Saturday, April 8, 2017

#46 - Watch 3 Academy Award-winning Films I've Never Seen

1 - Moonlight
My viewing partner:
He loved all three because I stayed home with
him to watch them.
Won Best Picture in 2017
What a beautiful film. The story was compelling and the themes surprising but realistic. I don't know that I've ever seen so much communicated when so little was said.

2 - The Deerhunter
Won Best Picture in 1978
This wasn't what I was expecting. I don't know what I was expecting. But it wasn't this. It was interesting because so many of the actors in this film have become icons... but I was still able to see them in the roles because I had never before watched films where they had been that young. While it was incredibly long, I was invested in the story. Parts were hard to watch, on purpose, and I really didn't know where it was going to end up. While I felt like it could have been more polished, it really added some difficult tensions and emotions about the Vietnam war without being too heavy handed about commenting on war and instead focusing on the humanity of the characters. So interesting.

3 - Unforgiven
Won Best Picture in 1992
I don't get it. I wasn't that interested in the story. It wasn't all that well acted. None of the characters were likable except the prostitutes, who got nothing except revenge, as if that's enough. I thought at least at the end we'd find out home-dude's kids were okay after he left literal children alone in the Western wilderness to fend for themselves when their pigs kept getting sick and dying. Nope.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

#13 - See Hamilton

Laura Masters came to visit me in Boston and we took a little road trip to Maine. During that trip, she mentioned that if I were to move back to Chicago by March, she probably had an extra ticket to Hamilton with their group. On November 21 (my actual birthday), I received a phone call offering me a position at DePaul University in Chicago. On November 22, I accepted. After informing my parents and references, I texted Masters something like: "I got the job! I'm coming back to Chicago! Do you still have that Hamilton ticket available?" I'm hoping it sounded much less selfish, but damn, I really wanted to go to Hamilton.

Last night, Laura, Beth, Carrie, Kathleen, Alan, and I met outside the PrivateBank Theater in Chicago for the show. We were all excited, but it's impossible not to wonder if the hype is too much, if Hamilton is really as good as everyone says it is.

It is.

It's funny. I know the entire show is based on actual history, but I still feel compelled not to comment on the specific parts I loved because they feel like spoilers. So instead, I'll start with the encore, as it was unique, and then I'll move to some generalities and how they made me feel.

At the end of the show, I was moved and energized. It was such a beautiful performance and a thought-provoking story. When the performers came out for their curtain call, they then asked to speak to us. We learned they were raising money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. Providing buckets for people to donate to a specific cause on their way out of a show isn't uncommon. What they did to inspire us to give was.

I was fortunate to see the production with Wayne Brady as Aaron Burr. Having been out of the Chicago and Broadway scenes for years due to my doctoral work, I hadn't thought to look up the cast. I assumed I didn't know anyone. When Brady stepped on the stage, I was stoked... Then I looked at my Playbill to confirm it was him because I didn't believe my eyes -- we were in balcony seats -- and confirmed it.

After curtain call, the lead, Miguel Cervantes, explained the cause to us. Then, Brady told us that, as he was well-known in the improv world, they were going to compose a song for us. They wanted 10 words from the audience, really complex words, and he'd freestyle a song with all 10 words. People paid $100 a word and shouted out things like, "lugubrious," "potato," and "persnickety." Then he asked us to give him a topic for the song: "Freedom!" "Freedom to what?" "Freedom for everyone to be exactly who they want to be!" yelled a woman in the balcony. Brady lauded the suggestion and asked for something simple. "Freedom to walk your dog!" Then he quipped that at the rate we're going, maybe that would be illegal someday soon. He stuck with the general freedom topic.

Then he rapped: cohesive rap with sensical lyrics, jokes, jabs at Trump... with no pause between phrases. It was amazing. It was such a cool way to end such a fantastic experience.

Motherfucking Wayne Brady entertaining the crowd AFTER the show.
Feel free to consider the remainder of this post a *spoiler alert* and forgo reading this blog post until you see the show (or ever, because are you really going to remember to come back?).

Taken before the show started
The set was beautiful yet simple. The costumes were similar. They set the time and mood yet never distracted from the performances nor the story.

The performances were incredible. I was amazed by the performers' abilities to switch from rap to melodies and to impress with both. Their voices were powerful and beautiful. Their lyrical abilities were melodic, energetic, and articulate. The rapping was so quick at points, yet, even with only a basic knowledge of the songs, I was able to understand the majority of the words in a large theater over music. They killed. I was particularly fond of Chris D'Sean Lee as Lafayette / Jefferson. His performance was energizing.

While I have been an admirer of Lin Manuel-Miranda for awhile now and appreciate his incredible abilities to work with words and to use his brilliance to advocate for political and social change, I was so incredibly impressed with the writing. The lyrics were witty, emotional, and, often, hilarious. I am eager to more closely read through and listen to the lyrics as I'm confident I missed a lot of poetic beauty woven throughout the entire piece (e.g. "I'm not throwing away my shot.").

In addition to the poetry, I keep thinking about the story. I really won't spoil it, but the lasting message was very different than the one I believed I knew prior to seeing Hamilton and even most of the way through it. While the historical account of one of our founding fathers was intriguing, what still resonates with me were the messages of the importance of storytelling and the exploration of the past and the people who lived it as inspiration for us in the present.

While everyone else I saw this with disliked the very final moment of the show. I loved it. I thought it was pure poetry. I'd love to discuss this with anyone else who's seen this show.

While Manuel-Miranda wrote Hamilton before the most recent election, seeing characters struggle with the ambiguity of a difficult political time was so salient.

I feel inspired to talk more, smile less.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

#48 - Meditate Every Day for 7 Days

California changed me.

Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka
I got my start in meditation while working on my doctoral degree at the University of San Diego (USD). Ironically, during my four years at USD, a Catholic institution, I evolved from a closeted atheist to an open atheist with Buddhist leanings. Maybe it was the need to distinguish myself from the many conservative USD undergrads and alumni, but more likely, I more fully discovered my beliefs and my confidence in them through conversations with classmates and in classes, particularly in a course called Community Models of Leadership, which included a ten-day trip to Sri Lanka, a majority Buddhist country that has been ravaged by religious violence. As we would be emerging ourselves in some Sri Lankan communities, our professor, Dr. Cheryl Getz, encouraged us to explore meditation and incorporated meditation time into our few class meetings.

As soon as I decided to take the class, I sought resources to learn more about Buddhism as I find religions fascinating. I asked Dr. Evelyn Kierkley, who teaches religious studies at USD, for some suggestions. She loaned me four books and gifted me two more. I was so excited to delve into them... until I started reading them. I expected to learn about Buddhism: its origins, its tenants, the life of Buddha. Nope. All of the books were about mindfulness, connecting to self, and meditation. Our books assigned for class were either about Sri Lanka, Sarvodaya (the movement we were studying), or, again, mindfulness and meditation. I was disappointed. Ever the student, I read on anyways. The books opened me up to a new way of thinking and learning through self exploration.

In preparation for class, we were introduced to the concept of Metta: loving-kindness. Metta is an infinite love of everything. In Buddhism, the root of all suffering is attachment. To fully experience Metta, self becomes love becomes a seamless part of the Universe. Self disappears and thus, there is no possibility for attachment. Suffering vanishes. Enlightenment is achieved. Simple.

In life, my determination helps me accomplish things. Previously, when I had tried a few different types of meditation, that determination to still my mind only frustrated me. I couldn't stop beating myself up for getting distracted during meditation. This class introduced me to loving-kindness meditation. Loving-kindness meditation is one strategy for immersing oneself in Metta. This is the first type of meditation that made me feel light instead of heavy.

How it works best for me is to individually picture loved ones -- friends, family, teachers, students -- and to fully feel and send love for and to them, to wish them limitless love, health, and joy. Then, I picture people more generally, whoever feels like they need love in that moment -- people I honor, people who are suffering, people who serve -- and fully feel and send love for to them, wishing them limitless love, health, joy, and maybe also healing. Then, I picture all people. Then, I picture all living things, Then I picture everything. Love all around.

Then it gets harder. I direct the love inwards. Metta requires a love of self as well as others. That's often hard for me. So I take all of that love I sent to loved ones, strangers, and the world, and I direct it inward. I remind myself that all of the beauty I see in others is already present in me. I remind myself that those bits of myself in pain need to be loved and cared for desperately. Sometimes I need to picture those segmented pieces of myself and to send love to them as if they were separate from me, before I can accept it for myself.

Then, if I have the energy, it gets even harder. If I can, I specifically picture people I dislike, people who have hurt me, people who have hurt my loved ones. If I have the energy, I wish them the same love, health, joy, and healing. I don't always have the energy for that. There are a few people in my past I cannot yet fully wish happiness on. I don't want them to be happy. The pain is still too real. But I want to want that. So, when I have the energy, I send what I can. I know that forgiveness and love will solve so much of the world's problems. Our ability to move past the hurt that's been done to us, to fill ourselves with love, to send love, to be love, is freedom from pain, freedom from attachment to that pain. That doesn't mean freedom from the hard work the world still needs. It simply means to free oneself from the pain, which gives one more freedom to do that work. But it's hard. I send myself love and forgiveness when I cannot muster the love I want to want to feel.

While in Sri Lanka, we frequently met with Buddhist monks, a few of whom generously offered to lead us in meditation. On our second day, after several hiccups in our travel plans, we awoke in a retreat center. We traveled down the road to the Sarvodaya headquarters. We listened to Dr. Ariyaratne, the founder of Sarvodaya. He led us in a meditation. It was pleasant. Dr. Ari also told us a visiting monk from Oceania would be leading a meditation for children at the retreat center later that day. He told us maybe, if we happened upon the event, we would be invited to join... but not to tell anyone he told us that.

Later that day, at the retreat center, we happened upon a children's meditation led by a visiting monk. They invited us to join. Wonderful coincidence.

After weeks of practicing, I was confident the children's meditation would be a cake walk. I was still, happy, and open.

I remember the monk's words "...let them be well and happy..." as he led us through visions of so many people deserving of our love. My mind wandered. I beat myself up. I found myself struggling with the idea of attachment and something Dr. Ari told us earlier that I hadn't given much thought at the time. Dr. Ari had told us a story about a family where the mother was dying. Just before the mother died, she called to the oldest son. She whispered in his ear, "I don't love you anymore."

Dr. Ari explained to us this was the ultimate expression of Metta. When one fully surrenders to Metta, one no longer has any attachment. One realizes that we are all one. There is no need to love a specific person, even one who was born from one's own body, because we are all part of the Universe, the Universe is love, so we are all love. When we are all one, it is impossible to love someone more than another. One is love. She told him she didn't love him anymore because she was love, and so was he. She didn't love him. She loved everything. This mother accepted that as she passed.

Connecting with my lentils
Flash forward to the children's meditation: I couldn't stop thinking about that story and my cousin Brandon who died two years earlier. I imagined his suffering and how, as we are all one with the Universe, that suffering was also present in me. I thought of pain and self harm and sadness. I thought about his parents, my Aunt and Uncle. I imagined them letting go of their attachment to them. I thought, since letting go of him meant that he was actually within them, part of the same love that they are, that might be very freeing. He exists in their love and in all love.

Then, I found myself in agony as I imagined them letting go of their attachment to each other. I thought about couples, finding themselves in love, committing themselves to their love, sharing unimaginable pain, and then letting go of that attachment... of being alone in that pain even though someone else could understand exactly. The thought of letting go of a chosen partner was unbearable to me. What if the partner wasn't ready to let go? What if letting go caused more pain? How could there ever be children raised with love if there weren't partners who chose each other? How could children be born in love if there wasn't an attachment to another loved person? And, it was puzzling to me that I found it acceptable to let go of a child, who you brought into existence and cared for, to accept them as one with you, but not a partner, who was chosen.

When the monk coaxed us back to the outer world, I found tears streaming down my face.  In the children's meditation.

Leaving the children's meditation
A vision came to me during all of this, which ended up as a tattoo due to a dream I'd had 3 days after my cousin died.

After returning from Sri Lanka, Dr. Getz proposed simultaneous meditation time, on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00am (I believe) where anyone could participate in a loving-kindness meditation wherever they were, to bring more love into the world. The first Tuesday or Thursday back was the anniversary of my cousin's death, and 2 of my classmates/dear friends agreed to meet with me in the courtyard of the student life pavilion to meditate together. It felt so wonderful to be connected to and supported by two loving, strong women. We met a few more times but then life got in the way.

I meditated occasionally on my own, usually for 5-10 minutes at a time.

But then I left California. My meditation practice fell off. I might have only meditated once during my 6 months in Boston, which was a time in my life where I felt constantly in transition and unable to settle my physical, mental, emotional, financial, and social self.

Now I am back in Chicago and I'm ready to pick up so many of the practices I learned while in California. I meditated one Saturday morning and felt so much more able to focus the rest of the day that I thought I'd work towards the 7 days in a row of meditation I had added to my list years ago.

I help me get back into meditation, I download Headspace app, which I have found immensely helpful. While I hope to develop my own silent practice, having a guided meditation has helped me refresh my practice and to explore the practices that work for me to calm my mind. Two nice features of Headspace are 1) 10 days of free guided meditation for beginners and 2) the ability to set a reminder. Because of that reminder, I did 9 days in a row of meditation and will likely continue to take 10 minutes in the afternoon of my workdays to recenter myself. As I am an introvert in many ways, a full work day sends my mind racing by the mid-afternoon, and 10 minutes of meditation brings back my focus and allows me to do much better work. I plan to pay for the subscription after my 10 days are up (some days I did on my own) and am excited to take advantage of the guided meditations on a variety of topics like sleep and relationships.

Every now and then, my list includes items that requires me to do something every day for a week (or more) or forces me to meet a target participation number. While sometimes during that period, I have to force myself to meet those targets, even though it's something I claim to want to do. Yet, I find this a really helpful method of incorporating practices into my life. While I rarely keep up the pace of the list item, during that time I learn how to build that practice into my life, how to make time and find the energy, to reflect on the benefit. I'm so thankful I did this meditation item as I am finally transitioning to a place I truly call home and giving myself a good foundation for this life.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

#9 - Participate in a Protest

My favorite sign.  Everyone agrees.
Damn.  What a week.

 I've been meaning to post this sooner because I'm so thrilled my first list item of the year supports my growing commitment to acting for justice.  While I've always believed in justice and equity, actually developing the daily habits and making actual time and energy commitments is something that takes real effort.  It also reinforces itself.  The more I learn, the more compelled I feel to take action.

Growing up, I was taught to value diversity and humanity.  My parents intentionally sent me to an intentionally diverse preschool and struggled with the decision to move into the Saline school district: better schools, less diversity.  We still lived close enough to Ann Arbor to go there regularly, but my daily school life was not very diverse.

My alma mater, the University of Michigan, constantly touts the importance it places on diversity and publicly fought to maintain its "point system" for admission, which the institution claims supported admitting a more diverse student population.  The undergraduate admissions system was deemed illegal, but the law school's admission process, which relied on essays rather than points assigned for categories, was deemed legal.  I remember being proud of my school for being proactive in recruiting a diverse student body.

It wasn't until later that I realized 1) it's not as diverse as I thought it was, and 2) diversity for diversity's sake only benefits students with privileged identities... like me.  If the purpose is to create inclusive admissions practices that dismantle systems of oppression that have historically kept some populations from higher education and to broaden perspectives in academia, great.  If the purpose is for minoritized people to exist to educate people like me who have grown up in homogeneous communities, not great at all.  I believe Michigan truly wants to be the former but likely does a lot of the latter.

"A woman's place is in the resistance"
While I saw myself as an ally, someone who believes in equality, I didn't have any understanding of my own privilege and roles in systems of injustice.  It's not an excuse, but I didn't know what I didn't know... until I worked at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) in Chicago for 8 years.  Then I finally knew I didn't know.  NEIU has been named the most ethnically diverse university in the Midwest.  Due to its nontraditional structure, it is also incredibily diverse in terms of race, class, age, veteran status, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, and so much more.  While I gave a lot of myself to that campus, I learned more than I could ever give.  While NEIU has a lot of issues, the one thing it does not lack is a large percentage of students who speak up about social issues.  Students called me out in one-on-one meetings about the "white girl" things I would say and assumptions I would make, which I had no idea were limited views.  Students called out faculty and staff in professional development events about how the diversity of the students was not reflected in the faculty and staff, that we needed to do better in recruiting and hiring employees who better understand the student population.  When those of us who needed to do better leaned into this feedback instead of behaving defensively, the students were kind, inviting, and called us in to do the work we needed to do.

My first committed action for equity and change in service took the shape of volunteering at 826Chi.  I regularly gave my time, energy, and knowledge to students from around Chicago with 826Chi's tutoring program, writing workshops, and fundraising events.  While I strongly believe in the mission of this organization and the good they do, this was also an easy first step into regular community service because 826Chi is full of energetic, creative, hilarious staff and kids.  It was always a feel-good experience, and I can't wait to attend my re-orientation session in a few weeks.

When I started at the University of San Diego, I was slightly concerned about being at a conservative university.  I attended the first Safe Space Allies workshop available and learned that I could apply to be a facilitator with the Rainbow Educator program.  I am so thankful I was accepted as the experience was invaluable for my own development.  Training and meeting with the other students, faculty, staff, and alumni who volunteered with this group was generally a feel-good experience as well, but occasionally, we dived deep into our own experiences and perspectives to examine how we perpetuate social injustice even when we don't intend to.  That was hard.  While there were moments when I was paralyzed by guilt and shame, those moments were few and far between because while they are real, they aren't helpful.  What is helpful is recognizing strategies for change.  In addition, I was able to facilitate workshops that centered equity and inclusion in a variety of settings on campus.  This experience taught me to "call in" individuals who were struggling with the concepts we were discussing.

Since that experience, I've come to feel strongly that while "calling in" is an important strategy for educational settings, such as formally facilitating a workshop on inclusion, it is not enough in the larger social justice context.  With the very disturbing presidential election cycle in 2016, I vowed to call out injustice every single time I felt safe doing so.  I defined "safe" in this context as direct physical and professional safety.  As a single woman who spends a lot of time alone without anyone knowing where I am, I'm often not willing to jeopardize my own physical safety to call out language or behaviors I find oppressive.  (I wonder if this will change if I ever encounter a situation where someone else's physical safety is at risk.)  For example, in terms of physical safety, I would call out a friend for making a comment about my body, but I wouldn't call out a man on the street for making the same comment if I were walking alone.  In terms of professional safety, during the election, I had just started working my first full-time job after completing my Ph.D.  The lack of appropriate higher ed positions pushed me to take a job where I would need to live paycheck to paycheck.... again.  There was an opportunity for advancement and my workplace did not attend to issues of social justice.  I needed my financial situation to change, so I just didn't feel comfortable calling out my coworkers.  (Hello, intersectionality.)  (Retrospectively, I wish I would because I was not considered for the position and soon left that institution altogether.)

I'm so relieved now to be in a workplace I consider feminist.  Coworkers at all levels are vocal about social justice issues.  I no longer feel my social justice-lens is a professional liability.  I'm so thankful. I don't forsee the need to call out any of my coworkers, so I hope to use the opportunities I'm granted to speak at conferences to "call in" colleagues in educational settings.

All of that brings me to a very powerful Saturday, January 21, 2017.  I participated in the Women's March in Chicago.  I had a few friends attending but chose to attend with a few of my coworkers, mostly because I am so thankful to work in an environment where those who are interested in being activists for feminism openly support each other.  I'm so thrilled to work with you, John, Sarah, and Moe.

Moe, me, & Sarah

Well, I intended to attend with them.  I was moving too slow in the morning and did not anticipate the public transit delays.  While I could have seen the delays as an inconvenience, they instead brought me to tears. The trains were so packed with marchers, there wasn't room to board many of the cars as I waited at Fullerton.  When I did board, people were excited and kind.

John told me where my group was located for the rally.  It was quite a bit of work to get there.  When I hit the clog of bodies, I realized a few things.  1) This was beautiful.  I couldn't get to my people because the downtown area was flooded with my people.  The mood was determined and creative.  The signs were beautiful and inspiring.  2) Part of the reason the area I was in was clogged was because marchers were asked not to stand on the grass... so they didn't.  We were all standing, rallying, and trying to move only on the sidewalks out of respect to the beauty of our city.  3) I could move slowly towards where my people were and have a moving experience being in community with so many people who stood together to support a cause I truly believe in.

I eventually found Moe and Sarah.  John and his wife had to leave before I finally found them.  At that point we were told there were too many people, the march was cancelled, and we would rally in place.  We listened to the inspiring local speakers: grassroots activists and politicians with messages diverse in perspective but consistent on the message of caring for all humanity.  The signs were compelling and hilarious.  I was struck by the skill of the speakers to call out and call in almost in the same breath.  They challenged us to name a Native American who has been killed by police this year when they are the group most killed by police... and then told us we aren't "supposed" to know.  We were educated on the grassroots movements that have been working so hard for so long without us... and have been waiting for us to finally show up.  I appreciated the reminder that this work isn't new, there is history, but it needs all of us.  Now is always the best time to fight injustice, even if we never have before.  We need to move beyond guilt, beyond the savior complex, and join the those who have been immersed in the work for so long.

After the rally, Sarah and I took "the scenic route" back to the train.  Really, we ended up marching with thousands of other Chicagoans.  The official march was cancelled, but the marchers filled the streets of Chicago uncontested.  We chanted, appreciated each other, took photos, laughed, and walked through the streets.  Cars stuck in traffic because of us honked in support (for real, they waved and took pictures).  Police waited calmly and responded "you're welcome" to every "thank you."

While I'm so proud to be a part of the second-largest Women's March and part of the larger movement that saw marches all over the world with very consistent messages, I'm overwhelmed by the work that still needs to be done.  I have made an effort to stay away from facebook and news outlets for periods of time only to return to see I've missed so much.  I expected bad, but I cannot believe this first week of Trump's presidency has been so immensely heartbreaking.  Women around the world have lost access to healthcare in the name of life.  A wall is to be built, spending billions in taxpayer money on a problem that isn't actually a major problem.  Millions may lose health care and we may all lose transportable benefits.  Refugees have been banned from seven countries have been banned under false pretenses.

Today I'm inspired by the ACLU who has contested the refugee ban and won an injunction to halt the ban.  Personally, I have done a lot of reflecting on what is legal versus what is right.  I remember learning about the holocaust (yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day) and thinking, of course I would break the law to do what's right.  Well, now may be the time to learn from our history.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

#36 - Read 40 Books - Fail

What with that whole dissertation thing, the job search, moving from San Diego to Boston, and moving from Boston to Chicago, my leisure reading schedule really suffered.  I managed to fit in a few new novels and did my best to reread the Game of Thrones series before the next season (also failed).  Can't wait to read more next year.

1 - The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
1/23/16, borrowed from Jerry & Kathy Krone
"Inside the snow globe on my father's desk, there was a penguin wearing a red-and-white-striped scarf." (p.3)

2 - The Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins
4/15/16, gifted to me by Kevin Robitaille
"Beautiful sunshine, cloudless skies, no one ot play with, nothing to do.  Living like this, the way I'm living at hte moment, is harder in the summer when there is so much daylight, so little cover of darkness, when everyone is out and about, being flagrantly, aggressively happy.  It's exhausting, and it makes you feel bad if you're not joining in."

3 - A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
5/24/16, for the second time, loaned to me by Kevin Robitaille
"'We should start back,' Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them." (p.1)

4 - A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
"Except for the Marabar Caves -- and they are twenty miles off -- the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary." (p. 3)

5- A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
8/5/16, loaned to me by Kevin Robitaille
"The comet's tail spring across the dawn, a red slash that bled above the crags of Dragonstone like a wound in the pink and purple sky." (p.1).

6 - All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
12/11/16, gifted to me by Jerry & Kathy Krone

7 - Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
12/12/2016, loaned to me by Kevin Robitaille

Friday, December 16, 2016

#27 - Run 100 Miles

The view during the SpeakUp 5k
After years as a cross country and track runner, I've definitely done this before, but I was always terrible at keeping track of my mileage.  It also seems bizarre that in the last 2 years I couldn't get to 100 miles.  That's like 2 miles a week.  Kinda pathetic for someone who considers themselves a runner.

However, last January, I realized my time in San Diego was limited, so I focused my workouts on things I wouldn't be able to do regularly once I left.  I surfed and played beach volleyball multiple days a week.  I practiced yoga at Mosaic.  I tried to fit in at least one hike a week (and did not include that in my running mileage).  I took a wakeboarding class.  Running just couldn't compare, and when I did run, I often did short hill workouts in my neighborhood because the hills were BANANAS, and I like running hills.

My favorite SpeakUp 5k water station
So, it took me all the way until December to rack up 100 miles.  I only recently started running with GPS tracking, so it's possible my count isn't quite accurate, but close enough.

Nearly all of that running was by myself except for the SpeakUp 5k in San Diego and Yulefest in Cambridge.  The SpeakUp 5k course was lined with SDSU Sport Club athletes who were volunteering and made me feel like a celebrity.  It was a beautiful course along the Embarcadero and the weather was perfect.  Friends in Boston convinced me to do Yulefest with them, so I had fellow runners, but well, the weather was less than perfect.  I finally felt my toes around mile 2.  I ran much faster at the SpeakUp 5k.

Boston is a total running town though, obviously famous for the Boston Marathon.  I am really thrilled I fit in one race, even just a 5k, so I could feel like part of the running community in a city that is home to the most famous run out there.  So while I grumbled a lot about the cold, thank you, Alan, Jessie, Angela, Malinda, Ryan, and all of the other friends out there who convinced me to get out of bed and run in more layers than I have in probably 20 years.

The Yulefest Crew

Friday, December 9, 2016

#10 - Go to a New State

It was only a night, but it was a super fun night with one of my favorite people in the world exploring my thirty-third state, the little green one in the upper, right-hand corner.

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I hate my birthday and always try to leave town with a minimum of one friend in an effort to be present with them and have a great time.  It's always a great time, and Laura Masters has joined me for 5 of the last 8 years!  Very impressive commitment to adventuring on my birthday :)

2009: Las Vegas, NV
2010: Louisville, KY
2011: Kalamazoo, MI
2012: Hollywood, CA
2013: San Juan, PR
2014: Catalina Island, CA
2015: Kona, HI
2016: Portland, ME

This year, I'm in Boston, and a lot of my friends couldn't make it work.  Boston is a lot further from Michigan and Chicago, where a lot of my friends are, and almost the furthest you can get from San Diego.  However, I'm super broke from this stupidly expensive town.  I am so thankful Laura Masters, champion of life, booked a flight early and put my mind at ease.

Great drinks and vibe at the Bearded Lady
However, I was so preoccupied with trying to make ends meet in Boston that I never booked anything despite loads of ideas: Nantucket, the Cape.  Then, one of my coworkers suggested Portland, Maine, as the most fun place to visit within driving distance of Boston.  (Keep in mind New Englanders have a different definition of "driving distance" than I do, but that worked out great for this trip.)

Laura and I went out with Boston peeps for a super fun Friday night.  Then, on Saturday, we searched for hotels and booked a night in Portland.

It was a lovely 24 hours filled with delightful drinks, lobster rolls, and conversation.  Some foodie highlights were the cocktails at the Bearded Lady and the lobster rolls at J's Oyster.  So delicious and reasonably priced.  The owner and two bartenders at the Bearded Lady were super fun, attentive, and had a killer playlist.  J's Oyster was had a dive bar vibe, which I dug.  The lobster roll had huge chunks of fresh lobster and was served with butter and mayo, so the lobster was the star.  I would definitely go back to Maine... at least Portland!

UPDATE:  I honestly cannot remember if I've ever been to Connecticut before.  It feels like I probably should have, but I can't remember, so I might as well add it in here as my official thirty-fourth state.  Or maybe thirty-fifth state...  I also can't remember if I've been to West Virginia.

I only made it 6 months as a New Englander, so when I got an invite to Peggy's tree decorating party, I couldn't pass it up.

I spent a lovely evening in the Salisbury home.  Spending time with camp friends always warms my heart and makes me feel more like myself, so some quality time with seven camp friends was even better.  In addition to just being happy to be with everyone, the highlights were 4) watching the very risky game of Beanboozeled, 3) the goodbye hugs from Katherine & Ruth, 2) this badass ornament that Anthony designed -- he did not care that I liked it, and 1) Maryanne's "I'm Batman."  Thank you for having me!

Coolest ornament I've ever seen