New York in 24 hours on Tuesday/Wednesday followed by an 8:25am flight to San Francisco on Thursday morning makes for a busy week of traveling.

There were signs that this morning might be an issue. It could have been the blazing migraine and incredible dizziness and nausea Wednesday night—hopefully not from the Hotel Pennsylvania—or the fact that I was overwhelmed with all the things I hadn’t done that I was supposed to for this trip and the trip next week to Tanzania…but things were definitely off.

At 7:15 AM, pretty much packed, but not close to exiting the house, I said to Jon ‘Ok, I’m ready when you are!’ He came in and asked if I had any stamps. I did. I handed them to him, ‘Ok, ready to go?’ I asked. He nodded and walked into the other room. At 7:20, I asked again. He said he was ready. At 7:30, we finally left the house—I should say  I was also dithering about.

In the car Jon asked what time my flight was supposed to leave. I said ‘8:24, I’ve got plenty of time.’

Did I? Actually I wasn’t sure what time we left the house and looking at Jon’s car clock didn’t help—it moves faster than time and is generally somewhere in the range of 15-25 minutes ahead of the time.

When we arrived at the terminal, I saw a bizarre sight: a snaking line outside of the First Class/Priority Check-in. That’s usually the area I breeze through utilizing the computer check-in and move through the priority access security line. Both were backed up like I’d never seen at Logan.

I walked up to the computer but was intercepted by a woman keeping track of the line. ‘What’s your flight?’ she asked. ‘San Francisco,’ I replied. She looked at me wide-eyed. ‘What?! You gonna missa your flight! Come with me’ and she indicated I should follow her to the front of the line.

This did not go over well with the other passengers waiting in the line. ‘There’s a line for a reason!’ ‘My flight’s at 8:45 I’m not gonna make it.’ ‘Are we penalized for coming early? Maybe I should show up minutes before and get special treatment too!’

Apparently there was a cancelled flight—shockingly not mine—and it was causing a lot of angst, anger, and rescheduling. And rescheduling takes a lot of the American Airlines desk attendant’s time apparently.

The woman ‘wo-manning’ the line asked for my credit card and bustled off to check me in on the computer. I watched nervously and unsure why she needed to do it and not me. She returned a few minutes later with my boarding pass. I eyed the people talking to the agents—who had been the same for the past 15 minutes. Finally there was a break in the line. I jumped up to check my bag and then sprinted to the security line.

At first it moved like molasses. I checked my watch. 8:05…still time. I made it through. I even made it to the Dunkin Donuts to get a bagel before the flight. Here’s where I made the critical error. Instead of just asking for a bagel, I asked for a bagel, egg and cheese—and paid. I checked the time, 8:10 and no boarding calls. Except, wait, was that my name being called? ‘Passenger Fowler to gate 35 for final boarding. Last call for passenger Fowler.’

I made a scramble to grab the attention of the Dunkin Donuts employee. ‘Excuse me, can I grab my bagel?’

 ‘Which bagel?’

‘The egg and cheese bagel.’

‘We’re out of eggs.’

‘What?’

‘We’re out of eggs.’

Out of eggs between when I ordered two minutes ago and right now?

‘My flight is calling my name, can I just get a bagel?’

‘No eggs. You can get in line?’

Ugggggghhhh. Seriously? How difficult is this?!

‘You can keep my $3 thanks!’

I sprinted down the corridor to Gate 35. Another woman was waiting at the gate telling the gate attendant that her other party members were on their way. Did I have time to go back and claim that bagel? I decided against it. Given my travel karma, it was too much to temptation to be left on the wrong side of the closed plane door.

I handed over my ticket, walked down the gangway, and was the last person to join the exit row, much to the chagrin of my seat mates. There was a smile between to two other seated passengers. I laughed, ‘Hoping I wouldn’t make it? I do that all the time when there are free seats.’ And sat down, appreciating that I would make it on time the best Bachelorette Party ever, but really hungry and craving that bagel, egg and cheese.

It’s been two weeks and a day…and I still can’t describe my marathon experience. I have been on cloud nine for two weeks. Well, cloud nine tempered with a limp, some blisters, an aching body, and a tired mind. Perhaps there should be a new category: cloud 11? Eleven being my favorite number. If you knock back that perfect feeling, my 11, with a little body pain, you’d make it back to cloud nine.

Why was I on cloud 11? To cover that all would be a very long blog post. A post from the beginnings of my training back in November when I could barely run three miles with J at Thanksgiving to the exhilarating triumph of turning left on Boylston, hearing the crowds roar, and seeing the dazzling finish line ahead. It would be probably five pages of thank you’s and appreciation to all of the incredible people who have supported me along the way. To keep it some-what concise, I’m going to limit this blog to marathon weekend. It may still be a novel. I hope you enjoy.

The kick-off

Marathon celebrating began at Pathfinder. My amazing  coworkers surprised me with an unbelievable array of carb-loading Friday afternoon. Pies, cookies, fruits (with my favorite pineapple!), Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches, and more were spread out in one of our conference rooms. There was a card as well as balloons that even two weeks later still have helium! They were clearly meant to weather 26.2 miles!

Real Texans Arrive

Aunt and Uncle at Lexington and Concord

What Patriot's Day isn't complete without meeting a Patriot? My aunt and uncle visited Lexington and Concord on Sunday with my dad.

That night, my aunt and uncle kicked off marathon weekend with a spectacular Bean-town celebration of all things seafood at the Barking Crab. Life-long Texans, this was their first time to Boston, and they were living it up. When I met them Friday night it was wonderful to hear about their adventures around Boston, learning about the history of the city. It was also equally fantastic to have an injection of home. Their charm, smiles, support, Texan accents, and love made me feel incredibly special and very lucky to have them in my life.

Saturday and the Marathon Expo

Saturday dawned with the beginning hint of nerves. I began running through lists I hadn’t done. Did I have Gu? Would my shoes hold out? When would I go to the Expo? How many Google Maps could I print to show my family what exact location they would be on the course? Jon began to sense my over-planning–my inherent reaction to tension/anticipation is to plan, plan, plan away!

Cafenation crepes, coffee and tea

Cafenation crepes, coffee and tea with the ladies (thanks Cait for the pic!)

Beyond planning, there was also a need for girl-time and crepes. My girls and Cafenation crepes can help spread sunshine on any rainy, or stressful, day. Saturday morning I trekked to Brighton Center on a pilgrimage ala crepe and MicCait. The tea, as always, was stellar, the crepes fantabulous, and the ladies, lovely. (I also love the peeps at Cafenation who generously contributed to my fundraising efforts.)

Later that day, while my aunt and uncle were out on the town seeing the sights, Jon and I ventured downtown to the marathon expo, a wonderland of people, running clothes, free samples, and just about every vendor who has any relation to running–or hopes to have any relation to running. I secured my bib number: 26632 after a bit of wrangling and then started my mission to find cool clothing. No, not cool as in ‘hey, good lookin.’ Cool as in, ‘oh my gosh, it’s-going-to-be-55-degrees-and-I-haven’t-trained-in-anything-above-32-in-four-months-so-how-will-my-body-possibly-respond’ kind of cool. I was a on a mission to find wicking material for my arms and a white, wicking visor for my head. After a few elbows in the crowd, some free sample scouring, and some ‘when are we leaving’ questions from Jon, I had everything I needed and we were off to the next adventure: the Tedy’s Team dinner.

The Tedy’s Team Dinner

Jon and I picked my dad up at Logan on our way to the Tedy’s Team Pasta Dinner. My dad scheduled his flight to arrive just in time for us to pop across the harbor and into downtown Boston. Although sad that my mom could not be at the marathon–since I was running for her afterall–I was thrilled to see my dad. His bear-hug assuaged my rapidly rising fears about Monday’s race and his ready jokes kept my mind off the 26.2 miles ahead.

Tedy's Team Marathon Morning

Tedy's Team Marathon Morning (thanks to Candida Ruscito for the photo!)

At the dinner, Jon, my Dad and I chatted with other Tedy’s Team runners (all of whom have amazingly inspirational stories about why they are running for stroke) and were inspired by Tedy’s Team leader, Tedy Bruschi. Tedy and his wife, Heidi, are among some of the nicest people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Their commitment to raising awareness and funds for stroke is inspiring. And being a part of their efforts makes you feel like you really are making a difference. Particularly when they announced how much the team had raised: more than $300,000!!! With just 45 runners, Tedy’s Team hit a new milestone–the most raised in the past five years of its existence. (And here I should add if you’d still like to give, you can. You can make a secure, online donation here: http://tedysteam2010.kintera.org/boston/fowler)

I can’t quite explain the feeling in the room as the 45 of us prepared for what was to come Monday…or shared stories about what had brought us to the marathon in the first place: stroke survivors and heroes who were parents, partners, children, or even themselves. It was truly one of the most moving nights of my life. I left with energy, excitement, and enthusiasm for what was to come…and a full belly of pasta 🙂

Sunday, The Countdown Begins

There is one thing that gets me through tough runs. When the mileage starts creeping up and my body starts to resist my mind’s pressures to keep going, a solitary image glimmers at the finish line every Saturday or Sunday morning: pancakes. And not just any pancakes, Deluxe Town Diner chocolate chip pancakes. Many a time have I sat in the diner booth, sweat still seeping through my running layers, eagerly awaiting the perfect pancake. Sunday morning, I arrived with family entourage in tow, sans sweat, but with a hearty appetite ready for carb-loading. We celebrated all things diner with so many plates of food, the waitress was forced to put some of it on the shelf next to us. It was delicious.

The rest of Sunday was a blur of touring the Boston suburbs:

  • a trip to the Pathfinder office to show off my work digs
  • a jaunt down the marathon course (via car)
  • a tour of Babson, my brother’s alma mater, via car for my aunt and uncle
  • and the all important trip to Whole Foods to stock up on pre-marathon dinner supplies

The Last Supper

Sunday night, my aunt, uncle, dad, and Jon helped prepare a sumptuous feast of my favorite pre-run delectables. We downed pasta with tomato sauce and chicken sausage, sautéed summer squash, spinach salad with goat cheese, and yummy Whole Foods bread warmed with butter. I fretted over the details of the race. I may have zoned out during the dinner conversation. I had trouble concentrating on what needed to be where, when. And I obsessively kept checking the bed laid out with all of my marathon gear. But my family was amazing. My aunt, uncle, Jon and dad were a wonder of support. Jon and my aunt lovingly attached my bib number and running accoutrements with safety pins. My mom called in via speakerphone from California to send well-wishes. It was amazing.

Then came the time for sleep…and that wasn’t amazing.

I sat in front of the computer pouring over maps, a blog for work, and other random marathon sites. I rearranged my breakfast supplies on the counter. I set the DVR. I fiddled with my marathon bag, all delaying the onslaught of sleep. With sleep came the reality that the marathon was indeed the next morning–terrifying. But of course once I laid down to sleep, I couldn’t. I tossed, turned, sprawled, harumphed and muddled my way through six or seven hours in bed before jumping up pre-alarm and shouting to Jon at 6am, ‘it’s here! Marathon daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!’

The Boston Marathon

The big day with my stroke heroes sign pinned on

A look from the back in the Tedy's Team staging house (thanks to Candida Ruscito for the photo).

A lot happened that morning…from oatmeal and tea preparation to meeting up with Caitlin (and seeing her lovely parents) and Anna for transport out to the starting line. Anna’s dad graciously drove four nervous runners with a blasting inspirational soundtrack to the Hopkinton State Park. We met the buses and were on our way to the beginning of our 26.2 mile journey.

In Hopkinton I said farewell to my favorite lady runners and headed to meet Tedy’s Team at a house near the start (generously offered by some Tedy’s Team supporters). There, the 45 of us gathered to await the countdown. Tedy was in full support mode–camera ready to take photos while also fielding media coverage of Tedy’s Team (see clips here on WBZ and NESN). We stretched, chatted, put on sunscreen (lesson learned from two years ago!) and quietly took in the moment.

Then it was time.

The announcer called out for runners in the second wave and we headed to the pens. Falling in with a sea of runners–thousands of jitters and anxious deep breaths. I was at the very back of the second wave. So far back I couldn’t even see the starting line. The announcer called the start but I stood rock still, the bodies around me wanting to surge forward, but having nowhere to go. So we waited. Two minutes, three minutes, four minutes. It seemed like an eternity. The marathon had started and all I wanted to go was GO! But where was the starting line? I stood on my tiptoes trying to see above the crowd. I shuffled forward slowly. Finally, nearly fifteen minutes after the gun, I was able to start a slow jog and began to see the beginning ahead of me. I also saw Tedy, Heidi and other Tedy’s Team supporters in the starting line stands. Another TT runner and I waved excitedly. This was IT!

And we were off.

The first few miles were slow. I wanted to find a pace, but the crowds, the varying runner speeds around me and my self-talk to slow down on the beginning downhill slopes kept me feeling like I was wading through glue. I was excited, and thrilled. I felt good, just slow.

Excitement in Wellesley

Excitement in Wellesley upon seeing Linda (thanks to Linda Suttenfield for the photo!)

After the first time station (I think the 5 or 10k) I obsessively texted and called Jon and my dad trying to figure out my time–was I too fast? Was I too slow? What was my pace? No text alert had appeared on their phone–despite signing up for updates–which threw me into a tailspin of self-doubt. Was my chip not registering? Was I going to run this whole thing and not have a valid time?!?!

I made myself breathe. I thought of my mile dedications. I thought of my mom. I relaxed. I smiled. I saw Santa Claus–no really he was on the sidelines. I passed a marathoner who was part of the Century Club (and was also running his 25th straight Boston). I came near tears passing a blind, diabetic runner powering through his race with the assistance of a sighted runner. I found hope in another runner propelling his wheelchair forward, his back to the finish line, with only one leg. I considered kissing a Wellesley girl at the half way point but enjoyed high fives and the cheer wall much better from the center lane. I screamed with excitement when I saw Linda in Wellesley center. I eagerly anticipated seeing my family just past mile 17. I ate GU. I ate more GU. I started to feel blisters. I started to wonder where the finish line was.

Catching me in action

Catching me in action, my dad snaps a camera-phone shot as I run by.

I had been on eager countdown to reach 17.5 miles, the point where I would see my family. It was the beacon of hope and I thought ‘I’m doing great! I’ll have tons of energy left for the last six miles!’ That may have been a slight overstatement. Whereas I had screamed in excitement seeing Linda just a few miles earlier, I was silently huffing when I approached my family. The hills had started to take their toll. I was hungry. I was a little tired (a few hours of running can do that to you) and most of all, I was ready to cross the finish and celebrate! But it was still 8 miles away…que the ‘ra, row’ sound.

I was thrilled to see my aunt, uncle, dad, Jon, Ed (Jon’s dad who arrived that morning after I’d departed for the start) and Jeff. Seeing their smiles, signs and encouragement was great. Jon jumped in to run a bit with me and I was feeling good. But tired. And hungry.

I began to smell the sausage vendors, crave the oranges on offer from the kids lining the route, and feel a deep, disconcerted grumble in my tummy. It was already after 2pm and my last real food had been breakfast around 8am. My muscles started to scream out against moving further and was forced to slow down to a fast walk up Heartbreak Hill. The 20 mile marker, once the point I thought I would celebrate being home-free–became a source of anger. Why were people yelling so loud? Why were there so many drunk people surging so close to the runners I could barely run straight?

I tried to smile but the stage-7 anger began to creep in…where was the f%#*ing finish?!?!?! And why wasn’t closer?!?!?!

Another ray of hope, Nancy, appeared at the mile 22 water stop. She was volunteering and her smile, cup of water, and encouraging words brought me out of my anger. Ok, four miles left. I rounded Coolidge Corner and things began to blur. How far was it again? Where was I on the course? Were there supposed to be people here that I knew? Or at the finish? And where was the finish anyway?

A blurry montage of Boston landmarks seemed to pass like glaciers. Why was it taking so long to get to the end? I grabbed at water stops like Will Ferrell in Old School when he’s been hit with a tranquilizer dart. I saw the Citgo sign indicating I was close, but then why did the Prudential Center seem so far away? How far was the finish line anyway?

I heard screams, chants, and in some cases, taunting, so loud that I couldn’t find my own voice, my own pace. I tried to center. I adjusted my iPod louder. I needed to find a zone and just get into it. Finish it. Power through.

Suddenly I was on Hereford Street, the last turn to the straight-away ahead of me. The agonizing last eight miles faded. I knew the finish line approached. I kicked it up. I wanted to finish. I craved the finish line. And almost as overwhelmingly, craved a burger.

Boston Marathon finish line

Crossing the Boston Marathon finish line!!!!

And then it was there.  No longer a mirage, but reality. The finish line spread out, the crowd cheering. I could see The Lenox Hotel, where Tedy’s Team was holding post-marathon court, and I knew I had done it. A smile broke out. I felt good. I had done it. I ran 26.2 miles. My body and mind survived. I had finished months of training dedicated to raising awareness and funds for stroke. I had raised more than $8,700 for stroke. And I had done a small part to help my family, and others, affected by this debilitating, deadly, attacker.

I crossed the finish line, ecstatic. Simultaneously at a loss for words and overflowing with too many.

And two weeks and one day later I’m still ecstatic. Still in disbelief. Still in awe of everyone who was a part of Tedy’s Team and the marathon. Still overwhelmed by the outpouring of emails, texts, calls, letters, donations, and more showing the unbelievable network of friends, family, coworkers, colleagues, and loved ones I am so fortunate to have. And still hoping I can come up with some words to say thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Interested in donating? You still can! Visit: http://tedysteam2010.kintera.org/boston/fowler

UPDATE: For those interested, forgot to mention that my time was 4:21! 🙂

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Convio welcome banner in Austin

Welcoming the Summit attendees to the greatest city in Texas.

Yesterday I flew from BOS to AUS to attend the Convio Summit. Possibly one of my favorite things about working for a nonprofit that utilizes Convio is that they hold annual meetings in the greatest city in Texas, and arguably one of the greatest cities in the US.

The tricky part is getting here.

From Boston there are very few direct flights. The only one I could find was on JetBlue and it only goes once a day. So I opted for American (always close to my heart and even closer now that I’m inching towards reaching status again this year). That of course means a layover in Chicago or Dallas. Big D it was.

On my 2.5 hour layover I got a chance to navigate the bus system of DFW and have lunch with my parents in the new Grand Hyatt at Terminal A (something I highly recommend). (We chose that because it’s among the only spots not past security where I could meet them.) I also got a chance to rekindle my love-affair with Texan apparel. Being born and bred in Texas, there is something magical about stepping into DFW and becoming part of a glorious maze of cowboy hats, tight jeans, and boots complimented by ‘I love Texas’ stores, big blonde hair, and Sonny Bryan’s BBQ. I may not take advantage of any Texan clothing on a daily basis in Boston, but I have to say, I miss it.

I also miss the weather. During the lunch in Dallas, dark clouds were rolling in. Not a thunderstorm but a cooler front of air. Landing in Austin an hour later it was still warm, but the breeze was picking up and you could sense a change in the air. This morning, the temperature had slipped into the mid-50s with a strong breeze. The trees bent and swayed as flags around the capitol buildings snapped in the wind.

The trip down here ended up being long, but pretty pleasant (and shockingly no delays). Now it’s time to enjoy Austin, learn a lot at the conference, rock out during my presentation on Wednesday, and not think too hard about the 6am flight back on Thursday…

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Rocking chairs are not new to Logan, but tonight—the first time I’ve actually snagged one while waiting for a flight—I realize their true meaning: rocking away your frustration at waiting for a flight that threatens half hour by half hour never to come.

Rocking chair in Logan, sans rocker

Rocking chair in Logan, sans rocker

My colleagues at work this afternoon were nervous that I was going to miss my flight. At 5:15 I was still sitting at my desk, pretty calmly addressing some last minute needs (despite the fact that my bag was still sitting unpacked on my living room floor a few miles away). “Shouldn’t you leave now?” a few of them asked when I told them that my flight was scheduled to depart Logan at 7:30—“scheduled” being the key word. “Are you heading straight to the airport?” another asked. “No,” I replied, I still had to head home to finish packing. I received a rather shocked look in response.

But I had no fear that on a rainy, Friday night, after receiving updates that my mom’s flight from California to JFK was delayed a few hours, that my tiny Embraer flight from Logan to JFK on American would almost definitely be delayed.

As soon as I left the office (a very generous colleague offered to drive me home to avoid the delay of the bus), I received my two hour pre-flight call from American letting me know that my flight was “scheduled” to take off at 7:30. Surprised, I had a brief moment of panic—maybe I wouldn’t make it. As I hung up, I turned to my colleague to express a brief moment of concern. Then my phone buzzed again. American Airlines. They were sorry to report that my flight was now “scheduled” for departure at 8. I hung up and returned to my conversation. A few minutes later, a third call. American’s electronic voice recording was again sorry to report that my flight was now “scheduled” for 8:30.

Thank god.

Now I could actually pack. And find my international charger. And figure out international calling for my phone. And set my out of office messages. And attempt to pick up my bag with my right hand, left hand, and back and forth to guess if it was actually under 40 pounds (ok, yes I could have put in on a scale, but it wouldn’t have been as fun).

I relaxed at home. Guacamole was made. Final travel needs addressed. Then a leisurely trip down the rain soaked Pike to Logan. Bags checked (weighed in at 43 pounds!), security breeched and then passed. And then waiting. And rocking. And waiting. And listening to announcements saying the flight is again delayed. And waiting. And rocking. And relaxing because I’m on vacation. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

PS- Once I arrived at JFK, we taxi-ed around the tarmac for about 35 minutes–or more than half the time it took to fly to New York in the first place. At one point we pulled up to a gate, then suddenly did a 180. Apparently it was the wrong gate…overall, fun times 🙂

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So no updates on the wallet. I didn’t have much luck tracking anything down yesterday. Well, really no luck because I was simply too exhausted to try. After waking up every hour on Saturday night envisioning new ways the thieves could steal my identity, or remembering more sentimental items I’d had stored in it, and then spending hours at the bank finagling new financial information I was pretty much a no-go for a video hunting expedition.

However, I have learned ten key pieces of information regarding wallet safety/having your wallet stolen which I thought I would share for the general audience:

  1. Hanging your purse on a chair in a restaurant (even if it’s against the wall), is not (as I had thought), a safe place.
  2. If someone bumps your chair (while your purse is hanging on it), check your belongings. Apparently this is one of the oldest tricks in the book…especially if the person sitting behind you then leaves 5 minutes later without ordering anything.
  3. Even if your bank provides nice little wallet-size carrying cards for your account numbers, it’s still not a good idea to have that actually in your wallet.
  4. When people say don’t put your social security card in your wallet–again even though it’s wallet size–I discovered, that’s sound advice.
  5. If you’re purchasing ice cream when you discover your wallet is stolen, just give the ice cream back to the store. Trying to carry it out, run down the street, call multiple credit card companies, and eat melting ice cream all at the same time is simply not possible. (I had to say goodbye to a beautiful bowl of J.P. Licks black raspberry chip–it was almost sadder than having my wallet stolen. Almost.)
  6. Have copies of your credit card company’s information somewhere other than on your credit cards. Luckily 411 info was able to connect me to the card companies I needed, but going forward, I will definitely keep written copies on hand.
  7. File a fraud alert as soon as you can on one of the three major credit websites (Equifax, Trans Union or Experian). According to my bank, 71% of fraud occurs within the first week of someone having your information. For me, it happened within about 30 minutes. They already racked up about $1,000 by the time I was able to cancel my cards.
  8. Call the cops. Even though wallet theft is not generally something the police can do much about, it’s helpful to have a report of the incident and assists cities in documenting crime rates.
  9. Fellas, be aware of your back pockets. Even though my wallet was in my zipped purse, it was stolen. I don’t think back pockets are all that much safer (and are perhaps arguably less safe).
  10. Keep your stamps at home. I thought I was being pro-active and smart buying bundle upon bundle of ‘Forever‘ stamps before the postage rates went up. Well, forever isn’t that helpful when the storage device they were in disappears forev-a, ev-a, e-va.
  11. And for a little extra, a quick poll:

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Tonight I had my wallet taken directly out of my purse as I was sitting eating dinner with friends. A slightly overweight gentleman and his lady friend sat down at the table behind me. He knocked my chair slightly as he sat down so I turned around to see if he needed more space and offer to adjust my chair if needed–not even realizing that he was at that very moment sticking his hand where it didn’t belong–in my purse.

Among a range of emotions the one that came out most forcefully when I later discovered my wallet was gone: anger. Anger at myself in many ways. I got a great look at the guy who did it and even felt something was going on…but didn’t think about my purse! So I’m embarking on a Nancy Drew like endeavor to track all of this down. Watch out buddy, I’m going to be gumshoeing for you–and your lady friend. That’s right, in addition to filing the mandatory police report, I was on the phone with CVS for an hour tracking down video of you buying things with my credit card. Can’t wait for the other stores to reopen tomorrow so I can track down more video tapes!

I have to say, I thought my karma was on a bit of an upswing, but having all of your personal information stolen (as well as some really meaningful silly stuff like photos) is a major karma kick back. We did have a lovely waiter who helped us and without any prompting said, “Well, at least you know you have a whole lot of good things coming your way soon!” I appreciated his enthusiasm, but I’m not so sure. We’ll see.

More wallet saga to come soon–as well as some helpful tips I’ve discovered about traveling safely with personal belongings.

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Gotta love the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

Gotta love the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

One of my favorite songs has always been ‘Taking the Long Way’ by the Dixie Chicks. I don’t particularly like country music, but the Chicks seem to bring out my multi-generation Texan DNA. I’ve always felt their songs speak certain truths about Texas, and simultaneously celebrate kicking that stereotype in the butt. (My Dad’s name is Earl but he’s never so much as harmed a fly).

In many ways, ‘Taking the Long Way’ has almost been my personal anthem. The song kicks off, “My friends from high school/Married their high school boyfriends/ Moved into houses in the same ZIP codes/Where their parents live.” Luckily most of my high school friends did not marry their high school boyfriends. However, culturally, it always seemed to me that there was a big push that what starts in Texas should stay in Texas. Many of my friends’ parents offered them incentives to stay in state for college–or even in the same city. A lot of people I grew up with never so much as traveled outside of the South, much less the state. Even in an age where DFW is a  major international hub and Houston is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the US–Texans still tend to celebrate all things Texas and find it difficult to understand why anyone would want to leave.

My parents never embraced that. We traveled regularly–not far–but enough so that my brother and I saw outside of the boundaries of the pan handle, hill country, and plains. And they encouraged us to go to school outside of Texas.

So I moved up North. And I experienced ‘the long way’ every time I made the 1,600 mile drive from Dallas to Poughkeepsie–traveling through East Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, the Eastern Seaboard and up into the snowy Hudson Valley–and then back home. It was a long way away. It was not in a pink RV. And it was tough.

There were hippies (thanks Vassar), and Irish (thanks Boston), and Queens (both the borough and again, Vassar), some ass kissing that I refused, and definitely some times when the world came crashing down around me (9/11 New York, 11/28 Mombasa, and 7/7 London). Still, I’ve kept taking different paths and not settling down.

But over the years I’ve realized that taking the long way ’round is not refuting some sort of Texan pull–or my Texan DNA. There are plenty of people I’ve met all over the world who live in their parents’ zip code, have not traveled outside of their state (or their region), who are comfortable just settling for what’s right in front of them. For many, that’s what makes them happy. And that’s what’s important.

Traveling, moving, shifting, taking the road less traveled is what has always made me happy.

Two of my close friends laughed when I started tearing up at the National Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth last winter. Enlarged on a screen in front of us, an old cowgirl with crinkled skin and an oversized, roughed-up beltbuckle talked about the ‘spirit of the cowgirl’ as she sauntered across the plains toward her horse. But that oversized, cheesy moment really hit me. Maybe taking the long way around really is the Texan, Dixie, Cowgirl Chick spirit in me. Maybe someday I’m gonna settle down. But in the mean time, I still love taking the long way, taking the long way around.

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