Cauliflower Stir-fried Rice with Shrimp

Let’s talk after work dinners. I’m talking got in the door and your eyes are burning because you’re so tired dinners. Looking at your bed only makes it more likely you’re going to eat a bag of chips in bed for dinner dinners. There’s nothing made you can heat up as a leftover but you really shouldn’t order in dinners.

I’ve got a dinner for you. It’s really quick and easy. There’s a lot of cheating involved, with pre-riced cauliflower and premade sauce. (Nice.) It’s really, really tasty. And – bonus – it’s actually pretty healthy, meaning that you can feel good about a meal that takes about the same time to make as a frozen pizza. That’s what we call a win-win.

 

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In this meal, veggies are the star, although the shrimp is a nice little bonus, a pop of protein and delicately sautéed seafood alongside the produce standouts of the season. While I’ve approximated a recipe below, there’s really no way to go wrong here – adjust the veggies to whatever you want them to be, play with the seasonings, change the type of sauce you mix in. There are no wrong answers.

Pairs well with a crisp white wine, open windows, and a grapefruit-scented candle.

 

Cauliflower Stir-fried Rice with Shrimp

Ingredients

½ pound raw shrimp (tails removed, deveined)

3 cloves garlic, minced

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper

Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Zucchini, cut into medallions

Yellow summer squash, cut into medallions

Onion, diced

Red bell pepper, sliced

Scallions, sliced

1 egg

Whole Foods Spicy Chili Thai marinade (I found this near the seafood section)

Sriracha (optional)

 

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic in a wide pan over medium-high heat. Add medallions of zucchini and squash, diced onion, red pepper, and shrimp. Cook until shrimp is done (turns pink) – around 6-10 minutes, depending on stove. While cooking, season to taste with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Remove mixture and place in large bowl.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to pan, heat. Add cauliflower rice and scallions and begin to cook cauliflower rice. Cook for approx. 3-5 minutes. In the meantime, whisk single egg in a cup. Add egg to cauliflower rice, swirling throughout. Cook until egg is thoroughly mixed and cooked, approx.. another 1-2 minutes.

Mix cauliflower rice and veggie/shrimp mixture. Add marinade and Sriracha to taste (taste frequently and adjust). And enjoy! Reheats well.

 

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DO THIS : throw a dinner party (+ a recipe for the best summer pasta salad)

It’s that time of year. The weather is beautiful, the fresh produce is abundant and tasty and I don’t know about you – but that wants me to get in the kitchen and utilize it by hosting meals for my favorite people.

It’s no secret that I love cooking. It’s also no secret that I love hosting. An ideal way for me to spend an evening is creating a meal for the people I love, because it helps me flex my kitchen muscles (literally, sometimes, in the case of kneading bread dough), test out new recipes and gadgets, and then gather around the table with my favorite humans.

Sometimes, people are surprised to hear that I love hosting which, in turn, surprises me – what’s not to love? Okay, I’m slightly kidding, because I do understand that for some, the idea of cooking for a crowd is daunting. But with plenty of dinner parties for 10+, Easter dinner for 12, and countless girls nights under my belt, I think I’ve gotten it down to a pretty good science now. And so, if I can urge you to do one thing this summer – cook dinner for a group of friends! To help you with that, I thought up my best tips, learned from a few years of experience, and then threw in a fantastic (and easy, I promise) seasonal pasta salad recipe at the bottom.

 

Tip One: If Nervous, Stick to the Classics

Just because my favorite thing to do is test out a brand new recipe on my unwitting friends (sorry, guys, but I also haven’t heard any complaints) doesn’t mean that’s the way you have to go about your menu. In fact, if you’ve never done this before, it shouldn’t be the way you tackle your first dinner.

The first few times I ever cooked for people (out of a communal dorm room kitchen, trying not to consider just how dirty the oven was - #memories), I stuck to my tried and true, could-do-it-blindfolded recipes. You know, the stuff I knew I knew how to cook. Having that innate level of comfort with the dish I was preparing helped me relax and enjoy the evening, because I wasn’t afraid of screwing up the food. And I also knew it was going to be delicious. So there’s that.

 

Tip Two: Create a List. Create Multiple Lists.

The first, and most important list you should create, is your ingredient list. That’s your grocery list, and you should stick to it. Don’t pull up a recipe at the store on your phone and go from there – because that will lead to “Oh, I definitely have vegetable oil in the cupboard at home, I won’t get more” when you most definitely DO NOT. And then you’ll be left wondering if you can use peanut oil or sesame oil or olive oil and wishing you’d just paid the $4.99 for a backup bottle. (This is purely a hypothetical situation.) (No, it’s not.)

Okay, so. Grab that cookbook or pull up the recipe on your computer. Write down every single ingredient that you need, even the ones that you think you already have in your kitchen. For those, take the list into your kitchen, double-check, and then cross them off the list. Then get grocery shopping. It’s foolproof.

A second list you may need, depending on how big your gathering or ambitious your menu, is a timing list for your prep. It sounds a little insane, but hear me out on this – for major dinners, organization is key. I hosted Easter for 12 this year, out of a galley kitchen in a North End apartment. There are two things I have to thank for my success: my guests’ willingness to sit in a cozy manner, and the organization list I made ahead of time.

This bad boy had EVERYTHING. I broke it down across multiple days (necessary), and listed out my tasks for each day. Friday was cleaning. Saturday was grocery shopping, making the cake, and preparing the table settings. Sunday was cooking the roast, setting the tables, and making last minute adjustments. Because my roast was so labor-intensive, I actually scheduled out blocks of time on Sunday, (including “11 a.m. – shower”), but I also really love lists.

My point is that you can’t be too organized when it’s a big crowd.

 

Tip Three: Be Ready Before That Super Early Friend Shows

One of the first things my dad ever taught me in the kitchen was the concept of mise en place, which is a French term that means “everything in its place.” In kitchen lingo, this refers to the act of getting all of the ingredients prepared, measured, and ready to be put into your dish.

I aim to do this before all of my guests have arrived. Vegetables diced and in a neat little pile, spices measured out ahead of time, any liquids ready to be poured in their exact amounts, meats seasoned – you get the drill. I am not always successful with this goal, but the times I have been super organized, it’s really paid off. I’m able to enjoy the part where I’m cooking with people in my apartment a lot more when I’m not listening to my friend’s story but also silently wondering if I added a teaspoon or a tablespoon of salt to our meal.

 

Tip Four: Chill.

Uncork the wine. Take a sip. Laugh at someone’s terrible joke. Enjoy the flowers your friends brought as a thank you. CHILL.

What’s the worst-case scenario? You laugh, throw in the towel on your paella, and order pizza. Honestly, that’s a pretty good scenario.

 

 

If I haven’t scared you off yet, here’s something you should absolutely make the next time you host – a seasonal veggie pasta salad that screams summer and is so good, you and your friends will be all, “wow, that bowl of pasta salad is huge” and then eat it all rapidly.

 

Seasonal Veggie Pasta Salad

Adapted from Half Baked Harvest (the dope vinaigrette is all hers)

Ingredients

1 lb pasta (I used orecchiette)

1 zucchini, cut into sticks

1 yellow squash, cut into sticks

1 red bell pepper

1 jar artichoke hearts, drained

Cooked corn, about 2 cups

1 cup feta cheese

1 cup walnuts, chopped

2 cups arugula

Salt and pepper

 

Dressing

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 clove minced garlic

Juice and zest of one lemon

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Salt and Pepper

 

1.     Sautee your zucchini and squash in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, with a pinch of salt. You want them to retain some of their crunch, so don’t overcook – 3-4 minutes over medium heat should do it.

2.     Slice the red pepper, and mix it in a bowl with the zucchini, squash and artichoke. Add the walnuts and corn and toss.

3.     Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta.

4.     While the pasta is cooking, mix the dressing in a separate bowl. Combine with the veggies.

5.     Allow the pasta to slightly cool and then mix with the veggies. Add the feta and arugula, mix it all together.

6.     Enjoy!

 

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small pockets of happiness

It’s been a little bit since I’ve visited here – please blame the end of the second semester of grad school. It was a really difficult one, capped by two majorly huge papers (I’m hoping that’s the last of bibliographies for a long, long time) and perhaps the most intense week of studying I’ve ever notched in my years of schooling. Leaving my final exam last Thursday felt like one giant exhale, and that combined with the weather FINALLY turning nice in Boston has solidified an almost constant smile on my face.

Things are good here: flowers are sprouting in every corner of the neighborhood (which I enjoy, despite my red-rimmed allergy-plagued eyes), my playlists are now trending to happier tunes rather than winter’s pensive background beats, the stack of pleasure reads on my windowsill is finally getting cracked, I refreshed my bedroom linens, and – most important of all – I’ve started an engaging, exciting, energizing new job.

I’m buying a lot of new summer dresses, testing a lot of recipes that embrace the richness of this late spring produce, and spending an inordinate amount of time on Apartment Therapy dreaming of high ceilings, multi-room apartments, and unlimited budgets. There’s power in visualization, right?

I’ve been finding new things to fall in love with, too. And while I’d like to get back to more regular posts (at this point, a sentence I should probably just copy/paste into the beginning of every post), I thought it might be nice to gather a brief round-up of the various worlds piquing my interest as the temperature finally rises above 45 degrees.

But first! A belated Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, who took me as her guest to a Nurse’s Week party and also taught me everything I knew about stylish dressing. Both outfits here are great, if I do say so myself.

 

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What I’m Loving Lately…

Cooking:

There is so, so much to cook in this season of excellent produce. On my to-do list includes rhubarb pie (my all-time favorite pie), Smitten Kitchen’s blueberry-lemon bars (a burst of sunshine in your mouth!), this bright, tangy snap pea-buttermilk salad from Bon Appetit and a burst tomato galette, because simplicity and ease is the name of the game when you’re dying to eat al fresco.

Two standouts I’ve made lately include:

This raspberry ricotta cake from Bon Appetit, which I pulled together quickly for a Mother’s Day celebration. The first time I made this cake, it was one of the first nice days of the year in D.C. last spring, and a group of us sat outside in our yard (having an apartment with a YARD, #tbt, sigh…), and we ate it all in one sitting. It is light and fluffy, delicious without being decadent, perfectly studded with the sweetness of the fruit. I finished with a dusting of powdered sugar, but it would also be perfection with a dollop of homemade whipped cream and a scattering of lemon zest. (Make this cake.)

The next is a bit heartier, much more stick-to-your-ribs, and is best served when you’re a little bit tired in the way that makes you laugh a little too much, paired with a rich red wine.

Half Baked Harvest never disappoints (I have made countless recipes from this site and the resulting cookbook, and have yet to dislike a single one), and this gnocchi Bolognese bake is no exception. If I was feeling particularly ambitious, I would have made my own gnocchi for this dish, but I was sleepy, so settled for tearing fresh basil across the top of the melted, perfect cheese. This dish is bound to become a dangerous staple in my rotation, necessitating many more runs in my future.

 

Reading:

As the school year drew to a close, I found myself with an influx of time on my hands to read for pleasure, as opposed to with a highlighter in hand, desperately trying to guess what portion of the 36-page research study would be on my final exam. It’s a lot better this way.

There are two books I’ve read lately that stick out as particularly powerful in the way that leaves you frequently pausing, taking a breath, and sitting quietly with the words you’ve read before moving onto the next page.

The first is When Breath Becomes Air, a stunning memoir from Paul Kalanithi, who was both a profoundly talented neurosurgeon and a profoundly talented writer. The book takes us through his personal and professional paths, before both are disrupted by his lung cancer diagnosis and suddenly, he is also teaching us how to live with grace in the face of looming mortality. The novel was haunting in its beauty, and I put it down convinced it should be required reading for all.

Another work I’ve picked up lately and thoroughly enjoyed is Places I Stopped On The Way Home by Meg Fee. It’s Fee’s debut novel, but you wouldn’t know it from the expert way she weaves language, threading words together so intricately that you want to close your eyes and let the sheer musicality of her prose wash over you.

Fee’s collection of essays follows her time living in New York City in her 20s, and without giving too much away, her writing captures the beauty and complexity and maddening nature of that time in your life. I found myself highlighting line after line, struck by how true it all rung.

I planned on delving into much more in this post (including fashion, outdoor spots in Boston I’m digging lately, and weekend trips I’m planning for the summer), but it’s running long. So I’ll leave off here, and resolve to publish the next post in a more timely fashion. Besides, it’s hard not to be in a good mood when it’s rose season and the Celtics are up 2-0 on LeBron in the playoffs.

 

a reading hit list

This may be a little self-indulgent, but I'm always interested to see what other writers are reading. Collections of links are some of my favorite blog posts (how else do I find more good things to dive into?!) and some of my favorite book recommendations have come from friends.

There's nothing like good writing. It's utterly transportive; almost meditative. I can't remember a moment in my life when I wasn't reading. One of my earliest memories is walking home from the public library with my little red wagon stuffed with as many books as possible. They even let me "intern" at the library when I was around seven (NERD ALERT), and the librarians all pretended not to notice that my internship was me, taking books I was supposed to be reshelving, and sitting among the stacks to read them.

Some people get into movies. Music, TV. For me, it's been books, always books, ALWAYS hard copies. (Am I the only 20-something year old left who is running out of places to put her books?! No e-readers, please.)

And now with the Internet, there's so much more to read. Blogs, newspaper and magazine articles, phenomenal personal essays that find their homes online.... sometimes I get overwhelmed by just how much I want to read. I'm forever sending emails to myself with links to click on later. You know I truly love you if I'm peppering you with the same. So I thought it might be helpful to get some links together in one place!

 

the old guard (aka, my favorite books)

The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion. Heartbreaking, hopeful, honest. I revisit this book at least twice a year.

tiny beautiful things: advice on love and life - Cheryl Strayed. I'm never not reading this book. Let's put it that way.

The Boys In The Boat - Daniel James Brown. What a story! I read this in one go and loved it. To date, my favorite nonfiction/sports book.

I Capture The Castle - Dodie Smith. It's perfect fiction, filled with an attention to detail that paint a rich tapestry world. You'll want to lose yourself in this book over and over.

 

articles I've dug lately

How a Young Woman Lost Her IdentityThe New Yorker. This is the craziest piece I've read in a long time about a woman who lapses into fugue states - she doesn't know who she is.

Who Does She Think She Is?Longreads, by Laurie Penny. This is a tough one, all about the hate and vitriol women face on the Internet. I had to leave this and come back to it a few times. But it's worth it.

 

blogs - for fun, for inspiration, for links to thought-provoking reads

The Skinny Confidential (good advice, better writing)

Half Baked Harvest (THE source for recipes. Plus, her brother is that Red Gerard.)

Joy the Baker (her "Let It Be Sunday" weekly post is always full of the best links to reads that make you think. And laugh. And bake!)

Gal Meets Glam (hand over your entire wardrobe)

The Neotraditionalist (fashion and design inspiration of my dreams)

The Stripe (I don't follow many fashion blogs anymore, but this one never fell off my radar)

 

There is so - so - much more. Writers should always be reading. Everyone should always be reading! I hope this helps you find something that makes you want to stay up all night highlighting passages, falling asleep with the book next to your pillow. Or is that just me?!

 

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running and grief

As you may know, I occasionally produce freelance writing pieces for Women's Running Magazine. This is one of my favorite publications to work with, because it naturally connects two of my favorite things: running and writing.

This time around, I drew upon personal experiences to write about the link between running and processing grief. I also talked to a doctor about the biology behind this link. (I call it the "Legally Blonde effect"; she had a much more intelligent way of describing it.)

You can read the piece here. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more!

things i've cooked lately

Checking in from snowy Boston, where I'm comfortably encircled in a mound of blankets and trying my hardest to pretend that I won't have to venture outside when this round of 18-24 inches of snowfall is over. And the wind! Have we talked about the wind? I thought I was prepared to live in Boston for the winter but let me tell you: I was most decidedly not.

It's the perfect kind of day to cozy up with a book and cook something new. (Or study for a law midterm if that floats your boat / is bearing down on you from the end of this week. Ugh.) I stopped by the library, grocery store and wine shop last night - stocking up on all the blizzard essentials.

I've been cooking a lot lately, buoyed by friends who seem more than wiling to let me test out new recipes on them. It's a sacrifice somebody's gotta make, and I feel pretty lucky that the brave people in my life are willing to do so.

If you're snowed in and looking for inspiration today (or if you're in a less snowy area but want to cook all the same), here's a roundup of things I've cooked and loved recently:

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greek chicken lemon feta soup - i added a heavy dose of Sriracha to this and it was heavenly

 

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turkey spinach ricotta meatballs in a homemade red sauce - perfect recipe for a group of friends that I got from the Girls Night In newsletter (subscribe! subscribe!)

 

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beer can chicken from the Half Baked Harvest cookbook - you make your own quick dry rub and it turns into this perfect masterpiece

 

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a recreation of Momofuku's spicy sausage noodles - delicious both hot and cold. i am very tempted to make a vat of this sauce and have it in my fridge at all times

 

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pollo in potacchio from Skinnytaste : i doctored the red sauce up with more herbs, a little more salt, and cooked it down more so it took on a jam-my consistency and wow, this was everything.

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Joy The Baker's pistachio dark chocolate sea salt cookies 

 

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Chef Jose Andres' gambas al ajillo - again, this sauce is the things dreams are made of, and I highly recommend having a lot of crusty bread on hand 


And last but not least - Smitten Kitchen's favorite brownies, my snow day baking today that I doctored up with a little sprinkle of cinnamon across the top.

Happy kitchen adventures!

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peanut butter chocolate chip banana bread

There are a few absolutes in life:

1. The Olympics bring out a lot of curling enthusiasts every four years.

2. National Drink Wine Day may not go well. Actually, that is an unfair comment on the holiday. National Drink Wine Day will always go well. The day after National Drink Wine Day is where we might run into some problems.

3. Midterm season still sucks when you're 26.

5. Sometimes, life can be a real kick in the nuts. Watching something like The Mindy Project helps.

6. Literally nothing bad has ever come from mixing butter, eggs, sugar, peanut butter and chocolate.

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One of the more interesting ways to learn about a person is to figure out their self-soothing rituals. For the bros reading, this means what you do when you're down - for example, play video games until your thumbs ache. (This happens to me every time I get talked into video games - how do you people keep your fingers from hurting? Is it like boxing where you just build up calluses over time? Explain.)

Some drink wine. Some take baths. Some bitch. Some go for runs. Some (cough) do all of the above, but also get baking. 

The other day, there were midday snow flurries in Boston. Today, it was around 70 degrees. I don't know, guys. I can't explain the weather. It's really throwing me off my game - I put on a dress today because it was #dressweather (if that hashtag isn't a thing, it should be), and then realized my legs are offensively pale. Do I need a spray tan just to walk around Boston? Unexpectedly stressful.

Anyways, there were flurries. And I had four bananas that I'd forgotten about on the windowsill that were just a little too soft to eat but perfect for baking. As soon as I saw the snow and I saw those bananas and realized I had a mountain of homework to do, I knew I needed to buckle down and do one thing....

....make banana bread.

Except I doctored up a basic banana bread recipe by adding some other stuff I found in my cupboard. Namely, peanut butter and chocolate. You can't go wrong. I think that's a law. And it got a resounding thumbs up from my roommate, so I wrote it all down, and here you go. Just in case you're feeling sad, or you're procrastinating, or you forgot about some bananas. This is sunshine in a loaf:

peanut butter chocolate chip banana bread

adapted from Genius Kitchen

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

3-4 bananas, mashed

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup peanut butter, melted

1/2 bag of chocolate chips

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar in an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add eggs and bananas, combine. Add flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until just combined. Add vanilla and mix. Gently mix in the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into a greased loaf pan.

Melt your peanut butter if not already melted. Drizzle over the top of your batter and, using a butter knife, gently swirl the peanut butter across the top of the batter.

Bake for 55-60 minutes (depends on your oven, the chocolate chips/peanut butter can increase baking time). Eat it all. Or share it. But a warm slice topped with vanilla ice cream is a 10/10 move.

two years

Someone asked me to write a short piece for her last week that centers around the idea of self-empowerment. It was wryly funny because I haven't been feeling very empowered lately and am rapidly approaching a day that is, unquestionably, one of the hardest of the year: the second anniversary of the loss of a dear friend.

Self-empowerment in the time of grief is almost an oxymoron. It unmoors you, snaps any tethers to a normal reality you may have and, instead, you are left grasping to find your footing. In the days immediately after loss, I'd hear the word through running in my mind, over and over. Through, I'd tell myself when I cried so hard in the shower I'd have to brace myself against the walls. Through, I'd hear as I tried to stay alert in meetings. And as the anniversary approaches, as I wake up in the mornings and want to scream into my pillows and cry and rage, I'm finding myself saying through once again until I get up and make coffee and move along.

I read a quote recently - "grief is love with nowhere to go" - and it was so instantly, delicately perfect that I wrote it down on an index card and slipped it into my top drawer so that I could hold onto the sentiment.

I have one of my own to add: grief is a motherfucker.

It happened again earlier this year, grief ripping the rug out from me and from the ones I love. It took me a long time to find my footing again after losing my friend. It took a long time for happiness to feel genuine, for the constant knot of sadness to loosen and float away, to fully feel myself again. And just as I did, it felt like, I was struck down again. Only this time, it wasn't just me - it was my whole family, everyone I love most in this world, left reeling, directionless, devastated.

Self-empowerment in moments of quiet grief is hard. Self-empowerment in moments where you look up from your own heartbreak to see it etched so clearly on the most important people in your life is harder.

I haven't felt like writing and I've barely felt like making sense of it all. To lose our family member so suddenly, so unfairly, so maddeningly was - and is - senseless. It's only been since October, but it feels like yesterday. And as we approach two years for Becky, it feels like two minutes. It feels like two centuries.

However - Becky taught me what self-empowerment meant. She was the most confident, radiant, self-aware person I have ever known. She coached me to not settle, to believe in myself, and once threatened to take my laptop from me and press "purchase" on a solo trip to Hawaii if I didn't get out of my own way and do it, already.

What I've learned and what I think honors Becky best is to share that self-empowerment in moments of grief and doubt comes from knowing that through is enough. To be sad is enough, to want to talk about it is enough, to want to not talk about it is enough, to be happy even during pain is enough. To know that whatever you think and do and feel, however you react, no matter how long the rollercoaster of the process takes - it is enough.

I felt her with me a little this fall, reminding me that through was enough. Her legacy, to me, is self-empowerment, self-care and unequivocally protecting and advocating for yourself and those you love. I think of her at least once a day and I know as the anniversary approaches - Valentine's Day, bittersweet because of how fully she embodied the term "love" while she was here - I will realize that she taught me so much more than I ever thought. Self-empowerment in times of grief is simply allowing yourself to embrace the through, and knowing that the love is still there. It just isn't sure where to go.

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running in the winter: actually good

This morning, I logged my second run in the snow of the week (thanks, moving to Boston - this was maybe an annual experience in DC). I recommend running in the snow for the looks you get from pedestrians and people in their cars alone. The best way I can describe it is a cross between "that girl is crazy" and "I hate you as a person for running right now."

I actually really, really love running in the snow. As long as the sidewalks aren't too slippery (which usually isn't an issue if they're treated with salt), it's a really peaceful experience. It's also the prettiest a city will ever look in the snow- right at the beginning, before it turns into brown slush and/or snow banks that you have to climb over just to get out of your front door.

A few people have reached out recently after seeing my posts on Instagram about snow running because of one other consideration: staying warm. I'm not shy about professing my deep preference for running in the winter over the summer. I would always rather run in 17 degrees than 70. And running in the winter is really doable, as long as you layer properly. The upside is that getting into your running clothing often serves as a great warm-up stretch. The downside is that the amount of laundry you have to do after a run increases significantly. 

My friend Sarah recommended I publish the list that I sent her on winter running gear. (So you can blame her for this post). I've tried to round up below my favorite gear, as well as the temperatures they coordinate with. 

Starting from the bottom up...

  • Thermal Base Layers

When it hits 20 degrees and below, I always start with a base layer of thermal gear. This doesn't have to be (and for me, isn't) expensive running clothes. In fact, I get my thermal layers at Uniqlo, from their Heattech line. It's really inexpensive and really works. I'm virtually never cold when I start with these layers.

  • Winter-specific running gear

As soon as it hits 30 degrees or below, I reach for winter-specific running gear, rather than just regular leggings and tops. The best I've found, by far, is anything from Under Armour's HeatGear. I own a lot of their gear - from the leggings to the half-zip tops to a sweatshirt that is almost too warm. I overheated in it once and had to tie it around my waist for the second half of a 12 mile out-and-back (not recommended). When it's in the 30s-20s, I'm usually good with one or two tops (the second of which would be the above mentioned thermal layer) and just one bottom. Once it dips below 20, I layer thermal gear underneath my UA tights.

  • Third top layer

This is the Holy Grail of running in freezing temps. Any time it goes below freezing, I add on a third layer. Here, you can go with a warm running jacket or a warm running vest. I tend to overheat when running (especially when running distance), so I go vest over jacket. I have one from UA that I love, but my favorite is a Sprint Insulated Vest I got from Moving Comfort (sold out at the link I found, but probably available somewhere online). It is so thin you'll swear it won't get the job done and then you will never be warmer in your life. I once ran 17 miles in 5 degrees with that vest and never once felt cold. (My water froze, though.)

  • Misc.

There are a few misc. items to remember when you're running in the cold. The first are hat and gloves - always really important once it gets below freezing. Sometimes I tuck hand warmers into my gloves, too. I tend to buy running gloves with the tech fingertips (easier to work my phone) and I usually go with a headband over a hat. UA makes HeatGear headbands that keep your ears really warm.

Wool running socks exist and they are a godsend. I've yet to struggle with keeping my feet and toes warm when wearing those.

Lastly, I've never needed one because I don't tend to get this cold, but I know runners that swear by neckwarmers in the really cold, biting temperatures. 

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Happy winter running!

long time, no write

Checking in briefly after surviving my first semester of graduate school. I meant to be better about keeping up with my personal blog over that semester, but it turns out something happens when you're a full-time communications graduate student: you do a lot of writing. And you don't always want to continue writing at the end of your day.

A longer update and post will be coming, but briefly, I was lucky enough to be able to write my final research paper for a course on ESPN. The paper examines the broadcast giant's struggles with consumer retention in the age of the Internet and digital streaming.

For those interested, you can read it here.

twenty six

Tomorrow, I turn 26. (I know, Mom, - I don't know how it happened, either.)

Sometimes, people do grand, sweeping lists as they hit a new year. X amount of things I learned by year X. But I'm not sure I learned 25 new things at age 25. But the year was good to me. A hell of a lot better than 24. And somehow, though I secretly had high hopes for the year, it met all of my expectations. Bumps in the road notwithstanding, I started to feel like myself again this year, a welcome feeling after spending the second half of 24 watching myself go through the motions of my life.

I credit a lot of that to sticking to the four lessons I uncovered during my period of turmoil. Some I figured out quickly. Others took a year and change to stick. But as I head into year 26, hopes high once again, I'm taking just a few things from 25 (and 24.75) with me...

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sweat the small stuff that makes you happy

Recently, I was (lovingly) teased about my pillow shams. Twin squares of white that perfectly match my duvet, the person holding them asked why I needed a second cover over my pillows when I already had pillowcases, too. Why? Because when I walk into my small bedroom, bright with sunlight, and see the neatly matched duvet set, the rug on the ground I picked to accent it and the white skull planter with a farmer's market succulent, I'm instantly happy. Every time. Every entrance. 

It's like this: finally light the expensive candle. Book the trip to Paris after thinking about it for two hours. Buy the bag in Paris that is bright, sunny yellow, and cheers you up even during a night class that stretches until its pitch black outside. Print your photos at CVS. Print so many photos at CVS that the photo guy knows your name - "not many people still do this!" Hang them all over your new apartment. But also hang the print that's been in your bedroom since you were three.

Sweat the small stuff that makes you happy. Make a house a home. It's always, always worth it.

which leads me to:

 

follow your heart

truly, passionately, all-encompassing(ly?). If writing myriad blog posts about grief and loss and injury and fear and courage is what your heart wants, do it. If baking for the people you love is what your heart wants, do it. If running in the early morning sunlight is what your heart wants, do it. Life is too fleeting not to listen to yourself. It's too tenuous not to trust yourself.

In year 25, my heart told me there was more out there. A different opportunity. A new challenge. And I wanted it, even though I didn't trust that I wanted it right away. So I took baby steps. I took a GRE course. Then I took the GRE. Then I submitted applications. "Just to see." And then, suddenly, I was moving.

which leads me to:

 

be brave enough to break your own heart

Leaving D.C. was one of the hardest things I've done in my adult life. It meant saying goodbye to everything I had held dear for the past eight years. I left behind loved ones, favorite restaurants, running routes I knew with my eyes shut, memories, ghosts. I traded in having a story for every street corner to getting hopelessly, embarrassingly lost without Google Maps.

At first, I thought I'd made a mistake. I cried a lot. I missed my friends deeply. I didn't trust that I'd chosen correctly. I was only 25! I'd think to myself. Who let me make a major life choice entirely alone?

And then, I stumbled upon a small, hidden restaurant to call my own in a new city. I found friends that, though no one can replace the gems of humans I left behind, have done wonders to fill the hole in my heart. I got writer's block - and then, quickly, got unblocked again. I found new fitness studios to obsess over.

In sum, I learned that my heart was right all along, even if following it meant breaking it. But it also meant learning to make more of an effort to stay connected to my old life, even as I forged a new one.

which leads me to:

 

tell the people you love that you love them

This one is easy. It's a no-brainer. But we forget. Days go by, and we haven't texted a friend that we last physically saw three months ago. A weekend passes, and we forgot to ask our dad if he tasted any good new recipes lately. You hear of an acquaintance passing and you remember, with a pang, the first awful few days where you wake up into a new reality without a loved one - having to remind yourself all over again each morning - and you realize it's been far too long since you forced a hug on the people that mean the most to you.

Last weekend, I went to New York, and saw many of my friends from DC for the first time since I left. My heart was happy. I was happy. And I left knowing that no matter how far we spread, there will be ties that unite us. But equally important will be reminding them how important they are to me, even on a random Wednesday. Especially then.

So text your friend. Send the birthday card, snail mail style. Pop into your mom's office just to say hello. (Plus, she may buy you coffee.) Play embarrassingly bad cornhole with your little brother. Email your dad a favorite new recipe. It's never time wasted.

 

I don't know it all. I don't know half of half of everything. But I do know that 24 was really pretty awful, 25 was really pretty good, and so 26 must be trending up.

....but does this make me in my late 20s? (Don't answer that.)

on trusting yourself

The hardest aspect of my injury was learning to trust my body again.

On the surface, that meant learning how to walk normally. How to walk without two crutches, then how to walk without one, then how to walk without a giant, noticeable limp. Each step brought new challenges. And each challenge boiled down to the same question: how much did I trust my own abilities?

I’d think I was capable of switching to one crutch, only to be sharply informed otherwise by the searing pain across my hip. I’d be sure that today was the day I would cross the room unassisted, only for my leg to buckle after a few short steps. You don’t know humbling until your physical therapist has asked you to touch the wall, and then had to scoop up your shaking body from the floor.

For someone who identifies as proudly (and strongly) type A, for someone who thrives on schedule, order and organization, it was infuriating. Maddening. And profoundly unsettling. I hated that I couldn’t control the problem, hated that I had to adopt a “wait and see” approach for the outcome, hated that I wasn’t sure if I could trust myself. And the minute I took my first pain-free, unassisted, limp-less steps, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t ever feel that out of control ever again.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t really work like that. This summer, I took a leap of faith: quit my job, packed all of my belongings into one car, and drove to Massachusetts to enroll in grad school. I left behind friends I loved dearly, a city I’d become obsessed with, a job I enjoyed and a house I adored. In return, I’m plunging into a graduate program that’s already proven to be extremely demanding, a city where I know only a handful of people, and what can only be described as an uncertain next professional step. I’m not freaking out. You’re freaking out.

The thing about trusting yourself is that it never gets easier in periods of upheaval, even – it turns out – after breaking a major bone in your body. That unsettled, anxious feeling has returned lately, usually at night when I’m alone, finally shutting my books and powering down my laptop for the evening. It’s in those moments that I get hit with the magnitude of my decision, the weight of what I’m missing. It’s also in those moments that I allow myself to think about the opportunities this decision could present. I try not to wonder if I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. I try to consider how wonderful it’s already been to be in Boston.

I once told someone that I felt like after 2016, I’d survived all the horrible I need to survive, forever. I know that’s not true. As sure as the sun rises, life throws you curveballs. Sometimes, they’re curveballs covered in shit. But I’d sort of felt like I’d earned a mulligan at least for a year or two, and part of me is considering the fact that blowing up my cozy life in the District might have invalidated that mulligan. Is that how fate works? Or is that how you end up slowly driving yourself crazy?

I spent much of this summer living in an in-between world: not working, just playing, not looking at my bank account (gulp), not doing much writing. But laughing, spending time with friends or family that didn’t have to end in “….well, I have a 6am flight back tomorrow”, traveling to Paris, missing what I’d left behind intermittently. But I lived in a fake world, essentially without responsibilities, and it was only when I regained those that I understood nothing would ever be the same.

Still, I’m excited every time I sit down in class, every time I open a book. I’m excited as I start to build this small new life for myself. And I calm myself down by remembering that if there are things to survive ahead, it doesn’t matter if I’m in an entirely new place – I’ve proved my ability to survive and I’ve proved my ability to trust myself.

It turns out that breaking your hip ends up being helpful when you leave your life behind for new opportunities. You’ve already learned how to muscle through pain. You’ve already learned how to take a step (or two) without knowing if you’ll avoid falling. You’ve already learned that, ultimately, you can trust yourself. And that’s really all that matters.

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a new piece for women's running

A lot's happened since the last time I wrote a post here... namely, a move up the East Coast that took me out of DC and back to Boston. Well, sort of. My lease in Boston starts September 1, so my parents have gained a new roommate between now and then!

There's a lot to cover about that move- especially what it's like to be back where I grew up after the last year and change of my life. It's hard not to think about how different I've become over the last twelve months when I'm surrounded by memories of ages 0-17 as soon as I wake up.

In the interim though, I've got some trips on the horizon, a wedding of a dear friend to attend, and I've been pitching and writing up a storm. I'm happy to say that the most recent piece I had published was for Women's Running Magazine. It covers the emotional toll of running injuries, touching upon the dirty little secrets we all hesitate to talk about: when the mental pain hits a point where you're forced to ask for help.

You can read it here - thanks, as always, for the support.

a goodbye love letter to dc

Yesterday marked two weeks left in Washington. Tomorrow will be my favorite day of the year to live in the District- an explosion of red, white, blue.

DC is where I learned to be independent: that I had to figure out how to do my own laundry, or otherwise I'd have no clean clothing. That I couldn't just eat junk food for all meals, or I'd find myself sick before midterms. That I could (and should) walk to Dupont at midnight for dessert with a friend, just because it was the first warm day of the year.

It's where I learned to play beer pong in a basement, going from completely terrible to mildly passable. It's where I scalped tickets to Boston sports teams when they were in town. Where I slept on the couch of a college newspaper townhouse before waking up at 2 a.m. to approve final pages. Where I thought my whole world was GW and where I learned that I actually loved the whole of the city so much more than the college campus.

It's where I took road trips, only to feel at home the minute I saw the Washington Monument poking through the horizon. Where I could walk to the homes of the people I loved, where I could sit in my yard on a Wednesday night and drink too much wine and laugh too hard, and be awestruck on just how charmed life can become. 

It's where I learned to fall in love with sun-dappled monuments poking through the trees, with small corner stores selling pickled eggs, wine in boxes and, if you asked just right, sparklers for the Fourth of July.

It's where I canvassed the city on foot, walking from Georgetown to Chinatown to Shaw to Eckington, only to retrace my steps the next day, because winding through the streets, peering up at the gorgeous townhomes, is my favorite way to pass an afternoon.

It's where I wrote and I cried and I wrote some more. It's where I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt, and it's where I lay catatonic with grief, only sure of the fact that I would never get out of bed.

It's where I read and I read and I found myself in what I was reading. It's where I learned to cook for one, and where I learned to cook for many. It's where I bought a Washington Nationals hat, suddenly realizing that my heart now half belonged to this new city. It's where, once, at 3 a.m. in the middle of one of the biggest snowstorms to ever hit the city, I trekked down to the monuments to see the Mall hushed, quiet, peaceful and blanketed in white.

It's where the summer almost killed me with sunburn and humidity, and where the first dive into a friend's pool of each season was always - always - one of the best days of the year. It's where I learned the names of the bartenders and waiters at my favorite neighborhood haunts, where I spent too much in small coffee shops, where I spent hours wandering through farmer's markets on lazy Sunday afternoons.

It's where I grew my hair long, only to cut it shorter than it's ever been. It's where I drank too much with my softball team to really be effective on the diamond, only - much to my surprise - for us to win the entire league. It's where I made some of the best friends of my life. It's where I experienced the biggest heartbreak of my life.

It's where I learned to run, learned to love mornings, learned to trace the C&O Canal over and over until I recognized my mileage by the trees I was passing.

It's where I learned to run until my heart stopped hurting, pushing myself faster and farther until the only thing I could think about was how much my lungs burned and my legs hurt.

It's where I discovered just how far I can push my body, just how fast I can go, just how strong I can be. It's where I learned that I can survive any kind of break - physical or emotional. It's where I was unable to walk for months, and my friends walked for me, buying my groceries and folding my laundry and mixing my drinks and rubbing my back while I cried. 

It was the happiest I've ever been. It was the hardest I've ever cried. It was beautiful and ugly and I wouldn't, couldn't, change any of it for a minute. 

The girl that came to DC, scared out of her mind, eight years ago, wouldn't know the woman who is leaving. She couldn't know that by the end, almost every street corner would have a story, every neighborhood a memory, every year present a different challenge. 

There will be a day, I know, when it feels like I never lived here. In some ways, it already does - as the night turns to dusk and the sky is ribboned with pastels before plunging into darkness, I look around and marvel at the luck and circumstance that brought me to this magical, infuriating, beautiful city.

My greatest love over the last eight years was this city. And now it's time to go. The next chapter is exciting and terrifying all at once, just like it was when I moved to Washington. There's still a little time to wander aimlessly, surround myself with the people I love, laugh too loud and eat too much Thomas Sweet ice cream. And then it will be time to leave, knowing, somehow, that this will always feel a little like home.

global running day

 

They have one of these "days" for everything now, don't they? I can't say I mind this one - there's not a lot to dislike about a day that promotes something that brings health, friendly competition and great friendships into the lives of so many!

My relationship with running has been so hectic over the last year. For every time I ended a workout with a giant smile on my face, there were countless moments of frustration, tears, self-doubt and the gripping pattern of negativity that seems to haunt injured runners.

As I type this, I'm watching a little boy run through a park with pure joy on his face. He's barefoot, it's sunny, and all he knows is that running - that moving his body - is making him happy. And when it comes down to it, that's what every run should be about. While a big (and fun) part of being a runner is training, logging mileage, figuring out the diet that works for you, and toeing the start line at race day, the best moments and miles come from the ones driven by the pure joy of moving.

I've been working really hard to reframe my relationship with running over the last few months. It's hard to be in a headspace where an activity that should cause jubilation, pure and simple, is fraught with tension and stress.

What I've learned is that, just like there's no right way to have a runner's body, there's no right way to have a relationship with running. You don't have to be obsessed with marathons to be a runner. You don't have to ever run a race to be a runner. You don't need to have a social media following that tells you that you're #fitspo to be a runner. You know what you do need? Sneakers. A smile. Probably a sports bra, if you're a woman. 

And if you're working at having a healthy relationship with running, you are so not alone. There are so many of us putting insane pressure on ourselves to hit a certain time, and judging ourselves when we don't. There are so many of us stressing about how we eat, what we look like, what kind of outfit we can wear, if we can't hit our self-imposed training and workout schedule exactly. There are so many of us sitting at work, chewing on our nails, because we just realized we've double-booked and won't be able to get that evening run in, after all.

What Global Running Day makes me want to do is take a deep breath, and be more like the little boy I saw running in the park. Let's face it: the vast majority of us are never going to be elite, Olympic-qualifying runners. So at the end of the day, if your mile time bumps up a little higher than you'd like on a certain outing, it's okay. You still moved. You still pushed yourself. That's the only victory you need.

While running has indirectly caused me serious heartache, it's also given me some of the biggest gifts - and lessons - of my life. So many of the friends that I love dearly have come into my life directly because we were both runners. It's given me the gift of training, running races, or just heading out for a few weekend miles with my mother, adding a special new dimension to an already close relationship. I mean, I got to run a marathon with my mom by my side, running it too - how many people can say that? 

And running has also taught me the importance of patience, and of personal strength and fortitude. It's taught me that you can't half-ass anything in life, and you also can't simply will yourself to a goal or a result: you have to work for it. You have to work to heal from a break, you have to work to go from learning to walk again to learning to run again, you have to work to hit your race times, and you have to work to trust and listen to your body.

If you told me that I could never experience breaking my hip, but I would have to never be a runner, I'd choose breaking my hip and knowing the joy of running every time. Is that insane? Maybe a little. But I think it also shows the strength, grace and courage that one can develop under challenge. I think it shows the inherent beauty in chasing the love of the run.

So, happy Global Running Day! And happy miles.

one year of blogging + a big life change

Yesterday, Facebook reminded me that it was the one-year anniversary of starting this blog. Time flies when you’re breaking bones.

In all seriousness, having this outlet over the last year has been so important – and has given me so much. Though at times I posted infrequently, and have drafts of essays piling up on my desktop, this small corner of the internet turned into an invaluable tool in keeping my sanity, expressing my truth, and working through some shit.

First and foremost, I met some wonderful people directly because of this blog. It became a venue for meaningful connections, from messages that were sent my way on social media (friends and strangers alike) about a piece of my writing resonating with a reader, to friends that I made because they read my blog and sent me a message – the simple act of writing, publishing and sharing brought some beautiful humans into my day-to-day.

The blog also became a sort of business card, and I found numerous writing and content creation opportunities that I don’t believe would have come my way otherwise. The one I’m perhaps proudest of is the Self Magazine piece that checked off my small dream to be published in a national magazine, and to write (I think) eloquently about one of the hardest experiences of my life.

Speaking of that – for better or worse, this blog is a memoir of how far I’ve come since its launch. It’s painful and therapeutic at the same time to browse back through previous posts. I’m instantly reminded of the physical challenges I fought through, the emotional pain I learned to overcome and the strides I made over the year. I can see it in my workout classes – I’m back to doing plank crunches on my toes in [solidcore], which sounds silly but also took me a whole damn year to regain! But there’s something about having a physical record, a digital notebook, of the year, that is innately powerful. It makes me proud of myself, and determined to keep fighting, all at once.

And lastly, writing forced me to be honest. I learned very quickly that the most difficult part of my recovery process(es) was asking for help. I hated relying on others. I hated admitting that I wasn’t okay. And in person, I almost never did it. I ditched my crutches at parties despite the shooting pain because I was too embarrassed to be broken. I insisted on going grocery shopping even though it turned into a two-hour struggle that left me completely wiped for the rest of the day. I struggled to let people know that I was sad, that the reason they hadn’t heard from me was because I didn’t know how to reach out. But writing gave me an outlet where I had to speak the truth – no bullshit. And it was a very rewarding process.

I’m starting to sound like a broken record when I say that the last year was filled with ups and downs. Incredible highs and really low lows. I’m not sure I’d want to do it all again, but I know now that I’m strong enough that I could survive it all again, which is an important and fulfilling realization.

It also made me realize that I was ready for and capable of taking on a new challenge. So... I jumped. Just in case you missed the news, I’m moving to Boston in July, heading to BU for grad school.
I’ve been in DC for eight years, since I was 17, meaning for all of my adult life. And those years have been beautiful and ugly, formative and wholly powerful. When I think of leaving, my heart breaks. But when I think of a new city, new experiences, and all that I have to discover – well, it’s too exciting to pass up.

See you in July, Boston. See you very soon, DC. Oh, and anyone who needs a freelancer? I’m going to have nothing but time and a deep-seeded desire to make some money. Be sure to reach out.

self-guided challenge check-in 1 : stretching

Way back when (okay, just a few months ago), I decided to take on a sort of self-imposed challenge : set a new fitness goal every month, take a new class every month, work to rediscover the simple joys I find in moving my body without being bogged down by memories of the ways my body’s broken in the last year.


I had the best of intentions. And then, as it does, time flew right by me. I became immersed in graduate school applications and decisions, logistics, nights with too much wine and nights with far too little wine – and now, before I even realized what was happening, I’m staring Memorial Day in the face.

But I’ve stuck with it. Sort of. I just haven’t written about it.

The first challenge I issued myself, for April, was to stretch more – daily, in fact. Which seems like a pretty basic challenge, but it’s something I’ve always been bad about prioritizing. So I figured that forcing myself to do it every day would turn into the sort of effortless routine I’ve always wanted, in theory, to have. And, conveniently, in mid-April, my physical therapist handed me a large rubber band for at-home exercises, espousing the importance of conducting my rehabilitation at home, on my own time. So there I was, with absolutely no excuse to drop the ball.


So, I started stretching. And it started slowly, half-assing it at first. I’d do a few calf raises before flopping into bed at night, or grab my waist and lean over to the side as soon as I woke up in the morning. But when I got cleared to return to running, I knew I had to take it more seriously. So I did, waking up 15 minutes earlier (no easy task – my alarm was already going off before 6 most mornings) to get in some seriously good moves. And as I got more serious about it, I learned a little bit more about myself… besides learning that my hip flexors are seriously, “hey-lady-we-hate-you” tight.

One of the biggest surprises I’ve encountered is the inexplicable ways emotion and stretching are tied together. Some mornings, in a backbend, I’ll remember a bright moment from the day before, and I’ll burst out laughing. Other times, I find myself struggling to explain a sudden onslaught of tears. This happens most frequently when I’m working on my hips, subject of so much pain and scrutiny over the last year. Yoga teacher after yoga teacher has reassured me that this is completely normal. In fact, it’s apparently pretty common knowledge that we carry a lot of emotions in our hips… which is the sort of statement that I would have rolled my eyes at a year ago. Now, as I end up with my legs pretzeled in front of me and my forehead resting atop them, my eyes misting, I’m less likely to shrug that off.

When you think about it, the whole thing starts to make sense. Stretching is releasing tension from our muscles, at its most basic. And part of the tension that knots my muscles has to be emotional. So releasing that comes with laughter, or tears. Got it.

 Here’s the other thing I’ve come to realize about these morning stretch sessions : they’re an inherently more peaceful way to start my day than what I was doing previously (which basically boiled down to running out the door to beat the morning rush and get to the gym).

In the depths of grief, I learned the power of small moments of joy. Of finding happiness in the smallest of moments : building a fire in my backyard, framing a favorite photos, feeling the sun on my face after four straight days of rain. I would catalogue these moments, holding onto them as proof of survival, of pushing forward – of resilience. Now, what started off as a simple challenge to adopt a healthier habit has become another one of those small moments of joy. It serves as a reminder to slow down, to prioritize taking care of myself, and to be proud of seemingly insignificant milestones.

I firmly believe that by placing an emphasis on our small moments, our tiny joys, we can hold our breath and cautiously step through the landmines of grief, disappointment and pain. So for the first challenge of the year, which ended up extending into two months, I turned the act of stretching into one of those small moments – purely selfish, purely simple, purely a representation of strength.

 

Coming soon - a review of a new-to-me workout class I took in April (finally) ; being more timely with posting about the new workout class for May ; and the challenge focus for June (any ideas??).

 

 (hi, Mom!)

(hi, Mom!)

option b

A funny thing happened after I had to come face to face with my second fracture : I stopped loving running. I started hating it, in fact.

It wasn't running that I hated, per-say. It was the reminder that I was physically incapable of doing it with the strength I expected of myself. It was watching others accomplish races, routine training runs, one-mile jogs. It was having my sense of control ripped away from me. It was the reminder of everything I'd lost in a year.

After the second fracture, things got really tough. Emotionally, I was in a worse spot than I was when I broke my hip. Once the initial pain subsided, that was mind over matter. This time, my mind spiraled, forcing me to re-live moments I'd squashed. It reminded me of what failure felt like. It reminded me of what loss felt like. It reminded me of how painful my year had been, and how I'd come so far to fall far short of the heights I expected myself to reach.

Then, a beautiful, thoughtful friend surprised me by sending me Sheryl Sandberg's book Option B. (Hi, Lindsay, you're a gem.) It's a stunning, breathtaking musing on loss, grief and how we move forward. Because how do we move forward? That's a question I've been wrestling with for over a year - and each time I thought I was taking a step in the right direction, something else knocked me down. Like a broken hip.

This time around, I'm gaining more understanding of how these broken bones are related to my broken heart. Indirectly, for sure, but the searing pain is just under the surface with every MRI, every physical therapy appointment, every tear-soaked Kleenex in a doctor's office. I've lost count of how many times I've explained - no, don't worry, I'm not just crying about my leg.

Sheryl's book has been a painful and fulfilling read. Only able to handle small doses, I'm reading a chapter here and there, taking moments to cry when I need to, laugh when that's called for instead. But at first, I struggled to connect deeply with what was in its pages, until I read this passage, that Sheryl had written about her mother :

"After hip replacement surgery four years ago, she feels grateful for every step she is able to take without pain. What she feels on a physical level, I feel on an emotional level. On the days that I'm okay, I now appreciate that I'm walking without pain."

After I read that, I literally sat upright in bed (I read lying down, it's extremely comfortable...). That's me! I thought. Except I have both. I'm walking without pain in my hip, so I relate to the physical level. And when I can walk without pain in my heart, I can relate to the emotional level.

Talk about literally spelling it out for me. And that's when I realized I'd found my option B.

A few weeks ago, I organized a series of 5Ks throughout my company's offices in Becky's memory. The lead-up was a fun blur of mapping out routes (we organized it sort of SWAT-team style, just ...showing up and running), celebratory happy hours after, and urging our loved ones to kick in a few bucks to support the runners. I had the amazing support of the National Capital LLS Chapter, who put together a custom fundraising page for me (find it, and read more about our run here), and I set a goal of raising a thousand dollars.

The day of the run, we had hit 3K and were still climbing. It was supposed to rain, and instead, it was a gorgeous, mid-60s day: perfect running weather. It was my longest run since the second fracture, and with my Team Becky shirt on, I was a bundle of nerves as I walked to our makeshift start line. I wasn't sure how my legs would hold up. I wasn't sure how my emotions would hold up!

And then, it was like magic - I found my rhythm again, and I almost forgot why running had become such a painful thought. I was able to find joy in the quiet, sun-dappled bike path that's always been my favorite place to run in the District. I was able to look down at Becky's name on my wrist without immediately needing to stop to cry. And I couldn't get the grin off my face for the rest of the day, as pictures from around the country rolled in and the fundraising amount continued to grow.

It wasn't until a week later, when I read the passage in Sheryl Sandberg's book, that I realized I found my option B. There's no subtracting the pain, loss and intense sadness of the last year of my life - but suddenly, I was able to see in sharp relief the way I've carved a path out of those moments. I didn't cap my "year of shit", as I've eloquently taken to calling it, by running a marathon or even a half marathon - but I did find a way to turn my grief into a force for good. And a force for happiness, even. And I have to say, Option B may not be a marathon medal, but that sunny Thursday, it felt amazing just the same. I'm looking forward to a lot more option B's.

So thank you, Sheryl, and thank you, Lindsay. Those words came into my life at the exact right time.

it's already been a year and it's only been a year

There was a way I wanted the one year anniversary of my accident to go.

There was a story I told myself on my worst days. It became a secret, small motivator. I played it for myself, over and over again, on days that I woke up sobbing because I'd rolled over onto my left side, sending pain thrilling through my body. On days I forgot I was injured in the mornings and tried to stand up, only to crumple to the floor. On days I flipped through running photos on my phone, blinking back tears as I wondered if I'd ever even be able to mindlessly bound down stairs again.

There was a version of myself that I expected myself to be when I hit the year-out mark. Triumphant. Strong. With a marathon medal around my neck. Standing on the top of this mountain I'd been forced to climb, twin heartbreaks of 2016 neatly packed away, never to haunt me again.

The one-year anniversary of my injury went nothing like this.

Instead, I was fresh on the heels of my second fracture, a second failure of my body, a second round of news that I was less than the standards I'd set for myself. The day before my anniversary was Marathon Monday, and I forced myself through the motions of standing on the sidelines before retreating to my bed in silence. Everything hurt, but not in the way it did the year before - that was raw and visceral, punctuated by waves of nausea and pleas for pain meds as I lay in a hospital bed. This time, my bones ached, my eyes were raw and red, and I was so tired, exhausted, by the thought of continuing to force myself through the murky landscape painted by the last year.

I'd placed so much value in triumphantly seeing that one year anniversary through. I'd learned that grief was tricky, slamming into my body in waves, forcing me to fight through it in waves, and I'd silently convinced myself that conquering my physical limitations would mean that I could conquer the hole left in my chest by the painful loss of a friend, too. 

All of a sudden, it had already been a year and it had only been a year, and I was just fucking tired. 

I've been silent here because I haven't been writing. I haven't been writing because I've been struggling. It feels impossible to put your thoughts on paper when your thoughts are static, sad and defeated.

It's all tied together, I've come to learn - the death and the broken hip and the grief and the emotion and the nausea and the pain and the frustration and the part where I'll be walking down the street and see a particular patch of flowers in early morning light and be surprised by the tears that suddenly spring to my eyes. 

Did you know we carry a lot of emotion in our hips? It's almost laughable, truly. Each time I'm in a yoga class, and we switch into hip openers, or I'm stretching before bed at night and hit those impossibly tight hip flexors, I have to fight back my urge to cry. Sometimes I wonder if you examined the spot where my bone snapped in half, if you wouldn't find a tiny pocket of deep sadness next to the thin line that indicates a healed fracture.

It's already been a year and it's only been a year. 

So here i am, a year and some change out from a broken hip and nowhere close to what I told myself I'd achieve at the year mark. It's so frustrating. It's so sad. It's so ...incomplete. I feel like a failure and I feel embarrassed and I feel impatient, too. So, when do I get my life back? When do I get my abilities back? When do this pain in my hip and pain in my heart settle quietly into the past?

I made a list of things I was thankful for on the year anniversary of my accident. They included the following :

  • Can walk again
  • Don't have to live on a couch until someone helps me to sit up, go to the bathroom, or shower
  • Can lift my arms above my own head enough to comb my hair
  • My face doesn't look like I'm going to throw up from pain all the time anymore
  • Can go on short runs
  • Sometimes, I forget about the accident

 

This wasn't the story I told myself. It's not the list of achievements I expected to make. I'm grateful and I'm mad. It's exciting and it sucks. I'm struggling and I'm also, kind of, doing okay - a year out from breaking my hip, I can turn in negative splits on short runs. 

I'm trying to reframe and I'm trying to move forward and some days I'm doing a really great job, and some days it feels really pointless. I miss my friend deeply and I'm also able to organize events in her memory without being derailed by grief. I feel a twinge of pain if I push myself too hard, and I'm also able to sit through an MRI and see a hip that isn't snapped into two.

It's been a year. And some days still feel impossibly hard. And then on other days, I find messages from strangers in my inbox, thanking me for verbalizing my struggle, sharing their own, and I realize that it's okay to not have all the answers at a year. And it's okay to speak up and let people know that the year mark wasn't as great as I wanted it to be.

And that there will always be year two.

reflecting on 4/15/13

Around this time of year, I always think a little more about the concept of near-misses. Of fate intervening. Of pure and simple luck.

On what will be four years ago Saturday, my mom laced up her sneakers to run the 2013 Boston Marathon. My dad and brother headed to the finish line, positioning themselves under a row of flags, to watch her finish. I had a job interview in D.C., so I wasn't able to attend, but I tracked her on my phone, with texts from my brother, and by watching TV coverage of the Marathon from my dorm room.

I'm pretty sure you know the rest.

 

When we talk about that day in my family - and by family, I mean my immediate core, the four of us together - we focus on how lucky we are. My dad and brother were feet from the bombs. They came home that night with residue and tears on their jackets, unsettling images in their heads. As I saw the area under the flags explode on television, over and over, from miles away, my first reaction was to throw up. I don't think I cried for an hour, until I heard my brother's voice on the phone, after I'd wondered for an hour if they were okay. And then I don't remember how long it took me to stop crying. It felt like years.

I think if you look hard enough, you can probably find pictures of them from the blast. I've never wanted to look hard enough.

I struggle with how to talk to others about the bombing. Though I was the only member of my family that wasn't there, it wholly changed my life. For months after, I woke up frantic from a nightmare where I was in a crowd with my family, there was an explosion, and I was unable to find them. At concerts, in shopping malls, in wall-to-wall people on the Metro, I suffered the beginnings of panic attacks, blindly shoving my way through crowds until I felt like I could breathe again.

I saw my dad and brother flinch as cars backfired. I read the account my brother gave USA Today, blinking away tears.

It changed all of our lives - all four of us. I feel fiercely protective of our narrative, one that saw all four family members struggle with the aftermath before rising above it to triumph. My mother ran the 2014 Marathon, and my father returned to the finish line to support her. My brother threw himself into public service, joining ROTC and now receiving a Marathon-related scholarship for a police academy. I became a runner, determined to turn my fury and fears and grief into a positive force.

It's resiliency echoed by the city. When I walk around Boston as Marathon time draws near, my heart swells. Instead of being cowed or defeated, the celebration has become bigger, more meaningful, filled with love. 

But it's a day that will always be difficult for me - more so now as my inability to run the race has now halted me twice. I'm angry at my own body. I'm angry at the people that hurt my family. I'm angry at others who casually discuss the Marathon bombings without any true understanding of what that day, and its ripple effects, felt like for the four of us. 

We were lucky. I remind myself of that over and over. But that doesn't mean it hasn't been challenging. That doesn't mean that I don't struggle with each anniversary of April 15, spending the entire day fighting off the demons of what might have been. And that doesn't mean that it's easier for me to accept my own failures as it relates to the Marathon. If anything, it makes it harder. My family's fought so hard to cross their own finish lines, to reclaim their own lives after catastrophe. And I've been unable to honor them by crossing one myself.

Ultimately, though, April 15 is now about love. I see it in One Boston Day, the wonderful initiative put forth by the city that's turned the anniversary into a day about service and giving back to the community. I see it in my brother preparing for a life of service. I see it in the elation on every face that crosses the finish line a few days later.

My mom once told me that no one outside of the four of us will ever truly understand what that day, and its aftermath, felt like for our family. And that's true. But what others will understand is how we banded together to move forward, and reclaim the narrative. It's what the entire city did. And it's what I remind myself of each time I find myself questioning what could have been.

Congratulations to everyone running this year. I hope to join you at some point in the future. And I urge you to take a moment to consider what it truly means to continue to be #BostonStrong.