Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Abandon (Relation)ship ...

Relationships, they ebb and flow. Some stand the test of time, some are all too brief. Some end dramatically, some just fade away.

In the wake of L.A. Dave's passing, I've been taking stock of the relationships in my life – and by relationships, I mean interactions both platonic and romantic, though I have far more of the former than the latter – and have begun to prune those that do not make sense.

Like the Facebook friend who only ever posts about how awful he believes his life to be. Unfriend. I have plenty of negative energy in my life that I am trying to keep at bay. I certainly don't need an extra helping of ennui every day.

I am very much a people pleaser, but there is only so much pleasing I can do before I realize it's futile with some people, as no amount of pleasing will ever be enough.

I do not approach relationships with the expectation of perfect balance. I am not that person who remembers that I bought coffee last time and expects my friend to buy this time. I am not that person who won't call a friend to check in because it's the friend's turn to call me. I'll give more than my share, and do so happily, up to a point. But when a relationship becomes too lopsided and eventually topples over, I let it lie.

And there there's dating.

As the sales adage goes, "Every 'no' brings you closer to the 'yes.' "

I apply that thinking to romantic relationships, too. If, hypothetically, I need to date 10 men before I get to "The One," each relationship that begins and ends moves me closer to him, whomever he may be. And so while each ending is sad in its own way, I remind myself that all that particular ending really means is that the man of the moment wasn't The One.

And even though none of my breakups have been terribly ugly, I have not stayed friends with the men I've dated, with one exception. And the last time I saw him was nearly two years ago. And the time before that? Nine years ago.

I never figured out how to downshift from the heightened emotion and intimacy of a relationship into friendship. Besides, it feels strange to be friends with guys who rejected me as their "girlfriend" or whatever term applied.

I once had a guy end things who then said, "But I still want to keep in touch. I like having you there when I need to vent. And you're smart and funny."

To which I replied, "I am not an a la carte menu. You don't get to keep the parts of me you like and discard the parts of me you don't."

And though I've long ago shunned dating sites and their artificiality, I've surely gotten too swept up in Facebook and Twitter, maintaining electronic relationships of all stripes that don't exist in the flesh.

I have certainly met people online before meeting them in person and I have several virtual friends today who I hope to meet someday soon.

But at this moment in my life, I crave connections that are real, both in terms of physical presence and substance. And so it is in that direction that I will devote my energy.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

In Praise Of Advil ...

Yesterday, I worked.

My back yard was surrounded by a fence that over time had taken to tilting, this way and that, and which, over time, I and my neighbors had propped up at various points. But much of the leaniness was hidden by trees and other green things, so while it wasn't an ideal fence aesthetically, it sufficed.

Until a couple of weeks ago when a major storm moved through, bringing flash-flooding conditions and insanely high winds. I wasn't home during the worst of it, but when I returned and looked in my back yard, I saw several sections of my fence either on the ground or leaning into my neighbors' immaculate yard.

And so the time had come to get rid of the fence, since the culprit of the instability was posts that were never sunk properly by the company that installed the fence, just cedar posts stuck into the soil a foot or so, so that, over time, the moisture in the ground rotted the wood through. Add a gale-force wind to that equation, and voila!, my very own Three Little Pigs moment.

And since I have no real need for a fence, having neither a dog nor children nor the ready cash to have all the posts pulled and have new posts installed properly, fence eradication became my mission.

But who to call?

My uncle. I can't tell you how handy it is to have a contractor in the family. Especially one who knows everyone who has anything to do with anything related to anything constructiony.

So I called him to ask him if he could recommend someone to come by, take down my fence, and haul it away.

"Yes," he said. "I can come over."

Well, I hadn't expected him to do it himself. Of course, he can do it. He can do anything. But he's not so much a contractor in my mind as a craftsman. Still, I wasn't about to say no to his offer.

So yesterday was the day to bid my fence farewell.

I thought he'd cut the fence apart into its component sections, and we'd haul those to his truck and be done with things quickly.

But he had other ideas. Once he put chain saw to wood and discovered my yard was surrounded by slats of red cedar, he started cutting the fence into small pieces.

For kindling.

I have a big yard. Which means I had a lot of fence. He left my house yesterday with a pick-up truck bed full of kindling. Those two sentences are relevant when you consider that someone had to get all of those little pieces from my yard into the bed of his truck parked in my driveway. That someone was me, while he was busy slicing and dicing the rest of the fence, and then me and him when he and his chain saw were through.

I must say that my mother's exquisite grocery-cart packing skills served me well yesterday. When I was a kid and we bought a lot of groceries for the family, mom would pack her cart with Tetris-like precision, far before the advent of Tetris. Yesterday, my uncle's truck bed was packed with bits and boards very neatly.

Now, my uncle, you may have guessed, is considerably older than me. But in his line of work, he's up and at 'em every day, working, lifting, hauling, holding. His job is physical.

By comparison, most of my days are spent sitting in front of a computer.

So you can figure out who of the two of us was better suited to yesterday's stooping, bending, gathering, lifting, and hauling. Yep, that's right, the correct answer is: Not Beth.

I was fine while I was working. I was glad for the exercise. (In addition to all the fenceness, I was also hauling branches to the curb that had become a casualty of an ice storm earlier this winter, as well as raking up the entire yard to gather the remnants of last fall.)

But once I stopped moving, once the yard was cleared (with the exception of the two big piles of fence remnants that contain nails and/or screws and need to be hauled away, destined for a construction Dumpster), once I put away all the tools, and came in from the cold, oh baby.

Not good.

So I popped a couple of Advil Liqui-gels, hoping to stave off near-immobilizing stiffness and soreness today.

It seemed too much to ask for. Last night, when I wanted to get up off the couch, I had to put my hands on my knees as I stood up, then "walk" my hands up my thighs to help me straighten up slowly before stepping, gingerly. It was pretty sexy, lemme tell you.

Remember the old-man character Tim Conway played on The Carol Burnett Show, who would shuffle along at a pace so slow he could be lapped by a snail?

I wasn't quite that bad. But I went to bed wondering what I was in for in the morning.

And this morning, despite waking up far too early, I swung my legs over the side of my bed and didn't even think about my back.

It feels fine.

Well, as fine as it feels most mornings.

But for a girl who expected to spend the day in makeshift traction, I am very pleased with my mobility.

I think I'll pop a couple of Advil to celebrate.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The 3-Day: Training ...

You've already registered, right?

Congratulations! (If you're still not sure if the 3-Day is for you, check out my post about Registration.)

Registration is a big step. The first big step. But once you've registered, you'll have many more steps to take between now and your chosen event.

Thousands of them, actually. You, my friend, need to prepare to walk 60 miles in three days.

So let's talk about the next topic on the list: Training.

But first, can I share a secret with you?

Lean in closer. I don't want the coaches to hear me.

I don't train.

The longest training walk I ever logged was 7 miles, but I wasn't training. I was walking with a friend who was training.

The longest training walk I ever logged for myself was 6 miles.

Six miles. Six measly miles.

But here's the key: I walk every day. My typical morning walk is 3.5 miles. Some days, I go for two walks. Some days, I go for three.

I walk. A lot.

So am I telling you that you don't need to train?

No, that is not what I'm saying. If you're not used to walking, you absolutely must train. You must acclimate your feet to massive amounts of mileage. You must also break in two pairs of shoes.

Why, you ask? Allow me to tell you a story:

One night in camp, lying in my tent, I heard a woman in the tent next to me on her cell phone. I wasn't eavesdropping. It's pretty hard to not hear people when the only thing separating you is two layers of nylon.

But she was telling the person on the other end of the line that she had a blister. Of course, blisters are common on the 3-Day. (And you'll be provided with plenty of blister-care products at the pit stops and at camp, not to worry.) But Ms. Next Tent didn't just have your garden-variety blister.

Oh, no. Ms. Next Tent was reporting that she had a blister ... that covered the entire ball of one foot.

Are you wincing? I'm wincing.

Do you know what else Ms. Next Tent was reporting?

That she hadn't trained at all. Not a step.

Clearly, Ms. Next Tent was not planning on walking the next day of the event.

And, if I had to wager, I'd put money on the fact that she probably didn't walk any kind of distance with any regularity.

I might even double down on the fact that she got a pedicure before the event.

Sandal season might arrive one of these days, but do yourself a favor: skip pedicures between now and the event.

Take care of your feet, of course, but trust me, you do not want to embark on a 60-mile trek with soft, pink feet.

It's not sexy to say, but on the 3-Day, calluses are your friends. Start developing them now.

So, to sum up:

Train.

The 3-Day offers training schedules. Yes, they seem rigorous. They are rigorous. Do you need to follow them to the letter? The coaches would like you to think so. But it's not always practical to log that many miles on back-to-back days.

But do the best you can to lace up and get outside.

Training on a treadmill isn't the same as training on terrain. You want to get your body, including your feet, used to walking on a variety of surfaces. Most of the 3-Day route is on pavement, but we might walk through forest preserves on gravel paths or on compacted dirt along the side of a road. Try to walk on a variety of surfaces.

Get your gear in order sooner rather than later and wear it when you train. Break in your T-shirts and shorts as well as your shoes. Planning on carrying a fanny pack? Carry it on your training walks. Load it with whatever you're planning on carrying on the event route. You want to replicate, as closely as possible, the conditions of the actual event. Distribute weight evenly on your body. If you carry a bottle of water, switch hands from time to time.

Oh, and one last bit of advice (though, as ever, if you have questions, pop 'em in the Comments and I'll address 'em for you there): SOCKS.

BUY. GOOD. SOCKS.

Many walkers wear these socks.

I am not a saleswoman for Thorlo, and I know what you're thinking: "That's a lot of money to spend on a pair of socks!"

Yes, it is. And you should buy at least six pairs (plan on two pairs a day, and change at lunchtime).

But trust me: The money you spend on good socks will be some of the best money you'll ever spend in your life.

Good socks will help prevent blisters, and on the Monday following your event, when you're not cursing every step, you'll be grateful for your sock purchase, as extravagant as it may seem at the time.

White cotton socks are absolutely what you do not want to wear. White cotton socks will absorb your sweat. You do not want to walk in sweaty socks. Moisture leads to blisters.

If you've been in the military or know anyone who's been in the military or have seen "Forrest Gump," you know that it's imperative to keep your feet dry.

OK? OK.

For now, I think I've said enough. Maybe more than enough. But if you have any questions, let me know.

U2? 4GET IT ...

I am a member of U2.com.

Not because I am that big of a fan, but because members receive first crack at tickets when the band goes on tour. I joined more than a year ago, thinking the band would tour last year.

They didn't. So I reupped earlier this month to have a crack at early tix for this year's tour.

Membership, as they say, has its privileges: In addition to the presale code, members also receive a members-only CD and a T-shirt, so the $32 I plunked down for the presale code was money well spent, indeed.

Except that yesterday, when the presale started for the September show at Soldier Field, I didn't buy tickets.

I could have. Over and over, I drew some pretty amazing seats. (I didn't even dip for the general-admission pit on the field; GA at the United Center? Fine. On Soldier Field? Nah. Too expansive.)

Problem was, each of those seats was – is – $250.

Not just the 100-level seats, of which there are a zillion, but also the 200-level seats, apparently, as I dipped for a pair of $95 seats right off the bat and was presented with an option way up in the 300-level.

I wavered. I did. The Vertigo tour in 2005 was easily one of the best concert experiences of my life. (In rereading that post, I was reminded that I spent $165 apiece for those tix, but it was a night-before purchase on a whim; and I'd never seen 'em before.)

But I just couldn't pull the trigger on $250 tickets. And there was no point in buying the 300-level seats, I figured, since I'd probably miss most of the show while I kept my head tilted back from the nosebleed I'd likely encounter up there, and if a beer is $10, can you imagine what they charge for a canister of oxygen to help you breathe at that altitude?

With TicketBastard fees, I would have shelled out about $550 for a pair of tickets to a band that I like but I don't love. (I haven't picked up the new CD yet, and I don't like "Boots.")

As my friend Anna asked yesterday, "Has Bono heard about the recession?"

It's not like the guy needs the money. Ditto The Edge, Adam, and Larry.

And I don't buy the "Well, the promoter sets the ticket prices."

Nuh uh. I've been to shows for which every ticket, except for the obstructed-view tix, are one price, as if the bands are saying, "Hey, you wanna see our show? Cool. That'll be $55. Thanks."

I paid $250 to see The Police from the field at Wrigley. Not worth it.

The only artist for whom top tickets were $250 and for whom I would have willingly paid that much is Paul McCartney.

But I drew $125 tickets for that show.

Which I then gave to a friend who was shut out.

But L.A. Dave, bless his heart, bought a single on Craigslist and sent it to me, so I saw the show anyway, and from a seat a couple of rows closer than the seats I gave away.

U2, though? I'll catch the highlights on the news that night once I'm through watching my DVD of Vertigo tour. Let's hear it for surround sound.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

'Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man' ...

"Mens."

Between me and a couple of my girlfriends, that one-word utterance represents our collective female frustration with members of the opposite sex. Men say they don't understand women. Well, guess what? We don't understand men.

John Gray, Ph.D., told us that "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" (whether we've found agreeable middle ground here on Earth continues to be up for debate) and Greg Behrendt told us "He's Just Not That Into You," but when Steve Harvey (yes, that Steve Harvey) popped up with a book that promised to tell we women, once and for all, what's going on in men's heads, well, how could I resist?


What I'd really love is for a handful of my male friends to read this book and tell me if Steve speaks the truth. It's not that I want to believe that he's lying. I suspect a lot of what's contained in these pages is true, but I'd also like to think that men – some men, at least – are slightly more evolved. And I'd like to think that those are the men who will appear on my dating radar.

But I don't expect my male friends to read this book. Whether or not they're pleased with Steve for showing us the male team's playbook, I can't envision men sitting down and reading a book about – gasp! – relationships.

So I thought I'd cull a few of the book's key points, chunked up by chapter headings, while being as objective as possible so as to not sway any forthcoming reactions, and spare folks the effort of reading the whole shebang, not that reading the whole shebang requires much of an investment of time (for those who might want to read the whole shebang anyway).

In return, I'd love for my male readers to pop into the Comments to offer their two cents based on what Steve has to say. Women, of course, are welcome to comment, too, but I'm pretty sure I know what they're going to say.

Let's get to it, shall we?

Our Love Isn't Like Your Love
"[A] man's love isn't like a woman's love. ... I'm not saying that we're not capable of loving. I'm just saying that our love is different—much more simple, direct, and probably a little harder to come by."

Steve says that men show their love through three Ps: Profess, Provide, and Protect.

Profess: "If your man loves you, he's willing to tell anybody and everybody, 'Look, man, this is my woman' or 'this is my girl,' 'my baby's mama,' or 'my lady.' In other words, you will have a title—an official one that far extends beyond 'this is my friend,' or 'this is (insert your name here).' That's because a man who has placed you in the most special part of his heart—the man who truly has feelings for you—will give you a title."

Provide: "Once we've claimed you, and you've returned the honor, we're going to start bringing home the bacon. Simply put, a man who loves you will bring that money home to make sure that you and the kids have what you all need. That is our role—our purpose. ... That is the very core of our manhood—to be the provider."

Protect: "When a man truly loves you, anybody who says, does, suggests, or even thinks about doing something offensive to you stands the risk of being obliterated. Your man will destroy anything and everything in his path to make sure that whoever disrespected you pays for it."

The Three Things Every Man Needs
"Women are complicated creatures. You need stuff. Lots of it. And you expect your man to provide it, even if you haven't explained what it is you need or want, or even if what you needed and wanted five minutes ago is wholly different from what you need and want now. ... Now men, by contrast, are very simple creatures. It really doesn't take much to make us happy. In fact, there are only three things that pretty much every man needs—support, love, and 'The Cookie.' Three things—that's it. And I'm here to tell you that yes, it's that simple."

Yes, "The Cookie" is exactly what you think it is.

Sport Fish Vs. Keepers
"A man fishes for two reasons: he's either sport fishing or fishing to eat, which means he's either going to try to catch the biggest fish he can, take a picture of it, admire it with his buddies and toss it back to sea, or he's going to take that fish on home, scale it, fillet it, toss it in some cornmeal, fry it up, and put it on his plate. This, I think, is a great analogy for how men seek out women."

"Newsflash," Steve writes, "it's not the guy who determines whether you're a sports fish or a keeper—it's you. (Don't hate the player, hate the game.) When a man approaches you, you're the one with total control over the situation. ... Every word you say, every move you make, every signal you give to a man will help him determine whether he should try to play you, be straight with you, or move on to the next woman to do a little more sport fishing."

Why Men Cheat
"From the male perspective, the answers to the question 'Why do men cheat?' are crystal clear. ... [W]omen will put up with a lot of things. Cheating is not one of them. Now, we men? We understand this. ... Still, we do it. Why? I am not here to justify a cheating man's actions. Rather, this is my humble attempt to explain to you why a man might go on ahead and get a little something on the side, and what you can do to cut down on the chances that your man will do this to you. So, let's just go on ahead and get right to it. Men cheat because ..."

They can.
"Dress it up any way you want to, but men don't view sex the way you women do, plain and simple. For a lot of you, the act of intercourse is emotional—an act of love. ... By contrast, when it comes to men and sex, neither emotions nor meaning necessarily enter the equation. It's easy—very easy—for a man to have sex, go home, wash it off with soap and water, and act like what he just did never happened.

"A man can love his wife, his children, his home, and his life that they've all built together, and have an incredible physical connection to her, and still get some from another woman without a second thought about it, because the actual act with the other woman meant nothing to him. It was something that may have made him feel good physically, but emotionally, his heart—the professing, providing, and protecting he saves for the woman he loves—may be at home with his woman.

"Now filter this bit of information through the lens of, say, a high-powered man who has a wife whose job is equally prestigious and demanding. ... [H]er job could take her overseas, leaving her man at home to run the household, take care of the kids, and keep up his demanding work schedule for weeks on end, without so much as a hot-and-heavy phone conversation to help him make it through the enormous time period he'd have to go without having sex. ... He's stressed out, and plenty of us men can hear what he may have worked out in his mind: I'm going to go over here and let this other woman tighten me up a bit, and then I'll come back and cook, shuttle and work until the woman I love comes back to me.

"This may seem like a cold piece of work to you, but to a man, it's reasonable. [Beth here, jumping in to ask men: If this is so, is it reasonable, in this scenario, for the wife to be sleeping with another man while she's overseas?] He's got to try to feel better some kind of way, and so he's going to get sex from someone if he can't get it from you. You see it as betrayal. Men see it as just a way to get tightened up, especially if ..."

They think they can get away with it.
"A man who cheats has most certainly calculated the collateral damage that would come from getting busted—potential loss of the woman he loves, his children, his home, his peace of mind—and he recognizes that this would be a devastating blow to all the things that matter in his life. ... Still, men don't really ever think they're going to get caught. Basically, we think we're slick and we go to great lengths to hide our infidelity from you, always with this in mind: if you don't know about it, it can't hurt you. We're pretty confident that your willingness to be in a relationship with us supersedes all the things we do that look suspicious, because we know you'll work through the suspicion—that it's more important to you to be with us in our imperfection than to leave us and be alone. At least, that's what we're hoping."

He hasn't become who he wants and needs to be or found who he truly is.
"You may think this is a cop-out, but it is the reality. ... [W]e are defined by who we are, what we do, and how much we make. And if we haven't gotten to where we want and need to be, then we're not going to be ready to figure out how settling down with one woman fits into our plans for becoming a truly independent, mature, well-off man. I mean, how many times have you seen or been in a relationship where the man says over and over again, 'When I get my money right, I'll think about commitment,' or 'I just need to get that promotion first, then I'll settle down.' That guy is still trying to complete himself, and while he's working toward that, he's not organizing his life to include a committed relationship. He tells himself he simply doesn't have time for it—it's simply not a priority for him."

What's happening at home isn't "happening" like it used to.
"That's right, I said it: it could have something to do with you. Your man may be telling himself that your relationship just doesn't have that spark anymore, that you don't turn him on like you used to—that you don't come on to him like you did when the two of you first fell in love. ... You've changed. (He knows he's changed, too, but we're not talking about him, we're talking about you.) Perhaps that comes, too, with a feeling that you don't appreciate him like you used to. ... And your home just isn't feeling like what he signed up for. And if he can't get what he signed up for back at the house, he's more likely to go out and find it somewhere else, because guess what?"

The Biggest Reason of All: There's always a woman out there willing to cheat with him.
"That's the truth no woman wants to face. ... Men can cheat because there are so many women willing to give themselves to a man who doesn't belong to them. ... Yes, these are women who have no standards and requirements and who suffer from serious self-esteem issues, making themselves willing to cheat and available to be cheated on." [Beth note: I love how men who cheat are just being men and getting what they "need," but women who cheat "suffer from serious self-esteem issues." Nice.]

Men Respect Standards—Get Some
"[W]e can't possibly begin to fathom what it is you women need and want because your needs and wants change from woman to woman like the wind does from city to city. Men are very simple, logical people; if you tell us what you like and what you don't like, we'll do anything to make sure we're living up to your expectations, particularly if we're interested in forging a relationship with you. ... But we're really not programmed to figure it out. It really makes us happy when you lay out your requirements for us. And we need you to do it up front, so we can decide if we're up for the challenge ..."

Strong, Independent—And Lonely—Women
"[M]en are very simple creatures who would be prone to doing some very simple things if not for the women in our lives. ... You're the driving force behind why we wake up every day. ... You're the ultimate prize to us. This may be a hard pill for you to swallow and some of you may be offended by what I'm about to say, but I say this in truth and abiding love for the opposite sex: somewhere along the line, women lost sight of this. Maybe in part because we men have played so many games, pulled so many tricks out of our hats—just plain done so much wrong in our quest to get women—that we've convinced you all that you are not important to us."

The point of this chapter is that men need to be needed. As representative of this, let me quote an example of what Steve says women should let men do. Male readers, yea or nay?:

"We get that you've got plenty of money to pay for dinner. But sit there and let him pick up the check. That what he's supposed to do when he's out with a woman on a date."


There's more to the book, of course. But I'm curious to know how men feel about what Steve has to say. Is he basically spot on? Full of crap? Has he oversimplified? Undersimplified? Revealed too much?

What say you?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Favorite Painting! ...

I'm so pleased to have found a fellow blogger - who bakes! – who recently visited the Art Institute and took pictures of some of her favorite paintings, one of which is my all-time favorite painting. The artist is Alberto Pasini, and the title is "Circassian Calvary Awaiting Their Commanding Officer at the Door of a Byzantine Monument; Memory of the Orient." Yes, really.























Sadly, it's impossible to find a print of this piece. I wonder if Pierce Brosnan would mind very much starring in a sequel to the remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair" and lifting the original for me.

For those who'd like to read about her Chicago escapades this December, Yvonne's complete post is here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Time To Splurge ...

So, while I was out running errands earlier, I popped into the dollar store to pick up 300 plastic-coated, multi-colored paperclips for, you guessed it, a dollar (because screw you, Office Depot, for charging seven bucks for a mondo container of more paperclips than I will use in this lifetime, and yes, I have to have the colored clips, not just the silver clips) and while I was there, I wandered around a bit, because the dollar store fascinates me. Some of the stuff seems like a bargain (when, in reality, we're all just used to getting screwed at other stores that mark up their wares even more than the dollar store) and other stuff makes me think, "Whoa! Don't you wanna spend a little more for something like that?"

To wit:


Now, I've never taken a pregnancy test. (I mean, what are the odds of another immaculate conception?) But if I had an inkling that I might be pregnant and I wanted to confirm my suspicion, I don't think my first impulse would be to head to the dollar store.

The 3-Day: Registration ...

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day every year. (And if you're new to this blog: Hi, I'm Beth. I participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day every year.)

This year's event will be my sixth. With five 60-mile events under my belt, I've walked just shy of 300 miles to raise money and awareness, both to enable breast cancer detection and fund the research that will lead to a cure.

As I've written about in the past, the 3-Day is a logistical marvel. The level of organization that goes into every event is staggering and the 3-Day machine never stops. The "event season" is only part of the annual effort. The remainder of months are given to planning the next year's events and driving registration and providing to support to registrees as they train and fund raise.

It's no surprise, then, that I was contacted earlier this week by Celeste, a social media strategist working for the 3-Day, asking me if I'd consider being a 3-Day Ambassador. Who better to help spread the word about the 3-Day than veteran walkers?

Of course, I said "Yes" immediately.

I'm under no obligation to post about any given topic, but why wouldn't I want to share my experiences to help reassure those who might be contemplating taking the 3-Day plunge?

So, the first topic on the list: Registration.

Perhaps you've seen a commercial on TV or heard a spot on the radio or spotted a walker in your neighborhood sporting a 3-Day T-shirt. If you're still on the fence about signing up, please allow me to encourage you to do so.

The actual registration process is simple. Go to The3Day.org (look, I've even created a link for you!) and find the word "REGISTER" on the right-hand side of the page and click on it to be taken to a list of event cities. Or just choose a city from the drop-down menu on the homepage. From there, registering is as easy as any transaction you've ever conducted online. If you're skeevy about transacting business online, you can print out a registration form to fill out and mail in. Or you can attend a Get Started meeting to get more information (and plenty of inspiration!) and register. Or you can call 800.996.3DAY to register over the phone. See? So many options. I told you it was easy.

Here's a bit of extra incentive: If you register online or at a Get Started meeting this week, you can knock $25 off the registration fee. (That offer is good until 11:59 p.m. Central time on Friday, March 20, so don't dawdle.)

I understand what goes through the minds of would-be walkers: "Can I really walk that far?" "What if I can't finish a day's route?" "Can I really raise that much money?" "What about lunch?"

The decision to participate in a 3-Day is a big commitment in many ways. It's a big commitment to yourself and it's a big commitment to the ever-swelling community of those who will do whatever it takes to find a cure.

Can you really walk that far? Yes, you can. You will be amazed at what your body will enable you to do.

What if you can't finish that day's route? That's OK. There's always a way to get back to camp.

Can you really raise that much money? Yes, you can. You will be overwhelmed by the support you'll receive from your family and friends.

And what about lunch? It's provided for you. As is breakfast and dinner and more snacks than you can even imagine.

But I'll go into more detail about other aspects of the 3-Day in later posts.

The first step (pun absolutely intended) is to register for an event. If this will be your first event, I recommend participating in the city closest to where you live or a city in which you have friends or family. The 3-Day is a very emotional experience. You'll want to have folks there with you to help you celebrate at Closing Ceremonies.

If you have any questions, post a comment and I'll be more than happy to answer them.

But let me leave you with this: Participating in The 3-Day will change your life. For three days, you will immerse yourself in more love and kindness than you can imagine, a microcosm of the way the world should be. Will you be tired? Yes. Will your feet hurt? Probably.

But you will be carried along on the cheers of residents who line the route to offer their encouragement and thanks (and candy ... and Popsicles ... and ice ... and who set up their sprinklers to cool you).

You will find energy in the gap-toothed grins of little kids handing out high-fives and Dixie cups full of Gatorade.

For three days, you will be a rock star.

I'm a writer. And I can write a lot. But no words can adequately describe The 3-Day. It is simply something that you must experience to fully understand it.

With all my heart, I encourage you to register. I'll be here to help you as you train and fund raise. And I'll be there, on the route, cheering you on.

Check back from time to time over the next few months for installments on various 3-Day topics or suggest a topic about which you'd like to know more. I'll do my best to shine a little light and hold your hand.

I look forward to meeting you in August.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Whither St. Patrick's Day? ...

My Facebook friends will recognize this little freak show posing as an illustration. On The Book We Call Face, I referred to him as a "fixed-and-dialated, creeptastic, nightmare-inducing representative of Ireland." (I'm quoting myself. Holy crap, that's pompous!)

But then, leprechauns in general don't have a very good rep. Sure, there's Lucky, the spokesleprechaun for Lucky Charms, but even he's looking a little possessed these days, and let's face it, as cereals go, Lucky Charms are rather meh. The marshmallow bits are more like nuggets of chalk and the cereal itself is pretty much a Cheerios knock-off that's trying too hard to be popular. But then there's the evil little bastard from the "Leprechaun" film franchise. So not cool, that dude.

So this weekend, throughout Chicago, I spied green wigs and green plastic bowler hats and green shamrock shapes bobbing above the heads of people wearing antennae and green shiny beads a la Mardi Gras, all in a color green that I find hugely distasteful. And once again the Chicago river was dyed the most obnoxious shade, as though nuclear waste and the celebration of St. Patrick have a lot in common.

For my part, I tied a green ribbon (a very pleasant spring green, thankyouverymuch) to my purse, lest anyone point out that I was sporting only black and grey and beige. A friend and I went to see "The Wrestler" and out for Italian food, so the closest we got to the reveling was walking past a bar that had put up a tent to contain the masses hell bent on getting plowed on green beer. A crowd of 20-somethings spilled out of the front door of the bar, blocking most of the sidewalk. We navigated around them and grumbled about the ridiculousness and I felt as though I'd aged 50 years in the space of a few seconds, morphing from a 39-year-old who considers herself very tolerant into an 89-year-old who is terminally pissed off just to have something to do every day.

So the big day arrives tomorrow. Mom usually makes corned beef, but she's sick right now, so I don't expect we'll conduct our usual observance.

What's the next holiday? My calendar tells me that Saturday is Benito Juarez's birthday. Out with the green beer, in with the margaritas.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

He's Really Just Not That Into Me ...

For the record, I find the following funny:

I have a friend who has a friend. Let's call my friend Randy and let's call his friend Kurt.

Randy and I are friends, just friends. Randy, though, thinks that Kurt and I would make a smashing couple as we're both tall and we're both looking to date. (There were probably other indicators that we'd be compatible. But that's not important right now.) So, sometime last summer, Randy put me in touch with Kurt. Or put Kurt in touch with me. Whichever. We were put in touch with each other is the point.

And so we traded e-mails and comments on our respective blogs. Kurt lived in another state, but he was moving to Chicago in a few months.

So he moved. And then he got busy with settling in to a new home and a new city and all the related newness. And communication between Kurt and I dropped off for a time.

And then it picked up again, sometime before Christmas. And he made a bit of noise about us getting together after the holidays.

And in early January, we had a plan to get together. But then Kurt seemed somewhat ambivalent about it, and it didn't come to pass.

And so I shrugged it off. Whatever.

But Randy persisted in his belief that Kurt and I should meet one another and made comments from time to time about how well we'd get along. Most recently, he suggested that we all should get together this weekend, for St. Patrick's Day. (Note: I avoid St. Patrick's Day "celebrations" like the plague.) I thanked Randy for the offer but told him that I avoid St. Patrick's Day "celebrations." (I didn't bother adding "like the plague.")

"But you'd get to meet Kurt," he replied.

At which point I decided it was time to put that notion out of its misery: "You're very sweet to try to play matchmaker, but I'm quite sure that Kurt has no interest in meeting me."

Still, Randy held fast to the idea that Kurt and I would get along well if only we could actually – finally – meet.

Tonight, Randy and I got together for drinks. Randy kept scanning the bar. "Kurt might join us," he tossed off, casually. I'd had a sneaking suspicion Kurt might be invited.

At some point, Randy's phone vibrated with a text message from Kurt. Randy texted back that Kurt should come by. A moment later, Randy's phone vibrated again.

"Kurt's not coming," Randy said. At which point I smacked his shoulder with the back of my hand and said, "See? I told you he didn't want to meet me."

In my experience, a guy usually decides he wants nothing to do with a woman after they go on a date. Or they meet each other. Or they lay eyes on each other across a room. Not Kurt. Despite Randy's pre-screening, Kurt has opted out of every opportunity to meet me.

Which is too bad. Because my hair looked really good tonight.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You (Don't) Get What You (Don't) Ask For ...

I'm reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers these days.

I was about to give up on it because I thought he was rehashing the premise over and over and while I might be a little thick-skulled of late, I was pretty sure that I had gotten his point, that vast circumstances set up the possibility of success for some (like being born at the right time to come of age at the right time to be part of a cultural shift) and that the absence of those circumstances thwart the success of others.

But I kept reading tonight, and now, I'm really glad I did.

One of his premises is that part of what makes some successful (and others not) is cultural behavior. But it doesn't simply stem back to your parents or grandparents. Behaviors of those who came long before us affect who we are today.

In the section I just finished, the gist of the lesson is that you have to communicate clearly what you need, that allowing oneself to be intimidated can lead to disastrous results.

And my mind wandered to Nikola Tesla. I've mentioned before that I'm related to him, but in reading Gladwell's book, tonight I connected our dots in a different way: Tesla was a brilliant man. He was responsible for some of the most life-changing inventions in history. He should have been more famous than Thomas Edison. Instead, he is much less well known and died virtually penniless. And from what I've read about him, that's largely due to the fact that he wasn't assertive enough.

Which is absolutely one of my biggest issues. I almost never ask for what I need from people personally and I certainly haven't been assertive professionally.

I haven't gotten to the end of Gladwell's book just yet, but I'm thinking that the point of this installment is to make us aware of how our circumstances shape us, not to give us excuses but to give us the knowledge to overcome those circumstances and thrive in spite of them.

How exciting is that?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An Open Letter To Craigslist Posters ...

Dear Those Who Post Openings For Writers On Craigslist:

My name is Beth Kujawski. I am a freelance writer. I have extensive writing experience as well as extensive editing experience. I've worked at the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, and Chicago magazine. I've edited The Last Lecture, an international bestseller with more than four million copies in print in this country alone.

I am the kind of writer you want writing for your web site (or magazine or whatever project you're working on that requires words).

Unfortunately, I do not work for free (or for next to nothing). I think it's great that you're trying to start a business, but I'm trying to pay a mortgage.

Here's a bit of insight for you: You get what you pay for. If you don't require your writers to have any writing experience, there's a good chance that you'll be shoveling a lot of crap onto your shiny new pages, which won't make for a very auspicious launch, now, will it?

Just as you wouldn't want to build a foundation with mud, I'd wager that you don't want to create a web site (or magazine or whatever project you're working on that requires words) with whatever people are willing to write for you for free (or for a whopping one or two cents a word).

Just because most people can string together a noun and a verb and a preposition or two doesn't mean that writing isn't a commodity.

It's quite the chicken-and-egg conundrum, isn't it? You're hopeful that you'll be able to start paying your writers once your site (or magazine or whatever project you're working on that requires words) is launched and once your site (or magazine or whatever project you're working on that requires words) starts receiving steady traffic (or subscriptions) which you can then convert into ad revenue but how do you expect to attract all those eyeballs with content that may not be up to snuff?

I wish you well as you ramp up your endeavor. Please let me know when you're able to pay writers a reasonable rate.

Thank you,

Beth Kujawski

Rain ...

Exactly how much rain can there be? And what about the Midwest does rain like so much? Lately, when I look at the radar, the rest of the country is high and dry but Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio? We have a red-yellow-and-green extravaganza raining down on what feels like every other day.

I woke up to the sound of my sump pump cycling on and off – which is much better to waking to the sound of my sump pump not cycling on and off – which it's continuing to do, every 30 seconds or so. It is a happy sound. I have had brushes with water in my basement. I do not prefer to have them ever again.

So I'll listen to the hum and gurgle as I listen to the rain coming down on the skylight directly over my head and look at the refreshed radar on my monitor, trying to gauge when the rain will go away.

At the moment, a very red cell is right over this house I call home, so the sump pump and the rain on the glass are creating quite a symphony. But if it's not too much to ask, Mother Nature, could you share the soggy wealth with another part of the country for a few days? We have overnight temps in the teens headed our way again. I understand that it's not spring just yet, so maybe we can let the ground recover a little and firm up to a consistency that's slightly more solid than pudding.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Density ...

Life.

I have a stack of postcards that are white and feature stark black type that reads "All or nothing."

That is the story of my life these past weeks.

I wonder why.

My former life seemed generally boring. A little spurt of activity here and there, but mostly, it was banal. Or so it seemed to me. Others have commented on what an interesting life I've led, and I suppose there are many interesting things that piece themselves together into an interesting view, but day to day, moment to moment, my life seemed quiet.

And then, in October, I lost my job, for which, money concerns aside, I was grateful. It wasn't a good fit.

And then, in November, my birthday rolled around again and Thanksgiving arrived in a flurry of side dishes.

And then, in December, I ramped up for the holidays and baked, but baked less than I've baked in the past because my heart just wasn't in it.

And then, in January, I met someone.

And then, in February, Dave died. And a long-time friendship evaporated. And the someone became something more.

And now, in March, the someone who became something more has become something else. And in the mix, I have had two friends land in the hospital unexpectedly and found out tonight that another friend is scheduled for brain surgery later this month.

So to February and March I say, "Enough already!"

I understand that life happens and that we have no control over the wheres and whens. But is it really too much to ask that the universe disperse life's wallops? Can we kindly dilute this emotional concentration in a gallon jug not a jigger?

The solace in it all stems from the awareness that I will not only muster through this phase but will emerge from it with a stronger sense of self. We can endure much more than we recognize.

But it sure would be lovely to go sit on a rock in Big Sur and stare at the ocean for about a month and let my brain reboot.

Instead, I'll just look at this picture and remember when I was there. Remember the way the light danced on the water and the waves rolled onto the shore as though they were choreographed to the music I'd chosen for the trip. The light was unlike any light I'd experienced before. It is one of my favorite places on earth.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I Suppose I Should Be Sleeping ...

This is what I get for having carbs for dinner.

Tired too early, but then, the moment the pasta-induced coma wears off – hello! – Beth can't sleep.

So I'm up when I should be sleeping. And later, I'll wish I was sleeping when I need to be up.

But I like the stillness of night. The quiet. The wondering about the goings-on of others at this hour. Who else is awake and at their computers, unable to sleep? Who is closing down a bar? Who is on their way home from work?

Logically, at this hour, I should read or watch TV. I should not sit so close to a bright screen. I'm sure the glow further messes with my ability to drift off eventually. But there's something about being up in the middle of the night that makes me want to connect with the outside world. And my computer is my tether.

If only I had reliably sleepless (insomniaical?) friends. We could call each other at these hours.

Or if only I had the ability to teleport myself. I could visit friends in other parts of the world where the hours are more sane.

Alas, to the best of my knowledge, my friends are sound sleepers and I suppose it's for the best that I don't have the ability to dismantle myself down to the molecular level. Surely, one key molecule would get hung up somewhere and I'd recompose at my destination looking like something Picasso would paint.

But I seem to be getting sleepy. I guess it's time to try again.

Monday, March 02, 2009

After ...

Despite meeting his family and many of his friends, despite the beautiful service in the beautiful sanctuary, somehow, it still doesn't feel like he's gone.

I anticipated that the memorial service would somehow make reality more real, but instead, it still feels abstract.

Despite a pocketful of crumpled Kleenex.

It was wonderful to meet his mother and his father and his brother and every other member of his United Colors of Benetton family.

It was equally as wonderful to meet so many of his friends who have become my friends over the past few weeks, bonds forged of our collective grief and distinctive stories.

All of us have learned new facts about Dave this month. I, for one, marvel that after talking to him for so many hours for so many days for so many years, there is still so much to know.

The book was well-received by his familly. His father, the deacon of the church where we said our farewells, leafed through his copy during the reception and said, "I've never seen anything like this."

Nor have I. But I like the notion of compiling everyone's memories for the family, especially for someone like Dave whose friends dot the country and mark the various phases of his life: pre-transplant, post-transplant, undergrad, grad school, work.

But perhaps Dave's dad was referring to the book's heft. What I expected to be a few entries from a few friends turned into 63 pages of recollections and, hopefully, comfort.

Ryan, Dave's brother, gave me one of Dave's many, many, many Cubs hats, which I will cherish.

And I will become accustomed to speaking to Dave's other friends, instead of to Dave.

My dear friend Angela (who did not know Dave) mailed a card to me last week so that I would receive it today, after the service. It contains this comforting passage:

Amid this new silence,
a gentle applause
for this life we'll remember,
whose spirit that was
such a gift to us all
and remains with us yet,
whose radiance and love
we will never forget.


And so begins life in a new era. Today did indeed feel like a beginning, the first Monday of a new month. The sun was shining. I tended to many tasks that had been shoved aside.

Tomorrow promises to be even more productive.

One foot in front of the other, one day at a time.