We’re not all going to Eat, Pray, Love our way through life, but we can try

When I was a child, my mother often read out loud to me. She would never start at chapter one—instead, she patiently read every single page, including the author’s name, the illustrator, dedication, and forward. The only exception was the library of congress page, although she did always note the copyright date.

For my birthday in 2015, she sent a book entitled Stressed is Dessert Spelled Backwards, written by Brian Luke Seaward with a forward by Joan Lunden; no illustrator this time. I brought this book on a flight to San Diego. I was already well into it, enjoying it thoroughly, but needed to put it down to do something…I can’t remember what. Maybe stretch. Maybe have a drink of water. While it was lying on my tray table, the pages curling upwards, I noticed writing on one of the pages—the title page—one I had skipped because I had read the title on the cover and didn’t think it was necessary. (Sorry, mom.)

She had inscribed it, “Dear Becky, hope this is a help when you become upset. Love, Mom. August 31, 2015.” My birthday. Tears instantly came to my eyes when I read this. I was four chapters in by this time, and it was blowing my mind. I could see why she was drawn to it personally. There is a lot of reflection on the power of prayer, something my mother believes in very strongly. Both of my parents raised me to have a close relationship with God, and, though it has changed, waxed, and waned over the years, that relationship remains inside of me. Call it prayer, call it manifestation, it’s all based on a spirituality that is incredibly personal, and it gives me a connection with the universe, love, and every person on this planet.

Right now in my faith, I have decided that God is a name for life-force. Existence. Love. So when I pray, it is not necessarily to an almighty power. I am praying to myself, to a drop of water, to a strand of hair, everything that holds a vibration—energy. When I think it, when I feel it, I manifest it. We all do. The power of energy is strong.

And now I’m back home, inspired. My muse is sitting on my shoulder. He is wearing a kilt, and has a glencairn of pinot barrel-aged gin in his left hand and a whip in the other. He’s tapping his foot impatiently. So, armed the wisdom of my new-agey knowledge, I decide now is the perfect time to do something I’ve been waiting all of 2015 for. Open my happiness jar.

 

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I’m not going to lie, I saw it on Pinterest. It was January 2015. I was feeling optimistic after a fantastic New Year’s Eve and thought, what a great idea! I find a jar (in my case it was a tall cylindrical vase), decorate it, and drop in memories and trinkets that remind me how blessed I am. I told myself I would read it on New Year’s Eve 2015, but of course I ended up going to a party; you know how those things go. So tonight, a few days into the new year, I am cracking it open to see what gems I experienced over the last year. Here are a few.

  • I have two friends that, when we get together, jokingly call our group the Venus Flytraps. We occasionally have goddess gatherings at my place (or hen party, ladies night, etc.). At one of these gatherings, I decided to print out each of our horoscopes from Free Will Astrology that week on beautiful gold paper and present them to each lady. After the gathering I decided to stick it in my jar to see how it would manifest. My Virgo horoscope read as follows: It is always important to know when something has reached its end,” writes Paulo Coelho in his book The Zahir. Use this advice heroically in 2015, Virgo. Wield it to clear away anything that no longer serves you, that weighs you down or holds you back. Prepare the way for the new story that will begin for you around your next birthday. “Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters,” Coelho says, “it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.” Thud, thud, thud, goes my heart. Letting go in the last year has served me incredibly well. I let go of tired expectations about relationships, old understandings about my sensual and sexual expression. Some of you know that my boyfriend and I parted ways (although I didn’t get rid of him entirely—he is still very much a part of my life as a dear friend). I let free my assumptions about who I am as a dancer, as a runner, even as a writer. I simply am those things. I look forward to seeing what fills the space of the things I let go in the coming year.
  • A Louise Hay Power of Thought card: I allow others to be themselves. This card was handed to me after a particularly snarly interaction with a friend of mine while camping. Now, I love my friend Joe, I do. He is like the brother I never had. But as all brothers do, he gets on my nerves from time to time. And on that day, he had gotten on my last one. I blew up at him in front of 6 others in my campsite. I don’t think any of those people have ever seen me do anything but smile; I’m a pretty positive person 98% of the time. After my little tantrum, I stomped around camp for a while, drank my coffee, and avoided eye contact with my fellow campers. Then, my friend Sarah came up to me and handed me this card. She said, if you love Joe, you have to love him for who he is…flaws and all. I was embarrassed at first, but I soon realized she gave it to me in friendship, not to put me in my place. I read the back of the card: I do not try to heal my friends. I do my own mental work and heal myself. This is the best thing I can do for others. I was so humbled and grateful for Sarah in that moment. It has never left me. Ever since then, every time someone grates on me for doing something that is, in my eyes, wrong, I remember Sarah’s kind offering.
  • In the first part of the year, I cultivated a strong connection with a man who became a very close friend. He has inspired me multiple times this year, and I’ve even used his inspiration in a few of my blogs. After reading one of them, he wrote me this note. “So I re-read your blog as requested. I originally felt touched by the part about the friend who talks about his son living in every moment as I saw a connection to me. Now, knowing you wrote that about/for me I am touched even more. Thank you Becky for your kindness and your authenticity. Your (sic) truly a special person and someone someday is going to be very blessed to have you as a partner. Happy New Year and on-on.” I close my eyes now, and remember the warmth I felt when I read that note the first time, and every time thereafter. It reminds me what special and amazing souls I have in my life.
  • I attended two writing workshops this year, both of which brought me great joy. In one of the workshops, led by Kate Gray, we were tasked to write a short fiction piece. I ended up writing something about belly dance, and loved it so much that I kept it around. It contains many parts that are true to my own life as well as musings of a greater sort. Here is a short excerpt: “Here, she danced for pleasure. For art. To see her hair fly in the air as she spun in a barrel turn. To see the man drop his pita into the hummus because her muscle isolations made it seem as though her hips were no longer connected to the rest of her body. To feel beautiful in stage makeup, and feel the pure delight of washing it off at the end of the night, watching the makeup and sweat and soap bubbles slink circuitously into the drain and flow somewhere else…She grew up with rhythms from all over the world. She couldn’t imagine a life without romantic harmonies, haunting vibratos, and razor sharp words. Music moved her.” HAPPINESS!
  • If you have not read The Four Agreements, I highly recommend it. I wrote each one down and put them in my jar, and they have served me incredibly well this year. You really must read the book, but here are the agreements, in short.
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.
  • This is an action that has never come easily to me. A friend of mine gave me a deck of cards with meditation words on them a few years ago. Surrender kept coming up for me whenever I pulled this deck out. I decided that Surrender would be my word of the year. And so I have quite happily, and continue to surrender to whatever the universe brings me.

2015 was a year of growth for me. It was not without growing pains, to be sure. Most of these times I understood that there was a bigger message, a lesson I needed to learn. I have to hand it to the universe, it can throw some seriously cockeyed lessons my way, but I do feel strongly that I needed each and every one of them, no matter how painful at the time.

I encourage you to reflect on your 2015 and come up with some of the lessons you experienced, maybe set up a happiness jar for 2016. We’re not all going to get to the other side boasting the ideal job, the perfect mate, and a flawless life, but we can absolutely appreciate the path we’ve taken to get to where we are now—exactly where we’re supposed to be at this time and place.

Roller Coaster of (Self) Love

Hello, friends. It has been quite a while since I’ve written something new. While I’m always learning, always evolving, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to share it with you. Now I’m ready, and I’m very excited to connect with you all again on this level. Life is funny. It sends you lessons, sometimes the same lessons you’ve seen before, over and over, but each time there is a new twist. At times I feel like life is a maze that we go in and out of—we might come out the same opening more than once, but the way that we reached it is never the same way twice.

Trying to take too much control doesn’t do anyone any good. No matter what I do, life is going to happen, and I can either get ahead of it and attempt to control it, or hang on for the ride and hope for the best. The first six months of 2015 I only had enough juice left to hang on… and maybe that was the best thing for me.

I felt lonely. I’ve been single a long time, most of you know this. It gives me a freedom that is amazing, but I was missing having a partner by my side. A month into the new year, something changed in that department. I began a beautiful journey with someone that took me places I never expected. We didn’t put a label on it; we were simply companions, mindful of the love between us and with a goal of becoming better and more aware partners to the people we would encounter down the road.

I spent much of my energy on others. My mother had double knee replacement in June, so I went to care for her for three weeks. Oh boy, did I have high hopes for those three weeks. I was going to get some serious writing done while seeing my school buddies, all while taking care of my mother. That turned out to be a pipe dream. I was working 24/7. When you can’t walk or stand for long periods, there are a lot of things you can’t do…I guess I hadn’t taken that into consideration. I thought I’d be cooking a meal here and there, driving her to the physical therapist and the library…that kind of thing. I did those, plus a hundred more. It was all day long. Every night I fell into bed without an iota of strength to write or even brainstorm. I can’t, however, say that it was all slaving and no fun. I got to see some loved ones. I played some righteous games of Bananagrams. I shopped…and I took care of my mother, who spent 18 years and some change making sure I turned out okay. She deserved every drop of energy I spent on her.

I met someone. Everyone told me It happens when you least expect it—I promise to never, ever say this to a single girlfriend EVER—but it was true in my case. I was finally not sweating the details or intently looking for something serious. Then I got a text from the person I would least have expected it from, which led to an amazing first date and, several more dates down the line, a wonderful boyfriend.

I was having fun. I was laughing with friends, allowing myself pleasure, running, dancing, eating good food, drinking cocktails, hashing, reading, working, hugging, giggling, meeting new people, travelling. I was running myself ragged. It didn’t give me much time to think about things, which is something I tend to do when I have lots to think about! I became somewhat emotionally lazy. At times I stressed myself out worrying. If there is one thing I am sure about myself, it’s that I’m not a lazy person. So why did it feel like I was changing in an undesirable direction?

I got lost in the whirlwind of all these things for a moment. Silly me. I thought I finally knew exactly who I was, what I wanted, and who my community consisted of. I constantly had to remind myself that everything is in its rightful place, at the right pace. And my world shifted, as it always does.

It was scary and incredible. As humans, we should never have all the answers. We should constantly be changing. Part of that is allowing yourself to recognize the gift of taking breaks. Taking time to smell the roses, if you want to wax poetic about it. One thing I always hear about myself is how busy I am. How many plans I make. What if I were to let life come to me for once so I could enjoy the ride, instead of always chasing control?

I know the universe will always provide me with prospects. I just have to slow down, give that control freak a breather, and welcome those opportunities when they come, with the understanding that the maze is always going to change; all I have to do is be present inside of it.

Tangled, But Not Tied Up

Last week a special Trail Blazer alumnus passed away. I didn’t follow Jerome Kersey in his heyday, however, his presence in the Portland community was very well known by fans and non-fans alike. He became a Trail Blazer ambassador after retiring from the NBA in 2001, and went above and beyond his duties. He made a positive impression on many, and was a true community leader. I even had a few interactions with him at a favorite restaurant that we both frequented a couple of years ago. He was always smiling and friendly to everyone at the bar. Many people have expressed warm remembrances of him from years past, including this beautiful essay by a friend of mine. It’s safe to say that Portland is feeling a great loss this week.

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Jerome’s death made me incredibly sad—it hit unexpectedly close to home—but also very pensive and a little tangled inside. I had just come off of a first date when I read about his death on Facebook. I was flying high—my date was nice, a gentleman, adventurous, and he was willing to go zydeco dancing with me, which was a first for both of us, and very cool of him. I was patting myself on the back for taking a chance on someone I may have passed by in another life. We met speed dating, which, let’s be honest, is always a guessing game as to whether you just wasted $29 or met some really cool people that you may or may not ever see again.

So when I read about Jerome’s death, I instantly started reviewing how I spend my time and who I bring into my life. Since I moved to Portland almost 12 years ago, my life has taken many twists, turns, and curved paths that I could never have foreseen. It made me want to reach out to you in the best way I know how—through writing.

I want this blog post to function in two ways: 1) As my Christmas letter for 2014 to tell you what I did last year, and 2) As a way to dispense what I’ve learned in the past year (Okay, 14 months). During December, I kept finding excuses to put off the writing of my annual Christmas letter, and I wasn’t sure why. Now I realize I had so much more to process about my past year before sharing it. Normally I send these out to close friends and family only, but we are all one, we are all family. I love you, and I want you to learn my life lessons along with me. I’ll share my thoughts with you and use examples from my past year to make sure you get the best of both worlds.

Spoil yourself.  Spend the money. Take time off. Go somewhere new. You’re worth it! In 2014 I took my third annual solo beach vacation. For three days I ate decadent food, walked on the beach, drank wine, got my nails done, and did whatever my heart desired. I truly pampered myself. I also took a five day camping trip (between several shorter camping trips) to the Olympic Peninsula. It was so awe-inspiring and beautiful! In the fall, I went to New York. If you’ve read this blog in the past, you may know the story that goes with this. If you missed that one, read about it! What an amazing trip. I enjoyed staycations and fancy dates with handsome suitors and nights out on the town with good friends. I’m so blessed to work at a company where they reward loyalty with quite a bit of vacation time, and boy did I take advantage of it!

Challenge yourself. Some of my biggest challenges in life have been the result of belly dance. When I left Ohio, I could shake my booty with a little rhythm, and that was the extent of it. I had no formal training at that point, and I never thought that dance would be something I would later take on as an amateur performer. But then I met Yemaya, a professional belly dancer who also happens to be my long lost third cousin. She somehow convinced me that I was going to be a belly dancer one day. My style had never been particularly feminine, and when she said that, all I could picture was a horror show of obnoxiously bright sequins and awkward dance moves to snake charmer music. However, I allowed her to tease me into a few lessons, and from then on, I was in love. Soon I was practicing multiple times a week, taking every available workshop, and started performing in 2007, debuting at the Oregon Country Fair’s Gypsy Caravan Stage.  In the past few years, I have fallen into a “comfortable sweatshirt” type of relationship with belly dance. I still practice and even learn some new skills sometimes, but rarely do I try anything that really scares me. For the last two months, however, I have embraced the sword! Sword dancing scares me—big time. I took a four week course more out of dedication to my teacher than actual interest, but I should have known that it wouldn’t stop there. Now I’m signed up to perform my sword dance in front of a crowd, with the assumption that I won’t allow it to fall off my head and pierce someone’s foot. Terrifying? Yes! Essential to grow as a dancer and as a person? Absolutely!

Hope for Andrew edit

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Embrace Your Sexuality. Yep, we’re talking about it. In the past, I hadn’t been confident in my sensuality or sexuality. This was caused in part by my weight issues as a child, my perceived lack of femininity as a young adult, and being from just above the Bible Belt in the Midwest, where traditional values and conservative ideas still have a hold on the population. I envisioned that the right type of sexuality centered on a husband or at least a serious relationship. I thought that sex under other circumstances was not wrong per se, but not ideal, and not really necessary. I believed that expressing your sexuality freely maybe made you just a little slutty, if not an actual slut. In acknowledging my feelings of judgment, I also recognized that I had mistakenly thought that my lack of sexual expression was a character flaw; now I understood that judging others was a defense mechanism, and my personal level of sexual expression is not a flaw. It is wholly mine, and I must engage it in a way that is true to my own nature and not anyone else’s. Make sure to explore this side of you, even if you’re not in a romantic relationship, because it is so important to know that side of yourself before you share it with anyone else.

Life is short! Do what makes you smile and giggle, and spend time with people who inspire you. There have been so many times that I have stayed home to get a proper night’s sleep, only to find out the next day what unbelievably cool exploits I had missed the night before. If I had a nickel for all the times I’ve heard, “You can sleep when you’re dead!” I would be a millionaire…okay, maybe I’d have a few bucks. But you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I value my health and I truly feel my best when I’ve had a good night’s rest, but sometimes it is totally worth it to take a chance and stick it out for a little while longer. Nights that I stayed out with the Hash House Harriers for one more conversation, or salsa danced for one more song almost always ended up with new friends, new plans, or a memory I would never forget. I knew that I would feel tired in the morning, but I also knew that I was put on earth to experience those blissful moments…and I have had so many of these moments this past year.

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Make every movement with love and authenticity. This is a big one for me. I am a people pleaser. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing joy to your loved ones, making yourself happy and loving who you are will bring you the most joy in this world. Don’t worry about impressing others or fitting normative expectations of your culture. Live with authenticity in your heart and express gratitude for it daily. Be Love, every day.

2014 was a fantastic and enlightening year for me. When I think about the possibility that life can be cut off so abruptly, the way Jerome’s was, it makes me sad, but it also makes me grateful that I do the things I do, know the people I know, and experience miracles every day. Nothing is ever perfect, but my perfectly tangled existence is absolutely an abstract design of immaculate beauty.

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Lovers and Friends

“You can have a friendship without a relationship, but you can’t have a relationship without a friendship.” — James M. Sama

I am addicted to this blog. James M. Sama has some seriously intriguing insights about dating, relationships, and happiness that grab my attention every time. He’s the pioneer of the New Chivalry Movement, where the tagline reads, “The gentleman is the new bad boy.” YES PLEASE.

I love this article for what it says about the importance of friendship in romantic relationships, but it brought up a question that the author purposely zoomed right through. (He’s saving it for another blog post, I can only hope.)

Can men and women just be friends? If so, does it matter if one party desires the other, if nothing ever comes of it? 

I would love to hear your comments on this topic.

WHY: Part II—Precious Fragments

This “Why” series is a way to bring me closer to you—by revealing my inner-most thoughts and being 100% vulnerable with you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking my words and embracing them with love and kindness.

The first time I was completely vulnerable with a man, it changed my being. Bringing it back now, I feel exactly the same as I did in that moment. My breath is ragged and my chest is warm. I have a sense of exhilaration that it happened, but also sadness that my moment with him has passed. The most important part of it, though, was that I felt liberated.

Whenever I go back and read the poems I wrote for my college thesis, I am so impressed at how much raw emotion I allowed to spill onto the pages. I wasn’t scared of making someone uncomfortable with my words or that they would judge me. I didn’t fear my teacher would read the lines and immediately fail me because I wasn’t Sylvia Plath at 22. I just wrote anything and everything that was inside of me, and it was good stuff!

I hear a song, 25 years later, and it reminds me of the times I danced in the summer darkness among the lightning bugs, and how I felt in the very heart of it. I remember the feeling of being absolutely free, absolutely me, without a care in the world. Granted, I was 10 years old at the time and wasn’t concerned with having a 401k or what I would be when I grew up, but so often, even as children, we burden ourselves with too many thoughts. You know that blonde chick that everyone makes fun of because she’s empty-headed? Sometimes, I envy her. Sometimes it is essential to let go of our thoughts and just feel.

One thing my belly dance teacher always reminds me to do is to let my emotion out while I’m dancing. Claudia says that a dancer can have the most technically precise moves and the most beautiful costume, but without tarab, there can be no complete dance. Tarab has no exact English definition, but the closest I can come up with is “a shared experience of musical ecstasy.” Or “When reaching the epic moment of a feeling derived from hearing music, whether it instrumental or voice or both together expressing either joy, pain sorrow or any other intense emotion.” (Written by Mohamed Shahin and Hanna St. John) This, to me, is exactly what it means to show one’s inner truth.

I have a friend who comments that his son lives fully in the moment, every minute of every day. His face lights up when he talks about how happy it makes him to see his child in this way. Wouldn’t it be great if we all lived in the moment like that?

These days it’s much rarer for me to let go. Is it because I’m older, set in my ways? It still happens occasionally if I’m dancing, if I am feeling particularly brave, or if I’m in a foreign place and just don’t care what anyone thinks. The most interesting times are when I’m wearing a costume or a wig; I’ve noticed it gives me a mental get-out-of-jail-free card. I wish I could let down this wall I have built with more regularity—I have the potential to free myself at any time. Why don’t I? Why don’t any of us?

I read a piece by Wayne Dyer before Christmas about making peace with relatives during the holidays. It struck me that, regardless of the focus on relatives, it turned out to be entirely fitting for this post.

The conflict seems too often to be a choice between being authentic, which means no peace with certain relatives, or having peace at the price of being inauthentic. Being peaceful and authentic can define your relationship with your relatives. First, though, you may have to assess your relationship with the closest relative of all—you.

Can I be extra real with you guys for a minute? Extra-extra real? It seems like, in the past, when I’ve taken those chances and displayed my authentically weird-silly-petrified-confident-lost-found-Quakerific-dancing fool-giggly-imperfect self, I haven’t gotten the results that I’ve wanted. And it crushed me. So I sit, and I reflect on Dr. Dyer’s words, and I wonder, can I be brave again? Is it worth it? I think we all know that the answer is, unequivocally, YES. In our minds we know it, in our hearts we hold it. The answer will always be yes.

In the light of the coming New Year, let’s carry on the tradition of challenging ourselves to be better, to improve something about our lives and to make peace with our authentic selves—whoever that turns out to be. You could make a list, like I did last year, or just hold the intention in your heart. Either way, I dare you to love and express the true YOU in 2015! If you’d like, please share one thing you intend on doing in the New Year that will create a more genuine you.

Vulnerability

WHY: Part I

Today I went back and read a post that I wrote some time ago. It was a bittersweet commentary on the trials of my weight loss journey, but also a heartwarming reminder of how far I’ve come. The reason I went back to it today was because of the fitness group I joined on Facebook. We were asked to write about our “why.” Why are we choosing to lose weight right now? What is our motivation to achieve our goals? Originally I shared the following piece only with the fitness group, but I decided I needed to get this to a bigger audience. Following is my “why.”

I’ve struggled with my weight and abandonment issues from my parent’s divorce my whole life, and because of that I find it hard to follow through with the things I really want to accomplish. I either give up and desert the project, or, more often, sabotage myself. This includes goals involving my passion for writing, my fervent need to be beautiful (AKA, skinny), and finding (and marrying) the love of my life.

For the longest time, even though my self-esteem wasn’t the greatest, I didn’t stress a whole lot about being fat because I never expected I could change it. When I did finally lose weight, it started a whole domino effect of anxiety because I had all this new pressure. Where before it never mattered because I had zero expectations, suddenly the world was at my fingertips and I was completely unprepared. It was really easy to blame others for my shortcomings, and for a while I thought, things haven’t changed a bit. Why not just stay how I am? My life is fantastic, even if I’m not living the dream of marrying Dr. Handsome and writing that bestseller. I’ve got great friends, a steady job…I have good dates here and there. I can hack it a little longer, getting by how I am. But that’s not how I want to live my life. I want to set meaningful goals and attain them, NOW (starting with being focused on them better). I want to be able to tell myself every day that I am worthy of a beautiful and healthy relationship. I want to break the chains of inadequacy that I’ve carried from a very young age—and that I’ve continued to carry all on my own, using them as an excuse to be average.

Doing all that takes a concerted effort, and a community. I’m so used to doing things for myself, being single for such a long time, but letting people in, and, God-forbid, letting others see my vulnerabilities, is so important. It’s not something I do lightly. It takes faith in my community, and love for myself.

I know that I have to let go of my past in order to be the future amazing Becky that’s always been inside. Grasping onto my communities’ outstretched hands is a great start. Spending time with people from all corners of my world is a very important part of that. I’ve got my running community, my writing peers, my dance family, my work buddies, fellow gamers and hikers and coffee-lovers, Blazer fans, my blood family. But it’s more than just spending time, and it’s more than just hoping a few of you will read my blog and empathize. Getting vulnerable with yourself and your “people” is not a one-stop deal. Clearly, you readers have seen that for the last two years that I’ve been writing this blog. Of course I hope to inspire others, but letting out my fears and emotions in this medium is a very important part of my process, and I thank you for being my audience and safety net. You, love, are a very big part of my success in this life, because we all need love to thrive.

All you need is love
All you need is love

This is the first piece in a miniseries called WHY. I look forward to sharing parts II and III very soon.

A Confession Session

Last week in The Dancing Runner, I read a really fun post called Confession Session. I love Chelsea’s blog. Her writing is consistently upbeat and inspiring, particularly when it’s about two of my favorite things—running and dancing. This one, however, had a different twist and I decided to steal the idea. Here are some highlights from the past few weeks plus a couple of random facts you may not know about me. Thanks, Chelsea!

35 is the new 25! Okay, I actually read that on a fertility blog, but it still totally applies! I had the most wonderful birthday! I turned a spry 35 last Sunday and instead of going camping like I usually do, I opted to do something a little more accessible—brunch. To make it even more fun than brunch already is, I announced a theme. The theme was tutus! My friends never disappoint me. It was tutus all around. Oh, and did I mention my restaurant of choice had $5 bottomless mimosas? Yeah, that’s a no-brainer.

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I’m a Harriette. I’ve never written about this part of my life on the blog, but it’s a big part, so it should be mentioned! This group, the Hash House Harriers, is known to be “a drinking club with a running problem.”  Basically, it is very similar to a scavenger hunt, only instead of scrabbling around town, searching for a trinket or landmark, the harriers (runners) are scavenging on a flour-marked trail for beer hidden by the hares (trail-layers). I’ve been a member for two years now, and though I cannot keep up with the FRBs (Front Running Bastards), I have just as much fun as those who get to the beers first. The group makes it a point to label everything lasciviously (when you’re new you’re a virgin; when you lay trail for the first time, you’re de-floured), and hands out tawdry names to each member when they’ve done something “stupid enough” for the pack to agree on. For example, my hash name is Tainted Trench. (I could tell you how I earned it, but then I would also have to make you come to the hash yourself to experience the full Monty!) And if you think this is just a Portland thing, think again. This group started in Malaysia by a pack of Brits who wanted to get out from under their weekend hangovers in the 1930s. These days there are Hash House Harriers coast to coast in the United States, and on every continent! Yes, there are some timid folks who think that hashing is not for them; there is a lot of shit-talking as well as actual shit-on-trail—hashers prefer to barrel through blackberries and muddy creeks rather than take the path more often traveled: the clean, paved one. However, if you can get through your mental blocks and come to peace with the fact that you may get a little scratched up, you’ll experience one of the most fun physical activities on earth, and a vast accumulation of forever friends.

I found out that my dentist is circumcised. I’m sorry! I tried (admittedly not very hard), but I couldn’t keep that one to myself. It started out as banter about what we were doing over the weekend. He said, “I’m going to Ecuador” (as one often does on the weekends), and that sparked a chat about toilets in developing countries. When we got to the dreaded squat toilet part of the conversation, it got a little hairy (har har). Now, picture me listening to his story as he is hovering over my open mouth, the table leaning precariously toward his twig and berries. He says, “So, I was in Palestine this one time, and I’ll tell you there’s no privacy in those bathrooms. The attendant kept giving me the side eye, you know, because I’m circumcised. Jews are circumcised, and it’s not good to be a Jew in Palestine!” Okay okay, I get it! He continued with a whimsical description of the toilets in Korea, but I could not get the immature giggle out of my head. It almost bubbled out; it was so close. I mean, come on, this guy is my dad’s age. Politics and adventure aside, what other reaction could I have from his story than EWWWWWWWWWWW!

Oregon Wine Country. I love wine tasting (Who doesn’t?) but don’t do it nearly enough. This past weekend some girlfriends and I found a free afternoon, and took a lovely jaunt into Oregon’s wine country. We were lucky to find a Groupon for A Blooming Hill Vineyard. There are several deals for local wineries—I highly recommend you take advantage of it! It was absolutely gorgeous, and impossible to believe that we were only a short drive from Portland. The owners were a darling couple who had converted their home into a simple yet elegant winery which overlooks their vineyard in addition to a beautiful view of distant hills and valleys.

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Bird’s the word. I would never ever call myself a bird watcher. There is one time a year, though, that I pack my picnic basket and a blanket, and I make my way to Chapman Elementary School in NW Portland to wait for dusk, and the famed Vaux swifts. Up to 35,000 swifts, the biggest migrating group in the world, create an astounding vortex as they prepare to roost each night in the chimney. It is an amazing sight that words truly cannot convey. Saturday night I grabbed a group of friends and we sat on the soccer field, observing the bird tornado and several dozen children “sledding” down the dusty hill on cardboard sleighs. It was probably the largest group of birds I’ve ever seen since I’ve been here in Portland, and it never gets old.

No sleep ’til Brooklyn (and the rest of NYC)! I’m leaving for my first trip to New York City in t-minus two weeks! I’m incredibly excited but still collecting my travel research, so help me out! Send me recommendations for things I must see, do, and experience! Tell me a route I have to run! Let me know your favorite salsa club! Suggest big city travel tips! Give me advice on public transportation! I’m all ears.

This ends the inaugural Confession Session by Becky. Feel free to use the idea for your own blog, and please, leave a link in the comment section if you do, so I and my readers can enjoy it. Have a great Monday, friends!

A Hot Chocolate Race Recap

The Hot Chocolate 15k was held on a perplexing sunny and temperate but also frightfully cold weekend in Seattle. I was excited to get out of town for a long weekend, so I headed up on the Amtrak with two of my girlfriends early on Friday morning. We wanted enough time to frolic before we had to get our game faces on Sunday at the crack of dawn. Frolic we did! It was beautifully sunny the first two days of our visit. We walked all over town and shopped, ate, and people-watched to our hearts’ content.

Then, Sunday arrived…

Not my idea of a great race temp!
Not my idea of a great race temp!


There are only so many layers a girl can put on whilst facing a drenching, windy, and unfortunately, mostly uphill run, before recognizing that she’d rather be a little cold than unable to run at all, marshmallow-man style. I forced myself to stop at 10 layers (I kid, there were only about 3.5) and, in direct defiance of the ever-helpful bag check, left my tag right on my bib where it belonged. I don’t need no stinking bag check. Once my corral was called, I took off.

Trying to stave off pre-race nerves!
Trying to stave off pre-race nerves with selfies!

The race itself was a huge challenge for me. I’ve never completed a 15k before, and it was actually more difficult to train for than my previous half marathons, if you can believe it. I was lax in researching how many training and cross-training days a week I should be dedicating to the race, and therefore switched back and forth between running too much and running too little…unfortunately I’m pretty sure I was mostly running too little. Bad news: my runner’s self-esteem was pretty low heading up the Amtrak rails on Friday. Not to mention one of my girlfriends was singing the praises of her newfound love for CrossFit as a cross-training regimen. Nope, that wasn’t intimidating at all. The good news? I ran the entire race! I didn’t have to walk once! This was a huge and lovely surprise and a true gift to myself. This tells me that my running muscle memory is sharp!!

The after-party looked amazing. I wanted to stay and play but my whole body was soaking wet from the rain that began falling even harder once I crossed the finish line. Thank heaven for small favors that it wasn’t raining too hard during the race itself (although it was definitely rainy and windy throughout). I grabbed my “finishers medal” and met up with my friends. The chocolate fondue was fan-freaking-tastic. I was actually surprised at the quality of the chocolate. I expected it to be much less tasty, due only to the quantity that had to be served up. But there was no skimping! Everything–from the post-run snacks to the awesome tech hoodies that we took home–was fantastic.

The weather was really the only drawback of this race. RAM Racing has been putting on the Hot Chocolate Race for several years, and I could tell they have perfected their system. Everything was wonderfully executed, from the expo to the after party. That isn’t to say I don’t have suggestions, but honestly, the only thing I really noticed amiss was the lack of a vendor at the expo selling some sort of energy shots/bars/gooey stuff. Everything else was great.

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I can’t wait to go back next year for this run. I will say that if RAM Racing wants to bring it to Portland, I won’t complain in the least, but I really like picking destination races, and I love Seattle, so either way I will be a happy runner.

One last note – I very much enjoyed being a chocolate blogger for this race. I feel confident in saying I will do this or something like it again very soon. So check back often for offers on registration giveaways or swag!

Snowpocalypse Recap

Hello from snowy freezing slushy Portland, Oregon! We’ve finally melted and all is pretty much back to normal here. At least the rains have finally come and washed away most of the snow banks. I never thought I’d hear myself say that I’m grateful for the rain, although I don’t have a severe hatred for it like some transplants. (I credit my running habit—once you start running in the rain for 3+ miles, you realize there are much worse things than getting a little wet.)

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However, my gracious attitude towards the rain does not lessen my love for what has been called the Snowpocalypse of 2013. I am very lucky to live and work close-in to downtown Portland, and therefore can easily get around on public transportation. So instead of getting stir crazy inside my apartment, rationing a dwindling supply of hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps, I frolicked. I played Uno Attack and went sledding with my awesome neighbors on Friday. Allison’s Uno victory dance and Danny’s smack talk were legendary; the Flexible Flyer that we took to the top of Fremont did us proud; we watched the Blazer game and ate pizza. It was pretty great.

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The next day I decided that I needed to hit the city, snowman style. I put on my ski pants, jacket, and trusty hat (plus two pairs of socks, 3 shirts, a neck buff, and gloves) and snow-hiked to the MAX train that took me downtown. I met up with several groups of friends during the day (even met some new ones!), walked all over town, gulped warm drinks and ate bad food, and not until 11 p.m. did I realize that the MAX had been shut down due to the freezing rain. Not a problem! I hiked back across town to find the one bus line that was going my way and waited…and waited…and waited. Luckily my friend Ruth had tagged along, trying to figure out if she would be able to get as far as 60th (Alas, the bus stopped at 25th. No matter, my living room and an air mattress were just fine for her.), and so we chatted as we watched for the bus that would take us across the river. When it finally sailed (lurched, skidded) to a stop on NE 15th, we decided we’d better get a drink to celebrate making it over the bridge, and hit up my neighborhood bar for one last drink (2 drinks and a shot).

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Sunday was more of a relaxed day. Did I get anything productive done? Nope. Do I regret it? Nah. Snowpocalypse weekend was all about feeling fancy free and not worrying about the little things. I had heat, I had food and drinks, and I had great friends and fantastic moments.

HOWEVER! Now that playtime is over, it’s time to get serious again. Up next on the roster is the Hot Chocolate Run in Seattle, and I have some pretty hardcore training to do in the next 2.5 weeks. Join me in a training run, wish me luck, or come to cheer me on in Seattle on March 2nd. If you’re less of a runner and more of a consumer, the Newport Seafood and Wine Festival are also coming up soon.

Who says winter has to be dreary? Come out and play!

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The Human Race—My Eugene Half Marathon Recap

Last weekend I ran a half marathon in Eugene, Oregon, only two weeks after the Boston bombings.

I’ll admit, I was feeling a little skittish about it right after all the drama happened, but as the day grew near, I could feel the support and anticipation building, and I was able to get excited again. When I drove down to Eugene and picked up my packet at the health and wellness expo, I got REALLY excited. As I noted in my last blog post, the running community is a strong one, and there are probably very few towns that are more supportive of running than Eugene, a.k.a., Tracktown USA. Last weekend, many elite athletes and hobbyists had come to this mecca to celebrate the amazing sport of running.

WOW. Ladies and gentlemen, it is called Tracktown USA for a reason! The joy in this first day of the marathon event was truly palpable. There were smiles to comrades and strangers alike, hugs and excited conversations between friends. I didn’t know anyone else running the race, but I could feel the warmth of the community pulsing through the pre-race expo in waves. There were several memorials to Boston as well, and I experienced them with a somber but hopeful outlook.

That evening I went to bed rip-roaringly early. I took two melatonin pills to aid in a quick sleep, and ate my carbs like a good girl—early bird style. Then I climbed into bed, ready to see the Sandman…and lay there for the next four hours. I tried everything to get to sleep. I played rain sounds on YouTube. I tried telling myself a story. I tried fantasizing. I visualized a gentle stream. Nothing worked. I would have considered asking my host to come in and tell me a bedtime story, but he had gone out for the night knowing that his guest would not want to party hard that evening. I don’t think I ever actually got any quality REM sleep, but I know I eventually closed my eyes for a short while. I wasn’t too worried; I knew there was no chance I could actually fall asleep while on the course, but I was certainly frustrated. Doing this half marathon on my own was a BIG DEAL. I had never run a race alone, much less one of this caliber. The nerves, apparently, were kicking hard.

The alarm went off and I leaped out of bed. Well, I got out of bed anyway. I had pre-laid my clothes on top of my travel bag and arranged my breakfast food just-so in the refrigerator the night before, so my race preparation was flawless. There should be an Olympic category for this. I would win.

I got to the shuttle parking lot right on time, and had a blessedly uneventful ride to Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon. From there the start of the race was terrifyingly close at hand. I took a last minute stop at the porta-potties and got in line in my corral, a.k.a., the corral for the fast-at-heart runners, a.k.a., the turtle runners. My peeps. When corral D finally made it to the starting line, I was ready, and calm. I thanked my body in advance, queued up my watch, and prepared for greatness.

A few general notes before I describe my awesome half marathon finish:  Eugene is GORGEOUS. I mean, Oregon in general is pretty amazing; we are bordered by an ocean coast, have snow-capped mountains, trees for days, and a super-cool desert too. We almost literally have it all here. Eugene really blew me away, though. I made notes to myself to come back as soon as possible for the many hiking and drinking possibilities alone, if not also to visit my host, Eric. He has always come up to Portland for visits, because, as you may know if you live in Portland, it is the sweetest place on planet Earth. I truly believe Portlandians can be a little pig-headed and snobby when it comes to our city. I am guilty of it. (That could be a topic for a whole new blog post.) In other words, I hadn’t given Eugene a fair shake. I now stand corrected. Especially if you’re a runner, you must go to Eugene for a visit or a race.

The feeling of exhilaration and support was to the extreme. People from all walks of life, not just fans and family of the runners, were out cheering, waving banners, hoola-hooping, playing “Eye of the Tiger” with their 10-piece ukulele band (seriously), giving high-fives, dancing on the sidewalks in costume, and riding bikes with boom boxes attached playing upbeat songs to keep us motivated. It was unreal. I had been afraid that running 13.1 miles solo would get tedious. I had a store of monologues ready to go in my head for when I started flagging. Not once did I need to use them. All the colorful sights and music were fantastically distracting. I barely noticed I was running! In fact, the first two miles, I was so excited that when I looked at my watch I realized I was running 10 minute miles, and normally I run at a pace closer to 11:30 minute miles!

In a special bonus, Eric and I realized that mile marker 6 was practically in his backyard, so he got out of bed just to meet me on the course to take pictures and run a few blocks with me. It was a priceless experience.

The run ended back at Hayward Field. I ran around the track towards the big clock, and, as I used my last burst of energy to cross the finish line, I saw that there were hundreds of people in the stands. It was insane! I’ve never experienced a race where the host town and race organizers were so breathtakingly awesome. (I really wish I could find a better word here, but I really can’t.) I almost cried a few times…it was very emotional and overwhelming.

That night Eric and I went to celebrate with dinner, but I felt really awful afterwards so I had him take me home. That was a big bummer because I really wanted to see more of Eugene, and he wanted to take me out to celebrate. Usually I am okay to party after a half marathon, but there really was a huge difference in my body after RUNNING the whole thing as opposed to running/walking it. (Did I also mention that I shaved SEVEN minutes off of my previous half marathon time? Yay for getting a new PR!)

I will be doing this race every year until I can no longer run. It is a standout event, and I’m SO glad I went! No words describe how PROUD I am of doing it on my own, but in my heart I knew it would be great because I could never truly be alone running side-by-side with this wonderful community of people.

Ready for greatness!
Ready for greatness!
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Surprise! Eric jumped on the course to run with me for a minute.