Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Run, Business, and Dinner

This is a long entry.

Today, I ran at a time I do not usually run.  I ran in the afternoon.  In the morning, I needed to be prepared to take my two younger children to school.  The youngest had his third grade play today.  A play about Moses called, “The Child of the Nile.”  The school is not religious but does a lot with both Christian and Jewish traditions and uses the Old Testament as literature for third grade.

Usually my wife would have just taken them and I would have tagged along after dropping our oldest son off, but my wife and oldest left for Michigan immediately after the play. The oldest one auditions on two instruments for the School of Music at the University of Michigan tomorrow.   

After the play, I took my middle one for a call back for his visual arts audition at the Baltimore School for the Arts.

Then I went to work.  Got about a half day of work in.  Picked up the kids and went to the Y to run.  At this point I would MUCH rather run outside.  And the temperature was right.  But with busy streets and many still un-shoveled sidewalks in front of people’s houses, I decided to take at least one more day to run inside.

Today’s run?  My now very familiar 8 min/mile pace for one hour.  So 7.5 miles to bring my total for 2014 to 170.7 miles.  60.2 of them have been in the Brooks Launch.  Definitely liking the shoes.

The run was uneventful, although I do have to say that it is much more exciting to people watch at 4:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday than in the morning most days.  Not that any one person was particularly interesting.  Just that the number of people was so much greater that it made it more interesting.

Where does this put me? I am now continuing west on Pennsylvania Route 31.  I am really in between towns, having left Somerset (actually, my wife and oldest stopped at the Somerset rest stop today on their way to Michigan and ate a fast food lunch).  Having left town, the only real landmarks on today’s run were the Pike Run Church and the Laurel Hill Creek and a few ponds near a camp ground more or less just off Route 31.

A comment on work two days ago.  I mentioned that I had been asked to be the master of ceremonies for an event organized at the behest of the Dean but which the Dean could not attend.  I was given cards with speaking points.  Having been asked once to hold the cards while holding a hand held microphone, I now know why the Dean usually has a wireless microphone and will ask for one (or a podium) next time I am asked to emcee.  I stuck to the talking points to introduce the guitar duo that was performing.  What I enjoyed was the opportunity to adlib a little bit afterwards.

In particular, the guitar player who did all the introduction of the pieces played mentioned that the guitar was a very versatile instrument and was suited to many types of music.  I appreciate that.  As an easy start there is country, rock, jazz, and classical.  Then, within classical there are any number of genres.  As I sat in the front row and watched the musicians play, I thought about the how the guitar players played, what it said about their effort, and how business students who will turn into business leaders could take some lessons from the experience.

So, after giving the basic post performance “Let’s give the performers an extra round of applause” and before wishing people a happy and prosperous Lunar New Year and inviting them to the reception in the lobby, I reflected a little bit on the playing.  I first pointed out how much better they were than I had ever been.  I was sort of able to play some chords for camp-fire sing along type of songs at one point.  But I was not really very good. 

Then, I mentioned versatility, precision, teamwork, and second nature.  How do those relate do the musicians?  And how does that relate to business?

Well, not only is the guitar a versatile instrument but the musicians played a mix of Spanish and Chinese music (and perhaps one other).  The musicians were versatile as well.  When we train students in the business school, we hope that they are versatile in the types of business problems that they will be good at dealing with some day.  Some problems for which much time can be taken.  Some problems where decisions need to be made immediately. Some problems with very clear decisions.  Some problems with very difficult decisions that raise all sorts of ethical questions.  Some personnel questions.  Some financial questions.  Our students, particularly our MBA students, should be able throughout their careers, should be able to address them all.

Precision?  Well, watching the musicians play amazed me.  I have always been amazed watching guitar players. I got good enough at piano as a child to call myself a bit above a beginner.  But not really very good.  But I could imagine how pianists fingers move quickly over the keyboard.  I have always been even more amazed at the precision on a fret board with six strings.  How to know which fret to press down for which string and which string or strings to pluck or strum.  When our students go out and become business leaders some day, they will need to have the same level of precision.  Precision in their analysis.  Precision in their decisions.  Precision in their consideration of different options.

Teamwork?  Clearly, for the performing duo, their playing complemented each other quite nicely.  In business, we are training leaders at the business school.  But even leaders have to understand teamwork.  In my position, I have five direct reports.  But I am also one of nine who sit at the table with the Dean each week to discuss the school and make decisions.  I have to work with others.  I have to get others to participate in their teamwork.  And given that no one person knows everything to run the organization there is a need for a lot of teamwork generally.

Finally, second nature.  The musicians looked like the playing was second nature to them.  They occasionally had to look at the fret boards or at whatever music they had.  But generally they just glanced at each other, looked out to the audience, or appeared to be concentrating.  The key is that they could just play.  When we are training students, we do not expect them to “just know” or “just make decisions.”  But as the students develop in their careers they should evolve to a point at which they can make decisions that are second nature to them.  They should take the lessons we teach, their motivation, and their wisdom, and make decisions that should become second nature to them.

After thinking about that while running today, I came home and made dinner with my two sons who are home at the moment.  We had angel hair pasta; some garlic pressed and lightly cooked in olive oil; some of the water from cooking the pasta; the fat from cooking pancetta mixed with the olive oil and water; mixing in the crumbled pancetta; and then topping with some fresh ground pepper and Parmesan to taste. 

It was wonderful.

So, lots to contemplate today.  Family activity.  My running. Steady progress toward my 2000 mile goal.  Music and business.  And very good food.

Life is good.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Track on Treadmill (Michigan)

Today, my picture of my time shows 8 miles run on the treadmill in 58:41.  That was a Michigan workout on the treadmill at 0.5 incline at the Towson Y.  How did I translate the Michigan onto the treadmill?  Opened with 1/2 mile at an 8 minute pace (I am lucky enough to call that easy). Then sped up to a 6 minute pace just before it actually hit 1/2 mile to get the full mile done in 6 minutes.  Down to a quarter mile at a 10 minute pace.  Then 1 mile at a 6:58 pace.  Another slow (for me) quarter.  Then 3/4 mile at 10.1 MPH (one notch above the 6 minute pace).  Another slow quarter, and another 6:58 mile, and another slow quarter.  Then 1/2 mile at 10.2 MPH.  Another slow quarter, and another 6:58 mile, and another slow quarter. Then 1/4 mile starting at 10.3 MPH and working up to 11 MPH.  Actually not as fast as my one on track last week.  Close out with a 1/2 mile cool down.  Very invigorating.

In any case, that puts me at 163.2 miles.  That puts me somewhere around the intersection of Center and Main in Somerset PA.  I would have run through Friedens PA and past the Somerset County airport with its single runway along the way.

I didn't have much time to think during the run this morning.  It was pretty intense.

But I do have something else to share.  Yesterday I was asked to emcee something in the Dean's absence and I thought about what business students could learn from musicians.  In trying to achieve a contemplative life, I will write about versatility, precision, team work, and second nature.  But that is for an earlier blog entry tomorrow.   

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Brief Update

No miles today (Tuesday, January 28, 2014).

I ran 5 miles on the treadmill yesterday.  Enjoyed the easy run in 39:41.

That puts me at 155.2 miles.  To be there four weeks into the year projects out to 2023 miles, so I am not worried about overall distance.

The location at this point is somewhere on PA 218, Stoystown Rd just after it turns off from Pompey Hill Rd.  I'm really on the back roads of western Pennsylvania at this point.

I did not get to the viewing for the music and liturgy director at our church last night and I won't get to the funeral today. That is disappointing.

Final comment on 9/11: I recall meeting with a woman who was a student that day.  She said we could skip it and reschedule but she was getting ready for the first round of her pre-dissertation writing oral examination.  Students at the school of public health have two rounds.  It made me feel like I was getting something done.

Other interesting observation--St Mary Magdalene is the patron saint of the contemplative life.  I didn't know the Catholic church had a patron saint of the contemplative life. I'm not sure how "official" that is, but I really like the idea.

On to other things.  Life is very busy right now--especially as I keep getting extra sleep to shake the cold I have. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Stories of Numbers--Meaningful Miles, Scones, Sunday School, and a Homily and a Blessing

When I was in sixth grade I liked to begin every creative writing assignment with a date, sometimes a time, and a place.  I always used that to set the scene for my stories.  My love of math translated into a love of numbers that I liked to use in communicating my ideas.  

So, today, I will use many numbers to tell my story.

Today is 1/26/14.

I went for my 19th run of the year in the first 26 days.

I ran just 2.2 miles.  But they were meaningful miles.

That makes my total for the year 150.2 miles. 

That is an average of 7.9 miles per run.  Counting days off an average of 5.8 miles per day.  That is more than enough that if I continue I will reach my question for 2000 miles for the year.

Today there was a lot of dot connecting.  

I wrote five things on the chalk board for Sunday School today.  I wrote "Wind, Dove, Fire/Fruit Salad/Red Egg/Harvest Festival/Advocate, Teacher, Guide."  Some of the kids in class thought that was just a random assortment of words.  The first, if I had reworded it, would not be a take off on a 70's band, i.e., "Dove, Wind, and Fire."  However, what I wrote are the three ways that the Holy Spirit is often shown in artwork.  Fruit salad--a reference to the need to mix up the twelve fruits of teh Holy Spirit.  Red egg--Saint Mary Magdalene.  (I actually learned that one from the teacher's text today.)  Talking about Mary Magdalene was tied in with the Resurrection the Ascension 40 days later and the Pentecost.  Harvest Festival ties back to Pentecost as well. And finally, Advocate, Teacher, and Guide are three roles for the Holy Spirit.

I encountered the number 12 a second time today.  I made 12 scones.  The scones were pretty good.  Very simple recipe.  Added apricots, dates, and raisins.  Shared one.  And that brings me back to connecting some other dots and why the miles were meaningful miles.

Getting to 150.2 miles puts me at the point after Stauffer Rd on US 30 where Old Lincoln Highway turns off to the left in Stoystown, PA.  

Why is Stoystown, PA, of interest.  Just about 2 miles south of my stopping point for the day is the flight 93 National Memorial.  Coming upon this in the course of my virtual pilgrimage, of course, takes me back to 9/11/01.

The term pragmatic visionary spirituality means a lot in this context.  The visionary spirituality aspect of this was using a software program to determine a 2000 mile route between Catholic churches.  The pragmatic aspect was that looking ahead yesterday, I could tell that I did not need a whole lot of miles the rest of the fourth week of January.  What I did need was just some loosening of the legs and feeling more alive from a run.  And today's short jaunt to feel more alive (while being very careful about the slippery roads) was very cold.  But it brought me to a point at which I would stop if I were really working my way across the country.  Stop, take a break.  See the sight that is there slightly off my planned trail.  And time to think about what that day meant.  I wasn't writing then.  I obviously can't write as much now as I would have if I were writing then, but there is something to ponder.  

I was 31 years old.  It was a beautiful, sunny Tuesday morning.  I had dropped off my older son at school, driven to work, and walked to visit an anesthesiologist who was studying new ways to avoid post-surgical pain.  When I arrived at the anesthesiologist's office, the TV was on and the first crash had already occurred.  Over the next hour and a half there was great uncertainty and great chaos.  Flight 93 came down in Pennsylvania.  Brought down there rather than being allowed to continue to Washington as the passengers by then had determined what the intent was.  

I remember how shaken everyone was.  I did not go home exceedingly early that day.  My son was dismissed early but the kids were carefully told nothing at school.  At that time, the children's garden at the Waldorf School was in a separate building.  Thus, it was even easier to keep the news from the youngest children at the School as the School's leadership decided was correct.

At that time, I was not writing for myself.  But the school provided several opportunities for parents to talk.  Some had been affected a lot more directly than I had.  But at the time, I was teaching myself a little acoustic guitar.  My oldest had been taking lessons for a year or so at that time.  And I played a lot of extra music at that time.  That was how I worked out my anxiety.  I played a lot of the "peace and love" songs from the 60's.  

Very different from the 27 essays after the Boston Marathon this year.  

It took months for me to work things out then.

During those months, I recall feeling like people in the United States were remembering that the United States stands for something.  That there are ideals that join us all together.  That there was a sense of unity of purpose that we have not seen since then.  People care about each other.  People did things for each other.  And people did things for each other just because.  No strings attached.  Realizing how short life could be and how quickly and randomly it could be taken away.

That sense of doing nice things just because is one of the reasons I shared a scone.  The other was that when making 12 scones with a family of 5 and not wanting to fight over "who gets the extra" it was helpful to share away a scone.  

Unity that I thought a lot about with where my run ended up today and with the thinking back to 9/11/01 was also a subject at church today.  Fr. Sam mentioned that yesterday was the end of the week of prayers for Christian unity.   

The last part of connecting the dots for today was the blessing for those who are volunteers at St Pius X today.  The parish had a celebration for volunteers.  The pastoral life director offered a blessing.  The blessing included recognizing the God of worthy adventures.  I don't think I have ever heard this term before.  I liked the idea of worthy adventures.  In fact, the Holy Spirit lesson from this morning is a great way to tie in.  God does not necessarily discourage adventures.  But choosing which adventures is key.  We can call them "worthy" adventures.  The Holy Spirit can guide us to worthy adventures.  Teaching third graders in Sunday school can certainly be an adventure.  Cooking and baking can be worthy adventures.  

So, from running, to teaching about the Holy Spirit, to remembering 9/11/01, to mass.  Lots of dots to connect.  On pace for the miles I need.  Tomorrow I continue to work my way across Pennsylvania in my virtual pilgrimage.   

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Run in the Fitness Room During a Day at a Hotel in Philadelphia

For a work trip, I traveled from Baltimore to Philadelphia by train on Thursday evening.  Got to the hotel around 10.  Late but not too bad.  Got checked in and found that the first room to which I was assigned was only 58 degrees.  I like my rooms chilly but not that much.  So, by the time someone came to check on the situation and my room was reassigned it was nearly 11.  Not so good.  But not a bad tradeoff.  I had a restless night sleeping and then got up to run.  I think this is the first night this year that I didn't write on the day I ran.

In any case, I went 8 miles at a 7:30 pace (the cardio machines in the fitness room at the hotel only let a person have up to 60 minutes at a time) and then followed that with another 2.1 at 8:00 pace.  Felt great.  And despite the cold that I have I felt much better after the run than before.  Nose still running.  But could breathe much better.

Breakfast at the hotel was the slowest hotel restaurant service I've ever experienced.  Had a chance to read and answer emails.  So not totally bad. And a nice cheese and vegetable 3 egg omelette with toast and potatoes.

Where does the 10.1 miles put me?  At 148 for the year.  So despite the fact that I have taken Saturday off (rare, but necessary to join my wife and oldest for a trip to College Park for the oldest to audition for French Horn) and I might also take Sunday off, I am now worried about mileage at all.

Where does the 148 put me?  Well, it puts me approximately 2 miles before Dunmeyer Auto Services along US-30 where Lincoln Highway turns off and I will leave US-30 behind.  

What would I have seen along the 10 miles?  Mostly farms and trees.  I could not imagine actually running along there at this time of year with the snow we have had.  Even the city streets are a bit tricky at the moment.  The road is a bit twistier than most other parts so far.  I can't tell from the map whether that reflects the road being built to the contours of the land but knowing roads in Pennsylvania it probably does.  There is a Route 30 Antiques shop.  There is a Subway a bit to the north on Rock Cut Rd (PA 160).  Parts of life in America.  Parts of our great country.  I'll have a lot more to explore as I continue to move ahead toward 2000 miles.      

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chugging Along, Being Noticed, Reaching Out

Today was another very cold day in Baltimore.  So, I ran at the YMCA this morning.  I stepped on the scale afterwards and weighed in at 157.  That was very reassuring for me, but I will definitely try the scale again a couple times next week to see if I am really under 160.

The distance was a short (for me) 5.5 miles.  I did 1/2 mile at 8 min/mile to warm up and then did 5 miles at 7 min/mile.  That was all I had time for this morning in my "tempo on the treadmill".  That takes me up to 137.9 miles for the year.  And it leaves me still on US 30 in southern Pennsylvania.  Following through an area where there really aren't any towns per se but there are lots of trees and farms.

This will end up being a weak that i like a "pull back" week.  But it won't be a thoroughly strategically planned pull back week.  (A friend had asked me if I planned any pull back weeks in my quest for 2000 miles last week.)  But it will be a pull back week driven by things like the weather and other non-running responsibilities.  

What was interesting about today as I move along toward my 2000 mile goal?  When I was dressed in my winter coat, sweatpants, and other cold weather gear after my run, I went to Giant.  Today's grocery list included orange juice, chocolate (including one with chili), some breakfast sausage, and some biscuits to be baked.  I made sausage gravy using my Uncle Ray's basic recipe that he had shared recently.  It was really good.  It made both breakfast and dinner for me and breakfast for one son, too.  And it seems like the sort of thing someone might find at a little dinner in the area my virtual pilgrimage is taking me through right now.  

But the trip to Giant and what I will remember it for was about more than what was on the grocery list for today.  It was also about the fact that the cashier pleasantly greeted me (as she almost always does) and the one guy employee who commented on the fact that I was in sweats (he often sees me in shorts after a run even in the winter).  He has really taken notice of the fact that I am a runner.  Though I don't know his name (and I don't think he knows mine) we are connected because of my running.

That sense of connection is something that came up in another way today.  Now that we are nearly a month into the new year, I decided that it was time to check in with a number of friends.  These are friends to whom I am connected by running, or by knowing them since middle school, or in one case a friendship that literally goes all the way back to third grade.  These are people with whom I have been in touch over the past year and the years before sharing things about life.  Sometimes more frequently.  Sometimes less frequently.  But the passing of two people at my church in the past several months has really gotten to me (and I have written about them both).  Some people are taken from the world very suddenly, very unexpectedly, and at an age that we consider too young.  What that reminds me of is the importance of staying in touch.

Running can help stay in touch.

Email can help stay in touch.

Of course, actually spending time together helps people stay in touch.

And this weekend, I will have interesting time with my wife and oldest son as we take him for an audition and spend time together learning about the opportunities that may be available to him.

Running.  Pondering.  Connecting.  Reaching out.  Being there.  

Having a circle of friends and family for whom I do that and who do the same for me makes my world a better place.   

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Run Before the Snow

This morning, I waited for the snow.  Yesterday, Sherry and I heard a National Weather Service emergency broadcast announcement around one in the afternoon that advised everyone to only travel in the case of an emergency.  Despite that, the schools that are relevant in my family didn't announce that they would be closed until after 5 AM.  So it goes.  But in the meantime, I did work. Then, I worked to make some bagel dough (bacon gouda bagels) before I went running.  I ran at 6:40 and got a total of 7.1 miles.  Just wandering-that was good.  In real life, I ran across Lake, down Bellona, down Springlake, across northern, up Charles, on Charlesmeade, Gittings, Bellona again, Stevenson, Sherwood, Overbrook, Holly, Weidner, Hollen, Yorkshire, Cedarcroft, Northwood, Woodson, Cedarcroft, and home again.  None of the miles were at a sub-8 pace and that was good.  It was an easy day.  Second day with new running shoes.  Total of 21.9 miles in the new shoes.  In my virtual world, I have run a total of 132.4 miles for the year.  That is about 44 miles per week.  The 7.1 miles took me past another cross over with the Pennsylvania turnpike, virtually past the Shawnee State Park, and through a little town called Schellsburg.  Not much else to report. 

A few other interesting thoughts.  First, the sunrise was beautiful.  While I had my phone with me and would have loved to take a picture, there was no where to stop with a good view of the horizon.  The sky was a lavender-red.  And the pinks on the undersides of the clouds were wonderful.  Wish I could share it, but perhaps that is just one of the joys that only comes to people who get up eralery.  

There is a woman who wanders York Rd and Northern Parkway regularly.  I often see her when driving kids to school.  I sometimes see her when I run.  I don't often say hello to her.  One of the first times I saw her was sleeping on the bus bench across the street from our church.  The one time I had said hello to her before, she sort of glared at me.  This morning, I chose to say hello to be consistent with what Back on My Feet always suggests about the importance of reaching out to others and after running with Back on My Feet yesterday for the first time in a while.  She actually smiled.  I don't know whether I made her day any better, but it felt like I may have.  I think again of Fr. Sam saying, "We Sing Anyway."  I experience joy. I try to bring joy to others.  And I do so regardless of the odds that it will make a difference.  I didn't know.  I tried.  I think it was better.

When I got home from running, we finished making the bagels. Not perfect as my sons had made them too big, but they tasted good.  After that, I took my middle son to the grocery store to get a few things we really could not do without for the day.  I love using the self-check out feature and we were in and out quickly enough (after leaving our house around 8:30) for me to be home by 9 for my first work call of the day.  What was interesting was that my son brought up the fact that yesterday was the Feast of St. Sebastian.  I had overlooked that in my writing about other stuff.  My son mentioned that he and my older one had thought about getting a cake and some icing to decorate with a reference to St. Sebastian but did not have a car to use.

The last two years I have thought quite a bit about the tattoo.  Planning in 2012.  Just finished in 2013.  So, what does St. Sebastian mean this year.  In his "double martyrdom" I'm not sure if he was singing.  I don't know what types of hymns they had in the third century after Jesus's life.  But he was shot by archers and kept right on going.  He "sang anyway".  What a symbol to be reminded of by my son on a day I acted out the "sang anyway" in a gesture toward another human being during my run.       
Final observations from mass yesterday.  When Fr. Sam talked about being peculiar or crazy, he specifically mentioned that the "other half" of the people who normally attend the 5:30 mass were probably home watching the football game.  It was unfortunate for so many to be away on a Sunday when being together as a community was so important.

Fr. Sam also talked about Martin Luther King's speech in Memphis about going to the mountaintop but not necessarily reaching the promised land.  Another part of the "sing anyway" theme.  And important to recognize that there are so many ways to keep singing.  He mentioned that many people who bring messages of hope are eventually "taken out" by someone who feels threatened by the hope they bring.  He commented on the concern that someone may want to take out Pope Francis given his message of hope.

I'm not sure what I think about the sentiment that everyone who tries to bring hope gets taken out.  But it is food for thought.

Do I help to bring hope?  I sure hope so.  But I write for my own purposes and just believe that others will find hope in what I write.  In how I act.  In how I see life.  In how I approach life.  And that they will join me in that hope.  

Running before the snow was hope.  Life is hope for me.  I hope that life is hope for many others.   

Monday, January 20, 2014

Breaking In New Shoes

Today's run:

5.3 at 6:59 to get to Back on My Feet on time.  I call it a terrain assisted unscheduled tempo run.  It was mostly downhill and I wasn't planning on working so hard again after the long run I had on Saturday.

Then 4.1 easy with Back on My Feet friends.

Then 5.4 nice and slow home.

A couple of interesting observations;

First, when running with my friends from Back on My Feet, we saw a bus labeled "Quick Bus Paradise."  I thought it was just fun to be able to say that there is a bus in my city that is the quick bus to paradise.  In reality there is a Paradise Loop in Catonsville.  There is a Paradise Ave, a Paradise Animal Hospital, and Paradise Motors.

Second, my virtual pilgrimage would continue along the winding US 30.  It would take me through Bedford, PA.  The path would take me a bit south of the main thing I remember from Bedford.  Many years ago my wife and I went there for a wedding on her side of the family.  We went to a restaurant called Ed's and I got an orange juice that surprised us because it was large for what we paid.  Almost everywhere else we had ever been we thought we were paying too much for orange juice.  So, my memories of Bedford are favorable.  

More running tomorrow before the predicted large amount of snow.      

We Sing Anyway

Today, I am not exactly sure how far I will run.  From my plans, it looks like 15, but it is just before 4 AM, so I can't say at the moment.

I don't usually write two blog entries a day.  But today I will as my running blog entry will come later.  

But today, I feel the need to lead off the day with a blog entry recognizing the importance of music at St. Pius X and the changes I have seen over the years.  Years during many of which John Weber was the directory of liturgy and music.  I had received an email from John as recently as January 8--twelve days ago.  Yesterday, we found out he has passed away Friday morning in an emergency room.  It is quite astounding that in this day and age of almost instant information it took two days for the parish community that he had served for so long and so well took two days to find out of his sudden and very unexpected passing.

How have my family and I been involved in music at St. Pius over the years?  

The earliest involvement was my oldest son singing in what was then the Children's Choir.  St. Pius X has not had a children's choir for quite some time now.  If there is one thing I would hope to see again some day that John did not facilitate (although I do not know if he tried) it would be that.  It seemed like a great way to encourage early involvement in this important ministry.

Other than that for about the first decade of our time at St. Pius X, we just sang at mass.  The mass we most typically attended had a piano with a group singing relatively recent songs.  It was called the contemporary choir.  And clearly it was a choir--led by Kevin Cronin.  Over the years it had numerous guitar players including a guy who would always hold his guitar vertically before the last verse or chorus of a song.  Kevin even played guitar briefly when there was another piano player available years ago.  There was some tambourine music occasionally.  A flute came and went.  And there was a bass guitar who actually helped me get my bass guitar playing started.

My involvement with 40 More Days over the years was rewarding.  Learned to play bass guitar.  Got interested in but never brought to church the mandolin.  Wrote a song for my middle son's first Eucharist that was also played for one other child that year and for my youngest son.  Enjoyed playing with my oldest son.  Sang off and on.

The "older" contemporary choir has continued.  For a while down to just a piano and singers.  Now back with a guitar and occasional flute.

And over the past several years John Weber played organ.  He could, of course, play piano.  With his operatic training he could play and cantor quite easily but supported other cantors.  He was involved in getting my son to play occasionally when neither of John nor Kevin Cronin was available to play for the cantor.  He also led a group that sang at some of the high holy masses.  

He supported a music community at the church that gave nearly every parishioner the opportunity to regularly attend a mass with music that they preferred.  With music that spoke to them.  With music that made sense to them.  

Music that makes sense to us as individuals and families was a great thing to have access to.  I have enjoyed the more contemporary Christian rock-like music.  And I still enjoy the other contemporary choir.  Sometimes the cantors and organ seemed slow, but they could be just as powerful at the right place and time.

In recent months, John had also taken over the job of getting information about altar servers out.  That affected my middle son who has served the parish well through this ministry.

Everything seemed fine.

And then yesterday, when my son was supposed to play an afternoon mass with a cantor, we found out that John Weber had passed.  He hadn't responded to my son's requests for music in advance.  And we found out the reason why.  

The details are apparently still foggy. 

But I have never seen my parish's pastoral life director so visibly shaken as when she addressed the parishioners who came to yesterday's evening mass.

I have never seen Kevin Cronin (who managed to bring himself to come to play piano yesterday at the 5:30 mass since he was fully prepared to play and my son was not) at less than 100% when playing and singing.  As mass went on he got stronger.  It was his third mass of the day.  He had subbed at the 8 AM mass when John was missing (John was supposed to play Saturday afternoon) but no one knew what had happened.  Kevin normally plays at 10:30.  And this was the third mass.  I remember that particularly at the start of the responsorial psalm, "Be glad in the Lord, give thanks to God's name/Be glad in the Lord, give thanks to God's holy name," the start of the playing seemed slightly paused.  Slightly off.  Slightly slower than usual.  By the end of mass he was his usual strong playing self.  But I think for at least one song, I detected a vulnerability.  Natural, but not often seen.

And this is the second passing of a young and well loved and well known parishioner.

What struck me yesterday were a few other things.  Our Pastoral Life Director commented not only on his musical skills but also on his laughter.  How she loved hearing him.  Being able to bring joy and laughter to others is a very undervalued skill.

Second, Fr. Sam referred to Catholics, particularly those who bothered to come to the 5:30 mass rather than staying home to watch football, a peculiar people.  He wondered what moved us.  He wondered what kept us focused on our faith when so many things pulled against that direction.  He told a story of a rabbi who, in the face of a very secular Jewish community, would yell "Shabbat" on the corner near Sundown every Friday.  Finally someone asked him why he was doing this.  He told the person, "So I don't go crazy like the rest of them."  Obviously, this was intended to make light of the fact that in secular society, those of us at mass during the time of a huge entertainment event were considered crazy.  But those of us at church at the time see ourselves as following where our hearts lead us.  Following where we need to go for nourishment.  To have our spiritual hungers fulfilled.  

Third, Fr. Sam made a comment saying, "We sing anyway."  He commented on singing anyway despite the passing of John Weber.  And at the start of mass, Carol Pacione (our pastoral life director) had asked us to raise our voices in song even stronger than we usually did.  I know I tried.  Not perfect. It was a day of emotion.  It was a day of sadness.  It was a day of songs that I did not completely recognize.  It was a day of microphone problems and the challenges of trying to follow Kevin Cronin in light of that.  But it was a day on which I raised my voice anyway.

Fr. Sam went on to comment about many deaths and how we sang anyway.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, whose life is remembered in a holiday today.  Oscar Romero (whom he bring up often).  Other modern day church martyrs.  People die.  But we sing anyway.  We sing of being glad in the Lord.  We sing of giving thanks.  We sing of his holiness.

I believe that taking the Catholic doctrine literally brings an eternal sense of optimism.  Some may say that is just to control the masses when they get down.  I say it brings light to my heart in good times and in bad.  I say it opens up opportunities to experience the best in life even when others only see the downside.  I say it keeps my heart vigorous and young.  And while I did not know John that well as an individual, from what I do know he shared in the optimism and joy of living out our faith while he was alive.  And he enjoyed finding ways to open the way for others.

I believe that John is in God's presence.  I know some don't believe in God.  Or believe in other versions of God.  So be it.  But I believe that he lived out his faith in a way that will bring him to eternal joy in the kingdom of God with harmony and justice.   And I believe that those at the 5:30 mass will continue to sing anyway. Seeking joy.  Listening to Father Sam.  Enjoying whoever carries the music.  

And I thank Kevin Cronin for being there. Through everything at St Pius X over the 17 1/2 years my family has been a part of the community Kevin has been there.  Is he a perfect person?  No--but none of us are.  But he is a great musician and has been there to do what the parish needed whenever needed.  

May we all keep on singing.    

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Day of Rest

It is fitting that on a Sunday, I am experiencing a day of rest in my 2000 mile quest.  Some Sundays I have decided to run just to get the legs loosened up after a Saturday long (and often faster than necessary) run.  Other Sundays I have run to try to make sure my mileage stays up.  Finally, my Sunday running also depends on the other stuff going on.  And today the outside activity is taking my nine year old to an ice hockey game about an hour away.  And it is colder this morning.  So despite getting new shoes yesterday, I am taking today off and will break in the new shoes tomorrow.

The experience of getting new shoes was a very good one. I was thinking of trying a new running shoe store, but given when I was able to go yesterday and given the store's hours, I was not able to make it.  Since my old shoes had 650 miles of use and that is about the maximum I have been choosing to accept (more than the 500 maximum recommended by the manufacturer), I really needed new shoes.  In any case, I ended up at the same store at which I have bought at least my last eight pairs of running shoes.  The nice thing was that it really went with my pragmatic vision and spirituality.  Going back to the same place--the place where I had been a member of training groups from the summer of 2010 through the fall of 2011--is a bigger picture issue.  The vision was clearly communicating to the salesperson exactly what I was looking for.  More miles than last year and possibly faster.  And with that we tried on a new version of the same brand and model I had before and then a new model from the same manufacturer and three other shoes.  In the end, I made the smallest change possible--the new model of the same manufacturer.  The key is that it what the salesperson said (and I realize he could just be saying this afterwards) that the best move would be a small change with then the opportunity for a greater change later on.  The key is that the new pair has less support than the old pair.  And the other manufacturers' shoes had even less support.  So, we will see if the pragmatic small change leads to even greater change later on.  To go with my vision of being an even better runner.  (And a better person overall.)

So, since today is Sunday, it is a great day to share the information I have gathered about the church at the end of my virtual pilgrimage.  In a direct email from the archivist of the diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico.  To the left is a picture of the outside of the church.

So, I also received some information about the church in the same email.  Here it is.  It is quite extensive giving the history of the start and some relatively current information:

Our Lady of Perpetual Help wasn’t established until the town of Hot Springs was founded to serve the construction crews of Elephant Butte Dam.  Many small churches preceded it to serve the thriving mining and ranching communities of the last century and the first third of this one.  Mass was celebrated as early as 1916 in Hot Springs High School.  By 1921 construction had begun on a permanent church that now serves as the parish hall.  Over the years it was improved, and enlarged until it became the central church of the Catholics of Sierra County.  In 1939, Rev. Joseph Mueller, added a residence to the church and moved the administration of the Catholic church of the area from Monticello to his new rectory in Hot Springs. Following the Second World War the need for a parish hall was met by deciding to build a new church and converting the previous church into the parish hall.  With minor additions and improvements this second church has served the Catholics of the area well for over sixty years.  The present church building was dedicated on December 16, 1949.  In 1961, the house and property on the east side of the rectory were acquired so that the church owned the entire block. Rev. Art Roberts, C.S.B. arrived as pastor in July of 1994 and recommended a two-year study of the long-range needs of the parish.  The result was the transformation of the existing building.  Many problems presented themselves in the course of the renovation, but the final result is a joy to behold.  It is a fitting tribute to the previous generation that built the building and to the present generation who had the courage to invest in its future service to the area.  It is one of the finest buildings in Truth or Consequences and a credit to Catholics everywhere.
The history clearly shows the importance of serving others, serving a need that provides a vision for the area and for the economy, and the importance of growth over time.  I will ponder the history (and the history of the town) a bit more as time goes on.  But this is a great start to thinking about where I am "going".  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Was Today’s Run Long or Tempo?

There are many different ways that different people train for running half marathons and marathons.  And in the time since I first started training for a marathon as part of a group back in 2010, I have explored several different approaches.  For the “long run” days (usually weekend days given the realities of most people’s schedules), some people say “do them at a conversational pace,” others say “conversational pace most of the way but goal race pace for 3-5 miles,” and sometimes we just run at whatever pace we feel. 

Today was the first time since Boston that I ran with one of the other two gentlemen from the Baltimore area with whom I had traveled to Boston.  Since then, he has continued to run hard and run strong.  So have I.  On any given day for any given race that is shorter than 20 miles he will almost certainly come in more quickly than I do.  In races 20 miles or longer, I have held the edge.  When in an electronic exchange earlier this week he said, “Why don’t we warm up for 2 miles and then run 7:45 workout our way down to sub-7?” I said, “Okay,” in return.  Then, this morning I did point out that I was not sure I could hit that kind of pace.  While H had run like that many times in my years of marathon training, I had specifically not been running like that this calendar year.  Working with my most frequent training partner, we had been working since November to run a “smarter” pace of 8:00 or slower per mile for our long runs.  Other people had suggested this to me indicating that while a runner needs the miles, it is good to get those miles at an easy pace so that the muscles are not overworked. 

When I woke up this morning—after a reasonably sound sleep after a heavy meal out with Sherry last night—I was not feeling 100%.  My stomach was a little on edge—but I tried to clear it (and succeeded for the most part) before leaving the house.   Also, I could only find my middle son’s water belt rather than my own but decided to borrow it.  It just fit me.  

I arrived  at the NCR trail just a moment or two late.  Met up with my friend.  And we agreed to stop at the first porta potty which was only about a half mile up the tail.  The trail was actually slippery near the point where we started.  There had been a small dusting of snow the night before.  But the sun was just near enough to the horizon at 7:05 to clearly see the trail (with all its frozen ruts) and stay safe.

Not counting the time using the porta potty, first mile was at 8:14.  Nice and easy way to start.  Conversation going.

While my buddy had suggested tow miles of warm up, we did the second mile at 7:45.  So, we were really straight into a serious run.  Although we were talking all the way at that point.  Feeling good and ready to go.  Hands still very cold despite two layers of thin gloves.  Rest of the body just fine. 

Third mile conversation continued and we picked I t up it a little more running at 7:28.  Fourth mile we brought the pace down to 7:21.  Fifth mile 7:18.  Sixth mile 7:20.  Seventh mile, despite having to make a turn around at 6.5 on our run (or the 7 mile marker on the trail) we ran 7:16.

I was feeling good.  The vision today was mostly provided by my buddy—run as if we were training for a race.  I know he has a howl race schedule he is looking forward to this year.  I may run a half dozen races all year long.  We are at a much different point.  My vision is to stay healthy to get to my 2000 miles.

I was pragmatic.  I really waned a friend to run with and my usual training partner was not available.  And, while I was trying to be sensible about pacing on most Saturdays, I do, when all is said and done, have a strong competitive spirit.  So, I ran with Rob.

Mile 8 we continued to pick it up.  My hands had stopped being cold around mile 5.  My head band was now very wet with sweat and I took it off and carried it the rest of the way—more pragmatism.  We finished mile 8 in 7:02. 

Then, all pragmatism went out the door.  It was all vision.  A crazy vision but a vision.  And a spirituality of thinking about being one with the trail.  Being one with the effort to run Boston (maybe again some day).  Being as strong as we could.  And representing groups we train or had trained with.  We ran mile 9 in 6:49 and then decided to pick it up even more with the goal of seeing whether we could hold it for one more mile.

At that point, I saw a number of people from the old training group.  One person had seen my post very early in the morning and made the observation that I was having no problem keeping up with my buddy.  The interconnectedness and the feeling of “we are all in this together to reach the finish line as fast as we can and as strongly as we can” was clearly there.  One person from my old training group asked if it was a tempo run.  It sure must have looked like one at that point.  At about 9.5 miles we decided to ease back a little and completed mile 10 in 7:04.  If we had kept the hard pace we had set for the first half of the tenth mile we would have run under 6:40. 

The last three miles we did more easily at around 7:40 for each mile.  No slouching.  Just not crazy fast.  And we waited for my buddy’s watch to tell us we had hit 13 so we ran an extra 30 seconds.  Not sure how my watch got so far ahead.

But the key is that we were out there despite neither one of us feeling perfect.  We enjoyed each other’s company. We were good at both helping each other to strive and being reassuring when it was time to pull back.  Pragmatic.  Visionary. Spiritual.  All there.

And where am I on my quest?  Done 110.5 miles in the first 18 days of the year.  Continuing west across US-30.  I would have run past where US-30 and I-76 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike) cross.  I would have run through Breezewood, which is a place well known to those who travel east/west from the Baltimore and Washington area to the upper Midwest as it is there a driver transfers from I-70 to the Pennsylvania turnpike to head west.  This is also a point at which people sometimes come from the Altoona area down I-99, then hooking up with the turnpike, and coming to the DC/Baltimore area.  Getting ready for a day of rest on Sunday or a short day.  Also part of the pragmatic vision of how to lead a healthy running life with a mixture of longer and shorter runs, days on and off, and days at hard and easy paces—each of which has its own association with spirituality.