“I have discovered a corner of the universe where I am at peace.”

A message from the universe

A message from the universe

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly four years since we last spoke.

On our good days, The Muse was not only part of my life, but also the center of the streams of my thought about who I was. She was the constant center, the North Star, and my lighthouse.

On our bad days, she was the Unstoppable Force against my Immovable Object. We were elements that smashed against each other, chipping away at the pieces of our souls, and shattering the worlds around each other.

We were love, and hate, and anger, and fear, and hopelessness, and happiness.

We were a violent and slow erosion.

Then, one day, we were simply not. As sure as she had appeared in my life in 1992, she was gone in 2009.

As we got healthy, we realized the hurts we had leveled against each other, the wrongs we had committed in the name of our relationship, and the remains of our tattered core were our White Whale. Whatever had once been had long again been damaged beyond repair.

With one, short conversation, our life together came to a close. It was a final, dry goodbye devoid of the pain and love that marked our time in orbit.

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One Piece of Advice I Know I’ll Give My Daughter

As my wife and I begin to consider adding little people to our family, I find myself thinking about what I want to tell them when they arrive.

I have a little notebook of “Things to Tell the Kids.” Most involve gender-less advice such as “Find your voice,” “Be active in your life decisions,” and “Be the person you mean to be.”

There are some that are more gender related.

In our CrossFit community, I hear concerns (usually from the women) about strength. To be clear, these women aren’t concerned they are getting stronger; they are concerned that their muscles don’t match up with what we traditionally think of as feminine.

Intellectually I can understand the concern, but emotionally I have a hard time wrapping my brain around it. I can’t imagine anyone ever telling me to stop trying to become strong at whatever I’m doing. I can’t imagine going through life concerned that if I did, I would also have to worry about how that was perceived.

Certainly I was taught that showing emotion is a sign of weakness, but today it is expected that as a man I will be in touch with that side of myself. Few, though, would dare say that a man was less of a man because he showed compassion or emotion.

After hearing this discussion take place between the women at the box, I came home and scribbled this into my book of “Things to Tell My Daughter.” (And I figured maybe women of CrossFit Broad Ripple might benefit from hearing this as well since I’m nearly old enough to be at least their crazy Uncle.)

Skinny is easy; strong is hard.

Skinny is an act of reduction. It is about NOT doing things. It’s about not eating, or not working out. It is about maintaining what you have, and striving for a little less.

Strong is the opposite. It’s about picking up heavy objects, and pushing yourself past where your mind tells you to stop. It is about building what wasn’t there before. It is about sweat, and tears, and aches, and pains.

Strong isn’t just beautiful, it’s earned.

In your life, always aim for strong.

On One Year Later

BradMaxx3A little over a year ago, I convinced my then fiance that we needed a dog.

This made little sense on the surface for a number of reasons: we had been together less than 4 months, we still lived in 2 locations, we were trying to sell her house and figure out where we were going to live, and we both spend a good deal of time running around.

Still, my beautiful bride-to-be let me start looking. I did some preliminary research, which included taking a test to see what breed of dog was most suited for me. I wanted a runner with lots of energy, and all the tests came back with one result: a brittany.

Once we settled on the breed, I figured getting a dog would be easy. After all, there are thousands of animals that need a home. I contacted the National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network (NBRAN) in hopes of getting a dog in the next day or so.

We found out quickly that’s not how it works. Because these dogs are so high energy, prospective owners go through a little background check, receive an in-home visit, and must meet some minimum qualifications.

We passed the initial tests, and we started looking for our new dog. As Rebecca and I sat in bed flipping through pictures, we both saw this little guy:

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The 52 in 365 Challenge: The Year of Thank You

The 90-in-90 writing challenges I’ve posted have sometimes taken on a life on their own. Other times they’ve taken on my life. And other times still they have simply faded away.

Fortunately, I’m way more into process than product so the outcome of my personal missions is rarely the point.

For this challenge, though, the product is more important than the process. Let me explain:

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“Going Home”

I’ve sat here in tears re-reading one of my favorite Jon Katz’ pieces about the death of a family pet.

I first found Katz after Columbine with “Voices from the Hellmouth.” Later I would teach his book Geeks in my class. Now, I sit here sobbing reading an excerpt from his book, Going Home: Finding Peace When Your Pets Die.

All of our pets are healthy and happy (Misha cat, Little Cat, and Maxx the dog), but the arrow of time always hangs over us. We try very hard to enjoy every moment we have with them (and each other) because we know.

As I watched the video below, I burst into uncontrollable – but quiet – tears. Without any prompt, boy Maxx the dog came in from the other room, jumped into my lap, and laid his head on my legs while I watched.

The power of life, and family, and love has shaken me in ways I never imagined this year. I am moved by these feelings more often than I thought possible. And even in the sadness of the message, I am thankful that I reminded by my pets, and the life in this home of ours, that every moment counts. (Even the ones that happen at 3 in the morning!).

Day 84: Ultra September, a Call for Runners

**Here’s a synopsis: I’m looking for running partners on Saturday, September 29 to help me with a training run on the Monon. Any distance, any leg are helpful. I’ll be running between a 9:30-10:30 pace depending on the day. Feel free to leave a comment or drop a line if you’re interested.**

I’m two months away from the 2012 OPSF Ultra Marathon, the only race I’ve ever DNF’d. (The upside to that race: I met this girl on my way home.)

The moment I decided to drop out of the race, I knew I’d be back. You never finish on a miss. My dad taught me that lesson many years ago when I’d shoot free throws on our driveway. The last shot you take before you go inside has to be a make. This was no different.

The 50k Ultra — in this case a 35-mile run as the course was mis-measured — is an entirely different beast than a road marathon. The hills, the trails, the solitude, the limited aid stations, and the location make these races equal parts mental and physical.

When I DNF’d, I decided to skip the rest of my races in 2011 and 2012, and instead dedicate myself to conquering the ultra distances. I retro-fitted my road bike; I ditched my road marathon equipment and bought lightweight trail running gear; I joined CrossFit to build the endurance needed to run up and down thousands of feet; and I put one race on my calendar: November 3, 2012.

As September begins, my training picks up. I ran 20 miles on Saturday, Sept 1; I’ll run 24 miles on Saturday, Sept 8; dial it back for 18- and a 14-miles runs the following Saturdays; and on Saturday, Sept 29 I’ll do a 30-mile training run.

It’s the last run that sticks in my head: a 30-mile training run.

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Day 7: House Hunting

Maxx, the dog is tuckered out this weekend after a 20-mile running week so I gave him Sunday off. Instead, my beautiful fiancee and I decided that after yesterday’s house hunting drive, we’d take a bike ride through some of the neighborhoods we liked.

We got out a little bit later than we hoped (and I only made her sad twice), but once we were on the road we fell in love with Lexington Farms, and if all goes well we’ll find a place we like in the neighborhood next year. (We do have two other back-ups, and we’re continuing to look). 

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The Lesson

In 1972 (weeks after I was born), my family moved from Cincinnati, Ohio to Carmel, Indiana. Despite my young age, I have quite a few recollections of our time there. Four years later, we moved to Loveland where I spent a rather idyllic childhood.

In 1994, I graduated from Miami (OH) University. I disliked my time at the school, and vowed I would never return in any capacity. (When I received my first alumni donation request form, I scrawled two very explicit words in black marker and returned the form. I have not received any mailings from the school since.)

In 1995, I left Cincinnati and embarked on a 12-year romp that took me from Texas, to the West, and to the East Coast (with various vacations and visits to Europe). As I made my way in the world, I swore that I would never return to my home in the Midwest to live. My life would be lived out galavanting across the globe.

In 2006, I left Boston and returned to the Greater Cincinnati area, my home for 18 years. In 2009, I left Cincinnati for a job in Muncie, Indiana, less than an hour from where I’d lived as a child.

June 15, 2012: The Max Klinger Syndrome.

I spent the afternoon arranging a meeting at Miami University with several friends of mine. I’m going there to help them figure out what they want to do with their course offerings.

Later in the evening, I would spend 3 hours looking for a home to buy in Carmel, Indiana. My fiancee and I have decided that we want to raise our (future) children there, and we want to live very near the Monon Trail so we can bike into Broad Ripple for morning coffee.

I’ve traveled tens of thousands of miles, lived in 8 cities, visited two continents, and when it’s all said and done, I’ll be living just a few miles from where it all began.

The Lesson

Neither your foot nor your pride tastes very good. Avoid ingesting at all cost. Best to relax and enjoy the ride. You don’t really know where it’s going. And you really don’t know where it’s going to end.

Aloha.

366 Days, or The Year of Us

The New Year used to mean very little to me, another day on the calendar. One more step towards the Great Oblivion when I could finally rest without the burden that addicts know too well.

It was Amateur Hour, the day when the whole world acted like I did the other 364 days of the year.

Most of the time, I stayed home, got drunk (one of the few times I would get drunk at home), and passed out while watching The Magnificent Seven.

Just a hair past three New Year’s Eves ago, I sobered up and the day took on a new meaning for me. As it has for so many others, the day became a benchmark in my life, a time when I could take the very long, very personal inventory of my life so that I might live with purpose.

It is, I suppose, very human to do so.

As with so many other parts of my sober life, I have taken that very basic human tick and turned it into a guidepost by which I live my life.

***

Each December, as the year winds down, I set about creating a singular goal for myself for the next year. The goal isn’t a resolution; those are too easily tossed aside. Instead, I create a mantra to help me focus my life on what I believe is most important.

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In Which We Get Engaged

This past February, I had a discussion with my friend Meggie about the idea of Love and Valentine’s Day. I don’t believe in much, but I am a Romantic at heart and I believe in love. I have never doubted for one day that it exists, and that it is the most powerful force in the universe.

I wrote A Valentine’s Day Treatise as my argument for why I believe Feb. 14 is the most special day of the year.

I knew this to be true in February. I knew this to be true 22 days ago. And I know it to be true more than ever.

Here is our story.

***

1211.Rebecca1. In Which We Talk, and Then Don’t

Her picture appeared in my Eharmony mailbox sometime in October. I’m not sure when. I just remember her picture because of her distinct grey streaks. And the traveling. Her picture were scattered across the globe.

Still, I was busy — as I’m always busy. I assume that I sent the first contact request but I couldn’t even tell you that for sure. (If you’re not familiar with the Eharmony system, you have to go through a series of automated steps before you can send someone a direct message. It’s all part of that system’s cognitive approach to dating.)

We slowly exchanged information. Every few days, one of us would respond using the multiple-choice menus that pigeon-hole your answers to questions like, “If you’re in a social situation with your partner, how would you act?”

By the time we reached the open question phase where one person asks three questions that require long-form answers, I was heading out of town for two weeks.

I set the communication aside — she was the only one I was speaking with — and set about my travels fully intending to respond to her when I had time, but not convinced this would lead anywhere in particular.

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