Where the Bananas Run: A 5k and a Banana Split!

 

Banana Runner

Today started off early and awesome and continued that way as I participated in the most fun race I think I’ve ever done. It was small, close, and a later start at 10 a.m. We ran through a local trail in a forest preserve, The Hammel Woods.

I woke up at 7:15 a.m. naturally and was immediately AWAKE. An hour before my alarm. I got right up and showered, then made myself an omelet with basil and mozz cheese. I had plenty of time to digest so I wasn’t too full– just energized. I relaxed then did my make-up and got ready. I pulled up just in time to start!! The event is The Banana Sprint 5k, hosted by DNA Athletics, a local running store.

Seeing all these people in their bright yellow banana costumes just made me so happy! I felt like the Bee Girl in “No Rain,” who finally finds her tribe– the Bee People in the field.  For $25 we got a bib and a decent full banana costume. Shirts were extra– I didn’t buy. Especially since everyone wore theirs differently. Some had pinned up the “tail” to free up their legs, since otherwise it dangled in front. A group of women were wearing yellow tutus around theirs, others were actually wearing a running belt around the middle! The kids had tiny banana outfits, too. A couple of families had kids on bikes or tricycles. Adorable.

Someone recognized me right away from a party I’d been to last summer, someone in a run club we both belong to. We took a selfie before the gun went off, making sure the top part of our costumes — the “banana hoodie”– was up around our faces and visible.

We started out running together but I ran out of steam and she went on, then I got my own pace going. I was slow as ever but probably happier than I’ve been in the majority of my races because it was just such a wonderful way to spend my Sunday morning. As long as races like this exist, the world isn’t so bad.

My costume was even funnier because I’m so short– 4’11”. Everyone’s fit differently according to their height. Mine went to my feet but somehow never tripped me.

It was cool this morning– 50’s– but in that full-body costume I was sweating! I took full advantage of the water stop. This race was well-organized and a beautiful path, a lot of it shaded by trees. It was an out and back course with a little side detour after the 2 mile mark. I started seeing people returning, and several had given up and taken off their costumes completely.

They may have been faster, but I’m proud I lasted the whole 3.1 miles IN full costume! Soon into the race, my cell beeped and it was an text from my bestie in Texas, alerting me that labor had begun for her second child. “Thundercats go,” she said, referencing the “Juno” quote that we both loved as a now shorthand for signaling labor. They chose to be surprised about the sex– I was so excited! She’s still working hard now, or at least I haven’t gotten an update saying she’s had the baby yet.

I texted her back some encouragement and love and let her know what I was doing– we had talked about the race before. She said if she were still living here she’d be meeting me at the finish line in a gorilla suit! ❤  I miss Leslie so much.

Today I realized something: I don’t honestly care about my pace much. Although racing and running CAN be social, for me it’s usually solitary. I didn’t have time to put on my Nike Run app, which sucks because I love seeing the maps after my runs and this would have been a good windy one. But in a way, it was liberating. I just let it go. Although I still plan to get more serious about a routine and of course, improving my pace and distance, I just enjoy it for its own sake. I LIKE being alone and enjoying the quiet, the heat, the breeze, the cold, whatever conditions are at that time. Early morning, afternoon, evening. Whatever.

I like seeing other runners and we pass each other. I loved knowing I gave them a laugh, seeing their dogs.

After, it was the best part: THE BANANA SPLIT BAR! That was really what sealed the deal on this race for me, when I saw it pop up on Facebook. Under a pavilion there were all the ingredients and more than I anticipated.  Three different types of ice cream; I chose vanilla-strawberry swirl and chocolate scoops. I chose caramel syrup, my first time. Caramel chips, nuts, m&m’s. Two maraschino cherries. No whip cream.

No guilt, just glee.

Banana Splits

 

I kept my costume on and have never enjoyed a banana split so much in my life. I think it was probably only my second. Or my first? It’s not something I usually order. I may have shared someone else’s once. I earned it today!

And the pictures I got were so much fun. The ones posted by the race organizer were so happy and bright– and I’m in one of them, at very start of the race. Beaming and waving.

Another benefit: I don’t need to buy a Halloween costume this year! I’ve had plenty of years with sexy costumes and money spent building detailed, creative costumes involving wigs, accessories and props. Not this year.

For $25 I’ve got what I need. I’m going to a Pirates and Ninjas Housewarming party in a few weeks. I’m going to be a banana. And if I’m feeling sassy, I’ll just put on some black leggings and my black lace-up boots and I’ll be the Sexiest Banana Ever. Halloween 2018!

 

 

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It’s Never Too Late to Mend: The Old Joliet Prison Break-In! What a Night!

I’m home and glowing with affection for Joliet, my hometown of the last 30 years. People here really are decent, friendly and hard-working folks.

I knew this would be the event of the summer and so I had to score myself a ticket soon after hearing about it. And my, did it deliver! It was bigger than the Taste of Joliet, with a 21 and only crowd and fantastic music all night. There were 3,000 tickets available and I’d say they probably sold out from the looks of it!

I arrived about 6:15 and already the designated parking lots were full except for the last one. I didn’t have plans to meet anyone specific, so just meandered around and looked for anyone I might know and checked in on fb. A few people commented and I found one of them! At first I felt kind of lame because everyone had brought lawn chairs and that had never occurred to me. But it ended up being a good thing because it forced me to do a lot of walking. I saw down to eat my pizza and once more to rest a bit. But mostly I just people watched and surveyed all that was going on.

So many people were dressed to theme, some in full-on convict black and white stripe costumes, complete with hats! Others were in suits, fedoras and sunglasses a la The Blues Brothers- another J-town legacy incorporated into the evening. As most know, the first scene features Elwood picking up Joliet Jake from this very prison, in an old police car he got for a deal.

A lot of people had on black t-shirts with Blue Brothers faces and quotes or they were wearing something black and white striped, or just the black fedoras and glasses. They were being sold as a $5 combo at a merch tent, along with event t-shirts, sewing kits, etc. I’m glad I got the hat and glasses! Later they came in handy.

There were food trucks and tons of props serving as photo ops: an old J-town cop car and a white board painted with black stripes and height markers for patrons to take “mug shots.” In the right corner, there was another cop car– this one a prop for the headlining and closing act, The Blooze Brothers. A kind woman I talked to took a shot of me leaning against it and in exchange I got one of her and her boyfriend over by it.

I saw my friend Hallie in line for a tour and she invited me to cut in with her friends and tag along, so I did! The tiny, broken down cells were very sobering. But probably my favorite part of the evening was visiting the tent for the Old Joliet Prison Burnt District Artists. I’ve been seeing posts from them on facebook as they helped clean up and also found raw materials they could incorporate into their artwork. A lot of cool things are happening in Joliet right now, a lot of new business and breweries are opening up. There’s some intense Joliet pride and I’m proud to see it manifested artistically. That’s where I found the young and hip people. I really liked a piece by Ruben Calderon of Art of Breath Galleria (facebook) — it featured a male prisoner in what seems to be prayer, with a guardian angel visible behind him. The cell bars are in the background, along with a phrase, “It’s Never Too Late To Mend,” written on the cell wall to his right. If I had the cash I would have made an offer.

I met some really nice people just ambling around. One woman offered me a chair at her table to eat, and another told me how much she and her boyfriend love live music and had the best anecdote ever. Her boyfriend had actually BEEN a prisoner here at The Joliet Prison more than 20 years ago, and came back tonight a free man to this event. She said he had told her he’d grown as a person and learned a lot while doing his time. He was glad to come back and reflect on it because it was no longer a painful memory to him.

Then when The Blooze Brothers took the stage, I ran up and spied a friend front and center! We just kinda jammed out together, he was more quiet; bopping his head but clearly really in the moment. I was more wild, dancing around and joking with the woman on my right. We were both being totally silly.

I got one of three free CD’s they passed out because I put on my fedora and black sunglasses and was dancing like crazy– it pays off to be festive! Can’t wait to re-live tonight and play the whole CD when I’m driving around next.

I thought it was beautiful that the band did a tribute to Aretha Franklin’s recent passing. The lead female singer was Shelia Pepple, as far as I can tell from the liner notes from their CD. She sang “Respect,” “Natural Woman,” and a few others I didn’t know with some impressive pipes!

And as for Elwood (Chuck Little) and Joliet Jake (Jeff Sismelich)– they KILLED IT!! They really had the dancing cold, and Elwood wailed on his harmonica. They did “Soul Man,” “Rawhide,” and “Jailhouse Rock!” I left before the end of the set, but didn’t see “Sweet Home Chicago,” it was probably the last song.

I danced my tail off, re-connected with old friends, took some fun pictures and left feeling very glad to be a Jolietian.

In this historic prison, I was freed.

The First Real Dinner I Cooked!

Tonight, I made history in my kitchen.

I made a meal that was healthy, delicious, and filling. Just for myself!

A zoodle caprese with chicken and fresh mozzarella and Parmesan. I had gathered some of the ingredients last weekend but hadn’t found time to make it yet. Tonight I went and got the chicken and some sparkling grape juice, and said a prayer.

And ya know, it was relaxing. I put on some Prince.

I put on my cute new apron! I assembled the ingredients, the bowls and plates and pans I would need– washed and prepared everything. And just followed the directions. I’ve never cooked meat beyond sloppy joes prior.

But tonight the chicken turned out wonderful.

I used to feel so intimidated by cooking, I couldn’t even try. But lately I’ve been feeling brave and excited to search for new recipes, shop for ingredients, and prepare some simple meals for myself.

It helped that I bought a cookbook specifically for runners, and everything is healthy. I started with that and now I’m garnering ideas from Pinterest!

I took pictures and sent them to my parents and my friends by text. They were so encouraging and said it looked wonderful and asked what I made.

Diane called me and had the best reaction: “Don’t get too fancy, now!”

She was impressed and it made me laugh. She was joking because she doesn’t cook really herself. She makes sure my Dad is fed but mostly microvwaves, uses the crockpot, and just does basic things. She’s domestic herself but in a different way: she likes to clean, organize, decorate their home. Water the plans and feed the animals in the backyard.

I used to always think that I’d learn to cook when I was in a relationship, to please and attract a man. But now I’ve decided to cook for myself– because *I want to be healthy and well-fed.

I’m so tired of crap fast food. And though I’ve only made a few simple meals, all of them have been edible! 🙂

It feels good to provide for myself in this way. To connect with that domestic femininity I’ve always envied in other women and wanted to cultivate in myself.

It’s happening. One meal at a time. Thank you, Lord.

When I Let Go

Last Friday, I came home from work to find a passive-aggressive note.

Taped to my door from another tenant in my building, un-signed.

I had to ask around to find out who penned it. When did, I knocked on the person’s door– which was left unanswered.

To clear my head, I went for a run. By the end, I had sweated out my  resentment.

I was no longer even mad!

All week, I saw that tenant coming and going– but always when I was going somewhere. It wasn’t worth being late or putting myself in a bad mood to confront it.

So I just accepted it, and let it go.

I realized that I had no obligation to react at all.

I was friendly, but did not engage beyond a brief greeting an a wave.

Today, I returned home from work very tired after a challenging day.

I sat down to finish Season Three of “Orange is the New Black,” my current obsession. Chapman is getting more evil by the episode!

Less than 45 minutes later, there was a knock at my door.

“Who’s there?” I queried. The tenant answered their name.

I took a quick minute first, then opened the door.

And they were carrying a peace offering: dinner. Covered in foil to keep it warm.

More specifically– mac n’ cheese, beans, a hot dog and chicken.

I smiled. I thanked them.

“Are you going to stop leaving me notes now, unsigned?”

They nodded, smiled, backed away toward their own apartment.

“Enjoy,” they said.

“If you’re upset, just come and talk to me,” I said. “I’m sorry. We good?”

Another head nod. A smile.

We said goodbye.

Peace had snuck up on me.

And the mac n’ cheese was brilliant.

 

Grilled Cheese Guru

That’s my new nickname, bestowed one the phone by one of my besties tonight, Leslie.

To celebrate the END of my Lenten obligations, I got some Colby-Jack and enacted one of my favorite rituals.

GRILLED CHEESE!

The best is that she was singing it to the tune of “Jukebox Hero.”

“GRILLED cheese GURuuuuuu…”

I laughed at the timing, because before she moved out of state my friend and I spent a lot of time watching movies and hanging out at our apartments whilst making grilled cheese. It’s our thing.

At work I was thinking what meal I should choose to break my fast–and decided simple was best. Something familiar I could do at home.

And here we were, catching up on the phone just three weeks to her wedding!! She is so giddy, it’s adorable listening to her.

It was a lovely, up-beat conversation and almost as good as actually spending time together.

In a great mood tonight, feeling quite blessed.

Honey-Lemon Water and Cooking for Me… Yum!

This week has been great!!

I tried a new grocery store that has better foods– and shopped with a plan. Just a few choice ingredients for a planned meal, and a few things I thought would be good otherwise.

I started a new routine for myself in the morning: hot water with honey and lemon. I read that HONEY-LEMON WATER has benefits that it’s got oodles of health benefits, but what sold me is that it’s a healthier replacement for coffee.

I’m pretty much over coffee. I’ve been drinking it for years– black. I’ve been transitioning slowly to teas. But I like the idea of a healthier(cheaper!) and practical alternative. This woman drank hot honey-lemon water it for a year every morning and she said it woke her up faster, she stopped getting sick, and her skin was glowing! When I tried it yesterday morning, I was EXCITED to wake up and make this honey-lemon water! It helped me get out of bed faster– knowing I had something yummy to concoct and sample. I was shocked that indeed, I was woken up in minutes.

With coffee, it takes me awhile. I have to wait for it to cool down, since I don’t like it too hot. Then there’s that bitter aftertaste. I seem to be able to drink hot water faster, for some reason. It also sustained my energy throughout the day, and I slept better last night. It keeps me fuller too!

I also got some basic pasta along with a few spices. Some salted cashews. Some milk chocolate “discs,” to replace my Raisinets (they’re expensive!). Tonight I cooked the pasta, just winging it. I also made some asparagus, and put lemon on both. Loved it!

I’ve always been so afraid of cooking. Then this week a friend explained that cooking and baking are different– baking needs to be very precise and measured. But with cooking, you can throw ingredients together and experiment.

I’ve always thought of cooking as so COMPLICATED! But it really isn’t. Actually, I think I may have a knack for it! Tonight I just improvised with the lemon and it turned out great. I have a very small kitchen with small counter space. But I’m tired of eating out all the time– and mostly fast food.

I see now that cooking is an act of nourishing yourself in a concrete way. It’s self-care. I understand how people might find cooking relaxing. And eventually, it something social that you can share with those you deem worthy.

I’ve always been so cerebral– always reading, thinking, writing, trying to figure everything out.

Focusing on a meal, or even just a cup of hot water, gets me out of my head a bit. It makes me happy.

Today I’ve had three cups of hot water– two with just honey after the morning cup with lemon also. I feel that I’ll be able to sleep well.

It’s wonderful. I feel happy and confident and open to what’s next!

One little meal at a time.

Cheese Relapse: Back on the Lent Wagon

So I didn’t last 24 hours with my Lent promise to forego cheese!

I had left-over mac n’ cheese in my fridge, which I had made Fat Tuesday as my last indulgence.

I couldn’t stop rationalizing.

“It’s only cheese POWDER, does it even count as real cheese?”

I could have offered it someone in my building. Or my parents, who still send me home with food when I visit.

But wouldn’t it be sort of rude to offer someone a half-eaten meal?

I could have thrown it away! I have no problem throwing away other leftovers I don’t feel like eating.

Thus, I did the only ethical thing: I finished it.

Ha! I called a friend who reassured me, “Jesus wanted you to have it!” Bless her humor.

The next night, my father called and invited me over to their house for pizza.

Ahh! When I made this decision I hadn’t realized I’d be giving up PIZZA!

But I was proud to stand firm in my rejection this time.

He wanted to know, “Why give up cheese?” It’s practical. It’s protein!

And that’s EXACTLY why I chose it– because I eat it so often. Because it IS impractical.

He accepted my answer and I thanked him for the invitation.

Last night after work, I went out to eat and ordered a strawberry salad — MINUS the bleu cheese crumbles.

Proud! It’s getting easier to stick to my plan.

I see this as an opportunity to also abandon my usual comfort foods and try new things.

The neat thing about Lent is that it forces you to become hyper-aware of behaviors you otherwise wouldn’t even notice, had no you not vowed to monitor them.

What are you struggling to remain vigilant about avoiding this Lent? Any good (simple!) cheese-negative recipes I should try? I’d love your advice!

Happy Lenting.