Monday, December 20, 2010

26.2 what????

I have been thinking. . .OK, dangerous at times, I know.
But, I have run two marathons, the second one 24 minutes faster than the first (that's nearly a minute a mile faster, for those keeping track). The goal both times was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Each five-year age group (both men and women) has a specific time in which to run a marathon in order to qualify to the uber-prestigious Boston race. The second marathon, Indianapolis, I missed Boston by 1:30 minutes. I was pretty bummed about that until I broke my left foot two months later. If I had qualified, I wouldn't have been able to run it in 2008 anyway. And I was able to visit my sister, who lives in Indy. It was a good weekend regardless.
As I have gotten older, I have come to realize that things tend to happen for a reason. So, there's the reason I didn't qualify for Boston in 2007.
So, as I had moderate success at the half-Ironman I did last September, I am thinking I could put in the time to train for another marathon.
I signed up for the Bay State Marathon last year, thinking I would shoot for Boston (too bad in 2011 it's the same day as the inaugural Empire State Marathon right here in good ol' Syracuse). The race director was kind enough to let me defer my race entry until 2011, after I explained my impending foot surgery.
This is what I'm thinking: train for the Bay State Marathon while at the same time competing in triathlons. Since I'm losing four months of training while my foot heals, I won't be doing a half-Ironman in 2011 anyway. If I qualify for Boston--the time for my age group is 4:05:59--great! If I don't, great! Who cares? I will have just completed a marathon.
Sure, Boston is great, but it's also very expensive and has gotten incredibly difficult to register for--registration closed for the 2011 version hours after it opened. I don't need that kind of stress! I just want to run a marathon.
So, that's what I'm thinking.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Deliberate Acts of Kindness

In the delightful movie Harvey, Jimmy Stewart tells of how his mother advised him that in this life, you can be either smart or pleasant. "Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant." Now, I would never expect anything but scholastic achievement from my children, but there's no reason they can't be smart and pleasant. Especially when one member of the family is off her feet.
Herewith, are some non-random acts of kindness that the five children have bestowed upon me since I came home from surgery Thursday night:
1. My daughter, 21, is continually checking on me via text message. She is embroiled in finals at Oswego, so this is the best she can do.
2. My son, almost 19, who thankfully finished up at Onondaga Community College on Thursday, stuck around all day yesterday (until his stepfather came home) to make sure I was all right. When I told him he should go Christmas shopping at the mall, he said, "I'm not going to leave you." Later, bored out of my skull, I asked if he wanted to watch "The Price is Right" with me. "Sure," he said.
3. I was attempting to hobble down the stairs by myself (independent Annie and all), and the 17-year-old immediately jumped up and said, "Do you need help?" I didn't have to ask.
4. One especially kind move by the 13-year-old was to bring me some red licorice. Apparently, the bus driver hands out candy on Fridays, and she made sure to tell the driver her stepmom had had surgery, and then made sure to bring me one of my favorite candies!
5. The 6-year-old: she has painted me 11 pictures since I got home. In fact, last night we had to shoo her to bed, she was still painting!
Now if that isn't kindness, I don't know what is. Thanks, kids, for showing me that I am important to you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

RIP, Mrs. Russell

One of my favorite teachers died yesterday. Mrs. Nancy Russell taught social studies in sixth grade, ninth grade and 10th grade. To my knowledge, no other teacher had that much access to students in the VVS school district. I could be wrong, but it hardly matters. She taught me to love social studies, so much that when it was suggested I major in history in college, I jumped at it.
I remember several things about Mrs. Russell, especially once I hit high school. She was a teeny-tiny woman, a size 0 at most. Though small, she could command a room, but not in an overbearing way. She was good at getting, and keeping, your attention.
Her engagement ring was the most unusual I have ever seen--a huge black pearl, which looked ginormous on her tiny finger. I remember her telling us about how she preferred black pearls to diamonds--the things you remember, eh?
And I remember when I came back from the eye doctor, having gotten glasses, and she coaxed me into putting them on for the first time. Age 14 is a tough time for everyone--add eyeglasses into the mix, and it's really embarrassing. But she was wonderfully supportive, and generous in her praise for how "good" they looked on me.
Thank you, Mrs. Russell, for being a super teacher, a good friend and one of the consistent adults in my adolescence.
I hope my school-days friends will comment on this blog, if only as a way to pay tribute to a super lady.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Resolved: No Resolutions

I am not a big believer in New Year's resolutions. I mean, why wait until the first of the year to think about and implement changes. If you're thinking a mere once a year about improving yourself, it seems to me you're doomed to fail; shouldn't you be thinking about getting better every single day?
That said, I rather prefer to refer to them as goals. It turns what are negatives into positives.
So, instead of "I will lose 10 pounds" (oh, the work those five words dredge up!), how about "I will run 35 miles a week" or "I will strength-train three days a week." Already we feel better because the goal is action-oriented. And those five pounds will pretty much take care of themselves.
"I will quit drinking" sounds like you're beating yourself up. Try instead, "I will replace the alcohol I drink with water or herbal tea." Ahhhh, so much more soothing.
And of course there's no reason to wait until the turn of a new year to get to work! You can start running tomorrow, and take a glass to work that you will keep full of water (after you've already emptied it, of course).
So, here are a few of my Fitness Goals for 2011. Some I can implement while I'm recuperating from foot surgery. Some will have to wait until the doctor sends me on my way (April 11, I'm hoping--my 50th birthday).
Run another marathon; if I qualify for Boston, so be it. I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't.
Mix up my race selections. I did this last year and we enjoyed going to new places to compete, Shoreline Triathlon, Loop Around the Lake. We look at these as mini-vacations, day trips to new places. It's even more of an adventure that way. And our tradition is to get breakfast afterwards; upstate New York truly has an eclectic collection of diners, with interesting characters sitting at every table.
Practice yoga once a week, and joyfully. Some days I just don't want to, but here's what I've discovered about yoga--you always, always, always feel better after challenging your hamstrings in downward-facing dog.
I'll leave you here with a biggie, one that is very difficult for me, though it's more and more essential as I face my 50s--rest; every 10 days, take a day off.
In a few months, we'll check back and see how I'm doing. As it is, I have printed off a list of 10 goals and will tape them to my dresser mirror.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Waiting. . .

I am looking at eight days until my foot surgery, and while I'm not relishing the thought of being unable to use my foot for five weeks I also realize the problem has to get fixed. Since I scheduled the surgery for Dec. 10 I've been running some (not at all fast), racing when I could (just because I can), swimming often and biking when the weather cooperates. I'm still lifting weights and practicing yoga, but at this point it's all to keep some amount of fitness. It's hard for me to believe that two months ago I finished, in a respectable time, a half-ironman triathlon.
Still, I anticipate the surgery to fix a bunion and dislocated second toe because I know I'll come through it a better, stronger athlete. I'll be entering a new age group in 2011 (50-54), competing against some of the strongest women athletes I know. I've had it easy these last few years because they have bumped up in age. Now I'll have to work hard just to be able to chase them.
Competing against the sisterhood is one reason I enjoy competing at all. We are all so supportive of each other, even though we all want to win!
So, my plan is to rest up as long as the doctor says I have to (which will be verrrrry difficult for me), and start upper body and ab work as soon as he gives his approval. Then after five weeks he should be able to take the pin out of my toe and I can get back into the pool. With luck, I can walk/run starting in March. I have already signed up for an Olympic-distance triathlon, July 31. That should give me plenty of time to train enough to at least finish the distance. That'll be a good race to gauge my progress and proceed from there.
I am in no way whining about this surgery; I know this is a blip, especially when I look at folks suffering from a chronic disease, or dealing with cancer. But it's my reality and I'm trying to make the best of it.
See you on the roads in April!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Injury to Insult

For me, injuries are the most humbling aspect of being an endurance athlete. You feel invincible, you just ran a 4-hour marathon, you just completed (in respectable time) a half-ironman triathlon, and gradually you are slowed by a pain that seems to appear out of nowhere. In reality, you've ignored it for months, hoping it will go away.
2007 was my best year ever--I set a PR (personal record) in every distance I raced, and missed qualifying for Boston by less than two minutes. I was regrouping from that disappointment when, snap!, the second metatarsal on my left foot snapped in two. I had felt pain in that area for weeks, the result of a stress fracture, but not knowing what a stress fracture felt like, I just kept on running.
The day the doctor put me in a cast I cried like a baby, and I kept crying for a few weeks, my dear, supportive husband patiently tolerating my fits. Six weeks later, the cast was off and I gingerly started a run/walk regimen. Eventually I got my groove back until first the left hamstring, then the right hamstring, then the piriformis muscle sent me screaming for the Aleve and the chiropractor.
Each time I have gotten injured, I have gotten angry about it. It just seemed so unfair, at first. But then it causes you to reassess, back off a bit and change some aspect of training, whether it's biking more and running less or working to strengthen those ever-vital hamstrings.
This latest injury started acting up some time in March. I have gotten two cortisone shots to try to alleviate the discomfort I feel at the ball of my right foot. The fact that they didn't work led the doctor to refer me to a podiatrist, who took one look at the foot and immediately diagnosed the problem.
So. . .I will be having foot surgery in December. It's not going to be pleasant or pretty, but it is necessary if I plan to keep competing. The bunion I have developed will not go away; the only way to manage it is for a doctor to operate. He has said I will be out of commission 3-4 months, but, given my obviously high tolerance for pain, it could be 2-3 months. That dashes my plans for a lot of triathlons next year--I don't want to register for races I might not be able to swim/bike/run, and the registrations close so quickly I might just be out of luck. That one we'll wait and see on.
Once I have the go-ahead I will get back in the pool, back on the bike, back into my running shoes, healthier and pain-free. So this will short-term discomfort for long-term gain; not a bad tradeoff.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Managing the Malaise

I read it very well might happen, but I didn't think it would happen to me: the post-race blues. Since I never suffered through postpartum depression after my two kids were born, I didn't think this would affect me--but it has.
So despite my personal triumph in the Syracuse Half-Ironman, that high has not translated.
Some mornings I sleep until 6:30, even though the alarm is set for 4:30. Some mornings, I run 3 miles instead of 7. Some mornings, I just don't want to get on my bike, so I don't. I've had a flat tire for about a week, and I just don't feel in any rush to get it fixed (though I'm buying a new tube today).
The pool? While the thought of gliding through the warm water comforts me, I just don't feel like hassling with leaving work, changing, swimming, showering, changing and going back to work. Seems like too much trouble these days.
Now part of the issue could be this nagging right-foot pain I've suffered with for about six months. Some days it's better than others, Aleve helps, and it doesn't hinder my running; it just makes it less enjoyable than usual. I am seeing a podiatrist next Friday, and hope for some definitive answers, and a solution to the problem. I'd even consider surgery; at least then the issue won't keep popping up.
I signed up to race a 5-miler in Eastwood on Sunday; somehow I'm still able to run fairly quickly, though my speed isn't what it used to be. Training more for endurance, plus the foot pain, kept me away from the track all season.
So, I'll keep pushing through this haze, planning my workouts, likely upping my weight work to three times a week since biking falls off when the weather worsens, and think about running a half-marathon in April. If I need foot surgery, that would give me plenty of time to heal and recover and train. Either way, having a goal should help dispel the malaise that has descended. I can only hope.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Syracuse 70.3 Ironman

I enjoyed the most amazing experience over the weekend. On Sunday, Sept. 19, the inaugural Syracuse 70.3 Ironman competition invaded the city. After catching the triathlon bug last year, I decided I would train for a half ironman and participate the year I turned 50--2011. In the interim, this race was announced for 2010, in my home town. Well, I decided, it's a sign, so I registered and got to work.
It's a huge leap from a sprint distance to a half distance triathlon, so there was a lot of work to be done. I had no idea how much time it would take, so I was very conservative on all my estimated times for the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run. Glad to say, I bested all my goals and finished that monster in 6 hours, 41 minutes and 42 seconds, a good 1:20 before I expected to. With so much time to think on the race course, I decided that a different way to blog about my experience would be to present my Top 10 List of Favorites about the Syracuse 70.3 Ironman (with apologies to David Letterman).
So, here goes:
10. Overcoming my usual self-doubt dance at the start of the swim. It usually takes me about 10 minutes to settle down and talk myself out of quitting altogether. This happens every race.
9. On the ascent that is the first 12 miles of the bike ride, the visibility became less and less as the drizzle increased. Almost near the top, a fellow cyclist said to me as he passed, "We're riding into the clouds." How poetic!
8. After emerging, a little loopy from the swim, I was greeted with wetsuit strippers. What a treat! They saved me a good 4 minutes in transition (wetsuits are notoriously difficult to peel).
7. Eating the first cheeseburger I've enjoyed in at least three years. This one had cheddar cheese and mushrooms, and was medium-rare. I even ate the bun and had some onion rings on the side.
6. I had strategized that I would run-walk as I needed to, until the final mile, when I would run. Well, I never stopped running, just kept putting one foot ahead of the other.
5. Seeing my name chalked on North Salina Street, just past the mile 11 water stop (thanks, Mary!).
4. The aid stations that went to some trouble to decorate themselves--the parrotheads on mile 15 of the bike, and the cows on mile 3 of the run. A corollary would be seeing friends who volunteered to staff those aid stations (Jean, Brendan, Jade and Jeff, Chris, Mindy Lu, Mary and Patti), and hearing them cheer me on.
3. The swarthy dude who passed me on the bike, and said as he went by, in an incredibly thick Eastern European accent: "Lady, you rrrrrrrock!"
2. Not only finishing, but finishing way before I ever expected to.
1. Having my husband and at least one child watch me finish. Triathlon is a family sport, because it requires the support and patience of those who are home while you are out swimming, biking, running, sometimes for four hours at a time. Thanks to every one of you!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Since we are all human, I'm sure we all wish we could go back in time and fix a d'oh! moment we had, or respond to someone in a way we didn't think of until 15 minutes, or 15 days, later.
Herewith is one of the biggest d'oh! moments of my life, something that, if I could go back and do all over again, I would, with satisfying results.
In 10th grade, we had the coolest English teacher ever, Mr. Cuthbertson. It was 1976. He always strove to give us, his honors students, assignments that went beyond reading comprehension. He wanted us to interconnect what we were "forced" to read with the world at large, put the book into cultural context, while also weaving in the popular music, art and movies of the time the book was written. He really was trying to give us a college English experience, but we didn't realize it at the time.
Anyway, a popular assignment was for us to choose a song, interpret that song, and then present our interpretation to the class. It was interesting to hear the music my classmates were into, such as "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac and "Casey Jones" by the Grateful Dead, never my favorite band, but huge among the Class of '79.
I was, and still am, a huge Beatles fan, and since I always was a bit of a loner, I chose not to pair up with anyone. My song of choice was "A Day in the Life," from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, what many consider the Beatles' best album. I do not share that view, but it still has some pretty amazing songs and the last song of the album is one of the Beatles' best, a true collaboration between John and Paul, or so I thought.
The song is ripe for interpretation, and I studiously went to the library, researching every lyric, every scene, every change in music. Then came project presentation day.
After giving my talk, a fellow student asked what I thought of the abrupt tempo change in the middle of the song, and the fact that Paul's vocals take over from John's, if only for a minute or two. So what did little Miss English Major say, how did I respond? I didn't hesitate: "I really don't know."
Whaaaaa??? After all the work I had done to prepare and Jeff Hatcher asking me a reasonable question, what did I do? I choked.
So, Jeff, Mr. Cuthbertson and the rest of my 10th grade English class at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School, here is my response, 34 years later.
The change in tempo actually represents two things--one is the transformation from the dreamlike feel of the song to an everyday, humdrum, rush-to-work feeling, not unlike what working adults feel every day. But even less interpretive than that, this song is actually two songs put together.
John and Paul hadn't collaborated at all, instead giving us a clash of styles in one, amazing song, all topped off by the longest note in pop-music history. And that explains the dichotomy of "A Day in the Life."
So Mr. C, could I get an A+ now instead of the A you so generously gave me? And Jeff Hatcher, wherever you are? You gave me one of the defining moments of my adolescence. Not a week goes by when I don't think about how I failed in answering your query.
Now for the next do-over.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

We own a GPS for the car, or I should say my husband owns it; I'd rather use a map. We call said GPS Tracey because she traces our route for us and tells us where to turn and when. She does come in handy when we want to find a diner, or some ice cream, but otherwise I think she's rather tiresome.
Still, Tracey came with us over the weekend when we ventured forth on my latest triathlon adventure, at Hamlin Beach State Park, about 30 minutes west of Rochester along the Lake Ontario shoreline. I had mapped out a route that took us west and north from Liverpool along the back roads, avoiding the Thruway and seeing the lush and verdant sights of upstate New York in July. Getting there was no problem, though Tracey didn't agree with my navigation.
It was getting back home that proved more adventurous. Since I was tired, and we still had much to accomplish Sunday afternoon, I told Tracey we wanted to go home, and she led the way. That is, until we got stuck in traffic waiting to get on the Thruway in Rochester. We sat, and we sat, until my husband noticed that traffic after the toll booth was just as slow as before. While I tend to complain about his use of Tracey, I found myself asking him why she couldn't have told us of the traffic jam, so we could have avoided the mess entirely (silly me!).
A quick U-turn later and I decided to take Route 31 home, Tracey be damned! At every chance to turn right and make our way back to the Thruway, Tracey said, "Turn right. Turn right." I just kept making my way through the eastern suburbs of Rochester, noticing the ribbon of Erie Canal to our left, until we escaped Monroe County, and found ourselves in Wayne County, where some of the prettiest canal-era towns awaited with their surprisingly vibrant downtowns. Ontario and Cayuga county still stood between us and Onondaga County, and they made for interesting sight-seeing as we creeped east.
I was especially impressed with Palmyra, a lovely place with parks, canal bridges and a downtown that put Syracuse's Salina Street to shame. Had I not stunk to high heaven (I did just complete a tri), we would have stopped to explore. Then came Newark--not as picturesque as Palymra--and then Lyons, home town of Syracuse University men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim. Man, I thought my home town of Vernon was modest!
As we left each little village, the canal remained a fixture, until we neared Syracuse and it vanished completely. Roadside stands and farmers were selling fresh sweet corn, local peaches, monster zucchini.
It was all lovely, and all so much better than driving the tedious Thruway, fighting 18-wheelers and tailgaters. Sure, it took a good 45 minutes longer to get home, but it didn't matter. We truly enjoyed New York at its most voluptuous, and I, the history major, got to see parts of the canal that I am sorry to admit I had never visted before.
As we neared Syracuse, Tracey finally succumbed and stopped demanding that we get on the Thruway (her default setting is the fastest way to whatever location we seek). Maybe she was enjoying the Sunday drive as well.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Your Mother Should Know

Now I will be the first to admit I didn't have the best relationship with my mother. We weren't especially close, and we spent a good deal of my teen years butting heads.
But. . . there are some things my mother got right.
One of them has to do with what she would call building character. Whenever there was a chore I didn't especially like--sweeping the floor, making a salad--my mother would invariably have me do that chore. "It builds character," she would say.
Well, lo and behold, now I apply that principle to my everyday, and I am a stickler about clean floors!! As for salad? I eat one nearly every day, one that I have spent 30 minutes making.
But it goes beyond keeping a floor clean and getting my veggies.
Many of you know that I am a dedicated exerciser--triathlon training is like a part-time job to me, one that requires great rigor and dedication and planning.
At the same time I am training for the Syracuse Half-Ironman triathlon, Sept. 19, I am also working toward a marathon, Oct. 17. As part of the training, I have had to eliminate "junk" miles from my running. Every run has a purpose--building speed, endurance and the like.
So that's why I found myself at the Baldwinsville track, at 5:20 a.m., in the rain this morning to do speedwork, the dreaded speedwork. It's the one aspect of training I really don't enjoy but that I find pays nearly immediate dividends--to race fast you have to train fast. Reminding myself I would be glad to have done the work, I went through my paces.
And what went through my head? My mother's mantra about character building. Making myself do something I don't especially enjoy to reap great reward. In the case of tri and marathon training, I guess you could say I have built a lot of character!
I hate to admit it, but in this case my mother was right.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Transition Time

It's melancholy Monday, folks, after Saturday's graduation from high school of my youngest child. I guess I didn't know what to expect, emotionally, from this momentous occasion. When my daughter graduated three years ago, I didn't feel sad, I felt happy and proud and eager to help her on her adulthood journey. But this time, while I feel those things, they're tempered by a real sense of sadness. While I am thrilled I don't have to pay Catholic school tuition anymore, it's also jarring to realize you won't have the same relationship with the teachers and administrators as before. It's truly the end of an era.
Now, I am a stepmother, and have three at home still to see through this process, though I'm not really looking forward to those transitions either.
All I can do these next few days, weeks, months and years, is hope that my son makes the "right" choices--about a major, about friends, about drinking (it is college), about everything. While he will be living at home the first year of his community college career, that, too, will end, and I'll probably be as much of an emotional wreck when it happens.
Thank goodness for my supportive husband, my network of friends and family, my athletic "career"--if I didn't have those, I would truly be lost.
Like all grieving processes--and that's what this end of an era is--this will take time and I'll heal. That is, until my daughter graduates from college next year!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wow. It's been a while since my last post. Just goes to show how busy you can get.
I completed by very first Olympic distance triathlon last Sunday at Keuka Lake--1500M swim, 40K bike, 10K run--and while I didn't exactly blaze the field, I didn't finish last either. All I wanted to do was get through the swim (I finished 2 minutes ahead of my goal there), which I have been diligently working on. After brief panic at the start, I settled in and actually passed some people. There were five buoys to pass, and I counted them down as I went. That fifth buoy was like a Christmas present!
The bike was incredibly difficult--the first half challenging, but the second half near to impossible! So hilly! At one point I was worried about being the last on the course, until the turnaround when 6 or 7 bikers--some of them men--were still heading toward that point. The cloudburst and strong winds didn't help out there, but it cleared. . . and, onto the run.
My best and favorite part--I just know how to run!--and I passed women who had passed me on the bike. That's always a great feeling.
Fifty-five minutes later I had crossed the final finish line.
My time, 3:23, 13 minutes past my goal, but so what?! It was my first tri at that distance, and I did it. My youngest stepdaughters, who had stood in the rain and wind for those 3-plus hours, and got up at 4:30 a.m. for the drive to Keuka, asked if they could cross the finish line with me. Of course!
Triathlon requires a lot of an individual, but if you are the head of a family, it requires a lot of the family. They need to understand why you're gone for hours on end most days (I try to train early in the morning), they need to understand why you're tired at 8 p.m., and why you won't eat ice cream with them as much as they would like!
I am grateful for their support, as well as that of my husband, who is at every finish line, taking pictures. At home, he takes care of my bike, and he worries when I'm swimming in the open water.
I have a few weeks off until the next tri, the mini-Musselman in Geneva on July 10. Of course, I'm never not training.
I am trying to arrange for me and the hubster to stay overnight until July 11, just him and me, relaxing. Oh, and I think I'll ask him for a massage!

Friday, April 30, 2010

My World and Welcome to It

I write and edit for a living, so it makes sense to me to finally delve into the world of blogging. It seems a bit arrogant on my part to think that anyone else would want to read my rantings and ravings, but a great many people I know post a blog, so why not?
In a sense, my life is pretty average--married, live in the suburbs, five step-kids (three at home), two kids of my own, work, house, dog, blah, blah, blah. But it's the momentous we discover in the mundane that keeps life interesting. And when your children range in age from 21 to 6, there's always something worth writing about that they have either said or done. These day-to-day moments tend to be fleeting, so to keep the memories alive, why not post them somewhere. Everyone can relate to the crazy things kids say and do, even though many of what each child says is does can be quite original. I hope to post some of the funnier, more interesting, items here.
I have several passions in my life, but one of the greatest is personal fitness. I don't just work out; I train. I always have a race on the horizon--running or triathlon and my newest discovery, duathlons. My husband mentioned to his dentist this craze of mine, and the dentist spoke quite true words: to do that every day, you really have to love it.
I have been injured (though not as severely as many), and those injuries have slowed me down, but they have never stopped me. Even with a cast on my left leg in late 2007, I still lifted weights for my upper body and did a lot of ab/core work. I will write about my triumphs and struggles here as well.
There is much more to me than family and working out, and I'll get to them eventually. Meanwhile, welcome to my blog; feel free to comment.