Our New Normal: Coronavirus

Miscellaneous

A woke up this morning and for a few moments I forgot about the news. For those brief couple of seconds I tried to remember what day it was and if I was already late for the gym.

You know, those normal thoughts I used to have every morning.

But then I remembered.

I remembered our current reality. And every time it hits you, it turns your gut.

Sickness. Threat. Panic. Fear. This is coronavirus. This is our world right now.

So much is unknown. Things are moving and changing so quickly. Sometimes it feels overwhelming and scary, because no one knows how this thing will end. Or when it will end for that matter. We are now heading into quarantine week six. It’s hard to comprehend that we’ve been doing this for so long already.

My feelings are in a constant game of tug-of-war. One minute I’ve assured myself that all will be fine. I utter the cliché, “This too shall pass.” And I nod and feel OK. Then the next minute I’m panicked and on edge, frantically texting my parents and spiraling into a puddle of worry and guilt. When the uneasiness hits you, it almost doesn’t feel real.

Will we be alright? Is my family safe?

And with those questions comes a flood of others about unemployment, finances, safety and the very real fear of a second (or even third) wave.  

I want to take everyone I love and lock them away in a house and board up all the windows. I want to protect them and keep them safe from a reality that sometimes feels like the plot of a movie.

It’s now spring, one of my favorite times of the year. I love feeling the cold melt into warmth. Everything starts to come alive again, including myself. I should be feeling better, the frost of seasonal depression starting to drip off. But I think about the next several months and wonder what on earth will happen. And suddenly the sting of the spring sunshine feels more like a blade. The confusion of this whole thing always feels freshly shocking.

It’s not supposed to be like this…

I miss so much about my own normalcy. Going to church, the gym, happy hour, work. Dinners with family, nights out with friends. The anticipation and excitement of planning an upcoming trip.

I miss not feeling an overarching nervousness hanging over everything.

And yet, I know how lucky I am. So many people are sacrificing. So many people have already experienced loss: Loss of life. Loss of income or a job. Loss of celebrating life events and dreams. Loss of normalcy.

I know working from home is a luxury right now. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do it and I understand that. But it gets lonely. I feel isolated. Once a week I feel the waves of anxiety and despair wash over me as it sinks in that I have to spend another full week cooped up in my house.  

Yet I know doctors and nurses feel those same waves of anxiety every day. Grocery store and pharmacy workers feel scared, yet they still go into work to help our world run as it should. And then I think of my situation and the guilt hits me hard.    

Right now it feels like we’re all holding our breath – and we don’t know for how long.

And I get angry too. I don’t want to put my life on hold. I don’t want to lose anyone to this cruel, invisible enemy. Anger fuels my questions – why is this happening? Are we supposed to do this forever? Why won’t this just end?!

My heartaches for seniors in high school and college. For brides and grooms who were looking forward to spring and summer weddings.  For hopeful parents who had to put their dream of having a child on hold. For new parents welcoming a baby into this world in its current state. For cancer patients who still desperately need treatment and are scared.

And yet again I know how lucky I am. I hope and pray that there will be minimal loss of life, minimal financial impact and that my family will be unharmed. I have no choice but to trust in our government and to count on and support our front line healthcare and essential workers. I can follow directions and do what I’m supposed to do. I will focus on what I can control.

I will look for and focus on those who are helping others. And I hope I can be one of those helpers too.

2019 Book Review

Reading

In 2018 I set a goal to read more. I aimed to read 12 books that year and finished the year off with 15. I went into 2019 with the ambition that I was going to beat my 2018 number, but I ended up tying it and reading 15 books again in 2019.

Here’s my review off all 15 books from 2019. (And don’t worry there are no spoilers!)

 

Book #1: When Life Gives Your Lululemons
By: Lauren Weisberger
Who doesn’t love a Devil Wears Prada connection? The main characters from the book and movie are all major players in this story. This was a quick read and I can see exactly why it was anticipated as a sequel. The main character, Emily, was just snarky and independent enough that it was entertaining and kept my attention. I also loved how Miranda Priestly made cameos throughout the book.

 

 

Book #2: The Friends We Keep
By: Susan Mallery
I’ve read a couple books from this author and although her plots are a little predictable, they’re always entertaining and light. Her books make excellent audio books for driving – light enough that you know what’s going on, but if you zone out you can still piece together what just happened. This author delicately covered teenage pregnancy, miscarriage and struggling relationships, but she connected it all together at the end. It was a feel good read.

 

 

Book #3: Heartburn
By: Nora Ephron
This book was hilarious, yet kind of sad. I loved that the audio book was read by Meryl Streep. I could see her playing the main character in a movie and I feel like it made the entire experience of the book. The main character is a cookbook author, so the story is scattered with random recipes that the author weaves in. It was clever, but sometimes annoying. I vividly remember a section about mashed potatoes that I swear went on for forever. I also feel like the ending was empowering, but left me feeling a little sad.

 

Book #4: Manhattan Beach
By: Jennifer Egan
This book was set in New York City during World War II and it instantly hooked me with a Great Gatsby feel. It was fascinating to learn about women working during the war and hear the vivid tales directly from battle. I liked that the book switched points of view between the characters. I also loved the main character’s account of nights out in New York City and encounters with crooked gangsters with mob ties. I didn’t feel satisfied with how it ended, but it was interesting enough that I didn’t see it coming. (And sometimes that’s better than a predictable ending anyways!)

 

Book #5: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
By: Ruth Ware
Dang this book was good! Ruth Ware is fantastic! It was suspenseful, well-written and shocking. The story is set in London and follows how the family dynamics after a death slowly unfolds – along with many secrets. Not everyone in the family is who they claim to be and there were a few twists and character betrayals that were shocking. If you’re looking for a semi dark, quick read – look no further!

 

 

Book #6: Sippy Cups Are Not Chardonnay
By: Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
A bunch of my friends read this book and said it was hilarious. We’re not expecting, but I figured what the hell, it’s probably a quick read and I wanted to see what all the buzz was about. This book is written with a hilarious humor that left me laughing out loud. I also liked the chapter specifically about friends who don’t have babies yet. In a world where my husband and I are pretty much the last couple on earth to not have kids yet, it made me feel better that the author was justifying us. I specifically liked the comment – not everyone gives a shit about your baby or pregnancy as much as you do. Amen sista, amen.

 

Book #7: The Women in Cabin 10
By: Ruth Ware
*Favorite book of 2019*
Another awesome Ruth Ware read!! I feel like I’ve seen this book all over the place, so when it was available for audio, I downloaded it and quickly finished it. This book was another suspenseful tale and multiple times I thought the story was going to be over, but then another screwed up thing happened! I remember laying in bed listening to this book and feeling my heart race. I imagined what I’d do in a similar situation and was scared speechless. I love how the main character builds and gains confidence throughout the story.

Book #8: The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck
By: Sara Knight
I often listened to this book on my morning walks with the dog…and numerous times I felt embarrassed when I passed someone and the audio book was spewing the F word. Still, this book was a nice reminder to reevaluate what truly matters. There were exercises to do that involved writing things down, which I didn’t do physically, but I followed along. This book was all about how to enjoy your life without feeling guilty for saying no to things that you don’t really care about. It gave me a different way to look at things and is one of the better “self help” books out there.

Book #9: Yes Please
By: Amy Poehler
I love a good memoir, but often times I prefer to listen to them. This is especially true of comedian’s books. I attempted to read Tina Fey’s book last year and couldn’t get through it, but when I downloaded the audio book I started to enjoy it. (I think mainly because it reads like standup comedy.) The same was true with Amy’s book. My husband and I listened to it during a road trip and enjoyed it. But I’m not sure I would have had the same opinion had I listened to it just driving to and from work. The long hours in the car were nice for zoning in and out.

 

Book #10: My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward
By: Mark Lukach
I won’t beat around the bush with this book – it f’d me up. I’m not sure if it was because mental illness runs in my family, or because of how rare and sudden a mental illness can come on. But this story was intense and frightening. It was a memoir from a husband whose wife has a psychotic break at age 27, which is apparently rare for a mental disorder to manifest that late. It was sad, but told beautifully. I also really related to the husband in that he turned to working out, running and being active to harbor a lot of his pain. It was more hopeful at the end, but if you’re looking for a truthfully frightening book about mental health, this is for you.

 

Book #11: Inside Out
By: Demi Moore
I’m not going to lie, I wanted to read this book after I read about Ashton Kutcher’s responses  to it on Twitter. I wanted to find out all the juicy details! In truth this was a quick read. Demi has a powerful story to tell, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for her in the end. Her story is the classic Hollywood fall from grace and her self-acceptance often relied on men or her body image. Still, it was interesting to get her perspective on what it was like being an icon in Hollywood in the 80’s and 90’s. I also enjoyed learning about life on movie sets and her personal stories from shooting G.I. Jane. 

Book #12: Becoming
By: Michelle Obama
My friend recommended this book after she told me that Michelle wrote so beautifully that she would often close the book and sit there for a few minutes after reading, letting it all sink in. I’m a fan of Michelle, so I knew I had to give it a try. It was interesting to learn about her background and how she grew up. I also enjoyed the stories about becoming the first lady and moving into the White House. I never thought too much about the secret service, but it was intriguing to hear quirky little stories about them following the Obama family around Target. I thought her chapter on her father’s death was beautiful, but so sad. She really captured the emotion and strangeness of death.

Book #13: Girl, Stop Apologizing
By: Rachel Hollis
What can I say about Rachel Hollis. I love her and at the same time she annoys the crap outta me. And I GET IT. There are some women out there who need to hear her message and need a fire lit under their butts. But for someone like me (who already practices a lot of what she preaches) I get very annoyed at hearing her bragging. (We get it, you’re a millionaire who built a company off what you learned on Google.) This was supposed to be her most tactical book yet, but I left with no real takeaways. There are some women who probably think everything she writes is holy (and she is a fantastic writer don’t get me wrong), but I’m not lacking in the discipline or motivation department so this book didn’t really do anything for me. I have also never been one of those women who say “I’m sorry” all the time (if ever, LOL), so that didn’t resonant with me either.

Book #14: Sleepless in Manhattan
By: Sarah Morga
*Least favorite book of 2019*
This book was cheese city. I wanted a quick, light read after reading so many memoirs back-to-back. But this book just turned out to be a goofy rom com that wasn’t very deep. About 10 pages in you could guess the entire plot of the story. I did like the main character and her sense of independence, but that was about it. Even the title of the book is unimpressive and not very clever.

 

 

Book #15: A Stranger in the House
By: Shari Lapena
I’ve seen this book around and knew it would probably be a quick read because of the suspense. It kept me guessing the entire time and there was a slight twist in the end that I didn’t see coming. It was written in first person, which I thought was a little weird and awkward to read, but overall this book was good.

30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years 

Miscellaneous

I’ve never liked my birthday very much.

And it’s not because it means that I turn another year older, it’s more about the time of year.

It’s way too close to Christmas and as a child that sucked. Now as an adult, I feel like my birthday is just one more thing to tack onto the holidays for everyone else. Aren’t we all busy enough already?

So no, you’ll never find me announcing “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY MONTH” or planning my own party.

But the one thing I have always liked about my birthday is that it’s close to the New Year. Every December 16th I turn a year older and less than two weeks later the year changes with me. And since I was born right on the cusp of 1989 and 1990 – my age has always reflected the last digit of the year.

So while I turn another year older and flip over the calendar to 2020, I think it’s only fitting to reflect on the past 30 years. (Whoa that’s weird to say.) I’m entering a new decade and so is the world. That’s pretty cool right?!

And I know, I know. Aren’t there enough of these lists floating around the internet? Probably. But this is my list and I’m the one turning 30 today 🙂

Cheers!

Here are 30 things I’ve learned at 30:

  1. You don’t have to hang out with anyone who is negative or makes you feel anxious or upset. Don’t tolerate crappy people or situations that stress you out. You’re under no obligation to be around people who steal your joy or make you feel bad about yourself.

  2. Relationships are the foundation of happiness. Your friends are your sounding board, your console and your support system. You can try to convince yourself that you don’t need friends, or even new friends at that – but you do. Guard your friends, protect them fiercely and chose them wisely.

  3. It’s true what they say – when you meet the person you’re going to marry, you’ll know it. It might not be a giant, flashing “love at first sight” moment like in the movies, but it will be there nonetheless. A tiny inkling. A feeling that you can’t shake. A small nudge on your heart that whispers “This one’s a good one. Pick him.”

  4. Don’t let the internet or anything else rush you. Careers, marriage, babies — these things should be on your own schedule. (And don’t bully yourself about these things either.) There is no set timeline for your life, no matter what you read or what people tell you. Don’t be in a rush to get through your life.

  5. Being happy for someone else and cheering for their dreams won’t stop you from achieving yours. Someone else’s success does not mean you have failed. True friends cheer each other on.

  6. Make learning a priority. Formal education and higher education isn’t for everyone, but continuous learning should still be important. How sad would it be to never learn anything outside of your own little world? How boring would life be if you were never challenged by learning something new?

  7. Anything that you can do to make your life easier tomorrow, do today. This is true when it comes to grocery shopping and meal prepping, packing your gym bag, making a phone call or finishing up a project at work. Keep moving forward.  

  8. Never stop reading. Audio books have made it so incredibly easy to read and learn new things. Always be able to answer the question “What are you reading lately?”

  9. Working out and being active will do wonders for your mental health. Don’t let your depression or anxiety get so bad that you can’t work out anymore. Be proactive. Working out is my meditation and prayer time. I need it to feel calm and like my truest self. Lord knows how much happier I am after a work out!

  10. Speaking of working out – the main benefit of exercise is to feel good. I spent so many years working out to look good, but the most important thing I’ve learned is that you should do it to feel good from the inside out. It brightens your mood, helps you sleep better and gives you energy. I crave that constant buzz of endorphins pumping through my body. Once I understood this concept it was a game changer. It’s how I’ve consistently worked out 5 to 6 days a week for over 7 years now.

  11. Get a pet. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog, cat, fish or ferret. Take care of something smaller than you. It teaches you responsibility, it helps build your family and it will bring you unlimited happiness.

  12. A great wedding doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It’s actually rather simple: Marry your best friend, invite your favorite family and friends, play good music and serve free booze.

  13. International travel should change your life. Make it a priority. Few things besides international travel will help put things in perspective for you. See how big the world is and experience it from a different culture and view.

  14. The middle of the night is not the time or place to solve your most complex life problems. Go back to sleep. Thinking about your student loans or that annoying work email at 3 a.m. will do nothing but enhance your stress and worry. Chances are you’ll have a more realistic feel for the issue in the morning.

  15. Jealously is a liar and comparison is a losing game. Both will steal your current joy and rob you of the good in your life. Rise above the negative thoughts trying to distract you from what you currently have.

  16. Catch more sunrises. There’s magic in watching the world turn from dark to light. The moment right before the sunrises is my absolute favorite time of the day. Everything is blue and faint and doesn’t really seem real. Then suddenly the sky is overtaken with bright color. It makes me feel so damn lucky and grateful. It’s a daily reminder that we get another chance to live our lives with purpose. Don’t waste it!

  17. Spend less time on your phone. Scrolling mindlessly makes me feel yucky. Plus there’s enough evidence out there that tells us that social media is bad for our mental health. Spend less time comparing your life to what you see on the internet. And spend less time being occupied with your phone while out in public or at an event. Don’t live your life behind a screen.

  18. It’s always better to be the person who smiled and waved than the person who ignored the smile and wave. This is true while out running, in the hallway at work or sitting in the lobby at the dentist’s office. Acknowledge other people around you. You don’t even have to have a conversation. A simple smile or head nod is all it takes to show we’re humans and we have some sort of soul that connects us. If Jesus or the president walked by you, would you still keep your head down and pretend to be in your own little world?! Of course not. Better yet, err on the side of caution and just treat everybody like Jesus.

  19. Never underestimate the power of sending a simple text. People like to be remembered. A quick “Hey thought of you today…” to a sibling or friend can change someone’s outlook and it takes about 1 minute of your own time. A text from a friend telling me something funny that I would appreciate makes my day.

  20. If it’s not a “Hell Ya!” then it’s a no. You’re in control of your schedule. You can say no to things you don’t want to attend without being an asshole. You don’t have to attend every baby sprinkle, work happy hour or family party if you don’t want to. (Just don’t confuse this with being lazy or being a jerk.) The older I get and the more time I spend working and doing all the other life maintenance things that adults have to do, the more I realize that time is sacred. Guard and protect your time fiercely. If you’re not all in and pumped up about attending something – say no thank you and don’t go.

  21. If you eat like crap you will feel like crap. It took me years to realize that what you eat is so much more than just how it affects your body from the outside. Fuel your body with food that makes you feel good, but it’s ok to have a little fun. I like to follow the 80/20 rule. About 80% of the time I eat clean and the other 20% of the time I’m out here enjoying life – like wine and cheese. I mean who doesn’t love a good charcuterie board with a bottle – er, I mean – glass of wine?

  22. You really do need to find a job you love. If you aren’t happy (or challenged) at work then you need to make a plan and change your course of direction. We spend way too much time at work to be miserable while we’re there. (And along the lines of work – I 100% believe that you need to have a work best friend. Or “squad” as we like to call it in my office.)

  23. Every college student should be poor for a couple years. Sometimes I laugh out loud thinking about making $60 a week while in college. Why? Well first because it makes me appreciate my paycheck so much more now. But also because I like to remind myself that living off $60 a week were some of the best years of my life. Money was the last thing on my mind back then, yet I was so happy. And don’t get me wrong, having money now is great, but the principle of this is never lost on me.   

  24. People change, including you. And that’s perfectly alright. We’re supposed to change and evolve. Imagine looking back 10 years from now — wouldn’t it be a shame to learn you’re still the exact same person as before? In the past 10 years you’ve learned nothing that’s changed you? Achieved nothing that’s moved you? Experienced nothing that’s made you different? Change is good, change is constant and change is supposed to happen.  

  25. My parents are awesome. The older I get the more I am struck by how amazing my own parents are. How many times did they go without so that my siblings and I could play sports or get new clothes? You don’t realize how hard being a parent is or how much sacrifice is involved until you get older.

  26. Everything really does happen for a reason. And before you roll your eyes, think about it. And I mean REALLY think about it. A thousand little decisions and events have slowly shaped your life. Things that didn’t seem like a big deal at the time have created your entire world. An email I sent back in 2012 eventually led me to landing a job with my current employer. But what if I hadn’t sent it? One night in college in 2011 my friends went outside for a smoke break, which set the scene for me to meet my husband for the first time. But what if we had gone to a different bar that night? While standing in line at the zoo one summer day in 2013, I noticed that the couple in front of me had matching Ironman tattoos. I went home that night and Googled what an Ironman triathlon was and a dream was born. But what if I never saw those people? Things that you’re doing right now are helping to shape and mold your future. It’s so simple and so complex at the same time.

  27. Actions speak louder than words. And I don’t necessarily mean this advice in terms of a relationship, although that’s important too. Instead I’m talking about taking action with the things you want for your life. If you know anything about me then you’ll know that I’m a woman of action. Talking about your dreams or plans only goes so far. Do you want to run a marathon or lose weight? Do you need a better job? Are you looking to make more friends? Then go out there and do it. Nothing annoys me more than people sitting around just talking about stuff they want to accomplish or do. ACTION MEANS EVERYTHING. 

  28. Everything gets better when you stop caring what other people think. This is easier said than done and there are times I find myself taking two steps forward and one step back when it comes to this, but I strive for it every day. I’m in constant pursuit of no one else having power over my life except for me.

  29. Gossip gets you nowhere. I know, I know. Sometimes it feels good to vent and get it out of your system. Plus gossip is a quick way to bond with other people. But the older I get the more gross I feel after gossiping about someone or something. I feel negative and simple minded. I know it’s hard, but try to stay away from it.

  30. Confidence comes with age. I’m not saying that once you achieve a certain level of confidence that you’ll never slide back into old patterns, because there are times that confidence does fluctuate. Instead I believe that the older you get and the better you know yourself – the more confident you become across all aspects of your life. I remember standing outside of a coworker’s office rehearsing what I was going to say because I was so nervous to ask for clarification about a project. (Granted I was 23-years-old and brand new at the company.) But today I would never hesitate to ask questions or for clarification when it comes to work. Confidence is a skill. It takes years of training to improve and constant practice to maintain.

Our Mini Retreat to Getaway House

Travel

You’ve seen the Instagram ads.

Cozy couples posing in front of a giant window, surrounded by trees. Friends laughing and snuggled together around a bonfire. A tiny cabin, nestled in the forest with an inspirational quote about disconnecting…

We’re talking about Getaway House – the new, tiny cabin camping destination of millennials.

We wondered, was this place as Instagram worthy as advertised or was it a scam? Would we be isolated in a tiny field without wifi or cell service? Would we be sitting ducks just waiting for a killer to come for us??

Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief because we did live to tell about it.

Overall we were pleasantly surprised by how fantastic, accommodating and neat the entire experience was! Read on to get the details about what Getaway House is all about.

The venue and campsite

Hubby and I escaped to Getaway House for a night in November. The closest site to us was in Lisbon, Ohio. (About an hour and 30 minutes outside of Cleveland.) We headed out on a Sunday night because we had Monday off work.

Getaway House is extremely easy to contact and their response time is quick. As soon as you book they will send you a confirmation text and encourage you to reach out with any additional questions.

The day before our reservation I texted the number because I had a question about what type of coffee to bring. I received a reply back within a few minutes. (FYI: pack instant coffee if you’re bringing your own, or you can pay and use the stuff they provide in your cabin.)

The closer we got to the venue the more I was expecting to lose cell service, but we pulled right onto the site with perfect reception. We didn’t stop to double check, but it looked like there were a few buildings at the front of the site where people were working, maybe cleaning or administrative staff . There might have been a small store there too and I bet someone stayed the night in one of those buildings. Either way, we felt safe and like there was somewhere we could go if need be.

We drove around the site to get our bearings and were surprised to see that there were close to 20 other tiny cabins. They were pretty decently spaced out, with either trees or mounds of landscaping between cabins.

A couple hours before you check-in, Getaway House texts you the name of the cabin you’ll be staying in along with a map of the venue and a code to unlock the door. We were staying in “Bennie” and found it easily. (Cue singing *Bennie and the jets* all night long.)

We had neighbors on both sides of us, but everyone waved and was friendly.

Check-in was at 3 p.m. and checkout the following morning was at 11 a.m.

(To help maximize our time we arrived at 3:15 a.m.  and seriously didn’t close the door to leave our cabin until 10:58 a.m. the next morning!)

I would say that the timing of check-in/checkout is one bummer of Getaway House. I wish we could have checked in earlier in the day – like noon or 1 p.m. Also because it gets dark around 4:30 in the evenings now, we didn’t have much daylight to explore once we got there.  

Still, when we opened the cabin with our key code, we were greeted with a handwritten note from the staff, a folder of information (including hiking trails) and even a little s’mores kit! It was so cute and we were excited because the cabin was really cool.

We unloaded a few bags and put the food we brought in the small refrigerator in the cabin. Then we took a quick hike on a trail that ran down into a valley that our cabin happened to overlook. There was a river and also a pound and we saw a few people walking with their dogs on the trail. Everyone was friendly.

When it started to get dark we headed back to our cabin and began to make a bonfire. Hubby started boiling some water for pasta and I cozied up with a glass of wine and turned on the cabin radio. We found an amazing classic rock station and danced, sang and drank for the next several hours. It was chilly out, but the bonfire helped keep us warm and I took a plaid blanket from the bed outside to cover up.

The tiny cabin itself

The cabin provided a lot of great accommodations, including pasta, pasta sauce, oatmeal, tea, coffee, beef jerky, Swedish fish, fire starters and firewood.

And since we brought our dog, they had set out two bowls, waste bags and a little baggie of s’more flavored dog treats – a cute touch! There was also a garbage can inside and a picnic table and two Adirondack chairs outside.

The only thing we ended up using was a bundle of firewood. (Once you checkout Getaway House takes a tally of what you used during your stay and charges your credit card on file. There was also a price list in the cabin for reference. The next day after we checked out I saw a charge for $6.50 – the price of the firewood.)

The cabin was tiny, but it was rustic and adorable. Of course I went in expecting it to be small, but the minute my husband, myself AND the dog were all inside I started to feel like we were running out of space.

I’m not sure if the 4-person (double bed) cabins are any bigger in terms of space and I’m not sure I’d like to find out! If I felt cramped in the 2-person cabin, I couldn’t imagine 4 adults and additional dogs being in there. There would be no privacy whatsoever if you had 4 adults. Plus the bathroom is standing room only for one person. I just think it would be VERY crowded.

The bed next to the giant window was one of the best parts of the cabin. I loved lying there drinking coffee the next morning and taking pictures. You can also draw the blinds at night, which we did.

The tiny cabin is equipped with a tiny kitchenette, including: a fridge, two burner stove, tea kettle, sink,  cabinets that house plates, silver wear, cups, a pot, pan and the food for sale.

There’s a radio, a phone to make emergency calls (even though we had cell service the entire time) and 6 or 7 interesting little books. Getaway House also provides bath towels, hand soap, shampoo and conditioner.

The good thing is, if you truly don’t want to worry about a thing on your mini trip, Getaway House provides most of your accommodations. (Even random stuff such as a lighter to start the fire, olive oil, coffee mugs and paper towels.)

We had a little trouble with the heat at first, but eventually it kicked on and the tiny little cabin warmed up rather nicely. (It also has AC for when it’s hot outside.)

Personally I’d love to go back during the winter, maybe in February because I think it would be beautiful in the snow. I’d also like to visit for a a long weekend in the summer.

How much does Getaway House cost?

I was a little disappointed because the day before our reservation I found two coupons – one for 15% off and another for $25 off. I debated calling Getaway House and asking if they would honor the discount after I had already booked, but time got away from me and I never ended up doing it.

Pro tip: Google or search on Instagram for discount codes. Some social media influencers will even post their own Getaway House discount code. 

Over all, Getaway House is pretty comparable to a hotel in terms of pricing.

From what I saw in the Cleveland market (and in the off-season: October, November, December), prices ranged from $119 to $199 a night.

Adding your dog to the mix will cost you an additional $40 and I believe there was some sort of cleaning fee (maybe $30 or $40) tacked on too.

In the end, our one night stay at Getaway House for two adults and one dog costs us $236.

It’s a bit pricey for our family in terms of camping because we’re already big campers to begin with. We often camp 30 minutes from our house for about $20 a night, oppose to driving over an hour away and paying over $200. Still, it was a great experience and worth checking out at least once.

In the end, Getaway House is as Instagram worthy as it looks. You’re safe and not isolated alone in the woods and you’re well taken care. It’s a glamping dream!

Fitness is Awesome

Miscellaneous

This is the first springtime in five years that I’m not starting a training plan for an upcoming race (or already in a training plan for that matter). It’s a very strange feeling not having any sort of “swim, bike, run” structure as the weather is starting to break from the long winter.

You mean I don’t have to study an Excel sheet every week and religiously record my mileage and heart rate zones?! There’s no countdown app on my phone sending me aggressive notifications that the race is just “X” weeks away??

Nope. I am free to do as I wish. And I have been. And it’s been awesome!

I’m definitely having a blast with this “new normal” level of training.

At the end of January some friends and I signed up for ClassPass. (And no, although I wish this was a paid advertisement — it’s not.) ClassPass really is as awesome as I’m about to tell you it is.

ClassPass is a mobile app that lets you book classes with different fitness studios and gyms around your zip code. Membership includes a free one-month trial and then switches to monthly fees, which range from $29 to $79.

This is genius for someone like me who likes to switch things up.

Sorry spin studio, I love you, but there’s absolutely no way I’d ever purchase your monthly unlimited ride package. I’d die of boredom if that’s all I was ever doing. And for the price they charge? It better be!! With ClassPass, my home gym and a normal gym membership ($10 a month, hmm guess where I go??) I’m able to fit in so many different workouts. I’m never doing the same thing and that’s what makes it so fun.

mirror

My recent training has included:

  • Swimming.
  • Bootcamp.
  • HIIT & circuit classes.
  • Crossfit.
  • Hot yoga.
  • Kettle bells.
  • Running (always, duh).
  • Outdoor biking & hiking.
  • Cardio kickboxing & combat conditioning.
  • Spinning.
  • Versa climbers.
  • Lifting.
  • I even busted out a surprise half marathon!

If there was ever a time to fall back in love with fitness (and to get my post-Ironman mind right) — it’s now.

And this couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, because just as I was starting to feel the itch for a training plan — I suddenly had all these options available at my fingertips. I’m valuing the fact that I have so much freedom and I’m not confined to just swim, bike, run for the next several months.

Although don’t get me wrong — that Ironman finish line is ADDICTING. And I think there will always be a part of me that wants to chase that high. But for now, I am learning to love fitness — the whole general term of it. To move my body and sweat to feel good, not just for a specific race or finish line.

No training plans, no time limits, no mileage expectations. I show up when I can (which is usually 6 to 7 days a week) and I put in work. The intensity is always there because, hey, that’s just who I am, but this balance feels really good!

CHEERS!

Find a New Pace

Miscellaneous

Raise your hand if your entire life has gone exactly as planned.

Raise your hand if every race you’ve ever done went exactly as expected.

I’ve watched in both excitement and horror as life events have unfolded before my eyes. Some things have gone off without a hitch, exactly how I had imagined and planned. While other events and twists have fallen apart without warning.

It’s like this in races too. With Ironman you have a set plan, but sometimes things just fall apart no matter how much you prepare. A smart person never goes into an Ironman thinking “I’m just going to wing this and hope for the best.” There is a lot of planning involved in long course races. Your nutrition is timed out to the exact hour and mile. Your paces are calculated with fluid intake. You have race plans A, B and C regarding weather and heat. You train. You plan. You set goals. You chase dreams. You always plan for your best race and for perfect conditions, yet so rarely does race day arrive and everything go this way.

It’s just not realistic.

Somewhere during the course of the day you will miss a pace. You will get tired. You will freak out. The heat will get to you. The road will seem too tough. Lots of things will go wrong. But do you throw in the towel when things don’t go exactly as planned? Do you hit mile 100 and think “Nah, this isn’t the race I trained for. This isn’t the time goal I wanted for myself”? Some people quit like this. But never in my wildest dreams could I imagine doing that.

Just because things don’t go as planned doesn’t mean the entire experience and all the effort is wasted.

And it’s like this in life too. Times when rejection feels tough. When opportunities that you had wanted so tremendously fall right through your fingers. Days where the rules are hard and fast and it doesn’t seem fair. Again you think “Nah, this isn’t how it was supposed to be. This isn’t the outcome I wanted.” And do you give up then?

Of course not.

With life and in races — just because the wheels fall off somewhere along the way doesn’t mean the entire experience is wasted and race day is ruined. The race and the opportunity is still salvageable.

Sometimes you just need to focus on playing the cards you were dealt. You can drive yourself crazy thinking about how unfair it was or you can waste your energy looking for someone to blame. Or you can adjust your attitude accordingly and show up for yourself.

Instead you develop a new mindset and new plan. So you adjust the brim of your hat and find a new pace. Maybe it wasn’t the pace you had trained for, but forward is still the direction you’re headed. You consult your race plans and see that plans A, B and C didn’t work. So you accept it and focus on what’s next. Maybe that’s race plans D, E or F. But those plans are your new opportunities, despite how you got there.

Even in crappy races I have still looked up and felt lucky to be out there. Even when I felt like my lungs were burning and every step was forced, I still felt grateful to feel the sun on me. And in life now, even when I feel frustrated by the details and how things played out for me, it doesn’t mean it’s the end. I still have an opportunity. Life is still good. My heart is still beating. Things will be ok.

Failure is only an attitude. It is not the final outcome. You must learn to move forward  with a new pace, a new attitude and a new race plan.

Smiling at the spectators never hurts either 😉

2018 Book Review

Reading

It was my goal to read at least 10 books in 2018. I’m happy that I closed out the year finishing 15 different books. To some this number may be pathetic, but to me it was challenging. The temptation to sit on my phone and scroll aimlessly before bed was hard to break by pulling out a book instead. However it was always rewarding and reading proved much better use of my time than looking at my phone or binging Netflix. I hope to keep this habit in 2019.

I also really want to focus on writing more and I know that as an inspiring writer I should always be reading something!

So here’s my quick book review of all 15 books! I tried not to give away too much 😉

Book #1
The Iron Cowboy: Redefine Impossible
By: James Lawrence
As a fellow Ironman, I was drawn to this book. Redefine Impossible is a memoir from James Lawrence, the Iron Cowboy. He completed 50 Ironman distance triathlons in 50 days in 50 states. This book is a detailed look back on the good, the bad and the ugly of that summer. I actually saw James in state #39 in Ohio, so I was particularly interested in reading his story. It brought me back to the days of training for my first Ironman! I was really impressed with learning about his support crew, but often times I felt bad for his wife and family. I know from personal experience that Ironman is a selfish sport, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around what he asked his family to do. I also found it interesting to learn more about how he set up the races — from getting state ambassadors, to hounding companies to be sponsors. If I’m being honest this book altered my view on the whole 50 triathlons journey. He talked about burning bridges with friends, fighting with his wife and he lashed out often because of his irritability and general exhaustion (I mean I can’t really blame him!) Overall I do feel like this book tainted my view of the Iron Cowboy, which I found slightly disappointing, but I am glad I read this book and got a sneak peek into his mind and journey. I would recommend this book to any endurance athlete.

Book #2
Bossypants
By: Tina Fey
I purchased this book and tried to read it a few different times, but I just couldn’t get into it. The problem is, this book is written like standup comedy and it didn’t “read” as funny to me. It read as annoying and in long, run-on sentences. Determined to read it because I love Tina Fey, I picked up the audio book and decided that listening to it might be easier. And it was!! The audio book (read by Tina) was so much better and more entertaining. I found myself laughing out loud and reciting some of the stories to my husband later on. It felt like I was listening to her comedy act. But I don’t think I ever would have gotten through it without the audio book.

Book #3
The Outward Mindset
By: The Arbinger Institute
Our whole marketing department at work read this book.  We had a month to read it and then attended a facilitated book discussion regarding it. For being forced to read it as part of “work” it wasn’t terrible. Basically the entire book boiled down to this — Think about others and treat others as you would like to be treated. The whole principle is that organizations flourish under the thought leaderships of “outward” mindsets. AKA taking other people’s needs, feelings, etc. into consideration. When we stop focusing on our own wants and needs and start to think outward towards other’s wants and needs, everything else will fall into place. It seems a little bit too rainbows and butterflies, but I get the general message behind it.

Book #4
Heaven is for Real
By: Todd Burpo
This is the “true” story of a 4-year-old boy named Colton who had a near death experience. Supposedly Colton went to visit Jesus in heaven for a little bit. It was a really cool concept and well written, since Colton’s dad tells the story from his perspective. I am not sure how I feel about the actual thing happening though. In my heart I want to believe it’s real. The dad is a pastor at a church so you can’t help but think…well maybe the dad just wanted the fame and income from a story like this? But then you feel like an A-hole for thinking like that and the idea that it might actually have happened is really cool. My favorite parts of the book include Colton explaining that he met his unborn sister in heaven (who he later finds out “died in mommy’s tummy”) and when he explains meeting his Great Grandpa (who he never met when he was alive). This book is a quick read and left me wondering — could that have actually happened???

Book #5
The Wife Between Us
By: Sarah Pekkanen & Greer Hendricks
I had to wait a few weeks to get this audio book on OverDrive, but it was well worth the wait. The story concept kept me intrigued for the first half of the book, and by the second half it developed into a page turner. The main character is mysterious at first and there are bits and pieces of odd information and clues laced throughout the book. The ending loops everything together and the story comes full circle. It was a deep story line and covered the topics of mental illness, abuse, death and the development of two people in a toxic relationship. This is one of my highest recommended books!

Book #6
Irish Eyes
By: Mary Kay Andrews
*LEAST FAVORITE BOOK OF 2018*
I have read and loved several books by this author, but I almost stopped reading Irish Eyes multiple times. The story line was slow and I found some of the characters super annoying. Also the audio reader made some of the character’s voices almost unbearable to listen to. It took me almost two months to finish this book, but I was determined because I had already invested so much time. Only around chapter 14 did the book get vaguely interesting. The story line covers a string of robberies and a murder in Atlanta. After a series of weird clues, we find out that it seems like the Atlanta Police Department is strangely linked to everything happening. The main character, who annoyed me because she was just so stupidly stubborn, helps to solve the crime. I will say the ending is pretty disappointing and wasn’t very uplifting. The book ended and I seriously said out loud, “Wait really?? That’s it?

Book #7
Any Dream Will Do
By: Debbie Macomber
This book was a cool concept because it switched points of view between the two main characters — who wind up falling in love with each other. It was neat to have insight into each character as their relationship progresses throughout the story. I also like that one of the main characters is a pastor and you get to peek into his world of leading a church. There was a nice little God link that I appreciated and a good message that tied it all together at the end. It was a light and uplifting read!

 

Book #8
Primates of Park Avenue
By: Wednesday Martin
This book looked interesting to me because I love New York City. It was a little different because I typically don’t like memoirs.I found the book funny and slightly tacky — but still good, does that make sense?! LOL. It tells the stories of the author’s experience living in and raising children in New York City. Parts of it are written like a field guide describing animal behavior, which I thought was an interesting and funny concept.

 

Book #9
Leaving Time
By: Jodi Picoult
I’ve read a few books by this author and as soon as I started reading this one I remembered why I like her books so much. She writers so beautifully and her story lines are always thought provoking and deep. This story instantly hooked me and actually scared me a few times! It was really intriguing and it’s written with just enough suspense that it wasn’t cheesy since it kinnnnndddaaaa deals with ghosts. (I promise it’s not cheesy like Casper.) But that’s all I’ll give away! It also ends with a weird plot twist that I didn’t see coming.

Book #10
Paris For One & Other Stories
By: Jojo Moyes
I loved this book! The first of the short stories is the longest and about Paris — hence the name. Since we had just come back from Paris I found it very interesting because I knew most of the places they were referencing. I’ve never read a book with multiple short stories before and it really kept my attention. There were so many cute characters introduced and I loved that they were all based in London. Many of the stories had a deeper and intriguing theme. One of the shorter stories I really liked was called “Crocodile Shoes” which follows a women who accidentally switches shoes with someone and they transform her life. Funny, cute little stories with deeper meaning — it made for a quick read.

Book #11
Luckiest Girl Alive
By: Jessica Knoll
*FAVORITE BOOK OF 2018!!!*
This book came recommended to me on the Overdrive App, and without even reading the summary I decided I was just going to go with it. I realized I’d never not known what a book is going to be about, which really intrigued me as I continued. Jessica Knoll may be my new favorite author. She wrote this book so hilariously, yet it’s so dark and twisty. I cannot get over it! The main character goes through so much pain and growth before the reader’s eyes. It switches between past memories and present day and as the story unfolds you see where exactly the pieces add up. It’s incredible and so well thought out. And as the story comes to a turning point you find out what exactly happened in the past. I legit gasped out loud! Then I couldn’t sleep that night because I was thinking about what had happened in the story. You guys — THIS IS A MUST READ. It’s Sex and the City mixed with a murdery action/love movie. Your heart goes out to the main character and there’s so many themes that any one who has ever survived middle school will relate to. It’s a really, really incredible book.

Book #12
Sisters Like Us
By: Susan Mallery
This was a cute little story! Anyone looking for a lighthearted read would love this book. It has some good themes, but isn’t over the top and is easy to follow. You see the characters evolve and the ending is very sweet and leaves you feeling good. I was slightly annoyed by one of the main characters, Harper, who I basically wanted to scream at to get a backbone — but she ended up redeeming herself in the end. It was also vaguely predictable, but again it was a cute and light read.

 

Book #13
Girl, Wash Your Face
By: Rachel Hollis
I had to give this book a try since everyone was talking about it. I think this book was good, however it wasn’t the life changing life manuscript that many made it out to be. Also I really don’t know why she named the book like she did. I think she made one comment about washing your face in it?? But I still picked up a few knowledge nuggets and was inspired to keep trying to write more. I also liked the chapter about the lie you tell yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow.” — as I was reading this chapter I looked up to see two big baskets of laundry that I was procrastinating putting away. You better believe I put those clothes away after I finished the chapter!

Book #14
Because of Bethlehem
By: Max Lucado
I read this book three years ago and really liked it. I think I may have started reading it last Christmas too, but never finished it. This holiday season I was determined to read it all again and I’m glad I did. Obviously this is a christian book, so it was chalked full with pieces of advice and wisdom about preparing your heart to celebrate the birth of Christ. It was very  “Jesus is the reason for the season”, but you know what? Sometimes we need the reminder in the hustle and bustle of Christmas! I am a big fan of Max Lucado.

Book #15
Angels at the Table
By: Debbie Macomber
I don’t think I’ve read any other “fantasy” book besides Harry Potter. So when I read the summary of this book and learned it was about a couple of angels, I decided to give it a try. It was pretty cute, yet very predictable. I would relate it to a traditional Hallmark Christmas movie. I wanted to read something cute and festive and that’s just what this book was.

London, Paris & Greece 2018 Review

Travel

We made it! We traveled to London, Paris, Greece and back. It only took 5,000 miles, 7 flights, 1 train and 1 unplanned bus ride later.

{Also it has been over four months since our trip if I am being completely transparent!!}

The funny thing about traveling though is that it makes you feel like the world is so big, yet so small at the exact same time. You know that your work, your friends and your life are all still going on back home, yet you are suddenly mesmerized with the glimpse of other people’s “normal”. It’s a weird feeling.

Traveling opens your heart and soul to possibilities. Every time I think of our trip I think of a F. Scott Fitzgerald quote from The Great Gatsby (one of my all-time favorite books and movies)…

There is this big, giant world out there. How sad it would be to never see it or experience it. There are so many facets of life. Cities, people, careers and paths. I was enchanted and yet repelled (by how lucky I am) about how much variety there is in life. It’s incredible and daunting to think about! You can literally do anything, be anyone or live anywhere.

But enough about soul searching. I think it happens to everyone when you travel for 2+ weeks! (And I image it’s even crazier when you actually live overseas for a period of time.) Here’s a first hand look at our journey to London, Paris, Greece and then back to little ‘ole Cleveland, Ohio…

Tuesday, July 31 — Journey to London 
We flew out from Cleveland on Icelandic Air. It was six hours to Iceland with a 2 hour layover and then another three hours to land at Heathrow in London (the busiest airport in the world). My husband and I flew out with my parents and my brother was meeting us in London. Our flight was basically our “overnight” so we tried to sleep as much as possible because when we landed it would be Wednesday morning in London. Our layover in Iceland was short and uneventful — which is a good type of layover to have!

I thought both of these pictures over Iceland were particularly cool, especially because the first one has the full moon. It blew my mind to think it was the same moon that I had run under during the Burning River Relay just two nights before — and now the same moon was over Iceland where we were about to land. Not long after the moon picture the sun was up. (I guess the sun is up full time in Iceland during that time of year!)

Wednesday, August 1 — London, England
Once we landed in London and met up with my brother we took the “tube” into the city. We rode the subway the majority of time while in London. This saved us a great deal of time because we were only there for about 28 hours. However when we left I kind of felt like we didn’t really “see” a great deal of London just because we weren’t driving around. The tube was probably the most time efficient though. “Mind the Gap” became a typical expression in our little traveling clan.

My brother greeting us in London.

Once we checked into our hotel we quickly showered, changed and were back out the door. We stayed at this little hotel/apartment within a mile or so of Buckingham Palace. The place was questionable, but it fit all five of us and it was close to most of the things we wanted to see. Plus we were there only to sleep so it would do!

This was the street our hotel/apartment was on. Cute and quiet yet super close to most of the big attractions.

We started out toward Buckingham Palace. We walked past a few cute tea shops and saw The Royal Mews, also know as the royal stables where all of the royal horses live. I couldn’t believe we were there! Then suddenly we were in front of Buckingham Palace and it was surreal! I couldn’t believe all of the history and that Harry and Meghan’s wedding had filled these streets only a few months before. I tried to imagine what it was like at the exact same spot during the weddings of Charles and Diana and William and Kate. (I may or may not have been freaking out.)

We continued walking around and strolled through St. James Park. We didn’t really know where we were walking to, but we were a little tired and hungry so our main goal was to find a “pub”. We ended up walking past Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and The London Eye. Almost everything was in full scaffolding though and we laughed at our timing and luck. Of course!

After walking a little off the beaten path we finally found a pub that we liked. By then it was after 5PM and it was cool to see people meeting for happy hour after work. I kept wondering if any of the people were marketing professionals! For dinner everyone (besides me) had the traditional fish and chips while I got a veggie burger. (I just can’t get down with fried fish!) The group was fading a little bit from jet lag but we were determined to tough it out since our time in London was so limited.

We walked around for the next several hours and grabbed drinks on the street (since there aren’t open container laws there!!) It was really neat to leisurely walk along the water and people watch.

We strolled on the true “London Bridge” which isn’t very exciting FYI, plus it wasn’t falling down 🙂 We walked across Tower Bridge and then walked the outside of The Tower of London. (Note: it took me a couple tries to understand the difference between all three of these sites!) Tower Bridge was built in 1066!! We enjoyed reading all the plaques along the outer side and I wish we would have had time to go inside. London has a deep (and kind of dark) history. I couldn’t believe all of the events that had taken place right where we were standing.

Once it was dark out we made our way back to our hotel and as soon as we were there everyone started crashing. I laid down and closed my eyes briefly, only to be woken up by my brother demanding I wake up. We discussed going to Piccadilly Circus, but the jet lag was too much for everyone. I guess Piccadilly Circus is like the Time’s Square of London. I’ve been to Time’s Square before and it was a bit overwhelming, so I wasn’t too upset we missed it in London.

Thursday, August 2 — Rest of London & Traveling to Paris
We woke up on Thursday knowing we had until about 5PM to see the rest of London. We were out the door by 9AM and stopped at a cute little cafe for breakfast. Our Buckingham Palace Tour was at 10:30AM.

Outside of an adorable cafe in London.

After chasing down our tour (that we still somehow managed to be late for), we saw the changing of the guards. That ceremony was long and hot, but still interesting. Then we walked the gardens of Buckingham Palace and heard about the rich history of the Royal Family (who have lived at BP since 1837!!).

Next it was our turn to officially enter the BP. Tours are only held when the Queen is away and she happened to be away on summer holiday when we were there. BP flies a specific flag when she is home so people know. I was like a giddy school girl as we waited in line and walked through security. It was a self guided audio tour, so we just walked around silently with headphones listening to the audio clips.

Last picture I got before I was asked to put my phone away. Royal family pictures in the hall!!

THE TOUR WAS SO COOL!!! But pictures weren’t allowed 😦

I kept reacting to the audio tour only to realize I was screaming I was so excited. My husband kept “shhhh-ing” me. I was pretty excited to say the least. We got to go into 16 rooms. The Palace is immaculate with crown modeling and renaissance paintings and decor. Everything was gold and red and OLD…but beautiful. We exited the tour into more royal gardens and of course had to go to the gift shop. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a souvenir more than I did at BP. Unfortunately I thought everything was too overpriced or too tacky. I found the royal wedding souvenirs to be super entertaining!

After we were done with Buckingham Palace we walked around some more. I knew Cleveland Clinic London was close by so we swung by and visited the site. Then finally I convinced our group to have lunch at this adorable little tea room. We had tea (even though it was 90 degrees out), prosecco, sandwiches, scones and dessert. It might have been my favorite meal of our entire trip just because it was so very London.

After lunch we headed out towards St. Paul’s Cathedral, where Prince Charles and Princess Diana got married.

Finally we made our way back to the hotel where we stored our bags for the day. After we picked up our bags we got back on the tube and arrived at the train station to take the chunnel (aka Euro Star) to Paris. This train goes 186 miles per hour and is super smooth. It was a two hour ride with stunning views of the french country side as we bolted towards Paris.

When we arrived in Paris is was after midnight and we were very tired. Little did we know we would soon encounter an unfortunate event…

The husband and I told our group we were heading to the bathroom and asked if they could watch our bags. We went to the bathroom (after laughing because you had to pay a euro to use it) and walked back over to where our bags were when we were done. Within seconds we realized that my husband’s book bag was gone!! THANKFULLY his wallet, passport and cell phone were all in his pocket, but that was just a consolation prize in feeling very violated and being taken for granted 😦

It was a miscommunication between our group trying to coordinate additional train tickets to get to our hotel. But it was still very frustrating. It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds for the bag to disappear, which makes us think that someone had been following us or watching us. The scary thing was it was an international train station so anyone could walk in and walk out without security or even having a ticket. It was probably someone looking for the right moment — and we sure gave it to them. Afterwards we tried to report it stolen with the police, but it was very late and the language barrier was tough.

The last picture of my husband’s book bag! This was leaving London.

With heavy hearts we got on another train and made our way deeper into Paris. When we got off that train we walked another few blocks to our hotel. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of being taken advantage of because we were tourists. We went to bed upset that night and hoped to wake up with a lighter attitude.

Friday, August 3 — Paris Day 1
We woke up on Friday morning determined to give Paris another chance. The sun was shining and it was going to be 90 that day. We had our first Parisian breakfast with ALL THE CARBS (baguette, bread, croissant!) After that we made our way over to the bus tours and purchased the hop-on-hop off 2-day pass. We planned to see the Eiffel Tower first. We sat up on top of the double decker bus and I loved cruising the streets of Paris in the warm sun. The first glimpse I saw of the Eiffel Tower made me tear up — I couldn’t believe we were finally there and I felt so lucky!!

We stood in line waiting for tickets for about five minutes — until we realized the tickets for taking the stairs oppose to the elevator was a fraction of the wait time. So up we climbed! 1,710 steps! In 90 degree heat. In the sun. Me in a dress.

But it was a glorious day and the tower was everything I imagined it to be.

After spending several hot hours at the ET, we rode the bus back to where our hotel was, which was super close to Notre Dome. We realized the line to get in was going super fast so we jumped in and were inside in less than five minutes!

Besides being very dark inside, I thought the church looked similar to many of the Italian churches we had visited in Florence. Of course the child in me kept thinking about Disney’s Hunch Back of Notre Dome.

On the walk back to our hotel we stopped in a few cafes and stopped to get wine and snacks. We spent the next few hours sitting out on the hotel balcony relaxing. Later that night my husband, brother and I went out to dinner around 11PM. Because when in Paris why not?? We randomly just walked until we found a place we wanted to stop at. It was so fun being out late in the middle of Paris. We drank wine and tried escargot!

Saturday, August  4 — Second Day in Paris
After another Parisian, carb-filled breakfast we headed off to explore Montmarte. It was another hot sunny day and we were glad to take the bus instead of walking.

The climb up to Montmarte includes 300 steps, so when we made our way to the top, we were sweating just like when we climbed the Eiffel Tower. It was such a cute and neat little place though. We walked through the church at the top (The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris) and then proceeded to walk through the little streets of the town. We stopped to shop and eat. I even tried a true Parisian crepe!

We got back to our hotel in the late afternoon and had time to shower and then get re-ready to go back out. We wanted to go to a nice dinner and see the Eiffel Tower at night. We rode the bus out again and strolled along The Avenue des Champs-Elysees. (One of the most famous and rich streets in the world!) We walked a bit to get away from the super touristy area and settled on a nice little restaurant on a corner street. It happened to be right next to the tunnel where Princess Diana was killed (the Pont de I’Alma.) Afterwards we visited the site of the crash and it was very strange and sad. I love the royal family, especially stories of Princess Diana.

We made our way over to a bridge with a picturesque view of the Eiffel Tower. We bought a bottle of champagne from a street vendor and waited until the ET was lit up. It was a magical and incredible night!

Sunday, August 5 — Final Day in Paris & Traveling to Greece
On our last day in Paris, we knew we had to go to The Louvre. But not before we had more carbs for breakfast!

We were able to walk to the famous museum and it was only in the 80s that day. We checked out of our hotel and left our bags with the front desk.

After a 20-minute wait we were inside the museum, which I didn’t think was overly crowded like I expected it to be — probably because it’s so massive inside!

When we were done at the museum we got our bags from the hotel and took the train to Charles de Gaulle Airport. I was a little sad to be leaving Paris as it had grown on me despite our first night, but I was also excited to explore Greece. After five days of going non-stop it would be nice to relax a little on a beach, but not before we saw Athens.

We boarded our plane in Paris and landed in Athens around 11:30PM. We had to split up taking a taxi so my husband and I went in one car and my parents and brother in another. We learned a valuable lesson that night — to make sure you negotiate the cost of the drive before getting in a cab! Because a $60 ride was suddenly upped to $75 after a shady cab driver explained he charged for bags and that he took the freeway which was extra! (Seriously?!)

We stayed at Hotel Apollo, which seemed to be in a sketchy area in Athens, but the service and people working were excellent and more than made up for it.

Monday, August 6 — Athens Part 1
We woke up early on our first morning in Greece knowing it was going to be a long, hot day of sightseeing. We were able to see the Acropolis, which housed the Parthenon and the temple of Athena. The Acropolis area is HUGE and a pretty vigorous hike. Mix this with 90 degree heat, no shade and lots of crowds and you’re gonna need to take it nice and slow. After the Acropolis our traveling clan found a nice little restaurant and had authentic gyros — which were pretty incredible. The rest of the group wanted to stay and walk around this cute little downtown area, so the husband and I opted to walk another 3 miles and visited Hadrian’s Arch.

After we exhausted ourselves walking around Athens all day, it was time to make our way back to Hotel Apollo where we stored our suitcases for the day. We were concerned with getting ripped off on a cab ride again so we asked the front desk for assistance. They were THE nicest people! They called around and got us a great deal on a van to the airport and negotiated the price for us (without a weird mysterious up charge for bags and freeway driving!!) The hotel may not be in the best area of Athens, but they were incredibly friendly and helpful. I’m happy to support an honest business like that.

From the Athens airport, we took a 40-minute plane ride to Santorini — a beautiful Greek island known for honeymoons. Another van was waiting to pick us up (since the other half of our large group was already there) and it drove us to our AirBnB. We were staying in a traditional Greek hillside vila — which was legit carved out of the rocky hillside. The villa had no glass windows or AC, but was still very cool inside since it was made out of rock. The villa was set off quite a bit from the road and it was very dark out when we arrived. We had to walk a long cobblestone path and even through a wine field (not even kidding), but we finally made it! We were diffidently not in a super touristy area and were surrounded by locals — except for the group of Australians vacationing in the villa next to us!

Entrance to our villa!

A few people from our larger group came over to greet us that night when we got settled, but since it was pretty late no one stayed long and we all quickly turned in for the night.

Tuesday, August 7
We slept in a little this morning, which felt SO nice because we had been going non-stop before we got to Santorini. The AirBnB stocked our fridge so we made coffee and eggs and sat out on our patio for breakfast.

After breakfast we walked a little over a mile to our group’s other AirBnB. Their view was incredible, overlooking the bright blue waters of the Aegean Sea. We had a pretty low key day — day drinking in the sun and jumping in and out of the “cooling” tub on the back patio. Everyone along the coast had these tubs because it was 95 degrees out!

We walked to lunch, took a few naps and ended up going out for drinks in downtown Santorini (also called Oia) later that night. My brother and his partner went out separately for dinner and around 10PM I got a text that they had gotten engaged at dinner! What an awesome proposal! We met up with them and drank champagne as we walked back to the AirBnB. The night was warm and it was an amazing first day in Santorini.

Wednesday, August 8
Another morning of sleeping in felt good and once again we made breakfast at our AirBnB. (This was actually such a fantastic idea and it saved us a lot of money!)

We rented ATVs with the group and spent the day cruising around the island. We stopped for lunch at a random little gyro place, which was delicious. We drove to the beach and got in the water. We stopped at the oldest winery in Santorini and took a tour and did a tasting.

After the ATV tour we showered and went back to our group’s other AirBnB. We then had THE MOST incredible meal I think I’v ever had. Six courses prepared by a private chef on the patio overlooking the sea. It was such a fun dinner. We drank a lot and laughed even more. After dinner we convinced the chef to meet us out in downtown Oia to show us the nightlife of the island. We met him out and had the best time dancing the night away at a tiny (but packed) dance club in Santorini. It was my favorite day/night of the entire trip. We met so many great people and I remember dancing with and hugging an awesome couple from London. What an amazing experience.

Thursday, August 9
I was really looking forward to this day because we had planned a private boat and snorkeling cruise. This was also my husband and I’s last day before we started heading back early to attend a friend’s wedding. (The rest of the group would be continuing on to Mykonos.)

We spent the day sailing, tanning, napping, snorkeling, drinking and having an all around great time! We were also served a traditional Greek dinner while we watched the sunset. It as an amazing last day on our Greek island.

Friday, August 10
My husband and I got picked up around 5AM from our AirBnB in Santorini. Our flight back to Athens was super bright and early. We arrived in Athens around 8AM and took a cab to our hotel. We stayed at the Athens Holiday Inn and the staff was very friendly and accommodating. We were obviously way early for our 3PM check-in, but they worked hard to get us in our room by 10AM! We were very tired and relieved, so we took a two hour nap. When we woke up we were refreshed and ready to explore for a few more hours before making the trek back home. The wonderful front desk staff explained that we could catch the public bus right outside our hotel. We were a little intimidated since this was our first time trying to go somewhere by ourselves in a foreign country, but we laughed our way through it.

We rode the bus to Syntagma Square and spent a few hours walking around, eating and drinking. We stopped and strolled through the national gardens and saw the Panathenaic Stadium, which was built in the 6th century!! (Our minds were blown.) After our day we rode the bus back to our hotel and packed up everything in preparation for another early flight the next morning.

Saturday, August 11
Early that morning we arrived at the Athens airport and everything appeared to be going as planned. We were flying on Turkish Airlines and had a layover in Istanbul. It was only once we were in Turkey, trying to navigate a completely foreign airport, did we realize our flight to Chicago was delayed by over three hours — making us miss our connection from Chicago to Cleveland 😦

Now we had a terrible experience flying back from Italy two summers ago that involved the Chicago O’Hare airport. So this was just not ironic that we’d have issues around that airport again. In fact, we had joked about this happening a few times on our trip, so when it did actually happen we lost it laughing. But our laughter didn’t last long because Turkey Airlines did NOTHING to help us. We sat at the service counter for two hours trying to explain that we would miss our connecting flight and that we needed to get booked on something else. Finally they claimed their printer was broken and they couldn’t print us any boarding passes and we’d have to deal with it in O’Hare. I think they just couldn’t understand our issue, which was so frustrating and honestly kind of scary. We felt like no one really cared about us not being able to get home…

Finally we boarded the plane in Turkey. (After having to pass through the typical airport security and then again in the terminal. It was actually pretty nerve wracking thinking they were doing all this to protect us, but only because the threat was there.)

We needed alcohol ASAP once we finally boarded the plane in Turkey.

Once we landed in Chicago, we had to relive another nightmare of going through customs and running through the airport — only to be told we missed our flight!! The people working customs were ZERO help. We knew there was a plane leaving Chicago for Cleveland in 35 minutes when we landed, yet the airport workers would not move us to the front of the line. Instead we waited almost two hours and missed the last connecting flight to Cleveland for the day!

Fast forward to us trying to sprint to find an open front desk halfway across the airport, only to have to turn around and go back to customs where the only desk open was closing in 20 minutes. We were then told we would have to stay overnight and they could put us on the next flight — at 8PM the next night. Meaning we would have missed the entire wedding that we had left our trip early for. At one point I cried at the front desk (it still didn’t help our case though). The workers were rude, mean and did little to even sympathize with us. I don’t think one person even apologized! We ended up staying the night in Chicago and bought bus tickets to leave the next morning. (So we went from a 40 minute flight to a six hour bus ride that we had to spend extra money on.) We missed our friend’s wedding ceremony, but made it back for the reception, thankfully.

Having a solid and humorous marriage was crucial to those 36 hours we fought to get home! When I was down and crying, my husband would be the positive one saying it was going to be OK and vice versa when he was the one upset. We look back on the whole situation and just laugh at this point!

Who wants to bet us that the next time we travel to Europe, the third time will be the charm and we won’t have issues getting home? 🙂

Still our traveling troubles didn’t spoil the trip! It was an incredible two week adventure. We were lucky to visit three different countries with our family and make awesome memories. We are blessed!

Finally made it home to our friend’s wedding!

Race Review: Relay #7 – Burning River 100 Miler 2018

Miscellaneous, Running

On Saturday I ran as part of a relay for the Burning River 100 mile endurance run.  Believe it or not there are souls that run the whole damn thing by themselves! (I am a crazy triathlete, but DO NOT sign me up to run 100 solo miles, ever.)

There are 8 relays and I ran #7…or also known as the PARTY RELAY!! (I think I just made that up, but #7 is known for its epicness, usually because most people run it at night.)

I would be running 16.1 miles through the trails of Cuyahoga Valley National Park…but here’s the kicker…I would start around midnight. Teams have 28 hours to cover the 100 mile distance. The teams are also responsible for figuring out the logistics of getting their runners to each of the starting and ending lines. (Some people run this as a FOUR person relay oppose to eight!!)

The first relay started early and I was in a group text all day getting updates from all the runners — even the ones running! It was SO MUCH FUN!! The team was so positive and I couldn’t wait for my turn and to experience it. I had never even met my teammates in person either until race day (and never even met a few in person due to timing.) Yet another reason why I love the running and endurance community!

So much positivity and good vibes!

I didn’t end up starting my relay until 1:10AM and I finished slightly before 5AM.

IT WAS EPIC.

Waiting to start my relay at Pine Hollows. They had a big screen playing a movie for the spectators and relay runners — so fun!! I was shocked by how many people were sitting at the relay zones/aid stations.

In a nutshell basically this race/relay was kind of my own personal nightmare, but it was also incredible. Running alone in the woods in the pitch black at night. (Think: Blair Witch Project.) I mean I saw numerous runners out there at different points, but it was not like your typical race where you are always surrounded. I would go 10 or 15 minutes without seeing ANYONE. Sometimes this freaked me out to the point where I was desperately praying to see a headlamp of another runner in front of me.

Meeting up with my teammate who ran Relay #6, Kristin.

Since I knew my relay was going to be in the middle of the night I opted for a headlamp and one of my teammates had suggested Christmas lights on my camel back. The lights were such a hit and people were wishing me a Merry Christmas and calling me a Christmas tree LOL. I’m glad I added these because at the last minute I was debating it. It not only helped runner moral, but it helped me to see!!

Let’s just talk about the darkness for a minute… Pitch black. Like to the point where my headlamp battery died (thankfully I had another with me) and when I changed it, my Christmas lights weren’t even providing me sight coverage in front of me. It was wild. We were in the middle of the freaking woods in the middle of the freaking night. I kept laughing out loud as I ran like how did I get here and what on earth am I doing?? It felt like a dream because I had tunnel vision from my headlamp illuminating the path directly ahead of me. Why would I sign up to run 16.1 of trails in the middle of the night?? But I had THE TIME OF MY LIFE YOU GUYS. So much fun!

We climbed up hillsides and rocks. Jumped over mud pits, rivers and trees. We dodged pricker bushes and rooted trails. I saw and heard people falling, but some how I managed to only trip violently, always catching myself before hitting the ground.

I met so many hilarious people who were so incredible — many who were between miles 70 and 80 of a 100 mile solo race. Some were in good spirits, some wanted to chat, some didn’t say anything and I could tell they were fighting dark mental places of despair. I tried offering encouraging words and prayed for everyone I saw. Going into this relay I had no idea just how ridiculous, amazing and CRAZY this entire race was.

This might have been crazier than even my full Ironman — we’re talking that epic. One of my friends who had run relay #7 before even went so far as to call it “spiritual” . You see the world and yourself in a whole new way. Even with the Ironman I wasn’t running in the pitch black alone, in the woods, at 3AM.

Around mile 14 I had been running alone for quite some time and was starting to climb up a giant hill. Suddenly I heard what sounded like sirens…until I heard the other “dogs” start chiming in with these “sirens” AKA howling…it was a pack of wild coyotes. And judging by how loud they were they must have been close by and it sounded like A LOT of them. I felt panic and fear in my chest and I started sprinting — looking for any sight of headlamps around me. I just wanted to be near someone else because I was so scared. I saw a faint light somewhere a head of me and ran as fast as I could to a girl slowly running the trail. (I felt like I wanted to puke from sprinting the hill), but when she saw me she looked just as scared “DID YOU HEAR THAT?” She asked me. And I explained how scared I was too. We continued on together for the next mile or so, but were were very skid-ish and jumpy. I even took out my mace! We eventually split off, but not first without making the “we’re not out of the woods yet” joke as we promised not to get eaten by coyotes. (Girl was running the 50-miler! Bad ass!)

A few times the wooded trail would open up into a field and the full moon was brilliant, casting an eerie but beautiful glow all around me. Moments like that took my breathe away as I realized just how incredible this entire experience was. I crossed over fields with fog rising and the stars were so clear and vivid. I was speechless at the beauty around me. I knew that not many people got to experience moments like that and I felt so grateful to be one of the lucky few.

Somehow I managed to make it to mile 16.1 and I met my relay exchange teammate, Cohen. She was bringing it home running the last 10 miles to the finish.

I tried to eat something before making the hour drive home, but I had no appetite. I pulled into our driveway at 6AM and felt like I was drunk, but really I was just exhausted and in awe of the entire experience.

What an epic adventure with incredible people. I love being a part of something much bigger than myself.

 

Race Review: Lighthouse Triathlon (Fairport Harbor) 2018

Miscellaneous

I signed up for the Lighthouse Triathlon in Fairport Harbor about a week before it. I’ve been wanting to do this race for a few years now, but I always seem to have something else the same day. This year I was able to swing it, plus it was one of the club races for Cleveland Triathlon Club.

Fairport Harbor earlier in the summer on a clear morning.

We ended up going out the night before on Saturday and I was actively watching the weather for race morning. It looked very likely to be raining when I woke up on Sunday. I figured since it was only $40 and since it was only a sprint, that if it was raining when I woke up then I would cut my loses and just skip the race. We were out until 1AM on Saturday night and when I fell asleep I figured I was more than likely skipping the race…

When I woke up at 5AM on Sunday it was 70 degrees and dry. I was a bit groggy, but I knew I would feel guilty if it wasn’t raining and I didn’t go. I had nothing packed, but got myself together enough to arrive at the beach around 6:45AM. The race was scheduled to start at 8AM. I hadn’t planned to wear my wet suit, but at the last second I grabbed it in case the water was cold due to the rain.

This is what your car looks like when you DON’T pack for a triathlon the night before and you throw everything together and hope for the best.

When I got to the beach it instantly started raining. Of course.

I tried to plaster a smile to my face and gave myself a pep talk. I was already there, no turning back now, so I made my way to packet pickup. This is such a low key triathlon that there was no body marking, nor were there numbers attached to your transition spot — it was basically first come first serve. The ankle timing chips were made out of plastic and I think I spotted only two porta-potties. It was fine though since registration was so cheap.

It started raining pretty heavily and my gear was instantly soaked in transition. I had a few plastic bags with me, which offered some assistance but not much. I was silently thanking myself for grabbing my wet suit because the wind and rain made the water quite choppy. I watched the waves nervously from shore during the pre-race briefing.

It was an age group start and my wave was at 8:15AM. We started in the water, which was pretty cold. I was racing with one of my triathlon friends, Kara, who had done this race numerous times before. She told me that because this race is really newbie friendly — which is great let me add — it just tends to make it a little more difficult for people who know what they are doing. (I.E. slow swimmers who don’t seed correctly, blocking and drafting on the bike, not getting over on the run, not setting up transition correctly, etc.) Kara told me to expect stuff like this all day, which I was thankful for because throughout the race I tried to have more patience for the athletes I saw committing these “crimes”. (This race also has a kayak option for newbies or people who want to compete but don’t want to swim.)

Got to race with my friend Kara for the first time this season!

The Swim: 12:56
The gun went off for the swim and right away I found myself in the middle of combat. In the five years I have been doing triathlon this was one of the most panic inducing swims! Newbie athletes thrashed about, hitting, kicking and pulling. No one was sighting correctly and zigged and zagged all over. Numerous swimmers were just treading water in the way. At one point I even heard a scream! It was a down and back course and when swimmers ahead of me made the turn around a buoy, they started swimming into the direction they just were and head on into other swimmers. It was mayhem. At one point I felt panic rising in my own chest as I was getting pulled down and swam over. I fought with myself  to get it under control because it was only going to be 10 minutes. I swam a little off course to be more by myself and things seemed to calm down a bit. Finally I could see the swim finish and I was relieved to hit the sand, even though it was still raining when I got out of the water.

The Bike: 45:02
I couldn’t believe that a sprint triathlon bike was only 12 miles. (I hadn’t raced a sprint distance since 2015!) It felt like nothing. By the time I got warmed up it was over. It rained off and on during the bike, but it was a flat and fast course that I had ridden before. A couple times I found myself shouting (nicely) at bikers who were riding side by side or down the very middle of the road — making it difficult or impossible to pass. There is one big hill at the very beginning and end of both the bike and run and it was very slippery because of the rain. On the way back in from the bike I could see and feel my tires slipping on the road. It was nerve wrecking!

A picture of me biking NOT in the rain.

The Run: 28:45 
By the time I reached the run I was pretty cold and I didn’t feel like running. I told myself to suck it up because it was only 3.1 miles. We ran another familiar route that I had run before. I saw a bunch of other members of Cleveland Triathlon Club and we all cheered for each other, which added some excitement. The finish line was small and uneventful but I expected it. It has been well over a year since I haven’t raced an Ironman or bigger event and I was used to pretty epic finishes. I almost forgot what these smaller races were like!

Overall: 1 hour 26 minutes
In general I feel like I would have enjoyed this race a lot more had it not been cold and raining. I also wish I had gotten a little more sleep the night before to push harder. I was happy to see teammates from Cleveland Tri Club, but happier to go home and take a warm shower. This race is an excellent newbie friendly triathlon and I will be recommending it to those looking to get into the sport!