Friday, January 23, 2009

Memoirs of a Geisha

I finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden last night. I am not going to review it since the novel was written over a decade ago. I'll just say that I loved it and that the story has earned its place in my top ten list of all-time favorite books.

I also enjoyed the connection I felt to my brother Doug while reading the story - being as he is in Japan as I type and as I finished the second half of the book. That I can't explain - but reading about Kyoto and hearing that he planned to visit Kyoto just seemed "neat" to me.

Overall, I tremendously enjoyed reading about Japanese tradition - the tying of Kimono, tea ceremony, the ways in which Japanese men and women communicated and built relationships. This is a subject I'd certainly like to learn a great deal more about.

I found it mildly deflating, however, to hear that the author breached his contract with his main source of information, a Geisha from Gion who broke her code of silence to assist him in his research, and was ultimately sued by her for defamation of character. The terms were that he was not to release her name and to certainly not reveal she had assisted him. Well, he thanked her in the acknowledgments. D'oh!

However, I am pleased that as a result of this lawsuit, Mineko Iwasaki, the Geisha who assisted Golden, decided to write her own memoir, and leave out the fiction that Golden built his story upon. After all, she was already receiving death threats for breaking the code of silence - why not go all out?

So Geisha, a Life is the next book on my list. I am saddened that my reading will come to a crawl now that school has started. So technically the next thing I will be reading is Gilgamesh.

Drinking tea imported from Japan out of my brand new tetsubin, should make that more bearable though. (A Valentine's Day gift from Mike)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


The pain in my arm prevented me from doing much of anything this weekend other than running a few errands, albeit in pain, and laying on the couch or in bed under a heating pad. I finally decided I'd go to the Dr. first thing Monday morning.

The Dr. was almost certain I had severe Tendonitis, but for good measure insisted I go for an ultrasound to rule out the possibility of a blood clot. She gave me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and sent me on my way. I got the ultrasound which was extremely painful because I had to keep my arm up over my head for an extended period of time and had trouble getting it back down from there. I took my first anti-inflammatory and felt better within the hour. I didn't hear from the Dr. so I can safely assume I don't have a blood clot.

I feel completely back to normal today, but will continue to take the pills until I see the Dr. for a follow-up next Monday. She indicated I can continue going to the gym but that I shouldn't lift weights for a little while. Once I feel better I intend to strengthen my arms which should prevent the Tendonitis from returning.

I really wish I had seen the Dr. a week ago - it would have saved me a lot of pain. But through all that pain, I remained cigarette-free. Today is day ten, people! Boo-yah!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I made this for Mike to taunt the guys at work with. Payback's a bitch.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Hour I First Believed

I finished reading Wally Lamb's new book last night, The Hour I First Believed. I thought the novel was fantastic, right up there with his previous two works, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much is True.

Many people have waited a near decade for Lamb to publish another book and he did not disappoint. He actually took an historically tragic event, the Columbine school shootings, and centered an entire work of fiction around them while also incorporating 9/11, The Iraq War, and Katrina. Not a tragic event, but Barack Obama even makes a cameo appearance. Throughout the novel, evidence of the amount of research Lamb had done becomes clear and explains the lengthy gap between novels. The reader also gets an inside look on what is clearly Lamb's experiences from teaching creative writing to incarcerated women.

In my opinion, Lamb is the master of character development. And I was thrilled that he journeyed back through history several generations to enhance this development similarly to that of which he did in I Know This Much is True. By the way, keep a look-out for cameo appearances from some old friends.

Lastly, Lamb noted in his afterword that one of the reasons for using Columbine and not a fictional school shooting was so that he had a platform to list the names of those who died and were injured in the attacks. It is clear that the tragic event shook Lamb deeply and the book really does resonate as a tribute in a carefully crafted way. I truly enjoyed reading it.


Thanks to everyone who offered up their input and expertise on this half marathon thing. And thanks to my brother Doug for pointing out the obvious that I am not Kenyan and therefore cannot run 10.5 - 11.5 miles/hour and that I clearly meant to say I hope to run 10.5 - 11.5 minute miles.

I'm feeling better. Today is my fifth day cigarette free and I don't feel as ill or temperamental. I'm feeling good.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Plan

I'm still really thinking about doing this half marathon May 3. I get bored easily and tend to lose interest in something if there's no carrot at the end of the stick. I developed my own little training plan for the gym and it's been challenging so far and I like it, but today I decided I should check out an actual half-marathon plan written by the pros.

The first I found was way out of my league - and it was for a beginner. Their definition of a beginner was someone who could already easily jog five miles. I cannot do that. So I kept looking and found a plan for a slightly overweight middle-aged mother of two who likes to walk and jog. Bingo! This plan is designed for someone who will eventually run a half-marathon, but averaging between 10.5 and 11.5 miles/hour. And no, that is not walking speed, but jogging speed.

So I checked it out and it makes sense to me. I understand the progression of difficulty and the overall goal. It's a 10-week plan ending with race day so I'd need to start training February 23. So now until then I plan to train for the training plan. I'd like to build up my endurance and start week 1 being able to achieve what is asked of me in week 1. For example, jog 3 ten minute intervals between 10:20 and 11:05 mph with 2 minute breaks in between. I can't do that yet.

The way I've been trying to build up my endurance so far has been increasing my mph by one point every other time I jog and increasing my distance at that pace by .15 miles every time I jog. So I'm increasing my intensity and distance simultaneously. I think that's the way I'll continue until February 23 when I start the real plan.

So far I'm in some sort of pain every night after I jog and sometimes the next day. My sciatica, my ankle, my right arm, my left shoulder. It's been something each time so far. But the pain in the ankles and sciatica has subsided since I started wearing new sneakers. But I'm no spring chicken so I'm gonna give it time - I really think these aches and pains will dwindle along with my weight.

So that's the plan so far. I'm pretty excited. I think 2009 is my year to shine and damnit, I'm going to Washington in June looking good so God help me.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Immediate Update to Previous Post

I set the ball in motion. Mike and I have an appointment on February 8 (Mike said, "when football's over") at the venue we hope will hold our wedding. I found out that to have our wedding there on Saturdays in October, we must have a minimum of 175 people, 100 person minimum on Fridays. I really want my wedding on a Saturday for obvious reasons. In November, however, the minimum for Saturdays is 150. That makes a big difference. So right now we're looking at November 6, 2010. And if the price is right and we love the venue, we'll have the medium/big wedding I guess, trying to keep it as close to 150 people as possible and we can invite up to 175 or so knowing that unfortunately, not everyone will be able to attend.

And yes, I'm a little more excited now. Some of the pressure is off knowing that in order to have my wedding where I want it, it has to be a little on the large side, and having an idea of an actual date is also fairly exciting. Stay tuned.

Happy New Year

Since it's been quite a while since I've last posted I figured the new year was a better time than any to get back in the groove of things. November and December were bears of months for me, but I'm not dwelling on old, out of style, 2008. Alas, 2009. I confess I totally buy into the whole new year thing. It's a time of renewal for me. I get new bold ideas, I clean the dust off and tweak old goals gone unfulfilled, and overall, I start out the new year with a sense of vigor I find only spring time and the new year can inspire.

So far so good. I lost five pounds my first week "back" and I've been hitting the gym and am in the process of trying out a new training plan. I've developed my goals and incorporated checkpoints so I can spot if I veer off track. As I've posted before, I've been tracking my weight in line graphs since January 1, 2007. My 2008 average weight was 1.2 pounds more over my 2007 average. I'd like to reduce that average this year rather significantly and I have the best motivator I can imagine: a ten day trip out to Washington state this June. But more on that later. I also have the registration form for the New Jersey half marathon in May. Laugh if you will, but I don't know, I'm thinking about it. I'll have to see where I am in early March. It would be pretty amazing to go out to Washington with having completed a half marathon on my heels. Also, it would make turning 27 later in the month a lot easier to handle.

I'm really looking forward to the start of the school semester too. I'm taking a Creative Writing course for fun mostly. I miss writing, and I really feel like I have a story in my brain, however, I lack motivation. I thought taking a course would help me to become a better writer and motivate me simultaneously. I'll have to write if I want to maintain my 4.0 GPA. I'm also taking World Lit as a requirement and am super excited my new friend Jess is will be in my class. Yes, this girl. She's awesome!

I'm optimistic it's going to be a great year.

I do want to add, however, partly as a confession and partly just to be honest, that I've also been working on making some personality changes too. I definitely need to work on my level of patience and I also need to remember, although it makes me sad, that no one is immortal. I'm trying to actively enhance certain relationships and stop taking them for granted. To be more specific, my mother's mortality has hit me like a bullet. My goals for this year include making sure she has a better year, even if it that means simply not getting any shit from me.

Mike and I have also gone through some "exercises" so that we can be sure we understand one another. It's re-opened the lines of communication and that's working out really well for us. Patience really works wonders. I highly recommend it.

Another big thing this year will be the wedding planning. Dare I say I have no interest in this at all. But why should I have an interest in spending exorbitant sums of money we don't have, and the stress that goes along with trying to accommodate everyone who feels they have some sort of say in this wedding? I know that is a negative outlook, but realistic I think. I do hope once we get started and check out the venue I will become more excited. I wonder if maybe I'm just not that kind of girl who gets excited over her wedding. Every time I picture it though, I picture something small. A small wedding is going to be a fight though. That's where the stress comes in. Having to fight to have the type of wedding I want. I can hear it now, all the people I "have to!" invite. Mike and I will just have to hold our ground. Maybe I can wipe up some tears and throw a temper tantrum or two? ;-)