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?

Choose Passion Over Paycheck For True Happiness, and ‘Word Crimes’!

Soul Crushing Work

First off … THANK YOU. What an amazing outpouring of support, awesome comments and emails, and just general incredible kindness and fun this week! After robo-posting through vacation and coming back to a whirlwind week of very busy days, I have been reminded in an overwhelming way why I love this community so much! I apparently forgot to mention one step in my blog process, which is to stop and drink in the great support and use it to power me through writing my next post.

OK, today’s topic … If Your Paycheck Isn’t Fueling Your Passion, Maybe it is Time for a Change!

This might seem like an odd topic for me, since I work for a large traditional company in a very corporate role (senior level statistical and measurement engineer with Corning) and have been here 6 years, after having spent 15 years with ANOTHER large traditional company after a couple of short stints for smaller companies. And there is little chance that I will NOT work for a company where I am just an employee helping further the goals set by managers and executives.

Yet I tell my boys to follow their passion rather than a job; to seek happiness over employment. The reality is that there are very few careers that are a ‘sure thing’ (aside from perhaps nursing, which could possibly saturate by the time they could get their degrees). So instead of chasing a ‘safe paycheck’, we tell them to figure out what drives you and inspires you and grab hold of it with both hands and never let go.

Turning Passion Into Profession

Over the last several months I have loved watching some of my favorite bloggers do some amazing things to follow their passions:
Lisa and Michele recently completed RRCA certification on Cape Cod, and before taking a right turn into a different job Suz also became a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. I know there are others who have fitness job sidelines (Sara), as well.
Danielle left a solid job in order to co-found Ramblen with someone who lives half-way across the country, meaning she is now engaged in one state and living in another while working really hard to see her passions and dreams become reality!
Laura left her job (for very good reasons) and is now living the ‘starving grad school life’ in women’s studies and is REALLY putting herself out there for her cause by running across America next summer!
Megan quit her day job and has gone ‘all in’ as a health and wellness coach, which I think is a natural fit because she is so inspirational and earnest and nurturing and freaking smart.

All of these women have taken steps out of their comfort zone to follow their passions. Megan and Laura and Danielle have made major life changes – and none of them took the easy path! I think it is an incredibly brave and strong thing to do – it is one thing to put yourself out there on a blog, but to make your entire life about putting yourself out there? Wow.

The Professional World Has Changed Forever

When I was going off to college in the early 80s, IBM had never had a layoff, and the tech industry was really just getting started. Money was flowing into the field, and in general the work world looked very much like it had since the 60s:
– You go to college for a degree that more or less sends you to a professional job or a life in th euniversity system.
– You get a job with a small or large company.
– If small, you ‘upgrade’ until you get to a large company.
– You progress from technical to managerial ranks over the decades you stay with that company.
– You retire and life on a decent pension.

That seems like something from an old-fashioned movie at this point. I remember when IBM emptied out buildings in the early 90s, I had friends there talking about waves of people being escorted out.

I bring up IBM because in that era they were a real beacon, one of the last places where if you got a job you had lifetime employment guaranteed … until 1994 when they changed that policy. In that moment the Americal workplace changed forever. Throughout the 90s ‘downsizing and Dilbert’ ruled, and the ‘dotcom bubble’ burst in 2000, and just as things seemed to be ramping again the bottom fell out in 2007 and has never really returned.

Your Passion … is Your Passion

In my ‘behind the blogger’ post, and many other posts, I have talked about my passions – family, music, tech, running, and my job. I have talked about how my AP English teacher thought I should go into writing and had me submit pieces he thought might get accepted into the Atlantic; I have discussed how I won a great award at the huge national high school jazz competition and my band director thought I should pursue music. And I talked about how I ended up at RPI studying electrical engineering.

It might sound weird with everything else I have just said, but the ultimate reason I chose NOT to pursue music (writing was never seriously in play) was NOT about fear or risk-aversion … but because I truly love math and physics that much.

Fast forward 30 years and I STILL love those things – my publications and patent apps all speak to math (data analysis) and physics (optical engineering). I love tearing apart a data set to find meaning, working with measurements and equipment and analyzing and optimizing a process. Sure, I would love to be back in the semiconductor world, but Corning’s massive support for RD&E (research, development and engineering – they spend 10%, most companies are ~2%) means working on exciting projects with really talented people.

That is MY passion.

Chances are it is not YOUR passion.

Intermission

OK, this is feeling rather dry and serious, so how about some mid-post fun? I talk about the ‘pre-internet’ days quite a bit – referencing them in terms of IBM from a completely different era today. And in that spirit – I love this xkcd comic

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How Modern Corporations Work Against Employees

As I mentioned, things have never really fully recovered from the 2007 neo-depression. What has become clear is that many, many companies used that as an opportunity to cut wide swaths of employees, and forever change the balance of power so they wouldn’t find themself disadvantaged like they did in the mid-90s and mid-2000s.

As a result, here are 5 ways you are disadvantaged working for a medium or large company today:

1. Loyalty Makes You Less Marketable

As I said, when I was entering college, life-employment with a single company was a goal, and in general job-hopping was greatly frowned upon. Loyalty was rewarded and was seen as mutually beneficial.

Now we hear about people in layoffs being penalized for staying with a company more than 5 years, “many people have told me I’m disadvantaged by having stayed with the same company for too long.”

The problem? Sometimes loyalty and inertia look the same – in other words, when people were interviewing me in 2007, how could they tell how much of my 15 year tenure was due to a passion to thrive, and how much was just falling into the wake-work-home-sleep cycle and lacking incentive to find something to better fuel my passion?

2. Your Company Uses Your Loyalty To Save Money

A new Monster article shows that staying with a company more than two years can cost you up to 50% compared to people who change companies every couple of years (and perform equally well, of course).

How does this work? Think about it – when we read about Apple hiring a certain skill set indicating they are working on something … it means that they are seeking specific skills they can’t find internally – and are motivated to pay highly skilled people to fill that role. When Intel needs another wafer fab process engineer because someone is retiring, the desire is for another (talented but generic) body to fill an existing role. If they can get that from inside they can give a nominal raise, while the internal candidate gets a job-refresh without having to go through the risk-change cycle of a new company. Win-Win in a way … but over a decade or two suddenly that can add up to big money.

Flip this around – by getting people to stay, a company can save big money over time. So naturally they will try promote and fill open positions from wihtin wherever possible. By giving periodic incentives like stock options and other company-tied perks, they can create further ties to tether you in place for relatively low cost.

3. You Will Never Get the Raise You Deserve Within a Company

This was interesting when I first heard about it, but seeing it again and now more recently it makes sense – if your company knows that you could already get by on your current salary, there is less incentive to give you more money unless they are concerned about you leaving the company … and as I noted, companies used the 2007 recession to slash workforces and create a flatter structure and leaner workforce.

The outcome of this is that the same workload is spread across fewer employees – and those employees work in fear of losing their jobs and know that the job market remains abysmal, with more qualified and experienced people constantly vying for fewer and fewer jobs.

That isn’t to say NOBODY is getting rewarded … but think about it this way: the average wage increase last year was 2% … which is about the same as the rate of inflation. That is actually the first time in several years that wages have seen a ‘real’ increase. This nominal increase even held across many Fortune 500 companies who were seeing double-digit growth in sales and profits over the last couple of years. In other words, someone is getting the money … just not YOU.

4. Your Mobility Decreases With Age and Life Circumstances

A company knows a lot about you – marital status, children, family situations, etc. And they know the reality – that when you have gotten married, had kids, bought a house, and so on … you are less likely to want to change companies.

As I say, companies KNOW this, and as a result they have less incentive to work very hard to keep you from leaving … because simply by giving an average raise, keeping your benefits nominally competitive and otherwise keeping the barrier to exit just high enough to make your inertia kick in and have you stay.

Because risk and change are things people generally stay away from. And the greater the potential risk (losing your home, inability to feed your family), the less likely you are to make a change.

5. Your Employer Is So Used to Holding All the Cards They Don’t Even Pretend Anymore

There are so many articles about all of this it is hard to choose, but I love these quotes:

“Workers are so desperate for jobs that managers can take off the kid gloves without worrying … employees put up with mistreatment in the workplace because managers have made it clear that staff are dispensable, with many other applicants more than willing to take their place.”

Look at how things stack up:
– More workers than jobs – after nearly 7 years of this, it impacts corporate culture.
– More competitive marketplace – narrower profits (due to lower real wages and higher joblessness and underemployment) and faster product life-cycle turns (new iPhone & Galaxy ‘must haves’ every 12 months!).
– Job seekers don’t even get basic respect anymore.
– Unless you are in one of a very few ‘tech centers’ (Boston, Silicon Valley, Austin), chances are you are almost immediately replaceable.
– Rapid company failures in recent years makes moving to a new company more risky than ever.
– Lobbyists pushing hard for corporate-centric laws … and getting them in the name of ‘global competition’ (outcome is also freedom to act against employees without consequence).
– Supreme Court regularly ruling ‘business friendly’ even if it curtails personal rights, and don’t forget their ‘gay marriage’ ruling was really based on business impacts.

And it is clear … most companies don’t need to work very hard to maintain their workforce. And as a result, my LinkedIn feed is filled with articles demonstrating that they DON’T.

OK, THAT was depressing … what is the POINT?!?

First, some of the things above make it seem like executives and HR people scheme all day about how to screw people over. They do NOT. They are people with families and mortgages and plenty of replacements mailing in applications every day. Heck, after I got laid off and then hired at Corning, I was having breakfast at the Staybridge Suites before my family moved out and met a former VP from my old job who had just started with Corning and was waiting for HIS family!

My point? Every company is filled with people, and in general people want to do well by one another, avoid conflict, and avoid hurting others. But corporate policies are about minimizing cost and maximizing profits. Over the last few decades, the term ‘resources’ for employees has been cemented in place, illustrating how people are similar to raw materials used to make products – they have a cost, and a value-add to the company. If they can get the same value add for less money? Do it.

There are many ways running a family is like running a business … but there are also many ways it is not. One of the key items is focus – the executives of a company are focused on the overall profitability and ultimately serve shareholders. In a household it is the members who are the focus, rather than the material items or anyone outside of the household (well, most of the time).

This is why following your passion matters: the CEO of a company doesn’t want to fire anyone (let alone 18,000 like Microsoft did yesterday!), but they don’t have a driving passion about how each individual employee will realize their dreams.

YOU have that drive, that passion, that focus. And so it is up to YOU to determine if what you are doing is serving your passion or just keeping your wallet full. Of course, if your passion is something that doesn’t pay enough money to feed you, perhaps you need to work at a ‘non-passion’ job to fuel your passion – but that is also fine because you are STILL fueling your passion.

My advice? Look to strong women like Danielle, Laura and Megan as examples, seek out your passion – and whether it is your own bakery or working as an accountant … follow your dreams and passions to make the most of your life.

Bonus! Fun Stuff!

Hey – any Weird Al fans? I loved his stuff back in the 80s when MTV was young (yeah, and it played music … ), and have liked some of his stuff through the years (White & Nerdy). He has a new album out this week, and has released a couple of videos. One is a parody of the Pharell William’s ‘Happy’ called ‘Tacky’, and one I thought was more appropriate to share in a blogging context! Enjoy!

What are your thoughts on the ‘corporate world’ versus ‘following your passion’?

Happy 4th of July – Celebrate Independence With Knowledge

4th-of-July_2013_web

Happy 4th of July everyone – I hope that those who work are having a relaxing day, those with the day off are having safe fun, and those outside of the US are appreciating that there is >99.9% likelihood you get more vacation time than us so #sorrynotsorry we’re off and you’re not! 🙂

Anyway, if you are like me you likely see political arguments and/or statements referencing some of our foundational documents … so I thought a good theme for today would be: READ. Read the declaration, the constitution, bill of rights and even poke through the massive federalist papers … and see what all the buzz is about. Because as much fun as they are – fireworks and BBQ is NOT what this day is all about.

* Declaration of Independence

* Constitution online

* Bill of Rights

* The Federalist Papers

Hope everyone has a safe and fun day!

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

very-inspirational-blogger

Just about two weeks ago I got a message that I had been nominated for a “Very Inspiring Blogger Award” by Running to Her Dreams … which is really cool and I want to thank her for thinking of me!

UPDATE: This morning as I went to check out the latest from #mamaSalt I found out that she had also nominated me … and also Sara’s blog mentioned below! So check them both out if you aren’t already following.

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 had planned to skip #4 & 5, but then a new blogger – friends with #mamaSalt so you KNOW she’s cool – launched her blog this week, so I am nominating Sweaty Mess Mama! I’ll let her know on her blog!

This will actually be my FOURTH awards post this year! I had the ‘Sisterhood’ post, Liebster Award post, and a Many Awards post! This means you already have had to endure too much nonsense about me, so …

I have decided to use the ‘TMI Survey’ Aimee posted about here:

1. What are you wearing?

[Jake from State Farm voice] Khakis. Seriously, typing this over lunch at work, so … my famous #FlatsFriday shoes, khakis and a blue button button down shirt. Preppie much? Yeah – I have worn the same thing for 30+ years!

2. Ever been in love?

Yes.

3. Ever had a terrible breakup?

Fortunately NO! I’ve had my heart broken, been strung along and used … but I guess one upside of being obese is that most people will stop leading you on when you express romantic interest and they are using you (oh, you thought because I expressed interest and said ‘yes’ to going to that formal couples-centric dinner-dance that I was interested in you THAT way?!?!)

4. How tall are you?

6’1″ … which used to be tall until my boys passed me!

5. How much do you weigh?

~175-185lbs, last check was 180. My doctor and Lisa would like me at 185, I like me at 175 … so right now this works 🙂

6. Any tattoos?

No, never, never, no. Totally not a ‘me’ thing.

7. Any piercings?

See tatoos.

8. Favorite song?

I wrote about this here, and here is the quote:

within that 27 minutes there is everything I love about music; elements of classical, rock, funk, soul, free jazz, fusion and so on.

And it really is one of the singular pieces of modern music, featuring a double quartet (two drums, two basses and two keyboards) as well as multiple ‘world music’ influences and contributions from rock and classical and funk music. Yet it has a harder edge than so much ‘free jazz’ of the period while remaining harmonically tethered and loose all at once. The musicians were young and dynamic, and so while they had no preconceived ideas of what was happening … once the recording started they let loose with some of the greatest music of the last century.

Here is a live version from the Tanglewood Jazz Festival (in Western Massachusetts):

And here is the original album version … all 27 glorious minutes …

9. Quality you look for in a partner?

Honesty.

10. Favorite quote?

No damn cat, and no damn cradle.” Kurt Vonnegut, from ‘Cat’s Cradle’

11. Favorite actor?

Tough one as nobody jumped to my mind as THE one … but when I did my Films list, the actor I would pull from there is Clint Eastwood (from The Good The Bad and The Ugly)… so there you go.

12. Loud music or soft?

I find ‘loud’ or ‘soft’ an odd set of descriptors … I might go ‘ordered’ or chaotic’, ‘melodic’ or ‘atonal’ … but hey, since I like all of that stuff, let’s just play it LOUD! 🙂 I definitely surprised the woman walking her dog this morning with my blaring early 1950’s Miles Davis tunes!

13. Where do you go when you’re sad?

For a run. Or sit in our formal living room.

14. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

My elapsed time from wake up until I leave for work is usually 3 hours … including

15. Ever been in a physical fight?

Not since the 5th grade when Vinny Eisenhauer drew a picture and called me ‘elephant with earrings’.

16. Turn on?

Warn & honest eyes, inviting smile.

17. Turn off?

Deception, meanness, lack of eye contact.

18. Fears?

Another one I covered in my ’10 Days of You’ series!

19. Last thing that made you cry?

‘The Fault in Our Stars’.

20. Last time you said you loved someone?

Texting Lisa while typing the response to #15.

21. Meaning behind your YouTube name?

‘txa1265’ is a long-standing name – it is as simple as my fraternity (Theta Xi Fraternity, Alpha Chapter), and my roll number 1265.

22. The relationship between you and the last person you texted?

I’m her husband.

23. Favorite food?

Really tough – choice between pears, sweet potatoes and ice cream … just impossible.

24. Place you want to visit?

London with the whole crew.

25. Do you have a crush?

My heart still flutters when I see Lisa walk in the door and she gives me that wonderful smile and a big hug.

26. Last time you kissed someone?

This morning before I left for work … but she was only half-awake 🙂

27. Last time you were insulted?

Hmmm … hard to think of anything.

28. Favorite piece of jewelry?

My wedding ring followed by the claddagh ring Lisa gave me after the boys were born. Actually those are the only two things I wear.

Running (and Walking) for a REASON! Please support Laura and Ann!

Run for a Cause
Source – Ars Technica

Doing something for others is am amazing thing, as when Lisa undertook a huge fund-raising and training campaign to do the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Throughout our lives we have always done what we could for others, and tried to support those going out in support of a cause.

Today I have two special causes to support, from two very special people. I have always been the type of person who has a few good friends rather than a large number of acquaintances … and that is how I view my blog life. I am not the most popular, nor will that ever be my goal. I don’t subscribe to #alltheblogs … just ones where I genuinely like the person and love interacting with them. So today I have a special shout-out for two of my very favoroites, one with a (VERY) short-term request, the other with longer-term plans.

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Ann’s Running Commentary – 24 Hour Walk Out of the Darkness

Ann’s was one of the first blogs I found two years ago when I started reading running blogs, due to her comment and then guest-post on Harold’s blog. She is a forty something runner-parent with a family bias … so there was an instant and easy connection.

And over time I really enjoyed getting to know Ann through her blog and email, and I even did a couple of guest posts. But the last year has been a struggle for her and her family. Both she and her daughter struggle with serious depression … and as I said in a comment on one of her posts “2014 is already a in the ‘win column’ because you are still here”.

This year her daughter asked that they do the ‘Walk Out of Darkness’ together. It is in recognition of their own struggles and in support of those still dealing with the daily battle:

Over the past year Meg and I have both made walks through the darkness of depression. We understand just how hard this journey is and our hearts go out to those whose loved ones have lost the battle.

To support Ann and Megan, head here and donate whatever you can … but as I say you have to hurry because the walk is TOMORROW! (i.e. Thursday July 3rd)

Laura

The Gluten-Free Treadmill – Laura’s Cross-Country Run

I can’t remember exactly when or how I found Laura’s blog … but I am pretty certain it was due to an incredible comment on someone else’s blog (since that is how I have found every blog I follow except for Suz, that came from Laura and #mamaSalt chanting ‘visit Suz!’). But what immediately drew me in was her passion.

Even before her incredible ‘This Was Thirty’ series looking back, I was hooked … and since we both share very strong ‘social justice’ opinions as well as a love of running, it has been great sharing insights across the last several months. But now she is planning something that is mind-blowingly cool on a number of different levels!

Laura is taking the summer of 2015 and running across the country (yes – ALL THE WAY) in 68 days, as she says:

In June 2015, I will begin my run across the USA to raise awareness for Sexual Violence and Rape Prevention with a secondary goal of beaking the female record for a USA crossing.

There are a few sites to check out:

Laura has a page dedicated to her cross-country run.

The foundation she is running for RAINN – Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

Her funding page at GoFundMe – she is looking to raise $50,000 to cover all of the costs associated with the trip. Even if you can’t give right now, note the social media sharing buttons – those can help spread the word!

What Cause Are YOU Passionate About?

Things People With Kids Need to Stop Saying to Childless Couples or Those Who Suffered Infertility or Miscarriage

When you have kids

When you see that first words, chances are your reaction falls into one of four categories:
– You have kids and are thinking “I know, right – they don’t know what stress is, what tired is, what busy is, …” and so on!
– You have kids and you HEARD all of those things and are thinking “I hope I never said any of that stuff aloud!”
– You don’t have kids and think .. ugh, I HATE hearing that crap!
– You are single or unmarried and thinking – OMG stop hassling me about getting married and having kids already!

OK, that last one comes from a young woman I work with – her family is simultaneously pushing her career and marriage and kids, and she told me she blew up at her mom who was bugging about kids, and when she said ‘I’m not even married yet’ her mom used that as an opportunity to ask about THAT. It is just so funny. Except that it isn’t.

A while ago Lisa was reading something on her phone that a friend linked on Facebook and it was about the things that parent’s need to stop saying to people without kids. It led to a long discussion about that subject for a number of reasons.

First off, because even with kids our dogs and cats remain part of our family. We had found out about a family in our neighborhood that had a young puppy that was planning to give it back/away or whatever. They thought it sounded like a good idea, but in reality was too much work/mess/whatever. So they just got rid of it like tossing a disposable razor … which was a concept we just completely couldn’t ‘get’.

Second off – because we spent the early part of our marriage listening to all of these things from people with kids (ok, mostly only the same group of people over and over again) in varying amounts – by which of course I mean ALL THE TIME!

Here are some thoughts on things that just need to STOP!

So … When Are You Having Kids?

The immediate supposition that a natural ‘next step’ along with getting a dog and house is that everyone will have babies, right? That is less and less the case these days, for any number of reasons.

It is somewhat better to ask IF the couple is thinking about having kids – if you MUST ask, that is. Better still? Just ask what the couple has planned – let THEM tell YOU what is happening, maybe they plan to try, perhaps they HAVE been trying but are struggling (see below), and maybe they have no plans at all. Regardless, you should follow their cues and respect their choices. Because … um, it is THEIR choice.

Dogs are not kids

Um, really – that would explain the calls from the school! But seriously, no one who talks about their ‘fur babies’ is actually confused about the animal’s genetic lineage. The presumption here is that you love and lavish upon your dog or cat, but once the baby comes along the center of your life will shift. Again, duh?!?

The problem with this is that it belittles where the couple is NOW. NOW they are a couple who has pet(s). Maybe they will have kids, maybe not; and maybe they will get a bunch more animals. Who really knows – but the supposition that a dog is a ‘training baby’ is insulting to all involved and needs to stop.

“You think you’re [insert anything here]? Try having kids!”

There were definitely times when I wished it was socially acceptable to head-butt people for saying stupid things like this.

So suddenly now that you have a baby you have cornered the market on being tired? Busy? Broke? Worried? Oh puh-LEAZE get over yourself! Guess what – millions of people without children all over the world are leading rich and fulfilling lives, not getting enough sleep, feeling frazzled and frenzied, and generally overwhelmed with no clue where things are going!

It is demeaning and belittling, and tends to close off conversations and have you second-guessing yourself. Suddenly at the end of a hectic week where you were frazzled and just need to vent, you realize that you have lost an understanding ear – you will be expected to sympathize with all the play dates and potty training and sleep-deprived nights, but eye-rolls begin when you discuss your own issues.

“Don’t worry, when you have kids you’ll…”

This is the complement to the last one – and generally a response to a look when your toddler sneezes phlegm into your hand and you just wipe it on a napkin and throw it away without breaking the conversation.

But you know what – people have different thresholds – because I have a strong stomach and Lisa worked in the medical field, we would discuss just about ANYTHING sitting around, and so that is what our kids have grown up with. My father (aka someone with kids) gets queasy with many of the discussions – as do many parents we know. I know people for whom watching their own kid puke is as good as sticking their fingers down their throat.

Sure there are some things associated with parenting that you just have to deal with, but there is no magical bestowing of talents that happens – any more than you suddenly start enjoying stepping in dog poop in the living room because you ignored the dog yapping at you to let her out.

“Is the party kid-friendly?”

The problem here is not checking if an event allows kids – that is a GOOD idea – but the supposition that as soon as YOU have kids that all events suddenly become ‘Family Time’.

What amazes me is how quickly it shifts – the same people who were lamenting kids for ruining everything by being noisy, crying, or playing around are suddenly expecting the entire world to stop and revolve around them and their baby.

And so much of the problem could be handled with some common sense – if this is a dinner party starting at 8PM with four couples and you are the only one with a child … it is a pretty safe assumption that NO, it is not kid friendly. If that means you cannot attend, your friends will understand … but expecting all of your friends to change nights at the tapas bar to become Chuck-E-Cheese outings? Um, no.

“My life didn’t have meaning before I had kids!”

Really? I am SO sorry for you – that is awful! Before we had kids my wife and I had years of adventures before we even met, loads of adventures before we were romantic, and tons of great experiences as a married couple. Rich, fulfilling years building a foundation that now as the kids are hitting their late teens is returning as we get to spend more and more time together.

I look at so many of my blog friends who are young married couples, and they are amazing people and I love hearing about their spouses and the adventures they have. Empty lives? Um, F that!

Also, the assumption of kids ‘giving your life meaning’ is that nothing else in your life even AFTER having kids has meaning. BS to THAT!

“Why Can’t They Work Late … They Don’t Have Kids”

Young kids entering the workforce after college are generally ambitious and willing to work more to prove themselves and accomplish more. The people around them will often take advantage of that until the young people draw boundaries (or get a mentor like me to advise them to do so) … and over time can even feel entitled to have those newer employees acting as personal resources for whenever THEIR life is hectic or they have an appointment.

Again this has its basis in the assumption that ‘the child-less life is not worth living or is of lesser importance. Which isn’t just wrong – it is insulting.

5 Things People Need to Stop Saying to Those Struggling with Infertility/ Miscarriage

Because we have two healthy and wonderful teenagers, everyone seems to forget that for four years we struggled with multiple miscarriages and infertility. But Lisa and I haven’t forgotten and will never forget – there was enough tears and pain to last a lifetime. And I wish I could say that people were really good and supportive during our struggles – but they weren’t.

Just keep trying!

This isn’t taking foul shots at the basketball court – this was a life that failed to sustain and form properly and died. Or a continued inability to get pregnant – either way, it is incredibly difficult to deal with, so ignoring it and suggesting just powering through is terribly insensitive.

Better would be “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “I’m sorry you are having a difficult time”.

“It wasn’t meant to be” … or “It is God’s Will”

Ultimately this really means “I have no idea what to say”. And the second one injects religion in a way that can really cause some problems either between people or within their religion.

Better would be “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “I’m sorry you are having a difficult time”. Or, “I have no idea what to say”.

It wasn’t really a baby anyway, just get over it!

If you have had a miscarriage – even one that required medical treatment – and on some milestone date of the pregnancy you get weepy … prepare to hear this. Seriously. We heard it multiple times across all of our miscarriages.

And to be clear … we had actually named one of the babies that died and had to be removed. Even with two kids approaching college I remember that day at the hospital vividly … and the day Lisa came home in tears less than two weeks later when someone had told her to just get over it.

So what’s wrong that you can’t get/keep pregnancies?

Let’s be clear – if you and your spouse are unable to get pregnant or stay pregnant … you already feel at least a little broken or deficient. You don’t need to someone asking you do detail the manner in which you are broken.

Sure they might want to discuss it at some point – and as an outsider all you should say is “I really have no idea what to say, but I’m here to listen.”

(if you have had a baby) Are You Going to Try for [opposite gender here]

There are some people – OK, many at first but after several years really just one – in our lives who would just never accept that after years of infertility and multiple heartbreaking miscarriages we were just incredibly happy to have a baby, and even more happy to have a healthy baby. That it was a boy was simply ‘what it was’ – and so when our doctor said ‘don’t stop trying if you want another child’ after our first, and then ‘you would probably not survive getting pregnant again’ … that was also ‘what it was’.

In the end we have two wonderful boys, each of which was a miracle to two people who had honestly started to accept that having our own children was simply impossible.

So to ask the ‘are you trying for the girl next’ question when they were little was mildly frustrating, but generally stopped with the ‘we cannot have any more kids, and had so many problems that we feel incredibly fortunate with the two boys we have’ statement.

But not for everyone … there were the ‘yeah, but don’t you wish you had one of each?’ comments (no, and you have no idea), and the ‘so do you use your nieces as substitute daughters?’ (again, just insulting), and even more.

Here is the bottom line – for those who struggled like we did, a child is an incredible blessing. We have never lost the pain or heartbreak of miscarriage and infertility, nor the wonder and awe of being able to have children … and as a result our perspective on the gender of the children has never shifted. And talking to others who went through similar experiences? Yeah, they share it as well.

So what should you say? Nothing. There is really no good way to ask someone if they secretly wish to change a major defining characteristic of their child … because it is an awful question, and asking it says more about the person asking.

And while we are on the topic of reproductive system … this ad … is hilarious …

If you or someone you know is married without kids (or not yet married, or has struggled with getting or staying pregnant, what things would you add to the list?

Weekend Musings – Perfectly Unplugged

I had mentioned that I planned to be mostly offline to enjoy a full weekend with Lisa – no running plans, no blogging, and very little ‘screen’ time. And that is exactly what happened – relaxing coffee, nice family breakfast on Saturday – followed by too much time we had to spend on finances and groceries. On the upside we’re now all set for everything leading up to vacation in a coupe of weeks. And by Saturday late afternoon we were relaxed and had a great time the rest of the weekend.

Here are a few shots from what we did – the weather was gorgeous, and we made full use of it!

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Saturday Night – Dinner and drinks … boys were both out

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Saturday Night – Catching up on Rookie Blue and relaxing with the pups

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Sunday Morning – Hike with the pups on the trails at Sperr Park (http://www.sperrmemorialpark.org)

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After picking up Danny, hit a few stores including casual browsing at Barnes & Noble

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Also grabbed some flowers and did some gardening

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Annuals, new rose bush, and flowers for the gazebo

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Cooking and Relaxing before a fun dinner with Danny’s girlfriend, followed by some board games.

My Running Summary

Last Sunday I was feeling exhausted, a little sore everywhere, possibly dehydrated … and like I needed some rest. I took off Monday and it made a world of difference. I had also planned to take off Friday … but I got home early and some extra time so … y’know!

This week was the second week of Megan’s Abs Challenge, which continues to push me and I can still feel a difference. By the end of the week I wasn’t really making gains on plant time, but I am happy that I am managing over two minutes!

Sunday: 12.5 miles, Abs, 2:20 plank
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 9.25 miles, Abs, 2:27 plank
Wednesday: 10.10 miles, Abs, 2:31 plank
Thursday: 10.25, Abs, 2:27 plank
Friday: 9.25 miles, Abs, 2:15 plank
Saturday Rest

Overall a solid week, pace up and down and a total of just over 51 miles – a great drop from the previous week and which is EXACTLY what I wanted! I think keeping in the 50-60 mile range is a better ‘steady state’ place for me, whether through lower per-run mileage or more off time.

As a reminder I am off on a trip these next few days (sadly none of my blog-friends are in the Houston area), so I have no clue what my online time will look like! Enjoy!

When was your last ‘mostly unplugged’ time?