Top 7 Things That Make America Great

Although our trip to Europe for spring break was fun, it wasn’t quite as fun as it should have been as I came down with a nasty upper respiratory infection early into the trip. By the end, all I wanted to do was sleep in my own bed and eat my own food and get healthy. This morning, Thor and I went out for breakfast and while I was silently being grateful for my American breakfast, Thor said, “I’m so glad to be back in an American restaurant.”

With so many negative news posts on social media, you’d think the United States was some pithole of garbage on fire, but after traveling to another country I always come home with a new sense of nationalistic pride. Sometimes people are so busy complaining that they forget what’s right in front of them. There was a night in London where I joked that I was going to come home with a “America is Already Great” hat. In any color other than red, of course.

Top 7 Things That Make America Great

UnknownThat American Work Ethic: Sometimes to a fault, but damn do we work hard. It doesn’t matter if you are entry level or carry multiple degrees, we all work long hours, and GET.IT.DONE. In fact, I just read an article that said Americans often see “long hours” as a status symbol in society. Slackers need not apply.buttercream_vintagewts.jpg

That American Restaurant Service: A by-product of the aforementioned work ethic, our server literally light-jogged to grab our coffee when we sat down this morning. Eating in Europe is exhausting as there is so much flagging down the staff, and often reminding them what you flagged them down for in the first place.

 

sqmileheader.pngThose American Streets: Highways and by-ways and streets that are straight. Thank you, city planners. I understand that we have the luxury of starting fresh, but in London it often took us over an hour to go three miles in an Uber.

 

5-steps-customer-service.jpg

That American Friendliness: When we say, “How can I help you?” we mean it. We greet with a smile; we serve with a smile; we take complaints with a smile. Culturally, we are a friendly, helpful people, even when we don’t feel like it.

 

giphy.gifThat American Entertainment: Everywhere you go, American music is playing. We are a machine of high-quality (and not-so-high-quality) music, movies, television, and media. Sure, we produce a lot of crap, but our best is unrivaled. And no matter where you go in the world, Michael Jackson is still the king.

 

LadiesTea-farewellNIKE-basketball-019.jpgThose American Drugs: Say what?! When I was suddenly hit with the worst sore throat of my life, it was impossible to find OTC cold pills that would put me into a dead-sleep like NyQuil. I spoke with multiple pharmacists in different countries and they just didn’t seem offer the quality or quantity of drugs we do. I realize that culturally we have a problem with over-prescribing drugs, but in that moment I just needed the good stuff.

9f88e79fa7fcb002e94a04a9c628df40.jpgThat American Fitness: I was so depressed to not be healthy enough to run or workout on our trip. Not to say other countries don’t like exercise, but we have that athletic competitiveness that dominates the world.

So for those uber progressives who seem to think the current president has put our country in the shitter, or for the uber conservatives with the red hats who think we need to get out of the shitter – we are already great. It’s good to be home.

 

The first 306 miles

March is going to be a banner month for my bucket list. We’re traveling to Europe, closing on our new home, and I’ll have job news nailed down. Big stuff.

But right now, for the first three month of the year, I’ve been focused on my fitness.

VlEG6.gif

Minus a solitary weekly cheat meal, I’ve been sugar free, alcohol free, mostly dairy free, red meat free, and just generally eating air and drinking kombucha. I’ve also upped to a 6-7 workout weeks (meaning I sometimes workout before and after work to accommodate a rest day). A co-worker asked me how this is possible. My answer: Watch less (or no) TV.

Where am I going with this? My goal to cycle 2000 miles by the end of the year is in full swing, with a current tally of 306.1 miles.

The plan was initially to incorporate 45 miles a week into my regular workouts, and I’ve been mostly consistent. Recently, I spent a week working in California and the hotel gym only provided a sad-looking recumbent bike so I opted for running instead – which put me a little behind but also gave me a boost of “I missed the spin bike” enthusiasm upon my return.

I’m not sure what I was hoping to get out of this whole “Cycle 2000 miles” thing, other than a sense of general accomplishment, but last week my trainer took my measurements and I’ve cut an entire inch on each thigh – which is a feat for a quadzilla like myself. No wonder all those cyclist are so lean in their spandex gear!

If I was you right now, I’d probably be bored as hell reading this blog post – but my LONG-WINDED POINT is that sometimes you set a goal and end up having other positives come out of it. I believe it’s called Causal Effects.

2017 was a mess for me. I over-committed professionally and personally. Though I am capable of many, many things – three jobs while also caring for an elderly parent and managing all of their affairs is basically impossible. There was a moment where I considered how much money was currently in my bank account and if I had it in me to start a new life in a new town with a new name. Don’t worry – just a fleeting thought. 2018 is different. Me first. The oxygen mask goes on my face before I assist others.

giphy.gif

Job Hunting. Yes, again.

This year is going to be CHOCKED FULL of newness. In April, we will be moving into a new house after living in a condo for 10 years. And yesterday I submitted a proposal in an attempt to clinch my gainful employment next year. (My position is being eliminated despite the obvious evidence of success).

But right now, all options are on the table. Instructional/leadership coaching; teaching in the classroom; Starbucks barista. While I’m not stressing in the slightest about what my position will be next year, I’ve learned from past blogging that the key is to send it out to the universe. Hey world! I need a job.

Now let the offers pour in………………………

For the first time, I’m not escaping a tyrannical bully or looking to scratch a professional itch – I’m just looking for the something meaningful, with a great boss and great teammates (how about no boss?), and very few meetings. Oh, and summers off. 

In this first world problemesque moment, I googled, “How to find a job you love” and was given some pretty explicit steps from an article literally title, Do What you Love!

  1. Remember What You Loved as a Child
  2. Eliminate Money From the Equation
  3. Ask Your Friends for Feedback
  4. Read Through a College/University Catalog
  5. Identify Your Professional Hero
  6. Think of What You Enjoy That You Also Do Well

Sounds easy enough, right?

  • Remember What You Loved as a Child
    • Madonna, Playing Nintendo, Stephen King books, Skateboarding
  • Eliminate Money From the Equation
    • Ha. That’s funny. Good joke.
  • Ask Your Friends for Feedback
    • Doing it right now.
  • Read Through a College/University Catalog
    • Terrible idea. Now I am stuck wishing I had gone into art curation or forensic criminology.
  • Identify Your Professional Hero
    • Hey! This is easy: Jim Knight. And I already work for him. Slam dunk. But also, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lady Gaga.
  • Think of What You Enjoy That You Also Do Well
    • This is where I must reflect, and admit it’s probably working with kids. While I think I’m really good at working with adults, they are much more challenging and far less fun to work with than 12 year-old students. Also really enjoy being at the gym and being physical outdoors.

Soooo my role as a volunteer soccer coach seems pretty spot on (there’s that thing about eliminating money from the equation). Too bad it literally costs me money to coach soccer, and also, I’m honestly not very good at it – my team is just very, very talented.

Ok friends, time for #3 – Feedback. Go ahead, you spend all day on Facebook giving your opinions to the black hole, now you have a reason.

Best-time-to-grab-a-seasonal-job.gif

 

#5 – Visit the Pinball Hall of Fame. Check.

I’ve never met another girl who quite enjoyed an arcade as much as I do. Many a Saturday morning growing up, my dad would drop me off at Wunderland with a pocketful of nickels and pick me up around dinner time. When the nickels finally ran out, I could while away the hours playing Golden Axe and Bubble Bobble in the free room. On special occasions, he would rent me a Super NES at the local video store for the whole weekend, allowing me to play Street Fighter II and Super Mario Land until my hands cramped into claws around the controller. Some of my favorite memories in life are centered around a video game console. Good times.

When I learned about the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas and knew I had to visit:

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 8.49.26 AM.png

So last weekend, Thor and I took a leisurely trip to Las Vegas, with no specific plans except to relax. As neither of us would be drinking, Thor was skipping meat, and I was skipping just about everything else, our fun would have to be a little more…vanilla. On Saturday night, we took a cab off the strip and out to the PHoF – which at first appeared to be an open door in a concrete building.

IMG_2281.JPG

There was no front desk, no entry fee, no greeter. Just a big ass building (10,000 square feet) full of classic pinball (and a few arcade) games, amongst some other relics stacked up in corners or in the back. Although there were a decent amount of people, games were easily accessible, and the variety was vast, with rows and rows of classic pinball.

IMG_2274.JPG

There were many OLD games, still totally playable, with an index card full of historic facts and details under the glass.

IMG_2272.JPG

Most games were 50 cents a play, which is incredibly reasonable. Of course, sometimes an old machine at my quarter or one was out of service, but based on the selection and lack of admission price – who cares? Most people are blowing their money down the road in a slot machine anyway.

And of course, we played many rounds of SFII.

IMG_2273.JPG

But my favorite part of classic arcades and pinball is the artwork. You really get a slice of time that just doesn’t exist from an at home console.

IMG_2277.JPG

IMG_2282.JPG

And who can forget this classic?

IMG_2280.JPG

What was my favorite game? NBA Fastbreak, which I will be hunting for back here in Portland. Super fun!

IMG_2279.JPG

All in all, we spent a couple hours whiling away our time and then promptly returned back to our suite at the Venetian to wash our hands. (Mental note: bring some disposable hand wipes next time around).

There we have it: my first goal of the year crossed off. We would definitely visit the Pinball Hall of Fame again, and it was definitely worth the $15 cab ride off the strip. How do you find the PHoF?

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 9.12.38 AM.png

My 2017 Bucket List in Review

Let’s be real – this was not an average year for me and my bucket listing adventures. The results are in, and I only checked of 60% of my 2017 goals – an all-time low!

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 10.52.53 AM.png

Some of my hopes were a little off-the-wall (befriend a crow) and some of them were a little tedious (5 minute plank or build a beach fort). I also never anticipated that we would spontaneously decide to buy a house this month so some of the more expensive items were tossed aside at the last minute (expensive steaks and snowmobiling).

Instead of dwelling on the shoulda woulda coulda, I did some pretty fantastic shit this year. So much that I can’t contain it in one blog post. Let’s dwell on that.

Seven Bucket List Highlights of 2017

  1. I logged runs in seven different states, and three different countries.

fullsizeoutput_1016

2. I experienced extreme claustrophobia in the catacombs of Paris.

fullsizeoutput_1031

3. I trekked across Barcelona to find a LOST themed bar (even if it wasn’t as cool as I had hoped).

IMG_0283

4. I had a suit tailor-made just for me.

fullsizeoutput_142c

5. I hiked all 30.5 miles of Portland’s Wildwood Trail.

IMG_1823

6. I legit collected shark teeth (and other fossils) on the beach.

IMG_0908

7. I mastered the art of chowder.

IMG_1719

Amongst several other goals of which I’ve already posted about. What did I learn this year? Continue taking risks. When I told people that I wanted to hike the full Wildwood trail, only one single person (my friend, Courtney) thought it was possible. Instead of wondering, she and I just went out and did it. (And afterwards, a pitcher of beer never tasted so good).

But this year was full of the strange, unique, and unexpected. My bucket list was almost secondary to where life took me.

Seven Non-Bucket List Highlights of 2017

  1. I ate my way across Europe for Spring Break, with a casual four hour lunch at a Michelin starred restaurant.

IMG_0294.JPG

2. I coached an undefeated soccer team of middle school boys.

IMG_0525.jpg

3. I spent a week at the Corwin head office for a mind-blowing, life-altering, reality-disrupting week of Visible Learning Training (which might not mean anything to most people, but it was THE learning experience my year).

IMG_0452

4. I rode a gondola up to 13,000 feet in Vail and ate a delicious hot dog.

IMG_0745.jpg

5. I spent 14 consecutive hours at the Oregon State Fair.

IMG_1452.jpg

6. I danced all night to Lady Gaga in Las Vegas.

IMG_1285.jpg

7. I lounged on the beach a lot (like, a lot). Multiple states and countries.

So there you have it. I got pretty whiny and stressed out at times, but overall it’s chalked up to a year full of learning experiences. My 2018 Bucket List is drafted, but I won’t publish it for a few more days.

#20 – Do 100 burpees in one set. Check. (And all of my other fitness milestones)

Last December, I had a hard time coming up with new and unique fitness goals for 2017. Once again, I have no desire to run a marathon or take up yoga. My goals are uniquely for me. As I am a big fan of burpees, I thought I would put myself to the test of 100 burpees without stopping (accepting the possibility of vomiting a few times along the way).

Over the year, though, I lacked continuity. Between traveling constantly, the awful winter, and working nonstop, I just couldn’t find a normal groove. At the same time, my goal #12 – Run in *new* 12 cities was on track, with opportunities to run in Paris, Dallas, Vail, and the beaches of California, North Carolina, Oregon and Hawaii.

Last Christmas, I also signed up for a Peloton membership and rode consistently all year, logging close to 800 miles on the spin bike. And in the fall, I found a great new trainer who helped rehab my knee and reenergize my strength training.

Pretty active – right? So why was doing a few burpees a day such a struggle? I really don’t know. They just were. When Thanksgiving arrived, I hit crunch-time, and was diligent for a couple weeks. I hated every minute.

One night, I decided to test myself with burpees to-fail, just to get a baseline. The first 35 were awful – my arms burning and I could never catch my breath. How am I this out of shape? I thought. But I forced myself to keep going, shooting for 50. Once I hit 50, I still had gas in the tank and forced myself to 60. Suddenly impressed with my progress, I forced myself to 70 and was far less miserable. I just kept moving, and focused on 100. Albeit, the last 10-15 burpees weren’t pretty, with my sloppy legs kicking back and my arms struggling to support myself – but in the end, I made it to 100.

What did I learn? It’s all mental. I had convinced myself that 30 burpees was exhausting so how could I ever possibly make it to 100? Once I decided that I just wouldn’t stop (motivated to be DONE DONE DONE for the year), it was possible and achievable.

This was not a fun goal. This was not an interesting goal. This was not a goal that I sufficiently trained for, nor am I proud of it. When I look back on the year, running in different cities and hiking the 30-mile Wildwood trail were all of those things. As I’m finalizing my goals for 2018, I’ll be mindful to not slap on a last-minute goal just because I think I should.

Before moving onto 2018, here are some moments from my fun and interesting fitness goals.