Fire and Ice

Before I begin, I should remind you that I am not a travel lifestyle blogger. I typically blog as I would compose a diary, to remind myself of where I was and what I experienced. This is going to be a long post because I want to capture the details that matter to me, and not boil down my travels to a perfectly-manicured and concise article on the time I went to Iceland. So, reader, you’ve been warned…

***

There are people out there that say there is a particular sadness in leaving an immersive trip, the sadness that the incredible journey is now just a memory on its way to becoming a story.

I returned to Seattle after spending a week in Reykjavík, Iceland at the beginning of December 2015. The worst part about visiting Iceland is how badly it makes me want to go back now, so as not to let it become just something I remember. I suppose that delaying the completion of this post is my one way of pretending it isn’t over, but time has a way of slipping by regardless.

Everything I knew about Iceland made it seem like a fairy tale; although I had heard about the Northern Lights, the architecture, and the quaint feel of the only large city many times over, it was too fantastical to be believed. I had to see it for myself, and arriving in Iceland, it was truly like I had traveled somewhere other-worldly. It’s part of my story now–and I can recall the trip itself, still fresh like the snow we trudged through to and from the city each day.

Sunday, November 29th

John and I packed for most of that Saturday, when he insisted on bringing a laser pointer for no reason other than, “It’ll be fun.” On Sunday morning, we both went to the gym for one last WOD, then cleaned up and started loading my car.

Ari and B met us at noon, and we hauled away to Sea-Tac where John’s coworker let us park the car. She drove us to the airport, we checked in, and we sent all of our bags away; two free checked bags is a very comfortable policy, it turns out. Thanks, Icelandair!

SeaTac_n

With parkas on and only our purses and small backpacks, we passed through security and on to our terminal. We grabbed a bite to eat and awaited our plane. I chatted with my mother on the phone, keeping an eye on the impatient crowd at the gate. Eventually, there was movement, and we all boarded the Boeing 757.

Once snugly in our seats, we settled in for the seven-hour ride. John and I had been moved to exit row seats, so our leg room was ample and the tray tables quite awkward. We set our watches eight hours ahead, took off through some low-lying Seattle clouds, then turned northeast and climbed on towards Canada. The sun was already low in the sky, and we spied pink snow-capped mountains out the window before the night sky took over.

With not too much to see, I split a snack with John and had some water before trying to snooze as much as possible. The woman on my other side was part of a group of three or four, traveling to Iceland for some kind of celebration; I never discerned what their reason was, although they were planning to spend time both in the city and somewhere outside of it. She ordered two mini bottles of wine, so I figured perhaps she was celebrating a birthday as well.

Spotify offline playlists kept me calm and soothed, and when my phone read “5:00AM,” I woke up and watched some of the in-flight offerings until we landed.

Monday, November 30th

The Seattle flight left at 3:45PM Pacific Time, which meant a 6:55AM Monday arrival. Once on the ground at Keflavík Airport, I marveled at the fact that I was on Icelandic soil for the first time; it was a wish come true.

icelandair_o

Customs was a quick process, as we were one of only a few arrivals at that dark, early hour, and after collecting our bags, we did some duty-free shopping. The thing to keep in mind about Iceland is that the liquor is expensive, but that it’s quite reasonable at the duty-free store. We grabbed a few choice bottles, including some Brennivin, along with some Garún Icelandic Stout NR.19 (Borg Brugghús), Einstök Toasted Porter, and an obscene amount of Viking Gylltur.

After shopping, it was time for juice and a snack, killing time before our 8:30AM shuttle to the Blue Lagoon. The freshness of the smoothie was much-needed after a long plane ride. However, what was even more needed came next.

The Blue Lagoon excursion immediately following arrival was one of our best ideas. Blue Lagoon is a major tourist destination, although one a traveler cannot miss; all my worldly friends stand by this, tourist trap and all. They make it so tourist-friendly anyway, it’s hard to say no.

Our shuttle bus driver stashed our luggage in the cargo hold, then drove us through the pitch black dark about 12km from the airport. We transferred our luggage to the bag storage at the end of the parking lot, where our group of three busses–ours only had about six people on it–parked; no other visitors had yet arrived, making our arrival seem even more special. We stopped in front of the Blue Lagoon sign to take a few celebratory selfies and sips of liquor, reveling in the cool winter air and the pre-dawn hush. Perfect snowflakes blanketed the ground and muted all the background noise, so it was just the trudging of our boots and our lowered voices in the air.

blue lagoon_o.jpg

We had pre-booked our visit, so once we reached the main building, we got in line and got squared away with our wristbands before heading to the luxurious locker rooms. Again, with relatively few visitors at the Lagoon, it was relaxed and peaceful. I remember the locker rooms being the perfect temperature, both in the air and beneath my feet. I changed into my favorite swimsuit and commented to Ari about how flattering the lighting and mirrors were; I actually looked like I work out as hard as I do! An added bonus to an already great experience.

Many people warn tourists about the showering process, where one must strip down before entering the Lagoon. No one mentioned the fact that there were single shower stalls in addition to the common shower. With no rush, there were plenty of single showers open. Spotting an open stall, I took it, and I relished the warm water and soap; after all, I had been on a plane all night. I made sure to load my hair with conditioner to stave off the minerals, then put my swimsuit back on and wandered out into the frigid morning.

To say my feet were then cold was not giving Iceland its due credit. The air was freezing, and the walkway surface was not much warmer. It behooved us to hang our towels as quickly as possible in order to get into the milky blue pool before turning into human icicles.

With dawn breaking and steam rising off the surface of the water, I couldn’t help but want to hurry on in, though. The Lagoon was heated to a comfortably hot temperature, somewhere between 98-104 degrees Fahrenheit, and again, after a seven-hour plane ride, it was just what I needed. We slowly ventured to the outer reaches of the Lagoon, with our visibility obscured by the thick steam and low light; thankfully, I didn’t fall into any unexpected deep spots (something you expect when you’re 5’1″).

Since it was a birthday celebration trip and all, our next order of business was to procure champagne, so off to the bar we went. In all actuality, this meant finding the stairs closest to the bar, dashing inside, dripping all over the floor whilst apologizing for doing such, and then ordering our drinks of choice. We were rung up with a swipe of the wristband, and back into the warm waters we went. (Luckily, for our next round, the swim-up bar was open; no more mad dashes for a beverage.)

We spent the next few hours wandering in the water, sitting in the steam rooms, and lounging in the jacuzzi areas. The water had a sort of soft quality to it, and only in the steam rooms did I ever sweat.

IMG_1464

Eventually, it was time to leave, so we reversed the process: showered, dried off, dressed, paid, ate lunch, retrieved our bags (and beer), and waited for the shuttle to the city.

We eventually made it to our Airbnb apartment, after transferring to a mini-bus due to the snow. The apartment’s “on-site manager” (so to speak) met us, let us in, and gave us essential pointers for our stay. We unpacked, freshened up, and were ready to see the city by foot. Icelandic fish ‘n’ chips were on the menu for dinner that night, so we were able to cross off one item on John’s “must do” list. Please note that we visited Reykjavik Fish Restaurant to get our fish ‘n’ chips; our friends had advised that they once tried to find fish ‘n’ chips in town and had ended up at a joint that had “fish ‘n’ chips” in the name, but alas, no actual fish ‘n’ chips. Reykjavik Fish, however, had a chalkboard with its offerings, and their hearty fish ‘n’ chips were just what we needed.

In addition to dinner, we took in the sights of a Christmasy-looking Reykjavik and wandered through a snow-covered cemetery before calling it a night and doing our best to ward off the jet lag.

downtown_n

Tuesday, Dec. 1st

A winter storm rolled in on Tuesday, bringing lots of snow to the area. “Lots of snow” is an understatement, but I don’t have a much better way to quantify it. We took our time, after sleeping in, to bundle up and seek out the famous Sægreifinn lobster soup.

Let me tell you about lobster soup in the most succinct way possible: it’s incredible.

Warm, flavorful, perfectly salted, and rejuvenating, lobster soup became an instant favorite of mine. The menu at Sægreifinn is also wonderfully straight-forward: there’s the soup, fresh seafood skewers, and beverages–alcoholic and non–to choose from.

We warmed up at Sægreifinn (The Sea Baron), enjoying our soup and complimentary bread, as well as enjoying being out of the wind and snow. It was a good day for cozying up in coffee shops and bars–which is considered one of the best tourist activities when in Iceland–and generally just seeing all the city had to offer.

lobster_n

We spent a good deal of time at the Culture House, a part of the National Museum of Iceland, where the exhibition Points of View was being housed. This was another good way to learn more about the country we were in, taking in art and history from centuries ago through the present. While we were in the building, I distinctly remember seeing large, fluffy clumps of snow falling past some of the windows. The relative quiet and stillness of the Culture House–along with the picturesque snowfall–was peaceful, a nice departure from the hustle of “real life.”

Other places of interest on this snowy day included Lebowski Bar and a book shop. White Russians and books, what could go wrong? We eventually wound up back at the house after trudging along through most of Reykjavik.

cold group_n

(PS – I visited Lebowski Bar’s page in February, and I noticed that they were offering free bacon on all burgers for Valentine’s Day. First of all, that’s quite the way to celebrate; second of all, had I known about this sooner, I would have definitely pushed for a return visit slash date night.)

Wednesday, Dec. 2nd

snow_n.jpg

The morning was clear after the previous day’s winter storm, and after starting our day, we walked down to the Harpa Concert Hall to pick up tickets for a Sin Fang show later that night. We arrived at Harpa at just the right time, as the sun was high enough in the sky to throw some beautiful colors into the surroundings.

clouds_o.jpg

Shortly thereafter, dark clouds, heavy with precipitation, rolled in, but instead of rain, they brought more snow. We wound up at Kex Hostel and Bar, where the restaurant/bar provided us with unnecessary amounts of delicious food: a spicy burger, salmon and kale, fresh sausages, and a simple yet much-needed green salad.

Later that evening, we went back to Harpa and watched the show. We were in one of the small auditoriums, looking down on the group. All the songs were in English, and all of the filler between songs was in Icelandic. This made for a pretty mellow experience for us. We didn’t understand any of the punchlines to the jokes, but we laughed along anyway. Young Boys was the subject of some kind of joke about it being a “gay anthem.” It’s fairly obvious upon listening to see how that could be; the song itself is one of my favorites now, and I encourage you to take a listen.

harpa_o.jpg

After the concert, we quite likely ended up at Prikid, as we had time on our hands, and feet with which we could walk.

Thursday, Dec. 3rd

Or, the Day I Turned 30. And how else would I start the day but with a WOD at CrossFit Reykjavik? (Actually, it started with toast, skyr, some juice that I’m sad we can’t find Stateside, and an espresso from our grumbly espresso machine. But I digress.)

In order to get to the gym, we needed to take a cab; our driver got us there quickly, especially quick considering the snow-covered roads. Icelandic drivers mean business. We arrived in one piece, then wandered the perimeter of the building until we figured out we had to access the lower level to get to the gym. In our defense, the snow was obscuring the pathway.

CrossFit Reykjavik is, as another visitor noted, a fitness factory. A well-oiled machine, we dropped in during the block of time where classes start every twenty minutes. The space is organized to allow this type of rotation, with strictly timed warm-ups, skill or lifting sections, and the WOD.

Our coach led us through warm-ups, which were easy enough to follow, as the combination of Icelandic and body language were all we needed. He checked in with us Americans every now and then to make sure we understood what was going on, which was appreciated.

The day’s lift consisted of 8 minutes to find your 1-rep max overhead squat. With a cranky shoulder, no Olympic lifting shoes, no weight belt, and a few days of improper nutrition and jet lag, I still managed to PR my overhead squat by a few pounds. 50kg/110lbs., good enough for a birthday PR. The rest of my Seattle crew either matched or PR’d their OHS, as well.

Then there was the WOD. It came with a 12-minute time cap, and read:

For Time
400m run
then…
21-15-9
SDHP (55kg/35kg)
Box jump overs (60/50cm)
then…
400m run

I was worried about hitting the time cap, between all the aforementioned ailments and chronic asthma. However, I surprised myself partway through my first set of SDHPS, noticing the clock was not very far along.

I’m actually going to finish this, I thought. Since that was the case, it then was in my best interest to try and keep up as best as possible. My fitter half and two BFFs unsurprisingly came off of the middle part of the WOD ahead of me, and they were well into their closing 400m run when I joined in. At the least, the gym operators weren’t cruel enough to send us out into the snow and ice, so we ran 8 small laps around some of the equipment.

I had a small lead on a few of the local athletes, and I finished well under the time cap. John naturally finished in his favorite spot, “fastest in the class,” although he didn’t look at the right clock to log his time. His time is forgotten to all eternity.

(That’s not true; B was able to track both their times, and John logged his on our gym’s website. I just looked it up online, and his time was 8 minutes and 15 seconds.

Fine.)

Final time: 10 minutes, 25 seconds 

CFR_n.jpg

After the WOD, we took advantage of the wrestling mat and stretching room, rolling out before heading into the locker rooms. We showered, then instead of getting dressed and going home, we put on swim suits and hopped in the gym’s hot tub. (And cold tub. They had both.)

We did not get to take advantage of the sauna, although I imagine that would have been glorious as well. Instead, once we showered and changed, B noticed a Hlöllabátar across the way, so off we were to acquire some ham boats for post-WOD sustenance. I had to run the page through Google Translate because I don’t speak Icelandic very well (that’s an understatement), but the sandwich–boat–in question is the “Skinkubátur.” All you need to know is these boats are reasonably-priced and tasty. No frills, just great boats.

After the boys wrangled a taxi in the parking lot of a grocery store, we were on our way back to the apartment to rest up before birthday dinner. Walking around and eating lots of things whilst on holiday is difficult, so we played some games to keep ourselves entertained. I’m not exactly sure when we brought out Milles Bornes, but that is a game I highly recommend bringing on vacation, along with Quiddler. Both are good, clean fun, and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way. They’re a very good way just to have fun, and they take up little room in the suitcase.

Our friends Aaron and Michelle departed Edinburgh, Scotland via EasyJet, and were en route to Reykjavik by early evening. Ahead of their arrival in the city, the four of us Seattleites went out for dinner. For the first few days, the boys had been asking us ladies were we wanted to go for our special days. There were several very nice restaurants around, and most were serving special Christmas meals. We kept telling them that we would make a decision at some point.

Naturally, it being my 30th birthday and all, I decided on lobster soup.

So, lobster soup it was, with the added treat of fresh salmon and cod skewers, along with a sampling of all the Christmas beers the Sea Baron had. It was a hearty and peaceful dinner, as we got to sit upstairs in the old bunk room area.

Bunk room?

Yes–there are several bunks in the upstairs area, which used to be lent out to fisherman in need of respite. A whole different type of homey feel to the restaurant, and one that made this birthday seem all the more unique and special.

After soup and beers, we moved onto Kex where we met the two ex-patriates, and where we enjoyed Einstok beers and a chocolate flourless cake. Aaron, the gentleman he is, requested a candle on the cake for my birthday, and Kex delivered.

The cake slice arrived with extra whipped cream, and a tea candle placed gently atop the cake. I’ve never been more delighted!

kex_o

It was a special night to be celebrating my birthday in Reykjavik, turning 30 with five of my favorite people, all who entered my life at various points in time. I couldn’t have thought up a better way to turn 30, and the best present was knowing there was more of the trip still ahead of us. We kept it relatively under control on this night because we had to be up early for the Golden Circle Tour.

Friday, Dec. 4th

I would say we were up at the crack of dawn on this day, but considering dawn wasn’t going to happen for several hours, I will just say we were up early. We had booked tickets for the Golden Circle Tour, including bus pick-up near our Airbnb, and had to get up to meet the mini-bus.

Unfortunately for us, we were the last scheduled area for pick-up, so we waited maybe 45 minutes out in the cold–and I mean cold as in “far below freezing”–before we finally got to climb into a tiny bus. The waiting game was perhaps the biggest hiccup in our trip, but all things considered, it was not the worst thing in the world. No one was hurt in the process, and we eventually got to our big buses, where Aaron and Michelle had saved us all seats.

I fell asleep for most of the drive out to our first stop, which was a tomato hot house, Friðheimar. There we were able to sample some delicious tomato soup and bread, learn about the indoor tomato cultivation, and also pet some Icelandic horses. One particular horse was rolling around in the snow without a care in the world.

horse_o.jpg

Next on the list was the Geysir geothermal field. As the name might imply, there is quite a bit of geothermal activity here. It’s of utmost importance for tourists to keep to the path because even though it’s cold out, it’s quite ill-advised to touch the far-beyond-boiling water.

geysir_o

One of the geysirs, looking hot.

We waited patiently for the Strokkur geysir to erupt, and we were eventually treated to a spout of water preceded by a big bubble.

We refueled in the restaurant, then boarded the bus to Gullfoss (Golden Falls). Gullfoss was incredible and worth the biting wind. The water plunges over 100ft., and in the cold winter, some of the spray froze to the edges of the cliffs, creating what essentially looked like another frozen waterfall. I’m not certain what else I can say about the waterfall, other than it was incredibly beautiful. Absolutely amazing.

gulfoss_o.jpg

mitch and dith_o

Last on the list was Thingvellir National Park, a geology lover’s dream come true. The tectonic plates are pulling apart here, creating steep, blocky walls. We could also overlook the original Parliment and the lake, again braving the cold wind.

sundial_o.jpg

100% John’s camera and eye here.

Back in town, we rested up before embarking on a night out. It started with a card game at the house, included some ham boats and hot dogs, and ended at Prikid with dancing and realizing Icelanders bring their A-game on the weekends. I’ve not a clue how any of the women were able to pull off high heels and normal club clothes in the dead of winter, but I admire them for it.

Saturday, Dec. 5th

When we finally awoke on December 5th, it was Ari’s turn at 30. Neither one of us had experienced anything strange, such as losing a limb nor all of our hair spontaneously falling out at once, so it was looking like 30 would be just fine.

We paid a visit to the iconic Hallgrimskirkja, where we took the elevators to the top of the church and looked out over the city. To say it was gorgeous would be an understatement. Even in the winter fog, with the visibility reduced, it was worth the trip to the top. I can’t wait to go again in a future summer.

churchview_o.jpg

John’s work, again. (By this point, the rest of us had quit trying to take photos because John’s camera was showing all of us up.)

After coffee at Reykjavik Roasters, we went to Snaps for a very late brunch. Brunch runs until 1600 at Snaps, so we were just fine between sleeping in and our wandering. Being the holiday season, there were some additional Christmas treats on the menu, including mulled wine, which I have a weak spot for. Even though I was at the point in the vacation where I needed to probably think about putting myself on a restrictive calorie diet, I ordered Eggs Norwegian, and there were no regrets. Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon? Heaven in a single dish, I would say. (Actually, this blogger basically said the same thing about Eggs Norwegian at another place. We can’t both be wrong.) Everything else we ordered was on-point, and we gladly indulged.

It was a wandering and food-centered kind of birthday, with a siesta of sorts at the house after brunch. Eventually, we trekked down to Kex yet again for birthday treats, and later, four of us made it to Slippbarrin for cocktails and accidental (?) free shots of whiskey.

Ringing in 30 in Reykjavik was a great choice.

Sunday, Dec. 6th

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Sunday signified the end of the trip, and we begrudgingly packed up. John made one last trip to the neighborhood pool facility, and the rest of us went for coffee and a light pastry breakfast at Kaffihus Vesturbaejar. I had a croissant with some cheese and jam, and the bistro was calm and cozy, perfect for the close of a fantastic trip.

Also perfect was our bus ride to Keflavik, which began with another mini-bus pick-up. Our mini-bus driver was a natural at driving in the snow, and he wove up and down the side streets to gather other passengers and occasionally honk at pedestrians who were walking a bit too slow for his frantic pace. It was certainly a ride for which I buckled up, but when all was said and done, we not only were in one piece, but we had been thoroughly entertained by our young, relentless driver.

The longer ride from the central bus station to the airport was relaxing, with the sun illuminating the landscape outside. I snapped a few photos, but the dirty window and the moving bus diminished the quality of what I was really seeing.

airport_o

Once at Keflavik Airport and through security–and after we finally figured out the self-check system for the bags–we grabbed a hot meal of Icelandic meat soup and bread. I need that recipe in my arsenal, and I need Keflavik Airport’s food in my life more often. What a treat.

I also would not mind having the airport’s bars in my life more often, as the service and selection were both great. We enjoyed a few last drinks, including the last Einstok porter for awhile.

Soon enough, we were back on an airplane, and I snuggled up to the window seat. We hadn’t seen the Northern Lights the entire trip, but once we climbed high enough and the sky got dark, I looked out the window. Past the wing, there was a faint, green glow in the sky. At first, I thought it must have been a cloud, just catching the last rays of sunshine, but it persisted, and I knew it was the Northern Lights.

I nudged John and told him to look out the window, that the Northern Lights were just outside. We both craned our necks to watch them, until they were too far behind us to see any longer.

Turning our attention forward, we settled in, headed home to the Pacific Northwest, and said goodbye (for now) to the Land of Fire and Ice.

kex2_n.jpg

The gang’s all here.

***

PS – In case you were wondering, John forgot all about the laser pointer until he unpacked everything back in Seattle.

PPS – Photo credits for this post include John, B, Ari, Aaron, Michelle, and myself

In Love and in Numbers

I’m starting to read this article that was shared with me via the all-campus email. It’s about love in the age of data, but there’s more to it, including the history of love and how we in the West have made love our unofficial religion and purpose.

And isn’t it so?

Does it feel like this blog was/is a testament to all the failed attempts at love I had in nearly three decades of existence? (For the most part, yes, plus a lot of learning and education in the formal sense.) Thankfully, what I learned from my mistakes (and frankly, the mistakes of others at my own expense) changed my trajectory and what I valued, and I luckily found myself in a partnership that feels unlike anything I ever experienced previously and also feels like exactly what I was searching for.

Anyhoo, read on for Love in the Age of Big Data, and enjoy your Friday.

If you’re looking for more recent musings, hop on over to my “less heavy on the emotional baggage, and way heavier on the weight plates” blog at The Average Athlete.

2014: The Year in Review

I rang in 2014 on a Seattle sidewalk with lovely lady friends on a walk back from our neighbourhood Dick’s Drive-in.

Now I’m sitting on a couch in my jammies. In Scotland. Sore from two days of CrossFit in the midst of my two-week holiday from work and eating properly and regular work-outs.

A lot of things happened this year, a lot of good things. I’ve cut back on blogging because I’ve been busy in the gym and with my offline life. It’s been really fun, I have to say.

I have some 2015 goals, mostly in regards to what I do with my fitness.

Rehab and build up my shoulder strength.
Clean up some skills and technique.
Lift, because I love it.
Compete a few times.
Have fun, and keep proving myself wrong.
Etcetera.

Beyond the gym, well… Let’s see. I’m currently abroad, and it has been wonderful to see my friends in Scotland and also just generally explore a new place. It feels like a big sigh of relief after not going abroad for over three years.

I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t say I’m looking forward to seeing a certain someone in three or so days.

I’ve been pretty bad at checking off things on my old 30 Before 30 list, but I don’t seem to particularly care because things are constantly changing and my goals and wants have changed dynamically even in recent months. That’s okay. The most important item not on my list was apparently to get myself to a place where I could successfully pursue one big item on that old list: essentially, to cultivate a relationship that is healthy, and in which I can place my energy and feelings and be happy.

In a nutshell, my boyfriend is amazing and nice and wonderful and respectable and an entire slew of positive adjectives. (He’s not in Scotland with me, seeing that I booked the trip before we were dating; I get to Skype him from the future, though!)

That’s where much of my time and energy is invested. It is where I do everything I can to be present. And I think that’s the great theme of the present–to be present. To live life. (Accidentally typed, “To live lift,” just now, which is also true.) To have experiences. (And to also be content with mastering the art of doing nothing.)

What will 2015 bring? Many things, I’m sure. Things out of my control, things in my control, unexpected things, and little butterfly effects here and there. That seems alright.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year. Here’s to 2015.

And now, here are some photos from my Scotland trip (and not the rest of the year because I cleared all my photos off my phone before I left).

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6204.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6296.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6192.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6190.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6240.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6243.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6244.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6216.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6231.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6286.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6296-0.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/25a/10232190/files/2014/12/img_6270.jpg

Another Revolution

Well, I made it. I made it to 29.

My birthday was yesterday, and it was the perfect birthday for me, the me who’s lived nearly three decades now. I went to work and celebrated with donuts and lattes–little treats I don’t normally have. Then I struggled with an Excel chart until I flip-flopped some info and finally got the stupid thing to do what I wanted. I felt accomplished, as it was another treat to learn and figure out something new.

I left early, practicing balance and self-care; that was my present to myself. I decided on getting a haircut, and the stylist who saw me turned out to be a Filipino brother. We talked about food and our experiences growing up Filipino. Another unexpected treat, I’d say.

IMG_6003.PNG

I took a nap on the couch–one of my favorite things to do, and then made my way to the gym for my birthday WOD. It was a workout with some of my favorite things in CrossFit (not the med ball carries, though), appropriately timed for my age. Once I was done and rendered to nothing more than a sweaty mess, it was off to switch modes and try to put myself together for dinner with an absolutely fantastic guy.

The thing about me is I love my birthday. When JD asked about my preferences for my birthday dinner, he said I could either pick the place or he could choose something. I chose to be surprised, and I also chose to have the dinner spot kept a secret (note: I also love surprises… Surprises and a birthday?! Perfect.).

He chose well.

We headed downtown–after I flipped from sweaty mess up to more or less put together (I had on a dress!) in 45 minutes–and he hinted it was around Pike Place. I had not a clue what it could be, though so, the hint meant little. We parked and went looking for the place, as he had not been there before. We walked into Post Alley, past several quaint shops and some bars, and stopped at the end. We had almost decided to turn around when he remembered, “There isn’t a sign out front.” Next to an unmarked door on one of the buildings, there was a tiny business hours sign. We walked in, down the stairs, I still had no idea where we were, and JD confirmed with the hostess that he did have reservations at the restaurant in which we stood.

It was The Pink Door, an Italian-American restaurant/cabaret with a beautifully decorated interior that was rustic and sophisticated and dramatic and quaint and all sorts of different things all at once. It wasn’t too dark nor too bright; everything seemed just right.

Just right. That’s what I would say for the rest of the dinner date. The wine and food were both spot-on, and the company I had was even better. It was a nice, relaxed time, and I did, indeed, feel very special. Even when the waiter forgot my dessert’s candle–unlike all the other birthday girls around, whose cakes and tarts had candles. Our waiter realized he had forgotten (which really was no matter because the Cabaret Cake was so delectable), and brought out my candle on its own little plate.

IMG_6018.JPG

Take that, other birthday girls in the room!

All in all, 29 started very well. It was a day in which I felt loved–loved by others and myself. I look forward to exiting my twenties, to leave this decade behind, but I’m in no hurry. Like I did with every moment last night, I plan to savor these upcoming days.

I have a feeling that 29 will be just right.

PS – Thank you to everyone who made it such a great day, especially my swole mate and significant other, JD. (He’s just really great, you guys.)

IMG_6010.JPG

Birthday selfie! Whoo.

Two Years’ Time

September 19th, 2012 is the day to which I ascribe my CrossFit anniversary. Two years ago, I wrote:

Finally made it back in to the local box. The coach at this particular box is fantastic, and the team members are fairly easy-going. Now, I’m no strength trainer. Never have been. The prescribed weight for today’s Workout of the Day (WOD) [The Chief] was 95 lbs. for females during hang power cleans. Guess what I used? A 35-pound bar. And that was still difficult. It’s okay, though. Weights are something that I have always avoided. That said, I got through the work-out. It broke down to this: one round consists of 3 hang power cleans, 6 push-ups with hand release, and 9 squats; there were 5 segments at 3 minutes each; in those 3 minutes, you would complete as many rounds as possible. I got through 3 rounds each time, grand total of 15 rounds. Which at baby weight and slow-ish pace isn’t all that impressive, but it’s impressive for a chronically-injured ex-dancer… with asthma.

Yeah, I busted out the inhaler today. Cool, right?
Again, it’s okay. I’m making progress towards wellness and trying to get back in the routine of challenging myself.

I had done two other WODs previously, Grace and the Filthy Fifty. Grace was modified to 22lbs., and I halved all the reps in the Filthy Fifty. My third WOD, the “sticking point,” apparently, was The Chief, completed with a 35lb. bar and what I’m sure were push-ups from the knee.

To be completely honest, I haven’t attempted any of these WODs in the last year, let alone attempted them as Rx. However, I’m to the point where I can Rx all of these things (yes, even the double-unders in the Filthy Fifty). That’s not to say I would have an amazing end result after each WOD, but Rx’ing those things is sure as heck progress when I consider where I started (which was essentially several levels below rock bottom).

In two years, strength has become my bias, particularly squats. Maybe I should have been doing strength training all along. I would have definitely developed a much better snatch technique if I had started at 16 rather than 26, right? Then again, who knows. My athletic trajectory wasn’t calibrated correctly, and I suppose I should have at least been lifting weights and lifting heavy many, many years ago, but so it goes.

I’d say I’ve made leaps and bounds towards wellness and challenging myself. As far as challenges go, every day I’m in the gym, I’m facing a seemingly-impossible task list. Every day, I come away with more goes. The biggest pitfall for CrossFit and me is that I don’t seem to have enough hours in my day to add in the skill work I need and want without over-training. I have to do things in bits and pieces, and my next goal is to keep myself on track. I need to set small goals, work on those, level up, and then take on a new skill. Then I need to revisit those other skills, refine them, advance them, and so forth and so on. For example, I set a goal to get my double-unders and ring dips several months ago. After trying a new rope and working for several weekends on ring dip negatives, I have double-unders and ring dips; I don’t have big sets of those yet, but that will do for now. Right now, it’s toes-to-bar and handstand push-ups that are big gymnastic hurdles. I need to work on my advanced pull-up technique and muscle-up technique. I need to get comfortable in executing the full snatch, not copping out on power snatches every time.

I’ve also decided to compete more. I’m not bringing an incredible athletic background nor natural talent to the field; instead, what I have are sets of skills that I am continuing to work on and improve. They’re not elite by any means. I just simply like seeing where the gaps are in my skills compared to others–all with the additional element of other people watching as I do so. It makes me grumpy yet excited, and it’s a way to cultivate relationships with my friends, both here in Seattle and elsewhere. I’ve done a number of competitions in Oregon, even competing recently with a former teammate from Human Evolution Labs (which, by the way, has since closed its doors) in a team competition. Recently, on September 7th, I competed in the women’s open division in the Elysian Games, which was an absolute blast. It was a challenging competition, and to just finish most of the workouts felt amazing. Granted, I got pretty cranky after my first two workouts, but as soon as it was my turn to get back out there, I perked up and started joking with the judges. Once I was done with the last two workouts, I was in a completely different state of mind; I was elated to have gotten through the competition. Overall, I finished 15th out of 30 women. Not bad for my first non-scaled event (although I did modify rope climbs halfway through the last WOD; most of us had to, as our grips had been taxed in all three previous WODs. Even so, by taking the modification, I was able to continue through all the movements, including my new favorite skill: toes to rings).

Toes-to-rings, comin' right up.

Toes-to-rings, comin’ right up.

Wellness is definitely a centerpiece in my life still. I feel very strongly about holistic wellness, and finding CrossFit was a catalyst in changing my priorities. Sadly, there is much less whiskey and craft beer in my life; when I do seek it out, I go for the good stuff, at least. I found my “third space,” and “meet me at the bar” has much different meaning. My social circle is heavily influenced by my friends from the gym, and yes, I met someone amazing and wonderful and fantastic–I could go on, but I’ll reign it in–at my gym.

And the best part is that it’s the healthiest relationship I’ve been in. I’m in an entirely different mindset compared to all prior relationships and quasi-relationships and whatever you want to call that period of time from [insert which of my prior relationships you had the biggest qualms with]. Seriously, just read my blog from, like, 2010 until early 2014. Those were some dark times for heartache and my mental well-being. There were some things that happened in there that had repercussions for many years afterwards, and I’m glad that sometime around the start of 2014, the fog finally started to lift. I’ve healed for the most part. Things are better within me. And because of that, things around me are better, too.

In the past two years, my life hasn’t gone from godawful to perfect. No, it’s morphed from “it has its peaks and valleys” to “it still has its peaks and valleys, but I feel much better about myself.” I feel more sound, although I still battle some nagging insecurities and stresses. I finally figured out what it meant to truly care and love myself first, even though I knew that’s what I was striving for. It finally manifested, even though it was a rocky ride to get to that point.

I’ve endured a lot, and I always anticipate the Universe’s next great blow. After all, that’s what I’ve come to expect. But I think that I’m learning to expect happy things, too–although I’m still wary of that (with good reason. I mean, come on). This weird little multidisciplinary cross-training fitness modality I discovered helped me cultivate strong, positive traits that I’ve had all along, but that have been suppressed.

So, I suppose you could say I was saved by Grace…

and the Filthy Fifty…

and The Chief.

Because here I am. I’ve stuck with it. Let’s see where this crazy journey takes me next.

The Return! Kind of.

“Hey, so, Ardith–what’s with the lack of blogging?”

Oh, jeez. Well, there are several reasons that I haven’t posted as much as usual.

The Wide World of Student Affairs and Higher Education
I’m still wrestling with what’s up with my professional life. As I’ve said a hundred times before, my job is fantastic and my team is great, but I’m missing something. I can’t pinpoint it yet, but I think it partially has to do with a need to be connected and engaged with more AAPI professionals more often, the desire for an outlet to explore research and theory, the negotiation of feeling like part of my professional network left me hanging, and wondering what to do about not feeling like a rock star and feeling more like I’m adequate and competent in my role(s). Turns out the working world isn’t full of fireworks all the time, and that the every day can be quite common. Making a difference in the world isn’t instant either; I feel like even though I knew that coming out of graduate school, actually experiencing the little victories and the little shifts is difficult. I feel like there should be more pizzazz, more “wow,” more so-much-other-stuff, and realizing that that isn’t real life is somewhat “bleh.”

However, it’s been quite the wild ride the last two or so years. Being involved with health-related programs as an adviser has helped me think more deeply about my own interests in health and wellness. I want my trajectory to have something to do with that, although there are several different pathways I could pursue. That’s hopeful. I have to remind myself that a career is something to think about longitudinally, and these ideas take time to develop. I don’t have an end point; you won’t find me stating flat-out, “I want to be Dean of Student Life/President of a college.” That’s not how I roll; it never has been. I’m still learning to negotiate uncertainty and embrace it. Part of me wants to know where I’m going, but the other part of me just wants to wander and love all that comes with that.

I’m still playing with the idea of getting my doctorate. It could be that I set my target entry date as soon as Autumn 2016; it could be that I change my mind and delay for any number of reasons. Right now, my short list includes universities far, far away, as well as the University of Washington. I feel good when I think about the programs (programmes) I’m eying. Now to marinate on some research questions. Before I make any decisions, a few other things need to become more clear. Again, I’m anxious. What’s next? Oh, calm down, self; you’ll get there soon enough.

CrossFit
I’m still doing that thing with the sweating and the barbells and the fitness. I like it a lot. I’ve now progressed into “Intermediate” territory, where I’m seeing slower progress in my numbers, but I’ve also started to incorporate more advanced skills. Ring dips and pistols and full range-of-motion GHD sit-ups are all in my arsenal now; even double-unders are starting to come along with the switch to a new jump rope. Now I’m trying to figure out where I want to go next. I’ve gotten into better shape, that’s for sure, so do I aim for recreational competitions? (Yes; actually, that’s what I’m looking towards now.) Setting this goal of competing regularly in local competitions means I’m intentionally working on weaknesses. This means putting in extra work in the gym, incorporating some extra drills and skills, although fitting it all in with a full-time work schedule can be tough. Making the time, though, is worth it.

I’m also starting to explore my interest in coaching, which is no surprise given my inclination towards the helping professions. I’ve been demoing skills for the new members, while also watching and learning how our trainers work with different clients. I hope to participate in a Level One certificate class within the next year in order to bolster my skill set. I’ve enjoyed introducing people to CrossFit, and it’s kind of a nice full-circle to be someone who new people can approach to ask a question. This is really a role in which I fully play out my co-learner approach, reminding them I am by no means an expert, but that I’m someone who has been enthusiastic about my own learning and applies that to their learning, too. I’ve been told I move well, which is absolutely the result of my mediocrity coming into CrossFit and the need to establish strong basics. I hope to carry that forward because–let’s be honest–I’m having a ton of fun so far. I also have to say that my involvement in CrossFit has bled over into my professional interests, and it is shaping how I approach future work and trajectory. Again, I’m a bit antsy about how everything will play out in the long-run, but I’m enjoying the ride thus far.

Dating
Have I been absolutely the worst in terms of providing you all with juicy stories about being single in the city? More or less, yes. You all had high hopes for me!

And behind the scenes, I did fine. I went on a few dates here and there early on in 2014, and nothing really came of it. The thing is, that was totally fine by me. When I moved to Seattle, I spent a lot of time transitioning into my new job, my new house, my new gym, and my city that I had left behind in 2010. That was my focus, and it went quite well. I reconnected with friends, I traveled, I re-established myself. I didn’t have time for dating, which was partially a carry-over from #bestsummerever. I was open to it, though, and by no means had I given up on dating; it just wasn’t the right time.

2014, I met some fellows that piqued my interest. I went on some dates, felt things out, pursued when I thought necessary, and backed off when it didn’t feel right. I did the “grown-up” thing and politely declined some dates and didn’t string people along. And it all felt pretty good. At some point in 2013 and 2014, the nagging feeling of, “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong with me? Why am I still single?” dissipated. I was finally free of this unreasonable anxiety that was doing me no good.

And in that freedom, I was able to clear my head and give myself the ability to take notice of someone worth my time.

That’s all I’m going to say on that front right now, except for… he’s really great.

In Conclusion
Things are going! Things are happening! I have to go tend to dinner! Stay tuned for more things and stuff!

A Singular Sensation (Encore)

The holiday season is an interesting time of year to be acutely aware of my status as a single lady in her late twenties.

Then again, the holiday season is an interesting time of year to reflect on what it was like to not be single at this time last year.

We did all the expected things: I had Thanksgiving with his family; we went out to dinner and a concert on my birthday; we visited my friends in Seattle and did some shopping; we exchanged gifts before I left town.

And then, naturally, I decided we had to end things right before New Year’s–even though I would still end up spending it with all of our mutual friends. The book was completely closed several days after New Year’s, though, without a lingering, messy break-up. It was a clean break, with me telling him bluntly, “We are no longer together. Now go do what you need to do.”

It was calm, unapologetic, to the point, and completely necessary. The line was drawn. And in a way, it set the tone for the rest of 2013. I had several moments in which I later laid my emotions on the line, moments in which I could say, “I forgive you,” and, “You are still my friend despite everything; our friendship means so much.” These things were tough for me, someone who loves those annoying cryptic posts on Facebook and Twitter, along with passive-aggressive jabs.

I’ve never been fantastic at relationships. I used to spend a lot of time on my blog whining about being lonely. I also used to grasp desperately to whatever relationship did come my way. Being single for this year has been tough at times, but it has also brought me much more in terms of growth.

Yes, I still have many feelings. I still melt down often, and transitions always exacerbate both aspects. But even in times where I had to let people go, I knew it was what I needed– and even more so what they needed. I am getting over my manic pixie dream girl complex, the idea that I need to save those emotionally-burned men I fall for. I fall back on a different narrative–much to the dismay of my irrational side–of telling myself they need to learn and make mistakes and hopefully get their lives together without me. And in doing so, even though it still hurts my heart, I am taking the right steps forward in being a better-adjusted single lady.

I read something the other day which, as a whole, was not my cup of tea. I won’t bother linking it here because I found it condescending to single ladies of my type. But there was one part that stood out and that I could at least thank the author for, which I’ll paraphrase as:

Being single may be part of my identity, part of my status, but it is not my identity. It does not define who I am. It is an important part of me, and it is to be celebrated in this moment. Especially in what it can teach me about the rest of who I am.

I’m still hopeful that he’s out there, but I’m more hopeful that he’s learning great things, too. We will have many stories to share, I think, so I suppose I can create many more before we connect.

That would be a fine way to spend this holiday season, I think.

(And if an interested party happens to be reading this… first of all, thanks for making it this far, and maybe we should plan to make mulled wine and watch a holiday movie. Or go to a shooting range. Same difference.)