Community in Chocolate

Eight years ago we forged a friendship over running. Six years ago I ran my first half marathon with Alicia at my side. Four years ago Erin, Alicia, and I began this journey of the Hot Chocolate Run. And this year, we chose once again to foster our community through our love of running…and chocolate. This race is no joke; we a run 15k (9.3 miles) on brutal hills and questionable weather. It’s truly one of the hardest races we’ve ever done–so why do we keep coming back? Because after running that demented race, we get UNLIMITED chocolate. Drinking chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and amazing chocolate-flavored gear. Oh, and we get a tech sweatshirt and a plethora of scrumptious swag in addition to all deliciousness.

Go ahead and let that sink in and let me know if you want to join us next year.

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Upon arrival at the hotel, March 2, 2018. READY FOR CHOCOLATE!

So this morning, three friends left bright and early and headed north. We’ve traveled together up and down the west coast, from San Diego to Seattle and east to Bend. These ladies are my running rock stars.

When you reach your thirties, there is a level of entertainment that shifts. Whereas we used to go out on Saturday nights and do body shots, shake our booties, bring home boys, and wake up feeling like we swallowed metal-spiked hairballs laced with arsenic, now we recognize a more…sophisticated palate. Instead of body shots, we train our bodies to run for miles. Instead of staying up all night, we pass out at a reasonable hour and get a few amazing nights of sleep. We try unique restaurants and giggle for hours.

And I’m digging it. I love the traditions we’ve created: our yearly brunch at Toulouse Petit for their incredible Cajun food, the trip to the flagship Nordstrom to devour the fashionable deals, and all the adventure walks we take along the way. Of course we always stay at the adorable Maxwell Hotel, which happens to be right next to Key Arena/Space Needle AND the finish line.

Community. Chocolate. Bliss.

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Looking Out For the Littlest Happy Things

For the month of July, I made a concerted effort to live in the present and enjoy each moment. I stopped putting pressure on myself to have it all because I realized that it WILL come. When we cling only to what we know and let overwhelming fear in, it’s because we are trying to hold on too tight to control. I realized I had to stop chasing this controlled ending or I will lose precious time. No one knows what path their journey will take. Some of us want to try to guide it, but only the universe truly knows where it will go.

I did several things to help myself along: I withdrew my profile from the dating site I was on. I practiced gratitude often. I made an effort to unplug more consistently. I ate whole foods. I expressed myself honestly and confidently instead of holding back because I wanted to sugar-coat a statement. I spent productive time alone. I took myself out on dates.

Happy face on a hike
Happy face on a hike

I also decided to be more assertive in the pursuit of my passions. I want to see opportunities more easily when they are offered to me. We tend to have tunnel vision and close ourselves off to creativity when we are in a rut. These are a few ways I can lead myself away from that tendency.

  • I will write more consistently (and publish more often). Writing has been my passion for as long as I can remember, and I tend to run away from it when I feel anxiety about the future. I should be doing the opposite! Some of us have natural talent, but practicing our craft is what make us great.
  • I will open my eyes to the creativity that the world gives freely, and use it. We don’t always take advantage of the gifts that are bestowed upon us every single day. We shouldn’t be wasting them.

The first thing I did to kick off the month was take myself out to a movie. ALONE. It was great!

In the first week of July, I gave myself a gift. I bought my plane ticket to New York. I had been hemming and hawing, not wanting to pull the trigger because I hadn’t yet planned everything out perfectly. No longer! The trip will fall into place in the next few months, and I am comfortable with that.

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Over the next few weeks, I did many things for myself. I chose new podcasts to listen to. I attended an overnight event with 100+ people I have never met (and a few that I know very well). I cherished quality friend and family time. I tried new activities, including an amazing class that combined belly dance, yoga, and aromatherapy. It turned out to be quite transformative. I attended a meetup without a wing man to provide comfort, forcing me to talk to strangers on my own merits. As much as I am a people person most of the time, there are moments when I am shy. Walking into a place knowing absolutely no one is one of those. Everyone was friendly of course, and I even left with some future salsa partners. I went camping for five days in Olympic National Park with two friends. Talk about adventure! There were challenging hikes, beautiful sights, and giggles galore over games of Canasta and Yahtzee. I tried new beers at Brewfest on the Portland waterfront. I treated myself to a massage and acupuncture, and it was totally worth it. I allowed myself to emotionally heal over some issues I’d been hiding from. It felt fantastic.

The best things, though, were the small things. I walked around the farmers market and enjoyed fresh fruits right out of the pint. I let the tinkle of a child’s laughter float over me and fill me with joy. I found heart shapes in nature and took pictures. I read books, listened to bands playing in the park, and took a day off work midweek just because I wanted to. What a fabulous month. In August, I intend to take the spirit of the last 31 days and keep the energy going. I have some great ideas but welcome more! Book or podcast suggestions, activity invitations and restaurant recommendations especially appreciated. I hope you are enjoying the summer as much as I am! Drop me a note here and tell me what special treats you are giving yourself during the sunny months.

 

Beautiful Lake Crescent
Beautiful Lake Crescent
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Heart-shaped rock
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Hearts in nature

A Love Note

Becky and the trees in their joy!

I’ve got several things I need to write about, but I’ve chosen my trip to the California Redwoods with my cousins Linda, Michael, and Tutu, since it is still fresh in my mind. Indulge me if this seems like “nature porn” to you. My sister, Sarah (the originator of the term nature porn), made me aware that some of my last posts about nature border on…intimate. The thing is, that is how I feel about nature. I can’t help it. Please accept my flowery prose as yes, a love note to nature. Just roll your eyes behind my back. Or nod your head and say to yourself, right on Becky!

I watched The Celestine Prophecy the night before I left for my Redwoods adventure. I have read the book no less than six times, but seeing one director’s interpretation of the story in action was unforgettable. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a book written about eight insights that the main character discovers throughout his journey to Peru. Much of the story takes place in the jungle, a most beautiful and magical setting, and coincidentally much like the place I was to see in my own upcoming adventures. The main character was a naïve history teacher, not knowing that when he got laid off, everything that had happened up until that moment was all a part of his greater plan. One of the insights he learned was that he needed to start paying attention to every little thing that was happening around him. Notice the coincidences around you; they all mean something. His journey also taught him to be in the moment, and manifest what you want.

I have been exploring these themes in my own life for several years now, as you know if you have read my blog before. It occurs to me that each time I experience The Celestine Prophecy I learn something new. The lesson that everything happens for a reason was highlighted when I realized there was absolutely a reason that I watched this movie right before heading to my own magical locale. Of course I’ve always understood that the history teacher made his way to a beautiful place. Every story needs a setting. It just never dawned on me that the jungle was actually a character in his story, as the Redwoods would become a character in my story.

They glowed under my attention, and I in theirs. The minute I was in them, I could feel their energy. In the movie, when the history teacher focuses his gaze on a philodendron, he sees its energy, or aura. It touches him. I felt the same in the midst of the giant trees and their unique ecosystem. As the sun pushed its way down, all the way down—dozens of feet of each tree—the beams would touch and highlight the brilliant green of the undergrowth. The effect was visually magical, and physically warming. The opulence of the trees, and the knowledge that they have seen more than any human can ever tell, was stunning. Did you know these trees have been around since the time of the dinosaurs? The fact that they are still on earth because of the stubbornness and love of a few special people was fantastical. These trees had been 90% harvested until the Save-the-Redwoods League was created to protect them. I felt that history with every move I made. I was being hugged by the spirit of these trees; I could actually feel a lovely thickness around me. Inside, I felt a peace and fullness. Most of all I experienced love. I know it may sound a little silly; trees don’t have the cognitive ability to love. But if I can love the forest, why can’t it love me back?

My family wandered the woods with me. We spoke excitedly some, but mostly we all just drank it in. Tutu, my 82-year old cousin, repeated softly to me, “We are so lucky, do you know how lucky we are to be here?” I appreciated her comment, but instead of feeling lucky I felt more blessed than anything. It wasn’t luck that brought me here; it was my will, and the will of the Universe. It wasn’t luck that led me to drive the five hours each way from Portland to Medford where my cousins Linda and Michael live, and then on another few hours to California. It was my desire to Be there.

I had been traveling for two weeks straight before this trip and I almost cancelled because I was so tired of living out of a suitcase. I just wanted to relax in my own home. But the Universe gave me a little nudge and told me that this was something I needed to experience NOW. Wouldn’t you know it, but the Universe was right again! To share this trip in words is something that is less than adequate, but it is all I have. I hope, if you visit, the trees give you the same love they gave to me.

 

The Travel Two-Step

I’ve processed this whole experience…it’s time to share!

I’m no frequent flyer, but I usually fly 1-2 times a year. I have never had a big problem. A few delays maybe, but nothing to cry about. This flight, however, was of nightmare proportions! I left PDX right on time, heading for my layover at Chicago O’Hare. When I got there I realized I had about 50 minutes until my next flight. Of course my next gate was in another wing (Do they EVER make it easy to change flights?), so I had to make a run for Terminal B, gate F11. My United flight was supposed to leave at 6:45 PM. Oh, and on my almost-4-hour flight to Chicago, there had been no meal service. Four hours on a plane and no meal service? Plus paying for my checked bags?

By the time I got to Chicago I was starving, but I was afraid to stop for food because my next flight was coming up soon. I found gate F11…there were 6 screens up and not one of them said Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which was my final destination. I went up to the counter. Finally a man asked how he could help me. I asked about my flight, and he said it was the correct gate. It was about 6:20, which  meant it was almost boarding time, so I grabbed a bag of chips (ugh!!!) from the nearest kiosk and waited for the lineup.  20 minutes later there was an announcement, “Flight #### to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre will be delayed. We will be boarding the flight at 7:30.” Rats! I looked at the girl next to me, who was having the same reaction. She shook her head and grumbled. We got to talking and I found out that Stefanie lived in Scranton, and had been waiting at O’Hare since 2:00 PM. No wonder she was grumbling! 7:30 was close enough that I felt uneasy about searching for food. We were at a dead-end and there wasn’t much available close by. So I waited, and ate a Luna bar that I had packed for emergencies.

At 7:30, it was the same story, only the gate employee gave us the information that the plane was actually in the hold, but we were waiting on crew members to arrive. I had a fleeting thought of volunteering to be a flight attendant. Instead, I waited.

At 8:30 an employee grabbed for the microphone and everyone at the gate bristled. “Flight #### to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre will not be departing at 8:30…we actually don’t know where the crew is, so we’re going to delay the flight until 9:45.” Sounds of surprise and aggravation were heard across the room. At that point I got mad and went to find something to eat. I found a grill and bar that was open and grabbed a Greek salad with chicken. Stefanie looked at it longingly when I sat down. Shortly after I returned to the gate, the announcements started. “Flight #### to Cedar Rapids is cancelled,” the gate attendant announced. “Flight #### to Lincoln has been cancelled.” Stefanie and I looked at each other with dread. Did none of these flights have crews? Would ours be next? Did they forget to schedule crews for all of these flights?? All in all, five flights were cancelled. Ours was called last, at 10:30. We were instructed to go upstairs to the service desk for overnight accommodations and to reschedule our flights. Stefanie and I raced upstairs…only to be met by a line that snaked all the way down the terminal. I’m talking at least 200 people. One clerk, 200 people. We groaned, and got in line. We started talking to the people around us. Soon we had a posse: David, a fast-talking sales guy from Scranton, Stefanie, my buddy from the gate, Mika, a woman from California, and me. Mika’s story was the worst, hands down. She had to be at a wedding the next day at 1:00 PM. David and Stefanie were the lucky ones since they lived in Scranton.

So we waited. It seemed the line was not moving at all. Finally a man came and told the back half of the line to go downstairs to another desk where more representatives could help us. We were trying to be cheery. We got to know each other a little, shared other flight horror stories, and giggled so we wouldn’t cry. David suggested we rent a car with the four of us. It was about 12 hours to Scranton from Chicago. I reminded him he’d be travelling with three women, so it would be more like 14 with bathroom breaks. He told us to forget it. Then we hit the front of the line. We heard that there was a flight leaving at 7 AM to Scranton via Detroit, and we all wanted on it. Stefanie had been on the phone the entire time we stood in the queue. She got a hold of her travel agent and quickly realized she didn’t have to wait in line. She’d book a new flight and expense the whole thing. So she waved goodbye and  jetted away to the Hilton across the street. The rest of us weren’t so lucky. We were on personal trips and couldn’t afford to just buy another flight.

When I got to the representative, I asked her what was available. She said there were some direct flights to Allentown and Harrisburg, but none to Scranton. For some reason, I got it in my head that Harrisburg was closer than Scranton, so I asked to be put on the 9:00 AM to Harrisburg. Score! She gave me my hotel and food voucher, and I waited for David and Mika to finish up with their arrangements.  They were lucky enough to grab tickets to the 7:00 AM flight to Scranton via Detroit. By the time we were at the front of the queue, the airport Hilton was completely booked. We were assigned the Crowne Plaza. We grabbed our carry-ons and headed to the shuttle. We waited for the shuttle, and waited some more. After about 25 minutes we were getting a little testy. In the meantime I called my father to tell him the good news about the Harrisburg flight. “Harrisburg!! Aaarrgh! That’s twice as far!” Uh oh. I wanted to cry at this point. I felt like a total moron.

David pointed out that there was a chance I could still get on the Detroit-Scranton flight, but I was just too cranky and tired to care. He grabbed my Harrisburg reservations, whipped out his phone and started talking. He was on the phone for 45 minutes, and I’m not sure how he did it, but he somehow got me a seat on the flight. I wanted to kiss him! During this time the hotel shuttle finally came, and we were off…to the scariest location EVER. The shuttle took us 20 minutes away from the airport to a Crowne Plaza. It was a beautiful hotel inside, but the location made us not want to walk outside at all. The three of us walked in…just in time to get in yet another line. By this time it was 1:00 AM, and we were really sick of lines. When we got to the front, we were assigned our rooms. The nice lady at the front desk swept her hand to the side to indicate the free incidentals we might need. “Do you have saline solution?” I asked, desperately hoping. I’d been wearing my contacts for about  16 hours and my eyes were burning madly. “No, I’m sorry dear. The gift shop is closed and won’t open until 8:00 AM tomorrow morning.” Our shuttle was to leave at 5:00 AM.

I did what I had to do. I walked up and down the line of remaining travellers and asked if anyone had saline solution. One man did, and I almost hugged him. (I should have, he was pretty cute!) I raced upstairs to my room and grabbed two drinking glasses, raced back downstairs and grabbed my glasses that I had thankfully packed in my carry-on, and pulled those suckers out of my eyes and dropped them into the cups. Ahhh…

David, Mika, and I went up to our rooms and flopped into bed. It was now 1:30 AM, and our wake-up call was at 4:30 so we could make the shuttle at 5:00. I slept fitfully, worried I wouldn’t hear the wake-up call. Fortunately, I did wake up. When we got to the airport we headed to the desk to get our new travel documents. Mika got hers right away. David and I…we had seat numbers, but no reservation! Please don’t ask me how this is possible because I don’t understand it myself. David started fast-talking, and worked it out. Whew! We went to the gate and finally, finally, boarded the Delta flight, reuniting with Stefanie in the meantime, who had also gotten on the new flight. The trip to Detroit was thankfully short. My seatmate was a man in his 40s, and was a fun conversationalist. When we landed in Detroit, the four of us waited for each other and went to the next gate. We were anxiously awaiting our final destination, and I thought, we should memorialize this! Here is the picture that resulted:

Becky flight friends
Becky and The Posse

We don’t look half bad for being raggedy and exhausted! Arriving at Scranton, we were giddy to get down to baggage claim. Then we realized our bags were still on the United plane, though we had switched to a Delta flight. We would not be getting our baggage until the next plane arrived. By that time my father had gotten to the airport and was waiting for me outside in the queue. I kept him waiting another 45 minutes while I stood in line to file my baggage claim. At 12:45 PM, over 24 hours after I had left Portland, I was on my way to Danville! Wooohooo! I made dad stop at the nearest Walmart so I could grab some saline solution and another outfit to last me until my luggage came. I had to wait another day to get it, but when I did I was really thankful! But they broke the zipper pull…

Yes, this trip was insanely awful. Yes, I got no sleep and was starving most of the time. But one good thing came out of it. I made three new friends! It was refreshing to see people come together during this situation and become friends and allies. It makes me smile to know that now I have two more friends in Pennsylvania and one in California that will always share these memories with me. Plus I have an instant blog topic! But, just for the record, Universe, I don’t ever want to go through this again. Note that down.