Sunday, June 28, 2009

This just in.

I talked to Sam this morning, who is on his way home from the long course swim meet in Vermont.

Yesterday, he broke the New England Record for his age group in the 1500 freestyle. By 5 seconds. How 'bout them apples?

We'll be making some congratulations signs this afternoon and maybe even a cake because, hey, it's a rainy day!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

a running report

Today was a 6 miler, tomorrow is a rest day, and then I turn the page on my training calendar to the 2nd page (there are 4 pages). So far, it has been very low mileage and definitely doable. A training week calls for 4 running days (1 long run), 2 cross training days, and 1 rest day. I haven't missed one mile of the runs yet, but I did skip one cross-training day each week for various reasons. This week was my best week. Not sure why, but every run felt good and easy, even though it has been so humid and gross.

If I'm sounding super confident about actually running 26 miles, not so fast. But I am feeling quite calm about the concept of taking one week at a time and having trust in the training.

Somebody recently asked me to write about why I run, and I've been trying to figure that out ever since. I have come up with a few answers that are possibly very obvious, but here they are anyway:

- As far as a workout, it is the most bang for your buck. You really work your muscles, burn the most calories, and raise your heart rate the highest in as little as 30 minutes, and you go right out your front door to do it.
- It means I can eat a lot of food, and pie, and not gain weight.
- It is a lot easier than chasing kids around, especially when they are cranky, and it makes me a better and more patient mommy when I get back.
- I have way more energy than I ever have before, all day.
- Please don't judge me for saying this, but I'm feeling pretty good about the way my legs are looking for age 35.
- It's the only thing I do that is only for myself. It's about me, my body, and my watch. I don't need anyone else to validate or agree with it, and pride in my progress is based on cold, hard facts, not on anyone's opinion.

So, why the marathon specifically, and not just running 4 days a week?

Well, for starters, I love large crowds, loud music, finish lines, race photographers, and race medals (or in the case of the San Francisco marathon, a Tiffany necklace for all finishers).

I also love it when someone hands you a cup of water while yelling how great you are doing, and you take a swig and then throw your cup on the street. I love that.

But for a more philosophical answer, here is a passage from a book I just read called: The Non-Runner's Marathon Guide for Women by Dawn Dais:

"We all have our limits, the maximum we can take. But the fact is that we as human beings rarely approach our limits. Things we perceive as personal limits usually just mark the limit of our comfort level, not the limit of any actual ability. It's not until we're challenged that most of us ever know what we are really capable of doing.

One of the greatest things that will come as a result of your marathon training will be the absolute shattering of what you used to accept as your physical and mental limitations... I set out to train for a marathon because I knew there was no physical reason why I shouldn't be able to do it."

Obviously, I signed up for the marathon before reading this passage, but I dog-eared the page because it made a lot of sense to me, and is definitely aligned with my own feelings about my physical limits. The first time, over a year ago, that I ran 6 miles, I thought I was going to die and I actually cried real tears in mile 2. This morning, it felt good and invigorating. I'm feeling ready for the bigger mileage that lies ahead on my calendar. Bring it on.

And here is a section of the book that made me laugh out loud.

The author describing her first 16 miler:
"When I got to the mile 13 marker, I started trying to psych myself up, I can do this; three miles is nothing. Unfortunately, at this point my body said, Uh, no, you can't do this, mostly because I will no longer be moving. Thank you for your support during this difficult time.

It was awful. It was horrible. It was hell. I wanted my mom. I wanted a bus. My mom driving a bus would have been perfect."

Yes, I definitely find this to be hilarious because I often talk to my body when I'm running, but my body never says funny things back. We'll have to work on that. Also, I love the image of my mom coming on a bus to rescue me from a long run, don't you? I know I'll be laughing about this from the road, right around mile 13.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

there is hope for humanity

because we finally got the sun-soaked day we have been waiting for. I am a new person.

Sam is off to Vermont seeking some swimming glory at the long course meet, and when the sun came out, we headed straight for the ocean. We picked up my mom and headed to Lamoine State Park which was a new one for us. It was pretty, and the best part, totally deserted! We were the only ones there. Wide open spaces!

Tiny Skyler having a moment with the sea.

Skyler has developed a new camera pose. I have no idea what she is doing with her elbow.

Omom love

Before heading home, we chatted with some lobstermen out to drop traps in the bay. I've been trying to describe to Skyler how lobsters can get into the traps but can't swim out, and they kindly showed her how it works.

heading out to catch dinner for the tourists.

On the drive home, I felt like I wanted to drink the sunlight and hang my head out the car window like a dog. I appreciated every golden drop of sun today, and I'm storing it up for the week ahead (many thunderstorms in the forecast).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's official.

We did it! We are done fundraising! I can't believe it. As Sam said, we thought we were going to have to go door-to-door with cupcakes in October. It turns out, all of you rallied and we got the job done in less than 5 weeks. Knock me over with a feather.

There is a batch of checks currently en route to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that total $460 (including the check from my Aunt Ellen and Uncle Dickie that came today that officially bumped me over). My goal was $3900, and as of today, I have $4098.20. (That's $156.41 per mile that I have to run.)

Thank you SO much, everyone. I feel so loved and supported, and I feel so grateful to be able to contribute such a nice chunk toward cancer research. I've been touched by all of your notes of encouragement and humbled by all of the people who have struggled with or died from cancer in your own lives.

I thought I was running in honor of my dad and my student Erica. It turns out I am also running for a small crowd of people:
For my friend Charissa, in remission from Lymphoma for 13 years and counting.
For six year old Emily, in the 2nd year of her treatment for Leukemia,
For Taylor, a student currently battling leukemia,
For Eileen's sister in treatment now,
For Rich's mom who died of lymphoma,
For Rich's sister in treatment now,
For Julie's dad finishing treatment for leukemia,
For Judy's husband who died of lymphoma,
For Rob's dad who died of lymphoma.
For Helga's dad, a dear friend of my own dad, who died of lymphoma.
For Bill, who died of complications from leukemia.

Deep breath.

So, I guess what you guys are all saying is that I should go ahead and run a marathon?
At this point, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to say, "The marathon? Ooooh. That was just a whim. I was just kidding about all that."

Actually, I am in week 4 of the training calendar, all is going well, and I'm working (in my head) on a running post about what has been keeping me motivated (besides, of course, all of you). Coming soon.

more rainy day fun

Reed painted just one side of his bird house roof for 35 minutes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

it's not that i'm complaining

You might think I'm exaggerating if I tell you that it has been raining for about 3 weeks with only tiny glimpses of the sun about two times. And you also might remember that I wrote about making the best of the rain, and putting on the rain coats and heading out with a smile.

But really? Seriously? This is definitely testing my limits. I mean, we work hard in Maine to survive the winter and "spring" in order to enjoy our reliably gorgeous bright, crisp summers. I'm simply running out of ideas to keep the kids (and myself) happy on rainy days.

Sam actually did a great job with them today while I had to work part of the day. They went swimming and played "clean up the house!"

I thought I was doing a pretty job remaining chipper despite my need for a good sun soak. We even went to the farm for our farm share pick up today and did the whole walk to see the animals despite the rain. It was really only drizzling by that point, and we consider that to be beautiful weather.

do you see what has happened to reed? he's a boy, not a baby.

Skyler prides herself on picking out the best vegetables and flowers from each bin.

We are eating the best, freshest salads every night. That much is true.

When we got home, everything felt damp, everyone was cranky, and Reed hit me in the head with a plastic toy box. At that point, Skyler got settled at her desk to make me a card, and she asked me if I could help her spell this sentence:

So much for keeping control of my emotions.

If we don't see the sun in the next couple of days, I'm going to need to send for backup.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I sacrifice because I love him

After our Father's Day breakfast and Sam's opening of gifts and cards from the kids and me, I decided to give Sam our anniversary present too, so I didn't have to sit on the surprise anymore (It's in a month).

Here is what it said:

Dear Sam,

For our anniversary this year, do you want to go on a date with me?

And stay in a hotel?

And out to dinner?

And after dinner, do you want to watch the Sox?

Play the Yankees?

At Fenway?

And then after the game, walk back to our hotel and spend the night there without any kids?

You do? Okay good. Because I thought that sounded like fun too.

August 21st. Friday night. Sox-Yanks.

Happy Anniversary.


This present is totally selfless, and I am more than happy to make this sacrifice for my dear, loving husband.

{I got the coveted friday night sox-yanks tickets from my former student who works for the red sox... score!)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's actually appropriate that this is so long winded: a Father's Day post

Because it is Father's Day weekend, and because I've been talking up this fundraising for Leukemia and Lymphoma in memory of my dad, I thought I should write something here for those of you who never knew him. I know I often refer to how much I miss my dad now that he is gone, but I don't think I have much here about when he was still alive.

I could tell you a million things about the kind of man and father he was. I can also tell you that it didn't take his death for me to realize how lucky I was to be his daughter. I knew growing up that my German-accented, gentle, witty, pumpernickel bread loving, bad pun spinning, pancake flipping, bear-hugging father was the real deal, and one-of-a-kind.

This is me with my dad on my first trip to Maine! Sitting atop Mt. Cadillac.

I chose three things I can tell you about my father that, to me, best define who he was.
1. My dad had the best hands. His hands were very strong and soft, and always warm. Whenever I was sick, he would quietly press his palm to my forehead, part checking for fever, part giving me his healing energy. His hands were very freckly, too, and I can still picture the way the veins ran over his knuckles.

Many of my friends and my cousins still remember how my dad was famous for greeting them at the door by taking their face in both of his hands, pressing one hand to each cheek. I don't know anyone else who does that, and it would be weird if they did, but it was my dad's way of making contact, looking you in the eye, and welcoming you to his house. I've been thinking about my dad a lot while running, wondering what he would think of all this marathon business. And I noticed that if I really concentrate, I can feel a gentle push in the small of my back as if he were pushing me right along with his wide, warm palm.

2. My dad was a terrific listener. He loved to hear about what his kids were up to. When I was little, elementary age, he would sit and listen to me go on for long periods about a school project or a field trip. He'd do all the right things. He'd make the appropriate amazed expressions and ask probing questions to encourage me to keep talking.

Here he is asking me to show him all of the presents I got for my 3rd birthday. I remember this vividly.

As I got older, he'd want to hear details about classes I was taking or a trip I had been on. He didn't just want to hear an overview. For example, if I was telling about a backpacking trip, he would want to know how far we climbed, what the weather was, if the gear was effective, and how the food tasted. He'd watch as I traced my finger over the trail map to show him how far I'd gone.

While I lost the totally captive and interested audience that was my dad, I kept the remembrance of how he made me feel so important, and I aim to give my own kids this same kind of undivided attention. What a way to instill confidence.

3. My dad was a terrific talker. You may have heard the expression: "ask a German what time it is, and he'll tell you how to build a clock." My father was the personification of this expression.

We learned quickly not to ask my dad a question if we were in a hurry. My brother and sister both took German in high school, and I overheard countless tortured study sessions when Liesel and Chris were desperately trying to get their homework done, and my dad was going on and on about particular uses of words and expressions and verb conjugation. He was horribly frustrated by their response: "Dad! We don't need to know that!" He would respond, exasperated, "What do you mean you don't need to know that? Aren't you trying to learn the language?" My poor father: a German immigrant with three impatient American children.

But here is my very favorite "ask a German" story. About 10 years ago, when my brother, sister and I were all living in California, my family rented a ranch in Montana for all of us to meet up and spend a week vacation together. We were having a big family dinner at the long table, and our crowd had grown to include my brother in law Craig's two brothers and a girlfriend Kim. Kim, not knowing my father very well, innocently asked my father what was "German" about German potato salad. My dad started to answer, going into detail about each of the ingredients, and my siblings and I promptly tuned out and started talking about something else. TWENTY minutes later, our conversation quieted and when we turned to look at my dad, with Kim nodding patiently along, he was holding up his hands about shoulder distance apart saying this:

"Our family stored the potatoes in wooden containers about yay big."

All of us laughed so hard we almost fell off our chairs, and my dad, as always, looked at us incredulously. What on earth is so funny?

Here is a family photo taken on that Montana trip.

And my dad soaking up the mountains.

Oh dad. I would sit for hours and hours if I had the chance and listen to you talk about potatoes or anything else that was on your mind. I actually still don't know what is so German about German potato salad, but I'm certain it's not a simple answer.

Happy Father's Day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Faced with another rainy day and Sam gone all day at his graduation, I decided to ignore the rain and head to Bar Harbor with the kids. Skyler and Reed were way into the idea. Skyler said: "We don't care about rain! We're Manharts."

it wasn't drizzling. it was raining. they skipped and frolicked and stomped for over an hour. there wasn't one complaint from anyone.

throwing rocks

finding sand worms and shells

soaked to the bone, couldn't care less.

warm, dry clothes. a stop at the bakery for coffee, popovers and hot chocolate.

red sox game on the radio and 2 sleeping kids all the way home.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Skyler's last day of school

At the beginning of this school year when Skyler started pre-school, her teacher started a monthly collection of pages that Skyler wrote her name on. The September page has a backward S, and the June page neatly states: SKYLER MANHART.

The girl loves to practice her letters; on any given day, we find about ten pieces of paper around the house that say:
Skyler Manhart Daddy Mommy Reed.

Friday was the last day of school, with a celebration honoring the director of her school who is retiring after 20 years. Skyler's class did a little skit where they spelled out the name of the school, and each child said what they would miss about John. Skyler had "P" for "the pats he gives us on our heads." Her performance was {shocking} enough to make me cry, her little stage debut, her little voice so clear and confident!

(a lot of kids were absent... there are usually 7 in her class)

Skyler had a weird relationship with school this year, and I'll be interested to see how that develops next year in Kindergarten. She was rarely excited to go, and was always happier when it was a stay-at-home day, but once she was there, she was really good and interested, and always happy when I picked her up. She wasn't sad that school was done for the year though. She, like all of us, is ready for summer.

Saying good bye to Ms. Kathy...

speaking of graduations

I was looking through photo albums last week and found this photo, and in the spirit of many of our students graduating from high school in the last week, I thought I'd post it.

This is me and Kelly, my nearest and dearest friend since 4th grade, graduating from University of Michigan in 1996 at Michigan Stadium. 13 years ago? Unbelievable.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


There are several things that the kids say that Sam and I have adopted into our regular vocabulary. I guess you could say we've been influenced by the linguistic stylings of our two small children. I know it should be the other way around, and it is, but our kids have some expressions that just do the trick for us. Here are some examples.

Reed says: I rungry. (hungry).
We say that now too.
Skyler says, when she wants to get on your good side, "I like your shirt."

Sam and I use this one if we are sending an email during the day asking for a favor, like... "could you stop at the store and get this, this, and this? I like your shirt."

I already told you about Reed's self-pitying comments when he gets in trouble.

In the morning, when I gently suggest to Sam that he needs to get up and take the kids downstairs, he says:
"I tired. I sad too."

Reed inexplicably uses the syllable "wa" as a replacement for several other words.
For example, he loves to eat wa-bars (granola bars), pick Omom up at the wa-port when she flies home from a trip, and play catch in the yard with the wa-ball (football).

Sam and I have adopted "wa" into our vocabulary too. I actually wrote wabars on the grocery list.


Reed will only get dressed in the morning if he is wearing a Red Sox shirt, or "hot sox" as he prefers to say. So, we lie to him and tell him every shirt he has says "hot sox" or has "hot sox" stripes.

Tonight is game three of a series with the Yankees and we just might (I won't say it loudly) sweep. GO HOT SOX! Gotta go make dinner. I rungry.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

See? Look what is possible.

Cure possible for one type of leukemia

Jackson Lab work IDs gene; asthma drug foils cancer cells
By Meg Haskell
BDN Staff

A physician and researcher affiliated with The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor says he may have identified a cure for the most common form of human leukemia.

Dr. Shaoguang Li, now conducting research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, has identified a specific gene that supports the development of chronic myeloid leukemia, as well as a drug treatment that targets that gene to short-circuit the proliferation of leukemic blood cells.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Li said the results of his study, published in the current issue of the journal Natural Genetics, is good news for victims of chronic myeloid leukemia.

“The power of this strategy is for curing the disease, not just controlling it,” Li said.

The gene, called Alox5, allows leukemia-producing stem cells to develop and proliferate, Li said.

In research at The Jackson Laboratory, Li studied mice that had been specially bred to lack the Alox5 gene.

“If you remove the gene from a mouse, you don’t see leukemia develop,” he said. That’s because Alox5 is somehow tied to the development of cancer stem cells, the precursors to leukemia, he said.

Li also studied normal mice with leukemia, targeting the Alox5 gene with the drug Zileuton, which is approved for treating asthma. Zileuton successfully blocked the gene’s production of an enzyme that turns cancer stem cells into full-blown leukemia cells.

“When you block the gene’s function by using the drug … you’re going to be leukemia-free,” Li said.

Mice treated with a combination of Zileuton and Gleevec, the most effective treatment currently available for chronic myeloid leukemia, fared even better than mice treated with either medication alone.

Li said Zileuton must now be studied in human clinical trials before it can be prescribed for leukemia patients.

“A lot of patients will be interested” in participating in those trials, he forecast. “This is for a cure.”

Already, he said, he has been contacted by the father of a young leukemia patient about participating in a clinical trial. The drug’s current approval for use in treating asthma should fast-track the clinical studies, he said, but he declined to speculate on a timeline.

Li said there are larger implications as well.

“Now we know we can target cancer stem cells without damaging other stem cells,” he said. “Without this gene, normal blood can be produced, but the leukemia disappears.”

In a news release issued earlier this week, The Jackson Laboratory said it is seeking “patent protection” on the treatment developed by Li and his research colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at the Harvard Medical School.

Li, who retains adjunct professor status at The Jackson Laboratory, said the Bar Harbor lab could “benefit a great deal” from his research findings.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

This post does not know what it wants to be about

I keep thinking I'm going to blog about something other than the marathon and the fundraising, but we just aren't up to much that is that exciting. We've had some fun play dates and a family swim this weekend, but no new photos. Tomorrow my school will graduate another 350 seniors while I sit in my black cap and gown and well up while they take their diplomas and head off on their way. And then I'll have a bunch of new friends on Facebook because they've been told for a year that I'll accept their "friend requests" when they graduate.

I am writing from a Saturday night during a Sox game after eating steak fajitas and a piece strawberry rhubarb pie that came out of the oven a few hours ago. Not too bad, I'll admit.

Today when the mail came, Skyler ran out to the mail box and carried back to me a stack of envelopes all containing donation checks to LLS on my behalf and hand-written notes or letters. When is the last time I've gotten hand-written notes in the mail? Can't remember. An added bonus to this whole process I hadn't anticipated.

The pile of donations I got today put me over the 50% mark, which I find to be quite remarkable in about 3 weeks. It's overwhelming to feel this supported and to be building such a nice gift together for LLS. Today I got one check from Rich Kent, my advisor and very favorite professor from my graduate work at UMaine, for $26.20. (get it?) How clever and adorable.

Other notable contributors to my fund, besides so many of my friends, family, and colleagues:
My first grade teacher, parents of former students, my realtor, the father-in-law (whom I've never met) of my dear friend Christie, a friend of my sister-in-law's who reads the blog in Japan and whom I've never met (Hi Cat!), and another blog reader who is training for a marathon in South Dakota whom I've never met (Hi Shannon!). This all makes me feel swirly with love and gratitude.

And then there is Reed, who said something that Sam and I have been giggling about it all day. He calls the plastic toy computer his "pooter" and the pink princess scooter of Skyler's his "cooter" and today it all came together when he saw them both on the floor in the garage,
"Oh No! My pooter! My cooter!"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bed time with picture book

Me: What's this?
Reed: Acorn!
Me: Actually, that's a pineapple.
Reed: Oh, MAN!