The Big Breakup...

...between me and Blogger, has taken place.

You can now find The Long and Winding Road at www.erinslongandwindingroad.wordpress.com/.

Posted by Erin 3:02 PM 111 comments Links to this post



I Think Hell Just Froze Over...

I remember reading a quote from Jennifer Aniston once where she said that she can't wait to get up in the morning, every morning. This was something I could never come close to relating to, much less understand. Yet, at 5:30 this morning, I was wide awake, waiting until I could get out of bed. What?! Yes. Waiting. For no particular reason. Just felt like getting up and getting at the day.

So. Weird. I don't know that I've ever -- ever -- felt like that before in my life. Mornings for me = dread. They hurt. A whole lot.

But today didn't. At all. And so, I headed to the pool. A 300, then 8x100, and then 2x300 all knocked off before 7:15 this morning. Not fast, but steady. Respectable. And this after a 1-hour personal training session last night that kicked my ass and left me wondering how I was going to make it through the 4-mile run I had afterwards (I did, although it wasn't pretty).

Whether it's a wrinkle in the time-space continuum or some other weirdness in the universe, I kind of hope it keeps happening. If this is what it feels like to be a morning person, I could definitely get on board.

Posted by Erin 7:05 AM 6 comments Links to this post



Shout Outs

First, to "Bad-ass McCue" for capping an unbelievably long journey to IM-AZ with a sub-15-hour finish in a race that had the third-highest DNF rate in IM history. But also, for writing this amazing summary of what it means and how it feels to complete an Ironman. (http://projectprocrastination.blogspot.com/2008/04/best-day.html -- sorry, hyperlinks apparently out of order at the moment).

Second, huge congrats to my running partner, Krista (http://thekbb.wordpress.com/2008/04/12/peanut-butter/), who posted a 1:48 in her first half marathon of the season last weekend...in the sleet and rain and snow, all in one race. That's toughness. :: Bowing down in reverence ::

And all the luck in the world to an old friend from high school, Scott (http://www.scottbeaulier.com/Personal.html, and Amy Hausworth, running The Boston tomorrow. In the words of a zealous person on the sidelines of last year's Green Bay Cellcom Marathon, "Run like you stole something!"

Sending good thoughts your way all morning tomorrow...

Posted by Erin 11:55 AM 2 comments Links to this post



Not What I Expected from AQHA

So, there's a good chance this post is only of interest to me, but the topic has me so fired up that I can't help but blog about it. Be forewarned, though...this is a long one.

Last week, Deebs contacted me about a bill she was working on on behalf of a client -- the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R.503/S.311). Basically, the bill will end the slaughter of horses and any domestic or international transport of live horses for human consumption.

"Who would be against this bill?" she asked.

I was curious, too. Who indeed? After all, the slaughtering of horses has all but been halted in the U.S. -- and if there was enough push to do that, why would anyone oppose this bill, which mainly prevents us from shipping horses to Canada or Mexico to be killed? (And often killed viscously: in Mexico, horses are often repeatedly stabbed in the spine to incapacitate them before they are hung up by a back leg and their throats are slit. Even in the instance where a bolt gun is used, it is not designed to kill the horse, only “stun” them. They are alive while “bled out” and some will remain conscious during later stages of slaughter, suffocating with their noses in a pool of blood.)

After doing a bit of research, I found out that one group that has actively lobbied against passage of this bill was none other than the American Quarter Horse Association -- an association that I've belonged to since I was eleven, and one that my family has poured a lot of money into through show fees, membership fees, magazine subscriptions, etc.

To say that I was shocked would be a gross understatement. But I work in politAelZ I live in a politically-charged city. I know that no issue is ever as cut-and-dried as it seems at first glance. And so, I figured that the AQHA must have good reasons for its position. And I set out to find out what those reasons were.

What I found was that the AQHA had reasons, but they weren't good by any means. Here's what its executive committee said in a letter detailing its position:

One of the major issues in the slaughter debate centers around personal property rights. AQHA believes that allowing animal-rights advocates to determine how we manage our horses opens the door to letting them put other limits on what we can or cannot do with our horses...AQHA respects the right of horse owners to manage their personal property as they choose, so long as the welfare of the American Quarter Horse is paramount to all other concerns.

Economics also comes into play. Other options for dealing with unwanted horses can be costly, and the last thing anyone would want to risk is having a horse neglected or abused because an owner might not have all the options available to him or her.

Each year in this country, between 4 and 6 million dogs and cats are euthanized at animal shelters. These shelters benefit from widespread public support and are funded by taxpayer dollars. If processing were not an option for unwanted horses, imagine finding homes for 100,000 horses each year or building an equine welfare system supported by taxpayers.

The first line of reasoning is obviously asinine. I don't think anyone is going to make a logical, honest-to-goodness, slippery-slope correlation between slaughtering horses and trail riding anytime soon. To be fair, when the House Appropriations Committee initially approved the funding bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Fiscal Year 2008, the language in the bill was so broadly-written that it would have had a far broader impact than it seemed intended to have. But, common sense prevailed and this provision has long-since been removed.

The second line of reasoning -- that we would have to find homes for 100,000 horses a year that would otherwise be sent to slaughter -- seems reasonable at first, but appears to fall apart when deconstructed.

First off, consider this: between 1989 and 2004, when the number of slaughtered horses dropped by more than 270,000, there was no correlative spike in neglect or abuse of horses, and there was no outcry from the equine industry that more than 270,000 horses were left without homes (as AQHA says would happen now). In addition, it should be noted that that of the horses killed in U.S. slaughter plants in 2006, nearly four percent were imported from Canada. And in 2005, more than seven percent of the total horses slaughtered in U.S. plants were imported live from Canada.

It’s also estimated that more than 30,000 horses are stolen each year and then auctioned for slaughter -- further decreasing the number of horses who would otherwise need to find homes, because if slaughter is outlawed, there is suddenly no market for these horses.

Opponents to the Slaughter Prevention Act also site slaughter as an acceptable alternative for people who can't afford to put their horses down through euthanasia and pay for disposal. This makes my blood boil. The cost to euthanize and dispose of a horse is usually less than what it costs to house and feed a horse for a month. But I digress. There's a glitch in this reasoning, too. Killer-buyers -- the agents who scope out horse auctions on behalf of slaughterhouses -- don't buy up sickly, unusable horses that would otherwise need to be disposed of. On the contrary, a U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that more than 92 percent of horses at slaughterhouses are in “good” condition, and according to a study conducted by temple Grandin, an animal slaughter expert, 70 percent of all horses at the slaughter plants were in good, fat, or obese condition and 84 percent were of average age. Additionally, 96 percent had no behavioral issues whatsoever.

These horses need to be able to survive anywhere from 24 to 36 hours of horrible transport in hot, close quarters, usually with no food, water, or rest stops. And, killer-buyers get paid by the pound for the animals they bring in, so the more robust and healthy the horse is, the more likely it is that it will survive the trip, and fetch the killer-buyer a small profit. Not surprisingly, the majority of horses sent to slaughter are Quarter Horses -- nearly 80 percent -- because of their hearty build and because, as some critics have pointed out, the AQHA has no retirement program for its registered horses like some other organizations do. As one can imagine, most people who send their horses to auction don't realize they could easily end up in a slaughterhouse, and even worse, many killer-buyers actually outbid average Joes looking to buy a trail horse or horse for the family.

In the research I've done on this issue thus far, I have not found one shred of statistical information to support AQHA's claims that ending horse slaughter will give rise to neglect and abuse. AQHA sent me this white paper in response to my email to them...but in reading the footnotes, I was disheartened to find that the majority of evidence presented is anecdotal (unlike this study), and in addition, the white paper cites articles that have long since been discredited (here, here, here, and here).

To be fair, there seems to be anecdotal evidence that Illinois now has a problem with unwanted horses. But the real question, I think, is what effect the economic slowdown of late has had on the “unwanted horse” population. Methinks that might be more of a factor than a reduction in the number of horses slaughtered. How else to explain that when the DeKalb, Illinois slaughterhouse burned down in 2002, horse abandonment and abuse cases actually dropped?

But AQHA is apparently not one to let facts like this get in its way. In its position letter, AQHA also states that

If you agree with AQHA’s position, we’d appreciate it if you let us know and more importantly let your senators and congressmen in Washington, D.C., know. If you disagree, we want to hear from you, too, but please offer a constructive alternative, not just criticism. And remember, AQHA is about the horse and about educating owners on options they have. It is not about sensationalizing a very emotional issue.

First, let me just say that this is what AQHA claims is being "sensationalized" by proponents of the bill (warning, graphic images).

Furthermore, though, I'm curious as to how much money AQHA and others have syphoned into lobbying efforts against this bill. Because the thing is, there is a practical solution to this issue -- one that a single Massachusetts attorney, Steve Rei, undertook himself: he formed the National Equine Rescue Coalition and put together a database, with the help of the Humane Society and law enforcement, of rescue organizations willing and able to take in surplus horses if and when the proposed legislation goes into effect. He calls the 1 percent of horses who will need homes a "manageable number, only citing “adequate funding” as the major issue. I'm guessing that the lobbyists' fees for each of the 200+ members of the "Horse Welfare Coalition" combined could likely fund the absorption of those horses that would otherwise be slaughtered.

In its response to me via email this week, the AQHA again beat the “no solution” drum, noting that "The majority of AQHA's membership is opposed to the pending federal legislation as it does not provide for a means to care for the nearly 100,000 unwanted horses each year" that are sent to slaughter.

I have a hard time believing that a "majority" of AQHA members feel this way. I'm curious as to the polling they've done on that, and what the questions/set up to it looked like. In fact, most of the AQHA members that I've talked to since hearing about the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act had never heard of it.

And with annual revenue somewhere in the ballpark of $50 million and an Incentive Fund program that pays out more than $4 million dollars of “fun money just for showing” to eligible members, it kind of makes you wonder what AQHA, whose horses comprise 80 percent of those slaughtered, might have been able to come up with had they actually wanted to attempt to solve the problem.

And now I’m faced with an ethical dilemma. You see, in June of 2006, I bought a beautiful, black, and spunky Quarter Horse named The Ironman (a.k.a. Gino). I’ve literally been waiting since then for this summer, his three-year-old year. Every time I’ve taken him out of his stall, walked him down the aisle, clipped his whiskers, or felt the quiet rhythm of his lope beneath me, I’ve imagined marching into the show ring atop him. I’ve imagined what it would be like, once again, to spend hot summer weekend days bathing him, braiding him, hearing our name and number called at the end of a particularly good go, and hanging out with horse people who I practically grew up with.

But I’m having a difficult time justifying giving my hard-earned money to an organization that condones something as horrific as slaughtering horses because it sees no other obvious solution. An organization who thinks this, this, this or this is a necessary evil.

I don’t want to boycott AQHA. The shows it sponsors throughout Wisconsin and the rest of the country have become like second homes to me. I know many of those show grounds better than the back of my hand. I know how the shows work, who to talk to about what issue, and all of the other minor ins and outs involved.

When we were younger, getting ready to move from the house we grew up in to a new house, my little sister sobbed. When asked what was wrong, she hiccupped, “But I’m not going to know where any of the light switches are.” And this is how I feel, pondering leaving this association that I have known so long and, I thought, so well. A new association? New shows? New people? New rules? I’m afraid I won’t know where the light switches are.

But it’s something I think I’m going to just have to learn. Because I don’t think that I can square up with AQHA on this one, and I don’t think I can ignore it. I’d be surprised at who would be able to, once they took an honest, hard look at the issue.

Posted by Erin 12:13 PM 7 comments Links to this post



Be Afraid

XT4 threw the question out recently about what makes people afraid, and what use fear is.

Fear is something I know a great deal about. We're good friends, fear and I.

Growing up, I arguably had two of the most dangerous hobbies a girl could have. In the winter I ski raced. In the summer I jumped horses. And I don't care how used to doing each you get, there are still points where straight-up fear makes your arms feel numb and takes your breath straight from your lungs.

I am in eighth grade. I am standing atop the Super-G course in Winter Park, Colorado at the Junior Olympics. I can see the first two gates, and nothing more. I have never raced a real, honest-to-god Super-G course before in my life. I am wearing a borrowed helmet meant for motorcycle riding, not ski racing, and borrowed skis that are long and heavy and that I wouldn't be able to turn if I wanted them to. They are meant to go nearly straight down the hill, these skis. And it's a steep hill. The timer beeps -- five, four, three, two. I want to cry, but instead I breathe deep and push out. I get into a tuck, and I concentrate. I try to settle into the speed, my fear of it. My internal monologue goes something like this: "This is too fast. It's too fast." -- "If you try to slow down, you're going to crash. Go faster. That's the only way to the bottom." -- "It's too fast." -- "It's the only way." I am going more than 40 miles an hour on two slabs attached to my feet. I ride the rollers, pre-jumping them to minimize time spent in air, off the snow. Air is not fast. Coming off a roller at the bottom third of the course, I catch too much air, and upon landing, one of my edges. I somersault down the mountain. I lose my gloves, my goggles, and my helmet. I come to rest in orange netting that lines the sides of the course, like a fly in a web. I can't breathe. I can't hear. And then I can. Officials rush over to make sure all limbs are attached and in working order. Others gather my gear, spread over a football-length swath of the course. They put me back together. That was my final training run. The following day would be one race run -- the real deal. I will work all night on managing my fear. I will be more afraid standing in the starting gate the next day. But I will stand, and finish eighth.

I am 15 years old, taking a jumping lesson from my French riding instructor. He used to ride Grand Prix, a step below the Olympics. To him, the 3'6' oxer he had constructed was child's play. Just another obstacle. To me, it looked like certain death. Add its immensity to the fact that I was atop a stubborn horse who was prone to run-outs and refusals, and I was tempted to simply tell him, "No. I can't" -- words I had never said to him before. Not when he took away our stirrups for an entire winter. Not when he had me do an entire jumping lesson without them. Not even when, one summer, the inside of my legs were rubbed so raw from the previous day's lesson that they were bleeding through my jodhpurs, and he announced there would be one more hour of riding after dinner.

"You vill do zees," he yells to me.

It was an exercise to make my stubborn horse work. This is all fine and good, except that I could just as easily break an arm, shoulder, or hip...get trampled by my horse.

"You vill do zees," he says again.

I touch my leg to my horse's flank, gather my reins, and get up into a two-point position. I swallow hard with each step. The oxer looks gigantic, taller than my horse. I urge him forward, keeping my eyes straight ahead. Four strides, three strides, two strides. I close my legs, feel his front feet pick up the ground. And find myself flying through the air. I crash into the wooden jump poles. The sonofabitch horse had pulled up right as we were supposed to be taking off.

After discerning that I was okay, just rattled, my trainer shouts, "Again."

The next time we made it over, but he knocks a rail down and I land draped over my horse's neck like a dead man. The next he jumps from a standstill, my trainer shouting, "You vill go over!" and me thinking, "This is how I die."

But more than an hour later, my legs long past having turned to pudding and my horse's neck lathered in white, foamy sweat, we make it over like we should.

These are only two examples. I have hundreds more. But in these two sports, I learned how to manage my fear. I had no choice. Guiding skis down a mountain, or a 1,000 pound animal over poles suspended two or three feet off the ground -- as they say in Top Gun, "There's no time to think up there. You think, and you're dead."

And all last year was an exercise in managing fear of a different sort. In the run-up to Ironman, it did not come in the short, intense bursts of my childhood sports. Rather the fear was always there with me -- every morning when I woke up, every time I looked at my workout schedule, every time I saw the roiling waters of Lake Monona, every time I saw a cyclist ride by, every time I descended a hill on my bike, or set out on a seemingly impossibly-long ride.

People would discover I was training for an Ironman and would inevitably ask how I stayed motivated. "I'm afraid," I would answer.

They thought it was a joke. I couldn't have been more serious.

When I didn't feel like working out, or when I didn't think that I could possibly do another mile, or the last hour of a 8-hour double-brick, I would hear, loud and clear, the phrase, "If you don't do this..." The last part of that phrase was, "...how are you going to do an Ironman?" But it never had to get that far. The "if" was enough. I didn't want to die out there on September 9th, or worse, miss a cut-off and have to pull out. I also cried, a lot. After a few bad swim sessions. On the sides of country roads throughout southern Wisconsin. On my bike. Behind several rest stops on the Dairyland Dare.

And this year, the fear has returned, albeit anew, in a different form. After months and months of sporadic workouts, I have started training again. And I am afraid. Last week I was afraid of a 30-mile bike ride. I was scheduled for a 10-mile run yesterday, and until 4:30 when I set out, I had fretted about it all weekend. For the past few years, I have uttered ridiculous phrases like, "I just have to do a quick ten and then I'll meet you for happy hour" or "I only have ten miles today -- almost seems like a day off." But lately, that me feels like a distant cousin at best...a stranger I might meet on the street at worst.

I am afraid I am not fast (I am not), that I am not in shape (I am not), and that my Ironman finish was a fluke (I know it wasn't). These fears are ridiculous. But they are there all the same. So I am going to have to make friends with them. Invite them in for coffee. Get to know them.

And I'm looking forward to it -- the getting to know them. Because this thing wouldn't be worth doing if it were easy. If there was nothing at stake, nothing to risk.

As a wise man told me over burritos not long ago, that becoming an Ironman is a huge accomplishment, and one you'll always have. But the 8:30 miles, the 4-hour bricks, the feeling like a fish in the water? Those things come and go. They take work. Hard work. They have to be earned. Over and over and over again. No matter who you are.

And so, yesterday, I made another small step toward earning it. Again. I ran a comfortable 6.5 miles with Chief of Stuff, and Leonard and Newt the Vizslas. It was one of those runs where it was easier and more comfortable to keep running than to walk -- not my usual m.o. And when I dropped them off at our house, I set out by myself for another 3.5 miles.

The sun was on its way down for the night. The air felt more winter than spring. My opposite foot and glute ached. I had no Garmin, no idea how fast I was going. But I was moving forward. And last night, laying in bed with aching legs and the familiar cough that comes from long workouts, I remembered what it felt like to be afraid, and do it anyway.

Posted by Erin 9:13 AM 6 comments Links to this post



Seven Things...Plus or Minus About 93 Others

Anyone still there?

*Blink* *Blink*

It's me. I've been gone a good, long while. I spent the past eight weeks trying -- unfortunatlely, unsuccessfully -- to retain Justice Butler on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. It was a typical campaign stint: crazy-long hours, not enough time to do what needs doing, no sleep, hardly a moment to spare for any sort of workout, only sporadic email checking, and absolutely zero time to keep up on what's going on in the blogosphere. But it was one of the most amazingly satisfying jobs that I've ever had. I just wish the outcome would've been different.

So, now I'm catching up. On sleep. On workouts. On life. And over on xT4's blog, I discovered that I had been tagged.

As luck would have it, I started a "100 Things" list a while back, but never finished or posted it. So, xT4, here is your "seven things," plus or minus about 93 others. And Deebs, In the Lup, Lynn, and Krista...you're it (but feel free to do the short version of "Seven Things" which would be, ummm, seven things about you.)

  1. I hate wearing socks. Ever. Even in winter. Even on my bike.
  2. I eat Milk Duds with my popcorn at movies. Tastes like Carmel corn. And I can't see a movie without getting some kind of treat. Otherwise, why go?
  3. My worst jobs ever were (in no particular order): temping for a trucking company doing manifest entry, working at Victoria's Secret (having just acquired not one, but two, graduate degrees), and doing "public relations" for an health savings account company.
  4. I enjoyed my gigs as a waitress. No lie.
  5. I'm secretly fascinated by tornadoes. I want to see one in real life. In the same vein, one of my favorite things to watch is "Storm Stories" on the Weather Channel.
  6. I have never balanced a checkbook. Wouldn't know how if I tried.
  7. I'm compulsive about hand cream. If my hands aren't lotioned they feel like sandpaper and the feeling gives me the willies. During the Ironman, and my other long training days, I'd spit on them to make them feel lotioned.
  8. I once stopped seeing a perfectly nice guy because he wore white socks with deck shoes. Ditto for another who said the word, "drinky-poo." Yet, I stayed with at least two boyfriends who had cheated on me.
  9. After one of the cheaters broke my heart, my mom got me the book, The Rules. I read it and then promptly chucked it. Even at 16, I knew better.
  10. I used to be a serious nail-biter. I'm in remission.
  11. Elmo makes me laugh in spite of myself.
  12. I was once mistaken for Alyssa Milano.
  13. I like animals better than people. And I think puppies are cuter than babies.
  14. I believe in ghosts. And they scare me.
  15. My dogs sleep with me. I like it that way.
  16. I have a Master of Arts degree in Composition Pedagogy and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction. I also have a completed novel manuscript ready to send out as soon as I sit down and make final edits to it. So far, it's been in this state for well over a year.
  17. One of the hardest things for me is to make a decision. It's a "skill" I've actively been working on learning.
  18. I feel as though I've mostly avoided therapy because of my horses and my running shoes.
  19. That said, I don't understand why skinny people run. If I was a size 2 and could eat anything I wanted, running would likely not be something I'd choose to do with my free time.
  20. I eat pretty much anything, and love to eat. The exceptions are mushrooms (most of the time), mussels, and clams. This is also why I run.
  21. I hate when the food on my plate touches. And I don't mix foods. That means no seafood in my pasta, even though I love both seafood and pasta.
  22. When I was nine I told my pediatrician that I wanted to be a jockey. He laughed and told me to start thinking basketball. I was one of the tallest people in my class until 8th grade, when I quit growing altogether. I maxed out at 5'2".
  23. I hold the misguided opinion that the more my jeans cost, the better they'll look. Bop loves me.
  24. I'm anally neat. My CD's are alphabetized, my books grouped according to genre and author, and my sweaters and shirts sorted by color. I loathe knick-nacks. If it doesn't have a function, it's not on my shelf.
  25. I don't drink milk straight-up. Ever.
  26. I have the best family anyone could ever ask for. Seriously.
  27. My ideal night is curling up with my dogs on the couch in front of a fire with a great book and even better glass of wine. Second-most ideal night is throwing a dinner party for a few close friends.
  28. Crowds, cocktail parties, and meeting new people stress me out.
  29. I did the South Beach Diet once with great success. But after two weeks of no lattes and no wine, I was a raging bitch.
  30. I hate Halloween.
  31. I can't spell to save my life, but I'm a grammar nazi.
  32. On that note, I secretly love diagramming sentences.
  33. The sound of Styrofoam nearly brings me to my knees.
  34. My favorite movie of all time is Top Gun. Coincidentally, as late as my junior year in high school, I wanted to attend the Air Force Academy...partially to be a fighter pilot, and partially to ski for their alpine team. When it appeared that I wouldn't be able to do either, I changed my mind.
  35. I'm scared of flying.
  36. I completely blew out both of my knees in high school, one year after the next. My knees have seen five surgeries between them. The resulting scars are ugly, and I love them.
  37. I'm not self-conscious enough to have ever been really, truly embarrassed.
  38. I hate nylons and will wear them only if absolutely necessary, and only if they're black or navy blue. Tan-colored hose gross me out. Come to think of it, so does the word, "hose."
  39. My sister often affectionately refers to me as the "dumbest smart person she knows." I often tend to agree with her.
  40. I'm deathly afraid of spiders. But they fascinate me at the same time, with all of their legs and eyes.
  41. The feel of dirt on my hands also gives me the willies. This is why I don't garden. But I do have a horse, and time spent at the barn is usually supplemented with frequent hand-washing.
  42. This and the lotioning thing makes me sound borderline compulsive. I'm not. I just like clean and conditioned hands.
  43. When I was a toddler, I cracked my forehead open right down the middle as the result of a temper tantrum when my parents refused to take me to the "big park" down the street. The resulting scar has become a lifelong symbol of my intense temper.
  44. There are few things I love more than reading. If there is a version of alcoholism as it relates to book consumption, I have it. I can't go into Barnes and Noble without buying at least one.
  45. I love wine. Really, really love it. Even more than chocolate. And it's not about the resulting buzz; it's about the taste. The way it coats your tongue and mouth and warms you from the inside out. I look forward to every glass...to what tastes I might discover in it.
  46. A Starbucks latte is second behind wine. Fourbucks makes my coffee taste the same way, every day, and that's why I love it.
  47. If I could survive on only lattes and wine, I would.
  48. Oh, and maybe soup, too. I will eat soup anytime, in any weather.
  49. I don't eat salad unless I absolutely have to.
  50. Except for Taco Bell's taco salad.
  51. I love Taco Bell in general and am not ashamed of it. Most of the time.
  52. I could easily go days -- if not weeks -- without turning the television on, were it not for my need to know what the weather is like when I wake up so I can plan my outfit for the day.
  53. The day I had to put my dog, Lewis, down was the worst day of my life, hands down.
  54. This and this were two of the best. As was this...although it didn't seem so at the time, and it's not a day I want to repeat anytime soon, if ever.
  55. I have never asked for anyone's autograph, and never would, no matter how famous the person is.
  56. I hate doing touristy things, ever. In any city. I'd rather sit at a cafe and people watch, or somehow immerse myself in the culture in other ways.
  57. I don't much care for flowers.
  58. I've often flirted with the idea of becoming a vegetarian, and I'm slowly losing my taste for chicken. But a huge, juicy steak once in a while? LOVE it. So, the vegetarian thing, probably kind of a pipe dream.
  59. I won't eat fruit or vegetables that come in a can. Ditto for tuna. But I love all of them in their natural state.
  60. I'm not certain I want to have kids, but if I do, they won't have a TV or computer in their rooms, and I won't buy them any kind of video games.
  61. But I will make them cupcakes to take to school for treat days, and will not force them to eat tofu (sorry mom).
  62. I'm actually a pretty fun person, #61 aside.
  63. I love looking at real estate. Even when I have a place to live. Even when I couldn't afford a new place if I wanted one. The market fascinates me...as do the decorating choices some people make.
  64. I don't buy chips or cookies. If I want a snack, I make it from scratch (usually oatmeal chocolate chip cookies). This happens next-to-never. Therefore, I almost never snack.
  65. My sister's hip bones are at the approximate height of my boobs. I've long resented her for this.
  66. But she's my best friend. Ever.
  67. I qualified my horse for the World Championships in two different events...once. I made the semi-finals in Junior Hunter Hack. My goal is to go back and win it -- or one of the other over fences classes -- eventually.
  68. My new horse's registered name was "In the Pocket" when I got him. But his Dad's name is "Natural Iron." So, after Ironman Wisconsin (too superstitious to do it before), we petitioned to have his name changed. He's now, "The Ironman," and he's pitch black. How cool is that?
  69. I'd like to learn (or learn about) the following in no particular order: violin, photography, web design stuff, to sing, ballet*, piano*, *golf, the stock market/investing...I doubt I will do any. (*took lessons a long, long time ago, but am terrible).
  70. There's not a day that passes that I don't wish I was a musician of some sort.
  71. I'm okay with being a word person, though.
  72. The first concert I ever saw was Richard Marx. My sister and I used to fall asleep listening to him every night. You can laugh now (But it was free!).
  73. I went to six proms in high school. Four of them were miserable.
  74. I am a Yooper -- born and raised in the Upper Peninsual of Michigan. Almost my whole family is still there. That place is rural as all get-out (and people there often say things like "all get-out"), but there is a beauty and magic to it that is hard to describe. I'm incredibly proud to call that place home.
  75. I always said I'd never get married in Iron Mountain, my hometown. Guess where the wedding will be? Yup! Iron Mountain, baby.
  76. I worry about money constantly. But I do nothing to attempt spending less or even managing what I have better. I am working on this.
  77. I look and feel better with a tan.
  78. I swear too much. But I don't try to stop.
  79. I'm jealous of skinny people. Not just Hollywood-skinny-people -- I harbor twinges of resentment for anyone whose fat jeans are a size 26. Irrationally, I believe their lives must be easier for not having to worry about their weight.
  80. I've never been overweight, but have always felt like I am.
  81. I like what I do for a living, but am now thinking of the next phase of my life and how I really want to spend the 40+ hours of the week dedicated to my job.
  82. If I could do anything I'd be a full-time writer/author.
  83. My back is constantly itchy, and in need of cracking.
  84. The only bone I've ever broken is my tailbone. Oh, and I cracked my nose a wee bit once too.
  85. I wanted to make the US Ski Team. I didn't.
  86. But they sent me an invite to their development camp when I was a freshman in high school, and I made the Junior Olympics twice in all four disciplines -- downhill, super G, GS, and slalom.
  87. I still regret quitting skiing after high school.
  88. I buy US Weekly on a regular basis.
  89. I don't like beer, and will only drink it if I have to. The exception is a cold beer on a hot summer day -- the beauty of which mom imparted to me.
  90. I don't follow sports.
  91. I have no favorite color. Not because I can't choose, but because I just don't.
  92. I have no favorite book or song or artist or band. Because I can't choose. I just can't.
  93. I hope to someday qualify for Boston. I'm willing to do it through "aging up."
  94. I think most people are generally good. The exception is anyone who treats another -- anyone -- as less-than. Waitstaff, counter help, employees, etc... I have no patience for that kind of behavior.
  95. Patience is a virtue I have very, very little of in general. Unless it's with one of my dogs.
  96. My sister is one of the most patient, kindest people I've ever met. When angry or impatient, or in tough situations with others, I spend most of my time thinking, WWLD (What Would Lindsey Do?)
  97. In college I majored in Religious Studies and English, after toying with majors in psychology, statistics, French, and pre-veterinary.
  98. After that series of changes, my parents took me to the Johnson-O'Connor institute for aptitude testing. They told me I had an affinity for languages, that I should be either a psychologist (my mom's former profession) or a lawyer (my dad's profession), but to stay the hell away from anything requiring dexterity...like performing surgeries on poor, unsuspecting animals.
  99. I have lived in only two states my entire life -- Michigan and Wisconsin -- with only brief, temporary moves to Washington, D.C. (six months -- for an immersion program in journalism) and New Jersey (yes, really) (one month -- for The Ex).
  100. With respect to life lessons, 2007 was one of the most heartbreaking-challenging and amazing years of my life, all at the same time.

Posted by Erin 9:26 AM 13 comments Links to this post



Geeking Out in Mineral Point

So, I haven't been here for a while. That's because this new job is kicking my ass, but in a really fun way. It's just also intense, and takes a lot (read: all) free time. Kind of like the Ironman of politics. Okay, well, not really. But in the amount of time it takes, yes.

Anyway, this weekend I took a little break from politics to indulge in one of my main loves -- writing. In the picturesque little hamlet of Mineral Point, I immersed myself for an entire afternoon and evening in all things Michael Perry.

For those of you who don't know of Michael Perry, you should. And I say that with excitement, not snottiness. Because he's brilliant. A brilliant, brilliant writer who writes about accessible things like small town life with humor, poignancy, and make-your-bones-tingle-in-envy skill.

His breakthrough book, and still my favorite, starts out this way: "Summer here comes on like a zaftig hippie chick, jazzed on chlorophyll and flinging fistfuls of butterflies to the sun." And that's just the beginning. It only gets better. It's good -- seriously good. And funny. I think I mentioned funny.

Perry is confusing, intriguing mix between a humble, farm-raised, deer hunting, truck driving, good 'ol Wisconsin guy and an accomplished literati who quotes Dylan Thomas. He wears flannel and t-shirts, and that, combined with his Wisconsin drawl, almost lulls you into thinking that he's just like any of the hardworking guys sitting on stools in bars on any country road in the state. Except that he doesn't drink. And he drops words like "declivitous"in mid-sentence without blinking.

And then -- then! -- after the informative seminar on freelancing and writing in general, and after his incredibly entertaining reading of his upcoming book, he took the stage with his band, The Longbeds. And they were good. Very much a Johnny Cash and Waylan Jennings influence to the music.

But there was one thing that kept catching my eye throughout -- a little black and red emblem on Michael Perry's guitar.

And I would lean myself over Chief of Stuff and crane my neck and horrendous angles to see if it really was...And after the show was done, and he set his guitar down, I discerned that it was, in fact, an M-dot.

Michael Perry with an Ironman logo on his guitar! What could it mean?!

I was thinking there was some deep, symbolic reason for the M-dot. Chief of Stuff thought otherwise -- that maybe his brother, wife, or some other person close to him was doing the race. ..or that maybe he was. Perhaps. But I remain unconvinced, and just to make sure, I dropped him an email to inquire.

I'll keep you all posted. Because I know you're waiting on the edge of your seat for this.

Posted by Erin 12:12 PM 14 comments Links to this post