Grit.

grit-meme

Last week I finished a 10K and a half marathon. 19.3 miles in less than 36 hours with a broken foot. A fractured third metatarsal to be specific. I believe I re-broke it around mile 6 of the half marathon, when I started jogging to stay ahead of the people in last. I know for sure (judging by the pain) it was re-broken during a sprint at mile 9 and again at mile 11 to stay ahead of the sweepers (the people who take you off the course because you are not going fast enough)…I was about 90 seconds from my worst nightmare, being taken off the course because I was too slow. I just could not limp along fast enough. So I ground my teeth and I sprinted.

And I finished that half marathon.

But I wasn’t proud of it.

Wait. What?

Nope. I was not proud. I berated myself for being so stubborn that I would limp 19.3 miles, reinjuring my foot and not making the right decision, which was to quit. I should have quit. I had half a dozen blisters, shin pain, knee pain…all ramifications of limping for almost twenty miles. I had a scary moment later when I was laying on the bathroom floor, overcome with nausea from the pain. My perseverance had made me literally sick. An even scarier moment later when discussing the final hours of the race with my fellow runners and realizing just how out of my mind I was – I never realized it was hot. Never for one minute did I feel the heat or sun that everyone else was saying tormented them in the final miles. I don’t remember ever even thinking it was hot. And not because it wasn’t hot. So at the end of the weekend, I was mostly disappointed in myself for lacking the wisdom to know when to stop.

And here we are, a week later, and I’m ready to find some of the positives in this poor choice I made. I am impressed with my tenacity.  I am grateful to my dedication to training and cross training that kept me in shape (and many thanks to my friend Brian for his training ideas and rehab advice) enough to even walk 19 miles. I am no longer afraid of a marathon – I mean, I’m not signing up tomorrow…but I truly feel like if I could finish those races, I can do anything.

And thus the moral of this story: Grit. In psychology, grit is “a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.” It’s courage in the face of adversity. Resolve. Backbone. Pluck. Bravery. Spirit.

Grit is an awesome attribute to have. And I’ve got it.

And I know what that sounds like – it sounds like I’m bragging, and maybe I am? Or maybe I just have no problem owning both the positives and negatives of who I am. There is power in knowing your own strengths. And your own flaws. Grit is a double-edged sword that it took me until this weekend to see just how deep it can cut.

So my many thanks to Kate and Sarah Beth for their support and strength, but especially thanks for pushing me around in a wheelchair for a few days.  And I am so grateful to Josh, family, and friends who checked in on me and supported me throughout. It was a battle, and I survived, leaving with something much more precious than these medals – lessons learned.

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Now its time to put my feet up and rest and really heal – because I’m coming for you Glass Slipper Challenge 2017…and I’m going to run.

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Have you ever finished something and thought “I should have quit”?

Tell me about it in the comments!

International Travel Tips

August is here and summer travel season is coming to a close! I recently returned from two beautiful weeks exploring Istanbul, Greece, Malta and Italy and was inspired along the way to take a few notes on international travel. Obviously not all of these tips apply to every form of travel, or every place you’ll ever go, but they do apply in general and I wrote them to emphasize the difference in domestic and international travel. Please see below for some ideas on how to have a safe, happy international traveling experience.

International Travel Tips

1. STEP Up and Be Prepared

It didn’t matter how many times I told Josh that I would be fine in Turkey, he was very nervous about my trip. So of course he had to be proven correct and we were in the country on the day of the military coup.  We ended up getting out of Istanbul safely and quickly, but I had been prepared in case of such an emergency. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service that allows Americans to register with the nearest embassy while traveling abroad, before even leaving the U.S. The program updates you on security risks and threats, as well as provides the embassy with both your contact and your emergency contact’s information in case of an emergency. Sign up for it once, and then just add any travel plans to your account in the future. I signed up before my trip and it was very easy and reassuring to know the embassy knew exactly where we were and what our travel plans were, as well as how to contact Josh if something was to happen.

I will never stop traveling, there is still so much to see out there in this beautiful, diverse world and I endeavor to see as much of it as I possibly can… But rest assured, I am also going to take every precaution and will always take my plans and safety very seriously.

2. Pack Your Patience

If you travel to Europe in the summer, you are going to stand in more lines than Disney World. In July. On a Saturday.* You’ll stand in Passport Control and Customs and at tourist attractions and subway platforms and taxi stands and…well, you get the idea.  Any traveling requires patience, but traveling internationally requires an extra dose of patience as you fumble your way through foreign languages and unknown cities. Everything seems a little more complicated and a lot more frustrating when you aren’t sure where you are going and you’re out of your element. But that’s exactly why you’re traveling to the unknown! The adventure!

So put on your Patience Hat and try to relax…you’re on an adventure.

3. Maps (I know, actual hold-in-your-hand maps)

Remember maps? We used to have them if we went somewhere that we’ve never been and used them to navigate? Well bust them out if you’re going abroad, even if you have an international data plan but especially if you do not! We’ve almost become conditioned to just depend on our smart phones, but its a good idea to have an actual map if you are in a foreign country dealing with a language barrier. I had a map in my hand throughout most of Istanbul, Athens and Rome and it saved us a few times when someone’s phone wasn’t working or Google Maps was on the fritz. And I am proud to say I didn’t get us lost once! I like these Frommer’s Day By Day books because they give some ideas on what to see in a city, as well as have a convenient pull-out map in a pocket in the back.

I have quite the collection...

I have quite the collection…

4. Try New Things

Listen, I am all for enjoying the comforts of home…but remember, you’re not home. And presumably you left home for a reason. So logic dictates that maybe you should try some new things while you’re out exploring the world. You don’t have to try lamb innards in Sicily, but stepping out of your comfort zone is a great way to experience a new culture and give you a good story to tell when you get back home! We even made sure to check out the McDonald’s menu in each country, if only to compare it to home and see what was considered local fast food. It was fascinating.

lamb guts

Lamb brains, intestines, etc. Tasted like pork.               Sign me up, MTV’s The Challenge!

5. Understanding

Nothing teaches you how to be more understanding than adjusting to other cultures. Small things such as European air conditioning (not nearly as powerful as ours here in the South, FYI) can become big things if you let them. Adjusting to customs such as a store being closed from 1-3, or a city basically shutting down on a Monday, can be difficult adjustments for those of us stuck in our American ways. But again, you have presumably left your circle of the world to see someone else’s – adjust your expectations, take a deep breath, and enjoy it. You’ll be home to your Normal and missing the stunning shores of Greece before you know it!

6. Be Ready to Have Your Outlook Changed (and let it)

Believe it or not, the rest of the world does not revolve around the United States. I know, I just blew your mind. But I think as a nation we tend to have a very U.S.-centric mindset and I believe it holds us back as a culture. Traveling internationally exposes you to so many new sights and sounds – but it also can expose your ignorance and biases, if you let it. It is much easier to say “Nope, we don’t want your refugees” while sitting at home…and an entirely different experience to watch them line up at the Athens docks, waiting to escape their war-torn country with children and everything they own in the entire world in their hands. It may not change your mindset, but it will give you a level of understanding you simply could not achieve from your couch. Or seeing soldiers with automatic weapons walking the streets in droves and feeling an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that we live in the United States and are not experiencing military coups (insert Donald Trump presidency “that’s an inevitability” joke here) or a police state. I am so lucky to be an American, and nothing hammers that point home quite like exposing my heart and mind to different cultures and countries.

everywhere meme

Alright, that sums it up for now! I know I’ll never be done traveling or learning, so I presume I may need to come back and update this list as time goes on. In the mean time, I encourage you all to travel and join me in a life filled with new experiences, cultural awareness, and adventure!

Do you have any tips for international travel? Any trips planned? What’s on your Travel Bucket List?

 

 

*Don’t go to Disney World in July. That’s just good advice.

Disney World Planning Tips

disney meme

As a frequent Disney World guest, I often get asked for tips on how to plan a trip to The World and decided it was time to put it all in one place. Now, this is very much a starter session in planning and covers the basics – the idea is to answer this question:

“Ok, I want to plan a trip to Disney World – where do I start?”

1. Do Your Research

Well, you’re here, so you’re off to a good start! The first thing I say to anyone that is planning a trip to Disney World is “do your research.” Sometimes these trips are once in a lifetime, sometimes they’re once a year – do you really want to spend it waiting in a line you could have avoided or being miserable because you’re starving? Disney is known for their customer service and they’ll certainly do everything they can to accommodate you but there are limits to everything (see #4, dining reservations). Look at park maps, become familiar with your hotel choice, decide what attractions are “must see”… all of this before you even go!

2. Hotel

Since you’ve done all your research now, you know that staying onsite at a Disney hotel comes with a few unbeatable perks:

  • Extra Magic Hours – early entry or late stay at the theme parks
  • Transportation – free bus, monorail and boat system … If you stay offsite, be prepared to spend $17/day to park
  • Fast Pass Plus bookings – you can book your Fast Passes 60 days in advance, rather than 30 days you get when staying offsite
  • Magic Express – shuttle to and from the airport, complete with luggage delivery to your hotel room
  • Immersion in the Disney bubble – your hotel is themed and you never need to leave the magic!
  • Convenience – staying onsite allows for parties to more easily split up for scheduling around the needs for different family members – Dad can hop a shuttle and go back to the hotel with the baby for the afternoon nap while Mom takes the older kids on Space Mountain.

Can offsite be cheaper? Can it be more appropriate for your family if you have different needs? Absolutely. But be sure to add up all the extra costs and consider the importance of convenience.

Goofing around at Value Resort Pop Century - features a giant foosball table! Starts at $95/night in off season.

Goofing around at Pop Century – the hotel features a giant foosball table! It is considered a Value Resort and starts at under $100/night in the off season!

3. Park Tickets

Tickets are sold in both day passes and multiple days and of course the more days you stay, the cheaper the extra days get. Currently, one day will cost you $105…but two days is $192.  The price per day starts to significantly drop after 4 days – a 5 day ticket works out to be $63/day, or $315 total. So what you’re saying is Disney wants you to stay longer and buy more Mickey Pretzels? *gasp* Yes.

3b. You can add a “Park Hopper” option to your ticket for anywhere from $50 (1 day) to $65 (5+days) so you can go into more than one park in a day. If you do not add this option, you cannot go into both Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom in the same day on one ticket. Park hopping is a personal preference, but with the introduction of Fast Pass Plus, I have found that it is often not worth the money for ME. But you and your family may love hopping around and just doing a few rides or attractions before moving to a different park. Or if you are only at Disney for a few days, park hopping is the best way to squeeze more into your trip. Plan out your days and go from there to decide whether it is necessary.

4. Dining Reservations

It is a rare day that you can walk up to a sit down (table service, in Disney World lingo) restaurant in Disney World and eat a meal without waiting. In all the times I have gone, I can count on one hand the times in the last five years that I have been able to quickly get a table at a restaurant in the parks without a reservation, and all those occasions felt like miracles. There is an online reservation system as well as a phone number that makes it easy, and you can do it 180 days out from your hotel reservation. And 180 days is necessary if you are going during a peak time, or if you are trying to get one of the high demand restaurants (Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, etc).

I cannot stress this enough: Make reservations. The LAST thing you want is a hungry toddler (or a hangry mother) and nowhere to sit down, enjoy some air conditioning and relax with some Mickey-shaped food. Nothing ruins vacations faster than being hungry.

Mickey-shaped food tastes better. #fact

Mickey-shaped food tastes better. #fact

5. Fast Pass Plus

SIGH. I don’t love the recent changes and can probably write an entire list of what I dislike about it the new program, but I’ll stick to the facts for now:

  • Fast Pass Plus allows you to reserve attractions and entertainment in advance. For instance, you can book a Fast Pass for Space Mountain and you will get a window of time in which you need to report to Space Mountain, skip the regular (stand by, in Disney lingo) line and ride.
  • Or you can book a Fast Pass for the parade, and you get seats within a small cordoned off area where you can see the parade and not be continuously and purposely nudged by  a stroller in the back because you’re 30 and maybe it’s as important to you to see as it is the toddler and the toddler’s Mom is resentful that you thought to get your spot on the sidewalk 35 minutes before she strolled over.
  • Guests are limited to three pre-chosen fast passes per day and can only be used in one park. One additional Fast Pass can be booked AFTER you have used up all three of your fast passes. You can book your Fast Passes online, on the My Disney Experience app, or in the park on the day of your visit.
  • Even though I have found several problems with the Fast Pass Plus system, using it is an absolute must and be sure to book them before you arrive.

6. MagicBands

MagicBands are Disney’s version of the ultimate Key to the Kingdom. Your MagicBand is your park ticket, hotel key, Fast Pass Plus reservations, Disney Dining plan, and you can even link a credit card and pin to it so you don’t have to carry anything into the parks. You can program a pin when you get there for the credit card, but don’t worry – the actual band contains no personal information – it has an RFID chip inside. You will get to choose your MagicBand color when you book your onsite hotel and it will be shipped to you for free before your vacation – otherwise you can purchase a MagicBand in the park if you would like to.

My yellow MagicBand, self-decorated with a Sharpie to support my Bruins!

My yellow MagicBand, self-decorated with a Sharpie to support my Bruins!

7. Packing

It occurs to me as a write this that I should probably also do a list on what I personally pack for a Disney vacation. But I’ll give you the basics:

  • At least two pairs of comfortable, worn-in shoes: You’ll be on your feet more than usual and your feet will thank me when you are able to switch up the footwear. I routinely walk 15,000 steps in a Disney day.
  • Rain gear: If you want to buy a quality $10 Mickey poncho at the park for the inevitable afternoon shower or water ride, knock yourself out. I’ll be buying several from the dollar store that I can immediately throw away after the shower ends and I’m walking around in a portable sauna. Have you ever tried folding up a wet poncho? Buy one you don’t mind tossing after Splash Mountain.
  • Gum: If gum is a must, then pack your own. It isn’t sold at Disney because gum on the ground is so not magical. Which reminds me – don’t throw your gum on the ground. It isn’t magical at Disney or in the parking lot when I step on it and curse your inconsiderate existence.
  • Food: Yup, you can bring it into the parks. No glass containers or alcohol or the normal no-nos…but you absolutely can bring in your kid’s Goldfish and make them happy.
Dole Whip with Rum...in the rain...in my $1 poncho.

Cheers! Dole Whip with Rum…in the rain…in my $1 poncho.

8. Be Prepaaaarrrrreeed.

I know. I already told you to do your research. But it feels right to start AND end this list with that sentiment. If there is one thing you take from this post, it is that you absolutely cannot expect to “just wing it” at Disney World and still have a magical time. Every moment you spend planning will be worth it when you have those park maps memorized, a lovely buffet lunch with Mickey and you’re skipping to the head of the line with your Fast Pass.

Here are some blogs and sites that I have found helpful in the planning process:

Pin this image to share my list!

Pin this image to share my list!

And my final thought –

Remember the importance of expectations and what it means to be on vacation. You will not fit everything in on one visit. Absolutely impossible. Prioritize and plan accordingly so that you can have a fun, relaxed trip!

What’s your number one Disney Planning tip? Have a trip to Disney World planned soon or know someone planning one? Share this list!

 

**All prices quoted for tickets and parking are subject to change**

Hello world!

Oh, Hello there!

Welcome to my corner of the internet. I am going to be entertaining the masses with my lists (about anything and everything), as well as snippets and recaps from my life. I am going to kick off my blog with a list of things that will eventually end up in the About Me section.

1. I’m a 30 year old who loves to make lists. I made a list once of the lists I needed to make. I don’t understand how people manage without them. Oh, and I like to laugh and live my life to the fullest, hence the blog title.

2. I have a husband who is better than most. He makes me laugh, saves the good bite of the sandwich for me, and listens to me about 2/3rds of the time….which is really an excellent percentage, given how often I talk.

3. I am a Northern girl, living in a Southern world and still trying to adjust after over a decade. I have zero appreciation for sweet tea, the Confederate flag or grits. I have, however, wholeheartedly embraced flip flops in February, Chick-Fil-A and the actual use of the phrase “bless your heart.” I currently live in rural Virginia and my experiences adjusting to farm life have managed to entertain many of my friends and family.

4. I love sports with a passion that is equaled by few and surpassed by no one I’ve ever met. I love the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots and Celtics…but the reality is I love watching sports because sometimes the impossible becomes possible. I’ve been known to fill our DVR with 190 hours of Olympic coverage every two years, watch the Little League World Series like my own child is the starting pitcher, and have a library of over 100 different sports books on everything from the knuckleball to the impact of soccer on global politics.

5. I love to read almost as much as I love sports. I read everything – fiction, nonfiction, science fiction, young adult fiction, mystery, fantasy, politics. One of my biggest soapboxes I tend to shout about is that people don’t read enough and that they’ll “just wait for the movie.” It was a book first. Read the book. The book is better. Trust me.

Grumpy Cat meme

6. I am a runner, in the sense that a mile is a mile is a mile, no matter how fast you go. I really don’t like running, but I like sitting down after running. And I like the sense of accomplishment I get from running. In order to keep up my running, I sign up for races – 95% of which are RunDisney races because…as I mentioned…I don’t like running. So if I am running, Mickey better be there to greet me at the finish line and I better be able to get a Dole Whip and a Mickey pretzel after I’m done.

7. Traveling is my favorite thing to do besides watching sports and reading. I love a good adventure and seeing new places and cultures and trying new things. I try to combine my passions by visiting baseball stadiums (16 down) and insisted on visiting the New York Public Library during my bachelorette party. To me, not traveling and seeing the world is synonymous with opening a book and only reading one chapter. I have to explore. And I love sending post cards to my friends and family…just like my favorite Fraggle.

fraggle

8. I like being organized. Remember Caboodles? They appealed nicely to my obsessive compulsive disorder – a place for everything and everything in its place. 57 compartments filled with scrunchies, Lip Smackers and slap bracelets. Nothing wrong with that. My cousin gave me one as a gift a few years ago and it might be the best gift I’ve ever gotten that I already got once as a child and wanted again as an adult. It’s filled with scrapbooking supplies now. Nothing wrong with that either.

9. I don’t really have OCD – I am blatantly misusing the term in hopes of defining my need for control and organization in a more socially acceptable way. Sort of like when you’re on a job interview and they ask you to name your biggest weakness and you obviously reply with something that could be a strength on your application to work at The Container Store – “I hate when things are out of place.” <hangs head in shame>

Organized

10. I am a certified cat lady. I have two cats, Nomar and Pesky, and if you are my friend on Facebook, you see them on a daily basis. I catalogue and photograph their lives like they are my children. I love dogs too, we just travel too much to have one right now.  I am an equal opportunity lover of furbabies, especially cute ones.

Look at that. Ten things about me. Ten feels right. But don’t get too attached – my lists will be as inconsistent as our current Spring weather. Sometimes I will have ten things to say…sometimes I will have four…and I won’t be using any filler paragraphs like I’m writing an English 101 final essay.

Any list topics you just can’t wait for me to talk about? Suggestions?