Breaking Bad . . .

Well . . . have you caught your breath yet? Are you satisfied? Are you angry? Sad? Fulfilled? What is your reaction to the finale of Breaking Bad? Want mine? I think Breaking Bad is a pop culture phenomenon for the BETTER.

In the interest of full disclosure I've never seen a single frame of Breaking Bad. No. No. NOT one of my spiteful refusals - quite the opposite - I was so late to the party I decided I would miss it entirely and then catch up on it in binge form after the fact (thank you, Netflix).

In reality I don't know if a more interesting premise for a TV show has come along in a long, long time. Part Shakespearean epic, part cautionary tale, part impossibly absurd storyline, part amazing acting and TV-making, part carefully timed releases to keep the audience wanting more, part "this is such a train wreck I can not look away" - the show has held a pretty good chunk of critical and mass attention for years and years.

For those who are even farther behind than I am . . . Breaking Bad is the story about a high school chemistry teacher (I really don't even know his name) who, upon being diagnosed with terminal cancer, decides to turn to a life of drug making to either pay for treatment and leave his family something or to avoid confronting his own mortality (I've heard it explained both ways - I'll let you know which is which when I dive in). Needless to say stuff gets weird as murder, drug turf battles, lies, stealing, and generally horrible behavior grow within our anti-hero like the horrible cancer that put him in the mindset that drives his decline.

So - uh - what's up with a review of a show I've never seen? This is not about the show . . . it is about the phenomenon because here is why I LOVE Breaking Bad (without ever having seen it (for the record this is not the first time I've pledged love for something before I had any familiarity with it (witness boobs)) - the FANS.

  • Walking Dead? Lame. 
  • The Sopranos? Got HORRIBLE and then got "wonderful" again as soon as the end was announced (yes, fans, go back and read reviews and opinions in real time)
  • True Blood? Got sorta' old even for the real fans.
  • Mad Men? Come on. Seriously? Come on. 
  • Dr. Who? Hipster gateway for sure. 
  • Arrested Development? Go. F*ck. Your. Selves. Seriously. Unfunny. UNFUNNY.

I could go on (and on and on) but the point is that generally speaking the fans of the above shows have made them less desirable for me because they have all had this "You MUST see this show" You would LOVE that show." "That you don't enjoy that show makes you LESS than me." I know, I know, I know - I was the same way with Lost, Desperate Housewives (season one and ONLY season one), Fast/Furious, and hummus. But what makes Breaking Bad fans better and what makes the show somehow better (by illogical extension) is that they don't care if you like it or not.

I've never had a single conversation with a Breaking Bad lover where they tried to convert me. NOR have I ever talked Breaking Bad with anyone who has given away ANYTHING. No plot lines, no twists, no curves, no character flaws, etc. Sure - sure - the stuff is out there (it is 2013 and we have the world wide web (funny aside . . . Collin Quinn has a very fun special on Netflix where he talks about how granular our taste for porn has become and how the world wide web will provide - the highlight "I like girls with some junior college who quit - but they are going to go back - probably.")) but no one has ever just SPOILED a drop of the show.

So I have had the luxury of seeing all the awards, the accolades, the audience, and the hype, and I've seen the pop culture creep (I had FOUR people Tweeting/Facebooking yesterday about special cupcakes and donuts sprinkled with meth-like candy (by the way there is NOTHING funny or cute about meth but that's another post)) and I've seen all the reasons why I will probably love Breaking Bad. BUT I've had the time and luxury to pick my moments. For that . . . I thank you.


DC Bound . . .

I  did something truly exciting last night. I ate dinner at Freddy's. Okay, okay - that is not the ONLY exciting part of the evening . . . I also booked flights to head east and visit my beloved and often-longed for family.

As I've probably droned on about almost too many times here, I sorta' think of DC as home. I lived in the Foggy Bottom and Eastern Market neighborhoods for six years (I always say eight because even though I lived in Baltimore for the last two, I still worked and socialized in DC every day) and I spent my very important 20s in our nation's capital (not a bad way to do it).

I have sorta' lost touch with all my DC friends over the years, sadly. I was there two years ago and saw a handful of folks and really enjoyed the time but it was short and I didn't get to see some of the people I once thought of as my closest friends. I look at this failure as another "classic" example of how bad I am at relationships and friendship. I don't know why people suffer me at all when I ponder these short comings.

I digress . . . the kid and I are heading east for four glorious days inside (and immediately outside of) the beltway and I could NOT be more thrilled.

This will be my daughter's fifth trip to our nation's capital and, as we have every other time we've gone, we're going to do some things we have not yet done (all Thursday afternoon and during the day Friday (while my brothers and sisters in law are all at work)) . . .

  • I'm going to take her to see my favorite painting in the world - Niagara
  • We're going to walk The Exorcist stairs in Georgetown (no, this won't mean anything to her but it was always one of my favorite touristy gimmicks when people would come visit me)
  • We'll probably have lunch and buy a new book from Kramerbooks 
  • We're going to do the ultimate tourist thing and hit Air and Space (we've avoided it thus far)
  • The Jefferson is on the checklist (the only of the major monuments/memorials we've not hit)
  • We're going to walk the Capitol steps, too
The trip might be considered a failure (for her) if we did NOT go to the Smithsonian to see the dinosaurs . . . again and she's already asked about getting an ice cream sandwich from Potbelly

I'm also going to do a FIRST for me . . . I'm going to run on the National Mall (not sure why this is important to me but I'm really excited about it).

We'll get all my DC love out of my system early and focus on family (the real reason for the trip) the rest of the weekend but I can't tell you how excited I get knowing I have DC time on the calendar! 


Paying It Forward . . .

Back in the year 2000, the world was a simpler place. 

a) We had JUST capped off the 90s and every sci-fi prediction of the 2000s seemed just around the corner.
b) The World Trade Center still stood in New York City.
c) George W. Bush was merely the Governor of Texas and the President-Elect of the United States of America so . . . 
d) Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey were on their first laps around the critical darling actor track.
e) I still had hope, optimism, and belief in my body for my own potential in this world.
f) People were just starting to become hardened bores with no glow or joy.

Why am I telling you this? This movie . . . 

Don't get me wrong. The notion of "paying it forward" is far, far older than this century. It is probably about as old as mankind itself (with a notable exception being lice-infested blankets and glass beads for the island of Manhattan and a few other less-than-stellar moments in human history) and it is a notion that will never quite go away.

Why am I telling you this? Dinner last week . . . 

I hit Chipotle with a friend (I enjoy breaking tortilla with good people and it was her turn to pay so I was feeling especially happy) and we made our way through the line and loaded up our burrito bowls and then were told that our dinner was free thanks to the gentleman in front of us. We ran (okay - quickly walked) to the parking lot to thank him but he was already gone. Off to his life again. Sorta' like the scene in Fight Club where Brad Pitt mandates the convenience store attendant register for classes and finish school or risk being killed and then informs Edward Norton that his breakfast tomorrow will be the best meal of his life because he has a new chance on life the dinner was amazing. Why? Good company AND free for BOTH of us.

Why am I telling you this? Saturday afternoon . . . 

I bought drinks for 10 people in QuikTrip. 

Why am I telling you this? Last night . . . 

I helped a woman push her broken car 100 yards or so and called for help for her (her cell phone was dead) and then offered to give her and her daughter a ride home (they demured (I fear they saw the duct tape in the back of the car)).

Why am I telling you this? This morning . . . 

I stopped, as I do every day, at QwikShop (the Dillons knock-off of QuikTrip) and the woman in front of me paid for my beverage . . . and gave her phone number to the register attendant to give to me me in one sly move.  

Why am I telling you this? This morning . . . 

I bought the guy behind me HIS drink and gave HIM the woman's phone number (he had been checking her out at the soda fountains anyway). 

Why am I telling you this? Later today . . . 

Do something nice for someone. It doesn't have to cost any money or be a big thing. It can be as simple as helping pick something up off the floor or letting a woman know if her dress is hanging out of her car door, or telling a gentleman we can ALL tell he has a comb over and it is not working for ANY of us. Perhaps you could sign up to volunteer somewhere. Maybe you are drug and casual sex clean/free enough to donate blood. Maybe you are overdue to get in on this whole "Pay it Forward" thing . . . maybe you can't be on the receiving end until you get on the giving end. 

Seriously, though. Someone find me Haley Joel Osment so I can buy him a cup of tea or something. I need to pay THAT forward. 


Running Advice from a Fat, Slow Man . . .

There are just 17 days until my GoRun Wichita Start2Finish training will end and the starter's pistol (or cannon or whatever horrible contraption they use to start the race) for the Prairie Fire Marathon/Half Marathon/5K/Potato Sack Race will sound.

Despite just how vocal and adamant I have been about NOT being a runner, lots of people have been asking questions and seeking actual advice from me about getting started with running (as a grammatical firewall from saying "becoming a runner"). Perhaps it is reverse psychology that they will do whatever the opposite is that I tell them but - regardless - the questions have come and I've answered them and I'll continue to answer as long as I have miles on the calendar.

Without further delay (and acknowledging there are just three more running posts coming to this blog) - here are my thirteen-point-one tips (yes, a "list" pun) for people just getting started with running that might help make it easier and more enjoyable because - if you're going to give the time, sweat, and energy to this pursuit it might as well be enjoyable.

13 - Plan. I was very luck to get a schedule of how many miles (or how much cross training) I should do on any given day for the duration of getting ready for this race. If you don't have a distance/race date as a goal you should at least put what you want to do on the calendar and stick to it. I'm 16 weeks in to training and I've missed ONE workout - and that was yesterday.

12 - Music. I'm a huge fan of music for every occasion but I must say I've spent a LOT of time and energy getting my running music just right. It is a combination of rap, hip hop, rock, and even some DJ stuff (Girl Talk is actually great for running). I suggest a mix of upbeat stuff, slower things, and music that shifts in pace as it goes and I highly recommend "shuffle" settings so the songs never get boring or routine.

11 - Get the right shoes. I was very fortunate to get my first pair of kicks for free. I tried on four pair (I was expertly fitted at GoRun Wichita and you can and should be, too) and asked a ton of questions and chose Brooks Trance 11s because they had more support for my bigger body. "They" say you should replace your shoes every 300 - 400 miles. I just bought a new pair of Brooks Trance 12s. The investment (spoiler alert) will ensure I will continue to run and that I can do so without pain and discomfort.

10 - Free your mind. If you are going out there and running and NOT using the time to think . . . you're better than I am. I like to think my six or seven hours a week of running time are really just an excuse to eliminate the noise of the rest of the world. And that freedom is amazing.

9 - Watch your runs. A friend loaned me her old Garmin for the purpose of better monitoring my runs. For my first 11 weeks as a runner I would start a timer on my phone, start running, and then turn the timer off. I had no idea how far in to the run I was (unless I had mileage markers on the course) and I had no idea what my pace was or how long I had been running. I wasted a lot of energy and was not progressing as I wanted to. The watch changed that. I wish I had it sooner.

8 - Keep it interesting. I'll take a different course almost every time I run. I will at least run a course I do more often (you can frequently catch me on 1st and 2nd between Hillside and Edgemoor) in varying ways. I can't run on a treadmill because it is boring. Running should not be boring.

7 - Get a water bottle that straps to your hand. If I have four miles or less I will often just drink a lot before I head out and drink a lot the minute I get in (I hate having something in my hand . . . it makes me feel uneven) but anything over and it is good to have some water. I enjoy Powerade Zero and/or nuun (watermelon is my favorite - stop laughing) over plain water but the simple stuff is just as delicious.

6 - Eat and drink. I was very, very resistant to "nutrition" on my runs. A few obstacles . . . I cannot eat processed sugar and I'm fat and the act of eating while running seems as endearing as a known domestic abuser wearing a wife beater to the grocery store. So I would run as many as seven or eight miles with nothing going in my body by 0 calorie water. HUGE mistake. Now I eat Larabars and/or Justin's squeezable peanut butter packets for anything over five miles and it helps. A lot.

5 - Gear. I hate the polyester, dri-weave crap more than you might ever imagine but I still wear it and I, more importantly, have come to appreciate my compression socks, my "runnerd" sweat catcher, my Eastbay shorts and my running t-shirts. Find what you are comfortable in and spend some money on it, as needed. You will run better if you are comfortable.

4 - Run. Here is the most obvious advice you'll ever get from me (and I say some "on the nose" crap all day, errrrrryday) . . . if you're going to run, RUN. Your brain and body will fight you on this. You will want to walk. Especially in the early going or if you're off pace or if you're not quite right or if you're battling a distraction like weather or stress. The minute you give in to that . . . you are not really running. Trust me on this - I break at least once every. single. run. And that is just one reason I'm NOT a real runner.

3 - Make friends. Yes. This is hypocritical advice on the surface but I do have friends who are runners and I've chatted with them about running and approach and goal setting and success. It is very helpful. If you can't embrace the running culture, at least embrace the running community's wisdom. There are blogs and websites - worst case - that can help you along. Don't go through running completely alone. You will make mistakes.

2 - Listen to your body. I have been very, very lucky (especially given my relatively nonathletic lifestyle, my fatness, and my general clumsiness) to have had a single pain, injury, woe, or problem with the physical aspects of running that got in the way of me getting out there again the next day. But I've had a few little things that have not felt great that I've Googled, asked runner friends about, or harassed Kevin with GoRun Wichita over. If we didn't have the cool July we had and if I didn't stay healthy - there is no way I'm this far in to training and feeling this ready for the race. Hurt = sucks.

1 - Make it fun. Yes. I just said that. With a straight face. If I have a course planned out, some water in my bottle, tunes in my ears, and a Larabar in my pocket and the weather is in my favor . . . it is actually SUPER fun out there. I had an 11 mile run a few weeks ago that was only supposed to be nine but I just wanted to keep going and that is when I had to admit I was having fun. Whatever the "fun" is for you . . . find it and make it part of your running. You won't regret it.

.1 - If you're going to do it, truly commit. This advice goes for any thing in life but running (because there are costs, there is time spent, there is energy expended, and there is risk of injury, etc.) needs to be something you take seriously. Find and flex your greatness because even at a 13:30 average mile pace I can and will look you square in the eye and tell you that I'm channeling my greatness and giving my best for every mile. Buhleeeeeddddat!


Triumph . . .

Watch the whole thing but "Up the Wolves" (the first song) is really the key takeaway here.


Shutting It Down . . .

Before you read . . . watch this.

Okay. I still have you? You're here? You're present in the moment? Good.

Let me tell you what irony is (not) . . . me using a digital communication tool to criticize myself for only using digital communication tools to communicate. Let me tell you what is not irony . . . I need to be better.

I mentioned on Facebook last night (I would do and share a screen grab but, well, this would just become parody at that point) but if we are "friends" on Facebook you can go see it and read it that I was considering taking all the apps off my phone and only using it for phone conversations and work e-mail (you could still text me but I would not respond via text and I would discourage people from texting me as part of my response).

This is something I've been thinking about for a while. When you live alone 50% of the time and when you spend six months unemployed and when you spend about 75/day (average) running around Wichita with just your headphones and your thoughts you tend to THINK about being "alone" and the pros and cons of it.

  • Lots of time to think about whatever the heck strikes your fancy (clothes, movies, bills, friends, family, boobs, etc.)
  • Lots of time to wonder why you don't spend more time on and with the above (especially the boobs)
  • Ummmmmmm.
  • Welllllll
  • Let me think
There are NO cons to being alone. NONE. Let me pause her to clarify that I don't see ANY overlap between being alone and being lonely. And I don't think people around you prevent loneliness or being (forget feeling - BEING) alone. I was at a Cowboys game today with seven colleagues and nearly 100,000 other people (not including staff, players, etc.) and at one point every. single. person in my group had their face in their phone. Who's alone now? More over there is even LESS than nothing wrong with being with other people. ESPECIALLY people you like/love/enjoy/get value from.

I digress . . . my phone. So here's what I want to do (and this is just a logical continuation down my good-intention-paved path to insanity of quitting social media in general (but I am NOT saying I am doing that here/now - I am saying no more PHONE usage. I can still fire up the laptop and Facebook, Tweet, or blog away if that is how I want to waste (and it is a waste of) my time and energy) is to stop with the phone as my end-all and be-all. I had a colleague at Associated that would not meet with me if I had my phone. I mean for work meetings or to have lunch. My child once hid my phone because I was texting with my colleagues when I should have been playing dolls with her one evening (ONE evening - I'm an engaged parent, I promise). 

Fact: The sum and total I have with my family most weeks is an e-mail I send them every Sunday updating them on my week's activities. My shrink and I compromised on this a year ago. I might text with my brothers here and there and will talk with my parents for a few minutes when they do their weekly Ava calls. I don't put the energy in to more. But I have cleared hundred of levels of Flow Free and I have 40,000 Tweets under my belt. I'm a bore. 

I can't just sit. I can't just enjoy either being with someone or being alone because this stupid little box glows and beeps and shakes and hums. I have had plenty of other strains, blips, crises, and challenges in many other relationships in my life since going "smart phone, dumb owner" so many years ago. The generation before me worried about raising "Couch Potatoes" . . . I worry I am a Cell Phone Dullard. And I don't want my kid to follow me in this regard yet I ration tablet time and give her more minutes on it versus a cash allowance when she does her chores.

Yeah, yeah . . . I get it. I can ignore it. Yep. And I don't have to eat every potato chip that's ever been fried and bagged and I don't have to use every four letter word the world has shared with me and I don't have to be a fine mixture of OCD and ADD. Yet I do, I do, and I am. 

So this goes back to why I started running in June . . . I can control it. I can walk away from it and draw a line in the sand that unless you are my employer or looking for me in a professional context you'll need to actually (gasp) CALL me. Come SEE me. Write me a letter. Whisper my name in to the wind. And if I want or need you - same rules apply.

I don't know that I'll do it. I know that I want to. I know that it will probably mean losing what little shred of touch I have left with people who are digitally "in my life" to begin with - 24 hours ago I got an e-mail from a friend who said she "Only knows (I am) alive because (I) blog daily." - but I have to presume it would be an even exchange. And if I can stop just pulling out my phone and jamming my face in it tomorrow and if I can stop with social media reliance the day after that and if I can spend that time on my mind, my body, my spirit, my relationships, my passions . . . how much better off would I be by next week (Editor's Note: When I reference these things in the context of "days" I mean weeks/months/millennia.)

I'm not sad. I'm not lonely. I'm not alone. I'm not in crisis. I'm not trying to isolate myself. I'm tired of making excuses for why I'm not a better son, brother (in-law), uncle, friend, colleague, etc. etc. etc. and I'm tired of giving my time and energy to crap (like my phone) that doesn't care bout me. For those of you that have evolved past me (congrats on having less knuckle hair, by the way) and can do all these things in "moderation" - goodonya. Truly. 

I hope to someday have shiny, bald knuckles and the ability to just BE but if I don't shake this phone thing . . . I'll certainly never become a better person. 


Friday . . .

Ever since I was a little boy (no - I've never been "little" physically) I can remember Friday having a certain mystique about it. It just seemed blessed . . .

The best cafeteria lunches were offered on Fridays (tuna melts and tomato soup was my joint) and teachers seemed to let up on the gas a little (I mean chill OUT, Ms. Eckberg - we're in the first grade. What's with allllll the letter and number talk. Let's just relax a little. Bonus playground time or some-tin. DAMN, Woman!) and my parents always seemed to be in a good mood, too (I now suspect that they, being of sound middle class and family of five, probably got paid on Friday so that was a good chunk of it). Anywho - as I grew up Friday just kept getting better.

You had junior high and high school dances on Fridays (and those had girls there so - rest assured I was on the bleachers or standing against the wall for most of them . . . until "It Takes Two" came on then brace yourselves, fools). Football games (I was in the marching band so I attended all the home games) were on Fridays. You could wear different clothes to school on Fridays. If you were going to plan a student activity it was on Friday.

Fast forward to college and Friday was just, well, everything. I don't know about you but I had no classes on Fridays after about Freshman year (I think I had one 11:00 AM class on Friday fall semester of my Sophomore year). If you were going home (or to someone else's house) for the weekend you got going as early as you could. By 3 PM the kegs were tapped, the music blaring, the naps completed, and the weekend had begun. I will never forget one Friday Junior year when I was giving a 4 PM tour of the campus and came upon three naked freshman, drunk and running for the quad. That kid could not say "yes" to matriculation fast enough.

By the time I entered the world of work I thought I "got" why Friday was so special. I'd work for 4 1/2 long days a week so I could blow off Friday afternoons and hit the weekend. I used to work in the National Press Building and we would go to "Taco Bar" at the National Press Club every Friday evening (truly the greatest boondoggle in DC happy hours, if you have access). By 10 PM on Friday I was generally off in my own little world not to be shook back to reality for 56 hours or so.

Once I got in to a relationship, Friday was about being able to spend the weekend with a woman I loved. By the time we became parents it was about the plans we'd made for the week to spend our family time finally being activated.

Friday. Friday. FRIDAY!

And yet here I am, 37 years old and I still can't really tell you what is "special" about Friday because it keeps shifting and changing. Now Fridays are either about starting my weekend as a father or starting my weekend knowing I'll be alone for the duration. I build my evenings around temple (a special time for sure) and going to bed early to get up and run the next morning. I try to leave work in my cubicle and try to spend time with people and things I enjoy.

I won't say Friday has faded in "coolness" but I'll suggest I have. Or maybe I'm just realizing that - like so many other "special" things in life it is all about the moment and the context and the perspective. Maybe temple time, parenting (or not), and early-to-bed is the perfect way to spend the pop culture world's favorite day. At least that is my perspective today.


Everything Has a Theme . . .

Common thread it is . . . the images tab for "theme" was,
oddly enough, without any rhyme or reason.
In the world there are those who favor "order" and those who crave "chaos." There are those who want everything to be shiny, happy, and bright and those who are only happy when they are unhappy. There are genres of music, books, TV shows, films, and art. There are trends in fashion, language, and behavior. I would argue (and you are welcome to bring your "a" game if you disagree) that everything in life has a theme.

And if that is true than every life has a theme (A + B might as well = C). Take James Taylor, for instance, dude has been whiny for 40 years. At least. Rev. Al Sharpton has been indignant (while no longer obese). Michael Phelps has been in a pool since leaving the womb (presumably). 

Let's get a little closer to home . . . what is YOUR life about? Is there a theme? Is there a common thread? A rhythm? A unifying tone? A passion that has always sort of driven you? A chip on that shoulder that can't be brushed off? 

Think about it. Dig deeper. It is there. I'm sure of it . . . what's that? My theme? ALWAYS ARRIVING, NEVER ARRIVED!


Plastic Cup . . .

Four weeks from now barring injury, alien abduction, or coming to senses I'll be able to safely (and uneasily) say that I have run a half marathon. The physical training has worked and the mental part is getting better . . . I think. There is something humbling and scary and exciting about the ability to make a "I've run a half marathon" statement.

I've had lots of people ask me about my training and many wondering what will happen with my "running" after the race but when people ask me about the experience after - I'll probably skip back before the day itself and focus on the same things I talk about now - the before and the during.

It is my never humble opinion that the real beauty of running a half marathon (like frosting a decorative cake or kissing the prettiest girl in school) is not in that act itself but in the preparation and the learning. I've learned a TON in these last weeks/months but one particular lesson that I learned and continue to learn from will probably always be my favorite sampling of all these runs.

What is the lesson? Picking up a plastic cup.

Let me clarify - we did an exercise at a running clinic in July where you stood one one foot and, from a standing position, you bent down and put a cup on the ground in front of you - then you stand up straight. Bend down, pick it up, stand back up. Back down putting the cup off to your left. Back up again. Back down to get the cup, back up to erect (snicker, snicker), back down with the cup being set just off to your right, back up. Switch your standing foot. Repeat the above. Oh, oh, oh . . . do it barefoot (or in socks). Oh, oh, oh . . . ONE more thing (small detail) do it with your eyes closed.

Sound easy? Sure does. I laughed (inside my head - I would never show athletic confidence outwardly) when the challenge was first presented and then I TRIED it. I was falling over myself on the first trip down with the cup. It took me a dozen attempts to figure out how to set down, stand up, and pick back up without peaking (hint - it is all about placement of the cup in a very specific spot that is logical to the fall of your arm) and many, many dozen tries before I could go through the entire rotation (and that should not imply that once I made it all the way through I've ever made it all the way through again). I've, months later, never been able to consistently make it all the way through the rotation including switching feet without losing my balance.

You (I?) get dizzy. You (I?) get confused. You (I?) get humbled over how out of shape and muscle illiterate you really are. You (I?) have a moment, in your side lawn, at 5:07 AM on a Tuesday morning when you are actually falling to the ground mid exercise and you realize the six mile run you are about to start seems "easier" than this exercise you struggling with.

And there is the lesson. That's it. You just read it. And you didn't even notice because, well, it is small and simple.

While I am NOT a "runner" (seriously - let's drop this debate once and for all, please) - running the Prairie Fire Marathon race, for me, is not about a finish line or a stupid "finisher" medal or a sense of accomplishment that results in an atrocious sticker on the back of my car. It will, instead, be about what it IS and HAS been about - pushing. Running is about a sense of learning and growing and challenging and improving. It is about seeking and finding balance. It is about repetition and memory. It is about focus and time and energy management. It is about strategy. It is about having an empty plastic cup in your hand and faith that - even with your eyes closed - you can find your way to and from the ground and that you might do it better today than yesterday AND realizing some mornings you were better yesterday and you'll need tomorrow to remedy the backslide.

It is about hitting "start" on the Garmin timer and "play" on your iPod, putting your earphones in, and striding out to run six miles at 5:10 AM on a Tuesday knowing you have a full work day and parenting ahead of you. It is about using the time to THINK or to figure out your groceries for the week or who you need to call to catch up with or why you can't seem to master even basic Hebrew.

It is about knowing that (statistically) every house you run by contains only sleeping people which technically makes them no better or worse than you but it at least enforces there are hours in the day we COULD spend doing any number of things. It is about running alone and in the dark so no one sees, talks to, or can critique you.

Most importantly - it is about (for me) that plastic cup and knowing it will still be in your lawn, in the dark, when you return from this run and knowing it will be sitting on back stoop ready to torture you again "tomorrow" - if you're ready for another round.


One Year Later . . .

It is hard to believe (almost unbelievable, frankly) that it has been over a year since my daughter and I returned from my younger brother and sister-in-law's wedding on the Chesapeake Bay.

What a year . . . 

It is hard for me to think of a single thing in my life that has not changed in that year. I won't recount all the changes here (I just prattle on and on and on about them day after day so if you really care - you should be a more loyal reader or get a better hobby) but I will say that was a weird thing to see wedding pictures and a status show up on Facebook the other day.

I honestly don't remember too much about the wedding weekend. I remember an INTENSE desire to not only be recused from co-best man duties, but to not have to be involved formally at all, and to not even have to go to the wedding at all. It is not that I don't support my brother and his bride (they are both wonderful and I hope their love grows and blossoms for the rest of their long, long lives) but I was not in the right mindset to hop on a plane and go see family and friends - many of whom I had last seen at my own wedding - and to face them armed only with a six year old (I could not even convince my doctor to give me some Rx aid - even with forced tears.) and a mother and father that kept whispering it was all going to be okay. No matter what my still sorta' wife did not agree on and no matter how much we would annoy each other she would always be able to make things like big, awkward, family weekends a little easier - if only because I could focus only on her. I did not believe my mother who insisted it would be okay.

The death of my marriage was too new. A different address and shared custody and the state of our family was all too much change and chaos. I just wanted to fly in, get the obligations over, and get the heck back out of Maryland - or at least away from the obligations of a wedding. The hardest part (that I failed miserably at including a profanity laced tirade over some special socks all the groomsmen were asked to wear) was just trying to stay positive or stay out of the conversation, dynamic, happenings, etc. For their part my brother and his wife seemed aware of my issues, seemed to appreciate that I tried to push through them, and gave me a broad clearance to just sort of fumble through the weekend.

I did try my best. The day of the wedding I stayed busy helping with "this" and "that" but the whole thing nearly went south on the drive from the hotel to the ceremony. My shoelace on my rented shoe decided to snap and I had no spares. We drove to a CVS where I walked every aisle, twice, while my anxious father (if you think I'm an anxiety-run monster you should meet him when he's stressed) tried to keep me calm. I eventually found the shoe lace display (end cap - right near the checkouts) and picked out a pair. We left the store and I just lost my mind. Swore, cried, threw my shoe for distance and refused to get to back in the rental car unless my father agreed to take me back to the hotel and leave me alone for the night. I'll bet every other shopper in that store's parking lot was deeply confused by the debate that followed about love, relationships, respect, honor, commitment, and duty (we were talking about the brotherly bond - not marital). 

My father prevailed, barely. I got in the car and we went off to the wedding. The next however many hours are truly a blur. I don't remember the ceremony or the pictures. I have no idea what I said in my toast (I quoted Jay-Z for sure). I don't remember w aan old friend I had lost touch with who came over and engaged me in what became probably the best chat I'd had in months). 

In reality the only thing I really remember about that evening was about ten minutes I spent with just my daughter down on the docks long after the formalities of the day were over. We sat and chatted about "Mommy" and life and she got upset and I gave her another talk about emotions and honesty (a theme we repeated a lot during that phase) and I tried to convince her it was all going to be okay (like my own parents had tried to convinced me) and she eventually calmed down, held my hand, looked in to my eyes and said "I don't know why you swore at Uncle Ryan over your socks. I don't think you were upset about them at all." 


Buy This Album . . .

I have a bit of an "epiphany" last week. It may have been brought on by any number of things . . . my Rosh Hashanah reflections, a lack of blog topic inspirations, my loathing of the "Pumpkin Spice Latte is back and we're all better off for it" gushing in the world, or it could be that I'm exhausted with Miley Cyrus "twerk" talk but I've come to realize my tastes have evolved a lot in the last year.

Perhaps it is that I'm making decisions for "me" for the first time in a decade (not that my still sorta' wife ever told me what to think, read, listen to, watch, eat, drink, etc. but I used try to keep her in context in my behaviors) but at this point I'm just sorta' on my own and making decisions on things that seem to be more influenced by the experience that lead up to being "alone" than the people I left behind or the status of being alone. I'm rambling . . . music.

We're here to discuss music. When I was a young man (in age - emotionally I'm still waiting for adolescence and the dropping of my plums that would signal manhood) I had a very clear idea of what music I liked . . . simple . . . rap/hip hop (I would drone on and on about the difference between the two to all who would endure it), classical music, singer songwriters, opera, adult contemporary (whatever my mother enjoyed, as a general rule of thumb) and a little pop music.

I've refined that musical taste quite a bit. I listen to very little rap/hip hop anymore (if you remove my workout music that number goes to just about zero) and I focus mainly on singer/songwriters and classical music. If it isn't spoke word over a sample, music performed by dozens of hands or a few highly trained voices, or something that was written, recorded, performed, and produced by the same person (or group of people) . . . I'm out.

Enter this fantastic woman named Neko Case and her new album "The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You." (yes, that is the name of the album). Now there is nothing "new" about Neko Case. I can't pretend I stumbled upon some woman strumming in a local coffee shop and knew her "when" (she's been making music commercially for 20 years) and there is nothing all that special about her (in terms of why I might be drawn to her - she's wonderfully talented) but here we are with this album that she wrote and recorded over the last few years and it is simply beautiful and I can not get enough of it.

With the exception of "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu" (which is just sort of upsetting - it is based on a true story, I heard on KMUW, and reminded Case of her own childhood, sadly) the entire album seems like something that could be about just about anyone and yet it is about her. It is about her life. Her perspectives and experiences. I think it is really "brave" (for lack of a better word) to make an album like this - sort of loose in genre and meandering in spirit yet clearly about a life lived - and to have the talent to really pull it off makes it all the more appreciable.

Have a listen. See if you can hear moments of yourself in it. I just hope it is not "Honolulu" that hits home for you. Bless your heart if it does.


Sunday Funday . . .

How I feel every time my daughter makes me watch Vevo videos with her - and she LOVES the pop divas so . . . a LOT of this.


Yom Kippur . . .

It's cool  - they are CANVAS (and ugly) dress shoes.
Well. It is with great excitement (and a little pause) that I acknowledge we're nearly to the end of my little primer on the Jewish holidays/Holy Days of the year - next week's Sukkot will be THE END of my holiday firsts. I'll be exactly a year in to my conversion. I've learned so much and feel very blessed.

But let's not get misty-eyed. Instead - let's get hungry, and thirsty, and reflective, and talk YOM KIPPUR!

Here are ten things you might find interesting about Yom Kippur:

  1. The Jewish day of atonement (sins past and the ones we'll commit in the future) - Yom Kippur starts at sundown exactly seven days after Rosh Hashanah ends. Yom Kippur ends the "Days of Awe" for celebrant Jews. (Friday evening - Saturday evening, this year)
  2. Yom Kippur is believed to be the day, each year, when the Book of Life is closed. The Book of Life is (and forgive the blasphemy ahead) the equivalent to Santa's "Naught and Nice" kid lists. You want to be in the Good Book, for sure. This is done through observance and good deeds throughout the year and a good dose of atonement at the end (think of it as brushing and flossing just before going to the dentist).
  3. It is believed that Yom Kippur is the day that G-d gave Moses the second set of commandments (the delay was caused by the ire of Moses seeing worshiping to false gods and other unseemly behavior after coming off the mountain and smashing the original tablets and both Moses and G-d taking some time for everyone to think about what had happened) 40 days after the first set. 
  4. One of the sacrifices made for Yom Kippur is not to wear or carry animal hides. No leather shoes, belts, purses, wallets, bomber jackets, etc. I looked and looked for some good shoes but - ultimately decided buying shoes was not the point. I'll wear my tenny-runners tonight and tomorrow. We will also go without bathing, oils and perfumes, lotions, and sex (sorry, ladies - I just can't). Seems fair.
  5. The biggest (and still appropriate, I might point out (hey - look - the book is not yet closed) sacrifice is to go without any drink or fluid (including cough drops and hard candy (according to one shul's website)) for the entirety of the holiday. Don't worry - we're Jews. We have the greatest foods in allllll the religious/cultural cookbooks - we'll eat WELL at sundown tomorrow. 
  6. Yom Kippur services start with the Kol Nidre service including the beautiful prayer (I'm just presuming every congregation sings it this well) this evening. The Kol Nidre releases its reciters from any and all vows made in the last year. Why would we release ourselves from all promises? Simple. Humans are weak and we get ourselves in to situations we should not or that are not reflective of the way we should live. It is also believed the Kol Nidre prayer was specifically written during a time of persecution when Jews were being forced to disavow their faith and pledge themselves as Christians. The prayer allowed Jews a way back. Of course the prayer will always be a quick reference guide to anti-semites who claim a Jew's word is worth nothing because of this prayer. 
  7. The Holy Day continues ALL day tomorrow with a series of services, readings, reflections, and talks. The crude argument is that the reason for the full day of activities is to fill the void in stomachs but the far more realistic reaction is because the point of the day is to reflect and atone so - let's reflect at atone together.
  8. Interestingly enough many of the prayers and confessionals (to borrow from my Catholic youth) of the holy day do not talk about forgive me for I (singular) have sinned but, instead, forgive US for WE have sinned? Does this allow blanket forgiveness for our fellow believers? Perhaps. Does it, instead, make it less uncomfortable to acknowledge what sins in each pile of transgressions we MAY have committed ourselves? Probably. Think about seven year old kids who get caught and immediately say they were not the only ones. 
  9. The other big prayer, that typically closes Yom Kippur services, is the Ne'ilah ("locking") when we acknowledge the book and gates are closed and our chances to atone are over. I think it is the inspiration for Semisonic's "Closing Time" - but maybe that is just me (that is a joke, for the record).
  10. Leonard Cohen has some thoughts on repentance . . . that sorta' freak me out (and make me tap my toe).

May your fast be easy, your name found in the good book, and your 5774 sweet. Shalom. 


My First Finish Line . . .

A fellow Start2Finish program participant and I sprint it out (by our standards)
while taunting each other at the Finish Line (the ONLY fun thing about running).
Well . . . with just four and a half weeks remaining until the Prairie Fire Marathon and a few days less than that left in the formal Start 2 Finish training program through GoRun Wichita - I figured it was high time to at least TRY a race. Why?

I had been told (and, for the record, it is VERY true) that race "conditions" are very, very different than a regular run. Some differences I found:

  1. (For me) Daylight alone was a little odd. I rarely start a run while the sun is in the sky. Just having broad day light (and quickly rising (totally AVERAGE, I'd like to point out) early-September temperatures) looming above me made the experience feel different.
  2. There are a LOT of people milling about. Not just runners (there were nearly 1,000) but staff, volunteers, sponsors, vendors, cops, motorcyclists (for NO apparent reason), family, friends, supporters, etc. 
  3. It is super chaotic. This may only matter to people with my anxieties but all those people and a lack of clearly defined timing and expectations makes for odd idle time. You are not totally sure when to start stretching or where to do it. There is a band playing over "here" and a radio station broadcasting live with speakers blaring over "there" and there are people yelling and screaming and laughing and hanging out. You are not totally sure how long you have for a warm up run (I had just done eight miles 20 minutes earlier so I felt loose) or where to do it. You are not totally sure where on your shirt to put your "bib" or how to put it on (Okay, this was a confusion unique to me but it got me wound up) and there are people there to socialize with (something I don't factor in to running).
  4. Once you get lined up there will be a very odd version of the National Anthem played that is longer than needed. I don't mind the anthem but why the guitar/rock version and why not make sure everyone is quiet and ready?
  5. Once they start the race (luckily this one was organized - as I'm told is the standard - in groups based on speed and intended activity (walk or run)) there are several minutes (for us slow pokes) where you just sort of stand there - this feels odd.
  6. "Moving" is a misnomer in the very early going. At least for this race there were people in front who were holding hands - essentially blocking the path. There are stroller pushers to your left - a curb with cones and rope to your right. A woman talking very loudly with her kid directly behind you. Patience is no virtue here - you're being timed. Just say "excuse me" and push through. It took me .4 miles to get clear of the pack. 
  7. Pacing is SUPER HARD when you're not used to running with people. Look over your left shoulder - an 11:00 miler. To the right? 8:00 miler. And the woman pushing the stroller? Who knows. Thankfully I had my (borrowed) Garmin to help me out but I still fluctuated wildly (everything from 17:20 at the mid-point (I walked for a bite) to a robust 8:15 at the very end) in pace. NOT good for me to think about going from a 3ish miler to a 13.1 miler. I have to be consistent.
  8. Finding a "pace car" is huge. I got lucky. I quickly spotted a guy I have seen at my GoRun Wichita group runs. I knew (from seeing him) he ran at about my pace (he does a walk/run hybrid that sort of plagued my initial hopes but - overall - he was close to my speed). I never let him out of my sight (including when he was behind me). 
  9. Volunteers MEAN well. But the clapping, the cheering, the outstretched hands for high fives, and the coaching is wicked unwelcome for this curmudgeon (I know 99% of the world will appreciate them). SIDEBAR - If you utter a profanity on the race course, you may be "warned" by a volunteer . . . super awkward moment.
  10. Also - using profanities on a race course is apparently discouraged (what sort of "sport" is this?).
  11. The course markers are your best friend. Distance, turning, etc. The only non-human factor on the course and escape from the clutter and confusion accordingly. 
  12. Crossing the finish line really does feel amazing. Maybe my first indication that there is "accomplishment" in what I am doing and that there will be moments where crossing an arbitrary line in the proverbial sand can actually make you feel better, stronger, and more accomplished. 
I need to get a few more races under my belt in the next few weeks. I am getting more and more physically ready (I finished at about a 13:30 pace, for the record - exactly what I wanted) but I'm getting more and more worried about my mental focus and preparation. There will be a lot more people running in, spectating, supporting, and making noise on the morning of the half. 


Hateful . . .

I rarely cry the sky is falling - because it is not. It never really is. I rarely try to make mountains out of molehills - that's a lie. I do it all the time. But there is something going on in this great land we call "home" that has me concerned. Truly. Racism and hatred is on the rise again.

Once upon a time (not even a century ago) you could openly disparage a woman for being a woman. Not that much more recently (a not long time ago - fifty years, tops) you could openly hate a person by the color of their skin. Recently (three days ago-ish) you could still, in certain geographies, hate people for their sexual orientation. You'll always, sadly, be able to have unabashed hatred for the obese . . . even as we all get fatter. Why am I giving history lessons? Because the bell curve of enlightenment seems to be on the downward slope again.

Think about some of the news of the last few weeks . . . NFL players calling fellow concert goers "n*ggers." An Orthodox Jew calling the wife of a politician an Arab (and not in a kind way). A black man in New York City beating another man in broad daylight because he was the "next white man I see" and that was all it took. A comedian in Connecticut makes the race of his boorish, rude, and disrespectful audience the apparent motive for them booing and harassing him verbally. A sports franchise refuses to change the name out of respect for a people that could consider it a slur and don't say it is okay - because people who are not of the slurred background say it is okay. Sports analysts refer to each other with cheesy slurs. And that is just on the national media stage - do you pay attention to Twitter? Facebook? What a nightmare!

How many of the above incidents do you know about (since I left names out)? How many incidents happen every single day that I don't know about (I'm not terribly well read or informed on these things) but I've been noticing a trend that bothers me . . . no one seems to pay attention, no one seems to really "care" and no one seems to be doing anything more than allowing and ignoring it.

I know, I know. We have real problems and most of the above incidents are just words used in isolated incidents and blah, blah, blah. I disagree. I think these words and this growing trend is about something larger - it is about our apathy. It is about the fact that we have become so free and loose to say whatever we want to say (trust me - I'm the BIGGEST abuser of "I'll speak my mind when and where I want to" you'll ever meet) without any real concern that anyone is going to say or do anything about it. We make one apology and it is over. Second chances. We offer an olive branch and it is accepted. Bygones. We point the finger and say (s)he did it too. Glass houses.

Screw that. I am still horrified (and always will be) when people I know come off as small minds in their words and actions. I am a snob. I don't surround myself with people who aren't not at least a little snobby in their own right and yet - there it is - poor thinking before speaking in action.

We have to do better for each other and FOR OURSELVES. Let's end the age we are in now where these tensions and hatreds and bigotries are allowed to just happen and where we only look at the big picture of impact (slavery, the Holocaust, genocide, Matthew Shepherd, etc. etc. etc.) to say something is a real problem. Let's not let our kids grow up in a world where stuff like hate is just accepted and allowed and forgiven. Let's do better and be better.

Because I don't want to say the sky is falling but I fear that if we let these "little" things continue to mount and grow and build momentum we won't be that long before we have a real problem on our hands and that is a slippery slope.


3 "Simple" Steps . . .

Well . . . I'm back from the first part of the High Holy Days. WHAT an adventure. I spent many, many hours contemplating life, purpose, mission, vision, and the hugeness of life but in a lot of small moments. ONE moment that I found particularly profound (and I should clarify here I'm stealing the seed for this post from my Rabbi) is the notion of finding life's purpose. Here is what was proposed: Three "simple" steps . . .

1) Get a blank sheet of paper
2) Write, in your best handwriting "My Life's Purpose" at the top.
3) Start writing proposed statements and keep writing until you write one that makes you cry.

Those tears are it. They are the key to purpose. Okay, okay . . . I get it. Life is NEVER that simple . . . or is it? I will fully acknowledge here that I broke one of the "forbiddens" of Rosh Hashanah and strung more than one letter together and I tried this.

The "CliffsNotes" . . . and a few disclaimers:

  1. I was very tired when I did this exercise despite having a day of just sort of sitting around in temple and pondering and praying. 
  2. I was struck, during services, that I am sorta' alone in this whole situation. No - not in a "no one loves me way" but in a way that means I was going home to an empty house and I had no one to chat with or pass time with during my long hours of introspection.
  3. I tried, very hard, to hit this exercise in a very "high handed" way . . . meaning I started out really profound hoping that is where I'd hit. Suffices to say the first thing I wrote was "To help my child realize and live her purpose." I dry heaved for a while and moved on to something a little more real "To make the world a better place than it was when I arrived." I rolled my own eyes at myself and went lower - way low - "To find the perfect turkey sandwich." I pushed my hunger aside and kept searching for the sweet spot.
  4. I got very distracted from the exercise about ten minutes (and twenty listed "life purpose" proposals) in because I started to think it was a trap . . . it was not really about finding the purpose - the tears would come when you realized how impossible this fool's errand was.
  5. After reading a chapter of In the Garden of the Beasts and organizing my book shelves, I picked my Sharpie back up and went back to writing. 
  6. "To accept that I don't know it all so I need to keep looking for knowledge." was where I resumed. I may want to punch myself in the face for sharing this with the world but I knew I was getting closer.
  7. I tapped my Sharpie on my cheek for a while. And it hit me (and I knew it hit me because the tears started before I started writing) . . . 
  8. I wrote down my life's purpose ("To spend every day trying to appreciate that I got to live it." - if you care) and put my Sharpie away.
  9. Bruce Willis was dead the whole time, man. 
It is probably cliche and BS but it really is where I netted out. It is vague enough to allow me to be the mess that I am yet directional enough to show that I am aware that I can and should be better. Seems like a purpose worth pursuing to me. 


Rosh Hashanah . . .

Apples and honey? Sure. But there is more food. So much
more food. Jewish food is the best food because Jewish
food don't stop (repeat over rap beat).
It is hard (for me) to believe that I first met with Rabbi Davis and started my conversion a full year ago (it was just before Rosh Hashanah when we first met) and even harder to believe I waited so long to meet with him and to start the process. The FINAL of the "firsts" of my experience lay ahead - the High Holy Days are finally upon us and I am ready. In honor of Rosh Hashanah (that started last night at sundown - this post was put together on Sunday afternoon) . . . some trivia:

1) Yes. Rosh Hashanah is marked on different days of the common calendar year to year but the date remains the same on the Hebrew calendar.

2) Rosh Hashanah is NOT the first day of the year (5774, in this case) but, instead, the 1st and 2nd days of the seventh month (Tishri) of the year. Why? Seven is special to Jews (and to Prince/The Jabberwocks).

3) The Seder, typically thought of in connection with Passover, is also held for Rosh Hashanah only all the food is even more sweet than it might otherwise be to mark and anticipate a sweet new year.

4) The marking of the new year is mainly about G-d opening his three books once a year to do some basic accounting. One book (the one we all hope to be in) is a book of the "good." The second (that we don't want to be in) is a book of the "bad" - those that shall perish pretty much immediately. The third (where most of us will spend most of the years of our lives) are souls and beings that are in the middle and need more work and time. No Santa Claus jokes needed here folks, one is secular humor the other is the essence of the beliefs of a major religion.

5) The sound of the shofar actually scares me. Even though I can watch a person put it to their lips and I know it is coming. I know what dogs feel like on the fourth of July. We'll leave it at that.

6) Tashlich (translated "to cast") is part of the Rosh Hashanah tradition. To mark the occasion Jews will gather by a flowing body of water (as available) and recite prayers and then take pieces of bread and release them - as though casting of their sins or anything that is holding them back (envy, sadness, anger, etc.). It promises to be emotional for me because, well, pretty much everything is these days.

7) There are several services and ceremonies starting at sundown before the first day of Rosh Hashanah but nearly all are on the first day of the two day celebration. The second is largely reserved for reflection and prayer and preparing for the year ahead - presuming you are not in the "bad" book.

8) Like with many of the larger Jewish holidays there is a strong suggestion that the day be honored as the Sabbath should be. That includes NO going to work, making fire, handling money, etc. etc. etc. That means foods that are room temperature and/or slow-cooked (so you can set the oven to warm before sundown and cook throughout, as needed) OR that are quick and easy to prepare after sundown when the typical fast (for those that fast) is broken. Like so many things in the Jewish culture, there are no strict and universal rules, I'm told, for how to truly honor Rosh Hashanah in terms of work/power/energy. I'm going to TRY to not use any electricity or handle any money and will only be driving to/from temple happenings and I'm going to fast for as much of the 48 hours as I can.

9) One of my favorite Jewish foods (going all the way back to my college days) - the challah - gets a twist (that is an intentional pun, I don't care what you think of it) by going to the ROUND vs. long/braided form. I can't eat too much challah (because of the sweeteners in it) but I gladly partake every Friday evening at oneg and will be again this holiday.

10) The High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) are often clumped together as a season of reflection but they are separate and distinct occassions. I'll prattle on about Yom Kippur in about a week. You've been warned.

Happy New Year, y'uns. May your apples - and the year ahead - be sweet!

EDITOR'S NOTE - NO posts until Sunday in honor of the holiday (unless I get motivated on Saturday).


Long and Strong . . .

If you have one of these on your car - go to a mirror, make a
face like you smell rotten milk and dog poop, shake your head
slowly from side to side and just stare at yourself. I'll wait.
Well, well, well. 13 weeks of Go Run Wichita's Start 2 Finish program later and I can look you square in the eye and say "Yeah, I have run 13.22 miles. And it was not that horrible."

This is not where I say something as cliche as "If I can do it - YOU can do it" (although I did once crack myself up by looking at our HR person and saying "If I can do it - YOU can lower our health insurance premiums.") but this is where I say what I've said for weeks . . . if you set a goal and have a support system and a training plan a half marathon is TOTALLY doable (presuming you don't have health issues, a baby in your belly, some failing knees or some weak-assed kicks). I won't bore you with too much of the details but I will say this - I spent 2 hours and 56 minutes running on Saturday morning and I covered more distance than I ever have before in less time than it took me to do 11 miles or 12 miles. Why? How? I have to presume it is because I've been training.

I have kept notes of my every run (there are even embarrassing videos I've shot where I talk to the camera/myself with useful tips ranging from what color combos of t-shirts and shorts I think I look best in to how to I can best approach (strategically) the 1st and Oliver red light for a break or to not have to stop - depending on how I'm feeling to why my calves hurt after some runs and not others (hint: at the time I truly believed peanut consumption had something to do with it)) and I've not missed a single scheduled work out and I've talked to friends who are runners/athletes (two things I'll never claim to be) for advice and thoughts and suggestions and I've gotten to know Kevin with GoRun Wichita and a few folks with the marathon itself, etc. I've approached this running "thing" as I did school or starting a new job or trying to woo a woman (without overtly staring at her pretty face and errant lipstick on her teeth) and tried to learn.

Simple things:

  1. Hydration and food along the run (you're NOT living until you jog a 14:30 page past a woman who is doing a solid 8:00 mile with a packet of peanut butter in one hand and a water bottle filled with Dt. Mtn Dew - a little jolt of caffeine - in the other).
  2. Walking for just under .1 miles every 2.75 miles so my calves stay calm for the duration.
  3. Mapping out the route and driving it ahead of time to ensure there are sidewalks or broad shoulders.
  4. A playlist that features nothing but runable stuff with a beat that pushes you to go faster vs. slower.
  5. Polyester wicking clothing. I'm kidding. I hate that stuff. 
  6. Gold Bond spray powder. That special tingle that will likely only ever be appreciated by the morbidly obese runner you hope and pray you never become.  
  7. People mean well when they encourage you later in the run but screaming "Look the other f*cking way, assh*le." to the bicyclist with the LED headlight on his helmet that wants to look you in the eye/blind you while chatting you up at 5:30 AM CT is totally acceptable. It is. I promise. 
  8. When you can barely walk and your seven year old helps you off the couch two hours after a run and remarks "I don't get it. You are getting skinnier - why can't you stand up?" you are best off just saying "I don't know, kiddo." 
  9. Cross training and rest days are every bit as important as running workouts. Don't skip or cheat either.
  10. Chik-fil-a ownership is small minded on social issues but their diet lemonade is the greatest reward for a well-done "long run" on the open market today.

And there have been lessons along the way that all combined to making this week's run super, super scary and super, super doable. More important? I've still got 38 days to get ready (stronger, faster, more prepared) for the REAL 13.1 mile run I'm training for and there is NO CHANCE it will be nearly as hot or humid that day as it was Saturday (insert evil laughter here).


Beverages . . .

My child pointed, something out to me yesterday that I noticed about myself years and years ago but I honestly don't know if I ever thought anyone else ever noticed it . . . I don't go ANYWHERE without a beverage.

Five minute car ride? I take a drink with me. Meeting in the office? Let me just grab my cup off my desk - I'll be right there. Lunch? Where is the wait staff - I need a beverage.

Now I am not a "drinker" and I try to keep it simple (water, iced tea, diet soda (which I know I should not drink but it is so darned delicious I get weak), hot tea, milk, the occasional iced, sugar free syrup sweetened, milk diluted coffee drink, and an energy drink if I'm really dragging) and I will indulge in sugar free sports drinks after running only (I don't particularly care for the taste of them unless I am sweaty and tired) but there is something about my hands that needs something to drink in one or both of them. I typically think it is about hydration and my allergies and sinuses if I don't stay hydrated and I would like to think it is about general health and nutrition (again - the diet soda aside) but, realistically, it is a crutch to have something to drink at all times.

I act like someone that was raised poor and hungry who won't leave leftover food on a plate (I was not raised poor or hungry and I rarely leave food behind) or a person that grew up with bad parents who decides to be the best. parent. ever. accordingly. It is just some sort of quirk in my personality. I add it to the rest of them and hope no one notices. Except my kid. Who made fun of me. I can't wait until she discovers the rest of my other ticks. I'm screwed.


Labor Day . . .

And this is not even the worst piece of clip art I could find.
Today is, apparently, a federal holiday. And - like many of its fellow holidays (July 4th, Memorial Day, Christmas, President's Day, MLK Jr. Day, etc.) it will be spent in one of five ways by your "average" American:

Shopping, Sleeping, Overeating, Obsessively Social Mediaing, and/or Working Anyway.

But why? We. Don't. Know. Once upon a time holidays used to mean something. There was actual value and reason behind/in them. They were appreciated by those who marked them and we paid a wee homage to those that sacrificed that we might have them. And yet how many of you know the true origins of Labor Day? How many of you know how we would, could, and should mark and celebrate the day? How many of you care? No?! No one?! Well, me neither.

I'll just do this - spend a few minutes this morning being grateful that I go to work every day where I have a cubicle of my own, temperature of the air regulated for me, power at my avail, a relative sense of safety and security in my job and in my environment, some technology in my pocket that lets me work and be reachable nearly anywhere, and that I work in a profession and industry and for an employer who gives all federal holidays off. I'll give a nod to all the men and women who get up every day, like me, and go to work in very different situations and who have no such protections or comforts. I'll acknowledge the men and women and children that worked in horrible conditions and doing dreadful things that I might have the opportunity to do what I do now. I fist bump whoever had the heart and intent to establish a holiday to mark the labor that made this country great. I shake a finger at people who don't think we need to spend more money and resources educating and empowering future generations to keep this country great. I do all that on my way out shopping where my real mission for the day will be to secure a bathing suit for my kiddo. Thankfully, for my selfishness, not every business is closed today and some people are working. And for THAT - I thank you. Truly.

Be safe and take thirty seconds to be appreciative today,  y'uns.