Sunday, June 27, 2010

Finding Happiness in the World (Wide Web)

"Nancy Gets Link-Happy"

This post started out being about finding/making my own happiness (and that is pretty much the whole point of everything I'm finally doing lately) but (as my posts often do) it sort of morphed into a list of some of the cool ways I've discovered that other people are working to make the world a happier place.  While some are a bit hokey, I generally admire these efforts.  They're contagious; you can't help but smile or giggle or wonder and even want to be a part of whatever crazy thing it is that they're doing.  And I find that these little episodes start to have a cumulative effect, sometimes one, in particular, keeps cropping up again and again.  The video goes viral and 13 different people send you the link.  The website for the lady who ran that workshop pops up on a friend-of-a-friend's blog.  Or you pick one thing to latch onto and then discover 6 other ideas that all nicely mesh together.... 

These are some of the things that have been "meshing" for me lately:

Running (obviously) is a really big part of the phenomenon for me.  I think it's the thing that's tying it all together.  Or maybe it's the lens through which I'm evaluating everything.  Whatever you call it, our new household phrase is "and it all comes back to Running".  Through this new-found fascination, I have discovered a whole bunch of runner-bloggers who provide advice, inspiration, and reassurance that I'm not the only one who feels the way I do.  And blogs are like that 1980's shampoo commercial:  one blog leads to another, and so on, and so on....  I meet people and discover we have running in common, or I discover I have running in common with people I've known a long time.  I'm connecting with my body in a way I haven't experienced for years. I've found a new connection with my husband as we scour the internet and the latest Runner's World for new and interesting tidbits and compare run times, aches & pains, and the building excitement for our upcoming Half Marathon (86 days and counting!).  I'm connecting with my kids on a platform of fitness and goal-setting and developing good habits for life.  Crazy talk!  My favorite blogs so far are: onemominmaine (the famous Emilie), DareToBecome, TallMomOnTheRun, and AndSoIRan.....

Quite a while ago, while doing research for my training programs at work, I happened on a movement called A Complaint Free World.  A minister tried something new with his parish, it caught on with surprising results and he wrote a book about it.  While some of the stories leave me a little incredulous, the premises are solid: complaining is a habit that you can stop, not complaining is a habit you can form, and if you stop physically complaining and you will feel better, at least emotionally, and maybe even physically.  You're supposed to wear a purple bracelet (yes, I admit the color was half the appeal for me!) and when (not if) you complain about something you switch it to the other wrist.  When you can go 21 days without switching it then you have developed a new habit, the habit of not complaining.  For me, the big take-away was the lesson about how we form a new habit through four stages:
1. "unconscious non-compliance" (you don't do it and don't even notice),
2. "conscious non-compliance" (you don't do it but at least you're aware of that fact),
3. "conscious compliance" (you intentionally do the desired thing) and
4. "unconscious compliance" (you do the good new thing without even thinking about it). 
You can use that understanding of the cognitive process to form any new habit. Our bad habits are habits because we are so used to doing them we don't even realize we are doing them.  But we can re-train ourselves to stop complaining, take our vitamins, smile to everyone we see, blog every morning, or whatever.  We just have to apply ourselves to it and stick with it for 3 weeks in order to form the new habit.  Yes, it is easier said than done:  my bracelet moves daily, and I still forget to take my iron pills....

SuddenlyReallyHappy--This is a facebook group that a young friend of mine started.  I never really thought of Colleen as "Gidget happy" (you know, like Sally Field on a beach with Moon Doggie, I mean, who wouldn't have perma-grin?!?) but it turns out, she's a little bit of a hippie-chic-of-the-new-millenium and she and some friends started this group which is essentially about the fact that we've all been trained to get on facebook and twitter and whine about the tiny, trivial, inconsequential inconveniences of our everyday lives, instead of celebrating being alive in the first place.  So become a "fan" of her group and at least get a kick out of her antics, or better yet, join in and go give flowers out to random strangers.

Which brings me to Random Acts of Kindness.  I don't even know the origin of this one, but like Pay it Forward (see below), the phrase has become a part of our vocabulary.  Unfortunately, for many (myself included) it has not exactly become a part of our repertoire.  How many of us do completed unsolicited, un-selfish acts of true kindness on a regular basis?  Hmmm...a new habit to form, perhaps...?  Anyway, it turns out there's a whole RAK Foundation.  Who knew?

These next two I think work really well together:

Smile and Move is a cute little website I found totally by accident just recently.  It perfectly describes what running does for me.  I find myself moving, and smiling while I do it.  It might be a chicken-and-egg thing: I don't think it matters which one you do first, as long as you do them both.  Am I utterly delighted every minute of every run?  Well, no, but most of the time, running puts a smile on my face.  And I do find that it's a lot easier to get moving in general, if you're smiling first.  So maybe the first step to getting off the couch is not lacing up the sneakers, but rather putting on a smile.  Anyway, I like the sentiments and the fact that they have downloadable materials so it isn't entirely about buying stuff.  I loved their word "SMOVE"...until Alan likened it to "Smurf".  My running binder now says "I SMILE AND MOVE" on the cover. 

I heard about The Levity Project when I attended a professional development day here on campus that featured "Laughter Yoga".  I thought maybe I'd done this already when I tried to do yoga in the family room with 3 small kids and we ended up falling all over each other and giggling way more than finding balance and inner peace, but I was wrong!  Laughter yoga is based on the idea that your body does not distinguish between real, spontaneous laughter and fake laughter.  The physical act has physical and emotional benefits that are real and tangible.  And of course, if you spend enough time in a room with a bunch of strangers who are all milling around fake laughing together, you will eventually get the uncontrollable giggles and even develop a few hearty guffaws.  The facilitator is also part of the Levity Project which is a movement that organizes various events where people go out in groups and do funny things and try to have a positive effect on a portion of the unsuspecting public. 

Have you seen this Youtube video?  It takes the age-old musical comedy concept that in times of great emotion people spontaneously break into song-and-dance and plops it right smack in the middle of a real life train station in Antwerp.  I think it's the kind of thing the Leviity Project is striving for.  A friend of mine (who met her husband through Up With People), was talking about cooking up something like this in our area and I totally want to be a part of it!  Maybe sometime after her recently-fused ankle is healed??  Just say the word, Stephanie, and I am there!

Pay It Forward--Have you seen this movie?  Recently??  This was one of the first things I got when we joined Netflix because the phrase has become a part of our culture but I couldn't really remember the story.  I had thought maybe we'd watch it with the kids and turn it into a nice teaching moment, but then we watched it and even though I'd seen it before, seeing it again was like being punched in the stomach, it's so gut-wrenchingly depressing.  I couldn't bear to watch it with the kids--my babies!--who I couldn't imagine losing and yet, as a parent, you have nightmares regularly about just that sort of thing.  The Pay it Forward concept is beautiful and simple, though, and has become a cultural trademark.  It's the new "do unto others" tagline that parents and teachers are trying desperately to instill into our youth, a truly worthwhile endeavor, but I think I'll do it some other way than through the movie, at least for now. As it turns out, there's a Pay It Forward Foundation, too.

Have you seen Volkswagon's The Fun Theory videos?  They're behaviour-modification experiments that ask, Will people do the right thing if the right thing is fun?  There's one involving stairs that play notes, and one about a trash bin.

Why does that work?  Why did the youtube video of the people dancing in the train station go viral so fast?
Why is a huge portion of the population addicted to facebook, and twitter and texting, and blogging?
Because we crave amusement, happiness, levity, joy, connection, response....  Humanity.
Strangely, the internet has become the delivery method of choice for human connection.
Just don't forget to take it off-screen: actually smile at someone, tell a joke instead of forwarding it, go hug your kid.

Honorable mentions go to Habitat for Humanity (if I had a bucket list, doing a build would definitely be on it), Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (I get teary every time I see a show so I don't watch too regularly, but I love what my kids learn from it and I love that big corporations and local businesses alike give so generously to literally move the earth for those less fortunate and yet so deserving.  I guess this is my Pay It Forward teaching tool), Guerilla Gardening (not really my thing since I don't live in an urban location and I haven't even pulled any weeds in my own yard this year, but I love this slightly wild, I'll-do-good-whether-you-like-it-or-not mentality), Trash Running (another one that doesn't really apply but amuses me, particularly the associated jargon such as "trashlek"), and finally Biggest Loser (which is totally inspiring and so much more about finding happiness within yourself than it is about numbers on a scale. I think my first real piece of self-discipline came with the resolution to NotEatJunkfoodWhileWatchingBL.  I tried to ramp it up to exercising while watching, but usually now I've already exercised for the day and can relax and enjoy the show guilt-free.  Stll, no cookie dough allowed.).

So, have a happy day, everyone.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Long-Winded Comments On Saturday's Fun Run and 10k

So, I've been meaning to write something about last Saturday--what it FELT like to run the10K, and what it MEANT to me--but I've had a hard time focusing on writing this week, preoccupied with thoughts of running when I'm at work, and too lazy to write when I'm at home...but I need to finally do this so here goes:

The kids appear to have run their race with confidence, enthusiasm and optimism, with no excess baggage of delusions or expectations or self-doubt or fear. 
They got excited.  They ran.  They got tired.  They ran some more.  They revelled in their family cheering for them. They reached the finish line.  They sucked wind, ate bananas and felt proud. 
I'm sure they thought a lot more interesting things than that, and I'm sure my two pre-teens experienced an array of anxieties, but the end result appears to be a combination of pure joy and pride in the accomplishment.  How cool is that?  I'm going to try to keep that in mind for my own running experiences.

If I am glad that I did it and proud of my accomplishment then I'll know I'm doing something right.

And guess what? that is exactly how I felt on Saturday. 

After all the fuss of leaving work early and packing up and going out to Hancock and having dinner with Mum and Dad and waking up early and feeling nervous and driving to the island and watching the fun run and the last-minute rush to the starting line, I thought the 10k went pretty well.  It was work.  I walked several sections. I'm still figuring out the best things to wear, and what to carry with me, and how to work my mp3 player and how to handle hills, but even with all that I finished 38 seconds under my estimated time.  I was not fast, but I was not entirely unathletic, and that right there is a pretty darn big deal for me. 

The first part of the course was an out-and-back on Rte 3 (in Bar Harbor).  Everyone was really friendly. We ran past Jackson Lab and some people had signs that said Run, Mice, Run! which amused me enough that I said "squeak, squeak!" as I passed them.  But I didn't really love being on the main road with traffic and pavement, and the long slow uphill on the way back was not fun.  And I kept wondering how far I'd gone. Someone told me my split (12:31) at mile one (as promised) but we had NO additional mile markers (which we'd also been promised) and the water station which was advertised as being at the halfway point was actually on Park Street, where the Y is, and more like 3.5 miles in. It made sense, though, since it was convenient for the volunteers and friends & family.  I could hear the kids ringing the cow bells from a ways off, so I knew they had spotted me.  Mum shoved some dried cherries and dark chocolate covered almonds in a paper cup at me (as requested) while I re-filled my (leaky) little water bottle and tried to get moving again. As I walked past the Y, my boss called out my name which was a total surprise (it turns out he was watching his grandson's little league game right across the street).  I was thinking "oh great, he's checking up on me to see if I'm really doing all this running I've been talking about and here I am walking past him with chocolate in my teeth" but I was also pleased just to have someone say my name and "good job!", particularly someone I respect whose also a runner.

After that I felt a lot happier.  The power snack definitely helped and the scenery improved. First, there was one short, steep hill, so I switched my mp3 to a mystery song Alan had programmed in for me. I spent most of the incline not sure what it was, but when I hit the chorus and figured it out it made me laugh so I listened to it a couple more times. The song was "Ladylike" by Storm from the TV show Rockstar. It's a kick-a$$ hard rock ditty about female empowerment, that demands to know "what the f*** is ladylike?" I'm not usually into foul-mouthed lyrics but this song rocks and made me feel tough [thanks, hon!].  The beautiful second half loop continued past a pretty cemetery and a golf course, then a stretch of the park loop road and then onto the appropriately named Green Meadow Rd.  I switched to nice calm Alison Krauss and was doing great until I accidentally pushed a button that made the music stop and I lost some time while I 1. figured out that I was inadvertently recording myself, 2. made it stop, 3. listened to it (feet pounding, lungs heaving, my voice saying "wait, what? oh...what?!? no, stop!"), 4. deleted it and 5. got back to a screen I recognized, at which point I realized I'd slowed to a ploddingly slow walk.  I also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to calculate how many miles I'd run and how far off my pace I was, but at least I kept running while I was doing that.  I kept adding the same numbers and coming up with different results.  By the time I hit mile five I was thoroughly convinced that I was 9 minutes behind my estimate.  But I didn't really care because I was still moving and getting closer to the finish and it was just so nice out there.  I was pretty much alone except for the volunteers and the man I passed walking his dog.  As I got back into town I emptied my water bottle and stowed it in my belt, took off my headphones and stashed my mp3.  Once I turned the last corner back onto Park Street (the name really helped me feel like I was coming home) I stretched my legs and pumped my arms and picked up some speed for a strong finish.  I felt like I was cruising, but the video Jamie took looks, sadly, much more stately than that. I had good posture though, and looked alive and even happy.  Alan apparently started his kick about a block too soon but realized it too late to back off, so he was looking a bit winded by the end.  Still, he did great: he improved on his previous training time, and beat me by 9 minutes. 

Almost immediately after the race, we were all in planning mode for September.  Logistically, this was the perfect dry run for the Half Marathon, partly for us, but mostly for Mum and Dad who are dealing with the kids and trying to find places to cheer us on throughout the course. We drove some of the route, and stopped to check out the Duck Brook bridge which is a water stop and our entrance onto the carriage roads.  It was really good to be talking about it "onsite" instead of theoretically.

I'm not ready to run the Half yet, but I do feel like I can be ready for it in September.  At least, most of the time, I feel that way.  I really need to work on getting regular cross-training into my regimen....

That's plenty blogging for now!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Race Report: MDI 10K 06-12-10

Nancy & Alan ready to run:

Nancy pulling in to the water station and about to get a hug from Jeremy:

Alan bearing down on the finish:

Nancy pumping for the finish:

Tired and happy to be done:


Overall, we both did a little better than we expected and it was great to get the lay-of-the-land before September's Half, also put on by the MDI YMCA.  The weather was great--slightly overcast with occasional breezes.  Nana Lois & Gumpy and Nana Mary were AWESOME to come cheer us all on and to deal with the kids during a long, tiring morning.  Nancy's boss even took time off from fishing(?) to show his support for her new habit.  More in-depth comments to follow in a later post (you know, the stuff about how it actually felt).  Right now, we're all really tired and a bit stiff and sore. 

We're going to evensong today in our race shirts.  God will "get" it.


73 5/5    Alan Marks              42 M Orono ME 1:10:00 11:16
77 9/11 Nancy Soule Marks   41 F  Orono ME 1:19:22 12:47

There were four ladies behind me who all walked and finished together with a time of 1:37:14. 
So I wasn't last, but I was the last runner and I'm totally OK with that.

Race Report: MDI Fun Run 06-12-10

Jeremy, Madeline & James ready to run:
At the starting line:
And they're off!
James coming in to the home stretch:
Madeline looking strong:
Gumpy running alongside Jeremy near the finish:
Three tired kids:

Madeline's Comments:
It's a lot harder running outside than running on the Rec Center track. I'm really glad I decided to do this, and actually start running because it's going to help me get into shape a lot.  I love my bib number (22) because 2 is my favorite number. It made me feel really good to hear my entire family ringing cowbells for me and my mom cheering me on next to someone who was pointing the way to go.

Jeremy's Comments:
I really liked running that. I liked it when Mommy ran with me the last bit. I really liked that Nana Mary got me some candies.

James' Comments:
I felt really great when I came into the home stretch and I really liked it how Mommy cheered me on at the beginning of that.  I was also really happy that I got a prize: it was a mix between a frisbee and a boomerang.


Place-Div/Tot-Sex-No.-Name--------------Age-S--Town St----1m

26      2/2       15    21   James Marks        12    M  Orono ME  10:53

27      3/3       12    22   Madeline Marks   10    F    Orono ME  11:21
44      7/8       28    23   Jeremy Marks       6     M   Orono ME  13:15
There were 52 kids in the run.  James lucked into an age-group award because the person who placed second overall was in his group.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Days to MDI 10K: 7

Um...yikes?  I'm feeling a bit nervous about this, although today's run makes it seem much more possible.

This evening, I ran 5 miles in 1:05:30. 
Okay, I stopped to walk a couple times, but not for long and the first time was solidly beyond the half-way mark.  For comparison, my last run was 4.6 miles and only took about a minute less to do.
It was raining off and on for both runs and I didn't care.  In fact, I enjoyed the rain.
Alan said weeks ago that we'd know that I'd really become a runner when I voluntarily went out in the rain.
I was also honked at by a friend who happened to drive by me on College Ave, and I now have an entire dresser drawer devoted to running clothes.
So, I guess that makes me a runner.

To honor this accomplishment, Alan made me a merit badge:

But I'm still a little nervous about the 10K. 
I'm so glad that lots of family and friends will be there for us.

Vermont Trip: Chasing Emilie

or "It's Not Stalking if You Have Family in the Area"

Sunday was all about Emilie and The Marathon. 
We left St. Alban's around 7am and managed to beat most of the road closures,
find a place to park, and hoof it up to Pearl Street,
not far from the start, right around gun time. 
It was exciting to see the wheelchair racers, and the hard-core leaders,
followed by the pack in their various pace groups. 
We had our signs and the camera ready and eventually spotted our quarry,
but it took a bit of work for Emilie to hear us over the crowd,
so by the time we got her attention, Alan missed the shot. 
The look on her face was priceless, though, and we had plenty of other chances. 
Here she is around the third time she passed us, still wondering why we there at all,
much less following her like the paparrazzi on Lady Gaga.

We managed to see her a total of 6 times throughout the race
[don't worry Emilie: it's okay that you weren't keeping track],
and we had a fun time hanging out in Burlington on a beautiful day.

Post-race greetings:
Me: "Your stalkers are here!"
Em: "Please tell me you have some other reason to be here?!"

I assured her that we did, but I will admit that the motivation behind our trip
was really a tie between her and my sister.
I simply can't begin to describe how inspiring this worman is to me,
although you might a. know her and totally get it already, or
b. get a sense of it if you keep following my blog.

Vermont Trip: Running

Alan and I needed to get in a "long run" during the weekend, so we planned a five mile course in St. Alban's while Helen entertained all four kids on the shores of Lake Champlain.  We started near a lovely town park with lots of beautiful stonework:

We turned left at the antique gas station:

The halfway point was a lovely little boat launch:

Here's where we thought we were supposed to turn for an out-and-back, but Alan missed it completely (ha!) and we realized later it was the wrong road.  I took it anyway...:

...and came to this.  The picture doesn't convey how dramatically steep this hill was, but I felt like I was at the top of a cliff (one which I would later have to climb back up).  But I went for it anyway!

While I was getting hill training, Alan went to the end of our route and ran back partway to meet me, so for the last bit we ran together for the first time ever.  We only ended up doing about 4.4 miles, but the weather was gorgeous and the views were spectacular (not so much the next day when we went back to take these pictures so I sort of skipped that part) and the run felt great.  We ended up at Kamp Kill Kare where the ranger (who was expecting us ) greeted us with "you made it!" and a big bright smile. 

Not the most flattering shot of me, but Hey, that's why we're doing this, right? 
And it's great to be doing it together.

Vermont Trip: Family

Here are some family pictures from our trip to Vermont.
Alan did all the driving:

The rest of us played car bingo:

Samantha looked all cute and cuddly on the porch Chez Donahey:

James got pretty comfy at our hotel:

Goofy kids riding the elevator down to...

...waffles! Every morning!!

Superboy headed downstairs to the pool:

Sam and Helen joined us for a swim:

Too soon, we had to pack up to head home:

On our way, we stopped at a historic covered railroad bridge to eat lunch and take some potential Christmas card photos: