Wednesday, August 16, 2017

RIP Sandy Dragon

This is probably the toughest blog post I have written to date. On Sunday, August 13 our geriatric dragon, Sandy Claws, died. He was 13 1/2. He lived with us for 5 years and two months.

That day he ate a bunch of crickets, tried to escape out the back corner, hung out in his soaking dish, crawled out again on his own, crawled into his cave, came out, pooped, and crawled back in again. He was in the process of shedding. At some point we took him out so he could look out the  back door and I was able to capture this picture of him looking at Max.
Yes, truly, this was taken on his very last day. With Max Cat.
All in all it was a good day for him. The only reason we disturbed his sleep that night was so Don could feed him more crickets before he and Ashley left for Canada. I was outside with Ashley when Don called to me in a panic. Sandy did not look right. When he lifted the cave, he noticed a lot of drool coming out of his mouth. Sandy has had a problem with dehydration, which manifested in "strings" of saliva when he opened his mouth, but he had never seen anything like this. We were pretty convinced he was gone, or at least almost gone. I cuddled him. I think we saw his eyes move a little, and his mouth started to close, but not much movement. I didn't notice him take another breath. As a last ditch effort I put him in the bathtub (he hated being in the tub). The three of us sat around him crying for the longest time. 

He was my buddy. We spent many evenings snuggling while I read a book. Yes, dragons can be snuggly. He showed people the spikes are not pointy, they are designed to scare away enemies. Don claims he "helped him read," which really means with Sandy on his 
chest, Don would relax and fall sound asleep.

The cats knew he ruled, and gave him space. 

My friends Carin, Nancy, and Lisa enjoyed dragon sitting for him, and often asked for updates.

We are struck by awe at how this all played out. Don and Ashley were scheduled to go to Canada in the morning. I was going to stay home. For some reason I wasn't comfortable leaving him for five days (we did leave him with a friend in June for three days, so I don't know why I felt this way this time).

He died on our watch with all three of us home to say our good-byes, not a day later when Don and Ashley were in Canada. Not while being watched by a friend who would have felt awful. In the summer when Ashley didn't then have to go to school in the morning, or Don to work. At one point we said when Sandy goes, we will declare a day of mourning.

Three years ago he was near death, and never recovered to his youthful state. At the time he was 10 1/2 years old. We were told they live 8-10 years. With our love and hand-feeding, he lived another three years. Ironically three years ago we took him with us to Canada because we didn't want him to die on someone else's watch. Seemed to make sense he would die as we approached the annual trip to Canada.

With his death, I lined up our cat sitter and joined them in Canada for a couple of days. I wasn't ready to face the empty windowsill. I still find myself looking for him. Sandy was the source of much entertainment. People ask about him (the older he became the more cautiously they asked). I would send Don updates about him. We often had to set him right when he flipped over and couldn't flip back. 

The kitchen window went from this:

To this:

It looks so empty! I keep looking in the window to see how he is doing.

Some Sandy pictures. I can't find one of me snuggling with him. The downside of being behind the camera.

With Kitty Lucy

Napping with Charlie Cat.

Sandy had a lot of problems staying upright.
Then his beard would get all black.

Favorite food was crickets, not red pellets.

Blessing of the animals. We felt he could use all the help we could give him.

An oldie -- with Ariel Cat.

His first night with us in 2012.

We say he was a gift from Santa because she asked Santa for him, I said no,
and several months later he ended up living with us.

He was a good sport while we tried to see how many balloons it would take to get him to fly
(more than the 9 we tied to his tiny body).

I miss him so much! 

Sunday, July 16, 2017


About 7 years ago my friend Jean told me about her sister who completed a triathlon when she was 50. At the time I was 40 and hadn't gone swimming since I was a child. Friends (triathletes) were very encouraging about the goal. They recommended places to go swimming and swim coaches. I didn't do anything about it thinking "I still have plenty of time before I turn 50." 

Then I had frozen shoulder, or what a librarian referred to as "Librarian Shoulder." I could barely lift my right arm up to my shoulder, let along raise my hand. So as procrastinators do, I said "I'll start swim lessons after I fix this." That was nearly three years ago.

This fall Don started to take swim lessons. He doesn't remember ever learning how to swim. I at least remembered taking some lessons as a kid, but never mastering it.

Somehow the lessons came up in conversation at work and a new co-worker at Cenlar suggested the TriYouthAlon -- a really, really, really beginner tri. 

150 meters of swimming in a pool
5 miles biking on paved paths on closed roads
1 mile running, also on paved paths

Kerri, the organizer, referred to it as a Youth Distance. 

Compare that with Sprint Tri distances and you'll immediately see the benefit to this race:

500 meters swim in Lake Mercer (open water not normally open for swimming)
11.5 miles biking
3.1 miles running

Less than two weeks before the TriYouthAlon I put on my swimsuit and went to the high school pool. While I did about 200 meters in the pool I decided it wasn't for me. Don went back for his usual swim. His friends told him I looked strong and should do it. Peer pressure can be a good thing. I went back and did 300 meters. Felt stronger so I signed up for the race.

Keep in mind I have only one stroke -- I swim on my back and flail my arms about. Not exactly the best stroke for sharing a lane, but it gets the job done.

Race Day
For the most part races either seem to start super early or super late. This was no exception. Though our portion of the race didn't start until 8:30 AM (which isn't nearly as early as Disney race), it still meant waking up at 4 AM, leaving the house by 5 AM to drive to Philadelphia, parking, getting to the registration line by 6 AM, setting up the bike in transition by 7 AM, and waiting around for the kids races. It was, after all, a race geared for the kids.

The line for registration was really disorganized and seemed to take forever. Fortunately it was a small race. The hold up seemed to be people like me who missed the spot on the registration form to buy a one day USAT pass (annual memberships are $50, day passes are $15). There were three different tents and someone shouting every so often telling us which line to go to. Some of the lines had no one. The Tri line had people signing serious waivers (I suppose so we don't sue them if we drown in the pool).

We then got marked up. I forgot to tell them my age at the end of the year, which is USAT rules. Fortunately it didn't matter in this case.

Once we survived the line we set up our bikes. There was a spot for those of us with kickstands, so that is where we set up (as opposed to hanging our bikes). I think this approach helped us with transition in the long run.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited. While waiting I cheered on complete strangers who were struggling with the swim portion. After all, that will be me soon.

It was in the 70s and very overcast. I thought I saw some dark clouds, but fortunately it did not rain or storm. We did have a surprise rainstorm on the drive to Philadelphia. Surprised apps, too.

The little kids went first. They only had to do 50 meters of swim. That means ONE full length of the pool. Um..wait...I thought the pool was 25 meters long like the one we've been using at the high school? (Actually, we learned that before that day, but thought I would add some drama.) The first person jumps in the pool. About 10 seconds later the second person jumps in. And so on. When you get to the end of the 50 meters, and the pool is only about 3 feet deep, you go under the ropes (or over them) and continue in the next lane. Repeat at the other end. This is called serpentine swimming. The pool in this case is 3 feet at the ends, and 7 feet in the middle -- which seems a bit unfair. You line up based on self-anticipated finish times. Passing gently is allowed. Kicking someone in the head is frowned upon.

Knowing I am not a strong swimmer I put myself towards the back of the line in front a big linebacker of a guy and a 75 year old man. Yup, they both passed me. Surprisingly, though I passed Don who was way ahead of me. 

Swim Times:
Jacquie: 6:44
Don: 9:50

Off to transition. A quick plug for this race for my stronger friends, this is a great race for practicing transitions because the distances are so tiny.

At transition I struggled with putting my socks on while standing up (not normally one of my skills, and even less so with swimming wobbly legs). Wishing I had gone with Plan A and worn my new Chacos. I even practiced with them. Remember, it was only 1 mile of running. I quickly gave up on the socks when Don blew through transition leaving me behind in the dust. Competitive much? We knew on his super speedy bike he would cruise through the biking portion. I didn't even pause to have a sip of tea.

Transition Times:
Jacquie: 2:36
Don: 1:45

Biking was two 2.5 mile loops through Fairmont Park. I ride a lovely baby blue bike I have nicknamed Catie. Catie is great on the trails. I was pumping my legs hard, but still the 75 year old man and the linebacker passed me on the biking. I must have been faster than them in transition since I had a head start on my bike. I didn't pause to take pictures, though the area was scenic and perhaps I should have. I did loop one. I did loop two. I returned to transition.

Bike Times:
Jacquie: 23.25
Don: 19:06

Don's GPS noted it was only 4.93 miles (instead of 5). I did not use my GPS, though I did carry my phone (it was safe in transition).

Transition was faster because it takes less time to toss off a helmet and go than it does to put on shoes, put on a helmet, and go. I paused for a sip of tea.

Transition Times:
Jacquie: 45 seconds
Don: 57 seconds

Off to the running portion. I was pleased my legs were not wobbly. By now Don was zooming ahead of me. I could see him running while I was still on my bike. 

Run up the "hill" to the gate, turn around and come back. Again, no pictures.

Run to the finish line. Where Don was waiting with his camera while drinking a bottle of water. I need to insert the picture later as it is on his camera. Later Don said the course measure 9/10 of a mile, which accounts for how I finished in under my usual 10:45 sprint pace.

Running Times:
Jacquie: 9:47
Don: 10:10

Overall times:
Jacquie: 43:13.86
Don: 41:45.88

I think I mentioned this is a small race. They were deep with their prizes. Every five years were awarded up to three prizes. I came in second out of two for my age group. Don came in third out of four for his age group. We felt bad for the fourth place finisher in his age group as he was the only one not awarded a medal (he came in way behind Don, it wasn't close).

This is the first time I have earned an age category prize, well the second but the first time I left before the awards because I never win. That was also a small race. I have come in fourth a number a times -- a place for years I have sympathized with Olympic athletes for placing. 

After the race Don was ready to sign up to "tri" to beat his time (especially in the swimming portion). On the other hand I felt "been there done that." I don't object to it, but wish it was closer to home. By the time we waited around for our exciting medals, and drove home, it was 11:30 AM. I was beyond ready for a nap.

Cross that item off my proverbial bucket list. Onto some new challenges. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Happy 7-0, Mom

A few years ago we celebrated my dad's 70th birthday (and Don's 50th) so as mom's milestone birthday came around, I started planning by contacting everyone to find a date that would work. Her birthday is June 12 (a Monday this year), so June 11 sounded good. 

Mom's birthday is in the summer -- which means we also have the backyard for celebrating. We turned it into a backyard BBQ and invited all the siblings and their children and their significant others, new cousins, and extended family.

Quite a crowd! I used the delay feature on my camera so we could all be in the picture. I started by lining up those 70 and older as of the end of the summer in chairs. Put the kids in the front row, and told everyone else to figure it out. I was actually impressed this worked out.

Silly Faces

We had lots of fun catching up with everyone. 

Mom identified who she wanted to appear as groups in the pictures. It was my task to orchestrate it all happening. In the end, the group I forgot was my mom and dad, but fortunately I caught them eating dinner and snapped a picture.

A few group shots:

The Koetting Side

The Thomas Side

The Ohio Side

The Clark Side

My Parents with their Children

The Extended Koetting Side

My Parents with their Children and Grandchildren

With the Grandchildren

Even Sandy Dragon made an appearance. How many balloons does it take to make a 13 oz. dragon airborne? We'll never know as we gave up at 9.

RevRun 2017

Yesterday was one of those rare days when running seemed to be going in my favor. I saw running friends. I hit most of my intervals. I had fun. What more could I ask for?

I looked at last year's stats. I finished in 1:16:19. This year I was only three minutes faster 1:13:09, but unlike last year, this year I felt like I was flying. I did slow down to try to encourage Julie to the finish line (yesterday was not her day), but for the most part I kept to my 1 minute:30 second intervals without mental complaints.

The race started 10 minutes late. Something that normally irks me, but as the port-o-pot line seemed a little longer than usual, I was glad to have some leeway. Plus it gave me a chance to chat with friends.

At the start I bumped into Sandra, who was running with a friend. I then saw my neighbor, Lucy (we live five houses apart) who was running with Kate. Kate had just finished telling her about this "nice lady" who told her about a 15k race coming up next month and I appeared. I was the nice lady she met at the 8K race on the other side of the Delaware River. (Side Note: We were glad the race was on the Pennsylvania side because for three days leading up to the race, Governor Christie closed the NJ State Parks until the budget was resolved. They did reopen on the 4th, but it was close.)

Turned around when I heard my name being called. Princess Debbie and Julie were also running the 10K.

As you can see, unlike last year when I wore pink for the race (because I like that running skirt a lot), this year I wore red and blue. Maybe by next year I'll find some white. I'm thinking for one of the Disneyland Paris races I am doing in the fall (I signed up for three--a 5k at night, 10k the next morning, half marathon on the third morning) I'll wear the skirt with a black tank top and add some ears.

I also saw Gabrielle on her bike and at the turn around. As always she is super speedy and finished way before I did. For the first time, though, I finished before my other friends. Combination of factors -- not feeling it, my being 30 seconds per mile faster, recovering from injuries, helping to pace a friend. It was still fun to not finish in the back of the pack. The fastest person was "only" about twice as fast as I was that day. Forty people finished after me! Contrast that with my 2011 finish when I was second from the end and more than a minute per mile slower!

Sweaty but happy
New ones on top
All in all it was the ego boost I needed. I felt doing a 7 mile training run (which turned into mostly a walk) gave me the mental push I needed. I'm thinking in order to train for my next half marathon I'll continue with adding a mile per week to my long runs, but instead of capping out around 11 or 12, I'll push to 14. I reserve the right to change my mind in September.

My feet said mental thank yous to my new sneakers. I went to Princeton Running Company on Nassau Street last week to help Don buy a pair of real sneakers (the Vibrams won't cut it for a half marathon). It was time for me to get a new pair, too. As I was debating between the $83 Nikes on sale and the $120 Nike Zoom Structure 20 that fits just like the ones I've been wearing (the Nike Zoom Structure 18) a different sales clerk told me the Zooms were on sale for $72. I wish they had two in stock in my size.

Happy feet!

Art All Night 2017

I want to say Art All Night began in Trenton in 2007, but I am still searching for proof of that assertion. I can you tell you, we have participated in it seven times now: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, and 2017. This is the first year none of us sold any artwork. This is also the first year we added a piece by Don's mom, Honey Bunny. We have access to her artwork because she moved into an assisted living facility leaving us to clean out her house. We did ask permission first, though, to be polite.

We displayed the following pieces:

Ashley's piece, a copy of a sketch of Lin-Manuel Miranda that he signed, was featured on the Instagram account of a Broadway actress (no idea who). That was pretty cool.

Don's mom's piece caught the idea of a local woman who thinks we should have a display of her artwork at Artworks. I still need to look into that. Not sure she will agree to that, so I want to have more pieces in line before I ask.

Our photographs generated zero interest. I think everyone was too busy looking at the playground above us. It became the first year we did not meet our donor, or attend the donor's reception. Kind of sad. I did, though see the person who bought my picture last year. She was still raving about the picture of Havana.

I also bumped into Sylvia, someone I used to work with at ISS and have not seen in years. 

Some notes:
Drop off was much easier this year -- only took about 10 minutes instead of the hour plus it took the year before.

Odd doing pick up.

Overall felt less crowded. Still looking for stats on that, maybe we timed it better so we went when it was less crowded.

Here are some of the pieces that caught my eye:

Politics was a big theme

A few overall pictures to round out the post:

Someone admiring Honey Bunny's artwork