Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Do you know the feeling when something that seems so far removed from your life instead becomes very personal to you? That didn't make much sense. For example, when the planes hit the World Trade Center on 9/11, it knocked me off my feet but still seemed far removed from me. Then a plane hit the Pentagon, and there was concern of another plane heading for DC. At that time, my sister worked in an office down the street from the State Department, so what had been something horrible, but outside of my life, took a turn and stepped right into my sphere.

Yesterday morning as I scanned the local news on my office computer, there were headlines reporting a large number of car accidents and a few murders that took place over the weekend. Typical weekend in Memphis is what most of us would think. But as I scanned the information, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach as I recognized a name. Someone that I knew. All of the sudden, what had been so distant from me became quite close. A momentary news headline reminded me that behind every senseless killing there is a family, countless lives are forever changed, and very often parents have to make funeral arrangements for their children.

I am embarrassed at how callous I have become to the suffering of families who lose a loved one to violence. It took reading one name to jolt me back to reality. Many of you will go through life and never know anyone who is murdered. That is a blessing. If, however, we start to act like every murder victim in Memphis is a friend, or family member, or even someone we just met once, maybe we can start to make changes. There are many ways to affect change: contacting your legislator to demand laws giving harsher penalties to gun crime, contacting city and county leaders to fight for increased funding of prevention programs and gun control programs, mentoring kids and helping them see alternatives to violence, mentoring parolees to help have access to alternatives to violence, hiring young men and women at your place of employment for internships or other entry level jobs to give them opportunities to better themselves, vote for civil servants who make crime prevention an agenda item and have a decent plan to work with, give to non-profit or charitable agencies that work to reduce crime, go clean up a neighborhood and paint over gang graffiti...I really could go on.

There are two things that I think could make a major change for the better in our city: 1) take every murder seriously as if it were your own loved one, and 2) get involved in crime prevention in some way, big or small.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How MATA has changed my life

We are in week two of being car-less, and the social experiment is going well! I might start encouraging my friends and neighbors to ditch their vehicles and join us : ) We were already walking to the grocery store, restaurants and pretty much everywhere else around our neighborhood, but now we are completely relying on our shoes, our bikes, and MATA. Here is how my life has changed since not having a car:
1. I get up at 5:45 every weekday morning. Those of you who know me know that this is probably the biggest life change!
2. I make my breakfast and lunch every day. No more Starbucks, Sonic, Backyard Burger, Lenny's...the list could go on. This is one reason why I get up at 5:45. I hope that I will not only save money but lose a little weight in the process!
3. I start and end my day with a brisk 10 minute walk, sometimes accompanied by school children. One day I will need to write an entry about the morning routine around Snowden School. It is adorable and makes me want to have kids right now!
4. I have to leave work at a set time. Again, those of you who know me know that this is huge! I am a workaholic (at work) and I will often stay at work until every last little thing is done - even if that means coming home at 10pm. Now I have to leave at either 6:30 or 8:30 to catch the bus home.
5. We rely on friends more than ever. Becky takes me to running events and voter registration events (you have until Oct 6th to register!). MATA doesn't believe that people should go to church before 9:15 on Sundays, at least that's when their first round of buses leave the terminal. In order to get to the early service, we need friends to take us, and they are helping us out so much! We are currently searching for friends to get us home from evening church once we lose an hour of sunlight, because MATA also does not believe that people should go to church after 6pm.
6. We ride our bikes to church Sunday evenings. This is actually a LOT of fun! The weather has been gorgeous Sunday evenings, and we have a nice route on a not-too-busy street. I'm becoming a pro at shifting gears as we go up and down the gently sloping hills between our apartment and church. It also provides some nice cross training from my running.
7. I am actually reading my textbooks for class! You've got to do something on that 30 minute bus ride.
8. I have not paid attention to gas prices in the past two weeks. How's that for stress relief?

I know that not everyone has a lifestyle that would work without a car, but I highly recommend looking at your routine and seeing if you can walk or ride a bike. It benefits you and the environment : )

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's getting scary

With the election close upon us, I am getting queasy about how many Americans will go to the polls having NO CLUE what the issues are. Here is an excerpt from a Time article I read online:

Pausing recently at a Wal-Mart, she said: "Honestly, I don't know what to do. I really don't want to vote for McCain. You can tell he only cares about rich people. Sarah Palin wears glasses that cost $300. McCain's wife wears Gucci clothes. Which means they don't know anything about people like me." Into that stew of assumptions, she adds: "I hear that Obama's a Muslim. If he is a Muslim, that would be a problem, because the terrorists already attacked us." (He's not.)

There are so many things wrong with that perspective! If a multi-billionaire ran for president and was solid on the issues facing our country, I would vote for him/her. If a Muslim ran for president and was solid on the issues facing our country, I would vote for him/her. Ugghhh. Please people, read the position papers on the websites of our candidates to see where they stand on certain issues. The future of education, welfare, the economy, social security, civil rights, health care, foreign relations, war, the environment, etc. may depend on this election. Read the candidates' speeches and press releases to see what they stand for. Don't trust just one media outlet, because they all have biases. Do your homework before you vote - please!

Becky sent me this quote, which I must share:

"An informed voter is a voter
whose vote doesn't count any more
than the vote of a complete idiot."
- Benjamin Franklin


Last night, we headed back out to the Bartlett running group. As we walked from Becky's car to the group of runners, a horrible reality hit me: Spunky is hiking in the Grand Canyon this week. Who will run with us? Other thoughts rushed to my mind: Maybe we just won't run the whole 4 miles. What if we get lost? Are we really good enough runners to be out here?

Becky and I, learning from our previous outings, took a moderate pace in the first mile and kept it at 12 minutes. We ran with two other ladies from the MRTC Women's Running program, so we didn't feel too bad about being at the very back. We ran the second mile in about 11:20, and had a short break at the stop light. At the 2 mile mark, the two ladies we were running with opted out of the water break and kept on going. Thankfully, two other ladies were there, and they pledged to stay with us so we would not get lost. Not necessarily planning to do it, we ran the last two miles without any breaks at all. I noted that if races didn't have the course mapped out, and I could only find my way by sticking with the people in front of me, I would probably run much better races. We paced ourselves pretty well on the hilly course, speeding up sometimes and slowing down sometimes to maintain a run. We finished the four miles in 46 minutes, meaning that the first half was 23:20 and the second half was a 22:40. Maybe not impressive to the rest of the group, but that is a negative split, and I am very proud of it! The experience was also much more enjoyable than finishing the course in 46 minutes last week while running and walking. I felt much more accomplishment to have continued on without stopping, even when my mind told me several times to just stop and walk.

So, we made a little more progress. Each day I feel more and more confident about the 10k in October!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Getting used to the back of the pack

Last night I headed out to the MRTC Bartlett running group by myself. Becky was resting up for the Cooper Young 4-miler this Friday, and I thought I would be brave and go by myself. I thought I would try to keep up with the pack of middle-aged women who run with the group. Haha - that's funny!

The run went like this:
Mile 1 - Megan keeps up with the middle-aged women (granted at the back of the group). Megan and Spunky (the older man who directs the group, and runs with the new folks so they don't get lost) talk about the Women's Running 5k, and when he hears that she ran it in 33:23, Spunky says "Well, that's good for your first race!"

"Oh no," Megan puffs, "is was like my 8th race."

"Oh," says Spunky, "then I guess it wasn't a good race?"

"Oh no," Megan puffs again, "it was my PR."

"....well...good," says Spunky.

At one mile, Megan looks at her watch and sees 10:30. This is the fastest mile that Megan has run since high school.

Mile 2 - Megan slows her pace a bit and thankfully Spunky stays with her. They keep up with the last two women in the pack, one of whom is 70 years old. Short walk break at a hill, and a short break while waiting for the Bartlett Blvd stop light. As the group runs across Bartlett Blvd, a nice man in a car yells and gives the group the finger because the runners are in his way.

*2 minute water break at the community club house*

Mile 3 and Mile 4 - Megan's face is red (although in her defense standing outside in the heat makes it red), she is huffing and puffing, but she is running. A simple rule is followed: walk on the uphills, run on the downhills and flats. Knowing that the finish is just past the last hill, Megan opts to run up it, pumping those arms like the Women Running coaches taught her. Finish time is 49 minutes, but with the stoplight and water break, the four miles were probably done in 46 minutes. That's an average of 11:30 per mile. Uggh.. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a tempo run.

Despite possibly being the hardest run I have ever completed, I felt really good afterward! After I got through my G2 and started breathing normally, I noticed that my legs felt good, my arms felt good, my abs felt good...pretty much everything felt great. My body was kind of saying, "yeah, that's what I like - get me moving!"

So, I was the very last person to finish, but I ran faster and stronger than ever. One of these days maybe I will reach my goal of keeping up with the middle-aged women...maybe even the one running with a jogging stroller!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Back to politics

Barack Obama will be a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman tonight, Wed. 9/10. I'm willing to stay up a little late to check it out!

Also, the first presidential debate is coming up pretty soon, Sept 27th! I believe it will air on PBS, so everyone should be able to watch it. (As a non-cable user, I didn't appreciate all of the primary debates being aired on cable). It will be in Oxford, and I actually looked into getting tickets last month when I found out it was so close. Unfortunately, I found no info.

If you aren't registered to vote, do it now! There will be voter registration tables at both the Cooper-Young Festival and Southern Football Classic this weekend in Memphis. You have up until October to register to vote in the election.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Personal Best 5k

Yay! This morning Becky and I finished up our MRTC Women's Running program with a 5k at Audubon Park. It was a perfect morning for a race - cool and cloudy! Becky was not feeling well - she's been plagued by different illnesses for the past few weeks : ( - so we split up pretty early in the race. I thought I was doing a good job of keeping a moderate pace on my first mile, but I ran it in 10:50 (which is fast for me!) - too fast. The second mile was done in 11 minutes (also fast for me), and the third mile plus 200 meters was done in 11:33. I still need to work on negative splits, but a 33.23 5k is my personal best! I kicked the last quarter mile or so really hard because two girls were in front of me that I did not want to beat me : ) They were bragging about running the 2007 half-marathon in 10 minute miles during our training runs. Based on their performance in our training runs, I find that hard to believe.... They were a couple of people ahead of me the whole race, and I am sure that seeing their backs for three miles helped me run faster. Becky amazingly finished in 34 minutes while being sick! I missed her finish, and I got really scared after I waited for about 20 minutes at the 3 mile marker that she was passed out on the side of the road. Not so! Personal records for both of us : )

Next big goal is a 10k on October 18th. We'll have 5 weeks of half marathon training between now and then, so I think we'll be pretty good. Our outcome in the 10k will give us a good estimate of how we'll do in the half marathon. December 6th is coming up soon!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Another presidential campaign entry...

I cannot go without making some kind of statement about Palin's speech last night. I sat through as much as I could, but at 10pm I switched over to channel 50 to get my daily dose of Scrubs. If she's starting off her part of the campaign being that sarcastic, I don't think I can take two more months of her. I encourage everyone to go to this website to get the truth on attacks that both sides of the campaign are making. Politicians must think we're so dumb that they make extremely false claims in speeches and press conferences and don't think that we'll look the stuff up.

That's all for today. I am going to try to watch McCain's speech tonight; word on the street is that it's not as fierce as Palin's was. I am slightly interested in hearing what Cindy McCain has to say.

Oh, and I am going to get in touch with the local Dem campaign office this week to see about volunteering. I welcome friends to come too! If you have any opinions about this election, and the next four years of our country, I recommend getting involved! Even if you are a Republican, I would rather you learn the truth and get involved than do nothing. This is what living in a democracy is all about, right?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lunch Break Blog

Laura Bush: "I am so glad that the first female vice president of the United States is going to be a Republican."

Megan: Throwing objects at television

* I want to make clear that I do not oppose Palin because she is a woman. I oppose her because she has 20 months experience being a governor, in which time she pretty much just un-did what the previous governor had done. I was upset because I feel that so many other women in politics have fought for years and climbed up the power ladder, and now Palin waltzes in with a short resume and perky haircut and we are supposed to be excited feminists all of the sudden. If McCain had picked a male governor who had only been in office for 20 months, we would be hearing the same outcry about experience.