new year, new resolution

After watching Frontline‘s “Gunned Down this afternoon, I found myself considering the power of this programming.It is fascinating and engrossing educational television. These films consistently educate and inspire. I really marvel at the skilled and powerful storytelling in these productions.

While watching this film I bounced between profound sorrow at the loss of life our country has suffered from gun violence and an exasperated frustration at the distortion of the Constitution and the manipulation of our political system. The final result of which is a motivation to do something.

I miss feeling like that. Throughout my teens and twenties, I often felt empowered and driven to affect change through political channels. My first post-college campaign job disabused me of that desire, and I gave up far too easily for the easier working world. I have grown more complacent with each passing year, to the point that I realize I now consider it a chore to vote!

This is all a wordy way of getting to the point – I have so genuinely enjoyed this last week of immersion in WGBH productions. Watching Masterpiece‘s “Downton Abbey” season premiere was an entirely joyful experience. I had the pleasure of watching Antiques Roadshow with no work distractions and was so delighted with experiencing the show as a fan again, discovering those splashes of history and art. And watching Frontline this afternoon rounded out the full experience by challenging me.

I am about the luckiest girl in the world right now, working for an organization that produces some of the best of television – programming that educates, entertains, and inspires. I am at an organization that reflects my values, and, if I allow it, will strengthen and reinforce my embodiment of those values.

Note that I love New Year’s resolutions. I think they are fantastic – year-long goals that can drive real change in life, or serve for an interesting personal project; whatever you desire, they are that. And this year, I just could not think of any new and interesting intentions to work into a resolution.

But now I have one!

This year, I will watch all of the programming WGBH creates through its national programming: Masterpiece, American Experience, Frontline, Novaand Antiques Roadshow.

I often let myself off the hook here with the argument that I’m skipping television viewing for something else – the gym, reading, dinner with friends, etc. But the truth is I always make up that time on the weekend. It’s not important that I re-watch all of New Girl, as delightful as it is. It is important that I keep learning and discovering and enjoying the best that television has to offer.

So – yes, amusingly, my New Year’s resolution is to watch more television.

a year in review 2014

january. I returned from my holiday vacation with one determination: to ramp up my grit and get through my work days. Things were not going well with the job that brought me to Boston, but I came back fresh and resolved to be positive at work and simultaneously start looking for my next move. Two weeks later, I was laid off from that job. Life has a funny way of giving you exactly what you need.

Things I loved in January: I took a leap of faith and signed up for a half-marathon.
Books I read and loved in January: The Interestings

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february. Or the first month of “recovery.” This was my first layoff. The first time I’d been asked to leave a job, for any reason. I had a few interviews, went to a lot of midday yoga classes, spent a weekend dog-sitting Wingman (the best!), and generally just tried to deal with my new reality.

Things I loved in February: The Olympics!, #gobooksorgohome book club

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march. Still unemployed, I began really training for the half-marathon, trying new (local, organic) vegetables in my cooking (and cooking more often), and just generally trying to survive the last gasp of winter. I splurged on a viewing of the Veronica Mars movie. More resumes, more interviews, no luck.

Things I loved in March: Meeting Sarah Kay and awkwardly (but bravely!) telling her just how important her work has been in my life.

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april. Despite continued unemployment, my birthday month was such a spectacular few weeks this year. I celebrated my 32nd birthday with close friends at dinner, a warmly lit and warmly felt evening. A week later, I cheered on a few friends at the Boston Marathon and more deeply understood what it means to have “grit.” 

Things I loved in April: the all-night dance party at the Chromeo concert (thanks, Shannon!)

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may. I traveled to Wisconsin to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day – totally worked! As the month ended, it was clear that I wasn’t going to have a new job very soon, so I let my lease expire, put my things in storage and headed out to travel with a small suitcase and a backpack.

Things I loved in May: I ran a half-marathon!
Books I read and loved in May: We Were Liars, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Luminaries

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june. Adventure: a long weekend in Maine, a few days in San Francisco, a month in Mount Shasta, and a family vacation in the Midwest. Bus rides, longer train rides, several flights scheduled as the trip unfolded. I cooked, I hiked, I read more books. I interviewed more and took an online class. I met great new people and forged deeper friendships. 

Things I loved in June: Hiking with Anna (#worthit), hiking alone once — how did Cheryl Strayed do it?!
Books I read and loved in June: Vivian Versus the Apocalypse, Everything Leads to You, Americanah

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july. I left Mount Shasta too early, but needing to get to the Midwest for a family vacation. Three early, solo days in St. Louis brought me baseball games, an art museum, a day of eating down a trendy street, and a 5k. A glorious week at the lake and a whirlwind 24 hours in Chicago flew by and I arrived back in Boston to an exciting job interview.

Things I loved in July: My first jury duty – not selected!
Books I read and loved in July: Longbourn, The Sound of Things Falling

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august. I have a new job, but no home. Once again the lucky girl I am, I spent the month house and pet sitting for various friends on vacations while looking for an apartment. 

Things I loved in August: This one perfect movie night in the park; new job new job new job!
Books I read and loved in August: Making Masterpiece, finished Tiny Beautiful Things

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september. I mean… I don’t know… I barely remember, between moving and being a month into a new job, anything about September other than being tired and overwhelmed a lot.

Things I loved in September: I went on this one great hike, and got this one great hair cut. (Yeah… that does stand out that much.)
Books I read and loved in September: Radical

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october. The fall was really just about working and trying to settle into my new apartment. Living in a city neighborhood again was great, but things just weren’t clicking easily. I think I spent most of the month wishing I had a dog and looking up adoptable puppies after work. 

Things I loved in October: Being on the periphery of Rocktober again!
Books I read and loved in October: Brown Girl Dreaming

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november. And now into the holiday season, things started picking up. I launched my first product at work (lots of late nights). I spent Thanksgiving at a wonderful dinner with friends.

Things I loved in November: Hanging out at the Markey and Healy election night parties!

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december. Ah, December, my favorite month. I spent an entire week around the Christmas holiday in Wisconsin with my family and it was absolutely perfect. So much time with my nieces and nephew, listening to Serial while working on crafty gifts, traditional trip to a family movie (every other year it’s a musical). Despite being terribly sick on Christmas Day, it was an ideal holiday trip.

Things I loved in December: What a stellar work holiday party!
Books I read and loved in December: Wild (re-read)

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What have I learned this year?

I read something earlier this year that lingers in my mind: If it’s both terrifying and amazing, then you should definitely pursue it. The latter half of the year has been so different than the first six months, and both brought new challenges.

The terrifying and amazing things I tackled: running a half-marathon, being patient with my job search to find the right thing, traveling around the country and returning to Boston with no solid plans (the scariest!).

When thinking about resolutions for 2015, I initially thought I wanted to structure some goals around a theme: Be brave. But, in writing this and really thinking over the last year, I actually feel pretty good about my level of bravery. I say yes to a lot of opportunities. This year brought more “opportunities” that I think one year really needs, but I met most of them head on, and I’ll mark that down as a success.

To another great year!

An Austen Autumn is Here!

Well, it’s fall.

It’s true, I say fall instead of autumn. Though I do so love the adjective autumnal.

So, two years ago, I launched this website-blog with my first three-month project: Summer of Austen. Over that summer, I embarked on immersing myself in Austen’s works. I also ended up with a severe stress fracture which took me out of dance classes. I interviewed and accepted a new job, setting in motion my move to the East Coast.

It was not a quiet summer.

Like then, this summer was not quiet. I embraced my unemployment, put my belongings in storage, and headed out to California with a backpack and a suitcase. I wavered between a creeping panic with quiet waves of desperation and complete elation at how undeniably free I was. Predictably, once I relaxed into my routine of working in the morning, reading all day, and hanging out with AVH at night, I sent in a resume that would set me back on my path in Boston.

And so I’m back in Boston, somewhat settled into a new apartment in a very “city” neighborhood, and even more settled into my new job. And I find that with all the new, with all this busy, I’m looking for something quiet to anchor my routine. As I haven’t yet figured out how to make my favorite yoga class fit into my schedule, I am drawn to another Austen immersion.

It’s #AnAustenAutumn then and first up is Northanger Abbey.

Week of 9/22: Part I
Week of 9/29: Part II + Masterpiece adaptation
Week of 10/6: Val McDermid’s Northanger Abbey + Google Hangout

I am hoping to incorporate some more community this time around, and to do so, I’ll strive to plan further in advance for everyone. With six books to read in three months, I won’t be able to give 3 weeks to each book, and I surely don’t expect everyone to participate in all of this. I hope you’ll join me for your favorite Austen readings, or for a new reading!

Who’s reading Northanger Abbey with me? What book sessions are you most excited for?

Check off all the “sessions” you’re interested in and I’ll be sure highlight updates for you. Dates are tentative but generally that should work out alright.

Half-Marathon Recap: The Music

I have weird rules for when I will listen to music while running.

  • If the run is 5k or less: no music.
  • If the run is 10k or less and outside: no music.
  • If the run is 10k or less and on a treadmill: a podcast or tv show/movie.
  • If the run is longer than 10k: music!

It’s all about focus. If I’m out for a short run, the music is a negative distraction. I want to concentrate on the run and push myself. Those mid-range runs require some distraction when on a treadmill, but I still find the music a nuisance. I’ve been having some luck with podcasts (Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!) and movies (last month, my gym was showing Pride and Prejudice, swoon). Baseball, football, and hockey games are also good on the treadmill.

As I got into the longer distances while training for the half-marathon, though, music shifted and served a different purpose. It became background noise that I could tune into at will and then easily push back again. Because it was a long, slow and steady run, I didn’t need constant energy from the music, but it was really nice to have it when I wanted it.

Over the last several weeks, I cultivated a nearly perfect running playlist. I was looking forward to just hitting shuffle and then reviewing my Spotify history afterwards to review and annotate my “half-marathon playlist.” How fun it was going to be to list out those songs and times and match that up against my RunKeeper race data!

Of course, Spotify has removed this feature from their Android app. All I can do now is cherry-pick a few songs I remember and highlight some of my favorites. (You can find the full playlist here.)

  • “Wake Me Up” has been on my running playlists for several months. The pickups in the chorus are excellent for sprinting intervals.
  • “Wonderland” is just an incredibly fun song and Natalia Kills is awesome.
  • “I Want it All” is basically my “song of the summer” and always provides an extra burst of energy.
  • “XO” is ridiculously slow for a running playlist but I happen to be a slow runner and I love this song.
  • “Turn Down for What” is a terrible song that was playing before JCB and I started our 5k race in April so it injects good memories into the run.
  • “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” is, I hear, a contender for “song of the summer” but mostly it’s super catchy, fun, and I had a great time at the concert. It was super to have this push me through the second trip over the Mass Ave bridge.
  • “Lo Hecho Está Hecho” has an amazing beat and Shakira is a goddess. This song also reminds me of Zi-Cardio at MaZi Dance Fitness and makes me smile.
  • Lorde’s “Ribs” is also terribly slow for running, but it just works for me.
  • “Stronger – A-Trak Remix” is basically the most perfect remix of this song possible and I could probably just run to this on loop for three hours.
  • I put Whitney’s “How Will I Know” on this list on a whim and it paid off big time. It came on around mile 10 and it was such a fun song to have, totally put me in a different head space.
  • Beyonce’s “Countdown” was, completely by chance, playing as I sprinted to the finish line. I couldn’t have planned that better, if I had planned it!

I am going to try to embrace music on my tempo runs more often. It was really fun to have it and I think it would be nice if I could find a way to have that option more often. So, I’m building a summer 5k training playlist. What do you suggest I put on it?