a lesson in breath

The other evening I was walking to my usual monday night yoga class, and found myself hesitant to go inside once I reached the studio. I was pretty tired, I still had a running list of things I wanted to do for work/life (it was 8pm), and I also just kinda wanted to be in my bed with homemade cookies and an episode of Breaking Bad. (Side note: I’m finally finishing the final season, after I wikipedia’d it…)

But something told me to just go inside. It was only an hour, I’d be home by 9:30, and if I had been up and moving since 8am and still had stuff to do, it could wait until tomorrow. (And Breaking Bad gives me meth-nightmares, anyway.) 

The class ended up being pretty empty, which was a nice change since we’re usually packed like sardines in the studio. (It doesn’t help that it’s hot yoga too, which =’s a lot of stranger-sweat on you.) As we began doing some forward folds and slow vinyasas, our teacher starting sharing her #zenwisdom with us, which is half the reason I go. She began explaining how all of the position in yoga, asanas, make up only 1/8th of this whole “yoga” thing. Basically, that means the warrior II you’re holding forever, the crow pose you can’t nail, or the head stand you won’t even attempt, is so incredibly insignificant when it comes to looking at yoga as a whole.

She continued talking about how breath is another 1/8th of yoga. Breathing: the thing we unconsciously do all day, all night — over 20,000 times a day (says David Wilkins from Quora…) — carries the same weight as all of the hundreds of poses (and all their variations) that exist in yoga. Combined. 

Of course I tried to apply this to real life instead of focusing on squaring my hips, not sweating on the person next to me, etc. Usually in yoga, a tough balance pose I’m sucking at can feel like the only thing that matters. And in life, any present moment — whether an interaction with someone, a time where you tell yourself you can’t fuck up, or an opportunity that can feel so important or powerful (an interview, a promising date, a work meeting, a beautiful sunrise), is just one tiny slice of your life. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t define you. It matters, but it doesn’t matter. 

But breathing matters. Whaaat? Yeah, it sounds weird, but when I thought about it more, it made sense. First, breathing keeps us… alive. This is a very good thing. But it also can shape and effect us beyond just “existing.” I’ve slowly learned how powerful breathing can be when it comes to reducing stress, running and working out more efficiently, and making my body just feel better. And it’s tricky because we breathe without thinking about it — unlike a challenging yoga pose, or a challenging GRE question, or a challenging conversation — but it’s ultimately more powerful, more important, and more significant than the small stresses and special moments that we hone in on throughout the day.

As the class was winding down and we moved into savasana, our instructor turned off the music — something she normally doesn’t do. Rather than a soft ballad playing the background, the studio — and what felt like new york city in its entirety — fell silent, except for the sound of everyone’s breath which sounded like waves. And for one of the first times in corpse pose, I was actually able to let my mind stop wandering, to do some semblance of meditation, and let go of every asana and every moment that usually carries so much weight in my life. And I just breathed.

(This post was brought to you by Zen Laura. Namaste.) 

what makes a perfect weekend

Well, it took one blog post of “fuck I don’t know what to write about” to be able to open the creative gates and get itching to type again. (That, plus advice from my best friend to “quit worrying about what people want read, and write what you want to write.”) 

And so I want to write about weekends. I’ve been trying to come up with a formula that creates thebestweekendever — for me at least. Here’s a stab at it:

Get a ton of sleep. I don’t mean sleep in, necessarily. I mean…just sleep a lot. The toll of the week always hits me on friday, and I usually find myself passed out by 10pm and still up by 8 on Saturday. Then, that leaves me plenty of time to nap later on…

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Have time for post-sleep hang-in-bed. I love me a good morning routine. On weekends, it usually involves coffee (I graduated to drip coffee, which is my favorite thing everrrrrr), NPR’s all things considered, a book, and the Internet. I usually take two hours just to lay in bed, read blogs & fun articles, or try to write. This is usually when I do my volunteer work for Watsi, too. 

Move around. Depending on how much I work out during the week, I either try do yoga, run, or sometimes make the trek into Manhattan to the gym.  But even if I don’t get real exercise in, I just love walking around a bunch. 





Leave the neighborhood. Speaking of...as much as I love my hood, I also love leaving it. I have friends scattered all throughout NYC, and I’m usually up for trekking to some sort of adventure in another part of town. Or I’ll just go somewhere random and read a book. Orrrrr I’ll just leave the city entirely (my favorite thing). 

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storm king mountain!

Clean something. Sometimes it’s my clothes. Or maybe a book shelf. Or the floor. But doing my own laundry or scrubbing the tub never fails to make me feel super accomplished and proud of myself, so I tend to do it for the morale boosting. 

Have a really awesome conversation. The other weekend, I three-way chatted with two of my friends here in NYC, since we all live on opposite ends of the earth (Prospect Heights, Williamsburg, Harlem…) and nobody wanted to get out of bed. We ended up talking for two hours and it was the best thing ever. And today, I spent an hour chatting with Danielle, who left me to go live in California. These conversations really can make my weekend.

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 7.34.59 PMEat/drink something delicious. I love me a good brunch, or a fancy cocktail, or sometimes just a home-cooked meal (usually made by my brother and sister-in-law on Sundays…). ORRR, I go all-out and make dark chocolate peppermint cookies and eat the leftover batter for dinner. (I’m really not kidding.) My co-workers are going to love me tomorrow. 

Be an alcoholic. Just kidding. But look what I accomplished! 

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blogger’s block

Since the beginning of the summer, I’ve been finding it hard to write. I complained about it here…and here…and since then felt like I haven’t really been able to get into a groove.

Part of the “problem” is that when I was training for something, I always had something to write about. (Let me tell you about that crappy training week while showing you pics of cats and comforters, and then put together a list of lessons learned while running and running life lessons [two different things] and.. just reflect some more on the whole thing while also telling you about a really fun weekend.)

The other issues is I’m getting a little bit “screen-fatigued.” I’m on my/this computer all day at work, and then when I come home, the last thing I usually want to do is get back on it. I’m trying really hard to give myself time at home in the evenings to make a meal, read a book, or just listen to music while catching up with my roommate. The thought of hopping back on the same computer my fingers have been glued to all day sounds a little less than fun.

And then there’s the whole “what to write about” thing. This blog has always been a basket-case of travel stories, running adventures, “life” lessons, work stuff, and other random ramblings. And I actually really like it this way. I don’t want to feel pressure to have to write something specific; this is a space for me to type whatever is going on in my head. Yet, when things are so open-ended, it makes it hard to figure out what I actually want to write, and what people actually want to read. Should I write about my Thanksgiving weekend in New Hampshire, or a hike up Storm King mountain, or the time I walked all the way from the West Village to Williamsburg after the-worst-date-ever- with a banker (saw that one from a mile away…)? Or maybe how I want to do yoga every day for a month, take a non-fiction writing workshop, volunteer more for things near and dear to my heart, run a fast half-marathon in the spring, play music/become famous, or learn how to bake a really delicious scone? I honestly have no idea, which is why when I come home to a blank screen, it usually stays empty while the cursor pulses, impatiently waiting for me to decide what to do.

While I figure this all out — I’m going to one of the most delicious brunch spots in Brooklyn in a few — I will leave you with this picture I took while in New England for Thanksgiving. It’s a lady running with her dog and a miniature horse on the beach. When in Maine…

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the happiest moments of your life

A few months ago, I attended a happiness workshop where our teacher told us to write down some of the happiest moments of our life. I sat for awhile and let the memories flood into my head, wondering what I could actually deem “the happiest.” Childhood memories of vacationing in the mountains with my family came up, along with specific times with so’s & close friends, and other simple mornings just by myself. 

I think it’s near impossible to say these were the times in my life I was the “happiest,” but they were pretty darn awesome. 

seeing the sunrise in acadia national park. My trip to Maine with Nicole last summer was one of the most fun adventures I’ve been on. And that morning — seeing the sun rise in the eastern-most point in the states before the rest of the population — was stunning. I remember staring out at the sky and finally seeing the bold and beautiful sun peek from the horizon; the mix of camping, being with my best friend, and cozied up in a a sweatshirt at 5 something in the morning made it a moment where I was utterly and truly happy.

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crossing the line of my first marathon. Running Wineglass Marathon was one of the most fun, emotional, and beautiful times of my life. I still can’t get over how awesome the course was, and how the weather, energy, and scenery was all perfect. I was also barely a month back from an injury, and had no idea if I’d even be able to complete the race. When I rounded the corner and saw the finish line, knowing I’d run way faster than expected, I was ecstatic. Crossing the finish line of your first marathon only happens once (…obviously) and it’s something I will never forget.

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reuniting with friends and stargazing in Akwida, Ghana. One of the adventures I went on in Ghana was to Green Turtle Lodge, an eco-lodge nestled in the western region of Ghana. A group of six of us decided we’d spend a long weekend there, yet we got split up en route when one of our connecting busses filled up. I stayed behind with Julie (SF bud!) for the next bus, which of course came a million hours later. The final stretch of the trip was in a slightly-sketchy cab to the beach, and after convincing myself we’d never make it, we finally reunited with the rest of our friends and were greeted with an insanely beautiful stretch of stars and skies. I’m a sucker for stars, and remember being overwhelmed by how beautiful it was, especially after a full day of (slightly) stressful travel. A picture wouldn’t do it justice, but here is the beach the following day nearing sunset. 

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california

Sometimes it’s hard to put a trip into words – especially one that was so damn awesome and special.

But this time around, summing up San Francisco into one word is easy: perfect.

YEPPP, I said it. It was pretty much totally and very, very perfect. We went on two really long runs, one of them being my first trail race and the other being along the coast and over the golden gate bridge. We ate a ton of tacos. We drank/double-fisted a ton of amazing coffee. I had the strongest whiskey drink in my life. We saw old friends, I made new ones. I explored the city in a “taxi” cab with a fluffy pink mustache on it, and walked the rest of the city by foot. Homeless people yelled at me. I ate soup dumplings. I caught up with one of my best friends who I haven’t seen in four years, and it felt like four seconds. She took me under her wing, into the Mission, and into her home. We took long naps, watched the nyc marathon on TV, and didn’t realize it was daylight savings until that afternoon. We had the most amazing brunch. Ate more tacos. 

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See? Perfect.

I could go on and on about every little detail, but I’ll stick right now to one of the best parts: running a half-marathon trail race. It was my first real trail race (I’ve run 5K’s on trails, but nothing further) and it was awesome. Before this race, 13.1 miles no longer felt “super long,” but when your mile splits are significantly slower, when you’re climbing up massive hills, and when you’re packed onto narrow trails with dozens of other runners — the distance becomes almost never-ending.

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The course was really hard. SF is known for their hills, and the first four miles was literally just… climbing up a mountain. We started at the beach (first pic) and then “ran” straight UP into Muir Woods (second). Most people walked the uphills, which was a pleasant surprise, but it was still really tough. (I was also nursing a nice hangover. laura = smart runner.) We finally made it to the “top,” and then completed a seven-mile loop around Muir Woods. There were steep, rolling hills the whole time, so it was still pretty difficult. I actually realized the hardest part for me was the long downhills: they killed my knees, and I was so afraid of hitting a rock or root and completely face-planting. My quads also felt super unstable and I had to slow down, which messed up my stride.

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We finally made it back around the loop to the gorgeous views of the Pacific, and were greeted with the best aid station ever (trail mix, lara bars, peanut butter pretzels). We gobbled them up before climbing back down the mountain to the finish line. My body was sore in places I didn’t think was possible, but I was also so full of adrenaline that I wanted to keep on running. (I actually felt best for the final three miles.)

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Consensus? I loved it. Trail racing combines my three favorite things: hiking, running, and great snacks. I’d love to run a trail marathon, and maybe even eventually a 50K. (I would prefer a flatter course, if possible?!) So…we’ll see. There aren’t really trails to train on in nyc, so this might be trickier to accomplish in the coming months.

So overall, SF = the bomb dot com. I felt so good being there. The city felt “right.” And hopefully I’ll see it again soon.

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some things

Here are just…some things. That are going on.

City hopping. In less than a week, I will be in San Francisco! Finally. I’ll be spending five glorious days with Julie, my dear friend I met in Ghana. We’ll be catching up (we haven’t seen each other in YEARS) running a trail race through the Muir Woods (nbd) and simply exploring and getting to know the city better. I fear I will not return.

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babies. also, african sun = blonde, blonde hair.

Breaking up with Breaking Bad. Maybe. So, I was super obsessed with Breaking Bad for four seasons, but now that I’m on season five, I’m totally over it. It’s just…so freaking depressing. And violent. And I literally was having meth nightmares and not sleeping well. I know I have one more season left, but I may not finish the series. Is that bad? Does Jesse Pinkman (<3) end up okay?

Doing good. I’ve been volunteering for this awesome company, Watsi – a global crowdsourcing platform for individuals in developing countries who need medical care – anything from tumor removals to cleft palette surgery and speech therapy. It’s been incredibly fulfilling and amazing to see the profiles I’ve been working on appear on the site, and get fully funded.

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Running. After a rough week of running, I’m finally on the upswing. I’ve been waking up and going for 7-8 mile runs before work. The 40-50 degree weather is PERFECT and I want it to stay like this forever. I’ve also figured out the perfect running attire for these chilly fall mornings: shorts, tank, and arm warmers. 

Reading. I’ve been drowning in the book Zoliby Colum McCann. It’s set in Czechoslovakia in the 1930’s, and follows a young gypsy poet during the Fascist era. McCann is literally a poet himself and I’m totally obsessed by his narrative. My favorite time to read is during my morning commute; I have 20 minutes on the train to just sit and get consumed by the story. 

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Solo date nights. This past week I was reminded how awesome and therapeutic making a solid, home-cooked meal can be. I usually have plans after work, which involves either grabbing food in Manhattan or coming home late and retiring to eggs, rice and beans, or something quick and not that delicious. But one night this week I canceled my plans, and got some chicken breasts, brussel sprouts, and a nice bottle of Malbec. I sat down, slowed down, and enjoyed my meal and some solitude + jazz music. And it was amazing how good it felt. (Maybe because I almost drank the whole bottle of wine and slept like a champ.) But more importantly, it reminded me I can do this most nights if I want to. 

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note: I did not buy myself those flowers. 

Parcel! This past week, Greatist launched Parcel — a monthly subscription box that physically connects Greatist readers to our content. Each box has an assortment of eco-friendly products that improve people’s fitness, health & happiness, from healthy snacks to fitness gear and cleaning products. We’ve been working on it for quite some time, and it’s exciting to see it finally out there in the world! No pressure, but..sign up. Thanks.

parcel 

“the discipline to recover”

“Any one can train hard.
Do you have the discipline to recover?”

These wise words were written by Lauren Fleshman in her poem Athletic Assessment. (Gotta love poets & runners.) I remember those two lines really stuck out to me, since it’s something I (and I’m assuming many other athletes) struggle with. It may sound backwards, but running mile repeats in the morning or hot yoga after a long day at work is easier for me than sleeping in for an extra hour, or skipping a workout entirely. Why? Because exercise is something that fuels me — it clears my head, helps me be more productive, and generally makes me happier. On days off I usually feel sluggish and it’s hard for me to concentrate. I also tend to have a wildly annoying appetite, which usually makes me moody.

Of course, rest and recovery is what gives you that fire behind hard training days. Carving out time to foam roll, stretch, and ice keeps your body fresh and less at risk for injury. Same goes for those long and lazy days on the couch. Still, it’s hard to keep any active person more or less sedentary, even if it’s just for 24 hours.

The other tricky thing about rest and recovery is it’s different for every person – and then different for each person depending on the day. For me, I typically find 1-2 days off a week works. But working out is SO intertwined with the rest of my life, and if I’m super stressed out, usually all of my workouts are crap and I need to take off a few days in a row – or deal with being frustrated after a 3-mile run at [insert very slow pace]. (My one exception is being hungover — I always have awesome runs after a night of drinking. Maaaybe I should drink more often?)

Anyways, this is all coming from my morning at the track that ended up being a total flop. I took off on Saturday, so thought my legs would be fresh for a nice speed workout. I got eight hours of sleep, enjoyed some coffee + episode of Breaking Bad (SO GOOD), and then headed out into the perfect 55 degree day. I had 3 sets of 3×200 repeats on my mind, but after 5 repeats I stopped. I couldn’t finish. I was running them at a pace two seconds slower than what I normally do (which is a large chunk of time for 200’s) and I literally thought I was going to faint, throw up, or both. I didn’t even want to take a few more minutes to catch my breath and try to stretch it out and finish. Instead, I walked off the track and walked home.

At first I was sad about it. Frustrated. I thought about my week of training to see if anything was out-of-the-ordinary hard. But nothing stuck out.
Mon: 6 miles, yoga Tues: 5 miles Weds: 5 miles Thurs: Lift Fri: 5 miles Sat: Off

So why did I feel like absolute crap? I’m not entirely sure. But I’m also not entirely sure it even matters. I felt was I felt, and my body was clearly telling me to stop. And I’m kind of proud that I didn’t trudge through those final repeats. It’s still super frustrating that one week I can have day after day of great workouts, and the next be super out of it. But instead of feeling annoyed, I’m trying to embrace the bad days, or at least allow them into my life. Understand it’s part of the process and the journey.

I’m disciplined on the roads and on the track. Now it’s time to stay disciplined when off them, too.

autumn travels

oh hello. It’s definitely been a little while! I’d like to partially ‘blame’ it on autumn: I told myself I’d take advantage of my favorite season, and not let the drab of nyc take away from the magic of fall. So I’ve gone away a few times to actually see the leaves in full-force. I’ve tried to unplug at night, and stick to reading (…or watching Breaking Bad) while my pine scented incense burns and I pretend I can’t hear the subway from my window. (So, I pretty much pretend I live in a cabin at night…not strange.) I’ve made two loaves of pumpkin bread and one awesome vegan pumpkin pie (greatist team approved!) and kiiind of countered it all with morning runs where the weather is absolutely perfect. 

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(thanks for the photo, tara!)

My first trip was up to the Adirondacks. I spent the long weekend with my parents in full-on relaxation mode. I spent a lot of downtime reading and writing, which balanced well with hikes up a few mountains, a trail run around the lake, and walks into town. I’m pretty sure it was peak foliage when we were up there — the leaves were absolutely stunning.

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I also meandered over to the little set of cabins we used to stay at as a kid. I walked out on the dock where I learned to fish. Memories. (Photos are circa 2013, 1994, respectively.)

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The following weekend, I went out east with my fam, Meg and her fam, and Becky. We went to pumpkin pick but I came home with zero pumpkins — it was kind of cold and rainy and we all got distracted by drinking wine. (Maybe that was just me.) We did avoid the $10 entry fee and break into the corn maze, though, and ate a fair share of apple cider donuts. It was a great day.

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To top it off, Nic and I escaped to her parents little house in Conesville, New York: Population 726. We did what we do best: build fires, sit around and read for hours, run/hike, do some nature yoga, and drink white russians. On our way back, we stopped at Storm King, a sculpture art garden that is literally, absolutely, gorgeous. Needless to say, it was hard to get us to trek back to the car and drive the 60 miles back to the city.

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Here’s to more fun adventures this fall! I have a trip to SF coming up, one (and possibly two) half-marathons in the next three weeks, and a trip up to New Hampshire for Thanksgiving with my family! And then…it’s Christmas. Yikes.

on boston

15 seconds faster, and I would have (barely) made it into the Boston Marathon.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really disappointed. I can’t help but think about how I could have made those seconds up at Eugene. (Remember that time you tied your shoe at mile 14? Or slugged up a “hill” at mile 23? Or when you decided not to kick ..at all.. for the last 400 meters?) 

sheer pain face. also, not running fast.

sheer pain face. also, not running fast.

I definitely regret my race strategy (or lack there of…) which is easier to say when it’s many months out from the race. I ran stupid. I ran off of emotions (I had just received news that my best friend was involved in a serious accident). I wanted to run fast. I wanted to run everything for my friend. And for my 16 weeks of training through a brutal winter. I went by heart.

…a heart that wasn’t up for 7:30’s for the first few miles. Or a 1:41 half. The second half of Eugene was downright painful. I hated the marathon and I desperately wanted to drop out. Running lost its vibrancy, which scared me more than anything.

And I know I’m capable of so much more: My training times don’t really reflect my marathon PR. And yeah, I still BQ’ed on my second attempt. I was happy with what I gave on the course; I literally left nothing out there. But the tricky thing about BQ’ing is it’s only half the battle. You can ‘qualify,’ but still not make the cut. Yeesh.

I’m also writing this exactly a year after running my first marathon at Wineglass, which makes it even more sentimental. I really wanted to experience not only qualifying and running Boston, but being there in 2014. The community will be stronger than ever, and the energy – I can only imagine. 

But with every bit of ‘sad’ news, there is something to learn from it. If anything, it’s sort of a blessing in disguise. My roommate explained that it is the ‘universe’ telling me I shouldn’t run. (The universe has yet to talk to me about any of this, so if you’re reading this, Universe, let’s get in touch.) 

More importantly though, not getting into Boston helped me realize that my days of 26.2 are not over. Being really disappointed was a sign that hey, I still want to do this. And I love this sport more than anything. And as much as I hate on long runs and ice baths and foam rolling and constant hunger, this is what makes it all kind of magical. 

And I do see the potential. I am young — 25 — and I have a lottt of time left to really reach my “peak.” (This article says elites shouldn’t run their best till 35…#theresstillhope.) I don’t race that often, so I still have a lot to learn. And I’ve been almost injury free, and have yet to feel burned out from 10+ years of running under my belt.

So here’s to 10+ years more. And to everyone who did get into Boston, I am so so happy for you all. And hopefully I will be there to cheer everyone on.

lately (II)

Here are some things I’ve been up to as of late. (Some way more exciting than others…)

Reading. I definitely go through phases where I read 17-million books in a row, and then take a hiatus from reading for a few months. It’s kind of weird. But I’m back on the book train and have been reading some fun ones: The Space Between Us (so sad but so beautiful), Orange is the New Black (annoying, liked the show better), The Marriage Plot (still reading, undecided), Under the Banner of Heaven (haven’t started), aaand The Lowland (Jhumpa Lahiri’s new novel [!!!], also haven’t started).

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Watching TV. The last TV show I actually watched was LOST, until…recently? I decided to watch Orange is the New Black, and then after hearing all this crazy talk about Breaking Bad, gave it a whirl this past week when I was sort-of sick/sort-of extremely exhausted (I camped out in bed for far longer than I wanted to). And..holy shit. Breaking Bad is terrifying. I keep having nightmares. I was running the other night and swore I heard gun shots. I’m never doing meth.

UnpluggingSoon I’ll be heading up to the Adirondacks to join my parents in Inlet, NY, the small town we vacationed at every summer growing up. I am a little more than eager to get out of the city and say hello to the fall, mountains, hiking trails, lakes, donuts, crisp air, friendly people, black bears, deer, etc etc. Below is a picture of me and my brother, super stoked to be in Cabin 2 — where we always stayed. I will be sure to thumbs-up this tiny cabin when I get up there. I might even wear purple.

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Personality test. I took the Myers Briggs personality test at a conference this past week and was stamped with INFP, which stands for Introvert, Intuitive, Feeler, and Perceiver. I agreed with a lot of things it says about me: flexible/laid back, does not like conflict, highly sensitive to people’s feelings/needs, excellent at establishing relationships, and not straightforward with others which can harbor resentment. I think it makes me sound a little too passive, though, and I didn’t agree with a lot of the career options. (I don’t want to be a rabbi in low-dogma faiths anytime soon.) Still, it was cool.

Two-year anniversary. Speaking of careers (love that segue, must be cause ima INFP) I celebrated my two-year anniversary at Greatist. Holy Shit. So much has happened. I wrote a blog post about my one-year ann, and its crazy to think how much has changed since then, too. Aaand to celebrate, a barber shop quartet came to sing to me during our happy hour. It was horrifying/hilarious (attention on me makes me want to vom) but it was delivered with love and appreciation and for that I am super grateful. Plus, one of my co-workers handed me a stiff drink as it happened. That helped. ❤ you all.

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Pumpkin waffles. I met Nicole in the park one day after work to write a to-list for fall. It’s my favorite season, and I can’t help but feel melancholy in NYC. It’s harder to experience autumn – you really have to make an effort – so we now have a long list of “autumn activities” we’ve been doing (either together or separately) to make sure we’re making the most of it. First up was pumpkin waffles for dinner. Sadly, they didn’t come out looking too hot (they were vegan, and we think waffle irons don’t like batter w/o eggs & dairy) but they were delicious. With slightly/very burned pumpkin waffles and maple syrup (with glass of warm cider on the side) it certainly felt like fall.

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