Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I Brunch These Towns

Last year I threatened to rename this blog "I Brunch These Towns" because I was doing that more than running. I am thinking of maybe a third of the year (in the winter) I should simply brunch these towns and then run these towns the other two-thirds. I'm only being mildly facetious because running in the winter can be lovely. Also brunch is something that should happen every weekend regardless of season. Last weekend the temperatures were in the 40s, and it was ideal running weather (albeit a little windy). Unfortunately I did not run once. Brunch: 2 Running: 0.

Last week my son had a stomach bug which made running next to impossible. I did squeak in one short run on the treadmill but that was it. By the weekend he was back to himself and finally allowing us to get into our extensive brunching and friend visiting schedule. 

On Saturday morning we headed to Detroit to meet with friends at Parks & Rec Diner in the renovated Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) building in Detroit.  Our friends live in Detroit, and we always let them choose the places the cool kids go. It may have been too cool...we may have asked them to turn the music down. And to get off our lawn. Whatevs.

After brunch we walked around downtown Detroit (including my fav - Capitol Park) with our friends and their adorbs 6 month old marveling at all the development in one of my favorite cities in the world. As usual my husband and I started wondering why we don't live in Detroit. Then it turned into "maybe we could just have an apartment here." The reality is as much as I love Detroit our very walkable world would suddenly become much less walkable living there. That's not something I'm willing to sacrifice right now (or maybe ever) even for one of the coolest cities I know.

On Sunday I had planned to actually run, and the weather was perfect for it. My friend and I had planned to go for a long run, but I found the remnants of my son's stomach bug (or Crohn's...it's really hard to tell the difference). Running was not a good idea. I was feeling very nauseous (not a common symptom for me), so I slept it off a bit and felt better later in the morning just in time for Sunday brunch.
We went to visit some friends who just moved back to the Lansing area. We had brunch at their house while our boys, who are three months apart, played together (the sweetest). I only had one mimosa - a sure sign that I wasn't feeling 100 percent. After brunch our son slept for more than two hours, and I was grateful as I continued feeling more nauseous.

On Monday I stayed home and slept almost the entire day. I can't remember the last time I took that much time to rest. It rarely happens, and I felt so much better once I slept it off. Today I felt much more normal, and I was even able to get in a quick run on the treadmill.

Next week I start my 5k speed training in earnest. My extended running break is over. This weekend my husband, son and I are heading to Toronto for a much needed weekend away, and then it's time to get to work. I'll still get in brunch because to not brunch is to not live life to its fullest. But it will be brunch following speed work. I'm looking forward to one last hoorah before training gets real again!   

Friday, February 19, 2016

To the Fatherless Daughters

Being normal is overrated. I mean what is normal anyway? While I imagine a lot of us want to liked, fit in, be popular (even as adults and even if we don't admit it). I'm happy that our society has begun to embrace nonconformity. I think we should be celebrating what makes our children (and us) different. Celebrate intelligence, creativity, quirkiness, passion and kindness in whatever ways they manifest themselves. Take the traits we have and highlight them. We're all our own awesome.

While I think it's critical to celebrate the personality differences that make us who we are, I think it's another thing to feature societal differences created outside the control of the child. For the second year in a row I've been severely irritated by the myriad daddy/daughter dance posts on Facebook, and I've decided I can't keep it in any longer.

I think the posts are lovely. I love seeing my friends' lovely daughters dress up with their dads and go to a dance. It's a precious celebration of the father/daughter relationship. I get it from that standpoint. But in a world where we're constantly working to make children feel secure, holding an event that points out a very significant difference to a child without a father seems antiquated and in some respects rather cruel.

If you have a "traditional" family (although WTF does that mean anymore?) where mom and dad are married or even if dad still plays an active role in the child's life, the daddy/daughter dance is probably a lovely evening. If you're a child whose father is not involved in her life, whose father has passed away or who has two moms, it's essentially telling her that her family construct, a situation completely out of her control and not her fault, isn't worth celebrating.

I'm sure I'll get lots of push back about this view. But if you're a woman whose dad plays an active role in her daughter's life and posted these lovely pictures on Facebook and disagree with what I'm saying, then you don't get it. It's not something your daughter has to deal with. But for those little girls who may be traumatized by having a brother or an uncle take them to the dance or to not go at all, it seems ridiculous. Have a fun dance that is for everyone not just those girls who can bring their dads (or a dad stand in). 

I grew up in a family where mom and dad were married for nearly 35 years. My dad could have escorted me to a daddy/daughter dance if we'd had them (although let's be honest - he would've hated that kind of event). I would not have stood out at this dance except for being dressed so fabulously. Obviously. But I see these posts now and immediately think of those girls whose family isn't comprised of mom, dad, 2.3 kids, dog, picket fence. Maybe it's only one girl, but would we do something to egregiously point out her social differences in another day? What if she were poor? Would we have a dance for only kids whose families make so much money? Of course not. But for those daughters without dads it would be like the same thing.

Again please celebrate awesome dads. My son has one, and it's amazing. Celebrate those father figures in our children's lives. But maybe we should think twice about hosting events that seemed to make sense in 1965, but it's an tradition that should be made obsolete. Childhood is challenging enough without this kind of tradition making it worse. Let's celebrate differences not publicly point the figure at them.   

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What is Home?

I've lived in Michigan for ten years, but it still doesn't feel like home. I've recently come to the realization that it may never. There are things I really love about living here, and there are things I really do not love about living here. My husband and son are here. I have amazing friends, a house I love and a job I'm passionate about. There's a lot to love, but then there are the things I hate. I hate the winter. I hate it with a fiery passion. Even this mild winter annoys me. Granted with climate change winter is kind of weird everywhere, but it really gets to me. I hate that there's no sunlight. It is depressing. I wish I didn't have to drive so much. Even living downtown still requires lots of driving in Michigan because this place was built for cars and discourages any other kinds of transportation. But really what it all comes down to is that this just doesn't feel like home.

I only lived in Morgantown, West Virginia for six years. My parents have lived there for the last decade, and it's where I visit them. Despite having lived there less time than Michigan and despite my mother currently living in a house where I never lived, it feels like home. I consider that city my home. When I'm driving to West Virginia and the flat grade of the Ohio Turnpike turns to curvy hills in southern Pennsylvania, my pulse quickens. I feel like I'm going home. 

Even living in Norfolk, Virginia - where I only lived for a few years - feels more like home. When we're driving there and get to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel crossing the Chesapeake Bay, I feel like I'm coming home. Having worked for the Mayor I feel a sense of pride in seeing buildings that were only renderings a decade ago come to life. The downtown and neighborhoods are so dense with narrow streets. That density makes me feel like the city is giving me a hug. I dig it.

I lived in Texas for a few years in the early part of the new millennium. The flat, open terrain in Texas often made me feel lonely. There were no mountains; no dense configurations of tall buildings to box me in. It felt like the landscape went on forever, and that's part of what made it not feel like home. 

In some ways Michigan feels like Texas to me. Sure it's greener, and the weather is certainly different. But it's flat and vast, and it feels oddly desolate at times. I crave density whether it's in the form of cities or mountains. This vast expanse of flat space (sometimes in the form of insanely wide streets in a downtown) makes me anxious.

Last weekend I headed home to Morgantown to visit my mom. It was my first solo road trip with the baby, and I was anxious. We left in the late afternoon, and he was the perfect traveling companion. I'm not naive enough to assume he's always going to be this easy, but as long as he is I'll enjoy it. 

We spent the weekend hanging out with my mom, relaxing, eating at my favorite places and buying copious amounts of West Virginia gear. We watched the Olympic Marathon trials, and I may have cried a little bit when Kara Goucher placed fourth to barely miss making the Rio marathon team.  
Watching the Olympic Marathon Trials with my little dude.

My weekend at home was exactly the reset I needed. Single digit temperatures and negative wind chills gave me the excuse I needed to stay inside and not run while I was there. It was perfect, however, to relax and be still for a few days.

I'm focusing on cross training and easy running for the rest of February before starting my 5k training schedule with a vengeance the first of March. My husband bought me a fancy new Garmin for Valentine's Day (even though I've tried so hard not to be techie), but it's going to be super helpful for working on speed. My speed goals are ambitious, but it's going to be fun to give it a shot. After all if everything seems under control, I'm clearly not going fast enough. 

(Also as a followup to last week's blog, check out this gem. I've still got it!)


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

5k PRs and Back Handsprings

Despite my running/exercise enthusiasm I don't describe myself as athletic. Tenacious, yes; athletic, no. My tenacity is what generally helps me reach my running and exercise goals. My persistence is what got me up at 6 am five days a week in college to go to the gym. Stubbornness pushed me to a PR in my last marathon despite not training. It led me to start tumbling in high school because I loved cheerleading so much. It led me to hundreds of crunches every night while in high school and college (I think that was capacity combined with insanity). At any rate my athleticism has long been bolstered by my determination.

I was a cheerleader for ten years while growing up. I loved everything about it. I wasn't on a competitive, successful squad, but I loved cheering. In high school I started attending tumbling classes with some members of our rival high school's squads (a squad that was a very successful, state champion team). I wasn't the best tumbler in their class, but I loved spending that time on Saturday mornings perfecting back handsprings and pushing my body to its limits.

Tumbling is probably the most athletic thing I've ever done. It's a full body athletic endeavor. I loved tumbling before and during basketball games in high school. It was so much fun. To this day the smell of a gymnasium makes me want to take off into a tumbling pass.

I haven't done a back handspring since college. I've had six abdominal surgeries, and the last time I did just a back bend my abs were not amused.  Despite that when I picked up my race packet on Sunday for the Super Bowl 5k in a middle school gym I had an overwhelming urge to tumble. It oddly gave me that old rush that I'm convinced helped push me to a 5k PR.

I haven't been running much, and this was my first race in nearly two months. I ran the same race last year in a snowstorm in the slowest 5k time I've had in years. Despite my intent to focus heavily on the 5k last year, the year got away from me. I'm proclaiming it now: this is the year of the 5k

This year the weather for the Super Bowl 5k was much better. It was in the mid-30s, unheard of for February mornings in Michigan. I took off hard much like I did last year. I was at 7:30 at the first mile clock, and that was pretty close to where I'd hoped to be. 

After the second mile marker I realized I was close to PR pace. I felt great. My body felt strong, so I decided to push hard the last mile. As I ran the last half mile to the school I realized I still had some energy. I passed several runners in the last stretch, and I finished in 23:09, exactly 41 seconds under my PR. 

I've got a lot of work to do to reach my 5k goal, but I feel energized after this race. I feel like I can do it. Thinking about my athletic goals also have me sort of intrigued at the idea of perhaps trying to tumble for fun again. I realize that may be a terrible idea, but I love the idea of the full body workout. Besides how badly can I really hurt myself by trying a back handspring at age 37?

I'm excited by my tenacious start to 2016. I'm looking forward to appearing to be a super athletic person as my grit is really the star of the show. Over the years I've learned my body is capable of much more than I give it credit. I'm thinking it's time to test it. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Decade of Awesomeness

Ten years is a long time. A lot can happen in a decade. Ten years ago I moved to Michigan from Norfolk, Virginia. I left the familiar confines of my family, a job I enjoyed and a city I'd grown to love to move nearly 800 miles north to Lansing, Michigan. I followed a boy and a job to a place where I didn't know anyone. Not one single soul. It was quite the adventure.

I hated winter immediately. In my first week of my new job I stepped into a melty snow puddle and ruined my favorite Gianni Bini shoes. I loved those shoes. I can only get them at Dillard's. You know what Michigan doesn't have? Dillard's. I disliked winter intensely and immediately, and that has not lessened much in ten years.

The boy didn't last long. I broke up with him only a few weeks after I moved here. The job was fascinating. The legislature was a fascinating creature that I grew addicted to rather quickly. There's one thing about working in the Michigan legislature - it either grabs you and pulls you in and becomes part of who you are or you don't get it. There's no in between. I got it, and I loved it. Even though I don't work in the legislature every day now and I want to pull my hair out due to some of its decisions, I still love it. 

I met another boy. Scratch that - I met a man. He was the first guy I'd ever dated who didn't feel like a child. He pulled me in and swept me off my feet. We worked together in the House, and that love of politics and policy and addiction to the world was a huge thing we had (and still have) in common. I thought I should probably marry him because he's hilarious and brilliant and just a good, good man. He's the kind of man I could see fathering my children. Ten years later I've learned he's an even better dad than I could have even imagined.
With the hubs October 2006 at the Soo Locks. Our first campaign season

I wasn't a runner. I had never run more than a mile. Ten years ago this spring I signed up for a marathon on a whim, and it started this other love of my life - running. I've logged thousands of miles training for four marathons, 20 half marathons, seven 10-mile races, ten 10ks, three 10k/5k combos, a sprint triathlon and dozens of 5ks. My weekends and our vacations have revolved around running. 

I've run races in places like Knoxville, Tennessee, New York City, South Bend, Indiana, San Francisco, Morgantown, WV, Pensacola, Florida, Washington, DC, Freeport, Maine, Louisville, Kentucky, Green Bay and Nashville to name a few. That doesn't include the many Michigan cities I've explored through running races, cities like Detroit, Kalamazoo, Traverse City, Ann Arbor, Portland, Plymouth, Flint and Grand Rapids.

My first marathon, Detroit 2010

Marine Corps Marathon 2013

My first half: Nike Women's Half in San Francisco, 2006
We've adopted a small human. It's been amazing. We've adopted two dogs and a cat. We've purchased two homes. Life has been a whirlwind, and it's been phenomenal. I went from being a 27-year-old single woman without a plan to a mom, a wife, a runner and a career woman. This decade has been pretty good to me, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the next one brings.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Do What You Love with Conviction

Let's face it - life can be mundane. It's so easy to get bogged down in the details of life and the myriad tasks we have to complete rather than appreciating the beauty in those details

Last week one of our city managers passed away unexpectedly, and it has me thinking a lot about the banal tasks required of life. This man was young (only 48). I kept imagining that over the weekend he was living his normal life worrying about whatever we worry about. It all feels so important and then two days later he is gone. Since my dad passed away nearly four months ago I've struggled a lot with the humdrum of daily life, and this death has torn open that wound.

I've always had trouble adjusting when excitement is over. Whether it's been the excitement at the beginning of a new relationship, looking forward to vacation or running the next big race, the let down once the excitement dies down has always been a challenge for me. That's one of the reasons we've traveled so much: I need to get away. I need something to break up the monotony of every day life.

We've worked really hard to keep up the fun pace after our son was born. We've still traveled, we still go out, we are still busy. But after nearly a month of my husband working long days every weekend I'm starting to lose my mind a little bit. I need to get away. My husband reminds me that we were in the Outer Banks just a month ago, and it feels like forever since we were out of town. I need something on the calendar. I need something to look forward to.

I need races on the calendar too. I've registered for two half marathons this year: the Gazelle Girl Half in Grand Rapids in April and the Detroit Half in October. That's it. I feel like the year is stretched out in front of me with no discernible running goals. I need races. Lots and lots of races. I may run the Playmakers race series this summer which I had lots of fun doing a few years ago, but in the grey days of the Michigan winter the summer race series feels so far away.

Perhaps it's normal to need something to look forward to. Last night we were at dinner with friends who were talking about upcoming trips, and I felt so envious it made my stomach ache. When I reflect on the everyday nature of life, I realize that's what makes life normal. As much as I'd like to say screw it - I'm not doing the laundry or cooking dinner or washing the car because I'm going to die someday - that's not realistic. Of course I'm going to do those things. The ordinary is what makes the extraordinary stand out. 

Yesterday I went for a beautiful run on a balmy (for Michigan - 32 degrees) winter morning. The sun was peeking up over the Capitol building, and it was stunning. All felt right in the world. The ordinary was extraordinary. 

Today I went to the funeral for the city manager we lost so soon. It was a beautiful tribute to his life. At a time that is so unbearably sad there is beauty in grief. Local government officials from across the state came to honor him. I hugged people I've worked with for the last eight years and marveled at this supportive community. I felt the love and respect for this man who has spent 20 years revitalizing his city. My heart was full - of both sadness and admiration.

His brother gave a beautiful eulogy following the homily. His words have been echoing in my mind all evening. He said to truly honor his brother we should do what we love and do it with passion and conviction. I looked around the room at these men and women who are dedicated to their communities and realized that is why I love my job. I love and admire these people who are dedicated public servants. They love where they live. They are incredible people, and I am privileged to work with them.

When I got home I pushed myself through a brutal run, feeling my muscles burning with each step. It hurt, but in the words of Lady Antebellum "I'd rather hurt than feel nothing at all." Tonight, as I sit here reflecting on this day with a glass of wine with sore leg muscles and a heavy heart, I'm thinking about doing what I love with conviction. Running, representing cities, loving my friends and family. I'll appreciate the mundane in life because it's those moments that make up the memories of a lifetime. And until further notice I'll celebrate everything.