A lovely view from Stazione Centrale Ovest. Disclaimer: I took this on my way in, which was a good thing since I had no time for such things on my way out!

The best ever Italian adventure…Italian trains & the people who ride them

Italy: Day Two
Italian trains & the people who ride them

as of 9:47 a.m.

A lovely view from Stazione Centrale Ovest. Disclaimer: I took this on my way in, which was a good thing since I had no time for such things on my way out!

A lovely view from Stazione Centrale Ovest. Disclaimer: I took this on my way in, which was a good thing since I had no time for such things on my way out!

After a harrowing thought-we-would-miss-the-train kind of morning, we are on the train headed to our next Italian locale.

One of the biggest pre-trip debates we have in our house is whether or not to get the currency of the country we are traveling to prior to departing. I always say yes, especially when you are talking euros. Our local bank has plenty. It’s not like they are Bhutanese Ngultrum (just go ahead and click the link). Someone please tell me when I will start listening to my own advice? I  knew I should have gotten euros because my daughter was out of them (thinking I would bring more!) and we needed them.

I’m not exaggerating when I say not even the pan handlers in the train station will take US dollars. Not kidding. If you want to feel completely awkward, ask someone to exchange a USD. They won’t and they won’t even pretend to not laugh at you when you ask.  And now, none of our credit cards will work in the metro kiosks even though they worked like a charm yesterday. At this point, I don’t know if the cards work at all. But that question will have to wait for another day. Why worry about that now?
So, we ran back to the hotel and asked the front desk lady for the nearest ATM. She said it was a 5 minute walk to the bank. Well, that chick needs to be a professional speed walker because we had to run to an ATM at a bank that was over a 1/2 mile from the hotel. It wasn’t 5 minutes. And, thank goodness I turned my head at the exact moment we passed it and saw it because it was completely unmarked.

You can't miss this. Just pray you have euros when you get there.

You can’t miss this. Just pray you have euros when you get there.

Seriously we would have never seen it. Can someone tell me why every pharmacy in Europe can be spotted a mile away due to the huge, neon, green, flashing cross signs while banks are hidden away like some 1920’s speakeasy?

We resorted to using my daughter’s debit card, which I’m certain will deplete her college funds with the fees the bank is going to charge for that transaction. Fortunately the bank was across the street from a metro station even though the stupid kiosk there wouldn’t take a 20€! Seriously, how do people function around here? Luckily the newspaper stands sell tickets, but only take cash (of the coveted Euro variety, of course). I’m starting to think that the proprietors of those little shops jack with the kiosks to make them not work. I’m considering calling Anderson Cooper to do an exposé on it.

After navigating the metro during rush hour, we got to the Milan Central train station and the kiosk there would not print our train tickets to our next destination. There is a theme at work here.

Milan Central Station. My on the run photo skills at work.

Milan Central Station. My on-the-run photo skills at work.

Thank God (and I’m not saying that lightly) that the Trentalia employees took pity on us and moved us to the front of the long line (much to the dismay of others) and printed our tickets and our tickets for tomorrow. We ran up the escalator and to the platform where our train was waiting, but the train would only open from one side and we, as the day would have it, were on the wrong one. If that train were to pull away before we got on it, I would have thrown myself in front of it.

Once on board, a kind man helped us find the right seats on the train, thankfully just moments before my daughter had a nervous breakdown and just before I began cursing Italy with a string of explicatives that even Scarface would have been impressed by. All with 30 pound packs on our backs.

And now we are sitting in a train car with a couple who are freakishly rubbing each other’s feet. Take that nonsense and your bizarre tattoos (truly, you know, the kind you might get if you lost a bet?) to the next cabin, people. But do leave your flip flops that have a beer bottle opener on the bottom of them – with which he did just open a beer at 9:46 IN THE MORNING. And I just threw up in my mouth a little thinking that the bottom of those nasty flip flops just touched his hands and the top of that beer. Never mind, take those foul things with you, too. And, lady, you do realize that you can silence the sound your cell phone makes when taking a picture of your hubby opening that beer as if it is the first time he has ever done so, don’t you? It would let you be ever so discreet so that we, and the lovely Italian ladies seated next to you, don’t look at you with discontent and perhaps a little horror.

Tortona, Italy. Really a picture of nothing. This is what one does on Italian trains when you want to avoid looking at fellow passengers.

Tortona, Italy. Really a picture of nothing. This is what one does on Italian trains when you want to avoid looking at fellow passengers.

Let’s be honest, the Italian ladies are about to toss their proverbial biscotti into their fabulous Gucci handbags over this whole exchange. But, I digress.

So after an episode of our version of the Amazing Race, we are on our way to Cinque Terre. No signs of jet lag for me yet. Oh wait, unless that is the reason this morning went so far off the rails. I’ll have to contemplate that. The weather is lovely. Wish you were here. 😉

Nothing like a view of the Swiss Alps from above!

The best ever Italian adventure…

There is no doubt, that you have been sitting there just waiting for this moment – the day that I finally share the best ever Italian adventure. Now, it has taken some time for me to get it together. Actually, I wrote every word in real time. Riding on trains. Waiting in lines. Contemplating in cathedrals. Noshing in restuarants. Collapsing in bed. But honestly, I needed a little down time between me and this adventure. Well, that and the fact that I totally lacked the band width to post on the move. Oh, and forgetting my blog password didn’t help, if I’m being really honest.

But now, without further ado, or excuses, I offer you Day One of the best ever Italian adventure, as it happened!

Italy Day One

The first lunch and the Last Supper

As of 10:30 pm

Nothing like a view of the Swiss Alps from above!

Nothing like a bird’s eye view of the Swiss Alps!

I’m off to meet my Daughter who has been living the high life in Europe for two months via her amazing college scholarship program. I figure that getting to meet her in Italy to travel for 9 days is my reward for all the morning sickness I had while pregnant with her. I’m doling this thing out, of course.  My plan to hopefully meet her in Spain next spring will be the reward for the stretch marks. The next trip will be for going into labor and the next for delivery and so on. Seems completely reasonable since that is how this whole scholarship possibility got started in the first place. I figure I’ll have traveled the world with her before we even get to weaning her from nursing. But seriously, she is one smart, hard working cookie and I’m lucky to get to join in on her adventures.

A balancing act of magnanimous proportions.

A balancing act of magnanimous proportions.

By the time I arrive in Milan, I’m too excited to be tired. I mean, I did just see the Swiss Alps up close and personal like from my plane window! We head out the door and begin to explore after a little lunch at a restaurant that I’m pretty sure was serving Stouffer’s meals from a microwave, but who cares? I’m looking at the Duomo!

And the Duomo. I’m only a little concerned that they allow people to walk on the roof. It is already supporting the weight of enough stone that some village somewhere is missing all of its mountains and now I’m up here? So I tell myself, “Just look. Don’t think.” Of course, that philosophy has led to all sorts of ill conceived events in the past, but I’m going for it.

And then, one of the things I came to Italy for (besides my child, duh) –

Santa Maria Delle Grazie ~ the unassuming home of the Last Supper

Santa Maria Delle Grazie ~ the unassuming home of the Last Supper

The Last Supper. It was fabulous. Bigger than I expected. More beautiful than I expected. And more moving than I expected. My daughter says that she is certain that I’ve never been more excited about seeing something in my whole life. And she just may be right. Perhaps the most iconic piece of art in all of Christianity and I’m. Standing. In. Front. Of. It.

Unequivocally thrilling. So glad I drug myself out of bed months ago at 3:45 in the morning to get tickets. And p.s. Am I the only one who, before researching it, thought it was hanging in a gilded frame behind a flocked rope in a museum somewhere rather than painted on a huge wall in a simple church? Come on, be honest.

Then we wandered; turning down whichever street looked promising. There were plenty from which to choose.  Fountains. Gelato. Parks. People. Gelato. It was perfection.
Getting fabulously lost in Milan.

Getting fabulously lost in Milan.

Now, I have a rule on vacation. It is better to sit down to eat before you get hungry. “Hangry” is a common emotion in our house and it is never pretty. Ever. So we set about finding a restaurant before the bewitching hour. After a non-stellar lunch, we were hoping for something better. Our first option sounded great and close by and they were giving 30% discount if you booked ahead on The Fork app (which is my favorite European travel app that I discovered last year in Paris) according to TripAdvisor. What could be better?

As we approached we heard the clanging of plates and the sound of friendly chatter. But when we arrived, they were closed (30% off of nothing is still a discount I presume). The dinner time banter was actually emanating from the second floor of an apartment building across the street. As I looked up smiled at them, the residents didn’t seem at all interested in feeding us. So, another swing around the block.

The reservation that wasn't. But theFork app is still my favorite European travel app!

The reservation that wasn’t.
But theFork app is still my favorite European travel app!

We found ourselves in that no man’s land between happy hour, which was going strong around us but a recipe for disaster for the potential jet lag facing me later, and the civilized dinner time of most Europeans. After resigning ourselves to a place called “OK pizza” (was there not a voice of reason in the naming process?), I gave Trip Advisor another look and came across an establishment that we had earlier discarded because it was listed as $$$, though it got rave reviews for delightful service and good food.  Delightful service can make up for mediocre food in my opinion.   And at that point I didn’t care what it cost. I was about to have two women on my hands with hangry issues, but yet who simply couldn’t bring themselves to eat at “OK pizza.” Even hunger has limits. The ethical conflict of it all.
But our dilemma was worth it once we sat down on a beautiful patio overflowing with Italian charm…and amazing food.
I had Eggplant parmesan which was as beautiful as it was tasty.  The server drizzled it with olive oil and fresh parm, “Because it is delicious!” he said and I didn’t argue. There were copious amounts of bread with olive oil that was to die for. For real, was there someone in the back pressing olives off a tree? The service was warm and energetic by the two young men who seemed to actually enjoy us being there. The tables filled up with Italians. Families and friends and even a dog (which really, Italian dogs get around and I would like to be one when I grow up). It was a sign of a good find.
At the end of our meal, a little jar of chocolates was placed on our table like it was our birthday. A business card for the restaurant was tucked into our dinner check and I asked for another as we left, which brought all sorts of excitement from the kitchen, but somehow I lost both of them along the way! I’ll keep searching and let you know.
We happily made our way back to the hotel and collapsed into bed with visions of gelato dancing in our heads. So, until tomorrow, arrivederci!
Push ups weren't part of our training plan - but they happened!

Prior proper planning provides pixie dusted performance

Let’s get something straight here. I register and run races not for the medals, not for the t-shirts (though runDisney does make it enticing!), or even for the competition. Likewise, I don’t set time goals for a race so that I might win my age group or even to beat the person standing next to me on the starting line.

I do it so that I have to train. Plain and simple. I do it so that I can say, “here is what I have to do for the next 10 or 12 weeks or so to make it happen.” I’ll admit it, I’m not a runner who will just wake up every day and be excited to go out for a run “just because.”

Push ups weren't part of our training plan - but they happened!

Push ups weren’t part of our training plan – but they happened!

I love running. It keeps me sane and provides all sorts of benefits, but it is the first thing to go when I have to take something off my list in order to get life done. Unless, of course, I have a goal in mind (sometimes that means just finishing in the upright position!) and have to work for it. And working for it always – and I mean always – requires a training plan. 

Always have an extra spring in my step when I've trained properly!

There’s an extra spring in my step when I’ve trained properly!

Jeff Galloway has been my go-to guy for training. His run-walk-run method has worked for me every time and his sensible training plans keep me motivated without killing me.

So, if you are anything like me and you want/need/must have a training plan to keep you on track, but aren’t sure how to make it happen here are some great tips from Jeff himself to get you going.


WHY SHOULD I HAVE A TRAINING PLAN?  When using a proven strategy, a runner gains control over fatigue while improving motivation.  Those who follow the right training plan, for the individual,  tend to improve more, with less injury risk.

WOULD BEGINNERS BENEFIT MORE FROM A PLAN  Unfortunately, most beginners “run as they feel” or follow conflicting advice.  This leads to confusion and more aches and pains.  The right schedule will systematically increase the type of running needed for a goal, with strategic rest for rebuilding.


1) A longer run builds endurance, 2) A hilly run builds strength, 3) Scenic or social runs insert fun and keep you coming back for more.

WHAT IS ADDED TO A PLAN IF THE GOAL IS TO RUN FASTER?  The right training plan will gradually increase the speed repetitions needed for the individual goal.  Easier days and rest days must be inserted before and after speed workouts.  To avoid injury, the pace and the increase must be realistic for the individual.

EVERY OTHER DAY!  Most runners—especially beginners—run best when they run every other day.  This allows for the “weak links” to heal.  The very slow long run is usually on the weekend when there is more time available.  Hills and fun days can be run on the short runs during the week (for example, Tuesday and Thursday)

SHOULD I EXERCISE ON NON-RUNNING DAYS? While you don’t have to exert yourself on non-running days to improve your running, exercise will energize your mind, and improve your attitude and vitality—while burning some fat.  So I recommend any exercise that does not fatigue the calf muscle, such as recreational walking.

DOES VARIETY HELP?  Changing things a bit can improve motivation.   You don’t have to change the “mission” on specific days, but alternating some of the courses or running with different groups can make each day more interesting.

WHAT ARE VARIOUS MISSIONS, FOR VARIOUS DAYS? Each type of run bestows a different benefit.  Hill runs build strength.  Drills that work on cadence, gentle acceleration and gliding will improve your running form.  Long runs produce stamina and endurance.

WHAT SHOULD I DO THE DAY BEFORE AND THE DAY AFTER LONG OR FASTER RUNS?  Take it easy on these days.  Do little or no exercise, don’t over-eat, drink 8 glasses of water/sports drinks, and focus on how you will enjoy the next run.

SHOULD I SKIP THE REST DAYS—TO IMPROVE MORE QUICKLY?  Not Recommended!  It is during the days off from running that the running body rebuilds and improves.  While some runners can get away with running short and slow runs on rest days for a while, these “junk miles” can compromise recovery and lead to injuries.

IF I DON’T LIKE A WORKOUT CAN I SUBSTITUTE? Following a consistent plan is more likely to lead to success and improve motivation.  Those who pick various elements from different schedules experience  more burnout and injury.

Galloway 13  Want to get started by registering for a Half Marathon or 5k? Register for Jeff and Barb’s races coming up in December! 

For individualized training plans for any race/distance/pace, check out Jeff’s Customized Training Plans!

*I’m honored to be a part of the Galloway Blogger program. They provide tips for bloggers to share. Go check out the Jeff Galloway Official Website and find out more about the man and program that got me running and keeps me going!


Labor pains of life

signI promise I won’t make this a habit, but I have something on my mind. And I warn you, this post is pretty personal and involves some graphic stuff. So look away now if you need to.

Yesterday, I received a phone call that I didn’t want to get. It was telling me some news that I dreaded to hear and that, to be honest, I really thought would never come even though I had been waiting for it for the last year and a half. No one was dead or sick or even angry, but there was pain and a person I care about involved. I wish I could be more direct with you about it, but you will just have to trust me.

So, after going through most of yesterday with this on my mind and heart and after sleeping on it, I woke up this morning thinking about labor pains. Yes, as in childbirth. If you have delivered a baby you know what I mean. Every movie scene where a woman is in labor and she wants to rip someone’s head off or she is channeling that chick from The Exorcist? Yes, labor pains. Thanks for that image, Holy Spirit.

It is like running  long distances for me (you knew I would throw running in there somewhere, didn’t you?). It totally sucks at mile 11, but I know that it won’t last forever and I WILL cross that finish line even if it means dragging my raggedy-self across it. But for me, labor pains are better than running pains.

In my case, at the end of labor there was something utterly amazing to show for it. At the end of labor there were these amazing people. They changed my life forever. They made me a better person even in the midst of exhausting me, and giving me gray hair, and making me do things I really didn’t want to do otherwise. At the end of labor, I was transformed for the better into someone different than I was when it started.

Now, here is where it gets graphic, but I’m laying it out there. In the middle of the night, I realized that the church I serve is in the midst of labor pains. We have had an interesting last year and a half. There are times when I step back – sort of like when a woman in labor feels as if she is having an out-of-body experience – and wonder if I’m seeing it the way it is or the way I imagine it all to be, but it is often hard to tell.

And just like labor, there are times when the contractions recede, giving you a moment to catch your breath, only to then be flooded by another wave of pain.  That phone call yesterday was a wave. But somehow in my heart I know that the gut wrenching pain signals that something is happening and that this whole labor process will soon be over. And when it is, there will be something amazing to show for it.

We don’t necessarily will-fully choose pain in our lives.  Sometimes it is given to us by others. Sometimes it looks like divorce or a life threatening illness or an unwelcome job change or perhaps something we can’t name.  In whatever way we experience the pain – at the moment when we are certain we can’t push anymore – if we take a deep breath and focus our attention not on the pain itself, but what the pain may bring at the end of it, we just might find ourselves transformed closer to who God is calling us to be.

But let’s be honest. There are moments when we would opt for an epidural. That doesn’t seem to be an option at the moment, so I’m counting on God’s grace to be sufficient.

Thanks for listening.

Go ahead, call me a gypsy.

Cinque Terre, Italy. I wouldn't believe if I didn't see it myself.

Cinque Terre, Italy.
I wouldn’t believe if I didn’t see it myself.

Let me just tell you, I have had what just may have been the Best. Summer. Ever. Seriously, the best summer of my life – and I’ve had some good ones. What, you may ask, made it so? I attribute it to three things. ONE: I vowed to not use a hair dryer from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Yes, I do live wide open. TWO: It was spent with lots of amazing people who inspire me – my family, friends and church members (yes, I get paid to take amazing trips). And THREE: you know me, I would rather have a passport and a plane ticket in my pocket than have, well, almost anything you can buy. I’m a wanderer. I have travel-lust. Go ahead, call me a gypsy. I don’t mind.

The summer started off in one of my favorite cities in the world: San Antonio, Texas.

San Antonio, Texas. The home of Whataburger. It's not just about margaritas.

San Antonio, Texas.
The home of Whataburger.
It’s not just about margaritas.

The food, the atmosphere, the margaritas, the Spurs, the food. It is the place where my husband proposed to me and a place where I’m completely comfortable.

From there I headed to Guatemala, another place that I love. Everything in Guatemala is in Technicolor. The trees are greener, the flowers are more vibrant, the sky is bluer, the eyes of the people are richer.

Guatemala. Planting roots with AIRES.

Planting roots with AIRES.

Gorgeous. The fact that I came home and tossed my cookies for 2 1/2 days following that trip does not damper my enthusiasm for Guatemala in the least.

After that, I was off to Honduras. Which, in addition to Walt Disney World, is my favorite destination and one of which I never tire. And the bonus of this trip was spending it with my younger daughter who has known Honduras her whole life without ever being there. Priceless. Plus, I have friends there who knew me before any of us were parents. A lot of water has passed under our bridges.

Los Patios, Olancho, Honduras. I can't even.

Los Patios, Olancho, Honduras.
I can’t even.

And then, it was off to a place I have never been – unchartered territory – Italy. It was in a word: SPECTACULAR. My college-age daughter and I met in Milan and took Italy by storm.

The Vatican by moonlight. Stunning.

The Vatican by moonlight. Stunning.

Five cities in nine days. I wrote a travel journal of the sights, sounds and smells. I’ll post it soon now that I’m over my travel withdrawal and can think about it without getting weepy. No, really.

Made it home from Italian paradise in time to run a 10k, walk in a parade, and pack my bags for Valladolid, Mexico, all in the span of 48 hours.

Valladolid, Mexico. Another continent, another catherdral.

Valladolid, Mexico.
Another continent, another cathedral.

A week in the Yucatan Penninsula was muy bueno. While I had been to Valladolid before, it was never my home for a week. New friends, new favorite places to go. And it is a fun name to say.  I love it.

And then, it was home for a few days before heading to Clinton, South Carolina. It is a hot spot. No, it isn’t. But it is homey and quaint and there are good people there. Oh, and a fabulous cow with a goat side-kick.

The Best. Summer. Ever. wrapped up with a trip to Disneyland to celebrate and to run and to raise money for the Tourette Syndrome Association.

Right down the middle of Main Street U.S.A., Disneyland

Right down the middle of Main Street U.S.A., Disneyland.

Everything about it was magical. 19.3 miles is so much fun when you are doing it in a pixie dusted place for a good cause with friends who make you laugh.

Though my hair dryer is still idle, the signs of Fall are upon me. The air is  crisp in the mornings. The sun is setting brilliantly in the sky. The moon will soon be big and bold at night as I drive home. And I’ll pop back here once in a while and remember with gladness the Best. Summer. Ever.

Turning up the heat ~ tips from Jeff Galloway

I’ll admit it, even though I’m running the Dumbo Double Dare  as part of Team TSA (to raise funds and awareness for the Tourette Association to find a cure for Tourette’s Syndrome – check it out!) in just over a month – I have avoided running this summer because I live in Atlanta and it is hot and humid. Period. End of story. When it rained at the AJC Peachtree Road Race this year on the 4th of July, I was one happy camper to be running in the cool rain. I love this shirt from The Big Peach Running Company, it sums up running in Atlanta from oh, let’s say March to November! [That perky blonde isn’t me, by the way.]

One of my favorite ATL shirts - the back says it all! "Heat, hills & humidity...welcome to Atlanta!"

The back says it all!
“Heat, hills & humidity…welcome to Atlanta!”


Even though it seems like we should be back out there pounding the pavement since school is a week away from starting (and seriously, whose idea was that?) it is STILL hot! But never fear, Jeff Galloway has some tips for us to stay safe and cool (well, at least not miserable?). Continue reading


Who (and what?!) is the purveyor?

My old pal, Mickey, purveys pixie dust world wide!

PUR·VEY·OR : noun– a person or group that spreads or promotes an idea, view, etc, as in “Shannon, Purveyor of Pixie Dust.

PIX·IE DUST : noun – a substance or influence with an apparently magical effect that brings great success or luck.

Ok, here’s the deal. I was going to name this blog 28.4186° N, 81.5811° W, which are the GPS coordinates of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. So yes, I could have picked something more awkward than Purveyor.

I like words. I don’t always use them well, but I like them. And I like to think that this little blog that chronicles some of my favorite things (mostly how Disney and running keep me semi-sane, but with some wisdom of my own sprinkled around here and there) and I invite you to do some pixie dust spreading of your own!

I wear many hats in this whole purveyor business – mom (of 2 smart & sassy teenage girls), wife (of the same good guy for 26 years), pastor (of a church with amazing members), friend (of people for whom I am so grateful), resident crazy person (thus the semi-sane requirement). I have a serious case of ADD/OCD/WDW and have been known to chase a squirrel mid sentence. So, stick with me and let’s purvey some pixie dust together!