Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bordentown's Thompson Street (2016)

Last year Cathi introduced us to the whimsically and magically decorated Thompson Street in Bordentown, NJ. Since then I have written stories for the Bordentown Current, a monthly newspaper. Often I'll mention Thompson Street as a way of breaking the ice and establishing rapport. 

The tiny one-block one-way street has a number of equally tiny homes -- some single family, some duplexes, and some row homes. The neighborhood began in the 19th century as a place for the Irish immigrants to live while they worked in the fishing industry (I think, I welcome anyone reading this to correct me, I know they were immigrants working in a local industry).

When people put their Thompson Street homes on the market they mention they live on the famous Halloween street. It is good to know this before you commit to living on a street where tourists will take over for a week or so each year.

I realize by going on October 26 we went early this year. Some decorations are already up. The theme seems to have something to do with spiders (as you'll see in my pictures below). Last year's theme was Alice in Wonderland, another year was Wizard of Oz. Those transported you to a different world. This one left us a bit creeped out by the giant spiders. We were too early to see the 200+ jack o'lanterns. With Don going in for surgery on Halloween, and a pretty full weekend, this was the latest date we could do.

We'll go back next year.

Here are some pictures. If you go closer to Halloween, please let me know how it evolves.

The lead house where the organizers live

You can't quite tell from this picture,
but the bottom is a "skeleton" of a spider using "human" bones.

I anticipate by Halloween there will be 200+ jack o'lanterns in the yard of this corner house.

Many of the decorations completely block the entrances to the homes. Ashley asked how people get inside. At the same time we said "through the back door." 

Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Perfect 10 Miler (2016)

On Sunday morning I ran the Perfect 10 Miler for the fourth year in a row. This race is billed as the largest all-women 10-miler in the country, and is only 15 minutes from our house.

Here are recaps from other years:

2015--my first "tattoo"
2014--the good the bad the ugly
2013--inaugural year

It was brisk start to the race. After a heatwave of temperatures in the 80s, it was a shock to the system to wake up to temperatures in the mid-40s and windy. As I had planned on wearing my new shirt by Designz by Michelle Lynn, I toughed out the cold snap and ran like this. I also wore gloves and an earmuff that didn't last long, and wrapped myself in the "space blanket" I received at the end of the Dorney 10K. I was disappointed by the "free" race shirt, and thrilled with how cute this one is. I did note I was one of only a few people wearing a skirt of any kind, and of even less people wearing short sleeves and shorts/short skirt.

The course was the same as the one in 2015. If opinions were being sought, I would vote for the course the first year since it was entirely in the park and on the Mercer County Community College campus (hence no cars), but they must feel this course is a winner because they have kept it for two years in a row. I know one of the draws is it starts and finishes at the two-year old Festival grounds, but that is still no reason why we have to go on the streets around the park. I also don't like the two out and backs that are each about a mile long and go so close to the finish line you want to skip them (each has a timing mat to keep you honest). 

If it wasn't for the camaraderie, I probably would not sign up for a fifth year. I bump into so many local running lady friends I can't help but smile the whole time. 

Michelle and Kim

Only on race days do I see the sunrise


Kim, Michelle, and Kim's friend whose name I forgot


Stacy (she did 5 miles as part of a relay)
Gabrielle was pacing her niece who just had a baby last year (and doesn't look it). This was the first and probably only time I will ever cross the finish line before Gabrielle. It might also be the first and only time she started before me as she had to drop her son off to volunteer.

It is also the first time I have raced with a unicorn.

I saw someone wearing a running skirt made out of race shirts similar to this ONE. What an awesome idea! Races are getting better, but for a while there running shirts were "unisex," which is totally unfair since often over half of the runners are women. I liked the one on the course better so I'll ask around. Wish I had been faster and taken a picture of it.
A race picture I like!

I was disappointed when I crossed the finish line with my time. It said 2:04, which was 8 minutes slower than last year, yet I felt much stronger, faster, and more confident than I did in 2015. Then I remembered they started us in waves at the start. I don't remember that happening in other years. I did not note my start time.

My official finish time was 1:55:10, about 100 seconds faster than in 2015. Not bad. I'm using two devices this year -- one on my arm and one on my wrist. Same side of the body. The arm had me going nearly a half a mile farther than my wrist and much faster. Even the wrist had me going at an 11:23 pace. 

City, State

My collection of Perfect 10 medals

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Get Lost

An impromptu phone call on Columbus Day led to Ashley and I getting out of the house and getting some much needed fresh air on a beautiful fall day. We grabbed a friend who lives on the way and met up with Debbi, Mike and their family. Pillsbury Press policy doesn't identify last names or kids names without permission.

We split up into two teams: the teenagers versus the rest of us.

This is the 20th anniversary of the Howell Living History Farm's corn maze. It is their biggest annual fundraiser, which brings in enough money to keep the farm free throughout the year. They only charge a nominal amount for certain events (almost always under $5 a
person). This year's theme was the mule barge that served as transportation for goods along the Delaware River. Throughout the three-mile hand-cut maze there are mailboxes with 10 puzzle pieces to help you find your way you, plus answers to fill-in the blanks. a crossword puzzle, mule barge matching, trivia, and the seemingly long list of rules, most of which we went through in orientation before starting.

Team A went one way while Team B went the other. Occasionally our paths would cross. At this confabs we learned they found pieces we did not find, and vice versa. It was fun seeing them. If we wanted to be efficient we would have grabbed two pieces and swapped information at these times. I suspect instead of calling the "efficient" Debbi would call it "cheating." Semantics. Mike and I had a chance to chat, which is rare, yet very pleasant. Debbi and youngest son did the hunting.

In the end the teens finished 15 minutes before us, but without getting all of the answers or puzzle pieces (each missing puzzle piece adds six minutes to the total time, missing or wrong answers also add time). Because Debbi was tenacious in getting EVERYTHING (and I mean EVERYTHING) our team had 30 minutes taken off. So they they got out of the maze first, we had a lower time.

From there we walked over to the aMAZing Pumpkin Carve. Some of the pumpkins were indeed quite amazing, others were eaten by raccoons (according to the sign), but seemed to have been eaten by deer based on their size and the number of deer we saw that day.

Voted Best at Night and my favorite


By local artist Leon Rainbow

Also by Leon Rainbow

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Black Lives Matter

My friend Heidi recently posted she has these black lives matter bumper magnets. She is a suburban mom who is fed up with constantly hearing about black men killed for doing things that would not get us white people killed. Before you type in an argument, I will be the first to say there are many sides to every story, and I do not fault the police in 100% of these situations, but the facts remain black men are killed at a much, much higher rate than anyone else in America.  It is an epidemic. I recently heard someone refer to it as genocide. Now that is a scary thought.

In the past three days I have heard speakers addressing issues that face black people more than white people. I'll share some of them with you.

1) Recidivism -- a fancy way of saying relapsing and falling back in prison after being released. Former prisoners have a 75% chance of ending up back in prison after being released because the system is set up for them to fail. Basically no support is provided to help them, and any support they received while in prison (such as mental health and other medical care) disappears. They have court fees to pay, and no easy legal way to earn money, so often they return to a life of crime. At least that way their basic needs will be taken care of, right? Seriously, is this how you would want someone in your family to live?

2) Reconciliation between Witherspoon Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery of New Brunswick. In 1900 the presbytery removed Reverend William Robeson (activist, author, and actor Paul Robeson's father) from the pulpit. Records do not really exist explaining WHY, but the speculation is he was a black man preaching and encouraging equality for the races in the post-Civil War era. He had served as their pastor for 21 years, and continued to minister to his congregation in his spare time. This past spring a communion service of reconciliation was held between Witherspoon Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery. The Presbytery recognized many hurt feelings happened because of their actions and they wanted to mend the past.

3) Gun violence. While at the church service talking about Witherspoon Presbyterian Church, Fred (a local icon) invited the congregation to a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss what we can do as a community to stop gun violence. I admit I left the meeting with wider eyes and greater sympathy, but there are no easy answers. There were a couple of teenage boys there telling us how they can't go into certain sections of town without fear of being jumped -- and these days being jumped often includes at least one gun. One teen said he was told either he had to shoot a friend of his or be killed. What kind of option is that? What kind of life is that? These teenagers have lost 45 friends to gun violence, yet there is no trauma support in the schools. Really? Many, many people are being killed for no apparent reason.  Which, of course, can circle back to my first point -- the high rate of black prisoners.

When I first heard the Black Lives Matter movement I thought "how silly, we ALL matter." It took hearing a bunch of news stories, and first person stories, to appreciate that yes, we do all matter, and yes there is a lot of violence and injustice against many people (yes, even white suburban moms), but right now no one is being targeted with the same level of violence and hopelessness as black people -- especially men and boys.

I wish I had an easy answer. One "easy" suggestion was to re-open the four library branches that were closed, and for Trenton to join the Mercer County Library System. My librarian friends just read that and said "that's not easy." It feels easy compared with getting guns off of the streets, getting rid of bad "mentors," making streets safe, and other really big ideas. The group knows the problems took decades to get this bad, and that it will take time to repair. Unfortunately the youth of Trenton does not have years. I hope those youngsters survive long enough to open the eyes of white suburban moms and dads to engage us in ways we never thought possible.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Blessing of the Dragon

No photos today as I took Sandy Dragon to be blessed. Sandy is well known among St. Ann's School for being a cool dragon. For the past four years I have taken him to be blessed, after all he was 8 when we adopted him and they only live 8-10 years. He needs all the extra help he can get (but, then again, don't we all).

I thought I blogged about it each year, but can only find a post from 2012 and one from 2014.

The service is based in the liturgy of St. Francis of Assisi -- the patron saint of animals. There is usually too much barking to hear what is actually happening during the service. At St. Ann's they drop a bit of oil on his head. The service at Northstar is more personalized where they ask about the animal and lay hands on the animal and his caretakers while saying a personalized prayer. We plan to return to that on Thursday night.

Today I brought Sandy to the school. He has been really lethargic lately, I suspect shedding taking a ton of energy and he has been shedding for a month or two. Unlike snakes, bearded dragons shed bit by bit by bit by bit by bit in an agonizingly long process. When they are little they shed a lot in order to grow. At his age he is not growing, but he sheds anyway.

In the car ride over he decided to start moving. This is often followed by pooping. I did not put him in a carrier because he has been lethargic, and because it is only a 3 mile suburban drive. I wrapped him in a towel. He walked out of it. I tried again. He squiggled again.

We get to the school. People come up to us to see the dragon. Many have never seen a dragon before up close. They want to touch him. That's fine. He is a mighty lazy dude. This experience might turn them on or turn them off to all reptiles. Sandy is up for the challenge -- except.... except he really has to poop and he has to do it now. 

All the school kids go through the line. It is now time for the parishioners and members of the public to have their animals blessed. There are not many of us left. I put him on the cold driveway. This brings a class of 4th graders (I guess) to check him out. They respectfully stand away from him, but still some want to touch him. I explain he is about to poop. Cool! Says the boys. Eww! Says some other boys. 

He poops (but does not pee, which is the white part that comes out before the poop). He seems to have more in him. The secretary is asking me to have him blessed so Father Gerard can go inside again (it is a bit brisk out).

I scoop up the dragon, towel and all, and hope for the best. 

Yes! Sandy is blessed, and he does NOT "christen" the priest's vestments. 

I put him back in the car, where he does not squiggly, and take him back to his warm 95 degree tank. Must feel better than the 60 degree driveway.

Dorney 10K

This is the race that almost didn't happen. A week early I ran a half marathon in Paris. To be fair, I signed up for the Dorney race a couple of months before the one at Disneyland Paris, but it was still a lot for a week. Add to that, the forecast was calling for 50s and rain (brr..first cold snap of the year). On the other hand I signed up for it and did not want a DNS (Did Not Start) for this one. We cancelled the hotel and decided not to go (yes, we can be quite indecisive at time). We even asked Michelle to pick up our race packets. The next day we changed our mind (as the forecast improved) and find out most were sold out due to a track meet at Lehigh University bringing 6,000 people to town. 

We found a room. When we checked in we were told they were overbooked and it was first come, first serve. We were there before others, so we got a room. Stinks for those running later, so we avoided the lobby the rest of the night.

We had a lovely visit with Michelle and Marc. Marc and I founded Kappa Sigma Rho in college, a co-ed fraternity. The joke goes it is rare for to founders to be the same room at the same time because most of the founders have left the Mercer County area. I texted Michelle later and said Mark and I should have taken a photo for proof that it can happen.

The race was good. They three options: 5k, 10k, and half marathon. I opted for 10k, Don and Michelle both decided to do that distance, too. Michelle talked her friend Susan into joining us. Don was the fastest (59 minutes). I was second (1:11). Susan (BE) and Michelle (ST) ran together and beat their goal. They had 121 runners for 10k.

The night before the race, Michelle mentioned it is hilly. Oh, so unlike Marne-le-VALLEE, France, the Lehigh VALLEY is hilly??? Wow! Unlike the Princeton Half Marathon, though, the uphills were followed by lovely downhills. I walked through my intervals on the uphills, and ran through them on the downhills. Even with taking 25 pictures, I finished near my stretch goal of 1:10 (realistic goal 1:15). Okay, it helped a bit that my watch measured the 6.2 mile course as only being 6 miles long.

After four hilly miles going around the theme park, we came inside and were met by dinosaurs. You just can't make this stuff up. Later on Don, Ashley, and Maia went to check them out and found out that was an extra $5 fee. Way to go with the upcharges Dorney, um, no thanks.

Often races start with the theme park section, and end someplace really boring (like a lap or two around a parking lot). This was the opposite. It was nice to end on the fun part. The finish line itself was out of the park, but not by much.

Halloween is big at Dorney

I only saw one character. Don said he also saw Sally.

I like the 10k distance. It is a nice stretch for me. By the 4 mile mark I was hungry (fortunately this time I remembered my Sports Beans). By the 5 mile mark I was tired of doing this (but I was almost done). It was overcast, but not raining (maybe spritzing, we can't agree on that one). Don went into Dorney with Ashley and Maia. I went home to volunteer for Community Day. 

You did it! (Subtract 10 minutes because the half started earlier)
Feeling more human.

To me an odd thing ... the 5k, 10k, and half marathon medals link together. To me this would imply it is possible to earn all three medals. However, the half marathon started at 7 AM, the 10k, at 7:10, and the 5k at 8:30. You could do two out of three, but it would be impossible to do the "hat trick." The race organizers say you can do the races at different theme parks. This Run and Ride series also goes to Cedar Point, Kings Dominion, and Carolwoods -- nothing closer to home.  

Don has already said next year he might be interested in the half marathon distance. I said "no, thank you." The half marathon course was basically two loops of the 10k with a bit more tossed in to get from 12.4 miles to 13.1. If we can talk Ashley into the 5k (not at all likely) then maybe our medals could also link together.