Thursday, March 23, 2017

Running for Geeks

I’d loved running since I started doing it in 2010, but after my December 2016 marathon, which was miserable, I was blistered, beaten down, and burned out. Now I’m in this weird running purgatory. As of this writing, I’ve run seven times in 2017 and maybe one or two times more than that since the marathon, and most of all that was walking intervals.

I knew it would take several weeks to heal from the physical pounding of such an event, but I hadn’t imagined how long it might take to heal mentally and emotionally. Knowing that it’s not uncommon for a runner to find herself in a bit of a funk and needing a short break or recovery season doesn’t make it easier to deal with.

But instead of worrying over it, I’ve spent the down time lifting weights, developing a personal yoga practice, walking more, fighting zombies, and hatching Pokémon. The Pokémon Go and Zombies, Run! apps got me through the most mind-numbing miles or marathon training, and I have faith that they will help me find the drive to run many more.

Competition is a great motivator, and sure, you can invite friends or coworkers to challenges like logging the most steps per day on FitBit, but that doesn’t interest me these days. I need more creative and interactive fitness-driven games.

So I find myself absorbed in collecting a virtual zoo. In addition to spawning wild monsters, the PoGo app spontaneously distributes eggs to hatch into Pokémon, achieved by walking or slowly running 2K, 5K, or 10K, depending on the egg, up to nine eggs at a time.

Zombies, Run! is an interactive, narrative audio game about YOU saving the world from zombies, mad scientists, lions, and rogues all while collecting supplies to expand, upgrade, and protect your virtual home base. The writing is absolutely brilliant, and the cast of characters is delightfully diverse, including many women and queers, with those identities being merely incidental not integral to the plot itself. Each time, I can barely wait for my next mission; the engaging story always has me wishing I could run more miles or minutes to find out what happens next.

Combining North Texas’ bizarrely beautiful spring weather of late, that Team Valor “gotta hatch ‘em all!” attitude, and the encroaching apocalypse, I’ll find the joy of running again soon enough.

Friday, March 17, 2017

New Ambassadorship — Bullet Dodged

I got started running when I joined a women’s walking club in early 2010. One ultra marathoner in the group tried to talk us into signing up for a 10k that summer. We peer-pressured one another into all registering and started running to prepare for that race. And we all did it.

I’ve been hooked (off and on) ever since.

Edited on March 22 to add: A much later confirmation e-mail indicated ambassadors are expected to re-share Run4Life posts twice a week, submit a blog post monthly, and participate in a running event monthly (and would receive a t-shirt and maybe some other miscellaneous branded gear). Which seems excessive. And is expensive.

For comparison:
  • The year-long ENELL ambassador program provided two sports bras, a tech t-shirt, a long-sleeve tech shirt, and a cool tote; paid for three race registrations; and required that I write about those three events and tag/reshare ENELL on social media, though no set number.
  • Moosejaw sent a tech t-shirt, bumper sticker, flag, can koozie, and discount codes in exchange for posting photos of myself wearing the shirt and holding the flag at races and tagging them, no set number.
  • BondiBand requested a 3-month commitment, social media tags, and monthly blog or video posts and sent a pair of compression socks to review (which weren't great) and paid a commission on all sales made via my personal discount code.

Since Run4Life's ambassador program was new, I asked in the ambassadors Facebook group what inspired the requirements for ambassadors and received a  response about someone's illness inspiring the founders to share/promote their love of running. I said, "Thanks, I find it interesting that the social media and racing requirements are more than the other three brand ambassadorships I've completed ... combined." And I was deleted from the group without a word for two days until I reached out to ask about it.

Chat transcript:

Me (Moniqa): Hi, Jeff. I don't know if Facebook is being glitch or what, but I'm having trouble finding the ambassadors' group. Do you have a link for it? Thanks.
Jeff: Moniqe, We decided that our group was not a fit with you.
Me: And is there a reason you chose not to discuss that with me or even inform me of this decision?
Jeff: I just informed you.
Me: Yes, after I sought you out. That is very unprofessional behavior. Please remove my content from the Run4Life site/blog.

Though I'm irritated with this behavior, I'm ultimately glad to have dodged the bullet of providing so much free labor and content for a brand that definitely doesn't offer the "encouragement," "guidance," and "community" it claims on its banner.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Discrimination is NOT a Texas value

I'm sharing the wording from my recent letter-writing efforts to state and national legislators/politicians for those who want ideas on where to begin. Do feel free to borrow my ideas and wording and get shit done.

Dear Gov. Abbott,

As a native Texas, I oppose SB6. Transgender people pose NO threat. Trans kids need our protection, not discrimination.
It is egregious to use me and other cisgender women like me as an excuse to discriminate against other Texans. We don't need potty police protection, and this bill would have the exact opposite of its intended effect: NC has seen an INCREASE in assaults against women by citizen vigilantes who think the HB2 bathroom law gives them license to attack any woman who doesn't look "feminine" enough for them.
Discrimination is NOT a Texas value.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Serendipity, Beauty, Unity: A Day at the Capitol

Monday, March 6 was Transgender Advocacy Day, and the ACLU provided buses from Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston to those interested in going to the capitol to speak to their legislators. Tuesday, March 7 was Abortion Funds Advocacy Day, and the Texas Equal Access fund provided transportation from Dallas. This meant I was blessed with the opportunity to ride to Austin, receive info, training, support, and lunch from the ACLU and to meet up with TEA Fund Tuesday to do the same and catch a ride home.

The final cherry on top was a ride to my car Tuesday evening from another advocate who said it was on her way home instead of my having to call for a Lyft.

Monday evening, Danielle Pellet brought me along to a cookout for some of the advocates that day, and I got to meet so many amazing people, including New Hope Mayor Jess Herbst. Dani also gave me a ride to my friend’s place to crash that night.

I went to boot camp before dawn with my host, and she was kind enough to offer me a ride to the capitol so I could save the cab fee. With her work schedule, though, that put me 2 hours early for meeting up with the abortion party.

This gave me some time to roam the capitol and catch Pokémon. I had the pleasure of running across Johnny Boucher in the halls to chat a bit and offer a hug and encouragement. His family drove down from Dallas that morning to testify against SB6, Texas’s own “bathroom bill.” They signed up and waited over 18 hours before leaving near midnight. A friend said their names were finally called at 2 or 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Tuesday was also Space Day Texas, celebrating space exploration. I asked one person at a booth what the event was about and whether I could have one of those spiffy astronaut-shaped stress squeezy things on the table. When he said “Yes, of course,” I told him that silly thing really made my day. He alluded to the stress of the day to come (what with over 400 people spilling into the halls as they waited to testify on SB6).

I remarked that I teared up when I saw so many people here for that, and he responded, “And that is exactly how it should be.” I knew he couldn’t say anything explicit about the issue since he was on the clock representing his company, but we shared smiles and well wishes for the day. Then I nearly cried again at the beauty of such a serendipitous encounter with a stranger.
And the day had barely even begun.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Positive Advocacy Outcomes

I'm sharing the wording from my recent letter-writing efforts to my state and national representatives for those who want ideas on where to begin. Do feel free to borrow my ideas and wording and get shit done.

I spent the last two days in Austin advocating for trans rights and abortion access, to varying effect. I may write more about it later (and I did), but for now, here are the thank-you notes I'm mailing today:

Dear Representative Neave,

I want to express my sincere gratitude for inviting Danielle Pellett, Pamela Curry, and me to your office on Monday, March 6 to take a brief rest from our day of lobbying against the SB6 bathroom bill. We’d come down from Dallas that morning, and despite feeling buoyed by the ACLU’s energetic morning press conference on the Capitol steps, our following efforts speaking with our representatives’ staff were met with polite disinterest.

Your staff gave us a warm welcome and offered us all fresh fruit just as we found ourselves hitting an afternoon slump: both emotionally drained and physically fatigued by the humid weather and trekking all over the building, more in need of the snack than we realized.

Thank you for your kindness and all the work that you do in the Texas House.

Warm regards,


Dear Maria Delgado,
Thank you so much for meeting with a pair of us from the Texas Abortion Funds on Tuesday, March 7. We were visiting from Dallas to garner support for an agenda of expanding abortion access to people most in need, especially people of color, minors, low-income families, and people in prison.

Our own representatives did not return our requests for a meeting, so it was especially impactful for us to get to speak with a friendly Representatives’ Chief of Staff and share personal stories of suffering under Texas’s restrictions.

Since it can be such a contentious topic, our organizations have so far been unable to find support for legislation and are taking a different tack with seeking support for the Abortion Funds Agenda in order to show legislators there is wider agreement of shared values than they may think. Whatever one’s individual thoughts on abortion, most will agree that women and other pregnant people deserve factual medical information and access to safe health care.

Thank you again for your time and the work that you and Rep. Hernandez do.

Warm regards,

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2016 Races I Ran

For posterity, I'm going to make a blog post for each year listing all the races I've completed. I meant to post this at the end of last year but forgot until now. It's still interesting to see the variations in my running/racing interest and motivation from year to year.

Here is 2016: 

Date Name Type Distance
1-31-16 Too Cold to Hold road 10k
2-06-16 Dash for Beads road 5k
3-13-16 St. Pat's Tri triathlon sprint
3-19-16 Dash Down Greenville road 5k
4-10-16 Zombies, Run! virtual race 10k
4-12-16 Spring Duathlon virtual race 10k/5k run/bike
4-17-16 Zombies, Run! virtual race 5k
4-30-16 Run for Human Rights road 5k
5-06-16 Super Mom virtual 5k
5-08-16 JCC Bagel Run road 10k
5-19-16 Kickoff road 5k
5-22-16 Texasman Triathlon triathlon Olympic
6-25-16 Meaningful Miles road 10k
8-13-16 Cobra Brew road 5k
8-14-16 Hottest Half /10k road 10k
9-25-16 Plano Balloon Festival road half marathon
10-23-16 Tough Mudder obstacle 10-12 mi
10-29-16 Shannon Brewing Monster road 5k
11-13-16 Trinity River Run trail 10k
12-11-16 BMW Dallas Marathon road marathon

That’s 20 total.

2010-12 Races I Ran
2013 Races I Ran 
2014 Races I Ran
2015 Races I Ran 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Spiritual Skepticism

Recently in a Facebook status, I wondered what the overall overlap between women and non-men who are skeptic/atheist/freethinkers and also witches/wiccan/pagan looks like. Because I do know quite a few of us just locally. And why.

Thinking about “the why,” this is what I came up with: community, ritual, shiny rocks, fire, fashion, queerness, and upsetting the patriarchy/kyriarchy.

But how can skepticism and belief in the supernatural coexist? I don’t necessarily mean belief, but the witchy/new age practices are common in my circles, for some of the reasons mentioned above.

I’m atheist but find meditative and creative-thinking value in reading tarot cards; community, connection, support, and grounding in a monthly women’s full moon circle; and personal empowerment in creating art, personal rituals, and altar design. I don’t have to believe the supernatural aspects to find that focusing my thoughts on something helps me foster calmness, reduce anxiety, explore and process complex feelings, and work through personal trauma, struggles, etc.

The Truth behind any practice matters less than the effect. The mind is very powerful, and we're constantly seeing new and fascinating studies that validate many things previously thought to be “woo woo.” Meditation, for example, is often viewed or practiced with a spiritual bent but has buckets of data showing its impact on mitigating stress, anxiety, depression, and more.

Also, skepticism does not invalidate belief in one’s self, one’s choices to practice rituals that provide structure, focus, and community.

Independent of supernatural accuracy and prediction, to learn or receive a tarot reading requires concentration and creativity to identify the ways that different symbols and ideas connect to your life and your world.

Belief in an all-powerful deity and community worship at a church may not suit us, but community and the belief that we CAN affect our world does. Especially as women and read-as-women people.

Community and ritual have value independent of belief in any one thing. Many of these ideas are the reason that Unitarian Universalist churches exist. Various belief systems share common threads, but rigid dogma drives people away. No matter your path, your experience of the world and relationship to whatever deity or power is going to be totally unique, because we are all individuals.

Many witches of yore were just pharmacists and physicians anyway. And a second component of community is not just seeking it for oneself but feeling driven to support others as well. [Something something paradigm of healers, caretakers, mothers, sisterhood, etc. — a thought that won’t fully coalesce just now.]

Ancient goddesses are fascinating characters and a joy to learn about, belief or no. Studying these characters, cultures, and myths is more than entertaining; it’s educational, too. Same goes for learning about crystals and other shiny rocks, plants, herbs, and oils. And who doesn’t like to smell nice things?

I mentioned queerness above. We know that the holy texts of the biggest religions condemn homosexuality and other queer existence even more than they subjugate women. When the religions we grew up with make it clear they don't want us, where do we go?

As for myself, Catholicism drove me away in my teens, though my dissatisfaction with being a second-class person because of dogma began when I was 8. In college I briefly read about pagan practices but felt they were still too rigid and too similar to Catholic practice and Mass. I found my way toward movement atheism, but it’s not as if movement atheism is super welcoming toward non-men and POC. Turns out that skepticism ≠ empathy.

Eventually, I meandered into my own skeptical spiritualism, which includes tarot, meditation, creating art, learning about and wearing shiny rocks, and meeting monthly with a group of women and non-men for ritual, support, and cathartic release.

We rarely hear about this skeptic/spiritual overlap in part because it’s intimidating to identify as both practitioner and non-believer. One fears her skeptical friends will react with disdain and that her pagan friends will take offense to her disbelief as perhaps invalidating or disrespecting their practice.

Below, I’m sharing some comments from friends on the topic:

N. “I was a jerk about tarot before. I finally got a reading from a friend and it blew my mind. It just gave me so much to think on and work on within myself.”

M. “I kinda bounce between pagan/wiccan and atheist, kind of a hope there are gods and goddess at there. I am very much a skeptic though. Why: for me its the accepting nature, the rituals, the spiritual side, shiny rocks, fashion, it’s just idk comforting.”

N. “I know a lot of women who are either or but not both. I like incorporating candle lighting and contemplation to my "spiritual" practices. But i don't consider myself witchy. I am very drawn to it though.”

Z. “I am. Most (if not all) pagans I know subscribe to a non-religious pantheist "it's all the same, depends what you do with it" approach. That fits perfectly with questioning hierarchies and manipulations of control in most things. If you can manage to not believe in patriarchal monotheism in a society flooded by it, the rest will likely follow.”

H. “I've incorporated a lot of rituals, especially meditative ones, into my life and have always enjoyed tarot as a tool of introspection.”

J. “I'm agnostic and paganish, really just pretty MEH on the whole cosmos/binding philosophy front in general.”

C. “Once I would never have been able to fathom an overlap. But now I'm a faithiest who goes to UU services on occasion. I like the introspection that some of these practices can bring. It's not at all what I thought it would be.”

J.D. “Raised catholic but realized science wins over human stupidity. Dating a Native American has brought out my dormant Taino Indian juju, but I still feel like more of a Jedi; we're all connected somehow.”

K. “I consider myself a past Pagan, current atheist. But even when I was a practicing and believing Pagan, I was a skeptic.”