Saturday, December 28, 2019

One Season at a Time

Today is December 28, 2019, and for the first time since we've been married, I just now finished our Christmas cards. I've always gotten them out before the holiday. However, this year has been a doozy.

2019 has not necessarily been a bad year, although I am ready to kick it to the curb. There have, like any year, been some great parts and some terrible parts. In a job like mine, you can assume there are bad parts that I can't talk about publicly because I value hurt children's privacy, even if you will never know them. There have been some other parts that have challenged me in ways I wasn't anticipating.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Race Report: NY Freaking C Marathon

As you know, I got into the NYC Marathon by lottery in 2018. It was exhilarating to have gotten in! And then... well, then 2018 happened, and I spent a lot of time in PT and not running. I didn't actually restart running until January, and rebuilt at a snail's pace, all for the goal of getting to one race: NYC 2019.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Over and Back

I woke up a couple of nights ago and didn't know where I was, when I was supposed to get up or what I was supposed to be doing.

It turned out I was at home and it was a weekend.

By the end of the year, I will have been in 8 countries and 8 states (I think). Most recently, I was in Uganda for a work trip... including my first ever equator crossing!

I landed relatively late at night into the international airport in Entebbe and, after a few calls and some waiting, had a ride to my hotel in Kampala, about 45 minutes no-traffic-at-night drive away. I was picked up at my hotel about 7 hours later for another, albeit very different flight. We pulled up to the dirt airstrip, where my office had made arrangements with Missionary Aviation Fellowship, an international organization that specializes in sending pilots all over the world for just this kind of thing, to fly us out of the city to a new programmatic area of the country. We had to go early as the weather had been rainy, and we had to get back before dark, as neither the airstrips nor the planes had lights.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

What Goes Up...

Three years ago today, I finished the Pikes Peak Ascent and was so high I promised I would do the full marathon.

Two years ago today, I finished the Pikes Peak Marathon.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Who Changes Your Sheets?

It's no secret I travel, quite a lot. I stay in a lot of hotels, and I eat in a lot of restaurants, which means someone else is often making my bed and preparing my food. These people work hard, are on their feet most of the day, and are exposed to environmental hazards that go long with their work.

  • Housekeepers are exposed to harsh chemicals, disease and illness, have to clean bodily fluids, and are frequently targets of sexual harassment, as well as physical and sexual assault  - primarily because the overwhelming majority of the 924,000 people serving in this role according the the US Labor Department's 2018 statistics are women.  For some horrifying case examples, I suggest you read Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky, an excoriating expose on the hotel industry. 
  • Prep cooks face cuts, burns, exposure to toxins, food-borne illness and work in hot kitchens with slick floors, often with poor ventilation. Anthony Bourdain explores these worlds in Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw, which are good if vulgar, reads. There is something on order of 1.2 million prep cooks in the US.

Interestingly, these two positions, hotel housekeeper and prep cook, have nearly identical average wages: $12.30/hour, according to the US Bureau of Labor (although other sources cite lower average hourly wages).

$12.80 an hour means a gross annual pay of $25,584/year, but only if you work exactly 40 hours a week, all 52 weeks a year. No vacation, no sick days, no time-off to take your child to the doctor or enroll them in school. It also assumes you are 100% on-time, your car never breaks down or the bus is late, you never have to attend a funeral or jury service, and nothing unexpected ever happens on a work day.  This also assumes that you can get scheduled for 40 hours a week, meaning the restaurant is never slow on a Monday or the hotel has a midweek slump in reservations, or the boss just hired an additional person so everyone's hours get cut by a few.

However, if you are just getting your first job in the industry and you are a new employee, chances are you are making under the average salary.

In sum, it won't take much less than that 40 hours/week for 52 weeks to qualify these full-time restaurant and hotel workers for Medicaid or food stamps, depending on the state you live in and the formula the state uses to determine eligibility (133% percent of the poverty line? 200%? Only if you are pregnant or have children? That determination alone is a cluster that the federal government has basically admitted is totally not clear NOR consistent!)

And you know the overwhelming majority of people in these positions?


Monday, August 12, 2019

Donkey Deuce

So, I am back to training for another marathon (NYC in November), but this was not a part of my training plan. However, as many of you know, Eric and I have developed something of a tradition when it comes to running with pack animals. Four years ago, we tried our hand (hooves) at at the Donkey Derby, and ended up winning the thing. The trophy is still in our basement. Since then, I've participated in a couple of runs with burros, which were essentially 5Ks with donkeys mixed in.

However, since that first race, Eric has been talking about defending our title.

In the intervening years, it hasn't worked out for one reason or another, to go back to Cripple Creek to see if we still could get lightning to strike twice.

Until this summer.

Donkey Redux.

Monday, July 22, 2019

D*#n You, Hanks

I’m not the most interesting man in the world, and I’m certainly not Walker, Texas Ranger, but I have a relative amount of toughness. I mean:
I’ve run Pikes Peak so many times I have Barr Trail memorized.
I once had to take cover from a gang shooting.
I’ve flown all the way around the world in a single trip. Twice.
I ran a 24 hour trail relay while experiencing listeria.
I’ve had a seven year old show me their tattoo.
I ate ox testicles. Once.
I finished a marathon with a broken femur, torn hamstring and several other injuries, then got on an overseas flight.
I’ve dealt with hundreds of cases of physical and sexual abuse.
I once sent an Emmy winning actress a video she requested that included extremely unflattering commentary about her (unknowingly), then did nothing when I found out about the additions.
I got into a public dispute with an elected official over Facebook and won.

But the new trailer for the Mr. Rogers movie?

Yea, I was a total mess watching that. The moment Daniel Tiger showed up, I was gone.

Damn you, Tom Hanks.

I bet Chuck Norris cried at that preview too.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Planned Parenthood

This is not the post I was intending to write today. In fact, there are a couple of other, much nicer posts in the hopper.

However, while Eric and I were hiking around in the Petrified Forest today as we Opted Outside (which, by the way, we had planned before REI got in on the game), a man entered the Planned Parenthood in the city where we live, opened fire, returned fire toward police officers, hitting 5 and killing one, at least as far as we know right now. There are also reports, which are a little scattered at the moment, that this man may have brought explosives or propane tanks into the clinic with them. Time and the Colorado Springs police will sort this out and we'll know the truth eventually.

Make no mistake though: no matter what this man's reason was for engaging in this heinous act, it will be about Planned Parenthood. The victims will be mourned, the survivors will be interviewed, and, by turns, the sides will line up. One side will use this as a reasoning to throw dispersions at the other, and your Facebook newsfeed is going to blow up, whichever side of the line you end up on, if it hasn't already.

Before the hysteria begins, I'd like to offer this: Planned Parenthood is a complicated organization. To those of you who Stand with Planned Parenthood, you need to recognize that some of the bad rap this organization has gotten is deserved, especially in recent weeks. Even the most ardent supporter I hope would recognize that the (even if highly edited) videos that emerged show that your organization has problems. To those of you who would defund at least, and shutter at best, Planned Parenthood clinics across the US, please understand that while abortion is certainly the most controversial reason why people (primarily but not exclusively) women use their services, it is not the only or even the most often purpose we go there.

I am a former Planned Parenthood client, and I want you to understand my story, because 10 years ago, if this tragedy had happened, I could have been in that clinic.

For a long time, and certainly well before today's events, I've debated sharing this part of my history. Frankly, it is absolutely no one's business what medical services I engage in or why I need them. However, I am increasingly uncomfortable with the rhetoric on both sides of the debate over Planned Parenthood existence, when, especially the characterization from the right, does not match with my own experience.

So, here we go.

When I was in undergrad, I started to have a lot of problems with my period (oh goodness! She said period! Yep... I'm going there.) To say they were "off" would be an understatement. Sometimes, they would be 14 days apart. Sometimes, 42 days would go by. My hormones were all over the map, and they dragged my emotions with them. I was a wreck. I sobbed over not being able to find my dorm room key. I got so angry at the worship leader I was working with over song selection that I had visions of throwing a hymnal at his head (I didn't). I failed a abnormal psychology test because I couldn't focus (yes, I see the irony there) I had roommates who each had the patience of a saint, because they listened and offered Kleenex WAY too many times over issues that totally didn't matter. MaryJane, Mindi, Anna, Dana, and Marianna, if I didn't say it then, thank you, and I'm sorry. Eric lived through this too and didn't run for the hills. I am a lucky woman.

I tried a lot of different things to try to get things under control. I took Evening Primrose Oil. I went to the health clinic. I tried to exercise. Nothing worked. I had read up that birth control could help, but I really didn't want to go on birth control. I didn't think that birth control would fit with who I understood myself to be, and I was worried that people would see me as some sex-driven college co-ed if anyone knew I was taking it.

But I felt awful, all the time. I finally listened when the college health clinic told me it was basically the only thing that was going to regulate my hormones. I went to the doctor, where my experience was horrible. I explained how I was feeling, asked if there were any other options, and explained my hesitations about going on the Pill. In response, I was grilled by the doctor, questioned, basically told that she didn't believe that I wasn't sexually active ("you have a boyfriend, how does HE feel about this??), but eventually, she reluctantly prescribed me Otho-Tri-Cyclen.

Though all of this, my mom was really supportive (thank goodness.) She saw what I was going through and researched and investigated possible solutions with me. She was ok with my eventual decision to go on the Pill. There was only one problem though: our insurance didn't cover birth control. Never say my mom can't be a mother tiger at times - this woman went to TOWN on Blue Cross, demanding that they cover the medication I so desperately needed, especially since BCBS had recently started covering Viagra! The inequity of it drove her mad.

But we lost. And at $35/month, I couldn't afford the medication on my college student budget.

Enter Planned Parenthood.

I don't know who referred me to them, but I eventually went. I remember really clearly driving to the clinic in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I was scared. I didn't want to go. I had "heard things" about Planned Parenthood. I was afraid there would be protesters outside. I was afraid of what people would think if they saw me going there. I was afraid of what the clinicians would say, especially since the actual doctor didn't really believe what was going on with me. I was sure that they would just assume that I wanted to go have sex with whomever without consequences. But I needed the pills at a cost I could afford, so I sucked it up and went.

I was wrong. The clinicians were really kind. No one pressured me about the sex I was or wasn't having. I felt like they listened. They understood what I was going through and they understood that medication was expensive, and they had options for me. I could purchase birth control from them for less than half of what I would have to pay at the pharmacy, and even less if I bought multiple-months at one time. (And there were no protesters outside.)

I ended up going to Planned Parenthood for several years, through college, after, and into the first couple of years of our marriage, where we were just starting out, didn't have good insurance and even less money. I used Planned Parenthood clinics in multiple cities, with the same experience each time.

I know that my experience isn't going to change anyone's mind about Planned Parenthood. You have your own opinion, with your own reasons. I just hope, in what I am sure will be a time of heightened tensions and probably some outlandish statements, you'll take into consideration my experience as nuance that may swim upstream of the river of talk headed your way.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Flat Earth

So, not too terribly long ago, the parking lot at my work was subject to one of what, in my opinion, may be one of the most interesting visits possible.

I mean, like unicorns, yetis or a selfless politician, I was pretty sure they didn't exit. 

And then, there on the ground in the parking lot, was proof they did.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Except for Snow and Rain and Sleet and Probably Dark of Night

Welcome back to my blog! I know, 2018 wasn't a great blogging year. I traveled to 13 different
countries, broke my butt, worked a million hours, and ended the year with so little energy I couldn't even get out our annual Christmas letter. I also took a significant break from social media, am not sure about getting back on, and changed my name on my account due to some heavy cases I'm working. My butt is fixed, I'm still working a zillion hours, but I get a couple months reprieve on the travel and I've reluctantly agreed to at least post this blog to Facebook, so here goes nothing.

And by "nothing" I mean our postal carrier.