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I’m injured. And I’m not very good at it.

It’s a stupid knee injury (nothing actually happened other I played sand volleyball a couple weeks ago, and it hurt a little on the first jump and hurt more on subsequent jumps, and when I finally decided it was time to sit out, it had started swelling) that came at a stupid time — just weeks out from TriRock Clearwater (aka the race I planned to absolutely KILL this year). I should be hitting a really strong groove right now, and instead … well, sure am swimming a lot.

Even though it’s definitely improving — I was able to do four whole minutes of running on the treadmill yesterday! Whee! — it’s still making me feel lame in a lot of ways. Literally, of course, although I’m not terribly gimpy at this point, but also, ugh. So many of the social things I do revolve around running and drinking, but since I can’t run right now, I’ve cut out drinking, and since I’m not running or drinking, I’m a little LOT less fun than I like to think I normally am.

I’m not feeling all that fierce, is what I’m saying.

fierce fund blue wig project

I find that a little fake hair goes a long way when I’m feeling down. Especially when it’s as part of the Fierce Fund Traveling Blue Wig Project

But, that got me thinking — is fierce a feeling, or a state of being? Can you only be fierce when you’re feeling that way, or if you’re fierce, are you always fierce, just sometimes moreso than others?

I have no problem saying it: That's effing fierce.

I have no problem saying it: That’s effing fierce.

I’m going with the latter, because earlier this year, when I completed the Leadman Tri — you know, that time I ate ice out of my sports bra — I was the fiercest of the fierce, as far as I’m concerned. I signed up for a race that scared the hell out of me. I committed to not only completing challenging distances on race day, but to doing some really intense training leading up to it.

And on race day, despite nerves so out of control they brought tears to my eyes, I jumped in that water and started a journey that would take me almost seven hours (no, really — I finished in 6 hours, 59 minutes and change) and make me a different person than I was when I woke up that morning.

Those who have gotten to know me over the last few years might think, “Well, that’s great, but you’ve always done this stuff. You just took the next step.” But the thing is, I haven’t always done it.

In fact, in high school between my asthma and some volleyball-induced back issues (maybe I should just quit it with the VB, huh?), I was really, really not a runner. Training the summer before my senior year to run two consecutive miles in something like 19 minutes in order to make the basketball team was miserable, and I couldn’t possibly fathom why people would run just to, like, run.

(And let’s not forget, I didn’t pick up a bike or start learning to properly swim until about three years ago. So, sure, I’ve been athletic for basically my whole life, but a serious, hardcore endurance event? So far outside my comfort zone it made the trip to Phoenix look short.)

So, here’s my thought — the choices we make (and actions we take) are the things that define our fierceness. Having done a race that scared and challenged me changed who I was gave me a new found confidence and strength. Even if I don’t feel quite the same way right now, there’s something to knowing it’s there. It’s in me. It’s in my heart, and it’ll be back. I’ll be back.

Because, I mean, come on. We can’t all be at our very fiercest all the time, can we? So let’s celebrate the moments of fierceness we all hold dear. I’ve shown you mine. Now show me yours!

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This post is part the Clever Girls Collective Fierce Fund Traveling Blue Wig Project (hence the blue wig, although, let’s be honest — I can never say no to fake hair), which is currently deciding which of three awesome non-profit organizations should receive this year’s $20,000 #FierceFund. If you have a second, check it out and cast your vote — this is an amazing group of women doing fabulous work to help worthy causes, and I’m honored to have my story included.

I did not receive compensation for this post (unless you count the wig).

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About a million years ago (or, I don’t know, maybe more like 7?), I ran a half marathon with my BFF Jami. I didn’t exactly follow a training plan, but I ran all the time leading up to the race, which, I assumed, would equate to the race being a piece of cake. For the record, it was actually my first race of any length, ever. And, in case you didn’t already guess this, it was not a piece of cake.

It was hard. It hurt. Somehow, my extra tight IT bands irritated my stomach and required us to stop at just about every rest area on the three-hour drive home.

Right after crossing the finish line, cup-half-full-Jami started talking about how great that was and how we should sign up for another one. Meanwhile, I dragged myself, Army-crawl-style, over to the bagels, and lamented my stupidity in ever signing up for a race of that length and vowing to never, ever do something so idiotic again.

You know where this is going, right?

So, January 29, I’m running in the ING Miami Half Marathon. I have a few friends who are also running it, albeit much faster than I plan to run, and for the most part, I’m really looking forward to having a good time. But, there’s still a part of me that remembers the post-race limping and gastrointestinal, umm, excitement that followed my previous 13.1 mile journey, and, well, I’m a little nervous.

Fine, a lot nervous.

I’m sure I’ll talk a lot about this over at Fit Bottomed Girls (I’m doing a weekly blog post over there these days — you should check it out!), but the thing that’s keeping me from freaking out too much is that I actually know what the hell I’m doing now. I’m following a training plan that will (hopefully) keep my knees and plantar fasciia and all that stuff healthy and still help me keep close to a 10 min/mile pace (which is about a minute per mile faster than I did my first half, for those keeping score at home).

I understand that drinking Gatorade and eating Gu is actually super duper helpful when I start feeling like I don’t have anything left, and that not drinking/eating things during a long run like that isn’t actually beneficial in the weight loss department. And I’ve got a lot of friends who are running the same distance on or close to that date, so I’ll have plenty of people who will fully understand my bitching.

So, yeah. Four days after I turn 32, I’ll run 13.1 miles. Happy freaking birthday to me, right?

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I accomplished my goals — I placed within my division, I finished with a time I was (mostly) happy with, and I was not eaten or even nibbled by an alligator. Overall, I’m calling it a success.

Kristen and Patrick at Moss Park tri

With Patrick, sweaty, dirty and smiling big.

One of the biggest challenges of this race, for me, was the fact that it was a 7:15 start in a location more than two hours away, and I had to drive down the morning of the race. Honestly, I never would have done that myself — that 3:30 wake up was pretty unkind, and, while a single (albeit very large) cup of coffee was just fine, I know that drinking too much coffee does Very Bad Things to my tummy, and when you pair that with nerves and then biking and running and no bathrooms nearby, it’s, uhhh, problematic. So a single cup of coffee it is!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it alone. In fact, the main reason I signed up for the race is because my good friend (and coach, and inspiration, really), Patrick, had signed up for it and was moving to New York a few days later, so although we’ve done plenty of workouts together and talked extensively about races, we’d never actually done one together.

Of course, by “together” I mean he did it in half the time. He did win the damn thing last year, after all, and despite doing basically no tri training at all in recent months, he still placed 3rd in his age group and 12th overall. See? Inspiration.

As for me, I honestly did just fine. We ran a little late, so I had to rush through setting up my transition area in order to have time to hit the bathroom before the pre-race meeting. (Tangent — who else believes that a pre-race bathroom break is a non-negotiable? I mean, I would actually start the race a minute or two late rather than stop during the race.)

Unlike other tris I’ve done, this swim took place in a lake (hence my alligatorly concerns), and although the water was, like, black, and I couldn’t sight the buoys for the life of me (which turned out to be a common problem) it was a nice swim. Pretty smooth, and I love that half-mile distance. I was 12th out of the water in the women’s wave, which was a bit of a disappointment, but, hey, that’s what you get for not training, I suppose.

The bike took a challenging but interesting route, through neighborhoods and with lots of twists and turns. My bike computer broke during St. Anthony’s, so I had no idea how far I’d gone, which, honestly, was kind of fun. I just pushed hard without totally blowing my legs for the run and finished the bike right around the middle of the pack.

And the run. Oh, the run. I was actually really excited because it’s just a 2.8 mile run, but I hadn’t taken into account the fact that some of it was on trail, and all of it was on packed dirt, which is great for the knees (it’s softer), but tough on weak ankles. I might’ve aroused a bird or two with my near-constant shrieks of, “Oooh! Woooo!” as I nearly fell over from stepping on a rock or in a shallow hole. I kept something around a 11 minute mile pace — far from great, but nothing I’m going to be embarrassed about.

About 10 minutes after I finished, as Patrick and I were loading up the bikes, I got the best surprise. Jared (who was working in Orlando that day) called, which he said he would do around 9. Here’s the conversation:

J: “Hey, where are you?”

Me: “Still at the race, packing up.”

J: “No, where are you?”

Me: “Ummm, Moss Park? You know, at the race?”

J: “NO. Where in the park are you?”

Me: “Shut up. Shut up shut up! Are you here? No way, you’re not here. Wait, are you here?”

Spoiler alert — he was there. It had been a few days since I’d seen him anyway since he’d been traveling, and then, having him surprise me by showing up at the end of the race was just … well, if you ever hear me complain about him, just remind me of this, okay? It was really freaking cool.

Also, just a note about the race itself — definitely a good one to do. Swimming in a lake is a bit of a novelty when you’re used to swimming in the ocean, and the park itself is lovely, if a bit buggy, so pack bug spray with your sunscreen. It’s not a huge race, but there were multiple events (aqua bike, etc.) which really lent to a bigger feel. And it’s a great one for first timers — they even have a My First Triathlon division with shorter distances (or a shorter swim, anyway, not sure about the rest). I definitely see myself coming back to do this one next year!

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This is getting serious. My Big Race is in three days. THREE. And while I mostly feel excited rather than nervous, well, there are still some nerves (as evidenced by my super weird nightmare about getting lost on the bike leg and riding through gravel and then ending up in an office building, which appeared to be where Chrysler’s executive offices are, and while there, I ran into the Dyson guy who tried to sell me a vacuum and when I explained I was in the middle of a triathlon, he started showing me pictures of himself doing that exact race).

But, here’s the thing. At this point, I’m just going to have to rely on the training I’ve done over the last four months. There’s nothing I’m going to do in the next couple of days that will make me faster or stronger, other than eating and drinking properly and getting plenty of rest. At this point, I’m just trying to make sure I find a way to relax and enjoy the event I’ve worked really, really hard for.

Still, I have some goals, and while more often than not, I keep those to myself, I’ve been so open about other parts of the training for this that I feel like keeping my goals from you all would be a little unfair. So, here we go.

  1. I want to finish in under 3 hours. This is going to be a real challenge for me, I know, but I also know that, if everything goes right, I can totally do that. And yes, 2:59:59 is still totally under 3 hours.
  2. If I go over 3 hours, I want to still keep it close to that time — no giving up and walking* because it’s looking more like a 3:10 finish!
  3. I want to be one of the first people out of the water in my wave. If I’m being totally honest, what I really want is to be the first woman out, but I’m certainly not going to be brokenhearted if that’s not the case — because I’m competing in the novice division, it’s really hard to have an idea of what I’ll be up against.
  4. I want to finish strong. The run is probably where I’m weakest, and, as it turns out, I’ll be starting that 10k run around 11 a.m., which means I should finish right around noon. And it will be in the mid to high 80s at that point. But I’ve prepared for this. I’ve run in the midday sun, I have Gu, sodium tabs, and plans to drop ice down my pants to cool down (what?). I know I won’t run my fastest 10k ever, but I want that final mile to be just as fast as the first. Ideally, faster.
  5. I want to enjoy it. I know that sounds a bit crazy, because there’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to hurt like hell. But, you guys, this is such a big deal to me. I kind of can’t believe that I’ve trained this hard for so long and that I’m SO READY. Once upon a time, I interviewed Lucy Danziger, the editor for Self Magazine, and she gave me the best advice ever: Always remember when you’re out running (or biking, or whatever) that you’re doing this because you can. There are so many people who can’t, for whatever reason, and what an amazing privilege it is that I’m able to be a part of this. If you happen to be at the race and you see me going by and I have anything but a smile on my face, please remind me of that fact. I might throw something at you, but I won’t have anything heavy on you, so you’re safe.

Those of you who’ve done challenging races — what kind of goals did you have? Did I leave anything out? Well, other than get a cute picture, but I feel like that’s almost a given, right?

*The one caveat to the finishing strong — if I have a flat or something else that puts me way, way, waaaay behind my goal time, I’m just going to have fun with it. I hear that the homeowners come out during the run, and some of them offer beer. If I’m already going to be 30-45 minutes behind what I aimed for, you can expect me to be a bit tipsy by the time I cross the finish line. Hooray beer!

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When I was in high school, I had to run two miles for basketball tryouts. I want to say that we were supposed to do it in under 20 minutes, and let me tell you, it was not easy for me. I was not a runner — I was scrappy, and I was strong, and I was tough and a little mean, but I was not much for running. I worked at it and made it, although I sometimes wonder if the coach would’ve actually cut me my senior year if I hadn’t.

The first race I ever ran (7 years ago or so, I think), was a half marathon. I trained hard, but not properly, really — I mean, I just kind of went running and kept adding miles on, you know? I finished with just over an 11-minute pace and was proud … and determined to never do any sort of long distance again.

Since then, I’ve done lots of short distances — 5ks, 4-milers, and sprint tris (which include a 5k). But the triathlon in May has a 10k run, so I’ve been building my mileage. And, when I got the notice for a 10k right down the road from me, I signed up in a flash with a goal to finish in under 60 minutes, which would put me at just under a 10 minute mile pace.

What I didn’t realize until a couple of nights before was that just over half the race was through the woods. On sort of a trail. You know, in the woods. And hell, I hadn’t even been running on uneven sidewalks or streets with potholes, so, I was nervous to say the least.

The first mile and change felt amazing. It was a beautiful day, my legs were fresh, and I had to really work to keep myself from starting out too fast, and even so, I caught myself running at a 8:45 and 9:00 pace. That adrenaline will really get you, you know? Once I got in the woods, though, it was a different story. Although they did a great job of clearing debris, it was still tough.

There were basically three types of terrain — soft, sandy ground, like running on the beach; layers of slippery leaves, leaving me with no traction; and gopher holes, both seen and unseen. And since this wasn’t my big race — I really saw it as a training run — I decided to really slow it down and be cautious to avoid injury. Don’t get me wrong, I was still pushing myself, just keeping it where I felt comfortable. And I still almost fell about five times.

By the time I got out of the woods, I was feeling pretty beat but have never been happier to see a level stretch of asphalt. I gave it all I had, and finished in 1:01:30 — just 90 seconds over my real goal. And you know what? I’m totally okay with that. It’s a huge improvement over what I could’ve done a few months ago, and my confidence was lifted enormously. I mean, if I was able to come that close to my goal with over three miles of trail running thrown in there, I honestly think that I could knock that goal out on a regular 10k. And the next 5k is going to be great — it’s a PR or nothing, baby.

I still really don’t know if I’ll be able to hold that kind of pace in the tri, because, well, my legs certainly won’t feel so fresh coming off a 40k bike ride. But I’m glad I did it, am really glad I didn’t get hurt, and am excited for my next race (a sprint tri in Jacksonville next month, unless I sign up for a 5k in the meantime).

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In addition to not understanding basic concepts like moving, dogs do not understand pacing. Yesterday we were graced with perfect, sunny, 65 degree weather. Jared was home and, while we’re both still recovering from the plague, we got lots of sleep and were highly motivated to spend some time outdoors. So, off to the dog park we went.

Within seconds of pulling into the parking lot, the dogs turned into whimpering, whizzing little fuzzballs, fur on end with excitement. “Oh my god, mom! Dad! MOOOOOM! There’s another dog! He’s peeing! PEEING!!! Let me out let me out let me out let me oooouuuuuut!”

So we let them out, and WHOOSH! They were off. And to think that, once upon a time, we thought Hollie might not be able to run.

Who's a gimp? Not this dog.

More than one paw on the ground is obviously overkill.

We got their attention again, however, with the Chuckit, which is definitely one of the best dog toys we own.

Rudi's running ability was never in question. ZOOM!

There was running and jumping and barking and panting and playing … for about half an hour.

Oh, Hollie. You'll never catch up, but it's cute that you try.

And then, they both crashed in a nice, cool, shady patch of dirt. You know, like dogs do. It would’ve been swell to hang out for a couple more hours, but shoot, I had almost 100 photos to edit just from the time we did spend there (I blame the fancy new zoom lens Jared got me for Christmas), so maybe the shorter visit was for the best.

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A big part of why I work out is because I like how it makes me feel. I also like that it lets me get away with eating a few slices of pizza now and again without having to buy all new pants — don’t get me wrong.

And I’m not just talking about the runner’s high, although that’s very nice. No, I mean the way working out makes me feel about myself. I feel proud that I’m out there, working hard, pushing myself. I feel proud of what my body can do. But there’s more.

I’ve been noticing more and more that different exercises provoke very different feelings. Running makes me feel powerful, for example. I feel the way all the muscles in my legs work together to push me forward. When I pick up the pace, I feel the way the muscles in my core and shoulders respond — and it’s with strength.

Swimming makes me feel graceful and sleek, which is funny, because I feel so far from graceful or sleek or pretty when in my bathing suit before I get in the water. But, once I slip below the surface, I’m a different person. Everything from the sensation of the water gliding over my body to the way the bubbles and sunshine create patterns on the bottom of the pool is pretty much perfect — in the water, I feel exactly like the person I want to be, if that makes sense.

Dance workouts, like Zumba, make me feel kind of sexy. Something about dancing in a room full of women  (and maybe a few men), all of whom are shaking and shimmying with abandon, is really beautiful. In my head, I know my hips don’t move like Shakira’s, and I know my abs don’t look quite like the 20-year-old instructor’s, but my heart doesn’t give a damn. It’s just joyful — sweaty and out of breath, yes, but joyful, and I think that’s pretty sexy.

Biking, on the other hand, just makes me feel sorry for Jared because all I can think about is how cyclists must never — never — have sex. Good god I hate cycling. It’s just painful. Yeah, no redeeming qualities there.

Am I nuts? Or do other people get totally different feelings from different workouts? Come on, dish!

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Hey, remember when I told you about that swim test I was a little hand-wringy over? And then for the last month and a half you’ve been dying — DYING — to know how it went?

(Oh, what’s that you say? You neither remember it nor do you give two shits? Eh, to each his own, I suppose. I mean, if I can’t be bothered to post regularly, I probably can’t really expect you to wait with bated breath, can I?)

Anyway, it happened and … well, it was good. I kind of set two goals, as I usually do for a race, the first being what I’d be perfectly happy with, but not elated over, and the second being my true, shoot-for-the-stars goal. And I kind of blew them both out of the water (get it? swimming and water? har, har, har)

I’m still really, really enjoying my swim classes, and honestly miss hitting the pool when I’m unable to go. But the fact that my swim test went well got me thinking that, if I can improve rapidly and do that well in the pool, maybe I should look into getting some coaching in the other individual sport I spend a lot of time on — running. Since the guy teaching swim class had just won a triathlon (like, as in, won the whole damn thing. Yeah, I know.), I thought I’d ask him if he’d be interested in helping me out with some running. So, for the last three weeks, I’ve been getting lessons on how to run.

Oh, you guys. You think running is just something that, like, you go out and do, right? I assure you it is not. The first lesson, we completely changed my form. The way I land, the way I kick back, the way I hold my arms … all changed. I have to think about all this stuff, all the time. Since then, he’s been doing drills with me in an attempt to make running a little more interesting and — dare I say it? — fun.

(Except for last week, when we did hills, and the first thing he said was, “You know, it’s okay if you puke.” Umm, okay with him, maybe …)

((There was no puking, but I might’ve said a few words that probably would’ve made the fellas hanging around my dad’s bait shop blush.))

(((Sorry, Mom. And yes Dad, I’ll teach you those words next time I see you.)))

Here’s the thing with me and running. I’ve done a lot of it. I’ve run for basketball and I’ve run fairly long distances and I’ve run lots and lots of short distances. And, for the most part, you can just about set a watch by the time it takes me to run a mile. (You know, if you don’t mind your watch being off by 30 seconds or so.) I’m a 10-minute miler, and while I don’t think that’s anything to feel bad about, I definitely feel like, for the amount of time I’ve put into running, I should probably be able to pick up the pace, you know?

I don’t have any delusions of winning a half marathon or anything; I truly don’t. But, when I run 5ks, especially the little local ones, I want to be closer to the front than to the back. I don’t want to come in behind the middle of the pack. I want to finish with a time that I’m not only not embarrassed by, but a time that I want to shout from the rooftops. I want to go out to brunch afterward and have to hold myself back from telling the server how I did.

I just signed up for a four-mile race on October 1. It’s an evening race (I’m far better in the evenings than in the early mornings) with a beer festival afterward, which seems like a nice thing to run toward. My coach will be running, and since he’ll probably finish in about half the time it’ll take me (seriously, I’m probably only exaggerating the tiniest amount) as well as another pal who runs at a good clip (hi, Kevin), I’ll have at least a couple of people cheering for me at the finish line, hopefully with a nice Belgian wheat beer ready for me.

So, the goal — I feel very … naked putting this out in public, but I think I need the accountability — the first goal is to keep a 9:30 pace, which would bring me in at 38 minutes. The shoot-for-the-stars goal is to keep it at 9 minutes, meaning a finish at 36 minutes. It’s absolutely NUTS to me that it’s going to mean pushing myself so much harder just to win those two or four minutes, but those of you who’ve shot for a time in a race will understand. And those of you who haven’t, well, I hope you’ll at least have a beer with me that night, in spirit!

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running clothesI just watched Letterman’s top 10 things you think about while running the NYC marathon. Now, I’ve never run in New York nor have I ever run a full marathon, but it made me think about, uhh, what I think about while running. And so, my Top 10, ordered from the beginning of a run to the end (and I expect you to share yours in the comments!):

10. Do I have something in my shoe? Oh, god, I hope not. Stopping now is a bad idea.

9. I want to be doing this. I really do. This is my choice, and my time all to myself. I should enjoy it.

8. Oh, man, I’m glad I slathered on the Body Glide.

7. Have I burned the number of calories in a piece of pizza yet? What about a whole pizza? I’m getting hungry.

6. If I ran faster, I would be done sooner, and that would be nice. I should pick up the pace.

5. Holy shitballs, why did I pick up the pace?

4. So, the race I’m training for is ___ times farther than this. Christ on a cracker.

3. Is anybody looking? Can I walk?

2. That’s the end! Sprint! Kick! Get the most out of it! Woo!

1. Screw it. Breathing is more important than finishing in under ______.

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By the way, the image above is one I’ve submitted for the Working Closet Flickr pool, a really cool group that lets you see what other women wear on a daily basis and, theoretically, show off your cool sense of style. Today, I would say I failed, but I’ll be submitting these (close to) daily for the rest of the month. You should, too!

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It’s an ugly, rainy day today, but I just finished a two-mile run with Rudi. I love running in the rain — always have — and the reasons are two-fold. One, it keeps you cool; that’s a no brainer. The second reason is the one I fear might make me … kind of an ass.

Have you ever run in the rain and looked at the people watching you run by? It’s a whole different experience than when you run by on a beautiful day. When it’s sunny and gorgeous, people think, “Well, isn’t that nice. She’s out running and enjoying this beautiful day. Good for her.”

When you run in the rain, the people watching you are thinking more along the lines of, “Wow, she must really be dedicated to be running in this weather. She’s probably in great shape. I wish I had that kind of motivation.” And, you all, I really like when people think I’m a motivated runner who’s in great shape.

You see, they have no way of knowing that I’ve run a total of, like, SIX MILES since announcing I would be running 13.1 of them in a few months. (Well, eight miles, now, but shhh — this will be our secret!)

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To those of you who have asked, I’m alright. I know it’s been a month since I’ve posted, and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been a really difficult month. It’s been awful. I miss Yuki everyday, but the outpouring of kind thoughts (and lovely cards and even donations made to Puppy Hill Farm in Yuki’s memory — thanks Deana!) has given me a new appreciation for the kindness of family, friends, and strangers. You know I’m not a hugger, but if I could, I would give each of you a massive bear hug (and probably make you cry, because I seem to be doing that to people lately).

Rudi is doing well, too — we’re trying to plan lots of puppy playdates with neighbors and friends, and she’s going for more walks than ever before. Plus, she’s getting spoiled as hell. Oh, you want to come up on the couch? Sure, just this once. You want another treat? I don’t see why not …

And yes, we will get another dog, one of these days. Not now, but when the time is right, we’ll know. And when that happens, I know there will be difficulties, but I have no doubt we’ll find the good in that, too.

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