Barbeque and Business

I hosted a barbeque yesterday afternoon at our house. Well, I was the official host–but luckily, I have awesome roommates that helped get it all together, keep it running, as well as cleaning up. It was an Oprah-themed barbeque (of course), so it was both funny and scary to see pictures of Oprah everywhere (not to mention the too tall, stuffed Oprah mannequin that looked more like a scary drag queen than the queen of daytime TV). The BEST part was the planes flying overhead that were making “O”s in the sky–not even kidding…they must’ve been practicing their circles or something–but I like to think it was God or Oprah making that happen for our barbeque.

We had about 12 or so people over. I remember back in the day when the whole point of the party was to get AS MANY people as you could to come and THAT was the sign of a successful event. Slowly I realized, “Wait–I don’t like crowds, I don’t like loud environments…I don’t like annoying strangers.” Now my favorite events are smaller ones where you can have actual conversations & don’t have to be manning the grill the whole time, making sure everyone is always fed. I had been in a bummer of a mood for the past couple of days, so I was super happy to see my friends come over & just be their funny selves. I don’t even remember speaking much, I just know I was laughing pretty much through the whole evening. It was going from about 4-9, which left me exhausted by the end of the evening, but in a good way.

As a kid, we would have family barbeques in Midland & invite cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc–out by our pool. Of course I don’t remember the details, I just remember the feeling of being very safe & surrounded by love. It sounds incredibly corny–to have a feeling because of the smell of food cooking on the grill, and being outdoors, and the sound of people laughing. I just love the reminder to not take things too seriously and to enjoy the people in your life. And to be able to find a home away from my Texas home, I feel like such a lucky girl. To see friends I’ve known for 15 years, 10 years, 4 years, and new folks, too–all be in one space & all making each other laugh–and to be eating an awesome turkey burger (I’ll give you the recipe–google Oprah’s favorite turkey burger)–nothing better. There are many moments, being away from your home & your family & your history, you can feel kind of isolated in your day-to-day life, so I cherish these moment. They both remind me of home and of the fact that I have a home in L.A. now (with lemon/lime trees, no less!). Thank you, barbeque! Thank you, Oprah! I miss you already!!!

And now to the business part. I haven’t updated on here recently, but my new business is in full swing beginning stages. It is literally a dream come true. I have never been one who just had a job for the sake of having a job. I’ve always felt the need to create, challenge, find my passion in my career–and that each step is a step leading to something greater than I’ve done before (OK, maybe not that time I delivered frozen meals to rich people, but really–that was so I could afford to teach kids drama!). I’ve talked on here before about how I always leaned towards the business world as I kid. I sold stuff my mom bought me back TO MY MOM (Mom, who was the smart one there?) I had the lemonade stand, but I wasn’t content with it lasting for 1 afternoon–I made a 3 day business affair out of it (until I could afford that New Kids on the Block t-shirt). Why I went into the world of drama, I’m not sure–I guess because those theatre people seemed weird & I liked weird people–and felt weird myself. I liked the creative aspect of telling stories. But I never felt right as an actor (always thought it was a little silly–me on a stage), and I love teaching–but there’s something missing. I’ve really landed on what it is I do at work–all I really try to do is bring kids’ ideas to life–a “producer” of sorts–trying to do all I can to make it happen (often financing it by myself!), not because I want them to create amazing art, but because I want them to feel validated & like their ideas in fact, do matter. Because I believe it’s their belief in their ideas that will make them AMAZING at life–whether they are doctors or actors or writers or business people.

And then the other day, I thought–wait, I’m doing the same thing for myself right now. I had these experiences that led me to this business idea, and I’m actually taking the time & putting in the work to make it happen. Bringing my idea to life, and I’ve booked some gigs & I can’t even believe it. Something has never come together quite so easily for me, which to me, means it has incredible potential. I’ve haven’t felt so invigorated, challenged, excited & scared in a long time, and it feels amazing. I have no idea where it’s going, but I finally feel all of these different parts of myself coming together (as well as amazing support of friends and family). I’m so used to chasing linear goals (mostly in the form of degrees) that this is strange–I don’t know the outcome, or the steps to get there–just following my instincts on this one (combined with outside advice–but mostly MY instincts) & having faith–knowing that even if it’s a failure, it’s teaching me so much.

From the outside, it looks like a little side-business. For me, though, it came at just the right time–I’ve been in a fairly secure job for several years & security is nice, but it can make you level off in certain ways–because I’m not really “scared” by teaching anymore, it doesn’t hold the same challenge anymore. I still learn, but not in the scary “this might be a huge failure” kind of way. I love those kind of challenges. It’s like my first triathlon–which was also my first ocean swim ever. You have no idea what’s going to happen. You don’t THINK you’re going to drown, but the idea of sharks and waves scare you to death. Those are the kind of thrills I seek.

I wear my Grandmother’s ring on tough days, on scary days, on days where I need a little more support than normal. I’ve been wearing it a lot lately, and strangely enough–when Oprah had her last show on, I watched it and couldn’t stop thinking about Grandmother. It’s a strange connection to make, but I see Oprah as this amazing listener–who really connects to the viewer & makes it seem like she’s just talking to THEM…and this was my Grandmother. Oprah talked on her last day about people wanting to be validated–in the 30,000 people she’s talked to (I’m not good with numbers, but let’s go with that), everyone just wanted to be heard, to know that what they say matters. And I thought of Grandmother–us both sitting at her kitchen table, eating something simple–a hotdog from Weinerschnitzel or banana nut bread–microwaved with a bit of butter–for breakfast. And I would just talk. And talk. (what was I even saying–as an 11 yr old, as a 17 yr old, as a 25 yr old…who knows???) And she listened–she saw me and made me feel like what I said mattered. She did that for everyone, not just me. I hope that this is the kind of person I can be one day (my parents are also great at this, so I’ve had many good examples in my life)–as a friend, as a boss, as a girlfriend (who knows, even one day a wife! or a mother!…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here), as a teacher. Is it a little nutty to watch Oprah everyday & have a BBQ in her honor—yes! But she is, to me, one of the great listeners, which feels like one of the great lessons I’m still working on learning–one that will come in handy as I continue to cultivate friendships out here in L.A. and as I build my business.

So to Oprah BBQs and new business ventures! Happy Memorial Day (thinking of my dear Papa Tom on this day, I miss him so!).

Race Report: Orange County Triathlon, International Distance 2011

Last Sunday I raced my first international distance of the season (also known as “olympic” distance), and it was a blast (among other things). I’m really not competitive at this distance, and I don’t know that I ever will be. First off, hardcore triathlete ladies do this distance. Usually I can at least beat the newbies on mountain bikes and beach cruisers at the “sprint” races. These–if I finish in the top half, I’m happy. There were pros racing this thing! Distances: 1.5k swimming (.9miles), 40k bike (24.9miles), 10k run (6.2miles).

I will take you through my race thoughts again, so you can relive the magic on the course.

Pre-race: I make it to the course & see a park kind of far away with ample parking. I think, “I’ll park there. No crowds.” Only as I was unpacking the bike did I realize my bike would actually be in a different place at the end of the race, & I would have to WALK miles back to my car in order to drive and get it. OH WELL.

I usually pack my bike in the trunk, which means I need to remove the front wheel, so I always double check to make sure all is good after I put it on. I forgot to check the back wheel, though. So I start heading to the race course on the bike, put on my breaks just a teeny bit during a downhill & my bike comes to a scratching halt & I can smell rubber burning–I saved myself from a fall (thank goodness), & luckily my tire was OK, too. Turns out my back wheel must have moved around during the trip & wasn’t properly on the bike. Good morning for a race!

Swim: The lake is really pretty and really calm. It’s completely narrow, so the course goes out really far, and then you come all the way back again. My wave lines up & I’m not at all in the mood to push things (given that my swim practice has been less than stellar, I’m not sure I can handle the distance at all–much less at a fast pace). So I watch everyone run and jump in & just watch some more. I’m so bad at racing sometimes, mostly because I hate crowds. Finally I get in the water & start moving at a nice slow pace. I’m pretty convinced I’m not even on the race course anymore because no one is hitting my feet or my face. But I take a minute to look around & readjust my goggles (note to self, buy new goggles that don’t require a dozen readjustments during race) & I see some people & the buoys up ahead– so all is good. I’ve never been so calm during a swim. I guess this is improvement. I’m not flailing around, doing the backstroke, worrying about seaweed, having panic attacks. But I’m also pretty slow. Towards the end, the waves of men behind me were catching up and running over me, which finally motivated me to pick up the pace. But as I finished, I walked out of the water about as slowly as I went in, as if I were in a daze (this is proven by the incredibly unattractive race photo taken at that very moment). That’s just too much time in dark, dreary lake water for me.

Transition 1: Wetsuit comes off pretty fast (I’m always so impressed with my wetsuit skills), but I notice the gels I tape to my bike are already falling off. I rip them off, put them in the back of my race shirt & I’m on the bike.

Bike: I studied the course beforehand (super smart idea), & so I knew that mile 1-5 was uphill…and then I promptly forgot all the other elevations. All I could remember was “there is another hill later on, but the last 4 miles is downhill.” These are the lonnnnng inclines I never practice on, but I’m not terrible at them. I have one hill near home that I’ve been hitting pretty regularly. It is terrible. Even if I start going up it like a maniac, slow motion hits me pretty soon & I’m barely upright. Well, luckily, none of the hills were that bad & it was so fun during the downhills–I really tried to keep the speed up and gain some time on those. I was still not going so fast that I didn’t think, “Kristy enjoy the scenery! Look over there at the cows! I mean, horses! Wait, I think cows!” I’m not at my best mentally during these races. But then the odor hit me. Cow. or Horse. Something that smelled horrible. We turned off near the turn around (it was an out and back kind of course) & got to ride on a cool bike trail for a bit–then it felt like you were really in the country & was pretty cool. Coming out of that, I hit the second major uphill portion of the course–and right before I reach one of the summits, my chain drops & I just start spinning. Yikes. Luckily, I clip out of my pedals & don’t just fall down the hill. And I actually know my bike well enough to put the chain back on (you think this is basic, but you should’ve seen me in Vegas a couple of years ago…clueless). I lose a minute or two, but it’s better than getting a flat! At this point, my energy starts failing me & I start to distract myself in order to make it up the hills. I try to say the alphabet, but for some reason–all I keep saying is that LMNOP (ellemeno p) part–over and over again. I then start counting to 10 over and over again–and then sure enough, it’s downhill! Wwwweeeeeee. And we’re done! I feel much better about the bike than I thought I would.

Transition 2: This race is different than most in that we had to pre-set our running gear the day before for this transition (most races all gear is in one spot & you go back and forth). They said to bring bright towels, bandanas, chalk, etc to mark where your stuff was–but instead I just put my shoes and hat in a grocery sack & set it next to a bright orange cone that was there. I AM A GENIUS! This cone is the brightest thing out here! No way I can miss this! Until the moment on race day when I actually make it to the area–there is no cone to be found (I guess they removed it), and I have NO IDEA where my bag is (among hundreds of other bags). I just keep running back and forth, trying to remember spacing–but really having no idea. I end up just putting my bike away somewhere & continue looking. Finally, I see it–but am hyperventilating from the stress and frustration of it all. Not a great way to start the run!

Run: The run was almost completely trail, which is good and bad. Good because it’s pretty & is always changing & dirt roads are softer–bad because it’s nonstop ridiculous hills. The first couple of miles weren’t at all bad, so at this point I was pretty optimistic about my time. I thought, “Oh cool. Let’s start slow and steady & pick it up every 20 minutes.” Unfortunately, after that first 20 minutes, nothin but hills. No one was running the steep ones –there was no point–you could literally walk them faster. Towards the last couple of hills, my quads were not happy with me. In good news, plenty of volunteers and water stations. In bad news, half of the crowd was shouting nonsense advice and words of wisdom about the race course. Never, ever listen to the crowd, especially when they say the following:
“You’re almost through!”
“Just make it around this corner, and it’s downhill from here!”
“This is the LAST hill!”
“1.8 miles to go!”
“Your stride looks great!”
“400 meters to go and IT’S ALL DOWNHILL!”
I of course believe everyone, even though I should’ve learned my lesson by now. But I always answer them back like I’m not really sure I believe them, “REally??? It’s all downhill?!?”–hoping that they will just be honest and say “Well, we don’t actually know that, but we thought it would make you go faster” or “yes, I mapped the course elevation last night & turns out–it IS in fact all downhill.” Only minutes later, when I see another looming hill, does the bitterness begin to boil. How dare they lie to me!!! And the 1.8 miles–it seemed so exact, who just shouts out a time like that without knowing??? The 400 meters to go–I decided to trust him because he was wearing an official race shirt & he was pretty close to right on…thank goodness, because I sprinted the last couple of minutes imagining I just had to do one lap around the track…anymore, and I would’ve been walking.

The great thing about knowing you didn’t medal (but still finishing 3:09, I’m getting faster!) is that you don’t have to stick around for the post-race boredom. I grabbed a banana, yogurt, and water & started the long trek back to my car (and then drove to get my bike). I felt really really great. It wasn’t an easy course, but there’s such a satisfaction to finishing it. It was a really pretty, hilly course, and those are sometimes more fun than the flat fast ones. Don’t get me wrong–I’ve made sure my next triathlon is both flat and fast. It’s good for the ego! Since I’m racing less this season, I did find a local Culver City 5k to do in a few weeks. My running is really getting going again, so I’m eager to speed up those run times! It turns out I won’t be able to make the trip to Nationals–got to do a work event instead (which I’m totally happy about, so it’s OK), so just going to keep qualifying with other races so that someday I’ll make the trip! It does mean I can mix up my races a bit this season, so I’m still figuring out which direction I want to go. Short and fast–or getting better at longer distance? My heart is saying short and fast–I’ve just loved really hard, fast, short workouts these days. Anyways, second race of the season & it was a fun one!

In case you haven’t heard, The Oprah Show is ending.

I secretly wish The Oprah Show coming to an end was a little bit LESS of an event. I will watch next Monday and Tuesday as tens of thousands of people gather in a STADIUM to celebrate, but what I’m really curious about is Wednesday’s show–the final one–the one they claim they haven’t even planned. Yes, famous people love Oprah, but that’s not why I love Oprah. I have grown tired of the last few minutes of the Oprah show lately–celebrities going on and on about Oprah. Do I care how Jennifer Aniston feels about Oprah ending? Not one bit.

I have unabashedly loved Oprah since I was about 13yrs old. This is way too young to be watching a show like this. I would come home from school, sit in our kitchen with the “mini” tv, eat a granola bar & watch Oprah. I can’t say that I’ve watched every day since, but I do remember recording it on my VHS tapes (imagine=a life without DVR!). There is absolutely nothing like her on TV. Who can get away with having a BOOK CLUB meeting on air? Oprah is a complete nerd, and I love her for it!

Oprah calls herself a teacher, and she is most definitely a great one. She introduced me to Bob Greene–who wrote about healthy eating/exercise. I wasn’t connecting that eating 3 tacos at Taco Bell daily & slurping it down with a Dr. Pepper was NOT good for me. But his book helped transform me into someone with some knowledge about how to take care of myself. I started walking after I read his book, and then running, and now RACING!

She introduced me to Marianne Williamson, who writes so eloquently about living a spiritual, loving, forgiving kind of life. While everything she writes/says doesn’t resonate with me, I have never felt so in tune with someone’s writing about life before–like finally I was reading something that made sense–that allowed me to see a greater perspective and to appreciate the love in my life (in all forms).

I had a gratitude journal by the time I was in college, thanks to Oprah also having a gratitude journal. While other people were doing tequila shots at spring break, I was (well, I was also doing that, but also) diligent in thinking of 5 things to be thankful for each day.

I read before I watched Oprah, but I also admit to buying all her book club books as well (though of course tried to rip the sticker off, so I wouldn’t be taunted by friends). I’ve never been part of a real book club, so I enjoyed watching the conversations on TV. Not all of them were favorites, but I remember reading Wally Lamb & not being able to get enough (please write more novels soon).

But mostly, I’ve been so touched by the stories being told on the show. Hearing other people’s stories is always such a great lesson. It allows you to open your mind, to lower your guard, to think about things in a new way. It’s no different than a great documentary. And Oprah is incredibly talented in bringing this TRUTH out in people. She gets right down to the point. You see amazing trials that people go through & yet their ability to get through them with grace and courage, and –for the 20 or so years that Oprah has been a part of my day–it continues to touch me & hopefully change me for the better.

Of course you can’t become this BIG (I’m not talking literally, folks) and not become a character of sorts, and I embrace that side of her, too–her ridiculousness, her trips to Australia, her road trips with Gayle, etc–the goofiness of it all. The over-the-topness of it. Heck, I’m having a Goodbye Oprah BBQ to celebrate the ridiculous!

But the truth is, I’m very sad about it ending. I will be a mess on Wednesday when the show ends. It’s like a great teacher that you’re moving on from (a teacher you’ve had for 20 years). Who will be there to inspire you on a daily basis? To make you see things in a new way? If she looks into the camera and starts talking to ME & crying, you can bet I’ll be clumped into a ball & weeping. I can’t take it Oprah!!! I don’t care if you have your OWN network. IT’s not the same!!!

I know it’s silly to be touched so deeply by a TV show. But like any kind of entertainment/art that has inspired me, this is no different. I know I would not be the person I am today without the show (and I can’t say that about Felicity, although man–did I LOVE that show). And as a person, to see where she came from and where she is now–it’s incredible. Some people talk about how scary Oprah because of the “power” she yields. It’s so ridiculous that someone who preaches love, acceptance, being oneself, giving back, etc–is the one we should fear. I think it’s one of the greatest examples of how power can be utilized in positive ways.

I watched her show yesterday about a mother dying of cancer who created hundreds of videos for her daughter to watch after she passed away. It was amazing to see this woman speaking about how grateful she was to have the time that she had on earth–how lucky she was to have her family and friends and all the love, and it was all very typical for an Oprah show. It makes you stop complaining for an instant about the things that were tough for you that day. You see how amazingly strong and graceful someone can be as they are on the way out of the world and probably feeling incredible pain, and again, it changes your perspective. Is it a little sentimental?–of course, it’s Oprah! But you won’t find this stuff on any old T.V. show. Oprah, her producers, her team–they’re brilliant at what they do, and Wednesday is going to be no fun for all the fans out there who feel the same way.

Oh, and yes, of course I’ll be watching the OWN network. Are you kidding?