Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


How to Make Friends with Women

dirty shoes

Throughout my life, I have never really been what one would consider a “girly-girl.” I was raised by my dad. I don’t own a lot of pink clothing. I have a raunchy sense of humor. I step in puddles, on purpose. I don’t wear shoes very often, and when I do they aren’t stilettos. I dislike thong underwear. When I come back from a run I am usually covered in sweat and dirt, and sometimes a little blood too. I’m totally comfortable in a room full of dudes being dudes, and it’s not because I need reassurance that I’m attractive…it’s because I like to drink pints of beer, eat spicy food, swear and tell dirty jokes. I typically forego the whole mani-pedi business and prefer to keep my nails super-short and unpainted. I go out in the rain with no umbrella. I’ll hold my own door and kill spiders myself. I don’t get grossed out by Porta-Johns (in fact I’m usually grateful to see them). Nothing in my house has flowers on it. I don’t spend an hour on my hair and makeup when I go out. I prefer beer over fruity cocktails. I go to hashes on the weekends. I don’t want to be a mother. I don’t believe that a man should have to ask a woman on a date, or pay for her dinner. I make more money than my husband, and I shun most gender roles.

I’ve often been told by guy friends that I’m the perfect wife-material (I guess you’re a lucky man, Shawn!). But when it comes to girl friends, I have historically had a difficult time figuring out where I fit in.

When I was in fourth grade I switched schools and tested out of 4th grade English, so I was put into a classroom in another building with all the 5th graders. I’ll never forget lining up at the end of class each day with all the older girls, who were starting to grow boobs and shave their legs. I loved listening to them while we waited for the class bell to sound. They were always so glamorous to me, as they talked about makeup and boys. I was too intimidated to participate in the conversation, so I mostly just listened, while pretending to be occupied with a doodle in my notebook.

One time, while they were comparing notes on hair washing, drying and curling techniques, I pointed at my straight, mousy brown, all-one-length locks and interjected: “I don’t do anything with my hair. I just wake up, comb it, and it looks like this!” I smiled, waiting to be included in the conversation. After a moment the prettiest girl looked back at me, rolled her eyes, and replied, “We know, it’s obvious.”

What every 5th grade girl looked like to me when I was in the 4th grade - except add plaid skirts.

What every 5th grade girl looked like to me when I was in the 4th grade – except add plaid skirts.

It’s not really that I don’t act or dress feminine at all, or even that I’m exactly a tomboy. Being a creative type, I enjoy fashion trends, cool home décor and acquiring things that look nice. Heck, I have a job as an art director for a company that makes wedding invitations and gifts for women. But with that said, I still have always felt like I don’t quite understand the typical woman. It started out early on, with me being intimidated by them – I always felt less pretty, somehow less feminine, with my messy, mousy brown hair and my penchant for catching toads in the back yard. I would always rather play King of the Hill with the boys than have a Barbie tea party with the other girls.  I eventually went on to participate in girlish hobbies like ballet and gymnastics, which I liked, but I never lost that less-than-girly edge, even into my adult years.

A lot of women like to say things like “I can be one of the guys!” Very often, that’s not true at all…at least not as true as they want it to be. A lot of women like to hang out with men because they want a boyfriend, or because they want attention and reassurance. And sure, at times in my life I’ve been as guilty of that as the next girl. But even now after most of that insecurity is gone, I still feel more comfortable around men in general, than I do women. In a lot of ways, I really do feel like “one of the guys.”

See, when it comes to making friends, men are mostly non-superficial and non-judgmental. They don’t have hidden agendas and they don’t play the drama game. Unlike that of many women, I love the way the typical guy friendship works. They’re light, easy-going and frank with each other. They don’t get mad at you for not wanting to talk on the phone or for cancelling on them that one time. They don’t make friends with which to compete, instead they make friends to play backgammon. If two guys don’t talk for six months, their next get-together feels as if the time never passed. If one guy friend doesn’t want to talk about his relationship, the other one changes the subject to what flavor of hot wings they should order. It’s simple.

I’m lucky enough to have made a few girlfriends who are just as care-free as this. I respect and appreciate them.  Even if I go through periods of frustration with those friends (as you do with anyone), I tend to give them much more forgiveness and leeway, because I owe it to them in exchange for their easy friendship. They are the ones reading this right now and nodding their heads, rather than being offended that I am talking about them. They are fantastic people and I wish there were more of them.

Since moving to California and having to make new friends, I have had the opportunity to observe myself becoming extremely particular about the types of people I am willing to spend my time with. I have had moments where I’ve revisited that bad hair day in 4th grade, feeling ugly and intimidated. And I have had moments where I’ve felt as if I was exactly where I belonged. While discovering this, I have become fascinated by the fact that I can meet someone and know almost right away what kind of relationship I would be capable of having with them. Just the way they wear their clothes or how they stand while speaking to me. Many of us seem to be rather good at gravitating toward and leeching out the people who are the most like ourselves, and we are better at it the more we know and understand ourselves.

So maybe this post could be thought of as a self-indulgent study on being judgmental about people. But perhaps, I am just at a point where I know myself a little better, and perhaps that means I’ll make better friendships, and be a better friend, for it. Maybe it means I’m finally okay with the fact that I don’t like lipstick and stiletto heeled shoes, and that the girlfriends I’ll make will be okay with it too. I like believing that.

1 Comment

Review: What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run? by John McClung


Because I don’t have kids of my own, I spend all my time sharing my perspective on healthy running and minimalism with other adults. Not that I mind, of course. Kids mostly scare the crap out of me. But one thing I’ve always known is that my road to proper form and barefoot/minimalist running was made much longer because I didn’t learn it as a child. No, instead I was always told to wear shoes when I go outside, and was reprimanded when I tried to sneak out of the house with bare feet in the winter (which I did often). I did spend a lot of my childhood sans shoes, though, but like most kids I was taught early on to rely on the protection, cushiness and comfort of today’s typical athletic shoe.

We adults of today had to learn late and re-train our bodies, but our kids don’t have to.

Now that many of us have discovered the importance of strong feet and legs, and remembered the joy of feeling the ground with our naked toes, we would do well to pass that knowledge on to our future generations.

Thanks to my friend John McClung, children’s literature has now begun the dive into that concept. What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run? is a sweet little children’s story about a baby bear whose momma teaches him that he needs nothing but his two four little feet to enjoy the outdoors.


Illustrated brilliantly by Laura Hollingsworth (and I’m an art director so I’d know), What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run? is a rather ingenious learning tool for kids and their parents. It asks us to shed the idea that we need to protect our kids from every germ, every puddle, every boo-boo. Momma Bear teaches Baby Bear to be a kid, to run around carefree, to feel the earth below his feet and to love being outside. And lucky for kids, these things don’t require shoes. It’s a message I wish I was taught, but I’m glad I re-learned as an adult.

If you have young children in your family or have some friends with kids, pick this little book up. Not only will you be giving a thoughtful gift, but you’ll be supporting some as yet undiscovered talent. It’s for sale at Amazon for about $13 paperback or $9 on a Kindle.


Happiness vs. Contentment, Nice vs. Kind: An Observation of People


Hello, readers. You’ll have to forgive me for my recent disappearance from the blogosphere. Life in SoCal has been pretty amazing for me, and a side effect of that is I’ve been much too busy with it to spend my free time in front of a computer. It’s a rather curious thing, that sometimes the more interesting my life gets the less I feel like writing about it.

So as I’ve been living my life in high color, I’ve also been taking in a lot of what’s going on around me. Like most people who like to write, I am a constant observer of people, things and ideas. Sometimes it’s an amazing ocean view, sometimes it’s 50 miles of mountains and valleys viewed from a windy summit, and sometimes it’s the thoughts and behaviors of people around me. All of which I find equally interesting.

I’ve been reading and hearing a slew of thoughts from people, specifically on two somewhat related topics. The first one being happiness. Just what is happiness and how do we know it? Some talk about happiness as a feeling of freedom – freedom from society’s pressures to “have it all”, i.e. the American Dream. Money, more money, things and more things. Expensive vacations to exotic places for seven days, and then back to the grind of making more money so you can get more things.

Other ways that people define happiness is in accomplishing all your life’s goals, marrying the perfect partner, finding God, moving to a better part of the world or filling your home with lots of family, friends and children.

Well, I’m here to say that happiness is none of those things. Happiness is only about your own made-up ceiling of contentment. And I say ceiling because it’s up to you to decide how high it is, and how much you need to fill it. Set the ceiling too high, and you’ll never be content with what you’ve got and miss out on too much while you’re trying to fill that cavernous hole. Set it too low and you’re settling; chances are you’ll live an exceptionally boring life with no adventure and have too many regrets later on. You’ve got to know where the happy medium is. And how?

The answer is suffering. Without suffering, you can’t fully know happiness. Hear me out on this. Without bad, it’s impossible to separate great from ordinary. It’s why we’ve created Hell  – it’s there to heighten the allure of Heaven. Good and evil are opposites, and the ability to compare them is crucial for their own existence.

A long time ago I decided that those who have had the most suffering in life are capable of the most happiness. I say capable, because it’s only possible if one recognizes their ability to become happy and actually does the work of getting there. And you’ll have to work much harder to find happiness if you’ve been given some non-distinct version of mediocre happiness all your life.

Some would define all of America that way. But I digress.

Happiness, by my definition, is choosing your own contentment, and deciding it’s enough. In fact, I would argue that contentment is even more important than happiness, as happiness is only one ingredient in the unique recipe of your life’s contentment. And how will you ever know if the contentment you’ve got is enough, if you don’t know what it’s like not to have it?

Here’s a good analogy. I lived in New England my whole life. Since as early as I can remember, I hated every single cold winter day. I watched others enjoy skiing and snowfall, while I suffered through 150 days per year of clouds and precipitation, lack of vitamin D and summer humidity that made the world feel like a bowl of tomato soup. When I moved out to Southern California, everything that I hated about the climate was gone. It’s sunny almost every day, winter doesn’t exist and neither does humidity. I can go to the beach more often and soak up the sunshine with a tank top on all year round.

I feel absolute happiness here in San Diego, probably even more than most native San Diegans. Why? Well, because of my suffering. Native San Diegans are happy here, for sure. They recognize in a superficial sort of way that they are lucky they get to live in a nice climate with little related suffering. But without the actual experience of shoveling snow out of their driveway every other day for seven months, spending thousands a year to heat their small home and only seeing the sunshine a couple times a week all year round, they have no idea how happy they really are. But I do. I am two times as lucky, and two times as happy to live in San Diego, because of my suffering.

Same goes with my adulthood. Today I enjoy the freedom from my bad parents and disappointing family members. I appreciate the joy of making my own life, my way, all by myself, because of the suffering I endured as a child. Being deserted by my mother, having to raise my little brother when I was only three years his elder, being left alone in a house for weekends and neglected emotionally by my father are all things that sucked in my early life. So as an adult I revel in the contentment I’ve created, knowing that I don’t have any dependents to raise, the freedom to do as I wish without needing to care what others think of me, and the relief of no longer having to keep anyone around who treats me like shit.

Which brings me to my second, almost related topic: the way you treat others.


Being that I am a very outgoing and social person, I’ve made a lot of acquaintances and friends in my journey through life. I fancy myself as relatable to many different types of personalities, because of my open-minded, non-judgmental and curious nature. People usually like me. I can often respond just as well to the warm, kind-hearted people as well as the sarcastic, ball-busting ones. Every once in awhile I come across someone who is tough to get along with, no matter how I treat them. When this happens I often go through a period of insecurity, and it can sometimes even affect the way I view myself. Am I intolerable? Annoying? Am I a weakling, just primed for the picking? I might question my place within a section of my friend circle, and at times I’ll even go back to my elementary school fat-kid days, and start to wonder whether my physical appearance has anything to do with it.

Recently I’ve heard out some opinions on this subject. One opinion in particular that stuck was that people are not made of nice, so deal with it. Everyone possesses within them a generous side that likes to make people happy, and a selfish side that likes to make people hurt. At first I was ruffled by this, and then I realized how flawed it was.

Of course everyone has the ability to be mean, to hurt others.  Natural selection has more or less favored the ruthless. In my life I have wanted to hurt people, and I have succeeded. But as I’ve looked into the reasons why I hurt them, I realized it wasn’t because I was feeling normal things that are just part of life. It was because I was indulging in a huge personality flaw of my own. Jealousy. Selfishness. Superficiality. Just because I’ve been built with the ability to feel these things, doesn’t mean that indulging in them is going to be good for me. Remember, natural selection also favors those who can cooperate with others.

That aside, good and bad traits have to exist in everyone, they have to fight each other. If you go back to my first point, you need negativity around in order to recognize positivity, even in yourself. But in my experience, if I am treating someone else like shit, the problem isn’t their personality or their wimpishness, the problem is mine. I’m jealous of something about their life. I’m angry that they’re prettier, richer, smarter than me. I’m trying to hurt them, because I’m not happy about something in my own life. I’m trying to fill my canyon of happiness with the suffering of others. And I don’t care how you cut it, that’s just not the right way to be. Rather, it’s an invitation to be a little more insightful about myself and start looking for happiness in another way.

And that’s where I get the idea of nice vs. kind. Normally, I am an extremely independent person who is flexible, forgiving and easy-going. I also have a cynical streak a mile wide, and I can be quite opinionated and big-mouthed. I like to participate in sarcastic banter with friends, and I love to tell others how wrong they are in their political opinions (just ask my friend Angela). In life I generally know what I like, am mostly happy with myself, and if you don’t like me you can go fuck yourself. I don’t make any effort to be around people who don’t interest me, and I have dumped friends who aren’t benefitting my contentment. No, I’m not always nice. In fact, sometimes I can be really very bitchy.

But nice is different from kind. Nice is a superficial notion – you can’t possibly always be nice and still have any depth, self-insight or true emotion. I know a few people who are only nice – and they are caverns of dispassionate vapidity.

But kindness is something else entirely. It is selflessness. Acceptance, tolerance and respect. I spend a lot of thought and caring on people who matter to me. I am warm, open and vulnerable toward them. I accept and forgive. I am kind to those whom I choose to love. I’m not always nice, and I’ve certainly made mistakes and doled out my share of misery on others, but I still consistently strive to be kind.

I believe that’s some of how you make your own happiness. It’s how you form deep and strong emotional ties to certain friends and family with whom you choose. Kindness, and thus vulnerability, is key, as strength is shown so well by the presence of that vulnerability (which is the same as happiness shown by the presence of suffering). If you can’t be kind and vulnerable to those who care about you, then you’ll spend your whole life alone, even if surrounded by hundreds of people.

These last several weeks have been a learning experience for me in many ways. Through the observation of others I have learned some things about myself as a friend, and I’ve learned a lot more about what I need to be content.

And since I can’t think of a great closing sentence for this rambling post, I’ll just congratulate you if you’ve managed to get to the bottom of it, and also encourage you to offer your own thoughts on this topic in the comments section. Thanks for reading!


Paleo vs. Vegan: The Politics of Diet

As we are all coming off the high of this insanely partisan Presidential election, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the equally partisan views that many folks have between the two big fringe dietary models of our current time: Paleo and Vegan.

For those of my readers who may not be familiar, I’ll take a moment here to explain my understanding of the differences between these two diets. Veganism is almost exclusively a plant-based diet, utilizing the carbohydrates that vegetables, fruits and grains provide for energy, with the added proteins and fats from nuts, legumes and fatty plants such as avocados. Vegans stay away from any animal product, protein or meat, including by-products such as milk, eggs, cheese and animal-derived oils. They also generally avoid heavily processed items, anything that has so many ingredients that it stops becoming real food.

The Paleo, or Caveman diet is often construed to be the opposite of Vegan. By definition, it is not at all. The Paleo diet contains any food that is naturally derived and completely unprocessed – that is, anything that would have been consumed throughout most of human history as we evolved to what we are today. This diet contains all forms of unprocessed meat (preferably grass-fed and not drugged-up), fruits, vegetables, eggs and nuts, and strays away from processed animal by-products like milk and cheese. Paleo also excludes any form of grain – wheat, oats, rice – because it must be processed for consumption. Legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts) and potatoes are also out because they were not a part of the diet early on in human evolution.

The reason I titled this post as such is that the people who follow one of these diets tend to feel strongly for their choice, at the total expense of the other. For example, earlier this year I decided to try a 30-day Paleo challenge, and was subsequently chewed out by a Vegan friend on Facebook. Fact and fiction alike was littered about the conversation, and there was even some namecalling. It felt like a political campaign, or hell…even a little like a religious argument.

Personally, I find that I generally tend to stay away from the side of any argument that feels dogmatic to me, and lean toward the side that feels more based in historical or empirical evidence. This is probably why I tend to lean left in my political beliefs, and non-denominational in my thoughts about life after death.

While both Veganism and Paleo tote around plenty of evidence for bringing on good health, and even though, like most religions, they aren’t all that different from each other if you look at the fine print, there’s just something more dogmatic to me about Veganism.

In my experience, many people who promote Vegan eating do it for moral or ethical reasons (i.e. meat is murder). Now, certainly this is not the case for all Vegans, but there is a good portion of that argument in there, anytime you touch on the subject. Conversely, Paleo devotees almost exclusively follow the diet for health and well-being, discarding the subject of morality entirely. I’ve always leaned toward the Paleo way of thinking because in my opinion, the nourishment of my body has nothing to do with ethics or kindness to animals (or plants either, for that matter). Coyotes eat rabbits because their bodies are evolved to need them. Cows eat grass for the same reason. I like to take my cues from science and evolution. But hey that’s just me, and this is my blog.

That said, I have seen some excellent empirical arguments made recently by friends of mine for the Vegan diet, laced with interesting anecdotal evidence (my favorite kind, heh). It’s times like these where I appreciate the sort of people I surround myself with because they are generally open-minded and intelligent, which is an excellent combination of qualities, especially because I love to learn from people and be inspired to think differently. Many of my smart, science-y friends have been testing (and loving) the Vegan diet for its ability to cleanse the body of toxins and promote overall good health. Most of them are runners as well, and they have boasted huge improvements in their performance since switching to the plant-based diet. And probably the best news of all, each of them has reported significant weight loss where needed.

Being that Paleo has always been the better fit for my political compass, I resisted these findings for quite some time. Sure you can go on a Vegan diet for awhile, but how long until you just need to go chew on an animal? How long can you really resist the general diet of the average human in 2012? Other than for out-of-the-ordinary people like Scott Jurek or Pat Sweeney, Vegan always seemed more temporary to me than even the likes of other diet systems like Weight Watchers, Atkins or South Beach. There’s just so much you have to take out of your diet, it just didn’t seem worth bothering.

But I’ve come to a crossroads. I’m struggling emotionally and physically with the weight that I’ve gained in the last four years. I don’t like the way I look in my clothes (or out of them). I run anywhere from 10-30 miles per week, I fill my house with all sorts of high quality foods, yet I still struggle with losing this extra weight. And I believe that the extra weight is the only thing keeping me from my running goals. Genetically pre-dispositioned, I’ve been somewhat overweight for most of my life and even though I’ve been moderately successful on some low-calorie diets before, I’m tired and bored of them. I need a different challenge, I think. It might be possible that going Vegan for awhile could offset that boredom enough to help me discard that unnecessary weight.

So I’m putting some thought into switching to Vegan temporarily, at least until the Across the Years 24-hour race that I just signed up for. I’m thoroughly ecstatic for this race, but I’ve been worried that my body isn’t up for the same challenge that my mind is itching for. It’s possible that changing my eating habits now, just shy of two months beforehand, could bring my body closer to meeting that challenge.

I’m not promising anything, I think, but I’m putting some serious consideration into the idea. I expect I’ll have my decision made by the end of this week. I welcome any thoughts or advice that my readers may have on the subject. Especially the free-of-politics kind. 🙂


Rethinking the Race

Ever since I started running in any serious manner – that is, when I started running barefoot/minimalist – I have developed a totally different perspective on the sport. Most notably, my definition of myself as a “runner.” I’ve come to realize that I don’t feel like a runner unless I’m involved in a race of some sort, either running in one or training for one in the near future. I realized this last weekend when I was at a race I wasn’t running, and I spent the whole day feeling like I wasn’t a “runner” because I was not participating.

That, as well as this thoughtful article by Kyle Kranz, has led me to re-examine my entire thought process on the subject of running races.

I really like races. I like signing up for them and then instantly being filled with all of that excitement and possibility, especially if it’s a new distance or a challenging course. I like training for them, too – building up my mileage and endurance gives me such a great feeling of accomplishment. Having a race at hand keeps me motivated to train at a higher level and always be improving.

I love just being at races, too. Standing at the starting line around a large group of excited runners gives me such a high. I have learned a lot of great things about myself at races that I’d never have learned just running on my own.

I’ve also learned some not-so-great things about myself during races. Like how slow I am, compared to everyone else at that starting line. How much fitter the average runner is than me. And also, how much those things bother me. Often, at a race I’ll be standing around just feeling short, fat and generally very unimpressive. It’s such a negative feeling to have, even around all those super open-minded California trail runners.

Some of my races have been major failures, as well. My last race was a few weeks ago, the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon. Half Marathons are great races for me because they’re not too scary, thirteen miles is a distance I have completed many times. I was so excited to run this race, my first one since moving to San Diego. I practiced this course a few times so I would know what to expect. I even donned a brand new running skirt for the occasion! When the gun sounded I was off with a great big smile. I ran light, smooth and fast (for me) along the first three miles. I even started to pass some people, anticipating my friends Vanessa, Shacky and Kate waiting for me at the top of the big hill the race was named after. I was fast approaching the base of that hill and I was so stinking happy.

And then I tripped on a rock and sprained my goddamn ankle.

It was a super bummer. I was pissed at myself, my ego was bruised, and now I was going to be benched for the next few weeks. But hey – that shit happens during races. The worst part of it all, though, was that I wouldn’t get to finish running that killer course that I liked so much.

As I was sitting under the med tent having my ankle wrapped and iced, and watching my friend Jon point and laugh at me from the comfort of his Merrell table, all I could think about was the money and energy I’d wasted on this race. I kept thinking that now I couldn’t run this course until next year. But…wait. What?

What the hell was I thinking?! I can run this course any time I want! The trail head is twenty minutes from my house – I could drive out here on a Tuesday and run the whole thing if I want. For free. And without feeling bad about my fat, slow ass pulling up the rear of all the other runners.

Somehow, I think maybe I’ve gotten a little too far away from the reasons why I run in the first place, especially since I’ve moved to California and began to spend more time around all my insanely talented distance runner friends. I have blown so much energy on the idea that I must be completing races of long, stupid distance in order to qualify as a runner. That I’m not really defining myself a “real” runner if I’m not collecting medals and cheap t-shirts, and damaging the paint on my car’s bumper with braggy race stickers.

Ok, so yeah I’m proud of having run those distances. And why not be? I finished those races, and I’m officially an ultra-marathoner now. I can walk proudly and wear that title for the rest of my life.

But the title is so arbitrary, isn’t it? It’s a lot like that ironic internet saying “pics or it didn’t happen.” If you don’t run 50 organized, aid-stationed and medal-ed kilometers, then it doesn’t count.

Ahh, but I’m digressing. My aim here isn’t to bash the organized race, but to point out that increasing my own race distances from 5K to 50K over the course of two years may not have been the best idea physically or emotionally. In those two years I have not increased my speed, decreased my weight or even done much work on my overall endurance. Sure, my feet are able to carry me 50 kilometers from here on any given day now, but can they do the job well? I think not.

If you subscribe to the message of any of our barefoot running prophets and sages, like Caballo Blanco, Chris McDougall and so many others, they all share the same notion about running: that the whole point of it is in the practice, not the trial.

In other words, is there really a point in throwing down my hard-earned cash to run long-distance races that I’ve barely had the time to train my body for? Why all the rush to go longer and longer before I’m really ready? I mean, who do I think I am out there: Vanessa Runs?

Look at that chick go! She’s so happy. She’s probably on mile 78 or something, too. Sigh.

And, more importantly, would I rather be climbing up mountains at my own pace and whatever distance my body can handle with my buddy Kate, or cranking out three painful, mostly walking 20-milers just to get them done before an ultra? The answer is pretty obvious. I just don’t want to give up the great opportunity to stop and climb up a random group of rocks, explore a dead-end trail or take pictures of ourselves lounging at the summit of a mountain. That stuff is the joy of running for me, I want every time I run to be like that.

Also, I just don’t like thinking of myself as a slow-ass, back-of-the-pack slacker. It’s not a good mental place to be, and I only feel that way when I’m at races. I’ll never run like Pat Sweeney, so why not spend more time running on my own and feeling good about myself, while also using that time to train toward a better, more race-friendly pace?

I dunno. All of this said, I’m still signed up for the Carlsbad Marathon in January (my first). I don’t really want to waste the money or the opportunity to train, so I will. But I’m going to think on this one for a bit, before adding my name to any more lists. It’s possible that I might be all done with racing big new distances for awhile, in order that I can practice more running.



Of Aging and Piercing Body Parts

So today I did something a little different from the norm.

I worked a full day, shut off my computer, and instead of taking a nap or going for a run, reading a book, or making brownies like a good little wife, I went out with my buddy Kate and got my nose pierced.

Obligatory iPhone self-portrait. Attempt #327.

When I decided that I was going to have it done, the first thing my husband said to me was “Um – I’ve been telling you for years that you have the perfect nose for a piercing and you never did it. Why now?!”

Why now, indeed?

I  mean, tempting as it sounded I wasn’t ever going to do it. First off…I’m thirty-three years old. I know that some of you nice people will say that age is timeless, and such and so on. But it’s not so much the age thing as it is that I already went through my piercing phase about fourteen years ago. Back in our college hay-day, it seemed my friends and I pierced every available chunk of skin imaginable. In a very short span of time I managed to put holes in my tongue, both nipples, multiple places on my earlobes, as well as the pinna, tragus and rook parts of my ears.

So it felt like I’d already done enough hole-punching for a lifetime, especially since I ended up taking everything out by the time I got married. I think I figured it was time to grow up a little, and stop trying to maintain that “art-school edgy” look. Even though I actually was a professional artist who, well…still sort of liked edgy things.

Even though that’s kinda who I am.

But then I met Kate, and the third time we ever hung out together she tried to get me to go with her to have our noses pierced. But by then we were already two beers into our night, and I didn’t want to have to lie on a waiver form or bleed all over my new shirt. I told her I’d think about it, and I did.

Then, a strange thing happened. I started looking around at people I knew, and I realized I know a lot of people around my age with nose jewelry. And it looks adorable. They don’t look too old for it. And let’s not forget that I have a sweet and loving hubby at home who has been all but begging me to get it done. This man knows me better than anyone on the planet – if he thought it made no sense for me to do such a thing, he would have absolutely no problem saying it!

I think that perhaps over the past few years I’ve gotten away from myself a bit. Turning 30, getting married and buying a house instantly aged me. I felt responsible for the whole world. The weight of it exhausted me. I went to bed really early at night and stopped bleaching my hair so much. I went to nail salons for manicures and started wearing so much sunscreen that I never got tan in the summer. I think I stopped being fun.

Come to think of it, maybe it was just buying that damn house that did it to me.

We all get older eventually, I know this. Thankfully I don’t have any grays yet, but my skin is slowly starting to wrinkle and show off all those years of sun exposure. I get sleepy by 11pm, even on Saturday nights. I have to stretch my feet before I get out of bed in the morning. Every year I get older physically, but I’ve made a lot of changes in my life recently that have made me less stoically “adult-like”, less old and set in my ways. I’ve taken some risks that most people stopped even considering by 25 or 30, or whenever they decided to stop allowing life to let them grow or change anymore.

So why get my nose pierced at age 33? Because it’s a representation of all the youth that I still possess in these bones. A symbol of the youthfulness of the girl who isn’t afraid to leave every comfort behind her and move to a place that’s better suited for her. The woman of childbearing age who doesn’t actually want to have children. The heavy chick who can still finish a 50K, despite not “looking like” a runner. The person who says no to what family, friends and society always expected of her…and yes to what she expects from life.

Now, when I look at myself in the mirror I get to remember that I’m not too old. I’m never too old to answer to my own calling. To become just a little bit more wholeheartedly myself. And to understand that it’s the only really important goal there is.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Notes from 3,000 Miles Away

One of the really bright flowers growing in my yard. What is it? No idea.

Shawn and I are about a month into our new life on the West coast, and a lot of friends have been asking me how I like it here. My answer is always: “It’s Great! I love it!” because, well…I simply don’t have the time (nor do they) to sit down and explain my whole array of feelings about it. The true and short answer is that my feelings about the move are great, but mixed.

Just yesterday Shawn and I were talking about this, and I’m pretty sure we feel roughly the same way at this point. The “oh-my-god-we-are-finally-here” honeymoon is over and the real feelings are starting to move in like so many storm clouds. I have a tendency to hold in my feelings, but I think it affects Shawn in a more outwardly obvious fashion. As he explained it to me, he’s been feeling sort of “blah,” and as a result he’s been unmotivated to do much more than sculpt and watch television. It’s hard to get him to even come out for a walk or go to the movies. He knows that he made the right decision to move out here, and he knows intellectually that his feelings of homesickness and uprooted discomfort will pass, but it still bothers him at the moment. It doesn’t even matter that he grew up here. The friends we have known for a dozen years are 3,000 miles away. Our families, our favorite restaurants, roads and highways we are able to navigate without help from technological devices, they are no longer things we can get to without a pricey plane ticket. And although we thought the decision through for several years, no amount of sureness and careful planning can circumvent that feeling of having been transplanted into such an unfamiliar section of the world.

I love San Diego, and I have no doubts in my mind that I belong here. In a very general and sweeping way, southern California people are more like me than New England people are. They’re…sunnier. More calm and trusting. Open-minded. They like to be outdoors a lot more, and are healthier in many ways. To them, life is less complicated. Of course, I’ve made some great friends with all of these qualities back in New England, but here I see people like this just about everywhere I go.

This is a beautiful place to live in, as well. Yes, of course there’s those several hundred miles of beaches and ten months of summer each year, but it’s a little deeper than that. We have mountains. Everywhere. In the next town. In your back yard. I’ve seen views from places less than ten miles from my home that stop my breath and make me so thankful to be alive that it’s almost like praying. There are bunnies and lizards, coyotes, hawks and deer everywhere, and there are even a couple of bats that like to sleep in our palms. There is a myriad of trees and flowers all around me that I’ve never seen before, like eucalyptus and olive trees, cacti, three types of palm tree, and several decadent, bright florals that I can’t yet name. There is so much sky that I don’t know what to do with it, except feel really, really small. And it’s blue…all the time. I know that these things are all novelties to some people, but I’ll never get tired of seeing the beauty the world has to offer. And this is one incredible place to see it from.

See if you can figure out what’s different.

But upon my inevitable exit from that sweet, rose-colored honeymoon phase, I’ve found myself mixing old home comforts with the new ones. I put the same books on the same book shelves and kept most of the old knick-knacks from my cubicle desk in the Boston office. I work the same hours every day and go to bed around the same time at night because routine comforts me. I listen to radio stations that play the same seemingly incongruent mix of 80’s hair band, 90’s alternative and Mumford and Sons that populates my iPod. I pump Florence + the Machine through my earphones during runs because the sound of it reminds me of winter long runs back home. I spend as much time as I can keeping up with my friends back home, texting them, reading their blogs and watching their lives unfold on Facebook. I make the same recipes and shop for my favorite food brands.

But even still, the unfamiliar has crept into my bones and caused a melancholy sort of homesickness that will take me some time to recover from. I am eternally in love with the sunshine but it is so strong here that it sometimes feels alien, as it leans heavily over my shoulder during an afternoon run. I have become a friend of shadows, darting from one to another and seeking the rare tree cover that was so prevalent in New England.

I miss the tall and shadowed forests of trees, and I miss the smells that the air carried in – the scent of fresh life. Wet grass, rich soil, pine. Here the air smells heavier, spicy. It’s so different, in fact, that it was the first thing I picked up on when we arrived.

In this heat I have learned the usefulness of house-cooling window blinds, which were previously a nuisance to me, always keeping out the precious light of day. I’ve learned to appreciate the cooler air, as well as the hot summery days. That’s something I didn’t exactly expect to happen.

But I have also embraced so many things quite seamlessly. I relish the prevalence of runners, bikers, dog walkers and lots of other folks getting exercise and enjoying the day. I appreciate the wider roads and freeways, the fresher produce, the prolific Starbucks stores and Mexican restaurants. I can’t stay away from the beaches, and the thought of driving only twenty minutes to one puts a huge smile on my face.

The trails here are achingly beautiful; moreover, they feel so much more like real trails to me. I don’t know why, could be all the books and blogs I’ve read with photos of western trails have shaped my own internal definition of what a trail should look like. They’re dustier, more sandy and dry. The hills are astounding. And, surprisingly, I have found myself seeking out hills during runs, rather than shying away from them. It’s as if I’m finally making peace with them.

I miss my friends back east. Some I miss so much that it’s difficult not to cry a little when I think of the vast new distance I’ve put between us. At the same time, I appreciate the few friends I have made since we arrived. Friendships are important to me. I don’t need many, but I enjoy nurturing the good ones.

Working from home has been a blessing I didn’t quite expect. I mean, of course I knew it was going to be awesome to be able to work in my pajamas. But would I thrive working this way? Could I keep motivated and stay happy working outside an office environment? I didn’t know. But what I’ve learned is that working in my home suits my personality much better than working in an office. I like having my own space, and the relative quiet helps me focus better. I like being able to start work early and end early, or work later if something comes up in the morning. I can get to my work files at 8pm on a Sunday if I think of something, and I can go for a run on the beach before it gets dark. It’s like I’m always working, but also never working. This is an ideal situation for me. And for my employer, who gets a happier, more motivated employee out of the deal.

Overall I can see myself slowly becoming a much more centered individual, with more balanced priorities and a healthier outlook on things. Almost everything is better for me here, but I still need to get used to it, give it all time to sink into my soul and start to feel like home again. And that’s okay because I’ve got lots of time.


Runners and Team Sports: A Match Made in Hell?

I have a question for my fellow runners:

How do you feel about team sports?

I’m not talking about plopping down in your easy chair on Sundays to watch Football. I mean more like how you feel about playing team sports? How did high school gym class go for you?

Because for me, it was pretty freaking terrible. And I was quite vividly reminded of that trauma today in my morning Boot Camp class, when the trainer instructed us to get into two teams (based on the color of our sneakers – white vs. other…I was an “other”) and stand on opposite ends of the baseball field. There was a small medicine ball in the center, and when the whistle went off, we were all supposed to sprint toward the ball, grab it, and then pass it teammate to teammate on the way to our respective goals. Kind of like football, only each receiver could only take three steps before they had to pass the ball.

The second the whistle went off it was like gym class all over again. Even though I was neither the only Boot Camp “newbie,” nor the shyest, nor the least fit, I somehow immediately reverted back to that insecure, chubby, buck-toothed, not-cool-kid I was in school. Nobody wanted to pass me the ball. There were times that I was the only person open, and I still didn’t get the ball. Then, when finally someone threw it to me in a moment of sheer desperation (her favorite friend wasn’t paying attention), I was so shocked and nervous that I started running in the wrong direction! Of course then everyone started yelling at me, and I had to fight the urge to throw the ball on the ground, run to my car in tears and drive home.

I’m still shocked at how easily my mind regresses back to those insecure childhood days whenever I am thrown into a team-sport situation. I have never done well playing any game where others depend on me to excel, especially if speed, agility and a ball are involved. I’ve always been far too polite to fight for the ball, and not physically aggressive enough to spike, nudge or even run after another person. The whole activity always feels like some sick sort of popularity contest that I lost even before I stepped onto the field. It’s like I exude “I SUCK AT THIS” fumes and everyone automatically knows to stay away.

Either that, or women are simply mean and spiteful, even well into adulthood (and to some degree it may be true with this particular group, as there is one alpha female in class who has spent a great deal of class time watching to see if she betters me at every exercise, and if she doesn’t I’ll get a dismissive comment or a well-aimed dirty look. It’s a little disturbing, in a “Single White Female” sort of way).

But I digress.

Interestingly enough, there’s a very distinctive space in which my comfort begins and where it abruptly ends. Beach volleyball games with friends at a barbecue? No way. Office softball game? Count me out.

But throwing a football back and forth? Totally fine. Yoga? Pilates? Kung-Fu? Let me at it. Run with a buddy? Absolutely. And even if I’m the worst in the group, I’m totally fine with it. I guess there’s just something about that full-contact, aggression-driven competition…it simply makes me cringe.

I guess I’m lucky at least we didn’t have to pick teams today. Yikes.

So once I got home and had enough time to absorb what happened, I started thinking: Is it just me, or do other runners feel this way as well? Do most of us share the same traumatic feelings about sports that involve aggressiveness and mob team mentality? Is it that we are just more suited to sports built around endurance and body form? Do we all possess that independent “loner” sensibility, and find it more comfortable to rely on ourselves, rather than on a team of others? How else does this translate into our lives?

If so, it’s not such a wonder that I was glued to the television when the Olympic Gymnastics, track and field, swimming and diving were on, but couldn’t be paid to sit through basketball, volleyball or…any of the other sports ending in -ball. Maybe it’s not such a wonder that I roll my eyes at my Boston friends when they post incessantly about their favorite sports teams.

Maybe it’s not such a wonder that I love to run. Alone.

What are your thoughts on the matter? I’m curious to know how many of you runners out there feel much like I do about team sports, and whether there’s really something to this theory. Are you a runner who also excels at playing team sports, or are you like me and would rather pull out your eyelashes?

And, if you are the runner/team sports type, I wonder what kind of runner you describe yourself as: marathoner, sprinter, do you prefer speed workouts or long slow distances? Same for the latter group.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Review: New Balance Women’s 1010 Trail

Hello readers! Man, it’s good to be back! I am thrilled to mention that this is the very first review posted from my new home in sunny San Diego. I’m so thankful to the PR chick over at New Balance for her patience in waiting for this review, while I took a bunch of time off to pack up my life and move it clear across the country.

The first shoe that New Balance asked me to try out was the Women’s 1010 trail shoe. I got it a week or two before the release date so I had no idea what it would be like. The 1010 is a transitional minimalist shoe, or for you hardcore mountain trail runners, it’s a lightweight-but-protective trail shoe. I say it that way because I feel it’s a good choice for those two types of runners (just to clarify, I don’t necessarily encourage transitioning to barefoot or minimalist running through transitional shoes, but if that’s the way you’re going to go, then this would be a more than reasonable shoe to do it in). I’m not really either of those types of runner, but that’s okay because I am rather good at being objective.

Weight and Structure

Even though the WT1010 is not even close to being the lightest shoe I’ve run in, at around 6 ounces each it’s not totally out of the ballpark. This shoe is rather rugged, compared to what I’ve usually got on my feet, and it looks like it could take a lot of hard miles. As to be expected, there is a rock plate in this shoe and some aggressive tread, too.

Interestingly enough, the multi-circular Vibram sole pattern is reminiscent of the one on the bottom of the latest Trail 00’s, only with some heavy duty 2-directional ribbing that looks like it would give you amazing grip in the snow. I didn’t try these in the snow, but they felt really sticky in the rock and dirt trails I ran them through. Pretty solid, I’d say.

As for the drop, it’s 4mm on this model. Now, I realize there’s a bit of controversy among minimalist runners about putting a drop in shoes like these. I personally don’t see much of a reason in bothering with 4mm, when you could just drop it to zero and call it a day. I kind of see it as the worst of both worlds. Four millimeters isn’t significant enough to provide much lift to those who want it; and for some of those who prefer zero drop, four millimeters can be just enough to throw off their form. All conjecture aside, I barely noticed the drop. Could be I haven’t put enough miles on these to reap any ill effects from the drop, or perhaps my form is good enough to circumvent any issues, who knows. But maybe it’s because all I could feel was how cushiony these were!

Fit and Comfort

Wow. I had forgotten what it was like to wear a shoe with a mushy sole. It was like running inside marshmallows. Of course that has its disadvantages (i.e. harder landing, lost of proprioception, etc.), but let me enjoy this soft and heavenly feeling for a moment, okay? Yeesh.

I think the best advantage to the cushiony shoe for a runner like me (100% minimalist/barefooter who runs on roads and easy-to-moderate trails) is rest and healing. I have enjoyed taking these shoes out for short, easy trail jaunts between difficult runs, running errands and for walking with my dog. I believe a cushiony shoe definitely has a place in my lineup, because sometimes my feet need a rest. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

Some of the other good features of this shoe are the super comfortable blister-free liner (thank you NB!), the attached tongue that keeps out a lot of head-on debris (I hate pulling loose stones out of my shoes mid-run), and the generous toe box. The wider toe box is especially something I want to talk about because in the past I have had some width complaints in general with New Balance’s minimalist shoe lineup. For example, the original NB Minimus Trail (which has been renamed WT10) was so low and narrow I couldn’t even get my foot into it. Also, I had to go with the wide-width version of the 00 Road shoe (see review here) for the same reason. I expected the same problem with this shoe so I asked my contact to send me the wide (D) width of the 1010, as well as the regular (B) width. Turns out, it was totally unnecessary. In fact, I wouldn’t even recommend getting the wide width unless you have an exceptionally wide foot, as in, a very good deal wider than mine:

My foot is wider than most people’s, as compared to its length (size 8.5). The regular (B) width was more than adequate in this shoe.

Just walking around in the D-width, the shoe was literally falling off my feet. Now, just as an FYI, they’re also offering a narrower width (2A), for all you ladies with slimmer peds. Oh, and I hate you. 🙂

I have found there is one big drawback to the comfort of this shoe: the heel. Like many newer models in the Minimus line, the heel cup is quite high and somewhat unforgiving for the first few wears. It did soften up after awhile, but not before taking a chunk of skin from my achilles with it. I’m really not sure why New Balance chose this route with the heel. Maybe it’s less of a problem for taller people with higher heel bones. I’d be interested to hear of anybody who didn’t have this issue, and if they’re also taller than me (5’3″).


I’ll admit I didn’t do any long trail runs in these (greater than 4 miles). Why? Well, because these shoes are too much like a traditional shoe for me, and the last time I wore a shoe like this on trails I sprained my ankle pretty badly. When I run I often supinate, which is to say that I lean toward the outside of my foot (the opposite of about half of all runners, who pronate). In a cushioned shoe with stiffer soles and lowered proprioception, I have a greater chance of landing badly on a rock and injuring my ankles. Since going barefoot and minimalist my ankles have certainly strengthened a lot, but I am still cautious about hitting the rocky trails on any shoe with that stacked sole. I prefer a shoe with a much more pliable sole. This could perceivably change in the future if I start to run very long races and find a need for a shoe with more cushioning, but for now I prefer to avoid the risk of tipping on a rock and hurting myself.

To expound on my point about the stiffer sole, I want to say that I felt a lack of control in this shoe, especially going downhill. The grip is nice and sticky, sure, but I still want better perceptual control over my foot landings. A shoe like this doesn’t allow my foot to curl downward at all, and the rock plate keeps me from forming my sole around the rocks and debris like it would naturally. So for me, overall this shoe didn’t feel safe as I got more tired (and sloppy) several miles into a run.

That said, I know a few ultra-runners who would benefit from a shoe like this. During those long 50 and 100-mile races, they have reported a need for a shoe that offers more protection, while still remaining light and relatively flexible. The WT1010 is both of those things.

Overall Pros and Cons

While I don’t think this shoe is perfect for everyone, and perhaps not me, I would recommend it to the strong and seasoned minimalist trail runner who wants less exposure to the elements over a long run, as well as someone who does just fine in a traditional trail shoe but wants something lighter and more foot-friendly. So, below is the quick list of pros and cons that I found with the WT1010:


  • great example of a lightweight, transitional trail running shoe
  • dense, somewhat cushiony sole with rock plate that provides prolonged comfort and protection against rocks and debris while remaining relatively light
  • aggressive, sticky tread provides amazing grip
  • soft and comfortable upper can be worn without socks
  • attached tongue keeps a lot of dirt out
  • generous toe box, with three levels of width to choose from
  • relatively all-weather
  • on-trend color ways


  • stiffer sole cuts off a fair amount of proprioception, giving less control to your foot
  • heel cup lacks comfort
  • 4mm heel-to-toe drop is somewhat unnecessary and may not be all that conducive to proper running form, especially for anyone who still needs practice (although one could argue that transitioning to lighter shoes over time is easier if you absolutely can’t start your mileage over from scratch).

Happy running!


My Adventures in Walnut, Iowa, and Why You Should Move Cross-Country Before You Die

There are a lot of corn fields in Iowa.

It was about 88°F, dry and cloudless at around 7 p.m. on our second day of driving from Massachusetts to California. We had left Ohio early that morning and we had been driving toward Omaha for nearly 11 hours already. The sun ahead of us was just about to touch the golden horizon of corn and wheat that could be seen over the rolling hills for miles all around. Dozens of dove white windmills spun lazily in the early evening heat, which had cooled down from an oppressive 97° earlier in the day. Even though it was amazingly hot, driving through the fertile land of Iowa was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen in my life.

That is, of course, until my car stopped.

My cousin, Alysa, was driving then, and we had the air conditioner and the cruise control working their magic to make the long drive more comfortable. I’m not sure if it was the combination of those things and the low octane gas I’d been pumping into it, but at that moment out in the middle of millions of acres of corn, my car decided it wasn’t going any further.

Later on the mechanic would tell me it was just a badly-timed case of vapor lock, but in one way or another I choose to believe that the universe wanted us to spend the night in Walnut, Iowa (pop. 788) about 40 miles outside our planned stopping place.

A wrong turn on my part earlier in the day had given Shawn a half hour head start in his Rav-4, so he was nearly in Omaha by the time my Honda’s engine light came on and all acceleration ceased. Alysa, my dog Oscar, and I were alone on Interstate 80 while the tractor trailers screamed by at an alarming speed that felt way too close to my car.

“Hi, AAA? Yeah. My car just broke down in….Iowa.”

“I see. Where in Iowa, ma’am?”

“Uh. I don’t know. There are no signs, just…corn fields.”

This was such a bummer. Up to that point, I couldn’t have imagined a worse situation than being broken down in the most alien part of the country (to me), with 2,000 miles left to drive and my husband not there. But I managed to not cry, and instead managed to utilize my phone’s mapping system to somewhat explain where I was to the nice AAA lady. Then I realized I had to pee. So did Alysa. Great. Thankfully, there was a big bush about 200 feet from our car so I told her I’d wait with Oscar while she relieved herself.

And this is right about where life reminded me to smile.

Just as Alysa traveled out of earshot, I saw the bright red tow truck barreling toward me in the breakdown lane. I wasn’t sure how far Alysa intended to hide herself in the bushes, so I tried yelling to her. She didn’t hear me, instead she waved back at me and then bounced away. So I shrugged and turned to watch the truck roll past and begin to back in toward the car. Then I looked back to where Alysa was. She hadn’t seen the tow truck, and she was probably too tired to be insightful about taking cover. All I could see was a bright pink bum and blonde hair, so easily viewable to me (and the lucky tow truck driver), that she might as well have squatted down right in the breakdown lane.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard while having a really bad day. I probably should thank her for that.

I managed to gain back most of my composure by the time the 70-ish year old driver climbed down from the truck to greet me (with a pretty big smile on his face, I might add). It took him about twenty minutes to hitch my car up just right, and the whole time I was just standing there with Alysa and the dog, unable to tell her why I looked so happy. She probably thought the stress was getting to me.

Louie’s tow truck driver had one happy night.

I did finally tell her once we arrived at the Super 8 Motel in the impossibly small town of Walnut, Iowa. I’m not sure if she appreciated the humor as much as I did, but she went with it anyway.

The one car repair shop for 30 miles (“Louie’s”) was closed for the night, so we had to wait until the morning to figure out the problem (Shawn wrote to me in a text, “Tell them to tow your car to a Honda dealership.” Which brought on another fit of laughter). And by now, Shawn was still 45 minutes from arriving to meet Alysa and me. We were hot, tired and so sick of sitting on our asses that we immediately changed and went for a two mile run in the corn fields before the sun went down. It was probably the prettiest run I’d ever done…and also the scariest, because the tune to “Dueling Banjos” kept creeping up in my head while we ran along the gravel roads that cut through the 5 foot high rows of corn. Corn that, might I add, could have hidden our bodies quite well, had we not been running fast enough. So we ran pretty damn fast.

Not really a bad place to go for a run, if you ask me.

When we were done we decided it was high time for some hard liquor. Luckily, Emma Jean’s Restaurant was open for business right next door to the Super 8, and they had plenty of it. Alysa and I didn’t even shower or change from our run. We just dropped off the dog in our room, sat our sweaty butts down at a bar stool, and ordered whiskey.

Emma Jeans: cheapest Jack Daniels this side of the Mississippi.

The small restaurant was manned that night by one bartender, one waitress and a short order cook. A couple Jack and Cokes in, the waitress tells us that her high school graduating class had eight people in it. When she went home, the bartender, Rachel, told us all kinds of stories about what it’s like to grow up and live in the middle of Iowa. I don’t think she realized she was living in such a beautiful place, I think because it’s hard to appreciate 13 million acres of corn when you’ve never seen the ocean. I really liked Rachel, and I felt like I made a friend that night.

Now I’ll never drink another Jack and Coke as long as I live without thinking of Emma Jean’s.

This photo wasn’t taken at Emma Jean’s but I thought it was a good place to put a picture of Alysa and I. Unfortunately I don’t have any of Shawn because he was always the one taking the photos, sly bastard…but I promise, he does exist.

At around 11:30pm, and after $28 worth of food and drink (which consisted of 8 Jack and Cokes, two shots, a Corona and a pepperoni pizza), Alysa and I were plenty enough liquored up to explore the Super 8’s indoor pool…in our running clothes. We spent about a half hour blowing off some steam by racing each other across the pool and showing off our handstands in the shallow end (she beat me in the breast stroke but my handstands were way better). We were roughly as loud as a half dozen grade schoolers until we were asked to quiet down by hotel management (although we weren’t thrown out, despite the fact that we were wearing sports bras and capri running pants, and the pool had been closed three hours prior). Soon after, we dripped and stumbled back to our room and fell dead asleep, where Shawn had been for an hour already.

We were up and off by 10:00 the following morning, and the car was fine. We resolved to use neither the air conditioner, cruise control nor anything but premium gas for the rest of the trip and the car didn’t complain anymore. But we did, plenty. Late August is really hot in middle America!

Alysa trying to be a safe cross-country driver while I took photos in the passenger seat.

Riding in my Luna Sandals, which is what I wore the whole trip. Well, when I wasn’t barefoot.

Despite this small hitch and maybe one or two others, the drive across this beautiful country was really quite an amazing experience. We drove through some states that we absolutely fell in love with (Colorado being one of them). Because we chose to drive rather than fly, I think I was really able to feel the move, to better understand where I came from and where I was headed to. I left the state I grew up in, with its lush green forests lining the Atlantic, and travelled through the mountains, then through hundreds of miles of flat lands, then mountains again, then desert, and finally to the shores of the Pacific. I saw all the changes along the way, so that it was much more of an adventure to get to the place where all the palm trees grow. I saw so much from my car, smelled the air, felt the heat, and had plenty of time to further solidify my decision to move to California. Now, being in San Diego is as much of a geographical triumph as it is an emotional one. I find that to be a nice kind of closure.

Colorado was spectacular.

Utah was pretty too, and hot.

I recommend the drive to anyone who is looking to learn something about themselves and about the world they live in. Where you grew up is such a small place, and you can only ever learn so much before its borders stop you. Even if you grew up in Manhattan. Now, despite the tongue-in-cheek title of this article, I wouldn’t be so obtuse as to say that everyone should move 3,000 miles away from their hometown. But then again, what’s the harm in at least entertaining the thought?

The first Palm trees I saw in the whole trip, outside a McDonald’s in North Vegas. We didn’t stay long. And the breakfast food made me sick.

Just as we finally got near the coast in California. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, no lie.

We finally got to meet Vanessa and Shacky, the day after we arrived. Then it was all really real.

Since announcing this move, I have heard from a surprising amount of people regarding their own desires to make long distance moves. It seems for most people, something always stops them. A job. Kids. Their home. Their mother. For awhile Shawn and I thought that some of these things were holding us back, too. But as we really thought it through and carefully weighed out what meant the most to us in life, we gradually realized that we had absolutely nothing holding us back.

I would be lying if I said that everything went smooth as satin. Our house had to be short-sold, some logistical issues arose here and there, and a few of our friends and family members were less than supportive about the whole thing (in fact, some were even downright nasty). But that was okay. We knew what we wanted, and we were about to go get it. We knew that what we were doing wasn’t running away from our old life on the East Coast…we were running toward our new life on the West Coast. Not everyone in our lives understands that, but do they have to? The answer is no. And finally coming to that conclusion has led us to the best decision we have ever made as individuals and as a couple.

I guess what I’m saying is that there’s really no reason to stay in a life that’s “good” without ever shooting for some semblance of “much better.” I’m not trying to sound preachy here, but I mean, think about this for a moment: Just two short months ago I was living in a house that was too small and cost us too much money, flooded all the time, had a really ugly back yard and was bordered by annoying and inconsiderate neighbors. I was commuting over two hours to work each day and dreading the cold bite of winter. I was living in a place I’ve always been sure I don’t belong. People told me that it would cost me much more money to live just as well in San Diego, but they were completely wrong. I am now living in a much better environment in every single way, and it is going to cost me roughly the same, if not a little more, than before. And you know what? I’m willing to pay a little bit more money for a lot more happiness.

How about you? In what way do you wish you could change your life?

Our pod finally arriving and being parked. It was so nice to see our stuff again.

It’s just starting to come together now, but we already love our new house so much better than the old one.

Yes, yes, this is where the “magic” happens. But mostly sleep. And drooling.

My little loft work space is starting to look like one. Still have a lot more unpacking and setting up to get it going, though.

Our kitchen and dining room was such a mess on move in day. A happy mess!

Cooking our first real dinner.

It’s nice to have coffee out on the patio, next to palm trees.

…and have a beer next to them, later.

The kitchen, looking a bit like a kitchen after a week of organizing.

The dining room, still not looking much like a dining room after a week of organizing.

What I always try to tell myself. It works.