Monday, September 23, 2013

let us pause before we eat.

Let's talk about something that may seem obvious, but needs saying.  Being a food lover, a foodie, a food blogger, a food connoisseur, a gourmet shopper all come with a plate full of assumptions and privileges. 

I appreciate thoughtful and beautiful food. Cooking is a great love and a creative outlet for me.  I love to make things from scratch, and I have the time and resources to do so.  I also have the time and resources to shop for expensive ingredients.  Something I do very often is dream up an idea for a meal, either because I saw a glossy color photo of it in a cookbook, or because I read about it on a food blog, and I head off to the grocery store for those exact ingredients to make that very meal.  I come home with an expensive bottle of walnut oil, or a package of smoked salmon, some olive tapenade or chili oil, along with piles of organic vegetables, meats and spices.

15.7% of Maine households, more than 200,000 people, are facing hunger.

Maine ranks 1st in New England for food insecurity, which means a person lacks access to enough nutritious food to lead a healthy life.

24 percent of Maine children, or nearly 1 in every 4 kids, are food insecure. 
I sometimes need these harsh reminders to be more aware of how lucky I am that I get to shop and eat the way I do, and that I have never actually been in a situation where I don't know where my next meal is coming from.  I am lucky that I get to think of food as beautiful and creative, and not just necessary.

September is Hunger Action Month, and I am taking this opportunity to remind myself, and you, that there are people all around us who are hungry.  Some of our neighbors are just scraping by.  They are not shopping for rare ingredients, reading food blogs in their spare time,  or showing off photos of their dinner on instagram. I cringe when I think about how the concept of a "juice fast," of starving yourself on purpose in order to decrease toxins in your body and create a tingly, glowing feeling in your skin would sound to a family struggling with hunger. 

The high school where I teach has a surprisingly high percentage of kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch.  It's alarming how many kids come to school each morning having not had breakfast and having no idea where dinner is coming from.  Even worse, there are many kids who would rather not eat lunch than have anyone know that they qualify for free or reduced lunch.   Some of my colleagues provide breakfast in the mornings to their students just to give them a fighting chance at being able to focus on school work for the rest of that day.

I worry that the foodie culture is elitist, leaves others out, and that it creates even more of a stigma about admitting when someone can't afford groceries, let alone organic ones.  

One thing I struggle with is how to help my kids understand how lucky they are.  They always ask, "What's for dinner?" and have never had to ask,  "Are we having dinner?"  They sit down with their family every night to a hot, healthy, balanced meal.  In our little family, dinner time has a whole mini-culture surrounding it, with expectations for conversation, manners and gratitude.  We cheer when the kids try and enjoy new foods.  They are praised for eating well.  They almost always remember to say thank you to us for preparing this meal for them.   When I pack their lunches, I am picky about what I will or will not give them. 

1 in 4 households in Maine do not look like this.  There are starving children, and they are not just in Africa, they are right here, around the corner, at the lunch table with our kids, and in our neighborhoods.  If the problem of poverty seems too huge for you to grasp, consider this line from Good Shepherd Food Bank:
"Hunger is not only a result of poverty, it perpetuates poverty. While poverty is a complex issue, feeding people is not."
Hunger is not political, or something we agree or disagree with.  No matter what you feel about legislation or fairness surrounding welfare and assistance programs, you acknowledge that every child deserves access to food.

So, what can we do?
•  Let us pause before we eat.  Make a point to be grateful for food, out loud.
•  Avoid saying or letting our children say:  "I'm starving" or "I'm going to die" if I don't get a snack right now.
•  We can continue to appreciate and celebrate food, to talk about it, blog about it, and photograph it, but let us supplement this practice with gratitude and active support for others who are less fortunate.
•  Become involved in organizations that help to support food security.  We can donate and spread the word about the need for food donations. 
•  Take your kids with you to donate food, or help prepare meals at a food pantry or soup kitchen.
•  Talk to your kids about hunger. Make it less of a stigma.  "Sometimes, moms or dads lose their job and money is tight and families can't always afford to shop for food."
•  Donate!  Good Shepherd Food Bank does incredible work in Maine, and their website has a lot of great information.
•  Run the Turkey Trek!   If you are a local, please join us again, or for the first time, for the Annual Turkey Trek, a 4-mile trail run or walk in the Bangor City Forest on Thanksgiving Day. The entry fee for this group run/ walk is a donation of food to Good Shepherd Food Bank, and it is a great way to show gratitude, help our community, and get some fresh air and exercise on Thanksgiving morning.   Check back here for details.

Eat well.  Be thankful.  Help each other.  xo

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

all things fall

First, two photos from events gone by. A SMILING finish-line photo from Pumpkinman! See? I really do like these long, hard races. Well, I especially love finishing them.

Second, the best of the family photo shoot in Montana.  When I see this, I think:  what an amazing week, AND how I miss my dad.

And now here we are, well into fall and our school routine.  The kids are getting used to early wake-ups, we have a homework routine that seems to be working, and every weekday is busy with either soccer, swim, or piano lessons.

muddy girl, powerful girl
I am very happy about fall baking and cooking.   We have even had the wood stove going on cool mornings. So much goodness, and it all makes me feel so wholesome and warm.  And crafty! 

We of course had a September trip to the farm for hay rides and goat feeding. 

We took the corn maze challenge and survived, though it was actually really tricky!
Where are we?  Dunno!

And we filled two big bags of apples.  When Skyler eats one, she says:  "I love fresh-picked apples."  That's my girl. 

Other favorite things about fall:  running in shorts and long sleeve shirts, pumpkin chocolate chip bars, cooking in the slow cooker, and watching the RED SOX roll into the playoffs.  How 'bout them apples?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Race Report: Pumpkinman Half Ironman Triathlon 2013

After all the excuses I made for myself last week about how under-trained I was for Pumpkinman 70.3, it turns out, I did just fine.

 I brought all this stuff with me to the race; my favorite part of triathloning is the packing and organizing.

While I acknowledge I could have trained harder for this race, I did have a lot of things going for me:  I was relaxed, didn't have any pressure on myself, and the weather forecast turned from "cold and rainy" to "beautiful and perfect."

I walked down the finish line chute on Saturday when I checked in, just to say hey to the end of the race. 

Saturday night I had amazing wood-fired pizza at When Pigs Fly in York with Meredith and kids.  The star of the food show was butternut squash and carmelized onion pizza with sage.  YUM.
And Rozzy made me this beautiful sign.  I kept thinking about it during the race.  When I got tired, I thought:  "Get strong."  Rozzy told you to.

Tim had to work late on Saturday night, and I convinced him he did not need to drive the 3 hours on Sunday morning just to see me for a few minutes.

I ate that awesome, huge dinner, and then slept so soundly in bed at the hotel.  I got up at 430 and  arrived at the race site dark and early.  As the sun came up, I got my stuff set up, scoring the coveted end spot on the bike rack.

SWIM:  Waiting for the swim, I ran into my friend Mary and caught up a bit.   We were in mid sentence when her wave was supposed to walk into the water to start.  Go Mary!  I started in the 7th wave and my swim was mostly all good, except that I added some unnecessary distance by straying too far to the right of the buoys a few times, and I had about a 30 second panic attack that I talked myself out of. Not sure what that was about; there were just too many people touching and kicking me and I lost my breath for a little bit.  I wanted to quit for half a second, but somehow snapped out of it and then got into a good groove.

 The water temp was perfect.  I had to weave around people a lot more than I remember, and that was a little annoying, but it was good.  It was fine.  When I got out of the water, I looked at my watch and I was about a minute faster than last year.  Nice.

BIKE:  I got on my bike without incident and got myself going.  After the first 5 miles, I found my pace and felt strong.  I reminded myself that I was having fun.  This is fun!  You are happy!  You love this!    The course is beautiful, but it had more hills than I remembered. 

I lost a few minutes on the bike for a stupid reason.  The Bento Box that I have on my bike (a little black bag that velcros to the top tube and holds gels and bars) was missing a strap so it was hanging upside down instead of right-side-up, and not once but TWICE, it opened up and dumped out all of my fuel.  I had to stop and get off my bike TWICE to retrieve the stuff I lost on the road.  Despite this malfunction, I ate a peanut butter-jelly sandwich and a marathon bar and drank two bottles of Nuun.  I had a lot less pain in my body this time which I attribute to my new seat and correctly-adjusted bike.  I also took 2 advil on the bike which seemed to help a lot.

The volunteers were SO nice on the course.  The best volunteers were at the bottle hand-up that was stationed on a hill.  They were yelling just what you need to hear when you're tired:  "LOOK AT THAT TRUE GRIT!  YOU ARE KILLING IT!"  Seriously, Pumpkinman folks, you are the best volunteers ever.  The course is a double loop so I got to hear that twice on the course.

I don't know what else to say about the bike except I knew I had lost some time (my pace was about 1/2 a mile per hour slower than last year) and I was so ready to be done.  I was so happy to see the turn to the transition area.  Thank god I get to get off of this bike.  56 miles.  Done.

Right outside the spot where I dismounted, I saw Tim and Hillary and two of Hillary's friends yelling for me.  Those sneaky little devils.  And how sweet it was to see their faces.  

They switched to the other side while I changed into running stuff, so when I came down the hill, I got to high five them again and they got these two pics.  See how much of a boost you get from seeing people you love when you are so tired?

RUN:  My brain was so mushy at this point.  I knew I was behind my overall time because of the bike, so I just figured I'd keep falling behind on the run.  I ran the first mile at a good pace because it's all downhill.  The second and third miles were really slow.  I just didn't have enough energy to have any kick, so I just moved forward as best I could.  I saw Tim and Hillary again at mile 3.  Again, huge burst of energy to see them.  At that point in the course, you begin the hilly out and back that you have to repeat twice.

Again, I figured that I was going to be way behind my time because I was already behind.  It didn't occur to me that I might actually make up some time on the run.  The mind-body thing is so huge, as we all know, and I was actually TELLING myself that I was too tired to run very hard.  But my body was feeling better than my mind was letting it believe.  Somehow, I cracked through this nonsense and started running a little harder.

I felt pretty good, and I was running.  I was actually holding a decent pace despite walking through water stops and up a couple of hills. I was ahead of the pace for the previous year's run.   I started doing some math in my head and realized I could come pretty close to last year's overall time if I just held on.  But part me thought maybe I was way off, or my watch had stopped and then restarted.  Is this a cruel trick? Just hold on, I kept saying. 

I again enjoyed the pretzels, coke, bananas, and best of all:  cold, wet sponges!  The volunteers were so kind and supportive.  The run had some blessed shade, as the sun was pretty strong at this point.

I saw Tim again at mile 8 and he said:  "See you in a few minutes at the end!"  Amazing that I was already at mile 8.  Only 5 to go. 

I started to really hurt at mile 10, but I was still running.  And I was still doing well on the time, too.  I was more surprised than anyone that I was feeling so good.  Of course, during miles 10-13, all the good vibes were gone, and I was left repeating: "Ouch, ouch, ouch.  I want to be done, done, done."

There is no better relief than getting to the top of that long finish line chute at the top of the grassy hill and hearing the music blasting below.  I just let gravity pull me to the finish.  Tim was on my right and I smiled.  I think I smiled.  I was so happy to be there and to see him.

In true form, I got my medal and finisher's shirt, and then I sobbed on Tim's shoulder.

So good.  So tired.  So happy. 

I did end up shaving 5 minutes off of the run, so my final time was: 6:46.17.  Only two minutes off of last year's time, and well below my goal of "please don't let this take me more than 7 hours." I will happily take that.

Swim:  37:31
Bike:   3:29.35 (16 mph)
Half Marathon:  2:33.12

Tim sat with me while I ate the post race meal.  Does the Pumpkinman give you bagels and bananas?  Oh no.  Pumpkinman feeds you turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans and salad on real plates under a big, festive tent.  

If you are looking for a triathlon, I HIGHLY recommend this race.  They have a sprint distance race on Saturday and the Half Iron on Sunday.  It's a perfect, friendly, lovely race. 

This morning, I am sore.  But so happy.

The end.  :)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

all summer in a blur

How much fun can you have in one summer?

Besides some amazing vacations, these kids have had a ton of fun right here at home.

A day at the skate park!

Maine days on lakes with friends.

Skyler and Ella, friends since birth

This summer we've been taking care of Ellis' kitty, Skeeter, until Ellis is settled in his home this fall.  My kids are deeply in love.  There has been round-the-clock campaigning for a kitten.  It is currently under advisement. 

A beautiful day at Bangor's American Folk Festival.

Suzanne and Sandi tearing it up on the contra dance floor.

A trip to the amusement and water park in Southern Maine, Funtown Splashtown USA, otherwise known as "BEST DAY EVER!"


We learned to ride our bikes on the trails.  So much fun.

Pedicures for girls only.

Lots of hanging time with the big kids.

The big kids are back to college, and the little ones are totally ready for their new start.  It turns out, Reed is very interested in fashion this year.

mugging in the dressing room.
 While Reed is incredibly particular, Skyler still lets me pick out her clothes. 

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!  First and Third Grade.  Oh my goodness.

Our first morning back went perfectly.  I didn't even tell them to do "thumbs up." 

Good luck to all of you starting new chapters.  xo