Merry Post X-Mas to You and Yours and Mostly Me

Well, it’s the day after X-mas, and luckily, my vacation is only halfway over.  I don’t get to see ALL the family every Christmas these days (too many of us, too spread out), but I was totally excited to spend Christmas with my brothers, nephew, niece, and parents–and today a visit from more aunts, uncles, cousins & Grandma.  It is all in winding down phase now, but I’m happy to spend several more days in Texas seeing a few more people & getting a little ranch time in.  I’m happy to return to L.A. to celebrate the New Year, although I have no idea where that will be or what I’ll be doing.

I’m also kind of nervous about the future because I can feel myself wanting to make bold moves and SOON.  There is something about security that is cute for awhile, but I’m so drawn to risks, challenges, climbing mountains– being still doesn’t suit me.  I recently finished an amazing read–Born to Run (which I highly recommend).  It got at the pure joy of running & in turn, the way it helps you to pursue the joy in life.  I can’t tell you enough how running has really helped me engage in life–with nature, with people, with myself, with my spiritual side.  And I’m not all uber-hippy or touchy-feely or anything–so it was great reading a book about people who felt the same way I did about running & didn’t seem too crazy.  Or they did sound  crazy, but really, more sane then whatever our “normal” life is supposed to look like these days (spending 8 hours in front of a computer, cell phone, texting, facebooking, hurrying, stressing).  It’s not that I run and make conscious big LIFE decisions while I’m running.  I’m much more in touch with my best self when I’m on a good run, though, and sometimes the same phrases keep popping up in my head run after run:  Forward motion.  Getting unstuck.

The weird thing is, propelling yourself forward into the unknown never seems to get less scary.  In fact, it used to seem much easier.  I could say “I’m young, I’ll be all responsible and boring when I’m older,” but now I’m older & so scared that my unwillingness to settle into a life will come back to haunt me in the end.

I can’t be a complainer.  I really hate to complain.  I hate the way it sounds coming out of my mouth.  I don’t even like writing this right now–I want to write it when the changes are made, when words are spoken, when dreams are being pursued.  Right now I’m sitting scared, but clinging to some kind of a faith that no matter what the next step is–it will only make me more of who I am.

It makes me sad, though, because sometimes pursuing something new means you have to leave things behind.  This is much easier when you already have something solid to jump into–when you won’t have time to mourn or think or remember or sentimentalize.  But one of the reasons I’m being so vague (the main reason is of course because I’m sort of private and this is the internet, and probably only my mom is reading this right now–but I really have no idea) is because this time it feels very vague–not just one area of my life but all areas of my life.  I know it will mean some quiet time ahead, time when I may rethink decisions, when I regret my actions, when I long for things to be like they were back when.

I had an end (well, I can never say ‘end’—that sounds dramatic) to a close friendship recently.  Well, more complicated than just a “friendship,” but the end came on suddenly and without warning–but not really.  I overreacted to something, but sometimes an overreaction feels like just a delayed reaction– I should’ve reacted like this a million years ago–but I didn’t and am now making up for it.  But of course the other person doesn’t know this, so they are shocked & deservedly so.  But what is there to repair of something that was never very healthy to begin with?  That’s the thing.  In some areas of my life, I need to go back to square one and do things differently next time.  And maybe I’ll never get that second (or third or fourth) shot with someone in my past, so what else is there to do but look ahead?  There is nothing but love for everyone that has ever been a part of my life, and all I can hope is that they know that to be the truth.

So things ending, ending, ending with a New Year totally beginning & I end this entry the way I began it–with reference to my family, who serves as my constant source of love and support through every move I make–who made a wall of medals honoring my races, who make me homemade meals every minute of everyday I’m home, who make me stronger and more comfortable in my own shoes so that I can go out and face the world willing to follow my heart.  They have made it another Christmas to remember.  I went to see Alvin and the Chipmunks–just me and my 5yr old nephew–tonight.  He is adorable defined.  There was one preview that seemed a bit dark in tone, and he kept both hands hovering right above his eyes–so if it was ever too much to take, he could hide behind his hands.  I glanced around, and no one else seemed to be doing this–but everyone else was kind of slouched in their seats, eating candy & impatiently waiting for the real movie to start.  Not my nephew, though–even though he was borderline scared, his eyes were huge & totally locked on the screen.  He may have been fearful, but he was totally invested & engaged & entertained.  This is how I want to be!  Merrrrry X-mas!

Day After Holiday Party and Working with Kids

Yes, it was our new home’s first big party!  Hooray!  I LOVE house parties, way more than bars, clubs, etc, etc.  I love the coziness of them, and a holiday party is my second favorite (I really love those summer bashes with BBQ & margaritas).  I have the best roommates ever.  We all pitched in, which made it really easy to host.  We had great lighting outside & the rain let up for a little while–so people could enjoy the fire pit and swing.  We have a big space in our garage, so we lifted up the door–I got a keg–and we played some beer pong (as well as “flip cup”–a relay game I was unaware of, but mostly enjoy due to the “chants” that occur before you start).  This was great mostly because I was fairly decent at the game.  I’m competitive, in case you haven’t noticed.

Indoors, the food and drink was also a success.  Amy made her Dad’s crazy good chili, and I baked and iced some sugar cookies–along with the traditional nuts, chips, dips, etc.  Mostly, though, I was just happy to see several of my friends together in one place (it doesn’t happen much in L.A…lots of little circles of friends).  I am SO lucky to find a second family of people out here on the West Coast.  I find myself giggling around them most of the time, which is exactly what I do with my actual family.  It of course helps that at least 10 of the guests are from Texas, including all of my roommates.  My favorite is when people I adore & am constantly entertained by meet one another & get along well.  This also allows me to sneak into my bedroom while the party is still happening & go to bed (without saying a word to anyone).  They’ve got this without me!  Goodnight!

So, I’m headed to Texas next Friday, and I am sooooo excited to be home.  The end of the school semester always comes with lots of loose ends to attempt to tie up–videos to edit, costumes to finalize, dvds to burn…so this week will be mad busy–but when it’s done, it’s done–and I have 2 weeks off!  It’s actually my favorite time to work with the students because they get to show off some of the stuff they’ve been working on for weeks.  When I’m in the moment of teaching, I don’t think much other than focusing on the production, making sure the kids are engaged, getting it done.  But I had one student that came up to me on Thursday…we’re doing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and she is playing an Oompa Loompa (and also is the costumes person).  These are 4th graders we’re talking about—young.  She is completely sweet–and comes up to me & says, “I don’t want to be an Oompa Loompa anymore.”  We’re in the final stretch here, so I’m like, “well, what do you want to do?  Just costumes?”  “No, I want to be Veruca Salt.”  Me, “Umm, but we already have a Veruca.”  Student replies, “Can she have a sister?”  Ahhhhhhh, I LOVE it!  I LOVE that I can say “Yes, that’s a great idea, but make sure it’s ok with Veruca.”  The next day she comes up to me: “Veruca says it’s ok!  I can be her sister!!!  Me and my mom were thinking about names….maybe Veronica or Vela?”  I love this about teaching theatre–it means more to some of these kids than I even think to realize.  They take it totally seriously, and so do I–even though I know it’s a 4th grade performance…I invest in it completely & sometimes, I get to see the ways in which it pays off.  The production enters a conversation at a dinner table between a mom and daughter.  The students have such pride in what they do, and it makes me proud.  It reminds me of when I was a kid & my creative/performance desires were completely serious to me (my brother and cousin can tell you all about it…), and as silly as it sounds, as cheesy as it is–I see myself in these kids & I do all I can to make their ideas come to life.  The kids ideas are valued, & they start to value themselves more…not in huge ways, but in ways that become huge as they grow up.  This is why I love working with kids.  I don’t think I’m particularly talented when it comes to putting on a show, but I do know how to listen.  They are creative problem-solvers, which is the key to a better future for our country & our planet.  Sure, it’s about reading, writing, math, science, but it’s about more than that.  Theatre allows for the kids to become a community working towards a common goal, one in which problems arise & they must come up with solutions that work for the group.  In our case, that means we will have two Veruca Salts, both of whom will have the joy of being attacked by miniature squirrels in front of an audience of proud parents next week!

OK, that’s enough for this Saturday…already afternoon & it’s still pouring down rain (we’ve NEEDED it for so long)!  Have a great weekend.

End of Year/Holidays/New Year

It’s one of my favorite times of year (besides the months of May-August, oh those long summer days…).  I welcome the holiday cheer for one month out of the year (about as much as I can stand).  I’m a fan of all things holiday decor, and I’m really excited to actually have a home this year to decorate.  You don’t want to see my sad decorating that occurred in the studio apartment.  It was a sad metal tree with one ornament: a picture of Nancy and Ronald Reagan from my museum visit.  My roomie Amy is picking up our REAL TREE this afternoon, and I can’t wait to see it covered in lights.  I’m planning on doing some outdoor lighting as well.  And we’re hosting a holiday party next Friday, so I can indulge all my baking desires without having to eat all of it by myself.  Mostly, though, I love that I have a good week and 1/2 to spend in Texas visiting family & immersed in holiday warmth without a bit of irony–but still with lots of laughs.

I also like a year end because I’m reflective like that & also forward-thinking (a NEW year, a NEW start).  Since I’ve been obsessed with triathlons the past 2 years, I’m really into future racing goals.  I realized I qualified for the USAT Age Group National Championship next August (my 1st place finish at Playa=woo hoo!), so I have something big to train for.   I’m also realizing that I need to know why I’m doing the workouts I’m doing & what is best for my body/performance.  Runner’s World used to be my only guide to any training plan I had.  Now I’ve attended workshops, read more books, found a great trainer, and listened to more professionals talk about why they do what they do.  Last year I spent some money on some one-on-one swim technique lessons that totally changed the way I swim (and feel about swimming).  I learned that there were different types of bike workouts & mixing it up really helped my performance (and my comfort level on the bike).  Working out in the gym has taught me how my muscle strength can improve running, swimming, and biking technique and speed.

So my training/racing goals for 2010–1) following a nutrition plan that’s suited specifically for endurance athletes.  This would be huge for me, because my current diet is pretty much “eh, eat 4-5 times a day, pretty much whatever you want, usually leaning towards healthy but very few veggies.”  And every typical “diet” I read doesn’t account for the 1-2 workouts a day I might do or the 3 hour run/rides on the weekends.  I can’t simply limit calories.  I don’t care about body fat, measurements, etc (well, I do because I know losing 5 pounds would make it a lot easier to bike up those hills!!)–mostly it’s about maintaining a certain level of energy throughout the day.  Eat to fuel.  I went to a great seminar a couple of months ago, so finally went to the guy’s website today and ordered “Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes”–a year round nutrition plan that fits my training schedule.  Definitely the most pretentious sounding nutrition book yet!  I will keep you updated on how this works for me.

Race Goal #2—I’m trying a new training plan for the L.A. Marathon this year.  I know I really haven’t reached my potential with that distance yet.  I like running it slow & having a good time…but can I at least make it under 4 hours?  Finished in like 4:07 for Vegas, so I’m pretty sure it’s a realistic goal.  9 min miles.  Anyway, i want to train for it without injury & without giving up my other sports–so I found a 3 day a week plan.  It’s tough, though, because those 3 runs don’t include my favorite “easy run”–today I’m headed to the gym for a really challenging speed workout.  I just hope I make the first mile split without flying off the treadmill.  But I love a plan, and I love that each workout is building something: endurance, speed, & putting them together.

I’m sure I’ll have more triathlon-ing goals when I start that training after the marathon is over (March 22), and I imagine that the main one will involve: hills+a bike+more milage.  I haven’t been on my bike or in the pool in over a month, and it’s been great to mentally take a break from all those workouts & just get out and run & do fun races.  But I’m soooo eager to jump into it again.

In non-racing news, what a year 2009!  I have to admit that spring was a rough time for me this past year– several things bringing me down at the same time (though not necessarily any different than typical struggles one faces any given year)…& my inability to deal with it in my usual (controlling) ways.  I know those times force me to make changes in my life that will hopefully make me a more grounded, fully-realized, humble person.  Easier said than done!  I don’t know quite how to describe myself in this world–only that I feel every nuance (which is GREAT when I’m running out in the mountains, or laughing with a good friend–not so great when it’s a more stressful time).  Soooo sensitive yet so guarded about that sensitivity (it’s the John Wayne in me).  But there’s nothing I love more than a triumph story, even if it’s a tiny personal one.  So yeah! for painful growing pains–now I’m almost like a real grown up.  Except I’m having a holiday party with a keg & beer pong.

All that to say I’m looking forward to 2010 with a more relaxed & more open attitude.  Have a great holiday!