Saturday, July 26, 2014

Polar Loop Activity Tracker Review: The Pros and Cons

I mentioned to my husband in passing that I wanted to buy an activity tracker wristband. I wasn't sure what brand to buy because there are so many options on the market. We looked at some at Best Buy, but I just couldn't make a decision, so I decided to go home and do some more research first. (i.e. ask you what you think I should buy.)

I came home from work the next day and my husband surprised me by buying each of us our own Polar Loop! I guess he made the decision for me! I was pretty excited to get started tracking.

Polar Loop Review

(The Pros) What I love about the Polar Loop:

I love that it has a screen right on the device. I can click the button anytime and see my activity level, steps, calories burned, and time. The nerd in me likes it is a digital watch too. I haven't worn a watch in years, and not a digital one since I was 10. lol

I like that it is fairly discreet. I've never had anyone ask me what it is. Either they know, or it just kind of looks like a black/silver bracelet. Hubby said he likes the sleek design.

On days I work out, I easily meet my activity goals. Maybe too easily. A 30-40 minute run will blast my goal every time. I really like it best for the days that I don't formally work out. We might take Ollie for a two mile walk, but that still isn't enough to reach my daily activity goal, so I'll find myself doing high knees in front of the TV for 15 minutes at the end of the night in order to reach my goal. I really like that boost of motivation to get in some extra movement on days that I don't work out. I never would be doing that little extra otherwise. I am a strong believer that every little bit helps. 15 minutes of high knees in front of the TV is way better than being a couch potato in front of the TV.

I like the app for iPhone because it shows my activity data (same as you can get on the computer) plus it sends push notifications on my iPhone to alert me of inactivity. If an hour goes by without any movement, it will send me a reminder to get up and get moving! I like this little push, even if it is just to get up and do a lap around the office. It keeps me from sitting for too long.

I like that the iPhone app syncs wirelessly to the band. You still have to plug it in to sync to the computer, which is fine because I need to charge it every few days anyway.

I love the friendly competition it sparks between me and hubby. We are constantly asking each other how many steps we have for the day. He always kicks my butt in the steps department, but it is still a fun competition (as I try to keep up).

I love that it gives feedback on how many hours I was sitting, standing, walking and running. I especially like the feedback regarding restful vs. restless sleep. It is interesting to see that maybe I was in bed for 8 hours, but only 5 of those were restful.



(The Cons) What could be better about the Polar Loop:

When I walked in the door from work that day that hubby bought the loops, he was sitting at the dining room table with a pair of scissors, cutting the band! "What are you doing?!?" I asked, in horror. He explains this is what you are supposed to do, you have to cut the band down to your size. I was super happy that he was doing this for me, because I would never trust myself to do it right. He is a pretty meticulous guy, and he ended up cutting his own band slightly too small. He decided to give me his small one and cut his own again. While everything turned out fine, I sort of wish the band sizing was a little easier.

It doesn't sync to my Android phone. It says on the package that it works with Android, it just didn't happen to work with my particular model Android model (that is a new model I only bought a few weeks ago). This would have a been a bigger deal, but I also have a iPhone that I get through work, so I just had to sync it up with my work iPhone. Everything on the app is pretty much the same as syncing to the computer, except the inactivity alerts. You only get the real-time inactivity alerts through the app, so if you don't have the app, you miss out on a pretty important feature. Again, it worked out for me, but fair warning to check your Android model and Google Play store to make sure you can download the app before purchasing.

It doesn't sync to my heart rate monitor, which I thought was strange, because my heart rate monitor is also a Polar brand. It is fine that it doesn't sync because the HR monitor syncs to my Nike + GPS watch. It's really not necessary that everything syncs, but it would have been nice to have the data all in one place.

The goals are not very customizable. I think the goals are set based on how you answer two questions in your profile: your typical day (sitting, standing, or moving) and your training background (regular, frequent, heavy, semi-pro, or pro).  I chose sitting (I have an office job) and frequent training. I usually have to hit just above 10,000 steps to reach my goal, which is easy to do on the days that I run.



My husband walks with Ollie twice a day (once a day in the morning and again with me after dinner), he works on his feet, runs several times a week, and is generally one of those people who can't sit still. He had to choose professional athlete as his training background in order to make the goals even somewhat of a challenge to hit. My husband, a professional athlete? He's closer to a professional beer drinker. I think it would be better if you could customize your goals.

I think that these activity trackers are geared more towards people who do not formally workout, but want to be more active and move more, which is great! But even as someone who works out regularly, I love it for the additional push to move a little bit more!

Overall, I am happy with our purchase. I think it is a great tool for additional motivation to move. The inactivity alerts (for iPhone) are super helpful to remind me not to sit too long at work, and the daily goals motivate me to move just a little more on the days that I don't work out.

What do you think? Do you have an activity tracker? Are you loyal to a particular brand? What do you think of the Polar Loop? Are you considering a purchase? Do you have any other questions for me about my Polar Loop? Leave them in the comments!

If you haven't entered my awesome EveryMove prize pack giveaway, hurry over to the giveaway post before July 29th to enter!

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Keep Running,

Lea

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Four-Legged Furry Friday Featuring Maria and Elijah

Hi, friends! Welcome to another addition of your favorite monthly series, Furry Friday Feature. This month I am excited to introduce you to Maria from www.lilMysNinja.com and her favorite four-legged running partner, Elijah!

Hi, Maria. Tell us a little bit about your favorite running partner.
Elijah is my foster failure. When he was a puppy we thought he might have been a spaniel/shepherd mix. However, he favors a retriever. We're still not sure of the exact breed mix and I think that maybe one day I'll do that pet DNA test just to satisfy my curiosity but for now, I'm happy with just knowing that he loves to run with me. He's now 1 year and 2 months old. (From Lea: we're a little back logged on Furry features, Elijah is probably a year and eight months by now!)

Where is your favorite place to run with your pooch?
We run on the road. It's easy to run in my neighborhood with him since he doesn't run long distances yet. But I also like to take him to pub runs on Monday nights and the Riverfront canal. There are always several people there running and walking their dogs. But it doesn't matter to him where we go as long as he gets to go with me. I hope to one day try some trails with him.

Have you ever raced with your dog?
Elijah ran his first 5k in May 2013 and we ran it again in May 2014. It was a race specifically for dogs called See Spot Run. We had a blast.

Meet Maria and Elijah! They are both adorable!
Tell us about a running moment that made you proud!
One of my favorite Elijah running moments was the day we moved to a hands free running leash! Training Elijah was a task. He was always so excited, always pulling on his leash, and not to mention my fear of him swerving in front of me and causing a collision. However, over the course of a few months, with constant training and repetition, it's all paid off! He listens to the commands and now runs along beside me on the left hand side using his hands free leash. I love it!

Recently we moved to a hands free leash. I was so happy when we took that hands free leash for a spin. He listened to all the commands and not once did I have to worry about whether I had made the right decision or not.



What important running (or life) lesson can we learn from our dogs?
Let loose, smile and run free! I love looking down at Elijah when we are running and seeing that beautiful dog grin on his face! He's just happily running and reminds me that despite all the stuff I go through, sometimes it's good to forget about the time, the training, the stress and just RUN.

If you want to see more of Maria and Elijah, you can check them out on www.LilMysNinja.com and follow them on social media.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LilMysNinjaBlog
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/lilmysninja
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/lilmysninja

Thanks, Maria! You think you can send Elijah over to start training Ollie?

If you're a runner who would like to be featured with your favorite furry four-legged running partner just fill out this form to be considered for a future Furry Friday feature. (Bonus points if you can say that five times fast.)

If you want to check out some other great running dog blogs, check out Top Dog Running Blogs (spoiler alert: clicking on link will lead to cute pictures of running dogs).

Lastly, if you haven't entered my awesome EveryMove prize pack giveaway, hurry over to the giveaway post before July 29th to enter!

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Keep Running,

Lea

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Monday, July 21, 2014

EveryMove: Good Things Come to Those Who Sweat Giveaway

When I first heard about the EveryMove app, my first thought was that I need another fitness app like I need a hole in my head.



A glowing recommendation, right?

Turns out, I was wrong. I needed this app more than I knew.

I love technology. I don't just work out, I track it and I share it. After all, what good is a workout if you can't brag to all your friends about it afterwards? I have a GPS watch and a wristband activity tracker. I have downloaded a half a dozen apps to my smart phone to count calories, track miles and activities. I am a member of two separate gyms. I frequently check-in on Facebook at races, classes, training groups and other fitness events. The problem? Every device I own has its own app, then there are all the apps. I think my apps have apps. It all gets a little overwhelming.

What if you could pull data from all your devices, Facebook and Foursquare check-ins, your fitness apps, connect with your friends, and earn points from your activities that can be redeemed for real-life discounts and rewards? 

We are not dreaming! EveryMove is a website and fitness app that is available on both iPhone and Android that pulls together the data from most of the fitness devices and apps that you are already using, all in one place. The best part? You can compete against your friends for some additional motivation, and the points you earn can be redeemed for real-life discounts and rewards! Who wouldn't want to earn rewards for doing all the active stuff that they do anyway?

Add me as a friend on EveryMove!
 

EveryMove in Four Easy Steps:

1. Connect your apps:
After you download the app, the first step is to link your devices and fitness apps. I connected Facebook, Twitter, my Nike+ GPS watch, My Fitness Pal, Zombies, Run! and Active.com. EveryMove can connect to tons of other apps like Map My Fitness, Runtastic, Garmin Connect and many more.  You can connect your activity tracker and even can connect some gym memberships.

2. Connect with your friends:
Connect with your friends, family, and coworkers for a little motivation and friendly competition. It doesn't matter if you sweat by CrossFit, running, dancing, Yoga, or gardening.  EveryMove will assign points for your activities and you can see how you stack up against your friends on the leaderboards, regardless of how they sweat!

3. Sweat:
Just do what you do! EveryMove will automatically sync your linked devices and apps to the EveryMove platform!

4. Earn real life rewards:
Choose a reward to work towards or choose to work towards a charitable donation! I just donated $1 to Make a Wish Foundation using my first 500 points on EveryMove.

Speaking of rewards, EveryMove has generously offered a prize pack for a Running with Ollie readers giveaway featuring some of EveryMove's reward partners! Here is a glimpse of some of the rewards you can earn by sweating with EveryMove.

EveryMove GIVEAWAY
Good Things Come to Those Who Sweat



The Giveaway prize pack includes:
Check out the awesome EveryMove sponsors using the links below.

$40 gift code from Carve Designs
Holy Detox (Deep Cleanse) tea sample from Chai Diaries
22 oz. Original Clean Bottle from Clean Bottle
30% off from DA Active
one subscription box from Kona Kase
one O+ mini from Oxygen Plus
$15 off subscriptions from Panty By Post
50% off a DVD kit from POUND
Real Food Barre samples from Real Food Barre
one full size Alive Reef Safe Sunscreen from Sea Kind
$100 gift code from Skora Running
two Sweat-Free Ice Packs from UKonserve
fruit & veggie leather samples from Veggie-Go!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Website: www.EveryMove.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/EveryMove
Twitter: www.twitter.com/EveryMove

GIVEAWAY RULES:   
Contest runs from 7/21/2014-7/29/2014.
No purchase necessary.
1 winner will be randomly selected via Rafflecopter.
Open to US residents 18 years of age or older.
Must have a shipping address in the US. 
Winner will notified via email (if available) and blog post, and will have 48 business hours to claim prize.
If original winner does not claim prize within 48 business hours an alternate winner will be selected.
Contestants must enter on the Rafflecopter form in order to win.
All winning entries will be verified that the required blog post comment was posted. If a winning entry cannot be verified, a new winner will be drawn.
Prize will be shipped directly from EveryMove. EveryMove will pay shipping.

Are you using EveryMove? What are you waiting for? Let's connect!


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Keep Running,

Lea

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Social Media Sunday: How to Increase Blog Traffic Using Pinterest

Welcome to the latest edition of social media Sunday! This month we are talking about one of my favorite social media sites, Pinterest! If you are anything like me you have lost invested many hours in pinning. If you're a blogger who pins delicious recipes and tips to stay organized, but not using Pinterest to help drive traffic traffic to your blog, you may be missing out on some serious page views!


I obsess over watch my blog stats pretty closely on Google Analytics and what I have found is that 50% of my referral blog traffic comes directly from Pinterest. What does that tell me? It tells me that if Pinterest didn't exist, then I would have half the blog traffic that I have today, and it also tells me that if you are not using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog, you have the potential to double your referral traffic page views. That is huge! Before we get started, are you following me on Pinterest?

How do I use Pinterest to drive traffic to my blog?

1. Create a Pinnable Image
Let's talk about what it means to create a pinnable image. Technically speaking, almost any image can be pinned to Pinterest, but not every image is going to generate traffic. So when we talk about pinnable images, we are talking about the types of pictures that will inspire people to repin them and more importantly, click through to your blog post. You need to give people a reason to pin.

Before you pin an image to Pinterest think about the types of things you would naturally repin when you are scrolling Pinterest. As a starting point, I think an image should be one of the these things: Informative, instructional, interesting, beautiful or adorable, funny, and I'll add in delicious for good measure because recipes do so well on Pinterest!

There are certain types of images that probably won't be as successful on Pinterest. Remember success on Pinterest means repins and click throughs to your blog.

A picture of your kids standing in the kitchen is probably not a pinnable image, unless it is professionally done and over-the-top adorable or funny. (I know, every picture of your kid is adorable and funny.) A picture of you at the finish line at the race may not be a pinnable image. If you were scrolling through images on Pinterest, would you repin a snapshot picture of a stranger? Probably not. This is the same reason that I don't usually pin images of Ollie, pictures of your dog probably won't drive traffic to your blog on their own.  A pin should have a clear purpose.

Here is an example from my own blog of an image that I don't think meets the criteria of a pinnable image. I think if I had changed the title to "How to grow a vegetable garden in your own backyard" or "How to turn your black thumb green" it probably would have qualified as a pinnable image because then it at least would have fallen under the instructional category. It just so happens, that was not really what the post was about, so the title would have been misleading. (p.s. I haven't killed those plants yet. Go me.) A title that gave the reader a reason to pin and maybe pictures of beautiful fully grown vegetables could have made this image more pinnable.


Not every single image you use on your blog has to be pinnable. I still think it was perfectly fine to use this image in my blog post, I just shouldn't expect it to drive traffic on Pinterest (It didn't). I do, however, try to have at least one or two pinnable images in each post.

In my personal experience, there are some other qualities that help an image become more pinnable:

1. Vertical images fit in the Pinterest format and stand out better than horizontal images.
2. High quality, clear images are most successful. It doesn't have to be a professional image, but a poorly lit, blurry image probably won't generate many repins.
3. Easy to read text overlays with titles help people quickly determine why they may want to pin or click. This may not be necessary if the image itself is outstanding, but text can help make an average image more pinnable. (Try PicMonkey to easily add text to your images.)
4. Light color backgrounds seem to stand out and perform better than dark backgrounds.

It is not to say that a horizontal image with a dark background won't do well on Pinterest, it very well may. I just have found the ones that perform the best usually have at least some of the above characteristics.

Also don't forget to add a descriptive caption! Most people won't change it when they repin and it makes it easier for people to your find your pin when they are searching Pinterest.

2. Pin multiple times/multiple boards
In the early days of Pinterest, I remember there being some discussion whether or not bloggers should pin their own content. There were bloggers on both sides of the fence. These days with the traffic-driver that Pinterest has become, it has become widely accepted to pin your own content. It would be silly not to generate traffic to your blog by pinning your own content! But just like any social media, you should be pinning other relevant content more often than you pin your own, because remember my favorite saying, social media is not all about me. I have boards with multiple categories and I pin the same pin to multiple boards at different times of the day or different days.

3. Pin to group boards
Pinterest is a great traffic driver because the potential for a pin to go viral is high. Once a pin starts to circulate it can generate a lot of traffic. All it takes is a few repins to get the ball rolling. But what if you don't have a lot of followers yet? It's OK, search out some group Pinterest boards in your niche and ask for an invite to pin to their board. Group Pinterest boards are owned and managed by one individual but allow for multiple people to pin to the boards. Some of my pins that got the most traffic started from a group Pinterest board. Be sure that you are pinning relevant content to the board's theme, don't spam a board with every pin you ever created, and be sure to be nice and pin other content to group boards too. If you would like to join my Pinterest group board called Fitness Inspiration from Friends, follow me on Pinterest, send me an email to runningwithollie(at)gmail(dot)com with the email address that you use on Pinterest and I'll add you.



4. Schedule pins
If you are anything like me, you have a life outside your blog. You probably have a family, a job, some outside hobbies, maybe even a friend or two. So how are you supposed to find the time for yet another social media site to promote your blog? The answer is to schedule your pins. I use Ahology and I really like that you can spend 10 minutes scheduling pins for the day or the week! Ahology determines the best time to pin, so it takes a lot of the guess work out of it. Just remember to not only schedule your own pins, but also pins of other interesting related articles in your niche!

5. Pin it button
The easiest way to inspire people to pin your content from your website is to add a pin it button to your post. Pinterest makes it so easy, it's a crime not to do it. A pin it button is like a reminder for your readers to pin your interesting content.  Not everyone may have a Pin it button in their tool bar (crazy, right?) so a pin it button just makes it really easy for people to pin your content.

6. Pin evergreen content
One of the greatest things about Pinterest is that older content with a great pinnable image rarely gets lost in the feed. Posts that I wrote a year ago have long ago started collecting dust on all other social media channels. Even on my blog it is buried under 100s of newer posts. I wrote a blog post about CrossFit in 2012 that usually is the highest traffic generator each month, even two years later. Why? because it is evergreen content, it is as relevant today as it was two years ago, and as long as people keep pinning it on Pinterest and caring about CrossFit, I will probably continue to get traffic from it.

Do you use Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog? Did you learn anything? Did I miss anything? I gotta go. I have go make dinner pin images of the things I hope to make for dinner some day.


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Keep Running,

Lea

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photo credit: Theen ... via photopin cc

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Social MEdia is Not all about Me

In my Social Media Sunday posts, this has been a recurring theme: Social MEdia is not all about ME.

It just means that I try to remember that most people really don't care about me, they care about themselves. I don't mean this in a negative way, it is human nature. We are generally self-centered. All of us.

So I try to approach social media by keeping the ME out of it as much as possible. Social XXdia. Sure, I want you to follow me, I want you to share my posts, I love when you retweet, and adore when you comment, but I understand that you are probably just wanting me to do all those things for you too. I try to give on social media more than I take...and this has been an effective strategy for me.

So when I spent most of the day yesterday asking you to vote for me in BioSkin's FB contest for Favorite Running Blogger, I sort of broke my own rule on social media. I was on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram basically screaming ME ME ME ME ME ME. VOTE FOR ME! PLEASE.

I did that because I really (really!) would love it you would vote for me (cash and prizes are at stake) and I had to make it about me because that is the only way to get votes, but I kind of forgot to ask you what I could do for you in return.  I asked you to do me a favor and many of you were kind and gracious enough to vote, but how can I return the favor?

If I win this contest, I will receive Bioskin products, which I will pass on to you in a blog giveaway! I love my Bioskin calf sleeves, they are the best (tightest) compression sleeves I've ever worn. I know you'll love them too.

Whether I win or not, at the end of the contest I also plan to do a Facebook shout out for the blogs that that supported me.

What else can I do for you? Like your Facebook page? Share your tweet? I'd love to return the favor for your support. Let me know in the comments, on Twitter @gealenders, or on my Running with Ollie Facebook page. I want to help support you, as you have helped support me.

I would be so honored if you would vote for me in Bio Skin Favorite Running FB contest and please let me know how I can return the favor.

VOTE HERE You can vote once a day until June 30th. You rock!

Please consider sharing.

Keep Running,

Lea

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vote for Me in the Favorite Running Blog Contest

Hi, Friends! Calling in all favors! Remember when I did a product review of Bio Skin calf sleeves a couple of months ago?  I am excited to be included as one of only four blogs to be nominated for Favorite Running Blog on Bio Skin's Facebook page. 


Would you do me a personal favor and click over there and vote for me and my little blog? I will be eternally grateful, or at least grateful for the next few days. (Kidding! Forever in your debt!) You can vote once per day until the contest ends on 06/30 at midnight.

If I win, I'll do a BioSkin Giveaway on my blog. What do you say? Will you vote for me? (End of begging.)




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Keep Running,

Lea

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jim Carrey Made Me Quit My Job

Well, not really. But the Jim Carrey commencement speech video that has been circulating on social media really got stuck in my head. It is worth the watch, it is just a minute long.



Why am I failing at what I don't love and not really even trying to do what I love? It's a thought I haven't been able to get out of my head ever since I saw the video.

I have a great job. I have a nice boss with a stable company, that has good ownership, who treats their people right. I earn a nice salary. When I get paid once a month, I put 50% of my paycheck into savings. I know what you are thinking, "What's the problem you big crybaby?"

The stress. The travel. The job. Everyone has a different definition of success. Some people want big houses and fancy cars. I want freedom and comfort. Sure, I want to pay the bills without struggle, but I'd rather drive a paid-off car and live in a small comfortable house with no debt.

My definition of success is the ability to enjoy a simple life. Sure, I want to work. Of course. I need a purpose, but not to the detriment of my sanity.

The problem is not the company. It's not the people, but the job itself wears me thin. Even though it is a great position that most anyone would be lucky to have, it is not a good match for my personality. While a challenging job can be an opportunity to grow and become a better person, it can also eat away at you when it is a daily struggle. I'm sure someone else could take this job and thrive on the pressure, but I feel like I am losing a part of myself as a person. What happened to that enthusiastic go-getter? I get a little further away from her every single day that I sit in that cubicle. I need a break. I need to reset.

It is the ultimate breakup: It's not you, it's me. 

When the stress began to manifest itself in a physical way, I knew I had to make a change. It suddenly wasn't worth it. I put in my two weeks notice, which I am still in the process of working out, so this all feels surreal.

I have been working full-time for nearly twenty years and this is the first time I have ever left a job without having another one lined up. It feels so irresponsible. I am the level-headed responsible one in the family. We both can't be care-free.

I am fortunate enough to be in a position where we have low bills, big savings, and little debt. My husband owns a small security alarm business in the DFW area (if you need help with home security, let us know!). We will have to cut back on the frivolous spending and watch our outgoing money much closer, but we can swing this for awhile. I just need a break, then I think I will be ready to tackle the next chapter in my life.

Why am I not doing what I love? What do I love? I fully realize I cannot replace my full time income writing a blog or running races, but I can use some of the skills that come naturally to me to find something that is more suited to my personality. I want need to get out of a cubicle, out of corporate America. I need to be active and pursue my dreams. But can you follow your dreams when you are not exactly sure what those dreams look like?

Now that I will have some free time on my hands, I am going to really focus on getting that personal training certification that I have been yapping about for so long. I am not even sure that this is the path that I ultimately want to follow, but it is a step in the right direction. I don't know what life has in store for me next. It is both exciting and terrifying. With my 40th birthday just three months away, one might accuse me of having a midlife crisis. Suddenly my personal happiness is more important than money. If that is my crisis, I'm OK with it.

So maybe Jim Carrey didn't make me quit my job, but his speech may have been the video that broke the camel's back.


p.s. One last thing and please know that I mean this in the nicest way possible. I am just trying to head off what I suspect could be coming next after a post like this one. Please do not read this blog post and see it as an opportunity to invite me to join your sales network. I am not interested in selling wraps or shakes. I realize that some people have success in these things and I wish you prosperity with it, but it is not for me at this time. Thank you for understanding.

Have you ever quit your job without another one lined up? Do you have any life advice or encouragement for me? Or am I crazy and irresponsible?

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Keep Running,

Lea

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