Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

When I run outside, I stick to the bike path, so I run by this tree a lot. For the past couple of weeks, I've noticed the unique arrangement of leaves on the tree and thought to myself that they almost look like someone put them there. But I never took the time to stop and take a closer look (don't want to mess up my running rhythm!) until today.

Here's what the tree looks like from a few feet away.

Here's a closer look. What appears to be leaves is actually origami figures strung together.

This morning when I saw this I immediately thought about the recent fires. I was at the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association meeting at College Church the other night and I was struck by how no one in the room seemed to be there to advance their own agenda, which is something of a novelty at public meetings around here. Instead I got the feeling that almost everyone there was looking for some information and some direction about what they can do to keep themselves safe, help the victims of the fires, and restore the feeling of being a part of a caring community where we don't have to look at each other with suspicion.

And speaking of looking at each other with suspicion, the idea being promoted by some people around town that everyone should go out and and buy video cameras and start filming everything that goes on around town is a bit misguided. We're already potentially dealing with a member of our community whom we can't trust with matches--I don't want to be in such a hurry to trust everyone in town to do the right thing with video cameras. And I've seen cats perform open-heart surgery in videos on YouTube. What we can see in a video is not always the truth, and the people who show us videos don't always have our best intentions in mind.

But back to the tree by the bike path. The fact that someone would take the time to decorate a lonely tree out in the middle of nowhere is a sign of how people in this town really do care for each other. It's a sign of hope, that together we can achieve great things through small gestures and overcome evil and hatred in the process.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Done With Christmas Yet?

I logged on to check my email this morning and found this greeting from Dick's, with a time stamp of 6:02 a.m. So much for taking some time to enjoy Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tracking the Big Guy

Shopping done, check. Presents wrapped, check. Now all that's left is to while away the hours on the longest night of the year waiting for Santa to slide down our chimney. Luckily, the greatest and most expensive build-up armed forces in the history of mankind, aka the United States Military, has given us a way to track the Big Guy. Our tax dollars at work.

Now if they could just figure out a better way for me to kick this killer cold that I've come down with. Not that there's anything wrong with the old-fashioned way of doing it, with a lot of old fashioneds

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Admire Your Dedication To Your Beliefs

Woke up yesterday morning, looked out the window, and snorted to myself that the fresh snow I saw on the ground couldn't even live up to the lofty parameters of a dusting. And this after imminent warnings had fouled up travel plans, forced babysitters to cancel, and drove hordes of secret French Toast aficionados to the supermarkets to stock up on bread and milk.

Woke up this morning and logged on to Masslive's Real-time Northampton news page and saw this:

They're not giving up the hope that a snowstorm is on the way. And if they leave that story up long enough, they'll probably be right.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hey, Good Lookin'

It was 15 or so degrees when I left my house this morning to go for a run. When I got back home, I decided to take a picture of myself, not because I knew how ridiculous I looked (not exactly, anyway) but because I just wanted to document myself on the occasion of my 43rd birthday. Here's the picture.

Yes, those are icicles. And yes, this is the GOOD picture.

Anyway, it's my birthday, something I don't necessarily announce or celebrate too blatantly. But it occurred to me while I was out running, one great thing about having kids who are 7 and 10 now is that they get SO excited about birthdays in general--and even more so when they are closely related to the person who's having the birthday--that they can make even middle-aged birthdays fun. Today I'll follow their lead.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mother in The House

With ten days to go until Christmas, it's only fitting, I guess, to think about churches.

Lately I've been getting the feeling that Santa's not the only one who sees me when I'm sleeping and when I'm awake.

It was announced recently that three of the four Roman Catholic churches in Northampton will be closed, Blessed Sacrament Church on Elm Street, and St. Mary’s of the Assumption on Elm. The fourth church, Sacred Heart on King Street, will become the headquarters of the new St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Northampton.

Elizabeth Ann Seton, as everyone knows, was the first American-born saint. So it seems appropriate to name a church after her. But when I heard the news, I couldn't help but think that perhaps St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is stalking me.

Let me explain. I graduated from Seton Hall University, as did my two sisters and one of my brothers. My mother worked there for years. My wife's mother also worked at Seton Hall for years. My father-in-law got his master's degree from Seton Hall. I also got a master's degree from Seton Hall. Oh, and my wife and I were married in the chapel at Seton Hall, the same place my older son was baptized.

My wife spent much of her childhood in New Hampshire. She lived in a house on Seton Drive.

Oh, and did I mention that every year, Seton Hall sends me requests for money? I mean, spooky, right?

And now Mother Seton has come to Northampton.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

December Birthday

People usually cringe when I tell them that my birthday is in December. Maybe they react that way because they think about how busy they are in December, getting ready for Christmas or whatever, and they can't imagine having to jam into that madness something like a birthday. Then they say something along the lines of how I must have gotten screwed out of presents as a kid because of the closeness of my birthday to Christmas.

On the contrary, I tell them. It was (and still is) great to have a birthday so close to Christmas. I mean, as a kid, waiting for Christmas and all those great presents can be tortuous. But for me, just when the pressure was at its greatest, I would get a bunch of presents to tide me over until the Big Day.

I guess what I'm saying is that people born in December often have the ability to turn lemons into lemonade. Today we're celebrating the birthday of our December baby, Owen, who turns seven today.

Owen's bright and curious and fun to be around. He's easy to pick out in a crowd, because he's the one with the biggest smile having the most fun.

And yes, that worries his mother and me tremendously as we picture him in his college years.

Happy Birthday, Owen!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Race Day Updates

Temperature at 7:00 a.m.: 31 degrees. Very little wind, which helps. In three hours, we should be up to a do-able 38 degrees, though I'm sure it will be a bit of a battle with runners 2954 and 2955 over the best clothes to wear. And I'm sure they won't be the only two among the 4,000 or so who will have a hard time figuring out how to dress properly so that they're Goldilocks: not too cool or too hot.

Our plan is to get down to the festivities around 9:00 a.m. Before that, I'm going to go for a run. I know that probably sounds obnoxious, because I remember the very first five k I ran and how I watched the really good runners doing a lot of running to warm up and then running home afterwards. "I've only got five kilometers in me," I thought. "I can't waste them on warmups."

But I'm going to be running with my six-year-old and last year we finished sixth from the last. Our pace was rather pedestrian. I'd like to get a bit of a workout in tonight, hence the pre-run.

Last night before he went to bed, my six-year-old told me that he hopes he does better than he did last year. His comment surprised me because I didn't think he really paid attention to how he finished in comparison to the other runners. Maybe the memory of last year's sub-par performance will motivate him. We'll see.

9:00 a.m. We make our way downtown and park next to the Calvin. As we get out of the car, I spy two people clad in runner's garb looking a little lost. I tell them to head down Main Street and then make a left after Thorne's and hold my tongue as they cross King Street against the light. They're running in support of a good cause, after all.

9:15 a.m. We make our way to the parking lot by the brewery. My younger son says, "Dad, isn't this so much crazier than it was last year?" And I had to agree: there were tents, thousands of people, a guy dressed in an Elvis outfit, several people dressed as marshmallows, and a long, long line for the port-a-johns. But everyone was in a good mood and we still, despite the crowd, managed to find everyone we were supposed to find.

9:30 a.m. Okay, it's cold out. All of the body heat I generated during my pre-race run has disappeared. And the walk has been delayed for two minutes for some reason, which means the run will be delayed. And did I mention it's cold? I run into John Frey who's worked very hard to put this whole thing together and I must say that he's remarkably calm. Bill Dwight, Monte Belmonte, and Jaz Tupelo are getting the crowd worked up.

9:45 a.m. We're lined up to do a 32-minute 5k. I don't expect us to finish that quickly; last year, Owen and I finished around 44 minutes. But it's a place to start.

10:10 Finally, we're ready to start. The countdown has begun and the DJ is playing "Mister Big Stuff (Who Do You Think You Are?)" which strikes some people as an odd choice of song to play at an event that's raising money to fight domestic violence. The runners to do run-too-soon-and-then-have-to-slow-down-again thing, and then we're running.

During the race I wonder how we're doing time-wise, but I forget to start my stopwatch and I forgot to look at the clock time when we crossed the starting line. But I'm impressed with Owen. Last year we did a lot of walking; this year, not so much. Owen was worried about finishing close to the back, like he did last year, so he spends a lot of time looking over his shoulder. And there are plenty of people behind us. He runs a great race and finishes strong. We're sweating as we cross the finish line. We turn in our chips, get a mug, but we don't get any hot chocolate (the early reviews on the drink's quality are not that positive). And then we chat with fellow finishers until once again, our bodies are cold and it's time to head home.

On the way to the car, my older son, who's just run 3.1 miles and looks none the worse for wear, says, "Why did you have to park so far away?"

Everyone we see walking through town is in a good mood and after stopping for a bagel, we find ourselves in the middle of falling snow. And nice way to end a nice morning.

We'll definitely be back next year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Will The Chocolate Still Be Hot When I Finish?

How often do you get the opportunity to run a race and beat a couple of thousand people? That chance could be yours on Saturday at the Hot Chocolate Run.

Last year, the race was a lot of fun, even if I did finish near the back of the pack, in 1369th place. There were a lot of happy people participating in the walk and the run, and a lot of people out supporting the walkers and the runners, despite the 13-degree temperatures. It felt like one big City party, and everyone was invited.

Everyone's invited again this year, and I have the feeling that this year it's going to seem like everyone showed up. A quick check of the race's website shows that they're expecting 4500 people to register for the event. By comparison, in 2007, the race had 835 runners, according to the Republican.

Normally I don't like crowds, but this is a spectacle that I can walk to--and run away from, if necessary--so I'm looking forward to it. It will be a great way to kick off the Holiday Season in Northampton. Oh, and my back has healed enough so that I can participate. So I'll see you at the starting line.