Monthly Archives: March 2012

A Hilly Half (The Georgia Half Marathon)

Finished another half on Sunday and it’s always such a thrill to be in those big races. I did 2:07:46, which put me 3511 (out of 9127) or the 1386th best female (out of 5114) or 125 out of 535 45-49 year old women. Not my greatest time, but considering the hilliness of the course and the warmer temperatures, I was pleased. I only walked twice and those walks were pretty brief (as well as uphill.)

Saturday was great fun. I left around 10 so I could have lunch with my buddy Mark, who I knew at Clemson. He and his wife have two great kids and in fact, the daughter reminds me of my daughter. If they weren’t both so dang inward, maybe they would actually enjoy each other. We went to the original Doc Chey’s where I had a nice spicy vegetarian noodle dish, while eating outside. A nice conversation about the movies of the past year, including the insight that the two most acclaimed movies of the year were both about old-time film making. (Also, do not get me started about the poor, horrible typography in “The Artist” which is a great movie, but they totally blew the type thing. FOR SHAME!)

The weirdest part of that visit: we got in the wrong Subaru. Someone parked their blue Subaru in front of his and we sat in it for a second before we realized we were in the wrong car. I wondered where the small bag of dog food came from.

Thank God for technology, which was the only way I managed to remember where my friend Martha lived. No idea how I survived before that. We then decided to head to the Expo and we foolishly figured driving would be just fine, with the St. Pat’s parade being over. After more than an hour, we managed to get into the parking deck to the Georgia World Congress Center. There was only 18K runners in this race and the Expo was two days, so it wasn’t until we passed the Auto Show, the dance competition and the Black Atlanta conference to get to the Expo that we realized what the traffic really was all about. (And let me add: four very distinct events. It was clear who was going to what event.)

The Expo was nuts. The very first event I ran, I left early to go to the Expo (for the Spinx Run Fest) and there were maybe eight tables. Maybe. That included the packet pickup. I was done with that Expo in about 10 minutes. (BTW, beautiful run, finishes in the AAA ballfield, worth doing.) The next year. someone picked up my number for me. The Thanksgiving Expo was solid, but again, not huge, totally manageable. I think it was in a hotel ballroom or something. I’d guess about 24 tables, maybe? There were about 8K runners in that event. The biggest expo I’d been to before that was the Bridge Run in Charleston. If I ever run that one again, I will so have my number sent to me. Good grief, the parking for that Expo was a complete nightmare. Imagine trying to find a place to park in downtown Charleston on a Friday afternoon for a race that has 40K people in it. It was a total mob scene. My poor crowd-adverse daughter was a total mess when we were done and I probably spent more time seeking a parking spot than actually at the Expo. (Still, I had fun when it was all over.) The Georgia Marathon Expo was huge. HUGE. Heck, even the Chobani truck was there handing out free cups. I bought two sweaty bands for my kid and a water belt to avoid having to jockey to get water from stations. The biggest surprise was that I also came home with an avocado. That was unexpected, but I guess the avocado people were ready to get rid of their stuff.

Proving that runners are completely insane, we woke at 4:15 am, as in in the morning, to go drive down to the center of Atlanta and then run 13.1 miles. In fact, there was much discussion amongst the friends as to whether we’d meet at 5:15, 5:30 or 5:45. The ironic thing was that they were all like “it’s only 15 minutes! C’mon!” Meeting at 5:30 got us downtown in great shape and we stretched and enjoyed the Jazzercise music blaring from the speakers. I’m sure most thought of it as “dance music” but every song played had a Jazz routine to go with it. I even demonstrated Rihanna’s “We Found Love” which if you’ve ever done it, let’s just say it’s a sassy routine. We finally creeped up to the start line and off we went!

I had heard that the Atlanta marathon was a hilly one, but I figured that was the last 13 miles. Certainly the first 13 miles were fairly flat. The Thanksgiving half was fairly flat, so this would be much the same, right? WRONG. Also deceiving: the chart showed ups and downs, but there were ups and downs WITHIN those ups and downs. Plus, to add to the challenge, there was an entire mile uphill starting at 9.22 AND the half ended up an uphill. OK, the last tenth was downhill. But the last couple of miles before that weren’t. I’ve never been so grateful to see signs that said “3/4 of a mile to go” “half a mile to go” sheesh!

I can’t say enough about the volunteers and the spectators for the race. The spectators may there for a special runner, but they cheer for everyone. Around mile 6, a very buoyant girl with a large sign ran up and down the street and eventually out in the road with the runners, cheering us on. Man, enthusiasm like that, how can you NOT run? There were even a few spots that I considered walking, but how could I with people cheering and saying “you look great!” Special touches like actually putting the medal around my neck instead of handing it to me made me feel like a winner. So, Atlanta Track Club, kudos, my friends KUDOS.

My only complaint about the volunteers is that they didn’t always have the right answer. We had two problems: finding our friends and getting back across the street to find the car. She led us in the wrong direction, which meant we probably walked an extra mile that we didn’t need to. (A cop working the race finally gave us the right answer.) 

As to finding your friends, if one of your friends says “we’ll meet at the finish line” tell them to try again. They move you so quickly down the finish line and into the park that it will be a huge challenge to meet up.

Still, I had so much fun I’m signed up for the Peachtree, if they let me in. More hills, heat and humidity are in my future. (Wait, I get that at home too. Well, maybe I’ll be properly trained then.)


A Religious Liberal in the South

This is the content of my portion of the “Being a Southern Unitarian Universalist” service at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clemson on March 9, 2012. You can read what everyone said or even just listen to it. I think my version probably reads better than I delivered it, fair warning.

Lee Hazlewood: There’s nothing worse, I guess, than being black in an all-white church or being southern and being a liberal.

I did not grow up UU, but it feels like it. I was raised in the Lutheran church, which managed to be high church as well as liberal at the same time. Turns out Martin Luther was a good model, since he’s really the original church rebel. So, growing up Lutheran gives me some perspective on talking about today’s topic.

Now growing up in Clemson is a little different than growing up in South Carolina. I learned this lesson when I went to work. I grew up assuming everyone’s parents had Ph.D.s. Imagine my shock when I learned that some parents didn’t even have high school diplomas. The uneducated aspect of SC is different than most of my experience. Certainly there are plenty of conservative people with education: just last week my daughter told me that her language arts teacher (a Ph.D.) has made some nasty comments about liberals. When she said she doesn’t speak out, we told her that was the right thing to do. Lay low, it’s the best way, we advised. She’s in middle school. She’s not ready for the fight.

Growing up the daughter of liberal New England parents in the South, even if it’s in what was at least a moderate community, you could say I was pretty conflicted. In my home state, I was considered not really one of them; I didn’t even like fried chicken and sweet tea. However, you take me out of the South and suddenly I AM Southern. “This is my cousin Christine from SC: say y’all Christine” is how my cousins would introduce me to their friends. There was even an aspect of pity to my choice of home state: my schooling must be of less quality, I must be racist, it’s a shame I don’t have any culture around me. As a result, I frequently felt like a person who didn’t fit in anywhere.

And yet, here I am. I love my home state. I love the pace, the beauty. I’ve even found that we really aren’t the only home for the religious conservative: the North version is just more Catholic and honestly, I prefer the Baptist version. And while I counsel my daughter to lay low, I certainly speak out. Am I shunned for expressing my beliefs? Turns out I’m not.

You see, Southerners might prefer their politics conservative, but they also admire someone who can speak their beliefs, as long as they do it without being too condescending about it. They don’t want you telling them what to believe, so they can respect you as long as you don’t come across as an uppity know-it-all Northerner. The late conservative, very Southern Lewis Grizzard once said, “I’m a white man and I’m a Southerner. And I’m sick of being told what is wrong with me from outside critics, and I’m tired of being stereotyped as a refugee from ‘God’s Little Acre’.” While I mostly avoid conversations about politics with my conservative friends, their beliefs do make me think harder about my own. As a religious liberal in the South, I am no lamb. My beliefs are hard earned. Do I feel less Southern because of my beliefs? Well, no actually. I think I’m as Southern as I want to be. And truly, a real Southerner is a rebel. I am surrounded by examples of those that fought for their beliefs, even if I do not necessarily agree with them.

I don’t feel my point in being in the South is to change people’s politics (even it’d be great if everyone thought I was right.) Instead, I hope to set an example of the very thing Southerners ache for from the rest of the country: understanding. Rodney King once famously said “Can we all get along?” and that is what I hope for here. I hope that my very conservative neighbor can see that not all liberals are crazed heretics that wish to make abortion mandatory. I want to show my Jazzercise friend that while I’m happy she loves New Spring, I love my small liberal church community where we aren’t doing devil worship. I want to put a face on what’s become “the other side.” And to those that believe the South is full of uneducated conservative freaks, I’m out there showing that we’re far more complex than that, just as they are. A Midwest or Northern conservative is just a different flavor that what we have down here.

And so in the South I continue to proudly reside. I’ve learned to embrace the heritage of the area. I honor it by being proudly myself while trying to understand those around me with different beliefs. We all shape and inform each other. I’ll close with these words from Maya Angelou:

“The sisters and brothers that you meet give you the materials which your character uses to build itself. It is said that some people are born great, others achieve it, some have it thrust upon them. In truth, the ways in which your character is built have to do with all three of those. Those around you, those you choose, and those who choose you.”

The Sweater Knitted at Least Twice

Only simple with the right amount of yarn

Only simple with the right amount of yarn

Been far far too long since I blogged and here’s one of the reason: this sweater. I thought this would be a fairly easy sweater (especially since it’s called “Simple Knitted Bodice”) and for the most part it was. The problem was the contrasting yarn. I just hadn’t bought enough of it and it was so expensive, I chose to spend more time unraveling and reknitting than spend another $33. Yes, this means my time is less precious to me than money. Hey, I work for the state. They feel the same way.

Here’s how I remember this one going together:

  1. I start out with the top. It begins with a few stitches and keeps growing, so I am  flying through the rows. I become deluded into thinking this sweater will be done in a weekend. As I get to the armpits, I realize it’s going to take much longer than that.
  2. Finally, I reach the fun trim part. Now I’ve made Stitch Diva sweaters before, and they are always a little short (even if I’m swatched), so I’m going up a size on this one. I dig into the contrasting band, and when I’m near the end I realize that it now looks like I have a spare tire around my waist. Oh and knitting with beads? Kind of a pain in the ass. You end up spending a lot of time pushing them through the other side. Now I’ve got to unravel all this and start over.
  3. I decrease the stitches down to the smaller size and restitch the middle band.  Again, I spend a lot of time pushing the beads through. This is a big mistake. Wait until you’re finished. For one thing, if you have to unravel it again, you’re going to have a devil of a time with all those beads you spent a long time pushing through to the other side. Not only are you mad you wasted your time, it’s harder to unravel. Real salt in the wound.
  4. I try it on and the spare tire look is gone and it fits much better. I then zing my way through the bottom of the sweater with ease. Much easier than that “fun trim” I had been working on.
  5. On to the sleeves. The first one goes very easily and I wisely keep track of the stitches I’m doing so I can replicate it on the other sleeve.
  6. I start the second sleeve. As I do that “fun’ band again, I realize I’m going to run out of that super-expensive yarn. I’m faced with two choices: bite the bullet and buy more, when I’ll end up using maybe 20% of the yarn to finish the sweater. Or … I can unravel EVERYTHING and save myself the money on the yarn. That’s correct: I choose to unravel everything.
  7. The unraveling can be tough to do when you are doing it through tears. (I’m kidding. I did it while watching Daily Show and did it as quickly as I could, like a band-aid, before I changed my mind about it.)
  8. Now I’m adjusting the pattern. Instead of 5.5 repeats of the chevron lace, I’m doing 4. And instead of two rows of knit between the three purl rows, I’m doing 1. And, I’m holding my breath that this will do the trick, because if it doesn’t, I might have to just set fire to the damn thing.
  9. Starting with reknitting the sleeves, so I can best judge how far I can push this small amount of very expensive yarn. The first band goes quickly and on to the sleeve. I’m adjusting here. Instead of every 5 rows, it’s every 7 to increase. And, when I get to the trim, I’m doing 2 rows of purl and 1 of knit instead of 3 to 2.
  10. On to the second sleeve. This one goes much slower. More red tick marks as the rows go by. The second sleeve is knitted to Victor/Victoria. What a great movie. I too am wondering how much more I can go on with this damn sweater. It doesn’t help that my husband prefers TV viewing in the dark and this sweater is black.
  11. A knitting break from the sweaterOK I can’t take it any more. I have to complete something or I’m going to commit hara-kiri with my knitting needles. I stop and knit a pair of fingerless gloves for the office, when it’s 96 outside and 54 inside.
  12. Whoops, freelance break. The next two weeks are spent working on my embroidery magazine project. I’ve tried embroidery. Kudos to you ladies that do it. It makes knitting look very fast.
  13. Boy chevron lace flies when you do that middle band three times. Now I have to adjust for the 12 rows I’ve lost in the middle band. Instead of increasing every 5 rows, I’m increasing every 7 rows. I’ve got pages of tick marks everywhere. Now I’m color coding them. Using red for the second set, because I’m really in debt on this sweater. And, it looks like my yarn is going to hold out. Whew.
  14. Wow, I have more yarn than I thought. You know, that bottom trim on the sleeves looks skimpy. I’m going to do 3 rows of purls and 1 knit instead of the original 3/2 pattern. The sleeves will be fine with the lesser trim, right? No one will notice?
  15. Shit, the difference really needs to be adjusted. Plus, I have yarn left. I’m not going to let that go to waste, am I? Really? Let’s finish the neckline first, see what I’ve got left.
  16. Neckline goes fast, primarily because this might be the only part of the sweater that I will knit once. I still have beaded yarn left. What do to about that skimpy sleeve trim …
  17. Unraveling the trim on the sleeves. Sigh. Really, Christine, you’ve come this far. It’s 4 rows. Are you really going to be defeated by 4 rows? (Well, 8 if you count each sleeve.)
  18. So much left!OK, two nights later and an another hour’s work and that was probably smart. I can’t wait to show it off! Wait, the high tomorrow is 80? Crap. Plus, I have some beaded yarn left now. What will I do with it?