In life we all have an unspeakable secret, an irreversible regret, an
unreachable dream and an unforgettable love.

-Diego Marchi

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"I Came Here to Improve Myself"

That's what my brother said about his recent move down here to Northern Virginia. It's a great sentiment, and I think it's a good goal - for everyone, every day. I think he intends to watch and learn some things from Mark and me because he has seen how we live and some of the things we do and believe in (fitness, nutrition, and life-wise), but I don't think he knows that his being here will help me improve my life, as well (so I hope he reads this).

My brother has a great attitude about life and about people in general. I really value his input and his perspective on things and when he lives near me, I get to learn from that. I get to improve myself. My life is generally more fulfilling when he's around. Not just because he's someone to hang out with who I can have good conversations with (whether we agree or not :o), but because he teaches me things and shows me a new perspective and he's patient and listens to mine at the same time. It's a symbiotic relationship, if you will.

So, today I'm really grateful for my brother, Jordan (although many know him as Allen - we changed his name a few years back when he lived with me in Florida), and I'm really excited to see what he does with his new palette here in Northern VA/DC. I'm also grateful that he chose to come here and that he has a place for me in his life. I feel like having him near me has healing powers somehow. Love you, bro!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Days Are Long, The Years Are Short

This is so true...I have to work on remembering to connect with those who are important to me every day. Before I know it, there won't be any time left for that. That was Gretchen Rubin's inspiration for her Happiness Project. Watch her 30-second book promo video here.

Reflection and Gratitude in the rain

It's been rainy the past couple days. Really rainy. So rainy, there are cars submerged in Reston. So rainy our shuttle from work (my first time taking the shuttle to and from work) was 1.5 hours late (they're supposed to come every 20 minutes). Doesn't sound like much to be happy about or grateful for, right? Wrong.

I'm happy to have come home to a clean condo and grateful for the folks who clean it for me every two weeks. I'm grateful that I can afford to pay others to clean my house instead of taking my "free" time to do it.

I'm really happy that I have an option to NOT drive to work and I'm really really really grateful for the patient soul who drives our shuttle van! I'm 99% sure that the reason it took 1.5 hours to get to the office from the Metro to pick us all up was the ungodly amount of traffic leaving the metro. There may have even been traffic lights out, I dunno. But I ABHOR driving. I abhor it even more when traffic isn't moving. So I'm thankful that there are people in this world who deal with that better than I do and that they are patient and careful drivers to make it to and from the various shuttle stops. I'm even pleased and happy and grateful that my coworkers who were my fellow shuttle riders didn't attack the driver for being so late. Totally unavoidable and he did a damn good job in my book.
I'm grateful for my health and the health of those around me.

I'm glad that Mark and I see eye to eye on nutrition (attempting to eat as paleo as possible) because that means we'll be healthy for a long time.

I'm glad that we can sleep next to each other in the same bed instead of separate. I like falling asleep to the sound of Mark's heartbeat. I am reading a story about brain trauma and PTSD in The Washingtonian and one of the people featured has flashbacks and chokes/punches his wife in his sleep. They no longer sleep in the same bed. I'm sorry for that couple...but reading of their experience makes me have gratitude for mine.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reflection and Gratitude

Some things that made the past few days awesome for me:
  • The little Girl Scout I bought pink lemonade Kool Aid from to benefit the Fisher House. This girl was so articulate - and her Kool Aid smile made me grin.
  • Going to dinner with Tyler, Mark, and Carter for Tyler's 18th birthday. I'm grateful that Tyler is such a good person and that he and Mark have a good relationship. Mark's a solid person - as a partner and a parent.
  • The underwear that showed up on my balcony. There has to be a good story there somehow. And if there isn't, I'll make one up for my own remembering.
  • Doing the 31 Heroes workout with Mark. We worked well together and endured the suckage together. It was awesome.

Ten Things I Can Do Every Day

I've been reading The Happiness Project (Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun) and will be starting a happiness project of my own (albeit probably on a smaller scale). One of the things in the author's (Gretchen Rubin) Happiness Project blog listed "Ten Things I Can Do Every Day." The idea is to have a list of things that you aim to accomplish and that you are pretty sure you can accomplish every day. That way, if you get home at the end of the day and don't feel like you've accomplished ANYTHING, you can feel secure that you've accomplished at least TEN things! Here are my ten:

  1. Kiss Mark good morning and good night.
  2. Floss.
  3. Communicate directly with at least one friend or relative.
  4. Drink at least two liters of water.
  5. Smile. Brighten someone's day.
  6. Learn one new thing.
  7. Go to bed with no dishes in the sink.
  8. Avoid gossip.
  9. Wake up at the first alarm.
  10. Keep myself comfortable (food, warmth, bathroom, water, etc.). No waiting a million years to go the bathroom "just to get...(insert task here)...done."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood...

And then two more diverged...

And two more! And then there were THREE a world where choices are valued, you'd think this was a good thing. In our situation, it was not.

Yesterday, I went on what was supposed to be an 8.5-mile (4-5 hour) hike in the Shenandoah National Park with my best friend (G) and an old friend (JC) I'd not seen in a while. All of us being urbanites and novice hikers, equipped with poorly drafted maps, made of paper, in the rain...the hike wound up taking six hours and 14 miles. Folks, just in case you're counting...14 miles is further than a 1/2 marathon.

The ride out to SNP was scenic and enjoyable. JC and I caught up a bit. (It'd been a couple years.) G and I chatted nonstop like we always do about everything and nothing at the same time. When we finally found the trailhead (at 2 pm), we were all excited to be out in the open and "one" with nature. We started out happily (albeit a bit later in the day than originally planned, seeing as how the night previous, G and I had overindulged just a bit on the vino and rock band with other friends....waking up at 8 am to headaches and "off" tummies) on Traces Trail; not the original starting point indicated on my hiking narrative from Hiking Upward, but it connected to the trail system shown on the Hiking Upward map. 

We were fine for the first seven miles. We saw all kinds of interesting mushrooms and wildlife (chicken of the woods mushrooms, a funky colored turtle - he was so brave - he kept his little head out while we watched him and G photographed him - he only tucked his head in when we walked over him  since he was in the middle of the path, newts, and LOTS of bear poop!).

The whole first seven miles or so we knew EXACTLY where we were. We were confident. The hiking was tough at times (with a total elevation gain of 3,596 and a loss of 2,801), and we were moving at a good clip, but we were all ok. It even rained on us pretty steadily, but the rain felt nice.

At one point in the hike, I was following G and all of a sudden, this bug flew up and attached to my nose. He stung the shit out of my upper lip and I screamed and flailed and spun around. He was LATCHED ON and stinging away. His stinger went in right where my nose meets my upper lip. It hurt like a sumbitch. And it started swelling. My eyes watered...G and JC examined the sting to make sure the stinger was not still in my skin...It wasn't. But I felt the pain. In my nose. In my lip. In my teeth. The pain stayed with me the entire hike. The swelling - it's still here. I look like I had really cheap collagen injections in my lip. Well, one side of my lip, anyway. I look like a Simpson's character.

Other than the bug bite, our problems really started when we were more than 8 miles in and we weren't finding our way out of the forest. We knew we needed to find Traces Trail - a small trail that ran in a circle near the campground by the trailhead where we'd parked our car. Problem was, our maps did not show all the trails in this area. Traces wasn't on our main hike map anywhere; it was only on the Park map, so we weren't sure exactly how to get there; we weren't sure where we were or where we'd been. We would come to trail markers; read them and make what we thought were the logical decisions. We got turned around a lot. It was getting dark. We were running out of water and food. We were getting delirious. I was getting scared. Yet everyone was still pretty positive and sure that we'd make it out of the forest.
Finally, we came across a man and his dog. Grateful to see humanity in an area reknowned for its bear population (of which we saw the proof - too many bear droppings in the middle of the trail to count!) within two hours of sunset, we ask him how to get to Traces Trail. He says he's heading there, too, so we follow him. Eventually, he and his dog stop and we venture ahead, asking him "How much further to Traces Trail?" He tells us in about 15 minutes, we'll come to a trail marker and go left at the marker. We're tired. We're worn out, but we're excited to know for sure we're on the right path, so we head on with purpose.

Eventually, we made it to the trail marker. Although the marker points to the right for Traces Trail, we go left, like the guy told us to. He seemed so confident when we'd originally found him in the woods; he didn't even have to look at the trail marker to tell us where to go when we'd found we figured he must be right.

After hiking up...and up...and up...on tired legs...dehydrated...hungry...with the light barely breaking through the thick tree coverage...hearing strange noises (wondering if there were bears around - one group of hikers we'd seen much earlier in the hike had seen some black bear cubs and their momma)...we were bone tired and delirious. We found another trail marker. It listed trails we'd not yet seen...that were not on our map. The trails were blazed with an entirely new color - white - and we'd been on yellow and blue. This was NOT good.

But, surely that hiker wouldn't have sent us the wrong way? That's just malicious. I'm freaking out more than ever. We only have one hour of daylight left. It's 7 pm. It's starting to get dark. We're out of energy and water. We all taste bile in our mouths. I can see us on the nightly news "Hikers Lost in the Shenandoah National Park." We're delirious. We keep thinking we see cars...houses...manmade structures. We want so badly to know we're gonna make it out of this forest. I'm suggesting that we call for help. No one even knows who we should call. Our Park map has a phone number on it, but it's a recording. Big help there.
After much deliberation, we decide to head back to the trail marker that had Traces Trail on it and see where that took us. I start running on the trail where it's not too rocky. At first, G is worried I'm going to hurt my ankle; but she and JC quickly realize that running actually feels better and limits the contact with the foot on the ground...probably preventing any foot twisting...and we run where the ground is conducive to running. It's all downhill this time (after hiking that entire way uphill)...we make it back to the trail marker. We head in the direction for Traces Trail.

We smell campfires (good sign). Eventually, we can see the parking lot. We see cars. We want so badly to just veer off the trail and go straight for the parking lot, but we don't because we figure there's a dropoff down to the parking lot. We keep on the trail. Hoping we're going the right way. It's getting darker and colder. We turn one corner on the trail and I jump back quickly; I thought I'd seen a bear. G drops back quickly, too (she doesn't scream, though!). Turned out it was only a big stump that looked like a bear in the waning light.

Eventually, the campfire smell gets stronger and we see a family walking on the trail. We ask them if we're near the trailhead; they tell us we are. We are so happy at this point, I want to hug these strangers.

Finally, we make it out of the forest - and not a minute too soon. It's 8 pm. Within twenty minutes, the area is pitch black - so dark you can't see your hand in front of your face. We were all relieved to have made it; we stopped at a gas station to change out of our wet clothes and get three large cups of hot cocoa. The best hot cocoa any of us have ever tasted. And we spend most of the two hour drive home quietly reflecting on the adventure we'd shared together.

What I learned from this experience...

  1. If you don't know where you are, it's going to be nearly impossible to get to where you want to be.

  2. The people you choose to surround yourself with on your journey make all the difference in the world.

    • Where you're unprepared; they have had the foresight and diligence to be prepared.

    • Where you lack a skill (map reading?); they may have that skill.

    • Where you start to lose control and give in to fear; they buttress you and calm you and build your confidence. And you do the same for them at times.

  3. Not everyone has your best interests in mind. Trust but verify. (When the man with the dog told us to go left, we should've trusted the trail marked instead of blindly following his advice.)

  4. It's definitely funner to travel on your path with people you love or at least enjoy their company. They make the experience worthwhile. They teach you. They learn from you. They help you. You help them. You don't always have to do it alone; the quality of your journey can only be enriched by friendship and love.
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken