I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

*looks up*

Forgive me, Lord, if I end up blaspheming in this post. I’m thinking really hard about what I write here. If I’m wrong about anything, please show me. Thanks for inspiring others to invent delete and backspace.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

Beginnings are a big deal. Not that you can’t have a great ending without a great beginning, but oh man, getting the beginning right often makes things that much easier. It is my duty as a Christian to constantly keep the Life-giver at the forefront of my thoughts. As 2019 has started, I am already finding myself overwhelmed and defeated, although I shared in my last post that I have no objective reason to feel this way. The thing about life is that you can have a great day but then you go to sleep, knowing that you have to set yourself up to have another great day. If tomorrow itself is not guaranteed, surely a great tomorrow is far from certain.

So what can I do to not throw in the towel on January 14? Resist.

I’ve chosen resist as my word of the year because I have found that when I choose not to resist, it is when I get into trouble. I must resist –

  • the temptation to overeat.
  • believing that progress is always linear.
  • comparing myself to others.
  • allowing the evil one to steal my joy.
  • minimizing my accomplishments.
  • not prioritizing my time.

I can only make one good decision at a time. When I pray the Lord’s prayer, I ask for my daily bread – not weekly, not yearly. While I can plan for the future, I cannot know what it holds. I want to honor God with my body. I want to serve others with my gifts, even though I feel so much of the time that I don’t have very much to offer. He can use anyone, even lil Joanie, to accomplish His will, and I definitely don’t want to be in the way.

This week, I have 16 miles on the calendar. It has been well over a year since I have run 16 miles in one week and I am terrified. I wasn’t too pleased with how slow my long run was on Saturday, but I am choosing to remind myself that practice for the big day isn’t always going to be pleasurable. I imagine that it’s quite normal for a workout to feel like WORK. It’s not even trying to pretend to be something else.

God is my light. I must resist succumbing to the darkness that has already been conquered. The war is won.

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Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

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Out of Options

Would you believe January is practically halfway done? Like so many of us, I started the year with high hopes. Where am I now, you wonder?

I’ve lost a pound and have run 19.5 miles. I’m right on track to meet my goal of 1019 km in 2019. I just finished attending a professional development conference where I had a student accepted to an exclusive ensemble, reconnected with old friends, and learned things that I can immediately share with my students upon return to work. Coronation day was this week and I can actually chew on both sides of my mouth again.

I wish I could say I am happy.

I have this nagging feeling that I am not living up to my potential. I feel stagnated and like everyone else is moving forward except me. I look upon all my education and the faith my parents have had in me to achieve great things and I can’t escape the feeling that I am blowing it majorly. And you know what the worst part is? As miserable as this feeling is, I really don’t feel like working to change any of the circumstance I can. It just sounds like too much work. So not only am I failing, but I’m lazy on top of it.

That begs the question – why am I bothering with anything? I don’t feel I have any viable alternative. As long as I am living, I have to try to be healthy and do my best for those around me, even if it doesn’t amount to much. I don’t want to be a complete waste of space. As long as I wake up, I need to show up. It’s this morbid curiosity that keeps me going – perhaps it will be different one of these days.

Last night, I had a really hard time getting to sleep. I had wanted to be winding down by 8 and asleep around 9:30 for a 4:30 am wake up, but I didn’t make it into bed until 10 pm and I was rolling around until after midnight as I questioned why I paid good money to do this. I woke up, made coffee, scrambled eggs and breadsticks and got in the car for my lonely, hour and a half ride – I couldn’t convince Adonis or Mom to come with me, so I brought Bear. 33, don’t care.

There was practically zero traffic on either interstate for me to contend with. I was thankful that though I didn’t get an ideal amount of sleep, I was not feeling tired. The entirety of the ride was dark, but I pumped myself up with an excellent playlist. As I arrived in Venice, the sun was coming up and I started to remember some of what I’ve loved about becoming a runner. I would have no other reason to be in a part of Florida I never see if it weren’t for a race.

After getting my race packet, I wandered out to the pier where I saw some men fishing. I pounded my fist, wishing I had thought to twist Adonis’s arm because he could be fishing while I ran, but it was probably just as well. He has a lot of business to schlep with – fishing gear reminds me of triathlon. I asked the gentlemen what was out there. “Nothing!” they replied, half kidding. A lady wandered up to one of the men and said that she had exchanged her race shirt for a larger size because it was ugly and now he could use it for fishing, hah! I didn’t comment but I had been thinking that upon my return home Adonis would see my shirt and try to steal it for the same reason. I was amused to see a household with a similar dynamic – one fisherman, one running woman. She and I started walking back toward the starting line and talking.

I soon learned that FW (fishing wife) likes doing all kinds of events in this part of Florida. She lives nearby and was telling me about different running and biking events and which ones had the best breakfasts and goody bags – clearly a woman after my own heart. I revealed that I did not live close by and wasn’t too familiar with the area, although I have done a few races down here in the past. “You came down here by yourself? What an adventurous woman,” she replied.

√ Blog post title. Boom.

I love how God works. I am sure she just wanted someone to pass time with before the race started, and I had had no plan as to how I was going to spend the time. I probably would have ended up spinning my wheels, being nervous for no good reason, but FW really helped me relax as I listened to her share and got some advice on longevity in running. “Listen to your body. Celery. Potatoes.” Can’t argue with that! It is funny to me that she said that, because I think of myself as a rather conservative person, reluctant to take what I perceive as unnecessary risks. When I make up my mind to do something, I just do it.

Before I knew it, it was time to start. FW started slightly ahead of me, but I caught up to her as she slowed. She said she wasn’t feeling so great and insisted I go ahead. I could have run with her, but I wanted to see what my body would do. This marks the first time in a good while that I have completed a training cycle with a goal race and I needed to see how it worked out. Sadly, red tide made a bit of the otherwise beautiful course smelly. I decided not to look at my watch at anytime, but simply committed to only walking when I stopped for water. I only wanted to do what I thought my body could – I’m conservative, remember? 😉

Shortly after mile 2, I saw the finish line in the distance. I was both hopeful and confused. As I approached, a volunteer informed me that I needed to take a loop around the lake before going to the finish. I remembered that FW had told me about the loop but I still found myself irrationally angry by the cooch tease of coming so close to the line but yet so far! Man, I was tired, but I knew I had more in me. One step came after the other and lo and behold, I was privileged to make the FINAL final turn toward the finish.

After getting much needed water, I went back toward the finish to see how FW had done. Turns out her medication was troubling her breathing! That’s the last time she’ll take that, she said! Runners are the best. Running is the best. 2 minutes and 20 seconds off of my last 5k 4 months ago. Let’s see what my next adventure holds!

Nineteen: Killing a Queen

I’ve always been really proud of my teeth. Each time I go to the dentist, I come back with a clean report. “Still in the no cavity club! 33 years running!” I use an electric toothbrush, I floss like a champ, and thankfully I have never had to have my wisdom teeth removed. Queen of Dental Hygiene, if you will. I am sure you can imagine my chagrin when a few weeks ago, I was chewing and the left side of my mouth was hurting. I called the dentist as soon as I was able. I had figured that my lifelong run in the no cavity club was coming to a close, but I was wrong.

I would need a crown.

Apparently, crowns are quite common, but because I’ve had such a stellar record, I’ve never paid attention to different kinds of dental work. My dentist had the nerve to tell me that sometimes these things just happen to people as they get older.

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Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

What an awful thing to say to someone. Not only am I going to need to shell out an unplanned sizable amount of my paycheck, but apparently I am aging as well? All this flossing and fluoride and technology is not preventing this? What is the bloody point?!

I spent the week before my appointment to get my temporary crown fearing what the procedure would be like. I didn’t anticipate feeling any physical pain, but I was very depressed about needing dental work. I sat in the chair, feeling like a drama queen as I asked the dentist one last time. “Are you absolutely sure that I need to do this?” He assured me that he thought this was the best path forward to prevent an eventual root canal and that there was evidence that I had somehow fractured my tooth. Yikes. He anesthetized me and I waited as I felt my mouth get tingly. Out came his drill and I found myself wishing I were under general anesthesia simply to escape my thoughts. I watched the particles of my tooth being sanded away and all I could think to myself was that this was the beginning of the end. My journey from ashes to ashes and dust to dust was starting with the number nineteen – my sad little molar that I thought was gonna make it with me to the finish line.

As we wrapped up, the hygienist left me with important instructions, noting that I would have the temporary in for three weeks instead of the normal two. Favor your right side. No hard or sticky foods. I remarked that this would be a Christmas miracle, indeed – eating less over the holidays. On the drive home, I thought to myself, maybe this is why people have children – in a futile attempt to try to counter our march toward death. Granted, we can’t stop it, but it is nice to have someone around who (Lord willing!) is a bit further away from it. Someone with all of their unmodified, natural teeth. Makes you think.

What else can I say? At least the queen has a crown now…

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What Happened?

I wish I knew where 2018 went.

After I posted about not being very happy thus far in 2019 (despite having worked out every day, hah!), it dawned on me that I had not updated my race calendar since the middle of 2016! My goodness, I wonder what could have happened in the middle of 2016 that changed things…

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Oh yeahhh, Adonis!

I went through my Garmin app to see my activities so I could properly document them and wouldn’t you know it – there is a correlation between the amount of miles I ran and how long I’ve been married.

2016: Ran 125 times for a total of 595.87 miles

2017: Ran 117 times for a total of 345.4 miles

2018: Ran 93 times for a total of 240.38 miles.

I’m not trying to say that my running less is my husband’s fault. I’m a pretty articulate woman and if I wanted to say that, I would just come out and say it. What I will say is that I’ve done a piss poor job of taking care of myself since we’ve gotten married. My Garmin was out of commission because of a bad strap and I waited several months to replace it – hardly the watch’s fault! I didn’t have any injuries, though I did struggle with some respiratory foolishness between April and June and then again between November and December. Does this mean I don’t care about running as much as I once did?

I don’t think so.

Take a look at my calendar from last year. I only did 6 races but I traveled quite a bit and made it a point to do a race in each place that I went. I would have run in Jamaica again but the race fell on my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. I wish I didn’t feel like I have to be closer to perfect in order to manage my new schedule and put running in it more consistently, but if I am not eating and sleeping well, it is difficult for me to see how I can meet my goals.

It still makes me tear up to toe the starting line. It still is a thrill to cross a finish line. It isn’t quite as much fun if I am not putting the time into train, and that’s something that I must change. I got an email today where I was challenged to run 1019 KM in 2019 and dammit I am going to do it. In fact – if I make it 1/4 of the way by the end of March, I get to buy myself a fancy new Garmin. My body and my heart are kind of tired but I can’t give up. I’m too young and I’m still kind of cute.

Come on, God. Let’s go again.

New Year!

I can’t say that I feel very happy right now.

Between now and the last 6 months I’ve posted, I have done the following:

  1. Taught in the same position for another half year
  2.  Ran a 10K and a 5K
  3.  Surprised my parents with a vow renewal

It doesn’t feel like I’ve done very much, as action packed and busy as it feels as it is happening. Perhaps I wish that I were nicer to myself, but I don’t feel I really deserve it, nor am I sure what I would need to do in order to merit treating myself better. As I think about the upcoming year, I want to do the usual – play more piano (including composing), lose weight, get faster. I have a few trips on my calendar but the only thing that really excites me is the idea of acquiring more things, which I feel is an especially sad place to be. I’m bitter because I’ve worked out 3 days in a row and I’m not feeling the endorphins.

I just watched It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time last week and ugly cried as I found myself identifying strongly with George Bailey. At times I feel like I’m not sure why I exist and that I’m constantly falling short of whatever my destiny is supposed to be. Perhaps I should stop browsing for things to buy and pick up my Bible, even though I don’t remember ever reading about the Clarence guy I wish would come visit me. I promise to write another post before another six months goes by…george-bailey-on-bedford-falls-bridge-1946

The Journey Home

Many thanks if you happened to read my last post about our journey from Athens back home and prayed for our safety! I write now from the comfort of our bed and a body and brain still on Eastern European Time. We saw five airports in 34 hours (yes, there are more direct ways, but we have more time than money, no shame in our layover game!) and it was pretty emotional for both of us.

I. Leaving Greece

Leaving our hotel in Athens was very emotional. Not only were we anxious about a long trip, but neither of us were really ready to go. Our taxi driver took us to Attiki Odos – the highway – for one last time to the airport. We checked our bags, grabbed some dinner, and I ran to duty free to get important things! I picked out a box of kourambiedes, which are delicious almond cookies covered in powdered sugar, and my absolute favorite chocolate, Leónidas. I went back and forth about buying some honey because I wasn’t sure the security gods wouldn’t confiscate it as I went through each airport, but I learned later that duty free liquids are exempt from that stupid 100 mL rule! Good to know!

I thought I had bought everything I wanted to, but about 10 minutes before we were to start boarding, I remembered I had some unfinished business. I absolutely love stuffed bears and I wanted to get one! Thankfully, I found one on a keychain to join Travel Bear!

Ready as we’re going to be. At the gate, we boarded a bus to be driven to our plane. Old school! I cherished every moment we were still in Athens, even on the tarmac on a bus. Check out how we boarded the plane!

I settled into my window seat and looked outside wistfully. I am hard-pressed to think of a time I’ve felt more moved on a return trip. Adonis was saying leaving for him was tough because he wasn’t sure when we would be able to return to Greece. I touched the window, as though I could pet Athens. He was right. God only knows when or if we will be able to return. We prayed together and thanked Him for a wonderful time.

Wheels up.

II. Stop #1 – Barcelona

After an uneventful flight, we landed at 0:45 CET. We deplaned and navigated our way to baggage claim. Now the fun begins – how do we get to our next plane? I checked the departure board and noticed the plane we were just on was going right back to Athens. I sighed.

The signs in Barcelona El Prat were in 3 languages – the last language was Spanish, the second was English, and I THOUGHT the first was Portuguese, which in retrospect, was really stupid. Give me a break. It was late! After a while, it dawned on me that we were in CATALONIA and that language had to be CATALAN! Duh! We were definitely clueless as to where to go once we had our bags. My Spanish is decent and we asked someone where we needed to go, but only after we had been in a few círculos. Heh.

“DOES THIS PLACE HAVE ANY DECENT COFFEE?”

I had been preparing myself while still in the US for Adonis’ grumpiness when we left Greece. I had not been prepared for it to set in quite so quickly. “Dude. Spain has coffee.” We were both tired and exchanged words that likely won’t make it into any healthy marriage Hall of Fame, but the coffee was good! We passed some time by talking to my parents and Lil One. What I thought would be the trickiest of our layovers was passing fairly quickly.

We checked in our bags, found some breakfast, and by 5:45 AM, we took the LONGEST. WALK. EVER. To our gate. Seriously, it was insanely long and there was no way to shorten it. I know we were tired but Dios Mío. El Prat needs to tighten up. Adonis noticed that unlike in American airports, there was no option to sit near the gate without sitting at a business, like a bar or cafe. Pagar o estar de pie (pay or stand up), says the airport authority. We didn’t make it onto the plane until about 6:15.

Tired.

Wheels up.

III. Stop #2 – Madrid

As I’m sure you can imagine, the flight from Barcelona to Madrid was short and packed with commuters. It was a bit bumpy, but I managed to sneak in about 15 minutes of much needed sleep. Lucky Adonis was sleeping as soon as we were in the air and didn’t awaken until we landed.

Since we were leaving the Schengen area, we had to go through customs after collecting our things in baggage claim. After receiving my second of two Madrid stamps, we boarded the shuttle to our terminal, where we would wait about 3 hours before the longest flight of our journey. We got some coffee and snacks and I ventured to do something I never had – taken a shower at the airport! They were not scary at all, I am pleased to say, and I was happy to no longer be sticky. I felt as fresh as I could for having gotten 15 minutes of sleep in 30 hours.

Thankfully, the journey to our gate was not as obnoxious as it had been in Barcelona.

After boarding, we settled into our seats. I immediately prepared myself to sleep by spraying some aromatherapy spray on a pillow. Then I did something I have not done since 2005, incidentally on another New York bound flight.

I used the lavatory.

This might not seem so noteworthy, but that was exactly the THIRD time I’d been in 23 years, and I am not that infrequent of a flyer. When I was 10 I used it on a flight for the first time and I couldn’t figure out how to open the door to exit, just as the flight was getting pretty turbulent. I had to yell for help and it’s haunted me since. Notably, this was my first time in the lavatory since I started running and it just reminded me of a portable toilet. Nonetheless, I used it and got the hell out of there as others were still boarding.

Listos para Nueva York.

Wheels up.

IV. Stop #3 – New York City

The pilot had announced that he expected the second half of the ride to be moderately turbulent. The second. HALF. I thought to myself, hopefully I can sleep through the drama. Eat up and then take some Advil pm and knock out until ‘Murka. I also wanted to make sure I was able to buy something from the duty free magazine that I had seen on the flight to Madrid two weeks prior. How to sleep and shop?! Traveler’s dilemma!

As we were in flight, I had to go to the bathroom again, but as it were, my practice run made me feel more confident so I did so without fear. I closed the door behind me and then I heard a ding. My inner 10 year old panicked, but the 33 year old quickly did her business and got the hell out of there. I realized later that it was just the ding of someone calling for the flight attendant, not the *sit your ass down y’all!* ding of impending bumpiness. I think I’m not scared of the lavatory anymore! ✔️

I asked the flight attendant to wake me as the duty free cart was coming around, and she did. Indeed, the second half of the flight was bumpy as promised, but I found myself clenching less and less. Big planes matter, as does experience – I think this being my 8th plane ride in 2018 (so blessed!) is helping to put me at ease. I whipped out my credit card and got a lovely set of earrings. I can’t say I wasn’t happy to land safely, but nor was I in a rush to get off the plane.

After landing at JFK, we had to make our way to customs, where I was pleasantly surprised. I had been feeling so sad to leave Greece that I wasn’t expecting to be happy to be back in the US, but as soon as I saw the big “Welcome to the United States” sign leading into passport control, I broke into a big smile. As messed up as home can be, it’s mine, and I appreciate it even when my sleep is limited, apparently. The joy was quickly muted once we got into a miserably long line, and I can say this was the most unsavory part of our long trip. We got our things and guess what! My Greek cough syrup made it back!

One thing that struck me was how prepared I was to speak Spanish although we had made it home. It took me awhile adjust to feel average and not like an outsider for speaking English, especially since I was surrounded by Spanish speakers at JFK. The only difference was that from what I saw, the Spanish speakers were mostly customers and not staff as it had been for the last day of my life. I love the tapestry of America – seeing different last names on employee tags, recognizing the different heritages, yet all equally American. E pluribus unum, y’all.

We splurged and went to the lounge because the area by our terminal was SO. LOUD and we wanted a bit of respite during our last layover. Let me tell you something – Delta has great cookies at JFK. And chairs comfy enough for a tired girl to crash until her husband wakes her up.

Wheels up.

V. Home! Orlando

Well. I don’t have much to say about this flight. I sat down. I slept. My husband woke me up when we landed. Good job, Delta.

We got our luggage quickly and made our way outside, where The Big One and The Beard (her boo) were waiting outside for us, despite our having landed a bit early. She rocks. We had a quick ride home and debriefed them as much as possible on what had been the trip of a lifetime.

34 hours after we began, this happened.

Bear was thrilled to see Travel Bear and his new friend, Nikos. Petros, our fish, was delighted to see us, I must say. Splashing about like a mad fish, craving a snack like his Mom. My very thoughtful father had stopped by the apartment and left us Publix subs and the best pound cake in the world.

Our trip was truly blessed, from start to finish. While I am eager to get back to Greece, I want to always be thankful for the opportunity I had to go, even one time. I have more about which to write, including meeting family and a race report!

God is good.

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