Hard leads to soft.

I went for a five-mile run around Gray's Lake yesterday, mostly because I had spent the majority of the day thus far watching House of Cards.

During the first season, I mostly felt shocked by Frank's "how low will he go" bad behavior, and Claire seemed like his perfect, smart trophy wife who ran her own version of manipulation behind the scenes. All true.

This time around, even though the politics are ridiculous and many reviewers are calling it the worst season ever of the show, I am loving the character development of Frank and Claire. I mean, how is it possible to have even an ounce of compassion for Frank? And yet, I had moments of feeling . . . sorry for him. (I know.) I remain incredibly intrigued by Claire, and I think her storyline is almost more important than anyone else on the show right now. Robin Wright is such an amazing actress, and nails the role of Claire perfectly: the icy good looks, the lack of a smile, the warm candor that turns on like a lightswitch.

Not to mention the fact that girlfriend's got an awesome wardrobe, one I like even a bit more than Olivia Pope's; they both aim for the structured, classic look with plenty of pastels and pencil skirts, but there's a difference. In Scandal, Olivia confidently dresses the way she prefers, the way that showcases her beauty as a mark of competence. By contrast, Claire plays a role -- the beautiful First Lady with impeccable taste and great shoes, to be sure -- and it's one that seems removed from her real self.

Within a single episode, Claire can be warm, friendly, inviting -- and then all of a sudden sharp, restrained, dignified. She goes from hard to soft in an instant. There's one scene about midway through the season wherein she stands and gazes offscreen while Frank and another president negotiate in the background. The two men are a blur, but the camera lingers on Claire for almost a full minute, as she stands with crystal clear blue eyes full of loss and grief and anger and steely determination. 


I also went for a run yesterday because my sister and I are participating in a Ragnar relay in Park City, Utah this June. Know what a Ragnar race is? I didn't, either. It's basically a long, intense relay in various locations throughout the U.S. where you run a collective 200 miles as part of a team over the course of 24 hours.

200 miles? Overnight? Why the hell am I doing this?

Look at that view!

Also, I don't know, ha.  I am 100% a fair-weather runner, but my sister asked and I thought, why not!? Lately I am all about traveling and new experiences and saying yes to new things, so it should be an interesting experience.

I definitely need to get new running shoes, because for this race, I'll be running 16 miles total, split across three different portions. My training plan starts later this month, and though I went on a lovely 4-mile run last weekend in LA (looking at all the crazy homes in Beverly Hills, to boot), I haven't really ran since like, Christmas. And I don't want to injure myself. And I hear there is elevation, so . . . we will see how this goes.

And finally, the sunshine and 55 degrees meant I felt morally obligated to get outside. 

My feet pounded the pavement, earbuds ringing with melodies, and every time I passed a fellow walker or runner, we exchanged a smile. Because we all live in the Midwest, which means we are part of a special club. The "we've made it through winter, thank God!" club. The "if it's 40 degrees out, socks are optional!" club. The "SPRING IS HERE!!!!!!!!!!!" club.

Being in this club is one of my favorite parts of living in Iowa, of living through four complete seasons of weather. As often as I think about moving to California or anyplace with year-run sun, part of me enjoys experiencing each spring, fall, winter and summer to the fullest, over and over over, since it reflects the cycle of life as a whole. The moment I get sick of a season, we're on the brink of another, and I am reminded that not everything lasts forever.

Yes, winters always feel incredibly long and cold and quiet. That's why on a 55-degree day in March people spring out their doors with no jacket for the feeling of sunshine on their face and the sound of birds chirping.

Because we know what it's like to go outside in the dead of winter, look up at a black sky gleaming with stars, and revel in the eerie quietness while gazing at drifts of pure, white snow.

I do like winter; it can be beautiful, and the holidays make it special. But the dark and cold wear you down, leaving you desperate for the newness of spring, when everything can change and be made different again. Spring brings forth enticing possibility, and the promise of hot, lazy summer days with calmer schedules and late sunsets and cold beers outside in plush grass.

Running five miles yesterday felt extremely hard and slow, just like winter crept along in a challenging way. But as the ice of the lake melted, and the bright blue sky beamed down, I remembered that it will get easier, because "Hard leads to soft."

Just how winter finally, always, does transition to spring, all hard things soften with time.