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Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

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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Ενθρανστο.

At this moment, we are waiting in a hotel lobby for a taxi to the airport. I just got off of a video call with my parents, who were happy to see me. It seemed as though we hadn’t been video calling all along through the last two weeks that Adonis and I have been in Greece. In fact, they seemed a bit nervous, and I believe it’s for the same reason that I have butterflies in my stomach.

Ζωή είναι ένψρανστη. Life is fragile.

As terrible as my reading of Greek is, I have much more control over that than I have over much else, from whether our cab makes it on time to the safety of our 31 hours of travel time back to our blessed home. I was both taken aback and appreciative yesterday as we went on our last ferry ride to see one of the crew members do a sign of the cross as we left the port. I assume that he makes that journey several times a week, but it didn’t appear that he took his lack of control for granted. The blue waters of the Aegean offer life for many but can pose a great threat as well. The brilliant minds who have made it possible for us to travel 5,764 miles within 31 hours cannot offer us a guarantee of a safe return.

If you are reading this, I ask that you pray for a safe journey for Adonis and I, who happens to be handling his nervousness by pacing around the lobby. Yes, I understand air travel is statistically very safe, and I expect to be in my bed tomorrow evening, but life is fragile. I thank God for this amazing trip, which I will be writing about more in a days (yes, I did find a race here), and ask for His continued protection on our journey home. Also, for some self-control at duty free. Amen.

Sweetly Sucking

I apologize if the title offends your sensibilities, but what is going to follow isn’t dirty. Unless you are the type to think that a sorry run is dirty. Then this is definitely NSFW.

I told y’all yesterday that I was going to run today. I had a conference session to attend at 7 am (okay fine, the session was breakfast, but it IS the most important meal session of the day) and would have had to be hitting the pavement by 5 to make it, in the dark, in an unfamiliar area. Nope. I bid my running shoes farewell until 6 PM.

As I was lacing up, I was tempering my expectations for the following reasons:

A. I am typically a morning runner on fresh feet.

B. The weather is starting to warm-up.

C. PMS is definitely not an acronym for Peak Maximum Speed.

I had run the same “day” on my app 10 days ago. I figured it wouldn’t be as good for the above listed reasons. Lemme tell you something. I was right. Damn right. My pace kept slowing, and slowing, and sloooowwwing. I checked my watch and you know how it goes. When you end up looking down and only one minute has passed since you last checked? Tough day.

A tough day is not a bad day! I showed up. I didn’t quit, even though I passed my hotel room with 20 minutes to go. I did take a walk break of about 30 seconds but I dug deep and ran faster when my app calmly asked. I stretched like a champ afterward.

Loving the journey, even when it sucks, is sweet!

I put the “A**” in Assessment

Part of my job description includes recording grades for students. I must say – love to assess, hate to record. It’s just a mark of progress at a point in time and doesn’t define a person’s ability. I hate to think that I have students who see grades less than an A and think to themselves, “Meh, music isn’t for me.” That’s not even taking their parents into consideration, who may see grades and start to close doors for their children. Ugh.

My disdain for recording applies to my personal life as well. While I understand that stepping on the scale doesn’t define me, I find that I, too, am tempted to think, “Meh, healthful living isn’t for me.” Nevertheless, she is persisting…

I shall proceed to grade myself in 3 parts, like I do my students – the strict assessment based on data, a comment on my progress, and a citizenship grade.

1. Grade: A

I have lost 18 pounds in 9 weeks. I have done so with the help of portion controlled meals. My running feels much easier than it did and my clothes are fitting more comfortably. It is difficult to argue with such obvious results.

2. Comments

My attitude is heavily dependent on my perception of my progress. Going from 175 pounds to 172 pounds means I had a wonderful week. Staying at 172 means I had a terrible week and I do not look forward to assessing my progress in the same way. I hate that the 172 pound person is attractive in the mirror only if I am making weight loss progress. While it is positive that my self-perception isn’t based on a particular number, progress is not linear and such extreme fluctuations in how I see myself can’t be healthy.

3. Citizenship: Satisfactory

I can be that person who will bring down the room if I don’t feel I am doing well. This week, for instance, since I didn’t lose any weight I have not been putting in the same effort with my exercise and eating – despite having an amazing race just 10 days ago. It is quite a challenge to be a good citizen with such a myopic perspective.

The capstone of next quarter will be another 5k, in which I hope to be 12 pounds lighter and be considerably more flexible. I wish I knew how to detach my perception from however my week went. Hopefully I will have better comments for next time!

The Happiest Place on Earth: Race Report

Yesterday rocked.

I was accompanied by Mom and Dad. Mom was racing too and cussing me the whole way to the start line. “Why am I up? It’s cold. I should be sleeping. This is crazy.” It was actually a bit colder than I was expecting, but it was supposed to be ideal by the time the race started. We got our packets, used the lovely portable toilets, I ate my pre-race navel and lined up at the starting line.

My playlist was set. 31:30. Too ambitious? Maybe. I was just feeling so optimistic! Garmin was on, but I didn’t want to stress myself out by staring at my watch, so I told myself I would turn it on but I would not look at it during the race. I wanted to see where my training had put me in my natural state – pushing, yes, but not killing myself. The hype man started the countdown from 10, and then the horn sounded. Tears came to my eyes once more. What is more beautiful than a chance to start again? I swallowed and made my way to the timing mat.

Two songs into my playlist, I saw the 1st mile marker. My body was feeling good. I pointed to the sky and asked for help for the next 2.1. I made another turn on this familiar Orlando course and saw a sign on a church. “Jesus Loves You,” it read in neon lights. I smiled as I continued running past the first water stop. I hadn’t been drinking water during any of my training runs and didn’t want to lose any momentum. Three more songs pass, as does the 2nd mile marker. I had done an amazing job on my playlist – the words and beat were helping me push forward. I saw a lady from Venezuela whose shirt read “God is with you” on its back – incidentally, near another water stop. Living Water, heh. “Gracias por tu camisa!” I yelled, thanking her for her shirt.

Two songs to go. Two turns to go. I am doing it. I was so happy to be running and feeling strong. One song to go. One turn to go. Final turn made. Finish line in sight. Aaaaand the first song comes on again. Blast you, point 1. I chuckled and found another gear as I crossed the finish line.

Mom had told me to come back for her, which I did, after I brought a snack to Dad, of course. I caught her on the home stretch. “Ready to run to the finish?!” “I will – at the stop sign.” That’s my Mom, ever the rebel. Gonna hit the gas at the stop sign. We went for it as I ducked to the left of the timing mats. I met with her on the other side of the chute. “Where are the race results?” said the woman who had been complaining to me all morning.

I had shaved 00:02:10 off my 5k time from November and Mom was a minute faster than a month ago! I was most pleased because my pace had been incredibly steady – each of my miles was within 20 seconds of the other. Boom. Mom commented that I looked like I just had had a facial. Nope. This is the glow that can only come from the happiest place on earth. A place of sweat, faith, strength, and growth. I want to stay here as long as I can. ❤️

Faith on the Run: Pre-Race Report

I have a 5k tomorrow! While I am confident I can complete the distance, I don’t know how I will feel while doing it or how my time will be.

This feeling is absolutely exhilarating.

2018 has been a year to reset thus far. I am humbled to have been able to find a rhythm with work and working out by using a meal planning service. I am finally making visible progress with my trainer and working out on my own in the mornings again. I know that this could change at any time, but while I have this I know it is something to be cherished. I started Couch to 5k again and completed 7 of the 8 weeks, and have only ‘come up short’ because my trainer suggested that I rest my ankle this week because I will not really progress prior to the race.

I am most happy because this year feels very much like the beginning of my running journey in 2013. At the time, I started with a pair of old sneakers in my closet and nothing but my app – no Garmin, no fancy shoes fitted for my running gait – I was just a girl who only ran after ice cream trucks and away from large dogs trying to lose weight. I have worked hard to simply do my best and not obsess over beating previous times and/or intervals, and am blessed to report that upon looking at the data, I appear to be improving without driving myself nuts.

I love that the anticipation of each training run has inspired both excitement and apprehension. The ability to put one foot in front of the other is a gift to be celebrated. Only the Lord knows how much longer I will have not just the ability to run, but to improve. I want so much to be a good steward of my blessings.

God built us to move forward, both literally and spiritually toward Him. The last 32.5 years have been a bit of a zig zag pattern for me, but tomorrow, I get to lace up and enjoy another new beginning, and Lord willing, another triumphant finish.

Tired but Inspired: Race Report

As you are fully aware, cancer sucks. The many volunteers behind One Step Closer to the Cure are tirelessly working so that no one else’s Auntie has to be taken prematurely by ovarian cancer. Collectively, my family did our part contributing about 100,000 literal steps. Here is how my 6,000 went:

1. 1-2,000

If you want to know how I think I’m going to do during a race, all you must do is check my playlist. Did I set it to shuffle? I’m just here for the cause. Perhaps I spent significant time carefully crafting both the sequence and length of the list. That means the next 33 (Lord willing) minutes are not a drill. When the horn sounds, I’m feeling great out of the gate, man. I’m gonna run this bad boy all the way through. Early on, I experienced the runner’s high that keeps me coming back. Seeing so many teams and friends coming together always helps to add to my gooey feelings. Everyone’s a champ so far, even me!

2. 2,001 – 4,000

It’s…it’s kind of hot out here. I wanted to push but – eh. I have noticed recently that there’s something about turning in races that is a mental drag for me. It used to exhilarate me, as I would focus on the fact that I am progressing, but right now I deem to be in a place where I think to myself “ugghhhh there’s more!” and my pace drops accordingly. I started running some, then walking some, but still trying to meet my goal. Plus, running whenever I saw my family.

3. 4,001 – finish

Okay so maybe my goal was a *tad* ambitious based on my current fitness level. I blame the stress and snacks that Hurricane Irma swept in! She was a big heffa, you ‘member? I was moving forward but “Imma own this!” had devolved into “Ugh let’s finish and get breakfast.” Then the most amazing thing happened.

“Hi Daphne! You’re beautiful! You’re doing great, keep going!”

Several different waves of emotion came over me. Thankfulness for being Daphne’s niece. Humbled by the fact that she can still touch lives, 7 years after her death. GUILT! For whining about a slow pace in a healthy body. This woman who God brought to me at just the right time was cheering ME on. I am complaining about fighting 3.1 miles and she is literally fighting for her life.  I learned later that she also serves on the board of the foundation that puts on the race. Man. I suck for thinking that I suck. I started running a bit more and digging until the end.

I need to pray for the spirit of people like that amazing lady and Auntie Daph to fill me, not just when I run but in my every day life. Every step God gives us is a blessing and it’s my prayer that I start to act like it!

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