Home / 2008 / April

Hawaii Mountains Silhouetted by the Moon

Man, is this beautiful. Because the atmosphere is a bit thinner at 13,500 feet, space shines through more clearly. Maybe this is something that Rocky Mountain-dwellers are used to, but the Ozark “Mountains” I grew up in never afforded an image like this. Silhouetted mountains; a bright Moon and sparkling Venus; and clouds, lit up by the moonlight, make for a breath-taking image, even when viewed on a computer screen. I can only imagine how beautiful it must have been in person.

(Frayed Laces, maybe you can tell us!)

Twitter Saves

On Monday, I told you about Twitter, how I use it for advertising this blog and interacting with Facebook. Today, Charity forwarded me a CNN story about James Karl Buck, an American journalism student who sent a one-word tweet—”Arrested”—when he was arrested while covering a protest in his adopted home, Egypt. That tweet alerted his friends to his fate and set in motion his release, thus proving that Twitter has some serious uses, other than telling the world what you’re doing, marketing your blog, and updating your Facebook status.

Twitter Guest Post on A Fool of Myself

Let me share a little email I got from Sarah:

Hey, how would you feel about doing a guest post about Twitter? I’m thinking about jumping on board…convince me!

And here was my response:


Actually, my true response what much more detailed, as I was unsure of whether I should write the post. By the end of my email, though, I had convinced myself (and hopefully Sarah!) that I was ready to write it, but that it would not be much like any other other posts I’ve read about Twitter.

So, without further ado, you can read my first guest post on Sarah’s blog, A Fool of Myself.

Also relevant…
Follow me on Twitter
Follow Sarah on Twitter

A Marathon of a Different Kind

Messier Objects

Messier Objects

A couple weeks ago, I announced my bid for the upcoming Berlin Marathon, and yesterday, NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day featured a marathon of a different kind.

In the 1800s, Charles Messier, a French astronomer, dedicated much of his time cataloging objects in the sky that he and other comet hunters might incorrectly identify as comets. Most of these items were deep sky objects, like nebulae and galaxies. He cataloged 103 objects in the sky, and this astronomical marathon challenges amateur astronomers to view all 110 Messier objects (7 were added to Messier’s list).

Because of our rotation around the sun and a viewer’s location on our planet, there are certain times when running this marathon is possible, and one of those times is around the March equinox, from mid-March to early-April. I seriously doubt that it would ever happen, but I would love to complete this marathon some day!

Image source: The 110 Messier objects

Possessed: Does Your Stuff Own You?

Take a moment to watch this short film, called “Possessed,” which

enters the complicated worlds of four hoarders; people whose lives are dominated by their relationship to possessions. The film questions whether hoarding is a symptom of mental illness or a revolt against the material recklessness of consumerism. When does collecting become hoarding and why do possessions exert such an influence on our lives?

POSSESSED from Martin Hampton on Vimeo

It is no news to regular readers of this blog that I have been making changes in my life over the past year. I think that one of the biggest changes that has taken place in my life is the way I handle money. Rob and I have struggled for years with my bad spending habits, but I finally feel like I have them under control.

The next big change we are working on is my hoarding, and that video inspired me to share my story. Mine is not anything close to as dramatic as those in the film, but it’s my story. It has always been quite apparent to me since later in high school that I like to save things. Every little thing. Programs from events in high school and college. News clippings of interesting articles (usually recipes or funny comics) from magazines or newspapers. Ticket stubs. Unique bottles.

I started getting it under control sometime during college—having to move in August and May and August again during the first two years of college dorm life and then once a year for the next two years—made me realize that I had too much junk. That’s when I began getting rid of it, but not seriously. Then two things happened that started to help me fix this problem and the pretty much cured it.

The first thing was simple. I was using StumbleUpon and I came across LifeOrganizers.com. I read a few articles the first day, then a few more the second and third days. And then I just started leaving the site up and reading a little more every day. Then I wanted to start trying out some of the things I read about. Within one month, I had decluttered our files at home (I had cell phone bills still from a company I was no longer contractually obligated to and almost every single bank statement—some of which were 8 to 10 pages long—I had ever received. I found a great shredder on sale ($50 for $30, gotta love Wal-mart) and taken care of all those extra papers I had hoarded away. I saved a few important ones, but I significantly reduced our clutter in one little area.

It was catching. Next, I tackled my office at school. It was disorganized and messy. However, I had been jealously eyeing Sarah’s perfectly organized files every time she opened her drawer, so I asked her for some advice, then sat down between the recycle bin and a stack of new hanging file folders and tabs and a plan to make sure everything was uniform. I finally had a well-organized system.

At home, I was slowly organizing little parts of our home. Then I got this job and suddenly we had six weeks to pack up our entire life and move to Germany. If there is one thing that will cure a cluttered home, it’s making an international move in 42 quick days. That move was the second thing that jump-started my organizing.

I know how hard it is to throw stuff away. I seriously couldn’t have done it without Rob’s griping encouragement. And Bethany‘s help. Nothing helps you realize all the crap you save and for what stupid reason than cleaning out that crap in front of a friend. All the excuses that make sense in your brain and in front of your husband no longer work.

So where are you at? Are you suffering under too much Stuff? What’s your strategy for getting out from the pressure? Or are you like me and find yourself on the upswing? Share your success story in the comments or on your own blog and then leave a comment letting us know about it!

Related Websites

Life Organizers: Short, easily digested articles for organizing all parts of your life: home, office, time, education and more!
The Positivity Blog: To change your life and habits, you must change your mind.
Unclutter: How to get and stay organized, but truly about living a “simply, remarkable life”
Zen Habits: despite its new age-y sound, this blog gives great advice for achieving your organization, productivity, health, and money goals, plus many other areas of your life.
Dumb Little Man: Not every post here is about organization, but they’re all great.

May Day is a Big Day This Year


Okay, I’m with you… I can’t wait until May 1 either! Not only because it is a school holiday in Germany (WAHOO!), but also because it’s the first every RSS Day!

Here’s a preview of some of my favorite reasons for clicking on those little orange buttons so often.

  • There are many feed readers out there, buy my preferred reader, Google Reader, makes it easy to email an article to a friend I think will enjoy it!
  • It’s easy to create a page of the articles I’ve shared, without clogging up inboxes.
  • I like the focused approach to broadening my horizons that RSS offers. I don’t have to aimless browse the web or spend time looking for articles I want to read: they’re delivered right to my feed reader every day.

And, if you haven’t watched this video one of the other thousand times I’ve mentioned it, you should check out Common Craft’s “RSS in Plain English.” It does what all of Common Craft’s videos does: Explain a really cool web technology in clear, simple terms, and highlights why you should give it a try. Hey, it ain’t called “Really Simple Syndication” for nuthin!

Can You Sum Up Your Entire Life in Six Words?

This idea has been around for quite a long time. In fact, its most famous version is from Hemingway, who wrote not a six-word memoir, but a six-word novel:

For sale: baby shoes, never used.

This most recent iteration was sparked by SMITH Magazine’s book called Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure. NPR even has an enjoyable slide-show to accompany the six-word memoirs they have collected.

So without further ado, I am joining the six-word memoir meme that is sweeping the blogosphere. I’ve been tagged by Sarah at A Fool of Myself, which means I have to sum up the last 26 life-filled years in six little words.

An optimist-at-heart, teacher-friend writes, runs, loves.

Now it’s my turn to play tag! I think you’re technically supposed to tag only five people, but I am excited to hear what my friends come up with. I really enjoyed brainstorming and word-playing, and I hope you do to!

Beth and James at teco/teca
Deanna at Something clever here soon.
Dr. Cadle at Techsophist
Charity at The Hoot’s Nest
Jill at Ingenious Fool
M at Colorless Green Ideas
…and last but certainly not least:
Дж. Хьюз at Bright Yellow Gun

And here are the rules of this little meme:

  1. Write your own six word memoir.
  2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want.
  3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post, and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.
  4. Tag at least five more blogs with links.
  5. Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

P.S. Just to head off your doubters and nay-sayers, I have it from a pretty darn good source—my former grammar professor—that compound adjectives, which are joined by hyphens, count as one word, and I think it’s safe to assume that the same goes for the compound noun I use to name myself.

My Running History P.S. Fitness Test

I forgot a second announcement I meant to post alongside my “I’m running the Berlin Marathon” announcement. So here’s a little post script on yesterday’s post.

Remember those Fitness Tests I and so many others failed in high school? I’ve decided that I do not want have that failure hanging over me anymore. (Not that it is something that has been bothering me since 11th grade or anything…)

I’m more physically fit than I was then by a long shot, so I think I can rank at least in the “Good” category. But I’m going to shoot for hitting “Excellent” in the 12-minute fitness test and the sit-and-reach test. That means that, according to this Washington Post page, here’s what I’ll need to hit.

12-minute fitness test: 1.45 miles (Excellent)
Sit-and-reach flexibility test: 22.5 inches (Excellent)
1-minute sit-ups: 38 (Good)
Modified push-ups: 30 (Good)

I have already started doing push-ups, sit-ups, and regular stretching, but I am going to test myself on the first day of marathon training, May 26, and 8 weeks in, on August 4. I want to see where I rank at the beginning of training, and then see how much I progress.

So, you know my next question… Who’s in? Anyone else out there want to overcome those demons from high school? Or just up for another fitness challenge, like the 8-week, 100-mile challenge? Let me know if you’re in by leaving a comment!

My Running History is MY Running History

Linden at the end of the Giessen half-marathon

Linden at the end of the Giessen half-marathon

I have been telling you about who helped me believe it was possible for me to start running and who helped me continue being a runner, but today I’m going to try to tell my part of the story. Well, at least the most relevant parts. :)

When I started training for that 2005 Chicago Marathon, Rob and I had one car and we lived just north of Grand Street. We both worked at Bed Bath & Beyond. This means that both of us spent lots of hours at Border’s waiting for the other to get off work. I spent most of my time reading about running, and I started with Hal Higdon’s marathon book.

If you’ve heard that running is 90% mental and 10% physical, you’ve heard right. It seems like to me that your body learns how to run waaay quicker than your mind. Hal acknowledges this, as did other books I read through (and furiously made notes on, anal-retentive that I am):

Running Mantras

I wanted to be prepared.

  • “Hello, Hills! Come run with me!”
  • “I am a marathoner.”
  • “I never quit on a run!”
  • “I love to run! I will not stop!”
  • “I run no matter what the weather is like.”
  • “I always feel strong when I run.”
  • “My legs are getting stronger, my lungs are getting stronger, my mind is getting stronger.”
  • One that Beth told me: Counting backwards from 100 while breathing out on the odd numbers and in on the even numbers.
  • One that Sarah told me: Remember the part in Indiana Jones where Marion asks Indy where it hurts and she kisses him? Ask yourself the opposite of that: “Where doesn’t it hurt?” Helps you ignore whatever pain is nagging at you.

Running Visualizations

I imagined a group of my athletic friends running in front of me. I’d catch up to them, they’d cheer me on, and then I’d start running faster than them, rushing through them to their cries of support.

In another, I would see just two or three of my friends up ahead. They’d be cheering for me, holding banners, jumping up and down.

On hot days, I would imagine ice melting in my shoes. Special ice that didn’t make my socks soggy or my shoes heavier. Magic running ice. :)

When I was feeling especially tired, I would catch up with one of my “imaginary” friends. Then a band would appear around us, linking us together. She or he would just keep on chugging ahead, pulling me along.

I would imagine my feet as feathers. Or my fatigue as a thin layer of skin that slowly peels away as I run. Finally, I just step out of it, feeling refreshed and renewed.

The most powerful image I had was one almost every book recommended: the finish line of your race. It was easy to imagine Chicago, with its million supporters along the route, cheering for everyone.

Berlin 2008

And I think that last visualization will be even more effective as I start training for what will actually be my first marathon. Last week, I registered for the Berlin Marathon, which takes place on September 28 (we saved beaucoup buckeroos by registering early). I have spent about 2 weeks in Berlin over the course of the last 8 months, and I know the starting and finishing lines very well (I’ll even run my last few miles down a street called “Unter den Linden”—how awesome is that?!).

At the same time that I am excited about getting to run my first marathon in such an important world city and the city that gave me the love of my life, I am very nervous about stepping in this ring again. I am nervous about announcing my bid so early and so publicly. What if I get sick again? What if I get injured? What if I just get lazy without a dedicated running parter who will kick my butt every day (not that Rob isn’t dedicated, but we have different values on running public races and needing a goal to strive for, plus it’s easier to say no to him than to Sarah)? What if I don’t run the right mileage and am under-prepared because I don’t have a Garmin or a trail that is marked every tenth of a mile (like the Galloway Trail, where I did about 90% of all my running when we lived in Springfield)?

Some days I believe in myself. But others I just know I’ll fail. I know I’ll disappoint everyone again. Or maybe I’m just afraid of disappointing myself all over again.

In the end, I decided to do it, to announce my marathon goal almost six months away from D-Day. I hope that, as I continue to blog about my training (which will definitely pick up starting the last week of May when training starts), my running and non-running blog readers will encourage me. Will you do that?

Because I am going to need it.

My Running History is Sarah’s Running History

Sarah and Linden after the Frisco 5k (March 2007)

Sarah and Linden after the Frisco 5k (March 2007)

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about how Beth encouraged me to take the first few running steps down my path as a life-time runner. Today, I’ll write about how a girl who I never thought I’d know more about than her and her fiancé’s names and wedding date the first time I met them pushed the runner in me and started down the “Road to the Marathon” with me.

I met Sarah long before we became friends: I registered her and Chris at Bed Bath & Beyond. Then we met again in Pummill 401 (the English Department‘s Graduate Assistants office). We kind of started being friends the first semester of grad school, but our friendship really began when we started running together in the spring semester in McDonald arena. I think she needed someone to boost her into running longer distances, and I needed a running partner to help get me out of my slump, although I didn’t know it at the time.

When we first started running, I really enjoyed how much Sarah knew about health, and I think she liked my encouragement. I remember the day she mentioned that she’d like to run a 5k eventually. We had been running 2 miles that week, so I told her that a 5k is only 3.1 miles. I added, “Why don’t we just see if we can do 3 today?” And we did. The rest of that semester, we ran our miles, talked, and she showed me how to use the weight machines. (You all know what it’s like to be the only person in the gym who can’t figure the machine out, while all the buffed beauties walk by and snicker at you as they add more weights. Sucks.) We didn’t stay in touch during the summer, but she ran her first 5k and even took second place in her age category.

When school started back up in the fall, we started running and lifting together again. Our desks were next to each other, so we talked a lot, plus we took a web design class for tech writers. We spent almost every Friday together doing homework for the class, checking for typos and sytax mistakes.

It was the next spring semester that our running became very serious. Sarah mapped out our road to the marathon, thanks to the great support and publicity running has in the Springfield area: a 5k during spring break, a 10k in the June, a half-marathon in November, and then a full marathon in spring 2009. With the exception of a week off here and there for illness, injury, and vacations, we ran together four days a week from the middle of January until I moved away in late September.

When you find a good running partner, you will learn a lot about her. You don’t just plod along those miles silently! You talk. And you tell her things you didn’t think you would because you have four more miles to go and you need to talk to fight that pain in your knee. You listen and learn about her as she does the same thing.

And your running partner sees you at your weakest. When you feel like every muscle in your body is going to snap, your running partner tells you you can go on. When your mind is screaming that you are an awful runner, that you’re slow, that you’re tired, that you really want to walk, she says no, you can’t walk, “Push it, Linden. I know you can. We’re runners, not walkers.”

We ran that 5k, we did the 10k in the hot June heat, but that is where our paths diverged. I moved half a world away about 3/4 through our half-marathon training. Luckily, I found a half-marathon in mid-October and I ran it. Sarah continued on with an awesome showing in the Cohick Half-Marathon in early November.

But my running story is not over, and nor is my running story with Beth or Sarah. Life is so much better when shared with others, but sometimes, we have to forge ahead without the people who make us strong and cheer us on physically by our sides. So tomorrow I’ll write about the leg of this journey that will, by necessity, be all mine.