Millinocket Half Marathon

A large group of runners running uphill as part of the either the marathon or half marathon at Millinocket.

About a month ago I had the pleasure of running the Millinocket Half Marathon, a free event was started in 2015 to help a struggling Maine mill town that has been devastated by the closing of their major employer. The only requirement of the race is that runners support local businesses and contribute to the Katahdin Region in some way. This was such a fun way to kick off the winter season, I regret not writing about it sooner.

My friend and I picked up our bibs the night before at a craft fair, where local vendors were selling everything from honey and jam to handknit hats. We spent about an hour trying to decide what to spend our money on, everything looked so good and/or fun! I settled on some spicy jam and “guts” (pulp leftover from making hot sauce), knowing that I would want to save my cash for race day. It was really hard to limit my spending, vendors at the fair had a wonderful array of goods and everything was displayed so nicely.

Half marathon running close the passing the finish line.Post craft fair, we grabbed supplies to make our meals for the next few days from the local grocery store and headed to the place we would call home during our stay. Where we nervously ate food that we knew wouldn’t make our stomachs churn during the race.

Oatmeal in our stomachs, we pulled into the high school parking lot at prepared to jog the half-mile to the starting line. I had heard the town came out in spirit to support the runners, but I was not ready for the enthusiasm and kindness that I was met with at every turn. Almost every mile had volunteers handing out water and snacks. Spectators had dispersed themselves along the course with cowbells, jingle bells and other noisemakers to cheer us on. Runners showed up in costumes and there were a lot of people who opted to walk the 13.1 distance.

While I’m no stranger to the energy surrounding a race day, Millinocket is easily a race destination I will look forward to each year. If you’re in the area next year, I highly recommend this one!

The other plus side is the 7+ hours spent in the car allowed me to finish the Flax sweater I’ve been working on and get halfway through a pair of Vampolka mitts. So if you’re not a runner consider walking. And if you’re having trouble motivating yourself because the cause isn’t good enough, just think of all the knitting time you could have on your hands!

Looking back on 2019…

It’s that time of year again, everyone is reflecting on their previous year and setting goals for the current one. As I sit here reflecting on all that I have accomplished during 2019, it’s hard not to feel some pride at what I have done, even amongst the things I didn’t do.

In 2019 I:

  • Didn’t hit my knitting goal of 35 projects or 16,000 yards (whichever came first). But I did spend time experimenting with sewing, embroidery and weaving. Enjoying new techniques and the thrill of learning something new. I made my first dress and wove my planned project.
  • Didn’t use up my stash before investing in new yarn, but I did buy yarn sparingly and found creative ways to use up the yarn that I have. I’m currently working on the …against all odds (Max) sweater in two yarns that were gifted to me at different times. I never would have paired the two yarns together without the goal of using what I have, in fact they probably would have just become socks while I waited for my new yarn to arrive (which wouldn’t have been the worst thing).
  • Didn’t redo my kitchen or fix any windows, but I did repaint everything minus the kitchen and organize my space to reflect how I use it most. I found curtains to accent my guestroom’s walls and artwork to hang in my bedroom. While none of these things involved a major facelift and didn’t really teach me new home-owning skills, I feel more at home than I did when I first bought my house and feel confident that it will continue to feel like home.
  • Didn’t run the covered bridges half marathon that I fundraised for due to a foot injury, but I did run a race in Northern Maine that gives back to the town that it’s in (More on that in the next few weeks, it was so much fun! I can’t believe that I haven’t written about it yet).
  • Didn’t vacation in any new places, but I was able to visit Chicago for the first time due to a work conference and saw Hamilton (it was fantastic, thank you for asking). I was also able to explore a new part of Canada during another conference.
  • Didn’t swim in the lake I live on. While this is embarrassing, I did swim in the CT river for the first time and jumped in several brooks while hiking.
  • Was my sister’s maid of honor and gave a speech that I struggled to read because it was so heartfelt.
  • Tried and failed at the whole online dating thing. But I did meet some interesting people during the process and had a date for my sister’s wedding (which in hindsight means my family met someone way before they should have, and he didn’t even stay the whole time…). When it was all over, I found someone when I wasn’t looking who I am very grateful to have in my life.
  • Took measures into getting my debt under control and am feeling less stressed about money.
  • Attended my first Renaissance Fair and will maybe attend a different one in 2020. I’m told by one of my new friends that the one I went to was actually not that good of one.
  • Made new friends and made an effort to put myself out there more. As an introvert, this involved a lot of “putting on my party pants” and reminding myself that I would have fun when I got there and could always leave if was didn’t. This allowed me to meet more crafters, gamers and my first experience dyeing with natural dyes!
  • Tried out being a DM for Dungeons and Dragons. It was actually very fun, too bad the group didn’t last beyond the initial get together.
  • Participated in my first trail races, what a fun way to push your mind and body while being surrounded by like-minded individuals. Loche also ran his first race this year, I can’t wait to participate in it with him again next year.

I spent 2019 trying to slow down and enjoy my surroundings, something that I felt I struggled with following graduating from library school. After two years of go-go-go, it was easy to see that I had lost sight of why I found enjoyment in the things that I did and the places that I went. As I rediscovered who I am, I found myself coming out of my shell, having more confidence and being happier. I could not have asked for a better year, despite the challenges that 2019 poised.

October Book Club: A thousand splendid suns

Many of us read or listen to audiobooks while we craft, so I thought it would be interesting to dedicate the first post of each month to a book I’ve been reading and/or am about to start.

Back in August, I picked up A Thousand Splendid Suns from a take a book leave a book box when visiting my parents, but I didn’t really start reading it until the last couple of weeks. I feel the need to clarify something before getting into my discussion of the book: I picked up a hardcover copy of a book without a dust cover. In other words, I was drawn to the book because it had a beautiful gold mandala on it and when I flipped open to a random page, I was greeted by a beautiful poem that made my heart feel as though it was being squeezed. I read the first few chapters that day on the beach and then put it down in an attempt to finish reading the Hobbit, which I started reading back in June and am about halfway through (I swear I’ve been reading a page or two at a time, maybe it’s time to admit defeat).

A week ago, I picked the book back up again and started over. Before I knew it, I felt incredibly connected to Mariam and Laila. True, we are separated by pages and time, but you can’t help but become invested in Mariam and Laila as you read their stories. As you discover how they become connected with each other. As you root for their happiness and find yourself struggling to continue on reading because your eyes have teared up.

Here is the review that I left on good reads:

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This a story of love and sacrifice, of not knowing what you had until it’s slipped between your fingers, of hope and faith and courage — all admits wars trying to tear everything apart. I feel as though I have become friends with the main characters, reading letters that they have written to me of their lives and that I have put down the last letter I’m going to receive from them.

This book made me cry, hold my breath, hope for better things and admire the strength of those going through all of the above in real life. This one is worth your time and your tears.

Please keep in mind this is a book that pulls at your heartstrings, I don’t recommend reading/listening while working on a complicated project. That being said, by the time I was reading the 4th chapter I was struggling to put the book down.

November’s book club will focus on The Clockmaker’s Daughter, by Kate Morton (see synopsis below). Feel free to read along with me, let’s start a virtual book club.

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My real name, no one remembers. The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

 

On habits

The interesting thing about a habit is that it takes so long to form it and mere seconds to break it. For example, I spent the last week recovering from food poisoning and couldn’t run. This means that I went from being in the habit of running every day to needing to convince myself to put my running shoes on. I have to rebuild the habit of enjoying a run after work, which seems counter-intuitive when you consider how often I run normally and how much I genuinely enjoy the activity. On the other hand, if I find myself lacking time to run on any given day, I find myself itching to engage in the habit.

This is different, and yet very similar, to the habit of bringing my knitting everywhere. I feel naked when my knitting isn’t tucked safely in my purse, yet I can “forget” that it’s in there and not touch it all day. The flip side of this is if I leave my knitting at home on I spend my day feeling antsy, even if it was by choice. This is not because I’m addicted to carrying my yarn around with me, it’s because it feels weird to skip the habit of putting my knitting bag in my work bag, I leave my house feeling like I’ve forgotten something.

Does this mean that habits are addicting? In other words, am I gaining satisfaction from the act of completing the activity or the activity itself? My habit of washing my sheets every week is not exciting, but crawling into clean sheets Sunday night is. I don’t get excited about putting my knitting bag in my work bag, but I do smile at the thought of sneaking a few rows in between meetings. Sometimes I do enjoy slipping into my running shoes, and sometimes I go because I know it’s good for me. In the case of the sheets, the activity is not satisfying but the reward of crawling into bed later is. Depending on the knitting project or running route, the act of putting my knitting bag in my work bag or my running shoes on my feet is the satisfying piece of the habit.

So which is it? The habit or the activity that follows? In the Journal Article Habits without values, researchers discovered that rats will pull a known lever over a knew lever even if the new lever provides the treats. This supports the idea that a habit can be completed regardless of the outcome attached. This means I can put on my running shoes (the habit), go for a terrible run and do it all again the next day with no expectation that it will be better. The same can be said of putting my knitting bag in my work bag and washing my sheets. The habit does not need to lead to a reward (but when the reward is there it’s nice).

So perhaps the act of putting my knitting bag in my work bag is satisfying because it is a habit. Perhaps a habit is just something you do out of the comfort of repetition, after all, is this not why I find comfort in the knit stitch? Perhaps I find comfort in knowing that I will wash my sheets every Sunday and that I will put my sneakers on and go for a run after work.

Does this make me less adaptable? Does it mean that I am less open to new things or change? I would like to think it doesn’t, but I also find myself reaching for my sock needles whenever I am in between projects and am not sure what to make next. There are perks to having habits, even within your craft. I suppose the trick is to not allow your habits dictate your flexibility and way of thinking.

On that note, I’m off to figure out what yarn I want to use to make my partner a birthday gift. And in true habitual nature, it’ll probably be a nice pair of warm cozy socks.