Love.

Dear friends,

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You know what I love in January?

I love a national holiday that gives me a Monday off.

I love easy craft projects like Valentine’s pennant banners strung with heart-shaped twinkly lights.

I love afternoon naps under wool blankets when it’s 20 degrees outside.

I love being home all day with my boys.

I love chicken thighs cooked in wine and butter and then braised for several hours with mushrooms and leeks and brussel sprouts for supper.

And, I love a workweek that’s 20% complete before it ever begins.

With gratitude {for all of these things on a bright January day},

Joan, who can’t seem to reconcile her love for homespun pennant banners with her modern house and has given up trying

This is how lazy I am.

Dear friends,

I have lived in Missouri for exactly 649 days.

And for exactly 649 days I have complained to anyone who will listen to me about the ratcha-fratching hills.

Last fall, I showed you this photo of the hills by my house that I despise every single moment I am running up and down them.

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(You commiserated with me. Thank you for that.)

What I haven’t told you is that while it’s really hilly where I live, there are some relatively flat stretches in town. In fact, there’s a municipal bike/walk path about five miles from my home that is pretty darn flat and that I have inexplicably ignored.

See, that’s how lazy I am. If I can’t throw on my shoes and run out my door, I’m not interested.

I have a twitchy fear of complicated, ambiguous undertakings. (Actually, most of my work life is complicated and ambiguous, so I avoid those characteristics in my personal life. I haven’t succeeded, but still I try.) And figuring out where the path goes, or the best place to start and finish, or where to park, well . . . that seemed like a lot of effort when I could just open my front door and go.

But Friday night, Mr. Mom and I went to a dinner party and noticed  a good stretch of the path ran through our friends’ neighborhood. So I came home, determined to overcome my fear and investigative inertia, and I spent a half-hour on the internet using various search terms and looking at Google maps trying to figure out the perfect route.

And I found it — a 7.3 mile route that appeared to offer minimal ascents and descents (or so it seemed to a girl who can’t really read Google maps). So I scrutinized the map, looked for landmarks I could remember, determined where to park, and tried to commit the route to memory.

I headed out Saturday morning and found a trail-head right where I expected it to be. And 20 minutes into my run, I realized I had wandered off course when I crossed a busy highway that I didn’t expect to encounter until much later in the route. (Two workmen were standing beside the highway as I ran by. I heard one of them say to the other, “See, that’s what we ought to be doing right now.” Not a bad boost for an old woman.) It seems I was lost and had no idea how to get back to the path. Worse, I didn’t have a clue how I wandered off it.

Which is exactly the kind of complicated, ambiguous result I had been steadfastly avoiding.

So I just kept running. I wasn’t lost-lost. I was familiar with the part of town I was in. But I was turned around and didn’t know how to find the route I was originally pursuing, or whether or not I’d make it back to my car without calling Mr. Mom for a rescue.

Fortunately, I made out just fine. I never did find most of the route I was looking for, but I found another section of the path that proved scenic and satisfyingly flat. And I made it back to my car  precisely when I was ready to quit anyway, at one hour, 25 minutes.  Success!

I estimated my distance to be at least 7.5 miles based on my time, which means I broke my Missouri distance barrier. (Around my house, I have never run farther than six miles). More success!

Which made me wonder why it took me 649 days to give it a try.

With gratitude {for the post-run healing power of bubble baths},

Joan, who figures there’s probably an app for charting runs but also has a twitchy fear of the iPhone app store unless somebody tells her straight-up which one to download

Tethered.

Dear friends,

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This is Ed. Part Golden Retriever, part Labrador Retriever, Ed is a rescue dog that came into our lives some eight years ago after Parker begged for a canine companion of his own.

We had lost our Black Lab, Cassie, some time earlier and Ed came bounding into our lives just when our household of four broken hearts, two active children and one neurotic Chihuahua most needed him.

He’s lived in three towns with us, two in Oklahoma and now one in Missouri. He has adapted to spacious yards, small ones, the noise of city streets and now — a wooded 15 acres filled with deer and turkeys and rabbits and all kinds of woodland friends he loves to chase.

Of late, he’s been chasing something else.

My 1000 mile goal.

Ed is my running buddy. He’s covered every mile I have since I announced my goal and he’s done it with far more enthusiasm and grace than I have.

I never ran with Ed before we moved to Missouri. I’m not sure why except I just never did. Once we moved to Missouri, things changed. For one, we live in an area far outside the city limits where most of the dogs run free. Our pasture is fenced, but it’s far enough from the house that Ed and Frito (the aforementioned neurotic Chihuahua) were miserable when we first moved in and tried keeping them there (and tried convincing them to sleep in our barn). About a month in, we caved and let Ed and Frito run free like the other dogs. We moved their doghouse from the barn to a sheltered spot not far from our kitchen door and they were gloriously happy to cavort with neighborhood dogs at will and nap by the back door.

But once they were unfenced, our two outdoor dogs couldn’t help but follow me as I headed out on my runs. Whether I wanted it or not, I suddenly had running companions. After Frito died last year, the plural changed to singular, so now Ed is my trusty exercise buddy.

It’s been interesting, this journey into my own fitness that’s also a journey into Ed’s. At about 8 dog years, he’s older than me. His age shows most in the expanding mask around his eyes and the increasing time it takes him to rise after resting. But it sure doesn’t show on the hills, at least not as much as it does on me.

On weekday mornings we run before dawn and the neighborhood is deserted so I allow him to run off-leash. For the first month, I was so slow on the uphill climbs that he would often stop a few yards ahead of me and patiently wait for me to catch up. Occasionally, he would look over his shoulder at me as if to say “Come on. Can’t you go faster?” But mostly he just slowed his pace and/or patiently waited on me.

On weekends, though, I run much later, usually when cars and walkers and other dogs are out and about, so I put him on a leash. On those days that he is tethered to me, he can only get a leash’s length ahead of me and I don’t feel so slow. He is a good dog so he never tugs.

On Saturday, we ran late — almost noon — so I had him on a leash. And even though we put in six miles, I noticed I got far enough ahead of him on the final downhill run that I had to give him a little tug. It was probably unkind to Ed but it was good for my ego. “Come on, old boy,” I said out loud. “Keep up with this old gal. I’m beating you.”

It made me think about how fortunate I am to have such a faithful running companion. He never begs off, never gives up, never gets sick, never brags, never complains. Whether 7 degrees or 85 degrees, rain or shine, dark or light, he shows up. Tethered or not, he is my loyal sidekick who doesn’t know we have a goal but is determined to meet it every time I open the door and call his name.

With gratitude {for this family’s best friend},

Joan, who thinks if anything keeps her running for 52 weeks straight, it will be Ed

Oh. Hey. Hi.

Dear friends,

2013

This lovely 2013 day planner is available here.

I haven’t intentionally been ignoring you.

I have been unusually content in some ways, and contentment for me often leads to quiet reflection.

Life has been both perfect and hard, and I’ve been living it instead of writing about it. But I’ve missed you and I thought I ought to pop in and say so.

Our holidays were everything I needed. Kate was home from college for three weeks and I luxuriated in her company. Christmas break was low-key. On Christmas Day, we had a Barbecue feast that was super-simple to prepare and left me plenty of time to laze around with the kids. We dragged an air mattress into the den and piled on blankets and pillows for a marathon movie session. We tackled a zigsaw puzzle. (Who knew CupKate was a puzzle whiz?) We invited friends over and played board games. We had a bonfire. And then we spent New Year’s Eve in Memphis watching my alma mater (The University of Tulsa) kick butt in the Liberty Bowl and enjoying the flavor of Beale Street blues and seafood. The last two weeks of 2012 were so perfect I was lulled into a dreamy stupor, making Jan. 2 a particularly sharp jolt back to reality.

So the hard parts? Well, there’s been more developments on the mountain. Nothing I’m ready to write about. In fact, like most of the saga, Mr. Mom has been handling it alone in quiet frustration because I’ve blocked it out, so I really don’t understand the details of the latest developments yet; mostly I just tried to distract myself while I watched him spend hours on the phone with attorneys and surveyors and adjacent landowners and the dozens of characters that populate this unfathomable story. My most fervent wish is that this chapter of our lives will end in 2013.

Also — I’ve been running, chasing the thousand miles I said I wanted to conquer in my 51st year.  Lawzy, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  It’s been a mental and physical challenge that I wholly underestimated. The first three weeks almost reduced me to tears several times and very nearly convinced me I could never do this. I have ached. I have been so tired I lost all concentration at work, and I have gone to bed at 7:00 pm more than once. I have mentally shouted at the gods and cursed them for my lack of strength and  stamina. I have found myself hating Missouri and blaming its godforsaken hills for my misery. I’ve sunk to the lowest possible emotional depths a runner can reach without quitting.

I have a glimmer of hope, however, that I’m turning a corner. In fact, I need to wrap up this post so I can head out for a run. I must log a minimum of 10 miles this weekend and I’ve got a hot date with Mr. Mom later this afternoon so I need to get after it.

But, hey, you know what? My waist is making a slow reappearance in my life. It used to be a beautiful thing and it just might be again, who knows? And the other evening my left leg was aching so badly I asked Mr. Mom to massage it. He did two better: He massaged it, he told me how toned my legs were becoming, and he brought me a heating pad. A good man is such a glorious thing and I never fail to count my blessings when I notice them.  Which is one more reason I need to make an appearance here and remind you to do the same. It’s a great way to ease into 2013, friends.

With gratitude {for a sparkly, blessed, challenging, infuriating, totally-normal new year},

Joan, who invites you to tell her how you’re easing into 2013 and what you hope the year holds for you

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