Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanks to God

For entirely too many years, I had no idea what it meant to be thankful. "Be thankful for what you have!" - a directive that implied it was as easy to be thankful as flipping a switch, or maybe it was simply a matter of changing your mind. I would do the best I could to will myself to have an "attitude of gratitude". It was short-lived. Rinse. Repeat. It felt as if I had an obligation to be thankful. How could a feeling of obligation ever really bring a feeling of thankfulness? Looking back, I have no idea how I believed that was possible, but I kept trying.

I often noticed a lot of the things I didn't have. I was also worried that what I did have would be taken away. Perhaps I would lose things if I didn't behave a certain way. Perhaps I would lose them simply by chance. Perhaps I never received the things I wanted because I wasn't behaving a certain way or maybe God just didn't want me to have them. I had no idea what was going on, but I was pretty certain it was all about me. Strangely, it was all about me, but not in the way I had imagined.

What I didn't understand was that it took more than just changing my mind or my attitude. What I now know is that I could only truly understand being thankful with help. That help came from Jesus.

I've had people ask about proof of the existence of Jesus and/or God. Of course, I cannot provide the rigid, almost mathematical, proof I assume they want. I've heard people say that their proof of Jesus comes from the change that occurs in them when they ask Jesus for help.  This proof might not be concrete enough for some, but the truth is that most people are not capable of making a change deep within their core. We might like to think they can, but experience shows otherwise.

One of the biggest changes I experienced was being able to feel thankful. Instead of worrying or fearing loss, a good portion of my day I feel like I have everything I could ask for. My life has certainly changed over the years, but it hasn't been so drastic that I went from nothing to everything. It feels that way, though. Sometimes doubt creeps back in, and I wonder if I lost all that I have whether I'd still feel thankful as often as I do. More often than not, that brings to mind Paul's words while sitting in prison, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4. He never said rejoice in things you have. He said rejoice in the Lord.

I have many reasons to be thankful, but without the capacity to feel thankful, that would all mean very little. That is not something I gave myself or taught myself because I had no clue how to do that. This Thanksgiving, more than anything, I'm thankful for feeling thankful. Thanks to God!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Shoe Review: Hoka Bondi 3

After a lot of procrastination and 196 miles, I thought it was about time to review the Hoka Bondi 3s. When I first read about the new uppers on the 3s and the fact that it made the shoe a bit lighter, I was excited to give them a go. I went with the coral version.

Hoka decided to go with their new lacing system on these, but they did throw in a pair of regular laces for those who aren't fans. I changed out the laces just after taking these pictures. The other big change was the uppers. The sole felt just like the original Bondi Bs (read my review) to me.

Women's Size 7.5 (no insoles) = 8.5 ounces
Hoka Bondi B Size 8 Women's (without insole) = 7.4 ounces
Hoka Kailua Tarmac Size 7.5 Women's (without insole) = 7.5 ounces
Well, hmmmm, those new Bondi 3s appear to be a full ounce heavier the my old Bondi Bs. I'm not exactly sure where I read they would be lighter, but this was disappointing.

Bondi B vs. Bondi 3 vs. Hoka Kailua Tarmac

The new upper was supposed to make the shoe more durable, and from what I can tell with almost 200 miles on them, it has done just that. I can wash the shoe, and it looks basically brand new. The other thing the new upper did was make the shoe feel a bit larger because it just isn't as thick as the old Bondi upper. Unfortunately there was another side effect of this new upper. After putting 20 training miles on the shoes, I took them for a spin at the Georgia Marathon and wound up with a slight bruise on the top of my foot near my ankle due to the stiffness of the material. It must have softened a bit with miles as I had no bruises after the Delaware Marathon, but I still was not loving them.

I noticed the uppers on the Hoka Conquest felt stiff as well after a test run at a local running store in March. That is one of the reasons I went with the Bondi 3 over the Conquest. While the material has softened enough so that it does not cause any more bruising, it still feels a lot less comfy than those old Bondis on my feet. If I could go back and buy a pair of the originals, I would.

What to do, what to do. It appears that Hoka is starting to use this material on most of the new shoes being released. Since these shoes are Hokas, I shouldn't have to purchase a new pair for quite a few more miles. I'm just not excited about buying another pair with this new, stiff upper material. Part of the reason I was dragging my feet on writing this review was because I really wanted to like these shoes as much as the old ones. Truth is, I don't. I'm scoping out the new Altra Paradigms for my next purchase, but the colors in the women's model are ... well ... ick. I just can't do it. Hopefully by the time these wear out, Altra will release some new colors or maybe Hoka will make an adjustment on the upper material. Believe me, this was not the review I was hoping to write.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Shoe Review: Hoka Kailua Trail

I picked up a pair of Kailua Trail shoes at Running Warehouse for $99 during a sale. I wasn't in the market for a Stinson Evo Trail (review) replacement, but I decided $30 off made them worth a try. While I like the Stinson Evo for trail running, I always felt like the tread offered a little less than what I expected as far as grip. I got that impression after running in the Mafates (review) which didn't fit me overly well but gripped the ground like nobody's business. After having these shoes for a few months, I finally got a chance to take them out on trails that weren't completely ice and snow covered.

Before I did that, I managed to get a few shots of them:

A tale of 3 Hokas: Kailua Tarmac, Kailua Trail, Bondi B (1)

Women's Size 7.5 (no insoles) = 7.7 ounces
Kailua Tarmac = 7.5 ounces

Bondi Bs = 7.4 ounces
Stinson Evo Tarmacs = 8.8 ounces 
trail Stinson Evos = 9 ounces
Mafate 2 = 10 ounces
Trail - left  : Tarmac - right
I just wore the Kailua Tarmacs in the El Paso marathon so I assumed a long trail run in a brand new pair of Trails should be just fine.  Just like the Tarmac version, I removed the thin little insole and replaced them with a pair of regular insoles. Just in case, I did throw my Stinsons into the back of my car. I headed over to meet my favorite Marathon Manic for an easy long run, but our first few steps onto the trail made it obvious this was going to be a little harder than anticipated. Part of the trail had a significant amount of mud and other parts were covered in slushy ice. There were some parts that were in absolutely perfect shape which made this a great trail shoe test course. The front of the Kailua Trails have a toe guard which was a good thing as I managed to kick something sticking out of the ground. I kept myself upright, and my toe didn't get hurt thanks to the hardened toe area. The tread also had a good amount of grip which meant I didn't do much slipping in the mud and ice slush.  The mud did stick quite a bit to the bottom of the shoe. That said, I would take this tread over the the Stinson Trail tread any day.

10 miles later, I never even considered switching from the Kailuas into the Stinsons. I did consider running my next trail 50 miler in these, though. These things were covered in mud by the end of the run, and after a quick washing, they look as good as new. They do have less cushion than the Stinson Evo trail so I'm still not certain which pair I will be wearing during longer events, but I may have found my new favorite trail shoe.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tecumseh Trail Mix

The last truly muddy long distance trail run I ran was in 2011. It was not fun. I vowed never to torture myself that way again. It's funny how time makes us forget.

I had signed up for the Tecumseh Trail Marathon expecting a snowy run in December. It was so snowy, in fact, that the run had to be postponed due to a snow storm in Indiana. The Race Director opted to reschedule the event to January 11th. This was a hit or miss proposition with the harsh winter the Midwest had been having and continues to endure. Up until a couple of days before the race, I wasn't even sure that running it was going to be an option. Tecumseh was originally a point to point course which happens to be my favorite type of course. There is something about someone dropping you miles and miles from your car and then saying go! The harsh weather conditions this year turned this course into a lolly pop with 3 loops and then back. Not my preferred option, but I really wanted to kick this year off to a good start with a January marathon. It also helped that Jim was as brave (or crazy, whichever you prefer) as I and had planned to run Tecumseh, too. Difficult times are much easier when shared.

The beginning section of the trail was on road. Normally this feels a lot like cheating because it gives you some faster miles, but not on this day, on this course. The road was completely covered in ice. This was the only time I fell during the entire event. I slid on the ice and some lovely soul behind me grabbed me and helped me get up off of the ground. No clue who you are, but thank you! After that slip, it was time for a water crossing (in the middle of the road?!) that had ice along the bottom and water that went up to my knees. Rather than go into all the gory details of the trail portion of this race, I will just say that we were usually either running in 1. mud or 2. water with ice floating in it or 3. on ice. We did that loop 3 times and then it was back to more ice water and then onto the icy road. While all these things were impossible to ignore, another thing that was impossible to ignore was the volunteers. They were all so nice and friendly, and they stood out there in the freezing cold helping us so we could finish this race. We both managed to finish without any major injuries which was not a given on this trail in these conditions. That said, we didn't get out unscathed. I am very thankful that the falls, slips, slides, blisters, brier scratches and multiple ice water crossings didn't do more damage.

I also must say I have never had so many pictures taken during a trail race. That means I can show you some of the fun we had.  I also want to give a shout out to Ed who I bumped into after the race. Good to see you again!

On with the pics...

Icy roads...
It begins...

Ice water trail... 
Might as well run through it.

Creek crossing....

Yep, hills, too.
Mud and hills!
With my January race complete, my February marathon will take me to a warmer climate. Is it too early to be ready for Spring?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013: My Year of DIY

Some people seem to believe engineers can do any type of engineering. Okay, well, at least my mom seems to think so. "You're and engineer! You can do it!" At this point I always point out that I was an electrical engineer and not a mechanical or civil engineer. Apparently I am not alone in this with my fellow EEs. Give me a math problem, and I will be just fine. Give me water running through pipes or dual bladed saws, and I start to twitch a little. Okay, maybe a lot. This year I took a few steps waaaaay outside of my comfort zone, and nothing flooded or fell apart. Thank God! Truly...

I updated a half bath. Unfortunately I didn't take before pictures, but I removed pink and white splotched wall paper (who picked that?!). I added shutoff valves under the sink. I removed a vanity, sink and mirror. I painted.  I installed a new vanity, sink, and mirror. Mom framed and matted a picture that looks great. Most importantly, I did not flood the bathroom. You know how they take a weekend on television to do this sort of thing? Well, this took me 4 months or so. Part of it was waiting on a wood floor to be installed downstairs. Part of it was me dragging my feet. Part of it was trying to figure out how to do things.  The other part was buying the vanity from a company that didn't pay attention to the sink dimensions I provided. (I even took the sink with me!) Another part of it was hiring a plumber that almost ruined the vanity so I decided I would do it myself which required cutting a very thick bamboo vanity. That's where the saw came in. I have to say, power tools can be fun. Scary, but fun. Somehow all these parts came together. After it was complete, it took a while to sink in (ha ha) that it was really finished.

My upstairs has a vanity that looks like the one that used to be in the half bath. This is what was there:

Here's the finished product:

My next project involved a ceiling fan. Two actually. I had a fairly new ceiling fan in my room that was a remote control fan. Unfortunately the receiver began malfunctioning and decided to turn both fan and blade off and on at random times. That isn't good when you are trying to sleep. Finally it got to the point that it no longer wanted to turn on at all, but the remote control was the only way to turn it on. Who decided to make a fan with no manual switches?! Hunter, that's who. I also needed to replace a fan in the guest bedroom because it wobbled like a drunken sailor and had no light. I found one heck of a deal online on two fans that were exactly the kind I wanted. I was pretty determined on this project so it only took me a weekend and one backache. Out with the old....
Why would this room not have a

Hey, wires! This I can do.

In with the new...

Ta da! Wood blades shaped like leaves - Bu-tee-ful.
My last project was my closet. This one only took me 6 years to do! Okay, really, I started it in December '13, but this closet needed to be replaced when I bought the house. The height between the shelves was designed for childrens' clothing, I guess. I couldn't use a quarter of the closet. Rather than moving the shelf up, it took me years to decide I didn't like the white wire shelving and instead wanted a cedar closet organizer. I bought this kit directly from Northern Kentucky Cedar which made the price less than most of those wood closet organizers AND it smells like cedar. Saw + cedar or drill + cedar = aromatic delight.

Here's what it looks like before... but unlike the picture, mine was without the ability to hang clothes in a quarter of the closet. This is the closet in the guest room that has white wire shelving:

Naked closet with patched
drywall and fresh paint.
Getting there...
Ta da!
Cedar is bu-tee-ful :-)
Still standing!
I learned a lot in my year of DIY:
- I can do it! Who knew?
- Even if I do something wrong, I can usually fix it.
- If I can't fix it, there is someone I can call who can. Thankfully I haven't had to do this... yet.
- Watching DIY channels made me want to take on the entire house.
- Talking to friends who do this sort of thing regularly is very helpful.
- Youtube has a lot of useful DIY videos. Mental rehearsal is a good thing.
- There were challenges I did not expect so I should just go ahead and expect challenges.
- It will take significantly more time than I think it will.
- It's okay to take significant time to think about what you are going to do before doing it.
- Sometimes professionals aren't so be careful who you hire to do work. 
- Home improvement hurts: my back, my hands, etc. Strength training regularly is a good idea.
- I ♥ wood.
- I ♥ power tools.
- Eye protection. Seriously.
- There is no such thing as perfect. Stand back 5 feet and look. If it looks good and works, you did well.
- Once you start DIY projects, you will notice great work or flaws everywhere: hotels, other houses, etc.
- Taking a few minutes to say a prayer before starting made starting significantly easier.
- Getting to enjoy work you've done yourself is a great reward!

Hopefully 2014 will be the year of PhD dissertation, and maybe a few more DIY projects. :-)