Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Other Side of Fear

When it comes down to it, there is just one thing holding us all back from manifesting the life of our dreams.  At times, we may give this force other names.  We may say we're being held back by forces beyond our control - physical or economic limitations like comfort, time, money, or any laundry list of things.  But these are all excuses, and they all come down to the one thing we must face over and over again to grow into the person we were meant to be:  FEAR

The easiest thing is the world is to sit back, resist change and exist in the status quo.  But even that will eventually come to an end.  Change is a constant in life, and even if you refuse to change with time, the world keeps on spinning and change will be thrust upon you.  In the past, I've learned that lesson too many times to count.  Being passive in my own life and refusing to make decisions or take action simply because of the fear of change has proven to be a recipe for disaster.  Sure, I've become wiser over the years but I'm nowhere near 'there' yet!  There are plenty of times I still falter, hesitate or freeze because I'm afraid of making the 'wrong' decision or afraid of change.  But if the past few years have shown me anything, it's that I can survive (and even thrive within) changes - even huge, massive ones that I thought I'd never dig myself out of. 

I used to have a terrible fear of confrontation.  I guess this is a fairly common fear, especially among more reserved introverted types, but when I was little I used to literally make myself sick whenever I had to approach anyone about any topic I felt was even the least bit difficult to mention.  Teachers, parents, friends, you name it.  The fact that I still have this fear bothers me.  I still hesitate to bring up topics that I feel may rock the boat, or just simply need to be aired out.  Communication (verbal) was never my strong suite.  I'm ashamed to admit I used to be a huge offender of using the 'silent treatment' against people.  What a God-awful way of dealing with problems!  Thankfully I haven't pulled that move in years, but I still fear people thinking I'm not 'nice' if I try to stand up for myself or say 'No' to something.  However, this is something I've actively been working on ever since getting completely taken advantage of at my old job, and I do believe I am improving.  Um, hello, recent Apple store rampage anyone?!

Our fears are crazy little buggers aren't they?  For one thing, fears aren't real.  They are indeed figments of our imagination.  But we can never see that from where we stand inside our own heads.  It's only once we get to the other side, that we realize it was all an illusion.  Think about how many things (thousands, millions) in your life you have already overcome.  Starting from infancy and learning to walk.  Babies are very hesitant to step out on their own for the first time.  It takes a lot of half steps, holding mommy's hand, and walking with the help of a toy or piece of furniture until they are finally brave enough to let go completely and go out on their own.  And once that happens WATCH OUT!  The fear is gone, and soon you have a child that you can't pin down even if you tried!  They've seen the other side of fear and realized there was nothing indeed to be afraid of.  This pattern of breaking through fear barriers continues day after day, year after year, until the day we die.  It's the only way we grow.  If we weren't afraid of anything, there'd be nothing left to do!

So, although I've busted through what I thought were impenetrable fear walls the last couple of years, there are still so many I've yet to get to the other side of.  Some of these have easily identifiable plans of action, and some just completely baffle me to the point I don't even know where to start (those are the tough ones).  Here are a few fears I'm currently struggling with (in ranking order from the completely mundane to the incredibly serious):

1.  I fear I may never know what's it like to have perfectly manageable, shampoo-commercial worthy hair.

2.  I fear I may never know what it's like to have my very own washer and dryer.  (Community washer germs give me recurring nightmares.  What exactly is on these sheets I supposedly just washed?!)

3.  I fear I may never really know how to cook.  (True story.)

4.  I fear my cats may not actually live forever.  (Irrational.  They are magical cats and will live forever.)

5.  I fear I may never narrow down my 'passions' in this life to just one thing.

6.  Just like Augustus Water's in The Fault in our Stars, I fear leaving this life with no lasting legacy or positive impact on the planet.

7.  I fear I will never be able to see all the places in the world I want to see.

And the two biggies:

8.  I fear never discovering my purpose here on earth.

9.  I fear I may never know what it feels like to be a wife and mother. (<----HUGE)

Despite all of this though, I think no matter where we are in life, we've got to give ourselves a giant kick-a$$ high five for making it this far because think of all the things we've already accomplished.  The battles with our minds and fears will never end, because if they did we'd stop growing.  And that would mean we are either perfect (not possible) or dead!  So here's to keep on keepin' on.

What are some fears you've already broken through in your lifetime?
What fears are you still working to get to the other side of?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Going Topless

Got your attention, didn't I?!  Well, I'm sorry to disappoint the random internet stalkers and members of the general Tinder population who undoubtedly clicked in hoping for some nude pics, but I'm fully clothed over here!

Today I want to talk about running topless, ehhh let me clarify.  Running with the necessities covered via sports bra, but no shirt.  This is not something I've done in ages, but lately I've really really been wanting to.  So what's holding me back?  I mean this girl looks free as a bird doing her track workout shirtless:


Well, I'll tell you what's holding me back.  It's the great big fat fear of sexual harassment and/or being assaulted.  Crazy right?  I mean remember that time I got the worst cat-call ever?!  It saddens me that we still live in an age where a woman has to think about what kind of reaction her clothing choices will elicit in males and if said choices will put her in danger, but unfortunately that is the case.
Years ago, when I was still living at home, I'd enjoy hot summer evening runs in a sports bra in my parents' neighborhood, but they live in a very tucked away sleepy, suburban neighborhood, away from high-traffic streets.  I currently live in a very densely populated area with high traffic roads surrounding me at every turn. 
There is absolutely nothing inappropriate, salacious or 'inviting' about me or any other woman wearing a sports bra to work out in.  Let's be real, it covers far more than a bikini.  However, I know that the volume and frequency of randoms shouting out their car windows and honking at me would definitely go up, as if my workout gear is merely an invite for their approval, disapproval and/or inappropriate commentary. 
Lately, it has been really hot, humid and sticky around these parts, and I find myself actually fantasizing, while running, about tearing off my shirt Hulk-style, like I imagine the infamous bra burners of the 1960's did!  I already wear the thinnest, lightest, tank tops possible - ones like these that are mostly made of mesh and extremely breathable:
However, even they are too much when it is 90 degrees and 90% humidity outside.  I hate the feeling of them sticking to my body and frankly feel they serve no purpose.  Like why am I putting on a second layer of clothing when it's nearly 100 degrees outside?!
So, my question for you is:  Are you a sport-bra only runner in the summer?  Why or why not?
If you are, where do you live?  What's your neighborhood like?  And are you ever the victim of cat calls because of this?
Honestly, I think before the summer is over I'm just going to do it.  And perhaps, if I get screamed at I'll run my feminist little behind up to the offender and confront the heck out of them, like this lady is doing all over Minneapolis. 

In other news, I'm off to the beach for the weekend to hang out with this irresistible little munchkin, who is bringing homemade vegan ice cream!!!  I'll also be stopping off at the liquor store for some Arbor Mist and wine coolers because that is just what you drink at the beach, or is that just me and underage teens everywhere?!

Happy weekend to you all, and thanks in advance for your feedback on the shirt/no shirt issue!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Bunch of Randoms

There were a bunch of things I wanted to mention over the past week, but none of them were long enough for a post, so now I'm going to hit you with a bunch of randoms.  Enjoy!

1.  I just finished reading this book, that I picked up at the book exchange on vacation: 

Apparently, I have the literature interests of a 75 year old man.
Truthfully, I didn't know much about Jerry Lewis going into this book, other than that he was the MDA telethon guy.  I picked it up because I'm a big Dean Martin and Rat Pack fan and I must say, I quite enjoyed the book. The insights into what these men and showbiz was like in the 40's and 50's was kind of eye opening.  If you are na├»ve enough to think that most entertainers and actors in those days didn't have Mob connections and girlfriends on the side (like I was), well, then this will shatter those notions.  But, the relationship between Martin and Lewis, which is the heart of this story, is also incredibly touching and unique. 
2.  I baked muffins last week.  By myself.  From scratch.  With real blueberries.  I don't even know who I am anymore:
I am becoming a domestic goddess.  Watch out world.
3.  I recently bought these running shorts at Forever 21 on a whim (I know, I'm like 10 years past the age limit for that store) and they are probably my favorite running shorts ever right now:
I don't shop that much for myself but I had just given away a bunch of old, ill-fitting running shorts last month during my Minimalist Game and I had to replenish!  Plus, these were less than $16.  They are incredibly comfortable, loose, breathable and feel way more high end than $16!  I honestly think these are on par with shorts I have from Nike, UA, and Reebok.  And they even have a zip pocket in the back for keys!  If you are not ashamed to walk into your local Forever 21, then I think you owe it to yourself to go check out a pair of these bad boys for yourself.   

4.  I won a bunch of coconut water from Walgreens through Twitter a couple weeks ago and have been enjoying it ever since:

I already enjoy coconut water immensely and drink it pretty often (usually Zico), but I didn't even know Walgreens had their own brand.  I'm guessing maybe this is new and that's why they were hosting a giveaway, but I must say it is indeed Delish.  Yesterday I was out running errands and was so thirsty I actually popped into a Walgreens and bought one of these (yes, I realize I had them at home but that was doing me no good on the other side of town) so that's how much I actually love this stuff.
5.  I was introduced to a new blog last week via a guy from Tinder, and I really like it.  It's called People Passionate, and I'd encourage you to give a quick read.  It's not a running blog but it's authored by a guy who left his corporate job to pursue his passion (it's a theme with me lately, what can I say) and he publishes a lot of really positive content.  Soooooo, Tinder hasn't been great for my dating life but I'm getting new blogs out of it so not a total loss, right?!
6.  We all know I am addicted to Buzzfeed quizzes.  Sooooo, I took this quiz, and they guessed I am a TEENAGE BOY?!?!  I'm not even going to attempt to analyze that.
And finally,
6.  Last week while on a walk (with a baby in a stroller, mind you) I witnessed an older gentleman gardening IN A SPEEDO.  I can't make this up.  The human race continues to befuddle me on a daily basis.  Ahh well, to each his own!
Here's to another week of exciting adventures ahead!!  Happy Monday y'all.

What are you reading right now?

Any good running clothing/equipment finds lately?

Seen anything bizarre on a run or walk lately?!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Looking For A Fall Half

First off, I just wanted to say Thank You for all of your kind and encouraging words on my last post.  It took a lot of gumption and a big change of heart for me to stand up for myself, and then recap that entire string of events, and I wanted to put it out there for anyone else who's ever been in the same position.  The thing is, I'm realizing, is that I LET people take advantage of me far too often.  I give people the benefit of the doubt A LOT because I tend to think that most people will do the right thing, but it turns out that's just not the case many times.  No one is going to look out for you, but YOU.  Hard life lesson to suck down right there.  I don't think the world will ever turn this dreamer cold, and I'll probably always be the empathic, believer-in-all-that-is-good person but I realize I also need to make sure my needs are being met before trying to save the world :)

Now on to today's running business...

I'm currently looking for a fall half and open to suggestions.  When I take another peek at the running goals I set back in January [side note: how is it MID July right now?!], I see I've got some wins and some losses.  I had wanted to run 2 half marathons again this year, but the first couple months of 2014 were so hectic for me schedule-wise that I realized early on a Spring half was just not going to be a possibility.  In addition, I wanted to run some more short distance races this year, including my first 10K, which I did back in April, so Yippee on that one!  I've really enjoyed mixing up my workouts the first half of this year, and not having to train seriously for anything.  While running is always a constant for me, it was nice not having to stick to a strict schedule since 5K's and 10K's didn't really require any training (although I really should start doing some speed work!).  I also loved trying out some new workouts over the past several months like Barre and a new Boot camp.  I am a workout junkie so sign me up for pretty much anything and I'm like a kid in a candy store.

Case in point - This is how varied my workouts were last week:

Sunday - Rest
Monday - 2.5 mi walk (morning); 30 min interval bike workout/2000m rowing/5 min abs (evening)
Tuesday - 5K run
Wednesday -  2.5 mi walk (morning); upper and lower body strength training/5 min abs (evening)
Thursday - 5K run
Friday - 2 mi walk (morning); 1 hour swim/10 min sauna (evening)
Saturday - 1.5 hour hike

Although I am really enjoying running just for running's sake right now, I'm kind of getting the itch to run a longer distance race again.  Sooooooo, I've been prospecting fall halfs.  My sister, who just ran her first half marathon EVER in March, has signed up for her second!  She will be running the VIA Half Marathon back home in PA on Sept 7th.  I considered running this race with her for quite some time, but just felt I wouldn't be prepared for the early Sept race date, plus I honestly think the weather the weekend after Labor Day is just too hot for a half marathon!  I really don't feel like squeezing my 10, 11 and 12 miles runs into the last weeks of August, ie. 95 degree temps and 100% humidity here in Baltimore.  However, I did briefly reconsider again when I saw this race is advertised as the 2nd fastest course in the US?!! WHAT?! I hope my sister PR's like a beast.

September is also going to be a busy month for me, as I'll be planting myself in the Deep South later that month to help my other sister out with Baby #3!!!  Wheeeee!  So, I'm setting my sights on October for a fall race.  Although I'd absolutely love to make a trip out of it and go someplace new, I don't really have the funds for a destination race right now.  So, I'm searching for something within driving distance - MD/DC/VA/DE/PA/NJ/NY.  Wow, that's a lot of states.  Hahaha, there's gotta be some good races in there somewhere.  I've been checking out various half marathon calendars and am currently eyeing up the Hershey Half Marathon on October 19th (same weekend as the Runner's World Half & Festival, but I already ran that last year).  Has anyone ever run Hershey?  It seems like this may be a somewhat flat course which of course got my attention. 

I'm also (somewhat reluctantly) considering the Baltimore Half Marathon, which I've somehow avoided all of the past 10 years I've lived in this city because the HILLS...MY GOD, THE HILLS!  But, on the other hand, this just might be something I want to cross off my Baltimore bucket list before I move on...

And last but not least, I'm looking at the Philadelphia Half Marathon on November 23, because I've always wanted to run a race in Philly and have yet to do so.  However, Philadelphia weather at the end of November can be like running through the Arctic tundra.  Man, I am really such a baby about running weather - too hot, too cold.  MAKE UP YOUR MIND, BEAN!

So, there you have it.  Pretty solid plans we're looking at here: a race, probably in October, somewhere along the eastern seaboard.  Nothing like laying a solid foundation.

I would LOVE suggestions from anyone in the Northeast/Mid Atlantic area for a great fall half.  If you are doing one, let me know and maybe we can do one together! And if you've done any of the races I've mentioned above, I'd love your feedback on them to help narrow down my choices.

Running any fall races?  Where/What distance?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Most Assertive I've Ever Been & Losing All Faith in Apple...

**PSA:  This post is going to detail my very unfortunate experiences with Apple lately.  If you are a huge Apple fan and/or not interested in reading my complaints, come back to tomorrow for more running related fun :)
Annnnd the iPhone saga continues....
Remember that weekend from hell I had a few months ago (here) which was capped off by me having to replace my 18 month old iPhone at full price?!  Yeah, so it turns out the new phone I bought wasn't new at all (didn't know that at the time), and I already started having problems with it, less than 3 months after I bought it (unbelievable).  When I purchased the phone back in April (for $269 I might add), I was told I was getting a new phone at a great deal.  Yeah right!  So, I wondered why this new phone only came with a 90 day warranty, but I made sure to keep track of the time in case I had any issues before that very limited warranty expired.  Well, a few weeks ago, I already started having issues with this "new" phone!  I would get the white Apple freeze screen randomly and the phone would just shut off (this began to happen frequently right before my other phone completely died).  The touch screen would intermittently just stop working.  And it would also intermittently not accept a charge unless I removed and reinserted the charger.  After having gone through what I did 3 months ago, with a phone that didn't even last 2 years, and now one that hasn't even made it 3 months, I had pretty much reached my breaking point with Apple.
This time, I marched into the Apple store Friday night with a clear head and guns blazing.  I thought about my experience there back in April, when I was sad, complacent and kept apologizing to THEM for being upset over something that was not my fault, and decided this appointment was going to be very very different.  (I told you my thinking and attitude had changed over vacation; I was serious.)  I was determined not to leave without a new phone in hand.  There was absolutely no way I would let the 90 day warranty pass on this one, and then be out another $269 when the already failing phone ultimately died. 
I checked in, then waited a few moments until the customer service rep who was assigned to me came over.  She was friendly and listened to me as I explained the issues, then hooked the phone up to her iPad to get the diagnostics.  The only issue she saw was that the battery performance had decreased, but she told me she didn't see any hardware or software problems.  Her solution?  Make sure to turn off the phone completely 2-5 times a week and buy a new charging cord because there's probably something wrong with it.  (Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that the "new" phone I bought back in April didn't even come with a new charger?!)  I assured her my charging cord was fully intact and in great condition, and told her neither of her 'solutions' were going to solve the problem of having a defective phone.  I told her since I was still under the 90 day warranty, I'd like an exchange for another phone so that I don't get screwed out of another $269 if I come back next month and the phone is dead.  She said, "Ok, we'll get you a new phone", and proceeded to leave.  When she came back her story changed.  She said she could not get me a new phone unless she could replicate the problem in the store.  I told her I had no control over what she could replicate or whether the phone would decided to act up in the 20 mins I was sitting inside the store, but regardless I would not be leaving without a new phone.  (HELLO NEW JILL!)  I then asked for her manager.
When the next guy came walking over to the table, I recognized him instantly.  He was, frankly, a giant d-bag to me when I was in in April.  He preyed on my emotions at that last appointment and was condescending and rude.  I contemplated writing a letter of complaint to the store or Apple corporate back then, but had had such a trying weekend I just wanted to put it all behind me.  My major sticking point back in April was that Apple was manufacturing $800 pieces of technology that they wagered would only last 1 year (hence their measly 1 year warranty on new phones).  It is absolutely unacceptable that Apple banks on people upgrading their phones every 2 years and so designs their components to die on or before that time frame.  When I explained that a phone dying after 18 months was unacceptable to me, this jerk responded "That's just how things are made these days".  Really?!  Is this the kind of person Apple wants representing their brand?! 
So when he came sauntering up to me Friday night I was absolutely determined not be demeaned by him again.  I simply explained the issues I was having (again) and told him I'd like a replacement phone since I was still under the 90 day warranty.  He gave me the same line stating if he couldn't replicate the problem in the store, he couldn't exchange it.  I told him I wasn't leaving with a defective phone and would stay until he replaced it.  He said, "That's fine, we're open til 9 tonight. You can sit here until then".  WTF?!  How does this person even have a job here?!  He proceeded to then somehow blame the phone not working on me.  He said, "Did you set this up as a new phone when you received it, and not from backup like we told you to?  I assured him I did, to which he replied, "Well maybe you made a mistake".  I shot back in the sternest voice imaginable, "No, I don't really make mistakes".  (Haha, where did that come from?!!? Sheer anger I guess.)  It was then that I asked to speak with the highest store manager present.  He told me they were extremely busy and he'd see what he could do.  He came back a little while later and I asked him if he was getting the manager.  He told me the manager would just tell me exactly what he did and there was no way I'd be able to get a new phone.  He then said I should go home and "Call Apple".  I told him I would not be wasting my time doing that.  That I was sitting here right now and this would be resolved tonight.
The store manager finally came over, and I gotta say, this guy was about a million times nicer than self-righteous tech guy.  I explained my problems again (3rd time) along with what I went through 3 months ago and told him that at this point I may never buy an iPhone again.  I told him I absolutely would not leave until I got a working phone since the warranty on this one was about to expire. It was also at this point I explained how dissatisfied I was that I was misled into thinking I was getting a NEW phone back in April, when in fact, it was refurbished.  He told me that refurbished didn't really mean 'used' and many of the components were new.  Perhaps they just used 1 screw from an old phone but everything else was new.  UM RIGHT.  The store manager gave me the same spiel about them not being able to replicate the problem, therefore being unable to replace it.  I said, "I don't care what you have to do, I am not leaving without a new phone."  He kept saying he "understood my frustrations" (yeah, sure you do, it's not your money) but his hands were tied.  He then left and came back a few minutes later.  At this point, his tone changed and he said "Ok, we're going to make a 1 time exception and get you a new phone".  FINALLY!!!  I actually couldn't believe they were going to do THE RIGHT THING.  Apple is a multi gazillion dollar company.  A "new", used phone probably costs them about 5 cents.  But to someone like me, another $300 is a huge expense, especially for something that isn't my fault!!!  The store manager gave me his card to get in touch with him in the event I had any future problems and then said the tech manager would be handling everything for the exchange.  Oh greeaaat. 
Horrendous tech dude comes back out and says "So it looks like we're getting you a new phone".  THAT'S RIGHT I said triumphantly.  I guess not being able to screw me over anymore took quite the toll on his ego.  He took his time doing the paperwork for the new phone and in the meantime, I started copying down all my contacts, which I lost last time, since I would once again have to set this up from scratch.  When he came back out with the "new" (ie. refurbished) phone, he was oddly nicer to me.  I'm guessing the store manager instructed him to change his demeanor but who knows.  He opened the box and as I took a look at the replacement phone I noticed a huge scratch in the metal along one side.  He said "Oh I'm so sorry, I've literally never seen that before" and continued telling me how these refurbished phones are always in perfect condition. (Riiiiiight).  Anyway, I told him I would not be taking a damaged phone.  So, this meant him having to go get another phone and re-doing all the exchange paperwork.  When he came back out, he asked me to inspect the phone before we proceeded and this one was even worse!  There was dirt underneath the glass all around the edge of the phone and the home button was all sticky!!  I put it down and told him I would definitely not be taking that phone.  He asked me to show him the defects, which I did, and then became extremely irritated as he would have to re-do the paperwork for a 3rd time.  Not my fault dude.  Complain to Apple or your tech guys who are trying to sell consumers dirty, defective used phones for $300.
In the past, I would have apologized profusely at this point, even though nothing here was my fault.  I apologize all the time for things that aren't my fault, but I have started to realize what an extremely detrimental habit this is.  Therefore, I did not apologize. I just told him I was going to need a defect-free phone.  When he came out with the 3rd one I inspected it thoroughly and didn't find any obvious defects so I told him that one would do.  He finished the paperwork, and then was actually nice enough to offer to help me set up the phone and was even able to save my contacts this time.  He didn't hesitate getting in one last jab though - "You realize this was a 1 time exception. If you have issues with the new phone, even during the 90 day warranty, we're not giving you a new phone."  Well, I can assure you sir, that if I do have problems with this "new" phone, I will mostly certainly be returning for it to be repaired or replaced at no cost to me.  Good night.
All in all I wasted over 2 hours of my Friday night in the Apple store, for a problem that should have never existed with a 2 1/2 month old "new" phone in the first place.  I am quite frankly extremely disgusted by the current quality of Apple products, along with their business practices and customer service.  I will be sending my complaint to them directly and probably to their Towson store as well so that they can see firsthand what I was put through - through no fault of my own.  I am so glad I didn't take no for an answer or let their attempts to blame me or put me down discourage my drive to make them do the right thing.
I've had an iPhone since 2009 but at this point I'm seriously considering switching to an Android model.  If anyone has experience with Samsung Galaxy or something along those lines I'd love to hear your input!
**I don't like this blog to be a place of negativity but felt this story needed to be told, in the hopes Apple would be made aware and held accountable.
The rest of my weekend was relaxed and fairly lovely, and included exploring a new hiking trail with a friend, so there's that.  Hope you all had a better Friday night and a great weekend :)
Have you ever had terrible customer service experience with a company?

What did you do about it?


Friday, July 11, 2014

A New Perspective

Sometimes a change in scenery is all it takes to change your mind. 

Do you ever find that when you step out of your daily routine, out of your comfort zone, or when you are in new surroundings, your thinking also changes?  I think many times the comfort of our daily schedules and rituals can also keep our brains on an endless loop - like a record that plays the same song over and over.  You desperately need the needle to skip or jump a little to get to the next song and getting away from everything that is familiar is sometimes the only way to get that push.

There are certain things I think about more often than I'd like to admit (and def won't be admitting what they are here!), and I tend to come to the same conclusions about these matters of the heart time after time.  Sometimes it is so so hard to get outside your own head and realize that your thoughts are NOT reality.  You create 'reality' with your thinking, and if you can change your thinking, then you will change your reality!  Easier said than done though right?

For some reason, right before I left for vacation last week, I was hit with a killer wave of nostalgia.  I honestly don't know what brought it on, but there were certain little reminders here and there (down to the cookies they served us on the flight!) that kept bringing me back to a certain time in my life and it was making me really sad.  There were also other big life decisions I had been ruminating on for weeks that I just couldn't seem to make any headway with.

Now, I'm not going to say that everything changed in a week or that I now have the next 10 years of my life planned out, but I started to see that there are definitely other versions of 'reality' that are just as possible as the ones I play out in my head. 

One of the things that helped me gain some new perspective was being amongst so many different, new people, from across the country - from Las Vegas to NY and everywhere in between - from so many different walks of life.  They all had stories that were so different from mine.  This is one of the reasons I love travel - either locally or abroad.  I think meeting different people is key to my development as a human.  Time and again it shows me that my way isn't the only way, and opens me to different points of view.  There are a million different ways to live and its so interesting to see how each person chooses their path.

Another thing that really struck me happened as I was signing the reunion memory book.  Someone had started a page of quotes and one of the scribbled lines read "Just let it go".  Ahh!  Even though I'd been humming that song for months (thanks babysitting charges), I never actually followed the imperative.  But for some reason, while in Missouri, I decided to just let a few things go.  With so many memories tied up in Baltimore, it was like I physically could not let some things go here - they felt anchored to this place and could only be freed somewhere new.

I also believe spending time with my sister and her family helped.  My day-to-day life involves me, Party of One, and while this is ok (for now), it's nice to be surrounded by people I love and who love me and feel that connection.  Sure I have friends, but not having family or a significant other around to share in every day living can make me feel really alone at times, and keeps my brain on that single, endless track.

And lastly, I absolutely believe in the healing power of nature, and the importance of connecting with that source as much as possible. 

Anyway, I feel like some things have changed for me in those neurons firing inside my head and I know it had to do with a change in my environment.  I hadn't taken a single vacation day all year to this point and it was definitely something I needed.  I truly enjoy my job these days, but I just needed some time away from the familiar to rewire the ol brain, and it worked.  I even wrote out a physical 'To-Do' list, something I haven't done in months, and already started crossing things off.  Here's to new realities...


I realize this post probably meant nothing to anyone but me and I'm sorry for being so vague!  Thanks for letting me clear my head and reading anyway :)

Does travel ever change your perspective?

What else do you do to change your thinking when you are really stuck on something?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Roughing It

Well, sort of...

I'm still super mellowed out from my week-long camping vacation at Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri with my sister and her family.  It's kind of fitting that this trip happened to fall right after my minimalist experiment, because we were living a pretty minimalist lifestyle out there.  Despite that, or perhaps because of that, this is one of my favorite vacations.  I went along with my sister 3 years ago and had such a great time, and I'm so glad I was able to go again this year.  The trip is a family reunion for my brother-in-law's family and I'm so thankful they welcomed me with open arms and invited me back again!  My sister and brother-in-law love the outdoors just as much as I do, as do my niece and nephew.  That's a good thing, because 90% of the day was spent outside the cabin.  We only came in to eat and sleep.  I mean, how could you possibly sit inside when you're surrounded by Mother Nature in all her glory, and views like this:

Now, lest you think I am a professional camper, I assure you I am not.  We slept in air-conditioned cabins, not tents on the ground, and our attempts at making fire were admittedly amateur.  The resort is pretty bare-bones though and the cabins exude a definite vintage charm, since I'm guessing they were constructed around 1960:
We actually had one of the larger cabins this year since there was a new addition to my sister's family since the last trip!  This building is 4 cabins - ours was the top left.
Living Room - we didn't turn on that TV once the entire week!
This was possibly June Cleaver's kitchen
Bathroom with the smallest shower stall known to man (or woman)
Bedroom I shared with my 5 year old roomie (my niece)
When we arrived in Branson last Saturday afternoon, we went on a massive 3 hour shopping spree, in which we procured all the food we would eat that week.  Our calculations were not totally off-base, as we actually had quite a bit left over at the end of the week that we gave to others who were driving home, and we only had to go out once to get more drinking water (you couldn't really drink the tap water).  Our daily food intake looked like this: 
Breakfast - Fruit & cereal
Snack - Fruit (peaches, nectarines, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, plums, bananas) or veggies (carrots w/hummus)
Lunch - Tuna, turkey or PB&J sandwiches
Snack - Fruit
Dinner - Main dish (grilled meat, tacos, pasta) plus sides from all the other families
Dinners were the best because each family would make their own main dish and then bring a side dish into this huge netted tent to share with everyone else.  It was so nice to eat together and there were so many good things to pick from every night!  I made that delicious bean/corn salad that I wrote about one night (post here).  We also contributed pasta salad, corn on the cob, and green salads the other nights.  There was a smorgasbord every night and I loved it.  After exercising pretty much all day long outside each day, I was famished each night. 
Our days consisted of participating in pretty much every water sport imaginable.  Several members of my brother-in-law's family have boats, which they were kind enough to offer us rides on every day.  We also did some tubing behind the boats, which my niece loved!  My favorite though was water skiing.  I picked this up on our trip 3 years ago and luckily it came right back to me! We also did some jet-skiing and plenty of swimming in the lake, which was surprisingly warm.  The only thing we didn't do this year that we did last time was cliff diving, and I am kind of ok with that, because I remember jumping off those huge cliffs gave me a major headache!
In the evenings after we put the kids to bed, my sister (who is 7 months pregnant!) and I would take long walks up the giant mountain.  She is in amazing shape bc we were basically walking straight uphill for like 30 mins!  After that we would attempt our fire.  You may ask why one would want a fire when it is 85 degrees outside.  Well, I will tell you the sole purpose of our fire was so that we could make s'mores.  We tried making them the first night using the charcoal grills and the marshmallows didn't really come out 'toasted'.  My sister had an intense craving for a real toasted marshmallow s'more, and if you know what's good for you, you do not argue with a pregnant lady.  Thus, our need to build a fire.  Luckily my sister's mother-in-law knew a lot more about making a fire than we did and she helped us out.  But even so, our fires rarely made it more than 20-30 mins! Hahaha  We obviously would not fare well in actual survival situations, where I'm guessing you don't have access to lighter fluid and Bic light sticks!  Nevertheless, we had a s'more every night (mine minus the chocolate) and they were mighty fine if I do say so myself. 
We were also treated to live music many nights by several of my brother-in-law's family members who sing and play the guitar and banjo.  They played country/folk type music for us and it was awesome.
A couple of nights we also participated in craft beer tastings put on by one of the cousins, wherein I had the best beer in the world.  I'm not a huge beer drinker but I am now obsessed with Sprecher Hard Root Beer.  Has anyone ever had this stuff??  It tastes like root beer, not beer, and it is heavenly and I don't know what I'm going to do because I googled it and it's not sold anywhere in Maryland?!?!  [Just FYI, I'm guessing a future post will probably be a recap of me solo road-tripping it to Ohio for some of this delicious nectar.]
There are two main reasons why this reunion camping trip has become one of my favorite vacations:
One is obviously the setting and access to outdoor activities.  I love being outside in the summertime when the weather is hot and sunny and even more so in this incredible, removed environment.  And I love spending summer days being active outdoors - even better if the activity involves water (I am a Pisces after all). 
The second reason is that we are pretty much unplugged the entire week.  There's no TV, no radio, very little phone use, no driving, no traffic, no city noise, no shopping - nothing commercial exists in the campground.  I have been longing for this feeling for so long and even more so lately after my minimalist exploration.  I wouldn't say I'm quite qualified for my Pacific Crest Trail trek but I'm getting there and I'm definitely in that state of mind. 
Ok enough are some pics:
My nephew - that face!!
Kids superhero party - Capes made by Aunt Jilly
Twins...except for the belly :)
We're on a boat!
I realize this type of vacation isn't for everyone, especially those who like luxury, spas, and clubbin', but its just another reminder of the type of lifestyle that makes me happy.  And happy I was...all week long :)
*Huge thanks goes out to my sister and brother-in-law for making this trip possible and inviting me along again!
Ever been camping?

What's your ideal vacation?
Any vacations planned this summer?
If you live in a state where Sprecher Hard Root Beer flows like water can you please mail me some?!?!