Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010

I've fumbled around with the idea of a wrap-up to 2010 all week and as I begin here, I have no plan.  My brain will guide my thoughts and as they is what it is.  Interesting is that this marks my 351st post here on my blog.  Amazing to me...amazing that I've really written that much since I started this 3 years ago.

2010, in contrast to 2009 was so extremely different.  While 2009 held triumphs in my life on the trails...that being three 100-mile ultramarathon finishes, 2010 held none.  2010 actually didn't even have 5 race entries at all.  It turned out to be a year where I stood back a bit and observed the sport I had fallen in love with.  I wrote more, photographed a million times more, and volunteered my time more than ever.  While I didn't "log" those volunteer hours to gain points in the local "series," I was out there for a lot of them and loved it.  I also saw the true colors of a great many people...sometimes good or great and sometimes not so good at all.  Friendships were gained and nourished and friendships lost.  Luckily, the "gained" category trumped the lost category.  But those that were regrets at all.  One thing that is sometimes painfully true for me is that I am about as raw as they come...I am what I am and will not compromise my character or beliefs just to pacify someone else.  On the flip side, for those I differ greatly with, I am very open to a very civil relationship with them...we are grown-ups, after all, and we can agree to disagree yet remain friends all the same.  Those are some of the best relationships, too.  But for those who can't meet me half way...well, so long!  But with regards to my lack of finish lines in 2010, I'm totally OK with that.  I don't feel like I lost out at all...well, perhaps that's not 100% true.  I really missed running Oil Creek again.  I wanted my 2nd buckle from there.  At least I spent a lot of time there throughout the race weekend.  Perhaps some other day.  For 2011, I have no idea what it'll hold in terms of events.  I'm still on the fence as to where I feel led.  I've already given up being editor of the Western Reserve Trail Running newsletter...I guess we'll see.  I don't feel "nudged" in any certain direction right now.

Professionally in my 7-5 job with Uncle Sam, is what it is!  It is a perfect job for someone in the military reserve and I'm very good at the job.  It's a very stressful job with a workload like none I have ever seen before but I just do what I can do each day and go home.  That's all I can do, right?!  The silver lining in my job is that I can directly, face-to-face, have an impact on peoples' lives who are going through very difficult times.  I have the "power" to actually do something for them (within 'policy,' of course!) which is the intangible part of what I do that I hold precious.  My future is an open book with a multitude of possible directions at my civilian job so in a way, it's exciting to see what it may hold.  Once I pass my 3-year point (in April 2011), many options will finally open up to me for advancement.

Family.  Dang, I am thankful.  My wife and two little girls are my world.  If not for them...well, I can't even imagine that.  I am eternally thankful to the Lord for blessing me with them.  This year has us drawn closer together, I believe.  Honestly, I don't even know what else to say about this...  thankful ~ precious ~ forever

Money, money, money...budget, budget, budget...teamwork, teamwork, teamwork.  One year ago from right now, Marjie and I teamed up and wrote the first budget in over 17 years of marriage.  We always lived paycheck to paycheck (it didn't matter what our income was), penny to penny.  By getting on Dave Ramsey's plan..the "Total Money Makeover"...we have totally changed our lives, and we don't make any more money.  Today at the one year point, I can confidently tell you that we have removed, entirely, one gigantic, monstrous stress from our life..the stress of money.  It is totally gone.  We no longer stress over it, we don't fight over it, we have a plan...a written plan, to become debt free, house and all, and we are doing it.  In the past 12 months, we have put over 40% of our take-home income to debt.  40%!!!!  Before this, we were in the negative (ie: increasing debt).  Over 40% of every dollar that comes in!  Don't think we lived in a shell and did nothing, either.  Vacation was in there...a replacement computer (hello, iMac!)...and now a paid for car and we are credit card free.  We simply operate on cash only and budget every single penny and are killing our debt.  We're even implementing this with our kids so they will grow up to know what being debt free is all about.  For 2011, we will make huge strides and will arrive debt free, all but the house.  That's the short-term goal.  Once achieved, it'll be guns-a-blazing on the house!  We honestly believe that by the time our oldest daughter gets her high school diploma, we can declare that we are debt and all.  We'll be in our mid-40s at that point.  We shall see!  It's pretty cool to see other friends coming to us, too...interested at what's going on and how to do it themselves.  It truly HAS transformed our life.

My life as a Navy Supply Officer has really developed over the past year.  I graduated from the Supply Corps School in March and currently am the XO (Executive Officer) of a command in Columbus, OH.  That's 2nd in command for you non-military types.  Even cooler is that I hold the position in a pretty junior rank when the preferred rank for XO is two ranks higher.  I am very fortunate and blessed to get the opportunity for this so early in my officer career.  I've also traveled quite a bit in 2010, to Chicago a few times to the Great Lakes Naval Station (one of those was on 9/11), a trip to Wisconsin, a week-long leadership training in Virginia Beach, and also a trip to Fort Belvoir, VA for another conference.  Lots of miles on my car but so worth it.  I feel most at ease and in my "place" when I am wearing the cloth of my country.  I know that I was placed on this earth to serve others and serving my country is incredibly rewarding and satisfying.  For 2011, my role in the military will grow and develop even more.  Those details, though, like everything else I do in the military will be talked about after they happen.  If you haven't noticed yet, I never talk about military things BEFORE they happen...always after.  It's called OPSEC (operational security) for our country and security/protection over my family.  I wish it wasn't that way, but it is.  But I will say this, 2011 will be amazing...stay tuned!

To all...have a great 2011.  Like I've preached before, forget those resolutions.  Resolutions are a joke and don't work.  Make a change...a permanent change.  Write down your goals and set deadlines.  JUST DO IT!!  Whatever you do, keep your priorities in check...your faith, your family, and whatever comes next for you and don't compromise them.  Live every day to it's fullest and don't ever assume there will be a next.  There might not be.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, December 27, 2010

M-Cubed for 12/27/2010

Monday Morning Musings for December Twenty-Seventh, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- I hope you all had a wonder Christmas this past Saturday.  For us, it was filled with tradition, a wonderful Christmas candlelight service where my oldest daughter sang "Away in a Manger" as a solo, ripping presents open in lightning speed on Christmas morning, and of course, lots of great eatin'! Marjie posted some Christmas photos on her blog over on the right if you'd like to check them out.  On Christmas night, I got together with my side of the family and after setting up the tripod, we captured a pretty good family pic.  From my left, my brother, Bill, with his wife and 2 girls, then me, Marjie, and our girls, then my youngest brother, Jim, with his wife, daughter and son, then my only remaining grandparent, my Grandma Mary, followed last but not least, my mom and dad.

- Yesterday was the 4th Annual WaterFalls Run.  We had a really good showing, especially considering that it was a Sunday morning and the day after Christmas.  Around 55 faithful met at 8am and more joined the fun at 9am at the Boston Store.  It stayed true to tradition with stops at each of the 3 waterfalls and lots of fun and fellowship was had by all.  Of course, I used my Gorillapod to it's max extent with my waterproof Canon and captured 250 photos.  184 made the final cut and you can see them here.  Thanks to all who came out to celebrate 2010 on the trails!  See you on December 10, 2011!  I've looked at the calendar and it is the ONLY day in December next year that works.  The ideal days, December 24th or 31st are Saturdays and too much is going on in people's lives those days and the 25th/1st are holidays!  Plus, December 17th is NEO Trail's URINEO at Mill Creek Park...and the 3rd is the 2nd Annual Bigfoot Saturday, the 10th it is!
Buttermilk Falls
- Last week also brought in a new running partner for a few runs each week.  Kim is sister to Amy who Marjie has run nearly all her 1/2 marathons with.  Kim and I tested each other's pace early last week and then ran "Karen's Loop"...a hilly 8.2 miler through the country on Friday.  That was the fastest 8.2 miles (not by time...but by how fast the time flew) of my life.  The funniest part of our runs are how many times we agree to "slow it down" yet forget to do so before we can count to 10....heck...before we count to 5.  We simply never do!  Thanks, Kim, for the company and also for getting my feet back in my running shoes where they belong.  Here's to our next 4:30am run! :-)

- As you probably noticed, the President signed into law the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell rule in the military.  I've already made my opinion known here on my blog about a month or so ago on a blog post, but to help others understand the procedure now, here's how this works: the military must certify that they can implement the repeal and how they'll do it, then give that word back to the President.  Once all 5 services have done that, it will be implemented.  There really isn't any timeline to this, either.  For the time being, it is still in force.  The Marine Corps, actually, was first to step forward by saying it will lead the way in implementing this change and re-stated it's commitment to defending the Constitution and following the orders of the Commander-in-Chief.  I share the Corps' approach to the repeal.

- Normally, I write a year-end post.  Not sure if I'm "feelin'" it this year.  2010 was about as different as can be as compared to 2009.  I led a completely different life (outside of my 7a-5p job) and certainly view many things different...some good, some bad...and most, I don't really want to blog about.  So 2010 may just close out and my thoughts as typed up to this point will simply stand on their own.  I'm ready for 2011.  It also will be a year like none other and starkly different than 2009 and 2010.  At least I have some constants, right?    Those constants sleep inside my home and are there for me day and night.

- If I don't post again this week, I want to wish you and yours a wonderful New Year.  Make no resolutions, make only permanents changes and stick to them.  Statistically, resolutions just don't work.  It's the firm commitment to change and a new direction that work...and surrounding yourself with people that will keep you accountable and provide the necessary kick in the tail when needed!

Have a great week, and Happy Trails!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Humbled. Gratitude. Patriot.

Yea, I'm Mr. Tough Guy.  I don't cry, I don't show too much mushy emotion, I'm tough. Well, that's not entirely true.  I do have a few weak spots.  My little girls...that's certainly one of them.  Another one that goes deep...very deep to my core is my love of country.  My US of A.  In the past few months, I have been getting at least one e-mail a week of a fellow sailor or soldier who I personally know who is being deployed to either Operation New Dawn (Iraq) or the 9 year old conflict, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan).  I follow them online and try to be as supportive as I can.  I also gather as much info as I can because I know my day is approaching as well.  Along that journey, I find little snippets of heroism, valor, and absolute dedication to country.  I found one of those this morning, courtesy of the USO.  It is about 10min long and worthy of your time to watch it.  It is the true story of a soldier who answered the call, survived an IED explosion miraculously, and is happier than he has ever been today.  It emotionally...and physically moved me.  It reached way deep inside and for that, I had to share it with you today.  "Thank you, SGT Yarosh.  Thank you."

The video cannot be embedded here due to restrictions set forth by Vimeo.  Here is the direct link.  Thank you for supporting the warfighter...yesterday, today, and every day into the future.

Monday, December 20, 2010

M-Cubed for 12/20/2010

Monday Morning Musings for December Twentieth, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Last week, I made reference to a winter storm bearing down on us.  Well, it all depended on where you lived as to how much snow fell.  As for me, I live in the "Lake Erie Snow Belt" and the lake hasn't frozen yet so it churns out snow like it's going out of style.  We got over 18 inches!  Schools were canceled for Monday and Tuesday which forced me to stay home as well with my girls. :-)  Haven't got much snow since but it also hasn't been over 32F so all the snow still sits out there.  And it isn't even Winter, yet...

- Saturday was URINEO...pronounced "uree-no"...stands for Ultrarunners in northeast Ohio.  Basically, it's an unofficial event where runners run between 8 and 50 miles around the main two lakes at Mill Creek State Park, the same location of September's YUT-C 50K.  I did one loop for 8 miles so I started much, much later than the 4am start for others.  I also brought a very full crock pot of turkey/veggie chili for everyone afterwards as we all gathered at the Old Log Cabin for the 1st annual NEO Trail Fest.  It was a great time had by all!  Of course, I grabbed some spectacular photos along the way and they're posted here. I sure do love the NEO Trail Club crew!  Great job to everyone who had a hand in organizing the event and to all who showed up in the 15-20F sunny weather! And to Slim...58 miles!!!  CRAZY, man!

- I was going to put up a post just about this but I'll limit my anger to just one bullet point today: Glenn Beck.  Yea, yea, yea...many of you would assume that I'd be a fan, simply because I live "right of center" and am conservative.  You'd be wrong, too.  I greatly dislike the man and his rants, drama, and cult-like following.  To me, he is a show boat of conspiracy theories, arrogance, and emptiness.  I don't watch his show, but for a few moments here and there, I'll tune in on XM Radio on the way home from work since the majority of my drive happens in the 5 o'clock hour.  A whole lot of talk, gloom-n-doom, and how he weaves in foul language into it all...well, it just grates me.  Anyway, that's my one little snippet of frustration that I needed to share.  There's a lot more where this came from but it'll have to be saved for the trail.  The opposite of frustration would be on Sunday night on TLC...Sarah Palin's Alaska.  :-)  You see?  I'm "balanced!"

- Last night, my church hosted our annual Christmas Cantata.  Marjie and both my girls participated, attended the many, many rehearsals and my only job was behind the camera.  My Canon G11 sure does have a great low-light setting which was perfect since the lights were out.  I put the pictures into a video, set to a beautiful piano solo of "Carol of the Bells."  Only 3min long.  Watch it here and enjoy!  Great job to Amy Johnson who planned everything and led the program!  WELL DONE!!!

- Christmas in 5 days.  Tree down in 6.  I'm just sayin'....  (although highly unlikely this will happen...just wishful thinkin'!!!)  The Christmas music has been good this year, though.  I've listened to XM's Holiday Pops a lot this year instead of the contemporary stuff.  I love hearing the strings and brass playing traditional Christmas music.

- For you Dave Ramsey fans, you'll love this: I had a very vivid dream early last week where I visited "Financial Peace Plaza"...where his business is located in Tennessee and where he broadcasts his radio and TV show from.  He actually took the time out to come out and talk to me, plan our "Debt Free Scream" for next year, AND he gave me his personal phone number and e-mail address.  I woke up totally bummed the dream had NOT happened but it sure was "real" while it happened!  Thanks, Uncle Dave!

- I was left to myself a few nights ago and spent it at the theater to see "The Fighter," starring Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, and Amy Adams.  I now see why they got 6 Golden Globe nominations...all well deserved!  Very, very good movie and a true one, too.  4 stars!  Movie homepage.  Afterwards, I saw Angelina Jolie in "The Tourist."  Awful.  Just awful and not even worth the $1.00 rental cost at the RedBox where you'll find it soon enough.

- My Navy duties are over for calendar year 2010 but in January, loads of joy await.  While I'm in Columbus in January, I will have the joy of getting my first shot in a series of Anthrax...oh joy!!!  I'll also get the TB shot and typhoid.  Marjie is telling me I'd better take some ibuprofen with me that weekend.  Way to kick off 2011!!!

- Speaking of 2011, I'm going to make a run at the Rootstown School Board.  3 positions will open in November next year and I plan to be on the ballot.  Under a campaign motto of "Integrity. Service. Accountability", friends have already come forward to stand alongside me in my pursuit of a seat on the Board.  After the first of the year, I'll waste no time getting the signatures via petition and filing the necessary paperwork with the county.  Being a non-partisan election, there is no conflict with my government job nor my military service, I just can't use a military photo as my primary campaign photo, although I can use it and refer to it.  I'm brainstorming now but am going to start a website soon, using Blogger.  Stand by!

- A friend (Amy) recently suggested the following from Starbucks: a salted caramel hot chocolate mocha with extra shots of espresso.  That just sounds awesome in every way and reason to leave for work early this morning.  Hey, it's only 4:30am right now so I've got plenty of time.  I think I'll modify it to white chocolate and add soy milk.  That will be an avalanche of sweetness!!!  Vanilla soy...white chocolate...caramel...oh my!!

- My 4th Annual WaterFalls Run....THIS Sunday!!!  Should have around 100 runners out there! I also picked up my new Gorillapod this past week via  Now I can wrap my camera around a tree limb, on top of any uneven rock, and it serves as a great handle to carry my camera while running!

Happy Trails, everyone and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!  (Leave the "X" out of Christmas!)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

If Not for Facebook...

A few years back, I was resistant to opening a Facebook account but Marjie didn't let up and eventually, I opened one up.  Back then, I saw no need.  Today, I would feel a distinct void if it wasn't there.  I know...I tried it one day and closed the account...for about 9.725 hours.  Thankfully, Facebook is set up to start you right back up where you left nice of them.

So if you're not on Facebook, you may not understand this.  Let me help.  If not for Facebook, I would not know: how far my friends ran, how good/bad/excellent/great/ugly their run was, where they ran, how hard it was, how easy it was, if it was sunny, cloudy, raining, snowing, windy, cold, hot, or humid, or when someone is having a bad day, good day, great day, wonderful day, long day, when a friend has lunch, where they had it, what they had, if it was good, bad, great, cold, hot, high calorie, low calorie, and perhaps a picture of it, when someone gets up, can't sleep, is going to bed, takes a nap, gets up from a nap, or can't stay awake, or when a friend passes an exam, is studying for an exam, fails an exam, an exam is 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 hours, days, or months away, and what it means to pass that exam, when someone gets a pet, what it is named, a picture of it, a pet passes away, it is hit and killed, is put to sleep (I had to do this and shared it on Facebook a few years back), someone runs their first marathon, 25th, 50th, or 100th marathon, first 5k, first 100-miler, first 50-miler or anyone in between, and 200 pictures to go with each event, or when a friend checks in at Starbucks, any retail store, at work, at home, at a hotel, at a vacation spot, at the movies, or for some reason...their bathroom, or when a friend is cooking dinner, the recipe for that dinner, a picture of that dinner, and how the dinner tasted, or when a friend gets promoted, gets fired, calls off of work because they're sick, is looking for work, having a good day at work, having a horrible day work, or when a friend enters a relationship, gets divorced, gets married, or breaks up, or...on a daily basis, who is having a birthday and we and my friends' 500 other friends wish them a happy birthday on their 'wall' which some people (like myself) thank each and every person for their birthday wish, and then we have all of the people, places, and things we have subscribed to...restaurants, businesses, favorite products, political likings, politicians, military favorites, sporting groups/clubs we are members of, or races or events we are going to be attending, but then we have all those events...RSVP is a must, of course...are you a yes, no, or a maybe or should you just remove yourself from the event but will the host be offended if you do that, and then decisions loom about whether or not to comment on any of the aforementioned items, "like" them or "like" and of the afore-aforementioned comments on the aforementioned items above.  Pictures, oh  I have hundreds and hundred and hundreds on there...and so does everyone else...comment, tag people, share the picture, share the album, make a picture your profile picture...oh, the decisions.

If not for would I know all this?  How could I live?  That, my friends, is why Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is one of the richest people in the world and Time Magazine's Person of the Year.  Thanks, Mark...thanks a lot.  :-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

M-Cubed for 12/13/2010

Monday Morning Musings for December Thirteenth, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Winter storm warning in my neck of the woods through Wednesday!  Wouldn't it be amazing if I had to call off work tomorrow for "family friendly leave" because my girls' school is canceled?  I was last at work on December 3, 2010. :-)

- Great conclusion on Friday to 7 days on active duty.  I had the privilege of attending a 5 day course called "Navy Reserve Unit Management" at Joint Expeditionary Base in Virginia Beach.  "JEB" used to be called Little Creek Amphibious Base for those of you familiar with the area.  Many things have changed over the years and JEB much better describes its mission.  Home to the Riverine squadrons and our fierce (but deadly quiet) Navy SEALS, the base is amazing today.  Ironically, this is where I took my undergrad night classes back in the mid-90s.  The base isn't even recognizable today from then.  Honestly, I think it's just the Starbucks on base.  It was about 100 yards from where I was staying on base.  Now THAT'S convenience and quality of life!

- The course, "NRUM," focused on all aspects of leading a command in the Navy Reserve.  Out of about 55 attendees from all corners of our country, I was nearly the most junior in the room.  Most in command or second-in-command are 2-3 ranks higher than me.  In fact, the slot I currently fill is intended for the rank of O-4, and I'm an O-2.  To serve second-in-command as the "XO"...Executive a great honor so early in my career as an officer.  I absolutely love it!  Anyway, this position was my ticket into the course, a course that many in leadership haven't even been to.  We had several chiefs of staff come in from the Navy Reserve headquarters all week talking about things from finance to force travel to the mobilization process.  Extremely good high level view of the whole "machine" we call the Navy Reserve.  Monday was especially good as it was more about the personal side of leadership and included another in depth personality test.  Big shocker there...I'm still a strong Type A leader style.  One thing is for sure: if you're in leadership in the Navy Reserve, it is a far cry from peoples' perception of the "weekend warrior" commitment.  It's a daily commitment and a lot more than even a part time job.  Multi-tasking to the extreme.

- I heard this yesterday and have to paraphrase it...thanks, Bill!  Wouldn't it be ludicrous to celebrate Presidents Day if President Lincoln or Washington never lived?  How about celebrating Pearl Harbor Day on December 7th if the attack on Pearl Harbor never happened?  What about celebrating Independence Day if we had never declared our Independence?  Insane, right?  Who would do something like this?  Even more insane, ludicrous, and stunning would be people who would celebrate Christmas, the celebration of Christ's birth but not even acknowledge Him!  Look how much goes into Christmas: retailers count on it for the majority of their annual revenue, countless "holiday" parties, decorating, stringing up the lights, lavish meals, and materialism at its "finest"...and how much of that is done outside of the singular reason for the day?  We as a nation are operating all around the actual reason for the day but still celebrate it and make it mean what "we" want it to...ignoring the actual reason for it.  The Japanese really did attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, right?  Thought so.  (ok, stepping off of soapbox)

- So who just unsubscribed from my blog?  Come on now.  Stick around for a little bit longer.  I promise it won't hurt.

- Long time reader and wondering where all the posts are about running?  Don't worry...I still's just not the focus in my life right now.  Plus, my 4th Annual WaterFalls Run is just around the corner.  It'll basically operate itself with or without me.  Over 70 are already RSVP'd for it.  This year, it'll be on Sunday, December 26th.  I will most likely opt for the abbreviated version of it but still get in all 3 waterfalls.  Before that, though, is URINEO...pronounced "ureeeno"...this Saturday at Mill Creek Park.  One or many loops around the lake followed by a social at the Old Log Cabin at 1pm.  Looking forward to seeing some of my closest peeps...Gombu, Slim, Kimba, Pebble, Baby Harris, Moose, and who knows who else.  ALWAYS a good time with these guys.  After WaterFalls, the Run for Regis is in January...sold out for months now.

- Marjie and I are excited to be celebrating one year here in a few weeks of kicking off our debt snowball.  Unbelievably, around 40% of our income in 2010 has gone towards debt.  40%!!!  If we had not written our first budget at Christmas 2009, that 40% would be spent...somewhere...and we'd still have the debt.  We have re-Pinky-swore to each other another year of gazelle intensity and will not stop or slow this fast moving train!  I spent about 2 hours yesterday building our budget for 2011.  That may be a bit premature but seeing the goals written down like that provides drive, motivation, and the "umph" to get us moving.  You know what they say..."Fail to plan and you are planning to fail."  Written goals are key to success!

- In closing today: my thoughts and prayers are going out to the families of six U.S. soldiers who gave their lives yesterday in the farming village of Nawa.  Nawa is located in central Afghanistan.  They had taken over an old house and were making it into a new outpost when a Taliban man drove a minivan, loaded with 2000kg of explosives into it, sacrificing himself for his "cause" and killing our soldiers.  This enemy is like none other we have faced before and they will stop at nothing (including killing themselves and supposedly giving themselves the "Fast Track" to heaven) to spill American blood.  Please do not forget our servicemen and women while you enjoy the holiday season under the blanket of freedom that they provide.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Coming Home: It's America

I love to serve...that's no secret.  I love to salute our national flag, I love to wear the cloth of our nation, and I am blessed to have a force behind me (my family) that does not waiver.  Returning home last night from seven days on active duty in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area, I was flooded with emotions as I drove through the Pennsylvania mountains via the Penna Turnpike and into Ohio.  It's almost chameleon-like and quite hard to explain.  It's like shedding one skin to reveal another but having that old skin still underneath.  In Ohio, every county has one painted barn...somewhere...that has the logo on it for Ohio...I believe they are for our Bicentennial.  Actually, if you want to see them all, go here.  Seeing those, the many harvested cornfields, and homes blanketed with snow and no hint of military around, I felt a strong sense of "country"..."patriotism"..."dedication"...and H O M E.  If home was Virginia Beach, it would feel totally different. There, military members are everywhere and most likely your neighbors.  Here, it's totally different and like living under the veil of what is true.  It also felt totally "right" to turn on some country music which is far and away, the best collection of patriotic, country-loving songs around.  Right away, I ran across Rodney Atkins' song, "It's America."  It defines so simply what is great about America and it really fuels my passion for that.  Unlike many songs where you can't understand the lyrics, this one is easy.  If you really can't, here they are.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fun Couple of Days

It's been a great couple of days in Virginia.  As a place we called home for about 7 years, I took the opportunity to visit a few places.  On Monday, the first stop was in a cool neighborhood in Norfolk called Ghent.  In Ghent is the running store that started it all for me back in 1996.  All of my running shoes, mid-week track work, tons of advice, and plenty of newsletter stuffings with the Tidewater Striders Running Club: Running, Etc. is the place.  Since I was last here, they knocked down the side wall and doubled in size and still have 2 floors.  Upstairs was this bulletin board with pictures both current and 15-20 years old.
On the wall, I spotted the gem below.  That's me, 2nd from the right, at the finish line of  the Kiawah Island Marathon, my 6th marathon back on December 11, 1999.  I ran it in 3:43.  Kiawah Island Marathon is a very wealthy island just off the coast of Charleston, SC and the race sells out each year.  Excellent "destination" marathon and normally, lots of local "Striders" make the trip.  Lots of thoughts and emotions stirred up when I saw this photo stapled to the wall.  I miss those people!
Afterwards, I grabbed some dinner at Kelly's Tavern, a placed that has gotten voted #1 for the Best Burger in Norfolk for years and years.  They offer fresh ground turkey burgers (not the nasty frozen types) to substitute for beef burgers so I opted for their Gourmet Burger...avocado, sauteed onions, bacon, and feta cheese...accompanied by fresh cut fries...OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!  So good!
Walking around Ghent to kill some time, I finally came to the Naro Cinema for the 7:30pm showing of "127 Hours"...the true story of a hiker who got trapped for 127 hours in the mountains back in 2003.  Basically a one-man movie, starring James Franco.  I'll just say this: Oscar.  I predict he will get an Oscar for this and I give it 2 thumbs up...4 stars....or whatever rating system you prefer.  The Naro is a very old cinema, locally owned, and very small and quaint inside.  Baklava and other local eats are sold inside along with super amazing popcorn.  The Naro is often the place you find many of the "artsy" movies and also plays home to local university's film series, like my alma mater's...Regent University.  Love the Naro and always like to return when I visit.

Tuesday night was a fun night.  I sneakily planned to surprise a great friend whom I had not seen in 9 years.  He (Chuck) is the one responsible for getting Marjie and I to wake the heck up and get out of debt.  Back when we lived in Virginia Beach, Chuck and I were in the church orchestra together (he plays trombone and me, trumpet) and our families spent a lot of time together.  The Surprise: Cindy (his wife) and I worked together so I would arrive at a local restaurant and after they walked in, ordered, and sat down, I would just appear at the table.  It went off without a hitch!  Total surprise and over 2 hours later, we said goodnight.  It was an awesome night, catching up on old times, and sharing "Debt Snowball" secrets and morsels of motivation.  Just prior to meeting Chuck and Cindy, I stopped by my beloved alma mater at Regent University, where I graduated from back in 2006 with my MBA.!!!  The place just moves me, simply by walking around the campus. I got in the bookstore only minutes before they closed, grabbed some alumni gear, then walked over to the library.  "Christian Leadership to Change the World" is still the motto and displayed in the photo below.  I like this photo a lot, especially with the flag in it.  This is inside the atrium of the library.
Also adjacent to the campus is the world headquarters of CBN.  Out front of the CBN Headquarters is the flame that burns 24/7/365.  Seen below.
To end the evening in fine fashion, I did something very "not Nick."  Checking some status updates on Facebook before I called it a night, I noticed that Carmen checked in at a restaurant not too far away.  Carmen is an avid multi-blogger who Marjie has been following for years.  (Here's the main one the Marjie reads)  Carmen also had me write a guest post on ultra-running nutrition back in the summer for one of her blogs.  I had never met her and thought "Why not?!?!?"  So, I commented on her "Check In" and a few minutes later, I was there, meeting her and her husband.  I'm very much the introvert so Marjie was floored when I told her I was actually doing it.  Great to meet you, Carmen!

A fun couple of days!  Looking forward to the rest of the week!

Monday, December 6, 2010

M-Cubed for 12/6/2010

Monday Morning Musings for December Sixth, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Snow?  What snow?  (I knew I should have got that snow blower fixed! argh!!!!)  At least I put new tires on Marjie's SUV.

- My final Navy drill of the year was here and gone this past weekend in Columbus.  Another great weekend and quite productive.  Capped off with a very good round-table discussion about deployment, the in's and out's of it, combat training FAQs, living conditions in the war zone, travel amongst different locations, etc.  We are such a high demand unit where everyone is either leaving soon or recently returned, that this was a very valuable time to share info and pass it on to help each other.

- With that drill being this weekend, the Bigfoot 50K had to give.  Two things can't happen at once so the running event lost out this time around.  From what I hear, the inaugural Bigfoot 50K was a huge success!  Congrats to all who finished it and to Vince and Brandon (co-race directors).  Also thanks to the volunteers to made it happen!  Perhaps next year I can make it down to Salt Fork State Park.  That's the plan.

- Also on the running front, big congrats to the Burning River 100 which was awarded the 2011 and 2012 USATF National Trail Championship again.  THANK YOU to Joe Jurczyk for traveling to beautiful Virginia Beach to fight for it...and get it!  Way to go, Joe!

- While gone last night, Marjie was one of several homes on our church's first annual Christmas Walk.  It's definitely a "girl thing" but she sure did decorate our house well.  She posted several pictures on her blog if you want to check them out.  Nice job, Babe!

- I can't give the details just yet but this is going to be a FUN week.  By next week's M-Cubed, surprises will be hatched, old times brought forward, and hopefully, lots of sushi consumed!  Stand by!

- So did you hear about Wachovia Bank banning all Christmas trees from their branches? (no pun intended)  No trees...of course, so they can honor everyone's "diversity" and "equal rights".  I'm not sure how the "Tree" infringes on someone's rights and can be offensive.  What's incredibly ironic is that Menorahs are approved for display in the branches.  Does something not seem right here?!?!  You decide.

- OK, I've got $25 credited to my iTunes account yet can't seem to make any choices about what to download!'s like me in a shoe store trying to pick out a pair of shoes!  Too difficult!  (I did like Glee's version of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" last week.  I love that song.  Speaking of music loved, XM channel 77 is Classical Holiday Pops.  I listened to that channel for hours on end yesterday with zero boredom.  Loved it!

- There are 300 tickets available for this Thursday's Chris Tomlin concert in Akron...I wish I could go!!!  Casting Crowns was incredible there last year and I'm sure Chris' concert will be as well.  Mr. Dudones...we need to look ahead and find a concert to go to before April!

- Debt Paydown Update: I don't talk about it often, but it's hard to not talk about it as Marjie and I are 3 weeks from our one-year anniversary from when we said we are "sick and tired of being sick and tired!"  We built a budget for the first time in 17 years of marriage, cold-turkey'd the way we were doing things and went to cash only, and attacked our debt with "gazelle intensity."  The keys to success thus far has been teamwork and accountability to each other and that budget.  Every penny has a name and everything is discussed and planned in advance.  We are today, credit card free and have only the final dollars left on my car and debt on our house.  We were talking last night and we've applied about 40% of our gross income to our debt this year!  WOW!  If we hadn't done this (thanks to Marjie for taking the lead and forcing me to read "Uncle Dave's" book), 0% would've gone to debt, we'd have more debt (and more stress) and have nothing to show for it.  I know this to be true because for 17 years of marriage, it was!  We decided last night to infuse a new dose of passion and fire into this and re-fire the kiln!

- Scout.  Remember Scout who I mentioned in last week's M-Cubed?  Well, we decided to take him home for a trial period.  He is really a great dog!  He's a Plott Hound and in his very nature, an endurance runner as Plott Hounds are used to hunt bear...not to kill them but to wear them out in the long run so the hunter can get the bear.  Well, we faced the harsh reality for the second time in a year: we are not a dog family.  While he was awesome, we just couldn't stand to leave him crated for 8-10 hours a day and that crate time wasn't going to change.  It created a whole new stress and anxiety in the house that we felt immediately.  48 hours after bringing him home, he went back to his foster home.  That evening, I met Marje and the girls for authentic Mexican and with no discussion previous, Marjie and I turned to each other and spontaneously held up our pinkies and said "Pinky swear to never do this again."  Talk about being on the same page!  And so we did.  It was yet another sad but necessary event in our lives.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

First/Foot Prints

There is something incredibly majestic about winter running.  As I headed out today under a temperature of 25F and a windchill of 13F and under a thick cloud cover, it was at first a bit uncomfortable.  However, as I veered onto my favorite country road, I was granted the privilege of laying down the first prints in the snow covered road.  Breeze blowing cold, cornfields harvested, and flickering security lights on the scattered homes, the picture...or better yet, the painting that I was running into was surreal.  A friend recently said to me how there has never been a run that he eventually did that he regretted.  Yes, on days like today when I wake up at 3:30am, peer out the window at Old Glory battling the wind and look at the thermometer that is hanging on at 25F, heading out doesn't seem like the most logical of things to do.  Yet as my good friend said, the morning run in the bitter cold and biting wind never disappoints.

Happy First Footprints, friends...wherever they may lead you today.