Ghost Stories

I’m listening to another fantastic album that holds so many memories for me. This one is Ghost Stories by Coldplay.

The word “disappointed” doesn’t even begin to cover how I felt when Ghost Stories first came out. After all of the happiness and downright wonder of Mylo Xyloto (their previous album) I almost couldn’t bear to listen to this one. It was slow. It was quiet. It lacked the magic that their other albums overflow with. I heard it once and sadly wrote it off. “Maybe Coldplay’s losing their touch,” I thought sadly. And there it sat, gathering dust at the back of my symbolic music drawer for a good couple months.

Then last summer I was talking with my good friend Dara about the album. Dara and I have been close since freshman year of college, and she’s one of the biggest Coldplay fans I know. (I’ve posted about this wonderful girl before – read it here) And she was telling me how she was just completely blown away by Ghost Stories and how she couldn’t get enough. I looked at her skeptically, not really wanting to believe her, while she deconstructed the whole thing: the beauty in the lyrics, the simplicity of the songs that have the power to wreck your heart, the genuineness and sincerity in every note. I remember her specifically lingering on the last song, “O”, and how it might be even more powerful to her than her then-current favorite Coldplay song “Clocks”. After such a compelling argument, I thought I should give it another go.

And holy poop, the album leveled me. And I haven’t been able to get enough of it ever since.

Its beauty is in its subtlety. It is soft but so powerful. The listener can tell that true love and meaning went into the creation of every note. I find that the perfect time to listen to it is early in the morning or late at night, during a long and foggy drive. It reminds me of the Saturday mornings I’d wake up early and head to marathon practice with my Team In Training friends last year while the rest of the world slept. Or of driving on the freeways of Seattle coming home from friends’ houses or dinner with Davis’ family. It would be the perfect album to listen to while watching snow fall.

I especially like the song “Midnight”. Again, this is one that I completely wrote off when I first heard it. It was one of the album’s early releases, and when I listened to it the first time and watched the music video, I thought Coldplay had lost its collective mind. I was expecting a build, a Mylo Xyloto explosion of sound and emotion, a high as a result of watching it. And instead… just confusion. But after falling in love with the whole album, I can see that it fits so perfectly, and it somehow resonates with me deeply.

So give Ghost Stories a chance. Actually, give it a couple. I think you’ll find you too can fall in love with it if you keep an open mind.

One World Observatory and Maple Goodness

Today was a completely incredible day! And it was awesome for so many reasons.

So I felt like writing about it.

Last night Davis came home from work and said that he’d have to leave for a quick trip to Boston earlier than expected. These trips are so much more manageable than the ones he’d have to take when we were living in Seattle and he was gone every week for months at a time… no fun for anyone. Instead, he’s home almost every night these days and has to take one-off trips here and there, which we can handle no problem. So with this particular jaunt to Boston, he knew he’d have to go this week, but his time there got shifted around a bit, so he had to fly out tonight instead of tomorrow morning. We’d tentatively made plans tonight and he felt bad that he’d have to miss those, so he proposed a day date instead! (I just want to pause on the excitement of that for a second… he’s pretty wonderful, that husband of mine.)

Of course, it couldn’t be a full day, since both of us needed to get work done. But we did something that we’ve wanted to do for a while: go to the top of the Freedom Tower. Being able to plan with such precision made our trip cheaper (there are different tiers of tickets, and if you know exactly what time you’re going, it can save you a few bucks), and it was fun to be spontaneous!

Both of us had been to Ground Zero before, but not since construction of the museum and Freedom Tower had finished. We were pleasantly surprised to find the park area open. The lack of gates surrounding the courtyard made it feel so inviting and nice. And it was incredible seeing the tower rise above the fountains! But the reality and shock of 9/11 hit me again as I was gazing into the North Tower’s pool. Two skyscrapers stood here fourteen years ago. Two skyscrapers full of people, of lives, of work, of ambitions and dreams and friendships and love. And now they’re gone. There’s this apparent hole in the skyline that they used to fill, which I remember was what hit me the last time I’d visited the site. I was only 11 when the events happened; because I was so young and was living on the other end of the country, I wasn’t fully able to grasp the severity of the situation. But seeing this, and the hundreds of names of all the people lost that surround the pools, it really sinks in. I feel lucky that I didn’t know anyone, but I know people who did. One of my best friends lost her uncle, a firefighter who went up to help. Just thinking about it rips me apart, and I didn’t even know him. You can tell that it’s still a huge part of this city too. I see shirts everywhere saying “Never Forget”. Firetrucks have flags and decals remembering the men and women lost. The topic seems to come up a lot in conversation – where were you, what do you remember.

I feel like I can’t adequately describe my thoughts on this, nor can I properly transition away from it. Without the tragedy, there wouldn’t be the skyscraper we were in this morning. I’d really rather not have the new, shiny building if it meant that thousands of people could have their friends and loved ones back. But as it is, the Freedom Tower now stands tall at the tip of Manhattan, and that’s where we saw the world from today.

And holy moley, it was AWESOME.

The whole experience inside the tower was almost otherworldly. Everything was thought through. It’s so shiny and new, and it gives such a fantastic view of the city. They even made the elevator ride cool. We saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Brooklyn and New Jersey, and midtown Manhattan, of course. In one of the videos that was shown, some of the builders said that on clear days, they could even see the curvature of the earth from the top. Isn’t that insane?! We spent a good amount of time up there, and I think I significantly confused some Italians when I asked if they’d take our picture (which they did, and I took theirs, and then apologized in Italian because there was no flash and it was too dark… but they gave me blank stares, and I felt bad.). I would definitely recommend this to anyone visiting the city or who hasn’t already been – it was a really cool experience. I think we’re hoping to go again when we have family or friends in town.

(One more thing about the tower: there were definitely Disney-like aspects to it, in terms of its thoroughness. The queue kind of had Disney’s famous style of keeping the queuees occupied so they don’t notice they’re waiting. The whole thing felt almost magical. I wouldn’t be surprised if people at Disney helped put some of these pieces together.)

We ate lunch at a nearby burger joint we’d been wanting to try, then Davis said goodbye and headed to the office (and to Boston right afterward… he’ll be back tomorrow night). I spent the afternoon doing some work myself, then I wandered for a while. I’ve taken to doing this, to picking a direction and then just going. It’s helping me get acquainted with the city. There’s just so much to see and do here! Each time I go out, I find at least one more new thing to try. Yesterday I went to Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co. and had an ice cream sundae. An by “ice cream” I mean frozen fruit turned into soft serve… it was so delicious, and so much healthier than regular dessert! I’m definitely going back there again.

Today I stumbled upon the farmer’s market that was happening in Union Square. We live close by and I’ve walked by it once or twice, but this was the first time I deliberately explored. I stopped at a maple syrup stand and got to know its owner. He was so kind – he gave me a piece of maple candy (which was delicious – I can now see why Ross in Friends was hooked on it!) and let me try some of their out-of-this-world maple cream. This stuff is like autumn in a jar… I had to buy some. I’m going to have to pace myself, because I could see myself eating a ton of this very quickly if I’m not careful. The owner was telling me all about where he and his family live, how it’s not too far away and how beautiful it is. He and his wife were celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary this week, and they were just so adorable. The whole experience made me really happy, and something to strive for in our lives. I think I’ll go back and see them again next week.

So yes – that was my day. Simple but outstanding. Part of me still can’t believe we’re actually here. I love how each day is different in this giant new city of ours. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored. Excited to see what tomorrow brings.

Lulu Miller is awesome.

This past weekend I sent an email to Lulu Miller of Radiolab and Invisibilia fame, and this morning, she wrote me back.

What. I just. Ohmygosh. I feel like, as Davis so jokingly puts it, I have lost my ability to even.

Here’s the thing too: It wasn’t a courtesy email, a “thanks for writing, keep in touch” flimsy note-thing. It was a solid letter, full of detail and thought and love. It was the kind of letter that you write to a good friend that takes at least 20 minutes to artfully construct. She gave me tips on how to learn about podcasting and work in radio. She talked excitedly about New York. She invited me to coffee if I’m ever in the area that she works in. Just like. WHAT.

She is SO NICE. She writes the way I do. She seems so excitable and just in love with life. In reading her email, I felt like we could be best friends.

I realize it’s only Monday, but she has made my week. I don’t think anything could bring me down.

OH AND THEN I also bought tickets to see Ira Glass in town this weekend. Even all of these capital letters cannot express all the excitement I’m feeling about life right now.

(For those of you who don’t know, Lulu is a wonderful storyteller and reporter. Everything she makes (that I’ve heard) is beautiful. Listen to any of the episodes of Invisibilia and prepared to be amazed: http://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/. And Ira Glass is the master of radio storytelling from This American Life. Listen to any of his stories here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/.)

Nay-Sayers

I go about my life just fine, sunny skies, mountains never too high to climb, then in a second, they appear. They surround me, engulf my thoughts, stop me dead in my tracks.

What do you think you’re doing? they say. You can’t; you won’t. Who do you think you are for wanting something like that?

I’m me, I respond. Me with my dreams, smart, talented, enthusiastic. I can do anything I set my mind to!

Their murmurs drown me out and make my voice quieter. You think you can do what? You want to go where? 

I grow smaller and smaller as they stand in my way, darkening my sun.

No, I gasp. No you’re wrong. I can do this. I can –

The terror grips me, paralyzing and tangible. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I can’t. Maybe I’m destined to be like this forever, to become one of them someday and give up chasing dreams of my own.

That’s right, they say. Stop trying. You don’t need to struggle. You’d hate it anyway. It isn’t worth the effort.

They aren’t right. They never are. I know that now, as I sit here typing, when they’re not trying to pull me under. But sometimes they feel so real.

Sometimes I can’t resist them on my own. So my back-up comes, to whisper in my ear that yes, I can, that it all will be okay. That I shouldn’t give up – that I can never give up. It helps me pick my head up and trudge on, through their sticky black sludge, away from them and toward the light of my dreams.

This is the story of me fighting back, screaming at the top of my lungs, I can, I can I can. Though my voice may be feeble, like a small flame on a windy night that threatens to go out, it’s still there.

They haven’t won yet. I don’t plan on letting them. I know I’m not alone in this struggle, that they bother everyone at one point or another. But they feel so isolating and sad and dark.

So I count today as a victory. Another day and the nay-sayers haven’t succeeded. Each day won is another day stronger. I will achieve my dreams. I will never let them stop me.

At Least

It’s been a while since I last wrote – whoops! Seems to be a trend for me, but one I’m intent on breaking. I can’t say that I’ve been too busy to write, especially since I haven’t been spending long hours running insane distances between my last post and now. I guess I’ve just been out living. And while I want to document life here, I haven’t been good about being consistent. But I digress.

Optimism (the topic) has come up a lot at work, especially because inventory season is upon us, which is a time that no one seems to be particularly cheerful about. A little background on inventory: twice a year we have to count everything in the hospital (on a Saturday… you can see why people don’t like it that much) so that we have an accurate picture of how much money we have tied up in materials. It isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but it has to be done. This year is especially difficult, as we’ve been trying to change the process, but in fact this has made it harder (instead of easier like we’d hoped it would be). And there’s a lot of grumbling – grumbling about the work that needs to be done to prepare, grumbling about coming in on a Saturday – just, grumbling.

Which is where my optimism comes in. I don’t mean to, but when something bad or sad or agitating happens, without meaning to and without fail, I follow it up with an “at least”. It’s pouring rain outside? At least it’s good cocoa weather. Our flight’s delayed? At least I’ll have a chance to grab a cookie and use the bathroom one more time before boarding. Inventory’s kind of a drag? Well, at least it will be over soon.

This isn’t easy for everyone. My coworker has admitted that he tends to fall on the opposite side of the fence sometimes, being pessimistic about things rather than seeing the positive. And I think a lot of people do this too. It’s not wrong. But I’m glad my glass usually looks half-full.

So I just wanted to write a small tribute to these two words. I know looking on the bright side isn’t for everybody and that it’s harder for some than for others, but I’m grateful that “at least” has been there for me, to turn the day around when it all seems to be falling apart. I’m so appreciative of the fact that it’s easy for me to do this. That I can see the silver lining, that I can celebrate the “at least”. My brain seems programmed to seek out the good, and I don’t want that to change. (is that bragging? I don’t mean it to be.)

It is, in fact, raining outside, and I’ve got a bit of a stomachache. But at least it gave me a chance to write a blog post 🙂

Marathon

Full disclosure: I think I’m a little emotionally unstable right now.

I hate it when I start posts by saying “Words cannot describe”, even if that’s the way it feels. Sometimes I feel like I’m grasping at the air trying to figure out just what to say, just how to describe a situation that is indescribable. But that’s how I feel like my marathon was. I guess it’s better to say, “I just don’t know where to begin.”

I think marathons are the type of thing that you don’t understand until you do one. I can say I definitely had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had done the long runs and fueled properly and was wearing all the right things and thought I knew exactly what it was going to be like. And then I was there and it was unlike anything I’d experienced before.

I feel the need to start by saying that Victoria (where the race took place) is incredibly gorgeous. I hope to go back there sometime soon and do more than run a whole lot, eat, and nap. The city is the perfect blend of Europe and America. I cannot wait to explore (while moving slower than five miles an hour on foot).

And there was a lot of pre-race activities that the Team did. We all stayed in the same hotel. The people that could get Friday off of work took the Clipper up there together, and returned Monday. We decorated our shirts together and explored together and ate together. And there was the Inspiration Dinner, which took place the night before. I was the last newbie to enter, and everyone was cheering for me – it was an incredible feeling. I had made it so far. I had reached my fundraising goal. I was now going to run a marathon. The dinner was also the opportunity for us to thank our coaches and captains as well as learn more about LLS and see how the money we raised was going to be used. We heard from people whose lives we had touched. It was really nice, and a great celebration of all that we were going to accomplish and all that we had so far.

I chose to do the early start because I had enough sense to foresee that my first marathon wasn’t going to go as smoothly as I hoped it would. I had planned to do the whole thing by sticking to my run-walk intervals, which (in theory) would have gotten me there around the 5:30 normal start cutoff time. And it worked – until mile 17 or so, when everyone started getting more tired and the runs turned into walks, with us using everything we had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But anyway! I’ll get there when I get there.

So early start! As in, the team met at 5:30am in the hotel lobby to head to the course. So I got up at 4:45am. I slept really well (considering my first marathon was a few short hours away) and leaped out of bed when my alarm clock went off. I put on my running outfit, which I’d laid out the night before, and made myself my typical pre-run meal of peanut butter and toast (yes, I packed my toaster, bread, and peanut butter – I didn’t want to take any chances!).

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Then I Body-Glided up, put my shoes on, kissed my sleeping husband goodbye, and headed downstairs.

It was still very dark when we headed over to the starting line. Luckily, it wasn’t raining – there had been quite a downpour the day before, but the skies were clear and everyone was chatting eagerly. When we got there, there were only maybe 150 others around (which is nothing for a typical race!). It was awesome seeing all of the different people – first-timers, experienced runners, even a man in a wheelchair who was going to do the whole thing with his arms (so inspiring). I was wearing a trash bag to keep warm (runner pro-tip) when Davis showed up to give me a kiss and proper send-off. We lined up just before the start, and promptly at 6:30, we were off!

People say that the first seven or eight miles of a marathon fly by – I totally concur. We ran through the dark, the sound of feet pounding on the sidewalk and stretchy material swishing keeping us company. I had decided to run with the team captains (Melissa and Sandy) weeks before the event, and both were okay (and excited) about my decision to run with them. I have a tendency to run too fast at the beginning and burn myself out later (a habit that earned me the nickname “Seabiscuit” during the race) but the run-walk intervals we all decided to use really kept me from doing that. Another woman (Carolyn) thought this sounded like a good plan to her – this was her first marathon too, so she also stuck with us.

The sun was coming up just as we were running through this gorgeous park and peaked over the horizon as we rounded a corner and saw the ocean for the first time. Saying it was stunning doesn’t even begin to cover it. It was truly a breathtaking moment – and not because we were running too fast! I fully felt how blessed I was to be able to run, to run there, to be surrounded by others who also love something so simple but so profound.

One great thing about doing the event with Team In Training is the support we got from our coaches. I mean, they were all fantastic during the season, but the support they gave us on race day was unprecedented. Jay ran with us after the park and along the ocean for a ways, keeping us calm and encouraging us, then as we got closer to the turnaround point. We laughed a lot and talked about all of the food we were going to eat after the event (and during – he’d found a packet of peanut butter that he was looking forward to!). We met up with Lisa on the way back, just when it was starting to get hard for me, and she pulled us through. I cannot thank them enough for the love and support they gave us – they are an outstanding group of people and a huge reason I want to participate with TNT again next year. (Also shout-out to our teammate Renee who came up to cheer us on and ran with us for some of the beginning miles! Coach in training, I think!)

By the time we reached the turnaround point, the normal race start had already occurred, and we were all pretty convinced that we’d be passed soon by the head runners. We made it maybe a mile back when the first one came flying by (proceeded by a bicycle and police escort, as well as a car that drove in front of him with his time). A few more speed demons came after him a few minutes later, then the first female – a woman from Russia. They. were. so fast. I hope to improve my times, but I’m never going to get there. I’m kind of okay with that, though. I do it more for the challenge to myself and the camaraderie than for the speed. They were really inspiring too though and kept us pressing on.

Like I mentioned before, running seemed to get really hard around mile 16 or 17. At that point my inner ankles and IT bands were really sore, and I tried to stretch during our walk breaks. Our runs became shorter and our walks were prolonged, but we kept going, never stopping.

One part I remember distinctly during this hard bit was running through a small village part of the city called Oak Bay. When we first went through it was still pretty early, so it was quiet and nothing really seemed to be happening. But on our return through the town, people were awake and lining the streets, cheering for us as we went by. With all of the fall colors, it felt like Stars Hollow, like I was running a small-town race.

The race just kept getting harder – I’d be lying if I said it ever let up. I never wanted to give up though. I knew I was going to make it to the end.

I had heard that marathons were emotional events – that runners will occasionally break down when they get into the later miles, and while I wasn’t counting on it happening, I wasn’t surprised when those emotions caught up to me. Melissa and I were around mile 23 when we came upon a water stop. I filled up my bottle and went to look for Melissa when I saw her standing next to Davis. To say I was elated to see him would be an understatement. I gave him a huge grin and hobbled into his arms. “I’m so proud of you,” he said, giving me a kiss. “You’re doing this!” Then he said the thing that really hit me: “I’ll see you at the finish line.” The finish line – just three miles away! We were almost there – I was actually going to finish the marathon! He gave me a kiss, and we continued on. Both Melissa and I had tears streaming down our faces. A song by P!nk was playing – “Try”, it’s called – and while it isn’t completely applicable, there are some lyrics that are. The refrain kept playing and I thought it was really appropriate: “Just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die / You gotta get up and try, try, try”. I was trying – and I was going to do it. Suddenly I wanted to run again. And suddenly it didn’t hurt anymore. (I’ve been listening to that song on repeat today, by the way. It still brings tears to my eyes.)

So we ran for the next five minutes or so (a real accomplishment at that point!) then continued walking and running til we made it closer to the end. We saw some people wipe out really close to the finish – they didn’t hydrate or fuel properly, Melissa said. I proceeded to eat more Shot Bloks and drink lots of water, just to make sure it didn’t happen to me. I was so close, I wanted to make sure I got there!

Then we passed the “One Mile Left” sign, and they started counting down the meters to the end. Eight hundred, seven hundred, six hundred – then the last turn until we could see the finishing chute. And right around the five hundred meter mark, there was a girl holding a sign: “You are no longer a runner. You’re a marathoner.” And we lost it again. I was going to finish! Melissa grabbed my hand and we raced to the line, and that was it – I was a marathoner.

(Yep, emotions. Definitely started crying while writing that.)

I was greeted with smiles and a white jacket to keep me warm, then got awarded my medal. Now, I have to be honest – before the race, I wasn’t particularly jazzed about getting that medal. I mean, I didn’t really care – finishing was accomplishment enough for me. But since getting it, I haven’t wanted to take it off! I wore it to work on Monday, then again tonight. I am so excited to have it.

I found Davis and gave him a huge hug, ate all the snacks I could get my hands on, caught up with a friend that I ran into in the finishers’ area, then went back to the hotel, took an ice bath and a hot shower, ate a big meal, and took a nap. All too soon we had to return home and to real life.

I just, I couldn’t believe it was over. I still can’t, actually. I already miss my TNT friends, my running buddies. We’re going to run together afterward anyway, which I’m really looking forward to. And just, I miss running in general. My muscles have been pretty sore the past few days, but more than anything I want to lace up my shoes and get back out there. This experience has been completely surreal and I can’t wait to do it again.

I couldn’t wait so much that I actually signed up for my next half yesterday – I’m going to be doing the Seattle Half right after Thanksgiving, and a lot of my friends will be doing it too! And I know it’s smart to give my body a good break before I pursue another full marathon. But I saw my time and immediately thought, “6:20?!? I can do wayyyy better than that!” So I’m going to.

And I’ve been a bit of an emotional mess since the race. I’ve heard that’s kind of normal too, but man – it’s completely nuts. Just reliving it now was a bit of a (wonderful) roller coaster. (Also, I’ve been eating like crazy over the past few days – I’ve polished off a box and a half of frozen Girl Scout cookies, and had ice cream for dinner last night – I can’t remember the last time I did that!)

So yes. That was my marathon experience. I really cannot wait to do it again, and it’s something that I want to encourage everyone to try. Putting that much effort and energy into training is incredibly beneficial – it’s time that you give to yourself. The sense of accomplishment is something I hadn’t experienced before – probably because it was something I never thought I could actually do. And you make so many friends along the way!

A quote I saw once read something like this: “I dare you to train for a marathon and not have it change your life.” And I was skeptical – it’s just another activity, right? But really, it’s true. So now I challenge you: think about training for a marathon. It really will change your life.

It’s Happening.

Four-ish years ago, my new-ish boyfriend and I would occasionally discuss our very hypothetical honeymoon. That is, if, by some small chance, we stayed together through college and beyond and decided to think seriously about getting married. We made sure we kept things vague, light, and noncommittal. Marriage itself was brought up, but with the same sense of uncertainty. We were freshmen, after all, and still new to this whole dating thing.

And we’d dream of Italy. Of exploring the countryside together. Of riding a gondola side by side. Of wandering the streets and eating the food and meeting the people and being in love in Italy.

But again, our relationship was young. Maybe that would happen, but we weren’t counting on it.

Things started off good, and they kept getting better. He met my family – they loved him – and I met his. We fell more and more in love and learned to communicate well with each other. And above all, we were best friends. We told each other everything. We celebrated the good times together and pulled each other through the tough ones. The hypothetical discussions of life after college and marriage became more and more concrete. We couldn’t see life without each other. He asked me to marry him, and I joyfully said yes.

Today we booked it. The honeymoon we talked about. We’re going to Italy in August.

I realize this is still such a small part of our future – two weeks in Europe will be like a blink of an eye in our life together. But it still makes me so incredibly excited. We get to be in love in Italy, together, just him and me. And it blows my mind that it went from being a low-possibility hypothetical to, well, real – and my life.

And it shows me that things like this happen. I know it’s incredibly cheesy, but life can be all it’s cracked up to be and more. Life with him is going to be incredible. I mean, I’m not naive, and I know that we’re going to have to work at it. But if it’s anything like these past four years have been, it’s going to be amazing.

(We’ve also already started thinking about our next big vacation. Brainstorming only, but still. We figure we should always have something to look forward to 🙂 )

I just. I can’t believe we’re going!!!