So I Guess I’m a “Runner” Now?

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So, I haven’t really been talking about it on the blog here, because talking about the fact that I’m working on something can sometimes give me a false sense of accomplishment (which often results in me slacking off on exactly that thing I’m working on), but this summer I started a Couch to 5k program.

Now, I’ve been going a bit slower than even the program suggests – It’s been an awfully long time since I ran regularly, so I’m taking it one baby step at a time. I was also about 25-30 pounds lighter last time I did this, so I didn’t want to stress out my joints too much until I started to see weight coming off a little bit. So I’ve been running the program for each “week” for more like two weeks, sometimes more. I don’t move onto the next week’s plan until I really feel like the current week I’m on is downright easy.

Which means that even though the program is supposed to take only eight weeks, I’m currently only on week 4. Week one and two probably took me about three weeks each to get to the point where I felt confident moving on – probably because I started in like the dead of summer, when the heat and humidity were at their worst. Let me tell you, working out in 90+ degree weather with 90% humidity is, well, not fun. Particularly if you haven’t done it for about seven years. But now that the weight is starting to come off a bit (VERY slowly) and I’m getting more used to working out regularly again (not to mention that the weather is cooling down finally), things are progressing nicely. Week three only took me a week and a half to clear, and it’s looking like I’ll be moving on to week 5 by the end of this week, making week 4 a two-weeker.

Well, but wait… If I’m not technically done with the program, and I didn’t want to talk about it here for fear of allowing the false sense of accomplishment to serve as justification for slacking off, why do I suddenly mention it?

Well, because about a week ago I officially finished my very first 5k. I did the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. So this running thing is officially a habit, and a goal that is within attainable reach, even if I DO talk about it too much.

Now, technically it was not a 5k run, it was a 5k run/walk, but I ran a surprising portion of it for not being done with my program. Additionally, I know that it seems pretty hypocritical for my first 5k to have been the Komen considering I’ve mentioned here before that I have some issues with the organization.

But the bottom line is that, for whatever my issues are with the organization, and whatever issues I have with the idea of merely running a 5k as “support,” I’ve had to acknowledge (particularly after participating and seeing it happen) that the solidarity of doing the race can really make a difference in the community around it.

I originally signed up merely because it was convenient – my Aunt and one of my very good friends were both running it too, so I would have some support in my first attempt. But the experience ended up being an inspiring one – particularly seeing all the survivors who participated, and all the runners with their dedications pinned to their back. The diversity of the participants was really awe-inspiring as well. I mean, there were people from every segment of society there – and all supporting each other. My favorite were the three NFL-linemen-big, burly, tough looking tattooed guys who were cheering on and coaching everyone around them as they went, their hot pink dedication bibs with a name and a heartbreakingly short pair of dates seeming so out of place pinned to their backs. I was behind them for about a mile before I had to start walking again and lost sight of them, and they seriously left a trail of motivation and smiles in their wake – often from people who I bet would have purposely crossed to the other side of the street if they saw them out and about on a normal day.

And so even though I may not have much use for Komen, or races as a way of “helping” patients, I have to admit that this particular event served a purpose. It brought the community together in a way I have never seen before. And for that alone, I’ll be participating next year.

And with that, I’ll leave you with my horribly sweaty finish line selfie! (Thank goodness for instagram filters!)

5k success

Have any of you had an experience lately that’s forced you to reevaluate your stance on something or someone?

Music and Memory

So, I had a bizarre moment the other day. I was sitting in rehearsal for the church choir I work for as the soprano soloist and as we started singing, I choked up. Like, throat thickening, nose starting to run, tears starting to well kind of choked up.

Now before I get to why, let me explain a little bit about my relationship with music. The act of making music is not something that makes me choke up often. It is, in most cases, just another day at work for me. Why? Well, I’ve been active in music since basically the day I was born. My mom is a professional musician, and so I’ve been embedded in the industry for as long as I can remember. I started official violin lessons at age 2, switched to cello at 10, and by the time I was fifteen I too was considered a professional – meaning I was getting paid regularly for gigs.

So, long story short, I’ve been at this game a long time. It’s a job for me. A job I mostly enjoy, yes… but a job. And just like with any job you’ve been doing for nearing 30 years, it’s easy to sort of disengage. Which is something that, admittedly, I do more often than I should.

And was definitely something I was doing in this particular rehearsal. It was just any other day, and I was exhausted – as always. The day we rehearse my schedule has me going from 7 am until 10 at night not only that day, but the three days prior to it as well. So I was, admittedly, totally on autopilot. And the rehearsal was nothing out of the ordinary.

That is, until our director passed out the music for this:

 

And we started to sing.

And that’s when it happened. Even with my brain shut off.

I was baffled at first. It took me completely by surprise. My body had betrayed me – why was I starting to cry? There was no reason. It’s not like the experience of singing it was particularly moving – we were sight-reading, and quite frankly we weren’t doing it particularly well… So, what the hell? What was happening?

But then I realized that this particular song was one of the pieces we had been doing in the concert choir I’m in right around the time when my family member got their cancer diagnosis a year and a half ago. We were lucky, because it looks like the cancer was taken care of quickly, but the months that followed that initial news were easily some of the most terrifying, difficult, and trying months of my life. And through it all, we were rehearsing and performing this piece.

Once I put two and two together, it dawned on me that the mere act of reading through the piece again was enough to bring back the flood of stress and emotion from those months. Even as my brain was somewhere miles away thinking about my lecture plans for the Revolutionary War and a nap.

The realization left me dumbfounded. Blindsided, even. Because even as someone who is literally surrounded by and involved in the act of making music nearly every day of my life, it had been so easy to forget exactly how powerful music can be. How the music around us at a particular time and place can stay with us for years – if not a lifetime.

You know how they say that your sense of smell is one of the most powerful triggers of memory that exists? This odd experience reminded me that music has got to be up there in the ranks with it. I’m just not sure there’s anything else in my life that can bring back memory the way that music can. Particularly in times of great change.

Because as I sat down to reflect on this experience (shocking as it was), I realized that there were literally dozens of songs and pieces that had that type of power for me. The power to transport me back in time to a specific experience or place.

 

Because anytime I hear the finale of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, I’m 21 and sitting on stage in an old bank building turned concert hall, cello between my legs and the smell of rosin mingling with the salt from the stray tears that had managed to escape down my cheeks. The sheer joy at being able to play with a symphony orchestra for the first time since leaving for college, on top of being able to perform something I never thought in my life I’d get the opportunity to play simply too overwhelming to fully keep control of.

 

 

Because every time I hear the opening drum beats of Steady As The Beating Drum from Disney’s Pocahontas, I’m 8 years old again, dancing across my grandparent’s porch singing at the top of my lungs. I can smell the cigar my grandfather is finishing as he carefully tries to suggest that I maybe try singing along to something else, barely able to hide the annoyance in his voice after hearing it 96 times in a row. I can see the twitch in his arm ripple through his military tattoo as my grandmother’s voice wafts in from the kitchen chiding him gently to be a little more patient.

 

 

Because every time I hear Yeah! by Usher, I’m 17 and sitting in my high school boyfriend’s (surprisingly reliable) tin can of a Suzuki Sidekick that smelled like a combination of baseball equipment and Ivory soap, assuring him that nothing is wrong as I quietly try to push down the nagging feeling that staying together when we left for college was not going to be the right thing. (Surprise: It wasn’t).

 

 

Because every time I hear anything by the Shins, I’m 18 and laying on the dusty carpeted floor of a stuffy Russian classroom turned temporary practice room for the high school music camp I attended for 6 summers, decidedly not practicing. Instead I’m discussing with three friends the fact that our tenure as students there was coming to a close for real this time – as rising college freshmen there would be no next summer. We’re all just weeks away from moving here there and everywhere across the country for our college orientations, a prospect that both frightens and excites us. I can feel the nerves in the pit of my stomach, and the thrumming urge at the back of my brain to somehow try to freeze time as it is, so that the massive change would never come.

 

 

Because every time I hear anything by the Spice Girls, I’m back in 5th grade, eagerly waiting alongside my cousins to be let in to my very first real “rock” concert. I can see the homemade tee my cousin was wearing, and smell the funnel cakes being cooked higher up on the mountain in preparation for the opening of the gates and the flood of tween girls that was sure to follow. My heart is pounding in anticipation and I can hear the high pitched scream that ripples through the crowd any time a stage employee would even look like they were moving towards the gates.

 

 

And because every time I hear Heartbeats by Jose Gonzalez, I’m 23 and sitting in the passenger seat of a purple saturn in the parking lot of taco bell at 11 at night as the rain torrents down on us so hard that the windshield wipers can’t keep up. The rain has made it impossible to make our way home, and so Jim and I are sitting listening to quiet music and watching the rain hammer the poor little car’s sunroof – drawing tiny pictures in the fog on the windows and just enjoying being removed from the world. Isolated from tomorrow’s responsibilities and yesterday’s pressures by a downpour, alone with just ourselves and each other for a rare and fleeting moment in our relatively young relationship. I can feel the peacefulness settle in the back of my brain as everything just feels so… right.

As is obvious, for me, music and memory are two very intertwined things – theirs is an inescapable association. And it both baffles and delights me.

Does anyone else have these same types of experiences with songs? Please do share in the comments – I’m eager to hear other’s tales of the power of music and memory.

Quickie Book Review: A Land As God Made It

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A Land As God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America is a book that I picked up on a whim about two or three years ago during the going-out-of-business sale at our local Borders. Jamestown is not necessarily a topic that I’m totally crazy about – in general early British colonization is not really my thing when it comes to reading for pleasure. But it was like, 75% off, and it is a topic I have to teach about every year, so I figured “why not?”

Since then I’ve tried picking it up several times, only to get about 15 pages in before I put it down and moved on to something else – it just could not seem to hold my attention… at least until this summer.

Now, I’m not one to allow a book to “defeat” me (Jane Erye and Wuthering Heights being the two exceptions – I just really DO NOT LIKE the Bronte sisters, I guess…). No matter how much a book bores me or disappoints me, once I start it, I’m compelled to finish it. I can’t just let it go for whatever reason. And so each time I put this book down I kept telling myself that it wasn’t that I just couldn’t get into the book EVER – I just wasn’t in the right mood for the material at that moment. I WOULD finish it. Someday.

As it turns out, this time, I was right. Because I picked it up for another try this summer as I was redoing my lectures for the fall semester, and not only did I make it past the 15 page mark, once I got into it I just couldn’t stop. I guess after a few weeks of lecture writing on Colonial English North America I was just in a Jamestown frame of mind (side note – apparently that’s a thing?).

Overall, once I got over the hurdle of officially starting it, this book was not only informative, but fascinating as well. Horn puts forward not only a great deal of insight into the political maneuverings of both the Powhatans and the English (the Powhatan side of things is one I greatly enjoyed hearing about, as you don’t hear it often in our so often European-centric view of things), but also some interesting hypotheses on the ultimate fate of the lost Roanoke Colony.

That said, there are some moments when his eagerness sort of gets the better of him – he’ll occasionally just start name-dropping without properly explaining who the person is. Eventually you sort of figure it out, but it can be disorienting at times. Additionally, his overall theses don’t really become terribly apparent until the very end, when he sort of recaps with them as framing ideas – it would have been nice to have those ideas earlier to help facilitate a better grasp of context and relevance for a lot of the storytelling that he does throughout.

So this one has it’s positives and its negatives, but as a whole, it’s a read I very much enjoyed, and got a lot from in the long run. My rating? 8/10, would recommend.

Mani Monday: Zoya India

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Just popping in with a super quick Mani Monday, featuring my super short and stubby nails (cello gig season again!) and Zoya’s India.

I picked this polish up in Ulta yesterday – it’s part of their new fall Ignite collection, and it’s seriously like one of the most perfect fall colors ever. It’s a deep red – really almost burgundy – with an absolutely gorgeous shimmer. And bonus? It’s seriously almost a one-coater.

Downside is that I’m not sure about it’s staying power – I’ve already got some chips on my right hand. BUT, that said, I didn’t use my normal base coat, and the health of my nails on that hand has been questionable lately. I’ve had some issues with peeling that I thought were solved, but the nails with the chips are all the same nails that were peeling, so maybe I was wrong. Additionally, my nails always chip so much easier when my nails are stubby. Not sure why…

But anyway, this is def. a color that I’ll be going back to time and time again for fall. 9/10 without a doubt.

New Addition…

Olive Paws

We got a new addition to our apartment last week.

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Blogosphere? Meet Olive.

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The apartmentmate got her last week, and we all fell in love instantly. She’s about four months old, and seriously one of the most energetic, friendliest cats I’ve ever met. And this face! The only real problem is that she’s VERY hard to photograph. Between how dark she is, and the fact that the only time she’s sitting still is when she’s fast asleep… it’s pretty much impossible.

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Except, sometimes I get lucky.

Tempted by Sweater Knitting

Sweater pattern collage

Pumpkin lattes are out, and that always triggers a pavlovian response in me. Because of course, pumpkin latte time is sweater time. Never mind that it’s currently 90 damn degrees out as I type this. Facts? Who needs ‘em?

So I’ve been in a sweater state of mind for about two weeks now. My knitting box is starting to look attractive again, I’m itching to pull everything out of storage, and every time I look out a window I’m half hoping that the leaves have already started to turn. But of course, they haven’t. And they won’t for a while. And if I ACTUALLY put on a sweater, I’d be a sweaty horrible mess within 30 seconds, because it’s been one of the hottest weeks of the year here. Augh.

So to satisfy my cravings for fall, I’ve been looking at sweater patterns on Ravelry. I’ve never knit a sweater before – I don’t swatch for gauge when I knit, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never care enough/have the patience to, so sweater knitting is pretty much out of the picture. Too much yarn required (which means too much of a financial commitment) to possibly only end up with something that doesn’t fit.

But it doesn’t mean I can’t look. And maybe drop hints to my mom – who is knitting again, and is seriously a machine (like, seriously, she’s put out more FOs in the year she’s been back to it than I have in my nine years I’ve been knitting times 5).

So here’s a collection of the five sweater patterns that tempt me the most. You know, in case anyone wants to knit for me (all links lead to the ravelry pattern page).

Unbound by Annamaria Otvos

#1: Unbound by Annamária Ötvös. Love this cozy, slouchy pattern. The use of fingering weight leaves me feeling like it’d be pretty light as well – perfect for that in-between weather.

Aidez by Cirilia Rose

#2: Aidez by Cirilia Rose. This cabled cardigan seems like the ultimate cuddle sweater. Can’t you just see wearing it with a comfy vintage tee with leggings and big slouchy socks while curling up with a cup of tea? Augh. Fall. Where are you?

Ease pattern by Alicia Plummer

#3: Ease by Alicia Plummer. Another simple, cozy sweater pattern. Are you seeing a trend in my taste? I guess cozy and slouchy is the name of the game for me this fall/winter. I like this for its simplicity and the fact that there are options to knit it with a hood or without, so it can be either a little more formal, or very casual.

Sari Cardi by Jenise Reid

#4: Sari Cardi by Jenise Reid. Love the construction of this cardigan – it’s like half wrap, half full sweater. Again, perfect for a cozy kind of day, while still staying work-wearable. Plus, I’ve always had a thing for saris. They’re just SO BEAUTIFUL.

and last, but not least,

a hint of summer by isabel kraemer

#5: …A Hint of Summer by Isabell Kraemer. Another light, slouchy pullover like Unbound, but this time with stripes. Again, perfect for that in-between weather that’s fast approaching.

What are your favorite sweater patterns?

[All photos taken from the Ravelry pattern pages, and link back to said page]

Burnout… Already?

I’m…

…feeling: exhausted. Beyond exhausted. Utterly annihilated. My schedule is turning out to be a lot more brutal time-wise than I had expected it to be. I keep thinking to myself, “What’s the matter with me? I had this kind of 7 am to 10 pm schedule in high school, and it seemed so easy then!” I suppose everyone was right: it really does get harder the older you get. So anyway, that’s why it’s been a bit quiet. I’m hoping I’ll have adjusted a bit better by the time this coming week is over though. We’ll see.

Nail polish

…working on: getting the apartment in order. What free time I have had over the last week has been devoted to cleaning and reorganizing the apartment. I had meant to take a whole two days to do so before we started back at school, because I always feel so much more capable of handling stress when my surroundings are clean and organized. But it just didn’t happen. So now I have to do things a piece at a time. 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. It’s excruciatingly slow. But at least I finally have most of my nail polish organized!

…currently fascinated by: the Babymetal phenomenon. See video above. Warning: LOUD. High school me would have been SO all over this. Everything cute merged with everything metal? Perfect. Although the immensely young age of these girls (16 and 14… and they’ve apparently been at this for two or three years already) does make me a little conflicted – so I’m not really sure what to think, really.

Founding Brothers

…reading: Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis. Overall I’m loving it. His prose is masterful, and it’s sort of episodic in format – each chapter covers a different topic, which is working out well for me because I’ve been really bad about reading recently. But it’s okay, because this one is easy to pick up seamlessly after having neglected it for a few weeks. As long as I try to do a whole chapter at a time, anyway.

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…watching: Sword Art Online. I just finished watching this series (or what of it is on Netflix) on the recommendation of one of my friends. It’s very hard for me to watch anime anymore. It just doesn’t really appeal or interest me anymore because so much of it is aimed at and features high school age kids. As such it so often focuses on high school age problems and themes, and I just don’t really enjoy that anymore. But this one was an interesting concept. And even though it featured high school age characters, it didn’t feel like a high school aged plotline, I guess. It did get a little weird with the romance storyline towards the end… like (spoilers), sister-turns-out-to-actually-be-a-cousin-and-then-somehow-that-makes-a-crush-okay kind of weird… but as long as I sort of ignored that, the story itself was entertaining.

What have you all been up to lately?

[Sword Art Online logo from here]