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Originally established for times when I needed more than 140 characters to finish a thought on marketing or media.


A 14-Paragraph Memoir of a Lapsed Runner

 

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After a long day of lounging in my home office and staring at my back as I wrote prose that could ONLY become award-winning marketing content, my 13-year-old Sheltie was eager to get out and about. Mostly about, not just out. We can let him outside into the almost-junglelike backyard that has plenty of room to move and a vast underbrush to explore, and he could not be more bored. Rather, he prefers to traverse the neighborhood at a nearly glacial pace, sniffing every perpendicular structure along the way.

I once saw a dog documentary that featured a dog behaviorist who likened dogs walking and sniffing to humans logging into Facebook: Sniff. I’m here. Sniff. Pee. I like this. Sniff. I like that. Longer pee. I’m here again. Little pee. Hello. Sniff, raise leg. HBD. Sniff. Pee. Love this! Sniff.

But I digress, as all writers write when they have no other transitional sentence.

This afternoon, I was also eager to get out of the house. My afternoon fatigue — self-inflicted from a long night of scrolling through Instagram and researching idiot causes of iPhone-induced insomnia — had come perilously close to derailing a writing project I had labored over for three hours. My phone reported a frigid 49 degrees out, which meant leaving my balmy home office of 70 degrees. Naturally, I had to bundle up as though we were about to trek the arctic tundra: two coats, texting mittens and overpriced sunglasses bought a lifetime ago that would surely protect against the blinding-white glare of the winter sun.

We walked our usual route, careful not to poop or step on a neighbor’s fresh-laid cement. When we came to our usual turning point, I decided to soldier on. The sun was dipping behind the trees. The sky was pretty. We hadn’t walked on this street in a while; it would be nice to see the neighbors’ Christmas lights.

Up and down we went, one hill after another. I wasn’t nearly as short of breath as I had anticipated, and my sweet, geriatric dog trotted along happily, with surprisingly more energy than much-younger dogs. Our neighborhood is called “the Hills” for a reason: There are hills. Large and small. Formidable and sometimes unforgiving. Cross-country teams and running clubs train here. In another life, not terribly long ago, so did I. That is, if what you call what I used to do “training,” which I don’t. I just ran; some years, I ran daily.

When I finally figured out how to run on my terms and for me — not anyone else — running became really fun. Running became a passion.

I ran a few races here and there early on in my Middle-Age Discovery of Running™ — which, according to some unnamed historians, I was the VERY FIRST woman ever to embark upon such an honorable midlife mission. I tried training plans, but they didn’t hold my interest. I was a simple runner. Every time I ran, I wanted to run better than the last run, no matter whether it was distance, speed or time. Just better. What exactly defined “better” varied from day to day. Years-long story short: When I finally figured out how to run on my terms and for me — not anyone else — running became really fun. Running became a passion.

And then one day the love affair was over.

It wasn’t a quick death. Quitting something you love rarely is. In this case, it was more like a drawn-out divorce that no one wanted.

Don’t get me wrong: Dog walks aren’t bad; they just don’t provide the flush and rush of endorphins that running offers.

I don’t believe anyone ever intentionally gives up running without physical cause. Most of the time, and this was certainly my case, life gets in the way. A thankless, bullshit job with long hours takes over. No time for a four-miler? You try to squeeze in a short jog instead. You can kid yourself for a while, but it’s not the same. Eventually that jog becomes a walk. Then the walk gets shorter, and then finally, all you’re left with is stroll-and-sniff Doggie Facebook Walks™. Don’t get me wrong: Dog walks aren’t bad; they just don’t provide the flush and rush of endorphins that running offers.

Today on our walk, as the sun slipped away, streaking the sky with dazzling corals and blazing pinks, I noticed all the things I would know now if I were still running. We have a lot of new neighbors. The house on the corner is doing something new with their lights this year. Bold move. I wonder if they’ll get a ticket for that. That fluffy dog in the third cul-de-sac is new! And really loud. He’s big, but I think he’s a puppy. Little kids seem to live at this other house now. Let’s step over this pink scooter, and move it off the sidewalk, along with this tiny bike. It seems a lot of the houses have growing families, alive with little ones eager for a visit from the Jolly Ole Elf. “This way, Santa!” a homemade sign reads.

Up and down, up and down, the sidewalk of my neighborhood led us past one lovely surprise after another. There was a time when I knew every slab and joint of concrete, and every crack, crevice and dip that could twist an ankle. In spring, I knew which streets had the prettiest flowers. Ooh, I can grow that! No, no, you can’t. In summer, I knew which ones had the best shadows. I’m BURNING! In fall, I knew which street had the most dangerous acorns. NOT TODAY, NUTS OF SATAN!

And in winter, like today, I knew when it was 4:30 by the way the shadows fell, a backdrop for the twinkle of holiday lights, a quiet prelude to the Mumfords’ soaring horns and harmonies that would propel us up the Last Big Hill™ home.

Maybe I’ll know all this again one day and more.


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‘Grease’ was the word: Me on Paragraph Planet

I’m featured on Paragraph Planet today, a 75-word piece was inspired by my friend Amy Stapleford Jackson, who was spending summer afternoons indulging in a revival of the 1978 movie Grease, starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta.

For those of us who are a certain age, they were the ones that we wanted. We didn’t want Danny to be stranded at the drive-in, branded a fool. We wanted the beauty school dropout to go back to high school.  Although we were too young to appreciate all the innuendo, we knew all the words by heart and sang each note as if we’d written it, singing into Goody’s hairbrushes and dancing around a bedroom, mentally wearing the skin-tight black pants Sandy wore in the last scene.

Paragraph Planet is a creative writing website that features 75-word flash-fiction pieces on one topic. If you’re a writer, please try your hand at it. There’s something so satisfying about writing just 75 of just-right words. If you’re a reader, click and click daily. There are some real gems there, and they make for a nice breather between phone calls, a shared human moment before another deadline. Writers may also write a sequel to the posted paragraphs using their own 75 words.

Freelance writer Richard Hearn edits the site. He shares is philosophy and vision for the site in an interview with Terry Davidson Byrne at MommyTongue. When he’s not sorting through submissions, Hearn writes the “Distracted Dad” column for Latest Homes and “Dad Sense” for Mumsense magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @latestdad and @paragraphplanet.

After you read my paragraph, read more as you browse the archives or the author pages. Here’s mine, and here’s the page of my friend and former professor, Amanda Holmes.

If inspiration strikes after you’ve lost yourself in story after story, you can submit your 75 words — exactly 75 words — here.
 

UPDATE: This appeared on Paragraph Planet on 8-17-2011.

 

Grease was the word. The word that we heard. And sang. When we were 8, then 9. Then again at 38, 39 – loud. Tell me more about that summer lovin’; that fool stranded at the drive-in. What did they say? Monday at school. Oh, Sandy, you weren’t the one that we wanted. We wanted to be Rizzo, with her reasons for reputation. There were worse things we could do, but we weren’t hopelessly devoted to you.


Obama, Osama and everyone else

Twitter: My other home on the 'NetJust when I start to doubt social media’s muscle — (which happens when I garden)  — something such as Sunday’s late-night announcement of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden’s death makes me believe again.

I was at work when the speculation started about Obama’s announcement, throwing in my ridiculous two cents, and watched as the news of Osama’s death evolved from 140-character rumors and bronzed soundbites into full-blown confirmed reports — all long before Obama took the lectern.

Today, my Facebook feed, which is usually rife with Sunday night blues, dinner plans and high school reunion pics, is a welcome illustration of democracy: The mostly joyous status updates alternate between pointed-but-restrained praise for Bush’s post-9/11 efforts and nearly arrogant predictions of Obama’s 2012 victory. One or two friends have noted, rightly, that even after Osama’s demise, the United States will still have more enemies, and more than a few are quoting Mark Twain: “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” A quick check of that quote shows me that it’s also all over Twitter today. Oh, maddening crowd.

Also on Twitter, there’s more celebrating and, of course, the news of the day: the quick-and-dirty posts that show who’s getting the facts fastest. I’ll have plenty of news to read when I go into work tonight, so until then I’ll enjoy a lighter perspective.


Blame Cupid: The prequel (My stab at love stories)

I’m featured on Paragraph Planet today. My 75-word piece was the inspiration for the longer flash-fiction pieces featured on Doorknobs & Bodypaint in February: “Sub Rosa” and “To: Harpocrates.”

This piece is based on my theory that Cupid is a fat, lazy baby who is really bad at his job — and that’s why there are so many lonely people in the world. (Think Will Ferrell in a diaper.)

It’s a fun read, so be sure to check it out today. The pieces are changed daily.

Want something to read? Browse the archives or the author pages. Here’s mine, and here’s the page of my friend and former professor, Amanda Holmes.

Want to try your hand at it? You can submit your 75 words — exactly 75 words — here.

UPDATE: My piece “It’s a Broken Arrow” that appeared April 1 on ParagraphPlanet.com.

It’s a broken arrow. And my last. I can’t use it; it won’t do. She would never feel it, and he’ll never know. He’s been alone for a while now; a little longer won’t hurt. Besides, he has his dog to keep him company. Why let a woman ruin such a good thing? We’ll get her next year. I promise. I’ll even bring the special bow. The really good one. And an extra arrow or two.


DM @politicians: Think before you click ‘tweet’

USA TODAY’s Jackie Kucinich looks at how 140 characters can hurt a political campaign in the digital age. A status update gone wrong can go viral — and fast — and the next thing you know, Politico is reporting your indiscretion and resignation.

From the story with the snazzy headline that I wrote:

The rise of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have accelerated the rate an off-color remark or e-mail can be posted on a news site and in seconds turn into a national story read by millions of people.

Bill Burton, Democratic strategist and former spokesman for President Obama, puts the new dynamic in stark terms: “There is a lightning quickness to the speed at which candidates can build and accidentally dismantle their own campaigns. If candidates don’t figure out their place in the new digital world of politics, they will be destroyed by it.”