Thursday, November 23, 2006

Getting energized...

We've lived in our Little White House (LWH) for over three years now. Yesterday, I figured out how to program our thermostat. It's not necessary to rush into these things, y'know.

Speaking of energy-saving measures, have you visited The Bulb Blog lately? Project Porchlight continues to brighten my day with its energy, its humour and its simple message: Change is within reach. Saving the environment is as easy as changing a light bulb. BTW, Porchlight's blog is up for 2006 Canadian Blog Awards. They're nominated in 3 categories: Best New Blog, Best Group Blog and Best Business Blog. They'll be getting my vote!

Shine on, friends.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Our NYC Marathon Story: Epilogue

EPILOGUE: A story in three screens.




Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Our NYC Marathon Story: Chapter Four


Walking appears to be an art form in mid-town Manhattan. Just like the last time we visited, I was impressed by the well-honed choreography involving pedestrians & vehicles. It helps that streets are primarily one-way, so you need only concern yourself with cars/taxis whizzing by from one direction. The ongoing dance-at-the-intersection has a rhythm, a cadence to it.

Combined with NYC's fine subway system, I found it quite easy to get where I wanted to go as a pedestrian. No need for driving. No need for taxi cabs. Sometimes, all I wanted to do was walk 'n gawk... and there was plenty of opportunity to do that too. Our hotel was just blocks away from Times Square, so we walked around there on most evenings. On race night, we opted for dinner & a movie in Times Square. Hubby was quite tired and couldn't guarantee that he'd actually stay awake through a Broadway show!

Walking also turned out to be a good post-race day activity. On Monday-after-the-race, Hubby & I walked around Rockefeller Square and eventually made our way to Central Park. I wanted to go to Strawberry Fields and see the IMAGINE mosaic. By then, we knew our time in NYC was coming to an end and we were grateful for another beautiful day weatherwise. Check out at the hotel. One last lunch in Manhattan. Hail a cab and off to the airport we go. Farewell NYC - thanks for the memories!


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Our NYC Marathon Story: Chapter Three


You know what they say, when in Rome (or NYC)... shop! And, amidst all the running around, I managed to do just that. This was my second visit to Manhattan, and I knew that I couldn't even afford to buy a hairclip at any of the stores on Fifth Avenue, so I focussed my shopping energy elsewhere.

A couple of months ago, I read an article in the local paper about shopping in NYC on a budget. One specific place the author mentioned was The Market NYC - a weekend marketplace where young designers can rent a table/stall and sell their stuff. On Saturday afternoon, with Hubby opting to stay at the hotel to "save his legs", I headed off to The Market to "spend our money". :-) Again, three cheers for the NYC subway system; turns out that my destination was a single train ride away.

Located in NoLIta, just to the east of SoHo, there lies a non-descript building just bursting with creativity. I must have spent almost 2 hours, just looking... and touching... and trying... and looking s'more... And yes, there were a lot of affordable items! I walked out of there with a gorgeous coat - it's like it was made for me! The perfect combination of fit, finesse & funk... I love it and I feel sexy & fine when I wear it!! I spent the rest of the afternoon roaming the streets of SoHo and marvelling at the sights and sounds and slowly made my way back to the hotel.

The next morning, as I watched Hubby walk to the bus stop at 5am, I noticed people setting up tables on Sixth Avenue, right in front of the hotel. Didn't think much of it until I walked out the front door later that morning to discover six full blocks of vendors, both sides of the street! Oy. I almost didn't make it to the race on time! It was a feast for the senses - colours, smells, sounds, textures... beautiful. Of course, it was total excess - cheap consumerism at its best/worst - knock-offs galore. And I ate it up. My socially conscious self seemed to have stayed behind in Ottawa. :-) I managed to spend the last of my cash on a few items: a cap to go with my new coat, "real" italian leather gloves, a genuine Dolce & Gabana knock-off handbag for my sister, a couple of gift items... All in all, great fun!

Interestingly enough, the other store that gladly accepted our credit card was Whole Foods at Columbus Circle. I believe this is where my socially conscious self was able to redeem herself. :-)


Monday, November 13, 2006

Our NYC Marathon Story: Chapter Two


Oh yeah, the race. The very "raison d'ĂȘtre" of our trip to NYC. Race day started very early for Hubby. Runners were being bussed to the start line from various locations around the city. Our hotel was only a couple of blocks from one of these bus pick-up zones (at 42nd & 6th), so Hubby was able to squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep. It's all relative though - that meant waking up around 3:45am instead of 3:30am. Busses started leaving around 4:30am and it was suggested that runners target a 5am departure. Did I mention that the actual start time for the NYC Marathon was 10:10am?!

I considered going to the bus stop with Hubby to see him off, but that would have meant getting out of bed, putting on clothes, walking to the pick-up location, walking back to the hotel, peeling off the clothes and climbing back into bed. When I stopped to think about it honestly, only the last item on that list really appealed to me. Sooo, I ended up watching him walk over from our 18th floor window. :-) I'm not a parent, but I felt what I imagine a parent might feel watching their child leave on the first day of school. Weird. There was Hubby, wearing his brand new sweats (that would keep him warm during the long wait ahead in his corral, but would later be tossed onto the road as the race began), carrying his race bag and excitedly walking to catch his bus. I was nervous for him... excited for him... proud of him... all those emotions without even being fully awake!

I was pretty much on my own from that point on. I had considered taking the subway to Brooklyn in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Hubby, but I wasn't at all familiar with the area and wasn't sure where I would pop up when emerging from underground. I decided to stay within my comfort zone. I watched the race start on TV. The local NBC affiliate had great coverage starting at 9am.

As I watched the start, it dawned on me that, although Hubby & I had confirmed that we'd meet up in the designated Family Reunion Area, we hadn't been very specific. His last initial fell somewhere within the "I - P" 4-block span... but we hadn't chosen an exact location. I got the brilliant idea to make a sign that I could hold up while walking through the crowd. Luckily, there was a Staples one block away, so after a quick stop there to buy bristol board & markers, I started crafting a sign that I knew only he would understand. (As it turns out, the family reunion area was so well organized, even within the ranges, and Hubby & I found each other within about 10 minutes of his arrival. Then again, maybe it was because of the sign after all!)

By this time, Hubby had started running... I had signed up to receive email updates every 5km; that way, I knew where he was on the race route. I headed off to 1st & 63rd, just after the 25km mark. I became part of what is known as "the wall of noise". After crossing the Queensboro Bridge (a.k.a. the 59th Street Bridge) in complete silence, runners turn north onto 1st Avenue and are greeted by thousands of cheering spectators lining the street. I waited... and I watched... I know Hubby ran by while I was there because of the email updates I was receiving. But try as I might, I didn't see him. I kept on scanning the hundreds of runners that went by, looking for the cap that I thought he was wearing. My brain was in overdrive as it scanned and eliminated hundreds of faces.

Once I received notice that he'd crossed the 30km mark, I knew I'd missed him, so I headed back towards Central Park and tried to find a spot on 59th St., just at the bottom end of the Park. There, the miracle happened. I saw him!! He was on the other side of the street, and I yelled his name as loud as I could, but to no avail. But, against all odds, I saw him. "Good Man.", I said to those around me, and off I went to the next stage: the family reunion area.

I decided to take the subway to avoid having to walk through a gazillion spectators. The map clearly showed that the B train running along Central Park West would drop me off exactly where I wanted to go. What the map didn't say was that the B train wasn't running that day due to maintenance work on the tracks. Sigh. I spent close to 25 minutes waiting for a train that would never come. I approached two of New York's finest, and asked them about alternate options. They pointed me in the right direction and I hopped onto the D train. I reached my destination, finally, and after only 15 minutes or so, found my Hubby. Oh happy day!

It took Hubby approximately one hour from crossing the finish line to his arrival in the Family Reunion Area. After waiting around a bit longer to connect with a friend who had also completed his first NYC Marathon, we headed back to our hotel. Upon entering the lobby, the security guards and the front desk staff all broke out into applause! It was quite a moment...

Hubby was pretty psyched. He has already received numerous emails from friends & family following his progress on the web. He sat down in the hotel lounge to send out a few emails... I went for a quick shop (topic of next chapter :-)) and we opted for an evening in Times Square: dinner & movie. All in all, an unforgettable day.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Our NYC Marathon Story: Chapter One

I was trying to think of a clever way to pack our entire NYC story into a single post. Not gonna happen. So, over the next few days, I'll focus on four distinct themes: Running, Racing, Shopping, Walking. First up:

Thanks to a surprising decision to join a learn-to-run group last April, and to my commitment to this new-found practice, I was able to join Hubby in a wonderful event that took place on the Saturday: the International Friendship Run. I didn't know what to expect, but I certainly didn't expect this!! Thousands upon thousands of runners representing a virtual United Nations of runners. Fittingly enough, the run started at the actual United Nations Headquarters building! We arrived, two lone runners decked in red & white with the word CANADA splashed across our back, amidst a sea of French runners singing La Marseillaise.

Suddenly, we heard: "Look! There are two Canadians!"... and that's how we met Heidi & Sylvia, two energetic sisters from the Vancouver area. Obviously, we Canadians weren't too organized as a group, and we were happy to become a clan of four. Slowly, other red & white clad runners arrived and we began to gather mass. One runner had a tall pole with a Canadian flag, and he became our beacon in the crowd. At one point during the run, someone started singing O Canada. Next thing you know, we had ourselves a rousing rendition of our national anthem going. Running AND singing at the same time?! Man, I'm in unchartered territory here...

I enjoyed seeing how runners from other countries dressed up for the occasion. There were a couple of "sumo wrestlers" from Japan, as well as runners in kimonos... A bunch of Dutch runners were hard to miss in bright orange wigs. But mostly, people were simply wearing their national colours.

The run ended up being about 4km and finished in Central Park. That's when the exchanges started. People who couldn't even speak the same language were pointing to each others running shirts with the universally understood raising-of-the-eyebrows to say "Wanna trade?!" Hubby & I weren't too sure how to go about this and just walked around watching. Then two guys approached us. They were from Brazil and we traded the sweaty shirts off our backs for two equally sweaty shirts from the Maratona do Rio de Janeiro. Hubby also got a brand new Brazil cap in exchange for his old faded Canada cap. Not a bad deal for him! As for me, what will I do with a man's large long-sleeved running shirt?! :-) Oh well, at least Antonio's wife will look sharp, running on the streets of Rio, in her new CANADA shirt.

All in all, quite an amazing experience... The NYC Marathon really does have quite an international flavour, and we tasted it for ourselves on a crisp Saturday morning, on the streets of New York. Hope you enjoy the pics!

Our Canadian contingent of two...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A story waiting to be told...

One weekend.

One Race.

37,000 Stories.

This one is ours... Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A New York Minute...

One minute, you're pulling up to the departures entrance at the airport at 4 am; next minute, you're back home wondering how the heck you managed to fit all that stuff in your suitcase! Oh, and by the way, wasn't that a great weekend...

Our trip has come and gone, in a New York minute. First of all, a HUGE shout-out to Hubby for successfully completing the NYC Marathon and for blowing his personal record OUT. OF. THE. WATER!! It was his first time breaking the 4-hour mark and break it he did - his final time was 3:33:25. He has trained really hard since his last marathon in May. He is 23 pounds lighter and quite obviously fitter & faster. Way to go, Babe!!

I'll post more info in the days to come, as well as a few pics. Just wanted to let you know that we're back... we had a great time... and all is well. We survived New York City and can't wait 'til the next time!


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saints... and then some!

As children all across the continent are nursing a sugar hangover, many people take this day to celebrate All Saints Day. My friend Mark, of Mad Chatters fame, once suggested browsing through an old edition of Lives of the Saints, just for fun. While on retreat at Stillpoint, I found a 1958 copy of "The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary". Rarely one to miss an opportunity for idle amusement, I decided to follow Mark's suggestion. Here are a few things that caught my attention:

Antony of Padua - patron saint of lost possessions and one of the few saints whose name I've actually invoked - was Portuguese, not Italian, and his real name was Fernando.

St-Crispin is one of two patrons of shoemakers. He is said to have preached the gospel in France and to have mended shoes in exchange for bread. (My great-grand-father's name was Crispin. I don't think he did much with shoes, except wear them out. )

St-Donald (8th c.) - After his wife's death, his nine daughters formed themselves into a religious community which he supervised. (Sounds downright dysfunctional to me.)

St-Eustace is the patron of hunters. He is said to have been a Roman general who was converted while hunting. He suffered martyrdom by being roasted in a bronze bull. (Talk about bad Kharma.)

St-Galla (6th c.) - Although her doctor warned her that unless she married again, she would grow a beard, this young patrician widow persevered in her resolve to become a nun. (You go, girl! Don't let the threat of facial hair keep you from pursuing your dreams...)

St-Leocadia (early 4th c.) the patroness of Toledo (Spain, not Ohio!) is said to have died there, imprisoned by her faith during the persecution of Diocletian. (My great-grandmother's name was "LĂ©ocadie". I wonder if she knew she was named after a saint?!)

Needless to say, there were a gazillion more "biographies" listed in that book. Some had paragraphs dedicated to their successes & suffering, while others had barely a complete sentence. The only common thread that I was able to find was that they were all Christian and that they were all dead... dead because they were Christian.

My family story holds that my first ancestor to set foot in North America in the early 17th century was martyred for his religious beliefs. Try as I might, I could not find his name in that book.

Peace to you on this All Saints Day...