But, I wanna be productive! Don’t I?

The return trip back from any time away from home, whether a week or a long weekend, sets my brain and heart into motion. The parts of me I allowed to unwind begin to tightly coil once again.

I anticipate all that must happen in the next ten minutes, even when I’m still 30 minutes away from home: the unloading of the car, unpacking of bags, washing of clothes. The watering of plants, wrangling of cat fur tumbleweeds taking over the downstairs. The emails to respond to; the calendar plotting for the week ahead. Do I need to get groceries today or can that wait?

All of this is self-inflicted. And unhelpful. Remember how much fun we just had on vacation, Katie?

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Warning: that’s a genuine smile. Because I was having fun in the woods.

After spending the past two nights in the North Carolina mountains, I sit at this laptop with the goal of giving myself the gift of grace. Do what truly needs to get done in order for you to feel prepared to take on the week ahead. But, leave the “shoulds” out of the conversation today. BUT IT IS SO HARD!

Those “shoulds” are loud, often. Deafening at times, in fact. I will be the first to raise my hand and admit my cultural adherence to the notion of “productivity.” I prove my worth through tasks and outputs. Spending time on creative exercises, even writing this blog post right now, can provoke that small inner voice to speak up. “Psst, Katie, shouldn’t you go vacuum right now? The kitchen floor needs to be wiped up. And, why don’t you just check your work Inbox for a few minutes? You’ll feel so much better tomorrow…”

Will I, inner voice? Or will the small pool of “shoulds” morph into a tidal wave of anxiety, sweeping me into a vortex for the next two hours and then I look up and Sunday is over?

Do I sound like I am speaking from experience? Absolutely. Frequently. It has been a goal of this year for me to intentionally shift how I value myself and my time. Because, if I don’t, I will continue to miss out on opportunities to live fully.

Isn’t the notion of retirement weird? Our culture dictates that you have to earn your time to take adventure, develop hobbies, give back,etc. But, we have these mortal bodies that wear out over time. It becomes a heck of a lot harder to do all the things we may have wanted to do 30 years prior. (Unless you’ve developed erectile dysfunction. Then we’ve got a pill for you!)

We ran into many (perceived) retirees while hiking in the mountains on Friday. Of course — it’s a WORK day [note: “work” day in the dominant narrative of what constitutes “real” or “professional” work in a white supremacist society but NEWS FLASH: people work EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY and many of us take their schedules for granted — things still get delivered to ours doorsteps; our loved ones in the hospital are receiving care; office buildings are cleaned; fields are harvested; passengers arrive from one part of the world to another].

Back to my Friday morning hiking rumination. Aaron and I stuck out like a bit of sore thumbs as the youngest climbers of that time slot. Why would people of working ages be climbing a summit at 11:30am unless they were:

  1. Retired
  2. Vacationing
  3. Stay-at-home parent
  4. A person who takes time during their day to go hike a trail

Yes, number four is an option. (And no doubt there are a slew of other options so excuse my lack of inclusion. It is not meant to short-change anyone’s reason for being on a hike at 11:30am on a Friday. If you are on a hike at 11:30am on a Friday, you’re a badass. Period.)

Taking the time to make these moments happen, for me, can be so hard. Guilt of not feeling a contributing team member with my colleagues; fear of not being able to respond to the needs or questions of board members, donors, other stakeholders who are working on a Friday at 11:30am.

I like me some routine. I like me some dependibility. Funny how life provides neither of those. I can feel like I’m in a groove, that I’ve got things figured out. And then:

BAM.

A new opportunity. An illness. A phone call. An injury. A ticket to a sold-out show. Whatever it is, the exciting and excruciating, serve as reminders that change is constant. Which I know I know, but it doesn’t really sink it. I can still sing every lyric to Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” as proved on our drive home today.

But, I refuse to grant space in my heart and mind that my perception of routine is false. Things are happening behind the scenes. It’s our own Upside Down from Stranger Things. Hopefully with fewer horrifying creatures.

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That’s essentially the face I make when confronting anything outside of my routine. IF IT IS NOT WRITTEN DOWN, I AM NOT SURE IT CAN HAPPEN. (Photo credit)

Here we are: on a Sunday afternoon, fretting about living up to standards set by society and me. The shadow of having to justifying taking a Friday off, of not doing another load of laundry today. One could be done, sure. There are a thousand things that could be done; there are a dozen tasks that I could list as “should be” completed.

Today, I started my morning, sipping hot coffee while leaning on a window ledge as a fog swallowed the homes, farms, and gardens enclosed in our valley. I heard the call of the rooster, alerting the masses that it was time to stretch our limbs from a good night’s rest. I smelled the rich earth, dotted with dew, and breathed in the cool, crisp air one would never expect in a North Carolina August.

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I should sit in that memory for a bit longer. It will fade, in time. But the feeling it has imprinted will serve as a reminder of why I choose, today and each day, to live. Productivity, be damn.

That time we visited Scotland and Ireland

Both countries lived up to the hype and my own personal hopes.

Rather than sketch out a full narrative on our 10+ day excursion, I’m going to challenge myself and aim for the 10 words or less review of each place (accompanied by a few photos to give, you know, context)

Edinburgh: birthplace of Scotland. Old meets tourist on cobblestone streets.

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St. Andrews: must-stop for golfers, botanists, beach walkers…and single ladies.

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Dingle: agrarian paradise held together through kindness, culture, and beer

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Dublin: Guinness-built international destination; class lines, once deep, now blurred

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Without hesitation, I would recommend putting both countries on your list for your next vacation. With nearly 86 miles under our feet (and 400+ in the car), we only scratched the surface of these nations.

We change from the insides out. When the joy is sparked, you can’t hide it:

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Traveling anticipations

What are you most looking forward to?

I posed this question to Aaron over drinks last Friday. Our conversation had drifted to our upcoming vacation to Ireland and Scotland, two countries that our respective ancestors called home.

Both of us had been dreaming of these visits for years. In fact, when I was an undergraduate student in Arizona, I had pursued a study abroad program where I would have enrolled at the University of Cork in Fall 2005. I could have spent the days reading acclaimed Irish writers, playwrights, and poets or mused over the prevailing political theories that had resulted in Western European’s attempt to paint itself as colonialists with compassion (note: you’re only fooling yourselves, colonizers.)

Alas, I did not make it across the pond that year. Instead, I was elected to serve as the Chairperson for a student-run nonprofit called Camp Wildcat…and I never looked back. To satiate a small taste, I did enroll in an Irish Literature course that fall, falling in love with “Eureka Street” while remaining in a state of confusion over “At-Swim-Two-Birds” (that has remained through present day).

What I was most looking forward to regarding our adventure wasn’t unique to our destinations of choice. Rather, my anticipations and expectations are borne from the very essence of why I desire to travel: it’s about being surrounded by not-yet-known people where I’m given the chance to listen, absorb, and experience a different way of being.

Recently, Shankar Vedantam, host of “The Hidden Brain” podcast, dedicated an episode to research showing how diverse groups of individuals generate more creative solutions. Whether it is a gathering of musicians from different cultural traditions —

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Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble is a perfect example of how incredibly talented musicians from all over the globe and create harmonies together

or top scientists in the relentless pursuit of a cure, we are able to tap into creativity in unprecedented ways when we sit around a table of people who are not cookie-cutter images of us.

Exposure to other cultures through traveling gives us the glimpse, even briefly, of what exists beyond the walls we have built. We may claim to hail from diverse areas of the country. Yet, when we look at the people who make-up the various constituencies in our lives — co-workers, friends, neighbors, congregations — how often do the people in these groups look/sound/think like us?

It’s not wrong to build relationships with others who do fall more in-step with our way of being. In fact, it’s important for us to find partners and companions who share our identities and experiences, to a point. Where it gets murky is when we only begin to allow individuals into our lives that resemble what we consider our best selves.

Yes, it may feel safer or easier to engage in conversation, as we can say: “I know how you feel” or “I’ve been there.” But, we can be empathetic and understanding to individuals whose life experiences are vastly different than ours as well. It may take more work. We must be willing to abandon our bias and actively listen. We must be able to let go of our singular perspective, which has been shaped by a lot of luck and a little bit of our own accord.

The good news: we don’t have to travel around the world to gain such insights through new connections. Sometimes it is literally us knocking on a neighbors door — you know, the one you’ve maybe thrown a hand up at in acknowledgement as you mutually wheeled your garbage bins to the curb or seen carrying a bag of groceries after a morning of errand-running.

Each day, let’s challenge ourselves to chisel into the walls we’ve built in our own lives. And, when we have the chance to explore, let’s say yes whenever it is possible.

After our “family meeting” on Saturday to walk through our trip logistics (does that really surprise anyone who knows us?), the hunt for the next adventure was on — sketching out itineraries in Colombia, Vietnam, or Peru….for 2019.

Time moves fast. We have to be intentional about creating those opportunities to see, smell, hear, taste, touch, and surround ourselves with difference. Which is why I am most looking forward to being in Ireland and Scotland — to hear fragments of conversation that I may or may not understand; to inhale fragrances from the local flora and fauna; and to arrive with a sense of wonder. I am thrilled by the sense of possibility of what I will learn and who I will meet.

That’s not such a terrible mindset to adopt each day, no matter which side of an ocean we wake up on.

 

Recap: Wanderlust 108 – Charlotte 2016

Wanderlust 2016 - Charlotte

Where it began

Run. Yoga. Mediate.

The trifecta of health and balance for one’s mind, body, and spirit. Back in April, I had the opportunity to engage in these trio activities with two incredible friends. We hopped on the Amtrak in Durham after work on a Friday, heading to the Queen City (Charlotte).

Sheila, Michelle and I outside the Charlotte Amtrak station

A group of 3? Talk about synergy!

Wanderlust, known for its enormous yoga festivals, often in exotic locations, created day-long spin-offs dubbed Wanderlust 108.  Under “what to expect” the site notes:

lots of high fives, a little sweat, and a deep chill.

Wanderlust 108: Ready to start the 5k

The chill factor was in full effect – brr!

If I could offer some additional “what to expect” thoughts, I would include: an incredibly array of multicolored yoga pants; patchouli; and

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Kombucha, of course.

As this Saturday neared, we kept a close eye on the weather. North Carolina had plunged into a cold snap, and Saturday’s temperatures were not looking ideal for outdoor recreation. It was windy – several yoga mats attempted flight. And it was cold – at least at the start. Fortunately, the sun provided respite and made the experience much more bearable.

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Queen City Yoga

The day began with a 5k run followed by a group dance party with MC Yogi (I kid you not), a Vinyasa flow, and a guided mediation (more on the last part below).

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Michelle is in to win

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Sheila gives peace and… brackets?

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Look ma! I’m sitting on a slackline.

A mindfulness triathalon. How zen. How challenging.

Never before had I meditated. I certainly had read my fair share of articles on the importance of mediation and centering and breathing exercises…blah blah blah. Yes, I shut those out because – let’s be real: we’ve got to get physical.


This is where the reader (that’s you) should leap from your chair and say:

 

YouLie

Ugh. I’m a bit ashamed I included such an image in this blog post. But, back to the subject at hand: my pursuits of strength have resided solely in the physical. I’m all about doing. I make to-do lists. I complete projects. I’ve got a plan. I’m constantly moving and moving and moving.

Not only does this lead to energy depletion, but it denies me from living fully. I don’t allow myself the space to turn inward and be still. For too long, I viewed that as a weakness. Diving headfirst by mediating in an open field among hundreds of strangers allowed me the first taste of meditation’s power.

I wish I could report that since attending Wanderlust 108, I’ve walked down a more enlightened path, prioritizing a time for quiet reflection each day. For the first two days after Charlotte, I tried to establish a morning routine. And then…oh, you know. Life happened.

Still, I had the opportunity of knowing what could be and now I can practice the intentional time-out.

As soon as I finish that run…

One of the other best takeaways from the 24 hour Charlotte adventure:

Vegan pimento cheese

Yes, that is VEGAN pimento cheese!

Do you meditate or engage in intentional mindfulness? If so, how did you end up making the practice part of your life?

On a cold, rainy day in the South

it’s hard not to miss home. We had a chance to return to the Valley of the Sun in early February. Feels like eons ago already. Knocked off several hikes, see the Frida Kalho exhibit at the Heard Museum, visit two breweries [Four Peaks and Wren House], eat good vegan eats (Loving Hut, Pita Jungle, The Coronado, Picazzo’s] and lots of family and friend time, and a day at the Waste Management Open.

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Composting at the Waste Management Open?! I am all over that.

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In true Millennial fashion, Danny and I are at a brewery, together, on our phones.

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With Mom outside of the Heard Museum. Yes, sleeveless in February — BRING IT!

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Being a ham next to my Dad

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We brought our own lanyards.

Open 2

Which one is the out-of-towner?

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Out on the Go John trail in Cave Creek

Dabbing

Saguaro dabs. I dab.

 

What if you did win the Powerball?

Since I’m still writing in this blog, consider this my admission that I was not a major winner in Saturday’s record-breaking Powerball jackpot.

But, I can say that I am walking away with more money than I invested. Thank you lucky number 13.

What will I do with that $12? Don’t worry – I won’t spend it all in one place. While it could purchase a six-pack of beer, it will likely end up in the “kitty” where stray dollar bills end up. (Previously, this was our swear jar when Aaron and I were trying to kick the habit of one particular word in our vocabulary. I can’t speak for Aaron, but I can say that having to put money where my mouth was did help curb the frequency of usage of that particular word. Have I been as faithful to following protocol as of late? Not really. Add it to the resolution list.)

Let’s play a visioning game for one moment. Now, the Powerball for Wednesday night is $1.4 billion. Granted, if you opt for the 30-year payout (which would carry me to retirement), that overall winnings are reduced to $868 million. Plus taxes. But, at least in this country we have all those loopholes for wealthy people, right?

This Wired article walks through the various deduction scenarios, projecting a final payout of $394 million. That leads me to ask you:

Dirty Harry aside, can you actually imagine having $394 million dollars? What would you do with such a sum of funds now overflowing sock drawers, bank accounts of the Cayman Islands, etc.?

I can barely imagine having one million dollars. Of course I’m a nonprofit professional because I don’t want to make money.

[cut to: tumbleweeds rolling through the desert]

Fact check: not true. 

Back to winning the Powerball though because it’s fun to fantasize about the Amazon shopping spree that would await me. [Glass Pyrex containers for DAYS!] Think of all the books I could buy! And then I would need more bookcases and shelves to put them on! And then more lamps to read by!

In truth, if and when I can make more money or win the Powerball, I want to give it away. No, not all of it. Please. I can be a selfish human, and I have a family and want to see the world. Still, I recognize the constant need in our society for additional resources – from  providing funding for pre-K and after-school programs who success rates are rooted in evidence-based practices to increasing access to health care resources for vulnerable populations/rural communities to investing in clean energy technologies that allow us to reduce our dependence on dangerous fossil fuels.

And more. Helping to support animal shelters. Investing in racial equity training to dismantle our white supremacist systems. Supporting scholarship programs to vocational and university programs. Increasing access to the Internet. Putting music programs back in public schools. Oh, this list could go on and on and on…

Sure, I would mind overthrowing a corporation or two, or trying to compete with these guys in the 2016 Election:

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But that payout..it’s really just peas and carrots when you step back and look at our political landscape…which is scary.

So, in the meantime, I’ll put my money where my mouth heart is – investing in creating a more equitable, sustainable future for all people, not just the privileged, not just the ones who can and have access to the right resources. Money can’t fix problems, but it sure can help support the people on the ground, in communities, committed to helping build a better quality of life for all.

And take that trip to Ireland. Because, you know: #yolo.

 

 

Recap: Knoxville Marathon 2015

Despite another long absence from the land of blogging – extended due to falling ill with the plague – it’s time to share the joys of the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon that took place on March 29, 2015.

Yes, I mean joys. Honestly, I had SO much fun during this race. Part of the happiness stemmed from my fear of hearing the wall at mile 19 again. But, a bigger part came from all the external inputs – the great crowds, the sights of a city I know very little of, hot jams from strategically placed bands, and that overwhelming sense of accomplishment bursting out of all the other runners participating.

Our entire stay in Knoxville was chilly, and race morning was no different:

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I was feeling ok. I may have been kissing on a baby that may have had croup (d’oh!) but I had my traditional pre-race breakfast (peanut butter + banana toast) and a cup of coffee + a cup of tea (this may become problematic later?). It was an easy drive from our friends’ house to the University of Tennessee. A lot of folks were huddling in the convention center for warmth, but the forecast was promising – and it delivered.

11080836_10102965434582215_945296493093939163_oWho doesn’t have time for a quick World’s Fair selfie?

The stage was beginning to set. Runners milled at the starting line, filled with nerves, caffine, and relief that the day was finally here.

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And then, it was time.

14979_10102965433943495_8705945705637753727_nI can do this…?!?!

I had a goal of running a sub-4 hour marathon. Originally, I intended to find the 4 hour pace group and hang out, but the first mile was a bit of a cluster. We were assigned to different corrals, and I’m going to venture a guess that some people were not as honest in their finish time predictions as others. Oh well – the first mile was my slowest, and then I begin to find a groove.

About eight miles in, I had to make a critical choice: hold the bladder for 18 more miles, or concede and make a pit stop. I do not regret my decision one bit. It may have been a 30-45 second difference on my time. But, I could then allow my mind to be free to focus on everything but finding a port-a-john.

When the marathon split away from the half-marathon, it became a bit quieter. No, not just a bit: it was like we were running in isolation. This is when we hit old town Knoxville – the grittier sights and sounds of a city. Still, the neighborhoods came out in support. I kept my smile on from this point forward through the:

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The result?

marathon finish3:53:34

Woo! I actually passed the 4 hour pacer in the last 3/4 mile. He noted that he was about five minutes ahead of the pace. I turned on the engine and cranked it in.

10995856_10102965432421545_4456085235924401843_nWoot woot!

The course was definitely challenging (hills a plenty), but I thought it was fair. We got to run over not ONE but TWO bridges! And, finishing in Neyland Stadium was incredible. I must give major props to my sherpa, Aaron J, for sharing his former home and university with me, for inspiring me to try 26.2 once again, and for traversing Knoxville on foot to ensure I had all the goo and water one girl could need.

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So now…oh yes, I want to run another marathon. New goal: 3:45. I’ll find out in a couple of weeks about Chicago. Until then, my focus is on getting better. In just one week, I went from crushing hills with ease to finding myself out of breath reaching the top of our stairs. And, the pollen explosion here has not helped matters. I’m just taking it one day at a time and giving myself the space to restore…because as my yoga instructor said yesterday: “When did the idea of self love become radical?”