Thursday, April 16, 2015

Currently...

Feeling... awful. My back hasn't hurt since after I went to the chiropractor last Friday but yesterday, it started bothering me and this morning, I woke up in excruciating pain. My walk to the Metro left me with stabbing pains up my back with every step. I'm going back to the chiro tonight but I might need to see a doctor if that doesn't help.

Reading...
Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. I started this last week and should finish it by tomorrow. Even though it's been almost two years since I read the prequel (The Bean Trees), it picked up easily enough.

Watching...  Last Man on Earth on Fox. I started watching this show with my family when I was in Texas and it's hilarious. I roped The Pilot into it this week and we've watched all 9 episodes in the last few days. It's so good!

Thinking about... doing a sugar detox...and by thinking about, I mean seriously researching. I've always had a sweet tooth but lately, it's been out of control. There's no reason for me to be craving sweets as many times a day as I am. I've been working on eliminating refined sugars from my diet this year and it's concerning to me that my sugar cravings have increased in spite of this.

Working on...
our apartment...story of my life.

Needing... a fix to this situation with my back. I've had back injuries before, but I've never had pain like this.

Loving... that The Pilot is home. I haven't posted about this but in January, he was offered a job as a Captain for a different airline. It's an exciting promotion but it meant that he had to head to training for 3 months. He was able to come home some weekends, but never for more than 36 hours. For the last stretch, he was gone for almost a month and it was really hard.

Excited about... my mom coming to visit this weekend!

What are you up to today?



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Book RANT: The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris

I've come across a lot of books that I didn't like...books with bad characters, books that would have been better if they had ended differently...but until now, I've never come across a book that infuriated me as deeply as The Eastern Stars by Mark Kurlansky.


I first learned of this book over a year ago and hadn't been able to find it anywhere...not even on Amazon. When I stumbled on it at a Georgetown bookstore's sidewalk sale, I  started reading it right away.

Within the first few pages, I was fuming. I immediately had to call my mom and vent and she was just as pissed off as I was. I actually took notes on this book for this post.


Before I go any further, here's the book's synopsis from Goodreads:

The intriguing, inspiring history of one small, impoverished area in the Dominican Republic that has produced a staggering number of Major League Baseball talent, from an award-winning, bestselling author. 

Now, full disclosure. I am Dominican. My mom was born there and I've been there a few times. I'm related to one of the baseball players mentioned in this book. As a Dominican baseball lover, I was dying to read this book. After all, nearly 1/4 of all baseball players right now are Dominican.

Instead of a factual, nonfiction book that needed to be written about the prevalence of Dominicans in Major League Baseball, this was a poorly researched, factually incorrect book that was not only outrageously offensive, but was less about baseball than about...I'm not sure what...the sugar industry? Maybe?

Kurlansky starts the novel by saying that the Dominican Republic has no culture...that even the name of the country is "less poetic" than other Latin American countries, thus proving it's lack of culture. He claims that everything that is inherently Dominican actually comes from somewhere else. So, by that logic, the US also has no culture.

The Dominican Republic was colonized by the Spanish in 1492 after Columbus landed there. It's Native Dominican culture (the Tainos) was destroyed by a genocide and the DR  went through over 400 years of colonial rule (by the Spanish, French and Haitians, then the Spanish again) before finally achieving independence. Sure, because of this, dances like merengue and bachata and foods like mofongo might have their roots somewhere else, but they're just a few examples of the various things that make up the truly iconic Dominican culture. (Come to Christmas dinner at my house and tell me that the DR has no culture.)

If you have only ever been to resort towns like Punta Cana, then sure, go ahead and say that the DR has no culture. You'd be wrong, but I can see your point...but if you've been anywhere on the island, as the author supposedly has, you can't say that. I find it tremendously ironic that Kurlansky, an American author writing about baseball can say that "even baseball isn't Dominican" when baseball doesn't even have it's roots in America! Hello, cricket anyone? To argue that a country has no culture because it's roots come from somewhere else is to argue that every single country in the world has no culture...including the US.

After bashing the country's "lack" of culture, he then goes on to say that most Dominican baseball players are illiterate which is simply untrue given the fact that the country has a 91% literacy rate (the 9% illiteracy most likely stems from the Dominican-Haitian border, the country's poorest region NOT San Pedro de Macoris, where this book is referring to). To add to his seeming generalizations about Dominican education, he claims that the average Dominican didn't even know about WWII when it was happening. The Dominican Republic wasn't involved in WWII. This was before mainstream television so even if this was true, where would the information have come from?

In continuing with his offensive generalizations about Dominicans, he consistently refers to migrant workers in the DR (mostly Haitians) as "cocolos" which is actually a pretty derogatory word. In discussing race in the DR (a fascinating topic that I do not feel qualified to discuss having not grown up in the DR) he says, that 'some pregnant women eat white food to make their babies white' which is not only untrue but a hard generalization that is again, incredibly offensive. To see an interesting artistic portrayal of race in the DR, check out this article).

Aside from his cultural "observations," he also goes on to say that the Dominican Republic was, until recently, the poorest country in Latin America...beat out by Nicaragua.

What? Almost all of the countries in Central America have had a lower GDP than the Dominican Republic for years! The DR probably hasn't been at the bottom of that list since before independence.

When Kurlansky finally gets to talking about baseball, it's a negative portrayal of the players who haven't made it with only a few sentences about the noteworthy players. Robinson Cano, one of the best ball players of our generation (which it pains me to say not being a Yankee fan) is discussed in all of 3 sentences, while almost an entire chapter talks about his father's lackluster career through the Minors. The book then goes on to discuss Sammy Sosa's and Alex Rodriguez's steroid use, before discussing any of the real accomplishments of Dominican ball players. In fact, some of the players he mentions aren't even Dominican!

After the minimal discussion about the accomplishments of Dominican ball players, Kurlansky turns his criticism to their philanthropy and how seemingly none of them give back to their communities...despite the fact that President Leonel Fernandez disagrees citing that most of them return to the DR in the off season and build bigger houses for their families and retire back to the DR, contributing to the Dominican economy. This isn't a country that people leave and never return to. Some do, but many of them go back after they retire, living in the US only to play baseball.

In the end, this book was truly disappointing. It wasn't a book about how baseball changed the Dominican town of San Pedro de Macoris...or even about how baseball has changed the Dominican Republic. I'd love to read that book...provided it was written by someone actually qualified to talk about baseball.

----

This post got really long, but you can tell I'm passionate about this. I love baseball and I love my heritage. I'm proud of it and this book didn't do either of those things justice. If you really want to learn about the rise of Dominican ballplayers in the Major Leagues, I highly suggest you watch the 2008 film Sugar.

What's the last book you read that really made you mad?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Recap: My Last Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run

The Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run and I have a history.

In 2011, I didn't run it after my flight from South Bend, Indiana (where I was speaking at a conference) was delayed due to maintenance forcing me to miss my connection and spend the night in Chicago.

In 2012, I didn't run it after I woke up the morning before the race with a pinched nerve in my back and could barely walk.

In 2013, I finally ran it...but almost didn't when I had an unexpected death in the family and had to go home for a funeral two days before.

In 2014, I didn't run it when my the knee injury that still plagues me was at its worst.

This year, for the second and last time, I ran the Cherry Blossom.

Holly had come in for the race on Saturday afternoon and we had a low key post-race dinner (with drinks) at Tonic with Jenn. I didn't eat my normal pre-race meal of pasta and I didn't keep to my pre-race tradition of not drinking and I didn't feel great about that.


Sunday morning, Holly and I were up bright and early and I just felt off. It didn't feel like race morning. I wasn't excited or nervous...I just felt like I was going to work or something.

When we got to the Start, I lined up in my corral and waited for the race to start. There were several announcements about who was running and where they came from, etc. I heard all of them...or so I thought. I didn't find out until after the race that the course had been cut short by about half a mile due to an earlier car accident.

Right off the bat, I didn't feel right. I felt like I was running on a trampoline...my feet just weren't hitting the ground the way they should have and I just didn't really want to be running. I was being elbowed and pushed from all directions and I was getting so frustrated.

The race starts in front of the Washington Monument and then circles up and around the Mall to the Memorial Bridge. The Bridge is an out and back and by the time we got about half way back, my knee started hurting...a mile and a half in.

A few adjustments to my form and pace and we hit the first water station, where I stopped to stretch. It was there that I decided to drop out. I would run to the Rock Creek Parkway turnaround and jump out, walk to Foggy Bottom and metro back to the race. I felt awful and I was so mad. I just didn't want to be running this race anymore.

This was the first time since 2007 that the Cherry Blossoms hit peak bloom during the race and all of a sudden, I started thinking that I had to run through them. So, I decided that I would try to run a little bit further. By Mile 3, my knee felt better...better than better...it felt fine...something that has never happened during a race. So, I started to push the pace a little bit and I started thinking of something that a colleague said at work earlier last week.

"Whatever you water will grow." I had been so negative during the previous few miles of the race and I was just harboring negativity. All of those negative thoughts and feelings were only growing the more I fed into them. I was thinking about this as we came onto Mile 4 and another water stop which I couldn't even stop at because of how crowded it was...but I knew that from this point on, every step I took would be beneath the Cherry Blossoms, so I pushed on.

The trees were gorgeous.

I can't name a single runner in DC who will tell you that they love running Hains Point. It's long, it's boring and it's typically unshaded, leaving the blistering sun to just wear you thin on any run...but this time? The trees created a gorgeous canopy over the road and it was beautiful to run through. 

Taken mid-run...because everyone else was doing it.
No, I didn't stop mid course to take a picture, I kept moving.
We came to the 10k mark and I started feeling so much better. I chatted with some runners and started to pick up the pace. I didn't want to worry if my knee would start hurting again, so I just ran. It felt so good to be pushing the pace. I haven't done that since the 2012 Cleveland Half.

As we rounded Hains Point, I spotted someone that I thought looked familiar and tried to catch up to her. When I finally did, it was Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC! I introduced myself and we ran together for a little bit and then I got the urge to just let it all go. I started bolting. I loved watching the pace on my Garmin steadily get faster and faster. As we rounded Hains Point, I knew there would be an incline at the end (DC just loves to end you on an incline) but I powered up it. (Power up the hill, recover on the down hill...that's what I always do). I saw the 800 meter sign and then spotted my friend John among the spectators. I waved to him and pushed along. Just when I didn't think I could  maintain that speed on the hill any longer, we were cruising down hill to the finish.

1:35:35. Only 10 minutes off my PR and a solid 20 minutes off of what I expected to run (25 if the course had actually been 10 miles). I was elated! As soon as I finished, I needed to lay down. I hadn't run a race like that in 2 years. I made my way to the finishers' area, snagged some water, a banana and my medal and picked a spot on the grass to lay down and wait for Holly (who PRd!).


There you have it. I ran a great race. So why did I say that this would be my last Cherry Blossom? This was my 5th consecutive attempt at running this race and only my 2nd time running it. Even as late as Friday, I wasn't sure if I would be able to run. The Cherry Blossom is a really great race, but moving forward, I'll save my lottery spot for someone who will hopefully have better luck than I have. I'm just happy that I could "retire" from this race on a high note!

Have you run Cherry Blossom before?
Is there a race that you have a history with?
Ever retired from a certain race?

If you ran this year's Cherry Blossom, don't forget to link up your recap with the Cherry Blossom Race Recap Party!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Currently...

Feeling... exhausted. Tuesday night, Peyton got sick in the middle of the night. I spent all night up taking care of her/cleaning up after her and when she got sick for the 3rd time at 5am, I decided to take her for an emergency trip to the vet. She seems to be doing better now, but the vet said she isn't totally in the clear.

Reading...
Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. I read The Bean Trees in 2012 after discovering Barbara Kingsolver and reading almost everything she wrote. This sequel to The Bean Trees has been on my Kindle for awhile but somehow I forgot about it. I'm on a reading roll right now and read Tuck Everlasting yesterday (in 1 day!) and finished 1776 yesterday morning (the only book to effectively make me fall asleep mid sentence...more than twice).


Watching...  "Last Man on Earth." I started watching this when I was in Texas over the weekend and it is hilarious.

Drinking... this bottle of Vouvray. I opened it up a few days ago and it's delicious.


Thinking about... my back. It's been bothering me for almost two weeks now. I made an appointment to see a chiropractor for tomorrow morning and that visit is going to be the deciding factor as to whether I run Cherry Blossom or not. I haven't run since last Thursday and when I tried running on Tuesday, I couldn't make it more than a couple of blocks without having to turn around.

Working on...
a 30 before 30 list. I started this blog as a 25 before 25 list, and I definitely want to take it back to its roots with another list. Speaking of 30...I'm in the middle of Helene's #30photosinbetween Instagram challenge. It's Day 9 and so far, it's a lot of fun! I've found some awesome new accounts to follow!

Needing... to make a trip to Ikea. My 'needing' entries on these posts have almost all been about our apartment since we moved in. One last trip to Ikea and we'll be all set!

Grateful for... an understanding boss who was more than willing to be flexible over Peyton's health issues yesterday.

Loving... seeing this on my Goodreads account. Last year, I hit the goal of reading 30 books and I was behind from the beginning. I blame the six weeks it took me to get through The Complete Sherlock Holmes.


I'm secretly hoping to get to 50 but with a couple of  600+ pages on my list this year,
that might not happen.
Excited about... Holly's trip to DC this weekend for Cherry Blossom!

Have you ever had a sick pet?
I've never been to a chiropractor, anything I should know before my visit tomorrow?
What are your plans for this weekend?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Recipe: Arroz Sin Pollo

Arroz con pollo is a staple in just about every Spanish speaking household. You may not have ever had it since it doesn't really appear on the menus of Latin restaurants (except for the really authentic ones) and is pretty basic, but I grew up eating it and it's one of my favorite dishes.

My grandfather (on my mom's side) was an unbelievable cook and, despite being a vegetarian for 9 years now, I can still taste his arroz con pollo. My grandmother (on my dad's side) makes a pretty good one too!

When I was at Sundance, we rented a condo and spent our first night shopping for groceries. One of the girls in the group is a chef and cooked a fantastic meal for us. She's Puerto Rican and gave us her spin on arroz con pollo. Taking her recipe and making a few changes of my own, omitting the chicken of course, I present to you Arroz Sin Pollo (translation: rice without chicken).


The ingredients are fairly simple but there might be a few things you don't have on hand. 

-Long grain rice (white rice is traditional but brown works too)
-1 can crushed tomatoes
-1 packet sazon (found in the Spanish section of your grocery store)
-Adobo seasoning
-Red & green bell peppers (2 each)
-1 yellow onion
-2-3 cloves garlic
-Juice of 1 lemon

1. Cook rice over the stove top (not the rice cooker) with the lid off until approximately 3/4 an inch of water remains in the pot.
2. While rice is cooking, prepare all vegetables: chop the peppers and onion, peel and chop the garlic.


3. When the water on the rice has mostly soaked into the rice, stir in 1 packet of Sazon and the can of crushed tomatoes, bring to a simmer and allow the liquid from the tomatoes to soak into the rice. 


4. Heat olive oil in a separate pan. Stir in the garlic, onion and peppers. When the vegetables have been cooked, mix into the rice.


5.  Season liberally with Adobo. Drizzle lemon juice over the mixture.


Serving suggestions: If you absolutely need the chicken, you can season it with a mixture of adobo and flour and drizzle it with some lemon juice before cooking. Alternatively, you can season some shrimp with the Adobo seasoning and saute. For a more substantial vegetarian dish, serve the rice stuffed inside peppers.

I find that fresh goat cheese sprinkled over the top adds a nice tangy addition if you have some on hand. 

Notes: There are a few types of Sazon and Adobo. I use Sazon con Azafran and Adobo All Purpose Seasoning. 

This definitely isn't the most traditional version of arroz con pollo, but it's one I've been cooking up a lot lately and I love it!

Do you think you'll try this?
What are some traditional foods that you like to cook?