Flashback Friday--A Fall Sort of Memory


I found this picture in my box of random stuff the other day.  Instantly I was reminded of summer and early fall trips to my great aunt and uncle's house. They have a huge yard, a ranch-style house, horses, guns (real ones they let us shoot pop cans with!), and, obviously, tractors. And when I was a kid, I thought riding in the tractor was the coolest. thing. ever.

That's little me in the blue dress in the middle, the one facing front, second from the right. Next to me, in the black shirt, is my brother Daniel. The other girls to my left are two of my cousins. And to the far left is my grandma. That head poking up in the back is my mom's cousin John.

Two things to note: 
1. We are in a tractor. I don't know if we're about to be lifted up or are just coming down. I also don't know if I'm about to jump ship or am settling in for the ride.
2. I am wearing my favorite blue dress. I remember the day I grew out of it. My mom said I needed to pass it on to my cousin Bethany (she's the girl in the red shirt on the left). I cried. I'm not sure I have ever found a dress I like so much.

Now I'm wondering why I liked wearing a dress at all. Older, wiser me knows that sweatpants are the way to go. Especially when you're riding in a tractor. Seriously, I question younger me's intelligence. 

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The Reason I'm Looking Forward to the End of Football Season


 Somehow I got talked into joining a fantasy football league at work. I was reluctant at first, but I finally said yes for three reasons: 

1. I like sports
2. I like competition
3. I like going against normal girl trends by participating in male-dominated activities.

I do not, however, like losing. Which is why #3 usually ends up being a problem. I don't know why I continue to set myself up for failure. Obviously I think girls are better than boys, but I'm not stupid enough to claim that the average girl can beat the average boy when it comes to athleticism. This annoys me to no end, but that's how it is. 

Something else I've realized is that it's easier for boys to remember statistics about athletes, sports, games, etc. (I'm speaking, of course, about boys who like sports.) But in general it seems that while girls are better at analyzing themselves (and others), multitasking, and mostly just being awesome, boys have the ability to remember enormous amounts of information--irrelevant information, mostly, but still. They can talk for hours about a number of different topics, discussing at length what the majority of females consider to be extremely mundane details. My brothers could probably tell you which team won in the last ten World Series or how many interceptions the Jay Cutler threw five weeks ago. I remember who won the World Series last year. Before that, it's all just a jumble.

This annoys me because no matter how hard I try, I just can't retain all this information.  (Again, I feel it's important to say that I realize it's irrelevant information, but that doesn't stop me from wishing I knew it too.)

Which brings me to fantasy football.

I figured it would be fun to pick and choose my team and that it would be a great way for me to stay interested in other teams besides my own (Da Bears). I could sorta talk with my male coworkers about football, sounding cool but really only skimming over basic stuff. 

What I did not count on is the politics, the lengthy discussions at work about what player I should trade for vs. another player, and what running back I'm going to aquire for my bye week. It's bad enough to have three different males send me a taunting e-mail me on any given day, but last week my quarterback was injured and will likely be out for the rest of the season. 

Now I'm fielding 7 trade offers and trying not to look like an idiot. I can't honestly tell who I think has a better offer--I can barely follow my team, and these crazy, stat-loving boys expect me to be able to make an educated decision about how to pick up another quarterback? Seriously, this is getting ridiculous.

It's currently Week 8 in the world of football, and even though I love me some Sunday afternoon NFL, I have to say that I am looking forward to the end of football season. If only because I won't have to spend my time worrying about making a bad fantasy decision. I realize I could just give up and decide I don't care, but if you'll refer back to #2 I think you'll understand my problem. Add that to the fact that I'm currently in 1st place and have a good chance of receiving $100 at the end of all this, and I'm definitely going to stick with it.

But next year if they ask me to play, I will definitely say no. Although based on my annoying tendency to forget information, I probably won't even remember what a stressful time I had this year. So in order to save me from myself, I'm writing it down. 

Future me, consider this your warning. 

Flashback Friday--A Trip to Greece


Today I'm flashing back to my first (and so far only) trip to Europe. In January of 2008, senior year of college, I spent almost 2 weeks there, traveling to ancient ruins and eating delicious Greek food. And I got three college credits! The only thing that would have made the trip more awesome was if I had a best friend along. Oh wait. I did.

 Here's Lauren and I sitting on a hill across from the Parthenon (she's on the right):

There are some really cool ancient buildings. Although I really don't think you'd call them buildings. More like temples and theaters and, of course, a parthenon (in the left side of this picture on the hill).

 There are lots of olives in Greece. And lots of Greek people. Like this guy:

There's never a bad time for a jumping picture. Especially when it's Greece.
And you're jumping in front of the Mediterranean Sea.

                                                           That was a good time. 

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Today I'm Craving...



Crispy, delicious, pepperoni pizza. Pizza from the Gianorio's, the place down the street from my house in Illinois. We ordered there so often, they knew our name.

I was last in northern IL in May for my brother's college graduation. We drove to good ole Wheaton to see friends and creepily drive by our old house. But mostly we wanted to get some pizza. 

Look at me. So triumphant. So joyous. Holding that box of steamy greasiness. 

Plans are still being worked out, but there's a good chance I'll be driving with the fam back to Chicagoland for Christmas. And if we do, you can be sure there will be pizza eaten. 

And I'll be triumphant and joyous once again.

The Result of Being Flustered


I get flustered often. It could be due to any number of reasons, but the result is the same: I end up doing something embarrassing. 

Enter yesterday. 

I went into a store. 
Bought something.
The cashier asked me if I wanted to donate money to a prison ministry. 
I said no.
Then I felt like a terrible person.
I got flustered.
Got my keys out of my purse and walked over to my car.
Correction: I walked over to a white car I thought was mine.
It wasn't.
I opened the door.
Started to get in.
A voice from the backseat said, "Woah! What are you doing?!"
I shut the door and hurried away.
To my actual car.
Which was parked in the next aisle. 
Checked for people sitting in the backseat.
Got in.
Drove away as quickly as possible.
Vowed to support prison ministry for the rest of my life.

Around the House


1. Something's wrong with my washer. Every time I do a load of laundry, I'm seriously afraid my washer is going to lift off and take my clothes with it. I'm not kidding. Imagine a moving train with a shuttle inside it, preparing for a space mission. That's what it sounds like.

2. I have some paper muffin cups, but I don't make muffins or cupcakes often (though I should), so I always have extras I need to stash somewhere. My apartment kitchen was not structured with the thought that a normal human would be using it, so there are random cabinets and drawers everywhere. Thus, every. single. time. I need to put my muffin cups away, I try to put them somewhere I know I'll remember. And without fail, I have to dig through cabinet after cabinet looking for the stupid things. And when I finally find them, I think, okay, well now I know where they are. But, sadly, this knowledge doesn't last until the next time I need to muffin cups. It's infuriating. And pathetic.

3. I forget to use my left-handed spoon. Until it's too late, and I don't want to dirty another utensil. So it sits in all its wooden glory, waiting for a chance to show my lame right-handed spoons what's up. 

4. I bought two canisters like these at William Sonoma. One for flour, one for sugar. (I don't have the little size. Mostly I'm just too lazy to take a picture of the actual ones in my kitchen.) They came with a handy little scooper, and they're pretty much the best thing ever. Oddly enough, this makes me finally feel like a grown-up. Who knew that's all it took?

 Now I just have to figure out what the heck is wrong with my washer. And remember where those dang muffin cups are. I really want some cupcakes.

Flashback Friday--Summerfest


This is Alison (she's on the left). She and I have known each other since sixth grade. Basically, a long time. But we're not that young in this picture. Don't let my braids fool you. No, we're sixteen, hanging out on a gondola in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Every summer there's a music festival, with some famous bands/artists and some no one's heard of. A few high school friends and I tried to start a Summerfest tradition, and we sorta did. If you can count going two years in a row a tradition. But now I live far away. Boo to moving to Oklahoma and getting older.

Alison and I don't talk a whole lot, but that's okay. She's the type of friend I don't have to see or talk to every day. But when we're hanging out, it feels like only yesterday that we were together. Hanging out on a gondola.

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(Note: This is my first try at linking a blog. I know, get into 2010, right? Lame. Please don't judge me.)

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My Bucket List and a Half Marathon


Ten months ago, when I considered resolutions for 2010, I had no idea that this year I would cross (count it) two things off my bucket list. Actually, I didn't even know I had a bucket list--until a friend proposed going skydiving in celebration of her 25th birthday. Then I realized that I'd always wanted to go skying, but when it came down to actually planning it, paying for it, and jumping out of a plane, I needed someone else to motivate me. 

The same is apparently true for running. I'd always wanted to run a half marathon. I'd heard about people training and seen pictures of herds of skinny people in short shorts and sports bras, but for me it was just one of those I-would-love-to-do-that-but-I-would-die-if-I-ran-thirteen-miles kinds of things.

The idea of actually training for something like that seemed daunting and too far out of my reach. But then my good friend Audra e-mailed me and announced she was going to train for a half marathon. She sent me the link to register for a race on October 10 in Wichita, Kansas, and told me to think about it. It was late spring at this point, and I was running a few times a week--just to keep in shape but not enough to run more than 2 or 3 miles at a time, so 13 miles sounded insane.

Finally doing something I'd always wanted to was too tempting to resist, however, so I bought a cheap watch at Walmart and made a running playlist on my ipod. I mapped out a three-mile route around Jordan's neighborhood, and I made a tentative schedule that would have me ready to go by October.

My goal seemed simple enough: 13.1 miles at 10-min/mile pace. That's 131 minutes or 2hrs 11minutes, give or take a few minutes on either end. I started out running intervals of 5 or 6 minutes running and 1 minute walking, and eventually I was able to run 30 or 40 minutes without stopping. I was feeling good.

But the more I ran, the longer my runs became, and I soon found out that there's a huge difference between 8 miles and 4. Duh, it's twice as far. I know. But really, it's a whole different game, and I was sad to discover it was one I wasn't very good at.

I'm a mostly positive person. At least, I try to be as positive as I can given the circumstances. But for some reason, this running thing showed a side of me I didn't like. And it threw me for a loop.

I was whiny, stressed, pessimistic, and convinced that when it actually came down to it, I would fail. I was attempting something I wasn't at least mostly sure I would be able to do well. And well by my standards, which is usually a high bar. So I didn't register, and I didn't tell anyone I was training. I remained noncommittal about the whole thing until I finally officially signed up and wrote a blog post about it. Then, suddenly, it seemed more real once I actually said it out loud.

My goal time dropped from 2:10 to 2:30, and then after an 8-mile run that felt like death itself, I decided I was just going to be happy to finish. Screw making good time.

As race day approached, I became more and more nervous, especially after a terrible bathroom episode while on a 5-mile run, and I couldn't stop thinking about being in the middle of the race and having nowhere to relieve myself. It was depressing, so I stopped thinking about it.

Okay, that's a lie. It was all I could think about.

And then it was here, and I headed off to Kansas to meet up with Cori, Audra, Joey, and Hilda.

I was worried about eating too much fiber, too much protein, drinking too little water, too much juice. I knew anything I ate might come back to haunt me later. While Cori scarfed down a burger and fries on Saturday night, I picked at chips, fearfully dipping them in runny salsa before chugging glass after glass of water.

Sunday morning I woke up at 6:15. I popped my contacts in, tugged on my running shoes, ate a quick (slight) breakfast of a piece of toast and a half glass of OJ, and pinned #2220 to the front of my shirt. Then Cori and I drove 15 minutes to downtown Wichita, parked, and calmly walked to the start line--all while butterflies slammed against the inside of my stomach. It was surprisingly easy finding Joey and Audra in the crowd, and before I knew it we were waiting with an excited mob of runners, listening to the horn blow, and moving forward with the crowd.

From that point on, I was focused on one thing--the finish. As I zig-zagged through the crowd, Colbie Caillat singing in my ears, I looked around and thought, This is awesome!

I'd gotten used to running alone, meandering either through Jordan's neighborhood or a nearby park, that I'd been missing the community of running. Two thousand pairs of toned calves and blistered feet, hearts pumping, arms moving, feet kicking up gravel. Maybe I had beginner's luck, or maybe it was runner's high, but the first 7 miles went by before I knew it. Besides a quick 30-second stop at a few water stations, I went for over an hour without taking a legit walk break, and I was under my 10-min/mile goal. It wasn't until mile 9 that things got really hard.

When am I going to reach 10 miles! I thought, looking ahead to see a long line of runners stretched out before me. For the first time, I feared keeping up my (for me) blistering pace. When I finally did reach the blessed sign marked 10, I shouted, "Yes! Thank the Good Lord!" A girl in pink next to me turned and smiled. After a quick stop for water, I decided that I was going to stop again at mile 11. So I started running and running...and running. After ten minutes, I still hadn't seen any sign. I haven't slowed down that much, I thought. Then, like a beacon of light in a dark night, I saw a water station. 

"What MILE is this?" I asked the nearest worker. 
"You're almost to mile 12," she said, handing me a cup of Gatorade.
I guess that's the upside to not having clearly marked miles markers. Only a mile and a half to go; then I could stop. And eat.

When mile 12 hit, I was dead on my feet, but somehow I kept them moving. It's weird how that works. I mean, I could have stopped. No one was technically making me run, but my fear of failure and hope of greatness pushed me on. I think mile 12 was the worst. I was so close, and yet I still had 1.1 miles to go. As much as I wanted to sprint to the finish, it was all I could do to keep my current pace. There was a lady in orange I had my eye on; as long as she was near me, I was fine. If she started to pull away, it meant I needed to run faster.

With about two tenths of a mile to go, I saw Hilda. She wasn't running, but I stayed at her apartment in Wichita, and she'd agreed to meet me at the finish. I slapped her hand and smiled, and it was beautiful to see a friendly face.

She also snapped this photo of me:

When I ran across the finish, there were people lining the road, cheering, it seemed, just for me. I felt suddenly felt alone, but in a good way. I crossed the finish line and at last gave my legs the okay to stand still. Then I looked at the clock.


I couldn't believe it. I'd run faster and longer than I ever had before, and I beat my goal time! That's when I almost threw up. It's ironic, really. With all my worry about having to poop in the middle of the race, I hadn't even thought about something coming out the other end. It was a close call, but let's just say I was able to hold it down.

In the wake of my great success, I grabbed a water bottle, Gatorade, and somehow found Hilda. The wind, which had felt so refreshing just two minutes ago, now felt like a knife, slicing through my sweat and quickly freezing me to death. I wrapped what looked like a sheet of tinfoil around myself, and we went back to the race to wait for Audra, Joey, and Cori.

I used Hilda's phone to call Jordan, where I left an excited, out-of-breath message, which I have no doubt he wasn't able to understand. 

"I'm so excited!" I shouted to Hilda. "I can't believe I did it!"

And I really couldn't. Like I said, I'd been horribly pessimistic about the whole thing--certainly something to learn for next time. 

But when it came down to it, the adrenaline kicked in, and I just kept running. Thirteen whole miles (plus a tenth!) at 9:48 min/mile. 

 This story could have ended horribly. I ran 15-minute miles. I had to stop at every mile and go to the bathroom. I tripped and twisted my ankle. The possibilities for disaster are endless. Then I would have cried and written a post about how disappointed I am, how silly I feel, and how much of a failure I've become. Even though in this case nothing like that happened, I'm not naive enough to think that I won't even have setbacks or days when real-life me just can't measure up to my expectations for myself. But that doesn't mean I should stop setting a high bar, because it's just that much sweeter when I finally finish. 

In a world of ultra runners and 100-mile races, 13 miles isn't all that much, and 10-minute miles isn't lightening fast. But it was for me, and that's what I measured against. So I couldn't be happier. Another check for my bucket list. A medal for my wall. A 13.1 decal for my car. And the knowledge that I can do it, because just last weekend, I did.

Why I fear the 26-minute mark


I'll write a longer post about my race experience later, but I'm tired. So for right now all I'm going to say is that I finished my first half marathon, and I feel really good. I mean, I'm sore and tired, but my sense of accomplishment is at an all-time high.

This is not only due to the fact that I finished but because my #1 fear did not come true.

Let me preface by saying that during my training, I occasionally had a problem of needing to go to the bathroom.  

This brings me to my #1 fear: During my half marathon I feared I would have the unstoppable urge to release certain fluids, have to wait in a port-a-potty line for half an hour, and end up finishing the race at a slow waddle.

Well, today, while running, I realized something: in training, this emergency tended to happen right around the 26-minute mark. If I made it past 26 minutes without having to go, I was fine.

It was at this point in the race that I happened to look at my watch and see that I'd been running for exactly 23 minutes. I immediately started to panic. I had 3 minutes until something exploded.

Long story short, I spent the next 3 minutes running in fear, but thankfully nothing happened. I did almost throw up once I stopped running, but my mid-run bathroom nightmare didn't come to pass.

I did, however, think about this off and on throughout the race, and it sounded a little something like this: Hey! I haven't had to go to the bathroom yet! Stop thinking about it, you idiot. It will hear you. (Not really sure what "it" is referring to here...)

But as I neared the 12.5 mark, I saw someone holding this sign, which pretty much defines my running experience and also occasional road trips with my dad.

I wonder if she's speaking from personal experience. All I know is, I'm glad I didn't have to follow her advice. At least, not today.

When Friends Collide


I'm off to Wichita on Friday for my run. I'm nervous about the actual 13.1 miles part, but I'm looking forward to meeting up with a few friends. (And, not gonna lie, I'm totally buying a 13.1 sticker for my car the second I get home.) But anyway, as sometimes happens, these three friends don't know one another. I am the link responsible for bringing them together. 

Two of them are running with me; the other is letting me crash at her apartment. 

1. Hilda. Years known: 10

We met freshman year of high school. I remember her specifically, because we were sitting in Spanish class, and this strange girl knew all the answers. Question after question, translation after translation, she had a response. I was like, "Who is this girl?"

Then, we ended up eating lunch together, and the rest is history. After graduating from college, she moved to Kansas for her job (she's a smarty pants engineer), and I'm using that to my advantage for free housing this weekend. What a pal.

2. Audra. Years known: 2
My first Oklahoma friend. We met on the job. She'd started only a few weeks before me, but her strong, opinionated presence confused me into thinking she'd been working there much longer. Only a month after moving to Oklahoma, I planned to fly back to IL for the weekend. My flight time required arrival at the airport at ridiculous o'clock (like, 5 in the morning), and Audra graciously offered to take me. That early-morning drive to Will Rogers Airport kicked off a friendship that's been going strong for over two years, in spite of her move to Kansas City a year ago. This half-marathon will be a first for both of us. This is where our first long-distance running relationship ends (or begins?).

3. Cori. Years known: 6

Beloved college friend who lives in the St. Louis area and will be joining the party in Wichita for her second half-marathon. I honestly don't specifically remember the moment I met Cori, but I do recall seeing a cute redhead around campus. Eventually we ended up in the same circle, and I'm glad we did. We're both religion majors and were also roommates junior and senior years. Good times were had, that's for sure. Love this girl.

On another note, I noticed a pattern in the above photos. Clearly I need to start taking picture on the other side of people. I also need to stop wearing green. Hmm... Or I just should have chosen different pictures. Ah, well. Such is life.

I'll be sure to give a full update on the race next week. Wish me luck!