Running in Virginia

Or, Jumanji at 6:30 a.m.

Some back story: In May I started running, mostly to get healthy, mostly to set an example for the little oyster and future kids, a little bit to give me something to do during the day, and a little bit to lose weight.

So, in order:

  • I have definitely gotten healthy–I run an average of 3 miles a day, 6 days a week; I have lost two pants sizes; my resting heart rate is down 30 bpm; I have muscles!; and last week I ran an 8:54 mile. Oh! And I can do my whole yoga DVD without stopping, which I couldn’t do when I started working out and which I do on the day when I don’t run. GO ME.
  • I’m sure I’m setting an example for my kid(s). I want her/them to grow up assuming running moms are the norm and, planning ahead here, I would lovelovelove to do fun runs with my small fry when she/they are big enough to participate, years down the road. Which means I need to keep this up because mama is not getting younger.
  • Truth bomb: I started exercising daily in May because our mornings dragged and hustling around the block with a stroller made me feel strong and gave us something to do. But then a funny thing happened–as I got stronger and started to see results, I got bored pushing a stroller for a 40 minute speed walk and started getting up earlier to run alone before the husband left for work. So what started out as exercise to kill time has become a crucial part of my day, my well-being, and our family’s happiness because, believe it, those endorphin things are for. real.
  • And finally, yes, I wanted to be a certain weight before we went for another baby and knowing that I had at least six months of waiting on hormone levels before trying again, I figured I could lose the weight. Turns out no, and here’s how I know: 20 miles a week for three months, smaller meal portions, less sugar, and way more veggies and I’ve lost all of 6 lbs. Yep, six. And I haven’t lost–or gained!–an ounce since June. So I like to think that after that initial layer of 6 lbs. peeled itself off, my bod got serious about building muscle and toning up what’s left. And I like what’s left. The real goal was to be healthy and I mistakenly equated that with weight. But I’m a great size and a great weight and anyway, it all comes back to setting an example for my progeny; obsessing about a few pounds at the cost of maintaining a good, healthy lifestyle does no one any good.

Again, that’s all just back story. Where does Jumanji come in, you ask?

It comes in every morning at 6:30 a.m. in my quaint little northern Virginia neighborhood where I sometimes feel like I am running for my ever-loving life. I can never look behind me on a run because that’s when you run into a raptor or a tiger and get eaten alive in the movie version so no way, man. You have to understand that the wildlife I encounter–or do my best NOT to encounter–is solely responsible for all of my negative splits, and sometimes we’re talking the difference of a solid minute or more.

Last week I saw the glint of a spider web in an early commuter’s headlights. But as I got closer by the second, I also saw the spider that had made the web and to be able to spot a spider in a web in the wild from 15 feet away ten minutes before the sun comes up really says more about the size of the spider than the strength of one’s eyesight. I was slowing down and giving a wide berth until I saw that the web was spun between a large tree branch and the ground, MAKING IT TALLER THAN I AM. Also, the web was like forty-ply, a thick, plush masterpiece of arachnidal workmanship. Suddenly slowing down seemed like a fool’s errand. On my way home, I ran on the other side of the street.

Little snakes with stripes, bigger snakes without stripes, a darling little blue salamander or two (holy cow, do those things bite? must Google…), all of these creatures appear–always suddenly–on my runs. Someone even lost a white parrot in the neighborhood so in between songs I listen for the exotic cry of a wandering bird but an ornithologist I am not so I don’t think I’d know it if I heard it. I actually stopped and looked up into a tree a few weeks ago thinking “Oh, that sounds like a parrot, at least to me, in my head,” but what flew out of the tree was remarkably brown and small and not a parrot.

And while we’re talking about trees, lets talk about those mangy denizens of the wood, squirrels. They are e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. and many of them are too bold for their own good. Or at least too bold for my comfort. But while I used to run away from squirrels now I go full beast mode and charge at them if they are in my path, clapping if needed. I feel that this also deters potential human attackers.

The crickets in Virginia are so big my Rottweiler backs away from them. I think one hissed at me once. What I hate about encountering these “crickets” is that they are all antennaed and pointy in every direction so it’s impossible to tell which way they are facing and therefore which way they are going to jump. Although now that I think about it, I wonder if their size means they’d be amenable to the Milkbone peace offerings I sometimes carry.

Sometimes the number of creatures dangling, darting, slithering, jumping, leering, swooping, or dashing means that my morning run may be less of a run and more of an avoidance obstacle course. To which I say, who needs calisthenics and interval training? I just run in semi-darkness in a place where Jurassic Park looks like a kiddie ride.

And I’ve got the stems to prove it.



…and all we found was this tuft of fur

The scene:
Kitchen in the main house under which we live in the shoebox. And later, the shoebox.

The players:
The Other Housemate
Two cats
A squirrel

<redwhiteandnew and The Other Housemate (who lives upstairs where the landlady lives) stand in the kitchen of the main house, eating homemade cookies and chatting about TOH’s day on the slopes. A gray squirrel walks into the kitchen from the dining room.>

Me: AHH!! There’s a squirrel in the house!
TOH: AHH! I hate those! Where?
<the squirrel jets back into the dining room; from where we are now huddled in the corner of the kitchen, we hear it scrambling against the window>
TOH: Was it big?
Me: Normal sized.
TOH: I bet it came in through the dog door.
Me: No doubt. Ha! That would explain the crashing and scrambling I heard earlier. I couldn’t imagine why the cats were being so loud in the living room this afternoon. Now we know.
TOH: That also explains why all the stuff was knocked off the piano and the windowsill above the kitchen sink and why the compost bowl was tilted.
Me: It was on the counters?
Both: Ewwwwwwwwwwww.
TOH: How do we get it out?
Me: In college some guys in my dorm used a lacrosse stick and a pillow case to catch a squirrel in the building. Let’s not do it that way.
TOH: Do we call someone?
Me: This is why husbands are handy. Too bad ours aren’t here.
TOH: Squirrels are gross and I don’t want it to bite me.
Me: These cats are good for nothing. Two against one all day long and it’s still in the house?
TOH: That dog door has got to go. But I bet it will go out the way it came.
Me: Let’s make it easier. <opens back door>
TOH: I can hear it in the living room. I’m going in.
Me: I’ll shoo it out the door if it comes back this way.
<TOH takes broom from corner, walks to living room, trapped squirrel screeching ensues, TOH reappears>
TOH: Ugh! What a disgusting noise! Also, this won’t do me any good if it comes out.
<hands broom to me, grabs snow shovel with blade from back porch>
Me: I’m sending in the cats! <sweeps spectator cats from back porch into the house>
<TOH reappears>
TOH: It’s definitely in the living room and now the cats are too, but I don’t know how to get it to come out and leave. Can we hide in your place?
Me: Yes. And we can Google how to lure a squirrel out of the house. Bring the cookies.

3 minutes later in the shoebox…

Me: All the squirrel sites say “simply” do this and “simply” do that but they all assume an infestation.
Both: EWWW!! Baby squirrel pictures!!
TOH: Those things can be vicious or I’d say let’s send Dietrich up.
Me: My thoughts exactly. I think he’d try to get the ugly thing but I don’t want his pretty little face to be mauled in the process.
TOH: Chasing squirrels out of the house is not in my lease.
Me: Oooo, this site says we can do a kibble trail that leads out of the house. Dietrich is willing to donate a cup. Shall we?

5 minutes later upstairs…

<trail of kibble leads from dining room out the back door; TOH stands in living room with shovel and headlamp, redwhiteandnew stands at open back door with broom>
TOH: I don’t hear it in here anymore. I’m checking the three-season porch. Nope, not there either.
Me: Do you think it left while we were downstairs?
TOH: That’s very possible.
Me: Good because I just realized that with this amount of kibble spread out, it’s going to take the nasty thing ten minutes to eat its way out of the house.
TOH: Hmmm. Let’s scoop some of it up and throw it in the yard away from the house.
Me: Good plan and–SICK!
TOH: Where??
Me: Look! On the rug. There’s a big tuft of fur.
TOH: That’s disgusting.
Me: I think that’s all we’re going to find. The house is awfully quiet.
<picks up squirrel tuft with two double-folded Kleenexes>
TOH: Want me to let Dietrich in so he can eat the kibble trail?
Me: Yes. He’s been crying at the door since we came back upstairs.

Sunday stroll

Just a man and his dog.

This afternoon we went for a family stroll around the National Mall. 42 degrees, mostly blue skies, and a ten minute drive meant the monuments and the myriad gray squirrels on the Mall were ours for the taking in and terrorizing, respectively.

The ducks that paddled merrily about in one of the pools were also fair game. Pun intended.

.004 seconds later his front half was in the water and it was a good thing the camera strap was around my neck.

I think we’ll eventually get pretty good at picking out the locals from the tourists. Right now we’re trying to wrap our minds around the fact that we’re the former, although I have pulled the “we’re new here” card to get out of the rare potentially awkward or offensive situation. Like last night when I asked the girl at Alexandria Cupcake if they are affiliated with Georgetown Cupcake*. I gathered from the look on her face that this question was tantamount to asking Princess Diana if she knew a Mrs. Parker Bowles.

Some of us are perfectly at ease here. If the husband and I got that comfortable on the National Mall, we'd be arrested.

After dropping the dog at home, the husband and I did our grocery shopping for the week. Well, for most of the week. There isn’t room in the shoebox for a full week’s worth of produce or keep-cool food, so we shop for about four days at a time, planning carefully so that what’s left at the end of those four days can be quickly used in the first one or two meals of the next four days.

One thing I have always wanted to get good at is buying only the food we will eat and wasting nothing. The shoebox is an excellent accountability partner for this.

* Not. They are not affiliated. Most definitely not affiliated. “We’re new here.”