10 more weeks until the Washington, D.C. 3-Day. 10 WEEKS! On one hand, that's good cause I still have some ways to go on my fundraising goal. On the other hand, the training schedule is starting to kick up and my interest in spending the better part of a Saturday walking and sweating is diminishing.

So, what do you do when your motivation flags? I do actually need help in this area. I put on my thinking cap and here's what I came up with (aside from the obvious -- walking with other 3-Dayers):

* Reward thyself. Think a long bath with good-smelling things, a trip to Dairy Queen or a massage, professional or otherwise, after a long walk.

* Get friends involved. Who has friends (who aren't doing the 3-Day) who really want to walk 13 miles? But you probably have tons of friends who can walk 3 or 4 miles. Ask them to start the day off with you or meet you part-way through the walk.

* Break up a training walk. Take your dog for a 3-mile walk, stop at home for water and refreshment, and then head out for the rest of your miles for the day.

* Use a stretching break to connect with others. Maybe text a teammate who lives in another state, a breast cancer survivor for whom you are dedicating your walk, or your mom to let him/her know how the training is going and how important you think the event is.
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Now that I've been officially single for weeks, I figured it was time to crawl back onto the online-dating bandwagon. Overall, I haven't had bad experiences with match.com, so why not have one more round?

As I was trolling/scrolling for men, I found a photographer who included a few creative pieces in his profile -- including a shot of a small wiener dog literally inside a hot dog bun. Hilarious! Like, laugh-out-loud funny. So, I sent him a quick e-mail telling him so and asking what kind of photography he does.

This is the response I got:

I do all types of photography, but reading thru your profile I noticed that you were liberal... Sorry but i don't understand liberal's way of thinking, and therefore I'm going to say Thanks for the email. But Im not interested. Good luck in your search :)

Seriously? I don't understand the liberal perspective? Aren't 90 percent of photographers liberal?

So instead of using a random opportunity to expand your understanding -- perhaps just to the point of realizing that there are multiple liberal viewpoints and that I could fall loosely into any number of them -- you just say, I'd rather not talk to you ever again?!

I have to say, as far as rejections go, that's pretty painless. Kinda funny. Definitely not anything to get hung up on...
Every so often, when we were walking in the Chicago 3-Day 2007, my friend Danielle would mention that her boyfriend Ryan was planning a surprise. One that bubbled. And plugged into the cigarette lighter in the car.

(I think that's what she said, anyway. The exact events are blurred by the intense heat of that weekend. Very intense heat. If that's exactly what she said, I likely stopped paying attention when she mentioned the car, because, you know, there's air conditioning in cars.)

But the actual surprise definitely grabbed my attention: one of those little bubbling foot baths. He plugged it into the cigarette lighter and filled it with water, and she soaked her feet during the whole car ride home. He repeated the entire process after she walked the 3-Day again last year.

In a way, I wonder if that's better than the foot massagers they have at the 3-Day camp (which walkers invariably use to massage their legs and any other body part they can maneuver onto the vibrating box.)

Or friends who love you enough to rub your feet after a day of walking.

Or really, really moisturizing lotion.

I have yet to invest in a bubbling foot spa, but I did find some warming "thermal pedicure treatment" on clearance at Wal-Mart that will be all over my tootsies after Sunday's 12-miler. And my feet will be propped up on pillows as I watch Army Wives on Sunday night.

You have to love your feet, or there's no way you're going to make it through three days of long, long walks. And if you love a 3-Day walker, you should help them find ways to love their feet. It's worth the effort -- Ryan and Danielle got married last weekend and are presently honeymooning in Mexico.
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A guy/man/boy who interned at the White House with me raved about how Nick Hornby perfectly captured men's feelings on commitment and long-term relationships in High Fidelity. (This said guy/man/boy had a journalism degree from Northwestern University, no paying job after unsuccessfully trying to start some Internet business with his friends and leopard-print sheets on his futon. I'll let you decide what category fits him.)

Partially because I really have no clue about men's/boy's/guy's feelings on commitment, I went looking for the book at the library a few weeks ago. I didn't find it, but I did find About A Boy. And I did enjoy Hornby's male perspective - a male character bluntly told a single mother that her son told her he needed a father figure not because he actually needed a father figure but because he wanted to 'win' an argument.

The same male character was wholeheartedly committed to doing nothing and having as few emotional tangles as possible while living off the royalties from the Christmas song his father wrote. In the end, he cracked and fell in love and enveloped all the messy commitments THAT entails. For me, the ending was sweet and funny and one big HA to all the men out there who think family is more trouble than it's worth.

So, in conclusion (as Crystal would say) when High Fidelity makes its way back to the Woodstock Public Library shelves, I will be checking that one out, too.
My heart sank when I saw aproned volunteers from Helping Paws Animal Shelter collecting money outside Wal-Mart on Saturday. I was supposed to be collecting money for the 3-Day. And, I had about $1,050 left before I met my fundraising goal, so this was rather important.

I introduced myself to the volunteer at a door and signed in at the customer service desk. They said nothing about the double-booking, so I set up my little table and smiled as people walked by. I got some donations, but the Animal Paws ladies seemed to be attracting more attention. (sigh).

When there was a lull, the volunteer asked me if I was sure I had the right day. I assured her I did. I had rolled out of bed after attending Danielle’s wedding the night before - which was exactly what I knew I was in for when I had signed up with Wal-Mart weeks ago.

I was contemplating whether it would be rude to ask if she would mind concentrating on one Wal-Mart entrance so I could have the other to myself. People were getting confused as to whether we were with the same organization (obviously not), and I wasn’t sure it was right to hit up the same people twice for donations to different causes.

But another Helping Paws organizer came to the same conclusion before I worked up the nerve to say anything. When that volunteer’s shift was over, she didn’t assign a new volunteer to my door, but simply asked when I was going to be done. It seemed Helping Paws was standing outside doors at several Woodstock retailers that day and she didn’t think it was right to complain to Wal-Mart about the double-booking since they were so supportive in the first place.

I agreed. And I appreciated Helping Paws’ thoughtfulness.

In this bad economy, there are so many charities and good causes competing for a (perhaps dwindling) amount of donations that it would have been easy to be petty about the double-booking. I’m glad we could both be up-front and gracious about it with each other.

AND, I collected just over $250 in the 4.5 hours I was there, so all in all, it wasn't a bad afternoon.

Oh, and if you’re interested, you can donate to Helping Paws here.
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I have dyed my hair for so long I'm no longer confident what my natural color is. Every once in a while I get those teeth-whitening strips in a futile attempt to combat the effects of excessive coffee, tea and soda drinking. And generally, I paint my face and toes.

I know some people might find it shallow to worry about appearances too much, but given the expectations of the society we live in, I figure people who press that line too hard are either 1) naturally gorgeous, 2) so far from gorgeous that they don't have the time or money to do anything about it, or 3) oblivious. So, like everything else, keeping up appearances and taking care of myself is part of the great balancing act of life.

Some days are better than others.

I'm going to a wedding this afternoon, so I thought I'd try a spray tan to avoid being pasty-white in a dress. My past skin-coloration efforts have included tanning beds (which despite what some say, make me worry about skin damage) and self-tanning lotions (OH HOLY STREAKS).

If I went less extreme, I didn't really seem to get results. I tried to use self-tanner to fix some tan lines that had been branded in as faded sun burns just before my wedding. Those tan lines are clearly visible in my wedding pictures. (Yet another upside to divorce: no one really needs to see those anymore...)

So far, tho, I'm pleasantly surprised with the salon spray tan. It's a nerve-wracking process for a person who refreshes news Web sites every 5 minutes with the expectation that new news will have been reported and who fights annoyance when sources aren't immediately available (I have deadlines, people. Deadlines.)

The tanning spray has a leisurely deadline - perhaps because it's essentially sugar water (as the attendant told me when I asked if I really needed to hold my breath while being sprayed). The only possible oops-es I've found thus far is a faint blotch on the underside of one arm, which I'm not sure is really that visible, and little white spots in the webbing between my fingers. And, really, who is going to look that closely at the webbing of my fingers?

It develops within 3 to 6 hours - which puts me becoming "medium" tan within an hour of this wedding. So if horror upon streaky, splotchy horror strikes, I will be fervently exfoliating just before Danielle walks down the aisle.

Yes, yes, I often am THAT person. I'm not actually GOOD at being superficial.

(For those who have never had a spray tan and are curious: Multiple jets mist you up and down inside a square chamber the size of a bathroom. They had me watch a little video first that suggested holding my arms away from the body and flexing my wrists and spreading my fingers to avoid white lines. I was sprayed for 14 seconds from the front, turned around, and was misted from the back. They have you put a blocking lotion on your fingernails and toe nails beforehand, and afterward, you just blot off the excess.)

And walk 10 miles they did - yesterday. Today we did (only) six.

The secret to training for the 3-Day, as far as I can tell, is to not stop. Like, you don't notice how much your feet ache as long as your still moving.
When that stops working (around mile 9 for me yesterday), I pretended I was a Terminator robot -- nothing could stop me. Allow a bajillian mosquitoes to bite me, and I'll still complete my mission. Let my fingers swell to bizarre proportions, and I'll still complete my mission. Shoot my leg off, and I'll still complete my mission. (Thank goodness it didn't come to that.)

Mission completed. The casualties: Two small blisters are forming, a weird callous is developing on a little toe and my heels are beyond rough. But who'll notice now that I painted my toes Sarah Palin purple (a la her photo spread in Time magazine this week)?
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I hope (really, really hope) I will not be thinking about fundraising around the holidays. But this fundraising idea, which I ran across in the 3-Day's July News, is so cute it might be worth the stress of not meeting you goal by the deadline. It came from Barb, a team coach who will be walking in her sixth event next month in Chicago:

Fundraising Tip: My favorite fundraiser is a holiday fundraiser. I send out Santa Claus letters to children or adults for five dollars each. This is an easy fundraiser and usually a big monRemove Formatting from selectioney maker.

Here is what you do: You send out a letter to everyone you know explaining what you are doing. You include a form letter with the information you need from them that will be included in the letter from Santa. Information like child’s name, teacher’s name, gift they would like, best friend’s name, etc. Have them complete a form for each child. They send the forms back to you along with $5.00 per letter.

As the holidays get closer you then complete the Santa letters and send them to the children. All the supplies you need are paper, envelopes, stamps, and a computer to type the letters on. I have had great success year after year with this fundraiser. If you know a lot of kids who are around 5-7 years old and losing teeth, you could also write letters from the tooth fairy.

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Seriously, how could you not continue reading after:

"You exposed your penis on national television, Max. What am I supposed to do?"

"I didn't expose it, Howard, it just sort of peeked out."

My grandma even chuckled at that this weekend when she picked up Sellevision, a novel by Augusten Burroughs (who brought us Running with Scissors.) I thumbed through the book on the ride to and from grandma's house this weekend - and I have to say - I liked it more than I thought I would.

The characters are more like caricatures, but it's a funny, easy read.

I was a little disturbed when the back-cover summary described it as "darkly funny and gleefully mean-spirited." I didn't really think the humor was dark at all. What does that say about me???
My mom has chicken on the kitchen table. Not beer-can roasted chicken,* but 12 little chicks and a heat lamp. (And no, I was not allowed to pick them up!)

Now, my parents' little hobby farm in Hindsboro, Ill., has three separate breeds of chicken:

And one horse:

* Somehow, I managed to miss this in my childhood, but my mom mentioned this weekend that she used to use a can of beer to make roasted chicken. As in, she made a marinade with beer, rubbed part of it on the outside of the chicken, poured the rest back in the can, put the can inside the chicken, and roasted it in the oven. Insane! I will try it one day...
For a guy who weighs 27 pounds and prefers toilet water, BlackJack sure can power through 7 or 8 miles. Although, once when it was 80 degrees, he appeared to strategize the length of his leash so he could be in the shade as much as possible. And then he finally plopped down in the shade and refused to get up while I politely explained I WOULD NOT be carrying him to the car.

But, anyways, the spoodle (as I prefer to call the cocker spaniel-poodle mix) sets a good example for hydration. When we walk in the city park, he drinks at the doggie-sized drinking fountain, in random puddles, and once begged a whole bottle of water from a nice mom sitting at a baseball game. She took one look at him, offered him ice and had her daughter cup her hands so she could pour bottled water into it for him to drink.

So, when you're on a long walk, drink like BlackJack. Drink at every available fountain, stop, etc. If you're going on a long walk, try to drink an extra 8 glasses the day before the long walk and then a few glasses at least two hours before the walk. During the long walk, try to drink 8 ounces of fluids for every two miles, alternating between sports drink and water. If you don't believe all the hype about sports drink replenishing your electrolytes and whatnot better than water, you will after you've walked 10 miles in summer heat. You'll FEEL the electrolytes swimming to your tummy.

And, just like BlackJack, you should have to stop frequently to pee. He doesn't hesitate to pee on a bush just three steps from where he got his last drink, but you would probably do well to plan your training walks so that you can have a potty break every hour (or every three miles). If you're not going, you're not drinking enough.

Another BlackJack lesson? If you're so tired you'd like to sit in the shade for awhile, go ahead and do it. As long as you're sitting, stretch a little bit. :)