Tag Archives: Christmas

Of Cats and Ornaments

“Do you mind if we don’t put up the Christmas tree this year?” my wife asked recently.

That was surprising. She’s the sentimental one about the holidays, while I quietly grouse about lugging the dang thing up from the basement, followed by the boxes of ornaments and sundry decorations. But our kids won’t be visiting us over the holidays, and we’re hosting just one small family gathering. So I assured her I had no objections.

Then I ran the Holiday Hustle 5K and took second in my age group. The award is an ornament, which a) I wouldn’t be using, and b) I have several of already. But I took it anyway. Well, who says it has to hang on a tree? And perhaps I took it because of this memory:

What, climb that tree and play with those delicate ornaments? Never crossed my mind!

Gabby was a wee kitten when I brought home my first Holiday Hustle ornament in 2011. I kept the fragile blue ball in its protective packaging right until I brought it to the tree. As I gently placed it on the coffee table to ready a hook for it, Gabby poked her little head up. Her face was easy to read: “Ooooh, what’s that? Is it fun to play with?”

“No, you don’t!” I said, quickly picking it up and out of her reach. Relieved to have rescued it, I slipped the hook on – and missed – and dropped it. So I ended up going to Running Fit and spending ten dollars for another one, because, dammit, there was going to be a Holiday Hustle ornament on that tree.

And so there was!

The memory is bittersweet because we had to say goodbye to Gabby during the holidays last year. By the time we discovered her abdominal cancer, it was too late to treat it. The family and vet agreed it was kinder to put her down then, rather than have her suffer through a busy holiday with the house full of people and dogs. We’ll always miss her.

This year our two newest cats, Buster and Ruby, will celebrate their first Christmas with us.

Mousie on a stick is irresistible!

We adopted them in January, and they’ve provided the energy and playfulness we hoped for. (Our older cats may have a different opinion.) Perhaps it’s unfair that they won’t get the chance to bat the ornaments and climb the tree, but there are plenty of other things to play with in the house. On the other hand, this year’s ornament is unbreakable, so maybe I’ll let them have a go at it.

So our house won’t have the controlled chaos that reigned here during the holidays for so many years. And we won’t have a tree, or even any decorations on the house. The holiday week for us is setting up to be a low-key, quiet affair.

I’m looking forward to it.

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Running Into the New Year

A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my readers! I had a great time over the holidays with family and friends. And I hope you did, too!

Hope you got a visit from Santa Claus! (Or Santa Claws, as the case may be);

artemis-in-santa-hat

Hope you got to dress up in your finest;

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That you got to spend time with your loving family;

joyce-and-rachel-funny-faces

That you got exactly what you wanted for Christmas;

If you got socks for Xmas - and were happy about it - you might be a runner.

If you got socks for Xmas – and were happy about it – you might be a runner.

And, of course, I hope you got in a good run or two. Here I am with my visiting niece Stephanie and her boyfriend Austin. (They’re the good looking ones.)

me-with-austin-and-stephanie-2

In one sense it’s sad to see the year end, since it seems only yesterday I stood outside my house with this sign:

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And yet after today’s 16-miler, it’s time to close the book on my running log for 2016.

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I’m looking forward to some fun and challenging events in 2017, starting with my first race just one week away. And I’ll continue to share my adventures and misadventures alike here on this blog. Thanks again for reading and I’ll do my best to keep you entertained.

Best wishes for 2017,

Jeff

‘Tis Better to Do than to Receive

At the start of my Monday evening yoga class, we lie flat on our mats, lights dimmed, and our instructor tells us to “go to a favorite place.” This is necessary preparation; we must relax and think happy thoughts while attempting to turn ourselves into pretzels.

I take myself to hanging out at our campground up north, or running the Vasa Trail, or most often, on my bike on a beautiful summer day, riding from small town to small town just to see what comes next. Like coming across this doughnut shop in Durand, or the Civil War camp in Jonesville, or the synchronicity of riding straight to a bike shop in Ionia I didn’t know about just in time to avoid a catastrophic mechanical breakdown.

All right, my Dances with Dirt medals ARE pretty cool.

Okay, my Dances with Dirt medals ARE pretty cool.

These experiences, and the memories from them, mean far more to me than medals, or race swag, or most any “stuff” I get, whether from events or presents or whatever.

Which those dearest to me find very frustrating this particular month.

Not because of anything I’ve done, but by what I don’t. My birthday and Christmas are just a couple weeks apart, and when I’m asked, “what do you want for your birthday / Xmas” I don’t give them a lot to work with. Online wish lists have been some help, when I remember to actually put items in them.

Recently I got a desperate text from DD #1 – “WHY IS YOUR WISH LIST EMPTY?” and DD #2 texted, “Your wish list has one item! And I can’t get it til the 26th…” Even my DW pitched in, using the word “plea” in a phone call to me. I went there and added a few more things, but frankly, my heart wasn’t really in it. I was doing it more for them than for me.

I do NOT understand Christmas. The humans put up all these great toys, then tell me I can't play with them!

I do NOT understand Christmas. The humans put up all these great toys, then tell me I can’t play with them!

I came across an article online that pretty much summed up my attitude toward all this. A study found that while pleasure from getting a new “thing” fades after a few months, people place more value on their memorable experiences. That is, what they did is more important than what they have. For most of my life, other than my mandatory greedy kid phase, I’ve found it more fun to give stuff, or do stuff, rather than get stuff.

Only 500 PB&J sandwiches to go!

Only 500 PB&J sandwiches to go!

2014 was the most memorable running year I’ve ever had. And not because I filled a drawer with shirts, or a box with age group awards, or got a camp chair and cool jacket at the volunteer party. It’s the memories of the events themselves that give me the warm fuzzies, and allow me to survive yoga classes. It’s the sense of accomplishment from finishing the events, from talking to people I met on the trails, and working with the terrific events staff at setup and registration. And from many “living the moment” experiences and the feelings of gratitude from being healthy and fit enough to run, and run well.

Go and do!

Woodstock Saturday Finish (JW) - 2018

(Disclaimer: if anyone feels like sending me a gift card to my favorite running store, you won’t hear me complaining. You might even get featured on someone’s blog – which, by the way, just made the “Best of Ann Arbor Area Blogs” list for the second time.)

Seriously (for once) – I hope you all have a safe and wonderful holiday, in whatever form it takes. God bless us, every one!

Coffee Thoughts: Sharing, Preparing, and Size Matters

Coffee-related conversation overheard during the holidays:

“First I lose my sushi – now I have to share my coffee? This is Christmas? What the hell!”

DD #1 loves her coffee.

DD #1 loves her coffee.

DD #1 was lamenting the results of the Christmas Eve gift exchange, where she’d opened a do-it-yourself sushi kit, only to have it “stolen” by her equally sushi-minded cousin in exchange. Then after getting a bag of her favorite coffee on Christmas morning, I had the audacity to suggest we make some of it. (It was good, too.)

“Making coffee should be a gamble. Every time you prepare it should involve risk.”

Resistance is futile.

Resistance is futile.

With three coffee lovers around the house (DD #1, DD #2, and yours truly) for several days, there’s been increased discussion about all things coffee. So the conversation eventually turned to coffee makers, including the uber-sophisticated (and uber-priced) models at Sur La Table, and the Keurig device (yes, that thing) that is now part of the campsite up north we have with some friends. DD #2, a trained barista, shook her head and provided the comment above. Apparently she believes that making a really good cup of coffee should involve a degree of skill. Sounds a bit Luddite to me, but who am I to suggest that hard-working Americans like her be obsoleted?

“I have to use this 2-for-1 coupon. It expires today.”

While I don’t patronize this place anymore, I still own the stock. So stay thirsty, my friends!

Following last Saturday’s group run, a good friend invited me along for coffee, naming a particular Very Famous Chain Coffee Shop. I used to frequent said VFCCS, but am now spoiled by years of much superior coffee. I offered to take him to a different place that uses excellent local roasts, but he wanted to use the coupon, so I acquiesced.

I ordered a peppermint mocha. After all, how can anyone screw up a peppermint mocha? Well, this place succeeded. The coffee was so over-roasted that I found it undrinkable. Now I am not in the least ungrateful – I really appreciated his gesture, and I’m looking forward to treating him to some much better coffee.

And finally, there’s these words of wisdom I found on the Internet recently:

Take the issue of status…what should you do to get more of it? In a study led by David DuBois of HEC Paris, people who were observed choosing large coffees, pizzas, and smoothies were rated by others as having higher status…To take it one step further, surround yourself with the trappings of the salary and lifestyle you want, not the one you have.

This excerpt from the article is about trying to get noticed in the office and improving your “status” with your co-workers. Apparently the tried-and-true approaches, like speaking up, setting goals, and accepting greater responsibility, is second-rate compared to the size of your stuff. So here’s my tip to you all for getting ahead in 2014: Supersize it! 

On his way to the top! (If he doesn't explode first.)

On his way to the top, if he doesn’t explode first. Source: Oddity Mall. (Click to go there.)