Latest Posts

Overweight Baggage Check: Guilt

Wow, a lot can happen in a month. A lot has happened in my last month. My mother in law passed away, I met my new niece, I ran the NYC Marathon, I’ve been to 3 countries, and I bought a horse. In my husband’s last month he probably spent the equivalent of 5 days worth of air travel time. We’re all exhausted. But I wrote this post on my flight back to Scotland the day after my MIL’s funeral (when I was utterly exhausted but couldn’t sleep). I’ll do my best to get fill in the big gap of how the NYC marathon went and how did I think now was a good time to buy my first horse. Spoiler alert: his name is Hamish, he currently has a cut above his eye, and he really fancies a fur trim hood.15259712_10108084046792289_7333331409225187347_o

When looking to title this post, I found this WSJ article that makes me feel a bit better…that I’m not alone in this.

Although it may be difficult for others to understand or agree with our choices, and we expats may feel guilty at times for missing out on important events back home, the decision to return can only be made by us, those living this unique lifestyle. As Ms. Clark says, “Guilt is a natural part of life, a result of making decisions that are best for you but cannot please everyone. As an expat, this guilt may be heightened because we already get a sense from some people that living away from home is in itself a selfish choice. But you can’t please everyone, so I try not to dwell on the guilt.”

It isn’t the long flights (and accompanying jetlag and dry skin), it isn’t the different time zones with late night and early morning calls (and accompanying bags under the eyes), it isn’t the weakness of the dollar compared to the pound (and accompanying credit card bills), and it isn’t saying goodbye to friends at a summer camp rate (and accompanying hangovers, heartbreak, and tears).

By far, the worst part about being an expat is the guilt. The guilt of leaving your family.

I can only speak from my experience. And my experience is that I lived roughly an hour away from my parents for the better part of my (albeit short thus far) adult life. And my experience is that my father passed away leaving my mother living alone. And my experience is that they found a tumor in my mother in law a few months before we were set to move, and the subsequent 2 years or so she fought, and eventually lost a battle with cancer. And my experience is that if I hadn’t had become an expat there’s a possibility that I would be living an hour away from my little niece and nephew. And my experience is that although both E and I have some years, miles, political views, and lifestyle choices between our families… we are very close to them.

And that’s why in my experience, the hardest part of being an expat is the guilt. Whether or not that’s all self imposed or there’s influencing factors, it’s there and it’s hard. It’s hard when someone tells me they could never be abroad because they’re close to their family (as if I’m not.) It’s hard every time we say goodbye (even if I’ll be seeing them in less than a month). It’s hard when we miss important days or can’t be there where someone needs us (it’s not FOMO, it’s wanting to be there for those I love to celebrate the good and comfort in the bad). It’s hard being happy and loving life abroad (because it feels as though it diminishes our longing for and missing of those we love). It’s just hard.

Expat life seems like a dream. The possibilities of great travel, new and interesting friends, changes in finances, sabbaticals from work, finding yourself. But there’s a price to pay. And although I can only speak from my experience…I don’t know anyone that isn’t a little sad when they say goodbye.

Friday Faves: Podcasts

So my life has been a whole lotta running these past few months (and a decent amount of horsey-ness.) Which is a pretty good way of things, although I could quite frankly go for no running and more horse-ing every day but that isn’t my current situation…alas. I had decided pretty early on to get a coach for this marathon because I didn’t think I could knowledgably manage my hip pain and training. I like that my plan would be created weekly based on how I preformed and there was someone to respond to me when I had questions or pains and could alter what I should be doing based on my experience- but still be moving to get me across the finish line in Manhattan.


It’s not been what I was anticipating, but I have to say my hip pain has been pretty minimal. I think I’ve missed about 5 runs since June. Basically it’s all based alone aerobic endurance (lotta slooooooow runs) and much more weekly mileage. 5 days of running a week, and either 1 day of cross training or 2 days off…that’s not really a day off because that’s the day I work and ride at the stable. Because of the sloooooooow pace, I don’t really have anyone to run with. Evening running groups go at a faster pace (and my coach is very adamant about being sticking to this slow pace), most of my friends would rather go for a shorter distance, but faster, and it seems to physically pain E to run this slow- which I get. So a lot of slow solo runs… which means, I need to amuse myself. SO…. without further ado….my fave way of amusement on these long, slow, distances is Podcasts!


Serial Season 2

serial-itunes-logoI was late to the Serial game…and kind of late to the full appreciation of NPR game as well. I didn’t get into Season 1 until after Making a Murderer and The Jinx. But I loved it! I cleaned more and cooked better with it on. So I waited to start Season 2 for training runs and I have to admit, with no murder, I thought it wasn’t going to hold my attention. But I stuck with it and I actually really enjoyed it.




avatars-000247305943-o3mscu-originalThis is from the Cincinnati Inquirer and explores an unsolved murder in 1978. I wasn’t a fan of the narrator/journalist in the beginning, but I came to really appreciate her and feel she really is just a kind woman, trying to do her best, with minimum offense. Although I have to say, listening to this, alone in the woods probably wasn’t the best idea.




Channel 33

avatars-000213792604-rmuj66-t500x500Bill Simmons, previously from Grantland, now has The Ringer…and they have a podcast network (and articles), and one of their podcasts is called Channel 33 – which is described as “a collections of shows covering pop culture, sports, and tech.” And you get a variety of shows downloaded to your phone from them…. some I delete right away (The Masked Man – which would be super if I cared about wrestling), others I keep if I have a long car trip with E (There’s one on college football and one on soccer I believe) that I know interest him, but I enjoy the hosts so everybody wins. The series I love are: Jam Session, Bachelor Party, and The Writers Room. They also have one off podcasts like a special about the new Iphone the day before it premiered, and one interview with the longest running editor of Sports Illustrated.


This American Life

thismericanI have a love-hate relationship with TAL. Another one from NPR. Almost always extremely interesting (I think there’s been one that didn’t hook me in within the first 5 minutes), but almost always leaves me in tears. Do you know how hard it is to cry and run? Pretty damn hard. I mean…I’m also a stressed out emotional mess right now with a bunch of my life crumbing around me but…I think I’d get at least a little misty eyed regardless. But it’s just so damn good. And then I get home to tell E about the story…and I start crying all over again. God, I love This American Life.



A couple podcasts I have yet to dive into but that I am super excited to start:

Undisclosed Season 2
undisclosed-season-2-logoThe conviction under examination at present belongs to Joey Watkins, a Georgia man sentenced to life in prison in July 2001 for aggravated assault, a weapons violation, misdemeanor stalking, and the felony murder of Isaac Dawkins in January 2000. Joey’s case was brought to the team by the Georgia Innocence Project.

Join the Undisclosed team every Monday at 6 p.m. EST as they dive into the details of Joey’s case — and try to unravel the events leading up to his troubling conviction. And then check out the Undisclosed Addenda–a discussion show about the case featuring Emmy award-winner and host Jon Cryer–every Thursday at 6 p.m. EST.


99% Invisible (recommended to me by a friend)

24267_a3241599invisiblecourtesyrgbf“Ever wonder how inflatable men came to be regular fixtures at used car lots? Curious about the origin of the fortune cookie? Want to know why Sigmund Freud opted for a couch over an armchair?

99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” For example: McMansion Hell: the Devil is in the Details, The Trend Forecast, Longbox, The Blazer Experiment.



Revisionist History

uploads_2f1464956596674-zye6snpaow-1199f5fc375124c66575217a8ac7dbd1_2fpodcastartwork-noshadow“Welcome to Revisionist History, a new podcast from Malcolm Gladwell (author of the Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, etc) and Panoply Media. Each week for 10 weeks, Revisionist History will go back and reinterpret something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.” For example:

Food Fight – Bowdoin College in Maine and Vassar College in upstate New York are roughly the same size. They compete for the same students. Both have long traditions of academic excellence. But one of those schools is trying hard to close the gap between rich and poor in American society—and paying a high price for its effort. The other is making that problem worse—and reaping rewards as a result.

(It) is about opening up college to poor kids, focuses on a seemingly unlikely target: how the food each school serves in its cafeteria can improve or distort the educational system.

The Big Man Can’t shoot – The basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain had only one flaw: He couldn’t shoot free throws. In 1962, Chamberlain switched to making his foul shots underhanded—and fixed his only weakness.

But then he switched back.

(It) is a meditation on the puzzle of why smart people do dumb things—why excellence is such a difficult and elusive goal, even for the best-intentioned.

Perils of Country Running

I do really love running in the country. Maybe because this summer was surprisingly nice and dry and about 90% of my runs treated me to beautiful sun shining on amber waves of grain, or wonderful brooding shadows across the Grampian mountains, or at the very least, super cute and curious cows, coos, bunnies, and ponies. But it would be a lie to say it was all sunshine and rainbows. And as much as I love the countryside…. the thought of running south from Lincoln Park along the lakefront path back towards are our home in Chicago- seeing the Hancock, and the Drake, and knowing our little high-rise is nestled in there, in front of the Bloomies building…well, it brings joy to my heart and a tear to my eye. The point? I guess that I adapt pretty damn well to love wherever life takes me. Except San Diego…I don’t know if I just didn’t give it a chance…but I get no warm and fuzzies thinking about there.

How can you not have all the feels when you see this city?!

How can you not have all the feels when you see this city?!


I digress.

Country running does have it perils and pitfalls. I thought I’d enlighten you to the somewhat funny and perhaps unexpected problems I encounter.

The biggest issues of country running can be put into one category:



I know, I’m an animal lover. How could furry little beebeeies be the issue? Well, they are in a couple different scenarios based on the animal.



  1. They lunge at me and I think I’m going to literally lose a hand or worse
  2. They are off lead trotting along with a massive stick and take out my shins
  3. They are on lead with an owner not paying attention and I am forced to hurdle them so I don’t trip
  4. They are either on or off lead and are complete spazes and while trying to get past them I accidentally step on them or kick them which makes me feel terrible
  5. They are so effing cute I have to stop running immediately and pet them.


Little paths with big was hard to get by.

Little paths with big horses…it was hard to get by.

  1. I’m running along a narrow path, maybe my headphones are in or maybe I’m just in the zone, I go round a bend and run directly, and I mean directly into your horse. This actually happened.
  2. As a mindful equestrian, I need to slow down or stop, remove headphones and have at the very least a limited discussion on passing, or move off to the side to let them pass.
  3. Horse shit. Enough said.


There is only one negative experience I’ve had with a deer running but I honestly almost died because of a heart attack. Seriously, he’s my hear rate monitor. Guess where I encountered the deer?

I’m running alone, in an unfrequented area of trail/path. My headphones are in, I admit. I am on the left side of the narrow path. I see bushes moving (LIKE A LOT OF MOVEMENT) on the right side parallel with me and stop and turn toward the bush (to look my murderer head on obviously) and a stag comes flying out of the bushes. I clearly frightened him while he was sleeping or something. I jump back as his little stick legs hit the pavement and due to it having just rained, the pavement is slick and his legs sprawl out and he’s sliding across, thrashing about until he’s dumped on the other side into grass where he gracefully finds his footing and leaps through the wood to escape me. I cannot emphasize enough, that had I been on the right side (thus closer to those antlers) I would most likely been impaled, or f*cked up on some level most definitely. Luckily I was on the left, which gave me a little extra space and thus time to jump away. I immediately called E because my heart was just racing, he didn’t answer but called me back a mile later…where I answer his call to talk. You can see that’s when my heart rate returns to a normal level.

I have to say it seems my heart rate monitor was very off or I was extreeeeemely chill on this day in general...but the spike's definitely accurate.

I have to say it seems my heart rate monitor was very off or I was extreeeeemely chill on this day in general…but the spike’s definitely accurate.

Although…I guess it could have been worse: Runner Hit by Flying Deer

When you google "runner scared deer" this is the image that comes up, bwahahaha

When you google “runner scared deer” this is the image that comes up, bwahahaha

Okay, moving off of four leggers. The next on the list of perils is…


Being Scared Sh*tless


I wear sports bras so am hoping my boobs do not look like that regardless of the speed Im going…

I know in the probability of me getting abducted or killed on a run is MUCH greater in Chicago…but I just felt safer running there. There were streetlights, and lots of people, and a decent amount of cops….

  1. When the sun goes down, it’s dark in the country. Real dark. Even with a head torch…it’s dark. Therefore, I can’t be running more than 20 mins post sunset time. And sometimes, it’s even too dark in the woods to run if it’s a grey day. No joke. I get freaked out.
  2. It doesn’t help now I’m really into unsolved murder podcasts…not helping the situation, I know.
  3. The lack of people I see on a run…it makes me super jumpy. I nearly pee my pants or have a heart attack (see deer heart rate pic) every time an animal runs out, or I get the sense someone’s behind me, or a bird flies out of a tree, or a cyclist sneaks up on me….it’s traumatic!
  4. The people I do so, can be a little unnerving. Again, I’m sure I was way likelier encountering weirdos with weapons in Chicago…but then again, I always had my posse of homeless friends within earshot I like to think and the possibility of carrying mace. I think I only did like 3x but still. Anyway, sometimes I’m virtually alone other than a troop of young boys that look like they’re up to no good. In football kit on a bench, drinking out of 2 liters of Strongbow, giving me the side eye. Scares me. Then there’s the incident that happened on my Sunday run. I’m about 5 miles out (11 miles into my run) and the path is sparsely populated due to crappy weather and being 5 miles out from the big central park. A guy on a bicycle rides past me going the opposite way and gives me a strange look. 20 seconds later I hear his brakes squeal and I turn around to see he had slid to a stop (it was wet and there were a lot of leaves). I take my headphones out of my ear to be more aware and pick up the pace. I make it around a corner and up ahead I see a man walking his dog and feel pretty relieved. The cyclist (who wasn’t in like workout/spandex cycling attire) had changed directions to be going the same way as me and shortly passes me. Up ahead I see him pull off to the right on a ramp to exit the path. As I get to the ramp, I look and he is heading up and off the bath. But I’m pretty alone again and freaked out so pick up the pace. In about 4 minutes I finally see someone else and feel a little better…and about a minute after that the cyclist passes me again. It was creepy.


Bugs (and spiders)

When I trained in the winter I didn’t realize what a big problem bugs would be in training during the sprint/summer.

  1. Running through spider webs sucks. You can’t get em off. You think spiders are in your hair. It’s really unsettling.
  2. Little bugs that get stuck in your eyes. It hurts. They’re hard to get out. And I’m temporarily blinded. This has happened at least 3 times in this training cycle.
  3. Big bugs that go down your throat. And then I’m left hacking either trying to get them out or go all the way down. Either way, it’s not pleasant and it happens all the GD time.


Ridden off the Road/Path/Trail

  1. I’ve written about the lack of driver’s consideration/vehicle right of way previously (find it here). But going further, running on super narrow, sometimes one-lane country roads with no gutter…it sucks! I do NOT wear headphones in these situations because I seriously would die. I also can’t do these runs without sunlight, and preferably, mid-day before people are commuting back to work. It’s really unnerving. More unnerving is when it’s about a lane and a half width, and I hear the car coming up behind me, and I am literally running on the edge where the road meets the grass/drop down to the ditch, and the driver decides to HONK AT ME. WTF IS THAT BUDDY?! I can’t get over any more, I know you’re there, and there is room for you to scootch over and pass without any problems. And even on 2 lane roads I find drivers are just unwilling to really move over despite the fact there is no one in sight coming towards them in the other lane.
  2. Now, there’s the issue of horses on trails getting right of way (see above).
  3. There are cyclists that go whizzing past me, heaven forbid they give an extra inch.
  4. I had some airing of running grievances (i.e. #sorrynotsorry) last week here…. and I won’t harp on it. But I’ll just restate it in case you missed it.

    Can't really just run past this guy...

    Can’t really just run past this guy…


And finally…

No water fountains! Gahhhh. The night before every long run I drive (or make E drive me) dropping water bottles in strategic spots for me to pick up along my run the next day. Hoping I don’t forget where they are, are covered in dog pee, or misplaced.  I know it’s only Scotland….but I can still get quite parched…dangerously parched you could say.


Apologies from “someone who runs”

I still don’t call myself a “runner” and definitely not a “marathoner”. Yeah, I ran 45 miles last week and will be running my second marathon…but me a “runner”? Nope. I’ve mentioned a Facebook Woman’s Running Group I’m a part of before…those woman are runners. They love running. They go crazy if they can’t run. It’s what they look forward to every day.

I am not that person. I predict after this marathon I take off another 5-6 months of running like I did after last marathon. And I’ll probably not miss it. Until I do, sign up for another race, and start running again.

But for these past few months of running and training, I’ve had a coach. Someone that tells me exactly what I’ll be doing every day in terms of training. Someone who holds me accountable. I have much more specific work outs than “10 miles Wednesday, 5 miles Thursday.” There and long slow distance runs of course, but there are tempo runs, and negative splits runs, and sprint workouts, and recovery runs. And I have this stupid little watch that tracks every second and shares it with her. I have numbers to hit! And I have never run so many miles, been so dedicated to following a schedule, or enjoyed running as much.

So even though I’m not a REAL runner….I feel I’ve been pretending to be one pretty well. And with that…I feel as pretend Runner Lauren, I have some apologies to make on behalf of Lauren, the Runner.


I’m sorry I have a big stupid Garmin that I am constantly looking at whilst running. Even on slow days. On slow days I’m looking to make sure I’m going slow enough. They’re not just for sprints and fast people.

I’m sorry I get impatient at red lights and either a) prance around in one spot b) look grumpy with my hands on my hips or c) get over eager and step off the kerb before it’s my time and nearly die.

I’m sorry that non REAL runner Lauren always complained about people who don’t smile at her when she crossed paths. Now that I’m REAL runner Lauren, I understand how painful the 6th mile of negative splits into the wind are and that it takes all of my focus not to quit and I actually can not be bothered to pay you mind or use the limited amount of energy I have to move my lips into a smile or acknowledgement of our crossing paths.

I’m sorry to kinda-sorta totally contradict myself in saying that…I’m sorry if you saw me flicking people off if I run. Sometimes it’s a really nice morning, and we’re just out for leisurely jogs, and you look right at me and I say “good morning” or “hello” or “smile” and then you ignore me….and after we pass I kinda sorta flick you off in jest.

I’m sorry for the racist thoughts I had about your dog breed. I didn’t think I had it in me. But when your massive pitbull came lunging at me and you were calling after it for the first time I thought it was gonna end in my blood shed. I never think that when a border collie comes lunging…I’ll work on that.


I’m sorry for not hearing your approach. I never have headphones on in my small country roads where cars could be approaching. But on the carless trails with 15+ miles to run, I need music. Or podcast. Or sometimes just my very own deep thoughts to amuse myself and I don’t always notice/register/realize you’re around the corner and I’m about to run flat into your horse’s face or that you’re about to zip past me on your bike. Most times the conclusion is I get a fright…but sometimes, the conclusion is an uncomfortable meeting of objects.

I’m sorry I talk about running so much. Do you think I actually want to? I swear, I don’t. But it’s all my tiny brain can think about a lot of the time. Have to say, pretty proud that I haven’t turned this in a running blog during this training cycle.

I’m sorry I complain about something I voluntarily do. But you do too. No one forced you to have kids/stop eating bread/go over budget.

I’m sorry I’m gonna eat a lot. Until I feel full. Which is never lately.


I’m sorry I belch. It’s not lady-like and I’m sure it’s gross to see and hear and possibly even smell?   But there’s a lot of sloshing. I have to consume fuel when partaking in stupid physical activities for hours on end and sometimes my stomach’s not too pleased to process it in a timely fashion.

I’m sorry about the tissues. I have chronic runny nose when my heart rate is elevated. And I snot rocket. I’m more sorry if you get hit by a rocket. I have to do both…snot rocket to maintain the status of my chronic runny nose, and every 3 miles or so I blow my nose for a full clean out. I’m sorry its gross. I’m sorry sometimes my tissues disenigrate and I sorta-not-on-purpose litter.

I’m sorry I look like a d-bag in my Oakleys. I am aware how I look. I am aware that with some extreme sporty sunglasses you would anticipate me to be faster. But the truth is, I am not going to run in my Gucci sunglasses. These sunglasses stay put on my face or atop my head. There’s no slippage, they don’t touch a lot of places on my face so there’s no chaffing or rubbing. I am sacrificing my appearance for functionality. Trust me, I’d rather be in my stylish sunnies.

Of course runners are dorks.  It's not like the captain of the XC team was ever the most popular kid in your school.

Of course runners are dorks. It’s not like the captain of the XC team was ever the most popular kid in your school.

I’m sorry I haven’t put on a real bra or pants in days. I just can’t be bothered when I know I have to change into running stuff anyway.

I’m sorry I haven’t washed my hair. It’s just gonna get sweaty and gross again….

I’m sorry I’m not Super Fun Wild Lauren. Runner Lauren and Super Fun Wild Laure live on different universes. They both can’t be at the same place at the same time. But I will be your sober driver.

I’m sorry that all I’ve done is complain about running but now that I’m tapering and running less, I’m complaining even more!

I’m sorry you think because I’m running slow it would be acceptable for me to stop and clear the way for your massive stroller/suv/horse. It’s an aerobic run. And it’s 16 miles. I’ll move over a little, and you move over a little. We can make it work. Share the road or go to hell.

I’m sorry if I’ve pretty much told you to go hell because you and your 2 friends, with your 3 combined strollers, handful of toddlers on bikes and scooters, and dogs don’t feel the need to make any effort to move in the slightest bit to let someone else. It’s common courtesy ass hat.


6 Weeks!

I guess in lieu of an insane amount of running posts, I’ve just gone MIA. But we’re 6 WEEKS OUT from the New York City Marathon and it’s pretty much all consuming of my life. Making any sort of plan requires assessing how I think I’ll be feeling after that days run, what I can fit in that day considering the run, as well as looking at how horrendous the next day’s run will be.6c62b21759d87fd7672bcba8794db8d1

This is 6 weeks out.

6 Weeks out from the Paris Marathon I was limping so badly I could barely walk and had to take 2 solid weeks off. I’m not there! So that’s great! Since my last check in (see My Body Tells Me No) I rebounded really well after taking a few extra days off. I was able to do two really hard weeks back to back (42 and 44 miles respectively). But then I had a little flare up again and was forced to take an extra 2 days off. My coach changed my schedule around and made the rest of the week a recovery week so overall it was just 20 miles. Now, last week I had a hard week. 42 total miles, 2 speed workouts, 16 mile longest run which was less than 24 hours after a pretty grueling 8 mile speed run….that killed me.

We are now trying to stay ahead of my hip pain and after such a rough week are calling this a “recovery week”. I’m not too excited. Still 33 miles, but I got to do a 3 mile run today (ha! A 5k! I can’t remember the last time I ran ONLY 3 miles), one speed workout, and then some medium length (8-10 miles) sloooooow runs to get the miles in but hopefully not piss off my hip. After the hard week my hip wasn’t making really any noise (a 1 out of 10 pain scale) but my glute and hamstring are all knotted up in all kinds of bad ways. Hmmm I remember this (see It Hurts).

I am getting into a sports massage Friday and hoping that I don’t adopt a limp again. It’s funny that my hamstrings and ass go crazy, but then my hip feels fine. I know they are all related and that my left leg is doing crazy things subconsciously to keep my hip pain free. Come on body, just hold out, 6 more weeks! Only 3 weeks until TAPER TIME!

On top of that….I dislocated my shoulder again this week. So I’m in a fairly decent amount of pain there. A top of the physical pain, the increased miles and running obsession, the school year is back in session so I am back in Thursday night classes ( 3 ½ hours including commute) and volunteering for Riding for the Disabled (3 hours). More horse time always makes me happy, but I’m feeling the strain on my schedule. But on top of that, I’m dealing with a boat load of personal stressors and dissapointments.

But hey, we’re 6 weeks out.

screenshot-2014-06-10-19-22-09Although running and training has in some ways added to my stress and busy-ness and grumpiness, it’s also helping me a lot. In this training period there have been a handful of times where I haven’t wanted to run, but I did, and actually had a good GREAT run. And I have never been one of those people. Before, if I didn’t want to run and forced myself out, I’d trudge along and be miserable. But now, running has been like therapy to me. I’m not going to lie….I adore my Aberdeenshire running landscape, and it hasn’t been cold and I’ve actually only ran in the rain 3-4x somehow in the last 4 months….which sure helps my fondness of running! Actually, I can’t even remember even a handful of bad runs in the last 4 months…definitely remember 3-4 bad runs…but otherwise, they’ve all been so nice!

And I’m kicking everyone’s ass on fitbit! #winning

And up until last week I was eating as normal (no crazy cravings or eat-a-thons) and was weighing in a few pounds less than pre-marathon training. I can’t say that now…now I’ve hit the I’m-training-for-a-marathon-and-I-need-to-eat-EVERYTHING phase and will surely be at the normal weight for race day unless I can get a grip (doubtful).


So 6 weeks out.

And a husband that’s going to be gone for over half that amount of time. There will be blog posts…oh yes, there will be blog posts. But don’t be surprised if it get’s a little running obsessive. It’s just 6 weeks….and E is leaving me at taper time. What else can I do then but have absolute meltdowns of impending marathon doom and document everything I’m eating? Get ready y’all.


Ugly American and UK Customer Service


In America, I find my behavior acceptably, slightly a bit pushy, American. But I knew going into expat-ing, that that behavior is not acceptable. You don’t yell at the cable company when you don’t have Internet for 3 months. You don’t freak out on your rental company when you don’t have a fridge for 2 months. You don’t write angry emails when you order something online and they let you know two weeks later that they actually don’t have that in stock. You don’t complain when you come at your exact appointed time for a click & collect grocery order and they make you wait 25 mins in the parking lot. You either don’t order changes to your sandwich (no mayo, with avo, just a little bit of beet root, easy on the cheese, and please no weird tangy jams and/or chutneys that come out of nowhere) or if you do, you don’t send it back when they get it wrong and just bring you out white toast.

The ugly American is entitled and demanding…mostly in regards to customer service. But customer service isn’t a priority in the UK the way it is the states. It’s not as if the slap you across the face with your sandwich, but they don’t hustle for tips in the food service industry, and in all other industries, they don’t care to go above and beyond for a customer. They can take you and your business, or leave you. As mentioned with the cable company…for the first time I had a cable company tell me if I wasn’t happy that I could take my business elsewhere. That would never happen with Comcast.

I am happy to say, I turn off the entitled American 99% of the time in interactions with the outside world in Scotland. In my personal life of friends and family relationships, I am however, still probably an ugly American. There have been just 3 times I have gone off the deep end and became the ugly American here. 3 times in 2 years, I think that’s a pretty great track record… The first time was going insane at the aforementioned cable company where the man on the phone told me he would report me for verbal abuse (I seriously wasn’t even Lauren at peak craziness…I had toned it down, honestly, I just have a mouth like a sailor, and I don’t call names…. ever…. so don’t think I’m calling some man on the phone an idiot or anything worse!)screen-shot-2014-08-29-at-8-46-36-amThe second time, is a long complicated story, which did have me go absolutely ballistic at the inefficiency, miscommunication, and complacency of a company…. and I did go absolutely ballistic. I demanded to speak to managers, I exaggerated the outcome of their terrible work ethic, I was enraged. But I am not totally embarrassed to say that it got the job done.   And if I hadn’t had gone ballistic…. it wouldn’t have happened.

This weekend came my third bout of ugly American. Though it was a very tempered version of it…I’m actually not embarrassed, though E is a little. Maybe it’s because I was face to face with someone, maybe it’s because I was in a crowded location. Either way, I didn’t go absolutely nuts….but at the same time, I didn’t get the outcome I wanted. So maybe if I had gone ballistic I would have…something to think about. But I’m sure to this man I just fulfilled every idea he had about demanding ugly Americans.

What happened?

In August when we went to Edinburgh I forgot my running shoes, but had to get training runs in. So Friday night we swung by Scotland’s running shoe store-chain: Run 4 It. I had called to say I was coming, could they have a pair of UK size 7 Asics Gel Nimbuses for me. They did, great. I ran 6 miles the next day and my feet burned. I ran Sunday, feet still hurt, a little less.   I then spent the next 3 weeks wearing them a fair bit, on up to 10 mile runs, only to have my feet hurt, burn, and get blisters. These were not working.

I asked a FB women’s running group I belong to how long do they give a new pair of shoes to break in and comfortable and work? Maybe I needed longer than a month? Maybe I was being picky and demanding on my shoes? The response was no, I had given them plenty of time to break in, these weren’t working, I should return them. It was then that I was looking at my old pair vs. my new pair, and I realized I don’t wear Asics Nimbuses…I were Cumulus’s (for the love of Christ could they not find names that didn’t sound so similar?). Whoops. Had got the wrong shoes. I reach out to the store and explain that I bought the wrong shoes and these aren’t working. That I didn’t have the receipt, but I have the CC statement, and I know which day I went and who I bought them from, etc. I get a phone call from the manager saying to go into my local store and they’ll sort it out, that I shouldn’t be getting blisters. Excellent.

So I went to my local store and explained the situation, they should have received an email, that I was here to switch out the shoes. But they would not let me return the shoes, or do a 1 for 1 switch out (even though the shoes I want are £40 cheaper)…they could only give me a discounted rate on another pair. I went a little ugly American. The manager on the phone wasn’t clear at all…I assumed I was trading in the non-working shoes for another pair. And when explaining this, the man at the shop just kept looking at me and saying, “But you’ve worn them!!” Which was obvious. I had worn the shoes at least 50-60 miles running on paths, trails, and country roads. I said as much. He couldn’t grasp returning something that had been worn and thought I was being ridiculous for implying they would. He kept implying that I was being an absolute nutter for thinking that would take the shoes back.

I had said I didn’t think I was being ridiculous, because this is the first time I bought shoes in the UK, all my other running shoe purchases were in the United States, and EVERY. SINGLE. RUNNING. STORE. I had ever been to and bought from offered any where between a 30-day to 90-day return policy on worn running shoes. How else would you know if they work for you or don’t? They only way to test running shoes is to actually run in them! screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-3-05-35-pm



I was pretty annoyed but I thought hiding it well…until he said, “Well if that’s the case I’m going to move to America.” Which I think was quite sassy and further implying I was lying and making this crazy excellent return policy up. My response was, “Well pack your bags then buddy.” At this point I knew I wasn’t going to get to exchange the shoes….and I wasn’t fighting for that anymore. I am stubborn and felt insulted and at this point I really just wanted this man to: a) acknowledge that I’m not lying or crazy in thinking that I could return running shoes, b) That I’m not insane for thinking they would return a pair of used running shoes, and c) that in comparison to American running shoes their return policy sucks (ugly American wanting foreigners to succumb and admit America is the best).



So yeah…I didn’t win the battle. But I also feel that while being an ugly American, I was a pretty toned down, well-mannered ugly American. It’s funny because generally I am the first person to air grievances on why America sucks. There’s a big joke here that I’m a wanna-be Canadian (it’s true!) but yet in these certain situations I am left longing for my homeland. Where the customers are always right, and customer service is second to none (you think returning used running shoes is revolutionary, one of my clients is a medical marijuana dispensary and we return and exchange WEED for the love of god).

So I wasted £145 on running shoes that hurt my feet. And now am praying these newly ordered shoes work (because it’s a new model of course and that changes everything). I let the ladies on my online running group know that the UK return policy is not as generous as the American one. And have wised up and added “running shoes” back to the list of things I only buy in American…. along with any electronics (Apple, Garmin, Bose), Mexican food items, and pumpkin scented everything.

My body tells me no

But I won’t quit, cause I want more.

But not too much more. Just 10 more weeks. Then I’ll quit any and all marathon attempts.

Remember when I said I was marathon training? And then promptly didn’t talk about it for 3 ½ months? Surely you thought I wasn’t still pursuing the NYC marathoning because…well you know….Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 10.23.46 AMBut I have been training! I have actually been running a sh*t ton! I started training with a coach the week of June 14th. I decided to get a coach so that I’d have a more individualized plan in general, but more importantly so I can talk to someone specifically about my hip issues and the plan can be altered as it needs to due to pain. I actually had to take off running about a week and a half early on because of arch pain (how random) and it was great to have her there to suggest my cross training and what I should do and maintain. I also went to a PT as well as a podiatrist. They couldn’t actually figure out what’s wrong, but the confirmed it was muscular so that was good. And that is pretty well healed. Seems to just bother me on trail running when the pavement is really uneven or rocky.

I had decided to see how this coaching and training was going and (gasp!) not talk about running until I was feeling good that I could take on the 5 boroughs. 2 weekends ago I had a 15 miler (my longest thus far) and thought this would be the deciding run. To be honest, I haven’t booked my flight yet because I’ve been worried I won’t be able to pull through and run it. Even though I’ve been really impressed that I’ve been running about 35 miles a week for the last 5 weeks, I wanted to get a long run down. And my 12 and 13 milers weren’t proving to be an accurate indicator as they went poorly (for reasons other than my hip).

So 2 weekends ago- I ran 15! And it went great! Not only did I run 15 on Saturday, I ran my 5-mile recovery run on Sunday. Felt pretty good. But there was a little feeling of unhappiness in my hip and I said to E, “Pretty sure my hip is gathering the troops to stage a coup.”

Monday was on off day. I was in the car driving somewhere, and all of a sudden I felt a little twang of angriness from my hip. I decided to just ignore it. Tuesday I ran 10 miles. The first 5 went great and when I turned around my hip sent out a couple twangs of angriness and I realized my weekly 35 miles are not going to be so easy anymore. I finished my run and emailed my coach- something I do every Tuesday letting her know how my week went. I mentioned that my hip is getting angry, a pain level of 1-2 that just rears up sporadically. Then E and I had planned to go golfing and in the hour drive, my hip went nuts. It got worse and worse as I sat in the car and I immediately emailed my coach letting her know.

She gave me Wednesday off, Thursday I was to run 8, and Friday off (Friday is always off because I work and ride), with 10 on Saturday. I felt better Thursday morning but not good enough…so I told her I thought it best if I took off Thursday as well…. it’s a “recovery week” after all and I needed it. Friday my legs were so knackered (I got in over 25K steps) from work, riding, cleaning (for a party on Saturday) that I wore my compression pants to bed…but my hip was feeling decent. I ran my 10 on Saturday, and a 4-mile recovery run yesterday. My hip is achy. Today I have a 6-mile fartlek run and then I’ll be off tomorrow (Tuesday) with another 15 miler this Thursday.

I’ve reached out to my hip doctor here (side note: I have appointments with the Blackhawks hip surgeon and my old shoulder doc at Northwestern Hospital n December for 2nd opinions) to talk about a cortisone shot. Although I haven’t found anything positive about it’s treatment of pain online…I’ve actually only heard about how getting the shot is the single most painful thing anyone has ever had. Which right now top of my list is getting an IUD, followed by falling off a horse, with a close third place of dislocating a body part. So we’ll see if I end up going down the cortisone route.

Otherwise…just wait and see how I can manage. I’m not buying my flight yet. Which sucks. Also sucks because I want to buy this long sleeve but refuse until I know I’m really running the marathon.Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.58.21 AM

Last year, when the pain was so bad I could hardly walk (a horrible limp) and had to take over 2 weeks off moving at all, then had to slowly build up mileage which resulted in no real taper, and no run longer than 16 miles (with a 3 mile walk after) and back to back 10’s. But I did all that, and I ran the marathon, and I was fine. I mean, sure I was sore post marathon (as EVERYONE is), but my hip didn’t freak out like crazy. So I’m thinking (or hoping) that if I do my long runs, and scale back the recovery weeks in between, take off more days when I need to…. it won’t get so bad where I’m sofa-bound for weeks at a time.  Time will tell.  Until then, happy running.

Edinburgh in August

Another option in Edinburgh (August or otherwise) is a free walking tour with Sandeman! Highly recommend it.

Another option in Edinburgh (August or otherwise) is a free walking tour with Sandeman! Highly recommend it.

When we moved to Scotland just over 2 years ago, I had heard something about the “Royal Tattoo” and how it was this crazy big show of bagpipers and performers that only takes place in August at the Edinburgh castle and I realllly wanted to go. But there was about 2 weeks left of the show and the mark up on tickets/available dates were sure to make that impossible.

To top it off, when my mother was going through my dad’s office after he passed away, she found a file on Scotland that he had started for a trip they had been planning to take. On a sheet of yellow legal paper (typical Ray fashion) was the word TATTOO. Obviously, it had to be done. So we had planned my mother and her friend Pat were coming to visit in August and we would start the journey in Edinburgh. (It helps that in the summer there is a direct Chicago to Edinburgh flight). But when my mom came last year I never blogged about her trip. I was a bit overrun with things (also never blogged about my 2 weeks in Croatia…it’s coming I swear!): mainly visitors and vacations. And despite the fact that I’ve been a less than stellar blogger lately…I’m attempting to make up for it. So here’s a little combo post about why you should totally visit Edinburgh in August.

When my mom and friend came, the 3 of us had the place (a really fabulous and ridiculously expensive Air bnb) to ourselves for Friday and E came down on Saturday for Tattoo. This past weekend, E and I went down to Edinburgh for my birthday weekend getaway and stayed at The Carlton Hotel. Both really nice…but you should know, ridiculously expensive in August. Why?

Just a little wine spill in our Air Bnb

Just a little wine spill in our Air Bnb

We got to enjoy a beautiful fireworks display with our wine at night.

We got to enjoy a beautiful fireworks display with our wine at night.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Aka The Fringe.

The Fringe is the world’s largest art’s festival. It spans for the entire month of August. In 2015, there were over 50,000 performances of over 3,300 shows at 313 different venues. They say the city doubles in size during this month not only with tourists (to see the shows, but also to try and see summer in Scotland) but with all those performers as well.

And Edinburgh is a beautiful city...reason enough to visit.

And Edinburgh is a beautiful city…reason enough to visit.

Edinburgh Castle in the middle of the city.

Edinburgh Castle in the middle of the city.

Last year, I didn’t try to tackle any Fringe shows with my mother and her friend. I’m sure I could have, but there was a lot of the city to see, catching up, etc. It would have made it all a bit more rushed. And in hindsight, I agree with that decision since I knew nothing about Fringe. Now I’ve come back from 6 shows over the course of <48 hours and I think I have my wits about me and would be able to lead the charge for a weekend excursion back. (Which I totally am going to plan for my birthday again next year with some friends). So here are my tips for Fringe.

Fringe for Virgins

  • You can buy tickets the day of, 5 minutes before a show starts (or even possibly be given them for free), but I recommend doing some research and seeking out shows you want to see, and buying those tickets in advance- that you can do online.
  • Shows are split into categories: Cabaret and Variety, Children’s Shows, Comedy, Dance/Physical Theater/Circus, Events, Exhibitions, Music, Musicals and Operas, Spoken Word, and Theater…though one show might be in several categories. They all have a suggested age and a blurb about them.
  • Sometimes you read a blurb and are really interested in it, and then you go to the show and it is nothing what you expected.
  • At the Fringe website, you can sort by date, narrow by time of day, and by category. It’s really very handy in planning a weekend.
  • Unless it’s something very highly recommended and publicized, you can buy tickets the week of. There was one (small) show I had wanted to see that was sold out 3 days in advance. And then there was one larger one that was written up in a few publications as the Best of Fringe 2016 that was sold out at least a week in advance.
  • You can’t print tickets at home, but you just pop into one of the many ticket-printing centers, swipe your credit card, and all the tickets you’ve purchased come out at once.
  • If you’re planning on seeing quite a few shows, definitely pull up the venues on a map. Edinburgh is very walkable, but if you only have 30 mins to get from one show in the Meadows to another show on the North Side of the city…you’re not going to make it without a taxi.
  • Speaking of, there is Uber in Edinburgh. Not a big deal for Americans…a very big deal coming from Aberdeen.
  • There is no assigned seating. And even though we were never early to queue, and actually dead last a couple times, there are really no bad seats.
  • There are no bad seats because the venues are TINY. You will be sitting arm pressed against hot fleshy arm at every venue.   It’s Scotland so it’s never warm out, but underneath your sweater or jacket, have something cool on because the venues are hot. And take off your outer layer as you sit down because you won’t have the room to do it mid-show.
  • Shows are generally an hour. We went to one that was 90 minutes. I really wish it ended at 60 minutes. Make sure you really are keen on it if you see it’s 90 minutes.
  • Some shows really might not let you in if you’re late…generally shows start 2-3 mins late, so a small buffer window. But if you arrive RIGHT on time, you’ll be fine. And no one looks down upon you if you’re clearly late because you stopped at the bar first.
  • There are bars at every venue (pretty much) and you can always bring drinks in. I actually didn’t think the drinks were overpriced compared to something like Taste of Chicago.
  • At one show, the comedian (that I really enjoyed), asked for money at the end. But she referred to some people buying tickets. Which led me to believe a lot of people got in for free. But then I felt weird not giving money because I loved her…but also had paid about £13 per ticket. Just know this can happen, but in 6 shows, only one asked for tips at the end.
  • For dining: unless you’re planning on going to places that are strictly no reservation (El Cartel, Ting Thai Caravan), you need to make reservations. Our plans got slightly shuffled around and were originally going to do El Cartel for dinner, but did them for lunch instead. So for dinner Saturday night we went with the only place we could walk into, which was less than good tapas. Thankfully, it wasn’t our last meal on earth.
  • If you’re going to eat at the aforementioned no-reservation places, pad in lots of time to wait. Or better yet, go at an off time. For lunch at El Cartel, they open at noon and we were there at 12:15, which is early for lunch. But we had gotten up and ran 6 miles that morning so it was a late breakfast for us and we beat the crows and were seated right away. The next day, the same thing where we showed up for a late breakfast (11:30) and managed to get seated right away and beat the lunch rush.
Only at Fringe...Smut while you wait.

Only at Fringe…Smut while you wait.

The crowds are madness in August

The crowds are madness in August

My tops 3 (of 6) performances that I saw at Fringe this year was:

2nd runner up: Amelia Ryan: Lady Liberty (Cabaret and Variety/Comedy)

1st runner up: Andrea Hubert: Week (Stand-Up/Story Telling)

1st place: Love, Lies and Taxidermy (new writing/comedy)

If I had more days I would go see the other performances in the same venues as Love, Lies & Taxidermy – most of which have the same cast. Really cool venue, really liked what they did. Had actually wanted to see Every Brilliant Thing (done by them as well) but it was sold out! Alas…

Beyond Fringe

As previously mentioned, in conjunction with Fringe Festival is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Also only taking place in August, dubbed as the “World’s Greatest Show.” And I have to say…. it’s pretty great. With the magnificent background of the Edinburgh castle, more bagpipes than you can shake a stick at, a supremely choreographed routine that has a different theme each year, representations of many different nations, as well as different kinds of musicians, dancers, and performers, topped off with a stunning fireworks display…. it’s incredible.IMG_1415 IMG_1399

So if you’re questioning if Tattoo is worth it? The answer is definitely yes! My advice would be to buy tickets as soon as humanly possible to get good seats at a fair price. Though there aren’t any truly bad seats…if you’re not in the Royal Gallery or Premier Seats (we weren’t) you just don’t want to be tucked in a corner, or too low so that you can’t see the whole scope of the arena. Even though we bought tickets months out, a lot of the good seats were sold out the night we wanted to go. I compared scalper-like sites but I found that if I bought directly through the Tattoo, paying a little extra for the ceilidh package, I actually got a better seat for less money than buying a normal ticket from Tattoo or a ticket from a third party. Bonus, we went to the ceilidh afterward, which provided one drink and quite a lot of food included, and my mother and her friend got to watch and learn some traditional dances. It was definitely worth is.




For the love of the ‘Deen

I’ve said this before, but I really love Aberdeen….most specifically, Aberdeenshire, and really, all of Scotland. It’s charming and quaint, rural and majestical. In fact, last month a job opportunity opened up for E in Brussels. It’s always been the goal that eventually we would get transferred to Belgium, but when E mentioned it to me, I started to cry. I don’t want to leave Scotland! At least not yet….and to be honest, even though I know it will have to eventually happen, and I’m excited about the prospect of what the next expat assignment will bring, you’ll probably read about the fact that E has moved me kicking and screaming.

So for this Friday faves, I’m going to share 5 links that help me prove just how grand life in the ‘shire is.  Hopefully, this will inspire you to come visit (next year, fully booked this summer already) or make you a little more excited for your upcoming trip to the North.

  1. Aberdeen is Scotland’s “kindest city” and the third kindest in all of the UK. This was based on a study which “measured the average number of good deeds carried out by residents.” This is no surprise to me. There are so many stories of people helping each other out , from lost dogs to kindly neighbors. In my own time here I’ve been free to go after forgetting my wallet at eateries, given gifts by my neighbors, and had my house called up by another neighbor when there was a bad storm.   The people here are nice. See the article HERE.
  2. Aberdeen is the second cleanest city in the UK in terms of air pollution. Well done ‘Donians! See the article HERE.
  3. There are more castles per acre in Aberdeenshire than anywhere else in the UK. I personally fancy the very gothic castles (Fyvie) or the ruins (Dunnotar)…but there’s a castle here that will take your breath away, no matter what you fancy. See the article HERE.


    Dunnottar Castle….always breathtaking just 15 mins south of Aberdeen

  4. But somehow Aberdeen still has a bad rap. At least people have fun with it. Check out this Buzzfeed list: 32 Reasons You Should Never, Ever Visit Aberdeen. It’s more than adequate in summarizing why I love it here. Check it out HERE.
  5. And where else can I force my husband to take m on Sunday drives, pulling over and stopping suddenly everytime I see a baby sheep or Highland Coo? As I did a 7 days of Sheep on Instagram recently, I’ll just treat you to some Coo pictures now. 🙂DSC_1032 DSC_1060 IMG_3820 DSC_0104 DSC_0335

Stella in the Country


I love country living. Even when its flaw (being far from city-centre) becomes more and more abundant (as our social life gets fuller and fuller). I was a little worried initially about feeling alone and closed off- especially when it came to just having contact with people on a day that E is out of town and I have no reason to go into town. I remember one weekend when we moved to San Diego- E had been sent to New Jersey to work and I didn’t leave my apartment from Friday when I got home from work until Monday morning. Hadn’t unlocked the front door! Man, I kinda dream of a weekend like that now with sweet, sweet hibernation.

Anyway. With Stella-dog that’s never going to happen again. But I still was a little worried about actually interacting with people even though I knew I’d be outside. As it turns out- it’s rare that I take a walk with Stella through the woods or down the road and don’t run into anyone. And a lot of time, they want to talk. Everyone is friendly and engaging. Just yesterday I met a 5 year old girl (and her grandpa) who told me all about her new baby brother that’s coming next week, that she wants to be a veterinarian, that there’s a boy in her class that squeezes her hand too hard, and then she likes to feed Disney and Spirit (the horses down the lane) carrots whenever anyone will take her to them. It was pretty delightful other than my worry that maybe Disney and Spirit are getting way too many carrots as I feed them quite often as well and I know of at least one other neighbor that does as well.



In some ways taking Stella out here is the exact same as taking Stella out in Chicago. Of course we don’t encounter our regular local homeless people or stop in to the same high end shops to get free dog treats (shout out to Lululemon, Barbour, Burton, Brioni, Ugg, Ted Baker, Sprinkles and Ugg), but we do meet and talk with our neighbors, get pets from strangers (more Stella than me), and sniff some dog butts (more Stella than me). There’s just the added bonus of not ever being on a leash, drinking water fresh from the burn, and chasing the occasional deer.

dog water fountain

How stella hydrates: Chicago vs. Scotland

The biggest difference in our typical “go outside” in Chicago vs. Aberdeenshire isn’t the scenery, it’s everything else!



Leash Carrots (for horses)
Standard Collar Light Up Collar or Vibrating Collar (depending on the season)
Poo Bags Head Torch
Money (it always seemed like a good idea to stop at the Sprinkles cupcake ATM) Reflective Vest or Rain Coat
Tennis Ball & Racket Wellies or Hiking Boots
Trainers, snow boots, or flip flops



I still am loving country living and fear more a re-adjustment to a big city rather than something more rural (I just may eat my words some day). I’m pretty sure Stella has so qualms about her change in scenery either!


Sheepdog in training.

IMG_1719 IMG_1912 IMG_2651 IMG_1316