One New Yorker’s guide to the cheerios and peanut butter diet

Hey friends!

Remember how I used to live in NYC?

For today’s “Memory Monday,” I figured I’d tell you a little bit about that time a million years ago when I was a New Yorker.

After graduating from college, I started a paid internship in Times Square with Edelman PR firm. Having recently completed a bachelor’s degree in Biology, I had plenty of science courses under my belt, but zero training in PR. I remember literally googling “what is public relations”…lol!

My first NY apartment was a small [read: microscopic] place in Queen. My then-boyfriend-now-husband, Joel, and I rented a small truck, packed it with my stuff, and drove from Pennsylvania to New York.

After we unloaded and returned the truck, we decided to eat at one of the neighborhood restaurants. I remember that despite our boisterous server, I was feeling very sad that day. We were saying our goodbyes. You see, Joel had accepted a job in Texas, and it would be a while before we saw each other again. Texas never felt so far away.

My internship started the very next day. It was fun meeting the other interns and learning more about PR. There were lots of intern lunches and happy hours, and we all bonded quickly. The hardest part about that internship was knowing it was temporary. All of us interns were hopeful to be hired on at Edelman full time, but only 1 or 2 received the honor. I wasn’t one of them.

When my internship ended, I started a PR job at Rx Mosaic Health in the Grand Central area. By this time, I had moved to a studio apartment on Staten Island. The commute from Staten Island was longer, but the cheaper spacious living arrangement enabled me to save a bit more money.

My commute from Staten Island to Manhattan involved the train, ferry, and subway. It took 2 hours each way. While it was fine for a short while, I can honestly say it would take very desperate times indeed before I would ever willingly sign up for such a commute again. I can think of better ways to spend 4 hours every day than to sit in New York transit. 🙂

One of the things I never quite figured out was the food situation. Staten Island, at least the part where I lived, is not very pedestrian-friendly. The closest grocery store was over a mile away and sidewalks were not consistently present. It was actually easier to go to a corner mart in the city after work. This meant carrying groceries for 2 hours during the journey home.

I didn’t buy things like milk because I worried about it spoiling or “getting gross” in a hot subway/train. Plus, it’s quite heavy. I also didn’t buy much in the way of food I’d have to cook, because I didn’t own pots, pans, or even plates/utensils with which to prepare or eat it with. The only edible items I kept in the apartment were cheerios and peanut butter, both of which I consumed with a plastic spoon.

If you think I was woefully unprepared for living alone, you my friend are correct.

Now that I’m in my mid-30’s I cannot help but shake my head when I think about that time of my life. I still don’t know how I survived on cheerios and peanut butter!? Goodness, young Dawn, what were you thinking.

Despite that, I made a few friends on Staten Island, two of whom were Lily and Deena (not their real names). The 3 of us hung out almost every weekend. One weekend, Deena thought it would be fun to paint the walls in my apartment. I eagerly agreed. Yes!

True to my naivete, I had never painted walls before, and didn’t realize what a task it could be. But we were in good spirits, and of course, with the right combination of youth, hard cider, and free time, something was going to get painted…it might as well be the walls.

Deena was the only one of the 3 of us to have her own car, and she drove us to the nearest Home Depot. We browsed paint swatches for a long while, selecting several shades of red that we collectively approved.

Side note: Why we decided on a red that was the exact color of blood is beyond me.

Side side note: I’ve seen red walls in various settings over the years, and willingly acquiesce that red can be beautiful. However (spoiler alert), it was decidedly not beautiful on my studio apartment’s walls, and instead leaned more towards the “murder scene” end of the spectrum.

The entire task of painting walls was far more expensive and time consuming than my 21-year-old self imagined. We needed several cans of paint, paint brushes, paint rollers, paint trays, painting tape… before I knew it, I had spent more than I expected. But it was too late to turn back now, and those walls weren’t going to paint themselves!

The job took the 3 of us the entire weekend and a few hard ciders to complete. By the time we were done, we were each peppered with gory-looking red spots, and thoroughly sick of painting. My white shorts (who wears white shorts when dealing with red paint!?) looked like I had been in a fight and barely escaped with my life.

The walls could have done with another coat, as the red was slightly streaky in some areas. But we couldn’t bear the thought of buying another can of paint and doing more painting.

But I’d have to say, overall if the lights were dimmed, the walls looked…decent. It wasn’t the worst paint-job in the world, or maybe it was, I don’t know. 🙂 The ceiling and floor did not escape the carnage –> due to hasty rolling, there were red spots speckling the ceiling and floor…a scene somewhat bloody for my taste.

All in all, I’d say that my stint in NYC was a real eye-opener. It was a lot of fun, but also a little bit of a disaster. I learned a lot in that time! And have done a lot more growing up since. Oh, and I still do like cheerios and peanut butter, but prefer not to eat either of them anywhere NEAR as a frequently as when I was a New Yorker.

Have you ever been to New York City? What’s one thing your younger self did that makes you cringe? 

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How to track running mileage to maximize marathon training

If you geek out over numbers, you’re gonna LURV this.

Let’s talk about tracking workouts. Do you do it…or nah?

For most of my running life, I did not keep a log of any kind. Mainly because I didn’t know it was even a thing. However, when I realized the benefits of a running log, and how much fun it is, I started tracking every single mile. I haven’t stopped.

A log doesn’t have to be fancy or technical; many major runners from past decades used a simple notebook. The point is just to keep a record of your running so that you have a way of understanding trends or patterns, as well as a way to see progress!

There is a ton of helpful information out there from more accomplished and knowledgeable runners than myself. Here’s a great resource for keeping a running log, and another one discussing the power of a running log.

For me, the tools that I have found most useful for tracking my miles are my Garmin watch and my Google Doc spreadsheet.

After I’m done running, my watch sends the workout data via wifi to the online Garmin platform where I can easily view it from my phone or computer. My watch is a couple years old, so it doesn’t do everything the fancier models do, like heart-rate monitoring, but it gives me all the data I need and more.

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The above is what my 12×400 intervals looked like (more on that workout here). Look, it looks like waves in the ocean 🙂 Each bump is “speed” — there are only 11 bumps, but I ran 12. There’s something really satisfying about the visual evidence of hard work.

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That time I ran a marathon in the rain

The above is what my GPS tracker looked like after my second marathon. It was one of the more miserable days of my life haha. Firstly, see that cute little cloud in the top right corner?… yep, it rained the entire time. Secondly, I was freezing for the second half of the race due to intense wind coming in from the water. Thirdly, everything on me was completely soaked, including my shoes, leading to the weirdest running mishap ever. My shoe insert came loose and folded itself in half, inside my shoe! I had to stop multiple times in the last 6 miles to remove my whole shoe and unfold the insert. And fourthly, being soaked meant I had the worst chafing I have ever experienced in my life. Sure, I applied body glide to the usual hotspots (lookin at you inner thigh), but a thousand warriors could not have saved me from the ring of chafing around my NECK from my shirt! Just thinking about that day makes me cringe.

But I digress…

In addition to Garmin data, I like to also record some key data in my Google Doc spreadsheet. I have columns for each of the following:

  • Date. I like this format: 011217 instead of Jan 12th 2017. I have data going back years.
  • Workout type. Tempo, intervals, long, or easy, I always record what I did. For example, “6m easy” means I ran 6 miles at easy pace. And “7m (12×400)” means that I ran twelve 400 meter sprints, each followed by a recovery jog, covering a total distance of 7 miles – with warmup and cooldown included.
  • Splits. The Garmin data comes in handy for keeping track of paces and splits. I just copy these from the Garmin site to the spreadsheet. I put any fast miles or speed intervals in bold so that they stand out from the easy/recovery miles. This way, it’s easy to quickly get a visual of how much speed I’m doing each week, and also easy to see progress over time with a quick scroll.
  • Duration. How long the workout took. I like this notation for anything over an hour “1:05:34”, and this notation for workouts less than an hour long “0:53:20”. This way, all the times look “uniform” in the column.
  • Shoe miles. I track the number of miles I run in any given pair of shoes. I have noticed that I am more injury prone if I don’t switch out my shoes after 400 miles or so.
  • Comments. This is a column I use to note anything of relevance. For example, I record whether I skipped a planned workout due to fatigue, travel, or injury.
  • Weekly mileage. It’s helpful to see how many miles I run in any given week. When building mileage, I’ve seen reputable running sites recommend increasing mileage by no more than 10% per week. Additionally, if I have too many weeks of high mileage in a row, I try to take a “cutback” week of lower mileage. This helps to prevent injury by letting my body recover from #allthemiles.
  • Monthly and Yearly mileage. I have columns for these, but I rarely look at them unless I have a specific goal. For example, my goal last year was to run 2,016 miles in 2016. I was on track until about August when the wheels came off. Spoiler alert, I didn’t meet my goal. -_-

It’s really not too difficult to get a spreadsheet set up like this. Once you have your formulas in place to populate things like weekly/monthly/yearly mileage, you are set.

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exhibit A (not real numbers)

Above is an example of what one week in the log might look like (minus the monthly/yearly mileage column). The paces/splits aren’t real as this is just for illustration purposes.

I should also note that I originally started my log in Microsoft Excel, but switched to Google Docs because it was more convenient to view from my phone or any device connected to the internet.

One of my favorite things about keeping a running log is being able to look back and seeing progress. Knowing you just crushed a workout that you couldn’t have done last month is a pretty great feeling.

It’s also pretty cool when all these memories come flooding back when you look at data from a particular workout… although I suppose some memories aren’t as pretty, case in point, my marathon situation above!

Do you keep track of your workouts? Have you ever run in the rain? 

A story about a roach’s dinner

Welcome to this week’s “Storytime Saturday.”

If you’re interested, you can also check out my previous installments: a poem called “The Knight’s Rose” and a poem about Mount. Kilimanjaro. 🙂

Today’s story is about a cockroach looking for dinner in a recently-cleaned kitchen. Now, I know most of us don’t like roaches. They are pests, ew! …which is why I thought it would be an interesting challenge to attempt to write her (the roach) in a way that didn’t villainize her. 

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— The Roach’s Dinner — 

She skittered hastily across the glossy tiles in the darkened kitchen. Moonlight peeked through the window, reflecting softly off each tile and sparkling on her back.

She hopped with feline agility over the grout ditches between tiles, and quickly reached the edge of the floor where grout met cabinet. Her fleet feet transitioned neatly to the vertical wooden surface. Climbing came naturally, and with each strong pull, she ascended higher. At the top, she slipped easily onto the cool granite plateau.

A moment’s pause and sniff revealed that although a delicious aroma lingered in the air, her favorite foraging spot would not yield any crumbs tonight. Deducing that They must have cleaned the granite shortly before her arrival, she jogged to her left, heading for the smooth steel valley.

Due to steep and slippery inclines, it was risky to descend into the valley. However, the risk was necessary on nights when They cleaned. After peering carefully over the edge, she gingerly approach the edge, and skidded down. Haphazardly she fell, legs scrambling to regain footing on the wet, slippery surface.

At the bottom of the incline, she rolled nimbly and skidded to a quick stop. She paused to regain her bearings and wipe the wetness from her face.

A dark crevice loomed just steps away. She squinted into the deepness of the chasm, sniffing the air for hints of a meal. The scent of both fresh and decomposing food wafted enticingly up from the depths. Dinner at last.

With spry athleticism, she leaped from wet steel down to granulated rubber. Gripping the rough, rubbery surface, she crept lower still. One light hop, and she was inside the chasm, surrounded by inky darkness.

Balancing on a large metal blade, she paused once again to test the balance of fragrances swirling around her. Guided by her sharp senses, she located a soggy, delicious morsel, and quickly wolfed it down. Another tasty nugget quickly followed the first. And then another.

Once sated, she sighed. She turned to go, leaving the remaining particles for others in search of food.

She retraced her steps out of the depths and back onto the black rubber surface. She scaled the wet metal wall slowly and carefully, pulling herself upwards towards the granite. Upon the cool, bare granite, she cruised lightly, slowing only to position herself upright on the vertical wooden surface. She climbed downwards expertly, bounding onto the tile floor.

Moonlight glittered on her back as she cruised once again across the floor, back from where she came.

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She’s quite the little roach, isnt she?  

We followed her as she scurried over the tiled floor, climbed up the wood cabinets, jogged across the granite countertop, slid into the steel sink, and jumped down the disposal! 
There you have it! Just a roach looking for dinner. 🙂

Have you spotted any cockroaches recently? What did you have for dinner?  

The one thing you should wrap your lips around

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In today’s “Friday Faves,” I’m spilling the beans on one of my very FAVORITE DAYS OF SUMMER!

But first, let’s back up. You know that we have lived in New England for a number of years (Connecticut for 4 years and Massachusetts for 1 year). And Joel spent the first 18 years of his life in Maine.

Between the two of us, we have spent a considerable amount of time in New England. Frankly, I don’t like winter, so it’s a surprise I’ve lasted this long, hah! Over the years, we’ve done a lot of New England-ey things, like hiking, camping, sitting next to various bodies of water, and #alltheDunkins… but this summer we did something totally NEW to us…

We hosted a lobster bake!

(Forgive me for the click-baity title – I really do feel that strongly about lobster.) 🙂

Being that lobster bakes are usually a summer thing, I debated whether I should post this at all, given that we are now into Fall. But I decided to go ahead with it anyway. After all, this is a day for sharing favorites, and this is TRULY at the top of the list!

When we first started planning the lobster bake, I did a ton of research on the history and the how-to. I had only ever had a “whole lobster” once before in my life, and didn’t know what I was doing 🙂 …still tasted great though.

While reading up on it, I came across this post from the Reluctant Gourmet which presented all the information in a digestible and non-intimidating way. This really helped me to wrap my mind around the task at hand.

I ordered special forks and crackers from Amazon which are designed for seafood. The crackers were handy for breaking into those tough lobster shells. They can also be used for other types of seafood (crab) and, I’m told they can also be used as nut-crackers. As for the little forks, I barely used mine at all. It was a bit fiddly. I saw a few of my friends using their tiny forks expertly though.

I also bought these awesome disposable lobster bibs which were useful for keeping the “juice” off our clothes. They had the added bonus of looking awesome in photos, too! The bibs are probably not a necessity, but added to the theme, since they had big red lobsters printed on them. You could get away with cloth napkins or paper towels tucked into your shirt-neck. Just be careful, lobster can be quite messy! I was definitely glad we had the bibs.

Except for one thing… a design flaw on the bibs is that they would flap around anytime the wind kicked up. We were on the patio, so there was no escaping the wind. If you were indoors this wouldn’t be an issue. For us, it wasn’t a particularly windy day, so this wasn’t a huge issue per se, just a minor annoyance. Maybe the next time I’m bib-shopping, I will look for bibs that tie around the waist, apron-style. 🙂

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Another thing we bought from Home Depot was an enormous pot so that we could steam the lobsters. Now that we have this gigantic pot, we are thinking up other things to do with it… like maybe, possibly, frying a turkey at some point lol 🙂

The actual steaming process was pretty simple. You put the lobsters in the pot when they are still alive (this was weird to our friends who had never seen the process before), and steam them. When the shells turn bright red, they are done! Easy. Some of the websites I read beforehand had fancier and more technical ways of assessing “done-ness,”  but it worked pretty well to go by shell color.

I tell you what. The lobster was a mega hit.

Other things on the table included kielbasa sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes, watermelon cornbread/muffins, key-lime pie, and plenty of beer and wine. It was a delicious spread.

Like many get-togethers with our friends, this was potluck style. Everyone’s contributions were spectacular. 

My favorite part of the lobster is the claw — not only is it the easiest part to get out of the shell, it is also the tastiest! My least favorite parts were the legs… they require the most work for the least amount of meat — there’s not much in those little legs, is there?

Leftover lobsters were de-shelled and set in the fridge for next-day lobster rolls. For the lobster rolls, we added some salt and fresh lemon juice, mixed it up with the lobster meat, and put it all into a toasted roll with fresh lettuce. Perfection!!! Some recipes also call for mayonnaise, but we didn’t have any. Still tasted amazing.

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Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Lobster is messy – put newspaper down on the table to allow for easier cleanup.
  2. Do everything in your power to avoid spilling “lobster juice” ANYWHERE in your house or fridge. It WILL smell like death. And scrubbing every inch of the entire fridge top to bottom is annoying.
  3. Lobster is expensive. Look for deals at stores near you. We hunted around and found that one of our local markets had a sale for $6/lb for the first 10 lbs (then $10/lb after that). We got lobsters that were 1.25 lb each. Bigger ones are more expensive. 
  4. Again, lobster is expensive. If your guests are willing to chip in, that can really help. If they don’t offer and you’d rather not ask, maybe consider doing it potluck style where everyone contributes a dish.
  5. Have an alternate option on hand for anyone who doesn’t eat lobster, or is allergic to seafood. We had grilled kielbasa sausage. Yum!

Turns out, hosting a lobster bake was not as difficult as it seemed at first! Plus, not only was the lobster ridiculously delicious, the entire day was also even more fun and special since it was our very first time hosting a lobster bake.

And that is why one of my favorite days of summer is LOBSTER BAKE DAY! We had an absolute b.l.a.s.t. and are already excited to do it again next year!

Have you ever been to a lobster bake? What is your favorite memory from the summer? 

How weird habits keep you grounded

In today’s “Thursday Thoughts,” let’s discuss habits.

Do we all have weird habits? …..Just me?

Let me give you a bit of background:

Back when I was in college, I shared a 2-bedroom apartment with a few friends. We all attended the same university (Messiah College), and the apartment building was located on campus. There were 5 of us in the apartment. It was such a tiny apartment and we crammed 5 women into it. I don’t know how we all shared one bathroom and a teeny kitchen. 🙂

My roommates and I were all from different backgrounds and majors. One girl was an elementary education major, another girl was super outdoorsey, another was on the hockey team, while another one on the volleyball team.

And then there was me.

As a biology major, I was into the sciences. I took a lot of Bio and Chem courses, which meant that I had labs almost every day for hours on end. I had big goals to attend medical school and become a surgeon (spoiler: neither ended up happening lol I became a psychologist), so I was constantly studying. I’ve never been a night owl, not even during my college years. Most days, I had all my homework done before dinnertime, which gave me time in the evenings to hang out with my boyfriend Joel (who is now husband). My bedtime was normally around 10pm…which is super early for college! Most of my friends were staying up until at least 2am, or even not sleeping at all! I’ve always been an early bird, and I liked running first thing in the morning before class.

One of my roommates, Emilia (not her real name 🙂 ) was an English major who did 99% of her homework and socializing AFTER 1am. She was a night-owl through and through! She works a full time day-job now so she’s probably not pulling those hours anymore, but back then she regularly did the all-nighter thing. It was no big deal for her to go 24-36 hours without sleeping. Emilia would sometimes catch up on sleep by taking an hour nap here and there at random times of the day. I don’t know how she did it — I feel foggy if I get less than 7 hrs of sleep <– probably one of the reasons why the surgeon thing didn’t materialize for me! 🙂

Even though Emilia and I had very different sleeping patterns and routines, we got along really well! We could talk for hours! She is absolutely hilarious and can make me cry-laugh like no other.

So this is how my weird habit started:

Often, I would be winding down for the day, and getting into bed juuust as Emilia was cracking those knuckles in preparation to write a big paper or chat on AOL messenger (…anyone remember that? lol!). Like many college students Emilia was famous for her professional-level procrastinating. It was not unusual for her to crank out an A-grade 3000 word paper in one night because it was due the next day. Talk about performing on a deadline!

Since she was usually madly typing when I was going to sleep, we often joked about how the sound typing was my bedtime lullaby. It was funny…but also not…because she was the proud owner of the clickiest, clunkiest keyboard (think jackhammer).

As a light sleeper, I was often kept awake by the hammering of Emilia’s keyboard. It was months before one of our other roommates suggested that I try earplugs. I had some unopened earplugs from an airline lying around, and when I stuck them in my ears that night… holy moly.

It made the HUGEST difference!

While the earplugs didn’t completely eliminate the noise, they dampened it down enough that I could drift off to sleep. And importantly, i was able to stay asleep all night. Let me tell you, I did not go another night without earplugs! I bought a new pack the very next day.

Fast forward to when my roommates and I graduated from college. We each went our separate ways to start sparkly new jobs and post-college lives.

I moved to New York City to start a Health PR job in Times Square. I went from a tiny town that only had one traffic light to one of the busiest cities on the globe. To say it took some getting used to is an understatement!

In hindsight, I’d say that it was probably during this time that my earplug habit really solidified.

You see, the earplugs were so much more than tools to drown out sounds of the city every night. Yes, they helped this light-sleeper to get some rest, but it was more than that.

This was a habit that “came with me” from my quiet college life to the hustle of the city. The earplugs represented a comforting vestige from those simpler college days.

If you’ve read my post on relocating, you’ll know that moving (at least for me) can be super stressful. Something I’ve realized is that it helps to have some “constants” during those times of change. Things that keep you grounded amidst a shifting landscape. Things that help to reduce the discomfort of upheaval. Things that stay “true” even as the world around you is changing.

So in a strange way, the earplugs became a “constant” in my move to New York. My new life was such a major change — for the first time ever, I was living alone and fending for myself. Nothing about my world was familiar. That is, except for those little earplugs.

In the years since, I have managed to curate a broader collection of habits and constants. In addition to earplugs (which I still wear!), running has become a firm constant in my life. No matter what changes occur, I will still be a runner. And people are my constants too, like my husband and my lifelong friends.

In any case, I know the earplug thing is a really random habit. I’ve been told by many a mom, that when kids come along earplugs will be a thing of the past. After all, I’d want to hear the baby monitor at night. But until then, I’m happily continuing on with this weird habit! 🙂

Got any weird habits of your own? What are your “constants” in life? 

In a few minutes, you will time-travel 100+ years!

Welcome to the very first “What if Wednesday”! Let’s let our imaginations run wild….

Imagine that 10 minutes from now, you will leap into the past or future.

The rules are:

  1. You cannot opt out.
  2. You depart from the present year in exactly 10 minutes.
  3. You may choose your destination year. It must be more than 100 years prior to or following the present. For example, if you are reading this in 2017, you must EITHER go back in time to any year prior to 1917, OR go forwards in time to a year after 2117.
  4. This is a one-way trip. You will STAY in whatever year you pick for the rest of your life. Choose wisely!
  5. You may be fully dressed, and you may bring 3 easily-carried, small items with you.
  6. You cannot bring any person or animal with you.
  7. When you arrive in your destination year, you will land unscathed in the exact geographic location that you are currently in right now.

I was thinking about this last night and became fascinated.

My initial thought is: how crazy would this be? First, 10 minutes is an awfully short time to digest this news, not to mention also make major decisions, like what year to permanently go to. I would be filled with all kinds of emotions, and it would be sad to not have time to say proper goodbyes.

The task of choosing what year to end up in FOREVER is an intimidating one. Compared to the unknowns of the future, the past is less uncertain, and may seem appealing initially.

No social media distraction? Less pollution and processed foods to gunk up our bodies? A simple, quiet life?

But upon further thought, I’d realize that I wouldn’t want to go back in time. First, I am a woman of color who appreciates rights like suffrage and freedom. Second, not only am I a woman of color, but I’m also mixed race – African and Asian – which I’m guessing might ostracize me from every community, depending on the time period? (historians, feel free to chime in!). Third, I am way too accustomed to modern conveniences to willingly say goodbye to technologies like cars, electricity, and the internet.

I could go on, but the main point is that I will be going forward, not backward, in time.

The question then becomes: how far into the future would I go? Leaping 100+ years into the future invariably means traveling to a time when everyone I have ever loved, everyone I have ever known, is long dead. That would be an extremely difficult future to enter. Let’s just hope that some fringe research group will develop a way to significantly slow aging, so that when I arrive in the future, all my loved ones still will be alive and kicking! (Ok, so I know this would introduce all kinds of overpopulation issues, but let’s just deal with one thing a time – I’ve only got 10 minutes and the clock is ticking!)

So what year would I choose? I probably wouldn’t want to go too far into the future, like the year 720,639,821,335,024… I mean, if I leap this far, I might find myself on a post-human, mars-like version of earth, where only city ruins and fossils remain.

I think I’ll stick closer to the “near” future, and jump to the nearest possible year, 2118. Maybe in the next few generations, we’ll have figured out the renewable energy situation, and put an end to things like hunger, cancer, racism, poverty, etc… or I guess we’ll find out.

Now, what to take with me to 2118? Only 3 small-ish items allowed. I won’t take my phone, as I’d have to also bring my charger (a second item), and both are likely to be obsolete by 2118. Will people even use cell towers or wall-sockets for electricity in the future? Hmm. Better stick with items that don’t depend on present technology. Hmm.

What about a bag of money? Surely money will stand the test of time? But even if I had a pile the cash on hand at this moment, I’m guessing that with inflation and God knows what else, it likely wouldn’t be worth very much in a hundred years. Plus, will we still be using cash for currency by then? Who knows, maybe the future is a bitcoin society. To avoid the possibility of a worthless-old-timey-money situation, let’s leave the cash in the present.

Ok, I got it.  (1) My journal, to write down all my thoughts. (2) A pen, with which to write said thoughts. And (3) a photo album, to remember my former life by. Well, that is, if I had physical photos and not just digital versions. Since I don’t have prints and or any time to do anything about that, I would probably grab the framed photograph of Joel and me from our wedding day that is hanging in our living room. So my 3 things are: a pen, my journal, and a photograph.

And with my remaining moments in the present, I would hug Joel tightly, and tell him that will love him forever.

What about you? What year would you choose for your destination, and what 3 things would you take with you?

#whatifwednesday #whatifwed #wif

Is boarding school REALLY where the naughty kids are sent?

Hi friends! Welcome to my very first “Tea Break Tuesday”!

You may recall that I went to boarding school from grades 3-12.

I have noticed that when I tell people that I went to boarding school, they sometimes give me a funny look. It turns out that apparently there are some stereotypes around boarding school… the most common stereotype I have heard is that boarding school is where the naughty kids get sent! Another one I’ve heard is that boarding school is for elite rich kids.

As someone who spent a number of years at boarding school, I thought it might be interesting to share some of what that experience was like for me.

So a few basics: The school is a Christian boarding school called Rift Valley Academy (RVA), and is located in central Kenya.

Homesickness. In my school, students lived in dorms in much the same way that university students live on campus. RVA is only about an hour from Nairobi, and between away-games, weekend trips to ‘town’, and mid-term breaks, I was in Nairobi on a frequent basis. Some kids experienced homesickness, but to be honest, I never did, not even a little bit. That may also be due to the fact that when my parents divorced, school was a welcome respite from all of that. I found the culture at school to be supportive and inclusive, and not only that, but I had a great group of friends (still friends to this day!) with whom I had a strong sense of “belonging” — they were closer than sisters. Plus, I was always too busy with school, sports, and other extracurriculars to be homesick.

Weekend activities. I don’t know if other boarding schools are this way, but RVA always had activities going on every single weekend. These included sports tournaments, plays/musicals, concerts, movie nights, banquets/dances, dorm/class trips, and also planned activities for dorms and/or classes to do together. There was always something going on. I won’t say I never got bored or that I never complained (what kid can say that?), but in hindsight, there really wasn’t much to complain about!

Strict. Like a lot of private and/or religious schools, there were a lot of rules at RVA… curfew, chores, attendance at chapels during the week, attendance at church on Sundays, no kissing, no short skirts, no spaghetti straps, no drinking, no drugs, etc… and yes these rules generally make sense and I probably wouldn’t have broken them even if they didn’t exist. But hey, as kids we still managed to complain about #alltherules.

Playing sports. Every term (trimester) constituted a different sport season. I played soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Other sports included field hockey (girls only) and rugby (boys only). Since RVA is located at elevation, this meant we were usually more fit and had better endurance compared to teams in Nairobi that trained at lower elevation.

Cafeteria food. There was one cafeteria on campus that all students ate at for every meal. Age groups were separated into 3 different dining rooms (1st-6th grade, 7th-10th grade, and 11th-12th grade). Bear in mind this was decades ago, so things may have changed or been renovated since. Meals were slightly predictable and on a rotating schedule. Boy did I used to complain about the food! But in reality, it wasn’t that bad. Sure, there were meals I absolutely despise even to this day (looking at you shepherds pie!), but overall we had plenty of wholesome and healthy options. The food was all prepared on-site, so no packaged or processed foods were provided as far as I am aware.

Walking everywhere. Even without playing sports, most people there had active lifestyles. Everyone walked everywhere on campus, and there were plenty of hills (plus high elevation). The campus is spread out enough that between walking to the dorm, class, cafeteria, or elsewhere, you could easily get all your steps in for the day.

Dorm parents. Every dorm had “dorm parents” who lived in the building and took care of the students who lived there. This meant organizing weekend activities for the dorm as well as nightly group meetings for devotions. Dorms were always separated by gender and generally also by grade or age group. For example, 7th-8th grade girls lived in one dorm, while the boys lived in another. Students addressed their dormparents as “uncle” or “aunt” (in contrast, teachers were addressed as Mr., Miss, or Mrs.). Sometimes dormparents were also teachers, which was the case with our awesome junior high dormparents, Uncle John and Aunt Pattie. Uncle John also taught 9th grade biology (when I took his class, I called him Mr. Schuit). Side note, I LOVED that class – it was one of my favorites in all of high school, and it was because of his class that I decided to major in biology in college. 🙂 Another side note, Uncle John and Aunt Pattie also came to my wedding reception 🙂

TV? Internet? I’m not sure how it is nowadays with the advent of smartphones and streaming, but back in “my day”, there was little to no TV of any kind, and no internet access. We sometimes watched movies with our dorm or class, but not much else besides that. And as far as internet, no one had computers or even smartphones. If we wanted to send emails, we had to go to the computer lab. I’m sure that things have changed now that every kid probably has a smartphone and laptop.

Roommates. Similar to university life, we always had roommates (usually 2-4 per room depending on the room size). We usually chose who we wanted to room with for the term, and my group of friends pretty much always stuck together. One time in 3rd grade, a bunch of us snuck out of our rooms after lights-out and decided to hang out in the bathroom (such rebels). I don’t know what we were doing, but probably just being mischievous, staying up past when we were supposed to. Our dormparents heard us whispering and giggling, and when I poked my head around the corner to see if they were still there, they saw me and had us get right back into bed! Another time in junior high, my friend Kristi got mad at me because she could hear the skittles in my mouth — I had a thing for skittles while doing homework — so she went and did her homework somewhere else. After that I always made sure to enjoy my skittles quietly. 🙂  Kristi and I are still friends to this day… she’s the blond one in this photo. When I went to college, the adjustment to dorm life and roommates was pretty seamless, probably because I had similar experiences growing up.

Scenery. I mentioned earlier that RVA is on one of the rift valley’s escarpments. The views were always incredible. Mount Longonot was in clear view, and we had the most unbelievable sunsets. Sometimes my friends and I would go for walks or sit on one of the fields that overlooks the valley and just hang out. I miss that view a lot!

There’s a lot more to say, but I’ll save that for another day. I loved my boarding school experience and would not change anything about it. Those were some pretty awesome years.

Know anyone who went to boarding school? What was your school like?