Tuesday, May 23, 2017

3 Days at the Fair

Three Days at the Fair. We aren't talking county fair...although it took place at fairgrounds.

There’s a saying, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

The expression that better suits this past weekend on my ultramarathon would be, “Embrace the suck.”

Don’t get me wrong, this was an amazing event and as much as I thought I would never do it again…well, let me set the scene for you.
First, 3 Days at the Fair is an event that takes place at the Sussex Fairgrounds in Augusta, NJ. A beautiful area where not much exists except the fairgrounds where 300 runners converged for 6 days. Yes, you read that correctly. Some people went for 144 hours of running! Pretty much you could choose anything from 6 hours to 144 hours.
Me? Call me crazy, but I signed up for the 48-hour option.

We check in at the aid station that you will be passing every mile. Yes, this is a one mile loop course, so if you ever wanted to know what a hamster feels like running on a wheel…come to 3 Days at the Fair.

Along with your timing chip that you will wear around your ankle like a person under house arrest and will eventually chafe and add to the suck, you will get your swag. The swag was a T-shirt and a pair of flannel pajama bottoms. And yes, eventually you will see half the runners sporting one or both of those items during the run.

You then set up tent. This is not a figure of speech. As you will be spending as much time on your feet as possible, you do and will need some rest. This becomes what I like to call “Tent City.”
Everyone has their own version of tenting. Some folks will be in RVs, others will have tents, and others like me will have a canopy and/or their SUV. Either way, this becomes your home away from home, your respite, your place of worship as you swear to heaven you will never do such a stupid thing again.
As part of this setup you place all the items you will need in just the right spot for easy access so when you stop for a ten or twenty-minute break you can quickly find the Squirrels Nut Butter for anti-chafing, extra shoes, socks, or even sandals to change into when your feet become so hot you swear they are on fire. Or you must rummage through for sunscreen because you didn’t apply any before it hit almost 90 freaking hot degrees! Or you need a jacket because the sun has gone down and now your body thinks that even though the outside temperature reads 70 degrees, your body screams, “It’s 45 degrees, you idiot, put some clothes on!”
Setting up your temporary home is the first place you have an opportunity to meet you new neighbors and your best friends for the weekend and if you’re lucky for the future. This is where I met Mandy, another runner in the 48-hour event and her friends and support crew for the weekend; Sandy and Heather. My first outing with my canopy and the girls helped me get it set up. Thanks, Mandy, Sandy, and Heather!

At last the event you signed up for begins! 9 AM and off to the races. Time to have fun.
The first part of the event was hotter than Hell! Not that I know how hot hell is, but I imagine running on asphalt in 90 degree temperatures where there is no shade AT ALL in a one mile loop is pretty close to what the devil makes you live in. But hey, you have fresh feet, legs and clothes so you are good to go and smiling the entire way.

You get a rhythm and see various runners moving along; some have been there for 4 days and others for less. You can tell the ones that have been there for longer than you because when you take the first turn past tent city to no-man’s land you come across this slight (and I do mean slight) incline and the runner on your left says, “This damn hill.”

At this point you’re musing to yourself, “Hill? Really?” 24-hours later you are thinking, “Not this damn hill! This very steep hill, again!”
Late afternoon you’re feeling good, but the sun beating down on you is starting to have an effect. You can’t get enough fluids, you’re either pouring sweat or stopped sweat, either way, the chafing has set in. I hear one guy as one of the support crews (not his), if they had any Vaseline he could borrow and clarified his request by saying, “The kind where you don’t mind where I stick my hands.”

Yes, folks, there is no shame in chafing and we are all good friends in an ultra.
I met lot of great runners and their crew or friends who popped in for moral support. Besides several laps with Mandy and breaks with her crew, I shared laps and had conversations with Allen who was at the event with his brother. I hung with Michele and her friend Cathy for quite a few laps, and met a runner named John who gave me some of the best advice all weekend.

His advice? Since my goal was to get a 100K, that’s 62 miles, John suggested to get 40 miles in the first 24 hours so the next day when I was beat up I’d only have to get 50% of that the next 24 hours. BEST ADVICE EVER!! I got 42 in the first 24 hours and my feet had started to blister but not terrible, just enough to feel like a constant nag and require taping.
Another runner that I swear never stopped moving all weekend told me to take socks and shoes off at every break to let the feet cool down and swelling come down. Wow! Another great piece of advice. The only drawback to this one was the one time I was stretched out in the back of my SUV with a blanket over my and my bare feet hanging out the door when the temperature dropped. Talk about ice cube toes! But definitely a good idea from the perspective of dealing with my swelling feet.

Did we take breaks? Yes. What do you think they put all those benches outside the bathrooms for? Some folks did little to no running in the heat of the day and then kept moving all night. My first 24-hour routine went something like this: a 15-minute break every 5 miles and 30-minute break every 10 miles the first day. At about 11 PM I sacked out for 2 hours…until the FIREWORKS went off. NOT kidding! All of us were fully awake after that 20-minute display from the local baseball field not far away.
I was up again for another two miles and back down until literally the roosters in the poultry center RIGHT NEXT DOOR sounded the alarm at 4 AM.
Day 2 officially started at 9 AM on Saturday and was a little more interesting or frustrating.

You wouldn’t think that after getting in 42 miles with a conservative approach that 20 more miles would take so freaking long. I swear by early evening the second day I wanted to die. I took a break every 2.5 miles and tried to take a longer break every 5 miles, but my body kept getting me up at 20 minutes no matter what. I’d set an alarm for an hour and my body would be ready after 20 minutes. My body was, but my feet were NOT!

I was putting food and fluids in my body, including fresh made pancakes and bacon. Breakfast on the go for runners. But I didn’t want it. Well, I did, but it wasn't helping my energy level. And oh, yeah, I was freezing. Since the evening of day 1, my body temperature was just cold. No, not cold. FRIGID! So cold I wore a fleece top and jeans over my running clothes, a rain jacket (and at one point event a vest), and two freaking hats.
Hey! It ain’t all about fashion. Although, there were some beautiful outfits on some of the runners. One guy had an airy shirt. Basically, he took a dress shirt and cut holes in it to keep the sun off his skin and at the same time made it breathable. Genius! One woman, Pam, was all in pink (head to toes) all weekend. And let me tell you about Pam…she never stopped and she was always encouraging. Another runner was like me and at some point, she went from running shorts to Hello Kitty fleece pants and a winter coat.

Early evening on the second day I was at mile 57, ONLY 5 miles from my goal and I was ready to finish. Except for my mental breakdown. I could have sworn the timing mat counted lap 57 three times!!! Yup, I am not gonna lie, I told myself there was no way I was going to do this. I was mentally and physically finished.
Then I ran into Michele and Cathy. These poor ladies saw me at my lowest. They picked me up outside the beautiful ladies’ room (no porta-johns at this event), dusted me off and shuffled me along like an old cowpoke and his trusty old mule. Thanks to their conversation and camaraderie, I made it to mile 60.

Then I had to have a break. I planned to take a two-hour nap and instead my body decided one was enough. I got up and made mile 60 to 61 by myself. Then I ran into John. Okay, more like sleep-walked into him, but John encouraged me and said, “Come on, we’ll get you to that goal.” John moved me along to mile 61.5 where Mandy was waiting for me outside our tents to take me the rest of the way to my goal. Mandy and her family all came along for the walk. More like a shuffle.
I am in tears right now as I write this, just as I stared to tear up when I saw that goal and that start-finish line. And yes, ladies and gentlemen I rang that bell like I wanted everyone to know that I had FINALLY achieved a yearlong goal. And as much pain as I was in it felt AMAZING!!!

Thank you: Mandy and family, Sandy, Heather, John, Michele and Cathy. You were my saviors.
On the way back to our tents, I saw John again and he told me, “I think you have more in you. I think you have at least two-thirds of a century in you.”

My response? Besides my jaw dropping?
“Are you nuts? All I want is sleep.”

And to be honest, that’s what I thought. I had planned to go back to my car throw everything in it and head off to a hotel for a good night’s sleep and a private shower.

What did I do?
I packed my car and was too exhausted to drive anywhere so I curled up in the front seat of the SUV, ripped off my shoes, socks, and tape and literally breathed a sigh of relief. The heat that had been plaguing my feet suddenly dissipated and I felt some relief. I pulled the blanket over me and slept. Not exactly the sleep of the dead, but I slept enough until I got too cold. That came to be a total of about 6 hours and then the sun was up and so was I.

I ran to the ladies’ room and noticed that without socks and tape on my feet, I felt pretty good. I mean, I felt fantastic! Legs were never an issue. It was all feet, all the time.
Hmm. Why not go for another mile?

So I joined the night of the living dead; the folks who woke up and decided to go for a few more laps in their pajamas or whatever was handy, like the flannel bottoms from our swag. Only this time I wasn’t hobbling along, I was moving. I was moving well!
I picked up Michele and Cathy who came out for coffee and to get Michele’s last laps. We got Michele to mile 62 and we kept on going.

All total, the last morning of my 48 hours, I got seven more miles in for a total of 70 miles! That is 70!! Seventy, hard-earned, embrace the suck, miles!! With some of my new best friends!!!
Thanks to the McNulty’s (race directing team), volunteers who stayed out there making us breakfast, soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and just generally anything you needed. Thanks to all the friends and crews who came out to support their friends and family, but also supported every other runner, and thanks to all those runners who I had the honor and privilege to spend so many one-mile loops with just talking and laughing, and even crying with. You made this event!

When it is all said and done then you have the awards and that camaraderie you shared with so many amazing people continues as you cheer on everyone who left their head, heart, and feet out on that unforgiving asphalt. (That's me sitting down in the back wearing only one of my hats and I'm sure my very smelly clothes.)
Did I say I would never do this again? Well, there’s another saying, “Never say never.” And if you are a runner, especially an ultrarunner, you know that adage holds very true.
Cuz, yes, I will do 3 Days at the Fair again. Only I will probably do 72 hours and I will “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

It’s not about the speed, it’s about the adventure!!! And this was one heck of an adventure.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Writing prompt Wednesday

A little motivation to kickstart your muse.

I give you the beginning of a sentence and you run with it. Write the first thing that pops into your head and see how far it takes you; a paragraph, a page, an entire chapter. Who knows, it may be the beginning to your next great novel.

Whatever you come up with, just have fun with it and enjoy the free writing time. If you feel like sharing then send your writing in the comments. If you feel like keeping to yourself then that's okay, too.

Have fun and write!

Writing Prompt: The body left drag marks...

Monday, February 20, 2017

50 mile run, beautiful weather, and my father

Fifty miles, beautiful weather, and my father all equal an amazing day!

I signed up for the Iron Horse Ultra in Palatka, FL months ago with the hopes of doing better than last year and not having to slush through puddles and feeling like a drowned rat and spending the weekend with my dad.

My dad picked me up at the airport the day before the run where we then stopped by the family home to say hi to mom, sister, and nephew before taking our time to get to Palatka. Gorgeous drive with very little to see besides forest. I'd say that set the tone for the event since the majority of the race took place through trees.

You never know what the weather will bring. This year, I ran the Iron Horse ultra without rain, without puddle after puddle and wet feet. The weather was almost perfect. Started out in the low 40s and quickly climbed to over 70. Love the sunshine! Not so much the heat. But it wasn't too bad. Had I been at the beach I would have been in heaven.

Oh, did I mention I forgot my running hat at home? Talk about a pain in the butt. Luckily the team at Iron Horse had a visor for sale, which took some rigging with safety pins to fit my small head. It worked! Thank goodness.

The course of the Iron Horse Ultra is beautiful and ever-changing. The first six miles are paved rail trail. From the start you do a 1.75 mile out and then back for 3.5 miles then you have another 2.5 miles of pavement before reaching a dirt road. I love the 50 yards of packed dirt. Can we run on this all day?

The answer is no.

The next section is 1.5 miles of trail at a slight incline to Aid Station 2. This section is dirt, grass, sand, roots. It makes it for an interesting section where you tend to look down, especially when you start the second loop and your legs are tired. But this is still my favorite section of the trail. Especially when returning back to the start-finish line.

Aid Station 2 is the main aid station that you hit 3 times during the course of one loop. Each loop has many out and back sections; most of which return to Aid Station 2. Aid Station 2 is fully manned and fully stocked from sugary sweets, salty chips, fresh fruit and PB&J sandwiches. There is also several people recording the fact that you came through.

Here is where my dad met me and gave me my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. For a girl who cannot eat gluten, this is a serious treat and the only time I get to eat this type of real food. Ready to head East on a six mile loop (3 miles out and back), I told dad to feel free to head out to the hotel to relax and I would text him when I was headed back down to the start-finish.

The East trail is, in my opinion the most challenging of the entire run. I heard one group of runners comment that due to the changing terrain it was difficult to get a good rhythm. I concur!

While it is flat, the changing landscape is a killer. You first hit gravel, then a section of packed dirt that is dug in by trucks that travel through the forest. This part is actually nice. You kind of enjoy the trees and the greenery and your smiling because the day is just fabulous. Then you hit more sand and look for the packed sand so your feet don't slide out from beneath you as you try to run.

And then...sugar sand.

If you've never seen sugar sand, just look in your sugar bowl or to the image to the left. Not kidding! It's pretty and white, but impossible to get good footing. On the first loop all you care about is the beauty that is surrounding you and you love the white sand surrounded by trees and notice the camo site to your right that actually has campers grilling breakfast. I almost went over and asked to join them.

There is no aid station on the East loop, but there is a table with a jug of water and cups. I think everyone is grateful for this because it gives us a point to know that not only are you going in the right direction but a marker to know how far you are from Aid Station 2.

Speaking of markers. The course is extremely well-marked with pink tape hanging from trees and bright yellow pie plates. The pie plates have directional arrows on them pointing the way. Of course, the markers are only good if you look up and not at the sand.

After the six miles on the East loop I returned to Aid Station 2 and was surprised to see my dad. But wow, did that make me happy. We had a quick chat and I refueled then I was off for an eight mile (4 miles out and back) loop on the West side.

The West loop consists of a little more packed dirt and less sugar sand. Thank goodness. I love this side! But the first thing you notice on the West loop occurs about a quarter mile in when an odor hits you. You look around in search of the cause and that's when you discover the charred dirt and the remnants of a forest fire. Black dirt and life. It's amazing to see how mother nature can be so cruel and at the same time so strong and resilient. Kind of like the human soul, I think as I stroll past in awe.

This section of the trail also has water off to one side and you have to wonder where it came from when all that surrounds you is trees and sand. Then, after four miles and several turns you hit Aid Station 3. The first time at Aid Station three it is manned by some kids in ROTC. They do a terrific job of checking you in and asking if you want or need anything. Also, at Aid Station 3 is the only "real" bathroom. No port-a-john! The fact that you get to wash your hands and have a little more than elbow room is pure luxury and you swear that this little creature comfort has been heaven sent.

After a rest stop, I get a handful of Pringles and a chocolate chip cookie and head back the four miles to Aid Station 2 where my father is waiting for me. It was really great to see him there. I tell him to get some food for himself as yes, Aid Station 2 is starting up the grill and is there for the runners and the crews. Only four miles from here and I have hit loop one and 25 miles.

Then we start again with the 1.75 miles out and back. On the out portion I am pretty much by myself; all the runners are spread out and I occasionally see one or two. In this section I notice these gigantic black birds. Lost of them! As I get a little closer I stay to the right as I am a tad fearful. Ever see the Alfred Hitchcock film, "The Birds"?  Yeah, okay, I do not want to be eaten. "Please do NOT eat me," I chant as I draw near and realize the birds are lunching on a dead deer. Ick! Oh, yeah, I ran past that.

At 3.5 miles into the second loop back at the start-finish, I take 30 minutes to re-apply New Skin and add some toe caps. For whatever reason, my feet swell well beyond normal so no matter what I do I get blisters, even with double toes socks and yes, even after adding in toe caps. After changing socks and shoes and another restroom break, I get to spend a little time chatting with dad while he refills my hydration vest.

So far dad's day has consisted of getting up at 4:30 AM, driving me to the event, driving between Aid Station 1 and 2, sitting in his car for hours reading a JD Robb book I got him for Christmas, and greeting me every time I come thru and asking me what I need. While I can't believe he is doing this and only doing this because I'm out there, I am ever so grateful for my dad, for his support and his cheerleader attitude.

Then I am off for Aid Station 2 where dad will meet me once again. At Aid Station 2 it's getting darker now so I grab a headlamp and spare batteries, and the temperature is starting to go down so I grab a fleece and windbreaker.

Halfway thru the East loop for the second time the sun is starting to set so I stop to soak in the beauty and snap a picture. In doing so, I also decide that my sports bra is adding to the chill. With a quick glance around I decide to strip in the middle of the woods and lose the sports bra before slipping the fleece on. Sorry, no pictures of that, but I'm guessing the bears had a good show.

The sugar sand is pretty in the moonlight, and at the same time more frustrating on your footing. And I swear I kept looking for the pink tape and yellow markers. Everything seemed to be a lot further apart the second loop. When I return to Aid Station 2 I know the blisters have started but they aren't bad. YET! So I grab a PB&J and another, heavier jacket, because yes, it is freaking cold, hug my dad and head out for the second West loop.

This is the section where I ran into a runner who was going to quit after her first 25 miles. We ran into each other on the out and back section near the start-finish and chatted for a few. I suggested she not make a decision until she hit Aid Station 2 again. So while I was out somewhere near mile 38ish or so I saw her coming back at me and we stopped for a few minutes. I was glad to see her and congratulated her on not giving up.

She said, "You tricked me."

"How'd I do that?"

"You knew if I made it to Aid Station 2 I wouldn't quit until I got back to the finish."

I grinned. "I only hoped. Congratulations on the 50 miler!"

Then she took off.

The best part of this eight miles on the West loop for the second time was Aid Station 3 and the volunteers. First off, you are greeted by flashing, blinking colored lights and loud, ever so uplifting music. I was surprised and at the same time thrilled. As I enter and they get my take my number to track me they are offering me soup and sandwich in front of a roaring fire.

First things first. Potty break! After I wash up then you bet I took them up on the warm fire and the chicken noodle soup. Soup never tasted so good! I sat there talking with another runner and the volunteers for a good 10 to 15 minutes and it was like once again heaven had dropped just what we needed in the middle of nowhere. Then the volunteers wished me luck and I was off again.

Back at Aid Station 2 my dad met me. I stripped off the toes caps because they weren't helping and then he and I warmed up by the fire for a few minutes. I'm excited because only 4 miles and I am at mile 50. Woohoo!

I take off and dad is going to meet me at the start-finish. My goal was for 62 miles but as I trudge along the paved rail trail path and another blister pops inside my shoe sending a sharp pain into my foot I think there is no way. Not because of the blisters, but because of the snails pace I am moving because of the blisters.

I am moving so slow, thanks to blisters that I don't think I have time to meet the cutoff to hit that goal so once I make it to the finish line I have to decide to go on and get more blisters and not make the cutoff or call it a day and a job well done at 50 miles. It was 12 miles better than last year.

While my goal was 62 miles, I was very excited for the 50 miles. My dad was real excited too. He gave me the biggest hug and had to take my picture with the medal. That was the longest run I've done with him being there and it was the best day because I got to share the experience with him and he got to see what ultra runners and ultra running is about.

Ultra running is about a community of people who want to challenge themselves and encourage like minded people. Whether a fast runner or a slow plodder (like me); it doesn't matter. You are out there giving it your best shot and you are doing something very few people would even think about doing. Especially when most people will say, "I don't even like to drive my car 50 miles."

Ultra running is a journey. It's not just the distance, it's the people, the scenery, the becoming one with nature and the discovery of yourself. It's the ability to leave your everyday life behind you for hours and just be. It's the challenge to push yourself to do more each time or to do better; depending on your goal. It's taking the time to get to know yourself, and your body and to continue to grow and learn. It's respect for other runners, the volunteers, the race directors, the crews that are out there supporting their runner, and it's the self-respect for yourself.

There is so much to be gained and learned by running an ultra and absolutely nothing to lose. Even if you do not finish.

I got my medal for my 50 miles and dad packed me in the car and off to the hotel we went for a good night's sleep.

It's not until 2 days later that I realize I actually could have made the cutoff for my 62 miles, but my mind had been such mush that I couldn't calculate the distance and time. Ha!

Note to self: have someone else do the math for you. Oh, well, next time.

This was a race for the books, not just because of the beautiful environment, and the fabulous volunteers, and other runner. This race was for the books because I did it with my dad. While he had not been running with me, he had been my support and my crew for almost 20 hours by the time we got back to the hotel. I hope my father knows how much his being there with me meant and how this will be my favorite race for that reason alone.

And dad, next year, we will do the 62 miles! Cuz now I know how to multiply when my brain isn't fuzzed over from lack of sleep and blistered feet. Thank you for being there and sharing this event.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Four friends, a group of Veterans, and a day to remember

Words cannot express today. Today, on the anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001 we celebrated and thanked the women and men who served our country and protected our freedoms; we being three amazing friends and myself.

Nancy Wallace, Renee Hoyt, Lauren Wallace, and I all showed up at the New England Center and Home for Veterans in Boston for the opportunity and pleasure to serve lunch to approximately 118 Veterans.

Nancy, Lauren, Renee
We not only served the meal to the Veterans, but we had the honor of thanking every single one of them for their service.
One gentleman not only thanked me (which surprised me) for the special meal and told me how much us being their made their day, but he came back after eating his lunch, shook my hand, and told me that our support put a smile on his face. I have to tell you his man brought tears to my eyes.
It wasn’t all tears. There were hair nets, and gloves, aprons, and grins. There were a lot of laughs, and, handshakes, a lot of getting trays so a Veteran could pile on the dessert (cupcakes from http://nancysmarshview.com/) or carrying trays to a table if someone needed help. 
Cupcakes for dessert

It was tugging chocolate lollipops from their stands or handing a Veteran extra sodas so he could stick them in his toiletry bag and take back to his room for later.

There were discussions of football…thanks to all of us girls wearing New England Patriots’ T-shirts. Quite the icebreaker.
Ice cream line
At one point when I was handing out ice cream, CJ Beck, the Philanthropic Officer at New England Center and Home for Veterans (community.support@nechv.org) and organizer of the hosted meals program and I were chatting and he asked me what I thought. With no thought necessary, I responded, “Who wouldn’t want to do this every day.”

You will walk in nervous, excited, and not knowing what to expect. You will walk out feeling as if you just spent the best few hours of your life with the most amazing men and women you will ever have the privilege to meet.

New England Patriots' shirts
If you are tempted to do this and I hope you are, you will find it an amazing experience for yourself and the Veterans you will be serving. These folks are deserving and thankful knowing that someone really cares.

Honestly, there are no words to express this experience other than maybe honor, respect, humbling, emotional, and the best thing I have ever done.

I cannot wait to do it again! And we will, in December. If you would like to contribute to that event and be a part of thanking our Veterans, please go here and make a donation: https://www.youcaring.com/new-england-center-and-home-for-veterans-578096

Packing for the event
Just because!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

I know why God is not a woman

You ever drive down the road, pretty much on autopilot, and all the sudden an epiphany strikes you?
Yeah, me neither.

Okay, what I’m about to say is not meant to be a conversation about religion, religious beliefs, but just my odd sense of the universe smacking me upside the head, and saying, “Duh!”
God said, "He would create Man in His own image and after His likeness"…or close to that.
This leads everyone to question is God a man or a woman.

I’m here to tell you the answer is simple. NOT a woman. He is a man.

GASP! Okay all you feminists…just chill. And think about it.
Do you really think if God were a woman she would prefer an inny to an outty? No, seriously!

Come on, ladies! How many times have you wished you could pee standing up? That you could just whip it out when and where necessary. That you did not have to practice the pee pee dance or wait in the long line at a concert. Or beg your father to stop at the nearest rest area only for him to drive three hours more while your eyes turn a neon shade of yellow. Or you could pee in a cup WITHOUT getting your hands all wet.
If God was a woman, do you believe she would haphazardly smite all women and say, “Every 28 days you shall bleed.”

Heck, no! Not even to your worse enemy would you wish to be wearing white pants and all the sudden have a red stain in a certain area. Or that you would have a big beach vacation planned only to be SURPRISED! by ‘mother nature’ arriving early. Let’s add to that the bloating, cramps, and headaches, not to mention irritability to the mix. No, no woman would do that to another.

Let’s not even mention the whole giving birth scenario. While it is very cool to bring another human being into this world, do you imagine that a female God would vote YES to shooting a watermelon out a hole the size of a lemon? What is she a masochist? No, I don’t believe it.
And MENOPAUSE! Really? I do not think so. No way would a female God wish that on women. First, we suffer for years with the regularity or irregularity of our menstrual cycle only to have it taken away, but not all at once. No, we have to spend YEARS with mood swings, ever more irregular cycles, HOT flashes, and then not be able to have any more children. While a man at the age of 70 can still get it up enough to get a twenty-something year-old pregnant.

This was a man’s doing!

Only, here’s the good part. It backfired!
Little did HE realize that all these things make us the stronger sex. While women may not have balls…OURS are definitely BIGGER.

So, while I have just discovered the truth as to the sex of God, I have also discovered that the joke is on all men.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Listen up, politicians!

I don't normally go on tirades so I apologize in advance.

The middle class is fed up. Tax paying citizens are fed up. One party is all about pleasing the wealthy and the other party is all about giving everything to the lower class. No party is interested in the middle class, the class that pays the taxes because they don’t make enough to use the loop holes, the class that makes a little too much to utilize all the freebies the government has for the lower income. We’re the ones paying for the so-called affordable act, but cannot utilize.

You’re all fired!
We voted you to office so you would look out for OUR, EVERYONE’S interests, not what the political office can do for you. We didn’t put you there so you could get paid for doing nothing for the rest of your life or so you didn’t have to pay for better healthcare than what the American public can afford. We put you in Congress not to follow your own agenda and to stall any proposed legislation that doesn’t follow your party’s agenda. We didn’t put you in the Senate to change the way you would vote because it was easier for your time in political office.

We voted for you to make a difference, to do what is best for us, the American public, and that includes the middle class, the tax paying people. Not your special interest group.
The fix is simple. It’s multi-stepped, but simple!

Let’s start with the political office first:

1.     We no longer want a two party system. Your time is done. The donkey and the elephant are out.

2.     Money cannot be used to gain office. If you can’t pay for your running for office, then don’t. The so-called donations and ridiculous fundraisers are corrupting the system. They are out!

3.     Only working people can be voted into office. We want people in office, whether President, Congress, Senate, or any other political office who have worked for a living, who have lived paycheck to paycheck, and who have to pay for their insurance like the rest of us.

4.     If you have done something illegal like hiding government emails on a personal server, you are out! Go to jail and DO NOT collect $200 or your political fundraiser money. We do not want you! Even if the FBI does not have the BALLS to go after you, we the people do not want you. You belong in jail. If you defrauded the public with fake charity donations (LIES) then you are out. If you have a filthy, disgusting, offensive mouth that degrades every person on the face of the planet, you are out! We do not want you as the leader of our country. Heck, we don't want you leading anything. Put you in a closet and muzzle you.

a.     We want politicians or people that hold political offices to be honest with us so we can make accurate an well-informed decisions.
b.   We want people who care and understand about the issues the American citizen are facing and is willing to work on realistic solutions that will not put us into greater debt or offend our allies or citizens.

5.     Term Limits are in! There are no more free rides. You come in, do your term and then you are gone. We do not want stale leaders who can’t think beyond themselves. Term Limits will help get new blood into office who want to make a difference for the American people.

6.     No more free anything! When you leave office you get a job like the rest of us. We will not pay for your livelihood for the rest of your life. We will not pay for your healthcare or your family’s healthcare for the rest of your life. If I can’t afford healthcare for my family, why should I pay for yours?
Now let’s address the overall issues the American people are facing:

1.     Put an accountant in charge of the budget! I’m not sure why this is so difficult? Maybe it’s because as stated above the politicians have never had to work and therefore do not know how to balance a checkbook, but math is easy. If more goes out than comes in, we have a deficit. You learned this in the third grade.

2.     Stop sending jobs overseas! It’s not cheaper. For every dollar you think you are saving, it costs you more is cleanup and support of the garbage that was built or developed by “cheap” labor. My mother always said, “You get what you pay for.” How do you not know this?

a.     Fine every company that outsources jobs overseas. Oh, look, if some CEO of a company decides to go that route then we have just gained tax money that can be put toward our flailing Social Security or our current debt.

b.     By sending jobs overseas you spend more time interpreting the requirements. More time cleaning up what was not understood. More time trying to take it back when you realize they can’t do what you want. It takes more time to do the work overseas because of these things, which equates to more cost.

c.      You also run the risk of the code that you paid for being used by the outsourced company for another company because they do not have the same, if any, intellectual property laws of the United States.

3.     Speaking of overseas, let’s talk non-US citizens. I’m all for letting people come here to follow their dreams. What we, the American people are not okay with, is paying for that dream.

a.     You come here, great! You want to stay, you pay. Stop paying for these folks’ healthcare, education, and whatever else we giveaway. Part of following the dream is paying for it! If I have to pay my taxes, then so should everyone else.

4.       Speaking of taxes. Get rid of the upper class loop holes.

a.     Flat tax. Everyone pays and everyone pays the same rate. Wow! There you go, another avenue to put toward that gigantic debt and a way to repay the money borrowed from the flailing Social Security.

5.     Following the dream in many instances is getting a higher education. Yea, for education! Should it be free? Maybe, maybe not. However, if you borrow money, like many of us do then you should pay it back.

a.     I had student loans when I went to school and you bet I paid it back. That is part of the responsibility of growing up. It’s part of the higher education dream. Could we do something about the high expense, like the $30K or more per year to go to college. Yes!

b.     Make it reasonably priced. Why can you take the same course at a local college and it costs 1/3 the price of a major 4-year university? Fix this!

c.     The loan repayment fees, meaning the interest rate should be low so a student just out of school who will probably end up back at home for a period of time and searching for a job can repay when they get their first job that barely meets their cost of living and the gas to get to the job.

6.     Healthcare and the affordable care act is a crock! The cost of healthcare today is triple what the monthly cost was just ten years ago and the deductibles are outrageous. We don’t have healthcare. We have catastrophe insurance. This can be fixed.

a.     The Affordable Care Act is illegal. The Federal government cannot mandate a policy that is state owned. Meaning, since we are stuck using whatever insurance is available in the state we live in, the Affordable Care Act is illegal.

b.     If you take it back to being state owned, which it truly is anyway, as stated above, because you can only choose from the options your state has available then we open the market to interstate commerce and the insurance companies vying for your business. The price goes down and the value goes up. Supply and demand. Right now that does not exist because the Federal government interfered where they have no business treading.

c.     Now, if you also want to fix this then go after the pharmaceutical companies that charge a fortune for a pill that someone has to take every day. Make it affordable. Wow! There is your affordable care act.

d.     Make the price of a doctor visit between one place and another the same. Why should one doctor charge $75 and another charge $150 for the same routine checkup? Same thing with a visit to a hospital or a special test. Why should we, the consumer of the mandated insurance need to shop around for a better price? Here is your affordable care act. It’s actually cheaper for these services if you do not have insurance and you pay cash at the visit. The increase in cost is largely due to the overhead required by the Affordable Care Act. Obviously a misnomer in the naming.

e.     Let’s talk more about the pharmaceutical companies. There are already drugs out there that can cure diseases and certain cancers. Nanotechnology exists that can target a cancer instead of chemotherapy that basically kills everything in the body. Why is the government letting the pharmaceutical companies not sell these and sell these at a reasonable price? Why should we, the consumers, have to keep paying exorbitant prices on any drug and for insurance so they can keep doing more and more research?

                                                               I.      If you follow the information above, we, the American people are good at fundraising and donating. We want people to live happy and healthy lives.

                                                             ii.      If you received the taxes you should be getting from the upper class, then you could afford more research and lower the cost of drugs that actually cure something instead of address symptoms.

f.      Back to the overseas topic. Actually, let’s discuss the topic of allowing foreign owned companies to buy American companies. This is a disaster and you know this.

                                                               i.      These companies do not know our rules and regulations, nor do they care to. They only care about their country and their regulatory reporting.

                                                             ii.      They structure their organizations in a way that they do not have to pay the taxes that they should and the government knows this but for some reason has not enforced the laws to get the taxes. Wow! The debt is getting lower and lower.

                                                           iii.      These foreign owned companies take advantage of the vacation visas. 50% or more of the people that they bring in from their country to work at a US organization are not here on work visas. They are here on vacation visas. Is that being looked at? What amount of money are we losing here? What laws are being broken? Hmm…Taxes are not being paid here.

                                                           iv.      The owners of these companies bring in people from overseas to work at higher wages than the token US citizens they hire.

                                                             v.      They do not follow our labor laws. For example, one bank only allows the hourly worker to enter in 8 hours into the online timesheet system, which is illegal.

                                                           vi.      They do not pay overtime or they try to tell you they will only pay $50 for 8 hours of work, which is illegal if that does not cover the hourly rate of the employee.

                                                          vii.      Speaking of employees. These same companies do not do all the work here in the US. As a matter of fact, they tend to want 50% or more of the work to be done in their country. Again, we are losing US jobs to this, not to mention tax revenue.

                                                        viii.      Do you know where your personal and confidential data is? Depending on the type of organization your financial information is being sent to another country and depending on the type of business and information this is in some instances against federal regulations. These companies are not being regulated and told to fix this. Remember what I mention above, some countries do not have the same intellectual property laws as we do so once your data is overseas, it’s free reign for them to use it however they want.

                                                            ix.      If you want to allow a foreign company to buy a business in the US, then make them pay the taxes as mentioned above for every person they bring in from another country to work as that is taking a job away from a tax paying US citizen.

                                                             x.      If you want to allow a foreign company to buy a business in the US, then be sure they follow ALL the US rules and regulations and don’t just fine the company, enforce the rules.

g.     Veterans are people too. Listen up, politicians! These are the people that went out and put their lives on the line for our safety and our future. It’s time to pay back. They deserve better healthcare and if we aren’t paying for you all for the rest of your lives then we can afford to take care of the men and women who have sacrificed, served and deserve good healthcare.

h.     As far as healthcare is concerned, let’s dive into genetically modified organism (GMO) and Monsanto. We don’t want it! It is causing cancers and other health care issues. It’s a known fact and yet, you, the so-called politicians and government of the people do not seem to care that these foods are killing US citizens. This is all about the mighty dollar of big corporations and politicians, not what is right for the public and our health.

                                                               i.      I have an idea, fine or tax the producers of GMO foods. There ya go, we’re lowering the debt even more.

i.       Guns! You have no right to take away our Constitutional right to carry weapons. If you want to make the process of owning a weapon more stringent then by all means do so. But do not think that the Federal government or even the state government (CALIFORNIA) have the right to rewrite our Constitution and take away our rights! Get over yourselves.

                                                               i.      We, the tax paying CITIZENS, have the right to protect ourselves and our homes.

                                                             ii.      Most violence is done with illegally obtained weapons. What are you doing about that? These people are the reason you should make the process of obtaining weapons more stringent. NOT to take away our RIGHT to carry weapons.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

What books inspired you?

Whether you read fiction or non-fiction, I believe books inspire. They inspire you, the reader, to learn something new, or to reinforce something you already believed, or maybe, just maybe they open your mind to explore. Books give us an opportunity to not just escape from our everyday lives, but to give us an opportunity to experience new places, new theories, and new people without leaving the comfort of your favorite chair.

However, I think a good book will also introduce you to and inspire you to want to explore and experience something in real life. Not just while sofa surfing.
What do you think?

What books have made you get up out of the chair and try something new or to learn something more?
There are several books that stand out in my lifetime of books that have inspired me to expand my horizons, go in search of new adventure, or just to experience something new or different.

Nora Roberts book, Born in Fire had a character who was a glass blower. I had never heard of such a thing so of course I had to look into it and then proceeded to take two classes. The result is I created several glass paperweights that I still have today, and a glass rose.
While reading every book I could get my hands on written by romantic suspense author Linda Howard, I decided I wanted to write a novel. Talk about inspiration, not to mention aspiration! Well, not only did I do it, but I wrote six novels, five of which have been published. This experience gave me the opportunity to explore a creative side I didn’t know I had, made me some great friends along the journey, and learn more of the craft of writing and the publishing industry.

Another book that got to me was a book written by Carla Neggers. The timing of me reading this book was so amazing that I swear to you it was a sign. I wanted to go on an adventure. I wanted to go to Ireland. I just didn’t know where in Ireland. I started searching and one day while online I saw this cottage, this stone cottage in Kenmare, Ireland. Hmmm…where is Kenmare, Ireland? I discovered that Kenmare was in southwest Ireland and is beautiful.
Then I opened the book I had been reading, The Whisper by Carla Neggers, and turned the page to Chapter 26 where the first thing I read were the words; Kenmare, Ireland.

Seriously! If you do not believe in signs then you should. My fate was sealed. I made my reservations that day to stay in the stone cottage in Kenmare, Ireland. I’ve gone back for a second visit where I explored even more of Ireland, ran a half marathon in Dingle and took a one day photography class. Yes, there will be a third visit to Kenmare, Ireland, my home away from home.
One day two years ago a woman in my office gave me a book titled Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. She gave me the book because I love running. Well, it’s actually a love/hate relationship. Depending on the day it can be painful, but when you are out there the mind clears and the feet just like to move. Anyway, at first I was not going to read this book. Sorry, Christopher McDougall, but it’s true. I didn’t want some book to change my new found love. I could not have been more wrong!

There. I admit it. I was wrong. (Don’t get used to it.) Born to Run expanded my horizons. I learned not just about a tribe of amazing runners called the Tarahumara, but I learned about ultra running. What is that you ask? That is a run any distance longer than a marathon. What?! Yeah, exactly my point. I became fascinated. And this book led me to read more books related to long distance, endurance running. And of course…my first ultra marathon. This year I will make my first attempt at a 100-mile run.
Another friend recommended the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History written by retired Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice. The book is the memoir of CPO Chris Kyle, U.S. Navy Seal. If you have not read it, I highly recommend American Sniper. You will get a feel for what our men and women of service go through, and how they struggle to deal with “normal” life when they return home, not to mention what it is like when deployed and on the battlefield, plus a whole lot more. It was this book and the tragic death of Chris Kyle that inspired me to spend the next year running to raise funds for his foundation, Guardian for Heroes Foundation.

Guardian for Heroes Foundation provides free, in-home fitness equipment, facilitation of donated health club memberships, individualized programs, personal training and life coaching to in-need veterans with disabilities, and those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) from combat deployment. With this mission, it seemed only natural that I, a runner, a supporter of our Veterans, find a way to give back.
I encourage everyone to give back. Find a way.

I have always donated to various charities, none more than our Veterans and children’s education. Every year I donate to a local business various gifts that our retired military men and women who live in a home need. They ask for the simplest of pleasures; a new comforter, a tin of cookies, sugar free candy, and everyday toiletries. It is my mission every year on Veteran’s Day to grab several names from the Veteran Tree and make certain those folks get their Christmas gifts.
As I reflect back, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History inspired me beyond just that one year of fund raising, which by the way I am not good at. It inspired me to do something more, to want to make a difference in this world.

That’s where my next book comes in play.
I have been having health issues and it has become more than obvious that much of it is related to stress. Stress on the body whether mental or physical is still stress and the body does not like it. In my case, the universe and my doctors are telling me that my job is toxic. How do you like that word? I’d say that is very descriptive. And I agree, but I’ve known this for four years and have not done a thing about it. Well, I have, but not the right thing. Not the thing that is going to go after the root cause. Not the thing that is going to change my life and put me on the happy path.

Part of that is fear, because let’s face it; we all have to pay bills. But fear is not usually something that holds me back. As my friends and family will attest, I like to go. I like to try new things, new adventures. Part of what is holding me back is the people that work for me and our accomplishments. We do perform some work-related miracles and make a huge difference. But that difference is only affecting the organization for which we work. Not making a difference in the world. Not making us happy.
So here sits me, or maybe it’s running, and I contemplate, and think, and consider, and search…for that thing, that passion that will help me make a difference, help me find my calling. After a ten-miler last Sunday I was sitting in my house or should I say bouncing off the walls. I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t focus. Since I had already gone for a run I didn’t want to do that so, when all else fails I went to the bookstore.

BAM! That’s when the title of this book hit me in the face. Okay, not literally, but seriously, how can you not pick up a book titled Do Cool Sh*t by Miki Agrawal.
I read Do Cool Sh*t in three days. It would have been one if I did not have to work. And wow! I resonated with Miki. At one point in her book she started having stomach pains and I knew exactly how she felt because I have the same thing. Gosh darn processed foods!

Anyway, because of Miki’s book, Do Cool Sh*t, I have new inspiration to go after my dreams and it is not to work for anyone else. It is to jump tracks and start something that will make me happy and make a difference…even if only in a small corner of the world. Her writing inspired me to the point that I signed up for a class this morning in the hopes that this class will help me shift my focus and learn something new that will benefit me in my search for my passion.
To the authors mentioned above and to all the others I've read but could not possibly list, I thank you! Thank you for inspiring!

What about you? What books have influenced and inspired you? Why? How?



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