Em #436: The Cat Furniture That Therefore I Am

True story. Hal sleeps relatively well, but often wakes up between 5-5:30, or about an hour before I’d like him to be up. Most of the time when this happens, I put him back down in the guest room downstairs after a bottle, just so any comments he has on his situation won’t disturb B. Then I lie down on the sofa. And the cat…goes a little nuts. For some reason, he really likes to sit on people’s chests. Preferably with at least one foot on their windpipes. And he weighs fourteen pounds.

We’ll file the comic under SF446.5 L86 2018, for Animal culture–Pets–Cats–Behavior.

I ran my first marathon ten years ago this fall. (Fun fact: my first date with B was the evening of the day I did my last 20 miler for that race.) That year, I finished the Twin Cities marathon in 4:41:10. It rained for 90% of the race and I think I swore I’d never do another one. (Since then, I have run at least fourteen other races of 26.2 miles or longer; actually, I think there might be others? This number was reconstructed using various results websites.) My road marathon PR is 3:59:59 (set at Lakefront in 2012) and my road 50k PR is 4:57:58 (set at the MadCity 50k in 2011); it’s difficult to give a number as a trail event PR because trails have really different conditions that make them hard to compare. This past weekend, at the Endurance Challenge WI, I ran my first marathon in almost two years—I had run a trail ultra of about 29 miles in November 2016, and then spent the rest of 2017 pregnant and recovering from pregnancy. This means that a lot of my life over the last decade has been spent preparing for marathons, planning my various events in order to get ready for a marathon, and recovering from marathons. (Or sometimes getting injured two weeks before my marathon and not running it. Boo, 2010.)

And I just want to say: while I have gone into events with some half-assed training, I have never signed up for a race knowing that I was going to half-ass my training as much as I did this time (and knew that I was likely to do).

Rather than recounting the race in blow-by-blow detail, which I think would be boring, let’s try an exciting Q-and-A format.

Q. I understand you have a one-year old. How does that effect your training?
A. He effects it both more and less than I expected pre-baby. On a day-to-day basis, I often run him to daycare (about 8 miles round-trip), plus a lunch or post-work run with B (anywhere from 3–7 miles), giving me midweek totals of 8–15 miles per day, and anywhere from 50–60 miles per week. This is on par with or a bit more than what I was running before I got pregnant. On the flip side, my long runs on Saturdays have suffered from a lack of sleep and drive. Rather than training to 18–20, which is normal for a marathon, my longest single run was 16.4 miles. In my defense, I planned to do a 23-miler, but there was some major flooding in Dane County that led to its cancellation. But I didn’t make too much of an effort to replace it. I also didn’t do much trail running since June, because of a bad poison ivy experience and mosquitoes and the flooding and, you know, going to brunch instead.

Prior to the race, still optimistic.

Q. Given that, how happy are you with your results?
A. I am. All things considered, I think I was in shape for about a 4:10ish road marathon. Maybe 4 hours if the weather was good and I found someone to pace off. Instead, I ran a 5:07 trail marathon, about 37 minutes slower than the last time I ran this course (2014). But that said, my goal pace (4:30) was picked because I wanted to place in the top five in my age group, and I placed third (ninth woman overall!), so I’m actually pretty pleased with that (although if I’d run a 4:30 again, I would have won outright as first overall woman). There are also the conditions to consider: the race had somewhere between 1,300–1,800 feet of climbing (my Garmin gave the first number, Strava the second); many of the ascents (and descents) were covered with a scree that made climbing them at a run quite difficult; the weather topped out at about 82 degrees and humid AF, following directly on about a two-week stretch of cooler weather during which I rather lost my heat acclimation.

Trails.

Q. Did you learn any important lessons?
A. Yes. It’s important to plan for both the race and the ride home. I had to drive myself home, and my blood sugar started to crash around the time I got back to the car. I stopped at a gas station to pick up a coffee and a chocolate milk, and wound up sitting on the floor waiting for the people buying a million lottery tickets in line ahead of me to get done so I could check out. In a more ideal world, I would have ridden home with someone who had their shit a bit more together.

Pursuant to that, I think my nutrition strategy was generally pretty good (it was: grab something to eat at each aid station plus bring a gel to eat about two miles before the next one, and salt tabs at 1.5 hours, 2.5 hrs, and 3.5 hrs), but I waited until mile 6 to eat anything for the first time, and I think I should have had a gel a bit earlier. Also, it’s better to grab something with a bit of protein/fat (peanut butter) than just to stuff a bunch of M&Ms in your mouth. Also, I ran out of water at mile 16 with the next aid station at mile 18. That was gnarly. Wish I’d planned better for that.

Also, finally, I learned (again) that time on your feet does more than just prepare your muscles for the race–it prepares you for the pain. Like just the feeling of your socks on your feet can hurt after thirteen or fourteen miles of rough terrain.

Q. Any final thoughts about racing? 
A. I’ve had a tough time getting my racing mojo back since Hal’s birth. Primarily because if he’s going to have a bad night, it will usually be a Friday night (it’s like he KNOWS), and I often have wound up on the starting line wishing I had more flexibility to shorten my run or move the time up. Recently I’ve realized that just running races to run them (or to get a t-shirt I guess) is not exciting to me. This marathon, with the competition aspect, was exciting. So next season, I think I may try to structure my season more like a pro might, with an A race, a couple of B/C races as prep, and then most of my time spent doing my own thing. (Full disclosure, smart people have been telling me to do this for a long time. I just learn slowly.) Going into the marathon, I had some plans to use it as a springboard for something bigger in the spring, but I’m not sure I’m really feeling that now. Twenty-six miles is a lot when it’s hot and you’re undertrained. Maybe I shouldn’t push my luck. (I’m sure I will though. I seem to crave challenges. We’ll see.)

Em oi! #435: The Consolations of Philosophers



It turns out that there are now Em oi-canonical ways to draw some philosophers, since they have appeared a few times in the comic:

Also it turns out I have drawn a lot of comics about anxiety. Hmm. This one will be filed under B808.63 L86 2018, for Philosophy  (General)–Modern (1450/1600-)–Special topics and schools of philosophy–Anxiety.  (If you’re just here for the philosophy, feel free to peace out here.)

As I was scanning this comic, I was wondering what I was going to write for my little essay here. The time between initially writing this and finishing it was so long that if I initially had any additional thoughts, they have now gone away. But in the meantime, it is young Hal’s birthday!

Isn’t he adorable?

Anyway, I have been trying to think of some things about having a kid that I wish I had known before he was born. Honestly, most of the things that are coming to mind are not necessarily things you can know beforehand. Like no matter how good you are at putting your baby to bed, you’ve only learned how to put your baby to bed–you can’t know ahead of time how to do it, because your baby has his own personality and likes and dislikes, and you can’t help anyone else, because all babies are pretty different. But here we go.

1. Be careful when sneezing after a c-section. I don’t know why, but although I started back to running about five weeks post-op and was fine, I pulled a muscle or something sneezing just before six weeks. That was weird. And uncomfortable. I also managed to pull a muscle in my trapezius muscle while lifting the baby, and that hurt on and off for weeks. And occasionally my wrist and thumb have been angry. So maybe I should say just be careful generally–lifting a tiny cannonball four hundred times a day turns out to do a number on you. It wasn’t until I stopped pumping that my body actually started to feel like it was totally normal again (and that lasted for a few days before I started training for a marathon, so, uh).

2. Convert distances from kilometers to miles before you sign up for a race and don’t sign up for a 10 miler eight weeks after your c-section. This goes without saying, I think. I think I did the actual signing up in early September (so two or three weeks post-op), meaning I was off any drugs…so we’ll blame this on sleep deprivation.

3. Emotional labor is for suckers. Emotional labor is the process of using your emotions in order to provoke or prevent a particular emotional response from people. And it’s just not worth it–you can’t tell someone news that will upset them in some perfect way so as not to upset them. You cannot hint at things you’d like people to do. Don’t say, “Um, do you think it’s time for the baby to take a nap?” Say, “I need to put him down for a nap now.” Don’t say, “Well, it was nice of you to come.” Say, “Get the fuck out of my house now, I’m tired.” (J/k, maybe don’t say that.)

4. You will become the expert on your baby. This is the best advice I got before Hal was born (it came from my sister-in-law and friend Claire Wahmanholm, doctor of poetry). So when you figure it out, feel free to (assertively, if need be) show the various grandparents/sitters how to put your baby down for a nap, feed him the way he likes, whatever. Do remember that over time, they will develop their own relationships with him and figure out what works for them in that context, but at the beginning they may need to be told.

5. As my mom put it, women don’t largely get to debrief after giving birth. I’m not a trauma theorist, but it doesn’t take a ton of psych to realize that when you go around talking to people about their kids and birth stories, you’ll sometimes get this sense that they are retelling their story in a way that is mean to make them feel better about whatever happened to them. Similarly, people get very insistent on the things they can control, like what they feed their infant or what kind of diapers they use, because it makes them feel better about all the millions of things they can’t control. This can lead to people saying things that sometimes come off as quite shirty about how their “thing” (exclusive breastfeeding for two years, cloth diapering, attachment parenting, whatever; not vaccinating is one of the more extreme and harmful examples of this) is so much better than whatever else. The best thing to do is not get involved.

6. The reason people fall into more sexist roles after having a baby is that the only people anyone has watched parent up close is their own parents, and thirty years ago it was a lot less typical for men to take on 50% of the parenting. If this works for you, fine. (It doesn’t work for me.) But at least be conscious about what you’re agreeing to.

7. Like most experiences, it’s hard to appreciate how amazing having a baby is until you’re not inside the experience anymore. Just smile as best you can at the old lady who corners you at the cafe. And when you see other people who are earlier in the process than you are, just reassure them that it gets better.

8. It is okay to buy some earplugs and wear them while you’re doing time holding a fussy/colicky infant. You’ll be more relaxed, and everyone will be happier because of that.

9. When in doubt, make art. Any type, doesn’t matter. It’ll make things better.

Em oi! 431: One Sunday

Hourly comic day is technically February 1st, I think. It started back in 2006 when John Campbell, who once drew the comic Pictures for Sad Children (and then later set a bunch of stuff on fire and maybe quit the internet, I don’t know anymore) would draw an hourly comic every day for the month of January, and then invite other artists to join them on the last day of the project. The only rule is typically that you have to draw one panel for every hour you’re awake depicting something that happened during that hour. Technically you’re supposed to draw them AS THEY’RE HAPPENING but I never manage that. These were done during naps. Here I have in some cases done multiple panels in order to provide more of a narrative. Unfortunately it didn’t scan as well as I would have liked. I used to draw them on index cards (1-2 panels per card per hour). Perhaps I’ll try that again.

I’ve actually drawn these before (in Thai too), but not for quite a while. This one happens to cover last Sunday, which was the 4th of February. It was an atypical day around here in a lot of ways… we were recovering from a party the night before and B was struggling with a stomach virus that had been bugging him for a few days, so I did maybe more baby care than I might usually have and also we ate lunch at three in the afternoon. I think I maybe left out one wake up with Henry at 2ish? I don’t remember. Sunday is currently the day that I don’t run, so that’s also different from the quotidian, but that’s probably why I had time to draw this. Oh, and Henry spit up (on me) a few times more than usual. I have only depicted some of the bodily-fluid-related events here. It turns out that as babies get older, they tend to spit up less. Except when they’re fussy, they can swallow air that can lead to more spit ups. Henry got his first tooth last week. So you can maybe guess. Anyway. The lucky part is I didn’t give him the bright red Tylenol until after the last spit up. (Pro tip: If you are holding a baby and you feel his tummy suddenly kind of rumble in a bad way, point him away from you.)

Also, ignore Henry’s skepticism about Night Vision. It really is an excellent book. He is too young to really understand poetry.

File this one under PS3612.U686Z46 2018 for American literature—Individual authors—2001-—L—Biography and Criticism—Autobiography, journals, memoirs. By date.

Em oi! #423: Introducing the Kwisatz Haderach

So a thing happened. Some time ago, actually, though I wasn’t quite ready to discuss it publicly before now (case in point: I drew this comic thirteen weeks ago, and I didn’t expect I was going to publish it here, so I didn’t give it a number). I’m currently twenty-five weeks pregnant, as of today. Or maybe as of yesterday. I actually lost count recently and had to do some math to figure out where I was again. As far as I can tell, I’ve basically been pregnant forever and, with fifteen weeks to go, I will continue to be pregnant forever. People keep saying, “August will be here before you know it!” That is not true. Now that I have entered this world of measuring out my life with coffee spoons, I can say with certainty that August is an impossible amount of time away.

It’s actually not that bad, pregnancy. Or rather, I’m somewhat aware that a lot of my discomfort is the result of my own stupid choices. For example, my muscles all hurt; a reasonable person might choose to run less or lift less weight at the gym, but I have not made that choice. I have heartburn, and a reasonable person might choose to not eat curry a minimum of three times per week, but that is a future I am not prepared to face.

A few notes on the comic:

  1. The “gaze” being discussed is not really a Foucauldian thing–it’s closer to Lacan’s conception of gaze or Laura Mulvey’s concept of male gaze. Though Foucault did talk about the medical gaze, his bigger point about bodies was about the shift from people who look like x can do x to “we can create someone to do x” (so instead of looking for a strong young man with good posture etc. to be a soldier, find a young man and train him to be strong and have good posture and do the soldiering). But in many ways Foucault has become the philosopher-muse of the strip, so I decided to put him in.
  2. This might actually be the first comic that both Bryan and Foucault show up in the same panel together. So we have conclusively proven in the Em Oi! universe that Foucault is not Bryan in disguise. Just in case anyone was wondering?

Up until now, Em oi! has served as both an occasional journal comic as well as a somewhat joke-based comic. I’m afraid, for those who are uninterested in pregnancy, that there will be a number of comics on that topic forthcoming. But fear not, I’ll get back to making fun of philosophers eventually.

We’ll file this one under RG551 L86 2017, for Gynecology and obstetrics–Obstetrics–Pregnancy–General works.

Em oi! #420: I HELP

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If you follow my Instagram (or if you are one of the myriad people I’ve chattered at in the last week and a half), you have probably guessed that I spent a couple of days in Manhattan after my meetings last week. As part of this, I got to go for a run in Central Park, fulfilling a long-time dream. Several people warned me that the interior of the park has a lot of paths, and that it was easy to get lost, so when I saw a map (this was the only one I saw), I went over to have a look, and found myself in company with a number of other tourists. In my view, coming up behind people and unexpectedly knowing their language is probably the best part of knowing a second language. I have done this with Mandarin in a bunch of places, including a money-changing office on the border between Cambodia and Thailand and a cab in Singapore. This might be the first time it really came in handy in the US.

I should note that despite the best efforts of my long-suffering teachers, I still speak with a strong Beijing accent (these tourists had a more refined speech sensibility). 对不起, 我的朋友!

Anyway, the map in the photo is a rough approximation of what Central Park looks like in my mind. The big circle is the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, which is about 1.58 miles in circumference (I ran one lap) and in which I think I saw a merganser (a weird-looking diving duck). The thing that looks like a bird’s nest is the Ramble. I first encountered the Ramble in the play Angels in America, which mentioned it as a place where gay men meet to have anonymous sex.[1] The sign at the entry didn’t mention that (surprisingly!) and instead described it as a place for bird-watching. I thought it might be a nice place to run some trails, but I was worried that I would get lost and freak out my cousin. Or interrupt something awkward. So I didn’t go in. But it was very pretty. Apparently, when you are at the Bethesda angel (which also plays a major role in Angels) looking north, you are seeing the rambles across the lake.

The rambles is basically the tree stuff behind the fountain.
The rambles is basically the tree stuff behind the fountain.

I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in Central Park, truth be told, even though I did nearly nine miles that morning (so seven in the actual park). Later, my cousin and I power-walked through on our way from the Met to Lincoln Center and I got to see the John Lennon tribute in the area called Strawberry Fields, complete with unwashed guy playing guitar.

I could keep writing about New York for ages, because I went to so many areas and my cousin just knows a ton about the city, so now I know a ton about the city. But it’s getting late, so I will bring this to a close.

We’ll file the comic under P118.2 L86 2016, for Philology. Linguistics–Language. Linguistic theory. Comparative grammar–Philosophy, origin, etc. of language–Language acquisition–Second language acquisition.

If you normally access this blog through the pretensesoup.com domain name, I should have forwarding fixed on that in a day or two, so you will be able to find the new blog whichever URL you prefer.

[1] According to Wikipedia, they have been used for this purpose since 1920.

Em oi! #419: Question Spiral

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True story. I don’t know if I did something right here or not; maternal instinct: I do not have it. Six-year-old was adorable though.

I inked most of this on an airplane. (Also, sorry about the janky scanning; I did this with the Cam Scanner app on my phone at 30,000+ feet up.) As I write this, I’m lying on a bed in a hotel in Long Island, watching some stupid Food Network show and wishing the pressure in my sinuses would go away. I don’t really know what’s wrong with it. Possibly the airplane caused it to freak out. Hopefully that rather than the tooth I need to get removed acting up. New York: so awesome.

I guess I should get to bed. I took a Benedryl about an hour ago and now I’m knackered. Hope you are all having a good night and your sinuses are okay.

File this under BF723 D3 L86 2016, for Pyschology–Developmental psychology–Child psychology–Special topics, A-Z–Death.

Em oi! #418: How to Summon Cat

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The new cat is named André and he is part cat, part Muppet. Behold his magnificence:

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This comic was actually done with a type of paint I have only recently discovered. It’s called gouache, and it is similar to watercolor but more opaque. I am still learning to manipulate it as a medium.

So the dangers of drawing from memory: As I was sketching this, I was sitting on the ground floor on the sofa because the upstairs does not have good air conditioning and it was 90 million degrees out. Later I went upstairs and realized that the floor boards actually run in the other direction and the door opens to the hallway. The weirdest part is that the floorboards actually run in one direction and then switch midway down the hall. The reason for this is that our house was put together by a madman. 20160614_224945(I left the weird closet out of my drawing because it would be visually confusing.)

File this under SF442 L86 2016, for Animal culture–Pets–Cats–General works.

Em oi! #417: Poor Bastards

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Ooh name that book. Or film. The film was also excellent.

Anyway, TWO COMICS IN ONE WEEK? I should pace myself better. Oh well. This actually happened–I didn’t hear the woman’s explanation to her offspring. I do wonder what she said. Okay, let’s bad segue into a quick discussion of the 2016 LMR 20k! (Link to last year’s race report.)

Results

Year Time Pace
2009 1:53:39 9:09
2010 1:41:24 8:10
2011
2012
2013 1:56:41 9:23
2014 1:45:53 8:31
2015 1:50:45 8:53
2016 1:48:47 8:46

LMR20K 2016 micro race report: I ran in a circle that started at the Monona Public Library and went around Lake Monona. My 5K splits were pretty even at 27:11, 26:57, 27:31, and 27:08.

Finish line
Finish line. Those women behind me threw up their arms and shouted “woo” at every photog we passed and honestly I think I could have like punched them and been justified in it.

I was faster than last year, which was my goal. I didn’t beat anyone else in my running group, which was my other goal. This coming week, Saturday May 14th, I have a trail half marathon (the Ice Age half marathon) in La Grange, WI. I was hoping to use the LMR20K to predict my pace for the next race. If the two courses were similar, I would expect a 1:55:xx based on this performance. But they’re not–the trail race is a seriously harder course. And the weather may be quite a bit warmer. So we’ll see.

It was nice to race, though. I put off signing up for many races this spring because of stuff going on in my personal life and I have been missing it. In addition to the upcoming half, I’m also in for the Blue Mounds 18k and the half at Dances with Dirt. Depending on how things go health-wise, I would also like to do something crazy in the fall–maybe an ultra of some sort. Earlier in the spring, I was having some ankle pain after running distances farther than about 16 miles, so I’m going to wait and see if that has cleared up. Surprisingly, swimming helps keep my ankle tendons flexible when these things flare up.

We’ll file this under GV1062 L86 2016, for Recreation. Leisure–Sports–Track and field athletics–Foot racing. Running–Distance running–General works.

Em oi! #415: Em oi! Presents: Book Reviews

You will almost certainly need to click to embiggen.

What it says on the tin. Kali is sleeping on my lap right now as I write this, and talking about her medical problems feels almost like a betrayal to be honest. A HIPAA violation or something. But having visited a few different people with healthy cats this weekend, the toll the cancer has taken is really obvious. She seems comfortable at the moment at least. Because she hangs out in my office, we’ve basically been together 80% of every day for the last seven or so weeks since the cancer’s return was diagnosed. That also means I have plenty of time to observe her behavior and obsess over what she’s doing / not doing / eating / not eating.

I haven’t been dealing with the stress super well. Currently I’m running around 45 miles per week, and at this rate I might hit 200 miles for the month of March (I’ve got 180 so far). I have a lot to do, but it’s hard to focus on. In addition, I’m trying to finish up a play which is really stressing me out as well (the subject matter is a bit dark). If anyone has any suggestions for light reading, I’d be excited to hear them. After my adventures with Chast and Bechdel, I’m down to reading Good Omens for the fifteenth time. Anything funny / romantic / escapist would do.

Let’s file this under PN6714.D4 L86 2016, for Collections of general literature–Comic books, strips, etc.–Special topics–Other special (not A-Z).

Em oi! #414: The Quest

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The struggle is real, guys.

So while I was finishing this comic up and getting it posted, news of Antonin Scalia’s death broke. This has been a rough week for me–after traveling back from Montana, I’ve been dealing with some credit card fraud issues and with Kali’s health issues. So I don’t have really too much to say, funny or serious. I’m tired.

Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if yogurt has gotten sweeter overall (not just coffee yogurt) over the last few decades. I drew this comic while we were up in St. Paul two weeks ago. Daniel tried to get me some coffee yogurt at their local grocery, a brand not available in Madison, but then we went out to brunch instead of staying in so I never actually tried it.

I’ll file this comic under HD9283.7 A2 L86 2016, for Industries. Land use. Labor–Special industries and trades–Agricultural industries–Dairy products–Yogurt–General works. Does it make you happy to know there is a preexisting call number for general works on yogurt under which you can search for all your yogurt needs? I feel just a little safer, personally. LCC got my back.