Russian Optimism – Nursery Rhymes With an Innocent Title & Horrible Ending

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I love the comic The Oatmeal, and highlighted a speech given by Oatmeal cartoonist Matthew Inman at BAHfest about a month ago. I was contacted about a new dark humor book called Russian Optimism, which they describe as having innocent titles and horrible endings. The book is an illustrated coffee table book with illustrations and translations, and I was given a digital copy to check out.

I loved this book and found it both dark and morbid, but also hilarious. Let’s be clear – you need a certain sense of humor to appreciate this. Most people will be like my wife, who reacted to most pages by saying ‘that’s AWFUL’! For example, one of the rhymes is called The Woods:

The Woods: “A little boy found a machine gun. Nothing lives in the woods anymore.”

The format is as shown on the image above – on one side you get a graphic, and on the other the text: title, English translation, original Russian and the transliteration. The author notes that rather than incorporate the original rhyming scheme he chose to focus on preserving the original context and meaning.

The rhymes are grouped in seven ironically titled chapters: Moral Messages, Parenting Pointers, Classic Cooking, Aquatic Adventures, Close Calls, Cheery Children and Explosive Endings.

Russian Optimism author Ben Rosenfeld notes that when he was growing up in New York as the child of Soviet immigrants, these rhymes highlighted many of the cultural differences between America and Russia. As he notes, whereas in America most movies have a happy ending, in a Russian movie if it looks like the hero will survive, you can be pretty sure he won’t.

Where to buy?

Direct from Russian Optimism.com – $25 ($20 + $5 shipping)
Amazon.com – $27.36
Barnes & Noble – $27.71

Here is the ‘book trailer’:

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Friday Five – Blog-ospheric Inspiration and Love

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OK, so while I noted I wouldn’t writing as much, that hasn’t stopped me from reading. And while I complained a bit a couple of weeks ago about what felt like ‘post fall-running hangover’ hitting lots of blogs with the ‘blahs’, and last week about some lazy link-ups … this week has been brimming with great stuff! To the point where I am quoting stuff below and feel bad because there is so much more great content out this week that I left behind.

As for the image at the top, it might not really seem fit with my theme – but it was in an email I got from Megan at The Lyons Share today, and she said “This quote is just SCREAMING “Michael”!!!!!!! Couldn’t help but think of you! Hope you have a wonderful day 🙂 🙂 “. It was an amazingly kind and thoughtful thing to do while I was sitting at my desk scrambling to get a ton of stuff done before heading home … and was so very much appreciated!

What I wanted to highlight was some of the amazing things I have been reading this week – there are just so many awesome people in our community that have important things to say. So I will start with posts from my two ‘Most Inspiring Runners’ and go from there:

1. T-Rex Runner – Eating Disorder Recovery

I have repeatedly recommended Danielle’s ‘Life with ED’ series as ‘required reading’ for anyone who needs to eat food, and last night she posted her last entry, about trying to normalize her relationship with food and her body especially in the wake of having had both major and minor surgery this year. Here is a little bit:

Eating disorder recovery isn’t linear, and it isn’t easy. I will probably never call myself “recovered;” I’ll be perpetually “recovering,” at least, I hope, since that is better than relapse. It’s a process and something that takes a lot of hard work. No one can do it for me. While some days it seems hopeless and that I’ll never be able to change the way I think about myself, some days are days like yesterday. And then I think, “Maybe not today, but one day.”

2. Gluten Free Treadmill – Falling in Love

Speaking of essential series, I really want Laura to re-publish her series from her ‘And This Is Thirty’ blog, but that is an entirely different topic. Right now Laura is doing a ‘Best of 2014 Series’, and the other day looked at her resolutions and bucket list. If you follow her you know she had a relationship earlier this year, so I loved reading this:

8. Fall in love. I did, and then fell out. But it was totally worth every second and I’m a better person for it and really ready for the next time.

And of course this one as well:

4. Be awesome and all-around hard-core. Obviously.

There is a ton more, and the rest of the series is great. And, oh yeah – she’s running ACROSS THE COUNTRY next year. So there’s that.

3. Fit Fresh and Funny – Loving Life While Facing Challenges

I have always enjoyed Laura’s blog, because she has had to deal with serious medical issues – and handles them honestly (i.e. they suck) but is always funny and up front with them. Recently what she thought was a migraine turned out to be viral encephalitis (in other words, swelling of the brain caused by a virus). If that sounds like serious shit – it is. But that didn’t stop her today from taking stock of all of the fortunes and happiness she has in her life:

Because I am exhausted, have a brain infection, and a relapse going on that makes me sorry I pushed myself the last week. But I also have a husband upstairs cooking me dinner while singing to the Violent Femmes at the top of his lungs.

4. Paleo Running Momma – But I Don’t WANNA!

I like to give Michele at Paleo Running Momma a hard time about being linear and structured – and she says it wasn’t always that way – but I also know how my wife doubled-down on structure and organization as a stay-at-home mom with little ones. It just works that way … or you get even more chaos! (heck, we still have a wall calendar with everyone’s stuff on it in our kitchen that we live by!). But yesterday she wrote about how without the rigor and schedule of a training plan in support of a marathon goal, she is floundering a bit finding motivation. I love that even as she is working hard to build her brand and coaching business (btw – she is doing special coaching deals right now, hit her up for details), she beings out some totally honest posts like this one. Check it out:

Because every morning I have been not wanting to get up to run. Like there hasn’t been even one day I just got out of bed without hesitating, it’s a struggle every day.

This really sucks! It’s amazing how I will complain either way. Which is it? Do you like getting up early or do you wish you could sleep later? Meh, I think it’s both. But right now I’m wishing I was happier with early. It makes for a much less rushed and stressful morning.

5. Fueled By Lolz – Body Image Insanity

Hollie can be totally hilarious – but she is often also quite pointed in what she is saying. Her post about signing a wedding dress waiver earlier this week is one such post. Because the need for a waiver is fairly new, and is based on the whole ‘bridezilla’ thing coupled with the trend of associating body image with a size number (which is why they say that the old store ‘5-7-9’ would now be ‘0-3-5’0! And so rather than think ‘I want to look my best on my wedding day’, it is ‘I am wearing a size 4 for my wedding’. See the problem for dress shops? Hollie takes it further:

It takes me back to this straight forward point: no one knows or cares what dress you are. No one cares your weight. At your wedding, people notice how happy and how glowing you are…not your damn dress size.

I used ‘bonus’ because I am sticking to ‘Friday Five’ as a theme and then cheating by adding two bonus items. So there are seven.

Bonus #1. Running Out of Wine – Phantom Technology Woes

I love when Lisa, who always comes across so structured and organized in her posts, lets things wander about with a ‘Thinking Out Loud’ that is true-to-name. This was one of those weeks – and what she said had me cracking up:

My Garmin keeps buzzing in the other room right now and I have no idea why. And I am too lazy to go check/go make it stop. Its also continued to do whatever it wants on many of my runs. Like the map will make it look like a ran through the harbor. I swear I’m not that talented.

Bonus #2. The Lyons Share – Own Your Feelings

I alreadu mentioned Megan for the quote at the top – which was an awesome event today. But I always love her posts – she is mainly doing a ‘Motivation Monday’ and ‘Foodie Friday’, but makes them all worth reading (such as this or this). Here is a great quote from her post about dealing with your feelings:

Even while there is a time and a place to put on a happy face, though, it’s not healthy to bottle up all of your emotions inside and pretend that you never feel anything but happy. I talk to my girls at Girls on the Run about the fact that emotions might be “comfortable” and “uncomfortable,” but they are not “good” and “bad.” Being angry, frustrated, sad, overwhelmed, or anxious might not be the most pleasant way to feel, but those feelings are valid and should be expressed rather than smothered.

How about me?

Well, if you follow me on social media you know I have had some good stuff happening in our family, which is exciting – more on that later. But aside from that it is just the normal wonderful life I enjoy – Lisa, the boys, the dogs and cats, great job, nice home, and so on.

What thoughts do YOU have to share?

Run-Fessions, Blog-Fessions and Third Quarter Running Summary

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Happy Friday everyone! (OK, so let’s just agree to NOT discuss how many times I have changed the day in that greeting!?!)

Wait – WHO am I again?!?! Yeah, it has been more than three weeks since my last post. And it might be another three weeks unit my next … or three months … or forever! Who really knows. But I decided I wanted to check back in and share some quick thoughts … so let’s jump right into it!

Runfessions

Run-Fessions

I loved Harold’s Runfessions a couple of Fridays back, so naturally I stole the idea! It is only fair since he stole it himself, citing Michelle who in turn grabbed it from Marcia … whew! Anyway, here are some of MY run-fessions!

I love that top picture! – that was posted by the Wineglass Marathon on their Facebook Page in a post celebrating volunteers … but honestly all I saw was ME! We are a decent ways into the race as I can tell by how saturated my shorts are with sweat, but I am still running happy!

I love running – yeah, I know that is a theme I harp on, but Judith was writing recently about someone who pounded out miles and races and so on … and didn’t even LIKE running, I had to ask – WHY?!? Who the heck would do something they don’t like … find a new exercise!

It is REALLY hard figuring out how to dress for the weather – over the last few weeks we’ve had warm & humid and near-freezing and everything in between. I don’t like being cold, nor do I like feeling like I am overheating! I have done OK, with a couple of days where I wished I wore gloves or wish I had worn shorts instead.

I am not invincible – no, I have not been injured, but after running 8 days straight, including ~32 miles of speed & hills last weekend, I ran 9.75 miles on Monday in my Virratas … oh, boy are they DONE! I really felt it in my legs – nothing injury-like, just general fatigue that went away the next day with the Kinvaras.

Runners are gorgeous – this is non-gender-specific, but this year I saw more runners out and about than ever before, and I loved it. There is the son of a woman we chat with regularly when she is walking her dogs, who visits once or twice a year and is incredibly graceful and speedy (18-minute 5K range fast). There is a young woman who runs after dinner along the route that we drive taking the kids to marching band. There is the cyclist I see most mornings, the two women who moved from walking to running this year, and the various others I see on my weekend runs. They are all gorgeous … you are all gorgeous. WE … are all gorgeous.

Blog Confessiom

Blog-Fessions

While I am at it, how about blog-fessions? I would say that Michele made a blog-fession talking about how she wants to earn an income through blogging. Here are some of mine:

I am still reading ALL of your blogs! – Yes, I barely even comment anymore, but every day (or week, depending on the person) I look forward to reading what is going on with Harold and Suz and Ange and Em and Hollie and Amanda and Lisa and Sara and Sarah and Sara and Sarah (hmm, trend?) and Laura and Laura and Annie and Cori and Megan and Ann and Danielle and Rae and Nicole and Carmyy and Michele and Falyn and Sami and welcome back Olena and … several others in my feed! I don’t always even manage a ‘like’. But you are all awesome and I love what you are doing!

I have NO interest in making ANY money blogging – I don’t say this to counter Michele’s post above … in fact, I have been thinking about a post along the lines of ‘Are You Branding, Blogging or just blogging’. I differentiate them as follows: ‘Branding’ is what Danielle (T-Rex Runner) and Megan (Lyons Share Wellness) are doing, and Michele is doing with her three-prong attack of Paleo, runner, and Mom. Pretty strong brand material, really. Then there are Bloggers, people who have a focused approach and voice, and are trying to make enough money to support their blogs, getting ambassadorships, promoting products, doing giveaways, and so on.. Finally there are ‘bloggers’, people who have a blog and write. Like me. All are valid, but very different approaches. I think it is important to know what you WANT from your blog … I thought I might want to be a ‘Blogger’, but not really.

While I haven’t Published in 3 weeks, I have 7 new drafts – and that isn’t counting this one. I have also deleted several. Bottom line is that I haven’t come to any conclusions about what I am doing with this blog other than it is a lower priority than pretty much everything else in my life, from work and family and home and pets and running and music and so on. It isn’t like ideas dry up, or the process goes away … it is a matter of how I choose to spend time.

Some of the ‘blogging BS’ is more apparent – I feel like I can now see more stuff going on, things like humble-bragging, body-shaming, passive aggressive statements, run-snobbing, link-baiting, and YES, sadly this does occur in some of the blogs in my RSS and WordPress feeds on occasion. I suppose all of us do some of this – sometimes I assume it is pride at accomplishments. My tolerance for these sorts of things has definitely gone down considerably, and I have definitely not been reading as much as before. Let me be a bit more clear – over the last 2.5 years I lost 110lbs and took >33% off my pace – but that fat & slow person from 2012 is *ME*. If I spend time in my blog putting down my former self or speaking disparagingly about my speed or weight, I am putting down (a) me and (b) others who have and continue to struggle with these things. Enough said on THAT.

Not Blogging Has Propogated into More Offline Time – I have come to love my non-blogging time, but at the same time I don’t relax any more than before! I have been on a tech frenzy lately – Galaxy Note 3, Garmin vivoSmart, iPhone 6, Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, Bluetooth keyboards, iPad synthesizer software (love iPhophet!), and so on. I was also away for business for a week. We’ve also had a lot going on between two birthdays, marching band madness, a newly licensed driver, and busy school year! I am looking forward to getting settled in and figuring out how to allocate some time, between music and writing (NaNoWriMo is beckoning!). My satisfaction with other stuff will dictate how/when/if I return to regular blogging.

Third Quarter Running Summary

So what were my goals? After the end of June I said “From now through the end of September, here is what I would like to do”:
– Keep my weekly volume between 50-60 miles (I honestly think 65-75 is too much and don’t want to do something stupid)
– Hit the track for some speed drills at least once or twice
– Sign up for at least one race this year … regardless of distance.

OK, well, here is the result:
– Not so much – my numerical average is 63 miles/week, but if you take out my ‘non-running vacation’ week the average jumps to 68.
– I basically did just that – I did the local high school track twice. Really, not great … but better than zero.
– OK, my last real chance is the Red Baron Half Marathon in November, let’s hope that happens!

Here are my thoughts on the last three months:

Running

Last time I said “I am running a solid volume and at a pace that feels pretty good to me.” I continue feeling that way – although I probably held my mileage too high this summer, I feel great and have had mostly great runs the whole 3rd quarter. I really didn’t attack anything, just worked to keep up my fitness and endurance, which worked great as I continue to be able to toss off ‘longer than half marathon’ runs regularly all summer.

Racing

Um, yeah. Nothing to report here. My feelings on the Wineglass Marathon were interesting – I decided back in January not to run, when it came to race weekend there is just so much activity here and I know so many people who ran and the weather was just absolutely perfect … I couldn’t help but feel a bit sentimental about not running.

Weight

During the summer the weight falls off me and I need to be extra careful about keeping fueled – and I have been really happy with how I have done. My goal since last year has been to follow my doctor’s orders, which were ‘do NOT lose any more weight’. Balanced with my own desire to not gain weight, I was worried about how it would work. It has been great – and easier than I thought.

Food & Eating

In a word – consistent and confident. My good eating is a habit, as is being careful on rest days. My intake remains great, dominated by fresh whole foods, balanced fruits and veggies and lean meats. I still have little desire for processed foods or packaged sweets. This is great, and I hope it keeps up that way!

Tracking/Tech

I am still loving the Garmin FR-15 and Magennal Echo for tracking runs, as well as the Polar Loop for fitness tracking. I switched to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for much of August and September, and found that Android is a total crap platform for fitness. Sync-ing the Loop took ~5x as long on the Note as the iPhone 5, the Echo was wonky and lost connection, and none of the fitness apps were as robust.

I have since moved back to iOS with the iPhone 6, and things went back to perfection immediately. I recently got Garmin’s new vivoSmart, which is a fitness tracker and ‘smartwatch’ that syncs with your phone. It is really cool, but occasionally problematic – which I hope continues improving through updates.

Everything Else

I have been much happier with not blogging than I would have thought. I have felt balanced, and so long as that holds I will not go back to regular blogging. Part of that is everything else is just nuts – work is super-busy and I seem to have doubled my responsibilities and the number of people reporting to me, Lisa’s work schedule has been busy, the kids have a crazy schedule which has made OUR schedules even crazier, and so on.

Lisa and I have made sure to take plenty of ‘us’ time as always, most recently taking a date night to see ‘Gone Girl’. We’d both read the book, but over a year ago so we knew all the basics but some details were sketchy. It was good enough that it made us want to re-read it!

We each also try to get some ‘alone time’ with the boys, which is challenging with their crazy schedules … but we try.

Outlook for 2015

I know it is early yet, but here are my basic thoughts for next year:
– Run more than 2000 miles.
– Maintain my weight and healthy eating habits
– Work on pace improvement.
– Run at least one 5k, a 10k, a half and full marathon.

Will I manage it all? Probably not! I know work will be busy through the whole year, as will Lisa’s work, and we will have Danny going off to college and Chris heading into his senior year. Crazy, eh?

Second Quarter Running Summary

Once again I decided to take my weekly summaries and chart them up. Here they are:

3rd Quarter Miles

Overall I am very pleased with my second quarter. By the numbers:
– Total miles – 821 miles (713 miles Q1, 812 Q2)
– Average weekly miles – 63* (55 Q1, 62 Q2)
– Half-year total – 2346 miles (on track to break 3000 miles)
– Longest run – multiple 23+ mile runs
– Shortest run – 5.25 miles (my ‘oh no, my mojo’ run!)

I have kept up with ‘runs with purpose’ throughout the period, which were mostly brutal hills, but also some speed work. I have hit the track … but I wanted to get in much more speedwork than I did.

Again, considering my goals for the year included staying injury-free, breaking 2000 miles, and running a couple of races … I am doing well on the key item. Which is being injury-free. I have already broken 2000 miles … and well, as the song says two out of three ain’t bad.

Fourth Quarter Goals

From now through the end of the year, here is what I would like to do:
– Break 3000 miles total (as of right now I am already over 2400 … so this is very doable)
– ‘Keep on Keepin’ On’ with the running – last week I ended up with an on-off-on-off-on-off schedule for Monday – Saturday due to birthdays, and it worked great for me. No stress, just running.
– Keep up my ‘runs with purpose’ – especially as it gets cold!
– Sign up for at least one race this year … regardless of distance.

How was your third quarter of running? How is your weather and have you broken out warmer clothes yet? What plans do you have for the rest of the year?

September 11th … Always a Good Day to Reflect

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For many people, September 11th is our ‘JFK in Dallas’ or ‘Pearl Harbor’ … it is the ‘where were you when’ of our generation. It is very easy to look around our country and world and divide things up as pre/post 9/11 … and some of those are good and others are very bad and others quite sad. But there is a clear impact – we are a country that has now been essentially at war for 13 years, which means kids growing up now have a very different view of the world than kids born in the 80s or 90s or before.

The image above is of a pottery item my older son had made back in 2008. Here is what I wrote about it at the time on an old blog:

A couple of days ago I picked up the pottery my kids made during their two-week drama camp at the end of summer. They made several items, which augmented the singing, dancing and acting work they also did in the class. We only heard about a couple of items, so it was great going through the ‘unveiling’ process and seeing how differently the two boys think. But one thing in particular was fitting – and striking – to see this week.

It is amazing to me the extent that September 11th has become ingrained in the reality for these kids. They were preschoolers when it happened, and we didn’t shield them from it the way many other parents did. This was life, history, happening right before us and to us. I know people who lost family on those planes, and have seen some of the many ways it has changed us as a people and a nation. Yet I was still surprised and touched to see my older son produce a memorial to the event while on summer vacation.

I remember that morning well.

My wife was at the park with Danny while Chris was at half-day preschool. Chris was 3, and Danny was about to turn 5. When she went to the preschool there were people crying and she learned there. We were in Massachusetts, so we were closely tied to events. At my work, the sister-in-law of a coworker was on one of the planes, and I walked through as she got the news … and it was awful.

Where was I? I was at work, and had a colleague visiting from California working on a joint project … and she then got stuck in Massachusetts for more than a week, while her husband and family were justifiably very upset having her stranded across the country. We were looking at data we’d collected and suddenly there was a news flash and we went to the CNN site and saw the second plane hit live … it was surreal.

It is always said that 9/11 is not the day to discuss any of the things that came after – the wars, deaths of hundreds of thousands from those wars, increases in invasive security and loss of many rights in exchange for more protection from threats, an upswing in militarism, decrease in tolerance and respectful discourse, and so on… but neither does any day ever seem to be the right day. But I agree that 9/11 should be kept for the memories of those lost and a time that is gone.

All I know is that day changed all of America … it is another step in the ‘loss of innocence’, and a painful reminder of how fleeting life can be when someone bent on destruction crosses our path. So take a moment today to be thankful for those you love who are around today, those who serve our country in any way, and those who use their time in non-military ways to spread the ways of peace and love and tolerance throughout the world.

Take Care Thursday – Prepare Yourself Now for a Bright Future!

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I have no idea why, but it seems that since I started this blog I have been collecting lots of ‘Things I wish I could tell my 20/30/40 year old self’ posts, as well as ‘Things The Don’t Tell You About’, and ‘Things You Should Do Before’ articles and more. So I figured I would just steal fragments from a bunch of them and pile it all together into a set of a dozen or so general ways to set yourself up for a happier life!

1. For real happiness, focus on how your life feels instead of how it looks.

It is easy when you are younger to see people who look happy and associate the outer trappings of what they have with the happiness they feel inside. But first, you don’t know if they are happy. And second, chances are it isn’t having a Mercedes or a nice watch or fountain pen that made them happy. Instead look at what drives you, where your passions are, and work on those things – that is how to be happy!

2. Treat Your Body Better (diet and exercise) … That said, your diet is not something you can lord over everyone else’s heads

As I have said, at 48 I am in the best shape of my life, and my body rewards me for taking care of it. We can’t control everything that happens in life, but give yourself the best chance to have a long life with the only body you will every have.

But when making choices, remember they are YOUR choices. So if you choose to be Paleo or Vegan or Fruitarian or a junk-food junkie (good lord have pity on you), enjoy yourself … but remember you are not BETTER than others for your choices.

3. Don’t be afraid of your own voice.

You are unique, special and important … and you only have one voice – so use it. I remember in college writing music for an electronic music class, and I had a thought in my head based on some works by others I had heard, but no matter what, it came out with a funked-up jazzy feel. I realized that was my musical voice, and no matter how I tried to compose a certain way it was coming through. The same is true with blogging, and even writing reports and presentations at work. Instead of trying to mold yourself after others, celebrate who you are.

4. Mortality is very inconvenient. It ruins a lot of weekends.

As I said on Instagram the other day, there has been a load of recent information about the deaths and health issues of friends that has caused me to reflect. We are all going to die, and generally aren’t sent an calendar reminder of when it is coming. So we have to live in a way that makes our days worthwhile.

5. Marriage doesn’t complete you.

Your validation comes not from another person or a legal institution … but from within. Celebrate the person you are – because YOU complete you. Once you realize that you are complete, you are better positioned to give yourself fully to your marriage or relationship.

6. What other people say and do has nothing to do with you. It is a reflection of them.

This has come up many times, most recently from Carmy, but it is important to note – that when someone says something harsh or judgmental or spiteful or otherwise negative, it comes from their own place of negativity that has nothing to do with you. But internalizing these things it gives them more power over you.

7. Falling down is a mandatory aspect of life. Getting back up is living.

We ALL fail … and pretty often, on anything from a very minor to very major basis. It WILL happen, even to people who don’t like to admit it. It is how you respond to these failures that informs on the type of person you are.

8. You don’t know everything, and that is okay

One of my pet peeves (wow, I seem to have a lot lately) is people who refuse to acknowledge that they don’t know things. Look – we ALL don’t know things, and sometimes we don’t know stuff we SHOULD know, and maybe even learned at some point. Oh well – forgot. It is just fine – and with smartphones you don’t even have to run back to your office/dorm to grab the book containing what you forgot.

9. The only person holding you back is yourself.

This came up with Michele’s post last week – and in posts both she and Hollie (and others)talked about the mental aspects of running. But it applies everywhere – once you have decided you cannot do something, it is done. If you decide you can it is no guarantee – but never underestimate the power of self-validation.

10. Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you made. If you want a new outcome, make a different choice.

Basically, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

11. You Both Have to Change to Make the Marriage Work

This might seem counter-intuitive since common wisdom is to never enter a relationship with a ‘fix it up’ mentality, but the reality is that change will naturally occur as two people meld their lives together as one. But it is also important to maintain your identity and individuality in the relationship.

12. Consider the other side of the story.

You are not the singular purveyor of TRUTH. Chances are your point of view is different than many other people … so listen, you might learn something. Also, be willing to learn.

13. The best advice is felt in your heart not directed from your head.

Do you ever notice how certain things people said to you echo across the years, remain mantras and fuel your passions? These are not just words committed to memory, but feelings etched into your soul.

14. The sooner you can like yourself, the easier life will be.

The old saying is you cannot be truly loved until you love yourself and realize that you are worth loving. SO get to it … because you are awesome just how you are.

15. Accumulating “stuff” is stupid.

Over a certain amount, getting more money doesn’t add to your happiness. And when you get more money the first thing that happens is more spending – so your effective ‘wealth’ remains pretty constant. And what happens with ‘stuff’? Either it is something that will need replacing when the new version arrives next year, or you will end up not caring about it in a while. Regardless it is all just stuff – perhaps it allows you to momentarily show off to someone … but exactly what benefit is that?

16. Communication is absolutely vital

In any relationship, hiding things is the express route to failure. Communication is critical if you want to have a successful relationship. And it isn’t just the basic act of communication – you need to be open and honest with those you care about, and find a way of sharing your feelings and things that really matter. Make a prioritized list if you need help doing this – no one will judge you if they actually care.

17. Do not waste your time on people and things you don’t absolutely care about

You know how many people can have 100 people in a room, and 99 say something nice and the other one says something critical … yet the voice they hear is that negative one? Yeah, WAY too many! Don’t rent out your mind-space to other people who you don’t care about, and don’t let them control your life. It just isn’t worth it!

18. Marriage isn’t hard if you like each other!

This is a simplification as all relationships have ups and downs, but when you are operating from a place where the first instinct is teamwork and shared solutions … you’re already halfway there!

19. Try New Things – Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Find music or movies or games you hate, and take the time to experience them with an open mind. Maybe you will never like John Zorn or David Lynch or first-person shooters, but it is always better to make choices from an informed place. Here is some Anthony Braxton to help you along. 🙂

20. Make Time For Yourself – Always

No matter how busy you are with work and family and whatever else … remember to always find a few minutes each day that is only about you. Maybe it is on your run, maybe you sit in the car for 5 minutes before heading into work. Whatever it is, own it and make it your own.

21. Leave the Internet Behind Every Now and Then – Don’t Worry, It Will Still Be Here When You Return

My ‘mostly unplugged’ weekends have been incredibly rewarding. They allow you to be truly ‘in the moment’, and by allowing yourself SOME amount of connection you free yourself from that being a huge concern.

22. People will steal everything you do.

This is ironic because all of these points come from a dozen or so different posts I have been collecting in drafts for the last year! But don’t be so possessive of your ideas that you don’t share freely – because then you lose the joy, and will eventually lose exclusivity to the idea anyway.

What thoughts do YOU have for a brighter future?

This … (Five Fave Things Right Now)

I laughed the other day when I read Laura at Fit Fresh & Funny introducing her ‘ABCs and 123s’ post by saying “shamelessly stealing this from Mike, because he’s always got the best ideas for a blog post!” Isn’t that something we ALL do?!? I mean, I grabbed the ‘alphabet post’ from Amanda at Running With Spoons from a two year old post she did, which I assume was part of a popular post-scheme at the time … since there seem to be ‘campaigns’ that make the rounds.

Well, in that vein … almost two weeks ago I loved this post over at The Girl Who Ran Everywhere … so naturally I stole the idea 🙂 So let’s get rolling with it, and if you like maybe you should steal it as well!

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This … is my favorite picture right now. I found this as I was trolling my old blog, and it has always been a fave. Chris has always been an avid and adventurous reader, and always loved to fill his bed with stuffed animals and always had a book or two going. Before this he had taken to comparing his kids’ bible to the full good news bible after seeing a VeggieTales episode on ‘Daniel in the Lion’s Den’. As I noted at the time “When I walked into his room, I expected him to be reading on of the Droon or Narnia books, or perhaps a Garfield book … but this floored me and I had to capture the moment.”

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This … is my favorite room in the house, with our inherited cat sitting by my side. She only comes out of the basement when the dogs are out, and was snuggling with me for a while the other day, moving from side to side and walking across the keyboard. I love the room because there is no TV and it is away from the main kitchen-dining-family room hustle and bustle, making it relaxing and peaceful.

My beautiful picture

This … is a moment that popped into my head recently as we were discussing Massachusetts. It is from Danny’s first birthday and he had a cool ‘ball pit’ that he loved to play in, and this was one of those great moments where we were able to capture him in action yet still for just a moment. I really love the look on his face.

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This … is my love of over-tracking and measuring everything in one image. Garmin FR-15, Polar Loop and Magellan Echo … all great fitness tracking tools, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

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This … is where I want to be, who I want to be with, and where we hope to be for our 25th. We went to Sandals Antigua for our honeymoon, and they had ‘resort photographers’ constantly taking pictures around, and you could buy them … and this one we actually liked enough to pay the $5 or $10 (can’t remember anymore). Years ago we thought ‘let’s go back for our 25th’, which sounds awesome … until you realize that we will have two kids in college at the time! So we are not sure if or how it will happen, but as of now it remains a goal.

What are YOU loving now?

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!