Neighbors.

My sweet 96-year old neighbor died this morning. It was a peaceful passing, and she was with the “kid” who took care of her. I say “kid” because he’s a grown man, but to her, everyone was really young, so she referred to him as a “kid.” He wasn’t her kid exactly, but he might as well have been. He took care of her and has for years. He loved her the way her own son would have had she had one of her own. She didn’t, but she had him, and that was just as sweet, from what I could tell.

I learned a lot from this sweet woman.  Continue reading

Fitness Goals for 2014.

I raced the 3M Half Marathon this weekend and am super proud of how I did. My total time was 2 hours and 18 minutes, which translates into 10:34 miles. A year ago, my 5K time averaged 12 minute miles. Now I managed to average 10:34 miles for 13 miles, and I did that after weeks of being away and not training and after running a 10K trail race the day before. I love what that says about how my fitness right now. Continue reading

Wednesday List #28 – Words of Travis Meadows

When I was in Nashville, I heard a good bit of live music. One of my favorites was a guy named Travis Meadows. He introduced himself by saying that he found songwriting to be a place where he could bleed safely. I think that about writing generally, so I immediately took a liking to him. All through the night, I found myself jotting down things he said and lines from songs he sang. Here are some that really struck me.

  1. “I’ve been cleaning out a lot of emotional closets lately.”
  2. “I’m almost at the age where there is less future than there is past.”
  3. “I’m going to get strong enough not to be ashamed of my old scars.”
  4. “I don’t know much but I do know love, and that’s enough to one who needs it.”
  5. “I had a really bad day that lasted for six years.”
  6. “Reach like you know it’s waiting there.”
  7. “I’ve found letting go of what you hold dear leaves your heart and arms a little more wide open.”
  8. “I’m not famous for making wise decisions.”
  9. “I want to make peace with old ghosts, not piss them off.”

I loved his music. I’m grateful for his words and the example he set for me as someone who is willing to be honest and vulnerable. I hope I’ll have another opportunity to see him perform again soon. If you get to hear him before I do, know that I’m jealous. And let me know what you thought.

Brad Pitt is Turning 50?

I read this morning that Brad Pitt is turning 50 in December. Huh? What? Mr. Sexy Abs and Dimples In A Cowboy Hat is turning 50?

I remember seeing Thelma & Louise in the Academy Building of Phillips Exeter Academy during my senior year of high school. I was taking a course called the Art of Protest taught by Christine Robinson, one of my favorite instructors, and watching the movie was our homework. (Yes, it was an incredible course for many reasons.) The movie had come out the year before and was new to me. I gushed when Brad Pitt came on screen wearing blue jeans, a cowboy hat, a gorgeous smile, and nothing else. What that man can do with a hair dryer still makes me blush.

To think that gorgeous young thing is turning 50…gives me hope.

Never once have I looked at a picture of Brad Pitt and thought, “Damn, that dude’s getting old.” Sometimes I’ve thought he looked strange or unnecessarily scraggly, but never, ever old. If anything, he’s more attractive now than he was in 1991. I love the lines on his face, the sometimes there ponytail, and the ever-changing facial hair. I love that he wears more clothes and sometimes has kids hanging on his back. I love that he’s grown a big family and become a humanitarian. He’s just stunning. And he’s 50.

I’ve been fretting the whole turning 40 thing since even before I turned 39. Why? Yes, I’m single and didn’t expect to be. But in every way, my life is a million times more meaningful than it was ten years ago. I have a job I enjoy that supports a wonderful lifestyle of freedom. I have another job writing, which feeds me in more ways than a paycheck ever could. I have a beautiful home in the country that I share with my beloved Bread and Butter. I have parents who love me more than life, and I have the most amazing friends – people I’m completely crazy about who support my goals and dreams. I get to travel the world racing. I’m faster now than I’ve ever been. I’m leaner now than I’ve ever been. And I was reminded this weekend that my story isn’t over. In fact, a new story is just beginning.

This weekend at the Storyline Conference, I started down a path of really looking at who I am, what I want, and what I have to offer the world. One part of the process is to do an inventory of personal experiences. That’s a hard thing because not everything I see in my past is beautiful. Some of it is downright heinous. But I was reminded this weekend of a little thing called redemption. I was reminded that I can look at the downturns in my life, identify something meaningful from each experience, and by doing so, turn that suffering into something useful and beautiful.

For the next couple of months, I’m going to continue the work I began in Nashville, and when I’m done, I hope to emerge with a plan for a new story for my life. I have some ideas of what some of the elements might be, but I’m excited to see what bigger, more clear picture comes out of the process. Whatever it is will be my gift to myself as I turn 40 in December just four days after Brad Pitt turns 50.

Then, one week after I turn 40, I will hop a plane to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro. When I get back, I will pick back up with my Ironman training and chase my dream of a fifth Ironman finish next June in Coeur d’Alene. I will continue to chase my dream of being published as an essayist. And I will go down the path of the plan that comes out of the Storyline Conference experience, whatever that path may be.

I have no doubt that, in December, when Brad Pitt turns 50 and I turn 40, I will look at him as a 50-year-old man and say, “You, Mr. Pitt, are way more sexy today than Mr. Sexy Abs and Dimples In A Cowboy Hat ever was.” And I will look at myself and say, “Hey, you in the mirror who enjoys traveling the world and pushing your limits and loving the people around you in big and beautiful ways, you are too.”

My Storyline.

I spent the weekend in Nashville at a Storyline Conference. Storyline is the brain child of Donald Miller, who made a huge splash with me and countless others about ten years ago with his memoir Blue Like Jazz. The idea behind the conference is to give attendees tools that will help each person live a better story than the one he or she is living right now.

On Friday, I went to a bloggers breakfast and an improv workshop, both of which were officially pre-conference activities. Yesterday, we asked two questions: who are you and what do you want? Today, we talked about the good that can come from suffering and where we go from here. In addition to hearing incredible speakers like Donald Miller, Bob Goff (the author of Love Does), Becca Stevens (the founder of Thistle Farms), John Richmond (a human trafficking and civil rights prosecutor) and many others who are doing big and beautiful things in the world, I got to spend time with other attendees talking about our dreams and the things that keep us from them.

There were a thousand people at this conference, but with each session, I felt like the presenters were speaking directly to me.

I’m not ready to get into what this conference meant to me, but I will say that I walked away with a few things I know for sure. For sure, I know that this gathering of like-minded spirits from all walks of life was exactly what my heart needed right now. For sure, I know that I want to go home and continue the work I started here in Nashville. For sure, I know that no dream is too big and no change is too small, even at my age.

It’s not every day that a girl gets to meet and be inspired by one of her favorite authors. This was my today. This was my weekend.

withdon

I’m so grateful for Donald Miller’s intelligence, his heart, his energy, and his desire to equip me with the tools I need – the very tools he uses – to write a better story for my life. It’s been an incredible weekend.

Normally, after a fun conference of any kind, I’m usually a little bummed about seeing it come to an end. But not this time. This time, I’m ready to get home. I’ve got a lot that I want to do, and I’m excited about getting started.

Wednesday List #26 – Things That Are Growing

I’m feeling positive as I approach my personal new year, so today’s list has an upbeat undertone to it. So much is growing in my life. Here are some things that I consider to be particularly fun.

  1. My Tree: At the finish line in Portland this weekend, I received a medal, a t-shirt, a charm, a coin and a tree. Yes, a tree. The tree came in a little paper cup like you would see by an office cooler. The tree is most certainly the most unusual finish line gift I have ever received, but I was in Portland, so perhaps I should not have been surprised. I flew the tree home with me and planted it. (Okay, Mom planted it, but whatever.) Cute, huh? Here’s to hoping that it stays with me.tree
  2. The Number of Books I Carry: I’ve always loved blank books. I carry a journal with me pretty much everywhere I go because I never know when I’ll find time to write. The same is true for my “to do” book. These are my fundamentals, but I have a number of other books I carry too. I have a book that I use for note-taking during writing workshops, Jeanne Guy gatherings, or lectures at the Seton Cove. I started a quote book a while back. I also have a book that I use for jotting down ideas for stories or articles. I have another book that I keep in my purse for thoughts, books suggestions, or notes about conversations with random people, like those I meet on the plane. I also carry a book for poems and lyric ideas. Finally, I carry what I call my Oregon book. My Oregon book is about more than Oregon. In it, I keep a list of my dreams – not the kind that come when I sleep, but the kind that come when I’m wide awake.Books
  3. The Number of Bags I Carry: I live in the country and work in town, so I often find myself “living” out of my car. This means I carry a number of bags. I carry my purse, my work bag, my lunch bag, my writing bag, my gym bag for getting ready for work after morning workouts, a running bag for my after-work trail runs, and most recently, a tennis bag. At times, I look pretty ridiculous, and my big boss calls me a bag lady, but my system of bags works for me.bags
  4. My List of Trips for 2014: I knew long ago that 2013 would be a year of travel. I thought 2014 would be a year of sitting my happy butt at home and restoring the coffers a bit, but that doesn’t seem to be where my year is headed. I’ve got Africa in December and the first half of January. I have races in St. George in May, Coeur d’Alene in June, and Portland in October.  I’d like to find one more marathon to run, so I can keep up my streak of three marathons in one year. I also want to go to British Columbia in July to see the new Ironman Canada venue. Then I have some personal trips I want to make. I want to see my Exeter roommate Karyn and her family. Jenny and I want to hit Chicago (after years of talking about it) for a Cubs game. I want to visit Gretchen in Washington in the summer so that she can take me to Mount Ranier. I want to visit Ann in New England so we can run a race together. I want to get back to DC since I missed my trip last year, so I can see Meghan and Anthony. I’d also like to plan a trip with my cousins Tina and Matt because the three of us are really liking one another in our old ages. And that’s what I know for now. So much for a planted 2014!
  5. My Hopefulness: I’m feeling really good about where I’m headed. Work is going well. My training is going well. I’m enjoying my old friends and making new ones. I’m writing more. And, perhaps most importantly, I’m getting excited about what a few people have separately described to me as the kindness that comes with turning 40. In the last few weeks, three different people have told me that turning 40 made them go easier on themselves. They became more accepting of who they are, less concerned about what other people think, and more forgiving of themselves when they either don’t want to do something or don’t do something exactly right. I’m ready, I think, to settle into myself more and do a little less “shoulding” on myself. Call me crazy, but I’m starting to feel pretty good about things, including turning 40.

It’s fun to think about the little joys – the ways things are happening in life that feel healthy and right. It’s also fun to think and write about them with a cute little critter staring at me from behind the computer screen, like this:Butter

That cute little critter is my Butter. My love for my Butter is also growing every day, but that’s a whole different story.

Happy Wednesday, y’all.

Three Months to Africa.

In three months, I’ll be getting on a flight to Tanzania for my Kilimanjaro climb and safari adventure. That feels so strange to say because Africa was never on my list of things to do. The idea just came to me one day in mid June as I was thinking about possible ways to spend new years, and I decided to follow my heart even though I thought my heart might be crazy.

The first thing I did was mention the idea to my friend Matt who has done the climb. This was Sunday, June 16, days before I was leaving to race Ironman Coeur d’Alene. My thought was to set up a lunch for when I got back, but Matt was so excited that he responded to my e-mail on Monday with, “You have lunch plans today?” I didn’t, so we had lunch, and his enthusiasm was so complete that I walked away from that lunch committed in my own mind about the effort. I got back to my office and immediately requested information from the outfitter that Matt had used. When I got back from Coeur d’Alene, I reviewed the information they sent me and, on June 29, I put down my deposit. Acting in 13 days is record time for me, as I am perhaps the slowest decision-maker on the planet. I suppose I could have walked away from the deposit, but on August 7, I bought my ticket. Then I was in for sure. On September 3, the outfitter charged my credit card for the balance of what I owed. Then I was in for damn sure.

Now I’m buying travel insurance, rescue insurance, and health insurance for the trip. I’m looking at immunization lists and gear lists. I’m trying to figure out what I have and what I need and what I want for this trip. How will I charge my phone and camera on the climb? What will I carry in my day pack? Will I take paper books or an e-reader? How much can I pack in the duffel bag that porters will carry for me? What do I need to buy and what can I borrow from friends?

My Grand Canyon trip has helped because I now have a day pack, sleeping bag, hat and gloves. Hood to Coast helped me because I now have a compact pillow and small travel towels. Matt has helped by loaning me his trekking poles, which have been up the mountain before. He assures me that they know the way! But I need to figure out the clothes, especially because most of what I own no longer fits me. I’ve lost almost 19 pounds since January, so I’m having to buy new pants all around. Even the pants I bought in July with Rey are getting loose. At some point, I’ll do a big REI trip to buy a bunch of clothes and gear. That will be a fun effort.

But logistics aside, it’s hitting me that I’m going to Africa, and I’m going alone. My first international trip (to Italy and Greece) was with a girlfriend and her family. My second (to Spain) was to meet my friend Erin, who was studying there for a semester. My third (England and Germany) was for an extended family reunion on my dad’s side. This will be only my fourth big trip, and I’m flying for over 24 hours alone to climb a mountain in Africa with five other people I’ve never met. The me of two years ago before I’d done any international travel would never have done this.

Who have I become?

I’m someone who is turning forty in less than three months and doesn’t want being forty and alone to feel like…well, the way I expect forty and alone to feel. I want to appreciate that I have a wonderful job that allows me travel. I want to take advantage of not having kids and not being responsible for anyone but myself. I want to enjoy being able to book a trip on a whim – or as close to a whim as I’ve ever come – and seeing it through. I love people and want someone by my side, but I also want to be completely okay with being just me.

Africa is about me doing something I never thought I would do. It’s about proving to myself that I can adapt to a different and challenging environment, that I can enter a foreign territory with no one holding my hand, and that I can battle my way up to any finish line I choose to face. It’s about me trying something new and having fun. Africa is about me enjoying being forty and being forty the best way I know how.

I’m excited. And a little scared. But mostly, I’m excited. I can’t wait to get on the plane. This experience will be all my own, and I have a feeling I will come back changed somehow. I don’t know how, but I suspect it’ll be for the better.

Africa, I have high hopes for you and for me. I can’t wait for us to meet.