What We Are When We Are Not the Roles We Play

I have worked hard, in my adult life, not to identify myself solely by my job. I am more than the forty hours of work that I do each week, no matter how much I may love what I do during those hours. I also strive to be more than what I am to other people. Of course, I am a wife, a daughter, a friend, a sister, a dog mom, a cat mom, a partner, a coworker, a volunteer. But those only describe me in terms of how I relate to other people; they do not answer the question of who I am.

For most of my life, I would tell you that I am a reader. For the last few years, I may have become comfortable with calling myself a writer. And in recent months, I've finally started to consider myself a runner.

What, then, happens when we remove those labels? In recent months, I've been on some kind of continual reading slump. I finish books, sure, but nothing clicks the way it used to, the way it did when I first came to identify as a reader. And short of deadlines I try not to miss (because I am on time), I haven't written much of anything, and what I have written has been fluffy at best. So I have not been much of a writer lately either.

I typically run several days a week, and recently completed my first ultramarathon, so I'm comfortable enough calling myself a runner. But I fell--hard--a while back, and found myself unable to run for over a month. Even now, I'm not back to my many-mile self, the one who wrote after running a 50k that I hoped to keep up 20-30 mile weeks. I'm lucky if I eek out 15 of late, and none of those miles are pleasant ones.

Which has me thinking: what are we when we are not the roles we play? What defines our day, shapes our selves, fills our time, sets our direction?

I don't have the answers, yet. Just the questions. So maybe for now I'm a seeker, or a questioner, or a breather. Or maybe I need to learn to end the sentence after "I am."

I am.

I am.

I am.

And just be.

Race Report: North Face Endurance Challenge DC 50k Trail Run

I didn't wear closed-toed shoes for four days after this event, but otherwise, felt pretty ok... (this is my doofy-tired-proud face)

There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have proudly stated that I had no interest in ever running any distance longer than a half marathon, thank-you-very-much. And then I ran 15.5 miles at a trail race in the fall, and I was hooked. Moving off roads and onto trails, up mountains, and over streams made something click for me. With very little convincing from some fellow trail running buddies, I signed up for my first take at an ultramarathon: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50k.

Week in Reading (and Mostly Running): May 8th

It's May! It's May! The lovely month of May! With my two big races* of the spring behind me, I'm hopeful that some (desperately needed) recovery time in the next few weeks will include books, books, and more books (and a little bit of television**). Here's what's on deck:


I seem to be on a kick for historical Essex-based novels about (possibly) supernatural forces. After finishing The Essex Serpent this weekend (review to come in Shelf Awareness for Readers), I'm just starting Strange Magic. The former was a quiet, contemplative novel that ruminated on good and evil, nature and faith, love and regret, and the human condition. The latter, so far, looks to be about 16th-century witch trials in Essex and a modern-day museum preserving their memory. My book clubs this month are reading Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie (a re-read for me) and Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple (a new book from a much-loved author). Maybe somewhere in there I'll work in something that's not for a deadline, but right now, it's not looking promising on that front...

I'm also re-reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (the Pulitzer-prize winning work by Matthew Desmond) for the Social Justice Book Club this month. It's not too late to join in if you'd like; sign up for an invite here, or if you're already in the Slack, just add yourself to the #evicted channel over there.

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*I finished my first ever ultramarathon! 31.7 miles of trails on a 90+ degree day, and I didn't die. Full race report to come later this week. I followed that up with a "recovery" run at the Frederick Half Marathon, and plan to sit on my butt and sleep a lot this week to apologize to my poor feet.

**In the queue: The Handmaid's Tale, American Gods, and catching up on Timeless.

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What are you reading this week? What else should I be watching? What are your favorite rest & recovery regimens?

Readathon Mini-Challenge: Pay it Forward


I'm super bummed I can't be participating in the readathon as actively today as I may have liked... but I'm so, so glad to be able to join in as a mini-challenge host! In keeping with the spirit of giving that Dewey was known for, and that this round of Readathon is embracing, I'm changing things up a little bit. Instead of competing for a prize for yourself, let's spread the love of books and literacy with reading-related charities around the world...

Lyndsay Faye, Sherlock Holmes and The Whole Art of Detection



I'm a long-time fan of Lyndsay Faye's work: her Timothy Wilde trilogy rang all my historical fiction bells, and I loved the cleverness of Jane Steele. And so it was an honor to be able to interview her about her newest book, The Whole Art of Detection, a collection of Sherlockian stories that perfectly capture the essence of Doyle's original tales:

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Interview with Lyndsay Faye


Lyndsay Faye has been reading Sherlock stories since she was 10. "I loved them," she says, "and then I never actually stopped reading them. Lacking the Internet, it wasn't until I was a teenager that I discovered there was such a thing as pastiches and fan fiction out there. Then I read as much of the non-canonical material as I could find--probably thousands of stories at this point, no joke." 


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Review of The Whole Art of Detection


The 15 stories in Lyndsay Faye's The Whole Art of Detection will prove purely delightful for fans of the original adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. With two entirely new stories, and 13 others culled from previous anthologies and magazine contributions, the collection stands as a tribute to Faye's way with words and witticisms, both of which combine to reinvigorate Holmes and Watson (as well as their surrounding casts of miscreants, assistants and unassuming bystanders).

The Stranger in the Woods: Giving Context and Meaning to the Life of a Modern Hermit


Michael Finkel has an interesting past as a journalist. Once a reporter for the New York Times (he was fired after it was revealed that he created a composite subject out of many sources), his first book, True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, told the story of a fugitive who used the name "Michael Finkel" as an alias while on the run from police--a true (if stranger than fiction) story. His newest book, The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, is once again a true tale that feels stranger than fiction, detailing the solitary life of Christopher Knight, who lived (voluntarily) as a hermit in the Maine woods for 27 years.

Week in Reading (and Running): April 9th

two hikers sleeping on rocks overlooking the potomac river on the appalachian trail
Caught Lounging: Two Hikers on the AT

This past week was a recovery week in more ways than one: after last weekend's back-to-back high-mileage runs (totaling 26 miles in two days), the training plan for this week called for two easy-paced 45-minute runs and only 8 miles for yesterday. I ran two easy-paced 30 minute runs, did a session at the physical therapists, and barely eked out 5.5 miles on Saturday's run before calling it a dud; despite the low mileage all week, my legs were still absolutely exhausted and just would not get themselves into gear. After the dud run and a short hike yesterday (see photo above), today is all rest, rest, rest, stretch, and a bit more rest. Like Tara said in her running recap this week, someone remind me to keep up these PT and stretching exercises post-injury, yeah? They're exhausting but I think it's probably telling that they are so. Race day in T-3 weeks. But who's counting?