Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

My dad should have been a pizza chef. If he was, he would own the most popular pizza restaurant in the country. People would be lining up outside his restaurant just waiting for a bite of one of his famous pies.  Over the years, he has tried many different dough recipes, from the typical flour/yeast/sugar/salt variety to the three day-long process of cold dough fermentation.  He has experimented with many oven temperatures as well as grilling pizza on his barbecue grill.  He has compared pizza pans versus pizza stones, cornmeal versus cornstarch (to prevent the pizza from sticking), homemade versus store-bought sauce and all types of cheeses, toppings and bases/sauces.  

In my opinion, he has it mastered.  Case in point, we were driving to my parents' house on Thanksgiving Eve and were planning to arrive a few hours before dinner.  My parents had discussed a couple different dinner ideas and decided at the last minute to make pizzas.  Although they weren't his fanciest or most time-consuming pizzas -- no garlic chicken pizza with a soy glaze, thinly-sliced roasted rosemary potatoes or finely ground elk meat  -- I think I now have a new favorite pizza.  

He made several pizzas with meat on them for everyone else and then made a special meatless one just for me.  My pizza was a vegetarian pizza with sauteed chopped brussel sprouts, roasted red peppers, toasted chopped hazelnuts and a light sprinkling of mozzarella cheese all on a Chardonnay butter reduction base.  Perfection.  

Best. Pizza. Ever.

[Before I continue, I should note that none of his pizza making or other cooking would be possible without my mom, his sous chef, who cleans up the mess he makes.  While she is also a phenomenal cook, she leaves the pizzas mostly up to him.  She is his partner in the kitchen and in life.]  

I should probably come clean and admit that I am obsessed with brussel sprouts.  I ate almost half of this bowl of brussel sprouts on Thanksgiving (in addition to a TON of other food) and then ate the rest of them right out of the fridge without even taking the time to heat them up.  I would eat brussel sprouts over chocolate cake.  And I really love chocolate cake.  I am just that weird.  

roasted, maple-glazed brussel sprouts

Truth be told, it is a good thing my dad didn't choose to be a pizza chef.  Until his recent retirement, he was an emergency room physician for close to 40 years.  There are thousands upon thousands of people alive and well today because of my dad.  His calming, low-stress demeanor and down-to-earth personality was no doubt extremely comforting to everyone who encountered him in the ER.  I truly couldn't be more proud of him and the profession he chose.  

All of our joking on Thanksgiving Eve about him being a pizza chef instead of a doctor, however, did get me thinking about the choices we make in our lives.  And how we often pick our professions/careers when we are so young and inexperienced in the grand scheme of life.  How many of us would go back and do something different?  And what would we choose?  A job that makes more money?  A position at a non-profit company that we are passionate about?  A career with shorter hours or in a different part of the country?  

I sometimes look at my life -- a stay-at-home-mom to my three kids -- and laugh when I remember the hours upon hours I spent studying financial derivatives in my graduate school class at a top university.  Just yesterday, I was literally scraping my youngest daughter's poop out from under my fingernails.  (Why is it that getting human poop on my hands is more disgusting than when I get my dog's poop on my hands?  And why is it that both of these things happen to me?!)  Looking at my daily life, it would be easy to say getting my MBA was a waste of time and money.

If I could go back in time, though, I am pretty sure I would do it all again.  Or at least the part where I went back to business school.  I might try to find a way to use my finance skills to do something more personally fulfilling like working for a non-profit.  Or perhaps I would try to find a career that was more conducive to having a family and relied less on a typical 9-5, Monday through Friday schedule.  And I'm still hopeful that I'll find a way to use all my skills and education when the time comes.  When the kids are a little older and I am no longer scraping human excrement out from under my nails.  That time will come, right??

Is there anything you would change about your life if you could go back and make different choices?  Would you make the same job and career choices?


I really was planning to write about the 10K my husband and I ran on Thanksgiving and our weekend getaway to California.  But that will have to wait for another day!  

- Kristen

Monday, November 12, 2012

Full Circle

"C'mon, just a little more, Mom."

One small spoonful of pudding made it into her mouth.  And then another.  And one more before she gave us a small smile and dozed off once again.

My mom looked away from her mother, who was lying on the hospital bed, and smiled at me.

"This is the most she's eaten all day.  I think she is trying to make it until Uncle John arrives..." she said as she looked at me with hope.


You know those moments that will stick in your mind forever?  Etched there as if in granite, never to fade?  This is one of those precious moments in my life.

It was just over two years ago.  Nana was in the hospital and her internal organs were slowly shutting down.  Her body had had enough and her soul was looking forward to joining Papa for eternity.

My mom had called me earlier that evening and let me know that Nana was nearing the end of her journey here on earth and I should come and visit.  It was a rainy Thursday evening and my son had soccer practice, my sister was hours away in Seattle and my little brother had visited her earlier in the day.  I left my older daughter and son at home with my husband, jumped in the car with my infant daughter and drove to the hospital.

Nana was alert when I entered the room.  She smiled at the little girl in my arms and whispered a hello as we sat down near the foot of her bed.  We chatted for a few minutes, my little girl nibbling on her great-grandmother's finger, and then it was time for Nana to eat just a little more food.

So we sat there together.  Four generations of women in one room.  My Nana was just four weeks shy of her 100th birthday and my daughter was just five months old.  Almost 100 years had passed between the birth of these two women.  One entered this world a few months earlier in a hospital room and the other was about to leave this world from a hospital room.

I sat in a chair and nursed my little girl while my mom spoon fed chocolate pudding to her mother.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for us.  My mom and I taking care of the oldest and youngest women in our family, both of whom were helpless without us.  Mother and daughter together taking care of a mother and a daughter.

Six months earlier, Nana meeting her newest great-granddaughter

Nana passed away just 36 hours later.  She made it until her son had arrived from Chicago and she died surrounded by all her loved ones.  Never having been in the room with someone when they left this world, it was a surreal experience.  But the sweetest moment for me of those few days will always be that rainy Thursday evening when my mom and I were taking care of the oldest and youngest of us.


Yesterday I went to a baby shower to celebrate the arrival of my brother and his fiance's daughter.  The shower was hosted by dear friends of my mom's -- all women who knew Nana well.

Of course, my beautiful niece stole the show.

All I could think about on the rainy drive back home was how much Nana would have loved to have been there.  How much she would have adored her newest great-granddaughter.  How much she would have appreciated the food being served on fine china and the wine poured into crystal glasses.  She would have loved the beautiful fall flower arrangements, the table settings that were done to perfection and the petite butter cookies maybe most of all.  Nana never met a dessert she didn't like.

Then I thought about my almost 4 year-old daughter that arrived with my brother for the very end of the shower.  How her eyes lit up when she spotted the cookies and she immediately asked if she could have one.  I even caught her sneaking a second cookie.  Nana would have been so proud of her and would have been sneaking cookies right along with her.

I finally realized Nana was right there with us.  In all of us.  The Circle of Life.

Do you have any moments that you will never forget?


So...I keep planning on writing a running-related post and then something else always is in the forefront of my mind when I sit down to type!  I'll go ahead and interrupt this heavy post with some not-so-serious talk about my running.

The latest update on my foot is that I went to see a podiatrist last week.  Unlike the podiatrist I saw this summer (who basically just gave me a cortisone shot and sent me on my way), this podiatrist is a real advocate of non-intervention strategies.

He took the time to listen to me and after a thorough examination, came up with a slightly different diagnosis than the first podiatrist.  Instead of diagnosing "extensor tendinitis", which is tendinitis of the tendons on the top of my foot, he believes I injured the sheath/ligament/fascia that runs across the tendons in my foot.  The good news is that he believes I can keep running while I do my best to heal the trauma through icing and stretching.

He is also a big advocate of minimalist running (or, really, minimalist footwear for all activities all of the time.)  He encouraged me to remove the cushioned liner from my running shoes and slowly transition to a true minimalist shoe.  Hmmm...  While I have heard great things about minimalist running, I also know many, many runners who remain injury-free in regular, cushioned running shoes.

My current plan is to slowly transition from my Asics GT-2170's to my Brooks Pure Flows.  I already run in my Brooks about half the time so it shouldn't take too long to get me all the way there.  The Pure Flows aren't a true minimalist shoe but they definitely promote more of a "natural" running stride and foot strike.  Assuming all goes well in the Pure Flows, I will likely just stick with them and not move to a (zero drop) minimalist shoe.

Brooks Pure Flows and Asics GT-2170 -- notice how much higher the heel is on the Asics

My foot seems to be tolerating runs okay in the meantime.  This morning's run was an 8 mile progressive run with the middle miles at a 7:30 and then 7:15 pace.  I loved having the run done before anyone else in my family was awake so I could enjoy a little post-run endorphin bliss!  :)

What kind of shoe do you run in?  Have you ever considered a minimalist shoe?  Have you read Chi Running?

- Kristen