Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I would like to call it beauty...

I'm a slob. Real talk. I have always been messy and, try as I might, I cannot keep the house clean long-term. I really prefer tidiness, but for some reason, the ability to keep house has eluded me. I have a bit of shame and some anxiety around this. I would be so embarrassed if folks saw the disarray in which I live, and I KNOW I pay way too much for this place to just let it get trashed all the time.  

But I have a new source of inspiration.  Today, I came across this quote from Frances Mayes (author of Under the Tuscan Sun, the book that was made into the movie that first sparked my love affair with Italy). These words come from her travel memoir, A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller:
The impulse to create beauty where you draw water, where you stow your saffron, where you walk, that impulse is intrinsic to life, as it ever has been and will be, and from this place where such remains are gathered, we can only exit with a sense of renewal and joy.
I want to be able to feel that in my home. I want the order and serenity in my home to reflect the calm and peace in my spirit. How, exactly, I am going to be able to accomplish and sustain this remains to be seen. But I am inspired and determined to live in beauty.

In the meantime, here is a little Corinne Bailey Rae. I often sing this song to myself when I need to invoke beauty in and around me:  

On purpose,


Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Ran for Chocolate. The Frostbite was a Bonus.

This morning, I got up at 3:50 a.m. to head down to the National Harbor in Maryland for the DC Hot Chocolate 5K and 15K. This was my first race since I started back running. I used to run in high school, and I did a job sponsored run in October, but this was an actual race, with "swag" and everything.

The fun actually started the day before, when my son and I drove down to the Harbor to pick up the race materials (bib,  (piece of crap) jacket, and parking pass). I had never been to the Harbor, so I suppose the 2.5 hours it took to get there due to me getting lost on I-95 AND in the middle of some sketchy part of DC was worth it (insert side-eye emoticon here). Needless to say, I now have GPS installed on my phone, cause this is the 50-11th time that I have gotten lost in the DMV and enough is enough.

Once we finally got there, we picked up the stuff and walked around for a bit, got some coffee ( I briefly flirted with this cute Asian guy at Mayorca coffeehouse...still got it, I guess) ate some Subway ( I forgot how much I liked the chicken teriyaki sub) and headed home.

So, back to race day. Thanks to my handy dandy GPS, I got to Crystal City (where I had to park and catch the shuttle to the Harbor) in no time. Driving through the George Washington Parkway in pitch darkness was the LAST thing that I wanted to do, but somehow I have a knack for getting into the situations that I don't want to be in, so I sucked in my stomach (it calms my nerves), kept my eyes peeled for deer and chainsaw killers, and mustered through it.

I got to the race site around 6:15, maybe earlier. The race was supposed to start at 7. In the meantime, there were heated tents with food and volunteer drinking cocoa. A few runners got cocoa, but then this mean woman started yelling about how we were not to get any until after the race and that we needed to stay out of the tents. Did I mention that it was approximately 34 degrees Fahrenheit outside? Okay, so rules are rules, I didn't trip. There was one tent where we could stand, so I stayed there for a bit, then as it drew closer to 7, I made my way down to the starting gate. There were tons of people still arriving (I think 20 thousand registered), and it was 7 when they announced that the race would start at 7:30 or 7:45. That's when I started to lose feeling in my toe. I started jumping around even more, trying to stay warm and upbeat. Folks were really complaining around me though, and I could not find my BGR running mates. I used music and self-talk to stay positive.

At about 8, the race "started". There were so many people, and the route was so narrow, that we walked the first .5 miles and bottlenecked a few times after that. There were a number of folks walking, so you had to dodge around them (walking is fine, but when it is that congested, it makes running difficult). There were a couple of hills, and that was really challenging for me (not as bad as Capitol Hill, but still, hill work is an area of improvement for me). It would have been a scenic run, but there were so many people that you had to stay present in order to not run into someone. Still, I did get to look at the water a bit, which always calms me.

After the race, we got chocolate fondue with apples, rice crispy treats, marshmallows, bananas, and a pretzel stick for dipping (that was tasty). We also got hot cocoa with mini marshmallows. Chocolate overload!!! I think they were supposed to pass out Ghiradelli chocolates too (the company was a sponsor), but I did not see anyone giving them out.

I was a little underwhelmed, overall. For the most part, I was alone, so I did not have anyone to really chat with, which would have made the day more fun. And I was COLD, so very cold. Also, the run was not that challenging. I run 3 miles and more on the regular, so it may be time to start pushing for longer distances. For my first race, it was disappointing, but I do love running and I can't wait to do another race ( I am trying to find a good one for March).

I did get this handy dandy bib though!!!

On purpose,


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sitting Still and Moving On

I have been running. A lot. Both literally and figuratively, as I have been doing a lot at work and around the house as well as really getting my running workouts in. I recently attempted to do a 7 day workout blitz, but I injured myself and got sick, AND started my cycle, so I only got 5 days in. But I still felt good, cause I know that I was, you know, reaching for stars and grasping the moon and all that.

Yesterday, I did my weekly 5 mile run with BGR-DC, went HARD on Capitol Hill, and hurt my back something awful!!! So I have been popping pills and sitting with a pillow behind my back (in between going to the mall and Target and the grocery monkey hurt back don't stop no show shopping), basically, forcing myself to take a seat. Its good to sit still, though, cause it helps you to put things in perspective. I realize that there may be times in my life when I can move about freely and do what I want, when I want, and then, POOF, something may happen that alters my plans, or my life. Learning to deal with the ups and downs is key; I think I am gradually getting better at it. I'm sitting still, breathing, and knowing that this too shall pass (with the help of painkillers).

As for moving on, I have decided to do something that I have thought about on and off for, let's say, almost 20 years??? I am going to become a diplomat. I know, it seems that as soon as I achieve one career goal, then I am off trying to achieve another...its true. I can now say that I have been a classroom teacher, a librarian, a researcher, a public health advisor, and now I want to be a foreign service officer. I have just come to realize that while I desire the stability that a salaried position, health coverage, and retirement savings brings, I also need to feed that love for language, culture, history, and society that international travel nourishes. And so, since I am not one to waste my life simply WISHING for the things I want, I have decided to pursue this ambition of mine. I have spent a lot of time perusing FSO blogs, and I will add some to my bloglist shortly. I have also researched the career a lot (now you KNOW that I did the research, lol) and am preparing myself to take the FSO exam in June 2012. I foresee, if I make it through all the stages, that I will probably make this career change in the next few years, while F. is still in school. It is possible that I won't start this until he is in college, but I don't want to wait that long to start the process.

One trepidation that I do have is how this will impact my romantic life. Am I now ensuring that I will never marry?  Maybe, but I do have fantasies of meeting some fellow internationalist and either having a long distance relationship that is mutually fulfilling, or meeting someone who would be willing to travel the world with me. Whatever the case may be, I am not going to stifle my life goals in the off chance of possibly being married here in the States. I mean, my romantic life is non-existent now anyway, and I have been stateside for over a year (true, I spent the past year in two different states and undergoing grueling dissertation completion and job search processes, but still, I should have been able to date, fall in love, and get engaged at the same time...if Kim Kardashian can do it...wait...oh...never mind).

So, I am going to go ahead and reach for the stars again. In the interim, I am hoping to get a six month rotation as a international health analyst working on issues in the Western Hemisphere. I am brushing up on my Spanish (reading) and Portuguese (reading and listening). I feel like my sitting still will bode me well as I prepare to move on, some time in the future.

On purpose,


Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Quarter Pound of Fat

I recently read an article that said something along the lines of you needing to do at least 30 minutes of cardio at least four times a week in order to lose 15 pounds of fat in eight weeks. Now, it typically takes me longer than "average" to lose weight , so I decided to adapt this four times a week notion (which I am already supposed to be doing). I am now using the "quarter pound of fat" mantra as I work out. As I do my cardio, I push myself, reminding myself that this workout is helping me to get rid of a quarter pound of fat. I also will push myself to get the four workouts in (I now average three a week).

So if I do this like I am supposed to, I will lose at least a pound of fat a week, and hopefully in two and one half months, I will be down 15 pounds!!! This would mean the weight would be off by the first week of February. This is realistic, even though I would like it off by the end of the year. But breaking it down to a pound a week and a quarter pound a workout, makes it manageable and makes me thing really hard about what I do to and put into my body.

On another note, I have five weeks until my first race, a 5K! I run that much or more a few times a week already, but I am working to get a bit faster. I can run, but I am not very fast, nor do I have the endurance that I want. That's okay though, cause this time next year I will be fitter and faster! Operation "Best Body Ever!!" is in full effect!!!

On purpose,


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One to Grow On

Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, non-aggressive, open-ended state of affairs.
Pema Chodron

Monday, October 10, 2011

Workout Summary: 10/03/11-10/10/11

The first week of October was a bit of a stressful one. It started with me having to take my son to his yearly emergency room trip (I swear, at least once a year we end up there!). After that, I had a number of challenges at work, had to pay over $1,000 in repairs to my car, and Steve Jobs died. My son is a huge Jobs and Apple fan so he took it pretty hard. However, I did get my workouts in!!! Consistently working out probably helped me keep my sanity. They were not the scheduled workouts that I had planned, but I still made it happen, and I am proud of my perseverance. So this is what I accomplished:

Wednesday: Walked almost 4 miles (to and from work)...part of the way back was with six bags of groceries...uphill!

Thursday: 30 min. morning walk/run around the neighborhood (This was a test to see if I could workout before work...I can!!)

Saturday: Black Girls Run DC run: 3 mile run, then 2.2 miles walk/run (4 min. run/1 min walk). I hurt my inner thigh/hip flexor running up the hill around the U.S. Capitol.

Monday: (Because of my injury on Saturday and since I had Columbus Day off, I did my "Sunday" workout on Monday):  1 hour neighborhood run/walk. Rough estimate is that I ran about 3 miles and walked about 2. Nice and easy and fun!

So, I got four workouts in...maybe not the best workouts, but I got up and moved on four separate occasions.

This week I plan on getting in a Spin class, my Saturday run, a treadmill and upper body/abs session, and a neighborhood run and upper body/abs session. I have also decided to walk to and from work on days when I don't work out at the office at least twice a week. That will give me 8 additional miles of exercising on non-workout days. That may not start this week, but by the next week for sure!

On purpose,


Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Mission Setting

I've been busy these last few months getting settled into my new job, my new state, and my new role as mother of a high schooler. Needless to say, its been tough. But I am making it a point to take breaks when I need to and to regularly practice acts of self-love, self-awareness, and self-compassion. And since I am a woman who functions best when I have goals, I've been busy trying to figure out what's next.

I recently attended the National Book Festival at the National Mall in D.C. (so cool to be surrounded by books and authors!!!) where I happened to "run into" author Toni Morrison and NBC's Hoda Kotb speaking. Now of course, Toni Morrison was very interesting and inspiring to an aspiring writer like me (more on that later), but Hoda Kotb really surprised me! Now, I like her on Today and watch it when I can (which is not often), and I really admire her strength as a cancer survivor, but listening to her talk!!! She was hilarious, so energetic, and even profound! One thing she said really spoke to change you life by changing your days. You have to really examine your life, figure out what changes need to be made, and do a little something each day to make that change. (I plan on getting her book, once I buy my Nook.)

I have already started doing that. Actually, the main reason that I was on the Mall that day was because I had just finished running with Black Girls Run, DC Chapter. Every Saturday, a group of Black women can be found running around the monuments and the Capital (Actually, there are about three groups, beginning, intermediate, and advanced...I straggle between the beginners and the intermediates, but I am moving on up!!). I have been running with them for about a month. Getting my health and fitness mission on track has already started. A later post will highlight the goals for October 2011.

So now I am thinking of the other changes that I want in my life, and I plan on doing something every day to make them happen. The first step is to think about what missions I want to accomplish in the next five years and even after that. So in no particular order here are the things that I want to accomplish:

In the next five years:
  • Revamp my wardrobe
  • Make my home a domestic haven
  • Write 1-2 novels
  • Become a running diva
  • Become a weightlifting diva
  • Travel to Europe
  • Move up to at least a GS-14 level at work
  • Get my son into college 
  • Become much more financially comfortable 
Long term goals...well there is one that I have right now. Once my son is settled into college (maybe after his 1st year) I want to start doing work rotations overseas. A long time ago, I envisioned a life where I traveled and lived all over the world. I got a taste of that while living in Brazil, and while it was not all that I envisioned, I think that living abroad as a professional  will be a different and (for me) better experience than living abroad as a graduate student and single mother of a young child. My career is positioned in such a way as to make this a the interim, I am happy to work in DC (with maybe short jaunts out of state or overseas for work). But right now, this is the "next step" in my career progression...

I feel good about my life right now, and I feel much better about where it is headed!

On purpose,


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Burning Bridges

As responsible and on top of things as I like to believe I am, its starting to become clear that a bit of a pattern is emerging. I do great work for an organization for years, develop a great reputation, and then, right before I am about to leave, something happens to tarnish or destroy that reputation. Its happened in work related situations twice, and twice, I believe, in spiritual community situations. The spiritual community ones were probably not that serious (in both cases I decided to leave and folks took issue with it) but the job related ones are giving me grief.

I think that one of the main reasons that I am so upset is because I don't want this to be the story of my life. I want to be professional when leaving for greener pastures, but sometimes life throws you curve balls. One of my issues is that I tend to pile a lot of stuff on my plate, become overwhelmed, and then am unable to complete it all. I really have to consider what needs to change in my life, especially as I embark on this new career.

In the wider scheme of things, I hit most of my targets, but I failed in one. So I don't feel unsuccessful or really bad about the situation in that sense. I suppose I should feel a little upset because the work I was doing was really important and contributed to a very important project. But I am trying to provide the organization with as much as possible, while realizing and admitting that I missed the mark. I am trying to be honest with people and apologetic, but again, sometimes things don't turn out perfectly, and people get disappointed.

As I move on to my new career, I want to be mindful of my weaknesses and to really think about how I can overcome this shortcoming of mine. I also want to consider this when interacting with others; perhaps I will be the one disappointed by someone's shortcomings; this experience can help me to be more empathetic to their situation.

In the end, this does not make me a bad person. I just was unable to complete a project and ended up disappointing and embarrassing people who had faith in me. Lesson learned.

On purpose,


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reset and Why I Now Love Starbucks

Okay. I was all repped up and ready to go on this blog, but then....the clusterbang called life happened and I just abandoned it. Aww, well....Cest la vie!

Anyway, I did manage to get ALL of my goals, well at least most of them, accomplished in the last few months. I finished writing my dissertation, successfully defended it, and graduated...yup, I am Dr. Mae now!!! I also made it through the grueling PMF process and not only became a finalist (meaning I was accepted into the program) but I also got a job assignment!!! I am leaving my field of education (which, honestly, I wanted to do) and am entering the exciting world of public health! I also am in the process of re-locating to the D.C. area and I am very excited (this place is so beautiful and full of history, art, nature, and all types of things that a nerd like me gets giddy over).

I was not so successful in the health and fitness arena. I gained quite a bit of weight over the past school year (being glued to a computer while writing a BOOK will do that to you, if you let it) so I am in the process of resetting my Best.Body.Ever. year. My new apartment is right next door to the fitness center (one of two in my "swanky" apartment complex) and the community is chock full of walkable and runnable paths and hills, in addition to numerous parks. Plus, I joined Weight Watchers online (got tired of hating on Jennifer Hudson and decided to just join and DO THIS!!!!) so things are set up for me to succeed. I know that I am really good at accomplishing my goals, so I just need to apply the determination that allowed me to attain my academic and career goals to this Best.Body.Ever. I'll do it!!!

So now I wanna get back to this blog. Over the months I have thought of so much that I wanted to put here but I just did not have the energy. Reset. I am ready now. I also plan on starting a religious/spiritual blog (more on that once its launched) and also adding some career related resources to my professional website (I probably won't link it here, but if someone wants to get access to it, you can holla at me). So here's to being committed to this!!!

Now, on to Starbucks. Starbucks has played a pretty big role in my life over the past few weeks. I have traveled from MI to MD and back twice in the past 30 days (I am actually en route to MI and blogging from Starbucks now). This place has been a lifesaver! The Frappuccinos have kept me awake as I've driven solo. And now, as I sit in a downtown Pittsburgh Starbucks awaiting my connecting Megabus to MI (I left Eve, my car, back in MD...she could only make the trip one way, old girl) Starbucks has given me refuge, a clean bathroom, and wifi! I used to hate on Starbucks mainly because I associated it with an ex (and now, unfortunately, deceased) boyfriend who used to like to sit in Starbucks and stunt like he was some type of entrepreneur when in fact he was a broke guy who foolishly quit his job and had an used car business (but no lot..or license to sell...or cars). He had wanted me to sell Eve, let him use the money to buy some used cars to then flip and then return me my money so that I could buy another car...I guess the seven grand I loaned him wasn't enough...okay so see why I hated Starbucks? But, I should not have held my poor relationship choices against the coffee shop. I now recognize the error of my ways and I appreciate all that Starbucks has done for me (even though these Frappuccinos are not helping me attain my health and fitness goals. Da well; no relationship is perfect).

On purpose,