Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Book List

I met my goal this year. I managed to finish (more than) 30 books in 365 days and enjoy almost all of them. May 2015 be as promising.
  • The Tender Bar: A Memoir by J.R. Moehringer
  • The Cuckcoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
  • The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne
  • My Story by Elizabeth Smart
  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
  • A House in the Sky: A Memoir by Amanda Lindhout and Sarah Corbett
  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • Slim for Life: My Insider Simple, Fast, and Lasting Weight Loss by Jillian Michaels
  • The Antelope in the Living Room: The Story of Two People Sharing One Life by Melanie Shankle
  • I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini‎
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
  • Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
  • Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  • The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen 
  • The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis 
  • The Dog Lived (and So Will I) by Teresa Rhyne 
  • Fragile by Lisa Unger
  • Easily Amused by Karen McQuestion 
  • Matilda by Ronald Dahl
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry 
  • Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd 
  • The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
  • What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey
  • Blue Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews
  • Rare Bird by Anna Whiston-Donaldson
"Every book is a miracle. Every book represents a moment when someone sat quietly--and that quiet is part of the miracle, make no mistake--and tired to tell the rest of us a story." J.R. Moehringer (The Tender Bar)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Chicao, Part Duex

I woke up at 4:45 am on Sunday, about 30 minutes before my alarm. #Fail I got up and starting drinking my #prelongrun six ounces of strong coffee. I finished all the #prerace essential tasks and Boyfriend and I were off to the races... #literally. After security--oh so much security--and another bathroom stop, I was in my corral (#CorralC) with about half an hour until the gun sounded. I remember anxious runners budging their way to the front of the corral before I stumbled upon a nice lady, willing to pass the time through conversation with me. I was so thankful for her company.
(Dear Mystery Runner Woman, 

I hope you ran your #BostonQualifier. I enjoyed meeting and chatting with you. I hope Texas isn't still basking in the summer-like temperatures. If so, send warmth. #Winterishere in Washington, D.C.

Best, S)
At promptly 7:30 am, I was off with 40,000 plus runner friends. And I ran and ran and ran those 26.2 miles (I have yet to recap) until I crossed the finish line in #GrantPark. The walk to the 27th Mile Post-Race Party felt like another couple miles. I remember how hard I had to concentrate on putting one front in front of the other for a l-o-n-g period of s-l-o-w-l-y passing time. Boyfriend eventually found me and we walked to meet my parents, who were tired from running their #spectatormarathon. We grabbed food at Epic Burger for calories. And Dairy Queen for more calories. The burger was eh. I still wasn't totally feeling food. I must have recovered quickly though because the ice cream tasted better than anything I had ever consumed.

That is, until I stepped in the doors of Girl and the Goat. (Before I was ready for dinner, I showered (#gome) and spent a few minutes with my brother and his friend at The Aberdeen Tap to end the dry period. My parents dined at Girl and the Goat on their #30thAnniversaryTrip to Chicago a few years back. They, especially Pops, have hyped up the restaurant ever since. We ate and ate and ate until dessert, when we ate some more. #WasNotLetDown The cocktails. The meal. The wine. The dessert. The coffee. The experience is all more than my meager words can describe. Add #GirlandtheGoat to your #bucketlist and, to make this dream a reality, be sure to make your reservations at least 90 days in advance. #NotJoking
I would like to say I crashed after this meal--both from exhaustion and the food coma, but I found sleeping difficult to come by. My body was writhing in pain. I "woke up" ready to be home. We made a few plans for our remaining day: North Avenue Beach, Magnificent Mile, and Portillo's. I felt as though concluding with a #Chicagohotdog complimented the trip perfectly.While I loved the views from North Avenue Beach and under normal circumstances could have shopped the Magnificent Mile all day, my body was too spent to find real pleasure in moving and viewing. #WishIWouldHaveKnown
All in all an excellent trip, I must say. #Takemeback, OK?

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Chicago Trip Hashtagged

The calendar indicates November 2014 is one-third behind us. #TimeFlies In the first third of October, I found myself (and several #importantpeople) in Chicago, Illinois. To avoid the depressing discussion about how the #marathonhigh has been replaced with a purposeless low, I'll recap Chicago. #BetterLateThanNever
After checking in and dropping our bags at the lovely, not so conveniently located South Loop Hotel, we walked to Eleven City Diner for a lunch/dinner combination meal. And from there, we were off to enjoy the #TheArtInstituteofChicago for free. #ThanksMarathonEntryFee As we moved from Impressionism to Blue Period Picasso, Boyfriend impressed me with his art history interest and knowledge per usual. I made him browse the Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary Life, 1926-1938 exhibition with me as it was being featured. If you have more knowledge of art than myself, you would have been prepared for the weirdness and suggested a more pleasurable exhibit. I honestly couldn't walk through fast enough.
I'll fondly remember the art institute for the warmth provided. The temperatures outsider were more chilly than I arrived prepared for. #WindyCity We braved the cold at Millennium Park, #ournextstop. The Cloud Gate (#TheBean) was real crowded--#bigsurprise; we managed a #photoshoot anyway.
Still full for from our linner, we grabbed popcorn at Garrett Popcorn for dessert and called it a night at the wild hour of 7:30 pm. Garret's was offering a seasonal pumpkin spice caramel crisp recipe. #PopcornHeaven The night ended rejoicing in the #CentralTimeZone; I watched the entire first half of a #TNF game with my eyes open.
On Friday I was in for the surprise of my life. #MoreOnThatLater Boyfriend and I began the day with breakfast at Yolk. We walked over to the #NavyPier and then the #ChicagoRiverwalk afterwards to kill time before our Chicago Architecture Boat Tour. The boat tour came highly recommended and did not disappoint. I could have floated on the Chicago River all day had it not been freezing and shaded by fancily architect-ed buildings. We combination bused and strolled our way to #LincolnPark for an afternoon coffee at Elaine's Coffee Call. #CoffeeHeaven And this is where the day really picked up, our next stop: #LincolnParkZoo. When we finished perusing the petting zoo #intendedforchildren, we found #mybrother wandering around the zoo. #WTF He came to Chicago for the #bigrace via bus from Atlanta, Georgia. After the shock wore off, I was able to speak (and thank him profusely) again. #NotOneForSurprises We continued to browse the zoo, where my brother served as an excellent tour guide, having walked the premises in search of us.
We walked towards downtown to find my parents, who were also in Chicago. #PlannedInAdvance The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging before dinner. We "treated" my parents to their first ever Uber experience. #WorstRideEver #WeSurvived In need of drinks and food, we dove right in at Nando Milano Trattoria. The Italian--perfect for the #continuationofcarbloading--meal was divine.

The night ended after dinner. I headed straight to bed for the most important night of sleep before #raceday. I woke up late on Saturday morning for my #finalrun before the #marathon. I did an easy four-mile out-and-back run over to the #ChicagoLakefrontTrail, right past #SoldierField. #CityRun With the conclusion of run and shower, Boyfriend and I made our way to the #MarathonExpo, where I proceeded to race through as fast as I could to avoid a further settling in of nerves. The expo was exhilarating and overwhelming and loud but organized and therefore efficient. The mandatory pictures were taken... and we moved on to Little Goat Diner for bagels and later relaxed in a random park in the #WestSide before meeting #friendsandfamily at Haymarket Pub & Brewery for drinks.
We left the group for an early dinner at Giordano's. #DeepDish And that was the day before The Day.

I tried not to drag this Chicago recap out too much and #failedmiserably. I’ll be squeezing the final two days into one post later on this evening. #AtLeastThereArePictures

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Frozen Halloween + A Blue Baby Shower + A Fall Foliage Stroll + A Monday Run

While I have a full heart, I dreaded the return to work on this Monday morning. I spent the weekend in the Research Triangle visiting friends. And it was oh so wonderful. I listened and talked, talked and listened for a solid three days.

I partied with a Frozen family on Halloween. And consumed an abundance of candy on the one calorie-less candy day a year.
I celebrated K.N.K.F. at her blue baby shower, and pridefully won the "Who knows K.N.K.F. the best?" competition game. If you're counting, I also, with the help of a teammate, won another game--turns out, I'm competent in baby animals terms. The countdown continues; if Baby R.J.F. agrees with his due date, he'll grace us in just 37 days!
I ate entirely too much Mexican food at Moe's, Bandido's, and Nana Taco.

I leisurely strolled through the gorgeous Duke Forest with my pregnant friend and her dog. The fall foliage was stunning. I thought Washington, D.C. was filled with greenery, however, I'm rethinking that. It's uncertain to me whether or not there are trees here in the city I call home. The trees in North Carolina were painted with color. I could have walked forever had I been dressed more appropriately.
I rejoiced in the end of Daylight Savings Time. This not only provided an extra hour to my weekend, it did so on a weekend when I was visiting a friend I haven't seen in over a year. (Scheduling is hard.)

Before finding my way to the office, I made time for a five miler to decompress after a fun, fun weekend. I again rejoiced in the new sunrise time--6:39 am--because I was able to cruise through a more scenic route provided the light. I had been running laps around the same "illuminated" streets, and I was frankly bored. I'm not entirely prepared for the winter months of treadmill-ing... yet. The fueling of my body with three Mexican meals (in a weekend), more chocolate than I'd care to admit, and entirely too much party food during a baby shower made for a solid run. Not. I needed today's run to brace myself for the week... and, of course, to burn some of the garbage I added to my waistline.

The time spent with friends and our friendships that transcend time and moves and marriages (and soon a baby!) was, per usual, super short but the time away from adult-ing long.  The early mornings and late nights of disregarding exhaustion can remain fun for so long. After a couple days away, the abrupt jump back into routine was nice. May there be balance in life.

Friday, October 31, 2014

My Bestie

This is a response to the Nobody’s Cuter Than You request by Big Mama. Without further ado, here’s how J.L.W. entered my life for good.

My family had recently uprooted our stable, homogenous Midwestern selves from Kansas City, Kansas to a much smaller Blythewood, South Carolina. In dire need of local friends, I joined the high school cross country team. I spent August, September, and October—the entire season—running mostly alone, hoping someday one of my teammates would materialize into a friend, a “replacement(s) not replacement(s)” for the friend(s) I’d left behind. After the state meet, I had the opportunity to run one more race in Charlotte, North Carolina with a select group of runners from the team. This was going to be fun, I’d hoped. I roomed with two girls, both a year younger than me. This having been the Friday after Thanksgiving, I was wired. Hi, my name is S and I love dessert. Hello, holidays. Bring on the apple pie, cranberries cupcakes, pumpkin spice cookies, etcetera ad nauseam—I will eat you all. J.L.W., my friend-to-be, humored herself with my antics. I’m not sure if she was laughing with or at me. I do remember we didn’t get much sleep that night. So desperate for a friend, it—the laughing and sleep—truthfully didn’t matter.
The trip ended, yet our friendship grew and grew and grew into the big, mighty awesome gift that it is today. There was the brilliant idea to consume a gallon of McAlister's beverages--lemonade for me, sweet tea for her--before a mile run at an invitational track meet. There were countless "locker room parties" on cold (and windy!) South Carolina days. And then there was college. J.L.W. “followed” me to Clemson University—Go Tigers!—during my sophomore year where there were football games galore and a few too many late nights. We also managed plenty of early mornings camping out for football (or basketball) tickets. When ESPN’s College GameDay came to town, we were there at 5:00 am to begin cheering. And we kept on cheering until the conclusion of the 8:00 pm game… at midnight. There was also a camping trip we survived in the sub-freezing temperatures in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We concluded my junior year with a twenty-hour round trip drive to Cleveland, Ohio—for the weekend—where we insisted on listening to J.L.W.’s iPod in A to Z order. In the following year, we implemented a Tuesday night dinner club, where it was understood she would cook and I would consume.
Those four years had to come to an end, and when they did, I left for Peace Corps. We remained equally close, though we were limited to expensive, monthly phone calls. I returned to Northern Virginia while she had long settled in Columbia, SC. Having already mastered long distance friendship, we’ve maintained friendship just the same. We sometimes meet for incredible two-week adventures in the Pacific Northwest, other times we take unplanned long weekend trips to a random meeting places, like the most recent Asheville, North Carolina outing.
We have a big milestone ahead: J.L.W. is getting hitched, while I stand right beside her. Her second best friend, D.P.C, of oh so many years, but not as many years, recently proposed! I like him because he respects (and accepts?) my competitive personality. I’ll always be her first place friend; I’ve known her the longest. And I might love her the most.