Monday, August 26, 2019

15 Things You've Missed in 15 Years


It's been 15 years today since you died. And we still miss you so very much.

The passage of time continues to be a blessing and a curse. I didn't know this firsthand before August 26th, 2004, but what I've learned since then is that time can help lessen the blow of death. That's the blessing. The curse is that no matter how much time passes, I still miss you so much my throat closes up and tears sting my eyes. We may have accepted what we have no choice but to accept, but we have not adjusted. I don't think you ever do when someone you love dies. See. It's a blessing and a curse.

Over the course of the past 15 years you've missed a lot. So much that I couldn't possibly cover, but here are 15 things that I want to tell you about: 

  1. Kara had your first grandchild. A girl. Julia. I remember when she called to tell me she was pregnant because it meant we had to delay our wedding. Again. But I didn't care. And even though Kara insisted on letting the show go on without her, I told her that I had no choice but to get married without you, but I wasn't doing it without her. Julia was the perfect reminder we needed that life marches forward. She stole our hearts and took up some of the space that was left in your absence. 
  2. I got married. Tommy Sweeney performed the ceremony and wore your "formal wear" (read: kilt, knee high socks, fancy shoes, dress shirt and jacket). We got married on your favorite day of the year (St. Patrick's Day- obviously). Just before the ceremony started, it was cloudy and threatening rain. And then just as the ceremony began, the sun came out and was shining so bright that we had no choice but to take it as a sign you were there with us. We did a lot to make sure you were there in spirit. In fact, I think Katie and Mom both took some of your leftover Xanax. 
  3. Meghan & Rob got married. It was a beautiful November evening in New York City. Just off of Union Square surrounded by family and friends, they said their "I Do's" and once again, you were there with us in spirit. You would have loved their very New York City wedding. Most especially, the view. 
  4. Clancy came and lived with me and Steve. When Mom moved to Virginia (a little while after Jack died), it didn't make sense for him to live with her. And even though I was realllly skeptical about the whole thing, I knew that Clancy coming to live with me (someone who worked from home and could give him the life you wanted for him) was the very best option. It's hard to put into words what a gift Clancy was and has been in my life. He filled it with so much love and I learned so much from him. Thank you. He remains the greatest gift I've ever gotten from you. And I know you would have been proud of the way I "raised him." 
  5. Your second grandchild was born. Another girl. Lila. We were all worried about her having to follow Julia- a born performer with the most amazing curly hair that demanded attention whether she wanted it or not (she did). Turns out Lila more than held her own. She can win any staring contest and I know you would laugh and laugh and laugh at all her antics and icy stares and sense of humor.
  6. I made a second home in Ireland. I've now been to Ireland 17 times. Since 2008, I've gone every single year and some years, twice. You taught us that "being 100% Irish as far back as the family went" was the most important thing about us. And I've really latched onto this. One of my most memorable experiences since you died was in 2014 when I traveled to Ireland and met some of your family on Father's Day that year. I can't remember the exact way in which we/you are related to them. But I do know that it was so meaningful to meet your family in Ireland. I yearn for you every time I'm there and think about how special it would have been if we lived in a world where you'd meet me in Ireland and be integrated into the life I've created for myself over there. P.S. You'd love Gene. 
  7. Your third grandchild was born. Well Dad. It turns out you just can't escape girls. Your third grandchild was guessed it...a girl. Quinn Eloise Reinhardt was born a week before St. Patrick's Day. Like Julia and Lila, you'd love her. She's smart and funny and creative and, just like her cousins, she'd keep you on your toes. I wish we could see you as a grandfather. It's hard for me to imagine, but I know you'd get a kick out of your three granddaughters and I know they'd get a kick out of you too. You not getting to know your granddaughters and vice versa is one of the things that upsets me the most about you dying so young (in addition to a lot of other things). Luckily you left us with so much to remember you by and so much to share with them. And I see some of you in them- in their humor, determination, character and personalities. You'd be so proud of Kara and Meghan and the wonderful mothers they are. 
  8. Sh*t's been real funky. Not everything has been sunshine and rainbows since you died. Mom being diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 1999 and your death more than prepared me for the reality that Life Is Hard. The quote we found in one (of your many) notebooks after you died said: "Life's not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is. The way you cope with it makes all the difference." While it's brought me a lot of comfort, it didn't prepare me for the ways in which we'd find ourselves at odds with each other. More than anything else that's happened in my life since you died, I think about you the most in this situation...wondering how different things might have been in you were alive to help us through the tumultuous time that's changed our family dynamic.
  9. Okay...not sure how you'll feel about this one, turns out we're part Jewish! It's not that there's anything wrong with being Jewish. It's just that (see above) you raised us to believe that being "100% Irish as far back as the family goes" was The Most Important Thing about us. Well...I'm here to tell you that we're ALMOST 1/3rd JEWISH! Or at least I am. Last year I did some genetic testing (through something called 23&Me- which wasn't around when you were alive) and it reveled that I am 28.3% Jewish. More surprisingly, this comes from BOTH SIDES OF THE FAMILY. And as it turns out, you're more Jewish than Mom. Yes, seriously. (16.1% vs Mom's 12.2%). So, ya know, there's a lot to dig into there. But...crazy, right?! When I first got an inkling about this (way back in 2009), I told Kevin that I thought we might be part Jewish and he said "Oh! That's a good one! I haven't heard that before." Now that we have the evidence to back it up though, there's no refuting it! I laugh every time I think of this and wonder how you'd have accepted this news. 
  10. I lost a bunch of weight. I remember this painfully uncomfortable conversation you and I had, probably around 2001 - 2002 when you took me for a drive, then parked your car across from Roger's Motel and Campground in Lancaster, NH and told me that I needed to lose weight. It was one of the most cringe-worthy conversations you and I had. Not that I didn't need to lose weight (I did), I just didn't need you to take me on a special drive to tell me how you remembered me being so small and strong and tiny. I struggled enough with my appearance and was so self-conscious about it then. I didn't need my father to have a heart-to-heart with me to make me feel worse. Well it took about 13 - 14 years before I did anything about it and it included a lot of starts and setbacks and failures, but I'm happy and proud of the fact that I've kept approximately 60 pounds off for five years and I feel great. Because of the wonderful Corridan-like traits passed down to me (you know like: if it's worth doing, it's worth over-doing), I still need to be really careful and mindful about this. I know it'll be a life-long challenge, but I am better equipped to deal with it and am in it for the long haul. Also- P.S. I ran a freaking half marathon last October! (And I didn't get sick at the end.)
  11. Clancy died. This one hurts a lot. On July 11th, 2017, we said our final goodbye to Clancy. I had woken up two days earlier to discover that he could no longer get up unassisted and I just knew that the end was near. I wasn't going to force him to endure a life less than he was meant to live just because I selfishly wanted him around and wanted that connection to you. We (me and Katie- Steve was on vacation on the east coast) spent two sad but beautiful days giving Clancy the send-off he deserved. It included 23 in-person visitors and 21 FaceTime chats (that's another thing that wasn't around while you were alive...but since you barely picked up the phone when we called, I don't think FaceTime would have been something you cared about), Ben & Jerry's, steak, a Carvel ice cream cake and more love and patience than I knew I was capable of. We gave Clancy a send-off you would have been proud of. We surrounded him with love and photos of his extended family (including you, obviously) and when the time came to put an end to his suffering, my heart broke into a million pieces. For Katie too. Who was by my side for "raising him" and seeing him to the finish line. Clancy taught me more than I knew I needed to learn. He was so much more than a dog. And while my heart will never fully heal from his loss (just like it'll never fully heal from losing you), my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude. That I got to play such a big role in his life. That he was in important connection to you. That I was able to spend 4,104 days with him together in California. Clancy filled my life with unconditional love and purpose and helped me become a better version of myself. He was the greatest teacher and the very best companion. I miss him- and you- every single day.
  12. Papa died. For someone who just wanted to live to his 20th birthday, he had a great run making it to 93. His (New York City) funeral took place on one of the coldest days (and reminded me why I don't live on the east coast) and involved the New York Police Department. Up until the very end, Papa treated us to his sarcasm and wit. He had a long and wonderful life. What you lacked in years, he more than made up for. We miss him, but it's not like it is with you. 
  13. Sue died. Oh Dad. This is a hard one to tell you about. As much as I'm glad you missed this, I know you being here during this time would have been really comforting to Kevin and Susannah and all of us. This is really f'd up. A trip to drop her dog (Monty) off at the groomer's resulted in Sue being paralyzed from the neck down. I know. What the f? The accident happened just last year- at the end of July and she was gone by the end of November. I got to see more of Sue in those few months than I had in the years previously, which was a gift...but still. It was so hard to see her so unhappy and depressed. She tried hard for a little while, but when it was obvious how small her progress would be, she just didn't have it in her to keep going. Kevin and Susannah and Barbara were amazing with Sue. Everyone showed up for her- Meghan, Kara, Katie, Kerry, Casey, Sally...just to name a few. But in the end, it wasn't how Sue wanted to live. And even though she was caring for a newborn (the most adorable and beautiful and happy baby girl, Ursula), Susannah showed a strength of character and a dedication to giving Sue what she wanted (to die at home) that left us all in awe of her. Recently I've been missing Sue so much. I think the unfairness of how Sue died has worn off and I'm left with feeling her absence. One of the things I loved the most about Sue is that she had a unique and special relationship with all of us. She took the time to get to know each of us as individuals and created special memories specific to our likes and interests. It's hard to go to New York City knowing she's not there. But, like you, Sue left us with so much to remember her by and to smile about when she comes across our minds (which is a lot). You wrote me a letter once and in it you said, "You mentioned things we've been going through and how important family is. It's really more important and more true than you know, especially when hard times come along. That's when you'll probably find out that the most important thing in your world will be your sisters."  I've drawn so much strength from this nugget of wisdom you've left behind. I can't imagine how Kevin must be feeling with both you and Sue gone at this point. But I know that you and Sue left him with a lifetime of memories and love that I hope keep him company when he feels lonely. 
  14. I've raised a shitload of money for rare cancer research. For the past seven years, I've been participating in a fundraiser that benefits Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (it's called Cycle for Survival) and raises money for rare cancer research- motivated by losing you at such a ridiculously young age to esophageal cancer...and because of other friends who have also been diagnosed with a rare cancer. In your/their name, I've raised $175,481.34...and counting. Most people ride a little bit here and there and participate as part of a team. Very on brand with who you were, I participate as an "Extreme Rider" which means I have to raise a minimum of $4,000 and I bike for four hours. It's excessive and crazy and I love it. A couple of years ago I got to share my reason for riding before the event started and I said this about you: "I'd like to think that if he were diagnosed today, he'd have different options because of the money that we raise and the work that we're doing." You continue to motivate all four of your girls to do better and to be better in all aspects of our life. And it's an honor to have made such an impact and to have raised so much money in your memory to help others have a better outcome than was available to you 15 years ago. 
  15. Everyday Life. There's not a day that goes by where I don't think of you. In fact, I end every night by saying, "Dad. I love you and I miss you." And since Clancy died I've added "Please give Clancy a hug and kiss from me." But within every day, there's something that comes up that inevitably makes us wish we could pick up the phone (even though you likely wouldn't answer it) to talk to you. Whether it's a show on Netflix (man you would have looooved that platform) or a problem at work or a book recommendation (thank Gods you missed the whole thing- your bank account and marriage likely wouldn't have survived it!) or something I saw in Ireland or a photograph that Katie took or something that Lila said or a parenting challenge Kara/Meghan is experiencing or advice I need on my marriage or wondering what you'd think of the latest thing Donald Trump said or did or, or, or...we still have the reflex to want to reach out to you. You weren't the most present or emotionally available person pre-cancer diagnosis, but it changed the way you showed up for all of us. And I'd like to believe that had you been given the gift of time post-cancer diagnosis, we all would have benefited by having a closer and stronger relationship with you. We honor you and celebrate you on your birthday, on the day you died, on St. Patrick's Day and so many days in between. You inspire our physical activity and you influence our decisions. We hate that you're not here with us, but we do everything we can to keep you so very present in our lives. 
Losing you so early in our lives changed us. It has shaped our priorities and what/where/who we choose to put our time and energy into. It's changed the way we move through the world. 

I know you'd be proud of all of us- of the things we've done and of the people we've become. The way that we've truly lived life in your absence but guided by your presence.

There are so many things you've missed and so many things that you will continue to miss. But we will always keep you so very much alive and a part of all that we do.

I love you and I miss you,


Saturday, January 19, 2019

This is 39: Month 12, Update 2

It is ridiculously late, but also, better late than never, no? After this I'll be posting a final update recapping my This is 39 experience. But for now, I need to take my own trip down memory lane to try and remember all the things I accomplished in my last month of 39!

My first post of month 12 was all about the half marathon. I'm still so proud of that accomplishment. I've only gone running once since then- on my actual birthday in Ireland (take me back please!)- because I did aggravate an injury that came on the week before my race. I did something to my right quad which is why I had Advil and Biofreeze the day of the halfie. I needed to numb that shit up so that I could make it through the race. Because not running it was absofreakinglutely not an option. But it took nearly two months before I was able to run without feeling some sort of pain in my right leg. Now (mid-January) that it's not hurting, I'm itching to slowly get back into running.

There was a lot of stuff that I did in month 12 that had nothing to do with my big race. Like:

  • Be mindful of communication: try not to say anything about someone I wouldn't want them overhearing- Yep. Continued to be mindful of this even though I wasn't perfect at it.
  • Blog at least 2x/month about my goals and progress- Only got this done once in October. Mostly because I was too busy partying it up in Portugal and Ireland.
  • Buy and use really good eye cream every day- Missed this only one day in my final month.
  • Call my grandparents 1x/week- I only called my grandmother twice in October, but I blame that on being out of the country for the second half of the month.
  • Date night with Steve at least once night a week (when I'm not traveling)- I left on October 7th for the rest of the month and I truly don't remember what date night(s) we may have gone on from September 23 - October 6th.
  • Do a Segway tour- You guys. I freaking did it. And I freaking hated it! No one was more surprised than I was at this plot twist. But it truly makes me laugh, still, all these months later thinking about how miserable I was. Katie was such a good sport about doing this even though it wasn't her idea of a good time. But the plot twist thickened while only moments into our Segway experience, it was evident that I did not like it one bit and Katie was having the time of her life.

    I didn't feel safe or confident on the Segway because I couldn't figure out how to stop it. And instead of asking for help, I just white-knuckled (literally) my way through the 3 1/2 hour tour (it was supposed to be 2 - 2 1/2 hours FYI). Katie took to it like a fish in water and really did have so much fun. I fell at one point. No big deal, it was just right in the middle of the busiest part of the city and was 100% dangerous. I was lucky I didn't really hurt myself since my foot got stuck while the Segway kept spinning around. Our tour guide was amazing- cute, knowledgable, nice, friendly, sweet, helpful and fun. But it didn't matter. I just hated it and couldn't wait for it to be over with. Katie took the funniest video of me- rim-rod straight, white-knuckling my way down a narrow, cobblestone alley, with a scowl on my face- and every photo taken of me on the Segway has my disdain on full display. Even still, I'm so glad to have crossed this goal off my list because as much as I hated it, it's one of the best memories. And I'm so grateful to have shared it with my wombmate. See for yerself:
Happy as can be...before I stepped on the Segway!
Wondering what in the hell I've gotten myself into.
And looking a helluva lot like my dad with what would become my perma-scowl for the duration of our Segway tour!
I'm thinking "I really thought I was gonna like this more than I actually do."

Perfectly captures the yin vs. yang of mine and Katie's experiences on the Segway tour
  • Get 4 facials and 4 massages- I got rear-ended five freaking days before my half marathon, so I went that night to get a massage to be proactive. And then just a few hours post-half marathon, I treated myself to another massage and it was the best way to recover after my great big race! I don't think I've gotten a massage since October, but have plans for one tomorrow and I can't wait! (I also got a facial the day after my birthday while in Ireland but it was So Lame and basically just someone putting lotion on my face. Plus I was still sort of drunk and kept falling asleep and waking myself up by making weird noises. So it wasn't the best facial I've ever had.)
  • Get my photography hanging up somewhere in public- This wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but I can say that one of my photos is hanging up in public inside the Thatch. It's a wonderful (if I do say so myself) photo of Percy pulling a perfect pint of Guinness.
  • Go to Weight Watchers every week that I'm in the country- Yep. I did this in October. And while I didn't set any weight-specific goals, I'm super happy to share that when I turned 40, I was close to the lowest weight I've been in as long as I can remember. I know a big part of this was due to going weekly to weigh myself and being accountable in that way.
  • Hike 1x/month- We did this awesome hike in the Irish countryside (to see the Caves of Kesh) the morning of our birthday. We went hiking up to these caves that had these amazing views that Ireland is so well-known for- green, rolling hills as far as the eye can see. There's this great vantage point and photo op where the cave acts as a frame, and I had everyone take a photo expressing our gratitude for the moment:

  • Journal at least 4x/week- I accomplished this goal in month 12 and actually journaled a ton because I was trying to make up for not doing this 4x/week consistently throughout the year.
  • Milk a cow (in Ireland)- I tried like hell to accomplish this goal during my June visit, but it turned out to be much more difficult to find someone who still milks their cows by hand. (Who knew?) But my friends Mary and Alo (real name = Aloysious O'Hara, can you even deal with how Irish his name is?) hooked me up. Milking a cow isn't easy as it turns out. It's also not very glamorous, although I'm not super surprised at that. I milked a cow for less than 30 seconds because it was really hard and the cow wasn't totally digging it. I'm sure it was picking up on my nervous energy. But hey, I did it and I have the photos to prove it. Here's one:
  • No McDonald's for a year- Check!
  • Nurture my marriage- Check'ish. I spent a lot of my final month away from home/Steve which made it challenging to feel like I really accomplished this goal. (A theme throughout this year and something that I know I need to do some internal work on.)
  • Plan a kickass 40th birthday trip to Ireland & Portugal- While the planning took place many months before the trip, I can honestly say that everything came together seamlessly. Katie and I had a wonderful time in Lisbon (along with a 1/2 day side trip to Cintra, Cabo da Roca and Cascais). We loved the city and did so much exploring in the 4 (full) days and nights we were there. It was so great to have some twin time before going to Ireland and meeting up with 17 of our friends who traveled from all over the world to celebrate with us. Here is a collage of some of my favorite photos from our birthday trip:

  • Travel some place new- While I accomplished this earlier in the year when I went to Miami for work last February, Lisbon was a new-to-me place to travel to as well. Katie and I really loved Lisbon and explored on foot and via Segway so we really got a great feel for the city.

    I LOVED all the freaking stairs all over the place. It is truly a city of stairs. And graffiti. I didn't love that part as much. 

Pastel de nata, also known as Portuguese custard tart is a Portuguese egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon.
And Katie and I fell hard for these.
  • Use my real camera 1x/month- Several of the photos I've already shared throughout this blog post were taken on my "real camera."
  • Volunteer 1x/month- At the end of September, when I could have gone out drinking in Philadelphia, I stayed in and wrote postcards in support of Beto O'Rourke and Adrienne Bell. 
  • Write an article/short story about Clancy and try and get it published- I actually completed this! I wrote a first draft of my short story about my final year with Clancy. It was really hard to do. But also really healing in many ways. Thanks to my sister Kara for checking it out. I have another writer friend taking a look at it. And then I'll see if there's any place that's appropriate to share it. Otherwise, I'll post it here. Here's a little peek of what I wrote:

    "Saying goodbye to Clancy was a pain and heartbreak that is difficult to put into words. We had 4,104 days with Clancy in California and every single one of them was filled with adventure and love. He expanded my heart in ways I didn't know was possible. He helped me grow in ways I didn't think I could. He taught me more than I knew I needed to learn.

    He was so much more than a dog. And while my heart will never fully heal, my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude. That I got to play such a big role in his life. That he chose my family 14+ years ago. That he was an important connection to my father. That I had the pleasure of loving on and living with him for as long as we did. And that he had 5,198 days to spread his magical energy, spirit and love to everyone who knew him."
My final month was another busy one filled with lots of activity. The half marathon is still fresh in my mind, as is our epic trip to Portugal and Ireland. And I feel so grateful for all the things I did in October.

I know some people freak out at turning 40. Age has never really been something that sets me off. I think it's a side effect of losing my father at a young(er) age. I see aging as a gift and look at it very practically- you either get older or you die. And right now, I'd rather get older.

Next up is a recap of This is 39!

As always- thanks for coming along for the ride!


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

This is 39: Month 12, Update 1 (All About That Half, Half, Half)

When I was 29, I set a goal of running the Dublin marathon right after I turned 30 and that didn't happen. I was disappointed, ashamed and embarrassed. I thought I had really wanted to accomplish that goal, but as it turns out, I wasn't willing to make any lifestyle changes or really put in the work required to go after such a big goal.

Here I am, 10 years older and wiser and nearly 65 pounds lighter. I know how to make better choices for my body and my health. I know how to stay in on a Friday or Saturday night because the after effects will impact my training in the morning and the number on the scale when I go to Weight Watchers. I wasn't resentful for the ways in which I needed to change in order to accomplish this goal. In fact, I welcomed it. Even more than that, however, I was ready, excited and willing.

When coming up with my This is 39 goals, I put the half marathon on the list because I knew I could accomplish it if I were willing to put in the work. And even though I didn't get started until April, once I found a half marathon that worked with my schedule, nothing was getting in the way of me accomplishing this goal.

Over the course of my six months of training, I ran 98 times, logged 393.6 miles and my longest run was 12.25 miles. With the help of my good friend Hal, I had a solid training plan that got me to the starting line knowing that I had fully prepared to cover the 13.1 miles on the course.

On Saturday, October 6th, Katie, Steve and I packed up the car and drove down to Long Beach so we could spend the night and only have a short walk to the start line. I was more than prepared with all the goodies I'd need to show up at the start line:

We made it in time to get to the expo where I picked up my race bib, took some photos, and had Steve get me a t-shirt and pint glass.

We had an early dinner at California Pizza Kitchen where I loaded up on pasta and bread and got into bed before 9:00 p.m. I was afraid I'd have trouble sleeping, but luckily that wasn't the case; I slept quickly and easily and woke up a little bit before my alarm. With some nerves and anxiety, I got up around 5:30 a.m. so I could eat, go to the bathroom, get dressed, stretch and warm-up. Loaded with some good luck charms from friends (thanks Tisho, Tara and Marianne) I was ready to walk out the door and get the day started.

Once at the starting line, I was nervous but feeling ready to just get it started. One of the best pieces of advice I received in the days leading up to the race was from my friend Erin who shared advice she once got: "Trust your training and enjoy the race." That became a mantra that I thought about frequently as I ran and got me through some times when my mind was starting to present some doubts.

Here are some photos from the starting line:

Before (photo by Katie)
A quiet moment before my wave started (photo by Katie)
Saying my goodbyes to Katie before the race begins (photo by Katie)
Unfortunately the cell service was pretty terrible (I should have known) and so we weren't able to
meet up with Steve (who was still in bed when we left the room). Our calls and texts weren't going through and that was a BIG BUMMER. But I had to put it out of my head in order to concentrate on the race. I knew I'd see him eventually along the course. (Spoiler alert: I did!)

I anticipated I'd run about 12 minute miles, so I put myself in wave three (which had a 7:40 a.m. start time and an estimated finish time of 2:27 - 2:47). While I was towards the back of wave three, I was disappointed when people stopped moving and the announcer started lining people up for wave four. Note to self/lesson learned: next time I'll get towards the front of the pack in my wave so I can avoid that from happening again.

I was surprised only a minute or two into the race when I spotted my friend Penny who came down to cheer me on. I was so happy to see her and it left me with a smile on my face for the next few minutes. It was a perfect way to start the race.

The first six miles went by rather quickly and easily. I maintained a pretty steady pace and just focused on keeping one foot in front of the other and enjoying the experience. I knew if I had any problems, it'd be after mile 10, so I did my best to not push myself too hard in case I'd need to do that later in the race.

Near the halfway point, I passed Katie, Ivette and Penny and was so happy when I did see them. Ivette handed off my sunglasses and I got another huge smile on my face when they started cheering for me as I passed them by:

After that point, I had about four miles on the bike path and then the final three miles were along Ocean Avenue. Based on my experience during the training, I knew I could use some spectator love around mile 9 or 10. Unfortunately Katie, Ivette and Penny weren't able to swing that because they were on foot. Luckily, I had a really good playlist to keep me company and just kept coming back to trusting my training and enjoying the race. While I passed some people, and got passed by others, I also was in the same company as a few people who were running a similar pace to me. I'd keep my eyes on them to ensure I wasn't falling behind with my pace.

Around mile 7 I also became distracted because this is where the distance my Apple watch was tracking through the Nike Run Club app was starting to become different than what the course mile markers displayed as I was running by them. I tried to not let this distract me, but at times it was as much of a 1/4 of a mile difference and it was both distracting and a little disappointing.

Another thing I was totally unprepared for (since this was my first half marathon) was the number of people who do a run/walk combo. I know people who swear by this method of running a mile (or 10 minutes) and walking a minute and repeating that pattern until the end. But I knew it wasn't for me and during the actual race, it was distracting. Not to mention sort of dangerous too. There were a few times that I almost collided with people. Luckily there were no accidents- but it came close!

When I hit mile 10, I realized that I likely wasn't going to see Katie, Ivette, Penny or Steve and tried my hardest to just settle into things. I was really relying on my music to help my mind and pace stay steady and my feet to keep moving. I got so many wonderful suggestions from friends and put together this kick ass playlist that I finalized the night before. But the worst thing happened at mile 12. My f*cking Apple watch DIED. I was so, so afraid that it was going to run out of battery and tried to take some battery-saving measures to ensure it lasted the duration of my race. NO SUCH LUCK!


With no watch tracking my last freaking stretch of the race and no music, I really had to dig deep. (I don't run with my iPhone, just an Apple watch). It was during this last mile that I got the greatest surprise when I spotted my BF, Stephanie and her husband Joel and their dog Shorty with about 3/4 of a mile left to go.

BF was in The Best Place to help with my waning energy and mood and provided me with the lift I needed to make it to the finish line. I was (and am) so incredibly grateful for her perfect placement and for being there. It's a busy time at work and the fact that she took a few hours out of her non-event Sunday meant the world to me. See the big smile she put on my face:

From there, I ran the last bit of road and saw Steve who ran a few feet next to me and said "You've got a good pace going there!" It was so great to see him too and so touching to see how excited he was for me. I threw my useless headphones and nearly empty water belt over the fence to him and proceeded to run downhill to the finish line.

In the final stretch, I saw Penny again but didn't see Ivette or Katie, even though Katie snapped these photos of me approaching the finish line:

I had two goals with this race: 1) to run every single step of the course and 2) to finish with a smile on my face. I'm very happy to say that I accomplished both of these goals. Here's my official race finish photograph (thanks to the suggestion from my friend Gayla, I raised my arms at the end):

Sweaty and exhilarated at the finish line!
I was 100% distracted at the finish line because of my dumb watch. I wasn't able to fully enjoy the moment because I was worried about my entire run not getting tracked within the Nike Run Club app. (If it doesn't get tracked, it doesn't count, right? FFS!) And I didn't know how I was going to meet up with everyone since I now had no way of getting in touch with them.

When I think back on the race, this bums me out a lot. I wish I had been fully present at the end and could have just let the feeling of accomplishing this major goal sink in and wash over me. I worked so hard for it, and I sort of robbed myself of the finish line experience. (Next time- and yes, I do think there will be a next time- I'll do this part differently for sure.) All of that aside though, I was (and still am) incredibly proud of myself for running every single step, for finishing with a smile on my face and for putting in the hard work for six months that made all of this possible.

As luck would have it, as I walked out of the post-race corral, I walked right into Steve and used his phone to call Katie. Before I knew it, I was with my mighty cheering station for post-race photos:

Couldn't have done it without the best race day support from my wombmate! 
Ivette and I planned on doing the half together, but she turned out to be the most excited cheerleader and that was better 👋
Thanks to BF, Steph and her adorable dog, Shorty for coming up to cheer me on (Photo by Joel)
Penny's my half marathon spectator unicorn! I saw her three different times and it was perfect and amazing! 
And scene! 
And here are the official race stats:

The half marathon training and the race itself were a wonderful experience through and through. I pushed myself in so many ways throughout the past six months and transformed myself in ways that I'm so proud of. 

While I'm planning on taking a few weeks off to nurse a hip and quad issue that developed throughout training, I'm looking forward to getting back into a regular running routine and adding it to the other things I plan to do for exercise (yoga, spin class, resistance training and stair walks).

Before I wrap this up, I want to say one thing. So many people have commented throughout this process that they could never run a half marathon. And I just want to say- you can. You really, really can. If it's something you want to do, then you'll make it happen. I started out running 1/2 a mile and worked my way up to 13.1. I did it slowly and carefully and by sticking to and trusting my training plan. In my experience, the most important ingredient is to really want to accomplish this. If you start with that, then it'll be so much easier for you to stick to all the little steps along the way that lead you to the 13.1 miles!

Thanks to so many of you who were cheering me on throughout the experience and on race day. So many people were invested in this goal of mine and it made such a big difference.

Thank you and ✅!


Sunday, September 23, 2018

This is 39: Month 11

Holy shit! I can't believe that there's just one month left in my epic year of This is 39! At times it's felt like the year has been slowly trudging along and at other times (like now), it's truly flown by! My tracker is all updated with progress through today. I've got a clear sense of the things I likely won't accomplish and the things that I will cross of that goal list by October 23rd. While I may be slightly disappointed that I won't be able to say that I accomplished all I set out to do, I am more than okay with it and am incredibly proud of all that I will have done in the 12 months.

Here's where things stand with all 39 goals in Month 11:

  • Attend a yoga class at least 1x/month- I got this out of the way early in the month and went to a restorative yoga class with my friend Heather. If not for my crazy travel schedule, I would have gone again this month. 
  • Be mindful of communication: try not to say anything about someone I wouldn't want them overhearing.
  • Blog at least 2x/month about my goals and progress- Welp. I only got around to doing this one time this month. And that's fine. I know I'll go out with a bang in Month 12!
  • Buy and use really good eye cream every day. 
  • Call my grandparents 1x/week- While I called my grandmother 7 times this month, I didn't actually speak to her for almost two weeks because of crazy work travel. My grandmother's memory isn't what it used to be. And over the course of the past 11 months, I've noticed a change that may not have been as obvious if I hadn't been talking with her so frequently. It's not surprising at 92 years of age, but it's still upsetting to notice that change in someone who always used to be so sharp.

    Next week finds me in Philadelphia for work and my first stop after landing at PHL will be to go and have dinner with my grandmother. I'm so looking forward to it.
  • Camp at/near the beach- NOPE. And I still don't see this one happening before I turn 40. I'm going to be leaving on October 11th (until October 27th). So unless this happens on some random weekend (highly doubtful), it ain't happening because my weekends are spoken for between now and when I leave. 
  • Create a solid emergency savings fund- Due to an unexpected check in the mail (thank you Citibank), I think I may actually have a bit of savings so that I can say that the beginning of an emergency savings fund will be in existence. 
  • Date night with Steve at least one night a week (when I'm not traveling)- Due to Steve's birthday, we got a couple of date nights squeezed in when I took him out for a delicious birthday dinner on two separate occasions. I wouldn't say we're the best at date nighting. With my half marathon training, I am basically a baby and in bed really early. Or I'm just tired from all the training. So that doesn't help. But, we could- and should- do better on this front. Regardless, here's a photo from date night the other night:
  • Denver trip with my twin to see the twins- Sadly. This is another one that is not gonna happen. Katie and I talked about making this happen this winter where we can combine skiing. 
  • Do a Segway tour- Much to Katie's dismay, this is gonna hafta happen while we're in Lisbon. I found a tour company with great reviews on Trip Advisor. So more on this next month! 
  • Try Ethiopian food- COMPLETE 
  • Eliminate credit card debt- COMPLETE
  • Exceed last year's Cycle for Survival fundraising ($18,476)- COMPLETE 
  • Finish the remaining stair walks from the Secret Stairs of Los Angeles book- COMPLETE
  • Get 4 facials and 4 massages- COMPLETE. And I added another massage to the mix this last month. After my 11 1/2 mile run I was in serious need of some repair. Chris (who has been working his magic for all of my previous massages) was just what my body needed. And before I left, I already booked another massage for the afternoon of my half marathon! 
  • Get my photography hanging up somewhere in public- I *think* some of my photos are hanging up in the Thatch, but I won't be able to confirm that until I'm back in October. And I have another idea for some of my photos to be hanging up in a movie theater in New Hampshire. Not exactly what I had in mind but...
  • Go on a solo road trip that includes at least 2 nights away- COMPLETE
  • Go to Weight Watchers meetings every week- I have been religious about this. I've gone from the airport straight to meetings since my travel schedule has been so bonkers. Which hasn't been great for weighing in. But it's meant I've been completely committed to this goal. I need this kind of accountability, so I'm glad I've stuck with it. 
  • Hike 1x/month- Katie, Steve and I hiked (part way to) Skull Rock on August 26th- the anniversary of the day our Dad died. We had hoped to do this sunset hike, but it didn't quite work out that way because of the way the sun fell behind the mountains. It was a nice evening though and I was grateful to get my hike out of the way early in the month. 
  • Journal at least 4x/week- Because I'm playing catch-up, I've been writing basically every single day this past month (with the exception of one day). I'm almost done with the journal I've been writing in since August of 2017. Which is, my 21st journal! 
  • Learn how to properly apply eye liner- COMPLETE. Guys- I can even apply eye liner while in the car! 
  • Milk a cow (in Ireland)- I'm really hoping my friends come through for me when I'm back home next month. I was surprised at how difficult this was to make happen when I was there in June. But I'm remaining hopeful!
  • No McDonald's for a year- Still McDonald's free! Last night I came home from the bar (I only had two drinks) and actually sauteed some kale for dinner. Who am I?! The old me definitely would have hit McDonald's on the way home and gotten some greasy grub. 
  • Nurture my marriage- Some days are better than others. I try every single day. But sometimes I am just not good at it. Sigh. 
  • Organize and back-up photos- I've spent a lot of time on this. But I think I'm going to have to spend more time organizing and backing up my photos before I can comfortably say this one is done. 
  • Plan a kick ass 40th birthday trip (to Lisbon and Ireland)- In progress! Katie and I sat down last night and figured out that there are almost 25 of us who will be traveling from all corners of the world (seriously, we have someone coming from Thailand!) to celebrate our 40th. We also finalized where we're staying in Lisbon (thank you Joe). And things are falling into place for Ireland and the big 40th party on Wednesday October 24th! The major thing that we really need to line up is the transportation the night of the party so our guests don't have to worry about how they're getting to/from the Thatch. Once we settle that, I'll feel much better.
  • Read 20 books- COMPLETE. I've actually read 25 books so far this year and know that I'll get a few more under my belt before October 23rd. This is by far the most number of books I've read in a year...ever. Here are the books I've finished since last month:
    • Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama. This moved along a little slower than I had hoped and focused on Barack Obama's life before he really got into politics. It was a fascinating read though and I learned so much about his unusual upbringing, the humble and simple way he lived his life and his unique and sprawling (extended) family that shapes so much of who he is. 
    • All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin. I finished this book in a day and a half. It was a really good story and a very quick read. I'd recommend this if you're looking for a quick book to read.
    • The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes. I've read a lot of her books and this was unlike anything else I've read by the author. It starts out in France during WWI and then skips ahead to London nearly a century later. The story focuses around the fate of the art that was stolen during the war (a topic I hadn't read about before). I moved through the book quickly and really enjoyed it. Definitely recommend if you're a Jojo Moyes fan or someone who reads about WWI/II. 
  • Resistance training 3x/week- As I mentioned last month, I stopped doing leg resistance training. So I'm only doing this 2x/week. I'm more than okay with it. Especially because I've definitely seen a huge difference since April when I really started focusing on eating better and began half marathon training. I love feeling stronger. 
  • Run a Half Marathon- Yesterday was the last long run I'll do (12 1/4 miles) until Race Day on Sunday, October 7th. I can't believe it's only two weeks away! Now it's time to taper!

    Below is a photo from me post-run. I am so proud of myself for how much I've stuck with this goal. It has not been easy- especially with all the travel that's complicated my ability to just get up in the morning and get out the door. I've had to do lots of late night runs after really long and tiring days on event and force myself to log miles on a treadmill in a random hotel exercise room. But this has been so rewarding and I'm so looking forward to the Half Marathon.

    I know I'm going to be nervous as hell beforehand, but I am ready. I have trained. I will do fine. And I have so many reasons to be grateful and proud. 
  • Sisters-only trip- NOPE. Sadly this just wasn't in the cards this year. But what did happen this past month is that the four of us were in the same place at the same time! Below is photographic evidence.

    The other thing that happened this past month (really just within the past few days), is we all settled on a location (Italian Riviera) and time frame (fall of 2019) for our sister's only vacation. I. Can't. Wait! 
  • Ski in California (w/ Katie)- NOPE. But as mentioned above, I'm hoping this will get done this winter (and possibly in Colorado). 
  • Stay on top of BRCA2 gene appointments- COMPLETE
  • Track each day's food in the Weight Watchers app- NOPE. Still not happening and I'm still okay with it! 
  • Travel some place new- COMPLETE. And that's before our trip to Lisbon which will be another new place! 
  • Try meditating for 21 days in a row- COMPLETE
  • Try surfing (w/ Steve)- THIS WILL HAPPEN! The window of time to do this is so freaking small. But I will make him take me one evening before I leave for NYC/Maryland/Lisbon/Ireland. 
  • Use my real camera at least 1x/month- I didn't do this in month 11. I was thinking today how I should just go and take photos at the park. But then I thought "No. This isn't what I had in mind. And I'm not going to go out and take photos just to say I did it." I know I'll be using my camera plenty next month so I'm fine with skipping a month. 
  • Volunteer 1x/month (must include something to help Flip the House)- Today found me and Katie at UCLA helping to sign-up student voters. It wasn't the most glamorous volunteering I've ever done, but I know how important it is. And although I was annoyed at times with the flippant way some of the students walked by without giving us a second of their time (do they truly lack understanding of how important the mid-term elections are? Probably. I know I had no clue when I was their age), I know that the handful of people who did register because we were there, makes a difference. Those who took our postcards and will look it up later is also important.

    I'm glad that I did something more than just write postcards- although that is important too. It was good to step out of my comfort zone and to engage with people. If you too are looking for more ways to get involved, you can check out Vote Save America. It's a wonderful resource that allows people to 1) see if they're registered 2) get registered 3) find events near them that they can get involved with. Here's a photo of me and Katie from our short but impactful volunteer shift:
  • Write an article/short story about Clancy and try and get it published- I've written one whole paragraph! Wow. Insert eye roll here. I guess the pressure will really be on in this last month to accomplish this goal. 
So that's Month 11.

Thank you, as always, for the support from afar. For being excited about and engaged with this crazy year and all my goals. I am so lucky to be surrounded by so many people who truly care.

Until next month!


Sunday, September 2, 2018

This is 39- Month 10

I'm actually partway through month 11 (woo hoo!), but realized I never reflected on month 10. So here we go. In month 10 there were a handful of things that weren't difficult to accomplish as many of my goals have become like habit now. Like:

  • Be mindful of communication- try not to say anything about someone I wouldn't want them overhearing- The thing I've continued to say is that I'm not perfect with this, but it is something I'm mindful of each day. And that continues to be true. 
  • Buy and use really good eye cream every day- Oh yeah. I'm all over this one! It's certainly become habit and isn't something I even really need to think about as it's become part of my routine. I even went through the eye cream I bought at the beginning of This is 39 and just bought another one. (Also side note: really interested in trying this.) 
  • Call my grandmother 1x/week- This remains one of my favorite goals because I know for a fact that I wouldn't talk to my grandmother as much if it weren't on this list. While we don't have a ton to talk about every week, it's nice to hear her voice and, as said before, I love that she's come to expect my call now. 
  • Go to Weight Watchers meetings every week (I'm in the country)- Yep. And while I'm not tracking my food (like at all), I am eating well and getting weighed-in each week. Since I started This is 39, I'm down 13 pounds. But. Throughout this goal period, I've yo-yo'd a bit. So from my highest weight since 10/23/17, I've actually lost 37.6 lbs. Woah. I didn't realize that. 
  • No McDonald's for a year- Not missing it at all. Although it was touch and go for a second when my friend Eileen brought me a diet coke on event and it was from McDonald's. I'm so committed to this goal (even though it's really about the food) that I happily handed it over to Tara to enjoy 😁
  • Use my real camera 1x/month- My intention with this goal was to learn the technical aspects of using my camera more and while I haven't done that as well as I had hoped, I am glad that I'm taking the time to use my camera more and take decent photos. Combined with my goal to organize my photos better, this is helping me be more critical and selective with what photos I take, how I edit them and which ones I choose to save. Here are the ones I took in month 10:

  • Volunteer 1x/month (must include something to help flip the House)- More postcards to voters. This is an incredibly rewarding experience and makes me feel like I'm part of a solution to move the country in the direction I hope it goes after the midterm election. (Which I've said before). If you're looking for a simple and effective way to volunteer and also want it to be politically minded, check out the link above and get started. It is really so easy. 
In month 10, there were goals I accomplished (mostly), but still needed to work hard to get them done. Like:
  • Attend a yoga class at least 1x/month- I really love yoga. But getting to a yoga class is a different story. I don't always make it a priority so I find that I am scrambling at the end of the month to make it happen. During the past 10 months, I've taken classes at different studios and learned that I love restorative yoga and I really enjoyed class with one particular instructor. So when I contacted her and found out that she was teaching at another yoga studio on my side of town (the one where I took here class from originally closed down unexpectedly), I jumped on the chance to go to her class again. As luck would have it, there was a special on Groupon that I took advantage of, and I know for the rest of the year, I won't have to do any research on what studio I'll go to, just what day and time the class is. 
  • Blog at least 2x/month about my goals and progress- I only did this one time in month 10 but I'm hoping to end This is 39 blogging 24 times so that it'll all even out. The process of accountability is so huge for me. And I have been so grateful for the encouragement and support I've gotten from friends and family who have been following along and reading my blogs and watching my half-marathon/workout related Instagram stories. 
  • Date night with Steve at least one night a week (when I'm not traveling)- Steve and I went out for one of the most delicious meals I've had in a while at a small Italian restaurant in Venice, Barrique. If you're local in LA, I cannot highly recommend this enough. Month 10 also coincided with the start of my heavy work travel schedule. This means that Steve and I need to get creative with date night and nurturing our marriage- not always our (my) strong suit. So...good to have top of mind. 
  • Hike 1x/month- I did this (yet again) toward the end of the month, but used it as an opportunity to see my friend Chris who I hadn't seen in a long time. While I went back to Will Rogers (my go to easy nearby hiking spot), it was a perfect workout. 
  • Journal at least 4x/week- I realized in month 10 that I slacked a bit on this so I'm working overtime to get this goal accomplished. It may require me to journal daily for the rest of This is 39, but I'm okay with that. No shortage of things to journal about, that's fo' sho'!
  • Nurture my marriage- As I mentioned in date night above, I'm getting into the full swing of work (and personal) travel, which doesn't always go hand-in-hand with nurturing my marriage. But it's top of mind and I'm hopeful that (Steve and) I can get in front of this. 
  • Resistance training 3x/week- Now that my weekly mileage is starting to creep up there and my weekly long runs are in the double digits (woo hoo!), I've stopped doing leg-focused resistance training. I figure I have that more than covered. So...I'm only doing resistance training 2x/week now (arms one day, abs another day). And I'm okay with that. But I tend to wait until the end of the week and then have to cram this in. I'm hoping I can be a little more strategic with this in the final five weeks leading up to the half marathon and space it out a bit more. But because I have been consistent with this (thank you Sweat app!), I can totally see improvement in my ability to complete certain moves and it feels good to get stronger (and still get sore after each workout). 
  • Run a Half Marathon- So...setting the time aside to do my half marathon training is not an issue. The act of running isn't an issue either. It's just that this isn't entirely easy. It's been incredibly rewarding and I'm so proud of myself for sticking with my training and I actually can't wait for the half marathon. But running is hard (not a news flash, I get). And it's hard for me. I find that I'm constantly softening what I'm doing with statements like "Yeah but I run really slowly." Or "I'm not a fast runner, but at least I don't stop." I'm trying really hard to stop with that because the fact that I'm doing this and sticking with it and following a plan and increasing my distance each week are all things to be proud of and celebrate. And I feel like I'm putting myself down each time I cushion it with a "yeah but". In month 10 I broke 10 miles for my long run distance. While I still have things to work out with my training (namely what I need to eat leading up to a long run to have the energy to complete it without feeling like I'm barely moving), I'm happy to say that it's going well!
And there were a handful of goals that I completed. Like:
  • Stay on top of my BRCA2 gene appointments- I had my latest round of appointments at the end of July and all is a-okay. In fact, I don't have to do the ovarian cancer screening every six months. Because ovarian cancer is harder to detect and the testing available isn't as good as breast screening, my doctor and I talked about reducing the frequency to one time per year. I'm more than okay with this. I feel good monitoring it at least once throughout the year and know that in about five years, I'll need to make a more permanent decision that will (hopefully) eliminate my risk of getting (ovarian) cancer all together. 
  • Learn how to properly apply eye liner! I spent one Saturday evening practicing over and over and over again. I'd apply, remove, apply, remove and repeat (seriously about 15 times), until I finally got it right. I had a few different kinds of eye liner that I owned and tried out. But the two that I've used most frequently are L'Oreal Paris Lineur Intense Felt Tip Liquid Eyeliner (in carbon black) and Clinique Pretty Easy Liquid Eye-Lining Pen (also in black). I never want to go too crazy, but I am really enjoying the simple look and definitely think it helps enhance my eyes. I've continued to use eye liner when I apply make-up and don't find it to be so challenging anymore. Hooray. But this was from the night I kept practicing:
I didn't even know I owned this much eye liner!
  • Read 20 books- (I think I actually did this in month 9, but whatever). Since I last wrote about books, I've completed two more:
  1. Next Year in Havana (by Chanel Cleeton)- This is one of my favorite books that I've read during This is 39. As soon as I finished it, I posted about it on Facebook because I love a good book recommendation and know many of my friends do too. The book went back and forth between Cuba in the late 1950's/early 1960's and Miami in 2017. I was invested in the story and the characters and learned a lot about Cuba. Highly, highly recommend (obviously). 
  2. The Story of Arthur Truluv (by Elizabeth Berg)- This was a quick and easy book. I definitely recommend reading it, especially if you read and enjoyed A Man Called Ove. 
And finally, there were a couple of goals that I got started on. Like:
  • Plan a kick ass 40th birthday trip (to Lisbon & Ireland)- Katie and I had a few things to work out with tickets and travel dates and locations and all that stuff, but we've booked all our birthday trip travel and are getting really excited! After going to a wedding in Maryland, we'll both make our way (separately, unfortunately) to Lisbon where we'll be for five days in mid-October before going to Ireland for a week and a half. We'll have a few days to ourselves in Ireland before our friends start arriving from all over the U.S. (and even some from Europe). And while we haven't specifically planned things yet, I know our time in Ireland with our friends will include things like: drinking (a lot of) Guinness, seaweed baths, hikes, good food, good music, late nights, early mornings, drinking, fresh air and no work! 
  • Write an article/short story about Clancy and try to get it published- I'm only a paragraph in (so far), but I am just happy that I've started. And I know why I've put it off; it's so freaking emotional. To go back to the last seven months we had with Clancy is going to bring up all sorts of emotions. I've put that period into a compartment of my brain that I only tap into at certain times because it's so sad and I still miss him so much. Just writing the small amount that I did made me cry. So I get why I've waited so long to work on this one. But at the same time, I'm glad to get moving on it too. 
Woah. That's a lot! I know 39 goals is kind of bananas to work towards. But it continues to be so meaningful to work towards crossing (as many of) these goals off my list as possible. I've loved the way it helps structure my month and has created a focus in a way that I wouldn't have without this project.

As always, thanks to all of you who take the time to read and comment and reach out with words of support and encouragement. It helps more than you'll know. So thank you!


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