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Describe your life at the time of your 30th birthday…

10-year-old E:

At the age of 30, I’ll be all grown up. I’ll have a husband and two kids, a boy and a girl (the girl will be named Samantha), and like ten cats. I will work as a veterinarian — or maybe a pediatrician — and we’ll have a house in New York City and take the subway everywhere. I will also take ballet lessons and watch a lot of Broadway shows.

I will have watched Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” concert without my mom fast-forwarding through the bad parts. No one will have ever found out about that homework page I didn’t finish in first grade and threw out instead of getting my mom to sign it. I’ll have my own Prodigy account and Aly and I will send each other hundreds of emails each month and IM everyday. And I hope my husband can cook, because I can’t.

15-year-old E:

Marriage? No way! Kids? Hell no! Everything society expects me to do, I’m gonna do the opposite.

18-year-old E:

My accounting professor says some accounting majors start at $80,000 right out of college! $80,000!!! Who needs a husband when I can make a ton of money working on my own. I’m gonna have the coolest apartment in New York City and I’ll drive a baby blue Mustang convertible. I know it’s hard to park in NYC, but I’ll be making so much that I’ll just pay for my own spot.

My English teacher keeps saying I’m gonna end up an English teacher or writer. Pssssh! They don’t make any money. Just wait and see.

I definitely won’t have any kids. They are such a pain in the ass. Constantly crying and moaning for things.

21-year-old E:

If I work my arse off, I can make partner in ten years.

Oh, and I met someone; I think he could be the one. [blush] He is so cute with an adorable smirk and that just got out of bed hairstyle that really takes him 20 minutes to perfect. Oh, and he’s British. He sounds just like Hugh Grant. Actually he kind looks and acts like him too. They both have narrow faces, stretchy skin and are kind of awkward.

Where would we live? I don’t know. I would love to live in London, but he loves NY. Maybe well have a house in both places. Did I tell you how cute he is? Let me show you a photo!

23-year-old E:

If I am still working as an auditor when I am 30, please shoot me.

Now, go away it’s busy season and I need to add a 2,546th column to my spreadsheet and decide between a kosher burger and a bologna sandwich for dinner.

I’m serious. Bugger off!

25-year-old E:

Published. The next Sophie Kinsella. No, no! Bill Bryson. If I work as a travel writer I could get paid to travel. How cool would that be? I could give up having an apt, and just live out of my backpack. I’d be one with the earth, bartering the clothes I sew on long train rides to pass the time for food and travel tours. I could find a land I adore and build roots there as an animal activist or offer accounting advice for third-world communities.

Whatever I do, I WILL publish a book by the time I am 30. I will HATE myself if I dont.

The boy? Eh, things with the boy aren’t too great right now.

29-year-old E:

Where will I be when I’m 30?

Well, I am a writer, but not yet a published author. However, I don’t hate myself. I work in NYC but have lost the desire to leave my backyard in the suburbs. One cat, not ten. No idea how to sew clothes, or barter for that matter; I can’t even use eBay.

I run half marathon(s), can put my legs behind my head in yoga class and ride black diamond trails on my snowboard. I drove across the US and walked across England. I haven’t been to a dance class in years, I rarely indulge in broadway shows and I’ve jumped out of a plane 25 times. I’ve learned to cook — and bake — and I work in an industry that would make 10-year-old-“I only eat foods that come covered in ketchup or tomato sauce” E wrinkle her nose. I’m obsessed with cheese. I’ve see Madonna in concert four times — but have still not watched her “Like a Virgin” tour.

I’ve fallen in love, and back out again. I’ve tested my morals, and been deceived and trampled on. I fight for what I want but I never ignore my intuition. I have surrounded myself with supportive girlfriends who constantly inspire me to achieve more. My family has stood by throughout 29 years of irrational decisions and picked me up when Ive fallen. My friends and family tolerate and love me; I will forever feel indebted to them. I’m single. I’m fulfilled. But I still wonder about my Hugh Grant.

I put way too much pressure on myself but love myself too much to change. I am a control freak who gave up control; everything I’ve experienced in my life was at some point unexpected. And I am absolutely loving the ride.

Oh, and I DO send Aly hundreds of emails a month, and we iMessage almost everyday.

Happy 30th Birthday to me! In true tradition, my girls honored my big day with a few of our favorite things… cheese, cured meats, pesto, bruschetta, crackers, lime tostitos, cava, wine, vodka, Reese PB cupcakes and a trip to my favorite restaurant for mojitos and empanadas. Couldn’t have been more perfect… and the celebration will continue next month when we all head to CANCUUUUUN!

I am excited for this new decade and feel confident that there are many experiences and lessons waiting to help me grow.

Happy Birthday to me!

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K and I pre pig-out!

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Wow!!! It’s been more than two months since I last posted. WTF? How inconsiderate of me. Sorry blog.

The first week of November I attended a press trip to Wisconsin to tour the Dairyland’s famous creameries. After three days of eating more cheese than I thought my body could handle, I received an early morning phonecall from a sad sad voice.

It was mom. My grandma had passed away. The week prior she had been back in the hospital with pneumonia and a broken arm. I had visited her on a Saturday afternoon.

“Ooooh hiiii!” She laughed when I walked in as if she had been secretly expecting me. I am not sure she knew who I was but she was glad to see someone familiar and have some company.

She told me some borderline coherent stories, most of which included the name “George” (my grandpa) and she hollered at the moaning woman she was stuck sharing a room with: “Ohhhh shut up! What are you complaining about?”

Then to me: “What is HER problem?”

I rubbed her head till she started to doze. When I stopped she perked up again and asked me if I was leaving. I couldn’t make out the words but the disappointment was clear.

I told her I was “going to check on grandpa… George.”

She giggled with her eyes closed and asked what he was doing and what he was going to eat for dinner since she couldn’t make him anything. I promised I’d bring him something delicious to eat. (We had Olive Garden that night, his favorite.)

“Ok. You better go then.” Thats grandma; always putting someone else first.

“I love you grandma!”

“Oooooh ha, I love you too!” And when she squeezed my hand, I knew it was the last time I was going to see her. Just for a flash; I could sense that this was it…

… so I gave her a kiss and the biggest smile I could conjure up while sucking in the tears.

A few weeks later we celebrated her life with a wake full of photos, stories and smiles. She was not only one of the happiest persons that I knew, but she had spread her infectious positivity everywhere she went and with everyone she met.

At some point in the mourning process it occurred to me, ‘this was the first time I had lost someone close to me.’

At the ripe age of 29, I’m pretty damn lucky to make this claim. At the same time, it was unfamiliar territory.

I didn’t feel like blogging. I didn’t feel like advertising it on Facebook. I didn’t feel like telling people and hearing condolences. I just wanted to sit with it, digest it and accept it.

So I did.

Every time Ive sat down to type since, I didnt know where to start. I couldnt write about anything until I wrote about her… and I didn’t know what to say.

Two days ago my friend told me his grandma died. My grief popped its ugly head but this time it left me smiling. I miss her… especially at the holidays… but she lived with a smile so I better too.

There’s been a lot else going on as well. Following Wisconsin I took off on a couple more business trips, including a second landing in San Francisco which only heightened my desire to live there. I had the chance to wander around Union Sq and reminisce about my run. Ahhhhh. Remember that? Did I mention I ran a half marathon in San Fran?

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$60 of cheese I brought home from the Madison Farmers Market — the largest producer market in the country.

I’ve kept up the running. Didn’t even stop for that freak blizzard/storm that hit the tri-state area in October. Actually, instead of staying warm/dry, Azzy, Kenny and I ran/climbed/jumped our way through the Men’s Health Urbanathlon — a military-style obstacle course with an urban/city-twist. You know, like climbing over taxi cabs and MTA buses, army crawling under chain link fences and jumping traffic cones.

The course was 9.something miles with 8 obstacles, two of which were running staircases at Arthur Ashe Stadium and Citifield. We split the bee-otch up and relayed it, each taking on a 3ish-mile section.

It was awesome.

It was HARD.

When we saw the course map, I begged for the section that included monkey bars… I don’t want toot my own horn, but I kinda rocked the monkey bars as a kid. All good right?! That section also included military hurdles. Those mothereffers were like 5-foot-something high. Thank god some Greg T (Z100) lookalike showed up and let me step on his back. Otherwise I’d have failed my team. Note to self: must exercise upper body more.

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Us enjoying the beer tent after the race.

Anyways. It was awesome. I’ve kept with the running since and ran a PR Turkey Trot 5k, signed up for two NYRR races in January, including the Manhattan half-marathon, and entered the lottery for the NYC Half and the ING NYC Marathon. What did I do?

Then as an early Christmas gift I went and gave myself tendinitis in the bottom of my right foot — legwarmers were the culprit — and have been out of commission for two+ weeks.

IM GOING CRAZY!!!!!!

My awesome podiatrist is “cautiously optimistic” that I can run the half on Jan 21st, and I’ll be playing with my gal in Conn this weekend instead of running the Joe Kleinerman 10K. *tear*

It was kinda convenient that this happened now — I’ve been working on a project at work that has actually been taking all my evening time so I haven’t had to voluntarily compromise running time. And the new website looks gooooood.

With that said, it’s a new year! I am making 2012 the year of SMILES AND POSITIVITY!!!

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Of all the interests and sports and extracurriculars that stumble across this blog, there is one topic that rarely rears its head.

Dating.

The lack of coverage my dating and romantic life receives is not a reflection of my interest in it. In fact, contrary to many of my 30ish-year-old counterparts, I happen to really enjoy dating.

I like the excitement of meeting someone new, asking them 4,000 questions, analyzing all their answers, categorizing them into one of Helen Fisher’s personality descriptions (that’s my favorite part, actually), deciding if their classification mixes with mine and leaving either thrilled at the prospect of a second interview or pleased with my ability to feign interest and a new experience and lesson under my belt.

I also like relationships. I’m pretty intuitive when it comes to knowing what I want and like; rarely does a second date not lead to something long-term. You’re either in or out buddy.

With that said, why don’t I talk about my dating escapades on here? I often ask myself that. And the only conclusion I can come to is that I have yet to find someone I feel comfortable immortalizing on the blog. I refuse to delete or edit my entries after they are posted — or at least after the 24-hour edit period I allow myself after one goes up — so if you make it in, you’re there for good baby.

So here, for the first time, let’s talk about my love life.

I’ve been single since the middle of January. Along with the dreary post-holiday winter months came the end to an enjoyable and pretty healthy relationship. It just wasn’t “right” and I walked away hurt and disappointed on the premise that it “failed” but respectful of the fact that we just didn’t do it for each other. He was a good person. So am I. We just weren’t the kinda good that each other needed.

Ever since I’ve been happily bouncing through life unattached, free to dedicate my time to anything I please. And to be honest, I’ve kinda fallen in love with it.

But as it always goes, I cannot stay single for long. It occurred to me that while I appear on the surface to be single and unattached, I am in a very serious relationship.

For the past five months, I have been in a relationship with my Brooks running sneakers. They are all rolling their eyes thinking, yeah, ok, cute Lizzie, fun analogy; you’re point?

No seriously, hear me out. My approach to running in many ways mimics my approach to relationships. And I’m learning a lot about myself.

For starters, it often requires a huge compromise. Any given day I have a dozen things I need to and want to get done. Many of them do not include sweating around Manhattan, yet I make that compromise to keep the connection between me and “running” strong. I’ve done the “no compromise/ignoring” game in relationships — it doesnt seem to work too well. Significant others seem to want attention. Who knew? My shoes are the same. They are not happy sitting in my closet. Ok, the floor. They never make it home to the closet.

I’m also recognizing a mean competitive streak poking its head out to play. Another trait that tends to flourish in relationships. Just today, on my way out for a run, I was chatting on the phone with a friend who said “I ran a 10k today.” My reply, “Oh yeah? I’ll go run a 10k now.” Clearly he was challenging me, no? That’s what I got from that sentence.

Competitiveness has been a bit of a problem for me in relationships in the past. I am attracted to assertive, ambitious guys. Ambition breeds competition. Before you know it, I’m playing the “I can do it better” game with the one I love. (And for some reason we are never playing that game in the bedroom.)

Just like a boyfriend, my run proceeded to mess with my head for the five miles I did complete (failed on the 10k front). Too fast, too slow, too out of breath. I was all over the place. I just could not get my feet to listen and I was not listening to them. Sh!t happens! Sometimes communication just sucks.

Dude, WTF? Pace is ALL over the place.

Note to self: Buy a Garmin running watch. Nike+ is cool but there is no way you sped up from a 10:34 pace to a 7:51 instantly. The GPS tracking is all over the place.

PS Note to self: Win lotto to afford Garmin running watch.

Running, like [some of] my boyfriends makes me very proud. We share milestones together. Today, even though we were lacking the ability to communicate clearly, was one of those days I wanted to give running a big high-five, smooch on the lips. Today we hit 300 miles on Nike+. Yay Lizzie and Brooks. You guys rock!

That

Another tendency in my relationships is to eat more… like a lot more… than is normal and necessary for my body size. Maybe its some weird suppressed issue, but eating must turn me on because I seem to find men who had to be extreme eaters in another life. And (note the competitive comment above), I sometimes see it as a challenge. I AM NOT PROUD OF THIS. But when they sit down to a three-course meal of meat and sweets, you sure as hell bet that I will be eating the same. I once had a BF drop his fork on the table and gawk at me like a zoo animal… “I seriously just can not believe how much you eat sometimes. It doesn’t seem feasible.” Umm… yeah, it is!

Running also makes me eat… a lot!! Thank you running!

On the positive side, running has brought out my positive qualities, like a healthy relationship should. It’s helped me slow down and pace my life (more to come on that), as well as boosting up my butt and giving me some hamstring muscles. I’ve allllways wanted hamstrings. Like wanted them like the way a LI girl wants a monster Tiffany’s engagement ring.

Oh, and did I mention running gave me a Tiffany’s necklace? Yeah, it did. It’s an awesome BF.

Collecting my Tiffany

Anyways, all this time I thought I was single and I’m really not. I’m wholeheartedly dedicated and very deep in like with my running shoes and the wind in my hair. I’m even more in like with it now that its 55-degrees in the evening and not 90. Cool enough to wear my new long sleeve pink running shirt, but warm enough that all the men running are still in shorts. Yay running thighs. I’m such a sucker for quads. [shudder] Sooo sexy!

This relationship seems to suit me. It’s easy. It’s rewarding. Its supportive. Its healthy. More of my friends are taking it up so we can double date. And most of all it makes me smile.

“They” say ‘you know when it’s right.’ So until I meet someone who I want immortalized on the blog, I’m gonna stick with my Brooks.

After five months together, we are in that comfy stage where we’re not afraid to get a little dirty with each other.

Ahhh, Bliss.

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Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents told you to be careful running around or you’d “fall and break your neck?”

It actually happens. A few weeks ago my grandma fell and broke her neck. She definitely wasn’t running around, more like walking or standing, but the end result is the same.

Fractured vertebra!

Ouch!

She spent a few days in the hospital and is now in a nursing home rehab. She has to wear a neck brace that she hates and is always, as she says, “just falling off.”

Grandma is 92. She also has dementia meaning a lot of the times she doesn’t know who we are and often tells us about how she entertained, cooked and danced the day away. What a nursing home, eh? One big party!

Rarely does she know who I am when I visit, often referring to me as my mom. I’m too young; she lives in a time long ago when her and my grandpa traveled the world, went square dancing a few times a week and my grandpa ran half-marathons. And there you were thinking “Wait, no running connection?”

My grandparents have been married for 67 years.

67 YEARS! That is a looooong time.

I admit, with embarrassment, that I didn’t get to know them as well as I wish I had growing up. But like all good couples, grandpa complements grandma with memories of the old days clearer than mine are from yesterday. I did NOT get my poor memory from him.

He loves the story about when he was in the airforce and they had their first child, my uncle, without a penny to their name out in Colorado. Grandma had to take Amtrak back to NY herself with an infant when grandpa got stationed elsewhere. Maybe that’s where my love for traveling across countries comes from. He talks about his career in the fire department. He talks about his bout with alcoholism and the subsequent decades in AA and all the friends he made as a result. But what he talks about most of all, and the one consistent in all his stories, is grandma.

“I knew right away she was the one for me. Sure I’d dated other girls but as soon as I met her, I knew she was it,” he told me during one of our hospital visits. “Course she didn’t think the same thing. She was dating like three other guys. (Grandma was/is a big flirt!) Finally I told her to make a decision.

But I knew right away… have you ever felt that way about a guy?”

“Ummm, I’m single grandpa.”

He shrugged and smirked.

According to my grandpa, grandma got him off the couch. Perfectly content to sit around and watch TV, grandma encouraged him to go dancing with her and to travel the world.

“She gave me a life,” he is always saying.

She is that type of person. Even with a broken neck and her mind hanging out anywhere between 1919 and Roosevelt’s presidency, she’s still smiling, flirting with young doctors, making wise arse remarks in response to everything she hears, laughing at her nursing-home housemates and sharing nothing but happy memories — even if it does become a game for us to guess what time period and who she’s speaking about.

Grandpa also reminds us how lucky he feels to have had her stick by him when his favorite pastime was alcohol.

“She could have, and rightly at times should have, walked away. I wasn’t nice.”

But she didn’t. Instead she stuck around to see him drop drinking like it was hot, buy a pair of running shoes and cheer him on through his first half-marathon.

And his second for that matter.

Grandma and Grandpa after his first marathon!

My grandpa took up running when he was in his 60s. And here I am complaining about my 29-year-old aches and pains? He just ran for fun, to have something positive to indulge in; he wasn’t out to set any records or race. But he did. He ran 13.1 miles… Twice!

I always knew this about my grandpa, I remember watching him run past the end of our block during the Long Island Half-Marathon when I was a wee-youngin’. He also talks about after the run: A lot of the guys were going off to celebrate with a beer, which Grandpa was obviously not feelin’. My dad offered him a BBQ and it made his day. ha. In our house a good BBQ’d burger has always been the key to happiness.

I love that my grandpa ran. I love that someone in my family loved something that I love. I love that when I talk about a runner’s high, his eyes light up.

He seems to like it too. During dinner one night a couple months ago, he went through all the tips he could think of.

Start slow, save your energy. 

Make sure you stretch.

Do you have good shoes? You need good shoes.

What are you eating? I always liked to eat a piece of toast with peanut butter. (or something like that)

I had told him I had numerous coaches teaching me the ins and outs of running without catastrophe, but he obviously knew better. I mean, he is 92, dont all 92-year-olds know best? So I listened and thanked him and told him stories about my coaches and the runs I had completed so far.

I saw him the weekend I ran my first 10-miler… the Jackrabbit race. He was very proud. It was cute.

My grandparents are another reason I am running. Grandpa did it — in his 60s nonetheless — so I want to do it too. And even though Grandma wasn’t pounding pavement with him, she guided him through life. Sixty-seven years together and they are still 100% in love with each other. Grandma’s dementia sometimes thinks there are two grandpas — which grandpa uses to his advantage blaming the not-so-good dinners on “the other guy” — but in her heart, he’s the only one that’s ever been there. He’s the one that makes her light up like she’s a 20-something year old in love for the first time.

And he still looks at her like a 20-something year old who found “the one.”

She goes home again the day after I run. Until then, they meet in the nursing home, try to hear each other's stories and and hold hands like they're on their first date.

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From the looks of my Facebook news feed, the fall endurance sports season is in full swing. All weekend friends and organizations were busy posting support and cheers for those participating in marathons, triathlons, charity walks and other races. Among those were my Hamptons marathon TNT teammates. GO HAMPTONS TEAM! Special shoutout to Ines, my running buddy who ran her first half in 2:20. I hope I come close to such an awesome time!

In the spirit of the season, I jumped on board completing my longest run yet — 11 miles — on Saturday and then heading to Westchester (at 530 am, mind you) to cheer on my friend Kenny while he completed his second triathlon.

My run is not much to talk about. I trooped it from Bethpage State Park (kinda in the middle of Long Island) down to the Massapequa Preserve and back. It was tiring and hard and I definitely didn’t fuel enough. I felt really sluggish with 1.5 miles to go, like REALLY sluggish, but I only had a Gu packet left and I really didn’t want to deal with digesting that with such little distance to go. (I remember when I couldn’t run a mile and now its a “small distance.” ha!)  I toughed it out and promised to better stagger my fuel next time.

My 11-mile route!

Today’s event was much more exciting. The Westchester Triathlon counts as an Olympic qualifier (not sure what that means, but you can imagine the caliber of contestants it attracts) and includes a .9-mile swim, 25-mile run and a 6.2-mile run. And Kenny rocked all three.

the crowds getting ready to hit the water!

Kenny's wave is off! GO KENNY!

our boy heads off to find his bike!

the bike lot emptying out fast as all the athletes take off on the second leg of the race!

Team Swierupski Cheer Squad (in uniform) waiting for him to round the corner of the run portion! (we estimated him to finish at 2:39!)

there he goes... finishing at... wait for it... 2:39!!! WOO HOO!

the recap! tell us about Kenneth!

It was the first Tri I ever attended and a lot of fun to track down and cheer for Kenny along the way! (I also enjoyed cheering for all the TNT teams.) He ran it in 2:39:something — an awesome time. We watched people continue to cross the finish line as we drank celebratory beers.

His cheer squad was very proud. I mean, he’s a triathlete… how cool is that? (And look how cute he looks in his unitard… his girlfriend is one lucky lady!)

 

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I’ve been slacking on the blogging. Oops. My bad. Rest assured my lack of blog love is not representative of my running love.

Quite the contrary actually… I had my best run EVER today! I also had my worst run ever earlier this week, but hey, no rain, no rainbow.

However, this entry isn’t about running; it’s about why my cousins, Suzanne and her husband Sean, are the awesomest parents ever! Let’s call them Seanzanne; they deserve a Hollywood name!

I am currently on Amtrak on my way to Seanzanne’s kids’ birthday party!

Jacquelyn turns 4 on Sept 11…

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…and Liam turns the big 1 on the 15th.

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And in lieu of adding more toys to the playroom pile, they have asked that their friends and family donate to the infamous half-marathon I am running for LLS. (Have I mentioned I’m doing that?)

How sweet are they? Here is the backstory.

Suzanne and I were close growing up. Well, not physically, we lived hours apart, but we spent summers on Long Island creating renditions of Ace of Base performances (along with cousin Katie we had a hot ladies trio) and practicing suntanning at the beach. When I visited them upstate we spent the days running around the mountain they lived on and helping grandma get her first speeding ticket — “Faster! Faster! Drive down the mountain as fast as you can!” *police sirens* (Oops!)

When we weren’t together, we wrote letters to each other like crazed pen-pals… seriously!

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Suzanne and I at the birfday party!

Growing up Suzanne dreamed of having a family with a wonderful hubby and fantastic kids, while I imagined being a back-up dancer to Madonna. As we “matured,” Suzanne continued to dream of chasing kiddies around and sought out a career in child care. (I, thanks to ADD, gave up the Madonna dream before I learned what a virgin was.)

When Sue married Sean after college I couldn’t have been happier for anyone. She had found her Prince Charming and they were both excited to embark on their happily ever after. They suit each other perfectly.

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You can imagine the impact of the news they received a few years later when Seanzanne was enjoying life with a lil baby girl — Sean was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease and had to go for chemo treatment.

Sean has been cancer-free for more than three years now!!! WOOO HOOO!!

Made from the same uncommunicative genes, Sue and I didn’t talk much about it, possibly not at all until recently. But when I realized at the information session that Hodgkins was under the LLS umbrella, it gave me a personal inspiration to run for LLS. When the runs get hard, knowing I’m running for a cause that’s helped someone I care about keeps me motivated!

Sean has made my cousin’s dreams come true. And for that reason alone I love him… it doesn’t hurt that he happens to be funny, ambitious and an awesome father and husband — even if he only eats chopped meat in certain shapes. (So weird!) Oh and we’re going running tomorrow. He used to run cross-country so he’s totally on board with this crazy training.

I am so appreciative that they are supporting my run so I can support a cause that has helped their family stay healthy and happy.

(You can too! Click HERE to donate and make sure to submit it in honor of “Jacquelyn and Liam” (under the Add Comment section) to wish them a very happy birthday!)

I also can’t wait to get there to bake cupcakes and chase the kiddies around. I mean, look at them. HOW CUTE ARE THEY?

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Happy Birthday!!!
LYLAC. xx

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This story brought such tears to my eyes…

I Run… Because I Can: Countdown to the New York City Marathon by Emily Faherty at the Huffington Post.

READ IT! NOW!….

Ok, you done? You can continue reading this now…

This article hit a nerve. You’ll see my comment at the bottom — limited to the Huff Post’s 250 word count — but here’s the long version.

When I was in high school I had an English teacher, Mr. Flannery. It was senior year when I was supposed to be mentally checked out, yet he his class was one of the most engaging classes I participated in during my high school career. He covered interesting material and he did it all with passion. And he was fun!!

He was the type of teacher who would give sarcastic, mocking responses to stupid questions or make fun of himself when he made an error. He was also the type of teacher who tried to connect with his students — not in the “I can be hip and cool like you” way, but on a personal level. He told us stories — stories about his homeland, Ireland, stories about his family and travels and stories about his bladder cancer. Yeah, he was fighting the big C. He had done the chemo thing, etc, putting him in remission, or as close to remission as he was going to ever get, from what I remember.

I remembered him talking about his trips to the Dr and the support he got at home from his family. I remember fighting back tears. Yet, his stories were always told in a tone that said “Don’t be sad guys; I’m not!” He would drink bottle after bottle of water, jetting out spontaneously to the bathroom. Some days we would watch movies; those were his “I’m not up for teaching” days.

What I was too immature, or emotionally closed off, to appreciate at the time, was how he never let cancer get in the way of him doing what he loved to do — teach! It didn’t stop him from trying to get to know each and every one of us. It didn’t discourage him from encouraging us to pursue our dreams — and more so, our talents.

I did well in his class, and participated — which is not common for seniors. He asked me one day, “What are you majoring in next year?”

“Accounting.”

“Nah, you are going to be an English major.”

Laughing. “Nah, I want to make money Mr Flannery.”

“Yeah, ok. You’ll see. You are meant to study English,” he said with a bottle of water in hand and his signature chuckle.

This went on for months, till I graduated and went on to study accounting in college.

It wasn’t until I got an analytical paper back from my freshman English composition professor stating “You should consider majoring in English” that I reconsidered Mr. Flannery’s persistent insight. I went back to my high school during break to show him. He was out sick, battling cancer — with a smile I am sure. I left the paper in his mailbox with a note, “I thought you’d appreciate this!”

The next time I went back he was out sick, again — this time permanently. He had retired to battle his battle on his own schedule. A decision, I know was not easy. Teaching us pain-in-the-asses was his passion.

I don’t know how long it was after, but I heard from a teacher-friend that he had passed away.

I cried.

Years later, I cried again. I had quit accounting and was in grad school studying to become a writer. He had been right; I was meant to study English. And I wanted him to know. The only man I’ve ever wanted to say “you are right” to — and I couldn’t. Oh, the irony!

Teachers are supposed to recognize and encourage a student’s talents. But he took is a step further and recognized not only what I was good at, but what motivated me. He recognized my need for fulfillment and where I would find that. Basically, he knew what I needed to be happy… way before I had any bloody clue what that was. To me, that’s more than a teacher. I only wish I had gotten to know him as more than just my teacher.

Now, reading this article, I have more tears in my eyes. Mr. Flannery didn’t have blood cancer, but he fought with the C-word… and he did it with an unfaltering positivity and acceptance. He is just one more reason, one more person, I am running this long-ass half-marathon. My run and the money I raise may not be able to help him, but it can help someone else’s Mr. Flannery.

I’m with Emily. I am running… well, because I can. And if you can, why not? Right?

Here’s to you Mr. Flannery!! Keep on smiling.

Oh, and Mr. Flannery, you were right. I was meant to study English.

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