Fall Movie Season . . .

My FAVORITE time of year for movies begins in just a few short weeks and the rest of 2013 will feature movies like this . . . can't wait.


10 Favorite Books of All Time . . .

No. I don't own this exact stack of books.
In a world of otherwise "throwaway" blog posts, the "favorites" and "countdown lists" are among my favorites. NOT because they are, well, throwaways but because they are, instead, a chance for me to force my brain in to rating and ranking and choosing things to call my "favorite."

The following is a list of my ten favorite books of all time. I love reading. Always have - hope I always will. I have two or three books going at any given time (not including the two or three I'm reading to/with my daughter) and I like to think that any book I give the time and energy to go cover-to-cover on are fantastic (in reality I've read some real crap over the years but I'm stubborn and dedicated) but I don't know if picking just ten books is really fair. To help me I set some criteria - I had to have read the book at least thrice and loaned/given away at least two copies of the book and I have to have told at least two dozen people they "had" to read each of these books. With that being said and established - my ten favorite books of all time.

10 - Thank You For Smoking, Christopher Buckley - Yes. A very funny movie that gave us Jason Reitman, filmmaker. BUT, before that, it was a book by the son of a conservative icon and it was the first book I ever read about working in public relations in Washington, DC. Inspired by the lead character, I agreed that real professionals did PR for tobacco, guns, and alcohol because people hate those industries. I would still take one of those jobs.

9 - The Big Over Easy, Jasper Fforde - Before movies like Hoodwinked and Shrek broke down fairy tales, Jasper Fforde made pulp fiction mastery tying to explore the real who dunnit of some of the biggest mysteries in fairy tales while building his own characters in the process. The whole series is great - this one got the ball rolling.

8 - Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories, Alice Munro - I swore to not include short story/essay collections but I could not leave this one off. Why? Back story: There was a Borders bookstore across the street from my office for years. I'd walk over every Tuesday and buy books, CDs, and DVDs on release day and there was one employee that I got to know and she would make suggestions for me and they were always really good. She BOUGHT this book for me. And I never picked up that what she was putting down was flirting. The stories inside mean a lot more when you realize you're an idiot at managing human relationships or attempts at them.

7 - The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene - This is more editing than authorship. Greene puts together the 48 keys to leadership (power) and puts them in an order that makes sense and uses other texts (Sun Tzu, etc.) to showcase each law and why it is important. I read it in graduate school. I re-read it six months ago. It is fantastic if you are looking to grow professionally, in a relationship, or in a quest to overtake a neighboring nation.

6 - You Are My I Love You, Maryann K. Cusimano - I have read to my child almost every day she has been alive. Some days more, some days left (between her mother and I we read over 1,000 books/stories to her in the first year of her life). This one is particularly special to me and I will actually choke up (even having read it 1,000 times) when I read "You are my saving grace." Parenting . . . with illustrations.

5 - Feast: Food to Celebrate Life, Nigella Lawson - Forget how friggin' hot Nigella Lawson is or that everything the woman says and does is at least a little sexy . . . the woman loves food (and I don't mean that in a critical way) and Feast was the first cookbook I ever bought (I own dozens) and read cover to cover like a novel because she writes in a way that encourages you to do so. SURE there are recipes in there but the context is far more important. This book made me love food in a healthy way . . . healthier.

4 - Dry, Augusten Burroughs - I loved Augusten before Running with Scissors (the book - I didn't care for the movie) even came out. He'd written some pieces for magazines I read and I loved his dark and brooding sense of humor. When I read Running with Scissors (his first autobiographical piece that ends where Dry picks up) it made me sad for him. Dry made me root for him again. It is about him bottoming out and getting sober while working in advertising. It is fantastic and smart and funny and blunt.

3 - Heft on Wheels: A Field Guide to Doing a 180, Mike Magnuson - There are very few books that I can say ever really inspired me. This is one. I read this book right around the time I started to get serious with my to-be wife. I'd read everything else Magnuson (a great man who's memoir "Lummox" is also fantastic say nothing of his fiction work which is superb) and it really hit home. I read it again about a year ago and it hit home way harder. If you've ever woken up one day and said "Man, my life has to change" and NOT started the change that day - read this book and try again tomorrow. It CAN be done.

2 - The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler - Ah. Chandler. My guy. I can not tell you how many times I've read "The Big Sleep" but I know that it is in the dozens and I know that it is a book that I will never not want to read again. Each character is so crisp and sharp and well built that you feel like you know them (and you hate them all accordingly). Confession - I wrote a book report about this one last year for a high school freshman and got a B. It was a b.s. grade. I deserved an A.

1 - The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson - Erik Larson is truly amazing. He writes "narrative non-fiction" which is, as a lazy explanation, taking a completely true story but wording it in a way that makes it sound almost made up. He doesn't just tell one story though - he gives full context to the moment and the character and he uses phrases like "This would later be very important." to remind you that these moments are all context. This book, I love them all, is my favorite because it parallels the 1893 World's Fair (an amazingly important thing in terms of invention, technology, gathering of the minds, etc. etc. etc.) and a serial killer who lived in Chicago during the exposition. If you read only ONE of these ten books - make it this one. You won't regret it.


Stay on Target . . .

"Stay on target. Stay. On. Target." (Probably the ONLY Star Wars reference
you'll ever see on this blog (unless made mid rant).)
Well . . . another week down on the ol' GoRun Wichita Start 2 Finish training program and we're just 46 days from the Prairie Fire (Half) Marathon itself. Hard to imagine considering how far, far away the race once was . . . I digress. Which, oddly enough, is the them of this week's running-related post.

You see, dear reader, I have a problem. I have a smidge of ADD. Just a touch, I promise. Look, squirrel. I mean, wow. Look over there. Sorry - what were we talking about . . . oh right (squirrel again) - my focus.

I struggle with mental focus more than others from time to time. It usually depends on what pressure there is for me to stay focused (eminent deadline, child staring at me for a well-developed answer, gun to the head, etc.) and what the challenge that wants my focus looks and feels like (dropping bills in the mail, gun to the head, etc.).

It probably suffices to say that running is not a friend of my focus these days. For a long time, it was. I had to be aware of my every breath and how my body felt and if my posture was right and how far in to the run I was and what percentage that leaves, etc. etc. etc. but the longer I run (I don't mean that in terms of days in the streak - I mean that in the distance of the run) the more likely I am to get distracted. Saturday was the poster child of this problem.

12 miles. TWELVE miles. I arrived at the starting point at 4:35 AM. I stretched and strode out at 4:50 with a pair of compression socks wrapped around my calves, a map in my head, a full bottle of water, a pocket of nutrition (which sounds vaguely suggestive but it is not) and a general sense of "let this go better than last week, please" in my head. Simple route . . . .5 miles, turn right, two miles, turn right, two miles, turn right, two miles, turn right, two miles - stop and pee - two miles out, two miles back. And PERHAPS that simple route filled with wide, flat sidewalks, and no need to focus on anything was my mistake.

First eight miles were great. No issue in my calves. Problem solving and even some good focus on some issues from earlier in the week. But, around the middle of mile nine my brain and body had the following dialogue (verbatim) . . .

BRAIN - "Hey, buddy. Whatcha' doin'?
BODY - "Running twelve miles. Can you believe THAT? I'm starting to feel okay with all this crap."
BRAIN - "Yeah, right. No. No I can not believe that. Do you have someone following you? I don't feel a gun to the side of my house. What's the motivation?"
BODY - "Oh, you know what we're doing here - brain - trying to get ready for a big race and push ourselves."
BRAIN - "Sure, sure, sure . . . I remember all that. Good times. But seriously let's stop. Let's just walk for a while. Just a little while. A blip on a 12 mile distance?"
BODY - "Nah. Screw that. Can you bring up some mental images of boobs or put my monthly budget back on the display screen? Can I think about neck ties or penny loafers? I'd even prefer that thing where we work together to try and recall the opening monologue to Our Town like we did a few miles back. A little help. Please?"
BRAIN - "Screw that, bruh . . . stop running."
BODY - "Brain!"
BRAIN - "Nope. I'm done playing these games. You will stop running. Give in to me . . . and I'll let you think about anything else while we walk . . . er . . . resume running for these last 2.5 miles."
BODY - "Can we do this in a couple more miles? At least let me get through eleven?"
BRAIN - "Nope."
BODY - "Brain."
BRAIN - "No. Good day, sir."
BODY - (knocks on recently pulled down wooden panel) "Brain!"
BRAIN - (opens panel just enough to establish eye contact) "I. Said. Good. Day." (slams panel)
BODY ' "Fine. I'll do it on my own." (runs 10 more paces . . . stops running)

So . . . yeah . . . there you go.

My body (all the fat baggage of it) had nothing to do with my limp-finished run on Saturday morning. My complaining last week was all for nothing . . . I missed the bigger picture - at least with screaming calves I had some unity in mind and body. We had "resolve" going for us. No pain? No maintain (I don't know what that means either)?

So - a NEW challenge as I prepare for my THIRTEEN mile training run on Saturday - more crap to think about to keep my brain engaged. Leave your suggestions as a comment. I'll let you know how it all works out.


Twerk It . . .

Well . . . apparently the VMAs were Sunday night. The VMAs - for those who are good hearted and mature enough to not know - are MTV's annual celebration of these quaint mini-movies that used to air on their channel and now live almost exclusively online. When the VMAs first started decades ago - they were a good time. Artists would come and celebrate themselves for one night and there would always be random presenters, performers, and back stories.

It seems like every year has that "VMA moment" that sort of becomes iconic until, you know, 15 minutes later when we don't think or talk about it anymore. Sunday's "moment" was a 20 year old woman getting all but naked and doing some very, very suggestive stuff with an older married (?) man to the shock and horror of the masses. And yet . . . being the culture we have become . . . we ALL talked about it.

Some to cheer and celebrate youth and music and fun. Some to chide failed parenting, an overly sexualized young woman. Some to point to potential mental issues and eating disorders. Some to make jokes that were "pro" and "con" the whole episode. Some to ask what the heck twerking even is . . .

Some to talk about how desperate the world is for moments like this that we can all focus on. Some (like me) just wanted it to stop. Some wished for the moment, four years ago, when Kanye West took the mic from Taylor Swift (who has never quite recovered from the incident - despite being an adult then and now (we pretend a 19 year old millionaire is just a "teenager/child" despite her peers giving their lives for us around the world as we type/read). Some talked about what all this means for our continued crumbling of society. Some just wanted to make Beetlejuice jokes (I'll admit it - I honestly thought (having not seen the performance) that Robin Thicke may have been in character for the performance)). Some just wanted to spend more time on the *NSYNC reunion or Taylor Swift, off another failed relationship, mouthed something naughty about her latest ex. Some wanted more attention paid to Richard Simmons on the red carpet.

Here's the only point of this entire post . . . moments like Miley Cyrus losing her addled mind on a stage in Brooklyn HAVE (much to my aging, curmudgeonly horror) become truly important to us. We have so many distractions and priorities that the rare thing that breaks through has to pull us all together again.

Think about it in context. On the same day as the performance there was a 50-years-later rally on the National Mall to celebrate the civil rights movement, the pundits talked about the Syrians using chemical weapons on their own people, the federal government started a stale-mate (again) over debt ceilings, the economy continued to languish, millions sat in houses of worship to hear the good word, lawns were mowed, family dinners were held, TV shows were aired, music was played, and clothes were bought, laundered, ruined, and re-purposed. Yet here we sit . . . nearly 48 hours later . . . talking about "Blurred Lines" and debauchery in whatever context we choose to see and share it.

Sorry, Syrians.


My Latest Addiction . . .

This unsuspecting bastard must have nude photos of me. 
"Hi, I'm Sean. I'm a Peanut Butter and Jelly Larabar-aholic. It has been sixteen hours since my last fix."

(rest of room) "Hi Sean."

(waves) "I don't even know when or where it started. I mean it is rooted in the pressures of parenting. About a year ago we were told that my child's aversion to eating foods that were not quadruple processed was a potential problem and we needed something that could help offset that and, well, some decisions were made for which we're all paying now (voice cracks).

It started out simple enough . . .  just four ingredients and nutrition far better than most of the rest of the snacks we could pretend were candy bars and there were enough flavors and varieties that she didn't get sick of them and a low enough price point that there was no reason not to grab them.

(lower, whispery voice - as if echoing to myself) No reason not to grab them.

So, for months, they were just her snack. I'd keep 'em on hand and she would eat them every now and again and if she ate 85% of them (depending on the flavor) I might finish them. And before long it got to the point where I would encourage her to leave leftovers.  Before long I was "splitting them" with her - promising to open a second as soon as she finished her half of the first one and then . . . a few weeks ago . . . the floodgates were opened.

(eyes swell with tears) I was buying groceries and there was a special on my personal favorite - the Peanut Butter and Jelly - and I picked up ten. They would last a few weeks, I thought/promised internally. And each morning when I'd get back from my run I would grab one and eat it. And then I found myself eyeballing them at other times during the day. I left work on a Thursday to drive and buy more and had to go to a second store - the first was sold out - and I wound out coming back late to a meeting . . . and I didn't care. When you're a junkie, you just. don't. care.

During yesterday's grocery run, I bought twenty of them. And those were just for me . . .  I bought the standard quantity and variety for my daughter.

I ate one on the drive home. I ate another on the way back out the door - 45 minutes later - for more errands. And that is when I realized I had a problem.  This is when I admitted I had a problem.

I sat in my car and thought about how this would end . . . I will be (voice cracks) homeless. Destitute, selling my body and its orifices for sticky, gooey, formed date bars. A daughter who would not speak to me for indulging in her treats will haunt my cold, open aired dreams. An overdrawn checking account and a passenger seat baseboard full of empty wrappers will be my only reminder of the real costs of this obsession. Perennially soft stool will plague me. Anguish be overcome me.

But I'm going to fight it. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One urge at a time. I'm going to win this battle - with your help.

Unless you guys want to go grab a Larabar together.



3 Sides to Every Story . . .

You know that old cliche there are three sides to every story? Yeah, yeah . . . apparently there is "his, hers, and the truth." Ha. That is some deep cliche knowledge and yet - there it is. A cliche. And as the other cliche goes . . . cliches only become cliche by being the truth.

What does this mean? Nothing. Or at least that is my side of the story. Or everything. That is "her" side (there is no her - I'm just carrying over the cliche). Or somewhere in the middle . . . the truth. That is the real story.

I'll say this - I'm 37 years old. I expected gossip, whispers, smears, trash talk, and the listening to and furthering of all of the above to stop a SOLID 19 years ago. Okay - fine - I really wanted it to stop 20 years ago. Yet here I am. Still involved in it, still spreading it, still being weighed down by it and still handing out the burden of it. Why?

No. Good. Reason. No. Reason. At. All. I used to think I just had people in my life that were not emotionally mature. Then I thought it was just me (I am not, confession time, above thinking, acting, and giggling like a teenager from time to time (hourly)). Then I thought, as I sat on the comfy chairs of overpriced, dullard therapists, that it was everyone - that we were somehow wired to be this way and it was inescapable.

But I've finally come to my conclusion. It is not in our wiring. It is not all of us. It is - the third side of the story - something all of us are prone to fall victim to and are all susceptible to in moments of weakness, sadness, desperation, and self protection. And that might be the saddest version of the story, kids.


Competitive Natures and Other Slights . . .

This is ice. My run Saturday was so horrible it stank on ice.
On Saturday morning, we finished week eleven of GoRun Wichita's Start2Finish training program for the Prairie Fire Half Marathon. I was never happier to be done with a week of training and a specific run.

Why? Because this particular run was friggin' horrible. The distance was not the problem. I was "ready" as I've been working the system and following training, nutrition, and sleeping advice. I had no reason to fear or blame the mileage. It is not like I woke up that morning and said "I'm going to run eleven miles" and then was upset when I fell short. No. Nooooo. That was not the case.

I have run every single distance I've been told to run. I have done my cross training. I have done my resting. With the exception of the first Saturday (my third run ever) I've never once felt like the program did not have me ready for the distance the calendar called for. More over - I've not had enough issue with any distance or challenge to even publicly complain about running or the demands of it. Yet on Saturday morning I lost my shrinking, idle, dark, and brooding MIND!

WHY? I. Was. Sooooooooooo. Slooooooooooow. My goal, as has been made public, is to finish the half marathon in less than three hours. That is 13:45/mile. Sound fast? It is not. It is actually super slow and I am OKAY with that because I can do that. How slow is it? Nearly DOUBLE the average per mile time for a well trained, physically prepared runner and is not much more speedy compared to the goal of a more casual runner who might aim for a 10:00 or even 11:00 mile. I can't do that speed - I CAN do 13:30. I've been running that pace consistently. It is realistic to presume I can maintain or improve with 55 days still to train.

And yet how was my overall speed on Saturday? 14:45! Yep. A full 1:15 PER MILE slower than I normally run. What is the big deal with 1:15? That is nearly TWENTY MINUTES on race day. And an important 20 minutes that puts three hours well out of reach. I'm livid with myself for this performance.

Sure, sure - I have an explanation (excuse?). I have some calve issues (not cramps but actual soreness and aching (like you might expect after a workout)) that set in right around the time I pee at about mile seven of my longer runs (they would not slow or effect my shorter (3 - 6 mile), weekday runs). Once the aching starts - it bites down for the rest of the run.

What is the real impact of the discomfort? I was running a 13:30 mile for the first seven . . . and ran an average of 16:00ish the last four. If you add that slower pace on for 2.1 more miles (to get to real distance) I'm coming in at 3:15 and that presumes I won't get slower and slower with each consecutive mile (as I have going from 8 to 9 to 10 to 11).

I let my self angst get to me and I got whiny on Twitter. People did what they always do . . . encourage and support. I got a deluge of "Hey, at least . . .(insert inspiration or inferences that everyone else slept in or you are still doing it type stuff here)" crap.

I get it. I'm the fat guy who gets up at 4 AM every Saturday to run. I'm the outlier and the oddity. I'm the guy that could finish in four hours and people would say "Wow. You DID it." - like the whole point is simply to DO it without any expectation of pride or accomplishment for all the work that went in to it.

I vaguely appreciate the support after most runs. I'm generally happy with and proud of myself and my running. I make no bones about that BUT I want to reserve the right to be upset with myself when I don't have a run that I deserve . . . that I trained for . . . that I got truly ready for . . . that I should have had.

I ran 19 miles the days before Saturday's run. I ate and slept as I should have. I brought hydration and nutrition and good music and comfy socks. I had dri-wick on. My moobs and fat body properly lubed and powdered. I was ready.

And I didn't "do" it. I was so mad at myself at the end of the run that I had an actual mental fantasy that involved me picking up a five gallon water cooler and throwing it for distance and destruction. And I'm NOT a violent person.

My disappointment has nothing to do with being "competitive."

The ONLY running quote I can stomach explains it best . . .

"Every participant will run the same course but only you will run your race. You can beat or lose to you and you alone accordingly."

I do not care that people are running faster than me. If 100 people show up at a group run, 88% of them are faster. I don't even care that an elderly company holding hands WALKED past me around mile 9.5. They were sweet. I don't care that people were chatting about their 8:00 miles "disappointing" them as I tried to cool down (they deserve to get their runs on their terms too). I don't care that I run faster and stronger than some other people or that I am defying the assumptions for even trying this. None of that matters. I care that I sucked on Saturday. And I only care for me.

As I Tweeted on Saturday "When is the last time you woke up at 4 AM for mediocrity?" and I stand by the question.

I am not still beating myself up. I had some good chats with people who gave me good tips to help attack my calf issues and I'm considering all sort of crazy methods, including creepy, creepy massage and compression socks, to help me not hit that seven mile distraction.

I'm okay with what happened Saturday. It is in context. I had a very good week, over all, of training and I'm doing very well in the grand scheme of race prep and running. I accept these things. I take solace and get encouragement from these things. I focus on these things. I "need" these things because I'm only racing myself out there.

Week 12 is well under way. I'm doing just fine. I'll wake up at 4 AM on Saturday and head out for TWELVE miles. I just hope that I don't hate myself and the process for the last FIVE. Life is too short, the miles too long.

Happy running, fools.


Marital Advice from a Dummie . . .

Can't we all just get along? At least while our portrait
is being painted?
I found out the other day that a good friend of mine is having some trouble in their marriage. I would like to pretend I'm surprised but, like with the return of Hostess snack cakes, I just sort of shook my head and thought "Muhhrikuh."

I'm not going to be angry, bitter, and cynical here (for once . . . hardy, har, harrr) but I really am not all that surprised when I hear people struggle in marriage. I'm way more surprised when I hear people do NOT struggle. Marriage, you see (sit down - quickly) is hard.

I didn't understand that and stunk at it. I might not ever learn to be better at it because - much like juggling chainsaws - I don't anticipate ever trying it again. I know this much - I never didn't love my wife. I never didn't want her to be happy. I never didn't want me to be happy. I never thought I'd find myself in a "troubled marriage" (a bathtub of chocolate pudding . . . maybe). Yet. There I was (and still am, sorta').

The struggle was way worse then the collapse. I said nothing to anyone for YEARS. It was probably a mixture of embarrassment, shame, hope (it would get better), sadness, anger, want, and need. I had no idea who to talk to or what I would say and I certainly didn't know what I wanted them to say back. What if they criticized my wife (to clarify - not a SINGLE person I've ever spoken to about my marriage has, directly, done so)? What if they told me to run, run, run (and not in a half marathon training way)? What if they told me to stick it out at all costs (opening the door for me to disappoint them if I jumped ship later)? Eh. Who needed the advice anyway? Who needs people? Who needs comfort, compassion, and the voice of experience?

ME! And "you" (my friend). So here - unsolicited - is my advice to anyone out there who might, like me, find themselves in a challenged marriage. It is super, super simple (it is only our own experiences, baggage, physical and monetary assets, wants, needs, fears, and loathing that complicates it). Ask me how I know (hardy, har, harrrr).

  1. Be honest at all times. The "kind" type of honesty - where you tell people what they need to know vs. what you would want to insert as color commentary. 
  2. Talk (discreetly) with your parents, family, and any other formal support system you have as soon as you recognize there is an official problem. Be 100% honest with them (the full honesty . . . they will love the color commentary and you will feel better letting the steam out of the kettle). You must be truthful and full with them - otherwise in  a future moment of weakness or need you might show the real truth and make things worse.
  3. Put your children first. Limit fighting in front of them. Remember they are not pawns or even decision influencers. The less they know, the best. That being said - if they ask questions (kids are smart and perceptive,  they have your genes) - see rule number one. Focus on the kind part. But, like with number two, don't lie to them. Ever.
  4. Destroy it to rebuild it. Stop everything you are doing (good, bad, ugly, sexual) and have your partner do the same. Focus on you and make them realize the loss they might feel (for better or worse) if you were gone. This will let focus come back to the dialogue and the dynamic.
  5. Trust your instincts. Unless you are wildly insecure and paranoid, your heart and gut will rarely lie to you about things. That goes for what "they" are doing or their intents as well as how you feel. To ignore the obvious is to sustain the ignorance. 
  6. Remember you love (present tense) each other. This one is crucial. You may "hate" each other in the moment but you were once passionately, madly, naively, and blissfully in love with each other. Real love never actually dies (stop dry heaving, clown). It may have been for 20 years or 20 seconds but it happened - you found love between you and that spurred you on. If it had not - you would have never gotten together, got married, started a family, signed a mortgage, and decided to start wearing pleated chinos TOGETHER to begin with. If you can just remember that love was there and still beats in your hearts (it absolutely does, by the way) you will treat each other far better and you might just - gasp - be able to resolve whatever is going on OR have the clarity to know it is not fixable.
That is it. Seriously. Note there is nothing here about negotiating a peace treaty, settling divorce decrees, picking a counselor, picking a spot for the second honeymoon, or determining who moves to the sofa/guest room. Because these things are not part of working on a challenged marriage (except the counselor - but that has to be a shared, mutually wanted decision anyway) they are a resolution to the debate. 

I would fight for my marriage until my last breath if I was patient, confident, open, and focused enough to observe the above rules. I think my ex would too (if she could follow those rules). We've found our own peace in the meantime . . . a peace set up, candidly, on the foundation of rule six above. The one thing (three if you count pleated chinos and wanting to raise a child who has seen as much happiness, love, encouragement, and joy as possible) we really can and do agree on. 

I wish you all the best with your marriage. Or in the next phase of it - no matter what happens, friend. 


First Day of School . . .

Every detail, down to a new sign out front, covered.
My daughter starts second grade today. That is something I have to repeat to myself on a regular basis. It doesn't seem possible it has been seven years since we brought her home from the hospital nor that this will be our third "first day of school."

This year will be especially curious for me, though. For a week ago today the school we should have taken photos in front of caught fire. NO worries (in the grand scheme of things) . . . no teachers were hurt, no property (that I'm aware of) destroyed that can't be replicated (I would not say "replaced") but the fire and the timing made me think how timing works. As much as the turmoil of a school fire and a relocated elementary school causes, if the fire had started 48 hours later the school would have been filled with not only 40ish professionals but hundreds of children too. I imagine how fortunate the timing is and I appreciate the way the world works.

Fast forward to yesterday - just six days after the fire - and I went to "Meet the Teacher" night at the new (temporary) school on the other side of town. Everything planned, the school (otherwise idle but retained by the district for this exact type of scenario) cleaned and refreshed, rooms established, walls covered, happiness in the corridors, smiles on teacher and staff faces, excited kids running around, cookies and lemonade available in the cafeteria. So much calm. So much steadiness. So much comfort for parents - like me - that are otherwise over come with anxiety at the notion of a school year split and fractured.

I'm not worried about my child's health or safety (truth be told - she and her mother were in Alaska/Canada/on a cruise ship the entire week so no matter when the fire she would have been fine) but I was worried about how much of the year would be lost to the chaos. Turns out . . . three days. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that today, day one, will be a real start to the year and that the year will go swimmingly.

I want to thank the school district for its handling of this situation. From communication, to planning, to even how they will use tags on backpacks to monitor students after school instructions, this was incredibly well orchestrated. The teachers all seem positive that they have everything they need. The staff all seems ready to lead and enrich. The students who were at the event seem very comfortable and even happy to be on a new adventure.

We trust our children every day to go to school. We trust the buildings to be safe and secure. We trust the teachers to be smart, engaging, loving, and kind. We presume the other students will be friends and supporters to our own. We go off to our offices (or whatever we do with our days) and we look forward to picking them up later and hearing about their adventures.

I've never felt better about my assumption before in my life. If Second Grade goes as smoothly, as happily, and as "can do" as the last week has . . . it will be amazing.


Sunday Funday . . .

Regular posts will resume in the morning. In the meantime - please to enjoy (and THANK YOU for the break).


Double Digits . . .

Why are you looking at my moobs? You
filthy pervert. Seriously? Stop looking.
I know that the Prairie Fire Half-Marathon (just 59 days away) is 13.1 miles long. I get that is the goal of this entire running "adventure" and I get that even on the GoRun Wichita Start2Finish training schedule I have bigger, longer, harder things in front of me (that sounds wrong when you read it out loud) BUT I hit TEN MILES on Saturday and that, to me, is a big deal.

I've had several people, curious about running themselves or just wondering what my dark, cynical mind chooses to obsess over "out there" have asked what it feels like to run ten miles. Well - this is not a universal response - but THIS is how my ten miles went . . .

0 MILES - 4:45 AM. Just pacing around the parking lot in the dark. I should point out there were NO CLOUDS and NO MOON in the sky so there were a million beautiful stars overhead. That calmed me a little bit. I stretched. I pondered. I considered the challenge. I hit "play" on my iPod. I started running.
IN MY EARS: "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" Notorious B.I.G.

0.5 MILES - My water bottle was already tempting me (I'm trying to figure out when/how much to drink while running). My left knee is a little twitchy. Posture is good. Breathing is fine. Feeling good.
IN MY EARS: "Let Me In" De La Soul

1 MILE - "That's 10% down. That is ONLY 10% down. Wow. That's just 10% down."
IN MY EARS: "Landed" Ben Folds

1.5 MILES - Seriously . . . who were those guys running with the headlights on their foreheads (at this point is about 5:15 AM and still very dark) and why were they in such a hurry? My left knee is just fine now and I've got a good pace going and I'm not feeling any urges to slow down. My least favorite half-mile stretch of the east side running path is done. For now. I will run it THREE more times this morning.
IN MY EARS: "Be Calm" Fun.

2 MILES - I realize I'm making really good time at this point. I start to wonder if I'm too nervous/excited and going too fast accordingly. I'm just 20% in and I have a lot of work to do. I consider slowing down. Realize that my body will do that for me. I cross 13th street and keep on plugging.
IN MY EARS: "I Can't Wait" Star & Micey

2.5 MILES - 25%. 25%. 25%. There is a celebration in my brain. Then I take some inventory. Um 75% still to go. Water bottle is almost empty. There is still no sun. Left knee is not happy again. I'm breathing fine but sweating more than I'd like (it was a cool morning). I start thinking about clothes. Specifically the clothes that people I know look best in and I start speculating why that is. And then I start wondering if I look good in the clothes I wear and why (not) that is. I decide I DO look good in chinos and an oxford shirt. I have no idea why.
IN MY EARS: "Step" Vampire Weekend

3 MILES - Grocery list. Literally. Just going over what I do and don't have at the apartment and what I do and don't need to buy this week. I have spent MOST of the last half mile going through this. At one point I decided I would only cook Israeli food for the next six months. Then I realize I know nothing about said cuisine. Decide I'll stick to protein bars, fish, eggs, and veggies for a while longer. I hit my first turn-around of the morning. Time to head back to the store. I drink the last of my water ONLY to discover the water cooler on the bench in front of me is EMPTY. Face palm. Run on.
IN MY EARS: "Can't Go Back Now" The Weepies

3.5 MILES - Boobs. That's the honest answer. I'm not proud of it but that is what I was thinking about. The sun is starting to creep up at this point. Just enough to give some relief to the darkness.
IN MY EARS: "Good Life" OneRepublic

4 MILES - I'm back at The Warren. I'm laughing at the bench that makes me laugh EVERY time I run by it. Someone put "Wet Paint" on the bench in spray paint who-only-knows how long ago. I have no idea why this is funny to me but it is. I'm annoyed that I have no water at this point and I eat my first peanut butter packet of the morning. 40%. 2/5. Making real progress. Still feeling strong.
IN MY EARS: "Jewish Flow" Lil' Dicky

4.5 MILES - My first urge to pee of the morning. I'm still 1.5 miles from GoRun Wichita so I file it under "things to worry about later" and go back to wondering why Putin would ever allow Snowden temporary asylum unless he wanted to antagonize America and what that means or what the end game might be. Then I start thinking about Putin's many, many photo ops that are cheesy and awkward. And wonder how power is realized and held. Then I transition to boobs. Again.
IN MY EARS: "Without You" David Guetta and Usher

5 MILES - 50%. That's right. FIFTY PERCENT done. And I'm bored but I'm not in pain. I realize I am dripping sweat but in a way that doesn't bother me. The sun is coming up more and more at this point. It makes me happy for some reason (mainly because I'm five miles in before the sun is even fully up . . .).
IN MY EARS: "Look Around" Blues Traveler

5.5 MILES - I've got to pee. That is all I can think about. Peeing. Gotta' pee. Really gotta' pee. And that means getting back to GoRun Wichita. And I want to do that before the group run begins so I don't have to follow everyone out again. I'm also hoping no one is in the bathroom when I get there. I've spent most of the last half mile going through my budget and where I can tweak and what I need to worry about, payment wise, in the next few weeks.
IN MY EARS: "Two Weeks" Grizzly Bear

6 MILES - I cross the spray painted finish line and have a moment of pride (I've not walked a single stride and I must be doing fine, time wise, because people are just starting to really accumulate for the 6:30 group run start). I go in the store to pee. Yep. Sure enough. Someone is in the bathroom. Come on, come on, come on . . . I've got four more miles to go and I'm standing still for NO good reason. This is not good for me.
IN MY EARS: "Fantasy (Bad Boy Remix)" Mariah Carey and O.D.B.

6.5 MILES - My calves are unhappy. The sun is fully up. I've just been passed by an OLD man (easily in his 70s) who seems super fit and super fast to me. I wonder what the odds of being that old and that fit are and realize I will never know first hand. Then I start thinking about how people age and how old people look "great" or "not" - nothing in the middle. I ponder Susan Sarandon and Helen Mirren.
IN MY EARS: "Today" Smashing Pumpkins

7 MILES - Nothing. My brain is honestly blank. I am just worried about my calves (NOT cramping - I was well hydrated) and if they were going to screw with me. I started my least favorite stretch - again (third time in four). I'm super sweaty and it feels cold in the early morning sun. Not in a good, refreshing way but in a "get off me" way. I loathe my polyester "dri fit" t-shirt a ton at this point. My moobs look horrible.
IN MY EAR: "Right Here" SWV

7.5 MILES - I'm thinking about my favorite TV shows of all time and what they all had in common (nothing) and why I like them all and the shows so many people like/love that I don't like and if it is just spite on my part or if there is something about those shows that truly doesn't appeal to me in a real way. I realize I'm 75% done and even if I gave up and turned back now (I considered it, I should confess here) I would still have nine miles logged but I feel like I've got at least the full ten in my tank - even with my calves being grumpy. My right hand is swollen and I'm not sure why.
IN MY EARS: "Hurdy Gurdy Man" Donovan

8 MILES - My LAST turn around point of the morning. Back at the Warren. Again. I get a rush of excitement knowing this is truly the home stretch and that there is nothing to hesitate about - I have not walked more than about 50 paces to this point and my calves seem to be calmer. I eat my second peanut butter pouch while making the turn. Honestly. I really "inhaled" it . . . and my mouth is happy.
IN MY EARS: "The Immortals" Kings of Leon

8.5 MILES - Here come the other GoRun Wichita runners. I've hit 85% of my run and all these people look so fresh and happy and determined. I exchange some waves, smiles, peace signs and fist bumps. I get a jolt of excitement. It is short lived. I'm now TIRED. About half way to nine I see those crazy men with headlamps I saw so much earlier . . . it is a friend of mine. He's running THIRTY miles that Saturday morning. I feel ashamed of my ten. But only for a few paces.
IN MY EARS: "Race You" Elizabeth & the Catapult

9 MILES - I'm mentally beat. I just want it over. I feel really defeated for some reason. I'm running at a very, very slow pace (it FEELS slow as I put one foot in front of the other) and my calves are on fire and I'm almost out of water and I don't want to run one more/last mile. I realize my last mile (no matter how many I do) is usually my worst and today will be no different. I get sorta' teary and I don't know if I am just disappointed with myself or if I am having other feelings. I hate feelings. Almost as much as I hate running.
IN MY EARS: I don't remember.

9.5 MILES - I've been walking for about 100 paces when I hit the marker on the path. I break in to a sprint if only to jolt myself back to running. I've got no idea if I'm going to make it back to the store while running or not. My left leg is looking in my pocket for a saw to amputate itself with. My right leg has already indicated an interest in the saw when the left leg is done. My water bottle is empty and taunting me. I want to throw it in the weeds. I want more peanut butter or something to distract me. The KEY? I'm running again though and I've decided it will stay that way.
IN MY EARS: "Believe in Magic" Jim Jones feat. Lloyd and Girl Talk

10 MILES - I cross the spray painted start/finish line again (fourth time of the day) and just fold at the waist. I am tired and sore and sad and happy and excited and morose and elated and exhausted. I rip my headphones out of my ears and go all the way up on my toes as though to tell my calves they can/should f*ck themselves. I accidentally kick, rip, and destroy my headphones. I stand erect again and walk to the water cooler. I refill my water bottle one more time. I walk behind the store for my cool down and stretches, get emotional, and realize that I - just nine weeks from my first run pretty much EVER - have just completed ten miles of running.
IN MY EARS: (beautifully enough) "Thank U" by Alanis Morissette

I have ELEVEN on the schedule for this Saturday morning. I don't know what it will look and feel like but I doubt it will have the emotional pull this run did. I guess we'll find out.


Mini-Vacation . . .

I'm taking a few days off from blogging. Just not feeling inspired the last few days. There will be a running post on Wednesday and probably a return to regular posts on Thursday. Maybe Friday. NEXT Monday for sure.


25 Favorite Albums of All Time . . .

A truly underrated movie, an incredibly good book. High Fidelity . . . nice.
I was typing, via Facebook, with my friend Kate the other day about music we did and didn't like (net result - if you don't like Queen, you stink on ice) and it dawned on me that I have a "punt" blog post there waiting to be typed . . . my favorite albums of all time.

A few disclaimers (as per always) - while there is some overlap these albums are not necessarily chosen because they are from artists I really like nor do I really like artists because of these albums. You should also know I never bought in to rock, alternative, grunge, or country. Never actually listened to metal. Hate jazz. These albums are chosen because they - for me - are enjoyable from start to finish and, perhaps with some relevance, all 25 of them were in my ears during key times and periods in my life.

All that being said - here you go. Let's fight about it, as appropriate.

25) Rubber Soul, The Beatles - I am NOT being spiteful to pick one of their lesser-loved albums or to put them at the bottom of my best of list. It just so happens that this IS a favorite but not THE favorite. Love Norwegian Wood so, so much. (Sorry, The Beatles are not much for free streaming.)
24) Bulhoone Mindstate, De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising made me love hip hop. This album made me LOVE hip hop. De La Soul me tell the difference between rap and hip hop, too. De La Soul will always be a favorite and I love all their stuff but this one . . . special.
23) Telling Stories, Tracy Chapman - Lots of folks know "Fast Car" and "(Give Me) One Reason to Stay Here" and that is it. This woman is absurdly talented and this album, for my money is her best and is just solid start to stop. Less Than Strangers, if you have time for just one song.
22) Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend - It is premature to put a few-months-old album in my favorite albums ever list? Not when the album is this friggin' good. Fantastic musicality, smart lyrics, great energy.
21) Dusty in Memphis, Dusty Springfield - I found this album through a "greatest albums of all time" list in the late 1990s. I've been sold on it ever since. If you have ever woken up on a Saturday morning with a person you enjoy being with - physically or otherwise - and it was raining outside and you had nothing you had to do . . . this album feels like that.
20) Janet, Janet Jackson - This album came out as my senior year of high school loomed. There was something about her independence that made me want mine. Fantastic from start to end (it dates itself as early 90s, for the record) and "Again" made me wish I had been in love so I could be out of love. That's truth, yo.
19) Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys - I know, I know . . . the Wall of Sound leads to homicide and crazy hair dos but this album is just so amazing I can't help but defend it and the man behind it. I'm sorry. But not that much.
18) The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill - This album felt so very, very personal and autobiographical on so many levels and the way she swept the Grammys and then dropped the eff out the next day (and has never really returned) makes it all the more powerful. Perhaps she shared too much. Lesson learned.
17) The Black Album, Jay-Z - You have probably picked up that Mr. Carter is my guy and I don't think I could criticize anything he's ever done (well . . . marrying "her" perhaps) but this album is my favorite. Remember this was supposed to be his "resignation letter" from the industry. It would have been a STRONG two week's notice.
16) Z, My Morning Jacket - This is the only "cool" music I've ever listened to and I discovered it through Esquire magazine (I went through a phase) and that might have made it all the more cool to me. I can't think of anything I don't love about this album.
15) Composed, Jherek Bishcoff - Ah. Someone you've probably NOT heard of - which is your loss because this album is amazing. Start to finish. 
14) 21, Adele - Here's an album we can all (literally - I think every person in the world bought it) agree on. Fantastic stuff from such a young woman. I'll be anxious to hear what her next album feels like - marriage and a child might just leave her happy. And that might not be the best for her music. 
13) The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, Ben Folds Five - There is a moment in Magic (the first round of "sha-la-las") where I always get choked up. I don't think I've ever actually cried but the whole album sits on my chest and pushes down. I don't know why but I really it.
12) The Hits/The B-Sides, Prince - It MIGHT seem like a cop out to put a greatest hits in the mix but there are lots of tracks on this three disc set that you can't really get elsewhere and there is such a broad scope of work here for a guy that, 20 years later, would STILL be making music. I love Prince . . . all 80 pounds of him.
11) Graceland, Paul Simon - On the nose? Sure. But there is a reason it is cliche to love this album . . . it is friggin' fantastic and EASY to love. There is an amazing short documentary on the making of this album on Netflix. I highly suggest checking it out.
10) Unplugged, Alanis Morissette - I am not kidding when I say that this album is truly special to me. There is just something about it that makes me quiet and still and I can honestly say that "Princes Familiar" is the ONLY piece of unsolicited parenting advice I have ever taken to heart . . . and it is better advice than most of the stuff I have solicited. 
9) Maybe You Should Drive, Barenaked Ladies - The hallway of my freshman dorm echoed with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Steve Miller Band, Pink Floyd, Weezer, James Taylor, and whatever the hell that kid Alex was always listening to but - for me - this album was just about all that really mattered. If you've never been to Connecticut in October - this album is what it feels like.
8) Tapestry, Carole King - Ah. Beautiful stuff. No more needs to be said.
7) White Ladder, David Gray - I dare you to NOT like this album. I used to take Amtrak from DC to NYC all the time in the late 90s and early 00s. I can honestly say (once it was released) I never once took the trip without this CD in my discman.
6) Hideaway, The Weepies - I don't know why I love The Weepies and I don't know why this album is my favorite but I do and it is. Of course - I should also acknowledge "All Good Things" is not only the theme of my dynamic with my still-sorta-wife but it also SAVED MY LIFE the other night. 
5) Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder - Just an amazing body of music. A lot of this double album went on to be hit singles and/or popular for various reasons but if you've never heard "Have a Talk with God" you've never really had a spiritual wrestle or won the match.
4) Of the Heart, Of the Soul, and Of the Cross: The Utopian Experience, P.M. Dawn - Another one of those albums that only worked in the early 90s but that was just so spot on when it came out it seemed it would never break. Let's be very clear this album is about Jesus Christ and Christianity. It was inspiring to hear grown men so spiritual and so full of belief. I'll still get actually excited listening to "In the Presence of Mirrors" a few decades later. (Sorry about the samples - this one is not on Spotify.)
3) Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1, George Michael - There was once a man named George Michael who was focused and clear voiced and lauded for his talents and musical chops. This album, sadly, was the start of the end of that man (it was supposed to be a three volume set - we only ever got the first volume) but it was then and still is a great collection of political pop from a man who was, just a few years earlier, happy to simply shake his ass for his fans.
2) Soundtrack, The Big Chill - Forget Forrest Gump or Pulp Fiction - THIS is the greatest movie soundtrack of all time and it accompanies one of the greatest movies of all time. Motown and soul, soul and Motown. There is not a single song on here that is not perfect and that is not lovable.
1) The Hours (Score), Philip Glass - Lush, luxurious, rich, thick, full bosom-ed, intelligent, emotional and just a touch of sad. Like a good woman it is all but perfect. 


Basic Math . . .

I was horrible at math in school. I still am. It is not that I'm a stupid person (I'm in the 30th percentile for average intelligence among people in my demographic profile, approximated - of course) but I do not have a brain for numbers. It is true, ask my checking account balance (frowny face) BUT I learned three things in math that have served the "runner" in me well all these many weeks . . . addition, averages, and percentages.

Let me clarify . . . addition. We are ADDING miles every week for the GoRun Wichita Start2Finish training program. Not necessarily every run but each WEEK. It has been subtle and slow but this week (week nine) I'll run 29 miles. I did 6.5 miles in week one. The "long" run each week (on Saturdays, in a group setting) have generally gotten longer by about a mile a week, too (we have 10 on my schedule for this week). The fact that I can keep adding miles every week and yet the amount of time I am dedicating to running is important to me. Why? Averages.

Averages are important because that is where you find your pace. I run about a 13:00 mile (stop laughing, I weigh 300 pounds and have run for exactly nine weeks of my entire life) over the average of my 220 miles run. Some runs are better (I've nearly broken 12:00 a few times) and some are worse (I've barely avoided 15:00 a few times) and that is okay. BOTH those paces are respectable, for the record, and the key on Sunday, 10/13 will simply be to FINISH. But if I know my average time, I can make a plan. If I ran the half today - at current pace - it would take me 169 minutes (2 hours and 49 minutes) so I will start at about 7:30 AM and will wrap up just before 10:30 AM. BUT because I track my averages I know that I'm inching closer to 12:30/mile with each run. If I can shave just :30 off each mile, I save 7 minutes from my race time. What does seven minutes matter? A lot. I still sorta' hate how running feels in the moment. Every second I DO NOT have to do it makes me happy. But I'm hating the act of running less and less all the time. Why does THAT matter? Percentages.

My final math lesson that is relevant here . . . I'll wake up at 4:15 AM on Saturday morning, brush my teeth and do some prep stuff and head out for my run. I hope to be "sneakers up" (as I like to call it) by 5:00 AM for what will be a TEN MILE run. At 13:00/mile that means I'll stop running at 7:13 AM CT. Ten miles sounds CRAZY in a vacuum but I'm not running in a vacuum. I'm running on a calendar. Truth is I am adding just 11% to my previous "longest run" to get from nine to ten. Next week we'll go 11, 10% more than this week. From 11 to 12 is just 9% and from 12 to 13 is just 8% more. Why am I tell you this? The long run difference in weeks one to two was just .5 miles but it added 20% to my run. I survived. I've added more and more miles but less and less percentage. If I can do "this" - I can do "that."

If you take addition, averages, and percentages and you shake them around my math abhorrent brain it all sums up to one thing . . . I'm going to be just fine on Sunday, October 13th because the numbers are on my side. They combine to give me confidence. They add up to success.

Happy running, fools.


Muggy Tonight . . .

If you think my would-be muggers do NOT look like this - you are a profiling,
stereo-typing racist. And you happen to be right. This time, Zimmerman
It is hot and humid in Wichita last night but I had to get my five miles in so I headed out anyway. I made it about 3.3 miles in to the run and hit a little bit of trouble. Let me set the scene . . .

I was running on 13th street, just east of Hillside (this will mean nothing to any readers not in/familiar with Wichita) in the construction zone when I saw three gentlemen approaching me. They were not just walking toward me as in "I was heading west, they were heading east" they were walking TOWARD me as in "We're going to get directly in front of you now."

I made eye contact and waved a feeble hand jerk while smiling (this works well with all the jergov runners I cross paths with) and the defacto leader of the gang simply nodded his head and threw up a "stop" sign with his hand. I obliged (I was super tired anyway) and this is what happened . . .

HIM: "Give us your money and your cell phone and that iPod you're wearing."

ME: "Well - you can have the iPod but I don't have my wallet or cell phone on me."

HIM: (laughing in disbelief) "What do you mean you don't have any of that stuff on you - and you're out here in this neighborhood running . . . what are you, crazy? Are you trying to die?"

ME: (flood of chemicals to brain and body) "Well, in all actuality I am about to run past a Popeye's, Church's, McDonald's, Jimmy John's, Chipotle, Spangles, Taco Bueno, Walgreens, Pizza Hut, Subway, China Wall, and Freebirds . . . I left my money at home because I'm trying to LIVE!"

HIM: (laughing in humor) "Man. You ARE crazy. And what's with that crappy little iPod - what's that hold like 50 songs?"

ME: "Probably about 100 - you can have it." (holds out)

HIM: "What is playing RIGHT now?"

ME: (hesitates, looks at ground) "All Good Things by The Weepies . . . "

GUY NUMBER TWO: "The f*ck is a Weepie?"

ME: "Uh (panic setting in for fear that I'm about to get killed for liking pop-folk-singer-songwriter music) they are a married couple. It is sorta' pop music. They have had a few smaller hits and have been on a few movie soundtracks - probably nothing you know - they aren't really all that famous."

GUY NUMBER ONE: "Is your iPod full of that sh*t?"

ME: "I mean - it is a mix of stuff. Some pop, some hip hop and rap, some dance, a little rock . . . seriously - you're welcome to it." (continues to hold out in humble offering form)

GUY NUMBER THREE: "Man, let's get out of here. This guy is f*cking with us."

GUY NUMBER ONE: "Alright, man. You'd better get out of here. Seriously. It is about to storm and you need to get home. And no stopping for fast food." (laughs and pats me on the back as I start to pass his group)

ME: "Okay. You guys be safe, too. Thanks for not hurting me and all that."

ONE OF THEM (I was NOT looking back): "You're welcome."


THANK YOU, questionable taste in music, pocketless running shorts, fast-talking, self-deprecating fat jokes, and grace of G-d! Seriously. THANK YOU!


A Dozen Years . . .

That's me. Directly above the bride. Weighing in at a cool 500 pounds.
My date for the wedding? Snacks.
I went to college with everyone in this photo (except the eight people who are clearly parents of some of the rest of us). The bride and groom are my dear, beloved friends Christopher and Michele Delenick. They live, with their three amazing kids, in Portland, Maine.

I introduced Chris and Michele and spent the next several years trying to chase Michele (very unfairly_ out of my life. For those who think I'm even a remotely good person - Michele has seen the dark side. And she was beautiful and gracious even in the face of it (we've since made up - you can read more about it here) and this post is not actually about what a jerk I was to Michele for many, many years. No. It is more about the sinking feeling that grows darker in my heart all the time that I'm really, really living in a vacuum of my own self-focus. Because - to my earlier point - I went to college with everyone in this photo (or their children) and I honestly don't know if I could name them all (my circle of friends, surely).

That would not be a big deal if we went to a huge college with 50,000 undergrads and where a friend dating a woman didn't mean you ever even had to meet her friends but Quinnipiac had 3,200 students when we were there and my circle overlapped with Michele's circle in a lot of ways and I KNOW - in 2001 - I knew them all. Could tell you their full names and where they were from (New England, Long Island, Pennsylvania, or Houston - to be clear). I knew what they studied (mass communications, business, occupational therapy, physical therapy - more than likely). I knew if they were in relationships and I knew what their favorite drinks and/or bands were (Yuengling and Dave Matthews Band, statistically) and I knew them all well. I had a HUGE crush on the woman on the far left (squatting down) but that's for another post and another day.

For now, I'm way more annoyed with myself that I can't name everyone in this photo (I was also best man in the wedding of the couple of the last guy seated on the right and his wife in the black dress to the far right of the photo but I don't even know them anymore and have no idea how many kids they have or what their names are, etc.).

Sure - sure. To lose track of people is "natural" and is not something to be embarrassed of (as I've already been reassured by two other people in the above photo) but these are not just "people" that I vaguely knew in junior high. These are not people that I crossed paths with at an internship. These are not just random buddies that came and went from my life - these are people I shared three full years of the BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE with on a comfortable 200 acres in wooded Connecticut. These people KNEW me. Many of them protected and helped me in ways I can not even really explain. Three of the men in that picture and my still sorta-wife are the only reason I'm even alive today. I was not suicidal - I was eating myself to death and miserable beyond relation. These men conspired to save my life. And it worked. And I can't even tell you the names of everyone in this photo  . . . which I can still remember being taken - it was near the end of the reception still absurdly hot - I was probably the only one of us from Quinnipiac who had had zero alcohol that day and was also probably the only one that had thrown his rented tuxedo shoe in the fountain and refused to fish it back out (the heel broke on it and I was fat and hot. We vowed to send it in to our college for them to run in the alumni magazine and Bruce (the guy sitting on the laps of the bride's parents for NO apparent reason) made a very, very funny joke just before the photographer snapped away.

I don't know why I'm so bothered by this. I should not be. It has been 15 years since we graduated and 12 years since we were all last together. I've lived a full lifetime of events in that time. I'm sure they all have, too. For all I know several of them saw this photo on Facebook and thought "I don't recognized that mountain of flesh looming above Michele" so we're even. But then, as one of the people who gave me consolation tonight pointed out . . . "You were always bigger than life, man. No one ever forgets you no matter how or why or for good or bad that they remember you." Um. Thanks?

Anywho - happy anniversary to the Delenicks. THANK YOU for allowing me to be part of your special day and I hope your love lasts forever - as clearly my memory will not.


Sunday Funday . . .

A friend tells me she's purchased temporary tattoos and will be procuring these t-shirts for spectating my Prairie Fire (Half) Marathon adventure. I'd rather no one come watch but - if they "must" - jussayin . . . 


I Am In Love . . .

I've put off, and put off, and put off writing this post. It is awkward and will probably upset a lot of people because I'm still going through a rough patch in my life but . . . the heart wants what the heart wants and my heart wants to love and be loved.

I'm happy to introduce you to my new love. Always on my mind. First thing in the morning. Last thing at night. My ever stride when walking or running, my every dull moment the rest of the day. I am thrilled that my heart is able to love again . . . I just hope I don't wrap up my current love affair too soon. All this change can't be good for me or my pronation.


Tell Me A Story . . .

A little over a week ago, I did an open call for reader content to tell the story of the picture below. It is flowing like MUD around here, kids. I DID get one (ONE!) submission and I love it so I'm going to share this and remind everyone you have until Tuesday, 8/6 to submit. Otherwise - $25 in Jason's Deli dough goes to the guy below (who you will formally "meet" when the contest is over) . . .

She wanted to look nice. 

It's an easy thing to have your picture taken. It's another thing entirely to have a portrait ‘made’.

The Alumni association at Linda's alma mater had called two weeks earlier informing her of an upcoming profile in “Around the Oval”. ‘ATO’, as it’s known to alums who still care about what college they went to, is a quarterly-ish publication full of birth announcements, new building plans, requests for money, and one or two ‘where are they now’ style profiles of former students. It’s printed with a full-color glossy cover wrapped and saddle stitched around cheap newspaper stock.

She was floored.
This would be HUGE for her.
She spoke the way she typed - emphasizing words in ALL CAPS.
She recited her email address - lindag234@sbcglobal.net.

A few days later, the office emailed her a boilerplate questionnaire which she promptly filled out. 
“Please attach a photo — high resolution - - - in bitmap (.bmp), ‘j-peg’ (.jpg), or Adobe Acrobat PDF (.pdf) format - - -  No WORD documents”
She wanted to look nice.

Everyone in her graduating class would be reading this the next time a quarter came around. She had never been in ATO before. No birth announcements in the “Future Rams” section. No mention in the donors section, even though a small bit of what she made as a nurse was pulled out each pay period.
She needed a new photo. All of her heavily vetted Facebook photos had been recently been cropped to remove her ex-husband. 

This was a NEW START.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for her.

At the hospital a colleague reminded Linda that her son was ‘real big into photography’ after she had bought him a new camera. 
“Would he be interested in taking my portrait?”
She emphasized ‘portrait’.  
“Of course he would!” The pre-natal nurse squealed. “Here’s his phone number. Text him!”
Linda did. 
The son texted Linda a link to his portfolio.

Rural scenes of fenceposts and barbed-wire, entwined with urban shots of rusty street signs and graffiti riddled train cars. 
It was GOOD.
They settled on a price and location. $100 and Fossil Creek Park on the west side of town.
“Where something nice”, he texted. 
Wrong ‘where’. 

The day before ‘the shoot’ - she called it that - was a fever of haircuts and manicures. 
The day of the shoot she tried on every dress in her closet. It had been a while since she wore any of them, but she was thankful they still mostly fit.  

She chose a blue dress that had been doing well for her at the bar her girlfriends had been taken her to. It had a deep plunge in the front, but compared to her competition it was harmless. 

Linda met her friend’s son at the park. He had a real camera with him. It had a big lens and a black strap with “Nikon” embroidered with bright yellow thread.
“I’m Jason”, he said thrusting an awkward hand towards her. 
“Linda”, she said.
“Ready to start?”, he said, eyeing the center of her blue dress. 

While they were walking around the park looking for a “cool place”, she told him all about the write up, and what college was like. He half listened, eye darting around looking for a place to take his first paid photograph.
“Here” he said.
It was a park table.
“The light is cool looking”
It was, kind of. 
Linda position herself comfortably while Jason made a big show of looking at his light meter.
He didn’t know how to use it, but people never questioned it. He looked like he knew how to use it.
“Ready?” he asked, quickly
She smiled and he quickly moved around her like a moth, the sound of the shutter making little moth sounds. 
After 56 ‘portraits’ he showed her the screen on the back of the camera.
She frowned.

“Wow. Do I really look that old?”, she asked.
“I think they look good.”
Of course he would. He was a professional.
“Do you want to move to a different place?”
“No,” she said, and after a slight pause, “Do you think I look pretty in those portraits?”
He blushed and dropped his head.”
“I. . . uh, yeah, I mean. Yeah. You look good.”
She lifted her hand and scooped the dress off her shoulder. A simple style that used to carry with it a sense of elegance.

“There!”, she said giggling and proud. “Take a few more like this. It makes me feel Cuban or something”

More moth sounds. 

“I err umm I think we got it. “
“Great! When can I see them?”
“I’ll email them to you?” he asked.
“Oh don’t send all of them, just pick the best one and send it to this email”, she said as she dug through her purse looking for a pen. “I’ll tell the Alumni office to keep an eye out for it.”



Distraction . . .

Since returning to work about a month ago, my schedule feels very, very full. As a parent with a full time job, a recent penchant for running, Jewish conversion classes, temple services, a little volunteering, some blood donating, and some hit of a social life . . . it gets sorta' busy. I've had to weed out a LOT of the distractions that I so happily filled my days with all those months of unemployment. LUCKILY there are distractions that I can still find time for in my life. Here - in no particular order - are 9 of the dozen or so things that I spend (not "waste") my little remaining time on.

  • READING - I've decided to limit how much time I spend staring at glowing surfaces and digital images. Right now I'm working my way through three books - the most compelling being Erik Larson's "In the Garden of the Beasts" a fascinating "narrative non-fiction" book that explores America's ambassador to Germany in the early day's of Hitler's power and his family. 
  • HEBREW - I'm FINALLY, 10 months later, starting to get some resonance with my Hebrew studies. Still very, very slow moving but I am willing to publicly boast I might eventually actually get it. 
  • LEGOS - Shhhh. Don't tell the kid - but I play with her building blocks when she's asleep. It makes me miss the MASSIVE collection of Construx I amassed as a child. 
  • NETFLIX - I am finally hitting some balance in my streaming. I watch one season of a TV show and then a documentary or a film. Some recent likes? Orange Is the New Black, Atlas Shrugged II, A Late Quartet, and Bully (a sad, sad thing that really should be seen).
  • KNITTING - Plugging away a little here and there. It is good when I'm trying to stop sweating after running and showering.
  • FLOW FREE - The only app/game I play on my phone. 
  • WRITING - Not just my blog posts, I've recently revisited and restarted a book I started about eight years ago. I'll get bored with this . . . soon . . . and shelve it again. 
  • LEARNING - I have a new job in an industry that is brand new to me. And there is a learning curve there. I'm also trying to get acclimated on gymnastics (if only to chat with my daughter in a knowing way after her classes), tiny homes, Parisian history, and Jewish history. 
  • GOOGLING - This may sound strange but since first logging on to the Internet in 1994, I've never really "used" Google. I go to the same dozen or so webpages for everything in my life and I barely use the search function on those sites but - lately - I just Google and let things happen. The topics above, other topics, random words, etc. Fascinating stuff. 

What do you do when you are busy but want to spend a few minutes every now and again feeling like you're getting away with murder?