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.

 

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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.

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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.

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Run #5 – Thousand Oaks, California

This week I was invited to the Corwin head office in Thousand Oaks, California, for an insanely rigorous training that is still making my head spin. Whenever I’m in a situation where I’m expected to take in an egregious amount of new content knowledge in a short period of time, a power run before dinner is my go-to strategy to firm up all that new learning.

I was lucky enough to squeeze in three runs (and a lot of walking) over my five days, despite being cooped up in a board room for most of our time together. Compared to Portland’s never-ending soggy perma-grey days, the sunshine in southern California was an immediate reason for hitting the pavement, even if I was exhausted.

If I could sum up Thousand Oaks in one image:

Granted, I didn’t get to venture outside more than a three mile radius, but Thousand Oaks seemed comprised of chain restaurants, well-paved sidewalks, and a lot of church ladies. My best run was 3.5 miles up through a quiet neighborhood that appeared to border the Santa Monica Mountains natural areas. A windy road took me up (and I mean up 400 feet in less than a mile) where I ran across many runners, people watering their lawns, and a relatively tame bunny.

The views were pretty nice and I’ve never felt safer on a run, as everyone gave friendly waves, drove 5 mph, and gave me a wide berth, even if I was on the sidewalk. (Maybe they were just worried I was going to pass out). I would also like to give another big time shout out for how insanely clean the whole town appeared to be. While Athens and Paris may have had the history and culture, they were slathered in trash and smelled like piss. Nice work, California.

Despite not having any gas in the tank, I had some good head-clearing routes and even ran into a friendly crow (who took several hops in my direction when I said hi – hopefully he tells his friends):

I have a feeling I’ll be returning to LA in the near future and it’s growing on me.

The 2017 Calendar

Haven’t made a bucket list for the year, but wish you had? January isn’t even over. Why not just grab a napkin, set a time for 5 minutes, and jot down a bunch of things you’d like to learn, see, try, or challenge yourself on? I usually start with a big list of around 35-40 items and trim it down to 20-25. The first step really is just putting the pen to the paper.

Once you’ve gotten that far, then what? (Hint: ball up the napkin and toss it out isn’t the answer).

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about setting goals, it’s that you’ve got to have a pretty specific plan to achieve them, no matter how big or small they are. Every year I set 20+ goals and so I sketch out a calendar of when I hope to check each goal off. I can’t leave them all hanging and expect to do them in December – that’s just irresponsible.

Except that today as I sat down to make my 2017 bucket list calendar, I realized that I don’t think I ever made one for 2016 – which might explain why last year was my least successful year (the three jobs and a nightmare boss might have had something to do with it, too). I think I got a little cocky last year and thought, I’ve done this enough that I don’t need a calendar…it’s in my head. It’s not that goals got forgotten exactly, but without a plan, I didn’t set staggered deadlines.

January of 2016 was an ugly time. When I think back to my daily life, a big grey cloud was hanging over me. Of course, it didn’t take long for me to find a better working environment, but that cloud muddled my enthusiasm for my personal life, too. This year, I have zero excuses. Everything is coming up Deacon lately, and I’m ready to attack my loftiest bucket list yet.

Here’s my calendar:

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The colors represent loose categories.
Orange = exercise/fitness
Blue = food & drink
Red = buying or selling
Green = all the crazy-pants miscellaneous

Notice that burpees come up twice, mostly because I feel like June might be too busy, or maybe I would rather do some birthday burpees in September. Collecting shark teeth on Topsail Island and getting a tattoo with a former student are also not listed because they require some planning with other people.

 

Sometimes putting things on paper (or publishing it on a blog) is a little scary; the thing you wrote becomes official. My first step was to publish my 2017 list, and now that list is calendared out and it’s time to start rolling for real.

Run #4 -Kapalua, HI

Every time I visit Hawaii, I live the same sort of ritual. Wake up at 5am, go for a run, have breakfast, lay on the beach, eat a sandwich, take a nap. Repeat.

What’s different about this particular trip is the location; typically we hit the Big Island, but for our ten year anniversary, we thought we’d change it up and go to Maui (first class all the way).

But wait! Where would I run?! I worried that because I was not familiar with the new area, I would end up running along a diesel-infused highway, or worse – not find a place to run at all. Really – I had a lot of anxiety about this leading up to the trip. It’s laughable now; once we arrived I looked at the map and said, “The Kapalua Trail is right around the corner…it looks okay.”

Fast forward to the LITERALLY the best running route I’ve known.

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Granted, with any new running route there is a lot of stopping and starting and “Is this the right turn?” But basically you take a well paved trail along the Kapalua Resort, and wind around through the Ritz-Carlton, with beaches on one side, and golf courses on the other. Amazingly, at 7am, there was hardly anyone around.

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Tired of running? How about a beach all to yourself? Just steps from the plank walkway that spans the whole beach.

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I’m pretty sure this is where the 1% go for their running. Unfortunately, I’m not used to running in this humidity and I was DRENCHED in sweat while wearing my official Bitch I’m Madonna concert tank, so there was no fitting in with the 1%. (Although two flamboyant men gave me enthusiastic thumbs up on the shirt).

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By the way – big shout out to another blog (right here!) where I first read about this trail. He does a way better job explaining how to find the trail and what you might see.

 

Run #2 – Carlsbad, California

After an epic run in Barcelona last weekend, I was excited to run in another semi-warm location during the heart of January. This weekend I’ve been holed up at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad, CA for an author’s retreat, hosted by Corwin (no, I’m not an author, but I’m honored to spread their word). Typically the way these events work for me is that I spend all day sitting, and expel all my pent up energy at the end of the day. However, the days were extremely compressed from sun-up to sun-down so instead I joined a small running group in the morning.

Straight off, we don’t know where we’re going. We had a map the concierge gave us, but once we hit the road, there were no signs, and no light read the map. My GPS gave a vague location but since we didn’t know which direction to go, it didn’t really help. Regardless, we squeezed in a quick three miles that went STRAIGHT DOWN, and then STRAIGHT UP.

As you can see, there was a lot of backtracking and, “Wait – where are we?”

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That being said – you can’t complain about running along the Four Seasons as the sun comes up.

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I’ve run in this area once before, and it remains one of my least favorite runs ever. I know there are running trails, but I just can’t seem to find them. While I did identify the trail around the lagoon, I turned back after thirty feet because it was so empty and hidden amongst the brush that it screamed “rape trail.”

So instead, I’ve now run in weird loops around the resorts and residential streets that are not interesting enough to keep my mind off the fact that I don’t know where I am.

Two down, ten more to go.