornfields on one or both sides and sometimes lots of trees. In fact, it reminded me a lot of Nicaragua. I didn’t really care that I was mainly alone out there. I just tried to keep the lead group in sight and kept scanning the trees for monkeys (there weren’t any).

Long about mile 8, the bottom of my right foot started hurting, in the tell-tale way that a blister does. Eventually I pulled off into a corn field and readjusted my sock, but that didn’t seem to help any. A couple miles later, I pulled off again to try to make further adjustments. I’d worn my Bitch Socks, as I often do for long runs, and they’d never bothered me before. But then again, it hasn’t been this hot for a while. The sun-warmed asphalt, combined with an unfortunately placed seam on the Bitch Socks was wreaking havoc on my foot. I ended up cutting back to the starting point with the 14-milers, but I wasn’t sure what to do from there. I was thinking that I would have to get in my car and go home, apply aloe and massive quantities of bandaids, and then try to do the remaining 6. It turned out that one of the other guys who had been running had a spare pair of socks that he loaned me. I turned my Bitch Socks inside out (so that the seam was no longer rubbing my foot) and put the spare socks on over these (double layers can stave off blistering). I ended up finishing off the last 6 miles; it didn’t feel great, but at least it was bearable.

After making it back home, showering, eating, and re-grouping, it was time to head over to the Bike Fest. We met Aimee and Co. over there; we all rode bikes around for a while and then went to the Custard Cup to refuel. So much for getting down to my ideal marathon weight. Maybe next time.
Rob and Meli on the tandem

Little Miss C. leading the bike parade

The view from the back of the tandem bike is always the same...

After we came back home, Rob spent some time in the bike hole (aka, garage) working on Ida May, my super petite, ultra light (18 pounds!) road bike that I have been too afraid to ride ever since I crashed last fall. He made a bunch of adjustments to the handlebars, pedals, etc, to make me feel more stable on the bike. It took some coaxing, but he eventually convinced me to ride around the block a couple of times. It went okay, but its going to be a long time before I voluntarily take Ida May out onto the open roads.

I’ve spent the rest of the day eating (no wonder I keep gaining weight instead of losing it) and am pretty worn out. I’d best get to sleep soon and try to stave off taper madness. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day

We’ve made it to May Day. Surely, surely this means that the long winter is over.

Leaves are budding everywhere, and even though we’ve come out of a long, dark, cold winter, it feels exactly like the beginning of “spring” in Nicaragua last year—after months of being dry, parched, and feverishly hot, the world seemed like a gentle place once again as the bare trees flushed with the first tender leaves. I look up at all the trees in Urbana, and sometimes I expect Wrinkle Belly to be there.

Springtime in Urbana
Trees at the arboretum

These "irises" sure look a lot like daffodils...

Red bud tree in our side yard

Bunny rabbit waiting for someone to borrow a tiller, till our garden plot, and then plant some seedlings.

One night earlier this week I kept waking up from dreams about Nicaragua. Sometimes I was looking for Eduardo but he wasn’t there; other times, he was just as smiling and golden as when we left. Every time when I woke up, my first thought was a sort of panicked remembrance that I had not yet received my passport back from the US government (I had submitted it for renewal earlier in the month). The whole process just seems a bit sketchy: you send off your passport, your application form, and a check for $75, not knowing when or if they’ll ever get it back to you (estimated processing time: 4-6 weeks). Well, it had been less than 2 weeks since I sent all this stuff in, but the very next day after those Nicaragua dreams, my passport arrived in the mail. Now, all I need to do is figure out a good week (or weeks?), and Eduardo, here I come.

At any rate, the semester is winding down. I’ve all but survived teaching my first class ever. All that’s left is the final exam, so I feel like I am coasting. That’s probably why I’m so eager to get back to Nicaragua again. And on the plus side, now that I’m not spending every minute preparing lectures, I’ve actually done a tiny bit of work on my dissertation.

This morning I had a dentist appointment. I actually really like my dentist. Probably because at my dentist's office, they all seem amazed at how beautiful my teeth are. Seriously, I get complimented on my teeth all the time. Once a tourist in Nicaragua remarked on how perfect my teeth were and asked me if my father was a dentist. More recently, at the meetings earlier this month, I met a girl from London who as so amazed at my teeth she asked me what brand of toothpaste I used and then resolved to purchase a case of it before returning back to England. I’m actually kind of paranoid about my teeth, since they are pretty much my one redeeming physical feature. I used to have all these nightmares about my teeth falling out or turning black (which my psychologist sister assured me was actually pretty common dream). All winter long, my teeth were super sensitive; I practically had to drink warm water just to tolerate it. I was so sure that something was really wrong with my teeth. The past couple of weeks they haven’t hurt as bad, so I was a little relieved. Today at the dentist I found out that tooth sensitivity is actually really common during the wintertime, especially for people who are outdoors a lot (biking and running). They gave me some special toothpaste and told me my teeth were fine; lovely in fact. But I am irked by the trauma this winter has seemed to cause for every part of me: teeth included. I hope spring is here to stay.

I went to the department after my dentist appointment; something was going on, and they had a bunch of donuts and bagels in the main office. One of the professors, S.A. was in there and said something to the effect of “Help yourself” while gesturing to the donuts. I made some comment about out I had just come from the dentist, and I didn’t want to eat anything yet while my teeth were so nice and clean. S.A told me that I always had clean teeth, adding, “You’ve got the best teeth in the department.” It was a matter of fact sort of statement.

So there you go. I wish I had been voted “most likely to succeed,” but I guess I’ll settle for “best teeth.”

That’s all for now; I’ve got to hop on Iris 2 and get over to Aimee’s for dinner. Thanks for reading.
Lovely island, lovely teeth