Today’s Run: Friends, Dogs & Family

This is the first post in a new series I’m calling “today’s run.” My mind is often at its most active when I’m out on a run. And I’d like to share some of those thoughts with the world.

Today’s run took longer to develop than it should have. Between work, and my relentless insistence on shoving food down my throat, I managed to put it off until 4pm.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter when you run. It just matters that you ran. Today was one of those days.

I set out for an 8-mile trail run in my backyard, the JRPS trails. Buttermilk, Northbank, Belle Isle… all the usuals. And although I originally set out alone, I found myself sharing the trails with many different faces: some familiar faces, some strangers and some hairy ones with long tongues and real sloppy kisses.

I bumped into my buddy Nate who I haven’t seen in a while. Nate’s training for one of those crazy ultras I used to be so gung-ho about. Good for you, buddy. It was great catching up.

Then a few canine friends stopped to say hello. Some just gave me the quick snif’n’go (which I totally understand when Mom’s got you on a short leash). Others stopped for a legit petting from head to rear. And you better believe I gave them every last bit of what they were looking for.

But this one sweet pup… He was off his leash. Mom was pretty laid back. So he decided he’d run with me for a few hundred feet. I’m awful with naming dog breeds, but just trust me, this guy had sweet puppy face written all over him. I ran the rest of my run with his dirty paw prints on my shirt.

And then I saw a few moms… with strollers… and little ones inside. I don’t have a kid of my own, but I still smile at almost every little kid I see.

Then I saw my buddy Tyler at the end of my run. He just finished up a mountain bike ride. He’s going through some career stuff, just moved into a new apartment… the cycle of life. Stuff we all deal with at some point or another, but it was nice to hear his personal story.

All of these encounters got me thinking about family. A wife. A kid or two. A dog. A decent-sized house in a friendly neighborhood. The ups & downs of parenting…

I want all of that stuff. Not the same way I want to complete an Ironman, or I want a new computer. But that’s where I see myself in the future. Near future? Distant future? Who knows? But I want that.

As some of you know from my Facebook status updates, I watch The Bachelor on ABC. It’s an awful show on so many levels, and I know it’s 100% entertainment, heavily staged, yada yada yada. I get it. But it’s one of my few guilty pleasures, and I find it extremely entertaining. So bear with me for a sec.

In thinking about all this family stuff, I’m going to cite a line that I’ve heard many times on The Bachelor.

That’s always been my number 1 goal in life… to have a family.

I always thought that was just a line. Something they said for the camera, or to convince the guy to pick them. Who knows if they really meant it or not—or what it even means to them. But after today, I started to think if there might be some truth in that.

I’ve been guilty for almost my entire adult life of putting work ahead of my social life (which includes relationships). I’ve set many goals over the past 10 years, and I’ve accomplished almost every one I’ve set. I’ve done some really awesome things.

Maybe I should think of a relationship—and eventually, a family—in more of the way I think of the other goals I set for myself. I don’t want to force something that’s not there. And I don’t want to put a deadline on it (because that could force me into something I’m not ready for).

Over the past 3 years, I’ve tried to make a relationship more of a priority. And the fact that I’m single right now doesn’t necessarily mean I haven’t done that. There could be any number of other reasons why I’m still single, none of which are bad, or anyone’s fault. It’s just how it is.

This is really just a reminder for myself. A reminder that I do want a family, a dog, a house & some kids. And that just like all the other goals I have in life, they won’t just appear before my eyes. They take dedication, timing, sacrifice, money, and a host of other things.

How to avoid Thanksgiving traffic

How can you avoid Thanksgiving traffic? I’ll tell you my foolproof plan that has worked 4 years in a row.

For several years in a row, I’ve managed to avoid Thanksgiving traffic. Specifically, I travel on I-95 from Richmond, VA to South Jersey, but I’m confident these traffic tips apply for just about anywhere. Here’s the rundown:

  • Drive, don’t fly. EZ-Pass won’t scan your body or feel you up. It’s a win-win.
  • Pack whatever you need the night before Thanksgiving. Place it on the floor, just inside the front door. Have snacks, drinks, etc. ready (keep in fridge).
  • And here’s the kicker… start your drive on Thanksgiving morning.

To avoid Thanksgiving traffic, start early

3:00am: Alarm clock goes off. Get up right away. No snooze.

3:01: Start brewing the coffee.

3:02: Get dressed. Quick & comfortable.

3:07: Throw last-minute toiletries in the your bag. Don’t forget your cellphone charger.

3:09: Start chugging coffee.

3:13: Pack car. Start warming it up if it’s cold.

3:20: Finish chugging coffee.

3:25: …and you’re on the road.

3:26: Turn the music up. It doesn’t matter what station.

3:27: Start bobbing your head & shaking your shoulders (aka: dance). You’ve gotta stay loose with a long drive ahead.

3:28: Commence singing. Don’t stop until you arrive at your destination.

3:35: Get on the interstate.

3:36: Set the cruise control to 75, and don’t stop unless you need gas.

____: You’ll be there before you know it 🙂

OK. I realize a few of those won’t help you get there any faster, but they are guaranteed to make your Thanksgiving Day drive much more enjoyable.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Improving relationships with family, friends & the ladies

I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationships in my life recently, and now I’ve finally written it down on paper. I’ve been neglecting certain relationships, ones that I’m not particularly proud of, and it’s time for that to change.

Here’s how I plan to improve the relationships I have with family, friends & the ladies.

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately. Mainly,

  • How I’ve treated them in the past
  • Their importance in my life
  • How I’m trying to improve them

Why am I thinking about relationships in this way?

  • I’ve lived by myself for the past 2 years, and at times I get bored & lonely
  • I don’t have a lot of friends in the Richmond area
  • There are important events happening in the life of my friends, family & loved ones
  • I’ve been exploring the online dating scene, and have had a few interesting encounters

All of this has led to my decision to try to improve relationships in 3 main areas of my life:

  1. Family relationships
  2. Friend relationships
  3. The girlfriend relationship

Improving family relationships

Growing up, we never had big family gatherings. My family was somewhat spread apart, up and down the east cost. Several divorces & fallings out led to complicated relationships that I didn’t even understand until I started asking questions in college.

With age comes appreciation

As I have gotten older, so has the rest of my family. Health issues have arisen. And in some cases, even death. With more practical life experience, I understand these things at a much higher level than I used to. I’m much more appreciative of my family & close friends.

They’ve sent me a birthday card every year for the past 26 years. They attended hundreds of baseball games when I was growing up. They’ve donated money to charity on my behalf. Every time they see my parents, they don’t leave without asking how I’m doing. Bottom line: They care. They always have cared. And they always will.

Unconditional love

I used to think this was some stupid cliché. Now I understand what it means (well, I’m starting to, at least). We all need people to care about us & be there when we need something or someone. If you can’t count on family, who the heck can you count on?!

It’s the thought that counts

I used to hesitate before calling my relatives & close family friends. I thought, since I have never talked to them on the phone before, and haven’t spoken to or seen them for a few years, it would be awkward. I wouldn’t have anything to say.

All the while I’ve been missing the point. They don’t care if I say nothing at all. Just the fact that I picked up the phone means the world to them. Most of the time they’re the ones asking all the questions. They want to know how I’m doing. Just to know I was thinking about them… that alone can make a huge difference.

Improving friendship relationships

I haven’t made many friends in Richmond. I chose to put my job first. And for many years, running second. This left no time for hanging out, meeting new people or socializing with friends. It was all about working & running. That was it.

You don’t miss it until it’s gone

Recently, I’ve come to realize the importance of friendships. I miss the interaction with other people. While I do need some alone time to recharge, there are many times when I thrive in an environment with ample human interaction. I get into this fun zone, where I’m about as happy as one person can be. I can’t ignore that feeling. And I certainly don’t come anywhere near it when I’m alone in my apartment.

Selfishness

The more time I spend by myself, the more selfish I become. If I’m not spending time with other people, I don’t think about other people. This is clearly not a good habit to start forming.

Opportunity

I’m actively looking for opportunities to get out more. Just being out with other people, regardless of where we are, what we’re doing or who I’m with, will help get me back to where I need to be. My life is missing a little piece right now, and these new opportunities will help fill that void.

Improving the girlfriend relationship

Until recently, I was clueless about relationships. Again, it was working & running that gained all my attention. And while I still thought a relationship was possible with my one-track mind, it didn’t stand a chance.

Relationships take time, effort & sacrifice. Any extra time went into my running. And sacrificing my job or a big race… ha, forget about it. Just wasn’t happening.

Single forever?

Once I came to the conclusion that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being single (which didn’t take long at all), I realized I needed to make some changes. While I still love my job, and spend many hours/wk running & training, I’ve created room for a third priority… a relationship. And I’ve even vowed to sacrifice parts of my job and/or my training to make a relationship a real possibility.

Online dating

I’ve met up with a handful of women I met online. With each experience, I’m learning something. I’m mainly interested in learning things about myself: my turn-ons & turn-offs, how I communicate, what kind of person makes me happy, etc. What I’ve also learned is that very few people I’ve met communicate in the same way I do… and that can be really confusing (for both sides).

Never stop exploring

This is The North Face‘s tagline. While they use it in reference to outdoor adventures, I’m using it in a slightly different way. I’m in the midst of an interesting time in my life. One in which I’m exploring myself, as well as the relationships in which I participate. This exploration has led to a new understanding of my life, one in which I’m sure will continue to change as I continue to explore.

My new (almost) 3 year old buddy

How my recent 4-day vacation with my 3-year-old cousin, Zachary, reminded me that we’re all role models, whether we like it or not. He’s also my new best bud. What an awesome kid!

During a recent family vacation in Vegas, I got to see one of my second cousins for only the 2nd time ever. He’s now almost 3 years old, and such a joy to be around.

It was great to see him, and we are now best buds. But it was also a good reminder of how we’re all role models, regardless of if we want to be, try to be, or like to be. We just are. Here are a few examples.

Bedtime stories

It was the first time I could remember ever being asked to read a bedtime to someone. And when asked, you can’t possibly say no. We read Toy Story & Curious George, and he even managed to sneak a little snuggle time in.

Copycat

It’s true. They will do everything you do. Say everything you say (or some mangled sentence fragment very similar).

I was doing a quad stretch one morning, and Zach slowly creeps into the room, observes me for a minute, then starts performing the stretch. I caught him doing it again the next day.

Hats off to his parents

The kid has impeccable manners. He asks to be excused from the table before getting up. Always says please and thank you. Heck, he even loves fruits & vegetables – broccoli, carrots, blueberries, strawberries, clementines – you name it.

How can anyone NOT want to have kids?

Las Vegas Vacation: 4 days in review

My recap of one, pretty awesome family vacation in Las Vegas, NV. My new 3-year-old best friend, gambling, Fountains at the Bellagio, The Stratosphere, Terry Fator, The Freemont Experience, hiking a canyon…

Here’s a recap of my recent family vacation to Las Vegas, NV. Not necessarily in any order…

Jump directly to the photos below

My favorite part

Although I enjoyed most of the trip, the best part was seeing Zachary, my (almost) 3-year-old second cousin. I enjoyed the experience so much, I wrote a separate post about it.

Seeing family

I have family spread out in a few places across the country – Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada – so when I get a chance to see them, it’s always nice. It’s that unconditional love sort of thing.

The main Vegas Strip

The main strip in Vegas is “as advertised.” I’d recommend you at least see it once, but you’ll have to decide if it’s really for you or not. The hotel/casinos are massive and extravagant. Everything else is 10x bigger or more outrageous than it needs to be. Tourists everywhere. Slot machines around every corner (even in CVS 30 minutes outside the city). Beers in hand on the street (some even in brown paper bags). Sketchy guys (and gals) handing out flyers for strips clubs with half-naked women on them. I mean, “it’s Vegas.”

I can do without much of that. But here’s what I do recommend you see:

Fountains at Bellagio

This was my favorite part of the Vegas strip. The fountains… bigger than I thought. The water… goes much higher. The choreography to the music… literally breathtaking. It’s amazing during the day… even better at night.

Bellagio Fountains video (although it doesn’t do it justice)

The Stratosphere

This is the 1,100 ft. tower overlooking the Vegas strip – and the entire valley. They’ve got 2 roller coaster rides that throw you over the edge, and 1 that drops you straight down to the ground. But you don’t need to ride any of them to enjoy yourself up there. The view is spectacular. I’d recommend catching a sunset if you can. And don’t forget your camera.

The Terry Fator Show

Terry Fator is a ventriloquist. I think he won America’s Got Talent a few years back. I wasn’t overly thrilled going into it. I kept expectations pretty low. But this dude was hilarious for 90 minutes straight. Every character. Every skit. Every voice. Every song. He must’ve had at least 15 characters, and a unique singing voice to go along with each one. Again, the videos don’t do him justice.

Terry Fator videos

Gambling in Vegas

Let’s get something straight. I’m not a lucky person. Never have been, never will be. And I’m perfectly OK with that. I actually prefer it that way. But even if you don’t like to gamble, I do think you can have fun with a little bit of money. Let’s just say I learned a few things…

Card games

Don’t sit down at a table unless you know the game inside & out. The only thing worse than losing all your money is not understanding how you lost all your money.

You can’t sit down at a $5 blackjack table with $30 and expect to have a good time. You might as well just put your 30 on the table and walk away. Give yourself more than 6 hands to see how things play out.

Slot machines

At first I thought they were stupid. But when I realized I don’t know any card game inside & out, the slots became my friend. Two things in particular that I learned:

  1. Play a slot that you understand how it pays out.
    I recommend one with 3 columns and no more than 5 lines you can hit. Take a minute to read how to play. Knowing what you are trying to get increase the fun factor tenfold.
  2. Be superstitious.
    And don’t be afraid to let everyone know. I’m not superstitious at all, but for an unlucky guy playing a game that relies 100% on luck, it makes it interesting. I threw in a few fist pumps, a couple “Big Bucks, No Whammies,” and even kissed my money voucher. Believe me, I earned every cent of the $1.50 that I won.

The Freemont Experience

In a word… “eh.” And that’s me being nice. Freemont was the original “Vegas” before they built up the current strip. I’ve never seen more wife beaters (the tank tops, not the actual human beings), mustaches, fortys and tramp stamps in one 5 block radius. The Freemont light show made a landfill look like a tourist attraction. Save yourself some time and leave this one off the itinerary.

Hiking Sloan Canyon

Most people come to Vegas for the strip, but I was equally excited about the desert trails, mountains & canyons. So excited, I went for a 3-hour hike into Sloan Canyon. You can read my separate writeup here.

Thanks

Big thanks to Jason & Crystal for an awesome guest room, excellent tour guide skills, and having 2 of the coolest, most well-behaved kids I’ve ever seen. Also to Mom & Grandmom for funding part of my gambling experience, and Uncle Tom & Morris for picking up the restaurant tab. You all allowed me to have a great time without emptying my pockets, and I really appreciate that.