Thought For Thursday – Taking Time Where it Matters … To You!

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This week on Facebook I have seen the following quote shared a few times:

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” _ Meryl Streep

It is very easy to read that as negative and standoff-ish … but I saw instead something purely positive and self-affirming. Several months ago I wrote about creating healthy boundaries in relationships, and what Meryl says is all about that – saying ‘enough’.

At the same time I loved a line in this post from Laura: I’m ready to find what I love doing again, whether it’s blog worthy or not.

Here are a few thoughts about that …

Decide What YOU Really Want

This can be as simple as ‘I want to learn to play the piano’, or ‘I need to change how I engage in romantic relationships to make myself more happy’, or anywhere in between. The simple reality is that most of us have something in our lives we are either not doing, or are doing but wish we could change. Figure out what yours is (or are) … and do something about it.

Not saying it is easy – and really, just identifying it can be hard enough. But you owe it to yourself to try.

Stop Letting Others Dictate Your Life

Maybe it is because I am in my late 40s and so many bloggers in this running / healthy living arena are in their 20s … but I feel like I see the impact of peer pressure just about every day as I browse my blog feeds. Whether it is someone over-selling how thrilled they are to have so many hands pushing them in various directions about planning major events in their life, or people ending up in places (jobs, relationships, homes, cities, countries) that they quickly realize they never wanted because others told them they SHOULD want those things, and so on … I am constantly seeing people who I fully expect will be saying to themselves or someone close to them in 10 years – ‘well, there are two years / $1000 / whatever I can never get back’

Most of us have things we compromise or concede on in our lives – that is the nature of life with others. But there comes a point where it is not about working together but instead about compromising ideals – and that is when it needs to stop.

The life led for someone else is full of regrets.

Remember That Those Who Love You, Support You

But that doesn’t mean they will always agree with you or tell you that what you choose is great – sometimes the best support is calling us out on our crap. But they do it with the best of intent – you can tell if someone really cares because they are happy for your successes and sad for your failures, and there to listen no matter what.

Further, I have noticed that places like Facebook and our own blog world are very insular and ‘same-mind’. In other words if you see opinions you don’t like, you ignore once, then on the second or third time you silence by ‘unfollowing’. That eliminates views we don’t agree with from our sight – but not from reality. Sometimes this is good … but sometimes it just further leads us down a world where everyone agrees and we never are forced to step out and learn about ourselves.

Ultimately You Get No Points for Doing What is Expected

You joined the right clubs and groups, owned the right cars, wore the right clothes, sat with the right people and so on … isn’t that enough? No.

A big part of life is discovering who you are – so if you simply sleepwalk through high school, college, getting a job, marriage, buying a house and having kids … you will wake up in your 30s with no idea who you are or what this life is you find yourself in the midst of.

What You Love Today … You Might Not Love Tomorrow

One thing I read into what Laura says above is that what she wants to do might not fit with blogging – but that is OK.

I spent a lot of time the last few years trying to compartmentalize computer functionality, to maximize efficient use of tablets to replace computers. But this year that has shifted and isn’t something I want to spend energy doing. That is fine. I also used to play a lot more computer games than now. And up through last year I kept chipping away at character sketches to write a novel.

This year is different … as a new school year starts I am feeling introspective, looking to clarify what I want to be doing and simply my approaches and shed things I don’t care about. There is no obligation – I don’t owe anything to iPad Music accessories if I decide to go back to using a full-sized studio, right?

We don’t owe anything to races or to blogging either – they are things we do purely by choice. Our health? Well, I think we owe it to ourselves to always strive to be the best version of ourselves possible. Which for me means another run in the morning, and another day focused on mental, emotional and physical health … surrounded by a wife and kids I love.

What Are YOU Doing to Make Sure YOU Are Living Your Life For YOU?!?

Monday Musings and Music and More

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Well, another long weekend of me not being around much … but something Megan said in response to a comment from me really rings true: “Isn’t it amazing that once you start to disconnect, it just seems so much easier to do so?” And the reality is – YES, it is true.

Sure I got runs in on Friday and Saturday, and had a very busy weekend, but normally I would have made sure I got some blogging done on Saturday … but instead I got in my run, and made sure I chatted with my older son about his girlfriend and how both were doing, and brought my younger son to do his DJ gig and then a few hours later had a late lunch with him and Lisa, and so on. What it comes down to is this: I prioritized reading and writing blogs lower than I ever have before. And that is OK.

1. Run for the Memories

I have talked before about how much I love exploring places by running, and for more than 2 years I have run everywhere I have visited. In fact, in a month I will be in North Carolina for a conference, and aside from meeting with some of the best minds in statistics and seeing one of my friends and colleagues speak, I am really looking forward to finding a new place to explore through running!

But this weekend Harold had a great post about when running is about MORE than just the run. He details what I would call a ‘run through the generations’ – his dad, an old coach, places where his siblings lived and grandparents and grat-grandparents lived, old factories long forgotten, and so on.

As I mentioned in the comments for his post, I wonder what that would be like for me. For the house I lived in until the middle of first grade it is impossible, as it and the whole neighborhood are now part of an industrial park. And my parents lived in a different town than their parents, who were half-way across the state from their parents. And for me, no one in my immediate family lives near where we grew up, and most of my extended family is scattered up and down the east coast.

What would a ‘running through your memories’ look like for you?

2. No Race Weekend

I didn’t run the race I was planning on Saturday, for several reasons:
– Friday was very busy with the move-in, and also emotion, and a long day (past midnight)
– Both Lisa and Chris had to work Saturday, and I knew they would be long days.
– The previous year had 700 runners and about 1400 people … and a parking lot that fits about 16 cars (and on the other end of the trail one that fits a dozen.
– I would have had to bike over due to logistics, and when we were sitting up past midnight the night before I thought ‘no … not gonna happen’.

Am I disappointed? A little … Lisa and I were planning to do it together, she would have walked and I would have run and it would have been fun. But ultimately I am more disappointed that we didn’t do it together than about my choosing not to go.

I had decided I would have done the 5k, because I really was interested in that ‘sustained pain’ feeling. I still haven’t run a 10k so it would have been ‘instant-PR’. Oh well … there are always other 5ks – even this coming weekend!

3. College Move-In

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The situation that had us with a fully loaded car last Friday morning is someone else’s story, but it was a fun and rewarding day and I was glad we could help out. The picture above is our son and his girlfriend.

Cornell is a beautiful campus that is really its own community, isolated by a few miles from the heart of Ithaca. It was a very busy day, but we were there to help every step of the way and got to see how much things have changed since Lisa and I had OUR first college move-in days 31 and 30 years ago respectively.

I do love how much has changed to really focus on the successful integration of new students. When I started it was more just a few social events then BAM into classes. Now they have loads of things throughout the calendar to help the kids learn how to navigate the school and their future.

4. New Phone

I posted about this on Instagram, but I got a new phone this weekend. It is a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – and it is HUGE. The goal? To see if this device can replace both my iPhone and iPad for the majority of things, such as blogging, email, RSS feeds, and so on. Music software remains pathetic on Android so the iPad will remain for that, and I am really not doing much gaming recently, so it will be interesting to see if there is any impact on that front.

While I have had Apple products going back to 1979 and the Apple ][+, I have been an Android phone used from when they first came to Verizon right up until getting iPhone 5. At this point I have regularly been using the iPhone 5, iPad Air, Macbook Air, gaming PC laptop as well as a Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Fire HDX, and Sony Playstation Vita. Yeah, too much stuff. Worse yet – I regularly find myself seeing something on the phone and then grabbing the iPad to type the reply. Makes no sense!

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One immediate thing? The Note 3 deoesn’t fit in my running belt. I see that the SPIBelt ‘large pocket’ fits these things well.

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And in general, I forgot how clunky so many things are in Android, as I work to get devices to pair, apps to link together and so on. I STILL haven’t gotten the Polar Loop to pair up correctly. Here is a good mantra: “With great flaxibility comes many hassles.”

5. Wealth vs. ‘Class’?

I subscribe to Quora because I love all of the discussions and reading great answers to questions. But sometimes the questions are … interesting. This one in particular documents parents who have shown their child a very warped view of the interaction between money and class.

Here is an interesting – and demonstrably true – view of reality from a different post:

in most cases lazy sons of multimillionaires end up better off than hardworking daughters of slum-dwellers

And from the post in question?

•My parents always told me to never leave a tip for waiters/waitresses at restaurants because they are just fishing for tips

Aside from being incorrect (and really just the tip of the iceberg of the article), it engenders an attitude of elitism that is unconscionable. And the wealth-based discrimination is every bit as real as any other type.

But the question I have for myself, and that I think we should all ask ourselves: in what ways do I have similar attitudes about things? I know that as a professionally employed, home-owning white Christian married male in America I have a position of considerable privelege. I just hope that when I can affect change, I do so to the best of my ability.

6. THIS Is America?

I have started and deleted many different things about the ongoing violence and racial tensions … and none of it felt right to me. I have always been a ‘question authority, but support your police & fire’. Because OF COURSE there is racism in police forces – these are people, and people are racist.

But there is also tremendous bravery and kindness and goodness and a desire to help – because these are people, people who choose a dangerous profession hoping to make a difference.

Here is my basic thought: the problem isn’t the police, it is US. Because they are us – and the problems reflected there in terms of race, religion, gender and so on … are problems endemic in our society at large.

My biggest problem comes with the militarization of America. When Reagan invaded Grenada, there was a groundswell of pride, and the decades since have built up the concepts of ‘American exceptionalism’ and ‘might = right’. More scary is how starting in the late 90s we have seen police forces equipped with tanks and so on.

So what we see more and more in the country is exactly what is shown here:

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7. Movies are Easily Diagrammed

You know how most times when you are watching a Rom-Com you can see the formula coming into play? Y’know, how the two people who will eventually end up together have a ‘near miss’ (or are just friends), there is at least one ‘other’ romantic interest, then in a dramatic turn there is the realization that ‘the one’ was always rigt there? Over at Neatorama this is diagrammed out for a number of genres:

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How do you feel about this? Is it accurate?

7. Do You See a Problem?

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I just started getting Tennis magazine, and two issues arrived at once. Both covers are from the very top playes in the field, one is male and the other female. One has a person playing tennis, the other has a sultry, over-the-shoulder barely clothed shot. Am I overly sensitive thinking WTF? Personally I think Maria Sharapova looks awesome playing tennis, just like Roger Federer.

8. Almost School Time!

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Hard to believe that we’re already at the point of heading back to school. This past week was band camp – a week of 9AM – 8:30PM spent playing and marching and drilling … the kids were lucky that the weather was generally nice. Two years ago we had a heat wave, last year alternated between hot and thunderstorms. There was only one rainy day this year.

If you are looking for my boys, they are the tuba on the left and bass drum on the right. This was as close as they got during the ‘public practice’ on the last night. The final song was rough – but what I love is that we will see an amazing progression from now through the competitions throughout September and October.

9. My Running Summary

For the most part this was a pretty ordinary summer week – out early, do my run, do my abs, get ready for work and go. Here is the summary:

Sunday: Bike trip with Lisa
Monday: 9.75 miles
Tuesday: 9.75 miles
Wednesday: 10.1 miles
Thursday: 9.75 miles
Friday: ‘Rest’ Day (College move-in)
Saturday 14.5 miles, fast & flat

The weekly total was about 54 miles running, plus a great long bike trip with Lisa, and a busy day walking around with heavy boxes at Cornell! I was definitely happy with my runs this week, especially my long run on Saturday – I really pushed the pace throughout, trying to keep my heart rate up at all times. And I continue enjoying trying to get in my ab work and planks every day! I don’t want to let this great habit stop!

10. Music New and Old

We watched a bit of the VMAs last night … and as always I don’t know why. For me, they represent the absolute WORST of music – it isn’t a celebration of artistry, or even of music … it is a self-gratifying celebration of celebrity as personified by those with the most marketing money to spend. I have very little good to say – except that I loved Ed Sheeren thanking and handing the mic to the ‘guy who made the song’. That is important – pop music isn’t made by the people singing them … they are just the new ‘Johhny Bravo’.

Anyway, the most annoying thing for me was Nicki Minaj, whose one-trick schtick of fast-rapping is played out, augmented for the video crowd by booty-shaking. The song she did shows the depths of the current state of pop music – she has made an entire song from a line from a throw-away one-hit gimmick song from the 90s. Here is the original:

And here is the new rip-off:

The distinction? One was a joke when it came out, the other is supposed to be ‘artistry’. Puh-lease.

Finally, Lisa came across a new song she loved this weekend, and we added it to our iTunes and listened on YouTube – ‘Night Like This’ by LP:

Myself? I have mentioned that I’ve been re-stocking my iPod with older music that has sat un-played for too long as I was reviewing more and more albums over the last 5 or so years. One song I had completely lost track of? ‘Night of the Iguanas’ by Joni Mitchell from her 2007 album Shine.

Did you do any races this weekend? Any cool new music? How was YOUR week?

Some Random Pet Peeves Annoying Me This Week

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I can’t call this a ‘rant’ because none of this is stuff really makes me mad … but I have found a bunch of annoying things over the last week, particularly on runs and on our whirlwind college tour.

Speaking of which, I have an annoyance before I start with the pet peeves – I took an unplanned rest day today, slept in and didn’t run. Why? Because I have a decent cold, a combination of a weekend spent waking up at 3AM, driving nearly 900 miles, and scrambling everywhere … then coming home and running nearly 19 miles on Sunday and more than 9 on Monday surely didn’t help. So yeah, I feel like crap … which is annoying!

1. Reciprocal Blogging

OK, this isn’t anything new, and was in a post I never finished months ago, but playing ‘catch up’ after vacation and after this weekend I REALLY noticed it.

What do I mean by ‘Reciprocal Blogging’? I mean that a person only reads/replies on your blog when you comment on theirs. For example, I posted 7 times over vacation, including the weekends, and barely read or commented on other people’s posts. When I returned I commented on a number of blogs – and most of my friends had been commenting on my stuff all week long (and I always love reading comments … they ALWAYS make any post better!).

Anyway, with one blog, I posted a comment on a post that was nearly two weeks old, and suddenly within 5 minutes a new comment appeared on my most recent post. This wasn’t the first time – or first blog I’ve seen this person do this on …

Look – I get that commenting to gain visibility is a general practice, and also that we often see a comment and remember to check on a blog we don’t regularly visit. That is natural – we all have our first, second and third tier blog-follows. But this was different. It was all about the APPEARANCE of following to sustain the connection, like giving a dog a treat to get them to behave.

I don’t know if this makes sense, and I want it to be clear I am not talking about the normal daily interactions I see on my blog and pretty much everyone I follow. But if you follow someone or comment ONLY in order to keep the other person connected, or use someone else’s comment section ONLY to promote your own blog … YOU are the problem I am talking about. If you haven’t noticed … this is a GREAT community that is all too willing to help others and promote new friends. If you are a slime bag … well, interestingly on one of the blogs that did this I visited recently and have seen the comments and even contest entries really dwindle. So I guess it wasn’t just me.

2. Crappy Customers & Customer Service

For whatever reason, over the past month I have experienced enough crappy service, and have had to watch great employees deal with horrid customers that it has really come to annoy the crap out of me!

In one store where all we wanted to do was grab a drink, the fountain machine was out of order and the employees seemed to have no desire to deal with it, and when we presented a Canadian coin in with our other change they summarily tossed it back saying ‘this is no good’, and only noted it was Canadian when we said ‘what?!?’. Then as we were finding more change he actually told us to ‘hurry up’. Yeah … rude!

But there are plenty of buttheads on the OTHER side of the counter! Most of it was the usual stuff:

– Cell phone talkers in line who expect everyone to accommodate their conversation, hold up progress, stand in the wrong places, make employees repeat themselves and so on.

– Line jumpers – generally they will not directly cut in front of you, but will push from the side, pretend they don’t notice the queue, run to a newly opened register without acknowledging those who were already waiting.

Specifically on this trip there was a shuttle from the hotel to the subway, and we were waiting there already and a family came out and the driver was unsure how many would fit so we waited … they started piling in. There were 5 and ended up all fitting, leaving us for the next shuttle – and the driver had no clue when it might come (it ended up being less than 5 minutes later so it was all good, but still annoying!)

3. Store Aisle Cellphone Talker Hogs

Shopping stores are very often cramped, with customers browsing, moving slowly due to physical restrictions, more product crowding the space, and so on.

The there are the people talking on their phones, slowly wandering around looking at nothing in particular, generally oblivious that they are greatly inconveniencing others with their rude behavior … heck, I even had someone glare at me when I said EXCUSE ME after simply saying ‘excuse me’ failed to even register acknowledgement.

I did say ‘well thank you for allowing me to shop in the shopping store’ … not as loud as I might have felt at the moment … but hey, they were already talking and blocking the entire aisle again anyway so they didn’t notice.

Here is the thing – just like it has been shown that using your phone is a distraction in the car, so it is when shopping. So if you want to talk on the phone casually while shopping, get out of the traffic pattern and chatter to your heart’s content. But not loudly, because THAT is a general pet peeve for most people. We really don’t care about your ailments, or whatever over-sharing you are doing at the moment.

4. Emergency Vehicle Privelege Abusers

In New York the law is that you need to move aside for emergency vehicles, including when the police have someone pulled over to the right. This past week I saw two egregious and possibly dangerous misuses of these laws.

On Rte 88 in central NY, a driver was pulled over by the police with lights blazing, and all of the approaching traffic was in the left lane as mandated by law. Except for one Ford Explorer, who was in the right lane, and while not driving dangerously fast, was going fast enough to pass several care including ours on the right side – he came from behind and ended up several cars in front of us. The police officer stood by the passenger side of the car he pulled over and just gaped … I hope he got the license plate number!

And then there was another instance when an ambulance was coming along, and we were on a smaller two-lane highway, and everyone was pulled to the right to let the ambulance of by … except for one car who was using it as a personal gateway to get ahead of everyone else. At first I thought it might be associated with the ambulance, but no – the ambulance turned and he went straight. Imagine that – using the grave misfortune of others as a way to jockey ahead a few places in traffic. Sad.

5. Parents Teaching Kids Crappy Habits

One would think that the general rule should be that parents would know the rules of safety for critical things they teach kids – but looking at guns we already know THAT isn’t true! So I guess that bicycle safety shouldn’t be different. I already have a pet peeve about adults with small children not wearing helmets but having their kids wear helmets. Guess what – these are the kids who stop wearing helmets before they are 10, or when out of range of home. Sure they aren’t a cure all, but helmets save lives, period. The message these kids get is ‘helmets are for little kids … not wearing a helmet is a grown-up thing to do’. Absolutely false.

Also recently – so far 100% coupled with non-helmet wearing parents – I have seen parents with very young kids biking AGAINST traffic. Ugh. I have seen it running as well as driving, and it can set up some unsafe situations. I even took a moment to call over to one parent to remind them to ride WITH traffic … and (again, with small children in front) they told me to go F myself in no uncertain terms. Nice.

As for runners … you know my pet peeve about running with music, and how it ABSOLUTELY diminishes your awareness (again, this is fact, not debate)? Well … add parent and child (about 10) running side-by-side with headphones on the wrong side of the road (WITH traffic) on a relatively narrow road with no sidewalk and only about 1 foot on the outside of the white line? Yeah, totally annoying – and forced all traffic on the 45MPH road to come to a halt to accommodate them. I beeped at them – because they were totally in the wrong. The parent waved as if I was saying ‘hi’. Um, no.

6. Ugly Early Morning Driving Habits

I have complained before about driving habits I see regularly in the early morning. It is as though people are so used to no traffic that they consider the normal rules optional … here are a couple that got to me this week:

– Stop sign jumpers: where there is extended visibility, these are the people who are second or third in line at the stop sign but have already scoped out traffic and go immediately following the car in front of them. I almost got nailed as I let one car go and started to run then had the next car just run the stop sign, and since they were turning right they were swerving right into me. They didn’t stop, and all I got out was ‘hey – stop sign!’

– Tailgating no-patience swervers: I have written before about how bizarre it is to see an empty road at 4 or 5AM with an extra-bright set of lights coming down the road only to realize that it is two cars, the second one so close that you can’t make them out from a distance. One of the roads I almost always run (6 of my 10 standard routes) was slightly widened recently, and what I have seen twice in the past week is people who were already tailgating see that the person in front is going to turn left at the intersection (no stop sign) so they pull out to the right to race past.

The problem? The road isn’t wide enough so they have to go a little bit onto the lawn of the house just before the intersection. The first time it happened I was running the opposite way and thought ‘that is dangerous’. Monday morning? Danger confirmed! The guy was just starting to pull to the right and I was in his headlights (I was already on the lawn because I feared it coming) – and threw up my hands and said ‘WTF’ (and not for ‘way too fast’ this time, Cori).

Bonus. Running Pet Peeves

Last month in the Globe, Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray wrote about his pet peeves as both race director and as a runner.

Here are a couple:

Participants taking a shopping cart load of food from the food tent, leaving nothing for the back-of-the-pack runners.

■ Doing the best we can to be environmentally responsible by putting out the appropriate recycling containers, but finding that no one is really paying much attention to any of it.

So what are YOUR pet peeves?

Inspiring Blogger Take 2, the Epic Story Edition!

Hey everyone! Happy Wednesday – yeah I know I skipped posting Tuesday, but when you see the length of this post you’ll understand why! haha

A few weeks ago I did a post based on nominations for the Very Insiring Blogger Award, and rather than the 7 things I chose to do a ‘TMI post’ … which was fun. Since then, I have been nominated 4 more times for the award! Yay! So I wanted to take the time to do another post to share more useless info about myself!

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As a reminder, the steps for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award are as follows:

1. Thank the person who nominated you. Thanks again!
2. Add the Very Inspiring Blogger Award to your post-done
3. Share seven things about yourself.
4 & 5. Nominate a list of bloggers that inspire you and (5) Post on their blog about it.

I definitely want to thank Laura, Sara and Kate – two of my very favorite ladies and a new blog I am following!

I have decided to do ‘7 stories’ similar to Spiritual Creaminess … though not taking the ‘full post narrative’ approach! I decided to do a set of ‘small’ anecdotes … let’s see how it goes!

1. The Story of Our Dogs – And the Nearly-Fatal Cookie Platter

If someone ever told me I would pay $2000 per dog for pure-breeds rather than getting a dog from the pound … I would have laughed at you. Lisa and I had talked about it – we loved breeds like beagles and so on, but wanted the kids to be a few years older before getting a dog. As the kids started school we decided we were ready to start looking at dogs, but there were two fairly major things:

– Lisa had always had allergies (including significant dog allergies) … but after having kids they got worse.
– Christopher was already taking allergy shots, because if a dog licked him his entire face would break out with hives.

So we had to do some research, and find dogs that would work with Lisa & Chris’ allergies. We came up with a few breeds of terriers and poodles. The boys loved the looks of the small-ish terriers – Norwich, Norfolk, etc … not small and fragile like a Yorkie (more of a toy dog, really), but a classic ‘sporting’ terrier that was high energy and ‘sturdy’.

We found a breeder in our area and were able to basically ‘pre-order’ a puppy … basically we were on a wait-list depending on the size of the litter. We needed to sign a ‘no show’ and ‘no breed’ agreement, which was fine … and 8 weeks later we had our baby Rosie! She was all terrier – led by her nose and nearly boundless energy, she was mountain climbing with our cub scout troop at 3 months old, and has never stopped since.

Two years later we got Riley … by this point the breeder had closed their ‘shop’ and moved to central Massachusetts and focused exclusively on breeding and showing rather than being a full-service kennel as well. When we were getting Riley, they were still building out their house, yet had one litter of Norfolk Terriers, and THREE Weimaraner litters at once, with more than 22 babies all at the same time! Riley ended up with worms – they said they were having an issue – but even worse, we put Riley there to board because we were going on vacation a week later and thought it made more sense to board there … and he ended up with Lime’s disease, which deteriorated his vision. Yay.

But ever the indomitable spirit, that winter Riley taught us the value of crating. We used to have the dogs gated in the kitchen & dining room area of the house when we went out. They were too small to get over the gates, too big to get under or between them. It was holiday cookie swap time, and we had a big tightly plastic wrapped tray set for a party the next day … but since it was up on the counter, no problem – right?!?

Well … when we got home the platter was on the floor and there were NO cookies left and Rosie was panting and looking BAD … OH. NO.

What we surmised happened was that Riley got up on the chair, then to the table and counter, dragged the platter around and knocked it down … but then couldn’t get down to get at the platter. Rosie figured it out and ripped through the plastic and ate most of it before Riley jumped down.

Riley was fine – a little sick to his stomach, but no big deal. Rosie spent a week in the emergency vet center near us in a very bad state, really not good for a couple of days … but made it through. That week we went and bought a fold-up crate that goes everywhere with us, and they are in if we leave the house. As for Rosie, she STILL leads with her nose and with a ‘eat first ask questions later’ approach!

2. Taking a Pay Cut for a Better Standard of Living

I am not one to get into personal details such as money, but something Suz said about affordable beer reminded me of the learning experience I went through when job hunting back in late 2007. As Laura is talking about her upcoming move, Ange had a rather sudden move, and Sara recently moved as well. Whenever you move, you need to realize that you are getting into not just a different physical location – but perhaps also a different economic environment!

Before coming out to Corning, I had four offers – in Boston, Seattle, Charlotte and Corning.

Now anyone familiar with those locations can guess hat no two have the same standard of living (well, Boston and Seattle would be closest). That makes evaluating offers very difficult – and also meant a load of time making lists and using spreadsheets. Ultimately it came down to Seattle or Corning – much as I love Boston, I saw now future with the company and the economy was already flailing there.

Seattle and Corning are very far apart in terms of pretty much everything, but for us the main things were good schools, decent house, not a huge commute, and overall cost of living. In Seattle, the best schools were either in super-expensive areas or a long commute … and the more we looked, the more the compromise wasn’t going to work. But along the way we had to get past the $ number on the offer … and that went back to something I remember as a 23 year old sitting at a job fair with a guy who was about the age I am now, offering me unsolicited advice:

Don’t get so focused on the dollars that you lose sight of what goes into them.
Corning is pretty much a one-company town, so coming here meant committing to this company, because if things didn’t work out we’d pretty much have to move. But at the same time we were able to get an all-new house with more than twice the square footage as we had back in Townsend … and the schools are incredibly well resourced and equipped (so long as you are in one of two ‘Corning employee centric’ towns, that is).

So while the number on the offer might be smaller, that doesn’t mean you are actually getting less.

3. The Strip Club Story

Despite apparently being a creepy basement dwelling troll (according to GOMI, anyway), I really have never had an interest in strip clubs. In fact, one major thing I told my brother before my bachelor party was NO strip clubs; heck, I’ve never been to a Hooters! The whole thing … well, I shouldn’t have to elaborate on exactly WHY it bugs me at this point of my blog-life …

But I have been to a strip club … once.

It was the fall of 1985 and I was a college sophomore and an ‘associate member’ (pledge) in my fraternity, and one activity we had to do was called a ‘pub chase’. The drinking age was just shifting to 21 with everyone 19 and older when it changed was ‘grandfathered’ … so it was a different time. The rules of the ‘pub chase’ were that we had to find a bar and stay there from a start time until a finish time, and if we weren’t found we would ‘win’ and they would serve us dinner, otherwise we would have to serve them the next night. The interesting question you probably DON’T have is how we check in at the end of time? We call back to the fraternity house at the end, then the brothers check in to get our location. Ah the days before cell phones!

We were given an hour head-start, and since Saratoga is relatively close to Troy, it wasn’t a big deal to get there. When we did we hit a gas station and asked about local bars, then went to a ‘local’ bar (that was way too obvious) and asked some guys at the bar about the most off-beat bar they knew. One guy responded immediately and we said ‘no, that was too quick’, then another guy had an idea but the bartender shot that one down as too familiar for college kids. Then someone on the periphery said ‘ooh, I got it – Shooters’. The rest of the crowd was silent and puzzled, then a couple of nods started as they realized where it was and explained to those with no clue – we had our place!

So we head to the bar … a non-descript dive in a non-descript small plaza on a less traveled road way outside of the normal popular areas. And we waited … and waited … and no one showed up. Every time a car entered the plaza we thought we were done. But not – no one ever showed. So we won. And let me be clear – we were NOT supposed to win. This was SUPPOSED to be an exercise in futility, concluded with us buying drinks and then cooking dinner and serving MORE drinks the following night as the brothers had a laugh at our expense and we ‘learned’ something. Being honorable guys they followed through on their end … but were not pleased to have lost. But that is another story …

We called the house and let them know, said our goodbyes to the bartender (this was NOT a hotspot), and headed out.

As we were on a road none of us had traveled (I forget, maybe 9N?), we got directions back to Troy from the bar, and headed out. A short distance down the road there was another bar, but as we got closer it was clear it was a really awful looking strip club. The person driving said ‘let’s go in’ … and while for a couple of us it was very much ‘not our bag’, we were all pumped up after winning the challenge so we went with it!

And once inside the no-cover-charge strip club and it was every bit as bad as it seemed from the outside. We were informed they were in between shows so we sat down. Half us WERE ‘grandfathered’ and half were not, so we got a mix of beer and soda (though alcohol to kill anything in the glasses was probably advisable). Soon there was a girl wearing very little clothing carrying a boom box onto the small ‘stage’. She pressed play, started dancing and taking off the little clothes she was wearing (and yes, it was as sad a situation as it sounds, even without hte filter of time and age). A few people threw dollar bills on the stage, but largely the crowd was quiet and motionless – we all found it more than a little bizarre.

Then the song ended and there was silence between songs while the girl continued to dance, and suddenly from the other side of the bar a guy said, not too loudly … “I got a boner”.
The music started again, I looked at the other guys and we all nodded that we were ready to go. But before leaving we all left a dollar – I said ‘that moment alone is worth at least a dollar’. We headed out to the car and were all howling with laughter – when we got back to the house no one could believe we’d actually gone IN to that place, and the story has lived on.

4. I Only Ran >5 Miles ONCE Before 2012 … By Accident!

I have talked a lot about my running history, saying that until 2012 I never really ran more than ~15-20 miles per week. But back in the early 1990s I was traveling for work and was in Gainesville, FL doing installation and training on a research instrument at the University of Florida, and of course I wanted to head out for a run.

So I glanced at the map I got from the car rental place – again, pretty much no cell phones, no web, no GPS – and saw a route that looked like 4-5 miles. It was winter and due to flight schedules I had come out on a Sunday, so I was actually running in the late afternoon.

So I was out running, it was about 70 degrees (compared to snowy and 20 back home), and I really wanted to relish the time I had – so I looked down the road and saw another set of lights a short distance away and kept going, figuring adding another block wouldn’t be a big deal. But without a map or GPS, I didn’t know that at the next light the road sloped sharpy away, and didn’t have another intersection for a while. And since I was only planning 4-5 miles … no water.

So I kept running … and running … and running and was finally back heading towards the hotel. I got there, drenched and exhausted – and I checked my mileage, again using the basic estimate off the map. I had done over 9 miles … about DOUBLE my longest run to date … and a distance I wouldn’t see again for another 20 years!

5. Don’t Worry – Everyone Speaks English!

In high school I took Latin, and while it is not really taught anymore, I give it a lot of credit in helping me with linguistics through the years. Lisa says it is more that I am a natural with languages, but I think Latin helps!

When I was working my first job and doing the joint project with a professor at UPenn, the lead scientist at the main company research center in Germany was also involved. So naturally there were visits all around, and finally I was headed to Germany! I had taken some time to learn German, and it seemed to flow pretty naturally, and I had practiced on a couple of German-speakers and felt OK.

Side story – this was the year before Lisa and I got married, we were engaged but she was still living in Albany. The weekend before I left, our friends were getting married – actually they were Lisa’s friends, but all four of us quickly became friends and I ended up as an usher at their wedding. Cut to the chase, Lisa got ‘blotto’ at the wedding, and was in rough shape the next morning … but I had to drive back to Boston, grab my bags and head to the airport. Her father was giving her crap about being sick and hung-over, I was trying to say goodbye … it is one of those ‘funny looking back’ moments.

So I flew to Germany, and given it was 1991 I was surprised to see airport security with full military gear and automatic weapons by where they were checking passports and bags. Again, changing times. I was able to get through customs, get to the train station, get a ticket and head towards Karlsruhe. There wasn’t a lot of conversation needed, and it gave me the chance to say a few words in German.

Once in Karlsruhe I was supposed to grab a cab to the facility – and the driver didn’t speak any English. Fortunately I knew how to put together enough sentences to get myself where I needed and pay him for the ride. I had flown the red-eye so I got in relatively early in the morning, and actually had a bit of time before people arrived – so I wandered around the area a bit, and ran into shops and people … none of whom spoke English either at all or very well. It set me off guard a bit, but I was rolling with it – again thankful for my studies and skills.

At the research center that day, I was ‘buddied up’ with an American ex-pat for most of the week who enjoyed having an English speaker, but laughed at my being told I didn’t need to speak German. Sure, he said – if you plan to not do anything local you can get by. And since my desire was to actually experience the culture – Karlsruhe is in that area that has gone back and forth between Germany and France through the centuries and bears marks of both cultures.

So I spent every evening the rest of the week entirely out of my comfort zone, mangling the German language with people who enjoyed my attempts and youthful enthusiasm … I had great food, great beer and a great view of the culture I’ll never forget.

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6. Lost at Sea!

For our honeymoon we went to Sandals in Antigua, and it was just an incredible time – we didn’t join in too many group activities (except when Lisa volunteered me to play with the band), no separate boys & girls things … just the two of us having an absolute blast the whole time. We played lawn-chess, took out kayaks, lots of tennis, hot & cold baths, read on the beaches, had fancy and casual dinners, did snorkeling, hit town and so on. Like I said, it was awesome.

But one of the most memorable / embarassing moments was when we took the two-person paddleboat out. It was getting later in the day, and we were having fun and headed out pretty far from shore … but then the tide started going out and we were struggling to get back in. Now we were both young and in good shape, and also full of pride so we weren’t going to give up easily.

We kept paddling and slowly we overcame the tide and started making progress towards shore … but then a power boat came up and one of the very friendly but insistent beach workers said ‘ya mon, we want to go home now’ and they had a great chuckle at our expense.

And when we got to shore, everyone there was joking with us – one person saying the boats weren’t made to go to other islands, and so on. It was funny but definitely embarassing!

7. The First ‘Date’ That Nearly Wasn’t

My beautiful picture

I write all the time about my family, most of all my wife Lisa. That is because she is the center of the universe and has been for the majority of my life at this point. This year we celebrate 22 years of marriage, and have known each other more than 27 years. But there was one pivotal night that could easily have destroyed any chance of a future, but instead cemented our relationship and made us inseparable. I wrote about it here, but I think it is a pretty cool story, and want to share it again.

Lisa and I met in college through a mutual friend at a fraternity party at my house (Theta Xi). It was fairly typical – girls traveling as friends, but as soon as our friend met up with her boyfriend, she ditched Lisa. We hung out at parties several times that year (she was a senior, I was a junior), but never connected after she graduated. To each other we were just nice people we had met and would never see again.

Fast forward to after I was out of school and living back in the Boston area. Our friend was coming out for a visit, so the three of us got together and had a pretty fun time, but I was in the midst of my weight loss and she was living in a crappy apartment and dealing with other stuff, so neither of us made contact and we didn’t connect again until the following spring. Again our friend was visiting, and she and I met and then headed to Brigham & Woman’s Hospital where Lisa was working. When she came out … well, it is a moment I won’t forget. I was in a totally different place, and so was she and we hit it off from the first moment and it was just an epic great day.

Lisa was planning to head to Albany the next weekend and I had planned to visit the fraternity, so I offered her a ride there (we were coming back on different days) and we had a great chat across the 3.5 hour drive. We both wanted to hang out again, so set up to go out the following weekend. When she was back we made more specific plans – we were going to head to Chinatown for dinner, hang out around various places in Boston, and generally just have a relaxing night. Oh, and most importantly, 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!

You can probably see where this is heading – in an era before cell phones, where there was no way to reach each other unless we checked in at home, there was little to do but wait. I hung out up top for about a half hour, then hit a pay phone and called her answering machine (cost me a dime, too! Talk about old school!) Waited some more and then called again. During that time I did head back into the station as far as I could go without paying again a few times.

Needless to say I was pretty crushed. I was dressed nicely and ready for a great time.

The last time I headed down I hit a crowd coming up from the trains, and looked through to see if Lisa was there. But then as I came back up and looked back over towards the train station – guess who I saw emerging from the other stairway? That is right!

And as I headed over, Lisa turned and spotted me … and we ran and met each other with a massive hug! After a little bit we got a bit awkward and separated and all of that anger and disappointment quickly turned to laughter as I pointed out the Dunkin’ Donuts up top and she pointed out the one below! From there we had a great night in Chinatown, Faneuil Hall, and so on. We walked around and ended up back at her Somerville apartment late, where I crashed on the couch.

She had gotten dressed up as well and looked really nice, and we had the most fabulous time. I call it a ‘date’ because we wouldn’t kiss for more than two months after that. We had grown into friends so quickly, and she had a neighbor who spoke to me in a way that seemed to assert ‘territory’ with her, and honestly I didn’t think she was into me ‘in that way’.

When I look back at the beginnings of our relationship there are two moments that come to mind – meeting eyes with her that day at the Brigham, and the hug and subsequent night in Boston. You see, we had communicated only a casual ‘hanging out’ … yet both of us were very much dressed up. And neither of us gave up – it meant a lot to both of us. Nor did we hold grudges or seek to assign blame – it was an honest case of miscommunication, and it dissipated as we had a great night, turning now into one of those stories our kids have heard hundreds of times.

Of course, today this entire thing would have been solved in two quick texts and a chuckle. I wonder how that would have changed things?

Do you have a story from the time you met someone in your life?

Nominations

I have been following a couple of new blogs and wanted to get them to share some TMI stories in whatever way they wanted. Here goes:

Sami from Peace Love and Ice Cream has just re-started her blog after several months away!

The Running Schlub

Comments? Still awake? Alive? I apologize if you planned a post for today, but apparently I used #allthewordz!

‘Rough’ Work Day, Running Lately and 5 Ways to Make Your iPad Your Main PC!

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I have mentioned before that I work in the ‘corporate engineering’ organization, but most people I talk to don’t know what that really means (nor did I really ‘get it’ until I started working at Corning. In my last job there were two divisions – one for microelectronics and the other for printed circuit boards, each with their own research, development, engineering and manufacturing people. Within a division we would work on a variety of technologies and products, and often remain linked to them … well, forever. You would report to your boss but the project lead would have your time. By the time I left I had estimated that 40% of my time was allocated to ‘baggage’ responsibilities from the previous 15 years.

For Corning, without being too specific, each business has employees to do development and engineering and manufacturing, and there is a corporate engineering division that supplies ‘center of excellence’ support to every other division. This allows divisions to streamline operations and the corporate engineering groups to focus on their core skills. Operationally, it means that you almost never see your boss or the people in your department. So I have an office in downtown Corning, but have been there less than a half-dozen times this year.

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‘Rough Day’ at Work

With all of that as introduction, you might understand why it matters for our department to have periodic ‘team events’. We have a monthly staff meeting and quarterly division meetings, but again those are functional and don’t help us connect as people, which greatly enhances our ability to work together effectively. So before I even joined Corning, the group started a routine of having a couple of smaller events and one larger all-day event each year.

For example, last year we had a cooking class day at the New York Wine and Culinary Center, have done wine tours, bowling, boat trips, and more.

This year for our ‘rough day’, we spent the day on a two-masted schooner and then eating at a nice lake-side restaurant.

We did a Seneca lake cruise on the ‘True Love’, which was the boat used in the film High Society when Bing Crosby serenades Grace Kelly on the boat. Because of the weather change from warm & humid to cool & dry, the lake was quite windy … making for excellent sailing! Because the boat is relatively small (capacity of 20 people, we had 14), when we were sailing with the wind the boat tipped so the rail was less than a foot off of the water! The weather was great, and the wind and waves made for a fun and active ride – it was possible to walk around and talk, but choppy enough that you wanted to sit when possible and there were a few drinks spilled. All in all a great adventure, and highly recommended if you are in the area!

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We had a late lunch at the Seneca Harbor Station restaurant, which is a place we’ve been to a couple of times before. Our experience was mixed but generally, and that pretty well reflects the experience this time. Coming in on a Thursday afternoon after 2PM the place wasn’t too busy, so we were able to not be cramped at all.

There were a variety of appetizers, then main dishes. They also provided ‘fresh’ bread that was drenched a sort of butter-oil-garlic … I tried it, but not a fan. I got a Southwest Chicken Salad that had fresh salsa (black bean, red onion, tomato, corn and cilantro salsa with tortilla chips and roasted jalapenos) as well as spinach and other greens and grilled chicken. The problem I had (aside from no tortilla chops and the jalapenos not being roasted, neither of which I minded since the jalapenos were fresh and not from a jar) was that the chicken wasn’t ‘fresh’. It reminded me of getting a big bag of pre-grilled chicken breast from Sam’s Club, reheating and cutting it up. In other words, it was fresh cut, but NOT fresh cooked.

As I talked to others at the table that ‘semi-homemade’ feeling was everywhere. My review of Seneca Harbor Station would be ‘Good’ – food was pretty decent, prices for an ‘on the lake’ place were also reasonable. Service was excellent, one benefit of the place having emptied out after lunch.

But the best thing about all of it was how both events allowed everyone to chat and move around easily – I heard about projects, locations, kids and spouses and parents and so on, planned out a possible course to teach next year, and so on. Excellent day in every possible way!

Running

I have only talked a bit about my running since returning from vacation, but a few things occurred to me as I was finishing up my run today and looking at the 9.07 mile distance … here are the bullet points:
– 10 runs since returning
– 92.5 miles total
– 9 out of 10 runs were over 9 miles
– Totally off last weekend, will run Saturday and take Sunday off
– All runs were ‘free-form’, base building … next week gets back to ‘purpose’.

I was concerned returning from vacation and hopping into running, so I ran with the Kinvara 5s for a few days them rotated back into the Virratas … and I have felt great.

Belkin Ultimate1

Five Steps to Make Your iPad Your Main Computer

I talk regularly about using my iPad as my ‘90% Computer’. I also get asked a lot about how to make the iPad useful beyond just ‘a toy’, so I thought I would quickly note a few ways to turn that tablet into your main computing device!

Realize what you CAN Do!

When the iPad first arrived, people dismissed it as an over-sized iPod Touch, and then as a simple ‘consumption’ machine. In other words, some of the obvious capabilities: email, web browsing, listening to music and watching videos. Guess what – the iPad is EXCELLENT at those things.

But very quickly the iPad killed the booming Netbook category and shook up the PC market completely … so it had to be more than just a basic consumption device.

Just by using what is built-in to the iPad and readily available for free from Apple, you get:
– Very capable email client for all common services
– Multi-tab web browsing with most modern features available.
– Calendar / Contacts / To Do
– Maps with GPS and directions
– Messaging and video chat clients
– Camera with integrated browser, separate powerful image editor and movie editor
– Video and music integration with cloud-based playback
– Music making and recording

That is quite a bit – and the hardware is powerful and incredible capable.

Make Use of iCloud, Google+ and Onedrive

One of the great things for me is the ability to quickly shift between iPhone, iPad and Mac in terms of images, music and data files.

For example, I can take a picture on my iPhone, then upload it to a post in WordPress on the iPad without ever downloading it to my device by using the Photo Stream. Using Google+ allows you to add all of the pictures you take to your Google image storage for use with a Chromebook or Android device, and Microsoft’s OneDrive has similar capabilities.

As another simple example, after our New York trip we wanted to look at pictures. We imported ones from our cameras to iPhoto, but the ones from our phones all auto-uploaded so we could just grab the iPad and browse through them all.

Apps, Apps, Apps!

My uses for the iPad?
– Productivity (including all of the stuff from above)
– Data analysis
– RSS browser
– Blogging
– Gaming
– Music making

Doing many of these things requires apps. I love jamming with Magellan Synth, recording up to 48 tracks in Auria, checking RSS feeds in Mr. Brower (uses Feedly), blogging with the WordPress app, and so on.

Whereas most of the best phone games are ‘time wasters’, on the iPad you can play a full game like Baldur’s Gate 2, or X-Com and so on. The screen size gives you the visual space as well as touch-screen space to have a great experience.

The same is true for music – you can use multi-touch to play ‘piano’, manipulate ‘knobs’ and ‘dials’ in real-time, and because of the processing power, an app like AudioBus allows you to string together multiple apps to turn your iPad into a real recording studio!

Accessorize for Success

If you look at the image above, you see I have my iPad in a keyboard case. Specifically I have the Belkin Qode Ultimate, which protects my iPad Air, doesn’t add much bulk, and provides a great Bluetooth keyboard with excellent battery life.

I also regularly use products from IK Multimedia such as the iRig Pro to hook in my guitar, and the iRig Keys Pro as a great portable keyboard.

Temper Your Expectations

Remember … this is NOT a laptop. I think this has fueled some disillusionment and a tapering of sales from all vendors. You WILL need a computer for some things, and to act as a ‘hub’, but you will also find you can use it much less.

That is how my iPad became my 90% computer. When I first got it, I had my work computer for work, but also a smartphone (Droid), netbook and LiveScribe ‘smartpen’. With the iPad the netbook and LiveScribe quickly went away – and so did my use of the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP! And many things I was doing on the Droid I could do more efficiently on the iPad.

When I was in Kentucky last year, I knew I needed my work computer (duh), but I needed some way to do my personal stuff and blogging … and didn’t want to lug two laptops. So I had to do a ‘trust fall’ and hope the iPad would work – and it DID. I was recording and editing and posting video reviews, writing, playing games, making music, emailing, Facetime-ing and so on! So for me, it has earned its place.

And finally – while it seems illogical – maybe you don’t NEED a tablet? As screens get bigger more people are able to use their smartphones for nearly everything. And I look at things and wonder – if Apple DOES release the rumored 5.5″ screen (or even the nearly-certain 4.7″), will the combination of that and my Macbook Air be enough? We shall see …

Have you sailed on a lake? What is your go-to computer / blogging device?

Randomly Random Stuff of Randomness

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It seems lately I have had a steady stream of rather serious and heavy posts, but at the same time I have been amassing drafts and filling up my ‘junk draft’ with stuff – so it is time to purge with a ‘thinking out loud‘ theme! And so … let’s get to it …

Thinking-Out-Loud

1. You Really Never Know!
In a comment last week Megan said “I just have no idea how you put out so MUCH content without putting junk out there” – and here is the thing … neither do I.

This was originally where I had what became the Continuous Trust Fall post. It is still interesting to me what gains traction, and also how I can have an idea that seems like a throwaway and then suddenly there is a post! Like today … what started as a random collection of recent stuff gained at least somewhat of a theme as I went along … hope you enjoy! 🙂

2. Dreams Followed

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Here is a random one based on the ‘passion over paycheck’ post – last week in our area one of the engineers in our group found a new bakery that had opened. Turns out that it was someone a couple of people had worked with, and he had always expressed interest in opening a wood-fired bread bakery when he retired.

He calls the place “Ash Hole Makers of Dough” – yeah, the name … but the bread? Awesome! Oh – and if you are ever doing the Wineglass Marathon or coming through Corning, check it out!

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3. Diner Micro-review: Maple Lawn Dairy Restaurant

OK, I love how Hollie does her diner reviews, they are fun and seem like they would be functionally useful for folks in the area. Plus it is never bad to look at pictures of the monster cakes and sundaes she gets!

On our way to New York City for vacation, we asked around about a place to go and were told about the Maple Lawn Dairy Restaurant, and since it was along the way … we stopped.

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Atmosphere: it really IS both a dairy and a restaurant! You walk through the ice cream place as you go to get seated … and in that moment you want to stop and say “I think I’ll have a sundae for breakfast!” The place looks more like a family-style casual eatery than a diner, with plenty of windows and natural light – so we could also see it was really clean.
Coffee: diner coffee, but good! We only had a couple of cups each – because we still had more than a four hour drive! But it was good enough that we would have had more.
Food: Between us we had two specialty omelettes, one Belgian waffle, and I got the jumbo breakfast wrap. The portions were huge – none of us left remotely hungry, and there was food left behind on most of the plates.
Price: Four people, huge breakfasts, and a total including tip of $50.
Overall Thoughts / Would I Come Back: One great thing – our waitress brought us a French toast sample plate while we decided, and the staff in general were incredibly friendly and helpful. They have a rewards program that immediately gives you a discount coupon – and my older son and his girlfriend already returned for another awesome breakfast.

This is one of the best breakfast places in the area, a bit off the highway and about 30 minutes east of Corning. Again, if you are coming for Wineglass or just driving through the area – worth a stop!

4. Amazon Kindle Unlimited and Prime Music

Do you love to read? If so check out Kindle Unlimited – it is $9.99 per month, on top of Amazon Prime if you have it. The selection is somewhat limited now, but does include audiobook versions of more than 1200 books. It includes things like ‘Life of Pi’ as well as the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Hunger Games series. The estimate I would make is that if you read more than a couple of books a month it pays for itself.

If you DO have Amazon Prime … you should really check out Prime Music. They JUST added hundreds of thousands more songs (it launched with over a million), and also hundreds of cool pre-fab playlists. The really cool thing is that you can add the music included with Prime directly to your music library, and can then download to your devices to play on the go without any internet access.

5. Running For a Reason

I have talked about Laura’s run across America before, and this week she wrote in frustration about the challenges in finding sponsorship for her cause, which is sexual violence. It is sad that what seems like such an easy cause to support should be proving difficult:

As women, we view the world differently because of what we’ve been told to be afraid of. We may even trust differently, and have learned to be suspicious first. We’ve also been told that rape could be our fault if we behave in certain ways, and I know that is a thought that has passed through my mind as I make decisions (although I contradict it, it’s still there). Please note: it is never our fault.

As I spoke to a potential corporate sponsor on Friday, she was initially excited about the run. But then she found out what cause I was running for, and I was told, verbatim, that this was “not a cause they would choose to align themselves with.”

Again – I find this really sad. And so I want to again encourage everyone to check out her site, her fundraising page, and even her Amazon Wish List and see what you can possibly do to help.

6. 8 Signs of a Relationship Gone Wrong

Speaking of Laura’s cause, over at UpWorthy this week they provided the following graphic and also the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233. It is sad that any of this needed … but it is, very much.

Relationship Gone Wrong

7. My Family Went to New York, and all I got …

Was a new debit card.

True story – last Thursday night Lisa and I were paying a few bills and noticed an odd $0.25 charge from a New York parking garage. All I could think was it was possibly related to our parking garage where we stayed, or maybe the Metro … but none of it seemed right. We made a note to keep an eye on our account.

The next morning Lisa got a call from our bank (Corning Credit Union), who had detected suspicious account activity … and we discovered that the $0.25 was the second ‘test charge’ (the other one was immediately reversed) and that someone had attempted a shopping spree with the card before it got shut down.

That afternoon we were in the branch office going through everything, and they had dealt with all of the charges except for a few that were still pending, and none of it was our responsibility. They shredded my card and issues a new one, and everything was handled incredibly quickly and easily.

I had gotten a new card because I made one trip to Target before their whole system got hacked, and now I just got another one. But what really struck me was the level of fast and friendly customer service we got during the whole process. It made a potentially awful situation much less stressful.

8. Overcoming Negative Thoughts

I loved the post by Harold at Runnah.com where he did his own version of ‘Overcoming Negative Thoughts’ … which was a great post by Christine at Love Life Surf.

Here are her basic thoughts:
1.Write about it.
2.Let it go.
3.Remember what you have accomplished.
4.A good coach helps too.
5.Believe you can fly.

Both posts are great and worth reading, and a great reminder of how negative thoughts can consume us and how important it is to purge them from our lives.

9. Speaking of Runnah.com

When I did my ‘blog process’ write-up, I nominated three wonderful people. But then I was surprised to see that Harold had done his own process post! Why? Because he is generally not a huge fan of these things … but I LOVED that he did it, so wanted to share it here.

Since I am off the running routine for a bit (one of those freak injuries), I have looked for things to blog about and after reading Mike’s blog today about the Blog Writing Tour, I decided to invite myself into the party :-).

I know, I know it probably is not good form, but…hey this seemed like fun and sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns and do it.

Check it out, and also Lauren, Michele and Sara!

10. Watching Out for Emotional Manipulation

As all of us know, there are many ways to cause pain that do not leave a mark. Many of us deal with emotional manipulators in our lives – they are easy to spot, because they are the ones who will do something to you (or not do something they promised) and yet YOU end up apologizing. There is a great post on 8 ways to spot emotional manipulation – and freeing yourself from emotionally manipulative relationships can be one of the greatest gifts you will ever give yourself:

If you have a headache an emotional manipulator will have a brain tumor! No matter what your situation is the emotional manipulator has probably been there or is there now – but only ten times worse. It’s hard after a period of time to feel emotionally connected to an emotional manipulator because they have a way of de-railing conversations and putting the spotlight back on themselves. If you call them on this behavior they will likely become deeply wounded or very petulant and call you selfish – or claim that it is you who are always in the spotlight. The thing is that even tho you know this is not the case you are left with the impossible task of proving it. Don’t bother – TRUST your gut and walk away!

11. GOMI Good or Bad

Hollie referenced the ‘snarktastic’ site called ‘Get Off My Internets’, or GOMI, in a post this week. The basis of the forum site is based on people creating threads that reference a site in a number of categories. Most of the sites I track and that comment on mine are in either Running Blogs or Healthy Living categories.

In general, no one creates a thread for a positive reason. Sure there are supporters of bloggers who will post, but the preponderance of thoughts are negative – hate reading, criticizing content or style or appearance … and most positive comments are made in the context of a comparison used to criticize someone else.

As for me? I get a single reference in a thread about Sara at Loving On The Run … . Given that (a) I’m older than most of the people I follow by at least 10-15 years (b) I’m a guy and most of the blogs I follow are by women and (c) that I write the comments I do … well, I wasn’t surprised by what was written:

mirulhi said
Plus: Who is this self-righteous weirdo (https://txa1265.wordpress.com/) who comments daily on her crap? Maybe it’s just me, but for some random, old, married dude to be excited to read “a peek into who you are as a person, wife, and runner” seems super creepy. Besides, he posts on his own blog too many late-middle-age man full-length mirror selfies. *shudder*

I KNOWWW!! Everytime that guy comments I get super creeped out. I just know he’s at home, poring over her blog/Twitter/Instagram having dirty thoughts. He loves to dole out relationship advice too.

If you read anything else in that thread you’ll see that I make out better than Sara. Similarly I find many people are pretty harsh on Hollie … and when I was looking there I noted they now have a thread on The Suz … ugh, just not nice. Personally I can’t change the gender and age distribution of our community, and since I thoroughly enjoy our interactions, my approach has always been total transparency with Lisa about, as she calls it, my running cult’ 🙂

To be honest, GOMI is FAR from the worst or harshest forum site I have spent time on, and a lot of it comes across rather pedantic, as well as tired, hackneyed, petulant and immature. Certainly compared to some game forums it is positively sedate!

But it is also worth noting that there is a place for this type of criticism. I have talked about the lack of constructive feedback and the overly-positive nature of things … GOMI helps provide an outlet off-blog for people to talk about things. Of course, I think a firect approach would always be better – if you have an issue with a blogger, drop an email.

12. Oldest Sub-4:20 Miler

Since I am 48 I was drawn to this article about a 48 year old runner becoming the oldest to run a sub-4:20 mile. On the one hand I think I look younger … but on the other I look nothing like him rounding the track! haha Check out the video:

13. Random Randoms

– Danielle has a great new featured column at Women’s Running’s Competitor site about sweating – it is awesome and 100% Classic T-Rex! Check It Out

Shamus has fun poking at the new music service Milk … which is basically radio. Not reinvented, not ‘for the next generation’ … just radio.

– Worst Conflict Resolution Ever – So a guy emails his wife about why he won’t miss her on her 10 day trip, using a tabulation of denied sex requests as a backdrop. So yeah, actually you should head to the original Reddit page … great comments, really sad situation. Nothing is clear except that the level of communications and intimacy in the relationship is dreadfully poor. As many there say, if he has a 7 week detailed spreadsheet with verbatim responses … how long has he been mentally tracking, and how long has it bugged him before … and what was his level of communication about the situation, and how involved was SHE in any of this. To be at this point at 26? Wow … even MORE sad.

– New ’10 Days of You’ posts – you know that Sara got me hooked on this (and is down to her 3 films), and now Laurel has picked it up with her 10 secrets post. My faves? Her talent for learning song lyrics and “I will sometimes sleep in my running outfit so I have one less excuse”. haha!

15 ‘Not to Do’ List Items – one way Megan is changing up is posting more things that would be blogs on Facebook – like this. My only addition would “Don’t allow others to dictate your personal boundaries.”

14. Colby Callait’s “Try” – Great Message

Lisa was singing this song and wanted to share it, so we looked on YouTube and found the video and played it. The video was about honestly representing yourself – no Photoshop or other dishonest alterations.

Here is the video:

Sara shared the video as well based on this powerful message. And linked to a site where Callait shared some thoughts:

When I see gorgeous models and singers and they look perfect on their album covers, it makes me want to look like that, too, and it makes me feel like if I don’t Photoshop my skin on my album cover, I’m the one who’s going to look a little off and everyone else is going to look perfect. And that’s what everyone is used to seeing.

They’re used to seeing people on the album covers completely Photoshopped. On one of my album covers, my arm was shaved down and it made me look very skinny. I think that gives a false reality.

So What Random Thoughts Do You Have Today?

Running, Blogging and Life – Continuous Trust Fall

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Monday night as I lay in bed waiting to fall asleep, I reflected on the day – great run, amazing posts and comments from friends, great time at a college fair with the boys after Danny’s first day at work, and a great set of chats with Lisa after my run and after dinner/before bed.

Sure, I know I am #blessed and all of that … but it goes beyond that – and makes me feel like my life is a continuous set of ‘trust falls’, with someone (and generally many someones) there to catch me!

Running

While my struggles with weight form an obvious undercurrent for my life, the real health story of my adulthood is about me and running. Running led me to eat better led me to lose weight led to an overall improvement in my outlook on life. Running me will talk to anyone, yet is perfectly fine being alone.

Running makes me, a better me.

When I started gaining weight a few different times where running seemed to be happening less and less, it wasn’t just the weight – it was my attitude, energy, eating, and general outlook on life.

I have referred to going back to running like stepping into a warm hug, revisiting an old friend. And yet this time, for the last two and half years things have been different. This time I have asked my body to be faster, to run longer, to rack up more miles each week than I used to do in a month … oh, yeah and to never get injured.

I did a bunch of ‘trust falls’ with running … and it has always been there to catch me.

But as with real life trust falls, the person falling has responsibliities as well: to make sure that the catcher is ready, positioning is correct and so on. So I have borne my responsibilities seriously: learning to fuel properly, listening to my body and resting it on occasion, and doing proper warm-up/cool down cycles.

Since coming back from vacation I’ve run more than 65 miles, taken the weekend off, and felt like I stepped back into the routine more quickly and easily than I could have imagined … and it is great. Hello again, old friend … I look forward to another 25+ years together!

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Blogging

This post started here – I had a post that I nearly hit ‘delete’ rather than ‘schedule’. Actually I have had several since I started, but specifically I had NO CLUE how I was going to take a few things I had been reading on Monster.com and turn it into a post that would be of any interest. Especially since my working title was about how a traditional day job was ruining your life and it was a very down post.

Then I was talking to the boys about how their college search should be about their passions, and last week Megan talked about how she was transforming her blogging, Laura was discussing her inside/outside running switches in the context of her cross-country run, and Danielle was talking about trying to figure out how to fund life through the next phase of Ramblen. Suddenly within a short time period I had a theme and BAM … a post.

And yet, there was a part of me that thought it wasn’t worth publishing, and I almost left it sitting in drafts until a voice inside of me said “these guys are awesome, let them guide you and tell you if this works”. And guess what? Not only did you find it worth reading … you posted a set of amazing comments.

Blogging is ALWAYS a ‘trust fall’ … but this was the first time I really FELT it.

I was reading Suz post on ‘The Comment’ … and had a sketch idea about a post on comments that can get to your weak points, and again was uncertain if it was worth posting, but again I am SO glad I did. Most of us make note of it, and Suz did a whole post about it … but the comments are THE BEST.

There are definitely areas from the early posts I don’t plan on doing as stand-alone posts – music and video games in particular – but this week has definitely totally enamored me even more than before on all of you guys! Amazing … really, just amazing.

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Life

I stated it in my ‘comment’ post, but getting married and having kids is a continuous stream of trust falls – starting with putting your life and soul into the hands of another person. Lisa knows me, and I know her – and we each know that when we make that blind leap the other person has our back.

Lisa and I were talking about things going on this week, and she had been talking to some people who were discussing things they would love to go back and change … and Lisa said what I had said in an earlier post – while there are some things I wish I had chosen to deal with differently (cough weight cough), ultimately all of these things brought me HERE to this moment.

And in this moment I have a great wife, kids, home, job, running life, and friends. This is the community that is there when I do my trust falls, and I don’t falter for a second.

With kids, sometimes a trust fall is really about taking off the training wheels … Monday was the first day of work for my older son, and that is always a thrilling moment for them, getting dressed, sitting through grueling training and HR videos … and the sudden realization that they get PAID to sit through those videos! haha

And we went straight from there up to Cornell University (~45 minutes) to attend a college fair, with about 70 schools represented. There is a ‘college summer camp’ week right now for high school kids, so there were kids from all over the country on the campus, making for an even more interesting college fair. Watching my boys know what they wanted, talking to recruiters and asking insightful questions was a reminder that I was ultimately just along for the ride. Which is great – because it is THEIR passion, not mine.

Another thing Lisa and I were discussing was how much we enjoy being together – it was something that came up in discussions for both of us in negative context expressed from other people. It is again another reminder of how fortunate we are to have been together all of these years and experienced so much happiness together, and also of how much hard work it is being married, having kids and all of the things that happen throughout our lives. Hollie asked about ‘What is Success’ yesterday, and it is something I’ve talked about – my life and family tell me that I am very successful.

Great Fortune

Here is the reality – being in the position to talk about these sorts of things is a reminder of the incredible fortune I have in my life. I am blessed with great successes in all areas that greatly enrich me every day, and bring me great happiness.

What Are the ‘Trust Falls’ You Make in YOUR Life?

From The Archives – Thank you for smoking … NOT!

Kids Ferrari Show

I got a great response from my vacation ‘from the archives’ posts, and I have been talking so much about my personal blogs from before this one … so I took a look and found a bunch of old blog posts that I thought would be interesting to share and discuss (if you guys find them interesting, of course). Here is the first! It is about public smoking, and came into my mind again as we hiked the Watkins Glen Gorge a few weeks ago and again walking around New York City and being unable to enjoy ‘fresh air’ spaces like Central Park, Washington Square Park, the Statue of Libery and Ellis Island without constant smokers.

Originally published: Summer 2008 – our first summer living in New York.

We love to go outdoors and do things together as a family. So naturally on Labor Day weekend we took advantage of the excellent weather to do as much as possible. There was a variety of activities, but one common theme – wherever we went, it was impossible to engage in the activity we wanted to without walking through a wall of second-hand smoke.

These were outdoor, family activities, mind you … it isn’t like we were strolling through a bar! I believe in the rights of individuals to engage in self-directed activities, but only so far as they do not impact others. Since second hand smoke is a known and proven health threat to others, that self-regulated activity becomes a public activity and therefore disappears from individual liberty in my opinion.

I mean, if I sat around in the middle of a park breaking open mercury thermometers or playing with the regulator on a tank of fluorine gas, you would agree that I should be stopped immediately. But smoking is a different story. As I said, I have no problem with people engaging in a legal activity – or an illegal one, for that matter – so long as it doesn’t interfere with my ability to engage in an activity in public space. Private space is just that – private. Also, circumstances should dictate reasonable expectations. I don’t believe, for example, that it is my right to expect a smoke-free environment in a Cigar bar. But everything we did was outdoors, and much of it was centered around fitness-inducing or ‘fresh air’ based activities like hiking trails.

This is one thing I miss about Massachusetts. Public smoking is pretty well banned everywhere. Sure there are smoking areas, but they have to be set up in a way that isolates them from normal traffic. For example, at my old job I never ran into a wall of smoke in 15 years, yet perhaps 75% of the times I enter the research center here and 100% of the times I enter one of the manufacturing facilities I have to wade through a sea of smoke.

So there were two things this weekend that bugged me: the first was at the Ferrari festival in downtown Corning pictured above. For some reason all of the owners and many of the fans thought there was no better way to celebrate expensive cars than by puffing on cigars. It was just plain nasty, because there was no way to avoid it. When you are in an open-air event and everyone has to wash their clothes because of the stench, it is a problem.

But worse still was on Monday, when we went to the ‘Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania’. This is an absolutely gorgeous area, with overlooks and several miles of hiking trails. But to get to it all you have to go through the info center / gift shop. And in between the two is a covered hall with benches that looked like a fog bank had rolled in. It was nasty, and inexcusably rude on the part of the smokers. I had no problem with those who sat at benches outside that area or hung out by their cars to smoke … well, to an extent I did but more on that later. Those other smokers enjoyed their rights without infringing upon mine. This is an inherently outdoor, health-centric activity, and I cannot believe that there is anyone alive who would equate smoking as consistent with ‘fresh air’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘good exercise’. It is the antithesis.

OK, my other problem with smokers? Virtually all of them are poisoning the environment. It goes beyond the smoke itself to the ashes they brazenly flick to the butts they crush and toss in public places for the birds to eat and choke to death. I’m sure there are some who bring along their own ashtrays to avoid these things, but I haven’t seen ONE. Not one … ever. And before anyone starts with ‘other people litter’, yeah they do – and they are no better. But smokers are the subject here.

I think there is a certain hypocrisy in allowing smoking to be legal yet treating it like a crime. I believe that smokers should be allowed to pursue their legal right to smoke. I believe in smoking sections and smoking areas and so on. But I also believe that my right to *not* smoke should be honored, and that due to the health considerations it should be put above the right to public smoking.

What do YOU think about public smoking in nature settings? Or in general?

The Comments That Can Tear Your Soul Apart

January 2012

This isn’t the picture I refer to in the post, but gives you the idea of me 100lbs heavier and with shorter hair.

Happy Monday everyone! As I mentioned on Friday, Lisa was off all weekend so it was a run-free (and sleep-heavy) weekend … which was great since last week was a blur coming back from vacation and seeming to have so much going on between work and home and the kids …

I managed to get in 47.5 miles last week running pretty much my ‘standard summer’ routes for 5 days. This morning it struck me how the thought of running 10 miles at one time was inconceivable just a couple of years ago … and now it is pretty close to my nominal daily run distance all summer. Perspective? Not me!

Having a Safe Place in Your Life

Today’s post is about comments that can hurt you deeply, but I am really only talking about stuff in the context of blogging. This weekend I saw a post – a happy one about an old friend getting remarried – that brought back a memory of someone from the same friend circle who went through a very difficult time a few years back, and due to sharing friends with the person on the other side of her difficulties, had her situation spread and become more difficult on Facebook. It led her to completely pull back and delete her account and email addresses. I hope that provided her some distance from the hurt, but it is a reminder that we all need to feel safe.

One thing about being married for 22 years and together for 25 is that Lisa and I are connected at a level that is impossible to put into words. As we were driving home from vacation something came up and it was one of those times where we finished the sentence together … but unlike most ‘finish your sentence’ things it contained references three levels deep!

But that connection also means knowing how to push someone’s buttons – we can see each other’s weaknesses and trigger points like they were massive bulls-eyes. I attribute much of our strength and happiness to the fact that rather than poking and jabbing at those weaknesses, we tend to protect them and throw ourselves in front of them if someone else tries to poke them. We are not perfect, no one is … but we fundamentally trust each other to always have each other’s back.

Thing is – we ALL have those weak spots. And some people poke them – intentionally or not.

The other day Suz alluded to a comment that really got to her in multiple ways, and then she addressed it more directly.

It got to her because:
– It attacked her as being eating disordered – which given everything she deals with is incredibly hurtful.
– It created a very negative feeling in what Suz is trying to have as a positive space, especially for people like her struggling in many ways.

Then Hollie posted about getting some seriously negative feedback on a web forum (I will actually deal with that one separately another day). What she saw was people questioning her writing (grammar, spelling, etc) and even asking based on that assessment how she graduated college. Myself and many other commenters complimented her for handling it in such a mature manner as opposed to unleashing the rage cannons on them.

Each of these women has set up their blogs not only as a way of sharing their own story, but also building a community, and rightly feel that people visiting should feel safe and encouraged to share positive messages.

Things That Perhaps SHOULD Bug Me But Don’t

Given my history of obesity and struggles to feel like a ‘real’ runner … you might think that an easy trigger would be to call me fat, say I’ve gained weight, or tell me I’m a slow old man.

Nah – I AM slow, I HAVE been fat, and I’m 48 … not exactly OLD, but the same age my Dad was when I graduated college.

None of that stuff bugs me in the least. In fact, while I have talked much about trolls and poor treatment of others using the anonymity of the internet, it is really nothing that has bugged me much. In fact, now that Hollie talked about it directly, I can say that her specific case is one that bugged me and that I alluded to indirectly … multiple times.

You might also think that insulting my family would be something that would bother me – and to be clear, a real-life encounter involving my family is one of my fundamental triggers – but I have also been around the internet long enough to know that there is no picture of any person that would not be potentially met with what comes down to the ‘2/10 would not bang’ treatment. So some person online making comments about the physical appearance and/or sexual preferences of my wife and/or children? Um, ultimately more about the person making the comment.

That leads to one thing – stuff said in real life is much more likely to impact me than stuff said online. I am not impervious online, but it would be much more difficult to make me feel personally insulted.

A Couple of Interesting Stories

Another interesting story – way back in the 80s, Lisa picked up the expression ‘thank you very large’, and since I was probably about 350 pounds when I met her I took some offense, but since she was so nice otherwise I was left confused and assuming I was being over-sensitive. Fast forward to when we met up again in Boston and I was under 200lbs (i.e. NOT large), and she used the same expression – and soon enough I was telling her about my feelings from a few years before and it made for a great early ’emotion sharing’ moment. Funny stuff.

One other story … let me be blunt: when people knew you as fat and then see you thin they really don’t know what to do or say and sometimes say the most hilarious and/or bizarre things! So people who I went to college with who saw me later had an interesting array of reactions – and they were generally bizarre things like my head looking too big for my body and so on.

And people who don’t recognize you are even more fun – I had one guy who was the year behind me in the fraternity who didn’t recognize me in April at the reunion … and it was great seeing his face when the recognition washed over him! It was great because it remained something that blew his mind all weekend!

Really it comes back to things I have talked about before – sometimes people who really don’t know what to say still feel the need to say SOMETHING. And generally when they speak up it isn’t either appropriate or sensitive … so we depend on knowing what they MEAN to get past what they SAY.

How I Discovered My Current Weak Spot

Just about a year and a half ago I was getting ready to start on a new project at work that would have me in Kentucky each week for several months. But there were some needs for transitioning and helping out on my existing project – and that included meeting new people who needed to capture things I had been doing to document and integrate with the processes we were moving towards.

So while dealing with one of the people – someone who I quickly became friends with and have stayed in contact with ever since – after a number of meetings we ended up meeting in my office, and on the wall was a picture from a team building meeting during the very early days of the project. At that point I weighed about 250lbs, and my overall look was definitely not one of my best: haircut emphasized roundness of my face, outfit was snug, and so on.

But at that moment the woman said something that stopped me in my tracks and hasn’t ever resolved in my head:

I think you look better there than you do now.

OK … WHAT?!?!

First off, telling someone … ANYONE … that they look better at another time than now is not a particularly classy move. Also, when weight is involved, the correct approach is questions ‘you look like you lost weight?’ and so on. Figure out the right thing to say – it really isn’t hard, especially for someone who is in a communications profession.

But WHY does this stick with me?

Because the insinuation is that I looked better fat.

While I have moved so far along in so many ways, it is pretty fundamental to me that I look pretty darn good now, and that being fit and thin is a great look for me, better than when I was heavy. In fact, I think I look pretty much better than at any other time in my life, and younger than I did 15 years ago.

But am I fooling myself? While I am 99% certain I am NOT, it is amazing how a small off-hand comment in February 2013 can stick with me and sabotage my self-image.

And really, I KNOW it is BS. How? Well, I will elaborate more in an upcoming post, but when I first lost weight when I was young I saw the way some people treated me change almost instantly and suddenly had women hitting on me in the airports and at companies I was working with. It was drastic and dramatic change. So I KNOW that stuff, but since when has THAT helped?

It is a reminder of how regardless of our strength and self-image, that pretty much everyone has a weak point, something that will shake your self-esteem.

What is Your Weak Spot and How Do YOU Deal With Those Who Push Your Buttons?

Behind the Scenes with txa1265 – Blog Writing Process Tour

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When a force of nature like Suz comes to you with blog idea, you have a couple of choices – go with it, or … well, I really don’t know what else!?! It is not because I PH34R her … it is because she is so enthusiastic and positive and … well, she’s The Suz!

Anyway, while I was away on vacation Susie approached me to participate in a ‘Blog Writing Process Tour’ that her friend Sara at Lake Shore Runner had invited HER to join. She asked if I was up for it, and naturally I said YES!

The basic process for this post is similar to award-type posts, but the content is quite different.
– Acknowledge the blogger/blog that invited you to the Tour.
– Answer some questions about your blogging process
– Choose 3 bloggers to plug, give a short bio of the blogs and link to their sites.

The Background & My Nominations

As I said, I was nominated by Suz and she posted her Why I Blog : Blog Writing Process Tour. You should really read her post, but if you have a comment head right to the comment box before reading her mom’s comment, because if you do you’ll get distracted and forget what you were going to say … or maybe that was just me.

As for the bloggers I have asked to join the tour:

Lauren at RunSaltRun – also known as #mamaSalt, Lauren is an amazing runner and person who is really living and learning about everything right along with us. From her crazy fully-clothed treadmill runs, to injuries and face painting with her daughter, her blog is an adventure! In her words: “I’m a working mom to one feisty toddler. I love yoga, wine, art, coffee, bad reality TV, and clothes. I’m the wife of a car salesman who works insane hours. We live in Charm City with our two very obnoxious cats and my daughter’s fish, Bubble, whom she named herself. I’m also a runner and if you had told me before last April that I would fall in love with running I probably would have laughed in your face.”

Sara at LifeBetweenTheMiles – I found Sara’s blog because she commented on a blog I followed talking about the Boston area (hint: if you want my clicks, mention New England!), and found an incredible mom, wife, runner and blogger! Every day as I read her posts I am moved by her passions for family and fitness. In her words: “I am a 30-something wife and mom. I’m a Pharmaceutical Professional during the day, Group Fitness Instructor at night. I’m a die hard runner and marathoner.”

Michele at Paleo Running Momma – Michele is someone I discovered through a comment on another blog and immediately loved her stuff – she is passionate about food, family and fitness … what’s not to like?!? I was surprised that she had just started her blog, because she has a unique and strong voice and ethos. Oh, and she is super-competitive and it comes through in her writing and comments, which is normally something I would shy away from, but she is fully aware of this and also has a huge heart. In her words: “A little obsessed with running but still a whole lot of fun, I swear! ( yeah yeah eyeroll) When I’m not sporting an awesome headlamp at 5:30am you can find me in the kitchen as a short order Paleo cook for my fam of 5. Or in some corner of the house hiding from my 3 kids. All in a days work. So come on over and run, eat, and rant with me!”

Why I Blog: txa1265’s Writing Process

Here are the questions to answer:
1. What am I working on?
2. How does my work differ from others of its type/genre?
3. Why do I write what I do?
4. How does your writing process work?

I really liked how Suz took the items out of order because of how it builds a story, so I am going to be totally unoriginal and do the same thing … but with a preface:

0. Origins: What made me think anyone would care?

My education and profession (engineering and statistics) would tell you I’m not a writer – in fact I used my AP English score to get out of writing in college … yet the fact that my AP score was good enough to satisfy my entire humanities requirement means I am pretty good at this writing thing.

This blog wasn’t my first, nor was blogging my first online writing. I started writing ‘Game Opinions’ (short reviews) on USENET back in the very early 90s. In fact, I was writing online before there was a web. But it was always reviews and forum-type discussions.

I started formal reviews for online sites about a decade later, and have done that to some extend or other ever since. But around 2005-2006 I wasn’t getting everything I needed from just writing reviews. So I started blogs on Blogger (pre-Google) and then on Microsoft’s site (whatever it was back then). And I wrote them for essentially no one. They were thoughts I wanted to share, stories, personal details put into context … and it ended up being really important to me. Again, I got under 5 views for my most ‘popular’ post, and one of them was me.

For the last 5 years I have written for a site that gave me much more latitude, but again it was someone else’s site with its own focus and purpose – which strangely enough wasn’t ‘Mike talking about random crap that interests Mike’. So after more than a year of walking the boundaries … I finally launched my own blog at the end of last September.

1. Why do I write what I do?

While I had been reading and commenting on running and healthy living blogs for a year before I started my own, I was still nervous and pretty much assumed I would have no followers because it would be like before and I’d do it so sporadically that it would never gain traction.

But here I am more than 9 months later with just over 300 posts under my belt. Why? Because I have found my voice – I care about running, and eating, and my wife, and my kids, and our pets, and my job, and games, and music, and social justice, and tech, and loads of other random stuff that somehow comes together in a cohesive whole and resonates with some people. And I also love this community, who inspires me and drives me to constantly be better.

I write about all of the things I love, what pushes my buttons, what I wonder about or get confused about. I write about stuff I know, don’t know, or wish I know – try to make it slightly humorous and somewhat thought-provoking.

2. What am I working on?

This is a tough one, because the answer is everything and nothing …

One of the big questions I get is about how I balance things – I work as a senior engineer and statistician at Corning, Inc, have been happily married for 22 years, have two sons aged 16 and 17, two dogs and two cats, a house, a car, and so on. I am also working on ‘eating clean’, run an average of 50+ miles per week outside all year long, still do some reviews and editorials for another site and blog here pretty much daily.

To know what runs through my head as I continue my blogging journey, it is worth knowing what I’m working on in all corners of my life:

– Being the best and most attentive dad/husband possible. This is a never-ending journey …

– Re-capturing my programming skills, but mostly in the context of statistical analysis. I used to be a solid hack C++ and SAS programmer but those skills have faded. I am still decent with VB, but am doing more stuff in a statistical program called R that is very powerful but requires programming to really get somewhere.

– Re-developing all of my core music skills: guitar, bass and keyboard playing, composition & theory, and studio production. Since the kids were little I have mostly ‘noodled’. I got my studio back together and have been working on regaining my chops. It is awesome.

– Becoming a better / stronger / faster runner. But without ever losing the absolute joy I have felt every step since returning from our NYC vacation.

– Learning more about food and fuel and how it all works for me and my family!

– Balancing it all along with my blogging and sharing with this incredible community.

So you see I am focused on all of my core ‘loves’.

When I first read the question it stressed me out a bit, as if I was supposed to be working towards some larger purpose for this blog … when the truth is that by working on everything that matters to me, and balancing the interface between all of them, I remain true to myself and all of my core values and produce content that reflects what matters most to me. So that level of purity and balance … THAT is what I’m working on!

3. How does my work differ from others of its type/genre?

I’m a middle aged dude in a mostly younger female corner of the blogosphere, which gives me a unique perspective. Seriously, if you look at the commenters at Suz’s post, you’ll notice something … most of them are also bloggers, and they are nearly monolithically female. That all sounds odd, but it is true – there are fewer than a dozen male bloggers I read doing some variation of running / healthy living stuff.

I have had people say that I am a ‘male feminist’, have a ‘social justice’ mindset, and am not afraid to speak my mind and put myself out there fully. I consider all of those things high praise and say they are definitely aspirations.

I believe I am fairly unique in talking about food and diet without really having a recipe focus, talking about running every day without being too detailed about plans or summaries, and always putting a focus on my family and on the proper and respectful treatment of all people everywhere.

4. How does your writing process work?

Writing process? What the heck is THAT?!? Seriously, my ability to say ‘I am writing THIS’ is incredibly limited. Take today for example – I was supposed to finish this post, but saw a link in an email that started me on an entirely different post. Then I saw something else that I added to a draft, and so on.

Really that is more scattered-sounding than I actually am. The problem isn’t lack of ideas or attention, but engagement – my process is to find an idea, either using a rote item like a ‘Five Things Friday’ or just something that occurs to me, and then get my head focused on it and let the words flow.

For example, I saw a few posts and comments about ‘clean eating’ where I found the way it was used was not very constructive. Then I was out for my run, and the post wrote itself. Oh yeah, maybe THAT is my process! I have thoughts, then they take shape on my runs. It also happened with yesterday’s post, but that innitial idea changed drastically as I read more stuff during the day.

While I was on vacation I had three posts scheduled … and they were scheduled more than a week in advance. That is the FIRST time I havedone something like this. Generally I write the day before something posts.

One change since my brief hiatus? I would rather not post than just cobble something together to have something fresh that day!

And that’s it! Thanks to Suz for the opportunity and invite and to all of you for being so amazing as bloggers, readers and friends! As many of us say so often, it really does mean SO much!

Please check out Suz’s post … and look for the posts coming from Lauren, Sara and Michele! And Thanks again for all of the great comments this week!