Amy Reads: Travel and Wanderlust

Surprise! I read some books! I try to always be reading something, just sometimes I don’t work as hard to finish the books I have on my nightstand. With these two books, both gifts, I flew through the pages. (I like them so much that I’ve already gifted them to others!)

Run The World by Becky Wade


My mom gave me this book as a gift when we spent some time together during the summer. It’s a memoir of Becky’s once in a lifetime post-college trip around the world to see how everyone else runs. Becky visited 9 countries and delves deep into the nitty-gritty of the running culture in each location that she visits. She stays with locals, she sees the big deal places and the little interesting places, she eats the local food, and she really tries to wrap her head around why people there run like they do.

As someone who hyper-analyzes everything about running, I appreciated the fact that Becky looked at such diverse running communities. Her trip lasted a year, so she spent a good long time in each place. She really embraced what made each community unique. I love the idea of throwing my type-A approach to the wind and running by feel in Ethiopia, sprinting through a mall in Sweden, or enjoying a bath house in Tokyo after a long run.

While I would have loved to hear a little more of the gritty side of the trip (there have to be some negatives, right?), I imagine that Becky focused on the positive as part of being a good guest. My only other thought is that I wish she would have acknowledged her privilege. (How much of a left-wing hippy does that sentence make me sound like?) The trip was funded by a grant and not out-of-pocket but something about a trip to a poor village in Ethiopia makes me feel…oogy. I don’t think Becky needs to apologize, just acknowledge. But really, that’s a nit-picky of me. The book is fantastic.

You will love this book if you like travel and you like running. Or if you just like running. Probably not if you just like travel.

My favorite part was reading about London. It was at the beginning of Becky’s trip and she was full of gusto. It’s also a place I’d love to visit. (The closest I got was a layover at Gatwick Airport, which actually isn’t that close at all.)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars!

Here Be Dragons by Annmarie Kelly-Harbaugh and Ken Harbaugh


Annmarie sent me this book after reading my post on Military Spouse Book Review. She saw that we were kindred spirits, and I’m so glad she did! (Thank you, Annmarie!)

The book bills itself as a parent’s guide but I think it’s so much more universal than that. Annemarie and Ken narrate alternating chapters as they recount their journey from college co-eds to a family of five in the span of 17 years with 11 (yes, 11!) moves in the middle of it all. Annmarie worked as a teacher with challenging students and her husband was in the Navy. They both eventually moved on from those careers, but you can tell that they answered a calling to forge a difficult path. I really loved that! Hat tip to people who choose the tough road. They shared their wisdom through all of life’s changes and challenges, and that’s what I was needing to hear right now. (Not to mention, the writing is beautifully lyrical; you don’t need to be going through a tough time to appreciate it.)

Part of me wished that they shared more about their marital struggles. That’s probably just because I can’t relate to parenting struggles, and for all I know, there weren’t that many marital issues. Besides, it would be particularly tricky water to navigate if you are writing a book with and still married to a person and you are re-telling fights from years past. I admire the way the Harbaugh’s approach life and writing. I kind of what to be Annmarie. (In a Freaky Friday way, not in a creepy Silence of the Lambs way.)

You will love this book if you are in the military or a family member, if you live a topsy-turvy life, or if you appreciate a well-told tale.

My favorite part was everything about the family dog! The book is so not about the dog, but I read that last chapter with tears in my eyes, nodding my head, and petting ol’ Geronimo. I also really enjoyed the section about the family’s struggle after their second child was born. I could relate to the haze that can temporarily settle over your life and cloud out everything else.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5! This was a can’t-put-down book for me, and I can always use more of those on my nightstand.

What’s everyone else reading these days? I have a new book lined up, but it’s kind of scary and I can’t do scary right now. Suggestions please!


If the three question marks don’t clue you in, allow me to set the mood for today’s post with the angelic voice of Joey McIntyre and his four BFFs: Where do I Go From Here by New Kids on The Block.

I’m in a running quandary. I love running and running (mostly) loves me back. This time last year, I was in the best running shape of my life. I dedicated myself fully to training for and running the Twin Cities Marathon. I ran on vacation. I ran in pitch black darkness. I ran in the heat. I ran in the rain. I ran with sand pelting me in the face. I ran three times a week. I cross-trained twice a week. Even my computer password at work was about training for this damn race! (Here’s an article related to why I did that – it’s crazy but it worked!)

My life revolved around training for Twin Cities, and it paid off. Not only did I PR (4:20:50 and proud of every second!), but I also had an amazing experience running the race. It was a flawless day.

On the course of Twin Cities. One of my all time favorite races!

On the course of Twin Cities. One of my all time favorite races!

Butbutbut I was mentally exhausted afterward. However, training didn’t stop as I had to prepare for the Austin Marathon. The intensity was mercifully less, but the volume of running continued. It was so much fun to train with my buddy Melissa and to run the race with Julie. It was 100% worth it. Another race for the record books.

After a short break, training started yet again, this time for the Air Force Half Marathon. It took a lot less of a commitment and effort (and it was another great race!), but man, I’m just spent. It’s been a year of nonstop runningrunningrunning. It’s time for a break.

One mile to go in Austin with the best cheering squad!

One mile to go in Austin with the best cheering squad!

Yet here I sit looking at random race pictures on Instagram (Chicago! Detroit! Twin Cities! Wineglass!) and my running lust is ratcheting up again. It’s perfect running weather outside. I have a new Garmin (thanks, Stephen!) and a new Wear Blue running shirt (thank you, Jennifer!). I want to run, dammit! But, I don’t want to have to run. Which brings me back to the initial question: where do I go from here?

I have already signed up to run the Rock n Roll Nashville half marathon, which is at the end of April. I won’t need to start training for that bad boy until January. Do I use this time to take a break? Do I squander this near perfect running weather after suffering through the sopping humidity that is summer in the south? Do I race? Do I casually putter along like I have been?

Can you spot me and Jennifer at the finish of the Air Force Half Marathon?

Can you spot me and Jennifer at the finish of the Air Force Half Marathon?

When it comes to running, there really are no wrong answers but there are truths. The truth is I’m tired but I wish that I wasn’t. The truth is that I want to run some fantastic races but I don’t want to train.

I wish I had that same joie de vivre that I had this time last year. But maybe it’s time to give myself a break, not to stop running but to stop pressuring myself to run. I should run when I want to and sit on my butt when I want to. Perhaps it’s not just the running burnout catching up to me but also my life burnout. I can feel the fog from this season of struggle slowly starting to lift, and maybe easing up on the running will help with that. Or maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow itching to run. (I may or may not have spent 30 minutes looking up local races today. I can neither confirm nor deny.)

For now, I’m playing it by ear, but tell me how do you get out of a running slump?


Sometimes life gets so tough that you need to call in back-up. That’s what I did. Cue: my mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law, Lori, has been eager to see her furry grandchildren as she calls them (she had never met Crockett until now!) and she was due for a little time off. She is such a laid back visitor. I never feel the need to entertain her, and she likes playing with the dogs while I go run and meal planning for me. Yeah, I’m pretty lucky.


Much of our time and energy went toward taking care of all the annoying things I had been procrastinating and struggling with. (We took multiple trips 70 miles away to Franklin, TN for my car. Ugh!) Even with all the work we had to do, we still managed to have a little fun. Here’s a peak at what we were up to:

Lunch at Monell’s

Monell’s website bills itself as “Serving South to your mouth since 1995.” Love it! I wouldn’t say that I’m a big fan of southern food in general. Being that I’m a vegetarian and my parents hail from Michigan, I never ate much southern food growing up. However, I was up to try anything while Lori was in town. She had done a ton of food research (I told you she was a great house guest!), and this place had outstanding reviews. Well, I now consider my a southern food convert!

From Monell's Website

From Monell’s Website

The restaurant is in a huge house built in the 1890’s. The house burned down at one point but was rebuilt in the 1920’s. It has gone through several reincarnations. It seems that they struck gold with the current restaurant. The dining room is full of huge tables, and you get to sit with strangers. (I realize this fact may be terrifying to some people – aka me – however, we had really lovely people at our table.) As soon as you sit down, they start passing around rolls, biscuits, cucumbers (surprisingly one of my favorite things!), and other cold dishes. Then the real food starts! We were treated to mac n’ cheese, turnip greens, green beans, corn pudding, mashed potatoes, gravy, fried chicken, Cajun catfish, ribs, and roast beef. Again, it’s all passed around the table. Any time a bowl ran low, the staff replenished it. It’s like Thanksgiving dinner! But with strangers!

A glimpse at Monell's decor. This fella was holding up a mirror. His partner in crime was facing the other way, giving us a full frontal!

A glimpse at Monell’s decor. This fella was holding up a mirror. His partner in crime was facing the other way, giving us a full frontal!

We had fun talking with our tablemates (fellow teachers!) and oohing and ahhing over how pretty the house was. We finished the meal with coffee (for Lori) and sweet potato pie (for me) before venturing into the rest of the house to admire the décor.

Live Taping of Gilmore Guys at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center

After we stuffed ourselves silly at Monell’s, we headed into downtown for the big event of the weekend – Gilmore Guys! If you are a Gilmore fan and you like podcasts and you somehow haven’t heard of Gilmore Guys, you need to check them out! The two podcasters, Kevin and Demi, are hilarious. Kevin is a lifelong Gilmore fan and Demi had never seen the show until he started the podcast. Each podcast episode reviews a Gilmore episode. You get to hear their different perspectives and enjoy the lightning fast pop culture references. I’ve become addicted over the last year, and when I heard they were coming to Nashville, I snatched up tickets right away.

This is how close our seats were!

This is how close our seats were!

My eagerness paid off; we had third row seats! The crowd was amazing – so many people were dressed up. Is this what it’s like to be a trekkie? The show lasted almost 3 hours! I laughed the entire time. I wondered how enjoyable a live taping of the podcast would be. I mean, it’s just two dudes sitting on stage talking. Well, they did not disappointed. They were so energetic! They danced, they came into the audience, they joked nonstop, they showed clips from the show. It was amazing! And totally worth the late night for these two old ladies -it was after 11 by the time we got back to my house. You can believe we slept in the next day.

Ooh-Wee BBQ

This was another find courtesy of Lori’s research. She had seen this restaurant (can you call a trailer with picnic tables a restaurant?) on an episode of Driven by Food starring Andrew Zimmern. I really love BBQ but there often aren’t a ton of BBQ options that I eat. (I usually settle for BBQ sauce dumped all over veggies cooked at home.) But Ooh-Wee had quite a few things I could eat, and Lori had already scoped out their menu before we drove over there.


Although the place doesn’t look like much from the road, I was super impressed. They have a huge smoker, which smells amazing. The men we met (the cook and owner) were so friendly and accommodating. The owner kept asking if we had our ooh-wee moment and told us it was really important to him that we did. We sat at a picnic table and enjoyed huge catfish sandwiches (with two catfish filets on each sandwich!) and crispy fries. There was a hint of a breeze outside and we just stuffed ourselves silly.

We couldn’t leave without dessert. We got two chess squares to go. I’ve never heard of a chess square, and I honestly don’t even know what it is other than to say they were sweet and flaky and tasty. Lori accidentally left hers in my fridge and I’ve already eaten it.🙂

Dinner a la Lori

No visit with my mother-in-law would be complete without a homemade meal or two. We picked up a ludicrous sized bag of turnip greens (7 pounds! 7!) and green tomatoes being sold from a stand on the side of the road. I’ve seen the Amish people selling their food here before and always been curious. Now I know, their stuff is fresh and delicious! Lori was able to work her kitchen magic and make it into something beyond delicious.

I can now honestly say that I'm a fan of southern food!

I can now honestly say that I’m a fan of southern food!

We had three grocery store sized bags of leftover greens that we gave to my neighbors. I was happy to share; there’s no way I could have eaten all that! I don’t know that I’ll be making turnip greens myself in the future, but I will happily order them off of a menu or eat them out of a can!

Lori and I had plans to see the Parthenon but timing (and parking) was not on our side. We also managed to visit multiple grocery stores (Aldi, Costco, Wal-Mart, Oh my!). We didn’t do a ton of sight-seeing, but we both figure that just leaves plenty to look forward to the next time Lori visits.