Training Day 15

Today is a rest day. Rest days, funny enough, make me nervous. Not that I’m afraid that what I’ve gained will be lost in one day. But something more along the lines of not being able to do something you do habitually. I won’t compare learning to run to quitting smoking because that’s obnoxious. But I kind of want to run today and I’m not supposed to.

So I’m cleaning the oven and I bathed the dog and next I’ll find something scary on Netflix. True story: I love watching scary stuff before bed. I sleep so well after a good ghost story.

All the stuff I heard about running getting easier is apparently true. Last Wednesday we ran three minutes together. Listening to music at work before my run, I emailed my friend. “Do you know how long three minutes is? All of ‘Jackson’ by Johnny and June PLUS 15 seconds of ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe’!” I was scared to death about adding a minute to my time, but it turns out that first three-minute run was no big deal. Then I ran three minutes each day after that with a rest on Sunday. Monday was a five-minute run. And if you’ve never run for five straight minutes ON PURPOSE in your whole life, you might not be able to understand why it is so amazing that I do that now. I run. I’m slow. But I run.

I checked the training web site this morning to see if there were any spots open for the half-marathon training. Really. But I missed the boat this year. So I registered for an 8K in February. It still seems like a really good idea.

What I’m listening to: Hurray for the Riff Raff
The new Shovels & Rope album
As much Sturgill Simpson as I can

I am reading on Oyster:
The Year of Living Biblically
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal

This is why you do it

Group runs for my 5k training started last night.

Because of the size of the group and our different levels of ability, there were coaches and volunteers staggered throughout the pack. We were doing a total of 20 minutes with just two minutes of running. My group left from the downtown activities center, led by my coach, who ran into the street and hollered, “Halt!” at an SUV packed with a work-and-school weary family trying to get to church on time.

We followed Main Street to the downtown square. A man on the sidewalk outside the ice cream shop held his waffle cone toward the street and yelled, “This is why you do it! This is why you do it!” And although I know it was really fucking annoying that a pack of pedestrians was meandering through downtown during rush-hour traffic, a lot of other people came out to cheer us on.

I was at the middle of the pack. I was hustling along, but not really killing myself, and there were plenty of people behind me. I could hear them talking to the coach. And I heard the coach loud and clear when he yelled that it was time to start running. “Two minutes! Run for two minutes! Don’t stop, you can do this!”

So I ran. The coach’s instruction before we left was to go as slow. As. Possible. I’d run for probably a minute before doing intervals on my own. But two whole entire minutes? God help me.

I was chugging along like a good little tug boat, concentrating with all my might on not dying on the street in front the windows of a super popular hotel bar, when a man appeared next to me.

“Hi!” he said. “I’m James! Are you a volunteer, too?”

“No,” I puffed. “I’m just trying to keep running.”

James smiled. “Well, you’re doing it!”

And that’s when I realized I was running with the person who had volunteered to run with the person in last place. That I had just been smoked by a chubby older woman and I was last. Last!

“You’re doing a great job,” James said. “Have you ever run before?”

Was there even enough air in my lungs for me to answer? So I wheezed, “Not for two minutes straight.”

And James said what I would hear 20 more times before I got home last night: It gets easier.

And finally, the running part ended. And a little later, we hit the 10-minute mark, which meant it was time to turn around and go back the way we’d come.

And don’t think I didn’t yell, “Oh yeah, look who is in first place now!”

Of course, like my coach said, it’s not a competition. The only competition is in here *taps head*.

Today was not a rest day, which, to be honest, kind of surprised me. I mean, can’t I run a 5k in 8 weeks just because I meet with a group on Wednesday nights?

The weather was going to be absolutely wretched today, too, and I much prefer running outside to running on a treadmill. I work in a big office, but I’m an independent contractor so I have to work on my own computer. And after about 10 this morning, I couldn’t get on the network. Seeing it as a great opportunity to squeeze in my run before the tornado sirens went off (and they did!), I decided to work from home after lunch.

I came home, changed into my running clothes, and headed out. About three minutes in, knowing I would have to run soon, I started telling myself there was NO WAY I could run for two minutes without someone there with me. Running for two full whole entire long minutes is just crazy insane, who the hell does that? I checked my watch again: 4 minutes, 50 seconds. I should really run soon.

At 5 minutes, I started running. As slow. As possible. Just as my coach (whose last name is Rush, if you can even believe how funny that is) told us to. And after about 45 minutes, I checked my watch.

One minute. One second.

Fuck!

So I screamed to the street, “Fifty-nine seconds!”

And an hour later, I checked my watch again. One minute, 30 seconds. I let out a cry.

Eventually, about a week later, I hit 1:45. And in the next glance at my watch, I was at 1:55. I never took my eyes off my watch until I cleared the two-minute mark. I came around the corner with both arms over my head. “I did it!” I yelled at the recycling truck. “I fucking did it!”

Tomorrow is a rest day. Then it’s on every day for the next 10 days. Stay tuned to find out if it gets easier or if all those nice volunteers are just a pack of dirty liars.

Running With The Devil

We had a good first season with our bees. We haven’t had to do much for them in the warmer weather, but it’s getting time to prep for winter. I went out Friday after work just to see what everybody was up to.

We started out with two nucs. I named one Cam and the other Mitchell. And we watched how they worked and produced through the spring and summer. Cam just went crazy and seemed to thrive more than Mitchell. Mitchell did fine, but we did see a few hive beetles toward mid-spring. I treated our whole yard with beneficial nematodes in early May and that really seemed to help. But for the most part, we just let them do their thing.

Cam gave us about two gallons of honey at the beginning of July. I should’ve done a better job documenting the process, but the process was just so sticky and delicious! It was about that time that my husband did a “walk away” split with Cam. He pulled frames of eggs, brood, honey, and pollen, and put it with some empty frames in a new hive. Then, as the name suggests, he walked away and hoped a new queen would be raised. That hive, of course, is named Lily.

I was worried about Lily. We could see bees coming and going from there, but we weren’t sure how things were inside the hive. So Friday I popped the top off for a peek. I was working the bee yard alone and didn’t have my smoker going, so I didn’t pull any frames. But it’s been two months and all seems well! Now we just have the winter.

I pulled the top off Cam, too, and the smell of honey was so strong! There must be 100 pounds of honey in there! I got the warning thump several times from an angry worker, though. Luckily I was wearing my veil and jacket. Cam is usually pretty docile, but they didn’t like me Friday evening, so I apologized for the inconvenience and closed the hive back up.

So as the bees get ready to hunker down for the colder months, I’m getting ready to start … Wait for it … 5K training. I’ve been putting in about 100 miles a month (mostly walking) for the past couple of months. Then I started to add intervals of running. Then I bought running shoes? It was a weird process. I kept wondering what the hell had happened to me. I am not an active person.

Then I registered for the actual training that will prep me for my actual first 5K in December. My training with the group starts in October. And when I found out that the half-marathon training starts the same day as my 5K, I actually found myself saying, “Yep! I’m doing that, too!” But I’m going to wait and see if I can finish a 5K without having to call a cab.

What’s the buzz

In quick succession, a lot of things happened after a period of seemingly nothing happening.

First, back in February, I found out that I (and about 30 co-workers/friends) would be losing our jobs. I worked as a copywriter within a team of other writers and designers producing in-store circulars and such for a retailer. We were under contract with the retailer and, as the saying goes, at the end of the day, the retailer decided not to renew our contract this year. It was heartbreaking, really. I had never worked with such a great team and I really loved just about everyone I worked with. The contract ends at the end of this month, but by now, most of the people I work with have found other jobs. I was actually starting to sweat it when I hadn’t found a job by the end of March. But then, things usually happen pretty quickly. I got a call on a Sunday during a lunch date with my husband. I went in for an interview on Tuesday, accepted the position that evening, and was gone from my old job about a week later.

My last day, of course, was a Friday. And I would be starting my new job on the following Monday. That Friday evening, we finally go the call to come pick up our bees the next morning. So, after all the waiting for a job and bees, everything was slammed into fast-forward.

We got the bees. We got stung. I wondered what the hell we’d gotten ourselves into. I’d never felt such relief as when we came home late that first night and saw our hives sitting peacefully quiet in the back yard. Bees go to sleep! I felt like I had accomplished something. But we still had to transfer our nucs into the hives the next day. By then, though, the girls had a chance to calm down after their long car ride trapped inside cardboard boxes. 

Now the girls go about their business. Rowdy, our bumbling white pit bull, had one stinger in his muzzle the first weekend. But now it seems like we’ve all learned to live together. The bees don’t even stop their work when we mow the back yard. Here’s a picture of me working the hives a couple of weekends ago. I’ve taken to it just like, um, a bee takes to gathering nectar.

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My husband, a photojournalist in a former life, got his camera out for the first time in about two years when the bees finally discovered their water source in our front flower bed. We used a big plastic dish from the feed store. We filled it with lava rocks so the bees have a place to rest (and not drown) while they drink. They can even get water out of the lava rocks. The water is close to our front door, and the bees couldn’t care less about our coming or going.

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And here’s a picture of a guard bee making sure she doesn’t need to sting me in the back of the head. Which is really fun, let me assure you: having a dead bee AND a stinger tangled up in your hair.

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I also had a birthday and celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. Oh, and marriage equality finally came to my corner of the country, which has given me the occasion to shed many a happy tear.

 

I’ll be a writer when I finally go deaf

For a few minutes back in August, the local arts center sold tickets for a concert scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving. Willie Nelson was coming to town and I was determined to see him. 

Tickets went on sale at 9 that morning and by the time I got through at about 9:30, it was a sold-out show. But while I was still on the phone with the arts center, a pair of tickets in the balcony became available.

So then I just had to wait until the end of November. The show was planned for a Tuesday and on the Saturday before, Willie’s band was in a bus crash.

Eventually, Willie was able to reschedule and the concert was last night. 

And I was sick. Feverish. Exhausted. Achy. Whiny.

We offered up our tickets for sale, but there were no takers. I didn’t want to miss it, but I also didn’t want to get off my couch. So we went. Did I mention the snow and ice? Well, there was snow on top of ice.

Willie’s son Lukas and his band were the first act. 

Have you ever been so high, so stoned that every thought that came into your head was beautiful and profound? And your friend next to you is only maybe half as stoned as you are and they are like, “What the? Are you freaking stupid?” because the words you are saying are only totally amazing to you? That’s my assessment of Lukas Nelson’s music career. 

I really couldn’t help being snarky about him and my husband was no help, either. So there we were in the balcony, a real-life Waldorf and Statler. Lukas kept singing about smoking a joint and he kept playing the guitar with his teeth. “There must be Doritos in there,” I said to my husband. And my husband was all, “His guitar is made of honey buns. Nom nom nom nom nom.” 

But finally Willie came on stage. 

If I were to make a list of 1,000 songs, or even 10,000 songs that would make me cry, “Whiskey River” would never be on the list. But something happens to me at performances. Something inside my brain switches on and I think, “Oh holy shit. That’s Willie Nelson. And I do not remember a time in my life when I did not know him.” So I cried through “Whiskey River.”

In fact, I cried through most of Willie’s set. Anybody looking on might have thought I was having the worst day of my life. And I even told myself I was being so emotional because of the fever. But the truth is, I’ve cried through just about every concert I’ve been to. 

I saw the Avett Brothers in November in Little Rock, my hometown. They opened with “Arkansas Traveler,” a 19th century folk song. And I bawled while the people around me stood with their arms at their sides. So few were familiar enough with the song to identify it, much less appreciate it. The Avett Brothers wouldn’t open their set with that song the following night. It was something just for us. And if you don’t know “Arkansas Traveler,” how can you appreciate the evolution of music? How can you appreciate the Avett Brothers standing in front of you? 

Nothing leaves me quite as tongue tied as attempting to write about music. I know what it does to me and how it makes me feel. But expressing it isn’t something I can adequately do. And I don’t think I’ll consider myself a capable writer until I can write about music. Saying that it makes me cry, even if it’s the Pixies singing “Debaser” in an old Memphis movie house, just doesn’t give you much to go on. But I know other people get it. There are other people who don’t need my explanation. And people who just get why I cried through “Whiskey River” are the best kind of people.

When the bee stings

Just this week, a friend at work asked me, “Beekeeping? Are you not scared of getting stung?” 

My first bee season starts in about 40 days. And I do worry about a lot of things as that day gets closer, but stings don’t concern me. I made peace with that a long time ago.

Remember that song that goes, “If you wanna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band”? Well, if you want to be a beekeeper, you gotta have a stinger in your hand. And arm, leg, cheek. A bee doesn’t want to sting you. She’ll die if she does. (Male bees, being pretty much useless, cannot sting. They just hang around and eat and try to meet a needy queen.) But bees only know dedication to the queen and the hive, so they’ll die protecting the homestead if that’s what they need to do.

Beekeepers wear light-colored clothing when they work the hives. But do you know why? Bees don’t see colors the same way humans do. If bees see a dark moving mass, the lookout bees are like, “There’s a bear!” We have two dogs with unlimited access to the back yard. One of our dogs is white and loves to chase flying insects. Our other dog is smart enough to know better, but the bees are going to peg her for a bear. She looks a lot like one to me sometimes. I just hope she’ll learn to stay clear of the fenced-off bee yard. I’m already stocking up on antihistamines just in case.

The main thing I worry about is killing the bees. Off and on for weeks, I’ve had stress dreams about bringing the bees home and crushing the queen as soon as I get her here. I dream of squashing whole frames of brood. And when I’m awake, I worry about what will happen to my bees when it gets too hot or too cold or too rainy. And a new horror came into my mind today. What will happen in a tornado? We’ll have to bring the bees into the house.

My husband said the hell we will.

I can make peace with knowing I’ll be stung by bees. But I guess I can’t make peace with the bees not being my pets. That’ll probably change after the first dozen or so stings.

My own beeswax

The past couple of weeks have been difficult and scary. For me, my family, and now for many of my friends. So when I found an envelope from the State Plant Board in my mailbox this afternoon, I was almost afraid to open it.

A week earlier, I’d mailed off my application for a bee yard registration. It probably should have been one of the first things I did when I decided I wanted to start keeping bees this spring. In Arkansas, beekeepers are required to register their hives and bee yards in enough time to receive state approval 20 days before bees can be on the property, so I was cutting it close when I waited so long to send in my application. Without a valid registration, I would have spent the equivalent of round-trip airfare to Paris on equipment and bees for nothing. 

And after the crappy time I’d already been having this month, I just didn’t think I could handle it if the state decided I was unfit to care for bugs.

Registration required the physical address of my property, the latitude and longitude, and a other weird things like township number and quarter section where we live. But I was also asked to name my bee yard. And the information with the registration form said, “It can be whatever you want.” 

Six weeks before I sent in my registration, I’d read enough about bees to know that male bees (drones) are useless. To conserve energy and food supplies, the workers haul the drones out of the hive when the weather starts to turn cold. The male bees die off every year and the queen lays more for the next season. So of course the first name I decided on was “Bee-yonce and the Single Ladies.”

I was tickled by how clever I am.

Two days before I sent in my registration, I asked my Facebook friends to help me name the bee yard. The debate went on for a full 24 hours and each suggestion made me die laughing. But in the end, I did what I always do when I ask for my friends’ advice: I ignored everything they said and made my own decision.

In a nod to the BeeGees, I named my two-colony bee yard Stayin’ A Hive. And today I found out that the person with access to the rubber stamps in a state agency thinks it’s OK for me to call myself an apiarist. Image