One of the cool things about blogging is connecting with other people who “speak your language.” For me these are often people from different parts of the world who I would never have known existed if it wasn’t for blogging. Some of the people I feel most connected to are people I’ve never met in person. But a few of my good blogging friends are actually people I knew in the past as acquaintances and only truly connected with them years later through writing.
Sometimes these relationships make me feel a sense of loss over the missed opportunity to spend time with that person when we were in the same place, but they also makes me thankful that it’s not too late to know them now. Meredith is on of those people for me. Meredith and I went to Wheaton College together. We had a few classes together. We were even on the newspaper staff together for a while. But we never really got to know each other. Fast forward four years to Meredith starting her blog Very Revealing. As soon as I started reading her blog all I could think was, “Why were we not best friends in college? I adore her!”
Over the past year or so we’ve gotten to know one another better and have been able to encourage one another with our respective writing goals. Meredith wrote a great piece for my Sex and the Church series in the fall and today I have the great honor of sharing a guest post about unexpected sacred spaces over at her blog.
If you know me, it probably won’t surprise you to know that I wrote about the most sacred place I know of- Disneyworld. Here’s a little excerpt for you:
“I’m not a runner. Actually, I’m not anything even remotely athletic. In fact, I don’t think I’d done any exercise whatspever for about a year when my best friend (also not a runner) asked me if I wanted to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon with her. None of that stopped me from immediately saying yes.”
Read the rest of this post here and check out some of Meredith’s work while you are there! I promise you won’t be disappointed!
PS – I will be skipping my usual Friday Book Chat this week since this post falls on a Friday. But I will be back with a new book-related post next week!
As usual, this is my monthly wrap-up post for Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link-up.
What I’m Reading:
If last month was a bit excessive on the reading front I think I’ve evened it out by only reading four books this months and most of them were lighter reading as well.
Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. I really enjoyed this book. I love books about food and the food industry and this one – about a young couple opening a specialty pizza restaurant in Seattle, both satisfied my voyeurism about that world and broke down some of my romanticized notions about what owning a restaurant is like. I’ve heard others say this book was not as good as Wizenberg’s first book A Homemade Life, but as I haven’t read that one yet I don’t have anything to compare it to.
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. Moyes’ books are all over bestseller and other kinds of book lists, but I’d never read anything of hers before so when this one went on sale for $2.99 in the Kindle Store I thought I’d try it. (It is actually still on sale for that price if you want to check it out). I wanted a bit of lighter read in a modern setting. Well, I got the modern setting part right. Ambitionless twenty-six year old Louise loses her job and takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a 35 year old quadripalegic who challenges her to live life on a grander scale. This was a quick read, but light it was not. I’m glad I read it, but be warned that you’ll need Kleenex.
Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson. Jackson is another writer of what might be called “women’s fiction,” but is not really chick lit. More domestic drama? I never really know how to describe it. I admit that I didn’t love the main character of this book – I found her a little annoying – but the other characters and the situation were interesting enough that they outweighed those feelings.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This book has made all of the Best of 2014 book lists this year and I can understand why. I admit that I am not quite done yet, so I can’t comment on the ending, but everything I’ve read so far is very compelling. In alternating chapters the book tells the story of a blind French girl whose father is the Keeper of the Locks for the Museum of Natural History in Paris and a German orphan boy whose talent with engineering gets him recruited into an elite military academy and then sent into the field tracking the Resistance during WWII. It is a gorgeous and haunting book.
This month so many books I’ve been wanting to read went on sale for Kindle and I couldn’t resist buying them since many of them had been on my wish list for eight months or more. (I do still prefer physical books but living abroad makes the Kindle so much more practical). You have permission to scold me if next month’s books do not include some of the following: Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Found by Micha Boyett, and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.
You can also follow me on Goodreads if you want to keep up with my reading.
What I’m Watching:
My internet seems to be struggling more and more these days so I never really know when I’ll be able to stream shows or which shows I’ll be able to see. I am a little behind but trying hard to stay current with Nashville, Parenthood, New Girl, Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Modern Family.
This month’s new discovery/obsession: Jane the Virgin. The premise sounds kind of dumb, but I’m finding it irresistibly charming a la Ugly Betty. We also finished the entire season of the BBC’s Broadchurch which was so fantastic. Highly recommend it.
On Netflix I am nearly finished with the last season of Veronica Mars and have made it halfway through season five of my Gilmore Girls re-watch. Hubby and I have also been watching more episodes of Frasier, a show he grew up on, but that I’ve never seen before.
I saw both Interstellar and Catching Fire, this month’s two big movie releases. I love everything Chris Nolan’s ever done and Interstellar was no exception although I admit that it took me a little while to decide how I felt about it – I didn’t really know much about the plot going into the movie, which was fun but also meant it took me a while to digest it.
What I’m Listening To:
SERIAL!!!! Need I say more? For anyone who doesn’t know (though I can’t imagine who doesn’t know) Serial is a podcast that is an off-shoot from This American Life (my other favorite podcast). Serial is a one big investigative journalism story that is being told one episode at a time. This is the first season they’ve made and it is completely addicting. This season’s story is about a murder that happened in the 90’s where an 18 –year-old boy went to prison for supposedly murdering his girlfriend. But did he really do it?!!!!! We just don’t know. We are down to the final few episodes and I am so torn. If you haven’t listened to this, you need to catch up. It’s absolutely fascinating.
I also loved hearing this original song from Lauren Daigle, a friend of my little sisters’. I think she’s got a really cool voice and she is such a sweet girl.
Fawn Larson is a friend from high school who is a pretty awesome blue grass kind of artist releasing her first album. If you’re into that kind of music and supporting indie artists, you should check her out and buy her album!
What I’m Eating:
All the Thanksgivings! Thanks to a great expat community here in Korea we got to participate in three separate Thanksgiving dinners with all the good stuff. My contributions included apple crisp and this pumpkin cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Pretty serious stuff.
If you are one of the people who is also obsessed with Serial, these charts are fun.
If you need a laugh, here’s a great video of how German sounds compared to other languages. Cause it’s always fun to laugh at people speaking other languages. 😉
I also enjoyed this humorous post in the New Yorker about the benefits of coconut oil. “A few dabs of coconut oil in my ears and I could hear the ghosts of all my ancestors. “You’re fabulous,” they whispered. “The triumph of our bloodline.”
On the Blog:
As most of you know I was honored to be Freshly Pressed by WordPress this month, ironically for my post about how going viral doesn’t necessarily open all the doors you think it will. Thanks so much to all of you who sent encouraging comments and messages. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to respond to each one, but I have read all of your comments and appreciate them so much! I’m really humbled by all the love and encouragement I’ve received.
My students all participated in an arts festival at the beginning of the month where they performed songs and dances and other routines for all of their parents. They were adorable, though I did find the song and dance to “Summer Lovin’” from Grease to be mildly inappropriate for elementary school students. I figured they didn’t understand what the lyrics were really about…
The semester is winding down so I’m about to enter the frenzy of planning for English festival and the three separate English camps I have to run over the holidays as well as (the much more exciting) planning for our two weeks of vacation in January (hurray!)
I spent a lot of time this month running in preparation for the half marathon I ran last weekend with my friend Courtney. We finished in 1:57:07 which was my first time running a half in under 2 hours.
This week we had all the Thanksgivings including one with our friends Michael and Sophia who are a Korean couple in their 60’s who just retired to Korea after living in New York for most of their lives. They were a little homesick for American Thanksgiving so we all went to a big international hotel downtown that had a big Thanksgiving buffet in their main restaurant. They didn’t really know how to cook a turkey but they had an amazing selection of food so I can’t complain. Especially since we had two perfectly cooked turkeys over the weekend.
I am less than a month away from running my first (and likely only) full marathon. So much of my life this fall has revolved around my running schedule or trying to fix the injury du jour (so far, patellar displacement, tendonitis in my foot, pulled hamstring, shin splints, and most recently, my knee giving out entirely when I put my full weight on it.) At the beginning of November Christina and Jonathan and I all ran the City of Oaks Half Marathon here in Raleigh. For those of you who have never been here, Raleigh is fairly hilly. I mean, it isn’t like running up mountains, but this entire race was pretty consistently either going uphill or downhill. When I crossed the finish line my first thought was, “I am so glad I can quit running now” which was quickly followed by, “There is no way I am ever running twice that distance.”
In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, I really don’t see myself as a serious runner. For one thing, I’ve only been running these distances for a year and a half. For another, I never run faster than 10 minute miles, which is SLOOOOOW compared to even the slowest of competitive runners.
Friends and family members often ask me why I run. (In fact, after this most recent half marathon I texted my big brother to report my time and his response was, “What made you start running? That’s like the last thing you and I were built for.”)
It’s hard for me to explain why I do it. Especially since, based on all of the injuries I’ve already sustained, it’s clear that this is not something I will be able to keep up for any length of time without sacrificing my knees or feet or some other integral part of my anatomy.
I would love to say that it is sheer love of the sport. That running in and of itself brings me joy. But frankly, that isn’t true. There are days when the last thing I feel like doing is tying on those electric-blue custom-fitted horribly expensive shoes and running. In fact, there are days when I hate it so much I come up with award-worthy excuses for not doing it. There are days when I have to use a walking cast because I strained a tendon and days when climbing stairs or getting in and out of my car is pure torture. There are days I feel exhausted and days when I resent running because it takes up most of my Saturday. I’m not actually a masochist. I don’t just love to run.
I usually tell people that it’s the sense of accomplishment I feel from doing something I never thought I was capable of doing. Before I started training last fall, I had never run more than about 5 miles in my life. It is encouraging to see myself making progress – setting goals that seem impossible and then achieving them. This is partly true, but it is also partly a lie. Personal satisfaction isn’t a big enough motivator for me when compared with the pain and the work and the sacrifice of both time and energy involved in training. I don’t mean to lie, but I’ve never been able to fully articulate an explanation and I know I will only brush the surface when I try.
There is a moment (for me it usually comes anywhere between miles 10 and 15 depending on the day) when my body has started to hurt and I am tired and all I can think about is when I will be finished or at least when my next water break will be. I will think, “Just one more mile and then I will stop for water,” and I press on just a little further, pushing myself just a little past where I want to go and then suddenly, out of nowhere, I am floating. Call it a runner’s high if you want to, but for me it is so much more than that. It is a fleeting, jarring moment when everything is stripped away and I know I am in the presence of my Maker.
And I am the shepherds on that hillside near Bethlehem, in the company of angels, with the glory of the Lord shining round about me. And for just a few dazzling minutes every burning inhale is glory and every exhale is grace and my aching feet striking the trail again and again are a drum beating through my whole body and I am invincible. I think, in heaven I will run like this forever, never getting tired.
And I see myself, almost like I’m watching from outside my own body: My bright running clothes. My tight, salty skin. My phone, blaring Mumford and Sons through my ear buds until my whole head throbs with the sound. My arms pumping upwards and ending in hands balled into fists around imaginary drumsticks I am using to tap the rhythm out in the air in front of me. And, if I’m all alone, my mouth, using whatever breath is left in my lungs to sing out loud to the tops of the trees:
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your Maker
You were made to meet your Maker
I run for those moments of rare and startling beauty. I run to awaken my soul. To feel fully alive.
Get ready for a marathon blog. Both because it’s gonna feel really long and because part of it will actually be about running a marathon. Well, half marathon anyway. Ready….set…..go!
So after my eventful Valentine’s Day at work, I arrived home to find a vase full of roses, a big box of chocolates, and my husband cooking away in the kitchen. For those of you who know Jonathan, you know that he is not the kind of guy that enjoys cooking, so this was genuinely a really big sacrifice on his part. He told me to go relax until it was ready and when I came out again, he had the table all set beautifully with the candlesticks and everything. Yay husband!
Over President’ Day weekend we traveled up to Princeton, NJ to see Jonathan’s brother, Patrick, who is in his last semester of seminary there. It was the first time we had been to Princeton and not only did we have a great time hanging out with Patrick, but we also loved seeing the campus. Princeton is beautiful, lots of old gothic-looking stone buildings. It looks like it should be in England. The rest of New Jersey left a little to be desired, but Princeton itself is a gorgeous campus. While we were there we also took the train into NYC for a day and just walked around and hung out in the city. I met up with a friend of mine from high school who now lives and works in the city.
Grand Central Station
The following weekend was my half marathon in Disneyworld! I flew down to Orlando on Thursday night and Christina and I and her mom spent Friday at the Magic Kingdom and the running expo we had to go to to pick up our race packets. I LOVE the Magic Kingdom. When Jonathan and I first started dating I explained to him that I planned to live there someday and I hoped he’d be ok with that. It’s still my plan. On Friday night Christina surprised us with dinner at the restaurant in Cinderella’s castle! I’d never done that before! It was the coolest thing ever!
Do you see how excited it makes me?!!!
Peter Pan was there and he was teaching this kid all about how to climb on railings!
On Saturday we got up early and braved the crowds at Universal studios in order to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As if meeting princesses the day before wasn’t enough….I think I’ve changed my mind. I now want to live in Hogsmead. Or at Hogwart’s. We had butterbeer (which tastes like cream soda and butterscotch) and lunch at the Three Broomsticks and now I can die happy because I’ve been there. There are tons of other really cool things in that park, but we left pretty early because our feet were tired and we had to be at the marathon no later than 4AM the next morning. Yikes!
Inside The Three Broomsticks
So Saturday night we went to bed at 7:30 or so (no joke) so we could get up at 2:45 AM and have our coffee and breakfast and get our gear on and drive to the Epcot parking lot by four. Then we had to walk about a mile to where the starting line actually was and there they put us into corrals A-H. There were 19,000 runners decked out in tutus, tiaras, and full-out princess dresses. About 5% of the runners were men and they were also dressed up—most in tutus that matched their wives or whoever they were running with, but I also saw one man dressed as the boy scout from Up and another guy who was Lumiere (he was my favorite.) Please note our tutus. We made them ourselves!
Starting Line! They set off fireworks from the top for each corral as they started.
We were in corral F and we had to wait another hour or more before we started running, so by the time we began we were soooo excited to start! At every mile marker there were characters there to greet us and if you wanted to stand in line you could stop to take a picture with them. We only took pictures with characters who didn’t have a line.
We ran through the castle! And then we stopped really quick for a picture. And then we ran some more. This was about 6 miles in.
Us and Mushu! This was towards the end
We kept thinking as we ran that eventually we would get to a point where we stopped passing people and were with people going our pace (there were a lot of people walking significant portions of it) but we never really did. The amount of people there kind of kept our pace slow which helped us be able to run the whole 13.1 miles with no walk breaks! We were proud of ourselves.
The best part of the race was definitely running through the Magic Kingdom. The race started outside of Epcot and we ran a few miles down the road between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, then into and through the Magic Kingdom, back down the road to Epcot, through Epcot, and out to the finish line. Even with the crowds, one bathroom break and a couple of stops for pictures, we finished in 2hrs and 37 minutes. We placed 6,450 and 6,451 out of 19,000. Not too shabby for our first endeavor. Unless you consider that the girl who won the race did it in 1 hr and 18 minutes. But that’s inhuman. Really. We were given beautiful medals for finishing. I have yet to decide where to display mine (when I’m not wearing it, of course.)
We did it!
It’s been hard to come home after all the excitement. It’s sort of a letdown to be done with this thing we’ve been training for for so long. It’s also a letdown to no longer be somewhere where people always address you as “Princess” or “My Lady.” People in the corporate world just don’t know how to treat a woman. We are pretty much addicted to races now. At least Disney races. I don’t think we’ll be able to stop. Team “Eat Our Fairy Dust” is out of control. Our ultimate goal (several years from now when we are experienced and also rich enough to pay for it)—to run the marathon that circles the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. Who’s with me?!!
Last weekend I went with Christina to her cousin’s birthday party at a cool restaurant in downtown Raleigh. While I was there I received a text message from a friend who got married a few months ago. The text contained a picture of a positive pregnancy test. I was really excited for her, and also amazed at how quickly they’d gotten pregnant since they’d only been married a short time. I forwarded the picture to Jonathan along with a message that said, “Well…I guess they decided not to waste any time! I just got this text from ‘Monica.’ ” (name changed to protect the innocent.) Then I stuck my phone back in my coat pocket and kept chatting with everyone. About 15 minutes later I realized I never heard back and pulled my phone out again. No messages. I left it on the table and continued with dinner. About three minutes later, my phone started buzzing in uncontrollable spasms. You know when you are in an area with no signal for a while and then you connect again and all the stuff that’s been sent the whole time you were out of signal comes through all at once? Well, that is exactly what had happened. Apparently, back in my coat pocket, things hadn’t been going through. I looked at the screen to find three texts and about 10 missed calls from Jonathan. For a minute I thought, “Geez, why is he so worked up about this…it’s not really even his friend.” Then I looked at the text exchange and found that what I thought I had sent had not all gone through. This is what he had received:
I am in soooo much trouble...
Needless to say, the man wanted to kill me. I tried to talk him down, explaining that I would never just joke with him like that. That I was so sorry. That obviously I would never tell him that I was pregnant via text message and that I would also never take a pregnancy test while out to eat with friends. That I should have thought it through and should never have sent that message in the first place. That I was the worst wife ever. His response, “Are you completely insane?!” And later, “Do not ever send me something like that again!” On Friday night, our marriage was on shaky ground. To all my girls out there, married or not, learn from my mistake. Never send your husband a text message with a picture of a positive pregnancy test on it! Or an email even, probably. Oh, technology…how you have failed me.
So the weekend started out not quite as expected what with the panic and rage, etc. but Saturday morning dawned very sunny and promising (although also quite cold and windy.) We put on all of our cool running gear in which we look awesome and very professional: running tights, shorts over tights (Christina),knee brace (me and Jonathan), long sleeved shirt, jacket, arm-band for carrying iPod, fleece headband that covers your ears, socks, running shoes, and those cool knit gloves with the special fingertips where you can still use your touch-screen phone while wearing. We were decked out. I wish I had a picture so you could behold us in all of our awesomeness. And it is a good thing too because that wind was COLD! But all three of us succeeded in running our first 11-miler with no walk breaks, just occasional stops for water. I can’t stress enough what an accomplishment this was for all three of us. We are not runners. Any of us. And yet, in just four months we have gone from running ¾ mile and then nearly puking or passing out (at least that was me back in September) to doing a 2hr, 11-mile run. I am amazed at the human body. (Although somehow, despite being in the uncontested best shape of my life, I’m still hanging onto those 10 lbs that have tipped me over the edge of my “healthy weight range” and into “overweight, but not yet obese” range. But that’s another story.)
In celebration of our amazing accomplishment we went to Outback and used a Christmas gift card to eat a large amount of Bloomin’ Onion, steak, baked potatoes and Caesar salad. Yum. (Perhaps now understanding those lingering 10 lbs…) We went home and had a relaxing, uneventful night.
Sunday morning, Jonathan wakes up in horrible pain all over his stomach and back. At first we think it is food poisoning, but after a few hours we realize it’s something more than that. Eventually I take him to Urgent Care hoping they can do something for him. The man is in so much pain it is all I can do not to burst into tears, but, knowing that wouldn’t be the least bit helpful I instead make a lot of un-funny jokes. It’s something I’ve always hated about myself-that in a medical crisis I get so upset I feel the only way to keep myself from exploding with grief (not helpful) is to crack corny jokes (equally not helpful.) Eventually the doctor tells us it is either a kidney stone or the early stages of appendicitis and we go home to wait and see. Thankfully, a few hours later it becomes clear that it is not appendicitis and after drinking what seems like several gallons of fluids, Jonathan starts to feel better. We are so thankful that Jonathan is more or less back to normal with only a few residual side effects.
I have heard from multiple sources that kidney stones are one of the most painful things the human body can experience. Most say it is the closest equivalent men can experience to childbirth and some women who have been through both even rank kidney stones as the more intense pain. I feel horrible that Jonathan had to go through that. But I know that one day, a few years from now, when that positive pregnancy test is mine, I will be reminding him of what this felt like. And I will probably point out the fact that he was only dealing with something smaller than a dried pea. While I will be dealing with something the size of a small watermelon. But don’t worry, I probably won’t tell him any of that in a text message.
Kidney stone. Not Jonathan’s. Ew.
Approximate size of baby…though probably heavier than a baby…I hope