30 Days of Gratitude – Day #2, Layoff Bliss

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Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I take a different view. We all have challenges and hardships we encounter of various types and degrees. For me, getting laid off after 15 years at my last job just as the economy was tanking was very difficult … and rewarding.

Day #2 – Getting Laid off Was The Best Thing Ever

It was a moment that I remember vividly, Lisa coming home and me being there and her jokingly asking ‘what, did you lose your job’ and me saying ‘yes’ and her jaw dropping. But let me back up … I lost my job on the 3rd of October, the day after Danny turned 11, three days after the end of the third quarter. No one was surprised that more layoffs happened – this was the fourth straight quarter of by-department layoffs. First manufacturing, then engineering, then research, and finally quality and operations. I wasn’t even that surprised when I was pretty sure I was one of those being hit with the layoff … but that doesn’t make it easier when you have a mortgage and family and bills to consider.

But that same day I got a call from an old friend and former co-worker named Hemant, and he told me something that resonates with me still seven years later: although it is hard and shocking, you were not happy and will soon realize this was the best thing that could have happened. And he was right.

In 2004 when parent company Rohm & Haas fully took over and integrated all systems, all of the promises made when they bought out the Shipley family in 1992 went out the window. They instituted new structures and policies, and then executed a large layoff that was handled about as poorly and dehumanizing as I could possibly imagine. I never really forgave the company for that, and as I have discussed before I made a resolution in 2007 that one way or the other I wouldn’t enter 2008 at the company.

But we had also been looking at the possibility of moving towns in the Boston area, because what had started as a great school system in the early 90s when we moved there had consistently gone downhill ever since – and we knew we didn’t want the kids going to middle school there. We’d had our house appraised and were looking at selling – then suddenly we knew I would be working somewhere else and would likely have to move.

I have also talked about the job hunt and how lucky I was to have been cut before things got really bad for the economy, and also how if I had taken any of the other four offers made to me I would be in a different job now due to the other places eliminating divisions or going completely out of business.

But I chose Corning. And it has been the best move I could imagine. Lisa noted it within the first year – I am different, more happy than in years, and definitely more chatty. Suddenly I am outgoing and will talk to anyone, and that has only grown the last couple of years as I have grown as a runner. Now I see people out everywhere who see me running and I chat with them, and really in general lead my life much more integrated with everyone around me.

It is hard looking back and knowing that it took me so long to leave a job I knew I should have left long before, but I am glad I did eventually leave. And while I would love to move back to Massachusetts someday, it will be on my terms and I will carry this new outlook along with me. I still love reading about all of the great people I used to work with and how they and their spouses and kids are doing all over the country. It was an amazing 15 years that changed my life.

Is there a life moment that seemed negative that you now feel was fundamental to becoming who you are?

Step (Way) Back Week, Running Thoughts, and August Summary!

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Hi Friends! Well … when I said it had become much easier to disconnect, I wasn’t lying! In fact, I have enjoyed it so much I suddenly find myself very much disconnected on a regular basis … my posts two weeks ago were erratic, and I hadn’t done any since the previous Thursday until just a couple of days ago!

But when I say ‘step back’, I am really just talking about blogging – my running is still on track, as you will see below.

What are my blogging plans?

Well, I don’t know.

Here’s the thing – this was supposed to be posted on Sunday … or Monday … then Tuesday. Wednesday ended up with a different post – which is good because I don’t think this would have made it.

Funny thing – Wednesday’s post eased into one for Thursday and then Friday … and reconnecting through catching up on reading all of your posts and reading comments reminded me how much I love this community.

But at the same time I cannot deny that my relationship with blogging, and writing for the internet in general is evolving … and I really don’t know where it is going. So I will do what I always suggest to others – write when I want to, but never out of obligation.

So here goes!

Running Shoe Lifetimes

This past week seemed to be ‘how long do my shoes last?’ week, as there were great posts by Nicole and one from Cori where she referenced an earlier post about how she determines when to replace her running shoes.

In one comment I noted that my Saturday run of 18.5 miles put my Saucony Virrata 2s up over 1200 miles. They seemed to be doing fine – and I can generally start to feel it on runs or the same day. That tends to be my first indicator. And now that I have been rotating with the much newer Saucony Kinvara 5s (about 300 miles now) I really expected to notice it on my runs – and have been doing about 4:1 Virrata to Kinvara at this point.

But what I noticed was on Sunday. We picked up Danny’s girlfriend at Cornell in the morning and headed to the Destiny USA Mall in Syracuse (apparently it is the 6th largest in the country now) for back to school shopping and some fun. I noticed some tightness while driving in my calves and ankles, but we took Lisa’s car and … well, my 18.5 mile run had concluded after 8:30PM the night before.

We did a ton of walking on Sunday, close to 10 miles according to my S-Health app on my Galaxy Note 3 (yes, still loving this monster!). … and even though I’d walked more in Boston and New York City – I definitely felt it more in my ankles and calves.

My assumption? The Virratas are about done. I am wearing the Kinvaras all week and will rotate the Virratas in on a limited basis next week to see how they feel on shorter runs.

Update: I have worn the Virratas three times since writing this and feel fine. It wasn’t the shoes, apparently … it was me!

How do YOU know when it is ‘time to go’?

Shoe Reviews – Old and Used

Harold had a great post about why he is reviewing ‘last year’s shoes’. His thought:

Just because brands have a newer models to sell, that doesn’t mean the old running shoes, the ones that suddenly become much more affordable are irrelevant to runners?

And it is true – I handed off my Kinvara 4s to my son to use for bang-around shoes once they were ‘done’ as running shoes. But I have looked at them on Amazon and Running Warehouse, and they are now about $60 – but in very limited supply in my size 13.

But the point is, just because the Kinvara 5 arrives doesn’t mean the Kinvara 4 is suddenly of no value. I LOVED the Kinvara 4, and would buy another pair in a second … except that the sales on the Kinvara 5 are starting to ramp up as well.

Shopping for discount shoes often means dealing with older versions, and what you find searching for reviews is stuff that is old and almost always ‘first impressions’. I have talked about my disappointment at how quickly the New Balance Minimus 2 broke down … but have I written a full review? No. What I love that Harold is doing is his 50 mile reviews and longer term looks at shoes. You get not just the first impression, but a solid feel for how things last over time.

I would love to see that become more of a standard practice.

Injured Runner ‘Epidemic’

I mentioned this in a couple of comments, but so many people I know both ‘in real life’ and through blogging and otherwise on the internet have gotten injured that it is astounding. And something that really drove it home over the last week or so is the messages I have gotten from the Wineglass Marathon talking about opening up new entries. I intentionally didn’t sign up this year, but I know THREE people (including Hollie) who have deferred.

Now the Wineglass is a pretty popular marathon, enough that it allows 2000 people for both the full and half marathons, and also a decent size wait-list … and sells out by the spring. So for them to send along this message stunned me:

We have gotten enough Deferrals in that we have been able to open up 100 more slots in the Full Marathon! This is for the Full Marathon only at this time! If you or someone you know would still like to run please go to our web-site and click on Register Now for the Full Marathon! Thank you!

Still want to do the Half? Just opened up 100 Half Marathon entries.

So I was thinking – they already went through a couple of hundred people on wait-lists for each race, THEN they were able to add 100 more. They actually had opened up more slots for the wait list once already right after sign-ups closed.

I didn’t see this either of the last two years I have run the marathon, and it makes me wonder if there actually are more people getting hurt this year, and if so … WHY? What do you think?

Running Thoughts

Hollie had an awesome collection of posts she shared yesterday (she actually has had some great ones of her own this week – check them out if you don’t already follow her). A couple of my faves:

20 Things Every Seasoned Runner Knows (That Every New Runner Learns The Hard Way)
, which included gems such as:
* 12. Even if you’ve been running for years, every once in a while there’s just going to be a run that blows.

Which was my Wednesday theme.

Then there is this one I think many of us can identify with, I know Laura was talking about it this week as she returns from her summer off:

* 13. If you take a few weeks or even a few months off, getting back in the groove of things is going to feel impossible.

And finally something I do very well … but would rather not have to do quite so well – and certainly not so SOON!:

* 14. How to survive running in winter.

Grab a Gal: Why Men Should Run with a Woman
– there were some interesting things there, but one interesting one is about women and pacing:

Women are natural pacers. Studies of marathon runners have revealed that women have even pacing, which is a huge plus in long-distance racing. Biological reasons explain why. Males burn a greater percentage of carbohydrates for fuel, which deplete more quickly, whereas females will use more fat stores that last longer. Men tend to start out fast when the carbs are high and run out of fuel over the long haul. Pairing up with a woman might help even out this tendency, at least mentally.

Which explains why I never reading any blog posts from women about going out too fast! 😉 haha But seriously, the carb vs. fat stores thing is supported in at least one recent study.

But I had to double-check that the author was a woman, because of things like “Women smell better”. I mean, I certainly think that is true as a general rule – but my wife thinks she stinks after we do a long bike ride or whatever … weird.

Either way, I think running with others of either gender is a great thing – and I hope that we can run together if I am ever in your neck of the woods! Speaking of which – I will be in Cary, NC for the week of September 15 – 19 … anyone reading live down there?

August Running Summary

August was a big of a strange month for me. I had a half-marathon I had planned (Catharine Valley) that I decided to skip – and was glad I did because Lisa ended up with the morning off and we had a fantastic time together. The following weekend was a 5k/10k I thought about, but when Lisa’s plans at work shifted, I lost my gusto to get up and do it alone. Oh well – I still kept chugging along with my normal daily runs.

We had a whirlwind Boston college tour weekend, moving Danny’s girlfriend into Cornell, and a busy school shopping weekend. My month at work has been busy, and I ended the month getting into a technical area of exploration that is the deepest research stuff I have been able to do with this project – which is awesome.

Here are my weekly totals for August, by ‘week ending’ date:
– 8/1 & 2 – 24.5
– 8/9 – 54
– 8/16 – 72.57
– 8/23 – 68.55
– 8/30 – 67.5

And since I didn’t run on the 31st (but walked more than 10 miles!) my total for the month is 287.1 miles! I actually managed more than 300 miles in a month last summer … but this is still pretty nuts considering everything else that has been going on! No wonder I am exhausted!

How Did You Feel About Your August? Do You See More Injured Runners Than Usual This Year?

Things People in the ‘100lb Club’ Wished You Knew

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This month marks two years since I joined the ‘100lb club’ … again. A couple of weeks ago a coworker posted that she has also joined the club. Well, that isn’t what she said, but it was basically the same thing.

Note: my focus on the 100lb club is not intended to diminish what people experience who have lost 10 or 25 or 50 lbs or struggled to gain weight … it is more focused on the physical reality that rather than an ‘adjustment’, a 100lb weight differential represents a true body-morphing.

And further, when Lisa lost about 50 lbs a decade ago many things I talk about below happened to her – it was amazing watching some of the preschool moms change in how they looked at and treated her … all of the ‘catty’ stereotypes were in full force.

What is the 100lb club?

The 100lb ‘Club’ isn’t a club at all, but is quite simply about people who have lost more than 100 lbs. I had read about it as a term used on several forums and fitness groups to identify as a milestone for extreme weight loss. Bottom line – if you have lost 100 lbs or more … you started out significantly obese.

As I said, this month is two years of re-joining the 100lb club. Actually, I am in the ‘110lb club’ – I am approximately 110lbs lighter now than I was in March of 2012. But as I have noted – I was much heavier when I graduated college – in fact, as of my wedding in 1992 I would put myself very close to the 200lb club! The reality is I won’t step on the scale until I feel I am making positive steps, for fear of being so dejected I would quit. So when I weighed myself over 375lbs, I know I started higher. And before my wedding I was down to about 185lbs, which is 190lbs weighed difference.

My colleague posted about her weight loss as part of a Facebook ‘gratitude challenge’. What she said was touching and poignant, so I am stealing it:

I am grateful for my willpower and motivation. It has carried me through this journey to a healthier me. I am also thankful that I have found inspiration through others – their stories, their accomplishments, their pictures (thank you [redacted, but included me]). 112 baby!

She has lost 112 pounds – and it shows in every way. She looks great, feels great – and has the confidence to KNOW she looks great and be happy with that. Honestly it is great seeing that in someone else.

But something happens when you lose that much weight – the world shifts. Sure YOU change as well, but you also become aware of things that perhaps you didn’t notice before. Or maybe people feel more comfortable saying things around you that they wouldn’t have before. Either way, I thought it would be interesting to share some things I have found through the years personally, and have shared with others who have lost large amounts of weight.

We Will ALWAYS Be That Fat Person Inside

It is really weird – I have spent nearly all of the last 25 years within 20lbs of my ‘target’ (I am actually ‘below target’ now), and yet I cannot look in a mirror and see myself for the thin person that I am.

Part of that is self-image. Being so large as a child, my formative years were filled with self-identification (aided by the joys of other kids) as a fat kid. So I will always be that fat kid in my mind.

The other part is physical – losing so much weight changes your body, and unfortunately not everything falls neatly into place. The most recent public example was the case involving Shape magazine I’ve discussed in the past. The reality of ‘loose skin’ is perhaps the biggest disappointment of extreme weight loss – because all of the shows and magazines make you think you will suddenly look like one of the models they show off … or quite frankly, like a normal thin person. But you don’t.

No, Fat Jokes and Making Fun of Fat People are NOT Suddenly Funny

This one honestly shocked me when I first lost weight – because it started with people who knew I had been fat for 23 years and thin for less than a year – and yet I was suddenly supposed to take pleasure in ridiculing people who were heavy or who got out of breath easy?

For people who don’t know me, I had it explained that no one would ever look at me and think I was morbidly obese – I mean, I have a large enough frame that at 6’1″ I was on the offensive and defensive lines in high school football and was a force to reckon with … and now I have a ‘runner’s body’ and that is how people see me.

But that assumption has led people to feel it is ok to berate fat people with me standing there – someone said something last year, and another person in the group said ‘you know Mike was even bigger than that guy just a couple of years ago’. You could have heard a pin drop.

So what that did for me was to show me that that I was NOT imagining the eye-rolls, and looks and snickers and so on … because once I was no longer fat, I heard them used on other people.

We Can Never ‘Take it Easy’

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You see that tiny bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms? It has sat unopened in my work backpack for a couple of weeks now since I got handed a sample in the store.

I will never eat it. Never.

Sure you can tell me it is only 100 calories or so and not a big deal. You can compare it to other things I eat such as the peanut butter chocolate cake recipe I shared.

But it isn’t about the nutritional content – it is an ’emotional trigger’ food. In 2011 and into 2012 I would very often have a bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms in my drawer at work, and one of the ‘WTF moments for me was eating an entire ‘large’ bag across two days. I felt disgusting in many different ways, and haven’t had any Peanut Butter M&Ms since I started back with running.

And for me processed and packaged ‘junk foods’ tend to fall off when I am running, but this time is different in many ways – I simply don’t want to eat them, and I am more careful than ever about what I put into my body.

And I hear about it – regularly.

‘Aw c’mon … you can just run another mile’.
‘You could use some extra calories, you’re too skinny’
‘You can just eat whatever you want’

And so on. Point is – once you have lost this type of weight, you don’t want to gain it back … ever. You want to maintain that great healthy feeling, so you avoid foods that make you feel lousy, and more important you avoid foods that you associate with being fat – and most of all you avoid ‘downfall’ foods. Quite often you no longer want them …

… but sometimes with food for someone who has gone through extreme weight loss, it is like waving a drink in front of an alcoholic.

Our Clothes are About US, Not You

Honestly this is true for pretty much anyone – so I am sure many people can identify with this: that moment when you go from wearing clothes that are 1 – 2 sizes too large to hide your body, to wearing fitted items that show off your body! Last Friday I wore my skinny jeans to work and realized the biggest problem with my new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was the whole issue of pockets and fitted clothes and huge phones …

I have incredible memories shopping at the Jordan Marsh back in ’89 & ’90, totally transforming my wardrobe, showing off my new looks. I never really cared before … but now suddenly I did.

You Treat Us Differently … and We Notice

When I first lost weight, I was also getting my first job, and my life was changing in many ways. But I also maintained friendships with many people from high school and college and the retail store I worked all during those 8 years … and once we got past the issue of my weight and body transformation.

It is like you are suddenly part of the ‘in crowd’ … and it feels really good, until you pass someone who is NOT … and you realize THAT person was YOU a few months before.

Some of the ways I was treated differently:
– Before Lisa and I were dating, I had a flight delay on a connection, and had a girl sit down next to me, and she ended up inviting me to come to Shakespeare in the Park with her and her family.
– I no longer feel judged based on what I eat.
– Even at 48 I have women (some uncomfortably close to my kids age) who flirt with me.
– People seek me out, remember me, and go out of their way to include me.
– I realized that for more than a couple of people my weight loss suddenly made me ‘an option’ … which seemed flattering until I realized how incredibly insulting it was.

But the biggest one is the most ironic … when I was at my heaviest, when I could literally fill a door way – I was invisible. Now I am noticed.

We Are Not Experts, Spokespeople, or Advocates

It is incredibly awesome to have people come to me looking for ‘my secret’ … sadly many people leave disappointed when I say ‘eat less, eat better, and get some exercise’ as my secret.

I have talked about it before, but I feel that just as my body seems to conspire to gain weight when I do not exercise and watch what I eat – I get into a spiral of unhealthy habits, excessive portions, and lethargy … so too does it conspire to help me when I run. When I run I want healthy foods, I tend to eat less (it has been an effort to properly fuel my running), and so on.

I am a person with a story, who has successfully lost weight – I am not a nutritionist, a fitness coach or personal trainer, or someone who can ‘help your friend/spouse/child lose weight’. Yes I have been asked to talk to someone ‘as a former heavy person’ more than once.

But at the same time, I LOVE being a sounding board, I LOVE sharing my story, what I have been through, and how much running and eating well has transformed my life. But it is hard because I become a magnet for people trying to lose weight … who then avoid me like the plague if they fail.

What This All Means to Me

To repurpose the end of this article“But deep inside, I still am and always will be a fat boy, with a fat boy’s awareness that the world is not nearly as nice as it sometimes seems right now. “

But at the same time I notice something else that I saw elsewhere and copied into a draft months ago “Turns out I was the meanest person to me while at my fattest. There was nothing anyone could’ve said that would have been worse than the constant track running through me head of “You’re a fat piece of shit and deserve nothing”.

That One Person Who Is There For You

I have heard the line countless times on TV and in movies, and I saw it again just the other night “would you love me if I was fat?” Bottom line – someone whose love is conditional upon a pant size or number on a scale doesn’t really love you.

I have talked about my love for Lisa many times, and the great fortune I feel at the life and marriage we share and work to maintain … but beyond anything else she has known me not just at my best and worst, but also my thinnest and fattest. And she loves me regardless … because beyond thin or fat there is ME. And while her weight has also fluctuated through the years, my love for her has never been in question, and neither has hers.

I have always been lucky to have the greatest supporter and teammate in the world.

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few thoughts about that …

Decide What YOU Really Want

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

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

Stop Letting Others Dictate Your Life

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

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

The life led for someone else is full of regrets.

Remember That Those Who Love You, Support You

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

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

Ultimately You Get No Points for Doing What is Expected

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

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

What You Love Today … You Might Not Love Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

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

Throwback Thursday – School Days

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Just a quickie today – my first post from my Samsung Galaxy Note 3! I have been loving all of the ‘back to school’ pictures on Facebook and thinking about how fast it has flown for us … my boys are going to be a junior and senior in high school!

We’ve done loads of college visits, ordered Danny’s senior pictures, and will be starting the application process soon. Wow … hard to believe that the picture at the top is just from Danny’s freshman year.

And since I have all of my iPhoto library automatically upload to my Google drive, I am able to peruse my whole mega-photo library on the Galaxy Note! So I dug back to pictures I had scanned in way back in Massachusetts, and found one of John and I together as kids, and based on the photos around it could very well have been a back to school picture.

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Monday Musings and Music and More

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

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

1. Run for the Memories

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

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

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

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

2. No Race Weekend

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

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

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

3. College Move-In

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

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

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

4. New Phone

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

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

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

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

5. Wealth vs. ‘Class’?

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

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

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

And from the post in question?

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

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

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

6. THIS Is America?

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

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

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

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

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

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7. Movies are Easily Diagrammed

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

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How do you feel about this? Is it accurate?

7. Do You See a Problem?

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

8. Almost School Time!

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

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

9. My Running Summary

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

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

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

10. Music New and Old

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

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

And here is the new rip-off:

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

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

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

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

Back Where You Belong, and My Weekly Summary

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I have talked about moving my family from Massachusetts to New York for my job during the recession back in 2008. The Corning area is beautiful and has loads to offer, from natural beauty and loads to do outdoors, great schools, and a job at Corning that has been fantastic.

But it isn’t ‘home’, and this week I was reminded of that. We headed to Massachusetts and Rhode Island for college visits, and from the moment we crossed into Massachusetts on the Mass Pike it was like being home again and everything just felt ‘right’. This is where we ‘belong’. And it made me think about how all of us have a place where we feel most at home, regardless of where we live now.

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That Place You Belong

I had a friend in college who would refer to New York as ‘THE City’ … when he was going home one time and someone asked where he was going he said ‘THE City’, and they asked ‘WHICH city’. He said ‘Boston and Chicago and other places are all nice cities … but New York is THE city’. Being that we were all a bunch of engineers the logic was hard to argue in terms of what it offered and breadth of experience – so no matter what we actually thought we left it alone.

But the reality is that all of us love different places for different reasons.

I enjoy reading Lauren and Lisa and Cori and others talk about Baltimore, and Hollie talk about New Jersey and Caitlin about Pittsburgh and Susie about Chicago and Harold about Maine and on and on. For some of the blogs I follow the person is living in the ‘best place ever’, and for others it is just the place they are living.

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The Visit

I frequently write that I will always consider Massachusetts my home, but never was it more clear than these past few days. Everything is just a little different than in New York, and as we got to Rhode Island and the Narragansett Bay, I could just feel the stress drop off of me and I was totally relaxed and felt that although I’d never been to that beach before, I was home.

I could think back to the myriad trips to Providence when my brother lived there, or down to Newport for jazz fest or just to visit, and to our vacation in Jamestown.

For this college trip we had two main points of focus – Johnson & Wales University in Providence and Boston University. Johnson & Wales is one of the premier culinary institutes which Chris is interested in, and Boston University has a great film and communication school that Danny had wanted to look into.

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Spending the day at Johnson & Wales was a reminder of how different a culinary school is from other universities. After your freshman year you can get housing in ‘apartment style’ housing, with a benefit being a fully functional kitchen where everyone can show off skills and practice techniques and recipe planning. Very different than the focus of pretty much any other school I have visited!

The Cuisinart Center on campus is a huge building with food labs to explore pretty much anything having to do with all aspects of the food and drink world. Your education isn’t just cooking – all students learn how to run a business, and the most popular major is a combines culinary arts and food service management, which is pretty much a dual cooking and business major.

So in those labs aside from creating majestic pastries and plates, you are learning cost modeling, forecasting, inventory and supply chain management and so on. I honestly thought Lisa wasn’t coming home with us – she was ready to enroll immediately! It was an amazing school … fortunately Chris has a year to decide between culinary arts or music (or something else, multi-talented kid!).

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Boston University is different from the other schools Danny has visited for film because it doesn’t offer a BFA degree – it is in the school of communications and is more of a ‘technical’ than an ‘arts’ program. There is a great business tie-in, which is something he has wanted from the beginning. BU is a great school in a fantastic location along the Charles River starting in Kenmore Square. Is it the one for him? That remains to be seen, but nothing has given him the ‘butterflies’ like NYU.

Walking through BU brought me back to so many years of Boston visits growing up, and so many times Lisa and I walked the streets together, and the many trips into town with the kids to do the aquarium, Children’s Museum, Museum of Science, and also just to enjoy the city and take in a show.

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Coming Home

While we had just a quickly couple of days, we got to enjoy an awful lot of the area and culture while also touring the schools. The beach in Barrington RI, then we headed up 95 to 93 (sitting in plenty of traffic long enough to point out things like the exit to 138 in Stoughton I took hundreds of times while working in Billerica), and out to Hingham to go to Wahlburgers.

Wahlburgers is the subject of the TV show, and is a restaurant created by the Wahlburg brothers, and run by Paul and his brothers Mark and Donnie as well as the family. It was a total tourist visit, and as we came up to it the film crew was doing an external shot, and while waiting for our table dozens of people strolled by and took pictures. The premise of ‘great food and great prices’. The food? Decent – the boys said they prefer ‘5 Guys’, so nothing special. The prices? Burgers, fries and soda for four people was $65 including tip.

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After the BU visit, we hung around Kendall Square for a bit before heading on the T to Park Street to walk down to the Faneuil Hall area (yes, tourist central). We got to show the boys the location of our ‘two Dunkin Donuts’ story, and it was fun in a world that changes so fast to still have those landmarks from a quarter century ago still in place. We ate dinner outdoors, strolled through and chose a dessert, and headed to Long Wharf to sit looking out on the water for a bit before heading back to the hotel.

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Final Thoughts

We left home and the hotel a mere 48 hours apart, had 6.5 hours of driving each direction, visited two colleges thoroughly and still had a great visit to the area. Even though we were just here on vacation (mostly Cape Cod) two years ago, it was a new experience all over again for the kids.

As Lisa and I sat this morning drinking coffee, we reflected and talked about how we would move back in a second. Right now we have two years before both boys are out of high school – and this school system IS worth staying here! Then they are headed to college somewhere and who knows after that. I have no clue what the job market will look like in a couple of years, but I know that I would love to get back to Massachusetts … and don’t want to wait for retirement to do it.

It is my home.

My Running Summary

Last week was solid at almost 55 miles, and I assumed four running days this week due to the trip and with a crazy work schedule knew I wouldn’t have any time for doubles or extended runs. But I wanted to get in a solid week of around 40 miles. How did I do? Let’s take a look:

Sunday: 12.75 miles
Monday: 9.75 miles
Tuesday: 10.1 miles
Wednesday: 8.75 miles
Thursday: Travel to Boston
Friday: Boston
Saturday Travel home

I managed to get ~41.5 miles this week, which is not bad and met my expectation. Lisa and I brought workout clothes and scoped the exercise room – and I plotted a potential course around the JFK Presidential Library – but when Friday morning came there was no way we were getting out of bed any early than necessary to make it into Boston … and that was already a 6AM wake-up!

These college visits are exhausting and exciting all at once! Whereas in New York most places I looked and thought ‘wouldn’t want to be running here’, in Boston there are just so many more runner-friendly places it was a dream – and don’t think my family missed an opportunity to give me a rough time!

Where do YOU consider your ‘true’ HOME? How was YOUR week?