Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Trailing Off

I ran a trail marathon this weekend.

This gave me a lot of time alone with my thoughts so I got to thinking (as one does) deep thoughts about meanings and metaphors and how we make sense of things. It struck me what an excellent metaphor trail running is for our lives. 

In order to avoid tripping on a root, slipping on a rock, or twisting ankle on the uneven surface, you are forced to focus only on the ground immediately in front of you. Sure, you have relatively flat areas of gravel or packed dirt where you are able to pick your head about, take in the scenery, appreciate the foliage, the scents, the trickle of water or whistle of a train. But more often than not, especially on the more technical, challenging parts of the trails, you simply cannot afford to focus on anything but roots, rocks, and turns directly in front of you. 

If you knew about the steep grade filled with sharp rocks and slick leaves that lay ahead of you, you may never start moving your feet. You may turn a corner, anticipating a clearing that indicates the end of your journey, only to find a series of nearly vertical, mold-slicked steps. You'll want to scream. Cry. Crumple to the ground in a heap.

If we knew all the details of the horrors ahead of us, it would be hard to imagine any reason to ever get out of bed. To ever try for any bit of joy. When I see planes fall from the sky, babies taken before their first birthdays, violence and anger... it's hard to fathom how we can possibly be expected to carry on, greet life with enthusiasm, believe in joy. Experiencing those moments of sheer terror and pure agony, "Why bother?" seems like a logical reaction. 

Eventually and inevitably, you realize that the only way is forward. One foot in front of the other.

If you're observant, you might notice particular markers- a uniquely shaped boulder... a sharp bend in the path that brings you alongside a creek... a leaning tree that will be a problem if you don't duck your head. Some are more memorable than others- a steep set of stairs in either direction, a particularly slippery slope, a hairpin turn that involves rocks and a sharp leap upwards. The physical sensations help solidify their appearance in your memory.

At times you may will become frustrated with the roots that just keep popping up. Trying to trip you, forcing you to focus and concentrate when all you want to do is zone out and put it in cruise control. You'll curse the roots, then you'll look up at the branches towering above you, bless them for their shelter from the blazing sun, and realize that, like so many things in life (flu shots, algebra, parents) those things that are causing you momentary frustration are actually doing you a whole lot of good too.

When the mud gets really sticky and forms a layer on the bottom of your shoes so that even when you're through the muddy patches, you continue to slide and just can't seem to get your footing because of the slickness on your shoes, it's like when your car needs $1200 worth of work, followed by a vet bill, a tax payment, and a wedding gift for your cousin. Despite the best of intentions and the greatest of hopes, you just can't seem to get ahead.

Until you do.

It may mean stopping and walking. It may mean leaning against a tree while you spew the contents of your stomach into a patch of ivy (too much?), it may mean kicking the freakin rocks that are laying so squarely in your foot path, you know without question they positioned themselves to cause you grief. But once you've spewed and yelled and cursed and walked and maybe even cried, you move on. 

The trails, much like life, are not impressed by temper tantrums. They are not concerned with your convenience or your desires or how completely exhausted you are. They are there and so shall remain. 

Respect the trails. Honor the challenge, admire the beauty, savor the run. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


'Friday Favorites' are a thing on blogs. I'm very much aware that it isn't Friday, but I have some favorites, and I'm going to share them. 

Jumping into a pool after a sweaty run. Best. Thing. Ever. Since I began training for my first marathon in the summer of 2012, I have spent miles fantasizing about ending my run with a splash in a nice cool lake or pool. While on vacation, I was finally able to make that dream a reality and it was everything I thought it could be. Amazing.

Cold drinks. Arnold Palmers are truly the nectar of the gods. Part clear, strong, unsweet tea, part sweet tangy lemonade, all wonderful. I can (and do) drink pitchers of the stuff. Coke Slurpees...(oh thank) HEAVEN. This summer has been quite merciful in terms of the heat & humidity, but a couple hours of running, or three hours in an unconditioned car are best remedied by a nice tall yellow cup of frozen Coca Cola iciness. As far as I'm concerned, no other flavors exist.

Puppy/dog love. You just can't look at those sweet faces and not get squishy on the inside. Annabelle requires copious amounts of love and affection- it doesn't really matter if you're in the bathroom or on the computer or simply sitting on the couch talking on the phone. She clearly communicates her need for love by standing on you. If you aren't being affectionate enough, she puts her paws on your shoulder and aggressively sniffs your head. Which I take as affection, because my mother always enjoyed the smell of my brothers' sweaty heads. That's normal. Right?

Eggs. Delicious. 

Good people. People who take the time to work through a problem with you, carry a box, listen, feed your dogs, say a prayer, send a card, bring you tea, wave, circle back so you don't miss a turn during a run. Good people.

And, to be different, a few Not Favorites:

Mayonnaise. Diss. Gusting.

Bacon grease. Well, bacon really.

Relish. Double dislike relish that touches me. (So slimey!)

Bugs in the shower. Particularly jumping bugs. Why?

Spiderwebs. Anywhere. On trails. In my house. On my front porch. ,I feel so anti-nature "top of the food chain" when I'm am forced to sweep them off the front of my house daily. Just stop building them across trails and in my house. And on the front of my house, where it looks creepy and unmaintained when I don't knock them down. Please.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Internet Cafe

If things were different, and we were able to meet up in person for coffee...

I'd be drinking tea. I'm a not a real grown-up: I don't have a mortgage payment, I only vote when I know the names of all the candidates, and I don't drink coffee. We can still call it meeting for coffee though.

I'd tell you about my latest adventures in puppy-rearing and one more reason why we can't have nice things. Or shoes. It seems so cliche.

You may notice the faintest deepening of pigment on my arms. Just before Labor Day, I was able to start and end my Summer fun on the Gulf Coast with my family. The faintest hint of a tan line crossing my collarbone hints at 4 solid days where activities were limited to running, swimming, lounging, and consuming large quantities of fresh seafood. Evidence enough for me that Summer did in fact- albeit briefly- happen.  

You'd ask me how things are going, and it would take me a moment to decide how to answer that. Things are going forward. With no shortage of challenges, frustrations, victories, and uncertainty, life truly waits for no one and nothing. I feel intensely aware of the balances at work. I can name no less than 8 babies born to friends, family, and co-workers this summer. And yet for the time I have spent visiting new babies in the hospital and delighting in pictures of tiny toes and glowing new parents, I have also spent hours watching children say goodbye to their father, watching someone too young leave this world too soon. I have mourned for young cousins who will grow up without their mother, for the sense of waste when someone's life ends before she has seen her fourth decade. For all the jobs sold, praise earned, and recognition given, there are still days of worry, weeks of wondering when (if?) this breakneck pace will ever ease up, if it's humanly possible to ever get ahead and take a deep breath. Turning on the news and seeing what other people's struggles look like, we're quick to realize it doesn't really matter if we're ever ahead, because we are already infinitely blessed beyond belief. Our stress is contrived and pitiful next to the dangers and struggles so many others face.

At some point, I would need a snack. Hopefully, you would play along with me blaming it on marathon training, but we both know I just like to eat. 

Speaking of eating, I may tell you that I've learned just how poorly we'd fare as farmers. After some (sort of) thoughtful planning and preparation, our crops, totalling 2 cantaloupe plants, 2 squash plants, 2 zucchini plants (which turned out to be squash plants), 6 green bean plants, and 12 field pea plants have yielded us a grand total of... 5 squash. 5. The neighborhood rabbit family, along with our sweet, rodent-hunting terriers, have thoroughly enjoyed the leafy green additions to their standard diet. 

At some point- hopefully somewhere between talk of puppies, fresh grouper, and reflecting on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, I would ask how you are doing. Who and what is making you happy, what fun things are you doing, what have you discovered in recent weeks? Over and over again, I learn that, for all the wonderful things and moments I find in activities, places, and things, I'm not sure anything will ever surpass my love for meeting really great people. I have met some great ones, I try really hard to make them spend as much time with me as possible, and I delight in the possibility that I could spend the rest of my life meeting more new, wonderful beings.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

30 Things

I turned 30 yesterday and I'm not entirely comfortable with it. It's been a while (like, 4 x 30 days) since my last post, so hopefully 30 things is enough to catch us up.

1. Anyone else have DEAR time in elementary school? Drop Everything And Read- that should still exist.
2. I'm super into mocktails. Skip the liquor, bring on the complicated syrups, fresh-squeezed juices, muddled- whatever, and lots of sparkly water. Put a straw in it for good measure.
3. God made puppies overly adorable for a reason. You physically can't stay furious when they rest those little heads on your lap and look at you with the sweetest face to ever grace the earth. Dangit.
4. My oldest friend in the world had the cutest baby boy in the world in November. She (rudely) lives on the exact opposite coast of the country, but I get to meet him in July. (I also get to see her and her whole family, which is amazing, but... sweet baby cheeks!)
5. I registered for 2 marathons this fall. It takes one trail marathon and one hometown road marathon to make up for the stink of not finishing one (hilly) spring marathon.
6. Just when we got all thrilled about not having to wear 17 layers to run or worry about patches of ice after the longest suck-est winter ever, we are swimming through rediculous humidity. 78 degrees and 70% humidity at 5:30am? Ergah.
7. The smell of lilies in your house is unbeatable. Really any fresh flowers, but lilies are phenomenal.
8. I didn't finish my marathon in April. I had a day of deplorable digestion and ended up sick on the side of the road around mile 16.5.
9. I have had some of the most amazing conversations and formed some fantastic friendships over the past year.
10. There have been so many times in the last few weeks when I have kind of been having one of those days. I'm ready to be home, reading, drinking a mocktail, but instead I head on to my commitments. I have never regretted it. People and conversations can be so wonderfully energizing.
11. I feel completely unprepared to be 30 years old. 30 means a real grown up. I know you could point to a hundred people living life a hundred different ways, but doesn't it always come back to our parents' example? When they were 30, my parents had a house, a mortgage, a baby... grown up things. I have a lease, 2 dogs, and absolutely zero sewing skills. My mother made all of my dresses and is still the person who alters all of our clothes and hems our shower curtains that are the wrong size. Also, I don't drink coffee. #notarealgrownup
12. I should stop, but I still kind of like the whole hashtag thing. Not sure why it's so appealing.
13. Nap times should be standard in the workplace. In general, if we modeled more things after kindergarten (Read, rest, be kind, use your manners), I think we'd all enjoy things a little more. Life's really pretty simple.
14. Group texts are a great distraction and time waster, but a great source of entertainment and connection. Yes, baby boomers, I too enjoy a good conversation and face time with people. Have you tried to get more than 2 people in the same room at the same time lately? That ish takes some effort, and group texts/emails are a great hold-over until said time is found.
15. Ever get that huge sense of relief when you stack all your recycling by the curb, excited to have it whisked away, only to have that feeling drained as you realize no one else's recycling is set out and you missed last week's pick up? The relief turns to uhhhh when you realize that you A- really should haul it all back away from the curb B- you will have a month's worth of cans, bottles, and cardboard hoarded up in your yard by the time the actual pick up day rolls around. Next. Week.
16. Fanny packs are back. Why?
17. It's fairly tasteless, but it's funny.
18. A good run with a good group of people is hard to beat. Every once in a while though, a girls-only run is exactly what you need and feels so good. 
19. I'm still getting used to the world- lets say I only really have a solid awareness of the adult world for the last 5 years- are people always obsessed with some random food? First it was cupcakes, then it was fro yo, now there is literally no corner of civilization that has not been baconized. Toilet paper, band aids, milkshakes, donuts... I don't know who picks the obsessions, but if they pick mayonnaise next, I am going to have a class 3 melt down. Bleck.
20. This is also awesome. Made me laugh hard.
21. I bought grown up bathing suits this year. Seriously- not a top from Target that I can wear with the bottom I already have. 2 full blown pieces-match-and-actually-fit bathing suits.
22. I have brought strength training back into my life. Do I feel stronger? Not sure. Would I like handicap handrails on both sides of every toilet I need to lower myself to? Yes please and thank you.
23. "Poi the most easily digested food in Hawaii." Direct quote from my 6 year-old niece. Good digestion is important you know.
24. We're growing vegetables and herbs! If I weren't so afraid of the little weirdos (and we owned our house, and our dogs didn't terrorize everything that crosses their path) I'd be all about some chickens. Give me farm fresh eggs every day. 
25. On a related note, Annabelle appreciates the plants we're growing. She has eaten nearly every leaf on the cantaloupe plants and finds the bean plants enticing as well. If I only ate kibble, I'd probably do it to.
26. One of my best friends has been living in Hawaii for the last year or so and now she has to move. You feel bad for her, right? Except she's moving to Australia. So she's getting more beach and accents all the time. #getitgirl
27. I lost my clamshell phone that I've been  using since 2008ish. It's sad times around here.
28. When you get to put your family together with your friends, it's kind of amazing.
29. When the salon offers free services if you're willing to be a model for their employees in training- accept with caution.
30. Songs that get stuck in your head that you physically can't sing along to are unfair. Case in point. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Jelly Beans

Maybe I'm late to the party.

This video went viral awhile ago, so you may have already seen this. I watched it and loved it. Not because it gives jelly beans a starring role, and not because I suspect they are Starburst jelly beans, the best ones ever, but because it is a succinct, sweet way of asking a simple question:

How do you want to spend your time?

With a little bit of math and some fun artistry, they show us that, of all thousands and thousands of minutes and hours you have in this undefined lifetime of yours, you'll spend a lot of them on things you may not even think to count. Like grooming yourself. Or sleeping. Or working (Ok, we've probably all thought at least a little bit about how much of our lives we spend working.) Point is, when we say we have years and years ahead of us, a lot of that time is already accounted for. Take away the time you spend driving places, paying taxes, visiting doctors, and cleaning your kitchen, and there are far fewer days ahead of you.

So how do you want to spend them?

How are you spending them? What did you do last week?

Did you watch some good trash TV? Laugh at some good memes on Twitter? Pin some pictures of really sinful chocolate recipes? Sit through a deeply unproductive meeting becuase, well, we have these meetings every week?

I don't know how many days and hours I have left. No one does really. But I do know how I want to spend my time.

I want to read. I love books that take me into someone else's world for a little while. I love magazines that give me new ideas and studies to consider. I love the peace and quiet of a book, some cozy blankets, and a dog or two warm against my legs.

I want to spend time with people who light me up. Some of those people are just good people that give you the warm fuzzies when you're around them. Their genuine good mojo shines through every conversation. Some of those people offer me insight and perspective I'd never considered. They force me to think differently, expose me to new experiences, and introduce me to things and places I likely would never have found on my own.

I want to move. I want to run and hike and do yoga. Stretching, climbing, sweating- I want to do things that remind me I'm alive, maybe earn me a few more days of reading, and help me justify my sugar addiction.

I want to be inspired. Some weeks it's the homily from a really great priest. Some weeks it's accomplishing a task at work in a different way that helps me realize I'm learning new things all the time. Some weeks it's a great story on the news or a simple act of kindness from the people in my community that get me excited to be better than I was yesterday.

There are a lot of other things I want to do with my time. Travel. Be with family and friends. Sniff Christmas trees. Eat pizza. Lie in hammocks. Swim. Make a difference. Be the change I want to see in my world. Help other people- even just a few- realize how small the world can be and the power of a community.

It's not like I can suddenly stop going to all non-productive meetings or give up on laundry. I enjoy a paycheck and personal hygiene. But I can be more mindful about where and how I'm spending my time. I get far more satisfaction from 30 minutes of a novel than 30 minutes of blog browsing. Investing 20 minutes in straightening the living room brings a sense of order to my day that I can't find on Instagram or in the athletic apparel section of Target.

Around the end of last year, I was thinking about the year that was coming to a close, and I was reminded of this gem that I will forever associate with my senior year of high school and blasting this soundtrack while driving on the drive to school. This was when Rent was a hot show on Broadway and CD players were not standard equipment in every car. (Please tell me you've experienced this soundtrack, or at least this song.)

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure, measure a year?

How do you a measure a year?
How do you want to spend your time?

I hope I have lots and lots of jelly beans left. I hope I have the presence of mind and the strength of character to spend them doing what matters most to me. 

I hope you enjoy all your jelly beans with all your heart.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The B List

We're not talking second-rate celebrities here. We're talking about how many things I really like that start with the letter B. (Have we established that I went to school to be an elementary school teacher?)

Bryan Williams. I can't put my finger on it, but I genuinely get a little excited the nights that I'm home for the 6:30 evening news with Bryan Williams. (see also, Brokaw, Tom)

Brokaw, Tom. It's a news anchor thing. I feel like I can trust them. They get dressed up for work (at least their top halfs anyway) and they're classy. Tom also writes books, and I like them.

Brownies. Duh. Also, brownie batter. #lickthebowl

Barre classes. I don't attend these classes regularly (see bargains) but I love the way they make my muscles quiver and give me a nice hour to pretend I actually took ballet lessons as a child and could be a willowy graceful dancer had I been properly trained. Ha.

Blankets. Down comforters are in first place, furry/fleecy in second, then quilts, electric blankets, knit blankets, wool blankets, and afghans.

Bargains. Love them. Not enough to get into the whole couponing thing (our pantry is exactly one section of shelves (two doors) in our kitchen. I hear amazing stories of people getting $200 worth of groceries for $7, then I realize they have 20 cases of diapers and 73 cans of baked beans and I'm like, nah. I do have a really huge bag of quinoa from Costco though.

Biscuits. Fluffy, hot, waiting for butter. Mmm. Bonus for sweet potato biscuits.

Bruno Mars. Those were some sweet moves last night. I like his band and their whole vibe.

Babies. Specifically, borrowed babies. I love their chubby cheeks and thigh rolls and giggles and I love giving them to their mothers and going home for an uninterrupted night's sleep.

Baby dogs. (We get ours on Saturday!)

Best friends. I get to see three of mine in less than 2 weeks and I am excited. Rom coms, shopping advice, makeup help, honest feedback, non-dude conversations. So so excited.

Blogs. It took me a long time because they have this attitude of self-importance. My life is worth documenting every single day. People want to hear what I have to say. This blog is an excuse to take a picture of every meal, outfit, and Starbucks purchase. But then I found some really good ones that have great recipes, interesting conversations, and genuinely funny people. They are just the right length for reading. I love magazines because they're quick, digestable, lightweight, and have lots of cool pictures I can cut out for inspiration boards. But then life got busy somehow and I currently have 2 unread issues of Runner's World, 2 unread O's, and a half-consumed Food Network magazine. I can read a blog post while I eat my lunch without being all obvious and flipping pages.

Books. I'll always love them, even if I am currently averaging about 2 books per year. (So. So. Sad.) Assuming I can still see when I retire (because it's certainly going to be many many decades before that happens), I will read books every day. It will be glorious.

A few more that need no explanation:

Buster. Beans. Bread. Brick houses. Breakfast. Burritos. Backyards. Beaches. Boy Meets World.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lessons Learned From The Stomach Virus

1. Two bedrooms and two bathrooms is INVALUABLE. I don't care how long we've been together, that was one experience Seth and I were happy to live through on separate levels of the house.

2. Dogs are wonderful nurses. Buster dutifully rotated watch every few hours, splitting his time equally between the two of us. I love him.

3. Gatorade is my best friend.

4. White bread and applesauce are highly underrated. I don't care what their nutritional value is, they are delicious little gems and I love them.

5. Bed rest is probably one of the worst experiences in life. Thank goodness for the ability to work from home. Pretty sure in 24 hours we made it through 4 movies. Maybe it was 5.

6. Even if you wait the requisite 36-48 (I made that up) hours to return to work, people will blame you for their illnesses for the next 10 days. It doesn't really matter if their symptoms match yours, just that fact that you were infected with something incriminates you.

7. Losing everything (in terms of bodily fluids) will make you question how you ever enjoyed anything. A week later, I'm still leery of dairy, dairy substitutes, and pretty much any food that isn't soup. (Starbucks is a little sad, and wondering where on earth I am, given the polar vortex of doom that is plaguing my lifemost of the country.)

8. Boys are wimps. If I hadn't been incapacitated, I may have taken more offense to the fact that a certain someone insisted on calling his mother multiple times, to ensure my diagnosis and directions were accurate.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why am I doing this?

Why another marathon? Why another 16 weeks of 5am wake-ups, freezing cold runs, and skin that has been rubbed off from miles of resistance?
Because I can.

More than that, because I have the opportunity to raise support and awareness for a great group. As I work my way into adulthood, I have far less money than I would like to donate to the wonderful organizations that rely on the generosity of many. But I have found that when you give someone the option of running 26 ish miles or donating $50, that $50 looks pretty appealing. (Hint, this is where you come in.)

This year, I'm raising money for Gilda’s Club of Nashville. Gilda's is more than just a physical place where people meet and connect, it’s a community. Their mission, "to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community." says it all. I am firm, deep believer in the power of community. We see it around us every day- people reaching out to offer support to the people around them when they need it. Dinner for the family with a new baby, watching the neighbor's children when school is close again, someone there to lend a sympathetic ear when you're just stretched to your limits. An online community for people to share the miles they've run for those who no longer can. Communities give us strength, confidence, and the resources we need every day, and that is why I am wholeheartedly happy to support the community  has created.

It's hard to think of a single person who hasn't been touched by cancer. There's no need to count the number of friends and family who have seen loved ones through chemo, radiation, surgeries, recoveries. Knowing how many names we can name that we have lost to cancer only affirms how large this community of people is, and how valuable places like Gilda's Club are.

From now until race day, I will be collecting donations for Gilda's Club. They offer their services at no cost, and it takes the generosity and help of people like you to help them offer these wonderful programs. Whether it's $5, $50, or some other number with a 5 in it, please consider giving.

Personally, I like options, so options I will offer. Please choose the level of sponsorship that most closely aligns with your ability to give:

Platinum- In it to win it: Platinum level sponsors will accompany me to Nashville and complete the marathon with me! Platinum status requires no direct donation to my campaign, comes with free room and board in Nashville, and requires sponsor to cover all race entries and travel fees associated with the race. No one has ever run a race with me before. It's a pacing thing- or it could be that I choose races a little far from all my training friends- but it would be so great to have someone I know run this with me. The accomodations (aka my parents' house) do include two coffee machines and chocolates on your pillow. So there's that to consider.

Gold- Money where my mouth is: Sponsors at this level say they want to help, and they do. By donating money. A little money or a little more money. It's all money and it all goes to good use. For every gold-level sponsor, I will make an additional donation to Gilda's Club. Donations can easily be made via my online donation site, or in person. 100% of your donation goes to programs at Gilda's.

Silver- Paying it forward: Maybe you are still dealing with Christmas credit card repercussions. Maybe Girl Scout cookie season left you tapped out. If you can't make a monetary donation and are unable to join me in Nashville, you can make a donation by helping someone out. It doesn't have to be someone impacted by cancer, but it very well could be. Whether it's a meal, a movie, a walk, babysitting, yardwork, or a weekly phone call to let someone know you care about their life, reach out. Bring a little piece of Gilda spirit to your corner of the world, and make sure the people around you feel supported. Support the people you love by making sure you are healthy. Exercise. Drink a lot of water. Cut back on the bacon. You can also share my site on Facebook, Twitter, or your weekly work newsletter (kidding. kind of.) to give other people the opportunity to support a great group: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/LeighDorris/gildas-gang-2014

Bronze- Feeding Frenzy: Donations of Swedish Fish, brownies, and Lindt Sea Salt dark chocolate bars are always accepted as training fuel for this run. Please contact me for direct mailing information.

I hope you'll consider donating, I hope you'll share your Silver Sponsor moments here. More than anything, I hope you invest time, energy, in love in building the communities that mean the most to you.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thank You Interwebs

After the lovely break of holidays where I read books and magazines (plural!) I’m back in the loop, ready to share my announcements. Thanks to the beauty of the world wide wonder, I can tell you all at the same time without killing any trees. Winning.

We’re getting a puppy. There really is no rational reason for bringing an 8 week old needy being that requires time, attention, and patience into our wacky little world. We have the world’s most perfect dog, we have a routine (sort of) down, and we are busy. (Seriously, our next door neighbor saw us the other day and said she was afraid we had moved out because she hadn’t seen us in so long. #neverhome #savesonheating)
Basically, what it boils down to is Seth wants Buster to train our next dog to be as perfect as he is. We bring our little lady home mid-February. I have a list of about 20 names for our new girl. I can’t be stopped and I can’t make a decision. I will show you pictures and you will love her too. Here’s hoping that Buster will remember how much he liked having a sister quickly.

I am not exotic. Of my four best college girlfriends, one has been living in Hawaii for the last year, on her way to Australia. One is Oregon, packing her things to move to England for a few years. One moved to New Jersey. The other one is getting crazy with Northern Virginia traffic, so I guess she’s about as exotic as I am, but slightly more daring. It’s not like I expected us all to stay in Virginia after college, within comfortable driving distance of each other forever (would have been nice.) but I can’t say I was quite prepared for all these passport-required locales. My main goal for them is to have babies ASAP so their children will grow up with charming accents. Because really, what is cuter than a child with a British accent? (Maybe my puppy.)

I registered to run another marathon. The Country Music Marathon in Nashville on April 26th, to be exact. The same one I ran last year. It was two nights before Christmas, we were at a party, I was catching up with one of my mom’s best girlfriends about an organization she works with that will be fundraising through the marathon and half marathon and how they need people, and it just sort of rolled out of my mouth. “I’ll do it.” I said I’d do it. I didn’t commit to the half or the full, just said I’d do it. Over the next few days, I thought about what I’d done. Did I want to do this again? Was I really up for the training, the time, THE COLD, and the laundry that accompany trainign for a spring marathon? And then it was a couple of days before the end of the year when registration costs would increase, so I did it. Whipped out my tired, battle-weary credit card, entered my birthdate, and registered. I can’t wait to tell you more about it, but I am officially back in training. (Read: eating all the time.)

I have roughly 5 posts 1/2 written that I haven’t put up. Now I just need to figure out how long past New Year’s it’s acceptable to talk about Christmas…

Stay tuned.

Monday, January 20, 2014

RVA Love

Whether you park your car in Hanover, Henrico, Chesterfield, or even Goochland, you probably claim Richmond as your home.You may even have an RVA sticker on your car. We all enjoy the laid back summer evenings at Friday Cheers on Brown's Island, we all take visitors to Carytown for tasty food and unique shopping, we all delight in the stately homes of Monument Avenue and the mix of tasteful and tacky lights they wear during the holidays. 

What we don't all enjoy or share equal interest in are the needs for improvements within the city limits. The LovingRVA proposal and other discussions around the location of a ball field engage city residents with little effort because there are immediate concerns of taxes, parking, and changes to their neighborhoods. Those of us living in the counties sometimes add our two cents to the discussion, but feel little pressure to engage because, hey, it's not our decision. I don't live within the city limits (anymore) but I do spend a great deal of my time in Richmond. I love the city, I love the people I've met and the places I've discovered, and I love the opportunities I've been afforded in my time here. I feel responsible. 

There is a great deal of controversy around the proposal to put a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom. Costs, historical significance, and the location itself (hello floodplain) are top of everyone's mind. This is a given- you'll always have both sides of the fence with such a complex, transformational, massive undertaking. What distresses me is the amount of apathy and sheer disinterest that also surrounds the plan. Nine and a half times out of ten, when I ask someone what they think about the idea, their response is "Yeah, aren't they talking about moving the ball park to Shockoe Bottom?" or "I hadn't really heard anything about it." People aren't taking the time to learn about the proposal or the alternatives. They don't know what it would cost to build downtown, what it would cost to stay on the Boulevard, who is or isn't committed to coming to Richmond with the plan, or what the implications are either way. They haven't driven by the proposed site for the ballpark (currently a parking lot in disrepair), tried to visit the Lumpkins' jail site (primarily underground, to protect it from flooding). These are people who have families, who go to Flying Squirrels' games, who have eaten at Havana 59 and Juleps.

I feel responsible when I walk through the fan and know that I'll probably never live there with children because too many of the city schools are struggling, and I can't afford private school tuition. I feel a little guilty when developers point out that there is no place in the city of Richmond, north of the river, to purchase a TV. When I spend large chunks of change (rare though it may be), that tax revenue is going to the counties. We fret over crime in Shockoe Bottom and sidewalks in disrepair, yet we leave them no fighting chance (and no budget) because we spend our money outside the city limits. We don our black and gold every March to show our VCU pride, but we forget that no property tax is being collected on that those 88 acres of city land.

I love the city. I want to see the river become a destination for more people and businesses. I want to see small businesses thriving, I want to feel like I am supporting the infrastructure I use every week with my tax dollars.

A great many people have put a great deal of time, energy, and passion into this plan. They no doubt have different sources of motivation and reasons for wanting to see this through. Whatever those reasons, they have made a significant effort on behalf of and benefiting the city of Richmond, and I want to encourage people to make an effort of their own. 
Learn about the plan. Ask questions. Share your opinion. Encourage others to educate themselves.

Politics and government are not words that have ever given me warm fuzzies or want to take time away from things I enjoy. I have been disgusted by shut downs, maneuvers, smear campaigns, and scandals. I struggle to conceive how anything ever gets done with so many hidden agendas and egos in the mix. 

To me, this isn't politics and we aren't the government. We're people. Citizens. Heck yes, I have an agenda: 
I want my city to be better. 
I don't want to have to explain to people why Richmond, Virginia is an amazing place to live- I want them to know it, the way people know Austin, Denver, and Nashville. 
I want people to be able to appreciate the impressive aspects of our history, along with the sobering and the tragic. 
I want people to understand how we arrived at where we are, how much has changed, and feel inspired to support positive changes for the future. 
I want a place in Shockoe Bottom that is like the downtown mall in Charlottesville- a town square where you can sit outside and drink coffee for hours, window shop, hear music, run, walk your dog, see and be seen. 
I want Shockoe Bottom to be a source of pride, not one of shame we simply rush by on 95.
I want to have excuses to go inside that beautiful old train station. 
I want my brothers and my favorite people to have to come up with reasons NOT to move to Richmond.

There are a lot of things I want, but this is long enough already. I hope you'll take the time to learn about the plans. If you like them, do something about it. If you don't like them, do something about it. It's not just about your commute to work, where I want to send my future children to school, or the threat of big box stores on Boulevard; It's about the space we inhabit and the communities we create.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

Of Absolutely No Consequence

Just some things that have been floating around in my head. I find that once I write them down, they stop pestering me.

I may have an affinity for stripes. The other day I counted 8 striped tops hanging in my closets. It's not that I discriminate, I'm all for polka dots too, I just seem to find more stripes these days. Which means this song, a current favorite of my Nashville-based mother, means nothing to me. 

Cold weather hurts my soul. I genuinely don't comprehend how people function in places like Chicago (A high of -8 today. High. Negative.) If I were an employer, I would never base my company in the mid-west/Northeast/Canada. I mean, I can hardly expect my employees to show up and function when I have to pep talk myself into leaving the house with cups of hot tea and layers of fleece. I would appreciate one pretty snow to justify this hideously uncomfortable weather, and then spring is welcome to present itself. 

Know what's great? Reading. Reading actual books and full magazines instead of just blog posts and status updates. I went into vacation with a stack of 5 unread magazines (those holiday gift guides were super handy after the fact. Not.) I have read 2 full novels. I got all fired up about this re-discovered activity and ordered 2 new books from Amazon last night. One was delivered instantaneously to my Kindle. (Well, not exactly instantaneously. I hadn't turned the thing on in 18 months, but once I found it, found the charger, and charged it for a solid hour, it was right there in my hands. Talk about instant gratification.)

Quick tangent- in theory, I don't love the whole e-reader thing. I love books and libraries and seeing how many pages you have left to go. I get frustrated with no page numbers and letting your thumb rest for too long and suddenly being 87 pages ahead with no discernible trace of your place in the book. However, living with someone who likes to collect furniture volumes (I do mean volumes. These things are HUGE and weigh A LOT. And there are a lot of them.) I have come to appreciate the convenience of storing all my stories in one compact location that does not require dusting or stacking every time we re-arrange the house. (Approximately every 6 weeks.)

Buster just warms my heart. If I go to make up the bed, he comes into the bedroom. Go upstairs to do laundry, he accompanies me. His position of choice involves his body touching my legs, preferably with his face tucked away under my legs. He's a cuddler and I love it. You simply cannot look at a face that small, with eyes that dark and not feel a puddle of love sloshing around in your stomach.

They made Swedish Fish candy canes this year. I wasn't aware until I found a box in the 70% off section at Target the other day. They were phenomenal and solid red (looks great on a tree). Had I been informed earlier in the season, I would have bought enough boxes to decorate my tree and ensure the manufacturers saw enough demand to repeat them next year (which is actually this year). Also good news, I'm not scheduled to visit the dentist until March so hopefully I can eat enough apples and vegetables by then that all traces of candy cane will be out of my teeth by then.

If you're in the soup delivery business, let me know. I'll be huddling by the fire with my fur blanket and hot tea. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

I hope you make mistakes

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.  Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.  So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.  Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”  ― Neil Gaiman

Shamelessly poached that from another blog I read today. I love it. Just paying it forward.

Speaking of mistakes, I was fairly confident I'd made the first one of 2014 as I was getting dressed. I had the option of working from home- an option which allows me to stay in fuzzy socks/flannel pants/fluffy robe until I feel sufficiently warm and brave enough to put on real clothes. (Typically around 1:30 pm when I worry the mailman may knock on the door with something that didn't fit in the mailbox.)

Trading my warm cocoon of cotton comfort for far less snugly work clothes (Ok, I'm wearing jeans.) felt like a big fat mistake. I decided yesterday that I would go into the office today because 3 days at home by myself was too much. With all signs of Christmas disassembled, packed away, and wrestled into their crawl space caves, the entire mountain of laundry cleaned and put away (Well, my clothes are put away. Seth's socks are a mountain on the table because I draw the line at sorting socks. Mind. Numbing. And you always end up with an odd number, so never really feel like you've 100% finished the task at hand.), and all artwork hung on the walls (read: no longer leaning against the wall!!), I was facing the reality that one more day at home would likely find me in sweatpants for the 4th day in a row and would leave me with zero excuses not to get into the bathroom and scrub the shower. 

(It's not that we have a filthy shower -just your standard 3-weeks-of-soap-scum buildup- but I have a bit of a mental block around cleaning bathrooms. I attribute it to the fact that when I was working as a housekeeper, I was the 'dry girl', and had my trusty rock star partner in crime KT as 'wet girl'. I vacuumed, made beds, emptied trash, dusted, she put gloves on and went to work with toilets and showers. 

Bathroom scrubbing avoidance is a powerful motivator. I'm not saying I think I will ever warm up today or that I won't go directly home and into flannel/sweatpants/heavy blanket mode, but I am saying that I'm kind of hoping my first mistake of the new year can be a little more significant.