Kings of San Francisco

I spent this past weekend in sunny San Francisco.

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Yes, you read that right. Sunny. San Francisco.

But let’s back up a minute.The American Library Association’s Annual Conference is being held in San Francisco this year. No, I did not attend the conference (some day!), but I was there for related festivities.

The American Library Association gives out awards to books at the Midwinter Conference, and holds banquets at the Annual Conference to honor the winners and honorees. Most people are familiar with the Youth Media Awards; the Newbery, the Caldecott, and maybe even the newer Printz may ring a bell.

But there are other, quieter, but perhaps more important, awards, too. Ones that honor writers and illustrators of diverse backgrounds and topics such as the Batchelder, the  Belpré, the Coretta Scott King. To read these books is an eye-opening experience; to attend one of the award banquets held in their honor is otherworldly.

I follow a lot of writers. On Twitter. And Tumblr. And Facebook. One such writer, Kwame Alexander, who wrote this year’s Newbery Award Winning and Coretta Scott King Honor novel in verse, The Crossover, held a contest for a ticket to either the Newbery/Caldecott Award Dinner or the Coretta Scott King Award Breakfast. Write a rule, he asked, that applies to both basketball and life.

It’s not the
size
of the dog in the fight
but
the size of the
fight
in the dog. 

was my winning entry.

What did I win? A ticket to the Coretta Scott King Award Breakfast in San Francisco as Kwame’s guest. The practical part of me wanted to pass the opportunity to a coworker or friend already scheduled to attend the ALA Conference. The budding author and #WeNeedDiverseBooks librarian in me said “LET’S DO THIS!” and a few airline credits and hotel points later, hell-oooo San Francisco!

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This wasn’t my first time flying alone, but I’ve always had someone waiting for me on the end leg of my journey. Not this time. And I must say that for my first solo excursion for business/pleasure, it went as well as it could have:

  • An early check in courtesy of the Mosser Hotel, located right in the thick of the San Fran action.
  • Opting to hoof around to the different must-sees of San Fran in lieu of a tour bus or other means of transport – I wanted to get up close and personal with this awesome city on a perfect, sunny day (so un-San-Fran like! hence my forgetting to pack sunscreen and subsequent sunburn…).
  • Six hours of unadulterated sight-seeing.
  • A dinner meet up with coworkers (in town for ALA) at a local pizza/pasta joint.
  • An early night filled with reading and the sounds of the city.

And that was just the first 13 hours!

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Jason Reynolds, who took a deeper look at the Electric Slide because “like in writing and art, we all have our own flavor, but we’re all going in the same direction”

The next morning, I woke bright and early for the 7am breakfast. Having read all the Coretta Scott King Honorees (sidenote: librarian level up!), I was so excited to hear (and maybe meet!) the authors of the amazing books I read. All of the books were so wonderful and spoke so confidently and realistically about the African American experience of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Given that so many high profile, racially charged events have happened in America in the past year (#BlackLivesMatter) I was so honored to have the chance, the privilege, of seeing these amazing writers accept awards that honored their culture, their history, their present, and their future.

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Frank Morrison, on the importance of challenging stereotypes and breaking the mold

If these authors and illustrators are great writers, they are even better speakers and humans. Every single honoree moved me in some way: some to laughter, some to reflection, some to tears both happy and sad. To see this group of people with a talent for storytelling I so identify with candidly share their triumphs, their joys, their struggles, their tears in their acceptance speeches completely blew me away.

It made me see more clearly. It made me feel more keenly. And although it gave new depth to my very real despair for the future of our world, it also gave me new hope.

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Kwame Alexander, who hushed the crowed with his profound and powerful poetry outlining his young daughter’s fears sprung from current events

These authors and illustrators; their work inspired me in and of itself. And their personalities and realities gave me new life as a librarian and a writer. More than ever before, I feel a real and raw responsibility to go forward and put these important works into the hands of young people, to pass along and create a hopeful narrative for our collective future.

As if the Coretta Scott King Award Breakfast wasn’t enough to restore my hope in humanity, walking down Market Street through the joy of the first Pride Parade since the SCOTUS ruling in favor of Marriage Equality was the rainbow sprinkles on a very, very sweet Sunday.

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Marilyn Nelson, whose works of poetry about growing up in the 1950s outline how far we have come and how far we have yet to go

Today, despite landing in Chicago at 10pm and tossing and turning all last night despite my exhaustion (read: sunburn!), I am filled with energetic adoration for the authors I heard speak, even more for the ones I was able to meet, and am so very excited to see what these brilliant minds do next. Not to mention, I’m kind of ready to get my own voice out there, too!

In the words of Christopher Myers, “I sometimes feel like giving up on the world, but I refuse to give up on the world I have yet to create.”*

Let’s create a good one, guys.

*full and more accurate quote from Myers’ acceptance speech (as well as Jacqueline Woodson’s) will be printed in July/August 2015 edition of Horn Book Magazine, at which point I will update and credit.

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It’s Friday, Get Happy: Friday the 13th

It’s Friday the 13th, but I’m happy all the same.

Today is my amazing fiancé’s birthday, and so I think it’s fitting to say something (just one, because I could go on and on and on and on…) about him that’s getting me happy lately.

He’s such a good sport. And while I definitely mean in the athletic sense (he beats me at EVERYTHING, and I’m quite sporty myself!), I also mean in the go-with-the-flow sense. For someone like me who is very type A and prone to freaking out at the littlest thing going wrong, it’s really great to have this dude around who is not only calm himself, but can get me back on track and feeling good going forward.

checkin' out Harry Caray's as a potential venue - HOLY COW!
checkin’ out Harry Caray’s as a potential venue – HOLY COW!

For instance, we are currently in the process of wedding planning. First up: the monumental task of finding a venue that a) we like, b) is affordable, and c) will accommodate our guests comfortably. I went in thinking, “Oh, no problem- we’re so laid back, we’ll have this down in no time!” But, to my surprise, finding a place that is a combination of all A, B, and C is really, really difficult! I’ve already had several epic meltdowns (Bridezilla Watch 2015: commencing), but good ole John is always there to point out the good in the situation, help me regroup, and get us back on our merry, we’re-getting-married way.

Not to mention that he’s a good sport about our differing hobbies. Good relationships are all about give and take, compromise. And John is a great sport about both the giving and the taking parts of compromise. Like, golfing is his thing but, as a good spouse, I try to take an interest in it even though I find it as exciting as a wet book (for the record, I am not a fan of wet books). I’ll occasionally watch the Masters or go to the driving range with him… and he’s a great sport about me having a book propped in my lap or getting bored and playing on my phone 15 minutes in. He easily takes the fact that I’m trying, but that I will never, ever match his enthusiasm… except for the twenty seconds after I manage to actually hit a ball straight and far (four times and counting!).

On the other end, does he ever try to give into my interests. No, he’s not regularly reading novels (yet!), but he does humor my case of wanderlust. Not that he’s a homebody, but he just doesn’t have the travel bug like I do. However, after learning how into visiting new places I am, he’s been open to a trip or two a year, near or far (especially if there is golf involved). In fact, as you are reading this post, we are en-route to our first destination of 2015: Las Vegas!

Granted, I’ve been to Las Vegas before (twice!) so it’s certainly not a new spot for me to visit and, truth be told, I never really wanted to go back. But, while I only ever saw Las Vegas as overpriced shows and overly-air conditioned casinos, John painted a picture of warm weather in March (forecast is in the 80’s!), fantastic food (reservations: made!), and a chance to win some money (truth time: I’ve never actually gambled in Vegas…). So, with Las Vegas being his preferred end-of-winter vacation spot, I certainly couldn’t argue with the birthday boy about visiting the home of Lady Luck on Friday the 13th.

Or with The King, for that matter.

What’s a favorite past time of your significant other that you’ve tried? Did you end up liking it?

Are you superstitious about Friday the 13th? Or any other “bad luck” omens? 

What’s getting you happy today?

2015: A Strong Resolve

Let’s face it, whether I wanted it to be or not, 2014 was the year of Getting It Done. And to think, it was all because I had graduated from my masters program and was looking to fill time between that and finally getting a full time job.

And now that the job is had? I’m finding I still have a bunch of free time (no longer job searching does this) in which I can continue to Get It Done. Except that was last year’s motto. This year’s is something I think can be applied to every instance of every thing you might ever want to get done: from the laundry to working out to publishing a novel. Which is uncanny, because that’s exactly where I stole got the idea for this new motto: Shannon Hale (of Goose Girl and Princess Academy fame) wrote a short piece with her advice to new novelists (which is something I hope to be soon).

That advice, my friends, is BE HARDCORE.

And sure, I personally had to be hardcore in a lot of ways last year to do the things I did. Getting a full time job in this economy? So hardcore. Training for a marathon when I just got back into running? Totally hardcore.

But, a lot of last year was about the outcome (get a job, finish a marathon, find a house, read so many books, etc.) whereas this year is going to be about the process (do my job well, keep running, start writing, etc.). I’m setting some goals, of course, but I am not going to worry so much about the photo finish.

So here are the ways I resolve to BE HARDCORE in 2015:

WRITING
This dream of mine has taken a seat on the back burner for far too long. If you glance at my history with writing, you’ll see that it’s something I’m passionate about, something I might even be decent at. I’ve written an essay, a short story, and a blog post in my day, but I think that with all the practice I’ve had leading up to this point, it’s time to set my sights to something bigger.

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Saying I want to get published is huge, and it’s not a goal I’m willing to set for myself in any give year because, well, publishing just doesn’t work that way (see the aforementioned advice to new novelists for some insight).

And so, I will write hardcore. This year, I plan to write as wildly and widely as I can- experimenting with form, with genre, with length, with topics. I also plan to attend as many writer’s workshops and groups as I can find (currently, I have three different library groups to check out!), and to use my new SCBWI membership to the full extent that I can. By the end of 2015, I plan to have pages and pages of horrible and wonderful writing, in fiction and free verse, in memoir and blog posts, to show for my efforts. And maybe, just maybe, something bigger will come of it all.

READING
It’s said that to be a good writer, you must be a good reader. And good means reading a vast array of things: the good and the bad both of what you hope to one day write, and outside of what you’re comfortable writing. Last year, I aimed to read 80 chapter books. This year, while I still aim to read a specific number (at least 50), I want to read more widely. Last year, my goal was to become more comfortable in the children’s area of a library- to read the classics, the award-nominees, the popular, and the up-and-coming. And I did that and more.

This year, with a strong base of reading behind me, I will still read in the children’s section (both for my job as a librarian and a reviewer), but I also plan to go outside the box and really read outside of my professional and writing comfort zone. I found a 2015 Reading Challenge from PopSugar and while I don’t mean to check every box (and will probably let one book count for multiple boxes!), I won’t be upset if I do, because this is a really interesting (AND HARDCORE) challenge.

2015 Reading Challenge

RUNNING
Because, of course. I didn’t run that marathon for nothing, and I don’t intend for my hard work to go to waste! I am still waiting to get my weekend work schedule for next year set in stone, but I have signed up for the Soldier Field 10Miler, and have about a dozen races I am jumping on once I know I’m clear. Granted, none of them are quite as grand as a marathon (and even the halfs I’m looking at are really, really tentative…), but I think staying on the running path I tread for myself last year is great, and racing is even better.

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What’s more, there is a running club in the little suburb I’m currently living in, and I’m going to join it. They meet during the week for track nights, they sign up for local races together, and they meet on weekend mornings for long runs. What could be more hardcore than taking this solitary thing I’ve started and making it social? Training with a group when I’ve basically nothing to train for and having real live people to keep me accountable for my weekend long runs… sounds pretty hardcore to me.

Travel
Although it may not have come across this past year, traveling is a huge passion of mine. I’ve been to 39 states and 5 countries so far, and I have no plans on stopping any time soon. Even without a huge travel budget and with a ton of life events getting “in the way,” I was still able to travel to a few modest locations which certainly isn’t anything to sniff at.

Although, when you’ve spent a winter in Istanbul…

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in front of the Hagia Sophia

And the following summer in Greece…

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scaling a mountain to drink from the River Styx

While I don’t see 2015 being as big travel year as 2008 was, I still have my sights on a few places: Las Vegas for John’s birthday (March), re-attempting Boston for mine (September), and perhaps a jaunt to Galena or Champaign or even Chicago when we have a free weekend to shake my travel bug.

Hardcore traveling is not only making the travel thing work for the budget and lifestyle you have, but planning for the future and what you want. And so, along with the destinations 2015 may bring, I am going to be hardcore in saving and planning for what is surely going to take the cake in 2016: a honeymoon (tropical, if John has his way- foreign, if I have mine: compromise is probable!) and Italy for a destination wedding. Both will be trips of a lifetime, and I am going to do everything I can this year to make sure they happen, and make sure they happen big.

Wedding Planning
With last year’s engagement comes this year’s wedding planning. I know this might be a really strange thing to be hardcore about, but I am going to do it. Because, honestly, I’m slightly terrified of wedding planning. I know some ladies who’ve recently gotten engaged and had a nine month turnaround time. And here I am, exactly three months engaged with nary but some lovely pictures to show for it.

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On one hand, I am the typical girl who has been looking forward to her wedding since she first heard of Prince Charming and had several Pinterest boards dedicated to dresses, bouquets, photography ideas, etc. before she was even engaged. On the other hand, I’ve heard horror stories (and have seen Bridezillas) and am seriously contemplating paying someone lots of money to do everything so I can just show up and have fun.

But that attitude is all about the end goal, right? And this year is all about the process. So, to be hardcore, I am not only going to continue to work on my relationship with John (the whole reason for this shebang in the first place!), but I am going to enjoy the planning process to the fullest. I am going to be decisive and prudent, but open to others’ opinions and willing to bend on the things that matter. And maybe even blog about the process…

As for all of my other resolutions, as hardcore as I am with them, I am willing to let all else take a back burner to this experience because, after all, there is always next year…

And that is it. As simple as I hoped to make 2015, in light of my crazy 2014, it looks like I’m in for another wild ride. I hope you’re ready for this next adventure!

What are your goals and resolutions for next year? Or do you prefer not to many any?

Is anyone up for PopSugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge?

New Years Selfie: 2014

2014 has been a wild ride for me. I know that around this time of year, most of us look back to the past 365 days and are caught by a special brand of awe. Because years are strange. If you told me something would be happening in 50 days, it would seem like a lifetime away. And 365 days from today seems positively insurmountable. But somehow, every single year, I’ll be darned if the time between January and December doesn’t flit by in the flash of a selfie.

For me, summing up the things I did, the people I met, the places I went in the course of any given year is blissfully overwhelming. It’s nearly inconceivable to me that I am able to cram so much into such a brief stretch of life; how fully I am able to live.

But this year… this year was the banana, sprinkles, chocolate fudge, and cherry on top. It might have been the ice cream (vanilla and strawberry, if I had my way), too. Because not only did this year hold so much, both wildly life-changing and unspeakably ordinary, but throughout it all was so much transition. Transition from a girl on her own to a woman coming into her own. Transition from full-time busy student to full-time ambitious marathon-training job-hunter. Transition from knowing what I wanted in life to getting it. And so, on the brink of 2015, I am confident that all of this past year’s transitions will serve as a solid foundation for, well, whatever comes next.

So here we go, a brief review of notable things I did in 2014.

My New Year’s Selfie, if you will.

I entered the year fresh out of graduate school, which I had been toiling away at for a year and a half. And if you know me, you know this: I love reading and learning, but I am not a fan of school. It’s so structured and rigorous and after nearly 20 years of it.. I was so ready to be done. And once I was done, I was so ready to get stuff done.

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With just a part-time job in my field, I had a lot dreams in my sights and even more time to fill. Here’s how I filled it:

  • For the first time ever, I met up with someone I first met on the internet. SHE’S REAL (and continues to be a really good friend!)
  • Had a second library job. And then quit when the hours and commute was too much to juggle.
  • Met Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz from Happy Days).
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  • Saw Justin Timberlake. In concert. Live. In the same (gigantic) room as me.
  • Went to Iowa City for a weekend of Hawkeye-filled fun.
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  • Moved from my apartment in Chicago a full three blocks to John’s condo in Chicago.
  • Started a blog. And met some really, really cool people.
  • Raised $800 for the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and ran the Race to Wrigley 5k.
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  • Signed up to run the Chicago Marathon and began training.
  • Stood on Wrigley Field. And went in the scoreboard. What?!
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  • Nannied for a few months and was let go so they could find someone full time.
  • Began reviewing books for School Library Journal.
  • I met John Green. (Author of The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns. Okay? Okay.)
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  • Attended my graduate school commencement ceremony in Champaign, IL.
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  • Spent a weekend in San Diego visiting a college friend (and also saw the Rock N Roll San Diego Marathon!).
  • Dined at a restaurant with a Michelin Star.
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  • Went to Minocqua, Wisconsin for a week with John’s family.
  • Ran a few blocks from my home to attend a free OAR concert outside of Wrigley Field.
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  • Ran a half marathon.
  • Attended my first concert IN Wrigley Field (Zac Brown Band- amazing!)
  • Joined my first ever fantasy football league, and proceeded to lose 75% of my games.
  • Said “Yes” when John asked me to marry him.
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  • Saw Fleetwood Mac in concert.
  • Completed my first marathon.
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  • After months of hunting, applying, and interviewing, I accepted my first full-time librarian position after receiving my master’s degree!
  • Had engagement pictures taken.
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  • Moved from Chicago to an amazing suburb between my job and John’s.
  • Started my new job.
  • Spent a weekend in Dallas visiting yet another college friend.
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  • Finally joined ALA and ILA (American/Illinois Library Associations) and started feeling like a real librarian.
  • Reviewed 7 titles of varying genre and reading levels for a nationally renown #kidlit review journal.
  • Read 80+ chapter books and countless picture books.
  • Ran 400+ miles, and have no finish line in my sights…
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Wow. Just writing that out was tiring- I can’t believe I actually did all of that (and more!) in 365 days. Of course, it wasn’t without some hard work, planning, and dedication, but I am still amazed. And to think, I’ve been getting all grumpy that we had to cancel two vacations (Myrtle Beach and Boston) because “life keeps happening.” Looking at this list shows me that, yeah, maybe I had to sacrifice a trip here or a night of sleep there, but it was all so worth it.

Sometimes, certain dreams take the forefront. And the dreams that got left behind? Well, there’s always next year…

What is your biggest achievement in 2014?

When you look back on 2014, what will you never forget?

Everything’s Bigger

Somehow, just a week after moving out of the city and starting a new job, I found the time to have myself a little weekend getaway.

In all actuality, my trip was scheduled far before I ever knew I would be getting a new job or moving. I could have cancelled and said it would all be too much, because moving and a new job are both big, time consuming things. But both at the same time? That’s huge. However, in an attempt to have as many adventures as possible while I can, I kept my plans in tact.

Because in life, things are only as big as you give them credit for. And I had to see if everything was really bigger in Texas.

It seems the trend with my 2014 travels has been visiting old friends who live in much more favorable climates than sweet home, Chicago. I have to preface that the first and most important reasons for my trips has been to see my dear friends, who I would visit regardless of where they lived. The fact that these two particular friend -aside from both being named Emily- live in fantastic locales that I would want to be touristy in anyway is a bonus. A big bonus.

First, it was San Diego in May, and exactly one month ago, it was Dallas.

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On our busiest day, we drove through the quaint metropolis on our way to…

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The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

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Where they were having a pumpkin festival!
I saw more pumpkins in the Texan fall than I did in Chicago-
how do you like THEM apples? Or… pumpkins?

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Our favorites were clearly the Turk’s Turban Squashes. Emily and I met not only through our sorority, but were coincidentally enrolled in the same class while I was pledging and she was already a sister. This class was a prerequisite for a two and a half week study abroad stint in Istanbul, Turkey. So, readers, we are well acquainted with the Turks and their turbans, and hold a very special place for all things Constantinople in our hearts. While, as you can see, I usually put everything turban-like on top of my head.

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Some things were distinctly southern,
like a truly Texan-looking villa,
a perfect peach waiting to be plucked and eaten straight from the branch,
and a perfectly peach-hued rose in full autumn bloom.

Of course, we also indulged in a bit of fine dining,
nightlife, and of course, shopping…

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I only took pictures of the tourist cowboy shop,
especially because I was on a serious hunt for the perfect cowgal boots.

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So many choices…

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 I found some winners!

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…or maybe not.

Although none of the boots panned out, I did knock another thing off my 30 by 30 list: #13. Purchase a designer handbag.

If you remember, one of my previous 30 by 30 endeavors was to dine at a Michelin Star restaurant. That was done in the company of none other than the Emily I was visiting in Dallas. Girlfriend has great taste and is the perfect accomplice when it comes to a night on the town or deciding the perfect shade of lipstick. And you know what they say, when in Texas…

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Michael Kors on the left; Marc by Marc Jacobs on the right

I did myself one better and got two bags (unfortunately, not for the price of one). Because, if nothing else, it appears my appetite for beautiful things was certainly bigger in Texas.

That said, I completely can’t wait to go back.

 

Sunday Runday

A late Sunday Runday post, indeed, but I wanted to make sure I captured all the activity (or lack thereof, as it worked out), of the holiday weekend.

Sunday 6/29- Rest

Monday 6/30- Should have been a soccer cross-training day, but EL DERECHO had other plans, so I rested. And I wasn’t super happy about it, because the rest of the week may be completely shot due to a trip to Michigan for the 4th. But we’ll see!

Tuesday 7/1- 3.17 miles in 30:15
The more I get up and out the door to run around 7:30/8:00am, the more I think that I should really get up early because it gets MISERABLE outside really quick these days. Last week, the weird fog saved me from the blazing heat most of the time, but it’s getting to the point where something’s got to give because holy cow, is it slow, tough going.

Wednesday 7/2- 3.06 miles in 27:56
I should have run 4 this day, but I just barely eeked out three between work and dinner with John’s parents, but I got it done and that’s what matters!

Thursday 7/3- BAD, RUNNER! BAD BAD BAD!
Have you ever just been #exhausted? As in, if you laid down at 3pm you’d probably sleep through til the next morning? That’s how I felt. I know it’s NO excuse, but sometimes these things happen to the best of us.

Friday 7/4- Happy 4th!
John and I woke up at 5am (!!!) to drive out to a friend’s Michigan lakehouse and, even if I were in the mood to run out there (which I might have been after the glorious nap I took after getting to the lakehouse and spending the early afternoon on a boat), the mixture of barely-paved, unfamiliar roads and BEAR WARNINGS made me wary. I mean, I know my athletic prowess is intimidating enough to scare off most any city-dwelling predator (Canadian geese, beware!), but I feel like a bear would take one look at me and go, “Girl, do you even lift?”

Saturday 7/5- Rest. Because, as the bear pointed out, I don’t even lift.

Writerati

Every once in a while, I’m inspired to write. This happens. I’m a writer.

I know writers are supposed to write regardless of inspiration, and that’s kind of where this blog comes in. It forces me to write even when I don’t really feel moved to. Sorry you have to see that.

But, to make up for it, I’ll let you in on a little something I wrote on the plane ride home from visiting my friend in San Diego.

Midwestern Heart

Home is where your heart is, or so the saying goes. But where is your home if your heart yearns to wander? I am so fortunate to have a healthy hunger for adventure and the ability to satiate it from time to time, both domestically and abroad. I have seen so much of this world, and even more of this country, but while each trip fills a void, it simultaneously opens up a new mouth to feed. Most recently, I was able to re-visit San Diego -a place I saw briefly a handful of years ago- and lucky enough to do so with a dear friend who has lived there for the past year. Nothing is better than experiencing a place with someone seasoned in its foibles, and, after experiencing San Diego as a dweller and not a tourist, my traveller’s heart feels a little lighter.

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But as always, my heart is also heavy in my departure from San Diego- land of perpetual sun and oceanfronts that stretch into forever. I could run every day without fault because of the mild weather: always a perfect 65-75 degrees- a runner’s paradise.

But as I boarded my flight, a cabin full of Blackhawks hats and Shamrock Shuffle shirts replaced the sun-stained palms and I remembered exactly why I could never live anywhere else. Our city is second to none. Our corn-fed hearts and broad shoulders carry us through every hurdle that inevitably comes with our north-Midwestern locale, and our hard-won joy in those times echoes tenfold during the good. What we lack in picturesque, cliff-perched homesteads and ocean-backed sunsets, we make up for in all four hearty seasons, friendly faces, and a dedication to each other that resonates from sea to shining sea.

While watching the San Diego Rock N Roll marathon, I couldn’t help but yell with excitement when I saw someone with an indication that they were from around my neck of the woods. The places I usually hold in disdain as being inferior to Chicago suddenly became my brethren in this new place south of the City of Angels. And now as I fly across our great country, overlooking isolated mountain towns that slowly ease into patchwork fields of grain, anticipating our captain’s next update of the Blackhawk’s clincher game 7 against the L.A. Kings, I am still overflowing with hometown pride. It’s a pride that, no matter how my soul yearns for adventure in new and unfamiliar destinations, win or lose, will never fade.

Go St. Louis! Go Marquette! But, most importantly, go Chicago!