On Disney World, Star Wars, and doing your best…

I needed a vacation.

I mean… I REALLY needed a vacation. I needed to get out from under the fluorescent lighting of my office, get on a plane, eat a bunch of food that was maybe not so good for me, and have an honest-to-God disconnect from real life.

Hence Disney World.

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It was delightful as always. I’ve heard before from friends and others that it’s a little strange how much I love going there when I’m such a fan of traveling to new places. I have a growing fund for a trip to Ireland next year and a nearly endless list of spots all over the globe I want to see.

Here’s the thing about that, though…

Aside from needing a vacation spot that is kid-friendly/family-friendly/my-picky-bosslady-five-year-old-friendly, and aside from desperately missing some dear friends in Orlando, I just like Disney, okay?

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It’s charming and magical and for a little while, you forget to take things so seriously. True, Disney has had some missteps, it hasn’t always gotten things right, but the joy they give is tangible. Some of my favorite memories are of my Dad’s impressions of Sebastian and Scar and Basil of Baker Street (and if you don’t get that reference, go watch “The Great Mouse Detective” immediately – it is an under appreciated treasure).

So yes, while I do have dozens, if not hundreds, of bucket list cities all over the globe, I spent my hard earned income on Disney World, and I don’t regret it at all. Deal with it.

What made this particular trip so unique for me, though, is that not only was it the longest vacation I’ve had since age fourteen (yes, really), it was the first time I’ve travelled for a race.

Which, to me, is a Very Big Deal.

It’s now May, so I can officially say that I have been running for a full year (I started in April of 2017), and my biggest milestone was my first half marathon back in September. It was exhilarating and exhausting and painful and incredible, and for weeks afterwards, I’m sure I irritated everyone around me with my gushing of just how excited I was to have done it.

I was really, really proud of myself.

So my dear friend Keebs and her Disney-fanatic husband were part of this vacay, and Keebs (of course) found a Star Wars themed race for us to run while we were there.

Um. Yes. 

It was her first half marathon and there was no way I would miss it.

Then when I went to register to run myself, I saw that if I ran two races, I could get three medals, so my inner masochist/materialist came out to play and forked over the fees for both…

Naturally.

It was great. I ran with the biggest bunch of nerds you’ve ever seen outside of Comic-Con.  With nearly every race I’ve run before these, I saw maybe 90% of my fellow runners in what you would think of as typical running gear and 10% in some kind of costume.

This, of course, is Disney World. The outsiders were the ones who didn’t have some kind of glitter tutu on. The number of camelbacks I saw with small, plush Yodas strapped to them was endlessly amusing to me. The array of dorky t-shirts (including mine) was positively precious.

I quickly learned, though, that the runDisney Star Wars Dark Side of the Force Half Marathon was not the race to knock my 13.1 mile time to below 2:30. The day before wasn’t even really the race to knock my 10k time below an hour. Both of which are times I achieved in training.

No, no. runDisney races are not intended for personal bests (even though I did end up knocking a few minutes off of my official race times for each). runDisney races are for the joy of it. Bragging rights and finisher medals and bib numbers aside, runDisney races are for running through the parks and getting to see the sun come up over Animal Kingdom. runDisney races are for taking pictures with your favorite characters and sweating in between.

And crossing a finish line in the shadow of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth.

Don’t get me wrong. Even in central Florida’s million percent humidity and even when bone-tired as the fireworks go off for the first corral at 5:30 in the damn morning (yes, really), I do feel like I did the best I could. Ducking and weaving through the maze of bodies in front of me lengthened the distance that I actually ran and pausing to wait for the non-runners to get their stride back made me take a few more breaks than usual, but I am glad I did it and so proud of Keebs.

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So maybe doing your best doesn’t always have to do with beating your mile pace or getting a flashy new time engraved on your medal. Maybe doing my best this time around was more about seeing my friends on the course – cheering them on and getting cheered on by them. Maybe doing my best was more about chatting with fellow nerds in Ewok hats or dressed as TIE fighters (no joke).

I’m glad I went and I’m proud of every person that ran.

And I’m holding out for another time drop at my next half marathon.

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There’s a thrill over produce…

…that I get when Hungry Harvest sends me a confirmation email telling me what to expect in my delivery box this Saturday.

Naturally, I have already customized my box. I did it almost immediately after the last email I got that told me customization for this week’s box was open.

Add a dozen eggs (I’m a baker and I’m a runner – I always need eggs), take out a few apples (only because I have TONS already at home), and oooooooo! There are leeks this week!

And grapes.

And zucchini (I’m totally making bread).

And a type of tomato I’ve never heard of!

Check, check, check. They all go in the box.

I clicked “Save” and went about my day.

This morning, though, my confirmation email reminds me what will be in my delivery, and (my favorite part) it tells me WHY each items was recovered.

These ones look a little uglier than others, but they are still good and tasty.

The buyer who wanted these ordered too many, so we have the extras.

These ones are just a touch small, so just add two to your recipe.

I’ve calculated before how much money I’ve saved getting rescued produce and it usually falls in the neighborhood of $50 per month. And for my little family of two, $50 is kind of a big deal.

Plus it’s fun to let the preschooler color in the box afterwards.

Want five bucks off your first box? Use code: HERO5 on your order!

goo.gl/KAA46N

I am a Hungry Harvest ambassador, which means I am part of a community that really loves talking about Hungry Harvest. 

#hungryharvesthero

So I wrote this thing…

…actually, I wrote it a while ago. A few years, in fact.

Then it was published like an honest to goodness real book with a cover and paper pages, and I was so delighted, I think I actually cried.

Then the publisher folded.

Just my luck, right?

So I cried some more, but that’s fine.

I’ve rereleased it. I gave it a pretty new cover and a few tiny edits here and there. All in all, I really am proud of this book and am still excited about sharing it, even if it has been several years since I was deep inside of it.

Just for this weekend, I decided to make it free so that as many people as possible could download it, read it, and tell me what they think. I’m not interested in telling all of my friends to leave five star reviews. That’s way too easy. (My friends are amazing, and they would do it without a second thought.) I want to know what readers feel when they meet my characters. I want to know if something resonates. I want to know if my prose is good and if my dialogue is believable. I want the real truth, even if it may hurt to hear.

So, dear blog explorer, if you are reading this and feel so inclined, please do feel free to check out the link below. If you’re feeling exceptionally generous, please do also feel free to share it with whomever you like.

I have some VERY exciting news…

Scribd is now unlimited.

Words cannot convey my joy.

I’ve had my Scribd subscription for about two and a half years – one of those things that starts as a free trial and you kind of figure, “I’ll just cancel it on day fourteen.”

No. I kept that thing and have never considered unsubscribing.

Scribd is a mobile app (and website!) that grants the user access to thousands of books.

Heaven.

Up until yesterday, the monthly subscription allowed each user three ebook credits and four audiobook credits per month. Users could also catalog and save every book or audiobook previously selected, like a virtual private library. If I picked a book, I didn’t have to finish it within that month (I did anyway) because it was saved to my shelf. I can still go back to pretty much every book I’ve saved within the app since I started my subscription.

Of course, some books get pulled from Scribd for reasons yet unknown to me. I’m supposing that some publishers have a contract with the app that expires at some point. Either way, it has only affected maybe half a dozen books in over two years.

Credits could also roll into the following month. If I only used two book credits in July, I would have four book credits in August.

If you ran out of book credits (and I always did), there was Scribd Selects, which were free and you did not need any credits to save to your shelf. It used to be much more broad, but then the selection shrunk significantly (probably over publishing rights).

No more.

I can now save as many books as I want with no limits, even ones that are not on the Scribd Selects. I can read more than three new books each month. I can read all I want. 

This is happy news.

This is such very happy news.

P.S. Book nerd friends, this happiness is $9 per month. If you (like me) are super busy and keep spare books on your phone and/or if your Goodreads yearly challenge count is anywhere around fifty or above, it is totally worth it.

Wow…

Hi there, happy people. It’s been a while.

I fell out of touch with my beloved blog over the past few months simply because life has been crazy.

Quick update:

Yes, I’m still running. (I had an 8:36 minute mile yesterday!!)

Yes, Hungry Harvest still rocks my fridge twice a month.

Yes, I successfully fulfilled my National Novel Writing Month word count. I’m so excited to make that thing a real book.

No, I’m not done editing it.

I went to New Orleans with my office job last month, and I really don’t understand how I was able to get on the plane to come home, because that city is magic – the culture is vibrant, the people are lovely, and the food is unreal.

More to come soon, I promise. There are plenty of short stories kicking around my noggin. 😉

“Come on, feet…” and Rain Running

I love Halloween. I love David Bowie. I love stories with strong messages about dedication, friendship, and personal endurance.

If all of these things do not add up to The Labyrinth in your mind, I’m so sorry, but we are going to have to work on our friendship. It’s not impossible – I’m friends with Sox fans, after all – but it will need some attention.

The Labyrinth, of course, is not reserved solely for Halloween, but as my small sidekick has taken a recent interest in spooky movies, I took it upon myself to introduce her to my favorite Goblin King. He scares her just a bit, but she still loves Ludo and the music (bless her, she is absolutely my offspring).

Rewatching this, one of my most beloved films, through the new eyes of my daughter made me hear a line I hadn’t really paid much attention to in the past. As Sarah is about to enter the labyrinth and musters her courage, she says “come on, feet.”

That, I naturally felt the need to analyze…

Since becoming a runner (and wow, I can actually say that now, sans irony…) this past April, I’ve noticed so much more about my body’s will versus my mind’s. Yes, I fully understand that such a statement will sound cheesy and ridiculous to many. Go with me for a moment, though.

If I put feet to pavement (or dirt or gravel or mulch) for long enough, my mind tunes out completely and my body just does its thing. I may be aware of the components of my body hating me, like my knee aching or my fingers swelling, but overall, my legs pretty much tell my head to shut up for long enough for them to get done what needs done.

There are also the days that my mind is totally into it and my body disagrees. It’s as though I am hyper cognizant of how much I’ve grown to love running, but my stomach or lungs or legs decide they’d all rather be doing other things.

I feel like today helped me come full circle with that concept.

About two weeks or so into running on a regular basis, it rained. It wasn’t bad at all, just sort of misting, but my body had me convinced that the couch was a better option than the trail. This is the part where my mind said, “Um, no, sweetie. You said you would, and now you have to. Get off your butt.”

Today it was raining, and definitely not in the refreshing misting way. My leggings clung to me in a way I’m unaccustomed to my clothes clinging, I had no fear whatsoever of dehydration, and my stride was amazing due to all of my very creative puddle hopping efforts. By the fourth mile, I truly couldn’t tell what was sweat and what was rain.

And today, in spite of the rain, was a rare day that found both my mind and body in perfect sync. My head was super into “okay, great, let’s rock” and my legs started getting into “yes, we get to move” (because, yes, I do sometimes think of them having their own personalities, it’s fine).

A bit of a rambling explanation that ends with this: there will still be days when my body is good to go while my brain is other places. There will still be days when the opposite is true, and I will have to force my hands to get my shoes on and say aloud “come on, feet”. As long as I land there eventually, and as long as, by the end of it all, I am still delightfully exhausted, I can say “come on, feet” all I need to.

Next half marathon is in three weeks, and I want to beat my time by ten minutes.

“Not Really” by Pepper O’Brien

You’re sitting on the other side of the bar when I first see you and it’s weird because I’m afraid you’ll know right away who I am, which is ridiculous because we’re a thousand miles away from my town and I’ve grown out my beard and maybe you don’t listen to my music and maybe you wouldn’t care that much anyway.

You’re drinking whiskey. You’re drinking whiskey alone in a bar and I can’t help but feel scared for you. Aren’t you scared that some asshole is going to come by and bother you? Don’t you hear all the same horror stories I do about women getting harassed in bars just like this one? What are you thinking drinking alo – oh. Oh, I see your friend coming back from the bathroom and she orders a club soda. That’s good, at least.

Someone does come by to bother her, though, and you look sad. You’re sad because she’s forgotten about you in favor of her new bothersome potential assailant and I don’t know what upsets me most. Are you okay? You look so sad and I don’t like it. I don’t want to be weird and keep staring, but you look so alone just now gazing dejectedly into your glass and you don’t even look the least bit tipsy.

I can be brave. Can I be brave? It’s hard for me to be brave by myself without a band and a stage and a bunch of people telling me how great I am. I think sometimes that they’re paid to say that or that they just enjoy lying to see what I’ll do. What will I do now, for example? I could say hello. I could sit with you until your friend tires of the nitwit over there in the stupid beanie.

I’m brave. I order you another whiskey and I swear I’m not trying to get you drunk and I have the bartender give it to you because I don’t want you thinking I would ever try to put anything in it. You can send it back if you want and I wouldn’t mind. Maybe you don’t want another drink, and damnit, I shouldn’t have assumed that you would, but you look so sad that I – oh. Oh, okay, you’re smiling at me. The bartender must have told you it was me who sent you the drink. I’m glad I asked what brand it was. I don’t really drink that much.

You’re smiling and you tuck your hair behind your ear and I don’t know what to do. I’m stuck to my chair and I hope you’ve never seen my face anywhere before because I don’t want to fall in love with a fan. I really don’t want to fall in love with a fan because how will I ever be sure that it’s real? There’s no way I would ever know or at least I don’t think that there is. Is there? Please don’t turn out to be a fan. I couldn’t handle the stress of living up to those kinds of expectations. Can’t I just be myself with the pretty girl in the bar? Except I have no idea if myself is what you would like or want or – oh. Oh, you’re coming over now and gosh, you’re so pretty.

“Hi.” That’s all you say at first, just “hi” and what the hell am I supposed to do with that, right? Because as soon as I say “hi” back I’m unoriginal, but I really don’t know any pick up lines and right now I really wish I did, but I don’t and crap, I need to come up with something because now I’m just stuck in my chair staring at you and thinking about how awfully pretty you are and I still haven’t answered your “hi” and now I bet you think I’m crazy. Well, better crazy than famous, right? Right. Okay. So… hi.

You smile your pretty smile and I really want to stare but I’m not a predator and I want you to feel safe and so instead I look at other things. The tequila bottle shaped like a skull, for example, is behind your head and that seems like an okay focal point for the moment. I’ll look at that. Crap. I don’t want you to think that I think you’re boring or that I’m distracted. I’m so not distracted. I can smell your perfume and it’s beautiful and you’re beautiful and wow, your smile is pretty. Hi.

You giggle and I never thought I’d ever hear a giggle as nice as yours and you sit down next to me and you tuck your hair behind your ear again and I’m sure I could ask for a bobby pin if you needed it. Do you need a bobby pin? It would keep your hair in place, right? And maybe if your hair stayed in place I wouldn’t stare quite as much. Yes, I would. I really hope you don’t recognize me because, you know, there’s just a lot going on in my life right now and I just can’t handle falling in love with a fan, okay, so please don’t be one. A fan. Don’t be a fan. Ask me who I am because you have no idea, okay? That’s really just… all I hope to get out of this exchange tonight. I don’t need sex or a date or a kiss or even a conversation lasting longer than a minute or two. I don’t expect any of the things that people told you to be afraid I would expect. My heart’s only desire in this very instant is that you ask my name because you truly don’t know what it is.

“Do you come here a lot?”

Oh. Okay, so… maybe you don’t want to know my name right now or maybe you don’t really care about the name of the guy who bought you a whiskey and that’s fine because you shouldn’t feel pressured to ask my name or anything. I’m totally okay with going on just like this and we share kind of a cool stranger camaraderie, but not like danger strangers. Stranger… never mind. I’m not dangerous, just neurotic, and I really don’t want you to find that out so I can keep being the nameless guy if you want – that’s okay! I don’t mind. Maybe I mind a little, but I’m not going to say that. Is that dishonest? Have I already started things off badly after only saying “hi”? Maybe I should just answer your question.

“Not really.”

That’s a safe answer, right? If I don’t come to this bar all that much, it’s still a safe space for you and I’m not the creepy guy who hangs around in bars all the time, and even if you don’t ever come here, it comes across as sort of nonchalant and laid back, right? I want you to think I’m laid back. No, wait, I don’t, that’s dishonest again, isn’t it? It is. I’m messing this up already and I’ve said exactly three words and paid exactly six dollars for your drink and have asked myself exactly forty-five times whether or not you could possibly recognize me. Not that it matters now. I really want to tell you about myself and not in a way that’s posturing or over the top like beanie dude talking to your friend. You tuck your hair again and really, are you very sure you do not require a bobby pin?

Please ask my name, I really hope you will.

Let Me Tell You About This Hungry Harvest Thing…

Anyone who is Facebook friends with me or follows me on Instagram or runs into me on a regular basis will know that I can’t shut up about Hungry Harvest.

For those of you who don’t know, Hungry Harvest rescues fruits and veggies that would otherwise be discarded. Surplus apples, discolored asparagus, disfigured tomatoes, you name it. Hungry Harvest recovers unwanted or unneeded produce, packages it into subscription boxes, and delivers various fruit and veg to customers at a discount.

And it is the freaking BEST.

First of all, I am eating a MUCH broader range of produce than I used to. Generally speaking, my grocery list would include bananas, oranges, cucumbers, bell peppers, and the occasional bunch of grapes.

NOW, it has expanded to include mangoes, starfruit, eggplant, Korean pears, and “pluots”. Listen, if you’ve never eaten a “pluot” before (and I’d sure never heard of them before they arrived in my delivery box), it is a plum and apricot love child. Delightful.

Second of all, I’m not scrambling to make sure we eat healthy at home. We just ARE. There’s enough fruit and veg in our fridge that it’s truly never “out of sight, out of mind” – it’s the first thing we see on the shelves.

Third of all, holy crap, am I better about sticking to a monthly food budget. I get two HH boxes per month (one every two weeks) and they are the smallest ones available (Mini Harvest boxes at $15 each). Kid you not, world, these boxes are PACKED. We have plenty of goodies to tide us over and I’m not spending $8 on a box of strawberries that will last two days.

Finally, I’ve gotten SO much better about bringing my lunch to work with me. Because I am entirely too paranoid about wasting food and have a possibly unnatural fear of letting things go rotten, I take all kinds of things into work with me. I’m already incorporating more veggies into my bread (yes, I bake a ton of homemade bread – more on that later) and I’ve upped my fruit salad game significantly.

My kiddo doesn’t start public school until next year, but the more I see people sending their little ones off to school with packed lunches, the more I am inspired to craft fun lunches for the two of us. The bento box I brought with me to work this week had a grilled Portobello mushroom wrap waiting for me on Tuesday. The tin Hello Kitty lunchbox her highness treasures by filling with Legos may one day be full of zucchini bread.

If you’re interested in getting an amazeballs subscription box of deliciousness and helping reduce food waste in the process, check out this link: http://hgryhv.st/2hoYVUj – you can also use promo code HERO5 for $5 off your first box!

P.S. I am a Hungry Harvest Ambassador, which mostly means I REALLY love HH and wanted to work with them. 🙂 #hungryharvesthero

My First Half Marathon – After

I did it.

Truly, I have never felt that way before in my life.

First of all, I ran the first three miles. I slowed down a bit, but I didn’t walk at all until mile four. The second mile didn’t cripple me and the humidity didn’t drown me. Just with that alone, I was proud of myself for pushing through and running the first 5k without stopping.

Second of all, runners are warriors. I met so many people who are so supportive and gracious and giving. I ran with people who are living with lupus, who run to raise awareness. I ran with amputees who have embraced every part of themselves in order to run just like everyone else can. I ran with parents whose children are struggling, and they run to give their kids hope. I ran with people who are depressed, anxious, suicidal, sick, you name it, who run to feel better.

There were the pacers (the people running at set pace times for runners who want to complete at a certain point – 2:30 pacers, 2:15 pacers, etc.) who saw someone lagging behind and shouted “Let’s move it, come on!”

There was the girl who was running with her friend and saw me start to slow down. As she passed me, she smacked me on the back and said “You’ve got this.”

There was the woman in the Yankees cap who was on her phone almost the whole race because “Honey, if I’m listening to somebody else’s problems, I ain’t worried about my burning thighs.”

I nearly cried half a dozen times as I ran. Not because I was in pain (and after the eleventh mile, you bet I WAS) and not because I wanted to stop. My eyes welled up more than I care to admit because I was doing it. I used to hate running and now I am a runner. I kept feeling this rush of emotion that I’d never attached to exercise before. The runner’s high isn’t a one time surge or thrill. Through 13.1 miles, my high came and went in waves. I crested it then pushed through the following two miles. Then I did it again.

God, it was amazing.

I didn’t finish in the time that I’d hoped, but I’m still faster than I used to be. My legs burned and I was glazed in sweat. (My fingers swelled, too???) But I haven’t been so proud of myself in such a long time.

The Army Ten Miler is next month.

My First Half Marathon – BEFORE

I’m so scared.

In five days, I’m supposed to run 13.1 miles and NOT die.

The only question I have for myself right now is “Mary Grace, what in God’s name were you thinking?”

Granted, if I can so a 16 mile overnight walk through Philly, I can most certainly handle a 13 mile run that I’ve been training for since March, but holy cow, I didn’t think I’d be this nervous about it.

My hip is doing okay (and boy, do I feel like an old lady writing that), my knees are so much better (now that I’m not favoring the one and screwing up the other in the process anymore), my breathing has improved, my pace has evened out, and my stamina is… getting there.

And if you’d shown me that paragraph a year ago, I would have maybe gone cross-eyed.

But as anxious as I am that I’m going to fall on my face or torque my knee or land funny, I’m that much more proud of myself. I made myself run and now I’m a runner. I worked toward a goal for six month and it’s nearly here. I am so much happier and healthier since I’ve been running because it’s something that I do for myself on my own time that makes me feel good. That might sound silly and I know it’s not true for every single person who runs, but I’m just… better.

And in five days, I run farther than I ever have – only because I’m told you’re not supposed to run the full distance until race day, not because I was avoiding it…

At all…

No…

BUT! I will be surrounded by many other runners, and that always helps me keep a better pace. I will be running through a city I love and supporting a cause close to my heart.

I’m told that there’s nothing like running through the city and each time you start to falter, you have a new landmark to look forward to in the next mile. I’m told that that’s what gets you through the walls in your head that your body knows how to knock down.

And I’m told that the home stretch is when you can see the Art Museum toward the end of the course. That’s when you push and end strong.

And the part of me that’s NOT super nervous and isn’t AT ALL worried about eating pavement? That part can’t wait.