Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankful

I started writing a post about how I wasn't going to write a post about gratitude. I started to say that these posts are overkill this time of year, and terrible cliched, and nearly transparent. I wrote that I believe it's more important to show daily gratitude all year than just in one month or on one day, just like I believe it's more important to show love all year than just on February 14. I started to write about how keeping a daily gratitude journal (when I remember to, oops...) has helped me be more grateful each day and put things into perspective, and that I like to practice this in January, April, and June, just as much as in November. I started writing a whole post about how it would be silly to jump on the bandwagon and list out the things I'm thankful for, as if I'm only thankful for them in the week leading up to Thanksgiving.

But then I decided that at the very least, the world could to with a little bit more expression of gratitude, no matter how cliched, hackneyed, or redundant it might be. I'm thankful for my many blessings all year round, but this is the time of year we talk about them. So I'm going to talk about them today, and hope that I do just as well next May of showing my gratitude for these things as I do this week — albeit maybe not in a very public blog post.  :)
(image via)
In no particular order, I'm thankful for...

My family of kind, compassionate, funny, giving, and talented men and women. For better or worse, they've seen me through a whole lot and I'm so glad to say we have so much fun together. There have been tremendous ups and downs over the last 25 years with these people, and the ones I count among this group today have earned every privilege that comes along with being family.

My dear friends, many of whom deserve the title of family too. The people who show me love all the time, who encourage me to chase dreams, who hold me a little bit tighter when they know I need it, who I laugh with until my insides ache, who understand me in ways I always thought impossible. The people who make me believe that "friends are the family you choose."

The blogging community, without whom I would have felt very alone at certain points this year. I've made some incredible friends since starting up this place, and though some of you live hundreds or thousands of miles away from me, I hold you so close in my heart. You guys have seen me through personal and professional challenges this year, you've supported me in my goals, you've encouraged me to reach new finish lines, and you've helped me nurse a cracked heart more than once. I used to think about the support of blog friends as "the kindness of strangers," but that's really not true. We're not strangers, not anymore. The conversations we've had, the secrets we've shared, the jokes we've laughed at together mean we're no longer strangers, merely peering into one another's lives on the Internet. Blogging means opening up our worlds to others out there, inviting them in, and implicitly, perhaps sometimes foolishly and without real reason, trusting them to treat us with kindness. I'm so honored to say no one in this community has made me want to close those doors. So to you, my dear friends — who just happen to live in different cities, states, and countries — I'm so grateful to know you.

My ability to run. This year, I became a runner in what is no doubt one of the most shocking transformations of my life — at least, if you asked anyone who knew me a year ago. Running has introduced me to incredible people. It's shown me so many sides of myself that I never knew and let me know strengths I didn't imagine I had. It's taken me to beautiful places and taught me valuable lessons about pushing boundaries and setting realistic limits. It helped me to stop being a daily cigarette smoker. Running has changed my life in more ways than I can count, and I can't imagine what I would look like today if I hadn't started.

My job, even though it isn't my dream job, and it has its flaws. It affords me the opportunity to earn a respectable living for myself and be independent and live a life I love. It allows me to work side by side with a very dear friend and share laughs every day with sweet and kind girls whom I'm lucky to know.

My yoga practice. Yoga means more to me than I think I can really put into words here without making some people feel ill, so maybe I'll leave it for another day. But yoga is another experience that has led to countless positive things, people, and adventures for me. I'm grateful that I discovered my practice and the ability I've had to nurture it over the years, this year in particular.

And the infinite "little things" that I admittedly take for granted on a daily basis — my health, my independence, my ability to work and make choices and create a life for myself, my ability to stay connected with people I love no matter where they are from Afghanistan to Japan to the far, far-away land of South Jersey, the food I'm able to eat and sustain my body with every day, the clean water I have to drink, my access to quality health care, my access to entertainment and my (albeit limited, however by my own doing) leisure time and activities, and all the things we're often so quick to complain about but that truly do make us lucky beyond words.

For all this and for each and for every day I have the option to write it, think it, and know it, I am beyond thankful. And regardless of how many posts like this appear in your feed today, and how many of you skip over this (I don't blame you), it wouldn't kill me to say it once in a while, ya know?

Happy Thanksgiving. Have a wonderful holiday, however you celebrate.
And if you aren't celebrating, happy Thursday and have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Do Werk

Whew! It's hard to believe a month has passed already since I ran my first half marathon. And in the month since then, I've run... 20 miles. I know, what.

The reason? No good one, really. Yes, I had to increase the frequency of my chiropractor appointments earlier this month because of the minor car accident I was in the day before my last race. And it's been busier than usual lately; I've had more deadlines to keep up with and more side hustles to make time for than I have in the past few months. But I also deliberately didn't make much time for running. I gave myself a bit of a "rest month," but that changes now.

This Training for Tuesday, I'm looking a good distance into the future and laying down a few fitness- and wellness-related goals. Some are for running, some are for yoga, and they're all for making sure I don't lose my mind.
  • Run, damn it. See above. 
  • Find and begin a new half marathon training program. I'm already registered for my next big race and one of my first 2015 races: The Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon in March. The awesome thing about this race is that it's also going to be a huge blogger party! Tracy, Becky, Erin, her husband Jared, and a few others and I will be going for it all together. But... I have a LOT of work to do before then. I ran my first half marathon in 2:16:12, and I know I will run my next a decent bit faster. I know this because the next one won't have 2.5 miles of trail, and I'll use something to keep track of my pace this time, and RnR won't be as hilly as the Oktoberfest Half I ran last month. I have a realistic goal (2:10) in mind and a crazy goal (not telling yet) that I've been turning over with Tracy, but neither one of those is going to happen if I don't get to work. I'm picking up the frequency of my runs starting this week and am going to be in full-on training mode by the end of next month.
  • Work on arm balances in yoga. With the help of my favorite yogi Erin Motz at her workshop last month, I got that much closer to really having forearm stand and handstand down. They're still not very strong, and I'm lusting over some other arm balances that are still beyond my reach. My yoga practice is important to me, and feeling strong and confident in many aspects of my practice as I currently am, this is just sort of the natural next step for me. Now let's just hope I can get to nailing these advanced poses without a permanent neck injury.
    Someday I'll have a decent photography equipment and a place where I can actually take yoga pictures. Today is not that day.
    (Crow pose)
  • Increase the duration of my practices. Currently, I do yoga pretty consistently about five times a week, on weekday mornings. I do roughly 20 minutes of yoga following one of Erin Motz's videos or putting together my own combination that feels good and works with what I want to target that day. Partially because life has been so chaotic lately, I've been skipping yoga on the weekends, but I would really like to try and carve out an hour or so for yoga on the weekends and try more advanced postures and intensive practices. I like this site for videos that are a bit longer.
  • Find a yoga studio and community. I've mentioned before that I have a primarily home practice. And by primarily, I mean pretty much almost entirely. Yoga studio memberships are not cheap, and I generally prefer my daily yoga home practice anyway. The timing works out much better for me too. But, the yoga community is something I feel like I'm really missing in my life right now. Where I live, there is no shortage of various types of yoga studios, so I want to spend the next couple of weeks sampling the options and seeing if I can find a place that feels like home. I'm hoping this will be good for me mentally and emotionally, and I'm hoping it serves another purpose too...
  • Find a studio for my yoga teacher training. This is a longer-term goal, as I don't anticipate having the deposit and time for this until a few months into 2015. But this is something I've been kicking around for years, and I'm tired of just talking about it. I can only imagine how much work becoming certified to teach yoga will be. I know it will be intense, expensive, and time-consuming. But I cannot wait to start the journey. Related, a lot of yoga studios run a program called Karma Yoga, where you are offered complimentary yoga classes in exchange for working at the studio for a few hours, at the front desk or helping to clean up after classes. The studios I plan to sample over the next few weeks all offer this program, so in my trials I'll be keeping this goal in mind too.
So that's what I've got coming up over the next few weeks. I'm trying to be as realistic as I can, considering the work year-end deadlines, the holidays, travel, and how exhausted I've been lately (chronic insomnia, at least I can always count on you...), but also set some goals that take at very least a mental effort and commitment to accomplish. 
alyssagoesbang
And now we want to hear about you — what have you been working toward lately? What do you want to work on before 2014 winds down? Don't wait for the new year to start on a fitness goal; there's no time like the present. So grab a button and link up below. Like my inspiring co-host Tracy so perfectly said, training is better with friends!



Monday, November 24, 2014

Grinching

I have to be honest. I'm Grinching early this year.

Or Scrooging, if you prefer.

I know a lot of people get really grumpy when the grandiose displays of Christmas come before Thanksgiving. I'm not one of them. Yes, the Macy's and Bath & Body Works displays I saw before HALLOWEEN were a little bit excessive, but I'm okay with stores getting their holiday sales and decor going anytime around November 20th. The holiday season is so short, especially with Thanksgiving being so late this year, and isn't it The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Who can blame people for wanting to make that wonderfulness last a little bit longer?

So that's not what I'm grinching over.

But as much as this time of year brings out the generosity and kindness in people — and I really believe that it does (shout out to the state trooper who let me off with a warning yesterday morning so I could get my brunch on in a good mood) — it also undoubtedly brings out the selfishness, the egomania, the entitlement, and the complete lack of consideration for others.

Knowing that it's the weekend before Thanksgiving and that thousands of patrons of my local Shop Rite would be lining up to get their free turkeys and all their fixings for Thursday's dinner, I went into my quick, small but necessary shopping trip this Saturday with fingers crossed. This grocery store gets crowded beyond belief on a regular Saturday, so I knew I would be in for a treat on this prime shopping day. But it was worse than I could have imagined.

I pulled into the lot fully intending to drive all the way down to the end, far away from the doors, because I just wanted to get in and get out. I ran a half marathon a month ago, I can walk 50 yards to the store. But apparently, no one else was capable of walking any distance beyond 15 feet — at least, that's what it seems like when there's a line of SUVs stalking people as the walk out the front door and staking out all the prime spots. Listen, it's not that cold out. It's not raining. I see you running around with that cart inside the store. You can walk. But if you insist that you can't, please at least make some damn room for the rest of the people trying to park to maneuver the parking lot.

But it wasn't enough that I could barely traverse the lot. When I finally got out of the store, after witnessing countless parents yelling at their kids, being rammed with other peoples' carts, and nearly mowed down by careless people old and young, when I finally made it back to my car, when I finally got out of the spot after waiting people to MOVE, I saw that there was a damn car accident in the lot. Because we have to have our heads so far up our asses that we can't even drive like adults in a 5 MPH grocery store parking lot without causing a traffic accident, thereby drawing police officers and making the parking lot traffic infinitely worse.

Now, it occurs to me that I've just spilled way more ink on this shopping trip than I had planned to, so I'm not even going to go into all the details of the THREE TIMES I had to fight for my life in order to park at the mall (THREE TIMES!) yesterday — Apple Store problems — or the multiple times I nearly tripped over gaggles of holiday shoppers who find it necessary and acceptable to stop right in the middle of a busy walkway to text, chat, contemplate life, or stare mindlessly into perfume displays, or the incessant honking that accomplishes nothing but inciting rage in fellow travelers, or the dingbats who hop out of traffic to ride the shoulder and then try to hop back in because they don't feel that the rules of the road apply to them. I won't talk about any of that.

I just wish everyone could agree that YES, this time of year is busy for a lot of people, YES, we're all rushing to a million different places and have a long list of things to do, YES, no one likes to sit in traffic (yet we are the traffic ourselves, ya know?), YES, it can be frustrating to watch a light change four times before you move an inch, YES, we want to go fast and get where we're going right now... BUT no civilian driver on the road is more important than any other, and it would be super duper if everyone could stop acting as if they are above the rules of travel and of general decent human-to-human behavior.

Because that's the kind of crap that ruins the holiday season for everyone.

So please, stop tailgating me so close that I can't even see that you're behind me. Stop driving with your high beams on because you want everyone to get out of your way so you can drive at break-neck speed down a busy highway. Stop hunting down other shoppers and drivers. Stop consuming three times the amount of driving and/or parking space that you actually need. Stop honking for no reason. Stop expecting everyone else to move out of the way so King/Queen You can be the only person getting to their destination on time. Stop believing that your agenda is more important than anyone else's and stop acting like you're the only one with somewhere to be.

Slow down. The holiday season comes once a year. Enjoy it and remember that the goal is kindness and generosity toward our neighbors. And I'd really like to make it through this one without any more car accidents, if you please.
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Before class is dismissed, here's your reminder that TOMORROW is the last Tuesday of November, and you know what that means! Before the holidays with all their eating, drinking, and being merry truly arrive, let's set a goal for the next month! Or let's talk about how you kicked ass in the month of November. Are you training for a race? Working on your yoga practice? Starting a new lifting routine? Getting started in biking, a sport, or any other active endeavor? Link up your training wins, woes, trials, and goals with Tracy and me tomorrow for Training for Tuesday! Grab a button and share whatever's on your mind!
alyssagoesbang

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday: The Good Stuff Edition

Raise your hand if you've ever been personally victimized by Regina George if it's been ages since you linked up with Amanda for Friday Favorites?

*raises hand*

I figured this would be a good week to merge a favorites post with some gratitude, following Ashten's lead. Earlier this week I got some tough-to-swallow news (I'm fine)...
...and thought to myself that morning, "Today is definitely a day for the gratitude journal." Gratitude journaling helps me find silver linings and realize that even when the sky is falling, or at least it feels like it is, there are still good things happening all around me, and I still am luckier than so many. It's important to me that I remember that and try to stay as positive as I can. So with that said, here were some of the brighter spots in my week:

Favorite Recipe
I made this Italian Wonderpot on Sunday and have been portioning out the leftovers for lunch all week. This was one of the best things I've made lately, period. SUPER flavorful, so incredibly easy, very versatile, and a good method to learn and adapt with tons of different flavors and ingredients. I used my favorite pot so I didn't even have to break the spaghetti I used and that was it — you don't even need a strainer for the pasta. I'm looking up a bunch of similar ones to try out through the rest of the winter.

Favorite Workout
Even with two visits to the chiropractor this week, I was feeling so achy and just bad this week. I haven't been sleeping, I've had one thing stressing me out after another, deadlines are keeping me up at all hours, and the cold has set into my bones. It wasn't until my Wednesday adjustment that I realized just how little I've been taking care of myself this week. I skipped yoga on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and honestly, it showed. I made up for it with this workout Thursday morning and my back immediately started feeling a bit more comfortable.

(Check out the rest of my favorite yogi Erin Motz's videos here and here!)

Favorite Read
I'm participating in the Semi-Charmed Winter 2014 Book Challenge, and now that I've finally finished reading the Harry Potter series (I loved it, you guys!), I was ready for something non-magical. I picked a YA novel, Jessica Darling's IT List, because... well, I'll be 80 years old and still reading YA. I love it. I love Megan McCafferty, and this novel is a MG prequel to the series I've loved since I was 13, the Jessica Darling books. I grew up with Jess, she feels like a best friend. I'm so, so, so happy Megan went back to give us more Jessica. (Now if only we could get Hollywood to commit to a Sloppy Firsts movie....) I read this breezy book in just a few days, but don't get it twisted: Just because this is YA doesn't mean it isn't clever, funny, and charming for readers of any age, and it's an absolute must-read for any fan of Jessica Darling. I can't wait to finish the prequel series too.

Favorite Weekly Wear
It's dipped below freezing here in NJ this week, and so it's officially winter as far as I'm concerned. I finally was able to budget in a replacement pair of Ugg boots (I really don't care if they're so 2002 or whatever. They're soft and warm as hell.) and I'v been pretty much living in them. Thank god for a casual office.

Favorite Song
I don't know why, but I've been playing this like crazy this week. *shrugs*

Favorite Netflix Binge

As pretty much the entire Internet knows, the whole series of Gilmore Girls is on Netflix right now and I, like any red-blooded American woman, have been watching pretty much nothing else. I didn't watch the series in its entirety when it was on air, I think because I was the only girl in the family and rarely got first dibs on the TV. But I had seen bits and pieces over the years and was so happy when I could finally stream the whole shebang, start to finish. I'm about halfway through the last season and am kinda hating that it'll be over soon! What should I binge on next?

Favorite Purchase
So this happened. *big-eyed emoji here*
D.C., here we come. Second half marathon, you're mine. More on this another day! For now, just: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(P.S.: This Tuesday is our next Training for Tuesday linkup! Join Tracy and me to chat about your goals and successes and get some motivation before we officially head into the holiday season!)

Favorite Pick-Me-Up
I may or may not have eaten an entire bag of these in two days. (Spoiler alert: I did. I regret nothing.)

Favorite Delivery
I'm 50% through with my Christmas shopping, and the majority of the gifts I've bought so far (the one exception being a restaurant gift certificate for my grandparents who hopefully haven't figured out how to use the Internet and stumbled on my blog) have been from Etsy, so I've placed a bunch of orders and the gifts have started arriving! I'm going with Etsy for a lot this year because I've imposed a one-gift rule for everyone on my list (a post on my gifting philosophy coming next month), and so I wanted to buy one really great gift for everyone. I love to support small, original, creative businesses whenever possible and have found some wonderfully unique gifts for my loved ones so far. (If you're looking for some gifting advice, my girls at Feather have been churning out awesome gift guides like woah!)

For all of these things I've been fortunate enough to have this week, and for all the other small joys that make life so sweet, and for all the ways I continue to be lucky in life, I am grateful.

I am also very, very, very grateful it's the weekend. Oh and I would also be super grateful if you all sent me a quiet good vibe or crossed your fingers — and try not to hate me for not explaining why until I can be sure there's nothing for me to jinx. Love you like xo.

What are you guys up to this weekend? As always, I hope it's an amazing one.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Words: Drive by

Every now and again I want to use this space for what my old blog, my creative writing blog, was meant for: to house some adventures out of the "lifestyle" game and let me play around with my words
I used to participate in Magpie Tales linkups once in a while, and I was really feeling* this week's image — so here goes nothing...
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http://magpietales.blogspot.com/2014/11/mag-246.html

Drive By 

When I came to visit you / That's when I knew / that I could never have you

you fascinated, you fascinating thing, you were fascinated with me. with my ring. my clunky silver and stone ring, the ring that sits on the finger that he used to hold, and when he didn't anymore, my clunky silver and stone ring did instead. and while you slid my clunky silver ring from my finger and twirled it in yours i stole the chance. the world was fixed on you; i was fixed on you. your hands were fixed on my ring and then your eyes moved to fix on me. i blushed.

I knew that before you did / Still I'm the one who's stupid

i wouldn't let them call you calculated. but in the hushed words, the looks that lasted a single second too long, the clink of bottles, the padding on pavement, the turning of pages, the heavy silence, and the sounds of quiet torture between us, i tried to figure out the math. i always came up with one too many, and you promised my math was off. i was fooled.

And there's this burning / Like there's always been

it didn't add up that i, me could fascinate you, yes you. that i could make you want to run with me, and that you could make me want to run. but i did and you did and suddenly 'safe' meant something new and strange and where was i? where were we? i was interrrupted.

I've never been so alone

i was in over my head
And I've never been so alive

and i walked through fire for more.

Visions of you on a motorcycle drive by / The cigarette ash flies in your eyes / And you don't mind

every minute, every waking moment, every moment together and even the whole of every single solitary one apart, you set the world on fire and called it a gift to me. you burned bridges and forests and made walls tumble down and the sirens screamed out under the weight of your imposing fist and so did i, and my siren song became your anthem. you sang along like you knew the words (i helped you learn them)

You smile

and muted my song when it suited you. and i was silenced.

And say the world, it doesn't fit with you / I don't believe you

and so i sang your song instead. my teeth broke and tumbled out of my mouth in crumbs when the words wouldn't fit, but for you, i tried. and my tongue bled when i bit it one too many times so you could have your peace, so i could keep you safe and so you would only hear the song you wanted to dance to. and i broke.

You're so serene / Careening through the universe / Your axis on a tilt / You're guiltless and free

i should beg forgiveness but i can't muster another word for an apology after i used every one i knew to figure out how to break you too. for half a moment it felt and looked something like relief: the sharp, jagged pieces of these grandiose ideas we once had of who i was, who you were, who we could be and what we would never do. but it was fake relief, like the moment your body goes numb after the hundredth lashing, the way your nerves call it quits and your skin becomes water, the way you spend just a heartbeat thinking you'd rather feel nothing at all, before you remember that at least when you burn, you know you're alive. and sweet, merciful hell did you make me feel. and i burned.

I hope you take a piece of me with you

but your skin turned to water and i lost you on the current.
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*I'm fine. I just have a good memory.  :)