Have a Little Fun Along the Way

Running an official race always reminds me of the joys of long distance running. Before the race, I admire fellow runners who (like me) are crazy enough show up in the dark on an unusually cold 40 degree morning in SW Florida covered in multiple layers to wait in long lines outside of porta-potties taking care of last minute details before our 13.1 mile run. Right before the announcer yells “GO!” (seriously, no gun?), many long sleeved outer layers are stripped off and tossed aside. Others are peeled off after mile 2, 3, or 4 as the sun begins to poke its warming rays above the horizon. Shirts, gloves, hats, and scarves can been seen flying to each side of the race course, sometimes dropped on the side of the road and other times thrown into the waiting arms of a friend or volunteer.

I take note of the shirts people wear in a race because I recognize for each runner the choice of what to wear is deliberate, conscious, planned, and it can be revealing. Some wear the shirt for the current race, many others (including me) wear shirts from past races. Some display motivational messages, others have shirts honoring a loved one. In this half marathon, one guy had a Superman top on (no tights). He was fit, and he was fast, and he knew it.

Today, I happen to be wearing my favorite full zip high neck red wicking overlayer which I’m unwilling to sacrifice. So, shortly before mile 3, I sneak to the sidelines and tie it around my waist revealing my Vermont Marathon t-shirt underneath. An older man followed my lead. After he secured the shirt around his waist, I noticed two things: 1) his short sleeved shirt said “13.1 Fueled by Fine Wine” across the back, and 2) he was a run/walker like me (Galloway method of running where you take short walk breaks in regular intervals during the race). Though we never spoke a word, he and I instantly bonded, and he became one of my “race buddies”.

No matter the distance, I mentally latch onto certain runners around me. It’s similar to a long distance drive when I end up in a pack of cars traveling at the same speed (in my case, above the speed limit). We drive together until someone has to exit. The same is true in running. My pack for this race ended up being Fine Wine guy, a younger guy wearing a “Play 60” shirt designed like a football jersey, a pair of young women wearing brightly colored sequined skirts and hot pink tank tops that said “Warrior Princess” across the back, and a very petite woman with a pile of curly black hair flying behind her in a massive pony tail. It was these strangers with whom I kept pace for the first 10 miles. When one of us slowed down to walk or take some water, that person always reappeared near by, a few strides behind the guy carrying the 2:00 pace flag.

Though my pack stayed close, other runners weaved in and out both passing and being passed. Most runners maintain a fairly even stride with a straight back kick, but today I spotted three separate runners who kicked out to the side. How does that not hurt? Their feet looked like little wings trying to flap hard enough to lift the rest of the body off the ground. Others runners bounced excessively up and down or shuffled along with rapid half strides. I want to tap these people on the shoulder and offer free advice to improve their form, but I let them be because the beauty of the long distance runner is that none of us is afraid to do his/her own thing. Whether that thing involves donning a sparkly skirt, or wearing a special t-shirt, or bouncing as if on a pogo stick. Through running, each of us is expressing our uniqueness without fear because at the end of the race each of us will be a sweaty, smelly, hot mess. So, why not have a little fun along the way?

For me the fun begins when the runners in my pack begin to flag. In an official race, people push hard early on and end up running out of juice. Shortly after mile 7 everyone in my pack had passed the 2:00 pace runner, but by mile 10, Fine Wine and Play 60 dropped back. I passed the Warrior Princesses less than half a mile later, and finally caught up to pony tail girl in the last mile finishing ahead of them all and never looking back. It was a race after all, and someone had to win 🙂


Both my brothers despise Florida. For them it is a land of the old and/or the misdirected. Materialism reigns supreme in this chain store filled strip mall hellhole. They want nothing to do with it, though both acknowledge the day will come when they have to board a plane to the sunshine state in order for their tots to meet Mickey.

I don’t completely disagree with their points of view. It seems there are three basic activities in Florida: beach time, shopping, and eating. Luckily, I enjoy all three, but I can’t imagine full time residency here. Partly because of my fairest of them all complexion-I’d surely contract skin cancer in the first 12 months, but also because once you start taking the warm sunny days for granted, there is not much else of interest here. Even the topography is boring. I think after 3 months I’d give my right arm for a hill to hike up.

Still, I appreciate the value Florida affords me as a short term hiatus from the cold northern winter. I’ll take 80 degrees and sunny on a January day over 8 degrees and blowing snow which is what my weather app just reported for the forecast back home. Call me a snowbird if you must (I’ve been called worse) but remember Florida, I’m defending you in this blog post!

To all the haters out there (namely my 2 brothers). I say throw another log on the fire suckers because you are facing eight more weeks of winter, and I’m sitting outside barefoot “working”.

Update: in 2017 I bought a house and officially became a resident of the sunshine state. My new home has it’s issues and I do go through buckets of sunblock but still totally worth it.

Road Trip

Tomorrow, January 1, 2014, I’ll be in the car starting a 3 day drive to south Florida. I’m going for work, not for vacation, but I chose to drive so that I could bring my dog (and more stuff). I just finished loading my luggage into the car. Maybe the “more stuff” aspect was a mistake?

In high school, I took road trips to visit colleges, or to visit friends in other places. During college, road trips were about coming to/going from school, or to relieve boredom. One winter, a friend and I decided on a last minute drive to DC for a protest march. After the 7 hour drive, a few hours sleep, and an all day march in the cold, we turned around and drove back.

After college graduation, I drove cross country with a friend from Baltimore to San Francisco. We took our time stopping to see the sights including the corvette museum (KY), Graceland, old town Albuquerque, the Grand Canyon, and the meteor crater (AZ). I’ve driven cross country by myself a few times, too. Once on I-10 in Texas a car flew past me like I standing still. When I looked down at my speedometer, it read 105mph.

Now that I’m over 40, long days in the car aren’t so much fun. My back hurts, my legs go numb, and if I have anything to drink, I know to start thinking about a pit stop because I have 20 minutes until I’ll need a restroom. Of course, I can plug my phone into the car and use hands free calling. I can also plug my ipod into the car and listen to music commercial free. Neither of those options was available during my last road trip. Plus my car gets better gas mileage these days. Fewer fill ups frees up money for my hotel upgrade since I’m no longer willing to crash at cheap flea bags.

The one thing I am looking forward to is a little down time. It has been a busy year, and there is nothing like hours of endless highway to review the highlights of the past 12 months, and set new goals for 2014. Happy New Year!

The Season of Giving

Christmas shopping is done. Gifts are wrapped. Now we wait, with anticipation, for the unwrapping. I start shopping early (August) because I take time and carefully consider each person on my list. The kids are easy so I usually save them for last, but because it is important for me to get everyone something they will really appreciate, I find the entire holiday shopping experience a bit stressful.

“It’s the thought that counts,” right? But that is exactly my point. I want my gift to demonstrate the level of thought.

The Santa side of Christmas thrives on the multitude of options available to elicit the trademark joyous expressions on the faces of small children Christmas morning. An oversized stuffed animal, legos, a life like doll, or in the case of my nephew this year-those roller skate sneakers. I opted not for the plain gray generic pair, but instead went with Heely’s designed like a red race car. They even have headlights that light up. It doesn’t matter that he is five and those shoes cost more than any pair I’ve ever bought for myself, or that he will outgrow them in 6 months. I know on Christmas morning when he opens that box that I will have given him the greatest present EVER, at least until he opens the next one…

“Tis better to give than to receive” is easy to believe in when the kids are so happy.

Recreating the same joy and excitement for adults is nearly impossible. With my mom, I knew if she cried, that was a good thing. Even though I would have preferred a smile, tears were her genuine form of emotional expression. Dad, always quiet and serene, still reveals his truest opinion about a gift by his actions. The longer he hangs onto it without setting it aside, the closer I’ve come to success. My brother always has a snarky comment for each gift he opens (except the ones from his wife), but never achieving the same awestruck reaction from grown ups as I do with kids is disappointing for me-especially because I’ve put in four times the effort to find the adults something they might appreciate. Should I give up my quest and get gift cards for everyone?

“We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” The Harry Potter series shares a lot of universal truths.

I don’t want to gift like a hack. Bah humbug to the safe/generic present. This year, like every year I remind myself that the non-Santa side of this holiday is about the birth of Jesus. We share gifts in recognition for the gift we (Christians) were given by the birth of God’s son, and since nothing I can buy in a store is going to top the gift of life, my gift giving should simply strive to reflect the love I feel for those receiving (even if they aren’t jumping up and down with joy).

True expressions of love in whatever form are the only gifts that really matter. Merry Christmas to all.


I’ve been thinking a lot about fireflies. Like most children, I chased after them on warm summer nights collecting them carefully in between my cupped palms and placing them in a jar which I kept by my bed. When I woke up in the morning, they were always dead. You would think I’d figure out that trapping them in a jar makes for an unhappy ending, but I’m impulsively possessive. Logic takes a vacation when it comes to something I covet. THIS time will be different, I tell myself. THIS time the fireflies will be alive and happy to see me when I wake up.

I’m not sure exactly what age I stopped chasing fireflies, but I’d guess it was around the same time I started chasing boys. Funny how I made the same mistakes. I was pretty good at capturing them, but once they were mine, I held on too tight, and woke up disappointed. Any guesses on how long it took me to realize the problem and take steps to correct it? The light bulb came on last week. Thirty years of self sabotage. Okay, that is not fair, I’ve recognized the problem for at least ten years, but the voice in my head always offered the false assurance, THIS time will be different.

I heard that voice again last weekend as I stared into beautiful blue eyes that sparkled with light like a firefly. Instantly, I was transported to a field in early summer feeling warm, safe, and happy. I smile now thinking about the time we spent together and a familiar voice whispers in my head, THIS time might REALLY be different, but I know better. THIS time, I call out the flaws in my past logic, and tread cautiously with an eye toward survival for both of us. If this relationship gets messed up, I promise myself it won’t be because I trapped him until he couldn’t breathe. THIS one will fly freely as I calmly enjoy each moment, and if I remember correctly, when you are patient and trusting, the firefly comes to you.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Have you ever noticed that most restaurants don’t serve turkey unless it is a holiday? The first and only time I ate Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant, someone took my order, cooked my food, served it to me, and it all felt very very wrong. Restaurants are for celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, or because it has been a long day and there is nothing in the fridge, but Thanksgiving dinner is more than a meal. It is about giving thanks for each other through the process of travel and food shopping and football and setting the table and taking out the trash, and laughter, and occasional shouting.

More than ever this year, a number of people I know are opting to dine out at a restaurant for Thanksgiving. They say it’s easier. I say they are missing the point. Criminals surely think that stealing is easier than earning something themselves. Cheaters think copying answers is easier than studying, and Hollywood obviously thinks remaking an old film is easier than coming up with a new idea, but is easier better? Rarely. I believe making time and putting in the effort reflects what is important to you.

At our house, the November holiday includes three generations of family and friends sharing a potluck of holiday food, but the celebration begins long before the turkey roasts, the pies bake, and the house fills with the memories of tradition. When the first crisp fall days call summer to its end, emails fly around cyberspace asking who will be home for the holiday? There is a lot of planning involved. Where does everyone sleep? How much food do we need? With so much to think about, I’m not opposed to shortcuts. No need to tear up bread and chop onions for stuffing, Stove Top works just fine. Though I always peel and boil potatoes before mashing, instant will suffice. I’m even forgiving of store bought pie. The reward comes from demonstrating how thankful we are for the good in our lives and for each other by contributing to and sharing in the meal. Sitting down at the table together is the opportunity to take pride in each other, and it always leaves me feeling grounded, centered, and humbled because I can’t achieve it alone.

Though it can be a lot of work for a single meal, Thanksgiving offers great rewards. My most memorable Thanksgiving was during semester abroad in college. The group consisted of nine Americans-all strangers to me on day one. I was lonely and homesick in the first few weeks, but somehow in the makeshift dorm kitchen, and with the help of the University which provided the “turkey” (actually a chicken, they don’t have turkey in Japan) we cobbled together a feast for twenty eight. Our Japanese guests celebrated the totally American holiday for the first time, and I celebrated the first Thanksgiving without my family, but in the process, these strangers became my foster family, and even with an impostor turkey and frozen peas, the day was filled with laughter and love. Thanksgiving traditions bond people together long after they are physically apart.

For anyone scheduled to meet at a restaurant this Thursday to spend an hour or two at a meal just like any other, think twice. If you’d rather enjoy a home cooked meal and make some new friends, let me know. We always have room for one more 🙂

Is My Dog Sexist?

KayleeMy dog loves me. She follows me around when I’m home. She sleeps on my bed. She obeys my commands (unless I tell her to stay and then walk out of the room. She can’t stand to have me out of her line of sight). None of this is unusual. Dogs adore their masters. I feed her. I walk her. When her paw hurts, she offers it to me to fix. When the skunk sprays her, she submits to me to rid her of the stink. I provide her whatever she wants or needs, but there is one exception. It’s my Dad. On a normal day, the dog doesn’t pay Dad much attention at all. If he reaches out to pet her, she will sometimes move away and other times allow it depending on her mood. She doesn’t dislike him, but he clearly makes her nervous. Then yesterday, I come into the living room and my dog is curled up on Dad’s lap as hail from the storm outside pelts the windows. A clap of thunder sends my dog running to find Dad every time. No amount of cooing or cuddling from me will do. I do not understand this especially when a storm rolls through in the middle of the night, and she jumps off my bed to find him.

She doesn’t seem to realize that he can’t protect her any better than I can. He is nearly 84 years old and has the physical strength of a 7 year old girl. He doesn’t see or hear well, and he smells like an old guy. How do I describe that smell exactly? Well, it is similar to the scent of rotting pumpkins or wet bales of hay in the Fall. Since smell is relied on by canines, I’m sure she understands the implications of his aroma, but still he is her ultimate protector. Is it because he is a man? Do dogs display gender bias? I Googled the concept and got zero hits. Why has no one studied this? Would a male dog gravitate toward a male or female human when feeling threatened? I would chalk this up to one of life’s unexplainables, but in the past 10 years, I’ve found my dog to be purely predictable. There is no mystery in her method. Therefore, I know there is some answer to my question. When she and I lived alone (without my Dad), she hid under the bed during thunderstorms (still not relying on me for comfort). I look down at her and then up at him. He is very tall. Does she think he can fix the thunder because he is closest to the problem? That sounds like dog logic. Get the tall guy to turn it off, and if he has trouble, offer him a ladder. By running to Dad, she is selecting the appropriate person to cater to her needs. My dog isn’t sexist, she is just smart!

Choose Your Own Adventure

I had tremendous friendships growing up-powerful bonds so deep that my friends felt like an extension of my family. The early years often felt like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel, and no matter what form the discoveries, experiments, physical and emotional growth and turmoil took, we did it together. Our shared history cemented us, and we naively believed it could last for ever never acknowledging the gray hair, wrinkles, and change to come. You can’t predict when or how, and you can never be prepared for the affects, but as life unfolds and forces choices, change ensues. People get pulled apart. Cemented bonds begin to crumble. New adventures begin with different people. One day the mirror reflects those gray hairs and wrinkles, and when you turn to laugh about it with those you once loved best, some are missing, and others seem like imposters standing in place of friends you used to know.


It wasn’t like flipping a switch. Friendships rarely begin or end in an instant. Startling changes normally ignite a desperate rush toward the familiar, like grasping for a life preserver. The most insidious changes happened slowly, over time. So, when did my childhood friendships began to unravel? My best guess is college: the curious combination of drastic change combined with subtle transition. Four years of physical separation from the people who had been a part of everyday was also four years of new and exciting challenges and experiences. Four years away from the usual safeguards doubled as a vast ocean of possibility. College was packaged so brilliantly, I dove in gladly and ignored the ring buoy tethered to the dock in case of emergency. Four years of college showed me that I could go it alone and I released my grip on the supports I’d previously held so tightly. I was strong, powerful, and independent. I didn’t notice how far the tide was carrying me away from my old life.


After college, I reconnected with childhood friends and stood witness as they married strangers. None of us stopped to think about what was lost because the gains seemed greater. The circle was expanding, wasn’t it? No one recognized marriage as a defining threshold. My friend became the spouse of someone else and no longer shared daily adventures with me. When the children arrived, the couple became a family. A new cycle began and replaced all that came before. But I never crossed the threshold of marriage, and without traditional means to restart the cycle, I was abandoned in a sea once filled with laughter.


I see my old friends sometimes, but the tides have carried us far apart. As I wave and smile, I barely recognize them and hear only the combined murmur of their family voice. I realize they remember me as I was and cannot see who I am now. At first, my individuality reflects harshly in the bright light of middle age, but when my eyes adjust, I see that the discoveries, experiments, and growth shared shoulder to shoulder with childhood friends was meant to be a launching pad. Like “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, the key is to pick the path that will extend the story. With no spouse and no kids, my story is wide open. Though my friends disappeared down long corridors without me, my adventure is ongoing. Which door will I walk through next? And who/what will be waiting on the other side?


I just got my first iphone. Late to the party, I know. When I emailed my friends with the phone number, one sent back a quick note, “it will change you life.” If I believed that, I would have gotten one years ago. Only two things qualify as potential life changers for me:

1) winning the powerball jackpot or 2) meeting the right guy. Can the iphone help with either of those things? (Mention online dating, and I flush this thing down the toilet).

Honestly, I hate talking on the phone. I’m fine face to face, but on the phone, I’m hopelessly boring. No, really, I’ve been told this before. The problem is that I cannot think of a single thing to say. It’s like a pop quiz. Even if I did the reading, the pressure of the moment makes my mind go blank. When I have to make a call, I write a script to remember why I dialed in the first place. I do this even when calling my family.

So, why did I get an iphone? Actually, I didn’t. My boss gave me his “old” 64GB iphone 4s with the understanding that I would use it. Pretty nice hand me down, but because I’m a contract employee, I foot the monthly bill for minutes, and since I knew I wouldn’t be gabbing away on it anytime soon, I let the thing collect dust. After three weeks, my boss asked about it. That’s when I got the new SIM card. Ten days later he asked again, and now I burn $50 per month while the iphone bumps around the bottom of my purse.

I’ve been testing ways to bond with it. I enjoy the compass feature (for about 90 seconds after I’ve calibrated my location). I considered creating a reminder to call and check in with friends and family once a month, but why set myself up for such predictable failure? Instead, I have resolved to develop a relationship with my iphone through apps hoping that some gizmo I download will meld my standoffishness into dependency, but after hearing all the hype over how great apps are, I’m disappointed to find that most are useless. Why would I need a shopping app? I’m too uncoordinated for games. “To Do” list organizers are BORING, and calorie counters? Depressing.

After Googling “best” apps, here are the ones I’ve chosen:

*Facebook: Duh.

*Flashlight: huge points or being massively practical, but haven’t used it yet

*Bring Fido: the pet friendly info would be more helpful if it wasn’t so outdated

*Kindle: not loving reading on a really tiny screen

*Embark: for navigating NYC. To help me ft in with the zombie tourist mob.

*WordPress: Things are looking up! This pocket sized personal computer disguised as a telephone might be useful after all 🙂

Evolving or Moulting?

What do Princess Diana, Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, Walt Disney, Sir Richard Branson, Charles Dickens, and Elton John all have in common? Each one of them dropped out before finishing high school, but none of them needed support from Nutrisystem, Tony Robbins, or Garmin to figure out what direction to go in life. How did they evolve into the leagues of the world renowned? People write books, lead lectures, and create reality television shows about the secrets of success, but the real secret is that each path is different.

People change. At least, I believe they are supposed to change as the years slip by. My favorite things to eat as a kid were bacon double cheeseburgers, ice cream sundaes, and donuts. As a teen, I added cheap beer and tequila shots to the list. I played sports through high school, but in college, nothing interrupted my social (drinking) schedule. I developed a temper and felt awful most of the time. Twenty years later, I’m a vegetarian. I don’t drink, and I’ve run three marathons. People find out that I don’t smoke or ingest alcohol or eat meat, but I do run 26 miles for fun and they conjure images of me as a baby knawing on brocolli stalks and running laps around the crib refusing to believe that I wasn’t always this way.

In my case, transformation began as an experiment. By senior year in college, I was actively searching for ways to feel less like crap. To quit staying out until 3am at the bar every night would have been too much to ask, so I gave up fast food. It was amazing how much one small adjustment helped. That step became permanent and the process continued until I subsisted almost entirely on plant matter.

Other issues were handled in a similar fashion:

Problem: 8 hour desk job = extra pounds.

Solution: Tried the gym, didn’t like it. I had friends who jogged, so…after a few weeks, I could shuffle along (I wouldn’t call it running) for three miles, and the pounds started coming off. My sister suggested we run a marathon. I thought she was crazy, but signed on anyway. A year later, I ran across the finish line of my first 26.2 mile race ready to sign up for another. I took to running like I took to eating vegetables. Both did a lot of good with little downside.

My motivation to succeed came from a desire to unearth a better version of myself. But was I evolving or moulting? Did my changes come about because I was expanding into a better version of myself? Or had I begun to shed old layers of crud?

At certain age, we all find ourselves lacking (too ugly, too dumb, too clumsy) and start trying to cover up the bad with clothes or make up, by drinking or smoking, with over eating or under eating, or by trying on identities like Halloween costumes (I’m a jock, I’m a brain, I’m a diva) only to reach a point in life when the costumes don’t fit anymore. Whatever we’ve used to hide our true selves needs to be cast off to find the person we rejected so many years before.

Not everyone gives up fast food and ends up vegetarian. Not everyone starts exercising and becomes a marathoner, and not everyone can be Walt Disney, but everyone has a true self, a better version of you inside that needs to be visited, checked in on, touched base with, tweeted, or IM’d once in a while because that person holds the secrets to success.