i want to tear down the walls that hold me inside

race gear

When I first started distance running, it was with the end goal of losing weight. Let’s be honest, 99% of anything I did that was exercise related had always been with weight loss in mind. From the day I got my first gym membership at the way-too-young age of 15 through to when I started training for my first marathon, exercise was about weight loss/control. And, while I’ve gotten much, much better about reframing, it’s still really hard for me to not hate the idea of exercise because I hate when I start to obsess about my weight and then I start to loathe exercising because it will never be disconnected from the years I’ve spent feeling ugly/fat/insecure/etc.

IMGP0042Even today, even though I’ve become much more comfortable in my own skin, every time I get ready to exercise, there’s still that moment when I think, “I shouldn’t have to do this.” It doesn’t matter that at my age, everyone should be doing “this”. And I like to exercise. I like how I feel when I’m doing it. I like how I feel when I’m done. I’m a happier person overall when I do it. But that little voice is still there telling me that the main reason I’m doing it is to try and be pretty/thin/secure enough.

1450828_10153410280635389_546822729_nWhat distance running did for me was to show me just how much my body could do. I’ve written a number of posts about this, in fact. So, even though I hadn’t done any distance running (and almost no running at all, for that matter) since moving to Japan, when my friend, Brittany, asked me if I’d like to join her in running a half-marathon in Burma (aka Myanmar, and yes, I did have to look it up and the only reason I actually recognized the that this was the name of a country was because I’d had two friends go their this past summer), I agreed on the spot, knowing this would force me to do something in the running department.

IMGP0058There are so many things about my trip to Burma that I could talk about (and maybe I will someday if I ever get around to it), but the reason we went there was to run this half-marathon through the temples, so that’s what I want to capture here.

IMGP0025Leading up to the half, I tried to get on the training bandwagon, but the reality was I was super busy. Between the craziness of my job, the responsibility I’ve been given at church, and my inability to say “no” to any invitation and/or to not have a dinner party on any given Sunday, I just wasn’t getting around to running. Before heading to Burma, I got in exactly two runs. One was four miles, the other six. And the latter involved quite a bit of walking. Side note: one of the things I hate about not running for so long is that while mentally, my brain knows that my body is physically capable of doing it, I also know that my body won’t be able to do it right away. And that hurts.

IMGP0046 IMGP0050 IMGP0051 IMGP0052So, by the time we arrived at the starting line Saturday morning, I knew I had no hope of anything but my worst half-marathon time even. And while it shouldn’t be about the time, I’m still always trying to prove something, so it was still about the time. And I hated that I was going to be so slow. Never mind the fact that I never questioned whether I’d be able to finish even though I had basically not trained. Never mind that the terrain and scenery on this route would make it near impossible to not get my slowest time even if I had been trained. I wanted to be able to run faster than my slowest time. I wanted to pace with Brittany who had been training and actually done a 10 mile run prior to the actual race. (Perhaps my boss was right to tell me last week that I might need to start lowering my expectations of myself…)

IMGP0062 IMGP0069But then something amazing happened. The gun went off and I started running and suddenly, I remembered. I remembered how amazing this body is that I’ve been given. That I can run 13.1 miles (or wog, whatever) and not ever question whether I’ll finish. Even in 90F+ weather and humidity. Even though I hadn’t trained. Even if I was going to be slower than I’d ever been. The emotions that evoked combined with the incredible opportunity I had been given to run in this amazing country, in the same race as some of Burma’s top runners, and the sheer beauty of the world in that moment was almost more than I could handle and, had it not been for the fact that I was running, and therefore using my full lung capacity to support that process, I probably would have started bawling right there on the spot.

IMGP0071 IMGP0080 IMGP0081 IMGP0085 IMGP0087While I wasn’t able to kick the feelings of disappointment in myself until almost the end of the race, knowing I wouldn’t PR, I was able to enjoy the scenery around me, stop and take a few photos here and there, and appreciate the experience perhaps more than I’ve appreciated any other race I’ve run.

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Added to the normal feelings of gratitude I have for my body and my health anytime I run any race 10 miles or more, there was the gratitude I had for the sweet Burmese villagers who came out to cheer us on. These people who have almost nothing spent their morning sitting by the side of the road, cheering on foreigners (for the most part) who had paid more to get to their villages and run in this race than they likely make in a year. Talk about a generous culture. This almost brought be to tears for the second time during the race.

Much earlier in the morning during breakfast at the ridiculous hour of 4:30am, I’d been chatting with a woman who was going to run the full marathon. I’d mentioned that I hadn’t trained almost at all and was going to get my slowest time ever. And then, near the end of the race, after Brittany had already finished and I still had about two miles to go, I passed her. She’d ended up switching to the half at the split point because her body wasn’t cooperating in the heat and humidity.

While I had made those comments in defense of myself and what really was going to be my slowest time, in the moment I passed her, I’d wished more than anything that I could have eaten those words instead of the toast I’d had at breakfast. And I wanted more than anything for this woman to flat out beat me. And suddenly, I forgot about my disappointment in myself, and was left with only gratitude. That said, I didn’t hang back and let the woman beat me because she would have known it was intentional and no one enjoys being pitied. But I was able to completely let go and enjoy those last two miles in a different way than the previous 11.



When I finally crossed the finish line, I’d completely let go of time. I was focused on how amazing it was that I was able to be in Burma, running through thousands of temples that had been there for thousands of year and do so with only one blister to show for it. And I was focused on the beautiful medal hanging around my neck indicating that I was a finisher.


As mentioned earlier, Cambodia was hard for me. It was totally amazing I would do it again in a heartbeat (you know, make the same choice…not sure I’d go back for round two). I’ve never seen poverty like I saw there first hand. And I know, as I stated earlier, that it’s much worse in other places. But it was new for me.

We actually got hooked up with this amazing driver who’s a member of my church. My friends, Monica and Mathew, had been there some months earlier and highly recommended Loy and he did not disappoint. The tour he gave us was amazing, mostly because he shared so much of himself with us. Normally, there’s a driver and a tour guide, but as our first day we weren’t planning to see the temples, we didn’t hire a guide and it was great because we got a chance to chat with Loy.


Talk about an amazing man. He lost five of his six siblings during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. I can’t even imagine losing one sibling. And this was after being out to the floating villages. I’m not going to try and describe how I felt, but here are a few photos from the day. I feel a little exploitive even posting these, but I want this memory because I never want to forget just how grateful I need to be that I didn’t have to go through such trials and to remember that because of that, I need to do what I can to help those less fortunate than I am in whatever way I can.

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So, at the end of day one in Cambodia, I felt (as I do now) incredibly grateful for my childhood and all of the comfort and security it held…even in its worst moments. I never worried about where my next meal was coming from, or whether I’d be able to see a doctor or get medication if I was sick. Or whether I’d have clean drinking water.

One of my favorite things about traveling around and living in foreign countries is the perspective it gives me and the constant reflection it forces. And because it always makes me grateful for my home and my family and all of the amazing blessings I have.

one night in bangkok (well, one night and one day)


Rough life, I know, but you can’t fly within 24 hours of diving, so I was forced to lie on the beach for the morning. And while lying on the beach all by itself would have been enough, it got even better as I watched this guy take photos of his girlfriend. There were even wardrobe changes. It was amazing. And so entertaining.

IMG_3701 And then it was time to head to Bangkok…and on the way I bought what I thought was a bag of Pretzel M&Ms. But no…it was Crispy M&Ms! Such a happy surprise. It was like the universe was smiling down on me.


Bangkok from the air. Pretty amazing.


A nice welcome during my cab ride into the city.

Maria flew in the from the U.S. the same night I flew in from Phuket, just a bit later. It was so fun to have her join me for the rest of the trip!

And now, here’s what I have to say about Bangkok. If you are a twenty-something looking for spring break all year long with no ID checks and all the booze you could possibly want, Bangkok is a good start. But, there are other awesome things about it, too. That said, 24-hours plus a little was enough time in the summer heat. I got to enjoy the markets, hang out in the pool, float on the river, checkout the a museum, a Buddha, and some palaces, witness a lot of stupid behavior and debauchery, and have a Thai massage (or what I have now come to refer to as the Thai Tranny Torture Treatment).

In any case, it was lots of fun and left us with some awesome/crazy/funny memories, which is about as much as one could ask for.


Happily sunkissed and so excited to be getting in yet another pool Someday, I will have my very own pool. For now, I’ll just be grateful for the fact that my skin isn’t getting nearly as damaged as it would be if I currently had access to one all the time.


Everything about this is wrong. And stupid. And I guarantee you this kid will live to regret his drunken decision.



The view from the pool on the roof of our hotel.








Maybe the weirdest history museum I’ve ever been to. But this hanging mobile thing was cool.


The Reclining Buddha.





We left Bangkok the following evening on a night train bound for Chiang Mai. As you can see the train station was basically the Thai version of Grand Central. Or something like that. And the train ride was…interesting. I’ll just go ahead and tell you that the train ride back, for which tickets had already been purchased, ended up being viewed as a sunk cost. More to come.


the time i should have read my email more closely

My trip to Thailand and Cambodia was amazing…and possibly the least planned out trip I’ve ever been on that involved anyone other than myself. When I’m alone, I don’t care a bit about plans. When there’s someone else around and I feel like I’m in charge, then I care a lot. That said, the first part of my trip was pretty well set because I knew I wanted to go diving and I got there the very last weekend the Similan Islands (a national park) would be open for divers. Or at least I thought it was well planned out.


Welcome to Thailand…at the Bangkok airport


My ghetto fabulous room at the dive by the Bangkok airport. Totally worth the $20 it cost which included free airport transfer.

I left Tokyo Thursday evening and spent Thursday night at this crazy/random/cheap h–otel (motel?) near the airport in Bangkok so I could get on my 8am flight to Phuket the following morning. With no ideal flight schedules, this was the best option, and it meant that Friday was spent lying on the beach and getting a massage at the lovely resort where I’d booked myself. This was the most expensive portion of my trip, by far, but it was totally worth it.

flight to phuketQFeEaDZvPMJXdqcgyLdqL4RW7N4xlNvbcXP-UXmdWBA cXYpNEGrbUimX7Kq43YkWMely56O3UlMKjk7PlhP1bs ZeoUHKy9cVf9pYUwWRhXjB2ljFQBDO0DtxlOCLYaHio bZ_t7cmg5Dehc1aXBMLbP5tBO6Qc10oOzp6OIiGBKKA 3XoDOWWM8-YPhEt2xwdqcQ5mwngxABQvfFRYBPJXCiM DSC_0027Saturday, I was set to be picked up between 5:50 and 6:00 am to be transported to Khao Lak (where the movie The Impossible took place, I discovered later) where I would board a speed boat out to a live-aboard in the Similan Islands. I was so excited. I have always wanted to do the live-aboard thing and could not wait to be diving again.

Well, I woke up Saturday morning, checked my big bag with the bellhop (I was going to be staying at the same hotel when I returned from my night at sea…this was good planning on my part). So, 5:50 passes, then 6:00, then 6:10. At this point, I’m starting to get a little panicked. I got to my email to find the guys number from the dive operator and, as I read the email, I saw that his confirmation email was, in fact, confirming the wrong date. I had say the 27th and 28th, he had confirmed for pickup on the 28th. This was not good. So, I call the 24 hour number (bless this diver operator and their 24-hour service) and I’m informed, very nicely, that it’s too late for me to get picked up, but if I can get a ride to Khao Lak, he would call to see if there was room on the boat for me that night.

So, I’m waiting for him to make a couple of phone calls and asking the front desk about a taxi to Khoa Lak. I am told it will be $120. I realize that sounds crazy, but considering how much I’ve already invested and that I have to be on a flight Monday evening to meet my friend in Bangkok and you can’t fly within 24-hours of diving, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t do it. The kicker, though, was that I needed to be there in 90 minutes and the drive, if traffic and all of the elements combined cooperated, would be at least 90 minutes.

Here’s where I do well in a crisis (realizing that this is hardly a crisis in the grand scheme of things, but felt that way at the time). I am a pragmatist. I think through the situation, find the best possible solution, and move forward with it. I may have a moment of emotion, but then my rational brain kicks in and reminds me that emotions are pointless in such situations as they cannot do anything to help.

At this point, the desk clerk is calling the dive shop guy to confirm that I can get on the boat (I could) and where I need to be dropped off so he could explain it to the taxi driver. I confirm that I will pay cash for the ride. The taxi driver shows up and we’re off.

Where I don’t do well in a crisis is when there is driving involved and I’m not the one doing it. But, amazingly, in a world where you can never count on a taxi driver, I got one that drove just as I would drive. And I could see the determination in his eyes to get me there in time. Not because he really cared about me getting there, but because he wanted to prove he could do it. And that was just the determination I was looking for. And 90 LONG minutes later, I made it. I was on the speed boat, awaiting the arrival of the others who were to come as well. Seriously, I wish I had caught the name of the desk clerk and taxi driver (I asked for them, but me and foreign names don’t always understand one another so well…) because they were both champs.

And that covers my first 36 hours of a 10 day trip. More to come…


And the ikebana classes continue. I LOVE them! Since my first introductory lesson, though, I’ve been so excited to get to the lesson on the nageire upright style. My sensei demonstrated it in that first lesson and it was just so delicate. And whimsical. And elegant.

In the moribana style, one uses a kenzan (or “frog” as my grandmother called them) to position the flowers. In nageire, the stems are fixed without a kenzan using one of three methods. The first lesson, the vertical type fixture (called tate-no-soegi-dome in Japanese) was demonstrated. For my lesson yesterday, I learned the cross-bar fixture (jumonji-dome in Japanese). And the third type of fixture is just called direct fixing (jika-dome) which is typically use with and kind of transparent container or vase.

**Please excuse the quality of the photos…I was using my old iPhone (my other battery died) and apparently, the camera on it has some issues.

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So, the cross-bar fixture is pretty amazing. Using just two thick stems or thin branches, you can create a fixture strong enough to lift the vase itself. In fact, that’s the way to test whether your cross-bar fixture is secure. You actually grab onto it and lift the vase. And once it’s secure, you get on with the arranging, which requires quite a bit more precision in cuts and attention to the weights of the flowers when compared with the moribana style.

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One of my other favorite things about my classes is finding out what materials my sensei has for me. I never know what’s going to be there. Well, this week I was absolutely delighted both because I learned nageire and because I loved the materials (well, two out of three, anyway): dragon willow and roses. The feverfew I could have lived without and, as it turned out, I ended up hardly using when I recreated the arrangement at home. They don’t travel very well.

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