Over the past eight months or so, I've become fond of telling people, "It's there when you look for it."
Now, "it" might be faith or hope or whatever you need it to be. But it's there when you start paying attention.
Today was yet another example of that in my life. After a tough week at work -- in which I began questioning every professional decision I've ever made -- I woke at 5:30 this morning to run 11 miles. I had the best run of my brief-but-growing running career, the kind of thing that gives me real hope and pride and a sense of accomplishment.
Afterward, I visited with my grandfather, a living miracle in and of himself, and then I drove with my mom's neighbor to pick up a dryer. Mundane? Not at all. Along the way, Chuck and I talked about everything from food to wine to religion and faith, and it was one of the best conversations I could imagine ever having.
So I am grateful for this day, which led me to wonder: What are you thankful for? When you look for "it," where do you find it?
And now to keep with my list-making theme, I need your help. I need 26 responses, on Facebook, Twitter or Weebly, about what you're thankful for.
Take a moment, look for it, and share it.
While I was doing my 10-mile run this morning, I had plenty of time to think about, well, running. And in the 104-degree heat index, I managed to put together the following disjointed list of 26 deep thoughts.
1. I have completed five weeks of my 16-week marathon training schedule, and I feel great about that.
2. From here on out, every Saturday morning run is a double-digit run. Somehow, I find this exciting.
3. Only four more July runs to go!
4. This week, the 3s become 4s. I will miss you, little 3-mile runs!
5. I think it's awesome that the Running Spot puts out coolers along the routes its training group runs -- and then doesn't mind when stray folks like me stop by for a cup of cold water. What a boost that was today!
6. My Shuffle is on the fritz. Booooooooo! I'm dependent upon my iPods, which isn't good, because they're among the least reliable products ever created.
7. So far in my training, I have seen bunnies in Florence and at Lunken. And there's nothing like a fluffy bunny butt to make a run go better.
8. I tried out my new Camelbak today, and I really like it.
9. I learned the hard way, however, not to freeze it overnight. Took a lot longer than I thought for the ice to melt, so I actually ended up running out of water for a bit. (The good news is, the water stays nice and cold!)
10. I'm doing much better not choking myself when I eat Gummies for fuel. I'm thinking not choking to death will be among the keys to finishing in Chicago.
11. Much to my extreme surprise, it appears someone finally cleaned up all the penis drawings on the Taylor Southgate Bridge. And to think: It took them only about 18 months!
12. My right knee still hurts pretty much every day, but it just doesn't matter anymore. It's time my knee starts playing by my rules, and so it will.
13. I'm enjoying my new visor, and I could not be more delighted not to have to wear my much-loathed hat.
14. I'm getting some new shorts, and one pair will be -- wait for it! -- purple.
15. I am reminded every time out that running is at least 90 percent mental.
16. I am so grateful to Sherry Coolidge for being willing to run with me and talk with me and just generally be really awesome.
17. I am so grateful to Adrea Beatty and Amie Bracken (and their pending wee ones!) for running with me, but more so for their continued advice and support and psychotherapy.
18. My training so far has included runs in Canyon Country, Calif.; Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Cleveland.
19. Oh, man, now I wish I were in Santa Barbara.
20. Sept. 18 is the 20-mile run. I have had that date circled for two or three months.
21. The toughest part of every run seems to be the last mile. It's as if the finish doesn't get any closer.
22. Needless to say, I'm feeling pretty shaky about the last 6.2 miles of the marathon. How do I make myself mentally tough enough between now and then?
23. Maggie Jenkins and Mary Soller, I apologize in advance for all the whining you're going to hear from me on Oct. 10!
24. I can't wait to see my Chicago pals when I'm in town that weekend. Where should we eat?
25. PLEASE let me get one cool picture out of this marathon. I have this glorious picture of glorious victory in my head, which proves that hope, however foolish, springs eternal.
26. I ordered my backup pair of purple Air Pegasus, and they're in my closet, just waiting. They are The Official Chicago Shoes. And I don't think I'll ever get rid of them.
Only 11 weeks to go ....
After two days at my new job, my head is swimming.
But at the risk of mixing my athletic metaphors, I'm trying to remind myself that this sort of transition is a marathon, not a sprint.
Ah, yes, a marathon.
And so I return to my cleverly devised blog device, the 26-item list, presenting to you 26 thoughts, questions and musings that have raced through my mind since 8 a.m. Monday.
1. What if I can't do this? What if the empress proves to have no clothes?
2. I love that two meetings I've attended have been started with prayer.
3. People seem genuinely excited to meet me and pleased that I'm there.
4. I hope I don't let them down.
5. A colleague today told me he was sold on me after i interviewed with him, to the point he recommended me over a candidate he originally had suggested. I was deeply honored by that -- and then I realized I could let him down BIG.
6. I really, really like being around Father Dan, the CEO. I believe in him.
7. I worry about my leadership skills and potential. Will I have what it takes to inspire people?
8. I love that I have an office, with a door!
9. The flip side is I feel very alone at times.
10. I need help remembering that I wouldn't have a job like this if God hadn't put me there. So I have to hope -- or, actually, believe -- that He'll help me do a good job.
11. I hate addressing conflict and didn't do that well at The Enquirer. I know I'll have to do that at SAMP eventually; will I have the guts to handle it directly and effectively?
12. I really want everyone to like me, which probably isn't a good thing.
13. I feel like all eyes are on me.
14. In fact, at times I feel like I'm still interviewing.
15. Because of that, I think I'm trying too hard to say the right thing. I need help saying what I really mean -- which, very often, is that I have no idea. I answered one question today in such a convoluted fashion, I'm really embarrassed as I recall it.
16. Do I have what it takes to manage a department budget?
17. I need a safety net, and I think there isn't one.
18. What if I can't do this? What if I got in over my head?
19. I'm trying really, really hard to meet everyone and let them know I care and I have their back. I think I did that well at The Enquirer. I hope so, anyway.
20. I am going to focus on listening.
21. I know no one expects me to have answers yet; I do realize that. But I wonder how long the "new guy" grace period lasts.
22. Everyone at SAMP is very friendly and welcoming.
23. I still use the words "my," "we," "our" and "us" when I talk about The Enquirer.
24. The drive in hasn't been bad at all yet. (Knock on wood.)
25. Getting up at 6 isn't the worst thing ever; it's actually much harder to get myself to bed before midnight.
26. I want to be great at this job and make my colleagues happy, my friends and family proud, and my faith stronger and more present.
Say a prayer for me, would you?
On to Day 3.
Pretty much the only thing I can think about any more is training for the Chicago Marathon. It's less than three months away, and I wish it were tomorrow. I'm ready. Not physically ready, of course, but mentally and emotionally keyed up beyond belief.
I start a new job Monday, and I'm terrified of that. Yet I find that my focus is more on tomorrow's 8-mile run, which is the Plan B after this morning's scheduled run was postponed by thunderstorms.
In honor of my 26.2-mile race, my plan -- at this moment, anyway -- is to make lists of 26 things. The categories will depend on my whim and general level of laziness. Honestly, only a truly fanatical do-nothing'er could come up with such a transparent device to fill out blog entries without actually having to do any real crafting of prose.
My current inspiration is my husband. He's a goofy, funny little dude, beloved by everyone (as far as I know), yet easy to overlook. He's personable, easy-going and a good antidote to my unceasingly high-strung nature. That's why he can be overlooked -- particularly by me. He doesn't cry out for attention, nor require a great deal of maintenance (unlike his wife). So, three and a half years into this union, here are 26 reasons my I'm lucky to be married to Mike Mudd:
(They're in no particular order, mind you. Again with the lazy.)
1. He commutes to Louisville so we can live in Northern Kentucky, near my family.
2. After driving home tonight and getting in around 3 or so, he's going to get up at 7 to go run with me.
3. He'll try virtually anything I cook up -- and even liked my curry-free kohlrabi curry dish.
4. He loves animals in a completely irrational way, just as I do.
5. He encourages me all the time, whether it's running, looking for a new job or doing something random I don't think I can do.
6. He loves my mom, my GP and my Californians.
7. He'll put the gas in my car for me because he knows I hate doing it.
8. He doesn't balk when I order a $68 lobster tail.
9. He got married in a giant cathedral and went to pre-Cana, even though he's not Catholic.
10. He tries really hard to hear all of Duff's bass lines any time a Guns N' Roses song comes on the radio.
11. He makes fun of his own inexplicable love of '70s soft rock.
12. He doesn't balk when I say, "My mom and I are going to take cooking classes. In Morocco."
13. He's awesome at spinning the Teacups at Disneyland.
14. He's fascinated by airline equipment, much to my mom's amusement.
15. He shares my passion for lima beans.
16. He shares my hatred for onions.
17. He never balked when the first two years of our marriage were dominated by my GPs' health crises. He just kept showing up, smiling and caring.
18. He's open to all new experiences, from flying to Germany to trying weird vegetables.
19. He keeps "The English Patient" on for me when we stumble into it on TV, even though I'm pretty sure he doesn't care about it at all.
20. He recently told someone that the WEBN fireworks are better than Thunder over Louisville. So, so right.
21. He doesn't make fun of me when I cry over UK basketball. And he understands the importance of hating all things Duke-related.
22. He loves to do gags.
23. He listens to the L.A. traffic report on satellite radio sometimes, which warms my heart.
24. He actually really likes watching "Iron Chef," "Dancing With the Stars" and various forms of Kardashian programming.
25. He eats berries with two hands, kind of the way a squirrel would.
26. And, well, he bought me a really fat engagement ring!
He's a good egg, that Mike Mudd. Better than I deserve.
(Below is a reprint, of sorts, of an e-mail I sent to a number of my friends in 2002, after I went to London to see Guns N' Roses. I've saved it forever, and it kind of cracks me up to re-read it now. I thought y'all might enjoy a look at it. Quite a little time capsule.)
I know where I was...
I was in the jungle, baby, in London, England. And it totally rocked!
Greetings, one and all! I am back from chasing Axl Rose around the planet!
OK, so many of you are thinking, "Dude, I haven't talked to you in ages! What are you talking about?" I'm talking about finally getting to do the thing I wanted to do most of all: I actually saw Guns N' Roses, live. More importantly, I saw Axl, the love of my life. (And he just happened to be wearing a Jerry Rice jersey. Seriously.)
A little background (for those of you who know this, skip ahead): I was supposed to go to Montreal this week with my friend Jeremy, who was doing a bike trek to raise money for AIDS vaccine research for the second straight year. Unfortunately, they canceled the ride. (But huge kudos to Jer, who raised more than $3,000 again.)
Anyway, I just happened to check out Pollstar.com one night, searching in vain (so I thought) for any GNR sightings. Lo and behold, there was a show at London Arena on Aug. 26, a day I ALREADY HAD OFF. How often does that happen? (Uh, never.) So, thanks to my mom's American Airlines retiree passes and Jer's very kind, very sweet understanding, I hopped off, with Mom in tow, in search of the king of all rock stars. And it actually all worked out ...
As you know, traveling on stanbdy passes often means you don't get on the plane. Well, we made it on through Dallas to Gatwick with 0.0 problems. And, further adding to the too-good-to-be-true nature of this tome, we got first class. Let me just tell you, it's not even like being on a plane. You can recline your little seat back, all the way to a bed. They feed you a ton (and it's actually really good), and you get your own VCR to watch one of like 20 movies you can choose. It's just ridiculous.
Anyway, as you also know, with Axl, there's a always the chance a temper tantrum or a squirrelly sound check will derail an entire concert. (Or maybe James Hetfield catches on fire. That's happened before, too.) So until I got in the door (after purchasing not one, not two, but three shirts) and saw my man on stage, I wasn't going to believe anything good was going to happen.
London Arena holds somewhere around 20,000 people, it turns out, and the place was packed. Naturally there were at least a thousand lucky bastards who had standing tickets, down on the floor. Who ARE those people, and HOW do they get those tickets?!
Anyway, first the opening act ... which just happened to be Weezer. Yes, really. (Again, I point out, everything about this trip was too good to be true.)
Eds Note: Painstaking details follow ... feel free to skip ahead if you don't care. I won't blame you. Weezer was great. NOBODY except me had ever heard of these guys. Evidently people in England just have no clue. Of course, Rivers, evil rock and roll genius that he is, totally knew no one had any clue that, in fact, this little Weezer joint is a really big band. And he played it to the hilt.
Weezer is all about irony, and never has an occasion called for being tongue-in-cheek quite like this one. Weezer grew up in LA, playing clubs in '92 behind a bunch of GNR wannabes, and here again Weezer was the little misfit band. And they totally rocked -- the show was better than the one I saw them headline in February in Pittsburgh.
Anyway, they closed with "Buddy Holly" (duh), which was the only song anyone in the place seemed to have heard. The rest of the set included The Sweater Song, Goin Surfin', Gone Fishing, Island in the Sun, Say It Ain't So, My Name is Jonas, Hash Pipe, two new songs and one or two others I couldn't remember after GNR played.
Weezer played from like 7:05 to about 8. And then, true to the lyrics of "Mr. Brownstone," GNR went on stage around 9 and got on the bus around 11, presumably sippin' a drink and feelin' fine.
The crowd was super fired-up, and it was truly a diverse group of people of all sorts of ages. So, the lights go down and there's a little voice-over thingy and some video stuff... and then, the moment, we've all been waiting for....GNR takes the stage.
"Welcome to the Jungle" opens it, of course, and let me just tell you: The band is good. Most of you probably know GNR isn't just GNR anymore. It's basically just Axl and a handful of other musicians he's put together who, except for Dizzy Reed, were never in the band back in the day. So, there's been a lot of concern that the newfangled band wouldn't be as good. WRONG!
They're great, and it all runs through Axl, who looks great, sounds as awesome as ever and runs around the stage like a madman. Now, let's disspell another media myth: Axl Rose is NOT fat. Not at all. In fact, a very chipper Mr. Rose even did a gag about everyone thinking he'sas big as a house.
Throughout the night, he took a few shots at the media, promised an 18-song album (that would be the years-in-the-making "Chinese Democracy") and just generally looked like he's ready to rule the musical world again.
Now, you probably can imagine, I'm just like crying and giddy and freaking out through like the first four songs. (Note: The leather pants were in effect for the show. They now have been to Vegas, Pittsburgh and London. Wheee!) Here's the set list (in pretty close to the right order):
Welcome to the Jungle, It's So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Live and Let Die (all the crowd did the little "Ya know ya did, ya know ya did, ya know ya did" part), Think About You, Knockin' On Heaven's Door (quite good for a song I don't like), You Could Be Mine, Out Ta Get Me, Sweet Child O' Mine, three new songs of which I don't know the names but they were OK songs (though not super-great), November Rain (with Axl at the piano), another new song with Dizzy on piano and Axl whailing (this, whatever it is, is a great friggin song), Rocket Queen, Patience, My Michelle, Night Train (unbelievable. They absolutely ripped this song to shreds. It was amazing.).
Night Train closed the show, leading to the inevitable encore of "Paradise City."
Now, here's the thing (and I confess, this is pretty nitpicky): Paradise City is not a good encore song. "What?!" you ask. Well, see, to borrow the analogy from Spinal Tap, you want an encore song to be a 10 that you can turn to 11.
Thing is, Paradise City is already at 11. There is no way to play that song louder, faster, better, whatever, than it already is. Because the original is perfect. I mean, they had plenty of pyro and fireworks and all kinds of things, but Paradise City cannot be improved upon. So oddly, it's a strangely anticlimactic encore tune. Really, Night Train might have been better, b/c they really took that song and just blew it up, which was great.
That said, absolutely no one pays to see GNR so they can hear Night Train as the last song. This I realize.
Ok, so you're all wondering: What's the band like without Slash? Well, the question you SHOULD be asking is: What's the band like without Duff? That's right. You don't so much miss Slash, honestly, as you miss the brilliant bass-playing of one Duff McKagan. You Could Be Mine and Sweet Child O' Mine are spectacular songs in large part b/c of the bass line sustaining them. They were still REALLY good at the show, but those songs are where the GNR Rainmen of the world (read: me and probably six other people) really notice a difference.
So, in a nutshell, the show was awesome. The first 45 minutes were like the best of my entire life, pretty much. And I have to say -- and I don't care how silly this sounds -- I've sung Patience in my car about 987298732093 times. On this night, I was singing it, and AXL FRIGGIN ROSE was singing it back to me. Unbelievable. The moment my little brain sort of processed that was like the highlight of my existence.
I know it's not cool anymore to actually like anything. And I'm sure I'm talking like I just saw the Beatles or something, so this probably doesn't make a ton of sense to a lot of you. But I wanted to tell you all about it anyway, because it was so cool!
I stayed in London until Thursday and did a bunch of other stuff, but that was all just gravy, really. After Monday night, it was all downhill....
So, hey, thanks for reading if you made it this far!
And remember: With your bitch slap-rappin' and your cocaine tongue, you get nothin' done ...
Welcome to my brain! You're likely to find posts about sports, travel, food, wine, media, TV and music. Should be something for just about everyone!