Cramps and Victory . . .

Me looking very cankley about 8.5 miles in to
my run while the 7:35 AM sun still hung low.
If it is Wednesday, I'm talkin' 'bout running. This week is a little bit different. This post, you see, is about the day I started to feel slightly confident about my running.

Let me set the scene . . . Sicily. 1928. I kid.

This Saturday, like every Saturday for the last nine straight weeks (acknowledging that I had to push my Saturday run last week to Sunday), was the longest distance I have ever run in my entire life. The GoRun Wichita people really, truly DO know what they are talking with the Start2Finish prep program. Never more than you can chew - always enough to have you ponder the strength of your teeth and the resolve of your jaws. 

This Saturday was NINE miles. Nine. For some reason, from the minute I put it on my calendar, I've been scared. Everything from two miles to six miles seemed possible. The seven and eight mile marks were dicey and I knew they would be challenging but I had the knowledge that there was "over half way there" in both those and that would make them exciting. By ten miles I would be so accustomed to running it wouldn't matter. NINE miles was odd for me. Nine is just a long, long distance with no benchmark to make it exciting.

I woke up early and hit the trail long before the sun came up, as always. I had a (somewhat) unique strategy to manipulate the running paths to my benefit (there are four mile, three mile, and two mile path options - I planned to run all three only repeating a few hundred yards of scenery (I hate repeat scenery when I'm cranky, sweaty, out of breath, and in public)).

I can honestly say - from the very first stride - I felt confident. I was sure that the disaster of last Saturday would not be repeated. I knew it was going to be a good, honest, fair fight between me and Sedgwick County Park.

The first mile flew by. The second didn't seem to take much longer. Before I knew it I was 3.5 miles in and was sweating just enough (the air was cool, the breeze soft, and the sun shaded) to remind me that I was running but my breathing exercises are finally to a point where I'm not afraid of suffocating anymore. I crossed the four mile mark. One path down.

I started on to the second path (just 50 minutes in to my run (yes - I was setting a personal speed record)) and ran right past my Start2Finish buddies who were just congregating for the morning. I zipped through mile five. In mile six I realized I had YET TO STOP RUNNING . . . I had not yet broken stride for a single stride . . . no walking. A record in and of itself. Also - my iPod (randomly enough) -  had repeated Ya Hey thrice to my great pleasure.

This was my greatest run to date and I knew it. I was present for it. I was ENJOYING it. I started mile seven realizing my days of fearing running were probably past me. I was still not good at it. I'll never be "a Runner" and I'll never love it but I was at peace in the status that some good weather, a good set of songs, some comfy shoes, and some fresh asphalt could all combine to make me enjoy the process. I could do this. I was doing this. I finished mile seven. Sooooo close, I thought (nearly 25% of the run left, in reality). Then, it hit me. I had to pee. Really bad. I wondered how long I'd had been just ignoring the urge.

I made a silly choice. I stopped to pee. It could not have been more than a minute or so and it was at about 7.5 miles. Upon my first stride (always the right foot, by the way), I felt a burn in my right calf. Is this a charlie horse? Am I cramping? Is this real life (David After Dentist forever, fools)? Uh oh.

I'm just 1.5 miles from running NINE. I've yet to walk any distance not in a public restroom (I literally ran to the door and ran my first (right foot) step after opening it again). I realized in that moment that I had made just one, simple, foolish, HUGE mistake . . . I had not had anything to drink in two hours and nearly eight miles of running. My body was dry and I think the pee took the last of my fluid reserves with it.

I took the next half mile with nothing more than a limp - it was as ugly as the first half mile I ever tried to continually run. I turned the last turn (at the end of mile eight, start of mile nine) for the homestretch. I made it a quarter of way and my left leg started bitching at me too. I was running like a person that had stumbled upon a bee's nest. Arms and legs just thrashing about. NO calm to be found. Posture was garbage. Focus was gone. Air sucking and blowing. NO way to behave. I pulled out my cellphone (no - not to call 911 - but to check my stats). I was less than a mile from finishing the longest, fastest run of my short running life. Noooooo!

I sat down on a fence post and rubbed my legs. I asked the running universe to conspire in my favor (I can't ask G-d for any favors on Shabbat). I stood up and figured "Screw it - I gotta' finish" - and I did. Victory was mine. Through the cramps and through the torment (or fire and flame to quote Vampire Weekend). I ended NINE MILES at about 14:05/mile (I would have been closer to 13:30 without the bathroom break and cramping that added six or seven minutes to my last miles). This was nearly amazing. This felt great. This was a set of legs that needed some of that delicious, delicious Powerade Zero I had in the car. I learned a few lessons in those hours (the biggest one being how important drinking DURING long runs really is). The second being that I can run nine miles. 

I feel more running confidence now than I ever have. I'm more ready for the half marathon than I thought I might with THIS much time still to prepare and improve. I am finally at a point where I can say to people "If I can do it - you can probably do it" without feeling like a fraud. I can't WAIT, candidly, to try my hand at TEN miles NEXT Saturday (we have a perhaps too easy (Is this a trap, Kevin?) SIX on the schedule this week). I'll live in the glory of nine miles for 14 full days. I wonder how long the glory of 13.1 will last?


It's Not About The Canopy . . .

This is not "the" canopy in question - but I have
to assume "the" canopy is equally horrifying.
A guest post, from a dear friend, who is a fantastic mother and who is a grown up in every sense of the word. Well . . . almost every sense. I feel your pain and the frustration and I love you, lady. Hope your house becomes HOME really, really soon. You deserve some peace and tranquility. 

I’ve been in the process of moving, it seems, for the past two years, but in earnest, for the past two weeks. I realize that much of moving is “hurry up and wait”, but after having my house on the market for a combined total of 14 months, I never expected to get an offer, accept said offer, and need to find a new place for my daughter and I to live in a grand total of three weeks. But it’s a good thing, right? This is what we’ve wanted all along, to be closer to school, to work, to friends. It’s a happy change!

It’s still change.

While Sean declares that I’m much too clean and well-groomed to be a hippie (he should really see me on my days off), I consider myself to be at least a love child, one for whom change is second nature and adaptability is a great strength. I can sleep nearly anywhere, I have virtually no shame, and at any given time at least a quarter of my possessions are in my car. It’s like I’m already moving, all the time. This just requires boxes.

After a few tense days of comparing the risks and benefits of a cardboard box versus moving back in with my parents, I found a place that was just far enough out of my price range to only keep me up half the night and close enough to the edge of town so that I could still have coffee on my deck in my pajamas. I made all the appropriate arrangements, packed liquor store boxes full of my kid’s toys, and actually hired movers, because, you know, you can only put your things in a horse trailer so many times.

I did the work. I signed the papers. I made all of the grown-up decisions and big-girl moves on my own, because I had to, and because I could.

Our new home is perfect. It is everything we could have asked for. Moving was absolute cake. We’re practically unpacked, and we haven’t even been there a week. So why, when talking to my mother on the phone about how we shouldn’t hang an ugly $30 pale pink canopy with a feather boa topper in my daughter’s bedroom, did I start to cry all the tears? It’s a feather boa canopy. We rent, we don’t put holes in the ceiling, and that makes perfect sense. Obviously, so does a full-on ugly cry while driving back to work after lunch.

But here’s what I realized – it’s not about the canopy. It was about making this easy on my daughter. This canopy was the only thing she wanted in the move – she would have given everything else just to keep this monstrosity that we found when looking for bedding at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. And yes – she’s four. She doesn’t even always pronounce canopy correctly – so why should a 30-year-old have a melt-down over one?

Because none of this was easy. Not one single thing. I’ve spent hours on the phone convincing people that there is actually a house where I say I live. I’m selling the home I bought on my own right after a painful divorce and kept despite losing a job and wanting so badly to run. I don’t know where my things are, my new place makes funny noises that I may actually have to look into, and I’m miles from the nearest friendly face. And for all of the incredibly generous offers of help I received, there was nothing anyone could do to help the fact that I was struggling. But if I could make this easy for my daughter, then everything would be fine.

We didn’t hang up the canopy. She finally asked about it at 8:30 on our first night, and I told her we hadn’t figured it out yet. She shrugged, turned back to My Little Ponies, and slept just fine in her canopy-free bed. And that, truly, was all I needed. 

Big Day . . .

Today is a very big day for me for various reasons. I have my first formal presentation at my new job and there are people at my old house giving it the "once over" for a potential buyer.

I am a little anxious. Not "scared" and not "freaked out" and I am positive that it will all work out just fine and I'll be a stronger, happier gentleman this evening than I was when I awoke this morning but I do want to take 15 seconds to ask for a simple favor - think happy thoughts today.

No. Not for me. I just said I'm fine. Do it for you. Don't let anything enter your mind that is not positive or upbeat. Don't worry. Don't fret. Don't lament. Don't allow fear or worry, fret or lament in. Be sure that today sis going to be a positive, happy, full day with its own rewards. Anything less - ANYTHING less is not going to help anyone . . . least of all YOU!


Mature Swimmers Only . . .

We went to Kansas City on Saturday to celebrate the kid's birthday. She has been very excited, for months, to check out CoCo Key in Kansas City and we decided it was high time to oblige her.

She loved it. Truly. I, on the other hand, saw nothing but murky water, Band-Aids in filter traps, standing water along the walkways, and about 200 more people than should have been in a confined space. There was also way too much noise, way too little control/order, and way, way too many bodies in bathing suits that fit improperly. I just wanted to leave from the minute we entered the chlorinated air. Alas, I was there on official parental business so I smiled, pretend it was amazing, and had a fine, fine time with her in the process.

About 90 minutes after we arrived, my still sorta' wife offered me a fantastic reprieve (following a short night, a long run, and a three hour drive my legs were almost too angry to climb the rope nets and other fun parts of the CoCo Key experience) and suggested I go soak in the hot tub that was marked "Must be 18 to Enter."

A fantastic idea (that I credit her with). I looked over and saw just a handful of adults - all seeming to be similarly overwhelmed - I made my way over, eased down the steps and selected a spot on the bench in between two moms pounding frozen cocktails and cross-chatting. It was fine, fine, fine. For about 30 seconds.

Then about 10 kids (4 - 9 in age, I would presume) just bum rushed the hot tub. They literally cannonballed in. They took away the only peace and calm I had. I did what any self-respecting adult would do . . . mumbled under my breath and looked around in disbelief. Then I noticed something . . . these kids seemed to "belong" to some of the parents in the hot tub. WHAT? There is ONE rule for the CoCo Key hot tub that doesn't apply to the rest of the place . . . 18 or older for the hot tub. And every parent that walked in saw that.

So WHY were these parents letting their kids disrespect the oasis? WHY were these kids in the hot tub? Do they let their kids drive cars? Do they buy and use tobacco products? Do they purchase and consume alcohol? Do they go see "R rated" movies? Do they surf the Interwebs looking at allllll the porn? What about voting? Do they do that? Is they allowed to work? Have they quit school? No. No. NO.

Why? Because those are all rules, too. They are all limits and restraints that seem arbitrary in their nature? What magically happens on your 18th or 21st birthday that makes you more ready to handle controlled substances? What is it about your 18th birthday that readies you to influence elections? Why can 16 year olds drive? Let's be clear . . . those rules are all equally absurd in how they are set up and why the numbers are chosen but we respect them. For the most part (yes, yes - some kids do drink and smoke, with permission, before they are of age and I would be a hypocrite if I pretended I was "of age" before I did any of the above things). I don't know how I'll handle these things as a parent but I know I won't let my kid get in the hot tub marked "must be 18" until she is. And I know I won't allow similar transgressions . . . and I'm a person that typically disrespects authority like signs on hot tub gates for fun.

So what was it about the hot tub rule that made it not worth a parent standing in and helping to enforce it? Why did myself and six other adults have to get up and leave after tiring of the splashing, yelling, screaming, and dunking? These poor mothers are just trying to have a frozen cocktail and complain about how large their bosoms look in their bathing suits, after all. And I was just trying to listen. And they couldn't. I couldn't. We had to go back to the chaos and confusion of the water park - or rather it came to them and that was too much.


Seven Up . . .

My amazing daughter turns seven at 4:03 PM CT today. It blows my mind that I have a seven year old. I still can't believe, some days, I'm a parent at all. It has gone so fast and been so full and blessed and wonderful and challenging. Happy birthday, Bidds. I love you.

Moments old, Wichita.
One year old, Wichita.
Two years old, Wichita.
Three years old, Wichita.
4 years old (2 weeks shy), Philly.
5 years old (1 week shy), Ithaca.
Six years old (6 weeks after), Annapolis.
Seven years old (Eve of), Wichita. No. I'm not this fat. My over-sized shirt and slouchy posture
are adding about 80 pounds in this shot. The camera another 10 (frown).


Dog Person? Cat Person? People Person? . . .

I had a conversation yesterday that was almost as long as it was uncomfortable. Want to experience the entire thing? Here it goes:

THEM: "So are you a 'cat' or a 'dog' person?"
ME: "Neither. I mean, I guess if I had to choose, I'd be a 'dog' person but I am pretty sure there would have to be a gun to my head."
THEM: "Oh, come on. Are you such a tough guy that you can't love a cat or a dog?"
ME: "No. I don't even like most PEOPLE on this planet - why would I have a preference for the beasts around us?"
THEM: (blank stare)

So. Yeah. Apparently I'm not performing to my best potential these days because - generally speaking - that conversation ends with actual tension and them challenging me to admit that I'm really a big softie OR them implying I'm actually a sociopath that doesn't deserve the love of G-d's creatures. One time (okay, maybe twice) it was both.

I should clarify . . . I really don't like animals. Sure. I loved our family dog, Lily, when we had her and I took care of her as needed (food, water, bathroom, occasional walks) but I was more than happy to acknowledge that she was older, low maintenance, and generally happy to be left alone. I love Gus (the world's crankiest guinea pig) but that's because he is a 1 pound version of me and if I didn't love him - my counseling would go back to twice a week. I can also tell you - without a moment's hesitation - that the cat that lived with us could have honestly choked to death on one of those oversized fireballs from the vending machines that cats and kids love to eat so much right in front of me and I would simply complain about having to clean up all that red dye #5 and her corpse. Yeah. I said it. I don't WISH death on her but if she's going to eat human candy that is bigger than the esophagus (and cats DO eat those things, right?) and if it goes wrong - that is a her problem. Plain and simple.

I should also clarify this . . . I'm not a luke warm person. I'm all "in" or all "out." If a woman, man, child, physical possession, pretentious indie-rock band, or guest on Fresh Air appeals to me - I'm faithful forever. If, on the other hand, a woman, man, child, thing, or person that likes poetry that I can't "connect" with comes around - I'm probably never going to really embrace them or go out of my way to receive their embrace (unless they have a soft, sweet nature about them and smell pretty but then it is just for the hug).

I KNOW I'm not "better" than them and I know this level of candor probably doesn't help make me seem any more warm and fuzzy than your average aloof, arrogant, self-centered man that believes cats eat fireballs. And that is fine.

My college priest (yes, I was raised Catholic and loved the church for a long, long time) once said that if you can't count all your real friends on one hand, you're not being honest with yourself. My heart goes out to people that lost digits in high school shop class but I think the point is that five TRUE friends is all you really need. You can have thousands of relationships, acquaintances, people, etc. and I think that is true (I know approximately 4.2 million people on this earth and I like 2.1 million of them but I am truly close with MAYBE 5 people).

I could go into a rant here about my belief that people who openly profess love for cats and dogs are either, deep down, sad people that crave acceptance (animals so freely give) from people who simply won't give it to them or they have been abused at some point in their life and loving and animal is their escape from that pain or they have a much, much more serious problem - a big, juicy, overflowing heart. Instead I'll cut to the moral of it . . . blek. Instead, I'll say this . . .

Love what you love. Be who you are. Own it. I have plenty of things that I DO love that are equally as silly as animals (reading, knitting, hummus, Google products, no-sugar added canned fruit cocktail, etc.) and there are people in my life (my daughter and . . . oh . . . what'stheirface . . . you know . . . ) who I would give the entire world to. I'm not immune to love and respect and kindness. But I'm also not going to lie and identify myself as a "dog" or "cat" person simply to make the woman in the bible verse embroidered golf shirt feel better.

Seriously though - cats DO eat fireballs, right?


Stand By Your Man? . . .

I got in to a little snit with a friend of mine on Twitter on Sunday (yes, we all have teenage-style fights in Digital High School's hallowed halls) over Tiger Woods. It seems Tiger lost some golf tournament and the "haters" had come out of the proverbial thicket to mock him and I said that I didn't care about his golf game - I thought he was an unlikable person. My friend asked why I thought that and I said I thought he was a horrible father, husband, and son and that he lacked any character or morals. We debated it for a while and then agreed to disagree (like in high school I'll take a dump in his locker some day and the fight will resume in earnest).

In light of Tuesday's Weiner fiasco (literally, folks - PS - why did my genetics work out the way they did?) I want to clarify something that is actually more important to me than my blog posts, behavior, and general "nature" might imply . . . we men must put some character back in our lives. We need a return to basic morals. Let me clarify.

I abhor infidelity. Truly. I think it is true cowardice. You get bored? You want a little something on the side? You crave some "strange" (as a friend of mine used to hilariously call all the other sexual partners in the entire world)? That's technically okay. If you believe in wiring and nature and animal instincts that is technically implied. BUT here's what you HAVE TO DO. Finish what you started. Sit the person you are with down. Look them in the eye. Tell them to their face that you've got to look around and that you have these urges. Can't do that? You're maybe a coward and you are definitely flawed in character. If you e-mail, text, just serve them with papers, or - even worse - say NOTHING and dip a toe in another pond or pool (pond is good for you) and THEN leave . . . you are worse. If you try the "strange" and decided the grass was greener to begin with and never say anything . . . the words I have for you are not going to help my readership here grow.

So go back to Tiger Woods or Anthony Weiner. Or Bill Clinton (who as you all (should) know is sorta' my hero if only based on proximity to my beloved Hillary Clinton). Or the husband on The Good Wife (I watched the first season and have forgotten all their names in the meantime). Or any other person in power that has ever gotten caught doing something unclean with his personal bits and chose to ask the woman he betrayed to stand by him in the immediate after math of it and ask yourself if there is anything LESS respectful you could ever do.

You cheated. You got caught. You are holding a public apology. You want/request/beg/need the person you harmed the most (and, let's be honest the ONLY person you really harmed (kids are resilient and don't require fidelity in their parents, technically (but should not see the alternative, to be clear)) to stand by you and be photographed and maybe even answer questions? You're not a real person. You have no character. Tiger Woods was even worse. He dragged his MOTHER in to the mess. Can you imagine sitting in the front row at a press conference where your son is talking about his love of sex with waitresses and you have to just sit there? With cameras fixed on you? WHAT IS GOING ON, son?

And don't give me this crap that the women really do love and accept and forgive those men. Maybe they do. Maybe they, in time, accepted it and worked through it and chose to accept the man back in their lives and perhaps even their beds but in that immediate wake of the incident? When the shock is still settling? No chance. NO chance. Even in a marriage of convenience where there are "arrangements" there is no way that the forgiveness is really there. The WHOLE POINT of the sham marriage and the understandings is that it is to be kept PRIVATE. It is to be DISCREET.

Here's what I suggest . . . if you are a man of power and you can't be faithful to the women who agree to spend a life with you - don't ask a woman to spend her life with you. You're a man of influence. You can do whatever you want. Ever heard of Derek Jeter? Yeah. That is how you should go, you man whore. And YES I get that you can't be as (readily) successful as a politician or an iconic brand maker if you don't have the idyllic wife and kids. I feel so bad for all of you men of ambition who can't have all the cake and eat all of the cake, too. (That is sarcasm.) If you MUST try to have it both ways at least do me, yourself, the women you "love" and the people you supposedly want to serve a favor and show a little character. Have some morals. Take the press conference alone. Insist the press leave your spouse completely alone. Let them have all the time and space they need without a public appearance or a word of support and understanding.

It's not too much to ask. If you respect YOURSELF you can maybe respect other people . . . the woman by your side, or otherwise.

Rant adjourned.


Oops, I (Nearly) Crapped My Pants . . .

Where was THIS when I needed it?! 
DISCLAIMER - This is not a polite post. Some materials is not intended for small children, sensitive stomached, or those who think discussing "number two" in public is not appropriate. I won't be offended if you skip this post. Perhaps you alllll should. But we both (all?) know you're going to read on so . . . let's do this.

As you know, I've taken this whole "running" thing very seriously. Mainly out of fear of making a complete fool of myself on October 13th if I don't but ALSO because I have a fairly obsessive-compulsive personality that forces me, upon committing, to take things to the hilt. The kind folks at GoRun Wichita were kind enough to give me a training schedule/calendar that told me EXACTLY what was expected each day (including fartleks (I laugh and laugh and laugh at just the thought of the word)) so that is what I do for them/me/the program/America.

Fast forward to this last weekend. I was not feeling at all well Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. I was tired, achy, my entire body sore, I felt dry and lethargic, and I just wanted to sleep all the time. I chalked it up to me just training too hard in the hot Kansas summer and presumed it would get better with time. I went to bed super early Friday night (as soon as I dropped the kiddo off at her mother's after Temple and could get in bed) and was awoken at about 3 AM by such a clatter, I had to run to the bathroom to see what was the matter.

I had some serious, serious anger coming out of me. The kind that made my eyes water and my sense of optimism shrink. Every 10 minutes for the next 90, I was up every 10 minutes having the same general woes. When my alarm went off at 4:30 AM I was indisposed and considered just waving the white toilet paper flag of surrender and going back to bed. But NO. Nay, I say. NIET! I had eight miles on the calendar. AND it was class picture/our program coordinator coming to run with us day. I had to go.

So I strapped on my running shoes and PFM "Local Joes" t-shirt and headed west (map of the park in hand). I stopped twice on the drive over (it is eight-ish miles from my place to the park) for more madness. I finally got to the park and I figured I would drive the perimeter (the gates were still locked anyway - it was 5:20 AM). There were three gas stations/convenience stores on the run, there were hundreds of bushes, and there were a few construction projects (which means porta-potties, I thought). I went to the bathroom one "last" time, parked the car and headed out. I was going to run eight miles. Today was the day!

I made it about 200 yards. My body wanted to get rid of some excess weight. It NEEDED to So I sprinted to the first construction area. In the haze of the early morning light I saw a porta-potty. I ran straight for it. Blasted. JUST a sign on the fence at about the height of an oasis in the desert.

I whimpered. Pressed on. I decided my ONLY real option was the QuikTrip that was 2.6 miles from the start of my run and probable 2 miles from me. I started off in that direction convinced I was the master of my own body (after all - I was about to run eight miles). I made it another 100 yards. Sweat was now a mixture of running and fear of an actual explosion.

I tried to rationalize. I tried to figure out my options including but not limited to the insanity of "people will think it a badge of honor if I do this with soiled clothes on." Then I realized there were bushes everywhere (this was a zoo and a huge park, after all) and I was wearing two very soft, cotton socks. Plan B. Pick a bush and disrespect it.

I saw an option just up ahead. There was a little tuck away from the roads that was just right that I could see people running toward me but them not see me (privacy is super important in these moments of sub-human behavior) and I ran to it. Kicked off one of my beloved Trance 11s. De-socked. Squatted then looked over my right shoulder - I was not at ALL protected from the West. QUITE the opposite. And here came a huge group of runners. Abort. ABORT! I pulled and stood up. I re-socked, put my shoe on, cried a little, and kept going.

I had never been more in favor of adult diapers in my entire life. And, 99.99999% of the time I'm very, very pro them for those in need (it remaining percentage is a big frowny face to all your fetishists out there). I was running out of time and options. I needed a solution.

In to the park I ran. I was now two miles of running in to the pain. There were bathrooms on the map . . . but were they unlocked? Was this a fool's errand? What would I do if I got to the bathroom but could not use it? Plan C? Back to Plan A? I prayed to G-d for just enough of a favor (which is verboten on the Sabbath, I might add) to allow the door to be unlocked. I ran toward it. Sprinted. Farlek style (giggle, giggle).

I grabbed the handle - yanked it hard. BAM! Open door. Success. I ran to the only stall, looked around and decided that, even with the filth and odor it was better to do "this" here than to recreate the smell, look, and horror of this bathroom in my pants. Plan D had come to fruition. And it was amazing. Sorry, folks. Just being honest.

I decided - in the calm following the storm - that I was done running for the day. I stood up, defeated but victorious (different battles, same war) and walked my way across the park. It was now 6:30 (yes, it took me over an hour to run three miles but I had a LOT on my plate/mind/agenda/distraction list) and the sun was up and all my fellow "Start2Finish" runners were heading out in their groups. I did the equivalent to the "Walk of Shame" past the 5K group.

I tried to wait for everyone to come back in. To at least support them and see my fellow Joes and our coordinator. I wanted to be in the class photo. I wanted to enjoy the group dynamic following the run and at least see how everyone else did against their goals. But, alas, my body had other ideas.

I gave up. Drove home. Picked up my daughter and the two of us slept for a few hours. We spent the afternoon having mini-adventures (never with a bathroom too far away). I had to cancel out plans to spend the evening with fun, fun adults celebrating the birthday of a good friend. I was as afraid of being contagious or having an incident and damaging their home plumbing more than I was still "sick."

I went to bed very early Saturday night. I got up regular time Sunday morning and, once the kiddo went to see "Turbo" with her mother and some other family, I hit the streets and got in my eight miles.

They felt terrific. NOT because I ran them all with strong, confident strides (truthfully I probably walked a good half/three quarters of a mile) but because I had crossed the eight mile mark AND because I turned back on my own body and won the battle that, 30 hours earlier, had forced my white flag.

The war still rages. It will until October 13th but, for now, my stomach, my body, and my fitness plan are all still doing fine. And week seven is already halfway over. Crazy.


Call For Guest Posts . . .

Thanks to the GENIUS of my friend Bailey, I have a whole new strategy for guest blog posts and reader suggested content. The picture above.

Here's how this (should) work . . . you make up a story about the photo (could be the woman in it, could be the photographer, could be the ring she's wearing, could be about her friends and family not in the photo, etc.) and you send that story to me at SeanCAmore (at) g mail (dot) com. I'll share whatever is sent with my readers and you can plug any random cause, company, self-interest, or funny photo or video clip you want as your reward (and I can identify you, use your favorite nom de plume, or leave you anonymous).

I'll take all the stories and post them and then, in a few weeks, we'll let readers pick the best one and that person wins a $25 Jason's Deli gift card (don't know why I chose Jason's Deli but I did - so there).

Get writing. Be funny, smart, sensitive, deep, flippant, crass, or caring. There is no wrong answer here.

And I should clarify - I have NO idea who this woman is and I mean her no ill will or malice. I can't even remember what I Googled to find her photo (it was for a blog post so it was not like I was looking for her or using Google for the things I might otherwise use it for (I live alone 50% of the time, life is hard)).

IF you (by any odd fate) know her - please let me know. I do have a few questions.

Get writing. Get sending. Entertain me, fools.


Sweet New Ride . . .

Well, I did it. I FINALLY (three years after starting to have the conversation aloud that it was "probably" time to do it) I bought a new car on Friday.

I technically bought him Thursday. Well, Saturday - officially. Here's the thing . . . I'm a neurotic mess of a man so I did this the only way I could. I exhaustively researched cars and options online for three years, went to and fro on what I wanted and why (my Volvo obsession that started in 1994 will have to wait another handful of years, at least). I looked and looked and looked on every car lot in Wichita while not wasting too much time for the sales professionals trying to earn a living (and had far less awkwardness than our own Mayor Brewer in the process, I might add).

Then - when I decided I was sorta' ready (I had decided THE car would be a Nissan Note) I walked on the lot and, 30 minutes later, had test drove and started the buying process of a very different car (that I have been lusting after for about six months).

Few/none of you will know this but I've only owned one other car in my life. I had no car in high school or college (I barely got my license before leaving for college and had no reason to drive on campus (friends had cars for errands, trips, etc.)) and I happily used cabs, Metro, and the kindness of friends to get around in my DC days. I never even test drove Morpheus (my Matrix that I drove for a decade). I bought him over the phone and never debated the price, never squabbled over financing. Just bought him. And then drove him, slowly, in to the state he was in the other day. I HOPE to be better to this new car. I truly do.

Anywho . . . I just wanted to THANK the amazingly kind and professional people at Davis Moore Nissan here in Wichita for all their help and patience in the last three days. I highly suggest Wally as a low-pressure, highly attentive sales person and Antonio and Max (a fellow Upstate transplant) in the finance department were amazing, too.

I look forward to spending lots and lots of time with you Walter Sobchak. Hopefully we can share at least a decade of fun and work on the open road.


Sunday Funday . . .

My friend Katie works with a great agency and they have made some beautiful spots that don't really talk about Fidelity Bank (where is your call to action, fella?) but more importantly (for me, at least) they DO talk about my beloved Wichita and our strength and resolve.

Bravely Onward.

Type you tomorrow!


Top of the Lake . . .

A few weeks ago a friend on Twitter suggested I watch Top of the Lake on Netflix. I am ALWAYS open to Netflix suggestions (so long as it is not Arrested Development (which was NOT nominated for best comedy - I would happily remind you here - at yesterday's Emmy Nominations ceremony)) and this show did not disappoint.

I don't know exactly why I loved it (there is some happiness and redemption but most of it is very sad) and it, like the Killing, is about broken families, lies and secrets and truth and trust. I think what I loved most about it was the unbelievably beautiful setting of the series. It forced me to sort of accept the ugliness happening/against the beauty.

I would try to explain the show but I'm really bad at summarizing complicated, suspense-driven stuff without giving it all away. Anywho - here is a little vignette about the series (that will set the stage for me/you). I would highly suggest checking it out - if you are so inclined.


The Talk . . .

A friend Tweeted this morning that she had just had "the talk" with her daughter who looked her in the eye at the end and summarized the whole thing had been "awkward." I'd bet it was. But it is a totally natural thing for parents to have this talk with kids and for everyone in the discussion to be weirded out.

There are lots of schools of thought on this (and, no, this is not going to turn in to a rant about our conservative process to teach abstinence-only education and the dangers and risks that policy leads to when it meets the real world (oh, wait . . . it maybe just did)) and there is no right/wrong way to have "the talk" so long as it is handled in a calm, respectful, and comfortable way. You can pace it out. You can do it all at once. You can have one parent handle some stuff and the other parent handle the other stuff. I decided many years ago that - for our family - if Joy would talk about hygiene and hygiene products with our daughter (given her first hand experience) I would happily handle all the rest. I'm sure there will be more sharing of the PowerPoint clicker (I'm kidding, I won't really use a PowerPoint deck . . . probably just a PDF on my iPad . . . kidding).

I'm not looking forward to this day or talk (my little love will be seven in a week so I've got at least three more years, statistically, to get ready) but I know that I'm not in any way scared of it and I hope that it is not awkward for any of us but I know it won't be awkward for me. Here's the tentative plan . . .

Put a tire swing in the biggest tree in the backyard. Have her sit on said tire swing. Push her on it and, as we swing, just sort of start. No. No. That is NOT true.

Seriously . . . here's how I plan to do it. Keep it super simple:

1) It is your body and your life. You get just one of each. Use both wisely. From there we'll delve in to anatomy, decisions, pressure, pleasure vs. responsibility, etc.
2) To thine own self be true.
3) You are only as smart, beautiful, wanted, loved, and accepted as you consider yourself. There is NO other validation coming in this part of your life.
4) When you are ready and truly love and trust someone, you will know it is time. I'm not going to preach about marriage waiting. Statistically less and less people are getting married, those that do get married older and older, and . . . frankly . . . I don't like being a hypocrite.
5) To thine own self be true.
6) It is your body and your life. Summarize everything above. Remind her, one more time, to be true to herself.

I'm sure there are going to be nervous and anxious moments and decisions for my daughter as she ages and matures. I hope they are far enough in the future that she can be ready to handle them. I hope that her mother and I are connected enough with her and have taught her enough confidence and poise to handle them well and I pray, every day, that she'll never find herself in want, need, confusion, or distress that she doesn't talk to/text/call/Skype/or Google Hangout me (and/or her mother) first.

We started having THAT "the talk" seven years ago and I hope to never have that "the talk" end. Even when she makes me a grandfather - 30 years from now after her Olympic gold medals are covered in dust and she has finished her PhD and establishing herself as a fully tenured professor at an Ivy League school.

Or whatever path she chooses . . . Yes. Her mother has THAT "the talk" with me all the time, too. To her own self be true - I'm reminded.


How'd You Start? . . .

I had an interesting question posed to me this weekend: How did you start running?

I figured it was a round about way of asking how I got involved with GoRun Wichita's Start 2 Finish program and how I decided to do it, etc. etc. etc. I answered in a clean and succinct four minutes. Then the person repeated, ever so calmly, the question . . . How did you START running? Oh . . . oh . . . oh . . . how did I start?

"Simple," I pretended. Here is - lest anyone else is wondering - how that fist run went.

I had almost two weeks of heads up time. I had agreed to be part of the program and to complete the half marathon on October 13th and I had done tons of research about our program and other training programs, etc. in terms of what was expected and I'd started doing longer and longer walks to see if I could even convince myself that I could MOVE for 13.1 miles at a time. I had that time to ponder and mentally think about it but I knew, full and well, that one day I would have to run my first stride and that day was where "our" real story begins.

I woke up that morning. Early. I had my daughter that morning so I could not run right away but I was anxious. I put on my workout shorts and t-shirt (recent purchases for this exact purpose - think about the first day of school and remind yourself that I'm a weird, weird little man emotionally) and my best white ankle socks and my running shoes (I did not yet have the sweet, sweet Trance 11s I rock these days) and I paced. I got the kiddo up. Paced. Helped her pick out an outfit that didn't make me crazy to look at or her crazy to be beheld in. Paced. Cooked her breakfast (I had "nervous stomach" as it was). Paced. Chatted with her while she ate. Sat still. Did her hair. Paced. Walked her to her summer program. Walked the lonnnnggggg way home. Synced my iPod one. More. Time. Paced. Retied my shoes. Sat down. Looked out the windows. Alllll the windows. Paced. Thought about the pros/cons of not going running. Paced. Took my shoes and socks off. Trimmed my toe nails. Put my shoes and socks back on. Tied them good and tight this time.

About an hour later, I left the apartment. I stood in my driveway for a good ten minutes. Looking. Thinking. Sweating (nerves and the heat) and pondering the pros/cons of not going running. I walked to the sidewalk that runs along first street. I kicked at the sidewalk. I adjusted my shorts. I skipped ahead a song on my iPod (after all - like in any good first kiss scene in a movie this song would forever hang in my brain and become strangely iconic). Twice. Yeah. Jay-Z's "Young Forever" would be sufficient, I decided.

I looked to the right (west) and saw downtown Wichita in the distance. I looked to the left (east) and saw my homey-homey-home neighborhood of College Hill. I looked back to the right, back to left, to the right, to the left . . . stood there. FROZEN. I realized something - I could NOT move. I was frozen. I don't think it was fear. I don't think it was anything more than anxiety.

I knew the minute I strode out I could never again say I had never tried it. I could never tell anyone I had no idea what it felt like. I would have no one to blame but myself if I didn't run a half marathon five months later. I had no more excuses. None. I was properly dressed, I had miles of open road in every direction. My iPod was fully charged. I was hydrated.

ALL I had to do was choose "left" or "right." Then simply lift a foot and set it back down and repeat. 1 mile. That was the first assignment. And it was made abundantly clear that if ALL I did was walked no one would be upset. My obligation would be met no matter how I did that mile. But it was the start. It was the beginning. It was the first stride of the thousands and thousands that were ahead.

"Young Forever" ended. I still stood there like a fat, sweaty, workout gear adorned statue. I don't know what song played next. I don't know what the song after that was. But I knew I had been standing at the edge of my driveway looking left and right, right and left for at least twelve minutes. And then. Finally. I did it.

I looked to the left and decided I was most comfortable heading east. That is where my parents are. That is where I tell Ava to look every time she is missing them. I chose left. I hit the "back" button four times on my iPod.

"Let's dance in style, let's dance for a while.
Heaven can wait we're only watching the skies.
Hoping the best, but expecting the worst
Are you going to drop the bomb or not?"

I turned a hard 90 degrees to the left, picked up my left foot, dropped the proverbial bomb and started running. And for the next 40 yards (or so) I felt great. I felt fantastic and empowered and ready. Then I felt my lungs getting tight and my legs starting to realize I was not screwing around. And I started walking. I ran maybe 150 yards for the rest of that mile (10 yards at a time). But it started getting "better" pretty quickly. And within a week I could run 25% of the distance.

I guess my cheesy point is this - a journey of a thousand miles and a half marathon training program BOTH start with a single step. And Jay-Z.


Finger Lakes . . .

A friend (who I only know through Twitter but I really enjoy - he went to college with a former colleague of mine) Tweeted a photo of he and his family vacationing on one of the Finger Lakes the other day and I got insane with jealousy.

Not because they were going to get some HUGE soft serve swirl cones from a roadside ice cream stand but because I have fleeting moments where I miss "home" and all the happy memories I have from the part of the world where I grew up physically, literally, and metaphorically.

As a kid I remember moving to Groton and driving up the long, long climb from Ithaca up to Lansing along Cayuga Lake. I remember thinking "Eh. That is pretty but I'm going to hate living here." It took me two full years and dozens and dozens of hours on a shrink's couch to change my mind. As a kid we had to go to Cortland or Ithaca for just about anything "commercial" (book stores, movies, shopping, big grocery stores, etc.) and my parents would take us to Ithaca or Watkins Glen or one of the other smaller cities that "capped" the Finger Lakes for day trips.

As a high school kid I had several friends who had family places on "the" lake ("the" lake was always subjective and was never to be argued with - there were five or six lakes that we would refer to as "the" lake at any given time). My first job was working at a Boy Scout camp on Cayuga lake. I went to one of my proms (and first kissed a girl . . . and NOT my date (heyyyyo)) on the other side of Cayuga lake. I almost went to college overlooking Cayuga lake.

As an adult I've had plenty of trips to the many Finger Lakes for various reasons including visiting my favorite over-priced but amazingly wonderful pottery place with an environment that will make you feel like it is worth every penny, every time. Hell. I got married and had my wedding reception overlooking a Finger Lake and last summer I attended, in a bit of irony, my younger brother's bachelor party in the same town where I got married a week before I moved out of my family home. And enjoyed the respite from the craziness and the sadness of it all.

You can't "go home." I get that. But there is something to be said for putting yourself back in a place where you were happy, where you grew and developed, and felt comfortable and empowered. It is great to be where friends and family abound and where the weather (in the summer at least - winters can be a proverbial bitch) is always at least comfortable and at worst warm and humid.

I am not going to get "home" this summer . . . but, in my heart, I am hanging out on the stony shores of Owasco Lake waiting for my friends to come back with the motorboat so we can start grilling.


Pacific Rim . . .

I went to see Pacific Rim in 3D and IMAX on Saturday night. To say I did not enjoy it is the understatement of the year (thus far). To pretend like I could give it some sort of thoughtful review (or that I would bother to criticize something otherwise so "beloved" would be meaningful) so, instead, I'm going to talk about something far more interesting . . . expectations.

Here's the thing - I didn't expect Pacific Rim to be good. I didn't have any interest in it. It is not my type of movie. I'm no SNOB (okay, fine, I'm an absolute and entire snob) for proof - I love, love, love the Fast/Furious franchise but I don't like movies that lead with the praise of the visual alone. Sure, sure, sure . . . film is a VISUAL medium. But when ALL the praise you read for a film centers on the fake visual effects and the enhanced computer graphics - when there is no mention of the acting, or the script, or whatever - I just can't get in to it. I like at least 51% of my movies to be "real" (physically exist). I digress . . . back to the point . . . expectations.

If I went to Pacific Rim expecting it to just be pretty, I'd have loved it. If I started a new job expecting it to be chaotic and demanding and confusing and exciting and challenging (as I just did two weeks ago) I would be happy. If I went in to parenting expecting (as I did) it to be full of good and bad days and that there would be a million pieces of advice out there and 99% of them would be irrelevant, I would be a better parent. If I saddled up to a bowl of hummus expecting it to be delicious (as I always do) I'll probably find more batches good than bad. If I expect running to suck, most days it will. You get the point . . . you are over the age of six. And I'm not talking about some "The Secret" manifest here - just simply pointing out that the movie Pacific Rim is, for me, a classic example of where my expectations needed to be enough for me.

I should have stayed home. I should have saved $652/person in ticket charges. I would have saved two hours. I would have seen something else. I would have had less to be unduly grumpy about in public. I would have seemed like less than a curmudgeon. Alternatively, I could have kept an open mind and said "I'll bet this movie is going to be really loud and bright and seizure inducing" and gone and found it to be exactly that. Not because I know "The Secret" but because I know myself well enough to know that I'm rarely to never surprised by a person/place/thing not being what I expected and I'm even more rarely open to being surprised by a person/place/thing.

If you want to go see Pacific Rim . . . if it looks like a mindless summer movie full of fight scenes, fun, and visual spectacle - if that is what you expect from the movie - go see it. I can't encourage you enough. You will NOT be disappointed.


Sunday Funday . . .

The first Studio Ghibli movie I did not see in the theater since first seeing My Neighbors the Yamadas in 1999. Truly never had the chance here in Wichita. Will buy it, digitally, soon enough. HOPEFULLY I will get a chance at "The Wind Rises" when it is released this coming Friday here in the US.

Type you tomorrow, suckahs!


The "Rules" of Swinging . . .

Yes. This is my child. Barefoot, inverted over
a rubber mat, dress and hair everywhere, and
really, truly happy to be that way.
No. No. No. Not THAT swinging - calm down you perverts. We haven't had a good key party in this country since the late 70s anyway. Now . . . where was I . . . oh yeah.


I am a little light on funds this week (that's code for "no longer filing unemployment and not yet getting a paycheck") so the kiddo and I spent MUCH time on various playgrounds this weekend.

I gotta' say - I learned a ton about life in the year 2013 from my nearly seven year old on that playground.

No - she didn't take me out behind the monkey bars and drop actual life lessons but she did decide that I'm finally ready to understand how swinging is really done.

  1. No shoes. Ever. Everyone has equal toes but the soles of shoes are different so you can "cheat" with them on. (I don't know what or who you are cheating - she didn't either.)
  2. If you get to the swing before the other person and you're not competing - they have to push you at least ten good pushes. GOOD pushes. Take that garbage shoving to St. Elsewhere.
  3. You can stand or sit on the swing but never kneel. That is dangerous. Plain and simple.
  4. Once you get high enough that you can feel the chains on the swing "give" (I think she means the jerk of the chain as gravity and the momentum of the swing clash), you can start to lean backward. When you get high enough that you are consistently feeling the "give" - you can go fully upside down. Ideally you will pull your head up before you reach the bottom of the arc. Otherwise - scrunch your neck.
  5. Don't ever tell the swinger's mother that the swinger's father lets them swing fully upside down the entire arc of the swing even when their curls are dragging on the rubber mat they are so close. Or let her read this blog post. Or tell her what you read on this blog post.
  6. If someone gives you a push - you have to push them back when your turn is up.
  7. If you wear a dress on the swing the breeze can hit it just right so be sure there are no boys around. Seriously - check. If there are boys around - tuck your dress between your knees and put your ankles "criss-cross-applesauce" just in case.
  8. The older you are - the more time you get before your "turn" is up. This is only, apparently, true when the other kids you are sharing the swings with are younger than you.
  9. There is no such thing as a bad time on the swings nor has it ever been enough time on the swings.
  10. If you want to talk about serious things - you can sit on swings next to each other but you can not look over at each other and you can't stop swinging until both people agree the conversation is over.
  11. Singing makes swinging more fun. Especially if you are singing prayers from temple.
  12. If a boy shows up while you are singing in Hebrew. Stop. Immediately.
  13. Stand RIGHT THERE. Try to take a picture. I will kick the phone out of your hands and laugh. Hard.
  14. The best swings are the medium height ones - you can swing out the farthest without having to worry about hitting your head or feet when you come back to the ground.
  15. You're too heavy to push, Sean Daddy. Just pump your own legs.

There must be parallels to the real world and adulthood in there, right?


Cuties and Clementines . . .

I Tweeted out the other day that "I want to live in a world where Rainier Cherries are plentifl, water is cold, people are snarky AND genuine, and cleavage is not a crime." (I'm SUPER classy on Twitter, you should follow me and shake your head in disgust more often) and someone Tweeted back they agree with me BUT they want the world to have lots of "Cuties" too.

Well, dear readers . . . that person accidentally (and I don't blame them - truly - how did they know I was a crazy person) accidentally walked themselves right in to a Sean Rant. Buckle up, cover your ears, or just stop reading now because - like most of the things that set me off in irrational ways I have a LOT of inexplicable hatred for "Cuties."

It all boils down to this . . . seasonal creep. What do I mean? I mean the fact that you can find a Christmas end-cap in Target RIGHT NOW and you can buy Easter cards the day after Jesus was born and you can buy seasonalized candy (M&Ms, for instance) for every single holiday ever put on a calendar and I blame all this on one, small, otherwise fine and healthy fruit . . . the CUTIE!

Way back in 190X (I don't know exactly when - leave me alone) the average American was citrus deprived during the long, wintery months. Not scurvy type down but certainly not running over with the stuff. And the cost of traditional citrus (specifically transporting them) was not effective for getting oranges and grapefruits to the heartland (the Texas Grapefruit is a POSITIVE example of American ingenuity but it came along far, far later) so the discovery that a much smaller orange, the clementine (similar to but NOT the Mandarin Orange), with no seeds and a durable, waxy skin/shell was far more effective and durable for transport meant that every home could have some citrus in it all winter long.

Then it got weird. Some predecessor to Martha Stewart discovered something . . . these little bastards fit perfectly in socks. Specifically the socks hung so gently, and with care, by the hearth for the Christmas holiday. And BAM! By the next year the things we now call Cuties were called Christmas Oranges and they became staples (my daughter had Cuties in her stocking in 2013 and I loathe the whole thing so clearly it was effective branding/marketing to make even a hater, 100 years later, to engage in the activity) for every child who had parents that wanted a little something healthy amid the chaos of Christmas morning cinnamon rolls and candies.

And that would have been FINE but the stupid Clementine Lobby (very strong, very powerful, and very, very well dressed, and very secret) got ambitious and they decided the Cutie (as the coalition of growers, based in California) would become the ONLY fruit out there that is literally branded under a name versus as a type of fruit (don't bring that weak Grapple crap to me - that's not a household name). 600 breed of apples are grown in the US and you MAY know your favorite but you still call them APPLES (or the breed) - they are not known by branding. And that lobby got even more ambitious. Forget Christmas morning - these power hungry farmers and their lawyers and genius marketers - wanted EVERY day to be a Cuties day.

Fast forward to 2013. You can buy Cuties, in bags of three, at the cash register in a gas station. You can buy boxes of Cuties year round in your produce aisle. You can "like" Cuties on Facebook and "follow" them on Twitter. You can get t-shirts and hats and memorabilia. You can ship them directly to people through third party web sites. You can get fake Cuties that are made just for jugglers. You can put Cuties in potato guns and launch them to the moon. Cuties. They are everywhere.

You know who suffers? The other oranges. The dozens and dozens of other varietals that can't get a drop of love in the American heart even if they did fit in a stocking or were available for direct ship. No one has ever owned a navel orange t-shirt. No one has ever impulse grabbed a three pack of "Innies and Outties" by the register of their local convenience store (I'm talking navel oranges - not adult magazines or prophylactics . . . but someone SHOULD start a brand of marital aids called "Innies and Outties," right?). NO one has ever wondered why grapes are just called grapes but they've also never opted for "just" a grape when they could have a CUTIE.

Screw Cuties. Screw the branding and marketing of a fruit. Screw the holiday creep they inspired. Screw the whole thing. Rant over. Go eat a real piece of fruit - or don't!

(PS - I have NO idea if ANY of the above rant is historically or otherwise accurate and I truly don't care, I started hating the Cutie when I was in high school and first concocted this insane theory . . . and no one has ever proven me wrong.)


Start 2 Finish, Week 5 aka "Stuff Gets REAL" . . .

How early did I run on Saturday? I ran five miles
and THEN took this photo (note the position
of the sun. We go early - THANKFULLY).
94 days. 13 weeks. A quarter of a year. That is how long I have get fully prepared (mentally, physically, and spiritually) for my Prairie Fire (Half) Marathon debut.

I've typed quite a bit about what I do and don't like about running and I've shared musical taste for the run and even my long, self-motivating speech on WHY I am running, and even shared a video clip of me right after a particularly painful run but, today, I want to talk to you about something different and be completely candid with you (not that I'm putting on a brave face the rest of the time but I ignore the fairly obvious) . . . slowly, thanks to the program and support from GoRun Wichita, the Prairie Fire Marathon people, and the people I know in my life (real world, social media, or both) who either are runners or who - like me - feel like they could never be runners so they "must" applaud me for my efforts . . . I am becoming a runner.

I don't mean that in the sense that I accept the lifestyle and it is seeping in to my psyche (screw that and the whole notion) but I mean that in the sense that my body is adjusting to the demands of training for a half marathon. What are the demands?

How about a calendar that tells you how many miles you are going to run every day (we have "cross training" days on Friday and "rest" days on Sunday - the other five days of the week we RUN) that is a strong enough plan that I roll out of bed at 5 AM (and/or leave the apartment around 8 PM) and don't ask questions?

How about a decision in my brain to be very, very faithful to a very, very strict (self-imposed) diet so that I don't have to lug around any more weight than absolutely necessary for my runs (average of 3.1 miles/day - a little over 21 miles/week)?

How about obsessively checking my cell phone timer the second I get back . . . my OCD is too much to carry my phone any day other than Saturdays (long runs) to see how my mile times are trending and knowing when/where I get weak (between the 60% and 80% mark of every run is my slowest stretch)? How about logging every workout for the world to see and judge?

How about going to group runs every Saturday morning and as many Wednesday night "Fun Runs" as my parenting schedule will allow (and much love and appreciation to my still-sorta'-wife for taking our child on "my" Friday nights so I can be up at 5ish and running by 5:45ish on Saturdays without having a zombie in tow)? How about chatting with people about running without my eyes rolling in to the back of my head but - instead - hoping to learn and glean some ways to get "better" from them.

How about me getting ANGRY with myself when I have a bad run or when I am slower "today" than I was "yesterday"?

These things (except the self criticism there at the end) are not in my nature or wiring. I'm by my very nature against public sweating, group fitness, being told what to do and when to do it, and sticking to a diet. I was BAREFOOT in public last night and working on "core muscles" (I have none) in a group setting. Humanity died a little in those moments. I digress . . . the "runner" that is buried somewhere in me has taken hold the last five weeks and will HOPEFULLY guide me the next 13 1/2 weeks. I'll need that part of me (and others) to stay engaged and fight the good fight as the expected miles mount, the heat maintains, the challenges of working and parenting make it harder to stay on the schedule, and my general behavior and lack of interest in these things that have become so "important" to me fights to make them less "important."

I WILL run (not walk-run but RUN) 13.1 miles on October 13th. I committed to doing it. I will NOT compete against anyone else that morning (or in the meantime, or after - this is about me and only me (for me - the rest of you can do it for YOU, clearly)). But I also presumed that I would hate every stride of every mile I ran and that I would leave my sneakers at the finish line (like all great Olympic wrestlers do with their shoes at their last matches) and never run again. Five weeks in - I'm not entirely sure of what I'll do with my kicks. But I'm already lusting for a new pair of Trance 12s (color combo 150)!

For I, Sean C. Amore, have discovered that I like the demands that came with this adventure. I, Sean C. Amore, like how REAL it is to utter that - for now - I am a runner. And I will be a decent one by race day.


Playing Favorites . . .

No one has ever stood atop this award podium. It is
PowerPoint clip art. And not even GOOD clip art.
I was talking to my parents the other day and I said something that I think struck them as odd. I expressed GREAT appreciation for only having ONE child and stating that I think we should only ever have, own, operate, empower, covet, build, or cherish one of anything. This includes but is not limited to cars, homes, spouses, canned fruit dessert, adult film star on Twitter, and - yes - CHILDREN.

Now I know, I know . . . ALL children are gifts and blessings and statistically very few of them will go on to be adult film stars on Twitter (I jokingly say this knowing there already IS an adult film star on Twitter with my daughter's name (if you don't Google your current or potential children's names every now and again - you're horrible at branding)) and I know that no parent is ever going to admit this (no matter how much better we would be as a society if we would/could) but for every parent out there with more than one kid is a parent that has a FAVORITE child.

Yes. I said it. I know, I know . . . it is "simply not true" - you have 20 children, reality TV show parent, and you love them all exactly the same. Yeah? Bologna. Yes. I'm calling you a liar. How? What gives me this moral authority? Simple - human nature is at my back.

We naturally choose favorites. It is sorta' Darwinism, sorta' the survivalist instincts, and sorta' the priority and prerogative of a person living in 21st century America . . . we have favorites. I own dozens of "types" of shoes but my favorite is the penny loafer. It is casual. It is dressy. It is a slip-on. It is made in a diversity of materials. It goes with everything. I own +13,000 songs in iTunes and, thanks to Google Play Music, have access to MILLIONS of songs yet I'll tell you that my favorites (depending on my mood) are in the single digits and if I was even challenged to pick A favorite . . . Ben Folds. No question or debate. I own dozens of sports coats. I only love my navy blue blazers. I could go on.

And I'll bet you could, too. So why would it surprise my parents (who have three sons all in their 30s, all successful in our own ways, all pride inducing, etc.) that I told them they were liars and cheats if they would not cop to each having a favorite son. Yet they did. And they thought they had a checkmate hanging back with their rook . . . they challenged me to tell them who their favorites are. Half second pause . . . "I'm dad's, Patrick is mom's." Four second pause . . . "That's, that's not true," said my mother. "I would agree with that," said my father. "JOE!" screamed my mother.

Big deal. Ryan's not losing any sleep that he's not a favorite (I'm going to argue he comes in third place for both parents but that's just me being spiteful) and I don't care that my mother prefers Patrick to me. He was the first one to make her a mother. He was the first of everything maternal for her. Fine. And that doesn't make my mother simple or make my brother less deserving of her "Most Favored Nation" status. He's a fantastic man, father, partner (to his girlfriend of 15 years), professional, friend, brother, and is incredibly bright and funny. Good for him. Good for them.  I don't know why I'm my father's favorite. I think it is because I was most like him in so many ways and I went the farthest to appease his hopes and expectations in my youth, and I was the first to his paternal instincts.

Here's why any of this matters . . . it is one of those weird places where we feel like we have to be "kind" before we are "honest" because we worry, so much, that someone might be hurt or offended if we were just honest about how we feel despite the fact that we would all (more than likely) agree that it is natural, expected, and to be celebrated that we have favorites in 99.999999% of the rest of the world (heck, I have a favorite shade of all seven colors, a favorite smell from the Yankee Candle store, and a favorite book in the Ivy & Bean series I read to my child).

Now . . . I know what some of you are doing . . . put your rooks down. My favorite parent is my mother (she is the strongest person I know) and my favorite brother is Ryan (he is just easier for me to talk to than Patrick and he is more alike me in behavior so we "get" each other more). But I love my father and a Patrick all the way to photo finishes and gleaming silver medals.


Fridge Madness . . .

"This is my refrigerator. There are many like it but this one is mine." So starts one of the most haunting scenes of Full Metal Jacket. Okay, okay . . . they are talking about guns but I think, in their hearts, they were talking about the ol' ice box. And WHY? Because if I was at basic training being verbally, mentally, and physically harassed by superiors and colleagues alike - my brain would turn to my fridge. No - not because of what is IN it (my favorite comfort/snack foods are all shelf stable) but what is ON it. 

This really IS my refrigerator. I didn't even bother to clean it up for a photo. BAM!
Why? Simple . . . it is my catch-all. I'll bet many of you have things like "scrapbooks" and "organizers" and fancy things like "folders" and "bins" and extravagant things like "drawers" and "cupboards" but - for me - if it is important it is ON the fridge (including bills on top of it). Take a sampling of what is in the shot above . . .

  • Magnets from cities and places I've been or friends have been.
  • Art by my daughter, me, a hybrid, and other people
  • Postcards sent from people I love when they have been away
  • The card from one of my best friends in the world vowing he WILL see me in 2013 (year is half gone, fella' -we need to get a plan together)
  • My Hebrew Aleph-bet magnets
  • Pictures of my family and my daughter.
  • My KMUW magnet (one of a million)
  • A Jimmy Johns sticker - for no apparent reason (Okay, fine, I love them too!)
  • A "Kenton" name tag from the Apples & Arrows open house (now a throw back name tag)
  • A magnet from my dentist, where I shall go the MINUTE I have dental insurance again
  • My daughter's summer schedule (and our custody calendar right behind it)
  • My running schedule
  • A sketch of Gus looking very, very Gus-like
  • A glass cheese tray filled with fake citrus fruit for no apparent reason
  • And, finally (if you could see the other side), a set of my 2013 goals which I frantically take down and stash away when ever anyone comes over to visit
About once every six months I will clean up the magnetic square footage. I put some of the better drawings in Ava's scrapbook (yes, I have one) and I re-shuffle the things I intend to keep so they at least offer fresh perspective. I wipe down the surface and start gathering again and I am thankful that so many things that make me so happy can fit in such a small space - living in arrangement, growing with each magnet I'm sent or coloring sheet completed, each piece shrinking and curling with the heat and humidity, the whole thing becoming slowly unruly and then straightening with the occasional fussing.

My fridge may be the least orderly thing in my life and that is just fine with me. Because, again, there are many like it but this one is my own. 


Sunday, Funday . . .

I HOPE to get back to regular (daily) posts tomorrow but this last week has mainly been about trying to manage a very different schedule than I was used to. Please forgive me.


50 Nifty, United States . . .

Several of my favorite shows - "Murder, She Wrote", "Gilmore Girls", "The Wire", and "Justified" - all made the cut. As did a bunch of shows I've never (thankfully) seen and some shows, candidly, that I've never heard of. What are your thoughts on this map of states and the shows that represent them?


Happy Birthday, 'merica!

I know most of my readers live right here on the High Plains so this post may not be all that engaging but to those readers from "back home" who have never experienced a 4th of July in a place where fireworks beyond a sparkler or those snake thingies are legal . . . let me set the scene.

First - the entire state shuts down at 12:00 AM CT on July 4th. You can barely find a gas station (love you, QuikTrip) open much less a place to get your tires rotated, to buy some tulips for your special lady friend, or a coffee shop to duck in to. But you know what you can buy? Food, booze, and explosives. Yeah. 'merica!

So everyone gets up at whatever time and they putz around for, I don't know, an hour or two and by mid/late-morning at least 5% of Wichita is in their front lawn blowing crap up. Just setting fire to it. And this is a state where the average temp this time of year is in the 90s and it hasn't rained in days and days. But - hey - let's go celebrate our independence in a way that our forefathers certainly did not risk their literally "everything" for and do it in the middle of the street.

So around noon the boozin' starts (because, you know, before that is uncouth) and it gets crazy from there. Booze, BBQ, and a enlarged sense of pyro-adoration . . . give me the lighter fluid, cover your eye brows and toss me a match! The average Kansan will eat four pounds of food on July 4th (this is a made up number) and consume one gallon of alcohol (this is a slight inflation of what is probably the real statistic) and around mid-afternoon they look in the bed of their truck or in the trunk or atop the picnic table or in the compound and have a universal revelation . . . "We simply do NOT have enough fireworks for the evening." so they jump in the car and they head back out to one of the many, many tents that speckle the 3-1-6 (and will make odd arguments like "You HAVE to go to the place just over the Andover line because they have a 31 caliber mortar vs the 30 max they can sell here in Wichita" and you will agree because - hey - explosives are fun) and they will spend another small fortune to ensure a good 30 minute show as soon as that sun even flirts with the horizon that hangs infinitely in the distance.

Now. This is where it gets odd (I'm, oddly enough, FINE with everything earlier than this - despite my curmudgeonly tone and way, I really appreciate a day where we just hang out and enjoy each other). The sun starts to go down and Wichita becomes the town from The Lost Boys . . . just chaos everywhere. Imagine if every single house in the neighborhood mowed the lawn at the same exact time. And they blew the horns on their cars and flashed their lights on and off and they screamed. yelled, oohed, and aahed. Now take out the control elements and sub in devices designed to fill the sky but that go wrong. Regularly. Then magnify it by 1000 because that is how many houses are in your development (Rainbow's End) and the development next to you (Rainbow's Arc) and the one next to that (Rainbow's Other End) and the one beyond that (Pot of Gold) and the one near that (Ginger Dressed in Green with an Accent Court) and the one just past that (Bowl of Lucky Charms) and one more (Rainbow's End II).

Sure, sure, sure. It is fun. Unless you are a dog or other animal. Or if you don't like chaos on a mass scale. Or if you are trying to drive somewhere. Or if you are trying to walk somewhere. Or if you are a person that hates chaos trying to walk a dog. You get my point.

Now imagine that this goes on for hours and hours and hours (and not JUST on the 4th, by the way - for nights before and nights after, too) and imagine that there is a sense that it is NEVER going to end. But it eventually does and apparently once it does people are just exhausted because the debris from the festivities just sits in the middle of the street the next morning, sometimes still smoldering.

Here's the moral of this long, long diatribe. Have FUN. Be SAFE. Try to take a minute to remember why we actually mark this holiday. And PLEASE clean up after yourselves, y'animals!


Runner's High . . .

Keeping with my tradition of making Wednesday posts about my running (mis)adventures, I wanted to take a few minutes to talk with you a bot something very important . . . runner's high.

I am a little embarrassed to admit this but I was never really sure if I believed in it or not but everyone I know who "believes" kept saying you have to run at least X (it changed by person - just like the theories on the exact demographic where drinking Zima is okay) miles before you feel it and the longest distance I've been told (by personal acquaintances and blogs, etc. on running (Yes, I've been reading up - don't judge!)) is six miles.

Well . . . low and behold . . . I had a six mile run on Saturday and I've got to say - right around the 5-mile mark I felt something really strange creep over me. Running suddenly felt different than it ever has before. Was this it? Was I getting "high"? Was this thing real? No. Not at all. I just wanted to get that last mile done and get away from the crazy people giving high fives and actually (gasp) TOUCHING ME in encouraging ways (sidebar - I hug my friends and will happily even exchange a smooch with a woman I love but I don't, generally, like touching or being touched by strangers). I feel like I can now officially declare (like watching those ghost shows that "prove" ghosts are real) that it is all a crock of crap and people should be mortified.

But I got back in the car Saturday, dripping sweat and happy to be done, and started driving home and realized something . . . it is all a state of mind, right? Like fishers who claim a good river is a church, or boxers who feel every punch they endure makes the stronger, or quilters who thing a good fabric swatch is what the world is all about or - even more crazy - when I feel at peace just for stepping inside the sanctuary at temple. I get it, now. FINALLY (the "Joes" coordinator is going to cry happy tears when she reads this). Running might not be "for" me but it is FOR a lot of people and, to them, it is a culture, circle, mindset, religion, and gift. They are no more crazy than my father for calling his beloved PT Crusier a "PT" (and swearing that is what all owners call them). They are no more nutty than my sorta' wife and her love for Coach bags. They are probably equally sane as anyone I know who will publicly claim to be a fan of the Cubs or the Royals or the Chiefs. I can't call them crazy and keep a straight face when I don my kippah and mark the Sabbath.

They are full of crap - there is NO SUCH THING as runner's high and there is NO WAY anyone really, truly LOVES running but . . . they claim to and - for the rest of this half marathon Odyssey I am on (if not forever) - that is good enough for me. Run on, kiddos. Run on.


First Day Jitters . . .

There is this weird thing about the human condition where things never exactly hit expectations. Sometimes things go way above/beyond, sometimes they fall miserably short. Sometimes there are close, close, close but no cigar. It makes sense that this happens.

The reality is that expectations are set (most of the time) by just one person. That person never tells other people (including the people who are expected to, you know, meet the expectation) what they expect. There is probably no greater, universal example (I'd tell you about the first time I had In-N-Out  Burger but you people wouldn't understand why I was so disappointed so what is the point) of this than the "first _____."

Yes, yes. The FIRST. Date. Time. Kiss. Funeral. Warning. World War. Tuxedo fitting. Attempt at baking a multi-layered decorated birthday cake. Fight. Down. Etc. but let's talk about the first DAY. Because, my chance, I just had one of those.

I was not sure what to expect. I have not had a first day in nearly two years but I remember, generally, how they go. "Welcome. You sit here. BLANK will help you with this (no mention of how to find them). SO-AND-SO does that (but I won't even point in their direction). If you need a thing you can talk to THAT PERSON. Now sit there and wait for someone else to give you something to do." but that has always been in my professional life full of marketing.

The fact is, even when I worked at IBM, I've always been sorta' protected from a real first day because everyone I've really worked directly with has either been a professional communicator or knew how to deal with them/us (trust me - we are a different breed) so I had no idea how a first day in a truly corporate setting (where the operations department is larger than marketing and the sales team are not immediately power hungry idols of mine). I was sorta' nervous. I knew the marketing and sales team would be great but I was really not sure how everyone else might be and how well my loud, "assertive," no-boundaries personality might be perceived.

I am HAPPY to report today went really well. I met 12 people (there are between 35 and 50 people in my office, depending on who you ask) and everyone of them seemed great. Many came over and spoke to me first (there were a few awkward instances of eye contact (I'm right near the break room/TV playing Fox News Network way too loud) that immediately turned to panic and aversion) and everyone I approached was very warm and welcoming.

Perhaps as importantly there is a BOAT LOAD of work to be done (in a good way). There are lots of great things already started that I can help finish and there are loads of things that are waiting to get started that I think I can make a real difference on and with.

I'm glad I got my first day over with - now I am REALLY excited to get down to some real work on days 2 - 7,418,833(ish).