Wednesday Wandering Mind – Social Media Reset, Twain, Former Fatties, more

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Hey all! Happy Wednesday! I had a few things simmering that I wanted to put out there, and a New Year’s decision pushed me to put them out today. So let’s just jump around *** with it ..

1. Social Media Reset

Over the last couple of weeks I have spent time cleaning up my Twitter and Instagram feeds (no plans to mess with Facebook) as if with a machete. Some people weren’t following me back in spite of my follow and even exchanging comments, others I had no idea how/why I was following, and on Twitter I had to get rid of most of the super-chatty folks as well as people obviously marketing stuff. It has helped my accounts become more manageable, which is awesome.

But on Monday morning as I opened up my email after barely touching electronics all weekend (yay!), I read all of the pent-up blogs in my email as well as my WordPress reader. And my thought? Well THIS has to stop right now!

So I took a ‘scorched earth’ approach and simply started unsubscribing from the mailing lists of blogs and removing any that I did NOT get on email from my WordPress reader, and also killing anything I hadn’t opened in a week from my RSS feeds. Basically, if I didn’t follow your blog before I launched this one, I no longer get an email, if I didn’t get an email this past week I no longer follow you on WordPress, and only a very few blogs remained on RSS (basically those I can’t get through WordPress or email … like Blogger blogs).

So again, nothing personal … I needed to cut WAY back, and I also need to stop feeling like I have to comment on every post I read so you know I stopped by. If I ‘liked’ it, I actually DO … and if you don’t have a ‘Like’ button? Argh! As to how and when I will rebuild? Who knows.

2. Mark Twain’s Gravesite Vandalized

The image at the top is from the Mark Twain grave site, which is in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira NY, about a 10 minute drive from our house. Lisa and I did a fun graveyard tour just before Halloween this year, and the curator who did the tour took us through all of the details of many area families, especially the whole tale of the Mark Twain connection to the region.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge ‘know the backstory of the person behind the art’ person like seems to be so popular today, so I never dug into the Twain connection – just assumed it was a ‘George Washington Slept Here’ thing. But it was not. He was buried here for a reason.

But sadly at some point between Christmas and New Year someone removed the likeness from his gravestone. It is noted in the local paper, where they say:

“Somebody had to bring in a ladder,” Hare said. “There has been vandalism in the cemetery over the years, but there has never been any at the Twain site, which is a revered site. Desecration of any grave is a horrible thing for people to do.”

This is a pretty sad thing – awful for someone to have done in general, and also because as towns and cities are continuously squeezed to do more with less money, things like graveyard maintenance fall to the bottom of the priority list. And to have one of our country’s great authors grave site defaced like this is a shame.

The only good news is that there was a cast made of the original plaque which could be used to create a new one.

3. Tales of Former Fatties

Over at Buzzfeed a couple of weeks ago there was a video about ‘what it is like to be a former fat kid’.

As a former (recovering?) fat kid, I certainly can identify with many of the things the people list. But as we have discussed here before, we could change it around to say ‘what it is like to be an adult who was body shamed as a kid’ … because that crap hurts whatever reason it happened.

4. Feats of Dog Standing

So Sarah Palin posted a picture of her 6+ year old standing on their dog. It sparked some outrage, including from PETA. Palin replied … well, I just posted the whole thing below. But one thing she DID note was Ellen Degeneres posting a picture of a small child (2 or 3 years old) standing on a dog.

Her point? Hypocrisy, of course … and the assumption that her frothing supporters would be so quick to be outraged and butthurt that they wouldn’t even contemplate comparative analysis regarding the size/weight ratios of the children and animals (I mean, they DO watch Fox News, so facts are obvious not a priority).

Anyway, I don’t recall the Ellen pic, but we were very clear about the safety of children and animals in our house … so, no dog standing.

ANYWAY … forget the factual discussion, read Palin’s missive and just LAVISH in the crazy as it washes over you …

Dear PETA,
Chill. At least Trig didn’t eat the dog.

Hey, by the way, remember your “Woman of the Year”, Ellen DeGeneres? Did you get all wee-wee’d up when she posted this sweet picture? http://conservatives4palin.com/… Hypocritical, much?

Did you go as crazy when your heroic Man-of-Your-Lifetime, Barack Obama, revealed he actually enjoyed eating dead dog meat?

Aren’t you the double-standard radicals always opposing Alaska’s Iditarod – the Last Great Race honoring dogs who are born to run in wide open spaces, while some of your pets “thrive” in a concrete jungle where they’re allowed outdoors to breathe and pee maybe once a day? (http://iditarod.com/ http://www.irondog.org/)

Aren’t you the same herd that opposes our commercial fishing jobs, claiming I encourage slaying and consuming wild, organic healthy protein sources called “fish”? (I do.)
Aren’t you the same anti-beef screamers blogging hate from your comfy leather office chairs, wrapped in your fashionable leather belts above your kickin’ new leather pumps you bought because your celebrity idols (who sport fur and crocodile purses) grinned in a tabloid wearing the exact same Louboutins exiting sleek cowhide covered limo seats on their way to some liberal fundraiser shindig at some sushi bar that features poor dead smelly roe (that I used to strip from our Bristol Bay-caught fish, and in a Dillingham cannery I packed those castoff fish eggs for you while laughing with co-workers about the suckers paying absurdly high prices to party with the throw away parts of our wild seafood)? I believe you call those discarded funky eggs “caviar”.

Yeah, you’re real credible on this, PETA. A shame, because I’ll bet we agree on what I hope is the true meaning of your mission – respecting God’s creation and critters.

Our pets, including Trig’s best buddy Jill Hadassah, are loved, spoiled and cared for more than some people care for their fellow man whose politics may not mesh with nonsensical liberally failed ways or don’t fit your flighty standards.

Jill is a precious part of our world. So is Trig.

– Sarah Palin

5. Interesting Findings from 2014

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Being a statistics dude and engineer means that I love having loads of data to gather and play with and am always looking for cool new ways to visualize that data. This week I came across a summary of a number of things from 2014 at the Pew Research site.

The image above compares median income of kids 25 – 32 (sorry, ‘adults’) who have a 4-year college degree with those with a 2-year degree or just a high school diploma – and the results show a greater disparity than ever. Recently there has been much discussion about the value of a college degree – but that is largely in the context of the staggering debt incurred by more and more college students.

As a parent sending one child off in a few months to what was ranked the #2 Most Expensive Undergraduate School, and another heading to college next year … this stuff really hits home for me.

Bonus. Warm Hands, Happy Runner

After a relatively mild pre-Christmas to post-New Year we have gone straight back to last years Polar Vortex it seems, with high winds and a display of the ‘many ways to get to sub-zero wind chills’. But of course I still go out for my runs – and the awesome news is that the Brooks 3-in-1 gloves my boys got me for Christmas are the absolute best things I have EVER (in nearly 26 years) worn on my hands. Each year I enter in fear of frost-bite, but now I can leave the house with confidence of returning with all appendages intact.

So … how are YOU? And how’s Winter treating you?

*** Yeah, Jump Around … like THIS:

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A Race-Free 2014 is Fine by Me, One Year Blog-Aversary, and Other Thoughts

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OK, this is NOT a screenshot of yesterday’s ‘Decline’, because I didn’t grab the screen. So instead I went back to the last time I faced this choice with unfortunately the exact same thing swimming in my head – that I had to click decline.

The Can 50 Ultra is on October 11th, which is a huge competition day for my kids and their marching band … one that I refuse to miss. I had it in my head (and on my calendar) as the 12th for some reason. Oh well.

Will 2014 Be ‘Race Free’?

It is interesting – even as I am doing an average of close to 70 miles per week this summer and have done a half dozen runs longer than 20 miles, meaning my training for the ultra was well in hand … I really don’t have any issues letting it go. For the first race that would have been over our vacation I was sad – I had really gotten my hopes up and mentally psyched.

But something has changed this year – early in the year it was simply not convenient or possible to do any of the races I had thought about. Then I decided not to sign up for Wineglass Marathon because of how it falls with respect to Danny & Lisa’s birthdays (right on top of them, again) – and based on how the weekend looks, it was the right thing! Then with our busy summer the half marathon and 5k I wanted to do fell by the wayside,

And while this happened, my weekly running stayed great, my nutrition is excellent (but eating so much is HARD for me!), and overall my fitness and motivation is staying very high. I don’t NEED races right now – they add stress rather than joy. My priority is always ‘family first’, and while running is very important to me … racing is just ‘nice’.

I have one possible race left, and it is after marching band and birthday season … so it is possible. It is a half marathon, and the average temperature the last two years I have run is 25F. Welcome to winter! haha

Hey – You Guys Never Told Me Bloody Nipples Were ‘Hot’!!!

This Friday I posted this on Instagram:

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Yeah, I had a ‘band aid fail’ – I forgot to grab mine in my bathroom and ended up grabbing a couple of cheapies from the pantry … and one of them held. If you peek below you’ll see I did 10.25 miles on Friday … and I KNEW what I would see about halfway through. Ugh. That happens, no biggie (other than the shower ‘first contact’ fun).

BUT – the funny thing?

When I posted to Instagram, within the first half hour while we were eating breakfast I got a couple of ‘Likes’, so I tapped on ‘notifications’ and saw names I didn’t know …

Turns out both were young women who had ‘recently single’ in their descriptions, who started following me as well.

So … why didn’t all of you younger ladies tell me that bloody nipples made you irresistible to young single women? I have so many questions for you – to the recently engaged … did your engagement hinge on bloody nipples? If you are single, did a lack of bloody nipples factor into it? It all just made me realize how out of touch Lisa and I are with this whole thing – we just thought they looked awful and were sore.

Can’t believe you guys have been holding out this critical information on me … 🙂

One Year on this Blog

Yesterday (Sept 13th) something happened – the blog turned one year old. I had a ‘welcome’ post, and then a post the same day titled “Everything Clicked … Until it Didn’t, But That Was OK.

That first post was about feeling great after a run … then having real life come colliding in! That happens so often to many of us, and there is nothing we can do – except appreciate the way that our runs help us cope and deal with life, giving us strength and energy to push forward and the mental balance to work through them.

It would be more than two weeks until my next post, and then I slowly got into a routine from there. During the first month I got THREE comments – two from Megan and one from Sarah. Thanks for that critical early support!

Weekly Running Summary

This was a weird week – the weather ranged from cold and foggy to warm and humid and everywhere in between. It has that whole ‘transition to fall’ feel, but nothing in the 40s yet.

So how did I do? Let’s take a look:

Sunday: 7.5 miles on ‘Easy Run’ Day – after my 23.5 miles on Saturday, a casual run was in order!
Monday: 10.5 miles
Tuesday: 9.25
Wednesday: 10.5 miles
Thursday: 9.75 miles
Friday: 10.25 miles after work
Saturday 14.5 miles with hill repeats

Wow … I really didn’t think this was a huge week, but I did 72.25 miles this week . It will be interesting to see how things go while I am on my business trip this week.

‘Programming’ Notes

Oh – I didn’t mention that yet? OK, so this week I am attending a statistics conference – I know, I know, contain your excitement! I am really looking forward to it in several ways – it is just outside of Raleigh NC (in Cary, home of SAS) and the forecast looks pretty great, I have a colleague giving one of the talks, and two old friends neither of whom I have seen in more than 20 years attending and giving papers! Going to be amazing.

At the same time, I think it is clear that my relationship to the blog (and blog world) has changed this summer. I have narrowed my reading, and my writing has started to ‘take the weekends off’ and not always flow according to schedule. At this point I can only see this continuing, so here are two things I am doing:

– I have cut way back on my subscriptions, and my commenting even more. I realized that I had not commented on a few posts that I REALLY wanted to comment on … I was getting bogged down on other things. I will still read all of my faves with email subscriptions to my ‘must reads’, others mostly through Feedly or WordPress. As Judith noted, that makes it work well … unless blogs block it. Sadly, if you block reading without hitting the site, unless you are in my email blog list I will be gone. Sorry. 😦 I want to do it all … there just isn’t the time.

– I have no plans to blog this week at all.

– Starting next week I am going to try a 2 posts per week routine, and see how that goes. I had planned that when I came back from several days away, but suddenly blasted out a bunch of posts. That really isn’t working for me. I think a Sunday & Wednesday schedule might work … we will see.

Tell me something great from YOUR week?

Some Random Pet Peeves Annoying Me This Week

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

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

1. Reciprocal Blogging

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

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

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

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

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

2. Crappy Customers & Customer Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Store Aisle Cellphone Talker Hogs

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

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

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

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

4. Emergency Vehicle Privelege Abusers

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

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

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

5. Parents Teaching Kids Crappy Habits

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

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

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

6. Ugly Early Morning Driving Habits

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

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

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

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

Bonus. Running Pet Peeves

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

Here are a couple:

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

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

So what are YOUR pet peeves?

Running, Blogging and Life – Continuous Trust Fall

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

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

Running

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

Running makes me, a better me.

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

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

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

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

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

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Blogging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Fortune

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

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

The Comments That Can Tear Your Soul Apart

January 2012

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

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

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

Having a Safe Place in Your Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things That Perhaps SHOULD Bug Me But Don’t

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

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

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

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

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

A Couple of Interesting Stories

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

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

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

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

How I Discovered My Current Weak Spot

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

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

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

I think you look better there than you do now.

OK … WHAT?!?!

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

But WHY does this stick with me?

Because the insinuation is that I looked better fat.

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Scenes with txa1265 – Blog Writing Process Tour

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

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

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

The Background & My Nominations

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Blog: txa1265’s Writing Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Why do I write what I do?

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

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

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

2. What am I working on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. How does your writing process work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t We All Just Get Along? And Blog-Reading FOMO!

Why Can't We Get Along

Yesterday Suz posted about her ‘blog process’, and had asked me to join in the fun! I said yes and will be posting mine tomorrow. I definitely recommend reading her post here. But for today I just had a couple of quick items:

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

It is interesting how things tend to flow together in the blogosphere – we complain about the cold, then dealing with training for spring activities, then the post-race letdowns, then it is too hot, then losing mojo … and suddenly now we are seeing a wave of negativity and on many of the blogs I follow there is a bit of a backlash!

I loved Harold’s post today asking people to ‘Get a Grip’, referencing a number of judgmental posts he has seen:

When people write these words, (along with so many other judgmental comments that discuss what others are doing), they are putting their morals, opinions and how they think others should act/write/blog, while disregarding or belittling other people’s reasons for doing or writing about things they do.

I kind of alluded to this type of post in my ‘Clean Eating’ post yesterday, referring to people using the term ‘as a hammer’, meaning that they were deciding that what a blogger / commenter was doing was *wrong* and/or ‘not clean’ – and doing so in some harsh and uncompromising terms. It was based on those ‘absolutist’ stances I was taken aback and moved to write.

In her post yesterday, Susie also referred to a commenter who had obviously really upset her … but that she didn’t want to give them the power and control by focusing on it in her post … which reminds me of advice Harold gave me ages ago. It is interesting – I have dealt with trolls since the late 80s writing on USENET … but when it is your personal space and identity it is very different. I am all for spirited debate, but we’re all actual people on the other side of these screens.

Finally Laura at Fit Fresh & Funny opened a thoughtful discussion about having kids. Because she is awesome and open and always willing to chat, a bunch of people shared freely why they did or did not want kids, myself included.

It was a great post … but it came from a different place. She has been trying to find a ‘home’ on Facebook for people in similar situations, and finding many places too harsh or otherwise not a great fit, then came across an article that asked the basic question about why people want to have kids … but in a bizarre way.

I mean, at first I was supportive – the author was tired of being asked ‘when are you having kids / why don’t you have kids yet’ by rude people who presume it is their business. And as I wrote about … I dealt with all of those insensitive questions, and think they really need to stop.

BUT … she then takes a weird turn, polls friends about why they wanted or want kids, and then spends the article picking them apart. Um … gee, you are a wonderful ‘friend’? My thought is that you never build yourself up by tearing others down, and that instead of suffering fools in silence only to turn around and berate your friends – make sure that the fools know that your life is none of their business.

But the theme is common – insufferable negativity coupled with online anonymity to create a very negative space.

And really, who needs that? Sure i have been critical of discussions being too ‘agreement’ oriented on blogs, but taking it to the other extreme doesn’t help.

Let’s seek the middle ground, happily agree to have energetic debates, know we will often disagree, but always be respectful and kind. Our world could use more of that.

I Miss You

Blog-Reading FOMO!

As I mentioned before, the down-side of a 9-day ‘mostly unplugged’ vacation is that I have more than 200 emails in my Gmail inbox … whereas I had 18 when I left. I have sifted through everything I can remove, so what is left is pretty much all of the blog posts I have missed. And that doesn’t count my BlogLovin, Twitter and WordPress Reader queues.

As I barely kept pace with new posts today (ok, really I failed as I just looked and saw some unread posts from earlier!), I have come to realize that I will simply have to summarily read many of them and let them go.

But you know what? That is HARD and tweaks my FOMO (fear of missing out) – I had gotten my queue to the point where I could manage to post AND read all of my faves on a daily basis … so having to just delete a post I mostly-read in the email browser? Not satisfying. Especially when someone references a post from last week (happened twice to me yesterday) and I am left trying to figure out what I missed! Ugh!

As I said, it got to the point yesterday where I realized I was actually losing ground – I had more unread things than when I started the day. There were two options: cut down on my blog roll, or let much of last week go.

I will have to think about a strategy for this the next time, as I think there must be a more optimal solution … but for now this is as good as I can manage.

Have You Noticed the Negativity? And What Do You Do When your queue is just too deep to catch up?