As I contemplated the approaching new year and the beginning of a new decade, thoughts of what goals I might attach to this significant moment bounced around in my mind. A few years ago I tried something new for 30 days throughout the year. The experience was entertaining and enlightening. But not wanting to repeat that scenario I toyed with the idea of twenty of something. Read twenty books (a pathetically wimpy goal, I admit). Or maybe go twenty new places, etc. Perhaps these goals would provide some structure and direction to my year but they seemed predictable and not especially inspiring.
As I mulled over these potential ambitions, the notion of choosing 20 verbs to guide, inspire, and mold this notable upcoming year took shape. As I considered which verbs I would designate as my verbs more and more possibilities popped up. I realized a single verb offered a number of possibilities:
reduce-my carbon footprint, my screen time, my waistline
try-bungee jumping (HIGHLY unlikely), a new food, to be on time
watch-a play, the sunrise, dogs playing in the yard
write-more blog posts, a letter, journal entries
The idea blossomed and I began talking to others about which verbs I could choose and how that would play out. I urged them to tell me what their verbs would be. My husband was initially a tad skeptical about yet another of my weird ideas. But he seemed to begin to warm up to the idea as we tossed out potential verbs and how we could add dimension to our year as we used them to inspire us.
I am viewing this scheme not as an edict that must be accomplished but rather as a framework to enliven the coming months and spark some inspiration.
My twenty verbs are written on twenty separate pages in this little notebook.
As the year unfolds I plan to enter notes to record what I’m anticipating will be 20 entries per verb. But checking off experiences or listing a litany of entries is truly not the focus of this adventure. If keeping these verbs in mind as the months go by helps me to add substance, adventure, and focus to my year I will absolutely consider this concept a success.
Here are the verbs I have chosen for 2020.
What verbs would you choose?
If you choose to give this a whirl I would love to hear about your experiences.
Happy New Year and best wishes for a year filled with contentment, adventure, and peace.
As soon as we entered the terminal at the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, we knew we were in Alaska. Of course, that was where we planned to be but the surroundings instantly confirmed it.
Even though our plane had landed in the middle of the night after traveling from Maine, we were mesmerized by the Alaskan art. It was instantly clear that indeed we had arrived in Alaska, a place that had seemed exotically remote and mysterious to me.
We were especially mesmerized by the aurora display.
A snafu with the opening of the baggage compartment on the door of our plane delayed the arrival of our luggage so much that the rental car desk had closed. So at about 2:30 a.m. we were dropped off at the address of our Airbnb by our Uber driver. Exhausted and apprehensive, we dragged our bags across the lawn in the dark to (hopefully) find the door to our apartment. After attempting to go into the garden shed, we found our door and with immense relief collapsed into our bed.
We had scheduled our travels so that we would have a couple of days in Anchorage before the race. By the morning of the race we felt rested and acclimated. We awoke to surprisingly strong winds and significantly cooler temperatures. Fallen leaves were strewn across the lawn and the car crunched over small branches as we drove to the race.
We were able to park within an easy, but blustery, walk from the starting line. The temperature had dropped so much from the previous day that we were freezing and the wind was truly becoming a force to be reckoned with. We found ourselves seeking sunny enclosed doorways …and we often found other runners tucked into those spots already.
But as the start of the race neared and we lined up with the rest of the half marathon runners we warmed up and soaked in the fact that we were in ALASKA and we were running in our 40th state on our fortieth wedding anniversary. It felt a bit surreal but also fabulously exciting.
And then we were off and running. Before we even hit the one mile mark we had run past someone playing the guitar on the side of the road. As we made the sharp turn onto the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail we could hear bagpipes. That sound just heightened my emotions and sent me off with a feeling of extra celebration.
The course followed the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which borders the Anchorage coast. As we traveled along we ran past an impressive variety of performers. Some of our favorites included these drummers.
Entertainment along the course also included a string quartet, a polka band, someone playing a snare drum, as well as a group of children playing stringed instruments.
The mood was upbeat and congenial. We chatted with fellow runners and enjoyed the scenic, winding paved trail. But the wind was a force that couldn’t be ignored. After we turned at the halfway point we continued running back along the same route we had just traveled. Before we had gone far we encountered this.
This huge tree had fallen across the path! We were slightly unsettled thinking that this could have landed on a runner. Luckily, it just provided an unexpected hurdle.
We forged ahead, feeling the effects of the wind more and more as we neared the end. Both Mike and I were experiencing tightening muscles and the head wind was pretty remarkable at times.
The on-course photographer captured Mike running steadily while I, in the background, am slowing down to make some sort of adjustment-before I noticed the photographer.
But then I perked up and struck my “I’m running really well” pose. Oh brother.
We were really feeling the effects of the wind during the last mile or two. Huge gusts would pummel us, at times making it feel as though forward motion was no longer an option.
I was running behind Mike just enough to capture this somewhat surreal video of him running through a tunnel where a saxophonist was playing and high-fiving runners as they passed. It was just the perk we needed at that point.
As we wound along the course off the trail back onto the roads and up a hill we were greeted by a guitar duo playing “Chariots of Fire” which perfectly capped off our race.
Mike waited for me to catch up so we could cross the finish line together.
We took a few minutes to savor our accomplishment and take some photos to document the occasion.
The post-race refreshments included this delectable artisan bread. Somehow whatever I eat after a longer race is the best thing I’ve ever eaten.
The wind was so strong that at least one pop-up tent briefly became air-born. Keeping our blankets semi-wrapped around us became a challenge.
So filled with a huge sense of contented accomplishment we headed back to our Airbnb to pack up and head out for the rest of our Alaskan adventure.
Quest Race #: 40
Date Run: August 18, 2019
The Bottom Line: I can’t think of a more fitting way for us to mark the occasion of our 40th wedding anniversary than to run a half-marathon in Alaska.
When we realized that we had signed up to run a race in our 39th state on our 40th wedding anniversary it became clear that we needed to squeeze in another race before then so that we could keep the numbers copacetic. A stash of Southwest Airlines gift cards and some travel tips from our friend, Erik, convinced us that Kentucky would be our 39th quest state.
A quick perusal of Running in the USA brought us to the Bluegrass 10,000. This was just what we were looking for. We reserved an Airbnb within a mile of the race, booked our flights, and we were set to run in our 39th state.
Because we had taken a painfully early flight, we arrived in Lexington after our 1.5 hour drive from Cincinnati too early to check into our Airbnb. A stop at DV8 for a quick, totally southern immersion lunch revived us.
I had a fried chicken and marmalade sandwich which was decadently delicious.
The tour was fascinating and provided a wealth of historical information. We were so pleased to have spent the time here.
When we arrived at our Airbnb we were delighted with our accommodations. The spacious two room apartment was filled with antiques and period artwork giving it a very regal but still comfortable vibe. We soon found the location to be an easy walk to all of Lexington’s attractions and restaurants.
The next morning we enjoyed a leisurely warm-up walk to the start of the Bluegrass 10,000. We joined hundreds of other runners in the especially festive crowd on this Fourth of July morning.
After the “Star Spangled Banner” was sung a bugler played “My Old Kentucky Home” which we found especially moving. And to completely solidify the fact we were in Lexington, Kentucky, the heart of horse racing country, the bugler played “Call to Post” (AKA what they play at the beginning of the Kentucky Derby) when it was time to line up for the race. That little burst of horse racing stayed with me throughout the race and helped me access my inner Thoroughbred to push my pace every once in a while.
The course ran through downtown Lexington and through picturesque historic neighborhoods.
Mike was particularly intrigued to be running past Transylvania University prompting a number of vampire jokes.
I seldom like photos of me running but I do like how this one shows Mike’s and my stride perfectly synchronized (thanks Amelia for pointing that out).
We were pleased with our race and after the requisite awkward selfie
and coercing an innocent bystander to take yet another post-race photo,
we happily participated in Lexington’s Fourth of July festivities, which we kicked off by sampling some local brews.
Later in the day we strolled just a few blocks from our Airbnb to watch Lexington’s Fourth of July parade. It was stunningly hot and we were in bourbon country so pretty much all we could do after the parade was to try some bourbon ice cream at Sav’s Chill.
It was a perfect decision.
The next day, fortified by a scrumptious breakfast at Doodles,
The side order of beignets was not necessary but absolutely savored.
we popped into the Lexington Visitors Center where we learned tons of intriguing facts about Lexington’s history and why it’s called the “Horse Capital of the World”.
Mike convinced me to pose with “Big Lex” who legend says turned blue from eating all of the region’s bluegrass.
We left with a few souvenirs and a map that directed us to the Bluegrass Country Driving Tour. This drive meanders down tree-lined roads and past multiple horse farms and miles of Kentucky’s trademark dark wooden fencing.
After I got home I realized I took a photo with what was probably the only leafless tree in sight.
We opted for a short detour to Georgetown where we enjoyed a great lunch at Broussard’s Delta Kitchen, perused a few antique shops on my quest to find mint julep cups (no luck), and recharged at a terrific coffee shop, A Cup of Commonwealth, which we found in other locations, as well.
After returning to our Airbnb for a bit we ventured out into the heat again and ended up at the cutest coffee and tea shop, Lussi Brown Coffee Bar where I had an amazingly refreshing concoction of iced tea, lemonade, muddled strawberries, and mint. We spent awhile playing games, sipping our drinks, and taking in the varied art displayed throughout the cafe.
And our art perusal didn’t end there. When we were planning our trip to Lexington, Pinterest had supplied me with a plethora of touristy tips including one that mentioned an art gallery in the lobby of 21C Museum Hotel. There was nothing about this entryway that would have caught my attention as we walked by. In fact, we walked by it even when we were looking for it! But once inside we felt like we had found a hidden treasure.
We wandered through two floors of intriguing, eclectic artwork.
This is made out of sequins.
We walked back out into the heat feeling a tad dazed and pleased to have added this unexpected experience to our visit to Lexington.
Perhaps our favorite experience in Lexington came very early on our last morning in town. Acting on another tip from our friend, Erik, we drove to Keeneland Race Track, just outside downtown. We had learned that the track is open to the public during morning workouts.
As we walked to the track the sun was just rising. Only a handful of spectators had gathered along the rail but the track was full of horses in various phases of their workouts.
The jockeys frequently greeted us as they waited along the rail.
I could have watched the horses thunder past in that quiet early morning light indefinitely but part of this venture had included the promise of breakfast at the Track Kitchen which is on the Keeneland grounds. Friendly staff greeted us as we entered the cafeteria-style restaurant and filled our plates with more eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy than I could eat.
Keeneland offers a self-guided walking tour as well as a group tour. Initially we had figured we’d DIY it but for a reasonable fee we signed up for the narrated tour. After just a few steps into the tour it was clear that we had made the best choice Our guide was an absolute wealth of knowledge. He told us fun facts about the places he took us including which celebrities (including Queen Elizabeth) had been in an exclusive club room, brought us to the area where horses prepare just prior to racing, and showed us the chair that Bob Baffert sits in when bidding on horses during Keeneland’s legendary race horse sale.
Being a huge fan of the Triple Crown races in which Bob Baffert always has horses entered, seeing his chair made me feel like I had met him in person! (Fellow horse racing fans may understand this slightly obscure excitement.)
We left Keeneland with a much richer knowledge of horse racing in general and some fascinating facts about this legendary race track.
Having gotten such an early start to our day, we still had a bit of time before we had to be at the airport. As we traveled north we had an opportunity to swing into the Old Friends Farm in Georgetown which offers a wonderful home to retired Thoroughbreds.
Our timing was off and we missed the official tour but the kind woman at the gift shop brought us out back with a bucket of carrots and lured this handsome guy to the fence for us to fawn over.
This is Nicanor who is Barbaro’s full brother. (Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby in 2006 but tragically broke his leg while running the Preakness which eventually resulted in his death). However, on a happier note, Nicanor couldn’t have been sweeter. He let us pet him, gobbled the carrots offered to him, and struck this photogenic pose.
We left Kentucky with our 39th state race completed and our minds filled with history and horses. What had begun solely as a plan to squeeze in another state grew into one of our favorite trips. Definitely a win!
Race Quest #: 39
DateRun: July 4, 2019
The Bottom Line: Having the race begin with a bugler serenading us with “My Old Kentucky Home” and hearing the “Call to Post” as we lined up at the start couldn’t have been a more quintessentially Kentucky experience. Immersing ourselves in the horses and history of Lexington rounded out a trip to this classic city and helped put us on track to run in our 40th state on our 40th anniversary. Stay tuned for upcoming posts about this adventure!
Although we planned our long weekend in Savannah to run our Georgia quest race, we found that in addition to the quintessential Savannah landmarks, we uncovered several slightly less well-known gems. Here are 10 of the things that we loved about Savannah.
The Best Damn Race
Having run the Best Damn race in Safety Harbor, Florida we knew that the inaugural Best Damn Race in Savannah would absolutely live up to its superlative name. Plus, the opportunity to leave frigid Maine in February to travel to a semi-tropical locale (at least in our minds) seemed perfect.
We woke to gray skies and temperatures in the low 60’s on the morning of the race-my favorite running weather. We followed the pumping music to the starting line and with an enthusiastic send-off from the race announcer we were on our way. Our 5K route was flat and traveled past squares fringed with trees dripping with moss and through residential blocks of homes ranging from modest to stately. The entire race was heaven after running in single digit temperatures on snowy, hilly roads at home. We crossed the finish line together feeling strong and pleased with our run. We collected our medals…and were soon enjoying a hand-mixed cocktail for me and a beer for Mike. All by 8:30 in the morning.
Apparently we haven’t officially completed a race unless I coerce Mike into taking what we refer to as our “awkward requisite selfie”. (Thanks for humoring me once again, Mike.)
Savannah allows open containers throughout the city so post-race festivities were very lenient.
2. Meeting An Instagram Friend in Person
I was thrilled to meet Judy of Chocolate Runs Judy, who was running the half marathon. This was the first time I had the opportunity to meet one of my Instagram friends in person and it was a true delight to have a chance to chat with Judy and her husband, Lloyd.
Judy’s husband, Lloyd, kindly took this photo of us.
3. Booking an Airbnb Three Blocks From the Race
Choosing an Airbnb just three blocks from the start of the race meant there was no need to arrange transportation or figure out where to park. Instead we enjoyed a scenic three block warm-up on our way to the starting line at Forsyth Park.
During our quest travels we have run the gamut (pun intended) of lodging to starting line distances. The Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor absolutely wins the prize. The starting line was immediately outside the front door of our hotel. Having the opportunity to stay in our warm hotel room with our private bathroom until it was time to line up at the start was true bliss! On several occasions complications with actually finding the race have made for a less than cheerful start to our morning. Having learned the hard way, we now try to swing by the start the day before the race.
4. Rancho Alegre
The colorful, festive atmosphere of Rancho Alegre caught our eye as we strolled by on Friday evening in search of a spot for dinner. After a wait of just a few minutes we were settled in, listening to a fabulous live jazz trio, and enjoying what is truly the best chicken I have ever eaten. And I’ve eaten a LOT of chicken.
It was a wonderfully serendipitous dinner choice that was not originally on our Yelp-curated list of possibilities. In fact, some of our most memorable dining experiences have occurred when we have literally veered off the beaten path and have chosen a restaurant that we have encountered by chance or that has been suggested by someone “in the know”.
The music was fabulous although this photo is not.
5. Rum Runners Bakery
Another lucky find was the Rum Runners Bakery which we walked past after the race as we returned to our Airbnb. We were hungry, chilled, and ready for more sustenance than the post-race cocktails and bananas.
The cozy interior was charming. Shelves filled with cake stands circled the shop. We sipped hot cups of coffee and tea as our quiche was heated and our turnover was packed up for us to bring with us. Once again we had found just what we needed-without even knowing it was what we were looking for.
6. The Squares and Architecture
Having visited Savannah once before we knew that we would be happiest if we avoided renting a car and relied on walking to get around. Savannah is said to be the first planned city in America. The grid layout of streets and squares, designed by General James Olgethorpe, (I just love that name) makes Savannah a very pedestrian friendly city. Strolling along the streets offers a chance to really take in the architecture. The trade-mark squares that appear every few blocks, like little verdant oases of trees and flowers, are also absolutely packed with historical markers that tell the story of Savannah’s colorful past.
Forrest Gump’s famous “Life is like a box of chocolates” scene was filmed in Chippewa Square.
Virtually every block offered spectacular examples of a myriad of architectural styles which we happily perused as we traveled along Savannah’s streets.
7. The Book Lady Bookstore
After walking several miles throughout the day we were ready to head back to our Airbnb for a break. Mike was in the market for a book so we were on the lookout for a second-hand bookstore. We were thrilled to find The Book Lady Bookstore right off Chippewa Square.
We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect spot. Within minutes we had lost each other as we meandered from room to room each with ceiling-high bookshelves brimming with old and new books.
I purchased a copy of the quintessential Savannah book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. As soon as we got back to our apartment I started reading and was soon captivated by the story as well as the fact that we were surrounded by the very places mentioned in the book.
8. Mercer Williams House Tour
One of the most notable settings in the book is the Mercer Williams House which is an integral part of the story. By the end of the first couple of chapters I had made tour reservations for the Mercer Williams House for the next day.
The tour through the house was one of our absolute favorite parts of visiting Savannah. The house itself has a fascinating history and if you were to simply walk through the house the architecture and antiques would be sufficiently enthralling. But our engaging guide packed the forty minute tour with a multitude of mesmerizing details, secrets, and tidbits. This included divulging that the dining room baseboards designed to look like marble were actually artfully painted wood created by the owner, Jim Williams. A famous statue in the hall has an unexpected feature. And a surprise behind a closed door was revealed. If you visit Savannah I highly recommend this tour.
9. Soho South Cafe
After our tour we were ready for lunch and happened to walk by Soho South Cafe. We were delighted to have discovered this welcoming, whimsically decorated restaurant.
We were serenaded by non-stop live piano music.
The décor was ecclectically appealing.
I ordered their signature combo-a grilled cheese sandwich with pimento aioli and a cup of Soho tomato basil bisque. It was divine. I think Mike ordered an equally regional fried chicken sandwich but I was so engrossed in my lunch I didn’t pay much attention.
10. The Flowers and Gardens
Coming from the frozen north we were desperate for a landscape that wasn’t monochromatic. As soon as we stepped out of the airport we breathed in that intoxicating scent of grass and vegetation that had been absent at home for months.
The grass was green, flowering trees were exploding with blossoms, and colorful gardens popped up everywhere.
A peek through an iron fence revealed this stunning landscaping that in a moment of completely irrational fantasizing I fleetingly imagined recreating at home.
Even the pansies surrounding this well-known fountain in Forsyth Park warmed my heart.
We reluctantly left the color and warmth of Savannah but felt rejuvenated by this enchanting city.
Quest Race #: 38
Date Run: February 16, 2019
Bottom Line: Start with a well organized, scenic race paired with a chance to meet an Instagram friend, add in a taste of springtime and some scrumptious unexpected restaurant discoveries and top it off with a chance to learn some of the fascinating history of Savannah and you have the “best damn” trip to Georgia.
What follows are the chronicles of my adventures as a “Winter Warrior” when I accepted the Runner’s Alley challenge to run or walk outdoors every day in January.
Yay! I started my Winter Warrior Challenge with the Hangover Classic 5K. It was 50 degrees and sunny! There were winds that gusted up to 50 mph and made forward motion challenging and threatened to rip my bib number off my body at times, but we persevered and had a terrific race. It was a great way to start the year and the challenge!
Requisite awkward selfie. Note the runners taking the plunge in the ocean behind us.
I opted to walk in the woods today. It felt great to get back into the woods…once I got up after wiping out on an unexpectedly icy patch of “snow”.
I forgot how much I love running in the snow! I strapped on my Yaktrax and had a tranquil snowy road run.
Beautiful sunrise as I headed into the woods.
And this little cutie was waiting for me when I returned.
I eeked out a run just before the rain started.
Mike and I did the 5 mile loop run this morning. Even though we’ve run this route scores of times I always seem to find a spot for a photo.
For a change, I did a lunch time loop through the village.
Another snowy morning road run. Just a mere 23 days to go. But who’s counting? (Picture a “girl with raised hand” emoji inserted here.)
Such a gorgeous snowy morning in the woods! I love that this challenge is getting me back into our woods.
Well, that didn’t go so well. A short 1 mile run ended in a colossal wipe out on a patch of ice. I skated my way home. But I’m impressed that I could get up and keep going. Good job, body!
It was sooo cold this morning that I strapped on the face mask that Mike gave me for Christmas. It made a huge difference. And it prompted this text.
Ahhh! Why didn’t I start using eye cream earlier?!
Still freezing today!
My eyelashes froze on this “feels like 4 degrees” 3 mile run.
I got out for a quick sunrise run early today.
It really has been beautiful out here this month.
With a “feels like 24 degree” temperature and this sunrise, today’s run felt fabulous.
It was frigid again this morning.
These guys are my new best friends! Thanks family for gifting me exactly what I need to make it through this challenge.
More gray skies and frozen waterfalls. How many more days are there in January?
With a major snowstorm about to hit, I opted for a walk in the woods today and gathered some kindling. What a perfect way to start the day!
The storm dropped only about 8″of snow. But it was enough for Hannah and I to strap on our snowshoes and log a mile in the snowy fields and woods.
Today was absolutely the most challenging day yet to get outside. With a “feels like -19 degree” temperature and wind-driven snow my mile today was a walk around the fields a few times.
This is the actual GPS tracking of my route…not a random scribble.
My text to the family:
Annie’s witty reply made me LOL for real.
I had an absolutely freezing but surprisingly great run. I must be getting used to this weather.
The moon was so bright and gorgeous this morning but none of my photos captured it well.
When a “feels like 8 degrees” morning feels normal I know I’m getting tough.
The roads were slippery this morning so I opted to walk. It was beautiful, though.
It started out as a run but it was so slippery I finished up in the field where it was also really slippery. But it was lovely. Even though I am counting the days until the end of the month and I’m not always especially eager to get outside at the crack of dawn, my reward has been a chance to experience this wintery scenery in a way I most likely wouldn’t have otherwise.
My 3 mile run felt wonderful this morning. No frigid temperatures, no icy wipe outs-just three quiet miles. Perfect!
Oh my gosh! What I thought would be a peaceful 1 mile walk in the woods turned into a slippery tree-clinging crawl. Within a few yards of walking into the field I was on the ground in a Bambi-esque splayed leg sprawl. The rest of the “walk” involved me searching for spots to step that were not slick. I literally clung onto trees to keep my balance. As I finally crawled my way back up to the house I hoped that no one was looking out the window at what I’m sure was a comical snail’s pace shuffle up the tiny last hill. But Mike saw it and commented that he wondered if I was stuck since I didn’t appear to be moving. Oh well, I covered the distance and it was pretty.
The sound of the water running in the brooks was a treat.
Another beautiful day in the (frozen) neighborhood.
How is it still January? I got in a quick frozen mile. Almost there!
I had no idea I could rack up a half a mile walking with a shovel in front of me in the driveway!
I finished the rest of my mile in the woods. With the new snow there were tracks everywhere!
These cool tracks were behind the barn.
They went right up to and under the barn. I guess our porcupine is still here.
Woohoo! I did it! If anyone had been watching me as I finished my last frozen road mile this morning they would have seen a contented little smile on my face-not unlike how I felt when I finished the Philly Marathon. Of course, completing a marathon was a monumentally bigger deal. But the feeling of not wimping-out for 31 days, even on truly brutal days, is hugely satisfying.
A Few Reflections…
I’m so glad to have spotted the Runner’s Alley flier about the challenge! I just wish I had seen the fine print about doing a mile each day in order to participate in the formal challenge before I logged shorter mileage two days early in the month. Oh, well!
It’s amazing how my perception of “cold” changed during the challenge. There have been times when temps in the teens would have deterred me from running outside. Now they felt almost balmy.
Falling is such a jarring, unsettling, maddening experience. But I am so grateful for my body for taking it and getting back up.
The feeling of setting a goal and accomplishing it, especially when it’s not easy, is absolutely worth the struggle.
Thank you to my family and friends for listening to me recount, ad nauseam, what I’m sure were way too many details of this endeavor.
And to any neighbors who may be reading this, perhaps this explains the behavior of your slightly crazy running neighbor.
Have you ever taken part in any type of challenge?
How do you feel about outdoor activities in the winter?
What is your favorite or least favorite part of winter?
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.
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.
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.
Brush snow off of another car in the parking lot.
Consider offering a small plate of goodies and/or a hot drink to the person that delivers your oil, mail, or packages.
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.
Give someone a compliment.
Send a card to someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
Buy a reusable bag and ask the sales clerk to give it to the next person who doesn’t have one.
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.
Be kind to yourself and spend some time doing something that makes you happy.
Return a loose shopping cart to the appropriate spot.
Do a household chore that is normally done by someone else.
Thank someone for their good service.
Contact your local animal shelter to see what you could do to help-donate towels, food, cleaning supplies, or possibly volunteer.
Donate coats to a community program that gives them to those in need.
Take time to enjoy a local holiday concert or play.
Mail a card to a home complimenting them on their holiday decorations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Donate your time or special skill to a community event, a neighbor, or someone in need.
Let someone go ahead of you in line.
Share the chocolate from your Advent calendar with a friend.
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!
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.
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.
We encountered Hell’s Half Acre Trail not too far out of Idaho Falls. A walk along the trail was informative but sweltering.
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.
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 show. Nathan 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.
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.
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.
That evening we were able to walk along the river from Amy’s home into town for dinner.
Amy pointed out the “heart tree” where people leave heart-shaped river rocks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
The street across from the river is lined with a wide assortment of tempting restaurants and outdoor cafes.
The appealing atmosphere of the outdoor patio of Aster Cafe easily lured us in for a cocktail and dinner.
Although we loved our seats outside we wished we’d had a chance to enjoy the ambiance of the bar.
As we strolled along the street we came across these chalk drawings on the sidewalk.
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.
This iconic sculpture was especially popular because it sprayed cool water.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is was dark and threatening rain when we arrived.
We opted to take our requisite awkward selfie before the race.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There was a post-race party at the Hexagon Brewery later in the day which we happily attended.
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.
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.
They had a delectable array of options.
Although they didn’t sell coffee they were connected to another hip establishment that did.
Amelia and Matt drove us back to Charlotte while we enjoyed some more quality time with Jameson.
As we waited in the security line at the airport Amelia sent us this shot of Jameson looking out the car window after us.
We were sad to be leaving, too.
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!