26 July 2016

You Don't Really Train for a Marathon Alone

I'm not going to lie. Running has been difficult the last few weeks. It's hot. It's humid. It's downright Bamako out. Friends in the Northeast, friends in Texas, friends in London -- we are all struggling to run right now. I guess that's how the summer is for everyone who's insane enough to train for a marathon through these months. We accept it because we got ourselves into this and we'll get ourselves out.

On Saturday morning I snapped this picture just before starting a thirteen-mile run. I wanted to remember appreciating the beautiful scenery when the miles go tough. Sunrise on the beach. Early morning surfers. Folks out for a stroll with their coffees.

The beautiful scenery barely pulled me through the first mile. My friends did, though. I met up with Running While Mommy and a few others. We were all running different distances but stayed together for a few miles. I would have given up much sooner if it hadn't been for my friends. I wanted to think of my goal. I wanted to think of all the people who have things so much harder than I do but perform amazing tasks every day anyway. I wanted to enjoy the beachfront. But I couldn't. I was too hot and too tired. My mind was a blank. But I had footsteps beside me and as long as I was accompanied by another runner I was going to keep going. Slowly but surely.

Since we all ran different distances we finished at different times. We caught up with each other by group text later in the day. Everyone was happy to have the motivation of meeting other people to get the run done. We were happy to have the run finished for the weekend. We probably all would have either skipped it or run shorter if we'd been on our own. It felt good to check in with my support system like that.

What made me feel great all over again was when the official Marine Corps Marathon account liked my image (to the right) on Instagram yesterday. It's a screenshot of the alarm on my phone going off at five in the morning with a caption of how I'm meeting my friends for the long run on what was the hottest day of the year so far. That little thing, that "like" from the organization that's putting on the marathon boosted my spirits immensely. It made me feel like I'm part of something big and they are recognizing every mile that the runners are putting into their training.

The marathon is less than a hundred days from now. My daily runs aren't as long as I'd like them to be, but I'm getting out there and doing something almost every day. And I'm confident that as long as I complete the long run each week I'll be able to complete the marathon.

Remember to check out my page for making a donation to Soldier On: Click here. Thank you to everyone who's donated so far to help me raise money to support homeless veterans.

20 July 2016

Give Girls the Opportunities to Play Whatever They Want

Yesterday I got together with an old friend, Vicky from The Mummy Chronicles. We've known each other since high school, long before blogging was a thing. We've kept in touch over the years but living in different states and different countries has made it difficult to see each other in person. Every time we see each other, though, it's like no time has passed. She's one of the few people from back then that I still keep in touch with regularly.

Our children met for the first time yesterday. The kids hit it off. A morning at the beach followed by lunch and backyard play, then ice cream, is a universally good day in the realm of kids. It was so nice that the kids are old enough to play together without needing adults, leaving plenty of time for Vicky and me to talk and catch up. When we noticed the kids were playing some sort of fighting game with a toy gun, a sword, and frisbee that doubled as a shield and a helmet I turned to Vicky and said she must have the same problem I do sometimes.

All our kids, four in total, are girls. And Vicky and I have both received comments, if not outright criticism, from other parents about having girls who play "boy" games.

This needs to stop. There is absolutely no reason for toys and games to be gendered. Saying that certain toys and games, such as "army" or "police," are boy games, is an insult to any woman who is in the military or in law enforcement and to any girl who has a parent or someone else close to them in those fields. Someone is really going to tell my daughter that she can't be in the military or be a cop like her father? Because by referring to those games as something only boys can play, that's exactly what girls hear. That's it's something they can't do.

I think a lot of parents don't even realize the content of their comments until someone else calls them on it. Or maybe they assume girls and boys grow out of these things and the careers they choose later in life have nothing to do with the games they play as children. What I see, though, is parents who are my age and younger, who grew up in the post-feminist movement, imposing gender stereotypes even more strictly than my parents' generation did. Look at those insipid Dick and Jane books. Jane may be wearing a pretty dress but she is playing the same games as Dick, with cars, in mud, and all that. Today, when I browse parenting boards, I see far too many posts from mothers talking about cars being a boys' toy. Why are we regressing? Some girls like princesses and that's fine. But are we really giving all our kids all the play options available or are we limiting them to what adults think are gender appropriate?

I'm going to throw this out here to think about: We need more female police officers right now. Which means we need to encourage young women to think of this as a career. Which means we need to let girls pretend to be cops when they play. There's been talk of police departments wanting to have more racially diverse forces to better reflect the communities they serve. We definitely need that. Let's work on gender diversity on those forces, too, since women make up half the population of this country.

We should be thrilled that they are playing outside in fresh air while the adults relax and talk, not worrying too much about the content of the game as long as no one is getting seriously injured. Parenting is hard. Why do other parents want to make it harder with gender stereotypes? There are so many battles to fight. I'm so tired of this one.

18 July 2016

I Want to Give Back. And I Need Your Help.

I had a mild cold and the weather was so hot and humid I put off my long run until something gave in. Fortunately after two days of rest, my sore throat and exhaustion cleared up. The weather, however, remained oppressive but I had no choice. This morning I was determined to do the long run. Only eleven miles, I said to myself. I'd done twelve milers the two weeks in a row before so eleven was practically an off week.

Mike had had a lot of our outdoor gear shipped from Bamako ahead of our main shipment so I sweated in the shed yesterday pouring through boxes for my CamelBak. I hate running with water (I don't like carrying stuff) but I knew it would be a necessity. This morning I geared up, forced a smile for this photo, and took off.

The water sloshed. I'd forgotten to press all the air out of the bladder. I also wondered if it had something to do with the ice cubes, too. I didn't want to stop and undo it all to press out the water on the road. I sucked it up and hoped the sloshing would stop bothering me.

For the most part the sloshing did stop bothering me. I had a lot on my mind. The heat. The traffic. Where it would be best to adjust the route to make it eleven miles instead of twelve. Muffin's upcoming birthday party plans. Our upcoming move. The constant sloshing mostly became background noise and my need for the water far outweighed my annoyance at the sound it made.

As I the miles wore on and I became more tired, the noise bothered me more. Then I passed a building with the flag at half-staff. And another. And I remembered that far more horrible things are happening in the world and my life wasn't so bad if I was on a voluntary run with water sloshing on my back. I sucked it up, ignored the water, and finished that eleven miles.

I'm giving back to those who have endured things more difficult than I have. I want to say "Thank you" for their sacrifices and hard work. I'm using my training for the Army Ten Miler and the Marine Corps Marathon to raise money for Soldier On. Soldier On helps homeless veterans by providing temporary housing and transitional services, eventually leading to permanent homes. I'm asking for your help. I have a fundraising goal of $2,500 by October 30, the date of the marathon. Every little bit helps. With all the headlines in the news lately it's easy to forget that other groups are struggling as well. This is something I can do to help. So can you. Visit my CrowdRise page to donate. I'll be paying the CrowdRise user fee myself so that all of the donated money will go to Soldier On. And please share.

Thank you so much.

01 July 2016

Book Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

After you've read something, please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon. The authors appreciate it!

Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.

What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningWhat I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve never read a Murakami novel before so I had no idea what to expect from his running memoir. I’d seen it on the bookshelf of a number of runners so as I started training for my first marathon a few weeks ago, I picked up the book as well.

I loved most of it. I found his philosophy with both running and writing to be similar to mine. There are many things that someone who’s not an endurance athlete can’t understand so maybe this book speaks to a narrow audience. But I’m glad to be a member of that audience. I found myself nodding along. I’d read a free sample on my Kindle, then found a used paperback to buy so I could underline passages and make notes in the margin. I loved this book so much I penciled it up.

Now that I’ve seen this glimpse into his mind I want to try his novels, too.

I would not say this is “equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence,” as the book description does. It includes all those things, but not in equal parts. It’s a series of essays that he wrote, mostly during his training for the 2005 New York City Marathon, but the memories take him to other races and other periods of his life, and on a whirlwind tour of his stomping grounds across Hawaii, Boston, Greece, and Japan.


View all my reviews

28 June 2016

Screw the Laundry

My friend shared this image on Facebook recently. I love her but I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, I’m a mom and one of the ways I take care of my family is by doing laundry. But I get absolutely no sense of satisfaction or accomplishment over having an empty laundry basket.

A full laundry basket means we have been running, swimming, biking, gardening, baking, painting, fixing motorcycles, eating chocolate ice cream, and puking with excitement. An empty basket means I probably went without a much-needed nap in order to fold laundry instead.

I know it’s a joke and I’m not saying it isn’t right to feel a sense of accomplishment over getting chores done. I can’t help but think, though, that jokes like these continue to drive home the implication that women need to do all the chores. Regardless of if they work full-time, regardless of their other activities, a mother’s job is to not only get that fucking laundry done but to be elated about it.

If the best five seconds of the week is the moment all the laundry is done, then is the worst five seconds the moment new dirty laundry appears? Because most weeks I wish dirty laundry was the worst of my problems.

Sometimes the best five seconds of my week is a moment I have with Muffin. Sometimes it’s a moment I have with Mike. Sometimes it’s a moment I have alone. It will never be the moment the laundry is done.

06 June 2016

Quiet Support


After a chat with Muffin about the very few times it's
appropriate to write in a book, I found this heart penciled
in the margin of my Murakami paperback.
It’s Monday morning. I’ve run. I’ve had my smoothie (greenish). I'm sitting down at my laptop to write.

I’m not here to be your cheerleader and tell you how amazing I feel. I don’t care if you drink smoothies or not. I happen to like them and adding a few leaves of spinach isn’t too bad. The truth is, my motivation is personal and yours is, too.

I started reading Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, this week. I pretty much want to underline every sentence, there’s so much of it that I relate to. If you really need motivation for this morning, go read this book. (I’ll be writing a more formal review of it once I’m finished.) “Writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike. Basically a writer has a quiet, inner motivation, and doesn’t seek validation in the outwardly visible.”

This is why I keep my daily mileage on Strava, where everyone who’s there is because they are interested in that, rather than Facebook. This is why I don’t post my daily word counts to Twitter and rarely use the #amwriting tag. (If I really am writing, I’m not on Twitter.) I support my followers and those whom I follow in their running and writing endeavors. I know several people training for races and working on writing projects this year and I’ve got your backs. I do pay attention to what you're up to.

I’ve been drinking my smoothie every day for a week but I’ve forgotten to do my plank most days. I've done all the running I've needed to do. I've written some days and some days I haven't. The world has continued to turn despite my not following a plan and not documenting every moment of it for public consumption.

I'm only accountable to myself.

(I stared at this post for hours once I finished writing it without a title idea.)

16 May 2016

The Reviews Are In! (And New Availability from Online Book Stores)


  • "A superb adventure in Africa"
  • "A delightful read"
  • "Makes you want to travel to Africa"
  • "Mountains Never Meet is a fantastic airport or beach read. It’s light, humorous, and all about the mushy love stuff."
  • "Kept my attention from the first page to the last"

I want to thank everyone who has read and reviewed Mountains Never Meet. I may not say this often enough but I am so thrilled that anyone has paid attention to it and when I read your thoughts on my book it motivates me to keep sharing it with others and to keep writing.

If you haven't reviewed it, please consider doing so on Amazon and Goodreads. And not just my book, on any book that you read. From the best-sellers to the indie authors, everyone loves hearing what the readers have to say about their work.

I know that not everyone loves Amazon, so online distribution has been expanded to a couple other sites for the paperback version. If you already have an account at one of these retailers, why not check it out?


I am still working on bricks-and-mortar stores and libraries. I'd love to see it on a shelf someday!

Thanks again for reading!

10 May 2016

Run

I’m a week away from the Mystic Half Marathon. About a month ago I felt unprepared. I feel better now, stronger, prepared. The second half of this race is hilly. Very hilly. I love hills. Last week some friends took me to Mystic and we ran the first eight miles of the course. We encountered a few big hills. The biggest is at mile 9 1/2. I’m not afraid of the hill itself. I’m afraid of how much it will slow me down. I’ll get it done, no matter what.

I’m apprehensive about a goal time, however. If I can match my PR from the previous race I’ll be thrilled but I’m willing to accept the fact that I’ll likely be several minutes slower, due to those hills.

People talk about mantras to focus on to help them recenter and relax. I have one word. Run. No inspirational quote, no favorite song. Just the one thing I went out there to do. Sometimes I do it quickly and sometimes I don’t, but it’s what I do.

I know I’ll finish. And I know I’ll be going to the barbeque place for lunch after the race. Those are the finites in my life right now. Those, and I will run.

04 May 2016

I'm the Mom Who Doesn't Care for Mother's Day

Over the weekend I had a huge blow-up with Muffin. I still feel terrible about it but I'm going to stand my ground. She wants to throw a big party for me on Mother's Day. I want a quiet day with several hours of alone time. She doesn't think that's special enough. I tried explaining to her that I'm not a huge fan of Mother's Day to begin with and that I'm going to insist on my quiet time. For a little girl who loves party planning, this is a big problem for her. But it's Mother's Day. I'm the mom. I get to choose.

On the radio yesterday morning the DJs were discussing a poll that said seventy percent of mothers just want to be left alone for several hours on Mother's Day. So if you know a mother who says that's really all she wants, please let her have it. Going to Mother's Day brunch in a crowded restaurant is one of my personal circles of Hell and I suspect that might be true for many women.

Even now that I'm a mom, I don't care for Mother's Day. There's no genetic code that made me love brunch and pastels the moment I gave birth. To me it's another commercial cards-and-flowers day and it holds little interest for me. (If you really like flowers, that's totally fine! I love flowers and I hope my florist friend does good business this weekend because of all the others who love flowers, too. But only get someone flowers if you mean it and they love them, not as an afterthought because it's just what people do.)

I read too many blog posts from moms whose children made them breakfast in bed and left her a messy kitchen to clean up. And the moms shrug and say, "Oh, well. I'm the mom and it's my job to clean up after them, even on Mother's Day."

No. Otherwise what's the point of the day?

If you have a mother, ask her what she really wants for Mother's Day. If you are a mother: Be. Honest. You will be subjected to endless noisy brunches or messy kitchens coupled with good intentions unless you are honest and tell your children and whoever else is helping them plan the day what you really want to do. If you don't want to wash dishes on Mother's Day because you do it every single other day and it's your least favorite chore, take a stand and tell someone. Otherwise, accept the fact that it will be like every other day and don't get miffed. Commercials build up expectations that can never be met. I like to keep the bar low.

My ideal Mother's Day would be Mike and Muffin going off for a nice adventure on their own for a few hours and bringing home amazing cupcakes for us to share. However, that's pretty much my ideal Sunday year round. And with Mike coming home this weekend for good, I should be able to realize that dream for several upcoming Sundays.

Mothers, I hope you get what you want this Sunday, whatever it is. I'm so happy that my family is safe and sound and will be back together again, it's really all I need.

02 May 2016

Another Obnoxious Run Happy Post


One day toward the end of March I went for a run.

I’d been taking it easy since getting a nice personal record at a half marathon a few weeks beforehand. My daughter was home from school on spring break and my husband was home for a week, too, so it made sense to relax and not worry about running as much. Toward the end of that break, though, I began to get a little anxious. At the time, my next half marathon was about six weeks away and I needed to up the training a little bit.

So I went for a run. All the kinks I’d hoped to work out after the first mile were not worked out. I stopped and went home. That’s right. After one mile. I’m not run streaking right now. I just wasn’t having fun and didn’t see the point. Instead of having a bad run that would put me in a bad mood I decided put the time toward something else that would make me feel good.

The next day after a chat with a friend who’s in a similar place with his running as I am, I decided to try again. Talking to him made me see it was time to get a tad more serious for the race. I aimed for five miles. After a few minutes the kinks and aches were gone but my legs felt unusually tired. I stopped and checked my GPS. I’d only gone two miles. But I’d done them quickly. The weather was so nice I decided to keep going toward the five-mile goal but slow down. I returned to my house at 4.9 miles and ran up the street further until I reached an even five. Normally I wouldn’t care about getting an even number but my goal that day was five and I had it in me to accomplish that.

These are actual decals on my car.
For me, upping my training for running a marathon means vaguely paying more attention to my mileage. After a long run I’ll look at my splits and see how I’m doing compared to my previous long run or goal time for a race. My friend likes math more than I do so I ask him what my splits should be for certain times at certain distances. I don’t do speed work. While I often stop to check my mileage while running, I rarely look at my time. I trust my body and I do what feels good.

I recently saw a headline about running happy to run faster. I didn’t read the article because I didn’t have time at that moment to read about something I already practiced. When I remembered it the next day I couldn’t find it.

Running seems to have been taken over by Type A personalities who track every mile, every calorie, every step, every bite. I used to follow a lot of blogs and social media accounts of runners. I tried to do all that counting and accounting in the past. But it’s not me. And I can’t help but feel there might be other runners like me who start to feel bad because they aren’t documenting every step, aren’t caring about every new piece of gear, aren’t enjoying kale and protein powder smoothies. (Chocolate-flavored protein powder is not a treat. Chocolate is.)

Magazine articles and other media outlets tell me I have to do these things to be a better runner. Why do I need to do these things? Why do I even need to be a better runner? What if I don’t want to be? What if I’m happy right where I am? What does it even mean to be “better”? I’m healthy and enjoying myself. That’s enough for me.

The point is, run your own self. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. If you want the cute running outfits, go for it. But if you’re happy in sweatpants and a cotton t-shirt, go for that. I use Strava on my phone. I can’t be bothered with a GPS watch on top of that. Too much stuff to keep charged and I’m taking the phone with my anyway for emergencies and for taking photos. Oh, that’s right. Stop and take photos if you want to. Or don’t. I like the simplicity of a quick snapshot of the scenery or something interesting spotted over setting up a shot and posing.

Marathon training has to make me happy. It will be challenging. There will be pain. There may even be an inspirational quote or two along the way. But I don’t plan on changing any more of my habits than are absolutely necessary.

Except for a Fitbit. I’m very curious about Fitbits and I’m thinking of getting one.

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