Verch Blerch

Posted in Fundraising, Running with tags , , on September 14, 2014 by cmerritt42



Feast your eyes, people.

So awhile back I mentioned that I was struggling with my training.  A bunch of crummy things had happened, and, being a fool I just tossed the shoes to the side and played the “sad little clown” card.  What snapped me out of it was a donation to my cause (now at goal, thankyouverymuch… but please feel free to donate on behalf of any beloved motorway in England… give me some love A426 and the A4303!) and then…

The Blerch called.  In a good way.

Turns out that The Oatmeal managed to turn his demon into an entire run.  In Washington.  Which is not in the UK.  Yet.  I don’t know what will happen if Scotland leaves, maybe we can take Washington?  Like a sort of swapsies?

Any way, Washington is a bit far for travelling, and the race apparently sold out insanely fast. Thus stepped in the Virtual Blerch run, which I call the Verch Blerch.  Basically you order a packet and promise you’ll run either a 10k, half marathon, or marathon virtually.  Thus earning a fat little fairy medal, which everyone should have.  This apparently sold out stupid fast as well.  My husband, being of the pure online geekery breed, pounced on this like an internet cheetah and surprised me with it.

Ah, he knows me so well.

While the official race is next weekend I have :

1. An actual holiday coming up at a place with unlimited ice cream (seriously)

2. An 8 mile training run to achieve.  Yes, I know you purists who cry, “It’s not any of the distances promised!” But, it’s definitely not LESS than any of the distances promised, now is it?

So I thought that this weekend would be my weekend to make that Blerch my b*tch.

And I did, oh yeah, I did.

1:38 for 8 miles which included all stops for crosswalks (to all you fools who “have to keep it going” I just could not imagine giving my life for 10 more seconds per mile) and my rather dumb mistake of inserting a hill at mile 7.

But, girl gotta earn her snacks.

Now, if you don’t mind me I’ve got a soft serve ice cream machine to put my head under.  Because I earned it.


Join an Improv Troupe

Posted in Change with tags on August 30, 2014 by cmerritt42



The Sunday Group









(That’s me with the Sunday Group.  Sandwiched between two handsome gentlemen in the midst of growing my hair out. Please note, everyone in this photo is now wildly successful in their own right.) 

If there is one piece of advice I can offer any freshman entering college or university it is this: Join an Improv Troupe.

Find one. Join one.

Improv was, for me, the most useful thing I ever did at college.  Okay, okay, the theory and structure and hard work and “being on your own and taking care of yourself” stuff was good too.

But when it comes to the most useful thing I ever did for both life and my career it was joining Theatre Strike Force at the University of Florida.

I was 18.  I was a musical drama nerd and certified character actress.  I could do all the funny voices.  I was also in a terrible state and didn’t know why, for reasons unknown, I would suddenly collapse into a tearful heap and not be able to function for days.  When a loud fellow in bright purple shorts recommended I join I decided I would.  Almost everyone I knew had gone to Florida State or elsewhere.  I had done improv once, in a workshop, and it was fun.  I went upstairs to the Constans Theatre, my poor choice of chopping off all my hair frizzing around me.  I saw the guy in the bright purple shorts, I waved.  He ignored me, running to greet friends.  So I sat down next to an odd looking character in cords and a fedora and said hello.

It was the best day of my life.

Joining an improv troupe, especially the one I joined in 1996, was magic.  We played games, yes, but the directors we had pushed constantly and neverendingly for truth.  Truth was funny.  Truth was the funniest thing on Earth over bad penis jokes and degrading women.  When you were there in that moment it was all about building up with your partner or team.  It was about saying yes to whatever reality you were creating in that moment, and whatever that reality was it was truth.

We read Truth in Comedy, a lot.

We experimented with this thing called long form, a whole play that came from a suggestion.  It failed, a lot.  A lot, lot.  I still to this day recall a moment where it was going so well.  In the scene one of the characters was dying.  She was being cradled in the arms of her love, and they were saying goodbye.  She started to sing, it was so beautiful… and then one of the team stepped in and shattered that reality with a bad joke.  I remember seeing the notebook our director carried fly.  Fly straight across the upper lobby of the Constans Theatre which was a long, long way, and hit the back of the wall where we were performing.  I still remember Heather, yelling with frustration.  No words, just pure frustration.

But that is life, isn’t it?  Life doesn’t perform like a perfectly written play.  Life doesn’t hand you the perfect ending.  Sometimes people step in with a bad joke.  Other times, for reasons unknown, it works perfectly.  Standing onstage in Austin in front of a massive crowd and pulling off a long form based on the suggestion of “pants.”  I was a minor character, but I made a suggestion that created a scene by the ones who took the lead that was so beautiful I was proud to have been part.

And that is life too, isn’t it?  Sometimes you play a small part but the end result is amazing.  To remember one of the people who had created the festival come find us and say, “Nobody messes with the TSF,” those words… those words meant that we… the team… the troupe… had succeeded.  No matter how small the part.

Of course there is also that guy in the fedora.  The one I sat down next too all those years ago.  The one who, when I got to play the lead with him, created one of the funniest and most sincere long forms ever – one where two kids, so determined to not be separated by Summer holidays, packed one into a suitcase to take on a trip with them.  I still remember him popping up out of his imaginary suitcase and saying, “All I had to survive on was this bottle of maple syrup.”

Close to 20 years late (eep!) it is still custom to exchange maple syrup when we realise one of us has run out.

That guy in the purple shorts proposed to me at the Main Stage in a moment that was accidentally created via a dance put together by a woman who had no idea she had created that moment.  It just happened.

My last time onstage was with a group of women so talented that I’ll still to this day start laughing at some of the sketches we created as a team.  I still remember after one performance one of our TSF members coming up and saying, “Wow, this was so good.  I thought this would be a man bashing show.”

The idea of doing that never crossed our minds.

Joining an improv troupe, especially mine, was joining someplace safe.  Someplace where we could laugh or cry as hard as we wanted, and no one would ever judge you.  We had our moments, but what we also had was a lot of people hell bent on seeing everyone else succeed.  What I learned in improv was not about cutting someone off, going for something cheap, or seeing how much ‘funnier’ you can be by the other guy.  I learned to build people up, that the hard way is worth it, and that you can’t force funny.

A few years after one of our directors came back to visit and she talked about how improv was life.  You don’t wake up and get your script and know how things are going to pan out that day.  You may have had a few suggestions, but detours can happen, surprises can crop up, and how you deal with them wasn’t pre-planned by a team of writers.  What you have to remember is you have a choice in how you act and react.  Through three very intense years of my life I learned how to play off people with the specific goal of volleying them up, to make the “strong choice.”  It has served me well in all aspects of my life.

So as the TSF celebrates 25 years of wonderful I just wanted to extend that troupe a thank you.  Thank you for existing, and for continuing to exist.  For being a place for people like me, for people like my husband, for people like my dearest friend.  For people like my directors, Heather and Kerensa.  For women who get together to just play and write and have fun.  For those who want to act for a living, for those who just want to just want to live.  For those out there who know that there is a story to tell, but sometimes you don’t need a script to tell it.

Join an improv troupe.

Socks Appeal

Posted in Running with tags , , , on August 17, 2014 by cmerritt42

So, I have officially worn out my pairs of 1000 mile socks.  At first I was all, like, “What crap!  I spent £10/each on these things!”

And then I realised: I probably have run/walked/biked in these pairs for 1000 miles.  I bought them back for my first marathon in 2010, which I started training for in 2009.  So, I’ve had them  a bit.

For those new to running: Socks have the same level of fierce dedication as running shoes.  There is, at last count, 2.345991 billion brands of running socks [1].  However, unlike running shoes, who have whole issues of magazines and several songs[2] sung in their honour, running socks don’t get the attention they should.  After all, the socks are hidden, wrapped in the meshed and carefully crafted running shoe that should [3] be on your foot.

So when I sucked it up and realised I would need to replace my socks in enough time for my half [4] in October I assumed, like those who get attached to a particular pair of running shoes, the socks would be available to me same as they were back in 2009.

Nope.  Because, like running shoes, they have to change variations every 3 minutes.

For those new to running: Running shoes change versions every 3 minutes [5].  As running gear can be minimal in scope (all you really need to run is a pair of running shoes and poof you are a runner) I suppose this is a market ploy to convince people that if you have the newest shoe you will be the fastest runner.  And so they lure you to a shoe which you fall in love with and then they change radically three minutes later leaving you moderately depressed and off to search again for the fastest, bestest shoe to place on your foot.

Oh, how the 2013 Brookes Avalanche rocked my world.  And then you changed it.  You cold, cruel shoe and sportswear company.  HOW DARE YOU MANGLE SOMETHING THAT WAS SO SPECIAL?!?!?

I digress.

So you would of course find that I was absolutely beside myself with shock that the running sock type I purchased 5 years ago was no longer available.  This meant that I had to search for new socks.

And this meant I had to read reviews.

Lots and lots of reviews.  Because when you plop down money for choice running socks you are looking at £10 – £15/pair.

(Obviously they are worth the cost considering that my old ones were 5 years old when a hole finally appeared.)

I found 3 where they reviewed no less than 20 pairs each.  So that is 60 pairs of socks out of the 2.345991 billion brands of running socks on the available market [6].  These reviews actually sectioned off into best socks for men and women, just so as to point out just how high tech socks are these days, and out of it I decided on the Balega.  One, because the name sounds fancy.  Two, because they are pink.  And three, because I had become so annoyed with researching each and every pair of sock I eventually just decided that points one and two were completely valid.

They arrived and I went out for a run in them.

I can now say without a doubt that you really shouldn’t wait 5 years to replace your socks because good quality running socks are actually really lovely to wear on your feet.  These grip lightly so they don’t slip, and I like my socks thin because my toes swell. (I had, in my early running days, thought that it would be a good idea to get thick socks so my foot stayed secure in my shoe.  Instead my foot swelled and I wound up with bruised toes that I had to paint for 3 months solid.  Lesson learned, people.)

So I’ve begun to say goodbye to my 1000 miles and hello to Balega.

I’m still keeping the shorts I first bought when I started running 10 years ago, however.  Okay, so I might have to pin them to my running top (which is 8 years old) but by all that is holy they wick away.  They wick away.

[1] Rounded to the nearest decimal.

[2] People talk of trainers, shoes, kicks but never the socks that go with them.  There is obviously a market yet to be tapped.

[3] I’ve seen barefoot running.  I’ve seen barefoot running in a MARATHON.  It’s crazy.  If you do it, well done you for your hardcore dedication.  I still prefer my mesh and rubber encasement for my foot, however.

[4] Oh, check it – running slang!  You have your ‘half’ for a half marathon or your ‘full’ for the full marathon.  Now you, too, are let in on the secret.

[5] Average.  I think it is like 2.3 minutes.  Or twice a year.  I can’t remember.

[6] I totally copied and pasted that bit of humour.

[7] There is no 7, but I felt that 7 had been left out of the post.   Oh, and I’m fundraising!  Join the group of crazy awesome donors who are guilting me AND honouring Uncle Steve and Mike (the two most awesome men evah):

Pain. Pure, pleasurable, pain.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 30, 2014 by cmerritt42

This is Natalie.  Natalie is a sorceress.  She can elevate her body and willingly shape it in ways which are magical.

About a year ago I joined Natalie because I generally hate gyms.  I think is this primarily because gyms in university towns are used as adhoc dating scenes for students who really don’t like the bar/pub scene, yet replicate the same interactions in them.  Replacing such phrases as “Woo!  I’m really drunk!” with “Woo! I feel the burn!”

What you see in this video is magic, because in verbatim this is what it is like:


&*(^%$!  My &^$£ hurts!  How the &*^$$ to you expect me to hold a straight face while *&^$$£ is screaming in pain?

And you know what she says?  Those eyes, those mystical eyes gazing at you?

“Do it again.”

And you do.  You get up off the mat and you climb on the pole and you do it again.

Just the warm up for this stuff is insane.  She makes you ‘mew’ when you do your dead leg lifts in order to prove you are breathing while lifting with your abs.  If any self respecting person wandered in to a room full of women who are half dressed and making cat sounds while clinging to poles with their legs in front of them thought this was ‘normal’ … well then… they should join in I suppose.

I never thought I would be in to this sort of thing, mostly because of the connection to the stripper world.  But, honestly, after crying my way from just sitting on the pole to now trying to flip over and push myself away from the pole (willingly) I can tell you that real pole is an art.

Real pole is hard.

Real pole makes you a total bad ass.  Sort of like her face in the video.  I once asked if she practiced saying, “I am a bad ass” in front of the mirror before she performed to get herself focused.

And then she reminded me that she works with pythons usually, so it comes naturally.

That’s how bad ass she is.

So, if you ever want to go “beyond gym.”  If you ever wanted to willingly inflict pain upon yourself for the sake of making pretty shapes, consider Natalie the sorceress.

And if you want to make fun of me, remember she has snakes.  Really big ones.  And abs which can bend metal bars.

That is all.

The ups and downs of a long training.

Posted in Running with tags , , , on July 28, 2014 by cmerritt42

This donation was brought to you today on behalf of the letter ‘m’ and the number ‘5’.

– Mystery £100 Donation Number 4

Anyone who knows me knows that, both in training for distance and in life, one of the biggest and most difficult things I struggle with is mental blockers.  The Oatmeal hilariously parodied this in his blog on why he’s a distance runner, though my mental blockers are far more dark and brooding.  Kind of like being followed by Morrisey or the Cure.  And while my 18 year old self would’ve just been thrilled to be chased by a pack of brooding, lyrical poets who have a tendency to lean towards darker and edgier themes, my slightly older than 18 year old self knows full well that while being wrapped in the shroud of sadness can be comforting… it doesn’t get you very far.

So lately I’ve been wrapped in the shroud of sadness.  The whole “poor me” theme thumping through my veins.  The recent burglary, the ensuing capture of the burglar in the rental car (apparently it was quite exciting and involved the car being rendered no longer drivable), the insurance claims, the victim statements, the rental car company not at all being organised… the whole sad event that probably took the burglar only a half an hour to sort at max has completely taken over the entire past month of my life.

And so the running shoes were left to the side.  This, I know, is ALWAYS a bad idea, but it happened.

“During times of stress exercise is one of the best ways to cope” – that’s how the advice columns go.  But when you have bad happen in your life it is amazing how much I want to pull myself inward and shut out the rest of the world.  To stop living life and just go through the motions of it.

It’s a crap place to be.

I woke up yesterday to the donation who, unlike the other anonymous donors, decided to leave a clue to who they are.  I don’t know who did it, especially since I know lots of people who have an ‘m’ for their first initial, if that is even what they are going for. (Though so far the theory is the M5 Motorway … because, well, why not?)  But it sort of shook me a bit.  Reminded me that the donations I had been collecting, up to the burglary, had been left sitting on the table untouched.  It reminded me about the people who do believe in me and what I can achieve – whether or not they wish to be recognised.

So, if you are currently finding yourself stuck.

If you have left your running shoes to the side.

Know that some very experienced, full fledged crazy distance runners have been there.

Check that, who are there.

I put on my shoes yesterday and ran a 5k for the first time in a month.  I did it because I know that if I didn’t then I would be giving in to the Blerch and all his cohorts.

And we can’t do that.  I still have a bunch of fabulously wealthy anonymous donors to impress.

So, put on those shoes, people.  One foot in front of the other.




There will be peanut butter cookies

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 17, 2014 by cmerritt42

I have been burgled.

Not just any kind of burgled, the enter your house while you are sleeping burgled.

Yep, I am freaking out.

It is weird what goes through your mind when you realise that something like this has happened.  In my case it was, “Where is the rental car?” Followed by what could best be described as my brain firing off random realities in which I was imagining the lack of rental car.  

“Perhaps I drank too much last night.”

“No, I drank orange juice.”

“Perhaps someone moved the car.”

“I am the only person with a driving licence in this house.”

“Maybe I should wake the entire house and have them verify what I am witnessing is not a dream.”

Wake up entire house, realise my reality is valid.

Then realise that to steal car they had to come into the house and take the keys, which were in my handbag.

Commence round two freak out.

In the end they took wallets, keys, mobile phone and two laptops before speeding away in the lovely rental car we had for the weekend. 

Of course with the freaking out comes the completely insane thoughts and actions:

1. Panic over having a £20k estate vehicle stolen quelled when I realise my bike is safe.  (I have obviously lived in Oxford too long.)

2. Acceptance over the fact that my laptop probably needed to be upgraded anyway and decided to go out in a blaze of glory.

3. Sudden decision to scrub the carpet by hand.

4. Sudden need to bake 72 peanut butter cookies.

Yes, there are 72 peanut butter cookies in my kitchen right now.  Because I need to obviously feed lots of people sugar in my manic depressive state. Perhaps to fuel a baseboard washing party.

Here is the thing, and it is truth: I lost stuff today. Stuff. Not people, not pets, not sentimental things. Stuff. And a £20k car that I took full insurance on. But that is stuff on wheels.

Last note: The people who came in did not take any of the charity donations. Not one pound coin, so I like to think Uncle Steve and Mike were protecting me on that front. Tomorrow is apparently a double or nothing day between 5 and 6 pm so I intend to take that change and do my best to double it up. 

As Pete the Cat would say, “I guess it simply goes to show that stuff will come and stuff will go. But do we cry, goodness no. We just keep singing.”

… And baking a small ton of cookies.


A mystery.

Posted in Fundraising with tags , , on May 31, 2014 by cmerritt42


Something really strange is happening on my fundraising page.

I consider myself fairly good at fundraising.  I consider myself reasonable at building towards a goal.  But where my “sweet spot” is is in getting little £10 and £20 donations to add up alongside spare change.  I like the mantra of lots of people giving little bits to equal one major impact.  If this were a marketing exercise I would say it is all about the tribe, and I like big tribes.

Yet, for some strange reason, I’m getting anonymous £100 donations.

I have three of them.

On a good fundraising campaign I sometimes stumble across one random unknown donation.  But three?  And of a significant size? That’s never happened.

Do I want this to stop?  No.  Absolutely not.  If there are one or more people out there who feel like contributing to my cause in the memory of two incredible men I WILL NOT STOP YOU.

I cannot help but think that I’ve got a bit of supernatural intervention floating about this current success.  If that’s the case, Uncle Steve and Mike are already off to some amazing things in their afterlives.

And if you are one of those people who have decided to donate and remain a mystery, thank you.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you.




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