Friday, January 29, 2010

Back to school

After graduating from college almost eight years ago, and thinking that I would never actually bite the bullet and go back to school, I've done it. It has in fact been something that I've looked into on three other occasions. The school I'm referring to is the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), where, through their distance education program, I hope to obtain my Graduate Gemologist certificate this year. I had thought about actually studying on their campus in Carlsbad, CA, but after much consideration, decided to get the education online for a couple of reasons. First, I am able to keep my job. Second, it's about $12,000 less if I do it online. Third, one of my coworkers has gone through the program and will be an excellent resource to me. Fourth, when I decide to do something, I want to start NOW.

So I have. On Wednesday, I applied and enrolled in the first of five classes, Colored Stone Essentials, and have already completed the first lesson! As I near completion of this class, I will enroll in the next, and continue in that manner until I have completed all five. Near the end of the coursework, I will go to the nearest campus to complete the lab portion of the degree. That will take me away from work, and Missoula for three weeks.

I am looking forward to learning much more about the diamonds and gems that I work with everyday, meeting new people, and opening more doors.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Baby Boom

No, I'm not pregnant. It just seems like everyone else is, or has recently given birth. My cousin just had twins this past week. In November and December, there were two babies born to very good friends as well.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I found out that a dear friend was pregnant and expecting in May. While speaking with my best friend Lisa, it came out that she too, was expecting, again, in July. Add to that, my cousin's wife is also pregnant and expecting in April, as well as my bosses' wife due in late August.

I knew another friend was trying as well, and I've been meaning to call her. This morning's phone call from her brought great news. She too, is expecting in August, and right around my birthday!

Such great news from so many friends. And it does seem to go in waves. In 2008, it seemed as though everyone was expecting later that year, or early 2009. Well, wave two has hit, and as long as it doesn't hit this busy individual, I'll be just fine and dandy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Not a full, but a faster time isn't so bad

On Sunday I ran another half marathon, this time in Phoenix, Arizona. The original plan was of course, to run the full marathon, but as I mentioned in my previous post, my training did not go as planned. I actually felt under trained even for the half marathon. With great encouragement from Justin, my co-workers, and friends, I was going in with the hope of beating my first half's time of 1:58:22, but in the back of my head I was wondering if that was possible.

Mindy, Michelle, and I met up on Saturday night with my Aunt and Uncle for dinner. We had the traditional pasta dinner the night before the race, and skipped the wine. After returning to the resort, the three of us headed down to the hot tub to relax our muscles and help us wind down early. Mindy and I had been drinking so much water during the day that I was certain we would be up all night. On the contrary, I have never slept so well. We were in bed by 9:30 only to be up at 5:30 the next morning. Michelle dropped us off about two blocks away from the central meeting point at 6:40am. Many thousands of runners were millin
g about in the dark, drinking coffee and trying to stay warm. It was in the upper 40's (Fahrenheit) with just the slightest breeze, and mostly clear skies overhead. At 7:30 Mindy went to join the other Marathoners (7,372 registered) and I was left on my own until my race started at 8:30. I chatted with a few people, one being a young woman about my age who was running her fifth or sixth half marathon. I asked her whether or not she planned on running a full someday. Her response: "I don't think so. Every time I finish a half, I think, 'turn around and do that again? No thanks!'" Ha! Well, that sure is one way to look at it.

When I had registered, my goal was to finish in 1 hour and 55 minutes, right around three minutes faster than my previous half. I found my area, which had about 800 other runners (21,458 finished the half). We would be the fifth group taking off after the official start of the race, at about 8:35.

It wasn't hard for me to set my pace. I kept telling myself not to take off like a rocket (as I had done in Whitefish) so as not to wear myself out. I reached the one mile mark just after eight and a half minutes, and was feeling great. Around three miles or so, I noticed that both of my knees hurt a little bit, which wasn't too surprising, considering the small amount of running I had been doing the past several weeks. Around mile seven, my knees were in the same condition, and I also noticed some stiffness in my lower back and left hip. Overall, I was still feeling pretty good. I wasn't out of breath at all, and I was still keeping an average of just over an eight and a half minute mile pace. I was on track to finish on time.

Around ten miles, I thought, Wow, this is going fast! That's when I hit a wall. I wasn't overly fatigued, but my legs were tired and a bit sore. This is also when I started to think that I wasn't going to beat my first race time. I starting giving myself a pep talk, that 3.1 miles is nothing...that it's only 26 more minutes of hard work, then I would be done. I looked at my watch one last time at the 12 mile marker...13 minutes until my goal would be lost. Piece of cake. I coul
d do it.

And I did. I crossed the finish line at 1 hour, 55 minutes, and 32 seconds. Exactly 2 minutes and 50 seconds faster than my first half marathon, and right in sync with what my registration goal was.

After the race, I stretched my sore muscles, and drank plenty of water. The stiffness in my legs only got worse as the day went on. Instead of celebrating with wine (as I had done the first time) I had a couple of beers in the evening, but only after several ounces of water. Monday morning found me still sore and stiff, but not nearly as bad as I reme
mbered from last September. Today, My quads are still sore, but I'm already thinking that a run tomorrow evening will be great.

Now the only thing that I have to decide is which race is next?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What not to do...

I've been kinda sorta training for my first Marathon that is this weekend. My trip to Italy and the two weeks off from that training was the start to my downfall. Upon my return, I threw myself back into running three to four times a week, with at least one "longer" run. The lack of sunshine and warmth here in Montana in November/December zapped what energy I did have, making the longer runs in the middle of the week impossible. Add to that, the super cold weather we have for a week at the beginning of December, and then the following week being icy, I was unable to run outside, which is where I prefer.

I struggled with running at the gym on a treadmill, often times quitting early because of an ache in my knee, or being just plain bored. To keep up my leg strength, I started taking a spinning class two to three times per week, and it turns out I love it!

With the holidays over and the Marathon under three weeks out, I made the sensible decision that I would run the 1/2 Marathon, rather than risk injury during the race, and not finishing anyway. I decided I should start running more than spinning, and found that inside, I am much better on the treadmill when I listen to music, which is something that I had abandoned in late October while running outside with Justin. So my last several runs inside have been helpful, however, I still feel under-trained even for a 1/2 Marathon. My legs are strong, but my endurance is lower than it was before.

What I learned this past Sunday was, that you shouldn't thrown something new into your routine when you are a week out from a race. I ran on the treadmill at the gym, then did some leg circuit training with Kimber, during which I notice a pain in my right knee. Then, we did and hour of yoga with a class. This being my first experience with yoga (I liked it), I probably was into it a bit more than I should have been. My knee pain gradually got worse after class and into the evening. I wrapped it in heat and that seemed to help. Monday was a very painful day, and today, I seem to be almost back to normal. I will run Wednesday and Thursday, and then rest for the remaining days leading up to the race.

Sunday, it's on. My goal will be too finish in 1:55, about 3 1/2 minutes faster than my first 1/2 Marathon. My twin sister and Aunt and Uncle will be in Phoenix cheering Mindy and I on.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

So this is what it's like...

Last night, I was on a mission. I needed to find my stone template and in the process I also found my old sketchbooks. To say the least, I was motivated. I dreaded going to work today only because what I really wanted to do was sketch out new designs for Justin's mom, and for posterity. Tonight I've gotten sidetracked with wine tasting and browsing pictures, however I have come up with a very nice design for Veronica (Ronnie), but I must continue and have more than what I have to give her options...and it's FUN! Yes, that word is back, and I am very glad about that.

It is still frustrating, mostly because I can't make every good design that I create exactly the way that I envision them. However, I can carve them in wax (to have them ready for when I can), or fabricate them in silver in the meantime.

So while Oliver jumps on my lap to help me, I shall shut my computer off and turn to more important things...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wonderful day

I woke up a bit later than I wanted to, but hey, it's my day off and I can do that from time to time. :) I had been looking forward to this day off since the middle of the week because I knew that it was going to be warm enough and the weather was to be clear enough that I would finally be able to run outside again. It had been exactly one month since I had been able to run outside, mostly due to cold weather, icy sidewalks, and dark evenings.

My run was a bit on the slow side, as it was my first run in two weeks, and it was slightly icy in some areas. I managed to get in just under four miles, and would have gone farther if it weren't for the thin coat of ice on the trail.

Upon my return, I enjoyed a couple cups of coffee while reading the Sunday Missoulian, soaking up the sun in our living room. I made lunch/breakfast for Justin and I, and was just thinking about heading down to the river with my camera when Kimber called and asked if I would like to join her and Ilsa (dog) for a walk along the river. How perfect! We wandered for an hour, stopping and throwing a stick for the dog, taking in the many other people who were out enjoying the day. I was still on my running high and actually wanted to go for another run!

After our walk, we headed to The Good Food Store for tea and sat outside people watching for another hour. I think between running this morning, and my time outside with Kimber in the sun, I have been kissed by the sun more today than the entire month of December...and I love it!

Just now, as the sun sets behind the Montana mountains, I hope that it will be out tomorrow, but for now, the sun can rest for the night. It had a long day.

Friday, January 1, 2010


It wasn't until a few weeks ago that it sunk in that this New Years would close another decade. How the time has flown by! I still remember very well the Y2K celebration, and it certainly doesn't feel like it was 10 years ago.

It has been a decade of celebration, achievements, new beginnings, endings, and self discovery for me. In 2000, I was still in college and not sure what I was going to do with my life. I hadn't discovered jewelry yet, and seemed to be settling on computer design for a career. I thank my lucky stars that I found jewelry when I did. With the completion of my degree in Fine Arts at Iowa State University, I was lucky enough to have found a job immediately out of college, in my chosen field of jewelry. I had officially started my career, not just an aimless job. Over the last 7 1/2 years, I have moved three times with the same company, always moving up to a more progressive store, one that pushes me to learn more, one that opens more doors for me. And yet, I find myself walking past the open doors as of late. I pause at the doors, peering in and wondering what the risks would be if I walked through them, if I took that chance.

The chances that I speak of are not about changing careers, for even on my worst day, I believe that deep down I know that jewelry is my calling. I have not pushed myself the way that I used to. Unfortunately, this means for me that I haven't really been designing my stuff the last couple of years. All of that is about to change, and I'm enthusiastic about it in a way that I can't recall. I will be making a ring for Justin's mom, and the prospect of it makes my heart skip a beat. We sat around the kitchen table on New Years Eve, and between the four of us throwing out ideas, we've come up with a very exciting sketch. As this project develops, I will give updates with sketches and photographs. This is just the chance that I need to take, for I am putting my capabilities out there, to some of the most important people to me. I do worry that they will not be happy with my work, that I will fail at this task that should be now be so easy for me. I hope that this project will banish these fears, for I know how good of a jeweler, and designer I am.

Sometimes I think it is funny what motivates me. Visiting a gem dealer on Thursday morning got me started. After that, Justin and I headed to a small jewelry shop in Helena where it came out very quickly that I was also a bench jeweler. I was invited up into their shop and was amazed at the place. The tools and equipment that this little, flagship store has far exceeds what some of my company's larger stores have. There was also a young woman working at the her bench, and I couldn't help but think, "that should be me." This small custom gallery is the kind of place I've always wanted to work and it will always be something that I work towards, either that, or turning my current store into such a busy custom shop, that I will no longer have time to do the 'everyday' repairs.

So, this year, I am going to design more, and actually make them a reality. I am going to enter contests, and would love nothing more than to have my jewelry in a case somewhere.

Happy New Year!