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.

 

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!

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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7. I mastered the art of chowder.

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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.

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

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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).

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

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

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

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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.

Run #11 – Indianapolis

Do you ever get asked that question, “What’s your perfect day?” I can never come up with an answer, but my final day in Indianapolis comes close.

When I was first told that I would be working in Indianapolis, I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly excited. But when most of my colleagues were rushing to catch late night flights on our last night, I was relaxing in my hotel bed because I scheduled an extra day. This ensured that I could finally get a full night’s sleep, a big breakfast, and go for a run. In other words, meeeeee time.

Downtown Indianapolis is possibly the flattest place I’ve ever been, with a concrete horizon of government monuments and mini-parks. It is also possibly the cleanest city I’ve ever visited (at least downtown).

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Being close to the university, I thought surely Purdue would be the place to see some of the city’s history – WRONG. While the university was well-paved and safe, I was surprised to only find newish looking architecture (and nothing very exciting) and not much green space. (Hey Purdue – y’all are lacking a charm aesthetic – get on that.)

There were a few parks (mostly dedicated to wars) and some waterways – so overall, a decent place to run.

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Once I hit four miles, I called it a day and spent my last couple hours at the Museum of Medical History (nestled a little ways from downtown, in the former Hospital for the Insane) before catching my flight home.

A full night’s sleep in a comfy hotel bed, a run around town, a big breakfast, and a tour of medical deformities. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

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Technically, I completed my 10th run last weekend in Rockaway Beach (but I was busy too busy to blog) so that means I only have one more run to cross off my goal of running in 12 different cities.

#19 – Collect Shark Teeth on Topsail Island. Check.

Sometimes the best ideas on my bucket list are ones that I didn’t come up with myself – and that is the case of collecting shark teeth on Topsail Island.

First off, where is Topsail Island (for those of us on the west coast)? Off the coast of North Carolina, apparently there are MANY beaches of which I was completely ignorant in knowing about (I’m a west coast girl), and Topsail was about a 2.5 hour drive from the airport in Raleigh/Durham.

Oh also, it’s pronounced topsulllll not topsail. It’s southern, y’all.

 

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Lucky for us, we have family with a beach house right on the beach of Topsail, and right from the beginning the weather and the beach were as good as it gets. The sand was super fine, the water was warm, and there were hardly any people around…so from beach snobs like me, it gets a very high rating.

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But let’s get to the shark teeth. All along the beach it’s littered with shells, big and small. Over here in Oregon, there might be miles and miles of beaches, but you’re lucky to find a sand dollar. I asked for a lot of pro-tips from our hosts (who happened to have jars full of shark teeth) and I spent a lot of time looking at pictures on beach fossil forums online.

On my first day, I scoured the beach, picking up a lot of things but frequently wondering, Is this a tooth? Or a shell that looks like a tooth? I really wanted something that said THIS IS A SHARK TOOTH.

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Also, I’m no spring chicken and bending over looking for tiny fossils was back breaking work. I would lay in the sun, look for teeth, eat lunch, look for teeth, read a little bit, look for teeth…

Here are my finds for day one:

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On day two, the rain rolled in and I searched at low tide in ankle deep water. The fossil forums also had pictures of whale bones and stingray teeth which I’m pretty sure are part of my treasure finds below (on the right of the brain looking fossil).

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I’ll admit that looking for teeth was mildly obsessive – it was hard to take a leisurely beach walk because my eyes kept scanning the sand instead of the coastline. I started following Facebook pages dedicated to fossil hunting on Topsail to see the most recent finds and compare my own.

On my later hunts, I did some looking but didn’t really come up with much and we left the beach for fried foods and a backyard party full of local surfers.

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Next time, I’ll know what I’m looking for and I’m devoted to finding a BIG tooth (or whale bone) to show off, but for now I’m pretty satisfied with my treasures (and my enviable tan).

 

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.

#9 – Go to Bharma in Barcelona. Check.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the television series, LOST. (The only person I know who might be a bigger fan is my friend, Kylene, who named her son Sawyer. That’s right. She did that.) Beyond binge watching the show over and over, I’ve integrated pretty legit lessons into my own classroom (my former 6th graders could analyze and deconstruct literary themes in key LOST episodes as if they were college grads).

You can whine all you want about the last episode not being the epic masterpiece you had hoped for, but realistically I feel like the show gave me years of enjoyment and it really changed the culture of how we watch TV. It was the first show to really cultivate Reddit fan theories and did a lot to incorporate teasers outside of just a typical commercial. LOST even pulled a few stunts to give fans their own twists by sending out fake casting calls and leaking fake episode synopses. You can blame LOST for the reason that no one was surprised William was the Man in Black last year in Westworld. We watch TV differently now. It made us more attuned to plot lines, and pay more attention to foreshadowing and character building.

It’s been seven whole years since LOST ended, and you’ve probably forgotten how great it was. Let me take you down memory lane:

Remember Jack crying in virtually every episode?

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Or Sawyer’s sarcastic quips?

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How about Kate’s inner turmoil?

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And who could forget Hurley and Charlie’s bromance?

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Remember how Sayid could snap a man’s neck with his hands tied behind his back?

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Or how blown your mind was when they found the hatch?

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How about when Sun traveled through space and time to get back to Jin?

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I bet you also forgot that Michael played alongside DiCaprio in Romeo and Juliet.

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So blah blah blah you didn’t like the way LOST ended? Get over yourself already. It was (and still is) a great show.

Now that I’ve gotten that part out of the way, let’s talk about the LOST-themed bar in Barcelona, Bharma, which I have put on my bucket list this year.

First off, I didn’t do a lot of research, for fear of getting my hopes too high. Instead, I knew a LOST-themed bar existed and that I would be traveling to Barcelona, so put two and two together.

Bharma is located somewhat away from the touristy parts of the city (though we still took a meandering walk to find it so it wasn’t terribly out of the way). Straight off, it looks cool.

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And that’s mostly where the fun ended. The hours on Yelp showed that Bharma is open typically from 8:30am – 5pm, and then again from 11pm-3am. As we showed up at 12:30, you would think it was a safe bet. Instead, the place was empty and the waitress seemed annoyed with our entry. She also let us know that the kitchen was closed until 1:00.

Okkkk…we sat to have a drink and wait it out. When I asked for a menu, she said they didn’t have one. Riiiight. The guy behind the bar seemed equally unenthused with our presence. It is literally the only place in Barcelona where we have experienced crappy service.

I spent some time checking out the decor and memorabilia, which was fun but also not mind blowing.

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40 minutes later it was clear that the kitchen was not going to be opening for us and we decided to pay our check and peace out for a lunch elsewhere. Hey Bharma, we traveled 5,500 miles and you are going to roll your eyes at us? No thanks!

Bharma wasn’t a total bust because we still had an adventure and can say we went, but frankly I wouldn’t recommend it – even for someone who is super into LOST. Instead, just come over to my house and let’s marathon a season together; I’ll order some official Dharma logo’d snacks and show you some show memorabilia that I own.

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