Sunday, December 16, 2012

Good vs. Evil

I, like most Americans, am having a really hard time processing what happened in Sandy Hook, CT on Friday morning.  I am having trouble understanding what would allow someone to do such terrible, awful things to hurt so very many people.  I can't seem to comprehend why these events keep happening over and over and over again.  This world we live in, or at least this country that we live in, seems terrifying these days.  We can't fly without at least a thought in the back of our minds that a terrorist might somehow take down the plane.  We can't seem to get through a year now without some freakish weather event, be it an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, blizzard, or all four.  Now we can't go to a movie theater, mall, or even an elementary school without looking over our shoulders and worrying that a crazed man or even more shocking--woman--that we have never met might decide to take our lives into his or her hands.
I have always been someone who believed in good triumphing over evil, but sometimes it seems like evil has a head start.  It only takes one terrible human being to steal a gun and shoot up a school, but millions of people can give money to a charity and it still might not be able to fix a child's cancer, or heal the mental or physical wounds of a veteran, or help a child who grew up in poverty to get an education and a job.  I know there are so many more good people out there than bad, but it seems so much harder for the good to make a splash.
Sure, there is a wonderful post going around on Facebook right now about "26 Acts That Restored Our Faith in Humanity This Year," and for a second it gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling inside, but it is not enough.  I want to believe that everyday a police officer puts shoes on a homeless man.  Why is that so uncommon that he gets a Today Show appearance?  Why are there not millions of people going up and offering pieces of clothing to homeless people each day?  I thought it was adorable that there was a security guard at Disney who went around getting autographs from all of the little girls dressed as princesses, but why should it be so unusual that children feel important?  Shouldn't every child in the world have someone hug them each day and tell them they are special and they are loved?  There were photos of people rescuing pets during storms.  Why aren't we all adopting pets, providing foster homes, or volunteering at organizations like Monsters Milers or the SPCA?
I believe that all of the good people are just waiting for opportunities.  Waiting for the "right" way to help.  Scared of putting themselves in a bad position.  Frustrated that even though they might donate their time or money, the letters from charities still roll in and nothing seems to be getting better.  I believe that many times life just gets too busy, too hard, or too exhausting to think about going out of our way to do good.
Well after Friday, I am convinced.  It is no longer enough to wait for opportunities to do good.  It is no longer acceptable to wait until someone asks you for help.  We need to seek out opportunities to be good people.  We need to work harder at being a force for good in the world.  There is a quote on Pinterest that I love, and it reads, "Be the kind of person that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, 'Damn, she's up.'"
We need to be actively looking for ways to help, beyond donating money to a couple of good causes or anytime that an old British rock band decides to put on a telethon.  Invite someone over for dinner, and not just the smooth bachelor with great stories and good wine, but the recovering alcoholic who is still looking for a job.  No one has ever died from awkward breaks in conversation.  Offer to babysit for the new mom and pay for her to get a pedicure.  Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in Wawa.  Hold the door for the man with the stroller.  Actually look at the cashier and ask how his day is going, instead of just acting like he doesn't exist.  Let people merge on the highway.  Stop acting like you're in such a damn hurry.  Look people in the eye and smile at them.  Talk to your family members.  If you know people with mental illnesses, insist that they get help instead of just believing that they are someone else's problem.  Go through your drawers and realize that even though you love them all, you don't actually need 50 t-shirts and can afford to give some to Goodwill.  Compliment a stranger.  Put some grocery store gift cards in a neighbors mailbox who you know is struggling.  Keep it anonymous.
You might think you don't know anyone who is struggling, but if you pay attention and open your eyes, you'll see opportunities to help.  You'll see ways to do good.
Will it keep people from doing evil?  No, probably not.  But hopefully it will make it so giving a homeless person clothes is no big deal, that rescuing animals in need is a given, and that the acts that restore our faith in humanity are so high in number that we will never be able to track them in a list anymore.  I will do my best to do the same.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Spin Class That Wasn't

I knew getting to the gym from work by 6:00 p.m. would be a stretch, so when I made it in the doors by 6:05 p.m. with athletic attire and both sneakers on, I considered that a victory.  After four months of really only running for marathon training (I know you’re supposed to cross train, but when you’re doing that kind of mileage, trying not to get injured, and working long hours, who has the time?)  I have been more than excited to get back into other kinds of workouts… Barre, Weights, Crossfit, Zumba,… pretty much anything that doesn’t involve a treadmill.  Last night I figured a spinning class might be a great way to mix it up.
I have never done spin before.  I’ve always wanted to, but I’ve always been a little intimidated and somehow the timing never worked out.  That said, I’ve been a gym member since I was 14 and have used a stationary bike plenty of times, so even though the classroom was dark, the music was blaring, and the instructor was already spinning her little heart out, I thought I could slip in the back and figure things out as I went along.

I tiptoed my way to a bike, adjusted the seat (that alone took 2 minutes and I’m still pretty sure it still wasn’t right) and started pedaling.  I realized pretty quickly that my bike only had clips, not pedals and for some reason when my foot slipped off the pedals kept right on going.  And going.  And going.  They were spinning faster than a cassette tape on rewind.  (Remember them?  Funny.)  I figured they would stop eventually, but they didn’t.  I couldn’t figure out whether they were secretly controlled by the instructor.  I tried turning my bike off, but that didn’t work either.  After trying to stop the pedals with my feet and scraping up the back of my leg in the process, I gracefully totally awkwardly hobbled to the bike next to me, which appeared to have pedals.  I didn’t want to go through the embarrassment of adjusting the seat again, so I just got on and started pedaling only to realize that this bike only had one pedal and wouldn’t turn on.  It was like the Land of Misfit Bikes.  I pedaled away with no resistance for a couple minutes before realizing that my arms were really hurting, and since I wasn’t using them at all, that probably meant that my bike wasn’t adjusted properly and since the bike wouldn’t turn on I wasn’t really doing anything except potentially hurting myself.  With that I snuck off the bike and tried to make the fastest, quietest exit possible.

Unfortunately, a friendly gym employee was standing outside the door and wanted to know if I left the class because I didn’t like the instructor.  When I explained what happened he laughed at me, then scolded me and told me that going into a spin class after it had started for my first class was, “Borderline reckless.”  He also told me that there was an intro to spin class at 5:45 p.m. (of course, if I can’t make it for a 6 p.m. class, I don’t know how I would make it for a 5:45.) 

Thus ends the story of the spin class that I failed miserably.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Healthy Eating Habits (Holidays Included)

A great link from Gina Roberts-Grey at Prevention Magazine.  I love that these aren't your traditional switch mayo for mustard tips.  #4 and #5 are my favorite...

Trick yourself into losing weight with these 8 sneaky ideas

David De Lossy / Getty Images stock
Holding the line on holiday weight gain can be as simple as cutting 100 calories a day from your diet. Here are a few tips to try.

By Gina Roberts-Grey, Prevention

Monday, November 19, 2012


Sunday I ran my fourth Philadelphia Marathon.  On the positive side, my friends and family allowed me to raise $1,000 for Crossing Paths Animal Rescue and I finished in one piece.  On the negative side, it was rough going.  I don't know quite why... I was freezing at the start and my teeth were literally chattering but once we got moving I warmed up in a hurry and tossed my gloves.  The first five miles were so crowded that I had to watch where to put my feet and kept getting boxed out and having to run around people.  Some guy was running through the crowd and throwing elbows.  It was far more crowded than it was in 2010.  Mile 1 took me more than 10 minutes, which was way slower than it should have been.  I also realized around mile 2 that I really had to pee so I had to stop and wait for one of the port a potties around mile 3.  I picked up the pace to 8 minute miles and avoided water and Gatorade stops until Mile 8.  By then I had a weird cramp in my left shoulder and my chest.  I think my shoes may have been a little loose because I had some ankle pain early on too.
I took a walking break for about 30 seconds around Mile 8 to have about 3 sips of Gatorade and take a breath.  For some reason I have serious issues with taking walking breaks during marathons even though I always take them during training and I think they help me tremendously.  In part I think it is watching crowds of people pass you, and in part having fans think you're giving up and yell things like, "You can do it Jocelyn, don't give up!"  (Believe me, I'm not picking on the fans.  I literally don't think I would have made it to 26.2 without them.)
I took another walking break around mile 10 in Fairmount Park near the Please Touch Museum to drink some Gatorade and eat a few Sport Beans.  Probably about 3 minutes or so.  This was also about the point when I gratefully took a pump of what I thought was Purell only to find out that it was SoftSoap and my hands were now covered with sticky white foam.  I succeeded at knocking the bottle off the table and had to stop and bend down to put it back.  I found water and dumped it across my hands, carefully trying to navigate around the discarded cups being swept away with rakes and brooms that were far slippery-ier than a banana peel.  I did my best to thank police officers, smile and thank fans who wished me well, and give high fives to every cute little kid who stood bundled up on the side lines.  That and the funny posters (my favorite was the one that said, "Paul Ryan would have been here an hour ago" around mile 3) kept me going.
Around 12 I really started feeling it, and my side stitches started.  As we approached the 13 mile split where all of the half marathoners veered off to the right to run through the tape and get their medals and blankets, it took everything in my brain not to follow.  I figured I could borrow someone's phone, call Mike, and then the four of us (my mom and aunt also showed up and supported Team Clyde and me) could go get pancakes.  Even though the first 13 miles had gone pretty quickly, thinking that I had 13.2 still to go was horrible.  Even at 14 I thought about turning back and heading for the half marathon finish line.  The most depressing thing about the Philly Marathon is that the second half of the marathon is an "out and back" course, so as I was heading out at 14, the elite runners were passing mile 24 and heading toward the finish line.  Nothing like knowing that you have 13.2 miles ahead when other people only have 2.2.
I told myself I would just slog along.  No matter what I would finish before the course closed, and damn it, I was going to finish.  I wanted the medal and the stupid-looking space-age blanket.  I would take walking breaks.  I would just keep moving.  Around 15 I stopped to chew a couple of bites of a PB&J that Mike had handed me a couple of miles earlier.  I had never wanted to eat less, but I figured it could only help. As I pressed on toward 18 I saw the mile marker for 22 and thought how grateful I would be when I knew there were only 4.2 miles to go.  I calculated how long it would take me to walk the rest of the race if I absolutely had to.  Mostly I just focused on getting to 20.  At 20 the course would have turned around and I would be back on my way to the finish line.  I would be in Manayunk with tons of crowds and music and signs to keep me going.
I took a few walking breaks, but I made it to 20.  Then I got the worst side stitch of my entire life.  It made me feel like I literally was going to fold in half.  I wanted to sit down and stop, but I didn't.  I walked for a little while and took some serious deep breaths, but my arms over my head, pushed on my side, pushed on my other side, changed my breathing, and then reminded myself that I've never had a side stitch that lasted forever.  When it finally eased up a bit, I was so afraid that if I started running again it would come back and I would have to stop.  I just wanted to make it to the end.  I wanted the medal and the bragging rights and the stupid blanket.  I wanted to be able to stay in bed for the next 2 days watching stupid TV and eating whatever I wanted without feeling guilty.  I needed to cross that finish line, and I felt awful that I was making my family wait for me.
I ran and walked the final 6.2 miles.  My legs ached and I figured I would burst into tears the second I finished, so grateful that I survived.  By mile 25 the course was completely lined with fans and I was moving slowly enough that they could all read the name on my bib.  I must have had at least 50 people wish me luck, tell me I looked strong, tell me that they knew I was going to finish, tell me to keep it up in that last 1.2 miles.  It meant the world to me.  I sprinted for the last .3 miles, passing people and desperately searching for the finish line.  When I finally crossed, gave a high five to Mayor Nutter, and got my medal and blanket, I choked back tears.  Then I saw the giant corral still waiting in front of me, forcing me to keep walking to try to track down my family and escape the white metal bars that seemed to go on for miles.  There was a huge line, and when someone asked what the line was for, nobody knew.  I walked by and saw they were handing out bananas and yogurt, but it seemed terribly inefficient.  I borrowed a very nice runner's phone and tracked down my family.  Then we trekked back to the car.
All in all, I finished in 4:31 minutes.  It was slower than I would have liked, but considering the mental battle that I faced and the cramps I had, I was just so thrilled to have survived.  I guess sometimes we have more to be proud of when we survive the hard-fought battles even if the outcome isn't quite as good as the times when we just breeze along.  If you need me in the next couple of days, I'll be lying in bed watching Sister Wives and Made in Chelsea with my medal on.  Ta ta!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

10 Things That Marathons and Weddings Have in Common

Reasons why running a marathon is a lot like planning a wedding:
1) You spend months and months of prep for something that will be over in 4 hours.
2) You have great plans to eat and drink during the big day, but often you don't get around to it.
3) You plan your outfit down to your underwear, and put it on a zillion times beforehand.
4) You pretty much assume that you will get no sleep the night before.
5) You check the weather every five minutes as soon as the ten day forecast comes out.
6) You spend weeks thinking of every little thing that could possibly go wrong.
7) You tweak your playlist at least 10 times.
8) You force your family members to give up part of their weekend and get up super early to support you.
9) You freak out over any sniffle or muscle tweak that comes up beforehand.
10) In the end the experience is better than anything you could ever have hoped for, it will change you forever, and you wouldn't trade a second of it for the world.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The 10 Secret Commandments of Marathon Runners

1) Thou shalt stop thinking. Believing you can run a marathon is a little like believing in fairies... the second you question your ability, everything goes up in fairy dust. You can't possibly run 26.2 miles if you think about how ridiculous it is to run 26.2 miles. It's dumb, and stupid, and weird and the rumor is the first man who ever did it died on the spot. So for now, I ask you to do yourself this little favor. Take your internal voice of reason--that thinking part of your brain that holds all logic--and just lock it away in a cage for the next few months. You won't be needing that anymore.

2) Thou shalt trust the process. If your Runner's World training plan tells you you can run a marathon, you can run a marathon. Even if you have topped out at 20 miles. Even if you took 10 walking breaks every time you ran. Even if you run really slowly. Even if you sat on the bench of every sports team you ever played on.

3) Thou shalt stop if something really, really hurts. Now let's be real for a second. Things are going to hurt when you are running for hours on end. I'm not talking about achy legs or toenails that turn black and fall off. (You need bigger shoes--a full size up from your street shoes.) I'm not talking about blisters that break and bleed through your shoes. (You need new shoes and probably new socks too.) I'm talking about a sharp pain that doesn't wear away after a couple of miles and that makes you change your stride in any way. Stop. Ice. Rest. Repeat. See a doctor if necessary.

4) Thou shalt not increase your mileage more than 10% a week. You will get injured. Promise. This also applies to trying to "make up" runs from earlier in the week all in one weekend. Your body needs rest to heal and get stronger. It is way more important to be healthy and rested than to always get your miles in.

5) Thou shalt not run a marathon to get skinny. Marathon running isn't about being a weakling and a waif, it is about being strong. Strong people eat and respect their bodies enough that they don't try to run themselves into an early grave.

6) Thou shalt take walking breaks. Some people believe that if you walk so much as a couple of minutes, you didn't actually "run" a marathon. This is the stupidest thing ever. For most people, taking a couple of short walking breaks if you need them will allow you to have a much faster finish time than slogging along even if you need a little break. It is hard to drink water or Gatorade while you're running, and if you need to stretch something out, the couple of seconds you lose while walking will pay for themselves in spades over the distance you have left to go.

7) Thou shalt be really, really proud of yourself. After you run your first mile, or your fifth, or your 25th. Every milestone counts. Every small achievement proves you are strong and brave. Just because the guy you work with runs 20 miles every weekend or because your training buddy is blabbing on about her latest fartlek, that doesn't mean that what you did isn't a big deal. Own it. Even Olympians had to start at the beginning. They had their first 5 mile run and 10 mile run, they had their milestones too.

8) Thou shalt play mind games. Don't set out to run 20 miles. Set out to run an hour. Just concentrate on that. Then when you run an hour, take a break and walk for a couple of minutes. Drink some Gatorade. Eat some Sports Beans. Then think about your next goal. It sounds silly, but it works.

9) Thou shalt be willing to make some sacrifices. More than anything else (legs of a Kenyan, endurance of a mall walker) training for a marathon takes a lot of desire and a lot of time. That means getting up on Sunday morning and running, even if your friends all invited you to brunch with unlimited mimosas. Even if you'd rather stay in bed and watch TV. Often the hardest thing is starting each run... not finishing it.

10) Thou shalt have an open mind. Even when you're tired and sore and can't walk down steps. (Yes, it's down that hurts way more than up.) You are quite literally transforming your body, and your mind will naturally want to follow. Sometimes occupying your body for hours on end is the only way to really let your mind go into those cobweb-covered corners of your brain where all of the good ideas, difficult memories, and personal truths like to hide. If you don't let yourself be open when they pop into view, you might be missing out on marathon training's biggest gift of all.

On Running and Obscure Breakfast Meats

Running a marathon is a little like eating scrapple... there are people who love it and swear it is the best thing in the world and others who think it is weird and totally unappealing.  Just as some people can't imagine a better way to start a morning than eating a hearty breakfast complete with their favorite  breakfast meat, there are some people who wake up on the weekends raring and ready to bang out 20 miles.
While I hate scrapple, I love running.  I understand that this is something that baffles my mother, as she usually responds to my upcoming races with, "I wish you wouldn't," or "Are you sure you want to do that?"  Nevertheless, come race day she's there, bundled up and clutching a cup of coffee, cheering me on as loud as she possibly can.  She may not get my love of running and certainly wouldn't want to do it herself, but she's going to support me because she knows it means a lot to me.
I guess that's love.  Doing things for your loved ones not because they are your thing, but because someone you love loves them.  Not because their goals and hobbies make sense to you, or because their tastes are the same as yours, but because you see what makes them happy, and want them to feel that joy as often as possible--even if it means the kitchen has to stink like scrapple.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Running Across the Golden Gate Bridge

For me, running across the Golden Gate Bridge seemed like a bit of a pipe dream, akin to marrying a movie star for love or inheriting a designer shoe collection in your exact size--feasible, but highly unlikely.  It wasn't the physical challenge that made it seem difficult, but the logistical challenge.  For one, I live in Philadelphia, and San Francisco is a six-hour flight away.  Up until last week I'd never been anywhere north of LA on the West Coast, and my busy work schedule tends to make long trips more hassle than they're worth for a couple of days off.

Even when Mike and I planned our trip to San Francisco for a friend's wedding 2 hours south in Carmel, it still seemed unlikely.  Mike mentioned that he would like to spend one morning in California golfing, and I muttered something about running across the bridge, but that was it.

We drove down toward San Francisco on a Tuesday afternoon, stopping at Muir Woods, Tiburon, and Sausalito on the way.  When I first saw the bridge appear over the water in Tiburon off in the distance and shrouded with fog, I couldn't help but mutter, "Wow" and take a million fuzzy photos on my Blackberry.  When we drove over it a few hours later, I was sold.  I knew that I had to run it.

On Wednesday morning after stopping by the hotel Starbucks for a mocha latte and a banana, I visited the concierge desk to ask how to safely get to the park by the bridge.  He gave me a route that was over 16 miles, which seemed a bit ambitious on a trip where we had been awoken early every morning to people walking on squeaky floors above us or a Japanese business man making loud phone calls on speakerphone one room over.  I figured I could always take the long route back, but I wanted to get to the bridge in one piece.  I put my room key and a credit card in my pocket, grabbed my phone, and took a cab down to the Sports Basement in Presido by Crissy Field.  Crissy Field is that place where all of your Facebook friends take photos with the beach and bridge framed perfectly in the background.  It is not Golden Gate Park, which I may have found out the hard way...

My nice cab driver Amos gave me his cell number in case I had a problem or got stuck somewhere.  Then I was off, first left down the dirt trail along the beach and Crissy Field, winding towards the bridge. It was so foggy that I couldn't see the tops of the towers--even from a couple of hundred yards away.

I passed the Warming House, buzzing with chilly tourists ordering hot coffee and pastries, then followed signs up winding steps on my left, up the hill to Battery East and the bridge.

It was misty and foggy and gray, and I was so eager to get on the bridge that I started out way too fast and was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top of the steps.  It probably didn't help that I was wearing four layers in an attempt to stay warm through the high winds on the span of the bridge.  (Apparently the bridge can sway up to 27.7 feet!)

At the top of the steps I bared to the right, winding on more dirt paths, then pavement with white paint dividing bike lanes from pedestrians.  It got a little hairy there, with me waving my arms at bikers who were so drawn in by the view that they weren't looking where they were going.  I passed the Bridge Round House and stayed to the right, and shortly there after I was on the bridge.  The path is on the right side of the bridge if you're coming from the San Francisco side, and is divided into a bike lane and a pedestrian lane.  (Why the man walking has to be Amish, I have no idea.)

The beginning of the path is dotted with yellow phones for suicide hotline counselors and slightly creepy signs that say, "Don't do it."  It's like an anti-Nike ad.  Maybe they should just mention that there are Great White sharks down there?

The signature orange railing only goes about waist height and there are openings between each rail that could totally mess with your head if you thought about it for too long.  There were some construction crews doing paint touch ups and replacing light bulbs along the way and bikers were instructed to walk their bikes through these stretches, although none of them actually did.  I had a nice police officer take my picture as proof.  (Please note what the wind has done to my hair, and the obvious fact that I'm not wearing any makeup.)

The traffic was loud and a few logging trucks went by and blew some dust in my eyes, but they never felt too close for comfort.  The only thing that really made me nervous was the bikers, some looking like they were ready for the Tour de France with clip in pedals and technical jerseys on, others on bicycles with baskets and cameras weighing down their necks looking over the bridge with their mouths gaping open.  Because the bike and pedestrian lanes are the same back and forth (pedestrians on the right, bikers on the left) when bikes pass, they veer into the pedestrian lane.  I was a little worried that an absent-mided biker might run me into the railing or off the path and into the road.

The bridge is 1.1 miles each way, with a few areas for outlooks over bay and out toward Alcatraz.  When you get to Marin County the other side, there is an outlook area on Marin County called Vista Point with a parking lot and restrooms, and a bunch of tourists taking pictures in front of giant photos of the bridge on a clear day, so they can fake their perfect moment.

From there you can turn around and go back the way you came, or head up the trails of Tiburon.  I chose to turn around, run back, and savor my victory by continuing on from there off to Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and up Market Street back to our hotel.

Including the bridge both ways, the run ended up being about 11 miles.  It was easily the highlight of my trip, and one of the most empowering things I've done in a long time.  Best of all, I only had to pay for the cab ride!  I would highly recommend the experience to any runners visiting the San Francisco area.  The views are spectacular, and while the fog does usually burn off around 12:30 p.m., the crowds are much smaller in the morning which makes the bridge easier to navigate, and also makes you feel a little more like a rockstar for doing it!  Dress warmly, bring a camera, and enjoy!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Little Piece of Heaven

So I'm spoiled. We're staying in a gorgeous hotel in Carmel, California with a King Size bed, a tub that could moonlight as a swimming pool, and windows that open into a European courtyard with pale green shutters and window boxes overflowing with red flowers. There are no screens in the windows because there are no bugs. Just a fountain and chairs perfect for sitting and sipping a cup of coffee or glass of wine.

I woke up this morning and ate a delicious breakfast with what may well have been the best coffee I've ever had (and this from a girl who learned to like it in the cafes of Rome and would choose her Keurig coffeemaker as one of the three items she would rescue from a burning building) before seeing Mike off for his round of golf in our rented obnoxiously blue Mustang.

I shuffled through the paper before lacing up my sneakers and sticking $20, a credit card, and my room key in my pocket. Then I took off, first for Mission Ranch, the property owned by Clint Eastwood that bills itslelf as one of the most beautiful places on the Monterey penninsula. I couldn't help but feel like I was tresspassing, about to be billed as a crazed fan of Mrs. Eastwood and Company. It was pretty though, complete with tennis courts and little white cottages, and a restaurant with a sing along piano bar Monday through Saturday.

From  I ventured up the road to Carmel Mission, and then back toward town and down to the beach. 

The beach is so different from the Jersey Shore I grew up with. Cliffs and tree covered hills surround one end with a hundred lush shades of green on the Pebble Beach golf corse on the other. I ran along the water line my neon Nike sneakers such a stark contrast to all of the natural beauty around me. My feet played tag with the waves, as I weaved in and out of barking dogs sprinting down the beach after tennis balls real or imagined. Children chased after them, their free-spirited laughter so genuine that it sounds like music. There are a couple of "serious" runners sprinkled in, mouths clenched in a straight line as if to threaten the sand, to say, "I will finish you, you will not defeat me." Today, I am not one of those runners. I'm the one who can't stop smiling, who greets every dog and seagull and has to stop every five seconds to take yet another picture. 

And now I'm sitting here, typing this on my Blackberry, sitting in the sand and watching two labs chase each other in and out of the water, bounding after a ball as it bobs over the waves. I got to wave hello to Mike on the golf course and snap a few photos of him along the way. The breeze is strong enough to make me welcome the sun that covers my shoulders like a warm blanket. The air smells like salt and seaweed. It's my own little heaven, if only I could transport everyone I love here with me.

Risk and Reward

I am not a good flyer. I used to be, back in a time before terrorists were a regular presence on the nightly news and before I developed a totally irrational fear of spontaneously falling out of the sky. I'll do it, I will just stress myself out about it for weeks prior until by the time my flight actually arrives, I'm so worn out that I have no choice but to give in, board the plane, and accept that my fate is in someone else's hands.
 Of course, in many ways I guess it always is. It's in the hands of the tractor trailer driver behind me on my morning commute, in the hands of the chef at the family restaurant in town who knows just how fresh the chicken is in tonight's special. It's in the hands of every doctor I've ever visited, employer I've ever interviewed with, or man I've ever dated.
But as I sit here now on a beach in Carmel, with the ocean in front of me and the greens of Pebble Beach behind me, I can't help but think that without a shadow of a doubt, it's all worth the risk.
Without trusting a chef, you'll never have the kind of meal where you literally can't help but say, "yum" after every bite. Without trusting an employer, you'll never find your dream job, or at least be happy there for very long. Without trusting a date, you'll never find the loving security of a relationship where you know that someone in the universe gets you for exactly who you are, and will give his or her left limb to make you happy.
Without getting on a plane and trusting your pilot, you'll never see the view from above the clouds. You'll never get to experience a place so outside of your everyday realm that it reassures you that God has a plan and a vision, and everything is right in the world.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Downside to Marathon Training

So beyond the obvious part about spending hours on end running (which some people would consider torture in itself) marathon training can have some other unexpected consequences, including:

1) For one, I am starving.  All the time.  Well, that's not entirely true.  After I run, I want absolutely nothing to do with food.  I have to force myself to eat, when all I really want to do is take a nap and a shower, or lie down and watch reruns of Gossip Girl.  Then about two days later I can eat a full pizza and two hours later be ready for another meal.  Every night at 11 p.m., my stomach is growling.  It's totally annoying.

2) For another, my toes hurt all the time.  I learned the hard way the first time that I trained for a marathon that runners usually go up a full shoe size for running shoes because your feet swell when you run long distances, and if you don't get larger shoes your toenails will turn black and fall off.  Lovely.  Now I have all 10 toenails and order 9.5 Nikes, but I still feel like someone stuck pencils up my toenails.

3) Maybe most surprisingly (but maybe not considering #1) a lot of marathon runners actually gain weight.  I think there are probably a few reasons for that.  For one, if you typically run 25 miles a week, and still only run about 25 miles a week (even if you do 16 of them at once) you're still burning the same number of calories for the week, but your brain and body feel like you've worked way harder.  That means not only does your stomach act like you haven't eaten in a year, but your brain also thinks that you've "earned" that extra Whoopie Pie, scoop of Nutella, or serving of frozen yogurt.  For another, your body is being pushed to the limit and it holds onto extra fuel to prepare for the next time you decide to torture yourself on a treadmill.  So in other words, if you think you're going to run a marathon and look like a supermodel, you might have another thing coming.

4)  I have to do a lot of laundry.  A lot.

(Yes, that is totally me on the left.)

5) On days when I don't have runs, I get a little antsy, and a little cranky.  It's like I'm so used to having running as an outlet now that when I don't, I feel a little off.  How weird is that?

So that's it.  Happy Labor Day!  I'm off to do laundry, eat my face off, and look cranky!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Red Gatorade Season

Normally I'm not a big fan of sports drinks.  While I think they're great for hardcore athletes... Tour de France cyclists, soccer players, professionals in the NBA or NFL, etc. I fear that they are mostly consumed by teenagers sitting on the couch and playing video games.  They have a ton of sugar, multiple servings per bottle, and for anyone completing an average workout on a given day, they may very well consume more calories drinking a Gatorade than they actually burn exercising.  There.  Rant over
That said, every year around August I get the itch.  I play around on and look at training plans.  I plot out my weekends, making sure I have a few hours open.  I (quite literally) dust of the treadmill, and I pick bottles of Red Gatorade off the shelf at the grocery store.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is marathon season.
Of course, some of us are happier about this than others.  For my mom, it means one more thing to worry about, as she is always convinced that I will have a heart attack/get kidnapped/break something/wear myself out/or have some sort of undefinable problem that she hasn't come up with yet.  For Clyde it means a few hours outside because he will either bark at or attempt to jump on the moving treadmill.  For Mike it means refilling my water bottle, putting up with the noise, and loving me even though I'm a sweaty, snotty mess by the time I'm finished.
I realize that marathon training is something that seems insane to a lot of people, especially when you're completing a lot of your long runs on a treadmill.  The questions inevitably come up from friends and family members... Don't  you get bored?  How do you do it?  Don't you get tired?  Mostly I just hear, "I don't know how you do it."
To that I say, it's like anything else.  If you want to do it, you'll do it.  People can get used to just about anything... 14-hour work days, waking up every two hours to a crying baby, a 2-hour commute, going gluten free, giving speeches in public...they just have to have the right motivation.
For me, that motivation is the feeling I get on Sunday night knowing that I accomplished something I can be proud of over the weekend.  It's the belief that my body is strong, and that even though I will never have a six-pack, a face free of wrinkles, freckles, and brown spots, or arms that look perfect in pictures, my body works.  It's that belief that I can spend the rest of my day watching reruns of The Hills and eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches (not that that's what I'm doing right now or anything) without feeling remotely guilty about it.  It's raising money for a charity that I care about.  Mostly, I guess it is just getting to do something that I enjoy, that is just for me... and if I end up getting to drink some Red Gatorade in the process, well that's just dandy.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Since getting married, I have had the frustrating and painstaking wonderful opportunity to visit the DMV more than a few times.  My kind husband has toughed each of these trips out right along with me, and while sitting in folding chairs, staring at the painted white cement walls, and desperately willing the two very unhappy looking employees to call our number, we came up with a few ideas to make the entire experience more enjoyable.  You're welcome federal government, you're welcome.

1) Turn the entire experience into an episode of Big Brother.  Create alliances.  Vote people out.  The winner never has to come to the DMV again.  The loser has to come back tomorrow.
2) Turn waiting into a bingo game.  Provide door prizes and a fun, flamboyantly gay host.
3) Add a nice, flat screen TV.
4) Turn the waiting room into a mini golf course, complete with windmills and dinosaurs.
5) Make the next person to be helped sing karaoke.  Even better if they're totally awful.
6) Two words.  Open bar.  (Then I'm sure people would be more than happy to let you go ahead of them in line.)
7) Choose the next number out of a hat.  You might be next or in 50 people, but at least you'll be captivated!
8) Provide free coffee and WiFi.
9) Make the employees wear costumes.
10) Bring in puppies.
11) Hire celebrity look-alikes to sit in the chairs in sunglasses and baseball caps so people can gawk and try to discreetly snap photos.
12) Give away a free vacation to every 500th customer.
13) Provide free shaves for the men and manicures for the women.
14) Give the employees some sort of incentive to smile and help as many people as possible each day.
15) Hire Zumba instructors to teach classes in the waiting area.  Not sure whether participating or watching would be more entertaining.
16) Host trivia games complete with music and video clip questions.  Most creative team name gets to skip two spots in line.
17) Allow any person waiting to try to beat the DMV employee in helping a customer.  Anyone who does gets to take home an hour of his or her pay.
18) Allow waiters to place bets on how long everyone in line will take to be helped.  Pay out double if they are missing paperwork or a money order.
19) Screen upcoming movie releases and provide free popcorn.
20) Have twin DMV employees dress alike and regularly switch places.  The first person to notice wins an ice cream sundae.

Any other suggestions??

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Are We There Yet?

I just finished the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed and in it was a quote from Winston Churchill.  It said simply, "Never never never give up."  It stuck such a cord with me that I stopped reading immediately and typed a few words on my Blackberry, fearing that if I dragged out my laptop I might wake my sleeping dog and husband.

The quote gave me an epiphany.  One of the things that I love about marathons is that there is a definite endpoint.  If you finish 26.2 miles, you've finished.  You're a success.  It's done.  If you don't, you failed.  It's over.  Maybe eventually you'll gear up and try again, but that's a different goal and a fresh attempt.

For me, writing (and so many other things in life) can feel like a goal with no endpoint.  There is no definitive number of query letters to send out, no finite number of pages to write or edits to make.  In running I can look at my watch and see how my pace is, or notice sharp pangs of a sore muscle or a cramp, but writing in solitude doesn't give you that kind of feedback.  It's hard to tell whether you're doing well or poorly, whether you're on the right track or the wrong one.

There is no end point in view.  Not in 26.2 miles, or a day, or a month, or a year.  In fact, you could go on writing forever and not be successful.  There is a chance that no one will ever read anything you right, or worse, that your words will never make a single person feel something when they read it.  It doesn't matter what they feel--I think books can be like fortune cookies that way, we get out of them what we choose to get out of them at any given time--it could be relief, or distraction, or inspiration, or validation, or joy, or any number of other things.  As a writer you just want a reader to feel something.  Anything.

It's not just writing.  In normal life, very few things have definite end points--finite spots where you can determine whether you were a success or a failure.  Maybe that's a nice thing, an opportunity to save or fix something until the very end, but mostly I just find it frustrating.  There is no success in a relationship until after someone dies.  Morbid, but otherwise there is always room for a problem, a break up, a divorce.  There is never an end point for success in your career.  There are always more things to aspire to.  What is enough?  A big enough title?  Enough money?  Enough lives improved by your existence?  When are you a good enough person?  When are you healthy enough?  When are you a good enough parent?

Part of life is the drive to be constantly pushing and trying to do and be more.  But when is it enough, even for a minute?  When is it time to celebrate?  To take a breath?  To say, "Oh well, I tried," and move on?

In marathon running, I know the answer.  You pick a race, you train for a few months, and if the date comes and you manage to run 26.2 miles and cross the finish line, then congrats.  You did it.  You get to celebrate.  You can sit in bed for the rest of the day (or heck, the rest of the week) and feel like a brave and strong person.  You were successful.  In life, there seem to be few such milestones.  Sure, there are graduations, weddings, and births, promotions and purchases, awards and accolades, but in adult life these moments seem to be few and far between, and sometimes I can barely resist the urge to scream, "Are we there yet?" from the backseat, or maybe even just, "Am I even on the right road?"

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hitting the Trail

Late this morning with heavy clouds hanging in the horizon like a children's mobile, I put my cell phone and keys in a Ziploc bag, loaded Clyde into the car, and headed for the park.  After weeks of being sequestered in the confines of an artificial, air-conditioned office, I needed some freedom and fresh air so badly that I didn't even care if I got poured on.  I wanted out.  I knew Clyde felt the same way, anxiously sniffing my sneakers and bounding down the steps to the back door to make sure I didn't accidentally leave him behind.  The heat and humidity has affected him too--while he usually relishes the freedom of his electric fence, running laps and spying on the neighbors, these days he bats the door to come in mere seconds after we let him out.

When we got to the park I was pleased to see plenty of cars in the dirt parking lot at the base of the mountain trail, hoping they had all seen an encouraging weather forecast that I had missed.  The path is just under 4 miles up a mountain in the woods with a few steep, unforgiving inclines guaranteed to make you pant even if you're just walking.  I was hopeful that the trees would block heat and rain and eager to smell pine needles again.

The second I got out of the car my baggy cotton Gap t-shirt stuck to my skin like a clingy child, wary of our next activity.  The humidity was so thick that it felt like the air was sweating.  I hid my purse under a towel in the back seat, grabbed Clyde, and made my way to the base of the trail.  With one final look at the ominous clouds, we started running.  It took Clyde a little while to catch on, wanting to sniff every plant and pee on every tree.  Slowly he began to meet my stride, pick up his head, and let his tongue flap with such pure joy that any stranger passing us couldn't help but smile.  At the crest of the first major hill, I stopped and put my hands on my knees, my panting just seconds away from full-out wheezing.

We got going again a minute or so later and I felt instantly like I was on vacation.  With no iPod I could hear every bird and breeze, the jingle of Clyde's collars, and the occasional plane flying overhead.  I felt free and happier than I'd been in ages, slowly picking up my pace as I meandered up and down the trail.  I felt like a reckless Plinko chip, bouncing off each rock, quickly changing directions, and landing at the bottom of each hill  feeling like a million bucks.  Every once in a while I would feel a sharp pain biting at my ankle as I hit a rock at the wrong angle, but the pain would recede as quickly as it came.

The amazing thing about trail running is that you are so focused on where to put your feet that you have no time to think about the burning feeling in your chest or the heaviness in your legs.  It's like a rock climbing wall that way, working your brain as well as your mind, forcing out any thoughts other than what you are doing at that very moment.

We finished the loop quickly and as the sun began to peek through the clouds I decided to take a different trail and work our way back up the mountain again.  Clyde was happy to oblige, although I don't think he appreciated the giant spiderweb that he walked into, face first, or my haphazard attempts to get it off of him.

When we finally made our way back to the bottom of the trail an hour later the sun was out completely, warming the already heavy air.  I let Clyde back into the car, opened the sunroof and windows, and turned up the radio.  I looked back at Clyde, his drool leaving wet dots across my black leather seat.  He was smiling, and so was I.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'm a Weenie

A year ago, I wrote a novel.  I used No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, which is an awesome book designed to help weenies like me get out of their own way and write 50,000 words in 30 days.  The idea is that when you're writing that many words that quickly, there isn't time to second guess yourself. You can't agonize over every word for so long that you completely psych yourself out and decide that you should go clean your car, paint your toenails, or watch Sleepless in Seattle for the 100th time instead.
Somehow Baty understood my problem--that even though writing a novel was the thing that I wanted to do most in the world, I could never get myself to actually sit down and do it.  The task just seemed too overwhelming to start on--and that is coming from a girl who has run three marathons.  I needed a plan and an end point.  Just as I could't run 26.2 miles when I started training, I couldn't sit down and write a novel in one shot.  I needed small, attainable goals.  I needed baby steps.  I couldn't write a novel, but I could write 2,000 words a day.

The process was fun.  Most of the time, I could write without even thinking.  It was almost like magic.  The words would fly out of my fingers and for an hour or two a day, I lived in the world of my book.  I didn't have to worry about where it was all going, it all just came together on its own.  Sometimes the plot twists even surprised me.
When the month was over I had 65,000 words, including a beginning, a middle, and an end.  I felt inspired.  I felt like I had finally taken the steps to go after what I really wanted.  I wanted to go out and try new things, because nothing seemed as scary.
Since then, my novel has sat in a manilla envelope on the desk in our office gathering dust.  I've made a couple of half-hearted attempts to edit it, but I've never really gotten anywhere.  I've never pitched it to any literary agents.  I've never let anyone read it.  It's almost like it never even existed.
Why is it that going after the thing that you want most--whether it is a relationship, or a job, or finishing a triathlon, or owning your own home--is the most terrifying thing?  It's like if you get rejected from something that you don't care that much about it's not that big a deal, because you can tell yourself that you never really wanted it anyway, but if you fail at the thing you really want, then you're just a failure.  You are nothing.
Maybe I need a Baty book on how to edit your novel in 30 days.  Maybe I need to just get over myself and start pitching it.  At least if I fail, I can say I tried because I'd rather be a failure than a weenie.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Little Red Neck Vacation

I spent the last week in Maine with Mike, my mom, my Aunt, my cousin Suzy, and her adorable daughter Abby.  We also had a few visits from my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece Sophie (one of the two cutest flower girls ever).

I have visited Maine every year of my life but one, when I took a trip with two of my sorority sisters to L.A. instead (and we spent 80% of the time looking at different locations featured on the original Beverly Hills 90210).

The trip was a little bit of an adventure because there were two contractors there tearing out and rebuilding a hallway and the one and only bathroom in our house.  They arrived before 8:30 a.m. every day and worked away to country music in the morning and classic rock in the afternoon.  Our toilet was sitting out in the yard, along with a trailer full of tools, and their big, silver pick up truck.  We had to use an outhouse, and there was no shower, so we had to bathe in the lake.  The TV only gets three channels, and oh, and did I mention the bugs?  Mosquitos, deer flies, horse flies, oh my!

I understand that for the majority of people who do not live in third-world countries this sounds more like hell than a relaxing vacation.  The truth is, I loved every minute of it.  The weather was beautiful (80s and sunny every single day) and we spent the majority of our time swimming in the lake, relaxing on the dock, reading, taking naps, eating yummy food, and playing cards.  My brother and sister-in-law got stand up paddle boards, so I got to paddle around a lot, which was such a cool (and quiet) way to explore.  We saw loons, hawks, a rooster, fish, and frogs.  Mike ate his bodyweight in lobster and I loaded up on all of the Hood Red Sox ice cream flavors... Fenway Fudge, Green Monster Mint, and Peanut Butter Nation.

We spent a day walking around Portland, poking in and out of shops and bakeries and eating lunch at a cool outdoor restaurant.  The breeze coming off the ocean was a perfect complement to the warm, sunny weather and it was so nice to be able to explore a new city without a deadline or agenda.

I think Clyde had the most fun of all.  Free of his electric fence, he spent his time exploring the woods and learning to swim in the lake.  By the end of the week he was charging right in and chasing fish.  He also (unfortunately) found our compost pit and feasted on Mike's leftover lobster.  That meant that the entire 8 1/2 hour car ride home, Mike and I had to deal with Clyde's lobster breath.

I can't exactly explain why Maine means so much to me.  For one thing, I like being able to spend time with family without the distractions of work, errands, or cable TV.  There isn't a whole lot to do but relax and spend time with each other.  We play Pictionary and my mom cheats.  We sit on the screen porch with glasses of wine or coffee and listen to the breeze slip through the trees.  We laugh at the antics of the little ones.  There is no need to rush, no need to go out and spend lots of money, no reason to eat fancy dinners, no push to go out to bars every night.

I also love the small-town lifestyle there.  People take the time to stop and talk to each other.  They look you in the eye instead of rushing off to do something else.  They don't drive luxury cars or shop at trendy organic grocery stores.  I feel totally free to walk around without make up, just wearing shorts and a t-shirt and sunblock.

When we left, I cried.  Yes, I am a 30-year-old woman and I cried.  I want to go back.  I want to feel my shoulders relax again.  I want to smile for no reason.  I want to feel that blanket of contentment come over me and pull it up to my chin.  But I'm no dummy.  I know that I can't live my life on vacation.  Instead, I have to find a way to make my life at home in Pennsylvania feel more like my life at home in Maine.  I'm not sure quite how to make that happen, but I'm working on it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

From Miss To Mrs.

Sometimes the biggest decisions in your lives are actually the easiest.  One year ago today I made the best decision of my life and said, "I do" (actually, it was "I will" but that's another story for another time) to my wonderful husband.  I feel so blessed to have gotten to spend the last 10 years with him, and look forward to many more anniversaries to come.  Thank you for giving me an excuse to go back through some of our photos and relive the day!

Sunday, July 1, 2012


At least once a day, I worry about all the things that I should be doing.  I should volunteer more often.  I should spend more time with my family.  I should visit my friends in other states.  I should cook for my husband and only buy organic produce.  I should clean more often.  I should write more often.  I should visit my elderly neighbors, sit down and take a hard look at my finances, go through the untouched pile of mail on the table in the hallway, and finally use the ice cream maker that we got as a wedding gift.
Instead, in the little free time that I have, I end up lying in bed watching a Sister Wives marathon and playing games of Scramble on my phone.  Does that make me a terrible person?  I hope not.  I figure I work long hours, make time to workout, talk to my family daily, do nice things for other people when I can, and clean enough that no one has applied for me to be on Hoarding: Buried Alive, so hopefully I'm doing OK.
It all feels so overwhelming, but I know that's no excuse.  There are plenty of people who are far busier than I am... people with multiple children and multiple jobs just trying to get through each day, and they still find ways to make a difference, serve others, and better themselves.  Even President Obama finds time to exercise regularly.  Jennifer Weiner wrote her first novel, Good in Bed while working full-time as a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Plenty of single moms work long days and still manage to cook a healthy meal for their children.  Every one of the Real Housewives seems to have at least 6 different "business ventures" in the works.  I have no real excuses, and frankly having all of the best intentions means nothing if you have absolutely now follow through.
I'm going to try to do better.  I'm going to try to do more.  I know even little efforts make a difference, but when is it enough?  Is there some invisible level of effort that qualifies us as a "good citizen," a "good friend," or a "good human being"?  Is there ever a time when you can stop and take a nice break from it all, guilt free?  Can you ever retire from doing the dishes, or quit working on becoming a better person?
Knowing that realistically, life will only get busier from here on out doesn't exactly help.
For the moment I am going to go tackle the mail pile, and then maybe a nap.  With Sister Wives on in the background.  Don't judge me!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Survival Mode

First of all, I would like to apologize to my loyal reader(s) for being M.I.A.!  Work has been busy and over the past few weeks I feel like I let my life shift into survival mode.  Instead of paying attention to the little habits that make me feel good (getting workouts in, drinking plenty of water, going to bed at a reasonable hour, writing) I have switched into autopilot.  Instead of trying to enjoy every day, I've been merely trying to get through each day.  I wake up, go to work, sit at my cubicle, eat my meals, drive home, shower, go to bed, wake up and do it all over again.  Frankly, it has been a little pathetic.  It's like I just gave in and accepted that life was going to be mediocre for the moment because I was too lazy/tired/cranky to put in the effort to make it better.  I felt like I used up my motivation quota for the month and was just plain tapped out.

Then something cool happened.  My brother, sister-in-law, and niece came into town from Maine, which meant that not only did I get to see them, but I got to see the rest of my family that lives in the area but I don't get to see nearly enough because we are all too darn busy!  Even though work was hectic, we all got together a few different times.  (My sister is an excellent hostess!)

It was exactly the medicine I needed.  There is something so special about family.  These are the people that you can be most yourself with.  People who love you and trust you and give you the benefit of the doubt.  Nieces who run up to you and scream, "Aunt Noodleeeeeee" as they embrace your legs in a bear hug.  People who you love unconditionally and understand without explanation.  People you always root for and want to see succeed and be incredibly happy.  Being with them made me feel like everything was right with the world again.

Mostly seeing my family reminded me of the big picture.  That more than work, workouts, commutes, or anything else, family is what matters.  Relationships are what matter.  That as hard or exhausting as the other things in our day-to-day lives might get, everything will be OK as long as we have our friends and family around to make us whole and keep us on the path to becoming our very best selves.

So today I'm feeling much better.  I drank my water.  I got a workout in.  I talked to my Mom and had dinner with Mike.  That's not to say that I have it all figured out, or that life is suddenly easy, but at least I feel like I'm back on track, and for the moment that is enough for me.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fight or Flight

A few months ago Mike and I woke up from a dead sleep to a very frightening noise--our burglar alarm went off at 4 a.m., broadcasting a loud wail that they probably heard all the way in Delaware.  For whatever reason, I was convinced that it was the fire alarm (don't judge me, I've never had a security system in my house before) and proceeded to "evacuate" Clyde by putting my hands under his front legs and trying to walk him out of the bedroom door like a human.  (Yeah, I have no idea why I did that.  It was 4 a.m.  I was panicked.  What can you do?)
My efforts to whisk Clyde to safety were impeded by Mike, who had jammed our bedroom door shut so the murderer/burglar/psycho could not get in.
In my next genius move, I decided to walk over to the alarm, which said "Basement Window Open" and turned it off.  I was worried about the neighbors and just wanted to make the really loud siren stop.
Of course, as my very patient husband quickly pointed out, I just gave Mr. (or Mrs. ?) Creepy Criminal free access to our house.  Whoops.  Even worse, the security company was trying to call our land line, but since we only have a house phone downstairs in the kitchen, we couldn't get to it before it stopped ringing.
Being the kind, thoughtful wife that I am, I then encouraged Mike to go downstairs and investigate.  (Did I mention I wasn't really awake or thinking clearly at this point?)  After a few complaints and after handing me the phone to call the police, he walked downstairs by way of the kitchen, right past the knives to grab the nearest... rolling pin.
In the meantime, I called the police.  They asked me all sorts of difficult questions like, "What is your name?"  I didn't know whether to give them my name, or my mom's name or my grandfather's name (the former owner of the house), and then I couldn't decide whether I should use my maiden name or my married name.  I'm pretty sure any name at all would have caused a little less suspicion to our friendly local police dispatcher than my hems and haws as I willed my brain to start functioning and spit something out.
Eventually, the police were dispatched and after lots of scary shuffling around outside and Mike screaming, "Hello? Hello?" the police knocked on the door, checked the basement and discovered that the problem was not a burglar, but a faulty sensor.  After giving Clyde his daily quota of pats the kind and brave officers were on their way, leaving us to go back to bed.
There was just one problem... my body was not cooperating.  My heart was still pounding in my chest and my mind was replaying the events of the entire night over and over again.
The problem continued well into the next day.  I felt anxious and my chest still ached like I had just sprinted up 10 flights of steps.  I couldn't calm down or concentrate.
Any danger (or imagined danger) had long since passed... what was wrong with me?
Then at lunch I went for a run on the treadmill and after a few miles, I finally felt better.  It was as if the adrenaline in my body finally had a way to escape.  My chest stopped hurting and I could finally breathe again.
That's when it occurred to me that there really is something to that whole caveman "fight or flight" response.  The adrenaline pumping through my body needed somewhere to go... it needed to punch someone in the face or run away screaming, and until I gave it the outlet it needed to escape it just sat on my chest, weighing me down.
I guess the same thing happens to some extent whenever we get angry or anxious, even if it is over something much smaller than a burglar alarm.  Those feelings bounce around our bodies, waiting for some kind of physical release or response, and if we don't get one they just sit there wearing us out and weighing us down.  Until we can acknowledge those feelings and give them a real, physical outlet, we can never really breathe freely.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It's Just a Car

Today I am trading in Jeepie, my not-so-creatively-named black 2005 Jeep Liberty Sport, and even though it has had some issues in recent years (transmission, drivetrain, brakes, AC) and even though I am upgrading to a nicer, new car, I can’t help but feel a little bit sad.  It’s like I’m saying goodbye to an old friend.  Silly, I know.  Jeepie is a piece of metal with lots of fancy parts and wires manufactured in some factory in Detroit--or probably more likely, overseas--passed down the assembly line and eventually, into my driveway.  It has no feelings or personality, it doesn’t have any allegiance to me and wouldn’t know me from Adam Levine, or Brad Pitt, or Angelina Jolie.

Still, there are so many memories from the last 7 years and 85,000 miles.  Jeepie was the first car I ever bought, and I paid for it entirely on my own with salaries from a few different full-time jobs.  It was the car I drove when Mike and I moved in together, when he proposed, and when we got married.  

Jeepie drove me to hundreds of events as a Phillies Ballgirl, which usually involved me getting lost and having to call my boss for directions--a conversation that inevitably started with, “I don’t know where I am but I think I just saw a sign for Delaware…”  I drove Jeepie to every homegame of  the 2008 World Series and on a beautiful Halloween morning, to the parking lot to board the parade float for our World Series victory celebration.

It’s the car that I used to take my grandfather his weekly supply of Werther’s Originals and Lebanon bologna and my grandmother her weekly supply of Swiss Cake Rolls, and the car I used to cart around my niece from playground to playground when I was lucky enough to babysit.  I can close my eyes and see her in my rearview mirror, asleep in the car seat after a busy day of play, with her hair stuck to her forehead and her neon sunglasses sliding down her nose.

Jeepie brought home more than a dozen Christmas trees for my mom, my aunt, and eventually for Mike and me.  It has been jammed full of presents, luggage, dog fur, groceries, wedding gifts, a closetful of clothes and shoes, bags of mulch, sports equipment, donations, and best of all, people.

I drove Jeepie home from more than a few 20-mile marathon-training runs with the windows and sunroof open, letting the breeze wick the sweat off of my tired limbs.

I got a couple of tickets in that car, and remember the way my knees would shake and fear would swell up in my throat when those flashing lights appeared behind me.  I also got into one very scary accident in Jeepie, and am so grateful that I walked away just fine and the other driver did too.  

Jeepie kept me safe through blizzards, a hurricane, thunderstorms, and Philadelphia rush hours.  It even survived an uber-rare Pennsylvania earthquake.

I have laughed, cried, sang, prayed, screamed, hoped, dreamed, and worried in that car.  I have celebrated some amazing days in Jeepie--days with the windows down, the sunroof open, and the radio blasting when it felt like everything was right in the world.  There were also some days when tears streamed down my face and I felt like nothing would ever feel really right again.  Jeepie made me feel safe and free, like at any moment I could just escape onto the open road and never look back.

We had a good run, Jeepie.  Thanks for the memories.