Tunesday: Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)

I started this blog in April of 2014 on the cusp of running my first marathon, the race I decided would get me out of my ten year running slump, and the experience I decided would jumpstart my very own blog. This blog.

And it worked. For the time it took to train and run the 2014 Chicago Marathon, I had a really solid posting schedule and regular things to talk about that I felt comfortable sharing on the internet.

And then it didn’t, because I stopped running regularly after the marathon (burnout?) and I couldn’t really catch a rhythm in my posting or topics or… anything. My personal and professional life were pulling me in a million different directions and I wanted to follow all of them but just couldn’t keep up with any of it (more burnout?).

I stopped posting here regularly, too.

But I learned something on that road to 26.2: you can stop doing something, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come back harder, better, faster, stronger.

So here I am.

As of right now, my life is in a great, stable place compared to 2014: I am married to the wonderful man who was then my boyfriend; my dog is no longer a puppy and all the thrilling things that come with that growth; I have a wonderful, full-time job in my most desired career path (public youth services librarianship, working with community schools); and my husband and I have recently bought a house that is a 15 minute commute tops for each of us.

For the first time in a long time, all the pieces of my life fit together nicely and while it’s not all perfect or smooth or effortless (work is great but is still work, our house is going on 90 years old and the previous owners did some *interesting* things to it, our dog is 3 and out of puppyhood but still has his charming little foibles…), there is nothing foreseeable on the horizon to plan or worry about or consider.

From house breaking to wedding planning to job commuting and hunting, things were just never as calm as they were in that stretch between April and October of 2014. I mean, while we were house hunting at the start of the year and then closing and moving in May, we were also planning a two week, four city European vacation of a lifetime on top of me going through my first year of my job and, for the entirety of 2018, I barely had time to find the box with the towels so I could take a shower let alone drag myself out for a run or write a blog post for fun.

Or, I guess I had time, but I also had burnout. No question mark.

We just got home from that marvelous trip Saturday night, but during our last few days away I would keep musing to my husband about the life we were returning to; now that we weren’t packing or unpacking or exchanging currency or comparing hotels or hardcore meal planning to save money… we might have the headspace to do and thoroughly enjoy the things that we want to in a way we haven’t been able to in a long while.

And for me, that is running and writing.

So when I woke up the day after our vacation ended (Sunday at 6:20am to be precise) and my weather app declared that running conditions were GOOD… I laced up and headed out.

And just like that, she’s back.

IMG_5315.jpg

Well, no. It wasn’t just like that. I had just been on a trip to Europe where I drank at least a glass of wine literally every day and sampled each of the four cities we visited’s multiple culinary must-haves (and then some). And I had just spent, no joke, twenty hours traveling and was seriously jet lagged. On top of that, I hadn’t run in months. It was slow and a little awkward, but it was something.

And I learned something else during my marathon training: something is always better than nothing.

I don’t currently have a curated running playlist and I’m really picky about my running music, and I decided to shuffle the entirety of Lady Gaga’s repertoire for my run. I knew my girl would deliver. And she did.

Run, run with her top down, baby she flies
Run, run with the fury of a saint in her eyes

We can be strong. We can be strong
Out on this lonely road. On the road to love

This song isn’t strictly about running, but pair those lyrics “baby, she flies” with “we can be strong” and you’ve got some hardcore techno rock motivation to keep the pace up and keep. on. moving.

And keep moving I did, for 3.2 whole miles. And it was hot. And it was sweaty. And it was a little slower than I prefer. And I am still sore two days later.

But I did it. I got it done.

And guess what? I did it again today, too.

I’m back, baby. Stronger than ever before.

Advertisements

Write to Change the World

I promised you big things would start happening soon and this weekend, I did so much to set huge possibilities into motion. Because y’all, just so you know, I plan to change the world.

This weekend, I attended a one day writing class geared toward, you guessed it, changing the world through writing and presenting thought leadership into the world. A local political group I am affiliated with joined up with The Op-Ed Project to give a one-day, eight-hour, intensive op-ed writing workshop.

img_4025I had never heard of The Op-Ed Project when I found this opportunity, and wasn’t even sure what an op-ed was, but after a bit of research, I was all in. In a society where the majority of opinion pieces come from white males, the Project’s main focus is to raise the voices of marginalized people, especially those of women, in order to introduce dynamic thought leadership into the world. Of course, all people of all genders, races, and orientations are warmly welcomed to attend any classes.

At this workshop, my peers and I learned how to hone and trust our expertise and find the value in our knowledge of numerous topics. We also explored not only how to fit big ideas and current events into our areas of expertise, but how to build credibility and confidence in our ideas. Most importantly? We were imparted with the idea not only that we mattered, but that we have a civic duty to add our narratives to wider thought cacophonimg_4019y in order to challenge the status quo, arouse change, influence leaders (or even raise ourselves to leadership positions) and ultimately change the world.

The biggest cherry on this sundae of promise is that, am I (or any of the class’s participants) to turn in a viable op-ed to the Project within a month of our class, we will be paired with a writing mentor from a pool of famous essayists, renown editors, Pulitzer prize winners. It’s truly the change of a lifetime. And I am not throwing away my shot.

“If you say something of consequence, there may be consequences – but the alternative is to be inconsequential.”

Of course, it’s scary to put your ideas out into the world, especially when your goal is to challenge ideas, to provoke thought, to inspire change in very powerful people and positions. But, going back to my favorite musical of the moment, which I have found myself doing more and more in this political climate and with my more challenging writing, if you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?

And so, world, you will soon know what I stand for. Because, to be sure, despite my youth, and perhaps because of it, I have big ideas for this nation and this world. And I think, if I can be effective and convince you to give them a chance, they might just work.

Speaking of young woman changing the world (and Lin-Manuel Miranda, at that…), have you seen Diseny’s latest, Moana? As if this blessing of a movie could come into my life at more perfect a moment, I finished watching this beautiful story just this morning and I. am. inspired. I had this song (and its reprises) stuck in my head even before I saw the film and let me tell you… they now have squished their spot in my heart right next to my favorites from Hamilton.

Because now that, when it comes to op-eds and what they can lead to, I know what I know?
There’s just no telling how far I’ll go.

And now, for me, it’s time to write (like I’m running out of time).
Have a good week, y’all!

Irons in the Fire

I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. Some were positive things, some were negative things. Some were merited and many were not. In any combination of these situations, my favorite thing that I have been called is “a hustler.”

My first reaction to this allegation was identical to when I was sorted via Pottermore (a.k.a. the most official Hogwarts House sorting there is aside from the actual Sorting Hat). I was sorted into Slytherin and hit with a wave of confusion and a hint of defensiveness.

Me? A Slytherin?! I’ve always thought I’d be a Ravenclaw (smart), maybe even a Hufflepuff (kind). But Slytherins are the bad guys! They cheat and steal and lie and sometimes even kill to win. Slytherins are the hustlers of the wizarding world. I mean, there’s not a witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin!

And then, the pause came… because not all Slytherins go bad. They’re just most likely to. But what are they known for above all throughout history? Not their potential evil, but their ambition. And just because the phrase “hustle” has one bad connotation, doesn’t mean the word overall is negative. After all, what did I always get praised for on my youth sports teams? Was it my height? Nope. My great hand-eye coordination? Nah. It was my relentless hustle.

I’ve grown to truly accept and even embrace this about myself: I am a Slytherin. I am ambitious. I hustle hard to get what I want.

As a hustler and a lady with drive, I often get down on myself for not being enough soon enough. Because on top of being ambitious, I am also impatient. It comes with the territory. Not only do I want results, darn it, but I want them now! I set a goal and am, at times, relentless in pursuing it, forgetting that age-old adage that good things take time, that the journey is the reward.

Sometimes, especially recently, I get caught up in the immediacy of my desires and forget to remind myself the difference between setting the stage and stagnation. I have to remind my go-getting, Hamiltonian self that Burr did have a point: that sometimes you are not standing still, but lying wait.

For the past year and a half, I haven’t made any big moves in my career as a librarian or as a writer. I’ve been working behind the scenes, certainly, and submitting myself to the daily grind of reading, writing, writing, researching, reading, reviewing, reading about writing, writing about what I’ve read… Despite all this, I haven’t felt much, if any, progression. But that was my own miscalculation. You see, I mistook myself for stagnant when, truly, I’ve been steadily gaining steam, building potential energy, actively casting irons into the fire.

I was recently shown that those irons have been heating up quite nicely.

Some time ago, I put my name into consideration to serve on the evaluation committee for the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award (one of the Illinois state sponsored book awards akin to the nationally recognized Newbery Award). And last week, I got the call. Or, the e mail, as it were.

A dream came true four years ago when I was offered my first positions as a library intern (no doubt leading to my subsequent positions as a *real* librarian). Another dream came true three years ago when I began reviewing young people’s literature for School Library Journal. And now, one more dream is coming true as I embark on my first award committee endeavor. It will be a lot of reading. It will be a lot of writing. But something about my past, something about my hustle, tells me I am more than up for the challenge ahead.

And what’s more? All of those irons that still remain in the fire? I am more than willing to wait for them.

Tunesday: Everything Has Changed

Allow me to present a song that, lately, has given me the drive to keep going and going and going. Sure, it’s not particularly boppy and the lyrics aren’t inspirational in that traditional/running sense that you’re used to seeing here… but it might as well be to me.

You see, Everything Has Changed by Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran was my first dance with my husband at our wedding two weekends ago.

All I know is we said, “Hello”
And your eyes look like coming home
All I know is a simple name
And everything has changed

We hemmed and hawed so much over our first dance song, changing our minds weekly (sometimes even more often than that!). Out of all the songs in all the world, you’d think there’d be one that just fit instantly, seamlessly, right? Almost two months before the big day we still didn’t love anything, and figured we’d just have to settle.

When I first heard this song early in my wedding planning, I wanted to love it because I love Taylor Swift (and Ed Sheeran, to a lesser degree). But at first glance, it was a song about meeting, not enduring. And the lyrics “everything has changed”? And “I just want to know you better now?” I mean, sure my last name was changing (and all my credit cards and identification and user names and omg..), but wouldn’t our love be the same? And isn’t this guy my best friend? Don’t I know him better than I anyone else? How could I possibly know him any better than that??

IMG_3477
On our honeymoon in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Then, in those last two months before the wedding, I listened to this song again in desperation and boy, everything had changed!

Of course the guy I was about to marry was my best friend, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t getting to know him better, wouldn’t be getting to know him better, every single day of the rest of our lives. And certainly, our love would be the similar on the other side of “I do,” but so much of how we would function moving forward, how we would refer to one another (from boyfriend to fiancé to husband), and even how the rest of the world saw us, would change. And our love would hopefully change, too… by growing stronger.

Suddenly, with a new perspective, the song that didn’t work before was the perfect fit.

THE BESTAll I know is a new found grace
All my days, I’ll know your face
All I know since yesterday
is everything has changed

Tunesday: Worth It

I know during my marathon training in 2014, my trouble with asthma came up a bit. It’s the thing that put an end to my running way back in high school because it was so unmanageable.

See, I don’t have regular asthma, which is crazy and hard to deal with in itself. My asthma is exercise induced, something I grew into from working out so hard/much after being perfectly healthy for years. How my asthma presents itself is in a hacking cough immune to the most powerful of syrups, upper respiratory infections that last for weeks despite antibiotic treatments, and sometimes pneumonia. It’s scary stuff that effects me long after I unlace my running shoes.

RunRegret.JPG
except for when it makes me cough for the next month…

Surprisingly, my asthma didn’t rear its ugly head much during my marathon training. It did, however, hit me hard just before I was due to begin training for the North Shore Classic Half Marathon. And as a gal who is about to be married, the last thing I wanted was to aggravate this cough and be hacking up a lung at my ceremony and reception.

So training has taken a back seat, as has Tunesday, and as someone who really bases her self worth on setting and achieving goals I won’t lie: it’s been tough to sit tight and get better for my wedding. And while I fully intend to start training again the second my wedding is over (my cough as almost fully subsided and… honeymoon runs? yes please!), I know it won’t be enough to get the race result I wanted when I signed up. And that’s a hard pill to swallow.

So today I bring you a song to pick you up if you’re feeling down, whether you have a looming race you know you’re not prepared for, a work or school thing you know you could have done better on, an instance you know could have gone better or you could have put more effort toward… any time you didn’t feel like you were living up to your potential or worth a reward.

We can’t bring A+ efforts and have winning results every time, and especially in those times of not being your best, remember that you’re still worth it.

What was the last race (or presentation/test/party/trip/whatever) you knew you weren’t fully prepared for? How did it go?

What song makes you feel worth it?

Tunesday: Formation

This week begins my first official week of training for the North Shore Classic. Already? I know, I was a little shocked, too.

Before signing up, I didn’t really do the backwards math about when training would have to begin. It was one of those thumb slam decisions, where it was now or (probably) never because I’d talk myself out of it. And had I known training would clock in 8 miles during my wedding week (!!), and a 5k during my honeymoon (!!@!$?!) I DEFINITELY wouldn’t have gone for it.

But I did! And it’s time to get down to business.

8.19 grass.jpg

Okay readers, now let’s get in formation.

Regardless of our personal thoughts on the full video (I know a lot of people are upset over “anti-police” messages, and more are excited for the blatant celebration of black culture), this song is the epitome of a woman celebrating herself, her background, and being an all-around badass.

I see it, I want it
I stunt, yeah, little hornet
I dream it, I work hard
I grind ’til I own it

I wasn’t a big fan of this song/video on day one. I saw the cultural context (not to mention I had just been in NOLA for my bachelorette party) and that was cool- but the song didn’t excited me.

And then the Super Bowl happened.

Because let’s put this in context: Beyoncé released a surprise song and video and then performed it at the Super Bowl Halftime show… THE NEXT DAY.

If anything screams “woman in charge,” it is that sequence of events.

And if anything gets me motivated to be a woman in charge, it’s seeing a woman in charge.

As for the performance itself? Well, just see for yourself. She (and Bruno Mars!) slayed all day.

I saw that and was converted.

Now, for what I assume is a weird Beyoncé is queen and copyright things and what have you, Formation by Beyoncé not available on iTunes. However, this version by Irum Jam is a good stand in until the true version comes.

Tunesday: Confident

Tunesday: it’s baaa-aaack.

The reasons? A little because I missed it. And a little more because I’m running a race.

That’s right, sports fans. Last week, I signed up for the North Shore Classic Half Marathon. It’s June 5, so it will be my first race in over a year!

My last one? Was the 2015 Chicago Quarter Marathon.
And before that? The 2014 Chicago Marathon.

During marathon training, I would post a song from my running playlist every Tuesday. This was a great way to not only build a repertoire of awesome running songs, but also to really own and reflect on my training, my attitude, and decide what worked, what didn’t, and how to move forward.

That playlist bit the dust somewhere between an iTunes update and a new iPhone, but I have a brand new playlist thanks to my recent and upcoming Bachelorette parties and let me tell you… they are all girl-power and just as motivating as the last one you already know and love.

It’s probably not a surprise when I say that this past year, the lost year of this blog, was a struggle. I left in the whirlwind of a new full-time job, moving from the city to the suburbs, and getting engaged all in a month. I was certain that things would settle down for the better and I’d be back to running (and blogging) in no time.

But no. I didn’t run. I didn’t blog. I didn’t do much of anything but work, and I wasn’t exactly happy or confident about posting much of anything. Thankfully, I have a let’s fix this mentality, a git-er-done attitude, and an extremely supportive soon-to-be-husband and was able to relieve myself from my less-than-ideal predicament.

IMG_7712
having a little fun posing confidently in front of Buckingham Fountain during a 14 miler

Long story short, I’m at a new (part-time) job. And I’m working out and running again, basically starting from scratch. All logic tells me I should be disappointed in not being able to handle the full-time position I had, and scared of the prospect of going from couch to 13.1 again, and tentative about opening up the internet wormhole to expose my not-so-distant unhappiness…

But I’m surprisingly confident.

And what, I wonder, is wrong with that?

Nothing, if you ask me (or Demi Lovato).

So you say I’m complicated
That I must be outta my mind
But you’ve had me underrated
What’s wrong with being confident?

I hope this song inspires you to be confident going forward in running, in love, in life… especially today, of all days: International Women’s Day.

So get up, get going, and do what you gotta do with grace, style, and full of confidence.

There ain’t no better way. I’m confident of that.