Giving My Thanks: Top 5

It’s almost my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving! Here are a few things I’m thankful for this year, in no particular order. I skipped over the most important one–people!–duh, but you guys know that already. If you are taking the time to actually read this, I’m very thankful you are in my life.

1) Royal Norman Huxley the 2nd Million (Huxley): Also known as, “My little dude,” “My little man,” “Bobo,” “Bubba,” “Hux,” “Huxy,” etc. This puppy came into my life at the precise moment I needed him. He doesn’t know this, of course, but he has been THE highlight of my year. I feel like I’ve waited my whole life for the absolute perfect moment to have a dog. He was worth the wait. We have much in common. Like me, he doesn’t understand those people or dogs who “forget” to eat a meal. He is not the most cuddly dog, but when he does take a moment to put his head on your lap, you say thankyouthankyou silently and hope he doesn’t scamper off after a minute or two (which he always does). I appreciate his independence,energy and social nature. Once he gets a little older he’s going to be my #1 running buddy–which is awesome because he always sticks with my pace (unless there is a squirrel or a skateboarder, which means we are suddenly doing sprints). He has already brought so much to my life, I only hope I can give him the BEST LIFE EVER in the form of love, treats and outdoor adventures.

2) Hawaii: This has been a dream ever since I watched the Brady Bunch vacation there (minus that bad luck Tiki necklace). I’m terrified of flying & even googled “how to cure fear of flying over the ocean Hawaii” only to bring up a dozen articles of plane crashes over the ocean between LAX and Hawaii. But on the way over, this older grandfather type was next to me & spent at least 1/2 of the flight sharing with me every single secret hike, restaurant and sight to see. I was too busy taking notes to be too scared. The flight there and back was totally smooth. The island life is everything I expected. Although I love a good hike, beach and a beautiful sunset, what really took my breath away was the stargazing on top of Mauna Kea. So beautiful.

3) My Business Adventures: It’s the 5th Anniversary of Entertaining Adventure, my scavenger hunt business. This year I cut my teaching hours in order to focus on the business. Instead, I found myself teaching college classes, trying to take care of a puppy and basically doing everything BUT focusing on a business. Eventually, with some effort and patience and help–my business has exploded in the past month! I’m not sure if it’s a holiday thing, or if it’s a sign of the future or what, but I say THANK YOU!!! I can’t wait to see what happens next year.

4) A washer/dryer: I’ve had one to call my own for approximately 3 months, and it has substantially improved my moods. For some reason I can’t quite figure out, I am now ALWAYS doing laundry– it’s never done! Maybe because I can? Hauling loads of laundry (especially back in those potty training days for Hux) to the not-so-nearby laundry mat was my least favorite errand of the week. I would wait til every possible article of clothing was dirty before I went, which meant who knows what kind of outfits I was putting together? I ordered underwear on Amazon Fresh one time, instead of doing my laundry. It got bad. So thank you, washer and dryer…here’s to many more loads of laundry!

5) A Year Away From Racing: I love to swim, bike and run. I love the focus that comes from serious training. I love eating really big burritos after a hard workout. Of course I love the races themselves. When I’m doing these things, I feel like the best version of myself. I actually did do a few small races this year, but I really am thankful to be able to mostly step away for a season. In my 15+ years of working out consistently, the biggest thing I’ve learned is to listen to myself. I’m going to be going outdoors and moving for as long as my body can do it, so I don’t have to accomplish everything in one year. Next year I wanna do some triathlons, though. I’m missing them as I’m writing about not missing them!

I didn’t get too deep or sentimental this time around, hooray! I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. A special shout out to all my family–miss you, love you, hope to see you soon!

Starting Over: Training for a 5k

If I’ve forced you to keep up with this site through the years, you know a majority of my posts are about various races I’ve competed in. They are a huge motivating factor for me. Regardless of how little or how much I’m training–there is usually something on the horizon for me to compete in.

I used to find a race, run it, find another, repeat, etc, but since I started triathlon and learned there were “seasons,” I’ve thought about planning out these things a year in advance & being choosy about what I do. Have I mentioned how expensive these races are? I had to cut back!

My first race was a 10k in Austin in June of 1999. I had only been running for a couple of months and had probably never run that far, but I really enjoyed it. Right after that I held my own at the world famous Luling Watermelon Thump 5k (ok, maybe not WORLD famous, but I have the wooden watermelon plaque to prove my dominance that day). I loved the 5k distance. It is short enough to run almost all out, but you have to manage the pacing so that 7 yr olds aren’t passing you at the end. This happens to me at least 40% of the time.

For some reason, in the running world “challenge” is equated with “distance.” So over the years I ran longer races. I read charts that said with my 5k and 10k times, my 1/2 and full marathon times should be much faster. But they weren’t. I could never follow the training. I was never even doing half the training I was supposed to. Any excuse would derail that dreaded weekly long run. I *cough cough* have a cold. I was out late the night before. I had to be done by brunch, so I didn’t have time. You get the picture. I would search the internet for any research that would tell me why the long training run was not necessary. Or find a training plan telling me I only had to do a long run every OTHER weekend. I enjoyed running the marathons til after mile 16, and only then did I think “Oh guess I should’ve done that long run in training.”

Triathlons provided me with much needed moderation. I got to do a little bit of 3 different sports, which kept it fresh. I got a speedy bike and felt the ease of pedaling into a steady pace and going for hours. I took swimming lessons to work on my stroke, so even though I never gained much speed–at least I wasn’t floundering. I went to workouts with real triathletes who worried about their heart rates and swim speeds. My laundry doubled as I tried to manage all of the outfits and gear that go along with training for all these events. I had almost zero injuries. I didn’t work out enough in any one sport to “burn out.”

I added weight training at about the same time, which made me proud of big legs and big arms. I spent two hardcore nights a week at the gym. I was the annoying girl jumping over hurdles, doing Olympic lifts, & lunging all over the place–basically looking like a solo Crossfit class in a 24 Hour Fitness. But like anything, it grew old after awhile. The trainer was too expensive & all the heavy lifting was making my legs, glutes and shoulders sore for a few days out of every week. Also, I just hate the gym. My membership is SO CHEAP that I can’t give it up, but I hate being indoors for a workout. Or if I’m indoors, I want to be at home.

I began to grow frustrated that I was spending so much time doing different stuff, and I wasn’t mastering any of it. Story of my life! Last year I biked, lifted occasional weights & ran two slow and steady marathons. Marathons are so much fun because of the fan-fare & the epic factor & that burger and beer you engulf when it’s over. But I was tired of slugging along.

This past spring, I felt sick for 2 months, got a puppy, my work schedule kept changing & my workouts were basically the last thing on the list. Some days all I could do was make sure the dog got a walk. I wondered if all my muscles were shrinking as I sat on the couch and watched another Real Housewives episode. I tried to remember back when running was the only thing I did to stay fit. I would go out for 60 minutes 5 days a week like clock work. I could run slow and long or short and fast. I remember trying to PR for my 5ks & never getting under 22 minutes. I really really wanted to.

When things started to return to normal this summer, every run felt like a struggle. I loved it, but it was like starting over. I left the pace watch at home & just ran for time. I tried my best not to judge and instead congratulate myself for getting out there. I competed in a duathlon and had lots of fun, but I still had this urge to RUN FAST.

So over the weekend, I searched and found 2 dozen 5ks happening in Southern California next month. The beauty of 5ks is that they are everywhere! Small ones, large ones, cheap ones, flat ones, hilly ones, etc. I found one that claimed MacGyver was going to be there in person, and this sounded like the race for me. Also, you get a free pair of socks.

I quickly found a 4 week 5k training plan for intermediates & started it this week. I have only done 2 of the speed workouts, but it turns out–I can still run fast! And it is so much fun! I pump up my inspirational music & go out way too fast, but it feels good. I don’t really play air guitar, but I have mastered doing the “air egg shaker” when my songs come on. It’s still hot here, so it reminds me of those late evening summer runs back when I first started so long ago. I come home sweaty and feeling like I really did something out there.

I want nothing more than a whole year of 5ks, culminating in some amazing PR that even I thought impossible (it will happen a year from now, and MacGyver will put the medal around my neck). I still believe in moderation. I have a home gym now–with a mat, a bench, and some free weights and although the workouts are much less intense looking (yesterday I did squats while watching and SINGING to Into the Woods), turns out my legs and arms are STILL big. I moved into a place with a pool, but I enjoy skipping the laps in favor of just sort of floating around. My bike is hanging up next to me in my office, looking SO SAD–but it will eventually make it into one of those cross-training days.

To all of you who attempt to infuse working out into your days, I feel all of your frustration, guilt and lack of motivation when you can’t do everything you wanted or hoped for. Maybe your body isn’t feeling it. Maybe you are sick or exhausted. Maybe your time and energy has been sucked away by the rest of life, and the workout will have to wait for another day. When this happens to me, I do what I can and wait patiently for the motivation to return. It always does. I was going through workouts spending every minute planning what I would do as soon as I finished. I mostly thought about what was for dinner or if there was a shortcut that would make the workout any shorter. These are not FUN workouts. Today, though, I did a fast run–doing 4 min fast/2 min slow over and over & for once, I had no time to think about what would happen after the workout was done. These are the kind of workouts that really clear the mind & help me remember why I love to do this. I was on such a “runner’s high” I had to write all of this!

How to Medal at Any Race

I’ve been away from racing since the NYC Marathon this past November. I have some great and some not-so-great excuses for why I left the training behind for awhile, but I won’t bore you with those. I was SO ready to get back to the racing, though, so I chose an event at Goleta Beach (Santa Barbara). I chose a duathlon event–instead of SWIM/BIKE/RUN, you RUN/BIKE/RUN. I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to train for the swim, so I stuck to my two favorite events instead.

If you want to medal, compete in duathlon events at a medium-sized race. It’s apparently not as popular as I imagined, so even though I misjudged the length of the event (I thought I was going to be running 1 mile/biking 11/running 1 mile–it was more than double that) & was not at all ready for the distance–I got 4th place overall female! 2nd in my division, though let me mention that first place was a PRO. She was literally a PRO for Team USA. I’m just going to keep saying “I was second to a USA PRO.” I will not mention the fact that there were only 2 people in our division. I got to stand on the podium and everything! Looking at her in her USA jacket, I was thinking, “Is this the Olympics? I would’ve french-braided my hair or something if I had known.” The most hilarious thing is that there is no third. If you were there, you could’ve been third. At least make it look like it was a real race.

The real thrill is just getting back out there. The bike route was amazing–all bike trails the whole 22 miles. I love going fast on my bike. The run was less than thrilling (multiple loops are always hard on me mentally), and you can’t fake being well-trained for a run. The heat got to me, as did the volunteer who kept shouting at us, “How many more loops do you have? See you again soon!!!” I usually can finish with a sprint, but I did not have it in me this time. This is what training is for!

They provided us with burgers and hot dogs after the race, which is always a big PLUS for me. Anytime you have a chance to do a race with this kind of “small town” feel, I highly recommend it. The race director kept on joking that if you stick around for the award ceremony, you will most likely get a medal. He even sent out an email after the race that any first-timers could email him if they wanted to have a medal. This guy is just giving these things away!

Oh, and let me give a big shout out to this event–the DUATHLON is amazing. Truth is, I don’t really love swimming in the ocean or in lakes. It is really dark and murky most of the time, and half the time I spend in panic or in exhaustion. I can DO IT, but it is by far my least favorite part of the day. It’s nice to give myself a break from the nerves, the stress, and the people kicking me during the race. I’m happy that more triathlons are offering this option, so I can plan a whole season around it. I already found my next one in September.

Happy Birthday Me!

Why not a birthday post? I also changed the look of the site in honor of my special day (well, really just so bored with the last look). Yesterday was my 37th birthday! I know I’m supposed to care about getting older, start complaining about things, tell the youngsters “Enjoy it while it lasts!” and schedule a billion botox sessions to stop the aging process. I’m just so happy to be around every year that those thoughts that creep into my head don’t stay there very long. All I can say is THANK YOU! Another year to enjoy the sights, the people, the ups & downs of it all.

My birthday was on a Saturday, the best day of the week. I was so happy about this because usually I spend my birthday surrounded by hundreds of sweaty, sticky kids at summer camp and while there is some joy to hear them singing happy birthday–it was very nice to have a day OFF for my day. I feel no guilt for saying my birthday day was going to be “My Perfect Day.” That’s what I kept telling people, but I didn’t plan it out or anything. This is what happened, though, and it was nice.

6am: Thanks for the wake up call, puppy! HUG puppy. Tell puppy how amazing he is. Take care of morning puppy duties.
6:30am: Take the puppy out for a nice walk while the weather is cool. Meet two elderly beagles who don’t understand that puppies want to PLAY.
7:00am: Out for a morning run. Head to the local hill & do my best to blast up it. Starts to rain. In normal places, this might be a bad thing–but in L.A. any drop of moisture is cause for celebration. Running in the rain is awesome.
8:30ish: Place my breakfast order on the Eat24 website from a local cafe. Get a latin latte and breakfast burrito. Try to avoid making myself morning coffee–patience. Talk to my brother on the phone. Laugh as he sings a really drawn out version of Happy Birthday.
9:30ish: EAT! Glorious food! Too much caffeine! Look at all the Facebook posts and smile.
10:00-1:00pm: OK, so this may not be on your PERFECT DAY, but I washed the dishes, scrubbed the entire bathroom, etc. Hey, you try to plan a perfect day. It’s hard. Sometimes you just need to scrub a toilet when you have some free time. Oh, also talked to my mom.
1:00pm: Headed out to the beach with puppy in tow. There is a little spot we’ve found away from waves and people where he can catch the ball. With no hesitation, he jumped into the water & caught it over and over again. Proud mama watched in amazement at the adventure dog. Look at the ocean–I try to see it every year on my birthday. This year, it was covered in clouds which is just as beautiful as a sunny day. Oh, then everyone is kicked off the beach due to lighting strikes.
3:00pm: NAP TIME!!! And also my O Magazine time. It wasn’t hard with the rainy weather to pass out for a good 90 minutes. Waking up early is no problem when you can build yourself in a nap time like this. It was amazing.
5:00pm: Debate getting all dolled up & going out to eat, but it’s SO RAINY. (Rain stops everything in L.A.). Decide instead to order some alcohol & pizza & enjoy them in the comfort of home.
5:30pm: I guess I should take a shower.
6:00: Make a Moscow Mule in honor of Oprah & eat a pepperoni pizza while watching a Netflix documentary “An Honest Liar.”
8:00pm: Already ready for bed and tired of all this perfectness. Play with the pup. Brush his coat. Tell him how awesome he is. Watch BRAVO–something about the Housewives. Check all my Facebook posts.
10:00pm: Asleep already.

There is is, folks–my perfect day. Now you know. I didn’t mention how I saw at least 7 or so people from my SWT or Texas State days on Friday night, which was equally as perfect. They always make me feel at home in a city that sometimes still feels strange even after being here 10 years. I got amazing birthday cards, flowers, a sports watch, lots of awesome stuff from Mom & TAYLOR SWIFT TIX. Did you hear me?!?! TAYLOR SWIFT TICKETS!!! I know all her songs from every single album, and I challenge your teenage daughter, granddaughter or niece to a Swift Off because I am the biggest fan. Also, my puppy is sleeping next to me right now and it’s like my perfect day has become a perfect weekend (except for the laundry I have to do). Thanks for all the birthday wishes! Lucky to have you all in my life.

Hawaii Time

I feel like I start every entry with apologies for how it’s been awhile (as if you’ve been checking daily & are VERY upset with me). Let’s rewind back to late March/early April when I went to HAWAII!!! I’ve always wanted to go, and I’ve always said, “While I’m living on the West Coast, it makes sense to do a Hawaii trip–short flight!” Well, I’ve been out here 10+ years, and I finally booked a trip.

We went to Kona on the Big Island. Really we could’ve gone anywhere, but the idea of being on the largest, least-populated island appealed to us. I also noticed it was pretty affordable, and I found an AMAZING rental cottage out there known as the “Mango Cottage.” I’m big into getting lost in 100 reviews of every rental place, and with this one–I found absolutely zero negative comments. We booked a week long stay there & I told my Stitch Fix stylists to send me Hawaii stuff. I packed my new tote, long flowy printed dresses and skirts that are not at all my style (but Stitch Fix told me to, so I packed them anyway—but what is this KIMONO!?!?). Off to Hawaii!

It was as beautiful as I had imagined, and every day brought a new adventure. Instead of writing about it, I made you a vacation video! I am that annoying person that thinks you want to see 4 minutes of my vacation pics set to Hawaiian-themed music. Enjoy!! Here’s the link: CHEESY VACATION VIDEO

Career Changes

I’ve been teaching full time at Inner-City Arts for probably 8 years & taught my first class there ELEVEN years ago! For my “2 years max” at a variety of jobs, this is by far the longest commitment I’ve had to…well almost anything. This Monday, though, I stepped way back and am now teaching only two days a week. Everyone makes moves like this all the time, but for me it feels huge.

I could give you 500 logical reasons for doing this, but honestly–I really just needed a change and a challenge. Teaching drama has been my passion since 2000 probably (shout out to Seattle Children’s Theatre!). That’s a good 15 years of knowing pretty much exactly what I wanted to do in life. I never had that “searching” phase in my 20s. I had plenty of silly jobs in the meantime, lots of school to get better at what I did, etc–but I always knew where the passion was. It has been a huge gift in my life. To want something, to go after it, to do it with care/passion/skill & always eager to be better. And really, what a gift to find Bob Bates (co-founder) and Inner-City Arts–my vision so closely aligns with his & I feel really connected to the work we are doing.

My students were filming a documentary a couple of years ago on Bob Bates & he told the kids “I follow my creativity wherever it takes me.” That line has stayed with me ever since, and I’ve felt the need to do the same. I encourage my students to explore their creativity, take risks & try new things. Push their limits. My turn!

So, what am I doing the other days of the week? I’m developing, growing and expanding my Entertaining Adventure scavenger hunt business at the moment. I’m also taking a minute just to relax, breath & rejoice that I don’t have to put all the effort into full-time teaching that so often exhausted me and barely paid the bills.

For several years, I worried that growing tired of teaching meant all the work I had done up to this point was a waste of time or a mistake. There is such a feeling of relief and freedom now that I see my life can take a new turn, and I don’t have to pretend to be interested in a field that no longer feeds me creatively. Maybe it will again one day, but I need a break.

I don’t really make rash decisions. If anything, I think about things way too much and take action very rarely. When I do take action, it feels like a milestone. I have no idea what the next year will look like for me, but there is surprisingly little fear. It is instead a mix of relief, excitement & freedom. I booked a gig this past week, and the feeling of joy that came over me when I realized I actually had TIME to focus on it was such a great feeling.

I’m sure there will be ups and downs to this whole process, but right now I’m so ready for it.

2014: Reflection Time

Happy Holidays to all 10 of you! I hope you had/are still having great times with friends/family/pets/food/or just the TV. Now it’s time for my favorite thing: reflection! Ah, it was a year. One thing about growing up: you really start to lose track of them all. As a kid–even into my 20s, every year really had special meaning. Then I stopped remembering how old I was. Or when I graduated from what school. Or where I lived in what year. I say things like “I’ve lived in L.A. for 10 years.” Or, “I’ve worked at this job for 8 years.” I have no idea. I’m estimating these days. What I know for sure (is that phrase trademarked by Oprah yet?) is that I’m extremely grateful to have another year to reflect on. Here are the things I’m so happy about from this past year.

#1) I ran two marathons! What what? That is so not me. I’m really slow at long distances, and the training is super boring and intense. But I did it anyway! L.A. and N.Y.C. And had a great support crew at both places! The marathons are always reminders that even in the biggest cities, the sense of community still exists and is stronger than ever. I love both of these cities so much, that it is a dream to be able to run through the streets with people cheering me on the whole way. Did I mention I was slow? I somehow managed to finish faster in New York, most likely because of the cool weather–not due to any kind of magic training. Something I will never forget: that juicy burger and those crispy fries–and the beer–hours after the end of the NYC marathon. It’s the small things!

#2) Scavenger hunts! I love my business idea now more than ever, and it’s all because of super cool clients that boost my ego on a regular basis & constantly give me fun new ideas. We had some great ones this year–lots of time spent in Santa Monica and Culver City–my two favorite hunting destinations. If you ever think L.A. is filled with crazies, fakes, phonies, pretentiousness–umm, hello, you would be right! But turns out the people who are interested in scavenger hunts are the fun, down-to-earth, adventurous, funny people I love so much. It’s been great meeting all of them.

#3) MUSIC. Taylor Swift’s new album, helloooo!?!?! Been playing in the car since she released it, thank you Taylor! Plus new albums by Dolly and Miranda. I’m sure these three were on everyone’s top 10 list. OK, maybe not, but hey–to each their own. Not to mention the live shows I got to see this year: Avett Brothers, Steve Martin (!!!), Tristan Prettyman, –and the festivals: folk, bluegrass, Topanga Days. I even went to a Phish show, though I almost threw a fit when the lights came on & I thought it was over–but to my horror, it was just a “set break.” I fell asleep when the show was in it’s 3rd hour. You can’t say I don’t TRY to enjoy all sorts of music!

#4) Moving back to Culver City. I’ve been a champion of Downtown Culver City since about 2002, when it was just starting to be a destination spot. Now it’s filled with a dozen cool restaurants & still has that movie-studio-history that I love so much. And now I’m back on the same street I used to live on (not creepy at all), and it feels really nice. I can’t describe what makes the neighborhood so special to me, but you can go on a walk through it & feel like you’re in a small town, which is what I long for after spending a day commuting into Downtown L.A. The giant trees that surround my current home have turned this place into “The Treehouse.” If you can’t have a water view, I recommend giant trees! Also a view of this giant steel rainbow that is a part of Sony Studios. Who has a rainbow view everyday? Me!

#5) Mountain Biking. I got a brand new beautiful mountain bike this year, and though I don’t go out as much as I should–I had some crazy fun trips with this thing so far. The best yet was the trip to Santa Barbara–ending up at some weird camp site in the middle of the woods that had its own swimming pool and hot tub. We couldn’t find another person–it was like a ghost town. A swim in the middle of a mountain bike ride was the most awesome surprise I couldn’t ever plan. I should mention I’m terrified the entire time I’m on this bike if I’m going downhill. I am yelling phrases that don’t exist, and praying to Jesus in a very very loud, high-pitched shrill voice. I’m not really a fan of extreme sports, but the thrill I get from riding my bike down a mountain is pretty amazing. Don’t worry about me, though, I seriously go very very slow. The only time I fall is from lack of speed.

#6) Road-tripping with the family. I made a last minute decision to join my Mom, Dad, nephew & niece on a little road trip through Colorado & Texas, ending in my hometown of Midland. I’m so happy I did because I cherish all these folks & road trips allow for memories like no other. And lots of laughs, of course.

#7) New Projects at Work: Work can become pretty mundane after you’ve done the same thing for so long. I crave new projects, so it was exciting to do some new things. My documentary class will now be in its 6th session this spring (hooray!) & we even got to do a real screening last May. I’m partnering with an outside school to teach teachers how they can bring simple drama techniques into their classroom. Summer Camp ended with my favorite co-teacher Alxis & me filming 100 kids in a Western–sometimes the most fun thing you do at age 10 is the most fun thing you can do as an adult. That was on my birthday, too!

#8) to DISNEYLAND!: Spent two days at Disneyland this year, even though I’m not one of those Disneyland people that has a season pass or that is obsessed or anything. Crowds are usually not my thing. But meeting my brother and family there is a whole different story. John planned out the whole day so well that we were rarely ever in a line & we rode so many rides. Also: I think I spent more time by the Disneyland Hotel pool than any other pool this year, so thank you for the cocktails Disney! And to my nephew Sam, I’m so sorry that big earthquake had to strike while you were in town. I know you never want to come back to California until “after the big one hits,” but I hope you change your mind!

#9) My parents are moving! To Colorado!: You don’t think of your parents moving ever. Where would they go? Why would they want to? How could they do that? Especially moving to a different state. But it’s totally inspiring to me. It means that new adventures remain a part of your life, even when you’re ancient like my parents. Just kidding! They are totally young and hip. And they are moving to a hipster Denver neighborhood. They will be walking to bookstores, restaurants, and bars & probably have more exciting stories to blog about than I do. I can’t wait to visit their new place. And don’t worry Tom, I’ll still visit you and Linda in Austin (until you move to Colorado, 🙂 ).

#10) Travels: Where did I go this past year? Charleston, S.C.–my first time this May where it was actually warm and wonderful weather. What a beautiful, historical city filled with Southern Charm (which also happens to be a terrible reality show on BRAVO that I watched every week)! Boulder/Denver, CO–again, beautiful weather!, New Braunfels, TX: a wonderful Thanksgiving with the family, Santa Barbara–mountain biking, dinners with a view, New York City–I had really good luck with weather because it was wonderful there, too! The marathon was awesome, but so was the bike ride down West Side Highway & the walk through Central Park.

I’m sure there were probably bigger milestones that I’m missing (because who remembers last January?!? Not me!), but that’s what I’m thinking of this morning. This year had its not-so-awesome moments as well, but I figure we all know that by now. It’s a crazy up/down ride, & the best thing I know how to do is focus on the “best of.” Thank you all for reading–especially during that stint where I was writing every day! It’s been so much fun to hear from you & know that you are reading these words. Now let’s bring on 2015!

I didn’t move after all. And it’s a good thing.

If you’ve been keeping up, I was scheduled to move into a cute little house last weekend. Well, it didn’t happen. Turned out, it wasn’t the safest of neighborhoods I was moving into. This became all the more apparent when we were unpacking some stuff only to have a neighbor on a bike ask us if we lived near by. “We do now!!!”–and then he asked if we had seen his dog because while the man was gone for an hour the night before getting his car washed, his house was robbed and they either stole the dog or let it out. You could see the pain in his eyes as he added, “My dog is epileptic. She needs her meds. Well, watch out for the gangsters!!” Yup, our first and last meeting with a neighbor ended with “Watch out for the gangsters.” Great sign, right? I’m a fan of all neighborhoods, but when you’re paying a crazy amount of rent, you would at least like to know you’re safe.

So we unpacked the boxes we packed, managed to get out of the lease without losing a dime & got to stay in our current apartment–which we have a new appreciation for. I was mostly happy that rent is cheap again!! My only sadness came from having to leave that washer/dryer behind, so of course I solved that by finding a new online laundry delivery service (I love delivery!!!). They pick up my laundry and GIVE ME A BROWNIE. They return it the next day neatly folded (but no brownie!?!?). I figure if I do this every other time, hauling it down to the laundry mat won’t seem so annoying.

To be perfectly honest, I love the street I’m on. I have lived in 3 different places on this same street over the years, I’m sure that says a lot about both how weird I am & how much I love this tree-lined hood! If you are in such a car-centered city like L.A., it helps to live in a walkable neighborhood. Margaritas only a 5 minute walk away? OK. A running path that offers an escape from most people, all the cars, and all the street lights?! It’s the little things.

Family

I have written about family many times on this site. I have written about my awesome Grandmother who held us together like glue for as long as she was here. Moms. Dads. Brothers. Cousins. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents. Great Grandparents. Etc. Etc. Not everyone gets a chance at all these kind of bonds, and I’m blessed to be a part of it. Everyone’s support, wisdom and laughter make me the person I am today.

This past week, one of my cousins experienced the unthinkable: the loss of her teenage son. It wasn’t just my cousin who was affected, of course. It was her husband, her boys, her mom (my Aunt), her sister, her brothers, etc…the list goes on and on because we really are a Family, and the love runs deep and wide. We usually are so full of laughter and lightness that I can’t really comprehend the grief and the pain so many I hold close to my heart must be feeling. Honestly, I wish I could write with some kind of clarity or bring some peace and healing to the situation or make people hurt a little less, but sometimes it’s too close for that kind of thing. Sometimes words don’t work. Instead, I’m taking a step back, adding some “lightness” & writing more generally about what it has meant to me to grow up in this family.

This love of family might seem odd because I don’t live near any of them. I drove away from Texas in my little green Mustang as soon as I finished college and just turned 21. Dad made the road trip with me–all the way up to Seattle, which was basically as far as I could go and still be in the United States. At the time, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Now, it seems like a completely scary thing to do. I was never escaping Texas. I just had this need to explore! And I couldn’t have felt so confident in traveling around if it hadn’t been for how my family always made me feel. I couldn’t have been on my own like that, literally knowing no one, if I didn’t have 50+ (not sure how big the family is anymore) people in my heart–backing me all the way. I can say first hand that you can be miles away, and the way you feel about the people you grew up with never changes. Not one bit. They were the ones so eager to hear what I was doing, wanting pictures (pre-Facebook), laughing with me about my funny jobs or embarrassing stories.

I never came back to Texas. Well, that is completely inaccurate. I make visits every year to Texas, but I never moved back. I miss everyone, and in moments of extreme hometown happiness or grief, I wish nothing more than to be closer to the ones I love, the ones I grew up with. The ones that still read my boring blog! You go to work, you try to “be present,” but sometimes your heart just lives in Texas, and there’s nothing you can do about it. “Going through the motions” as my older brother says. That was me this week. Powerless to make anyone feel any better, yet an extreme need to try to do so.

My favorite memory from childhood: Christmas Eve in Midland. We would go to one side of the family’s Christmas celebration. We would then say goodbye & go to the other side of the family’s Christmas a few miles away–before going home to celebrate with our immediate family as Santa brought our toys Christmas morning. Sometimes we even went caroling on one side of the family to our other family’s house! Because even my Mom’s fam and my Dad’s fam felt like one family. This seems so crazy today –families are spread all over the place, and you’re lucky enough just to make it to ONE celebration. But us kids all LIVED for this day because it was all of our favorite things: way too much food, great presents, games, cousins, and loud laughter. Year after year, I grew up this way. I had no idea the kinds of bonds that were being developed, but I’m sure my parents did.

I went home to Midland this past August, and I got to see several but not all of my relatives. It was just a few hours of bowling, food and of course–laughter, but it is what I needed and what I came for. I will take every minute I can get. There is something really really authentic to that kind of love and support. I live near Hollywood, which is perhaps the LEAST authentic place I know, so my family continues to keep me real from afar. As trite as it sounds, my heart is always where my family is. And we will build each other up in whatever way we can. Always. All my love!

Post NYC Marathon Report

I was in NYC for almost a week, so I have plenty of other fun stuff to write about as well (I was a tourist: it was awesome!)–but this one you will have to sit through first. An epic race report!!

Marathon Expo: These are held the day or two before the race, and I am never a huge fan. You may think because I’m running a marathon that I like crowds, but it just isn’t true. I flew into the city Friday night, and woke up nice and early Saturday to make my way to the convention center. Everything was massive & overwhelming, but picking up my race bib was incredibly easy–not even a line! I then ended up in an Asics portion of the expo that was bigger than any running store I’ve been to. They sponsor the race, so they had all their gear with “NYC Marathon” logos on it. I checked the marathon weather & it was 40s with extreme wind. I’m used to running in 80s with blaring sun. So I actually needed to buy some gear to make it through the cold start to the race. I chose an awesome turquoise warm looking long sleeve race jacket & ignored all the advice that says, “Never wear anything new on race day.” I was supposed to buy some running gels (basically like an energy bar in gel form), but I was too overwhelmed by the crowds and booths and noise to remember. Overall, a much easier experience than expected.

Marathon Morning: I was prepared for the adventure that was going to be “getting to the marathon.” I didn’t really sleep the night before–well, I had nightmares about being late for a race. The time changed, which helped it be not quite so early & I was out of the apartment by 7ish. I caught the subway to Staten Island Ferry, and as soon as I got onto the train–wake up call–I realized, “Oh, I am definitely running a marathon today.” Everyone was in their running shoes & “throw away clothes”–the sweats, jackets, pajamas, etc people wear and throw away as the race starts. We reached the ferry & thousands more runners joined us there. The first one leaving was full, so I waited for the second one to come. I had a nice view of the Statue of Liberty & then the skyline as I headed into Staten Island. Here, we line up for buses to take us to the start. This was the moment we all realized, “Wow, it’s really COLD and WINDY.” I waited for a bus & climbed aboard, praying this bus ride would last almost until race start–so I wouldn’t be in the cold for long. It DID, so I had time to use the bathroom & get into my “corral,”–yes, I feel like a farm animal & wait 20 minutes or so before start. It was during this time I forgot I had no gels to race with–absolutely no race nutrition for a marathon. This was laughable. I texted my running buddy Aransas who planned to see me on the course & she said she could bring some with her & meet at mile 8. I couldn’t believe how unprepared I was, but there are so many things to remember when coming to an out of town race.

Race Start: We started the run over a bridge I had never heard of–the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Fun fact: it is the longest suspension bridge in the United States–and the one that takes us out of Staten Island. We were all cheering in the beginning before trying to concentrate on just running in a straight line because the wind was so fierce. I had TWO hats on & they blew off on the bridge, never to be seen again RIP. I thought, “Oh this should be an interesting day.” My bangs were not happy.

Miles 2-4: I was so overwhelmed by everything during these first few miles–I had little time to think about how slow or fast I was running, what was ahead of me, etc. Instead, I was dealing with outfit problems. No hats, no problems. I put on my little hood. I had my cell phone in my back jacket pocket, but it was bouncing around all over the place–this was never gonna work. So I held my cell phone in my hand for 26.2 miles because I couldn’t problem-solve that one. The insides of my arms were tingling for 48 hours after the race because I was gripping the phone so tight, LOL. My ipod kept playing this Counting Crows song I didn’t remember putting on my playlist. When I tried to fast forward, the buttons weren’t working. And in Mile 3, I hear the terrible ipod voice say, “LOW BATTERY.” WHAT?!?! Music is my best friend–I charged this thing fully, what’s going on here?!?! I was terrified, so I packed up the ipod & headphones and told myself I would save it for when I really needed it. All this happened as I tried to run a regular pace, but I had to do lots of stopping just to adjust all the layers, take off the gloves, put them back on, etc. I am NOT used to running in layers.

Miles 4-8: I started to relax and enjoy the sheer number of people out to support. There was not a blank space on the sidewalk–there were that many people cheering. There were so many bands, that I thought for a second I could make it without my music. I smiled. The sun was out, making the cold feel like a perfect running temp & once we were off the bridge, the wind felt like less of an issue. I was supposed to see several friends at this point, but I wasn’t expecting the crowds or that wide of a street. I kept staring & looking, but it was stressing me out too much. I decided just to be on the look out for Aransas with the gels around Mile 8, and I would be fine. I make it to Mile 8 without seeing her. I start to worry a little, wondering if I should take all the used gels on the ground & try to squeeze enough out to give me some kind of calories. Your mind goes to dark places people!

Mile 8.1: There she is! In the midst of a huge crowd, during a narrow turn I see her–she sees me. I run over, she runs over with the gels, a quick hug, & I’m off. This is a huge boost. Heck, let’s eat a gel right now in her honor!

Mile 8-13.1: I don’t know Brooklyn or Queens that well, and that’s where I was during this time. I kept thinking I made it to Queens, and then someone would cheer about Brooklyn. Where is QUEENS? When are we getting to Manhattan? The wind would play tricks on me, pretending to go away & then blasting me around the corner. Finally, at the half-way point–Queens!

Mile 13-15: This is when it really hit me that I was running a marathon, which is terrifying/depressing/exciting all at the same time. I wondered why I just don’t do half marathons, and then I would be done already. But physically, I was still feeling fine. Yes, I wanted to be in Manhattan already, but Queens was lovely. Still loads of people, high school bands drumming, etc. I wonder how my ipod is doing. I took it out, turned it on, & all the buttons were working again! No mention of low battery. I could still barely hear the music (the supporters are that loud!), but it was a comforting feeling.

Mile 16: Queensboro Bridge. All I remember was #1) the quiet (no spectators allowed), #2) the views. Ok, and if I’m being honest, #3) the incline. But at least you know the decline was going to be on the other side. I stopped and took my only picture from the race. Even though I wasn’t running for a fast time, it’s still hard for me to be one of those runners who just stops and enjoys the views. Wasn’t I adding at least a minute or two to my time? I had a little pep talk to myself to just enjoy it. And then weeeeee, down the hill we go.

Mile 16-18: I was so happy to be in Manhattan! We run down 1st Ave, and the crowds are insane. I decided to remain in the center of the street the whole time, turning up my music & focusing on the run. Sometimes paying too much attention to signs, cheers, high-fives, etc stresses me out. Lovely atmosphere, though.

Mile 18-22: These are always the hardest miles for me. No amount of cheering helps me at this point. If anything, I want to just say “shhhh! Let me run.” This is when the people around you–your pack!–start to slow down. Some start to walk, which always looks so tempting. And we were running out of Manhattan into the Bronx—no let’s just head over to Central Park & end this thing already! I start my walk/run around Mile 19. My body feels OK, no horrible injuries or anything. I just feel tired. And someone yelling, “Only 5 more miles!” doesn’t help the way it should. 5 Miles seems like a REALLY long time. I am so happy the heat isn’t there, though, because that really sucks the energy. I do take the jacket off, and tie it around my waist. This takes me a few minutes because I’m so uncoordinated. I hate layers!! I know Justin and his mom are just ahead, but where are they!?!? I need them!!!

Mile 23: There they are!! Justin takes too many selfies & runs with me for 100 yards (this is really far for someone who claims to hate running), and my spirit is lifted. OK, it doesn’t hurt that we’re now in Central Park (my home turf–where I used to do my daily runs) & going downhill. I got this!!

Mile 23-26: I had such a fun ending to this marathon. I picked up my pace, and yes–Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” came on. I did everything embarrassing–sang out-loud, air drummed, run/dancing, whatever I could to build off the crowd’s energy. I don’t need to say again: the crowds were huge! I pretended I was on my old normal run, and it was no big deal. I did anything to just keep running, imagining up ahead the same finish where many of my favorite pro marathon runners have run so many times. I would get to run this finish!!

Mile 26-26.2: Britney Spears on the ipod, every country’s flag hanging on either side of us, stadium of crowds & there is the finish line! Hands in the air, big smile, and a feeling of group relief as I look around at the other runners finishing at the same time as me. We. Are. Done.

Mile 26.2-Mile 28: After you run for 26.2 miles, they make you walk another couple of miles–either for someone’s cruel pleasure or due to safety or something that makes sense. It never makes sense after you’ve just finished the marathon. The runners go from joy to complete silence, wanting nothing more than to SIT DOWN. We keep walking. They put a medal around your neck, they give you a sack with an apple (how did they know how much I love them!??!) and some other goods, & all the volunteers tell you how great you are. Everyone is limping, shuffling, or just walking in slow motion. Finally, at 81st Street on the Upper West Side, I was dumped back into the hustle/bustle of the city.

Post Race: It worked out perfectly that the apartment we were staying at was on 75th. YES, those six blocks felt like 10 miles & it must’ve looked it because about 10 drivers yelled, “Taxi?!” at me. But I made it home, hobbled up the stairs, and SAT DOWN. It was glorious. I cancelled any kind of group dinner. It was already around 4pm & I felt anti-social and also like I couldn’t move.

Post Race Meal: After willing myself to take a bath & put my clothes on, I went to a bar and had an amazingly wonderful hamburger, fries and a beer. More than half the bar looked like other marathon runners–wearing their medals with pride. Happiniess!!

IN Summary: I ended up finishing 10 minutes faster than my L.A. Marathon this year, mostly due to the colder temps I’m sure. Maybe I could’ve cut this a bit with ideal conditions (ie: not 20mph wind!), but again–I never worried too much about the time. And it was actually quite relaxing not to have any goals other than to enjoy myself. Anyone who has a chance to, I would highly recommend this race. It’s one of a kind. It’s completely international–people come from all over, wear their country or state on their shirts with pride & it feels like such an awesome community. The question I get asked the most is, “Why do you do that to yourself?” I’m lucky to be able to do it, first off. But I’ve always been drawn to the idea of a community–of runners and supporters. We’re all just cheering each other on. Seeing all the other runners around me is a huge part of what keeps me going. They are going through the same thing I am. We got this. The supporters stand outside in the windy cold & tell you how awesome you are–and hopefully are inspired seeing all types of people getting through these miles together. Blind runners, wheelchair athletes, older, younger, bigger, smaller. It is what I like best about the world. I do it to renew my faith in humankind. And also FOR THE MEDAL, of course!!! That being said, I feel like a nice, quiet, wooded, trail marathon after this noisy bash!