Friday, December 4, 2015

Yuri Ran a Marathon: The Interview

Just before I dig in to eat a pile of greasy fries and a giant bacon cheeseburger, I'm likely to turn to whoever I'm with and say guiltily, "Don't tell Yuri." The truth is, Yuri isn't one to judge—she lets me be me—but I've accidentally attributed to her that voice in my head that nags me to exercise and eat better. In real life, she is more encouraging, and always willing to share her boiled chicken. She is also a great resource for guessing the amount of calories in something, or discussing exercise strategies. I am grateful to have her as my friend and healthy role model, and so happy she agreed to let me interview her about her experience running the Chicago Marathon in October.

R: What made you decide to train for and run a marathon?

Y: I think it was late spring/early summer of 2014 (May/June), after I completed a half, my trainer Alex said to a few of us casually that he'd run a marathon with us if we choose to do one. I took that as a challenge and decided shortly after that conversation that I wanted to train and complete one. Nobody else took him up on that. I injured myself for the 2014 season and Alex ended up taking my place and ran the Capital City River Run. I signed up for the Chicago Marathon next season.

R: I remember you saying once that you didn't see yourself as a runner. Do you now?

Y: I still don't consider myself a "runner", only because my definition of a "runner" is very narrow. People who live and breathe running, and all the strength training and other forms of fitness-related endeavors to make them a better runner—that's not me. I use running as a tool to become healthier and stronger.
Yuri in blue at center. Photo courtesy of Nick.
R: What motivated you to keep going after your injury, and through the long months of training?

Y: Once I decided that I was going to run it, it wasn't an option for me to not go through with it. I had a training plan, and I was convinced that I would only succeed by following the training plan.

R: What was the strategy behind your training regime? How much did you run per week? Did you pretty much stick to it?

Y: Since I got injured the first time around for running too much too soon (I decided to do a marathon too late to properly train for my fitness level at the time), the strategy this time was to start early and build mileage slowly, with enough rest. Alex created the training plan for me, so all I had to do was execute it. At my peak, I ran about 45 miles in a week. I stuck to the plan for the most part, except a few times when I wanted to attend CTL demo classes when I was supposed to run. Also toward the end of my training when my legs were not cooperating, I had to take a break a week or two leading up to the race instead of tapering to prevent injury.

R: What were the practical things you had to think about during your training, like time management or caloric intake or the like?

Y: I had to plan ahead about when I was going to run at least a day in advance. I had to coordinate with my husband Nick to make sure the pups were taken care of. (There is NO way I could have done it without his support.) I had to check the weather to see if it was going to rain, or how hot it was going to be, and when it was going to get dark. I also had to plan when I was going to eat before, during, and after for the long runs. For the long runs beyond 10 miles, I always created a fueling plan so I knew when I was going to consume what during the run. In terms of deciding how many calories were appropriate for me to consume, again I was fortunate enough to have a trainer who figured all of that out for me. He did the hard part of planning everything for me. All I had to do was follow.
Photo courtesy of Nick.
R: What was the best part about this whole experience?

Y: The crazy amount of support I got from so many people. Starting with Nick and Alex, and friends like you (Rachel!), many people who donated money to my ACS TeamDetermination fund raising efforts, to spectators who were cheering me on.

R: What advice would you give to anyone thinking about training for a long race?

Y: Make sure you are able to make time for training. If you have kids/pets, do you have a family/friends who can watch them when you train? If your work is crazy busy, can you make time to get your training in? Everyone is busy. But training takes time, and you have to be able to make time, and not feel guilty for spending the time training. For me, I made sure I was committed, but also double and triple checked with Nick that he was ok with this since this impacted his daily life as well.

R: Would you do it again?

Y: I think so. If I get another opportunity to spend a few months training.

R: What's your next big goal?

Y: I want to do the Urbanathlon! I have some strength-based goals that are pretty big, but I tend to get more excited about "events". My guess is I do better when there are deadlines associated with my goals.

R: An Urbanathlon sounds cool and scary! Is this like the Men's Healthy sponsored one I found when I Googled?

Y: It is! They used to have one in Chicago, but they didn't do it this year. I'm hoping they'll bring it back next year. I have to get some other people to do it with me. This is one of those things you don't do alone. But I really want to do it, so I WILL convince someone to do it with me.

R: What did you learn about yourself through this process?

Y: Apparently I do not put my all out there. Even though I was exhausted after the marathon, I knew I still had reserves left in the tank. I'm trying to figure out how to give 100% for better performance.

Yuri at Mile 26. Official race photo.
R: That's really interesting. Matt has said before that he never likes to use up all his energy because he likes to know he has a little left over in case he really needs it. I guess that would be like if he finished a workout but then unexpectedly a bear started chasing him? I also tend to keep some energy in reserve, but only until the end when I sprint most of it off.

Y: I did "sprint" at the end, but at that point my body didn't listen. But I didn't feel like death. I guess for something like a marathon it's ok to reserve your energy since you'd have to practice more to know how you can race so you have just enough to be able to finish an endurance event like that. But I'd like to be able to give it my all on my other stuff where it's less critical if I can't "finish". I think it all stems from my fear of failure. I'm working on it.

R: What did it feel like to cross the finish line at the end of the marathon?

Y: I didn't really have an epic "I did it!" moment. I remember just trying to get out of other finishers' way, and trying to figure out where I needed to go to meet up with Nick and Alex. Unfortunately the first "feeling" I clearly remember is that of being annoyed that I had to walk really far to get to the designated meeting area. And then there were a few steps we had to go down and that was unpleasant. Sense of accomplishment and all that didn't really come until I saw Nick and Alex.

Nick, Yuri, and Alex after the race. Photo courtesy of Alex McBrairty.
R: How did you celebrate your accomplishments that day and even in the next few weeks?

Y: I ate a cheeseburger and some ice cream "pie" for dinner. Then I took a week off from exercising. I guess that wasn't a celebration as much as my body didn't really do much. But the celebration part was to not feel guilty about not exercising! The moment I actually felt like I accomplished something didn't come until weeks later. I was driving all over Ann Arbor/Saline to run errands, and it seemed like I was driving forever, but it was only 18 miles. It was a "holy shit, I ran a lot" moment.

R: What place did you come in and would you mind if I include that? I thought it was neat how high (relatively) you placed for your first marathon.

Y: I don't mind at all but it's not very good.
Gender 12209/17253
Division 2088/2915
Overall 28845/37438
Finish Time 05:15:38

R: I think they're lovely. And thanks!

Y: Now that I've rested for a while, it's the "I can do so much better" side that's coming out of me!

Monday, November 30, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015

The thing about the last 1000 words or so is that you can’t wait to be done. You want to cash in your chips and call it close enough. But that word count validator is a binary thing: you either have the 1000 words or you don’t.

NaNoWriMo is a feat of strength more than anything skill-based. It’s a test and exercise of will power, and an opportunity to find out what you’re willing to give up in order to stick to this arbitrary goal. I do it to maybe find a new story to tell, but mostly I do it to teach myself how to just do it. Can it be that writing is more practice than actual performance? Surely, as it is the same with playing a musical instrument. Many thousands of words and hours go into learning how to write, and streamlining the story, and even hitting the keys quicker so that when the story is unspooling as fast as a dropped spool of thread bouncing and rolling across a hardwood floor, you can keep up with it and get it all down. (I’m still working on writing analogy—need a lot more practice there!)

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you for being patient with me while I went through this intensive training period again this year. Patient while you listened to me spout off about what I was writing or the writing process. Patient while you waited for another blog post to show up (if you’re one of those two people who prefer not to use RSS feed readers). Patient while I stressed out and whined about being behind on my word count, which I was the entire month until the end. I tried not to sound like I wasn’t enjoying it. Sometimes it helps to recognize that it is hard even if I am pretty sure I’m going to finish successfully.

I’m excited that it’s about to be over for another year, though, just as soon as I compose 600 more words in some medium or another. I’m not a stickler for all 50,000 of my words being part of the same story arc. As long as they are part of composed sentences that took some thought and effort to produce, I’m cool with counting them. This year among my 50,000 words are a little bit of poetry, a Christmas newsletter I may or may not send out once I have time, and this blog post. In the past I have even counted long emails if they were written to convey ideas requiring more thought that reporting on the status of the weather. The only downside to putting forth effort to write long emails and Christmas newsletters and blog posts during NaNoWriMo is that I have to turn the inner editor back on a least a little bit for the sake of the reader of that particular set of words. For the bulk of the story writing for NaNoWriMo, the inner editor only gets nominal input while the words are spurting forth from my fingertips onto the screen (if I haven’t finished the sentence yet, sometimes I’ll allow myself to change a few of the words or backspace it entirely).

I’ve still got just under 400 more words to go and it would feel abusive to my readership if I rambled on just to get the word count. So I’ll try to come up with a little story. Forgive me if I end mid-sentence, though, because when I reach 50,000 words I’m likely going to stop and have a little dance break. If you want to join along when I get there, I’m planning on playing They Might Be Giants’s Dr. Worm, or maybe Weezer’s My Name is Jonas. Oh, or maybe some Adele because I’ve fallen under her spell again. Anyway, I said I wouldn’t ramble so here goes:

    “If I get hit by a bus, I just want you to be able to figure out how to run the timesheet reports. That’s why I’m explaining this to you now,” Michelle said, closing a file on her computer and folding her hands together on her desk. “Does that make sense?”
    “If you get hit by a bus, I don’t think anybody will care about the timesheet reports because we’ll be too busy mourning your tragic death,” I said.
    “Wow, I didn’t say the bus was going to kill me,” she said. “I just meant if I wasn’t in to work for a while, somebody should know how to do this.”
    I was pretty sure the odds of getting hit by a bus and living to run the timesheet reports again in the future were pretty small, but I let it slide by saying, “Okay, thanks. Let’s hope I never have to run it without you.”
    “Come on, it’s not that bad. You just have to make sure you deselect “Other” first, and then type everybody’s names in correctly before hitting the ‘compile’ button. It only takes about 30 minutes for it to run. You can do it,” Michelle said, going through the motions on her computer again.
    I sighed. “It’s not that it seems hard, I’m just saying, I hope I don’t have to do it because I hope you’re not incapacitated, decapitated, or otherwise unable to do it yourself.”
    Michelle frowned, “Thanks, I guess, but you don’t have to be so morbid about it.”

Gah!! Here’s the thing about NaNoWriMo and word counts: every program counts words differently. I’m not sure what the nuances are, I just know that when I went to validate my text on the official NaNoWriMo website, it said I needed 97 more words. I knew this, see, so I wrote until I had 50,104 words in my writing program, figuring it would cover me, but when I exported it to Word, I only had 49,922 words, and when I pasted it into the official word count validator website for NaNaWriMo, I only had 49,903! The algorithms are apparently grossly different! But, never fear, this paragraph will seal the deal. :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Year Ago

It’s been a year since the culmination of 2 pretty bad things played out in my life. It feels weird to say that I don’t mind recalling that time, and there may even be some fondness in my recollection. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to my dad, whom I lost very quickly and in the midst of my own health issues, but looking back on that time is not just a reminder of loss, but also one of love and coming together of people who loved and supported me through it all. How can I not think about that outpouring of love and not be moved to tears? I want to always remember all the good and the bad and the weird about that time.

I want to remember how my sister would begin emails that contained updates about my dad's failing health with pictures of puppies and kittens being adorable and non-stressful.

I want to remember the crazy/fun trip we took to Chicago with McLaine and Andrew and Andrea and Phil for Mer's birthday party after I’d finally discovered the cause of my health issues was a giant cyst on my ovary, but didn’t know what would happen next. How we rented the van; the amazing generosity of Ryan and the food and drinks; being saved by Aubrey; Joy showing us around her ‘hood; carrying a giant cake through the Chicago night life.

I want to remember the vacation Matt and I and his mom and sister took to California the week before it all went down. How we stayed with family we’d never met who turned out to be awesome and fun and so generous and kind; reconnecting with old friends; finding out about the local earthquake from CTAY across the country.

I want to remember how I didn’t have time to dread or fear or overthink or overplan the surgery because the surgeon had an opening for the very next day. I want to remember how we went out to Zingerman’s Roadhouse the night before and had whiskey because we hadn’t fully read the pre-surgery paperwork yet that said not to have any alcohol the day before.

I want to remember how my sister drove and drove and drove back and forth across the Midwest to be with the people she loved when they needed her most.

I want to remember waking up after surgery feeling I must be okay even if I was missing an unknown number of organs (and finding out it was only one organ of consequence by overhearing a nurse whisper it to another nurse when they changed shifts). I want to remember how I finally regain enough consciousness to realize my glasses were resting on my chest so I could put them on when I woke up.

I want to remember the first time I stood up again after my surgery and felt like I was a chest and some legs attached by only the most tenuous connection in between, as if my whole abdomen had been scooped out of my body. I want to remember how thankful I was that my family took me home to care for me (to measure out my meds, and help me get out of bed, and bring me food, and do my dishes) because I felt truly helpless on my own.

I want to remember how my sister loaned me her iPad to play Threes, and how I was playing it when she got the call that she needed to go back to Allegan immediately. I want to remember how my heart raced knowing my dad had reached the end of his fight. And I want to remember how my heart ached for my sister who had driven so much in so few days, and had to travel alone again, because I was too weak to make the trip with her.

I want to remember how my mom told me the next morning, in the gentlest way she could, that my dad had died. I want to remember how I couldn’t let myself cry because it hurt my mending insides too damn much.

I want to remember the first time the doorbell rang and it was flowers for me, and then the second and the third and the fourth… I had no idea people would send me flowers and I felt so awed by their thoughtfulness. I want to remember all the wonderful people who told me they loved me in cards and gifts and texts and visits.

I want to remember how my sister drove back to me before finally heading home. I want to remember how Jen brought her a care package before she left, because she could see that my sister needed just as much care as me.

I want to remember how CTAY texted me almost every day to see how I was doing.

I want to remember how Matt cared for me for days without complaining, tracking my my meds, handing me stuff, and letting me feel however I needed to feel. And how he trusted me home alone with the internet and the credit cards when I started to get better but was still housebound.

I want to remember how people made us food, and sent us food, and had food delivered, and drove through football traffic to bring us food, and came over at lunch to eat with me, and made me laugh even though they knew they shouldn’t.

I want to remember how Kezia visited me and helped me read through leave of absence paperwork and built me a spreadsheet to calculate time off.

I want to remember how I didn’t have the focus to read anything so I binged on Netflix and John Oliver while I plotted and executed the most elaborate Halloween costume I’d ever devised.

I want to remember how I picked out some mums for my dad’s grave, and how I was brave and shoveled dirt onto it.

I want to remember how my sister persevered even though nobody would have blamed her for flipping out at any point across August through October when she had to be everywhere and handle everything and take on other people’s stress and make decisions and deal with things going wrong and watch helplessly as people she loved were broken and lost.

I want to remember all those things so I don’t forget why I’m a different person than I used to be. So that when someone else is going through something hard, I can reach out and share love with them, so they too will be able to look back and remember their trials with a bittersweet fondness despite the pain, knowing they were supported and not alone.

If you prayed for me, or cared for me, or spent even a passing thought on me last year, Thank You. I could not have gotten here without you. If you prayed that I would come through my hard times knowing I was loved and not alone, your prayers were answered, and I never want to forget.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Autumn I'm In Love

This might be a pinch premature, but today as I wrote outside wearing my favorite sweatshirt, this is what my heart sang to me:

Autumn I’m in Love
(apologies to The Cure for this Friday I’m In Love re-write…)

I don’t care if Summer’s blue
Winter grey and freezing, too
Springtime I don’t care about you
It’s Autumn I’m in love.

Snowmen you can fall apart
April showers break my heart
May flowers don’t even start
It’s Autumn I’m in love.

December wait
And Christmas always comes too late
September never hesitate…

I don’t care if Summer’s hot
Winter days are full of rot
Springtime bulbs in every lot
It’s Autumn I’m in love.

Spring rain falling on your head
Snowy winter stay in bed
Summer sunburn turns you red
It’s Autumn I’m in love!

December wait
And Christmas always comes too late
September never hesitate…

Just look to the skies
It’s a wonderful surprise
To see a breeze and a full moon rise
Gourds and apples abound
Crunching leaves on the ground
Pumpkin lattes and pies all around the town
Donuts, take a big bite
It’s such a gorgeous sight
To drink mulled cider on a brisk fall night
You can never get enough
Enough of this stuff
It’s Autumn I’m in love!

I don’t care if Summer’s blue
Winter grey and freezing, too
Springtime I don’t care about you
It’s Autumn I’m in love.

Snowmen you can fall apart
April showers break my heart
May flowers don’t even start
It’s Autumn I’m in love.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mr. Porter's Famous Wagon Sale

My friend Nick is more on top of his photos than anyone I know. Whenever he goes to some event or place that might be interesting, he brings his camera along, slung across his chest like a bandolier. I mention that last part only because I am so amazed at how fast he can wriggle his arm into and out of the camera strap when he is ready to go or to take a picture (though in crowds I've sometimes seen him skillfully shoot from the chest to avoid that maneuver). Within hours, I'll receive a notification that a photo album is up online, or see individual pictures posted to Facebook or on Instagram. By contrast, I've been meaning to put photos up in this blog post for about 2 weeks, and to the chagrin of our parents, the photos from our wedding almost 8 years ago have never been made into a sharable album.

A staple of the long summer holiday weekends in Allegan is Richard Porter's wagon sale. Over the weekend of July 4th, my mom, my sister, Matt, and I drove out there to see what treasures Mr. Porter had collected from the various estates he had purchased and spread out on the beds of wagons in his expansive lawn for our perusal.

One of several rows of wagons, not to mention the barn filled with furniture.

Avocado green fuzzy bathroom scale. Quite narrow!

Let's not go hunting and say we did by hanging others' trophy antlers on our walls.

This little guy had a slit in the back of his head to accept your coins.

Vintage wools and furs hung on many of the wagons going for a fraction of their original cost at $25.

Mishka, the mascot of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. Wait, didn't we boycott that one?

My mom and Matt shopping, with bonus photobomb by longtime family friend, Ray, because you always see someone you know at the wagon sale! (Or the belongings or photos or pill containers of someone you know who has recently deceased...)

Can anyone explain to me what is going on in this picture?

Nun doll!

Another woman and I were both considering this box, but all the fabric was frighteningly polyester.

She's been haunting my dreams ever since.

Later that day my mom said she wished she had a sprinkler, and made me wish I'd picked up this cute little guy for her.

Steampunk biplane out of watch parts! Pretty neat, actually.

Creepy wooden pointing-toe ashtray. Because why?

What we actually purchased. My sister gifted me the picture. The bottle says "Up John" on it.

If you see anything here you can't live without, you can always try to find it at the next wagon sale over Labor Day weekend! :D

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Half Marathon

I did it! I ran 13.1 miles in one go—in the rain no less! The funny thing is, when you train for something, it kind of just feels like no big deal when you accomplish it, because it isn’t as hard as it seemed before you began training for it. I think I held onto the notion that it was going to be nigh impossible, or at least hellish, until maybe mile 6 of the race, at which point I lost track of how far I had come and how far I had left to go (because it is hard to slowly count to 13 over the course of 2 hours) and just enjoyed it. Yes, I know, it’s disgusting, but I actually enjoyed it, rain and all.

As of the Thursday before the race, the forecast was 60s and sunny. On Friday, I checked again and saw that my perfect race day weather had deteriorated to 50s and 60% chance of rain. By Saturday, it was low 50s with 100% chance of rain during the whole of the race. I began to panic. I had no idea what to do in those conditions as I had carefully avoided rain during the whole of my 7 week training. I googled all kinds of advice about running in the rain, texted my runner friend Yuri to corroborate my research, and just generally whined and fretted constantly for the next 24 hours that I would be miserable the whole time and I had no idea why I was doing this anyway. But I felt better as soon as I got to the starting line and saw what everybody else was wearing. I’ve never seen so many different ways to wear a plastic bag: in shoes, on head (shower cap?), with arms tucked inside, with arm holes cut out, cropped around the waist… Most people compensated for the rain not at all, or with these variously worn plastic bags. Very few people had on the rain gear I envisioned for myself and felt sure everyone else who was experienced would be wearing.

Pre-race dry photo

In the end, I was pleased with my own choice of clothing. My long-sleeve shirt retained some of my heat, but only a thin layer of water. It didn’t chaff. There was no question about whether I would wear my favorite running pants with pocket big enough for my phone, but when my underwear got soaked through, I sometimes had trouble getting all my wet layers to feel comfortable around my waist. I used a plastic bag to protect my phone, which was effective, but I only had a quart-size instead of a sandwich-sized one and so it sort of was too big. The obnoxious orange wool socks I chose were good for not chaffing or retaining too much water, and I pulled them up like a dweeb to cover the skin between my shoes and my pants. Having a hat was clutch, which kept my eyebrows dry and diverted water to drip off the bill instead of my nose.

Mid-race, but still smiling

Due to the cold and rain, my legs were numb from a very early point in the race, so I just ignored them and let them carry me in the current of the other runners. Being surrounded by moving people makes it easier to feel like you also should be moving. I was surprised to realize that at no point during the race did I think I wouldn’t make it—I’ve been on 3-mile runs and been convinced for 95% of it that I wouldn’t last—and I only really wanted to stop at Mile 11 because my right knee was tight and starting to hurt. Speaking of Mile 11, that’s about when everybody starts to pick it up and you are passed by people you passed miles ago. This was humbling, but my knee and my memory of the famous hill at the end kept me going my same steady pace.

Official stats

According to the MapMyRun app on my phone, I was running about a 9:45 min/mile pace, but I was reaching the miles sooner and sooner before the official mile markers on the road, and in the end MapMyRun recorded my run as a bit longer than 13.1 miles. Hard to say why it was off from the official race time/distance, which put me at 9:55 min/mile. Either way, a good pace, and I hit my secondary goal of under 10 min/miles, which I honestly thought was a long shot (primary goal was just to finish!), especially in the rain.

MapMyRun stats

The hill at the end did not impress me after all the hype (The 2nd-to-last hill on the other hand…). In any case, being able to see the finish line was very motivating. When I train, I just listen for the lady in my ear (i.e. MapMyRun) to tell me when I have completed my milage, so it was nice to have a fixed point to focus on, and I was able to dig deep to find some hidden strength to kick it up a few notches as I approached the line. Once I decide to do that, no one passes me anymore, and I’m that annoying person who swoops in and passes people at the finish line, not because I am attempting to beat them, but because they slowed down. What can I say, my Track and Field background taught me to leave it all on the track and push to the finish no matter the place. Plus it feels incredible to run fast (for short distances). If you are able, I encourage you to do it for like 3 seconds sometime. The wind on your face, the feeling of your legs cranking as fast as they can go… But seriously, why don’t more people sprint at the end? It’s like the best part.

My cheering section for the day was the brave duo of Matthew and Julie, who came out to cheer me on somewhere in the middle and who met me at the finish line with warm hugs and dry towels. It was a surprise and delight to see my loved ones mid-race, and a relief to be led to a warm, dry car at the end. If I hadn’t begun to feel a chill, I may have checked out the beer tent, and if the sun had been shining, we may have stayed for Taste of Ann Arbor so I could have worn my finisher’s medal around town with pride, but alas. I have no plans and no expectations of my future running/exercise goals right now, but maybe I’ll be back next year. Hard to say. Watch this space for more details!

Post-race hugs

Friday, May 22, 2015


I am presently training for a half marathon. I'm not entirely sure why. I guess it's kind of because I can, and sort of to prove something to myself, and also because it's good to challenge yourself, and maybe because I wanted to accomplish something of note in running before I give it up for something different because running is so dang boring. If I think about it too hard, especially while I am in the middle of a run, none of it seems quite worth it. I would still be a fine person if I never ran 13.1 miles in one go. Holy poopers, 13.1 miles??? Why am I doing this?? That's so long! So boring! So bad for my knees! (It's best if I don't mention the number of miles to myself. "Half marathon" sounds better. It just sounds like "a run" and not "over 2 hours of the same monotonous activity that sometimes hurts".)

Anyway, where was I? Oh right. I'd still be a fine person if I had dedicated these 6 weeks of training so far toward something else. My novel, perhaps. Or making my home and yard into an efficient, clean, polished specimen of modern dwelling. Actually, I'm not so sure about the 2nd one. I think housework is what I give up first when I make time to exercise (though obviously some of it still does get done since I gotta do laundry so I have non-stinky clothes to run in), but if my bills were all filed and my hedges perfectly trimmed and the path to my front door was a mosaic of pavers instead of a muddy patch of dirt and a pile of broken concrete, how is that furthering the human race any more than one person running for exercise? They both have value, but they're apples and oranges. So I'd still be a fine person either way. But whatever, I'm 6 weeks into a 7 week training so I'm committed now.

I could ramble on about my history of running and what it might mean to be doing this now, and who I have been encouraged by, and what my goals are for the race, etc. etc., but I'll save that for my acceptance speech when they hand me my medal after crossing the finish line at the top of that big hill on Main St. next Sunday. Instead, I'll leave you with this picture of what satisfaction looks like after having run 8 continuous miles for the first time.

But you know what else is a good picture? This picture of what exhaustion looks like after having traversed 10 miles by foot for the first time. In contrast, 10 miles didn't feel satisfying as much as "Oh thank God I made it back to the car and can stop now!"

I hope somebody takes the time to chalk up the half marathon route with inspirational sayings like this one that several weeks ago propelled me on to my fastest 5k time:


Monday, April 27, 2015

An Interview with Little Leviathan

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to interview Dane Hillard for a developer position at the company where we both used to work. Don’t worry, I wasn’t called upon to evaluate his coding skills, but rather to see if he would be a good fit on the team. I gave him the thumbs up (literally—we took a show of thumbs) and I am so glad my colleagues agreed, because now we are friends and I have the chance to interview him again. This time, you get to decide if he’s a good fit for your ears! His folk album, Little Leviathan, is coming out May 1st and I got excited and asked him a bunch of questions about it.

R: When did you first pick up the guitar?

D: My dad had a Gibson Super 400 since before I was born. He'd pull it out from time to time to play and I was drawn to it. It's a beautiful instrument and it was pretty difficult not to want to grab it. I didn't do anything serious with guitar until I was almost done with middle school, though.

R: It does look pretty. You don't by any chance have any little-kid-Dane-holding-dad's-guitar pictures, do you?

D: A picture of that doesn't exist, to my knowledge. I've probably already got facial hair in any picture of me holding that guitar!

R: So like age 10, then? What made you decide to tackle writing and recording a full-length album?

D: I think the idea to write a full album came from this organic process where I wrote several songs over the course of a couple of years. When I realized I'd finally written enough material to compile an album, I was surprised! Once I decided to record it all, it was still another year or more before I actually finished it. I guess I'm sort of slow on the uptake!

R: What parts of the process did you really enjoy?

D: I enjoyed the actual moments of recording the most. Sitting there in the studio, trying to get the perfect take. It's a great challenge of my consistency and accuracy as a guitarist and vocalist. I've also enjoyed the process leading up to the release—queueing up all the metadata, artwork, and audio for distribution. Trying to figure out marketing right now.

Artwork for Hopeless Romantic
R: Have you written anything since you recorded that you wished you could have put on the record?

D: It might surprise you that I haven't written much other than the songs that are on this album. I guess I had a muse 5 or 6 years ago that's decided to move on! I hope to start writing more in the near future, but I prefer to let inspiration strike than to try and force things onto a page. The songs on this album came about fairly organically and I'm happy with how they came out. Collectively I think these songs fit together as an isolated work, so I don't feel any regrets about the track list.

R: That's good. Regrets are dumb. Did you have any formal music training growing up?

D: My first real foray into music was joining the school band in fifth grade. I started on the alto saxophone. Around the same time, I started taking piano lessons from a private teacher. I continued both until I graduated high school. I think the experiences in each of those allowed me to expand easily into other instruments and genres, at least in terms of interest.

R: What bands/artists influence your song writing?

D: I listen to the craziest mix of music, so if I listed everything here it would probably be overwhelming. A few that definitely stand out are Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine, and Alexi Murdoch. I enjoy the content of their music and text and I've definitely pulled elements that I like into my own writing process. They all write from very intimate personal experience, which has been a major inspiration for my work as well.

R: A lot of the songs sound somber. Do you find yourself writing about specific events or feelings? To try and capture certain moods?

D: This album came out of a time of mixed emotion. These songs cover both the ups and the downs of some of my relationships at the time, so the bipolarity shows! I think that's really how an album needs to be, though; without emotional dynamism there isn't much to support musical dynamism. As I mentioned earlier, personal experience is often a big motivator for the moods and ideas expressed in music.

R: I’m really digging one of your songs (Roots), which is a collaboration—is that with a friend?

D: Roots was recorded with a friend of mine. I had written that song and planned on performing it for this talent show, but wanted some harmonies to go along with it. Mark (Origami Incident) came up with the second voice in just a few days. I was blown away and decided it needed to be included in the recorded version.

R: Those harmonies are fantastic. And the album artwork is gorgeous—I wish there were a picture for every song! Are you going to make any physical versions of this album?

D: You'll be happy to know that there IS a piece of artwork for every song! Looking through this album on SoundCloud or Bandcamp will give people the ability to see each song's artwork. The Bandcamp digital album includes the original sketches for those pieces in the bonus material. The art was done by my very talented friend Katie Eberts. While it's still possible I'll change course, there aren't currently plans to create a physical version of this album.

R: Yay! I love Katie's work! Any story behind the name Little Leviathan?

D: Little Leviathan means a big guy in a small world. It means large ambition, and it means feeling closed in from time to time. Being 6'2" with a heavy frame, I sometimes feel a bit cramped compared to the average person. I also have all these hobbies and goals I pursue regularly and sometimes I feel like society isn't built for that anymore. The Renaissance celebrated these kinds of things but now, at least in America, the 9-5 work life is the norm. That can be limiting for creative types!

R: If it was feasible, would you work fewer hours at a day job for a pro-rated salary in order to have more time to pursue your creative hobbies (and possible other sources of income)?

D: I'd love to be able to use more of my time doing fun things! Right now I'm doing what I'm best at during my day job, so it feels right. I'd rate myself as mediocre to decent at the rest of my hobbies at the moment, but if ever I become truly skilled at one of them you can be sure I'll run with it!

R: In your own personal renaissance, what else would you creatively pursue?

D; If time—or sleep, I suppose—grew on trees, you would see me doing a lot of photography. I really enjoy editorial and street-style fashion and would love to travel around to the fashion weeks in New York, Milan, and Paris. I would even be interested in taking some classes on clothing design because the materials and technique aspects appeal to me as much as the creative and graphic aspects. Fashion is a great way to express individuality! You'd also be able to find me on the dance floor pretty often. I've done competitive ballroom dancing for almost 7 years and I've recently been doing social dances like west coast swing and hustle. Hip hop sounds fun too, so maybe I'll try that next! I love the technicality and expression involved with dancing and it pairs nicely with music.

Artwork for Lilliputian Sight
R: What are your goals for this project? What outcome(s) would feel like it was a success?

D: I don't have many specific goals other than sharing what I've created with the world. As my debut into music, it's unlikely to be wildly successful in terms of sales! I'd consider a success to be inspiring another musician to release his/her music or for a person to be touched by the music I've written. Sales would be a nice side effect, of course!

R: Have you/will you perform(ed) any live shows?

D: I used to play with some frequency at a few locations in Ann Arbor. I don't have any solid plans to perform but I'd like to when the time is right!


If you want to listen to, buy, or find out more about Dane and his music, look for “Little Leviathan” on your favorite social media site or iTunes, or click the links scattered through the post. Thanks, Dane, for taking the time to answer my questions and share your experiences!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Am Reading

(EDIT: Left Brain hates it when I post hand-drawn stuff like this! Which is exactly why I let Right Brain do it. But in order to appease Left Brain, I am adding this note, so you don't judge LB for RB's lack of concern for things like color correction, straightness of drawn lines, legibility of handwriting, etc. RB just wants to be friends.)

Friday, March 27, 2015

26 Books in 2015: An Interview with Andrea

When I found out my friend Andrea was following a reading plan for her New Year’s Resolution, I got really excited about her project. Each time I’d see her and hear her updates, I was intrigued by the plan and inspired by her challenge. I thought you might be, too, so I interviewed her about it.


R: First off, where did you get your reading plan?

A: I got my reading plan from Pinterest—where all New Year's Resolutions go to shine brightly for a month or two and then fade into oblivion.

R: What made you decide to follow it?

A: I decided to follow it because the only way I can ever get things done is if I make a list. I love lists. Well, I love crossing things off of lists. Sometimes, at work, I add things to my to-do list that I've already done just to cross them off. Or, I'll add things like "eat lunch." So, I figured if I really wanted to read more books this year, I needed to make a list. This list seemed like more fun than just going through whatever I had on my shelf.

R: So how far are you along at this point? It looks like you get 2 weeks per book, which seems fairly reasonable, depending on the length. Or boring-ness.

A: I just finished my 8th book, so technically I'm a few weeks ahead of schedule! However, I did cheat a little bit because I think I was probably about 75% done with the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when I started the plan and I counted that one as my "Book that was made into a movie.” Its funny, when I started I thought it would be really hard for me to finish a book every two weeks, but it hasn't been too bad. There have definitely been ones I finished in only a couple of days (Yes Please) and others (coughcough The Scarlet Letter coughcough) that took me more than the allotted two weeks.

R: Which categories are you most afraid of?

A: I think I'm most afraid of either "A book of poems" or "A book at the bottom of your 'to be read pile' ". I'm not a big poetry person and I told myself I couldn't choose a book of children's poetry (which would likely rhyme and thus is preferable). As for the other category, I mean, there's a reason it's at the bottom of the 'to be read' pile, right?

R: Besides the poetry one, are there any more rules you laid out for yourself?

A: No other rules besides the poetry one. I've heard there is value in reading poetry; your life might even be enriched by it! So if I'm really trying to try new things (on the book front), I shouldn't choose poetry that I read in elementary school.

R: Is this more books than you would normally read in a year?

A: I think it is—but I don't normally track the number of books I read, so I can't say for sure. I do know that it usually takes me longer than 2 weeks to read a book because I'll only pick it up every few days.

R: Have you considered tracking your books in GoodReads or participating in any other reading communities?

A: No, I haven't. I'm not really sure why...maybe it would feel too much like school.

R: What kinds of books do you normally read? Is it an eclectic mix?

A: I kinda bounce back and forth between fiction and non-fiction, so I do like to mix it up a bit. My favorite genres are probably memoirs and travel books. Weird, I know. For this challenge, I am trying to pick books from genres I don't often read, though. Who knows, maybe I'll really like mysteries! I went to the library yesterday and checked out my first Agatha Christie book, so I'll find out pretty soon!

R: Where do you tend to get the books you read?

A: I usually get them from the library or by borrowing from a friend. A few years back I told myself I wouldn't buy any new books until I read all of the ones on my shelf first, so I've been trying to stay away from buying new. Although, maybe by the end of this challenge, I will have gotten through all the books on my shelf and can lift the self-imposed book buying ban! Here's to hoping!

R: Do you read physical books, digital books, audiobooks?

A: I read physical books almost exclusively. Partially because I don't have an e-reader so I would have to use my phone, but I really do like the feel of an actual book better than a digital version. I also tend to flip pages by accident with e-readers because I'm too fidgety and I think I can see my progress a little more with a real book. However, this summer I'll be traveling for work for about a month and doing a lot of driving, so I may switch to audiobooks for a little bit just so I don't fall behind.

R: How are you choosing what to read next? Are you employing any strategy/system, like going down the list top to bottom?

A: Choosing what to read next has been, for the most part, random (and a little hard!). Sometimes library availability and due dates play a small role, but basically I've jumped around depending on what I'm feeling. However, I deliberately chose not to start at number 1 on the list because I didn't want to feel trapped. I just finished a couple of YA novels in a row (Red Rising—A book by an author you've never read before, and I'll Give You the Sun—A book picked solely because of the cover) so now I'm moving to another genre to keep it interesting.

R: When you read a book that fits in more than one category, how do you decide which to credit it to?

A: Oh, this happens a lot and it's a difficult decision. When I started the plan I assigned some books that I knew I wanted to read to certain categories, so depending on the book, I may go into it thinking it belongs in X category. Though, if I find midway through that it might fit another category that I'm having a harder time trying to fill, I might move it over. Even though I kinda feel like that's cheating, I haven't made any self-imposed rules about moving books between categories while I'm still reading them...yet. I currently have about 8 books pre-set into categories and another 9 that I might want to read this year, but haven't decided yet.  

R: What have you learned so far from the experience of branching out in your reading?

A: I feel like I'm still at the beginning of this, so I'm not entirely sure what I've learned yet. I have found that I don't actually dislike reading as much as I thought I did, which is good, but I feel like I might have a better answer to that question in a few months.

R: Have you read anything that you liked but wouldn't have read otherwise?

A: Yeah, the book I'll Give You the Sun. It was my "Book that you choose just because of the cover" so I didn't know anything about when I started. I hadn't even read the jacket cover summary. It wasn't like I thought I would dislike it, but if you had told me I've got this book about a set of twins who are artists and they talk to the ghosts of their dead relatives from time to time and there's a secret teenage gay love story in it, too, I probably would have said, um, I'm not sure that's my cup of tea. It was pretty good though! There was an interesting structure to it that made you want to keep reading so you could fill in some missing information and the inner monologues were pretty funny and realistic. It's a YA novel, so it was nice and quick too, which I always like :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Give a Hoot for HOOT!

For the past year I’ve been attending online writers’ workshops hosted by the editors of Hoot Review. Before, I had very little experience giving and getting critical feedback, but the Hoot chats (as I call them) have been wonderfully educational and supportive. I get feedback that I read in the privacy of my own home so if I get offended or need to whine to my spouse that they just don’t get me, I can, and no one will know so long as I make sure to write only friendly and appreciative things in the chat box.

I never know what kind of reception the pieces I share are going to have. I may read them in my head beforehand, sniggering to myself and thinking they are great, but that seems to have no correlation with how they are received by the ever-changing group assembled for Hoot chat. I don’t know if my perception prediction meter will become more accurate over time, but right now I can say it is totally uncalibrated. The day I shared my “Leg” poem (which would be my first published piece, illustrated by Hoot, shown below hanging on my fridge) with the group, I proceeded it with “you know I’m no poet, so tell me the truth” because even though I liked it, I couldn't tell on my own if it was actually interesting. Turned out they loved it and didn’t want me to change a thing, which surprised and elated me. One of the editors, Dorian, poetry professor that he is, even explained to me why the piece worked, which was both helpful and sobering: “The first line is so not-romantic, so goofy…the next line is really kind of prosaic… and the last line is so understated.”

I love the community created by the regular members. When I was getting started, I didn’t really know how to connect with writers or find people to be in a writing group with me. I was too timid to show up to a local group in person, so finding an online group seemed more appealing. Now, I regularly exchange pieces with two brilliant and talented women I met through Hoot. They write imaginative and poignant stories and poems I love to read even as rough drafts. It’s exactly what I wanted in a writing group and I’m still not sure how I got lucky enough to find them. I don’t think I could be in a writing group with just anyone, because it's hard to have patience for poetry or pieces I don’t get, so it is fantastic to get to read and be inspired by work I naturally connect with. They are also fantastic resources for finding places to submit my work, and I have to thank each of them for bringing to my attention the journals which are publishing my next three pieces!

If you're looking for a literary way to spend a few minutes, or want to get an illustrated literary postcard every month, I recommend reading and/or subscribing to Hoot! Everything they publish is 150 words or less (postcard-sized), so even if you have a short attention span, you might be able to make it through a few issues. Here are some of my favorites.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

FaceTime with Buddy

FaceTime chat with Buddy the peacock

Hey, Buddy, what's up? Are you going to have a nice tail this year? How's the family doing? I was so sorry to hear about Chickie—coyote is a terrible way to go. Don't forget that you can fly!

Did I tell you I dressed up as a peacock in flight for Halloween this year?

Costume depicting peacock in flight

A few of my feathers flew off while I was flying about the office, but that happens, right? I enjoyed educating my admirers on the various colors of peacock wing feathers and sent many of them running to google to see if my depiction was at all accurate. I highly enjoyed having wings for a day.

You take care now, Buddy, okay? Try to stay warm and safe! I know that snow you're getting right now isn't necessarily a peafowl's native climate.

Friday, February 13, 2015


We all have a god. Probably more than one. Let’s define a “god” as the thing (person, ideal, symbol, activity, feeling…) to which we give supreme importance. “Supreme importance” implies we can have only one, but like at a job, we can have multiple mid-level bosses. They might be organized into a hierarchy so it is clear which boss’s opinion matters more, or they could have ambiguous and overlapping influence over us.

So what is your god? What do you place above everyone else? Is it a person? Is it an ideal? Is it yourself and your own abilities? What is it that you seek out to get you through the day and keeps your attention longest? Think about that god. There is something you are affording supreme importance to. Is it what you want in that role?

When you spend time with your god, are you rewarded with satisfaction and peace? Do you feel more alive when you give it the best part of you? How much does it cost? Is it a good return on investment? What are you willing to sacrifice for it? Did you choose it or did it choose you?

I find myself making a god of “Comfort”. I worship the god of Comfort by arranging my schedule and my possessions around feeling most comfortable and least inconvenienced. I am not always content when I finally get things arranged the way I thought would make me most comfortable. At worst, I become a slave to protecting my tenuous hold on stability and comfort, and at best my safe routine lacks excitement without room left to be surprised by anything.

Sometimes I make a god of “Friends”. I sacrifice time, energy, and money for their amusement. I place my faith in friends to make me feel happy and fulfilled. Their companionship is indispensable in this life, but, being only human, they eventually have to disappoint me when they can’t be my everything every time I want them, just as I am bound to disappoint them. My best friend described the disappointment as “anything short of always” which I think describes it perfectly.

I also have a “God” in the traditional, religious sense. I try to afford my idea of this god supreme importance in my life. When I evaluate my relationship with this god critically, I feel overwhelmingly satisfied with my return on investment. The effort I put in to seeking out and learning about what I believe to be the omniscient and omnipotent being of the universe yields me peace, wisdom, patience, and meaning—the sort of stuff I need to help me get by on a daily basis.

Who or what are your gods? What do they promise you? Are they worthy to be your gods?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Like beets

There is a website that will analyze your twitter feed and create a sonnet "written" by you! (Click here and hover over lines to see original tweets. Too bad about the unpaired parentheses!)

Friday, January 30, 2015

The foliage was a bit intense.

My brain apparently keeps a back catalog of things left unsaid, and when I can't sleep in the wee hours of the morning, it trots out memories demanding justice. This time I found myself writing a suggestion box comment for a restaurant I went to in June 2013.

"The food was great. The service was forgettable. The foliage was a bit intense."

Although, now that this stupid memory has gotten me out of bed to write a blog post about it, I'm feeling a more straightforward suggestion would be to drop this picture in the box, with ultimately no caption necessary:

There. Are you happy now, brain?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Moral Dilemma: Seaweed Edition

Say you’re shopping at Trader Joe’s on a Sunday afternoon. You only get to that side of town once a week, at most, and you’ve been hankering for some roasted seaweed snacks for a while now. Finally you remembered when you were at the store! With luck, you manage to safely navigate your cart past the crowded sample station and into the snack and fresh fruits aisle. Since it is so crazy busy in there, your spouse says he will retrieve the seaweed off the 2nd-from-the-bottom shelf if you want to stand with the cart out of the way by the bananas. You say, “Thanks! I’d like 6.” He comes back with 3 packages of seaweed and says, “There are only 6 left. Do you want them all, or should we leave some for the other shoppers?”

How many packages of roasted seaweed snacks do you buy?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Turning a Phrase

You may never make a living doing what you want, but that doesn't mean you can't make a life of it. Turning phrases will be my thing. “Oh her?” they’ll say of me, “That’s just crazy, ol’ Ramblin' Rachel. She made a life of turning phrases. Never turned much of a profit, though!”

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chicken Satay Skewers and Yogurt Sauce

For a New Year’s Eve party, we made a double-batch of these Chicken Satay Skewers from Martha Stewart. For once, I actually followed the recipe exactly, except that we grilled them on the George Foreman grill instead of making them on a grill pan. The chicken turned out well, but the dipping sauce was so deplorable I didn’t even try to serve it to anyone. It tasted exactly like peanut butter and vinegar which it turns out is not that tasty together, IMHO. I liked the chicken well enough to do again, and the only thing I would change is to maybe marinate it in the garlic sauce for longer in hopes that it would retain more of those flavors.
Chicken Satay Skewers
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each), thinly sliced lengthwise into 12 strips
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • Vegetable oil, for pan

In a bowl, toss chicken with sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of the red-pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Thread each chicken strip lengthwise onto a skewer. Make dipping sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, vinegar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, and 2 to 3 tablespoons water. Heat grill pan over high. Working in batches, brush pan with oil, and cook chicken until opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Serve chicken skewers with dipping sauce. (From the Martha Stewart website)

We had a number of skewers left over after the party that we ate warmed (but plain) for awhile, but then today I got the brilliant idea to take them in a different direction since I needed a lunch but wouldn’t have access to a microwave. “Wouldn’t they make a nice base for a tasty yogurt sauce?” I thought, and indeed they did! I found this recipe (the intro to which was tl:dr—sorry! I was in a hurry to catch the bus!) and followed it fairly closely other than that I didn’t measure anything, only made about a half cup, forgot the olive oil, and didn’t have any coriander handy. Also no fresh herbs, so I went with some dried dill.

Basic Yogurt Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
In a medium bowl combine:
  • 1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/2 an English hothouse cucumber, roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • 2 tablespoons fresh herbs (any combination of dill, mint, cilantro, and basil)

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Let sit for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld.
(From the Joy of Cooking website)

The yogurt sauce was so delicious with my cold chicken skewers and cut up veggies! I thought maybe I’d save some for Matt to try, but alas, I pretty much licked the dish clean, which I can do when I’m sitting by myself in my studio with the curtains drawn. I was so proud of myself for A.) eating leftovers, B.) packing a lunch, and C.) eating healthy that I decided to blog to tell the world about it post haste. With all that and a blog post added to my credit, I feel I’ve definitely earned that leftover serving of tiramisu I also packed myself!

Monday, January 5, 2015


How do people in construction deal with all the noise? I don’t feel so bad for the guy running the machine because he knows when he will start and stop and he gets the adrenaline rush of using a dangerous piece of equipment near his fragile human body. It’s the guys next to him, holding the “SLOW” sign or waiting to hand him the next piece of wood to cut that I think it’s worse for. They are SO CLOSE to the noise without being in control of it.

My dad worked in construction for many years. He was a strong, able man, that gave his body, his youth, and his hearing to the profession. And in living that hard life, he died younger than many. I wish I had ask him what it’s like to be making so much noise all day long. Although, I couldn’t have called him on the phone. I mean, I could, and I did, but with the hearing loss, talking was not the easiest way to communicate. I suppose I should have written. I do fancy myself a writer after all. And I am a fast typer. But my dad never learned to type. He typed out a message once and my step-mom said it took him 30 minutes to get three sentences. We never found our stride, our way to exchange thoughts or ideas or feelings or information. I think we just guessed about each other a lot, and took action accordingly. It wasn’t because we didn’t care, because we did. We just didn’t know how to change. We didn’t know what questions to ask. We didn’t want to screw up what we had, maybe, and didn’t want to take risks to make it better.

I understand at this moment what “there’s a lump in my throat” means. I have that. And I’m so happy that someone figured out how to describe that physical response to an emotional situation. I’m glad that even though it’s a cliche thing to say, that because it is we know that it is a feeling that other humans feel and we are not alone when we have felt it. Like how we wonder sometimes if green to one person is the same as green to another person. We don’t need to wonder with the “lump in my throat” situation. Life has enough mysteries—let’s occasionally celebrate one we’ve already figured out and cataloged.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

On the Benefits of Nocturnal Musing for Insomniac Persons

What I write in my head
While I'm lying in bed
Remains often unread
But at least not unsaid.

(Credit to Matt for an assist in writing this poem.)