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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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Briefly on why ‘Better Call Saul’ probably won’t suck (but I reserve the right to change my mind)

Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about AMC’s Breaking Bad. To say I love it is an understatement. The show was genius on every level, and I don’t believe I’ll ever know television that great ever again.

When it ended, I was among the thousands of fans who were sad and joyous to see it go, concluding exactly the way it should have. A show that good couldn’t live forever without endangering the integrity of the story and the characters. TV has a cringeworthy history of great shows gone wrong because the networks tried to keep them alive. I could not watch this story go on longer than it needed to, and I also knew Vince Gilligan wouldn’t let it.

‘All the days became so long,
Did you really think I’d do you wrong?’

Another reason I was glad to see it end was because I was too involved with the characters. I cried for Hank on the way to work one day — in an off cycle. I called Trey, sobbing: “I’m a hot mess! I’m really scared for Hank this next season!” (We know now that I had reason to be, so I’m not completely crazy.) I also dreamed about the show. During the second part of the final season, I dreamt on a couple of occasions that I had to write the series finale against some crazy-impossible deadline — as the Nazis were on the way to our house. Although this sounds ridiculous in the light of day, as I type this, I remember so many details of that the dream, but mostly I remember how terrifying it was. I can sometimes talk myself out of a nightmare, but I wasn’t able to in this case. (“This is just a dream, this is just a dream, you’ll wake up soon … Oh, my God, no it’s not! THEY’RE COMING!”)

Vince Gilligan’s Nazis invaded my dreams. I’d like to chalk that up to a simple case of fangirldom, but that’s not it: The character development on Breaking Bad was simply that good. The Nazis terrified me just as much as the other characters engaged me. We fell in and out of love with the core characters, just as we do with the people who come and go in our lives. We came to enjoy that uncertainty, never knowing how we would feel about a character from one season to the next. Now, as I rewatch earlier episodes, the ones when Walt was much more likable, I’m angry at his character because I know the destructive path he will pave with his hubris, and I mourn his future casualties. When I watch Hank make one awful joke after the other and suffer paralyzing panic attacks, I’m sad for the jocular boob. He’s the hero I didn’t see coming — the one I didn’t want to lose, even though I knew he had to go.

These are two meager examples of how deeply invested I was in these characters. When I heard rumors of a prequel, based on Saul Goodman’s character, I thought it was a lie. Or a carefully crafted PR stunt by the studio to build interest in the second half of the final season.  As it became more evident there was such a show in development, I didn’t believe and didn’t want to.

And then came the trailers. And the gushing critiques. And now I’m watching it with bated breath, reminding myself that the writers don’t want this to suck anymore than I do. I’m also reminding myself that even before the news of the new series that Trey and I would consult IMDB and then watch all the Breaking Bad episodes that have Saul in them. That’s investment in a character — a character you want to know for a long time.

I’m glad to meet him again.


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To my husband, on his last day in journalism

Today is my husband’s last day at USA TODAY, a place where he has spent the past 14 years helping shape the nation’s news — through nights, through holidays, through buyouts and layoffs. Today is also his last day in journalism, just one month shy of his 26th anniversary in the business he fell in love with.Trey Barrineau, USA TODAY

For Trey, journalism was a calling, a profession he believed in, a profession he was eager to praise. Over the past 15 years, as he watched the news industry shift, shake and stumble as it struggles to reinvent itself, he was equally quick to criticize it — and defend it. That flip-flop is part of the love affair with news, something only journalists would understand. Just as only journalists would understand how hard it is to ever consider leaving the newsroom.

Trey’s decision to make the leap into trade publications did not come easily. He loved the newsroom. He loved his co-workers. He loved the news business. “It’s all I ever wanted to do,” he said.keuroac

I understood — and still do, which is why I’m writing this to him today.

Trey, I know how much you love journalism. I also know your talents are many and your versatility is without bounds. I know that you’ll be great in whatever you do after journalism. There is life after the newsroom. A big, beautiful life. Our gifted colleagues who have been bought out or laid off have shown us that time and again. There are so many of them, too many, but they live their lives well — as you will.

But if you’re ever feeling nostalgic for the newsroom, I want you to remember two things:

1) Journalism isn’t the same profession that you fell in love with — far from it. We only have to look as far as the most recent headlines to show us that. Newsrooms around the globe devoted a week to nauseating, ’round-the-clock reporting on Kim Kardashian’s ass, a collective effort that easily proves my point multiple times over.

2) The colleagues you loved most are long gone, ousted by the industry’s cruel economics. The newsroom is not what it once was because so many of the people who mattered most to you are not here.Determine page

Perhaps I’m the wrong person to write this. I’m much too eager to cheer when a colleague or former colleague makes a break for their newsroom’s nearest exit. I do not believe journalism is God’s work. I do not believe journalism is the only noble form of communication, and I don’t believe leaving it means throwing down ethics. And for now, news’ mission of truth tellers and watchdogs lives in some forms — but for how long? Although there are thousands of true believers out there fighting its corruption, we have to wonder at what cost — especially when people we love are on the front lines in the death battle for eyeballs, and their destinies look more uncertain with every quarter’s balance sheet.clinton7

That said, the future — your future — is far from bleak.

Communications is an art. There are endless ways to tell the world’s stories — and the truth. There will always be a need for well-crafted message that inspires and informs, shapes and reforms, deciphers and expounds. You’ve spent a rich career clarifying the muddiest of deadline-battered copy and writing pure poetry in headlines — all the while racing a merciless clock. Now it’s time to take those immense talents and use them well outside a newsroom. And as you go, I have zero doubt that you’ll craft many meaningful messages and tell many beautiful stories, no matter where you are.

Godspeed, my love.


I like my watermelon shaken, not stirred – the agua fresca edition

I’ve had the pleasure of this woman making drinks in my home. Follow this recipe if you want to be delighted.

Living A la Mode

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Have you ever heard of agua fresca? It is a very fancy way of saying sweet juice. Or technically fresh water, but the catch is, it is never just water. I mean, if it was just water it would be called water and that would be boring. And if you are not in the mood for something with alcohol you can sound extra fancy saying “do you have any agua fresca?” as opposed to, “do you have any fruit juice?”

One of my favorite agua fresca’s happens to include one of my favorite summer obsessions, watermelon. And it is so easy and you can really do it with any fruit. I plan on expanding my agua fresca horizons later on this summer. But for now, it is watermelon for me.

Just take some watermelon and put it through a blender or food processor and liquefy. Then strain…

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Lost dog in Fairfax City, Va.

UPDATE: Fairfax City worker Alex and his pal found Siri in a creek about a mile from the house. He was wet and muddy, but otherwise OK. We took him to the vet for a quick checkup and bath, and now he’s home again. We couldn’t be more relieved or grateful.

Thank you, Alex and friend!

LOST in Fairfax City, Va., 10 pm, July 2. Tri-colored Shetland sheepdog. 25 lbs. Friendly. Shy. Name: Sirius/Siri.

PLEASE message me if you have info or share on your social accounts. I’d be very grateful.

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R.I.P., Dr. Angelou

“Still I Rise”: Dr. Maya Angelou speaks in September 1993 at Southwest Edgecombe High in Pinetops, N.C. Photographer: J. Daniels, Tarboro Telegram.

Such are the assignments for the lucky and the young. I was close enough to see the fire in her eyes. I just wish I’d had a better camera then.

"Still I Rise": Dr. Maya Angelou speaks in September 1993 at Southwest Edgecombe High in Pinetops, N.C. Photographer: J. Daniels, Tarboro Telegram.

“Still I Rise”: Dr. Maya Angelou speaks in September 1993 at Southwest Edgecombe High in Pinetops, N.C. Photographer: J. Daniels, Tarboro Telegram.

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