Marathon Training, Week 2: A Little Fall of Rain

 

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the aftermath.

This morning, I had the intention of running 9 miles. I find that if I don’t go out there with the distance I would like to run already ingrained into my brain, I get tired and want to stop. Telling myself before the first step that I would be running 9 is the only way I will actually run 9. So, at 8:30am, out the door I went to begin my journey.

It started off great, although a little humid (and by “a little” I mean water droplets were forming on my skin and I couldn’t see out of my sunglasses because they were fogged the instant I stepped outside). I walked the .5 miles to the park, and as I was almost there, it started to rain very, very lightly. A man in his front yard shouted as I went by, “It’s your fault it’s raining!” I assumed he was kidding so I laughed and said, “yeah right.” Then I briefly wondered if maybe it was my fault. Is that even possible? As I continued my philosophical discussion with myself, I reached the park and began the actual running portion of today’s show.

The first 4 miles felt pretty good. I was worried a bit that it was so humid I wouldn’t be able to make it to 9, but the very very light rain and the fact that the sun was mostly hidden made it bearable. I was glad it was raining, and thought to myself, “gee, I wouldn’t mind if it rained a little harder. It would feel good!”

You know how they say be careful what you wish for?

All of a sudden it started pouring. Like not just raining a little bit more, but a torrential downpour. I was nearing a tree, and worried about my iphone getting ruined (I really could not have cared less if I got wet – it was all about the phone), so I ducked under a tree for cover. I hung around for about 10 minutes, wondering in true dramatic fashion if i’d ever be able to continue, when it finally started lightening up. so I continued on, soaked but determined. It was a tad cooler (or I was just so soaked that it appeared to be so), so I picked up the pace, and did two more miles, virtually rain-free. I had to ring out my shirt about 10 times, but I finally felt like I was reaching the early stages of drying out. The 4 extra pounds of water I was now carrying did make the run a bit more challenging, but I’ve done it before, so I pushed onward.

I had just finished mile 6, when I heard a rumbling in the sky – yep, it was thunder. “Please just pass,” I begged of the Universe, however my pleas went unanswered and within a minute, it was raining again. Like “raining men” raining. It was coming down so fast, that I wasn’t even sure what to do at first. I quickly regained my wits, and headed toward a tree who’s trunk looked pretty dry so I thought I’d be offered some shelter from the storm.

I waited. And waited. And waited. The water began getting past the tree’s leaves and I was soon left with nowhere to hide. So I did what any sane person would do. I held my phone in my hands and bent over it so it wouldn’t get wet. As my back began getting more and more soaked, I again begged and pleaded with the Universe to make it stop. I started bargaining – “I’ll run all 9 miles if you make it stop now!” That didn’t work. At this point, I was the only person left in the park, so I started communicating with the Universe aloud, hoping that maybe if it heard my actual voice, that would work.

Apparently, the Universe doesn’t speak english. I raised my fist in a fit of rage as the water flowed all over me (but my phone was dry!). After about 20 minutes, I gave up and started crying. I guess the Universe felt sorry for me at this point, because it finally started to let up. I quickly strapped my phone back on my arm ran my last two miles, soaked and dying of thirst.  Although I was originally going to run 9, I settled for 8.5. My soaked clothes were heavy and so was my heart.

I finally got home, opened the door and the first thing my nephew said to me was, “Jeanine, why were you out running in the rain?”

I don’t know, but clearly it was my fault.

 

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Sometimes, You Just Gotta Push Through.

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This morning, I went out for a run – a long run. I’ve officially begun training for a full marathon this November. I set out to run 8 miles this morning. The park where I run is a one mile loop – so that would be 8 times around. I don’t mind – I actually enjoy checking off each go-round in my head. It helps break down the distance into manageable increments. I’ll be sure to remind myself of this, when I’m out there running 18 loops. Can’t wait.

Anyway, the reason I’m sharing this particular story about this particular run on this particular day is because it was different. Even before I started out, it felt different. I can’t explain why it felt that way, but I can now explain why it was.

I had planned on leaving the house at 7:30am – that did not happen. After a series of little events, including a late wake-up, some ants in the kitchen, and a nervous stomach, I finally set out around 8:30. Not too shabby – I’d still have most of my day post-run to do other stuff.

I put on this Enya Pandora station I just made the other day – it’s the perfect running music, I must say. I feel inspired and at one with the park while I’m running (or something like that). I walked the half a mile over to the park, and I started my 8 mile journey. I was about to finish 2 miles, when a crew of county landscapers pulled up near the end/beginning of the loop. They had just started setting up as I was about to run by. One older man in particular caught my attention, and as I got closer, he smiled, and said “good morning” and I realized he reminded me a lot of my dad. So I smiled back, and continued on, thinking about my dad and the nice man who just happened to be there to brighten up my run as I came by.

On the next two loops, I didn’t see the man at all – I assume he was working. Nearing the end of loop 5, I saw him again, leaning against his truck and smiling broadly as I approached.

“Thats Four!” he said as I passed by, holding up four fingers (remember, they didn’t arrive until the end of loop 2 for me). I smiled back, held up two fingers, and replied “Two more to go!” He laughed and so did I. The run was getting harder, as it had been a while since I ran some real distance, so that was just what I needed to keep going strong.

Going strong was really starting to get old though, especially when about a quarter mile in to loop 6, a very young and very fit young lady wearing only a sports bra passed me at a very fast pace. I was getting slower, and this did not help. I started feeling a little down, when I came up behind a man and his son. They were talking about walking the loop, and at the exact moment I passed by, the man said, “sometimes, you just gotta push through.”

Was he talking to me? No. But I heard it, and it meant something to me. I felt my strength coming back, and I continued on, with a new found desire to keep on keepin’ on.

I soon came around the last turn of loop 6, to where the men were working again. I saw the man from before, still leaning against his truck, and again smiling as I approached.

“One more!!” he exclaimed.

I smiled back, and said, “I’m almost done – sometimes you just gotta push through!” He laughed and so did I.

Then, I cried. I imagined my own dad cheering me. I wondered if this was somehow my dad reminding me that he isn’t far, and he is proud of me. I believed that it was. And it kept me going.

With these thoughts in mind, I ran the loop for the last time. I was getting very, very thirsty. I started to wish I had drank more water before I left. I started to wish I had driven my car instead of walked to the park so I could have a drink as soon as I was done. I started fantasizing about the ice cold water I had purposely put in the fridge for me to enjoy when I returned home after the run.

As I came around the last turn for the last time, I saw the man again, and I noticed him open the door of his truck, and appear to be looking for something. I was bummed – I hoped that he was done by the time I passed, so we could have one last exchange before I retired from the park for the day.

I ran closer and closer, and I was just about to pass the man, when he turned around, and handed me an ice cold water that he had in his truck.

I stopped. “For me?” I beamed. He nodded. I took the ice cold water, just like the one I had been fantasizing about, and I shook his hand.

“Thank you for cheering me on,” I said. “It really helped.”

“You did it!” he exclaimed.

“Yep, 8 miles!” I told him.

And just like that, our purpose in each others’ lives had been served. I will never know what my purpose in his life was. Maybe I reminded him of someone he lost. Maybe he really just wanted to get rid of the extra water. Maybe he won’t forget it, either.

The universe works in strange ways. I was reminded today that you get what you give. I’m truly sorry that I had forgotten that to begin with.

Another Day…Just Breathe.

October is Healthy Lungs Month. Today, October 28, is Lung Health Day. I never gave these much thought, until this year.

Last April, I lost my Dad to a combination of many things, but the main ones being COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and ultimately, lung cancer. My Dad was a smoker for almost 50 years.

I love my Dad, and I miss him everyday, but he did not take care of himself, no matter how many times we asked him to. Sometimes, with enough urging (and some yelling) he would try to do better. But he always seemed to eventually go back to his old ways. “I’ll do what I want” seemed to be his mantra. You don’t get the nickname “Wild Bill” for nothing.

Me and Wild Bill, cowboy hat and all.

Me and Wild Bill, cowboy hat and all.

My Dad was stubborn (just like his daughter) and he lived his life the way he chose to and by his own rules. In many ways, I admired that quality in him, and hope that I, too, can live my life they way I see fit, and not how anyone else tells me I should. There were some times though that I just wish he would have taken the advice of others, mainly regarding his health.

There are two major things my Dad taught me (in addition to learning how to drive): always be yourself no matter what or who says otherwise, and to take care of your body. Sadly, I had to learn the second one by watching him do the exact opposite and slowly suffering over time. Sometimes I think I didn’t try hard enough to get him to do better. Sometimes I think he must not have cared enough about me to do better. Sometimes I realize that there was nothing I could do and he did the best he could. And it had nothing to do with me.

As I mentioned, I have worked hard to take care of myself. I never smoked (ok, I did once in my best friend’s backyard in high school but that was it, I swear). I hardly drink. I watch what I eat (to a fault sometimes). I work out in some way every day and have for the past 17 years. I’ve run 6 half marathons and countless other races. I do yoga. I think about my life and how precious it is. I try not to waste a single second (I don’t always succeed, but I am forever trying). In a way, I have my Dad to thank for this. It’s not the happiest motivator – but I do believe he was very proud of me, and hopefully he knew how much that meant to me.

Thanks, Dad.

Thanks, Dad.

Although my Dad was too stubborn to accept any help, I’d like to think that there are many others out there who can still be helped, and that maybe, just maybe, I could help them. Not only do I have a passion for treating myself right, but I’m even more passionate about helping others to live better. So for National Lung Month, I’d like to tell everyone to get out there, get moving, and keep breathing. Check out some online resources (and there are many), like Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, to learn more about lesser known dangers to lungs like asbestos which is known to cause a rare cancer called mesothelioma, and most importantly, spread the word. We can all live better, if we work together.

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Be excellent to each other.

This is What Happens When You Stop Running.

This is post is not going to inspire you to live a more fulfilling life.

This post is not going to tell you what you can do to stay positive.

This post is not going to teach you how to bake a delicious new dessert.

Some days, even the most positive person in the world feels like it’s all a bunch of B.S.

This post IS going to tell you that it’s OK to feel that way. And that it’s OK to talk about it. Its happens. It doesn’t make us bad people. We shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about it. Or write about it. So that’s what I’m going to do today.

I have been running now for about 5 years. I was always into fitness, but I started running around the loop in this park which was within walking distance from where I used to live. I found myself slowly doing it more and more, and decided in 2011 to sign up for some official races. I ran two that year, and then in 2012 I ran about 10, and kept that up every year since. Last year, dare I even say I started to actually become a “good” runner. I set a new 5k PR at three consecutive races, and even won my age group, I set a new 10k PR, and I set a new half marathon PR, all within one calendar year.

My 1st place trophy.

My 1st place trophy.

I was running almost everyday, and had never been in better shape, so I decided that 2015 would be my year to run a full marathon. I carefully selected one based on time (October) and elevation (good for first time-marathoners) and registered for it in the spring, planning on training through the summer, starting right after I got back from my honeymoon.

I even got some brand new kicks.

I even got some brand new kicks.

On  or about July 8th, I started my marathon training plan. The goal was to run 8 miles that day, adding one mile to my long run every week, up until two weeks prior to the marathon, when I would wind down until race day. Feeling good, I headed over to the park to begin.

Five miles in, and things were going really well – the run felt great, and I was keeping pretty good time. I knew I’d easily hit the 8 mile mark. At some point before mile 6, I felt a weird twitch or pop or something in my left ankle. I figured it was one of those annoying little running pains that come and go, so I kept on going, and it felt fine.

The next day, it did not feel fine. It hurt. It hurt on the top and side of my foot. It hurt at the back of my heel. It especially hurt when I walked down the stairs. It did not hurt when I just stood still, and it did not hurt all that much when I walked a normal pace. It mainly hurt when walking down stairs as I mentioned, or when I pointed my toes, which was when it actually hurt the most. I assumed it was a sprain or strain. I feared it was a stress fracture, but a quick googling of that caused me to rule it out. So I went with sprain or strain.

I stopped running for the next week. It started to feel a little better, so I decided to go out for a short run.

I realized that was a bad idea. So I waited another week. It again started to feel a little better, so I tried a short run again.

I realized that again was a bad idea. At this point, I was starting to worry. What on earth could be wrong? It would start to feel better, then as soon I as did any kind of running, it started hurting all over again. I googled “pain walking down the stairs” and a bunch of results came up, all with one word in common: tendonitis.

“That’s not possible,” I thought. I’ve been running for years. Why and how would I suddenly get tendonitis??? After a couple more weeks of feeling better/running/feeling worse, I decided to see my doctor.

“You have tendonitis. I recommend not running on it, wearing a brace when you do start running again, and taking an anti-inflammatory. FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.”

Ok, so I imagined that last part. But isn’t tendonitis forever? The doctor actually made it sound like it would heal, but the people I know who have it, have had it for pretty much ever. Did this mean I would never actually run again??? Honestly, I still don’t know. It’s been a little over two weeks now with not a single run at all (except to cross the street once), and it’s still not healed. Yesterday it felt great, so I decided to try a 25 minute long cardio workout, to get my sweat on. I’d been biking and swimming to try and make up for the lack or running, but I’m just not getting the same results a good run gives me, both physically and mentally. I was also afraid to go to yoga, but I’ve since bagged that fear, and found that yoga is the one thing that actually helps. Anyway, riding high on the positive effects of gentle yoga, I busted out the 25 minute cardio workout and felt great. It was tough, and it was sweaty. It challenged me physically and mentally.

“I can do this every day until I can run again!” I shouted to myself with joy.

An hour later, my ankle hurt almost as bad as it did the day of my initial doctor’s appointment. WTF.

Confined to the bike. FOREVER.

Confined to the bike. FOREVER.

Today, it hurts only slightly less.

Today, I woke up frustrated, devastated, and just plain sad.

Today, I’m starting to wonder if it really will ever heal. I’m starting to think that staying positive about it is a bunch of BS. But I’m still secretly hoping that maybe writing about it will help shake off some of the frustration.

Maybe not.

Maybe it’s time to learn to dance.

The Diabetic’s Wife.

My husband has Diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes, to be more specific, which means he relies on injections of insulin to live. Thanks to modern technology, he doesn’t have to inject himself with a syringe all day though – he uses a pump, which is constantly attached to him, and pumps insulin into him via this little thing called an infusion set. The whole thing looks like this:

This tiny device keeps my husband alive.

This tiny device keeps my husband alive.

It’s pretty cool.

What’s not cool is that he has Type 1 Diabetes in the first place, and has to live the rest of his life with the pump. I don’t claim to understand how it makes him feel, physically or mentally. I will never be able to understand that. I can say that he’s tough – he acts like it’s no big deal, but really, it’s a very big deal.

Without insulin, he will die. If this fact worries him, he never lets it show, at least to me. This fact does worry me. All. The. Time. I try not to let him see that either, and I don’t want to make this about me. But as the wife of someone with a serious illness, I am also affected, but in a completely different way.

It’s hard, because I often feel like I have no one to talk to about it. It’s not something I go around asking people: “Hey, so does your husband have an illness that needs to be constantly monitored and is sometimes unpredictable and could send him into a coma or possibly even death? Mine too! Let’s be friends!” It doesn’t work that way.

And for the record, he can and does eat the desserts I bake. He just has to adjust his insulin intake for it. Dessert is not a diabetic’s enemy.

Yes he ate one of these. And liked it.

Yes he ate one of these. And liked it.

I don’t worry about sharing dessert with him. I don’t worry about eating anything with him. He does an amazing job keeping his diabetes under control. If anything, it gives his geeky nature a chance to really shine.

I worry about coming home and finding him unconscious (or worse). I worry when he doesn’t text me back right away, that maybe he’s passed out on the ground, or in his car in a ditch. I worry when he’s sleeping that he might not wake up. Sometimes I poke him to make sure he’s still conscious (and he wonders why he never sleeps very well). I am, by nature, a worrier. I am also, by nature, a person who is very in tune with other people. I notice every slight change in his looks, his mood, his face, his voice, his eyes…everything. I ask him if he’s ok a lot. I’ve driven home from work at like 80 miles an hour because he didn’t respond to a text and I needed to make sure he was fine.

Maybe someday I’ll stop worrying about him so much. Maybe not. Either way, his disease is a part of my life now, too. Maybe my worrying is just another reason why we were meant to be together. Although I wish he didn’t have to deal with having Diabetes, I don’t wish anything was different. I love him for who he is, and how he handles what life has dealt him with courage and grace. I just hope that I can do the same, and be the woman and wife he needs me to be, worrier and all.

Photo by The More We See.

Photo by The More We See.

The Underlying Wonderful.

I can’t remember quite how it came to be, but when my husband and I were in our early stages of romance, I believe it was he who said something along the lines of “No matter where life takes us, never forget the underlying wonderful.”  A lot of people ask me how we met. I think it’s a pretty amazing story in it’s own right, and one that might just give others some hope who feel lost or alone and like they might never find “the one.” Not everyone finds “the one” when they’re in their early 20’s. And that’s ok. If I could do it all again, I’d do it exactly the same. Because it has led me right here.

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photo taken by The More We See.

It was the start of the summer of 2008. I had just come out of a two year relationship with someone, and wasn’t really looking for a new someone. I was playing with a new band at the time, and was nervous for our first show, so I asked some friends to come out for support. A friend of mine agreed to come with his wife, and he said he’d bring friends. I was on stage when they arrived. I walked over after the set to say hello…and that was when I met him. And I knew it right then, although I wasn’t really sure what it was that I knew. But there was something about this “friend” of my friend that I couldn’t stop thinking about. Sadly, this “friend” was there with his girlfriend. But we all became friends because I just had to be around this guy. He and his girlfriend wound up breaking up a few months later, and he and I went out. 4 times. It just wasn’t the right time for us though, and he got back together with his girlfriend, and I found someone else. But those 4 times never left my mind. I thought about him every single day and wondered why it happened that way. I was so sure he was who I was supposed to be with. How could I be so sure that he was “the one” if I wasn’t even going to be with him? As the years went on, it seemed less and less likely that we would ever find our time. Another relationship ended for me, and I decided it was time for me to figure out what the heck I was doing.

I started practicing yoga. I started journaling. I graduated pastry school and got a new job. I hung out with friends and did the things I always wanted to do. I traveled all over the world.  I asked myself why my life was the way it was, and I found the answer: it was how it was because of me. Not because of anyone else. Everything I did in my life was my responsibility. Once I came to realize this, old unresolved relationships began to either mend or end. I was able to confidently move in the direction of my dreams. I was able to forgive myself for my past mistakes. I was able to admit them to others and to myself, and say sorry.

By now, it was early 2013. I had just returned from another trip. I was thinking about “the guy” again, since this seemed to be the only relationship left that I still hadn’t gotten any closure on. One day, on a walk with a friend, I told him the whole story. I said I thought I might always wonder what could have been. We chatted about a few other things, and somehow on that same walk, I recounted a random story about how some girl was jealous because she thought i was interested in her boyfriend and how ridiculous that was. My friend stopped in his tracks. “How is this any different from the first story?” he asked. I told him it was because I actually DID have feelings for the first guy so that made it ok, and he went on to say, “that doesn’t matter. This is the exactly the same thing.” I argued with him, but began realizing he was absolutely right. The reason it never worked out with “the guy” was not because of him or his girlfriend our our friends – it was because of me. I suddenly was sorry for how I handled things. And I felt, at that moment, that I could move on and be just fine.

A month later, out of the blue, “the guy” emailed me. He was single, I was single. We agreed to meet. Two years later, we were married. We’re both 39.

photo taken by The More We See.

photo taken by The More We See.

The point is not that everyone is worth waiting for, or that you should sit around and let love find you. The point is that once you find you, meaning once you realize your own faults, your own hopes, your own dreams – only then can you be the person you would want to be in a relationship with. And the door to the underlying wonderful opens. 🙂

My iPhone Died; I Lived.

Last week, my coveted iPhone 5C fell out of my purse, complete in its trendy little phone pouch. It apparently landed near the front door of my car in the parking lot of my gym, and remained there for some time, in the rain, until a good Samaritan spotted said abandoned trendy pouch, and brought it to the front desk inside the gym. I didn’t realize it was even missing until my workout was over an hour later, and it was nowhere to be found. I searched my purse, my locker, my car, around my car, my gym bag, but to no avail. I began tossing things frantically around inside the car, and then thought I’d check the front desk, just in case. Sure enough, it was there, still in the pouch! Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers!

this photo is only a representation and not my actual phone.

this photo is only a representation and not my actual phone.

But alas, upon further investigation, the pouch was utterly soaked, and the phone….well it was non-functional. The screen sort of lit up, but nothing was happening. I walked back to my car, busted phone and soaked pouch in hand, completely dejected. The second the car door closed behind me, I began uncontrollably sobbing. So much so, that I could barely breathe and I could barely see, and I’m not sure how I made it home. I walked in the door, hysterical by this point, and my fiance quickly snatched the phone and threw it into a bag of rice. He then informed me that I’d be without my phone for – at the very least – the next 48 hours.

48 HOURS!!! WITH NO PHONE! The world had officially ended. The rest of the night was ruined and I just sat there sulking, thinking about how stupid I was to let the phone fall out of my purse, and how much it was going to cost me to buy a new one. Not to mention I would not be able to communicate with the outside world or do anything until I had a phone again. Life, as I knew it, had ceased. I’d never be happy until I had the phone back.

Oh how very wrong I was.

The next day, I woke up, and thought, hmmm..maybe I can find a replacement phone on ebay. I also realized that I could sell my old phone and make up some of the costs for a new one. So I listed it right then. As the day went on, and I was phoneless, I started slowly realizing that I didn’t need the phone as much as I thought I did. Losing the phone was NOT the end of the world – in fact, it was just the beginning.

I wasn’t constantly looking for updates. Instead, I was talking to people to find out what was going on with them. I noticed things in the house that I could work on, instead of having my head down staring at a little screen. I stopped feeling stressed about social media – who “likes” me and who doesn’t. WHO CARES??! I actually wound up putting off doing anything about the phone for a whole week because, frankly, I was enjoying the freedom of not living under it’s iron (or plastic) thumb.

I did however realize that I needed some sort of device where I could be reached by my family and my job at the very least, so a week to the day later, I took the still-broken-but-making-some-noises iPhone to a repair shop called Steve’s iPhone Repair, and had it fixed in under 30 minutes and for only about $100. If you live anywhere close to South Jersey and have a busted iPhone, you should definitely pay him a visit.

44 texts and 4 phone calls. That’s what I missed. But no one was upset, my life wasn’t over, the internet didn’t stop without me, and my life certainly didn’t stop without it. My work and my family had alternate ways to reach me if it was an emergency, and everything else, well, it really could wait. I didn’t get lost driving around without WAZE, I just planned ahead. I didn’t need the camera to take pictures – I used my real camera which takes better pictures anyway.

the "real" camera actually works better. who'd 'a thunk?!

the “real” camera actually works better. who’d ‘a thunk?!

The week without a phone reminded me of all the possibilities, beauty, and fulfillment that is out there all around us every single day, if we just…look up. I promised myself that once the phone was fixed, I would not become a slave to it’s tiny screen, offering instant gratification and momentary pick-me-ups ever again. The good stuff is out here, not in there.

My phone may have died, but I am more alive then I’ve been in quite some time. And I’m so grateful for that.

 

23.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m being stalked by the number 23. It started about 3 years ago, when I started seeing it everywhere. When I’d pull up behind a car and the license plate would have “23” in it. When I’d happen to be walking by someone in conversation and they’d randomly say “23” at the very moment I passed within ear shot. When I’d be about to pay for something, and the bill would be $23. Some days (like today), it’s around much more than others, and those days are usually the ones also happen to be filled with contemplative thoughts about my life – where I am, how I got here, where I’m going,  and how to be better. Those days, I seem to be practically slapped in the face with it. And being that 3 years ago was when I really began the crusade to live responsibly, it makes sense that it started appearing then.

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my stalker.

Let me say that I believe in the Universe; that when you want something, it does in fact conspire in helping you achieve it; and that we are all a part of something bigger than us, I figured it had to be some kind of message. So, I started doing some research (and by research, I mean I googled “23”).  Some of the results included a movie called “23”, another movie called “The Number 23”,  Michael Jordan’s Jersey, and something called the “23 Enigma” which claimed that everything relates to the number 23.  That last one was the only that seemed like it could have something to do with why I was seeing the number everywhere (although I did have a short-lived dream of playing professional basketball when I was a kid), but even that seemed a bit far-fetched and it really had nothing I could relate to or apply to my own life. So those were out.

not gonna happen.

not gonna happen.

Then one afternoon after coming off of a very 23-heavy morning,  I stopped into a gas station at the last minute, even though I had no time and enough gas to get home. For some reason, I just decided I needed to get gas at that very moment. As I sat there waiting for the tank to fill, a truck pulled up to the stop light, and stopped right in front of my face. It was solid white, with nothing but one long line of black writing on the side, spanning the full length of the trailer, from left to right.  It said:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. “ ~ Psalm 23

Now let me just say that I’m not a very religious person. Like I mentioned, I believe in the Universe – a higher power that connects us all to one another – but this was clearly what the number meant; what the Universe had been trying to tell me all along.

Everything I need to make my life better I already have.

Sometimes it’s a hard thing to remember, what with social media, mass media, and pretty much any kind of media constantly throwing all these images and ads at you full of things that you absolutely must have in order to be “happy” and live a better life: a nicer car, a bigger house, the newest iPhone, this hot new diet, the latest album, and so on and so on and so on….

I’m not immune to these media blasts by any means. I look at social media and (more often then I’d like to admit) think about all the things I don’t have, and subsequently start to believe I immediately need to get all those things and then I’ll be as happy as everyone else, as the people in all the pictures. Then depression starts to set in, and the downward spiral into the “have-nots” and “why-nots” begins. .But without fail, before I’ve spun completely out of control, it appears, like a lighthouse guiding a lost ship through the darkness back home.

23…. 23…. 23….

You have everything you need. Remember that. And be thankful for it.

The lighthouse at Assateague. Taken on my vacation this past summer, enjoying everything I have.

The lighthouse at Assateague, taken while on vacation this past summer, enjoying the wonderful things I’m lucky to have in my life.

Chocolate Enlightenment.

DSC_0904

“Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use”. ~ Carlos Castaneda 

I just returned from a vacation to Belgium – Brussels, to be exact. While I was there, I was also able to take the train over to England and visit my brother. It was extremely cold, yet the entire time, my heart was extremely warm – because in the end, I was doing exactly what I most wanted to be doing.

they whimsy of Brussels.

the whimsy of Brussels.

Back in August, I booked a trip – an African safari. It sounded super cool – yet while I was booking it, something was causing me hesitation. I couldn’t put my finger on it – I wrote it off as fear, and I laugh in the face of fear! Or do I?

Anyway, as the trip got closer, I started thinking that I might not want to go. I began asking myself why. It sounded really cool, it would be super brave of me to go by myself to Africa, and I told everyone I was doing it! So what was the problem?? Was I afraid to go alone? Was it too close to Christmas? I thought these must be the reasons (along with getting shots – I HATE needles) so I decided I’d try and exchange the trip or possibly postpone it, with the hopes that I’d want to go at a later date.

Well, that was not in the cards – the agency I booked with refused to give me any options, saying it was too close to the trip and the policy stated I was entitled to $0 refund at this point. Yes, the policy did say that – no argument there. But having worked in customer service for many years, I had figured they’d be willing to work with me to either postpone or change the trip to something else, being they’d want to keep my business. No dice. They were of no help whatsoever. I had nearly given up, and thought I’d have to just either suck it up and go, or eat the loss and suffer shame over my fear – until something caught my eye. I noticed that my flight connected in Brussels, both ways. I’ve never been to Brussels, but I do love chocolate, and when looking on the map, it was also a short train ride to London, so if my brother was free, I could visit him, too. Thinking upon it further, I realized I could do a chocolate shop walking tour of Brussels, just like the Paris Patisserie Tour I did last summer! I quickly emailed my brother, who called me back immediately (which is rare, for him, ha ha) and he said I should definitely come out. Kismet.

there is beauty on even the coldest of days.

there is beauty on even the coldest of days.

Next thing I know, I’m buying train tickets, booking a hotel, and researching the best chocolate shops in Brussels. I wound up with a mapped out tour of 10 shops, and wouldn’t you know, I was able to hit all 10. The next few posts will be dedicated to the Chocolate Shop Tour of Brussels, so stay tuned!

a sneak preview of the tour.

a sneak preview of the tour.

I was nervous though – there were a lot of “what ifs” on this trip – what if the weather is really bad? What if I can’t figure out how to get up to NY for the flight? What if one of my trains is cancelled (would it cause a giant domino effect of missed transfers)? What if my flight gets delayed or cancelled? What if my brother is waiting for me and I have no way to call him? What if I have to check my bag, and it goes to Africa? And the biggest one of all – what if everyone thinks I’m a wimp for not going on the safari?

Well, as the trip came to be, I decided the best thing to do was to just take each step as it came. I made the flight. My bag made it to Brussels. I made my train (all of them, in fact). The weather was bad at times, but it had no effect on anything, including my inexplicable light heart. I ate a ton of chocolate, and had some really great laughs with my brother, who I miss terribly already.

taken on one of our escapades in a town called Norwich.

taken on one of our escapades in a town called Norwich.

On the way home, I replayed the trip in my mind, and realized I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I was eating chocolate. I was taking photographs. I was writing. I was spending time with my favorite person in the world. Yeah, it was 20 degrees outside, but I hardly noticed. When you’re following your heart, nothing else really matters.

it don't mean it's the end, cause you can't see 'round the bend.

it don’t mean it’s the end, cause you can’t see ’round the bend.

It wasn’t fear or shots or Christmas that ultimately changed my destiny – it was doing exactly what I wanted to do, regardless of what anyone thought. And THAT is the bravest thing of all. 🙂

All is Quiet…

Happy 2013, folks! It’s New Year’s Day – time for reflections, reorganization, and resolutions. I always believed that the tone of New Year’s Day laid the groundwork for the tone of the coming year. It could very well be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but either way, it does seem to hold some truth. So if this day, today, is in fact any indication of the coming year, I’ve got some things to look forward to! 2012 was a good year – a learning year; full of positive changes and some real quality time getting to know myself (allow myself, to introduce…myself).

It’s funny, but the first half of last year seems like a lifetime ago. The year really seemed to take shape for the good around mid-summer (which I aptly have nicknamed “Summer New Year’s), right after my return from the Paris Patisserie Tour. The trip changed me. It showed me that I can wander around a foreign city and be perfectly fine; it showed me that I don’t need my cell phone/laptop/facebook nearly as much as I thought; it showed me that I would be good whether with or without someone; it showed me that I really do have some actual writing and photography skills and that maybe the dream of being a writer was not so far-fetched after all; and most of all, it showed me that the world is a beautiful place and we are all in this together.

I went to Paris looking for pastries, and found myself.

I went to Paris looking for pastries, and found myself.

After I returned, I wound up facing three of my biggest fears before the year’s end: two by choice, and one by force of nature (enter Hurricane Sandy). I’d say that 2012 was a benchmark year.

Last New Year’s Day, I danced around the house and sang raucously along with “You Get What You Give” and vowed to make that my intention for the year. Today, I didn’t dance quite so raucously, but I did get a little groove going, and thought about the pure and simple things in life, and how they are really what makes it all worthwhile.

dreams come bouncing in your head...

dreams come bouncing in your head…

So here’s to a peaceful and harmonious 2013, full of love and greatness, pure and simple every time.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson