Friday, January 30, 2015

Community and cupcakes

I didn't see my family for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year because my parents live in Florida, my brother and sister-in-law live in Boston and Mozzie and I live here in the frozen tundra. I suggested forgoing Christmas gifts this year in favor of future adventures and they indulged my experiences over things philosophy. Though we did end up exchanging a few small gifts. This past weekend I went to visit my parents for a few days and our adventures included a trip to Kennedy Space Center and an alligator-filled boat tour of the Everglades. To me, getting funny pictures in front of rockets and in space suits, going on the Shuttle Experience (which is supposed to simulate a shuttle launch but is basically just a ride that shakes you around for 5 minutes) and seeing a bunch of alligators is better than any present under a Christmas tree.

Some people would disagree. And I get that. Things can bring us joy. I love cute dresses and I may be developing an addiction to socks. Beast Mode socks, Epic socks, Trifecta of Awesomeness socks (These are socks with robots, unicorns and cupcakes on them. I have two pairs. Obviously. The best part is that inexplicably, the cupcakes are sitting on stools. Why? Who knows. Maybe it's a prank. No, it's too mean. To waste a perfectly delicious cupcake like that.) But I could sell my house and everything in it tomorrow with no sense of loss. I don't feel any sort of attachment to things. I am not my possessions. I am the culmination of all my experiences. The highlights of my life have been the things I've done and especially the people I've met along the way, not the things I've owned.

I've never really understood our consumerist culture. It seems like everywhere I go someone is trying to sell me something. But I don't need any of those things. I don't care what kind of car you drive or how big your house is. I'm more interested in your drive to achieve your dreams and how big your heart is. I'm more interested in community than consumer goods. I mean, unless those consumer goods are cupcakes. I think we could all use more community and more cupcakes.

Lyric of the moment: "For long you live and high you fly. And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry. And all you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be..." (Do Not Touch signs are the worst. Touch everything. Pink Floyd said so.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Just relax and revel in it

I was having one of those days. Churchill called them Black Dog Days. I felt like crying, only I didn't know why. Nothing was wrong. Then I realized that's exactly what was wrong. It wasn't sadness. It was fear of success. Failure I understand. You try, you fail, you learn, you try again. Failure is motivating, and often hilarious. Success is a complete conundrum. I don't know how to accept it when things are going well. I mean, I enjoy the good things, I feel infinitely grateful for them, I just don't feel like I deserve any of it.
Admittedly, I was a little grumpy over the fact that I had to work late on Friday and go into work for a few hours on Saturday. But then I even felt grateful for that. Do you know what I was doing for most of that time? Arguing with Bill because he was trying to give me extra money to compensate me for my time and I was trying to tell him that I didn't want any money, I just wanted to do my work and go home. To my sweet, snuggly white dog. All of my days are White Dog Days. And I can't for the life of me figure out how I got so lucky.

I remember feeling a sense of loneliness when I was younger, as if I was irreparably weird because I didn't want the same things other people wanted. But I came to realize that those feelings were just faulty constructs of my own insecurities. I could feel at home nowhere or I could feel at home everywhere. The choice was mine. Looking back now I realize that everywhere I went I found people who opened their arms and their hearts to me, who accepted me and forgave my mistakes and made me laugh. They were always there. It was just that sometimes it was hard for me to let them in. Now, every gathering of friends old and new leaves me with a heart so full of happiness and love that I fear it might burst. So I have to keep reminding myself not to question how I got here or why I seem to have exceptionally good luck, but just to relax and revel in it. I have to keep reminding myself that the times I feel most like putting on all the armor or running away are the times I most need to open up instead. Because vulnerability begets strength and temporary discomfort begets deeper comfort with ourselves and our people. I have to keep reminding myself that love is everywhere and everyone deserves it. And everyone includes me.

 Lyric Quote of the moment:  "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?...Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you...And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." —Marianne Williamson

Saturday, January 17, 2015

On beauty

We are told that beauty is all about flawlessness. Perfect, even skin, completely devoid of scars, stretch marks, wrinkles, any signs of life or experience. It's ingenious really. Make people feel bad about their differences in order to sell them a boatload of products that claim to fix these invented "problems." But why is it so easy to fall victim to these ploys? Why is it so easy for us to believe that we're not enough as we are, that we need to buy all these things to "fix" us?

Don't get me wrong. I think the pursuit of self-improvement is quite commendable. The quest to become a better person is one of most worthwhile journeys one can undertake. But the attitude towards change is an important factor. If you approach self-improvement from a place of inadequacy, from the belief that you won't be an acceptable person until you look a certain way or achieve certain things, it's near impossible to feel happy or good enough. But if you approach self-improvement from a place of abundance, from the belief that there is beauty and light in everything, you can then embrace change with an open heart and allow yourself to evolve, not as punishment for what you're not, but in celebration of what you are. You can accept yourself as you are now while still challenging yourself and making positive changes to your life. I'm not saying it's easy, but it's possible.

I just think the beauty industry has it all wrong. Why would we want to look like we hang around inside all day, careful to do absolutely nothing so that we won't have any bruises or scars, refusing to laugh so we won't get any lines around our eyes or mouths? Those laugh lines, those stretch marks, they're not something to hide. They are marks of a life of adventures and risks, changes and growth, resiliency and joy. What is more beautiful than that?

If you want to make healthy changes to your life, by all means do so. Treat yo'self to all the nutrients. Get some of those exercise induced endorphins. Do all the things that make your insides feel good. But just know that wherever you are in your self-improvement journey, you are already enough. You are the one and only you. Experience it to the fullest. Love it and live it up.

Lyric of the moment: "I tried to do handstands for you. But every time I fell for you. I'm permanently black and blue, permanently blue for you..."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chocolate milk. And other subscriptions

I was curious about Amazon Subscribe & Save so I've been playing around with it for the past few months. The idea is that you can save money on items you buy regularly by signing up for automatic deliveries at whichever month intervals you choose. The problem for me was that usually the Subscribe & Save eligible items only come in bulk. And, like everything you buy online, there's a risk of getting something different than you expected. That is how I accidentally ended up with 30 rolls of 1 ply toilet paper. Terrible, public restroom-quality toilet paper. But as luck would have it, I saw a Facebook post from someone who needed 1 ply so I was able to give it away, then switch my subscription to the good stuff with all the plys.

If you have a shipment of at least 5 items, you can save an additional 15%. But it took a bit of trial and error to get the quantities and frequencies just right so that I'd have at least 5 items in each monthly shipment. And by trial and error, I mean mostly error. Though it has given me the opportunity to bestow some unique gifts upon Pete, like oatmeal, paper towels and toilet paper. Nothing says love like the gift of toilet paper, am I right?
Pete (after I met him at the gym and handed him a 6 pack of TP): "Thanks, honey. This is an...interesting gift."
Me: "But very useful."

These are my current subscriptions:

*Dog food for Mozzie
*Quilted Northern toilet paper
*Paper towels
*Lady parts products (read: tampons. You're welcome, dudes. I know you love reading about tampons)
*Honeystinger blueberry bars (for eating while running all the miles)
*Ghiradelli dark chocolate sea salt soiree (chocolate bars as delicious as their name is fancy)
*Chocolate milk boxes (the best post-run drink)

You can edit your subscriptions at any time, which is nice since I'm still tweaking things a bit. I like that it saves me some trips to the store, and thus the temptation to make bad impulse purchases. But I do sort of feel like a hoarder with this buy-in-bulk stuff all up in my cupboards. This week I got a delivery of toilet paper and paper towels that I think will take me all of 2015 to use. It arrived in what appeared to be a giant cardboard coffin. So that's another adventure: coming home to find some giant, oddly shaped packages hanging out on my porch. And then trying to drag them inside, unpack them and drag the boxes back outside for recycling.

I'm not sure if I will keep doing this or not. But either way, it has been a fun experiment. And having a subscription to chocolate milk is pretty much the apex of awesomeness. Now if only I had a butler and my car went all KITT from Knight Rider, suddenly becoming a talking, self-driving car. It's good to have goals.

Lyric of the moment: "Cigarettes (gross! I'm changing this to baguettes. or maybe suffragettes) and chocolate milk. These are just a couple of my cravings. Everything it seems I like's a little bit stronger, a little bit thicker, a little bit harmful for me...And then there's those other things. Which for several reasons we won't mention. Everything about 'em is a little bit stranger, a little bit harder, a little bit deadly..."

Monday, January 12, 2015

Confessions and unglamorous moments

I think there is a natural inclination to edit our online lives to reflect only our finest moments. It makes sense that we'd want to commemorate the good times and parties rather than the times we're sitting at work or feeling the bad/sad/mads, that we'd want to post a picture of that delicious restaurant meal rather than the times we eat cereal for dinner. (Though I for one am very pro-cereal-for-dinner. It's the most delicious meal you can make in under 30 seconds. Unless you're super speedy at PB&B sandwiches). Don't get me wrong, I love seeing pictures of my friends at their best, most happiest moments. But I also love the messy, imperfect, deliciously real moments of life too. That's where you really get to know someone. How do they react when things get hard? How do they overcome challenges? It's easy to love people on their best days. But it's loving them on their worst days that really matters.

For the most part, I think I'm the same person online as I am in real life. I strive for optimism but also reality and honesty. I think it's important to share the struggles as well as the successes, the mistakes and messes as well as the monumental epic adventures. (Though it's practically impossible to be totally objective about oneself, so maybe I have been failing at this.) But I'll be the first to admit that I'm highly, ridiculously imperfect and so is my life.


*Sometimes I struggle with running. Sometimes I feel tired and it's stupidly cold out and something hurts and it's uncomfortable. But oddly enough, I still feel really happy. I'm outside scrambling up crazy steep hills and sliding down them on my butt and having weird, random, awesome conversations with friends and it doesn't seem to matter that I can't feel my toes. The straw to my hydration pack has frozen and I can't get any water out, so I just eat some snow. Off the ground. Like the highly civilized person I am. My nose is running faster than my legs so I'm snot rocketing all over the place (If that isn't glamour, I don't know what is). One minute my legs are super tired and I feel like we've run 20 miles instead of only 9, but I know that if I just keep going, at some point I'll feel great again, and I do. Possibly there is something stronger than salt in my salt tabs.

*I have a lot of one-sided conversations with my dog. For example:
Me: "Mozzie, there's no licking in yoga!"
Me: Coughing loudly and flailing my hands after I swallowed a big gulp of water and it went down the wrong pipe. 
Mozzie: Continuing to sleep, no reaction whatsoever to my impending death by choking/drowning.
Me: Recovering from my near death experience and deciding I need a sea salt dark chocolate bar. There is a tiny, almost imperceptible sound as I unwrap the chocolate.
Mozzie: Awakens with sudden alacrity and bounds over to me on the couch.
Me: "So I guess you're not going to be one of those dogs who saves its human from a fire or whatever. You're going to be one of those pets who waits until its human dies and then eats its face."
Mozzie: Stares at chocolate bar and drools.

*Sometimes I have cookies in my hair. Last night we were at Pete's friend's house watching the orange horse team and the white horse team play football. Pete's friend used to work at a bakery (!!! I know, right!) and he put out these awesome cookies that he only makes once a year. They're tiny little pastries with apricot or strawberry jam/cream cheese filling. Later I feel something sticky in my hair and I realize it is a piece of apricot cookie. I laugh, because what else can you do? And because you know you've had a good night when you end up with cookies in your hair. Bonus points because I got answers to all my questions, including who is the heaviest player in the NFL? (Terrell Brown of the St. Louis Rams, at 6'10'' and 403lbs) and why are the Buffalo Bills called the Bills and what does that even mean? (there was a contest in 1947 to pick a new name and Bills, after Buffalo Bill Cody, won. I imagine the rest of the submissions were pretty terrible if that's the best they could come up with. Nobody likes paying bills.)

*I don't think there will ever be a day where I feel like, man I've got shit figured out, I'm totally on top of this whole life thing. The truth is that I have no idea what I'm doing. I can barely work the oven. And even barely is too generous of an adverb. But I'm incredibly lucky. And I'm not afraid to ask questions and take chances and fail a bunch of times before getting things right. Plus I can always find a reason to laugh, which certainly helps a lot.

This is by no means an extensive list. The ridiculous, awkward, unglamorous moments in my life far outweigh the finest ones. But it makes for a life that is endlessly entertaining and always an adventure. I love my weird, wild, imperfect life. Mostly because there are a few superb humans who, despite my many flaws, want to share it with me.

Lyric of the moment: "I've got some friends, some that I hardly know. But we've had some times I wouldn't trade for the world. We chase these days down with talks of the places that we will go..."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

That whole 'active rest' thing

I've been running pretty consistently since I was 14 years old. That's 19 years of running! I don't keep track of such things (and sadly I don't have an internal odometer), but I'd bet that 2014 was my highest mileage year ever. I loved every minute of it. But I kept thinking I should take some time off to really rest and recover. Then some new group run or race would come up and I never got around to doing it. So for 2015, I challenged myself to take a week or two off from running and get in some active rest (That was a joke. Two weeks without running? The restlessness would be unbearable). Then I ran 3 times on New Year's Day, which was a poor start to that resolution. In my defense, when you're invited to run at midnight and climb on tanks and run around ponds in the bitter cold and run through trails and burn your worries in a fire while eating empanadas, you don't say no. Enter some especially face biting, mind numbing, just plain mean cold weather and suddenly it was much easier to avoid running. This is what I've been up to in the meantime:

January 2nd: Yoga for immune system (some video I found on YouTube). I'd been sick and hacking up junk since Christmas Eve and the SARS was really starting to harsh my zen. I figured I would try to yoga my way out of it. Results were mixed. Having an excuse to lay around in legs up the wall pose for a bit was nice, but I can definitively say that yoga is no cure for SARS.

January 3rd: Group Power and Centergy classes at Penfield Sport & Fitness with Pete. It felt really weird to wake up on a Saturday morning and not run for hours, but bonus points for being able to work out in a tank top and capris again. Group Power is a bunch of different exercises with barbells and hand weights with some ab work mixed in. I chose the smallest, tiniest little baby weights to start because I'd never done anything like this before and I actively dislike weight workouts (I mean, why do all the moves have names like dead squat and dead lift but none of them involve laying down in corpse pose? Something is not right about that). I wanted to make sure I enjoyed it enough to come back again and killing myself with heavy weights was not the way to do that. I actually enjoyed this class far more than I'd anticipated. The instructor lady was crazy and hilarious, which are two of my favorite qualities in a person. Though the class itself was a little too chaotic for my tastes. Between setting up the step, bar with weights, hand weights and mat, trying to pay attention to the moves, all the picking things up and putting them down and then putting everything away, it was just a lot going on. I think I became a runner because I'm too uncoordinated to do anything else. But this is the kind of shit I need to do if I want to have any semblance of muscles, so whatever. Centergy is this weird yoga, pilates, tai chi mash-up. I didn't feel as limber as I usually do after yoga or as sore as I usually do after pilates (and I've never done tai chi so I'm not really sure about that part), but at least it's more core work which I can always use. (Insert Homer Simpson voice saying "Everybody has a six-pack and I have a keg.")

January 4th: Swimming and Aquafit. Probably I should not use the term swimming since I'm sure I don't do any of the strokes correctly. But I've always loved the water and, as I say when people ask if I can swim, I have yet to drown. Aquafit was okay but not as fun as the first time, maybe because I went by myself. I think it's more fun to jump and splash around in the water with friends. But I do really like punching underwater. They have you do regular punches and uppercuts and it's quite gratifying. Typically I don't have many occasions to punch things, but I'll be ready should the need arise.

January 5th: Group Power and Centergy with Pete. I used the second tiniest weight for Group Power this time. It's supposed to be light weights and high repetitions, but I think it was still too light because I didn't feel very sore afterwards. I'm afraid I may have to go up to the third tiniest weight next time. Sigh. Centergy was more balance oriented this time, which I also need. The instructor for both classes was this seriously strong old dude. At one point we were doing a yoga pose on our backs with our legs stretched over to one side and I was hesitating to put my legs down because they were getting very close to his mat/face and he said "Don't worry, I don't bite toes."

January 6th: Aquafit and Cycle with Pete. I think we got a few disapproving side-eyes from some of the older ladies, but it definitely makes for a funnier class when someone (read: Pete) keeps trying to tickle your feet, then splashes you and says "Oh, I thought she said splash right." It was super hot in the pool room and for some reason I got a splitting headache in the middle of class, which was annoying as all get out. Spin class is not my favorite to begin with and it's even less fun with a headache, but I got a bike right next to the window and spent most of the class watching other people working out below. Something about running and being in the water feels like home, but on a bike I always feel as if I'm contorting myself into an unnatural position. Plus it always makes my butt hurt. And you know: happy butt, happy life. So unhappy butt, no bueno.

January 7th: Rest. Like actual rest. Plus tacos and dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Due to traffic and snowy roads, it took me 50 minutes to drive the 2 miles to Pete's house. I wish that was a joke. I should have run there, it would have been faster. But it's hard to run while carrying all the ingredients for tacos. I need a taco mule. That would solve all my problems.

January 8th: I woke up and the weather app on my phone said 6 degrees, feels like -20. Tropical. But I couldn't stand another day without running so I put on all the layers and headed out. The wind was brutal. After only 4 miles I was done. This was perilously close to the borderline of conditions-I-will- run-in / conditions-I-will-run-in-but-complain-about-endlessly. On the upside, it was so freaking cold out that I didn't even sweat. Plus I feel that however long you spend outside running in negative wind-chills entitles you to an equal amount of time in a steaming hot shower. (No, I didn't really take a 40 minute shower, but man I fantasized about it.)

I'd like to say that I felt super energized and refreshed after my week long respite from running, but I was too numb from cold to feel anything during today's run. Still, I got to try some weird new exercises, my legs feel good and nothing is sore, so there's that.

Lyric of the moment: "Well this is just a simple song to say what you've done. I told you about all those fears, and away they did run. You sure must be strong. And you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun..."

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

To infinite hugs and infinite adventures

On New Year's Day, I found a Christmas package from the always amazing Emelyn that contained a necklace with a silver infinity symbol. (I say found because for some reason the postman had hidden it behind the garbage can so I didn't discover it until I went to put out the trash. Perhaps I am unwittingly involved in a scavenger hunt with the postal service?) I'm always saying infinity of hugs and infinity of thanks and infinity of everything. And the necklace seemed like a sign, a reminder to live up to my words. It came at the perfect time too, as I was thinking about my intentions for the new year.  I'm not setting any specific goals for 2015 but I am setting a course for expansion. Of mind and potential. I want to be boundless, limitless. I want to be more compassionate, welcoming, infectiously happy. I want to be an infinity of hugs.

And I want to have an infinity of adventures and experiences. But I want to maintain a balance of having enough pre-made plans to look forward to while still leaving room to make spur of the moment plans. And of course there's that whole working thing, which is time consuming (but also entertaining. And necessary for acquiring more adventure moneys). So far, I've registered for 2 races, Mess The Dress and the 3 day Rogue River Trail Run*, and I'm going to sign up for the Mighty Mosquito Relay when registration opens. That feels like enough for now. I'm sure I will add more races as the year goes on but I don't want to plan them all out ahead of time. I just want to run and see where the year takes me (hopefully to the Canadian Rockies Heli Run. For obvious reasons. Mainly the helicopter ride). I don't know the specifics of what will happen this year but I'm going to love it no matter what. Because I already know how it's going to end. In awesomeness of course.

*I love how Pete sends me the links to these races and says "What do you think?" As if there is any other response than "Yes! Let's do it!" We're registered for the run that starts on May 25th. Join us!For serious! Do it! You get to pick an "evening beverage" as part of the registration form. So, you know, that's the kind of fun we're talking about here. I chose diet soda. Because I like to live dangerously. But also because chocolate milk was not one of the options.

Lyric of the moment: "Like a river flows surely to the sea. Darling so it goes. Some things are meant to be. Take my hand, take my whole life too. For I can't help falling in love with you..." (I keep hearing the Ingrid Michaelson cover of this song everywhere and it melts my heart.)