Living life one pair of running shoes at a time.

It wasn’t long ago that I shot a gun for the first time. I was with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and I described the experience here. I remember feeling curious, but nervous. Was this really a skill I wanted, being able to shoot a gun?

That day, I shot a .22 pistol, everything went fine, and I wound up enjoying myself.

My subsequent gun lessons have been good, but sporadic, and earlier this year, Robin Hood (that’s my husband) called my bluff. He convinced me to enter the draw for an elk tag this fall, and wouldn’t you know? I got that darn tag.

So long, friendly, fun .22…hello, high-caliber firearm that can kill an elk and feasibly dislocate my shoulder!


This summer, we drove to a remote desert area south of Albuquerque several times to practice. We would start with a .22 rifle and end with a 20-gauge shotgun. In those sessions, I would hit my emotional limit with the shotgun, and we would call it a day.

Think it sounds silly to hit an emotional limit when shooting a 20-gauge shotgun? Do you remember the first time you shot one?

Frankly, I was proud. I was testing myself, pushing my limits, and learning a hard skill. The first time I fired that shotgun without shrieking or crying (yep, did both), I felt strong. I felt capable. I was Sarah Connor in Terminator 2!

I knew, though, that a bigger test awaited: the .270 Winchester. This is the gun I’m going to carry into my elk hunt, so this is the gun I need to learn.

Last weekend, it happened. We drove to the desert, and Robin Hood only brought two guns for me to shoot: the .22 rifle (to warm up) and the .270.

If you’ve never shot a high-powered rifle, I can assure you that it is not as easy as it looks in the movies.

Like the shotgun, the .270 requires very deliberate shoulder placement so I don’t hurt myself (much) when shooting it. However, Mr. .270 also has a telescopic sight which, yes, helps with longer-distance targets, but requires concentration to get the hang of.

Nope. Not easy.

Between getting a firm, comfortable grip on the rifle; confirming a bullet was in the chamber and the safety was off; establishing a solid visual on the target through the sight; remembering to breathe (hello); and oh yeah, casually brushing off the anticipation/anxiety that always comes right before you make something go BOOM, it took me a while to pull the trigger.

As in, I had to put the gun down, drink some water, and try to feel as Zen as one can feel when sitting in the dust listening to gunfire.

But I didn’t have a choice. I needed to learn to use this gun for my hunt. Period.

I plunked myself back down in the shooting chair, and started over again. It came a little easier this time. I peered through the sight at my target: a 2-inch-square piece of fluorescent tape on a cardboard box, 100 yards away.

Aim small, miss small. I’d heard that from Robin Hood at the first archery shoot he ever took me to, and I’d heard it again in American Sniper.

I pulled the trigger. It was still scary, but I didn’t shriek. Or cry. And, just a few minutes later, I did it again.

I discharged a total of five rounds that day. Not a whole lot, but those five rounds increased my respect for that rifle and VASTLY increased my respect for myself.

Now that’s high-caliber.



Rising to Fall


Fall is here!

I would have published a post on Wednesday, but I was too busy buying caramel apples. Caramel apples are one of my favorite ways to ring in fall. Priorities, people!

One of my other favorite ways to ring in fall is by cresting the peak of marathon training. Tomorrow, I’ll be doing the longest run of my training cycle, and a month from now, I’ll be boarding a plane to Washington, D.C. Final destination? The Marine Corps Marathon.

!!! Insert high-pitched dolphin-like squeaks of excitement here!!!

A new season seems like such a fitting time to begin tapering. I’ll miss the summer a little – it was a great one, after all – and I’ll miss the mileage build-up a little. Weird as it sounds, in these next weeks I’ll savor every minute of wearing my compression socks, every foam-rolling session, and yes, every drop of Gu, because I know that in a flash, the marathon will have come and gone. Life will move on, and so will fall. Heck, by the time I return to running after the requisite post-marathon recovery, we’ll be out of Daylight Savings Time.

Savor, indeed.

Marathon training aside, I’m learning to embrace the transitional seasons more and more with each year. And this fall brings two new kinds of transitions for me.

One: my name is changing! Yeah, I know, I got married three months ago, but I’m finally jumping through the legal hoops to get my new last name. I visited the social security office earlier this week. Next stop: MVD (a.k.a. DMV) for a shiny new driver’s license. This ball is rolling!

Does it feel weird, this transition? Of course it does; I was a Banks for 34 years. But I’m telling myself that I’m not losing any part of my identity. Rather, my identity is growing. See? That sounds better. Not to mention when I pick up a pen and sign “Shannon Sapp,” it looks like “Shannon Jazz,” which makes me happy.

Two: I’m turning into a hunter. I’m still definitely, definitely a novice, but a hunter nonetheless. I told you about my squirrel a couple of weeks ago, and it may not seem very impressive, especially to you experienced hunters out there, but it gave me a huge confidence boost. Just in time, too – over the next month, I’ll be practicing with significantly higher-powered firearms, because my next live target will be significantly larger than a squirrel. It will be an elk. I intend to go about this hunt the right way, which means practice and more practice.

Practice + practice + practice = experience = respect for what you’re doing = confidence in what you’re doing = confidence in yourself.

Marathon training and getting ready for a hunt aren’t so different, are they?

It’s time to let go of summer. Bring on marathon tapering. Bring on a new name. Bring on target practice. Bring on harvest festivals and the aroma of roasting green chiles and Balloon Fiesta and cooler weather.

Bring on fall!

p.s. To anyone else running the Marine Corps Marathon: May your last long runs be great and your taper peaceful :)

My husband and I dropped off our puppy, Ann, at the vet last night to be boarded over the weekend. We experienced a mixed bag of emotions — sadness at leaving her for the first time since we brought her home; pride at how quiet and (relatively) well-behaved she was in the vet’s lobby; some unnamed combo-pack o’ emotions when we went back home to a puppy-less environment.

One of the strangest parts for me was waking up this morning about half an hour later than usual. Usually, since we’ve had Ann, I get up at 5:10 on weekdays so I can let her out, feed her, and take her for a walk before I go to work.

Let me be clear: I don’t enjoy waking up that early. It’s not fun. Rarely do I (does anyone?) spring out of bed at that hour with glee in my step.

But there’s something about that pre-sunrise walk. It’s still dark outside. The night sky is veeery slowly starting to fade. It’s a transition time. It’s cool. The air is also pleasantly cool — although ask me in three months and I’ll probably use a different adjective.

Our morning walks are when Ann is most energetic, and she doesn’t always want to behave. Even so, there’s a certain peace there. The neighborhood is all quiet, and but for the handful of folks slipping off to an early commute, we have the world to ourselves.

I try to take this time to breathe; to savor the peace and quiet before the hustle and stress of the workday begins. Even though I’m usually carrying a bag of dog poop in one hand, it’s nice.

It is a fabulous time to pray.

The reason Ann is getting boarded this weekend is that Robin Hood and I are heading to Phoenix for the baptism of my friend Tara’s son, Luca. We’re going to be his godparents.

My faith isn’t perfect. Far from it. This year, between planning a wedding, adjusting to married life, adjusting to a new puppy, and training for another marathon, my faith has been tested, and I have not always come through with flying colors. But I keep working on it, and thankfully, God has surrounded me with some terrific people to help me when I need it.

Luca, as your godmother, I’ll tell you right now I don’t have all the answers. But here’s what I do know:

  • God will never leave you. Period.
  • Your faith doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, sometimes it will be torn, ratty, crumpled, stained, and downright ugly. This is totally normal. But don’t ever let go of it.
  • You have people in your life who are here for you — your parents, your godparents, and MANY others. And we always will be.

And last but not least: If you just look around a little bit, you can find beauty in the world, even when you’re carrying dog poop.

Tara and Randy: thank you for having faith in Robin Hood and I. We are honored beyond measure to be Luca’s godparents.

Just a walk in the woods…

Last Saturday, Robin Hood and I went on an overnight camping/hunting adventure into the Santa Fe National Forest. If you’ve never been, or if your idea of New Mexico is a roadrunner chasing a tumbleweed, I recommend it.


We found a campsite and settled in for the evening. Thankfully, with all of the rain we’ve been getting this year in the central and northern parts of the state, there weren’t any fire restrictions, so it wasn’t long before we had a cozy campfire crackling. However, with all of the rain we’ve been getting this year in the central and northern parts of the state, it wasn’t long before…it started to rain. Whomp whomp.

But! It didn’t last long, and we successfully kept our campfire alive. Which meant dinner could proceed as planned… which meant absolutely-knock-your-socks-off-delicious campfire tamales. Forget hot dogs!

After a mellow evening (well, mellow for Robin Hood and I. Ann the coonhound puppy did not have a mellow evening, as she had a strong need to sniff ALL THE SMELLS), we got up early the next morning, breakfasted, and broke camp. Then we drove to the top of the mountain we had camped on. We had a mission.

That mission? Small game; i.e. squirrels, grouse, and turkey. I counted my blessings that this kind of hunting a) did not require waking up before dawn, b) did not happen in frigid temperatures, and c) did not require head-to-toe camouflage (although admittedly, that’s kinda fun). Basically, it was a leisurely nature hike. We just happened to be carrying a .22 rifle and a recurve bow.

Our first foray yielded no grouse or turkey, but Robin Hood did get one squirrel with the .22. We…er…hauled back our harvest (squirrel gumbo, anyone?) to the truck, where Robin Hood cleaned the squirrel, bagged it, and put it on ice.

After a quick couple of sandwiches, we ventured back out in a different direction. In no time, Robin Hood had another squirrel, which he stashed alongside the trail. We walked on.

Now…I am a teensy bit competitive. No matter that my husband has been hunting for over a decade and I’ve never killed anything bigger than a cockroach. I wanted a squirrel.

We walked on, steadily scanning the tree tops and the ground. And then, there it was: a fluffy, darting movement amongst the branches.

I moved closer, quietly, and readied the .22. I found a good spot, took aim, and…the squirrel ran. Vaguely aware of my husband’s presence nearby, I kept scanning. There! One of us – I’m not sure who – spotted the squirrel again. Again, I got close, took aim, and this time, fired. And missed. The squirrel, not being dumb, fled into a tree.

A few minutes passed; we thought he was gone. I was ready to move on, but then! Another fluffy movement! The squirrel was moving slowly but surely down a nearby tree. Closer, closer…

I moved into position and lifted the rifle. I had time. I was going to be careful. I aimed, breathed, aimed, breathed, and…POP! And then watched, a little wide-eyed, as that squirrel fell out of the tree.

Robin Hood got there before I did and confirmed: a bullet through the heart.

My first kill.


Sara Evans, finally.

Fourteen years ago, my oldest brother and his wife moved from Virginia to Florida. Several members of the family, myself included, tagged along to help them get settled. We took multiple cars, and I rode with his wife, Jessica.

As we cruised down I-95, Jessica, being the driver, controlled the music. I don’t remember everything we listened to, but it included a healthy smattering of country. And that included Sara Evans.

Now I didn’t hear her music and immediately fall over or anything, but I liked it enough that it stuck with me. Over the years, I bought more and more of her albums, and she became one of my favorite singers. I told myself, “Someday, I will see her in concert.”

It didn’t happen. I was convinced that it just wasn’t meant to be, because she toured through the Albuquerque area twice – twice! – and both times I couldn’t go. Resignation began to set in.

Life went on, and 2015 rolled around. Occupied with other things, I didn’t even bother to check the concert schedule of local venues. Then, a month or so ago, it happened.

I saw a billboard. And the billboard proclaimed “Sara Evans! August 28! Sandia Casino Amphitheater!”

I checked my calendar. No plans. Robin Hood would be hunting. My schedule was wide open.


Then, a choice: do I invite friends or go solo? I do have friends who like country music and probably would have gone with me, but I decided…no. I wanted to pay a brief visit to my old self, the Shannon who was single for a long time and had all sorts of adventures by herself with no qualms.

So I bought a ticket, and on August 28 I hustled home from work, fed and walked the dog, fed myself, and drove to the amphitheater. [Side note: if you ever get the chance to see a concert at the Sandia Casino Amphitheater, take it]. I bought a beer, found my seat, and exhaled.

The concert was fabulous. With a full moon shining over the stage and the breeze of an Albuquerque summer night dancing through the air, Sara and her band were everything I had hoped they would be. She opened with “Born to Fly” and just kept going. She played songs that I had forgotten I loved (“Backseat of a Greyhound Bus” live, under a full moon! Bliss!!), and even an obscure one that I thought she wouldn’t (check out her cover of Rod Stewart’s “My Heart Can’t Tell You No”).

I drank it in eagerly and un-self-consciously. A few times, I admit it, I missed Robin Hood. But mostly, I was glad to have the experience all to myself. I admit that too.

Being married is wonderful. Having someone who loves and supports you no matter what? Not to be taken for granted. The same goes for having someone who shares your interests and introduces you to cool new ones.

But you know what else is wonderful? Keeping some contact with your old self. Not letting every piece of you get swept away by your new life, even if that new life is happy beyond your wildest dreams.

I’m trying to find that balance. I know it’s out there. And I figure this, as Sara Evans would say, is a real fine place to start.



One Monday night

I took Robin Hood out on a date. I owed him one, and lately we’ve taken to doing date nights during the week. This stems from our recent flurry of weekend activities: wedding! Honeymooning! Puppy wrangling! Four-wheeler fetching! And the less exciting, but so, so lovely sleeping!

It likely will continue this way, because we’re on the brink of hunting season*, which means that unless I go with him, my weekend sightings of my husband will be few and far between.

Anyway. Monday night. I had some post-weekend energy, so I asked Robin Hood out. One thing I’ve gleaned from a whole two months of marriage: never stop asking your spouse out on dates!

On a recommendation from my boss, we went to Kasey’s for dinner. I was starving (hooray for marathon training and frequent dog-walking!), so I was happy when we walked in to find the place quiet. Score one for dining out on Mondays.

Sure enough, service was speedy, and before we knew it, we were sipping wine and munching red chile pulled pork egg rolls. I noticed the cool art on the wall, but it was Robin Hood who pointed out the subject of one particular piece. It was a photograph of sunflowers past their prime – a little wilted, a little stooped, dark; not proud and tall and brazen like your typical sunflower photo.

The more I looked at that picture, the more I liked it. Maybe because that’s the state of my own garden’s sunflowers right now, so I felt a connection, or maybe because it made me realize that sunflowers are too great to only be photographed during their [sadly short-lived] prime. It inspired me to go home and take this picture:


Now back to the food. Because OH MY LORD. I got a bison burger with macaroni and cheese on the side, and Robin Hood got pork chops with potatoes au gratin. Sounds simple, right? Roadside diner fare? Ohhh no. There were figs involved. In both dishes. FIGS! Not to mention all kinds of marvelous secret sauces.

Did I mention the figs? Robin Hood and I are now big fans.

I was full after that. Really, I was. But, but…I saw bread pudding on the dessert menu. For me, that’s a no-brainer. I informed my stomach that it wasn’t done yet.

Quick note about bread pudding: it’s one of the few foods on which my husband and I disagree. I prefer a firmer bread pudding; he likes his to lean more towards a pudding. We make it work.

Kasey’s bread pudding didn’t disappoint. It was a little softer than I normally like, but I came very, very close to lifting the plate to my face and licking that thing clean. Robin Hood and I just sat there for a few minutes after the last bite with glazed, dreamy looks in our eyes.

Some meals are worth writing about.


*Early bear season notwithstanding.

P.S. If you have a dog, check out this app.

P.P.S. I can’t say enough about Molly Wizenberg. The woman writes about food, family, and life like none other.

The 4-Wheeler Mystique

Robin Hood brought home a 4-wheeler last weekend.

He’s been wanting one for a while, and he’s been casually shopping around for one for almost as long, so really, it wasn’t a surprise. But still. When he pulled up with that shiny red number sitting jauntily on its trailer, there was no denying it.

We are now a 4-wheeler family.

I don’t know what this means. Does it mean anything?

I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. We rode 10-speed bicycles – as much as I like cruisers, I pity the kid who tries to ride a cruiser up those hills – or in cars, or took the Metro. We played youth club sports and went on hikes with our families. In the summer, we splashed around at local pools.

No one I knew had a 4-wheeler. Maybe there just wasn’t enough open space for them? At any rate, I had barely even heard of them before I moved to Florida. After that move, it was still just peripheral knowledge. Friends would mention in passing how they’d ridden 4-wheelers when they were younger, in rural parts of Georgia or the Panhandle. They made it sound fun, but I never gave it serious thought.

Then I moved to New Mexico.

Suddenly, the people I met didn’t just have childhood stories about 4-wheelers; they had 4-wheelers. Or their parents did. Or one of their friends did. And they used them regularly – not just recreationally, but to do work, like hauling firewood or bringing back the results of a successful hunt.

I listened and observed with interest, but still never gave the idea of owning one, or even riding on one, much consideration.

I’m not a 4-wheeler girl. I’m a big fan of leg power: running! Hiking! Riding cruiser bikes! Dancing like nobody’s watching! I’ve even been spotted inside a Zumba studio!

Well, this leg-power girl married a hunter. And hunters, at least the ones I know, are big fans of 4-wheelers. For practical reasons: it’s no fun schlepping a bull elk over a mile(s) of hilly, uneven ground. Nor is it fun to beat up your primary vehicle on a narrow, rutted, overgrown back road.

So when my hunter began telling me about this purchase he wanted to make, I listened, and I supported. He (we?) could afford it, and it would make his hunting more enjoyable. Case closed.

I should be thrilled that there is now a 4-wheeler in our garage. It’s new! It’s red! It’s sooo shiny! Robin Hood even took me for a little ride up and down our street the day he brought it home, and I will say that my first-ever ride on a 4-wheeler was…fun.

But it still startles me every time I see it, and the fact that I banged the bejeezus out of my knee on the trailer the other day doesn’t help.

I ask myself: Really?

And the answer is: Yes. Because of the look on Robin Hood’s face when he came home with it. Because, darn it, I want to be there when it gets dirty for the first time. And because life is all about learning to embrace new things.

Here’s to becoming a 4-wheeler girl.


Cross-Training the Fun Way

I have a question for you: when was the last time you rode a cruiser?

Not a motorcycle or a souped-up car. THIS kind of cruiser:


A while back, my sister and brother-in-law gave me this bike, and I wrote about it here.

I was so excited to have it! It was a cruiser, just like I wanted. It was purple, just like I wanted. It had a basket! It even had a “water” bottle holder!

I loved that bike. I named her Jensie, after the [male, yes] rider Jens Voigt. Jensie and I enjoyed fun adventures on a fairly consistent basis…for a while. Then things began to encroach on our time together: running, my budding relationship with Robin Hood, life in general.

I kept Jensie, refusing to give her up. She has stood in the garage, leaning on her kickstand, waiting patiently for me to dust her off, put some air in her tires, and let her out again. Waiting, waiting…

Until now!

Robin Hood now has a bike, thanks again to my sister and brother-in-law.


It’s not a cruiser, but it’s a cool bike nonetheless. I’m thinking of naming it “Jan” after Jan Ullrich, because then we would have Jan & Jensie and I’m doing a gleeful dance just thinking about that, but I suppose I should get Robin Hood’s input first.

I suppose.

The point is, we both have bikes now, and we went on our first-ever ride together this week.

And we still like each other!

I felt a tiny bit of trepidation as I snapped my helmet on and rolled Jensie out of the garage, but mostly I was excited. Our neighborhood is pretty quiet, meaning not a lot of vehicular traffic to contend with. More importantly, it’s flat. Prime cruising country!

After a few warm-up rides up and down our street, we felt bold enough to – !!! – go around the corner.

It was a big deal for me.

We ventured further into the neighborhood, riding carefully on the right side of the street. A couple of cars rolled by without incident. I let myself coast a little and felt the breeze on my face.

Yep, it’s definitely been too long since I’ve ridden a bike.

Our (read “my”) confidence somewhat inflated, we decided to ride along the perimeter of the neighborhood. That perimeter parallels a rather busy road, and while there is in fact a lovely paved path to ride on, you have to, you know, turn to get onto that path.

My approach was beautiful! The turn started off so well! Then, before I knew it, I was going too wide, too wide, and stopped just in time to avoid coasting directly into traffic.

Maybe this is why I’ve never gotten that invitation from the Tour de France?

I did my best to shake off my shaken-ness, and climbed back on the bike. I couldn’t end my comeback ride on that note! I pedaled up the path, made a few more careful turns, and finally came to a delicate stop at our driveway, with Robin Hood right behind me. I ended the ride a little wiser, but I remembered that breeze on my face.

Oh, there will be more of this.

Between the lovely little heat wave that has decided to grace Albuquerque, and a sort of life-clumsiness that’s been tenaciously nipping at my heels, I’ve had to make a concerted effort to stay focused on the positive this week.

Maybe you’re going through something similar. I can’t guarantee these will work for everyone, but here are some things that have helped me so far:

1) My sunflowers. For the loooongest time, they were just these tall, gorgeously sturdy green stalks, with…no blossoms. I (and Robin Hood) watered, weeded, and waited. And waited. Finally, last week, the first blossom showed its lovely face, and now we have an outright profusion of sunflowers! I cannot look at them without cheering up. They’re tall. They’re sassy. They are the perfect picture of audacious faith, which, hey, is pretty much my mantra for the year.


2) Confidence-boosting runs. A lot of my training for this fall’s marathon has been unremarkable, but during this week’s hill workout, things clicked and I actually felt good! I would have done a dance, but…the hills.

3) This beer:


This was one of the beers served at our wedding, and it currently holds the title of My Favorite Beer. It’s refreshing. It’s delicious. It comes in a pretty can. If you like IPAs, get yourself some! I recommend it after a hard workout, in between guzzling water and taking a shower.

4) The way Ann looks when I let her out of her crate. Her anticipation! Her excitement! The hilarity of her stumbly-puppy gait as she tries to carry multiple toys and blankets at once!

5) Malachi 4:2 : “But unto you who revere and worshipfully fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings and His beams, and you shall go forth and gambol like calves [released] from the stall and leap for joy.”…because I imagine my puppy, and how great, to feel that kind of bliss?

6) Learning new skills. The past three Sundays, Robin Hood and I have gone out for target practice with different guns in preparation for an elk hunt this fall. I’ll write more about the target practice in a later post, but for now I’ll just say that I’m enjoying it more and more, and it is incredibly empowering. And humbling.

7) My husband. He drives me crazy sometimes, and I drive him crazy a LOT, but man is life better with him around.


8) Making tiny steps of progress in cutting myself some slack. Kristin Armstrong wrote a column on embracing imperfection which I’m tempted to print out and post on my refrigerator. I probably should. If I don’t show myself compassion, who am I going to show it to?

9) Weekends. Yes, week days and work days are necessary, but weekends are vital. Spending more time outside than in! Having a go-bag with sunscreen and water already packed! Cruising through a drive-thru en route to adventures! Falling asleep halfway through a movie from all that exertion having fun! Yup. Love the weekends.

10) Staying connected. Whether it’s date night on a restaurant patio, visiting with family, or traveling to spend overdue quality time with friends, this time of year is terrific for that.

What’s putting a bounce in your step these days?

The answer, rather anticlimactically I’m afraid, is more running.

A few months ago, I registered to be in the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon. Lottery day came, and I was one of the lucky ones that made it in. I cheered, I probably drank some wine, and then I put all marathon thoughts on a back burner.

With race day less than three months away, however, the contents of that back burner are now at a rolling boil. I’ve begun the long runs and the hill workouts. And, while wading into the waters of marathon training always feels a little disorienting, this feels…good.

For one, it makes me happy that my 20th running anniversary coincides with the start of another marathon training cycle. Lord knows there’s time for reflection when you’re out there logging miles, and these days I’m reflecting on my running life thus far. I’m thinking about:

• My first 5k. It was in Reston, Virginia. I was in middle school and I walked part of it.
• My first high-school cross-country practice. I was soooo nervous.
• Running in college – not on the team, just on my own. Running where I wanted, when I wanted. That’s when I really started to fall in love with the sport.
• The Anheuser-Busch Colonial Half-Marathon, where I cut my teeth for longer races. Also the first race I ever ran that gave out beer afterwards!
• My first marathon: New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Marathon on February 29, 2004. That was the first and last marathon in which I didn’t use energy gels. I learned my lesson.
• Drifting in and out of several running groups, and meeting some of the nicest people ever.
• My first long trail race, which I hated.
• My second long trail race, which I loved.
• Allllll of those bathroom stops.
• My family, whose genes, support, and occasional butt-kicking are behind it all.

And that’s barely skimming the surface.

It also makes me happy that Robin Hood will finally get to watch me run a marathon, and that it’s in the fall. I was thinking about it (okay, I was reflecting again) and it’s been five years since I ran a fall marathon!

There’s just something about a fall marathon. Training in the heat of summer, with the air gradually taking on a crisp edge as your fitness takes on its own crisp edge…developing unusual tan lines and drooling at the thought of ice-cold Gatorade…ahhh.

Last but not least, training for the Marine Corps Marathon feels good because it’s somehow both comforting and challenging. In this year of blessings and change and more blessings and more change, I sometimes feel, quite frankly, overwhelmed. Like when you’re bobbing happily in the ocean, and then you realize you can’t feel the sand beneath your feet.

Running – consistent running, the kind marathon training requires – is my sand.

The challenge comes with this new phase of life I’ve entered. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like training is impossible with a husband and a new puppy. Heck, my husband gets me post-long-run breakfast burritos, and the puppy is all about going on warm-up and cool-down walks with me. But it’s an adjustment. I don’t always get the “optimal” amount of sleep or eat the “optimal” diet, and I’m learning not to care. Running isn’t the center of my life anymore.

It’s just a glorious, glorious part of it.

Here’s to 20 more years :)

We Bought a Puppy

Twenty-four hours after we got back from our honeymoon, Robin Hood and I hopped into his truck and drove to a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood in Albuquerque’s South Valley.

When we drove back, not much had changed except the contents of the truck’s back seat: namely, one squirmy, copper-colored, frankly apprehensive redbone coonhound puppy.



Ann, a.k.a. Little Ann (from Where the Red Fern Grows), a.k.a. Annie Oakley, a.k.a. Anna Banana, a.k.a. Ann Trason, a.k.a. Annette Coonicello, came into our lives in May. We had known that we wanted to get a dog in the near future, and we wanted a puppy. We had discussed various breeds, writing off Chesapeake Bay Retrievers for being too hard to come by in Albuquerque, and Labradoodles for being too expensive.

We were considering Poodles when two things happened: Robin Hood and I both finished reading Where the Red Fern Grows for the first time in decades (I went through a “classics of young adult literature” phase this spring); and then he stumbled upon a website,

What did he find on that website? A breeder of redbone coonhounds – the breed from the book. And where was the breeder? IN ALBUQUERQUE. And yep, there was a litter of puppies just about ready for adoption.

It all seems too perfect, right? Like the cards weren’t just falling into place but avalanching into place?

I thought so.

This was a month and a half out from the wedding. A new puppy and wedding planning do not mix well. Robin Hood conceded that this was true. But when he talked to the breeder, he found out this was the last litter they were going to have.

What to do?

We did what any couple who’s considering getting a puppy, who’s interested in getting a puppy but doesn’t want to do anything rash, who wants to weigh the information carefully, would do:

We visited the puppies!

I know. Stop laughing.

Naturally, once we visited those puppies, we had to have one. But the fact remained: we couldn’t.

Thankfully, when we explained our situation to the breeder, she graciously offered to keep the puppy for us until we were ready to bring her home. So that’s how it happened. We picked out a puppy, paid a deposit, promised to visit, and continued on with the business of getting married.


Fast forward to…now!

Life has gotten very surreal. Actually, that’s not accurate, because this entire year has felt surreal. Maybe what’s happening is that the surreal is [gulp. deep breath.] turning into the real.

I now have a puppy in my life, and it’s been a learning experience from day one. I can’t believe how much I love her already. I can’t believe how exhausting she is. I can’t believe how cute she looks when she sits in anticipation of a treat. I can’t believe I’m now A Pet Photo Person [with most of those photos capturing nothing more than a blurred furball].

Who knows what she’ll be like when she’s older? With luck and a little more training, she’ll be a hunting buddy for Robin Hood, a running buddy for me, and all-around cool dog.

For now, she’s got a healthy appetite, she rocks her pink camouflage collar, and she fetches really well sometimes!

That’ll do.


Adventures in Key West

Two days after our wedding, at an hour sometime between night and morning, Robin Hood and I shuffled onto an airplane in Albuquerque. Two transfers and 10 hours later, we arrived at our honeymoon destination: the Conch Republic.

Key West!

Immediately upon exiting the Key West airport, we felt the tropics. The air was so thick we could have cut it with the edge of a conch shell. Palm trees fringed the streets. The smell of the ocean flirted with our nostrils. Chickens roamed free throughout the town.

We definitely weren’t in Albuquerque anymore.

We took a cab to The Mermaid & The Alligator, a bed-and-breakfast we had found on the Internet, and promptly fell even more in love with the place than when we had originally booked our stay. The owners were friendly and helpful, and our room was lovely, comfortable, and had a balcony. As if all that wasn’t enough, the owners’ dog amiably patrolled the property, charming everyone she met. The place was perfect.


Our first night there, we made a beeline to Mallory Square to watch the sunset. It’s a popular spot – besides the restaurants that line the waterfront, folks go there to just hang out. There are street performers, food carts, a coconut man (you just have to go and see for yourself), and a generally festive yet mellow atmosphere that was exactly what we needed.


And for dinner? Cuban food, naturally! We dined on the patio of El Meson de Pepe, where our drinks sweated a little, we sweated a little, and everything was delicious.

In the days that followed…oh man. The days that followed.

We slept in. What usually woke us up were church bells: across the street from our B&B was the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea (is that not the greatest name for a basilica EVER?) and its bells began their hourly tolling at 8 am. I guarantee you won’t find a more peaceful wake-up call.

We went to the beach, which proved a little rocky for my taste, but hey, a beach is a beach. We splashed! We soaked up the sun! We were very glad that we got out of the water minutes before a pair of stingrays drifted practically onto the shore!

We went fishing and caught a dozen yellowtail snapper. We kept four and had them cooked harborside at a floating Thai restaurant, and we ate them on the rooftop as the sun set.

We visited the Ernest Hemingway House, and saw where he lived, where he wrote…and many, many cats.

Yep, cats just lying around everywhere.

Yep, cats just lying around everywhere.

The base of this fountain was a urinal from Hemingway's favorite bar!

The base of this fountain was a urinal from Hemingway’s favorite bar!

We went on a late-night Ghost Tour, where we got to ride in a trolley; and on a daytime “Conch Train” tour, where our tour guide sounded eerily like Joe Pesci.

We ate. We ATE! Never a lot at once, because it was too hot for that, but our bellies were so happy. Fresh breakfast every morning at the B&B! Seafood! Cuban sandwiches! And, of course, key lime pie. YUM.

On Saturday, the 4th of July, our last full day there…well, Jimmy Buffett would have been proud. We took a seaplane ride to the Dry Tortugas, reportedly America’s most inaccessible national park. There were ten people on the plane, we only flew a few hundred feet above the water, and I will never forget how that water looked. So many shades of blue, and so clear we could spot sea turtles paddling along.

Our destination was Fort Jefferson, which dates back to the Civil War (fun fact: it’s the largest masonry structure in America). We had just a couple of hours to spend there, so Robin Hood and I divvied up our time exploring the fort; snorkeling; and picnicking on the beach. Try as we did to savor it, though, the time flew, and before we knew it we were making our return trip (just as magical as the first leg) back to Key West.

We watched the fireworks that night from the Southernmost Beach in the United States, held hands, and smiled.

Not a bad way to start a marriage.


My Enchanted Wedding

It’s done: I’m a married woman!

To anyone currently planning a wedding, I can now assure you that it does all come together, and yes, it is wonderful, even if it doesn’t go exactly as planned. It will probably be better than what you planned.

Mine was just that.

Here’s how it played out:

Family started coming into town on Tuesday afternoon. Robin Hood and I met my parents and grandparents for dinner that evening, and the celebration was on!

We still had a few loose ends to tie up, but with guests steadily trickling in, our immediate support network grew by the hour, and it was easy to go from “How is this going to work??!!” to “You know what? This is going to be great.”


On Wednesday night, with a lot of family from both sides having arrived, we had an impromptu group dinner at Sadie’s, a veritable Albuquerque institution. New Mexican food + loved ones we hadn’t seen in ages + mariachi serenades = joy.

On Thursday, I had lunch with the ladies of my family. It felt like an important thing to do, and it was a blast. We ate at St. Clair Winery & Bistro, one of my favorite restaurants, where we enjoyed delicious food and quality female bonding. And wine.

Before we knew it, Friday morning arrived, which meant: rehearsal! All the necessary parties showed up at the venue, we did a couple of run-throughs (with a break for water and application of sunscreen – gotta love New Mexico summers!). By the end, we felt confident that we would at least all be able to walk in the right direction.

What happened that evening I do believe could be called The Greatest Rehearsal Dinner Ever.

We gathered at El Patron Cantina, where Robin Hood and I had gone on our first date. The restaurant has live music on Fridays, and for our rehearsal dinner, it proved a splendid complement to an already-festive atmosphere. Add to that the magical combination of good food, good margaritas, and good people, and voila: it became a dance party! Now that’s the way to spend a Friday night, with or without an imminent wedding.


Saturday: WEDDING DAY!

Everyone says your wedding day flies by, but to me the pace felt just right. This is where all of that prior planning paid off ENORMOUSLY. After going for a run (a no-brainer) and showering, I gathered the stuff I’d need later in the day: wedding dress, overnight bag (we didn’t leave for our honeymoon till Monday, but we did spend Saturday night at a hotel), etc.

That didn’t take long, so I spent the next couple of hours just hanging out with my friend Hillary, watching TV and relaxing. Occasionally I thought, “Should I be worrying or doing something right now?” Turned out, nope! Soooo nice.

My sister/Maid of Honor showed up around 11 with sandwiches. We dug in, did a final house-check, then loaded up her car. It was showtime! Well, the beginning of preparing for showtime, anyway.

We drove to the hair salon, got our hair all wedding-pretty, and started making our way to Nature Pointe (the venue). Here it got funny, because Robin Hood was driving there at the exact same time [we didn’t want to see each other on the wedding day before the ceremony, so we exchanged a couple of texts in order to avoid that]. Luckily, our car made it there a few minutes before his, so I was able to hustle in without incident. Nothing like some Bridal Special Ops!

Events flowed from there. First came make-up, then a wee bit of downtime, then on with the boots, dress, and veil.

And I didn’t break out in a flop sweat or throw up from nerves or anything!

Before I knew it, my entourage was drifting out of the dressing room to go outside. I was left by myself briefly. Frankly, I got a little bored, but then….

The Nature Pointe handler (Ha. She was actually extremely nice.) beckoned to me. It was time.


I don’t know what to say about the ceremony, other than it was perfect. The sun was shining. We both said the right names during the vows. I baaaarely managed to avoid bawling; even that felt right.

I loved it. I loved having so many friends and family there. I loved seeing all the planning, all the anticipation, come to fruition. I loved that I was doing all of it with a man who I’m confident that God made exactly for me, who I’m crazy about, and who I can’t wait to share a life with.

As for the reception? It rained, but no one cared. The feast was inside, the music was inside, and the dancing was inside. Lots and lots of dancing. Oh, and cake:


Eventually, Robin Hood and I made our exit, but we made it in especially delightful style, with boisterous cheers and cowbells filling the air. I couldn’t have asked for a better send-off.

Or a better wedding.

Or a better beginning.

Thank you to all of our friends and family who helped – and yes, just showing up and being your fabulous selves counts as helping.

Robin Hood, here’s to many more years of dancing, cake, and love.

Finally, attention must be paid to the vendors. Thus, a gigantic thank you to the following:
– Hyatt Place Uptown for being stellar hosts to our out-of-towners
– Giovanni String Quartet
– Shirley Giron (hair)
– Jiji Hise (makeup)
– Jayme Parker (photography)
– Savory Fare Catering
– Lina Guzman (cake)
– Too Hot To Stop DJ Services
– Oriental Trading (party supplies)
– Lucky Boyz limo service
– And last but probably greatest: Nature Pointe and everyone who works there, for capturing our hearts two days into the search for a venue, and just getting better from there.


7 Days Out

Forgive me if this post is scatter-brained. My attention span has left the building.

Seven days out from my wedding day, and how am I feeling? Am I giddy? Or am I floating serenely through the hours like a perfectly-polished wedding goddess?

No. I’m tired. And happy. And dazed. And baffled, really, over the fact that one little week…one little week from today I’ll be donning a lovely dress and my cowgirl boots and starting the rest of my life.

Our life. Mine and Robin Hood’s.

Sometimes we look at each other and kind of go “Whaaaa?? Hey, we’re getting MARRIED!” Luckily, this has to date been followed by goofy smiles and hand squeezes, and not by either of sprinting far, far away. A good sign, right?

Mind-bogglingly, we’re still checking things off our to-do list. That’s a lesson I’ve learned: no matter how organized you are, no matter when you start planning, little things keep popping up. Oh well. I’m just telling myself that a week from now, I’ll be putting my feet up with all the to-do lists mercifully behind me.


The last six months have been a wild ride. A mostly good wild ride, but a wild ride nonetheless. There’s been joy and frustration; victory dances and tears; bickering and hugs; running; traveling; drinking; thinking; and the support of oh so many friends and family (thank you ALL).

There’s been the finding of vendors, the losing of vendors, and the finding of new ones. There’s been the hating of snow and the loving of snow. There have been viewings of wedding movies and viewings of things that are blessedly unromantic (anyone watched The Pacific lately?).

There have been times when I’ve utterly lost my senses (agonizing, agonizing over whether dinner should be served at 5 or 5:30), and times when Robin Hood says something that makes me throw my head back and laugh, and then I remember what all of it’s for.


It took a while for love – the real kind, that is – to plunk itself down in my life, but the wait was absolutely worth it.

Love makes the stress manageable. It makes being tired manageable. It motivates you into wanting to make everything awesome, and then it makes you realize that everything already IS awesome (if that song is in your head now, you’re welcome).

I wouldn’t trade one minute of the last six months, or the last 34 years, for anything. And I can’t wait for what the next seven days will bring.

I’ll be back in blog land in three weeks…thank you all for your support along the way!

And one last thing….

To Robin Hood, constant source of love and smiles and yes, awesomeness: It had to be you. Here’s to forever.

Photo courtesy of Jayme Parker.

Photo courtesy of Jayme Parker.

A Year in the Life

I turn 34 in less than a week.

My oh my what a difference a year makes.

I celebrated my 33rd birthday by going camping with Robin Hood and a group of friends, and we had a blast – so much so that we’re going back to that site for another camping trip next month.

Little did I know that it would mark the beginning of such an eventful year. At that time, I still lived in the apartment I had called home since February of 2007, although Robin Hood and I were making plans to move in together. I had run a marathon two months prior. I had met Robin Hood’s parents, but he hadn’t met mine. I had no pets, and the biggest thing on my horizon was…well…probably what I would do the next weekend.

Fast-forward 365 days. Robin Hood and I now live together (although moving seven years’ worth of stuff out of an apartment is NOT an easy task, nor is combining two furnished homes into one. All I can say is thank God for dumpsters, Goodwill, and a certain guy going out of town for a long hunting weekend!).

Robin Hood has met not just my parents, but my entire family. And apparently he’s okay with them, because now, as most of you know, we’re engaged!

Wow. In just a little over two weeks, we’ll be married. MARRIED.

But that’s not the only big change! In addition to planning and eagerly anticipating our nuptials, we’ve also gone and gotten ourselves a puppy. A PUPPY! (Puppies deserve all caps, too). She’s a Redbone Coonhound, so theoretically she’ll be a good hunting buddy for Robin Hood and a good running buddy for me. No, we haven’t brought her home yet, because brand-new puppy + house full of wedding stuff + wedding stress = nothing good. We’ll bring her home after we get back from our honeymoon.

Oops. Pardon me while I add “buy puppy supplies” to my to-do list.

Oh, and I registered for another marathon: the Marine Corps! Only this time I, thinking ahead, registered with my new last name.

Not gonna lie. It felt a little weird. I guess I’ll just have to sign up for a lot more races to get myself acclimated to it. The things you’ve got to do…

33 has been one heck of a year. 34 has huge things in store for it, and the year will be launched in style (er, my style, that is), with a viewing of Jurassic World and a trip to the spa for a massage. I cannot WAIT for the weekend to start!

I have no idea what I’ll be writing about at this time next year, but you know what? I think I’m ready for it.

Bring on 34…and Happy Birthday to all the other June babies out there!

Last year's birthday photo. Who knew?

Last year’s birthday photo. Who knew?

I have just over three weeks until my wedding, and somehow, the list of things to do keeps growing instead of shrinking. I swear, for every one thing I cross off, two more things pop up to take its place.

But I know, if the past six months are any indication, these last weeks will pass in the blink of an eye, everything will manage to work out, and before I know it, I’ll be standing in front of friends and family, exchanging vows with an extraordinary man.

Which seems like a great reason to stop the frenetic scrambling for just a moment and recognize something important:

It’s June!

If you’ve been following my blog for a year or more, you’ll know that I love June. True, it’s my birthday month, but I love it for more than that. I love it because where I come from, that’s when school ends and summer vacation starts. I love it because that’s when the heat of summertime, even if it’s been dawdling through May, finally plops itself right on the front porch, wagging its tail. I love it because its full moon is called the Strawberry Moon.

It’s June!

I have a tradition that I started a couple years back called Joyful June, where I take time out every day to do something that brings me joy, even it’s just for a few seconds.

What brings you joy this time of year? Is it the first outing of the season to a nearby ice cream shop? Is it going to watch a baseball game? Is it those first few slurps of ice-cold water after a hot run? Or is it the small yet delightful convenience of going out and knowing that you won’t need to bring a jacket, even at night?

If you have something big going on in your life, it’s vital, from a mental health standpoint, to remember these things. They are anchor points.

We’ve all heard “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” and that statement is true when it comes to petty grievances – but it doesn’t mean we should forget the small stuff entirely!

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the big stuff that it’s all we think about and all we’re aiming for. Before we know it, sure, we’ve gained a lovely wedding, or new house, or great job…but we’ve lost weeks, or months, or a year.

The small stuff makes us who we are. The small stuff is life.

This month, I’m going to look for joy in the small stuff. I figure if I can get good at that, then when all the small stuff comes to fruition in something big…well, I can’t even imagine.

What small stuff brings you joy this time of year?

1) When planning your bachelorette celebration, do what YOU want to do. I picked Denver over Vegas. It sounded more fun.

2) Driving from Albuquerque to Denver is SO much nicer in late May than in winter. More daylight = good. Daylight while going over the Raton Pass = really good.

3) When tackling long road trips, stop at least once. Always. Is making great time worth it if your body is so stiff that you can barely extricate yourself from your car at the end?

4) If the forecast calls for wretched weather throughout your travels, pray. I did it before my last two trips, and you know what? It worked.

5) A friend who kicks off the weekend with champagne in a glitter-covered bottle is a fabulous friend.

6) Come to think of it, a friend who agrees to host your bachelorette weekend is a fabulous friend, glittery champagne or no – thanks, Emily! 

7) Don’t set your alarm clock unless absolutely necessary.

8) Any offer of food made by this guy should never, ever be turned down.

9) Bachelorette parties should involve baseball. If you’ve got a Major League team anywhere near you – including neighboring states – DO IT.

10) If there’s a rain delay at the ballgame, stay! Have faith. Eat a hot dog.

11) Stay for the whole game, even if your team is losing.

12) Local beer tastes better.

13) The burger I ate after the game, packed into a booth in a crowded restaurant with my ladies while it poured outside, was the best burger I’ve had in ages.

14) If I lived in Denver, I would eat at the Denver Biscuit Company way more often than necessary.

15) I wouldn’t care.

16) I’ve learned that one of my favorite souvenirs to buy is a t-shirt from a local running shop.

17) The Denver Art Museum is enormous and lovely. I already want to go back. [See? You can totally mix a little culture into a bachelorette weekend!]

18) You can never watch “The Big Wedding” too many times. Look it up on Netflix. Now.

19) No matter how big you think the BolderBoulder 10k is, it’s bigger.

20) Everyone needs friends who sweat through 6.2 miles with them, and do it with smiles on their faces.

21) Veils and tutus are surprisingly aerodynamic!

22) For this run, I traded my watch for my phone (to take pictures) and I don’t regret it.

23) If race spectators have set up a homemade slip ‘n slide and a) the line is super-long and b) it looks a wee bit dangerous, it’s okay to say no.

24) The same does NOT hold true for spectators handing out cupcakes.

25) When one of your ladies acquires a beer mid-race and gravely tells you that you need it, you’ve probably begun to display alarming signs of exhaustion and dehydration, so you should drink it.

26) 20 years of slurping water from tiny cups at aid stations really came in handy.

27) Thank you to Boulder’s 29th Street Mall Starbucks for the free coffee.

28) As huge as the BolderBoulder is, it is a magnificently-organized race.

And finally….HUGE THANKS to Emily, Erin, Antoinette, Meghann, Jax, and Robbie (you’re a dude but you still count) for celebrating with me!





Tour of Texas

If you’re going to take a road trip, you could do a lot worse than travel through Texas in the springtime.

Robin Hood and I began planning a Texas adventure back in March, partly for practical reasons and partly for whimsy. I needed to get together with his mom for the final fitting of my wedding dress (she’s making it), and he wanted to take me to a big Renaissance festival called Scarborough Faire.

Those two plans begat others, and just like that, our Tour of Texas took shape. Our itinerary was:

• Drive to Lubbock on Wednesday. Spend the night there.
• Drive to Austin on Thursday. Spend Thursday evening and all of Friday in Austin.
• Drive to Waxahachie for Scarborough Faire on Saturday.
• Drive to Ft. Worth after the Faire. Spend Saturday evening and all of Sunday in Ft. Worth.
• Return to Albuquerque on Monday.

Sound ambitious? It was. Sound like a scheme to temporarily escape a house that’s rapidly filling with wedding paraphernalia? Well, maybe.

But as soon as I stepped outside to go for a run in Lubbock, I knew there was more to it. Something in the warmth and humidity said, You needed this.

What was “this”? I don’t know, but it was in the not-home-but-still-familiar feel of our friend Brian’s house in Lubbock. It was in the rolling, blossoming scenery of the hill country that led us to Austin. Most people bemoan long car rides through Texas (and New Mexico), but I love them. Something about being surrounded by all that open space, that just seems to open up more and more with every mile, gives me the feeling that my soul is getting a much-needed stretch.

It was in the welcoming arms of my aunt Paula, one of the best women in the world. It was in every bite of every meal we ate while we were in Austin. I swear, you cannot throw a rock in that town without hitting a terrific eatery.

It was even in my rainy run on Friday – complete with huge puddles; ducking under one saturated tree limb only to get face-swatted by a bigger one; and a comically tangled ponytail (not to worry, I had plenty of conditioner!).

It was at Scarborough Faire, and in seeing Robin Hood’s wonderful parents. It was in my introduction to this fun event that’s been a tradition of their family for years. I already want to go back, and who knows? I might even wear a costume next time.

It was in Ft. Worth, and getting to meet some of my fiancé’s extended family for the first time. It was in being surrounded again (this seems to be a theme of mine this year) by incredible women at a shower/brunch on Sunday. I was touched and humbled at what a warm, generous, awesome group of people I’m marrying into.

It was in putting on my wedding dress…and not wanting to take it off.

And it was in my last run of the trip, pumping my arms as I ran in the cool, damp morning through quiet, tree-lined, hilly neighborhoods, feeling my skin soak up the moisture, the warmth, and…that.

Whatever it was, I needed it, and Texas gave it to me.

Safe and happy travels to anyone taking a trip this weekend!





It was a bittersweet moment.

I stood in the beer garden of the ABQ Brew Dash 5k, having just completed my last competitive race as a single lady [I’m doing the Bolder Boulder 10k later this month, but fun will be the operative word there]. As I drank my beer and tried to keep warm, I felt the tired afterglow that comes with a satisfactory race performance, but I also felt a tiny bit forlorn.

I didn’t have anyone to share it with – Robin Hood was out hunting, and none of my runner friends could make it.

Apparently I’ve entered a new phase in my proudly-independent life.

To be clear, it was in fact a positive experience on the whole. I had looked forward to this for weeks – running events in Albuquerque that serve beer afterwards are rare, as are evening races that aren’t held in summertime heat. A free beer with my race bib AND I don’t need to wake up early? Sweet!

Here is a fact: May weather in Albuquerque changes its mind constantly. Sunny, warm and calm one day; windy and cold the next. Brew Dash Day leaned towards the latter, which made warming up and hanging out before the race interesting.

But! God decided to favor us runners, because there was only one brief stretch on the course where the wind blew directly in our faces. Whew!

As far as my own race went, I knew on the starting line that I faced some stiff competition. After enough years of racing, you develop a sense for these things. It has nothing to do with what a runner looks like or what she’s wearing or whether you saw her warming up. Maybe it’s some sort of alpha female pheromone.

Anyway. The starting horn blared, and we were off. One girl left the rest of us frankly in the dust, but a group of five or six of us stayed fairly close together. I decided to keep in contact with them and see what happened.

I passed one girl – hooray!! I passed another one – hooray!! At this point, coming up on the last mile, I was tiring but trying to be steady. I was close behind one girl in particular. Come on, I told myself. She’s RIGHT THERE!

It didn’t happen; she edged me by a few seconds. I gave it all I had, but that day, she was the faster runner. I can’t complain, though – I ran 21:37, good for 5th overall female!

I got in line to get my commemorative pint glass and free beer. About then, the temperature dropped noticeably, and the wind wasn’t getting any weaker. No matter! I ran hard, and I was going to celebrate my performance and my last race as a Banks with a tasty beverage, gosh darn it!

So I did. And I did feel a little lonely, but maybe that’s natural. Maybe, when you’re about to commit to spending the rest of your life with someone, it’s right to miss them when they’re not there to celebrate the good times with you.

Does that mean I’ll never go solo to another race? Heck no! After all, if you always have someone to carry your stuff, you’ll get spoiled.

Here’s to my years of running as a single gal – and many more in the future as a married one!


Young at Heart

This week, I came upon the following question:

What is it that makes you feel young?

The question made me stop and stare at the page from which the words peered up at me. I think I even answered out loud: I don’t know.

Good grief!

A tiny bit horrified, I rattled off things in my head: Running? Well, that usually makes me feel good, yes, and empowered…but young? Hmmm. Prayer? That’s a source of comfort and peace, and also, in its own way, empowerment…or what about reading a good book? Relaxing, yes. Fountain of youth, not necessarily.

The point of the passage containing that question was that we shouldn’t lose touch with what makes us feel young. Whether it’s catching rays at the beach, or going out with friends, or just dancing in your living room — it’s important. Knowing what it is, and actually doing it from time to time, is an excellent way to recharge and renew ourselves. We do that magical thing, and when it’s done, we’re better people for it. Probably so much so that the people close to us notice it.

After reading that, I knew I had some homework to do. I am NOT going to end up like one of those grim-faced grown-ups in a Disney movie, who don’t know how to get to NeverNever Land, who think Mary Poppins is certifiable, and who lose whatever it is that grown-ups lose in The Polar Express.

Oh dear. It’s happening already.

I embarked on a mission: figure out what makes me feel young. This week, I’ve concentrated on doing some of my favorite things:

• I’ve run every day.
• I’ve consciously taken time, between buzzing around from task to task and tumbling into dreamland, to slow down and relax in the evenings with Robin Hood.
• I’ve made two pies, because I love making pie, and as I like to say, when the pie spirit moves you, it’s best to let it have its way. Side note: savory pies are delicious, and easy. Give them a whirl!
• I even nurtured a little spontaneity when Robin Hood and I strolled over to the nearby Little League fields to get a dose of America’s favorite pastime, and found the refreshment stand open. How can you not support a Little League refreshment stand?? Our dinner that night was hot dogs, a green chile cheeseburger, and a hot pretzel. We were in heaven.

Did any of those things make me feel younger? I don’t know. I do know that, while doing each of them, there was a moment when I lost track of time. Somewhere, in the act of gently positioning the top layer of pie crust, or not-so-gently (heh heh) pushing a chunk of pretzel into Robin Hood’s mouth, I stopped thinking about what time it was. I wasn’t thinking about any to-do list. I was just enjoying.

Is that what feeling young is all about?

I’m going to continue my mission. This is the kind of homework I actually like!

What is it that makes you feel young?

Go do it.

In 2009, I ran the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. Not only was it cool because it entailed a visit to San Francisco, which is always fun, but also because it was the biggest group of women united for one cause that I had ever been a part of. I stood on the starting line surrounded by thousands of women who were passionate about running, who had trained for months, and who, no matter what their background, were focused on a common goal: run this race.

It was awesome.

Never since then have I experienced such a tidal force of, for lack of a more academic term, girl power.

Never since then have I realized I missed it.

A month ago, my friend Carrie invited me and a few other friends to attend Living Proof Live, a Christian women’s conference led by a woman named Beth Moore. I had never heard of Beth before, but Carrie had heard great things, so last Friday night we all trekked out to the venue, curious and excited for some good female bonding time.

The place was PACKED. It turns out Beth Moore is a huge deal [if you are a Beth Moore fan, please be patient with me; I truly had no idea]. She informed the audience that there were 5,500 of us there.

5,500!! Have you ever experienced anything like that??

I loved it. Like the marathon I ran in 2009, here was an immense gathering of women united for a common goal. Only this time, instead of 26.2 miles, the goal was spiritual growth. Hey, both require passion, focus, and stamina, no?

Now: about the message laid out before us that weekend. I’m not going to give a summary of everything, because that’s about five hours’ worth of information, and that’s a lot. But two things really hit home for me:

1) Eliminate what you don’t want to generate.
Meaning whatever baggage you are carrying, put it down. Don’t shift it to another part of you; don’t give it to someone else; don’t share it so that both you and someone else carry it. Put it down. And don’t pick it back up. Because whatever we are carrying, whether it’s good or bad, we eventually pass to other people. We might not even notice, but it happens. The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we passing good or bad?

2) Think of three people (or more) whose faith you admire. Guess what? That same God – the one they’re so adept at praying to; the one in whom they have so much confidence and trust – He is with you.

This seems so comforting, and at the same time so empowering. To me, it says that you don’t have to be florid or even eloquent with your prayers. You don’t have to be a shining pillar of faith all the time. You don’t have to be perfect. God’s with you. And knowing that? Well, it’s like getting ready for a run when you’re feeling fit, you’ve got your favorite outfit on, it’s a beautiful day, and you’ve just slurped down an energy gel. You can do ANYTHING.

Here’s to that feeling. And to passing it on.


Last weekend my friend Alissa threw me a bridal shower. It was, from the first sighting of the balloons on her mailbox to the collecting of the parting-gift favors (starter containers of herbs, and sunflower seed packets), everything I could have possibly hoped for in a shower, and more.

I knew the weekend was going to be good because both my mom and sister Erin would be in town, and the last time they visited Albuquerque simultaneously was…well, I’m not sure that it has actually ever happened. That’s just what happens when you have family scattered all over the country: people have different schedules, and you take visits where you can get them. So all of us ladies under the same roof for an occasion other than Christmas? Pretty special.

We got the visit off to a solid start on Friday evening with dinner at one of my favorite New Mexican restaurants. The boys – Robin Hood and Erin’s hubby – accompanied us to that, but we parted ways the next morning. The boys headed out early to an archery shoot, while we girls got some exercise around the neighborhood, then ate a leisurely breakfast and just…relaxed.

We went over to Alissa’s house shortly before noon, and it wasn’t long before her living room, kitchen, and dining room were filled with chatter. Some of the ladies were good friends; some hadn’t seen each other in ages; and some had never met (it was Mom and Erin’s first time meeting most of them), but the shower unfolded beautifully. Champagne was poured, tasty food was dished out, and the chatter continued.

I wish I had words to describe how I felt, being surrounded by these fantastic women and knowing they had all taken time out of their lives to come and celebrate with me. But I don’t.

Instead, I’ll just say that I’ll never forget it. Also, ladies – thank you for the cards full of memories and marital advice. After poring over them, I put them on my bedside table, where I plan to keep them for a long, long time.


As for the rest of the weekend? On Sunday, the ladies’ goal was to find dresses for Mom and Erin to wear to the wedding. The gentlemen busied themselves with paintball.

Our eyes on the prize, we ladies arrived at the mall right as the stores were opening. We picked our first mark – er, department store – and attacked.

Now I didn’t need Mom and Erin to match perfectly; I wanted them to wear things that they liked and felt comfortable in. And if the color resembled lavender (the more-or-less color for my wedding)? Super.

We were done in an hour.

What can I say? When we Banks women are focused, ain’t nothin’ stopping us.

We had time to kill before our rendezvous with the boys, so we cruised through a couple of errands, enjoying the lovely April day, and then made our way back to the house.

And it was good to see the guys again, after they’d had their adventure and we’d had ours. But I couldn’t, and can’t, help thinking how fortunate I am to have such awesome women in my life.


Keep Calm and Pull Weeds

“Only __ days until the big event!”

How do you react when you read or hear that phrase? Does it excite you, scare you, or make you just want to shut down? Personally, I haven’t decided yet.

Between my love/hate relationship with and my registration success with this year’s Marine Corps Marathon (hooray!!), I’ve seen quite a bit of that phrase lately. And you know…once you give countdowns an inch in your brain, they take that proverbial mile. Or five.

Thus, I found myself compiling a list of events in my future. I could add more to it, but a woman’s got to draw the line somewhere.

Here it is:

1 day until my bridal shower.
8 days until the 2nd anniversary of my first date with Robin Hood.
27 days until Robin Hood’s birthday.
68 days until my birthday.
78 days until THE WEDDING!
197 days until the marathon.

That’s a lot of numbers.

I will freely admit to not caring much for numbers. But the thing is, I actually feel pretty good about everything.

Okay, that was a fib. I’m REALLY excited about the bridal shower. Hey, I get to hang out with fabulous ladies – some of whom I haven’t seen in years – enjoy scrumptious food and champagne, and yes, open presents. What’s not to be excited about?

As for the marathon? Frankly, I’m not even thinking about it right now. I’m keeping my running consistent, and it feels good. 197 days out, I’d call that a win.

And the stuff in between? Well, the birthdays probably won’t be anything too extravagant this year on account of item #5 on that list up there, but they’ll be lovely anyway. I’m not worried.

Item #5, now…you know the feeling when you’re running a race, and you still have a ways to go, but you feel good and comfortable with your current pace? That’s how I feel. I feel content.

Maybe it’s because, several weeks ago, the pastor at church challenged the congregation to have audacious faith. The message stuck with me, so I told Robin Hood about it, and now he reminds me of it when I get anxious. I’m thankful for this.

Maybe it’s because my morning devotionals keep reminding me that “I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me” (Phillipians 4:13) and I’m finally starting to believe it.

Maybe it’s because of the organizational / get-it-done genes that I got from both my mom and my dad.

It could certainly be due to what I fondly think of as little mundane blessings – those tasks which may not be fun and glamorous, but keep you anchored in the real world. Tasks like pulling weeds; grocery shopping; laundry, etc. Getting tired of planning for something that’s still months away? Just go out and pull some weeds. Boom: instant gratification!

Or maybe I am very, very naïve and will be scurrying around like a chicken with its head cut off come mid-June.

I’m guessing it’s a combination of things. Whatever the explanation, I’m enjoying it.

If you’re counting down the days to a big event, I wish you contentment…and at least one day in a row when you completely forget what that number is.

My grandma turned 90 today. 90! What do you say to one of the most influential women in your life as she enters her 10th decade?

It seems right to say thank you.

So, thank you, Grandma.

Thank you for hanging out with me at the bus stop while I waited for the bus in elementary school. We played “Mother, May I?” and it distracted me from any anxiety that I may have had about the upcoming school day.

Thank you for teaching me the card game classics: Steal the Old Man’s Bundle (sadly, I’ve forgotten how to play that one – you’ll have to refresh my memory during our next visit), Go Fish, and Crazy Eights. If there was some minor gambling involved, too, I swear I won’t tell anyone. I keep looking for a Go Fish table in Albuquerque’s casinos, but no luck yet.

Thank you for giving me the first memory I have of baking. It was during one of our annual summertime visits to you and Grandpa in Buffalo. The boys had gone off on a fishing adventure. You and I didn’t feel like fishing, so we stayed at the house and made brownies, and you showed me how to use a toothpick to see if the brownies were done. As I recall, those brownies were absolutely delicious. And we probably saved at least a couple for the boys. Maybe.

Thank you for your dancing genes. Okay, I say this loosely, because you actually went out on the town and won dance contests, and when I dance in public, the general reaction is equal parts humor and horror. Still, I love dancing, and I don’t care how I look, and I credit you for that.

Thank you for keeping lots of family photos on your walls. There’s no easier, faster reminder of how blessed – and awesome – one’s family is than to have photos of them and look at them regularly. I may only have a smattering of family photos in my own home, but I’m working on that!

Thank you for the Irish heritage. Do I really need to explain that one?

Thank you for instilling in me a love of chili. Now I will admit that it took years for me to gain a proper appreciation of that hearty stew, but it has become one of my favorite dishes in cold weather. Shoot, in any kind of weather.

Thank you for the stories you tell. One of my goals in life is to be able to tell a story half as well as you. Including the off-color ones.

Thank you for being such a tolerant, supportive matriarch to a family of nutty runners.

Thank you for being sassy.

Thank you for showing that keeping a healthy sense of humor goes a long, long way – and that the occasional healthy shot of Bailey’s doesn’t hurt, either.

Thank you for all the hugs.

I guess it all just boils down to this: thank you for being such a terrific grandma.

Happy birthday, and here’s to many more!

Gone to the Dogs

I relish new running experiences. Fun-sounding race making its debut? Sign me up! A friend tells me about a cool trail or road route they’ve discovered? Point me in its direction.

So when Robin Hood and I were dog-sitting for a good friend of ours last weekend, I decided that the time had come.

I wanted to try running with a dog.

Now it helped that the dog – Kiva, the prettiest little pit bull you ever saw – behaves almost absurdly well. I actually don’t think I have ever heard her bark. It also helped that I knew her level of fitness is pretty good, and I knew that virtually any time spent outside makes her ecstatically happy.

Still, I didn’t want to get cocky my first time out, so I planned conservatively: Kiva and I would run a short couple of loops through the neighborhood, early on Sunday morning. No busy intersections, no unfamiliar streets, not a lot of traffic, vehicular or otherwise.

Sunday morning came around, and Kiva knew something was up as soon as I started putting on running clothes. By the time I picked up her leash, she was practically levitating from excitement.

When was the last time you were that eager to go for a run??

I snapped on her leash and we trotted out into the gorgeous spring morning. I had the leash in one hand and a plastic grocery bag – because you just never know – in the other. By then, we were both excited.

I loved it. There is just something about running with a dog that changes your whole perspective of running. As I ran along beside Kiva, I wasn’t thinking about my pace, or how nice it would feel to be back in bed snoozing a little longer. I wasn’t thinking about my plans for the rest of the day.

I wasn’t thinking about myself at all. I was enjoying the scenery around me. When you’re out with a dog who in that moment is just thrilled with fresh air and sights and smells and sounds and life in general, it’s hard not to pick up a little of that feeling. Maybe you hold your head a little higher. Maybe you’re more alert. Maybe you smile, or even laugh, for reasons you would have rolled your eyes at on any other run.

Kiva impressed me. When other dogs barked loudly from behind walls and fences, she cantered on, totally unfazed. When we passed other pedestrians, she gave them a glance and not much else. She didn’t seem to tire at all, and probably could have kept going for a while, had I been able to figure out a way to gracefully run while carrying a bag of dog poop. Turns out it’s harder than it seems [that’s another benefit to running with a dog – it keeps you humble. It’s tough to have a big head when you’re carrying poop].

Would I do it again? Absolutely. That was the most fun I’ve had on a run in a while. The appeal of running with a dog – I finally get it.

Here’s to our four-legged friends.


The First Day Of…

Spring is here! Lovely, gracious Spring: that time of blossoms, breezes, balmy temperatures, and…



Please excuse me, I’ve been a little sore lately. Last weekend, I ran Albuquerque’s (technically, Rio Rancho’s) Shamrock Shuffle 10k. I was happy to keep up with my goal of racing more in 2015, and I was satisfied with my performance, but good LORD, those hills. I felt like I was on a roller coaster. My legs felt like they were some place less amusing. You know those races where you can practically hear your body snickering even as you try to move around and eat protein right afterwards? Yeah…

In addition, I’ve started doing knee-strengthening exercises, courtesy of Runner’s World. Showing my knees some love in order to prevent future injury has been on my to-do list for years, but I’ve never addressed it consistently. I figure if I plan to run a marathon this fall, there’s no time like the present to improve my habits. A good idea, right?

Well, it turns out that in order to show your knees love, you work all the muscles around them. I mean you WORK. ALL. THE. MUSCLES. Around them.

Guess what this causes?

I’ll just say that there is no such thing as being too experienced to feel soreness in all kinds of fun new places.

So please excuse me if I’m wincing as I write this.

But really, isn’t this what Spring is all about? Launching into new pursuits? Coming out of dormancy, shaking things up, and showing reinvigorated signs of life?

And how often is all of that done easily, with no growing pains? Never.

It doesn’t happen in nature: sure, we may think it happens overnight, but it takes a long time for buds and blossoms to burst forth into the world.

It doesn’t happen in running: how frequently do we set PRs in our first race or two of the new year? Doesn’t it take pinning on a couple more numbers before we really reclaim our rhythm – or adjust to a new method of training, racing, and recovery?

It doesn’t even happen at home. At least not for me. When I look at my yard these days, I remember how it looked mid-summer of last year: flowers poking up happily, vegetable plants offering up their goods, and the weeds more or less under control. Remembering all that, I survey my presently desolate flower pots, and the first weeds taunting me, and I go “ulp!”

Progress takes effort. It takes effort, sweat, and, yes, soreness.

One of the many great things about this time of year, though, is that everyone is in it together! All of those plants are working hard at their blossoming business; animals are working hard dragging themselves out of hibernation; and people are working hard finding their groove again, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. Hard work is easier when you know you’re not alone.

And, hello, it’s Springtime. Beauty everywhere! Birds chirping everywhere! No more scraping frost off the windshield!

Okay, so I won’t complain about sore muscles. I will savor them. Because I know that when the soreness dissipates, whatever is left behind will be stronger and better.

Progress takes effort.

Happy Spring, everyone :-)

Losing Wait

There is a WHOLE lot of hurry-up-and-wait in the air right now.

Part of it stems from nature. We’re in the almost-Spring homestretch, when trees are blossoming and flowery fragrances are starting to hit our noses. It’s lovely. But we can’t quite shake out all of our t-shirts and tuck away all of our sweaters, because it’s only mid-March. In Albuquerque, that usually means we have at least one more cold snap before warm weather settles in for good.

Part of it stems from life transitions that seem to be everywhere. I’m in the thick of planning my wedding; my friend Carrie just started planning hers; two other friends are expecting babies in June. Preparing for major events is both incredibly fun and incredibly taxing. We can’t wait for the big day, whether it’s committing to the one we love or welcoming a new life into the world. But between wanting to tie up all loose ends right now (if not sooner) in order to alleviate nerves, and facing the stone-cold reality that loose ends often have obstinate little minds of their own, frustrations can pop up quicker than an overly-eager tree blossom.

Then there are the hurry-up-and-wait situations that just happen. I’ve decided I want to run the Marine Corps Marathon in October — my first marathon as a married woman! But MCM employs a lottery registration system. Meaning I’ll put my name into the lottery today, and then, with butterflies in my stomach…wait. Wait, more than a week, for an email that says Yes or No.

Yup, I’ve realized that trying to get into a lottery marathon might not be the brightest idea for someone who’s 105 days out (thanks, from her wedding. I’m hoping that the anxiety from one will deplete the anxiety from the other, leaving me completely serene. Yes, that’s what I’m hoping for. Let me have my fantasy.

In the midst of all this, I do have moments of clear, rational thinking, and I try to make the most of them.

From one of these moments, and after consulting with friends who are or have recently been in the same boat, I’ve come up with this:

Reject the idea of “hurry up and wait.” Just let it go. Let go of the “hurry up” part and let go of the “wait” part.

You ask, “Uhhh, doesn’t that leave nothing?”

Yes. It leaves nothing. But nothing could also be interpreted as:

* Peace
* Stillness
* Calm
* Mindfulness
* Health
* Openness
* Reflection
* Happiness

If we’re constantly chomping at the bit to get things done, to check off one step and move immediately to the next, or anxiously keeping our eyes on the horizon without noticing what’s right in front of us, we lose a lot of those things I just mentioned. At least I do.

This week (one step at a time, people) I’m going to stop trying to do everything at once. Actually, I’m going to stop trying to do everything, period. I’m going to take more deep breaths. I’m going to give more hugs to the man I’m marrying. I’m going to go for longer runs. And I’m going to inhale the fragrance of the blossoming tree in my yard without a single thought to future freezes.


Snow Truce

Last Friday I was supposed to drive to Denver. I was looking forward to it; I was planning outfits…and then Winter decided to crash the party. Observing what was happening between Albuquerque and Denver on Thursday (snow), and observing the weekend forecast for Denver (snow), not to mention observing that I would be driving solo and my beloved Toyota Corolla does not have four-wheel drive, I canceled my trip.

I was NOT happy with the white stuff.

And then, as if the snow wanted to throw in a touchdown dance, Albuquerque got hit with it on both Thursday and Friday nights. I wanted to declare, “Excessive celebration!” and demand a penalty.

But then I realized snow doesn’t play football, and doesn’t care about its rules. After a good night’s sleep on Friday, I peered out the window on Saturday morning and thought, Ok, yes, I made the right decision in not driving up there. I thought, Ok, yes, having this much snow in a land of persistent sunshine is…kind of cool.

My attitude needed more time to improve, though. Robin Hood and I eased into the day. I had a gloriously long catch-up chat with one of my best friends; he played video games; the fireplace earned its keep. Finally, in the early afternoon, we both got restless. Which meant: snow walk!

We snow-suited up [read: I had plastic bags taped around my legs because I didn’t have actual snow boots to wear] and stepped out into the winter wonderland.

Sort of.

The snow was already melting. Such is Albuquerque and its sunshine.

Nevertheless, we romped along the sidewalks and streets of our neighborhood, exchanging greetings with sledders, shovelers, and anyone else who had ventured outside. We had a snowball fight – really, multiple snowball skirmishes all along the way – and I swear it was one of the most romantic moments of our relationship.

My anger towards snow began to ebb.

The next day, we met up with friends to go inner-tubing. Now I have done plenty of sledding in my time, but tubing? Never. I was intrigued.

We wound up at one of the designated “snowplay” areas on the East side of the Sandia mountains. Once again, I wore my makeshift bags-and-tape gaiters, but no matter. As we trudged through the snow to the picnic area that our friends had claimed, I was already imagining the feeling of skimming down a hill, wind against my face.

While lunch cooked on a grill, Robin Hood and I got impatient and trotted over to the hill where folks were sledding/tubing. I looked at it and got all giddy. It had been so long. Feeling generous in my giddiness, I let Robin Hood have the first ride. As soon as he returned to the top, though, I eagerly took the tube into my arms, carefully selected a good spot, and launched.

It lasted all of 12 or 15 seconds, but those seconds were pure unfiltered joy. My first thought afterwards was, How have I let so much time pass since I last played in the snow??

Snow can be maddening. I’ll be the first to say that. But it does have its redeeming moments. And…every once in a while…it’s actually pretty darn fun.


The Faith Muscle

The other day I got home from work feeling tired, irrationally cranky, and utterly unmotivated. I kicked out of my work clothes, tugged on my running clothes, and headed out the door despite my lack of motivation, because…well, that’s what we runners do, isn’t it? We lace up even when we’re not in the most ideal condition or frame of mind and we get moving, confident in the power of the run to cure all, or at least put things in perspective.

This particular day was mild as far as winter days go, but with a good stout breeze. I began at a comfortable shuffling warm-up pace. I was following a familiar looping course near my house, with the breeze shifting from my face to my back and back to my face. Blocks turned into minutes, which turned into miles.


My pace didn’t change – if anything, I think it got slower. And my mood didn’t improve one bit. I chalk up the fact that I finished without taking any shortcuts to nothing more than stubbornness.

Let’s face it: some runs are just like that. Real life isn’t a Runner’s World ad. We don’t always attain a “runner’s high”; we don’t always have magnificent epiphanies; we most certainly don’t always look glamorous and serene. Some runs are just…runs.

What’s the point of them, then? Some people would call them “junk miles,” implying that they serve no purpose. They’re not speed workouts, and they’re not long tests of endurance. They’re not even gut-wrenchingly gritty experiences that we can take pride in (e.g. running through a downpour, or in sweltering heat, or in dire need of a bathroom).

Junk, right?


It occurred to me after that run that maybe the point of these seemingly pointless miles has nothing to do with improving physical fitness, or honing skills, or bragging rights. Maybe the point of them is to exercise an entirely different muscle: faith.

The fact that we go running even when we don’t feel like it is a sign of faith, right? As I mentioned above, we’re confident in the power of the run to cure all. But that is just our faith getting warmed up! When the run comes to an end and all has not been cured, what happens then?

That’s when our faith muscle starts flexing. And we don’t even realize it.

What happens after an un-stellar run? Do we give up running? Do we say, “Ehhhh, forget tomorrow’s run; it’s a hopeless case”? No. We don’t give up. We get on with our lives, and when the time comes for the next day’s run, we lace up our shoes and step out again, because we have faith that not all runs will be like the one before.

When we’re in the middle of a run, whether it’s long or short, race or relaxation, and it starts to feel like drudgery, do we throw in the towel and just stop? Nope. Again, that’s the faith muscle going to work.

Faith is the muscle that keeps us going and brings us back. And I for one intend to start giving it a lot more attention – and respect.

Some weekends are all about doing things that need to get done. Those weekends are necessary. But what about weekends devoted solely to doing things we want to do? Aren’t they just as necessary?

I stumbled upon one of those last weekend. Actually, it was more of a splashy belly flop, resulting in a little soreness but also a big grin.

Robin Hood and I got Valentine’s Day off to an early start with Albuquerque’s Sweetheart Run 5k. Our plan was for me to run and him to cheer. As I got dressed, I heard a racket coming from the other side of the house. Shortly thereafter, Robin Hood came strolling into the room, and I gave him a questioning look.

If I had any doubt that this guy is for me, it was erased at that moment. Not because he was coming to watch me run; not because he was bringing a cowbell; but because he was practicing ringing the cowbell.

I nearly swooned.

Off we drove to the race. The weather was fantastic. I was excited to toe a starting line again (my first since September), and to test my fitness.

The starter’s horn sounded, we all surged forward, and…I heard it! The unmistakable clang of a lone but assertive cowbell sending us runners on our way. Pride washed over me. All those spectators along the course, and mine was the one ringing the cowbell. Best fan EVER!

I dashed through that race. I started too fast, but I didn’t care – I felt good. I passed a few people, then settled into a steady-ish pace. The manic energy of the start wore off, but I pressed on, successfully navigated a section of the course comprised of loose sand without falling (hooray!), and finally found myself in the last 200 meters, which were on a track. Time to kick it in!

I don’t know how my finish looked, but I do know that I heard the cowbell again. It pulled me along and I saw a flash of numbers as I crossed the finish line: 21:26! And 3rd place overall female!


From there, the day flowed like a happily babbling brook. We ate brunch at one of our favorite restaurants. We visited a Western wear store we’d never been to, just out of curiosity. We went to an expo hosted by New Mexico’s Department of Game & Fish, where Robin Hood was basically in an ecstatic trance for a couple of hours. We ate a steak dinner, with chocolate cake for dessert. YUM.

Our night, however, was not a late one, because our alarms for the next morning were set to…4 a.m.

A-hunting we were going. Specifically, hunting in an area about two hours south of Albuquerque, for a creature that sounded wildly exotic to my ears: Barbary sheep.

Four a.m. arrived too soon (doesn’t it always?). We rolled out of bed, got dressed (thankfully most of the prep work was already done) and hit the road. After some coffee and breakfast tacos, we were doing pretty well – awake and coherent!

We arrived at Robin Hood’s pre-selected spot just after sunrise, strapped on our packs, and started hiking. It began easily enough. We walked up through a valley and kept our eyes peeled. I practiced my “keep quiet and don’t lose your balance” walk. Conditions were favorable, but the sheep stayed hidden. Robin Hood decided we needed a better vantage point.


The “better vantage point” could only be attained by climbing a steep hill with no trail, lots of scree, a few snowy patches, and mostly dead tree stumps to grab onto.

I don’t recommend grabbing a dead tree stump for support.

Eventually, we made it to the top, and that was something. The view was magnificent, tall grasses waved in the wind, and we had a chance to catch our breath.

After Robin Hood thoroughly examined the surrounding area with binoculars (still nothing), we had a snack and moved on. The wind picked up, but the warm sun compensated for it. We eased along a ridge, keeping quiet, but didn’t see anything. All of the critters apparently were staying out of the wind.

We made our way back downhill. And I was reminded of a great hiking truth: if a hike up loose rock seems tough, just wait for the hike down!

After my nerves were rigorously tested and Robin Hood assured me repeatedly that I would NOT, in fact, start a human landslide, we got past the hardest part blessedly unscathed. Our efforts were rewarded by the sight of four mule deer! I wish I had taken a picture, but all I could do was stare. They were beautiful as they bounded along. Robin Hood muttered something about wishing it was mule deer season, but he had a smile on his face.

We stopped for another food break and started back to the truck. The wind was calmer in the valley, layers came off, and drowsiness began to settle in. It was time to call it a day.

A successful hunt? Maybe not. A great hike on land that rarely sees a human footprint? Definitely.

Thanks for the experience, Robin Hood. :)


Language Lessons

When was the last time you read a book that changed your life? A book that, as you read through the pages, kept making you pause, look up and make that thoughtful “huh” noise?

I just finished reading such a book: The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. It’s not a new book, and I’ve occasionally heard people talking about it, but I’ll be honest: if I hadn’t received it as a gift, I probably never would have picked it up. I’ve never been much into, how shall we say, touchy-feely books. I guess I figured, I’m a runner and a writer – how much more introspection does one person need? Another way to phrase it: how much more introspection can one person take?

It turns out a lot.

The book, in case you aren’t familiar with it, was written by a guy who’s been a marriage counselor for years. Over that time period, he developed a theory that there are five “love languages”; that is, five primary ways in which people give and receive love. They are: words of affirmation; gifts; quality time; acts of service; and physical touch. The key to a great relationship, he says, is to figure out your partner’s love language and become fluent in it.

Reading the book was like being a new runner and picking up a copy of Runner’s World for the first time, or having someone with a few marathons under their belt hand me a really good book on running. Similar to those feelings of “Oh, THAT’S how I run faster??” or “Wow, I never thought of looking at my body that way,” The Five Love Languages opened my eyes.

In past relationships, I’ve banged my head against the proverbial wall so many times I’m surprised I never got a concussion, all in the name of trying to show my love. Why can’t they see it? I would wonder. Why don’t they love me back?

I never considered the idea that I was going about it all wrong. I never even considered the idea that it was possible to go about it all wrong. I thought “love is love,” and proceeded from there.


I was expressing love in ways that just didn’t register with the intended recipient. I may as well have been in Italy, speaking Spanish loudly and frequently, and getting frustrated as to why no one could understand me.

As for the “Why don’t they love me back?” question – well, maybe they were trying on their end, and were just as blind as I was. No one can unlock a door if they don’t have the key.

Talk about a change in perspective.

Love can be difficult, and messy, and it’s sooo easy to do a flat-out face-plant in the dirt. And then do it again. And again. But the cool thing is that it’s never too late to learn. And no matter how much experience, good or bad, that you’ve got under your belt, there is always room for improvement. The only perfect love is God’s. Working on love, though – the polishing, the improving, putting in the training, so to speak – therein lies the joy of it all.

Here’s to embracing love with all of its imperfections, and never giving up on it.


Yes, please.

Asking for help has never been one of my strong suits. I’m getting better at it, but for a long time I was determined to figure things out on my own, due to a potent cocktail of pride, shyness, and plain stubbornness.

I applied that determination to every area of my life. Work: I can totally craft this resume by myself; I don’t need anyone’s help. Running: I can find and follow a marathon training plan on my own, thank you very much. Relationships: Books? Oprah? Asking older, more experienced people for advice? Please!

Thankfully, an even more potent cocktail, called age and experience, has watered that other one down quite a bit. I’ve realized that I don’t and never will have all the answers, and that asking for help is not a sign of weakness at all. I’ve realized the inherent problem behind the phrase “I don’t want to inconvenience anyone” – if I don’t ask for help, it will probably cause much more inconvenience, and maybe even harm, down the line. By swallowing my pride and asking for help, I’m becoming a better employee, co-worker, runner, and overall person.

There’s another side to this “asking for help” business, however, which has proven a much greater challenge. And that is: accepting unsolicited offers of help.

It’s a lovely gesture, right? Someone asking “Is there anything I can do?” So why is it a snap response to say “Oh no, I’m fine,” or “I’ve got this – thanks though!” I know I’m not the only one who does this. Is it because we feel guilty about off-loading some of our burden onto someone else? Or a desire to prove how much we can handle?

These days, I am learning what a load of garbage that is.

I am learning that when someone offers to help, it’s not because they think I’m incompetent. They’re not doing it because they’re convinced they can do it better than me. They’re doing it out of kindness.

I am a firm believer in hard work and perseverance. But now I’m seeing that if I take on everything alone, keeping all the burden and responsibility to myself, I’m like a house whose doors and windows are never opened. Sure, great things can happen inside the house. But how much nicer is it when a cool breeze is allowed to enter? The house feels lighter, cheerier. Healthier.

When I think of moments in my life in which I’ve accepted proffered help without hesitation, most of them are times of great vulnerability – when I physically need help. Immediately after finishing a marathon, for example. Or when I’ve been sick, or hurt. I would like to reach the point where I no longer need to be in such extreme situations in order to readily accept help. Where I can be healthy as a horse, with a smile on my face, and grab that extended hand.

It’s happening. Slowly, but it’s happening. I’m learning that people offering to help is a gift. I’m learning that by accepting that offer, my own time opens up to perhaps help someone else.

Help isn’t a two-way street. It’s a 5-way traffic circle, and it’s way easier to navigate than I ever imagined.

Fresh Air

For all of you New Englanders who are shoveling snow right now, I apologize.

Here in Albuquerque, we hit the mid-60s this week. I went for a walk during my lunch break without a scarf, gloves, OR a jacket. And I was almost sweating by the end. On two of my runs, I wore capris and a short-sleeved shirt. As I trotted along, I felt the strangest sensation on my skin. I was suspicious of it until I realized….wait a minute…

It was fresh air!

I know I’m jinxing myself to an immediate and extended bout of car-encased-in-hard-frost mornings, but I don’t care. I also know that such warm temperatures in January mean nothing good as far as global warming goes, but I don’t – well, okay, I do care about that. But still. I’m going to enjoy this for as long as it lasts.

This is a great time of year to get some fresh air.

During the holidays, we spend lots of time indoors. Indoors to hang out with family, indoors to shop for presents, indoors to watch football, indoors to travel to far-off destinations via plane, train or automobile. And all of that indoor stuff is great! But indoor air, no matter how much we fill it with wonderful holiday aromas, gets stale. We get stale.

After the holidays, there’s a lull. Call it post-holiday blues or a massive sugar crash or whatever you like. The point is that it’s frustrating. We’ve finished the revelry, we’ve put away the decorations, and we’ve gone back to work or school. Time to get back to real life with refreshed enthusiasm, right?

Wrong. It’s winter! The weather outside may still be frightful, but the fire? Instead of being delightful, it just seems like a lot of work (or a higher gas bill). There aren’t any big holidays to look forward to. It’s just…winter.

Or maybe you face the flip side of the coin. Maybe you’ve done such a stellar job of jumping on your resolutions and coming back from the holidays with a bang that you don’t even realize that January, an entire month, is done. Lost to a productive, blinding blur of activity.

Not exactly a picture of shiny optimism, is it? There’s a fix for it, though.

Fresh air!

Fresh air does wonders. In the literal sense, certainly – try spending just a little time outside every day (scuttling to and from the car doesn’t count) and see what happens. There’s something about the feeling of fresh air on skin, even if there’s a chill to it, that acts as an instant livening-up agent.

There’s fresh air in the figurative sense as well, and it can be just as helpful. Want to instigate change in your life? Who says you have to do it on January 1? Why not on February 1? There’s nothing stopping you from adding fresh air to your life. And if you’re one of those who dove fast and deep into 2015, why not come up for a breath of fresh air?

I vote that we all treat 2015 like a long race. Let’s go into it with purpose and smiles on our faces, but pace ourselves, knowing that (happily) we have the whole rest of the year in front of us.

Dressing Up in Denver

The drive from Albuquerque to Denver is blessedly simple. Get on I-25, point your car north, and just keep going.

Last Friday after work, I made that drive to spend the weekend with my friend Emily and her awesome hubby, Robbie. As if hanging out with them wouldn’t be fun enough, Emily had volunteered to be my wingwoman as I faced the exciting-but-scary adventure of…Trying On Wedding Dresses.

Fueled by anticipation, snacks, coffee, and music cranked to road trip volume, the drive passed quickly. Nevertheless, it was late by the time I parked along Emily’s curb, so after a big hug and a quick catch-up chat, we both went to bed. Visiting three bridal shops on insufficient sleep didn’t seem like a sound idea to either of us.

The next morning we cruised through Starbucks for breakfast and lots of caffeine. There I learned Lesson #1 of the day.

Lesson #1: I’m the kind of woman who devours an egg-and-sausage muffin immediately before trying on wedding dresses.

We arrived at the first shop, and I immediately felt out of my element. My outfits consist mainly of jeans and t-shirts, and there I was surrounded by tulle, silk, and lace. And elegance. My God, the elegance was palpable!

Lesson #2: When trying on wedding dresses, bring a friend. One who is smart, gracious, and stylish, who also knows your style. Thankfully, I had just such a friend with me.

My stylist introduced herself, and we got down to business.

Lesson #3: Make appointments. It’s just better that way.

I learned how to efficiently shimmy into and out of dresses. After nearly getting swallowed by a mountain of tulle, I decided that wide ‘n fluffy was not my style. I tried on a veil just for kicks, and to my surprise, loved it. I got to stand up on the little platform and twirl.

My inner bride started to awaken.

We floated to the next shop. I had hit my stride: I knew what I liked in a dress and what I didn’t like. The stylist, like a pacer during a marathon, matched my stride easily, keeping the mood light while remaining focused. Emily snapped photos of the dresses, provided constructive feedback, and asked all the insightful questions that never would have occurred to me.

More dresses! More twirling! More scrutinizing, smiling, shrugging, and squealing!

After the second appointment, it was time for lunch.

Lesson #4: Refueling is VITAL when dress shopping. If it’s in the form of a burger, fries, and beer, even better. Kudos to Yard House for being a great fuel station.

Our last appointment was at 5 o’clock. Guess what? It turns out that looking at wedding dresses all day doesn’t diminish their beauty one bit. As I tried on the last batch of dresses, I felt a little sad that the day was drawing to a close. But what a day it had been: the adrenaline! The flying fabric! (Seriously, those shops get BUSY on weekends). The reconnaissance!

Lesson #5: Just because a woman spends most of her time in jeans and sneakers, and prefers a hairband to a curling iron, doesn’t mean she can’t feel like a princess occasionally.

Thank you to Emily and Robbie for a delightful weekend. And thank you to the Bridal Collection, Blue Bridal Boutique, and Little White Dress for not once mocking my twirling.



First things first: thank you everyone for all the kind comments on last week’s post! I still feel like I’m living in a crazy-wonderful-mind-blown dream state, and I have to remind myself constantly that I no longer have a boyfriend – I have a fiancé. It sounds so formal. Geez.

Right now a word that keeps coming to mind (maybe because I keep hearing it and reading it) is savor. Everyone says, “Embrace the fun of wedding planning, but don’t forget to pause and savor the engagement period. Savor the celebrating. Savor the love that’s the reason for it all.”

In other words, don’t go insane. On behalf of all brides-to-be, I am totally on board with that advice. And what’s a great way to not go insane? Not to mention a great way to savor life more?

You know the answer: running.

I signed up to run a 5k next month. I did this for two reasons: 1) Because of my New Year’s resolution to toe the starting line of a race again (I know a 5k doesn’t seem like a dramatic, glorious re-entry into racing, but it’s better than nothing); and 2) To hold myself accountable to running. Running to me is like a friend that I’ve had for a long, long time. I wouldn’t up and drop that friendship just because I’m getting married, so why would I drop running? As a matter of fact, it’s occurring to me as I write this that the wedding will fall just a week or two before my 20th running anniversary. Two big milestones.

Now that’s something to savor.

Actually, there’s a third reason that I signed up for the 5k: I have a finite number of races before I’m going to be registering for them with a different last name. Maybe it’s silly to care, but I’ve been registering as a Banks since I was 14! Bearing that name, I’ve run races of every distance from 800 meters to 26.2 miles, including whatever strange distance is covered in San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers. I’ve had ugly races, fun races, frustrating races, and races that made me cry with happiness.

I know without a doubt that I’ll run many memorable races with my new last name (I kinda think Shannon Sapp has a nice ring to it), but I will raise my hand up and admit it: I’m a little sad to let go of the old one.


I’m going to savor every drop of my last races as a Banks. I have a goal to run at least two by summertime.

I’m going to savor the fact that I’m engaged to a man who supports my running, and whose family feels the same way. They got me running clothes for Christmas – how cool is that?

I’m going to savor the fact that, with the ever-increasing popularity of running, there are races available just about any time of year for folks like me trying to get back on the racing wagon.

Most of all, though, I’m going to savor this: as I dive headfirst into wedding planning, that necessary pause, that reliable path back to sanity, is just a pair of running shoes away.


The Best Surprise EVER!

My arm is black and blue from all the pinching it has received over the last seven days. I tell you, it is mind-boggling how much life can change in a week.

I guess I should begin at the beginning.

New Year’s Eve 2014 dawned just like my last several New Year’s Eves. I got up and went to work. Mercifully, the bosses let us go an hour early. Recognizing a golden opportunity, I drove home and promptly took a nap – Robin Hood and I had plans to go to a friend’s house for a New Year’s Eve party, and I wanted to actually make it to midnight. It’s embarrassing when everyone else around you is raising their glasses when the Times Square ball drops and you’re on the couch, snoring.

I woke up from my nap refreshed, and went out for the obligatory last-day-of-2014 run. I did some reflecting on the last year, and thought about everything that had happened in both my running and non-running life. I enjoyed the fresh air. It was a good run.

Our friend’s party didn’t start until 8, so Robin Hood and I relaxed, ordered pizza, and watched TV. When it was time to get ready, I aimed myself at the cute-but-casual outfit I had planned, but the boyfriend put on a sad face when he found out I wasn’t dressing up. Off went the warm jeans. On went the skirt (a wintertime skirt, but still a skirt, on a bone-chillingly-cold night).

Okay, in hindsight, dressing up was a good idea. But there was definitely some nose-wrinkling in the moment.

We went over to the party, where we mingled, enjoyed delicious snacks, and played Cards Against Humanity. I had never played it before, and I LOVED IT. Have you ever played it? It’s like Apples to Apples, only much more…uh…adult. I don’t recommend playing it when small children are present. We played countless rounds, hilarity ensued, and I made a mental note to buy it for myself as soon as possible.

Time flew. Before I knew it, it was time to forget about the game and focus on the TV. Everyone at the party – between 10 and 20 people, I think – gathered in the living room for the big countdown. As the Times Square ball slid down, we all shouted “10! 9!” and so forth.

When we got to zero, the room fell silent. The TV went mute. I hesitated for a second, then thought, well someone has to be loud, and I shouted “HAPPY NEW YEAR!!” Everyone else stayed silent. I was confused and slightly exasperated. Um, hello? It’s the new year? 2015? What’s wrong with you people?!

Then – and I can’t remember if it was of my own volition, or if someone discreetly indicated that I should – I turned to my left.

Then I saw Robin Hood getting down on one knee.

Then he pulled out a little black box.

Then he asked me to marry him.

After that, it’s kind of a blur. According to the video recorded by one of our friends (they were all in on it), I shrieked “YES!!!” and there was much hugging, smooching, champagne spilling, and cheering from the sidelines.

It’s still a blur. The happiest blur of my life.


On Your Mark, Get Set…

Happy 2015, everyone!

I hope the holidays were fabulous for all of you. For me, they were a whirlwind of airports, hugs, mouthwatering food, more hugs, bright lights, and glorious chaos. I got to run in places that I took for granted for years, and see faces that I stopped taking for granted a long time ago.

The cherry on top? Robin Hood got to meet my family…and won over the whole dang crowd. I think even my 2-month-old niece drooled her approval.

It all went by, as usual, much too quickly, and already I can’t wait for the next time we all hang out together.

But for now…it’s a new year!

In the past, I’ve avoided New Year’s Resolutions. I’m not sure why – maybe I’ve always thought that if I give my intentions a label, they will be doomed to not survive past January 31. Or maybe I’ve just been too busy slurping ruby red grapefruit (they’re in season, and they’re delicious). Or maybe the act of deliberately putting off taking Christmas decorations down takes more out of me than I thought. At any rate, resolutions have never been my thing.

This year, it’s different.

Imagine running a marathon without any mile markers and without a Garmin or any similar self-tracking device. You’d be plugging away, vaguely knowing that you’re making some sort of progress, but lacking a firm grasp of it. There would be contentment, but also…cloudiness.

That’s my current mental state. So I’m setting down mile markers for myself to clarify, motivate, and bring a little concrete accomplishment to my life.

• The first is to pick a race already. I’ve been telling myself for weeks…okay, months…that I need to get back in the saddle (er, starting corral?). Nothing kicks a new year of running into gear like filling out a registration form. I’ve got my eye on two races here in Albuquerque, but I have a weakness for destination races, especially for longer-distance events. And, trying to be mindful of my Texan boyfriend, I figure it would be fun to find a race in his home state. So I’ll pose this question: Can any of you recommend a half or full marathon in the Dallas-Fort Worth or Austin areas?

• The second is to get back into a church routine. I pray, and read devotionals, and my relationship with God has unquestionably improved over the past year. I’m happy about all of this. But something is still missing, which could be explained by the fact that I don’t go to church as often as I could. I found a church that I like. It’s close to home. One hour a week. No more excuses.

• The third is to start twice-a-week walks with Robin Hood. He wants to exercise more. I like to exercise. He doesn’t much like running, so for the sake of convenience, walking it is! We used to have a weekly run/walk routine, which was quality, outdoorsy time spent together, and which culminated in our participation in Albuquerque’s Sweetheart Run 5k last February. Then we just kind of slid away from the routine. It’s time to bring it back. Who knows? Maybe we’ll do the Sweetheart together again.

What will you use as your mile markers this year?

Time plays a major role in my life. Being a runner, with almost two decades’ worth of performances measured by large, bright, relentlessly ticking clocks, I guess that’s no surprise. Working in the field I do, where the rallying cry is “Get this done ASAP!” all day long, I guess it’s really no surprise. Time has become my constant companion, to the point where, if I’m not in a room with some sort of timepiece present, I get a teensy bit uncomfortable.

I know. Even as I write this, I’m cringing.

For me, the sure sign of a successful vacation, weekend, or random day off is if I lose track of what time it is. That means I’m relaxed. That means I’m focusing more on what I’m doing, and who I’m doing it with, then whether it’s being done in a timely manner, or what else I can accomplish in the day’s remaining hours.

It usually takes me a couple of days to reach that state. I like to think this is perfectly normal. I compare it to running intervals – if I were doing mile repeats, or a hill workout, it would be near impossible to instantaneously go from an all-out effort, with arms pumping and heart hammering, to a serene, peaceful standstill. Usually there’s a cool-down period. Maybe some ragged breathing, maybe a staggering shuffle. But instantaneous change? If anyone out there is able to pull that off, you have my admiration!

My point is, it takes time for me to unwind. But it happens. At some point, my eyes no longer fly straight to the clock when I walk into a room. Mealtimes resemble mealtimes instead of just efficient consumption of food. I become much less concerned about how long my runs take. I don’t feel a pressing urge to hurry through post-run stretches, strength exercises, and my shower in order to do whatever else needs to be done that day. In fact, the phrase “needs to be done” starts getting called more and more into question.

Similar to finishing the last interval of a hard workout, or crossing the last item off of my “Christmas gifts to buy” list, the realization that I’ve finally achieved that elusive state of relaxation is one marvelous feeling. It doesn’t matter if I limp into it, or cruise into it, or blink and find that it has taken me by surprise. I’ve let time go, and that’s all that matters.

Everyone says (myself included) that now is the time of year to slow down. Sit still. Stop and smell the Christmas trees. But as we’re surrounded by countdowns (less than a week till Christmas! Less time than that to mail packages!); the hurry-delay-hurry-reschedule-hurry of travel; and all the last-minute stress that invariably pops up, slowing down is a lot easier said than done.

Is it me, or has the well-intentioned counsel to “slow down” become just another source of holiday pressure?

Both speeding up and slowing down imply measurement of time. I say, stop worrying about pace. Fast, slow – does it matter? Less measuring, more treasuring. Let’s focus on what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with, and just let time go.

Have a safe and wonderful holiday! I’ll see you in 2015!

Lightening Up

On Tuesday night, Robin Hood and I met up with a few friends at Albuquerque’s River of Lights. I’ve gone in past years, and what a difference between going on a weeknight and going on a weekend. So much easier to park! So much easier to get tickets! So much easier to take a step without having to worry about trampling small herds of children!

You’re probably familiar with the “River of Lights” concept – a city takes a large public area, does it up with holiday lights, and visitors either drive a route around the lights or walk among them.

In Albuquerque’s case, it’s the Botanical Gardens, and we get to walk around. The lights are spread out all over the park, with varying themes: flowers, marine life, dinosaurs, tractors, you name it. And it’s not just lights. There are carolers, hot cocoa stands, a brass band, and a maze. There are greenhouses and an impressive train display that, if you let it, could probably hypnotize you.

If anyone is feeling a little Grinchy, I challenge them to go to the River of Lights and not have their hearts grow two sizes.

That’s one of the reasons I love the event – or really any kind of holiday light display; the time I spend lingering in front of particularly colorful houses when I’m out running is borderline inappropriate. That warm, fuzzy feeling is irresistible.

The biggest reason I like the River of Lights, though, is that I can walk through the gates and instantly revert to childhood. And it’s perfectly okay. I wanted to explore all of the park’s paths simultaneously, and repeatedly. I tugged Robin Hood’s arm whenever I saw an especially dazzling display (apologies for the bruises, sweetheart). I stood transfixed by a towering light show that was coordinated to flash in time with music from The Nutcracker. The electric trains and the villages constructed along the miniature train tracks evoked squeaks of excitement (ok, there were several squeaks throughout the evening. I’m not ashamed). And, having discovered long ago that there’s really no mature, ladylike way to drink cocoa topped by a veritable Matterhorn of whipped cream, I slurped away contentedly.

I forgot all about holiday stress.

Here’s the thing. Somehow, when I’m standing in front of a live performance of “Carol of the Bells” or gazing out at a sea of neon, I have a hard time worrying. About anything. For a moment, life ceases to be a blur of errands, social functions, lost gloves and shopping lists, and narrows down to what I can see in the twinkling glow of the lights: people. Namely, my people.

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I always need reminders about priorities. The holiday season isn’t about sending cards out on time, or at all. It’s not about quantities of treats baked or not baked, consumed or not consumed. It’s not even about the lights. Ok, it’s a little about the lights.

Mainly, it’s about love. It’s about spending time with your people. Simple as that. If, like me, you need a reminder, I recommend grabbing one of those people and finding a good light display. A cup of cocoa topped by a Matterhorn of whipped cream doesn’t hurt either.


I love a holiday. A holiday that’s actually two holidays in one is even better. And when those two holidays are Thanksgiving and Christmas: whoa. Food! Presents! Chalk! Glitter!

Let me back up.

Robin Hood and I spent Thanksgiving weekend in his homeland of Texas. We began our odyssey on Tuesday evening, driving from Albuquerque to Lubbock, where we spent the night at a friend’s house. On Wednesday, we continued eastward until we reached a parcel of land near the town of Graham. Here we would remain until the following evening – Robin Hood’s family had decided to shift Turkey Day to Friday – with one goal: venison.

Hunting is still shiny and new to me, so I eagerly camouflaged up and joined my man in his tree stand. I was there as an observer (someday I’ll be skilled enough to actively hunt, but not yet) and tried to absorb as much as I could. Not for the first time, I noticed similarities between hunting and another favored outdoor activity of mine: running.

For both, it seems the optimal times are during sunrise and sunset. Whether sitting still in camo or striding along in neon, those hours are magical. They’re a chance to fill ourselves with quiet before a bustling, noisy day, or a chance to relax and exhale at the end of that day.

Perspective is also key in both activities. In hunting, few things are more frustrating than shooting the quarry but then not being able to find it – whether because of a setting sun, a spry animal, or just bad luck. In running, a comparable experience is being this close to a PR, only to have it elude us by a few seconds. Or having one foot out the door to go for a daily run, only to have an urgent task call us back.

None of that is fun. But in both hunting and running, as tempting as it is to stew and re-analyze the situation over and over, we have to maintain perspective. There will be another day. There will be more animals to hunt, and there will be more miles to run. Dusting ourselves off lets the light in.

Long story short: Robin Hood didn’t get a deer. But it was still fun, memories were made, and we drove on to Fort Worth just in time for….

….Thanksgiving-Christmas-Black-Friday-Day-Of-JOY!! The hunting trip delayed Thanksgiving, and the fact that Robin Hood will accompany me to Virginia for Christmas brought about his family’s decision to celebrate Christmas early. Combining the two holidays into one turned out splendidly. We cooked a bunch, ate a bunch, wrote down what we were thankful for on chalkboard placemats, and wore paper crowns. I can’t remember where the glitter came from, but it was there, and it was fabulous. We exchanged gifts, and I caught my eyes welling up more than once.

I snuck several runs in during our stay in Fort Worth, and yup, they were right around sunrise. I wasn’t stalking any deer or chasing any PRs; I was just loping along under tall, leafy trees in early morning quiet. When I reached my turnaround point to head back to the family I’ve come to love, I thought to myself, Louis Armstrong was right.

What a wonderful world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

There’s a lot to be said for blank pages.

True, they can be intimidating. But they’re also opportunities.

When I first sat down to write this post, I was inspired. I was motivated. My fingers flew across the keyboard. It was easy. Then I paused, read what I had just written…and hit Delete.

All I had done with that burst of creativity was write a paragraph of venting about holiday stress. It didn’t make me feel any better – actually, it made me more stressed just looking at it – and I knew it wouldn’t make anyone else feel any better. I was back to a blank page.

This time of year, the opening of the holiday season, is a blank page. We can fill that page with to-do lists and to-buy lists. We can fill it with things that keep us busy, make us stressed, and make us mad. We can even crumple that blank page into a ball, or tear it into pieces, and throw it away.

Or we can do something else with it.

We can fill the page with a list of things we’re thankful for. Of people we’re thankful for. We can draw a picture of a holiday scene (I recommend using crayons or scented Magic Markers. It’s just more fun that way.). We can use the page to wrap a present for someone.

In the spirit of today’s holiday, here are a few things and people I’m thankful for:

Fireplaces. I am loving fireplaces right now. Maybe it’s because for the first time in years I’m living in a home that has a fireplace (even if it’s gas instead of wood-burning), or maybe it’s just because it’s cold outside, but if I’m in a room with a fireplace I find myself unable to stay away. Ahhh…warmth!

Trying new things. Namely, a new church. I like the place and the people and the general feeling I get just from walking through its doors, and plan to attend more services there.

…But not letting go of old things. Namely, running. Between the not-always-cooperative weather of winter, and the frenetic pace of the holidays, it can be tough to keep running in the picture. But knowing what even 20 or 30 minutes of running does for me (especially on the days when that’s the only time I have all to myself) is enough to keep it a high priority. Not to mention the chance to sport my fluorescent pink running jacket always makes my day a little more awesome.

My family. What can I say? I love them and I don’t think I could ask for a better one.

The “Good-Enough Housekeeping” page of Good Housekeeping magazine. Thank God for this. It’s never pretty when we work ourselves into such a state of anxiety that we snap like a turkey wishbone. Can we all just give ourselves (and other people, while we’re at it) a break?

My boyfriend. For having a fire in our fireplace when I get home. And doing a startlingly good turkey imitation. And lots of other mushy love stuff.

This time of year is a blank page. The cursor is blinking. What are you going to write?



Robin Hood had a touch of food poisoning last week.

While I would never wish anyone the experience of watching a loved one go through that, I will say that it taught me some valuable lessons.

I know that love means thinking of others, and realizing that their needs equal and sometimes trump your own. But last weekend really hammered that home. And the kicker was that I didn’t mind. At all. There was no resentment, no feeling that my time was being infringed upon. I didn’t care that I was up in the middle of the night, Googling symptoms that I shan’t describe. I didn’t care that I used one of my own sick days to care for someone else (hello, I’m not going to work when my boyfriend has been stationed in the bathroom for hours). I didn’t care that I skipped my run that day. Frankly, watching Robin Hood finally sleeping soundly, and then later, actually eating again, brought me peace of mind that could rival any post-run glow.

I realized that I am truly invested in someone other than myself, and it felt nice.

Another thing I learned was humility. No one has all the answers or all the healing powers or all the anything. I helped Robin Hood as best I could, but there was little I could do other than make sure he was comfortable and somewhat hydrated. I camped out in the hallway by the bathroom so I could at least be nearby, and while the floor was surprisingly cozy, it was still frustrating. I didn’t know what to do – drag him to the emergency room? Force water down his throat? Continue doing Internet research and conclude that he has some sort of awful Ebola/E. coli hybrid? I know Googling symptoms is a terrible idea, but I’m not my most rational self at 3:00 am.

Or…wait and hope for the best?

Well, just after I had resolved to drive him to a doctor as soon as he was able to stand, he fell asleep. And slept. And slept.

Then another lesson emerged: patience. And right on its heels, its cousin: faith. After Robin Hood fell asleep, so did I. When I woke up and confirmed that he was still sleeping, I padded to the kitchen. I fixed myself breakfast, and then, sitting at the table, pondered what to do next. I figured, why not revert to routine? I got my devotional books, did that day’s readings, and prayed. I prayed for Robin Hood to get better, and prayed for guidance for myself.

I don’t know if it was the food or the prayer – probably both – but the next time I peered in at my patient, it dawned on me that the best thing to do was to take a deep breath, relax, and let him get the rest he needed.

That night, as I watched him munch toast and sip Gatorade, I thought about the lessons I was learning. I said a quiet prayer of thanks for them. But I suspect that when it comes to realizing the power of prayer, the power of the human body, and the power that we all have to be there for loved ones when they need us…I haven’t even scratched the surface.

Arizona Dreamin’

As I write this, the temperature in Albuquerque hovers around 30 degrees. In 24 hours, I went from running in shorts and a t-shirt to running in long tights, multiple layers, and gloves.

Sheesh, Winter. You could have knocked!

The cold snap makes me doubly grateful for the trip I took last weekend.

About a year ago, my friends Tara and Randy moved from Albuquerque to Scottsdale, Arizona, taking with them their adorable daughter, Avianna, their two Italian Greyhounds, and some fabulous memories. I wished them well and told them, and myself, that I would be out there soon to visit.

Well, life happened, and almost a year later, I had yet to make good on those words. When this dawned on me, I cringed. Then I gave myself a kick in the butt. Then I took action. I checked my calendar; Tara checked hers; and I booked those plane tickets.

It was just a quick weekend trip, but it was so worth it.

Tara picked me up from the airport, and the catching-up began immediately. We arrived at their house, where we were greeted by Randy, the dogs, and a sleepy toddler. After tucking the toddler in, the grown-ups had cookies, wine, and chatted until we were all falling asleep in the living room.

The next morning, after a quick run around a ridiculously beautiful neighborhood (palm trees, saguaro cacti, flowers…ahhhh) we went to watch Avianna play soccer. Have you ever seen three- and four-year-olds play soccer? If not, do so immediately. It was the best Saturday morning entertainment I’ve had in a long time.

After the game ended and each tiny athlete got their snack, we headed to downtown Phoenix to check out a family-friendly Fall Festival. Granted, my weakness for festivals in general makes me a little prejudiced, but it was great! Local restaurants had tents where they sold samples for a dollar apiece – and I didn’t taste one sample that I didn’t like. Pumpkin soup, homemade ice cream sandwiches, tacos, the darkest chocolate I’ve ever had (80%!!)…all of it delicious. And for kids, there was a bouncy house, face painting, temporary tattoos, and a variety of art activities. The sun was warm, the lemonade was cold, and a good time was had by all.

That’s how the weekend went. Hanging out with people I’ve known for years – they were among my first Albuquerque friends – didn’t feel nostalgic so much as just comfortable. When I relaxed on a couch with the dogs in my lap, talked in the kitchen during mealtime preparations, and read stories to Avianna, it didn’t seem at all like a year had gone by. It seemed like we were just picking up right where we left off.

Don’t you love friendships like that? Friendships where there may be hundreds or thousands of miles between you, but when you reunite, the rhythm that you established however many years ago picks right back up? I’m blessed with several such friendships, and knowing their strength has provided comfort more times than I can count.

Tara and Randy: thank you for a terrific weekend. And during my run tomorrow, when I’m all bundled up with my face going numb, I’ll just imagine I’m in Scottsdale, trotting along under citrus trees, in shorts.


Last weekend I received that oh-so-fun call from my credit card company. Do you know the one I’m talking about? The one where they inform you that a charge has been made waaay out of your usual zip code? Yup. That one.

Thankfully, my credit card company was on the ball and sounded the alarm immediately, so we were able to freeze the card before much damage was done. As I listened on the phone to the very kind and helpful representative, I asked myself wryly, Geez, what about my identity is cool enough that someone would want to steal it?

These days, the phrase “identity theft” is equated with money. Compromised credit card equals loss of money equals stolen identity.

But is our identity gone? Are we defined by nothing more than a small plastic rectangle and/or a string of numbers?

Lord, I hope not.

True, my finances are a part of my life, and necessary, if I want to pay for food, rent, clothing, and other essentials. They’re not, however, my identity. I don’t say “I am my bank account.”

This begs the question: what is my identity? What makes me who I am?

The list is long, but would go something like: I am a runner. I am a writer. I am a daughter/granddaughter/sister/niece/aunt/cousin/friend/girlfriend. I am a Catholic. I am an American. And so on. I’m not including things I do, because I do plenty of things that I don’t associate with my identity. Household chores, for example, are precisely that: chores, not defining characteristics.

I’m realizing, though, that defining characteristics may seem permanent (I’ll always be a runner! My relationship is indestructible!), but are far from it. They’re just as vulnerable to compromise as our credit cards. Just as we have to be vigilant about our credit card information – Is that website really secure? Are we checking our billing statements regularly? – we need to be just as vigilant elsewhere.

In fact, our finances and our “real” identity have a lot in common. It’s generally considered wise to put money into a savings account, right? Well, when I run, those miles go into a bank. Call it the bank of mental and physical health. When I visit my family, that goes into a bank, and when I pray, that goes into a bank. Devoting time to the different aspects of my identity adds value to each one – and the more I add now, the more I can draw from when the need arises. The euphemism “staying afloat” is not just a financial one.

It’s also a common financial practice to invest – to branch out into new areas once we have a secure base. We do research, we pick something worthwhile to invest in, we give, and hopefully, we see growth. Isn’t this something we also do with ourselves? We seek growth, so we look for things to add to our personal portfolios, i.e., identities. How often do we say “I want to be a…”? Going from that statement to “I am a…” takes work, and a little risk, but how gratifying is it when that new investment pays off?

What’s your identity? What are you doing to keep it secure and help it grow?


Happy Halloween!

All month long, Robin Hood and I have been watching scary movies. Older ones, newer ones; obscure ones, classics. Some have turned out to be goofy; others have turned out to be terrifying.

I have a low fear threshold when it comes to movies. I’ve banned myself from watching scary movies in a theatre for two reasons:

1) I have a tendency to scream precisely when the director wants me to scream. Loudly. Robin Hood claims that I make movies twice as scary for him to watch because of my vocals. Thus, to prevent public embarrassment and to avoid accidently giving some innocent stranger a heart attack, I think it best to keep to my own living room.

2) In an effort to avoid the screaming, sometimes I’ll just look away from the screen or close my eyes when I know something awful is about to jump out. While watching the most recent version of Evil Dead, I had my eyes closed for approximately the entire second half. My point is that I’m not going to pay movie theatre prices if I’m not technically even watching the movie.

The situation is not helped by the fact that Robin Hood has been out of town a lot recently — earlier this week he was in Amarillo for work, and this weekend he’s out hunting (hopefully not running into any zombie elk or possessed bears). Needless to say, I’ve been a little more…uh…careful at night when he’s gone. Leaving a couple of extra lights on and keeping a knife in the bedroom is perfectly normal, right??

Why then, you ask, do I watch the scary movies? Why do I seek them out and cram my senses and imagination full of them? Why do I want what I fear?

The most obvious reason is that it’s a festive thing to do this time of year. And yes…I admit that seeing my boyfriend jump a mile when I shriek is a tiny bit funny. But honestly?

It’s to prove to myself that I can. I can approach something that freaks me out, face it (or, okay, at least listen to it), and stick it out till the end.

Maybe this is also why I’m okay with Robin Hood being away. Maybe I need to get comfortable with being alone in a house at night. Being alone in a house is different than being alone in an apartment. It just is. Shadows and noises that play tricks on the brain are good reminders to breathe, summon up some rational thoughts no matter how difficult that is, and know that everything’s going to be fine.

And maybe it sounds goofy, but I like to think that if I make time once a year to actively seek that which I avoid the rest of the year, it will make me a stronger person. I can watch The Shining and Paranormal Activity and manage to sleep like the dead (heh heh) afterwards? Shoot, I can do anything!

To everyone who hates scary movies: Try a couple. They’re not so bad, really.

To everyone else: Try something that freaks you out a little. I guarantee you’ll feel stronger afterwards. And if, while you wait for that feeling to kick in, you turn a few extra lights on, I won’t judge.

The ‘S’ Word

I’m going to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and just say it:

I am in a running slump. My running has hit doldrums; it has been becalmed; I can almost hear the wind leaking out of its sails: ppffffssshhh.

Boredom has set in.

I know it’s not the end of the world — any runner who has been at it for a few years can tell you that running can get mundane. If they deny it, they’re lying. The routine and discipline we runners pride ourselves on can sometimes be downright wretched. It’s just a fact of the sport. This statement is usually followed by a smile and words to the effect of “But that’s the beauty of running! That’s what gives runners their mental and physical strength and awe-inspiring endurance!”

HA. <—- That's the slump speaking.

The slump will pass eventually. In the meantime, I'm appreciating little shots in the arm. Earlier this week, I went for a run and got rained on — yes, legitimately rained on, in Albuquerque. It felt fabulous. The temperature was cool but not bone-chilling, the rain fell in more or less straight lines, and my ponytail was a gloriously tangled mess when I got home (which no longer bothers me since I've discovered the phenomenal powers of conditioner. Gobs of it.). That rain refreshed me in every way possible.

Then, on another day, I was running along a street in my neighborhood when I heard a vehicle approach from behind. I sensed the vehicle slow down and I turned, not sure if it would be fight or flight, only to see…Robin Hood! He was grinning his head off and blasting the Chariots of Fire theme as his truck rolled alongside me. There is nothing like a surprise cheerleader (especially a handsome one) to brighten up a weekday run. Days later, I’m still smiling about that.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that A) slumps (in running or anything else) rarely pack up and leave on their own, and B) relying on external shots in the arm, like rain and great boyfriends, only gets us so far. Sooner or later we have to start tugging on those bootstraps and pulling ourselves out of the slump.

There are countless ways to de-slump. We can change our focus. We can quit concentrating on ourselves so much and do something for those around us, whether through words or actions. We can try something new. We can acknowledge a challenge that’s been dangling in front of us for ages and go for it rather than continuing to shy away. We can even, yes, give ourselves a break, because many a slump recedes after nothing more than a good night’s sleep.

I think my ticket out of this one is a race. I’m not sure which race, or even the distance, but I want something to focus on. Something to give me a rock-solid reason to lace up the running shoes and get out the door. I have this tiny craving to chart a training plan, crank up that “discipline” thing again, and see what happens.

What’s your favorite way to de-slump?

Chili for the Soul

In Kristin Armstrong’s “Mile Markers” column last week, she wrote about the importance of treating yourself to little luxuries. Nothing huge, just everyday stuff that makes other people shrug and ask “What’s the big deal?” — but makes you blissfully happy.

I loved this and got to thinking about a few little luxuries that I’m enjoying right now:

Homemade cooking. I made my first-ever chili last month (don’t worry, New Mexico readers, I love chile, too). Luckily, it was edible, and I decided I wanted to try more recipes. And by “recipes” I mean “throwing together whatever is in the fridge and pantry, saying a quick prayer, then sipping wine from the bottle that I opened to add some fun zing to the chili.” I made my second batch last weekend, and now I’m hooked. There’s just something about soup simmering in a warm kitchen and filling the house with yummy aromas as the weather turns colder. It’s good for the belly and the soul.

Daylight. It’s almost fall-back time, and already you can notice the sun bowing out a little earlier. Let me put it bluntly: I DON’T LIKE IT. I used to enjoy that extra hour of sleep, but now I realize that the extra hour is only noticeable for one night. I’d happily give up an hour of sleep for more daylight. These days, I’m trying to get outside and enjoy late afternoon sunshine as much as possible while it lasts. Although I admit: I do love being able to watch sunsets during my wintertime runs. Silver lining. Speaking of running…

Running. Running enables the aforementioned daylight savoring. Not to mention October is arguably the finest month of the year to run just about everywhere. The temperature, the natural scenery, the abundance of races…it’s tough to beat. And all of those races? You don’t have to run in any to benefit from them! You can’t surf the running web these days without seeing an article about a race that either just happened or is about to happen. It’s instant motivation for a workout.

Not running. I’m not training for any races right now. I’m running simply because I love it. Which feels deliiiiiightful. I can (and do) go for spontaneous long runs…or I can (and do) go and get my hair done. I can decide that today is an “I must run up a hill over and over again” kind of day…or I can run a couple of miles, then come home and do exercises in the living room with ’80s music blaring. I don’t have to worry about any one workout leaving me over-tired for the next day, and I don’t feel (too) guilty about skipping a day. I recommend the experience.

Living with someone. Yes, I count this as a luxury. Living with someone means that I have someone to share that homemade cooking with (and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he contributes to the cooking). Living with someone means that I had someone to help me find, and extract, the microscopic-yet-agonizing splinter in my foot recently. Living with someone is particularly wonderful this month, because it means I don’t have to watch my annual pre-Halloween spate of scary movies by myself. It’s nice when you’re not the only one who wants to leave the lights on all night long.

What kinds of small luxuries make up the chili for your soul?

Family Ties

Yesterday, in an attempt to shake morning sluggishness and distract myself from missing my parents — these visits go by way too fast — I decided to run some hill repeats.

My first ascent was, unsurprisingly, adrenaline-charged and a tad too eager. Panting at the top of the hill, I reminded myself that I wasn’t done. The second ascent, in sharp contrast, was lackluster and unfocused. Apparently, my sluggishness was not to be shaken so easily.

Trotting slowly back down the hill for #3, I tried to come up with motivational tactics. It didn’t work; my mind wandered. I thought of my parents, who were at that moment driving up to Colorado for a visit with my sister and her husband. I thought of my sister, who’s in the home stretch of her first season as a middle school cross-country coach (and doing fabulously). I thought of my brother and sister-in-law in California, who are getting ready to welcome their second child into the world.

When I swatted the street sign signifying the start of my next repeat, it may as well have been a swat to my own head. Motivation? Duh. Family!

For each of the rest of my hill repeats, I concentrated on one family member. I pumped my arms and legs for them; I prayed for them; on their behalf, I gulped air and swiped errant drool off of my chin. I can’t say the last few repeats were any prettier than the first, but they sure felt better.

We talk about the connection to our families in a variety of ways: as “family ties,” “coils,” “tentacles,” and plenty of even less flattering metaphors. All of them illustrate the power of family to pull us in and keep us close. They illustrate the difficulty, or utter inability, we have in completely breaking free of our families.

But what about the other end of those coils?

Sure, ropes and cords can be used to capture, snare, control, and punish. We can look at them and shudder, or fight them, or bolt from them.

They can also be used for good. They can be used to reinforce, extend, connect — and free! Think about bungee cords: people go bungee-jumping all the time. The cord is simultaneously the means to safety and thrilling adventure. Think about hot air balloons: ropes and lines keep the balloon steady on the ground, but ropes and lines also hold the balloon together, enabling us to have the breath-taking experience of floating in the sky.

We can look at our family ties as a rope that controls, or a rope that enables. When we’re with family, especially the family members who have known us all our lives, we can’t hide from who we are. NOT always a pleasant thought. But the ties are also there to strengthen. They’re bungees, to let you have adventure and security. They’re hot air balloon lines, to give you stability and help you fly. They’re lifelines, to pull your thoughts away from yourself for the length of a workout, or to pull your days away from wearisome routine for the length of a visit, or to pull your life away from bad habits for the length of, well, a life.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take mine double-knotted.


Fall Break

In college, every October we would have a four-day weekend known as Fall Break. Maybe the administrators felt bad about having Spring Break with no corresponding respite in the fall, or maybe they thought that from late August to Thanksgiving was too long to go without any downtime. Whatever their reasoning, no one questioned Fall Break. It was a chance to flee campus for a few days, to exhale the air of lecture halls and inhale the changing of the seasons.

I’m bringing Fall Break back.

My parents arrive in Albuquerque later today, and I’ve taken a week off from work for the occasion. A full, glorious, week!

Usually when they visit, it’s in the summer. There’s nothing wrong with that, and we always have a lovely time, but this time of year in Albuquerque…ahhhh.

If you ask any resident of Albuquerque, “What’s the best time of year to visit?” the answer will likely be October. The main reason for that is simple enough: Balloon Fiesta. And Balloon Fiesta IS a huge deal, frankly because it’s bona fide awesome. I’ve seen the most jaded people I know get downright gushy when it comes to Fiesta. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer watching balloons fill the sky from afar, or whether you like being down in the thick of the action with a camera in one hand and a breakfast burrito in the other. It’s an event definitely worth checking out.

Balloon Fiesta is great. But it’s hardly the only reason October is loved in this town. October brings the real and true arrival of fall weather. Needing a jacket in the morning but shedding it in the afternoon? Delightful! The smell of roasting green chile lingers in the air, and the changing leaves on the east side of the Sandias and along the Bosque are enough to make you forget you’re in the desert. October means visits to McCall’s Pumpkin Patch, and a fluttering among the local running community courtesy of the Duke City Marathon.


My mind is spinning with ideas for things to do with my folks, and I know we’ll have all kinds of cool adventures. We’ll probably go hiking — and not, ahem, have to worry about overheating or starting out early enough to beat the heat! Maybe we’ll get some freshly-roasted green chiles and have them with supper. And we most certainly will get up in the dark hours of the morning, all of us clutching nuclear-strength coffee, to get a look at those hot air balloons.

But I’m also going to relish the unfolding of one of my favorite months. I’m going to take in and remember the look on my parents’ faces when they see the Dawn Patrol balloons all light up at the same time. I’m going to savor the feeling of long sleeves on my arms when I go out for morning runs. I’m going to indulge in a Pumpkin Spice Latte or two…and who am I kidding; I’ll probably indulge in a few yummy pumpkin-flavored beers as well (does anyone have a favorite to recommend?).

The seasons are changing. The air has shrugged off its summertime weight and replaced it with a new vigor. Take some time to breathe it in.

Rocking the Red Tent

I think this was all brought on by watching Spice World on Netflix recently. Even if you were never a Spice Girls fan, it’s wildly entertaining, and I especially recommend it if you have young daughters.

“Girl Power” has almost become a parody of itself in the last decade. People roll their eyes at it, or slap a clever hashtag on their tweets and call themselves feminists.

What would happen if we gave Girl Power more consideration? I don’t mean strutting around in platform shoes and being loud all the time. I mean appreciating the women in your life, and showing it.

Days after watching the movie, I noticed a parallel in the two morning devotional books I’ve been reading. They both emphasized the value of female friends in our lives, and the importance of nurturing those friendships.

As Kristin Armstrong notes:
“Remember slumber parties, playing with one another’s hair and talking and laughing deep into the night? That bliss of friendship is not reserved only for young girls. It is available and desirable to all of us, at any age. God knew we needed each other. He intended us to live in community and share our lives with one another. Think of the girlfriends you cherish today. Thank God for them. Call them. Write to them. See them. Love them.”

Distance doesn’t matter. Neither does the plain fact that life happens and sometimes months go by without seeing friends, even if they live in the same town. There are all kinds of ways you can maintain friendships.

Different books, different authors, same message. For two or three days in a row.

I got the hint.

I’d been meaning for months to visit a friend who moved away last fall; I finally booked that flight. I’d also been meaning to call another friend who I know is going through a tough time; I called her to check in and sent her a care package. Last weekend, I went to a bachelorette party and a jewelry party, and hung out with really cool women at each. And I had the privilege to cheer for (from afar) another friend who did a triathlon in Colorado.

None of these things took a lot of time. I had to ask myself, how often have I brushed off a golden opportunity to spend quality time with a friend(s) because I’m “too busy” or I think my man would disapprove or be offended?

Facing the answer to that question was like doing downward dog in a yoga class: horribly unpleasant, but beneficial.

I don’t want to be the kind of woman who ditches her female friends just because she’s in a fabulous romantic relationship. Or the kind of woman who makes new female friends courtesy of that relationship, and neglects the ones who knew her before. The ones who thought she was terrific with or without a man. I don’t want to wake up one morning and realize that I am completely alone in my red tent (read The Red Tent after you’ve watched Spice World).

When women support each other, phenomenal things happen. And really, truly, it doesn’t take much. It’s not necessary to schedule a twice-a-year four-day girl’s weekend at a five-star resort. A call, or email, or even just a simple “How’s it goin’?” text message can make someone’s day. And a few of those? They could be the difference between a woman being a shrinking violet and a woman who changes the world. Between a woman saying “Oh, I used to run…” and a woman who smashes world records in her 40s (last assignment, I promise: if you don’t know who Deena Kastor is, find out!).

I’m going to try harder to be a good friend. I’m going to hug my man for encouraging me in doing so. And I’m going to dust off my Spice Girls CDs and blast them.

Cheers, ladies!

Tag Cloud


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,415 other followers