Monday, April 29, 2013

You Live Where?: My life changing commute

For years in Cincinnati, I drove a minimum of 50 minutes to work, one way. And that was if I left before 7AM and I got lucky. On a bad day, I would spend an hour just going door to door between work and home. When you add up all that time, it's mind boggling to realize that in three and a half years, I spent 150+ hours sitting in my car, drinking coffee, cursing the idiot drivers that plagued me on a daily basis.

When we moved to Fayetteville, everyone insisted that we had to live on the east side so that I would be close to work. Driving more than five minutes to work was universally discussed as a hardship. That's right - 5 minutes. So when we bought a house on the west side, a whole TEN minutes from the office, there was some sympathetic head shaking and a few quizzical looks.

Of course, here's the thing - resigned to an hourish commute for as long as I'd been doing it, ten minutes was shocking. Not even long enough to finish my coffee, much less catch a full hour of Mike & Mike. Over the last 23 months, I've come to appreciate that a commute that lasts less time than a Sportscenter commercial break is the single biggest reason that I have an incredible balance in my life right now. I've been given the gift of two more hours in every day, and I do my best to make the most of them.

Today, though, I voluntarily returned to a long commute - a whopping 30 minutes. Not so that I could sit on I-540 and listen to morning radio drivel; no, I opted for a longer commute because for the first time in my life, I rode my bike to work today.

Think about it - I live close enough to ride my bicycle to the office. And it only took me 30 minutes. And I took the bike trail almost the entire way. When I transpose that idea onto my life in Cincinnati, it's laughable in the best Webster-sense of the word.

I hope to make the bike commute a semi-regular occurrence now that the weather is improving. But no matter my mode of transportation, I love Arkansas because it gave me time back. And that, truly, is life changing.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Feature: Caroline's artwork

I thought I was going to have the chance to share Caroline's sidewalk art this week, until this gem came home:

She calmed my nerves when she explained that "the baby" refers to her new cousin due this summer. Would've hated to disappoint her if she was requesting a new sibling. The part of the narrative on the back about her Aunt Susannah and Uncle Justin is priceless. It's also as true as it can be:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Signs of spring

From the various updates on Facebook, it looks like the spring weather has been nutty and unpredictable all over the country. We've had our fair share of back-and-forth down here in Arkansas, too: a few days of nice weather, followed by a front with rain and plunging temperatures, then we work our way back to a couple of springlike days before the pattern repeats.

I think the birds and the plants are confused, too. Mama Robin built a beautiful nest behind the trellis against our fence, but we haven't seen her in over a week. We originally intended to leave her be until the chicks hatched and flew away, but when she made an early exit, we figured we'd go ahead and move it so no other bird would have a chance to obtain squatter's rights.

Sad to see that Mama Robin left behind four gorgeous, robin-blue eggs:

Weather is capricious; life is short. A bittersweet reminder in our backyard to enjoy the fleeting joys in life.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The missing parenting manual

Today was a tough day as far as being a mom goes. Another call home from school about John's behavior, but this time, from the gym teacher. Seriously. The gym teacher.

There have been a few calls home from school in the last several weeks; trouble sitting still, trouble listening, trouble not talking, trouble keeping his hands to himself, typical stuff for a five year old boy. Today, he found a pencil on the floor in the gym near the bleachers and started coloring on the gym floor - because he thought it would be funny.

It's not that hard to get a confession out of a five year old, as long as you're okay with a teary one.

I'm not sure what to think about the misbehavior. I don't doubt that the ants-in-his-pants and motor-mouth are all legitimate complaints from the teacher. I also don't excuse any of the behavior, because he knows what's expected and what's appropriate behavior for school.

But I also know that for a kindergartner, an eight hour school day feels like an eternity. In his own words, "it's almost 24 hours, Mommy!!" Add consistently lousy spring weather that has kept them inside three days out of five to the rapid approach of year-end and summer vacation, and it's a recipe for a behavior disaster.

Of course, that still doesn't excuse any of his behavior. I like to think that we're reasonably good parents, who set limits, boundaries, and expectations of our children. When they cross those limits and boundaries, and when they fail to live up to those expectations, I also think that we discipline them appropriately. Discipline, in its truest etymology, expresses love, not punishment. I discipline my children because I want them to grow up understanding and respecting rules and boundaries, not because I want them to fear me.

Like so much as a parent, though, I second guess whether I'm doing it right. We've had enough calls home this year that I sound like a broken record, at least to me. I keep looking for the manual that tells me how to fix it, but our copy of the parenting manual has gone missing.

Oh, that's right. It doesn't exist. We have to figure this out on our own.

Today I'm especially thankful for a conversation with a dear friend this past weekend about that mythical parenting manual. I may not know if I'm doing it right, and there may be many more phone calls from teachers in my future. But if there was a manual, I think it could be worse - because then there would be no doubt exactly when I was doing it wrong.

So I'm okay if that manual just stays missing. I love my kids, and I do my best every day to be the best mom I can be. As long as they know both of those things, I'm pretty sure they'll turn out okay.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Magical shenanigans at our house

On a rainy, cold, grey spring day, I never know what I'll find when I get home. I rarely expect anything other than the usual - kids have done their homework, have watched their shows, and are playing together upstairs but about on each other's last nerve.

Today I got a treat - as soon as I got home, Caroline had a surprise for me upstairs in the bonus room. Surprises can be awesome or a bit of a letdown for me, but she is ALWAYS excited about them.

Today, the surprise was awesome:

On the wall in the stairway

On the door to the bonus room

The set up for "beginner magitians"

Where Caroline plied her tricks

So what, exactly, did all of this magic consist of? It started with John as the Beginner Magitian:

And progressed to Caroline as the Mid Magic Magitian:

Constant entertainment in this house, folks. Constant entertainment.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Race Report: Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz

I got lucky - I picked a great race to round out my spring marathon season. Last Saturday, I ran the Garmin Marathon in Olathe, KS - you know, the Land of Oz! I heard about this race from my friend Jeff, and in my quest for 50 states, this sounded like an excellent option to cross off the Sunflower State.

I managed to talk a couple of girlfriends into joining me in Oz, and got lucky to also connect with a couple of other girlfriends who live in the area. Girls' weekend!! Friday morning, I got the kids off to school, then headed over to Sarah's house to pick her up and head north.

Best thing about going to races that are within driving distance: no bag limit for travel!!

The drive from NW Arkansas to Kansas City is easy. Unfortunately for me - and even more so for Becca - my navigational abilities are suspect even when aided by Google Maps. After a couple of wrong turns I managed to get to KC International, and we were off to packet pick up. Notice I didn't say expo - this was accurately billed as, "packet pick up." I do love small races, but the trade off is the lack of a big expo hall filled with vendors selling things I didn't realize I desperately needed until right.that.very.minute. (My budget thanks you, Garmin Marathon.)

Check out the flags. I think this was in between gusts.
The packet pick up and a couple of local vendors were set up in the parking lot of Garmin International's headquarters. Cool. Kansas wind: not cool. It was blowing like we were on the open plains, and while I expected some wind, this was disconcerting at the least. Good thing my stated race strategy was: wake up on race morning and let the weather be the primary dictator of my strategy. Reduces the chance for disappointment.

Got our packets, went inside to check out a cool digital fly-through of the race course, took a couple of pictures, then off to the hotel. Check in, get settled, then head out for an early dinner with Anne.

Everywhere you go, there you are - especially if you went to West Point and have friends and classmates scattered all over the U.S. Olathe is only about 45 minutes from Ft. Leavenworth, and after 15 years, I got to see my super-stud classmate Anne who helped me with a training plan for my half iron triathlon last summer. Her husband was running the half, so it worked out perfectly to have a pre-race dinner / reunion that afternoon. (For the record: she has two of the world's best behaved kids in the history of the universe ever. Seriously. They were so good while the grown ups sat and talked for two hours.)

Race morning: I was mentally ready for wind, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what to wear for the temperature. Base layer plus long sleeves? Base layer plus jacket? Just long sleeves? Tights were a non-decision, despite Sarah's crazy shorts. I mean, it was 37 degrees outside. She crazy. I opted for base layer and jacket, which meant race belt instead of pins for my number.

My official marathon race-day socks
We all got in the car, drove the five minutes to Garmin and parked 100 feet from the start line (did I mention that I love small races?!). I got out of the car and promptly decided I was overdressed. Good thing I brought three other clothing options in case I changed my mind. Jacket off, long sleeve on, race belt off, safety pins on. Ready to go.

Let's go, Twinkle Toes!
Sarah and me. Note the shorts. Cuh-razy.
Me and Becca. Finally - a race where I'm not wearing a blue shirt!!
After the events of last Monday in Boston, the feeling among the runners was different than any race I'd run before. Many of us pinned the extra sentiment with our number, and I saw more BAA blue and gold than I've ever seen at a race before. It was a lovely symbol of the running community, and how we're all interwoven. I don't have to know you - to know you're a runner is to know you're my friend.

So that's an awful lot of prelude to the race itself, which was terrific. Let me once again extol the virtues of a small race. I got out of my car about ten minutes before gun time, stepped almost to the front of the runners with the 3:30 pace group, and had no trouble finding room in the starting line crowd. Plenty of full and half marathoners, many in Oz costume which made it that much more fun!

There was a moment of silence to honor the victims in Boston, the singing of the national anthem, and we were off. True story, off I went: faster than my hoped-for average pace as is typically my strategy, but good grief - until close to mile 2, I didn't pay attention to exactly how too-fast I was running. I felt good, though, the weather was PERFECT, and I decided just to see how long the feeling would last. When I heard a spectator somewhere between miles 5 and 6 say, "there's the second female runner" as I sped by, that was a thrill of a lifetime. I knew it probably wasn't sustainable, but I was at a sub-8:00 pace and feeling terrific.

I failed to remember that the first many miles are net downhill. Doh.

So then the hills began. For those of you who think Kansas = flat, let me help you. Western Kansas is just that. Eastern Kansas, where we were, is on the bluffs of the river and rivals northwest Arkansas for rolling elevation changes. I felt okay through the half marathon point, but between the excessively fast pace and the lack of hill training the last six weeks, I knew the back half could get ugly.

Right again.

I managed to hold it together until about 16, but as more and more people passed me, and my pace dropped off as my calves and hamstrings tightened, I knew I wouldn't be able to hold on to a 3:30 dream. Just as well; even my computer password at work has reminded me for the last two months that I was running this race for the bling. The last several miles of the marathon wound along the running trail in Olathe, which was exactly like the running trail at home. That was mentally a huge help, because at this point I was walking through the water stations and trying not to shuffle across the wee little uphills on the trail's bridges.

Another lesson learned at Oz: having friends running the half while you're running the full means a guaranteed finish line cheering section. Sarah and Becca were right there cheering me on as I came to the finish line, and I managed to finish in 3:44:42.

I think you had to be there...

I kind of have to pinch myself - three sub-4:00 marathons in four months. A year ago, I barely broke five hours. What a year it's been.

With some fellow Maniacs - running for fun!

She's a maniac, maniaaaaac...

I had to get a little help at the finish line to return my chip; while I was sitting I chatted with a young lady who had just finished her first marathon. In 3:29. Wowzers. I asked her old she was and she said 29 - to which I immediately responded that I was pretty sure she had just run a Boston qualifying time. The look on her face was exactly why I run - super excited for her.

Can I get - some help - with my chip - please!
Lots of fun at the finish line - the small "expo" was forgotten thanks to the excellent food, drinks, and massage tent at the finish line. I got my finisher's shirt; a free massage; two bowls of incredible mac & cheese; a grilled chicken sandwich; and a Belgian White celebratory beer. My space blanket finally wasn't enough to keep me warm, so we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and shower.

Girls' weekend continued with Heather picking us all up - no more directional challenges behind the wheel! - and we headed out for dinner. Our plan to go to Jack Stacks on the Plaza was foiled by excessive traffic in the highway, so we did what any self-respecting post-race celebrators would do. We opted for Five Guys cheeseburgers and fries!!!

If you're going to go all in, running marathons and eating cheeseburgers, then you really should go ALL IN - so we headed to Cheesecake Factory after dinner. (This dessert will be filed under "Why I Run.")

Party animals though we may be, that was about all we could handle. I think we all slept like the dead that night. Got up Sunday morning to load up the car, and whaddya know, the Kansas wind was back. Looks like my streak of crazy-windy races is over; after wind and rain in Houston, and a persistent headwind in Mississippi, I got a break in - of all places - Kansas. There's no place like home, there's no place like home...

All in all, an excellent weekend. Great times with Sarah, Becca, Anne and Heather, and so much fun running another 26.2. This was marathon #6 and state #6, but the last one until the Fall unless something totally unexpected happens. I'm glad I ran this one for the bling - because, as bling goes, this one is pretty sweet.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How will my garden grow?

It's been a pretty cold spring, with winter seemingly uninterested in finally giving up and going away until next year. We've had a couple of nice days here and there, usually followed by rain and then plunging temperatures again. I know Arkansas doesn't have the corner on capricious weather, but like a few other places I've lived, the old adage is true: if you don't like the weather, just wait a minute, and it will change.

I was gone all weekend for a race (report to come!) but almost as soon as I got home today, I changed clothes and headed outside to help Justin. The weather was nice today, and while it still looks like there are some cold days ahead, I think we have finally passed the last frost. Fingers crossed, because today we planted seeds in all of our flowers pots and in our garden.

I lovelovelove having a vegetable garden. It's always a lot of work to get it ready for planting, but there is nothing like fresh produce from our backyard. This year, we're trying tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, radishes, onions, carrots, spinach, peppers and even pumpkin.

Last summer was so hot and dry that about halfway through the growing season, the plants officially cried "uncle." Despite our best efforts with watering, they just didn't produce. I have high hopes for this year - hope springs eternal. (Get it? "Springs?" Right?)

For the flower pots, we picked out about ten different varieties of flowers. We need full sun only for the back, and partial shade to shade for the front porch. Impatiens, pansies, nasturtium, etc. I even got some bluebonnets for the front - it could be the best summer ever if those come in.

This is our fifth summer to have a garden, and we've learned a little bit each summer about planting depths, spacing, and timing. I'm not sure how my garden will grow this summer, but I am, as always, optimistic.

Besides, if it doesn't quite work out, there's always the Fayetteville Farmers' Market.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I think like a lot of people, it's taken me a couple of days to digest the mess in Boston. I didn't originally think I wanted to blog about it, but as the hours go by, I go from shock and grief to anger and defiance. So I am going to add yet another voice to the countless people speaking out in the online community. Someday I'll look back at this blog for all of the things that happen, 365 days a year, and I don't want to forget how I felt and what I thought when some jerk decided to use an American tradition for his (or her) own selfish, twisted purposes.

I'm heartbroken for the families who lost a loved one.

I'm heartbroken for those irreparably injured, and for their friends and families who will now have the burden of helping them find their way forward with a life forever altered.

I'm heartbroken for the winners of the 117th Boston Marathon. Their day of victory in the long and grand tradition of America's oldest and most prestigious 26.2 mile race was stolen from them.

I'm heartbroken for the runners who had already crossed the finish line. A day of celebration, joy and personal victory will now forever be a day that they remember as one of tragedy.

And especially, especially, I'm heartbroken for the runners who didn't make it to the finish line.

I do not in any way mean that the biggest tragedy, the worst calamity, was in not finishing the race. Nothing can supersede the loss of life, the loss of limbs, the loss of a sense of security that we all once again face. But for runners who would have been crossing the finish line after that moment frozen in time - 4:09 - those are the runners who are just like me.

Those are the runners who run for the joy of running. They run because they can. They run to lose weight; to cope with stress; to hold on to youth; to spend time with friends; to enjoy sunrises and sunsets and conversations over the miles and the solitude of a run to just finally have no more thoughts to think.

Qualifying for Boston was very probably one of their greatest athletic achievements. It was an achievement that took energy and effort; it took time away from their loved ones to log mileage on the road, on the trail, on the track, on the treadmill. It was an achievement that took personal sacrifice. It was an achievement that came with no small amount of physical pain, and probably injury for many of them.

And because some jerk - some nut job - some vicious person - decided to try and make a statement with violence, these runners' victory of getting to the start line in Boston will never be rounded out by the euphoria of getting to the finish line.

So yes, I'm heartbroken. But I'm also angry.

I qualified for Boston, and with any luck, my qualifying time will be fast enough to get me into Boston 2014. Yes, I am still going to run it. Because if anything is true about marathoners, it's that adversity, pain and difficulty are what we deal with every time we go for a long run, every time we step up to a start line.

It will take much more than a coward with a twisted vendetta to make me and my running friends live in fear of the race.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Race Report: Hogeye Marathon Relay (AKA, I know people!! Lots and lots of PEOPLE!!)

Hometown races - you can't beat 'em. Seriously. I've traveled to my fair share of races at this point - Las Vegas; Washington, D.C.; Nashville; Houston; St. Louis; Greenville, MS, and many more 5k's, 10k's and triathlons. This is the second year in a row I've participated in the Hogeye, and for convenience and familiarity, it cannot be beat.

This year, I signed up as a member of a relay team together with some of my fabulous co-workers. Law of averages - one of our team members got sick at the last minute, but lucky for me, I know PEOPLE!!! I have such a fabulous run group here in Fayetteville, so I had not one, but two women volunteer to step in at the last minute. Because I'm occasionally a disorganized doofus, I didn't remember that I had already asked one person, and then proceeded to ask another. DOH. But let's chalk it up to what wonderful friends I have instead of my terrible memory, shall we?!

Anywho, our "girls rule" relay team:

Hollan, me, Kate and Becca
Sunday morning bright and early, we joined up downtown with my running group, most of whom were doing the half, one of whom was doing the full. He's the crazy one - he's been known to run 50+ miles per week in his craziness. We love him anyway.

Richard, Angie, me, Hollan, Jeff (the crazy one), Mike and John

Did I mention I know people? One of my other co-workers joined us in our pre-race spot (provided by another running friend whose office is on the Fayetteville square, approximately 8 1/2 steps from the start line!!). Kate and I realized that we had an Army, Navy, and an Air Force veteran - picture, please!!

Jereme - Air Force, Kate - Navy, Me - Army

It promised to be a beautiful day - if you're into 20 mph winds and highs in the 70s when you're running a marathon. But HEY! It's been such a wet, cold spring, at this point, I'll take what I can get!! We made our way down to the start line, and found more evidence that - I know PEOPLE!! Lots and lots of people!!!

I've been to several races alone, where I talk to random person while we're waiting to start. I've also run a few races with Jill, where she's the only one I know. But at my hometown race, I can walk up to the start line and see PEOPLE!! So fun.

Becca, Nick, Jereme, and Kate - all coworkers
(in case you didn't get that from the blatantly branded running gear)

Sarah, Becky (her first Half today!!), me and Greg - NOT coworkers!
Evidence that I DO have a life outside of work!!

As leg 3 of my relay team, it was a bit odd for the starting gun to sound and for me to just be standing there. I realized pretty quickly, though, I had two choices - stand there freezing in the wind and feeling sorry for myself, or walk myself over to where the shuttles were picking up and get to my exchange point with plenty of time.

First problem: I wasn't 100% sure where the shuttles were.

Relays are a totally different animal than "just" running a race - good thing there were plenty of people around headed generally in the same direction. My assumption with any race I run is that I'll never be the one in front, so I can just follow someone else. Totally held true for the shuttles today, too. Let's just chalk that up to good planning. (What, you thought it was inattention to detail??)

I hung out at the relay exchange point for a while, talking to random people. I didn't know anyone there, but hey - runners are friends, whether they know each other or not. I was able to do the runner-nerd talk about races, Marathon Maniacs, fuel / gel strategy, running groups, how the weather would affect our time, etc., etc., and it was totally normal.

After about an hour of waiting, I saw Becca approaching the exchange point just shy of the two hour point. We swapped the chip and off I went. Way. Too. Fast. I should've realized that using a race for a taper run was an impossibility for me - I mean, I can't pace myself on a good day. Put people in front of me that I then like to play "catch up" with (strangely, that seems to always be a one player game), and I was in high gear from the first step.

I averaged 7:55 overall. My splits:

Not sure what was going on there at mile 2. Oops.

As the day went on and I got closer to my exchange point with Hollan, it got windier and warmer. I don't know what it is with me and windy races this year - Houston, craziness; Mississippi River, headwind the whole way; Hogeye, 20mph winds by the time I finished. Kansas next weekend - I'm not exactly holding my breath. I mean, it's KANSAS. You know, Land of Oz, tornados, wind on the prairie. All that.

But, wind and sun aside, it was still a great race. I had the leg around the lake, which is a newly paved portion of our trail system, and one I enjoy running. I had a nice downhill section for most of mile 4 when the wind really picked up, so at least there's that. Or something.

Finally got to the exchange point, passed off the timing chip to Hollan, and my run was done. Time to socialize, because I know PEOPLE!!

This was when it hit me that a small town, hometown race cannot be beat if you're a part of the running community. At the exchange point, I saw Kindra (a triathlon friend); Mitzi (below left), who also gave me my medal, and Shauna (below right) - who I'd actually seen at the last exchange point! Mary ran through the station while I was there, too - all in the space of about 15 minutes. I know PEOPLE!!

(Thank you Mr. Developer who created the turn-around camera thing on the iPhone!!)

As we were standing there talking, Shauna and I realized that Hollan is so dang fast, I'd better get to the finish line so I didn't miss her - and then I got super lucky and she took me there so I didn't have to figure out the shuttle again. Logistics. Hmph. Apparently no longer my strong suit.

Once I was down at the finish line, I hooked up with everyone again - everyone who'd done the Half was finished, so we were just waiting for Hollan to finish our relay and for Jeff to finish the Full. I had seen him around mile 20, and I could tell it was a tough day for him - the wind and the sun were killer, and for anyone doing the full, it was only getting harder as the day wore on. 

Eventually we saw Hollan, and about a minute behind her was Jeff. Race finish lines are always a party atmosphere, and this one was no different - maybe even more so, since there were many UofA kids that ran this morning, including a couple of Alpha Delta Pi teams with their sorority shirts on. Own it, I say!

Final team time, somewhere around 3:56 and some change - pretty darn good for a relay team that included two first-timers. And Kate rocked it by doing both the first leg of the relay AND going on to finish the Half, too - her first!!!! Becca said she wants to do a Half now, too, and I'm super excited - I'd like to think that maybe had a hand in inspiring both of them. It was either me or the bling, hard to say.

So here we are - Team Tide, Girls Rule, and a sub-4:00 relay:

And, of course, I know people - and here are my favorite running peeps at the finish line, too:

I sure am lucky to know not just people, but really, really good people. And that's what made today's race so much fun.


Postscript - how could I have left this out - speaking of knowing people, I had the unbelievable good fortune and luck to gave dinner with Jeff Galloway on Friday night!! He was in town as part of the Hogeye Marathon weekend, and Angie is a Hogeye board member. She was gracious enough to invite me to join the group, which of course, I totally accepted. Lucky me - I know people who know OTHER people!!

I got to tell Jeff that I finished my first marathon because of him!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Feature: John's schoolwork

John is a regular math whiz. When we played Payday last week, he added up his money at the end and with just a little bit of help, added up to $1,450.

Not bad for a kindergartner.

Today's feature is pretty typical of what comes home once a week. I'm not sure if it's a "pick your own math problem" free form exercise or if there's more instruction than that. Either way, I love seeing the repetition and reinforcement of math.

Along with, apparently, his name. Somehow I don't think that's part of the assignment.

I love math, and I want my kids to excel in the subject. I always say: my kids can be anything they want to be when they grow up. As long as it's a scientist or engineer.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

You Live Where?: We're Kind of a Big Deal

I don't know if you've heard, but to P&G, the Walmart team is kind of a big deal.

Alas, I am not on the Walmart team. I am on the Sam's team.

Lucky for me, though, sharing an office building means that I get the benefit of some of the really cool important-people visits, and very little of the downside of everyone in Cincinnati thinking they need to "help" me with my business So today I share another answer to "You live where, Amanda??"

Today was a first - two P&G Board Members visited our office, and I was invited to join a small group of women for an hour with Jim McNerney. Jim is currently the CEO of Boeing, and has been a P&G board member for 10 years. He was refreshingly honest, very down to earth, and an engaging and dynamic speaker, just as you would expect someone who has been a CEO of two major corporations to be.

He also thought it was funny that I asked him to take a picture with me for my blog.

I just thought he was kind of a big deal.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I'm pretty good at Work-Life Balance

For years, everyone has been talking about work-life balance. Lately, there's been more talk about work-life integration, but still, it seems like every single women's network event I attend, we have to talk about having it all by balancing it all. Whatevs.

In my case this week, though, I think I've kind of rocked it, the whole balance thing. I'm in NYC for a work meeting (which is great by itself, right?). Given that I only have the chance to get to the City about once every couple of years, I wanted to take advantage of it the best I could.

Of course, my first thought was to map a run. Can't stay on Manhattan and not run Central Park, right? Until I learned of the Hudson River Greenway. A pedestrian path that runs north-south with the West Side Highway right along the Hudson, I've managed to squeeze two runs in so far since I got here mid-day on Monday. Pretty good balance, right?

Dinner on night one was at a Thai place, and I was as adventurous as I get - I tried almost everything that came to the table as part of the preset menu. I skipped the chocolate braised ribs, but not because I'm a wimp. Just because I know I don't like chocolate. But man, was the rest of it goooooooooooooood...

Me and three of my many excellent co-workers
In the spirit of balancing / having it all, I've also managed to work in a few hours with my cousin Jay, who I haven't seen in at least two years. He lives here, and despite my efforts, I didn't connect with him when I was in New York last fall for my fifteen year West Point reunion, so I was determined to make it happen this time. 

I think I'm pretty lucky that the older I get, the better I get to know my cousins, and as it turns out, they're all really cool people. I couldn't get the details worked out before I got here, but at the last minute, he hopped the A Train and met me at a bar after dinner. Excellent.

Oh iPhone, you let me down with your picture quality...
When we figured out there would be a couple of hours that we could connect between meetings the next day, we got together again. Lucky for me, Jay works in midtown just a few blocks from my hotel, so between meetings I did my best to look like a New Yorker - grabbed my phone, put my earbuds in my ears, and walked in my skinny jeans a few blocks to meet him at STK. Super cool place - and too early for a crowd, so we got to hang out and drink wine. I think that might make me a hipster. Or at least makes me someone who hipsters wouldn't think is lame. Definitely one or the other.

My facial expression = definitely NOT hipster
I love New York City. I always say it's the center of the universe, but seriously, it's the center of the universe. I never get tired of the people watching, the amazing architecture, the frenetically controlled movement of the masses of humanity. Oh, and Naked Singing Cowboy in Times Square. I never get tired of him, either.

I've done the tourist thing - Statue of Liberty, Metropolitan Museum of Art, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Times Square, Madison Ave., all that stuff over the course of several visits to the City. But there is so much to see, so many cool things about New York, I guess you could live a lifetime here and never see and do it all. So with my limited time and a local with me, I thought - this is my chance to stand Between the Lions. Jay humored me, and off we went to see the Lions of the mid-Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library.

In front of the mid-Manhattan branch

Yes, I know I'm a nerd. A tourist nerd. And I don't care. Ignore the Uggs, too. Too much walking for my heels.
For a book nerd like me, that was on par with the Statue of Liberty. SO cool. I totally could've sat in the sunshine and just looked at the building. I mean, it's a gorgeous piece of architecture, and I'm pretty sure the expressions on the lions' faces are telling us something, if we just sit and puzzle it out.

But, like I said, this is a work trip, and I had to keep a balance, so it was just a few quick pictures and then back to a conference call. How can I get annoyed about that, though - I mean, I'm in NYC because of work. I'll take it.

More random pictures of me and Jay in NYC:

In Bryant Park in front of the fountain
That's Mr. Bryant. Of Bryant Park fame.
Times Square

Off to a dinner with co-workers again this evening, I think this time to a local pizza place. Oh, how I've missed thee, New York style pizza. I'm pretty sure having a work conversation about Puffs over a slice of New York style pizza is about as good as the balance is going to get.