Monday, December 29, 2014

More Passion. Less Judgement.

My always-worth-knowing friend and Marine Brother, Jeremy, shared this picture today and I can't get it out of my mind.

After kicking it around for a bit, I realized that it bothers me for two different reasons. One, because I've been told this more times in my life than I can even remember. Two, and this bothers me even more, because I have likely acted like this to someone along the way. And now, I'm the reason they slip back into "sorry" mode when discussing their passions.

I can't go back and change what I have said and done in the past, but I can make every effort to never repeat that mistake.

I'm listening. And I will make every effort to keep listening, to make sure that you know that I may not share your passion for something, but I will absolutely encourage YOU to be as passionate and loud and vocal and excited about whatever it is that makes your pulse race and your heart soar.

Because the world needs more passion, encouraged and nurtured and supported. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

This Is My Depression.


 noun \di-ˈpre-shən, dē-\
: a state of feeling sad
: a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way

It sounds simple enough. Depression is the state of feeling sad. But that doesn't begin to explain it. Depression is so much more. And this is my depression.

It's subtle in the beginning, like a shadow appearing just out of the corner of my eye. I have a vague awareness that I'm off, somehow, but it's nothing concrete. I just don't feel like myself, exactly. And this may last an hour or a week. There's never any consistency to it. And there's no obvious trigger, either. It can come after a great experience, a horrible loss, or nothing memorable at all.

The next stage is much more noticeable, to me and to other people. I become easily irritated, snapping at everyone around me for no reason at all. Interruptions, changes to plans, even simple requests bother me. I know my reactions are unreasonable, but that isn't enough to snap me out of my mood. It's like watching a slow-motion car crash but being unable to do anything about it.

And then, it's on me. Completely. Perhaps I'm driving my car home from work. Maybe I'm sitting watching television. I might be in the middle of a long run somewhere. Or even surrounded by a group of friends.

It's difficult to describe the darkness that envelops me. It distorts everything. It changes the way I interact with everyone. And the worst thing of all, it separates me from the very people who are best able to help me fight it.

I feel alone. I feel like a failure. And I feel like a fraud. The more people reach out to me, the more I want to pull away.

"If they only knew who I really am, they'd be gone."
"They're all connected and I've never been part of that group, not really."
"I know they talk about me when I'm not around. I know they judge me."

Depression is wicked that way. It plays on every insecurity, every weakness. It takes a small sliver of doubt and turns it into a wall I can't get around. And I do what I can to silence all of those voices, drinking too much, sleeping all day, or busying my mind with nonsense. Whatever it takes to shut the negative off.

I respond physically, too. I stop running. I stop exercising at all. It all seems pointless and I have no energy, anyway, so why bother? Instead, I became sluggish and lethargic, my body matching my mood.

The spiral effect is horrific. Emotionally, I feel like I am all alone, so I don't want to connect with friends. I don't connect with friends, so I feel like I'm all alone. Physically, I have no energy so I don't workout. I don't workout, so I have no energy. Both of these things fuel themselves. And they become never ending cycles.

Sooner or later, this all passes. Like a storm cloud, it remains just long enough to make its presence known, and then it's gone. But the damage remains. And each round, it gets harder and harder to make amends with friends, get back on my workout schedule, and fully recover emotionally.

I do it, though. I fight my way back each time. I make a plan to get back on track with healthy eating and working out, and that helps. I create long-term goals and short-term strategies to reach them. And I reach back out to one friend at a time, sometimes explaining what has been going on and other times just putting it behind me. But connecting pulls me back into my life. Because the only alternative is to give up, to give in to the depression. And that's a step too far for me.

So why write all of this up? What is the point of sharing all of this with everyone?

Because writing it all down and posting it may help other people understand what I am going through. Maybe they'll be able to help others in the same situation. Heck, maybe other people experiencing the same dark moments will feel better knowing they aren't alone.

Mostly, though, I share it to remind myself that dark days are not the end of the line. There is an other side to this, and I just have to keep moving forward to get to it.

There isn't anything rationale or reasonable about depression. It is brutal, powerful, and sometimes overwhelming. But it isn't fatal as long as I see it for what it is, a temporary problem that I will survive.

For those reading along who struggle with the same feelings, I encourage you to speak up yourself. Tell your loved ones what is happening. The more they know and understand, the more likely they will be to recognize the symptoms and be there to help you through your own dark moments.

If it all feels like too much, and you don't trust yourself to find a way through, reach out for help. There are hotlines. There are volunteers. There are family members and friends. There IS someone out there who knows what you are dealing with and can help you find your way through it.

Suicide is preventable. Call. Text. Speak up. Shout and scream if you must, just don't give up or give in.

You matter. You are loved. And we need you to stay.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Shout Out To Sixty Amazing Years of Ric!

Sixty years ago, the world got a whole lot better. And if you have been lucky enough to meet this guy, you already know what I'm saying here.

I have no idea what I did to deserve this man in my life, but I'm grateful every day that he is my husband.

Happy Birthday, Ric. You deserve every wonderful moment you have coming today!




Friday, November 28, 2014

When Johnny Met Ricky.

If you've ever wondered how Ric and I met, how a judge later described it, and what any of that has to do with our Christmas each year, this is the blog for you.

First, the backstory and a confession. When I go out and have a few cocktails, I may or may not definitely collect things. Nothing of value, really, more like trinkets. I see a cool coaster on the bar, I take it. On one occasion, I even came home with a tambourine. (I had to take that back the next morning. Have you ever tried to walk quietly into a bar while carrying a tambourine? Can't be done.)

Anyway, the point is, I have been known to gather souvenirs on my nights out. And that is a significant part of this story.

December, 1996. The guy I was seeing was invited out to a birthday party, so I went along as a very disinterested "Plus One." The party was at the Inn At The Park hotel, upstairs at their rooftop bar. I was enjoying my second third whatever beer and found myself standing directly in front of one of their dozen decorated Christmas trees.

And then it happened. Something shiny caught my eye and I knew I had to have it. It was an ornament. Nothing special about it, really. It was one of those styrofoam balls wrapped in thread. It was cheap, already fraying, and not likely to survive to see another year.

Obviously, I had to have it. I did the oh-so-sneaky look around to make sure no one was watching, and then I made my move. I reached out quickly, grabbed the ornament, and tugged.

That's the moment all the lights on the bottom half of the tree went out. Yep, apparently there was a short in the wire, and my yanking on the tree was enough to power down everything from the middle down.

So, what do you do when something like that happens to you? If you're like me, you instantly scan the crowd to see if anyone saw you do it.

I scanned right. No one. I scanned left. Nothing.

Wait. Scan left again. Yep, that guy is staring right at me. And he definitely saw.

I gave my best shoulder-shrug-meh-whatcha-gonna-do look and said, "I guess that's God telling me not to steal that ornament, right?"

He gave an equally casual shrug and said, "Maybe. Or it's the Devil saying take all you want from the bottom half."

I processed what he said and made a command decision. First, I reached forward and yanked that ornament right off the tree. Second, I took a step closer to him and introduced myself.

And that's the first time I ever spoke to Ric.

That ornament is still hanging in there, pardon the pun. In fact, it's the very first ornament that Ric and I put on our tree every single Christmas. Here it is this year:

P.S. The judge I mentioned? Years later, Ric and I were out having drinks and the conversation turned to everyone's "how did you meet?" story. I shared ours, and the gentleman sitting next to me said, "fun, petty larceny becomes true love." I laughed. He laughed. We all laughed. Then when he got up to use the restroom, the bartender leaned over and said, "it's funny because he's a retired State Supreme Court Judge. Oops. Fortunately, the statute of limitations is on my side.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's Not About Ferguson. (Rant Warning)

  • If you think African-Americans are lawless thugs, you are mistaken.
  • If you think white Americans don't care about minorities, you are mistaken.
  • If you think racism is a thing of the past, you are mistaken.
  • If you think that only minorities are working to end racism, you are mistaken.
  • If you think police officers are racist pigs, you are mistaken.
  • If you think police departments are color-blind, you are mistaken.

The truth is much more complicated. This nation is full of racists and anti-racist activists. But more than anything, it's full of people who can only form opinions of racism based on their personal experiences. And therein lies the problem.

As a white man of a certain age in America, I experience life in a way different than that of people of color. I don't ask to be treated differently, nor do I expect it. And most often, I'm completely oblivious to it. That doesn't mean it isn't happening.

To my black friends, I say, don't be pissed at me because of it. Don't blame me for it. And don't assume that it's something I'm happy about. More than likely, I don't even notice it.

To my white friends, I say, acknowledge it. Admit it's out there. Try to understand how it must feel for people of color to be treated differently every single day of their lives.

(But, that's not me! I'm not racist. I treat people as equals and expect them to treat me the same way in return.)

Good for you. I do the same. But this world is bigger than just you and me. It's also full of racist idiots that make every day life more difficult for the rest of us.

But together, we can make things better. It starts with treating each other with respect. From there, it's all about communication and perspective.

First up, let's put an end to the "Look at them! That's not me!" cycle of bullshit. Oh, wait. You've never heard of that? Well, that's because I just made up that title. But you'll recognize it when I describe it.

Look at them!
  1. I support People A.
  2. I create/find/share a negative image/story about someone from People B.
  3. I attack all People B and accuse them of the negative thing.
That's not me!
  1. I am someone from People A.
  2. I see a negative image/story about someone from People A.
  3. I deny that I support that negative thing and deny that anyone from People A would do such a thing.
See how that works? It's how I get to judge everyone I don't like as the worst thing possible, yet deny that me or anyone like me is bad at all.

It's bullshit, people. Yes, there are black men who are criminals. Yes, there are racists in the GOP. Yes, there are lazy women on welfare. Yes, there are white men selling meth and Hispanics in the country illegally and single moms with multiple kids by multiple fathers and men who hate and degrade women and women who lie about being sexually assaulted and on and on.

But these people are the exception, not the rule. Most black men are law-abiding citizens. Most GOP voters are not racist. Most women on welfare are stuck in a cycle of poverty they would do anything to get out of. Most white men don't sell meth and most Hispanics in this country are here legally (as citizens or lawful guests) and most men treat women with respect and most women are truthful when they say they have been the victims of sexual assault and on and on.

There are some really terrible people in this world. And there are extremists on both sides of nearly every single issue. And they are the reasons we can't have intelligent, rational discussions anymore. Because we look at the worst of the other side, decide "they" are all like that, and stop listening.

We have to be better than that. And we have to start from our points of commonality, not our points of difference.

Regardless of skin color, people want to be treated with dignity and respect. They want their children housed, fed, and protected. They want well-equipped schools and competent teachers who are respected by their school boards and administration. People want to feel like law enforcement is there to protect them, not to attack or harass them.

And people want a chance to work hard and get ahead in this life. They want a fair shot at earning their way in this world. They want a better life for their children.

And what exactly is the point of this long-winded rant? And how does it relate to Ferguson?

The point is, my friends are an incredibly diverse group of people. And that means that sometimes, one of us will say or do something that offends the other one. And when it happens, I'd like to think we can assume the best of each other, talk out the misunderstanding, and either resolve it or agree to disagree... all with respect. I would like it if we can skip altogether the extremist, bigoted nonsense that otherwise derails every conversation these days.

And it relates to Ferguson because I'm tired of watching otherwise compassionate, intelligent, rational people suddenly become hateful, angry jackasses who see anyone the least bit different as "them" and some sort of enemy. This story will continue to influence conversations about race and equality, and that's okay. But it doesn't have to become a permanent divide.

We're all in this together, friends. Let's spend less time finding reasons to be mad and judgmental and more time being the best people we can be.

P.S. Thanks for sticking with me through this entire rant. I really didn't know what all I wanted to say. But I do feel better getting all of this out of my head and down into words.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Intersex - It Doesn't Mean What You Think It Does.

(You wake up thinking you're going to write a blog about one thing and *bam*, something on social media takes center stage and derails that blog completely. Fine. I'll post that later. This is more important, I think.)

So a big, splashy story that will play out all across social media today is that  a woman who dated Michael Phelps for a time was "born a boy." Cue the drama and the "did he know?!" and "dude, that's any guy's biggest nightmare!" and "Phelps banged a gay dude!"

None of that is correct, by the way. And though I realize I am just one person posting facts in a sea of drama, I'm still going to give it my best shot.

The lady in question was born intersex, meaning she was born with both male and female genitalia. She had a penis but no testicles, ovaries but no uterus. It's unusual, obviously, but it happens. People are born with all kinds of physical abnormalities, but anything involving sexual identification makes people even more uncomfortable.

According to this woman, she was forcibly non-consensually assigned a boy's gender at birth but felt like a girl all of her life. She says, "I was born intersex and named David Roy Fitch at birth. By the time I could walk and talk I made it clear I was a girl and dressed as one. In my early teens I was medically diagnosed and went on testosterone blockers, at 15 estrogen enhancers."

There is a lot unknown here about her relationship with Michael Phelps... or if she even had a relationship with him. She may just be making all that up to make herself infamous. I don't know, and honestly, I don't really care.

So why am I posting this? Because what I do know is that there are other people out there who were born intersex, made or had made for them choices about who they were, and have lived with those choices. And I can only imagine how those people must feel each time they see a headline that mocks this woman, insults her as a freak, or implies that anyone who would be involved with them should feel shame or embarrassment.

Decent people wouldn't mock someone because they were born deaf, or blind, or had some other physical difference that would adversely impact their life yet was able to be corrected through surgery and/or medication treatments. So why is it okay to shame someone because their physical difference at birth involved their reproductive system?

We're better than that. Let's act like it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Needed A Win.

I needed a win, and today, I got it.

I've shared already that I've been really struggling. My training has been terrible, my eating has been out of control, and my overall attitude about it all has sucked. But I've been here before and I know what it takes to turn things around.

I had the same sort of plan for the month of October, but I let the stress and drama of my life kick all of that to the curb. But it's only failure if I stop trying, right? So here I am, the Eternal Optimist, still fighting to find my groove again.

I have a big plan that I'll post about this weekend, but I've already started back with my running schedule. Monday was a three-mile run to kick the cobwebs off, and today I had a five-miler scheduled.

Unfortunately, this was me when my alarm went off at 5:45am. I was a big ol' pile of NOPE NOPE NOPE. And my mind scrambled to find any excuse to not get dressed and head out for my run.

"Your big plan hasn't officially kicked off, so it doesn't matter if you skip today's run."
"You should run tomorrow, instead. That makes more sense, really."
"Such a busy day ahead, you're better off sleeping in."

Fortunately, I knew better. So I posted this selfie to Facebook and made a comment about having to get up to run. I did it because I knew that once I made a public commitment, I would see it through.

And I did. In fact, I did more than just get my miles in. I ran the five miles 40 seconds ahead of my per mile pace AND I had all negative splits. The more I ran, the faster I went. And when I was on my last mile and I started to tire, I kept repeating my mantra:

"Five miles. All negative splits. Because I'm awesome."

And that's why I had this big, goofy grin on my face when I finally finished.

I really, really needed this today. I needed to know that I still have the spark, the fire to push myself. My legs were getting sore, but I knew that it was my mind that really wanted to stop. So I opted to run with my heart, instead, and that was enough to get through to the end.

Thanks, friends, for being part of my run today. It's a much better feeling to be able to share my success with you than to have to admit that I gave up.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Ragnar Moves Me." Let it move you to vote!

Please click through and vote for our story!

I took a chance on my first Ragnar, and my life was forever changed.

Fourteen relays later, I've been in a documentary (From Fat To Finish Line)...

run events all across the country...

and joined this family of ‪#‎KiltyPleasures‬ runners.

Definitely, ‪#‎RagnarMovesMe‬.

Click here to vote:

Monday, November 10, 2014

When You Thank Me And Call Me A Hero...

I served in the United States Marine Corps from 1985 until 1989. To quote Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But all these years later, I am even more proud of my service and more honored to have worn the uniform.

For the last thirteen years, though, the Marines who stepped forward to serve have lived a very different experience than mine. They are combat veterans, warriors on the front lines. And as a nation, we are grateful to them and want them to know it.

But there's a problem with that. Two, actually.

First, no one who serves in the Marine Corps expects to be thanked. It's an honor and a privilege to wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, and we don't do it to earn your gratitude. So on this day of all days, the 239th Birthday of the greatest fighting force this world has ever known, I offer a couple of suggestions to help show your appreciation for your Marines.

Instead of saying, "thank you for your service," say, "Thanks, Marines." Yes, even though I am standing in front of you as one person, I represent every Marine. And I understand that you are saying thanks through me to the entire United States Marine Corps. And I will say "you're welcome," shake your hand, and go about my way.

Or, you can say "Semper Fi, Marine," and I will know that you are showing respect for the very foundation of the Marine Corps, the promise to be Always Faithful.

And once a year, on November 10th, you can say the best thing ever. You can wish me a Happy Birthday. And on behalf of legends like Chesty Puller and John Basilone and on behalf of modern day warriors like Kyle Carpenter and Jason Dunham, I will say thank you.

But don't thank me for serving. Wearing the title is thanks enough.

Second - and this is the bigger point I want to make - civilians often toss around the word "hero," using it to describe everyone from the teenager who stopped to help change your flat tire to the NFL quarterback who managed a long pass to win a game. And we all understand how you are using the term. But it really isn't all that heroic to play football, you know?

It's the same when you call every serviceman and woman "hero." You mean well, but we actually feel like it takes away from those of us who have truly served heroically. Yes, every single Marine who has worn the uniform and served honorably was in a position to be a hero. They might have been called to sacrifice themselves to protect and defend someone else. And Marines being Marines, they would most likely have answered that call.

But they didn't. I didn't. I was never in a situation where I had to be willing to lay down my life to protect another.

I wasn't a hero. And that's okay. Because being a hero means more than just being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, it means actually being in that moment and seeing it through.

I can tell that I'm rambling now, and it's because I'm passionate about this message and I am trying to say so much all at once. Today is an emotional day for many reasons, and I'm struggling to put my thoughts into coherent words.

So, here's a simple recap:

  1. Don't thank me for my service. Just offer a nod and a smile and I'll happily return it. Or thank the Corps and I'll accept that on their behalf.
  2. Don't call me a hero. Save that honor for those who are truly the best of us. They deserve it.

Happy Birthday, Marines. And Godspeed and farewell to those of us gone too soon. We will stand together again some day.

P.S. If you forget, or otherwise don't know better, and you thank me for my service, I'll still say you're welcome. Because I understand what you are trying to say and I appreciate that. So please don't read this blog entry as me justifying being an asshole to someone else who says "thanks" or "you guys are all heroes." There's no call for that, either.

Happy Birthday, Marine Corps. You are timeless and true.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Taylor Swift's New Song, "Goodbye, Spotify"

This is Spotify. It's a commercial music streaming service.

And this is Taylor Swift. She's a country-turned-pop singer.

This week, Swift's record company pulled her songs from the online music service. And today, a Facebook friend made this joke:

Not sure why, but that really struck me as amusing. And then I decided to write the song myself. And here it is. Why, you ask? Because sometimes, a silly idea can be the difference between a bad day and a good day. And now, this is a good day. Thanks, Nick, for the idea.

Goodbye, Spotify

You're full of yourself thinking you are dreamy
Always online and totally streamy
Millions of songs at your fingertips
But you won't hear a single word from my lips

You spun me around and think you know me
Well here's a note, you can blow me
I'm out of here and good to go
Taking my tunes and hitting the road

Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh
Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh

Your World Wide Web is a web of deceit
I trusted you but you're just a cheat
Promised me you'd make me rich
But you stole my tunes, made me your bitch

Newsflash, I'm a mega-star
Number One hits burning up the charts
Now I'll leave you with this one last thought
Think again, this "bitch" just can't be bought 

Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh
Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh

Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh
Goooooooodbye, Spotify
Oooh Oooh Oooh

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fat Is Awesome. But, not.

Anyone else see this?

Funny, right? I mean, fat really does sound awesome.

But, not.

It can be awesome to completely discard what you know to be good for you - eat healthy, be active, repeat consistently. It makes for easier, more indulgent days and nights. But not for long. Because soon enough, ignoring the basics begins to show in your health, your fitness level, and your body.

And I'm there. After nearly a year of going through the motions, I'm fat again. And no amount of wise-cracking or fast-talking will change that fact.

I have no idea what I weigh, because I long ago gave up using the scale as a measure of my health. Whether I weigh 160 or 360, I don't care. The scale just shows a number and that means nothing.

So what do I measure, instead? Ultimately, how I feel as I go about my day. Right now, my days are not good. I feel sluggish and tired. My clothes don't fit comfortably. And I can't just reach into my dresser drawer or closet and wear anything in there. I have to make choices based on what "feels too tight."

There's a more shallow component, too. I don't like the pictures that I am seeing of me right now.

Not great, right? I'm currently in the body I have earned, and I've earned it by not being active regularly, by not making healthy choices with my eating, and by not making my own health a priority.

Facts can be terrible things, but it is what I've made it. It's not enough to just run on marathon day, or half-marathon day, or relay weekend. That sort of half-assed commitment doesn't work.

Which brings me to today. I know what I need to do. I'm returning to the basics, and I'm starting with a 30 Day Reset Challenge. I'll track my food, run my miles, get out on my bike, and even commit to regular strength training. It won't be about perfection, but it will be about consistency.

(My one exception? The celebration after my Capitol to Coast Relay in Texas mid-month. I do enjoy my post-race fun with friends, and there's nothing better than enjoying a cold draft beer while standing in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.)

Why am I sharing what some might reasonably call my complete and total failure? Because...

  • I'm not ashamed of it.
  • I'm only human.
  • Healthy is the new skinny.
  • This is a journey, not a destination.
  • For some, I'm a role model. And honesty is part of that.
  • Sharing my challenge helps me stick with it.
  •  Failure is only failure if I give up.
And believe me, I am not giving up.

So, today is the first day of my challenge. I dragged myself out of bed, ran a 5k, and rewarded myself with an unsweetened ice coffee. Best single-digit use of calories I could think of!

If you want to join me, feel free to use #30DayReset on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Your journey is your business, but if you want company, say the word!

Friday, September 12, 2014

The New York Times and My Wedding Photo

Fun story that I meant to blog about and just never did.

I follow a columnist named Steven Petrow, and last year he posted a question from a reader in the military about how to introduce gay couples. I replied, we struck up a conversation, and he asked if I would be okay with him using my wedding photo in a future column.

Of course, I said yes. And he did. And just like that, my wedding photo appeared in the digital issue of the New York Times. And it's awesome that I get to say that.

How To Introduce A Gay Couple

Full disclosure time. I did not retire from the Marine Corps and I was not a commissioned officer. Mr. Petrow is not familiar with military terminology and misunderstood when I said that I was an NCO. No harm, no foul, but I do not want to claim service that I did complete.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Quality over Quantity.

I've been spending time this week trying to sort out what is going on with me and my bad attitude. I don't feel comfortable in my own skin and I'm bothered by so many things that normally wouldn't even make my radar, and I need to work out a solution.

And then, just like that, a single post on Facebook smacks me in the head and helps me reframe everything.

The post itself is simple enough. A man changed his behavior on Facebook, choosing to no longer click the LIKE button on anything. Instead, he either scrolled right by or took the time to leave a comment. And he shared how that simple step changed his Facebook experience for the better.

That seems straightforward enough and I'm going to try doing the same. In the first two minutes of using Facebook after reading the article, I could already see a difference. Instead of clicking LIKE for the 10-15 things I read, I had to be selective and respond to the two that I felt most drawn to.

And it was immediately better. In one instance where I know I would have just clicked LIKE, I took a moment to articulate exactly what it was about my friend's comment that I appreciated and how I saw the same situation. And a dialog started that would not have if I had done my normal click-and-go.

Instead of clicking LIKE for everything and moving on, I'm choosing one or two opportunities to truly engage with people. Quality over quantity.

And here's the bigger wake-up call for me. This idea can work for me outside of Facebook, too. 

For example, when it comes to social events, I go with the "more is better" attitude. If we're meeting friends for brunch, my norm is to invite lots of people and create a big event. But I realize that, while fun, it's difficult for me to engage in any meaningful way with all those people at the same time. It's just not possible to have that many significant conversations in so short a time and with such a large group.

Instead of inviting everyone all the time, I'm going to be more selective about the people I ask to join me when I am planning a social event. With fewer friends present, I can give more of my attention to each person. Quality over quantity.

And this is a rather timely shift in behavior. All summer, I have been planning to run the Venture Marathon on Sunday, September 7th. But recently, my running buddy and I decided that we are going to switch events and run the Ventura Half Marathon, instead.

Why? Because while we both know we could run the full 26.2 miles, we also know that neither of us has trained sufficiently to run a strong marathon. We would struggle through the long miles, end up exhausted and possibly injured, and feel bad about the entire event.

A better idea? We run a stronger half marathon, enjoy the miles and the experience, and then set up a new training plan as we look ahead to the Phoenix Marathon next February.

Run fewer miles but do them stronger and happier. Quality over quantity.

I'm making choices that are good for me, and hopefully, will also help improve my relationships with my friends. And friends... true, good friends that support me as I try to make better choices... are definitely proof of quality over quantity.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No Problems Without Solutions

Have you seen the latest horrible video/image/story about ThisMan/ThatWoman/ThosePeople?

If you're on Facebook, the answer is most likely yes. Someone you follow has been "alerted" to something mean, illegal, immoral, or cruel, and they want you to see it, too.

The stories are everywhere. Just look!

Hypocrites pontificating!
Companies violating!

Bigots discriminating!
Scandals... um... scandal-ating!

I get it. These are bad things happening and your friends want you to know about them.

But why?

What's the point, exactly? What good does it do to learn about these things if you are powerless to change them?

Ah... but what if you *could* do something about them? That would change things, wouldn't it? Instead of just being a bystander and mumbling "tsk, tsk" under your breath, imagine being able to take actions to make bad situations better.

Well, all of this talk about "your friends" and the things they post isn't about other people at all. It's about me. I have been the person posting these links and ranting and raving about the bad people and the terrible things. But if I'm not doing anything else, it makes no sense to post at all.

My solution? No more posting stuff like this unless I also include a very specific, very direct call to action. If I read that a retailer is discriminating against a group of people, I will take the time to look up a corporate contact, share that address or email with my friends, and write a letter myself to the company explaining why I am bothered and what I expect them to do. If I read about legislation (proposed or enacted) that concerns me, I need to make sure that my elected officials hear from me directly. When I share the story on Facebook, I'll include a request to friends to contact their own representatives. And if I hear about something local that I think deserves more attention, I'll reach out to area news teams and encourage them to report on it.

My point is, instead of just railing against stupidity... and really, I'm preaching to the choir when I post on Facebook... I will identify specific actions that can be taken and make it easy for my friends to follow my lead.

Yes, there are problems in the world. But fixing them requires more than just me complaining about them on social media. Actions are what lead to solutions.

Oh, and if you see me forget this pledge, say something. I won't be perfect but I can always get better.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An End to The Rainmakers.

You know those Facebook memes going around that remind you, "hey, don't take this status personally because it might not be about you"?

Well, sometimes, a person posts something that obviously IS about you. And then you're left wondering how best to respond.

For example, yesterday I posted this:

And this morning, I awake to see this as a Facebook friend's status calling out someone for lashing out at others instead of accepting their own blame for their situation.

Which explains why I'm wide awake at 4:45am writing this blog. Because the person who posted this status is the same person who sent me a private message Friday evening asking if our Rainmakers group could help a family member of hers in need.

I get it. She sent a message asking if I would take the time to check out the GoFundMe page, create a Rainmakers project for it, and try to assist her family. On Saturday, I replied that I would read through it and see how we might help. And then Monday morning, she reads my post and is bothered enough by it to call me out, albeit anonymously, in her own Facebook status.

She says she fails to understand. So for her, and to anyone else wondering, let me explain.

I get it. You have a family member, or a friend, or a co-worker, or a friend's buddy... someone... that you know is in desperate need. You want to help them, and that's wonderful. You think, "hey, maybe Rainmakers could do something?" So you share the information with me. And now it becomes mine to sort out.

But here's what you don't know. Your request for help is not the first one I received Friday. It wasn't even the second. It was the fourth. In one day. And the other three were just as important to someone else.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to sort out requests for help that came in LAST WEEK. Because the requests keep pouring in. Now that the word is out that Rainmakers has helped folks in need, there is a non-stop flow of stories of people in terrible situations who need help.

And now, to the specific Facebook status criticizing me for my own post:

You certainly got one thing correct. You fail to understand. Because for someone like me, reading endless stories of people hurting breaks my heart. I take it all in, because I don't know any other way of processing it. And then I carry all of them around like they are my own problems, hoping that I will find some inspiration or have a stroke of brilliance as to how I can somehow fix everything.

Here's what else you don't understand. All of these stories over the last few months have taken their toll on me. Learning about so much pain and misery and tragedy has nearly broken me. Where before I was a generally happy person, I've become moody and sad. Where before my attitude was positive and my outlook bright, I've become negative and everything seems dark and bleak.

How can I be happy when there is so much pain and suffering? How can I go about my day acting as if things are okay when they obviously aren't?

And here's some more information to help you understand. That darkness threatened to consume me. My real-life friends are very concerned about me, worried that I'll reach a point where all of this is too much to handle and I'll do something stupid. Yes, a couple of people closest to me fear that all of this pressure will be enough to push me too far and I'll end up trying to kill myself. Yes, it's come to that.

I'm not saying the demands of Rainmakers are the only factors. But they are certainly the most public and the most heartbreaking. Because I know that each and every request is critical to someone, and it is horrible knowing that we can't possibly fix them all.

So you criticize me for making a public statement that I can't save the world? Fine. That's your right. But you should also know that making that post was my way of saving my own life, so you'll understand if I don't feel the least bit apologetic that it seemed to bother you.

Are people to blame because they ask for help? No, of course not. But each of them only knows their story and what they are asking. They don't know that they are one of a hundred similar stories that are asking for the same help. They don't seem to realize that I also have a full-time job and personal demands that require my attention, and coordinating efforts to raise money for other people takes not only time but also energy that I don't always have.

Well, people know now.

You want me to take ownership of my problem? Absolutely. Because of my involvement with Rainmakers, people bring countless stories of need to me with the hope that I can find solutions. But I can't. And then it becomes my problem, because I take them all in and personalize them. It's my problem because I can't stay detached and objective. It's my problem because I hurt for each and every one of these people.

So yes, I agree. It's absolutely my problem. It's me to blame. And it's me that has to fix this for myself.

And here's how this story ends. I'm going to make this very public statement that I am stepping away from Rainmakers. I expect that will be the end of the group, though I am open to someone else stepping up to head the group. If that happens, they will continue to have my individual support. But I am going to save myself first, and that means no longer taking ownership of the dozens of painful stories that have been sent to me.

Yes, we did some amazing things for a few families. But in the end, the need was way more than the resources we have available. And I can't continue to shoulder the guilt of not being able to help all of the people that have asked for it.

To all of the Rainmakers who stepped up when called, thank you. We made a difference in the lives of so many people. It was a good thing and I am so grateful to each of you.

To anyone else - and especially to those who feel it appropriate to criticize - I invite you to step up yourself and take on this responsibility. Open your Instant Messages and your Email to the steady flood of need. Find a way to sort through all of that. Decide which gets your attention and which gets passed over. And then, do something about it.

I tried. It was more than I could handle. Perhaps you'll do better. I wish you luck.

*Edited to add*
The person I quoted here responded by telling me that her Facebook status had nothing to do with me and that she was talking about something else completely. Is that possible? Sure, it's possible. And if it's true, I apologize to her for thinking it was about me. But the two posts are here in unedited form. Make your own call if one is related to the other.

*Second Edit*
She insists that her comment was not about me, and I choose to believe her. Which means that there's another casualty from my current mood, my inability to stay objective and my willingness to reach out and talk to someone directly if I think there is a problem. I have removed her quote from this blog and apologized to her for my words, but really, that damage is done.

Yeah. What I need right now is some serious down time. And I'm going to take it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bend Until You Break.

Sometimes, you just have to say enough. And I'm there. I'm officially and completely overextended beyond my breaking point.

I have committed to things already and I will see them through. But if you ask me to do something in the future and are surprised to hear me say "no," know that it isn't about you. It's about me and my need to take care of myself first.

I can't keep trying to be everything to everyone. It's making me crazy. I'm snapping at people I care about, finding myself angry for no reason, and forgetting what a full night's sleep even feels like.

Enough is enough.

To my friends, be patient. I'll work through this. But know that I'll be spending less time on the skyline and more time on my own.

To those who feel they have the right to criticize me for how I spend my time, what I choose to support, and where I choose to help, feel free to piss off. You no longer merit any time of mine nor do I care what happens to you. Go be someone else's problem.

To the rest of you that might be reading along, my only advice is to be as good to yourself as you are to anyone else. And work to find the balance between caring for others and caring for yourself.

And finally, to my husband, who has spent the last seventeen years trying in vain to convince me that I am good just as I am, I get it. I hear you. I'm listening.

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing


Put your make up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?

Get your sexy on
Don't be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong, so they like you
Do you like you?

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try
Yooou don't have to try


Get your shopping on, at the mall, max your credit cards
You don't have to choose, buy it all, so they like you
Do they like you?

Wait a second,
Why should you care, what they think of you
When you're all alone, by yourself, do you like you?
Do you like you?

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try
Yooou don't have to try


You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try
You don't have to try

Take your make up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don't you like you?
Cause I like you

I like me, too. More than that, I really like the me I am when I'm with you.