30 Days of Gratitude Revisited


Thanks to the wonders of TimeHop I have been enjoying the massive ’30 Days of Gratitude’ I undertook last November (2014). And while I am not blogging anymore – and don’t really have plans to start again anytime soon – I thought it would be nice to round up all 30 days and put them out there for everyone … and so I can easily revisit them in one place.


30 Days of Gratitude – Day #1

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #2, Layoff Bliss

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #3, Feeding Frenzy

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #4, Right Here, Right Now

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #5, Yes Doctor

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #6, Emotions

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #7, I Can See (and Hear) That!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #8, A Place For Everything

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #9, The Joy of Nothing

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #10, Hello Heroes, Goodbye Vietnam-Era Hate

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #11, Always a Bigger Fish

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #12, The Quest for New Noms to Nom

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #13, The Small Joys of Video Games

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #14, The Tech-ification of Running

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #15, The Skin I Am In

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #16, I Could NOT Have Done That

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #17, Force of Will

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #18, Being Recognized

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #19, The Joy of an Epic (or not) Read

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #20, Another Year of 3000+ Running Miles

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #21, You Guys Are Awesome (Mustache Some Questions Post)

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #22, Getting Old Might Suck, But Who Really Wants to Be Young Forever?!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #23, The Power to Walk Away

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #24, Why Did They Help Me?

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #25, ‘Elephant With Earrings’***

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #26, Five Things for a Thankful Thanksgiving

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #27, I’ve Got the Music In Me

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #28, The Simple Joy of Running

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #29, Chip(s) Off The Old Block

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #30, The Better Part of Me

And there you have it … exhausting to write last year, but really said so much about who I am and what matters to me.

I hope everyone has much to be thankful for this year and gets to express it to those you love. I know that some people don’t have that luxury or opportunity, and it is one reason I try to never take what I have for granted!

Monday Moments – Grateful ‘Leftovers’, Pet Peeves and Random Reality Checks


I survived 30 days of Grateful posts … and while it was rewarding and I loved all of the great comments, it was exhausting. But I was left with a bunch of thoughts – positive, negative, etc – that I figured I would just spill out … so here goes:

Grateful ‘Leftovers’
1. I am grateful for YOU. Anyone reading this, as I get a bunch of reads and views from non-commenters (which is fine, of course). The comments here, the great thoughts shared on your own blogs, fun pics on Instagram, and so on. They are great and make me proud to be part of this group.

2. The running community Here I am talking about online, local, pretty much everyone who runs or volunteers to help runners or works in some capacity helping runners. The stories I hear all over the place warm my heart.

3. The non-running community These are the people who get us to races, cheer us on, worry when we aren’t home when we said, and so on. They are also the people who deal with redirected traffic at races, runners with headphones not following traffic rules, and so on. I complain about the occasional ‘morning moron’ who intentionally tries to push me off the road, but in general everyone I meet and talk to and deal with is incredibly encouraging and kind.

4. My Co-Workers I have talked about how wonderful everyone was when I was losing weight back in 2012, and also noted the supportive people on my project team going back and forth to Kentucky last year. And this year has been great as well – I have loved watching as some people have succeeded at joining the ‘100+’ club and looking great, and continued enjoying the support. I got asked a couple of times about my 5K this week, and it is great.

While I’m at it let me add ‘The Power of a Simple Text’ – the way my company works is very project based, so I have worked with more than a dozen separate groups of people over the 6.5 years I’ve been there. For the most part things just fade into the background, you say a quick ‘hi’ in the hallways, or at local events if you see each other. But then there are occasional friends who stick with you – and I got a fun and friendly text from one person the other night that was just super-nice and very much appreciated.

5. Humor I love laughing and having fun – which is why I have shared things such as the Oatmeal talk the other day. I love comedy movies from Airplane to Monty Python to the Marx Brothers to Blazing Saddles and more …web comics, Dilbert, Bloom County, and on and on. I love the Instagram account ‘Unspirational’, and things like this:


Pet Peeves
1. OK, this isn’t a pet peeve, but when I said in a post I would alienate some people … I wasn’t wrong. In spite of putting out content consistently for a month I have lost readers and subscribers and followers – and that is after being virtually silent for a month!

2. ‘Clean Eating’ – I am a huge fan of eating well, eating REAL food, and so on. But as I have said, ‘Clean Eating’ is seldom used in a positive way – I see it on Instagram, blogs and so on as a ‘brag-term’, or sometimes a ‘superiority hammer’, but never as anything constructive. It is a vague and largely meaningless term as used. It might as well be ‘#ImEatingCleanerThanYOUBitches’ for the way it is portrayed!

3. Instagram Hashtag ‘Attention-seekers’ (because I don’t like that word that rhymes with ‘store’, and find it still has negative connotations towards women) … um, there was one young runner whose blog I used to follow who tagged all of her Instagram posts with things like #fitnessmodel and #fitspo and about 25 more #things … and it attracted the type of attention you might expect. Sure Instagram is another way of getting yourself seen … but what is your message, and how do your hashtags convey that and what type of audience are you attracting? I do NOT believe that all attention is good attention.

4. THIS! – I mean, is there even a web site there?

Is There a Site

OK, it is pretty clear if you look at the title what site that is, and I have emailed Michele about it, and we still follow each other and comment on posts and it is all in good fun, but here’s the thing – on the one hand people need to pay for their sites, maybe for the effort they put into blogging, and if lucky enough to get a few more $ on top of that. I also understand that to get that money requires advertising, which requires code that needs to be *seen* to be useful.

But on the other hand there are limits to what people should have to deal with – and if I am an email subscriber to your blog, and click on that link in my email, I should NEVER see another thing to sign up! That is just not cool – and it is not an ad that is making you money. And to have them double-stacked with an advert on the bottom? Yeah, pretty much useless. There are more than a few sites where I see the sign-up bar at top – and I already get the daily email from all of them. Please make it stop – we should be partners working together for the best overall experience, and while we know that usually includes advertising … try to minimize the clutter wherever possible.

5. Deleted Comments, Non-Replies, Link-Ups.

Look, it is your blog, do what you want. But always be mindful of what you are doing compared to what you want for yourself. I have had a couple of ‘interesting’ experiences recently…

Replies – We want people to comment, and should honor the time they put into reading our stuff and commenting with at least a small acknowledgement. Or not – but be consistent. If you get 20 comments and respond to 5, that is one thing … but if you get 50 and reply to 49 – not so cool. And if it seems to happen fairly consistently? … well, I have ended up unsubscribing from a few sites after what felt like a campaign of non-responses.

Deletions – Personally I have never deleted a comment. I know several bloggers who HAVE deleted some, but generally because they are offensive and/or inappropriate. This past week I saw a blog post that I found a bit ironic (it talked about what it was like in the ‘old days’ and the blogger is under 25) … and replied in a light but needling manner. I started getting notifications, and headed to the site to read more comments … but noticed that there were fewer than when I had left my comment – which was also gone. Oh well – not everyone can take a joke, and it is the right of every blogger to control their own narrative.

‘Living for the Link Up’ – I love ‘Thinking Out Loud’ posts that actually ARE somewhat random – because let’s face it, at this point in our blogging community I will see close to 100 posts on my blog feed that are just ‘Thursday’s Post’ with a TOL slapped on it just to get in on the link-up. We get it – link-ups are a great way to build readership (or at least increase numbers of followers). But while anyone can add a link to the link-up, PLEASE at least try – an ordered list on a single topic? That is NOT a TOL post 🙂

OK … enough whining 🙂

Random Reality Checks

1. Exhaustion – I loved doing the 30 days of Gratitude, but similar to when I pounded out those ’10 Days of You’ in 10 days, while also doing other things … well, I am burnt.

2. Plans for Rest of 2014 Blogging – I have a couple of other posts planned: (a) a Year in Review and Goals for 2015, and … Chances are that will be all I post.

3. What Happens in 2015? – no clue. As of right now I have no concrete plans. I would like to say I’ll do a weekly check-in, but I have no idea. I’ll still be running, and you’ll see me on Instagram, but I don’t know how much (if at all) I’ll be here.

4. Focus on Being a Good Friend, Rather Than Popular! – here is the thing: as I have slowed up blogging two things have happened: (a) I enjoy my favorite bloggers more and (b) my tolerance for BS and shenanigans has dropped to nil. So rather than do the normal ‘follow 100 blogs and comment like a mad fool to try to get more followers and so on’ … I have already pared my list back considerably.

5. I Miss My Other Writing / Review Crew – before I launched this blog (and even with overlap) I was an editor at another site, and had been writing running-related stuff (The Monday Mile) for a while. But I felt like it encroached on the unified voice of the site (though no one ever said that to me) while restricting me from really exploring what I wanted to write about.

In the past 14 months I’ve published nearly 400 posts on this blog, and have really enjoyed myself, but it has been all-consuming of my internet time. So on the other site I went from being an editor to a contributor to a no-show (and on another site I have totally disengaged) … and frankly I miss that crew. These are the best people I have worked with in the 20+ years I have been writing things on the internet, and when we all met in person for the first time it was as if the email discussion just continued but live – and when Lisa joined us the following year she was immediately part of the crew. I want that back, and have started working on writing more for that site.

So that is everything for now!

Thanks again for all your support!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #30, The Better Part of Me


Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for my wonderful wife.

Day #30 – You complete me …

If you have ever read my blog, this is no surprise. Each day of my life begins, is filled with and ends with thoughts of my wife Lisa. There is so much I could say that I don’t even know where to start. So what I figured I would do is just recount several moments and memories – and unlike so much that I read, all of these won’t be positive. Real relationships have bumps, hills and valleys, challenges and troubles as well as all of the great times – pretending they don’t ignores reality. So here goes:

Mike Early Running1

1. I always go back to that moment in the atrium of Brigham & Women’s Hospital where Lisa was working and a mutual friend and I were meeting her. It was sunny and warm and she came happily bouncing down the stairs and … well, I can look back now and know that in that moment I fell in love with her. It wasn’t the first meeting by any stretch as we’d known each other for years … but it was THE moment.

2. On our first Disney trip, we went fairly budget, staying at a Holiday Inn ‘Family Resort’ in Kissimmee, where our room was great with a kid-safe bunk bed setup and kitchenette so we could have some meals there in the hotel especially since the boys were 3 and 4.5. But although there were two chairs outside there wasn’t really a ‘patio’ or deck … so at night after the boys went to sleep Lisa and I would grab a drink from the bar and sit outside. We were close to one of those giant bungee swings – close enough to be able to watch and hear, but far enough away that it wasn’t noisy or intrusive. We had such busy days with the boys, that hour of quiet chatting each evening was absolutely awesome.


3. ‘The Park Street Mixup’ – I wrote about this here, saying “we decided that a great central place to meet would be the Dunkin’ Donuts at Park Street station.The only problem – there are TWO Dunkin’ Donuts at Park street … one on the inside that only people coming from the north can see, and the other on the street where people coming from the south would depart!”


4. In-Law Fight Part #? – Sitting in the parking lot of Jordan Marsh at the Burlington Mall (oh how things have changed) Lisa had told me that I wouldn’t have a close relationship with my sister’s kids. By then my sister had royally screwed us before just our wedding and really that relationship was going nowhere. But I didn’t want to let go of being a good and well-loved uncle – even though I had three nieces and nephews at that point (the two girls from my sister and my brother’s son) and hadn’t been asked to be godfather once. Why am I mentioning a fight? Two reasons – we are pretty much ‘no BS’ with each other … and we have each other’s back, even if it involves going through an argument to get the other person to understand. And … she was right, of course. And unfortunately I have been correct more than a couple of times as well.


5. Playing ‘lawn chess’ on our honeymoon – when I think of moments when we finally put all of the stress and busyness of the wedding behind us, and got over the pressure to ‘join in’ from the Sandals staff … it is this moment. No one was around us, we were just by ourselves, having a great time and not caring about how long we played or much of anything else.

6. This Thanksgiving Lisa worked overnight – from 5:45PM – 3:45AM. I had fallen asleep, really not even trying to stay awake. But when she came in, since I’m a light sleeper I got right up. She said “I’m going to have a glass of wine” Sounds good, is what I said. We grabbed a seat downstairs on the couch, threw the blanket over us and just chatted for two hours before heading to bed at 6AM.


7. Horseback riding in Puerta Vallarta. We had such an awesome, incredible vacation for Lisa’s 30th – we took a cruise down the west coast of Mexico, and had an amazing time. We did every little excursion, with the only regret getting paired up with another couple in Acapulco for a while. While one purpose for the trip was not being home around her birthday, the outcome was great. But as I said, riding together in those hills produced memories for a lifetime.

8. Sitting in the waiting area at Brigham & Women’s hospital in Boston, waiting to go in to have the dead baby removed from Lisa. This was our worst miscarriage, the pregnancy we’d finally been enough along to tell everyone, that we felt ‘this time for sure’ … and we were sitting in a room for of people who were waiting for abortions. We both are pro-choice … but the feeling in that moment that we would have done anything in this world to have our little Robert Patrick make it to greet the world, while everyone around us had life growing inside of them that they were choosing to end … I can’t say it didn’t add to the pain. But this was one of those moments that told us that no matter good or bad, we truly were in it all together.


9. Wrapping presents. When the kids were little, we would end up late at night wrapping stuff for the kids, putting things together on Christmas eve and so on. We’d have Christmas music, some egg nog, and we’d be very tired, leading to loads of laughs – including the oft-spoke phrase “I don’t think that will be funny in the morning!” Sometimes it was, other times not.

10. The challenges – one of the toughest times of our marriage we were apart. It was March 2008 and I was in Corning with a thyroid that had pretty much completely stopped functioning but wasn’t yet on meds, and Lisa was back in Massachusetts dealing with our useless realtor (supplied by the relocation company) who seemed to have the ‘demand of the day’, a massive melt flooding the basement, the dogs chewing through the ‘chew-proof’ fencing, and so on. Nothing much I could do for a few weeks, and things were tense … but it was quite a learning experience.

Running History - Summer  20131

11. Just sitting together – on the deck in Townsend, vacations pretty much everywhere, drinking coffee, wine, water or whatever … I can’t count the number of great memories that are wrapped around Lisa and I just sitting together somewhere taking in a view, the beautiful morning sun, or whatever life offered.

12. Our 20th anniversary – the boys made us a multi-course dinner and served us on the patio on china and crystal and we got dressed up. It was romantic, shared with out boys, and just another fabulous memory of the incredible life we’ve made together.

Running History - Fall  20131

13. “You and me against the world” – I can’t begin to count the number of times we’ve said this to each other, and the reality is it is true. We’ve said it in good times and bad, during difficulties with each of our families and financial stress and stuff with the kids, and also during those magical good times we share so very often. It really is the two of us together through all of it.

I am grateful for the flawed life I have had, with all of the joys and challenges … but most of all I am grateful for the partner I have had by my side.

Thanks to everyone for playing along these past 30 days!

And to finish – one last song. The song that was ‘our song’. ‘Skywriting’ by The Bible.

The song tells the story of a young couple trying to succeed against the odds and opinions of others. While I was already employed as an engineer (i.e. not broke), just as we fell in love Lisa moved to Albany for a year of graduate school in medical technology. So we had the long distance thing going – and plenty of people ready to cast doom upon us.

We still listen to this CD all the time, and it remains a special part of our life and our family. Here is a live version circa 1990:

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #29, Chip(s) Off The Old Block


Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for my two amazing boys.

Day #29 – Just like me … but is that GOOD?!


When you have a child … well, several things happen. It changes your life in a whole lot of different ways.

For me it shifted priorities and made things very clear – before kids with both of us working long days, always on the go somewhere and so on … and after kids we were always on the go somewhere – but the focus changed, as it was suddenly school and sports and heading to museums and parks and parties. Personally it helped me draw clear boundaries between work and family, not that I didn’t ever work weekends, nights or travel – but it was a clear decision based on need rather than ‘well, Lisa is working so … whatever’.

I won’t go into their whole stories, as those are for them to tell … But I want to quickly talk about these two wonderful young men who make my life better every day.


Pumpkin Picking back in Massachusetts



I have talked about how Danny’s birth was like a party, and for me the whole four day stay in the hospital was great. Discovering how sturdy he was, how incredible it was to snuggle him, and just everything about being a new dad was a revelation. Lisa had a C-section so we were there for four days, and the reality check was going home and having to do it all ourselves.

From the very start Danny was his own person, but also full of life and light and a quick and easy smile. He has my ease of blending into most any crowd, with the accompanying realization that not standing out means not standing out. Yet he has shone in many areas – from drama to music to youth court and as a young film maker, he has done some amazing things in areas very different than anything I ever did.

It is interesting looking around our house and back through time – early on he showed a great aptitude for art, and took summer art classes in Fitchburg where the teacher singled him out for potential and displayed some of his stuff even outside of the confines of the usual student display. But a couple of years with a pedantic and harsh art teacher in elementary school quenched his love of art – at least in terms of drawing, painting and sculpting. It is interesting seeing now how that love redirected itself into other areas … I guess the saying ‘when life closes a door, open a window’ is very applicable.

What has amazed me is how the high school years have produced a strong, secure, and mature young man (ok, yeah, with plenty of teenage boy in there as well!). He has a good group of friends, is a loyal person, quick with a joke but also a good listener, and is much better than I was at his age at dealing with his emotions (despite having that same penchant for squishing them down beneath his knees).

His style has also evolved from skater-dude and rap-fan to very stylish (I’d estimate he wears a jacket and tie at least twice a week) who has a deep appreciation for everything in the arts. He is applying to schools for film, looking at a Fine Arts study … but also loves acting, singing, and writing. His ability to craft a tale, write believable dialogue and his use of language is just incredible – and I hope it brings him much success and satisfaction.


Honor Society!



I’ve also described Christopher’s birth many times … and it was traumatic for all involved. Lisa had great difficulty due to significant scarring from Danny, Chris was breach and nearly drown in the amniotic fluid, Lisa’s digestive system wouldn’t restart and she was in the hospital two weeks with the chief of surgery keeping a close eye, Chris had two bouts of apnea and turned blue in front of my face once, and spent time in the NICU (where the nurses loved having a huge baby, since he was more than TWICE as large as the next biggest baby in there!). There were lingering effects from that rough start we dealt with for a few years, but he always had the most amazing smile, the cutest fly-away blond hair … and one heck of a personality.

Whereas Danny blended in like me, Chris is more like Lisa and has a strong personality. That can be good … but it also has downsides. There were always a group around him … but also always one or two kids who were very strongly negative. And like too many of us, as a young kid he couldn’t get past those who disliked him to focus on the great friends he had.

His flair for drama was apparent from the earliest years, and he always shone in productions even from the earliest age, and was something he excelled at through middle school, though he has focused on working on the tech crew through high school rather than being on stage. The tech crew focus comes from another love – music technology.

I know this sounds like typical parental blind bragging, but I have seldom seen anyone with as strong a raw musical concept and vision as Chris. This isn’t necessarily instrumental focus – we could tell from his early years of piano that he wasn’t going to be a concert pianist, as after he surpassed what his first teacher could provide, he frustrated his second teacher who wanted pure classical interpretation while Chris wanted to rework the melodies and rhythmic pacing and flow. I love hearing his music, or his interpretation of music.

But music isn’t his only skill – from his earliest days he has had a love of cooking. Easy Bake oven, Harry Potter potions lab and so on … then on to making real food. Lisa and I have become really good cooks and bakers over the years – but Chris has a natural gift. Another talent that has appeared recently is photography. He took a couple of pictures out of our moving car to use for a cover for his EP, and converted them to black & white … and they were amazing. He has a great eye for shots, and helped Danny film his portfolio film.

As for where he goes next, who knows – he is in the middle of his toughest semester of school, taking dual AP classes, a college level (ACE) chemistry, calculus and creative writing. He is thinking about culinary arts school such as Johnson & Wales that will focus on the business aspects as well as culinary skills … and I know he would truly excel.


Great dinner after all-state band at Charlies Café in Elmira (new discovery!)


The Future

I have talked about wanting to move back to Massachusetts in the future, but the reality is this: home is with Lisa, and in proximity to our boys. We have no real ties to any place or even region (aside from our current jobs and having a mortgage), so if that means moving south or west or whatever … we can do it. And will.

The decision to have or not have kids – or the reality of biology we thought we faced for a long time – is very personal and no one has the right to make that for you or to question your choices. For us, having kids when we thought we couldn’t was an amazing blessing … and while there are many times our boys drive us nuts – they are our babies, and a huge part of our lives. They are past the point of us really being the major force of influence, but we maintain a close relationship and try to be a postive guiding force.

Now we can just sit and hope that they get to show the world the reasons for the great joys we have experienced all of these years.

Do you feel tied to a place or region, or would you move around easily?


And yes, this Thanksgiving they each got a sample of wine.


30 Days of Gratitude – Day #28, The Simple Joy of Running


Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for my ability to get up, go out and run.

Day #28 – You Better Run All Day and Run All Night

One of he consequences of my second struggle with weight gain and loss was having to start again with running. For most of the people reading this let me say – no, you really don’t get it … and I don’t mean that as an insult. I have taken days and weeks and even months off during the previous 23 years of running, especially during very busy work times, having kids, buying houses and so on. And I wasn’t prepared for the suck.

Losing fitness and gaining weight always makes restarting running a challenge – and of course dealing with winter cold and snow (where we lived in Massachusetts was one of those ‘snow centers’ that always got more than the top of the estimated snowfall ranges) made it even harder to stick to a routine.

There were a couple of times when I started gaining weight, and lost track of my running for a while, and had to restart. It is never fun – your body hates you, your lungs scream, and after one day you feel like ‘wow, this was GREAT!’ … then after two you regret your very existence, and by the end of the first week you curse yourself for ever stopping running before.

But to be honest, nothing prepared me for March and April of 2012. I knew I had gotten really heavy, and my fitness level was absolute crap. Whereas when I was young I still played intramural football and soccer in college, now I did nothing. Even the days of Little League and youth soccer and basketball were gone, so I was never really moving very much aside from walking around at work – and being a statistician meant loads of desk time.

Running History - Oct 20121

I don’t know how many times I nearly broke down and cried as I tried to run those first few weeks. It was awful – and my body was having none of it. I would occasionally stop while running, not know what to do – because I had NEVER stopped like that in the previous 23 years. It was the absolute depths of despair for me – not only was I more than 100lbs overweight, I felt that my old friend running was no longer there for me … when I needed it so very badly.

And I don’t know if it was better or worse when I ran with my brother over Easter – I was just starting to get into a bit of a groove, things were just beginning to happen again … and then he and I ran while he was in the best shape of his life. And I realized that I was only running ~2.25 miles each day. I thought that based on the time I was running at least 4 … which then informed me about my pace.

And I have written about it many times before, but there I was the Monday after Easter, realizing I was running 2.25 miles per day at a pace that wasn’t even a 15 minute mile (heck, Lisa and I do 19 minute miles walking the dogs, and faster than that just the two of us!).

Over the next 6 months I cut more than 33% off my pace, got my average daily distance over 7.5 miles, my weeks up over 50 miles, ran my first ever road race, then another and another, then a 5 miler, learned a lot running a half-marathon … then ran my first marathon at 46 and was incredibly proud of myself. Because in that moment I was no longer just some guy who would jog a few miles for weight control and health … I was a runner!

And I call this time ‘Running 2.0’, because it is totally different. It has been more than 2.5 years since I got back into running, and it is now an important part of my life. It is one of my biggest hobbies, and running in great weather is one of the great joys in my life. When I go somewhere new it is a great way to explore – to the point that running around my alma mater was like an entirely new experience compared to living there for four years.

I have no idea what lies ahead for me in terms of running, racing or anything else – all I know is that I have been changed forever by my relationship with running. It has been with me more than half my life and pretty much my whole adult life. It is something that makes me appreciate my body and my health every day.

At the Finish With My #1 Supporter

At the Finish With My #1 Supporter

How good are you about being TRULY grateful for your ability to run?

And avoiding the cliche running videos … THIS is the one I thought of first!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #27, I’ve Got the Music In Me


Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for the ability to express myself musically.

Day #27 – Playah gonna play, play, play!

Last week the boys had things going on and Lisa had to work late, and after all the running around I was ready to relax. So I set up my iPad on the kitchen table, grabbed the iRig Keys Pro that is an external (piano) keyboard that plugs into the Lightning port and also grabbed my guitar and the iRig Pro (this isn’t a sponsored post … if you do mobile music you should really be using some IK Multimedia stuff), sat down, noodled around on the keyboard and guitar for a while. Not really anything specific in terms of writing, practicing or exercises – just nodding around and jamming. It was glorious.

Music is a major part of my life – it is never just ‘something in the background’. As I have said, I have never cared much for vocal music, I am always focused on the *music*, not the words … not better or worse, just a different way of listening. I am a huge consumer of music, constantly listening to various genres, mostly instrumental and improvised music, but I do try to keep up with pop culture as well (yes we have Taylor Swift’s latest on our iTunes library as well as Mary Halvorson’s new project released the same day).

The ways in which music rewards my mind and soul and spirit remind me very much of running. Just like I could head out on Thanksgiving night at 10PM for a 7.5 mile run and get so much from it, so can I get great enjoyment just playing around on a keyboard for a while. It is a cathartic experience for me, a great joy. And while I got some solid accolades from playing music as a younger person, at this point I am strictly a hobbyist.

Do you plan an instrument?

I failed to get some of my old songs digitized and up to SoundCloud in time … but when I do I will share them.

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #26, Five Things for a Thankful Thanksgiving


Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am taking a step back to reflect on some of the things I am thankful for this year going into the holiday season.

Day #26 – A Time for Giving Thanks

While I have taken one item per day for my 30 days of Gratitude, they have become rather long-winded posts. For today I really wanted to focus on just the basics – I have a lot to be thankful for!


1. Having my wife and boys around the table with me. We have already eaten as this is published, thanks in part to Black Friday moving to late Thursday afternoon.

2. That my brother survived his heart attack and continues to be an important part of my life. I was definitely disappointed that we had to cancel plans for Thanksgiving together, but am glad it was a choice we had to make. Never take anyone for granted.


3. That we have a roof over our heads and jobs that put food on our table and clothes on our bodies. It is so easy to take the affluence most of us enjoy for granted.

4. For all of our health – not perfect, but we are all here and able to do things together. For me personally, I am thankful for a body that will carry me across miles upon miles of running every week and sustain me through busy days of work and family as well!

5. For Danny, Chris and most of all Lisa. Oh yeah, and our dogs Rosie and Riley, our cats Leo and Dolly, and our fish Monty as well!


What Are You Thankful For?

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #25, ‘Elephant With Earrings’***


OK, before I start … the amazing comments over the weekend have simply floored me. I repeatedly say how much I enjoy all of you guys because of the insightful, thoughtful comments that go in new directions and beyond my original post … um, yeah, totally.

Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, and although it sounds weird, I am thankful for having had to deal with obesity at 23, and the humbling experience of having to do it again at 46.

Day #25 – Wow … you were really, uh, big!

*** ‘Elephant with earrings’ was a drawing and tease-name in the 5th grade by Vinny Eisenhauer. As you can imagine, being an 11 year old boy in the mid-1970s who shopped in the ‘husky’ section, that was some pretty insulting stuff. It hasn’t bothered me in decades, really – but it has stuck with me. I think about the life-long impact of things like this as I watch parents (still) encourage their kids to judge harshly based on appearance (like when my son grew his hair for ‘Locks of Love’ because a friend of his had cancer), enter Pinewood Derby cars where the parents obviously did the whole thing against ones made entirely by the kids, or even seemingly harmless things like parents getting competitive with their toddlers having to ‘win’ costume contests that are much more about the adults. 37 years later there are many names I wish I remember … but one I DO is Vinny Eisenhauer, because of ‘Elephant with earrings’.

Looking back through my life there were more than a couple of times when I could have made or stuck with choices that would have stopped me from becoming as large as I did by the end of my college years – the easiest is at the end of my freshman year when I had finished the tennis season and the tennis coach wanted me to lose some weight but wanted me on the team again, and the football coach wanted me to work on weights and build endurance and try out for varsity. Instead I dove headlong into music and technology 🙂

As a result of low activity level and significant overeating I found myself close to 400lbs (I honestly have no idea … my first weigh-in was at 375 and I had already started losing weight). I have written time and again about losing weight both in 1989 and in 2012, so I will skip that (and if you want to read them, you can see My Running Story – In The Beginning …, My Running Story – The ‘In Between’ Years, My Running Story – The ‘Corning Years’ Through Today). But here is the thing:

I honestly believe that having been severely overweight has made me a better thin person, more aware of my health and very appreciative of the joyous gift of running.

I am not saying that being overweight makes you a better person, or that having been fat suddenly provides some universal clairvoyance or anything. I am just saying that for me personally, I feel more connected to the duality of being the same person in two different bodies having gone through it … twice.

In August I wrote about fat shaming and thin privilege, talking about the way that fat-shaming transcends ridicule to become oppression … and while I really didn’t expect much of a response, the comments were incredible.

And here’s the thing – the reality is that body-shaming runs across sizes and shapes and everything else. We are judged by someone else’s expectations of what we should look like, and so many people feel like they are harshly judged as too fat or too thin or eating too much or too little or for any of a variety of reasons. This is a gift that belonging to this community has given – an appreciation that everyone has a different story and deserves to be appreciated for the wonderful person they are.

OK I am thinking it, so I might as well say it – apparently some people believe it is required to have a weight/eating struggle to be a runner or a credible and ‘relatable’ running blogger. At least that is how it seems. A few people like Megan will readily say that they have never had to deal with much in the way of weight loss. Honesty is more important than false commonality.

But for others … it is as if having been obese or dealt with an eating disorder somehow gives a ‘story’ or ‘narrative’ that they are missing by having maintained a healthy weight their whole lives. WTF. Take it from myself on the fat end and ANYONE who has dealt with an eating disorder (and please make sure you have read Danielle’s incredible ‘Life with ED’ series if you haven’t already) … these are NOT ‘glamorous backstories’! I might have learned much from battling back from obesity twice … but yeah, I’m not sure that being a generally sensitive person wouldn’t have helped me along the way to gaining empathy.

My point? Your story is your story, and pretending to share someone else’s story doesn’t make you ‘more cool’, instead it makes you a rather obvious phony.

Well … since I have started down this path of alienating other bloggers … let me just keep rolling, and apologize in advance. I was reminded by a couple of posts I read this week that I think that ALL of us sometimes need to be reminded sometimes:


Every stride we take is a joyous gift. Every run is something to celebrate. Sure, some runs are crap. Some days we feel like the Blerch has truly won. Yes, I get it – I have had my fair share of those days. And I also get that within this community we should feel that we have a safe place to complain to each other about what is a shared experience. But let us never forget those who cannot run, and really – for those of us who love to run … remember that we love this sport.

I have never forgotten how it felt in March of 2012 when I weighed over 275lbs and started running again, determined to lose weight and prepare for a marathon that fall. It was a pure force of will breaking through the pure suckage of the first couple of weeks until I began to hit my groove.

My ultimate thought here – own your story.

While I have disordered eating thoughts and have used restriction as a tool in the past, I don’t claim to really understand what it is like for those who have taken eating disorders to the point where it compromised their health. That is not part of my story, and I will never pretend it is. I do not claim that running marathons means I understand what it is like to experience childbirth (sounds ridiculous turned around and applied to a guy, doesn’t it?) – sure they are both hard things … but there are many difficult things in life and they aren’t instantly related by their hardness.

Also – treasure and protect your health. We are given one body, one life, and that is all. Hollie wrote about periods recently, which provided a relief valve for a number of young women who seemed to feel it was almost a rite of passage for women runners – which is absolute crap, of course. As I watched my brother lay unconscious spring of 2013, just 6 months after we ran the Wineglass marathon together … I was reminded of the fleeting nature of life. My father very nearly died of a heart attack at 45, and there was my brother on his second at 49! I have had a full cardiac workup and am fine – but it is a reminder … do not take this life, this body we are given for granted. Ever.

I DO have personal experience with extreme weight loss, but even in this my story is singular. What I have gone through as a child and adult is my own history, framed against the story of who I am, my gender and origins, where and when I grew up and those who were around me throughout my life. Having been obese is part of who I am, just as being ‘that guy we always see out running’ is part of who I am. And I am grateful for the part it has played in shaping the person I am today.

How do you feel about weight and fitness and motivation?

Yeah, more Weird Al …

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #24, Why Did They Help Me?


Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I can look back throughout my life and see people who have had a positive impact on me in one way or another, some small and others fairly large:

Day #24 – The People Who Didn’t Need to Help

When I was mentoring a young woman on another project last week, I was thinking of a former colleague I saw at a conference last month for the first time in more than 20 years, and the lasting impact he had in my life. He and I worked in different groups but he saw my interest and aptitude for statistics and data analysis and it changed the course of my life.

But he is far from the only one – I can think of people who helped me out with advice, suggestions, friendship, and more … for no apparent reason other than to be a good person. Obviously it starts at home – my parents provided guidance and opportunity and my brother blazed the path as oldest child.

Sure there are co-workers and bosses and others who were basically assigned to help me out – but typically they are not ‘mentors’ in my opinion. For me Mentoring involves more than just task-based instruction … it actually means that you have taken an interest in a person beyond helping them navigate a new job position or handle a new task.

I feel I have been blessed throughout my life with people who have taken time beyond what was required:
Teachers: seriously teachers are SO undervalued in our society. As I entered my senior year in high school I had teachers pushing my guidance counselor for me to go into math, physics, English and music. Not just pushing me – taking time and working with external schools and my guidance counselor.

Paper Route: My Boston Herald route took me through the low income housing … and let me just say that you can learn more about generosity when it comes from people with absolutely nothing to give. I had one guy – who might very well have been a drug dealer – who greeted me with a smile and a quick hello chat at least once a week, tipped reasonably well, and gave me a $20 Christmas tip each year in person. He taught me a lot about how wrong it is to just make snap judgments based on housing, skin color and income.

Bradlees: I think back to working in high school, and vacations during college – I worked at the Bradlee’s Department Store. I could name a ton of people there who left significant positive memories and impacts – Steve R, Ginny B, Jim G, Leslie H, and many more. But there are a few that really stood out for me – Mike S, George L, (one guy whose name I totally blanked on), and most of all Richard LaPointe. I always bristle at the ‘child he never had’ description, but he clearly took me under his wing – he’d gone to school for physics but never finished and ended up as a retail department manager – and simultaneously wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to me, and appreciated the discussions we had. I worked at Bradlee’s over the course of 7 years, between 16 and 23, and it remains a cornerstone part of my growing up process.

Administrative Assistants: at my first two ‘real’ engineering jobs (Bruker Instruments and Lambda Physik lasers), both were small companies where much teamwork was needed. Each had a single main administrative assistant, and they were totally taken for granted. Yet they were absolutely key to the day to day operations of the entire place. My experience at Bradlees had taught me to never under-value anyone, and getting to know these two (Karen at Bruker, Barbara at Lambda) reminded me that everyone deserves to be treated with respect. This continued on with ever person at every level in my companies since then. You can learn SO MUCH from those who are responsible for the daily success of a company but are treated as invisible by much of its management.

Co-workers: as an engineer, scientist and statistician through the years, many of my tasks have been self-focused and directed … but always in a team context. Yet there were always people who I worked with or near outside of the project and team who were willing to help, actively sought to make my life easier – and they are the inspiration as I try to help younger engineers today. From Paul and Paul and Ron and Brian at Bruker to a few folks at Lambda to countless people (Chas, Phil, Wenyan, Kira, Liz, Mary Tedd, Ron, Rob, Chuck, Jim, and on and on) at Shipley, to an incredible cast of folks at Corning (Casey, Jess, Dave, Scott, Karen, Jason, Bethany, Susan, and so many more) … I have always had someone I could ask a question, make a joke, ask about my kids, or whatever.

Friends – good and bad: Not everyone who is a mentor is a positive influence, nor is every mentoring a positive experience. I look at some of my friendships as exercises in learning my self value – because of the realization that they acted as if I had none. Most of my good friends are good friends – and with that comes the normal ups and downs of the decades. But there are also others – and for this one I single out Hemant, a co-worker from Shipley who called me the day I got laid off (he had been laid off before) to talk about his experiences and help put mine into context. It didn’t take away the sting or shock, but it was a critical moment for me that I really think helped me a great deal as I went forward.

Lisa and the boys: It should come as no shock that they will get their own ‘Gratitude days’ … but I put them here to say – never underestimate what you can learn from your children and that wonderful person who married you.

Have you had people who have helped you ?

And well, I can’t NOT use this song … can I?

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #23, The Power to Walk Away


Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for the ability to walk away from unhealthy relationships.

Day #23 – Sorry … NOT gonna do it!

Early this year I wrote a post I liked about Setting Healthy Relationship Boundaries. Of course I also added some running context:

Running is a great form of exercise to be sure, and also opens up for us the possibility to seek within ourselves a sense of peace while also pushing ourselves to extremes. Yet like anything else it also offers a form of escape – which can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Let me put this bluntly – running is almost always a lousy way of establishing boundaries in relationships, because it generally is used as an escape. The same is true about traveling for work, volunteering to work off-shift hours, working holidays to avoid family gatherings and so on.

I think it is important as we get older to learn to deal with these things more directly, as I laid out in the post.

Personally one of my greatest strengths is my sense of loyalty … but it is also a weakness. It is one of the biggest things I have worked on through my adult life. I am much better than when I was younger, but it still happens. I will stick with things for far too long, investing myself where is no return, and compromising myself emotionally to the point where it impacts the healthy relationships in my life. I am so glad I have had Lisa by my side to work through all of this through the years … yes my circle is smaller, but it is overflowing with things that matter.

I have certainly seen this in blogging as well. Watching others as I have returned to focusing on blogging this month, I have seen genuinely nice people who are truly wonderful people – they are the part of the community I love. I have also seen those who will be BFFsies so long as it benefits them and then they are gone without a second thought. I have seen lies and harshness and passive aggressive behavior and more.

And I have let go of some blogs over the last couple of months that were no longer healthy – I had said that I would engage honestly and expect others to do the same with me. I also noted the ‘OMG u r the BESTEST’ commenting culture – whether to just be seen commenting, to get more cross-comments, or to always be positive to avoid looking mean/judgmental/rude … I really don’t know why. But when I see someone say something that makes no logical sense in a post, something that isn’t supported by things in their other posts or Instagram or Twitter … and THEN even in their replies to comments fail to maintain a consistent story? Well, if I say something then get attacked for it? Time to move along. And I wish I could say it only happened once … actually I wish it never happened at all.

Thanksgiving and the holidays are a great time to reflect upon our relationships. I hear so much about the great times, amazing gatherings, wonderful close families and so on … then at the same time I hear about the conflicts, the hidden agendas, the side-talk, the difficulties between spouses that come up, and on and on. And you know what? These are very often from the same people! Maybe yours is that mythical unicorn perfect family, but chances are … not so much. The questions you have to ask are (a) do I care (b) do I end up emotionally dealing with Thanksgiving until Christmas (c) is it impacting my relationship with my significant other and (d) what do I want and can reasonably expect?

During the holidays we often feel that we need to put on a smile and ‘suck it up’ and put on a show, or perhaps we love the time of year and revel in the joy of things and can let the negative stuff roll off our backs. But there needs to be a time for honesty, for refection and appraisal. Maybe that is something better left for the New Year, to get a fresh start and recommit to a year of healthy relationships … regardless of the consequences.

Because in my opinion there are few gives we could give ourselves that is better than a life filled with healthy relationships.

How do you do with identifying and walking away from unhealthy relationships?