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, well....gay. 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?

December 3, 2017

Stranger Things: Now Serving Tribe Party of One

 My very first first day of school, I went alone. No mom, no dad, just me. At the time, I guess, I didn’t think myself weird or even independent. It’s just what I wanted to do. And my mom let me. With a full forty-three years of perspective since that day, I realize that it couldn’t have been easy for her. I can’t recall if I took the bus or she dropped me off. For the record, I was the only lone wolf that day. Everyone else had a mom fawning over them (maybe a few dads were fawning but we are talking the early 70s so I’m skeptical) and drying tears. It wasn’t a seamless plan on my part. Teachers don’t pay attention to kids sans parents on the first day of kindergarten. Lost in the shuffle, I sat down on my lunch box (I think it was the Partridge Family – early 70s, remember?), elbow on knee, fist on chin, and waited. Before too long, someone noticed me.

Mom probably got judged pretty harshly for placating such independence in a five year old, but, man, that day was seminal in my early childhood development. It was the first time in my life that I knew I was different. Ok, strange. It was the first time I knew I was strange. And I assure you, it wasn’t the last. And believe me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s not that I don’t care what other people think. I do. I am human after all, and while I doubt that it’s exclusive to humanity, there is something to be said for giving a crap about how you interact with others. Maybe that makes me even stranger. I dunno. My goal is to be unobtrusive and polite. Always. This means that even though my hair might be askew, I’ll still have good personal hygiene. It also means that even if someone frowns or gets pissy, I’m still going to smile and say excuse me. You can ask me if you’re in the correct restroom (which – let’s be honest – is your way of asking me if I am) and I will nod and smile to acknowledge that you indeed are in the right place all the while swallowing and shouldering your close-minded assumptions about where I fall on the gender role spectrum.

And here we come to the crux of it, don’t we? The expectations that other have of me – and the roles they expect me to play – mean absolutely nothing. Think I’m strange? Different? Odd? Abnormal? Think I should be something or someone other than who I am? Keep on, keepin’ on because after nearly forty-nine years of riding this path, I’ve got this old saddle pretty worn in. It’s not that I’m impervious. It’s not always easy being the square peg in a world of round holes and sometimes I wish I could be more like everyone else. Occasionally I even wish I had a tribe.

Ponder for a moment what that tribe would look like. Too straight to be gay but too gay to be straight; too atheist to be spiritual but too spiritual to be atheist; too feminine to be masculine but too masculine to be feminine; too poor to be wealthy but too wealthy to be poor; too fit to be unfit but too unfit to be fit; too goal directed to be so unaccomplished but too accomplished to be non-goal-directed; too moderate to be fanatical but too fanatical about moderation to be moderate?

Eh, who needs a tribe anyway? Besides, if I had one, I’d no longer be different and that is totally unacceptable. I can’t imagine looking around and seeing carbon copies of myself. Even if the carbon had slipped a little and the copies were imperfect, I’d still end up feeling nauseous.

Here’s the thing, though, I don’t try any of this. Much like that first day of kindergarten, I just do what I do. I am who I am. Exclusively. It just so happens that at every single turn and blind curve, I end up being different. I’m used to it and, thankfully, ok with it.

I know others who are not. When they’re different, they feel like a stranger in a strange land – self-conscious, apprehensive, out of sorts. They retreat until they can put on the right shoes and fix their make-up. Well, that or they scurry back to the insulated safety of their own tribe.

I was speaking to a friend recently about my desire to leave the U.S. and live abroad. She’s originally from Argentina but has lived in America for more than a decade. As she prepares to return “home” for the Christmas holidays, she feels a bit apprehensive. After so many years away, she no longer feels completely Argentinian – in many ways, she’s become too American – however, she feels too Argentinian to be American. She is stuck somewhere in the middle – neither truly Argentinian nor truly American. Her caution to me was that one day I may find that I don’t fit anywhere. Too Swedish to be American, but too American too be Swedish, for example.

But isn’t that where I’ve always lived? Somewhere in the middle? Too much of one to be another and too much of another to be one? Take right now. I’ve lived in Texas almost fifteen years and yet I don’t feel Texan. I was born and raised in Southern California – lived there for 23 years – but I’ve been gone so long that I no longer feel native. I’m no longer from there. So if I’m not from Texas and I’m not from California, where am I from? Nowhere or everywhere, actually. Call it Differentville, USA.

What my friend doesn’t understand about me – not that she wouldn’t if I explained it to her – is that I have spent my entire life being a stranger in a strange land. While we often say, in a perfunctory  manner for the most part, that each experience of our lives leads us to the place we currently stand, I believe this to be absolutely true for me. Forty-eight years of different and not quite fitting in give me a strength few possess. I haven’t fit in San Diego, LA, Manhattan, Kansas, Muskegon, Michigan, Texarkana, Texas/Arkansas, or Austin, so whether I move to Las Vegas, Olympia, Washington, Stockholm, Prague, or London, I’m going to be odd. And I’m not going to find my tribe.

The great thing is (most people say it with a ground swell of derision but not me) wherever I go, there I am – different as all get-up and stronger for it. Oh, I may sit on my lunch box, elbow on knee, fist on chin for a minute while I organize the chaos and find my bearings (wherever I go, I am still an introverted mess), but once I stand, look out.

Now serving Tribe Party of One. 

November 21, 2017

Becoming Necesssary

I met my sister for the first time when I was somewhere north of forty and she was a couple days shy of fourteen years older. We knew each other as children - there are plenty of Easter pictures to prove it - but back then I was just a tyke hugging a pink bunny and she was an awkward teen in gratuitously colored plaid bell-bottoms. Those weekends had to be trying for her. Time with her dad and his new much younger family couldn't have been much fun. Add in the drive to LA from Vegas and I know I'd have pitched a fit at sixteen.

Life went on. I grew up; my sister started a family and eventually got a PhD from UNLV. Our fourteen year age difference was a big deal through most of those years. After a Southwest road trip the Spring Break I turned eight, we saw each other just one time. I happened to be in Las Vegas for a tennis tournament my sophomore year of college and Pam, my then-brother-in-law, and toddler nephew (he recently turned thirty) came to watch. After that, nothing for twenty-plus years.

It wasn't on purpose. My life didn't take me to Las Vegas and hers didn't take her to Kansas or Michigan or Texas. Our dad stayed in San Diego and while we both visited fairly often, those visits never coincided. Until one weekend a few years back. My dad came to pick me up at the airport, like he always did, and I saw a woman I hardly recognized in the passenger's seat. Turned out to be my sister, Pam.

We passed a good couple days just chilling on the love seat in my dad's TV room, watching football and probably a bit of Fox News. On Sunday afternoon, I pondered out loud if it might be ok to have a drink. It wasn't quite "cocktail hour", a near-religious practice in my dad and step-mom's house in those days, but it was football Sunday and I was on vacation. I recall cringing a little as I waited for an answer. I needn't have worried. Pam popped up off the couch and announced that it seemed like a good time for a glass of wine. That was the moment I (re)discovered my sister.

That's not to say our relationship is based solely around drinking. Hardly. I can count on one hand (ok, maybe two hands) the number of drinks we've shared since that afternoon. It merely highlights a moment in time, a memory, when I knew. After saying the majority of my life that I had one sister and one half-sister, I stopped. From that day on, I began saying that I had two sisters. There was no need any longer to designate Pam as "half" a sister.

Truthfully, I have as much in common with her as I do my middle sister, the one with whom I share both my mother and my father, if not more. Kelly and I share a history, one forged from sleeping in the same room and going to the same schools (including college). We knew each other as children, though have little more than a cursory acquaintance as adults. Like with Pam, it's never been purposeful. We went our separate ways after college - Kelly to the University of Wisconsin for grad school then to Minneapolis after, and me... Well, I went wherever the wind (or pretty women) took me, which  -- as yet -- has never been Wisconsin or Minnesota. We grew into adults who swapped  occasional emails and text messages (mostly pictures of our dogs). We meet up once a year or so and enjoy our visits, but we've never been "close".

I suppose that sounds bad from the outside looking in. One should be close to siblings, if not geographically then emotionally. Yes and no. Kelly and I are both fiercely independent and lead vastly different lives. We don't need each other (That's one thing we actually do have in common - we don't need people in our lives) and we refuse to force a relationship that isn't necessary. At this point. Some day, though, it might be necessary. We might be necessary.

Like Pam and I discovered this summer. After than initial weekend, we exchanged a few emails and text messages - I asked her for sisterly academic advice several times -  and we really did plan to get together again at some point. It just never materialized. Busy adult lives, that kind of thing. Then this summer our dad got sick. And we became necessary. We needed each other.

If there's a silver lining about my dad's aging, it's been getting to know my sister. In the past few months, we have spent more time together and learned more about each other than in the previous forty-eight years combined. We are as different as we are similar. She's a serious academic; I am merely an erstwhile amateur. She loves warmth and island vacations; I prefer the cold of Scandinavia.  She is art and music; I am sports. We are liberal, open-minded, and introverted. And we love our dad.

One day in some distant or not-so-distant future, Kelly and I might find ourselves in a similar situation. Our mother is a few years younger than our dad, but aging is inevitable (Sorry, Mom, but it is). And while I hope it never happens, we may find ourselves necessary; we may find ourselves rationalizing (and I may find myself blogging) about that very same silver lining.

I suppose that's the sibling life. You meet, you part, you meet again. I wonder what will happen to Pam and me after our dad passes. Will we part again when we are no longer necessary? I hope, if anything, this time has given us a closeness that will endure the test of time, space, and our older adulthood. I suppose all that is up to us more than chance, if the past is to be a lesson. And I suppose it should be. It should all be for something, shouldn't it?

November 10, 2017

That Woman Right There (aka the one about aging)

In the past week, I've noticed something. Twice. Ok, it's not like it was some kind of revelation. No, on the contrary, I've seen it before, bemoaned it before. Maybe it's because the women in question are virtually my age. Maybe it's because I've found them both insanely attractive in the past. Maybe it's because I watched the movie and TV show they were featured in specifically because they were in the cast only to be disappointed. Not by anything even remotely related to their performances; they've always been good at what they do and still are. Sadly, I heard myself sigh as I shook my head ruefully. Man, that was totally unexpected. Though, in reality, that part is my fault. I probably should have seen it coming.

What? Age? Come on, Stacee, you can't be that shallow. Hold on. I may be shallow but I'm not that shallow. There is nothing wrong with aging. Hell, I see it every time I look in the mirror. And, if I do say so myself, I'm better looking now than I was in my twenties. And truly, there is something absolutely scintillating about a woman who ages gracefully. Who accepts her age and all that comes with it. Sure, that means graying hair, lines, wrinkles, and sagginess in places that never sagged before. But it also means strength, wisdom, and a certain serenity that only the passing of years can bring.

Yeah, Alicia Vikander is beautiful, sexy, and talented now. Give her twenty years, she'll be all that and more. Once a woman has settled into herself, when she fully understands what she brings to the world, when she finally stops giving two shits about what that world thinks of her - that is when she is truly beautiful.

You see, beauty isn't about a smooth, unlined face or a tight sculpted body. It isn't about perky breasts or an absence of stretch marks. It's about confidence. And not an I'm-prettier-thinner-more famous-than-she-is kind of narcissistic, boastful cockiness. I'm talking about a confidence born of trials, miles, successes, and failures.  A confidence of survival. If that comes with lines, wrinkles, and the aforementioned sagginess, bring it on. All of it. Because nothing is (emotionally, spiritually or physically) sexier than confidence. Nothing. A woman who wears her years like a badge of honor? Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am.

Back to Kate Beckinsale and Maria Bello... What was wrong with them if not the coming of age, the passing of years? That's just the thing. They haven't let the years pass. They're held in suspended animation. Admittedly, I'm out of my depth - thankfully - here. I don't know if it's plastic surgery or a few too many injections of some kind. When I see a woman with permanent duck lips and cheeks that smile even when her mouth isn't smiling, I assume she's had some "work" done in an effort to retain the beauty of her younger days.

These women have missed the boat. And the point. Part of what makes them unattractive, outside of the Frankenstein-like facial tinkering, is their lack of acceptance. Age is ok. When accepted and dealt with at face-value. It comes for all of us, it does. Some of us may be able to hold it off awhile, but eventually everyone ages. And it's ok. Better than ok. I like being almost fifty. I have an understanding of the world and my place in it that I never dreamed of when I was in my twenties or even my forties.

Granted, I'm not an actress fighting younger and younger women for prime roles. I have no idea what that must be like or feel like. To see your former career fade away. To have to reinvent yourself. When the years mean you're playing character roles rather than the femme fatale. I'd probably fuck the badge of honor and put a plastic surgeon on retainer also.

Or would I? I like to think I'd be Dianne Keaton. Or Meryl Streep. Or Jamie Lee Curtis. Those women still bring it. I might even argue better than they did in their youth.

We live in a superficial world. A world that judges aging women much differently than their male counterparts. Who did Kate and Maria star opposite? Pierce Brosnan and Mark Harmon, respectively. No one talks about them aging. No one talks about them missing out on good roles. Nope. In the meantime, women their age are scrambling to plastic surgeons in an effort to appear youthful or risk being put out to pasture.

So, yeah, waving around that badge of honor isn't easy for women. I get it. I don't blame Kate Beckinsale or Maria Bello or any of the others for trying to extend their youth. I simply wish they didn't feel like they had to.  I wish the world would let them embrace their lines, wrinkles, and sagginess; let them be their age and all that comes with it. Both the good and the bad. Because, there is nothing sexier than a confident woman past her well-defined "prime" with shoulders back, head held high, and middle finger (figuratively) extended suggesting to the world that it just might want to screw itself.

Or not. In truth, that woman? She doesn't care. The world can do what the world does. And she will damn well do what she wants regardless of anyone's opinion.

She is who I aspire to be. That. Woman. Right. There.

November 3, 2017

Sometimes I Run for Tacos

I thought of a zillion cool things to write about on my run this morning. Now, sitting here waiting for new brakes to be installed on my Ford Fiesta, I'm at a near loss. Near loss because words are actually getting written. Small victory.

Bigger victory? That morning run. It's November in Austin, Texas. When I planned the run - my weekly long run - earlier in the week (It is half marathon season and long runs, at least for me, don't just happen.), the advanced forecast said it would be in the upper sixties around sunrise. I can deal with upper sixties. Sort of. Far from my favorite (Trivia - below 50F is my fave), but it wasn't a deal breaker. Mid eighties later in the day? Yeah, screw that. So, anywho, I scheduled the run (with myself) and went on with my week. I woke up early this morning, ate breakfast, watched last night's "Grey's Anatomy", and then checked my weather app. It was 74F with 92% humidity. Did I fail to mention my absolute abhorrence of humidity? Look, to most people mid seventies and humid isn't that bad. And they're right - it isn't THAT bad. It could be worse. And it is. In the summer. Which is why I don't run in Austin in the summer. But it's fall. Like mid fall. It should be cooler. And less humid.

This is why I wait until November to start half marathon training. This is why my "long" run is only at six miles. Nonetheless, today was long run day. I thought about putting it off until tomorrow (I'm off tomorrow also), but the weather didn't look precipitously better (no massive cold front looming over west Texas). Moreover, Torchy's. As in tacos. Today is pay day. I honestly can't recall a more needed pay day and because of that I haven't eaten out since I got home from vacation early last week. Oh, I'm still broke, but I told myself if I held myself back, watched my spending - both caloric and financial - that I could treat myself to Torchy's Tacos. The other part of that? I had to run long. I had to burn a shit storm of calories. I'm cool with spending twenty bucks on tacos and queso, but I'm not cool with destroying my diet with tacos and queso. You can take the anorexia out of the girl, but...

So that's why I was out on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike trail thirty minutes before sunrise. Sweating. Before sunrise. In fall. And people wonder why I love Scandinavia so much. Let me tell you. It takes a lot of effort to sweat thirty minutes before sunrise running in Stockholm in fall. How do I know? I did it two weeks ago. 37F and what seemed like negative humidity. I wore gloves and a beanie, kicked up multi-colored leaves, and jumped over the occasional mud puddle. That's fall running. And optimum half marathon season long run running weather.

Regardless, for the time being, I live in Austin, Texas, and, for better or worse, I like to run half marathons. In the winter. I'll run the 3M Half in January, the Austin Marathon Half Marathon in February, and then finish off the season on my birthday in Copenhagen with Lena at Go Running Copenhagen. Once I return from Scandinavia (I'll also be running in Gothenburg, Oslo, and Bergen where the weather will probably be next to perfect for me), it'll be practically summer and I'll quit running until this time next year. Right now, though, it's supposed to be fall and half marathon season in my world.

I'm sure the question in every readers' mind is why? Why would I put myself through this? Warm humid runs in November, an ever expanding long run, and the crap shoot that my body will hold up until race day, much less actually surviving that day? Easy answer? Because goals rock. Expanded answer? Because I have no idea what to do with myself if I'm not trying to achieve something. The let's-get-really-real answer? Five months of burning shit storms of calories is pretty cool after seven months of abject caloric caution.

If you don't often set goals, you won't have any idea why there were tears in my eyes for a brief moment this morning. I'm forty-eight years old and still have a body that can run. For that, I am exceedingly thankful. And, really, I could have not gone this morning. I drive right past my gym on the way to the trail. There wouldn't be (much) shame in skipping the run. Conditions were going to be shit (to me anyway). Instead of quitting, though, there I was - in the warmth and humidity - and I was running.

I told myself I didn't care about pace today (shitty conditions + concerns about pace = mind fuck) and shockingly I stuck to my word (The darkness for the first half of the run - I couldn't see my Garmin - helped A LOT). I stopped for water at the halfway mark. My pace had been ok, slower than I'll like come January, but I'd felt pretty good (that was another goal - feel good through 3 miles). As I set off for the second half, I reminded myself the goal was to finish, not blaze the trail. Conditions did not improve as the sun rose. I focused on my breathing. And Torchy's. And kept going. When I crossed the finish line, I checked my Garmin and discovered that I'd run a negative split! Amazingly, my fastest miles had been 4 and 5. I still wasn't as fast as I hope to be come race day, but I weathered the warmth (It was 77F when I finished) and humidity (well above 90%). Overall, it was a good morning.

And I earned Torchy's Tacos. Next long run, it might be chicken and waffles at The Grove, my favorite frozen pizza from Randall's, or a turkey burger and sweet potato fries at Hat Creek Burger Company. Remember the really real reason why I run. It burns calories and that means next to guilt-free eating. On long run days for the next five months.

Still, though, regardless of the calorie burn, goals rock. They do. Set. Adapt. Overcome. Succeed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Rock.

October 28, 2017

Day 1: Expecting Chaos

I wrote this a couple weeks back, on a Friday evening, as I prepared for the second of three legs on my journey to Stockholm, Sweden. I love to travel and I love going new places. Sort of. There is always a moment of uncertainty, just a moment, before I realize that it's going to be ok, That I'm going to be ok. What lies below IS that moment...in writing.


The chaos is coming. It always does. I’ll get used to it. Sort of. As best I can. I simultaneously like it and hate it. It unsettles me, makes my stomach churn, my head throb, my heart beat quicken. But it’s only a test. A test that I can pass. A test that inevitably brings out the best in me and makes me stronger. Perhaps one day it will make me more confident. Better able to deal, less likely to worry. I have to acknowledge it, though. Where I am with it. I can feel it creeping in. Houston is still the US, yet its newness to me is off-putting. I try to call it just another airport – I’ve been to quite a few over the years – and they’re all set up more or less the same. Still… There is chaos. It’s oddly lit, people meander to and fro. I am alone. My plane waits at the gate. I am nervous. Not to fly, not for any reason in particular. It’s the newness. It’s hard to organize, categorize, deal with. It’s chaos. Not as much as I may face later, but right now sitting here, I’m mired in it. That changes with each passing moment. The light becomes more familiar, different yet the same people walk past. My plane still awaits. As I make the chaos part of me – less chaotic – I feel stronger, capable. I can do this. I am doing this. 

I've conquered the chaos.

Well, not quite yet. Let’s not be rash. I did find my gate and I did find a women’s restroom (which was harder than one might think possible in a huge airport). Little by little. Bit by bit. I keep thinking I want ice cream. Random. Though if the bar right in front of me – where you can order on iPads – has hard cider… They do. Order placed. I seldom drink when I fly. Ok, I never drink when I fly. But I need to sleep. Sleep tonight will help me handle the chaos tomorrow.

And there will be chaos tomorrow. Bags to keep track of, jackets to hold onto. Heathrow. A gate to find, a plane to catch. Then Stockholm. Scurrying people. Catching trains. I’ll need to be one of them. Then Google Maps. Directions to follow. A hotel to find. I’m up against it for the next good while.

Soon though – I’m there nine days – I’ll sort it all out. Find a routine. And a McDonald’s or maybe a Burger King. Eat a Big Mac or a Whopper. Feel better. I’ll breathe. Rediscover the city I fell in love with last Spring.

I did it before. In four separate Scandinavian cities. I survived; organized the chaos. I can and will do it again. It’s the unknown really at this point that’s the most troubling. Houston is already normalizing. The Angry Orchard helps; writing helps. Looking up and seeing my gate, feeling my bag next to my leg. Three devices connected to various charging ports. Many things may happen but I WILL BE charged and ready.

One step at a time. Settle into seat on plane. Find movie to watch. Relax. Nine hours until I really have to start worrying. So why worry now? Why stress about the unknown?

I made it to Stockholm. Found my hotel. Then immediately Google Mapped a McDonald's and set off to find it. I had a Chicken Big Mac (it's apparently a regular on the menu in Sweden) and  a strolled back through Sodermalm to my hotel WITHOUT using a map. In that moment I knew that I was ok. Better than, really. The chaos I'd so feared, I'd conquered. Just like that.

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 R...