Monday, January 29, 2007

Happy Anniversary MarathonMum!

Dear MarathonMum fans,
Yesterday marks the second anniversary of my MarathonMum blog. Happy Anniversary to us!

It all started in January 2005 on a cold rainy day when I was training for the 2005 London Marathon. I didn't know anything about blogging, and HTML was a distant memory for me, but thanks to the good people at Google, MarathonMum was born. Lots has happened since that rainy January day, lots good, some bad, but such is life. I don't always include everything in my blog, but everything major gets covered one way or the other (even if some major news is imbedded deep in a post).

I just went back and read some of my posts from the winter and spring of 2005. First, I could not believe how small Thing One and Thing Two were then. Second, it was utterly fantastic to read about my training and the marathon-- particularly in these current (and probably permanent) non-running days. I'm not one to blub, but I found myself wiping away several tears as I went back and read those posts. I'm quite certain that it would not have the same effect on any of you.

Thanks to all my friends, family and those who just stumbled upon this blog who've stopped in and read my posts. It's funny to think that people from 49 countries (at least since last year, when I resumed the counter) have read this blog, at least once, and nearly 15,000 people have read my profile page to see who I am. I know I have a lot of friends and family, but not THAT many, so thanks.

[Speaking of which: I'm desperate to get to 50 countries. So if you happen to know someone in a country that isn't listed to the left of this post, please get them to stop in so it will get counted. Luxembourg-- amazingly-- has already checked in, so maybe you know someone in Andorra? Or Brazil? Special thanks to Mr. MarathonMum who has done his bit for the country count on his travels. If you do help me get to Country No. 50, and you can prove it, I'll send you a special MarathonMum chocolate chip cookie as thanks.]

I realize, with a heavy heart, that I have not always been as dilligent with this blog as I should be. As I've said before, sometimes you have to just live life, not write about it. But I am trying my best to improve my performance.

Looking toward the future, I'm still hoping that this blog will lead to something bigger and better, but in the meantime, I'm happy to write about the things that strike my fancy.

Thanks again, everyone, and keep reading!
Love, MarathonMum

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cultural Checkpoint Charlie

What I watched and read this week.

Movie: "Babel"
After spending a morning toiling on really boring tedious work, I rewarded myself by going to see "Babel". I was not disappointed. I spent about the first hour, just going along with it, enjoying the ride but not really seeing the big picture, but after that it really picked up. I found myself covering my eyes on several occasions-- not because there was anything gruesome going on, but because the pain of some of the situations was just unbearable. I also can't handle any "Children in Peril" storylines, so that was problematic, as one of the three threads was just that. Brad Pitt was fantastic, and I was surprised when I returned home that he didn't get nominated for an Oscar. He looked terrible-- or as terrible as Brad Pitt could look-- and he really was able to convey his pain, frustration and sadness. I also should say for the record that I've seen two of the actors in the movie on stage: Gael Garcia Bernal (sure, he's sort, but VERY good looking) and Alex Jennings (he plays the American ambassador and appears for literally 30 seconds. But I saw the back of his head and I thought, "Hey! That looks like Alex Jennings!!" And it was. I was quite pleased with myself.) It is a great movie, and well worth seeeing.
Rating: 8/10.

Play: "Bash"
At the Trafalgar Studios, in the West End, London.
A Neil LaBute adaptation of three Greek myths, I initially described it as "Misogyny Twice-Over!" It was very well done. My heart broke for one of the lead actors when he was in crucial bit of monologue and some idiot's mobile phone kept ringing. I don't know what his problem was-- he should have turned it off the first time. But it kept stopping. And ringing. And stopping. And ringing. And stopping. And ringing. I thought the audience was going to turn into a lynch mob. Finally, the actor says to him, "Do you want to get that?" The man gets up, completely and utterly embarrassed, and leaves. That was too bad for him, since there was no readmittance and we were only about 15 minutes into the play. Well worth seeing.
Rating: 8/10

Book: "Snow" By Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk
I'm not done with it yet, but I thought I'd include it since I was doing CCC (see above) today. I can't say I love it, and I don't hate it. It's interesting, but I'm pretty sure we're losing something in the translation. I wouldn't recommend it to my friends, unless they felt compelled to read the current Nobel Prize winner.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

SNOW!! (Yes, I'm Shouting)

I hate to be shouting, but we were all terribly excited yesterday morning when we woke up to see a very thin blanket of the white stuff outside. Mr.MarathonMum was the first to see it when he left at 5:45 a.m. He yelled up to me, but didn't tell me why. When I saw what it was, I started jumping around. Believe me, it's a BIG EVENT when it snows in London. Unlike in Chicago, where the novelty would wear off by mid-November, at the latest.

I had just said to him, "There isn't anything that's going to get me out from under this duvet this morning, it's so cold." So actually, there was something: snow.

When Thing One and Thing Two woke up, you would have thought it was Christmas morning all over again. "It snowed! It snowed! It snowed" They shouted, all the way down the stairs as they sought me out to confirm their weather forecast.

"Quick, eat your breakfast, and then we can all go outside and play in it before we have to leave for school," I said. Now this plan was important, because being a veteran London resident of 8 years, I knew the snow was too good to last. We'd be lucky if it was still there at lunchtime. (It wasn't)

"Mom," Thing One said worriedly. "I don't have any snow clothes." I assued him that his winter coat, hat, gloves, thick socks, wellies would be enough winter wear.

Once we got outside, we had a wonderful time making our snowman, throwing snowballs, running, dancing and eating the snow ("It's good," said Thing One. "But it needs sugar.")

At one point, Thing Two was making snowballs and throwing them at the wall. "Stop!" yelled Thing One. "Don't waste it!!!"

It's obvious that Thing One knows how precious and wonderful snow is in London too.

Editor's Note: This post is one day late, as my usual blogging time was taken up the blood test I needed (and will need, every two weeks, in the near term, and monthly for the rest of my life) to make sure my new meds aren't killing me. And yes, it was as fun as it sounds, if you're wondering.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Welcome to the new look MarathonMum!

I had the rare and wonderful luxury of some spare time this morning, so I present this gift to you, my loyal MarathonMum readers: A redesign!

When I had to suffer through-- I mean experience-- a redesign at publications I've worked at, it always involved lots of consultants coming in, changing lots of things that people were familiar with, and in the end, there was a redesigned product, but one that no one actually liked.

Now as we near MarathonMum's two-year anniversary, I thought it was time for a change. I flirted with the idea of changing the blog's title, but I've decided to stick with it, given all we've been through. I might never run a marathon again (not for a lack of will, but because of doctor's orders), but I'm still running my mothering marathon, so the name still applies.

The template is one that I originally wanted to pick, but it was being used by "MarathonMom" in the USA, and I thought I needed to pick something different from her. It should be noted that two years later, her blog still only has two posts on it (neither of which is very inspiring). So if you ever fancy seeing a "Dead Blog" go there.

I've dumped the links, simply because I don't know if anyone actually used them other than me. I plan to put more links in eventually, but first I need to figure out the HTML code to do that. Once I decided to change the template, I lost my old HTML coding and I can't quite remember how I did that. Watch this space.

I hope you like the new look.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Wild Weather and Stupid People: Britain in the News

It's so nice to be the country everyone is talking about. It's almost like being the popular girl in the lunchroom. Everyone wants to sit with you, someone volunteers to fetch your lunch, you get the best seat at the table, and you derive secret pleasure knowing that people are talking about you.

Britain has been on the front page of the New York Times for the past two days. Now, if only Prince William and Kate Middleton got engaged TODAY, we could be assured a full week of front page status. But my prediction is that it's going to happen sometime in February, so we wait as patiently as possible for the wedding of the century. But I digress.

Britain has achieved such international notariety for the past two days, first for the antics on the "reality show" (I use the term as loosely as I possibly can) "Big Brother" and then, on the second day, for the wild weather we experienced Thursday.

I'll work backward from the topic I find more interesting. We expereinced gale-force winds in Britain yesterday, caused by a vigorous jet stream that started over the Atlantic. The wind was blowing so hard where we lived in London that it sounded like children were screaming. Highways were shut down, trains were cancelled, flights were delayed. It felt like a small hurricane, without the rain.

As Thing Two and I walked to school to pick up Thing One, we walked with a friend of ours. "We can all band together so we don't get blown away," I (sort of) joked. "I love this weather," he replied. "It vindicates me for my opinion about global warming."

After we discussed climate change and how the hosepipe ban has finally been lifted (thus allowing us to finally put some grass down in our garden), we somehow got on to the topic of which dictator killed more people on a per capita basis: Stalin or Mao Tse-Tung. (If anyone happens to know the answer to that one, I'd appreciate it. I haven't had a chance yet to do the research). So the next time you assume the parents doing the school run are only discussing the next birthday party or school event, please remember this exchange. But again, I digress.

The second news item that propelled Britain to the front page of the New York Times was the current edition of "Celebrity Big Brother."

Now, I should state for the record that I haven't watched any of this program. In fact, the other night when I was all drugged up on my new meds and looking for something mindless to watch, I had a stark choice between "Big Brother" and "Ugly Betty" and I went with the latter-- and I was glad I did. I found "Ugly Betty," which I wasn't so impressed with the first time I watched it, uttlerly charming. But I consciously-- or as consciously as I could, considering my state-- decided not to watch Big Brother because that was only buying into what the producers want me, and millions like me, to do.

But from what I understand (taken from Radio 4, BBC News last night, and the newspapers I read) there has been a bit of an outburst by Jade, a woman who by rights should never have been famous, but is. This woman is incredibly stupid. She signed up to ran the London Marathon last year, but dropped out some time after mile 15 because she didn't realize that 26 miles was as long as it was. Or that a marathon was 26 miles. Apparently Jade has been picking on another Big Brother resident, Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty. This treatment is either racist or bullying or both, depending on who you ask.

It seems to me this whole hoo-ha could be keep in perspective if you remembered how stupid Jade is. (see above) She might be a little bit racist (if you've seen Avenue Q you know what I'm talking about), but she is a lot more ignorant than racist. This is not to excuse her behaviour, but she's going to pay the price when she gets out of the house.

And she deserves it. Even if she is stupid.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Cultural Checkpoint Charlie

Another new feature on MarathonMum: A weekly update on what I'm reading, watching, admiring...

What I read: "Lay of the Land" By RIchard Ford.
I finally finished this book last night, and boy, was I happy I finished it. I did not, however, feel the same sense of accomplishment I felt when I finished "Crime & Punishment." This was Ford's third book featuring ex-sportswriter, current realtor Frank Bascombe. The other two books, "The Sportswriter" and "Independence Day" were brilliant; full of great details that I still remember years after finishing them. (Independence Day won a Pulitzer and the PEN/Faulkner award.) In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that I was reading Mr. MarathonMum's Christmas present, which I bought for him, but started reading before him. He never even had a chance. But I digress. "Lay of the Land" had some nice bits and some surprises at the end, but I wasn't utterly charmed by it as I was the other two. Also, it was very, very long-- about the length of the other two Bascombe books put together. I would have given up on it if I didn't have a strong personal ethic to finish all books I start.

Next book up to bat: "Snow" by Nobel Prize winner Orham Pamuk.

What I watched: "Mission: Impossible III" (or, in poster parlance, M:i:III)
I was really putting to the test my theory, "Any movie Phillip Seymour Hoffmann is in is worth watching." (Even, yes, "Along Came Polly.") This was a difficult challenge to me, given that I find Tom Cruise these do I say.... oh, yes, creepy. But my theory about PSH holds up: I utterly enjoyed myself for two hours. There were no greater truths revealed, but PSH was GREAT playing a baddie. I was slightly creeped out that the woman playing Ethan/Tom Cruise's fiancee looked just like Katie Holmes. Like I said, creepy. Overal rating: 6/10
Six Degrees of Separation Note (or, how I VERY NEARLY know Phillip Seymour Hoffman): My friend Quigs was friends in high school with PSH wife! How about that.

Who we cheered for: On Saturday, Mr. MarathonMum and I discussed which American football team we would back in the playoffs, given the sad season of our No. 1, and STILL SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS (at least until the end of the month), the Pittsburgh Steelers. Given that I only knew a few of the teams in the playoffs, our choices came down to either supporting the Philadelphia Eagles (once the No. 1 team of my heart) or the Chicago Bears (once the No. 1 team of our heart, when we were first married and living there). In the end, we decided to back the Bears, soley because no self-respecting Steelers fan can switch sides to the Eagles. It's just not done. We chose well, because the Bears beat the Seattle Seahawks in overtime. Go Bears!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Last Four Movies I Watched

People who know me appreciate how much I love movies. You only have to read my marathon overnight Oscar posting of 2006 (to be repeated in 2007) to see what I'm talking about.

To wit, I am now going to include a regular feature of the last movie I saw. Because this is the first such posting, I'm going to feature the four movies I've seen since 1.1.07 with a brief review accompanied by a rating out of 10. So without further ado...

1. "Night at the Museum"
Seen: 1.1.07 with Thing One (age 7 1/2) and his Grandfather at the local cinema
What I thought: Very funny, and the effects were pretty good too. The best scene was between Ben Stiller and his mother, Anne Meara, where she tells him (with one raised eyebrow): "You're never going to amount to anything." Thing One loved it, and is eageraly anticipating the DVD.
Rating: For a children's film, I'd give it 9/10. Rating it as a regular fim, I'd give it 6.5/10. I enjoyed myself, and had a good laugh, but no great truths were revealed.

2. "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"
Seen: 3.1.07 with Mr. MarathonMum
What I thought: Very well done documentary, which compiled all the information and news about how greed, hubris and intelligence intersected.
Rating: Rating it as a regular film, I'd give it 7/10 (it is a documentary after all, so it's a bit dry). But for business journalists, I'd give it 9/10. A must see for anyone covering business.

3. "Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Seen: 6.1.07 on DVD with MarathonMum's Mom and Dad (Mr. MarathonMum gave up after 10 minutes)
What I thought: Absolute rubbish. Terrible nonsensical story. I admit that I was probably at a disadvantage, having not seen the first one, but it should still be able to stand on its own. I can't believe it was the highest-grossing film last year. Terrible, terrible, terrible.
Rating: 1/10. The only reason it didn't get 0/10 is because some of the effects were pretty good, and there are worse things in life than watching Johnny Depp.

4. "Junebug"
Seen: 12.1.07 on DVD while waiting for Mr. MarathonMum to get home.
What I thought: A well done movie, with some really sweet scenes. Amy Adams, who played the sister-in-law, deserved her Oscar nomination. She was fantastic. However, while it did have its moments, it never jelled together to make a fantastic film. I still find myself thinking about today, though.
Rating: 7.5/10 (Worth seeing if you like small independent films with interesteing characters)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Happy New Year (Belatedly)

Welcome to 2007, MarathonMum fans.

I know that my output has been pathetic these last few months, and I apologize. To wit, my New Year's Resolutions:

1. Write in my journal every day (So far, so good). This enables me to write about everything, not just those things I think are accepatable for the crazy world out there. I mean, when you get comments from people you don't know and you see that someone in a country you've never visited is reading your blog, you tend to get more cautious about what you want to write about.

2. Post three times a week in MarathonMum. Obviously, there's serious room for improvement here, as we're nearly halfway through the month and this is my first posting. It seems as though I'm going to have to post daily for the rest of the month to make up for my shortcoming in this regard. The last thing I want this blog to become is a memoir of the times when I could run. Which leads me to...

3. Put my arthritis into remission. My doctor is less optimistic about this happening, but he also thinks we'll be able to manage the problem. He still doesn't think I'll be able to run ever again, but a (runner) friend helpfully suggested today that I get a second (third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh) opinion until I hear differently. First, I just want to be able to walk-- hell, sit around-- without feeling pain. Doctor also thinks new scary medicine, I mean GOOD MEDICINE, will pummel the arthritis. at the moment, scary medicine makes the room spin and me very woozy, (lucky I only have to take it once a week), but my body should get used to it eventually. Watch this space.

4. Learn to love biking. New shiny silver beautiful bike awaits me at the bike shop, and hope to pick it up tomorrow. There's no way I'll love it as much as running, but at least it's sort of close. Again, watch this space.

5. Sell something on eBay. I've got no problem at all buying stuff successfully. In fact, the new love of my life, a lime green Francis! Francis! espresso machine came from there right after Christmas. Now it's time to unload some of my own stuff and make some coin.

6. (This one is private and just for me. So there.)

Wishing you and yours a great 2007.