Thirty Days of Kindness

 

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The countdown to the holidays has begun! The options for marking each passing day are seemingly endless.  As children we eagerly awaited our turn to crack open a tiny paper door on our cardboard Advent calendar to reveal that day’s seasonal picture.  Pinterest is chock full of creative ways to craft a countdown system.  And of course there is the ever popular opportunity to consume mediocre chocolate from a grocery store calendar.

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Although each of these options certainly have their merits and I have wholeheartedly enjoyed many of them in the past, I have a different plan for this year. I’m hoping to actively infuse these days with some mindful acts of kindness.  Hopefully my everyday life contains frequent moments of kindness-whether deliberate or by chance. However, I’m planning to step it up a bit for the next few weeks.  Having done something like this a few years ago I know that perhaps I will be the one receiving the greatest gift.

If this sounds like something you’d like to try, here are thirty ideas that might inspire you.  Whether you decide to embrace a daily act of kindness or opt to select just a few, I wish you joy during this season and beyond.

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  1. Buy two poinsettias or other holiday plants.  Keep one and ask the checkout clerk to give the other one to the next person that comes along.
  2. Brush snow off of another car in the parking lot.
  3. Consider offering a small plate of goodies and/or a hot drink to the person that delivers your oil, mail, or packages.
  4. Leave a scratch lottery ticket and a penny in a card on the windshield of a car at the hospital, post office, or other place where you may find especially harried people.
  5. Give someone a compliment.
  6. Send a card to someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
  7. Buy a reusable bag and ask the sales clerk to give it to the next person who doesn’t have one.
  8. Download the Charity Miles app and use it to have a donation made to the charity of your choice (from the more than 35 options listed) every time you run or walk inside or outside or bike outside. It’s easier than it sounds.  Just open the app, select a charity, and click the activity that you are doing. One of the sponsoring corporations will donate 25 cents per mile for running and walking and 10 cents per mile for biking.
  9. Be kind to yourself and spend some time doing something that makes you happy.
  10. Return a loose shopping cart to the appropriate spot.
  11. Do a household chore that is normally done by someone else.
  12. Thank someone for their good service.
  13. Contact your local animal shelter to see what you could do to help-donate towels, food, cleaning supplies, or possibly volunteer.
  14. Donate coats to a community program that gives them to those in need.
  15. Take time to enjoy a local holiday concert or play.
  16. Mail a card to a home complimenting them on their holiday decorations.
  17. Make a commitment to reduce single use consumption. Try switching to re-usable grocery bags, bring your own cup when you get a take-out beverage, give plastic wrap alternatives a try, avoid plastic water bottles by using bottles such as S’well bottles, swap cloth napkins for paper ones.
  18. Check with your local school to see if they have a Backpack Program that provides food to food-insecure children on weekends and holidays when they don’t have access to free or reduced school meals. Donate money or items that they suggest.
  19. Don’t take the closest parking spot and enjoy your gift to another driver as well as the gift to yourself of a bit of extra fresh air and exercise.
  20. Consider feeding the birds this winter.
  21. Pick up trash from the side of the road. Recycle what you can.  Redeem returnables and donate that money to the charity of your choice.
  22. Support local artisans when purchasing gifts for others or for yourself.
  23. Make plans to create or donate to a Little Free Library or donate books to another cause.
  24. Refrain from unnecessary negative comments.
  25. Take some time to savor nature-the sky at dawn, the frost patterns on a window, the pattern of leaves on a plant, the smell of the air.
  26. Make a donation to a charity that is meaningful to someone on your gift list. Wildfire relief, animal welfare, environmental causes, world hunger, and organizations that support youth are just a few possible ideas.
  27. Don an ugly sweater or tie some jingle bells to your sneakers and run or walk in a holiday road race that raises funds for a good cause.
  28. Donate your time or special skill to a community event, a neighbor, or someone in need.
  29. Let someone go ahead of you in line.
  30. Share the chocolate from your Advent calendar with a friend.

It beautifies everything it covers.

Up and Down…Travels in Idaho, Running in Utah, and the Arrival of an Angel

When we thought of Idaho, we thought of potatoes.  That was our uninitiated impression of the state. After our great race in Idaho Falls we made a beeline for the Idaho Potato Museum…of course!

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We had no idea that there could be so much to learn about potatoes! This expansive potato masher display was just a fraction of what we found inside.

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As riveting as the museum was we were anxious to get on the road. My childhood friend, Amy, now lives in Hailey, Idaho and had graciously offered to host us at her home.  She had warned us that the drive from Idaho Falls to Hailey offered few options for food or other services so we had planned ahead.  But we were stunned to encounter miles of dramatic lava fields along the way. We had no idea that lava fields are a major part of southern Idaho.

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We encountered Hell’s Half Acre Trail not too far out of Idaho Falls. A walk along the trail was informative but sweltering.

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As we continued our drive we passed miles of what looked like low rolling hills of crumbling asphalt studded with sage brush.  The lava fields were immense.

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Eventually we headed north and the landscape changed to ranch lands and finally mountains.  We arrived at Amy’s in Hailey, a picturesque mountain town south of Sun Valley, in early evening.  Amy had arranged for dinner at The Grill at Knob Hill Inn. Our dinner could not have been more perfect.  Sitting in the garden on that balmy evening we caught up on each other’s lives as we savored a truly fabulous meal.  And if that hadn’t been enough, Amy had also gotten us tickets for the outdoor Sun Valley ice showNathan Chen, the Olympic skater, was the headliner.  Our seats were so close we could hear the skaters’ blades on the ice as they whizzed by just feet from us.

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The show was mesmerizing.  It was a spectacular way to cap off our day which had begun with running our Idaho race, included driving through miles of unexpected lava fields, and ended with a sumptuous dinner and a perfect evening of catching up with our long-time friend.

The next day was spent exploring the area surrounding Amy’s home and Sun Valley.

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We took the gondola to the top of the mountain and enjoyed lunch and fabulous views.  We asked our waiter to snap a photo of us and he rapidly dipped and darted around us and in less than a minute he had taken an array of shots from various angles.  It was obvious that he was well practiced in accommodating guests.

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That evening we were able to walk along the river from Amy’s home into town for dinner.

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Amy pointed out the “heart tree” where people leave heart-shaped river rocks.

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After several wonderful days of reminiscing and touring we hit the road to head to Utah. The drive south to Salt Lake City brought us through acres of ranches and fields of  soybeans and corn.

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Once we arrived in the city we picked up our race packets, had a quick lunch and drove by Temple Square and the Salt Lake Temple. Ready to get to our hotel, I clicked the address link in our hotel confirmation email and we set off. More than an hour later we had repeatedly arrived at an address that was clearly not our hotel. We tried all sorts of routes and maps and finally, feeling utterly exasperated, we pulled over into a parking lot.  We were completely immersed in perusing our maps when suddenly I looked up and a woman had appeared at my window. She said she was about to close up the building at the head of the parking lot and wanted to be sure we hadn’t needed to go in.  We confessed we were lost and were just trying to figure out how to get to our hotel.  After we shared the address she assured us we were not far and gave us directions.  We gushed our relief and gratitude and drove off hoping to be at our hotel momentarily. After a few turns we pulled into a gas station to get gas and confirm the rest of the directions. As Mike pumped gas and I checked my phone I glanced up to find our guardian angel standing at my window! Once again, I hadn’t seen her approaching and she had just materialized.  She apologetically assured us she wasn’t stalking us but had second thoughts about the directions she had given us.  I showed her my phone with the hotel address and she informed us that after all of our travels we were not even in Salt Lake City anymore.  Well, that was obviously the first problem!  She gave us new directions and with immense relief we soon pulled into our hotel.  Ironically, a bit later as we were heading out to dinner we passed a gentleman who asked if Mike could assist him with a seat that he was struggling with in his rental car.  Mike worked with him to figure it out and as we continued to the restaurant we were pleased that we had been able to “pay it forward” a bit, too.

We had been surprised to find a Tuesday race in Utah when we had been scanning the Running in the USA website. A midweek race is really helpful when we are trying to run in more than one state on a trip.  We had read that the Deseret News Marathon (which also includes a half marathon, 10k, and 5K) was held on Pioneer Day, which is celebrated on July 24th to commemorate when Brigham Young and his Mormon pioneer followers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.  It is a BIG holiday! There is a huge parade and lots of celebrating.  On the night before the Twenty-fourth (as we learned they refer to the day) we walked past a liquor store where there were so many customers streaming in, they needed a traffic officer to manage the crowds.

Tuesday morning we left the hotel before dawn. The race website listed a descriptive starting spot but not an address.  Unfortunately, not being locals, finding this location proved elusive.

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Eventually we did track it down but unfortunately it wasn’t until the race was close to starting.  It was clear that our chances of making it through the port-a-potty line before the gun went off were non-existent. Since our 10K course also ran along the marathon course, there were bathrooms along the route.  Problem solved.

The course started with an invigorating downhill stretch.  The pastel early morning sky against the dark mountains was beautiful. I felt great! And then I didn’t. An unexpectedly long wait to make a pit stop at mile 2 seemed to derail me. When I started up again I had no energy. I began taking walking breaks. Mike valiantly stuck with me despite my snail’s pace.  Even the throngs of spectators who lined the course waiting for the parade to start couldn’t rally me. I truly had never felt this awful in a race. Eventually the finish line appeared and Mike and I joined hands for the last several feet for our traditional finish.   This time although it may have looked charming, that physical connection helped get me over the finish line.  I am seldom pleased with race photos but the shots from this race are epically awful-but accurately depict how I felt at that moment. (The omission of a photo here is deliberate!)

After crossing the finish line I felt so ill it took me a bit to regain a semblance of normalcy.  My typical post-race enthusiasm was tempered by disappointment over my lousy race.

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But eventually I perked up enough to ask Mike to take our requisite awkward documentation selfie. And we bolstered our thoughts by reminding ourselves that we had just completed our run in Utah and our 37th state race, even if it hadn’t turned out as well as we had hoped.

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As we rode the shuttle bus back to the start we chatted about the race and we laughed at my possibly delirious thoughts as I took the bunch of grapes handed to me by gloved young men in black pants and white shirts just past the finish line. First, I thought what a good idea it was to avoid having sweaty runners reach into a pile to pick up their own grapes.  And secondly I marveled that this race was being catered and we were being served by smartly dressed wait staff.  And then when I had looked closer and read their name tags, I realized that we were in Utah and these helpful young men were members of the Mormon church.  Oh, brother!

With our races behind us we were ready to switch into vacation mode.  We packed up the car and traveled south to begin exploring several of Utah’s iconic National Parks.

Quest Race #: 37

State: Utah

Date Run: July 24, 2018

Bottom Line: Spending a few days reconnecting with our generously welcoming friend, Amy, was a true highlight of our trip.  Although my Utah race experience was not what I had hoped for we were happy to have completed another state race and we still have fond memories of our angel.

For Goodness’ Sake

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A hydrangea bush laden with melon-sized blossoms and our desire to support an important cause along with a general wish to send some good vibes out into the world prompted my “Flowers for Goodness’ Sake” pseudo-flower cart at the end of our driveway.  The chalkboard sign and framed note encouraged people to “Take what you want – Leave what you’d like” and explained that all donations would go directly to the Cady Tucker Run in the Spirit Race that we had signed up for in Idaho.

Running the Head for a Cure race last summer in St. Louis solidified our commitment to choosing races that support a meaningful cause. So when we searched for a race in Idaho this summer we were immediately drawn to the Cady Tucker Run in the Spirit 5K. Their website has an eloquently written tribute to Cady who was tragically killed in an auto accident. It also outlines the race’s excellent mission which includes purchasing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for area schools.

So in the week before we traveled to the race I started my day by cutting fresh flowers and setting them in old sap buckets by the edge of the road.   And as the days passed we received generous donations and thoughtful notes from our friends and neighbors.

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We arrived in Idaho late the night before the race and appreciated the 9:15 start time and the two hour time zone difference the next morning as we headed to the race. When we arrived we were impressed by the number of runners, volunteers, and supporters in attendance.  The sense of community and passion for the cause was clearly evident.

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The event included a 5 mile relay, 5K and 5 mile races, and a kids’ fun run. We opted for the 5K race which was run along a quiet paved path lined with waterways, greenery, and occasional residences.  The course was tranquil and flat-just perfect!

The after-race refreshments included a delectable array of fruit and artisan breads which were sliced to order by an enthusiastic crew of volunteers.

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I opted for a slice of lemon blueberry bread and Mike was in heaven with his choice of whole grain bread with natural peanut butter-his absolute favorite! These options were clearly a notch above most race fare.

During the race we had run near a couple and their two young children-one in a stroller and the other a little guy who zipped past us repeatedly. We had a chance to chat with them after the race and it came up in conversation that we were from Maine and had chosen this race for our Idaho race.  We were encouraged to meet Pat Tucker, Cady’s mom, whom I had communicated with online prior to the race.

It was a true honor to meet Pat.  After a few photos she kindly introduced us to the crowd as the couple that was trying to run a race in every state and then asked us to say a few words. Although public speaking is not my forte I was happy to express how much it meant to us to be a part of an incredible event that honored such a special person and that had an outstanding mission.

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After we had left the race and continued on our travels I emailed Pat to tell her about our Flowers for Goodness’ Sake endeavor and to let her know a check would be on its way.  Her reply was incredibly gracious as she expressed her gratitude for the additional donation.  I replied that it had truly been our great pleasure to have been part of their race and to send along some additional goodness from Maine.

Adding this new activity to our racing gave it a whole new dimension beyond our own personal quest.  Although this action was small we hope that perhaps those who contributed as well as those who may benefit enjoyed the spirit in which it was offered…for goodness’ sake.

Quest Race #: 36

State: Idaho

Date Run: July 21, 2018

The Bottom Line: We will remember this race as one of the most poignant and meaningful races we have done in our quest.  Our connection with the people involved with the race as well as the kindness shown by our neighbors and friends at home in Maine will remain a highlight of our adventure. Thank you!

 

Minneapolis

We arrived in Minneapolis a day before running the Boom Island Brewery Beer Run in July. A few weeks before leaving home we had booked our hotel through Hotwire. We frequently take advantage of excellent deals on hotels that are listed by star level, area, and price but without the actual hotel name revealed until you officially book the room. The unnamed “4 star boutique hotel” that Hotwire had offered at about half the rate for a traditional reservation turned out to be The Marquette Hotel.  Its newly renovated sleek decor and professional, attentive staff made it a fabulous find.

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Shortly after settling in we set off to explore on foot.  We knew little about Minneapolis but headed toward the Mississippi River anticipating that there would be some interesting sights and activities along the river.

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After crossing the bridge we ended up on Nicollet Island.  There were wonderful views of St. Anthony Falls at the Water Power Park.

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A series of signs provided extensive information about the history of the falls, the flour and logging industry, and the development of hydro-electric power. We had no idea that our stroll over the bridge would lead us to so much knowledge.

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The street across from the river is lined with a wide assortment of tempting restaurants and outdoor cafes.

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The appealing atmosphere of the outdoor patio of Aster Cafe easily lured us in for a cocktail and dinner.

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Although we loved our seats outside we wished we’d had a chance to enjoy the ambiance of the bar.

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As we strolled along the street we came across these chalk drawings on the sidewalk.

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There was no sign of the artist, Phi_the_Chalk_Girl, but encountering these drawings added a lovely bonus to our visit.

After our race the following day we were determined to crack the bus code.  Our attempt to get to the race by bus had been a bit of a fiasco that became a last minute Uber ride. Minneapolis has many numbered streets…and, as we finally noticed, avenues.  Once it dawned on us that streets ran in one direction and avenues ran perpendicularly and that 1st Avenue was different than 1st Street we finally got it.

Arriving at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden by bus felt like a small victory.  It was brutally hot by the time we arrived.  Our progress around the grounds slowed to a crawl as we meandered through the exhibits.

We found these benches with quotations entertaining.

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This iconic sculpture was especially popular because it sprayed cool water.IMG_1198 (2)

Although we were enthusiastic about viewing the exhibits, the heat was wringing every last drop of energy from us. Like a mirage, a simple sign stating “Sisyphus Brewery”  and “air conditioning” appeared at the far end of the garden.  Following the arrow across the street our relief must have been visible as we passed through the doors into a blissfully refreshing and lively pub.  After a pint of William Wallace Scotch Ale for Mike and a strawberry soda for me we returned to the Sculpture Museum and resumed our stroll through the grounds.

Later that evening we enjoyed a dinner of local Minnesota fare at the FireLake Grill House.  Our waitress, Amy, casually asked what had brought us to Minneapolis. We eagerly explained our quest to run a race in every state.  As a fellow runner this concept seemed to ignite true excitement in her as she considered launching her own quest. Once again we couldn’t stop exclaiming about how truly life-changing this adventure has been for us and eagerly encouraged her to give it a try.

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A sunset walk along the river after dinner completed our time in Minneapolis.  The next morning we were off to North Dakota to begin our travels through the prairie.

True Love in Tennessee

After considering a number of options for our run in Tennessee we decided the Zen Evo Chocolate Lover’s 5K  would be a good choice.  Our goal was to coordinate so that Amelia could run a race with us.  Knoxville is about a 3.5 hour drive from their home in North Carolina so it was a good option.  We met Amelia there and drove to Knoxville along with their sweet pup, Jameson.

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We took turns snuggling with him in the backseat.

We had booked a house for the weekend through Airbnb and couldn’t have been happier with our decision.  The home was spotlessly clean, cozy, and full of welcoming details.

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Judy, our host, even left a goodie bag of treats for Jameson, as well as goodies for the humans in our group.  The pint of Bluebell ice cream in the fridge with a note saying “in case of emergency” really made us feel pampered-and luckily we did experience an ice cream emergency. Thanks, Judy!

Since the race didn’t start until 10:00 on Saturday morning, I had plenty of time to put the finishing touches on our couple’s costume.

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Mike’s enthusiasm for wearing any sort of costume is non-existent. He prefers to stay out of the spotlight and he worried that agreeing to run with 6″ conversation hearts on his back may not allow that anonymity.  Undeterred, I persevered with my project in case he relented but I, uncharacteristically, refrained from pestering him into agreeing.

When this wording popped into my head I thought I might have a chance.

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He decided with that disclaimer he would go ahead with yet another of my whacky plans…definitely “true love”.

The race was held at the Victor Ashe Park which was about a 20 minute drive from the house. The forecast sounded dire.

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It is was dark and threatening rain when we arrived.

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We opted to take our requisite awkward selfie before the race.

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Although he had relented and agreed to the hearts on the back of his jacket, I didn’t even ask him to add the heart headband.

The course was an out and back on the paved path through the park.

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We appreciate out and back courses when we run with Amelia because we can watch for her on her way back while we are still heading out.  When we found her she was the third woman but she pushed it up the last hills and ended up coming in as the overall second place female finisher! After completing her race she looped back to us on the course and then dashed back to the end to snap a few photos of us finishing.IMG_0786

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We’re crossing the finish line hand-in-hand as we do with all of our quest races.  Besides being kind of special, it keeps me from lagging too far behind.

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The rain picked up after we finished so we were grateful the awards ceremony was held under a pavilion.  We thought the addition of several heaters was brilliant and wished more races offered this luxury.

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Apparently stuffed bears are a signature feature of this race.  We were handed a bear after we finished. We received one for placing 4th in the couples’ costume contest. Mike placed second in his age group and I got third-and we each got another bear.

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But even more exciting was Amelia placing as the second overall female and receiving this gigantic bear.  It plays a Shakira song and has flashing red lights! I love the sequence of her expressions as she received the bear.

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There was a post-race party at the Hexagon Brewery later in the day which we happily attended.

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Although the crowd was a bit small when we were there we enjoyed talking to the bartender/owner who impressed us with the number of activities at the brewery and with the variety of  beers they are producing.

Our plan was to venture out into downtown Knoxville for dinner.  When we inquired about restaurant recommendations our bartender had enticed us with a multitude of options.  However, as we drove back to the house for the afternoon through a downpour the thought of walking around the city in the rain became less appealing despite our sincere desire to explore and experience Knoxville. Eventually we somewhat reluctantly conceded that the option to have dinner in our cozy house and watch the Olympics sounded the most appealing.

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We awoke the next morning confident that our decision to stay in had been the right one but feeling really disappointed to be heading home without having visited the center of Knoxville.  A quick trip into the city for donuts and coffee gave us a tiny (and sweet) taste of the city.  Thanks to Amelia’s research we arrived at a perfect donut shop, Makers Donuts.

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They had a delectable array of options.

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Although they didn’t sell coffee they were connected to another hip establishment that did.

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Amelia and Matt drove us back to Charlotte while we enjoyed some more quality time with Jameson.IMG_2950

As we waited in the security line at the airport Amelia sent us this shot of Jameson looking out the car window after us.

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We were sad to be leaving, too.

State-Tennessee

Quest #-35

Date: February 10, 2018

The Bottom Line: Although our plans to experience Knoxville didn’t transpire as we had hoped, we loved having a chance to spend the weekend with Amelia, Matt, and Jameson.  Our Airbnb home made the weekend exceptionally comfortable.  The race was fun and filled our suitcase with more stuffed bears than we’ve ever traveled with.  Mike was a great sport by once again putting up with my crazy ideas and showing his “true love”. What a guy!

10 Reasons to Do A Quest

Doing this quest to run a race in every state has literally been life-changing. When Mike suggested it at the Philadelphia Marathon seven years ago we had no clue what an amazing adventure this would become.  We have become passionate about sharing our experiences and encouraging others to join the fun because we LOVE it!

If you’re intrigued by this concept but running doesn’t appeal to you don’t dismiss the idea. There are a multitude of ways to approach this goal.  My friend, Anita, has begun her quest to hike in every state. We met someone who has their sights set on playing golf across the country. Others are planning to visit every national park.  The great thing about a personal quest is that you can mold it into whatever inspires and works for you.

For us this quest has given our lives a whole new dimension.  It has added a fun spark to everyday life. So regardless of how you approach this endeavor, we would like to offer 10 reasons why we think you might want to launch your own quest.

  1. Increase your geographical knowledge  Although Mike’s geographical skills definitely exceed mine, I will confess that given a blank map of the United States a few years ago I would have failed miserably at filling in the location of many states.  Now I can solidly fill in virtually all of the states with confidence. Of course, spending a little time memorizing a map could have had the same result. However, the spots on the map wouldn’t be associated with actual visual images and memories of each location.
  2. Take part in regional activities When we chose our race in Alabama we had only a vague idea that Mobile had any connection to Mardi Gras.  But we got to experience an incredible Mardi Gras parade and atmosphere first hand in what we learned is the first official city to celebrate Mardi Gras.  It was fabulous!flowers float    We specifically went to Iowa during a presidential primary season since its first in the nation caucus is so famously a part of the political process.  By chance we had an opportunity to go to a Bernie Sanders rally and concert right next door to our hotel!IMG_5615We also got to observe portions of an intriguing event in Iowa called the Tweed Ride. We had no idea such a thing existed!IMG_5639.JPG

When we ran in Seattle we were able to see the famous flying fish in Pike Place Market.

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IMG_6841And these are just a few of the experiences we’ve encountered.

3.  Conversation Starter Whether it’s telling race organizers that we’ve chosen their race to check that state off our list, chatting with fellow runners after a race, or conversing with a waitress during our travels, we’ve loved the conversations that have followed. I’m pretty sure we’ve sparked the urge to try this quest in a number of people. We have been amazed by the enthusiastic responses we receive when we talk about our experiences.

4. Try Local Foods and Drinks  We are devoted to trying local cuisine when we arrive at a new destination.  Cheese curds in Wisconsin were delicious.  Eating them the night before the 13 Dot 1 Half Marathon, may not have been such a good idea, however.

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Po’boys, hurricanes, and beignets in New Orleans were basically a requirement of visiting NOLA.

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Gumbo in Alabama was incredible.IMG_6071

Bill and Terry took us to one of their favorite BBQ joints when they hosted us in Houston.

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We had our first taste of a Waffle House breakfast in Mississippi.  I think the waitress was puzzled by my inordinate level of excitement at dining in a restaurant that is as common as Dunkin Donuts are up here in the north but I was thrilled to experience this icon of the south.

Sampling local beers has also become an integral part of our travels. IMG_5633

5. Experience the beauty and diversity of the country  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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Deception Pass, Washington

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Green Lake, Wisconsin

Baroda, Michigan

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Mississippi River- Davenport, Iowa

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New Orleans, Louisiana

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Mount Rainier, Washington

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Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

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Cliff Walk- Newport, Rhode, Island

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Portland Head Light- Cape Elizabeth, Maine

6.  Meet Incredible People This benefit has truly been one of the most rewarding parts of our quest. The people we met in Maryland couldn’t have been more welcoming and encouraging once they heard about our quest. Multiple people approached us to wish us luck and ask about our adventures-even as we began to drive away!

The couple we met in Michigan after the 13.Wine Half Marathon gave us terrific tips for the rest of our trip. The fellow runners we chatted with at the awards ceremony in Ohio were so congenial we were disappointed not to be returning to visit with them again. And when we gave our name at the packet pickup in Wisconsin the woman at the table exclaimed, “You’re the people from Maine!’ and promptly took our picture.

7. Long Run Conversation Topic Many miles of running have been spent reminiscing about races we’ve done and places we’ve visited.  Debating which race was our favorite or how many half marathons we’ve done has kept us occupied for miles and has provided us with the fun of reliving our adventures.

8. Reward for training in winter We have frequently tried to schedule a winter race in a warm(er) climate.  Since we live in Maine that is not too difficult.  As we crank out our snowy miles we try to keep images of warmer, non-snowy destinations in mind.

007When we step into a relatively tropical climate where the monochrome winter landscape is replaced by lush vegetation and the sun thaws our chilled bodies we agree it was worth every frigid mile we ran at home.

9. Chance to Visit Family and Friends Some of our most favorite trips have been ones that have included an opportunity to visit family and friends.  Janet and John and Bill and Terry provided southern hospitality when we ran in Houston. We paired our Vermont race with a visit with Katie, which is always a treat. Annie was a superb tour guide for our whole family when we ran in Virginia.

Attending our nephew, Branden’s, graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy allowed us an opportunity to run in Maryland.

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When we traveled to Pittsburgh for our son-in-law, Matt’s, graduation from Carnegie Mellon we popped over to Ohio for a fun race with the added bonus of having his parents join us on our side trip.

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The opportunity to spend some time with Jessey when we were in Washington ended up truly being a highlight of a trip that is one of our very favorites.

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10. Really Making a Difference Some of the races we have run have been very small but have been among the most meaningful events. The Hope for Hunter race in West Virginia was a tiny local race that was organized to support children with Hunter Syndrome, a genetic condition that primarily affects males for which there is currently no cure.  An absolute highlight of the event was meeting a young boy with this condition.

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We ran a similar type of race in New Jersey to support research for ALD.  The daughter of the gentleman who founded the Run for ALD foundation and who sadly had passed away from this condition spoke eloquently about her passion for supporting research for a newborn screening that could save hundreds of lives each year.  Mike and I left feeling so pleased that we had contributed to this effort.

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Our most recent race in St. Louis, Head for the Cure, is devoted to raising awareness and funding to support the brain cancer community. Listening to incredible tales of people impacted by brain cancer once again confirmed that signing up for races that had a direct impact on others has truly been one of the most fabulous outcomes of our quest.

We began our quest seven years ago and have run in 34 states so far.  Although we are hopeful that we will cross the finish line in our 50th state race at some point, we can unequivocally state that the journey itself is actually what it’s all about for us. We wish you safe travels and memorable adventures no matter what your journey may be.

Would you like to do a quest?

Are you working toward a goal?

What’s your favorite part of traveling?

The Gift of Kindness

A couple of years ago our extended family decided to scale back on Christmas gifts. The plan was to exchange homemade gifts instead of purchasing more items. I think we were partially inspired by Marie Kondo and her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I loved this concept and my family members created thoughtful, unique gifts.

Unfortunately, I am a procrastinator.  This meant that my gifts were often incomplete, unnecessary, and sadly, sometimes unidentifiable.  Because I have the kindest nieces they politely thanked me for 3 inch circles of mediocre knitting meant to be boot toppers.  My attempt at mittens made from sweaters resulted in enormous blobs that could have doubled as potholders.

But last November, when our entire family was feeling despair over the future of our country, our daughter, Amelia and niece, Annie were discussing how to move forward.  As many people did, they decided that they needed to be a force in the world that was creating a positive difference. So it was decided that instead of tangible gifts we would give random acts of kindness.

I merrily embarked on this adventure with no idea that I would be receiving a most unexpected gift. My acts of kindness were small but I got an inordinate surge of delight each time I did one.

I wrote little notes in cards to random strangers, added a scratch lottery ticket and a penny, and left them on the windshields of cars at the hospital, post office, school, and grocery store-places I thought people may be feeling stressed or harried as the holidays approached.

card 5I felt a tad apprehensive as I somewhat furtively dashed to a car but I was hopeful that perhaps this random act of kindness brightened someone’s day.

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Feeling worried about our environment and potential changes with the new administration, I decided to reduce the number of Christmas lights that I put up outside. Half of the lights on our inside tree mysteriously were extinguished, as well, inadvertently further reducing our environmental impact.

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I am devoted to using reusable grocery bags so I picked out a bag at Trader Joe’s and told the clerk that I wanted to buy it and asked him to give it to the next person who didn’t have a reusable bag.  He in turn gave me the gift of not charging me for the bag and happily agreed to pass it on to someone in need.

On our Christmas morning run we came across a disgusting Bud Light cardboard box filled with trash and an empty beer bottle. I picked it up, ran home, and put it in the garbage.  Besides feeling a bit self-conscious about running with a cardboard box, I was repulsed by Mike’s suggestion that I was advertising Bud Light –never! But it was worth the potential humiliation to clean up a small part of the earth.

When I was at our local greenhouse purchasing a poinsettia for a gift I bought an extra one and asked the clerk to give it to the next customer.  At first the young man waiting on me was a bit confused but after a moment’s contemplation he seemed to really embrace the idea and enthusiastically said, “Yeah! I can do that!”  I left with the impression that involving him in the process had also sparked some excitement in him, as well.

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We donated food to our school district’s backpack program which sends food home on weekends and holidays when food-insecure children do not have access to school breakfasts and lunches.

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I had plans to be in Boston a couple of days before Christmas so packed up a few gift bags with socks, hand warmers, a Dunkin Donuts gift card, and some homemade cookies.  The gentlemen sitting on the sidewalk had signs wishing passersby Merry Christmas.  I felt like Santa and almost burst into tears as I walked down the street wishing them “Merry Christmas” and leaving them with a little bag of goodies.

As we gathered at Christmas other family members shared the similar deeds they had done during the season. Knowing that we had added to our normal actions as decent people and taken the extra steps to spread a little more goodness felt wonderful.

We’ve been mindful of continuing this philosophy throughout the year. Small actions such as paying for coffee for the person behind us and letting a waiting car move ahead of us in traffic are so easy but set the tone for civility and good will.

On this Giving Tuesday I urge you to consider adding some random acts of kindness into your holiday routine and delighting in the joy it undoubtedly will bring to you as well as to others.