Life’s Funny Ways

Tonight while at dinner, I eavesdropped on a conversation at the table next to me. I heard a girl say to her friend, “I guess I just don’t know how to tell any guy I date that my last boyfriend died.”

I sat there, stunned. This girl was telling MY story. I told my friend what I had heard, and I was in disbelief that I could possibly have been seated next to a girl who was going through the same thing as I am. What are the odds? I didn’t know whether to say something or not.

Soon, after noticing we were listening, the two girls got up and left the restaurant, and I let her walk out without saying a word.

A short time later, I noticed they were still talking down the street, and I had one last chance before I regretted it forever.

I got up, ran down the street, and said to the girl, “I’m sorry if this is weird, but did I overhear you say that your boyfriend died? I’m going through the same thing, and I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”

There, in the middle of the Southport Corridor, I hugged a random stranger, and together we cried.

Her boyfriend was 30, mine was 29. They both passed away suddenly in February of this year. We both had been in desperate need of someone to talk to who would maybe understand, but it seemed like there was no one. And yet, there we were, one table apart. 

We exchanged numbers and plan on getting together soon.

I’m not sure of the moral of this story, but I’m sure there is one. Maybe it’s that you’re never truly alone, even when you think no one could possibly understand what you’re going through. Maybe it’s to take chances and speak up when you feel compelled to do so because you may never know what could come of it. Maybe it’s that things happen for a reason and people are brought into our lives in strange and curious ways. 

All I know is that life has a funny way of working sometimes. 

Running Through Tragedy

I am a runner.

I will never qualify for Boston. But I am a runner.

And as a runner, the tragedies at today’s Boston Marathon are affecting me in a way that is different from any other recent tragedy. (And there have been far too many recently).

Running a marathon takes heart and soul and months of preparation. Today should have been one of the proudest moments of those people’s lives. Instead, it’s been marred by tragedy.

But runners are strong. Running gives strength. I know this, because it’s given me strength time and time again over the past several months.

When Darren passed away, I found a new kind of solace in running.

Darren wasn’t a runner, but he had decided to run the Soldier Field 10 Miler with me, and we had just begun training together. Only a few days after he passed, I found myself without even thinking, running to our meeting point. I waited there for a few minutes wishing he’d show up to continue our run together. But for a brief moment, it felt like he wasn’t even gone.

Other days after his passing, I didn’t want to be alone, but I didn’t want to be with people, either. On the lake path, I could run and be alone with my thoughts, but also feel a camaraderie with other runners out there with me. Runners are never truly alone.

Even now, I find comfort in runs on the hardest days. Sometimes it’s by running some of the routes we ran together. Other days I can just enjoy peace of mind that comes with a good run. I can look around, breathe the air, and appreciate the beauty and life all around this gorgeous city.

As the saying goes, you’re often just one run away from a good mood.

Tonight, with a heavy heart, I didn’t know what else to do but go for a run. My longest run in 6 months. In the rain.

I wouldn’t say that I am in a good mood now. But I have found a little comfort and a little clarity from running today.

My wish is that all those impacted by today’s tragedies in Boston also find comfort and solace soon.



Live Life to Its Fullest

One of the reasons I started this blog was to help myself live life to its fullest. We all know that life is short, and we shouldn’t waste time or take things for granted. Yet, despite knowing this, it isn’t until a tragedy happens that we remember to take our own advice.

Last week, I was reminded of this the hard way. My boyfriend passed away in his sleep on Tuesday night. He was only 29 years old. 

I am shocked, confused, saddened, heartbroken, and angry. Meeting him was the best thing that had happened to me in a very long time, and I was happier in our short time together than I ever remember being.

All of the things I had been through in the past year or so were finally looking up for me. I finally was right where I wanted to be. And it was all taken out from under me.

Worse, his life was cut far too short. There were so many things he wanted to do. So many things we talked about doing together. We had just started training for the Soldier Field 10 miler together. There were so many adventures we were hoping to have together.

In the days since his passing, I have heard from so many people who knew him about the impact he made on their lives. There wasn’t a person who met him who didn’t love him. Even some of my friends who only met him once or twice knew how special of a person he was. It’s all so unfair.

I will be taking a break from blogging to focus on getting through this. But, I will not be taking a break from my life’s list. If anything, I will be upping my game, and attempting to accomplish even more, because life really is too short.

Please remember to hug your loved ones, tell them how much they mean to you, and keep living life to its fullest. 


Rest in peace, Darren. I miss you. 

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Harder: Ice Skating Edition

One of the reasons I started this blog was to become more aware of the things I want to accomplish or experience in my life, and to be better about making these things happen for myself.

Well, this weekend I had the perfect example of how I’m getting better at making things happen.

It all started back in October, when I first found out about the Hockey City Classic coming to Chicago. The main event was going to be two really great college hockey matchups, played on an ice rink inside Soldier Field. But along with the games were going to be a bunch of other cool events, including two days of free public skate.

Now, let me back up and explain my strange obsession with ice skating. I am not a great skater. I’m good, but not great. I think I just like to pretend I’m better than I am. I still remember my first time on the ice – it was when I was 6 years old, for the birthday party of one of the girls in my ballet class. I was a little wobbly at first, but by the end of the party, my parents had to literally drag me off the ice. Shortly thereafter, my parents signed me up for beginner’s skating lessons – something I am fairly confident I would have stuck with, had it not taken my mom 45 minutes in traffic each week to drive me to the rink. I completed my “pre-alpha” skating class, got a special patch, and, much to my dismay, that was the end of my skating career.

I’m pretty sure my patch had this Franklin Park Ice Arena penguin on it.

Fast forward about 8 or 9 years later, when I was in high school. A friend of mine and I began having weekly Friday night sleepovers, in which most weeks we would have her dad drive us to the Polar Dome ice rink for open skate. Each week, we’d get there early, catch the end of a hockey practice, then skate around ogling the hockey players until the rink closed and my friend’s dad came to pick us up.

Anyone else remember going here, despite how creepy it was in retrospect?

During those years, I got a lot better at skating, though I still wasn’t ever able to stop without crashing into the boards. I was always watching the hockey boys doing their stops, ice spraying everywhere. Someday I would learn to do a hockey stop. It went onto My Life’s List (back when it was still handwritten in a notebook). But in the meantime, I’d just skate whenever I got the chance.

The chance to skate didn’t come all that often. Just a few times in college, arranged by the dorm RAs, and later when I worked across the street from Millennium Park and I would keep a pair of skates at my desk to use during my lunch break when I could find enough time to get away. But my dreams of being a great skater never really went away, and any time there’s an opportunity to skate someplace fun, I always want to do it.

Back to Present Day
So, here we are, back in the present day. I find out about the open skate at Soldier Field, and I want to be a part of it. I sign myself up for the Hockey City Classic mailing list, and wait patiently for details. Oddly enough, right around the time I get an email about the free passes Office Max will be giving out, I also happen to have met a special someone whose love for skating even greater than mine. (A hockey player, no less). It’s perfect! I’m going to not only get to ice skate at Soldier Field, but I will have someone to do it with who will be just as excited about it as I am. (Let’s call him Hockey Guy).

The day of the skating pass giveaway comes and goes. And it completely slipped my mind. I missed my shot!

At first, it doesn’t bother me too much. I’ve already skated a couple times at a couple different rinks this winter, and I’m okay with not getting passes.

But as the date gets closer, I find myself regretting it more and more. So, I start to look for other ways to get tickets. Someone is bound to be getting rid of some. Some person who maybe snagged some for free looking to make a profit. Or someone who just can’t go, and wants them to be put to good use. I can ensure they are put to use.

Late one night, I find out I’ve secured a pair of tickets. I’m pumped! It’s for Monday morning, so I tell Hockey Guy about the tickets, and we both plan to take Monday off work. We’re going to have a whole fun day off together, skating and hanging out downtown.

And then the bomb hits. The person who was giving me the tickets put them in the mail. The USPS. In Chicago. Anyone who lives in Chicago and has ever needed something to come in the mail probably knows where this is heading.

The tickets were mailed Monday afternoon. A week before the event. Wednesday comes, then Thursday. No tickets. They have to be here by Friday, right? Nope.

So all day Saturday, I sit in my apartment, stalking the mail lady, waiting for my last chance.

Stalking the mail lady

Stalking the mail lady

Finally she arrives. I throw on some shoes and run downstairs.

No tickets!

At this point, I’m heartbroken. I’m angry. I’m disappointed. I’m dreading telling Hockey Guy that I’ve let him down.

For the rest of the day, I mope around, being mad at myself for dropping the ball not once, but twice on this. I should have tried harder. My whole mantra since starting this blog is supposed to be, “If you want to do something, make it happen. Don’t just sit around waiting for it to happen to you.” I sat around. I waited ’til the last minute. And I failed.

However, after the pity party I threw for myself all day Saturday, I woke up on Sunday with a better attitude. Somewhere between motivation and desperation, I started up my computer, went to Craigslist, and found a 6-day old post from someone who had 6 tickets for skating at Soldier Field.

I took a deep breath and started my email. Hi, there. I know this has been posted for a while, but is there any chance you still have any of the ice skating passes left…

Closed eyes. Hit send. Here goes nothing.

And a few hours later, there’s a reply in my inbox! She still has four tickets available. If I want two of them, I can meet her in Bucktown and pick them up today!

Trying hard not to get too excited, just in case something falls through a third time, I get in my car and drive down to the Starbucks at North and Damen. Not too long after, I have the tickets in my hand!

photo (20)

Not only am I going skating at Soldier Field, but these are a better time slot, and were cheaper than the original ones that never came in the mail.

I made things happen for myself. And it paid off.

We ended up having an awesome day, and skating on Soldier Field was incredible.





Follow Up: In case you were wondering, I did manage to get a refund for the tickets that never came. And yes, Hockey Guy has agreed to teach me how to hockey stop so I can cross it off my list. I’ve already had one lesson, but it may require several more. Stay tuned.

End of the Year Post #2: My Year in Numbers (and a Monthly Highlight Reel)

Races Run: 26

Race MILES run: 170.65

States Visited: 8

States Run In: 5

Medals Earned: 14

Books Read: 28

Life’s List Items Crossed Off: 14

Monthly Highlights:

January – Completed my first marathon; started a new job.


February – Took a cake decorating class


March – Took a pasta making class; attended an improv workshop; saw Riverdance for the first time.

photo (9)

April – My birthday!

A terrible photo of all the awesome people who came out to celebrate my B-day at Cafe Iberico.

A terrible photo of all the awesome people who came out to celebrate my B-day at Cafe Iberico.

May – Kayaked the Chicago River

photo (10)

June – Hilton Head vacation

photo (7)

July – Completed the Rock n Mud Challenge


August – Moved into my new apartment

photo (11)

September – Traveled to Disneyland on my own; got a half marathon PR; earned my Disney Coast-to-Coast; qualified for the Half Fanatics; celebrated my nephew’s first birthday; won my age group in a 5k. (September was a big month, so it gets two photos.)


After my Age Group win, with my nephew, the Birthday Boy!

After my Age Group win, with my nephew, the Birthday Boy!

October – volunteered at the Chicago marathon; went to watch my first Packers game at Will’s Northwoods; signed up for the gym


November – Wisconsin and Minnesota trips


December – completed at least one race a month for a year; crossed off Kansas from my list of states; survived another year!

Cheers to a year of just as many good things as crappy ones!

Cheers to a year of just as many good things as crappy ones!


Thinking about all the awesome experiences I had this year helps to remind me that even when crappy things happen, my life is pretty great. It’s also the reason I started this blog in the first place…to work harder at filling my life with awesome experiences. So from that respect, 2012 has been a pretty good year.

Merry Christmas, everyone!



I’m the worst blogger ever.

I’m actually the worst at a lot of things lately – being healthy, keeping up on chores, being in the Christmas spirit.

I’m not usually one for new year’s resolutions (I make different goals for myself all year long) but I am so ready for the new year so I can really reset myself and start fresh. I need a personal detox – from crap food, too much beer, too much money spending, and not enough Cary time.

photo 3

In the past four weeks, I’ve been in five different states. I’ve run three races. I’ve crossed new states off my list, tried new foods, and seen cool sites. All things I wanted to blog about. But I can hardly keep up with my day-to-day activities.

I also haven’t started my Christmas shopping, and although I have significantly fewer people to buy for this year, I miss the feel of the spirit of giving. I also broke my rule I’ve followed since I was 14 and went shopping for myself in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, rather than buying for others.

I have a friend’s birthday dinner tomorrow, and I had grand plans of making him an awesome gift. I haven’t even had time to get the supplies, let alone make it.

My fridge still only contains two cases of beer and some lemons.

photo 1

Needless to say, right now I am overwhelmed.

However, in the spirit of being positive, I’ll take time out from being a Debbie Downer and focus on some of the things I am looking forward to in the coming weeks.

  • Tomorrow’s Chicago Running Blogger holiday run and potluck (even though I feel like I don’t even really deserve to go because I’ve been a crappy runner and a crappy blogger lately).
  • Celebrating my friend’s birthday tomorrow – even if I don’t have his gift.
  • Absolutely NO plans on Sunday, other than watching football at home on my own couch and enjoying my apartment for the first time in weeks.
  • Going to the gym. When I am literally craving the gym, you know I’ve let myself get out of control.
  • Going to the grocery store and cooking myself some healthy meals. Again, when I am craving vegetables, you know I’ve let myself get out of control.
  • Finally having clean laundry, a clean apartment, and shaved legs again.
  • Watching Christmas movies. Christmas Vacation is currently playing, and I plan to make time to fit in my other holiday must-sees.
  • Christkindlmarket – my favorite ever Chicago holiday tradition. I’ve had a date set with my old coworkers for weeks, and I am looking forward to seeing them all again and really spreading Christmas cheer.
  • Having the week off between Christmas and New Years. I’ve never had this before, and I only just realized today how badly I need time off of work without actually traveling somewhere. I am looking forward to coming back to work in January feeling refreshed and didn’t realize just how burned out I really am right now.

Hopefully once I survive these next few crazy weeks, I will be back to my old, better self. I will be eating better, working out more, not feeling like an overwhelmed, under-rested, clothes-too-snug ball of stress. I also hope to be a better blogger, better friend, and better to myself.

Things I Learned From Volunteering at the Chicago Marathon

This past Sunday, I volunteered at Aid Station 8 of the Chicago Marathon. I’ve volunteered for races before, but never one as big and exciting as the Chicago Marathon, and never at an aid station.

The experience was awesome, and I definitely learned a few things.

I thought I would share my lessons with you all.

1. Passing out water is exhausting!
I know I shouldn’t complain. All I did was stand there with my arm out, while everyone out on the course was actually running 26 miles. I know what running 26 miles feels like, and it’s not exactly easy. But I was surprised at just how exhausted I was at the end of the day. My arm was tired, my lower back ached. I needed to do some leg stretches from being on my feet for 7 hours. And I was frozen to the bone.

I’m not by any means trying to say that volunteering is harder than running a marathon. But I think if I were to compare my tired/achy factor to running a race, I’d say I felt pretty similar to how I feel after running a half marathon. But with a sore arm.

2. Passing out water is not as easy as it looks!
Many marathoners walk through the water stations, but the majority of them don’t. At least not while they’re grabbing the water from the volunteers.

When the elite runners ran by, they didn’t need our water, since they had special water of their own. But the front of the rest of the pack was pretty speedy and many of them didn’t stop or even slow down as they grabbed their cups. In fact, the very first water I tried to distribute actually ended up flying out of my hand and right onto the ground.

Marathon Fail.

3. Pointing at the volunteer whose water you want is the most helpful thing ever!
Despite all the races I’ve run, this has never occurred to me.

You know how sometimes you go for a water, but someone else gets there first, or you just change your mind about which cup to grab? Well, doing that really psychs out the volunteers and messes with their minds. I can’t tell you the number of times I thought someone was going for my cup, but ended up grabbing the one next to me. Or worse, I thought they were going for someone else’s and then “whoosh!” they grabbed mine, often resulting in another water cup casualty like the one mentioned in Lesson #2.

However, many runners (you’d be surprised how many, actually), will point at the volunteer they want to grab from, letting them know they’re going for yours. You have NO IDEA how helpful this is.

I’ve never done this before in a race, but I am definitely going to try it out next time I run.

4. It’s easier for runners to spot volunteers than it is for volunteers to spot certain runners.
I had my eye out for several runners, and didn’t manage to spot any of them. However, everyone I did see spotted me first. I was attacked by hugs from several of my friends out of the blue, and Sara somehow miraculously spotted me from afar and yelled my name as she ran past. That particularly surprised me, because I have developed a certain knack for spotting her, and I think my back was actually turned to grab more water as she ran past.

Maybe it was the awesome cat ears that helped. :)

5. I’m a big, emotional baby.
This is not a new lesson. I cry at everything. Romantic comedies. Hallmark commercials. Marathons.

I am notorious for being the one to get choked up at just about everything. I tend to cry DURING races whenever people cheer for me. I also learned I cry when people thank me for volunteering. (Which, by the way, all you runners should do! Volunteers often get up and out in the cold even earlier than you!)

I cried at the wheelchair athletes, the back of the pack runners, and several times when runners said kind things to the volunteers. I’m sure there were more times, but I lost track.

I am a baby.

6. Despite all my protests and my swearing up and down that I have no desire to run another marathon, it’s probably only a matter of time.
I still don’t want to. And I still swear I’m cutting back on running in 2013. I still say marathons are stupid, too hard on the body, and not worth the time commitment.

That said, the Chicago Marathon is an entirely different experience than Disney, and it’s an experience a little part of me wants to have. Chicago is my city. I want to run my city. I want to train in my city, with other runners, without having to train alone in the dead of winter.

Yeah. I’ll probably run Chicago some day.

Rock ‘n’ Mud Part 2: Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

After Saturday’s Muddy Buddy, I woke up at 5 am with a pretty sore upper body, but luckily my legs were okay for Sunday’s half marathon.

After my RNR Las Vegas experience, coupled with the atrocious fees for any Rock ‘n’ Roll event, (you even have to pay for runner tracking!) I was really on the fence about doing this race. Chicago has so many other (and cheaper) half marathons to choose from, so I didn’t really get why this particular one is so popular.

However, I ended up pleasantly surprised with this race. Here are a few of the things I really liked.

The start line was in Grant Park. Every other Chicago half I’ve run starts way far south, and public transportation has never been an option. This race was much more convenient for me.

The course was fun. Lots to look at. Lots of shade from the buildings. Lots of spectators. Definitely more entertaining than the last couple races I’ve run.

Lots of water, ice, and sponges. I was very happy to have gotten ice at several different spots along the course. Although the cloud cover made for a slightly cooler run than it could have been, it was still a hot one and I was trying my best to stay cool and hydrated every step of the way. The event organizers did a great job with this. (And compared to the water incident in Vegas, this was a HUGE improvement.)

Course entertainment. I’m usually not one to make a big deal about course entertainment, because even if there is a lot, you run right past and it doesn’t entertain you for very long. However, the bands (and 2 DJs) along the course  all seemed to have a lot of energy and really seemed to get the runners pumped up. I was pleased.

The finish line party was pretty great. I usually stretch, grab my beer, and head out. But there was a ton of space, lots of room to spread out, and fun concert-in-the-park feel. I ended up sticking around quite awhile, despite being alone. I got some snacks and beer, utilized the Athletico stretching station, picked up some freebies, and enjoyed the music. I really do like races that end in Grant Park.

I also got a chance to meet up with some of the Chicago Running Bloggers afterward.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this race. However, I still have a few gripes about the Rock ‘n’ Roll series in general, so I feel I have to list them here.

  • Too corporate.
  • Too expensive.
  • Packet pickup at McCormick Place. I hate McCormick Place.
  • $21 for parking at said packet pickup.
  • The race bibs are too freakin’ huge!!!
  • I’d love it if they handed out bags at the finish for all the food and beverages. Not that I’m complaining about the post-race food/drinks, but when you’re dizzy and dehydrated, holding 3 drinks, a banana, a smoothie, a bagel, and Marathon bars all at once proves a very difficult task.

That said, they do put on a good race, and they seem to have their act together (except at Vegas 2011). If you don’t mind paying a steep entrance fee, at least you know it’ll be a good race.

My phone died at the finish, but I managed to get a random stranger to take this post-race photo of me and send it.

And as far as completing this one, I turned out surprisingly pleased with my race. For only being midway though my “official” half marathon training (I jumped up from 8-miles last weekend for the Chicago Half, to 13.1), and for how bad my last half was, I went in with extremely low expectations.

But I think the cloud cover and the shade of the buildings helped, I stayed hydrated, and I actually came in with a better time than my last two half marathons (and just slightly shy of a PR).

And the best part is, finishing this race also helped me complete the Rock ‘n’ Mud challenge. 2 races, 2 days, 3 medals, one very sore and tired girl.

But I did it!

Weekend of Insanity

Normally Wednesdays are my hardest day of the week. I teach up in Rogers Park in the morning, then come back to the office in River North for meetings, then go up to Roscoe Village for tutoring, and for the past 3 weeks, I’ve had apartment showings after that.

I’ve officially survived my Wednesday, just in time for what I’ve come to call “The Weekend of Insanity.”

Don’t get me wrong. This type of insanity is the GOOD kind. It’s all things of my choosing, rather than stressful things that have been thrust upon me. However, take a look at what’s on my agenda, and you’ll see why I’m still considering it insane.


  • Lead a field trip at work.
  • Carly Rae Jepsen free show (I decided to skip this because I really was spreading myself too thin.)
  • Midnight showing of Dark Knight. In Warrenville.


  • Get to bed around 4am.
  • Day off (THANK GOD)
  • A couple apartment showings (not in the fun category)
  • Rock n Roll packet pickup at McCormick Place
  • Drive to Algonquin
  • Carbo-loading home-cooked dinner at Mom and Dad’s


  • Muddy Buddy race in Gilberts
  • Drive back to city
  • Work 3-hour shift at Taste of River North for work


  • Rock n Roll Half Marathon
  • BBQ and Summer on Southport (If I’m still alive)

I think I am officially crazy, but there’s something about keeping busy with things you actually WANT to do, versus things you’re obligated to do, that make it so much better.

I’ll do my best to give a decent recap of both the Muddy Buddy and the Rock n Roll, but if I’m a little exhausted, you’ll know why.

Good News/Bad News

Let’s start with the bad news:

Still no luck on the apartment front.

I’m getting tired of having to cancel plans to look at places. Or squeezing in viewings between other things I need to do.

I’m tired of freaking out about how I have less than 3 weeks to be out of my place, and I’m not sure how or when I am going to make it happen.

I’m tired of getting confused as to which apartments I’ve seen, and which are new.

I’m tired of people being flaky and canceling on me, or not showing up at all.

I’m tired of drinking a lot and eating bad food and not cooking anything at home.

I am tired of feeling gross and unhealthy and snug in my clothes.

I’m tired of my stress spilling into all the other facets of my life, causing me to do less than my best at anything.

I want this search to be over. I long for the day I have a new apartment, I am settled in, and I can just sit on my couch and relax.

The good news: 

Since my long run was cancelled on Saturday due to the heat, I decided to run my 7 miles on Sunday evening. After a long weekend of unsuccessful apartment searching and other pent-up frustrations, it felt SO GOOD to run a good run. In fact, I somehow maintained a 9:38 pace, which is actually a PR pace for me! I guess stress is good for my running abilities. It also made me really realize the saying is true – you’re only one run away from a better mood.

After I got home, I felt like a whole new person.

If only I had more time to get in some of these good runs…(but the time will come soon. Right? Right?!)

Speaking of running, I am running my first ever “illegal” race. I am running the Bastille Day 5K tonight under the guise of my friend’s husband. I’ve never run with someone else’s bib, mainly because I like to keep tabs on all my race results in Athlinks, and this will mess that up. But, I love evening running, and I really enjoyed last year’s race. So, when my friend mentioned her husband wouldn’t be back from his business trip in time and wanted someone to run in his place, I decided it would be fun. Plus, this is the first night I am going to be doing something just for me, without any apartment stuff thrown in.

In other news, I have a few other showings lined up for Friday and Sunday, but I have managed to keep my Saturday plans to meet my favorite college friends. I haven’t seen them in over a year, and we are long overdue for some girl time. One of the girls lives in DeKalb, which is a half-way point for the other two of us, so I’ll be driving out there. We are hoping to get pedicures and rent some movies – just what the doctor ordered. I was really afraid I would have to cancel to do some more apartment hunting, but right now I think this is more important.

I really, really, REALLY hope that by this time next week I will know where I am living.

In the meantime, I’m just trying to find the right balance of apartment hunting and trying to keep some happy plans in my life. And thanks to everyone who has been so supportive, in so many different ways!