STUFF I LIKE: Sof Sole Orthotics

About a year ago I began the much-discussed “Couch to 5K” program, which is designed to turn couch potatoes into 5k-capable runners in just a few months. I got off to a rousing start, and was really looking forward to being ready to run my first-ever race by springtime. Unfortunately, the more I walked and ran, the more my feet pained me. I tried several very different types of running shoes with no change; in whatever shoes I was wearing, my toes and the fleshy area they’re connected to would begin to go numb, and then to hurt like the dickens. My heels, which have always tended to be cracked and dry, also ached. The foot pain got bad enough that in the mid-winter, I got discouraged and quit the C25K program before making my goal of running my first race.

I put the whole idea out of my mind for the last 8 or 9 months until recently when I decided that I really needed to try again. I see how much other people enjoy running and participating in races, and I want to do what they’re doing. So a few weeks ago, I tentatively got back up off the couch, laced up my (Nike Free) running shoes and headed over to the track at our neighborhood park to see how things would go if I simply walked briskly. This time, my toes and heels felt much better, but my shins began screaming in distress only about a quarter mile into my first brisk walk.

For weeks I have been trying to get re-started with daily or near-daily walks to reboot the c25K program, but I have been in such pain from my shin splints that I haven’t gotten very far. I’ve tried stretching thoroughly before walking, walking more slowly (that helps some), ibuprofen and icing, and nothing seemed to make the shin splints any less likely to scream at me every time I attempted to exercise.

I have noticed that the shin splints seem to be related to my pronounced heel-first style of walking, so I’ve tried to consciously alter my stride to land toe to heel instead of the other way around, but that just felt awkward and contrived. So I decided to try to find an orthotic for my running shoes that would sort of force me into less of a heel-first foot strike. At first, the only orthotics I could find were ones designed to elevate the arches. I tried some of those in my shoes and felt nothing except very sore arches from the way they were pushed up into what felt like an unnatural height. But I eventually stumbled onto this Sof Sole orthotic that’s designed to prevent a condition called plantar fascitis.

Although I don’t have plantar fasciitis (knock wood), there’s apparently connection between that condition and shin splints. Both are caused by a tightness and lack of elasticity in the bands of muscle and tendons that run along the bottom of the foot and up the calf. So I decided to try these off-the-shelf orthotics that I found that are specifically designed to prevent and heal plantar fasciitis. Instead of elevating my arches, these particular insoles elevate my heel and force my stride into a more toe first strike pattern, thus lengthening the muscles and tendons of the calf and foot as I walk. Plus, they have super cushiony gel stuff cupping the heel, which feels great.

I am now addicted to these orthotics because they make my feet feel SO much better. I’ve even been moving them around from my running shoes to my everyday shoes because I like to wear them all the time, not just when I am exercising. And as for the exercising, my shin splints were better by 50% in the last week, and I can tell that the more I walk in these, the looser my formerly twangy foot and calf muscles and tendons are becoming. I am not entirely pain free yet, but I am making progress by using the inserts and walking slowly when I need to. I’m not quite ready to start running with my walking, but I believe I’m on my way.

In short, I love Sof Sole Plantar Fasciitis Insoles and would highly recommend them to any of y’all who are dealing with foot or shin pain.
All about my STUFF I LIKE blog posts.

So We Went To See “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad DaSo yesterday afternoon I took the 4 year old, the 7 year old and the 16 year old to see the new movie, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” There were lots of things I liked about the movie. Alexander’s family was very real and likeable. I especially liked Jennifer Garner’s depiction of a frazzled, dorky working mom.There was an overall sweetness to the story, and the child who played the just-turning-12 Alexander was adorable and funny.

On the other hand, there was toilet humor, which I just happen to hate, although I’m aware that most people aren’t as prudish about it as I tend to be, and the characters used the word “sucks” (in unison, no less) once, so that was a negative in my book when considering a movie for kids, but overall it was a mild, friendly movie that moved along at a good pace.

The movie did have one really weird storyline that surprised the heck out of me. It involved the 8th grade character, Emily (Alexander’s big sister) getting so messed up from chugging – literally chugging OTC cough syrup that she ruins the school play with her loopy, drunken behavior.

Now I freely admit that I am, for pretty obvious reasons, more sensitive to depictions of substance use and abuse in the media than your average mom. But this particular depiction was just so…. irresponsible. Abuse of OTC cough syrup by middle and high schoolers is a HUGE and dangerous problem. Many, many kids swig the stuff to get high on purpose.

In the movie, the parents buy a bottle of the liquid cough medicine for their daughter, who has come down with a cold on the day of the school play, after the school nurse won’t give her any “real drugs” (direct quote) to make it through the performance. And once they buy it for her, they hand it over to her, and she begins swizzling it down, first using the little plastic cup that came with it, and then chugging it straight from the bottle. At a certain point, the father pries it out of her hands when he sees that she’s become clearly high on the stuff. She next drunkenly disrupts the big performance before vomiting all over her father.

I honestly couldn’t believe that this was a plot twist in a movie marketed for kids, including middle schoolers – kids at exactly the right age to experiment with and abuse OTC cough medicines. I cringed as I realized that hundreds of thousands of 10-14 year olds watching this movie this season will now learn for the first time that OTC cough medicine will get you really high, and that you can buy it easily at your local pharmacy.

Unlike the mom and dad in “Alexander,” parents should never hand over bottles of OTC or prescription cough syrup to their adolescent or elementary school age kids to take under their own direction. In fact, because cough syrups are so frequently abused by kids, experts recommend that they be kept in a secure location along with any other potentially abusable prescription drugs in your household.

Again, I totally concede that I am hyperaware of how substance abuse plays out in the popular media. Maybe I’m a tad over-sensitive. But this particular depiction in the context of a movie FOR CHILDREN (the context makes a big difference here) just blew me away. It seemed so unbelievable to me that nobody making or marketing the movie said “wait a minute…” before that particular storyline made it into theaters this month.


Our Budding Photographer

I’m in the midst of a several-months long freelance editorial project right now. It’s lots of work but also great fun, and I can’t wait to share the finished product with you when it launches. Part of the project involves photography, and the photographer I have working with me is my almost-16 year old niece El, who is really talented, and who shoots with a much, much nicer camera than I have. It was my father’s, and he left it to me, but I gifted it to El last year when she began showing so much interest in photography.

I’ll share some of the photos with you as we go, and here’s the first batch. They’re of C and cousin NC cooking together and also climbing trees together. I love ‘em.

C perching in a tree, one of her favorite spots

C perching in a tree, one of her favorite spots



Check out how much bigger NC is than C at this point, even though C is 4 weeks older. My sister Betsy and I measured them the other day, and NC is almost FIVE INCHES taller than C! She clearly inherited the height from my Dad’s neck of the family, and she’s going to be very tall like her big sister El. C is right about average for height. Her big sister J is a 5″2′ or so, and I am 5’3″, so she’s unlikely to be super tall herself.

Genes Are Powerful

This is second grader C, writing on her own blog, which she asked me to set up for her.

She writes constantly – in her several journals, on the laptop, and scribbling on notes of paper that she then staples together into little books. My parents say I was the same way, and that’s certainly how I remember myself as a child.

Even after five children, I am still surprised and awed by how genetics play out in each one of mine. This compulsion to write that C has is clearly in large part due to nature, not nurture because although her three older siblings are/were all talented writers when they want(ed) to be, none of them wrote constantly like C does, or like I did/do.

And I am not the only writer in our family. I was editor of my school newspaper, and so were my mother and grandmother editors of theirs. My grandmother graduated from the University of Missouri’s journalism program in 1939, and had a long career as a journalist; she was still freelancing into her early 80s. My mother and father were also both journalists. In fact they met working at the same newspaper. My father eventually went to law school and my mother went into government communications, but for my entire childhood and adolescence, they were working journalists. And then there’s my Uncle John (my mother’s brother), who is an insanely talented writer who has only sparingly written for publication, but when he has, it’s been to pen things like Rolling Stone magazine cover stories.

So C comes from a family of writers, and she herself is very much already a writer. Just this week she’s started what she calls a family and neighborhood newspaper. She writes up little stories on the computer about the people and animals in her life and then we print them out for her. I’m going to suggest to her school principal that her elementary school consider putting out a monthly newspaper. It’s an arts magnet school, so a writing program would be right up their alley, and C would absolutely love to be part of that.

Maybe she’ll be editor of her own school newspaper one of these days…

I. Want. This.

Yes, it’s absurd that stores already have Christmas stuff out. However, C and I couldnt help but fall in love with this overpriced, ridiculous Abominable Snowman we saw at KMart this afternoon. Maybe I’ll ask Santa to bring him to me…

About Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

I have a number of favorite garden blogs that I love to visit regularly, and I discovered many of them via a really neat monthly online event that the blogger at May Dreams Gardens hosts on the 15th of each month. It’s called Bloom Day, and it involves garden bloggers both major and minor publishing a round-up of what’s happening in their own gardens around the middle of each month. Although I read many of the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts each month, I’ve kind of gotten out of the habit of posting on the 15th myself, but today I am recommitting to participation with my own “what’s happening in my garden” round up for October 2014.

The most dramatic element of my garden at the moment is without a doubt my “Ryan’s Pink” chrysanthemum bush. This thing is easily 4.5 feet tall and almost as wide. I have it held upright using a sturdy tomato cage. I love this plant and will be adding the yellow variety to my garden next spring.

Ryan's Pink Mum

Ryan’s Pink variety of chrysanthemum

I’m pretty excited that the Moonflower plant that I put into my garden over a year ago is now blooming for the first time.


My Moonflower in bloom

Because I sow new Zinnia seeds every 2 weeks from late April until mid-September, I have several stands of zinnia blooms still going strong.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

I have several varieties of Celosia in full bloom right now, including this ruffled cultivar.

Ruffled Celosia

Two of my bougainvillea have dropped all their blooms and leaves, but this purple-ey pink one is still blooming strong.

Bloom Day 7

I have two traditional mums (pink – my fave) in the front garden, with purple-blooming mint right behind it. I like the two colors together.

Bloom Day 8

Painting Henry’s Garden

Check out the gorgeous painting that my friend SNS gave me as a gift today!


It’s a rendering of a photo of C playing on our front porch with Henry’s Garden spread out behind her. I absolutely love it, and hope that I didn’t annoy SNS with all my gushing when she gave it to me today.

I can’t wait until Jon gets home this afternoon so he can help me to hang it.

My Pumpkin Vine Has A Gender Issue

all male pumpkin vine

My pumpkin vine is loaded down with…all male flowers.

I had high hopes when I planted pumpkin seeds this year. I planted them back in the summer, timing things so that we would have pumpkins for Halloween. But mother nature had different ideas, apparently. Here it is only two weeks or so away from Halloween, and the only pumpkins I’m seeing are the ones stacked in a bin outside the grocery store up the street.

I planted my pumpkin seeds in the front garden this year because I don’t really get enough sun in the back, plus I knew that the chickens would gobble the baby pumpkin vines up as soon as they made an appearance back there (in case you didn’t know, chickens are like a bulldozer when it comes to gardening; they’ll eat anything that sprouts, as soon as it sprouts). I planted probably 12 seeds and got only two viable vines out of that. Of those two vines, one gave up the ghost a few weeks ago, so I now have only one pumpkin vine, but as you can see in the photo, it’s quite a lovely one.

At first I was excited as the pumpkin vine began producing multiple, large, orangey yellow flowers. I assumed that these flowers meant pumpkins. However, the vine has now been in full bloom for weeks now and there are no baby pumpkins to be seen.

So what’s the problem? Why aren’t the pumpkin blooms morphing into pumpkins? Well, it appears that I ended up with a vine supporting all male blooms. That’s right, my pumpkin vine is like Augusta’s famous golf club, pre-2012. And with this all-male pumpkin bloom line-up, I obviously won’t be enjoying any home-grown pumpkins this fall. Instead, I’m trying to just enjoy the flowers for what they are: big, gorgeous, almost tropical-looking flowers.

I guess I’ll buy our pumpkins up the street ….