Saturday, February 18, 2012

My run with Mary

I recently wrote of my newfound appreciation, via a deeper connection, of music while I work-out.  I spoke of how I'm attempting to re-focus my attention on the actual words being sung, not just the beats being blasted.  If you've ever taken a spin class, you've heard the term "cadence" used in reference to the rhythm of your movement.  This is typically my staple move, especially when running.  My feet hit the ground in accordance with the beat.  During fast songs my jog becomes a sprint and on the slow tracks, I pull in the reigns a bit.  I'm sure any decent running coach would say that this form of interval training is wonderful in terms of building endurance and killing kcals, but that's never my purpose.  The beat is typically what carries me.  But today something different happened.  I absolutely murdered my run, and I might as well have been listening to a microphone-less poet whisper in a coffee shop.  I'm not even lying when I tell you that all I heard while on my run today were words.  Commandments from a wise female practically begging the rest of us ladies to to do something that we far too often forget to do - respect ourselves.

Oh boy, my heart is racing as I type this.  Bare with me as I work through the next couple of sentences.  This morning I hopped on the treadmill, just like any other day.  I pressed the QUICKSTART button (does anybody actually mess with the settings??) and hit play on my pod.  The treadmills in the gym I use are all lined up to face a large set of floor to ceiling windows.  Every day I gaze out at the street, wondering where passer-bys are headed and what their worlds might consist of.

Not even 60 seconds into my run and I see a couple arguing just below us on the sidewalk.  Tears stream down the woman's cheeks as the man explodes into a fit of rage.  She turns away from him, he follows like a magnet.  She takes a step back.  He takes a leap forward.  Before my blood even had time to reach its boiling point, it happened...he slapped her across the face.

I screamed.  I couldn't help it.  My left hand raced to cover my mouth while my right arm reached towards the couple.  I pointed and gasped and looked around me for similar reactions.  Crickets.

Such is the single most enormous frustration I encounter in my life - feeling like I need to do or say something but knowing it's not really my business.  It's a constant struggle in this here brain of mine.  I've never been one to sit idly by when witness to an unjust situation.  My urge to intervene jumps ten fold when physical abuse is involved.

But what could I have even done today?

After thinking about it long and hard this afternoon, I decided that if this had happened at home in the English speaking states, I would have at least gone up to the girl and asked if she was alright.  But being in a foreign land, unable to fully communicate, the only thing I could do today was watch and wait and hope that he didn't inflict further abuse.

(I also went into the next room and pounded on the window as he finally walked off, hoping he'd look up and see me.  I was either going to give him the "eyes" or give him the finger, thinking that if he knew somebody had been watching he'd at least think twice about lifting his hand next time.  He never looked up.)

With Mary J. Blige in my earbuds, I fought the tears back and promised myself that the women in my life would only ever feel strengthened by my influence.  That if I wasn't able to step in and attempt to lift up that poor woman on the street today, I would at least reach out to the women in my world.

So here are some words of wisdom from a lady much more astute than I.  Here's what I heard during my run with Mary.

Take Me as I Am

Yes she's older now, yes she's wiser now.
Can't disguise her now, she don't need,
No one tellin' her what to do and say.
No one telling her who to be.
She's on solid ground, she's been lost and found.
Now she answers to G-O-D.

So take me as I am
or have nothing at all.
Just take me a I am
or have nothing at all.

Ain't Really Love

I've held my tongue too long I can't do it no more.
How can a man be so cold to a woman that loves him most?
If you wanna go, there's the door.
I can't hold ya, boy your grown.
You must got me confused, 
I treat myself way too good.
A love that tears you down, ain't really love.

Good Woman Down

It doesn't matter what they say or do.
Don't let 'em get to you.
Don't be afraid, you can breakthrough.
Take what I've been through to see that,
you can't hold a good woman down.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wait, what?! Wednesday

Wait, what?!  I'm not depressed!  So what if it's been 4 days since I've had physical, human contact.  With a spread like this, how could one feel less than stellar?!  Thank God for skype, salami, stinky cheeses and Malbec.

So this week's Wait, What?! Wednesday is a little bit of a stretch.  I don't really have anything of "shock value" to share with you.  I guess I could have referred you to yesterday's post, if you hadn't yet read it.  Boom!  Hawaii in T minus 3.5 months.  That's certainly Wait, What?! worthy, if I do say so myself.

Basically this post will just be another opportunity for me to check in with those wondering what I'm up to this week.  In the last couple of days I've been fortunate enough to skype with both of my parents, Jenni Eicher (a childhood friend who currently lives in Hong Kong and is doing big things), Erica (a girlfriend from last season) Ellen, Jen, Sierra and Carli.  Shoot, that's almost better than I do when I'm actually home!  There is nothing like reconnecting with some of your favorite humans.  It can make the miles between you feel like mere kilometers (hey, that's nearly half the distance - the math is solid, trust me).

Michael's road game is finally on TV tonight.  I guess they've been broadcasting all the Euroleague games but we just don't have the channel.  For those curious about it, I can confirm that watching live box-scores on a shifty, European gambling web-site is less than wonderful.

His team is playing Turow, the team he played for last year.  Quick sidenote, I had to go back and change the sentence from "Our team is playing Turow, the team we played for last year" because it sounds obnoxious and self-righteous when us wives talk like that.  I've been better at catching myself lately.

Meanwhile, I'm snacking on some tasty appe-teasers and enjoying this rich glass of red.  Perhaps more to come at half-time???

Go Prokom!!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You make me hot

I really wish I could upload a picture from 2000 right about now.  "You make me hot" is what Michael spray-painted on a hot water heater (that he found lord knows where) and lovingly placed in my parent's front yard.  I believe my mom woke me up that particular morning in mid-April, with a "Rise and shine.  Michael has a question for you.  Also, that thing needs to be out of the front yard before lunch."

The sweet/embarrassing gesture was enough to secure a prom date in yours truly.  It would be the first of many times that Michael would find a way to surprise me in the absolute least cliche possible.

Take today for example.  The guys are on the road and once again, I find myself in complete solitude on global love-bird day.  Of course, I found a way to make the most of it (baked brownies for the doorman, jogged along the boardwalk, talked with my sister over her morning coffee) but I found myself circa 6pm feeling a little bit depressed.  Michael had been traveling all day and finally called from his hotel room, abundant with crispy towels but lacking in the ever-necessary internet access.

"I hate to do this, but will you just go into my email and open up the drafts folder," he said.

"Ohhhhhhh kaay," was my response (slightly miffed but willing to humor him).

Expecting to find a cheesy E-card that he was unable to send off himself, I was shocked to find 2 round-trip tickets to Hawaii for the first week in June!!

I would love to lie to you and say that he then declared, "Let's bask in the sunshine.  You still make me hot after all these years," but to be honest, I'm pretty sure he just said, "Happy Valentines Day babe.  Is it June yet??"

It was enough to make my heart skip a beat.  The countdown to paradise is on!!

Happy Valentines Day to all my dearest friends back in the US of A.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My run with Flo

Something occurred to me while preparing for my run today.  Not only does listening to music while working out recharge me in a way that no oral supplement ever could, but the very IDEA of music and what's behind the songs I listen to do something to motivate me.  Often times a song will take me back to a moment where I felt especially empowered.  Sometimes a memory, a person or a place is affiliated with a song and listening to it on repeat is enough to carry me through my last mile or two.

So just to clarify here, I'm just NOT one of those people who can run without music.  Who the heck are those people and how do they do it??  I had my headphones burn out on me once - 5 minutes into a 15k race, no less - and I survived.  I get the notion of hearing your breath and connecting more with what you're surrounded by.  But having more runs than not occur inside a smelly, damp and ill-lit gym, requires me to put my focus toward something other than the beauty of my surroundings.

This is where I imagine I'm running.

I'm challenging myself to run quite a bit these days.  Definitely more, in terms of mileage as well as frequency, than I have in the past.  In doing so I already feel the need to find a motive - something other than "run more".  So I've decided to try to really connect with the music I listen to while running.  To use my run as not only a platform on which to burn calories, kill time and zap stress, but to give my mind and soul a work-out at the same time.

What I realized this morning is that a lot of times, I am, in my imagination, running WITH the artist in my earbuds.  And MOST of the time, it's a woman.  Without even knowing it (unless Beyonce was in my Polish gym yesterday and saw me mouthing "Let me upgrade you") this gal is by my side, in my ear, literally, and encouraging me to keep at it.

This brings me to the bulk of today's post.  Don't let the title up above fool you.  I'm not talking about straining through a jog while Aunt Flo is in town (potential dudes reading this, that's a period joke).  Instead, I'm talking about my run with Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine.

Let me begin by saying this.  I don't know a lot about her - other than she's British and has the most fabulous red hair I've ever seen.  Her music is dark and ominous, though she doesn't come off as a depressed or bound person.  I read an article about her in Rolling Stone last year that lead me to believe she doesn't put up with a lot of shit.  That she's a real woman.  In my mind she is older than me and for sure, a bit wiser.  But in reality she's only 25.  That alone inspires me.  Here is this person who reaches the masses, sending messages of hope, strength and passion - and she's 3 years younger than me.  Incredible.

Do you even have to hear her voice to know this woman kills it?!

Here was the second track I ran to today.  Came on about 4 and a half minutes into my jog.  I'll spare you the lyrics of the entire song and instead share what really stood out.

Shake it out

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues drawn
It's always darkest before the dawn

The first thought I had upon hearing these words was that every single person on the planet can connect with this idea of struggling with the past.  I'm not even talking about the notion of reliving specific, tragic experiences but rather, the daily battle of letting your history influence your present.  How can we keep from letting the bad times, the regretful moments, alter our daily life?  I heard this and though about how hard it is sometimes to keep from feeling a tad resentful towards Michael for "taking me from my home".   It's like this dark little secret that creeps up from time to time.  I fight with it.  I convince myself that I'm being ridiculous and usually, the feeling fades.  But somedays, as Flo continues to sing, all I can do to get through it is to,

Shake it out shake it out
Shake it out shake it out
And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh woah

Another memorable track I felt the need to write about...

Never Let Me Go

And the arms of the ocean are carrying me
And all this devotion was rushing out of me
And the crashes are heaven, for a sinner like me
The arms of the ocean deliver me

What in the baptism of a song??  Wow.  This song nearly moved me to tears on the treadmill.  I imagined sprinting through the sand on some warm, familiar beach, and diving full force into the waves. I could feel the calm that would come from being washed clean.  Like hitting restart on a game you've been struggling through.  In a way, this is every summer for me.  For us.  Somewhere we find a beach.  We sink into the waves.  We are refreshed in the most simplistic, beautiful way.

And the last track that I absolutely must reference...

Between Two Lungs

The air has filled me head to toe
And I can see the ground far below
I have this breath and I hold it tight
And I keep it in my chest with all my might
I pray to God this breath will last
As it pushes past my lips

Ahhhh!  To me, the most powerful song, by far.  Mid sprint, I literally grabbed at my chest as if I was holding my heart in place.  Think of it what you will.  For me, I ran with this strange feeling of truth - like I was floating high above those not in the know.  Like I am in on something so powerful and I need to share it.

Wow.  Deep stuff.

The funny thing about lyrics is that everyone will have, as they should, their own interpretation.  What I take the words to mean might be different than how you hear things, or potentially the complete opposite of what the artist intended.  But that's the wonderful thing about music - finding what it means to you.  And as far as this little runner is concerned, finding how it lightens your load on a 5 mile trek.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Weekend Getaway

Ahhhh, how nice it is to spend time with a girlfriend again!  There's just something so wonderfully familiar about experiencing reciprocal female laughter.  To have somebody to crack a bottle of wine open with, while sharing stories and catching up on life is something I far too often take for granted.  And to do this with someone who walks in similar shoes each day?  The best.  This weekend was exactly what I needed!

While Michael was on the road in Russia, I decided to make the 2 hour venture (by car - my first solo roadtrip!) to visit my girl Acrila in Koszalin.  Michael and her husband, George, both played together there 2 years ago.  I had gone and visited last season for a few days but had not seen their family in a solid year.  It's funny, I figured out on the drive back that it was the exact same weekend the year before that I had paid them a visit.  I guess my soul knew it couldn't survive longer than 365 days without some Acrila in my life.

Acrila and myself 2 years ago, celebrating my 27th birthday.

On our way to the pub on Friday night for a couple of red beers.  The look of shock on the bartender's faces still kills me when we order these here.

It was so nice to be back in a town where we once lived.  But mostly, it was nice to be among friends.  I haven't really connected with anyone from our new city just yet (though stay tuned for a story of a very generous act by a nice gal here) so it was awesome to have some good times and for sure, some easy conversation.  We chatted.  We drank wine.  We danced.  We played airplane with her daughter.  It was truly a lovely time.

Acrila AKA Cleopatra and sweet, little Aila.

So here is the low-down on my friend, Crila.  She's one of these women who, and I know this for a fact, without even trying makes those around her a better person.  She is good vibes from sun up to sun down and I always take a little piece of that away with me when I leave.  She's a great wife.  An even better mom.  And one of the most solid friends I've made during our journey overseas.

The last night I was there we were invited to a costume party.  It was probably my favorite "Polish" memory, in terms of atmosphere and local people, to date.  What started out as a silly dinner party 10 years ago in her friend Izabella's home, is now an annual event for a group of 150+ people.  Not only had this group of folks' friendships survived a decade, but their love of life was seemingly stronger than ever, not to mention, completely contagious.

Check out some of the pictures below and enjoy Poland's version of karaoke at its finest!!

 This woman had moves like I'd never seen.

This dude was talking crazy all night - but gave me some wonderful insight into the world of Polish micro-brews (who knew?) and provided translation during all of the hilarious speeches.

Me and my girl, Marilyn.  I kept making her do that face.  She lost her initial enthusiasm with me towards the end of the night.

Not sure what these gals were dressed as but dude went as Howard Stern.  Funny.

This is me, saying a prayer for the priest.  Too much??

Karaoke is truly a universal love.

Made a new friend and fellow hoops wife, Dee.  Good people.

Back sweat in full affect.  No judgement, though.  I see it as an indicator of a person's "go-hard-ness".

Borat was my favorite.  Bold move, buddy.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hodgepodge Thursday

Man, it's been so challenging to stay up on posting the past few weeks!  I know it's been mostly because we were down to just 1 computer up until yesterday.  To keep from being an entertainment hog at night, I intended on  writing in the mornings.  However my creative juices must not get flowing until the PM because I rarely felt inspired enough to actually see a post through.

Here I am now, though.  Michael worked his magical powers and somehow resuscitated my computer charger.  Praise be to the heavens, I'm literally plugged in once more!!

So here's what I've got for you this evening...

Music Monday

Can I begin by asking, who the heck is this Tyga fella??  I remember seeing him perform at Kendall Jenner's Sweet 16, errr, I mean, on TRL last week.  Shit, TRL's been off the air for years.  Ok, ok, I might have caught the over-hyped birthday bash.  Fine, twice!  So sue me.  But back to Tyga.  Is this what the kids are listening to these days??  I will openly admit that I haven't a clue as to what he's rapping about but gosh darn if it doesn't have a great beat behind it.  Question though - when he says, "Rap city, bitch" what or who is he referring to?  I've listened to the song 3 times and I can't put my finger on it - though I do give him props for the "I get it in the morning like Alonzo" drop.  Touche, Tyga.

Onto a chart topper that I am more honestly digging, Gotye.  This Belgian-Australian's voice melts my bones and I'm looking forward to learning about the rest of his music.  For now, "Somebody That I Used to Know" is getting some play time on my daily rotation.

Last but not least, new music from Feist!!  The video below is a lot.  But such is Leslie.  Here is another example of why, if I had to only pick 10 artists/bands, Feist would most definitely make my "Twenties" soundtrack.  Take a few minutes to sample her latest and greatest below.

Wait, What?! Wednesday

Yesterday I read that consistently running 5 miles a day basically gives you a hall pass when it comes to chowing down post work-out.  The article referenced a study in which "the typical adult who logged an average of 5 miles each day was able to maintain their weight with little to no diet restrictions".  Now, I've never really been too strict about counting calories.  I try to eat healthy most of the day but at some point, without fail, I find a way to get my mits on some bad stuff - the "food guilts" are pretty quick to follow.  Reading that if I manage to squeeze those 5 miles into my day, I can feel ok about upgrading my dessert from sliced apples with almond butter (good) to a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard (grand as it gets) - well this perks my interest.

I know this whole "calories in vs. calories out" concept isn't news, but something about reading "5 miles is all it takes" in print really sealed the deal for me.  It seems much more concrete and obtainable than "get a daily work-out in".  I'll let you know how it works out (pun).  So far I'm 3 days, 15 miles and 3 delectable desserts in - and loving every minute of it.  Even the sweaty ones.

Now, in order to be fully caught up -

Mustaching Through The Snow, Part III

Just a few more pix and comments from my holidays back home.  I was going to stagger them throughout future posts but I just couldn't wait to share 'em.  Enjoy!

If only these $5, holiday inspired, Grinch-faced hammer-pants came in Maggie's size... 

 At mom's birthday lunch.  Cheers to the most wonderful woman I've ever known.

Oh, no big deal.  Just me and "Clyde the glide".  One of Ken's finer Craiglist scores. 

We took this picture at Redhawk Winery while out wine tasting one afternoon.  The photo doesn't do it justice - the way this cat was literally warming his feet by the fire was too good to be true.  Now how do I get in contact with those I Can Haz Cheezburger folks??