$294 to Go!

We went on another hike today. Actually, it was the same hike that we did last night except this time I wore my hiking boots instead of my running shoes. And this time we started at 2:00 PM instead of 8:00 PM, in 90+ degree heat, ON PURPOSE. Alek has a Firefighter physical text next week at 1:30 PM and he wants to be ultra-prepared. So I hiked and he mountain biked in a long sleeved shirt, helmet, gloves, the whole works.

It was HOT. HOT HOT HOT. Afterwards, Alek offered me some of his icy cold Lemon Rockstar Recovery Drink (which I refer to as “Douche Juice”). It.was.delicious. It hit the spot. I loved it. LOVED.IT. I am now afraid I’m going become one of those people carrying Rockstars around. What’s next, jeans with sparkly embellishments the butt pockets?? Oh well.

Also, if I paid $300 for these hiking boots and I “earn” back $1 for every time I actually wear them on a hike, by my calculations I have approximately $294 to go! (And no, I’m not going to tell you how long ago I bought them. Alright it was four summers ago.)

This Is Why I Live in Utah

When I tell anyone that I live in Utah, I always put it out there, ready to jump in about why Utah is not as weird as everybody thinks it is, and why it’s an incredible place to live and work. How Mormon’s are really for the most part nice, hard-working, educated, entrepreneurial people who really like their kids. How the liquor laws really aren’t THAT bad and how the outdoor activities really are THAT good. 
Still, most people think it’s weird to be from Utah, so I thought I’d start a new series: This is Why I Live in Utah. (No commitment as to its regularity, so hey, enjoy at least this one effort!)
Sidebar: I’m not one of those people that’s hung up on living in the place where I grew up forever. I’m game to see where life takes me. However, it’s going to take a lot to match my life right here, right now. But I digress.
The point is: Utah.
 
Tonight we went on an absolutely gorgeous seven mile hike/trail run…that is FIVE minutes from our house. Five minutes, maybe six if you hit all the red lights. At the top of the canyon you can see from downtown Salt Lake City south past Draper and all the way west to the great Salt Lake.
This is why I live in Utah! This is my backyard! I can see this view in five minutes! 
Well, five minutes plus two and a half hours of hiking. But still.

Chad Hoopes is Amazing

Tonight my cousin Chad Hoopes was the guest artist at the Deer Valley Music Festival,  playing Vivaldi’s Four Season’s with the Utah Symphony at the gorgeous gorgeous St. Mary’s Church in Park City.  It was a rare privilege to not only have him here, but to see him perform with the symphony in such an intimate setting. And, I LOVE any opportunity to catch up with his fabulous parents. And I also love any opportunity to get all dressed up and hold hands with Alek and listen to great music.
Chad was amazing. He was forty minutes solid of nonstop amazing.
And I mean AMAZING amazing. Not amazing like “Wow, that new fresh mint limeade that they have at Cafe Rio is amazing.” No, I mean the kind of amazing that makes you wonder how a human being can create something so beautiful. The kind of amazing that makes you contemplate the meaning of life and love and God and the universe. The kind of amazing that makes you believe that anything is possible. 
And he’s only 16. 
Which then makes you wonder what exactly it was again that you were doing at 16. But you try not to think about that too much. You just enjoy, because it is a gift to know him and hear him play, and he’s just getting started. 
P.S. Check out this feature on Chad in the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Pursuit of Happiness

We have a quarterly book club at work. The entire department reads a business book and then we get on a conference call and discuss the book and how we can apply it to our team dynamic and, more importantly, ourselves so we can be better overall human beings. (I work for a seriously awesome company, on  a seriously awesome team. But I digress.)
This quarter’s book is The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor. I started reading it on the plane yesterday. And this book, this BUSINESS book that I’ve been asked to read for BUSINESS purposes, made me cry. And cry and cry and cry. (In case you don’t know me, I’m a big crier, and as I’ve said before, airplanes are one of my top three places to have a good cry.)
THE POINT IS: The premise of the book is that we’re taught all our lives to think that we will be happy when we are successful, but it is not until we change our thinking and become happier that we will find success. And there are principles that you can follow to become happier. And it’s not written in a mumbo jumbo “just trust me on this” way like The Secret (although, don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE HUGE believer in the law of attraction), Achor’s principles are backed up by the principles of positive psychology, extensive research and in some cases, scientific proof.
I don’t have scientific proof. All I have is this: years ago I got a text from My Sweetness. I can still remember exactly where I was. What I was doing. What I was wearing. What I was drinking. What the weather was like. How it smelled and looked outside. How I felt. This text, this one single text, changed the course of my life. It said: “Only we hold the keys to unlock our cages.” 
So simple, yet so profound.This became my True North.
Eventually, that text lead me to Karen. 
Karen’s mantra is this: Change your thinking, change your life. 
Simple. Profound.True.
Which brings me to why I’m crying on the plane as I read this book. 
I’ve read A LOT of business books. A LOT. And if you throw in textbooks, that’s even more books I’ve read about business. And I’ve learned something from all of them. I’ve applied their management principles and their marketing principles here and there. I’ve referenced them when I’ve needed some inspiration. 
This book is different. This book isn’t about business. I’m crying because this book is about LIFE. This book is about taking that key and unlocking your cage. I’m crying because I know these principles are true. I believe this book in my heart. I know this, because this is what Karen told me to do and I did it. And it was HARD to change. It was the hardest, most painful, gut wrenching, saddest, refining, defining, awakening, stressful, two-steps-forward-one-step-back process of my life.
I’m crying because I am infinitely grateful for this lesson, the true north that changed everything. I am crying for all of the love that I feel. I am crying because I want to work harder and be better. I’m crying because I don’t want to lose my way and I can’t believe that this book came into my hands as such a beautiful reminder of how I want to live.

I am crying because I hope that My Sweetness knows how grateful I am every single day for that text.

I am crying because I am truly, from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul, happy.

Lazy Sunday

3:30 AM: Wake-Up Call. (Balls! It is early!) The cat has taken a shining to me. Have scratched off half my face in the night. Apparently no amount of Zyrtec can match a cat sleeping on my pillow.
4:30 AM: Cab Arrives. Bye Lea! Sniff! (SO jelly that she’s going back to bed right now.) Cabbie is listening to the most God awful boring book on tape I’ve ever heard.
6:00 AM: Rocking chairs at my gate? That is quite honestly the most odd amenity I’ve ever seen at an airport. I really want to sit in one, but I’m afraid I will fall asleep and miss my flight.
8:30 AM-ish: Wake up at O’Hare. Too tired make a trek to Garrett’s for popcorn. Stumble straight to Starbucks for an Iced-Venti-Nonfat-One-Equal-Latte. (The official drink of summer.) Buy US Weekly to keep me awake for the layover.
12:20 PM:  Alek is waiting for me at the baggage claim. This is probably one of my most favorite things in the whole wild world. It’s incredibly romantic, getting picked up at baggage claim, don’t you think?
12:45 PM: Mimosa in hand. Brunch on the patio at The Garage. (The official patio of summer.) It’s about a million degrees outside and we are baking and I love it. They have a DJ on the patio. Music is fab but a bit, well, disco for the setting and I love it. Shirtless (notice I did not say “vest-less“) bikers are having a hard time wrapping their heads around this. I really want the burger but they don’t serve it until 2:00 so I order Fried Chicken and Waffles. I think this is a reaction to the heat and my vegetarian Saturday. It’s delicious but I feel sick afterwards. Sort of like eating an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting.
2:00 PM: Let’s lay down just for a min…ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
4:30 PM: Balls!! 
4:31 PM: Balls! Balls!! We are due at a family BBQ in 30 minutes. We need to shower, get gas in the car, buy/make/somehow source dessert for said BBQ, drive 20 minutes south, and it would really make sense to clean the chicken coop since it’s on the way, and I should probably stop by and see Janaan and the baby and unpack, do laundry, check email, write a blog post, clean the bathroom, pay bills, call my Grandma, get those photos into albums, organize my sock drawer…
(Note to self: try to hang on to precious Sunday-Nap-Zen for more than 60 seconds next time.)

Adventures in Beantown

I spoke at a conference in Walth-ham on Friday afternoon and since 1. I had never been to Boston for fun, only for work, and 2. Leanna lives in Boston, I extended my stay through Saturday to explore the city (a.k.a. shop and eat) and schmooze one of my future in-laws. MWAHAHAHA!
Lea planned pretty much the most perfect day ever, filled with all the sights, shopping and insanely good food. And at the end of the day we mapped it all out and figured we ran/walked about 9.5 miles, so all of that insanely good food was guilt free! I told you it was pretty much the most the perfect day ever!
Here are the highlights in reverse order, since that’s how I uploaded the pictures:
 
We had dinner at a Burmese Restaurant called YoMa in Leanna’s new neighborhood. It was one of the most unique and delicious meals I’ve had in a really long time. Burma is bordered by China, Thailand, Laos, India and Bangladesh and it seems like Burmese food has a little bit of this and a little bit of that thrown in for good measure. If you ever dine at YoMa, the Tea Leaf Salad is a MUST. It comes in this beautiful presentation with little piles of pickled tea, peanuts, tomatoes, cabbage, and a bunch of other weirdly crunchy tasty stuff and when you mix it all together, well, it’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted. I told Leanna that if I lived near this place I’d be here twice a week, mowing down on this salad. I could eat one right now as a matter of fact.
Sidebar – we had shrimp spring rolls at YoMa, and that was the only meat we ate all day. We ordered tofu entrees since they make their own tofu (SO GOOD) and we had vegetarian for lunch and breakfast was also meat-free. The point is, Boston seems to be full of hippies. Like, WAY more hippies than I’ve seen in San Francisco. There is “Go Vegan” advertising everywhere. Lots and lots and LOTS of Prii (apparently that’s the plural of Prius). I even saw a Nissan Leaf on the road. This is all love and goodness in my book as I consider myself a borderline hippie (a.k.a. Yippie). I guess it just stood out to me because it wasn’t wasn’t what I really expected from Bostonian culture. But I digress.

Leanna and I were both wearing super long flowing floral dresses yesterday. I had also decided to stop fighting the humidity and just leave my hair curly. At one point I turned to Leanna and asked if the pair of us looked like just slightly more sophisticated polygamists. I had no sooner said that than we were stopped on the street by a woman who was gushing about our dresses, telling us we looked like princesses (what?!). Later on someone stopped us again and told us she was jelly of our dresses, wishing she had on something with a bit of “swoosh”. See, I told you! Hippies!
We had lunch at Clover in Cambridge. All of the food is vegetarian, local and organic whenever possible and all of their packaging is compostable (love!). I had the chickpea fritter pita and a homemade mint limeade. The pita was filled with crunchy veggies, yummy hummus, tart pickles and of course, the fresh crispy chickpea fritter. DEE-LICIOUS! And fast! And cheap! My lunch was $7!! I pay $4 for the mint limeade alone at the Farmer’s Market in Salt Lake.

We woke up early and Lea made a hearty breakfast of steel cut oats, organic berries and almonds. It was the perfect “stick to your ribs” meal we needed to fuel us for the Freedom Trail Run, a 5K course through historic Boston. If you’re ever in Boston and want a quick way to see the sights, I highly recommend this run. You get everything – a bit of a workout, a bit of the city, a lot of history, a ferry ride and a T-shirt at the end! Plus, your 5K host, Eddie-O is super-friendly and knowledgeable. My favorite part of the run was checking out the old graveyards. The tombstones are FABULOUS. When did we stop putting skulls and crossbones on tombstones?

Other things I LOVED about Boston:
– Shopping on Newbury Street
The Boston Olive Oil Company. Do not pass go, Do not collect $200. Go to Newbury Street and stop in here. I couldn’t figure out how I would get any home without destroying everything in my suitcase, but everything was divine. If I lived in Boston I would eat nothing but Arugula salads and fresh bread covered in / dipped in these lovelies. Leanna bought us a tin of Truffle Infused Sea Salt that I can’t wait to try on our eggs, or better yet, on some homemade french fries.
– Seeing Fenway Park
– Having a chai tea latte at Darwin’s: “Purveyors of Sumptuous Comestibles and Caffeinated Provisions” (Only a Mom and Pop coffee place a stone’s throw away from Harvard could pull that off as their slogan.)
– All of the lovely green space. There are so many big and little parks and people were really out enjoying them. It gives the city a nice vibe.
– The random, delicious frozen yogurt blended with espresso beans that we got behind Fenway at this total, total, dive. I mean, total dive. I would have taken a picture except it was so hot in there I couldn’t even focus.
– Hanging out with Leanna. She is so at home after a few months and it’s fun to see her dreams of becoming a Bostonian (she said locals call them “Massholes”) come true. I got kind of choked up when she asked someone to take a picture of “me and my sister.” Awwww.

Talk Is Cheap

Boston Taxi drivers are a riot. In the 20 minutes it took to get from the hotel to visit Lea in Cambridge today, I don’t think that the driver stopped talking. It was a totally random stream of consciousness that included his opinions on Mitt Romney (smart), Bill Buckner (tragic), and Madonna (snobby). He never said the word “wicked”, which was a bit of a disappointment. He did tell me that I looked like Vanessa Williams though.

Somewhere in that stream he started talking about NATO. I had sort of zoned out at this point and was just nodding and “uh-huh”-ing at periodic intervals.

“You know what NATO is?” he asked.

“Uh-huh,” I said.

No Action, Talk Only! Get it? NATO!”

I have no idea what or who this guy was talking about, but I’ve definitely found a useful new term. Actions speak louder than words, and I loathe people who are all promises and no payoff.

So, I say thank you, Mr. Boston Taxi Driver. Thank you for giving me a new phrase to incorporate into my world / creating subtle way to talk smack about others. And thank you for telling me I look like a former Miss America.

Live From WALTH-HAM

 
Today I am in Waltham, Massachusetts. A very passionate, very local, very Italian cab driver just spent fifteen minutes explaining that it is pronounced “WALTH-HAM” not “WALTH-UM.” (OK, that’s an exaggeration. It was like, fourteen and a half minutes.) Long story short, only “snooty” people from Cambridge pronounce it “WALTH-UM.” I am going to Cambridge tomorrow so I guess I’ll have to get my snoot on. 
If you’re ever in Walth-ham, go to Taqueria el Amigo. It’s yummy and it’s cheap. Like $2.50 for a bowl of fresh, hand-made guacamole cheap. 
 
On the way back from dinner we walked by this park where a bunch of people were playing league kickball. Yes, kickball. In a league. With Team T-Shirts. Throwing that red rubber ball at each other and everything. How awesome is that?

File this post under TMI: Running with Alek

Alek has become quite the workout fiend since the fire academy last summer. He gets very antsy if it has been more than 24 hours since his last workout. And he is really into these wacky cross fit workouts — workouts, that frankly, I am mostly incapable of doing and the bits I can do make me want to barf. Most of his workouts are circuits where “resting” is running at a 6.0 on the treadmill and include dozens and dozens of burpees, which I refer to as “barfees.” (God, I hate burpees. I’d rather run a half marathon than do 20 burpees. I’m not even kidding). He gets excited about new ways to combine these torturous activities – like the latest – a burpee where at the top you “kip” into a pull-up. Ugh. 

ANYWAY, he looks fantastic.

Our schedules are so crazy that we really don’t get to workout together very often. Which is OK because I’m always so torn when we do workout together. Part of me feels like I’m just SSSSOOOOO SSSSSLLLLLOOOOWWW and SSSSSOOOO WEAK and I’m holding him back from what he really wants to be doing – 8 minute miles and burpees burpees burpees. Part of me has a little bit of that nervous and excited butterfly-in-my-stomach type energy, because whenever I workout with Alek I feel like he’s raising the bar and I’m pushing myself harder than I normally would.

Our friend Ben says that if you don’t feel like you’re going to puke at the end of a workout, you’re not working out hard enough and he’s pretty fit and pretty bad-ass, so I tend to believe him. Alek can motivate me to get to that “I’m-so-hard-core-I-feel-like-I’m-gonna-puke” feeling. Last summer, the first time I went running with Alek, he challenged me to sprint to the finish, and so I did because I wanted him to think I was awesome. And I promptly puked at the end. He thought that was awesome, but not the kind of awesome I was originally thinking.

Tonight we went on a little 5-Mile loop and there was a pretty decent hill at the end. I, of course, wanted to show Alek how awesome I was and so I made this big deal out of saying “I’m gonna run all the way up that hill without stopping,” put in my headphones, found a power-song and took off.

And I did it. It was a billion degrees outside, I was tired and I was hungry and I was stressed and didn’t want to even be out there, but I did it. I ran all the way up that hill.

And promptly puked my guts out at the top.

So I have a new goal. It’s not to complete the next half marathon or lose weight or look better or be stronger. No, no. I just want to go on a run with Alek without throwing up at the end. This will probably be my most challenging fitness goal ever, but I am determined to succeed. Or at the very least, to find a nice, shady, short, mostly downhill trail for our next workout.

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