March 8, 2018

Racing Halves

Before my last half marathon, I sat on a towel behind my car and stretched. The morning wasn't exceptionally cold, the garage was covered (the second level of a downtown Austin bank affair), and it was early enough not to be too busy (i.e. I wasn't in danger of being run over). I'd rarely, if ever, stretched before a run or a race, but I'd also rarely, if ever, been a month away from my forty-ninth birthday. And I'd learned in the course of my training that my legs responded better on longer runs if they'd been stretched. Easy math.

I was nervous that morning, perhaps somewhat irrationally so. It wasn't about racing. Or the distance. In my twenties, when they said I should win, should set a PR, my nerves were exclusively attached to the race and my ability to perform at a high enough level. I knew I wasn't racing for anything other than myself that morning. I set a goal of sub-1:50, entirely too conservative and pedestrian for me, but such a goal should have prevented pre-race jitters. And it did. I wasn't worried about my finish time; even if I totally blew up, I'd be able to run at least a 1:50. I'd trained enough - Ok, I didn't run enough but I'd done enough long runs - to know how fast I could cover the distance. The majority of my training runs had been good, maybe even better than good, so I knew what I was capable of. Finishing definitely wasn't a worry and, because I'd set a ridiculously slow goal, neither was the clock. 

I stretched that morning partly to get my legs ready for what was assuredly coming, but - as much as I don't want to say it - I think I also did it to stretch my mind. To relax. And to psyche up. As I ran through my flexibility routine, I listened to contemporary classical music - a few from my favorite composer, Ludovico Einaudi. Once I was suitably relaxed, I switched it up; I needed ferocity. I turned to the "GI Jane" soundtrack, then I to a trailer for the new Lara Croft movie. 

"It will be an adventure," Lara says.
"Death is not an adventure," replies her trusty side-kick (all action heroes have one). 

Just a couple seconds of a couple minute long trailer, but damned if I didn't come back to those two lines a couple times during the race. And, if I'm honest, more than a couple times since. 

What was I so nervous about that morning? What was I afraid of? Variables. 13.1 miles is a long way and a lot can happen. Weather - too hot, too cold, humidity, rain, sun, sleet.  The body - muscle fatigue and cramping, digestive disturbances, needing a porta-john, frozen hands/feet. Equipment - shoes, laces, socks, appropriate clothing for the weather. Injury - a twisted ankle, losing footing and falling. Obviously some are reasonably controllable. If you do what you've always done, you'll get fairly consistent results. Like, I can wear socks I know I like, shoes too. I can eat what I always eat the night before and the morning of. I can dress in a way that I think will accommodate the weather, but, man, 13.1 miles is a long way to be over-dressed. Or under-dressed. I'd done everything as "right" as I could, but let me assure you, on race day - when the race is a half marathon - nothing is a given. Nothing.

I felt ok for the first few miles, but just ok. There was a log-jam at the starting line - too many slow amateurs who didn't quite understand that they should have started closer to the back of the pack - so my first mile was slow as I picked my way through the crowd. The Austin Marathon Half Marathon starts off going (literally) up South Congress, which slowed me down as well. I turned the corner onto South First and once I got on the downhill, I breathed a sigh of relief - my legs felt good and I was ready to execute my race plan. Though common knowledge says to hold back on the big downhill stretch - so as not to shred the quads - I'm a downhill runner; it's my strength. I pushed the pace (within reasonable limits) and came through the 10k mark at near record pace. I still had the flats along Lake Austin Boulevard to go before I hit Enfield. The Enfield section of the race is a potential shredder for me - Unlike the steady incline on SoCo, the Enfield hills undulate with steep uphill sections followed by not-as-steep-as-you'd-expect downhills. In 2017, I was taken completely by surprise, novice error completely, but this year I was better prepared. I knew my pace would slow but I'd banked some time on the SoFi section, all part of my race plan. I'd done a lot of Spinning to increase my leg strength and it paid off. In the toughest section of the race, I managed to keep my pace, my legs, and my nerve steady. I wasn't entirely undaunted - I still ran perhaps too conservatively - but I was no longer as scared as I'd been.

Somewhere on Enfield, something happened. Usually in the mid-to-late stages of a race, I regret ever learning to walk much less signing up for a half marathon (What in the fuck was I thinking? I paid to suffer like this?!?). However, on the morning of Sunday, February 18th, as I told myself to just keep peeling off the miles, I had an epiphany. Even with the misery and doubt that invariably plagued me through much of the race (Can I hold this pace? Will I blow up on Enfield? Am I going too fast? What if I can't stop my quad/hamstring/gastroc from cramping?), the race had become an adventure. And, dammit, it was fun.

I guess that's the mystique of the half marathon that shorter races just don't have. It's the adventure, the unknown. It's crawling out toward the tip of the sword. It's the risk, the balancing act. It's the maybes, could bes, probably wont's, and just mights. It's the possibility of death, figuratively speaking, of course. Without that, there's no challenge; there's no adventure. Where's the fun if you're not dangling over the least a little?

I came away from that morning with a nearly three minute course PR (good for sixth in my age group) and an absolutely excellent realization. I love racing half marathons. So much so that I have an entirely new goal (I'm sure I need one of those about as much as I need a hole in my head) - I want to race internationally, as soon as this October. I'd thought about doing the Amsterdam Marathon (race day is just a couple days shy of the twenty-fifth anniversary of my marathon victory in Wichita), but now... I really think the half is my calling, my distance.

I know someone out there is going to ask why I don't just do the marathon. Wouldn't the challenge and the risk of figurative death be that much greater? Is that what I'm in the race for? Here's the thing about the marathon - you have to train. A lot. Like a lot a lot. You have to be willing to give up time, other hobbies, and maybe even suck a couple years off your running career, if not your life. You have put in zillions of miles. And I don't really like running all that much. Especially not in the summer. In Austin. To commit to Amsterdam would mean a bunch of long runs - really freaking long runs - in hot - really freaking hot - weather. Plus I like to write, play tennis, binge watch Netflix series - i.e. have some semblance of a life that doesn't involve running. Additionally, if I'm going to afford a trip to Europe in October, just five months from now, I'm going to need a part-time job.

Besides, there's something about racing half marathons that lights my soul. And - get this - I could feasibly do two halves while I'm over there. The Reykjavik Autumn Half is the Sunday after Amsterdam. I'd have to fly past on the way home, why not stop over for an Icelandic half marathon adventure?

Truly, next fall could be begininng of something really cool. And it all started with an epiphany in on Enfield, the worst section of the Austin Marathon Half Marathon, on a misty February morning. I love racing halves. Who would have guessed?

** By the way, the stretching really works. I'll never run long without it again.**

March 2, 2018

Going Home

McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, NV
Terminal 3
Gate D-17
Saturday, February 24, 2018

I go many places but in reality there is only one place want to go. I look at pictures constantly - they fill my Instagram feed - and, though I am not prone to envy, I am envious. Of the photographer because he or she was there (behind the camera but there nonetheless). Of every pedestrian, every person, photographed because (whether they like it or not) they were there. In the place I long to be.

Next month, a month from today in fact, I'll hop a plane for London then another to Copenhagen. Two weeks of running, walking, and writing my way around Scandinavia. It'll be my second visit to Copenhagen and Gothenburg, but my first in both Oslo and Bergen. My travel bucket list grows longer daily - Croatia, the Netherlands, Malta, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Romania, Poland... I can go on and on. I picked up a Conde Nast Traveler magazine at the airport in Austin, the Italy issue apparently, flipped a couple pages, and actually thought "Italy...? Yes, definitely." I never had a glimmer of interest in Italy. Until that moment. You might be a travel junkie if...

Why do I travel to other places? Why not just to my city, my soul mate? Simple. Because it's who I am, the travel. It also helps me answer the question posed by skeptical others, the question only I seem to know the answer to. If I've only been there, how can I be so sure? So I try other places. I keep an open-mind. It's good to see, good to learn, good to know. Not because maybe there's someplace better. Nope. Because travel is fun and I'm curious. I want to see the world and understand it better.

One day, though, I will wait for a plane, much like I am now, but instead of being bound for Austin, I will be going home. To the only place (in my adulthood) where even a window-less hotel room has felt more like home that any house or apartment in any city or town ever has. And when I get there, I'll stay and live - be a lucky pedestrian in some random photograph. Until I travel again. Because wherever home is, there I shall be. And I love to travel, be out in the world, run, see things from my Instagram feed in person.

Then one lucky day, my home base will change, shift a couple time zones east, and a few latitude lines North and I will finally be able to say - when asked where I'm going in some random airport in some random place in the world - that I am going home. To Stockholm.

February 27, 2018

Adding Pins

Until I started coming to Las Vegas a couple months back, I'd only ever been there twice in forty-eight years. One of those times was for a college tennis tournament (Only memories? Getting booted out of the Circus Circus casino for being underage, the seniors buying our lesbian coach and her girlfriend blow jobs - the shot - and snow in February). The other was when I was maybe ten and I got to skip school and drive over with my dad (Only memory? Getting to ride in my dad's work van). I've now been so many times that the cattle call Zone 3 loading process at Frontier Airlines ceases to bother or amaze me. No, I don't have a gambling addiction, nor am I dating a stripper. I still have to explain that before each and every trip when someone invariably exclaims, "Wow! Don't get into too much trouble!". Whoa there. I go for family and hang out exclusively on the residential side of town (Yes, there is one). If pressed, I might play a couple hands of video poker. Might. I'm there for quick mid-week weekends - fly in, stay a day, fly back - not for sightseeing. The trips are short and more arduous that you might imagine, but well worth the time, cost, and effort.

Since October 2017, I've traveled so much (more than normal) that when I say I have a plane to catch people actually ask where I'm going now (Put a slightly incredulous but also slightly bored emphasis on the "now" and you've got the gist). In truth, I've only been to Minnesota, Las Vegas x a bunch, and Stockholm. With the exception of Stockholm (where I volunteered at a pro tennis tournament for a week), my recent travels have all been family related - my mom and sister are in Minnesota and my dad and other sister are in Vegas. Next month, though, I head once again to Scandinavia. I'll be there two weeks, but I promise it won't be long enough.

Here's the thing - I really think I could travel full-time. My first trip to Europe last spring lit a (not exactly unexpected) fire within me. I came home counting the days until I could leave again. Within a month, I had a flight and hotel in Stockholm booked; a month after that I had planned and made reservations for this spring; and I'm already plotting and researching options for next fall (Hello, Amsterdam and maybe Reykjavik) and next March for my fiftieth birthday (Croatia leads the early voting, but there's a half marathon in Warsaw that seems enticing). Doubt me? Just look at the map of Europe that hangs in the hallway outside my bedroom. The pins? Yep, those are the places I've been so far. All the blue circles (some of which overlap)? Those are all the places I want to go - all the places I want to run (and/or maybe hit a few tennis balls).

I have a vision of my life. And, yeah, even though I'm on the express train to fifty and probably should be planning and saving for retirement (My mom worries), I see so much ahead. Before it's all said and done, the pins on my map will outnumber the blue circles. I will have travelled and run and written about all of it. If all goes perfectly, I will also be bilingual (at a minimum) and carry dual citizenship.

I'm not sure how it's all going to come together. One day at a time, one trip at a time. I read recently that it's better to focus on today rather than on some date in the future. I guess the theory is that if I make a bunch of todays happen the right way, I'll end up where I want to be five years from now. For example, in high school, I focused on my grades and tennis game for four years which got me into a good college with a decent tennis program. Now, I have to focus on writing, publishing, and running (coming out of my introvert shell on occasion probably wouldn't hurt) so that one day I can live, write, travel, and run all over the world.

But first, I probably need another part time job. Travel ain't cheap and this writing and running thing, while fun, doesn't pay nearly enough. Yet.

Interested in sponsoring a middle-aged writing runner (or running writer) as she attempts to circumnavigate the globe? Email Serious inquiries only. 

January 28, 2018

All Show, No Go

This week, a friend told me that I should try-out for "American Ninja Warrior". In her words, "it's almost all arm work and we know you've got some guns." I'm not exactly sure what American Ninja Warrior is - I don't watch much TV and what I do watch isn't reality-based (unless you include "Law & Order, SVU") - but I'm imagining something close to American Gladiators, circa the 1980s, except maybe (hopefully) without the cheesy costumes. In reality, it doesn't matter what it is. I am more than likely the weakest strong-looking person on the face of the planet. In other words, these guns? They're all show.

First of all, it'll help if you stop imagining The Rock's biceps on my body. Arguably, my friend isn't wrong. I've got "guns". Not bazookas or AKs. Let's be real. Mine are more like a couple ladies' model Saturday night specials. Petite, well proportioned, and easily stashed away in a small purse. Mine just also happen to be unloaded with rusted action. Museum pieces. 

That's not to say that my arms don't look good. Some say they are a little much for a woman, i.e. not feminine. Whatev. They're toned and well defined (What if they were even more muscular than that? Maybe it's time we redefined "feminine" but that's just me...). How did I get them? I dunno. Many years ago, after seeing "Terminator 2" I wished a wish. I wanted Linda Hamilton's arms. I didn't get them, but I got close. Sort of. I mean they kind of come and go depending on what I'm doing with them. I've worked hard for years - lifted weights, pushed up, pulled up, survived The Break Up Diet several times, stocked freight, played decades of tennis. Once up on a time, I was known as "the girl with the arms", now years later, I'm still pretty proud of them. 

Admittedly, it would be nice if they worked a little better. Ok, a lot better. The entire right side of my upper body is nearly useless (my left side is woefully uncoordinated so it doesn't count). I have a partially torn something in my right elbow which means I'm in a never-ending simultaneous battle with both golfer's and tennis elbow. Meanwhile, my right shoulder is completely fucked. There are days I can't raise my hand above my head and/or draw my arm back to hit a forehand. Yes, I've been to the ortho doc and had hours of PT. No, I'm not going to spend my life savings just so I don't have to wear two braces on my elbow when I play tennis. At this point, the silly string and rusty paper clips seem to be holding (knock on wood...) and my arms look good so I'm content enough.

Of course (because I'm a complete idiot), I signed up do a Tough Mudder (think an amateur version of American Ninja Warrior...with mud) in May. I've never done one and people like me (i.e. competitive fitness asshats) need to do at least one. Yes, I said need. I have zero desire to roll around in the mud, run through live electrical wires, and dive into a pool of icy water, but there are just some things you have to have on your fitness resume for it to be considered complete. I'll probably tear my ACL after dropping a dozen feet from monkey bars into a vat of mud when the tendons in my elbow finally shred themselves. Pretty sure I should have told my teammates that I'm way more show than go. Meh. At least I'll look good at the starting line.

So, yeah... Sorry, Tonya, I'm never going to be an American Ninja Warrior. Hell, I may not even survive the Tough Mudder or my next tennis league.  I should probably stick with running. My legs may not be much to look at but they are all go. At least for now. Knock on wood. 

January 25, 2018

Borrowed Time

Writing involves a lot of start and stop. I know you probably think that's just you, but I'm pretty sure it happens to every writer. You get out of the gate and you're cruising. Nothing can stop you. Until it does. Then you sit and stare at the page, check your social media accounts, shoot a couple baskets on your Nerf basketball hoop, and maybe doodle a little. A glimmer of an idea comes. Then as soon as you start typing, it vanishes.

It was like that for me two weeks ago. I sat down with a great idea. Personal, sentimental, close to home, and timely. I got three paragraphs in (the first three paragraphs below) and then everything dried up. All the eloquence that existed in my head didn't translate to the page. After a few frustrating moments, I shut down the computer and went on with my day. I figured one of two things would happen, (a) I'd never come back to it. Some ideas are finite; some don't need the light of day; some are just not meant to be. I have probably fifty such drafts in my Blogspot account, or (b) Something else would come, a new, fresh idea, and I'd finish what I started eventually.

Turns out it was Option B. Which came in the form of two trips to the ER in one week, pneumonia, and an as yet un-diagnosed mass on a a ninety year old liver. Life is never static.


This week my older sister lost her step-father (same father, different mother) and another friend lost her father. I feel a time coming when this isn't a rare occasion, when at least daily a text will come in or a post will appear on some social network or another. I'm aging and has happens so are the majority of my friends. We are now in our forties, fifties, and sixties and, if we are lucky, our parents are still alive. But we all have to admit - we have to - that we are living on borrowed time. If we are this age, our parents are in their seventies, eighties, and in some cases, including mine, nineties. What's the average life expectancy in the U.S.? I just Googled so I can tell you. It's seventy-nine. My dad blew by that eleven years ago and my mom did likewise four years  ago. Talk about borrowed time.

After her step-father's death, my sister said that life goes on. It's true. Life goes on and things return to a normal, albeit a newer, different, and maybe not so welcome kind. Maybe that's the tragedy, what makes me saddest. One day it will be like they never existed at all, except for a series of fading memories. Then on another day however many years down the road it will be like we never existed. Because if we are to consider our parents' mortality, we must also consider our own. Time marches on as they say and age comes for all of us. Eventually, perhaps. Some of us may do a better job of holding it off than others or maybe they have been blessed with better genetics, but we, each and every last one of us, will one day face down the inevitable.

For now, though, my friends and I watch and wait. And hope against hope that some day isn't today. I don't know what I will do when that day comes. If I could hold it off forever, I would. But that is a childish and unrealistic impossibility. I suppose I should embrace the time I do have - spend time, talk, get them talking, and write it down (Yes, Mom, at a minimum, I should call more). Let's be honest. We're not talking about decades of my life. We're talking years. Maybe. That's why I'm putting some dreams off and making different plans. For now.


Turns out, someday maybe be a lot closer than I thought when I wrote those words two short weeks ago. My dad is back in a rehab facility growing weaker by the moment. He has pneumonia - nothing to play with at his advanced age - and while bed rest will help him heal, it's also killing him. Look, if you don't use, you lose it, and - let me tell you - at ninety, that process works at light speed. If he does manage to kick the pneumonia, he'll still have a huge uphill battle to regain his strength and mobility. And seriously, at some point he's going to get tired of trying. What then?  It's a rhetorical question because I think we all know exactly what "what then?" is.

And we haven't even discussed the mass they found on his liver. Need I reiterate that he's ninety? There won't be any extreme measures - no major surgeries, no high power treatments of any kind.  That it's still un-diagnosed doesn't really matter in the grander scheme. We're staring down palliative care... at best.

My dad is dying. Slowly maybe, but I can feel "eventually" and "the inevitable" creeping ever closer. Funny, just two paragraphs ago I was concerned about him recovering from pneumonia. Two paragraphs before that, it was someone else's father and I had time to procrastinate and be complacent. Now I feel like I should be on a plane. To Hell with my life here - my job, my bills, my half marathon training. All that will be waiting for me on the other side. As I try to make sense of a new normal.

There comes a point when there's no going back. You can't spend the time you didn't have time to spend when you should have been spending it. You can't say the words, make the memories. The opportunity has passed. They have passed.

I guess I will end this here and hit "publish". The words are drying up and I'm at a stopping point. I don't want to let this one languish another two weeks because there's no telling what the ending might be at that point. I'd rather close it here, with eventually still eventually, however borrowed the time may seem.

~ If there are typos or other stuff I coulda, woulda, shoulda edited out, I'm sorry. Like I said, I wanted to post it before I had to change it, add to it. Before eventually. ~

January 6, 2018

Pandora's Box

Back in 1990-something, a hot, straight-ish, female co-worker announced one morning that she'd sung "Jesse's Girl" by Rick Springfield at karaoke the night before. She'd been drunk, done it on a dare, blah, blah. My mind reeled and I'm pretty sure I stopped listening. When she left the room, I turned to my (lesbian) co-worker (whose expression probably looked a lot like mine) and said (perhaps inappropriately), "How much would you pay to see that?" We both agreed that we'd pay a lot. Like A LOT a lot. We never offered (for obvious reasons) and she (sadly? thankfully?) never invited us to karaoke. 

That day, in that moment, Pandora's Box opened. It's not quite Bucket List worthy, so call it a life goal. Since then, I've dreamed (on and off - it's not like I've spent years on it) of seeing a beautiful, hot (yes, I'm well aware that I'm shallow), straight-ish (or straight) woman sing "Jesse's Girl" at karaoke or in concert, a Capella even. I seriously don't care where or how, only that she does it and I'm there to see it.

Yes, it's the lesbian undercurrent that entices me. Duh. A woman singing about wanting another woman? Much less a guy's girlfriend? If I had a wheelhouse...

"Jesse is a friend, yeah
I know he's been a good friend of mine
But lately something's changed that ain't hard to define
Jesse's got himself a girl and I want to make her mine..."

Songs sung by women rarely say all that. Further dream/life goal - a woman singing from Eric Church's discography. Let's go with "Wrecking Ball" and "Springsteen". If she could also do Chris Stapleton "Parachute", Brad Paisley "Perfect Storm", Brett Young "In Case You Didn't Know." Really any song sung by a male artist about love (or lust) for a woman.

Aren't there a bunch of lesbian artists that sing about women? Sorta. Melissa Etheridge spent too much of her career appealing to the mainstream to be too blatant about it and the Indigo Girls, Chris Pureka, Melissa Ferrick, and the like are too folksy and, I know I'm walking a fine line and I've (yet again) put my lesbian card in danger of revocation, but I'm looking for a woman with more universal appeal (that probably says more about my "type" than I care to admit). Anywho, I digress. 

So, this morning, I was listening to Pandora as I often do. I have an Air Supply station (well aware - nerd alert) that I've been customizing for a couple years. It's a nice mix that I often use as background music as I write. Don't hate - It meshes well with the lesbian romance drivel that I spend most of my time on. I listen to it so often that it automatically comes on when I open Pandora. Today was no different, even though I was working on a fitness blog and not thinking about lesbian anything (I'm being serious). 

[At this juncture, it might be important to state that I spent Christmas weekend watching "Pitch Perfect" and "Pitch Perfect 2". As a rule, I dislike musicals ("Glee" = nails on a chalkboard), but I (apparently) like Anna Kendrick. More on that in a second...]

Back to this morning... Moments after opening, Pandora, in its infinite wisdom of my musical tastes, played "Jesse's Girl". And suddenly out of (next to) nowhere, I wanted to watch Anna Kendrick sing it. Wha? Anna Kendrick? Yes, Anna Kendrick. I'm certain she could pull it off just about as well as I have always imagined my hot, straight-ish co-worker did all those years ago. She's got universal appeal and she's...well...yeah... I'll just leave it respectfully right there. 

Pandora's Box open, cheesy 80s songs sung by hot, millennial actresses everywhere. 

~ Okok, so it's not all Pandora's fault. My imagination opened the box, as it often does. Don't believe me? Read back through my oeuvre of blogs then check out my fiction, the lesbian romance drivel I mentioned above. ~

December 9, 2017

Retail Years

Me: For the zillionth year in a row, I work every other day the week of Christmas. Two days off together is apparently impossible.

Friend: You are not old enough to have worked a zillion years.

Me: Retail years are like dog years...only quadrupled. 


I'm not a writer. Well, I write and if that was the minimum standard, I'd be a writer. To me, a writer is someone who gets paid to write. In my writing "career", I've been paid a sum total of $150. That's it. An entire decade and that's all I have to show. Thus far. I mean maybe one day I'll sell a book for more than I'll pay to produce it and actually - wait for it - make a profit. In the meantime, I work retail.

I got the job in 2003 and intended to stay six months, maybe less. It was better than selling gym memberships on commission, but just barely. I took one promotion, then another. Before I could blink twice I was a manager. Then I dared to blink again and I wasn't a manager anymore. At the risk of sounding like a website for rescued pitbulls, it was due to no fault of my own. "Right sizing" and budget cuts relegated me back to the hourly rank and file. In 2018, I'll hit the fifteen year mark. If it wasn't for the four weeks vacation I'll start getting, I don't know if I'd stick around.

That's actually a lie. Fifteen years of annual raises, even if the majority barely registered on my pay check, mean I make a decent enough living. Plus my resume is now completely saturated with retail. - i.e. My chances of getting a job NOT in retail are beyond slim. I may have a master's degree and many scintinillatingly good qualities, but no one outside of retail is going to give me a first look much less offer me a job.

So, here I am and here I will stay. In retail. Where I've been snapped at, whistled at, bowed up to, talked down to, and had my earrings called "faggoty" (I replied, "Well, I'm female so..."). I've been asked asked how many feet a 12"x12" ceramic tile covers and been called stupid for refusing to return a product purchased from my competitor.  I've worked every shift imaginable from early mornings to overnights, sometimes all within the same week. I've cl'opened (closed at midnight and opened at 5am) more times that I can count. I've worked anywhere from six to thirteen days straight almost monthly (I'm currently on my second eight day run in three weeks). I've worked nearly every flag holiday, Easter, Black Friday, Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, and New Years Day, plus ninety percent of weekends, for the past fifteen years. Oh, my days off more often than not split.

Truthfully, I'm one of the lucky ones. I was hired before retail wages went in the tank about a decade ago. In fact, my starting wage back in '03 in little tiny Texarkana was more than we hire people at TODAY in Austin where the cost of living rivals parts of California. I put up with a lot but I get paid more than minimum wage. Imagine for a moment all the poor (and I do mean poor) retail workers dealing with the same bullshit I do...and needing a second retail job just to make ends meet.

We should work something besides retail? Like what? Manufacturing? Because factory jobs are so plentiful these days? Reality check - The majority of jobs that don't require technical experience are service oriented, including retail and hospitality. We should go back to school? Get an education? Ok. You still need someone to mix your paint and tell you how to get permanent marker off your engineered wood floor. Someone has to stock the shelves, process your return, load your Christmas tree on top of your car, and explain that "Internet Only" means that we don't sell it in the store.

The crime of it is that I actually enjoy my job. Sure, I don't like the hours or the schedule or douche bag customers, but - honest to goodness - I like helping people. I like doing the unexpected that makes someone's day. I like turning a complete a-hole into someone who smiles and says thank you on his way out the door. I like repeat customers who come back again and again because I've earned their trust.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not going to pass up a book deal. I'd write for a living in a hot second. In the meantime, even though it can absolutely suck and the years pass like dog years on steroids, I'll keep doing what I do. Oh, I'll bitch about it occasionally (like right now), but I'll endure because, as sad as it may seem, I've actually gotten pretty good at this retail/customer service thing. Gotta have something to show for my fifteen years in Retail Hell. I mean more than the four weeks vacation I'll get come March. March 24th to be exact. But who's counting?

Racing Halves

Before my last half marathon, I sat on a towel behind my car and stretched. The morning wasn't exceptionally cold, the garage was covere...